Wednesday, June 30, 2010
HURRICANES IN PARADISE
By Denise Hildreth
Published by Tyndale
Since starting her new job at a Paradise Island resort, Riley Sinclair feels the pieces of her life finally coming together---until she discovers that some guests arrive with their own demons, fears, and secrets. With a hurricane headed straight for the island, will Riley and three women find healing---and friendship---through the storm?
I was thankful to receive a review copy of this fun, honest, and inspiring book. The story reminded me a little of the TV Shows “Love Boat” and “Hotel”. Each week they’d introduce new characters and their dilemmas. Everyone tried to have fun because they were on vacation. But life doesn’t stop happening just because we’re on holiday!
Denise introduces four very different, interesting, quirky characters that would never have talked to each other under normal circumstances. But, rules are different when you’re on holiday. Time is of the essence, you may never see these people again.
Denise’s main character is Riley Sinclair, a single mom and head of guest relations at the hotel, working hard at her new job. Tamyra, is a beauty queen just finishing up her tour; hiding out from everyone and holding a secret close to her heart. Winnie Harris, Sam’s widow of three years- is stuck in the past with Sam and is afraid to live. Then there’s Laine Fulton, an author on a trip to get ideas for her new novel. She hates to eat alone and invites all of these ladies to dine with her, as she takes notes of their conversations. All of these ladies were in survival mode for one reason or another and life begins to get a little crazy as they all prepare for a Hurricane heading their way.
I loved what Denise said about these women and their struggle. “These women face real-life struggles. Real-life heartache that many of us face every day…this is a story about learning to live. My hope is that as you close the pages, you will be more aware of what real living is all about, more aware that inside your soul is the ability to survive even the toughest storms.”
I couldn’t agree with her more. Denise’s book touched my heart and soul. I enjoyed these ladies, I laughed, I was surprised at what these women shared and my spirit was moved as these characters faced their fears. You can tell this author has faced some fears of her own. Finding Hope Book Club is reading this novel—I can’t wait to hear what this group has to say about Hurricanes In Paradise. It’s more than a great summer read. These ladies and their story's will stir your soul!
Reviewed by: Nora St. Laurent
Four different women, each in a different painful storm, are brought together seemingly randomly to a Bahamian resort where the waters bring healing according to the man who greets each of the three visiting women. The fourth woman, Riley, is the resort manager who is assigned to make sure that all is well with the visitors.
As the women interact their stories come out in often colorful and sometimes inappropriate ways. The issues dealt with are heavy ones for Christian fiction -- Illness, grief, divorce and alcoholism with the main theme being the acceptance of grace and shedding of shame.
This novel is a little heavy for prairie Christian fiction lovers and might be for those looking for a light beach read. If you are looking for a cast of characters struggling through heavy life situations and almost too discouraged to hope for a little bit of mercy or grace, then this novel is for you.
Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Under a Maui Moon
By Robin Jones Gunn
Published by Howard Books,
Carissa doesn't know who she is anymore. She and her husband, Richard, are recent empty esters; Richard is spending more and more time at work counseling his volatile clients and less time at home with his wife; his clients are starting to show up at the house at night, causing Carissa to feel scared in her own home; and to top is all off, Carissa's boss informs her that she's been let go. She wonders where God is in all of this since He doesn't seem to be around to protect her—and she's already stopped trusting her husband.
On the midst of her world tilting off center, she's offered time at a hideaway on Maui. Hiding seems like the best way to respond to life's overload and the thought of being alone sounds like just the right balm to soothe her wounded heart.
The languid Hawaiian sun, white beaches, and warmhearted people bring respite, but meeting handsome Kai causes Carissa to toy with the idea of being romantically involved with him. Then, under a Maui mood, she looks to God for guidance and hope for the future. That's when she discovers His hand still is on her life, and that love is closer than she ever realized.
Under a Maui Moon is like taking a mini vacation as Robin Jones Gunn sweeps you away to the islands of Hawaii. A master of ambiance, Gunn allowed me to smell the ocean, hear its roar, and feel the tropics as I read. Following Carissa poignant journey, as she examines her marriage and life, makes Under a Maui Moon a read that women of all ages will enjoy. It's a good reminder that God, even when He seems far away, is on time and on hand. Novel Journey and I recommend Under a Maui Moon, especially if you need a vacation and can't go away.
Editor, Novel Journey
Monday, June 28, 2010
Enemies Among Us: A Novel
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Fidelis; 1 edition (March 1, 2010)
Matt Hogan loves being an undercover FBI agent almost as much as he loves his wife, Caitlin. But when the daring-some would say reckless-G-Man totals two vehicles in his Beverly Hills pursuit of a fleeing Arab drug runner, he incurs the wrath of the Bureau's hierarchy. To avoid almost-certain suspension, he accepts a new assignment to track terrorist cell groups while posing as a volunteer at World Angel Clinic, a Christian ministry reaching out to injured Third World children. What Matt doesn't know is that the ripples of danger from this case will threaten not only his and Caitlin's life and happiness, but also the safety and security of the entire nation.
