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Isle of Shadows, by Tracy L. Higley, Showcases Historical Intrigue in Ancient Rhodes

_240_360_Book_728_coverIf you love historical Christian fiction, then Isle of Shadows, by Tracy L. Higley, is another book to definitely add to your collection and read over a couple of chilly nights, sitting by the fire or enjoying a cup of tea. I know that I am busy adding all Higley’s books to my shelves and I was very excited to read Isle of Shadows, her newest release after Garden of Madness that I also read this year (and loved).

Actually released previously in 2008 as Shadow of Colossus, Higley edited and revised the version for new release due to her increasing knowledge of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World she gained through travels and research.  As she decided to  continue the series about the ancient wonders (this first and current book surrounds the statue of Colossus) and felt she had come a long way in perfecting her writing craft, she felt she could make the book even better.

I hadn’t read the book in its former version as the first in her series, but I loved this version of Isle of Shadows for its easy and light prose, the mystery component, the growing romance, and the setting–which was the decadent Rhodes, circa the 227 BC, during a time that the Jewish people were fighting for their rights, lands, and their very existence as humans, rather than slaves. The Greeks ruled by democracy and the in-fighting for political gain was prominent.

Tessa, the main character, is a hetaera (an educated and beautiful professional female companion) to Glaucus, one of the ten army leaders who direct politics on Rhodes.  The life of being a courtesan is not for Tessa, even though she is widely admired for her beauty and prestige. She longs to be truly free from this life which she considers slavery.  Just as she begins to devise a plan to flee, her master has an accident. A cover-up ensues with help of members of the household staff, family, and a stranger named Nikos who shows up mysteriously saying he’d like a position in the staff. 

Nikos becomes Tessa’s partner in crime as they fend of the other leaders who are vying for position and leveraging the Jewish issue on Rhodes (the Greeks don’t want them integrated). But who is Nikos really? He seems more than a common servant. Tessa battles twists and turns, action, and adventure during the novel, but also grows tremendously as a woman. Can her once cemented soul really open to love again? Can she be loved by the One True God like these caring Jews present? Her independent nature serves her well, but will some of her walls be broken down to let others in to her heart?

I enjoy Higley’s books for their historical component as well as for their character development. She really knows how to write strong female lead characters who are torn by their past, making them angry and resentful, and placing other characters in their path that offer testimony to allow their barriers to be broken and their hearts to be mended. 

Higley’s books, and this series, really intrigue me for their historical and archeological references and time periods. However, the novels end up tugging at my heart-strings and showing me how God’s grace works too. I love how her strong, independent women fall slowly in love with tender-hearted, yet honorable men, who always know how to treat them right.

About the book, Isle of Shadows~

Revised and updated from the original, Christy-award finalist Shadow of Colossus.

Enslaved in a World of Money and Power, Tessa Dares to be Free.

Raised as courtesan to wealthy and powerful men, Tessa of Delos serves at the whim of her current patron, the politician Glaucus. After ten years with him, Tessa has abandoned all desire for freedom or love, choosing instead to lock her heart away.

But when Glaucus meets a violent death in his own home, Tessa grasps at a fragile hope. Only she knows of his death. If she can keep it a secret long enough, she can escape.

Tessa throws herself on the mercy of the Greek god Helios, but finds instead unlikely allies in Nikos, a Greek slave, and Simeon, Glaucus’s Jewish head servant. As Simeon introduces her to a God unlike any she has ever known and Nikos begins to stir feelings she had thought long dead, Tessa fights to keep her heart protected.

As an assassination plot comes to light, Tessa must battle for her own freedom—and for those to whom she has begun to open her heart—as forces collide that shatter the island’s peace.

About the Author, Tracy L. Higley~

timthumbFrom her earliest childhood, there was nothing Tracy loved better than stepping into another world between the pages of a book. From dragons and knights, to the wonders of Narnia, that passion has never abated, and to Tracy, opening any novel is like stepping again through the wardrobe, into the thrilling unknown. With every book she writes, she wants to open a door like that, and invite readers to be transported with her into a place that captivates.

