Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Jim Stovall's The King's Legacy ~ Reviewed

The Kings’ Legacy
By Jim Stovall
Published by: David C. Cook
ISBN# 978-1-4347-6593-2
156 Pages

Back Cover:

In a land and time far from our own, there was an enchanted kingdom ruled by a benevolent and much-loved king. He had led his people through times of uncertainty and turmoil into a golden age of prosperity and peace

Now nearing the end of his storied reign, the king longs to leave a lasting legacy for future generations. He considers soaring monuments, precious coins bearing his likeness, larger-than-life statues. But then the king's most trusted advisor steps forth with a remarkable idea: To discover the wisdom of the ages, the greatest secret of the known world to benefit the entire human race.

So the king invites citizens from all walks of life and all corners of the realm to share with him the best of their life lessons. Yet as the king encounters a wealth of wisdom from his subjects, he faces a new dilemma, just how to determine the single greatest truth in life. Little does he know that the profound answer will come from the most unexpected and unassuming of places.


Jim Stovall is popular speaker and has written several books. Another book I’ve read by this author was, The Ultimate Gift, it’s an amazingly powerful book that’s been made into a movie – that’s really good; make sure you watch it with tissues handy- it’s a tear jerker.

This book is written in a fairy tale fashion. Each chapter has a picture on the left hand side and the beginning of the chapter on the right. The first sentence of this book starts out, “ONCE UPON a time, there was an enchanted kingdom in a land far, far away….”

The king summons his wise men together and says, “Now that our land is enjoying a season of prosperity and peace, I wish to leave a permanent legacy of my reign as your ruler.” After talking to his wisemen the King realizes that he can’t do this task alone. He starts to seek the wisdom outside his counsel and opens up talks with people from all walks of life.

Each chapter of this book is about the King giving audience to his people from all walks of live, in search for wisdom; the very wisdom that will benefit all people and forever improve the lives of all humanity. Some of the people the King talks to are a merchant, a soldier, a poet, a farmer, a physician, a jester, a teacher, a parent and so on. The book ends with two chapters called ‘The Wisdom of the Ages’ and a special chapter just for you called ‘The Wisdom of You.’

This small book packs a thought provoking punch. It gives you a glimpse of so much wisdom from so many angles. I enjoyed it. It doesn’t take long to read. I think it’s something I’m definitely going to read to my kids.

Reviewed by: Nora St. Laurent – Book Club Servant

Monday, June 29, 2009

Siri Mitchell's Love's Pursuit ~ Reviewed

Love's Pursuit (Paperback)
by Siri Mitchell
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Bethany House; 1 edition (July 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0764204327

Book Description:

In the small Puritan community of Stoneybrooke, Massachusetts, Susannah Phillips stands out both for her character and beauty. She wants only a simple life but soon finds herself pursued by the town's wealthiest bachelor and by a roguish military captain sent to protect them. One is not what he seems and one is more than he seems.

In trying to discover true love's path, Susannah is helped by the most unlikely of allies, a wounded woman who lives invisible and ignored in their town. As the depth, passion, and sacrifice of love is revealed to Susannah, she begins to question the rules and regulations of her childhood faith. In a community where grace is unknown, what price will she pay for embracing love?

Read the first chapter HERE.


This is an uncomfortable read. It is fabulous story telling, and the themes are ones that need to be told. But it is not warm and fuzzy, and nor does it need to be to be told well. Siri Mitchell is an incredible author and her writing is good. She delves into the harder sides of characters lives and deals with stories that need to be told in a manner where many would just walk away from the pain and hardships. The structure took a bit to get used to and for a while was driving me crazy with jumping from one narrator to another with no hints as to which person's thoughts you were hearing as a reader.

However this book is not all prickles and stings, there are the shimmers of light one needs to grab onto to keep on going. One must grab them though and not let them pass on by. In my opinion, this is one of those stories where after reading it, you do not just get up and go back into a loud world, but you sit and contemplate and let what has been experienced soak in.

Love's Pursuit is a perfect title for this book. Through out you assume things to be one way, yet reading the back cover blurb another, and then as plot thickens and other things change you assume another. Yet to me, in reality, the title is meant in a different frame of view entirely. The first half of this book was a bit for me to trudge through, but I am so glad that I did and I do recommend the book. I recommend when you get to parts that you might want to put it down, that you keep on going, because the gift that you are given by accomplishing this read are well worth your effort.

Reviewed by: Margaret Chind

Bonus Review:

One of my all time favorite books is Geraldine Brook's Year of Wonders. Siri Mitchell's Love's Pursuit comes close. Both are tragic and horrifying in their raw honesty. Both are beautiful in description and detail, in character, and in ability to transport the reader to a vastly different time and place.

Mitchell has earned her spot in a short list of authors that I'm guaranteed to want to read regardless of the title or subject matter. And Love's Pursuit is not a book I'd pick up based on the title or the cover. A romance this is not, love story, yes. But as we all know a love story is not guaranteed a clean and happily-ever-after ending. Some reviewers have struggled with the back and forth first person point of view and the slower pace. The novel is literary fiction, meant to be absorbed, and if you expect slow going you will probably have less struggle.

The aspects of faith are woven seamlessly into the struggle of the characters' lives. But be warned that the horror of the hardships and brokenness of some characters could be troublesome for sensitive readers. The details of the Puritan life were fascinating. Mitchell, wielding a brush of vivid and stark prose, creates a story full of abuse, sexuality and violence, and paints the lives of a people attempting to create a new Zion or a city of light on a hill, and falling far short.

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Robin Shope's Wildcard ~ Reviewed

By Robin Shope
Published by: The Wild Rose Press
ISBN# 1-60154-487-1
221 Pages

Back Cover:

What would happen if someone secured a microchip that could be manipulated to give his or her candidate the edge to win the next presidential election? Not enough votes for a landslide, but just enough to put their candidate over the top in a decisive win.