Love great action, a genuine hero and some nasty bad guys? Searching for an authentic, fascinating and thought provoking novel? Don't assume you can't have both as Bob Hamer's debut novel, Enemies Among Us, proves without question. Combine Robert Liparulo's dangerous escapades, Randy Singer's intrigue and Oliver North's credibility and there you will find Bob Hamer. This former marine and FBI agent turned writer, engages the reader from the first page, journeying with his character Matt Hogan, into the formidable and often precarious world of an undercover agent. Adventurous and often reckless, Matt Hogan is also a devoted husband and compassionate man, reflecting reality rather than Hollywood fantasy. Matt wrestles with the impact of his wife's faith upon his work and his own rejection of God in a manner that is refreshingly realistic. Bob skilfully provides a glimpse into the FBI including the mundane nature of paperwork, the cumbersome machinations of bureaucracy and sometimes dangerously ineffective personnel while maintaining interest in the story. If you enjoy a good dose of reality served up with your thriller, don't miss Enemies Among Us. With the door left wide open for a sequel, I can't wait to read more of what Bob has to offer.
Reviewed by: Rel Mollet
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Life in Defiance: A Novel (Defiance Texas Trilogy)
Mary E. DeMuth
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Zondervan (May 7, 2010)
In a town she personifies, Ouisie Pepper wrestles with her own defiance. Desperate to become the wife and mother her husband Hap demands, Ouisie pours over a simple book about womanhood, constantly falling short, but determined to improve. Through all that self-improvement, Ouisie carries a terrible secret: she knows who killed Daisy Chance. As her children inch closer to uncovering the killer's identity and Hap's rages roar louder and become increasingly violent, Ouisie has to make a decision. Will she protect her children by telling her secret? Or will Hap's violence silence them all? Set on the backdrop of Defiance, Texas, Ouisie's journey typifies the choices we all face---whether to tell the truth about secrets and fight for the truth or bury them forever and live with the violent consequences.
“…God is the one who carves us, Ouisie. He chips away at all that rock until we’re better. More whole.” (p. 202)
Ouisie Pepper is a character who has had a life carved into a million jagged pieces by the brutality of her husband’s malice. She clings to the hope that God is real, that He cares for her, and that He has promised to bring resurrection to her broken
heart, her broken marriage, and her empty existence. In the final book of the Defiance Texas Trilogy, Life in Defiance, Mary DeMuth explores the depths of the Pepper family’s dysfunction through the eyes of Ouisie. DeMuth comes full circle as she rounds out this series, because it was Daisy Chain that first introduced
us to the Pepper family’s problems through the eyes of their son Jed. Then, in A Slow Burn, Ouisie was one of the tools God used to reach out to redeem Emory, and it gave us a further glimpse into the horror of Ouisie’s day-to-day existence.
And now, as we enter into Life in Defiance, Ouisie is embroiled in both a physical and spiritual battle to survive and thrive. Whether or not she will do either is a topic that will bludgeon your heart from first page to last.
First of all, I have to begin by saying that Ouisie has a tremendous amount of endurance sewn into her character. She understands something about grace and forgiveness that seems hard to me even now. Befriending a woman who had an affair with your husband already reaches beyond what I picture myself capable of accomplishing, but staying with Hap Pepper as long as she did…well, I just think I would have killed him a long time ago. I have never in my life so thoroughly despised a fictional character like I do Hap Pepper. Ouisie’s guilt over the fact that somehow the abuse she suffers is something she brings upon herself almost becomes a character in itself, and serves as the catalyst for her “How to be a Godly Wife” bible study.(Sheba, the author, is another character I completely despised by the way!) It is amazing and sadly true that many folks have learned to use God’s Word as a battering ram to drive people into some very hellish and ungodly places.
I’m getting off track here. Bottom line, Ouisie is desperately struggling to find peace and wholeness – two things she has hasn’t known in her life since her father died when she was seven. Her children try to love her, and they do reach out to her with far greater wisdom than many adults. However, the vile presence of Hap rips every single shred of hope from their lives. God then does what He always does for his children – He brings help and hope from very unlikely sources to reach out, to teach, to help and to heal. This process is neither pretty nor painless. It’s actually very brutal and ugly. Yet God is indeed in the midst of it all, and grace is exhibited - both given and received – in a very real way.
Folks, please listen. Both substance abuse and physical abuse are real weapons of a very deadly enemy. But God is greater than all of that pain and imprisonment. I have seen lives transformed and changed over and over again – delivered from these hellish taskmasters. Life in Defiance is Ouisie’s story, but it is also the struggle of every man, woman and child who must come to the throne of grace - broken, dirty, unworthy, and totally helpless to help themselves. God’s love reaches Ouisie and her family. His grace is sufficient in every single circumstance of our life. Always.
Reviewed by: Kim Ford
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Paperback: 281 pages
Publisher: Realms; 1 edition (May 4, 2010)
After losing his wife and son, Jimmy, Rob Shields heads to Mayfield, Maryland, to live in a house he inherited. Eerie things begin to happen, including a dream where he sees Jimmy in a place called Darlington. Is his son alive? Can he possibly find him---in a town that doesn't appear on any map?
