Christian Fiction For those who love books with a message of faith <![CDATA[ Twisty-Turny Fast-Paced Read...]]>
If you love futuristic sci-fi/fantasy books put this one on your list. Not so future America has become segregated into a large, protected colony ruled by religion, or outside of those walls of protection lies the a caste system where the destitute live in Soovie (SUV) parks and are at the mercy of the rich and untouchable. Beyond that, few know, but rumors are that true freedom exists, for the strongest and fittest.
Caitlyn is a young woman, a product of genetic manipulation, thrust from the security of religious safety into the cruel, unknown world. Caitlyn carries a few secrets, some unknown to her. But the secrets relating to the ugly hump on her back make her valuable to many and force her to run, hide and fight for her life. The hunters include a corrupt government, a merciless bounty hunter with revenge boiling in his gut, and those who think she might just be a prize worth owning for various assorted reasons, none of them good.
This novel is not for those of weak knees or stomach. There are moments of brutality. However, this is a page turning, plot twisting, fascinating read.
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<![CDATA[ Intriguing history, interesting characters, exciting adventure]]> Being English, I grew up with stories of naval battles, Hornblower, Bolitho and co. Being a girl, I mourned the lack of female role models in such tales of valor. And being an avid reader I just borrowed my brother’s books.
MaryLu Tyndall creates a fun heroine in her historical naval romance, Surrender the Heart, though there were times when I could wish the reluctantly betrothed Marianne were a little less headstrong. For someone afraid of water she’s dangerously careless on board ship, but she has her reasons. Perhaps a lifetime of feeling devalued makes her unable to see how much harm, or good, she can do.
The changing relationship between childhood foes, rich Marianne and Noah the merchant’s son, is nicely done. Both face secret hardship and haunted memories. Their world of ship and shore comes to vivid life, and the danger of war at sea is scarily real. The British are bad guys of course, since this is an American novel, but only a few play the part of irredeemable blackguards. The Americans are good, but not perfect. Meanwhile love and trust win through. Marianne, who can trust no-one, learns to identify herself with the Biblical Esther. Noah, who trusts only himself, learns of friendship and heaven. And a still small voice speaks subtly over the storm.
This is a Christian, American, historical novel, well-researched, intriguing, written with convincing characters and appropriate faith, and a really good romantic read.
Disclosure: I met the author on gather and was delighted at the chance to read and review a free ecopy of this novel.]]> Wed, 9 Nov 2011 19:45:01 +0000
<![CDATA[ Suspenseful novel about serial bomber]]>
The suspense was built nicely by having Dinah and the FBI try to stop the bomber before another church was bombed and more people died. There was also some suspense about how her relationship with the handsome guy would work out. Though the bomber wasn't named from the beginning, the author wasn't trying very hard to hide "whodunit." There were only two possible suspects (from the reader's point of view), and only one would connect the plot threads together.

Actually, the novel felt disjointed because there were several seemingly unrelated plot threads going on. The purpose of one thread seemed solely to argue against the political agenda promoting "separation of church and state." Even the child abuse element was pushed to the point that the purpose seemed more to raise awareness about the results of child abuse than simply provide a driving motivation for the bomber.

Several of the main characters were complex and dealt with realistic personal struggles (like being abused). However, the reoccurring characters weren't really developed and would probably come across as simplistic if you haven't read the previous novels. For example, in this novel, the bomber had a valid and developed reason to hate Christians, but the Senator seemed to hate Christians, be greedy, etc., "just because."

Dinah was a Christian. She engaged in daily Bible study, small group Bible study, and an occasional prayer. While we're told her relationship with Christ is vital to her life, we don't see that so much in this novel as in the previous one.

I'll mention that I also had a "believability" problem near the end. I can't believe that a leader of a SWAT team, when faced with the choice of injury to two civilians or injury to his team would immediately and unhesitatingly plan for the civilians to be hurt instead of his team.

There was no sex or bad language. Overall, I'd recommend this interesting novel to those who have read the previous novels in the series.

I received this book as a review copy from the publisher.]]> Tue, 21 Jun 2011 22:19:45 +0000
<![CDATA[ Well-written historical novel set in Pompeii in 79 AD]]> Pompeii: City on Fire is a well-written, fast-paced Christian historical novel that contained some romance. It's set mainly in Pompeii in 76 AD. I suspect that both men and women would enjoy the story. The author expertly used historical details to completely immerse the reader in the culture, setting, and time period without slowing the fast pacing. I was left feeling like this was the true story of the dead people you see--as plaster casts--when visiting Pompeii and Herculaneum. (Yes, I've been to both and seen the houses, shops, and other places mentioned in this novel. That gave a haunting quality to the story for me.)

The characters were complex and realistic, and I cared about what happened to them. While Ariella had every reason to be skeptical of Cato's motives, I found her initial complete skepticism a little puzzling since she knew that he'd helped her in the past without expecting favors in return. I think it would have helped me if, in the first chapter set in Rome (instead of near the end of the book), the author had given a bit more information about what Ariella's former master had done to her. Then we'd know from the start that she had a really good reason to run away to a life of danger as a gladiator and to expect bad treatment from any male Roman.

The suspense was high throughout and was mainly created by the looming possibility of physical harm to Ariella and Cato. However, it was hard to feel high suspense about the goals they're striving so hard to achieve since we know Mt. Vesuvius is about to destroy everything they've so staked their future on. I liked how this was handled, but it did leave the suspense a little lower than it otherwise would have been.

The Christian content was woven into plot. Several Christian characters, who lived very differently from those around them, kept catching the eye of Cato--a pagan Roman--and Ariella--a "God let harm come to me, so I refuse to deal with Him" Jew. There were conversions to Christianity, but this element flowed as a natural part of the story. I received an Advanced Reader Copy, so perhaps this will be changed by the final product, but I found the characterization of Mt. Vesuvius as a sort of avenging nature goddess odd for a Christian novel. I would have liked it better if the mountain was not personified.

There were no sex scenes (though forced sex was vaguely referred to) or bad language. Overall, I'd highly recommend this novel as very well-written, exciting historical.

