#Book Review: My Name is Cain

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Mother Evelyn needs to solve a major problem, and Hannah, a young nun fresh out of college, is the one for the job. Joining the Inner Circle of the Abbey of St. Margaret is an eye-opener for Hannah, to say the least. Travel with Hannah and her Vatican Intelligence cohorts on a roller-coaster ride around the world as she discovers many secrets including . . .Did Cain ever die? The death of one of the prime characters in Genesis was never mentioned. Is he still alive?Who are the Elohim? How is Mother Evelyn always prepared for what is going to happen?Journey into a genre rarely touched—Christian science fiction

#BOOK REVIEW

My only comment prior to the review below is a question. Am I allowed to use the word “badass” in a Christian book review? Because I did.

This surprising novel starts out with a group of nuns in an abbey, and the reader has no idea they are about to enter a world of intrigue, spies, aliens, extrasensory powers, space travel, and cyber technology. Biblical characters, scriptures, prophecies, and events are woven through it all. The author keeps us in suspense as he expertly unveils one surprise after another. I was absolutely kept on the edge of my seat as a group of nuns revealed themselves to be badass operatives, bent on saving the human race. This book is so imaginative and well written that I was completely riveted to each page. The characters are complex and layered, and the layers are slowly peeled off as they reveal their true identities. The plot is so creative and the story itself is fast paced and hurtles forward to a shocking conclusion. There appears to be plenty of opening for a sequel, and I sincerely hope we get one. Fans of Christian fiction, Science fiction, Thrillers, and the Paranormal will enjoy this enticing, multi-faceted thriller mashup. In this well-written, imaginative novel, Dean Sparks shows us that Christian fiction can be bold, exciting, astonishing, and unexpected.  

I received a free copy of this book via Reedsy Discovery. My review is voluntary.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dean Sparks is first and foremost a Christian. He loves his wife abundantly. Four of his children, all daughters, were born in one year! Dean is thrilled to be a father and grandfather to the family’s six children and five grandchildren. He loves his job as a Chick-fil-A franchisee and has been with Chick-fil-A since 1978. Dean is an out-of-the-box thinker who is worth reading. You can contact him at authordeansparks.com or via e-mail at dean.sparks@authordeansparks.com.

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Self-Published Saturday: May 29, 2021

Once again, it’s time to feature a great self-published book. I really enjoy this feature because it helps independent authors with the monumental task of promoting their books. If you decide to read this book, please write a review and post it on Amazon, Goodreads, and other sites where you talk about books. This helps authors so much. I can’t stress that enough. Your review makes a difference.

Today’s book is the first in a series that captivated me from the beginning, The Hamelin Stoop series by Robert B. Sloan. In fact, I have been known to drop everything and ignore my giant TBR list in order to read the next installment. See the review below.

BOOK REVIEW: THE EAGLE, THE CAVE, AND THE FOOTBRIDGE

Hamelin Stoop is an exciting young adult/middle grade fantasy adventure series in the vein of the Chronicles of Narnia and even Harry Potter.

In The Eagle, The Cave, and The Footbridge, Hamelin’s mother Johnnie is on the run from evil trackers, so she places him, still a little baby, on the stoop of an orphanage in a tomato box. One of the only legible words in the note she left was “Hamelin,” and since he was found on the stoop, he was named Hamelin Stoop by the orphanage staff.

Upset and frustrated, Hamelin runs away from the orphanage when he is 8 years old. That’s when strange things begin happening. He is drawn to a cave by a talking eagle, and then he begins to learn more about his parents and his true purpose. There is a related story about three princesses in another land as Sloan begins to weave this tale together.

This is a “good vs. evil” adventure series which drew me in immediately, and I am always excited to see the next book. This book has everything–talking creatures, evil overlords, distant lands, and lost princesses. So far, there are three books, and I’m anxiously awaiting the fourth. I see definite nods to C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, which is always a good thing. I would recommend this to anyone over 10 years old who enjoys fantasy, adventure, and good vs. evil stories.  As C.S. Lewis said, “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” And this is a great children’s story that will be enjoyed by readers of all ages.

I received a free digital copy from Booksirens. My opinions are voluntary and are my own.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Robert B. Sloan is President of Houston Baptist University in Houston, Texas. He is also a former President of Baylor University. Dr. Sloan and his wife Sue have seven adult children and more than 20 young grandchildren. He is an author, communicator, educator, and leader—all hats he has worn many times for a variety of reasons. These four areas represent life experiences that have provided him and his family with many memories. It is in the experiences of life that memories are made and lives are shaped.

Robert Sloan has a passion for Christian higher education and the spiritual formation of young people for the glory of God, which can be seen in both his professional and personal life.

