Category Archives: Fiction

The Clouds Roll Away by Sibella Giroello

The third in series about a forensic geologist turned FBI agent, The Clouds Roll Away finds Raleigh Harmon making her way back to her hometown of Richmond, Virginia after a forced assignment in Washington.   Soon after her arrival home, Raleigh begins to investigate an apparent hate crime with ties to the KKK.  She quickly (in my opinion) gets in over her head.  As with most mystery/crime novels, not all is as it seems and problems arise.  
I have to preface that I prefer to read crime novels through and let the story play itself out.  I do not spend any time as I read trying to figure out the “whodunit.”  I like to see where the author takes me.  I allow the author to take me on the journey of twists and turns, lead me astray, only to be caught off guard by the actual culprit.  There should be an ultimate AH-HA moment.  The ultimate twist should catch you by surprise.  The twist in this novel was not quite so dramatic.  I think the AH-HA moment was a little bit of a stretch, and it didn’t leave me with a desire to go back and read to see where I missed it. Also, there are parts of the novel that are more like a history or geography book as opposed to a novel.  Some of these passages are very helpful in making connections.  Others are not.  They seem to be inserted because they were learned during the research of the novel.
Having not read the first two books in the series, I will tell you that I am a little lost.  While the story itself regarding Raleigh’s investigation could stand alone, the interaction between the characters left me a little in the dark.  I needed to know more about the history between Raleigh and the other characters in the book, from her boss, to her mother, to her sister, and then her boyfriend.  There is apparently behind these relationships than you get in this book.  And, as a lead character, Raleigh isn’t particularly dynamic.  She seems to fall into most of what happens to her (good or bad). I will still give the benefit of the doubt and say that maybe I am missing something by not having read the first two installments.  
All in all, The Clouds Roll Away is an okay read.  There’s not much in the way of character development, but I am assuming that a lot of this is done in the first two novels.  Even so, I have picked up other novels that were not the first in a series and was so drawn into the story line that I absolutely HAD to read the first installments.  Such is not the case with this one.  I might go back and pick up the first two but doing so is not really a priority.  
This book was provided free of charge by the publisher as a review copy. The publisher had no editorial rights or claims over the content or the conclusions made in this review. Visit www.thomasnelson.com for more information on this book. No payment was provided in return for this review. 

Secrets by Robin Jones Gunn

-Review by Scott Asher of AshertopiA.

Book one in the Glenbrooke Series, Secrets is the tale of Jessica Morgan a mid-twenties well educated woman looking to get away from her past with a clean break in a small town. The problem is that in a small town secrets are hard to keep – especially if you want a paycheck and the false identity she adopts to stay hidden doesn’t exist. To further complicate things, she finds herself on the receiving end of the affections of a stud fireman when she is trying to keep to herself.

Holding everyone at arms length, Jessica goes through her trials on her own, until she is drawn to a bright young high schooler, Dawn, who she has quite a bit in common with, but can’t express it. When Dawn talks Jessica into going on a mission trip to Mexico – with the fireman – her secrets and lies start to unravel.

This is a romantic fiction reprint from the mid-nineties – something that only becomes apparent in the clothing choices worn by the characters -white t-shirt and vest ladies? As is typical of the genre everyone is attractive, everyone is perfectly who they are – not conflicted – and the script doesn’t go off track for a second. You know what you are getting into as soon as you start reading. Strike that – you know as soon as you walk into the romance section of the Christian bookstore. For fans of the genre this is a good choice at this value price point as it starts the Glenbrooke Series. For readers who aren’t normally fans of romantic fiction, there isn’t much to entice you to pick this up. For me, the secret was the only reason to finish. Even then, as I said, I saw what was coming a long way off.

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

The Golden Cross by Angela Elwell Hunt

-Review by Scott Asher of AshertopiA.

