Thursday, February 28, 2008

Roxanne Henke's Learning to Fly ~ Reviewed

Learning to Fly
By Roxanne Henke
Published by Harvest House
ISBN-13: 978-0-7369-1702-5
Back Cover:

Just when, exactly, do you become a "mom"?

That's what new mother Susan Shaffer wonders when her daughter, Lily, is born.

A chance meeting with high school acquaintance JoJo, also a new mom, gives Susan and her daughter friends to learn and grow with.

The two women, along with their husbands, parent their girls, Lily and Tiffany, through the stubborn toddler years, the growing years of grade school, the dramatics of junior high, and the challenges of the high school years. Finally, as the girls approach graduation, all four of those women face the inevitable questions:

Are Lily and Tiffany ready for life on their own? Are the mothers ready to let their girls go?

Have they indeed learned to fly?


If you're a new mom, about to be a mom, or a grandmother, you'll love Learning to Fly. Roxanne Henke depicts the new-mother-angst with perceptive clarity and insight.

These two new moms are so opposite, it's amazing they became friends—and yet how true to life that they did. It's a completely believable friendship. I don't like to give away a plot within my review, so let me just say that I related to one of these mothers when the other's kid acted up so much, the adults couldn't carry on a conversation. I've been there. We all have at one time or another.

I liked how Henke didn't try to "fix" everyone in the book. Some people just don't get it. The kids' characters were as rich and deep as the adults, and from their toddler years to graduation, they remained believable.

Learning to Fly is truly a parenting manual within the covers of a novel. And I laughed and I cried between those covers. The story will touch you and not leave you unchanged. Novel Reviews and I give it our highest recommendation.

Reviewed by Ane Mulligan

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Virginia Smith's Stuck in the Middle ~ Reviewed

Stuck in the Middle
By Virginia Smith
Published by Revell
ISBN 978-0-8007-3232-5

Her older sister, Allie, is starting a family, and her younger sister, Tori, has a budding career. Meanwhile, Joan is stuck at home with mom and her aging grandmother. Not exactly a recipe for excitement—or romance.

When a hunky young doctor moves in next door, Joan sets out to catch his eye. But it won't be easy. Pretty Tori flirts relentlessly, and Joan is sure that she can't compete. But with a little help from God, Allie, and an enormous mutt with bad manners, Joan begins to find her way out of this rut and into the life she's been hiding from.


This is a delightful look at relationships between three generations of women living in a small town. Poor Joan is the classic middle child with an inferiority complex. Not pretty like Tori, she believes she can't compete. How she finds her own worth and a deeper faith is worth the read and satisfying. Stuck in the Middle gets a high recommendation.

Reviewed by: Ane Mulligan

Bonus Review:

As a woman without the benefit of sisters, some of Stuck in the Middle was almost a foreign language to me. It did make me both relieved and more than a little sad that I don't have a woman or two in my life who helped shape me from birth.

Smith does an excellent job in making the birth order, sister love/angst big as life. I enjoyed spending time with the sisters when they clicked and not so much when they didn't, which is very similar to the way I feel around real sister units.

Joan, the middle daughter, was the focus in the novel. I found myself almost wanting to protect her from the circumstances in the story.

If you like characters that step off the pages, or kind men, or dogs, you'll probably enjoy Stuck in the Middle as much as I did. Of course, if you have a sister or two, you should probably check into "Stuck." Twenty-somethings who are looking for a ministry fit might find some common sense guidance within "Stuck." The spiritual themes were not overbearing and were realistic.

Overall a pleasant, fun and poignant read.

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Denise Hildreth's Will of Wisteria ~ Reviewed

The Will of Wisteria
Denise Hildreth
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (October 9, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1595542094

Book Description:

Four headstrong siblings must satisfy their father's dying demands--or risk losing his fortune. Let the clash of wills begin.

Charleston blue blood Clayton Wilcott "got religion" late in life; so late, it turns out his kids never took to it. So he's left a provisional will delivered in a highly unorthodox way.

Now they're going to have to honor Daddy's commandments from beyond the grave--for a full year--or be cut off from their substantial inheritances.

The scent of wisteria lingers in the air as the four spoiled Wilcotts battle for their birthright. Told in

Denise Hildreth's trademark blend of humor and heart, this Southern tale is about learning to love, learning to live, and learning to bend.


Family! Can’t live with them – Can’t live without them – or can we???Denise Hildreth gives you a sneak peek into a rich dysfunctional family at it’s extreme!!

Denise’s story unfolds through the children of Elijah Clayton Wilcott II Elizabeth, Jeffery, Mary Catherine, and Will, as they divide their fathers estates between themselves mentally after his death. Elizabeth is a successful attorney who owns her own business. She’s headstrong, passionate and full of hostility for her father and brother Jeffery. Jeffery is the oldest brother who is a very successful plastic surgeon. He is wrapped up in a world his of selfish desires and hasn’t a clue about family; how to be a husband or father. He doesn’t see the importance of either one. Mary Catherine is a woman born to travel. She fly’s around with her husband to experience new places and collect interesting and fun items. Work for a living – Not her!! Then there is Will the baby in the family who is a professional student. He is the president of his fraternity and may never graduate. Work ? He is having way too much fun in college. The babes love him. Fraternity parties now that’s where it’s at for Will.

