Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Tracey Bateman
WaterBrook Press

As obsession and loss become dark partners, how far must the people of Abbey Hills go to survive?
Six months ago, brutal murders shook the small Ozark town - murders that stopped after a house fire reportedly claimed the killer's life. Lauryn McBride's family auction house has taken responsibility for the estate sale of one of the victims - the enigmatic Markus Chisom. Submerging herself in Chisom's beautiful but strange world, Lauryn welcomes the reprieve from watching Alzheimer's steal her father from her, piece by piece. She soon realizes that centuries-old secrets tie Abbey Hills to the Chisom estate and a mysterious evil will do anything to make sure those secrets stay hidden. Even the man who grew up loving her may not be able to protect Lauryn from danger.

I am not one for stories about vampires -- in fact, I find the topic somewhat ridiculous. That said, however, this was a story that I found intriguing. The basic concept is that a woman who is struggling with her own personal demons must now face the very physical, and visible, demons around her, all while the former love of her life tries desperately to win her affections back. I won't reveal anything more about the story, but I must admit that the plot is very well thought out. Tracey certainly did her homework on Alzheimer's and, for me, that brought an effectual touch of realism to the tale. So much so, in fact, that I had to put the book down a few times because it was too real. This book actually brought tears to my eyes as Lauryn walks through her father's battle with Alzheimer's and it forced me to revisit my own mother's struggle with that horrid disease. Needless to say, if you have had someone in your life deal with dementia, I would caution that it will bring those memories back. You will need to be prepared to face it.

On a lighter note, the depth of characters was amazing. Each chapter told a little bit more of Lauryn's story, and the chapters were well designed to bring all of the characters into focus as you found out their history. The twist towards the end was such that I saw a foretelling of it, but the reveal was much bigger than I anticipated. I was quite pleased with how the book ended and all of the pieces fell into place. Suddenly, things clicked, and I stepped back to see the entire puzzle that I had been doggedly working on.

The writing, sadly, was a bit vapid in places. It seemed as though the author was having an inner dialogue that she expected us to know and she would continue the story without really delving into scenes that could have been tremendous. I say could have because some spots felt rushed. There were a few times that I had to go back and re-read something to see who was talking and who they were referencing as it simply wasn't very clear. For example: at one point, two male characters were directed to leave the room with two female characters remaining in the room. Man #1 makes a comment to woman #1. Man #2 makes a comment as well, and we are told that he stormed out of the room. Suddenly, a conversation ensues between the two women that leads the reader to the conclusion that man #1 exited at some point, but it's not expressly stated when he left. It's not that we need to know how everything happens, but it would have been nice to see man #1 commenting to woman #1 "as he walked out the door to the car".

Other than a few arid places, this book was quite an enjoyable read. It's certainly not comparable to a DekKer or Peretti book, but I could see myself revisiting the town of Abbey Hills in the future. If you like stories about vampires, give Tandem a try.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Then Sings My Soul: Special Edition

Robert J. Morgan
Thomas Nelson Publishing

Is there a festive season of the year that is complete without one of your favorite hymns? Not only do hymns connect you to great memories, but they also reveal the faith of those who lived throughout history. As Robert Morgan explored the stories behind some of the best loved hymns, he found fascinating accounts of tribulations, triumphs struggles, and hope - ordinary people who connected with God in amazing ways, sharing their experiences through song. Discover the inspiration behind your favorite hymns. Find new favorites as you relate to the people whose walk of faith led them to write these classic songs of praise. Share these stories with your family, friends, and church, and find more depth and meaning as you worship God through song.

I am the worship leader in my church and I really found this book to be incredible. The messages are short, sweet, and to the point, which makes it easier to fit them in between songs in a worship service -- and the stories themselves are a tremendous example of God's strength, provision, and providence. Some of the stories are more in-depth than others, but even the shorter ones are a spring-board for deeper, thought provoking questions.

The songs are broken up into categories: Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, Patriotic, and Other Favorites, so it is easy to find a song that fits the message being preached or the holiday that is approaching. They are also indexed by Title, Author/Songwriter, and by the first line of the hymn, so you can find just what you want even if you can't remember the title.

This book is an incredible collection of titles and stories. It is the perfect addition to any singer, songwriter, or worship leader's library, and I highly recommend it.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."