Saturday, May 28, 2016

Review: The Mine by John A. Heldt

The Mine
by John A. Heldt

The Mine (Northwest Passage, #1)In May 2000, Joel Smith is a cocky, adventurous young man who sees the world as his playground. But when the college senior, days from graduation, enters an abandoned Montana mine, he discovers the price of reckless curiosity. He emerges in May 1941 with a cell phone he can't use, money he can't spend, and little but his wits to guide his way. Stuck in the age of swing dancing and a peacetime draft, Joel begins a new life as the nation drifts toward war. With the help of his 21-year-old trailblazing grandmother and her friends, he finds his place in a world he knew only from movies and books. But when an opportunity comes to return to the present, Joel must decide whether to leave his new love in the past or choose a course that will alter their lives forever. THE MINE follows a humbled man through a critical time in history as he adjusts to new surroundings and wrestles with the knowledge of things to come.

My Take:
The romance in this book is reminiscent of The Rocketeer, A beautiful girl, a handsome guy, the backdrop of World War II impending. Wait, was The Rocketeer from WWI? What was missing in the story was a significant antagonist. Mainly, the biggest antagonist in the story was the main character and his flaws, and the truth he really couldn't share.

Joel Smith struck me at first as an over-the-top unlikable playboy who defied authority and was only interested in his own pursuits and his own way. His winning charm and good looks got him through many scrapes, and his easy way of lying to friends and family was almost disturbing.

His wit and offhanded dry thoughts and comments were hilarious though, and kept me coming back for more, to see what the Connecticut Yankee would say in King Arthur's Court.

The author obviously did some serious research into life and history in 1941, and his settings and situations were believable. The backdrop of a world spinning out of control on the brink of its greatest and therefore worst world war was immersible.

Joel, as the story progresses, has to come to grips with his selfishness and cavalier attitude, and the damage he is dealing to those closest to him, as he considers returning to the present or spending the rest of his life with the woman he loves in the past.

Drug Content:
PG - This book has casual drinking in nearly every get-together. The characters are now, for the most part, over 18, but there's discussion of underage drinking and fake ID cards, and one character has a drinking problem, which she manages to overcome. Cigarettes, as well, are quite present, after all, the setting is before the surgeon general's warnings. Joel admonishes one person to quit for her health.
Gambling (ok, that's not drugs, but another vice) is one character's problem, and the main character uses his knowledge of the future to have several dramati gambling wins.

PG - There are several somewhat graphically described fistfights and one boxing match.

PG - the story starts out with quite a bit of cussing at the beginning, which peters out as the story progresses. The F bomb is never used, nor is GD in the book.

Adult Content:
PG-13. There are multiple references throughout of the main character's various exploits, but not in any detail. There is a bit of waitress-watching and rating, and one sex scene that does not go into any graphic detail.

Christian content:
Not a lot. God is mentioned, multiple times, and not as a swear word. There are a few mentions of church attendance but not much faith or dependence on God is evident and no praying for deliverance.

Final analysis:
The Mine is a history lesson, an entertaining, witty, well-written trip to the past, with a lot of college angst thrown in, a Fantasy Time-Travel Romance with a devilishly handsome guy and a few drop-dead gorgeous girls. A riches to rags to riches story with a few plot twists to keep you guessing. Five Stars.

About the Author:
John A. HeldtJohn A. Heldt is the author of the critically acclaimed Northwest Passage and American Journey series. The former reference librarian and award-winning sportswriter has loved getting subjects and verbs to agree since writing book reports on baseball heroes in grade school. A graduate of the University of Oregon and the University of Iowa, Heldt is an avid fisherman, sports fan, home brewer, and reader of thrillers and historical fiction. When not sending contemporary characters to the not-so-distant past, he weighs in on literature and life at

Monday, May 23, 2016

Review: Madra Rising by Christy and Sarah Newman

Madra Rising
by Christy and Sarah Newman

Back Cover Blurb:
For five years, the Kingdom of Madra has been at war. In a last effort to save his people, the prince travels toward Eldale, a city of dragon tamers. Unaware of this, Eldale has sent its most valued dragon tamer to the dying city with the one thing that can save them. In this tale of harrowing danger and destiny where the two must keep their missions secret, they cross paths and join forces to recover the stolen treasure.

In response to a desperate cry for help from the kingdom of Madra to the South, Princess Arya of Eldale carries an unhatched dragon to their aid. But while still a few days from her destination, her carriage is attacked and the precious egg stolen.

The princess would surely have perished if not for the timely aid of a travel-worn stranger named Finlay. He is badly injured while fighting off her attackers, and she manages to get him to a healer in time to save him.

Once Finlay is stable and able to ride, he insists on accompanying her to recover the stolen treasure, unaware that he is helping to recover his kingdom's hope for an end to the war.

