Category Archives: Fiction

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.

Vienna Secrets by Frank Tallis

The decapitated body of Brother Stanislav, a Piarist monk is found in the Maria Treu Kirche Church yard close to the school where he teaches. This is no ordinary decapitation – the head was literally torn from the body. Detective Inspector Oskar Reinhardt of the Vienna Security Police is baffled by this mode of decapitation. Who or what has the strength to commit this heinous crime? He calls in his friend, psychoanalyst Dr. Max Lieberman to help with the investigation. (This is the same Dr.Lieberman who is featured in several of Tellis’ previous works.)

In the course of the investigation, the body of Councillor Faust is found at Maria Geburt church. He has been decapitated in the same manner as Brother Stanislav. The only clue at both crime scenes is a patch of black sticky mud. Dr. Lieberman uncovers that both Stanislva and Faust were vocal members of a shadowy anti-Semitic group. Could the Jewish population, especially the Hasidic community be responsible for these crimes or had the Jewish golem, a legendary figure, arisen?

The investigation soon becomes personal for Dr. Lieberman. His privileges at the local hospital are suspended and he is on the verge of losing his medical license. After the third decapitated body of Jeheil Sach, a local pimp, is found, Dr. Lieberman turns to the Hasidic Jews to find answers. The question is why had the Jews killed one of their own?

What transpired in the investigation as Dr. Libermann searches for answers leaves you in suspense. Tallis keeps you turning pages as he weaves his intrigue and brings the story to the final conclusion of who or what committed the crimes. However, it is very difficult to keep your focus as the plot jumps from subject to subject. Tallis has received many accolades for his work, and his fans will definitely want to read this one. However, I do not recommend Vienna Secrets for first time reader of Frank Tallis.


Mary Asher, the Golden Reviewer, is a founding book blogger for BookGateway.com. She 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.

The Long Way Home by Andrew Klavan

Andrew Klavan writes The Long Way Home in the first person serving to bring home the personal turmoil that the main character lives with. Charlie West, a 17 year old high schooler, who previously lived in a small town with his parents and sister, is on the run. He went to bed one night and woke up one year later accused of murdering his friend Alex and being a terrorist in an organization called “The Highlanders”.

Charlie was found guilty of murder and sentenced to prison. With the help of an unknown benefactor he excapes from prison and is running from the police and the Highlanders. Charlie cannot remember what transpired duiring his lost year. He wonders if he really is a murderer and a terrorist. How can he prove his innocence and who is really behind all this? Was he framed, as his friends say, or did he really do these terrible things? Charlie returns to his home town, holing up in a vacant house called the “Ghost Mansion”. He teams up with his friends Rick, Josh, Milner and his girlfriend Beth to discover the truth about the murder he can’t remember and who is behind the Highlanders, a terrorist group. The author keeps you turning pages as you eagerly anticipate answers to these questions and to see if (and how) Charlie will evade the police and the Highlanders. The book is well written and interesting, and ends on a cliffhanger.

Overall, this is an exciting mystery novel that keeps the reader interested in the outcome partially due to the first person perspective and partially due to the constant chase that Charlie finds himself in. A fun book for mystery readers. If you are new to this series, you must read the first book of the series to see what transpired in Charlie’s life to bring him to the situation he finds himself in at the start of this book, book 2 in the series. Charlie’s story continues in Book 3 – The Truth of the Matter.


Mary Asher, the Golden Reviewer, is a founding book blogger for BookGateway.com. She 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.

The Rose Conspiracy by Craig Parshall

J.D. Blackstone is perfect. Well, except that he can’t sleep. He has multiple degrees, knows everything, is in great shape, rich, a professor and lawyer. He drives a Maserati convertible. He has an attractive partner at the law firm and soon after the start of the book he has an attractive and very interested defendant. If this book was somehow filmed in black and white J.D. couldn’t have been more stereotyped.

The damsel in distress. The forgetful professor of religion (he forgets when he dropped off his dry cleaning. Really?) The tough P.I. who can get any information you need with just a few calls to his contacts. Everyone in this book is a stereotype! And yet, I found that I enjoyed the book.

