Monday, October 31, 2011

Mark Schultz and Travis Thrasher's Letter from War ~ Reviewed

Letters From War
By Mark Schultz with Travis Thrasher
Published by: Howard Books
ISBN #: 978-1-4391-9731-8
288 Pages

Book Description:

Platinum-selling Christian music artist Mark Schultz pens a novella based on his award-winning song “Letters from War,” about a mother’s unwavering hope, courage, and steadfast prayers.

Every night, Beth leaves the front porch light on. Just in case. It’s been two years since her son, James, went missing while saving the life of a fellow paratrooper in his division. Beth’s faith has sustained her while she awaits word on her son’s whereabouts. Well-meaning friends encourages Beth to move on, but Beth continues to hope.


I’m thankful to have received a review copy of such a moving and tender novel. Beth’s son, James, goes off to serve his country just like his father did. The only thing James’ mom requested of him was that he writes her “real” letters, not emails. Beth says, “Emails can easily be lost. All with an errant click of a mouse or a press of a button.... but to discard a letter, you have to physically throw it away, something she’s been unable to do ever since getting the first letter. Words are different. Words reach the soul. She continues to read them to hear James and to keep believing.”

Beth says to her friend, “I can hear him speaking as she reads his words. They are beautiful just like he was. Here is a letter from James to his mom: “I’m not here to follow in Dad’s footsteps. I’m here to serve all of you and to serve this country... I am the infantry...I am my country’s strength in war, her deterrent in peace. I am the heart of the fight, wherever, whenever. I carry America’s faith and honor against her enemy... I am what my country expects me to be: The best-trained soldier in the world. In the race for victory, I am swift, determined and courageous, armed with a fierce will to win!”

These authors have written a touching and memorable novel from a military families POV . James, Beth’s son, and Britt’s husband are in waiting mode. They were waiting to hear of any news of James’ whereabouts. James has been missing in action for two years. Not a single word on his location or any indication if he’s alive.

Beth, Britt and Emily (James sister) feel like their life is on hold. Beth still writes letters to her son James, even though she knows no one knows where he is. It’s as if she stops writing all hope is will be lost – she couldn’t go there.

I liked the unique way these authors used letters written in this novel to James and from his family members to make the story gripping, intimate, and give the reader a personal peek at the ways families relate to one another when they are away. This is a powerful, eye opener, for a non-military person like myself. It really shows the heartache and all the family goes through when one of their loved ones goes missing in action. I could see through James voice he had a “call” to be a solider and his heart to defend his country so we can be safe! It also gives a little glimpse into how James, a believer sees war, “the things we’ve seen - its impossible not to be affected ... it’s not just my faith that’s kept me grounded and out of harm’s way emotionally. It’s been my family too, and my ability to compartmentalize and avoid bad habits. “These are the tools he uses to survive and complete his mission.

This novel gave me a look at the soldiers’ family and how they sacrifice their loved ones to keep our country free. It also reminded me of what I take for granted. It heightened my awareness of what others do to protect our country. I’ve loved Travis Thrashers novels and Mark Schultz’s music, this novel doesn’t disappoint. I’m so thankful for the opportunity to read a story that made me instantly care for the character, made me laugh and also cry. This book was a great reminder with the 9/11 10th Anniversary this year of all I am to be thankful for. It had me see our military men and their families in a whole new light. I recommend this book so all types of readers.

Reviewed by: Nora St.Laurent
The Book Club Network

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Virginia Smith's Age before Beauty ~ Reviewed

Virginia Smith
Contemporary Fiction
Paperback, 313 pages
Publisher: Revell, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-8007-3233-2

Back Cover Description:

What will she give up to have it all?
Allie Harrod is ready for a new career. She doesn't want to go back to full-time work and risk missing her baby's first smile. But she does want to contribute to the family income, and a home-based business seems like the perfect solution. Sure, she dropped out of Girl Scouts because she was lousy at cookie sales, but selling makeup is different, right?