Dr. Sloan’s Website

FASCINATING Article by Dr. Sloan About Why He Wrote The Hamelin Stoop Series

BUY BOOK 1: THE EAGLE, THE CAVE, AND THE FOOTBRIDGE

BUY BOOK 2: THE LOST PRINCESS AND THE JEWEL OF PERILUNA

BUY BOOK 3: THE RING OF TRUTH

*If you are a Kindle Unlimited Subscriber, you can borrow all three books for free.

Book Review: A Distant Shore by Karen Kingsbury

BOOK REVIEW

Lizzie James is just 8 years old when she is told her mother and brother have drowned. She is taken to her father’s “palace” in Belize and her name is changed to Eliza. She soon learns her father is in the sex trade and trafficks young girls. She is always told she is being saved for “something special,” which turns out to be a forced marriage with another drug and sex trafficking family. Then an FBI agent enters her life, someone she has met before, although she does not remember him, and he does not realize she is a child he rescued from drowning the same day his brother died.

I have read many books by Karen Kingsbury, but this one goes to a whole new level as it exposes the horrors of the sex trafficking industry. The characters are well written and the despair of Eliza and the younger girls is palpable and real. Kingsbury shows us the depths of evil in the sex trafficking industry, the laws that sometimes hinder rescued victims from surviving even after escape, and the hearts of the people in and out of law enforcement determined to rescue every single child. She shows us how God is present, even in desperate, cruel, and wicked situations from which there seems no escape. This is a well researched novel that everyone needs to read in order to know the evils that exist in our world.

I received a free copy of this book from Atria Books via Netgalley. My review is voluntary.

A Distant Shore will be released on April 27, 2021.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Karen Kingsbury

Karen Kingsbury, #1 New York Times bestselling novelist, is America’s favorite inspirational storyteller, with more than twenty-five million copies of her award-winning books in print. Her last dozen titles have topped bestseller lists and many of her novels are under development with Hallmark Films and as major motion pictures. Her Baxter Family books are being developed into a TV series slated for major network viewing sometime in the next year. Karen is also an adjunct professor of writing at Liberty University. In 2001 she and her husband, Don, adopted three boys from Haiti, doubling their family in a matter of months. Today the couple has joined the ranks of empty-nesters, living in Tennessee near five of their adult children.


WEBSITE: https://www.karenkingsbury.com

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Good Friday: The Suffering of Jesus

“..It is Finished. ” John 19:30 NKJV

As many times as I’ve heard the crucifixion story, and I’ve heard it all my life, I never could grasp the magnitude of the torture and pain Jesus went through. I went looking for descriptions written by others, and I found this, written by C.S. Lewis, that really helped me see everything Jesus went through.

Lewis was replying to a letter and talking about some people at the time who had objections to one of Jesus’ statements from the cross. Lewis said: “What do these people want? Do they actually visualize Him for 3 hours nailed to a stake–flayed back glued to unplaned wood–Palestinian sun–cloud of insects round head, hands, and feet–the face mask of bruises, pus, spittle, blood, tears & sweat–the lungs gradually tearing owing to the position and then complain–“This doesn’t hurt enough?” This excerpt was taken from The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume III.

This description really hits home to me the absolute pain and torture Jesus endured. Add to that the fact that He was the Son of God and he could have ended it instantly if He chose, but instead He endured it all, and gave up his spirit after all prophecy was fulfilled. Imagine having the will to continue being tortured even though you could end it at any time! Imagine asking God to forgive His torturers, even though He had the power to instantly end their lives if He wanted. He endured it all because He was here as a sacrifice for us.

John 19: 28-30 New King James Version: 28 After this, Jesus, [a]knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst!” 29 Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth. 30 So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.

Book Review and #Giveaway–Shift #Christian Book Giveaway

Great news–I have an extra copy to give away of Shift, Changing Our Focus to See The Presence of God. Check out my review and then put in a comment below to be signed up for a random drawing. The drawing will be this Sunday, March 21 at 9 a.m. EST.

Shift by Abby McDonald is a fresh way to look at and recognize the presence of God. Each chapter includes self study questions called Adjusting Our Lens to ask yourself that are very helpful. The chapter on legalism is extremely important to me because I have been in legalistic churches before and it is easy to fall into that mindset. The Adjusting Our Lens questions asked at the end of each chapter really give the reader a chance for insight and a new perspective. Other chapters include Invisible or Not? This is about missing things on the journey because you are focused on the final destination. I also found the chapter When “No” Is God’s Saving Grace extremely insightful. Who hasn’t been disappointed when No is the answer to a prayer, and then received something even better instead? The author tells us that “No is just a much of a product of His grace as Yes.” Such a poignant reminder. These are just a few examples of the fresh perspectives in this book. Highly recommend to anyone who wants to look at God with a new focus.

