Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Buckle up for intrigue and adventure in scenic Depression-era America. George Hall, a draftsman, buys a 1936 Packard sedan from the estate of spinster Abigale Watling in Oakwood, Illinois. At first, the car brings George, his wife Jean, and their daughter Rose an unexpected boon. But tragedy follows when Rose is kidnapped. The auto then comes into the possession of salesman William Landers, FBI agent Helen Meeker, and serviceman James Coffman’s family. As clues to the kidnapping caper come to light, more than one life is in jeopardy. Will Agent Meeker catch the culprit before it’s too late?


It just seems like two months ago that I was nose-deep into a new Ace Collins book (so maybe it was more than two months, but who’s counting).  Today, excitedly so, I get to tell you about another book that he has published.  There is another one that I saw on the bookshelves just this past weekend called “The Christmas Star”, so we are definitely getting our fulfillment of Ace here at the end of the year!


Cursed, Possessed, Nothing but Trouble!  These are just a few of the terms used to describe this beautiful 1936 Packard.  The fact that it was Canary Yellow didn’t help it go unnoticed either.  George Hall is a proud new papa, so proud that he couldn’t stand to think of taking his new princess home in his dilapidated old car.  At a local auction he sees the Packard and knows that it’s the perfect car for his family.  Undeterred with all of the negative talk surrounding the car with those at the auction, George winds up being the high bidder for the car.  A close collision with the car and a runaway dump truck puts George and his family on the road to the high life, so there can’t be any truth to these rumors of the car.  George is riding high with a promotion, his wife has just bought a floral shop and then the unthinkable happens.  Their daughter is kidnapped!  And so begins a wild ride with this Packard.  FBI Agent Helen Meeker is hot on the trail of the car and the kidnappers.  From the aluminum salesman who bought the car and saw his job prospects increase tenfold, to the airplane pilot with a daughter with an inoperable brain tumor who saves the life of a doctor who just so happens to be able to operate on his daughter.  The car seems to run from good to bad and back again.  What do all of these people have to do with the car?  Will George and his wife ever find their daughter?  What secret is Agent Helen Meeker keeping and will she ever find a resolution?  Good luck getting those answers out of me or Ace, READ THE BOOK!


The thread that Ace has woven through this entire book is astonishing.  For someone as simple as me, it’s sometime difficult to remember what letter comes after “N” if I haven’t sung the whole song first.  Ace, though, can throw these characters together in such a way that you believe in them, you follow their every step because you don’t want anything bad to happen.  As each individual or couple interacts with this car, he brings into play scenarios that not only are realistic, but help with the overall plot of the story.  There seem to be several mini-stories within this whole book and each of them is as exciting as the whole.  I will readily admit that I’m more interested in books in the current era, but this book would not have been the same if it had been written that way.  Having this set in the late 30’s and early 40’s made this story pop!


So is this a "man's book"?  This book has cars, intrigue, police chases, airplane wrecks and more.  This book would be on my list of “must be read” by anybody, not just men!



I got a special chance to ask Ace some questions so that we can get to know him a little better!

What is your favorite bible verse and why?
Matthew 25:35-40. It is really what I try to embrace as the theme for my life. If we just live these few verses we have taken our salvation to another level and become more like Christ. Also, if you live these five verses you have a much better chance to truly finding your true calling.
What has been the most important thing you hope your readers will get from your books and why?
Well, in truth, the readers must be entertained. If you don’t entertain the reader then you have lost your chance to really make an impact in other ways. Past the entertainment part, my characters struggle with finding callings. They are not strong, they have their doubts and fear, and thus I feel that readers will identify with them in a way that they would identify with a friend. When the reader is finished with the book, I hope they have an urge to look around and find someone who needs to be lifted up. I also hope they realize that the “least of these” are not just in developing nations, but are really all around us.
Besides writing, what are some of your favorite hobbies? 
I restore and drive pre World War II cars. I currently have two Indiana built autos; 1934 Auburn 652Y and 1936 Cord 810 Westchester. I love all kinds of college sports and am even the play-by-play voice of Ouachita Tiger basketball. And I love to run sprints. I try to do a mile of 110 yard uphill sprints five days a week. Finally I am a classic film nut who loves most movies from the major studios in the 1930s.
What advice would you give to a beginning writer?
The best way to get better is to keep writing and work with editors who aren't afraid to be tough on you. That is how you grow.  And get used to rejection while never giving up on what you know is a great idea. My bestselling book was rejected 27 times over a decade before finding an editor willing to take a chance on it. 
Favorite memory from childhood?
Every Christmas at my Grandparents' house on Shell's Hill in Salem, Arkansas. 
Favorite comfort food?
Peanut Butter, it should be at the top of everyone food pyramid.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ace Collins has authored more than sixty titles in the past two and half decades. Zondervan launched Ace's career in fiction, releasing two books in 2009 and another two in 2010. Ace has won numerous awards for his writing including three Golden Quills, an America's Writing Award, and the Angel of Excellence Award. He has written for a wide variety of publishers including St. Martin's Press, Viking-Penguin, Putnam, Harper-Collins, Thomas Nelson, Word, Zondervan, and the Chicago Review Press. In the course of his writing, he has also penned more than 2,000 magazine features for the likes of People, Us, Texas Monthly, Plus Magazine, and Guideposts. He has made scores of television guest appearances including Good Morning America, The Today Show, CBS This Morning, CNN, Fox and Friends, The NBC Nightly News, and Entertainment Tonight. Two of his books have been made into network TV specials.


Ace has always been a car lover, he has owned several Mustangs, including a 65 Fastback that he still drives, as well as cars from the 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s. On the right at the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Museum, Ace is shown with a famous SJ Desenberg. The oldest car he has ever owned and driven is a 1917 Model T Speedster.


I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Still Life In Shadows by Alice Wisler



It's been fifteen years since Gideon Miller ran away from his Amish community in Carlisle, Pennsylvania as a boy of fifteen.  Gideon arrives in the Smoky Mountains town of Twin Branches and settles in at the local auto mechanic's garage. He meets a host of interesting characters -the most recent acquaintances are Kiki, an autistic teen, and her sister Mari. Known as the "Getaway Savior" he helps other Amish boys and girls relocate to life in modern America.

