Thursday, May 31, 2012

7 Hours - Post 5 - Whole Pieces by Ronie Kendig

We're back to our series of reviews for the novellas in the 7 Hours series. Let's look at Ronie Kendig's Whole Pieces. Here's the summary:

After a brutal attack left him without a limb and his team dead, former Green Beret Haytham “Hawk” Wilson is angry at life and God. Bitter, he pushes everyone out of his life. Every day he relives his decision to send the Afghan boy home rather than following orders to kill any who came upon his hidden team. So when on his deathbed at age 36, eaten alive by grief and regret, he’s offered the chance to relive any seven hours, Hawk is determined to go back, kill the boy, and save his team. The decision is simple . . . until he gets there.

And now, my review:

I read this one in a single sitting because I couldn’t put it down. Ronie raises the tension until you’re frantically flipping screens to see what choices her character will make. 

She has drawn Hawk (the main character) so well—his regrets, his competence, his doubts, fears, and choices. You’ll feel almost personally invested in the outcome as you read. 

I liked her hinting that we aren’t always correct to believe our doubts. She included the theme of our choices affecting the world (not just us or those immediately around us), and how going back in time and choosing differently also affects the world, but she did it with a different twist (you’ll have to read to find out). 

She explored more of the concept of time, of being suspended in time, and of seeing alternate “strains” of time—very interesting. And I like how she softened a familiar character in the end. Readers of the series will see that as well.

Overall, her theme (and that of others in this series) is that God is sovereign over time. So what if we go back and try to fix something (if we could)? God decides the final outcome. 

Like with so many of the contributors to this series, I haven’t read any of Ronie’s earlier work. Now, I’ll have to. She’s onto something!  

Highly recommended.

   Learn more about this series and the individual books at

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Guest author: Allie Pleiter

Hey everyone, today we're interrupting our 7 Hours reviews to bring in a guest and longtime friend, Allie Pleiter. Her new release, Homefront Hero, looks really good! Check it out.

A hero’s choice

Why do we love romances?

The power of a happy ending aside, I think romantic heroes make choices that inspire us. Romance heroes--and heroines--behave in the way we all like to think we’d behave when the chips are down. Oh, they have their flaws, but when it really comes down to it, we love to watch heroes acting...well, heroically.

For me, especially in an inspirational romance, that means a sacrificial choice. A hero who puts it all on the line for the woman he loves. I want to see Jesus’s character shining out through that hero—even if he hasn’t realized his full faith yet. In fact, my favorite stories are when the hero comes to his faith while making that sacrificial choice; his new faith enables his heroic action.

John Gallows lays down his future to stand by his love, nurse Leanne Sample. In what he thinks may be his last hours with Leanne, John gives up everything to be by her side. It’s a scene I cried when I wrote, one that readers often tell me brings them to tears, and I cry every time I reread it (and I KNOW it has a happy ending!). To me, such strong emotion is the hallmark of a satisfying romance.

Books that bring me to tears always earn a spot on my keeper shelf.

Homefront Hero by Allie Pleiter
May, 2012

Dashing and valiantly wounded, Captain John Gallows could have stepped straight out of an army recruitment poster. Leanne Sample can't help being impressed—although the lovely Red Cross nurse tries to hide it. She knows better than to get attached to the daring captain who is only home to heal and help rally support for the war's final push. As soon as he's well enough, he'll rush back to Europe, back to war—and far away from South Carolina and Leanne. But when an epidemic strikes close to home, John comes to realize what it truly means to be a hero—Leanne's hero.

  (print)   (Kindle/e-book)


An avid knitter, coffee junkie, and devoted chocoholic, Allie Pleiter writes both fiction and non-fiction. The enthusiastic but slightly untidy mother of two, Allie spends her days writing books, buying yarn, and finding new ways to avoid housework. Allie hails from Connecticut, moved to the Midwest to attend Northwestern University, and currently lives outside Chicago, Illinois. The “dare from a friend” to begin writing has produced two parenting books, fourteen novels, and various national speaking engagements on faith, women’s issues, and writing. Visit her website at or her knitting blog at

Monday, May 21, 2012

7 Hours - Post 4 - Teardrop by Travis Thrasher

Have you read any of the 7 Hours novellas yet? I've really enjoyed these stories! Here's the latest review with more on the way.

