Best of 2013

Best of Books

I am happy to be part of Diane Estrella’s Best of Blog Hop

Here’s my top 10 best fiction books of 2013

As I looked back at the 70+ books I read this year it was hard to pick 10 of my favorites, there are so many wonderful authors. I hope if you haven’t read some of these you will take time to check them out. They are well worth it!


Number 10 – Dangerous Stage by Camy Tang

My Review-I really like the main character, Tessa. She comes from a rough background and knows how to hurt people. Yet having become a Christian in prison she knows she can’t go back to her previous occupation. The thing that appeals to me in this book is how Tessa isn’t perfect. She struggles with her past and learning how to forgive others. The story is full of action and there are some lighthearted fun moments in the story as well. This is a book two and could be read independently of book one, but I would recommend reading them in order.

Number 9 – The Crystal Scepter by C.S. Lakin

My Review-This entire series has been a beautiful escape. This is a story where we meet an extremely cruel King who attempts to destroy any threats to his kingdom. The thing I like about this book as well as the rest of the series is the author does a beautiful job painting the story with her words. It is easy to visualize this lands. Each story is independent to the others yet there is also a character or mention of a story that ties to the other stories. You could start with any of the books and enjoy them.

Number 8 – The Pastor’s Wife Wears Biker Boots by Karla Atkins

My Review-I loved the book by just it’s title! The story itself was worth a top 10 placement. The story definitely had some funny moments but it was not all giggles. The author deals with some pertinent topics for the day. The main character has a son with autism as well as a teenager struggling to figure out who he is. The author also tackles the difficulties pastors face in older established churches. (A topic near and dear to my heart). This story made me laugh and cry.

Number 7 – Singularity by Steven James

My Review– In this story we know at least one of the bad guys (there’s hints that there may be another one) and we know what he’s capable of and that sets the reader on edge. I found myself thinking “Who is he going to torture THAT way?” I also like the direction the author is taking the characters and will be fun to see where it all ends up.

Number 6 – Dark Justice by Brandilyn Collins

My Review-Collins is a master storyteller. In this story the good Samaritan finds herself in the middle of a terrorist attack with no idea who she can really trust. To add to Hannah’s stress she has to deal with her mother’s declining mental health and unpredictable mood swings. Staying true to her Seatbelt Suspense this story is fast paced. This is one of those stories that will make you think of the “What ifs” especially if you read the author’s notes on how she came up with the story idea.

Number 5 – The Scum of All Fears by Christy Barritt

My Review-This is another series that I love the main character. Gabby St. Clair is full of spunk as she finds herself in the middle of trouble. She also became a Christian during book two so you get to see her struggle to live out her faith. Each story in the series has been good, but this one the author took it to the next level in regards to the tension. The good news is it looks like there will be more in this series!This is a series and I’d highly recommend checking them all out, you will get the fullest experience.

Number 4 – The Days of Noah by Virginia Smith

My Review-This may be the only book that I’ve ever dreamed about, so it had to be in the top ten. It was also a very interesting book. We all know about Noah and his three sons, but we know little else about the circumstances surrounding the building of the ark. The author takes us an engaging journey of what that time might have looked like. I loved the characters, especially Shem. A man of integrity but one that struggled with temptation. Such a great story.

Number 3 – Truth Stained Lies by Terri Blackstock

My Review– A new series by Terri Blackstock is always a good thing and this book didn’t disappoint. As always, the author keeps you guessing and who is really behind the murder. The characters are interesting and likable. It’s a quick read and will leave you wanting more.

Number 2 – Dead Lawyers Tell No Tales by Randy Singer

My Review-First off, the title is just awesome! (This, of course, coming from a Disneyland fan) but the story itself was excellent. The author kept you guessing to the very end. The mystery aspect of it was well done. The author gives clues throughout the story but it was easy to miss a critical one. The ending itself was absolutely amazing. Didn’t see it coming which makes it a great book.

