The Box by Debbie Sheffield-Barnett

51FRkfOxu3L__SX384_BO1,204,203,200_

[BUY HERE]

About The Box by Debbie Sheffield-Barnett:

A little girl who is sad from the death of her mother and longs for love and affection receives a special box and becomes curious who sent it and what could possibly be inside.

A miracle takes place and restores the love in the little girl’s heart that she thought was gone forever.

About Debbie Sheffield-Barnett:

Debbie Sheffield-Barnett is a 30 year veteran teacher (retired) of the Oklahoma City Public School. She holds a BS degree in Elementary Education and minor in music (piano) and has currently returned to the classroom.

She is an accomplished singer, pianist and organist. She serves and dedicates her talents to the work of the church ministry. Debbie lives in Oklahoma City and is married to her husband Charles.  She has 5 children and 10 grandchildren.

You can connect with her on her website and Facebook.

My Review:

I give The Box by Debbie Sheffield-Barnett 5 out of 5 stars.

This review is long overdue, and it was actually supposed to be a video review, but my camcorder is acting glitchy, so I’m going the old-fashioned route: a written review.

I don’t often have the opportunity to review children’s books, but since I work with kids a lot, I’m always looking out for good books that will interest and entertain them. The Box by Debbie Sheffield-Barnett is such a book.

The book is actually based on Sheffield-Barnett’s own experiences following her mother’s passing when she was a little girl, and I think that’s important on a few levels.

First of all, it’s a way of passing a story from one generation to another. Of course, we’ve all sat and listened to our parents’ and grandparents’ stories (or, at least, I hope we have), but it’s important to have those stories preserved, and writing them down is one of the best ways to do that.

Secondly, a children’s book is an excellent way to engage the younger generation, especially because of the illustrations. Being a visual person, a story is likely to stick with me longer and be more meaningful when it’s accompanied by an illustration of some sort.

Finally, sharing from her own experiences, made Sheffield-Barnett’s The Box relatable. I understood the little girl whose world changed when her mother passed away – how she battled pity from others and how she didn’t have anyone to really talk to. I loved the suspense as the little girl tried to imagine what was in the box – I would have been doing the same thing!

I highly recommend this book for 4-6 year olds. They might not be able to read it themselves, but it’s a good one for dads and moms (or grandpas and grandmas) to read to them.

Go get your copy!

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Hollywood’s Treatment of Other, an Analytical Review

*SPOILER ALERT: This review is analytical in nature and may contain Pride and Prejudice and Zombies spoilers. If you are planning to read the book or see the film, you may want to wait to read this particular review.*

7c5a8b85b3f362d1d84204c4987d7622

For fans of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and the speculative fiction genre, this newly-released reimagining of Jane Austen’s classic from writer Seth Grahame-Smith and director Burr Steers is sure to raise a cheer. It is indeed a provocative concept and my own hat is certainly off two these two creators for pondering what would have happened if zombies were introduced to the Bennett’s world. The fierce Elizabeth Bennett was played by Lily James and both the character and actress translate well to a martial arts master. The impregnable Fitzwilliam Darcy is played by Sam Riley who captures the newly-imagined cold zombie killer exceptionally. Watching familiar, ordinary scenes transformed into fight scenes managed to be both thrilling and just off-kilter enough to work. As far as an Austen and zombie films go, it was a lot of fun and everything it should have been.

There is, however, an underlying message in the film with which I’m not entirely comcomfortable. Whether it was intentional or not, I can’t say, but having extensively studied film, it is something of a trope in horror film. I refer to the subjugation of what Jacques Lacan and other psychologists call Other, those things the Ego perceives as being radically alien and unassimalible. That is, the Ego sees those things different than it and cannot be made like it as effrontery to its own being, and thus, views Other as something to be suppressed at all costs.