Still, the challenges Allie faces seem to be rising as fast as her credit card balance. None of her clothes fit, her mother-in-law is driving her batty, and her husband only leaves the couch to go help his beautiful-and single-coworker with her home repairs. What's a working girl to do? A lighthearted story of family and finding focus, 'Age before Beauty' is the second book in the "Sister-to-Sister" series.


This book accurately portrays the struggle of the modern woman-to have it all, do it all, be a size 2, best mom ever, hottest wife on the planet, and capitalist extraordinaire...without any problems or far as anyone else knows, anyways. I was really drawn to this books raw honesty and humor and thoroughly enjoyed it! The way she brought in spiritual truths such as God's love, will, sovereignty, and provision in our incapability, shortcomings, and unlovableness made it all the more difficult to put down. I found myself wishing I'd read the first book, more focused on the now follower-of-Christ sister, Joan. I highly recommend making time to read this book!

Reviewed by: Rachael Schnitker

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Martha Alderson's The Plot Whisperer ~ Reviewed

Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master
Martha Alderson
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Adams Media (October 15, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1440525889

When it comes to writing bestsellers, it's all about the plot. Trouble is, plot is where most writers fall down--but you don't have to be one of them. With this book, you'll learn how to create stories that build suspense, reveal character, and engage readers--one scene at a time.

Celebrated writing teacher and author Martha Alderson has devised a plotting system that's as innovative as it is easy to implement. With her foolproof blueprint, you'll learn to devise a successful storyline for any genre. She shows how to:

• Use the power of the Universal Story
• Create plot lines and subplots that work together
• Effectively use a scene tracker for maximum impact
• Insert energetic markers at the right points in your story
• Show character transformation at the book's climax


There are a lot of good books on story structure and plotting. What works for one writer doesn't work for another. The Plot Whisperer is definitely for those who are plotters or need to be. I found it to be filled with excellent useable tools, something that some books lack.

Reviewed by: Ane Mulligan
Senior Editor Novel Rocket

Bonus Review:

Look on any writer's shelf and you'll discover what their weakest link is. If they can't structure a sentence to save their life, then you'll find a boatload of grammar books. Character development? You guessed it. How to bring your protags and antags to life. Come on over to my house, and you'll see quite a collection of books on plot.

So here's another I just might set on a display stand.

The Plot Whisperer is chock full of hands-on, real world ideas that can shore up a sagging plot better than duct tape and two-by-fours. Really. I've dog eared and highlighted this baby until it barely resembles a book anymore. And I've taken to quoting it on my blog.

But why? Because author Martha Alderson communicates effectively how to breathe air into a lifeless plot. Throughout the book she sprinkles writing challenges (called Plot Whispers) and concise encouraging tidbits (The Writer's Way). After reading yet another plot book, this one leaves me not only encouraged but energized to plan out my next book.

If plot is your bugaboo, go get yourself this book.

Reviewed by: Michelle Griep

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Tracie Peterson's House of Secrets ~ Reviewed

By Tracie Peterson
Published by: Bethany House
309 Pages

Back Cover:

When her father orchestrates a surprise trip to the summer house of her childhood, Bailee Cooper is unprepared for what follows. What is intended to be a happy reunion for Bailee and her sisters, Geena and Piper, quickly becomes shrouded by memories from the past.

Together again, the three sisters sift through their recollections of fifteen years ago...of an ill mother, and of their father making a desperate choice. They vowed, as children, to be silent--but one sister believes the truth must now be revealed. Yet can they trust their memories?

Mark Delahunt arrives in the wake of this emotional turmoil. Determined to win Bailee's affection, Mark becomes the strong fortress for her in this time of confusion, and what was once a tentative promise begins to take root and grow. Caught between the past and an uncertain future, can Bailee let God guide her to heal the past and ultimately to embrace love?


Thanks to Bethany House for the review copy of a compelling, honest look at family-the good the bad and the ugly. This author tackles a subject not many want to think about or know how to deal with and that is mental illness.