One day the phone rings. On the other end is his brother Moriah calling from Florida. Of course Gideon welcomes his brother to stay with him and offers him a job. But Moriah is caught in a web which ends in his death and forces Gideon to return to the town of his youth, with his brother's body in the back of a hearse and Mari and Kiki at his side. He must face not only the community he ran away from years ago but also his own web of bitterness. Will he be able to give his anger over to God and forgive his father?



This is the first book that I have read by Alice Wisler.  Alice was nice enough to provide this copy to me to give me a chance to see if her books would be welcomed by men readers.

Gideon has run long and hard away from his past, but he still manages to hang on to a piece of it by helping Amish kids relocate from their Amish world to modern America.  Gideon becomes involved in the life of autistic Kiki due to damage she had done to his gas station.  In the process, he becomes involved in her sister, Mari.  Out of the blue he gets a call from his brother, Moriah, who wants to come live with him.  Gideon learns that Moriah's reasons for moving in weren't clear and honest, as he finds Moriah is into drugs.  As the tension between them grows, we find out the reason Gideon has run away from his family for so long.  When Moriah is found dead, Gideon now must return to the Amish life that he had left behind.  What happens when he confronts his dad over issues from their past?  Is forgiveness in his future?  Take the time to buy this book and find out!

Ms. Wisler has created a very mysterious, yet likable character in Gideon.  He has so much hidden  in his past, but yet he appears to be open to sharing his experiences with Mari.  The story that Ms. Wisler has created is very believable and one that keeps you interested from the start.  There is so much depth to her characters, that you end up rooting for them as the story progresses.  This book is heavy on forgiveness, it was to me, the main theme that ran throughout this book.  The forgiveness that Gideon had for Kiki, for his brother, his father and even himself.  As he notices later in the book, "the Almighty's arms are wide and merciful enough to forgive even the most guilty of creatures".

Is this a "guy's book"?  There isn't alot of "action" in the book, but this is a story that all men need to read.  Between the emotions that Gideon is trying to hide, and the history that we find out between him and his dad, this story reminds us that we need to be more open with our communications.  As I read this book, I reflected on my own relationship with my dad.  I have been blessed to have a very close relationship with him and I know that I am who I am because of my relationship with him.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR



Alice was born in Osaka, Japan in the sixties.  Her parents were Presbyterian career missionaries. As a young child, Alice loved to walk down to the local stationer's store to buy notebooks, pencils and scented erasers.  In her room, she created stories.  The desire to be a published famous author has never left her.  Well, two out of three isn't bad. She's the author of Rain Song, How Sweet It Is, Hatteras Girl and A Wedding Invitation (all published by Bethany House).

Alice went to Eastern Mennonite University after graduating from Canadian Academy, an international high school in Kobe, Japan. She majored in social work and has worked across the U.S. in that field.  She taught ESL (English as a Second Language) in Japan and at a refugee camp in the Philippines.  She also studied Spanish at a language institute in San Jose, Costa Rica.

She has four children--Rachel, Daniel, Benjamin and Elizabeth.  Daniel died on 2/2/97 from cancer treatments at the age of four. Since then, Alice founded Daniel's House Publications in her son's memory.  This organization reaches out to others who have also lost a child to death. In 2000 and 2003, Alice compiled recipes and memories of children across the world to publish two memorial cookbooks, Slices of Sunlight and Down the Cereal Aisle.


The Judge by Randy Singer



When a brilliant billionaire is diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer, he realizes that all his considerable wealth cannot prepare him to meet his Maker. But he has an idea that might: he will stage the ultimate reality show. With his true agenda hidden, he auditions followers from all the world’s major religions, inviting them to the trial of their lives on a remote island, where they must defend their beliefs against spiritual challenges. 

Oliver Finney, a feisty old judge with his own secrets, is chosen to defend Christianity. As the program takes a strange twist, he quickly realizes he is trapped in a game of deadly agendas that may cost him his life. With Internet access monitored, Finney sends coded messages to his law clerk, Nikki Moreno. Aided by a teen crypto-geek, Nikki soon discovers the key to understanding Finney’s clues in an apologetics book Finney wrote and must race against time to decipher the mysteries contained in the ancient words of Christ before her boss dies defending them.





What would happen if you took a selection of people from all of the world's religions and put them into a "Survivor" like setting?  You would get the makings of a book by Randy Singer, of course! So this billionaire is getting ready to die and he's found out that being rich doesn't provide him with any additional insight into what happens after we die.  In the search for this information, he comes up with the ideal to bring together people from all different religions to a remote island where they will "battle" it out against each other to see who has the best answers for the afterlife.  For the Christian perspective, we have Judge Oliver Finney.  Judge Finney is a cigar-smoking curmudgeon who never dreamed in a minute he would be picked for the show, but we know that demographic studies can't be wrong!  As the show progresses, Judge Finney starts noticing that things may not be exactly as they seem.  The judge begins passing crypted notes back and forth with his law clerk, thanks to a book on cryptology  that he had written.  As the stakes appear to be getting higher and higher for the contestants, Judge Finney begins to feel a sense darkness and dread.  Will this be the end of Judge Finney?  Does he help the billionaire with his thoughts of the afterlife?  Buy a copy and see how this one ends!

I have been a fan of Randy Singer for a long time.  I even hosted Mr. Singer for a book signing / discussion several years ago.  Anybody that reads John Grisham would love any of Randy Singer's books, and this one is no different.  Randy always shares his knowledge of the judicial system through his books.  This book, though, allows us to not only see the inner workings of a case against Christ, but he rolls in the whole reality tv show craze that the entertainment world is abuzz about.  I always come away from his books feeling like I have a little bit more knowledge of the judicial system, and that isn't always a good thing.

