Category Archives: Christian Fiction

Book Spotlight: The Judgment Stone by Robert Liparulo

JudgmentStoneAbout the book:
What if praying became a curse instead of a blessing?

Former Army Ranger Jagger Baird thought he had his hands full with the Tribe — the band of immortal vigilantes working to regain God’s grace by killing those who oppose God. That was before he encountered the Clan, a ruthless group of immortals seeking an artifact that would give them unimaginable power, a piece of the Ten Commandments known as the Judgment Stone. Anyone who touches the stone can see into the spiritual world: angelic warriors, treacherous demons, and the blue threads of light that signal believers’ communion with God.

Read the first chapter of The Judgment Stone, book 2 in the Immortal Files series, by Robert Liparulo.

I received this book from the publisher as part of the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance. I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.

Too Far to Say Far Enough by Nancy Rue

Word Lily review

Too Far to Say Far Enough by Nancy Rue, book 3 in The Reluctant Prophet series (October 1, 2012, David C. Cook), 512 pages

too far to say far enough

Summary
Allison picks up right where she left off, taking care of orphans and women in trouble, along with her unexpected but strong band of helpers who have all felt some form of a Nudge from God to do so.

Thoughts
It took me a little while to remember who everyone was and where we’d left everything when I first picked up Too Far to Say Enough, this third book in a series (trilogy?). I’ve loved this series from the very beginning, and this book is no exception.

I loved the surprises, the twists and turns, and how broken and human and real the characters are. No one is a type.

I loved how things were allowed to come almost full circle in some respects with this story but still not everything was neatly wrapped up. It had a couple of the super-happy, much longed-for moments the series has led up to, also, which is excellent.

But this one seemed a little more two-dimensional to me, somehow. Maybe I’d just gotten to know the characters well enough that it wasn’t as surprising or shocking? Or maybe it’s just part of the story/series reaching its logical end.

Still, these are excellent, well-written books and I’d recommend them to almost anyone. I’m saddened by how poorly they’ve sold, apparently. Why are so many of the best books not appreciated until too late? (Just like: Why are so many of the greatest TV shows cancelled before they can even get to the best parts?) I’m afraid, in this case, that the reason they haven’t sold all that well is that the target audience doesn’t want to be challenged to step out of their pew, doesn’t want to be made to feel uncomfortable or encouraged to really think things through (that working-out-of-their-faith thing, especially).

Rating: 4.5 stars

Here’s my review of book 2, Unexpected Dismounts, but I urge you to start the series with book 1, The Reluctant Prophet.

About the author
Nancy Rue has written tons of books. I love her blog, The Nudge.

I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.

The Rhythm of Secrets by Patti Lacy

Word Lily review

The Rhythm of Secrets by Patti Lacy (Kregel, December 2010), 320 pages

Rhythm of Secrets by Patti Lacy Summary
Sheila Franklin has lived three separate lives. Now a conservative pastor’s wife in Chicago, she is skilled at hiding secrets — a talent birthed during childhood romps through the music-filled streets of New Orleans. But when the son she bore at the age of 18 comes back looking for answers and desperate for help, her greatest secret — and greatest regret — is revealed. Eager to right past wrongs, Sheila’s heart floods with memories of lyrical jazz music and a worn-out Bible. But when her husband learns her history, she’s faced with an impossible decision: embrace the dream — and son — she abandoned against her will or give in to the demands of her safe but stifled life. ~from GoodReads

Thoughts
I had heard good things about this book, but the cover was a major hurdle for me. It looks … self-published. I think it was Amy’s review that got me over that hurdle. Thanks, Amy. This is one of those instances where my cover-judgment would have dis-served me.

I’m just going to give it to you in bullet points, because that’s what my notes look like, and it’s been way too long since I read it for me to remember specifics.

• The musical threads Lacy uses to tie the pieces of the story together are brilliant. This gives the whole book almost a rhythmic, poetic feel.

• The pacing lagged at times.

• There is an incredible amount of time (number of years) covered in the book. I think she mostly pulled this off, but it might have contributed to the feeling of slow pacing somehow.

• I liked that there’s a bit of a mystery for the reader to uncover.

• And I really liked the setting(s) of the book.

