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Standoff

standoff

Title

  • Standoff / Sandra Brown.

Authors

Publication Info

  • New York, NY : Warner Books, c2000.

ISBN

  • 0446527017; $27.99

Length

  • 217 p. ;

Formats

  • Hardcover
  • Paperback
  • Large print
  • Compact disc
  • eBook
  • eAudiobook

Genre

  • Suspense/Romantic suspense

Rating

4Q; 5P

Reader’s Annotation

Reporter Tiel McCoy becomes the story when she is taken hostage by star-crossed teenage lovers.

Summary

Television reporter Tiel McCoy is on her way to an oft-postponed and much needed vacation when she hears on the radio that Sabra Dendy, the daughter of a prominent Dallas businessman, has allegedly been kidnapped by a fellow student. A phone call with the boss convinces Tiel to take a brief detour to a small Texas town to interview the young man’s father. Ambitious, hard-working Tiel can’t resist the opportunity to scoop the competition, but gets lost on the way. When she stops to call in, the boss reports that it was not a kidnapping, but that the young man is Sabra’s boyfriend, she is pregnant, and they are running from her angry father. Within minutes, the young couple bursts in to hold up the convenience store. Unfortunately, Sabra’s water breaks and everything goes downhill. Tiel is taken hostage along with the store clerk, an elderly couple on their honeymoon, a couple of suspicious-acting Mexican men, and a familiar-looking cowboy with a mysterious knowledge of medicine. Labor complications further complicate the situation, and Tiel must choose between her job and her humanity.

Evaluation

Standoff is a fast-paced novel, a page-turner that keeps the reader in suspense from beginning to end. The plot is complex, with several hostages having their own secrets that are gradually revealed and that affect the outcome in their own ways. The novel does have some cliches, like the doctor who is in hiding after having his confidence shaken by a failure, the gruff news editor, and the “criminals” who really don’t want to hurt anyone, but the plot is so good that most suspense fans won’t care.

Romance fans will be pleased with the slow burn between the main character and one of the other hostages which turns into a steamy love scene later in the book. Their relationship and that of the teen couple provide some nice moving moments as well.

Standoff is one of Brown’s shorter novels, but it is proof of why she remains so popular. If you’re looking for a fast but satisfying read, give this one a try.

Author

Visit the author’s website.

Interview on Huffington Post

An article at TexasMonthly

Reviews

Goodreads

BookPage

Publishers Weekly

Appeal Factors

This novel will appeal to readers who enjoy a fast-paced suspense story with intricate plotting and to whom plot is more important than characters. A reader looking for a quick read would be satisfied with the book.

Readalikes

Undercover, by Danielle Steel. These novels share the genre romantic suspense and have complex plots. Both also deal with relationships between men and women.

Fast Track, by Julie Garwood. Both books are plot-driven and share the genre romantic suspense. They also feature steamy love scenes.

Hush, by Karen Robards.  Hush is also romantic suspense and is fast-paced and plot-driven.

Bootalk ideas

A booktalk could describe the lead-up to the hostage-taking, describing Tiel on the phone with her boss and noticing the details of the other people who enter the store up until the security camera is shot out. Perhaps end the talk with Tiel’s thought on page 18, Well, I might die, but at least I’ll get my story.

Discussion Questions

Was Tiel McCoy a likeable character? Why or why not?

Did you sympathize with the teenage lovers, or feel something else towards them? What did you think should happen to them?

Which character’s secret was the most surprising to you?

If this was your first Sandra Brown novel, would you read another one? Why or why not?

Why I chose this book

I needed a fast read, and I wanted to discover why so many readers like Sandra Brown. The plot description sounded interesting.

Memory Hooks

TV reporter, convenience store hold-up, Doc, star-crossed lovers

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Skipping Christmas

skipping-christmas

Title

  • Skipping Christmas / John Grisham.

Authors

Publication Info

  • New York : Random House Audio, c2001.

ISBN

  • 0553712837; $14.99

Length

  • 4 sound discs (4 hr.)

Formats

  • Hardcover
  • Paperback
  • Compact Disc
  • Large Print
  • eBook
  • eAudiobook

Genre

  • General fiction
  • Humor
  • Christmas

Rating

4Q; 5P

Reader’s Annotation

Luther and Nora Krank decide to skip Christmas and take a cruise.

