Wednesday, January 21, 2015

REVIEW: JENNIFER (AN O'MALLEY LOVE STORY) ~ DEE HENDERSON

The O’Malley series by Dee Henderson is one of my favourite series of all time.  The O’Malley family consists of seven orphans who basically adopted each other, legally changed all their last names to O’Malley and became a family.  I fell in love with the entire O’Malley family and immensely enjoyed sharing their journey of one by one accepting Christ as their personal Lord and Saviour.  The catalyst for the series is Jennifer O’Malley – the youngest, the first to give her heart to the Lord.  Soon after accepting Christ as her saviour, Jennifer learns that she has malignant, late stages cancer.  Scared that the Lord might decide to call her home soon, her self-appointed mission is to help all of her siblings discover the glorious truth of the gospel.  Each book in the series focuses on one person in the family finding their way to God.

We shared Jennifer’s journey throughout the O’Malley series, and now in Jennifer: An O’Malley love story, a short prequel, we get to experience the beginnings of Jennifer’s heart-breaking yet heart-warming story first hand.  


Jennifer is a bitter-sweet read.  There are moments of joy and moments of sadness.  My favourite part of the book is how Tom introduces Jennifer to Christianity.  He starts by gently convincing her to join him for a church service.  After the service he asks her what she thought, and when she admits that she understood the words but not the meaning, he encourages her to ask him about it.  When she confesses that she still doesn’t understand what he believes or why, he simply asks her what she wants to know.  When she then asks if she could possibly borrow his Bible, he doesn’t hesitate for a second.  Unsure where she should start, instead of taking her all the way to Genesis, Tom suggests she read Luke.  Very clever since Jen is a doctor and Luke was a doctor.  I love the conversation that follows.  

“It’s okay to tell me after you read Luke that you still don’t get it or that it seems strange to believe it’s true.  Faith has to be something that is reasoned and thought about; otherwise, it’s just going along with the crowd.  And that’s not going to mean much, either to yourself or to God.”
“You’ll be disappointed if I say I don’t get it”.
“Disappointed, but still hopeful.  I wrestled with the question of faith for several years before I chose to believe what the Bible says is true.” He smiled. “I’m not holding this up as something you have to pass or fail.  What kind of friend would that be?  I’d just like you to be curious about God.  Read Luke and tell me what you think.  That would be a good place to start”. 
Later he tells her “God will still go on being God while you ponder the questions.  He doesn’t mind”.

The most important lesson to take away from this book, something Christians would do well to remember, is that no matter how badly we want non-believers to accept the Gospel as truth, it is wise not to pressure them in any way.  Guide them, help them, but allow God to work in them.  By being forceful we can do more damage than good.

Henderson's writing style seems to have changed significantly since writing the O'Malley series, and this book doesn't have quite the same feel as its predecessors. Although I did not experience nearly the same level of enjoyment that I did for the other books, Jennifer is nevertheless a lovely addition to the O'Malley series


Product information:
Title: Jennifer. An O’Malley love story
Series: The O’Malley series. Jennifer concludes shortly before the commencement of The Negotiator, and is best read followed by the other books in the series.   
Author: Dee Henderson
Publisher: Bethany House
Year: 2013
Pages: 154
ISBN-10: 0764211552
ISBN-13: 978-0764211553
ASIN: B00B85M0GS

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Friday, January 16, 2015

REVIEW: CODE TRIAGE ~ CANDACE CALVERT


We first meet Leigh and Nick in Disaster Status, but Code Triage can be read as a standalone. Here is their backstory:

Leigh had married a restauranteur; a man with a nice, safe job.  Nick was a chef in his own restaurant when they first met, however even then he was making plans to join the police force.  Leigh then found herself living with the pressures of being married to a cop, which put a tremendous amount of strain on their relationship.  On the other hand, unbeknownst to Nick, Leigh still carries a lot of baggage from her childhood – the kind of baggage that makes her not believe in happily ever after.  Leigh spent the first few years of their marriage waiting for the other shoe to drop; she was just waiting for their marriage to fall apart.  Sadly, Leigh was never 100% committed to forever.  When Leigh found out she was pregnant with a child she knew Nick desperately yearned for, she made the decision not to tell Nick straight away.  Instead, she asked him to move out.  She wanted time and space to make sure that she wanted to stay married to Nick for their sakes, and not just for the baby.  It is during this separation that Nick’s best friend died in the line of duty.  Nick did not have his wife to comfort him during this devastating time (and by saying this I am by no means justifying what followed – I just think it is important to realize the importance of always being the one person your space can lean on).  In the process of comforting his friend’s sister, one night of too much wine led to Nick breaking his marriage vows.  It is clear from both Nick and Samantha’s (the other woman's) later reflections that Nick was confused and absolutely devastated the next morning (it is also clear by Sam’s later actions that Nick is not the first married man she seduced, and trying to get him drunk to get him in her bed seems to be her MO).  Nick immediately came clean to Leigh about his night with Sam, and this devastating news led to Leigh losing the baby Nick never knew they had.  She never told him about the miscarriage; instead she filed for divorce. 

What Calvert did brilliantly here was highlight that a story always has two sides.  I like it when things are black and white.  Leigh and Nick’s story is not – there are a whole lot of grey areas.  Both of them made very big mistakes that shook the fragile foundation of their marriage. This book forced me out of my comfort zone and made me confront my feelings on a very, very, very sensitive topic.

I have never been personally affected by a cheating spouse, but it’s something that breaks my heart every time without fail.  Calvert managed what no other author has managed to do – she made me root for Leigh and Nick to get back together.  Usually I can’t get past the cheating and I can’t warm up to the hero.  In this book I never hated Nick – I hate what had happened, I hate what he did and I hate what it did to his wife and his marriage, but I never hated him.  In this case cheating on his wife was truly a dreadful mistake he deeply regrets and not a deliberate act.  I was truly invested in this story and I desperately wanted Leigh and Nick to get back together.  Their love for each other is very obvious and very deep.  They just had some major obstacles to overcome.

I put off reading this book for so long because I simply knew it was going to shatter me.  I started crying for Leigh and with Leigh in Disaster Status already, and this time around I started crying on Chapter 1!  I read this book in one day.  I literally could not stop once I had started; I was positively desperate to discover what happens.  I read until about 3:00am, and when I got up the next morning, Code Triage was the first thing on my mind.


Code Triage starts off with Nick’s greatest fear: Leigh and Sam finally meet.  Their jobs (police man, doctor, social worker) collide and the three of them find themselves working the same case.  Nick helplessly watches as the biggest mistake of his life breaks his wife’s heart all over again. Despite their separation, in the months since he cheated on Leigh he hasn’t touched another woman, especially Sam (despite Sam’s best efforts).  Determined to get Leigh to change her mind about the divorce and give their marriage another chance, Nick has only one week until the court date within which he must soften his wife’s broken heart.   He has his work cut out for him, but he can’t give up on Leigh; he can’t lose her for good.  Slowly but surely Nick invades Leigh’s space and makes her confront her true feelings for him.  While she can’t stand being in the same room with him, he knows that she still loves him every bit as much as he loves her and that it is her heartbreak keeping them apart – not lack of love.  

Leigh has not only given up on her husband, she has given up on God.  He took away her husband and her child, and Leigh is convinced that God doesn’t care about her.  As Leigh is forced to daily face not only her husband, but the other woman as well, she starts to think God hates her.  Little could she have guessed that God is truly working behind the scenes to save her marriage as well as her soul, and to help her to finally start believing in unconditional, unwavering, forever kind of love.

Nick blames himself, not Sam, for what happened between them and he sees Sam as a victim of his actions as well.  Driven by guilt Nick continues to be a part of Sam’s life and he continues to emotionally support Sam and her young daughter in the absence of his deceased friend.  Little could he guess the extremes Sam will go to, to drive a wedge between Nick and Leigh.  Unbeknownst to Nick, while he is working to salvage Leigh’s trust, Sam is working tirelessly to assault Leigh with taunts and insults, deliberately contradicting Nick’s promises of love and fidelity, making Leigh doubt Nick’s truthfulness and sincerity. 

