Posted in Horror

Christian Horror Novels

I don’t celebrate Halloween, but in honor of the day, I will just list some of my favorite authors who can also dish out the horror:

Robert Liparulo:
any number of his books can count, but I really enjoyed his YA fiction the most. Dreamhouse kings is a series that you must read all at once and with the lights on.

Frank Peretti: Duh. A great many of his books can fit this category as well, but The Oath was the first Christian novel I read that had me up at night. I promise you I didn’t know what was coming next.

Ted Dekker: This guy can write some strange books, no doubt, many of them fit the horror category, but the first one I read that made me want to sleep with the lights on? Skin.

Have fun folks today and be safe!

Posted in Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense

Margaret Daley’s Saving Hope: Men of the Texas Rangers

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.

I enjoyed this novel. I thought Kate was a very believable character and certainly very likeable. Wyatt seemed to be a good match for her and somehow fit the role of what you think a Texas Ranger should be. The mystery was interesting without being overwhelming and I was surprised at a particular moment, because it didn’t completely follow the path of predictability. I think the only drawback for me was that the relationship didn’t quite develop into love though I could see that Kate and Wyatt were getting there. Spiritually, Wyatt has to learn to trust God again and Kate continues to trust God with her organization. Solid novel. Good Read. Recommended.

Posted in Personal

Monday Musings…The Importance of The Synopsis

Although I spent the past couple of weeks talking about the importance of reviews when purchasing a novel, it is so important that the synopsis, aka, the back of the book stays true to the novel. It’s a sad day when you have to read book reviews to figure out exactly what the novel is about. So what’s so important about a synopsis?

1) It prepares the reader. If the synopsis says something big is going down, the reader is going to expect it. Every page turned will lead them to wondering when. If that big thing doesn’t happen until the second to last chapter, then that reader will most likely be disappointed with the novel. Not because it’s poorly written, but because you prepared the reader for one thing and recieved another.

2) It is often your only introduction to the reader. If I have never heard of a certain author before and I am at a book store (gasp) then reading the back of the book is the only way to draw me in. I realize that the synopsis tends to throw everything possible at the reader to make the novel more enticing, but this can backfire. If it’s too compliated in 200 words, then I might think the novel is just too complicated. Or if its really vague, I’ve been known to pick up a novel and flip to the end just to reassure myself that it is a romance. Like any proper introduction, you cannot overshare and yet be so boring as to be forgettable.

3) It must consider the readers. There is this one author whom I enjoy greatly. But every synopsis for one of her novels is written to make her novels sound fun and exciting when there is so much more depth to her writing. Had it not been for the reviews, I never would have picked up any of her books. The synopsis sounded like the author dealt foolishly with a very serious subject matter. I do not understand the lure in making heros and heroines sound silly. I like to think that we are all (or mostly) adults and we do not need information dumbed down to have a good time.

4) Honesty. I have returned books when I cracked them open and realized that they were not what they said they would be. There is nothing worse than the promise of romance and its not one really. Like if its about the love of a mom and a daughter or something like that. Yes, that’s love, but that’s not what you sold it to me as. I purchased a book like that once and returned it unread. And though it has high reviews, I’ve yet to pick it up. I don’t like to be punk’d.

5) Hope it sticks. Ultimately, I realize writing a synopsis is like throwing spaghetti at the wall and hoping it sticks. There are certain phrases that will appeal to some readers and certain phrases that will turn off some readers. But, I think the best synopses (spelling ?) are mini novels not flashing trailers with all the high points and hoping that one of those catchy phrases will be the winner.

So anyone disagree? Anyone know what I’m talking about?

Posted in Interview

Interview of Kristen Heitzmann

Thank you for willing to be interviewed!
1) I just have to ask, what made you decide to write another novel with Morgan Spencer?
Morgan is one of those characters who doesn’t go away. I listened to an old play list while hiking, and he was right back in my head with a new opening scene.

2) What inspired your use of the insane asylum in the novel and did you have to do a lot of research for it?
I didn’t know about the asylum until Quinn told Morgan, and then the creep factor was too good to ignore. So, yes, I researched those kinds of facilities in that time period, and especially the use of LSD in treatment.

3) When writing novels, do you plan them out first or do you get surprised as you write along?
I suppose you can already guess by my previous answers, that I plan nothing, not even the initial idea. Those sneak up on me too.

4) Of all the novels that you’ve written, do you have a favorite series or family?
Besides Morgan and the Spencers, I love Lance and the Michelli family series, SECRETS, UNFORGOTTEN, and ECHOES.

5) Can you share with us about any new projects you’re working on?
I’m writing a wildfire novel, after living through the Waldo Canyon Fire, that is set in my fictional town Redford, Colorado. It includes characters from INDIVISIBLE and INDELIBLE and introduces new firefighting characters.
I’m also writing a romantic comedy set in NYC.

