Book Review: "Blackout" by Jason Elam and Steve Yohn

>> Wednesday, December 30

My thanks to Tyndale House Publishers for providing me with a complimentary Advanced Review Copy of “Blackout”.





BLACKOUT
by Jason Elam and Steve Yohn

Football hero Riley Covington is tasked with a mission that has nothing to do with passing, rushing, or yardage. His FBI former colleague and close friend Scott Ross says Riley is the only person who can help protect the United States from the next terrorist attack. His college thesis on the exact type of weapon aimed at the US makes him the only knowledgeable person on the subject, and his past service with the FBI as a Special Forces operative makes him more than fit to lead this mission.

As someone who doesn’t even believe in coincidences, I found the plot rife with them.

Often while reading “Blackout”, I had the feeling that I was reading a sequel: too much back-story was referred to but not explained, and I was left confused. The first hint I had that this was indeed not the first novel in the Riley Covington series came from reading an endorsement on the back cover after I’d finished. If either less or more attention were focused on previous events, I would have been better able to concentrate on the current scene. Because I hadn’t read of the previous adventures of Riley Covington, the hints were distracting rather than helpful.

I so wanted to like Riley, and almost did, but I didn’t find his character believable. He is too amazingly talented, and while I admired the strength and depth of his faith, he was too humble, for the average person to relate to.

I could never get a gauge of Riley’s age or the ages of the supporting characters. The respected positions they hold and the power and respect they garner don’t match their juvenile dialog and personal actions. The author tries to explain it away in a confrontational scene late in the book, but it was too late by that time to internalize.

The writing in the first half of “Blackout” staggered from passable to intriguing as chapters bounced from The Professional Football League to the Counter Terrorist Division. Midway through, however, the excitement picked up and the writing style smoothed out, making me want to keep turning pages.

In addition, the storyline of “Blackout” is totally believable – it could potentially happen tomorrow and we all know it. Which is why, though I don’t necessarily recommend this book, I ended up enjoying it despite its shortcomings.


My rating: 2 out of 5



Coming soon: a review of
"Eyes of Elisha",  a chilling thriller by
award-winning author
Branilyn Collins!



Catrina Bradley

"God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes."
Psalm 18:24 (Msg)

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Book Review: "Though Waters Roar" by Lynn Austin

>> Sunday, December 27


Though Waters Roar
by Lynn Austin

From her narrow cot in the town lock-up, Harriett ponders the question, "How did I end up here?" Her grandmother BeBe would be heartbroken. Even though BeBe herself had spent time in jail in her day, Harriett's infraction went against everything her grandmother had fought for.

Through a series of flashbacks, Harriet tries to put in order the stories Grandmother BeBe shared with her throughout the years. She hopes to make some sense of who she is and where she is going is by examining where she came from. Her recollections drop us into the lives of three generations of women in three distinct but overlapping eras.

The author makes history come alive, and I found myself sneaking into the attic with Hannah to take food to a slave family escaping north to Canada, I joined hands with BeBe and her sisters in the Christian Women's Suffragette Union and prayed and sang hymns in front of seedy taverns; I suffered humiliation and discovered humility along with Lucy fighting for the right for women to have a voice and a vote.

The same wise words of advice gleaned from scripture and experience were passed from each mother to her daughter. Each character listened and obeyed, albeit grudgingly.And each saw clearly the truth in her mother's words only after facing a crisis: God orders our steps according to His plan, landing in this place, at this time, for His purpose.

And where does that leave Harriett? She is a simple, unmarried Sunday School teacher, who can't see what God could possibly have planned for her life's purpose.

The female characters are four very different women with complicated family relationships. I was as much enthralled with the familial dynamics and getting to know Hannah, Beatrice and Lucy and their husbands and kin as I was with the historical events that were so accurately and movingly portrayed.