Life as Elizabeth, Jeffery, Mary Catherine, and Will know it is about to be over after they are read the terms of their fathers will. Elijah Clayton Wilcott wants them to do the unthinkable for a whole year!! All the children think he has got to be kidding. This is some extreme joke. Not!! No money for any of the children that do not comply with their late father’s wishes. They can’t believe their father would do this to them. Who else could they talk to? There had to be away around these demands so they could get the money now. The Wilcott children all had money but their father had so much more. You can never have too much money was their mind set. There had to be a way to beat this! Each one was determined to find that way on their own.

Denise says this about herself “The one thing I believe the Lord has gifted me to do is to take the human relationship and strip it down to the place we all live”. She does this so well. It’s very true with this book and the others I have read by her. On the surface this seems like a light hearted fun book a no brainer. I felt that Denise had a way of piercing my heart and mind as I read parts of this story I felt uncomfortable as the Wilcott children struggled with the situations they found themselves in. I found myself searching my soul, my motives, hurts in my life and others around me.I walked away from this book knowing that in the middle of the “stuff” of life, (the good, bad, and the ugly). God sets us up for victory. Denise says “He surrounds each of us with everything necessary to win….Each of us will taste “life”. It’s inevitable. But each of us has been given every necessary tool for our refining, our taming, our potential” In the end it’s a matter of our will. Will we trust God with our whole life, our dreams, our heart or not??? This is a powerfully moving book!! It will change your life and the way you look at people and yourself if you let it. I highly recommend this book and the other books that Denise has written.

Reviewed by: Nora St.Laurent
Book Club Servant Leader

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Kim Vogel Sawyer's Blessings~ Reviewed

By Kim Vogel Sawyer
Published by Barbour Publishing
ISBN 978-1-59789-406-7

Back Cover:

For as long as she can remember, Trina Muller has had a special affinity with animals. When the local vet, Dr. Groening, recognizes Trina's passion and abilities, he assures her that she can take over his practice when she becomes a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. But that's a career of which her parents heartily disapprove. Can God be so cruel as to give Trina the gift of healing without also giving her the avenue to use it?

Graham Ortmann loves Trina, but when he finds out about her plans to attend college, he's outraged. How can he marry someone who is determined to step outside the dictates of the Old Order Mennonite fellowship?

When a young man with a D.M.V. in hand approaches Dr. Groening about purchasing his practice, Trina's dreams seem to be crumbling right in front of her. Is this a sign from God that she isn't meant to be a vet after all?


Kim Vogel Sawyer writes some of the best inspirational romances I've read to date. There's a gentle spirit in these pages that woos the reader on. The story didn't go quite where and how I expected it to, which is another plus for Sawyer. She always manages to surprise me.

Trina struggles with obeying her family whom she loves and the fellowship that she truly wants to help and not leave, yet she believes God has called her to become a vet. What transpires is a journey of trusting God with her dreams and discovering his will for her. Heart-wrenching, Blessings received a high recommendation from this reviewer.

Reviewed by: Ane Mulligan

Friday, February 22, 2008

Sharon Hinck's Symphony of Secrets ~ Reviewed

Symphony of Secrets
By Sharon Hinck
Published by Bethany House
ISBN 978-0-7642-0282-7

Back Cover:

Talented flutist Amy Johnson's dreams come true when she wins a spot with the Minneapolis Symphony. But this amateur sleuth has trouble concentrating in the notes as she begins to see devious motives behind her fellow musicians' many mishaps.

Meanwhile, her musically talented teenage daughter wants to give it all up for—gasp—the cheerleading squad. What's a musical mom to do?

Can Amy fine-tune her investigation before the symphony is forced to close and she loses not only her dream job but her promising new relationship with the conductor?


I enjoyed every page of this book! Hinck employs wit and angst as you follow Amy, a musical geek trying to fulfill her dreams. She's a single mom whose mind revolves around her music and providing for her daughter, but forgets about things like laundry and meals. I hate to admit I could relate, but as a literary artist, I was right there with her.

When her daughter makes the cheerleading squad, Amy feels like a jazz solo without a rhythm. These super-moms are hip and with-it, crafty, slender and know how to French-braid. Poor Amy can barely make a ponytail straight for her daughter. But what she can do is find a mystery in every action around her, causing her no end of trouble.

All this makes for one delightful read as it explores the relationship between a quirky mom and her daughter. A story of love and forgiveness and characters that will live on in your heart even after you turned the last page. I give it a very high recommendation.

Reviewed by Ane Mulligan

Bonus Review:

Symphony of Secrets is likely to delight Sharon Hinck fans. Hinck has a distinctive voice, creating heroines who are flawed but very likable. Symphony introduces Amy, an artist with the flute and a mess in life. She has a teen daughter, Clara, who is going her own way and Amy finds that terrifying and a little bit insulting. Especially when Clara decides to check out church, and then begins to buy into the mindless drivel taught there.

However, Amy is always up for a good mystery. As events in her life unfold into the life she's only dreamed of, the mystery wends its way throughout. Overall, this novel is charming and full of humor. Hinck also inserts mournful melodies that pull on reader heartstrings. A solid story with a satisfying conclusion.

