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.
Deliverer


The fourth book of the Sword of Lyric series brings a hopeful, inspiring conclusion for the world and characters we've grown to love. Though the author left a few threads dangling with the option of returning to the People of the Verses someday, this is the planned end to the series.

Susan feels strongly that she needs to return to this alternate world, and as she walks her path she confronts all the pain she has faced since her first visit. She's such a strong, relatable character. She's gone through a lot, and it's appropriate that she takes time to address it with The One.

Meanwhile, we finally receive the point of view I've been eagerly anticipating as Linette, the songkeeper, takes center stage. She's been helping Kieran spread the message of The One in the pagan land of Hazor, but he also harbors a dangerous secret that if found will put all their lives in danger. Linette's journey is full of heart-pounding suspense, her gentle but sustained faith, and the undercurrent of romance that we've been picking up on for several books now. 

Has The One sent His promised Deliverer into this world at last? I had wondered how Hinck would tackle the topic, and while it wasn't what I expected, I thought she did a good job with it.

It has been fun to reread this series, and to read The Deliverer for the first time. I will definitely revisit this world in the future! Hinck has a new fantasy series debuting next year, and I will be on the lookout to find a copy as soon as possible!
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!



What would you tell your younger self if you could travel back in time and change your biggest regrets? In this new release by James L. Rubart, main character Brock Matthews gets that chance. Brock is experimenting with lucid dreaming when he realizes that each encounter with himself in his dreams has changed his reality. Sometimes for the better, but sometimes his choices have far-reaching negative consequences.

Brock's biggest regrets are never bridging the gap in his relationship with his father, allowing competitive natures to come between himself and his brother even though they own a business together, and failing to cherish his wife and help her pursue her dreams. In the present his business is failing and his wife wants a separation. Is it possible he can change these things by convincing his younger self to make different choices?

This is an intriguing story with shades of "It's a Wonderful Life" woven in. The plot is constantly changing, as Brock's dreams affect everything from where he lives, to the woman he is married to, even to what he does for a living. It's quite a ride, and Brock often feels like he's flying blind, awaking to a new reality almost every day. He believes that these dreams are a gift from God to allow healing from this past and give him a second chance in the present, but what about when the changes he's made bring destruction to everyone around him? Maybe the key to living well in the present isn't about changing the past after all.

Several years ago I started a tradition during the Summer Olympic Games of writing a letter to the woman I was during the previous Summer Games. I've already been thinking about the upcoming Rio Olympics and the letter I want to write to the me who watched the 2012 Games in London. Of course I know that writing the letter doesn't change anything, but it is a nice way to think about each four-year period and what I've learned, how I've grown, and things that have changed. In some ways it allows me to release pain that has accrued and accept life as it is. Since "interacting" with myself in the past is something I already do, that made this novel that much more enjoyable and touching.


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I received my copy of the book from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for this honest review. All opinions are my own. If you would like to read what other people are saying about "The Five Times I Met Myself," click here.



World War II and the present day collide in an intriguing way in this new novel by Rick Barry. Our story opens in 1943, when fighter pilot Roger Greene is shot down while flying a mission over Germany. Against his will, Roger becomes part of a Nazi scientific experiment - an experiment that leaves his body functioning at a higher rate than ever seen before. With his cells able to rapidly regenerate, Roger stops aging and is a medical marvel. Even as the doctors overseeing the project grow old and die, Roger remains a youthful prisoner trapped in an underground bunker.

The story alternates between Roger's decades in captivity and a contemporary plot involving Katherine Mueller, a young woman whose rich uncle is pressuring her to become part of a secret organization which exists to make the world a better place. Even as Katherine goes through the training to advance in the Heritage Organization, she doesn't understand what exactly this group is all about. Why is everything so secret? Surely her uncle - whom she loves even if he is eccentric and controlling - couldn't be involved in anything that would be alarming. She just needs to trust him and trust the HO.

The excitement keeps building as you know Roger is going to get out of that bunker eventually, whether by release or escape, and cross paths with Katherine. In a world that has vastly changed over the past 70 years, you wonder how Roger will be able to adapt and if anyone will possibly believe his crazy story. The pace moves quickly and tension is high as the twists and turns unfold.

There was so much to enjoy with this book! I liked the way the plot was split between the past and the present, and felt like the tale of Roger's captivity was very realistic, his faith touching as he learned to take comfort in God alone. The mix of history, action, and speculative science was pleasant to my reading palate, and I had no idea how the book would end until the final pages. This is one I'd definitely recommend!


