Monthly Archives: March 2016

Book Review: A Sparrow in Terezin by Kristy Cambron

Title: A Sparrow in Terezin
Author: Kristy Cambron
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Published: April 2015
Series: Hidden Masterpiece, Book 2
Genre: Historical Fiction

About the Book: (from the publisher’s Web site)

Bound together across time, two women will discover a powerful connection through one survivor’s story of hope in the darkest days of a war-torn world.

Present Day—With the grand opening of her new art gallery and a fairy–tale wedding just around the corner, Sera James feels like she’s stumbled into a charmed life—until a brutal legal battle against fiancé William Hanover threatens to destroy their future before it even begins.

Now, after an eleventh-hour wedding ceremony and a callous arrest, William faces a decade in prison for a crime he never committed, and Sera must battle the scathing accusations that threaten her family and any hope for a future with the man she loves.

1942—Kája Makovsky narrowly escaped Nazi-occupied Prague in 1939 and was forced to leave behind her half-Jewish family. Now a reporter for The Daily Telegraph in England, Kája discovers the terror has followed her across the Channel in the shadowy form of the London Blitz. When she learns Jews are being exterminated by the thousands on the continent, she has no choice but to return to her mother city, risking her life to smuggle her family to freedom and peace.

Connecting across a century through one little girl, a Holocaust survivor with a foot in each world, these two women will discover a kinship that springs even in the darkest of times. In this tale of hope and survival, Sera and Kája must cling to the faith that sustains them and fight to protect all they hold dear–even if it means placing their own futures on the line.

My Thoughts:

Kristy Cambron’s The Butterfly and the Violin (see my review) was one of my favorite reads of 2014. I was impressed by its beautiful portrayal of hope in the form of art amidst the horrors of war. I also loved the way the contemporary and historical storylines complemented each other. This second novel in the series follows in its predecessor’s footsteps, continuing William and Sera’s contemporary story, while introducing a new set of historical characters through which to portray hope in seemingly hopeless circumstances.

I greatly admire this author’s writing style. The description, imagery, and symbolism found in both her books so far are simply gorgeous. So much so that I found myself highlighting one beautiful passage after another, intending to re-read and share. Let’s just say that there are far too many of these to share them all! You’ll just have to read the books.

Well, okay. Here’s just one example from Chapter 28:

“Collages dotted the room, hung on the wall with old tacks or pinned to lengths of twine draped along the back wall. Theirs was art fashioned from life in Terezin; the children’s expression made from old newsprint and label paper from old cans. They used what they had. Stretched where they could. And all the while, Kája tried to believe that she wasn’t feeding them false hope.”

There’s a lot to love in this story. The characters are complex and engaging. The storylines and situations are compelling and emotionally charged. In fact, the only thing that bothered me about the storytelling was that I found myself skeptical of the reasoning behind a couple of decisions made by Kája in the historical storyline and William in the contemporary one. I can’t go into detail without risking spoilers, but let me hasten to say, I still enjoyed the story a great deal, and would not hesitate to recommend it, particularly to anyone who enjoyed The Butterfly and the Violin (which you really should read first).

The romance between Liam and Kája is well written, and they seem quite well suited, but I have to admit that some of the scenes with Dane and Kája turned out to be among my favorites in the book. I also loved the scenes with Sophie in both the historical and contemporary storylines that centered on the cross, the clock tower, and the sparrows. There’s some beautiful symbolism and a touching message there.

Thank you to the publisher for providing a complimentary electronic copy of the book via NetGalley for review purposes.

Quick Links: About the Book | About the Series | Author’s Site

Book Review: Cold Shot by Dani Pettrey

Title: Cold Shot
Author: Dani Pettrey
Publisher: Bethany House
Published: February 2016
Series: Chesapeake Valor, Book 1
Genre: Romantic Suspense

About the Book: (from the publisher’s Web site)

Four Best Friends.

And Then One Went Missing . . .

In college, Griffin McCray and his three best friends had their lives planned out. Griffin and Luke Gallagher would join the Baltimore Police Department, Declan Grey would head to the FBI, and Parker Mitchell would study to become a crime scene analyst. But then Luke vanished before graduation and their world–and friendships–crumbled.

Now years later, Griffin has left the police and his friendships behind. Still trying to forget a case that went bad when he was a SWAT team sniper, he’s living a quiet life as a park ranger at Gettysburg. Quiet until skeletal remains are uncovered near Little Round Top–and they aren’t Civil War-era.

