Category Archives: Guest Reviewer

Unstoppable by Vujicic

This is an awesome book! Imagine a man with no arms and no legs has been told he is a security risk, once he is told this, he lets his friends know how to pray through and that God is in control and he will take care of everything. He talks about how when was younger, that things did get discouraging and how he attempted suicide once, because he could not see what God had in store for Him. He did reach out to others and they asked him questions and became his friends and he also realized God had a plan for him.

The Incredible Power of Faith in Action
By Nick Vujicic
Waterbrook Press
October 2012

This book is filled with inspiring stories from people he has met in his many travels throughout the World. One I can identify with is how Pastor Leon Birdd began his ministry with a story that sounds like a parable told by Jesus. He was working as a carpenter and driving a truckload of furniture in a rural area outside Dallas in 1995 when he saw a middle-aged man walking on the road. At first glance he thought he might be drunk, but as he drove by the man, he felt the Holy Spirit speak to his heart. He found himself stopping to offer him a ride. When he pulled alongside the man, Leon noted that he seemed to have trouble walking. Leon asked him “Are you Okay? The man replies suspiciously “I’m not drunk if that is what you are thinking.” Leon tells the man, “You seem to be having a hard time. I’ll give you a ride.”

The man, Robert Shumake, was telling the truth. He had difficulty walking because he had undergone several brain surgeries which affected his mobility but not his determination in helping others in need. For years Robert had been taking coffee and doughnuts to feed the homeless in downtown Dallas every Saturday morning.

“How do you do that when you can hardly walk?” Leon asked.
“People help me, and now you’ll help me,” he said.
“I don’t think so. What time do you do this?” Leon asked.
“Five thirty in the morning.”
“I am not going to drive you, especially at that hour,” Leon said. “Even the Lord isn’t up at five thirty in the morning.”

The next Saturday, though, Leon awakened at five o’clock in the morning, worried that Robert might be waiting for him on a street corner. He feared for Robert’s safety since the location that he’d suggested for their meeting was a rough part of the city. Once again the Holy Spirit seemed to be working through him.

Before sunrise he found Robert standing on a street corner with a thermos filled with five gallons of hot coffee. Robert asked Leon to drive him to a doughnut shop, where they loaded up on pastries. They then proceeded to downtown Dallas. The streets were empty. “Just wait,” Robert told Leon. With the big thermos of hot coffee they waited.

As the sun rose, homeless people appeared one by one. Nearly fifty people assembled for Robert’s coffee and doughnuts. Leon could see from the smiles and joy exhibited on these people as they accepted the hot coffee and doughnuts that Robert was sowing seeds and that he clearly needed help so he began assisting him each Saturday morning after that. In the months that followed, Robert’s health declined.

“Robert, what happens when you can’t do this anymore?” Leon asked one day as they packed up.
“You’ll do it,” Robert said.
“No, you really need to get someone else,” Leon insisted.
“You will do it,” Robert said again.

Robert was right. Leon Birdd became Pastor Birdd, an ordained minister with an inner-city mission supported by nine local churches and other donors. Although Robert died in 2009, the seeds he planted have grown into full-blown open air services with music and celebrations of faith. Now every Sunday morning, more than fifty volunteers join Pastor Birdd in feeding the bodies and ministering to the souls of hundreds of homeless in downtown Dallas.

This story was so inspiring to me, because I also have had multiple brain surgeries and have been looked at funny by others as well, so I can relate to Robert’s life.

This book was well written and the whole book was a testament to what God can do. When you put “Go” in front of “disable”, you get “God is able.” Let Go and Let God.

Shelley Walling is a 43 year male who is on disability retirement from complications from brain surgery. He was an Electrical Dispatcher for 11 years until the surgeries, he now enjoys spending time with his wife and two girls who are still at home along with four grown boys as well. He and his wife have an interest in sustainable and off-grid living and hope to live off-grid one day. He likes to read books about nutrition and medicine, Christian fiction and end times theology.