The title grabbed my interest; I loved the word pictures it created in my mind. I wondered how Tracie Peterson would handle mental illness in her novel. This story begins with a father calling an important family meeting. No so strange but it is in their family. Bailee was twenty-four years old and last had a family meeting the day their mom died. All three sisters are to meet their dad at their family’s vacation house. Nobody can figure out what the big news their dad had to share.

They haven’t been back to this house since their mother passed away in it 15 years ago. After that the girls were sent off to boarding school. Their father worked hard and through summers so they had nannies; they didn’t have much of a relationship or a family for that matter. It all died with their mother.

Bailee thinks to herself, “I was being drawn back to that house of secrets – to those hidden memories of loss and sorrow. For so long I had fooled myself into believing the past would never catch up with me. But now the moment of truth had come…and if there was a hell, I just knew that demons were dancing in delight.”

Needless to say no one was thrilled about this meeting. They talked about the family secrets they kept since their mother passed. Did they dare confront their father about what they thought had happened that night? If they did their whole family dynamic would change. But, frankly there wasn’t much there now so what could it hurt?

I liked what Tracie had to say about pain and secrets through her characters, “Some people hold onto pain. Not for the feeling of anguish, but because it’s all that’s familiar. Like holding a long, long grudge; it’s a known element – something recognizable. There’s a warped sort of comfort in that… it aids in the choices we make for ourselves. We can cradle the hurt and pain – wrap it around us like a shield to keep ourselves safe from attack – or we can let it die.”

This was a new thought for Bailee. “Let it die… Could a person really let pain die? Could they stop feeling it and nourishing it with reminders and accusations of the past?

…Bailees friend said, “We don’t have control over what another person does or how they feel. We only have control over how we respond to it – what we do with it.” Amen to that!

I was instantly engaged in the lives of these three sisters and how they were determined end their family secrets and expose everything. I also felt their anguish of time lost with each other and of the one they didn’t want anything to do with - God. If He was loving why did Bailee and her family suffer?

I’d like to think that all families could sit down and talk about secrets, pain, disappointments and begin to forgive like Bailee’s family did. Yes, anything is possible through Christ that strengthens us and I know God moves in mysterious ways. He’s creative and resourceful in how He heals. I also realize not everyone accepts Christ when given the chance. Life is messy and most the time isn’t tied up in a nice neat bow!

It was quite fascinating to read about how each person dealt with the unfolding drama when all the secrets are out in the open and they soon found out not everything was as it appeared. It just proves you can’t really rely on what you see. There is so much more to the story that you don’t see in real life and in this novel. Little ones don’t have a grasp on what happens in a grown-up world. It was fascinating how Tracie dealt with this.

This was the first novel I’ve read by Tracie Peterson. I liked it so much I’m definitely looking up her others. I enjoyed the fact that she wrote this book in first person and that person wasn’t a believer. It was interesting to experience things through her eyes. It wasn’t preachy, but real. How do you show the love of Christ to someone who’s deeply hurt? There's no formula or pat answer in how to do this. I liked how the author handled this subject on many fronts. I liked how Tracie deals with the powerful spiritual thread which is skillfully interwoven into the story as this family faced the emotional land minds of past secrets. I liked her balance and skill in showing how this hurting family dealt with the issues and loved each other through it all.

I highly recommend this book not only for an entertaining read but it’s a read that will open your eyes to how to navigate through emotional healing at any age. Tracie does a good job in showing that God does care and is with us always even when we can't feel his presence in the middle of the storm.

Reviewed by: Nora St.Laurent

Monday, October 24, 2011

Susan May Warren's Baby, It's Cold Outside ~ Reviewed

By Susan May Warren
Published by Summerside Press
ISBN-13: 978-60936-215-7

Dottie Morgan has no desire to share her home—or her heart—this Christmas. After all, her holiday spirit froze over when she lost her son in World War II. But when the blizzard of the decade descends on Frost, Minnesota, trapping Dottie in her home with four near strangers, she discovers that opening her door might also open her heart to a miracle ... and a new reason to celebrate Christmas.