Please check out my review of The Breath of Dawn:

Posted in Historical

Julie Cantrell’s Into the Free

In Depression-era Mississippi, Millie Reynolds longs to escape the madness that marks her world. With an abusive father and a “nothing mama,” she struggles to find a place where she really belongs.

For answers, Millie turns to the Gypsies who caravan through town each spring. The travelers lead Millie to a key that unlocks generations of shocking family secrets. When tragedy strikes, the mysterious contents of the box give Millie the tools she needs to break her family’s longstanding cycle of madness and abuse.

Through it all, Millie experiences the thrill of first love while fighting to trust the God she believes has abandoned her. With the power of forgiveness, can Millie finally make her way into the free?

This novel is beautifully written and thoroughly engaging. Millie is a character you can’t help but love and admire. You also might feel sorry for Millie because everything bad that can happen to her pretty much does. That said, the novel is not her whining about it, which is what saves it. Millie kind of just accepts what life has thrown her way and she’s not one to get down. The romance, though not a main focus, made sense and fit the kind of girl that Millie is. Throughout the novel Millie sees different versions of Christianity, but when she is introduced to the real thing you can see the affect it has on her and her desire to know and be known by God. Good novel. Recommended.

Posted in Historical

Tamera Alexander’s To Whisper Her Name

Olivia Aberdeen, destitute widow of a man shot as a traitor to the South, is shunned by proper society and gratefully accepts an invitation from “Aunt” Elizabeth Harding, mistress of Belle Meade Plantation. Expecting to be the Harding’s head housekeeper, Olivia is disillusioned when she learns the real reason Elizabeth’s husband, Confederate General William Giles Harding, agreed to her coming. Not finding the safe haven she expects, Olivia is caught off guard by her feelings for Ridley Adam Cooper, a Southern man who seems anything but a Southern gentleman.

Branded a traitor by some, Ridley Cooper, a Southern son who chose to fight for the Union, is a man desperate to end the war still raging inside him. Determined to learn “the gift” that Belle Meade’s head horse trainer and former slave, Bob Green, possesses, Ridley harbors secrets that threaten both their lives.

As Ridley seeks to make peace within himself for “betraying” the South he loved, Olivia is determined to never be betrayed again.

Ms. Alexander has written another winner of a novel! Her research is phenomenal and the romance is so sweet and realistic. I love how in her novels you can see the romance develop slowly through friendship. When you finish her books, you have no doubt that this is a relationship that would stand the test of time. Ridley is such a hero living in a place that would have him think he’s a traitor and Olivia has quite the past that tries not to let her go, adding a little angst to the novel. The secondary characters are really something (General Harding!) and carry a huge a presence. Spiritually, Olivia and Ridley have to learn to know God and trust Him again since they have both been through their own personal wars. Good Novel. Highly Recommended.

Posted in Historical

Serena B. Miller’s A Promise to Love

Ingrid Larsen, a young Swedish immigrant, arrives in Michigan in 1871 to search for her brother who has disappeared into the woods to work the dangerous lumber camps. Destitute and barely hanging on to hope, she encounters a newly-widowed farmer who is struggling to raise five children on his own. Marriage would solve both of their problems, and so Ingrid proposes to a man she barely knows. She will fight to protect her new family–but the hardest battle of all will be winning the heart of her new husband.

Don’t be fooled by the cover! This book is not so cutesy it doesn’t have substance. The premise behind the novel is one that has been done been many times before, but Ms. Miller does a fantastic job of breathing life into the old thing. I love Ingrid’s gumption throughout the novel. She was doing many things, but she wasn’t throwing pity parties even though she had a right to. Joshua was a great hero because he was so human (although when he made mistakes, he made some really bad ones). The novel pulls you in and is so hard to put down. Spiritually, Ingrid learns to do everything as unto the Lord, and to stop trying to please man while Joshua has to learn to trust God even though he has experienced so much hardship. Great Novel. Highly Recommended!

Posted in Personal

Monday Musings….Honesty and Book Reviews

How honest should a book reviewer get? It’s a question I deal with on a regular basis. Honesty is certainly appreciated when reading book reviews…especially if the novel is poorly written, but you have to be careful not to cross that thin line between honesty and just plain meanness. Here are some steps on how to do so:

1) Don’t review everything you read. I read approximately seven novels a week. I do not review all of those novels. If I didn’t like a book, I simply do not review it. I am not going to feel a review with a bunch of negative things. As I read novels, I mentally begin to review them, if I find that the negatives outweigh the positives, then I don’t review the novel. I’m one of those people who feel like if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it all.

2) Start with the good things. Sometimes I read a book and there are really good parts mixed in with some negatives. Praise the good parts, mention the bad parts, but downplay them and then go back to the good parts. The reader is not stupid, she/he will understand that the novel was good, but not perfect.

3) Say the negative things nicely. I recently did a review for a book that praised the good things and mentioned the bad parts, but I felt like one line in my review didn’t handle the negative things nicely. It was too blunt, and if I were an author, it might have hurt my feelings. I had to go back and delete (or rework) that line. The English vocabulary is filled with ways to say things creatively and still get the same meaning across.

