Tag Archives: Adult fiction

Fiction Shelves: The Separatists by Lis Wiehl with Sebastian Stuart

Another Gripping, Furious-Paced Thrill Ride with Erica Sparks!

Separatists cover - post

The Separatists
by Lis Wiehl with Sebastian Stuart


Series: Newsmakers (Book 3)
Publication Date: June 27, 2017
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Length: 340pp
ISBN-13: 978-0718037697

Related Links:
Lis Wiehl’s Website

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Publisher Synopsis

Journalist and newscaster Erica Sparks is only planning to report on an explosive story—until she gets caught in the middle of it.

After getting the green light from her network to launch an investigative news show, Erica flies to Bismarck, North Dakota, to investigate Take Back Our Homeland, the largest secessionist group. What she finds is profoundly disturbing – a growing threat to the future of our union.

Back home, her husband Greg is drinking more and talking less—and taking an unusual interest in the glamorous author Leslie Burke Wilson. Erica’s teenage daughter has also begun acting out in troubling ways.

Then she discovers a potential informant murdered in her Bismarck hotel. Take Back Our Homeland might be even more dangerous than she had thought—and she’s unwittingly become one of the key players in the story. Her fear and anxiety escalate – for her marriage, her daughter, and her own life.


My Review

[Click the titles to see my reviews of the first two books in the series,
The Newsmakers and The Candidate.]

The United States is a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there. After reading The Separatists, Lis Wiehl’s latest heart-stopper, that would not be a surprising sentiment in a foreign reader. The book is described as a ‘thriller’, and it most certainly is one, but it also ventures into the horror genre. Not the guts-splattering, monster-filled type of terror, but the psychological frightener kind, with a murdering, megalomaniacal, psychopathic terrorist at its helm. One who was duly elected into office through the process of American democracy.

Our heroine, Erica Sparks, news journalist supreme, struggles to get to the bottom of a heinous plot to tear apart America piece by piece, while distracted by a wayward daughter and an estranged husband. Whether she saves the day yet again, I will not say. I will note, however, that this is the last novel in the series, so hold your breath and cross your fingers in those final few chapters!

If you have not read the first two books in the terrific Newsmakers series, please do so before cracking open this one. Many old friends return here, and to fully understand Erica’s relationship problems the reader needs to know the histories of certain characters (including that of Ms. Sparks herself).

If you’ve already read and enjoyed The Newsmakers and The Candidate, then you know you’re in for a treat with Wiehl’s new offering, a fast-paced, scary commentary on the current state of the nation.

— Jennifer Michelle

Verdict

4 of 5 Hearts. Another Gripping, Furious-Paced Thrill Ride with Erica Sparks!

The Separatists, the third novel in Lis Wiehl’s latest series, has all the suspense and excitement of the previous two, with another disturbing cast of villains, and with even higher stakes. And, as in the previous books, it’s flawed Erica Sparks, always dedicated to uncovering the truth, whom we love to watch pit her intellect and courage against those who would unleash a terrible evil upon the country.

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I would like to thank BookLook Bloggers and Thomas Nelson for providing me with a copy of The Separatists in exchange for an honest review. 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.”

Fiction Shelves: The Illusionist’s Apprentice by Kristy Cambron

A Pleasant Historical Romance That Stumbles as a Mystery

The Illusionist’s ApprenticeIllusionist - posting size
by Kristy Cambron


Publication Date: March 7, 2017
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Length: 356pp
ISBN-13: 978-0718041502

Starred Reviews:
Publisher’s Weekly

Related Links:

Kristy Cambron’s Website

Publisher’s Website


Buy the Book:

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Publisher Synopsis

Not all illusions happen on the stage.

Wren Lockhart, apprentice to master illusionist Harry Houdini, uses life on a vaudeville stage to escape the pain of her past. She continues her career of illusion after her mentor’s death, intent on burying her true identity.

