Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Review: The Legacy

The Legacy
By Dan Walsh, Gary Smalley
The Restoration Series, #4
Revell, 2015


One young man is about to discover the true cost of independence

For years, Doug Anderson has been drifting slowly but steadily away from both his family and his faith. His parents have been trying to reach him before he falls too far. His friend Christina hopes what she is seeing online isn't true. But sometimes you have to hit bottom before you're ready to grow up.

Just as things begin to settle down a bit, Doug's life takes a turn that requires every bit of faith and patience for both his family and Christina--whose growing feelings for Doug, a man who writes her off as not worth his time, keep her off balance. Will Doug's crisis finally clear his vision and help him focus on what he has right in front of him?

My thoughts

The Restoration Series, co-written by Dan Walsh and Gary Smalley, comes to a very satisfying conclusion with Doug's story in The Legacy. These stories are a shining example of how fiction can be used not only to entertain, but to impact lives. I have greatly enjoyed all four books in this well-written series - but for me, Dan and Gary hit it out of the ballpark with this one. I believe the themes of  prodigals and legacy are things to which countless faithful parents can relate, for love and concern for children are at the core of every parent's being.

Jim Anderson's "legacy" plays a big part in this story, because we could anticipate the trajectory Doug's life would take back in book #1, The Dance, partly as the result of Jim's absentee parenting many years before that. Without question, my favorite character is Jim's Uncle Henry, through which much practical wisdom is imparted in personal conversations. Also, Allan and Michele's story from The Desire comes to a beautiful conclusion. Each book in this series could technically stand alone, but I think it would feel like a piece of the puzzle was missing if not read in order.

Many readers will enjoy Doug's talent for illustrating graphic novels and his visit to a local ComicCon. Through the character of Christina, we see the effect of a believer's witness, and her comparison between fantasy heroes and Jesus is too good not to share:

"I think they're so popular because they give us hope that all the bad, crummy things going on all around us, and all the evil people making them happen, can be stopped. The real-life people in charge don't seem to be able to do anything about it. . . . Jesus was a superhero, but for real. He stood up for the people no one paid attention to or cared about. He defied all the power brokers of his day, all the greedy people, all the users and the takers. And he said things about life and love and relationships that no one had ever said before. And if that wasn't enough, he had the power to pull it off. He could heal the sick with a word, walk on water, calm a raging storm, even raise the dead back to life. But then he didn't use all that power to get things for himself. Instead, he gave it all away, even his own life . . . just so we'd have a chance to get close to his Father."

There is so much to take away from The Legacy, so much to dwell upon. This is not a retelling of the Prodigal Son, yet many applicable points are drawn from this parable, especially relating to the father. Trusting God to deal with my children is a lesson that I have to continually relearn, and I cherish the reminder that while they may be out of my ability to reach, they're certainly not out of God's.

But it's these words of Uncle Henry that parents everywhere can cling to . . .

"Sometimes being a parent is about being the kind of person they'll want to turn to, maybe even listen to, when they've made a total mess of things. Sometimes all the hard things and all the right things God wants us to do now - when they're drifting away from us - are just the building blocks to a bridge they can cross over on their way back."

After all, aren't we all prodigals in need of that bridge leading back home to our Father?

The Legacy is outstanding, as is the whole series. Highly recommended.

Click on the titles to see my reviews of the previous books in this series:
#1, The Dance
#2, The Promise
#3, The Desire


Dan Walsh
Dan Walsh is the bestselling author of several books, including The Dance and The Promise with Gary Smalley, as well as The Unfinished Gift, The Discovery, and The Reunion. He has won three Carol Awards, and two of his novels were finalists for RT Book Reviews Inspirational Book of the Year for 2011 and 2012. A member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Dan served as a pastor for twenty-five years. He lives with his wife in the Daytona Beach area, where he's busy researching and writing his next novel. Visit danwalshbooks.com for more.