“There was no light in Darlington. Maybe there was at one time, but that time had long passed. Darkness ruled here now. All kinds of darkness.” p 63
Rob Shields is a man who has suffered great loss. His wife and child were ripped from his life, and now, hope against hope, it seems his son has found a way to call to him from that dark place to which he has vanished. Desperate to find and rescue his son, Rob sets out upon a journey – a journey to leave this life and join his wife and child. What Rob could never have imagined is that he would find himself amid a town and a people that were ruled by a horror and loss far greater than his own. When he meets a dark-eyed stranger in the local restaurant, Rob finds his spirit called to a place he’s never heard of before - Darlington.
Providence introduces Rob to someone else in the local diner, someone who knows about Darlington and someone who has been directed by God to intercede for Rob. Juli is a young waitress at the diner, and she exudes a peace and grace that immediately appeals to Rob. She also harbors an unnatural dislike for the stranger with the dark eyes. When Rob decides to go to Darlington, no matter the cost, no matter the danger, Juli is right there by his side. Neither of them are certain why they must face the coming battle together, but as they journey into the ever darkening woods of Darlington, it becomes abundantly clear that they are searching for the Light that dispels all darkness. As Juli intercedes, Rob must fight for his life as never before. Will either of them survive?
Approaching this book, knowing it was written during Mike Delloso’s battle with cancer, set my mind upon an analogous journey. Each sentence seemed to take on a double meaning, and the more I read, the more I felt like I was living inside the author’s heart and mind as he battled for his life throughout cancer surgery and treatment. Perhaps that was intended. Perhaps it was simply the outcome of his emotional and physical trauma that year. Whatever the reason…Darlington Woods was an unforgettable, terrifying ride into the darkest places of the human heart and mind…the place where fear lives.
The twists and turns of this story take the reader on a heart-pounding ride through the dark woods of Darlington. It feels kind of like a cross between walking through a house of horror during the Fall Festival and watching a very scary movie. I’m just very glad I didn’t read it at night or at bedtime! I wouldn’t suggest doing so either! Mike Delloso delivers a powerful message though a fast-paced, very scary story, and it will resonate in the hearts of everyone who has faced their darkest fears and lived to tell the tale.
Reviewed by: Kim Ford
I don’t normally read scary books like this one because I’m a chicken at heart! This book is ACFW’S Book Club pick for February 2011. I’m in the ACFW book club and leading the discussion so I’m committed to reading this book. I’m thankful for the review copy of this book from the author.
I’m so glad I read the author notes before I started reading the first chapter of this book. It gave me a glimpse into the author’s heart when he said, “Let’s talk about monsters, shall we? Let’s just sit-down and spend a little time in conversation about things that go bump in the night and images that haunt us while we sleep peacefully in our beds…I believe in monsters. I’ve seen them, even battled them. And no, I assure you, I’m not crazy.
The monsters of which I speak are around us every day and come in varying forms. They are called cancer…Parkinson’s juvenile arthritis. Monsters’ called abuse, murder and neglect…the web they spin, the wounds they carve, the hatchet they swing all go by the same name: fear.
Mikes words drew me in and gave me a clue that I was about to read something heartfelt, unnerving, and unusual about fear and what it looks like? I was right, here’s what Rob says, “When fear rules you, when it calls the shots, tells you what you can and can not do, when it paralyzes you for days on end and robs you of the freedom others enjoy so carelessly; that’s crazy.”
Mike wrote in several points of view which made the story move along. The pov’s were Rob, Julie, Mary Jane, Jimmy and Waxman. This helped to create quite a suspenseful, creepy tale of how fear got a strong hold of the minds, emotions and lives of a whole town. Switching pov’s helped me be able to read this scary story. I have to say that had this author stayed in Jimmy’s point of view the whole book I wouldn’t have made it past chapter one. It would have just been too creepy and horrific to read a whole book through little Jimmy’s eyes.
Rob Shields is a man on the edge. His wife was murdered three months ago and his son Jimmy is missing. Rob is convinced that his son is in the town of Darlington. Rob starts to question his own sanity as he struggles with knowing the difference between nightmares and real life. It’s getting hard for him to know when the nightmare stops and reality begins.
Rob stops at a restaurant and asks for directions to Darlington; people get fearful and nobody wants to talk. Then a mysterious man leaves a note with directions on Rob's table. Julie, his waitress, says she’d like to help him find his son. This seemed odd, but everything about this town and adventure was odd. I did enjoy Julie’s character and the comic relief she provided with lines like this, “This is a problem I don’t think duct tape could solve.”
Mike’s wit, compassion and effective story-telling through the many different points of view and how they all wrestled with fear was intriguing given the fact this author went face to face with the cancer monster while writing this book. I enjoyed the twists, turns, suspense and the “aha” moments when truth was brought to life in the middle of the darkness. I rooted for Rob and Juli as they fought fear and looked it in the face, and saw there was hope of breaking the chains of fear and living free of its grip. God is always with us. When we shine our light inside the darkness (fear), that darkness has to leave. It’s not welcome anymore. I really enjoy this aspect of the story. It’s strong, powerful and oh so real! Treat yourself to something unusual that will have you look at fear and monsters in a whole new light!