But when a rival performer’s act goes tragically wrong, the newly formed FBI calls on Wren to speak the truth—and reveal her real name to the world. She transfers her skills for misdirection from the stage to the back halls of vaudeville, as she finds herself the unlikely partner in the FBI’s investigation. All the while Houdini’s words echo in her mind: Whatever occurs, the crowd must believe it’s what you meant to happen. She knows that if anyone digs too deep, secrets long kept hidden may find their way to the surface—and shatter her carefully controlled world.

Set during one of the richest, most vibrant eras in American history, this Jazz Age novel of illusion, suspense, and forgotten pasts is perfect for fans of The Magician’s Lie, challenging all to find the underpinnings of faith on their own life’s stage.


My Review

WARNING:

At ReadLove we try hard not to include spoilers in our reviews. But in order to explain the low rating this book receives, spoilers are unfortunately a necessity. So if you haven’t read the book yet and wish to make up your own mind about it, then please do not read below the line!

——————–

There is no way to say it but bluntly: For all its good points, The Illusionist’s Apprentice begins and ends problematically, and abounds in inconsistencies throughout. It’s a shame, too, because Cambron writes clearly, has a talent for characterization and chronicling a budding romance, and is certainly skilled at bringing to life an historic era, in this case the Jazz Age. In fact, her easy-to-read prose kept me turning the pages long after my disappointment urged me to abandon the book. I won’t list every troublesome moment in the novel, but I will present a sample.

A quick summary before moving on: On New Year’s Eve in 1926, a resurrection is staged in a Massachusetts cemetery by a famed illusionist. The dead man is revived (supposedly), says a few halting words, then dies. The illusionist is arrested for murder and the FBI investigates.

The first problem is that the mystery should be in ruins by page 14. The corpse to be revived has been buried for twenty-three years. A doctor, not involved with the deception, is asked to attest that the corpse shows “no signs of life”. He solemnly states that it doesn’t. And yet, he does not find it significant that the body — before being recalled to life — is not the least bit putrefied or decomposed, a sure sign of either life or a very recent burial. Even the author comments that it should be “a decayed corpse” with “rotting flesh”.  (Additionally, the man’s clothing and his simple “wooden box” had apparently undergone no deterioration after a quarter of a century underground, which surprises no one, not even the inquisitive press.)

Skipping ahead to the end: The solution to the resurrection trick is given casually, with a vague reference to a tunnel and a “piping system” for air. The reader is left with gaping jaw when she considers the myriad difficulties such a feat of engineering would encounter in 1926. The logistics of digging a long tunnel, especially in secret, are staggering. How do you precisely locate the coffin you’re aiming for? How do you remove hundreds of cubic feet worth of dirt, and where do you put it? How long would the project take — days, weeks? And all this occurs while the ground, we are told, is so frozen that a hole can’t be dug to plant a tree!

As regards the “piping system”, it would be interesting to know what air recycling technology was installed that prevented an unconscious man confined for hours in a narrow box from suffocating on his own CO2. How did evidence of that system vanish when the box was exhumed? And, given that the weather above ground was “frigid”, how did a man whose heartbeat had been artificially slowed to the point where a pulse was undetectable not freeze to death lying all those hours in thin clothes six feet below the surface?

Occasionally, the reader runs into oddities such as these:

— Even after being shot, Wren, our heroine, adamantly refuses to help the FBI, saying, “I can’t continue with the investigation, not if it means giving up my privacy.” A few chapters later, when Amberley Dover does the same thing for the same reason, Wren expresses her disbelief that her one-time friend won’t help the agents: “When people were dying, matters of reluctance should be the first to fly out the window.”

— While discussing details of the case, agent Elliot remarks on how the name of the revived-then-dead man matches that of the original occupant of the grave: “Stapleton wants us to think they were one and the same, but it has to be two men going by the same name. It’s the only possible explanation…” Three pages later, Wren mentions that the man who died had no identification (and therefore, no verifiable name at all).