By: Kelly Klepfer

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Ted Dekker's Adam ~ Reviewed

Ted Dekker
Publisher: Nelson Books (March 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1595543821
ISBN-13: 978-1595543820

Back Cover Copy:

FBI behavioral psychologist Daniel Clark has become famous for his well-articulated arguments that religion is one of society's greatest antagonists. What Daniel doesn't know is that his obsessive pursuit of a serial killer known only as "Eve" is about to end abruptly with an unexpected death -- his own.

Twenty minutes later Daniel is resuscitated, only to be haunted by the loss of memory of the events immediately preceding his death.

Daniel becomes convinced that the only way to stop Eve is to recover those missing minutes during which he alone saw the killer's face. And the only way to access them is to trigger his brain's memory dump that occurs at the time of death by simulating his death again...and again. So begins a carefully researched psychological thriller which delves deep into the haunting realities of near-death experiences, demon possession, and the human psyche.

My review:

Dekker fans are in for a thrill ride. Dekker is at his best when he writes thrillers. His fantasy is good, but his thrillers are breathtaking and sleep stealing.

Adam pivots on the usual Ted Dekker standard theme of man's fall and God's extravagant grace. An avowed atheist, psychological profiler on his quest to catch the bad guy enters into places he never believed existed, especially within himself. The woman who loves him gets entangled in the increasingly tense cat and mouse game between the ever-changing status of hunted vs. hunter. Dekker covers the murderer's intriguing backstory in a multi-part news expose which amps the tension with each segement of article.

The only negative is some ambiguity in the final sewing up of details. Dekker may very well have meant to be ambiguous as he left some story lines with opportunity for growth in future novels which would be very okay by me. The climax ended on a decided downbeat, too. But to have pumped any more intensity into the scene may have been overkill.

I'm calling Adam my favorite Dekker novel -- to date, you never know what's going to tweak his creative flow next.

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Monday, February 18, 2008

Roxanne Rustand's Vendetta ~ Reviewed

By Roxanne Rustand
Published by Steeple Hill
ISBN 0-373-44277-5

Back Cover


That was the McAllister family motto, wasn’t it? Cole Daniels would never forget it – no matter how interested he was in pretty, kind Leigh McAllister. Thanks to lies told by her uncle, Cole’s father was wrongly imprisoned. Now that Cole and Leigh were both back in Wolf Creek, Wyoming, he was sure Leigh held the key to clearing his father’s good name. But his quest for justice was complicated by the escalating sabotage of Leigh’s vet clinic and by his growing feelings for her.


This is the second book in the Snow Canyon Ranch series. Again I was impressed with this wonderful romantic suspense. Ms. Rustand brought Leigh McAllister and Cole Daniels to life. Fighting against ill-feelings that happened many years ago, their chemistry, and desire to follow the Lord, still brings them close. The explicit accurate details of working with animals, added to bringing this story to life. From beginning to end, I felt like I was fighting for Leigh’s vet practice, and Cole’s fight to find out what really happened the night his father was accused of murder. Did Cole’s father really kill that man? Why is someone trying to sabotage Leigh’s practice? A turn of events will keep you turning pages.

Even if you didn’t read the first book – you’ll be taken in by this book. Several characters were brought back in this book, however, Ms. Rustand wrote in such away, you will still read this book and love it.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Paul Thigpen's My Visit to Hell ~ Reviewed

My Visit to Hell
Paul Thigpen
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Realms
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1599790939
ISBN-13: 978-1599790930

Back Cover Copy:

The threat of racial violence sends Thomas Travis fleeing down the stairs of an abandoned building, only to fall into a tortured realm of fire and ice: the place of the damned.

His only chance of escape is to trust a strange elderly woman he meets there who insists on being his guide. She claims to know the way out, but they must travel through all the circles of divine judgment, each one deeper and more terrifying than the last. And in the lowest pit lies waiting the Lord of Darkness himself.

Thomas has lived a godless life. He could be damned to any one of several circles. but if his soul can be purged on the journey, he just might make it.

Even so, the odds are slim...

In hell, the only guarantee is justice...and the only way out is down.

Brace yourself for a frightening, thought-provoking, guided tour of hell in this modern-day adaptation of Dante's Inferno.

My Review:

I checked out others reviews before typing my own. As expected there are five-stars with glowing recommendations and as many one-stars with glowing criticism. So here's my suggestion, if you are seriously considering the book, toss out the five-stars and the one-stars and then read the comments.

Anything as controversial and frightening as Hell and a trip through it is going to step on toes.

Fiction about Hell is probably the last thing I'd like to read. Seriously, there's enough Hell on this earth that I don't even want to consider that the place may be real. Having not read Dante's Inferno I kind of came into the read without any preconceived ideas beyond what I've learned from the Bible. I'm an unapologetic literal-Bible-believing Christian. So before you read any further you may want to toss out my review, too.

But if you are continuing to read you a) have an interest in Hell b) the fear of it c) or you really dig horror.

My Visit to Hell isn't going to please some of the more conservative Christians. Many Christians won't read fiction and they certainly would be offended by a place full of naked, damned souls with constant torture, bigotry and reference to the baser of sins. This novel is not suitable for children, unless a parent reads it first. The imagery is horrifying and would add all sorts of ickiness to dreams. If you are a very sensitive adult, I caution you also. Horror lovers should find plenty of gruesome passages.