Summary

When their only child takes off for two years in Peru with the Peace Corps, Luther and Nora Krank decide to skip all of the commercialism and bustle of Christmas and spend the money on a Caribbean cruise instead. Not a dime will be spent on decorations, cards, parties, presents, or even the usual Christmas charities. Luther, a bit of a Scrooge at heart, is excited about the plans, but Nora takes some convincing. When their friends and neighbors find out their plans, the pressure to conform begins to mount. Luther stands firm, but Nora is about to crack. How long can they stand up to the wisecracks, sideways looks, and cries of “Free Frosty!”?

Evaluation

Many Christmas novels are gently paced with mild plots and at least a slightly magical element. Not this one. It has a cranky tone, and its frenetic pace mirrors the way many adults feel about this busy holiday and its expectations. It is darkly humorous with the all-out war between the Kranks and neighbors who demand they conform, with Frosty as the symbolic spoils of battle.

The characters are somewhat caricatures, with Luther as the Scrooge, Nora his sweet but harried wife, and Vic Frohmeyer as the political boss of Hemlock Street, but they are fitting to the story. There are many recognizable suburban “types,” but by the end of the novel we can see the strengths as well as the weaknesses of this culture. In the end, Luther may not be “redeemed,” but he does find a little Christmas spirit.

The audiobook version was just average. The sound quality was only fair; the volume had to be turned up quite a bit for a comfortable listening level. The narrator was competent but did not attempt different voices or accents and was not particularly expressive.

This book is a great antidote to the sometimes sticky sweet nature of holiday entertainment. For laugh-out-loud humor and full-on satire, try Skipping Christmas.

Author

Visit the author’s website.

An interview with The Guardian

A video interview with the senior books editor for Amazon about Grisham’s novels A Time to Kill and Sycamore Row.

Reviews

Goodreads

Publishers Weekly

BookPage

Appeal Factors

This book will appeal to readers looking for a humorous holiday read, something fun and fast-paced with which to celebrate the season. This holiday read can even appeal to the readers with a little bit of Scrooge in their own hearts who enjoy satire.

Readalikes

The Stupidest Angel, by Christopher Moore. These novels share the subject Christmas and are darkly humorous. In The Stupidest Angel, the humor is provided by an angel who messes up his assignment to grant a boy’s wish and causes mayhem in the community.

When Elves Attack, by Tim Dorsey. Both novels share the genre of humor and the subject of Christmas. The humor is dark in both, with Dorsey perhaps a little darker. Dorsey’s book features criminal characters and is set in Florida.

A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. These novels share the subject Christmas and feature characters who are, well, Scrooges. Dickens provided the original holiday crank on whom other characters like Luther Krank are based.

Booktalk Ideas

A booktalk could focus on Luther Krank coming up with the idea to skip Christmas, starting with going to the store and stepping in the puddle, ruminating on the expenses and excesses of the holiday, and thinking about a Caribbean vacation.

Discussion Questions

This book is somewhat satirical. What social commentary is Grisham making with this story?

Why did Luther refuse to even put up Frosty or give to charity? Could he have taken a middle road?

Do you think Americans’ holiday celebrations have gotten out of hand, or do you enjoy all the traditions we have come to think of as part of the holiday?

Would you ever skip Christmas to pursue another goal? If so, for what cause?

Why I chose this book

I saw the movie first and wanted to read the book. Also, the book was chosen as a Book to Movie Book Club choice for this December.

Other Information

This book was made into a movie called Christmas with the Kranks. The book and movie are very similar.

Memory Hooks

Krank, Scrooge, Frosty, Hickory Honey Ham (although this was featured in the movie, not the book)

Boone’s Lick

boones-lick

Title

  • Boone’s Lick : a novel / Larry McMurtry.

Authors

Publication Info

  • New York : Simon & Schuster, c2000.

ISBN

  • 0684868865; $24.00

Length

  • 287 p. ;

Format

  • Hardcover
  • eAudiobook

Genre

  • Western
  • Historical fiction

Rating Scale

4Q; 4P

Reader’s Annotation

15-year-old Shay Cecil chronicles his family’s journey across the western plains to find his wandering father.