Although Harriet has "top billing" I never felt like I got to know her. By the end of the novel, I finally got a glimpse of who she might become. Maybe that was the intent of the author: a reflection of Harriet herself wondering, "Why am I here?" Not just in this jail cell, but here in God's Kingdom. It's merely a supposition on my part, though, and even if that is the case, her scenes were my least favorite and I was always glad when she drifted into another flashback. Harriett's reminiscences of her foremothers were much better reading than her own story.

I would definitely recommend this book for anyone who enjoys historical fiction, as well as those who like to get lost in another place and time. Lynn Austin will take you there in Though Waters Roar.

My rating: 4 out of 5

My thanks to Bethany House Publishers for providing a free copy of "Though Waters Roar" for review..


Catrina Bradley

"God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes."
Psalm 18:24 (Msg)

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Friday Fiction: No Place Like Home

>> Saturday, December 19




I was pretty much out of commission yesterday with a migraine, so I'm a day late for Friday Fiction. Let's call a bit of "Saturday Satire". Sometimes I can get in a bit of a snit during the mess leading up to Christmas as the world makes a mountain of madness out of the celebration of the Christ Child's birth, as reflected in the first half of this story I wrote last year. The judges at FaithWriters didn't like this one very much, but I hope you do.


No Place Like Home

Irving was at it again. Frankly, I was over his whining. One more word about missing his precious Aunt Betty's sweet potato soufflé tomorrow and I was going to drop kick him to the curb. Besides, just the thought of sweet potato soufflé makes me want to gag.

I shot him a look that could melt diamonds and put my nose back into Grisham's "Skipping Christmas." Boy could I relate to Mr. Krank; I was ready to skip the rest of December and move straight into January.

Irving was acting like it was my fault I had to work on Christmas this year. Maybe I could tell the patients they'd need to care for themselves tomorrow because the nurses had to go home to mommy. Wait, I've got it - we could just shut down the hospital tomorrow. I should ask Irving if he'd call the director and suggest it.

I gave up reading and closed my book none too quietly. "Let's go. You're taking me shopping. Bring the credit cards."



Macy's jewelry counter sparkled like Christmas morning. Rubies, emeralds, and diamonds reflected fluorescent light into shopper's eyes, luring them like sheep to slaughter, blinding them to exorbitant price tags. I marched straight to the display where I had eyeballed a tennis bracelet last week.

The sales clerk wore so much mascara I wondered how she was able to lift her eyelids. "Happy holidays," she crooned. "Is there something I can show you?" I wasn't fooled by her faux festivity. Under all that mascara, her eyes brimmed with boredom.

"Merry CHRISTMAS." I raised my nose a bit higher. "This bracelet, please ...if it's not too much trouble." I tapped a red fingernail on the glass over my greed's desire. Irving shuffled closer, and I glowered at him from the corner of narrowed eyes. He was squinting; I knew he was trying to peek at the tiny price tag dangling from the clasp.

"An exquisite choice. Perfect for your dainty wrist." Luckily the clerk missed my unchecked eye-roll as she unlocked the glass case. With exaggerated flourish, she presented the glittering band of diamonds.

I stuck out my hand, and she fastened the bracelet around my wrist. "Stunning! And a perfect fit. You could take this home with you today. Shall I wrap it for you?"

"No, thank you. I shall wear it." I left Irving to finalize the purchase while I had a look at a sale in the shoe department.



A dazzling sunrise on Christmas morning heralded promises of a splendid day. I emerged from the bedroom bathed and refreshed - body and soul. I had prayed away the hateful spite from the days before and pledged to make peace with Irving before I started my shift.

Wrapped in my trusty old bathrobe, I headed off to start coffee. The worn and frayed robe hugged me like an old friend. If we'd "gone home" for Christmas instead of staying home, I'd have worn the homely robe his Aunt Betty gave me last year, still stiff and scratchy from unuse.