My Take:
Madra Rising is a gripping account of a kingdom at war and the orchestration of Providence, or the 'Guide', as He is referred to here, in delivering the people. Finlay is a likeable, honest, brave and determined character. At first he seems almost ADD in his thoughts, second-guessing decisions right and left. But underneath his friendly, distracted exterior lie a heart of gold and a will of iron.
Arya does not seem to possess much in the way of fighting skill early on, but what she lacks in battle hardness she more than makes up for in sheer determination and faith in the Guide to protect her.

I found the supporting cast to be a bit less defined. I liked Louis, but Grover quite got on my nerves, almost appearing a bit addle-brained. The main antagonist, Dupits, could have used more dimension but was adequately frightening as a lurking enemy.

There are multiple places in the story where characters are bloody, damaged, burned by dragon fire, or shot with an arrow. I'd say PG-13, it was not more violent than the LOTR.

Very clean.

Adult Content:
Disney-level. Light PG. There is a scene where the princess must help the prince dress his wound, and his shirt is off. She notices he is not bad looking. There's some talk of courting and marriage.

Christian content:
The main characters freely discuss the importance of the Guide in their lives, and also mention His Son. They make it evident that considering one another for courting would depend on their mutual faith, and they discuss the faith of the families as well. It is obvious that the Guide is coordinating their movements, and arranging deliverance through them.

Final analysis:
Madra Rising is a fine adventure story filled with faith and hope in the face of devastating loss and hopelessness. The story is well-written, the main characters well-developed, and the plot engaging. It ties the ends together neatly while leaving a few things open for a sequel I'd be interested in reading. Five Stars.

About the Authors:

Christy NewmanChristy Newman is a homeschooled, award-winning author living in the high desert with her family, a cat named Fooseball, along with many other animals. Her favorite things are to ride and to write. Her greatest desire for a career is to be an author whose work is enjoyed by many people. Please visit
Sarah Newman
Sarah Newman is homeschooled and often writes with her sister and best friend. They live, eat, ride, sing off key, and work in tandem to produce books for your entertainment and their pleasure. They live in the high desert of New Mexico with their beloved family, cats, dog, and not so beloved chickens and fish. Please check out

Review: Shepherding a Child's Heart by Tedd Tripp

Shepherding a Child's Heart
by Tedd Tripp

Shepherding a Child's HeartOk, I feel led to start this review off with three caveats, to clear the air on this particular review:
1) I was concerned that with the popularity of this book, that it was not generated by a small press, but I did my homework and it appears that it is. The publisher, at least of the version we own, has about eight authors in its 'fold' and has published some thirty books.
2) This book review came as a request from my wife; we have four kids, three pretty much grown, and it's been mainly a review of our parenting to see what we've been doing right and wrong.
3) This book has received a LOT of polarized reviews, pro and con. Hardly anyone appears to be in the middle camp, more on that later. I hope this review can clear the air on some of that.

ON to the review:

Amazon Blurb:
Written for parents with children of any age, this insightful book provides perspectives and procedures for shepherding your child's heart into the paths of life. Shepherding a Child's Heart gives fresh biblical approaches to child rearing.

Dispelling the myths:
This book does not suggest that it's too late for you if you have not shepherded your children's hearts early on. This book does not advocate spanking only, or that it's ever appropriate to spank in anger, or because you are bothered by something your child did, or the damage they did to something valuable, or the noise level in the home.

This book does not imply you should control and dictate every decision your child makes, from what we have for breakfast to what to wear to school.

This book does not suggest that you should rule your home by fear; fear of the Rod or the Parent, anyway. Fear or Respect for God is the motivation and authority for rule in your home.

Affirming the Truths:
This book mandates parents must be involved in the rearing of their children, and in their lives. That discipline is training for LIFE, not revenge or punishment for wrongs.

Dr. Tripp points parents to the cross as a beginning point, that the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked (Jer 17:9) and that foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child.

The author makes it clear that if you have issues with abuse in your past, or problems with anger, then it's better to get your partner to administer discipline, unless you can get alone with God forst, get your own heart right, before you take your child aside.

The method of discipline in this book states you should discipline (1) your OWN child (2) in private communication to (3) get to the heart issue rather than just the surface sin (4) encourage the child to confess this root issue (5) using God's Word to show what God says about the heart issue (6) by using God's authority to give the child the knowledge that Love requires the rod, and that it's to move them toward God rather than punish, that Christ took the punishment (7) tell your child how many swats they will receive (8) administer exactly that many (9) hug your child and remind them that you and God still love them. (10) consider the matter completely over and the relationship restored.

This book condemns shaming, belittling, abusing, and terrorizing children. It clearly labels such things as child abuse. It communicates that spankings are not for punishment or vengeance but to put a child back into a right relationship with their parents and more importantly, God.

My take:
My wife had read some but not all of this book, and was discouraged that the author seemed to imply that shepherding begins at birth and if you haven't gotten behind the wheel and begun this process by the time they reach 5 then it's too late.

I read the book cover to cover, and really did not see that anywhere. Tedd breaks the life of a child up into three age ranges: 0-5, 6-12, and 13-18. The most polarizing content in this book concerns corporal punishment for your kids (0-5, less for 6-12), and that is the reason for a great many of the negative reviews on Amazon.

Dr. Tripp spends a chapter removing the non-spanking methods of discipline in a child's life (time-outs, groundings, etc.) as non-biblical, using portions of Proverbs as the basis. While it seems he gives no other recourse for discipline, this book is for parents and he is clear that this form of discipline is ONLY for parents to administer to their OWN children.

The entire first half of the book covers getting at the heart of an infraction, of disobedience.
An example of this would be, Steve and Bobby are fighting over a toy. Bobby is trying to pull the toy away, Steve shoves Bobby, who falls down and screams. Who is wrong here? What is going on?

The natural reaction would be to ask, who had the toy first? Let's set a timer, and when it dings, pass the toy to the other child. These might address the symptom, but not the root. In fact, both children are wrong. The toy itself is surface. The heart issue is not loving your neighbor. Not sharing with others. Not looking out for the welfare of others.

Review questions are placed at the end of every chapter, and imply this book would lend itself to small-group discussion in a church study group among parents of infants to teens.

Well, this isn't a novel, it's a parenting help. It discusses spanking your child. It describes how this is biblically accomplished in love and firmness.

Very clean.

Adult Content:
This discusses purity for teens, and how to discuss with your kids.

Christian content:
This entire book is based on and infused with the biblical basis for correct parenting and discipline. It quotes multiple passages of scripture to defend its stance. It is solidly biblical in its presentation.

Final analysis:
Every Christian parent could use a read through this book, no matter the ages of your kids. It is encouraging and instructive and well-written. Five Stars.

About The Author:

Dr. Tedd Tripp is pastor of Grace Fellowship Church in Hazleton, Pennsylvania and author of Shepherding a Child's Heart.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Review: Conspiracy Rising by Simon Driscoll

Conspiracy Rising
By Simon Driscoll

Simon Driscoll has woven prophecies from multiple religions into an engaging, action-packed fictional thriller. Conspiracy Rising traces the lives of the Shumway family, together with a small host of others giving a range of understanding for the End Times Prophecies set in the near future.

Bryan Benson is out for revenge, prepared to turn the tactics of the terrorists who destroyed his life back upon their own heads. Gideon Shumway is a CIA analyst with extensive knowledge of these prophecies and how they affect current politics. His younger brother, Ben, is an operative for the CIA, ready to take the fight to the enemy’s home. Their oldest brother, Jon, has been estranged from the family, but he’s finally coming home for Christmas.

We live in an age when prophecies are being fulfilled. While the conflict between good and evil continues rising, who will be able to stand in that day?

My Take:
From the opening page where the Pope is assassinated, through the coordinated suicide bombings of seven churches just letting out from Midnight Mass, this book carried me along with white knuckles, wondering how this was going to end, and how it could possibly end well. 

Conspiracy Rising is the first book in Simon Driscoll's Warriors and Watchmen series. It is a well-written gripping end-times thriller written from the perspective of Mormon prophesy. In a way, I would label it a Mormon 'Left Behind'. While I am not LDS, I found the book significantly instructive in LDS end-times prophesy. The author did extensive research in end-times prophesy from multiple different sources, mainly drawing from his own knowledge of Mormon prophesy. What ensues, though, like in Left Behind, is a gripping race against time to determine who is behind the vicious terrorist attacks before the world is plunged into a bloody Holy War. 

The only quality issue I found in the copy I was provided is that there were sometimes multiple quotes in a single paragraph. While I normally wouldn't mention it, it would yank my head out of the story, because of the inner editor who wouldn't shut up. Your mileage may vary, dear reader, and those may be corrected in a later version.

The story opens up with a brutal attack on the Pope, and there are many terrorist attacks from both sides leaving bodies in their wake. The violence, even so, is not too graphic, but probably PG, leaning toward PG-13.

Very clean.

Adult Content:
G. There is a scene involving home birthing, the reader is kept out of the room. There is no sexual content that I recall in the book, it is squeaky clean.