During Ivy Dillion’s last week as a Washington Intern, she and Ms. Geneen Waters, the secretary to the President of the United States, overhear a conversation about voting machines and missing software. Months later Ms. Waters body is found floating in the Potomac River.

FBI Special Agent Ian Serby, who swears he will give his life to protect her, takes Ivy into protective custody. Ian is smart, sexy and seems to have a hidden agenda all his own.


“Ivy, never react to any situation emotionally. I survived all these years because I remained in the shadows and kept my emotions in check. It would behoove you to do the same.” This is advice from FBI Special Agent Ian Serby. .

Ivy starts an investigation of her own. Agent Sherby had told her she couldn’t trust anyone but herself - especially after uncovering information about a microchip used to manipulation election figures. Things get complicated and life threatening -the stakes of getting to the bottom of this situation are high. Ivy quickly realizes she has to stop reacting to things emotionally, like Agent Serby said. She has to think clearly and not feel—this can save her life and that of her loved ones.

When Ivy’s friend; Ms. Geneen Waters turns up dead, realization of how dangerous her predicament is comes to light. She knows she could be blamed for Ms. Geneen’s death; but why?

An agent tells Ivy she could be accused of stealing something from Ms. Waters, this is all so crazy! She tells the agent, “Look here, the only thing she had that I wanted was her love and her kindness…The most important things in life can’t be held in your hand, only in your heart.”

If the scenario in this book ever happened in real life it could rock the world. At the end I began to wonder if we’d already experienced affects of the microchip. Robin pens an endearing, action packed; suspenseful story that will keep you turning pages to find out what happens next. In parts it will make you smile as Ivy learns, who to trust and discovers the really important things in life.

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

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Michael Snyder's Return Policy ~ Reviewed

Return Policy (Paperback)
by Michael Snyder
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Zondervan (June 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0310277280

From the Back Cover:

In his second book, novelist Michael Snyder introduces us to three very unusual and distinct voices all torn by tragedy: Willy Finneran, washed-up genre novelist with an espresso maker that just won’t die and a habit of avoiding conflict even if it means putting the truth on a sliding scale. Ozena Webb, single mother and Javatek’s top customer service representative. She spends every evening playing board games with her twelve-year-old son who is mentally crippled from an early childhood accident. Shaq, a small and scraggy homeless man with trauma-induced blank spots on his memory, trying to piece together the story of his life while assisting Father Joe at the Mercy Mission. As their stories intersect, the narrative vacillates between hope and naivete, comic relief and postmodern ennui. Startling in its authenticity, this unforgettable novel reveals that no matter how far one has strayed from hope, there is always a way to return.


In his second novel Return Policy, novelist Michael Snyder introduces us to three very unusual and relatable characters all dealing with tragedy. Willy Finneran, a washed-up genre novelist, has an espresso maker that just won’t die. When he calls Javatek, the company that makes the espresso maker, he doesn’t realize the needs and wants surrounding it even though he wants it gone. Ozena Webb, single mother and Javatek’s top customer service rep, is the person Willy contacts. The story begins to unfold sucking you in for more in all 4 chapters.

As for Ozena, she spends every evening playing board games with her young son who is mentally disabled from an early unknown childhood accident.

The final character, Shaq, is a small and scraggy homeless man with trauma-induced blank spots on his memory. While assisting Father Joe at the Mercy Mission, he crosses paths with Willy Finneran after an unexpected event caused by Willy while driving.

As the stories of these 3 characters intersect, the narrative deals with hope, naïveté, comic relief & childlike attraction. This unforgettable book reveals that no matter how far one has strayed from hope and faith, there is always a way to return. I believe this story is already a classic even though it has not been out a long time. It reminds me of Forrest Gump meets Fried Green Tomatoes which meets the face of God because I think all three deals with hope, faith and perseverance to be better than we all wanted to be the day before. Forrest Gump did, Idgie Threadgoode did, and God wants to meet us where we are and make us better. Just like Forrest Gump and Fried Green Tomatoes left me wanting for more, Return Policy left me asking for more. The ending was sweet and not too abrupt. I felt like I was finishing reading a good diary or journal of someone, just as the story seemed to begin. I give this book 4 ½ out of 5 stars. Thank you for your humor and southern comfort in the story Mr. Snyder!

Be blessed….

Bradley Evans

Bonus Review:

I was a little hesitant to read Return Policy. I loved Russell Fink and the characters Michael Snyder created so much that I was a little afraid that he couldn't quite do it again.

Return Policy is a very different book. Same unique lad-lit voice, similar deeply flawed and broken characters, same creative and capable wordsmithing, but very different. This time Snyder uses three first person points of view to tell a series of separate stories that end up connecting in a somewhat unbelievable spider web. I saw a few connections unfolding early on, but a couple snuck up on me right before the t's were crossed and the i's dotted.

Snyder's strengths are in excellent characterization. I grew to care about these people and kept reading to find out what would happen to them, hoping they would find good things at the end of the book. Snyder also manages to write almost heartbreakingly poignant scenes that scream with the unfairness of life and the tragedies that seem to wait around the corner ready to pounce on the unsuspecting and innocent. Gifted with a bizarrely charming sense of humor, Snyder laces his prose with quirky thoughts and situations. The spiritual skeleton in Return Policy is buried under the subtle layering of muscle and skin and becomes the frame on which the story is hung. Bottom line, someone not looking for a religious read may not even notice that Jesus has entered the story.

Not everyone who reads Return Policy is going to love it. Fans of action packed page turning novels will likely get frustrated with the introspection and pace of this novel. Those who read only G-rated and scripture laced fiction may have issues with some of the situations, a few words and the fact that there are no conversions in this story. Discussions, yes, but. Toward the end the pace hurried a bit, and the final strings were tied very neatly, maybe a bit too neatly. I didn't have any trouble following the changing POV, the sections and scenes are marked.