Number 1 – Damascus Countdown by Joel C. Rosenberg

My Review– This wasn’t a hard decision. As with the first two books in the series, this story grabbed me from the opening pages to the very end. Part of the appeal in this book is how many of the events here mirror what is happening in our world today. I love the main character, David Shirazi. He is smart, tough, full of integrity, and a developing Christian.This is definitely a book that you want to read the first two before reading the third.

Bonus Pick – Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers

My Review-Originally this was my number one pick, then I realized although I read it for the first time this year, it didn’t come out in 2013, so I decided to make it my bonus pick.This was an amazing story of love, forgiveness, and second chances. Michael Hosea is a man after God’s own heart. Likewise, Angel, represents us very well. Stubborn and full of corruption. We all need God’s love and forgiveness. Absolutely LOVED this story. The author’s style just pulls you in.

Damascus Countdown – Joel C. Rosenberg

About this Book

All eyes are on the Middle East. Israel has successfully launched a first strike on Iran, taking out all of their nuclear sites and six of their nuclear warheads—and causing The Twelfth Imam to order a full-scale retaliation. US President William Jackson threatens to support a UN Security Council resolution condemning the Jewish State for unprovoked and unwarranted acts of aggression.

Meanwhile, CIA operative David Shirazi has infiltrated the Iranian regime and intercepted information indicating that two Iranian nuclear warheads survived the attack and have been moved to a secure and undisclosed location. In danger not only from the ongoing missile strikes on Iran but also from the increasingly hostile and suspicious governments of multiple countries, David and his team are in a race against time to find the remaining nuclear warheads before disaster strikes.

My Review

Once again the author captures the reader within the opening pages as David fights to stay alive and prevent a nuclear holocaust. Like the first two books in this three part series the action is fast paced and intense.

I love the main character David Shirazi! He’s smart, passonate, and real. Like many he struggles to completely understand what it means to live this life of faith. But as he fights to stay alive in difficult situations he realizes that although his fate on earth is uncertain, he eternity is not, this fact drives his actions on many levels.

This book offers not only action and a love story, but some harsh realities of the times we live. There are a couple of secondary story lines I don’t completely understand why the author included, other than to remind us bad things do happen to Christian people.

I definitely feel you want to read book one and two before reading three, you won’t truly appreciate the story if you don’t. If you enjoy action packed stories then this is a winning series. This story will also give you some insights to the end times beliefs of Islam, which I knew nothing about before reading this series.

Disclaimer: I would like to thank Tyndale Publishing for the opportunity to read and review this book. I was under no obligation other than to give my honest opinion.

If you find this review helpful please click “Yes” on Amazon. Thanks for stopping by! 

The Give Away:

You can leave a comment and I’ll pick a winner on March 31st for my copy of this book. Please note it is a hardback copy. 

The Tehran Initiative–Joel C Rosenberg Review and Giveaway

319353: The Tehran Initiative, Hardcover The Tehran Initiative, Hardcover
By Joel C. Rosenberg / Tyndale House

The world is on the brink of disaster and the clock is ticking. Iran has just conducted its first atomic weapons test. Millions of Muslims around the world are convinced their messiah-known as "the Twelfth Imam"-has just arrived on earth. Israeli leaders fear Tehran, under the Twelfth Imam’s spell, will soon launch a nuclear attack that could bring about a second holocaust and the annihilation of Israel. The White House fears Jerusalem will strike first, launching a preemptive attack against Iran’s nuclear facilities that could cause the entire Middle East to go up in flames, oil prices to skyrocket, and the global economy to collapse. With the stakes high and few viable options left, the president of the United States orders CIA operative David Shirazi and his team to track down and sabotage Iran’s nuclear warheads before Iran or Israel can launch a devastating first strike.

Interview and Trailer: (Provided by the Publisher)


You started writing The Tehran Initiative when the Arab Spring began earlier this year. Did events impact your writing or the storyline?
A: Actually, I was well into writing The Tehran Initiative when the “Arab Spring” began and it was a little eerie because the novel opens with the assassination of the President Egypt and Egypt descending into chaos after the leader’s fall. Fortunately, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak wasn’t killed, but he certainly fell quickly and somewhat unexpectedly and Egypt is still reeling from the aftermath. The novel really focuses a great deal on the intense desire amongst many Muslims in the Middle East and North Africa to build a global Islamic empire, or a “caliphate.” And that’s certainly a growing theme among the Islamists in the region this year.

