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Review of Judah’s Wife by Angela Hunt   Leave a comment

 

Seeking peace and safety after a hard childhood, Leah marries Judah, a strong and gentle man, and for the first time in her life Leah believes she can rest easily. But the land is ruled by Antiochus IV, descended from one of Alexander the Great’s generals, and when he issues a decree that all Jews are to conform to Syrian laws upon pain of death, devout Jews risk everything to follow the law of Moses.

Judah’s father resists the decree, igniting a war that will cost him his life. But before dying, he commands his son to pick up his sword and continue the fight–or bear responsibility for the obliteration of the land of Judah. Leah, who wants nothing but peace, struggles with her husband’s decision–what kind of God would destroy the peace she has sought for so long?

The miraculous story of the courageous Maccabees is told through the eyes of Judah’s wife, who learns that love requires courage . . . and sacrifice.

 

***

 

After reading the first book in Angela Hunt’s Silent Years series, I waited with eager anticipation for the next in the series. In the second book of the Silent Years, Angela Hunt takes us back to the time of the Maccabees and their heroic struggle to follow their faith.

I had high hopes for this book, and initially it started out strong enough. Leah, the wife of Judah, has lived for years with an abusive father. So when she is offered in marriage to Judah, she hopes she can finally escape the violence that has plagued her entire life, and have peace. Judah proves to be nothing like her father, instead being a kind man willing to stand up for his family and faith. When events take a drastic turn, however, Leah struggles to love and trust Judah as he becomes the leader of the bloody revolt against Antiochus IV. Judah is a reluctant hero, a man forced into a role which he never asked for, but follows out of his desire to obey God and not repeat the mistakes of his ancestors. But in choosing to follow God’s lead, he risks losing the woman he loves.

Angela Hunt does a great job bringing her characters to life. Even secondary characters stand strong in the story. But there are some issues.

When it comes to the romance part, Hunt tends to skim over it. To her credit, she did a better job in this book than the last, but it still felt rushed and pushed aside to make room for the rest of the story. Mainly, the Maccabees’ struggle. Which brings me to another issue, and that is including too much history and not enough story. Angela Hunt’s goal is telling you the historical events of the Maccabees. That means fleshing out certain elements is going to be minimal, and that is how the interaction between Judah and Leah was. While there are pauses every now and then when she halts history to focus on the characters themselves and how events challenge them, she quickly moves on.

Leah, honestly, got on my nerves more than once. I understand when you live in an abusive household for your entire life, you can’t just open up and give love out. However, her mother is the one who takes the brunt of the abuse for her. Like 99% of it. Leah’s reaction? Scorn because her mother did not fight back or do anything. Zero gratitude for what her mother endured for her sake, until Judah’s mother pointed it out to her.

Next, she hated violence, so despite Judah being kind and gentle to her for several years, being a husband every woman would want to have, she becomes convinced he will start beating her once he becomes a warrior. So what does she do? Act like a spoiled brat and throw tantrums when she doesn’t get her own way. I actually felt sorry for Judah and what he had to put up with.

I won’t spoil the end for all of you. Suffice it to say that I already knew how it would end since I know the history of Judah. But the way Angela did it was so abrupt, you end up feeling very disappointed once you’ve finished the book.

I did like how Leah’s thoughts and perceptions of God grew. She doubts in the beginning as to whether God hears her prayers after the repeated violence she has seen in her home, and questions whether he really has a plan for her. Then slowly, she finally comprehends the destiny He has for her life and His love for her.

If we could have focused more on her and her relationship with Judah, the story would have been better (as well as some maturity on her part). As it is, while it starts out with a strong beginning, it loses pace pretty quick in favor of focusing on historical events over the characters and their relationship with each other.

Verdict: A semi-decent read that should please most enthusiasts of Biblical fiction, except those looking for more depth to a story and characters.

(I received a free copy of the book from the publisher and author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.)

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Review of Holding the Fort by Regina Jennings   Leave a comment

 

Louisa Bell never wanted to be a dance-hall singer, but dire circumstances force her hand. With a little help from her brother in the cavalry, she’s able to make ends meet, but lately he’s run afoul of his commanding officer, so she undertakes a visit to straighten him out.