• There was something else that just didn’t quite feel right about it, but I, even after many months, can’t put my finger on it.

Not really related, but still: I think this book (reading it and writing about it) have finally gotten me to where I can spell “rhythm” correctly on my first try. That was one of the words I always had to try a couple times before I found the accurate spelling. So there’s that.

Rating: 4 stars

Other reviews
Have you reviewed this book? Leave me a link and I’ll add it here.

I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.

Book Spotlight: The Hope of Shridula by Kay Marshall Strom

About the book:
India, 1946. For 48 years, Ashish and his family have labored as slaves in fields owned by the high-caste Lal family, all because of one small debt. At age 54, Ashish is old and worn out, every day an effort to survive for his family, including his only daughter. His wife named her Shridula — Blessings. “Perhaps the name will bring you more fortune than it brought me,” Ashish told his daughter. His words proved prophetic.

Read an interview with Kay Marshall Strom, author of The Hope of Shridula, book 2 in the Blessings in India series.

I received this book from the publisher. I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.

Unexpected Dismounts by Nancy Rue

Word Lily review

Unexpected Dismounts by Nancy Rue, book 2 in the Reluctant Prophet series (David C. Cook, October 2011), 464 pages

Unexpected Dismounts by Nancy RueSummary
Allison is worried. Stressed. It’s been awhile since she got a Nudge from God, and she feels like everyone is depending on her but she can’t keep all the balls in the air for long. God gave her this mantel of prophet, but now that she’s mid-project she’s wondering if he’s given that task to someone else. She’s also physically reeling from other people’s painful experiences, she’s experiencing these traumas with them. And when she finally does hear something, it doesn’t make much sense and she resists. On top of that, there’s tension in the ranks, and the stakes are higher than they’ve ever been.

Thoughts
I could never bring myself to actually review book one of this series, The Reluctant Prophet (which is only $6 at Amazon right now), but I did at least attempt to convey how meaningful it was to me. I put off reading this one for a little while, because I wanted to spread out the experience, to fully be able to savor Unexpected Dismounts as a separate piece. I think I was also a little afraid that, being book two, it might not live up to the high expectations set by book one. I needn’t have worried.

I read it in just a little over one day, which at 450+ pages, is some feat for me.

Love that I “coincidentally” read it during Lent, since that’s when it’s set. But more than that, I love that she set it during this particularly apt season of the church calendar.

This is one of those books that I don’t feel I can adequately express how much I love it, or how deeply personal and meaningful the reading experience was for me. I relate to Allison on a level, in a way, that I’m not sure I’ve found in a novel before.

I think it works on a broader plain than that, too, though. Even if you don’t relate to Allison in her doubts and fears, her imperfect fallenness and motley assortment of friends and too-close calls, the book (well, series, so far) is well-written and engaging, and the plot moves along nicely. I can’t wait to read book three.

Too Far to Say Far Enough is due out in October 2012.

Rating: 4.75 stars

About the author
Nancy Rue (@NNRue Facebook) lives in Tennessee with her husband, Jim. She has written a lot of books (including YA and MG fiction, and nonfiction), but I just discovered her writing last year.

Other reviews
Tree Swing Reading
Have you reviewed this book? Leave me a link and I’ll add it here.

I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.

Book Spotlight: The Dog that Talked to God by Jim Kraus

About the book:
Recently widowed Mary Fassler buys a miniature schnauzer and her world is turned on its side in the middle of her grief. Rufus speaks, and not just to her. He also talks to God. And then Rufus begins sharing advice that could result in major changes.

Read an excerpt of The Dog that Talked to God by Jim Kraus.

I received this book from the publisher. I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.

Clearing the To-Be-Reviewed shelves

Cascade by Lisa T. Bergren
I loved this book. I mean, seriously: time travel, Italy, and archaeology all in the same book? The adventure, the fun, the ingenuity. Excellent. This is book 2 of the River of Time series (3 books out so far), and while I haven’t read book 1, Waterfall, now that I’ve read book 3, I think part of my enjoyment stemmed from being allowed to fill in those pieces from the bits of background scattered throughout.

