Friday, April 30, 2010

The Healer's Apprentice book trailer

I love fairy tales, especially anything and everything related to the Sleeping Beauty story, since that is my all-time favorite. Yesterday I read an interview with debut author Melanie Dickerson, who will see the release of her debut The Healer's Apprentice this fall. Here's a bit about the story:

When destiny sleeps, it can only be awakened by true love's kiss.

In this historical romance loosely based on the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale, a woodcutter’s daughter becomes the town healer’s apprentice. Rose’s job is to care for the sick and injured in Hagenheim Castle. But Rose gets sick at the sight of blood and is more suited to making up stories than sewing up wounds.

Lord Hamlin, the future ruler of the region, is injured and Rose must overcome her squeamishness to save him. He is everything that is noble and good, but loving him is forbidden, as he’s already betrothed to a mysterious woman in hiding.

With two noble-born brothers vying for her affections, Rose learns that the people of Hagenheim are not always who they seem, and her own heart can mislead her.

Here's the book trailer Melanie's publisher, Zondervan, had made for The Healer's Apprentice. I have to say I am quite impressed - this has to be one of the best, most elaborate book trailers that I've ever seen!

I for one can't wait to get my hands on a copy of this book come September!

The Back-up Plan

This is going to be a relatively short movie review, since it’s been a week since I went to see The Back-up Plan and just never got around to writing about it. My expectations weren’t too terribly high considering Alex O’Loughlin’s track record. I absolutely love the guy as the vampire detective Mick St. John in the all too short-lived series Moonlight. But then the TV show Three Rivers unceremoniously tanked, and I pray you don’t have friends like I do (here's looking at you, Lori!!!!!) who email you the trailer to movies like Feed (seriously, DO NOT LOOK IT UP UNLESS YOU WANT YOUR RETINAS SCARRED!!). And now apparently he’s in the Hawaii Five-O remake, and seriously isn’t that the one show the world has been waiting to see remade? Seriously. *sigh* But in spite of his rather spotty track record I love the guy and really would like to see his career succeed. I mean look at that movie poster – he’s adorable. And if this film is any indication, from the way he handled the comedy in this movie, O’Loughlin could well be the “new” Matthew McConaughey (think The Wedding Planner or How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days). Here, O'Loughlin gets the chance to prove that he can be really, really funny, and honestly he gets bonus points for successfully pulling off the whole "I'm a farmer/cheese maker" aspect of his role. 

Besides being a potential break-out vehicle for O'Loughlin, The Back-up Plan is also a return to form, I think, for Jennifer Lopez. Her romantic comedies are really the only films of hers that I have truly enjoyed, and it’s been ages since she’s appeared in something that was just fun, plain and simple. I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen a movie where I’ve laughed so hard I cried multiple times throughout the film. The movie is just chock-full of outrageous, crazy, laugh-out-loud scenarios. Now, I will say that some people will find some of the humor a bit crass – this is a PG-13 movie so take that rating into consideration if you are a conservative film viewer. Yes, J-Lo and Alex go about the whole get together and make a family thing in a completely backwards way, but that said their fast-track attempt to adjust to the idea of parenthood makes for some comedic gold mixed with a few heart-warming moments, I'm telling you!

As a quick side note, it was great to see Tom Bosley on-screen as the romantic interest for J-Lo’s grandmother, but goodness it was a shock to see him look so old!! I guess it has been a while since his days on Murder, She Wrote, LOL! Anthony Anderson was also hilarious as the playground dad who befriends Alex’s character and imparts his insight into the “joys” of parenting.

I needed to laugh, hard, when I went to see this movie, and it delivered in spades. So, if you've seen The Back-up Plan I'd love to hear what you thought of it! I really hope Alex O'Loughlin gets the opportunity to appear in some more big-screen romantic comedies since he shows a nice comic touch. Plus he's just yummy, just sayin'. :)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

2010 Christy Award Nominees

The 2010 Christy Award nominees were announced today, so I thought I'd share the news here. The award was established in 1999 to honor excellence in Christian fiction (you can read more about the history here).

  • Breach of Trust by DiAnn Mills • Tyndale House Publishers 
  • How Sweet It Is by Alice J. Wisler • Bethany House Publishers: a Division of Baker Publishing Group
  • Stand-In Groom by Kaye Dacus • Barbour Publishing 
  • Who Do I Talk To? by Neta Jackson • Thomas Nelson 
  • The Hope of Refuge by Cindy Woodsmall • WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group 
  • Daisy Chain by Mary DeMuth • Zondervan 
  • June Bug by Chris Fabry • Tyndale House Publishers 
  • The Passion of Mary-Margaret by Lisa Samson • Thomas Nelson 
  • Veiled Freedom by Jeanette Windle • Tyndale House Publishers 
  • The Familiar Stranger by Christina Berry • Moody Publishers 
  • Fireflies in December by Jennifer Erin Valent • Tyndale House Publishers 
  • Scared by Tom Davis • David C. Cook 
  • A Flickering Light by Jane Kirkpatrick • WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group 
  • Though Waters Roar by Lynn Austin • Bethany House Publishers: a Division of Baker Publishing Group 
  • The Swiss Courier by Tricia Goyer & Mike Yorkey • Revell Books: a Division of Baker Publishing Group
  • Beyond This Moment by Tamera Alexander • Bethany House Publishers: a Division of Baker Publishing Group 
  • A Bride in the Bargain by Deeanne Gist • Bethany House Publishers: a Division of Baker Publishing Group 
  • The Inheritance by Tamera Alexander • Thomas Nelson 
  • The Silent Governess by Julie Klassen • Bethany House Publishers: a Division of Baker Publishing Group 
  • Intervention by Terri Blackstock • Zondervan 
  • Lost Mission by Athol Dickson • Howard Books: a Division of Simon & Schuster 
  • The Night Watchman by Mark Mynheir • WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group 
  • By Darkness Hid by Jill Williamson • Marcher Lord Press 
  • The Enclave by Karen Hancock • Bethany House Publishers: a Division of Baker Publishing Group 
  • Valley of the Shadow by Tom Pawlik • Tyndale House Publishers 
  • Beautiful by Cindy Martinusen-Coloma • Thomas Nelson 
  • The Blue Umbrella by Mike Mason • David C. Cook 
  • North! or Be Eaten by Andrew Peterson • WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group
The winners will be announced in a ceremony on June 26, 2010 in St. Louis. Congrats to all the nominees, but a special big congrats to my dear friend Kaye, nominated in the Contemporary Romance category! :)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Masterpiece Mystery preview

I believe I linked to a page on the PBS website where this preview was embedded a while back, but it recently came to my attention that PBS uploaded the 2010 Masterpiece Mystery preview to YouTube. Enjoy clips from Foyle's War, Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, Inspector Lewis, Wallander, and the new modern-day Sherlock.