Star Wars Annihilation by Karpyshyn

I was recently given a chance to review the audio book for Annihilation Star Wars: the Old Republic, something to which I could not refuse. There are a couple things I feel is important for anyone to disclose when reviewing anything Star Wars (or any beloved franchise). One is your personal knowledge of the Star War’s universe, and two your level of fanboy-dom for said universe. Like most males my age, I grew up loving Star Wars. I spent countless hours recounting every adventure from the original trilogy on the school playground. I was also at every midnight release of each of the new trilogies, and (thanks to Disney) I hopefully will be at the midnight release of the new-new trilogies. My knowledge of the universe, unfortunately, is limited to the six movies and a few console game storyline. With that said, I had the perfect opportunity to review the most recent audio book. I had a long twelve hour road trip from Nashville, TN to Oklahoma in which I had to drive all night. We were going home to see my family. This meant my 11 year old son (who is enthusiastic about all things Star Wars) and my wife (who patiently lets me and my son watch every episode of Clone Wars on Cartoon Network before flipping over to E-News) were also in the car. They had the chance to listen to the book as well.

Star Wars: Annihilation
by Drew Karpyshyn
LucasBooks / Random House Audio
November 2012

The story was a refreshing change of pace for me. Generally most Star War’s stories follow the adventures of a Jedi Master, but this is the story of Theron Shan. Theron is non-force wielding son of a Master Jedi Satele Shan (not spoiler alert since within the first ten minutes of the book) and another character that weaves his way into the plot. Because of her rank in the Jedi Counsel (and because being a Jedi forbids one to marry/love/kids/etc), she gives her son to Jedi Master Zho to raise.

Theron despite a lack of any force abilities still decides to serve the Republic. He becomes somewhat of a cross between super spy, intelligence officer, hacker, and rogue agent at times. The plot follows Theron as attempts take down the Ascendant Spear. The Ascendant Spear is a new super weapon ship that is turning the tides of war against the Republic. I personally really like the change of pace, and having the opportunity to see how a regular person can handle a situation without having fantastical force powers to magically resolve major issues.

The pacing of the book felt slow at first. After disc one my wife complained she was getting nerdier by the minute. She had to be out voted two to one to continue listening to book instead of just listening to radio. Although there was a lots of action and battle scenes, mainly what was going on was character development. Once we had finished the second CD, I felt bad for my wife. I told her we can listen to radio. She replied by putting in the 3rd CD to continue listening. She was hooked, and she quickly swapped out each of the remaining six disc as soon as they ended to hear the remaining chapters. Now to those of you more familiar with the Old Republic quite possibly could be more into those first couple disc. I am sure that the excitement of familiar characters and locations will draw more meaning for you.

For the production and audio of the book, I have mixed emotions. The score for the book was always impressive as any Star Wars fan will feel giddy at the initial scene. With every rifle fired and every ship that made the jump to hyper space the sounds painted a picture of the exact images I had heard and seen as a child. As for the voice acting, there was a nice variety between characters and species. My wife comment about how may Sean Connery accents are they going to try and squeeze in the book. The only thing that really bothered us was some of scenes we found the background noise a bit distracting. During one specific scene, my wife keep telling me to check my phone because it was beeping. After numerous phone checkings she realized it was some background computers on the soundtrack.

Of all the things I really liked about this book, my favorite was the characters. I love how you get to understand the decision Salete Shan makes when giving up Theron. It is a unique insight into the thoughts of a Jedi Master. You get to see Sith Politics and the Sith Empire inner workings. You get to see the cost of the war on ordinary people, and the weight and toll it brings to those in the highest command. You get a look at how the Hutts really do business. There is action straight to the end. Some of the writing is predictable and can be cliché. It is however a Star Wars adventure and not meant to be the next Tolstoy.

Some Star Wars has a chance to over use the “dues ex machina” force vision to tell the main character where to go next. I like the fact story is driven by a non-force wielder. Theron has to use logic and intel to drive where the story goes next. Once you understand his motives the story flows nicely.

