Sunday, January 19

The Church Builder by A.L. Shields

Honestly, it was the cover of this book that first intrigued me. The image of the snake around the branch was simple, but also unique. After reading the brief description, I realized it was definitely a book I’d be interested in.

The Church Builder follows Bethany Barclay, a lawyer in a small town. However, despite her profession, this is not a court room drama. Rather, she gets pulled into a large conspiracy. She discovers her ex-boyfriend dead with a strange symbol near her. She believes the symbol relates to the murder of best friend, Annabelle, and flees, causing the FBI to label her as the main suspect. While on the run, Bethany is watched by two organizations, one bent on destroying religious faith, the other trying to save the church. As Bethany falls deeper into the conspiracy, she begins to wonder if she can truly trust anyone.

After an exciting opening, The Church Builder never seems to let up, with Shields keeping his foot on the gas through most of the story. Twists and turns come frequently. While this helps keep the story moving, there are times I kept mixing up characters because of how infrequently the appeared.

I found Bethany to be a strong and well-rounded character, but didn’t always connect with all of the supporting characters. Some of them felt a little too exaggerated while others felt underdeveloped. I also found myself growing a bit bored with the story when I reached the halfway point of the book. Despite the twists and turns, they did not consistently keep my attention. Additionally, while I thought Bethany was well developed, I also did not always find her interesting. I would have loved to see more done with the secret organizations, as they often received too little page time. On occasion I thought there was too much unnecessary or redundant detail for the main story and would much rather have seen attention spent on supporting characters.

By time I finished the book I thought it was average. It started strong and did keep up a reasonable pace. However, the characters I thought had the most promise were not used much and the story was longer than needed.

3/5 Stars

I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers and Zondervan as part of the BookSneeze book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 

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