Saturday, April 29, 2006

David Gregory's A Day With A Perfect Stranger~Reviewed

A Day With A Perfect Stranger
By David Gregory
Published by WaterBrook Press – July 2006
Paperback 109 pages
ISBN 1-4000-7242-5

The last thing she wanted to talk about was God; talking to him had never entered her mind.

A devoted mother who feels abandoned by her workaholic husband, Mattie Cominsky gives her life new meaning by investing herself in her two-year-old daughter and her graphic-arts business. Exasperated by her husband's sudden new obsession with Jesus, she views an out-of-town business trip as a welcome opportunity to reflect on their marriage—and to decide if it's time to put an end to this painfully unrewarding relationship.

Aboard the plane, Mattie is relieved to find herself seated next to a passenger who shares her scorn for religion. After confiding her husband's unexpected turn, their conversation soon leads to a fascinating exploration of spirituality, God, and the quest for meaningful connection.

As Mattie's skepticism warms to the perspective insights of this stranger, she finds herself confronting the unspoken longings of her soul for true intimacy and lasting fulfillment. And when his comments touch on personal issues he couldn't possibly know about, she begins to wonder if she's mis-judged not only Nick but also the God he now claims to believe in.

The logic and non-churchy rhetoric of David Gregory's relaxed style takes evangelism to a new level in fiction. The main character is like so many women I've met, who think they have no need for God. This book will uncover the needs they won't acknowledge, even to themselves, with insightful answers to the life's tough questions. More important, is how it overcomes skepticism with logic and insight using everyday language.

Well written and entertaining as well, A Day With A Perfect Stranger is a must for every Christian's library. When I started the first page, I didn't put the book down until I turned the last one. In this reviewer's opinion, A Day With A Perfect Stranger, along with the first book Dinner With A Perfect Stranger, once discovered by the church will become as impactful as Prayer of Jabez.

Reviewed by Ane Mulligan

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Denise Hunter's Finding Faith~Reviewed

Finding Faith
By Denise Hunter
Published by Howard Fiction
ISBN 1-58229-491-7

It was only one day. But the resulting ripples are headed her way …

Paula Landin-Cohen, an investigative reporter, feels like a fish out of water in the small town of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Then she's offered her dream job, as a TV reporter in Chicago. There is so much to gain and so much to lose … including the only man she's ever loved.

Linn Caldwell has made a lot of mistakes—bad mistakes. She can never forgive herself for all the pain she's caused others. How can she dare to get close to anyone again?

What will happen if Paula and Linn's secrets are revealed? Will the men they love ever be able to forgive them?

While Finding Faith is the second of a series, I had no trouble following the characters' lives or understanding their pasts, though I hadn't read the first book. A story of pain and sorrow, Hunter colors the pages with dark hues of sin's consequences. But it's also a story of love and the promise of a future, blended with brilliant jewel tones of redemption and restoration.

Peopled with believable characters, Finding Faith is a haunting story. I was drawn into their lives and then, just when I thought I had things figured out, Hunter threw a curve ball I didn't see coming. A brilliant plot and well written, Finding Faith delivers more than I expected.

Reviewed by Ane Mulligan

Mary DeMuth's Watching the Tree Limbs~Reviewed

Watching the Tree Limbs
By Mary E. DeMuth
Publisher: Navpress Publishing Group
ISBN: 1576839265

There are secrets in the peculiar town of Burl, Texas and one of its biggest is Mara. In Mary E. DeMuth’s poignant novel, Watching the Tree Limbs, nine-year-old Mara longs to belong to someone, but not to the bully down the street who calls her beautiful and says she is his. Down the sweltering Burl sidewalks, across racially segregated lines, and even beside her underneath the tree limbs, Mara takes readers on a heart-rending journey that will both haunt and inspire for days after closing the book and laying it on the night-stand.