Major Daniel Adams has his hands full at Fort Reno. He can barely control his rowdy troops, much less his two adolescent daughters. If Daniel doesn’t find someone respectable to guide his children, his mother-in-law insists she’ll take them.

When Louisa arrives with some reading materials, she’s mistaken for the governess who never appeared. Major Adams is skeptical. She bears little resemblance to his idea of a governess–they’re not supposed to be so blamed pretty–but he’s left without recourse. His mother-in-law must be satisfied, which leaves him turning a blind eye to his unconventional governess’s methods. Louisa’s never faced so important a performance. Can she keep her act together long enough?

***

 

I originally requested this as something for my mom to read. Originally, I was thinking about going for the sequel to Harbingers, which I reviewed a few months back. But upon reading the premise, what little enthusiasm I had quickly evaporated. So I asked my mom to choose the book she liked the most that would appeal to her, and I’d give it to her to read after I was done. This was her top choice.

My expectations going into this read were low. I don’t particularly like stories set in the old west, and after my last read, I held little hope of even the romance element being worthwhile. Imagine my surprise when I ended up enjoying the story!

As far as pace goes, it doesn’t lag. Everything is kept moving, without the boring spots you sometimes encounter with historical romance fiction. And the characters themselves are ones with heart and personality that keep you turning the pages to see what happens next.

Louise is a spunky strong woman, with a passion for singing and a heart that’s devoted to those she cares for. With her parents dead and her brother serving in the army, singing in saloons is the only thing that has stood between her and the street. When she’s faced with unexpected unemployment and then news of her brother in trouble with his commanding officer, she makes the decision to go seek a new life for herself and straighten out her brother. Her hope is that the US Calvary is in need of some wholesome entertainment. But after promising to make a simple delivery of books, she is mistaken for the governess Major Daniel Adams requested to help rein in his unruly girls. Though she has little book learning, she goes along with the assumption, figuring it will give her the chance to aid her brother.

Major Adams is great at running a fort, but he struggles with raising two girls. Caught between the two, he’s forced to always be at his best with little time for engaging in any silliness. Allowing himself to try out a stunt ends up with him injuring himself right in front of Louise. When she doesn’t reveal his secret, he feels obligated to give her a chance as the governess for his children, despite his suspicions.

I really enjoyed Louise and watching her use her wits to maintain her facade as a refined and educated woman. Even though she feels completely overwhelmed and fearful of the moment when she is found out, she doesn’t back down. She gives the performance of a confident governess her best shot, and during her free hours when she is alone, struggles to learn the subjects she needs to stay ahead of the girls she is tutoring. What also adds to the character is that she has always been judged by the church ladies of her hometown and scorned by them without ever being given the chance to prove herself or that the accusations against her are false. As a result, she doesn’t see God as a loving God, and doubts her self-worth.

Major Daniel Adams, as far as male leads go, wasn’t bad. While I wouldn’t call him a favorite, he worked well in the story. He’s a typical stiff military man, but with Louise, that’s when more personality and feeling breaks free. Though he’s suspicious of Louise’s story and background, he opts to give her a chance. His attraction to her grows, especially when he sees how well she and his children get along.

What I really liked about Major Adams was that he went by Louise’s heart and stuck by her. Even when given the opportunity to find evidence that would provide him with the truth about Louise, he refused to take it, choosing instead to trust her and what he felt in his own heart about her.

Personally, I feel there should have been another character to help with leading Louise and Daniel in having a relationship with God, or a stronger one in Daniel’s case, since he was already a Christian. It felt awkward when he would go talking about God and how Jesus is there for all, since it felt like he was a little lost too and needed guidance himself, but it doesn’t detract from the story. The romance is good, and you’ll be rewarded by a sweet ending that makes you eager for the next book in the series.

Verdict: A definite buy!

(I received a free copy of the book from the publisher and author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.)

Review of The Sound of Rain by Sarah Loudin Thomas   Leave a comment

Judd Markley is a hardworking coal miner who rarely thinks much past tomorrow until he loses his brother–and nearly his own life–in a mine cave-in. Vowing never to enter the darkness of a mine again, he leaves all he knows in West Virginia to escape to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It’s 1954, the seaside community is thriving, and Judd soon hires on with a timber company.

