The Sword – Review

Most of the world has been destroyed by a deadly virus, followed by a nuclear war. Technology is useless without the utilities and infrastructure to support it. Survivors are so widely dispersed that nearly all “modern” knowledge and convenience has disappeared. 400 years later, groups of people have organized into medieval style villages and countries, producing food on small farms and manufacturing all their clothing, tools, and weapons by hand.  If you’re a prepper, a survivalist, or just a fan of the fantasy genre like myself, you will truly enjoy “The Sword”, by Bryan M Litfin.

To these future humans, we are “the ancients”.  Worship of idols and corruption are not only rampant, but taught as the state religion.  While trying to escape from “outsiders”, Teo, a royal guardsman for the king of Chiveis, and Ana, a farm girl who saves his life, stumble upon an ancient book that turns out to be the Holy Bible.  As it is translated into their language, they come to know a new God, the Creator, whom they come to understand as the One True God.  Meanwhile, the High Priestess of the common religion takes steps to eliminate the new religion.  The ending is a compelling set up for Book 2 in this trilogy, The Gift.

The deep, resonant voice of narrator Ray Porter captures and holds the attention, while his softer, higher pitched female renditions are a bit humorous, while the listener adjusts to them.  Author Litfin succeeds in creating a future world that stands on its own in a genre which includes some tough competition.  His characters play convincingly, with all their flaws, admirable qualities, and inner struggles.  Ana eagerly embraces the new God, but Teo, accustomed to relying on his own strength and cunning, takes more than simple persuasion.  His road to conversion is fraught with disaster, and when he does come to believe, it may be too late for the fledgling community.

This book does have some mature scenes (without being explicit), so I would not recommend it for the family bookshelf, but I think it is appropriate for a mature 16 year old, and older, use your discretion.  It is entertaining, suspenseful, and illustrates what Christians must sometimes endure, especially in areas where the Word of God has never been heard.

The Sword, The Gift, and the third book in the trilogy, The Kingdom, are all available from www.christianaudio.com for $14.98 each.

Thanks to www.christianaudio.com  for providing me with a free review copy of “The Sword”.  No other compensation was received for this review.

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The Scent of Cherry Blossoms – Review

I don’t normally care for romances but I chose this one because of the Amish twist.  The Amish fascinate and inspire me.  Ms. Woodsmall does an excellent job of introducing and acquainting us with her main characters.  She is generous with information about them and their backgrounds.  She paints pictures of landscapes and situations that play like a movie in the imagination.

Annie comes from a broken Old Order Mennonite home in which her mother has struggled to raise several children amid the shame of her husband abandoning the family.  Aden’s Old Order Amish father and brother, Roman, were injured in a farming accident which left them unable to continue to provide for the family in quite the same way as before.  Annie’s struggles with her mother are emotionally charged.  Roman’s struggle to come to terms with his disability rings very true.  The way these people of faith handle their challenges and ultimately turn to their Creator to help and heal them is inspiring.  The problem of forbidden love between childhood friends Aden and Annie is resolved amid surprising twists and conflicts.

This is just a good old story, with characters who are real people with real problems, which today’s Old Order families are not immune to.  They have their warts and their roses (or should I say cherry blossoms?) and it is inspiring to see them grow and improve in the course of resolving their problems.  I really enjoyed this book. It’s a pleasant escape to Amish country and a “simpler” life.

Cindy Woodsmall is an award-winning and New York Times Bestselling author.  She has written several other books, including When the Soul Mends and Plain Wisdom.  Her friendships with Amish and Mennonites began in childhood and continue to this day.  She homeschooled her children as they were growing up.

Cassandra Campbell has recorded over 100 audiobooks and is an accomplished actress and high school teacher.  Her narration is clear and expressive without distracting from the story.

The Scent of Cherry Blossoms, “A romance from the heart of Amish country”, by Cindy Woodsmall, copyright 2012, audiobook narrated by Cassandra Campbell is available from  Christian Audio for $10.98.

22 chapters, 335 minutes (6 hours)

I would like to thank Christian Audio, for providing me with a free review copy of this audiobook.  No other compensation was received for this review.