I received two free copies of this book from the publishers. My review is voluntary.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Abby McDonald

Abby McDonald is a writer, speaker, wife and mom whose work has been featured on Proverbs 31 Ministries, (in)Courage, For Every Mom, and more. Her passion is to empower women to grow in faith and hope, even when life is messy. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in English from the University of South Carolina, and loves to teach about writing at conferences each year. When she’s not reading or writing, you can find her wrangling her three kids and black lab while drinking copious amounts of coffee. Abby lives with her husband and three children in western Maryland. 

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Things We Didn’t Say

Diamond Level Read

This was #2 on my list of My Top 7 Books of 2020. Again, Historical Novels Review must have agreed with me because this book was another of their Editor’s Choices. It is the writing debut of the talented Amy Lynn Green, who managed to create a compelling story and vivid characters in a 100% epistolary novel. It is a work of art.

REVIEW

It is 1944, and Johanna Berglund has been accused of treason. She submits in her defense a collection of letters that will prove her innocence. The letters begin with Johanna as a linguistics student at the University of Minnesota. Fluent in German and several other languages, she is recommended to work as a translator at an Army POW camp near her home. She flatly refuses because she has other plans and dreams of going to Oxford. Pressure from the government and her parents eventually forces her to go. She begins her work as a translator and starts to enjoy it, despite criticism from some of the local populace about “aiding the enemy.” She is given more responsibility and asked to teach an English class, and she starts to feel compassion for the prisoners. When a nefarious plot causes untrue accusations against Johanna, she learns to truly lean on God.

This is an epistolary novel, comprised completely of letters, articles, and other written communication. We watch Johanna’s character develop from a rather vain and secluded student to to a woman of faith, although it takes some hard times to get her there. We meet her friends, family, and community, and we watch her grow as a person. And we learn that there were, in fact, German POW camps in the United States during World War II. I was captivated by this book, which was so well written that the personalities of the characters shone, and their individual nuances were conveyed expertly through their letters. I don’t think many writers can share such an amazing story and well developed characters in epistolary style, so I was surprised that this is Amy Lynn Green’s debut novel. I cannot wait to see what she writes next.

I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House via Netgalley for Historical Novels Review Magazine. My review is voluntary.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Amy Lynn Green

Amy Lynn Green is a lifelong lover of books, history, and library cards. She worked in publishing for six years before writing her first historical fiction novel, based on the WWII home front of Minnesota, the state where she lives, works, and survives long winters. Because of her day job in publicity, she has taught classes on marketing at writer’s conferences and regularly encourages established and aspiring authors in their publication journeys. In her novels (and her daily life), she loves exploring the intersection of faith and fiction and searches for answers to present-day questions by looking to the past.

If she had lived in the 1940s, you would have found her writing long letters to friends and family, listening to jazz music, daydreaming about creating an original radio drama, and drinking copious amounts of non-rationed tea. (Actually, these things are fairly accurate for her modern life as well.)

Be sure to interact with her on Facebook and Instagram, and sign up for her newsletter to stay up-to-date on her latest releases.

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VISIT AMY LYNN GREEN’S WEBSITE

The Ring of Truth

The Ring of Truth by Robert B. Sloan is the third book in the Hamelin Stoop Series. This is not a standalone. The books must be read in order or you will be lost when you read Book 3. Book 1 is The Eagle, The Cave, and the Footbridge and Book 2 is The Lost Princess and the Jewel of Periluna.

In Book 3, Hamelin has come back to the orphanage in order to return a lost princess back to her land. He has a definite idea of who this princess might be. There are a lot of delays and betrayals, and the people in his life continue to hide information from him, but Hamelin is determined to finish his mission and ultimately find his parents. 

This is a great young adult series with memorable characters that people of all ages will love. There are definite nods to Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, as well as the Bible, in this series. I continue to enjoy the adventures of these characters, especially the trio of Hamlin, Lars, and Eraina. Each of our heroes are aided by their special magical objects as they travel the Land of Gloaming on an important mission to stop the evil Chimera and his sons. They continue to receive guidance and help from SueSue and The Talking Eagle. Hamelin’s Earth friends, Bryan and Layla, also figure prominently in this story. 

I gave this five stars because of how much I love the overall series, but this one did move too slowly for about the first 25% of the book. There was too much time at the orphanage before attempting to return to the Land of Gloaming and not much happened during this time. At the orphanage, the core characters’ continual refusal to share information with each other started getting ridiculous. However, the last two thirds of this 580 page book were much more action filled. But again, even in the Land of Gloaming, there was the constant problem of people keeping secrets from each other. I feel this book would have been even better if it had been cut down to about 400 pages.

That being said, I continue to love these characters and look forward to their next adventures. There are six books planned in this series and I cannot wait until the next one.