If you fear Hell and/or the unknown, don't read just My Visit to Hell alone. Find someone who loves Jesus to help you come to grips with where you'll spend eternity. The book points out pretty clearly that sin is sin and there are going to be all kinds in Hell. From the very, very religious, even pastors, priests and preachers, to those who just ignored the whole question of what to do with Jesus.

Reading because you are interested? Again, don't read just this book and take it completely as fact. This is one man's fictionalized account of a real place. It's based on what he knows from what he's read and studied. The different levels and pits and punishments are interesting and there is truth that there are more severe punishments, but don't take this as Gospel.

If you are concerned that you are headed there, please find someone who knows the Bible and loves people. There are a lot of people who know the Bible but don't know the author, and they are as Hellbound as an ignorant sinner.

My Visit to Hell isn't the most riveting fiction I've ever read. But the story is riveting. I read it quickly, wondering what would happen. I struggled with some of what was said and done. I am not comfortable at all with the idea that people will end up in Hell, a place prepared for Satan and his angels. But each of the dwellers in the story's lower pits were determined to keep their deadly attitudes and hatreds and bitterness, clinging to death even as a few tried to escape with the hero.
The hero himself was an anti-hero as he revealed more and more his ugly attitudes and pride. Reading the book made me think about my own attitudes. I struggled with Thomas' guide, Capopia and her limbo faith. I honestly don't know what to do with a repentant soul in limbo, if there is such a thing. I'm very glad the decisions on eternity are made by a loving, just, merciful and all-knowing God.

Whether you agree that there is a real Hell, or whether there are many chances, or whether Hell is populated with Hitlers, Amins and Husseins and all the good folk go to Heaven, I suggest you make sure in your
own mind and heart that you aren't dead wrong.

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Friday, February 15, 2008

Debra White Smith's Lorna ~ Reviewed

By: Debra White Smith
Harvest House Publishers
Release date: March 1, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-7369-1930-2

Award-winning author Debra White Smith (more than 1 million books in print) offers Book 2 in The Debutantes Series, a contemporary mystery-romance trilogy featuring three bright amateur sleuths whose faith and skills manage to get them out of trouble.

Attending a welcome-the-new-mayor party, Lorna Leigh counters boredom by escaping to the garden…only to realize she’s not alone. The dashing 30-something mayor is getting fresh air too. Sparks fly when she realizes Michael’s idealistic views match hers and he discovers she’s a tennis fiend.

When a pastor is arrested for pornography, debutantes Lorna, Heather, and Brittan take the case. Convinced the pastor was set up, the gutsy amateur detectives investigate. Lorna’s faith falters as clues are uncovered and Michael becomes a primary suspect. Why would God bring him into her life only to reveal his shady past and questionable future? Torn between budding love and justice, Lorna faces her most difficult decision yet.


Lorna Leigh first introduced in the book, Heather. Few years after tragedy, she is still single. After meeting Houston’s new mayor, Michael, she feels as if she is ready to begin a relationship. Her friends, Heather and Brittan also return. Could Michael really be involved in pornography, or is it friends just worried Lorna will make another mistake. Will their amateur sleuthing ruin lives, or help them?

Admittedly, I did not read Heather. Debra White Smith wrote this book in a way that allowed me to read it without feeling like I was missing anything. I was still able to fully enjoy her great writing style. She brought in this new story revealing just enough about the first book. She hit on points of corruption and evil in church. Showing how “true” Christians react, even when their own successful careers are on the line.

A budding love, a worried roommate, and a pastor’s career being ruined: bringing back The Rose…the three debutantes solve another case. The characters were completely brought to life. Constructed with a great plot and an interesting ending, I thought this was a great book. Nothing seemed to be left undone. If you read Heather, this will be an added adventure worth reading. If you didn’t read it, you’ll still love the book.

If some suspense, mystery and romance is your thing, this book is worth reading.

Reviewed by Diane T. Stokowski

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Michael Snyder's My Name is Russell Fink ~ Reviewed

My Name is Russell Fink
Michael Snyder
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Zondervan (March 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0310277272

Book Description:

Russell Fink is twenty-six years old and determined to salvage a job he hates so he can finally move out of his parents house for good. He's convinced he gave his twin sister cancer when they were nine years old. And his crazy fiancée refuses to accept the fact that their engagement really is over.

Then Sonny, his allegedly clairvoyant basset hound, is found murdered.

The ensuing amateur investigation forces Russell to confront several things at once-the enormity of his family's dysfunction, the guy stalking his family, and his long-buried feelings for a most peculiar love interest.

At its heart, My Name Is Russell Fink is a comedy, with sharp dialogue, characters steeped in authenticity, romance, suspense, and fresh humor. With a postmodern style similar to Nick Hornby and Douglas Coupland, the author explores reconciliation, forgiveness, and faith in the midst of tragedy. No amount of neurosis or dysfunction can derail God's redemptive purposes.

My Review:

If you are a fan of Ray Blackston, you are going to want to check into Michael Snyder.