4) Be mindful that those authors often read these book reviews. On a number of occasions the very authors of the novels of my reviews will comment on this blog. I do my best to remember that with each and every review I write. Authors put a lot of time and effort (and often prayer) into each novel they write,  and for you to read the fruit of their writing and excoriate it is ridiculous. Especially if you’ve never written a thing in your life.

5) Be Honest. At the end of the day you must be honest. In order to be a trustworthy book reviewer, you must state whether or not there was something to dislike about the book. You should not praise a book simply because you like the authors other novels, or everyone else likes that book. Oftentimes you will find that you are not alone. I personally don’t put a whole lot of stock in recommendations by authors. I do not think they’re lieing, but I do think they are friends and perhaps a bit biased unless the recommendation speaks to specifics. You don’t want to be lumped in that category as someone who likes all books and all things because then there is no point in asking your opinion.

Anyone have anything else to add? Don’t agree?

Posted in Interview

Interview of Elizabeth Camden

Thanks for willing to be interviewed!
1) When approaching Against the Tide, what made you choose the background of the Navy?
I’ve got to admit, having a heroine of the 1890’s work for the Navy seems a little odd at first glance, but the Navy employed plenty of civilians in various capacities. Lydia is fluent in six foreign languages, and this skill makes her of great use to the Navy.

I was also itching to set a novel in Boston. What a fabulous city for a novel…. full of historic settings and a wonderful cross section of blue-blood, immigrant groups, and rabble-rousers. I wanted this book to be heavily imbued with the atmosphere of Boston….everything from the food, the architecture, even the smell of the ocean…so what better place to set it than at the Navy shipyard?

2) What/Who was your inspiration for Bane?
Bane appeared in my first book, The Lady of Bolton Hill, and I had a huge clamor from readers demanding a sequel for him. I was happy to write one, but my editor asked me to be sure this book was totally independent from the first book. Readers may not even know they are reading a follow up, so there is NO NEED to read the first book before diving into this one.

As for his inspiration? I needed a villain in my first book, but I wanted him to be change of pace from the stereotypical villain. Therefore, Bane is an intensely funny and charming teenager with no moral compass. By the end of the book he finds one, and he turns into an amazing hero, risking his life in order to become a god-fearing Christian.

Bane’s conversion only goes so far… Against the Tide he is all grown up and still a good man, but his irreverent sense of humor and daring outlook on life is still in full force.

3) Did this novel require a lot of research?
Research is one of my favorite parts of writing! In my day job I am a university research librarian, so this is something that comes naturally to me. I usually spend around a month reading books written during the era. I find old maps and explore the streets, old cookbooks and try the recipes. I love wallowing in the era and stumbling across interesting locales to have my scenes. For Against the Tide I used a number of historical buildings in Boston, as well as local museums, shops, and actual neighborhoods.

4) When thinking about Lydia, what characteristics did you know she had to have?
My heroines are always very intelligent, although this manifests in different ways. Lydia’s skill is her amazing ability to learn foreign languages. She is also very charming and fast on her feet, which makes her a dynamic match for the hero.

As clever and smart as Lydia is, I wanted her to have a deep gash of vulnerability. She has a couple of huge, howling secrets she will need to conquer in the course of the novel. I believe that if you create an amazingly talented character, you ought to give her an equally profound weakness for her to overcome. I’ll be delving into spoiler territory if I reveal any more than that!

5) Can you tell us about anything you’re working on?
My next novel is called Into the Whirlwind, and is set during the great Chicago fire of 1871. It is mostly a love story, but also traces the monumental changes that happened to the city as a result of the fire. Look for it in August of 2013.

Please check out my review:

Posted in Contemporary

L.N. Cronk’s Chop Chop


Ever since Laci was a little girl she’s been growing out her pretty,
brown hair and chopping it off to send to Locks of Love. When Greg moves into
town and finds out what she’s doing, he thinks it’s a great idea…so he starts
doing it too! It’s just one of the things that reserved, young David must
tolerate as their friendship grows throughout the years. As they near adulthood,
they grow not only closer to each other, but closer to God as well. David finds
himself content in every way, but when tragedy occurs David must struggle to
find his way back to God.


I just love a male protagonist, especially if he’s younger, and it took no time at all for David to win my heart. I especially like David because his personality was like that of an old man in a little body. He wasn’t particularly charismatic or fun, and that made him still charming all the same. Of course, the begining of the novel leads to the understanding that something awful happened in David’s life, so you might read this novel feeling a little tense, waiting for the hammer to fall. And it does fall. There are tears, but there is also so much laughter, and when the novel ends, so much hope. The romance in this novel was so original, and so cute. I loved it. Spiritually, I love the emphasis and the impact of going to church youth group and doing missions. I love that the main theme of this book is loving and forgiving the unlovely. Its beautifully portrayed. Highly Recommended!