I do love a good speculative story, and this year my favorite selection from this category was actually a re-read. It was a delight to go back through Sharon Hinck's Sword of Lyric series, to reacquaint myself with lovable, relatable characters and their wonderfully rich stories. Hinck's writing style is easy to read, and I would recommend these for readers of all ages.

Click on any title to read my full review of each book.

The Restorer

The Restorer


Susan Mitchell's suburban lifestyle did not prepare her for falling through a portal and discovering a world where she has special gifts and a divine calling.


The Restorer's Son


The Restorer's Son

This is my favorite book of the series, as it features a most unlikely hero who is sure that The One must be mistaken about what He's asking him to do.




The Restorer's Journey

Our story continues with things looking more dire than ever. Where is the love and direction of The One in times of such darkness and need?




The Deliverer

The One certainly has not forgotten His people, and in this conclusion to the series, a songkeeper will help light the way for the fulfillment of His promises.
Restorer's Journey 


Once upon a time there was the story of Susan, the soccer mom who fell into a portal and entered another world, only to find out that she had new talents given to her by The One to bless His people. Then there was Kieran, an unlikely hero who had questions at every turn. Now The Sword of Lyric series continues with its third book, and a brand new Restorer on the scene: Susan's 18-year-old son Jake.

Because Jake has not been long with the People of the Verses, he often stumbles his way through things, unintentionally making them much harder than they could be. Due to his past exposure to Rhusican poisoning he is also extra susceptible to the new power controlling the capital city of Lyric. Jake isn't sure who to trust with the news that he has Restorer signs, nor what The One would have him to do. Most people think him a naive blunderer at best, if not an outright traitor. But The One does have a purpose, and slowly Jake learns to listen and trust Him.

Meanwhile Susan has been kidnapped and taken to Rhus, where the mind poisoners are trying their best to take everything from her. Her imprisonment threatens to shake the foundation of her faith. Can The One find her even in Rhus? Is it possible His love can reach her and reach these people who live off the torment of others?

This is such a great series. Captivating, easy to read, with great spiritual truths woven throughout. I can't wait to read the final book in the series, which was released seven years after this one and not on my radar until recently. I hope it wraps things up nicely!
 Restorer's Son


Kieran of Braide Wood never expected to be the next Restorer. He seems the least qualified - he's half Hazorite, he isn't sure he completely believes in The One, and his relationships with his family are complicated. Plus he's just been banished from the clans! Where is The One and what is He thinking?! 

Meanwhile Susan returns to this other world when she discovers that her son Jake has found the portal. As she and her husband frantically track their 18-year-old, they worry that he has fallen into the hands of the Council and is being manipulated for nefarious purposes.

I really relate to much of Kieran's internal struggle. On page 58 Kieran muses: "How did [Susan] contain the horrible anger at being chosen for something she didn't want to do?" Yes indeed. Many times what God calls us to do is so wonderful that it takes our breath away. But sometimes it's so hard that all we can do is fall on Him and trust that He knows what He is doing because we certainly can't see how it is going to work out. Sometimes there's anger and questioning and tears. This is a path I'm familiar with, too.

Kieran is about to have an encounter with The One that will forever change his life and and the shape of his future. The One makes no mistakes. He's not looking for amazing people, he's looking for amazing obedience. Like Kieran in Chapter 29, we may find that "He wouldn't release me from this path, but He understood my struggle. ... It was enough."

It turns out that Kieran is one of my favorite literary heroes. As I said in my review of the first book of this series, I do not read much fantasy, but these have captured my heart in a special way and I know there will be more rereads of them in the future!
The Restorer 


Susan Mitchell is a suburban mom of four who is burnt out and feeling defeated. Her husband builds her a little getaway in their attic - enough space for a desk and a comfy chair, with strict instructions to the children that this is Mom's personal space. When Mark takes the kids to the park, Susan heads up to the attic ready to be refreshed and renewed.

Instead, Susan stumbles through a portal and finds herself in another world. A world without modern technology or comforts, with strange customs and traditions of its own. These people call God 'the One' and follow 'the Verses,' making their faith is similar to Susan's own, which is a strength as she learns to navigate life in this strange place.

It is quickly discovered that Susan possesses special gifts promised to the Restorer - someone the One will raise up in times of great need to turn the hearts of the people back to the Verses. Susan feels ill equipped to be the Restorer when she doesn't know anything about the great needs facing these people! How could God have called her to this? Yet if this is His task for her, she wants to be faithful.

The people in this new world face attacks from their enemies, corruption in their Counsel, and despair from those spreading lies of hopelessness. There's plenty of adventure as Susan and her new friends seek to win these battles with the help of the One, and she wonders if He will ever allow her to return to her own home and family.

I do not read much fantasy, because I often find it hard to get into new worlds. With this story, however, Susan is as new to this place as we are, so the pacing and world-building seems very natural, quick, easy to follow. I love these books and am looking forward to rereading more in the series!
Having fallen in love with Siri Mitchell's historical fiction, I decided to try her 2005 release, which is set in contemporary France. Getting a different and earlier view of a favorite author can be interesting, so I dove in not knowing what to expect, and ready to assess this one on its own merit.

Frederique Farmer is the owner of an ancient chateau who has discovered a set of fifteenth century journals on her property. The historical significance has made her home of some distinction, but Frederique is very interested in the privacy of her quiet life. She does occasionally book guests to come and experience her home, and, as she is a graduate of Le Cordon Blue, lavishes them with exquisite dishes.