Summary

Sherman “Shay” Cecil lives with his mother, three siblings, grandpa and Uncle Seth in Boone’s Lick, Missouri. Shay’s father is a wagoneer and spends most of his time hauling to the western forts, coming home only once every year or two. Life has been hard in the post-Civil War years, and Ma (Mary Margaret) is tired of her husband’s absence. She packs up the family and sets off to find him to tell him she’s quitting him. 15-year-old Shay narrates the family’s journey west, up the Missouri River and across the upper midwest to Fort Phil Kearney in Wyoming. Along the way they encounter storms, freezing temperatures, grizzly bears, and unfriendly Indians. Grandpa is lost on a raging river. Still Mary Margaret presses them forward, determined to say her piece in person.

Evaluation

Boone’s Lick is a leisurely-paced story, but nonetheless filled with adventures. McMurtry writes with humor, displayed early on with a darkly comic shoot out with a band of outlaws and involving Wild Bill Hickock, with whom Shay’s sister is obsessed, and a black bear. The characters are well-developed, strong and each unique, from independent, determined Mary Margaret, to hot-headed, impulsive G. T., to wise but somewhat befuddled Uncle Seth.

The book has a very strong sense of place, with lyrical descriptions of western scenes now long gone. It tells of outlaws, cowboys, Indians, and cavalry, acknowledging the moral issues of white westward expansion. It is gritty, not shying from describing scenes of violent death, poverty, nor the flawed characters of people like Colonel Fetterman.

With a teen-aged boy and his mother as the main characters, this may not be a typical western, but it has all of the necessary elements, and fans of the genre and of McMurtry should enjoy this story.

Author

Visit the author’s Facebook page.

An interview with the New York Times

NPR interview

Reviews

Goodreads

Publisher’s Weekly

The Chicago Tribune

Appeal Factors

This book will appeal to McMurtry’s fans and to many Western fans in general. Those who like a gritty but humorous tale with lyrical descriptions of a special place will enjoy the book. It may also appeal to reader’s looking for a strong female lead character in a western setting.

Readalikes

True Grit, by Charles Portis. Both novels are Westerns and feature descriptive writing with a strong sense of place.

Deadwood, by Pete Dexter. These novels share the genre Western and are darkly humorous and gritty. Wild Bill Hickock also appears in each, as a major character in Deadwood and a minor one in Boone’s Lick.

Fine Just the Way It Is, by Annie Proux. This book is a collection of three stories, but they share with Boone’s Lick the genre Western and the topic “family relationships.”

Booktalk Ideas

A humorous booktalk could be made featuring the story of the shootout with outlaws contained in chapters 8-10. Alternatively, it could feature the strong sense of place by describing the western places through which the family traveled.

Discussion Questions

Do you agree with Mary Margaret’s decision to track down her husband to state her case in person? Was it worth the risks to her family?

Mary Margaret did not seem too surprised to find out about Dick’s Indian families. Why might that be? How would you have reacted to this news?

What was your opinion of Shay? Did he seem to fit in with the rest of the family? Why or why not?

Do you think this book is a realistic portrayal of the American West? Give examples to support your answer. If you could travel in time, would this be a place and time you would want to visit?

Why I chose this book

Larry McMurtry is one of the best known authors of the Western genre, so I wanted to sample his writing. The family being the focus of this book was a draw.

Memory Hooks

The Old West, cowboys, Indians, forts, Boone

Big Stone Gap

big-stone-gap

Title

  • Big Stone Gap : a novel / Adriana Trigiani.

Authors

Publication Info

  • New York : Random House, c2000.

Subjects

ISBN

  • 0375504036; $23.95

Length

  • 272 p. ;

Formats

  • Hardcover
  • Large Print
  • Paperback
  • Compact disc
  • eBook
  • eAudiobook

Genre

  • Women’s fiction
  • Southern fiction
  • Romantic comedy

Rating

4Q; 5P

Reader’s Annotation

Ave Maria Mulligan’s life is turned upside down when her mother dies and a family secret is revealed.

Summary

Ave Maria Mulligan, 35-year-old town spinster, has spent her life trying to blend into the background. When her mother dies, a family secret is revealed that shakes Ave Maria out of her comfort zone and causes her to begin a quest to discover who she is and what she wants out of life. In turn, her quest shakes up her small village of Big Stone Gap, with life-changing consequences.