Christian content:
This book is clearly LDS in nature. There are multiple references to the visible glow of the believer, and the Calling and Election. Some prophesies in the book originate from sources other than the Book of Mormon, though the prophesies probably parallel in some respects, or flesh out details. There are a couple conversion scenes where some in the faith make their Calling and Election sure. From a Mormon perspective, this would be a wonderful read, and I doubt there would be anything objectionable in it. From a Catholic or Protestant perspective, I would simply say the book is a good read, and understand the perspective it's written from.

Final analysis:
I found it gripping and fast-paced, a barn-burner page-turner. While LDS is not my cup of tea, I found it instructive, encouraging, and engaging. Five Stars.

About the Author:
Simon Driscoll
Simon Driscoll grew up in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains. He is a graduate of Brigham Young University. He has been writing for the last three decades and minored in English in college, focused on creative writing. Writing has always been his first passion. His understanding of the Scriptures and Prophecy comes from a lifelong study of the written word. These two passions are combined in this series.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Review: An Arrow in Flight by Jane Lebak

An Arrow in Flight
By Jane Lebak


Ever since Adam left the garden, Gabriel has known why humans sometimes act irrationally, and he helps them without hesitation whenever God gives him an assignment. All seven Archangels of the Presence do as much, sometimes even without orders — whether it's redirecting a lovesick princess, encouraging a terrified hero, or dealing with an amulet-wielding old man who's compelling an unlikely service from the angel least likely to give it. But after a brutal attack during one assignment, Gabriel starts getting touchy and harder to deal with. The other angels love him, but it's been going on for centuries, and he won't take redirection. Then God gives Gabriel an assignment that could result in the destruction of Jerusalem, and Gabriel makes the wrong decision. God forces Gabriel out of Heaven. He's got one year now to make things right between him and God, except he can't possibly do enough. He's isolated from the other angels and being propositioned by demons. Even worse, as Gabriel wanders the Earth trying to change others' lives for the better, it's becoming more and more obvious that the one thing he needs to change is the only one he never wanted to risk. An Arrow In Flight features each of the seven Archangels of the Presence in their own short stories, from Abraham to the fall of Nineveh, all leading up to a long-story crisis that requires each working in unison to help Gabriel when he doesn't seem to want their help at all.

An Arrow In Flight is a series of vignettes concerning the Seven Archangels and various missions they are sent on, beginning with the investigation and destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. The interactions between the angels are believable and the characters well-developed. The interactions they have with humans are realistic and the instances recorded are usually reflecting biblical accounts. Halfway through the book, the vignettes drop and the second half of the book concerns Gabriel, who hesitated to destroy Jerusalem when ordered to by God, and therefore was sent out of God's Presence for a year. The remainder of the book chronicles his experiences when severed from connection with the Holy Father.

Gabriel's account is poignant and raw, believable; and sinners can identify with the shame and conflict he feels, attempting to reconcile himself to his state, the fear of ultimate destruction in the hands of an angry God, the sorrow of loss of fellowship with Him.

Satan as an antagonist is depicted in a believable manner. His character is three-dimensional if a bit shallow, with some of the flavor found in Paradise Lost, but with much less airtime. The main antagonist in this story seems to be Gabriel's flaws, which his character successfully works through in the course of the novel.

Perhaps it's my Protestant viewpoint, but I had some issues with Gabriel starting out female, though I concede the point that angels can appear to be any human in disguise form. Also, the timeline points, especially in the early chapters, could use some work, as the time lapse between the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and the fall of Jericho is a bit longer than 400 years, considering the period Israel spent in Egypt is recorded as 400 years in Gen 15:13.

The story opens up with a brutal attack of two angels by the men of Sodom, involving a near-rape and brutalization, and the shock this causes to the victim. There is a depiction of the destruction of Jerusalem and a battle between a Babylonian soldier and Michael the Archangel.

Very clean.

Adult Content:
PG. As mentioned above, there is a near-rape scene. There is a chapter involving a woman whose husbands never make it to the marriage bed because of a demon's infatuation with her.

Christian content:
This book is clearly Christian in nature, Catholic in denomination. Some of the book pulls from the Book of Tobit, one of the apocryphal books included in the Catholic bible and omitted from the Protestant canon. The handling of salvation by grace, the plight of the sinner, the idolatry of the people and its consequences, and the holiness of God, are fully explored and crystal clear.

Final analysis:
I found it uplifting and poignant, reading a story from the perspective of angels trying to keep humans on the path to heaven, while battling demonic forces. While I had a few qualms from the outset concerning the timeline and treatment of Gabriel as 'half-fallen', I was pleasantly surprised by the content. Five Stars.

About the Author:
Jane Lebak
Jane Lebak talks to angels, cats, and her kids. Only the angels listen to her, but the kids talk back. She lives in the Swamp, writing books and knitting socks, with the occasional foray into violin-playing. You'll also find her blogging at, a resource for writers seeking agents and small publishers.