Perhaps what struck me most curious since the publication of The Twelfth Imam and while I was researching and writing The Tehran Initiative is that the so-called Supreme Leader of Iran, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has began speaking more publicly about the coming of the Twelfth Imam. He used to be silent, or nearly so, on this subject. He let President Ahmadinejad do all the public talking about Shia End Times theology. But Khamenei has become more bold over the past year or so. He has told people that he has met personally with the Twelfth Imam, though we don’t know what he meant. Did he meet with a flesh and blood person? Did he see a dream? Or a vision? We don’t know. But Khamenei has also asserted that he is the personal representative on earth of the Twelfth Imam, as well as the so-called Prophet Muhammad. These developments – along with his support for Iran’s aggressive nuclear development program – suggest Khamenei senses the time is very short before some claiming to be the Twelfth Imam emerges publicly. In part, that’s why the Iranian government released the pseudo-documentary film in early 2011 called, “The Coming Is Near,” about all the geopolitical signs that they believe are indicators that the Mahdi’s arrival is increasingly close at hand. Whether it will really happen or not remains to be seen. But the Iranian leadership is certainly convinced. Most of them, anyway. And, of course, the Bible tells us in Matthew chapter twenty-four to expect false prophets and false messiahs in the last days. So we can’t rule out the possibility that we’ll actually as false messiah emerge from the Shia world.

You’ve earned a reputation of writing stories that seemed ripped from tomorrow’s headlines. What is going on in The Tehran Initiative that we can see unfolding in the news?
A: I think the biggest parallel between The Tehran Initiative and current events is the growing sense amongst Shia Muslim leaders – particularly in Iran – that the Twelfth Imam is coming any moment, coupled with Iran’s feverish efforts to build nuclear weapons, and the Israelis’ growing isolation in the world and feeling that they may have to hit Iran all by themselves.
Did you see Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s apocalyptic address at the U.N. in September, or read the full text? You should. It’s instructive. Ahmadinejad is not a world leader worthy of the world stage. He is the evil leader of an Iranian death cult. A recent U.N. report indicates he is making progress in building nuclear weapons. He is calling for the arrival of the Twelfth Imam and wiping Israel “off the map.” He aspires to be a mass murderer beyond the scale of Adolf Hitler. He deserves to be in prison, or an insane asylum. His U.N. speech was further proof, if more was needed.

Like Hitler’s speeches in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s, Ahmadinejad isn’t hiding what he believes. He’s pretty clear. He denied the Holocaust. He blasted the U.S. for bringing Osama Bin Laden to justice. He blamed the terrorist attacks 9/11 on the U.S. government. He insisted that his so-called messiah known as “Imam al-Mahdi” or the Twelfth Imam is coming soon. He insisted Jesus Christ will come with the Mahdi to take over the world. He called for a one-world government when he called for “the shared and collective management of the world.”
Consider these excerpts: “This movement is certainly on its rightful path of creation, ensuring a promising future for humanity. A future that will be built when humanity initiates to trend the path of the divine prophets and the righteous under the leadership of Imam al-Mahdi, the Ultimate Savior of mankind and the inheritor to all divine messengers and leaders and to the pure generation of our great Prophet. The creation of a supreme and ideal society with the arrival of a perfect human being who is a true and sincere lover of all human beings, is the guaranteed promise of Allah. He will come alongside with Jesus Christ to lead the freedom and justice lovers to eradicate tyranny and discrimination, and promote knowledge, peace, justice freedom and love across the world. He will present to every single individual all the beauties of the world and all good things which bring happiness for humankind.”