Is this a "guy's book"?  If you're into law and justice and reality TV, then you would enjoy this book.  Do you have to be a "guy" to like it?  Nope, this book would be enjoyed by everyone.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Randy graduated from Houghton College in 1978, married Rhonda Pursifull that same year, and began teaching and coaching at Houghton Academy, a local Christian boarding school. After five years of teaching and coaching, he left the front of the classroom to take a seat in the back, pursing his dream of going to law school. Three years later, he graduated second in his class from William and Mary School of Law. 

Following law school, Randy began an active trial practice at Willcox and Savage, a sixty lawyer firm in Norfolk, Virginia, eventually becoming head of the firm's litigation section. After thirteen years with the firm, and several more years working with a mission board and cable television network, Randy decided that a recession was a good time to start a new business. He formed his own firm—the Singer Legal Group—in 2009, specializing in civil litigation and business/ministry consulting.

About ten years ago, Randy began pursuing a passion to write. Tapping into his courtroom and ministry experience, Randy pens legal thrillers designed to entertain his readers while confronting them with biblical truths on controversial issues. His first novel, Directed Verdict, was published by WaterBrook Press in October 2002, and won the prestigious Christy award for the best Christian suspense novel that year. Just last year, Randy was named a finalist, along with John Grisham and Michael Connelly, for the inaugural Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction sponsored by the American Bar Association and the University of Alabama Law School. 


Saturday, July 28, 2012

Abducted by Janice Cantore

After solving the mayor’s murder and exposing corruption among the top brass in Las Playas, Carly Edwards is happy to be back on patrol with her partner, Joe, putting bad guys behind bars. For once, everything in life seems to be going right.

But then everything starts to go wrong. Slow to recover from an injury, her ex-husband, Nick, begins pulling away just as they were starting to get close again. Meanwhile, when Joe’s wife lands in the hospital with a mysterious illness, their baby is kidnapped. As Carly chases down every lead in a search to find the baby, her faith is pushed to its limits.






This is the second book in the "Pacific Coast Justice" series by Janice Cantore.  I had already read the first book, "Accused" and hounded Ms. Cantore to let me read "Abducted" and post a review about it.  Since I'm such a great reviewer ( a legend in my own mind), she graciously accepted my request.


Carly is back and still getting the feel for her new christian body that she put on in the last book.  Her relationship with Nick is improving, but there is still some friction between them.  Carly is out patroling with her partner when they get a call to head to the hospital.  They find out that her partner's wife and 4-month old baby have been taken to the hospital and his wife is unconscious.  While they are tending to his wife, his son is taken upstairs for precaution.  Overnight, the unthinkable happens.  His son is kidnapped right out of the hospital.  Thus begins a never ending search to find her partner's son, all the while tending to her relationship with Nick.  Along the way, Carly stumbles upon an FBI surveillance on a person of interest in the baby kidnapping case.    Nick begins pushing her away and reporter Alex is beginning to lend a supportive ear to her friendship.  Her roommate is suspended for her role in the kidnapping, and now she's moving out on Carly.  Do they find the baby?  Will Andrea really move out? What's going on with Nick? What is Alex's angle in this?  How in the world does ICE get involved? Where is the God that she has so recently been placing all of her faith in? WHEW!  If that's not enough to get you interested in this series, you have some serious problems!


Ms. Cantore does a great job with her character of Carly.  For Carly to be such a young Christian, she sure puts her faith in action.  I love that Carly has such intimate discussions with God as she attempts to make sense of the things that are happening around her.  I also enjoyed seeing how she molded the relationship between Carly and Nick throughout this book.  Their relationship was definitely on a roller coaster as he struggled to deal with his injury and what it means for his future.  The police procedures are so realistic, I appreciate it when an author does all of the extra research that gives me a little bit of knowledge and learning, all while I'm enjoying a book.  The dilemmas that the characters get themselves into are all settled in believable ways.  For example, the simple fact that she had the character of Joe shown as struggling between being out there looking for his son and being at the hospital to care for his wife was very believable.  She gave him the solution of staying with his wife and trusting that his friends on the force would find his son.  That's a great character trait that should be followed!


Is this a "guy's book"?  There's no question about it.  This book has police chases, arson, car wrecks, FBI, human trafficking, etc.  If you would ever want adventure and intrigue, this book and series is definitely for you!




ABOUT THE AUTHOR



A retired Long Beach California police officer of 22 years (16 in uniform and 6 as a non-career officer), Janice Cantore worked a variety of assignments, patrol, administration, juvenile investigations and training. During the course of her career in uniform Janice found that faith was indispensable to every aspect of the job and published articles on faith at work, one for a quarterly newspaper called “Cop and Christ”, and another for the monthly magazine “Today’s Christian Woman”.


With retirement Janice began to write longer pieces and several novels were born. She has a two book suspense series in print she calls Brinna’s Heart Series, The Kevlar Heart and A Heart of Justice (Oaktara Publishing). Janice is excited and honored to now be a part of the Tyndale Publishing House family. Accused, the first installment in her new suspense offering, The Pacific Coast Justice Series, is set to be released February 1, 2012 and will kick off a brand new chapter in her writing career. In addition to suspense and action, her books feature strong female leads. Janice writes suspense novels designed to keep you engrossed and leave you inspired.


Janice has bachelor’s degrees in Biology (University of California at Irvine) and Physical Education (California State University at Long Beach).  She also completed graduate coursework in Criminal Justice (University of Southern California) and is currently a member of American Christian Fiction Writer’s and Sisters in Crime.  She attends Crescenta Valley Community Church in La Crescenta California and while a few years ago she retired to a house in the mountains of Southern California, she currently resides in Glendale California in order to help care for her aging parents. Janice is single and has three Labrador Retrievers, Jake, Maggie and Abbie. Janice’s hobbies are reading, cross-stitching, kayaking, hiking, walking the dogs and trying to stay fit.