Baby, It's Cold Outside has an eclectic cast of characters from Dottie the curmudgeon, Jake the pretender, Gordy the neighbor, to Violet the WAAC. Warren's characters take you into their hearts and don't let go. I laughed and cried and turned pages all night long. Baby, It's Cold Outside is a must read this Christmas! Novel Rocket and I give it our highest recommendation: a 5-star read.

Reviewed by: Ane Mulligan, Sr. Editor

Bonus Review:

I truly enjoy the writing of Susan May Warren. As a matter of fact, I started my Christmas reading off last year with her contemporary shorter novel The Great Christmas Bowl and enjoyed it immensely, so I was looking forward to her writing being the fall introduction to the Christmas season again for me this year with a war time historical. When I Fall In Love is an awesome series from Summerside Press and just like their Love Finds You series, I have enjoyed every single book I've read so far on various levels.

Baby, It's Cold Outside is a war time, or immediately after war time novel and thus it does have sad undertones. I have to admit that it was hard for me to get into until about halfway through because of the various lives coming together with all of their sadness, depression and regrets. But once things started to work in the way that they were meant to I was very eager to continue to turn the page and find out what would happen next.

This is an absolutely gorgeous cover for a very meaningful read full of hope and second chances.

*Thanks to Litfuse Publicity for providing a copy for review.*

Reviewed by: Margaret Chind

Bonus Review:

Baby, It’s Cold Outside takes place in Frost, Minnesota, near Christmas-time in 1949.  Dottie Morgan, who works at the town library, has almost completely shut herself off from the world after her son was killed in the war.  In fact, she’s planning on spending Christmas by herself with no celebration.  As fate would have it, a terrible blizzard hits the town, and Dottie ends up having house guests that are stranded with her: Violet Hart, a fellow co-worker at the library who served in the war with the WAAC; Gordy Lindholm, Dottie’s long time neighbor who proposed to her many years ago before she ran off and married another man; Jake Ramsey, a military chaplain, who has come to tell Violet that the soldier she has been writing letters to is dead; and Arnie Shiller, a young boy who nearly dies trying to make it to the safety of Dottie’s house during the blizzard.  During this time, they each come to face their own insecurities and begin to let down the walls to their hearts. 
 I really enjoyed this book.  I love the World War II era stories and this one came together so nicely.  I like how it told the story from each characters’ perspective at different times.  I loved how Dottie and Gordon were able to overcome years of misunderstood feelings.  I also loved seeing the Violet and Jake’s love story blossom.  It was just an enjoyable read and I highly recommend it!

Reviewed by:Sarah Meyers

Friday, October 21, 2011

Christine Lindsay's Shadowed in Silk ~ Reviewed

By Christine Lindsay
Published by White Rose Publishing
ISBN # 978-0976544494
276 Pages

Book Description: She was invisible to those who should have loved her.

After the Great War, Abby Fraser returns to India with her small son, where her husband is stationed with the British army. She has longed to go home to the land of glittering palaces and veiled women . . . but Nick has become a cruel stranger. It will take more than her American pluck to survive.

Major Geoff Richards, broken over the loss of so many of his men in the trenches of France, returns to his cavalry post in Amritsar. But his faith does little to help him understand the ruthlessness of his British peers toward the Indian people he loves. Nor does it explain how he is to protect Abby Fraser and her child from the husband who mistreats them.

Amid political unrest, inhospitable deserts, and Russian spies, tensions rise in India as the people cry for the freedom espoused by Gandhi. Caught between their own ideals and duty, Geoff and Abby stumble into sinister secrets . . . secrets that will thrust them out of the shadows and straight into the fire of revolution.


I was thrilled to get a review copy of Shadowed in Silk, Christine Lindsay’s compelling new epic novel. It reminded me of a few big screen movies like Australia, Jodie Foster in The King and I and Out of Africa. Christine has written a powerful and engaging novel that transported me to the streets of India; and mingling in it's diverse rich culture. I felt as if I had stepped off the ship with Abby and Geoff Richards and onto the dock, of Hotic India. Christine’s words paint vivid pictures that allow readers to experience the sites, sounds, scents and vibrant colors of India.