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I received my copy of the book from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for this honest review. All opinions are my own. If you would like to read what other people are saying about "The Methuselah Project," click here.
2014 was a great year for reading! I'm thankful to have had the ability to read so many good books this year. Now I get to present my favorites to you and hope you'll check some of them out for yourself! Click on any title to read my full review.

Historical Fiction

Love Comes Calling

Love Comes Calling by Siri Mitchell

In a zany series of capers, Ellis Eton tries to trade identities with one friend and save the life of another. Ellis makes an endearing heroine because she has a good heart but she's also terribly scatterbrained. This one is an amusing and charming read!


Young Adult Fiction

Fairest Beauty

The Fairest Beauty by Melanie Dickerson

This year I read more young adult books than I have since I was a young adult myself, and while a number of them were good, I am still resonating with the spiritual truths and character growth found in "The Fairest Beauty." This was a lovely retelling of the classic Snow White fairytale.


Speculative Fiction

Awakening

Awakening by Tracy Higley

Museum worker Kallie Andreas suffers from amnesia, and she is given the opportunity of a lifetime when she's offered to lead a team in quest of finding a crucial artifact. As her journey takes her to Egypt, Italy, and the Greek isle of Santorini, Kallie discovers much about herself, her past, and our amazing God.


Contemporary Fiction

All My Belongings

All My Belongings by Cynthia Ruchti

Becca Morrow is trying to get a fresh start on life by changing her name and moving half-way across the country to escape the notoriety of her father's high-profile murder trial. While she's running from her past, her new friend Isaac is seeking his in the form of searching for his biological parents. The themes and lessons in this book were beautiful and insightful, and the wonderful balance of storytelling elements makes this one you can't put down.


Non-Fiction

Hardest Peace

The Hardest Peace by Kara Tippetts

Kara Tippetts is a pastor's wife and mother of four young children who has received a terrible diagnosis: terminal cancer. As her life on this earth fades away, Kara encourages all of us to trust God as the Author of our story, let His grace fill our lives, and love well those around us. Find the beauty in the heartbreak. This is an amazing book with applications for you no matter your life circumstances.


Classic Literature

Rilla of Ingleside

Rilla of Ingleside by Lucy Maud Montgomery

The final book in the Anne of Green Gables series is a coming-of-age tale set during the anxious days of World War I. Anne's daughter Rilla is one of my favorite literary characters ever written. She grows from a dreamy young girl into a mature and strong woman whose heart beats for the needs of others. Every emotion is written in such a way that you feel you're on the journey, too.
Revolutionary


The exciting Anomaly trilogy comes to its conclusion with "Revolutionary." If you need a refresher on what has happened earlier in the series, check out my reviews of Book 1 and Book 2.

Finding herself forced back to the underground State, Thalli faces her greatest challenge yet. The evil Dr. Loudin, who is responsible for the nuclear war that wiped out most of Earth's population, wants to study Thalli and the friends she has made above ground, as well as use them as leverage against each other to ensure full cooperation for his plans.

Although Thalli and the others scheme of ways to overthrow Dr. Loudin, she battles a fair amount of despair because he always seems one step ahead of them. She feels distant from the Designer and wonders why He is allowing this wickedness to continue. A surprising ally is found in Dr. Turner, John's son who has worked with Dr. Loudin for years. He sees now the depths to which Loudin has sunk, and he desires to do what he can to stand up to the corruption around him.

The struggle going on around Thalli only magnifies her inner turmoil. Although she was genetically engineered as an embryo, she discovers she has a biological father, mother, and siblings, all of whom are still alive. She's never known family, and she cherishes the hope of getting away from the State and having a future with them. She is also torn between two young men who love her: Berk, her childhood friend, and Alex, whom she met in Book 2, who grew up above ground as a prince among his people.

There are some really gut-wrenching things that happen in this book, and the not all of the characters we love will make it to the end. Even though the Designer does not seem close, they must keep faith that He has a plan which will overcome evil in the end. No situation is hopeless when we know God is in control.

I received my copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for this honest review. All opinions are my own.


