Review of Only With Blood: A Novel of Ireland by Therese Down

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I'm not sure if Therese Down is a totally new author, but she was a new to me author. I've read historical fiction set in Ireland before, and I've even read novels that involved the IRA and the struggles that Ireland has had to be free from English rule in the past. But I don't think I've ever read a historical novel that really tied in Ireland's fight for independence with the historical setting of World War 2 as Only With Blood does. I was totally drawn in by the historical setting as well as by Therese Down's beautiful writing style and compelling characters.

A review of Only With Blood by Therese Down

From the book's description:

When dying Jack Flynn decides he needs a bride so that he can father a son, his young wife Caitlin proves far more than he intended to buy
Jack Flynn, strong and aggressive but slowly dying of tuberculosis on his farm in Tipperary in the Republic of Ireland, decides to acquire―purchase―a young wife who can bear him sons to inherit his family’s land. His choice, Caitlin Spillane, is less than half his age, attractive and intelligent, and resents bitterly the obedience that is forced upon her.
When a young firebrand, a supporter of the IRA, arrives in the village, he and Caitlin are drawn together in their detestation of Flynn. Flynn, traumatized by his own insurgent IRA experiences twenty years earlier, is secretly convinced that Eamonn de Valera’s more diplomatic, peaceful approach to Ireland’s problems is the only sane one.
Could Caitlin be won for the cause, and leave her unloved husband?
A novel set against the struggle for the heart of Ireland in the Second World War, when the IRA notoriously sought assistance from the Nazis, Only with Blood explores flawed characters placed in extraordinary situations.

At first I was disturbed by the character development in Only for Blood. I couldn't seem to make out the "good guys" and the "bad guys." Every time I decided to dislike one of the main characters, the author revealed more about their thoughts or feelings or memories, and I felt for them. I spent the first part of the story trying to form opinions about the characters.

And then I decided to give up. Because I finally got the message that (I think) was being communicated. We are all messy. There were people in this story that had noble goals and dreams and motives. But there were things in life that caused them to make decisions for better or for worse that ended up shaping them and the people around them.

Only With Blood is a beautiful, sometimes haunting, story. The characters and story line are very well developed so that I was drawn in and compelled to keep reading. I came to understand the time period as well as the people- real and imagined who must have lived then. I loved the book and was sorry when it ended, the sign of a book I truly loved.

I give Only With Blood 5 stars and a PG-13 rating (for violence). You can find it on the Kregel website here and on Amazon here.

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Review of "Anne of Green Gables", My Daughter and Me: What My Favorite Book Taught Me about Grace, Belonging, and the Orphan in Us All by Lorilee Craker

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Because Anne of Green Gables happens to be one of my favorite books of all time and one I've enjoyed sharing with my oldest daughter and look forward to sharing with the younger ones, I was very intrigued by the title of this book. I began reading it with interest, and I was not disappointed. The author- Lorilee Craker- was adopted as a baby. She adopted her daughter as a baby from Korea. Throughout the book she compares her journey, her daughter's journey, Anne's journey, and even the personal journey of the author- Lucy Maud Montgomery- who was also an orphan. The comparisons bring tender moments, happy moments, and even tearful moments. And I loved the reading.

Review of Anne of Green Gables, My Daughter and MeFrom the book's description:

"Anne of Green Gables,” My Daughter, and Me is a witty romp through the classic novel; a visit to the magical shores of Prince Edward Island; and a poignant personal tale of love, faith, and loss.

And it all started with a simple question: “What’s an orphan?” The words from her adopted daughter, Phoebe, during a bedtime reading of Anne of Green Gables stopped Lorilee Craker in her tracks. How could Lorilee, who grew up not knowing her own birth parents, answer Phoebe’s question when she had wrestled all her life with feeling orphaned―and learned too well that not every story has a happy ending?

So Lorilee set off on a quest to find answers in the pages of the very book that started it all, determined to discover―and teach her daughter―what home, family, and belonging really mean. If you loved the poignancy of Orphan Train and the humor of Mennonite in a Little Black Dress, you will be captivated by “Anne of Green Gables,” My Daughter, and Me. It’s a beautiful memoir that deftly braids three lost girls’ stories together, speaks straight to the heart of the orphan in us all, and shows us the way home at last.