Of course, in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Other is portrayed as the zombies and Ego is perhaps best represented in the character of the hyper-vigilant Mr. Darcy. From the outset, he considers it his duty to detect and dispose of the undead, even in instances when they pose no real threat because they have yet to consume human brains. In his mind, it is only a matter of time before they do, and must be dealt with immediately. In his zeal, he nearly kills Jane Bennett and his closest friend, Charles Bingley. Fortunately, the more level-headed Elizabeth stops him in both instances. We later learn no one was there to stop Darcy from destroying his father when he had become infected, duty-bound to keep the disease from spreading. To the analytical mind, it begs the question of where Darcy’s sense of obligation originates.

George Wickham’s mysterious character also elicits unease, because if ever there was a villain in an Austen novel, it is the charming officer. Wickham swiftly gains Elizabeth Bennett’s trust, as can only be predicted, and whisks her off to a colony of the undead at St. Lazarus, a  church, ironically enough. There, he reiterates that the undead are essentially harmless, being sated from pig brains offered during communion. They will not attack humans without having first tasted human brains. While it becomes clear Wickham is using these zombies and controlling their urges toward his own ends, the benign nature of these zombies until they are fed human brains is never fully explored, nor is the aggression against them fully explained.

Perhaps most disappointing is how easily the otherwise strong Elizabeth Bennett is swayed. At the beginning, she is not only forceful, but compassionate. To her, protection against harm is one thing, aggression against something harmless is another. She prevents Darcy from prematurely slaying her sister, and later, his closest friend. After the latter scenario, Elizabeth says, rather critically, “Mr. Darcy, your skills as a warrior are above reproach, but you are not a very good friend.” She continues believing this about him until, after her rejection of his first marriage proposal, he explains what he had to do to his father. Oddly, that changed her mind about Darcy, while it further solidified him as somewhat uncompassionate in mine. After all, if there was evidence such as she had seen at St. Lazarus that zombies could indeed be harmless, why was she so quick to believe Darcy’s assertion that it was a battle – the living against the undead? Perhaps it was the growing knowledge that Wickham used and controlled the zombies to infiltrate the homes of the wealthy, but surely that knowledge lends itself to cutting off that kind of leadership, rather than destroying its followers.

When George Wickham and Elizabeth Bennett appeal to her for help in guiding the harmless zombies at St. Lazarus, Lady Catherine de Bourgh compares the undead to locusts, saying they go forth in bands, having no leader, referencing an Old Testament proverb. In context, the proverb is actually saying this behavior of locusts is wise, but Lady Catherine uses it to say the undead will reject any and all leadership, and therefore must be destroyed, another example of Ego against Other. Because the undead did not fit within societal norms and could not be assimilated, they must not be allowed to exist.

It is reminiscent of the response of many in the United States to the Syrian refugee crisis, though Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was created before that came about. On one hand, there are those who, like Darcy and Lady Catherine, believe we should close our borders to people trying to escape the tyranny of Islamist extremists. Perhaps their personal histories lend them to the belief that the United States is most protected from terrorist attacks if she closes her borders to all Muslims.

On the other hand, there are those who believe we should be alert about those who wish to harm the United States and to be protected against them, but who also desire to help others who have been harmed. It is easier to embrace the first position than the second, because the second involves more risk. There is always a possibility when we open ourselves up in compassion, harmful things can slip in with the harmless. That’s why I enjoyed Elizabeth’s character at the outset: she was compassionate, but she was also protected.

Of course, there will always be those who seek to manipulate those who need protection for their own ends like Wickham and even Darcy did near the end when he fed the harmless zombies brains. Compassion is not a front to be hidden behind to change those who need help to be our way or do things our way. If it is, it is not compassion at all, but control, and it will backfire.

