Thursday, July 22, 2010


Shadowed by Jerry Jenkins

In the wake of a miracle of global proportions, National Peace Organization operative Paul Stepola has been exposed as a double agent—serving the Zealot Underground of people of faith in an atheistic world while sworn to persecute them. Now he and his family are on the run, targets of the very agency he has served for so many years.
Follow him and his wife Jae and young children, Brie and Connor, as they try to elude capture and sentencing for treason.
In this rapid-fire conclusion to the best-selling series, the laws banning the practice of religion around the globe are on the brink of collapse. The tide is turning . . . but personal, family hostilities threaten to end in disaster before the world comes to its senses.
--Shadowed by Jerry Jenkins, Copyright ©2006 by Jerry B. Jenkins, published by Tyndale House Publishers

My Review ***WARNING*** Spoilers follow

Completing the trilogy, Shadowed picks up immediately where Silenced left off. Dr. Paul Stepola, an agent for the National Peace Organization and a clandestine believer in Christ in an era where religion is outlawed, is on the run again, this time with his wife, Jae and their two children.

Thanks to what would soon be referred to as “the Incident,” that being the death of every first-born male child of non-believers, Paul, Jae and their children retreat to the Columbia underground, where Paul works with the elders to keep everyone safe and secure until they can figure out what to do next.

And again thanks to “the Incident,” atheists and agnostics across the world seem to have no choice but to believe that God is real. Worshiping is optional, but believing isn’t, except for those whose hearts are completely hardened. But the number of worshiping believers is rising, to include Felicia, Paul’s assistant at the NPO, and Bea Ballum, Ranald Disenti’s right-hand. Unfortunately, Felicia and Bea are not very effective as double agents and they are soon eliminated.

It was sooo much fun listening as Jae’s father was dressed down by his old friend in the Army, whom he goes to for help in destroying the underground. He’d built himself up into this invincible warrior only to find out he was nothing but a paper tiger. (It was beautiful…I loved it!)

But Ranald does not go quietly. His descent into a kind of madness is obvious as he sets up a face-to-face meeting with Paul in—of all places—the former National Cathedral in downtown Washington D.C. At the same time, he hires a private army to launch an attack on the Columbia Underground’s headquarters. He ordered the attack, knowing full well his own daughter and grandchildren might be among the casualties. (Yeah, that’s how far gone he is.) But the attack lasted only as long as his funds and the Underground suffers no casualties. Paul meets with Ranald and, though Paul is injured, Ranald is arrested after confessing the crimes he himself had committed. All on video, of course, for the world to see.

In the end, as you might suspect, the laws banning religion are repealed and those who believe in God are allowed to worship again without fear of persecution. But the story doesn’t end with a nice, warm, fuzzy feeling. Not quite.

“Despite tears of joy, Paul had to wonder how long the reprieve would last. How long before the world once again fell under the shadow of persecution.”

Almost makes you wonder if another series might be in the offing…

I give this story FOUR STARS.

I did have one problem with the story, and it’s the growing writer in me that had the problem. I’ve always been taught to keep the story focused on the plot. You can weave a secondary and maybe even a tertiary plot line in, but keep your focus on the main plot. Side trips that do nothing to enhance the plot should be eliminated. Jenkins takes a number of side trips in this story, which made me wonder if perhaps he was padding the story to make it reach the required length for publication. I think some of the side trips could have been eliminated without changing the plot one iota (do we really need to know how “Greenie” got his nickname?) while some topics were repeated several times (Felicia berates Paul at least three times for not warning her about “the incident” before it happened).

Someone who hasn’t accepted Christ, or is only a casual worshiper, may come to appreciate the varying “How I Came To Christ” stories, perhaps even finding themselves in the same position as Bea or Felicia or Greenie or Jack. Reading their stories may make them want to study God’s Word more and if that happens, that’s a wonderful thing and makes those side trips worthwhile. As a writer, I think some of them should have been eliminated and the focus kept more on the plot. But then, I’m still an amateur and Jerry Jenkins has sold millions of books. Who’s to say who’s right and who’s wrong?

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Ghost Writer

The Ghost Writer (previously published as The Ghost) by Robert Harris
”The moment I heard how McAra died, I should have walked away. I can see that now…”

The role of a ghostwriter is to make his client look good, not to uncover the truth. But what happens when the client is a major political figure, and the truth could change the course of history?

Adam Lang, the controversial former prime minister of Britain, is writing his memoirs. But his first ghostwriter dies under shocking circumstances, and his replacement—whose experience lies in portraying aging rock stars and film idols—knows little about Lang’s inner circle. Flown to join Lang in a secure house on the remote shores of Martha’s Vineyard in the depths of winter, cut off from everyone and everything he knows, he comes to realize he should never have taken the job.

