Suspense · Thriller

Full Review, Centralia

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“Centralia.” He said it out loud, hoping the auditory stimulation would trigger something, anything. But it didn’t. It was just a word, nothing more than a string of letters, a compilation of sounds.

Again tears came to his eyes, and he brushed them away. Regardless of whether he knew what the note meant, this was the proof he’d been looking for. Lilly was alive. And her note said they’d both gone together. If Lilly was alive, he had every reason to believe Karen was too.

He had to find them. He had to figure out what Centralia was and what he was supposed to remember.

Centralia
by Mike Dellosso, ©2015
Tyndale House Publishers

Centralia holds a special place today because it is the first suspense/thriller I have reviewed on the blog. This book is also the first one I finished from the Tyndale book haul I shared a while back. It’s also the first book since Sutter’s Cross by a male author. So, is it worth all those firsts?

Centralia is the story of Peter Ryan, who wakes up one morning looking for his wife and daughter only to discover that they both died in a car accident he doesn’t remember. As the back cover puts it, “Haunted by faint memories and flashes of details, Peter becomes convinced that something isn’t right and begins to question reality.” Peter goes on the run to try to find his family –if he even still has one. But confusing memories aren’t the only thing haunting him; hit men follow him every step of the way and Peter can’t afford to make any mistakes.

While this isn’t the kind of story I typically read, I really enjoyed it. One thing author Mike Dellosso did right was including the strong family element. In a book full of shootouts, close calls, car chases, and questions, Peter Ryan’s need to find his wife and daughter kept things grounded and meaningful. On another level, Peter also begins to remember a relationship with God he didn’t know he had, buried somewhere in his confusing and jumbled past.

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Between trying to figure out which memories are real, (was he a mild-mannered scientist? An army ranger with a medal of honor? A divorcee or happily married?) I should warn you that a lot of people die. I lost count after fifteen (mostly nameless assassins after Peter) people expired, so this book might not be for you or for younger people. I did appreciate that Dellosso included this section dealing with Peter’s grief over the lives lost as he’s tried to escape:

…But in the aftermath, looking at the collection of casualties in the parking lot, he wondered who these men were when they weren’t being used as killing machines. Did they have wives who would grow ashen at the news? Children who would never again hear their father’s voice reading them a bedtime story? The thought made Peter sick.

God in heaven, forgive me. Deliver me from this evil.”

As for negatives, I did think the ending was a little bit underwhelming, and some components of the story were a  or bit over-the-topespecially convenient for the hero. A ventilation chimney leading straight out of the bad guys’ bunker complete with a ladder to the top and a metal grate cover (that isn’t even fastened on!) comes to mind. But it’s ultimately all part of the Marvel movie-ish fun and action.

The front cover quietly warns that “things are not what they seem.” But if you think this book seems like an energy-infused story full of revelations and heart…you might just be right.

Biblical · Full Reviews

Full Review, Bread of Angels

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“Like her grandparents, her parents had managed to bring only one child into this world, another daughter. And now it was Lydia’s turn to fight for this last piece of her family’s inheritance, this tiny patch of land that represented everything good and safe and noble in this world. Home and her father and purple. Lydia was content if the world had nothing else to offer.”

Continue reading “Full Review, Bread of Angels”

Full Reviews · Historical · Uncategorized

Full Review, While We’re Far Apart

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“Don’t do it Eddie. Please,” Grandma begged. “Think of your children. Go down there tomorrow and tell the army you changed your mind.”

“I can’t. It’s too late.” He spoke so softly that Esther thought she might have imagined it. For sure Grandma hadn’t heard him. But then he cleared his throat and said in a louder voice, “I already resigned from my job. I leave for basic training in two weeks.”

His words gave Esther the same empty, floating feeling she’d had after Mama died, as if she were a fluff of dandelion, no longer tethered to the earth. What was going to happen to her?

While We’re Far Apart
By Lynn Austin
Bethany House Publishers, ©2010 Continue reading “Full Review, While We’re Far Apart”

Biblical · Full Reviews

Full Review, Counted With the Stars

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Counted With the Stars
Connilyn Cossette
Bethany House Publishers, ©2016

Had Yahweh been calling to me? Without words? Had he guided my steps to be among his people? To be set free from bondage and to follow him into the wilderness for some purpose I did not yet understand? Perhaps even the dream that had plagued me after the Nile turned red, when the gods themselves bled, was a message that Yahweh would destroy their power.

