Book Review: Cheesus Was Here by J.C. Davis


Title: Cheesus Was Here
Author: J.C. Davis
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Release Date: April 11, 2017
Genres: General Fiction, Young Adult


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Cheesus Was Here
J.C. Davis
Sky Pony Press, April 2017

From the publisher—

Sixteen-year-old Delaney Delgado knows miracles aren’t real—if they were, her kid sister wouldn’t be dead. So when the image of baby Jesus appears on a Babybel cheese wheel, she’s not buying the idea that God’s got a dairy obsession. Soon, religious signs begin turning up all over Del’s hometown, tiny Clemency, Texas. Overnight, news vans fill the streets and religious pilgrims start searching for God in the discount aisle of the grocery store.

Hell-bent on proving the so-called miracles are fake, Del convinces her best friend, Gabe, to help her find the truth. While Gabe’s willing to play detective, as a preacher’s son he’s more interested in finding evidence that supports the miracles. But when the whole town becomes caught up in religious fervor and even the late-night talk show hosts have stopped laughing and started to believe, finding the truth might cause more trouble than Del can handle. This novel is neither pro nor anti-religion, and will appeal to fans of contemporary YA novels that explore deep themes with an element of humor. The voice and characters are funny, strong, and full of heart.

I enjoy irreverent takes on religious themes, always have, and one of my all-time favorite books falls into this category. When such a book comes along, I’m always initially interested but I do my due diligence before I take it on because some of these can be mean-spirited. For me, the irreverence has to take place amidst a true honoring of the religion in question, a real reverence, if you will.

Cheesus Was Here, on the surface, sounds, well, cheesy but it isn’t, not at all. Yes, the image is on a Babybel but, hey, these images show up on pizza, bread, a Walmart receipt, everywhere you can think of so why not cheese?

Delaney Delgado lives in a tiny Texas town where religion plays an enormous role but she’s pretty much given up on God after having lost her sister to cancer and the rest of her family to a general falling apart. When a co-worker discovers what he sees as the Baby Jesus on a piece of cheese, Del sees a strangelooking heart, maybe a lopsided baby but Baby Jesus? Uh-uh, but little does she know that life in Clemency has just taken a very wide detour in the road.

The mania engendered by such sightings soon envelops Clemency and everyone in it and, finally, Del can’t stand it any longer. Determined to prove this is no miracle, she enlists the help of her friend, Gabe, to investigate this phenomenon. Trouble is, Gabe isn’t so sure it’s a hoax; after all, he’s a preacher’s son.

At its heart, Cheesus Was Here is really the story of a girl coming to terms with the bad things that have happened in her family and her emotional growth along the way. Faith battles with grief and Del, with all her snarkiness, her wall against life in general, learns that love and the healing a tiny town can offer, especially through her best friend, can make all the difference in the world. This is a heartwarming tale that all but the most cynical can enjoy.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2017.

About the Author

A programmer by day, I write YA fiction, the occasional short story and have far too many hobbies to keep up with. I live in Dallas, Texas with my husband, two kids and a pair of hedgehogs with nerdy names.





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Book Reviews: Jesus Jackson by James Ryan Daley and The Thrill of the Haunt by E.J. Copperman

Jesus JacksonJesus Jackson
James Ryan Daley
The Poisoned Pencil, October 2014
ISBN: 978-1929345069
Trade Paperback

On page one, Jonathan Stiles, the youthful narrator of this fine novel, meets the nicely dressed title character on the football field of fervently Catholic Saint Sorens Academy. He’s holding a football. On page two Jonathan explains that he does not and has never believed in God or in Jesus Christ. He has, he believes, absolutely no faith. And there readers have the core of the dilemma this novel presents.

This is a novel about the ultimate mystery of the human condition. If God exists in any form, why? And why do certain things happen, or not, when and the way they do? Yet this is not a religious text per se, any more than it is a YA or an adult novel. It is all of those things. Ryan, a professed sceptic, had had numerous discussions with his younger brother about God and Faith. Jonathan, just about to enter ninth grade at Saint Sorens Academy, a conservative Catholic school, is devastated by his brother’s death, as is the entire school. Circumstances lead Jonathan to wonder about his brother’s death, further complicating his mental state.

Jesus Jackson explains to Jonathan that he, JJ, is present to help Jonathan sort out his faith. But it costs something. This is a contract, not a casual operation, and Jonathan pays twelve dollars to Jesus Jackson for the service. Thereafter we follow Jonathan through various adventures and interactions with fellow students, teachers, the school administrators and his sorrowing family.

Occasionally, Jesus Jackson shows up, sometimes in confrontation, sometimes to give direction, but always to encourage and energize Jonathan to persevere in his quest.

This is a fine novel that is a lot of fun to read. It is punchy, emotional, turbulent and insightful. To discover how and whether Jonathan solves the mystery of his brother’s death, read the novel, and watch for your own Jesus Jackson.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, November 2014.
Author of Red Sky, Devils Island, Hard Cheese, Reunion.


The Thrill of the HauntThe Thrill of the Haunt
A Haunted Guesthouse Mystery #5
E.J. Copperman
Berkley Prime Crime, November 2013
ISBN: 978-0-425-25239-0
Mass Market Paperback

If you haven’t yet read the earlier entries in this terrific series, of which this is number 5, I urge you to correct that as soon as possible! And to catch you up, I take the perhaps dubious liberty of repeating from my review of the last one, Chance of a Ghost, as follows: Allison Kerby is a single mother in her late thirties who runs a guesthouse in her childhood hometown of Harbor Haven, on the Jersey Shore, inhabited by her and her precocious eleven-year-old daughter, Melissa, as well as Maxie Malone, Alison’s resident Internet expert and former interior designer (during the time she was alive), and Paul, an English/Canadian professor turned detective, both of whom have lived there since before their deaths, and, more recently, Allison’s father. It would seem that Alison and her daughter, as well as her mother, are the only ones who can see, and hear, the ghosts.

