Book Review: All In by L.K. Simonds

The book I’m reviewing today has the curious description “gritty Christian Fiction”. Sound like an oxymoron? Check out my take on ALL IN by author L.K. Simonds. Want a copy? Enter our giveaway for a chance to win a copy of the book and a gift card!

I was provided a copy of the book for review purposes. All opinions are my own.

ALL IN
by
L.K. Simonds

Genre: Gritty Realistic / Christian Fiction
Publisher: Morgan James Publishing
Date of Publication: August 27, 2019
Number of Pages: 282

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A woman’s empty pursuit of happiness leads to a crisis before finding redemption in the Lord in this challenging and gritty Christian novel.

Twenty-nine-year-old novelist and blackjack dealer Cami Taylor seems to have it all—but just underneath her confident exterior and newfound celebrity is a young woman in trouble. Cami’s boyfriend, Joel, wants to get married, buy a house on Long Island, and raise a family—a life that’s a million miles from Cami’s idea of happiness. Her therapist suggests compromise and trust, but Cami would rather bolt like a deer.

Breaking things off with Joel, Cami launches herself on a new quest for happiness. But her pursuit of pleasure only takes her further from herself—and toward a harrowing new reality unlike anything she’s faced before. What follows for Cami is a fight to the death that can only be waged with God’s love.

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L.K. SIMONDS PRESENTS CAMI TAYLOR:

ALL IN does not have not your typical Christian fiction protagonist. Successful author Cami Taylor is not sweet, nor gentle. She has hard edges, smokes, drinks, and is emotionally detached. On the surface, actually, she’s a pretty unlikeable character – and as this book is billed as Christian fiction, it didn’t mesh with my expectations right from the start.

I was intrigued.

Author L.K. Simonds drops tidbits all around that provide insight on WHY she is so detached, jaded, and (dare I say) emotionally damaged, and when her boyfriend suggests therapy – and Cami actually goes – we get the hint that she really doesn’t want to be this way either, and I was drawn even further into the story.

“When I examine the situation in the cold light of day, I see precious little to look forward to as far as relationships go. Apparently, the road to happiness must be traveled in vehicles I loathe: Sacrifice. Compromise. Surrender.”

The plot maintains a moderate pace as the story unfolds, and Simonds does an excellent job of developing the world that Cami lives in. The strength of the book, however, was its characters. Each one provides an opportunity to reveal a little bit more insight into Cami, and each is well crafted. Kate is very much everything that Cami is not – gentle where Cami is all sharp edges, forgiving and open vs guarded. Her scenes with Sam – however brief – are impactful and a turning point for her.

“Oh man! What I wouldn’t give to believe something that wonderful. I wish I had such a safety net to catch me as I’m falling, as I’m falling even now. Some belief – I don’t care what, it doesn’t matter – into which I could trust myself to plunge without harm. But I’m a skeptic tottering on the edge of a dark, bottomless pit, with no safety net, no lifeline, and nothing below to break my fall.”

Cami’s relationship with her faith does change and grow as the book progresses. I loved how her connection starts with words – as a writer, she first connects with the flow and the beauty in a bible passage, and it draws her in and provides her with peace. The manner in which her faith progresses was another area that diverges from my usual experiences with Christian fiction – this is no gentle series of God reaching through. Staying consistent to the book, her journey is explosive and abrupt.

Cami gets dealt a pretty terrifying, life-changing blow midway through the novel, and her response to it was in line with her character. However, as the story reaches its culmination, it goes in an unexpected direction (no spoilers) and I was admittedly initially a bit disappointed with the way it was handled because it felt like the easy way out. Or, perhaps, because the author HAD dragged me in, I was hooked, and things kind of spun out in a direction that I couldn’t connect with.

But, this is the author’s tale, not mine, and the path Cami travels is reflective of the charismatic church that Kate worships at. It was difficult at the onset to separate out my differences in faith with those in the book, and how I felt about the direction it took. Also, while some books either gently edge around faith, working it in seamlessly or are in your face and preachy, this story comes from a place of total lack of faith at all and then turns a corner and punches the gas, hard. It’s not a smooth progression – it’s jarring and overwhelming, reflective of Cami’s journey.

However, this book is ultimately about one woman’s journey – one that is wrought with jagged emotion, raw and real. It was refreshing to see Christian fiction depicting a fully flawed, complicated, imperfect person on their path to faith. It is a powerfully written tale.

I’m giving ALL IN three-and-a-half stars, rounding up to four, for an engrossing tale with well-crafted characters.

 L. K. Simonds is a Fort Worth local. She has worked as a waitress, KFC hostess, telephone marketer, assembly-line worker, nanny, hospital lab technician, and air traffic controller. She’s an instrument-rated pilot and an alumna of Christ for the Nations Institute in Dallas. All In is her first novel.

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GIVEAWAY of ALL IN!

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Autographed, library-bound copy of All In
+ $50 Visa gift card
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Comments

  1. Kristine Hall says

    Great review! Sounds like this book really makes you think. Thanks for sharing your perspective!

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