I love the writing style of Lorilee Craker. From the first moment, she drew me in to the stories she was telling. She writes with beautiful, descriptive words that can really help the reader to envision and relate to the story being told. I loved the idea of comparing and contrasting the four stories of four different orphans- three real people and one a beloved character in a well loved book.

The book is very well researched when it comes to both Anne's story- which I've also read and loved- and Lucy Maud Montgomery's story- which I was never aware of. I love how the stories are woven together. Reading the book has encouraged me to get acquainted with Anne with an "e" once again. I need to read her stories to my younger children who haven't yet heard them.

Anne of Green Gables, My Daughter and Me was at times humorous and at times very moving. Reading Lorilee's honest retelling of the emotions she's experienced- both as an adopted child growing up and as the mother of an adopted child was touching. But more than that, Lorilee brings in the story of our ultimate Father and the fact that we are all adopted and are truly loved.

This is a read I can definitely recommend. I give it 5 stars and a G for content. You can find the book on Amazon here.

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Review of Love's a Stage: a Hometown Romance by Rene Gutteridge and Cheryl McKay

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I love having a light, easy read romance for a vacation. During my recent vacation I've enjoyed Love's a Stage, a simple but fun Hometown Romance by Rene Gutteridge and Cheryl McKay.

Review of Love's a Stage: Christian fiction/romance

From the Book's Description:
Grad student and future marriage counselor Aly Brewster had a perfect childhood with perfect parents. Now she’s heading into her own perfect life: Finish her Master’s. Build a successful practice. Husband at twenty-six. But when her parents blindside her with the news they’re getting divorced, her perfect world shatters.

Actor Nick Armstrong has been in love with Aly since they met during freshman year. He’s happy to accept his assigned place in her Friend Zone because it lets him be close to her. But it’s been over five years—time to move on. Then the usually-unflappable Aly comes to him begging for help to save her parents’ marriage. Nick has the perfect plan: fake an engagement to each other to inspire her parents to fight to save their marriage. And who knows? It might trigger Aly’s feelings for him. But when Aly takes the ruse to the next level—planning a wedding in her parents’ backyard and hiring additional actors to play his family—enough is enough!

As the lines between acting and reality grow decidedly blurred, these two improvised fianc├ęs must decide: are they going to finish the play...or exit stage right. Alone.

I really enjoyed both characters. Nick and Aly were interesting and likable. There wasn't tons of character development. The book wasn't very deep or thought-provoking. But I did feel as if I got the chance to know the characters. There was a pretty good balance of action and character development.

The whole fake marriage plot is a little unbelievable, but the idea of a grown daughter wanting to save the failing marriage of her parents is believable. There are quite a few ideas and feelings throughout the story that really could be developed further but aren't in this light, easy read. It's a good one, though, even if it's not an extremely deep story line.

I give Love's a Stage 3.5 stars and a G rating for content. You can find the book on Amazon here.

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Review of The Atheist Who Didn't Exist by Andy Bannister

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I love a good, logical debate. Although the rules of logic sometimes escape me, and I'm often guilty of resorting to emotional retort, I can recognize a good, logical argument when I hear it. I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Atheist Who Didn't Exist by Andy Bannister. Often atheists accuse Christians of being the ones who aren't thinking, who aren't reasoning. But many of the arguments that atheists use just aren't logically sound. Andy Bannister does an excellent job bringing to light some of those arguments.

A review of The Atheist Who Didn't Exist by Andy Bannister

From the book's description:
An entertaining and enlightening poke at atheism by a popular speaker

Addressing some of the more popular atheist sound bites about the Christian faith, The Atheist Who Didn't Exist clears the space for a deeper and more honest discussion about the big questions of life.

Our culture now assumes that atheism is the default position--indeed, the only position for anyone who wishes to be seen as educated, contemporary, and urbane. In the media, atheism is usually portrayed as scientific and rational versus religion, which is seen as stuffy, outdated, and irrational.

Blending humor with serious thought, The Atheist Who Didn't Exist will help readers to think a little deeper about the popular claims of atheism. Whether the reader is a Christian who desires to be able to start a conversation with secular friends or simply an agnostic dissatisfied with some of the arguments that pass for serious thought, Andy Bannister shows that when it comes to the most important questions of life, we need to move beyond simplistic sound bites.