Rounding the corner into the den, I got a surprise: my beloved Irving met me with a kiss and a steaming cup. The Christmas tree lights flashed and a fire crackled in the hearth. Irving had taken advantage of the homefield, too, and had donned his favorite faded sweatshirt and flannel pajama pants. We looked each other up and down and shared a laugh.

"Merry Christmas, Irving. I'm sorry for being a bit... grumpy lately."

"No, I'm sorry. I made too much of going home for Christmas, when this IS my home. Right now, I can't think of anywhere I'd rather be. Got time to open a present before you get ready for work?"

"Are you kidding? At least one!" I reached for the biggest box under the tree, but Irving caught my arm. He pulled a long, blue velvet box from his pocket.

"This one."

My trembling hands threatened to drop the box as I fumbled the lid open. I gasped at the diamond necklace glittering in the satin lining. It was perfect match to my new bracelet. The tears on my cheeks told Irving of my joy; I was speechless.

"The clerk with all the eye makeup said you'd like it."

"Um...I'll be late this afternoon. I need to stop at the grocers," I stammered.

"But we got everything for Christmas dinner yesterday. What else..."

"Sweet potatoes," I blurted. "Sweet potatoes and marshmallows."

And I didn't even want to gag.


© 11/20/08


Catrina Bradley

"God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes."
Psalm 18:24 (Msg)

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Friday Fiction: 'Tis Better to Give

>> Friday, December 11


Is your Christmas Shopping done? Mine isn't. But the best gifts don't cost anything and can't be wrapped in pretty paper. And the giving is truly better than the receiving.






'TIS BETTER TO GIVE
by Catrina Bradley

The frigid wind turned Carrie's cheeks into roses. A gust almost ripped the door from her hand as she opened it and ducked inside the nursing home.

"Hi Carrie, I didn't think you were working today." The head nurse looked puzzled.

"I'm not, but Jim and I have exchanged our gifts and had breakfast, so I decided to come spread some Christmas cheer this morning."

Carrie pulled off her mittens and stuffed them in her pockets as she walked past the front desk to the coatroom. She already knew which residents were expecting family today, and which ones would be alone. She decided to start with Mr. Griffin on Wing A. His wife had passed away this year, and they had no children.

Carrie went from room to room, spending time with each of the residents on her mental list. Besides talking with them, she helped a few use the restroom, rubbed lotion on some aching limbs, and helped look through drawers for misplaced belongings. It was rewarding to take time with these dear people for a change. She loved being a nurse's aid, but she never had extra time for the residents.

She saved Ada Larson for last. Carrie knew she really shouldn't have favorites, but this lady was special. She had been widowed for many years, her friends were all gone, and her daughter and grandchildren rarely visited. She was confined to a wheelchair, her body riddled with arthritis. None of this dampened Ada's attitude toward life at all. She was always quick to point out the silver lining in every black cloud, never complaining. She could barely hold a spoon, but was determined to feed herself as long as she was able. She wanted do all she could for herself; she wasn't ready to give up.

Carrie tapped lightly on the frame of Ada's open door.

Ada lifted her eyes from her book. "Carrie! What brings you here today? You have Christmas off this year."

Carrie walked in and gave her a gentle hug. "I wanted to wish you a Merry Christmas."

"Oh, you are such a dearheart."

Carrie moved aside a large box so she could sit on the bed. "Did you get a Christmas present?"

"Grace sent it. She's a good daughter to remember her old mother."

A "good" daughter would drive four hours to visit her mother for Christmas. "Can I see?" Carrie was careful to keep judgment from her voice.

Ada smiled "Yes, of course."

Carrie removed the lid, and pulled out a beautifully crocheted blanket. "Oh, this is nice. She must have worked hard on it." Carrie stroked the pale yellow stitches, then hugged the blanket to her. "So soft and warm. I bet you love it."

"Yes, it's very nice. I don't think Grace made it herself, though. She was never interested in learning needlework. I tried to teach her, but..." A note of melancholy crept into her voice.