I received a copy of this book from the publishers via BookSirens. My review is voluntary. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Robert B. Sloan is president of Houston Baptist University in Houston, Texas. Dr. Sloan and his wife Sue have seven adult children and more than 20 young grandchildren. He is an author, communicator, educator, and leader—all hats he has worn many times for a variety of reasons. These four areas represent life experiences that have provided him and his family with many memories. It is in the experiences of life that memories are made and lives are shaped.

Robert Sloan has a passion for Christian higher education and the spiritual formation of young people for the glory of God, which can be seen in both his professional and personal life.

Robert B. Sloan’s Website

Buy Book 1: The Eagle, The Cave, and The Footbridge

Buy Book 2: The Lost Princess and the Jewel of Periluna

Buy Book 3: The Ring of Truth

Link to My Amazon Review (Helpful Votes Appreciated)

Link to My Goodreads Review

Review and Giveaway Winner: She Walked Before Us

My review of She Walked Before Us by Jill Eileen Smith is below.

But first, the winner of the free paperback copy of this book, by random number generator, is GAZ9821 (Gail Zimmerman of Cincinnati, Ohio.) Gail has been contacted and the book will be mailed out to her tomorrow. Congratulations, Gail!

REVIEW:

She Walked Before Us is a wonderful Christian book which combines fiction and nonfiction in a creative way. The author first writes a part-true, part fictionalized story about twelve Old Testament women, based on their characterizations in the Bible. She then analyzes their predicaments and lessons learned. There is a separate chapter for each woman and there are study questions at the end of each chapter. This book would be great for a Women’s Bible Study.

The twelve Old Testament women featured in this book are: Miriam, Rahab, Deborah, Ruth, Naomi, Hannah, Penninah, Michal, Abigail, Ahinoam, Maacah, and Bathsheba. Each chapter addresses particular conflicts or situations these women were facing. For Miriam, it was “When God Corrects Your Character.” For Rahab, it was “Daring to Trust What You Cannot See. For Ahinoam, it was “Dealing With Heartache.” Each situation is timeless, as we might be dealing with those same problems today in a different way.

My favorite chapters were: Miriam, Hannah, Abigail, and Rahab. Smith’s portrayal of these women make them come alive and reminds us that these were real women, not just stories in the Bible.

Whatever issue you are facing, whether it is a crisis of faith, abuse, loss, hate, regret, hurt, or more, you can find a woman in the Bible who has faced something similar. She Walked Before Us helps us learn from the experiences of the women who literally did walk through these situations before.

I received two free copies of this book from Revell Books via The Blythe Daniel Agency and BlogAbout Blogger Network. My review is voluntary and my opinions are my own.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jill Eileen Smith is the bestselling, award-winning author of the Wives of King David series, the Wives of the Patriarchs, Daughters of the Promised Land, the Heart of the King, and Star of Persia, Esther’s Story, along with the nonfiction books When Life Doesn’t Match Your Dreams, and She Walked Before Us. Her research has taken her from the Bible to Israel, and she particularly enjoys learning how women lived in Old Testament times.

When she isn’t writing, she loves to spend time with her family and friends, read stories that take her away, ride her bike to the park, snag date nights with her hubby, try out new restaurants, or play with her lovable, “helpful” cat Tiger. Jill lives with her family in southeast Michigan

Link to the Book on Amazon

Jill Eileen Smith’s Website

Link to my Goodreads Review

Endless Mercy

This is the second book in the Treasures of Nome series by Tracie Peterson and Kimberley Woodhouse. Madysen Powell is still reeling from the shock of learning her father, thought long dead, is alive. Now she must lean on God and try to forgive her father for an unspeakable offense. At the same time, she is starting a dairy business at the Powell farm in Nome, Alaska, but secretly dreaming of a life in show business.

Daniel Beaufort is angry at God after his parents’ death. He finds himself working with the very beautiful and very Christian Madysen Powell at her dairy farm. Can he overcome his anger and find love instead?

This book has a strong Christian message about forgiveness, both the forgiveness of God and forgiving others. It also shows how God can rebuild your life after sin has destroyed it.

However, I find a few faults with it. This book is set in Nome, Alaska in 1904. I did not feel transported to the time period or the location. The book had much more of a contemporary vibe than a historical romance should have. Madysen is just a different spelling of Madison, which wasn’t really used for girls’ names until after the movie Splash in 1984. And they call her Maddy, which is a very contemporary nickname. Her sister Whitney is called Whit, also very contemporary. I just was not getting the feel of a historical novel. In addition, novels set in Alaska are usually flowing with descriptions of the environment, wildlife, climate, and terrain. I didn’t see much of that here either. In both history and setting, there was only a slight nod. This is a Christian romance that could have been set anywhere with a few tweaks. The information about cheese-making was interesting.

I would give this 2.5 stars, but it is rounded up to three for the solid Christian message of forgiveness.

I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House. My review is voluntary.

Link to Buy the Book on Amazon

Link to Tracie Peterson’s Website