Reviewed by: Nora St. Laurent
ACFW Book Club Coordinator
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Sing: A Novel of Colorado (The Homeward Trilogy)
Lisa T. Bergren
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (April 1, 2010)
It’s 1886 and the St. Clairs are living out their dreams in three very separate parts of the world—Paris, Brazil and Colorado. And while each has found a measure of success and joy, each are haunted by past sins and secrets. As they face the biggest challenges of their lives—including facing off with an old enemy—each must discover the power of homecoming, and what it means to sing praises to God, even in the midst of loss.
Anyone who has read a book by Lisa Bergren knows one thing ~ writing is her gift! Her second Homeward Trilogy novel delves deeper into the life of Moria St. Claire, a beautiful and talented opera singer whose life suddenly takes a turn for the worse and she begins to make choices that diminish her talent and compromise her integrity. As always, Lisa's characters are multi-dimensional, authentic and honest in thoughts and emotions. Moira's journey easily translates to the contemporary world as she struggles with reality of her failed hopes. Her siblings, Odessa and Nic, also feature and Lisa's pre-eminent talent ensures that despite alternating between continents and characters, the reader is never lost or confused. Sing rises well above the standard historical romance and is a credit to the genre. I have no doubt that the final story, Claim be equally enjoyable.
Reviewed by: Rel Mollet
SING revolves around three sisters, but focuses mainly on Odessa and Moira St. Clair. Moira is a singer living in Paris. When she comes back to the states, she meets a man that takes her across the west as a singer, but he eventually abandons her with a baby on the way. She ends staying with her sister, Odessa, in Colorado. Meanwhile, in Colorado, there are rumors about gold being hidden. When Odessa is kidnapped by outlaws, she finds herself closer to the rumored gold than she expected.
This book was a wonderful read. It had a lot of adventure and kept you in suspense. I like the message that Lisa Bergren brings forth: you need to rely on God and trust in His timing.
I would highly recommend this book.
Reviewed by: Laura Porter
Monday, June 21, 2010
By Boyd Morrison
Published by Simon & Schuster
An elderly archaeologist is murdered. Before he dies, he manages to speak a few cryptic words to a colleague, the beautiful Dilara Kenner, whose own father disappeared three years earlier while pursuing his life’s work, the search for Noah’s Ark. Now, it seems, the ark and the solution to her father’s disappearance are within Dilara’s grasp, as long as she and Tyler Locke, an adventurous engineer, can keep ahead of the shadowy people who want to use the ark for their own purposes.
I signed up for a review copy of this book for two reasons. One, because I thought it was Christian Fiction book, and two, because it sounded like an exciting adventure story about Noah’s Ark—I hadn’t read anything like that before so I was intrigued. This story was most definitely filled with action, adventure and a few more things I never expected.
Dilara Kenner meets Sam Watson, an old family friend, for an urgent meeting in a very public place were he tells Dilara her father had found Noah’s Ark right before he went missing. As soon as Sam tells her this and strongly urges her to contact Tyler Locke for help, he dies. This puts her on the run. Dilara realizes that someone is out to kill her and doesn’t want her to reach Tyler Locke, who is on an oil rig in Newfoundland. Why did someone want her dead?
Tyler and Dilara’s search for the Noah’s Ark reveals a plot to take over the world and destroy everything they hold sacred. They begin a race against time to stop this terrorist attack.
I’ve been spoiled in reading exclusively Christian fiction where I can count on there being no foul language, sex scenes and agree with author’s world view. I found the cussing in this book very distracting and unnecessary to the story. This novel made me appreciate Christian fiction books even more. There are ways to convey the same feelings mentioned in this book without the use of cursing. There’s an art to pulling that off and I didn’t realize how much so until I read this book.
There is only one sex scene in this book and it’s not graphic, but I wished it wouldn’t have been in there at all. This book didn’t disappoint on the action, adventure, drama and suspenseful mission Dilara and Tyler were on. But it would have been a better read for me, personally, if there was no cursing. I also found the authors view of Noah’s Ark vastly different from mine, his interpretation of the Bible passages he quoted from the bible inside this book didn’t match up with anything I had heard of. I was disappointed in this book because it was marketed as Christian fiction. It is not. It’s definitely a main stream action adventure story with a very unique and creative twist on the whole Noah’s Ark story. I'm sure it will be well received in that market place.
Reviewed by: Nora St.Laurent
The Book Club Network
Friday, June 18, 2010
By Dan Walsh
Published by Revell
No sooner is Shawn Collins home from the fighting in Europe than he's called upon to serve his country in another way—as a speaker on the war bond tour. While other men might jump at the chance to travel all around the country with attractive Hollywood starlets, Shawn just wants to stay home with his son Patrick and his aging father, and grieve the loss of his wife in private.
When Shawn asks Katherine Townsend to be Patrick's nanny while he's on the road, he has no idea how this decision will impact his life. Could it be the key to his future happiness and the mending of his heart? Or will the war once again threaten his chances for a new start?