Big Stone Gap is southern fiction with an Italian twist, with all the quirky characters that implies. There is Fleeta, Ave Maria’s chain-smoking, professional wrestling-loving pharmacy employee; Theodore, the genius high-school band director who is also Ave Maria’s best friend; Iva Lou, the bookmobile librarian who loves men; Pearl, a shy teenager who undergoes a metamorphosis; and Jack, the good-looking, courageous miner looking for his life-long love. Add in Ave Maria’s Italian family, and you get a wonderful mix of characters who help Ava Maria through this difficult transition in her life.

Evaluation

The author grew up in the real town of Big Stone Gap in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. This comes through in the authenticity of the setting and the lives of the characters. Trigiani creates a strong sense of place and of home, along with some memorable and well-developed characters.

Loss, both good and bad, is a major theme of this book. Ave Maria loses her parents, then her  touchstones for who she has always believed she was. She is even threatened with the loss of her home and livelihood through the machinations of an angry relative. Several other characters also deal with loss and letting go. Yet through the novel, they and Ave Maria find that letting go can be freeing, even transformative.

Big Stone Gap is full of heart and humor. It has an easy, enjoyable pace, yet gives the reader something to think about. It is also the first in a series, so if you get attached to the characters, you will be able to follow them through further story lines.

Author

Visit the author’s website.

An interview with the Bookbabes in Good Housekeeping

New York Times interview

Reviews

Goodreads

Publishers Weekly

Kirkus

Appeal Factors

Fans of heartwarming women’s fiction/romantic comedies will enjoy this book. Also appealing to those who love a small town, southern setting.

Readalikes

The Peach Keeper, by Sarah Addison Allen. These novels share the genre women’s fiction/romantic comedy and a southern, Blue Ridge Mountains, small town setting. They also both feature independent heroines dealing with family secrets.

Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven, by Fannie Flagg. Both novels feature independent southern women and quirky small towns. Both deal with existential questions in a funny way: Who am I? Why am I here?

Series readalike: Lisa Wingate’s Carolina Heirlooms novels. Both series share the genres women’s fiction and southern fiction and have a strong sense of place. Both authors write heartwarming stories with a generous dose of romance.

Booktalk Ideas

This book is character-driven, so descriptions of the unique characters would make a good booktalk. It could start with Ave Maria, and explain her relationships to Fleeta, Theodore, Pearl, and Jack.

Discussion Questions

Why did Ave Maria’s mother keep her secret so long? How did Ave Maria feel about the revelation? How would you feel about discovering such a deep family secret?

Ave Maria seems totally unaware of Theodore’s sexual orientation, as does he throughout most of the book. Why do you think this is? How does the setting of time and place play into this?

Why is Ave Maria so blind to Jack’s feelings for her? What finally brings her around? Have you ever experienced being in either of their positions regarding love?

Who was your favorite character and why?

Why I chose this book

I liked the small town, southern setting and the name of the lead character–Ave Maria Mulligan.

Other Information

This is another book that has been made into a movie. It stars Ashley Judd as Ave Maria and Whoopi Goldberg as Fleeta. The book is better!

Memory Hooks

Ave Maria Mulligan, Blue Ridge Mountains, coal miners

The Zookeeper’s Wife

the_zookeepers_wife

Title

  • The zookeeper’s wife : a war story / Diane Ackerman.

Authors

Publication Info

  • New York : W.W. Norton, 2008, c2007.

ISBN

  • 9780393333060 : PAP $15.95
  • 039333306X : PAP $15.95

Length

  • 368 p. :

Formats

  • Hardcover
  • Paperback
  • eBook
  • Compact Disc
  • eAudiobook
  • Large Print
  • Pre-loaded Audio Player

Genre

  • Popular nonfiction
  • Nonfiction that reads like fiction

Rating

5Q, 4P

Reader’s Annotation

Zookeepers Jan and Antonina Zabinski rescue Polish Jews from the Nazis by hiding them in the zoo.