Overall, I'm a solid Michael Snyder fan and look forward to his next novel which I hope is in the works.

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Jimmy Gleacher's Silly Little Rich Girl ~ Reviewed

Silly Little Rich Girl
by Jimmy Gleacher
Publisher: Casperian Books LLC
Pub. Date: April 2009
ISBN-13: 9781934081174

Book Description:

Liza Davis is looking for something. Looking for hope, for meaning. For her sister, or her best friend. Maybe she's even looking for herself.

In Silly Little Rich Girl, Jimmy Gleacher introduces a fascinating and contradictory heroine. Privileged, famous, beautiful...Liza seems destined for a successful career on Wall Street until a series of events loosens her grip on reality and sends her on a cross-country quest. From New York to Florida to Seattle, she visits the fringes of the underworld, gets an hour's worth of fifteen minutes of fame, falls in love for the first time, and believes her obsession with finding her sibling is sisterly love.

Liza's journey is a classic road trip with a postmodern spin. Through Liza, Gleacher takes on American popular culture, from the sacred to the profane. Reality television, politicians, and evangelical Christians are just a few of Gleacher's targets in this incisive sophomore novel.


Silly Little Rich Girls is a short, short novel that packs a lot of story. Taut writing and interesting characters take readers for a walk on the wild side with Liza who sets out cross country to find her missing sister and takes her bipolar-pocked mind along for the ride. An ironic look at American culture and obsessions and a fascinating peek into mental illness, Silly Little Rich Girls is satisfying on several levels and horrifying on a few, too. R-rated with a scene of disturbing sexuality and several references to the same scene, and a smattering of F-Bombs, I’d recommend that those looking for uplifting family entertainment look elsewhere. But for those of you who find character studies and mental illness fascinating, Silly Little Rich Girls could be just the summer read you’re looking for.

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Tom Davis's Scared ~ Reviewed

By Tom Davis
Published by: David C. Cook
ISBN# 978-1-5891-9102-0
282 Pages

Back Cover:

Stuart Daniels has hit bottom. Once a celebrated and award-winning photojournalist, he is now reeling from debt, a broken marriage and crippling depression. The source of Stuart’s grief is his most famous photo: a snapshot of brutality in the dangerous Congo. A haunting image that indicts him as a passive witness to gross injustice.

Stuart is given one last chance to redeem his career: a make-or-break assignment covering the AIDS crisis in a small African country. It is here that Stuart meets Adanna, a young orphan fighting for survival in a community ravaged by tragedy and disease.

But in the face of overwhelming odds, Adanna finds hope in a special dream, where she is visited by an illuminated man and given a precious gift.

Now, in a dark place that’s a world away from home, Stuart will once again confront the harsh reality of a suffering people in a forgotten land. And as a chance encounter becomes divine providence, two very different people will find their lives forever changed.


I’ve just finished reading Scared, my eyes are tearing and my throat is tight, I can’t speak. How can I begin to tell you how this book has affected me? What horrific and unbelievable things are happening to people in this day and age? Society has advanced so far with technology, cell phones and big screen TV’s - yet there are people in this world whose only hope is to eat three or four times a week. Unthinkable!

In the early 80’s, my BFF and her husband went in live in Africa as missionaries. I was afraid for her and what diseases she would encounter. During this time the evening news was showing small, half naked children with their belly’s bloated from malnutrition, begging for food as bugs were landing in their eyes and on their nose. My friend told me they had to be really be careful not to brag or talk about the food they had. They also could only travel at certain times a day because they were fearful of getting lynched for food and/or money. Fear was ever present then. My BFF was fearful to have food and careful about who to share it with – I couldn’t get my mind wrapped around any of that.

I received her letters describing living conditions and just couldn’t believe it. It’s the 1980’s and people were living in huts, washing their clothes in the river, had no indoor plumbing, bathrooms and were buying their meat at outside markets! My friend explained how she had to get to the market early because they killed animals in the morning before they took them to be sold. The meat spoiled the longer it sat in the sun. They had no refrigeration and no nets to stop the bugs from landing on the meat as it waited to be sold. It was mind boggling.

After reading Scared, where Tom Davis describes the living conditions in the 2000’s, it’s even more unimaginable and heart wrenching than my friends description to me in the 80’s. Someone describes Africa’s plight to Stuart, a photographer for the New York Times, “Our country is experiencing so much brokenness; church is the only place people can put the broken pieces back together…. Death and disease have broken down everything we have worked so hard to build.”

Another character tells Stuart, “My dream is to educate every man, woman and child in our country about the devastating affect of AIDS. I want them to know how it spreads and how they can survive if they contract it. I want women to have the courage and support to say ‘ no’ to unfaithful husbands. I want to do my part to see the end of HIV’s destructive power in my generation and watch as a new generation rises up to be free.”

Powerful and haunting, Scared – gives you a glimpse of Africa, and the tale of horrific events –many too horrible to describe. The author also tells amazing stories of hope, love and courage. Tom Davis’s, Scared; will leave you praying for Africa and wanting to help them. This is a must read for everyone.

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

Monday, June 22, 2009

Richard Doster's Crossing the Lines ~ Reviewed

Crossing The Lines
By Richard Doster
Published by David C. Cook
ISBN# 978-1-437-9984-5
396 Pages

Back Cover:

Family man Jack Hall wants nothing more than to be respectable newspaper reporter see a good baseball game now and again, love his wife, and watch his son grow up in their middle-class, white community. Then he finds himself on the fault line where black meets whit in the American South of the late 1950’s.

Still reeling from an explosive confrontation that put his family in jeopardy, Jack takes a job with the Atlanta Constitution and moves his family south. He’s thrilled when he’s introduced to legendary editor Ralph McGill, an outspoken opponent of segregation who promptly sends Jack to Montgomery to investigate reports of a bus boycott.

