Posted in Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense

Steven James

Steven James is a phenomanal mystery suspense writer. If I had to liken him to someone I would say he’s like the earlier James Patterson books. The first book is The Pawn. The Pawn introduces you to Patrick Bowers who is an FBI detective who uses geographic locations to solve his murders. I appreciate that Ms. James decided to make his detective distinct and unique. Patrick is also raising his step-daughter alone which adds a familial layer (and humor) to an oftentimes serious book. That said, things can get a little bloody. I do have a tendency to fast-forward through the murders and killings. This is not your typical romantic suspense as romance is not the focus. But if you read all four of the Patrick Bowers books, you will be rewarded.

Spiritually, his mystery novels, though, are a little different in the sense that there is no overt Christian message. Once again it’s kind of woven through until the last novel (which may not be the last because I just ordered something from Amazon with Patrick Bowers!!). But the novels are clean (no cursing, nothing illicit). He also has a new series coming out with Bethany House this year so stay tuned!

Posted in Interview

Interview of Tessa Afshar

Author Bio:

Tessa Afshar was voted “New Author of the Year” by the Family Fiction sponsored Reader’s Choice Awards 2011 for her novel Pearl in the Sand. She was born in Iran to a nominally Muslim family, and lived there for the first fourteen years of her life. She moved to England where she survived boarding school for girls and fell in love with Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte, before moving to the United States permanently. Her conversion to Christianity in her twenties changed the course of her life forever. Tessa holds an MDiv from Yale University where she served as cochair of the Evangelical Fellowship at the Divinity School. She has spent the last thirteen years in full-time Christian work.

Hi Embassie. It’s a pleasure to hang out with you and your readers today.

   What inspired you to write Harvest of Rubies?

I had committed to writing three biblical novels that involved the symbol of walls. My first novel, Pearl in the Sand, dealt with Rahab, a woman who literally lived in a wall. Nehemiah, as the rebuilder of the walls of Jerusalem, was another obvious choice. But as I began to write Harvest of Rubies, my main character, Sarah, took over. She practically invited herself over for dinner and refused to leave! Her personality was so compelling that I had no choice but to tell her story, and tackle the walls that surrounded her world. In the follow-up novel, Harvest of Gold, I will tell the story of Sarah and her husband as they accompany Nehemiah to Jerusalem.

 Ms. Afshar, you were born in Iran and lived there for 14 years, has this experience influenced your writing?

Persian people love literature. Everyone from university professors to construction workers will quote five-hundred-year-old poetry during the course of a conversation. As you travel, you come across ancient structures, some as old as twenty-five hundred years old. The very atmosphere causes the love of history and story to sink into your bones. I think that’s why I am drawn to the historical genre. The Persians also love to laugh. Although I cover some serious topics, my characters often manage to see the lighter side of life. I love it when my readers tell me that I made them laugh and cry in the same novel.

     I imagine that Harvest of Rubies took a lot of research. How long does it take you to research a book?

 Each book is different. Harvest of Rubies required over a year of research. The ancient Persian culture is a complex and mysterious world. In recent years, scholars have made important breakthroughs in their study of the Persian Empire. I had to become familiar with these discoveries, while also studying Nehemiah in the Bible and through many commentaries.

  When you were thinking about the “wedding scene,” what helped you think of things to go badly for Sarah?

Often as I write, I ask myself this question: “What is the worst thing I can do to this character?” It’s a trick I learned from a favorite writer. As I wrote the wedding scene, I kept thinking of the most humiliating things a woman might experience on her wedding day and put Sarah through them. Isn’t that cruel? But it makes for good reading!

 Darius is quite the man, anything (anyone) influence his character?

He is a hottie, isn’t he? He isn’t patterned after anyone special. I wanted the right foil for Sarah—someone who would bring out her insecurities while at the same time strengthen her character and ultimately make her feel wanted.

    I was extremely excited to learn that there will be a book two, is there anything that you can share with us regarding it? Do you know when it will be coming out?

Currently, I am working on the sequel to Harvest of Rubies. There are more intrigues to solve, adventures to survive, and love to find for Sarah and Darius in Harvest of Gold. The rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem has a special significance for Sarah and Darius’s marriage. I am hoping to finish the book by the fall of 2012, which would mean that River North Publishing (the fiction arm of Moody) will release it next May. But that is not set in stone yet.

 Embassie, thank you so much for inviting me to spend time with you. It’s been an absolute pleasure. If you would like to visit me on my website, the address is or visit me on my Facebook author page where there is always some new discussion going on:


Please check out my review of Harvest of Rubies:

Posted in Contemporary

Claudia Mair Burney’s Zora and Nicky

This is a great romance! Zora and Nicky are two pastors’ kids who have kind of strayed from God in their own way. Zora is the daughter of a wealthy minister. Her every wish is granted-so long as its the same thing that her dad wants. Nicky’s family is not as wealthy, but he has his own history of challenges that plague him. They each decide it’s time to get right with God and meet at a Bible Study. But its not that easy since race has such a history on both sides. I really enjoyed this book because it wasn’t just attraction, they really got to know each other. This book will make you smile, it will make you pause and question society, and may even make you sad at some point. But in the end it is so worth it! I couldn’t put it down!