I review for BookLook Bloggers
Awakening


I have been wanting to share my review of this book with you for a very long time. Towards the end of last year I had the opportunity to read the manuscript and was absolutely blown away by the beauty and depth of the story. Now that "Awakening" has been published and I have reread the finished product, I finally get to share my thoughts and encourage you to pick it up for yourself! Incredibly, it's free on Kindle today, but just for a limited time, so hurry on over there.

Kallie Andreas does not know who she is. Seven years ago she woke up in a New York museum with no memories of her life before. She has managed to cope with the help of a few key people, getting through college and procuring a job at the museum where she was for all intents and purposes born. Kallie feels drawn to history, perhaps all the more so because her own is a mystery.

Life changes when museum patron Dimitri Andreas shows up after years spent abroad, and Kallie could not be more surprised when he approaches her about leading a team to retrieve an artifact which could prove crucial to the project she has been working on for years. This is very much outside her comfort zone, but a little bit of desperation helps her decide to leave behind her fears and inadequacy and make a leap into the unknown.

As she starts her adventure, Kallie begins journaling a story of love and danger set in ancient Greece on the island of Kalliste, which is now called Santorini. She feels compelled to write from a place deep inside of her, and her therapist believes her story is helping to uncover her past and help her find who she truly is. We get to read along as she writes and try to discern if she's just paralleling her globe-trotting journey or if there is hidden meaning in her words.

The search for the artifact takes Kallie and team not only to Egypt, but also to Venice and eventually to Santorini itself. This novel is full of Tracy Higley's distinctive eye for details and presents each location so vividly that you feel you are the one getting desert sand in your eyes or enjoying a ride in a gondola. Each step is filled with peril, romance, and hope that Kallie will truly find all that she is searching for, including her memory. When the moment of full remembrance comes, be prepared! As I wrote in my feedback to the author last year, it "sent me over a mental edge." The story suddenly bursts into living color and you realize that there is hidden meaning everywhere.

This novel is part contemporary, part historical, and part speculative, with a dash of allegory thrown in, too. The themes are absolutely amazing, from the long and hard road that inner healing requires, to the fact that Jesus Christ is the thread the goes throughout all history, leading us to our true home. Will Kallie be able to find her home, her people, her family?

I received my copy of the book from the author. All opinions in this review are my own.
For Such a Time


Debut author Kate Breslin has given readers of historical fiction a real treat. I was intrigued when I heard she had taken the Biblical story of Esther and placed it within the context of World War II, and I'm pleased to say that she did an excellent job with it!

When Col. Aric von Schmidt handpicks Stella Muller out of the thousands of prisoners at the Dachau, thinking to save the Austrian woman who had been imprisoned by mistake, he doesn't know her papers are false and that she's really a Jewish woman named Hadassah Benjamin. Leaving Germany to become the commandant of the Thereseienstadt concentration camp in Czechoslovakia, Aric brings Stella along so she can become his secretary. Fiercely protective of her from their first meeting, Aric is determined to help her recover from her months of malnutrition and the horrors she saw at Dachau.

A broken and battered soul, Stella hardly knows what to think about her new situation. She wants to help the captive Jews at Thereseienstadt as much as she can, especially when she finds out that one of the prisoners is her uncle Morty, the man who raised her. Morty has seen a vision that Stella will bring salvation to the camp, and hope begins stirring in the barracks that God has not forgotten His people. Risking discovery and her own life, Stella begins finding ways to bring bits of relief, whether overtly through tampering with paperwork or covertly by using the sway she holds over the commandant to reshape his opinions.

The one most suspicious of Stella and Morty is Captain Hermann. He isn't so sure that the woman who was ushered into their lives and has captured the commandant's heart is really who her papers say she is. Ambitious and ruthless, Captain Hermann looks for ways to sabotage the commandant and take over command of Thereseienstadt himself.

As events bring the revelation of Stella's identity closer, she finds herself developing feelings for Aric. Is there any hope of a future for them together? Will either of them survive the explosive fallout that comes from her unmasking and Hermann's final attempt to control the camp? This book was so captivating that I wanted to read it all in one sitting! I wasn't sure of the outcome until the very last page.

There was much to cheer for within the covers of this novel. I should note for all history fans that Breslin is up front with the fact that events are based on a few real historical facts, but it's mostly fiction. It doesn't take away from the novel's emotional impact, but if you love history like I do you should know that this book isn't as accurate as other works are able to portray it. Due to WWII content I wouldn't recommend this to a young audience, but it's tasteful enough that older teens would be able to handle it. WWII is such an awful time in history. I'm thankful we have a God who lovingly cares for His own even during such terrible tragedies, and that is no fiction!

