Monday, July 31, 2006

Chris Well's Deliver Us From Evelyn ~ Reviewed

Deliver Us From Evelyn
By Chris Well
Published by Harvest House
ISBN: 0736914064

Everyone from the Feds to the mob is scrambling to find the husband of heartless media mogul Evelyn Blake. But no one can decide which is worse — that he is missing, or that she is not ...

Detectives Tom Griggs and Charlie Pasch are feeling the heat from on high to get this thing solved. Revenge–focused mobster Viktor Zhukov has figured out Blake was tied in with a rival gang’s ambush. Rev. Damascus Rhodes (his current alias) figures a man of the cloth can properly console the grieving Mrs. Blake. By the end of this high–speed thriller, some characters find unexpected redemption...and more than a few are begging, Deliver us from Evelyn ...

Deliver Us From Evelyn is one engrossing novel. I carried it with me everywhere until I finished it. The author is a genius when it comes to slick street thug characterizations and multiple points of view. Normally stories with many points of view are hard to follow, but this was so well done that I got lost in the story. I felt like I knew the criminals pretty well. He had me in their heads and thinking their thoughts.

Sometimes there was no dialogue for an entire scene, but it was barely noticeable. In fact, the action was so intense that in some ways dialogue wasn't even needed. How often can you say that about a book? The story is insane-just like the title, but in an "organized" manner. It's totally action packed, and I absolutely loved it. Considering I'm not usually a suspense reader, that is unusual for me to say. I did sort of figure out who the true bad "person" was before he/she was revealed (don't want to spoil it for you), but that didn't bug me like it sometimes does. I dunno. Maybe I'm just smart. *wink*

The author certainly took me through the mazes with unheard of perfection. The plot is well thought out and the loose ends all tie together in a very satisfying conclusion. Oh, and there are like 6 epilogues. Ha! Like I said, the author is nuts, but a genius. There were some real cliff-hanger moments, and people died along the way, but that's inevitable when you have that much crime going on. Anything less would not seem realistic.

Oh, and one of the scam artists had a profound spiritual journey. THAT was different, but very believable, too. Deliver Us from Evelyn, my friends, is one masterfully written story. As far as suspense goes, this one held my attention like no other. Go ahead and check it out. Snappy title, ingenious decide.

Michelle Sutton (pen name)
Writing truth into fiction...digging deeper, soaring higher
Great Beginnings finalist 2005
Writer/fiction reviewer

Friday, July 28, 2006

Susan Wales & Robin Shope's The Replacement ~ Reviewed

The Replacement
By Susan Wales & Robin Shope
Published by Revell
ISBN: 0800731115

Breaking news from beyond the Beltway! Investigative reporter Jill Lewis and her F.B.I. fiancé, John, have no secrets---except when it comes to their jobs. When a prominent senator is assassinated, Jill is on the story, digging up evidence of scandal. Suddenly John disappears. Was he working on the case, too? Is he still alive?

The Replacement contains one of the more creative murders I've encountered in fiction. It's also the first thriller I've read that serves up a recipe. Great idea on the recipe. The murder, well, not so appetizing.

An interesting mix of a chick-lit type heroine without the posse of girlfriends and a twisting plot line with moderate to heavy romance made for a unique read. Several plot twists and unexpected happenings are sprinkled liberally throughout.

Jill Lewis was a little difficult to bond with. A little too perfect for my taste, but I'm drawn to those deeply mortal characters that make some people crazy.

If you don't mind things that go creep in the night, this is a mid intensity thriller. More plot, less fluff than chick-lit and spiced with some serious flirtation, The Replacement would make a nice vacation read. Political thriller fans might want to check it out.

Reviewed by Kelly Klepfer

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Mary Lu Tyndall's The Redemption ~ Reviewed

The Redemption
By MaryLu Tyndall
Barbour Publishing 2006

Lady Charlisse Bristol sets off on a voyage in search of a father she never knew, only to find herself shipwrecked on a deserted island. After weeks of combating the elements, her salvation comes in the form of a band of pirates and their fiercely handsome leader, Edmund Merrick. Will Charlisse free herself from the seductive lure of this pirate captain and find the father’s love she so ardently craves?