Gary Smalley
Gary Smalley is one of the country's best known authors and speakers on family relationships. He is the bestselling and award-winning author or coauthor of 16 books, along with several popular films and videos. He has spent over 30 years learning, teaching, and counseling, speaking to over 2 million people in live conferences. Smalley has appeared on national television programs such as Oprah, Larry King Live, Extra, The Today Show, and The Sally Jessy Raphael Show, as well as numerous national radio programs. Gary and his wife, Norma, have been married for 50 years and live in Branson, Missouri. They have three children and six grandchildren.

Thank you to Revell for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Author Spotlight + GIVEAWAY: Kristy Cambron

Kristy Cambron is the author behind two of my favorite novels, The Butterfly and the Violin and the novel Kristy is sharing about today, A Sparrow in Terezin (click on titles to see my reviews). She has quickly become a writer that I greatly admire, for I've found her stories to not only be highly entertaining, but they give me great cause for introspection.

I am thankful to be able to share this Litfuse Publicity interview with Kristy and also offer a copy to one of our readers, details at the end. Please meet my friend, Kristy Cambron . . .


Just like a single candle can brighten a dark room, a glimmer of hope can sustain the soul in dark times. In her highly-anticipated second novel, Kristy Cambron shines a light on the resiliency of the human spirit in A Sparrow in Terezin.

Q: Your new book has a unique title — A Sparrow in Terezin. Where is Terezin, and what happened there?

Terezin (or Theresienstadt in German) was a small fortress and garrison city converted to a ghetto and concentration camp during WWII. Positioned just an hour automobile ride north of Prague in what is now the Czech Republic, the 18th-century fortress was an ideal place for the Nazis to set up a Gestapo prison for political prisoners early in the war. By 1941, the camp was converted also to a ghetto and transport camp for mainly Czech, but also Soviet, Polish, German and Yugoslavian Jews. Of the approximate 150,000 prisoners who passed through Terezin during the course of the war, nearly 90,000 were deported to Auschwitz or other extermination camps. Of the 15,000 children who were sent to Terezin between 1942 and 1944, fewer than 100 survived the war.

Q: How was Terezin different than other concentration camps we may be more familiar with?

Terezin was cruelly referred to as the “Model Ghetto” or “Paradise Camp,” but the horrors of indiscriminate killings, starvation and disease that occurred there made it anything but. The Nazi regime used this camp as a propaganda tool and transport camp, beautifying parts of the city late in the war as a model to show how “well” the Jews were being treated in all of the concentration camps. In reality, the Nazis used a beautified Terezin — with a public park, window boxes with flowers, even painted-plaster meat that hung in butcher shop windows — all as a ruse to mislead the International Red Cross. To alleviate over-crowding before the arrival of Red Cross workers, the Nazis shipped tens of thousands of Jews from Terezin to killing centers (such as Treblinka and Auschwitz) in occupied Poland.

Q: What compelled you to tell this particular story from the World War II era?

In early 2004, I was a young college student in an art history class. I remember the moment when the professor presented a topic I’d never heard of — the art of the Holocaust — and I was instantly captivated. From that day on, I devoured any books I could find on the subject, especially Elie Wiesel’s Night, which I still read every year. I remember hearing that whisper in my soul, that this topic was special somehow; the art of creation and worshipping God, even in the midst of the most horrific of circumstances one could imagine. It’s a stunning expression of beauty I still can’t fully understand. And though it’s a very weighty subject, I wanted to give a voice to these known artists, to help others hear their story. So I stored the idea away, hoping someday I’d know what to do with it. Ten years later, it turned into this series.

Q: Tell us about the children of Terezin. Where did you first hear their story?