Let's begin with the summary of this 7 Hours offering, Teardrop

Mike Harden is living a comfortable life when he discovers he is going to die. Though skeptical of the stranger’s offer, Mike chooses to go back sixteen years to the day he married Ashley.

When Mike realizes this wish has come true, it doesn’t take him long to begin to make plans. He didn’t relive this because it was the happiest day of his life. Mike made this choice in order to go back to the moment when a man named Vince Levy first saw Ashley. The first and only time Vince saw the woman he would go on to kill ten years later. Mike has gone back to his wedding day to kill his wife’s murderer.

And now, my review:

Travis does a great job with characterization. Like with the other stories in this collection, I found myself thinking of his novella after I finished it, thinking about the main character and how he grew through the story. How a cop went from justice-minded to homicidal intentions following the murder and dismemberment of his estranged wife. He’s given a chance to live seven hours, either going back in time, or extending his life. He chooses to go back to his wedding and confront the guest who would later turn out to be a crazed serial killer. Mike thinks he can play God, that he can take matters into his own hands and change the course of his life, and more importantly, his wife’s shortened life. If he murders the sicko who would later kill his wife (among other women), he can keep his wife alive. But as he tries to carry out his plan, he gets more than he estimated. He also learns thankfulness, to be grateful for Ashley in his life, to cherish every moment. His run-in with “time” (the character of Thomas Constant) makes him reconsider how he has spent his. And nudges readers to do the same. 

Highly recommended.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

7 Hours - Post 3 - Recollection by Tom Pawlik

Let's begin with the summary of this 7 Hours title:

In each installment of 7 Hours, a character is visited by the enigmatic Thomas Constant, who makes a heart-stopping statement: “You are about to die. But you may choose from one of three options: Live seven more hours, travel back in time and relive seven hours, or accept the inevitable and die now.”

New York City cabdriver Adrian Colfax awakens one night muttering a mysterious string of numbers and with the fragments of a bizarre dream in his head. He can’t shake the feeling there’s something he’s supposed to do. Something very important. He just can’t remember what it is.

Through a series of haunting visions, Adrian comes to believe he's been transported back in time to prevent the violent murder of the girl he loved. But he also learns that saving Kate could result in something even more catastrophic.

The clock is ticking. What will you do with the time you have left?

And now, my review:

I haven’t finished all of these great tales, but having read from the beginning of the collection (this is book four), I noticed Tom was the first author to mention how going back and changing the past could have a negative ricochet effect on others. Tom goes there with his character’s choice to return to a certain moment and make key changes. 

One of the strong elements in this story is that of mental illness, for lack of a better term. At the beginning of the story, we aren’t really sure what’s wrong with Adrian. We’re surprised the authorities take him seriously. He doesn’t even understand himself. And the psychic isn’t really helping, or is she? 

Personally, this story wasn’t among my favorites so far. I can’t help my editor’s tendencies of finding redundancy (probably purposeful since the character’s thoughts weren’t always linear) or noting other things. I was lost in the POV character’s confusion or at least unengaged within the swirl of his cyclical thinking. However, I will say that about one-third to halfway through, the story picked up.

One of the things I love about these 7 Hours stories is how they make you look at your past. The takeaway for me here was that people spend all this time wanting to go back and relive something, just to avoid a certain mistake or change a certain situation so the outcome is different. But if we did that… if we had our way (and not God’s), the result might not be what we wanted. That choice may not be wisdom after all (and God is wise to no allow it). That’s pretty good takeaway, huh? 