It’s human nature, really – this fear and subjugation of Other. That’s why prominent psychologists like Hegel, Freud, and Lacan have studied it so extensively. That’s why it’s a trope in the horror genre, where fear is rampant. That’s why there has been slavery and oppression throughout history. That’s why there was a Holocaust. That’s why we can’t welcome Syrian refugees. That’s why we can’t accept people who are attracted to other things than we are, who believe differently than we do. Our Egos are affronted by anything different from us, anything that cannot be like us or, God forbid, anything that doesn’t want to be like us, and our narcissistic tendencies insist that we crucify anything Other than ourselves, until at least, we are god.

In the New Testament, Paul warns Christians to mortify, or slay, the Ego, that inner resident who insists that everything must be about him or her; to reject self. If we continue to feed our Ego and reject Other, we run the risk of creating monsters, according to Percy Bysshe Shelley: “Treat a person ill and he will become wicked. Require affection with scorn; let one being selected, for whatever cause, as the refuse of his kind – divide him, a social being, from society, and you impose upon him the irresistible obligations – malevolence and selfishness. It is thus that, too often in society, those who are best qualified to be it’s benefactors and it’s ornaments, are branded by some accident with scorn, and changed … into a scourge and a curse” (On Frankenstein).

Interestingly, the Bennett sisters were considered as Other by respectable society in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies as well, having been trained for war instead of marriage, yet Darcy came to consider Elizabeth a suitable bride. Maybe there’s hope for him yet.

***

I am deeply indebted to Dr. Harry Benshoff of the University of North Texas for my analytical framework of horror films in his Gender and Sexuality in the Horror Film course. In other words, y’all can blame him that this review wasn’t just that first paragraph.

 

 

The Tethered World, A Review

51L-3BglRLL__SX320_BO1,204,203,200_

[CLICK TO BUY]

About The Tethered World (from Amazon):

“Normal” means different things to different people. For sixteen-year-old Sadie Larcen, family dynamics look a little different than most. Parents with oddball occupations? Normal. Five homeschooled siblings—one with autism? Normal.

Police knocking on the door and parents gone missing? Definitely not normal!

When Sadie uncovers the reasons behind her parents’ disappearance and the truth about her heritage, she despairs of ever feeling normal again. Especially when she learns that her mother’s interest in Bigfoot, Dwarves, and other lore extends beyond her popular blog. Sadie’s family has been entrusted with keeping the secrets of the Tethered World—home to creatures that once roamed the Garden of Eden.

Sadie and her siblings must venture into this land to rescue their parents. Stepping out of reality and into a world she never knew existed is a journey Sadie fears and resents. But she chooses to risk all to save her family.

She’s just not sure she will survive in the process.

About Heather L. L. Fitzgerald:

Heather Fitzgerald grew up in Orchards, Washington (considered part of Vancouver). She loved creative writing and loathed math. In third grade she began her first book, Rubber Bands and Mashed Bananas, pounding it out on an old-fashioned typewriter. With no typing skills or knowledge of white-out, Heather eventually gave up.

Though she married and settled down in Texas, “write a book” remained on her bucket list. Family life included homeschooling four children, one with autism. A favorite pastime was reading adventures with the kids. After they read through The Chronicles of Narnia, Heather’s desire to write became too powerful to ignore.

She began to blog and work on story ideas. When author Susan K. Marlow read Heather’s review of her book, Trouble with Treasure, she contacted Heather and asked, “Are you a writer?” By God’s grace, Susan saw something in Heather’s writing and began to mentor her.

Heather joined North Texas Christian Writers and attended writing workshops. A prompt from Susan sparked Heather’s original ideas for The Tethered World. This book is the result of six years of writing and a gazillion edits (with equal parts coffee). Though the novel is YA Fantasy, Heather prefers to call it Family Fantasy. She hopes families will read it aloud and enjoy the adventure together.

You can connect with Heather on her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

My Review:

I give The Tethered World by Heather L. L. Fitzgerald 4 out of 5 stars.

In her debut novel, Fitzgerald has created a vivid world, diverse cast of characters, and an adventure on par with The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lord of the Rings, and Redwall.