"I'm sorry, Ada."

"Don't be, dear. Grace may not have liked needlework, but she has many other talents. She's a very smart girl. She owns her own business, you know." She started perking up again.

"I've always wanted to learn to crochet. Do you think you could teach me?"

Ada beamed. "I'd love to! You'll be able to make something like this in no time."

"So, how are your grandchildren doing?" Carrie looked at the new photos Grace had sent with the package, and listened to Ada's boasting about the children.

After chatting for a time, Carrie glanced at her watch and reluctantly stood. "Well, Ada, I really should be going. I wish I could stay longer, but Jim's home waiting for me. He should have the turkey in the oven by now, and I've got to get busy with the rest of our small feast. I'm glad we had a chance to talk today, and I can't wait to get started on our crochet lessons."

"Yes, by all means, go home to your husband. Merry Christmas dear. And thank you for coming to visit with me today." Her voice was cheery, but sadness tinged her eyes.

"Merry Christmas, Ada."

Carrie retrieved her coat, and was almost to the door when she heard her name. She turned and saw Ada wheeling toward her with the big box in her lap.

"Carrie, dear, I want you to have this."

"Oh, no! That's your gift from your daughter."

"I saw how much you liked it. And your love means more to me than this blanket. Merry Christmas, Dearheart."

---

During the "Unsung Heros" quarter, December of 2006, "Tis Better to Give" was given 3rd place in Level 2 at FaithWriters, and I was promoted to Level 3.





Friday Fiction is hosted by Karlene Jacobson at
Homespun Expressions.
Pay her a visit to read more Christmas fiction!





Catrina Bradley

"God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes."
Psalm 18:24 (Msg)

Read more...

And the winner is...

Well, it's time to announce the winner of my Name That Story contest. It was difficult - I like them all! But I had to choose just one, so the title for my story is....


(drum roll....)



"Fuel for the Fire",

suggested by Sharlyn Guthrie! Thanks Sharlyn!

I like the double entendre in the title, plus it's "salsa" (Jan Ackerson's word). It has "shelf appeal". Sharlyn will be receiving a copy of "The Silent Gift" by Michael Landon Jr. and Cindy Kelley.

A close second and honorable mention goes to Tim George for suggesting "Safe in the Arms". Congrats, you non-romantic-type you! I like the double meaning in that one too - Beth is safe in her husband's arms again because they are safe in the arms of Jesus.

Tim already has most of the books I have lined up to give away, but I don't think he has "Blackout" by (former Atlanta Falcon kicker) Jason Elam and Steve Yohn. It sounds like a real guy-type novel - football and terrorists. He'll have to wait for me to read it first though. ;)

Friday Fiction is coming soon .. stay tuned!

Merry CHRISTmas!

Catrina Bradley

"God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes."
Psalm 18:24 (Msg)

Read more...

Book Review: Double Header! "Kiss" and "Burn"

>> Thursday, December 10

I was excited when Tim George has asked me to review another book for his website, Unveiled, especially when he said it was a Ted Dekker book. When I jumped in and shouted YES (that's how you shout in chat - YOU USE CAPS!). Then he asked, "Can you do two?" YES YES!

This week, Tim is featuring my Double Header Review - by dual authors.



It may not be “cool” for a Christian to say, but I am an avid Stephen King fan. When I first heard of Ted Dekker’s Christian “horror”, I checked it out and found it enthralling. Then I discovered Dekker’s fantasy/allegory “Circle” trilogy, and I was transported another place and time and I got lost there.

When Ted Dekker teams up with Erin Healy, the result is a different kind of novel altogether.


"KISS" and "BURN"..read more...




PS: Have you entered to win a free copy of "The Silent Gift" yet? The deadline is noon Friday!
http://catrinabradley.blogspot.com/2009/12/friday-fiction-untitled.html

Merry CHRISTmas!