Summary

The Zookeeper’s Wife is the compelling story of Antonina Zabinski. Antonina and her husband Jan were keepers of the Warsaw Zoo at the time of the Nazi invasion of Poland. In the air raids, much of the zoo was destroyed. The rest was carried off to Germany by a German zookeeper who was a member of the Nazi party.

Jan was a leading figure in the Polish underground, and he and Antonina became involved in hiding and moving Jewish friends out of the city. They carried on right under the noses of their Nazi occupiers, using the old habitats of the zoo to hide their “guests.” Life was fraught with hardships and constant danger, with many near misses.

Evaluation

Ackerman presents a woman of great strength and quiet resolve, able to calm animals and humans alike. It is a story of survival and personal triumph over the evil of the day. It is suspenseful as they daily face the danger of discovery by Nazi officials or sympathizers.

The author’s perspective on the war is unique. She is a naturalist, not a historian. The animals figure largely in the story. Descriptions of the way Antonina cared for them, how she related to them,  and how that related to the events of the story are prominent. Jan and Antonina’s knowledge of biology and animals also provides the backdrop to an explanation of the Nazi views on animal husbandry, race, life, and eugenics. It explains the “reasoning” behind the Nazis’ policies towards Jews, Poles, and Poland in general.

The Zookeeper’s Wife is an intriguing look at little-known heroes of the Holocaust. The Zabinskis can be counted with the likes of Corrie Ten Boom, Oskar Schindler, and Miep Gies—Gentiles who risked their lives to save countless others. For history- lovers or those who like heroic stories, this book is highly recommended.

Significance

This book tells the story of two lesser-known heroes of the Holocaust.

Author

Visit the author’s website.

An interview on PBS

Reviews

Goodreads

The Washington Post

New York Times

Appeal Factors

This book will appeal to those who love history, especially in the period of World War II, and also to anyone who loves a heroic story of self-sacrifice. Fans of The Diary of Ann Frank, Schindler’s List, or The Hiding Place will probably like this book.

Readalikes

Schindler’s Ark, by Thomas Keneally. The basis of the movie Schindler’s List, this book also tells the story of a righteous Gentile who rescued Jews from the Nazis.

The Hiding Place, by Corrie Ten Boom. These novels share the genre popular nonfiction and real-life characters who risked their lives to hide Jews during the Holocaust. This book is set in the Netherlands, while The Zookeeper’s Wife is set in Poland.

The Dog Who Could Fly, by Damien Lewis. Both novels are nonfiction that reads like fiction and are set during World War II. This novel features a heroic dog.

Awards

Orion Book Award

Booktalk Ideas

Following Ackerman’s naturalist point of view, a booktalk could compare the Nazi’s views on animal husbandry and purification of species with their views of people–Jews and Poles. It is a very chilling description. Probably more exciting, however, would be to recite a close call the Zabinski’s and their “guests” had with the Nazis.

Discussion Questions

The Zabinski’s had a very traditional, patriarchal relationship, yet in later interviews Jan praised his wife for her actions. What did you think of this relationship? How did it affect their work?

How does the author’s background as a naturalist impact her telling of this story? How is she particularly suited to tell the story of these zookeepers?

What did you know about the war and holocaust in Poland before reading this book? Was anything new or surprising to you?

If you were placed in similar circumstances, do  you think you would do as the Zabinski’s did? Why or why not?

Why I chose this book

I love historical nonfiction that reads like fiction, and especially set in World War II. The people who hid Jews or others during the war are some of my greatest heroes.

Other Information

This book is coming out in 2017 as a movie starring Jessica Chastain.

Memory Hooks

Zookeeper, Holocaust, Warsaw

Amaryllis

amaryllis-cover

Title

  • Amaryllis / Jayne Castle.

Authors

  • Castle, Jayne

Publication Info

  • New York, New York : Pocket Star Books, 1996.

ISBN

  • 9780671021436 — Paperback
    9781574901399 — Hardcover
  • 9781451624014 — eBook, $13.99

Length

  • 328 p.

Formats

  • Hardcover Large Print (out of print)
  • Paperback
  • eBook

Genre

  • Romance/Paranormal/Suspense

Rating

2Q, 4P

Reader’s Annotation

Sparks fly when full-spectrum prism Amaryllis Lark is hired by high class talent Lucas Trent to ferret out a corporate traitor.

Summary

St. Helens colonists, cut off from the home planet by unexpected circumstances, have survived on New Earth for hundreds of years. Many have developed amazing psychic talents, but the nature of the planet requires synergistic relationships to make the talents work: talents operate with various abilities, but all require a prism partner to help them focus their talent for any amount of time. When talent and wealthy business owner Lucas Trent hires prism Amaryllis Lark to help him ferret out a traitor, sparks fly between the tough, self-made man and the university trained, prim and proper woman. At a high society function, the pair not only find the traitor, but they discover a popular politician using his psychic talent to improperly influence the election. A familiar psychic signature leads Amaryllis to suspect a link to the death of her beloved mentor. Lucas and Amaryllis find themselves plunged into a dangerous investigation and into a scorching love affair.

Evaluation

This is a steamy romance with plenty of passion and explicit sex to satisfy fans of the genre. The plot is fast-paced and suspenseful, providing an interesting storyline to carry the sexual tension. The main characters are given enough background to explain their motivations. Though set in a different world, this is not world-building. Just about everything in St. Helens (New Earth) is named after things on earth. Many are given combination names such as the hot drink coff-tea. This device came across as silly and unimaginative. It is doubtful, however, that romance fans will care. The important part of the story is the emotions of the protagonists–the passion and growing love between them and the sparks that fly when opposites attract. The paranormal element of the psychic connection only intensifies the heat.

Amaryllis is a fun, romantic romp with a mystery to solve. Fans of futuristic romance will have a great time.

Author

Jayne Castle is a pseudonym for Jayne Ann Krentz. See her website here.

An interview with Bookpage

WritersWrite interview

Reviews

Goodreads

AllReaders

Library Journal (from Novelist): When professional full-scale prism Amaryllis  Lark agrees to serve as the “focus” for the highly psychically talented Lucas Trent in a security investigation for his company, their mind-link produces excitement–and leads them into a dangerous search for a clever psychic murderer. The chemistry between the pragmatic hero and prissy heroine is on target here. Writing under the name Jayne Castle for the first time in 16 years, veteran romance writer Jayne Ann Krentz takes her trademark combination of witty, upbeat action; lively sensuality; and appealing characters to the unique, synergistic world of St. Helens. Readers may also be interested in some of Krentz’s earlier futuristic works (e.g., Shield’s Lady, Starfire), recently re-released under her own name.

Appeal factors

Amaryllis will appeal to fans of futuristic, paranormal romance with a bit of humor. A good choice for those who like their romance steamy with some explicit sex.

Readalikes

A Spy to Die For, by Kris DeLake. These fast-paced romance novels are both set in the future and share strong-willed characters and suspenseful plots. They also both provide steamy relationships.

Dark Taste of Rapture, by Gena Showalter. Both novels are futuristic or paranormal romance and could be described as steamy and fast-paced. They share the subject murder.

Kinsman’s Oath, by Susan Krinard. These books are steamy romances featuring female psychics and futuristic settings.

Booktalk Ideas

As the genre is romance, a booktalk should highlight the sexual attraction and tension in the book. This might mean describing the first psychic link between Amaryllis and Lucas when both were shocked to experience sexual arousal, which is not a normal part of linking. The booktalker should be careful to know who the audience is and how explicit it would be appropriate to get.

Discussion Questions

What did you think of the world that the author created? What interested you? What, if anything, would you change?

Did you like the character of Amaryllis? Was she realistic? What motivated her high ethical standards?

What was the basis of the attraction between Amaryllis and Lucas? Do you think their relationship would last?

Arranged marriages are an old world throwback. In this book, arranged marriage meets modern dating services. What did you think about this?

How would you feel if such psychic powers existed in our world? What safeguards would it take to protect people from being taken advantage of?

Why I chose this book

This was a book group pick. I would not normally read something as explicit as this, nor am I a follower of futuristic settings. However, the psychic abilities and the connection this gives the characters is an interesting supposition.

Memory Hooks

Amaryllis, New Earth, psychics, prism

Immanuel’s Veins

immanuels-veins

Title

  • Immanuel’s veins [sound recording] / Ted Dekker.

Authors

Publication Info

  • [United States] : Thomas Nelson Inc., 2010.