I received this book from the author in exchange for my honest opinion.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Anasazi Intrigue by Linda Weaver Clarke

Stolen artifacts, a nosy newspaper reporter, and mysterious events begin to unfold in this mystery adventure novel. When a devastating flood takes out several homes in a small town, they are shocked by the news of also a possible poison spill that kills many of the fish and neighbor's pets. The town doesn't know what to think or do, until Julia, the town's newest reporter, jumps into action and begins her investigation. Quickly though, Julia realizes the story and investigation are much bigger and more dangerous than she thought! Julia and her husband find themselves on the run trying to save their lives while finishing the story and helping out their small town! She never realized that being a reporter could be so dangerous. With artifacts, dead fish, a devastating flood, and miscreants, John and Julia have their hands full.

As you may recall, I did a review a little while back of the 4th book in this series.  I enjoyed that book so much, that I asked the author, Linda Weaver Clarke, if I could read the first in the series and do a review of that book as well.  Linda said she would be glad to do it, and I definitely was glad to read it.

This is the introduction to the characters of John and Julia Evans, though for some reason, Julia is referred to as "Julia Roberts" in the beginning of this book.  John is professional knife maker and Julia is a newspaper journalist.  John is working with a man, Paul, who is in the midst of uncovering artifacts of the Anasazi Indians.  It seems that there are individuals who are out to steal the treasure and Paul will do whatever he needs to keep the treasure safe and the heritage of the Anasazi Indians alive.  At the same time, Julia has uncovered a case of cyanide poisoning of fish and some other animals around the river area. This will be the first real break for her writing career if she's right on the cause of the poisoning, but is she right?  What kind of danger has she put herself in as she investigates this story?  Can John and Paul work together to keep the treasure safe?  All great questions, and ones that will be answered when you BUY THE BOOK!

This was another great and easy read by Linda Weaver Clarke.  I believe the last book I compared to "Murder She Wrote", but I think I might have been off base.  She mentions in the start of this book that this is more like the TV Show, "Hart To Hart", and I believe she is spot on with the analogy.  I love the information that she shares with us through the course of the story about the Anasazi Indians.  This to me is the best way to learn about something new, all in the course of doing something that I enjoy, READING!  Her characters are so life-like in their banter with each other, and the descriptions of what they see and do are very vivid.

Is this a "guy's book"?  My answer would be yes.  As in the other book that I reviewed, this book is filled with intrigue and adventure, two things that will keep any guy coming back for more.

I received this book from the author for my honest opinion.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR


I was raised on a farm surrounded by the rolling hills of southern Idaho and have made my home in southern Utah among the beautiful red mountains and desert heat. I have been happily married for 36 years and am the mother of six daughters and have four wonderful grandchildren .

After my family began to leave the nest, I decided it was time to finish what I had started long ago. I decided to go back to college and get a degree. It had been 30 years since I had been to college and it was one of the most frightening things I had ever done. I had to learn how to study and take tests all over again. The first day of college, I was a nervous wreck and wondered if I could do this, but with the support of my husband and children I was able to graduate. I received my Bachelor of Arts Degree in Theatre and Music at Southern Utah University and received the Outstanding Non-Traditional Student Award for the College of Performing Arts in 2002. During the meantime, I cut a CD named "Romantic Love Songs of Sigmund Romberg and Victor Herbert."


I have enjoyed writing short stories and novels for several years but it took a lot of courage to begin submitting them. After "Melinda and the Wild West" was published, I entered it in the Reader Views Literary Contest and my book was chosen as a Semi-Finalist in the "Reviewers Choice Awards 2007." It was one of the top ten out of hundreds of other entries.



Linda is graciously offering an ebook of "Anasazi Intrigue" to a random someone leaving a comment on this review.  So leave a comment and contact information in case you are the winner!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Harvest of Grace by Cindy Woodsmall

When Sylvia Fischer turned down her beau's offer of marriage, she expected him to give her the time and space she'd requested, believing they would eventually wed. .Instead he married her sister. When she learns that his betrayal was her father's idea--a proposition made to save the farm--she knows she'll never trust another man.


Despite the secrets hiding in Aaron Blank's youth, he thinks he's ready to face his future. As he sets out to make up for the wrongs he's done to his family, he meets Sylvia, the new farmhand from a nearby district. She doesn't want him around, seems to have his father's heart in the palm of her hand--and what she knows could ruin his future.



I'm trying to do two things with my review of this book:
      1) Broaden my scope of reading material
       2) Do more reviews for actual publishers

I know that I'm becoming successful at my 2nd objective, but I'm not sure that I am with with my first after reading this book.

This is the 3rd book in the "Ada's House Series" by Cindy Woodsmall.  As you can imagine, I have not at this point read the first two books in the series.  I will say, though, that even without reading the first two books, I wasn't as lost as I expected myself to be.  There is enough of a back story, plus almost new characters to lend this book to almost being a stand alone title.

Sylvia Fisher is not an ordinary Amish woman. Being the oldest of all girls with no brothers her father has let her run the herd but not have a lot of say in the farming.  This has caused her to seek out duties such as tending to her family's dairy herd and milking cows to normal duties of tending children and managing a household.  Having scorned a suitable Amish suitor, she is forced by guilt to leave her home and beloved family farm and seek refuge with another couple, the Banks'.  The Banks are a couple that have been devastated by the of their daughter a year ago and a son that is away at rehab for alcohol abuse.
Upon Aaron's return, his plan is to persuade his parents into selling the farm and moving with him into town.  Although Sylvia has become attached to the couple and to their farm, she must join with Aaron and his plan in order to see her own dreams fulfilled.  Will they sell the farm?  Do Sylvia and Aaron give in to their mutual attraction?  BUY THE BOOK!!!


I will say that the book was very well written, just not really my genre of reading.  The characters were well defined, the story was paced appropriately and the plot was believable.

Is this a "Man's Book"?  Not really.  While I can say that the book was well written, I can also say that I can't imagine too many men reading this book.  Doesn't mean that it wasn't a good book, just not really for men.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Cindy Woodsmall is a New York Times best-selling author who has written six novels, three novellas, and Plain Wisdom, a work of nonfiction coauthored with her dearest Old Order Amish friend, Miriam Flaud. She’s been featured on ABC Nightline and the front page of the Wall Street Journal, and has worked with National Geographic on a documentary concerning Amish life.