Catrina Bradley

"God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes."
Psalm 18:24 (Msg)

Read more...

Monday Manna: The Word Became Flesh

>> Tuesday, December 8

God is perfect Love. And perfect Love is nothing like the emotional feelings we know as humans.

Perfect Love acts .. despite feelings.

And God acts in a huge way.


When God created the earth and all that inhabit it, His plan wasn't to create some sort of human-farm in a glass box that He observed from afar. He wanted a relationship with His creation. He created Earth for man, and He created man to share His perfect love with. He knew that He would one day become a physical part of His physical realm

And God knew the hearts of His fallen children; He knew how fickle they would be even before they turned away from Him time and again. He knew. And He loved them. With that active kind of love.

Perfect Love.

By His own Law, only a spotless sacrifice could reconcile his children to Him. And only One could satisfy the requirements to fulfill that law.

Himself.

Jesus, God the Son, had to empty Himself of all that came naturally to Him. While still retaining His full Godhood, He laid down its power and its glory at the Throne in order to put on mortal flesh, pick up the cross of pain, betrayal, and execution, and carry it to Calvary.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14


If we want to be filled with the power and goodness, the grace and truth, the peace, of Jesus Christ, we likewise must empty ourselves of all that comes naturally to our carnal man. Pride, vanity, greed, lust. Execute them. If we want to follow Christ, we must pick up the cross of self-sacrifice. The burden is light, though - Jesus will carry it up that rocky hill for us.

Jesus descended from His rightful place, His Holy throne, to enter into the dusty existence of those whom He created and loved so He could carry the burden of our sins and endure the rightful punishment due us. He suffered the consequences of our sin so we could be spared eternal death and separation from His presence. He became flesh in order to put to death our sinful flesh.

On December 25, Christians celebrate with rejoicing the day the Word became flesh, when God "put on skin" and came to dwell with us. We celebrate the fulfillment of the promise God declared to Eve in the garden of Eden and put forth through the prophets of old: The birth of the Saviour of the world. The Word become flesh. Jesus. Victory.

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33


Monday MannaMy good friend Joanne is the creator and hostess of Monday Manna. I've known her for years. and she's one amazing woman. If you'd like to chime in with your thoughts on John 1:14, or if you want to read what others have to say, or if you want to offer Jo a word of encouragement or a prayer (she needs some right now), visit her blog, An Open Book.


Bless you, and Merry CHRISTmas!

Catrina Bradley

"God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes."
Psalm 18:24 (Msg)

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Contest Ends This Friday! Win a free book...

>> Monday, December 7

Don't forget about the book give-away on my blog!

I need your help with a story title for my Friday Fiction. Just leave a comment on Friday's post. with a title suggestion and you could win a copy of the novel "Silent Gift". You only have until this Friday at noon when I pick the winner! I've got some great ideas so far, so put on your creative cap.

Click here to enter -- My story needs a title!!

Enter as many times as you like. :)




Catrina Bradley

"God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes."
Psalm 18:24 (Msg)

Read more...

Friday Fiction: Untitled

>> Friday, December 4



Yay! It's Friday again!
Friday Fiction is at home this week at Karlene's blog, Homespun Expressions. Please pop over and say "Hi" to my good friend. You'll find lots of great short stories, plus you can join the Friday Fiction fun and add a link to your own post.


I started this story for a challenge last December, and when I read it today, I decided I wanted to finish Elizabeth and Daniel's story. I'm glad I did. I hope you enjoy it!

(I've left a surprise gift for you at the end, be sure to check it out!)



(UNTITLED)

The wood pile had dwindled to a dozen or so scattered sticks. Elizabeth wanted to cry but she knew the tears would freeze on her cheeks, only adding to her misery. She scraped her icy scarf from her face where the wind had plastered it, and gathered the remainder of the wood in her arms.

