Monthly Archives: April 2017

Book Review: The End Begins by Sara Davison

Title: The End Begins
Author: Sara Davison
Publisher: Ashberry Lane
Published: September 2015
Series: The Seven Trilogy, Book 1
Genre: Christian Fiction, Speculative, Romance

About the Book: (from the back of the book)

When your beliefs are at war, does love stand a chance?

Bookstore owner Meryn O’Reilly and Army Captain Jesse Christensen are on opposite sides of a battle. After a series of terrorist attacks in 2053, martial law has been declared in Canada and the military has taken over. When a radical Christian group claims responsibility, Jesse and his platoon are sent to Meryn’s city to keep an eye on the Christians and ensure they are not stepping outside the confines of the law.

Fiery and quick-tempered, Meryn chafes under the curfew and other restrictions to her freedom. Jesse is equally amused, intrigued, and terrified by her spirit. She could find herself in prison if she shows defiance to the wrong soldier, namely Lieutenant Gallagher.

Jesse watches out for Meryn when possible, although she wants nothing to do with him. His worst fears are realized when she commits a crime he cannot protect her from. Now they both face an uncertain future and the very real threat of losing everything, including their lives. With time running out, Jesse works feverishly to convince the authorities to show leniency to Meryn. And to convince her that love can overcome any barrier that lies between them.

My Thoughts:

The End Begins is first in Sara Davison’s The Seven Trilogy, and it’s one of those stories that doesn’t really fit neatly into any one category. It has elements of romance, suspense, and political thriller, but it also has significant speculative elements, and is set in a dystopian future (2053) Canada. The storyline raises some very interesting religious and ethical questions, and makes the reader pause to think about what could happen in real life, given certain political pressures and government responses.

On the romance front, there’s a fair amount of coincidence (or God’s nudges?) involved early on in repeated meetings, and at first I didn’t fully get why they were so drawn to each other, given how little they seemed to have in common. As the story progressed however, and Jesse and Meryn opened up to each other, the emotional aspects totally clicked and I felt the pull. You know that emotional connection to the characters that makes you need to finish the story and see how it ends? That’s how I felt about this one.

There is one place at the end of Chapter 29 where the hero does something in an emotional moment that I really wish the author had left out of the story. It does a great job showing his emotional reaction to what he’s going through, but I think it also weakens his character and makes him less of a hero, and I felt it wasn’t really necessary to the plot or his character development. So, yeah, I went on to enjoy the rest of the story by ripping that page out (okay, not literally; I am a librarian) and pretending it never happened.

On a side note, I loved Meryn’s book store and enjoyed the idea of a resurgence of print books due to continuing technological changes and challenges. Very clever.

Fans of Amanda G Stevens’ Haven Seekers series (see my review of Seek and Hide) will likely take a particular interest in this series. The two series feature similar political situations resulting in persecution of Christians, though the characters and direction each series takes differ.

This book includes some really thought-provoking discussion questions in the back, and I think its content would lend itself to a fabulous book group discussion.

I received a free copy of this book, without any expectation that I would write a review. However, since I make a habit of blogging reviews, I decided to write one anyway. :)

Quick Links: About the Book | Author’s Site

Featured Reads: Three for the Books, April 2017

Three for the Books, April 2017

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 and provide links to where you can browse additional newly released, best selling, and award winning titles. For my featured reads, I’m also including links to some fabulous reviews by fellow bloggers, so you can check out what others are saying. 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

A Fragile Hope by Cynthia Ruchti is a new contemporary release this month from Abingdon Press. It’s available in print and electronic editions.

Featured Review: Jen at the Mother of Three blog says, “Ruchti doesn’t shy away from tackling the hard stuff of life and never fails to weave gospel grace into her stories.” Check out her full review of A Fragile Hope here.

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

Topping the Charts

If I’m Found by Terri Blackstock appears on the ECPA bestsellers list for April. This suspense novel is second in a series that’s told in the first person (following If I Run), and is available from Zondervan in print, electronic, and audio formats.

