Saturday, July 30, 2016

Book review: Shadow of the Mountain: Exodus

Shadow of the Mountain: Exodus by Cliff Graham

From the back cover:

                           - CALEB

Two men were brave enough to tell the truth about what awaited the liberated Hebrews in the Promised Land. This is their story. From the slave pits of Egypts to the efforts of an eighty-five year-old Caleb as he battles the last of a race of fearsome giants, Shadow of the Mountain is a vivid portrait of two of God's chosen champions, and a meditation on masculine mentorship and the challenges and blessings of growing older.

Exodus, the first volume of Graham's Old Testament saga, begins with Caleb as he prepares to attack the fortified city he has claimed for his inheritance. He refuses to spend his twilight years resting, and instead is driven to claim the victory the Lord promised him decades previously. Capturing Caleb's early days as a mercenary for Pharaoh in Egypt watching the Hebrews suffer under the yoke of slavery, through a desperate fight with Anakite giants in the dark forests of the Israelite hill country, this is a story filled with the epic battles, gritty intensity, and supernatural events that made Graham's LION OF WAR serios a hit. Shadow of the Mountain is destined to ignite a love for the Scriptures in popular culture.


I really enjoyed this book! It was fast moving and action-packed, which is what I often crave in novels. The story takes place in two different settings, that of the elderly Caleb telling the story of his youth to his nephew as they prepare for battle, and the actual story he tells. With Caleb not being mentioned much in the bible, Graham wove his own tale of how his life might have been, and the result was a captivating tale. At the end of the book Graham states: My purpose is not to invent an elaborate backstory because I felt the Bible was insufficient; it is to create a way for the reader to encounter the events of Exodus as the Egyptians themselves might have known them.
His story is well-written and will keep you wanting to read more. I was especially taken in by the part with the plagues of Egypt. The whole book was written vividly and it was easy to imagine everything as it was explained, without being overly descriptive. Some of the battles were a little long for my taste, but that's about it. It was also extremely gory, so I would not recommend it for those who can't handle blood and strong violence. It even made me cringe at a few parts, and I have a pretty high tolerance for that sort of stuff. 
But overall a very good read and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys Biblical fiction and can handle the gore.

I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Book Review: A Refuge at Highland Hall

A Refuge at Highland Hall by Carrie Turansky

From the back cover:

The Great War shakes the world of a spirited young woman and the brave British pilot she loves, taking her from London to her family's magnificent country estate, and sending him into the war-torn skies over France.

Penny Ramsey has always considered Highland Hall her home, but when Britain becomes involved in World War I, she travels to London to help her sister Kate with the eight orphan children she and her husband, Jon, have taken into their home. Doing her part for the war effort takes priority over Penny's dreams of romance until she meets Alex Goodwin, a Royal Naval Air Service pilot in training.

Alex is determined to prove his worth and do his part to defend his country. Knowing he is heading off for the dangerous assignment of chasing Zeppelins in France, he feels it's unwise to form any romantic attachments. But he can't help admiring the pretty, warm-hearted Penny and wondering what it would be like to find her waiting when he returns home from the war.

As Penny writes to Alex, their friendship blossoms, and she becomes his tie to home and normalcy as he faces the hardships of war. But being an RNAS pilot means confronting the enemy, and the fallout from those experiences pushes Alex beyond Penny's reach. Can God mend the brokenness left by the losses of war?

I hate to too harshly critique a piece of literature, because it is a dear thing to me, nor is this a direct jab to the book or its author, but I found this book to be far too slow-paced for my liking. While the story had its strong points, and it was not in the least the worst book I've read, it was certainly not the best. It's more a matter of my own, personal prefernces rather than to how good the book was. In order for me to become enamored by a story, it must be moving forward constantly and speedily, a new scenario popping up in every chapter. The characters must be strong individuals with realistic personalities, fears, and flaws. This book, in terms of that criteria, was mediocre. I found myself becoming bored more than once, and I actually had to force myself to read it because I knew I needed to finish it in order to write this review. I did find parts of the story likeable, especially the side romance that took place between two of the minor characters, and the writing wasn't all bad. There were, however, several typos throughout the book, and I'm fairly certain this was not an advanced reading copy as it did not say so on the cover as they usually do. Also, there were two very similar scenes in the book which I found silly! In both scenes, there was a mail call, and the man whose perspective it is in is hoping he has a letter, but then becomes dissappointed when the stack of mail is depleted and his name wasn't called. But wait! The man announcing who the mail is for reaches again into his bag and pulls out a package, which is in fact for the man in whose perspective it is! This happened twice, to two different characters! Maybe I'm being ridiculous, but I just found it to be redundant. Also, the end of the book felt rather rushed, with poorly worded sentences thrown in. I can often sense a change in an author's writing when a book is nearing its end, like she was coming too close to her deadline and had to hurry to finish it up.
In conclusion, it was not a terrible story, it had its ups and downs, but overall it was just too slow and boring for my taste, though I am sure (and know) that there are others who would enjoy it, as I noticed it has several 5 star reviews on goodreads. Mostly, my opinion is just a personal prefernece.
Because it did have some interesting twists and a few likeable characters, and was clean and Godly, I give it a rating of 3 out of 5.

I received a free copy of this book from WaterBrook Multnomah Press in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Book Review: Awakening

Awakening by Tracy Higley

Kallie Andreas is a mystery, even to herself.
Seven years ago Kallie woke up in a New York City museum, injured and traumatized. Alone and unclaimed.
Despite her shattered memories, she's worked her way into a position as assistant curator in that very museum, and now she wants nothing more than to pursue funding for her project--assembling pieces from the ancient Minoans.
But then the blackouts start. Lost time, stranded in terrifying danger, frantic visions that can't be real. A threatening phone call may be nothing more than paranoia and madness. Or perhaps not.
It's time to start seeing her psychiatrist more often.
Kallie's doctor challenges her to keep a journal, but her writing morphs into something else... What begins as a romantic fairy tale becomes an allegory of a woman plunged into crisis in the ancient past, in the misty islands of Minoan Greece, home to myth and legend.
When a mysterious billionaire invites Kallie to scour the black market with him for the most valuable of all Minoan treasures, the key to their lost language, Kallie can't resist. Dimitri is wealthy, charming and good-looking, but she's not interested--not in someone who's clearly hiding secrets of his own.
Together, the two embark on a global quest to find the Key, through some of the most exotic and beautiful locations in the world--unraveling the mystery and pursuing leads, all the while resisting romance in Italy, under the Santorini sun, and among the pyramids of Egypt.
Meanwhile, Kallie's memories are bleeding through and her journal has turned violent. She's teetering on the verge of a breakthrough, but what devastating truth has she been suppressing?
When a strange woman who clearly knows Kallie's real identity tries to murder her, it's clear that Kallie's past and present worlds are colliding, in a deadly crisis that will finally reveal the shocking mystery of her past.
But will the truth leave room for love?

This was a pretty good book! I love anything to do with treasure hunters, and I loved the locations in this book! It was mysterious and fairly well-written. It kept my interest pretty well, and was an easy book to read, although I did read it kind of slowly. The only things I didn't like was that Kallie turned to an Oracle rather than God, and while it was a clean book there was very little in the way of Christianity. The other thing was that I found Kallie's traveling companions to be extrememly stereotypical and cliche, and that really annoyed me. So those things aside, it was well written and an entertaining, mysterious story.