Although the book addresses logical fallacies and gets into some pretty deep water, it's written in an easy to read and understand way. There is a definite humorous undertone that lightens up the deeper discussion but doesn't take away from the rational arguments. Andy Bannister does a great job keeping readers engaged while still touching on some pretty serious thoughts in the contemplation of atheists.

The book is definitely written from a Christian worldview. However, it isn't at all preachy and it doesn't simply blast all atheists. Instead it seeks to open up a reasonable discussion about the prominent arguments that atheists use.

My only one complaint about the book really has to do with my own aging. The book is written with quite a few humorous asides added to footnotes- along with actual footnotes that document sources that are referenced. My poor old person eyes struggled to read those tiny footnotes, and I wished that the funny parts could have been written in regular print! Perhaps I'll have to look for a large print edition.

All that aside. I loved the book. It's one I want my teens to read as well because it so masterfully sheds light on some of the common atheist statements that are designed to make Christians- or other religious people- seem quite mindless. In a day and age where we read quick blurbs on social media, accept them, and go on, this book encourages real thinking.

I give The Atheist Who Didn't Exist 5 stars. You can find it on the Kregel website here or on Amazon here.

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Review of Joy:Poet, Seeker and the Woman Who Captivated C.S. Lewis by Abigail Santamaria

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I have to admit that this is a difficult review to write. I just finished reading Joy: Poet, Seeker and the Woman Who Captivated C.S. Lewis by Abigail Santamaria. It's the biography of Joy Davidman Gresham who became the wife of C.S. Lewis. It isn't difficult because the book was bad. On the contrary, it's an extremely well done biography, and I was absorbed in the story of Joy's life from the beginning. It's difficult because reading this biography confirms for me that even my spiritual heroes have feet of clay.

You see, I'm a black and white person. Even though I'm fallible, I want spiritual leaders who aren't. And reading this biography of Joy gave me the distinct impression that one of my favorite spiritual writers lived a rather messy life at times. Joy's life was most decidedly messy. And Jack's- C.S. Lewis's- wasn't always perfect either.

Review of a biography of Joy Lewis, wife of C.S. Lewis
From the book's description:

Joy Davidman is known, if she is known at all, as the wife of C. S. Lewis. Their marriage was immortalized in the film Shadowlands and Lewis’s memoir, A Grief Observed. Now, through extraordinary new documents as well as years of research and interviews, Abigail Santamaria brings Joy Davidman Gresham Lewis to the page in the fullness and depth she deserves.

A poet and radical, Davidman was a frequent contributor to the communist vehicle New Masses and an active member of New York literary circles in the 1930s and 40s. After growing up Jewish in the Bronx, she was an atheist, then a practitioner of Dianetics; she converted to Christianity after experiencing a moment of transcendent grace. A mother, a novelist, a vibrant and difficult and intelligent woman, she set off for England in 1952, determined to captivate the man whose work had changed her life.

Davidman became the intellectual and spiritual partner Lewis never expected but cherished. She helped him refine his autobiography, Surprised by Joy, and to write his novel Till We Have Faces.Their relationship—begun when Joy wrote to Lewis as a religious guide—grew from a dialogue about faith, writing, and poetry into a deep friendship and a timeless love story.

Abigail Santamaria does an excellent job examining the life of Joy Lewis. With many, many references to her extensive research, she guides readers through Joy's early life, her rocky first marriage, her conversion to Christianity, and her pursuing C.S. Lewis after being introduced to his books. The biography is one that is so compelling and well done that it drew me in as well as a fiction novel would have.

And, although I walked away with a little disappointment in a spiritual hero, I also acknowledge that we are all, at times, disappointments on our spiritual journeys. And I appreciate the author's willingness to delve into the story- not to make Joy or Jack heroes and not to villainize either of them either- but to present the facts as much as we can know them and to open the door to the life of Joy, the woman that C.S. Lewis came to deeply love.

This is an excellent biographical read. I give it 5 stars and a PG rating for content. You can find Joy on Amazon here.

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Review of Seaside Gifts by Gayle Roper

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I often read and review Love Inspired fiction. I enjoy many of these because they are light, easy reads and perfect for a relaxing read at the end of the day. Occasionally, they'll be too simple, and the characters aren't developed or the story seems pretty unbelievable. But, at times, I'll find one that- although short and simple- really has a great story line and compelling characters. Seaside Gifts falls into the latter category.

