The Valley of the Dry Bones, by Jerry B. Jenkins

book coverPublisher’s Overview:

In The Valley of the Dry Bones, Jerry B. Jenkins overlays the ancient End Times prophecies of Ezekiel onto the landscape of modern California. After a 17-year drought, multiple earthquakes, and uncontrollable wildfires, the state is desolate. The United States President declares the state uninhabitable and irreparable, directing California’s 39 million citizens to relocate. From the air, California looks like a vast abandoned sand box, but to a few groups of people, it’s their home. With less than 1% of the population remaining in California at their own risk, the holdouts encounter a clash of cultures, ethnicities, religions, and politics that pits friend against friend with the future of California at stake.

My Take:

I hoped for great things from The Valley of the Dry Bones despite the limited information available regarding it. On the back of the book it said, “The leader of The Holdouts becomes convinced he’s heard directly from God himself,” and, “The result is a finish you’ll never forget.” On Worthy’s website, there’s also a mention of terrorism. I presumed I would get a book that built in suspense until there was a powder keg of an explosion at the end.

In the notes I made while reading I’d written, “Starts slowly.” On reflection, however, I think the prologue is probably the paciest part of the entire novel. There’s an accident which becomes a tragedy, and an innocent child’s testimony. The narrative then moves four years ahead and then another six years, and what happens immediately after the accident is only revealed later through conversation between the characters. There’s a lot of conversation between characters and what isn’t revealed in those exchanges is given to the readers via backstory.

I wanted this book to be so much more than it is. I wanted tension and excitement.  But I found the writing to be bland, without seasoning. I put the book down at one point, and was reluctant to pick it back up. I actually read another book before I resumed reading. There was no change in tempo, even during scenes which should’ve been exciting, and little to flesh out the characters. I had to do some external research to understand a conversation about another religion because I was unable to join the dots the way the characters apparently did. It began to get interesting towards the end, but the actual ending was anticlimactic and I was left wondering what the point was. The Valley of the Dry Bones could’ve been the start of a fascinating series, especially if it had been fleshed out more, but the one page epilogue makes clear that this novel is a one-off.

Thank you to Worthy Publishing for my complimentary copy of The Valley of the Dry Bones, which I received in exchange for my honest review.

Have you read The Valley of the Dry Bones? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.

Excerpt

Publisher: Worthy Publishing

Publication Date: 31 May 2016

Page Count: 336

Read more on:   Jerry B. Jenkins’ Website   Worthy’s Website

Purchase on:   Amazon   Barnes & Noble   Books-a-million   Christianbook.com

Broken Ground, by Karen Halvorsen Schreck

book coverPublisher’s Overview:

Newly married to her childhood sweetheart, twenty-one-year-old Ruth Warren is settling into life in a Depression-era, East Texas oil town. She’s making a home when she learns that her young husband, Charlie, has been killed in an oil rig accident. Ruth is devastated, but then gets a chance for a fresh start: a scholarship from a college in Pasadena, CA. Ruth decides to take a risk and travel west, to pursue her one remaining dream to become a teacher.

At college Ruth tries to fit into campus life, but her grief holds her back. When she spends Christmas with some old family friends, she meets the striking and compelling Thomas Everly, whose own losses and struggles have instilled in him a commitment to social justice, and led him to work with Mexican migrant farmworkers in a camp just east of Los Angeles. With Thomas, Ruth sees another side of town, and another side of current events: the numerous forced deportations without due process of Mexicans, along with United States citizens of Mexican descent.

After Ruth is forced to leave school, she goes to visit Thomas and sees that he has cobbled together a night school for the farmworkers’ children. Ruth begins to work with the children, and establishes deep friendships with people in the camp. When the camp is raided and the workers and their families are rounded up and shipped back to Mexico, Ruth and Thomas decide to take a stand for the workers’ rights—all while promising to love and cherish one another.

My Take:

I am an immigrant to the United States. I became a naturalized citizen in 2010. I say this because my experience has influenced my opinions on the subject and, particularly, on migrants across the country’s southern border. I had a feeling that Broken Ground might take me out of my comfort zone and test some of those opinions. Since I’d enjoyed Schreck’s previous novel, Sing for Me, I decided I would give this novel a go.

