Monday, June 16, 2014

Sky Zone--a great read!

Sky Zone: A Novel (The Crittendon Files #3)Sky Zone: A Novel by Creston Mapes

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

No one can look back on America's recent history and not think about the threat of terrorism. There are more incidents of it in the news than we want to hear about. For most of us, it hasn't hit too close to home, but it could at any moment. Jack Crittendon is about to find out what it's like.

Jack has been through some tough times, but nothing has prepared him for what's coming. Not only are he and his wife Pam struggling financially, but one day when he checks in for work, he gets way more than he bargained for. Providing security for Festival Arena in Columbus, Ohio, Jack and his ex -military, survival-crazy friend Brian Shakespeare, are thrown into a life and death situation. Independent presidential hopeful Martin Sterling is holding a rally at the arena--one that will pack the seats--but when Homeland Security uncovers intel of a possible terrorist attack, everyone is thrown into panic and chaos. Thousands of people are trapped inside the arena, along with Jack, Shakespeare, Sterling, Jack's reporter friend Derrick, and Everett Lester, former rock star-turned-Christian artist scheduled as part of the evening's festivities.

Who can stand against the evil men holding the public hostage to their every whim? Can Jack, Derrick, and Shakespeare stop the madness without getting themselves killed in the process?

The books in the Crittendon files keep getting better and better. The plot, elements of suspense, setting, characters, subject matter, and faith issues were handled flawlessly to create a complete work that I thoroughly enjoyed. The problems the characters had were ones anyone could relate to, and most of the situations were entirely believable. Although I saw a major twist coming a mile away, it didn't take away from the drama, and I maintain that this is definitely Creston Mapes' best book yet.

As a reader and reviewer who has been with Mapes from the very beginning, I loved that Everett Lester made an appearance in the story. It made me want to go back and read Dark Star and Full Tilt over again.

Without spoiling anything, I will say that Sky Zone is less about terrorism and more about a lot of other things, including maintaining our freedoms, being courageous under fire, being a witness by our example, the importance of our relationships, and God's providence. If I could use spoilers, I would talk a lot more about some other themes that came up, but I won't do that here. Discussion questions are included in the back of the book that address these for group or personal thought.

View all my reviews

Monday, February 03, 2014

Poison Town, by Creston Mapes

Below, I'm happy to review Poison Town, by Creston Mapes. I've long been a fan of Creston's, from his very first book. I received a free e-book directly from him, but was put under no pressure to produce a positive review. Go check out the author here:

Jack Crittendon, a Trenton City, Ohio reporter, stumbles upon the biggest story of his career when his mechanic Galen Randall becomes ill in a similar manner as his late wife. Galen believes the local fiberglass plant's spewing of toxic pollution is to blame for both of their maladies. But Demler-Vargus is a huge company with far-reaching tentacles of power. What is the truth, and does Jack stand a chance of getting that truth out?

Meanwhile, Jack struggles both inwardly and outwardly with forgiving Granger Meade, the man who had recently kidnapped his wife Pamela. Though Meade claims to have found God in prison and wants to apologize to Jack and Pam, Jack will have no part of it. Pamela has forgiven and begs Jack to do the same, but apparently to no avail.

As Jack finds out more and more about the Demler-Vargus cover-up, he relies on co-worker and friend Derrick to help him further uncover the story, unwittingly getting them both into great personal peril in the process. What they find is more than they imagined and enough to get them both killed.

Engaging and easy to read, this story delivers on several levels. Solid writing and plot pacing carries it smoothly, along with interesting and varied characters. The idea of poison's effects—from the Demler-Vargus plant, and from the unforgiving heart of Jack—is clever, and fleshed out very clearly. If I had to complain a tiny bit, I'd say maybe Mapes is guilty of overkill on that part. The reader is smart enough to pick up on all of that without it being drilled repeatedly. But point taken.

Two of my favorite characters are Claire, Travis' girlfriend, and Derrick. Both of them help out their friends in time of need regardless of danger to themselves. They don't give up when things seem too difficult, either. Nice friends to have.

I highly recommend all of Mapes' works, especially Poison Town. To me, it's better than the first in the series, Fear Has a Name. Readers who want suspense melded with strong faith elements need look no further.

(I received a free e-book, but no pressure was put on me for a positive review. All words are mine.)

Sunday, February 02, 2014

My One Word 2014

If you've known or followed me for any length of time, you'll know that I'm a big fan of my pastor's creation: My One Word. It has become so popular in the last couple of years, he even co-wrote a book with that name, and you can hear about MOW on K-Love radio.

I won't bore you with a rundown of my words from the last 6 years or so. They can be found in the archives of this blog. But I do want to share my choice for this year. I think this is going to be the most difficult yet, and I've had some doozies.

See, I'm a blunt kind of gal. I have opinions, I like to share them, and I like to be right. I've also been known to like having the last word. I don't sugar coat things. I get to the point. I don't like to play games. I get frustrated, upset, maybe even angry when things don't go the way I planned or when the kids (read "kids and/or husband") don't do what I wanted them to do or act the way I wanted them to act. I like to vent. I don't always have a pleasant tone of voice. Okay, rarely, but it's not on purpose. Anyway, when I first started praying about MOW this year, I didn't receive clear direction. Then one day the word "quiet" popped into my head and I thought, "Surely not, Lord! And if so, it does NOT mean silent!" As I continued to pray, God assured me He didn't want me to always remain silent, never saying what I think. However, what He did impress upon me is related, and requires more thought and work then just being quiet.