I liked how this author had the reader see Gandhi and experience the peaceful demonstrations he tried to put on. Christine captures this countries rich history, culture and customs, interwoven with a sweet love story. It’s a passionate story of a woman who loves Jesus and is committed to being His hands and feet to the children in the orphanage and the children of India at a high personal cost.

I liked the intensity and richness of her characters and their relationships with each other and their struggle with God, in doing the right thing. Abby is a woman who is determined to make her marriage work, even though it’s been a few years since she heard from her husband, Nick. She’s thankful that Geoff Richards stepped up and has said he’d make sure she and her son would get home safely, since her husband, Nick was no where to be found.

Geoff Richards is a wounded solider, who loves the Lord with all his heart, and feels the need to look after Abby and her young son. He can’t imagine a soldier that would treat his wife like this. Geoff is a protector in the story. Protector of Abby and her son and the men he served in the military. He stayed a respective distance from Abby. He realized that Abby hadn’t a clue about this culture. She was in more danger than she knows. Things changed since she last lived in India.

Not only does this author capture the essence of the country with it's intense humidity, spicy scents, and sounds which all add to the dimension of the novel, but she also penned a page-turning suspenseful drama, with engaging characters that kept me up late at night wondering what would happen next. I had to know about these characters, the spies, gun smuggling, pride and prejudice within the culture, it all fascinated me. It gave me a peek into the horrific slice of history she wrote about with the heart and soul of the people and of that time.

Days after reading this story, the characters and their flight will stay with you. I loved how she naturally wove the spiritual thread into the story-line. It was real, and believable. I highly recommend this beautifully written novel, against the backdrop of India in 1900’s. This novel reads as if a well-seasoned author with many books under her belt wrote it, not as the debut novel it is for Christine. It’s a brilliantly written and a emotionally compelling read! Can't wait to read what she writes next.

Reviewed by: Nora St.Laurent

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Rene Gutteridge's Possession ~ Reviewed

By Rene Gutteridge
Published by: Tyndale House Publishers
303 Pages

Book Blurb:

In the aftermath of investigating the D.C. sniper case, police detective Vance Graegan is burned out on life and love. Hoping to save his marriage, he quits the force and moves his wife and son to the other side of the country. But when the movers decide to hold his belongings for ransom, Vance is determined to ensure that his family’s new beginning is not ruined. Soon, though, losing his possessions becomes the least of his problems as everything they are fighting for begins to unravel in the hands of Vance’s past. In an unforgettable climax, a little boy’s innocent faith brings a group of desperate people to their knees. What is at stake counts for everything, but nothing can prepare Vance for who is behind it.


I was thrilled to receive a review copy of this suspenseful tale. Rene delves into a scenario so many people are facing right now. So many have recently lost so much due to catastrophic situations beyond their control such as hurricanes, fire and flood. Rene had experienced the Oklahoma bombing, saw the devastation and watched how others dealt with tremendous loss. She wanted to explore the idea of losing everything, what that would mean and look like?

Vance, the main character learns quickly how short life really is as they try to track down a sniper in Washington D.C. Vance and the other officers desperately try to come up with a common denominator between the shootings in order to determine where this ghost sniper would strike next. After that ordeal, Vance suffers from Post-traumatic stress disorder.

The author became interested in PTSD after she experienced the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. It's similar to what vets experience but different. Rene does an amazing job of creating multi-layered characters that you instantly care about. I loved her first line, ‘Can you please state your full name?” She has the reader in court and Linda Greagan on the stand. I was swept into the story and was fascinated as to where Rene would take me next.

Vance reminded me of Bruce Willis in the Die Hard movie, who is smart, rough and tough but unlike Bruce who was saving the city, Vance had had enough of his job and wanted out. He was ready to start a new kind of life. He wanted to help his wife achieve her dream. Lindi’s dream was to own a Deli. It was something they could do together. His friends laughed at him but he was serious. He wasted enough years on the force risking his life for nothing. Now, was the time for his wife and son Conner.