Though most world leaders do not appear to understand what Ahmadinejad is really saying, students of Shia Islamic eschatology or End Times theology do. The Iranian leader believes the end of the world as we have known it is increasingly close at hand. He believes the time for establishing an Islamic caliphate or global government ruled by the Mahdi is rapidly approaching. What’s more, he believes that the way to hasten the coming of the Twelfth Imam is to acquire nuclear weapons and use them to annihilate the United States, which he calls the “Great Satan” and Israel, which he calls the “Little Satan.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu understands what Ahmadinejad means. So do some of his top military advisors. That’s why they believe Iran is in the eye of a gathering storm in the Middle East, and that the chance of a major war is growing.
“Iran has not abandoned its nuclear program. The opposite is true; it continues full steam ahead,” warned Israeli Defense Forces Home Front Command Chief Major General Eyal Eisenberg in a speech earlier this month. Also noting recent uprisings in the Arab world and growing tensions with Turkey, Eisenberg said, “This leads us to the conclusion that…the likelihood of an all-out war is increasingly growing.”

To me, all this feels ripped from the pages of The Tehran Initiative. Unfortunately, it’s all true.

Readers seem to get very attached to your characters. What goes into creating the characters in your novels?
A: It’s the Colonel’s secret recipe of seven herbs and spices. I could tell you, but then I’d have to….well, never mind….no comment to that one.

What experiences in your real life do you draw from to piece together these novels that incorporate geo-politics, espionage, romance, and Bible prophecy?
A: Someone once told me, “Write where you live in your head.” For some reason, that advice resonated with me and stuck. I’m fascinated with politics, prophecy and the Middle East. Living in Washington, D.C. and working in and around the political world for the past two decades has certainly helped provide context for me to write political thrillers. I think traveling extensively throughout the Middle East and North Africa has been helpful, too. Somehow, it’s all worked together in a way some people find as interesting as I do.

You often incorporate Old Testament prophecy in your books. What scriptures do you draw from for this book and why?
A: There’s no question that I am absolutely intrigued by Bible prophecy, and I like to start with an End Times prophecy – or a group of last days prophecies – and ask, “What if these were to happen in my lifetime? What would it look like? What would it feel like? How might such prophecies realistically be set into motion, and what might be the implications of their fulfillment?” That’s how I approach writing these books. But I don’t think of it like writing a fantasy novel or science fiction. I’m genuinely trying to imagine how it could really play out? I’m not saying these prophecies will necessarily come to pass the way I envision them, but they are interest to war game and see what happens. And given what’s happening in the real world today, I think readers are as curious as I am, and somehow my plots don’t feel that far-fetched.


Review: In short I loved this book! I’ve struggled in putting into words why I enjoyed it and why you might want to read it. But I’ll do my best to to give you an idea of whether or not you’d enjoy this story.

Book one started a little slow for me, this is not the case with this book the action begins from the first page and carries you all the way to the last page. As book one closes David is taking heavy fire trying to get his new friend and Iranian defector out of Iran while managing to stay alive. Book two begins basically 60 seconds later with David eventually getting his charge to the safe house and then off to the United States.

Whether or not you have read book one, you will find yourself quickly drawn into the story. The author does an excellent job of giving you enough back story that you are not lost, while not boring the reader who did read book one.

The heart and soul of this story is in the main character David Shirazi. He is a man who loves his country and is willing to die for it. Yet he is also is a son who’s mother is dying from cancer and with her death imminent he is called back into action as the situation in the Middle East is escalating. He is also dealing with feelings for the first woman he ever loved, Marseille Harper. But at the core he is dealing with his own fears and questions that are deepening each day.

The cast of characters are all strong and “play” their role well. Each adds important parts to this story. And if you follow events in the Middle East you will find this story somewhat troubling, however, it makes for an even more believable story.

If you enjoy action back stories with suspense and great characters this is an excellent book. Don’t let the size of the book scare you, it is a very fast read. It is also enlightening as understanding what Muslims believe.

 Source: I received this book from the publisher, but I was only obligated to give my honest opinion of this book.

Giveaway: I am giving away the copy I received from the publisher. It is a hardback with the dust cover in tact.  If you would like a chance to win this copy, please leave a comment with your first name and your state of residence. Sorry this is open to only those in the US.  The winner will be chosen November 18 at 9:00 PM PST.  The winner will be notified via email.