With fresh and humorous storytelling, Snyder dumps us into the world of Russell Fink. Russell oozes dysfunction what with being named after his grandfather, and doomed to inherit his father's double chin. Russell fears the notoriety of both male role models and bad genes have pretty much cooked his own goose. After all, he's already killed once and just awaits the cancer that will surely be his reward.

With a sharp wit and troublesome tongue Russell both severs relationships and endears himself to a quirky cast of characters. Can Russell shed his wacky fiancee so that he can embrace true love? Will Russell ever find faith instead of empty religion? Does Russell deserve anything good or satisfying?

I wanted to hug Russell and make him a homemade meal, or at least pour him a bowl of cereal.

I found myself surprised with a completely unexpected revelation within the story which was nice. My only non-rave, but not big enough to keep it from a five star read, is that the end felt a little rushed with the unraveling of the details. But this was definitely a minor concern. If you must have "all your ducks in a row" in your endings you might have an issue with some ambiguity. Russell is a satisfying and introspective read. Fans of Annette Smith's A Bigger Life should find it appealing also.
I am a Snyder fan, and am anxiously awaiting the next release. I wouldn't mind a follow-up to Russell, I wasn't quite ready to leave him.

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer


Review: Russell Fink seems to be going through the motions of life but not really living it. He's got everything anyone could want - a good job, a really beautiful fiancé, good family and lots of friends, but he feels empty. What is his mission? Russell wakes up one day to find his trust-worthy companion, Sonny, is dead. Yes, he was very old, but foul play is suspected. Russell is now on a mission to find Sonny's killer...even if it's the last thing he does.

Things become clear to him as he searches for clues. Does he really love the woman that he is engaged to? He has been dating her so long it's just become a habit. Do they have anything in common? Russell goes to the doctors so much that he and his doctor know each other by their first names. His doctor asks him "Why don't you get a job you really like so you can see me less?" Russell didn't think his doctor was paying attention to how many times he was seeing him a week. After all, he was in there this time because he thought a mole he had was changing color. Wouldn't his doctor be glad that he was taking care of his body? Russell wakes up and starts living his life instead of watching it go by. No one is ready for that – not even Russell.

This book is funny, unpredictable and entertaining, while at the same time, it's about Russell looking at the serious things of life. You will never look at life the same after reading this book. You will start looking for guys like Russell in your own life and try not to laugh!! There is a fun interview in the back of the book with author Michael Snyder that will crack you up! He explains that he really isn't Russell and other important questions you want to know about the author. Discussion questions follow the interview and you get a sneak peek into the next book that will be out by Michael entitled 'Return Policy" due out in December 2008. You'll want to check that out for more laugh-out-loud fun!!

Reviewed by:
Nora St. Laurent – Book Club Servant Leader

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

David Gregory's The Next Level ~ Reviewed

The Next Level
By David Gregory
Published by WaterBrook Press, Feb 19, 2008
ISBN -13: 978-1-4000-7243-9


Climbing the corporate ladder takes you to a place you never imagined.

Business degree in hand, Logan enters the immense Universal Systems building and is hired as an organizational analyst—a trouble-shooter. His job: evaluate the company's five divisions, each on a separate level and each operating on startlingly unique principles. Which set of principles is successful? Why is most of the company's profit generated by one tiny division? What is real profit, anyway? And who is the enigmatic executive that Logan ends up reporting to?

Logan engages in a life-changing pursuit for The Next Level—a fascinating parable that will help you answer some of life's most perplexing and vital questions. Joining Logan in evaluating each level's approach, you'll be inspired to consider that big picture of your own life from an entirely different perspective—one that holds the key to life's ultimate purpose. No matter where you are now, get ready to embark on your own passionate pursuit of The next Level.


If ever a back cover copy depicted a book's content, this one does. Another amazing modern-day parable from the author of A Day with a Perfect Stranger and Dinner with a Perfect Stranger, The Next Level will challenge you to be on God’s agenda, not yours. Short and an easy read, it’s a book you’ll never forget.

I was amazed and tickled with Gregory's ability to depict the Christian walk in corporatese. On one of the levels, you'll see all the world's religions allegorized in the business world. The Next Level is a must read for all Christians, but be prepared. You won't get through it without thinking, "Ouch."

Reviewed by Ane Mulligan, Novel Journey

Friday, February 08, 2008

James Scott Bell's The Whole Truth ~ Reviewed

The Whole Truth
By James Scott Bell
Published by Zondervan, Feb 2008
ISBN-10: 0-310-26903-2


Lawyer Steve Conroy has one last chance to overcome the past that has haunted him for twenty-five years. But he'll learn that the present can be darker than any nightmare he's ever had.

At the age of five, Steve Conroy saw his seven-year-old brother kidnapped from the very bedroom they shared. His brother was never found. And the guilt of his silence that night has all but destroyed Steve's life.

Now thirty years old with a failing law practice, Steve agrees to represent a convicted criminal, Johnny LaSalle, who has ties to a notorious family. And some information that threatens to blow Steve's world apart.

Desperate for his final shot at professional success, Steve will do anything to find the truth. But Johnny knows far more than he's telling, and the secrets he keeps have deadly consequences. Now Steve must depend on an inexperienced law student whose faith seems to be his last chance at redemption from a corrupt world where one wrong move could be his last.


