Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Soon by Jerry Jenkins

Paul Stepola, an agent working for the National Peacekeeping Organization (NPO), has been assigned to enforce compliance with the world government's prohibition on religion. Paul relishes his job and is good at it. He is determined to expose underground religion--flush it out, expose it, and kill it--until his life is turned upside down and he is forced to look at life in a different way.
As Paul begins to unravel the truth about what he has found, events taking place around the world start to make sense. Something big is coming--something that can't be stopped. And it is coming soon.
--Soon by Jerry Jenkins, Copyright ©2004 by Jerry B. Jenkins, published by Tyndale House Publishers

My Review

In 2004, in the midst of finishing up his best-selling “Left Behind” series with Tim LaHaye, Jerry Jenkins wrote a separate trilogy, also dealing with the End Times. The first book in this trilogy, Soon, introduces us to Dr. Paul Stepola, an agent for the National Peace Organization. Following the religion-based World War III, all religions of the world have been outlawed. The map of the United States has been redrawn, reducing the number of states from 50 to 7, and the country’s name changed to the United Seven States of America. The NPO is the USSA’s agency dedicated to keeping the peace, in part by eradicating any covert religious factions that may rear their ugly heads.

Paul, who doctored in religious studies, is an eager participant in the agency’s fight against religion. When a new department is formed to fight one-on-one with these factions, Paul joins them and is quickly drawn into the front lines of the battle. Injured on his first assignment in San Francisco, he relishes the fact that he was able to kill two of the zealots and wound a third. On his next assignment in Houston, a member of the Christian sect there is beaten to death in front of him, but Paul does nothing. He’s on the verge of making his third kill when an oil well explodes, blasting a column of white light into the sky and Paul is blinded.

Determined to get to the bottom of the events, Paul studies the New Testament for clues, but the more he studies, the more he begins to question his own lack of faith. Before his trip to San Francisco, Paul uncovered a letter from his now-deceased father where his father proclaimed his belief in God. His leader and mentor in the Army had been outed as a believer and was killed. Now he was experiencing events that could only be described as miracles. He chooses to make the leap of faith…and his sight is miraculously restored. (Is any of this starting to sound a bit familiar to anyone?)

Paul becomes a double agent of sorts, carrying out assignments for the NPO while alerting the Christian underground to any attacks that may be coming their way. Christians across the country have been praying for the persecuted and praying for a sign that will wake the world up and show them how wrong they have been for denying God. When God grants their prayers—in a most stunning, amazing, hard-to-believe fashion—will the world finally change their ways?

Tune in to Silenced to find out!

No, seriously. Soon ends on this miracle and we don’t know how the world reacts until we start reading the next book (which I will start tomorrow).

I purchased Soon when it was released and read the first two or so chapters, then decided to put it aside and wait until the other two novels, Silenced and Shadowed were released so I could read all three books in the series back to back. Here it is, six years later, and I’m finally getting around to reading them—or rather, listening to them as I’m listening to audio versions I checked out from the library. The books I bought are buried in storage and I don’t know when I’m ever going to see them again.

I was a bit startled listening to some of the anti-Christian passages. The people of this era who embrace the anti-religion laws speak with such disdain toward believers that I had to remind myself that the story was written by Jerry Jenkins, a man of faith. The antipathy toward Christians is so harsh, and yet so very believable for the society Jenkins created that openly eschews religion. If the events he wrote of ever truly came to pass, I can imagine this is exactly how those who hate religion would speak.

Paul’s conversion is believable considering his experiences, but I couldn’t help wondering why it didn’t come sooner. Paul has a doctorate in religion so he’s studied God. I can’t help wondering how someone can go so far as to get a doctorate in something without coming to believe in it or didn’t already in his heart believe in. Of course, to get his degree, Paul had to study a number of religions, not just Christianity, and of course, events had to happen in the manner and time Jenkins plotted them, so I can accept this little oddity. But to me, it is just that…odd. I mean, how can you study religion and not believe? Even just a little?

I also found it a bit odd that Paul doesn’t see himself in Saul. Saul, in the New Testament, persecuted and killed Christians before he was blinded by a bolt of light on his way to Damascus. After three days, God restored his sight and Saul became Paul, a believer in Christ. Dr. Paul Stepola persecuted and killed Christians before he was blinded by a bolt of light. Okay, he wasn’t on his way to Damascus and it took more than three days for his sight to be restored, but once he chose to believe, his sight was restored. I can only assume Jenkins didn’t point out the similarity to his readers because he wanted them to make the connection for themselves. Which I did .

Other than these, I found the story to be a good and engaging read, even if it was a times a bit scary. Jerry Jenkins is a terrific writer and I can’t wait to start the next book in this series, Silenced.

I give this story FOUR AND A HALF STARS.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Wild Indigo

Wild Indigo by Sandi Ault

The high desert of New Mexico becomes the backdrop for this debut novel of ancient rituals, restless spirits, a desperate female Fed, and a crime that could destroy an entire culture.