I did not appreciate having to read several sections from Sam’s point of view. I could not stand the woman. Not since Julia in Francine Rivers’ The Mark of the Lion trilogy have I hated a character with such passion. I did not enjoy experiencing Sam’s thoughts and manipulations. And what a manipulator she is!  The woman even shamelessly uses her own child to manipulate Nick!  Sam continually goes out of her way to hurt Leigh time and time again.   What’s even worse than all her blatant attempts to, not only sink her claws into Nick, but to make Leigh believe there was much more going on between Sam and Nick than there ever could be, is the level of enjoyment Sam got out of deliberately destroying someone’s marriage.  She took so much pleasure from watching her words and actions cut Leigh’s heart open.   I could not bring myself to soften towards this woman at all; not even after discovering why she is so desperate for the love of a good man (being hurt by monsters does not give you an excuse to become one).  Despite Sam’s best efforts to destroy Leigh’s heart, marriage and life overall, Leigh was able to not only save Sam’s life but forgive her as well – I am not at all sure that I could do the same.  Perhaps that is something I need to reflect on and work on.

As Nick continues to pray for his wife, Leigh finally takes her dusty Bible off the shelf and starts to re-evaluate her stance in the mess that has become her life.  Leigh realizes that God never left her – she left Him.  Leigh owns her mistakes, faces her greatest fears and opens her heart to the possibility of a love that lasts forever.  As Leigh finally embraces what Nick has always believed – that their marriage should be built on a Christian foundation – Nick and Leigh might finally have a chance at happily ever after.

The best books in the world make you feel; and boy did this book make me feel.  It made me step away from my rigid black-and-white-preference and examine the grey areas I would honestly have preferred not to deal with.  This book made me re-evaluate my stance on a lot of things.  It made me ponder, it made me question, it made me consider points of view I never would have considered before.  It made me realise anew the importance of protecting your spouse and nurturing your marriage.  Considering the intensity of the affect this book had on me and the emotional upheaval it put me through, Code Triage quite simply has to be listed as one of my all-time favourites.


Product Information:
Title: Code Triage
Series:  Mercy Hospital Book 3 (Standalone, but best read after Critical Care and Disaster Status).
Author: Candace Calvert
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
Year: 2010
Pages: 374
ISBN-10: 1414325452
ISBN-13: 978-1414325453
ASIN: B0045I8B9A

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Thursday, January 8, 2015

REVIEW: THE COVERING ~ DANA PRATOLA

What do a woman of faith and a heathen biker have in common? The devil, of course.

Tessa is moved to intercede for a man she's never met. When they do meet, she's stunned. Gunnar is gorgeous, charismatic, and driven. He's also hostile, self-destructive, and an unbeliever... and she's drawn to him like no other. The temptation she feels is as dangerous as it is alluring. She wants to stay away, but God has other plans. He reveals the devil's intent to destroy Gunnar, and commissions Tessa to keep Gunnar covered in prayer. Can she rely on God to keep her from falling... in love, and into temptation? Or will the devil claim them both?



The Covering is my first book by Dana Pratola, but will most certainly not be my last.  I love Pratola’s writing style.  The beautiful language combined with a gripping story and fully fleshed-out characters make for an unforgettable read.

God places a need in Tessa’s heart to pray for a man she has never met.  She doesn’t know who, where or why – she only knows that she is driven to pray for someone and that it is a matter of life and death.  She faithfully prays for the stranger and eventually realises why God commissioned her to pray for Gunnar before she met him – God knew she wouldn’t have wanted to pray for Gunnar once they meet. She would have obeyed, but she would have struggled with it. God got her in the habit to pray for Gunnar so that she could faithfully continue once they meet despite Gunnar's behaviour (in general and towards Tessa).  To say that Gunnar is a complicated man is an understatement – he is hostile, rude and aggressive.  Tessa can’t deny that Gunnar intimidates her but she stands her ground, unknowingly earning his admiration and respect. 