--

Daniel hunched his collar up closer around his ears. He was grateful for the fur lining, and for Beth, who had insisted on sewing it in before he set for town to do some bartering yesterday morning. That dad blamed snowstorm came out of nowhere and it had kept him there overnight and most of today. Assuredly she'd be worrying about him, but he was near frantic for her.

--

Two lonely pieces of wood remained on the stone hearth. Elizabeth shivered as a frigid gust sifted between the logs of the cabin wall, and she reluctantly poked the smaller of the two sticks into the embers of the dying fire. A few puffs of breath resurrected a flame.
Daniel's voice whispered through her thoughts.

"Darlin, it must be your warm heart."

Elizabeth tilted her head, and firelight danced in her golden tresses. "What is, my love?"

"I'm heated through already and you've only lit the fire."

She pounced on her husband, and he caught her in a hug. They nestled on the rug in front of the fire and watched the flames lick, then devour the logs as through the window the moon rose over the horizon.


Elizabeth settled into the rocker she'd pulled up closer to the fireplace and wrapped her cloak more tightly around her shoulders. As she fingered the soft red wool, she warbled the opening lines of "Oh Tannenbaum". She no longer fought the tears, but welcomed their warm caress on her windburned cheeks.

No Christmas tree graced the forlorn cabin. Beth had strung red berries on threads and the colorful garlands were the only sign of the season. Worse yet, it didn't appear that her husband would make it home for their first Christmas together. Daniel, where are you? Lord, are you keep him safe and warm?

--

Daniel lay his load on the ground and rubbed his mittened hands together, hoping to generate some warmth. At the top of the snow-covered hill ahead of him, he could see a wisp of smoke curl out of the chimney of the cabin perched there, and his racing heart spread a warming flush to his cheeks. Ah, my Beth. Praise the Lord. I'm comin' Darlin. I'm comin'. He patted his coat, checking the safety of the parcels tucked inside.

--

Elizabeth crouched before the popping embers, praying, her cloak spread open to catch the warmth. A rustling outside the door made her start and teeter off her heels and onto her backside. Before she could right herself, the door burst open and a snow-covered Daniel fell onto the floor beside her.

He pulled Beth to him and grabbed her into a hug. "Beth, my Beth. I'm home.

"Oh, and the stoop is icy."

"Yes, my love, I see," she said, laughing through her tears. "Can you close the door, please? You've let all of the heat out."

"Oh, 'tis heat you want then. I can help you out with that."

"Daniel! Really. I mean, I missed you too, but.."

Daniel roared with laughter. "Oh, we'll get to that, Darlin' don't you fear. But I had a different kind of heat in mind. Now get off me woman."

Elizabeth pummeled his chest with her tiny, chapped fists and couldn't stop laughing. He got to his feet, lifting his wife with him, then set her in her rocker before wrapping her cloak around her again and kissing her long and tenderly.

"Now sit tight a minute," he said. Daniel watched his step this time as he walked out the door. "And close your eyes."

Elizabeth obeyed, squinching her eyes shut tight. "What is it?" she called out.

She heard Daniel come back in dragging something behind him before shutting the door tight. A thump, then "Ok, you can look now, Darlin'."

"Oh! A Christmas tree! Oh, Daniel!" She bounded out of her chair and threw her arms around him, squealing and giggling.

"Seems a bit too tall. Plus we need to stoke up that fire. Get me the hand axe and we'll get her ta goin'. Then I'll warm you up, my Darlin'."

© 12/4/09



Thanks for reading to the end! Now here's your surprise:

As you can see, I have no title for this story. I stink at titles.

Leave me a comment with a title suggestion, and the one I choose will receive a copy of "The Silent Gift" by Michael Landon, Jr. and Cindy Kelley, a WONDERFUL book! You can read my review here and Karlene's review here.

Happy Friday to all!!

Catrina Bradley

"God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes."
Psalm 18:24 (Msg)

Read more...
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