Bureau of Land Management Agent Jamaica Wild witnesses a Tanoah Pueblo man being trampled to death by stampeding buffalo. The tribe declares the incident a suicide, the FBI concurs, and the body is hurried to ceremony before the sun can go down on the man’s spirit.

But Agent Wild suspects foul play. Haunted by the memory of seeing the man’s body bloody with welts and a strange ecstasy in his eyes, she pursued her own investigation, which leads her into a labyrinth of clandestine Pueblo religious rites, peyote cults, and Hispanic and Tiwa witchcraft. But Jamaica has promised the mother of the victim, the beloved matriarch of the Santana family, that she will find out what really happened to her son. For until Anna Santana took her in long ago, Jamaica was a stray, much like the wary wolf pup she has just rescued.

When the tribal government and the local paper makes allegations that Jamaica caused the stampede, she soon finds herself banned from the Pubelo, suspended from her job, and allied with an old, reclusive curandera who induces trances and casts spells.

Ultimately, Jamaica discovers that the answer to the mystery is contained in another secret, perhaps the greatest secret regarding Tanoah Pueblo—one that threatens its future and its past.
--Wild Pueblo by Sandi Ault, Copyright ©2006 by Sandi Ault, published by The Berkeley Publishing Group

My Review

I had some reservations (no pun intended) reading a story set on a pueblo in northern New Mexico. Being an east coast urban/suburbanite, I know so little about Native American life that all I could hope for was an enjoyable story that didn’t get preachy about the plight of the erosion of Native American culture. Or worse, take for granted that I fully understood the culture and would therefore not need to be taught some of the more esoteric aspects of said culture. I was pleasantly surprised.

Wild Indigo is a well-written story, educating the reader on some of the beautiful and wonderful aspects of Native American culture while giving the people the respect they deserve. The story centers on the unusual suicide of a tribal member, witnessed by the protagonist, a Bureau of Land Management agent, Jamaica Wild. Jerome Santana did not seem the type to her to take drugs or to want to kill himself by wandering into a herd of buffalo, but that’s exactly what happened.

Jamaica files her report and orders herself to forget about it, but she can’t. The dead man’s mother, Anna, is her own “adopted” mother and Jamaica can’t rest until she can deliver the truth to Momma Anna.

The rest of the tribe, however, doesn’t want her to get involved. The elders go to her boss at the BLM and accuse her of causing the stampede that caused Santana’s death. Jamaica is suspended pending further investigation, which only frees her to check things out on her own.

She’s reluctant, as doing so could get her into further hot water with the Tanoah people, but Momma Anna the spirits will not be denied and Jamaica’s own curiosity pulls her further into the mystery. A missing little boy and old man proves to be the key to the mystery and Jamaica must climb the forbidden Indigo Falls Mountain to find them, and the truth.

This book is the first in a series of (so far) four books featuring BLM Agent Jamaica Wild. Wild Indigo was followed by Wild Inferno, Wild Sorrow, and Wild Penance. Wild Indigo takes a little work to read as there is so much the reader needs to learn about the Native American culture, but Sandi Ault is a wonderful writer and she conveys this information in simple, easy to understand language. Readers should have no difficulty understanding the intricacies of the culture and becoming absorbed in this wonderful tale.

I give this story THREE STARS.

Saturday, June 12, 2010


Orchid by Jayne Castle

A top spychic for exclusive Psynergy Inc., Orchid Adams has her hands full with a baffling murder—which doesn’t exactly allow time for husband hunting. Is it even possible there’s a man on St. Helen’s who measures up to her dreams of wedded bliss? Take her new client, Rafe Stonebraker: primitive and elemental, an unlicensed P.I. with some serious secrets, Rafe is hardly marriage material. So why does his powerful presence have Orchid imagining the most outrageous affair? Rafe is embroiled in solving a strange theft while thwarting a hostile takeover of Stonebraker Shipping: he needs a wife—and fast—to salvage his credibility. Orchid Adams doesn’t fit the profile he had in mind, but she fits in his arms. Will their electrifying connection end up getting them burned?
--Orchid by Jayne Castle, Copyright ©1998 by Jayne Ann Krentz, published by Pocket Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

My Review

I have to say, I am very slightly disappointed with this story. In Amaryllis and Zinnia, Rafe was a very dark and mysterious character and Orchid was a famous author. In Orchid, Rafe is still a bit mysterious, but no more so than the previous heroes, Lucas and Nick, and Orchid’s writing seems little more than a hobby that she happens to be lucky enough to make some money at. She spends almost no time working on her next novel, and no one fauns over her—“You’re Orchid Adams, the writer? For real? I can’t believe I’m actually meeting you! I’ve read all your books, I absolutely love you! Can I have your autograph?” Nope, none of that.

So Orchid and Rafe don’t quite live up to the hype created in the previous two novels. However, that doesn’t mean this isn’t a great story. Concluding the St. Helen’s series after Amaryllis and Zinnia, we meet Orchid, a full-spectrum ice-prism, who is hired by Rafe through Psynergy, Inc. to focus for him as he works on a few investigation cases. She doesn’t know that he has an ulterior motive—to find himself a wife. In order to take over the family business, Stonebraker Shipping, from his conniving cousin, Rafe must first establish respectability and find himself a wife. So far, his matchmaker at Synergistic Connections has been unable to match him with anyone suitable, so Rafe decides to take matters into his own hands.