Larkin Heyward’s life in Myrtle Beach is uncomplicated, mostly doing volunteer work and dancing at the Pavilion. But she dreams of one day doing more–maybe moving to the hollers of Kentucky to help the poor children of Appalachia. But she’s never even met someone who’s lived there–until she encounters Judd, the newest employee at her father’s timber company.

Drawn together in the wake of a devastating hurricane, Judd and Larkin each seek answers to what tomorrow will bring. As opposition rises against following their divergent dreams, they realize that it may take a miracle for them to be together.

***

After a mining accident that nearly claimed Judd Markley’s life and took that of his brother, Judd decides on a drastic change by leaving all he’s ever known and embarking on the life he would have wanted his brother to have.

Larkin Heyward is a pampered rich girl who dreams of doing something big in the world that will make her feel useful, but feels compelled to stay with her family after the loss of her brother.

I’m always been drawn to deep stories. Those make up some of my all time favorites, so when I read the summary for this, its promise of a haunting and poignant story convinced me to give it a try. Unfortunately, its promise turned out to be hallow, at least for me.

The beginning starts out decent enough, with us trapped in the cave-in with Judd. And even his journey to South Carolina as he tries to mend his broken heart keeps you turning the pages. Larkin is okay, but not what you would call ever compelling. Still, I waited to see her journey of growth and romance with Judd.

Results were less than adequate. Like one reviewer already mentioned here, the premise advertised for this story is a little deceptive. Part of the draw in selecting this story was reading about a hurricane ripping through the town and drawing Judd and Larkin together. That hurricane went by as fast as it came, and left next to zero impact on the characters, unless you can count getting soaked in the rain as something. I didn’t even reach the halfway point in the story before it was gone. Expecting to see the characters rally after the horror and trauma of this devastating ordeal, I was surprised at how quickly the whole ordeal was glossed over. We then move to Larkin attempting an escape away from her domineering father so she can join her brother in bringing help to those “poor Appalachian folks”. And yes, my reaction did mirror Judd’s with that one.

With the hurricane moment gone, I thought we were going to do the whole ‘rich woman goes to the backwoods and learns how to fend for herself’ thing. Again, glossed over.

Honestly, the story wandered. I felt the author really didn’t know where to lead the story, so we kind of just weaved in and out of bits of drama, that were thrown in there just to keep things going.

The part about learning to live your life and healing is great, but you want to see some kind of journey with that and growth on the characters’ parts. Judd stayed as the mild-mannered man always reflecting on the loss of his brother and doing the same thing every day, while Larkin remained as a spoiled and impulsive woman who doesn’t change until practically near the end of the book.

Spiritual elements are about the same. One character will go off spouting a sermon or such, but that’s about the extent of it. You more cringe than feel anything resonant within you, which is quite disappointing. The only positive thing I can give this story is that the writing is good. I just wish the story had measured up to it.

Conclusion: As a mild, light read that takes its time and doesn’t worry about pacing, character growth, or a meaningful spiritual connection much, this is it, and judging from the amount of positive reviews on here, I believe the majority will find this story much more to their liking.

Verdict: Pass

(I received a free copy of the book from the publisher and author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.)

Review of Crown of Souls by Ronie Kendig   Leave a comment

Six months after stopping a deadly plague, Cole “Tox” Russell and his team are enjoying a little rest. That peace is short-lived when a sniper shot hits Tox. The enemy is discovered to be one of their own, a rogue Special Forces team operator.

Alec King is perhaps the only person as skilled as Tox, and he’s out for justice. Furious with orders that got his men killed, he intends to make those responsible pay. And he insists Tox join him, believing they are the same breed of soldier.

Afraid his old friend is right, Tox battles a growing darkness within himself as he and his team engage in another deadly encounter with antiquity. It appears Alec is cheating–he’s using a mysterious artifact, a crown that history has linked to some of the worst slaughters in humanity. Racing to stop Alec before his vengeance is unleashed, Tox must fight the monster without becoming one.

***

This is another read that’s most unusual for me. I have never read or been interested in military suspense. But when I read that there was a touch of sci-fi and supernatural elements in there (plus the fact this was the only appealing read in the fiction request section) I decided to take a chance on it.