While studying for my undergraduate degree in art history, I completed much research on the art of the Holocaust, specifically, the prisoner camp art of Auschwitz and the children’s art of Terezin. During that research, I came across I Never Saw Another Butterfly: Children’s Drawings and Poems from Terezin Concentration Camp 1942-1944 (Schocken Books, 1993). This book changed my heart forever. There are stunning pieces of the children’s art inside its pages. Watercolors. Cut-paper collages in brilliant colors. There are peaceful still-life portraits and others, more heart-wrenching, of work details and guards with machine guns. There are songs and poetry, all imagined by the sweet little hands and hearts of the children of Terezin. The art of these children refused to leave my heart. The images are so heart-wrenching that they beg for a voice. It’s because of them Sophie and Kája’s story was born in A Sparrow in Terezin.

Q: Why did the arts thrive in Terezin? What do you think the appreciation of the arts tells us about humanity?

A real shocker for me was to learn that not only did the arts community exist in Terezin, cultural life seemingly thrived. Despite the lack of basic sanitation, food and clean water (and people dying by the thousands), great effort was put into the arts. There were academic lectures on topics such as medicine, the arts and Jewish history, full symphony and chamber orchestra performances — Brundibar (or Bumble Bee) was a children’s operetta both written and performed within the camp. There was even a 10,000-volume Hebrew lending library.  An appreciation of the arts would usually be exciting to research, but given the conditions the people endured, the investment in it here is heart-breaking. The lack of humanity is sickening.

Q: What lessons can we learn from your heroine, Kája, as she uses her education and abilities in the concentration camp? How were her talents able to aid her survival?

Like Adele’s journey in The Butterfly and the Violin (the first book in the series), Kája’s skills had a very large part in her survival. She was smart and brave in a way she couldn’t fully understand. But in the world of Terezin, she had a better chance than most. In a cultural community that was thriving, Kája would have been seen as added value. And though survival was a big part of her motivation, I think there was something greater: hope. She knew most of the children in her ghetto school would ultimately not survive. Instead, she used her God-given gifts to infuse them with hope in the best way she knew how. I love the fact that in the end, she cared more about the children (her little sparrows) than she did about her own survival. This brave part of her story tugs at my heart like few things can.

Q: Did you struggle telling such a devastating story? How did you manage to infuse A Sparrow in Terezin with a message of hope?

That’s a great question. The simplest answer has to be — yes. Some of the research was so gut-wrenching that I had to take breaks just to get through it. I broke the book into segments on The Blitz, the contemporary storyline and the scenes in Terezin. Because the ghetto scenes were so heavy, I’d have to step away from both research and writing for a time, work on something else and come back to them later. But despite the difficulty, I wanted the story to have hope. In fact, everything hinges on it. Joshua 1:9 is the foundation for Kája’s journey, both before and during her time in Terezin. There had to be hope for her to lean on, to know that no matter what was happening around her, God was still faithfully by her side.

Q: What is the number-one message you would like readers of A Sparrow in Terezin to walk away with?

Above all, my hope is that readers walk away from this reading experience with a changed heart — to know that no matter what journeys life brings, they can have strength and courage with every step. We can stand firm on the truths in Joshua 1:9 and find our courage in Him, whether it’s in circumstances as horrific as the Holocaust or the discouragements of our everyday lives. He can still bring beauty from ashes. He can (and will) still breathe life and color and hope into every situation.

To keep up with Kristy Cambron, visit www.kristycambron.com and TheGROVEstory.com storytelling ministry. You can also become a fan on Facebook (KCambronAuthor) or follow her on Twitter (@KCambronAuthor).



To enter the drawing for A Sparrow in Terezin, please leave a comment . . . For instance, have you read Kristy's first book, The Butterfly and the Violin? Are you a fan of WWII fiction? If so, are there any authors or titles you would recommend?

BE SURE TO LEAVE YOUR E-MAIL ADDRESS in a safe format - [at] and [dot] - for the drawing.

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E-mail required for entry in the drawing. Contest ends at midnight PST on Thursday, April 30. Winner will be chosen by Random.org and contacted by e-mail. Respond within 48 hours of notification or another winner will be chosen.