There Jack meets another man on the fault line: Martin Luther King Jr. Profoundly moved by King’s commitment to Christian philosophy, Jack’s writing begins to reflect a need for racial equality and tolerance that isn’t always well received—even by his own wife.

Once again, historic events sweep Jack—and his idealistic son, Chris—into harms’ way. Will this be the collision that destroys his family forever?


Richard Doster pens a heartfelt, powerful, thought provoking book that gives a broad view of when things started to forever change in the South. It was as much of a surprise to Martin Luther King, Jr. as it was to the rest of the world when a group voted him to lead a fight of justice, for all! Martin Luther tells a reporter, “There comes a time when people get tired of being plunged across the abyss of humiliation.”

Martin Luther tries to explain that this movement is not about desegregation - it’s about community. “We want the same things. We might come at it from a different direction; might see things from a slightly different angel, but we both want a place were people thrive, where they’re free, where everybody loves his neighbor.” Jack Hall, reporter for the Atlanta Constitution, doesn’t see this happening in a peaceful way—he’s scared to be part any of this movement—what will his neighbors and friends think?

To Jack, Martin Luther King says, “Justice is love correcting that which revolts against love. …. True peace—the kind the Bible talks about—has got to be more than the absence of hostility. It’s got to be the presence of something good. You can’t have peace until you’ve got justice and goodwill and honest-to-goodness brotherhood,” Jack starts to think about life in a new way after hearing Martin Luther’s speeches and his pastor’s sermons. He thinks God just might want to use him to get Martin Luther’s story out to the world.

Richard Doster has a section in the back of the book called “Fact or Fiction,” In it he describes what is real in the book and what he’s changed to help the story along. I found this helpful since I haven’t done an in-depth study of Martin Luther King Jr. or that time period before. I could never understand the hatred people had back then or why everyone was so angry; even the governor was angry enough to bring out the National Guard to stop ‘Negro’ children from entering a white school after a law had been passed to make this legal. Oh, My!! All that I read was mind boggling.

In the “author notes” page of the book, Richard says, “This is a story about how a contented Southerner grows uncomfortable with his region. It is a book about how attitudes—individual and collective—were changed, not only by events, but by the flesh-and-blood humans who transformed the Old South into the new one.” I loved this story and think it’s an important read. The author doesn’t give an account of detailed history that will put you to sleep. Instead Richard centers the story around Jack Hall and his family dynamic, as well as Jack’s relationship with Martin Luther King Jr.

The author used parts of Martin Luther’s speeches and parts from a book Martin Luther King Jr. wrote called Stride Toward Freedom (published in 1958)—along with several resources he mentions in the back of the book. This is one fascinating well-rounded glimpse into how we got closer as a country- a country moving toward the brotherhood that King envisioned. We have a long way to go, but this book tells how Martin Luther King, Jr. helped us as a nation - take one huge step for man kind, in a direction to help us love our neighbor- the way the bible tells us we can.

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

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Deanne Gist's A Bride in the Bargain~Reviewed

A Bride in the Bargain (Paperback)
by Deeanne Gist
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Bethany House (July 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0764204076


In 1860s Seattle, a man with a wife could secure himself 640 acres of timberland. But because of his wife's untimely death, Joe Denton finds himself about to lose half of his claim. Still in mourning, his best solution is to buy one of those Mercer girls arriving from the East. A woman he'll marry in name but keep around mostly as a cook. Anna Ivey's journey west with Asa Mercer's girls is an escape from the griefs of her past. She's not supposed to be a bride, though, just a cook for the girls. But when they land, she's handed to Joe Denton and the two find themselves in a knotty situation. She refuses to wed him and he's about to lose his land. With only a few months left, can Joe convince this provoking--but beguiling--easterner to be his bride?

Read the first chapter HERE.


On the east coast, then around the horn to the west coast spans the United States shortly after the Civil War. Being a southern girl through and through it was interesting for me to really feel for a character who could not be more devoted to her Union ties. Starting with nothing but loss and a past that is haunted by guilt not earned our heroine learns to get up and go on with life. The matter is she has to open her life to where God leads and not to where she is determined to be. Our hero is set and knows what he wants, but does not necessarily like what he has to do to get it. Until he accepts his fate and realizes that quite possibly God has a better plan that he. A bargain is made and if all goes well there might be a bride, but which one and will it be in time for everything else to be saved?

The preface of the book is set on a historically accurate fact that a man did take it upon himself to go to the east coast to find wives (orphans - not in the children sense you think of, but girls old enough to marry with no family or other options and widows - women who were left alone with either children or not after the Civil War stole them of their husbands) for the men on the west coast. If you've read much historical fiction, you know many men went west for the land, the mining, and this case the lumberjacking as well. The man who was the "entrepreneur" was not an honest man, but he was not evil in the sense of some characters as well. He was just a man who did not always tell the whole truth.

Other than just knowing that the women who were invited to participate in the exodus were from categories such as widows and orphans, there is no real emphasis on the fact or details of the past lives. So there is no dwelling sadness there as one might assume.

In a way, I would very much relate a partial idea of the story to A Bride Most Begrudging. The location is completely different. The characters are completely different. The plot is completely different. But in a similar fashion there is a woman who the last thing on her mind was getting married, who finds out that it might not be up to her with her plans of what she once thought.

How does that sound?

Reviewed by: Margaret Chind

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Noel Hynd's Midnight in Madrid ~ Reviewed

Midnight in Madrid (The Russian Trilogy, Book 2)
by Noel Hynd
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Zondervan (March 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0310278724

Back Cover:

When a mysterious relic is stolen from a Madrid museum, people are dying to discover its secrets. Literally.

U.S. Treasury agent Alexandra LaDuca returns from Conspiracy in Kiev to track down the stolen artwork, a small carving called The Pietà of Malta. It seems to be a simple assignment, but nothing about this job is simple, as the mysteries and legends surrounding the relic become increasingly complex with claims of supernatural power.