Tracy started her first novel at the age of eight and has been hooked on writing ever since. After attending Philadelphia Biblical University, she earned a B.A. in English Literature at Rowan University. She then spent ten years writing drama presentations for church ministry.

A lifelong interest in history and mythology has led Tracy to extensive research into ancient Greece, Egypt and Rome, and shaped her desire to shine the light of the gospel into the cultures of the past.

She has traveled through Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Italy to research her novels, and looks forward to more travel as her writing continues. On Tracy’s website, www.tracyhigley.com, you can follow along with her on her travels and adventures.

Tracy is thrilled to bring readers adventures set in the ancient past, and it’s her hope that in escaping with her, readers will feel they’ve walked through these deserts, explored ruins, felt the white sand and blue sea under their feet, and met with the Redeeming God who is sovereign over the entire drama of human history.


I was given a copy of Isle of Shadows by Thomas Nelson publishers in return for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

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The Wedding Dress by Rachel Hauck Brings Historical Mystery Linking Generations

Can you imagine a vintage trunk calling to you….urging you to act impulsively and make you its owner? What about if you suddenly found a similar bond and link to a set of women from the past once you opened that trunk? Could it all be divine intervention? I loved immersing myself on the historical trek that The Wedding Dress, by Rachel Hauck, led me on.

Every night I would read more than I realized, because the prose was so smooth and light. It flowed so freely between Emily, a young aristocrat from 1912, and Charlotte, a wedding gown boutique owner from the present. This established unknown link encouraged me to keep reading, because it peaked my interest as to what the tie was between the two women.  It was an airy read that intrigued me enough, but also let me be entertained without thinking too hard. 

I loved following Charlotte’s journey as she discovered the lives of three other women from the past who wore the mint-condition wedding dress found in the trunk. The story was sweet and inspiring with a twist of mystery. It reminded me why we should always listen to our inner intuitive self, be in touch with those who came before us as well as ourselves, and always choose love over anything else.

I think I chose to review it for the fact that it had a historical element as well as mystical vibe. Our Lord can move in mysterious ways.  This was an undercurrent reality in this book, though no open references were made.  It brought allegory to us in the most quiet of ways.  The Wedding Dress is a reminder of God’s love for us and His plan for us.

Here is the book promo:

One dress. Four women. An amazing destiny.

A tale of faith, redemption, and timeless love.

Charlotte owns a chic Birmingham bridal boutique. Dressing brides for their big day is her gift—and her passion. But with her own wedding day approaching, why can’t she find the perfect dress—or feel certain she should marry Tim?

Then Charlotte purchases a vintage dress in a battered trunk at an estate sale. It looks brand-new, shimmering with pearls and satin, hand-stitched and timeless in its design. But where did it come from? Who wore it? Who welded the lock shut and tucked the dog tags in that little sachet? Who left it in the basement for a ten-year-old girl? And what about the mysterious man in the purple vest who insists the dress had been “redeemed”?

Charlotte’s search for the gown’s history—and its new bride—begins as a distraction from her sputtering love life. But it takes on a life of its own as she comes to know the women who have worn the dress. Emily from 1912. Mary Grace from 1939. Hillary from 1968. Each with her own story of promise, pain, and destiny. And each with something unique to share. For woven within the threads of the beautiful hundred-year-old gown is the truth about Charlotte’s heritage, the power of courage and faith, and the beauty of finding true love.

About Rachel Hauck, in her own words:

I wrote my first story about a girl and her pony when I was ten. It was handwritten in a spiral notebook.  My second story was about a girl who wanted to move away and live in New York City. I was twelve and no one had ever heard of “chick lit.”  I laughed when I found that incomplete manuscript in an old box-o-stuff. I told my husband, “I was born to write.”

Words fascinate me. I love putting them together and dialoging with the characters who live in my heart and mind. I carry on conversations with them while driving down the road or sitting on a bike in Spin class.

People are as fascinating as words. I love hearing personal stories of romance, tragedy and triumph. I’d love to hear your stories, too, if you care to write to me. I’m always wondering “what if” about the human condition and see what string of events might develop into a new story.

