Monthly Archives: October 2015

Book Review: A Time to Die by Nadine Brandes

Title: A Time to Die
Author: Nadine Brandes
Published: September 2014, Enclave Publishing
Genre: Dystopian, Fantasy / Science Fiction
Series: Out of Time, Book 1

About the Book (from the publisher):

How would you live if you knew the day you’d die?

Parvin Blackwater believes she has wasted her life. At only seventeen, she has one year left according to the Clock by her bedside. In a last-ditch effort to make a difference, she tries to rescue Radicals from the government’s crooked justice system.

But when the authorities find out about her illegal activity, they cast her through the Wall — her people’s death sentence. What she finds on the other side about the world, about eternity, and about herself changes Parvin forever and might just save her people. But her clock is running out.

My Thoughts on the book:

Wow. This book knocked my socks off. It took my expectations and turned them completely on their head. The outcomes of certain situations were not at all what I was expecting, which was pretty fabulous from a can’t-stop-reading must-see-what-happens-next perspective.

This book is Parvin’s biography, her pilgrimage, her quest for purpose and meaning in her life before she faces death. And she knows exactly how much time she has left. Or does she? This story’s premise is fascinating, and its text is beautiful and at times heart-wrenching.

Parvin feels like a real person with real struggles and weaknesses. I loved watching her character growth over the course of the story as she learns from her mistakes and from the people around her. And her first person present tense telling gives this story an immediacy that drew me in, both to her thinking and to her world.

And the other characters in the story? Each is unique and interesting in his or her own way. Jude makes a great hero and romantic interest. And Skelley Chase? He definitely keeps things interesting. Willow, Reid, Hawke, and the Newtons each have smaller roles in the story but their influence is definitely felt in Parvin’s life and in the world around them.

But I think the best part of this book is that it makes you think. About what constitutes a calling – “Am I supposed to make decisions? Or should I wait until I know God has told me something?” (Chapter 27) About weakness and strength – “I used to think it showed me as weak, but when I think about where I’ve come – where God’s taken me and what I’ve survived – it’s a testament to His strength.” (Chapter 34) About how we might use our time if we knew exactly how limited it was, and more.

This book is one I would highly recommend to fans of speculative and dystopian fiction. I’ve been looking forward to future books in this series with eager anticipation ever since finishing this one. And as of this month, Book 2 (A Time to Speak) is here!

Three for the Books: Featured Reads in Christian Fiction, October 2015

October Featured Books

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

Luther and Katharina by Jody Hedlund releases this month from WaterBrook Multnomah. This popular author of historical romance is venturing into the realm of historical fiction with this novel based on the lives of Martin Luther and Katharina von Bora. (Plus, there’s an online discussion of this title coming up next week.)

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

Topping the Charts

Trial Run by Thomas Locke appears on the CBA Best Sellers list for October in the Fantasy/Sci-Fi category. Published by Revell, it’s first in a new techno-thriller series called Fault Lines. The book trailer makes a great introduction to this title’s intriguing premise.

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

Cream of the Crop

An October Bride by Katie Ganshert won the 2015 Carol Award in the novella category. This short contemporary romance was first published by Zondervan in September 2014 (available in ebook and audio formats), and re-released as part of the Autumn Brides novella collection (available in paperback, ebook, and audio formats) in August 2015.

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

Book Review: A.D. 33 by Ted Dekker

Title: A.D. 33
Author: Ted Dekker
Publisher: Center Street (Hachette Book Group)
Published: October 2015
Series: A.D., Book 2
Genre: Biblical fiction

Book Description (from Publisher Center Street):

New York Times bestselling author Ted Dekker delivers the gripping story of Maviah, a slave who becomes a queen in Arabia, A.D. 33.

They call her the Queen of the Outcasts. Maviah, a woman whose fate was sealed on her birth by this world-unwanted, illegitimate, female, a slave-subject to the whims of all. But then she met a man named Yeshua who opened her eyes. She found strength in his words, peace from the brutal word around her. Because of what he taught her, she has gathered her own traveling kingdom of outcasts deep in the desert, wielding an authority few have seen. But when her growing power threatens the rulers around her, they set out to crush all she loves, leaving her reeling as a slave once more. She must find Yeshua to save her people, but when she does, she will be horrified to discover that he faces his own death.

Enter a story full of intrigue, heart-wrenching defeat, uncompromising love and staggering victory-one that re-examines everything you thought you knew about the heart of Jesus’s stunning message and the power that follows for those who follow his easily forgotten way.

My Thoughts:

Like its predecessor A.D. 30, Ted Dekker’s A.D. 33 tells a fascinating tale of epic adventure, romance and political intrigue. It draws the reader in to the life and times of Jesus, primarily from the viewpoint of a Bedouin woman who follows His teachings and interacts with Him on multiple occasions. But more than that, this story makes the reader think long and hard about what Jesus meant by some of his teachings, and about what it means to follow Him.

Maviah continues to be an interesting and relatable lead character, with difficult political and personal situations standing in the way of her goals. The author does a great job interweaving Maviah’s story with that of Jesus. We get to see a fair number of recognizable moments and teachings from His ministry through her eyes, without these interactions ever becoming too much or too coincidental for plausibility.

Along with Maviah, this book revisits familiar characters from the last book including Judah and Saba. It also introduces a number of new characters to the story including a precocious young orphan named Talya that Maviah has adopted in the years since the last installment.

The plot is gripping, with unexpected twists and some intensely emotional moments. I had tears streaming down my cheeks during the climactic scene. So beautiful and powerfully told!