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The Touch

by Randall Wallace, (c) 2011, published by Mission Audio

“The Touch” is that rare, life affirming sensitivity that a few medical professionals and others posses.  Doctor Andrew Jones is one of them.  After a tragic accident in which his fiancee is killed, he abandons his gift and loses himself in teaching instead.  Lara Blair is the billionaire heiress of a medical research and equipment company.  For years her firm has been trying to perfect a surgical instrument that will duplicate a surgeon’s movements and allow never-before-possible deep brain surgeries to succeed.  When one of Lara’s executives stumbles across an exhibit containing a highly detailed micro-miniature sculpture of the Lincoln Memorial, and discovers the identity of its creator, Blair Pharmaceuticals begins a relentless pursuit of the talents of Dr. Jones.

There is a higher power at work, however, as Lara and Jones find themselves facing old fears, and questioning whether their lives should continue on their current paths.  The most compelling question is, will Andrew be able to defeat the demons that have tormented him since the death of his fiancee, in order to save his new love?

This audiobook contains a powerful message about the dignity of life at all stages, as well as the healing power of God’s grace.  It is a touching romance, without vulgarity, though one brief passage is probably not suitable for young ears.  Paul Mitchell delivers an exceptional reading, his voice resonating with the different emotions conveyed throughout the story.  Available for $12.98 from http://christianaudio.com/the-touch-randall-wallace.

I had trouble loading the MP3 files onto my ipod directly from the website, but no problem whatsoever downloading it to the computer and then transferring it to my ipod from there.  The complete zip file loads really fast and opens easily.

Thank you to Christian Audio Reviewers Program for providing me with this free review copy.  No other compensation was reveived for this review.

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Love Amid The Ashes

I found this book in our public library’s NEW section.  Looking at the title I thought ‘ick, another Harlequin or Avon romance type’.  But the cover illustration drew me in, and I picked it up and read the back, then glanced inside.  Hooked, and intrigued by our librarian’s seemingly sudden propensity for Christian fiction, I checked it out at the desk.

Set in Uz, (actual location lost, but several possibilities in Middle East) Love Amid the Ashes interlaces the Biblical stories of Job, Jacob and Esau, Joseph (of the many colored coat), the migration of the Hebrews to Egypt, and Dinah (sister of Joseph), in a very compelling way.  By the end, I was ready to reread the book of Job, and start my own investigation to see if I could pick up on the threads Mesu Andrews so skillfully weaves together from the Bible as well as other ancient texts and rabbinical tradition.

As Dinah nurses and cares for Job during his long suffering, the story of her ill fated love, betrayal by her vindictive brothers (the same ones who sold Joseph into slavery) and her subsequent rejection by her clan as “ruined” is presented.  The distinctive stories finally combine in Egypt, when it is discovered that the great vizier and “Father of the Pharoah” is none other than Joseph himself.  Job and Dinah’s tale comes to a gratifying conclusion and the reader is left hungry for more.

A little research on the internet and a look into Biblical, as well as ancient Egyptian timelines, convinced me that Ms. Andrews did, in fact, do her homework.  That yes, it is just possible that these stories which we normally take separately in the Bible and in history, could maybe have intersected with each other in this or some other way.  Which makes it all the more fascinating for me.

Love Amid the Ashes, by Mesu Andrews, (c) 2011, is available from http://www.revellbooks.com/ and other booksellers.

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The Damascus Way

Tiberius, Jerusalem, Damascus, in the year 40AD.  Saul of Tarsus is hunting down followers of The Way and brutally bringing them to justice.  Julia is the pampered daughter of Jamal, a wealthy merchant, and Jacob is one of his best caravan guards.  Both are couriers of secret messages between the dispersed groups of Christians.  When Saul and his retinue of temple guards join Jamal’s caravan to Damascus, Jacob and Julia risk discovery as well as their very lives to warn believers there of the impending danger.
Christian historical fiction just keeps getting better and better.  I really enjoyed The Damascus Way for its portrayal of daily life and business in the first century after Christ.  I also liked the light romance and heavy suspense.  Not only are messages being smuggled, but also frankinscense, a rare and costly spice.  Bandits and Zealots threaten lives and livelihoods.  Then there are the Roman guards who are also secret Christians…and the temptation on the road to Damascus to simply do away with Saul and his threat to their new faith.
With a guest appearance by the apostle Philip, and his encounter with the eunuch on the road to Gaza (Acts 8:26-39), Bunn and Oke continue to bring the Bible alive, especially the Acts of the Apostles.  A refreshing story, full of adventure and imagination without being morally offensive or degrading to other faiths.
New from Bethany House Publishing, this is the third book in the Acts of Faith series by Davis Bunn and Janette Oke.
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