In Retrospect by Ellen Larson

This is not a Christian book, but it does have considerable religious overtones. It stops short of good vs. evil. In fact, the story line travels along  the path of scrappy underdog fighting the evil giant... and winning. No spoiler alert... you know most stories these days have a "happy" ending because those obscure, ambivalent  endings went out of style ages ago.

I would describe this story as ... Compelling. Intriguing. Fascinating.

Although, I am allergic to foul language--this has its fair share of it--the foul language is a character development tactic to highlight a character's moral degeneration... and another character's anger and desperation. It is used more like pepper than mayo smothering bread. There is no taking God's name in vain, which I appreciate no end. I couldn't have finished the novel if there had been.

It is written with few head jumps, and that makes me sing the Hallelujah chorus from Handel's Messiah. There is a huge amount of flash backs, which at times makes it very difficult to sort out the story line and keep the characters straight. I find that incredibly annoying. I do highly recommend the book trailer before reading the book because there is much there that helps to sort out certain aspects of the story that will become apparent as you read.

You are drawn quickly into Merit Rafi's world from the prologue... such a compelling opening for this story (written in future tense--very rare). You just can't help turning the pages. The story is crafted like an Oscar winning film in that each page/chapter answers a reader's question but offers another so you are compelled to keep reading.

Intriguing character: Merit Rafi is a scrappy, sassy, tiny, 30-something woman who is the only one in the world who can use the Vessel to go back in time through the Continuum. Her training lasted for 9 years as a child. The woman is a psychological mess, though, and how she handles her guilt feelings, her anger at the betrayal of her country's president, and the choices she makes (whether good or bad) lead toward an astounding climax that rocks you in your seat.

Fascinating in that the story is a bit unique. It is not a rehash of a revenge story, although revenge and justice play huge roles in Merit's choices. It is not some pitiful, self-recrimination study, although that too plays a part. It is a fascinating depiction of one woman's handling of these intense emotions while trying to offset some rather strong drugs she's forced to take for her "rehabilitation". How she handles reason over heart matters and vice versa so that she finally makes a choice that leads to peace in her soul, and overcomes the manipulations and betrayals.

Do not plan on getting much sleep while reading this book, you won't be able to put it down. It is definitely gritty, and a bit steamy in a place or two but not graphic. 

4.5 stars out of 5 stars. I took off .5 star because of the language character ploy. I think Larson could have done a better job of character development of Thad than his foul mouth and his obvious lack of self-control (read that adultery). AND because the book cover says it is an "old fashioned whodunit" when it is most definitely not a spectacular whodunit nor is it old fashioned. I abhor back covers that lie like that. Although the composite is excellent writing and superior story telling (even though there is an ad nauseum amount of flashbacks), the real story is more about Truth-finding, and Accepting the real Truth, and working through problems to appropriate solutions rather than passive accepting in seeming hopeless situations. Sadly, the triumph depicted here is finding trust in true, but earthly love. God is love and forgiveness... the plot could have had such a tremendous impact if Merit had found the power of that Higher Power... but, I guess that would have been a bit different story.


Former elite operative Merit Rafi suffered during her imprisonment at the end of a devastating war, but the ultimate torment is being forced to investigate a murder she would gladly have committed herself.

The year is 3324. In the region once known as Turkey, the Rasakans have attacked the technologically superior Oku. The war is a stalemate until the Oku commander, General Zane, abruptly surrenders. Merit, a staunch member of the Oku resistance, fights on, but she and her comrades are soon captured. An uneasy peace ensues, but the Rasakans work secretly to gain control of the prized Oku time-travel technology. When Zane is murdered, the Rasakans exert their control over Merit, the last person on Earth capable of Forensic Retrospection.

Merit, though reinstated to her old job by the despised Rasakans, knows she is only a puppet. If she refuses to travel back in time to identify Zane’s killer, her family and colleagues will pay the price. But giving in to Rasakan coercion means giving them unimaginable power. She has only three days to make this morally wrenching choice; three days to change history.

As the preliminary investigation progresses, Merit uncovers evidence of a wider plot. How did the Rasakans defeat the technologically superior Oku? Why did the Oku surrender prematurely? How did the Rasakans discover her true identity? Merit realizes she will only find the answers by learning who killed the traitor, General Zane.

In Retrospect is a good old-fashioned whodunit set in a compelling post-apocalyptic future.
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I was going to write here "little information available", but decided to do a Google, and viola! I found some interesting background information located here.