As aggressive, relentless, and stubborn as ever, Alex crisscrosses Europe through a web of intrigue, danger, and betrayal, joined by a polished, mysterious new partner. With echoes of classic detective and suspense fiction from The Maltese Falcon to The Da Vinci Code, Midnight in Madrid takes the reader on a nonstop spellbinding chase through a modern world of terrorists, art thieves, and cold-blooded killers.


After a near-death experience, Alex DeLuca takes some much needed vacation time on the beaches of Barcelona. She’s weary of the brutality of FBI work and considering other options, but soon gets pulled back into active duty when her superior sends her to Madrid to investigate art theft. What she expects to be a simple case soon proves otherwise as she makes dangerous enemies and acquires equally perilous and potentially treacherous allies.

Midnight in Madrid explores the intriguing connections between art theft and terrorism, an unusual angle that gives an added dimension to the plot, as does the rich history and culture of Spain.

Like the preceding book in this series, Midnight in Madrid pushes the envelope for Christian fiction in terms of graphic violence and language, so this is not a tale for the easily disturbed. Aside from that, suspense fans will find a satisfying blend of unique characters and complex action.

Reviewed by: Sarah Sawyer

Monday, June 15, 2009

McKay and Gutteridges' Never the Bride ~ Reviewed

Never the Bride
By Cheryl McKay & Rene Gutteridge
Published by: Water Brooke
ISBN# 978-0-307-44498-1
320 Pages

Back Cover:

Since she was just a little girl, Jessie Stone dreamed up hundreds of marriage proposals, doodled the romantic ideas in her journal with her treasured purple pen, and fantasized about wedding dresses and falling in love. She’s been a bridesmaid nearly a dozen times, waved numerous couples off to sunny honeymoons, and shopped in more department stores for half-price fondue pots than she cares to remember.

But shopping for one key component of these countless proposals hasn't been quite as productive–a future husband. The man she thought she would marry cheated on her. The crush she has on her best friend Blake is at very best…well, crushing. And speed dating has only churned out memorable horror stories.

So when God shows up one day, in the flesh, and becomes a walking, talking part of her life, Jessie is skeptical. What will it take to convince her that the Almighty has a better plan than one she’s already cooked up in her journals? Can she turn over her pen and trust someone else to craft a love story beyond her wildest dreams?


“You don’t know me yet, so there is no reason you should care that I’m stuck on a highway with a blowout. But maybe we can relate to each other.” Don’t you just love these first lines of the book? They totally made me want to know what happened next. This story definitely went in a direction I didn’t expect, and I was pleasantly surprised!

This book reminded me of the movie Evan Almighty. Evan realized that strange things were happening in his life. They really got weird when he met God. Then God wanted him to build an ark. Jessie isn’t asked to build an ark but God asks impossible things of her- or so she thinks.

Authors Cheryl and Rene describe the single life and how people are creative about meeting one another. They describe the Valentines rush dating process that is hysterical and sad all at the same time. One friend says,” …you can tell a lot about a guy by what he asks you.” Boy is that so true.

Here’s what Jessie thinks of God, “God has never been in the business of coming to my rescue. Or doing anything for me, for that matter.” So, why should she listen to Him now? It’s probably not Him- she thinks …just the return of her childhood imaginary friend. It could happen. Or she could be going crazy! She was rooting for the imaginary friend.

Jessie argues with God when she says,” Everything I’ve accomplished in my life, I’ve done myself. Me. Alone. Why should I trust you..?”

I loved what she thinks God is saying to her; “You haven’t asked me for help…Of course, you can keep doing things your way. Is that’s working for you.”

I remember this very statement being said to me,” Is what your doing working for you, Nora?” It really stopped me in my tracks. No, it hadn’t been working at all!! I had to surrender my will for His. That’s what God is asking her to do too. Jessie thinks this is the craziest thing on the planet to do..surrender?…never! “I’m a woman. In case you didn’t notice. I don’t have to make sense.” Jessie has all the answers—or so she thinks! Grin!

This story will touch your heart, make you laugh out loud and choke you up and bring happy tears to your eyes. The Lord touched me deeply when I read about Jessie’s struggles in life and how God was trying to get her attention. Oh, Lord if I only listened to you when you told me to do things the first time. The Lord loves us so much if we all could get a hold of that concept the world would be a different place.

God is the ultimate gentleman, patiently waiting for us to run into His arms of Love; where we can feel safe, secure, deeply and utterly loved. I don’t know about you, but I want that. This book reminds me of when I first received God’s love in my heart and realized how much God loves me. It reminded me I’m not alone in the struggle to do what He’s asked me to do….no matter what it is. You’ll want to read this over and over again. This books a keeper.

Reviewed by: Nora St. Laurent
Book Club Servant Leader

Bonus Review:

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Fabulously fun read and eye opening for some introspective. When I first picked up this book I was thinking of the film "27 Dresses" then as I started to read I was thinking of "My Best Friend's Wedding". As far as entertainment this book is up there with those films if not even more enjoyable. What would you do if God started appearing to just you to tell you to let Him write 'your' love story? That is what Jessie has to decide and it is quite the emotional adventure watching what she will end up doing and how her life may turn out.

I read this book in a day, with my five week old daughter's interruptions. I just had to continuously pick the book back up and keep reading to find out what would happen next. It is just that good! And oh what a romance! And comedy *grin*. There is such a fight to make your own path in life and fight the direction that God gives us. This is a novel about learning to let Him guide us and how His plans will make us happy if we will just let Him participate in the planning.

Finishing this novel, I cannot help but grin and giggle to myself. This is my first experience with Rene Gutteridge and Cheryl McKay, yet definitely not my last!