It’s not just his predecessor’s mysterious death that haunts him, but Adam Lang himself. Deep in Lang’s past are buried and shocking secrets…secrets with the power to alter world politics…secrets with the power to kill.
--The Ghost Writer by Robert Harris, Copyright ©2007 by Robert Harris, published by Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster, Inc.

My Review

Wow! What a great story!

Okay, you probably want a little more than that…

This book was originally released under the title The Ghost and when it was adapted into a movie, the movie’s title was changed to The Ghost Writer, probably to keep viewers from complaining that there were no actual ghosts in the movie. So the book was re-released with the movie and retitled. Personally, I think it was a shame to retitle it, but I certainly understand the reason.

It came to me slowly as I read, but eventually, I realized that you never learn the protagonist’s name. He refers to himself as a ghost and when he meets Adam Lang for the first time, Lang says “Who are you?” he replies, “I’m your ghost.” He remains unnamed throughout the whole story. An awesome story device—I loved it!

The Ghost is hired to replace Mike McAra, a former staff member of Adam Lang’s turned biographer. It’s suspected he committed suicide by jumping off the ferry that was taking him to Martha’s Vineyard where Adam and his entourage were staying. The Ghost gets to work, reviewing McAra’s manuscript and interviewing Lang. Lang is under suspicion of authorizing the abduction of suspected al-Qaeda terrorists in Pakistan, who then ended up in the CIA’s merciless hands. When charges are filed, the Ghost is put into the unique position of being able to observe an important, polarizing event in Lang’s life, rather than trying to recreate it from his client’s memories.

The more the Ghost digs into the manuscript and into the charges against Lang, the more he begins to wonder if he’s gotten in way over his head. McAra knew something, found out something that makes the Ghost suspect he didn’t commit suicide. A secret that very highly-placed individuals in both the US and British government want to keep secret. It would only be a matter of time before the Ghost uncovers the truth, and then, how long will he last?

This is a terrific, well-written story with a fabulous little twist at the end and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys political intrigue. The DVD of the movie will be released on August 3, 2010 and I may just go out and purchase it.

I give this story FOUR and a HALF STARS.

Monday, July 12, 2010


Silenced by Jerry Jenkins
In a world where government and the NPO (National Peace Organization) ban the practice of religion, believers are forced to hide their religious values or suffer the consequences. Double-agent Dr. Paul Stepola, a new, but secret believer, is an educated advisor on religious studies and works for the NPO. The underground church is in mortal peril following the apocalyptic events in Los Angeles, which have only cast further suspicion upon Christians. When Paris, Rome and London are attacked by terrorists, the NPO sends Stepola to Europe to infiltrate the Christian underground, thinking the terrorist is among them. Meanwhile, Paul struggles with how to tell his family about his newfound faith without raising the suspicions of his ruthless father-in-law.
--Silenced by Jerry Jenkins, Copyright ©2005 by Jerry B. Jenkins, published by Tyndale House Publishers

My Review

Following Soon, Silenced continues the story of Dr. Paul Stepola, an agent for the National Peace Organization a clandestine believer in Christ in an era where religion is outlawed.

Silenced also focuses more on Jae, Paul’s wife, as she slowly begins to wonder if perhaps she had been wrong about God all her life. Paul has become more attentive to her, treating her like he did when they first fell in love. It’s making Jae fall in love all over again with her husband. When Paul is called to Europe, she finds herself at loose ends and asks her father if he can find any office work for her at the NPO.

In the meantime, she’s begun to listen to the New Testament discs Paul left behind. At first, she’s skeptical of the stories she hears, but rather than turning away, she finds herself compelled to listen to more and more. Once in Washington D.C., Jae is briefed on her new assignment by her father. She won’t be doing office work, however. Paul is now suspected of being a double agent and they want her to help them trap him.

In Europe, Paul makes quick work of establishing contact with the Christian Underground while he searches for the man claiming responsibility for the attacks in Rome, London and Paris. It’s becoming clear to him that this man is not a true believer and Paul doesn’t hesitate to use his contacts to bring the man to the swiftest and most final of judgments, earning him additional accolades from Bern, the seat of the world government and silencing his detractors in the NPO.

Before Paul takes the terrorist down, however, the head of the world government has announced that everyone in the world has 60 days to sign a document swearing their allegiance to the world government and renouncing any ties to any religious groups. Paul knows he cannot sign the document for doing so would be a denial of God and he cannot deny what he believes. Through his contacts in the Christian Underground, he releases a manifesto, telling Bern that if the document is not withdrawn within 40 hours, God will recreate the tenth plague of Egypt, where the first-born son of all non-believers will die.

When Jae joins Paul in Paris, Paul knows it’s finally time to clear the air between them. How will Jae react when she hears what Paul’s become? How will he react when she admits she may be turning the same way? And when Bern fails to withdraw the loyalty decree, will God act as Paul’s manifesto described?