Just when Vance thought things were going well, his wife quickly found a place to live, she had a lead on a perfect location for their Deli and they arrived in CA ahead of schedule.

Vance is in such a hurry to get this new life started and meet his family in CA he doesn’t take the time to read the fine print of his moving contract. All heck breaks loose when he gets to California to meet the movers. Moving is stressful on a good day but Vance’s experience is extreme.

His wife, Lindi, hears this from the moving worker, “Ma’am you are contractually obligated to pay us what you owe us.” That’s fine but this wasn’t the price they agreed on.

Vance is about to go ballistic when he hears this from his wife. What was happening? Vance learned over the years he had to departmentalize things; he couldn't get emotional because if he did he would miss something important. He would miss something he needed to solve the case. He was trained. Vance went into police mode to help him handle this crazy moving situation - just like he'd do with any case he was on.

On the gentler side of the story, I liked how their son, Conner, watched a televangelist on TV and got to know and accept Jesus has his personal savior. His parents weren’t excited about this event and hoped it would go away, when he grew up. They actually got scared when this behavior didn’t end. So, they took him to therapists to be observed. But the boy just kept being himself and would innocently share his relationship with Jesus and what it meant to him.

I enjoyed Conner and the beauty of a child’s love relationship and faith in Jesus is precious. I adored the part when Connor explained to his mom how to pray, “You have to always thank God first. That’s important. If you don’t be thankful, then you miss out on what God’s doing. You don’t see it… She wanted to hurry her son along in the prayer and Lindi says, “But let’s pretend we’re getting ready to be in a car wreck, and we need God’s help fast. Then what kind of prayer do you pray?”

“You don’t pray then, Mom, “Conner said. “You just trust that He’s there.” His mom saw great wisdom in her son’s eyes.

I loved the relational dynamic in this novel, the excitement, the honest spiritual thread and how Rene masterfully blends it all together. Amazing!

I highly recommend reading Possession, the book is a great escape into a world Rene creates, to make you laugh, sweep you up into a suspenseful drama and help you think about a few things along the way. Great combination! Thanks Rene for another book that had so much to offer at book club and is just a plain fun read.

Reviewed: Nora St.Laurent

Monday, October 17, 2011

Chris Fabry's and Gary Chapman's A Marriage Carol ~ Reviewed

By Chris Fabry & Gary Chapman
Published by Moody Publishers
ISBN-13: 978-0-8024-0264-6


Just one choice changes a life

On a snowy Christmas Eve, their anniversary, Marlee and Jacob take a treacherous drive to sign papers signaling the end of their marriage.

But a shortcut over an ice mountain pass brings Marlee on a collision course with her life. Visions of the past haunt; images of the present and future make her wonder if they have chosen the best course.

With a nod to Dickens and a heaping help of the truth from bestselling author Dr. Gary Chapman, this surprising tale will take you through twists and turns and lead you in a journey into the power of snow.


A Marriage Carol is a delightful fantasy mixed with a generous helping of truth. A story of trust, unconditional love, and the choice to let love grown again, and written in the style of A Christmas Carol, it's the perfect book to put on your Christmas giving list. Novel Journey and I highly recommend it.

Reviewed by: Ane Mulligan, editor

Friday, October 14, 2011

Stephanie Grace Whitson's A Most Unsuitable Match ~ Reviewed

By Stephanie Grace Whitson
Published by Bethany House
ISBN #” 978-0-7642-0881-2
334 Pages

Book Description:

An unlikely attraction occurs between two passengers on a steamboat journey up the Missouri River to Montana...

She is a self-centered young woman from a privileged family who fears the outdoors and avoids anything rustic. He is a preacher living under a sense of duty and obligation to love the unlovable people in the world. She isn't letting anything deter her from solving a family mystery that surfaced after her mother's death. He is on a mission to reach the rejects of society in the remote wilderness regions of Montana. Miss Fannie Rousseau and Reverend Samuel Beck are opposites in every way... except in how they both keep wondering if their paths will ever cross again.