What you see on the cover is just a small glimpse of the world Fitzgerald has brought to life in The Tethered World: giant mushrooms, dark tunnels, snake branches, and many, many others occupy the pages of the story. What intrigued me most, though, was the concept: a world within our own, linked to our own since the Fall. Because of its connection, the Tethered World groans along with ours without needing to resort to allegory. Whether intended on the author’s part or not, I was reminded that human sin created total bondage for all creation, that sin does not occur in a vacuum.

When I say the characters are diverse, I don’t just mean that there is a variety of creatures in The Tethered World, though that’s certainly true. There are leprechauns, gnomes, dwarves, Nephilim, yetis, ogres, and fairies, but beyond that, the human characters were unique. Being a former homeschooler, I loved that Sadie and her siblings were homeschooled and had that special brand of homeschool humor (there was a joke about chain male that had me laughing longer than was probably reasonable). One of Sadie’s brothers has autism, and her great-aunt is afflicted with dementia, and those with loved ones in either condition will find the characters beautifully and relatably written. I would love to see more diversity like this in speculative fiction.

Sadie is not your typical brave heroine, and spends most of the adventure wishing she was back home. I didn’t particularly identify with her, but I liked this aspect about her – it made her authentic and gave opportunity for character growth.

Sophie, though – Sophie is my soul sister. There was a moment when a character quipped, “Hay is for houses,” I thought, I think the saying is ‘Hay is for horses.’ Maybe it’s a typo? Sophie echoed my sentiments just moments later, minus the part about the typo. I am known as the know-it-all in my family, too. I’ve gotten so much better over the years, but I mean, sometimes a girl just can’t help it, so I adored Sophie.

The story is packed with action throughout, and it makes for an exciting read. There were many moments when I caught myself holding my breath, wondering how the Larcens were going to make it out of this scrape or that. It’s not all serious, though: there is plenty of comic relief to offset the tense moments.

That being said, this is a bit of a journey story, and action girl that I am, I had a bit of trouble with the traveling portions. I know they’re necessary – unless you’re J. K. Rowling and then, disapparation – but even in my favorite stories – The Lord of the Rings, for example – I have a hard time with them.

I also want to thank Fitzgerald for not ending on a cliffhanger – that is my pet peeve in serial fiction, and I loved that it was resolved, and yet, you know there’s going to be more.

I highly recommend The Tethered World for fans of Tolkien, Lewis, and Jacques. It’s a fun, clean adventure that will appeal to families everywhere.

The 2015 Thomas Review Book Awards

untitled

Goodreads tells me that I’ve read 41 books this year. My goal was 52, so I didn’t make that, and for ethical reasons, I couldn’t review all of them. I did want to take a post to recognize some of the truly exceptional stories I’ve read and characters I’ve met throughout the year. Without further ado…

Best Male Character. Without a doubt, this goes to Will of Ashley Townsend’s Shadows Trilogy.

I get Will, and I am so thankful for the grace and empathy Ashlee displayed writing his character.  Most Christian writers don’t have the ability to write a character like him without getting preachy, but she did an excellent job.  There was actually a point where Will was discussing some of his issues, and I actually cried.

Because besides relating to him, he’s actually this really knowledgeable and skilled character, with an incredible sense of purpose.

“To stop yourself from feeling is like ceasing to live; life no longer holds meaning.  Hurt, anger, pain, desire, compassion, love – they’re what make us human.  They’re what living is all about. Being able to feel is something we shouldn’t take for granted or push away when offered.”

I truly can’t commend Ashley enough for Will’s character.  While very much a hero, Will realizes both his own brokenness and the broken situations around him.  He struggles to fight through those situations, and even learns a little bit how to let someone else fight for him.

“I have always wondered,” he began slowly, drawing the words out, “if my failure was because I lacked conviction to follow through, or perhaps I was afraid of death and wasn’t aware of it.”

Best Female Character. The best female character I read this year was Sparrow from Hilarey Johnson’s Sovereign Ground.