Reviewed by: Margaret Chind

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Allison Bottke's You Make Me Feel Like Dancing ~ Reviewed

You Make Me Feel Like Dancing
By Allison Bottke
Published By: David C. Cook
ISBN# 978-1-4347-9949-4
440 Pages

Back Cover:

Successful fifty-something, Susan Anderson owns and operates a hip hair salon on the Las Vegas strip, decorated with her collection of disco memorabilia accumulated decades ago when she was one of the beautiful people on New York's disco scene.

Now happily married, Susan is known for her business savvy, her fabulous vintage ensembles, her faith, her big heart - and the impromptu disco dance numbers salon staff and clients join in when the spirit moves. If life is a dance, Susan's mastered all the loves.

But an exciting business opportunity and her husband's impending retirement rock her world, shaking Susan's foundation and revealing regrets and painful memories she thought she'd dealt with. Will Susan be able to face her past, reinvent her marriage, build her dream... and keep on dancing?


Allison does a great job of bringing you into the Disco era and just about everything the seventies had to offer. Her characters are believable and through them, Allison delves into friendships, marriage relationships and what true love is. This book is fun to read, funny and it surprisingly touched my heart deeply.

Someone describes Susan’s salon as this, “Disco Diva isn’t just about hair. It’s a feeling you get while you’re there—a feeling that you matter, that people care, that along with being pampered, you’re loved, truly loved. By you, Susan and by God. It’s an anointed place, your unique little haven off the strip, and that’s because you’re living your purpose and your passion.” I really liked how Allison explores what “living your purpose and passion means.

Susan says to a client, “God has made you for a reason, and He brought you here for a reason—to Las Vegas and to Disco Diva. I believe there are no accidents or coincidences—only what I call “God-cidences.” So whatever happened to your hair under that big ol’ hat is not the end of the world. It just might be the start of something new—something great!”

I just loved what Lily, Susan’s close friend says this about life, “Things are never black and white. Life usually takes place in the gray areas—at least the life worth living. It’s not about being right or wrong, who’s at fault and who isn’t. It’s about compromise and commitment. It’s about fixing the broken things instead of throwing them away.” God is here to heal the broken hearted not throw them away. I’ll Amen that!! These are just some of the jewels you’ll find inside this book.

Allison has a way of taking you into the world she’s created, let you have fun and learn a little something too. It’s a gift. This is the first book in the Boomer Babes series. I can’t wait to read the rest.

Reviewed by: Nora St. Laurent
Book Club Servant Leader

Nora StLaurent -Book Club Servant Leader
ACFW Book Club Assistant
Christian Fiction On-line Mag - Columnist

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Travis Thrasher's Ghostwriter ~ Reviewed

Ghostwriter: A Novel
by Travis Thrasher
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: FaithWords; 1 edition (May 28, 2009)
Language: English

ISBN-10: 0446505587


For years Dennis Shore has thrilled readers with his spooky bestselling novels. Now a widower, Dennis is finally alone in his house, his daughter attending college out of state. When he's stricken by a paralyzing case of writer's block and a looming deadline, Dennis becomes desperate. Against better judgment, he claims someone else's writing as his own, accepting undeserved accolades for the stolen work. He thinks he's gotten away with it . . . until he's greeted by a young man named Cillian Reed--the true author of the stolen manuscript.

What begins as a minor case of harassment quickly spirals out of control. As Cillian's threats escalate, Dennis finds himself on the brink of losing his career, his sanity, and even his life. The horror he's spent years writing about has arrived on his doorstep, and Dennis has nowhere to run.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Ghostwriter, go


I’m a chicken. The only Stephen King I’ve read is his book on writing and a few short stories. There is a reason for this…nightmares.

As an innocent 8th grader I was forever scarred by Poe. The Tell-Tale Heart horrified me and The Black Cat changed my life. Back before "stepping" for aerobic health was introduced as the new big thing, I had mastered the exercise.

My heart began pounding the second I opened the basement door and I could run up twenty backless steps in a matter of seconds.

That said, ghost/horror stories make for apprehensive reading. So you might wonder why I’d choose a book to read and review from the horror genre.

Because the story intrigued me.

I would recommend that ubersensitive souls stay far away. Not only are there supernatural elements and haunting, there are grisly details best not read before bedtime. The story of a man at the edge of losing his
sanity is fascinating and I felt a pull toward Dennis and the sorrow
and the hopelessness that crippled him.

Thrasher writes a solid story and creates three-dimensional characters. The spiritual elements of the story infused hope into the situation of a man who’d all but lost everything he’d ever held dear which makes the horror somehow redeemed

I may not add a lot of horror to my literary diet but Ghostwriter is a book that I can recommend Ghostwriter to those who love a side-dish of terror every once in awhile.

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Friday, June 05, 2009

Mike Dellosso's Scream ~ Reviewed

Scream (Paperback)
by Mike Dellosso
Paperback: 303 pages
Publisher: Realms (March 3, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1599794691

About the Book:

Otherworldly Screams...
A Madman on the Loose...
This Time the Stakes Are Higher Than Ever

While talking to his friend on the phone, Mark Stone is startled by a cacophony of otherworldly screams. Seconds later, a tragic accident claims his friend's life. When this happens several more times--screams followed by an untimely death--he is compelled to act.

Battling his failure as a husband and struggling with his own damaged faith, Mark embarks on a mission to find the meaning behind the screams and hopefully stop death from calling on its next victim. When his estranged wife is kidnapped and he again hears the screams as she calls from her cell phone, his search becomes much more personal and much more urgent.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Scream, go


In his sophomore novel, Mike Dellosso has created an intriguing, spiritually rich story involving rips in the fabric between Hell and earth. Mark Stone, a man with a broken marriage and a cynical outlook on all things religious, hears an otherworldly scream one night while talking to his friend. Moments later that friend is dead. After a couple more random conversations where he hears the same horrific squeals he puts the details together and contacts a minister who explains the likely scenario.