The Golden Cross is the second of four novels in the Heirs of Cahira O’Conner. The matriarch of the Irish clan promised that her heirs would “restore right in the world.” The heirs all share one thing with each other, other than their genes, their vibrant red hair with a solitary streak of white just above one ear. This book tells the tale of Aidan O’Connor who grows up on a Dutch colony in Indonesia in 1642. Her father died on the trip over from England leaving her mother and Aidan without any money or source of income and stranded on the island. The only way they can live is to turn to a life far below anything they ever thought they would endure.

As Aidan grows up she recognizes that she enjoys art but doesn’t have any hope that anyone would train her or help her out of her poverty. Until, that is, a famous artist comes to the colony to draw charts on an upcoming voyage. When the artist sees the raw talent latent in Aidan he reaches his hands out to pull her up so that she can see the beauty that she has inside and create the beauty of God’s creation through her art.

Though this book was written more than a decade ago (this is a reprint, which is why it costs less than a normal new fiction title) it holds up well as an exciting look into the past and as a romantic historical fiction novel. Though I don’t usually enjoy romance I found myself looking forward to continuing the story. The author does a good job of weaving together the action and adventure of a sea-going vessel riding storms and fighting natives with the requisite romance. I recommend it to fans of the genre.

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

Sense and Sensibility, Insight Edition by Jane Austen

The story centers around two sisters – Elinor and Marianne Daswood. The love and loyalty between the sisters is astounding, but they do not understand each other. Elinor is a quiet, sensible and sensitive young lady cheerful and putting others first. Marianne is just the opposite. She has a quick temper, speaks before thinking, is often rude and is full of herself. Her wishes and desires come first regardless of who is hurt.

The family lives in late 18 century England where a person is judged by breeding and wealth, looking down on the working class. Circumstances change in the sisters lives and they are forced to move from the family homer to the country. Their half-brother has good intentions as to their welfare, but is overruled by his wife. Through the goodness of a distant cousins and friends, the sisters remain in polite society. Both have feelings for two gentlemen of the upper class, but whose feelings do not appear to be in their favor or any chance of marriage. What transpires in the lives of Elinor and Marianne along with their friends leads to some interesting conclusions.

Jane Austen has always been a favorite author of many. However, this is a reprint of the original book first published around 1811. The trivia and notes that highlight this “Insight Edition” in the right margin is very distracting, and at times I found the story rambling without anything worthwhile being said.

Jane Austen fans who want to reread the book will, no doubt, purchase the reprint for the interesting trivia, but I found it very hard to follow, due to the inserts in the margin, and to only hold my attention for short periods of time.

This book was provided by the publisher for review.

Fool’s Gold by Melody Carlson


Hannah is a missionary kid (otherwise known as MK) from the island of Papua New Guinea north of Australia. She is visiting her Uncle’s family in America for the summer while her parents crisscross the country raising money to return to New Guinea. Her cousin Vanessa and Aunt Lori are shopaholics – obsessed with the latest fashion, designers and brand names. They are embarrassed by Hannah’s ‘Aussie’ clothes. Hannah feels lost and out of place with
Vanessa’s friends and the whole shopping scene.

Hannah takes a job with her Uncle’s company supposedly to earn money for her continued education in New Guinea. Soon her coworkers have her spending more money than she has, getting a credit card, and buying expensive clothes she neither needs or can afford. She becomes obsessed with fitting in with the crowd. She seems to have left her faith as well as her Bible behind in New Guinea as she strives to fit in with the other wealthy kids – living for the moment. Hannah is soon finds herself head over heels in debt and doesn’t know how to cope with her situation.

A must read to learn how Hannah solves her debt problem and returns to her faith. Did she come to recognize what she valued most? Did she learn that all that glitters is not gold? Melody Carlson has a excellent command of the minds of teenagers, especially the rich, and what influence peers have on each other.

Highly recommended for teenagers and parents. You will become a fan of Ms. Carlson.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NavPress Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Silent Governess by Julie Klassen

Olivia Keene, at a early age, has the ability to cipher sums. Her father, being proud of her ability, often took her to the local pub and racetrack, placing wagers on her ability to give the correct answers. Around the age of twelve, something happened and her father lost interest in her, drinking to excess, becoming very quarrelsome, and making Olivia’s life miserable.