Hamlet on Great Performances tonight!

I am really, really late in promoting this, but better late than never, right? DAVID TENNANT stars in Shakespeare's Hamlet tonight on Great Performances (check your local PBS station for times).

Tennant + Shakespeare = bliss. :-) Here's a short video with some preview clips from the film and an interview with Patrick Stewart:

Monday, April 26, 2010

Chuck vs. Hart to Hart

I love Chuck. Love, love, LOVE Chuck. I also have an affinity for murder-mystery shows like Murder, She Wrote, The Scarecrow and Mrs. King, and Hart to Hart - so when I discover that Chuck is spoofing Hart to Hart, well, that's just to awesome for words. Enjoy this clip from "Chuck vs. the Role Models," coming 5/3:

And here are the original Hart to Hart credits:

Review: In Harm's Way by Irene Hannon

In Harm’s Way (Heroes of Quantico #3)
By: Irene Hannon
Publisher: Revell
ISBN: 978-0-8007-33124

About the book:

FBI Special Agent Nick Bradley has seen his share of kooks during his fifteen years with the Bureau. But Rachel Sutton is an enigma. She seems normal when she shows up at his office – until she produces a tattered Raggedy Ann doll and tells him about a strange feeling of terror it gives her when she touches it. Nick dismisses her, only to stumble across a link between the doll and an abducted child, setting in motion a chain of events that uncovers startling connections – and puts Rachel’s life on the line.

Filled with palpable suspense and heartwarming romance, In Harm’s Way is the final installment of the thrilling Heroes of Quantico series.


When Rachel Sutton pulls a battered Raggedy Ann doll from a snowdrift, she never expected to be assailed by a feeling of overwhelming terror. Not one to believe in psychics, but unable to ignore the fear that overcomes her every time she touches the doll, Rachel takes a leap of faith and delivers the toy to the local FBI office. At her wit’s end, and even though she’s convinced she’ll be mocked and dismissed as a crazy, Rachel’s sure that entrusting the doll to the FBI will allow her to move on with her life. Nick Bradley, a veteran agent, has met his share of whacky tipsters, but Rachel’s levelheadedness and apparently genuine terror raise enough questions in his mind that he’s unable to simply dispose of the filthy toy and write off Rachel’s reaction as some sort of bizarre coincidence. When the doll turns out to be the only clue in a kidnapping case gone cold, and it’s revealed that Rachel has an unexpected tie to the missing child, suddenly Nick’s intriguing tipster is the target of unwanted media attention. As the news story spreads, Rachel becomes the only threat to a kidnapper desperate to cover her tracks, and Nick must work overtime to protect Rachel, the investigation’s best lead and the only woman who’s ever invaded his heart.

I was so happy to finally read Nick’s story. The glimpses of his character in the first two books of the series marked him as an intriguing guy, and I had great fun watching Hannon turn the tables on him as he enters the spotlight and becomes the hero falling hard for a woman at the center of an investigation. Hannon writes the male point of view extremely well, and Nick is her best hero yet – a dreamy combination of toughness and sensitivity. The faith element was also well-integrated into the storyline. I loved the fact that Rachel wasn’t a stranger to the idea of God, she just didn’t see the need to cultivate a relationship with Him. Also, it was nice to see a female lead exploring faith – more often than not in CBA fiction it is the hero who learns faith in a story, so I really appreciated how Hannon shook up this formula with this novel. Also, Rachel’s reaction to the doll and how others respond to it added a unique element to the storyline.

Hannon concludes her Heroes of Quantico series with a well-plotted thriller and a spectacular romance, earning In Harm’s Way the top spot in my favorites ranking of the trilogy. Every aspect of this story clicked, working together on all levels from pacing, plotting and characterization to deliver one engaging, un-put-downable read. While I couldn’t help but favorably compare the first two Quantico books to Dee Henderson’s O’Malley series, which has long been a “gold standard” in romantic suspense in my view, this book blew past the competition. Hannon is clearly on track to lay claim to the title of “Queen of Romantic Suspense” in the CBA market. In Harm’s Way is the perfect blend of suspense, balanced with just the right touch of romance between two leads that have so much chemistry the sparks practically fly from the page. Masterfully plotted and crackling with romantic tension, In Harm’s Way delivers the goods – I can not WAIT for Hannon’s next book!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

In Harm's Way - full review coming soon!

Due to a couple of things coming up this week/weekend, I haven't quite been able to finish the third novel in Irene Hannon's Heroes of Quantico series and get a review written. However, I can tell you that with this installment, Hannon has completely outdone herself - this is my favorite story (and favorite romance) of the series! My full review will be up in the next day or so (gonna do my best!), but till then, here's a bit about the story to wet your appetite. :)

FBI Special Agent Nick Bradley has seen his share of kooks during his fifteen years with the Bureau. But Rachel Sutton is an enigma. She seems normal when she shows up at his office - until she produces a tattered Raggedy Ann doll and tells him about a strange feeling of terror it gives her when she touches it. Nick dismisses her, only to stumble across a link between the doll and an abducted child, setting in motion a chain of events that uncovers startling connections - and puts Rachel's life on the line.

Filled with palpable suspense and heartwarming romance, In Harm's Way is the final installment in the thrilling Heroes of Quantico series.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Upcoming movies edition, part two

I figure it's been a couple of months since I've spotlighted upcoming films I'm interested in seeing in theaters, so another trailers post is long overdue. :)

First up is The Back-up Plan, starring Jennifer Lopez and Alex O'Loughlin (YUMMY!! Sorry, had to get that out of my system...). I don't mind Lopez in the right movie (she stars in one of my all-time favorite romantic comedies after all, The Wedding Planner), but O'Loughlin - love him. It's all that stupid show Moonlight's fault. This one opens tomorrow.

Coming 5/7 is Iron Man 2, and this one I cannot wait to see people! I love me some Robert Downey Jr. Enough said. :)

The following week brings two very different movies I'm interested in seeing. First up is Robin Hood - now, I was just telling my friend Kaye the other day that I wasn't all that excited about this movie for some reason, but that was before I just discovered this trailer online. Russell Crowe, Matthew Macfadyen, Cate Blanchett, AND Mark Strong?! Now I have to say I'm excited... :)

I posted the trailer for Letters to Juliet a couple of months ago, but I'm so excited about this movie I think it's worth sharing again. It's opening opposite Robin Hood and I'm pretty sure it will get clobbered at the box office opposite a Ridley Scott pic but doesn't it look amazing?! It just doesn't get any classier than Vanessa Redgrave, does it? And oh my do I love Christopher Egan. :) Can't wait!