I’m glad that I did. Once again, Schreck has created a thought-provoking work about social differences in 20th century America. The book’s first chapter describes the stark reality of Ruth’s life living with her husband on the Texan oil fields. They are poor and have little more than a shack, but they love each other and dream of a better life. The entire narrative is written in the present tense and in the first person, which means we experience everything the same time as Ruth does. It was difficult to read this part because I knew what was coming and Ruth sounded so happy. When everything changed, we’re plunged into Ruth’s grief. Ruth’s experiences take the reader on a roller coaster ride of emotions as she journeys from Texas to California via Oklahoma and goes from being a wife to a widow to a student to an activist. There’s sadness, shock, disappointment, and anger, but there are also sweet moments of joy.

This is an aspect of American history I had previously known nothing about. There’s no ‘right’ or ‘left’ to what happened; these acts took place during both the Hoover and Roosevelt administrations. I was stunned by the knowledge that even American citizens were sent to a country they didn’t know if they couldn’t provide paperwork. Sometimes, it didn’t even matter if they had the correct papers. Today, it’s easy to see the attitudes of some of the characters are racist and chauvinistic but these were considered normal during the 1930s. There’s no happy ending to Broken Ground either. Actually, the ending is rather ambiguous with elements of despair and hope. But it’s an incredible novel, and one that I’m sure I’ll be thinking about long after posting this review.

Thank you to Howard Books for my complimentary copy of Broken Ground, which I received in exchange for my honest review.

Have you read Broken Ground? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.

Excerpt

Publisher: Howard Books (a division of Simon & Schuster)

Publication Date: 03 May 2016

Page Count: 336

Read more on:   Karen Halvorsen Schreck’s Website   Howard’s Website

Purchase on:   Amazon   Barnes & Noble   Books-a-million   Christianbook.com

Through the Shadows, by Karen Barnett

book coverPublisher’s Overview:

As San Francisco rises from the ashes, an age-old battle looms between corruption and the promise of new beginnings.

The devastating earthquake is just two years past, but the city of San Francisco is still trying to recover. Destruction of this magnitude is not so easy to overcome-and neither are the past regrets shadowing Elizabeth King’s hopeful future.

Hoping to right her wrongs, Elizabeth dedicates herself to helping girls rescued from slavery in Chinatown brothels, even if it means putting her own life at risk to sneak through the gloomy alleys and rooftops where dangers lurk.

Putting her life on the line for a worthy cause is admirable. But opening her heart is even more terrifying. So when Elizabeth meets attorney, Charles McKinley—a man who dreams of reforming San Francisco’s crooked politics—Elizabeth begins to doubt: Can she maintain her pretense and hide her past? Or will her secret jeopardize both their futures?

My Take:

Through the Shadows is the third in the Golden Gate Chronicles, which follow a family and their friends through the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and its aftermath. People are flocking to the city looking for opportunity, even as corrupt officials and well-connected businessmen want to remove those they see as undesirable. Enter Charles McKinley, whose wealthy uncle attorney prefers to represent in court those who can afford to pay well or provide the right social connections. Providing legal assistance to a city mission is not among the senior McKinley’s ambitious plans for his nephew. Nevertheless, Charles is drawn to the mission’s cause.

through-the-shadows-400As with Karen Barnett’s previous titles, Through the Shadows is an entertaining read of life after the earthquake. Readers get an insight into the good, the bad, and the downright ugly of San Francisco in the early 20th century. Morality appears to have a sliding scale, with certain behaviors and people given a ‘free pass’ while others are treated with shame. All sides of society are featured, from wealthy politicians to young Chinese girls rescued from slavery. The story of the King family runs throughout the series, with each book building upon the previous one. For that reason, I do recommend reading them in consecutive order. This is a series I’ve enjoyed, and I feel a little sad now that it’s come to an end. I’ll miss the characters and will wonder how their lives could’ve progressed. Hopefully, everyone lived “happily ever after.”

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity and Abingdon Press for my complimentary copy of Through the Shadows, which I received in exchange for my honest review.

This review is part of a Litfuse Publicity blog tour

Have you read Through the Shadows? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.

Excerpt

Publisher: Abingdon Press

Publication Date: 03 May 2016

Page Count: 320

Read more on:   Karen Barnett’s Website   Abingdon’s Website

Purchase on:   Amazon   Barnes & Noble   Books-a-million   Christianbook.com