The Homecoming is a compelling story of love, heartbreak, and healing. Dan Walsh doesn't disappoint us after his successful debut book, The Unfinished Gift. I was anxious to jump back into the lives of Patrick, his daddy, Shawn, and his grandfather Ian. As Shawn relates to his family the nail-biting story of the WWII events in Europe that turned him into a national hero, his life is catapulted away from home and his little boy. A national hero, he just wants to come home. Heart-rending, The Homecoming gets a high recommendation from Novel Journey Reviews and me.
Reviewed by: Ane Mulligan
Editor, Novel Journey
One of Writers Digest's Top 101 Websites for Writers
Dan Walsh has outdone himself in his new book, Homecoming! I’m so thankful to have received a review copy of a story taken from a slice of American life when the world was so torn up and forever changed by war. The Unfinished Gift, the first book by this author, has Shawn Collins missing in action and his son Patrick goes to live with his estranged Grandfather. Homecoming starts at the same place the Unfinished Gift leaves off. Everyone is waiting for Shawn’s homecoming.
I loved how the author put me back in WWI. Dan made the time period come alive as his characters go through different aspects of the war in England and the States. Dan’s description of what Shawn, Patrick and Katherine went through was riveting. I felt their highs, their lows and the heart breaking blows of war, like I’ve never experienced before. I rejoiced with these characters triumphs, felt tears in my eyes and a knot in my throat when they shared tender moments in the middle of uncertain times.
I enjoyed this story written mainly in Shawn Collin’s point of view and all he experienced in and out of war. Shawn survived a plane crash and was sent home for some rest. The media made him out to be a hero—he didn’t feel like one, he was a guy just doing his job like anyone else. Then the next thing he knows he’s on a USO Bond tour away from his family again, and in the spot light, the one place he didn’t want to be. I enjoyed how Dan Walsh showed the affects of the war from many different angles. I felt I was there, seeing what happens families and how it plays havoc with their faith in God. I enjoyed Patrick, Shawn’s son so much and was thrilled by his relationship with Katherine. I admired Shawn and all he went through to do his duty and try to be there for his family as much as the government would let him. I can’t wait to read another story by this author. His characters and story touched my heart deeply.
Reviewed by: Nora St.Laurent
The Book Club Network
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
NOTHING BUT TROUBLE
By Susan May Warren
Published by Tyndale
It's not fair to say that trouble happens every time PJ Sugar is around, but it feels that way when she returns to her home town, looking for a fresh start. Within a week, her former teacher is murdered and her best friend's husband is arrested as the number-one suspect. Although the police detective investigating the murder—who also happens to be PJ's former flame—is convinced it's an open-and-shut case, PJ's not so sure. She begins digging for clues in an effort to clear her friend’s husband and ends up reigniting old passions, uncovering an international conspiracy, and solving a murder along the way. She also discovers that maybe God can use a woman who never seems to get it right.
PJ’s back in her hometown to attend her sister’s wedding. Her nickname in High School was NBT—Nothing But Trouble. PJ says this about herself, “Ever since I’ve been back, I’ve felt like…like I’ve been sucked back in time. Like I’m walking around in my old body, but there’s this new person inside screaming. However, no matter what I do, she’s locked in there, and I’m destined to be the person I left behind.”
PJ’s become a Christian and has changed but the people she used to know still treat her same; no one knew the circumstances that caused her to run from home. PJ says, “Perhaps God could use her, just a little. In fact, if she stretched her faith...she might even believe that He’d sent her home for this very reason.”
Trudi's husband is arrested for murder - Trudi is PJ’s best friend in High School. PJ is not going to let an innocent man be blamed for something she knew he didn’t do. PJ is frustrated with her patience level. She needed God’s help more than ever to deal with the pain of her past as she chases down clues to find the real murderer.
I love how PJ explains her faith. “I’m not talking about going to church. I’m talking about being a different person—thinking differently and wanting different things than I did before. I’m not the girl I was when I left.”
Her old boyfriend, Boone, tells PJ since she is a Christian now—which means more than just going to church--shouldn’t she forgive like Jesus did? Ouch! I could relate to PJ on so many levels, she tried hard to say and do the right things. I enjoyed PJ and this story. She’s honest, real and loyal, unlike the friends of her past.
This is the first book in the PJ Sugar series. I can’t wait to find out what happens next in book two called, Double Trouble.
Reviewed by: Nora St.Laurent
The Book Club Network
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
To Darkness Fled
By Jill Williamson
Marcher Lord Press 2010
Enter Darkness…they have no choice. Chased by an evil prince, Achan, Vrell, and the Kingsguard knights flee into Darkness. They head north, for Tsaftown and Ice Island, where they must free an army that can help them fight for Er’Rets.
Darkness sickens Vrell. How long can she keep her secret without being caught? Achan already suspects her of lying. If she is not careful, he will suspect her of treason as well. She hopes he will let his suspicions go until they reach her home.
Achan wanted freedom, but this new journey has bound him more than ever. Sir Gavin’s claims are so far fetched. First, that there might only be one God, and second, that this God chose Achan to push back Darkness, the magnificent curse of Er’Rets. Him. Achan. Barely a man himself.
Each setback Darkness brings seems minor compared to the one choice only Achan can make. What will he choose?