And finally, and I have to admit I feel a little silly admitting I want to see this, we have Prince of Persia: Sands of Time opening the last Friday in May. Not only does it have a ridiculously long, Pirates of the Caribbean-esque name, but Jake Gyllenhaal plays the title character and never fails to crack me up when I see this preview. This movie also features Brit Gemma Arterton, who has appeared in Lost in Austen, Tess of the D'Urbervilles, and Quantum of Solace (as the rather unfortunately named Strawberry Fields, LOL).

Well, since that takes us through the end of May I think that's enough movie excitement for this installment... :)

Sharpe's Peril

Woo-hoo, maybe I will actually catch up on my blogging... :) Here's the summary of Sharpe's Peril from the Masterpiece Classic website:
Colonel Richard Sharpe (Sean Bean, The Lord of the Rings) may have a nose for mischief, but his only interest now is returning to England. But before he goes, he is prevailed on for one last, seemingly straightforward duty — safe transport of some property across central India. The "property" in question turns out to be Marie-Angelique (Beatrice Rosen, 2012), who Sharpe quickly pegs as petulant, spoiled and selfish. The journey, through more than 600 miles of hostile territory, will prove to be riddled with surprises and rebellion and bring Sharpe, his comrade-in-arms Patrick Harper (Daragh O'Malley) and their ragtag troops into a dark conspiracy and one climactic, perilous battle. Sharpe's Peril is based on the characters created by novelist Bernard Cornwell.
This installment in the l-o-n-g running Sharpe film series picks up shortly after the events of Sharpe's Challenge (my review). Sharpe and his friend Patrick Harper are still trying to get home from India so they can officially retire. Given that this is Sharpe's life accomplishing that is a lot more difficult than it sounds. *sigh* I have to think that Sharpe must sometimes really regret saving Wellington's life back in the day, since it's commissions or recommendations from the duke that are always getting him into trouble. ;-)

I'm not going to go through the story in great detail, honestly I just don't care enough about this series. This series has been going on for so long every film follows pretty much the same essential pattern. Sharpe finds himself on some unwanted mission, discovers traitors, has love/hate relationships with every woman he meets, etc. and etc. While I missed the presence of a charismatic villain (like Toby Stephens in Sharpe's Challenge), since I'd never seen this movie before it was interesting to see a a new storyline and new (to the series) faces in the cast.

Raza Jaffrey plays Lance Naik Singh, an honorable native soldier who stops the attempted rape of an Indian woman when Sharpe & Co. reach a fortress that's been mysteriously ambushed. Jaffrey played Zafar Younis in seasons 5 and 6 of the British spy drama MI-5. I have to mention Luke Ward-Wilkinson who played Beauclere, not because he's a familiar face but because he looked like he was about ten. It was very random. He did a pretty decent job playing a boy trying to be a man, wanting desperately to follow in his less-than-honorable father's soldiering footsteps. I did like seeing how Sharpe sort of took the young soldier under his wing (good job Sean Bean! *g*). Steve Spiers is a more familiar face - he played the soldier Wormwood, and he's appeared in everything from Doctor Who to Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. Velibor Topic (isn't that a great name?) plays the treacherous Dragomirov. I recognized him from his appearance in Kingdom of Heaven as Almaric.

Well that's that...I promise to do my best to return to more inspired Masterpiece blogging now that I've slogged my way through the two Sharpe entries in this season. ;-)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Sharpe's Challenge

Since the Masterpiece Classic season is about to draw to a close, I really need to catch up on my blogging. *sigh* I'll blame the two Sharpe films - I've never been that excited about the film series to begin with, plus I watched Sharpe's Challenge years ago when it originally premiered on BBC America. However, these films are often fun showcases for favorite and familiar actors, so let's discuss for a bit. Here's the summary of this episode from the PBS website:
War weary and retired, Colonel Richard Sharpe (Sean Bean, The Lord of the Rings) is summoned by the Duke of Wellington to find a missing agent, but he resolutely declines. When he learns the MIA officer is his old friend Sergeant Major Patrick Harper (Daragh O'Malley), fighter and free spirit Sharpe quickly reconsiders, and begins a perilous adventure amidst rebellious forces in British India. Sharpe's seemingly impossible mission: storm an impenetrable fortress, rescue the daughter of a British general and quell the rebellion. With the odds stacked against him, Sharpe confronts shifting allegiances, incompetent leadership within the British troops, the conniving seduction of Madhuvanthi (Padma Lakshmi, Top Chef) and an explosive confrontation with an old foe. Has Sharpe finally found one challenge he won't be able to conquer? Sharpe's Challenge is based on the characters created by novelist Bernard Cornwell.
The Sharpe films have always reminded me of my beloved Hornblower film series starring the even more beloved Ioan Gruffudd in the title role. I've got to say I always preferred the nautical Hornblower films more - Gruffudd trumps Bean (sorry Sean!) and that series quit while it's ahead in my view, while the Sharpe series currently stands at a staggering sixteen films.

I really can't think of an actor better suited to play the rough-and-tumble soldier, honorable, and *of course* a hit with every woman he meets Richard Sharpe than Sean Bean. He's just got the look for it, know what I mean? In this film, he's pulled out of retirement by the Duke of Wellington. This rank-and-file soldier earned an "in" with the illustrious Wellington when he saved the duke's life years earlier. Wellington is played by Hugh Fraser, who is always fun to see. I became a big fan of Fraser after watching him play Captain Hastings opposite David Suchet's Hercule Poirot in the long running mystery series. Sharpe agrees to return to India when he discovers that missing British agent Wellington wants to find is his long-time friend Harper (Daragh O'Malley). Now's as good a time as any to mention the setting, which is one of this movie's strongest points. Colonial India is a setting you don't see a whole lot of in period dramas, and that fact alone makes for a refreshing change of pace. The British attitude toward the native Indian soldiers (and vice-versa) also seems to be pretty realistically and doesn't shy away from the prejudices and racial tensions of the day.

Dodd, the villain of this piece is played by the deliciously yummy Toby Stephens. :) I love it when Stephens plays a romantic hero (as he did so memorably in Jane Eyre), but let's face it, the guy specializes in villains (Prince John in Robin Hood, Gustav Graves in Die Another Day). Stephens has a real knack for making bad appealing, plus he's quite easy on the eyes. Just sayin'. The experience of watching Sean Bean face off against Toby Stephens is enough to make this movie worthwhile on that point alone. *wink*

When this film first aired in 2006, I completely didn't appreciate the fact that it features Lucy Brown as one of the heroines - better known now as Claudia/Jenny in the television show Primeval. I definitely prefer Brown's later role. Here she exists as little more than a romantic option for Sharpe, so there's not much in the script for her to work with.

