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The Church Builder [Paperback]

A L Shields
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

8 Oct 2013
From A. L. Shields---pseudonym for New York Times best-selling author Stephen L. Carter---comes a thrilling new series about a secret war between the forces of faith and those who would destroy it. One group focused on destroying all religion. One group struggling to preserve the church. One woman searching for the truth. The evidence is against her. The FBI is right behind her. A malevolent killer has her in his sights. And as Bethany digs deeper into a complex web of lies surrounding her ties to the murder of her client's son, she remains unaware of the real battle in front of her.She thinks her friend Annabelle was killed because of what she learned about a rumored first-century Christian artifact. What Bethany doesn't know is that Annabelle died in the crossfire between two shadowy organizations that have been doing battle for centuries. The Wilderness, wealthy and vast, is dedicated to the destruction of all religious faith. The Garden, a group of seven members led by a man they call the Builder, carries on a grim, secret struggle to protect the church.Only a few in the Garden realize there's more at stake than the artifact the Wilderness is seeking. But as Bethany discovers that she's a tiny part of a larger war, can she trust the Builder to save her? Or will he sacrifice her for the sake of the cause? 'The Church Builder is a roller-coaster ride of plot twists and surprises, written with awe-inspiring skill.' ---Terri Blackstock, New York Times best-selling author of Intervention and Truth Stained Lies 'Outstanding. Riveting and disturbing in equal measure. The Church Builder illuminates the battle between church and those that wish to crush it with gripping force. Highly recommended. ---Davis Bunn, best-selling author of The Book of Hours 'Don't miss this provocative tale by a craftsman at the top of his game. Besides being riveted and entertained, you will be challenged by The Church Builder to think in new ways.' ---Jerry B. Jenkins, novelist and biographer. Owner, Christian Writers Guild. 'Serpents. Sin . . . and Redemption. The Church Builder has it all. I love this book. Bethany is my kind of superhero: smart, compassionate, and oh so wise.' ---Lis Wiehl, New York Times best-selling author and FOX News Legal Analyst
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 1 pages
  • Publisher: Zondervan (8 Oct 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0310338611
  • ISBN-13: 978-0310338611
  • Product Dimensions: 20.2 x 14 x 3.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Solid Religious Thriller 19 Nov 2013
By Iola
Format:Kindle Edition
Six months ago, Bethany Barclay‚(tm)s best friend was murdered. Now Bethany comes home to find the body of her ex-boyfriend on her floor, her gun on the floor, and a strange symbol painted on the wall‚"a symbol that reminds her of something Annabelle said before she died. Are the two deaths related? Bethany believes so, but the police are convinced she‚(tm)s responsible for Ken‚(tm)s death. She goes on the run to try and find the link between the two murders, but things get harder when she‚(tm)s implicated in a bombing as well.

It‚(tm)s quickly apparent hat Bethany has been set up. It‚(tm)s also apparent that there is more than one group of people after her. What isn‚(tm)t immediately not clear is why. What does she know? And who can she trust? Her search leads her first to Chicago, The World Foundation for the Fulfilment of God‚(tm)s Personal Plan and Martin Potus, another ex-boyfriend who is now leader of God‚(tm)s Planners, a possible cult.

The Church Builder is the first novel in what promised to be an exciting series from AL Shields (better known as Stephen L Carter, Professor of Law at Yale). It‚(tm)s tightly-plotted with two secret societies fighting for opposing sides in a religious battle, a range of ambiguous characters (it‚(tm)s hard to tell who is good and who Bethany needs to be suspicious of) and a fast pace that sometimes makes it even more difficult to keep the characters straight‚"not to mention their loyalties.

The Church Builder disobeys several 'laws' of modern fiction with its distant POV, switching between past and present tense for no apparent reason and an over-reliance on telling (especially at the beginning), but somehow it works, for me at least (even though my mind says it shouldn‚(tm)t).
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3.0 out of 5 stars Engaging but... 10 Nov 2013
This fiction book looked interesting and I wanted some light relief this summer! The story was a very engaging one about a battle between light and darkness, set in contemporary society. A thriller, it is largely well-conceived - save for the ending. I have to admit that I was deeply disappointed by this ending: it just did not seem to be fully finished! I suppose that the author is leaving space for the story's continuation in a series...

Whilst I'd like to be more positive about this story, bad endings really do tend to overshadow the rest of the material for me and, unfortunately, this made me wonder why I had spent so much time reading the book. This is a shame because the rest of the writing was quite engaging.

I received a free e-copy of this book from NetGalley in return for a fair review.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars  33 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ken Follett light - a religious thriller that makes you rethink your faith 11 Oct 2013
By kratzy - Published on
I got this book through and while this publisher is usually handling books with a religious angle, I have gotten some really good books for review. This book was described as the first book in a "thrilling new series about a secret war between the forces of faith and those who would destroy it." So I expected a religious angle, but more along the lines of the Ken Follett books, such as Pillars of the Earth. Ken Follet also has religious themes in his book, after all Pillars of the Earth is all about building a cathedral.
This book is definitely more explicit in terms of the religious tones than the books by Ken Follett, but it is still enjoyable and certainly does not feel like reading an updated version of the bible.

The book starts off with Bethany Barclay, a lawyer, trying to figure out what happened to Annabelle. Annabelle was Bethany's best friend and was murdered by unknown forces; the same forces that Bethany will have to deal with throughout the remainder of the book. As Bethany comes closer to determining what really led to Annabelle's death, she also becomes involved in the same struggle that caused her friend's death. What Bethany is up against is the century old battle between two organizations. The Garden is a group of individuals led by the Builder that are intent on protecting the church and religious freedom. On the other hand, the Wilderness are a group equally determined to destroy all religious faith. Bethany becomes involved in the ongoing fight between these groups and in the process assesses her own belief and character.