Though different as can be, in every imaginable way, Gunnar and Tessa can’t deny or fight their attraction to one another; but Heaven knows they try.  God has other plans…

Tessa won't get romantically involved with Gunnar, not only because of his less attractive personality traits, but mainly because he is an unbeliever.  As a woman of faith, Tessa knows that the Bible warns against getting romantically involved with a partner who doesn’t share her faith – yet she has feelings for Gunnar that no man has ever awoken in her.  Tessa can’t understand it.   God not only puts it in Tessa’s heart to cover Gunnar in prayer, He keeps throwing the two of them together.  Tessa is terrified of the sexual chemistry she has with Gunnar.  It threatens her morals and values – and her sanity.  She undertakes to avoid Gunnar as much as possible, but several close calls on Gunnar’s life and disturbing dreams where Gunnar finds himself in hell makes it clear to Tessa that Satan is pushing for Gunnar to lose his life while he is still lost.  Tessa realises that God and Satan are battling for Gunnar’s soul and that she has an important part to play in not only helping to keep Gunnar under God's protection, but also opening Gunnar’s mind to the possibility of salvation.  Avoiding Gunnar is not an option.

Gunnar in turn fights his attraction towards Tessa because he believes he is no good for her – and I don’t say that lightly. This is not Edward Cullen being self-deprecating, Gunnar truly believes bone-deep that he isn’t worthy of Tessa.  Gunnar is an unbeliever and his history reflects as much.  He’s not proud of his past and he believes if Tessa were to learn all there is to know about him, she wouldn’t give him the time of day.  He has a mean streak, he has problems with his temper and he has known countless women.  Somehow Tessa's opinion of him has come to mean more than he could have imagined. Aside from the fact that her brother in no uncertain terms told Gunnar to keep away from Tessa, she is a good, pure, Christian girl and Gunnar refuses to corrupt her and tries to stay away.  He can't.

Tessa and Gunnar embark on a tentative friendship which soon develops into something deeper.  As Tessa clings to God to strengthen her in the face of temptation unlike any she has never known, Gunnar begins to contemplate the validity of her beliefs.  Slowly but surely God works in two stubborn hearts to bring them not only His mercy and grace, but also the kind of love they never could have dreamed possible.

Even though they are as different as night and day, I adore both Gunnar and Tessa.  They complement each other very well and balance each other out.  This is not your typical good-girl-falls-for-bad-boy-story.  Their chemistry is tangible and the progression of their relationship is extremely realistic, possibly the best I’ve ever experienced in fiction.  While they are attracted to each other, they don’t jump into a relationship.  Each of them is aware of the reasons they shouldn’t be together, and these reasons carry a lot of weight.  They both do a lot of thinking, considering and soul-searching before they decide to test the waters.  Even then they take it very slow, getting to know each other at a tempo that Tessa is comfortable with.  Gunnar has some trouble with it, but he knows that Tessa is worth the wait.  This being religious fiction, Pratola does an amazing job of including sexual chemistry and sexual tension without going too far.

Another very realistic aspect of the novel is Gunnar’s struggle with faith.  The doubts he has, the questions he asks and the concepts he ponders are very real and very believable.  His attitude towards Christianity is skilfully handled, as is his gradual consideration of its beliefs. 


This is Christian fiction, so you might have guessed that Gunnar ultimately accepts Jesus Christ as his Lord and Saviour.  The pacing of his struggle with Christianity towards his ultimate acceptance, repentance and conversion is perfect.  It doesn’t happen overnight and it doesn’t happen before he comes to grip with his past, man's sinful nature and his need of salvation.  The whole process of Gunnar’s disbelief to considering the possibility to accepting the Gospel as truth is very realistic.  The author did a wonderful job of making this process not only believable, but emotional as well.

A deep and sometimes dark, thought-provoking read, The Covering is one for my favourites-shelf.  I highly recommend this very touching book.


Product Information:
Title: The Covering
Author: Dana Pratola
Publisher: White Rose Publishing
Year: 2011
Pags: 362
ISBN-10: 1611161010
ISBN-13: 978 1611161014

ASIN: B005G4G7EI

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