Tag Archives: Amanda G Stevens

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I’m Thankful For


With Thanksgiving right around the corner, my thoughts are turning to turkey and gravy, and family, and stuffing, and mashed potatoes… and some of the things I’m thankful for… and pumpkin pie. In no particular order. And, since this week’s Top 10 Tuesday topic at The Broke and the Bookish is “Top Ten Books I’m Thankful For,” that’s what I’ve decided to blog about. I’d love to hear what books you’re thankful for too.

The Bible.  If you know my reading habits and my beliefs, this one kind of goes without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway. No other book can ever be as life changing or important to me as this one. The overarching story of the Bible is a beautiful tale of God’s love for mankind and his plan of grace and redemption. It amazes me how, after reading it for years, I still glean something new with each reading.

The Butterfly and the Violin by Kristy Cambron.  I won an autographed copy of this novel in a Goodreads giveaway. And reading it introduced me to an author who quickly became one of my favorites. Then I got to meet her in person at a writing conference and discovered what a sweet and thoughtful person she is. The book itself is both meaningful and beautifully written, and I highly recommend reading it.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis.  The summer between second and third grade, the children’s librarian at my local library recommended I read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I loved it so much then, and I love it (and the rest of the titles in the series) even more now that I can better appreciate its allegorical elements.

The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands by Lysa TerKeurst.  This inspirational nonfiction book reassured me that letting go of busywork is okay, even a good thing, when it makes room for more meaningful activities. It sounds kind of obvious, but it was something I really needed to hear at the time, and still do every now and then.

The Elephant and Piggie series by Mo Willems.  I first heard of this series in a Library conference session where the speaker discussed fun book related activities to do with kids, such as using elephant and pig masks or puppets along with these books. My kids and I love the humor and the fun of reading and acting out these characters’ antics. In fact, these books have played a part in some of our family’s most enjoyable reading experiences.

The Haven Seekers Series by Amanda G. Stevens.  This series exemplifies what I would like to see more of in Christian fiction. A thought provoking premise, realistically flawed characters, and Christian themes that are neither preachy nor superficial. You’ll want to start reading with Seek and Hide, the first title in the series, but I think it’s the fourth and final one that’s my favorite, called Far and Near.

The Story Equation by Susan May Warren.  Susie and fellow author Rachel Hauck presented and demonstrated the story building concepts from this book at a writing conference I attended before this book had become a book. I was fascinated by what I heard, but had to miss half their talk in order to keep my appointment to pitch my novel to an agent. So you can imagine I was thrilled to find this book a few years later and fill in the missing pieces. I’m in the midst of reading it now, and already planning to read it through again.

A Broken Kind of Beautiful by Katie Ganshert and Not in the Heart by Chris Fabry. These were the books that first introduced me to two of my favorite authors. Both use beautiful language to tell the kind of meaty and discussable story that I find fascinating, and that can be perfect for a book discussion group.

To Win Her Heart by Karen Witemeyer. This book holds a special place in my heart because the heroine is a librarian like me, and the hero is a blacksmith like my husband. It was also my first taste of this author’s humorous writing style. It’s been way too long since I’ve read this one though, so I’m thinking I may need to revisit these characters again soon.

So those are a few of the titles that came to mind, when thinking of books I’m thankful for. Which books would you put on your list?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Book Review: Far and Near by Amanda G Stevens

Title: Far and Near
Author: Amanda G Stevens
Publisher: David C Cook
Published: February 2016
Series: Haven Seekers, Book 4
Genre: Christian fiction, Speculative

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

Marcus, Lee, Austin, and Violet are starting over. Texas is supposed to be their sanctuary. But the Constabulary isn’t ready to relinquish their worst offenders, legal jurisdiction or not. They’ve sent agents in undercover, and Marcus is the assigned target of one who has personal reasons to bring him back dead or alive.

Marcus and Lee are ready to be whole again, to secure a home here—together. But wholeness and home might not mean what they thought. Stopping the Constabulary hunters will require more than Marcus knows how to give, and God is about to use him again in a way he doesn’t expect.

Enemies, emotions, the past, the future—everything must be faced in the quest for a true haven.

My Thoughts:

I’ve loved this series from the start, so it’s somewhat bittersweet to reach the end of this final book. I’ll miss Marcus, Lee, Violet, and Austen, and yet I’m happy to see them find some resolution and healing, even as a few things are left realistically open-ended.

If you haven’t been following this series, you really do need to read it in order, so check out my reviews of Books 1, 2, and 3. And suffice it to say that this series really is worth the time investment to read it. Seriously. What are you waiting for? You’ve got some catching up to do! 😉

This installment rejoins our characters in the newly sovereign state of Texas, trying to build a new life for themselves in relative safety, away from the constabulary. Except that the constabulary may not be as far away as our heroes and heroines would like. And wow, have they got a lot of issues to work through. But can you blame them after all they’ve faced up to this point?

Our (already beloved) characters take center stage in this book, as they continue to grow and mature in their faith. And in the process, they have to confront their worst fears and do things they never thought they could, before they can reach the happy ending they so desperately want. There’s more romance in this book than in the earlier ones, but it’s subtle and understated, in just the way you’d expect from Marcus and Lee if you’ve been following this series and getting to know them. Sigh. Let’s just say that the ending is all I could have hoped for them, and leave it at that for now, shall we?

Book clubs will find a lot to discuss here on issues like religious freedom, trust, and building relationships. And readers who enjoy a meaty story with thought-provoking what if scenarios, and relatably flawed characters need to read this series. It’s easily among my favorites.