From his first meeting with Orchid, Rafe knows there’s something special about her and their working relationship quickly evolves into a more personal one. But when Rafe discovers a connection between his latest case—recovering a stolen alien artifact—and the death of a friend of Orchid’s, their simple working relationship quickly grows complicated. When Orchid is kidnapped by the thief, can Rafe rescue her before she is destroyed by the power in the mysterious artifact?

I give this story FIVE STARS.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Heart of the Sea

Heart of the Sea by Nora Roberts

This final installment in this series begins when wealthy builder Trevor Magee arrives in the Irish village of Ardmore. There he meets Darcy Gallagher, who aspires to the more lavish lifestyle that only a wealthy husband can provide. Immediately attracted, the two begin to negotiate an arrangement uncomplicated by the messiness of love. Their hearts have other plans, however, and so does Carrick, a brooding faerie prince who uses them to plot a reunion with his long-dead and long-lost lover, Lady Gwen.
--Heart of the Sea by Nora Roberts, Copyright ©2000 by Nora Roberts

My Review

We conclude this trilogy with Heart of the Sea, the story of Trevor Magee and Darcy Gallagher. Trevor comes to Ardmore to supervise the construction of his theater and perhaps learn a bit about the village where his ancestors hailed from. They meet and the attraction between them is swift. He’s just her type, after all…good looking, intelligent and rich. And she’s beautiful and sharp-minded…just his type.

But Carrick, prince of Faeries, is not content to sit back and let their mutual attraction do its thing. He wants to guarantee their union, for doing so will reunite him with his lost love. This is the closest he’s come in three hundred years and he will not be denied, no matter what plans the mortals might have.

Fortunately for him, they are in agreement, and Darcy and Trevor slowly fall in love amidst the rubble of theater construction and Darcy’s sudden “discovery” as a singer. But can her new singing career work alongside Trevor’s and can they—and Carrick and Gwen—live happily ever after?

I give this story THREE and a HALF STARS and bid farewell to Nora Roberts’ stories, at least for a little while. My backlog of books continues to grow like a teenage boy’s appetite. The Green Valley Book Fair sold four more books to me…I’m actually scared to count the number of books waiting to be read!

I’m also going to try and stay away from books I’ve already read (which I dearly enjoy re-reading) and focus only on unread stories so I can clear out some of this backlog. Wish me luck!


Zinnia by Jayne Castle

Ever since a false tabloid story ruined her reputation and her interior design business, Zinnia Spring has been labeled the “Scarlet Lady of St. Helen’s. Now, headstrong Zinnia makes a living using her psychic abilities—a highly prized skill that attracts the attention of another planetary outcast, Nick Chastain. The rough-edged casino owner craves what he doesn’t have—respectability—and he enlists Zinnia to help find his father’s journal and dig up answers to his own mysterious past. Zinnia doesn’t have to be psychic to know what else Nick wants; soon they’re reaching the electrifying heights of ecstasy—and danger. For when a ruthless killer crosses their search, it will take everything in their power to keep their feet on terra firma and survive a deadly trap!
--Zinnia by Jayne Castle, Copyright ©1997 by Jayne Ann Krentz, published by Pocket Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

My Review

Continuing the St. Helen’s series after Amaryllis, Zinnia follows Miss Zinnia Spring, interior designer and prism, someone with the ability to focus the psychic powers of others. While most prisms can lend their ability to just about any talent, Zinnia’s prism works best with matrix talents, making her a highly-prized prism at Psyengery, Inc.

Casino owner Nick Chastain is a matrix-talent, someone with the ability to see all possible angles of any given situation and pick the one with the best outcome. Where others see chaos and random events, Nick sees patterns and connections between events. When he inadvertently links up with a matrix-prism at his casino, he’s stunned to discover there’s someone who has the ability to absorb the full force of his abilities, where before he’d always had to control the amount of power he fed to a prism.

The link is abruptly broken and Nick is desperate to reconnect. Before he has a chance to seek out the creator of the prism, Zinnia bursts into his office and demands to know why he’s kidnapped a client of hers.

As the illegitimate bastard of the Chastain clan, Nick’s main goal in life is to buy himself respectability. For that he needs a respectable wife. But so far, the best match-making agency on the planet has been unable to find a woman meeting Nick’s requirements. He also needs his father’s journal, detailing the Third Chastain Expedition into the wilds of the Western Islands. Officially, the expedition was cancelled by the university, but Nick believes otherwise and the journal—which Zinnia’s missing client claims to have access to—is the proof.

Reluctantly, Nick allows Zinnia to partner with him as he works to find out what exactly happened to the book dealer and to his book. Who would have the most to gain by keeping the book hidden? What secrets could it possibly reveal? And how would they handle the irresistible attraction that flared between them whenever his matrix-talent linked with her matrix-prism?

I give this story FIVE STARS.