Miss Fannie Rousseau’s world crumbles after her mother dies suddenly. Hannah, her loyal hand maiden whose been more of a mother to her than her real mom, tries to comfort Fannie. Minnitte, her dearest friend, is blind, engaged to be married, and is busy planning a wedding. Fannie didn’t know where to turn.

Miss Fannie seeks the council of Mr. Van de Kamp, who has run their family finances for years; only thing he can tell her is to get married. She needed help trying to navigate the financial mess her dad’s company was in and what to do from here. He offered no help at all. Getting married wasn’t an option.

Although Fannie was raised in privilege she would only marry for love. She desperately longed to be loved and accepted for Fannie the person - not the daughter of a wealthy man. Fannie discovers a box of old letters - her mother saved. She devours them all. Hannah learns of her find and is surprised. Even more so when Fannie tells her she is going to search for the person who wrote those letters. Fannie and Hannah embark on a dangerous and wild adventure. They encounter things they never dreamed possible! Neither had been on a steamboat or far from home for that matter. They meet Samuel who’s earning his way to Montana. Surprising to learn that Samuel is in search of a person as well. They both hoped to find answers on their journey. Little did they know their search would make them realize they needed each other more than they knew.

Fannie is headstrong and determined to accomplish her mission and so is Samuel. Others realize her lack of manual skills and fiestiness. Valey the innkeeper says, “I had to ask her if she even knew how to sweep a floor.” I think it made her a little mad....but then she said she thought she was smart enough to learn. He laughed “Tell her...she’s due for her broom lesson with Ave.”

I loved the natural spiritual thread and the way the author represented it, Fannie says to herself, “What if she actually sought out the words in the bible and let them rule her life? The idea was at once fascinating...and terrifying.... Did the bible really contain words of Life? For the first time. Fannie wished she had her own bible!” Love this.

I enjoyed Fanny and the authors well timed humor. I enjoyed this historical fiction novel. Also loved the cover - it was intriguing - I would never suspect the author could put together such a fascinating story with so many twists, turns and surprises. I enjoyed the minor characters as much as the main ones.

I enjoyed this authors' style, her endearing characters, and the many surmountable challenges they faced. They discovered that in their weakness God is strong. God will help us grow. He knows what we’re created to do. We just have to trust him and take the first step in the direction He’s called us to. The author talks about heart issues through a blind boy who says, “When you cannot see faces you listen better. Sometimes listening lets a person see in a better way.”

Stephanie mentions, “While working on this book, I've came to the end of myself yet again, and found Jesus waiting with outstretched arms and mine until we had the strength to take up the journey on our own two feet once again. And so... I offer you another story forged in the fires of my own life.” Loved this! I highly recommend this delightful novel!

Reviewed by: Nora St.Laurent

Thursday, October 13, 2011

James Rubart's The Chair ~ Reviewed

By James L Rubart
Published by B&H
ISBN #: 978-14336-7154-2
386 Pages

Book Description:

If someone gave you a chair and said it was made by Jesus Christ, would you believe them?

When an elderly lady shows up in Corin Roscoe's antiques store and gives him a chair she claims was crafted by Jesus, he scoffs. But when a young boy is miraculously healed two days after sitting in the chair, he stops laughing and starts wondering . . . could this chair heal the person whose life Corin destroyed twelve years ago?

As word spreads of the boy's healing, a mega-church pastor is determined to manipulate Corin into turning over the chair. And that mysterious woman who gave him the piece flits in and out of his life like a shadow, insinuating it's Corin’s destiny to guard the chair above everything else. But why?

Desperate, he turns to the one person he can trust, a college history professor who knows more about the legend of the chair than he'll reveal. Corin's life shatters as he searches for the truth about the artifact and the unexplained phenomena surrounding it. What’s more, he's not the only one willing do almost anything to possess the power seemingly connected to the chair.


I’m thankful to have received a review copy of a book that took me on an unexpected, suspenseful, and wild journey. James Rubart also did that in his book Rooms too. I see a pattern here! Grin! Loved it!