While battling his attraction to this winsome lady and learning to walk a more godly path, Edmund offers to help Charlisse on her quest—until he discovers her father is none other than Edward the Terror, the cruelest pirate on the Caribbean. Can Edmund win this lady’s love while shielding her from his lecherous crew and working to bring her father to justice?

Can the supernatural power of God rescue Charlisse and Edmund from the danger and treachery that await them as they ride upon the tumultuous waves of the Caribbean?

There’s usually only one, possibly two, books that I’ll get excited about per year. This is the first one for 2006. It is a rare story indeed that compels me to plant my royal behind on the couch and let the peasants around my house fend for themselves. Once Tyndall draws you into the story, you will not be released until the last page. Plan on scheduling it for a day or two when you have no pressing engagements.

Other than Jesus, and I suppose my husband, the only other man I’d want to be stranded on a deserted island with is Captain Edmund Merrick. Whew. Palpitations don’t begin to describe what this character delivers. Besides his drop-dead good looks, this man is no pansy Christian. I love how real his struggle for doing the right thing connected with my own faith journey. Kudos to Tyndall for not sugar-coating the daily battles we all go through.

I got a little annoyed with Charlisse’s lack of trust in Merrick. Stupid girl. However, I suppose after surviving an abusive childhood, I should cut her some slack.

A mysterious character is added into the story briefly at the end. I have a suspicion that perhaps the next book will feature this man.

The Redemption is definitely not a beach bag flinger but an absolute must read. And when the second installment of the Legacy of the Kings Pirates comes out in spring 2007, it’ll be my nose smudged against the bookstore glass door waiting for them to open.

Reviewed by Michelle Griep

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Kristin Billerbeck's Cool, Calm & Adjusted ~ Reviewed

Cool, Calm & Adjusted
Spa Girls series #3
By Kristin Billerbeck
Published by Integrity, October 10, 2006
ISBN 1591453305

Poor Poppy!

She just wants to save the world -- one liver at a time. Poppy didn't take her vow to bring health and well-being to the masses lightly. But the obstacles she faces are bringing her down. Unbelievers, scoffers and meddlers thwart her every move. Her father flakes out and does something totally unexpected.
Dr. Frankenhunk, the handsome plastic surgeon next door, tries all of Poppy's patience and good will. He actually parks his spiffy sports car in front of her organic and peaceful side of their shared office space. The man has nerve; fortunately, she's there to point it out.

Even Lily and Morgan, her spa buddies, won't leave Poppy alone. They actually suggest conversation limits for certain social occasions. A completely maladjusted patient manages to confuse the situation even further. What's a poor-green-goo-for-dinner loving, just-trying-to-make-everyone-healthy-chiropractor to do?
Everything you want Chick-Lit to be, served with a healthy dose of cleverness. Adorable, fluffy fun. I'd love to hang with Poppy. Well, maybe not for dinner.

Reviewed by Kelly Klepfer

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Neta Jackson's The Yada Yada Prayer Group Gets Caught ~ Reviewed

The Yada Yada Prayer Group Gets Caught
By Neta Jackson
Published by Integrity, August 22, 2006
ISBN: 1591453615

Yada Yada Prayer Group is a mix of cultures, spiritual maturity and problems. Seen through the eyes of Jodi Baxter, the group prays through a blend of issues that look a whole lot like real life.
The Yada Yada Prayer Group Gets Caught is character driven number five, and the first I've read, of the series.

In the beginning chapters, I struggled with keeping the characters straight and getting to know them, but that is not because it wasn't written clearly, but because the story started four novels prior. I recommend you begin with book one, should this book sound like your cup of tea.

The book spans approximately six months of the groups' lives and covers inter-racial tension, high-risk pregnancy, young love, and the daily struggles of living out our faith and listening to the Lord. Many other problems are addressed, and several past traumas and events are mentioned. So I imagine that trials and tribulations have never been foreign to the group of characters.

Anyone who's read the prior books should appreciate The Yada Yada Prayer Group Gets Caught. Young believers who don't know how to pray would benefit from the fictional group's teachings. Women struggling with the drudgery of ministry would benefit from reading Jodi's mind and the resulting attitude changes. I appreciated the honest discussions and struggles regarding churches and worship styles.