Coming home late one night she surprises a man trying to strangle her mother. She grabs a fire iron, striking him on the head and he falls to the floor. Thinking she has murdered the man, her mother encourages her to flee from the home and go to St. Aldwyns, a girl’s school where she might obtain a position.

On the way, Olivia overhears a conversation revealing a secret she should not have heard. Lord Bradley, occupant of the Manor, and whose secret she had overheard, forces her to take a position in the nursery, caring for his two young cousins. This way he could assure himself of her silence. Keeping her own secret, Lord Bradley’s secret, and his contempt for her makes for a very stressful life.

The story is moving, mysterious, and romantic as the writer keeps you focused on the life of a Governess in an English Manor where nothing is as it appears to be. Mrs. Klassen did a excellent job of holding my interest to the final conclusion. I strongly recommend you read the book to see if Olivia’s and Lord Bradley’s secrets are exposed, what impact the secrets have on the lives of those living at the Manor. A must read for those who enjoy historical fiction, you will become a fan of Mrs. Klassen and look forward to reading all of her books.

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

The Hidden Flame by Davis Bunn & Janette Oke

The story begins in Jerusalem A.D. 33 just six weeks after the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah. A group known as the Followers of the Way, led by Peter, a disciples of Jesus, is gathering believers by the thousands. This group is dedicated to peace and brotherly love, converting Jews and Greeks to the teaching of Jesus. A group known as the Zealots is dedicated to the overthrow of the Roman rule.

Abigail, a beautiful young woman, is one of the believers. She has two suitors desiring her hand in marriage. One is a wealthy Jewish merchant, with strong ties to the Sanhedrin, the council of Jerusalem’s religious leaders, who is looking for a mother for his two young children. The other, a young Roman legionnaire, who only wants to possess her because of her beauty. Abigail doesn’t want either one of the men, but fears she has no say in the matter as the ruling council and her guardian will decide what is best for her. She only wants to stay with the believers and do the work she feels the Lord has called her to do.

Jerusalem is in turmoil as the religious leaders and the Roman Governor wish to stamp out the fledging church. The cruelty, trials and death that Abigail and the believers face keeps the reader turning page after page. The authors clearly depict the uncertain times of first century Jerusalem along with the Roman cruelty and debauchery. Roman games play a part in the book as well, particularly the arenas where the final conclusion of one man’s revenge and the conversion of another.

Highly recommended for readers of all ages – believers and non-believers. Bunn and Oke did it again. They are two of the best contemporary authors of religious historical fiction.

I received this book as a review copy from the publisher.

The Silent Governess by Julie Klassen

In her novel The Silent Governess, Julie Klassen weaves the tale of Olivia Keene and Edward Bradley.  One evening, while escaping her own demons, Olivia overhears some information that Edward would rather not be revealed.  In an effort to ensure that she not spread this damaging evidence, Edward insists that Olivia take a position in his house in the nursery. As time progresses, more intrigue and deception come to light.  The meaning of family is tried and tested, with the definition being changed at every turn.
Klassen, a lover of Jane Austen and writer of Regency-period set fiction, has woven a beautiful tale of mystery and romance.  The cast of characters display a range of personalities, each one surprising the reader with unexpected depth.  As the tale continues, twists and turns abound.
That would be one concern I can express with this novel.  Those twists and turns can become very difficult to follow, and I had to reread some passages to figure out who was who and what exactly was happening.  While it does keep the story interesting overall, too many of these trails can leave a reader lost in the woods. I personally would have also liked to see Klassen follow the personal journeys of faith of both Olivia and Edward.  She begins to do this at several points, but she does not ever follow them to any personal spiritual revelation.
Overall, Klassen’s novel was a quick, inspiring read.  As it is set in one of my favorite periods of history, I really did enjoy reading her tale of a family where not everything is as it seems. Klassen’s tale is well-written and riveting.  She tells the story eloquently, adhering to the time period with only a few liberties taken that do not rewrite the history of the period.   I certainly look forward to reading other work by Klassen in the future.
This book was provided free of charge by the publisher as a review copy. The publisher had no editorial rights or claims over the content or the conclusions made in this review. Visit www.bethanyhouse.com for more information on this book.