My life as been molded by the encouragement of my parents and teachers, and by the places I’ve lived like Ohio, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Florida, and the people I’ve met along the way.  Readers ask, “Is any part of you in your stories or characters?”  The answer is always yes. All of us are impacted by the places we’ve been and the people we’ve met, if only for a moment. As a writer, those exposures show up in the stories I write.

After graduating from the Ohio State University with a degree in Journalism, I traveled as a software trainer. From California to Maine, I experienced the beauty and heart of America and our people. In countries such as Australia, Spain, Venezuela, Mexico, Ireland and Canada came to see how people are just people. We all want the same things: love and happiness, laughter, faith and safety, and a bit of prosperity.

Those experiences make up the tapestry of my stories. Life-like characters that, by the book’s end, get in your heart and make you want to spend time with them over a latte or Diet Coke.  Looking back, I believe I’ve always written. If not in my journals or stories, in my heart. I was constantly taking note of the sights and sounds around me, the emotion of a moment: dinner with friends, the last night in college before graduation, racing through an airport to catch a flight to Australia, talking about Jesus with my translator in the back of a cab as we drove across Madrid.  Now, my days are spent mining those life experiences and emotions so I can share them with you through the eyes and ears of my characters and the places they live.

In ’92, I married my best friend, Tony, and spent over eighteen years in youth ministry with him. We love to read and go to the gym, and laugh at the antics of our pets.  A year later, I started my first novel, an epic WWII story that eventually found some light as a sub plot in my book Love Starts With Elle..

With the help and cheering of writing friends I met through American Christian Fiction Writers where I served as President and now as an Advisor, my first book was published in 2004, the same year I left the corporate world to write full time..

Since then I’ve become an award winning, best selling author of twelve novels with more to come. It’s my desire for you find hope and escape in my stories, and inhale a bit of the fragrance of Jesus’s love.

To learn more about Rachel Hauck, or view her other titles, you can go to www.rachelhauck.com. You’ll find her Facebook and Twitter links there as well.

I received this wonderful book from Thomas Nelson publishers free of charge in exchange for an unbiased review. All opinions are my own.


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Guest Review of Corridor, by Robin Parrish: a Mysterious YA Thriller

Guest Review Day!

by Tim Busbey – www.timbusbey.wordpress.com ~Tim’s been on a mission to write a review a day on his blog this week. Check out this review and then head to his blog to see what else he’s reviewed.

Corridor by Robin Parrish

Robin Parrish is one of my favorite authors. From book to book, you never know what to expect from him. Well, let me correct that. You know that you can expect a well-crafted story that will have you turning the pages faster than a speeding bullet. But he has written in a variety of genres – sci-fi, horror, superhero. With “Corridor,” Parrish ventures into YA territory for the first time, and the results speak for themselves. He makes the transition seamlessly, crafting a fast-paced story with characters that readers of all ages can relate to.

Troy, on the eve of his 17th birthday, awakens to find himself in a white room so bright that  he can’t even open his eyes. He has no memory of how he arrived in this blinding environment. His only companion is the girl’s voice he hears in his head telling him to run. With her help, he escapes from the white room, only to find himself in another room with another deadly challenge to overcome. This continues from room to room as Troy and his guardian angel continue to bond as she assists him in his journey through the titular Corridor.

Troy is tested both mentally and physically as he works his way through the mysterious Corridor. He faces three questions: What is the structure? What is its purpose? How does he survive it? Slowly the layers of the structure are unpeeled as Troy discovers the true purpose of the Corridor and why he was brought there. The ending is a surprise, one you will NEVER see coming. Or maybe you will, but I certainly didn’t.

Parrish does a great job of building up the mystery of the corridor and building the tension as the danger grows from room to room and the dilemmas Troy faces grow, as well. You are pulled into Troy’s decisions as he struggles over making the right decision, as we all do every day. I loved the different details Parrish chose to build into the structure of the Corridor. He uses just enough prose to help you picture how each room is unique without getting bogged down in unnecessary details.