So that's about it...long time fans of the film series or the novels are sure to enjoy this installment in the series. It's a decent little adventure flick - not great, not bad, I'm just rather ambivalent about the whole series I guess. :) Thoughts?

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Last Song

Warning: This post may be a sign of the apocalypse. I went to see a movie with Miley Cyrus in it this weekend, and I didn't hate it. Proceed with caution.

I joined a friend on a whim Saturday to see The Last Song, based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks (which I haven't read BTW). I hadn't planned on seeing the movie in theaters for a couple of reasons: 1) it's based on a Sparks novel, and something emotionally draining and/or devastating always happens in his stories and 2) it stars Miley Cyrus, and I was sure she'd annoy the living daylights out of me. A few random observations...

I have to own to being quite surprised that I enjoyed the movie from start to finish. It's not going to set the world on fire by any stretch of the imagination, or go on any "best-of" lists (probably...I mean I'm sure it will be on someone's list *wink*). However, all things considered I really did enjoy it in spite of the requisite emotionally devastating storyline aspect and Cyrus's "acting." And you know, I'll be honest and own that Cyrus really wasn't that bad, she delivered what the role of Ronnie required of her (being a moody teenager with daddy issues) so it worked for me.

One of the highlights of the movie was the relationship between Ronnie's little brother Jonah (played by Bobby Coleman) and their father, Steve (played by Greg Kinnear). I generally just like Kinnear anyway, but put the two of them together as father & son and they made quite the hilarious pair. I loved the scenes where they observed the developing relationship between Ronnie and Will (Liam Hemsworth). Speaking of Will, Hemsworth is a doll, an absolute doll. And the first kiss he shares with Ronnie is fantastic. It definitely gets (at the very least) an honorable mention on my Favorite Screen Kisses list. Speaking of the FSK list, I really should update it for this blog sometime...I mean after all, I haven't revisited the topic since 2007. I've watched a lot of movies since then, just sayin'... :) If you have any suggestions for what should make the list, throw 'em out in the comments...

I am a total Daddy's Girl, so Ronnie's relationship with her father - particularly the point they reach by the end of the movie - pushed all the right buttons and really got to me. I actually thought Cyrus handled her character's maturation pretty well. So yeah, to finish things up, The Last Song was a surprisingly enjoyable flick. Loved the scenery, and I really enjoyed the music (you can check out the songs here, everything from OneRepublic to Edwin McCain). Not a bad way to spend an afternoon in my book... :)

The Sword by Bryan M. Litfin

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

The Sword
Crossway Books (April 30, 2010)

Bryan M. Litfin


Bryan Litfin was born in Dallas, but lived in Memphis, Tennessee and Oxford, England, where he discovered that the house of his favorite author, J.R.R. Tolkien, was only five doors down from his own. Bryan still enjoys epic adventure stories, as well as historical fiction. However, most of his reading these days is taken up by academia.

After marrying his high school sweetheart, Carolyn (a true Southern belle), he went on to study for a master’s degree in historical theology at Dallas Theological Seminary. From there he went to the University of Virginia, taking a PhD in the field of ancient church history. He is the author of Getting to Know the Church Fathers: An Evangelical Introduction (Brazos, 2007), as well as several scholarly articles and essays.

In 2002, Bryan took a position on the faculty at Moody Bible Institute in downtown Chicago, where he is a professor in the Theology Department. He teaches courses in theology, church history, and Western civilization from the ancient and medieval periods.

On the morning of January 6, 2007, Bryan woke up with an epiphany. Having finished writing his primer on the ancient church, he had the idea of trying his hand at fiction. The thought occurred to him that the writer of speculative fiction typically has two options. He can create an imaginary land like Middle Earth (which offers great creative freedom but is unrealistic), or he can delve into genuine history (which is realistic, yet limted to what ‘actually occurred.’) However, if a writer were to create a future world as in the Chiveis trilogy, it could be both realistic and creatively unlimited.

This little dream stayed in Bryan’s mind while he researched how to write fiction, and also researched the European landscape where the novel would be set. He planned a trip to the story locations, then went there in the summer with a buddy from grad school. Bryan and Jeff rented a Beemer and drove all over Europe from the Alps to the Black Forest with a video camera in hand. With that epic setting fresh in his mind, Bryan returned home and began to write.

Today Bryan lives in downtown Wheaton in a Victorian house built in 1887. He is blessed by God to be married to Carolyn, and to be the father of two amazing children, William, 11, and Anna, 9. For recreation Bryan enjoys basketball, traveling, and hiking anywhere there are mountains (which means getting far away from the Midwest – preferably to his beloved Smokies).


This novel of page-turning action and adventure poses the question, "If a society had no knowledge of Christianity, and then a Bible were discovered, what would happen?"

Four hundred years after a deadly virus and nuclear war destroyed the modern world, a new and noble civilization emerges. In this kingdom, called Chiveis, snowcapped mountains provide protection, and fields and livestock provide food. The people live medieval-style lives, with almost no knowledge of the "ancient" world. Safe in their natural stronghold, the Chiveisi have everything they need, even their own religion. Christianity has been forgotten—until a young army scout comes across a strange book.

With that discovery, this work of speculative fiction takes readers on a journey that encompasses adventure, romance, and the revelation of the one true God. Through compelling narrative and powerful character development, The Sword speaks to God's goodness, his refusal to tolerate sin, man's need to bow before him, and the eternality and power of his Word. Fantasy and adventure readers will be hooked by this first book in a forthcoming trilogy.

Visit the book website at The Sword to see amazing videos and a wealth of information about the trilogy!

If you would like to read the first chapter of The Sword, go to HERE

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Review: Too Close to Home by Lynette Eason

Too Close to Home (Women of Justice #1)
By: Lynette Eason
Publisher: Revell
ISBN: 978-0-8007-3369-8

About the book:

When missing teens begin turning up dead in a small Southern town, the FBI sends in Special Agent Samantha Cash to help crack the case. Her methods are invisible, and she never quits until the case is closed.

Homicide detective Connor Wolfe has his hands full. His relationship with his headstrong daughter is in a tailspin, and the string of unsolved murders has the town demanding answers. Connor is running out of ideas – and time.

Samantha joins Connor in a race against the clock to save the next victim. And the killer starts to get personal.

Too Close to Home ratchets up the suspense with each page even as love blossoms in the face of danger. Read this one with the lights on!