She is also a veteran homeschool mom who no longer holds that position. As her children progressed in age, her desire to write grew stronger. After working through reservations whether this desire was something she should pursue, she began her writing journey. Her husband was her staunchest supporter as she aimed for what seemed impossible.
She’s won Fiction Book of the Year, Reviewer’s Choice Awards, Inspirational Reader’s Choice Contest, as well as one of Crossings’ Best Books of the Year. She’s been a finalist for the prestigious Christy, Rita, and Carol Awards, Christian Book of the Year, and Christian Retailers Choice Awards.





We Have A Winner!

Sorry that it took so long to pull a winner from the list of those that left a comment on the review of "Rare Earth" by Davis Bunn, but here's our winner .........  Patrick Cox!!

Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving a comment, I'll contact Patrick directly so that he can get his copy of "Rare Earth".

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Rare Earth by Davis Bunn


Marc Royce has worked for the State Department on a variety of clandestine assignments, most recently in Iraq. Now he is called on to investigate suspicious activities in the Horn of Africa, a region already in turmoil from decades of violence, corruption, and poverty.

Dropped into the squalor of the refugee camps, Marc confronts a stranglehold of deceit and oppression. Women and children are ravaged by hunger. Aid workers are overstretched. Government officials prevaricate. The presence of armed military contractors adds to the menace. Can anyone be trusted?

Marc's true assignment focuses on the area's reserves of scarce metals now vital to high-tech industries. Who is secretly attempting to secure a monopoly on land and mineral rights?

A tenacious Israeli medical administrator named Kitra, suffering losses of her own, reluctantly seeks Marc's help with her humanitarian efforts. Their shared faith overcomes mutual suspicions. Together, they try to forge a groundbreaking partnership between impoverished African villages and an innovative research compound near Tel Aviv.

But a shadowy group of adversaries--with agendas fueled by greed and revenge--conspires to stop them at any cost.


I've become a part of the group of "influencers" for this new book coming out July 1st by Davis Bunn.  I received this book from the publisher in hopes that I would shout about it to all of my friends and would review it on my blog.  Well, will they ever be surprised to find out that I would have done all of that even if they hadn't sent the book to me for free :)

This is the second book in the "Lion of Babylon" series that is featuring Marc Royce as the main character.  Having just saved the world in Iraq, Marc has now been asked to head over to Africa where a long dormant volcano has now erupted causing chaos in all of the surrounding lands.  Marc flies into the area that is suffering from a food and supply shortage, not only because there aren't any, but because there aren't enough guards to keep it from being a riot.  Marc's real reason for being there, though, is to find the missing brother of one of the aid workers.  This leads to uncovering a widespread conspiracy by different national groups, as well as the very mercenaries that were contracted to keep this from happening.  Can Marc come in a help out a nation that has suffered so much?  Can he find Kitra's brother in time?  HA!  Read the book!

I have enjoyed reading several of Davis Bunn's books, (especially "Elixir" as it is partially set her in North Florida where I live) and knew right away this would be another home run winner for me.  Mr. Bunn has written a character in Marc Royce that embodies the kind of man that I would like to be, the kind that I would like my son to be.  Marc is not only a special forces guru, but he is a thinker as well.  When I first "met" Marc in "Lion of Babylon", he not only was a physical force to reckon with, but he was also one who was well versed in other cultures.  These two books have introduced us to the Christian version of Indiana Jones, and I hope that we get to see more of this fine role model.

Is this a "man's book"?  You'd better believe it!  This has volcanoes exploding, beating up bullies, mercenaries and more.  This book and the first in the series are books that as I was reading them both I could just imagine a movie being made about them.  I sure hope they do, we need some great Christian role-models in the movies!



ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Reviewers, readers and friends use those phrases to describe Davis Bunn. An internationally-acclaimed author who has sold more than six million books in sixteen languages, Davis is equal parts writer, scholar, teacher, and sportsman.

Born and raised in North Carolina, Davis left for Europe at age twenty. There he first completed graduate studies in economics and finance, then began a business career that took him to over forty countries in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

Davis came to faith at age 28, while living in Germany and running an international business advisory group. He started writing two weeks later. Since that moment, writing has remained both a passion and a calling.

Davis wrote for nine years and completed seven books before his first was accepted for publication. During that time, he continued to work full-time in his business career, travelling to two and sometimes three countries every week. His first published book, The Presence, was released in 1990 and became a national bestseller.

Honored with three Christy Awards for excellence in historical and suspense fiction, his bestsellers include The Great Divide, Winner Take All, The Meeting Place, The Warning, The Book of Hours, and The Quilt.


I received this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.

I'm going to give away my copy of this great book, so please leave some comments so you can be entered into the drawing!  You never know, Mr. Bunn may read these comments himself :)


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

By The Numbers Series by Eric Wilson

I'm going to do something a little different for this review.  I'm actually going to review 2 books at once.  These books are the first 2 books in the "By The Numbers" Series by Eric Wilson.  Not sure how these review will sound, let me know what you think of it.

"1 Step Away" - A Modern Twist on One of the World's Oldest Tales
     Bret and Sara Vreeland have been targeted. Someone has plans for them, a plot that reaches into their past and threatens their future.
When one of Sara's patients dies, a mysterious old man, he leaves his fortune to her and her family. They have no idea they are part of an experiment. Satan once tested Job through trials, but failed to break him. Now Satan has sought God's permission to test the Vreelands with a $6,000,000 blessing.
     As their lives take turn for the better, will their souls take a turn for the worse?