We started the book somewhere around 10:30 PM and around 9:30 AM we found ourselves pulling into the drive at my parent’s house. There was still about fifteen minutes left on disc eight, so we sat there in the drive and finished out the epilogue. My son, who had been asleep since Memphis finally awoke in time to declare it a 10 out of 10. To be fair he decided it was a 10 after seeing the box artwork. My wife, who at the beginning of the trip couldn’t tell you the difference between a Wookie and a rancor, gave it a solid 5 out of 10. But she then proceeded to ask me to download another Old Republic book, preferably from same author, to listen to on the way home. I myself wished I had a better knowledge of the Old Republic, because it seems infinitely more intriguing then the Star Wars world I grew up watching.

To this book, I give it 7 out of 10. Had a deeper knowledge of TOR, I could see scoring higher. There was always this feeling with every character of wanting to know more. It was like observing the an iceberg just from the surface. For basic Star Wars fan this is a fun adventure, but in the end you probably need to start with other TOR books to set the stage for this book. But kudos to Drew Karpyshyn for taking on the task of making a book that will hit on some degree to all level of fanboy.

Brian Kindred lives in the country near Nashville, TN with his wife and son. He is a lover of music, movies, books, and Christ.

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

Sweet Hell on Fire by Lunsford

Let me begin by saying, Sara Lunsford’s Sweet Hell on Fire: A Memoir of the Prison I Worked In and the Prison I Lived In is not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach. In her writing debut Lunsford details a year long account of her role as female officer in the male prison system and her dangerous decline into alcoholism. A gritty depiction, Sweet Hell on Fire leaves little to the imagination chronicling how her violent exchanges with inmates seem to seep into her daily life and behavior.

Sweet Hell on Fire
A Memoir of the Prison I Worked In and the Prison I Lived In
By Sara Lunsford
November 2012

Sara Lunsford notes in the foreword that when she originally scripted her memoir it spoke only of her life on the job, leaving out personal details that would inevitably reveal any mistakes or shortcomings. As a reader I am so thankful that she decided to re-evaluate this decision. By disclosing her imperfections she was able to make it not only a collection of frightening battles of bravado between herself and the inmates, but instead a profound, hear wrenching account of her personal evolution. I do feel, however, that there are certainly times where Lunsford’s writing style should have been a bit more descriptive, focusing less on profanities and more on prose.

Overall, for a first time reviewer I am certainly satisfied with my decision to read such a compelling story written by such an honest author.

Lindsay Green is a Midwest gal spending her twenties in South. While she doesn’t read as often as she should thanks to Netflix, she mostly enjoys memoirs and all types of fiction. Most of her time is spent with friends playing board games or discussing the best, new television series.

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

The Tutor’s Daughter by Klassen

The Tutor’s Daughter follows the tale of Emma Smallwood, a woman believed to be destined a spinster because of her love of reading and knowledge. Emma’s perfectly controlled world is turned upside down when she and her father move to Cornwall to serve as private tutors to the two younger sons of Sir Giles Weston.

The Tutor’s Daughter
by Julie Klassen
Bethany House Publishers
January 2013

Things turn menacing quickly as “pranks” begin to be played on Emma – love letters slid under her bedroom door, her journal stolen, mysterious handprints on her mirror, and music from the pianoforte in the middle of the night. The situation becomes more complicated as the two older Weston brothers know Emma from their days of studying at her father’s Academy and one discovers that he feels more than friendship for Emma. As time progresses and the pranks become more dangerous and cruel, Emma must attempt to not only sort out the mystery of the threats against her but the feelings of her own heart.

I have to admit that this was a bit of a slow start for me. However, I must also say that once it caught my attention I fell completely in LOVE with this book. I could not put it down and finished it in two days. The suspense and danger Miss Smallwood faced kept me guessing and I just had to keep reading to find out if my predictions were correct. I also really enjoyed the love story. I won’t give it away but one of the Weston brothers most definitely reminds me of a certain Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy. In saying this, you can imagine my surprise when Julie Klassen also mentions Jane Austen in her author’s note. If you enjoy a wonderful love story entwined with suspense, I recommend this book 100%!

Suzanne Kniceley is a stay at home Mom and seamstress. One of her greatest desires is that by viewing her love of reading and knowledge, her children will also be captivated by the written word.