Sense and Sensiblity Insight Edition by Jane Austen

If given the opportunity to travel through history, one of my first stops would be the Regency Period of England and the world of Jane Austen.  I have been a fan of  Austen’s since I read the first page of Pride and Prejudice.  I currently own all of her published works, some having been replaced a couple of times due to wear.  Since my latest copy of Sense and Sensibility bit the dust a month or so ago, I was thrilled to get Bethany House’s copy in the mail this week.

In terms of the actual novel, no changes have been made to Austen’s original work.  The novel is printed in all its glory with my favorite characters and places still in tact.  What has been added by several of Bethany House’s writers are notes and annotations about the life and times of Austen.

The book comes complete with a key, which indicates the type of note/annotation being applied in each instance.  The notes fall into the following categories: “historical and cultural details […] from England in the early 1800’s,” “fact and tidbits from Austen’s life,” “references to S&S in today’s culture, particularly in film,” “unscientific ranking of the novel’s most frustrating characters,” “themes of faith drawn from the novel or Austen’s life,” “comments and asides on the book’s characters or plot,” and “the parts of the novel that just make us smile.”

I LOVE the additional comments, quips, and bits added to Austen’s work.  They serve to add the insight intended into a world of ladies and gentlemen.  The authors who have offered their take on Austen’s work compliment the novel by adding interesting references and inserting a little comedy into one of the best loved novels of all time.

On the minus side (if you can really call it that), the novel did take more time to read.  I found myself reading a page, seeing the notations, and reading the page again to see if the added information changed the image I create in my head of Austen’s world.  In most instances, it certainly did! It did make the reading more cumbersome at some points, but overall  I really enjoyed this take on one of the best loved works of literature.  I plan to order the Insight Edition of Pride and Prejudice and look forward to many more such editions.


Robin Gwaro is a founding book review blogger at Bookgateway.com and has generously supplied this review. She describes herself as “a woman just trying to keep it all together. Most days, I have the juggling act down! Others, I have the broom and dustpan handy to clean up the mess. My life is not always easy, it is not always neat, but it is always worth every minute!” Her personal blog is Just Wandering. Not Lost.

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

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Fool’s Gold by Melody Carlson

In Fool’s Gold,Melody Carlson introduces us to Hannah, the daughter of missionaries to Papua New Guinea who is staying with family for the summer while her parents are trying to raise funds for their mission work. Hannah is thrown into a lifestyle completely opposite from the one to which she was accustomed in PNG.  Over the course of a summer, Hannah turns away from the God she has always followed and falls into the age old trap of serving the worldly gods of money and popularity.
The book is definitely geared towards teenagers and addresses the age old issue of peer pressure.  Carlson’s story of fall and redemption certainly speaks to legions of teenagers who feel, succumb to, and overcome the pressure to be one of the crowd.  Hannah must learn through her mistakes that it takes true strength  to turn away from the things of the world and to turn to God.
What I like about Carlson’s novel is that she really does relate to teenagers and relays a story that can truly make an impact.  As teenagers, most of us felt the pressure to fit into a mold.  Carlson leads Hannah on this journey of losing herself to the crowd and then finding her way back to the One who asks us to break the mold, not fit into it.  Carlson’s story is an easy read and one to which it is easy to relate.  While I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this novel for adult readers, I would certainly recommend this for their teenage children. Carlson has truly found her niche in writing for young adults and does a wonderful job of addreessing the issues that face them in their daily lives.
This book was provided free of charge by the publisher as a review copy. The publisher had no editorial rights or claims over the content or the conclusions made in this review. Visit www.navpress.com for more information on this book.