— On page 158, Elliot states that the original toxicology report “showed nothing of substance”. Later, on 261, he tells Wren that “the original report named the foxglove plant as the probable culprit…”

Elsewhere, while the Jazz Age generally comes across well, all its glitter can’t hide an anachronism or two. But as with Shakespeare’s mechanical clock, we can read over small lapses without a blink. Harder to ignore is the fact that the FBI, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, for whom our hero works, did not operate under that name until 1935, years after the events in the book. Before then, it was known as the Bureau of Investigation, or the BOI. What an excellent opportunity was missed to add realism and color to the novel, and to educate the reader!

In her Acknowledgments, the author mentions that a circle of Suspense/Mystery writer friends laid out the early framework for her plot. Continued assistance from them would have been helpful. Rightly or wrongly, my impression is that while she excels at writing Romance and can maintain a suspenseful plot, Ms. Cambron has yet to master the intricacies involved in creating a seamless mystery.

— Jennifer Michelle

Verdict

2 Hearts - Final

2 of 5 Hearts. A Pleasant Historical Romance That Stumbles as a Mystery.

It hurts my heart to have to say negative things about a writer who’s so obviously earnest about her craft and her faith. But the fact is, The Illusionist’s Apprentice lacks cohesion and believability. It has style, occasional wit, smooth prose, and a strong Christian element, but only the romantic storyline is fully worth the reader’s investment of time.

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I would like to thank Fiction Guild and Thomas Nelson for providing me with a copy of The Illusionist’s Apprentice in exchange for an honest review. 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.”

Christian Chapters: If I’m Found by Terri Blackstock

Top-Notch Christian Suspense That Teaches and Inspires


If I’m Found
by Terri Blackstock


Series: If I Run (Book 2)
Publication Date: March 21, 2017
Publisher: Zondervan
Length: 384pp
ISBN-13: 978-0310332480

Related Links:
Terri Blackstock’s Website
Terri Blackstock’s YouTube Channel

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Publisher Synopsis

Is Dylan hunting Casey to prosecute her or protect her?

Casey Cox is still on the run, fleeing prosecution for a murder she didn’t commit. Dylan Roberts—her most relentless pursuer—is still on her trail, but his secret emails insist that he knows the truth and wants to help her. He’s let her escape before when he had her in his grasp, but trust doesn’t come easily.

As Casey works to collect evidence about the real murderers, she stumbles on another unbearable injustice: an abused child and a suicidal man who’s also been falsely accused. Casey risks her own safety to right this wrong and protect the little girl from her tormenters. But doing so is risky and just may result in her capture—and if she’s captured, she has no doubt she’ll be murdered before she ever steps foot in a jail.


My Review

The adventures of Casey and Dylan continue to provide a high level of entertainment. If you haven’t read book one in the series, though, please do so before picking up If I’m Found. Both are outstanding Christian thrillers, and everything I wrote in my review of If I Run applies to its sequel. I won’t risk giving anything away by delving into the plot, but be assured that you’re in for another suspenseful outing as the mystery deepens and the danger mounts.

As in the first book, this story unfolds through the eyes of several narrators. What Terri Blackstock does as well as or better than any of her contemporaries is recognize where to end an arc of chapters devoted to the same speaker. Some authors — most in fact — who employ this device choose to cut off their narrator at cliff’s edge and proceed directly to another character’s viewpoint, thereby ensuring that the reader remains in suspense. Or so they hope. Too often, what actually happens is the reader’s interest level plunges as the next chapter begins, and that chapter becomes a stumbling block, interrupting our concern about a character’s fate. Blackstock sticks with her narrator until the current crisis finds, if not resolution, then a natural resting place. It’s as if she composes long chapters, and later divides them into shorter ones, keeping them unbroken by other narrators. This gives the reader the ability to dive wholeheartedly into a narrative arc knowing she won’t be jerked out of it prematurely.