I received an Advanced Reader Copy of this book from the author for review purposes.]]> Tue, 31 May 2011 17:21:42 +0000
<![CDATA[ Nice mix of mystery, ethics and TV ratings]]> Suzanne Kidwell has a weekly cable news show, Judgment Day, where she exposes criminal doings among businessmen, politicians and religious leaders. She may not be quite as ethical as she portrays herself, but she’s certainly queen of the ratings, and cutting a few corners to get more viewers is nothing more than standard practice. Unfortunately, others cut corners too, and when a dead body’s found in Suzanne’s living room, she’s hoist with her own petard.
Author Wanda L. Dyson creates some very plausible and interesting characters in Judgment Day and carries them through many twists and turns. There’s the rich girl who doesn’t want to follow in daddy’s footsteps, the jilted fiancé who’s trying to be fair, missing runaways, shady dealings, and mobsters out to get their share. Self-centered Suzanne might yet be redeemed, and smug manipulators condemned. Meanwhile the body count rises.
The novel delves into society’s morals, family relationships, romance, ethics, and even faith, but all serve the purpose of a story that keeps the reader glued to the page. Exciting fight scenes, the roller coaster of capture and escape, the misery of prison, the view from a penthouse suite, all are convincingly portrayed through the eyes of a group of characters the reader really comes to care about. An exciting novel, quickly read but neatly inspiring too, Judgment Day tells a scary tale and just might offer some light on the judgments we make every day.
Disclosure: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review]]> Thu, 5 May 2011 17:20:23 +0000
<![CDATA[ 3rd in Prescription for Trouble series is thrilling medicine]]> Diagnosis Death by Richard L. Mabry Ph.D. is the third book in the Prescription for Trouble medical thriller series. Dr. Elena Gardner is still grieving the death of her husband Mark, who died after a cerebral hemorrhage left him brain dead. The circumstances of his actual death are under suspicion because while Elena doesn't remember turning off his ventilator, she can't swear that she didn't do it either. She's only a few weeks away from the end of her residency when a patient, in similar condition to Mark, dies after his ventilator is turned off, and someone has forged Elena's signature on his medical file. Coupled with strange phone calls every Tuesday night at midnight from a sobbing woman, make Elena a bit relieved to leave her position early and take up her new position helping out a pregnant doctor in Dainger, Texas. She hopes that the distance will give her time to recover from her grief and repair her reputation as a doctor, but it seems as though she can't run from them, no matter where she goes. While this is the third book in the series, readers don't need to be familiar with the previous volumes to dive right into this thrilling story. Mabry uses medical detail to raise the tension without ever becoming overly technical. Elena is a sympathetic character, but readers will occasionally want to give her a good shake when she insists on taking some not-so-bright moves. The ending was a bit contrived, I can't say much without giving it away, but it took a bit more suspension of disbelief to accept the identity of the villain(s). Still, Mabry does a good job of selling it, and his ability to ratchet up the tension while adding twists and turns makes him a writer to follow. This reviewer's prescription is to sit back and enjoy the ride.]]> Fri, 15 Apr 2011 22:45:50 +0000 <![CDATA[ Latest in Amish Country mystery series is unexpectedly compelling and smart]]> Blood of the Prodigal by P.L. Gaus is the latest book in the Amish Country mystery series featuring Professor Michael Branden, Pastor Cal Troyer and Sheriff Bruce Robertson. These three childhood friends have remained close in their lives in Millersburg, Ohio, within Amish country. They have used their friendship and various skills in the past to solve mysteries within the area, but they area all tested to their limits when Bishop Eli Miller requests that Cal and Branden locate his grandson Jeremiah who has been taken away by his father Jonah who was put under the ban over ten years ago. The bishop puts several restrictions on their investigation, especially that they not include the police in their search. But when Jonah turns up dead, the investigation is stopped dead, yet Bishop Miller wants them to continue to search for Jeremiah, again without the police. This nearly impossible task is hindered further by the lack of cooperation from the Amish community. Gaus has written a tightly paced mystery that keeps both the readers and the characters guessing. He uses the seclusion of the Amish to good effect, giving their reaction to an FBI agent a touch of humor while keeping it very real. Branden, Cal, and Robertson are all very real characters with fully fleshed personalities and backgrounds. I wish that I had read the previous books in the series, not because they are necessary to enjoy Blood of the Prodigal, but because I want to know the characters better. When the truth behind the mystery is finally exposed, it reveals a terrible tragedy that made my heart ache. This is a terrific series I fully intend to revisit soon.]]> Fri, 15 Apr 2011 04:01:27 +0000 <![CDATA[ Excellent ending to top notch dystopian series]]> Flight of Shadows by Sigmund Brouwer is the sequel to Broken Angel about Caitlyn Brown. Caitlyn has escaped Appalachia and started a new life working as a maid in a hotel. Billy and Theo are still waiting to meet her so they can seek freedom in the West together. Mason has emerged from his on personal hell with one less eye and even deeper madness and darkness in his soul. Pierce hasn't given up the search for Caitlyn, especially after his failure in Appalachia. If you haven't read Broken Angel, go do it now! You must read it in order to fully enjoy this book and understand the characters' history together. When Caitlyn is threatened on the job, she is forced to expose her secret, which brings her a new ally, Razor, who she's not sure if she can trust, but feels strongly drawn toward. Brouwer has set the players on a chessboard in this book. Caitlyn is the king, who everyone wants to own or protect. Mason is a rook, smashing anything in his path to revenge, Pierce is the bishop moving smoothly through each step of the game, and Razor is the knight whose moves are never expected or in a straight line. Brouwer ratchets up the tension even more in this book, with Caitlyn constantly in danger, and the reader has no idea who to trust. There were many pages I read with my hand over my mouth and forgetting to breathe. I have to admit that I am a bit disappointed that Brouwer has ended the series here, but he did an excellent joy tying up loose ends. With this amount of talent and the ability to create such breathtaking surprises, Brouwer is definitely an author to watch.]]> Fri, 8 Apr 2011 21:28:47 +0000 <![CDATA[ Dystopian book with top notch writing and breathtaking action]]> Broken Angel by Sigmund Brouwer is the first of two books featuring Caitlyn Brown in a dystopian world where she has something that many people are willing to kill her for. Caitlyn was raised in the religious community of Appalachia by her father Jordan. The community is run by Bar Elohim and kept under tight control, where everyone's actions and constantly recorded on vidphone and no one is allowed to read, especially the Bible. She is long used to uncomfortable stares and being called a freak by others for the hunch on her back and her unusually long fingers. Now her body seems to be going through some new changes, which makes Jordan decide to act. The government has sent agent Carson Pierce into Appalachia to find Caitlyn and Jordan and return them for mysterious reasons. Pierce hires Mason, well-feared within Appalachia, as a bounty hunter to track the girl down, and when she slips through his fingers again and again, Mason begins to take it personally. But Jordan has had a plan in place since Caitlyn was born that someday, that he would someday need to get her to the outside world, where she would be safe, but the secrets that he has kept from his daughter, just may separate them permanently. Brouwer has written a book that is almost impossible to classify. It's filled with adventure, action, thrilling suspense, faith, coming of age, dystopia, and plenty of mystery. Mason is a terrifying villain with a tendency of brutal violence, and the closer he comes to Caitlyn, the faster the pages turn. The writing is excellent and will keep readers guessing as characters flip from villain to hero and back again and Brouwer's vision of the future has some frightening basis in reality. Yet, despite the darkness and the violence, Brouwer is careful to keep hope alive, something for the characters to fight and die for.]]> Fri, 8 Apr 2011 21:23:43 +0000 <![CDATA[ Good medical suspense novel, but not quite what I expected]]> Diagnosis Death is a medical suspense novel with a romance. While I was able to figure out whodunit before the big reveal, the answer to the last mysterious bit was a surprise. While the reader wasn't told from the beginning who was behind the calls, etc., the story wasn't really about investigating the mystery. The mystery wasn't solved earlier only because Elena was terrified that she might be the killer. She avoided investigating what was going on though she hated what not knowing as doing to her and what the rumors were doing to her career. She had to find the courage to face the truth.

The suspense was created by wondering who was behind the calls, what was going to go wrong next, various medical emergencies, and some physical danger to the characters near the end. The characters were complex and acted in realistic ways. The details about the job and setting brought the story alive in my imagination without slowing the fast pacing.

Many of the characters were Christian. Elena struggled with why God didn't answer her prayers to heal her husband. She wasn't on "speaking terms" with God during most of the book though she still believed in Him. The story had a Christian theme running throughout it. There were frequent mentions of "I'm praying for you," a brief sermon summary by a pastor's wife, and a Bible verse that impacted Elena.

This book was the third in the series, but you don't need to read the previous novels to understand this one. However, the characters from the first novel, Code Blue, show up in this one, so reading this novel out of order will spoil the romantic outcome of Code Blue. There was no sex and no bad language. Overall, I'd recommend this suspenseful novel.]]> Fri, 8 Apr 2011 15:33:21 +0000
<![CDATA[ 2nd in Imagination Station series is great read for both parents and kids]]> Attack at the Arena by Paul McCusker & Marianne Hering is the second book in the Imagination Station series from Adventures in Odyssey. Cousins Paul and Beth returned safely from the Viking era with the sunstone only to find that there is another quest them must undertake in order to rescue Albert from Lord Darkthron. Mr. Whittaker, the Imagination Station's creator, gives the children a bit more information about the Station and Albert before sending them to the time of the Romans to find a monk's cup. The kids find themselves in the middle of an arena, and while they escape from the jaws of a tiger, Beth quickly finds herself captured by a soldier and forced to work as a slave with Emperor Honorius' birds, while Paul is helped by the monk Telemachus who has come to Rome with a message for the Emperor from God. First Mia's review: My favorite part was the excitement of Beth being separated from Patrick. I think the illustrations are magnificent. Now my review. Attack at the Arena picks up the story the day after the previous book, and the kids still have much to learn about traveling in time. McCusker shakes things up a bit this time by separating the cousins and forcing them to work individually. Unlike the Magic Tree House series, which has a similar format, this gives depth and intelligence to the story, because each story isn't going to be a carbon copy of the previous book. There is a strong message of faith in the series, especially in this book, as the kids witness the horrors of arena fighting (the author keeps the violence overt) and see how God can touch and change people. May seems like a long time to wait for the next two books in the series!]]> Tue, 5 Apr 2011 00:15:46 +0000 <![CDATA[ 1st in Imagination Station series is terrific start]]> Voyage with the Vikings by Paul McCusker & Marianne Hering is the first book in the Imagination Station series from Adventures in Odyssey. The Imagination Station was created by Mr. Whittaker who runs a soda shop called Whit's End. It's a bit like a time machine, but Whit is having troubles with it. It won't work for him, but when cousins Paul and Beth step inside, it lights up, ready for a mission. And they have somewhere important to go: a mysterious Albert is threatened by Lord Darkthorn, and Paul and Beth must retrieve a Viking sunstone to rescue him. Whit keeps a huge supply of costumes on hand to ensure that wherever the cousins go, they will be dressed appropriately, and he seems to have some knowledge of what will happen because he gives them just the tools they will need. In this adventure, Paul and Beth meet Erik the Red and his son Leif Erikson in Greenland. Leif is a Christian and treats the children with kindness, but Erik thinks Christianity is for weaklings and fools and he wants to sell them as slaves. The kids will have to use both their smarts and ability to find the sunstone and escape with their lives. First Mia's review: I liked everything about this book, especially being able to go to the past. My favorite part was the mysterious person who helped them open the church door. I loved the illustrations and the author is magnificent at his writing. I learned that God should forever be in your path. I really like that all of these books are Jesus books. I like the alliteration in the title. Now my review: I think this is a fantastic new series for chapter book readers. Mia and I have read several in the Magic Tree House series, to which this is certain to be compared, but Imagination Station is far superior. The writing doesn't talk down to readers, the plots are thoroughly engaging while using historical characters. They give kids a good view of what life was like at the time, because Patrick and Beth are treated like children of the era. The plot about Albert will propel this kids forward through the next several books, and I will be glad to journey with them. This is one series that I don't dread reading aloud with my daughter each night.]]> Tue, 5 Apr 2011 00:07:09 +0000 <![CDATA[ Novel of witch hunt in 16th century Germany is unforgettable]]> Wolves Among Us by Ginger Garrett is the rare book that will both keep you up at night from the suspense and take your breath away with the beauty of the writing. Stefan has long been the priest for the small German town of Dinfoil, in 1538 that made him one of the premier authorities within the village. When two bodies are dumped on the church steps, Stefan insists on calling in an Inquisitor for aid, despite the wishes of sheriff, Bjorn. Bjorn's wife, Mia, spends her days caring for her invalid mother-in-law and sick daughter, Alma, while also trying to keep up the house and not anger her husband. She often confesses to Stefan her failures as a wife, and he accuses her of pride for refusing to accept Alma's illness and that her shortcomings as a wife just may have caused it. Mia lives with this terrible guilt along with a secret from her past, one that has kept her separate from all the women in the village who scorn her company. Bastion, the Inquisitor, arrives with the shocking information that a witch caused the murders, and he is ready to root out any and all evil women within the village. His methods quickly have Stefan questioning why he requested his presence, but Bjorn is sure that Bastion is the answer to all his worries. Garrett has gained a reputation as an author to watch with her Chronicles of the Scribe series, and this novel will cement it. Wolves has the claustrophobic feel of Robert MacCammon's Speaks the Nightbird. A witch-hunt in a remote village where mass hysteria quickly becomes law is the perfect recipe for a novel filled with suspense, thrills, and surprisingly, in Garrett's hands, transforming faith. There is true beauty in Garrett's writing: Alma gave Mia a reason to be brave. God let women bear children so women would never give up hope. Even if here on earth women were denied everything else, God would always let them bear children. Alma hinted at His goodness. Children were promise brighter than a rainbow. Garrett shows readers that sometimes the monster is much darker than the one we fear, but often there is beauty and hope to be found in the darkest night.]]> Thu, 31 Mar 2011 02:43:05 +0000 <![CDATA[ 2nd in Circle C Beginnings series is great read for horse lovers]]> Andi's Indian Summer by Susan K. Marlow is the second book in the Circle C Beginnings series about six-year-old Andi's life on a ranch in 1874 California. In this book, Andi and Riley, her eight-year-old friend, take a ride on their horses across the fields and hills to a creek. When some local Indians make an appearance, Andi is terrified because of the dime novel Riley was reading to her about Indian captives. First Mia's review: I liked the book because they had an adventure. My favorite part was when I was reading it, I felt like I was in the book! Andi is a smart but silly little girl who gets scared easily, but she's also brave. It makes her very realistic. Girls will love to read this book because it has horses! I learned that Indians aren't bad like the dime novel made them seem. Here's my review: This was a good book to read with my eight-year-old daughter. We took turns reading the book to each other because the vocabulary was easy for her to read and understand. Andi is very much like a normal six-year-old little girl, and that makes the story really come to life. Marlow includes an important lesson for readers about getting to know people to actually know who they are, rather than relying on stereotypes or rumors. At the beginning of the book is a short vocabulary list giving definitions of possible new words for readers, and at the end is a short note from the author asking readers to consider some of the questions from the book. These two items make the book a useful tool for teaching better comprehension in younger readers. This series has earned a permanent place in my daughter's heart, and for that I have to give it five stars.]]> Tue, 29 Mar 2011 21:49:05 +0000 <![CDATA[ Follow-up to Thicker Than Blood is outstanding writing]]> Bound by Guilt by C.J. Darlington is the sequel to Thicker Than Blood. Roxi Gold has never felt truly wanted anywhere. Taken from her mother at the age of eight after suffering a terrible accident, she was shuttled from foster home to group home until a cousin of her mother's named Irene took her in. Life with Irene and her teenaged son Diego isn't what most people would consider normal. They live most of the time traveling across the country in an RV, which sounds like fun, but they make their money by stealing rare books from bookstores. Irene has trained Roxi to work as the distraction while Diego and Irene grab the merchandise. Roxi's conscience is starting to get the best of her, and when she fails to keep a store clerk distracted long enough one day, Irene insists they return at night to break in and get some real finds, including a rare first edition The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The night ends in tragedy, with Roxi on her own again, running away from the only family she's ever really known. Abby Dawson returns to her family home to deal with the tragic death of her brother. She seems to be failing at everything in life, her husband left her for another woman, her daughter is being raised by the newly married couple, and she's been suspended from her position on the police force for using unnecessary force. Returning home, she and her father seem to be stuck in the same rut of silence and anger they've been in for years. Four women will be brought together by the events of one night and each will have to face their past before they can move forward into the future God has planned for them. Darlington's writing is full of surprising depth. Each character is fully-fleshed and very real; at the end of the book, I was sad to be through with them. The plot is very pulled from the headlines with a message of faith for readers. Darlington keeps readers interested from the opening, with drama on every page, and lots of action at the climax. This isn't really a thriller or a mystery; it's a human story that should appeal to a wide variety of readers. Darlington's win as 2008 Operation First Novel is easily supported by this follow-up, and she is an author to watch in the industry.]]> Thu, 24 Mar 2011 21:41:18 +0000 <![CDATA[ 1st in Circle C Beginnings series is terrific start for early chapter readers]]> Andi's Pony Trouble by Susan K. Marlow is the first book in the Circle C Beginnings series and is aimed at early chapter book readers. Andi is sure that because she is almost six that she is ready for a horse of her own. She's sick of riding "pokey hand-me-down pony" Coco who doesn't go any faster than a trot. When Andi's mom points out that Andi doesn't take very good care of Coco, forgetting to brush and feed him, meaning she's not quite ready yet for the responsibility of caring for a horse. Andi's brothers and sisters all tease her about her desire, leaving her feeling frustrated and left out. Cook's helper, Riley, is Andi's closest friend, even if at eight years old he is often "too big for his britches." Riley has a horse of his own named Midnight that Andi loves to ride whenever she can. SPOILERS! First Mia's review: The story was about a girl named Andi who had a pony named Coco, but really wanted a horse. Her pony was lost, but then she found her pony. On the morning of her birthday, her brother woke her up and brought her out to the barn where she found a baby horse that was her birthday present. My favorite part of the story was when she said that she loved Coco. At the beginning, she was treating her pony like it was a bag of garbage, and I did not like that. she didn't care about him at all. Then I got really mad at her for leaving Coco behind. I felt happy at the end for her pony and for Andi, and the baby horse. I learned that it's important to appreciate what you have. Now my review. Mia and I enjoyed reading this book together. We took turn reading the chapters to each other, it was written so that she could easily read the words, and there is a vocabulary list to teach readers any new words. Mia is right, at first Andi is very selfish and focused only on what she doesn't have, instead of focusing on Coco as a blessing. Mia was almost moved to tears twice at Andi's treatment of Coco. Andi learns a valuable lesson in the story, and so will young readers: that in times of trouble you can turn to God about anything, and He will listen. Andi discovers that you don't have to save prayers for at bedtime or in church. When she prays about Coco's disappearance, God hears and answers her prayer, giving her and readers new understanding about God and His love. Mia is already excited about starting the second book in the series, Andi's Indian Summer.]]> Mon, 21 Mar 2011 21:39:06 +0000 <![CDATA[ 3rd in Wives of King David series is moving biblical fiction]]> Bathsheba by Jill Eileen Smith is the third book in the Wives of King David Series. Bathsheba is the beautiful young wife of Uriah, one of King David's Thirty, his leading warriors. War often keeps Uriah away from home, and Bathsheba is lonely and a bit angry that his absence has kept her from becoming pregnant. She knows a child would fill her heart and keep her from missing her husband quite so much, but Uriah is devoted to all of the various rules and rituals of the church, as well as his king. King David has just faced the death of his beloved Abigail, the only wife he has truly loved and the one that kept him from marrying other wives. Her faith in Adonai fueled his, but now that she's gone, David feels lost and refuses to lead his troops into battle in his depression. Smith has a wonderful talent for bringing to life the well-known stories of the Bible, breathing fresh air into them and giving readers new perspective and insight. The story is rich with historical detail until readers can practically see the bustling markets. King David's court is thick is manipulation and jostling for power from Ahithopel, Bathsheba's grandfather, to David's son's who fear any threat to their control. Smith makes Bathsheba and David both incredibly sympathetic and real. Even readers who are familiar with the story and know how it ends will find themselves holding their breath at each turn of the page. Smith is one of the best writers of biblical fiction today.]]> Fri, 18 Mar 2011 16:43:03 +0000 <![CDATA[ Interesting historical novel about Christianity spreading in Britain]]>
The main focus of the story was about a few members of a pagan tribe choosing to follow Christ and the conflict between them and those in the tribe who still followed the pagan ways. The story contained a number of discussions about God and how Christ can give salvation, but they flowed naturally from the story. There was a statement made by a recent convert on page 71 about what becoming "children of God" meant that sounded a bit mixed with pagan ideas, but otherwise the theology was standard.

The characters were interesting and struggled realistically with whether or not to follow Christ. However, after they made that decision, time passed so quickly that we didn't really get to see their struggle to live in a truly Christian way. They just live that way with occasional conversations with each other about "it's hard." The portrayal of living under persecution was nicely done, though, and added tension to the relationship conflicts. However, I agree with a reviewer who said that the story "ended the way I wanted it end, but not exactly the way I thought it should end." You'll have to read the story to find out what that means. :)

There was no bad language or graphic sex. Overall, I'd recommend this enjoyable historical novel.

I received this book as a review copy from the publisher.]]> Fri, 18 Mar 2011 16:22:32 +0000
<![CDATA[ 1st in Families of Honor series is enjoyable read]]> The Caregiver by Shelley Shepard Gray is the first book in the Families of Honor series. Lucy Troyer is traveling alone on a train to Jacob's Crossing to help care for her cousin Mattie who is battling cancer. Lucy's still trying to get her life back after the death of her husband, Paul, a year ago. Although they were only married for two years, Lucy was permanently changed by his constant and brutal physical and verbal abuse. She's no longer the independent, strong and happy woman she once was. She meets Calvin Weaver and his little sister, Katie, on the train, and the trio lean on each other when the train has technical problems, creating a bond in the midst of adversity. Calvin and Katie just happen to be from Jacob's Crossing, which Lucy sees as a sign of God's hand. Calvin is still smarting from the betrayal of his best friend and girlfriend who fell in love with each other, leaving him humiliated in front of the community. Calvin and Lucy both tentatively connect through their enforced time together, but misunderstandings leave them both disturbed by the other's behavior. Still, neither can deny the connection between them, and their hesitant and sweet romance is the strength of the book. Mattie's battle with cancer and the ensuing depression and distance from the Lord adds depth and complexity to the plot. Without her, the story would seem almost too sweet, but Mattie makes Lucy speak her mind and face the truth, even when it's uncomfortable. The two young women come to see that they have much in common: both were placed in terrible situations where they questioned God's will and their lives were irrevocably changed by it. Gray has filled Jacob's Crossing with a variety of interesting characters who will surely make the series an enjoyable read. While Lucy and Calvin's romance is delicate and sweet, Mattie's anger is very real and gritty, and her relationship with Graham is an enigma. Plus John, Calvin's uncle who left the faith twenty years ago, has returned and is torn between an Englischer woman and an Amish widow with a son. There's a lot to love about this series. Gray is one of my favorite writers of bonnet fiction; she really makes the characters come to life.]]> Thu, 17 Mar 2011 20:17:59 +0000 <![CDATA[ 3rd in Hugh de Singlton, Surgeon series is another winner]]> A Trail of Ink by Mel Starr is the third book in the Hugh de Singleton, Surgeon series which takes place in 14th century England. Hugh has gone to Oxford to visit his former teacher and friend Master John Wyclif who quickly asks him to discover who has stolen his entire library of twenty-two books, quite a collection at that time. Hugh has another reason to spend time in Oxford, Kate Caxton, the daughter of a stationer, who has recently agreed to allow him to court her. Hugh's master, Lord Gilbert, gives Hugh leave to both investigate the theft and to come home with a wife, both jobs Hugh takes to with a relish. But the theft is far more complicated than it first appears, and wooing Kate's heart just may be dangerous to Hugh's very life. I absolutely adore this series; it's one of my current favorites. I find myself smiling throughout, laughing aloud occasionally at the exceptionally witty dialogue, and gasping at the thrills. I'm not normally a "loud" reader, but Starr's writing pulls me in some completely, I can't help myself. Hugh's careful courting of Kate is a delightful and smart. This is a couple who will only get better with age, and Kate already enjoys aiding Hugh in his investigations. Starr manages to mix together history, murder, political machinations, faith, and romance with exceptional results. May Hugh and Kate live happily ever after, providing us with many sequels to come.]]> Tue, 15 Mar 2011 00:08:36 +0000 <![CDATA[ ReadsLike a Fairy Tale]]>
Siri Mitchell tells a good story. I've found myself immersed in her novels, picturing and smelling just what she is describing. I've also found myself connecting with her characters. I'm not sure that Siri has a fiction-writing weakness.

In another historical, which have all been intriguing, Siri takes us to Boston during a time of unrest and upheaval. Italian immigrants have come to America, Spanish influenza is on the horizon, and war overshadows. Three young women take jobs in a dress designer's shop and live in the nearby tenements. Their unique and sometimes similar struggles play out on the pages.

Siri has chosen an omniscient point of view which is not my favorite. However, this novel reads almost like a fairy tale or morality tale. And I found it worked very well. The number of characters might seem overwhelming at first but the reader does get to know each of them and the story flows. The Italian spice and Catholic faith demonstrated through the life of the characters and their interactions add elements that enrich the story, too. As things were tied up it felt a tiny bit hurried but that's minor. One plot element didn't quite feel satisfyingly resolved, but again, that is minor. Read it, if nothing else, for pure escapism. Read it if you are a writer because Siri excels. Read it if you like a good fairy tale.]]> Fri, 11 Mar 2011 12:53:50 +0000
<![CDATA[ Historical Romance with three compelling heroines]]> A Heart Most Worthy by Siri Mitchell is a historical romance with both depth and heart. Three very different Italian young woman work for famed dressmaker Madame Fortier in Boston at the end of World War I. Juliana Giordano revels in her beauty and wants romance in her life, and Angelo Moretti's smoldering brown eyes are filled with both romance and a hint of danger, making him much more attractive than Mauro Vitali, a doctor she's known most of her life. Annamaria Rossi is beginning to strain against the limited existence in which her position as eldest daughter has placed her. Expected to serve the entire family and never marry, she is open to the invitation she sees in the eyes of Rafaello Zanfini, the Sicilian vegetable stand owner's son, but he is forbidden, first because she must never leave the family, and second because he is Sicilian. Luciana Conti fled her estate and wealth in Rome after the assassination of her father, the Count of Rome, bringing only her grandmother, the contessa, whose mind has drifted away since the tragic night that left them homeless, poor, and hunted by the anarchist who has promised to kill them both. Luciana thought to find safety in America, but she has seen the man here again, on her very street, making every day filled with fear. Mitchell has turned from writing humorous chick lit to intelligent historical romances, but she brings the same light dexterous touch to these novels, filling them with fascinating heroines, strong heroes, and interesting conflicts. She truly brings to life each of these women and makes the reader empathize with each, even Juliana's flirtation with danger. Mitchell reminds readers of the terrible prejudice against Italians at the beginning of the twentieth century, as well as the danger of the anarchists who were creating terror through bombs and assassinations around the world. Somehow Mitchell manages to throw together the prejudice, anarchy, romance, faith, gown-making, and the Spanish Influenza together to make a compelling story readers will be hard-pressed to put down.]]> Thu, 10 Mar 2011 23:33:07 +0000 <![CDATA[ 3rd in Evil series is romantic thriller]]> In the Shadow of Evil by Robin Caroll is the third book in the Evil romantic suspense series. Maddox Bishop is investigating an arson/murder at a brand new house that brings him to question Layla Taylor, the contractor for the  building. Sparks quickly fly between the two, but Maddox keeps finding connections between Layla and the crimes that are popping up all over town: three mysterious deaths that seem to be tied to her church, her office is robbed, and the rehabilitation center her sister, Alana, runs is bombed. But the crimes are all tied to Layla because the culprit is desperate to keep her from discovering his identity. Meanwhile Maddox is dealing with his prickly relationship with his father that stems from his mother's murder years earlier, and Layla hasn't seen her mother in eight years since her drug overdose left her with a permanent brain injury. The couple must deal with their pasts before they can build a future together, and that is threatened by a killer who will stop at nothing to hide his sins. Each book in this series is essentially a stand-alone with minimal reference to the characters from the previous book. Maddox was a cop in Fear No Evil, but you don't need to have read that to enjoy this novel. Caroll is very good at creating nail-biting suspense, and the scene where Layla faces the murderer is a heart-stopper. One flaw in the book is that by naming Maddox' partner Houston, a dramatic scene becomes unintentionally funny by the inclusion of the phrase, "Houston, we have a problem," This is a solid series sure to please fans of Christian fiction with plenty of romance and suspense.]]> Tue, 8 Mar 2011 22:44:34 +0000 <![CDATA[ Excellent historical novel set during start of Depression]]>
There were several point of view characters from different parts of America and different stations in life. The characters were interesting, engaging, and dealt with realistic struggles. However, one character did do a pet peeve of mine: he decided not to tell his wife and child that they were in danger might worry them.

The story was a fast read. The suspense was fairly high from beginning to end due to relationship tensions and threat of physical danger to several of the main characters. The historical and setting details brought the story alive in my imagination. The backdrop of this book was the fall-out from the market crash and how it affected various types of people.

Several of the main characters were Christians. There were multiple occasions where the characters briefly had conversations about God and how He worked, but they flowed naturally as a part of the story and weren't "preachy."

There was no explicit sex. There was a minor amount of "he cussed" style bad language. Overall, I'd highly recommend this enjoyable, well-written historical novel.]]> Fri, 4 Mar 2011 15:51:29 +0000
<![CDATA[ 3rd in Daughters of Amana series is great read about friendship]]> A Bond Never Broken by Judith Miller is the third book in the Daughters of Amana series, but each book is a stand alone, so you don't need to have read the previous two to enjoy this one. Jutta Schmidt is put into an impossible situation when she is forced to spy on the people of the Amana colony looking for signs of treason in the heated days of World War I when German ancestry was enough to create suspicion. If she refuses, the family bakery will be destroyed, her parents thrown into jail, and a worse fate awaits Jutta. She goes to work in a hotel run by the Redlich family in South Amana. Their daughter Ilsa is angry that her brother Albert has been forced to join the military and is fearful that her boyfriend Garon may follow him. Ilsa had prayed again and again for Albert to be able to remain home, and when her prayers go unanswered, she starts to question God. Jutta feels as though her prayers have also been ignored, so the two women quickly bond, but when pressure is placed on Jutta to provide some information, she has to decide what matters to her more: her parents and their livelihood or the Redlichs who have treated her like a daughter. Miller's Amana series gives readers a wonderful look into this enigmatic religious group who was known for their quality goods and communal property. But during WWI when sauerkraut became "liberty cabbage" and German measles "liberty measles", people began wondering about this unusual group who spoke a form of German and refused to serve in the military. Miller really brings to life the horror of people using power and suspicion to attack others during wartime. It took a bit of doing for me to swallow my disbelief at the Iowa Council of National Defense's blackmail of Jutta, but once I did, I was sucked completely into the story. Readers can't help but be outraged at the unfairness and humiliation the Amanan people face. Jutta and Ilsa's friendship is natural and the foundation of the book. This story of bravery and friendship is a terrific read for fans of historical fiction or Christian fiction.]]> Wed, 2 Mar 2011 22:40:26 +0000 <![CDATA[ Enjoyable romantic suspense novel]]>
The characters were likable, complex, and dealt with realistic struggles. The two main themes were gangs and domestic abuse. The suspense was created by physical danger to several of the characters and stress from work problems and family illness. Some setting, gang, and job details were woven into the story which helped to bring it alive in my imagination. There were some Spanish words used, but typically they were brief phrases that were then interpreted in the character's thoughts.

Many of the characters were Christians. One main character struggled with trying to be in control of her life and realizing she wasn't, and the other struggled with his anger at God for letting his dad (a pastor) get Alzheimer's Disease. There was some praying, and God brought a fair amount of (quoted) Scripture to the characters' minds to answer their questions when things seemed their worst.

There was no sex. There was one explicit bad word and a minor amount of "he cussed" style bad language. Overall, I'd highly recommend this well-written, suspenseful novel to those who like romantic suspense.

I received an electronic review copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.]]> Wed, 16 Feb 2011 17:33:45 +0000
<![CDATA[ Gripping Novel I Couldn't Put Down]]> Finding Hope Through Fiction]]> Sun, 13 Feb 2011 23:41:56 +0000 <![CDATA[ Fun Romantic Comedy]]> Janice hits a home run with Stars Collide.  I am so thankful to have received a review copy of a book that has it all, mystery, romance, fun and laughter.

Kate Jennings and Scott Murphy are the main characters of a T.V. sitcom. The shows ratings have slipped in the polls. The studio wants to spice up the script and have these stars finally commit to each other. It’s time. It’s been three seasons. The problem is that they want to spice up their personal life too and say they are the real deal on and off the set. Kate and Scott are uncomfortable about this. They’ve never gone out on a date and only interacted on stage. Now this! Everything is happening so fast.
Kate is smitten with Scott Murphy in real life but has never told him. Scott hasn’t mentioned his feeling for her either. She felt the chemistry but did he? Now the engagement scene is scheduled on the show, along with their first kiss on and off stage. She was thrilled to finally find an actor that felt working on family friendly projects in Hollywood was important. They both felt Hollywood needed more people willing to stand up for what they believed in.

The producer says to kate, “Love stories were about the chase, not the catch.”

What bothers me, there is so much more said Rex, “people think the only love story is the “falling in love’ part. The part that produces romantic feelings, they forget that the story is really just beginning at the first kiss. The true love story-in real life, anyway – is the part that comes after walking with each other through thick and thin. Staying with that person when he does something stupid and you feel like killing him, having his babies and dealing with dirty dishes and laundry. Walking someone you love through a health crisis. The ravages of Alzheimer’s, even.”

How true. I like how Janice puts this, love is more than a feeling. Things get crazy when Kate’s grandmother thinks the engagement scene she witnessed on the set is real. The lines between reality and fiction were blurring for Scott, Kate and her grandmother. Where does one stop and the other begin?  Lenora couldn’t be more thrilled to be planning her granddaughters wedding. Kate doesn’t want to break her grandmother’s heart, but at the same time she didn’t know what to do. Her grandmother is calling the media and planning a wedding.  

This story drew me in at the front cover and continued reeling me in from the first page. I enjoyed the fun, the mystery, the twists and turns of the story. Janice even surprised me at the end. Treat yourself as I did, to Janice’s’ book, the first in a new series. You’ll forget about your cares and be swept away into this humorous, enchanting story with witty and quirky characters you will adore. It’s fun, fun, fun! I highly recommend this and any of Janice’s other books.

Nora St.Laurent The Book Club Network
Finding Hope Through Fiction

]]> Tue, 1 Feb 2011 14:08:34 +0000
<![CDATA[ Entertaining Christian romance novel]]>
The characters were sweet, funny, and engaging. The details about Hollywood life brought the story alive in my imagination. I liked that a character pointed out that the real love story begins after most romance movies and novels I was a little disappointed that this novel ended were romance novels typically do. Ah, well!

The main characters were Christians, and their faith affected their everyday life (so there were some brief prayers). There was no sex. There was a very minor amount of "he cussed" style of bad language. Overall, I'd recommend this well-written, humorous romance.

I received this book as a review copy from the publisher.]]> Sun, 30 Jan 2011 20:03:19 +0000
<![CDATA[ Everyday Christian faith mixed with real issues]]>
The characters were interesting, complex, and acted realistically. The various characters dealt with real issues (like "office" politics, child abuse, alcoholism, the damage caused by gossip, children dealing with their parent's broken marriages, and more).

The details about small town life in the Ozarks were wonderfully accurate and brought the story alive in my imagination. The details about the job were plentiful as the action never seemed to stop in the ER. The technical terms were rarely explained, but I could still follow what was going on and the medical details didn't slow the fast pace.

Some of the main characters were Christians. The Christian characters' faith affected their decisions and everyday life, and the Christian elements felt like a natural part of the story. I also felt Christianity was portrayed in a realistic manner, from the struggles the Christians had to the reactions of the non-Christians. If you like faith as a major part of the novels you read, then you'll probably enjoy this novel.

There was no sex. There was a very minor amount of "he cussed" style bad language. Overall, I'd highly recommend this suspenseful, realistic novel.]]> Fri, 28 Jan 2011 17:40:55 +0000
<![CDATA[ Interesting premise, realistic characters]]> Leaving Yesterday is Christian general fiction. The characters were complex and dealt with realistic issues. I understood why they acted as they did even if I didn't agree with it. The suspense was created by the uncertainty about whether Alisa's son did kill the guy or not and whether her husband was going to divorce her or not.

I'd thought this would be a story about a mother having to decide whether or not to turn her son in and dealing with trusting that God will help the police uncover the truth. But Alisa was so deeply in denial about everything that it was more about her leaving the perceived safety of the pretense she was living to face the truth.

Alisa was a Christian struggling to understand why God was letting all these bad things happen to her family. Her belief (or hope) that God would reward her suffering with her desired "happy ending" was partly why she was in denial. The Christian message was woven throughout the story and felt natural and not "lecture-y" to me.

There was a minor amount of "he cursed" style bad language. There was no sex. Overall, I'd recommend this thought-provoking novel.]]> Sat, 18 Dec 2010 16:19:59 +0000
<![CDATA[ Poignant Story of a woman running away from God]]> Reinventing Rachel by Alison Strobel is a thoughtful look at the fall of a staunch Christian re-evaluate her life and decide to run away from it all, including the Lord. Rachel Westing is one of those church members that if the doors are open, she's there. From her ministry with teenage girls, to her job at the local coffee shop, she's always looking for a way to evangelize those around her. When she discovers in rapid succession that her parents are divorcing, her father is bipolar, her mentor is going into rehab for prescription drug addiction, and her fiance has been cheating on her with her roommate, Rachel has had enough of California and the pain and moves in with her childhood friend Daphne in Chicago. Daphne has always lived life on her own terms, living for the moment and resisting Rachel's best attempts to save her soul. Rachel feels betrayed that God failed to fix her problems despite all of the work she'd done for him, so when she leaves California, she tries to leave God as well. Daphne's life of no strings attached and fun all the time is seductive to Rachel at first, but when Daphne starts acting strangely and the utilities are turned off for lack of payment, she begins to turn to alcohol to block out the fear and depression she's felt since leaving home. Strobel excels at writing sympathetic characters, even when they are doing unreasonable things, and she carefully keeps that tension alive here. Readers will like Rachel, even when she starts making terrible decisions and through her selfishness.SPOILERS: Strobel keeps her from becoming a victim, nor does she ever become shrill or unlikable. For Christians, the book will serve as a clarion call to ensure that the God we are worshiping is the true one, not a vengeful eye in the sky, nor does He require a checklist of duties to be done each day and in return He will keep us completely safe. Strobel has a firm grasp of who God really is, and she imparts that to readers without becoming too preachy or pedantic. Rachel's spiral into addiction and despair is often hard to read, but Strobel keeps the story interesting and the plot suspenseful. Strobel is an author to watch in the future, as she seems to be getting better and better.]]> Sun, 28 Nov 2010 22:15:53 +0000 <![CDATA[ Non-stop pacing, as always]]>  
What this information is and who wants it are two of the questions Corte is trying to answer as he shepherds the cop, Ryan Kessler, and his wife and sister-in-law from one not-quite-safe house to another, setting traps and dodging bullets as they go.
Deaver fans get the non-stop pace we expect as the characters unfold in increments, raising more questions with every quirk and revelation. Corte, whose passion is board games and game theory, prides himself on humorless ingenuity and – if it weren’t for the lives at stake – would thoroughly enjoy pitting himself against a well-matched opponent like Loving.
The twists, reversals and double reversals keep the pace breakneck, while complicating the mix with various intelligence agencies and cops and, of course, the heavy hand of bureaucracy. Corte slowly reveals himself as not quite the automaton he tries to appear, and readers will hope to see more of him.]]> Tue, 23 Nov 2010 21:17:36 +0000
<![CDATA[ Amish historical is surprisingly suspensful]]> Thu, 18 Nov 2010 22:45:40 +0000 <![CDATA[ Great holiday novella with a message of redemption]]>


Christmas at Harrington's by Melody Carlson is a enjoyable novella perfect for the busy holiday season. Lena Markham has just been released from eight years in prison in time for Christmas. With no desire to return to the hometown that turned on her, she decides to start over in New Haven, Minnesota. When a donated red coat gets her a job as Mrs. Santa it seems like her life is getting better, but will the sins of her past haunt and destroy her chance of a future? Lena is a terrific character, completely selfless and willing to help out strangers. Her desire to help others quickly gains her friends in the community, and her attitude to portraying Mrs. Santa is inspiring and fun. Yes, the book is a bit sentimental, but if you can't read an overtly sentimental book at Christmas, when can you? This is the perfect season to remember to give people a second chance, to reach out to those in need and allow Christ's birth to renew our love for each other! Carlson's writing, as always, is filled with terrific characters and unexpected twists.]]> Tue, 16 Nov 2010 23:39:53 +0000
<![CDATA[ Inspiring story by a true storyteller]]> Almost Heaven by Chris Fabry is a moving follow-up to his Southern novel June-Bug. Billy Allman has faced too much tragedy for one man to face: a flood that destroyed his home, his father's suicide, the one girl he loved married someone else, he has diabetes, and taking care of his mother through terrible dementia. But through it all, Billy never let go of his staunch faith in God, so when he feels like the Lord is calling him to build a radio station to play gospel bluegrass for his tiny West Virginia mountain town, he follows his heart. Malachi, an angel, has been assigned by God to watch over Billy's life and protect him from the forces of evil lined up against him, but Malachi comes to wonder about God's plan and where He is in tragedy. Fans of June-Bug will be thrilled to see the reappearance of characters from that novel. There are writers and there are storytellers; Fabry is a storyteller. His characters are quirky but very real, and their faith is inspiring. But the stories, even when they are about a small town mountain man who isn't a stereotypical hero, soar with an epic feel. Billy's story is ordinary, you probably know someone like him, but seeing it through the eyes of an angel, and then reading how he changed people's lives through his simple faith and love is truly inspiring. Fabry has a message for his readers that each and every one of them can impact lives by the way they live, and that we never know just what God's plan for someone may be.]]> Tue, 9 Nov 2010 19:45:56 +0000 <![CDATA[ Southern romance with a gothic flair]]> Hatteras Girl by Alice J. Wisler is a Southern romance with a hit of suspense. Jackie Donovan has dreamed of owning The Bailey House bed and breakfast with her best friend Minnie since they were little girls. After the tragic death of Minnie's husband, the two women struggle with their grief and to raise her young son, Zane. Jackie interviews Davis Erickson for her job at a local magazine and is struck by his good lucks and charm, and she is surprised when he asks her out. When she learns that he is the owner of Bailey House, she thinks this is a dream come true, but her friend Buck has some reservations about Davis. Jackie will have to determine the truth before she can make her dreams come true. Wisler has a talent for writing bright and funny heroines, and Jackie perfectly fits that mold. While she sometimes seems too good to be true, her feelings about Zane, which she always hides, make her real and sympathetic. Jackie's feelings for Buck seem to turn a bit quickly, but their relationship is perfect. There's a touch of gothic romances in Jackie's struggle between the two men: the rich suave man with a secret and the poor handsome man she's known all her life. The book's richness is in Jackie's relationships with not just Buck but Minnie, Zane, Sheerly, Ropey, and the rest of her family. It's another terrific read from a growing author.]]> Mon, 8 Nov 2010 20:03:37 +0000 <![CDATA[ 4th in Sisters of the Heart series is great Christmas read]]> Fri, 5 Nov 2010 21:05:49 +0000 <![CDATA[ Christian romance with plenty of humor and heart]]> Head in the Clouds by Karen Witemeyer is a gem in the historical romance genre. Adelaide Proctor so wants to be married and have a family that she follows her traveling salesman beau to his hometown, only to meet his wife and son. Crushed by his deception and left without anywhere to go after quitting her job to chase him, she finds an advertisement in the newspaper to be governess for a young girl on a Texas ranch. Gideon Westcott needs a governess for his adopted five-year-old daughter Isabella who hasn't spoken a word since the death of her mother several months ago. The governess he hires must be more than just a teacher, he needs someone who will break through Bella's shell and bring her out into the world again. Although Addie doesn't have the same education as the other applicants, Gideon hires her for the job when she immediately makes a connection with the girl. Soon Addie and Bella are fast friends and Gideon is fighting his attraction for her charm and loving nature. But when Addie discovers the truth about Bella's parents' death and that the little girl's life may be in danger, the couple must put aside their growing attraction to protect the girl who has stolen both of their hearts. Addie is a delightful heroine who quickly charms readers with her occasional clumsiness and ready smile. She has immediate chemistry with Gideon, but it's her relationship with Bella that brings the most heart-warming and humorous scenes. I couldn't put it down once I started reading it, and the pages simply flew by. Witemeyer has a light touch in her writing that will win her many fans.]]> Thu, 4 Nov 2010 22:33:39 +0000 <![CDATA[ Christian fiction that brings history to life]]> The Preacher's Bride by Jody Hedlund is a retelling of the epic romance between John (writer of Pilgrim's Progress) and Elizabeth Bunyan and her vital role in his ministry. Elizabeth Whitbread has resigned herself as being unattractive and lucky to have the attention of town cooper, Samuel Muddle, when she is asked to take on the job of housekeeper for tinker John Costin and his four children. John often travels the countryside preaching, so he needs someone to care for the children, especially Mary, who is blind, and Thomas, who is only a few weeks old and slowly starving to death after the death of his mother from childbed fever. John is unconvinced as to his need of a housekeeper, especially when the town elders immediately begin encouraging him to marry. Elizabeth fights to save Thomas' life by finding him a wet nurse and soon falls in love with all of the children and they her, but John's distrust of her, then his courtship of another woman keep the couple apart, despite their growing feelings. Hedlund's writing captures the paranoid era at the end of Cromwell rule in England, with the cracking down of Anglicans on local preachers without education, which soon threatens John's life. Elizabeth, like her sister Catherine says often, is a little too perfect, but she's a woman who constantly keeps her eyes on God at all times, with enormous strength and courage. The story is compelling and filled with suspense, a thoroughly enjoyable read. I look forward to reading more from Hedlund in the future.]]> Mon, 1 Nov 2010 22:01:23 +0000 <![CDATA[ Historial romances makes sweet holiday novella]]> The Snowflake by Jamie Carie is a short novella perfect for the Christmas season. Ellen Pierce has spent most of her life caring for her brother Jonah, trying to protect him from the world while keeping herself safe from him. His obsession with her has kept them moving often to keep her away from any man who may be attracted to her, but there's nowhere to run from Buck Lewis when they are all on a ship trapped in the ice on the way to Alaska. Buck leads a group through the icy winter snows to Dawson City where he can continue tracking his wife's killers. The journey through the snow will take the lives of more than one of the travelers, but it will bring Buck and Ellen together as the two lonely souls find solace in each other. But Buck's desire for revenge pulls him away from her, leaving Ellen to make her own way in a strange town. Will he return in time to fulfill his promise to come back to her for Christmas? Carie is a talented writer of historical romances and while this plot may seem at first glance a bit of fluff, there is great depth in Ellen's guilt over Jonah, the demons that haunt him, and Kate's history. I hope that Carie gives Kate and Lucky a book of their own. This quick read is perfect for the busy holiday season and with a message of God's love for everyone, even lonely exiles.]]> Sat, 30 Oct 2010 22:02:55 +0000 <![CDATA[ Christian romance in Gilded Age New York has true depth]]>


Masquerade by Nancy Moser is inspiring and moving historical fiction about Gilded Age New York. Charlotte Gleason has lived all of her nineteen years in blissful ignorance of the troubles of the world around her. Spoiled by her parents, she has beautiful clothing,a group of well-heeled wealthy friends, and servants to care for her every need, especially personal maid, Dora who has been her best friend since she was twelve. When her parents face scandal and a reduction in their finances they order her to New York to marry into the noveau riche Tremaine family to secure her future. Aboard the ship to America with Dora, Lottie rebels against their plan and determined to marry only for love, she switches places with Dora. Dora will become Charlotte and marry Conrad Tremaine, and  Lottie will seek her fortune in the city. Her dreams of adventure are quickly shattered and she is forced to face abject poverty and homelessness, but how can she take away Dora's chance at happiness? Both young women must determine if they can build a future on a lie. Moser's writing is always intelligent and engrossing, and this novel has far more depth than the cover reveals. Lottie discovers what really matters to her and that she will only achieve her dreams by relying on God, while Dora must choose between marriage to a good man who is wealthy beyond her dreams or a man whose trust she has destroyed but fills her heart. But it's more than a romance, it's a story of woman discovering themselves and learning what real hardship means. It's a historical romance with intelligence and heart and faith.

]]> Fri, 29 Oct 2010 18:44:56 +0000
<![CDATA[ Poignant portrayal of life and love in WWII US]]>



While We're Far Apart by Lynn Austin is another stunning historical novel in the author's oeuvre. Eddie Shaffer has enlisted in the military to escape the constant reminders of his late wife Rachel in their apartment, much to his two children's: Esther, 12 and Peter 9, dismay. Penny Goodrich has been in love with Eddie since they were children so she jumps at the opportunity to care for his children while he is gone in hopes that he will finally fall for her. Esther is angry at Penny's interference, and Peter stops talking with Eddie's departure. But Penny begins to flourish outside of her parents' suffocating guilt and attacks on her self-esteem, but her new job leads her to information that shatters her sense of identity. Austin is the premier historical fiction writer in Christian fiction today. Her novels are filled with three dimensional characters in poignant plots that bring history to life. Her writing is always insightful and the stories compelling as well as faith-filled.]]> Wed, 20 Oct 2010 23:35:59 +0000
<![CDATA[ 3rd in Calloway Summers trilogy is perfect ending]]> Catching Moondrops by Jennifer Erin Valent is the third book in the Calloway Summers series about the Lassiter family in 1930s Virginia. Jessilyn Lassiter has finally reached womanhood and her hope to make Luke Talley fall in love with her has finally come true after being in love with his for six years. Her stepsister, Gemma, who is black and was adopted after her parents were killed in a fire, has lost her heart to the new doctor, who stirs up anger in the town when he dares to treat a white woman. Racial prejudice is always simmering beneath the surface in Calloway, but this summer they will explode with the resurgence of the Klan and cause unspeakable tragedy. Jessilyn is filled with anger and bitterness toward the bigots and may lose what she loves most if she refuses to forgive. Valent is a fresh and fantastic talent in Christian fiction. Her writing is both faith-filled and literary. Jessilyn is a delightful character. The stubbornness and smart mouth that were amusing as a child have matured into a woman who occasionally allows her anger to get the best of her, but whose dialogue is a joy to read. Valent's writing rings incredibly true; the series feels more like a memoir than fiction.]]> Mon, 18 Oct 2010 17:27:50 +0000 <![CDATA[The Noticer: Sometimes, All A Person Needs Is A Little Perspective Quick Tip by Caprig]]> Mon, 18 Oct 2010 15:08:23 +0000 <![CDATA[ Enjoyable & Insightful]]>
The characters were engaging and very human. They struggled with things common throughout the ages: shame, guilt, pride, forgiveness, change, etc. The author stayed true to what was given in Scripture about Rahab and then filled out the details with reasonable events. I've read four fictional versions of Rahab's story, and this one is easily my favorite.

It was clear that the author spent time researching the culture to fill out the details of daily life. She also wove great Scriptural insights into the story as Rahab learned more about the God she chose to serve. I suspect that reading this story will be transformative for many readers.

I did notice that some more modern Jewish traditions (which wouldn't have existed at that time) were worked into the story as a part of Israelite culture, but that's understandable. All authors have to stop researching at some point, and these things weren't critical to the story. A couple scenes also had somewhat modern sensibilities (like the reason Salmone hesitated to kill an enemy soldier). But I was disappointed that the author knew of Deut. 22:11 and worked in into the story yet overlooked Deut. 24:5, which would have made a major impact on the story.

There was no explicit sex. There was no bad language. Overall, I highly recommend this enjoyable and insightful novel. I look forward to Tessa Afshar's future novels.

I received this book as a review copy from the publisher.]]> Sat, 16 Oct 2010 19:21:40 +0000
<![CDATA[ 2nd in Lancaster County Secrets is terrific read]]> The Waiting by Suzanne Woods Fisher is the second book in the Lancaster County Secrets series, but you don't need to have read it to enjoy this novel. The Zook family has a long history in Amish community of Lancaster County. Eldest son Caleb took over the family farm after the death of their parents in a tragic accident. Next brother Benjamin is in Vietnam as a conscientious objector. Matthew, the third son, is eighteen and starting to wonder if there's more to the world, and youngest Ephraim is just thirteen with a stuttering problem and a deep love for animals. After Caleb is elected minister of the small church, his wife Mary Ann is unsure how she feels about his new responsibilities, but those worries quickly fade into the background when she is given a terrible diagnosis. The family's trouble increases when they receive word that Matthew has been drafted and Benjamin has been killed while trying to help a wounded soldier. School teacher Jorie King has been waiting for Benjamin to come home and grow up for years so the news of his death is devastating. She is also fighting with the deacons who don't appreciate her teaching methods of keeping the children outside and giving them a love a nature. She and Caleb come together in their shared grief, but their wounds may be too much for either to overcome. I love Fisher's writing. It's always filled with realistic characters and moving plots. This book is no exception with intelligent and fiery heroine Jorie. I look forward to seeing what happens next in the series.]]> Thu, 14 Oct 2010 18:47:29 +0000 <![CDATA[ Thoughtful novella about lessons learned on a snow day]]> Snow Day by Billy Coffey is a thoughtful novella about a single day. Pete Boyd is content for the most part with his life until his job at the local factory is threatened by a possible lay-off. Over the course of a single snow day, Pete takes a good look at his life and makes some major realizations. Most people spend their lives caught up only in their own heads and lives, but Pete is forced to really see the world around him. While shopping for snow day necessities of bread and milk at the Super Center (a thinly disguised Wal-mart), he meets a couple who force him to look at more than the exterior, a suspicious man who shows him the real meaning of Christmas, takes an enlightening trip around his yard while pulling his children on their sled, learns that sometimes life is worth the risk from the local sledding hill, and realized that his life is more than just the information on a job application. Coffey's writing captures the wonder and joy of a snow day as well as the creeping fear of a thirty-something man trying to do the best he can for his family and wondering if he'll every do anything worthwhile. Snow Day is a thoughtful essay about what's truly important in life. Pete makes discoveries about life that will make readers smile and nod their heads in understanding. This thoroughly enjoyable slim volume will be sure to thrill readers looking for a great holiday read.]]> Tue, 12 Oct 2010 21:58:34 +0000 <![CDATA[ Poignant novel about living through grief]]> The House on Malcolm Street by Leisha Kelly is a thoughtful and moving historical novel. Leah Breckenridge has had a terrible year; first her mother died, then her husband, John, was killed in a tragic train accident, and finally her infant son Johnny died in the flu epidemic. Leah and daughter Eliza are left alone, homeless and broke, and because of a abusive relationship with her father she cannot stay with him, so she hesitantly accepts an invitation from John's aunt Marigold to stay with her in her boarding house. Eliza thrives with Aunt Mari's faith filling the house, but Leah is still angry with God for taking away those she loved. Aunt Mari's other border is Josiah Walsh, a childhood friend of John's who also lost his wife and their unborn child in a tragic accident. Mari hopes that the two can help heal the other's wounds, but both are too caught up in their own grief to reach out. Kelly's novel isn't exactly a romance, but it is poignant and heart-felt. Readers will ache for both Leah's and Josiah's loss, and while Leah's secret may be obvious to readers, it's revelation is still profound. There are several storylines loose at the end of the novel, will Saul and Mari's relationship last the prejudice of their neighbors? Will Josiah and Leah move forward to love? I hope that Kelly gives readers a sequel answering these questions and giving another look at the Kurcher family as well.]]> Sat, 9 Oct 2010 19:00:54 +0000 <![CDATA[ 1st in Surrender to Destiny series is enjoyable historical romance]]> Surrender the Heart by Marylu Tyndall is the first book in the Surrender to Destiny series. Marianne Denton and Noah Brenin spent their childhoods annoying each other. He didn't like the selfish little princess, and she hated the mean pranks he played on her. Now as adults, they are engaged because of their parents' wishes, but neither of them is happy with the match. Noah plans to escape the arrangement by making a fortune selling his cargo in England, but Marianne is desperate for the wedding so she can access her inheritance and pay for her mother's medicine. Her father's suicide over gambling debts left the family nearly destitute. When Noah leaves their engagement party to sail, Marianne follows him aboard his ship to plead with him to go through with the marriage, but through one accident after another, she ends up stowing away aboard his ship, and then they are both captured by the British and empressed into their navy. Trapped with no one to rescue them, both are forced to face their true feelings for each other as well as learn to trust in God to care for them. Though the plot is fairly predictable, Tyndall fills the novel with exciting characters, from Captain Milford, the Daniel the boy prophet. Noah and Marianne are well-matched, and their romance is enjoyable to read. I do wish that the reader had been allowed to see their return home, but hopefully that will happen in a future novel in the series.]]> Wed, 6 Oct 2010 21:00:55 +0000