DeMuth’s story is about breaking the silence of abuse and points toward grace and healing. Readers will be saddened by the amount of torment a broken and deprived soul can actually endure, but DeMuth promises hope; and that is the glory of Mara’s story. While the book is not autobiographical, the author’s true life experience with childhood abuse surely allowed her to delve deeply into Mara’s mind, letting readers know how it feels to be used and abandoned in a way that is unspeakable. But DeMuth lifts the reader back up with the promise of freedom Mara is destined for, if she will break her silence and let the true One love her.

The freedom Mara seeks from her silence is skillfully paralleled throughout the novel by various threads of the same theme. Through vivid images of the segregated southern town to characters who still feel the sting of racial division, enslavement to social injustice mirrors Mara’s yoke of abuse.

If there is one hang up about the book, and it is very minor to the overall beauty of the story, some readers could grow weary of repeated phrases seemingly meant to portray the commonality and down-to-earth personalities of characters. On the other hand, the predictive nature of the phrasing might instead be endearing to some who will see it as true to the setting.

This book will not only entertain, but will quietly compel readers to reach out to others who could be in pain, or more profoundly – reach more deeply into themselves.

Reviewed by Tina Gray

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

When Crickets Cry, Charles Martin

Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: WestBow Press

April, 2006
ISBN: 1595540547

Book Description:

In a small town square of a sleepy Georgia town, seven-year-old Annie sits at her lemonade stand, raising money for her own heart transplant. At a nearby store, Reese flips through the newspaper, thinking about the latest boat he's restoring. As a beat-up bread truck careens around the corner, a strong wind blows Annie's money into the road. Reese looks up in time to see Annie's yellow dress fluttering in the wind as she runs into the road. What happens next will change both of their lives forever.
Richly atmospheric and evocative, with the kind of characters that move into your heart and take up residence, Charles Martin's new novel will resonate with fans of southern fiction, and with anyone who enjoys a solidly crafted, heart-touching story.

Reviewed by Gina Holmes

Annie is dying, but the little girl isn't the only one in need of a heart transplant. Her new friend Reese has a secret that could save them both if only he'll let go of the past and be the man God created him to be. When Crickets Cry is lyrical and lovely. I found myself dog-earing every other page because of some quote worthy line. This writer is amazing. With stunning prose, the story is fleshed out on every level. This is a book you'll want to curl up with, turn the phone ringer off and savor. When Crickets Cry is one of the finest modern novels out there. This book will be a classic and this gifted author will be listed among the literary greats of our time.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Deborah Raney's A Vow to Cherish~Reviewed

A Vow to Cherish
By Deborah Raney
Published by Steeple Hill, June 06 release
ISBN 0-373-78562-3

When his precious wife of thirty years received a devastating diagnosis, John Brighton's world fell apart. As his wife slipped from him day by day, his love was tested as never before, and he found himself confronted by a weakness he never knew he had. A confidante desperately needed in this dark time, a young widow named Julia Sinclair, seemed to understand his pain as no one else could. Torn between doing what he knew was right and what his heart told him could not be wrong, John soon discovered that the heart can't be trusted where true love is concerned.

Not often does an author have the chance to go back and rewrite her first book, but Deborah Raney had that opportunity. I read the original edition, saw the movie inspired by her book, and now I've read the new one. She has updated numerous things and added more depth, making an already good novel hauntingly beautiful.

John Brighton's wife has Alzheimer's, a cruel disease that afflicts entire families. I know. My mother died of Alzheimer's. I found Raney's book to be healing for me. With deep understanding and compassion, she exposes layer after layer of emotion a husband feels when his wife leaves him a bit at a time.

More cruel than sudden death or divorce, Alzheimer's robs the patient of their dignity as it robs the family of their loved one. After my mother died, daddy said he felt as if a weight had been lifted from his shoulders. That hurt and I couldn't understand how he could say it. Until I read A Vow to Cherish. As Raney reveals John's deep love for his wife, she also discloses how the disease wore him down. No one suffers Alzheimer's alone.

Beautifully written and filled with credible characters, Raney once again demonstrates why she's an award winning author. A Vow to Cherish stands on my all-time-favorites book shelf.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Debra White Smith's Picture Perfect~Reviewed

Picture Perfect
by Debra White Smith
Paperback: 332 pages
Published by Harvest House
ISBN: 0736916679

Supermodel Kim Lan Lowery has it All; exquisite beauty wealth, an engagement to famous heartthrob Ted Curry, and a close circle of friends.
When a secret admirer sends flowers and love notes, Kim is flattered. As the letters become strangely possessive, she desperately searches for someone she can trust. While she grapples with the impact of her faith on her career, Kim senses the Lord tugging her to take part in a mission trip to Vietnam. But when trip coordinator Mick O'Donnel refuses her application because of her celebrity status, sparks fly. Their lifestyles clash and their values collide, but they also battle a deep undercurrent of passion.
Finally embarking on the trip, Kim feels secure until her admirer reveals his true identity.

The beautiful cover of this book captured my attention. I read the back and thought a story about a model going on a mission trip to Vietnam sounded interesting. The fact that she also had a psycho stalker made me want to read it. The story was fast paced from the beginning and held my attention to the end. The spiritual theme was strong, but not preachy. The hero was the ideal Christian man, and though he didn't have the drop-dead good looks that the heroine's fiance possessed, his love for the Lord is what attracted the heroine.

She and the hero couldn't have been more different, yet at heart they both wanted to serve the Lord. The heroine was very wealthy, and when Jesus impressed on her heart the need to give up everything to follow Him, she resisted at first. How many of us want to serve God, but with the conditions we impose firmly in place? We want to give Him most of our heart, but not all.

I enjoyed going on this journey with Mick and Kim Lan. I found the tension and romantic aspect of the story very gratifying. The fact that she had a stalker waiting in the wings made it an edge-of-your-seat kind of read. Overall, I'd say this book was a real winner, and it was so well-written it makes me want to read the rest of the novels in the Sisters Suspense series.

Michelle T. Sutton
Writing truth into fiction...digging deeper, soaring higher Great Beginnings finalist 2005
Writer/fiction reviewer

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Tamera Alexander ~ Rekindled

By Tamera Alexander

Paperback 334 pages
Bethany House Publishers
ISBN 0764201085
March 2006

In her debut novel, Rekindled, author Tamera Alexander takes readers to early Colorado Territory where she weaves a tale in which human matters of the 1850’s compellingly mirror issues faced by today’s society. Rekindled, as the name suggests, is a skillfully written story of second chances filled with warmth, grace, and intrigue.

Larson Jennings longs to be a better man, but when he is involved in a horrific accident that rips him away from home, his hope to give his wife the life he believes she deserves seems to vanish.

After waiting months for her husband to return, Kathryn Jennings grapples with how to live her life without Larson. Even as she grieves her husband’s absence, she can’t shake the feeling he is still alive; at least within her heart.

In Fountain Creek, where brothels, churches, and banks are within walking distance of one another, Kathryn struggles to keep her husband’s ranch from going under; all while warily fending off advances of unwanted suitors and risking her reputation as God leads her to befriend others in less fortunate situations than her own.

Every day that Kathryn and Larson are apart is a fight for their survival - and as they wrangle with life and especially with God, readers will be enticed by the plot’s twists and turns up until the very last page.

Lovers of historical fiction, as well as contemporary fiction fans, will be inspired by Rekindled as they are tenderly led to the promise of hope and redemption through God’s mercy in the lives of sympathetic characters that are well-drawn and similar to our own.

Reviewed by Tina Gray

Thursday, April 06, 2006

DiAnn Mills' Leather and Lace~Reviewed

Leather and Lace
By DiAnn Mills
Paperback 316 pages
Published by Barbour
ISBN 1-59789-127-4

Casey O'Hare forsakes the years she spent in an outlaw gang for a chance to start her life anew. But no one leaves Dave Jenkins and lives. Pursued by the gang, Casey is trapped by a mysterious stranger who takes her as a pawn to get to Jenkins. A strikingly handsome lawyer, could this Morgan Andrews be an angel sent to deliver her—or the devil setting her up for the kill?

DiAnn Mills delivers up another gripping tale of faith and forgiveness wrapped in romance. Casey and Morgan both have seemingly insurmountable pasts to overcome. Casey has a price on her head in more than one state, and Morgan has his own ghosts to put to rest. Not an unusual romantic plot, except perhaps for Casey's former occupation.

What makes this story stand out is the way Mills creates characters who are memorable. While the title refers to the hero and heroine, I found Casey herself to be both leather and lace. Worn weary from running, she longs for a new life—to be ladylike. She delights in the new dress she buys, but is completely at home on the back of her stallion, Stampede, galloping at breakneck speed. When needed, she can handle a pistol like a gunslinger.

While hiding out from the law and outlaws, Casey encounters other characters that are terrific. From the wise Sarah, whom Casey nurses, to the irrepressible Bonnie, Mills has given us another novel that induces a sigh when you turn the last page—a very pleasurable read.

Reviewed by Ane Mulligan

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Debra Clopton's And Baby Makes Five~Reviewed

And Baby Makes Five
By Debra Clopton
Paperback 250 pages
Published by Steeple Hill
ISBN 0-373-87364-6

Two stubborn humans, his dog, her donkey … and a brand new baby.

A donkey with a penchant for breaking and entering … in search of alfalfa? Cort Wells had never heard of such a thing, until he and his dog moved to Mule Hollow. And the donkey's eight-months-pregnant owner was Lilly Tipps, raised by her man-hating grandmas. So when Lilly wound up in his barn—and his arms—Cort began to think the donkey was going to be the least of his worries …

Heart-warming and hilarious, Samantha the donkey nearly upstages the other characters in this delightful romantic comedy. She seems to have it in her mind to help her owner, Lilly, learn to trust men, and Lilly has much to overcome—three grannies who had been betrayed by the men they loved. Combine this with the other match-making characters in Mule Hollow and you have the ingredients of a comedic casserole.

Clopton's second novel is like the first—lighthearted and fun with as much humor as romance. We'll be looking for more of the same from her in the future.

Reviewed by Ane Mulligan

Monday, April 03, 2006

Sharon Hinck's The Secret Life of Becky Miller~Reviewed

The Secret Life of Becky Miller
By Sharon Hinck
Out in June, 2006
Paperback, 242 pages
Published by Bethany House
ISBN 0-7642-0129-8

Faster than a speeding minivan, able to leap piles of laundry in a single bound … it's a bird, it's a plane, it's Supermom!

Becky Miller's vivid daydreams help her cope with the pressure to be a Wonderful Wife and Marvelous Mom. But she keeps hearing the inner tape play: "Your mission, should you choose to accept it: support your husband when he loses his job, nurture an eccentric group of friends, raise perfect Christian children, and live a life full of Grand Purpose, all while standing in your head and whistling the national anthem. Your fantasy will self-destruct in five seconds." When real life intrudes into her perfect fantasy world, can she turn off the tape and learn to trust God instead?

Christian authors are giving the literary world a run for their money, and Sharon Hinck is at the front of the pack. The Secret Life of Becky Miller, written in James Thurber's Walter Mitty-style, packs an Emeril-size BAM!

From page one, Becky Miller sneaks into your heart—she's every wife and mom who wants to do it all but discovers she's only human. Add to the mix a love for God and a strong desire to do BIG things for Him.

"I calmly and efficiently assessed the most severe trauma and tackled each crisis in order.
In my dreams."

Becky daydreams in the opening of each chapter, and those fantasies are a qui vive to her state of mind. Her journey to discovery and trust, filled with twists and detours and the help of some delicious characters, is a look inside the heart of a woman who loves God and her family.

Methinks Hinck has skirted this road herself; the insight she brings to Becky's spiritual journey brought tears to my eyes and left me gasping for air. Warning: Do not read this book late at night next to a sleeping husband. You won't be able to put it down and your laughter will awaken him.

The Secret Life of Becky Miller is a must read—a manual if you will—for every young mom, and a hilarious look back for those of us who endured those years and lived to tell about it.

Reviewed by Ane Mulligan