When she receives a request from an American author to stay at her chateau while researching and writing a book, Frederique unwillingly agrees. Cranwell has a reputation that proceeds him, and Frederique is skeptical that his recent conversion to Christianity can change years of party boy behavior. To her surprise, he makes a down to earth and interesting companion, and she agrees to let him stay longer than the month originally planned upon.

A bit of mystery is introduced about 80 pages into the story. Although I enjoyed this side of the novel, it did seem as though Freddie was a bit dense and not curious at all to unravel the strange happenings right from the beginning. There's truly only one person who could have been responsible for the strange happenings, so you can see the big reveal coming right from the start. This definitely could have been done better. At least it was only a side story and not the main attraction.

I thought the spiritual side of the novel was extremely well done. Freddie lives her secluded life trying to hide from God, while Cranwell has come to her home to try to grow in Christ. There are a number of really good conversations and character revelations while exploring this topic. The romance is approached in a shy and hesitant way, as Cranwell doesn't want to get involved with someone who isn't sure about her faith, and Freddie is reluctant to trust someone with his past. At the same time, there's undeniable chemistry that must be reckoned with as they share an entire winter in each other's company.

The story would have been better had it not included lengthy passages from the fifteenth century journal. Honestly, I started skimming those after a while. Mitchell is an excellent historical writer, clearly, but I personally didn't feel it added anything to the story. The relative information could have been worked into a handful of conversations, rather than taking up chapters and chapters. Other things that bothered me were detailed descriptions of every outfit worn and every dish cooked, as that seemed excessive and indulgent.

In the end, I can say I enjoyed it. I'd definitely recommend other Mitchell titles first, but for those less inclined to enjoy historicals, check this one out and be swept away to the French countryside. You'll find some new friends!

In the summer of 2008 I read a series that I absolutely fell in love with. It immediately jumped to "favorite" status and claimed a spot on my keeper bookshelf. Recently I decided to reread them and was convinced all over again that these are some wonderful works of fiction which more people need to know about! :-)

"Mars Hill Classified" series focuses on astronaut John Wells, Navy Pilot and family man. Known as "Space MacGyver" for his ability to keep things running, John is serving on the International Space Station when a terrorist attack strikes at the heart of the United States' military institutions. In the first book, "The Evidence", John is stuck far away from home and country while extraordinary things are hapening on Earth. A new religion centering on the mysterious Father Race is sweeping the world, fed by false prophet Malcolm Raines. The whole world is fascinated when images begin beaming back from Mars from an exploration vehicle that had died 20 years previously. When FBI agent Terrance Kerry begins connecting the dots on the terrorist attacks, he enlists John's unique perspective to help bring it all into focus. Meanwhile John's wife Amy struggles with the separation from her husband and knowing how to raise their four children on her own.

"The Proof" is the second novel and it is the most captivating for me. Even on this second time through I could hardly put it down! It begins with the blast-off of the first manned mission to Mars and has an explosive end which will catch you by surprise. It's about faith and frustration and setbacks... and more about the deeply religious and political happenings on Earth. This book is exciting and emotional and one of the best-written books I've read.

In the final installment, "The Return", we jump six years into the future and I always feel that this gets the novel off to a slow start. We have to play catch-up with our characters and get back up to speed with them. New main characters come into play as well, clamoring for their own share of attention. It's a great finish, however, and will leave you thinking about the ethics of many situations that are explored. Wrapping up loose threads and brilliantly tying them all together, "The Return" does its duty in concluding this entertaining adventure.

The series is written by Austin Boyd, who was himself a Navy pilot and an astronaut candidate finalist. John Wells is a semi-autobiographical character and I believe that is what gives this series such a resonating tone. The author knows his stuff inside and out and lets us step inside the walls of NASA with authenticity. As a girl who grew up on "Star Trek", this is right down my aisle of interests. :-)

Check out Austin Boyd's website for more information on these books (or his new one which released this month and I can't wait to read it!), and while you're there watch the interview he gives about the series. Be sure and let me know if you decide to read it for yourself!

One thing is certain: I do desire to be a woman who influences others to draw deeper into the love and life of Christ. When I saw this Carol Kent title available from NavPress I knew right away that it was one I wanted to read.

 

Kent bases her book around 7 principles drawn from examining the life of our Lord Jesus and gives us real-life application for implementing these principles into our lives as women. The keys she brings forth are:

 

  1. Time alone with God

  2. Walking and talking

  3. Storytelling

  4. Asking questions

  5. Compassion

  6. Unconditional love

  7. Casting vision

 

The book is not a long one; there are a couple of introductory chapters and then one devoted to each of these principles. That made the reading interesting, since I knew there would be a different focus each time I picked it up.

 

My main complaint against this book would be the fact that Kent mainly uses The Message Bible when sharing Scripture. As a lover of the beautiful and lyrical King James version, I would often not catch that she was quoting a passage that I was very familiar with or even had memorized until she listed the reference at the end. I'd never read The Message Bible before but found it to be too informal and summarized for my personal taste.

 

There is a 9-week study guide included at the back that I did not have time to go through with this reading but I did take a peek at it and thought it looked very thorough and thought-provoking. Sometime I would like to go through and study it out as the author intended.

 

I found many helpful and practical ideas presented in the book. My favorite chapter was the one about asking questions to draw people out. I also liked how the focus was on us becoming like Christ so that He could draw others to Himself through us. That's where the difference really is: our own efforts will always fall short, but through Christ in us we can see other ladies brought to freedom and new heights in their relationship with Him. It is all about Him!

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NavPress Publishers as part of their Blogger Review 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 Commision's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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