This crime drama is fast paced, detailed and fun. The Booth diary and the Freemasons make for a fun setting for this mystery. Are we ever very surprised? Not really. But that’s something we can say of nearly every crime / courtroom show on TV yet we watch those.

The Rose Conspiracy is an enjoyable diversion that keeps the reader interested throughout.


Scott Asher is the founder and administrator of BookGateway.com. Along with his contributions to BookGateway, he reviews for the commercial site BuddyHollywood.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he cartoons and writes on anything he finds funny and Christianity, which sometimes overlap.

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

The Devil’s Kiss by Sarwat Chadda

The Templars have fallen on hard times in this young adult horror / fantasy novel by first time novelist Sarwat Chadda. Hunted down by the church and demonic forces over several centuries, only a small group of Templars remain to hold back the darkness. Residing in modern London, Billi SanGreal, the reluctant teenage daughter of the current Head Master of the Templars, Arthur SanGreal, is the newest member of the knighthood. Things take a turn for the worse – possibly Armageddon worse – when one of the Templars accidentally draws the attention of the Angel of Death. What follows is a predictable young adult fantasy with an ending that the reader will see far in advance.

Though predictable in plot, the characters are interesting and the take on the genre is compelling. For secular fans of the genre, this book is worth purchasing and foretells a promising future for Chadda. But for Christian readers the book signifies something more, and less desirable. < This book is the unfortunate result of the popularity of modern fantasy set in real world locales that mix myth, legend and religion into an unholy concoction resulting in the dumbing down of the three complex ingredients. When religion, which most of the world recognizes as real - not fantasy - is mixed with and then placed on the same level as myth or fantasy it becomes equivalent to fantasy, something that faithful readers of all religions should be concerned about. Targeting these books at young adults further complicates the issue as young faithful readers receive a message mixing myth, legends and reality in a way that can make it hard to distinguish between them. In a society that is increasingly Biblically illiterate this spells trouble. To be clear: I have no issue with fantasy. In fact, it is my favorite genre. Fantasy realms like that of Harry Potter, for instance, are set in a fictionalized real world but diverge from reality when it comes to sacred religion. This is vastly preferable as faithful readers can enjoy books like Harry Potter without worry that the author will pit the fantasies of that world against the realities of this one. Because of the equivocation of myth and religion in the world of the Devils Kiss, I do not recommend this book to faithful readers. Secular readers may enjoy a generic, although entertaining young adult fantasy.


Scott Asher is the founder and administrator of BookGateway.com. Along with his contributions to BookGateway, he reviews for the commercial site BuddyHollywood.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he cartoons and writes on anything he finds funny and Christianity, which sometimes overlap.

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

More Than a Skeleton by Paul L. Maier

Jenny Snow was spending her summer at an archaeological dig in Rome, not too far from Vatican City. The dig had uncovered a strange symbol on the floor of the synagogue. Needing someone to interpret the symbol, Professor Jonathan Weber of Harvard, Jenny’s husband and the hero from Maier’s A Skeleton in God’s Closet, the first book in this series, is called in. Due to all the other events in the story the symbol never really gets interpreted. Catholic Cardinals from all over the world were in Vatican City to elect a new Pope.

Suddenly, out of nowhere there appears a man calling himself Joshua Ben Yoseph, claiming to be the intermediate return of Jesus Christ to get the world in line with God’s purposes before the final return. Soon Joshua Ben Yoseph has a large following, including Snow and Weber, as he tours Rome preaching, healing the sick and raising the dead just as Jesus did. Most of the people believe that he is Jesus due to all the miracles he performs. This causes quite a problem for the Cardinals as they try to elect a new Pope.

Joshua’s name translates to “Jesus” in Hebrew and he claims to be born in Bethlehem to Joseph and Mary Ben Yoseph as invited to the Basilica of St. Peter for Vatican III and to welcome all the delegates from around the world. What transpires that day is unbelievable. You must read the book to fully understand the extent an unscrupulous person will go to fool the world.

What transpires as Professor Weber tries to prove that Ben Yoseph is a fraud makes for a very interesting story! The author clearly paints out just what people may believe if something is presented in an authoritative, plausible way. Paul L. Maier does an excellent job keeping the reader guessing in this Christian thriller.


Mary Asher, the Golden Reviewer, is a founding book blogger for BookGateway.com. She 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.