I received my copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for this honest review. All opinions are my own.
Hunger Games Trilogy


When I watched the 2012 film "The Hunger Games" and enjoyed it, I became interested in reading the books which they were based on. It was when I saw "Catching Fire" in the theater and was blown away that I knew that was going to happen. My goal became to read the trilogy before the movie came out of DVD, and I accomplished that. The DVD releases tomorrow, and yes, I have plans to watch it tomorrow night. What was it that I enjoyed so much about these stories? Let's dive into that.

"The Hunger Games" tells the story of a nation divided into 12 deprived districts and one rich, opulent Capitol. The Capitol has been ruling Panem since the districts revolted 74 years ago, and it keeps the districts isolated and impoverished through various means. Each year, to remind the districts that rebellion doesn't pay, one boy and one girl are chosen from each sector to meet in an arena and fight to the death. Only one of the twenty-four tributes will come out alive. Called the Hunger Games, this is the Capitol's triumph every year, and the Games are reality TV at its overly-glorified worst.

On the Reaping Day, when the tributes for the Hunger Games are selected, heroine Katniss Everdeen volunteers as tribute after her 12-year-old sister is originally selected. Katniss has been the breadwinner in her family for several years and is fiercely protective of her sister. The male tribute selected is Peeta Mellark, who, unknown to Katniss, has been drawn to her ever since they were in first grade together. Katniss wants nothing to do with Peeta, knowing that if she is to survive it means she might have to kill him in the arena. They arrive at the Capitol and are shocked at its gaudiness and worldliness compared to their home in District 12. The tributes receive a few days of training and are run through interviews with the media before they are dropped into the arena and the battle for their lives begin.

In the book it is clear just how cunningly Katniss approaches the Games. She knows every moment is televised and she plays that to her advantage. This is unlike the movie, where it almost seems accidental that Katniss handles the experience as well as she does. Her time spent illegally hunting back at home gives her a strong advantage over the rest of the tributes. Always her goal is to avoid Peeta, until the unexpected announcement that if the final two tributes are from the same district they will both be crowned winners. Then her goal becomes finding Peeta and keeping him alive so that they can win together. There are many obstacles she faces, including injury, dehydration, and certainly the other tributes. Then there's the Capitol, who has an agenda which they do not want to see overthrown, especially not by Katniss, who has been nicknamed The Girl Who Was On Fire. Coming from the smallest, poorest district, her showing them up would be a very bad thing indeed.

"Catching Fire" tells the story of the consequences Katniss faces for having won the Games and unknowingly given the districts a spark of hope that freedom from the Capitol might be possible. Threatened with having her family and closest friends killed if she refuses to be a pawn for the Capitol, Katniss pretends to be a rule-follower and in love with the man of the Capitol's choosing. But it isn't enough, and to further punish her, the Capitol announces that for the 75th Hunger Games, the male and female tributes will be selected from the pool of previous victors. As the only female victor from District 12, Katniss has no choice but to face the arena again. This time she knows the Capitol will stop at nothing to kill her. But behind her back, a rebellion has been forming, an alliance of inside players whose goal is to keep The Girl Who Was On Fire alive. These Games play out very differently from the previous ones, and come to an unexpected and shocking end when the rebellion inside and outside the arena reaches full scale.

In "Mockingjay," very few know for sure whether The Girl Who Was On Fire is alive or dead, but she has unwittingly become the face of a revolution. The remaining tributes from the 75th Games who were whisked by the rebels to their new seat of military force, District 13, deal with heavy PTSD, while the ones who remain the clutches of the Capitol are tortured and forced to make pleading television appearances begging for the uprising to come to an end. This book is a tale of two halves: the first of coming to grips with the horrible things in the past and becoming resolute on what needs to happen in the future, and the second holds a military campaign to overthrow the Capitol once and for all. I actually preferred the first half of the book, because it was very real for what our characters had gone through. Their tragedies were not carelessly overlooked. Plus reading about military assaults isn't my cup of tea. As the battles unfold, who is really trustworthy? Does the rebellion leadership have a better agenda than that of the Capitol? More sacrifices will be made, more lives will be lost, more surprising decisions will happen. The conclusion, however, is satisfying, even if it didn't include all the characters I wanted to still be alive at the end.

This trilogy is a departure from what I normally read, but I was glad to go on this journey. I like being challenged to think about liberty and freedom, and the very high price it can require. Would I risk everything if it was asked of me? What would I do if forced to make some of the decisions that Katniss and others face? I would hope to have the strength and faith to, as Peeta put it in the first book, not let it change who I really am.



This is the sixth book in The Truth Chronicles series. If you missed them, here are my reviews for Book 1, Book 2, Book 3, Book 4, and Book 5. Keep reading after the review for an interview with author Joe Westbrook.

"The Chase" left us back in the past, with Jax, Izzy, JT, and Micky having made an amazing discovery. They've found Noah's Ark! Our friendly foursome spend the early chapters of the book exploring the Ark, hypothesizing on how Noah and his family cared for the animals and why modern searches haven't uncovered the Ark, and discussing theories about ice ages. The excellent focus on Biblical reasoning continues to be strong throughout their adventures.

Meanwhile, Pastor Rich's situation remains perilous in the Middle East. The authorities are willing to exact severe punishment on him and his friends for distributing Bibles to underground churches. Will Pastor Rich be required to give his life for the gospel of Jesus Christ?

Our young friends come back to the present day in time for the annual science fair. The competition is stiff, with JT and Micky going for repeat wins and many other great entries as well, but Jax and Izzy are confident they will place first. It's after the winning project is announced and our group has gone out for their traditional post-fair dinner that they learn of Pastor Rich's arrest. Is it possible that they could plan their most daring trip through time and rescue their friend and mentor? Seeking prayer and parental counsel, the mission is deemed too dangerous for anyone except Jax and Dr. Thompson. The outcome is an exciting conclusion to this wonderful young adult series.


I received my copy of the book from the author in exchange for this honest review. All opinions are my own.


I'm pleased to share with you this interview with author Joe Westbrook. He graciously agreed to answer the following questions:

ReviewsByErin: Are there going to be any more books in The Truth Chronicles series? Do you have any other writing projects coming up?
Joe: At this point, we don't have any more books planned for The Truth Chronicles series. As much as Tim and I loved writing these stories, they take a good bit of time, and Tim in particular is busy with several other projects. I myself am working on multiple ideas (I can't ever seem to be content with just one!), and am hoping to actually get one completed before the end of the year.

ReviewsByErin: How long have you been interested in writing?
Joe: I first got interested in writing when I was in 6th or 7th grade. I had read a book by fantasy author Terry Brooks, and was under the mistaken impression that the book I'd read had been published while he was still in high school. I got the idea, then, that I should be able to get published before I graduated, too. That didn't happen, but I did graduate with two ideas written out to about 50 pages each.

ReviewsByErin: If you had a time machine and could go to any point in the past to observe and/or explore, what are some of the things you would go back and see?
Joe: Because of my interest in theology, I would like to travel back and meet the New Testament authors, especially Paul, and get absolute clarification on some of the things that have caused Christians to be confused and divided over the centuries. I would also like to go back to the day of the first moon landing, the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and the day Babe Ruth famously called his home run to center field in the 5th inning of Game 3 of the 1932 World Series

ReviewsByErin: Do you think time travel will really be possible in the future?
Joe: I am not a physicist, so research and theory may have concluded that the maxim "Matter cannot be created nor destroyed" is not necessarily set in stone. However, based on that maxim, I would think that time travel would not be possible because you would have to pull matter from one time and add it to another time. Maybe (and I'm really reaching here) if time travel was conducted through some sort of wormhole that linked two periods of time in a way that matter/energy could travel back and forth as long as the wormhole was open, but I still have my doubts. However, time travel, wormholes, and other related phenomena make for fun writing.

ReviewsByErin: Which of the main characters of The Truth Chronicles do you relate to the most, from a spiritual perspective? Were you a believer from a young age like JT, convinced after a little searching like Jax and Izzy, or did you fight kicking and screaming all the way like Micky? Praise the Lord that He is able to work in all kinds of hearts and circumstances.
Joe: I was blessed to grow up in a Christian home. My dad was a pastor until I was almost 8 years old, and I grew up attending church. I came to know Christ personally as a pre-teen. In that respect, I'm definitely more like JT (my first and middle initials, incidentally). I split my personality some with Izzy, too, in that I like to reason things out. And yes, God is great and merciful to work with so many different minds, hearts, and attitudes!

ReviewsByErin: Your co-author Tim Chaffey works for Answers in Genesis, which is a great resource for learning about Biblical creationism and history from a Biblical perspective. Are there other organizations, websites, or books on these topics that you would recommend for readers to check out?
Joe: When it comes to creation and science, I also recommend the Institute for Creation Research and Creation Ministries International. For resources pertaining to evangelism, Ray Comfort's ministry, Living Waters, has some excellent resources. And I have greatly benefited from John MacArthur's ministry, Grace to You, with his expositional preaching through the entire New Testament.

ReviewsByErin: Where can we follow you online and stay updated about future writing projects?

Joe: There are several ways readers can follow both Tim and me. My Facebook author page is www.facebook.com/joewestbrookauthor and Tim's is www.facebook.com/TimChaffeyAuthor. Fans of The Truth Chronicles can interact with us on that series specifically at www.facebook.com/TheTruthChronicles. Tim's website/blog is http://midwestapologetics.org/ and my website/blog is www.jwexperience.com.



Krista McGee's "Anomaly" was one of my favorite books of 2013, and I had been looking forward to this sequel since the moment I turned that final page. Let's recap quickly: Thalli was born in an underground State run by scientists after most of the world destroyed itself in nuclear war. Humans are now genetically engineered for specific career fields, and their emotions have been eliminated. It's a sterile and perfunctory enviroment. But Thalli is an anomaly. She feels emotions, and knows if the scientists found out they would annihilate her. As the pod musician, Thalli has a great outlet for processing her feelings, but it's only a matter of time before her differences are discovered. Go read my review for more details, but trust me: it's amazing!

"Luminary" opens after Thalli, Berk, Rhen, and John have made an escape from the State. They know their search for pockets of nuclear war survivors will take weeks, and John's age is a factor they must take into consideration. Thalli does not act like herself at all through the first portion of this book, and that was disappointing to me. Berk explains later in the book that the drugs pumped into her system at her attempted annihilation were likely affecting her judgment, but it was off-putting to me. It seemed that Thalli been replaced by Katniss Everdeen, who is an outstanding heroine in her own right, but she's not the Thalli I had grown to love. Thankfully Thalli did recover her spunk, although the storyline continued to have "Catching Fire" undertones which had me scratching my head.

When our group reaches the village of New Hope, they are welcomed with open arms. It's a new experience for Berk, Rhen, and Thalli to meet people who have always lived above ground. John is rapturous. Our foursome make friends and begin to settle in, but all is not peaceful in New Hope. The neighboring village, Athens, is technologically advanced but land-poor and unable to grow their own food. Their frequent attacks on the farming settlement are growing more and more violent, especially when New Hope begins harboring refugees who have sought protection from King Jason's ruthless dictatorship. A major conflict between the two groups is imminent, and Thalli and the other newcomers want to do whatever they can to help. Thalli volunteers to infiltrate Athens as a spy, and over loud protests by some in the group, it's agreed that she do so.

Pretending she is just then fleeing the State, Thalli is welcomed into Athens and even into the palace, where King Jason wants to get to know her and find out everything she can tell him about the distant underground entity. Prince Alex, who is near Thalli's age, becomes a fast friend and he is able to show her all around their factories and businesses. Athens seems so peaceful, but why are they resisting all talks of peace with New Hope and growing more brutal with each attack? Will Thalli be able to be the ambassador she hopes to be, or will she be a casualty of the mind control that King Jason wields over all his subjects?

My favorite part of this story was seeing Thalli learn and grow in her relationship with God, whom she calls the Designer. She comes to depend on Him, pray more fervently to Him, and even meditate on His Word in this story. John continues shepherding her young faith, which was very touching. Since she had never known anything about the Bible before, it was neat to see her really thinking and studying the verses John shared with her. I also loved the few scenes where Thalli was able to play a violin and work through her emotions in that familiar way. Those are beautifully written.

"Luminary" ends on quite a cliffhanger. The good news is that the final book in this series comes out in just a few months, so we won't have to wait too long for it. Thalli is going to be tested beyond anything she's endured before... and I will be there to see where she finds herself in the end!


I review for BookSneeze®

I received my copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for this honest review. All opinions are my own.


This is the fifth book in The Truth Chronicles series. If you missed them, here are my reviews for Book 1, Book 2, Book 3, and Book 4.

"The Chase" takes the action up a notch as Jax, Izzy, and JT race through time to find out who has stolen their original time machine, and worry about Mickey's reaction to other cliffhanger events from the previous novel. As they pursue the thief to a new time and location, the trio come into contact with more extinct animals and observe the post-Flood world in a new and exciting way.

The side plot with Pastor Rich doing missions work in the Middle East continues, and gives readers a lot to think about. How far would you go to see God's Word spread on foreign soil? Would you be willing to face the consequences if you were caught? I can't wait to see how this is wrapped up in Book 6.

When the trio catch up to the time machine and its thief, it's the last person they were expecting. JT loses her cool, which was actually a little refreshing and quite realistic, given how she has seemed Miss Perfect in every other situation she has been in. Even those who strive to make good choices and have good attitudes all the time, this humble reader included, make mistakes and fall on their faces sometimes. Even though she then felt terrible, JT rallied with a beautiful humility to restore the relationship that had been threatened by her outburst. I thought the whole situation was very positively handled!

Facing new challenges with the change in time and location, Jax and company work hard to ensure they are leaving no permanent imprint on the past, and are trying to get themselves and their thief safely back home when they realize there's something very special about the shelter they have found. But you'll have to tune in to Book 6 to find out what it is, although I think we can figure it out by taking a peak at the cover and title! I am eagerly awaiting Book 6's arrival and the resolution of this set of stories. How is the big discovery going to impact the present lives of our time travelers?


I received my copy of the book from the author in exchange for this honest review. All opinions are my own.



This is the fourth book in The Truth Chronicles series. If you missed them, here are my reviews for Book 1, Book 2, and Book 3.

"The Thief" is the start of a new adventure for Jax, Izzy, JT, and Micky. This story opens nine months after "The Rescue" ends, when the kids are gearing up for another science fair at their school. The guys are working on building a cloaking device, while the girls are attempting to invent a matter transporter. First, though, they're off on school nature trip which will afford them plenty of opportunities to enjoy God's creation and see if what they are finding lines up with what they have learned on their trips back through time.

One thing I enjoyed about this book was that JT had more of a leading role. She and Micky get to have lots of scenes together. Micky still isn't convinced that the Bible is true, and is sure that with time and opportunity she'll be able to prove the others wrong.

Pastor RIch, the much-loved youth pastor who has meant so much to JT and the gang, gets his own subplot as we follow him on a mission trip to the Middle East. Although he knows he is risking his life to distribute Bibles to underground churches, his faith is strengthened as he sees God make a way for His Word to reach people who have never had their own copy of the Scriptures.


When our group of time travelers find out that some of their inventions have been broken and stolen, the kids are off on an adventure that will carry them into Book 5. I flew through Books 4 and 5, not wanting to put them down! Be watching for my review of "The Chase" to be posted here soon.

I received my copy of the book from the author in exchange for this honest review. All opinions are my own.



This is the third book in The Truth Chronicles series. If you missed it, here are my reviews of Book 1 and Book 2.

The foursome of time-traveling friends is back! "The Contest" left our group hanging in a dangerous situation in a pre-Flood world, and "The Rescue" picks up the adventure seamlessly. This was my favorite of The Truth Chronicles books so far, as the intensity of the story was so well-done. When Izzy and Micky interact with humans in the past, are they inadvertently changing the future?

When they get back into their normal time, Jax and friends have the opportunity to get to spend time with their Christian scientist friend Jonas. Lots of good conversations follow, continuing the series' theme of examining scientific evidence in light of a Biblical worldview. Noah's Ark comes up, setting up a story which will continue through the next few Truth Chronicles books.

In this story JT and Micky perfect their hoverboard technology, Izzy realizes he must make a personal decision in regards to believing the Bible is true, and Jax and his family receive a huge surprise. As I said, this was my favorite Truth Chronicles book to date, and be watching soon for a review of Book 4, titled "The Thief." I can't wait!


I received my copy of the book from the author in exchange for this honest review. All opinions are my own.
I was a reading overachiever this year, not only accomplishing the goal I set out for myself, but exceeding it by 44%! There were many excellent books, but a few really stood out. Here were my favorite titles by genre from 2013.

Historical Fiction
So Shines The Night by Tracy Higley

Set in Ephesus during the events of Acts 19, Tracy brings the Bible and ancient history to life. You feel like you are there. It's particularly challenging to fictionalize a Bible account, but Tracy succeeds magnificently.

Young Adult Fiction and Speculative Fiction
Anomaly by Krista McGee

Normally I separate these categories, but "Anomaly" wins both easily. In the futuristic world when nuclear war has destroyed most of the planet and humans are genetically engineered for specific tasks, Thalli realizes that there's more than the sterile world around her. If her differences and longings are discovered, it will require her death.

Contemporary Fiction
Winter in Full Bloom by Anita Higman

Lily is entering the middle of her life when she finds out that she has an identical twin sister living in Australia. Taking one of the first risks she has ever tried, Lily sets off the find the sister who was separated by adoption. This novel beautifully touched on many aspects of family relationships and the hurt and hope that many struggle with in this area.

Non-Fiction
You Were Born For More by Harry R. Jackson Jr.

I wasn't so sure about reading this book, but God got the last laugh on this one. Bishop Jackson brings out straightforward truths which would be beneficial to every believer to grasp and implement in their lives.

Classic Literature
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

For this year it could be nothing besides "Les Miserables." Not just because it was the only classic I read this year (hey, it's 1450+ pages!), but because I drew so much inspiration from it.


This is the second book in The Truth Chronicles series. If you missed it, here is my review of Book 1.

"The Contest" picks up immediately where "The Time Machine" left off. Jax learns that the authorities are further investigating the death of his father, believing that Mr. Thompson might have been somehow knowingly involved in the accident that took his life. Jax immediately forms plans to use the time machine to go back and try to clear his father's name, but how difficult would it be to go back to that day and not find a way to intervene in the tragedy?

Meanwhile JT continues persuading her friends to consider Biblical creationism and how their first trip back in time fully supports her views. Izzy, Mickey, and Jax agree to attend a youth service at JT's church, and JT also arranges for them to meet a prominent scientist  for discussion at a nearby university. Blown away by the overwhelming truth from all angles, Jax decides to embrace Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, although he still has plenty of questions about creation and many other subjects. Izzy and Mickey remain impressed but unmoved, although they agree to weigh all future evidence by both creation and evolution theories and see how the two compare.

There are many detailed discussions about creation and evolution in this book. I also enjoyed seeing a continued positive portrayal of the Godly counsel that can come from parents and ministry workers. This is the kind of book that any parent could allow their child to read without concern for the influences they will find within.

This book ends on quite a cliffhanger, as the quartet of friends return once again to 4,500 years ago to see what observations they can make regarding their different opinions on the formation of the Earth. When they are unexpectedly separated, how will they be able to find each other and make it safely back to the time machine? I'd recommend having Book 3 on hand when you finish this one so you won't have to wait to see how everything turns out!

I received my copy of the book from the author in exchange for this honest review. All opinions are my own.


Being a scientist runs in Jax Thompson's family. His father had even solved the formula for time travel, but lacked the energy source necessary to make an operational time machine. Now Jax and his best friend Isaiah, better known as Izzy, are seeking to combine his father's last invention with the Space-Time Generator to finally be able to go back in time. The guys are competing with their good friends JT and Micky, who are attempting to invent a hover board in time for their school's science fair.

Every attempt to go back and see the dinosaurs ends up a failure for Jax and Izzy, until they decide to change tactics and go back 4,500 years to see the building of the pyramids. They're shocked when the time machine works... except their destination looks like what they expected to see seventy million years ago! Did something go wrong? When their adventure takes a serious turn, Jax returns to the present and brings back JT and Micky to try and rescue Izzy.

JT is a Christian and recognizes that although the guys think the time machine malfunctioned, what they are seeing and experiencing lines up with what the Bible says about creation. Although uncertain about how to share her beliefs to three friends who think evolution is the only scientific answer for how the world began, JT is prayerful and considerate in bringing out truth and encouraging the others to find out more for themselves.

Jax doesn't trust God or believe that He is good in any way. Why should he believe in a God who let his father die? Yet he cares deeply about his friends and feels responsible for their safety. Will he listen to JT's words of wisdom, or will his bitterness break apart their friendship?

"The Time Machine" is full of adventure, Biblical principles presented in easy to understand format, and real life teen struggles. I would highly recommend it to anyone who has young science fiction lovers in their families! I look forward to the rest of "The Truth Chronicles" series and reading the further adventures Jax and his friends.

I received my copy of the book from the author in exchange for this honest review. All opinions are my own.

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