Saturday, May 12, 2012

7 Hours - Post 2 - Escapement by Rene Gutteridge

When a story begins in second person, readers take notice. When the same story begins with instructions on how to get away with murdering someone, the effect is doubly true. I was hooked from the opening lines.

Let's begin with a snippet from the summary:

In each installment of 7 Hours, a character is visited by the enigmatic Thomas Constant, who makes a heart-stopping statement: “You are about to die. But you may choose from one of three options: Live seven more hours, travel back in time and relive seven hours, or accept the inevitable and die now.”

Mattie Bigham has lost his job, is losing his wife, and is not losing any weight. At just under four hundred and fifty pounds, he figures his doctor’s prediction that he's going to drop dead any second is about to come true. He is right.
And now, my review:

Matt’s response to Thomas Constant’s 7-hour deal is seven more hours added to his life because he knows just how he’ll use the block of time: he’s determined to kill the high school bully whose heartless behavior all those years ago yoked Mattie with a load of shame and self-esteem issues that burdened him his entire life. 

Matthew Bigham weighs something like 450 pounds. When was the last time you read a story with a protagonist who fit that description? (See what I did there? Second person. *smile) And though I don’t weight 450 pounds (whew!) and I’m not a male, I do understand how the past can torment a person. Until we lay it down. Mattie has a hard time with that last part. He thinks murder is the only solution. So we ride along in his rented Hummer to the mansion of his nemesis and target. 

I liked Rene's tie-in with the workings of a watch (an escapement is a mechanism in a watch/clock) given that this story, this anthology, is all about time. 

Rene’s wording, her prose, is delectable. Like with the other novellas in this anthology, I underlined several phrases. And so you know, the story doesn’t stay in second person. It flips to first without losing any reader investment or immediacy. I was glued clear through, madly flipping Kindle screens.
The author mentions having this character on her mind/in her heart for years. Makes sense when you see how well-drawn he is. She wrote a delicious tale. Redemptive. Hopeful (ironic, isn’t it?). Mattie would be proud how she made him shine. I’ve definitely got to pick up more of Rene’s books. 

Highly recommended.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

7 Hours - Post 1 -- Rearview by Mike Dellosso.

Rearview is the first of seven novellas in an anthology put out by Tyndale. Except, it’s not really an anthology, because the novellas are e-books and sold separately. I received a review e-copy of the entire collection. Here’s the overall premise:

Death comes for everyone. But what if you were given seven more hours? Would you go back and relive a previous time in your life? Or would you live seven more hours starting now? The clock is ticking. What will you do with the time you have left?

Seven writers come together to tackle the questions of life, death and time as we know it. Linked together by a mysterious character, each author has taken the same concept and created their unique story with a supernatural twist.

Fascinating premise, huh?

I’m halfway through the collection and had a hard time putting down my Kindle to take the time for this post. I’ll be publishing reviews for the stories over the next couple of weeks. Learn more at 

And now, my review:

This story grabs you immediately. Dellosso obviously understands regrets, and he infuses this oh-so-relatable element into his main character. His protagonist is a college professor who’s trying to do the right thing when a student who’s been caught cheating (and who just happens to be a senator’s daughter) accuses him of sexually assaulting her. Immediately Dan jumps to the conclusion that his life is over, so why not hurry things along? All this before “time” (in the character of Thomas Constant) confronts him with the fact that he will soon die so he can choose where to have the 7-hour gift inserted into his life—either extending his life or going back to a certain time. Daniel chooses to extend his life. He wants one more chance to tell his wife and sons he loves them. After taking care of some business in town, he sets off to find them in New York City, where they’re spending the day shopping. But things don’t go smoothly. Along the way he interacts with someone who will impact his life, even as he impacts the stranger’s. I enjoyed this story, though, there was a bit more blood and violence than I’m used to. Still the story is enjoyable and the protagonist’s hang-ups were relatable for the most part. This novella was a great way to launch the collection.

Highly recommended.