Torrent by Lisa T. Bergren
This, book 3, was a letdown. Maybe it’s because the storyline seemed so one-dimensional after attempting to construct book 1 while reading book 2? I also thought book 2 indicated a larger discussion of or focus on elements of faith in book 3, but while there was a bit more, it was still seriously lacking in that department.

The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
The Hunger Games trilogy has been hashed and rehashed countless times while I was getting up the courage to read them. See, I was afraid, when I first heard about them, that they would be too much like The Lottery by Shirley Jackson, which, when I read it early in high school, left me scarred. But the similarities were quickly overcome once I dove in, and I quickly devoured the whole series. The reality TV (a la Big Brother) component is really interesting, but really they’re just great stories. They plumb the depths of what it means to be human.

And, with that, my writing time for today is just about up. Maybe I’ll add some thumbnails to the above and move on with my day. Hopefully this hasn’t drained me too much and I’ll be able to post another set of mini-reviews (or a few) soon. Hey, maybe I’ll even post more than once in a week — now that would feel like a miracle!

I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.

Empaths and prophets

Most of the media experiences (not just books, although mainly books) that really struck me this year have a couple things in common. I learned something about myself, particularly through their confluence. They’re all about being an outsider, working on something that others don’t really understand. And yet this work is something that drives [the person], that it’s impossible to ignore. A calling, even.

Although perhaps not traditional (and certainly not all-inclusive), this is my greatest hits list for 2011.

ANGEL

I think the first one was from the TV show Angel. Along Angel’s circuitous journey, one of the guys who assists in his mission of helping people is an Empath demon. Backstory: The demons in this narrative (that starts with Buffy the Vampire Slayer) are various races and/or individuals with special skills or giftings. Taken as a whole, they use these abilities to further their bloodlust and rage, but there are a few here and there who’ve chosen another path.

This particular Empath demon uses his ability to feel other peoples’ pain to help them. Later in the narrative the gods see fit to give the empath ability to a human, and it very nearly destroys her. (Actually, I’m not sure I’ve seen the end of that story line. I know it comes close, but I’m not sure if it eventually does or not.) She should die because a human can’t bear that burden of feeling so much the pain of others.

THE RELUCTANT PROPHET by Nancy Rue

The Reluctant Prophet illuminated what I’d seen in Angel, if that makes any sense. Allison has been asking God what she’s supposed to do, and when she begins to follow through on what she hears, the members of her church aren’t exactly thrilled. It’s a serious examination — in the form of one fictional woman’s story — of what a life of faith looks like and the risks it entails.

It’s a well-written story that I read at exactly the right time. It rings authentic, and I can’t wait to crack open the next book in the series, Unexpected Dismounts. I’ve also been enjoying Rue’s (@NNRue) blog.

THE FALLING AWAY by T.L. Hines

The Falling Away is a truly excellent book (it won the INSPY in December for Speculative Fiction).

This quote will, I think, illustrate how The Falling Away fits into my list: “we’re almost magnets for pain and suffering, but because we have ways to control it, there’s a design to it all” (page 97).

WINTER by Keven Newsome

Winter isn’t really of the same calibre as the aforementioned books writing-wise (or editing-wise), but it does dwell in the same vein, of prophecy. Enough so to earn a place here. It may not speak to everyone as it did to me — the appeal of the others is probably more broad — but that’s not necessarily the point of this list. So.


Switching directions a bit, Passport through Darkness: A True Story of Danger and Second Chances by Kimberly L. Smith (2011 INSPY winner for Creative Nonfiction) also deserves a spot on the list. It doesn’t quite fit with the others in that, while the others taught me something about myself and showed a bit of the way I should go, Smith voiced so much of what I’ve felt leading up to this time. It’s almost like her words were echoing what my soul had been crying out. Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t been working in Darfur unbeknownst to you, but I did find significant parallels.

Summary: Several books I read in 2011 seemed to coalesce around a theme, enough so that it made me sit up straight and take notice. Through these books, plus the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, God spoke to my identity, my place/role in the Body of Christ. I don’t have it all figured out yet(!), but it was encouraging to learn. One piece: an implementable way to channel my empathy.

So, there you have it. Not a traditional best-of list — I read lots of other terrific books — but the ones that most stood out to me.

I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.