Eligibility: US residents, 18 and older

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Review: Buried Secrets

Buried Secrets
By Irene Hannon
Men of Valor, #1
Revell, 2015


They both wanted quieter, safer lives.
But crime never sleeps . . .
and killers keep killing.

After seven years as a Chicago homicide detective, Lisa Grant has hit a wall. Ready for a kinder, gentler life, she takes a job as a small-town police chief. But the discovery of a human skeleton by a construction crew at the edge of town taxes the resources of her department.

A call for assistance brings detective Mac McGregor, an ex-Navy SEAL, to her doorstep. As they work to solve the mystery behind the unmarked grave, danger begins to shadow them. Someone doesn't want this dead person telling any tales--and will stop at nothing to make certain a life-shattering secret stays buried.

My thoughts

Although I'm not naturally a suspense fan, there's a small group of authors in this genre that I really do enjoy, and Irene Hannon is one of those authors. The themes of her stories, at least the ones I've read so far, are police-type dramas that could easily be found in today's headlines.  Buried Secrets is book #1 in Irene's new Men of Valor series featuring the three McGregor brothers, and let me just say that romance fans have much to look forward to.

I love cold-case themes and was intrigued by this 24-year-old case, especially seeing guilt's affects on the involved parties over the years.  It was the villain - a psychopath who was intelligent, driven, and ruthless - who captured my attention the most, and I appreciated glimpses into her background that showed contributing causes to her behavior.

If I had a minor complaint, it would be that Buried Secrets was a little heavy on romance, especially physical attraction, and that the romance between Mac and Lisa didn't always seem to flow naturally out of the story. Also, the use of descriptive terms like "babe" and "hottie" make me uncomfortable - but that's just me. About a third of the way through, however, the mystery becomes front and center, and this was written really well. The logical, step-by-step gathering of evidence and questioning of suspects was my favorite part.

Mac and Lisa have a godly faith at the center of their lives, which I appreciated. And the  physical attraction between them quickly grows into something much more meaningful. Readers of Irene's previous novels will enjoy the appearance of Mitch as he works with Mac. I also enjoyed meeting Mac's brothers, Lance and Finn, and look forward to their future stories.

Irene's novels have yet to disappoint and I enjoyed Buried Secrets very much overall. Recommended.


Irene Hannon
Irene Hannon is the bestselling author of more than forty-five novels, including That Certain Summer, One Perfect Spring, and the Heroes of Quantico, Guardians of Justice, and Private Justice series. Her books have been honored with two coveted RITA Awards from Romance Writers of America, a Carol Award, three HOLT Medallions, a Daphne du Maurier Award, two Reviewers' Choice Awards from RT Book Reviews magazine, a Retailers' Choice Award, a Booksellers' Best Award, and a National Readers' Choice Award. In addition, she is a two-time Christy Award finalist, and Booklist included one of her novels in its "Top 10 Inspirational Fiction" list for 2011. She lives in Missouri.

Find Irene online at www.irenehannon.com, Facebook, and Twitter.

Thank you to Revell for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Review: The Creole Princess

The Creole Princess
By Beth White
Gulf Coast Chronicles, #2
Revell, 2015


Torn between loyalties to family and flag, one young woman is about to discover that her most important allegiance is to her heart.

It is 1776, and all along the eastern seaboard the American struggle for independence rages. But in the British-held southern port of Mobile, Alabama, the conflict brewing is much quieter--though no less deadly.

Lyse Lanier may be largely French in heritage, but she spends most of her time in the company of the ebullient daughter of the British commander of Mobile. When a charming young Spanish merchant docks in town, Lyse is immediately struck by his easy wit and flair for the dramatic. But is he truly who he makes himself out to be? Spies abound, and Spain has yet to choose a side in the American conflict. Is Lyse simply an easy mark for Rafael Gonzalez to exploit? Or are his overtures of love as genuine as Spanish gold?