Parrish is a Christian author, but in “Corridor,” as with all his books, he doesn’t beat you over the head with a religious message. Instead, he uses powerful imagery and allegories to relate truths in a way that pulls you in, rather than pushing away.

The book is available for the Kindle for only $2.99 and it is well worth the money. Engaging characters, a unique premise and excellent storytelling make “Corridor” a must-read for all ages.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I give “Corridor” a 4.

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Christian Author Terri Blackstock Pens Shadow of Serenity, a Stand Alone Romance

I just finished up Terri Blackstock’s new book, Shadow in Serenity, a novel published by Zondervan this October (2011).  This New York Times Bestselling author certainly didn’t disappoint in this stand-alone novel. The characters were believable, easy to friend, and well-crafted. The book was an amazing tale of redemption and God’s miraculous love, fit eloquently amid her story set in a small town where a scheme from a man who grew up a con-artist put the town in financial and emotional jeopardy.

Carny, a strong independent woman and mother with a tempered impulsive streak, comes from a less than desirable “carnival” background (hence, the name) and knows something about con-artists.  Fleeing her parents and their lying lifestyle, she settles in a small town full of caring, God-fearing people and she finally feels at home.

 When a good-looking, smooth talking drifter, Logan, wanders into town promising something so amazing no one  wants to be left out, she is speculative of his motives. Yet, she feels a strange attraction to him also.  Will she be able to show everyone else that his motives aren’t pure? Is her instinct right?

Terri Blackstock is an author of Christian suspense novels (usually packaged in a series) that have rougher life and death themes,while Shadow of Serenity is a lighter and brighter book, as well as inspiring.  It’s wonderfully airy in its drama and can be read in a day or two.  The story is told so well that it flows smoothly through your mind and you’ll be done in no time, yet the characters will be etched on your heart. 

Though it carries an important warning for readers as to the influx of cons floating around these days, and how Christian people with big hearts can fall prey, it also shows how some people who delve into this criminal activity can be restored in the Lord.

It’s a romance without the steamy scenes. I actually prefer romances that give you more subtle hints as to the characters possibly opening their heart to one another.  Being able as a reader to watch the characters slowly fall in love creates more suspense and this book certainly unfolds a relationship that is charming and captivating. I don’t need all the explicit sex scenes for me to find the romance endearing.  Terri does a wonderful job of juxtaposing suspense, drama, and romance.

The suspense in her book and the emotions emitted from both Carny and Logan’s characters was at a pace just slow enough, or quick enough, to make you want to keep reading to find out if redemption was possible for Logan. You’ll want to know if love is enough to win out over the power of temptation.  The book has a Christian message of how the least of us can be redeemed through the love of Christ, which sometimes can come from the love of another Christian, or a group of Christians.  However, the book was not preachy or scripture focused. It was about how other Christians, with pure hearts, can help to quietly lead a person without faith into the light of God’s goodness with their consistent faith and love.

To learn more about the book, please keep reading below for an interview with Terri. I think you’ll be enlightened!

Read an Excerpt of the Book

You can read an excerpt here: http://www.terriblackstock.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/08/ShadowinSerenitySC.pdf

Q & A with Terri Blackstock

Q: Your latest book, Shadow in Serenity, is a slight departure from your thrillers. It has more romance than usual, and is a bit lighter. What made you write it?

A: I actually wrote this book about seventeen years ago for the secular market. HarperCollins published the original version (under a different title), and it was the last book I wrote in that market before switching to Christian suspense. It’s always been one of my favorites because I
loved the colorful characters in the book, and I thought the story so illustrated redemption. When I got the rights back, Zondervan agreed to publish it again. I did an extensive rewrite on it, because I’ve grown so much as a writer and a Christian since that first version.

My latest series, the Intervention Series, is about some heavy topics that are very personal to me. I felt a passion to write the books in that series, but it was like opening a vein, since I was dealing with issues straight out of my own family. Before I wrote the last book in that series (Downfall, which will be out in March of 2012), I needed a break from that. It was fun to work on this book, because it’s full of humor and is more uplifting. It was a good way to clean my palate before going back to a more serious topic. Shadow in Serenity has more romance than most of my books, and the suspense element isn’t quite as life-or-death as my other books.