Connor Wolfe is a man consumed by his work as a homicide detective. Catching bad guys is what he was born to do, and it’s a job that’s much easier than trying to repair his fractured relationship with Jenna, the teenage daughter that blames him for her mother’s death four years earlier. In the middle of a high profile investigation seeking a serial offender who is snatching teenage girls that turn up dead several months later, Connor calls in FBI reinforcements. One thing all of the victims have in common is their internet savvy and love of texting, and Samantha Cash is an expert at unraveling the invisible threads of wireless communication. Connor is instantly intrigued by Samantha and admires her intensity and work ethic, but his family baggage and antipathy towards her faith stand in the way of developing a relationship. Just when Connor starts to open up to the idea of faith, the killer’s attacks get personal, and suddenly it’s Samantha and Jenna who are targets. Samantha and Connor find themselves in a race against time to prevent more teenage girls from becoming victims, but can they succeed before the killer removes one of them from the investigation?

Too Close to Home is the first book I’ve read by Eason, and I’m impressed with her ability to deliver a page-turning, realistic plot. Many times suspense novels can be incredibly well-written, but the storyline is just a little too far-fetched to really drive the threat against the characters home. Not so with Connor and Samantha’s story. Missing teens and internet predators fill the news all too often, and with an average town as the novel’s backdrop, Eason delivers a story that’s compelling because the drama has a sadly familiar ring to it. Eason’s strength for careful plotting really shines in this novel. Each event, each threat, each action scene layers on the suspense and will keep you turning pages to find out what happens next. Similar to a television crime show, no scene is wasted, with the added benefit that since the story unfolds in novel form Eason gives the reader more in-depth detail and character development.

Character-wise, I loved reading about Connor’s struggles as a single father, fighting to relate to a rebellious teenage daughter. Occasionally, though, Connor’s voice lacked the strong, masculine presence I look for when reading romantic suspense – some other recent reads have a bit of a better handle on the male point of view IMO. However, I thought Jenna’s teenage rebelliousness was well portrayed. I also really loved Samantha’s relationship with her sister, Jamie, and how she has to work through the guilt and responsibility she’s carried for her sibling for over ten years. Their relationship was a highlight of the novel and I look forward to reading more of Jamie’s story in book #2. The biggest strength of this book is its suspense-filled, precision-crafted plot. With a little polish to male point of view and some fine-tuning to the occasionally clunky dialogue, I only see this series getting better. I look forward to Eason’s next book. She’s a refreshingly realistic voice in romantic suspense!

Small Island premieres tomorrow on Masterpiece

I'm very curious about this program since it features several of my favorite actors. Here's a bit about the story and a preview:
Small Island premieres Sunday, April 18, 2010 on MASTERPIECE CLASSIC. When Hortense (Naomie Harris) and her husband Gilbert (David Oyelowo) leave Jamaica for the promised land of post war Britain, their dreams are tested by hard realities. In the small-minded country, their saving grace is Queenie (Ruth Wilson, Jane Eyre), married to the kind but dull Bernard (Benedict Cumberbatch, The Last Enemy). Bonded by high hopes and broken dreams, these four lives fuse together in a hopeful story based on Andrea Levy's award-winning novel. (Two episodes; 90 minutes each; TV-MA, S)*

*Apparently this program contains some adult content so be aware of that if you're watching with kids or something!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Review: The Eyeless by Lance Parkin

By: Lance Parkin
Publisher: BBC Books
ISBN: 978-1-846-07562-9

About the book:

At the heart of the ruined city of Arcopolis is the Fortress. It’s a brutal structure placed here by one of the sides in a devastating intergalactic war that’s long ended. Fifteen years ago, the entire population of the planet was killed in an instant by the weapon housed deep in the heart of the Fortress. Now only the ghosts remain.
The Doctor arrives, and determines to fight his way past the Fortress’s automatic defences and put the weapon beyond use. But he soon discovers he’s not the only person in Arcopolis. What is the true nature of the weapon? Is the planet really haunted? Who are the Eyeless? And what will happen if they get to the weapon before the Doctor?

The Doctor has a fight on his hands. And this time he’s all on his own.


The Eyeless is the first Doctor Who novel I’ve read that features the Doctor in a solo capacity, sans any of his usually ever-present, beloved companions. This lack of a readily available sounding board for the Doctor really changes the tone and dynamic of the story, and it took me a bit longer than normal to really “get into” this novel. But the payoff was worth it. Since the Doctor is traveling alone, there’s no outlet for his manic energy to focus on, no one to listen to his rapid-fire dialogue and brilliant deductions. Parkin has crafted a darker, introspective tale that forces the Doctor to come to terms with not only his “single” state, if you will, but also the painful, buried memory of the fact that he is the last of his race. The tone and pace of The Eyeless is reminiscent of the excellent episode “Midnight” from series four – which, now that I think about it, served as a nice precursor to the direction the Doctor takes after that season finale. For the Doctor, losing friends, or having them simply move on, has reached a point where he *thinks* the pain is greater than the payoff. This book also recalls the later special The Waters of Mars, since both storylines deal with insular groups of people that come to be threatened by an apparently overwhelming and misunderstood outside force. How each group of people in these episodes and this novel deal with the threat presented to them provides a fascinating and chilling look at how tightly focused social dynamics play out under extreme, life-threatening pressure. Though this book had a bit of a slow start, Parkin’s done a solid job exploring the Doctor’s personality and letting the reader catch a glimpse of how his brilliant mind works. This is a worthwhile read for fans of David Tennant’s tenure as the Doctor.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Sworn to Protect by DiAnn Mills

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Sworn To Protect
Tyndale House (April 2010)

DiAnn Mills


Award-winning author, DiAnn Mills, launched her career in 1998 with the publication of her first book. Currently she has over forty books in print and has sold more than a million copies.
DiAnn believes her readers should “Expect an Adventure.” DiAnn Mills is a fiction writer who combines an adventuresome spirit with unforgettable characters to create action-packed novels.

Six of her anthologies have appeared on the CBA Best Seller List. Three of her books have won the distinction of Best Historical of the Year by Heartsong Presents. Five of her books have won placements through American Christian Fiction Writer’s Book of the Year Awards 2003 – 2007, and she is the recipient of the Inspirational Reader’s Choice award for 2005 and 2007. She was a Christy Awards finalist in 2008.

DiAnn is a founding board member for American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Inspirational Writers Alive, Romance Writers of America’s Faith, Hope and Love, and Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. DiAnn is also a mentor for Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writer’s Guild.

She lives in sunny Houston, Texas. DiAnn and her husband have four adult sons and are active members of Metropolitan Baptist Church.


Border Patrol Agent Danika Morales sends illegal immigrants back to Mexico; a job she's paid dearly for. Her husband, Toby, was murdered two years ago trying to help and his murder's never been solved. Now a string of attacks and arrests leads her to believe that someone from McAllen profits from sneaking undocumented immigrants into the country and somehow this illegal activity is tied to her husband, Toby's death.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Sworn To Protect, go HERE.