I completely identify with Sparrow’s desire to be free (and also, her love of grape pop), so while I have never had to face the choices she faces, I understand why she makes them. Sparrow is direct, smart (an avid reader), and strong, and so not only is Sovereign Ground a great story, Sparrow is a great protagonist.

Runners up in this category include Ruby from Jenna Zark’s The Beat on Ruby’s Street and Isa Maxwell from Ana Spoke’s Shizzle, Inc.

Best Supporting Character. The Best Supporting Character goes to Addy from Penelope A. Brown’s The Gatekeeper’s Forbidden Secret.

Addy was my favorite character, reminding me of my younger self with her wild imagination and dolls and stories. When I was little I had a fake phone on which I talked to all of my imaginary friends. Anyway, as I got older my grandma told me that the way I talked she would have sworn someone was on the other end. Maybe there was, Grandma. Maybe there was.

Best Couple. Best couple goes to Chase and Mads from Emerald Barnes’ Entertaining Angels and Before We Say I Do. They’re just super adorable. ‘Nuff said.

The runners up in this category are Macy and Dillon from RJ Conte’s The 12th Girl in Heaven.

Fiction That Needs to Hit the Big Screen. Tabitha Caplinger’s Chronicle of the Three: Bloodline.

It’s a great alternative to much of what exists in the YA market. This is both praise for Caplinger and Vox Dei Publishing (full disclosure: my publisher) because they have managed to bring a story that contains the classic elements of YA fiction (difficulties navigating high school relationships, a romantic element, and intrigue, to name a few), yet manages to empower teens at the same time. The teens in this story are kind and brave and relatable (i.e. not perfect), and they also have mentors who care for them and speak into their lives, something that is all-too-often missing in YA fiction, and perhaps in real life. (Let’s bring that back, shall we?)

Runner up in this category is Heather Huffman’s Ties that Bind.

Best in Fantasy. Best in Fantasy goes to Elise Stephens’ Guardian of the Gold Breathers.

When his mother remarries a disgraced scientist, their new family moves to a country estate where Liam discovers a world beyond his own.This book has the feel of Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield and George MacDonald’s At The Back of the North Wind, so I’m not surprised how much I enjoyed it. It’s the perfect blend of reality and fantasy, bittersweet in its execution.

Best in Literary Fiction. Best in Literary Fiction goes to Run, River Currents by Ginger Marcinkowski.

This story is harrowing, absolutely harrowing. I cried as it ended, because it was so familiar. I am so, so grateful for its brutal honesty, and yet, it ended in a tone of hope. It gave me courage, and it gave me hope.

Runner up in this category is A Decent Woman by Eleanor Parker Sapia.

Best Family Saga. Best in Family Saga goes to Last Child by Terry Tyler.

Hannah was my favorite character from Kings and Queens, so I was overjoyed to see her in the role of narrator for this book. I thought Raine, Isabella, and Amy were fantastic characters, but I adored Erin – a woman after my own heart right there, not to mention she was a refreshing change from the “woman scorned” characters that preceded her.

Best Memoir. Best in Memoir goes to The House on Sunset by Lindsey Fischer.

You may wonder why I – a single, independent twenty-something woman – picked up a memoir on domestic violence. It’s simple, really: before Lindsay met Mike, she was a single, independent twenty-something woman, too. I hope this doesn’t sound too terrible, but since I personally dread getting into a physically and emotionally abusive relationship, I was hoping to glean some advice as to how to avoid one.

What I found was a woman looking for love and acceptance, like any of us might be at any given time. What I found was a woman who learned rejection from a mother who learned it from her mother. (Something I deeply relate to).  I found was a woman who internalized so much pain for so long she began taking it out on herself. What I found was an optimist, a healer, a lover. What I found was impossibly complex.

Runner up in this category goes to Confessions of a Prodigal Daughter by Sarahbeth Caplin.