Griffin just wants the case to go away, but charming forensic anthropologist Finley Scott discovers evidence pointing to the work of an expert sniper. When FBI agent Declan Grey steps in to take over the case, past and present collide. Griffin soon realizes he’ll need to confront some of the darkest days of his life if he–and those he cares about–are going to escape a downward spiral of crime, danger, and murder.

My Thoughts:

Cold Shot introduces readers to a new romantic suspense series from author Dani Pettrey. I was particularly excited to dive in when I learned the series is set in the Chesapeake Bay area – my neck of the woods! Once I started reading, the likeable cast of characters and intriguing mystery drew me in, and the suspense kept me on the edge of my seat straight on through to the last page. And yes, references to paddleboats at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and beach fries in Ocean City brought back fond memories for me. :)

This first book in the Chesapeake Valor series focuses primarily on forensic anthropologist Finley and former sniper turned park ranger Griffin. Finley and Griffin both have some significant issues from the past that they need to work through, but they work quite well together once they find themselves working on the same case.

A number of secondary characters – Declan, Parker, Kate, and Avery – work with Griffin and Finley throughout the book, and it’s neat to see the changing dynamics among the group of Griffin’s friends from the past as the story progresses. They each make interesting characters in their own right, and I look forward to getting to know them better over the course of future books in the series. I’m particularly curious about Kate, who was introduced as “Part bloodhound, part ninja.” I’m also looking forward to exploring some of the mysteries from the characters’ collective past that have already been introduced in this book.

There was a good mix of investigation, danger, and romance. The mystery kept me guessing throughout and surprised me in the end. Plot twists and turns, plus some truly frightening moments faced by the characters kept the suspense high, and kept me fully engaged right up to the end.

Faith plays a significant role in the characters’ lives, which is reflected in the story, as characters turn to God in prayer, sometimes right there on the page. Thematically, the story takes a look at forgiveness of oneself and of others, as well as God’s grace.

Overall, an enjoyable fast-paced story, with a cast of characters I look forward to meeting again in future books. Recommended to fans of romantic suspense. In particular, fans of the television show Bones, may enjoy the characters’ expertise and approach to solving this case.

Thank you to the publisher for providing a complimentary copy of the book for review purposes.

Quick Links: About the Book | About the Series | Author’s Site

Three for the Books: Featured Reads in Christian Fiction, March 2016

Three for the Books, March 2016 small

The monthly “Three for the Books” post is where I feature new (Hot Off the Presses), best selling (Topping the Charts), and award winning (Cream of the Crop) Christian fiction books. I select one title to feature in each category, as well as providing links to where you can browse additional newly released, best selling, and award winning titles. Have you read any of these featured titles? Any others you’d like to give a shout-out? Comments are always welcome!

Hot Off the Presses

The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder by Rachel McMillan released this month from Harvest House. It’s the first novel in the new Herringford and Watts historical mystery series, following a novella called A Singular and Whimsical Problem (see my review of the novella).  Available in electronic and paperback editions.

Quick Links: About the Book | Author’s Site | More New Releases

Topping the Charts

If I Run by Terri Blackstock appears on the ECPA’s March Christian Fiction Bestsellers list. It’s a romantic suspense novel, told from a first person present tense point of view. It’s available from Zondervan in print and electronic editions, with an audio edition available from Brilliance Audio.

Quick Links: About the Book | Author’s Site | More Best Sellers

Cream of the Crop

Feast for Thieves by Marcus Brotherton won the 2015 Christy Award in the first novel category. It’s historical fiction set during WWII and published by River North. Available in print and electronic editions.

Quick Links: About the Book | Author’s Site | More Award Winners

Book Review: Take and Give by Amanda G. Stevens

Title: Take and Give
Author: Amanda G Stevens
Publisher: David C Cook
Published: August 2015
Series: Haven Seekers, Book 3
Genre: Speculative Fiction

About the Book: (from the publisher’s Web site)

Austin Delvecchio has tried to use his Constabulary resources to track down his missing girlfriend Violet. He finds a stranger instead, held illegally and mistreated. Rescuing the man will make Austin’s boss an enemy, but ignoring the situation will mean the man’s death.