Despite being the second book in the series, I had no problems picking up on the story, which starts out with a shot on the very first page with our hero Cole “Tox” Russel. While there were a couple clunky parts in places, I have to be very honest. This is one of the best written suspense stories I have ever read! Especially being military focused, because I usually don’t like either suspense or military fiction. Crown of Souls proved to be the exception. I actually got hooked, which amazed even me. The plot was pretty face-paced (again, couple clunky spots that sagged, but nothing major) and the character development was just beautiful. I didn’t like some spots where the author made some rapid switches from one character’s point of view to another, but the story is too good to really care.

Tox makes for one incredible character. He’s a warrior haunted by death and worse, the things he’s had to do in the name of serving his country that not even his own team know. Is he worthy of redemption? Would his team leave him if they found out about his secret? And what is always foremost in his mind, would the one girl he loves ever be able to forgive him?

Through it all, Haven shines like a beacon. Her love for Tox is an anchor, and her quiet faith both draws him and dares him to believe.

If you’re looking for an action-packed story with faith, romance, and intrigue that will keep you up turning those pages, I highly recommend buying this book. I’m already looking to get the first book, and I’m certainly going to be waiting eagerly for the third!

Small warning here to those a little squeamish: there are some graphic scenes in here. This is a military novel, so this kind of stuff will be present, but it’s not a book jammed to the hilt with it. But zero in the bad language and sexual content.

Verdict: Buy immediately!

(I received a free copy of the book from the publisher and author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.)

Review of The Warble by Victoria Simcox   2 comments

In this first adventure of the Bernovem Chronicles, young Kristina is whisked away to the magical land of Bernovem after she opens a mysterious box from her teacher. There, she finds out she must deliver the magical Warble to its resting place and break the hold of the evil queen holding everyone in bondage. Though danger lurks at every turn, Kristina and the friends she makes along the way fight to bring back peace to the realm.

The story has a Narnia vibe, what with Kristina being sucked away into a magical land with gnomes, fairies, dwarves, and talking animals, but carries a distinct flavor of its own. Each page is a delightful enchantment, and when you reach the end, you feel the need to go back to the beginning and start reading all over again. The character development is solid, and the writing clear. And even more, I loved the parallels to the return of Christ that were weaved throughout the story.

Victoria Simcox is a highly skilled and creative author who has managed to carve a unique world that I look forward to visiting once again!

Amazon: https://tinyurl.com/z3nuv5l

Posted September 16, 2017 by J.M. Christian in book reviews

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Review of The Assault (Harbingers)   Leave a comment

Cycle 2 of the Harbingers series continues the story of four gifted strangers brought together to fight a growing darkness.

In Bill Myers’s “The Revealing,” the team finds themselves in Rome trying to retrieve the mystical spear Hitler once owned–the very spear that pierced Christ’s side. This task will take them from hidden chambers inside the Vatican to a mysterious seaside cave with powers they could never expect.

Frank Peretti’s “Infestation” unleashes a microscopic evil on the world that deceives, blinds, kills, then spreads. The Harbingers team must confront a monster bent on seducing and destroying mankind.

In “Infiltration” by Angela Hunt, the team is wounded and barely holding together. Forced to split up, they realize their investigations have led them into dangerous waters.

Alton Gansky’s “The Fog” unleashes a supernatural mist unlike any other. There are vicious things in the fog that kill whatever they find. One team member realizes that the ultimate sacrifice may have to be made.

***

So this story was a little different than what I usually read. I’m not a fan of suspense (which is why there is probably only four other books like that in my collection) as I have found that with suspense, the author is so busy trying to create it that important things like character development and romance are neglected. But when I saw that this had a supernatural angle to it, I thought I would go ahead and give it a try, despite it being the second book in the series.

Bill Myer’s episode is what we begin with first, and starts us from the perspective of the tattoo artist, one of the four unique people this series revolves around (and no, they’re not even close to X-Men) who find themselves trying to find the spear that pierced Jesus’s side and end up in a house crazier than Wonderland. I could say it was because of just plunging right into the story without having read the first book that led to my initial dislike, but I would be lying. I just really don’t like Bill Myer’s writing. I have only read one other book by him, and what turned me off then turns me off now. A muddled plot that is really boring, poor character development, and, yes, it may be minor but still bugs me, one dirty word: p***.