Otherworld by Jared Wilson

I love the premise of this book... Four men with completely different perspectives faced with bizarre happenings, trying to decipher the truth from fiction... Trying discover who or what is behind it all.

But, because I love the premise, doesn't mean that I love the book. There is just too much going on and too many perspectives, and that causes such a tangled web that as the reader is juggling the head jumps from one perspective to another something gets terribly lost.

There are some great things about this book. The writing is very good. Character development is top notch. This study of demonic affected psyche is so on target. There needs to be much more of this kind of in-your-face dealing with how demons work in Christian lives.

However, as you know, I hate head jumping from one character to another especially when the transitions are poor. I hate editorial tactics that try for some unique storytelling but actually makes the story appear jumbled and disjointed. This story line is full of them. As a result, the story flow is jerky, and hard to follow at times. Reading a start-stop-jerk-stop story is very annoying and tiring. For this kind of story, it would have been much better to have charted a storyboard using two characters instead of seven. You have the main four characters, and then there is the supporting cast so you have a jumble of people you are trying to keep track of, and it clogs the story flow so it is more of a seepage rather than white water rafting. The premise of this story promises white water rafting, but you don't get those thrills.

I blame the editor not the author for the above problems. These are things that could have been smoothed out before going to press.

I give it 3 of 5 stars.

Publisher: David C. Cook
Pub Date: September, 2013
When a wave of bizarre phenomena hits Houston, Texas, four reluctant strangers are brought together in a surprising battle against deadly spiritual forces.

Something strange is happening in Houston and its rural suburb, Trumbull. It starts with the bizarre mutilation of a farmer's cow, sparking rumors of UFO sightings and alien visitations. It's all an annoyance for the police, who would prefer to focus on the recent murders in the area. Mike Walsh is a journalist with a nagging editor and a troubled marriage who finds himself inexorably drawn into the deeper story creeping up on all who dare get close enough: a grizzled small town police captain, a depressed journalist, a disillusioned pastor, and a little old man. They are unlikely allies against the otherworld.

Jared C. Wilson is the pastor of Middletown Springs Community Church in Middletown Springs, Vermont and the author of the books Your Jesus is Too Safe, Gospel Wakefulness, Gospel Deeps, The Pastor's Justification, and the Bible study resources Abide, Seven Daily Sins, and Knowing the Bible: Romans.

His first novel, Otherworld, a supernatural thriller, is recently released from David C Cook.
Jared's articles, essays, and short stories have appeared in Rev! Magazine, Tabletalk, Exponential's Leadership Learnings, Pulpit Helps Magazine, Disciple Magazine, Collegiate, Family Life, and at among numerous other publications.

You can encounter his passion for the ongoing reformation of the evangelical church almost daily at his blog, The Gospel-Driven Church.


The Heavens Rise by Christopher Rice

This is not a Christian book. Pub date is October, 2013.

Although I am allergic to foul language, I was very intrigued by this book because I grew up in Louisiana and currently live just a few miles from New Orleans. Many things mentioned in the novel, I recognized and it was neat. But, there is more than necessary foul words. You have to excuse Rice; he lives in L.A. where foul language is a common occurrence apparently since movies seem to be filled with it as well.

The story line is intriguing. Something in an Artesian  spring that feed a swimming pool attaches itself and makes people do strange and violent things.

However, when the character Shire describes Katrina he gets it ALL wrong. The hurricane did not last for days and days. There was no flooding in New Orleans from the hurricane. The flooding came from a burst levy and it did not flood all the way to Midtown (which Rice got right earlier in the novel).

I couldn't get past this gaffe. I tried reading more, even pages and pages more, but the gaffe kept me from concentrating. The main problem was when the reader is in Shire's head and Shire "recites the cold, clinical details of this cataclysm" (Katrina), he gets the "details" wrong. It's a show stopper, a story flow dam.

The character Marshall is very well developed, Ben is greatly loveable. The problem is that Rice tries to get inside the head of a young teenage girl and miserably fails. He tries to get inside the head of a black woman journalist and miserably fails because her thoughts seem trite and formulaic, rather like something he thinks would be in the mind of a black woman journalist. It doesn't ring authentic.

Rice has not mastered the art of head-jumping, although the transitions from one part of the story to another part are mostly smooth but not in every instance. One genuis example is when the story transitions from Marshall's vault through the window, and then Ben is looking out his window. That is such a smooth, effortless transition for a reader. Another one is when we jump from the black nurse Arthella to Shire the private detective. But there are numerous others that don't work well.