Lee Vaughn has lost the most important person in her life. She continues his work her way, providing black market medical assistance to Christians and allowing fugitive Violet to live with her. Then she learns what really happened to Marcus, and the danger following him leaves them all with only one option: to flee.

To make it to freedom, all four will have to rely on their traveling companions. But that’s not easy when confronting past hurts, fear, and distrust.

My Thoughts:

As I finish reading Book 3 in this series, I am thrilled that the fourth book will be available soon [edit: yes, it’s already available as I’m posting this review] because I can’t seem to get enough of these characters. The fascinating premise – What if Christianity were illegal? – drew me in to this series initially. But it’s been the characters and their true-to-real-life struggles that have stuck with me and keep drawing me back for more.

This book picks up where the last one left off, continuing the tale from the viewpoints of Lee and Austin, two characters who appeared in previous books, but that we get to know much better over the course of this one. I have to say I was surprised by some of the details we learn of their motivations and backgrounds – Austin’s in particular – but the details fit and give me a whole new perspective on them. That’s one of the beautiful things about this series. As we look at things from different characters’ viewpoints, we get a multifaceted view that broadens and deepens our understanding of the characters and situations.

All that aside, the thing that really stands out about this series so far, and that I’d love to see accomplished more often in Christian fiction, is the way it grapples with challenging theological and relational issues. There are no straw-man arguments or easy answers. Nothing feels preachy or clichéd. Rather, some very difficult questions are addressed, gradually, within the fabric of the story and arising from who the characters are. It’s really quite elegantly done.

I want to read more books like this one.

Highly recommended. Just be sure to read this series in order. First is Seek and Hide, followed by Found and Lost, Take and Give and the recently released Far and Near.

Thank you to the publisher for providing a complimentary copy of the book for review purposes.

Quick Links: About the Book | About the Series | Author’s Site

Christian Fiction Book Club Connection, March 2016

Book Club Connection

Welcome to the March 2016 edition of the Christian Fiction Book Club Connection. Thanks for stopping by! Whether you’re a pastor or ministry leader thinking of forming a book discussion group at your church, a current member of a book club, or simply a fan of Christian fiction hoping to connect with other readers, you’re in the right place. Please consider subscribing to my blog so you won’t miss future posts.

Today I’m providing information on Christian fiction discussions scheduled to take place around the web this month. I’m also featuring a handful of recently released Christian fiction titles for which a discussion guide is available, either included in the book itself or on the author’s or publisher’s web site.

Online Discussions Coming Up This Month

The ACFW Book Club‘s March selection is Finding Amanda by Robin Patchen. You can subscribe to the group’s e-mail list now, by following the instructions on their Web site, to be sure not to miss any announcements or discussion questions.

For March, the Christian Fiction Devourers group on Goodreads is discussing A Sound Among the Trees by Susan Meissner AND When Love Calls by Lorna Seilstad. Grab your copies and head on over to the discussion forum to check in with others who are in the midst of reading these books.

The Christian Book Lovers’ Hideaway group’s monthly discussions can be found on their Goodreads discussion page. They’ve extended their discussion of their February selection through March, so if you didn’t have a chance to read The Cross Examination of Oliver Finney by Randy Singer yet, there’s still time.

The Fans of Amish Fiction Goodreads group discusses one Amish fiction title and one Christian fiction title per month. The selections for March are A Widow’s Hope by Mary Ellis AND Tomorrow’s Sun by Becky Melby. To join in, visit the group’s online discussion board.

Jamie of the Books and Beverages blog hosts a monthly Inklings discussion series for fans of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Sometimes fiction, sometimes non-fiction, the title for the month of March is A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War by Joseph Loconte. Discussion is scheduled for March 16, 2016.

The Christian Fiction Book Club, and the Fans of Christian Romance Goodreads group are taking breaks from discussion for the time being.

Recent Christian Fiction Releases Featuring Discussion Guides

Calico Spy by Margaret Brownley (January 2016, Shiloh Run Press, Historical Romance)

Return to Paradise by Barbara Cameron (February 2016, Abingdon Press, Amish)

Keeper of the Stars by Robin Lee Hatcher (January 2016, Thomas Nelson, Contemporary Romance)

You’re the One That I Want by Susan May Warren (February 2016, Tyndale House, Contemporary Romance)

The Confessions of X by Suzanne M Wolfe (January 2016, Thomas Nelson, Historical)

So, friends, what have you been reading lately? Any titles you’d recommend for book club discussions?