Best Non-Fiction. Best in Non-Fiction goes to Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster.

I was surprised to find it was very much in line with my theology, which has drastically changed in the past year or so. Shocked, actually. I didn’t expect to be pumping my fist in the air, saying, “Yes! Somebody gets it!” but that’s what ended up happening. And because Foster includes many thoughts from theologians from history, it was comforting to realize that the things I have come to believe about God are not new and untested; in fact, they are ancient and respected. Foster introduced me to concepts I’d never heard of, but that made perfect sense.

Runner up in this category is Pulpits and Pink Lipstick by Tabitha Caplinger.

Best Fiction. Best in Fiction goes to There and Back by George MacDonald.

In There and Back, George MacDonald did for me what Dickens never could: he went to that deepest level and he lived there with the story and characters. The story takes place in nineteenth-century England, and follows the aristocratic Lestrange family and those who cross their paths, from other aristocrats to tradesmen to clergy. MacDonald explores the social, emotional, and spiritual standing and evolution of every character he introduces. It’s a complex look at how people’s philosophies shape how they relate to God and one another. No less important is the gritty look at why a good God allows bad things to happen – an age old question, I think.

I’m actually feeling a little burnt out on reading and reviewing, so I think I’m going to try a different approach – in 2016. I’ll probably still do little reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, but reserve blog space for more analytical and critical reviews – maybe once a month or something. I don’t know. I just know I’m not going to attempt 52 books in one year ever again, haha. (Probably).

 

 

 

Ties That Bind by Heather Huffman

51ZB1OnuTmL__SX373_BO1,204,203,200_

[CLICK TO BUY]

About Ties that Bind (from Amazon):

Author Heather Huffman delivers a romantic comedy of friendship, love and family ties in this vibrant city adventure as a fiercely independent yet vulnerable woman with a weakness for shoes – and sexy British accents – forges a new path that will leave her forever changed.

Kate Yager never had a father, and she never minded – until her mom died. Now, acting on the name called out on her mother’s deathbed, Kate has moved to San Francisco and gotten herself hired by the man she suspects to be her dad. As if a new job, new apartment, and new parent weren’t enough, Kate finds herself head-over-heels in lust with a complete stranger she met at an art show. A stranger who, she later finds out, happens to work in her office.

As her relationships with her friends and father grow stronger, Kate has to confront the decisions of her past to find out whether she can love the man who gave her up, love the man who loves her truly, and even whether she can love herself.

About Heather Huffman (from Amazon):

Heather Huffman lives in Missouri with her husband and their three sons. In addition to writing, she enjoys spending time with their growing alpaca herd, the family horse, and their pack of rescued dogs. A firm believer that life is more than the act of taking up air, Heather is always on the lookout for an adventure that will become fodder for the next novel.

You can connect with her on her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

My Review:

I give Ties that Bind by Heather Huffman 4 out of 5 stars.

I love me some chick lit.

I’ll be honest: I picked out this book as part of my Booktrope #PreFunk haul because of the cover.  Aren’t those purple heels to die for? And I don’t even wear heels… I mean, I read the synopsis before I downloaded it, of course, but my mind was already made up.

I settled into Kate Yager’s story with a bowl of ice cream late on Saturday night after watching Down with Love (with Renee Zellweger and Ewan McGregor), and finished it late last night. I would have read straight through if I could have, but … sleep. And church. And the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice. (Yes, I am most definitely in a mood.)

Anyway, I really enjoyed Kate’s struggle as she gets to know new friends, a love interest, and her estranged father.

There are certain character clichés in chick lit, but I found the characters were unexpected and refreshing. For example, Kate’s stepmother encourages her relationship with her newly-found father, although she is only slightly older than Kate, and she’s an artist, not some trophy wife.  Kate’s two new friends, Jessica and Liz, are beautiful and successful, but not at all catty or threatened by her. Even Kate’s father didn’t respond how I thought he would upon learning Kate is his daughter.