You can depend on Bell throwing more curves at you than a major league pitcher. Steve Conroy, a gritty character battling addiction, seized my allegiance on page one. I continued turning page after page, wooed on by the story. Then Bell, a master at plotting, caught me totally off guard with a twist quickly followed by another. You'll never know the ending of a James Scott Bell novel until you get there.

A cinema on the pages of a book is the best description for The Whole Truth. Bell's artistry with words will hold you captive till the last page. I give this book a high recommendation.

Reviewed by Ane Mulligan

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Rebeca Seitz's Sisters Ink ~ Reviewed

Sisters Ink
Rebeca Seitz
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: B&H Books (February 1, 2008)
ISBN 10: 0805446907
ISBN 13: 9780805446906

Back Cover:

The first in a series of novels written by, for, and about scrap bookers!

Join the Sinclair sisters – each separately adopted during early childhood into the same loving home –as they encourage each other through highs and lows that include starting their own scrapbooking studio, rekindling romance, and discovering God’s well in their lives.


The back cover states “The first series written by, for, and about scrapbooks.” I have to be honest I first hesitated to read this book steeped in scrapbook knowledge because I’m not addicted to this hobby. On the other hand I do have family members who are, so I reconsidered. I plunged into this story in hopes of learning more about scrapbooking and the people who do this. I’m happy to report I’m glad I did. A few pages into this story I was delighted to find out this book was about so much more than scrapbooking.

This heartwarming story pleasantly surprised me with its humor that got me to smile real big and even laugh out loud several times. Rebeca captures the essence of what goes on between sisters, their love, fun, joy, heart ache and bond. The sisterhood described in this book made me miss the fun and laughter I have with my own sisters.

Tandy Sebatian is single, self-reliant, unattached, successful attorney in a prestigious law firm in Orlando, Florida who is forced to take a leave of absence from her job. Things have heated up on this one case. She is asked get off this case and stay away until things cool off.

Home!! How long has it been? Too long since she was able to be hugged by her sisters and Dad. Home!! Memories of Laughter, good food and scrapbooking. Home!! That sounded so good to her right now. Tandy headed for Stars Hill – which was her childhood home. She hasn’t been there in 10 years. She re-discovers emotional baggage she had forgotten, memories she cherished, people she loved, the relationships she missed with her sisters, and dad.

Tandy also starts thinking “God was easier in Orlando, she could keep him at arm’s length by standing anonymously among thousands of people in a mega sanctuary..” She was used to keeping everyone in her life at arm’s length. It was simple that way; less painful; and messy. It makes it easier to run away from an uncomfortable situation; no strings attached.

This book is definitely fun and it pulls on your heart strings. There’s a few things to learn too. Grab a copy, get to a comfortable chair and give yourself a real treat.

Nora St.Laurent

Book Club Servant Leader

And a Review by: Sandra Dionne Moore

Sisters Ink is book one of a new series featuring four sisters. Introduced to scrapbooking by their adoptive mother, their love for the hobby cements their special bond. Meg, Kendra, Tandy and Joy are very different individuals with unique personalities and, as I'm sure we'll see in the next few books, their own story to tell.

Book one spotlights Tandy, a successful attorney who lives in Orlando. When Tandy, a workaholic, is given a leave of absence from her job, there is no further excuse to keep her from returning to Stars Hill and painful memories. Tandy, daughter of a drug addict mother before being adopted, understands and fears rejection. This becomes the crux of her dilemma when she is faced with a rekindling of affection for the boyfriend who painfully rejected her many years previous. Throw into the mix Tandy's guilt over a long ago promise to her dying adoptive mother. A promise she is sure she has broken . . .

Rebeca crafts a humorous story with wonderful dialogue that captures the essence of each characters particular voice. The story unfolds in a clear and logical way and is well paced. An excellent read and highly recommended!

Lisa Harris' A Recipe For Murder ~ Reviewed

Recipe for Murder
Lisa Harris
Barbour Publishing
January 2008


Pricilla Crumb's guest list has just turned into a suspect list. . .for murder. Pricilla never expected to be involved in a real life mystery, but that's exactly where she finds herself when she joins her son at his hunting lodge in the beautiful Colorado Mountains.

Laced with a spiritual message and a sprinkle of romance, Pricilla Crumb is a cross between PBS's Hyacinth Bucket from Keeping Up Appearances and Jessica Fletcher from Murder She Wrote.

Determined to discover the truth, this unconventional busybody follows one lead after another, dishing up laughter and suspense along the way.

Book One-

The series begins with Recipe for Murder. Pricilla Crumb, a superb cook and articulate hostess, plans an informal buffet for her son, but the dinner party turns to chaos when a guest is found dead after sampling one of her salmon-filled tartlets. Pricilla's determination to save her reputation and find out the truth begins her unofficial career as a novice detective.

My Review:

How can a murder mystery be sweet? If it has Lemon Crumb Cake recipe included, that'll do it. Or if it contains not one but two budding romances that somehow flourish during a cold Colorado hunting season.

Charming characters with plenty of moxie, especially the snoopy cook Pricilla, set out to find the murderer of nasty Mr. Woodruff before said murderer strikes again or scares away all the future lodge business for Nathan, Pricilla's son.