My heart contracted as I imagined the possibilities. Did Yahweh, the Almighty Creator, hear me? An Egyptian slave? Even though I had refused to surrender to him?

I dipped my toes back into the cool, rich waters of the Nile with another foray into the world of ancient Egypt! The biblical tale of Moses and the Exodus is lush with meaning to be gleaned about our Redeemer, so it’s not surprising to me that it has inspired more than one novel. Counted With the Stars is written from a fresh perspective; the protagonist is an Egyptian (rather than a Hebrew) fearful for herself and her people as the plagues unfold.

Kiya, the main character, grew up with riches but was sold into slavery when her family becomes unexpectedly destitute. She forms a close friendship with a fellow Hebrew slave, who tells her the stories of their people and Yahweh’s covenant with Abraham and his descendants (see Genesis 15.) Eventually Kiya flees Egypt with the Hebrews and must decide if she will surrender her life to the same God who decimated her homeland.

There were some issues; in my mind there was a strong disconnect between the first and second halves of the book. Excellent characters, who had been built up and fleshed out, disappear without a satisfying ending when Kiya leaves Egypt . New characters (particularly a villain) pop up out of nowhere and seem cliché by comparison. I also thought the romantic arc between Kiya and her Hebrew love interest was unrealistic and their dialog too contemporary. “Eben” spends most of the book glaring at Kiya and treating her with contempt and for some reason she continues to find him all the more appealing. Eben’s behavior is explained to be due to his father being murdered by Egyptians, but I still don’t understand Kiya’s attraction.

Cossette does an excellent job expounding on the plagues and miracles of God; I especially found her interpretation of the parting of the Red Sea interesting. She imagines the strong east wind God sends to divide the waters (Exodus 14:21) to be very cold, and it freezes the waters on each side of the dry ground into the walls on their right and left. One of my favorite things about Biblical fiction is how it has me constantly reaching for my Bible to reread passages; to me, Exodus 15:8, which speaks of the water being “gathered together…the depths congealed” doesn’t suggest icy walls, but I don’t think it is firmly exclusive of it. Cossette makes it very clear the parting is a miracle of God and not simply a natural phenomenon!

All in all, I think Counted With the Stars earned itself a solid 3/5 rating. Parting thought—are you tired of Biblical Christian fiction? Are there any genres you are really interested in seeing me review? I recently purchased a mystery, which is supposed to be like a Christian version of Agatha Christie. I also may be getting started on some speculative works. What do you want to see most? Suspense, legal, mystery, apocalyptic? Something else?

Appreciatively, Rebekah

Contemporary · Full Reviews

Full Review, My Hands Came Away Red

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The long sweep of beach that fronted the village was my favorite place. During those first days on the island, it became the spot I headed for with my Bible every morning after breakfast, the place I went when I needed five minutes alone. A row of tall coconut trees growing on the fringe of the jungle curved out over the sand like a one-armed embrace, and if you looked back from the beach you could see how the village had settled neatly into the bowl of the valley, as if hundreds of frail toy houses had tumbled down the surrounding hills and come to rest together at the bottom.

My Hands Came Away Red
By Lisa McKay
Moody Publishers, ©2007

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Contemporary · Full Reviews

Full Review, Sutter’s Cross

But one child, looking up, saw farther and deeper and wider than the others. He saw the glittering bursts and showers but he saw fireflies too, and stars, all of them sparks of hope flung upward like prayers into the night. For in one quiet, unexpected moment, he had looked beyond the stars and caught a glimpse of God.

Sutter’s Cross
By W. Dale Cramer
Bethany Press, ©2003

Cravings usually go hand-in-hand with food, but as I was writing this review back in April I found myself craving something a little bigger: summertime. Summertime colors; the creek bubbling to life again; my porch-style swing—oh, how I missed reading and swaying on that swing on a hot day. Where I live it’s a long wait for summertime. Continue reading “Full Review, Sutter’s Cross”

Full Reviews · Historical

First Review!

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Cousin Albert held out his hand for the photograph. I swallowed and gave it to him. There were two letters in the envelope; one I knew to be Emily’s writing. I looked away. If the other was from Ma I couldn’t bear it. I’d prayed for a letter from her for nearly a year. That Cousin Albert should have both a letter and a photograph, when I had neither, made me hate him. And then I hated myself. What was I thinking, grudging a dying man the only air he wanted?

 I Have Seen Him in the Watchfires
By Cathy Gohlke
Moody Publishers, 2008

Continue reading “First Review!”