Featured Review: The blogger at Fiction Aficionado reviewed this novel, saying, “Really and truly, if you love suspense, this series should be on your ‘must read’ list. I’ll be counting down the months, weeks, and days until the final book releases!” Click to read more of this review of If I’m Found here.

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

Cream of the Crop

Dauntless by Dina L Sleiman won the Carol Award in the YA category for 2016. This reimagining of the Robin Hood legend is available from Bethany House in print and electronic editions.

Featured Review: Over at the Straight Off the Page blog, Marisa wrote, “Sleiman created a world of both magic and reality within the confines of medieval England that brings readers into the hearts of teenagers and the world of adults. With a gripping tangle of faith, friendships, romance, and survival, Dauntless should be on everyone’s to-be-read list regardless of the reader’s age.”  You can find her full review of Dauntless here.

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

Audiobook Review: Land of Silence by Tessa Afshar

Title: Land of Silence
Author: Tessa Afshar
Print Publisher: Tyndale House
Audio Publisher: Recorded Books
Narrator: Suzy Jackson
Published: May 2016
Genre: Biblical Fiction
Length: 10 hours, 56 minutes. Unabridged.

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

Before Christ called her daughter . . .

Before she stole healing by touching the hem of his garment . . .

Elianna is a young girl crushed by guilt. After her only brother is killed while in her care, Elianna tries to earn forgiveness by working for her father’s textile trade and caring for her family. When another tragedy places Elianna in sole charge of the business, her talent for design brings enormous success, but never the absolution she longs for. As her world unravels, she breaks off her betrothal to the only man she will ever love. Then illness strikes, isolating Elianna from everyone, stripping everything she has left.

No physician can cure her. No end is in sight. Until she hears whispers of a man whose mere touch can heal. After so many years of suffering and disappointment, is it possible that one man could redeem the wounds of body . . . and soul?

My Thoughts on the Book:

Land of Silence is a beautifully written and emotionally gripping story, told from the perspective of the only woman Jesus called “daughter” in the New Testament. Since few details are known about this woman, besides the health condition from which she was healed, the story Tessa Afshar shares is, of necessity, fictionalized. But what a story! I cried with Elianna over her losses and disappointments, and I longed for her to find peace and healing, both physically and emotionally. Her backstory and motivations were fleshed out in a way that I related to on a deeply emotional level and that fit perfectly with what is known of her true story. Vividly specific cultural and historical details were the icing on the cake, putting me right back there in Biblical times to imagine the joy of one woman’s life-changing encounter with Jesus. I would highly recommend this story in general, but particularly to fans of Biblical fiction.

Specific to the Audio Edition:

Suzy Jackson’s portrayal of Elianna beautifully captures this young woman’s essence – her longing, her disappointments, and her hope. The full array of character voices are well done, including Ethan’s and those of secondary characters, but it’s the emotional connection with Elianna this reading fosters that will leave a lasting impression.

Thank you to Recorded Books for providing a complimentary copy of the audiobook for review purposes.

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

Christian Fiction Book Club Connection, April 2017

Book Club Connection

Welcome to the April 2017 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 April selection is to be determined. 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.

By the Book is an in-person book discussion club that has introduced an online Facebook-based discussion option. To join in online, like the By the Book Facebook page, and be sure to check back there periodically for any discussion that may not have made it into your news feed. April’s selection is The Long Highway Home by Elizabeth Musser.

For April, the Christian Fiction Devourers group on Goodreads is discussing Wildflowers from Winter by Katie Ganshert AND Land of Silence by Tessa Afshar. 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 Fans of Amish Fiction Goodreads group discusses one Amish fiction title per month. The selection for April is The Atonement by Beverly Lewis. 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 April is The Problem of Pain by C. S. Lewis. The discussion is planned for April 20, 2017.

Recent Christian Fiction Releases Featuring Discussion Guides

Home at Last by Deborah Raney (Abingdon, February 2017, Contemporary Romance)

Shine Like the Dawn by Carrie Turansky (Multnomah, February 2017, Historical Romance)

The Priority Unit by Susan Page Davis (Tea Tin Press, February 2017, Romantic Suspense)

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