I loved the chemistry between Kate and Gavin, but then I’m a sucker for great chemistry. (See Down with Love and Pride and Prejudice.) I like when there’s tension over whether or not a couple will get together and stay together, and Huffman certainly delivers that. Although it was never expressly mentioned, and there were many “near misses”, Kate and Gavin practiced abstinence until marriage, or at least, that’s the vibe I got. Please don’t get me wrong: I’m the biggest proponent of waiting until marriage, but…I didn’t understand it for these characters. At first, they talked about taking things slow physically, and the next thing I understood (much, much later in the story) was that they were waiting for their wedding. I wanted to understand why they were waiting – what values prompted that decision? Granted, the “near misses” were entertaining and heightened the tension.

Huffman also knows just when to end a chapter. Saturday night, I found myself saying, “Just one more chapter,” way too many times, and she works in a suspenseful, serious element into the mix as well.

If you’re in the mood for a some good chick lit, I highly recommend Ties that Bind with a bowl of ice cream. Or chocolate. Or a glass of wine. Or whatever your poison is. It’s a fun story.

Full Disclosure: Heather Huffman is my managing director at Vox Dei Publishing. This review was not solicited or coerced, and contains my unadulterated opinion.

Sudden Mission by Guy L. Pace

51j9fA7UfPL__SX322_BO1,204,203,200_

[CLICK TO BUY]

About Sudden Mission (from Amazon):

Satan, once one of God’s favorites, now His Adversary, grows impatient with the plan and begins to harvest souls. In a fell swoop, he throws reality out of whack and the world into chaos. God calls on Paul and his friends Amy and Joe to set things right. The young teens journey through a messed up world—with a little help from an angel—struggling against everything the Adversary can throw in their path to accomplish their Sudden Mission.

With their world and their parents’ lives hanging in the balance—and the Adversary sending everything from zombies to Samurais to stand in their way—Paul will discover if he has the strength and faith to set things right again and stop Satan’s harvest.

About Guy L. Pace (from Amazon):

Guy L. Pace, born in Great Falls, MT, grew up in the Pacific Northwest. He served in the US Navy, including combat operations in Vietnam in 1972.

He was a Navy journalist, and worked primarily in community newspapers as a reporter, photographer, editor and finally a managing editor. He changed careers in the mid-80’s getting into computer support, training, networking and systems, and eventually information security. He retired in 2011 after more than 20 years working in higher education.

He lives with his wife, Connie, in Spokane, where he gets to spend time with children and grandchildren, and ride his Harley-Davidson.

You can connect with Guy on his website, Facebook, and Twitter.

My Review:

I give Sudden Mission by Guy L. Pace 4 out of 5 stars.

When a black fog descends on Washington, D.C. and their families mysteriously disappear, Paul, Joe, and Amy’s world is turned upside down. It gets even crazier when an enigmatic man shows up and tells Paul he’s the one responsible for making it right.

From start to finish, there is never a dull moment – trolls, zombies, demonic monks, aliens, and samurais. A carefully-planned cross-country trek from North Carolina to Montana takes several unexpected turns including a warp with fantasy elements, and along with the characters, you wonder if they’ll ever make it to their destination, and what they’ll face when they get there.

The protagonists – Paul, Amy, and Joe – are compelling, and they are joined by a diverse cast of characters throughout their journey.  The coyote reminded me of D from The Field, probably because in essence, they are the same character. It was interesting to consider how the enemy uses the same tactics on everyone: deception, trying to get them to give up, attacking what is lacking in them,… I’m grateful to see more books exposing these tactics.

I was somewhat disappointed in the climactic moment, which, after everything leading up to it seemed, well, anticlimactic. I think I just wanted something bigger.

Overall, though, this is the kind of story I can see my nephews reading and loving, and I highly recommend it for teen and preteen boys.