Yee-haw! What a ride. Author Jill Williamson serves up a non-stop, action-packed adventure in this second installment of The Blood of Kings trilogy. To Darkness Fled is a snappy Narnia/Tolkien mix with a bit of a contemporary flair. Intrigue and danger combined with humorous dialogue and sassy wit make for a satisfying fantasy read…way satisfying.
Many of the same characters I grew to love in the first book, To Darkness Hid, are alive and well in this story. The bonus is that new secondary characters are introduced. I especially loved Kurtz. What a hoot! He’s a playful frat boy/puppy dog type of fella, obnoxious yet endearing.
The plot is intense, so much so that yes—I’ll admit it—half-way through I skipped to the end just to make sure everything turns out all right. Without giving away too much, let me just say that when I finished, I was none too happy with heroine Vrell. Hero Achan often says pig snout, but she’s just plain pig-headed—which makes me all the more eager to get my hands on the final novel, From Darkness Won, as soon as it’s available.
Do yourself a favor and escape this summer to the fantasy world Jill Williamson has created. To Darkness Fled is a fun read for all ages, imparting Biblical truths through imaginative story weaving. In fact, if that’s what you’re looking for, check out any of Marcher Lord Press’s titles. You’ll be delightfully surprised.
Reviewed by Michelle Griep
Friday, June 11, 2010
By Kit Wilkinson
Published by Steeple Hill
Olympic hopeful Emilie Gill is beautiful, rich, successful—and in danger. Someone's targeting her stable, her friends, her life … and there's nowhere for her to turn. The police? They've charged her with murder. Her father? Out of town—again. Her best friend? He's the man she's accused of killing. There's no one to count on—until Derrick Randall rides into her life. The stable manager's support encourages Emilie to open her carefully guarded heart. But just as she's learning to trust, it all comes apart. Her faith—and new found love—are all she'll have when the sabotage turns deadly one more...
Set in Virginia against the backdrop of thoroughbreds and Olympic trainers, Wilkerson expertly draws her readers into the story, weaving a nice balance between the genteel world and suspense. And for one who doesn't read suspense, I thoroughly enjoyed this fast-paced story. Novel Journey and I recommend it for a great summer read.
Reviewed by: Ane Mulligan
Editor, Novel Journey
Tuesday, June 08, 2010
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Zondervan (June 18, 2010)
A harrowing stand-alone novel from Seatbelt Suspense® author Brandilyn Collins. Seven years after her the disappearance of her best friend, Linda Jackson, skip tracer Joanne Weeks must locate a witness who can put the man who Joanne knows to be Linda's killer behind bars---before he silences Joanne for good.
Brandilyn Collins twists and turns her way through yet another page turner. Joanne Weeks knows Baxter Jackson killed her best friend. But she doesn't have any proof. After voicing her opinion of the investigation's early death, shortly after the demise of Jackson's second wife, her comments are plastered on the front page of the small town newspaper. A town that is pretty much owned by, or at least in the back pocket of, Jackson.
A series of events unfolds at a break-neck pace that definitely tossed me against my seatbelt restraint a time or two. Collins strength in writing page-turning events is strong and I found myself whipping through them. A few similarities to previous novels, a very strong female lead for starters, and a back and forth parallel but different time frame telling of two enjoined stories will delight Collins fans. The twists may keep said fans on their toes. Chickens might be able to read this one without pulling the blankets over their heads, however, Collins tackles some interesting subject matter. This isn't a tame "Christian" read...rather something closer to what you might see in headlines.
Reviewed by:Kelly Klepfer
Monday, June 07, 2010
By Lisa Harris
Published by Zondervan
In the African republic of Dhambizao, Natalie Sinclair works with Dr. Chad Talcott to eradicate diseases that are claiming whole towns. Meanwhile, Joseph Komboli returns to his village to find rebels abducting his family. When Chad and Natalie help Joseph expose the modern-day slave trade, they're courting disaster.
This is not your typical fiction book. Lisa’s story is based on real situations that exist in the world around us - especially in Africa. I applaud Lisa for being the voice of these hurting people and for making us aware of the horrific conditions and treatment of humans through this compelling story. Gabby is the journalist in this story who feels led to be the voice of this hurting nation and is willing to do the right thing, no matter what it costs. Lisa Harris gives voice to Gabby and her concerns in this startling story.
“Ghost Soldiers” were supposed to be nothing more than rumors—a myth—what if these rumors are true and people are disappearing from their villages because of them? Hundreds and thousands of people have vanished. It’s not a rumor or myth, but a reality that Lisa Harris writes about.
Natalie Sinclair exterminates the diseases decimating whole villages. She comes in contact with fifteen year-old Joseph, who has proof the Ghost soldiers are real. Joseph is hurt, so Natalie takes him to see Dr. Chad Talcott, a surgeon on sabbatical from his medical practice where he volunteers in a small clinic. They recognized each other from High School.
Dr. Chad tells her not to get involved; it’s best. Natalie takes Joseph back to his village to show her where his family disappeared. Joseph took pictures of people being killed and abducted by the Ghost Soldiers. After seeing proof, Natalie couldn’t walk away. This wasn’t right; they were selling and using people as slaves.