Where If I’m Found outdoes its predecessor is in its religious discussions. If I Run did not hide its light by any means, but here, as the characters grow closer to God and begin to see His hand active in their lives, the meaning and power of Christian faith are expounded upon in greater detail. Such is the author’s ability that never does anything seem contrived about those moments; instead, they occur as part of the familiar and inborn path one travels when moving towards a fuller understanding and a deeper faith. At the conclusion of the book, there’s even a multi-page author’s note where Blackstock discusses her personal efforts at striving to see God in everything and giving thanks to Him. It’s an excellent wrap-up to the novel and reminds the reader that the three hundred plus pages she has just read contained more than a fictional story. (To emphasize: Last year, I placed my review of If I Run on ReadLove‘s “Fiction Shelves”; this time around, If I’m Found has landed squarely in our “Christian Chapters” category.)

I’ll end this review paraphrasing the sentence I used to conclude my review of the first novel: When the final page is turned, the reader feels perfectly satisfied with the present book, but is eagerly looking forward to the next!

— Jennifer Michelle

Verdict


5 of 5 Hearts. Top-Notch Christian Suspense That Teaches and Inspires.

It’s another heart-pounding, page-turning Christian thriller from the pen of Terri Blackstock. But If I’m Found is more than its sub-genre. It’s the story of two people learning to trust God and each other while battling seemingly impossible odds, their wits their only weapon, their faith their only shield.

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I would like to thank Thomas Nelson and BookLook Bloggers for providing me with a physical copy of If I’m Found in exchange for an honest review. 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.”

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I would like to thank Netgalley and Zondervan for providing me with a digital copy of If I’m Found in exchange for an honest review. 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.”

Fiction Shelves: The Candidate by Lis Wiehl with Sebastian Stuart

Grab It, Read It, Savor the Thrills!


The Candidate
by Lis Wiehl with Sebastian Stuart


Series: Newsmakers (Book 2)
Publication Date: October 4, 2016
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Length: 334pp
ISBN-13: 978-0718037680

Related Links:
Lis Wiehl’s Website
Lis Wiehl Podcast on The Newsmakers

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Publisher Synopsis

How far will a candidate go to become president? Erica Sparks—America’s top-rated cable-news host— is about to find out.

Mike Ortiz is a dynamic war hero favored to win the White House. Standing by his side is his glamorous and adoring wife, Celeste. But something about this seemingly perfect couple troubles Erica. Is Celeste really who she seems? And most importantly, what really happened in that squalid Al-Qaeda prison where Mike Ortiz spent nine months?

But more than the nation’s future is at stake. Erica’s relentless search for the truth puts the life of her preteen daughter Jenny in danger, even as Erica’s own dark past threatens to overtake her.


My Review

[Click the title to see my review of the first book in the series, The Newsmakers.]

Once again, Lis Wiehl and Sebastian Stuart have turned out a barn-burner of a thriller. Top flight journalist Erica Sparks has her hands full — overly full, I should say — combating a villain that no one else even suspects. And this villain is wickedly, viciously, coldly, frighteningly evil.

If you have not read the first book in the Newsmakers series, I suggest you do so before plunging into this one. Many of the same characters reappear, and it helps to know one of them in particular in order to understand Erica’s romantic plight. Also, Erica’s background is explored more thoroughly in book one, as is usual in a series, and there’s much in her history that will enable the reader to better grasp our heroine’s struggles at being a mother.

Those readers seeking an overtly Christian thriller will not find it here. There is little time for Erica to pause and reflect, other than about her worries. (Yes, she could have used some praying.) But despite the presence of a cruel and heartless antagonist, the book’s language never crosses a line that might offend. So this is a clean read, if that concerns you, though at times a heartbreaking one, as not everyone makes it out alive.

Of course, if you read and enjoyed The Newsmakers, then you know what to expect in The Candidate, and you will not be disappointed!

— Jennifer Michelle

Verdict


4 of 5 Hearts. Grab It, Read It, Savor the Thrills!

The Candidate is the second in Lis Wiehl’s latest series. In it, she takes her heroine to even darker places, physically and mentally, than in the first book, and the ride this time is bumpier and more painful. But as before, it is the keen wit, courage, and perseverance of Erica Sparks that provides the real entertainment.