If you are not allergic to foul language and a graphic, almost-rape scene, along with some incredibly graphic descriptions of animal heads exploding do not bother you, then you'll probably read long into the night.

I give this 2 stars out of 5 stars. The reason is the foul language and graphic content. The story does not seem to have much value beyond those two things. Although, it is compelling, and character development is quite good for the most part.

I received this book from NetGalley to review for the publisher Simon & Schuster.


Dangerous: Engaging the People and Places No One Else Will by Caleb Bislow

MY REVIEWAt first, I thought this was going to be sort of a missions story on steroids. I was not even close. This is far more than a missions story. This is a story about God going about His business using His children who are ready, willing, and able to listen to His urgings and obey His commands.

I have never been so moved reading a nonfiction as I was devouring this book. I read it in one sitting... I couldn't put it down. My heart, my mind, and my soul have been stirred beyond imagining.

This should be a "must study" for every youth group, and every church group.

Yes, it is graphic in places, but God's work is not always G-rated. The hurting, the downtrodden, the lost are not found in clinically clean places, sitting around waiting for some good Christian to come along and share the Gospel. Jesus ate with the prostitutes, the demon-possessed, and the tax collectors. We should do no less. Funny how Christians think setting on pews, and hatching out nothing is doing God's will. Where is the fruit???

Caleb Bislow listened to God's voice, and obeyed the summons, "As you go make disciples." He followed Paul's example by discipling a few then challenging them to "Go make disciples." Only Caleb did it with some dangerous people in despicable places. 

Any problems in your church?
Complacent church members -- tell them some of these stories.
Shy youth -- challenge them with some of these Bible verses and the illustrative true stories.
Dare devil young men -- let them read of some Dark, Dangerous, and Despised Places... Places that burdened the heart of Caleb Bislow.

Bislow’s debut book, Dangerous (Bethany House, September 2013), written with Ted Kluck, is part inspirational memoir, part devotional, and part field guide for the aspiring evangelist. Since that first trip to Africa, Bislow has founded a missionary organization called Unusual Soldiers that trains American Christians, and increasingly foreign nationals, to minister at home or abroad and almost always under adverse circumstances. Bislow’s vision for the organization is to take humanitarian concern and Christian teaching to places with no Christian contact.

Bislow writes that his first experience in Africa, which led to a church being planted there, “wrecked” him, and set him on a course to raise $50,000 in order to conduct more work among the Maasai. “As we hiked back up a trail, my mind raced. How many years had this village been waiting to hear the gospel? How many generations had come and gone by without Christ? A sense of brokenness came over me. It was as if these people had just been waiting for someone to come and bring them the good news. Just waiting. I found myself angry that no one had ever taken the gospel to these people. That all of the churches and people with Jesus bumper stickers on their cars had forgotten [them] . . . I was even angry with myself . . .”

Caleb Bislow, a farm boy from Nebraska, went from a restless life as a Christian youth pastor in the Midwest, to quitting his job, emptying his bank account, and traveling deep into Africa—a long flight plus a two-day, bumpy car ride with a translator—to tell the Maasai people about Jesus. Was he a fool or was he courageous? Bislow wondered that very thing as he took his first steps as a missionary with little idea what he was doing. He has since gone on to minister around the world, often to places he calls “despised, dangerous, and dark,” including the Congo, and Guatemala’s Pavon Prison, which is literally run by the inmates.

Bislow has been humbled to advance God’s kingdom on every inhabited continent in the world. He was trained in survival by former British commandos, is the director of Unusual Soldiers training events, and is a sought-after speaker through Kingdom Building Ministries. Caleb and his wife, Jessica, and their three children call Franklin, Nebraska, their home. Learn more at

Jude by Jeff Nesbit

If you frequent this blog, you know there are some things that I absolutely cannot tolerate in the books that I read. One of them is the bandwagon for global warming or other kinds of dire, ecological planet danger. As a Bible-reading, believing Christian I know that the earth has a limited time table and only God is able to destroy this planet in His good timing. Perhaps because Nesbit was director of public affairs for two science agencies, he knows better. Nesbit actually mentions McKibbons, which I found interesting. When an author like McKibbons or those like him write books, I steer clear of their books because they make my blood pressure soar.  Thank goodness, Nesbit doesn't stay on this kick more than a couple of chapters. However, there is an underlying reason for this ecological flag waving, which I address in a moment.