Before I reveal the word, here's the verse it comes from: Colossians 4:6 - Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone. (NRSV) My word is SEASONED. It comes from a Greek word that means to season, make savory, full of wisdom and grace and hence pleasant and wholesome. For someone who doesn't always think long enough before she speaks, this seems daunting at best. For as long as I remember, I've had a problem with this. Many times I think to myself after a conversation has passed, or after I have gotten angry with someone, "Why did I say that?" Last year my word was LOVE, and I'd like to think I learned to love God and others a little better. Hopefully, that love can create a better way to say things, a gentler and wiser way to respond when I feel like blowing my lid or letting someone have it. Maybe there will be times when I should just shut it and be quiet, but I think most of the time it's just thinking and choosing to say things in a more positive tone or wording. Words mean things and they are powerful. God spoke them and the universe came into being. Our words are indicative of where our hearts are, and they can either build people up or tear them down. I want to respond, not react. I don't want regrets and fighting and anger. I want all of my conversations to be seasoned with God's love and His word, and wisdom that comes from Him.

Have you picked a word for this year? Share it here:

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

CSFF Blog Tour Day 3 (post #2 for me): The Shadow Lamp

I said I would give a review, and give one I will, although it will be a bit different than the ones I usually write. I have a lot of random thoughts/feelings about this book, some positive, some not, and I'll try to go over the more important ones here. However, I will have to give a SPOILER WARNING FOR ALL THAT FOLLOWS THIS SENTENCE. I can't discuss the book in detail without spoilers, so please do not read what follows if you haven't read the book yourself.


I love that Kit, Mina, Cass, Dr. Clarke, the Zetetic Society, and Gianni, all find themselves together talking about what has caused the deceleration of the expansion of the universe and what may have caused it. When Kit tells Gianni about Arthur bringing his beloved wife back to life in the Spirit Well, we realize that this event is what has changed the course of the future and brought the multiverse into the threat of complete annihilation. I can make a wild guess and say that perhaps Kit will travel back to the Spirit Well in the past and try to prevent Arthur from doing this, therefore saving the world. But I don't know.

I'm not a scientist or physicist, and, even after reading all of these books I hardly understand either time or ley travel, but I loved all the discussions of science and space/time.

This isn't a pro about the book, but one about one of the tour participants who writes some good thoughts HERE about Gianni not really being a Deist and Etzel acting in a Christlike manner towards the incarcerated Burleigh and his men. I never thought of Etzel as that important to the story, but evidently he is.

The book, as the others, was written in a way that made me invest and engage in it, and left me wanting more. That's a good thing. I heartily anticipate the conclusion to the series. No doubt Lawhead will hit it out of the park, bringing the answers we've all been so desperate for in regards to what will happen.


I had a slight problem with the fact that the book is called "The Shadow Lamp," though yes, they do try to find out what makes the thing work, but they never do. And if/when they do, is that going to help them go to the Spirit Well and stop the EOE?

I don't like the way all of the characters assume an old earth. I'm letting it go, but being a young earth girl, it peeves me.

I also don't like that it seems somewhat inevitable that the universe/multiverse/world (whatever you want to call it) will collapse into itself and annihilation. That doesn't fit in with the "Omega Point" or with God's bringing forth a New Heaven and New Earth at the end of time as we know it. IMHO, nothing near that would ever have a chance of happening. Anything that happens catastrophically to the earth will be only what happens in Revelation. Whether or not those events change anything but the earth and our galaxy I don't know, but I know we will not all be annihilated. But it is fiction, after all, and for the characters, it's a distinct and scary possibility, even if it isn't for us in real life.

I guess that's it for me. I've enjoyed what others are saying about this book/series. Please go read our other participants' thoughts as I have been doing. I appreciate the way they enlighten me further.

Monday, November 11, 2013

CSFF Blog Tour presents: Stephen R. Lawhead's The Shadow Lamp

So releases Book 4 in the Bright Empires series, a series that reaches beyond one genre and mixes fantasy, sci-fi, and historical fiction. I'm a big fan of Lawhead and of this series, but I had a hard time writing a review of this one. I'm still thinking on it and will post one tomorrow, but for now, here are links to my reviews of the previous books in the series:

The Skin Map
The Bone House
The Spirit Well

Also, here are the tour links where you can check out/buy the book and see about the author:

Buy The Shadow Lamp on Amazon
Author Website
Author FB Page

Lastly, here are my fellow participants' links. Definitely see what they have to say:
Julie Bihn
Red Bissell
Thomas Clayton Booher
Thomas Fletcher Booher
Beckie Burnham
Jeff Chapman
Theresa Dunlap
April Erwin
Timothy Hicks
Christopher Hopper
Becky Jesse
Becca Johnson
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Rebekah Loper
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Mirriam Neal
Writer Rani
Nathan Reimer
Chawna Schroeder
Jojo Sutis
Rachel Starr Thomson
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Rachel Wyant
Phyllis Wheeler
Deborah Wilson

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.