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

The Unholy by Graham

What better way to start a book than with a heinous murder committed in a legendary special effects studio in Hollywood? Throw in a famous ghost and give us a character that can talk to them, and you’ve got a good story on your hands.

The Unholy
Krewe of Hunters
By Heather Graham
Harlequin MIRA
June 2012

Alistair Archer has been accused of the murder of his girlfriend Jenny. His father Eddie is willing to do whatever it takes to save his son. He calls on Sean Cameron, a former employee at his studio, who now works for a special division of the FBI. The police seem to have an airtight case against Alistair, but Eddie needs a miracle, and he believes Sean can provide that for him. Sean has the special gift of being able to speak with the dead, and it’s going to take something special to get Alistair out of this mess. Eddie asks one of his best employees, Madison Darvil, to be Sean’s liaison throughout the investigation. Madison is also able to speak with the dead, and even lives with the ghost of the legendary Humphrey Bogart.

Madison and Sean develop a chemistry almost immediately, and The Unholy focuses on their endeavors to prove Alistair is not guilty of murdering Jenny. The villain, who calls himself Vengeance, appears periodically throughout the book to create havoc and throw Madison and Sean off the trail. Who will prevail?
The Unholy is without a doubt character driven. Madison’s energy and innocence is refreshing throughout the book, and I found myself anticipating a relationship between Madison and Sean. The well developed characters do come with a price. The villain does not inspire a feeling of contempt as most villains do. He almost seems to be more of an afterthought than a driving force in The Unholy. I found myself much more involved with the relationship of Madison and Sean than with finding out who the killer would turn out to be. Despite this, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I was definitely surprised to discover the identity of Vengeance. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good mystery with a touch of the supernatural.

Kassi Kirschner loves to lose herself in a great book. She likes to spend her time with her family, her many dogs, and preparing for her baby on the way!

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

Prepare to Die by Tobin

Prepare to Die is about Reaver, who has lost a fight with Eleventh Hour, a group of super villains led by Octagon. He is given two weeks to get his affairs in order then return and be prepared to die by Octagons hand. This story is what happens during these two weeks while he crosses items off his list.

Prepare to Die
By Paul Tobin
Night Shade Books
May 2012

This book reads like a comic book but with a few differences. I really goes into details of the lead character, Reaver, and his past. It introduces many of the other heroes that have either been killed or retired. At times this gets overly explained since most of these characters have nothing to do with this story.

The story has a surprise ending that is really a creative twist. I liked it but it was a bit long and at times just went into too much detail for the story to flow.

Rick Asher is a lover all kinds of stories. A rapacious reader now retired he finally has time to read all the books and watch all the films he has always wanted to. Thanks to BookGateway he gets to share his opinions and recommendations as well.

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

The Philosophical Practitioner by Abrams

In the Philosophical Practioner, the protagonist Eric spends most of his days either working with his clients or trying to figure out his relationship with Sheila, his movie star companion.

Philosophical Practitioner
By Larry Abrams
Telemachus Press
August 2011

Eric has a very eclectic client base which he meets with on a regular basis. They discuss the meaning of their lives and work through various problems with Eric’s guidance. He is also dealing with a complicated relationship with Sheila, a world famous movie star he met before she became successful.

Eric lives a very uncomplicated existence, in which enjoying the work he does is much more important than being rich. Sheila lives exactly the opposite, and she craves the exact lifestyle of opulence Eric tries to avoid. This provides interesting conflict throughout the book.

There is also the mysterious woman that plagues Eric’s thoughts and actions from the very beginning of the book. Without giving too much away, she has her own special way of tormenting him.

This book travels along very slowly. The writer seems more interested in what the clients are wearing than in the reason they are seeing a philosophical practitioner. This served to take away from the overall storyline in the book.

The real story, in my opinion, is the complex relationship between Eric and Sheila. I found myself rooting for them to be together in spite of the many obstacles in their path. This book was not my cup of tea, but if you enjoy books that really dive into the small details of the character, this is definitely a book for you.

Kassi Kirschner loves to lose herself in a great book. She likes to spend her time with her family, her many dogs, and preparing for her baby on the way!