With spectacular detail that brings the cultural gumbo of the Colonial Gulf Coast alive, Beth White invites you to step into a world of intrigue and espionage from a little-known slice of the American Revolutionary War.

My thoughts

Rich with historical detail, diverse culture, vivid sense of place, and one of the most enchanting romances ever, The Creole Princess by Beth White is the perfect historical romance. At times I read quickly, eager to see what would happen - but most often I read slowly, not wanting to miss a single nuance Beth incorporated into this exquisite narrative.

I've always heard that authors should write about what they know, and Beth has certainly done that here. Extensive research can result in great knowledge of the subject, but when I read the books in this series, I feel Beth's love and passion for the Gulf Coast area in which she lives, as well as its history.  Even French pastries were mentioned, and I'm dying for a taste of the beignets that Rafa and Lyse frequently enjoyed. (Visit Beth's Pinterest board for some great images of setting and costumes).

The Creole Princess spans four years of America's fight for independence, 1776 to 1780, but our glimpse into this struggle comes through the lens of the Gulf Coast region, from Florida to the eastern coast of Texas. I thought I knew a good bit about the Revolutionary War era, my favorite period of history, but this story incorporates much that is unfamiliar and I found it fascinating. According to Beth's excellent background information at the end, this coastal area saw heavy involvement from Britain, France, and Spain, with Spain's great contribution to the war only recently coming to light.

Lyse and Rafa are strong, appealing characters that readers will long remember. Lyse, daughter of a freed slave and a drunken fisherman, carries the blood of both slave and aristocrat and exemplifies the complexity of the Gulf Coast culture, for she "had grown up in the rather amorphous class of not-black, not-white, not-Indian, but a strange hybrid of all three." Lyse is a descendant of Tristan & Geneviève Lanier from book #1, The Pelican Bride - and while The Creole Princess can stand alone, a better feel for setting and culture will be gained by reading the series in order.

With his courage, love for adventure, tenderness, and humorous spirit, Spanish merchant Rafa goes on the list of my favorite leading men. His goofiness, fun loving and carefree ways mask a deep intelligence and strength of purpose, hinting at hidden depths few have seen. I loved how Rafa and Lyse have an instant connection and their romance grows in a steady and realistic way through their encounters over the years. There are some great scenes to enjoy, Lyse's evening with Rafa at Madame Dussouy's salon being one of my favorites. While historical elements are stronger than in many books of this genre, Rafa and Lyse drive the story and romance fans will greatly enjoy their chemistry.

It always baffles me how a nation fighting for its own freedom could, at the same time, enslave another group of people. Race, prejudice, slavery, and divided loyalties all play major parts in this story through a rich cast of characters, and are skillfully handled by Beth.  I liked how Lyse held tightly to the Christian faith passed on by her grandmother and "believed the Bible's assumption that all men and women - slave and free, male and female, all nationalities and cultures - were equal in value under God. It was a new concept, however, to imagine that intrinsic value functioning in political and everyday practice."

I can't leave without sharing a couple of great "one liners" from two very wise characters. To Lyse's cousin, Scarlet, Blackberry warns, "You a servant to hatred, and that's the bitterest slavery of all." And as Lyse reflects on the merit of a British soldier's romantic interest, Joony advises, "If you got a man never disagrees with you, one of you ain't necessary."

I enjoyed every minute spent reading The Creole Princess and highly recommend it.

Click on the title to see my review of the first book in this series:  The Pelican Bride


Beth White
Beth White's day job is teaching music at an inner-city high school in historic Mobile, Alabama. A native Mississippian, she is a pastor's wife, mother of two, and grandmother of one--so far. Her hobbies include playing flute and pennywhistle and painting, but her real passion is writing historical romance with a Southern drawl. Her novels have won the American Christian Fiction Writers Carol Award, the RT Book Club Reviewers Choice Award, and the Inspirational Reader's Choice Award.

Find Beth online at www.bethwhite.net, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Thank you to Revell for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.