After suffering through Myer’s part, I was praying really hard Peretti would not disappoint. And thank God, he didn’t. One thing he does, which a lot of people don’t do: write some solid character development. And he starts us with the crusty, ex-priest, atheist professor. Good writing and a plot that actually deserves the name “suspense” keep you turning those pages. And might I add, the element of faith was better presented too.

The third part is written my Angela Hunt (who I do like after reading her novel, Egypt’s Sister). It’s a bit of a lag after Frank Peretti’s engaging tale and an annoying professor you were silently rooting for. Andi, the professor’s assistant, is who we now focus on. Not bad, but still a drop from the previous part.

Fourth is by Alton Gansky who switches us to Tank, the Christian ex-football player, and a supernatural fog that invades the city. The story starts off slow, but builds up the further you go, and gives us a nice climatic scene at the end and a hero’s sacrifice.

After all was said and done, I actually did enjoy the story, minus Myer’s part. So I’ll continue to follow it. While it has its ups and downs, the premise and characters are engaging enough for me to want to continue. And the element of faith, though subtle, is a driving point for each character’s journey.

Verdict: Definitely not a must-have, but it’s a decent story for suspense lovers and those needing something to read.

(I received a free copy of the book from the publisher and author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.)

Egypt’s Sister by Angela Hunt review   Leave a comment

Five decades before the birth of Christ, Chava, daughter of the royal tutor, grows up with Urbi, a princess in Alexandria’s royal palace. When Urbi becomes Queen Cleopatra, Chava vows to be a faithful friend no matter what–but after she and Cleopatra have an argument, she finds herself imprisoned and sold into slavery. 

Torn from her family, her community, and her elevated place in Alexandrian society, Chava finds herself cast off and alone in Rome. Forced to learn difficult lessons, she struggles to trust a promise HaShem has given her. After experiencing the best and worst of Roman society, Chava must choose between love and honor, between her own desires and God’s will for her life. 

As soon as I saw this book up for review, I immediately sent in my request. I have a love for biblical fiction, and reading the synopsis alone captured my attention. And yes, the great looking cover just enhanced the appeal.

We begin the story with Chava, daughter of the royal Jewish tutor, who becomes friends with Urbi, the girl one day destined to become the famed Queen Cleopatra. The story chronicles their friendship as children, up to Urbi’s rise to power.

I will admit, the first part of the story felt slow. While Chava is intended to be the main lead, we’re more often just narrated the events that occurred in Cleopatra’s life. And Cleopatra ending being the more interesting person you wanted to know more about when you watched her go from princess to Queen and married to her ten year old brother. Her war in a game of wits to stay ahead of her enemies ended up pulling your interest more than the spoiled Chava.

Chava holds onto the promise she received from HaShem one night “Your friendship with the queen lies in my hands. You will be with her on her happiest day and her last. And you, daughter of Israel, will know yourself, and you will bless her.”

To this end, she follows Cleopatra faithfully, to the point of refusing to marry out of the devotion to her friend. And yes, Chava was a touch clingy and possessive because of it.

But then Chava’s life takes an unexpected turn, and she goes from friend to one of the most powerful woman in the world to a slave struggling to stay alive. From there, we watch as Chava is stripped of everything: home, wealth, possessions, family. And left with nothing but the bitter taste of betrayal and a broken faith.

This where Angela Hunt begins the crafting of Chava’s story and her growth from a pampered and spoiled child with no care for the rest of the world, into a strong woman. Through all the hardships, and the brutality of first century BC, you see God’s hand upon her, guiding her to that one pivotal point in history she was destined for.

I will caution readers that there are some scenes that might be a little hard for those who are more sensitive to those things. The story does not dwell overmuch on them, but it’s enough for you to feel the impact of it.

The writing was excellent, and once we got over the first part, the character development picked up drastically. If you are looking for solid, well-researched Biblical fiction with strong emphasis on faith, then I highly recommend this book.

Verdict: Buy immediately.

(I received a free copy of the book from the publisher and author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.)

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