The creepy and multi-layered plot involves a serial killer, whom I correctly guessed a third of the way in, and the abduction and captivity of women. Along with the Hellish screaming this makes the plot a bit intense. Dog lovers may want to use a bit of caution as there are some disturbing dog moments. Chickens and dog lovers take note of the warning, and those who are offended by Jesus and the discussion of where one goes after death may find offensive material as well.

Well-written and solidly spooky story that may satisfy thriller lovers. The Christian thread is woven throughout and may be just what you're looking for if you want a strong Christian message with some thrills and chills.

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

River Jordan's Saints in Limbo ~ Reviewed

Saints in Limbo (Paperback)
by River Jordan
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press (May 5, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0307446700

Book Description:

Ever since her husband died, Velma True hasn't ventured beyond her own front porch. But then a mysterious stranger appears, presenting her with a special gift---the ability to step back into her memories where Joe still lives. As secrets old and new come to light, will Velma move away from her fears and toward freedom?


A literary fiction with a unique storyline, Saints in Limbo is a lazy, beneath-the-wisteria read. Slow and smooth, Saints mixes generations, loss, crushed dreams, brokenness and a swirl of hope in a literary cocktail that surprises and satisfies.

Three-dimensional characters, a touch of whimsy, heavy melancholy, and a surreal adventure with a magical and spiritual undertone make for a lazy summer read. This is my first River Jordan novel and it will not be my last.

The omniscient point of view is not my favorite but it was easier to overlook as I was drawn into the story.

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Lisa T. Bergren's Breathe ~ Reviewed

By Lisa T. Bergren
Published by David C. Cook
400 Pages

Back Cover: To make a new life, she’ll have to learn how to breathe again…

By the time Dominic and Moira St. Clair get their ailing sister, Odessa, to Colorado Springs in the winter of 1883, she is nearly dead. Odessa has been seriously ailing for the past year from consumption, an illness that claimed the lives of four of her younger brothers, prompting her father to send his only surviving children west to chase the cure.

Several days after her arrival, Odessa witnesses what she fears is the murder of miner Sam O’Toole, friend and neighbor to the charming Bryce McAllan. What’s more, Sam leaves her a poem containing clues that seem to direct her to his mine, which is purported to carry a fantastic vein of silver. But if she is ever to rise from her bed again, she must first concentrate on conquering the giant that threatens her-consumption. Indeed, she must learn to breathe again-daring to embrace her life, her future, and hope in her God.

Read the first chapter


I was drawn to the characters and this time period from the very first sentence. “Odessa tried to shove back the wave of fear as the slow suffocation began.” I found myself aware of my own breathing as I read how Odessa struggle with hers. I was amazed at the fight she had in her to battled with a disease that had wiped out most of her family.

Lisa does a great job of making you quickly care for the St. Clare family. Dominic St. Clare, Odessa’s brother and Moira St. Clare, Odessa’s sister are the only siblings left in their family. The St. Clare’s father has sent them away from their home for the sole purpose of bringing their ailing sister, Odessa, to the sanitarium in Colorado Springs to be cured of the disease consumption. They are all willing to do whatever it takes to fight the curse brought to attack their family.

Odessa says this to another patient and then asks a question, “… When one recognizes death, she certainly also knows life better as well….Is this a part of finding out what it means to live, to breathe? Can I find this tiny glimmer of hope and hold on to it?”

Moira St. Clair has a bent toward theatre/stage, she says; “It’s difficult at times, being a woman. She wished she had the freedoms that men held so easily in their hands or simply the freedom to decide when and where she would spend her days. How was it that she had to now report to not one, but three men in her life? Her brother. Her beau. Her director.”

Author Lisa Bergren takes you to the 1880’s in a very real way. Through the pages of this book she reveals a time when the country was growing in the wild, wild, west. It was an eye opener to read how towns were run and how they tried to cure people back then. We’ve come a long way baby.

Lisa has given me a whole new perspective on a valued gift I often times take for granted. The gift of being able to breathe in deeply and fill my lungs with precious clean air, I also have a new view of just breathing in a beautiful landscape God has created. I really enjoyed this story and look forward to the other two stories in this series. Sing, is out in the summer of 2010, and continues the story of the St. Clair family. I can’t wait.

Reviewed by:
Nora St.Laurent
Book Club Servant Leader

Bonus Review:

Breathe exhales drama, adventure and the lives of three siblings as their locations and situations rise and fall within the tight four-hundred pages. A silver mine mystery, a tense, suspenseful chase, spiritual changes and growth, occupation and location changes, love and life-threatening situations abound in this page-turner.

Lisa Bergren writes a solid story and multi-dimensional characters. The scenery she paints is vivid and nearly breathtaking. History and the details of the cure for consumption in Colorado Springs are fascinating. This is the beginning of a series and it is sure to be loaded as the unfinished tales are rich for the mining.

Fans of family sagas and historicals set in the wilds of Colorado need to check this novel out.

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Monday, June 01, 2009

ACFW Book Releases for June 2009

1. A Case of the Heart byBeth Shriver from The Wild Rose Press. An overzealous social worker develops a relationship with a cop while they keep her client safe from involvement in a drug ring.
2. A Dream to Call My Own, Brides of Gallatin County Book 3 , by Tracie Peterson from from Bethany House Publishers. Love and adventure still hearts in the rugged Montana frontier, while a killer threatens the peace and happiness of an entire community.
3. A Soldier’s Reunion,by Cheryl Wyatt from Steeple Hill Love Inspired. A reunion romance between a U.S. Air Force Pararescue Jumper (PJ) and a pediatrician and first love from his past who fears their careers will push them apart again.
4. A Family for Tory/A Mother for Cindy by Margaret Daley from Steeple Hill Love Inspired Classics. Two stories that illustrate what happens when children decide to matchmake and bring two people together.
5. Above all Things, by Deborah Raney from Steeple Hill. Evette must decide if she can be a mother to her husband's 6-year-old mixed race child. A baby neither of them knew existed until a fateful phone call.
6. Child Finder, by Mike Angley from TotalRecall Publications, Inc. An Air Force Special Agent discovers he has a psychic gift that enables him to find missing children, but the government's exploitation of his skills leads to murder!
7. Critical Care, Mercy Hospital Series Book #1 by Candace Calvert from Zondervan. When a nurse initiates disaster counseling, the process re-opens her own emotional wounds--as God prepares her heart for a love that was nowhere in her plans.