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I would like to thank Fiction Guild and Thomas Nelson for providing me with a copy of The Candidate in exchange for an honest review. 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.”

Fiction Shelves: If I Run By Terri Blackstock

An Exciting Christian Mystery-Suspense Novel with Depth


If I Run
by Terri Blackstock


Series: If I Run (Book 1)
Publication Date: February 16, 2016
Publisher: Zondervan
Length: 305pp
ISBN-13: 978-0310332435

Related Links:
Terri Blackstock’s Website
Terri Blackstock’s YouTube Channel

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Publisher Synopsis

Casey knows the truth. But it won’t set her free.

Casey Cox’s DNA is all over the crime scene. There’s no use talking to police; they have failed her abysmally before. She has to flee before she’s arrested . . . or worse. The truth doesn’t matter anymore.

But what is the truth? That’s the question haunting Dylan Roberts, the war-weary veteran hired to find Casey. PTSD has marked him damaged goods, but bringing Casey back can redeem him. Though the crime scene seems to tell the whole story, details of the murder aren’t adding up. Casey Cox doesn’t fit the profile of a killer. But are Dylan’s skewed perceptions keeping him from being objective? If she isn’t guilty, why did she run?

Unraveling her past and the evidence that condemns her will take more time than he has, but as Dylan’s damaged soul intersects with hers, he is faced with two choices. The girl who occupies his every thought is a psychopathic killer . . . or a selfless hero. And the truth could be the most deadly weapon yet.


My Review

Though classified simply and mundanely as Fiction on the book jacket, If I Run is part Mystery and all Suspense. From the first sentence – “There’s blood on the bottom of my shoes.” – Terri Blackstock captures our attention; within a few chapters, her heroine has secured our support, something her hero also does quickly once the alternate narration starts. From that point, the characters are increasingly interesting, the plot ever-thickening, and the suspense never-ending.

The story of Casey and Dylan, the hunted and the hunter, unfolds logically and in prose that’s neither overly stylish nor dryly pedestrian. We learn the circumstances behind Casey’s flight later than might be expected, but by then her personality and actions have already convinced us of her innocence. Dylan, the war-veteran-turned-investigator, faces a tougher path to uncovering and accepting the truth as he tracks the elusive (supposed) killer of his friend.

Too many times the storytelling device of multiple narrators elevates one character’s voice and/or situation above the rest and those in-between chapters become a drag to get through. But Blackstock has done a good job of making us like and sympathize with both Casey and Dylan, and has plunged each into their own dramatic quagmire, so neither dominates the other. We are equally happy and at home in every chapter, regardless of who is moving the plot.

If I Run does not hide its Christian light beneath a bushel. God and the teachings of Jesus are frequently mentioned, though never in an intrusive or didactic way. One of the two protagonists is a professed Christian, while the other is a doubter, but on a journey to belief, which lends variety and perspective to the story.

When the final page is turned, the reader is left in a perfect place: She feels satisfied with the present book, but is also eagerly looking forward to the next!

— Jennifer Michelle

Verdict


4.5 of 5 Hearts. An Exciting Christian Mystery-Suspense Novel with Depth.

If it’s a can’t-put-down heart-thumper you’re looking for in the Christian genre, grab If I Run and join Casey and Dylan for an absorbing, fast-paced, often thoughtful read.

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I would like to thank Fiction Guild and Zondervan for providing me with a copy of If I Run in exchange for an honest review. 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.”

Fiction Shelves: The Newsmakers By Lis Wiehl with Sebastian Stuart

Forget ‘Page-Turner’ – This Thriller is a Chapter-Turner!


The Newsmakers
by Lis Wiehl with Sebastian Stuart


Series: Newsmakers (Book 1)
Publication Date: January 19, 2016
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Length: 337pp
ISBN-13: 978-0718037673

Related Links:
Lis Wiehl’s Website
Lis Wiehl Podcast on The Newsmakers

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Publisher Synopsis

TV reporter Erica Sparks has become a superstar overnight. But is it due to her hard work and talent? Or is she at the center of a spiraling conspiracy?

Erica Sparks is a beautiful and ambitious reporter who has just landed her dream job at Global News Network in New York. And while it was hard to leave Jenny, her cherished eight-year-old daughter, in the custody of her ex-husband, Erica is determined to succeed in the cutthroat world of big-time broadcasting. She can only hope her troubled past won’t come back to sabotage her dreams.

Although the wounds from her divorce are still fresh, Erica can’t deny the chemistry between her and her new producer, the handsome and empathetic Greg Underwood. But a relationship is the last thing she wants right now.

On her very first assignment, Erica inadvertently witnesses — and films — a horrific tragedy, scooping all the other networks. Mere weeks later, another tragedy strikes — again, right in front of Erica and her cameras. Her career skyrockets overnight, but Erica is troubled. Deeply. This can’t just be coincidence. But what is it?

Erica will stop at nothing to uncover the truth. But she has to make sure disaster — and her troubled past — don’t catch up with her first.


My Review

It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book in two sittings. But with its economical, rapid-fire scenes, charismatic leading lady, intriguing storyline, and brief chapters (less than 4 pages on average), Lis Wiehl’s The Newsmakers dares you to put it down.

The novel makes it clear that its plot is a battle between Good and Evil. Our villain is the physical embodiment of most of the Seven Deadly Sins — with an emphasis on pride, greed, wrath, and lust. He’s also a genius and a visionary, and in a cleverly done prologue, we are put squarely on his side. It doesn’t take long, however, before his true nature reveals itself and the reader sees that all he lacks to be a perfect devil is a tail and a pair of horns. In his employ are others of his ilk – demons, if you will – catering to his every wish, and every bit as callous and ambitious as their boss.

Erica Sparks, on the other hand, our intelligent, hard-working, courageous heroine, has been blessed with angelic beauty, but carries within her a past full of heartache and failure. She fights every recovering alcoholic’s never-ending battle against temptation, and struggles to prove to herself (and her daughter and ex-husband) that she is a good mother. But where the villain of the piece gains and retains his followers through fear and the exercise of financial power, Erica wins the loyalty of those who become her friends and allies with a warm and honest personality. She is far from perfect, but Erica recognizes her flaws and works to improve herself.

As you would expect in a book published by a Christian firm, there is very little in the way of offensive material in either language or plot. With all the sick, twisted bad guys we meet, there’s plenty of opportunity for (justifiable) four-letter dialogue, but Wiehl proves you can build an evil character without resorting to foul language. Personally, I was not offended by anything I read. I will warn those readers expecting an overt, Jesus-oriented, message-carrying narrative, that you will be disappointed. This is a thriller in which the protagonist’s life is lived at a gallop, in near-constant danger, not a sedately-paced exploration of one’s spirit.

That said, when Erica is at her lowest point, confused and frightened, she seeks refuge in a “small redbrick church”, a “safe place…where kindness lights the way”. As she absorbs the calming atmosphere of the sanctuary, she reflects:

All her life Erica has felt like she was running on quicksand, with nothing to save her but her own speed and strength and determination, and no one to pull her up should she start to sink. When she finally found faith…she found herself on firmer footing for the first time in her life. Her faith is her bridge over the quicksand.

It’s the passage that best defines our heroine and explains how she is able to cope with everything that’s thrown her way. It’s also one of the few times in this suspenseful, break-neck tale where the reader, like Erica, can pause a moment and catch her breath!

— Jennifer Michelle

Verdict


4.5 of 5 HeartsForget ‘Page-Turner’ – This Thriller is a Chapter-Turner!

Lis Wiehl’s latest novel is the first in a new series. She’s done an excellent job of establishing her heroine and filling her world with likable characters. More thriller than mystery, the real pleasure of The Newsmakers is in tagging along with smart, savvy, and strong Erica Sparks on her investigations, rooting for her to figure out what we already suspect and hoping that she can save the day!

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I would like to thank Fiction Guild and Thomas Nelson for providing me with a copy of The Newsmakers in exchange for an honest review. 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.”

Christian Chapters: Hannah’s Choice by Jan Drexler

An Engaging, Yet Somber View of Amish Life in Conestoga, Pennsylvania, 1842

Hannah’s Choice
by Jan Drexler


Series: Journey To Pleasant Prairie (Book 1)
Publication Date: January 19, 2016
Publisher: Revell
Length: 384pp
ISBN-13: 978-0800726560

Related Links:
Jan Drexler’s Website
Publisher’s Website (with Excerpt from Hannah’s Choice)
Interview with Jan Drexler at USA Today
Visit Jan Drexler on Facebook


Buy the Book

AmazonBN





 


Publisher Synopsis

When love and family conflict, will she listen to her head . . . or her heart?

Hannah Yoder loves her quiet life on the banks of Conestoga Creek. In 1842, this corner of Lancaster County is settled and peaceful — yet problems lurk beneath the placid façade. Hannah strives to be the one person who can bind the threads of her family together in spite of her father’s worries, her mother’s depression, and her sister’s rebellious ways. But her world threatens to unravel.

When two young men seek her hand in marriage — one offering the home she craves and the other promising the adventure of following God’s call west — Hannah must make a choice. Will she stay true to the faith of her family or defy her father and abandon her community?


My Review

Death is rarely a welcome visitor. When it enters a family’s home, it can leave destruction and despair in its wake. When diphtheria invades the Yoders’ home, some lives are taken, still others are broken, but no one is left unchanged.

Nine years later, Hannah still feels responsible for bringing death into their house. Her mother Annalise, remains inconsolable and consumed by grief, and seems fated for permanent imprisonment by spiritual darkness. Her father Christian, mindful that their traditional Amish community has fallen victim to outside influences from the progressive ideas of neighboring Mennonites and Quakers, decides that the only way to safeguard his family and preserve their values is to move West. Given Hannah’s closeness to Adam, the Mennonite boy next door, and her sister Liesbet’s capricious and rebellious ways, could it be that Christian’s decision has come too late to keep his family intact?

Jan Drexler has clearly done much research to show her readers what life in 1842 might have been like for an Amish family on the Conestoga. If you enjoy history, you’ll be pleased — Drexler has packed a lot of historical detail into Hannah’s Choice: Amish history, including reasons for their emigration to America, the inclusion of a redemptioner (something I learned!), as well as a look at the Underground Railroad and how views of this particular civil disobedience varied among different Anabaptist sects.

The well-drawn and ever present setting is a character unto itself. So much so that it nearly overshadows the rest of the cast. Along with her vivid setting, Drexler immediately establishes a deeply melancholic tone. Were it not for Hannah’s descriptions and recollections of happier days growing up, the novel might be too heavy.

Thematically, Hannah’s Choice explores loss, faith, and family, as well as the definition of home. Theological discussion touches on the importance of trusting in God’s will and living according to His plan. When faced with the potential risk inherent in journeying west (Indians, wilderness, dangerous travel, etc.), one character suggests fear or asking “What if…?” should not preclude you from stepping out in faith and taking a risk. After all, there are “what ifs” everywhere.

Though I enjoyed the author’s careful attention to setting, tone, and historical detail, I would have liked more character development. So much is stuffed into the novel that perhaps it needed to be longer in order to give adequate attention to its many characters, relationships, and plot lines. Still, while character development and, especially, romantic aspects, suffered somewhat, Hannah’s Choice maintained my interest from beginning to end.

— Dawn Teresa

Verdict

3.5 of 5 Hearts. An Engaging, Yet Somber View of Amish Life in Conestoga, Pennsylvania, 1842.

Jan Drexel gives the reader a carefully researched, historically rich look at the forces which may have led Amish settlers, including some of her own ancestors, to leave Lancaster County and travel westward to Indiana. Though somber, Hannah’s Choice never loses hope while carrying its message that nothing is more important than faith and family.

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I would like to thank Jan Drexler for providing me with a copy of this title in exchange for a fair and honest review. 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.”

 

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