Natalie tells Dr. Chad of her discovery. Natalie and Chad embark on a mission to get this proof to the American Embassy. That’s when the trouble begins. Natalie sends the proof to her journalist friend, Gabby, who says, “It’s time we force these businesses and investors to change the despicable working conditions thousands are forced to live under. Nothing will change if they aren’t held accountable. They need a voice. It’s a heart-wrenching reality in our world, especially when one realizes human trafficking, child slavery and a booming sex industry, are all alive and well right here in the United States.”
Lisa pens a heart-felt, thought provoking and compelling drama you won’t soon forget. Blood Ransom is book one in the mission series. I’m so thankful to have received a copy of the powerfully moving book. I can’t wait to read the next book.
Reviewed by: Nora St.Laurent
ACFW Book Club Coordinator
Blood Ransom takes place in Kasili, the Republic of Dhambizao and involves a character named Joseph who used to be a translator and guide for a woman named Natalie Sinclair, who worked for the Embassy. While heading back home to his village, he discovered that there were “Ghost Soldiers” there, and they killed his grandfather and took the rest of his family to work in diamond mines. The story unfolds as Joseph tries to rescue his family.
What really interested me is all of the things that were going on, such as villages disappearing, Ghost soldiers taking people, the government involvement, and knowing that these types of things are really happening. The story was really easy to follow, and ended well.
I do wish the author had brought God into the story line more. The characters were going through very difficult situations and showing a stronger reliance on God could have been a good witness to various readers from different backgrounds.
Reviewed by: Laura Porter
Friday, June 04, 2010
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Multnomah Books; 1 edition (May 18, 2010)
Maggie Pickwick is a lifetime away from her days as head cheerleader and the mistakes she made in high school. Twelve years later, this single mom has traded pompoms for an auctioneer’s gavel, popularity for peace and quiet, and strives to be a good example for her daughter Devyn. She’s keeping it together just fine, too—until an old flame moves back to her little North Carolina town.
Renowned artist Reece Thorpe wants nothing to do with Maggie—not after what she did to him in high school—but he might also be Devyn’s father. Fed by her own pride and fear for her daughter’s happiness, Maggie finds herself on a slippery slope of white lies as she attempts to convince Reece that she’s changed. But the truth has a way of making itself known, and now Maggie’s past and present mistakes could ruin her chance at love.
Nothing brings me more delight than to pick up a brand new Tamara Leigh novel because I know that in the pages I will find enchanting characters, a meaningful story with an uplifting message and Tamara's distinctive and intelligent humor. Nowhere, Carolina steps it up a notch with Maggie struggling to make amends for her wild and defiant youth, determined to prove she is now a responsible mother and member of the Pickwick community. The return of her high school sweetheart, Reece Thorpe brings Maggie's past mistakes into dramatic focus leaving her dissembling in a misguided effort to protect her daughter, Devyn. Honest, witty and captivating, Tamara's first person voice is unparalleled in Christian publishing and I can't wait to read more of her stories.
Reviewed by: Rel Mollet
Leaving Carolina: A Novel was my first real introduction to author Tamara Leigh and I was left eagerly awaiting the second in the series Nowhere, Carolina: A Novel. Now having finished this book I cannot wait for the next adventure in the Pickwick cousin's lives with Bridget's story, coming 2011.
Once again I giggled and in a feminine way I declare I chuckled. Maggie Pickwick is a grown up moving each day beyond what she once was and in a humiliatingly humorous fashion she attempts t...more Leaving Carolina: A Novel was my first real introduction to author Tamara Leigh and I was left eagerly awaiting the second in the series Nowhere, Carolina: A Novel. Now having finished this book I cannot wait for the next adventure in the Pickwick cousin's lives with Bridget's story, coming 2011.
Once again I giggled and in a feminine way I declare I chuckled. Maggie Pickwick is a grown up moving each day beyond what she once was and in a humiliatingly humorous fashion she attempts to be the good Christian she knows that she now is and hide secrets. Each chapter was better than the last and I was on the edge of my seat curious about who the true father was. I think that this is a great story for redemption in admitting a sin that was and turning it for something good.
I highly recommend this adventure in the wacky lives of the Pickwick family from Pickwick, North Carolina and encourage you to read the first book as well although this one would stand alone quite nicely.
Reviewed by: Margaret Chind
Thursday, June 03, 2010
2. A Love of Her Own; Heart of the West series by Maggie Brendan -- A Romance from Revell. April McBride has everything her heart desires . . .except the one thing money can't buy.
3. A Matter of Character; The Sisters of Bethlehem Springs, #3 by Robin Lee Hatcher -- A Romance from Zondervan. In 1918, writing dime novels simply isn't done by an heiress, so when Joshua looks for the author who's sullied his grandfather's name, he never suspects Daphne's the guilty party.
4. A Tailor-Made Bride by Karen Witemeyer -- An Historical from Bethany House. Sparks fly when a dressmaker who values beauty tangles with a liveryman who condemns vanity.