At Paul’s urging, about two and a half years ago Allison got a private investigator’s license, and as this new book opens, she reluctantly finds herself hired by not one but two people, the first being a woman who wants Allison to follow her husband to obtain proof that he is cheating on her, and the second, with even more reluctance, by a local woman who relationship with Allison is less than friendly, who demands that Allison find out who killed a local homeless man found murdered inside a locked room (shades of Agatha Christie!). In keeping with that theme, Allison ultimately gathers together all the suspects who have been unearthed in one room in hopes of uncovering identity of the killer(s).

What makes this book as outstanding as it is (and it is that!),besides the very real mysteries underlying the plot, is the humor and dry wit of the author, which makes the novel a distinct pleasure to read. Added to the mysteries is the book’s more personal aspect, with Allison filled with ambivalence at her budding romance with a man who she has been seeing for a record-setting four months, added to her ambivalence about her detective business, or should I say sideline, with her main source of income coming from the paying clientele at her guesthouse (most definitely NOT a bed-and-breakfast, btw, as Allison makes clear).

(I must add that I loved the ‘tip of the hat’ which the author gives to Sea Haven Officer Daniel Boyle, the protagonist of his fellow Jersey Shore mystery author, Chris Grabenstein.)

In sum, The Thrill of the Haunt is an absolutely perfect beach read, and it is recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, July 2014.

Book Reviews: Irises by Francisco X. Stork and Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality by Elizabeth Eulberg

Francisco X. Stork
Arthur A. Levine Books, January 2012
ISBN 978-0-545-15135-1

Some people are raised to believe that all matters are black and white.  This is good, that is bad.  This is acceptable, that is not.  Someone is either alive, or he is dead. From the outside looking in, this may appear to be oppressive.  On the other hand, these people already have all of the answers, they know what they can do, and what they cannot—it is that simple.  Until it isn’t.

Kate and Mary are sisters, raised by a very strict Protestant Reverend and his dutiful wife.  In their mother, they found joy.  Kate and her mother shared a special, secret dream.  Together, they talked of Kate attending Stanford and becoming a doctor.  Mary also shared her dream with her mother, only it was no secret.  Mary is an extraordinary artist, particularly for her young age.  She sees a light around people and is able to subtly work that into her paintings.  Mother is proud of Mary and she enthusiastically supports her younger daughter.  Father thinks painting is a waste of time and he simply assumes that Kate will follow his plan; stay active in church, get married and raise a family. So, for a while, Kate and Mary have the simplicity of knowing what is acceptable and what is not and they experience joy and fantasies with their mother.

A terrible accident leaves their mom in a vegetative state with only a part-time nurse to help the girls care for her needs.  Poor health has father meeting his maker while sixteen year old Mary sits by his side.  Two years her senior, Mary looks to Kate to figure out how they will get by.  Their house belongs to the church, Kate has Stanford waiting and Mary is too young to be on her own; but finding someone to take her and her mother in seems impossible.

Mr. Stork masterfully captures the stoicism and detachment that, at first, encompass the household.  By sprinkling in bits of family history, he coaxes empathy from the reader.  The girls’ characters develop as they struggle to leave the confines of their black and white world and make decisions they’ve never imagined. Kate’s use of her newfound freedom may amplify their troubles.  The choices they are faced with could bring them closer, or forever rip them apart.

I found this story to be enlightening and compelling.  I will certainly pick up another Francisco X. Stork book.

Reviewed by jv poore, February 2013.


Revenge of the Girl with the Great PersonalityRevenge of the Girl With the Great Personality
Elizabeth Eulberg
Point/Scholastic, March 2013
ISBN 978-0-545-47699-7

Yes.  The book is as good as the title.  I love a story of self-discovery and acceptance through trial and error.  Revenge of the Girl With the Great Personality centers around that theme, but is so much more.

Lexi is an almost-typical teen living with an atypical family.  Her narcissistic, unhappy mother that tries valiantly to live vicariously through her youngest daughter is easy to despise, yet somehow, manages to elicit a bit of empathy here and there.  The young sister appears as a despicable, spoiled brat; but, there may be hope for her. One of Lexi’s best friends, Benny, steals the show.  The Beautiful People are well depicted, with each adding unique traits to enrich the story.

I found this book compelling.  I enjoyed the layers of Lexi: the “adult” and the big sister at home, the Great Personality at school and work.  Lexi hadn’t initiated a journey of self-discovery, which (to me) makes the tale so much cooler.  Her transformation is immediate and stunning.  Effects are varied, resulting in confusion, hurt feelings and lots of attention.  Fortunately, Lexi’s drastic change encourages her not only to truly examine herself, but to take a hard look at real friends versus Beautiful People.

I admire the way the author captured true teen personalities, without resorting to the use of crude and lazy conversations that I’ve come to expect from Middle School and High School students (Don’t misunderstand, I do love the crazy kids.)  Ms. Eulberg’s writing weaves in small details that enhance the story.  Benny’s t-shirts make me smile, and the chapter titles are hilarious.  I couldn’t wait to see if Lexi’s 180 became a 360, or if she could create a middle ground.  Rooting for her to summon the courage to speak her mind to those she finds oppressive, I forfeited sleep to see how her story would end.  I am not sorry for that, I liked everything about this book.

Reviewed by jv poore, January 2013.