Light on the blood and guts, suspenseful but not so much that a honken chicken club member couldn't read it in broad daylight, Recipe for Murder is as satisfying as a hearty beef stew with Lemon Crumb Cake for dessert.

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Monday, February 04, 2008

Lisa Wingate's Talk of the Town ~ Reviewed

By Lisa Wingate
Published by Bethany House
ISBN# 978-0-7642-0490-6

Back Cover :

Best known for her blockbuster novel “Tending Roses”, Lisa Wingate pens another fresh, charming and playful novel. In Talk of the Town, a high-powered Hollywood professional comes to small-town Texas, and the resulting culture clash makes for an entertaining, laugh-out-loud read.

Her show, American Mega Star, is the hottest thing on television, but associate producer Mandalay Florentino feels doom pushing in. She’s just arrived in the tiny town of Daily, Texas, to arrange a surprise “reunion concert” for hometown finalist Amber Anderson. Only everyone in town seems to know the secret; paparazzi are arriving. And she keeps crossing paths with a gorgeous cowboy who may not be the down-home boy he appears to be.

Soon Mandalay and the citizens of Daily find themselves at the center of a media and tabloid maelstrom…with a young girl’s future on the line.

Can anything to right in this tumbleweed town?


Dailey is a town where road kill damage to your car is exciting news. The tally is kept on the chalkboard at the auto body shop. They are seeing who wins for the year. Many of the towns people are neck and neck.

“A wiggle in the water don’t mean there’s a fish on the hook”; “ I was going to be stranded like a horned toad on a high rock.”; “We’ll fix ye-ew quicker’n ye-ew can say Cooter Brown”; and finally “Curiosity was eating me like a winter cow on spring wheat by the time lunch crowd tapered off.” These sayings and the so-many-more used by the towns folk will make you laugh and stop to think, "I can’t believe they just said that." I wouldn’t ever imagine working these sayings in normal conversation. But when you're from a small town like Dailey, Texas, this is the way you talk.

This story is also about Amber Anderson, Daily hometown girl who gets a chance of a life time to perform on the hit show American Mega Star. She is really pretty good but one mark against her is she sings gospel songs. Everyone likes her but the media. Who thinks she is too good to be true. No one can be that good. They follower her around and begin to print things about her. The people of Dailey, Texas start to wonder if they really know Amber.

Has she changed? Can they trust the pictures they see? Has Hollywood corrupted her?

You’ll discover the behind scenes of the mega hit TV show and it takes to make it a success. There are so many adventures and loveable characters interwoven in the story. Will Amber Anderson be just another casualty of American Megastar, Season Three? Or will the reunion concert to be held in Dailey, Texas change all that? Learn about the life lessons Amanda-lee (T.V. associate producer) discovers that change her life. See through the eyes of a 70 year old bed & breakfast owner Imagene as she discovers life a new. Read this whimsical story to find out the answers to these questions and so much more.

Reviewed by Nora St. Laurent
Leader of LifeWay Book Club

And Book Ends Book Club

And a bonus review:

A story of overcoming the odds with a corral full of laughs, Talk of the Town is delightful to read. The inhabitants of Daily, Texas, are a quirky bunch. From Donetta, the hairdresser who also owns the once-closed-now-open impossible, haunted hotel above her beauty shop to the stuttering dump truck driver, Doyle, a member of the Countertop Club, you'll fall in love with all of them. There's even a bookcase passageway between the coffee shop where Imagene works as a waitress and her best friend's beauty shop.
Told from both Mandalay and Imagen's point of view, Wingate describes it as a fish out of water tale. But it's much, much more. Following the national popularity of American Idol, Wingate has grabbed that idea, tossed in a what-if or two and delivered a rollicking good read.
Imagene is Aunt Bea and Lucy Ricardo rolled into one. Mandalay is caught between saving her job and her conscience, and she battles even herself—forget standing a chance against Imagene and Donetta—especially when they take up match-making.
Flawlessly written, the chapters hop back and forth between Imagene and Mandalay with Wingate never confusing the two voices. I chuckled all the way through. If you love to laugh and love a great story, Talk of the Town is highly recommended.
Reviewed by Ane Mulligan

Friday, February 01, 2008

February 2008 American Christian Fiction Writers Book Releases

1. A Passion Most Pure, Book 1 of the Daughter of Boston Series by Julie Lessman from Baker Publishing Group, Revell. Rival sisters with strong faith--one in God, the other in herself--turn the head of a heart breaker who proposes to one and falls in love with the other.

2. A Whisper of Freedom
, Book 3 in the Chronicles of the Spanish Civil War series by Tricia Goyer from Moody Publishers. In the exciting third book in the Chronicles of The Spanish Civil War series, the characters we've come to love are in greater danger and yet filled with greater hope than ever before.

3. Awaken My Heart
by DiAnn Mills from Avon Inspire. When mestizos kidnap Marianne Phillips, they hope that her wealthy Texas rancher father will trade land for her freedom.

4. Bayou Corruption
, Book #2 in the Bayou Series by Robin Miller writing as Robin Caroll from Steeple Hill, Love Inspired Suspense. Alyssa LeBlanc returns to Louisiana, almost running over a body. She works to expose corruption while racing to "scoop" rival, Jackson Devereaux. When their stories collide, they join forces to expose the truth.