     Bret and Sara have made it by in this world by counting pennies and adhering to a strict budget.  Bret works in the manufacturing world and Sara in the health care industry, he during the day and she at night.  A picture of a couple reminiscent of many middle-class people today.  They have just enough to get through to the next paycheck and that's about it.  On the relationship side, though, they are committed to each other and their family.  Bret always going out his way to help his boss and Sara making a house call to help a patient.  It's during this trip that Sara finds that the patient has more than a passing interest in her.  After his death, she finds that she has been left a large portion of his estate, worth over $6,000,000.  As this new found wealth takes hold of their family, they find that a lot of their values have eroded with the money.  After a discovery that he ex-fiancee had possibly been killed by the patient that left her all of the money, will it change what they do with the money?  Who is stalking them and what does he have to do with the inheritance? Can their family still continue their bond as the money seems to unravel it? NOT GOING TO TELL YOU :)



"2 Seconds Late" - Natalie Flynn, a minor character in 1 Step Away, takes the lead role. After a chance encounter at a Nashville book festival, she starts dating a suave, young politician, Reuben King. Natalie has no idea Reuben is friends with some very dangerous people. These friends deal in information, and knowledge is their form of gold. Recent technological advances have allowed for widespread use of RFID tagging (radio-frequency ID), and Reuben's friends are growing richer by the day. To do so, though, they are endangering the lives of society's mentally and financially destitute. 2 Seconds Late is a tale of modern characters faced with ethical and life-altering decisions. Natalie, in some parallels to the biblical story of Esther, has been positioned for "such a time as this," but every second counts, and already she may be too late.


     Natalie Flynn was a minor character in the first book, but really played a large roll when it came to what happened to her in it.  It's nice to see her back, especially since we get to see a part of what happend to her in the first book that we didn't get to see.  In this book, she has moved on past the experience and gotten back on track with her schooling.  She meets up with Reuben King, who is spearheading a campaign that includes the latest advances in technology for RFID tagging.  Little does she know the power force that he has aligned with to make all of them rich and powerful.  Does Natalie finally figure out how to stop these people from ruining the lives of millions?  Does Reuben "wake-up" and see the destruction this power could cause?  You guessed it again, you're getting so smart.... READ THE BOOK!



These books were both quick and enjoyable reads.  Mr. Wilson has a very fluid writing style that practically keeps you hooked from the first page.  These were books where, "I'll just read one more chapter" became several more chapters.... In these books, the characters were ones that I rooted for, especially since I felt like I could identify with Bret.  Work, work, work, climb, climb, climb.  Am I making any progress up the ladder, or will it be like this all my life?  I liked that Bret seemed to have ethical struggles after they received the inheritance.  Not only by what to do with the money, but also by how people started treating him.  Was the pastor treating him different now that they had extra money?  I enjoyed the character of Reuben as well.  It is always refreshing to see people in power that struggle with that power and seeing how they overcome those struggles and do the right thing.


Are these "guy's books"?  The first is a twist on the story of Job.  In this story, instead of losing everything they have, they gain so much more. I think alot of guys will see themselves in the character of Bret, so I think this book would be great for any guy.  In the second book, even with this being a spin on "Esther", I saw more about the character of Reuben and enjoyed watching his development through the course of the book.  So yes, I think these books would both be great books for guy's to read.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

From an early age, I wanted to be a writer. Although I was born in California and raised  in Oregon, my more enduring memories start in Europe where my parents took Bibles behind the Iron Curtain. Life was an adventure, full of  exotic cultures and peoples.
Back in the States, I went through junior high and high school. I loved soccer, basketball, chess. Oh, yes, and girls. It took a few years to learn how to talk to them, but they interested me from a distance.
After high school, I traveled in eastern Europe and China. I returned to my parents’  crumbling marriage. I moved to LA and began college. During my junior  year, a childhood friend showed up as a freshman. Within months she and I were married, and we’re now going into our twentieth year, with two daughters to keep us on our toes. We’re not perfect--our kids could give you details--but we refuse to stop fighting for our family. And for our faith in Jesus, who is bigger than our self-centeredness.



I received both of these books from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Reich of Passage by Ace Collins

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Tell Boyer is burned out on politics and moves to Los Angeles to become an entertainment journalist. He is sleepwalking through life until he meets a reclusive doctor whose father escaped Nazi Germany, but had developed a technology to place terminally ill patients into a deep sleep until cures could be developed for their specific diseases. With stem cell technology now available to regenerate kidneys, The first person that Tell finds himself face to face with is Hollywood's most famous sex symbol--Jean Harlow. The second is Jim Blane, an American agent who penetrated the SS. As Jim Blane adjusts to modern life he discovers that they were not the only two suspended in time. With his spy expertise he recognizes men from the SS troop who are now alive and in key governmental positions throughout the world and buoyed by billions in Nazi gold. Tell races with Blane to expose a new plan for world domination and to introduce Jean Harlow to a modern world


When I spoke to Mr. Collins (ok, he let's me call him Ace, guess we're friends like that) about anything new that he had coming out and if he would be interested in letting me do a review on my new blog, I was surprised that he said yes.  It wasn't that I was surprised that he would let me do a review, I mean who wouldn't, right?  I was surprised that he had ANOTHER book ready to come out.  This guy has published over 60 books and I knew this would be another huge hit.


So what would you do if you were a journalist looking for a new direction in your writing, and you are introduced to Hollywood's most famous sex symbol, Jean Harlow?  I'm sure you'd do what Tell Boyer did in this book, take a year off and devote every minute to reacclimating this "young" lady back into society.  But wait, how did this famous lady from the 1930's get into the present without aging a bit?  Tell finds out through his association with John Gould.  John's father had experimented with a technology that allowed him to place terminally ill people into a deep sleep or a coma until their ailment could be cured.  But let's not stop there. In addition to Jean Harlow, Tell finds out that another man, Jim Blane, a former American agent who had infiltrated the German SS was also kept in a coma.  Jim begins to notice world leaders that appear to be previous members of the German SS, but how could they still look so young and what does it mean that they are in power?  What would it be like to take a star from old Hollywood and reintroduce them to today's world?  Can Jim find out how all of these former SS members are alive and what they are planning to do?  The answer is...... READ THE BOOK!