Reviewed by Kelly Klepfer

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Roxanne Henke's With Love, Libby ~ Reviewed

With Love, Libby
By Roxanne Henke
Published by Harvest House Publishers
ISBN 0-7369-1197-9

All her life, Libby Marsden had wanted to be a writer. But when her novel is finally completed—and rejected by publisher after publisher—Libby must reexamine her life and ask why God has given her the desire to write and not blessed her efforts.

Vicky Johnson has big dreams for her daughter, Angie, as she graduates from high school. But Angie has dreams of her own—and they do not match those of her mother.

Beautiful … powerful … painful … With Love, Libby is all of these and more. It's a story of dreams, of friendship, of loss, and ultimately of restoration and fulfillment. In With Love, Libby, Henke explores the depth of friendship between women. She lays bare the power of dreams between mothers and daughters. A masterful word weaver, she threads the potent force of faith and God's grace throughout the story in a most natural way.

In an unpredictable and unique plot approach, Libby is writing a book titled After Anne, which Henke authored as the first novel in this 5-book series. At first, I was slightly confused whether the letters from readers about After Anne and the other books were real or fictional. But that twist added realism to the story. Henke's memorable characters live in the small town of Brewster, North Dakota, where everyone knows everybody—and their business.

With Love, Libby is the last of the Coming Home to Brewster series. It's the first one I've read of the series but not the last. I just ordered the other 4 books, and if they are anything like this one, all five will remain on my bookshelf to be read again and again.

The five books in the Coming Home to Brewster series are: After Anne; Finding Ruth; Becoming Olivia; Always Jan; and With Love, Libby.

Reviewed by Ane Mulligan

Monday, July 17, 2006

Linda Windsor's Blue Moon ~ Reviewed

Blue Moon
By Linda Windsor
WestBow Press
ISBN 0-7852-6064-1

Once in a Blue Moon, fame and fortune actually take a backseat to friendship and love.

Jeanne Madison has earned her PhD at 26 and secured funding to find and excavate a treasure-laden 18th century caravel off the Yucatan coast. Between her mentor and a handful of graduate students, years of study, and all the government cooperation a marine archeologist could want, she’ll find the Luna Azul—or Blue Moon—by hook or by crook. When a tight budget forces her to hire Captain Gabriel Avery and his rust-bucket, Fallen Angel, the comely PhD’s not sure it won’t be the latter.

The incorrigible skipper has the swarthy good looks of a Hollywood pirate and pushes every last one of Jeanne’s buttons—even some she didn’t know she had. His history of brawls, bullion, and well, romantic escapades may well sink the whole expedition.

As the race for the Luna Azul treasure with an unscrupulous competitor gets heated, more than the fajitas start to sizzle. Soon Jeanne, the captain, and her crew must take a gigantic leap of faith, one that may salvage more than gold—perhaps even a hardened heart.

Linda Windsor is known for her “Hystericals”—contemporary romantic comedies with a dash of suspense—and this book delivers her style as promised. After meeting Captain Gabe Avery in chapter one, I knew romance could not be avoided. I’ll admit I’m a sucker for a man with long, dark hair, but combine that with a tanned Adonis figure and add a British accent, and no wonder Jeanne Madison fell for him.

Once Windsor brought her characters together aboard the Fallen Angel, comedy was destined to follow. I especially enjoyed the humorous friction between a slobbery, overgrown Labrador mix and the pompous academian Dr. Remy Primston.

My only complaint is the ‘dash’ of suspense. For my tastes, it wasn’t nearly dashing enough. Moments meant to be tense didn’t increase my heart rate. Even the climax didn’t worry me. In general, I thought the plot to be rather predictable.

Not overtly theological nor intense, I would recommend Blue Moon as a great read to pack into your beach bag. A sweet romance plus an easy to follow story equals a fine summer getaway. Go for it.

Reviewed by Michelle Griep

Friday, July 14, 2006

Rachel Hauck's Georgia on Her Mind ~ Reviewed

Georgia on Her Mind
By Rachel Hauck
Published by Steeple Hill
ISBN 0-373-78574-2

Until 10:30 a.m., Monday, February 6, Macy Moore was Miss Most Likely To Succeed, a corporate executive on the fast track, with a marriage-material boyfriend and a cool city condo. Bu noon, she was as good as fired … and dumped. How in the world could she go home to Beauty, Georgia now?