Of course God acted as Paul’s manifesto described. Jerry Jenkins ended the first book in this series on a miracle, it’s only natural that he’d end the second the same way, too. Unfortunately, this means Jae’s brother has died, and Ranald, Paul’s father-in-law, now knows for certain that Paul has become a traitor because Paul’s own first-born son, Connor, is still alive.

I have to admit, once I finished this story, I immediately clicked over to the third book, Shadowed and began listening. I didn’t even take a break to clear my mind over what happened in the story, just moved right on into the third. This is why I like to collect all the books in a series before reading them…I just can’t wait to find out what happens next!

Come on back in another week or so to find out how this exciting trilogy ends!

I give this story FOUR AND A HALF STARS.

True Colors

True Colors by Kristin Hannah

The Grey Sisters. Shattered by their mother’s death when they were still very young, they’ve always banded together against the distant chill of their father.

Winona, the oldest, needs her father’s approval most of all. An overweight bookworm who never felt at home on the sprawling horse ranch that has been in her family for three generations, she knows that she doesn’t have the qualities her father values. But as the best lawyer in town, she’s determined to someday find a way to prove her worth to him.

Aurora, the middle sister, is the family peacemaker. She brokers every dispute and tries to keep them all happy, even as she hides her own secret pain.

Vivi Ann is the undisputed star of the family. A stunningly beautiful dreamer with a heart as big as the ocean in front of her house, she is adored by all who know her. Everything comes easy to Vivi Ann, until a stranger comes to town…

In a matter of moments, their family will be torn apart. The Grey sisters will be pitted against one another in ways that none could have imagined. Loyalties will be tested and secrets revealed, and a terrible, shocking crime will shatter both their family and their beloved town.

With breathtaking pace and penetrating emotional insight, True Colors is an unforgettable novel about sisters, rivalry, forgiveness, redemption—and, ultimately what it means to be a family.
--True Colors by Kristin Hannah, Copyright ©2009 by Kristin Hannah, published by St. Martin’s Griffin

My Review

At almost 500 pages (491 to be exact, not counting the “Reading Group Gold” interview with the author, an essay by the author, and preview of her next book, Winter Garden which came out in February of this year), I had some hesitation in picking up this novel. But the story sounded interesting and seeing as I was born into a group of sisters, I decided to give this story a try.

The book is divided into two parts, appropriately entitled “Part One: Before” and “Part Two: After.” Part One deals with the lives of the three sisters, starting with a scene shortly after their mother dies in 1979. We accelerate to 1992 where Winona, the oldest and most responsible, is tasked by her father to hire a new hand to help out on the family ranch, Water’s Edge. After more than a month of searching, she hires drifter Dallas Raintree. Her prejudicial father has no love for the half-Indian ranch hand, but he’s good with the horses and knows how to fix things. Dallas quickly settles into the routine of Water’s Edge, and into Vivi Ann’s mind.

Vivi Ann can’t shake this sudden obsession she has with Dallas. She’s engaged to another man, a man she doesn’t realize her sister Winona is in love with, but finds herself drawn to Dallas more and more, until she finally succumbs. When their secret affair is revealed, her engagement is broken and she and Dallas disappear, only to reappear days later, married.

The small town scandal is slowly replaced by other small town scandals and is seemingly forgotten by the time Vivi Ann gives birth to their son, Noah. It re-emerges when Dallas is arrested for murder.

Vivi Ann stands fully behind her husband, unlike her sisters and father. She pleads with Winona to represent him, but Winona refuses, saying that as a small-town civil lawyer, she doesn’t have the ability to defend in a major criminal trial. She also believes he’s guilty. Vivi Ann’s faith in Dallas doesn’t waver when he’s found guilty and sentenced to life in prison. She pursues every avenue of appeal until they, and she, are exhausted. Finally, when she receives the divorce papers, she is given no choice but to close the door on her past and move forward with her son.

Part Two opens in 2007. Everyone’s a bit older and a bit wiser, except for budding juvenile delinquent, Noah Raintree. Noah’s been kept in the dark about his father, knowing only that he’s in prison for murder. But Noah can’t help wanting to know more about his father and can’t help hating his mother for not telling him about him. When he comes across an article about advances in DNA testing, he hires his Aunt Winona to see what she can do to help exonerate his father.

I think I’ll stop there. If I go any further, well, you wouldn’t want me to give the ending away, would you?

The story suffers a bit from too-much-itis, a term I think I’ve used before in this blog. Although it enriches the story to see some scenes told from more than one character’s point-of-view, it made the story quite long (hello, almost 500 pages!). That said, I don’t know what could possibly be edited out without ruining the flow of the narrative. The pace is quick, so it’s not a difficult read, it’s just a long read.

If you’re looking for a book to curl up with on a rainy afternoon and hope to finish before nightfall, this isn’t it. But if you’re looking for a wonderful story about sisters, the strength of family ties and the loyalty of love, then invest the time to read this book.

I give this story THREE AND A HALF STARS.