I've enjoyed each and every book by Ace Collins that I have ever read.  I learn so much through his writing, it makes me feel smarter when I put the book down.  Ace's writing style is one that infuses enough fact into the story that it makes you want to read more about characters, places or events.  Being a young guy myself, I wasn't aware of the story of Jean Harlow but I wanted to find out about her based on this book.  Ace allows his characters to develop so fully in his books that you find yourself wondering how many were patterned after real people. 


So is this a "man's book"?  Absolutely!  Famous actresses, German soldiers, world-wide government conspiracies, double-agents????  What guy in his right mind wouldn't fall for all of these plot elements?


I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ace Collins has authored more than sixty titles in the past two and half decades. Zondervan launched Ace's career in fiction, releasing two books in 2009 and another two in 2010. Ace has won numerous awards for his writing including three Golden Quills, an America's Writing Award, and the Angel of Excellence Award. He has written for a wide variety of publishers including St. Martin's Press, Viking-Penguin, Putnam, Harper-Collins, Thomas Nelson, Word, Zondervan, and the Chicago Review Press. In the course of his writing, he has also penned more than 2,000 magazine features for the likes of People, Us, Texas Monthly, Plus Magazine, and Guideposts. He has made scores of television guest appearances including Good Morning America, The Today Show, CBS This Morning, CNN, Fox and Friends, The NBC Nightly News, and Entertainment Tonight. Two of his books have been made into network TV specials.

Ace has always been a car lover, he has owned several Mustangs, including a 65 Fastback that he still drives, as well as cars from the 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s. On the right at the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Museum, Ace is shown with a famous SJ Desenberg. The oldest car he has ever owned and driven is a 1917 Model T Speedster.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Crossing - by Serita Jakes



In 2000, a horrible unsolved crime is committed on a Texas school bus. At the time, Claudia Campbell was the beautiful head cheerleader, a hopeful girl who idolized her slain teacher. Now ten years later, Claudia's secret life threatens to destroy her marriage and possibly her very life.Casio Hightower, now a prominent member of the community and a police officer, was a superstar quarterback and tapped by several colleges as their next golden boy. Casio's rages are tearing him apart and are close to landing him in jail.

The only way to move forward with their lives is to readdress the crime of their past, with the help of God and his perfect grace.

This has been a LONG time getting to the top of my too be read pile.  I joined "Blogging For Books" last year some time in a hesitant start to this whole review blogging thing I'm doing.  I waited, and waited for the book to come in, but it never showed up.  Here now, with my resurgence of doing these reviews, I had them send me another copy so that I can finish what I started.

Claudia, Casio and the several other players and cheerleaders were on a bus back from a game when, while they were stopped for a train, a masked gunman boarded the bus taking the life of their cheer director and friend, BJ.  Other than minor injuries, no one else was hurt except for BJ.  The relationship between Claudia and her teacher had gone past the normal boundaries and they had become close friends.  Flash forward 10 years, Claudia is still haunted by what happened on the bus, Casio, now a police officer, is having trouble with anger management.  Claudia's husband is the ADA and has been given new evidence by Casio that gives him a reason to reopen the case to hopefully find the killer.  Is there a killer on the loose?  What is Claudia hiding and why doesn't she want the case reopened?  Does Casio ever get help with his anger issue?  READ THE BOOK!

This book was rather hard for me to get into, unfortunately.  The book is basically written from the perspective of about 4 characters; BJ, Claudia, Vic and Casio.  I guess I'm just a simple guy and having to read these perspectives was just a bit much for me.  The plot was pretty straight-forward, although there were some side stories that I thought distracted from the main plot (the affair that Claudia's mother had).  There are several underlying themes that were spelled out in the book; Spousal Abuse, infidelity, faith, etc. just to name a few.

So is this a "man's book"?  I would have to say probably not.  Not that I think all men are as easily confused as I am, but I would rather have a book that just tells the story.  Having it told by different perspectives was a major turn off for me.  


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Serita A. Jakes has been involved in Christian ministry all of her adult life and has served alongside her husband, Bishop T. D. Jakes, throughout their entire marriage of nearly 30 years. As an insightful speaker, she draws heavily from her education and background in theater and mass communications. A soft-spoken woman offstage, First Lady Jakes, as she is affectionately referred to by The Potter’s House congregation, possesses the rare ability to reach and stir her audiences as she works to complement her husband’s ministry.
In addition to raising three sons and two daughters, she has assumed an active role at The Potter’s House of Dallas where her husband serves as Senior Pastor. First Lady Jakes serves as Executive Director of the church’s WoMan-to-Woman women’s ministry. She is founder of the much-acclaimed God’s Leading Ladies Life Enrichment program for women and The Potter’s House’s Debutante Program for teenage girls. Mrs. Jakes also speaks across the country on women’s roles in supporting their husbands, and she is in demand by women’s organizations throughout the nation as a celebrated speaker on issues concerning marriage and family. 
In 1998, First Lady Jakes and her husband founded Clay Academy, a private college preparatory Christian school. In August 1999, she released her first book, The Princess Within, which to date has sold more than 200,000 copies. The book, which is a poignant and revealing autobiographical reflection of encouragement and victory over pain, trauma, and abuse, is scheduled for re-release spring 2011. First Lady wrote the book as a vehicle of encouragement for hurting women who want to break the silence surrounding their secret pain and obtain healing from it. In November 2003, Warner Faith published First Lady Jakes’ second book, Beside Every Good Man: Loving Myself While Standing By Him. It challenges women to explore the seasons that shape their views of male influence in their eyes. 



Friday, June 1, 2012

God on the Streets of Gotham by Paul Asay

     What do God and the Caped Crusader have in common? While Batman is a secular superhero patrolling the fictional streets of Gotham City, the Caped Crusader is one whose story creates multiple opportunities for believers to talk about the redemptive spiritual truths of Christianity. While the book touches on Batman’s many incarnations over the last 70 years in print, on television, and at the local Cineplex for the enjoyment of Batman fans everywhere, it primarily focuses on Christopher Nolan’s two wildly popular and critically acclaimed movies—movies that not only introduced a new generation to a darker Batman, but are also loaded with spiritual meaning and redemptive metaphors.