Thank goodness for the Single Saved Sisters. With loyal friends Lucy, Adriane and Tamara by her side, Macy retreated to the House of Joe for coffee, consolation and consultation. Could they help her put her life back on the right path?

In a word … HILARIOUS. Georgia on Her Mind is a rollicking good book, filled with memorable characters on a rollercoaster ride with life. Macy has a lot to learn and a lot to get over, and her faith walk reminded me a lot of my own—three steps forward; two slippery-slide steps back.

Hauck portrays Macy's dilemmas, and the way she handles them—or doesn't—with a fresh voice, having fun with the characters and the story. There were times I wanted to slap Macy upside the head and tell her to get a grip and get over it, but then so did her girlfriends. Rachel Hauck had me completely invested in the lives of her characters. I needed to know how they got through all the "stuff".

Macy's search for God's will is like ours. I don't get lightning strikes or verbal directions from God. Neither did Macy. She had to keep looking, make mistakes and guess, hoping to discover the right way for her. Just like you and me. But Hauck doesn't hit you over the head with the spiritual thread; it's just part of who Macy is. Not in-your-face or shouting get what I'm trying to teach you, Georgia on Her Mind is a good book, worthy of standing up against any chick lit out there.

Reviewed by Ane Mulligan

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Wanda Brunstetter's The Bishop's Daughter ~ Reviewed

The Bishop's Daughter
By Wanda Brunstetter
Published by Barbour Publishing, August 2006
ISBN: 1597890006

Leona is Bishop Jacob Weaver's daughter and a dedicated teacher in a one-room Amish schoolhouse. After her father's tragic accident, Leona's faith wavers. How could God allow something like this to happen to one of His servants?

Outlander Jimmy Scott comes to Pennsylvania in search of his real family. When he is hired to paint an Amish schoolhouse, Jimmy and Leona find themselves irresistibly drawn to each other.

Can anything good come from the love between an Amish woman and an English man? What secrets will be revealed and what miracles await God's people in Lancaster County?

I know I'm behind the times as I've never read a Beverly Lewis novel, so this was my first experience reading a novel about the Amish. It was a pleasurable journey for me. I loved the plot and the twists and turns. The characters were also well-developed. I think the author sprinkling in Amish words helped me to get a feel for their culture. It reminded me of a soap opera in that every time the secret was about to come out someone interrupted them. Can you say As the Amish World Turns? :)

Seriously, I really enjoyed this story. It was unique in many aspects and the conflict was good and seemed very realistic to me. I don't want to spoil it for the reader so I won't go into details by identifying the secret, but I'll just say that this story will put a smile on your face and bless you as you experience God's hand moving in the lives of the characters.

The Englisher's father's struggle with alcoholism was well developed and true-to-life as well, making this novel a page turner for me. Again, I loved how the secret almost came out about twenty times. I wanted to shout at the characters to stop interrupting them--the hero and heroine (like on the soaps when someone walks past them in a crowd who has been missing for years. You want to reach into the screen and turn the person's head.)

The Bishop's Daughter is listed as general fiction, but had just enough romance to satisfy me. (Did I mention it was a "sweet" romance? Those don't normally appeal to me, but this was so well done I enjoyed it anyway.) I highly recommend this novel, and now I wish I had read the first two books in the series as well.

Reviewed by Michelle Sutton (pen name)
Writing truth into fiction...digging deeper, soaring higher Great Beginnings finalist 2005
Writer/fiction reviewer

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Claudia Mair Burney's, Murder, Mayhem and a Fine Man

Murder, Mayhem and a Fine Man
Claudia Maire Burney
Navpress (July 5, 2006)
ISBN: 1576839788


"For Amanda Bell Brown, turning 40 isn't hard---it's murder! All she wants is to enjoy her favorite TV crime show. But instead, she ends up with her own mystery to investigate, including two corpses, a hunk of a detective, and a gorgeous red dress. A madman's on the loose . . . can Amanda save the day and snag a good man?"