 ISBN

  • 9781400316748 : $29.99

UPC

  • 9781400316748

Length

  • 8 sound discs (409 min.) :

Formats

  • Compact disc
  • MP3
  • Hardcover
  • Paperback
  • Large print
  • eBook

Genre

  • Christian Paranormal/suspense
  • Historical
  • Romance

Reader’s Annotation

Imperial warrior Toma Nicolescu fights to save his love from an evil that is darker than he could have ever imagined.

Summary

Catherine the Great dispatches her greatest warrior, Toma Nicolescu, to protect the Cantemir family, a widow and her two beautiful daughters, in Moldavia. On the way, Toma and his companion Alek receive a warning from a strange old man who talks to a crow: God has told him to warn Toma to beware the evil that comes to contest him.

Upon arrival at the estate, Toma and Alek find a party in full swing. Almost immediately they are set against a party of strangely dressed, passionate Russians from the nearby Castle Castile. No one seems to know anything about them, but they quickly work themselves into the graces of the widow Kesia Cantemir. There is something about the Russians that rings warning bells in Toma’s head, but he can’t quite put his finger on it. Perhaps it is jealousy as he falls head over heels for Lucine Cantemir. Or perhaps it is their unconventional behavior and strange talk of blood. Can he figure out this puzzle before it is too late? Can he save his beautiful Lucine?

Evaluation

This Christian fiction novel goes right into the heart of darkness. It is a sensual telling of a tale of passion, love, seduction, and redemption. Immanuel’s Veins, set in Moldavia during the rule of Catherine the Great of Russia, is very atmospheric, with great estates, lavish parties, dark and stormy nights, brooding heroes, and vampires. It is emotion driven as a romance, but with a suspenseful plot that will keep the reader on the edge of her seat. Though categorized as Christian fiction, it is not a preachy, moralistic novel. Instead, it is a love story that becomes a parallel for the love of Christ for His Church. This does not become evident, however, until the end of the book. While passionate and seductive, sex remains innuendo or behind closed doors.

The audiobook version is narrated by Chris Andrews. The sound quality is good, but the narration is average. He uses no accents or changes of pitch or tone to separate characters. Emotional inflections are fairly subtle. One bonus of listening, however, is the pronunciation of difficult Russian, Ukrainian, or Moldovian names. The story is fairly easy to follow in audio as it is told largely from one viewpoint, that of Toma, and the number of characters is kept small. This book, however, might be more enjoyable in print.

Author

Visit the author’s website.

A video interview on Youtube

Interview with New York Times

Reviews

Goodreads

Publishers Weekly

Crosswalk.com

Appeal Factors

This book may appeal to people of the Christian faith who like edgier, darker fiction than the average Christian novel. It could also appeal to non-Christian readers of paranormal romance/historical fiction if they are open to the spiritual aspects.

Readalikes

Cain, by James Byron Huggins. This book shares with Immanuel’s Veins the genre Christian Paranormal/Suspense and characters who are soldiers.

The Robe, by Lloyd C. Douglas. This is an older book, but shares the genre historical Christian fiction and romance with a little supernatural thrown in. Both novels share the subject redemption and characters who are soldiers.

Author readalike: Frank Peretti. Peretti also writes Christian suspense with supernatural elements in the battle between good and evil. Peretti is rarely as dark as Dekker.

Awards/Lists

Library Journal Best Christian Fiction

Booktalk ideas

As this is an emotionally driven book, a booktalk should appeal to the emotions. This can be done by talking about Toma’s feelings for Lucine and how much he wants to protect her and to save her.

Discussion Questions

Why are Alek and Natasha so easily taken in by the Russians?

What did you think of Kesia Cantemir’s parenting style? What role did this play in her daughters’ susceptibility to seduction by the Russians?

Toma is a man with a great sense of duty and responsibility. Has duty ever kept you from something you really wanted? How did Toma come to choose love over duty? Was he able to fulfill both?

Discuss the blood imagery in the book and its relationship to Christianity.

Why I chose this book

I have read one other Dekker novel. This one was quite different with the vampires, and I’m not usually a vampire book fan, so I thought I would challenge myself a little.

Memory Hooks

Vampires, Russia, Catherine the Great, Moldavia