This book is definitely entertaining and does not have such strong religious overtones that it at any time appears to preach to the reader. It is well written and combines faith and action in a book that can be described as page-turner. That being said, the religious angle and the role of faith in a person's life is definitely more pronounced in these books that in other books that deal with religious struggles. So be ready to maybe be enticed to examine your own faith while reading the book. I enjoyed the book and found it entertaining.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book through in exchange for an honest review. The post is reflecting solely my opinion and has not been influenced by booksneeze or any third party.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars GOOD vs. EVIL 28 Nov 2013
By gayle pace - Published on

This first novel of A.L.Shields (Stephen L. Carter, Professor of Law at Yale) is going to carry on in a wonderful series. The plot revolves around two secret societies opposing each other while involved in a religious battle. There is a wide variety of characters that is hard to know who is good and who is evil. The story moves at a fast pace which at times it is hard to keep the characters straight.It is a roller coaster ride with lots of twists and turns. The book is full of evil and good. The problem is, how do you know which is which?

Now we have two deaths. Six months ago, Bethany Barclay's best friend was murdered. Bethany now finds the body of her ex-boyfriend on the floor of her home. Alongside him is her gun. Her friend Annabelle had told Bethany something before she died. On the wall is painted a strange symbol that reminds her of what Annabelle had said. Bethany thinks the two murders are related but the police think she is the killer. She knows she must find the connection to the two murders but she must get away so she runs. On top of the murders she is now linked with a bombing. Can things get any worse? Bethany realizes she has been set up and there are several groups after her. One group is composed of individuals whose leader is the Builder. This group called The Garden are trying to protect the Church and the right to religion. Then we have the Wilderness who are just as determined to destroy religious faith. Why are they chasing Bethany? What has she done? Does she know something that they want or need? Bethany becomes involved in the fight between The Garden and the Wilderness. Does she have anyone to turn to? Her best friend and her ex-boyfriend are dead. Where does she go now? She is trying to come to terms with her beliefs and her own character. She heads first to Chicago. What happens next is in your hands. The book goes against the norm for fiction. There is a distinct point of view, between past and present. I didn't quite understand why but it didn't change the way I felt about reading the book. If you are interested in fast paced, mystery, and conflict you will definitely like this book. It may make you step back and reflect on your own beliefs.

I would give this book 4 STARS.

I was given a complimentary copy of THE CHURCH BUILDER from the author A.L.Shields for my uncompensated review.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars average 20 Jan 2014
By Built By Story - Published on
The Church Builder by A.L. Shields

Honestly, it was the cover of this book that first intrigued me. 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
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Tale of Intrigue 24 Nov 2013
By Rev. Dave - Published on
Don’t let the title throw you off. The Church Builder is not a inspirational story about a pastor starting a new church. Rather, it is a tale of suspense, intrigue, and mystery as Bethany Barclay, a young, small town lawyer, finds herself in the middle of a game of chess. And she is one of the pawns it seems. When the son of her wealthiest client is found dead in her kitchen, Bethany becomes the prime suspect for that and a number of other crimes. She goes on the run to prove her innocence, which involves putting together the puzzle pieces of the last few months of her now deceased best-friend’s life. She soon discovers she is in the middle of something much bigger than she can comprehend.

A.L. Shields (the pen name of Yale law professor Stephen L. Carter) masterfully weaves a story with plenty of twists and turns that leaves the reader on the edge of their seat. My only complaint is that it ends too soon (after 400-some pages). I’m hoping the story will continue in another book.

I received a copy of The Church Builder from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Church Builder: A Review 15 Oct 2013
By Kellie.A. - Published on
The Church Builder by A. L. Shields

Bethany Barclay is running for her life. She's a struggling attorney who's been framed for the murder of a client. To clear her name, she must follow the trail left by her friend Annabelle to find out who killed her and why. Meanwhile, members of a centuries-old secret society known simply as The Garden track Bethany's every move, aiding her when they can. Because The Garden knows that Bethany has been targeted by the ruthless Wilderness Society . . . and to advance their agenda in a centuries-old battle they'll find out what she knows and then kill her too.
Each of the novels in this series revolves around the struggle between The Garden and The Wilderness. Working insidiously over the centuries, The Wilderness orchestrates "snakebites"--tiny scandals that cumulatively will bring an end to belief.

A decent book, that's what I would call this. It was a decent thriller. I can say the book is very quick and fast paced. The characters, are interesting enough I suppose, I do like the main character Bethany she was quick on her feet knew what to do when the time came for her to act. The others, the Church Builder, the hidden creepy villains, I think they were really interesting and well built characters. But I don't know if this is silly for me to say, but sometimes from the characters there were these cheesy one liners. For example The Church Builder was the one to say them all, like "it's unfortunate that's she gone through so much pain, but she has more to come" Or Something like that, it was only in the middle of the book. Something I guess you could roll your eyes to.

This book took a little longer for me to go through. The book is laced with detail left and right, information about people, places, everything. I did enjoy most of it. But it did get a little slow, there was a whole bunch of nothing. It was a interesting mystery, thriller, it has its exciting moments and slow moments. It was a well built story all the way down to the finish.

It is a beginning of a series so it's exciting what happens, and where it goes from The Church Builder.

I got this book for free for my review from Booksneeze. (
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