Reviewed by: Gina Holmes

Claudia Burney's debut novel is outstanding. Though officially in the murder category, it's a unique blend of romance, chick-lit, mystery and women's fiction.The characters are three dimensional, all with their own intriguing backstory that comes to light naturally within the story.To say this is sassy would be an understatement. It is honest. It is fresh. It is funny and satisfying. I LOVED this book. The plot was great. The romance was hot. And the writing stellar.I HIGHLY recommend Murder, Mayhem & a Fine Man to those who like a little mystery with their romance. An amazing first novel.Claudia Mair Burney has got it going on!

Melanie Dobson's Together for Good ~ Reviewed

Together for Good
By Melanie Dobson
Published by Kregel Publications
ISBN 0-8254-2444-5

Twenty years ago, Abby Wagner lost her baby. Now, at the pinnacle of her career, the repressed pain from that loss surfaces when she is assigned to design a publicity campaign for Heartsong Adoptions … the very organization that separated her from her son. The panic she feels opens her deepest wounds as the past rises up to haunt her. To find some peace of mind, Abby returns to her family's cottage on Orcas Island. As she slowly releases her grip on the past, Abby discovers a miracle in the most unexpected place.

Melanie Dobson delivers a gripping story of adoption, of loss and of restoration with a fresh twist—one I hadn't read before. Free of clichéd writing, this unique story echoed in my heart long after I turned the last page.

Set on Washington State's Puget Sound, Dobson's description of the area invoked nostalgic memories. My mother was born and raised on Puget Sound, and I spent many summers there as a child. I could smell the Sound as I turned the pages.

Excellent writing, coupled with unforeseen plot twists, this is a story you'll not forget. I found the way Dobson weaves in the characters' faith journeys refreshing and natural. A haunting story, Together for Good is highly recommended.

Reviewed by Ane Mulligan

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Lena Nelson Dooley's Never Say Never ~ Reviewed

Never Say Never
By Lena Nelson Dooley
Published by Heartsong Presents
ISBN 1-59789-056-1

Charlotte Halloran will never love again. When her husband was killed by a drunk driver, Charlotte's heart died, too. Now, one year later, Charlotte and her teenaged daughter are boarding a cruise ship to take their minds off their loss. But when the Pearl of the Ocean's captain catches her eye, Charlotte wonders if "never" was God's idea or—hers.

Captain Gareth Van den Hout knows the pain of losing love. Three years ago, he lost his precious wife to cancer. His time aboard the cruise ship created a chasm of secrets between them, and he's vowed it will never happen again. But when he sees Charlotte, Gareth is compelled to risk his heart and get to know the petite, black-haired beauty, even if only for a short time.

Could the Lord have plans to heal and unite two broken hearts convinced "never" is forever?

I really liked this book. Lena Nelson Dooley is one of the best romance writers in the industry. Her characters are authentic, their problems real, and the stories are interesting. I like the way her characters are flawed and the way they react to things. Just like you and me. I never roll my eyes or have the urge to gag as with many romance books. Dooley's plots are not predictable; she throws a number of unexpected twists in that propel her romances to the top of my list. I can get lost in any book by Lena Nelson Dooley, while a lot of other romance books get tossed aside after a chapter or two.

Never Say Never is warm, it's believable and superbly well-written. If you're a romance fan, this is a must read.

I recently read another of Lena Nelson Dooley's romances, Move a Mountain. Packaged with three other romances in Windswept Weddings, it's also in the same category as Never Say Never. Superb. Each plot Dooley pens is different and never formulaic. A favorite romance writer, her books receive a high recommendation.

Reviewed by Ane Mulligan

Friday, July 07, 2006

Andrea Boeshaar's Always a Bridesmaid ~ Reviewed

Always a Bridesmaid
By Andrea Boeshaar
Published by Heartsong Presents
ISBN 1-59310-946-6

Melody Cartwright can't believe what she's hearing: Her little sister is getting married—first. When Bonnie's mysterious fiancé turns out to be Melody's ex-boyfriend from college and he claims he doesn't remember her, Mel has nowhere to turn.

Luke Berringer has loved Melody since fourth grade. Now if he just had the courage to let her know he is alive … Having lived next door his entire life, he's learned a thing or two about her close-knit family. But suddenly Melody needs help, and Luke wants to be the one she turns to.