5. Blessings
, #3 in the Sommerfeld Trilogy by Kim Vogel Sawyer from Barbour. Trina Muller has a gift for treating God's lowly creatures, but to pursue her dream of veterinary college means leaving her Old Order Mennonite faith.

6. Day Omega
by Craig Harms from Lighthouse Books. A thriller about the end-times and one man's redemption.

7. Four LIttle Blessings
by Merrillee Whren from Steeple Hill. Four little children bring happiness and love to a most unlikely pair.

8. Homicide at Blue Heron Lake
, Book 1 in Mainely Murder series by Susan Page Davis and Megan Elaine Davis (mother and daughter) from Heartsong Presents: Mysteries. A reporter returns to her home town and rediscovers love—and finds an old neighbor lying dead in his island cottage.

9. Joanna's Adventure
(#3 will later be included in a Barbour 3-in-1 titled Kansas Brides) by Mildred Colvin writing as M.J. Conner from Barbour Books. When Joanna prays for an adventure, Clay returns bringing more excitement, danger, and love than she expected.

10. Murder on the Ol' Bunions
, A LaTisha Barnhart Mystery by S. Dionne Moore from Barbour Publishing, Inc. When LaTisha Barnhart discovers the body of her former employer, her bunions tell her somethings afoot.

11. On Sparrow Hill
, Book 2 of 2 by Maureen Lang from Tyndale House. On Sparrow Hill explores how love and servanthood can change and develop the relationships in our lives.

12. Only Uni
, Book 2 in the Sushi Series by Cami Tang from Zondervan. A flirty biologist vows to turn her life around with three rules from First and Second Corinthians.

13. Picket Fence Promises
, sequel to Front Porch Princess by Kathryn Springer from Steeple Hill Cafe. A second chance with her first love?

14. Promises, Promises
, Book 1 in Delaware Brides by Tiffany Amber Stockton writing as Amber Miller from Barbour/Heartsong Presents. Raelene Strattford believes God has forsaken her, but her neighbor proves just the opposite while giving her a voice in a world where women have none.

15. Return to Baragula
, Book 3 in Baragula series by Mary Hawkins from Ark House Press (Sydney, Australia). For Emily, coming home to the small rural town means she has to overcome present danger as well as face the past to find real forgiveness and a lasting love.

16. Stuck in the Middle
, Book 1 of the Sister-to-sister series by Virginia Smith from Revell. Joan Sanderson's life is stuck -- what she needs is a little help from God, her big sister, and an enormous mutt with bad manners.

17. Sweet Caroline
, 1st in South Caroline lowcountry books by Rachel Hauck from Thomas Nelson. Caroline Sweeney discovers love and destiny at a small, broken down lowcountry Cafe.

18. Sweet Forever
, First in the Indiana Brides series by Ramona K. Cecil from Barbour/Heartsong Presents. A young woman who believes God hates her is befriended by a young minister who doubts his calling.

19. Symphony of Secrets
by Sharon Hinck from Bethany House Publishing. A professional flutist sets out to solve the mystery of her symphony's sabotage, while also keeping the relationship with her teen daughter in tune.

20. The Rogue's Redemption
, #4 in Regency Series by Ruth Axtell Morren from Steeple Hill. A Waterloo hero and London rake meets a Yankee woman of faith who decides to put her faith in him.

21. Truffles by the Sea
by Julie Carobini from Bethany House. Gaby Flores is determined to be "gullible no more!" But can a young woman prone to disaster in both work and love finally find happily ever after?

22. Uncertain Alliance
, book 1 of 3 of Heartsong historical Washington State series by Mary Davis from Heartsong/Barbour. Though circumstances force Alice under Ian's employ, her wounded heart is afraid to trust this gentle man who is wooing her to love him.

23. Vendetta
, Book #2, Snow Canyon Ranch series by Roxanne Rustand from Steeple Hill. The Snow Canyon Ranch series--where sinister family secrets lurk in the majestic Rockies.

Thanks, Jill Eileen Smith

Tracey Bateman's You Had Me at Good-bye ~ Reviewed

You Had Me at Good-bye
By Tracey Bateman
Published by Faith Works, Feb 13, 2008
ISBN-10: 0-446-69894-6


When aspiring editorial diva Dancy Ames finds herself unemployed and unattached, is it time to get her head out of other people’s books and pursue her own storybook ending?

Dance Ames had a plan for the future—one that did not involve handsome Brit Jack Quinn swooping in and stealing her dream job at Lane Publishing. Now unemployed, Dancy must find a new career. Coffee barista? Literary agent? Hmm. Maybe she’ll write a novel, featuring a relentless, job-stealing, caffeine-addicted editor who falls in love with a beautiful coffee barista. She's got time on her hands.... But what will she do when it turns out that Jack is interested in her book—and maybe more?


Bateman is one of the best at her genre. While I can quickly get tired of reading about twenty-something girls looking for love, You Had Me at Good-bye kept me turning pages. Bateman’s humor is right on the money and she adds twists worthy of the best mystery writer. Her fresh plot avoids clichés and I laughed out loud numerous times, garnering glares from my husband who was watching TV. Even if you aren’t a regular chick lit reader, you’ve got to read You Had Me at Good-bye.

Reviewed by Ane Mulligan