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

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

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

Book Review: Found and Lost by Amanda G Stevens

Title: Found and Lost
Author: Amanda G. Stevens
Published: February 2015 by David C Cook
Series: Haven Seekers, #2
Genre: Speculative Fiction, Inspirational

About the Book (from the author’s site):

When Violet DuBay’s friend Khloe confides that her dad is a Christian, it’s the one secret Violet can’t keep. Turning in Khloe’s dad to the Constabulary is her duty. Her decision becomes an opportunity to infiltrate the Christian resistance; but as she gets to know Marcus, Lee, and the others, she’s compelled to question the things her society has taught her about God and His followers.

Clay Hansen persuades his family to join him at an underground church meeting and brings Violet, his teen daughter Khloe’s best friend. That night, the church is raided. He and his wife escape, but in the chaos, he loses Violet and Khloe. How can he find them with the Constabulary monitoring his every move? If the God who once spared Khloe won’t intervene, Clay will have to save her himself.

My Thoughts on the Book:

Found and Lost (Book 2 in the Haven Seekers series) is just as amazing as Seek and Hide (Book 1) was, and together they’ve left me eager to read more from this series. Thankfully, Take and Give (Book 3) has recently released, with a fourth book (Far and Near) on the way!

So what’s to love? For starters, the series has a fascinating (and chilling) premise. The books take place in a near-future society in which there’s a government sanctioned church and a revised Bible, but Christianity as we know it is illegal, as are traditional Bibles. Citizens are led to believe that Christians are extremists in need of re-education. And that’s exactly what they get, if they’re caught. It’s the kind of premise that grips you and really makes you think.

Then there are the characters. While Book 1 focused on Marcus, Aubrey, and Lee, Book 2 focuses more on Clay, Violet, and Khloe who bring along a whole new set of personalities and challenges. Clay’s desperation to restore his family and Violet’s journey of discovery both feel so real, it’s easy to get caught up in their stories. I found myself marveling at the unique perspectives each character brings to the series and how their viewpoints complement each other, giving a clearer picture of their society as a whole.

I think my favorite part of this book is the scene where a character reads a black market Bible and discovers that “This Jesus was different.” (Chapter 36) That scene in particular is so well done. The details, the emotion, the truth. It’s powerful.

I highly recommend this book. You’ll want to start with the first in the series though, since they build on each other. Oh, and fair warning, loose ends are not all tied up by the end of this one, and you will be left wanting more. Which is a good thing, considering there’s more to come!

Thank you to publisher David C Cook for providing an electronic copy of this book for review purposes.

Quick Links: Goodreads | Author’s Site

Book Review: Seek and Hide by Amanda G Stevens

Title: Seek and Hide
Author: Amanda G Stevens
Publisher: David C Cook
Genre: Speculative Fiction, Thriller, Inspirational
Series: Haven Seekers, #1
Publication Date: September 2014

About the Book (from publisher David C Cook):

Six years ago, the government took control of the church.  Only re-translated Bibles are legal, and a specialized agency called the Constabulary enforces this and other regulations.  Marcus Brenner, a new Christian, will do anything to protect his church family from imprisonment – including risk his own freedom to gain the trust of a government agent.

Aubrey Weston recanted her faith when the Constabulary threatened her baby.  Now released, she just wants to provide for her son and avoid government notice.  But she’s targeted again, and this time, her baby is taken into custody.  If only she’d never denied Him, maybe God would hear her pleas for help.

When Aubrey and Marcus’s lives collide, they are forced to confront the lies they believe about themselves.   And God is about to grab hold of Marcus’s life in a way he’d never expect, turning a loner into a leader.

My Thoughts on the Book:

I love this book!  It makes me want to go bury a Bible in a time capsule out in the woods somewhere, just in case.  And then bury my nose in another copy of the Bible and soak up as much of God’s word as I can while I still can.  Because, seriously, what if this kind of thing actually happened?

Amanda G Stevens has dreamed up a dystopian future that feels a little too plausible for comfort.  And that’s the beauty of it.  This story reminds us not to take our freedoms for granted.  The details and “history” of the story’s present situation are revealed gradually, a tantalizing sliver at a time in such a way that the story world doesn’t overshadow the story itself.

Rather, the focus of this book is on the small scale.  It’s the story of one small church group that meets secretly in a back room, one pair of friends wordlessly supporting each other, one woman fighting to reclaim her baby and avoid trouble with the law, and one man determined to do his part to help one member of his Christian family at a time even if that means putting his own freedom on the line.

The characters are complex, and they’re dealing with some pretty significant issues.  One character is dealing with the emotional and spiritual fallout of having been raped years ago.  Another is an alcoholic, nearly nine years sober, and still struggling.  While these thematic elements put this book on the edgier side of things as Christian fiction goes, I thought these subjects were handled tastefully, from a Christian perspective.  On top of that, they provide a vehicle for worthwhile spiritual discussions on the nature of God, temptation, guilt, mercy, and how God uses His people for good, despite our weaknesses.

Oh, and there’s a twist, near the end, that I did not see coming AT ALL.  But I can’t tell you.  You’ll have to read it for yourself.  Fair warning though, you may want tissues.

On a more up-beat note, I really admire some of the lovely, creative descriptions found in this book.  Here are a few I highlighted as I read:

“God had put some beautiful things in the world, but nothing beat the sky.  Especially when it rolled with storm clouds the color of Lee’s eyes.” (from Chapter 4)

“She’d thought his voice deep at first, but it wasn’t very.  More like … solid, each word an arrow that knew where it headed.  And clipped.  The syllables never lingered.” (from Chapter 14)

I can’t wait to continue reading this series to find out where the story will go from here.  I highly recommend Seek and Hide, and I’m planning to track down a copy of the next book in the series, Found and Lost in the very near future.

Thank you to publisher David C Cook for providing a free electronic copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.