8. His Forever Love, by Missy Tippins from Steeple Hill Love Inspired. Can former high school buddies find love while fighting over "custody" of his grandmother?
9. Love Finds You in Revenge, Ohio, by Lisa Harris from Summerside Press. Morgan finds herself torn between saving her sister's heart and losing hers to the man who jilted her seven years ago.
10. Love Finds You in Treasure Island, Florida , by Debby Mayne from Summerside Press. The attraction between Amanda and Jerry is overshadowed by their sense of responsibility.
11. Love’s Pursuit, by Siri Mitchel from Bethany House Publishers. Susannah Phillips obeys the rules. But when love interferes, she faces a choice: Follow the rules or follow her heart.
12. Nosey in Nebraska, by Mary Connealy from Barbour Publishing. Murder, Romance, Comedy and a really big mouse.

13. Snow Melts in Spring Seasons of the Tallgrass Series by Deborah Vogts from Zondervan Publishing. Mattie Evans, a young veterinarian in rural Kansas saves a horse inured in a terrible accident but finds herself tending the wounded relationship between a prodigal son and his ailing father.
14. Sunset Beach, The Beach House Series by Trish Perry from Harvest House Publishers. Sonny Miller invites her mother and estranged aunt to a week at the beach, not telling one about the other; but they bring a few surprises of their own.
15. The Night Watchman, The Ray Quinn Series Book One by Mark Mynheir from Multnomah/Waterbrook. When the case of a lifetime is thrust upon him, retried homicide detective Ray Quinn must decide rather he’ll succumb to his depression and pain or use the God-given gifts he still has left to catch a killer. Crawling from the wreckage of his former life, Ray struggles to find healing and purpose as he tracks a madman.
16. Witness to Murder by Jill Elizabeth Nelson from Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense. When a TV reporter witnesses a murder--she thinks--only unearthing the sinister secrets of her painful past can save her from becoming the next victim.

Bonnie Groves' Talking to the Dead ~ Reviewed

Talking to the Dead
By Bonnie Groves
Published by David C. Cook
ISBN# 978-143476410
384 Pages

Back Cover:

Twenty something Kate Davis can’t seem to get this grieving-widow thing down. She’s supposed to put on a brave face and get on with her life, right? Instead she’s camped out on her living-room floor, unwashed, unkempt, and unable to sleep—Is she losing her mind?

Kate’s attempts to find the source of the voice she hears are both humorous and humiliating, as she turns first to an “eclectically spiritual” counselor, then to a shrink with a bad toupee, a mean-spirited exorcist, and finally group therapy. There she meets Jack, the warm hearted, unconventional pastor of a ramshackle church, and at last the voice subsides. But when she stumbles upon a secret Kevin was keeping, Kate’s fragile hold on the present threatens to implode under the weight of the past …and Kevin begins to shout.

Will the voice ever stop? Kate must confront her grief to find the grace to go on in this tender, quirky story about second chances.


Kevin and Kate were high school sweethearts dreaming of a future together. Life was great until Kate watches their dream die unexpectedly with Kevin. He’s too young to die. Kate struggles to grasp her new reality. She is hearing Kevin talk to her. How could she move on with him so near? Why couldn’t she shake this feeling? She soon realizes she needs help. Is there anyone that could really help her?

I felt for Kate as she was willing to try anything to feel normal again. Part of getting her life back on track was getting her finances in order. In the process, of getting organized she uncovers something so disturbing she can’t breathe. Who was this man she’d been married to for five years? This couldn’t be happening to her, not now.

Kate reflects “…my heart was still a box of shattered glass. And I had serious doubts that God could put it back together. Or would care to. At least the God I saw reflected in The Reverend. His was an angry God. A black and white, right and wrong sort of God…A God who’d condemned me with his ‘high beams of holiness’.” Kate was struggling in every area of her life. Who could she turn to? Who could possibly understand?

Talking to the Dead is not something I’d normally read. The cover and the title were spooky to me, but I plunged into reading this book anyway. What a great surprise I found inside; a brilliantly refreshing story of hope, healing and second chances. The author takes you on an unexpected journey so intriguing and different you can’t stop reading. Trust me you don’t want to miss this adventure. After reading this you’ll definitely be looking forward to what Bonnie Groves writes next.

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

Bonus Review:

One of my favorite discoveries is a great book. Sometimes a great book makes me laugh, sometimes it makes me cry, sometimes it makes me jealous because of the wordsmithery of the author, and sometimes it penetrates my mind and makes me think and rethink.

When I open the cover of a book I'm not sure what I'm going to find. A rare book will grab me from the first sentence and hang onto me through to the end. But occasionally the first paragraph or even the first chapter will fool me into thinking I've got a great book, but sometimes the great fizzles into mediocre or even just entertaining. Those novels always leave me disappointed and sad over the lost potential.

I am shocked that Talking to the Dead is Bonnie Grove's first novel. From the moment I began reading, I was in the story, compelled to learn the details of Kate's spiral into the depths of grief and her attempts to claw her way out of her pain. Grove writes with a sensitivity and depth that is rare. Her background in psychology and her spiritual experiences gave a richness to this novel that is both fascinating and hopeful. Grove's lyrical voice, her humor, her descriptions added layers of reality to Kate and her friends and family.

My only complaint was that I didn't feel clarity and closure within a few of Kate's relationships. But that leaves room for a follow-up novel and I'd be very okay with that.

Upon closing the book after the last words I was able to sigh wistfully, the ultimate book experience.

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer