Category Archives: Fiction

Beguiled by Deeanne Gist & J. Mark Bertrand

Rylee Monroe is a dog walker in Charleston. Her clients live in the wealthiest part of the city. Recently their homes are being burglarized by a person the police have dubbed the Robin Hood burglar. Items being taken have little or no value while item valued at thousands remain untouched. The thief is giving the items to the poor, just like the mythical Robin Hood.

Logan Woods, a newspaper reporter, is writing a book on crimes in general and the Robin Hood burglar in particular. As he digs into the recent burglaries, he finds that Rylee seems to be at the center of everything. He tries to get close to Rylee, but she doesn’t trust him or anyone else. Her father left his family when she was a small child and her mother committed suicide, or so she has been led to believe. She only has her grandmother, who she supports, living in a nursing home.

As the burglaries escalate, the police suspect Rylee of the crimes as she has access to each of the homes being burglarized. She is arrested and put in jail. After being released on bail, she returns to her apartment only to find it has been trashed – everything has been destroyed. She turns to Logan for help. Their relationship is one of mistrust and secrets, but they really do need each other: Logan to find the ending to his book and Rylee to have someone to cover her back.

This is a very interesting romantic suspense novel. You will find yourself asking the questions – what really happened to Rylee’s parents, who is living in her ancestral home, who is the Robin Hood burglar – why has he/she committed these crimes?

Highly recommend the book. This is a well written suspense novel. The authors did an excellent job of collaborating the story – leading the reader to a surprising ending.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Not a Sparrow Falls by Linda Nichols

The story centers mainly around three individuals – Mary Bridget, Reverend Alasdair MacPherson and Samantha MacPherson. Mary is a lost soul. After the death of her mother she went a little wild – running off with a local boy the town said was peculiar. She soon becomes involved in the making and distribution of drugs, and finds herself on the wrong side of the law. Reverend MacPherson is pastor of John Knox Presbyterian Church. MacPherson has been pastor of the church since its founding. McPherson is a widow with three children to raise on his own. The church elders and the Presbytery president are not pleased with the reverend, because they feel he is too involved with other activities, not taking care of his congregation and are asking for his resignation. Samantha is the Reverend ‘s daughter. After the death of her mother she went from a loving daughter to a secretive teen, skipping school and getting into all kinds of trouble.

Determined to make a new start, Mary takes on her mother’s identity and escapes to Alexandria, Virginia where she becomes nanny to the Reverend’s children. The reverend must come to terms with what is best for his family and the church. Samantha must learn to take responsibility for her actions and stop blaming others. Mary, or Birdie as she is now known, must learn to listen when God speaks to her and do his bidding. She thinks she can help this family.

One must read the book to experience the doubts, frustrations, cruelty of one person, and how each character overcame their own challenges. Do they come to realize that God has been with them each step of the way and he always keeps his promises? If God sees each tiny sparrow that falls, surely he will do even more for his children, right?

Linda Nichols is an excellent author of Contemporary Fiction. Highly recommend this book for all christian readers.

This book was provided by the publishers as a review copy.

Never Say Never by Lisa Wingate

Donetta Bradford and her two friends, Imagene and Lucy, are going on a cruise. They have never been on one before and have high expectations. They start the drive from Daily, Texas in high spirits to sail on the Liberation docked in Perdida. A hurricane named Glorietta is brewing out in the gulf, but they are unconcerned. After all, the hurricane is predicted to miss them altogether. The trio is having a high ole time with their movies, food and good conversation until they run into a traffic bottleneck. Seems all predictions of Hurricane Glorietta were wrong and the storm is fast approaching land. They join the row of cars trying to exodus to higher ground, and soon find themselves out of gas and stranded on the side of the highway. Things are not looking too good for the women and the storm is really bearing down.

Kai Miller lives in Perdida and works on the Liberation. She arrives at the dock on the departure date to find the ship has already sailed in the middle of the night due to the approaching storm. Not knowing exactly what to do, she returns home to pack a few belongings and to find higher ground. Her landlord is not to be found and she just can’t leave his two dogs to fend for themselves. She load up the dogs in her van, joins the line of departing vehicles and hopes she can outrun the storm.

Kai is soon caught up in the stop and go traffic with no where to go, but follow the car in front of her. She sees the stranded van and stops to help. She loads the women, all their belongings in her van, with the dogs, and continues on her mad exodus. Everything is going fine until she has a flat tire. She is forced to pull out in the first available spot which is the driveway of an electric company station. Now what where they going to do? Suddenly they hear singing. Were they going crazy – who would be out on night like this – maybe there was a house close by. Soon a man emerges out of the darkness. He and the Holy Ghost Church congregation are stranded as well and he was trying to find a way out. He takes the women and the dogs to an abandoned church in the woods where his people are staying.

This is where the story become interesting. You will find yourself laughing, crying and right in the middle of the hurricane. What happens to this bunch of unlikely strangers makes a very heart warming story. I just couldn’t put the book down until the final page.

One must read the book to appreciate Lisa Wingate’s unique style of writing. She is an excellent writer of contemporary fiction. I can’t recommend this book too highly. You will thoroughly enjoy her way with words. She has written two other books about life in Daily, Texas which I plan to read.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

A Measure of Mercy by Lauraine Snelling

-Review by Tammy Millwood, a friend of AshertopiA

A young girl in turn of the century North Dakota has the opportunity to train to be a doctor. She will be faced with everything from everyday struggles and decisions to faith challenging crisis and disappointment. The author takes us from the idyllic country setting to the fast paced city life of downtown Chicago, where she will ultimately persevere and accomplish what she has set out to do.

When I first sat down to read this book, I was overwhelmed with the flood of names and relations that the author seemed in desperate need to rush into within the first few chapters. As one who has not read any prior books related to this family or any of the previous storylines I found myself completely confused several times, re-reading pages and flipping through looking for some sort of reference I may have missed. Not finding any I continued in hopes of eventually making sense of all of the people laid out before me. I had also hoped to find an index or list of pronunciations for all of those names, since I could not find one I kept stumbling over them continually and finally settling on what I am sure was not the right one.

A little slow at first and almost too sweet. Everyone blending in together as almost the same character one for the men and one for the women, most of the characters seemed interchangeable, not really set apart in any way. All with the same ideas and flow of writing that added to my consternation trying to get these people straight in my mind.

Right around Chapter 4 things begin to pick a bit. A few of the characters seem to begin to have life breathed into them as their personalities begin to show through and if you have the “perseverance” to get that far, you will be rewarded with a sweet and down to earth story that overall was enjoyable. There are several storylines emerging at once intertwining and leaving plenty of room for a continued story. I found myself looking forward to the next book, wondering what will become of the main characters I feel I did manage to get to know.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Mornings In Jenin by Susan Abulhawa

This is the story of a young Palestinian girl named Amal borne in the refugee camp of Jenin. Her family had been evicted from their home during the 6-Day war between Palestine and the soon to be State of Israel. One must read the book to follow her journey from Jenin to a Jerusalem orphanage to Beirut, Lebanon to America and her decision to return to Jenin.

Mornings In Jenin
by Susan Abulhawa
Bloomsbury USA
Feburary 2010

Young Yasser Arafat had just formed the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the world would soon label him a terrorist. Tears will be streaming down your face as you experience her fear in being constantly under Israel’s guns/planes/tanks, the watchful eye of the Israeli solders, and the war crimes of Ariel Sharon. You will hear the voices behind the headlines of the massacres in Lebanon. Who are the terrorists – Israel or Palestine – the PLO or Israel’s Prime Minister. Will she survive her return to Jenin?

The author was born to refugees of the 6-Day War and has first hand knowledge of what it is like to be a Palestinian under Israel’s thumb. The story will keep you turning pages to learn how she survives the death of her family, her marriage, the birth of her child and the hardships she endures in America trying to fulfill her father’s dream of getting an education. You will experience the family’s struggles to survive through over 60 years of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

A must read book for all ages. When you have finished I believe you will come away with a different view of the Israeli government that is supposedly an ally of the United States.


Mary Asher, the Golden Reviewer, describes herself as “An 80 year old avid reader reviews the newest in Christian fiction and non-fiction with a sprinkle of the secular on top.”.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Raven’s Ladder by Jeffrey Overstreet

-Review by Scott Asher of AshertopiA.

Raven’s Ladder is the third book in a planned four book storyline entitled The Auralia Thread. (The first book in the series, Auralia’s Colors was nominated twice for a Christy Award.) The series is a fully realized mythological world called the Expanse with a complete history, its own language, and fully fleshed out political and religious systems.

In this book, King Cal-raven attempts to lead the survivors of his kingdom, House Abascar, after a cataclysm detailed in the previous books, to a new home. On the way his people are forced to stay at Bel Amica, the sea kingdom of House Bel Amica, which is filled with temptation and focused on self-gratification. A sect of magicians, called Seers, secretly hatch a plot that could mean the end of House Abascar completely. Cal-raven must find a way to take his people away from Bel Amica and towards their new home, New Abascar, which he has seen in visions.

I read this book prior to the other two books in the series and struggled at first with the language and history that I was obviously missing. However, the strong story telling and exciting fantasy adventure theme kept me pushing in to the story. Within 100 pages I was hooked. This is a fantastic fantasy novel – and possibly the best “Christian” fantasy I’ve read so far. All too often Christian authors hold to their allegories too tightly and don’t allow for characters to live and stories to flow. Not so this series. I am so enamored with the series that I plan to read the first two books as well.

I highly recommend this book to fans of fantasy – believers or not.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Lady Carliss and the Waters of Moorue by Chuck Black

-Review by Scott Asher of AshertopiA.

This is the fourth book in the Knights of Arrethtrae series by author Chuck Black. Each book in Black’s series tells the story of one knight who deals with specific trials and temptations but overcomes through faith in the King and the Prince. The stories are a straight forward allegory of how following God, the King, and Jesus, the Prince, help the knights (and ladies), Christians, overcome adversity. In Lady Carliss, we find a young believer who stumbles upon a plot by the evil Shadow Warrior, Satan and the devils. When her fellow knight, Sir Dalton, is poisoned Lady Carliss must embark on a journey to Moorue, a city filled with temptation, to find the antidote.

Many teen novels have found a growing fan base in adult readers, like Twilight, Harry Potter and the Artemis Fowl series, but this book series is strictly for younger readers. The author’s straight forward and obvious plot lines would be satisfying to a younger audience, eight to 12 year-olds, but older or more sophisticated readers will not find enough meat on the bones of the allegory to enthrall. Due to Black’s tight adherence to the allegory he find little to no wriggle room to follow the story and characters where they may lead. The story may become a more satisfying one if it diverged from the Christianity / Salvation theme. Many Christian stories do this successfully, see my review of Raven’s Ladder by Jeffrey Overstreet, for an example. Unfortunately, this book left me unsatisfied as a reader.

However, as the father of young children I found the story to be a great tool for instruction and a good stepping stone to better literature – after all reading books, any books really, if fundamental! The author has thoughtfully provided study questions for every chapter and additional extras that make it clear that this book is a teaching tool more than a work of fiction. Recommended to Christian children and tweens, not to older teens or adults.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

The Apothecary’s Daughter by Julie Klassen

I downloaded this book to my laptop via Kindle for free. I thought it looked good and plus it was free, so why not?? Wow!! I think my kids missed a few meals while I was reading this one! Great book! Lilly Haswell has had some sadness in her life and she is trying to figure out where she fits in her world. She’s good at “assisting” her Dad, but as a woman she is not allowed to be an apothecary. She gets the chance to follow a different path, but life is not always easy and she must chose to leave dreams behind. The part I liked best about this book is the romance story line. In most Christian fiction books it is pretty easy to tell who the girl is going to marry, but in this book the author does a great job of changing the story line and keeping you intrigued. Through all of Lilly’s up and downs she continues to keep her faith and trust in God alive. I highly recommend this book and will be reading Julie Klassen’s other books soon.

Beguiled by Deeanne Gist and J. Mark Bertrand

A captivating book about a dogwalker in upscale Charleston who seems to have trouble following her or is she causing the trouble? Will the journalist she has taken a liking to help her and can she trust her heart with him? Gist and Bertland join forces to create a story line which will keep you interested in what happens next. I enjoyed this book from the first chapter to the last. I am a fan of Deeanne Gist and have read all of her books. This one is not like the others because of her collaboration with J. Mark Bertrand. You still get a great story line, the romance, and now there is the enjoyable suspense to go along. I just couldn’t put it down!

This book was a free copy from the publisher.

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Samantha Kingston is having a bad day.  A VERY bad day.  One she gets to relive seven times.  In her debut novel, Lauren Oliver takes us into the very shallow world of high school. She brings us the story of four girls who live each day by their own whims.  Oliver makes a statement in her statement to the First Look Book Club.  She states that her first hope for the novel is that you won’t like Sam or her friends very much.  And, rest assured Ms. Oliver, I don’t.   They are vapid and self-centered.   They treat others around them abominably and are only interested in doing what they want to do. 
Even with that, you get glimpses of a group of girls who are doing what they think is expected.  Sam states several times that there are things she doesn’t like about what they do and even that she doesn’t like her boyfriend all that much; and yet, she acts just like a 17-year-old would be expected to act around her friends.  She shows that the desire to fit in can often override good judgement and even simple consideration for someone’s fellow human beings.
In grand Groundhog Day fashion (to which Oliver even refers in the novel), Sam tries seven different ways to  bring the day to an end.  The events of each day play out differently, depending on how Sam uses her knowledge of the day’s events to change their outcome.  
Having been on the opposite side of popularity while in high school, Oliver’s novel gives me a different view of  the students whose lives I thought were perfect.  At the time, I was very envious of the girls who seemed to have perfect everything.  I was of the opinion that it was effortless for them.  Oliver gives you a glimpse into a life that is not so black and white; one that makes you realize that very few people who walk this earth, young or old, have it all together.
Mid-way through the first chapter, I wanted to put it down and not pick it back up.  I was so irritated by the main characters that I wasn’t sure I could actually finish the book.  I kept going, hoping it would get better.  I am SO glad I chose to stick it out. Before I Fall is a beautiful novel by Lauren Oliver.  It is an amazing debut, and I expect we will see more great work from Oliver in the future. 
This book was provided free of charge as a review copy. The publisher had no editorial rights or claims over the content or the conclusions made in this review. No payment was provided in return for this review.