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

The Pack: Retribution by Preston

Shamira is the leader of an elite fighting force called the Mons, on Mars with sci-fi gadgets and vehicles. While travelling, they are attacked and several of the crew are killed or hurt. A sequel to the Pack Shamira is back, along with Valens and her friends, to safeguard the people of Mars. A new enemy arises and now they are after her and everyone in her life.

The Pack: Retribution
By LM Preston
Phenomenal One Press
September 2012

The problem is that if you didn’t read the first book then this book will not make any sense. And even if you did, Preston doesn’t do anything to flesh out the story other than to simply throw the reader to it.

I don’t care for this book because there is no set up, no definition of characters, no explanation of where they are or why they are going there. Sequel or not, there needs to be more explaination here and more development.

I don’t recommend this book, it just lacks too much to keep my interest.

Rick Asher is a lover all kinds of stories. A rapacious reader now retired he finally has time to read all the books and watch all the films he has always wanted to. Thanks to BookGateway he gets to share his opinions and recommendations as well.

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

Restless in the Grave by Stabenow

In Restless in the Grave our heroine Kate and her aptly named companion, Mutt, who is in fact a mixed canine, venture out to Alaska at the request of a local law enforcement agent.

Restless in the Grave
Kate Shugak #19
by Dana Stabenow
Minotaur Books / Macmillan Audio
February 2012

She goes undercover as a waitress at a local bar and uses this facade to pick the brains of the locals. She is also quick to pick a lock or two, as she doesn’t always follow the lines of the law. She bends a rule here and there in order to track down how a wealthy businessman named Grant was killed, when his plane crashed as a result of direct tampering. The sabotage goes very in depth as the story grows to its conclusion.

A problem with this novel is that it took a while to get going; Kate didn’t even really come in until the second CD (in the audio book, about 60 pages into the book). To enjoy the start, you have to really be into back story and plot development via relentless details to stay involved throughout this book.

That said, black mail, sabotage, murder, breaking and entering and much, much more riddle this story for a compelling and thought -provoking read once it gets up to speed. The author goes into great detail with her story, giving the reader no choice but to feel they are there with Kate, the undercover detective. As the reader, you find yourself drawing conclusions with Kate, as her unorthodox investigating style leads her down a twisted trail of Alaskan deception.

For readers who enjoy a story that leaves no stone unturned and a protagonist that you feel the adventure with, Restless in the Grave is a solid read.

Kyle Stack, an avid reader of all genres from textbooks to comic books and everything in between, divides his time among work, studies, violin, and a new book for new perspective whenever possible.

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

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

The way white families, especially white women, invited black women into their homes to raise their children, cook their food, clean their houses, and tend to their every need seems charming. However, The Help shows how whites think they are helping and doing the right thing, when in reality the blacks still feel degraded and unappreciated. It shows you both sides of the story from an emotional perspective, not just a factual one.

The Help
by Kathryn Stockett
The Penguin Group
February 2009

The main maids Aibileen and Minny hold on to sanity by relying on one another for comfort and strength. They don’t work for much and do what they are supposed to each day, but still it’s never enough.

Skeeter is a classic example of a child who makes it out of her town and goes to college and comes home a woman changed for the better. She now has more confidence and is completely driven. These traits, plus the fact she’s dying to get a writing job in New York, help her convince Aibileen to let her document stories from her life.

Aibileen eventually concedes to helping Skeeter write her first book by gathering information from the perspective of ‘the help’. At first Aibileen is timid but as events happen around the town her confidence grows and she gains the help of Minny and many other maids.

After the book gets published everyone involved with the writing process is nervous as they still work in the homes of the very people whose deepest secrets are revealed. The maids however, know they cannot be touched now, because no one wants them to tell who each story was really about.

The book of course is better than the movie, giving you more details that reinforce ideals. The book also helps provide a better understanding of how policies and morals were passed on or changed through different generations.

I particularly enjoyed The Help because it provides another perspective on the life of black women during segregation without the grit. It does contain some racial violence, but it also wouldn’t have any authenticity without it. However the violence is in the background instead of being in your face.

Ashleigh Taylor loves to travel and experience new cultures. She also loves food, friendship and a good laugh.