From the book's description:

Review of Seaside Gifts, Christian fiction by Gayle Roper

Nan Patterson has finally found her niche: operating a boardwalk gift shop in the quaint beachfront town of Seaside. Everything is perfect—until valuable items start just...showing up. At worst, they’ve been stolen and abandoned in her shop. At best, someone doesn’t realize they’ve lost them. Either way, Nan knows she’s out of her depth. Time to call in the local police.

Officer Rog Eastman has bigger worries than a bunch of misplaced treasures—but it is his job to help local shop owners. The fact that she’s adorable doesn’t even come into the equation. Especially since he’s sworn off women for the foreseeable future.

But there’s an imp at work in the background. Someone who knows exactly what these two people need: each other!

I found this light read really enjoyable. Nan and Rog are both interesting characters and are well developed, despite the fact that the book is short and sweet. The story line was really interesting- a slight mystery as well as a romance. The story was very believable as well.

The book has an inspirational message but is definitely not "preachy." I do like it that both of the main characters talk about their relationship with Christ and how that has guided their decisions.

I can definitely recommend this one if you're looking for a light, easy to read romance. I give it 4 stars and a G rating for content. You can find Seaside Gifts on Amazon here.

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Review of Cold As Ice by M.K. Gilroy

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Cold As Ice is the third in a series featuring detective Kristen Conner. I didn't read the first two. There were references to things that probably happened in previous books, but, mostly, this one seemed to be a separate story.

The book is a fast-paces mystery/suspense. Readers who enjoy that genre will probably enjoy the story line. The book wasn't a favorite for me, however.

The perspective in the book shifted frequently from first to third person, and I had some difficulty keeping up. The story had lots going on at once, and this also made it difficult to keep up. There was a good bit of action but not so much character development for some of the characters, so I found it difficult to really "connect" with them.

As always, I'll say that different books appeal to different people. You can check out the post on the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance blog here to read other reviews and opinions. You can also find the book on Amazon here.

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Cold as Ice
Sydney Lane Press
M.K. Gilroy


Mark won’t claim he has done it all in the world of publishing, but he has packed boxes, edited manuscripts, made sales calls, created marketing plans, directed design and illustration, started companies, consulted, agented the works of others, and written advertising and catalog copy. He’s authored, compiled, and ghost written books that have landed on an array of bestsellers lists and sold millions of copies. His first ghost writing project, The Wal-Mart Way, was done for Don Soderquist, Sam Walton’s longtime right-hand man.

In early 2012 he put on a new hat as a fiction author. His debut novel, Cuts Like a Knife, was released in April 2012 and was met with rave reviews from USA Today, Fresh Fiction, Publishers Weekly, and other leading national reviewers. His second novel, Every Breath You Take, second in the Kristen Conner Mystery Series, released in Fall 2012 to similar acclaim. Kristen Conner returns in Cold As Ice, which releases in Fall 2014.

Gilroy has extensive writing credits. He scripted and served as creative consultant for a two-hour training video that was honored with the Award of Excellence by the International Television Association. He has compiled and written close to fifty books and penned hundreds articles and curriculum pieces for a variety of periodicals and publishers.

Gilroy and his wife Amy reside in Brentwood, Tennessee. Their six children are Lindsey, Merrick, Ashley, Caroline, Bo, and Zachary—the youngest has now headed off for college, so he and Amy are officially empty nesters.


Detective Kristen Conner is back on a new murder case. She’s still fighting with her sister—and no surprise, someone new wants to kill her! He was a pillar in his Chicago neighborhood: popular school teacher, devoted father and husband, political activist on behalf of underprivileged children—and a master gardener who liked to plant flowers in his neighbor’s yards. What wasn’t to love about him? Who would want him dead?

When Detective Kristen Conner lands the case she knows from day one who the key suspect is. That’s simple. The person most likely to kill you is someone close that you know and love. But the wife? She was always at her husband’s side and just as passionate about his causes as he was. No way could this loving wife and mother of three be a killer. Right? Mix in her on-again, off-again relationship with FBI Agent Austin Reynolds, a quick trip to New York City where Kristen helps her media-star sister for a new apartment—only to discover the body of a man who appears to have been executed by a professional killer on a run through Central Park—and Kristen Conner is once again swept into a world of danger, intrigue, and a confusing love life.

What she doesn’t know just might kill her.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Cold as Ice, go HERE.

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