Watch the book trailer video:

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Yet another Who video

My friend Ruth sent me the link to this Doctor Who video on Facebook, and the title is very appropriate because quite frankly, if you're as big a fan of David Tennant's Doctor as the two of us, his regeneration was gut-wrenching, to say the least. ;-)

Series 5 can't come fast enough to suit me. Less than a week, woo-hoo!!!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Wildflowers of Terezin by Robert Elmer

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Wildflowers of Terezin
Abingdon Press (April 2010)

Robert Elmer


Robert Elmer is a former pastor, reporter and as copywriter who now writes from he home he shares with his wife Ronda in northern Idaho. He is the author of over fifty books, including eight contemporary novels for the adult Christian audience and several series for younger readers. Combined, his books have sold more than half a million copies worldwide. Like his popular "Young Underground" youth series, Wildflowers of Terezin was inspired by stories Robert heard from his Denmark-born parents and family. When he's not sailing or enjoying the outdoors, Robert often travels the country speaking to school and writers groups.


When nurse Hanne Abrahamsen impulsively shields Steffen Petersen from a nosy Gestapo agent, she’s convinced the Lutheran pastor is involved in the Danish Underground. Nothing could be further from the truth.

But truth is hard to come by in the fall of 1943, when Copenhagen is placed under Martial Law and Denmark’s Jews—including Hanne—suddenly face deportation to the Nazi prison camp at Terezin, Czechoslovakia. Days darken and danger mounts. Steffen’s faith deepens as he takes greater risks to protect Hanne. But are either of them willing to pay the ultimate price for their love?

To read the first chapter of Wildflowers of Terezin, go HERE.

Review: Ghosts of India by Mark Morris

By: Mark Morris
Publisher: BBC Books
ISBN: 978-1-846-07559-9

About the book:

India in 1947 is a country in the grip of chaos – a country torn apart by internal strife. When the Doctor and Donna arrive in Calcutta, they are instantly swept up in violent events.
Barely escaping with their lives, they discover that the city is rife with tales of “half-made men,” who roam the streets at night and steal people away. These creatures, it is said, are as white as salt and have only shadows where their eyes should be.

With help from India’s great spiritual leader, Mohandas “Mahatma” Gandhi, the Doctor and Donna set out to investigate these rumours.

What is the real truth behind the “half-made men”? Why is Gandhi’s role in history under threat? And has an ancient, all-powerful god of destruction really come back to wreak his vengeance upon the Earth?


It’s been a while since I’ve read any Doctor Who novels, but with the arrival of Series 5 and a new Doctor later this week on BBC America, I thought the time was right to delve into some Who-related fiction. Ghosts of India is the first novel I’ve read featuring the Doctor (as portrayed by the inimitable David Tennant) and the irrepressible, no-nonsense Donna (Catherine Tate). The Doctor inadvertently brings Donna to India in 1947, a dangerous time for sight-seeing. With Britain about to withdraw, the country is a veritable powder keg, ready to explode as rival factions jockey for power and position. And of course, the country’s dense population and tense political climate is the perfect cover for an alien intent on human harvesting. I absolutely love the Doctor Who episodes that take place in some historical time period. The only element that makes those episodes better than the norm is when the Doctor gets to interact with actual historical figures. This book succeeds on all counts. The Doctor’s scenes with Gandhi are priceless, especially since it’s so rare to have the Doctor really and truly bowled over by a member of the human race. Speaking of the Doctor, Morris absolutely nails Tennant’s mannerisms and speech patterns. The Doctor’s manic energy and passion are really well captured on the page, as is his relationship with Donna. The best of friends, the Doctor and Donna have a truly unique, special relationship and I was overjoyed to see that Morris captures their friendship, right down to their constant good-natured snarking and sarcasm. Ghosts of India would make an excellent episode of the television show. And in hindsight, having viewed the spectacular finale of series 4 several times, as well as the journey the Doctor’s character takes following those “game changing” events, Morris’ portrayal of the Doctor/Donna relationship and the Doctor’s closing words are especially poignant. This novel fits well within the mythology of the Doctor Who universe, and is definitely one of my favorite novel portrayals of David Tennant’s Doctor. Recommended.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Review: Million Dollar Baby by Amy Patricia Meade

Million Dollar Baby (A Marjorie McClelland Mystery #1)
By: Amy Patricia Meade
Publisher: Midnight Ink
ISBN: 0-7387-0860-7

About the book:

Successful young mystery writer Marjorie McClelland leads a solitary, comfortable life in the quiet post-Prohibition town of Ridgebury, Connecticut – that is, until Creighton Ashcroft, a British heir with time and money to burn, purchase a deserted mansion on the outskirts of town. Creighton craftily arranges an intimate meeting with Marjorie, but his romantic hopes are dashed when the two of them stumble across a body while strolling through the garden of his new estate. To complicate matters further, the handsome detective assigned to the case catches Marjorie’s attention – and Creighton’s suspicious eye. Determined to solve the mystery of the mansion’s sordid past, the unique sleuthing trio soon find themselves caught up in a web of treachery, betrayal, and murder.


Marjorie McClelland lives a quiet life in Ridgebury, a small town – think Jessica Fletcher’s hometown from Murder, She Wrote – where nothing exciting has happened in years. As a fairly successful mystery novelist, Marjorie’s profession and independent streak often put her at odds with some of Ridgebury’s more traditional residents. Under pressure to finish her latest book, Marjorie is thrilled with the arrival of a true novelty – the wealthy and worldly Creighton Ashcroft, a British heir with money and time to burn, both unusual attributes in the middle of the Great Depression. Creighton is immediately smitten with Marjorie, but when the two of them discover a body on the grounds of his newly-purchased home, she won’t give him the time of day once she meets the handsome investigating detective. Determined to win her, Creighton refuses to give up, and his amateur sleuthing partnership with Marjorie forces them to spend a great deal of time together. But their efforts to unmask a killer whose crimes have been buried for five years brings them closer to danger than either would’ve dared dream, and it’s a race to discover the truth before the killer can turn them into the next victims.

Million Dollar Baby is proof that Amazon is way too familiar with my reading habits and preferences. Meade’s debut novel showed up recently as a “suggestion,” and when I read a review likening Marjorie and Creighton to Dorothy Sayers’s detectives Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane, I knew I had to give the book a try. The Depression-era setting and a British sleuth named Creighton (love that!) prove to be an irresistible combination. Meade’s characters and storytelling style have an old-fashioned feel that makes it easy to visualize classic Hollywood actors like Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant, or Myrna Loy and William Powell bringing Marjorie and Creighton to life on the silver screen. The way Marjorie and Creighton constantly needle each other, exchanging quips galore while dancing around the issue of their mutual attraction is the heart and soul of the novel and is very reminiscent of the screwball comedies of the 1930s. I really enjoyed Meade’s gently sarcastic sense of humor, and I absolutely loved watching Marjorie and Creighton’s relationship develop.