Can Luke be Melody's knight in shining armor? Or will Melody always be an bridesmaid?

I thoroughly enjoyed Andrea Boeshaar's Broken Things and Precious Things, but I wasn't sure about a romance book. But Boeshaar avoided the formula romance and created a warm, home town story that happened to be romantic. Not once did I roll my eyes and think, "No way." I was drawn into Melody's life by Boeshaar's stellar writing. The wonderful descriptions throughout the book gave me a feeling of being there, not just reading about it. I became invested in the characters and the outcome. I got indignant when Melody's family suspected she might not be telling the truth. I strongly disliked Bonnie's fiancé. I fell in love with Luke, and I cheered the denouement.

I highly recommend you grab a tall glass of iced tea and take this book out on the porch—it's a perfect summer read.

Reviewed by Ane Mulligan

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Dark Hour
By Ginger Garrett
Published by NavPress (July, 2006)
ISBN: 1576838692

From the author of Chosen: The Lost Diaries of Queen Esther comes a stunning tale of betrayal and revenge---as the heir to the underworld vies for the holiest of thrones! To defend the line of David, Jehoshebeth, the woman warrior, rides forth to fight evil. (Warning: includes some graphic violence.)

Highlighting one of the bloodier stories in Biblical history, Dark Hour brings II Chronicles chapters 21-23 to life on the pages of this intense novel. A page-turner, Dark Hour is not typical Biblical fiction. Like much of the Old Testament, it doesn’t gloss over a thing. Before Christ, and following the downfall of David’s kingdom, the world was not a good place.

Murder, intrigue, false religion, struggle for power, and unimaginable abuse are woven between the pages of Dark Hour, though not in such gory detail that I wouldn’t let my child read it. I literally felt sucked into that era with all of its’ struggles, passions, and culture. I felt the heroine Jehoshebeth’s confusion and fear as she dealt with Athaliah, the daughter of Jezebel, who was her alleged mother.

When Athaliah slaughtered the royal children in Judah and Israel to make herself queen, she proved that like her mother, her evil had no limits. As a reader I entered the temple courts where sacrifices were offered, prophets were killed for their messages from the Lord, and being a follower of the God of Israel was not looked upon with favor unless you lived with the priests. Miraculously, an heir to the throne of David was preserved despite the enemy’s attempt to snuff out the lineage of Christ.

This wonderfully-written novel made me want to read through Chronicles again. This is the perfect novel for readers seeking an escape to a world without hope, yet where the triumph of God is clearly seen in the midst of the dark trials suffered by the characters.

Reviewed by Michelle Sutton (pen name)
Writing truth into fiction...digging deeper, soaring higher Great Beginnings finalist 2005
Writer/fiction reviewer

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Nancy Jo Jenkins' Coldwater Revival ~ Reviewed

Coldwater Revival
By Nancy Jo Jenkins
Published by River Oak
ISBN: 1589190610

One of Emma Grace Falin's six-year-old twin brothers falls into a well and dies while in her care. She begins a journey that takes her through the dark valley of guilt, sorrow, depression, and anger at God. But through her ordeal you see the hand of God at work. Although she rejects Him, God brings restoration and healing into her troubled life. Gain a better understanding of God's mercy, as he compassionately guides the lives of Emma Grace and her family during their desperate period of grief and despair.

This story was so gripping it's hard to for me to express my feelings adequately, but I'll give it a shot. The flow of words and beautiful similes and metaphors reminded me of Secret Life of Bees, only this story really blessed me whereas I found Sue Monk Kidd's book depressing.

I have to admit that when the heroine in Coldwater Revival, Emma Grace, reflected on her childhood tragedy when she fell asleep during the storm, the feelings I experienced were so intense I had to set the book down for a few days for an emotional breather. But I couldn't hold out long and had to go back to it because the story was well worth finishing even if it did nearly rip my heartstrings to shreds at certain points.

The closest I've felt (to compare the strong emotion I experienced) was when I'd read the Scottish series by Liz Curtiss Higgs. Though at the outset I never would've thought this story had a romantic element, not only did the growing love between the heroine and hero in Coldwater Revival impress me, but I dare say that in many ways this story had one of the strongest romantic elements of any I've ever read.