I appreciated the fact that Dekker took the time to cite Biblical references for the teachings of Jesus in this book. I can’t say I’m in complete agreement with how some of the other characters in the story interpret some of Jesus’ teachings, or with all of the conclusions drawn from them. But I enjoyed looking at those teachings from a different angle. It prompted me to think long and hard about why I believe what I do believe. It also has me itching to re-read the New Testament to re-examine Jesus’ teachings for myself in their original context.

Overall, this is a beautifully written book that does a great job blending a gripping story with an inspiring message. Highly recommended.

Thank you to publisher Center Street for providing me with an electronic advance reader copy of this novel via NetGalley for review purposes. This review represents my own honest opinion.

Book Review: A.D. 30, Abridged Edition by Ted Dekker

Title: A.D. 30, Abridged Edition
Author: Ted Dekker
Publisher: Center Street (Hachette Book Group)
Published: August 2015
Series: A.D., Book 1 (Abridged)
Genre: Biblical fiction

Book Description (from Publisher Center Street):

New York Times bestselling author Ted Dekker offers an exclusive, ebook original novella in this abridgment of A.D. 30, the epic historical novel about a woman who rises to lead her people after meeting Jesus.

Maviah, the outcast daughter of a powerful Arabian sheik, is called to protect the very people who rejected her. When enemies launch a sudden attack she escapes with the help of her father’s warriors. Their journey is fraught with danger and takes her to a brutal world subjugated by kings and emperors. There Maviah must form an unlikely alliance with King Herod of the Jews.

But her path also leads her to Yeshua, who offers her a way of life more powerful than any kingdom. Though following him may present an even greater danger, his may be the only way for Maviah to save her people–and herself.

My Thoughts:

Those of you who follow my blog may remember that I reviewed A.D. 30 not quite a year ago. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to go read that review first to find out my overall thoughts on the story, because here, I’m mainly going to focus on the differences I noticed between the abridged and unabridged versions, in the interest of helping readers decide which version they might prefer to read.

I’ll be upfront and say that I tend to be biased against abridged editions of anything for the same reason I prefer to read series in order, even when the individual books can be read as standalones. Because I don’t want to miss (or think I’m missing) anything. But since I’d already read the full book, and was about to read the next book in the series, I decided to give the abridged version a chance, and read it to refresh my memory of the first book before diving into the second. (And, yes, I’ll be posting my review of A.D. 33 soon….)

Going by Amazon’s estimated page counts of the two Kindle editions, the abridged version is about half the length of the original. That’s a lot to cut, and yet the primary story arc remains (in my opinion) fully intact. Pivotal scenes seem to be more or less exactly the same, while some of the connecting parts of the story are briefly summarized in the abridged version, rather than shown, as in the full version.

I’m sure there were parts left out and shortened that I didn’t even notice (considering it’s been almost a year since I read the full version). But the main thing I did miss, were some of the details of Maviah’s initial trek across the desert to Herod’s court with Judah and Saba. In the full version, these scenes did a great job of fleshing out the setting, culture, and relationships among the main characters. I loved the vivid sensory details as the characters experienced a sandstorm in the desert. And I enjoyed watching the relationship between Maviah and Judah deepen over the course of their interactions. I felt like I got to know them each better in the process. I found myself missing some of these details in the shortened version. Not so much because they’re necessary for enjoyment of the story – I don’t think they are – but because I enjoyed them so much the first time around.

For those readers all about the action, intrigue, and plot twists, the abridged edition may well be the way to go. For those who don’t mind taking the time to slow things down a bit in the interest of getting to know the characters better and exploring the setting and culture more fully, you’ll want the full version. Personally, I prefer the full version, though I did find the abridged version a convenient reminder before reading the next book in the series.

Thank you to Center Street for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book via NetGalley for review purposes.

Christian Fiction Book Club Connection, October 2015

Book Club Connection

Welcome to the October 2015 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. Then I’ll wrap up the post with a discussion question I’d like you to chime in on.

Online Discussions Coming Up This Month

The ACFW Book Club‘s October selection is Spy of Richmond by Jocelyn Green. 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 October, the Christian Fiction Devourers group on Goodreads is discussing After a Fashion by Jen Turano AND The Hesitant Heiress by Dawn Crandall. 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 #HedlundChallenge2015 features discussion of one of author Jody Hedlund’s historical fiction novels each month. The discussion is hosted in alternating months by Jamie of Books and Beverages and Cassie of Bookshelves and Windows. October is the last month for this challenge, so if you’ve been wanting to participate, now’s the time! This month, participants will be discussing Luther and Katharina at Jamie’s blog beginning October 27th (discussion details here and here).

For fans of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, Jamie of the Books and Beverages blog hosts a monthly Inklings discussion series. Sometimes fiction, sometimes non-fiction, the title for the month of October is Bedeviled: Lewis, Tolkien and the Shadow of Evil by Colin Duriez. Discussion is scheduled to begin on October 21st.

The Cherished Book Club, 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

Last Chance Hero by Cathleen Armstrong (September 2015, Revell, Contemporary Romance)

A Reluctant Bride by Kathleen Fuller (September 2015, Thomas Nelson, Amish Romance)

Bathsheba: Reluctant Beauty by Angela Hunt (September 2015, Bethany House, Biblical Fiction)

Let’s Chat!

October has been dubbed National Reading Group Month! So for those who are already members of book discussion groups … if you could offer one bit of advice to someone thinking about starting a brand new group, what would it be?