Q: You’ve said that Shadow in Serenity is about a “loveable con artist.” Are you glorifying crime in this book?

A: Absolutely not, but when you’re telling a story about redemption, you have to show the “before” picture, otherwise there’s no real story. In Shadow in Serenity, Logan Brisco comes to the town of Serenity, Texas to con the people out of their life savings. But one of the citizens, a motorcycle-riding widowed mom, stands in his way. Carny Sullivan knows a con artist when she sees one, because she was raised to be one. She grew up in the carnival and was taught to pick
pockets and create diversions for her parents’ scams. But when she found Christ in this small town, and learned of His love through the people who loved her, everything in her life changed.

There’s no way she’s going to let Brisco hurt the people she loves.  But Brisco is not just a criminal. His background was sad and lonely, and the only one in his life who ever invested time in him was a con artist. He learned everything he knows from his mentor who’s now dead. Though he’s served time in prison for his crimes and made an effort to clean up his life, he couldn’t do it on his own. Finally defaulting back to his life as a fraud, he concocts this elaborate scheme to get rich. But he never expected to find such love and acceptance in this town, and he never expected to fall in love with a spitfire who sees right through him.

Q: Did you model your con artist, Logan Brisco, after anyone?

A: Years ago I read the book Catch Me If You Can, by Frank Abagnale, and that was what inspired me to write about a con artist. Frank was a con artist for years, and the things he did were creative and amazing. But eventually he got caught and served several years in prison.  When he got out, he went to work for the FBI, helping them learn how to crack fraud cases. The  book was later turned into a movie, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, and it’s now a Broadway play. I didn’t model the character exactly after Abagnale, but his life story was a good launching point for what I wanted to do.

Q: What about Carny Sullivan? She grew up in traveling carnivals, and was bred to be a
con artist, herself. How did you learn so much about the carnival life-style?

A: Amazingly, there are several good books out there written by carnies about that lifestyle.  I used those books for research, I learned the language of the carnival lifestyle, and the inner workings of state fairs and the people who work them. It gave me a good back story for Carny Sullivan. I just pictured this little lonely girl who grew up with the smell of cotton candy and the thrill of roller coasters, but all she ever really wanted was a real home and a normal family.

Q:  Shadow in Serenity had echoes of the old musical, Music Man, except Carny is nothing like Marian the Librarian. Did you mean to make that connection?

A: Yes, that connection was deliberate, though Shadow in Serenity is a contemporary story.  When I was a junior in high school, I was in the musical Music Man. As I was working on these characters, I began to notice the similarities, so I embraced that, then tried to put my own twist on the story. Carny is a thrill-seeker, nothing like the librarian in the musical. But she loves the home she’s made with her son, and the stability that she’s wanted all her life. That contradiction–being a thrill-seeker yet loving stability, makes her a much more complex character than Marian the Librarian.

Q: Logan Brisco kind of traps himself into a corner in this book. On one hand he’s succeeding at what he came to do (to rob the town blind), but on the other hand, he’s found something in the town of Serenity that he’s longed for all his life.

A: I love characters who long for something, but don’t realize it. The reader, when they discover Brisco’s background, will realize what the void in Brisco is, and how desperately he needs to fill it. But Brisco doesn’t realize that until he comes to Serenity. Always before, he’s swept into a town, set up his scam, collected as much money as he could squeeze out of his victims, then disappeared. But this time he falls in love with the town. But once he realizes that living here can fulfill the dreams he didn’t even know he had, it’s too late. He’s already started his scam, and he’s in way too deep.

Q: Carny’s background in the carnival has made her something of a thrill-seeker, yet Christianity has settled her down. Was it hard to find that balance in the character that allowed her to be a Christian, yet still fulfill her craving for excitement?