     As you can tell by my previous posts, non-fiction books are not my normal cup of tea.  I've joined a couple of "blogging" websites, though, that are helping me to expand my horizon of books that I read.  So as I looked over a list of books available to be reviewed, I thought it would be a no-brainer for me to pick this one for my review.
     The books starts out with a nice history of Batman over the years and his rise through print, to TV and ultimately on the bigscreen.  The author begins by describing Batman in some generic terms; Being called from birth, the love of the Father, called by choice and then called by searching.  He then brings in characters that battled against Batman to show struggles that he dealt with: Nemesis - Scarecrow - Fear, Two-Face - Despair; Joker - Annihilation.  With each chapter, he builds off of the characteristics that we've seen in Batman and weaves them back to a comparison of the life of Jesus.
     I'd say that I was skeptical of this book at first.  It really didn't grab me the way that fiction does, simply because alot of the comparisons that the author makes are subject to interpretation.  I guess that's what has always caused me to shy away from reading too much fiction.  I didn't see anything scriptually wrong with the book.  Again, I'm sure that another author could take the same information and make it say something totally different, but Mr. Asay did a great job with his book.  I enjoyed that he didn't make this solely about Batman, but also the surroundings and influences that make up the character of Batman.
     Is it a "man's book"?  Sure, why not. It is a good read, has some good theories and talks about Batman.  How many other times in life will you be able to read a book that combines two of a man's most talked about topics, God and superheroes.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

     Paul Asay is the associate editor at Plugged In,  a ministry that reaches more than 6 million people with movie reviews that help people understand popular cultual trends and how they intersect with spiritual issues.  Paul is an award-winning journalist who covered religion at The (Colorado Springs) Gazette and whose work has been published by such outlets as The Washington Post, Christianity Today, Youth Worker Journal and Beliefnet.com.  Paul has a special interest in the unexpected ways that faith and media intersect.  He lives in Colorado with his wife, Wendy, and two children.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Saving Hope - by Margaret Daley

When a teenager goes missing from the Beacon of Hope School, Texas Ranger Wyatt Sheridan and school director Kate Winslow are forced into a dangerous struggle against a human trafficking organization. But the battle brings dire consequences as Wyatt’s daughter is terrorized and Kate is kidnapped.     

Now it’s personal, and Wyatt finds both his faith and investigative skills challenged as he fights to discover the mastermind behind the ring before evil destroys everyone he loves.

This is my first book by Margaret Daley, I've seen her other books that she has published through the "Love Inspired" series, but none of those really caught my eye.  This book, however, screamed at me,
"Rick, you have to read this book, it's about the MEN of the Texas Rangers!"  Now, as you know, I'm doing these reviews from a "man's perspective" and that works out well, because I'm a man.  And what better kind of book for a man to review than a book about the tough Texas Rangers!


Texas Ranger Wyatt Sheridan has settled into a good life in Texas.  It's been 8 years since his wife was killed, so he shares the ranch with his mother and his teenage daughter, Maddie.  Wyatt has a decent relationship with Maddie, they both love to ride their horses, but lately a wall has started building between them.  His mother, on the other hand, is finished off with husband #3 and watching out for #4.  It seems there are times when she's more of a hand ful then Maddie.  Kate Winslow is the director of the Beacon of Hope School that assists teenage girls through court appointed intervention.  She comes from the Winslow family of old money, but only the kind that donates, not the kind that actually gets in the trenches and makes a difference.  This causes alot of friction between her and her mother as Kate wants to help these lost girls personally, not from a distance.  First a van is stolen at the school and a girl goes missing, then another is killed after she left the school with her suspected pimp.  Now, Kate's funding has been pulled from the Winslow Foundation.  Will she have to close the school and turn the girls out?  Can Wyatt help find the missing girl, is she even still alive? You know the rest, you'll have to read the book to find out :)

This was a tough sell for me.  I've grown up with blinders on and find it uncomfortable to think that we live in society that could and would treat children, treat other humans, as these sex traffickers do.  This story, though, paints a picture of what is happening daily around the world, and right here in the United States.  The author has a page on her website specifically devoted to why she decided to write about this subject, check it out: Why I Wrote Saving Hope.  The characters in this book, specifically the girls from Beacon of Hope all called out to me in desparation.  These are teens who want a different life, who are searching for the missing piece.  Margaret does a good job of displaying the faith of Kate, I truly wish she had done more to showcase it in dealing with the girls of Beacon of Hope.  Their "missing" piece is a relationship with Him and He is the only one that can fill that void.

So is this a "man's book"?  Most definitely yes.  There is plenty of suspense, intrique and danger through out this book.  The plot is very well defined and I'm sure that we can all see ourselves in the character of Wyatt.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Margaret Daley is an award winning, multi-published author in the romance genre. One of her romantic suspense books, Hearts on the Line, won the American Christian Fiction Writers’ Book of the Year Contest. Recently she has won the Golden Quill Contest, FHL’s Inspirational Readers’ Choice Contest, Winter Rose Contest, Holt Medallion and the Barclay Gold Contest.

She wrote for various secular publishers before the Lord led her to the Christian romance market. She currently writes inspirational romance and romantic suspense books for the Steeple Hill Love Inspired lines, romantic suspense for Abingdon Press and historical romance for Summerside Press. She has sold seventy-five books to date.
Margaret is currently the President for American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), an organization of over 2300 members. She was one of the founding members of the first ACFW local chapter, WIN in Oklahoma. She has taught numerous classes for online groups, ACFW and RWA chapters. She enjoys mentoring other authors.

Until she retired a few years ago, she was a teacher of students with special needs for twenty-seven years and volunteered with Special Olympics as a coach. She currently is on the Outreach committee at her church, working on several projects in her community as well as serving on her church’s vestry.
On a more personal note, she has been married for over forty years to Mike and has one son and four granddaughters. She treasures her time with her family and friends.


Thanks to Abingdon Press and Netgalley for providing this copy in exchange for my honest review of the book.