The novel is paced fairly well, but it was the characters that kept me turning pages, not the mystery itself. Like Loy and Powell and their Thin Man movies, the Marjorie/Creighton relationship is what makes this book tick. The mystery is serviceable enough, with a few twists and turns that I didn’t necessarily see coming. But what kept me turning pages at a rapid-fire pace was the fun in watching Marjorie and Creighton establish their often prickly, always funny relationship. Million Dollar Baby is a trifle overly long, and there are a couple of spots where some judicious editing could’ve tightened the plot and pacing of the story, but those are relatively minor issues that didn’t detract from my overall enjoyment of the novel. If you’re a fan of Agatha Christie or Sayers, or the tone and pace of classic Hollywood films like The Thin Man, you’re in for a treat with Meade’s debut. Like the escapist filmmaking of the 1930s, Meade does a good job evoking classic Hollywood gloss and balancing that with an acknowledgment of the economic realities of the time. I’m hooked, and if Million Dollar Baby is any indication, Meade’s subsequent McClelland mysteries should hold great promise.

Friday, April 9, 2010

The 39 Steps

A couple of weeks ago now, Masterpiece Classic aired the newest adaptation of The 39 Steps, based on the novel by John Buchan. Here's a bit about the storyline from the PBS website:
"A prehistoric boor and an unhinged hysteric. Hardly a marriage made in heaven." Richard Hannay and Victoria Sinclair in The 39 Steps

Newly returned to England on the eve of World War I, Richard Hannay's (Rupert Penry-Jones, Persuasion) listless London life is about to spiral out of control. When a neighbor bursts in with a top-secret notebook full of cryptic codes and a frantic story of an impending assassination, unlikely patriot Hannay is soon on the run to save himself and his country. He bumps into feisty suffragette Victoria Sinclair (Lydia Leonard), and while their fates may be intertwined, their personalities aren't. But like it or not, they'll together navigate murder, betrayal and near death in order to untangle a plot of national importance, and understand the charms and challenges of human nature. A bracing and romantic thriller, The 39 Steps is based on the novel by John Buchan.
Now, I've yet to read Buchan's novel, and I have only the vaguest memories of seeing what is perhaps the most famous film adaptation of this story - the 1935 Alfred Hitchcock film starring Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll. In general being a fan of Hitchcock's work, I remember enjoying it, but that's about it. That said, I feel like I was able to come to this film with no expectations - and I thoroughly and completely enjoyed it. First of all, as far as Masterpiece and British film in general goes, it's got a unique and fresh setting - it's quite rare (in my experience, anyway) to find films set during the World War I years. Everything from the history to the clothes and sets is feels fresh and makes for absorbing viewing.

Of course it's hard to argue against Rupert Penry-Jones being the film's biggest draw. Anyone who has read my review of Persuasion can probably guess that I'm a fan. :) I think you'd be hard-pressed to find an actor more suitable to play Richard Hannay and make the transformation from languid, bored aristocrat who is pushed quite unwillingly into the high stakes world of international espionage. It would almost be enough that RPJ wheres a tux for a good part of the film, and I don't think I can even begin to talk about the shirtless scene halfway through the movie without starting to drool and mumble incoherently. That was a gift, thank you BBC. ;-) But in addition to all that, RPJ reveals quite a knack for light comedy. Had no idea he had that in him after seeing his much more serious turns in Persuasion and MI-5. Rupert can be quite funny given the right material, and has a real gift for sarcasm and understatement. Very, very well played. Yet another random side note - I loved the scene where Hannay pulls a Cary Grant and runs from the plane trying to shoot him down in the field. That scene just defines another Hitchcock classic, North by Northwest, and anything that reminds me of that favorite is a good thing in my book. :)

Hannay's love interest in the film is Victoria Sinclair, a fiesty suffragette played by Lydia Leonard. Previously, Leonard has appeared in one episode of Foyle's War and played a Angela in one of my all-time favorite mystery shows, Jericho. It's my understanding that there is no love interest for Hannay in the book, and that one's always been created in the film versions. I absolutely loved Victoria's character, and watching her spar with Richard provided scene after scene of laugh-out-loud moments. Their relationship is a case of the battle of the sexes and opposites attracting at its finest. In Victoria it's great to see such a strong-willed, fearless character. RPJ and Leonard have some excellent on-screen chemistry, and I loved watching the relationship develop between their characters and they sought to outwit German spies (apparently given free reign in Scotland, haha).

There are several other notable cast members worth mentioning. First of all let's talk about Scudder, the spy who gets Hannay into this life-or-death mess. Scudder is played by Eddie Marsan, who's become quite fixture in films mentioned on this blog - he's appeared in Little Dorrit, Me and Orson Welles, and Sherlock Holmes, to name a few of his recent credits. There's something about his face and manner that allow him to play the desperate secret agent quite well. David Haig is another familiar face - he plays Sir George Sinclair, Victoria's uncle. Haig has appeared in everything from Marple to Two Weeks Notice. Patrick Kennedy plays Hellory, Victoria's brother - he also appeared in Me and Orson Welles, as well as Bleak House and Atonement. Kennedy is quite funny in his role - he's so spacey and vapid compared to his razor-sharp sister, the differences between them are hilarious.There's a couple more familiar faces, but I'll end by mentioning Alex Jennings' appearance. Jennings plays the elusive Captain Kell, the secret service contact Scudder wants Hannay to pass his encrypted notebook on to. Jennings was most recently seen in Cranford as Reverend Hutton.

Aside from the hilariously random, tacked on ending which I'll talk about in a minute, I really loved everything about this film. James Hawes directed this film, and combined with a solid script he keeps the pace of the film flying - there's nary a dull moment in the movie's short 85-minute run time. The way this film is structured and the story unfolds, I was hooked from the first scene. As a random point of interest, Hawes has apparently also directed several Doctor Who and Merlin episodes. He's got a good handle on making some of my favorite television programs, no? :) I also really liked Rob Lane's score (Lane has also scored Merlin). It's got an old-fashioned, adventure movie feel to it which fits perfectly with the storyline.

I love a good adventure/spy flick, and The 39 Steps fits the bill perfectly. But seriously, what is with the randomly tacked on happy ending?? (Possible spoilers...) So RPJ delivers this adorable speech about wooing Victoria, and then she's shot by the random German agent everyone seems to have forgotten about, falls into the lake, and magically survives to see Hannay off to war several months later?! NO ONE was around to pull her out so how the heck did that happen?! Getting shot and then having to pretend to drown is some national secret? And seriously, we're supposed to cling to the hope that Hannay somehow survives the trenches to reunite with Victoria after the war...hmmm...I hate that the cynic in me is surfacing here, but he's going off at the beginning of the conflict. Odds are not good for poor Hannay. *sob* I am a total and complete sucker for happy endings, but compared to the rest of the movie the way the Victoria thing is resolved was more than a little lame. But considering everything else this movie has going for it - Rupert Penry-Jones, fabulous settings, great costumes, a life-and-death car chase in Model-Ts, Rupert Penry-Jones, brisk direction, wonderful music, and did I mention Rupert Penry-Jones? :) - The 39 Steps is a thoroughly entertaining, unique entry in the Masterpiece Classic schedule. Highly recommended.