A: It wasn’t really, because I saw her so vividly in my mind. I thought that someone who grew up moving every couple of weeks and riding roller coasters every single day, might actually be addicted to those adrenaline rushes. What if she found the stability she longed for? Would she stop craving that excitement? No, she’d simply find ways to satisfy that without losing that important stability. So Carny becomes a pilot and rides a motorcycle and bungee jumps, but she has that secure home base where she’s built a wonderful life for her little boy.

Q: Jason, Carny’s eight-year-old son, believes in Brisco no matter what his mother says. How does that trust influence Brisco?

A: Brisco’s always cultivated trust in his victims, but there’s something about little Jason’s trust that makes him want to be a better person. He begins to realize that, after his scam is done and he skips town with the money, Jason won’t be so innocent anymore. He’ll be crushed. He likes the idea that this little boy looks up to him and wants to be like him. And as Brisco falls for Carny, Jason’s mom, he doesn’t want Carny to hurt, either.

Q: Do you think there’s a prevalence of these kinds of white-collar crimes in the world today?

A: It’s worse today than ever before. Technology has made it so easy to be a criminal these days. Identity theft is huge, but so are hoaxes and scams across the internet. How many times have you gotten that email, supposedly from someone you know, that says they’re in some foreign country and their wallet was stolen, and they need you to wire them money immediately? If I didn’t know that was a hoax, I’d probably have fallen for that one at least once. Lots of people do.

There are people in this world who don’t care who they hurt in order to make a buck, and I think it helps for readers to see how con artists think, so they can protect themselves from these scams. But it’s also important to remember that those people can be redeemed, too. Christ died for the ungodly, for those who need a savior.

Q: What are some signs that readers can familiarize themselves with, to keep them from being conned? Are there other common tricks that scam artists use to trick their victims into giving them money?

A: Well, we’ve all been lured with the Nigerian scam, where someone emails you and says that they’ve inherited millions of dollars if they can just get it out of the country, and if you help them move that money, they’ll give you a couple hundred thousand as a commission. Believe it or not, tons of people fall for that scam. Social networking has also provided lots of new venues for criminals. There’s so much opportunity for identity theft in social networking, because people are way too trusting and too free with their information. I wrote about that in more depth in my book Predator.

Q: Your books often have valuable lessons woven into the plots. Predator warned of the dangers of social networking, Intervention dealt with the problems facing families of drug addicts. Shadow in Serenity highlights these scams that trap naive victims. Do you set out to teach a lesson when you write a book?

A: I really don’t. I start with the plot, and usually the Christian theme emerges when God deals with me in some way during that time. I usually think that God wants me to pass that lesson along to my readers, so that message becomes intertwined with the plot. The Intervention Series was a little different, because in that series I really wanted to show the impact that drug addiction has on families, and I knew that from the beginning. But I was extremely passionate about that subject because of how addiction had hurt my family. And that became a therapeutic way for me to work through what we’d been through, and give hope to other families.

Q: What do you hope will linger with readers after they’ve finished Shadow in Serenity?

A: That no matter what they’ve done, no matter how dark their past is, they can be redeemed. Some of the greatest people in the Bible committed heinous crimes. David and Paul were both murderers. Even worse, Paul murdered Christians. And David murdered the husband of his mistress, because she was pregnant with his child. In 1 Corinthians 6, we’re told who will not inherit the kingdom of heaven, but then it says, “Such were some of you. But you were washed clean …” I love that. He’s talking to the redeemed, people who were once criminals and sinners, but they didn’t have to stay that way.

Q: What books can we look forward to after this one?

A: In March, the third book in the Intervention Series will release. It’s called Downfall, and it’s the last book in that series. Both of the previous books, Intervention and Vicious Cycle, were New York Times best-sellers, so hopefully readers will be looking for this book. Right now, I’m working on a new series, but I don’t have a title yet. I’m also collaborating on a novel with my long-time editor David Lambert, which I hope will be out in the fall of 2012.

Book Trailer

If you want to check out the book trailer promo for Shadow of Serenity on YouTube:  http://youtu.be/1ulTDVZrcLE

I was happy to be asked by the author of this book to write a review in exchange for a copy of the book. However, all the opinions expressed are my own.

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