The main character is Thomas Asher (the book is written in first person, and praise God stays in first person point of view) who has a twin brother that basically becomes the financial ruler of the world with the help of powers and principalities that Thomas calls regents. This is a good premise because right from the start the reader meets these principalities and what they can do. It is not graphic violence, just the suggestion, and that can be more terrifying than the actual depiction of it.

The characters are developed very well, the reader gets an excellent sense of the inner core of each brother. But, I often wondered why Jude even cared what Thomas thought, and why Thomas was drawn inextricably to Jude when their core values seemed to be polar opposites. However, they are twins. Too many clinical studies have provided empirical evidence that twins have some kind of connection that regular siblings do not have. However, to explain why Thomas is not completely repulsed by Jude's dependence on the regents' prevailing succor, Thomas admits to being agnostic with no penchant for Christian things. This makes his unemotional narrative of the happenings surrounding Jude's rise to power even more chilling. The reader is drawn into this fascinating tale with a bit of trepidation as if this very personal look into their lives is similar to voyeurism.

You don't want to look but you can't look away. It is the same feeling the reader gets from Thomas. He tries to separate himself from his brother, but he can't. It is a very interesting, psychological thriller. Thomas sets aside the ecological flag waving for more crucial and life-threatening things to study and write about, and that puts everything into a more godly perspective.

This is the first book by Jeff Nesbit that I've read. I believe I will read more from this author. I give it 4 of 5 stars. The reason is because the flashbacks which happen every other chapter do not transition well. Jumping back and forth in time is too jarring. It would be so much better if present day happenings would lead into the happening depicted in the flashback. Better still, in my opinion, if all the flashbacks were told together leading up to the present day.

Jude Asher first called on outside forces to change his destiny as a child. Now a wealthy entrepreneur with his star soaring, he's prepared to make his most daring bet ever to reach the pinnacle of earthly power. Jude's twin brother, Thomas, has chosen a different path as a reporter for The New York Times. As much as he's tried to cut himself off from his brother's trajectory, he finds himself drawn back in ... and troubled by the secret that only he knows.

Surrounded by principalities and powers, each brother must choose their own path—for good or for evil.

Publish date: September 20, 2013

I received this eBook from NetGalley specifically for review.

Jeff Nesbit has written 19 inspirational novels for various publishers. He and a colleague opened a publishing house in 2006 to encourage new authors and bring back into print books from established authors.

Nesbit was the White House communications director for Vice President Dan Quayle, director of public affairs for two federal science agencies, and a national journalist with Knight-Ridder and others. He now writes a weekly science column for U.S. News and World Report ( and is executive director of Climate Nexus.


Poison Town by Creston Mapes

You may have met Jack Crittendon back in June when his life turned upside down because his wife had shown a boy some kindness in high school. Here's my review of Fear Has A Name. In this tension-strung, nerve-wracking sequel, Jack and Pam are trying to get on with their lives... but something is just not right. There's a huge log jam in the flow of life and Jack's strangle hold on unforgiveness, and Pam's tightly packed down fear just could be the cause of the problems in their family. Or it could be Jack's job. Or it could be Pam's fear-ridden mother.

This roller coaster ride is a must read. Mapes has perfected the head-jumping to a finely tuned craft.
Sheer genius. In this book, he's also perfected the way the story lines are interwoven and how they come together. Far, far better than anything he has written before. Be prepared to read far into the night. Be prepared to consume this book like a tall glass of chocolate milk: You just can't drink it slow.

There is only one draw back... You have to wait until February, 2014 to get your hands on one. Be watching for it. Pre-order yours. I promise you will not be disappointed.

Another 5 of 5 stars for Creston Mapes!

There’s More Than One Kind of Poison in This Town People are sick and dying. Rumors are swirling. Some claim chemicals leaking from a manufacturing plant are causing the cancer that’s crippling people on the poor side of Trenton City, Ohio. Yet nothing at the plant appears amiss. The problem remains a mystery until reporter Jack Crittendon’s long-time mechanic falls ill and he investigates. Soon Jack becomes engulfed in a smokescreen of lies, setups, greed, and scandal. The deeper he digs, the more toxic the corruption he uncovers. As he faces off with the big-time players behind the scenes and tries to beat the clock before more people die, he realizes the chillingly unthinkable—he knows too much.

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