Posted in Historical

Siri Mitchell’s The Messenger

 The Messenger is about a woman, Hannah, who is a quaker during the Revolutionary War. This of course means that she, nor her family should take part in the war. Well, her brother runs off and joins the Americans only to be captured by the British. Then enters Jeremiah, a man who has one arm which doesn’t allow him to fight physically, but he still wants to help the Americans. Ms. Mitchell did her research and weaved it into her novel so well I felt like I was there. I think there were only two problems with this book: one I’m not going to mention as it goes to the core plot of the novel, the other is that there was no kiss. A romance novel with no kiss! It makes perfect sense for that era, but it bothered me in this era. Its not a deal-breaker though, so highly recommended!

Spiritually, Hannah has to learn that she doesn’t need to be a quaker to please God and Jeremiah needs to learn that God is still there and hasn’t given up him. He still has a purpose as we all do!

Posted in Fantasy/Sci-Fi, Historical

Lisa T. Bergren’s Tributary

 So the River of Time is a fun series. If you read this book, you must, absolutely must start with book one: Waterfall. It’s hard to talk too much about Tributary without giving away things that happen in the other books. To sum the series up though, we’ve got two 21st century girls who, while on an archealogical dig, get transported back in time to 14th century Italy. To speak more generally, about the series, I love that when the girls go back in time they are both modern and respectful of the time that they are transported to. Nothing more aggravating than a modern woman in old times. More, specifically, Tributary still maintains the exciting romance and the wonderful knights (gotta love knights) as in all the rest. The sisters start off the series with a vague notion of God, but by Tributary they are praying and seeking Him and learning to get past the spirit of fear. There’s lots of adventure going on, befitting the times. The only thing I would say is a miss for me, is that nothing seems to get resolved (same conflicts, same people). But maybe that’s how it was back then.

Posted in Contemporary

Beth Vogt’s Wish You Were Here

This book was really unique because it starts with a wedding (albeit a wedding gone wrong). This book starts with Allison who is about to marry Seth, but five days before the wedding finds herself kissing Seth’s brother Daniel. I don’t think you need me to point that there are a few problems in this relationship. It’s an interesting premise, but I think if I were rating the book I might give it 3.5 starts our of 5. It begins very engaging for the first few chapters, but then it kind of mellows out in the middle and picks up again towards the end. Overall, I found that this was an enjoyable read and so very different than the usual.

Spiritually, you have Allison who got saved as a teenager, but once she started dating Seth, she put God on the backburner. She has to learn who she is in Christ before she can proceed any further with another relationship. I love this concept. Daniel’s relationship in the beginning resembles his relationship to his father, cold and distant. To be honest, I think a lot of people compare their relationship to God with their relationship with one of their parents. This book really challenges you to look beyond yourself. I recommend it!

Posted in Interview

Interview of Tracy Higley

Ms. Higley,

1)      What came first, the research or your storyline?

Research always comes first for me.  It’s in digging through the real stories of people and places that the inspiration for my own story is born.

2)      You write a lot of books that deal with the ancient world, what made you choose this time period?

It chose me, I think!  I can’t really say – I’ve always been interested in the ancient world. Perhaps it was growing up in church, hearing all the Old Testament stories, and wondering about the culture and life of the people we don’t hear as much about.

3)      Obviously your books take a lot of research. How long did it take you to research the Garden of Madness?

Research is ongoing through the process. I start with a month or two of studying, plotting and outlining, and all through the months of writing the first draft I’m taking days out from writing to do more research that I need. Then at the end, there are always gaps to fill in, so I go back and research some more!

4)      Tia has a pretty adventurous and bold spirit in Garden of Madness, what (or who) was her inspiration?

Yes, she’s unlike most of the women of her acquaintance, but this was purposeful. I think many of us feel like we “don’t fit in” in some way in our lives. I wanted to see Babylon through the eyes of a woman who is questioning everything.

5)      When you write your books, do you plan everything in advance or are you surprised with the twists and turns of your novels?

I am definitely a planner, and know what will happen in most scenes, at least in general. But often twists and turns will jump out and surprise me as I write.

6)      If there is one thing you want your readers to take away from your book, what would it be?

I would love readers to realize that we are all playing a role in the One True Story that God is writing across human history. There is a battle to fight and an enemy, and we are each important. Live your adventure!

7)      I saw that Isle of Shadows is coming out later this year, is there anything you can tell us about it?

Isle of Shadows is actually a rewrite of an earlier title of mine, Shadow of Colossus. It’s been significantly updated, and has a beautiful new cover and a new title. I’m hoping readers will love it!

Posted in Historical

Serena Miller’s The Measure of Katie Calloway

This book was a good surprise. It starts at the end of the Civil War (my favorite American War to read about) and Katie Calloway’s husband comes home and he is no good. Long story short she runs away to work at a logging company in Michigan. Usually I don’t like stories of deception. There has to be a good (and I mean good) reason for it, and then the big reveal can’t happen way at the end. In other words, there is an art to using deception in a novel and Ms. Miller did a great job with it. At no place in the novel did I feel that Katie Calloway was being annoying, in fact I really enjoyed her character. This book will make you laugh out loud, sigh in the end and learn about trusting God through the difficult times when there seems like there is no hope. Terrific!

Posted in Historical

Linda Windsor’s Rebel

 Nobody writes about early Great Britain history like Linda Windsor. The woman knows her research and she knows how to write a good story. Rebel concludes the Brides of Alba series. In this third book, the youngest son Alyn, returns home. He had left home to become a priest and returned home unsure of his calling. Then there is Kella who has made a mistake that has ramifications that not only effect her but everyone around her. The romance between them was really good and you have read the other books, not totally unforeseen. This book also throws in the death of Merlin and the end of King Arthur’s reign. It’s another take on the famous king. So combine the sword-fighting, druids, romance, secrets, and the love of God and you’ve got yourself an excellent book!