Full Disclosure: Guy L. Pace and I are both published through Vox Dei. This review was not solicited, and contains my unadulterated opinion.

Run, River Currents by Ginger Marcinkowski

51BaX2laiTL

[CLICK TO BUY]

About Run, River Currents (from Amazon):

As the last of the mourners departed the ornate Catholic Church, Emily entered a side door unnoticed, walked to the coffin, and punched her dead father in the face. “You’ll never be dead enough,” she whispered. “Never.” Determined to recover from the hands of a father who sexually abused her and an emotionally distant mother, twenty-seven-year-old Emily Evans seeks the peace she’d lost in her youth. Yet, shattered by the betrayal of those she was taught to respect and love, she fears that she may never overcome the devastating effects of generations of abuse. Will she ever let herself truly open up to the power of unconditional love? Set in the rich backwoods of New Brunswick, Canada, Run, River Currents is inspired by a true story of abuse, pain, and the struggle to find healing and forgiveness.

About Ginger Marcinkowski (from Amazon):

Ginger Marcinkowski was born in northern Maine along the Canadian border, a setting that plays a prominent role in Run, River Currents. She is one of eight siblings.

Her debut novel, Run, River Currents, a story of abuse at the hands of her father, was published in August 2012, was a 2012 semi-finalist in the ACFW Genesis Awards, and a 2013 Kindle Book Award Finalist, also winning honorable mentions in national awards and festivals. The Button Legacy, a novella, was published in June 2013, was written as a prequel / sequel to Run, River Currents. Her next novel, The Button Heritage was published in 2014 and is the full story of the Polk families journey of faith told through buttons collected over generations. The Button Legacy concludes Run, River Currents dramatic story of healing and forgiveness.

Ginger has been a public speaker and visiting lecturer for many years. She has been a professional reader for the James Jones First Novel Award ($10,000 prize), and has been a judge for the ACFW ‘s prestigious Genesis and Carol Awards. She is actively involved in the Hampton Roads Writers Association and is a member of the ACFW and AWP Writer’s Associations.

An interesting fact about Ginger is in the past, she was a travel agent for many years, which is the catalyst for her new series of mystery books whose main character is a travel agent.

You can connect with Ginger on her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

My Review:

I give Run, River Currents by Ginger Marcinkowski 5 out of 5 stars.

I don’t know why I’ve been reading such heavy books lately, except I’ve been dealing with things, and I guess God has just known what I’ve needed. He certainly knew I needed this book.

Run, River Currents tells the story of Emily Douay Evans, the sexual abuse she endured at the hands of her father, and how it altered her life.

It delves into her heritage – her mother and father, her grandparents, and the legacies she’s been given: one godly, and one absolutely evil. And while her heritage is a means of understanding what has happened to her, what has happened to her is never treated dismissively. It shows how cycles are often repeated, unbroken, but that can change with just one person’s decision that this stops here.

It delves into her relationship with God – or rather, her non-relationship with God, as she simply cannot believe in a God who cares about her. To a little girl who feels unloved, or loved in all the wrong ways, God is difficult, if not impossible, to see. Emily was real about God, and I was reminded that sometimes others’ gods can cloud our vision of the Real Deal.

It delves into her present life and the trust issues, self-image issues, and anger that stem from her father’s abuse and mother’s neglect.

It’s not all negative, though: because of the godly heritage, there are good memories, along with the bad. There are good people, along with the bad.  And ultimately, it becomes about claiming both.

This story is harrowing, absolutely harrowing. I cried as it ended, because it was so familiar. I am so, so grateful for its brutal honesty, and yet, it ended in a tone of hope. It gave me courage, and it gave me hope.

I highly recommend it for survivors of childhood sexual abuse. With a book like this, there is of course the possibility – likelihood, even – of being triggered, but the story really is handled exceptionally well.

Full Disclosure: Ginger Marcinkowski and I are both published through Vox Dei. This review was not solicited, and contains my unadulterated opinion.