5. Almost Forever; Book 1, Hanover Falls Novels series by Deborah Raney -- Women's Fiction from Howard Books/Simon & Schuster. Survivors of five fallen firefighters band together to try to make sense of the tragedy that took their loved ones.
6. Anna Finch and the Hired Gun; Women of the West series, Book 2 by Kathleen Y'Barbo -- A Romance from Waterbrook. When an aspiring reporter and a Pinkerton detective get tangled in Doc Holliday's story ˜and each other˜sparks can't help but fly.
7. Chasing Lilacs by Carla Stewart -- Women's Fiction from FaithWords/Hachette. A coming-of-age story set in Texas in the 1950s as a young girl struggles with her own identity in light of her mother's mental illness.
8. End Game; Big Sky Secrets, book #3 by Roxanne Rustand -- A Romance from Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense. Big Sky Secrets--a five-book Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense series set in the Rockies of Montana
9. Her Abundant Joy by Lyn Cote -- An Historical from Avon Inspired. Can a beautiful young widow find peace in the arms of a Texas Ranger?
10. Maid of Murder; India Hayes Mysteries, Book One by Amanda Flower -- A Suspense/Mystery/Thriller from Five Star Mystery. College librarian and reluctant bridesmaid, India Hayes, sets out to prove her brother's innocence when the bride is murdered.
11. Maid to Match by Deeanne Gist -- An Historical from Bethany House. Two servants at Biltmore House at the turn of the century find that God can take your life in a very different direction than you had planned.
12. Manor of the Ghost by Tina Pinson -- Women's Fiction from Desert Breeze. Kaitlin didn't believe in Ghosts, until she saw them in Devlin's eyes and heard them in the deafening silence of her son, Derrick.
13. My Son, John by Kathi Macias -- Women's Fiction from Sheaf House. Can God bring healing to a family torn apart by a brutal crime?.
14. Ruby Red; Ruby Red and The Colors of Home Series by Robin Shope -- A Multicultural from Sparklesoup. Eleven-year-old Ruby Red sneaks on board the Orphan Train, meant only for white children, with her pet cockroach in her pocket.
15. Sabotage by Kit Wilkinson -- A Suspense/Mystery/Thriller from Steeple Hill. Equine veterinary student Derrick Randall tries to help Olympic hopeful Emilie Gill find faith and a way to her Olympic dreams.
16. Shades of Morning by Marlo Schalesky -- A Romance from Waterbrook. When Marnie becomes the guardian of her Down syndrome nephew, will she run again?
17. Steadfast Soldier; Wings of Refuge #7 by Cheryl Wyatt -- A Romance from Steeple Hill. These soldiers of the skies are fearless, faithful...and falling in love.
18. The Heart's Song by Winnie Griggs -- An Romance from Love Inspired. Two lonely people work together to help others and ultimately find love.
19. The Homecoming; Sequel to The Unfinished Gift by Dan Walsh -- An Historical from Revell. Shawn Collins returns home from the dangers of WW2 to face the loss of his first love, but discovers God has set in motion a plan to heal his broken heart.
Wednesday, June 02, 2010
By Carla Stewart
Published by Faith Words
It's the summer of 1958, and life in the small Texas community of Graham Camp should be simple and carefree. But not for Sammie Tucker. Sammie has plenty of questions about her mother's "nerve" problems. About shock treatments. About whether her mother loves her.
As her life careens out of control. Sammie has to choose whom to trust with her deepest fears: her best friend who has an opinion about everything, the mysterious boy from California whose own troubles plague him, or her round-faced neighbor with gentle advice and strong shoulders to cry on. Then there's the elderly widower who seems nice but has his own dark past.
Trusting is one thing, but accepting the truth may be the hardest thing Sammie has ever done.
This gripping story is told from the point of view of a twelve-year-old, yet Carla Stewart resisted making her precocious and overly mature. Sammie's emotional journey and her reactions to the events in this story are true to life. While she faces some devastating experiences, the story remains remarkably light.
The other people in Sammie's life are as complex and appealing as she is, except perhaps Aunt Vadine. I didn't like that woman one bit. Oh, don't get me wrong. She was very well written. So much so, I had a strong reaction to her.
You'll lose some sleep if you read at night. This novel is a page-turner that I didn't want to end. Prepare to fall in love with Sammie and her friends. Chasing Lilacs is a thoroughly delightful and well-written debut novel. Novel Journey and I give it a very high recommendation.
Reviewed by: Ane Mulligan, editor Novel Journey
Take note of the name of debut author Carla Stewart, you are certain to be seeing it often in the future. Chasing Lilacs is a beautifully wrought story about Sammie, a young girl dealing with more than her fair share of pain as her mother's mental health deteriorates, her father withdraws and she becomes intrigued by troubled teen, Cly MacLemore. The story is told through Sammie's eyes, as she wrestles with confusion, guilt and fledgling love in a poignant and believable way. As Sammie tries to make sense of her mother's depression, the personality altering treatment and her eventual death you will feel her shattering pain. As she takes tentative steps towards healing, you will know real joy. A complex look at family, friendship and faith, written with simplicity and tender emotion, Chasing Lilacs is an exceptional debut novel.
Reviewed by: Rel Mollet