This daring debut novel had me holding my breath and sighing with relief as I read along, enjoying every page. My heart pounded along with the heroines right through to the end. Wonderful story, and extremely well-written, with the best use of similes I've ever experienced in fiction. I highly recommend this book! It has so much meat and emotion in it, and the best part was that not one time did I feel that a scene was forced or contrived.

Nor did any of the spiritual elements feel preachy or like the author struggled to write that piece into the novel. Everything flowed from characters who seemed like real people to me. In fact, reading this story was like slipping into another time and place. I could picture everything in my mind.

Reviewed by Michelle Sutton (pen name)
Writing truth into fiction...digging deeper, soaring higher Great Beginnings finalist 2005
Writer/fiction reviewer

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Tracey Bateman's Claire Knows Best ~ Reviewed

Claire Knows Best
By Tracey Bateman
Published by Warner Faith
ISBN: 0-466-69606-4

Claire Everett's life is finally on the tight track. She is connecting with her four ki9ds and getting along with her ex-husband and his pregnant wife. She's even attending church regularly. Now that she's dating Greg, the cute widower two doors down, her world should be in order. So how come life has suddenly become such a juggling act?

A tornado rips through her roof, forcing Claire and the kids to move. Greg suddenly decides on a new career, and Claire's not one bit happy with his choice. And adding confusion to the chaos: Van, the local contractor, begins paying Claire too much attention; her teenage daughter's rebellion is creating big challenges; and her writing career is cooling off instead of heating up. When panic attacks threaten to make her a prisoner in her own home, Claire finally breaks down and hires a life coach to help her sort it all out. But is a life coach truly the answer?

Can Claire finally let go and admit that it is God directing her steps, or will she try to create her own destiny and insist that CLAIRE KNOWS BEST?

I don't like present tense writing, and Claire Knows Best is written in present tense. Funny I didn't discover that until page 226 of this 288 page story. Bateman managed to suck me into Claire's world from the first line: "I have a bad habit of laughing at the wrong time." Yeah, don't we all? I had to read on … and on … and on. The plot is hilarious, and the characters are some of best I've read—flawed but striving for a foothold. Claire is at odds with everyone, except perhaps her youngest son. Little boys are a mother's blessing. I loved the way Claire held firm with her rebellious daughter, but her thoughts had me laughing out loud as a mother—I've had some of those same thoughts about my own kids.

Bateman reveals a very real woman dealing with life's problems. The plot is not predictable and has enough twists to satisfy any reader. Funny and tender, Claire Knows Best receives a high recommendation from this reviewer. Any writer who can make me forget I'm reading present tense is truly a master! Bravo, Tracey!

Reviewed by Ane Mulligan

Sunday, July 02, 2006

The Best of Evil ~ Eric Wilson

The Best of Evil
Eric Wilson
352 pages
WaterBrook Press
September, 2006

ISBN: 1578569117

Book Description:

“'Spare your soul,” he ranted, “and turn your eyes from greed.…”The tattoos on his arms still reading “Live by the Sword” and “Die by the Sword,” Aramis Black is ready for a fresh start. Determined to set aside his violent tendencies, he opens an espresso shop in Nashville and begins to put his childhood memories behind him. The past isn’t finished with him, though. One ordinary day at the shop, a man is shot before his eyes, speaking dying words to Aramis that are all too familiar.Aramis realizes that his path to freedom will demand forgiveness–forgiveness from God and forgiveness of others. Along the way, he must uncover the conspiracy behind a centuries-old mystery and the shocking truth of his mother’s death. The question remains: Will Aramis be able to conquer his past, or will evil get the best of him?"

Reviewed by Gina Holmes:

Aramis Black is a twenty-something coffee bar owner, trying to turn his life around until his world is turned upside down by a centuries old mystery.

This enigma that may hold clues to his mother's murder ... if only Aramis Black can get the best of evil, before evil gets the best of him.

Eric Wilson masterfully weaves together mysteries from past and present in this gutsy thriller. Wilson is an extraordinary wordsmith with one of the freshest voices in fiction today.

The Best of Evil is first-rate suspense!