And just because, here's another picture of RPJ...go ahead and swoon, I'm right there with ya... ;-)

New adaptation of The Diary of Anne Frank

Coming up on Sunday, April 11 (Holocaust Remembrance Day), Masterpiece Classic will air a new production of The Diary of Anne Frank. Here's a bit about the production:
A Jewish teenager hiding from the Nazis pours out her heart to the only true friend she has left: her diary. MASTERPIECE CLASSIC presents The Diary of Anne Frank, the most accurate-ever adaptation of one of the world's most widely read memoirs. Adapted by Deborah Moggach (Pride and Prejudice starring Keira Knightley), and starring newcomer Ellie Kendrick (An Education) as Anne Frank, The Diary of Anne Frank premieres on Holocaust Remembrance Day, April 11, 2010.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Review: Against All Odds by Irene Hannon

Against All Odds (Heroes of Quantico #1)
By: Irene Hannon
Publisher: Revell
ISBN: 978-0-8007-3310-0

About the book:

For FBI Hostage Rescue Team member Evan Cooper and his partner, dignitary protection duty should have been a piece of cake. Unfortunately, beautiful but determined Monica Callahan isn’t making it easy. Estranged from her diplomat father – who is involved in a sensitive hostage in the Middle East – she refuses to be intimidated by a related terrorist threat back in the States. That is, until a chilling warning convinces her that the danger is very real – and escalating.

As Coop and his partner do their best to keep her safe, the threat against Monica is rising. And with every second that ticks by, Coop knows that the odds of saving the only woman who has ever breached the walls around his heart are dropping. After all, terrorists aren’t known for their patience – or their mercy.


Evan Cooper, a member of the FBI’s elite Hostage Rescue Team, isn’t thrilled when his next assignment is dignitary protection duty. “Babysitting” VIPs isn’t his dream job, especially when the VIP in question comes with some very high profile baggage. Monica Callahan, the daughter of a prominent State Department official, has become the unwitting target of a kidnapping plot. Terrorists want to use her as leverage against her estranged father, who is involved in sensitive hostage negotiations in Afghanistan. Monica is unwilling to accept that her father’s life could interfere with hers until the would-be kidnappers succeed in sending a message with a threat that’s impossible to ignore. Coop finds himself falling hard for Monica, and thanks to the job forcing them to keep constant company, their budding relationship grows at a rapid pace. When Monica is kidnapped, with only hours to rescue her before the terrorists’ deadline, it’s a race against time for Coop and his team to rescue the only woman who’s ever left him vulnerable to the possibility of faith and love.

I absolutely loved the international angle to this story. The timeliness and relevance of the ripped-from-the-headlines plot ups the stakes and results in a page-turning, suspenseful read. Though Against All Odds is the first book in Hannon’s Heroes of Quantico series, I read the second book first. Each story works well as a standalone novel, but in hindsight I’d recommend reading them in order to get a better introduction to the heroes and witness how their characters and friendships are established and formed through their HRT assignments. Hannon really nails the male point-of-view, and the camaraderie between Coop and his partner, Mark, comes across as authentic and genuine. Thanks to the international angle, I actual prefer this novel to its sequel, An Eye for an Eye. There’s something about the high stakes of sensitive negotiations that can have massive political fallout or finding yourself caught up in events out of your control and not of your choosing, as Monica does, that resulted in a gripping and compelling read. Hannon introduces readers to all of the players in this international drama, and the scenes featuring the terrorist mastermind fighting to regain power and David Callahan’s agony over his work threatening his daughter’s life intensify the story’s fast pace and raise the emotional stakes for all those involved.

Reading Against All Odds has solidified my opinion that Irene Hannon is a romantic suspense author to watch. The plot plays out with a military-like precision, each scene layering on the suspense and increasing the romantic tension between Coop and Monica. Hannon’s research into FBI procedures shines and lends the action sequences authenticity. I also loved how she develops Coop and Monica’s relationship in a completely believable way. When characters meet under high-stress circumstances, an author can make it too easy and convenient for them to fall in love without developing any sort of real, grounded relationship. Hannon goes the extra mile by showing Monica and Coop cement their relationship long after the danger is resolved. The faith angle is also well incorporated into the storyline, such as when Coop’s questions challenge Monica’s faith and deep-set prejudices towards her absentee father. In Monica and Coop, Hannon has crafted a pair of flawed, real characters who find their faith tested by incomprehensible danger and learn new lessons in faith, trust, and forgiveness – it’s a thoroughly enjoyable thrill ride and I can't wait to read Hannon's next book!

She Walks in Beauty by Siri Mitchell

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

She Walks in Beauty
Bethany House (April 2010)

Siri Mitchell


Siri Mitchell graduated from the University of Washington with a business degree and worked in various levels of government. As a military spouse, she has lived all over the world, including in Paris and Tokyo. Siri enjoys observing and learning from different cultures. She is fluent in French and loves sushi.

But she is also a member of a strange breed of people called novelists. When they’re listening to a sermon and taking notes, chances are, they’ve just had a great idea for a plot or a dialogue. If they nod in response to a really profound statement, they’re probably thinking, “Yes. Right. That’s exactly what my character needs to hear.” When they edit their manuscripts, they laugh at the funny parts. And cry at the sad parts. Sometimes they even talk to their characters.

Siri wrote 4 books and accumulated 153 rejections before signing with a publisher. In the process, she saw the bottoms of more pints of Ben & Jerry’s than she cares to admit. At various times she has vowed never to write another word again. Ever. She has gone on writing strikes and even stooped to threatening her manuscripts with the shredder.


For a young society woman seeking a favorable marriage, so much depends on her social season debut. Clara Carter has been given one goal: secure the affections of the city's most eligible bachelor.

Debuting means plenty of work--there are corsets to be fitted, dances to master, manners to perfect. Her training soon pays off, however, as celebrity's spotlight turns Clara into a society-page darling.

Yet Clara soon wonders if this is the life she really wants. Especially when she learns her best friend has also set her sights on Franklin De Vries.

When a man appears who seems to love her simply for who she is and gossip backlash turns ugly, Clara realizes it's not just her marriage at stake--the future of her family depends on how she plays the game.

If you would like to read the first chapter of She Walks in Beauty, go HERE.