One day an old woman leaves a mysterious chair at Corin Roscoe’s antique shop. She doesn’t want to sell it but says this chair belongs to him and says he’s now the keeper of the chair. She doesn’t stay long. Says she’ll be in touch with Corin. Corin thinks this woman is bizarre and doesn’t think much about it, he’s just glad the old gal was gone!

He soon forgets about the chair until his next customer enters with a boy who has bad asthma! He sits in this old chair while Corin helps his mom. The next day Corin catches the news and discovers the little boy’s been healed and tells reporters it was after sitting a magical chair in the antique store! The boy says he felt warm and peaceful after sitting there a while! Next thing you know Dr’s confirmed the little boy is healed. Corin starts to wonder about this chair and how to get a hold of the old lady- he had questions to ask her. He runs into the woman again and she says the chair was made by Jesus. Could it be possible? Did it really have the power to heal?

He found passages in the bible such as Matthew 14:35-36 and Mark 5:27-29 where objects were used to heal and a woman was healed by just touching Jesus’s clothes. So maybe there was something to this “Healing Chair.”

The old woman warns Corin to keep the location of the chair a secret to protect himself and the chair. The woman disappears leaving him with more questions than before. He shares his situation with his closest pal - who says, “I think it would be cool if you had a chair made by Jesus, you could start a cult. Pretend it gives people visions if they sit on it! Hey! Make them pay to sit on it to get their visions and make a few bucks by building duplicates, put them in stores and up on your website and sell ‘em!”

If his friend was acting like this what would happen if the world found out? It would be unimaginable to think about the ramifications! How does he validate if the chair is real and keep it quiet at the same time? How can he hide the chair during this process? If the chair was real then what? His life was complicated enough, he didn’t need this!

I liked the suspenseful drama, action and the deep love relationships talked about in this novel. The author says, “...the greatest healing would never be physical, but a healing of the heart and our soul...the restoration of man’s relationship to God and of our relationships with each other.”

Jim also says in his note to readers! “All of us long to be restored physically, emotionally. But I believe the restoration we long for most is the healing of broken relationships!”

I loved this story of discovery and wonder as Corin tries to find out if the chair’s made by Jesus and has healing powers. James L. Rubart talks about the important things in life, love, family and relationships. What would you be willing to do to protect them, love them, be restored to them? I highly recommend this book to everyone. It’s a fun, fast-paced read that will make you think about love, life and your relationship with the master!! Doesn’t get any better than that!

Reviewed: Nora St.Laurent

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Nancy Rue's Unexpected Dismounts ~ Reviewed

By Nancy Rue
Published by David C. Cook
ISBN 978-1-4347-6492-8

Allison Chamberlain thought she was doing everything God required of her—but as her journey continues in the second book of The Reluctant Prophet series, she might have to let go of everything she loves to follow the call.

She was already taking care of five former prostitutes who were recovering from lives no tick-ridden mongrel dog should have to endure. And trying to adopt an orphan. And coping with feeling she didn't know she had in her.

But along the way, she experiences unexpected dismounts, as every Harley owner who risks the ride eventually does. A distant relative challenges the adoption, And influential businessman tries to block her ministry. Her beloved Chief is seriously injured. A piece of her past elbows its way in. As she picks herself up again and again, Allison realizes she just might have to give up everything she loves just to stay upright.


This is the series every young person, who seeks not to be a Christian in name only but the hands and feet of Jesus, needs to read. This is what the church needs to be. With an unpredictable plot, wonderful characters you want to meet in real life—well most of them anyway, Unexpected Dismounts is as terrific a read as The Reluctant Prophet. Novel Rocket and I give it our highest recommendation – it's a 5-star must read.

Reviewed by: Ane Mulligan, Sr. editor

Monday, October 10, 2011

Ronie Kendig's Wolfsbane ~ Reviewed

By Ronie Kendig
Published By: Barbour Books; Discarded Heroes edition (July 1, 2011)
ISBN# 978-1602607842
352 Pages

Book Description:

Embark upon a danger-laden mission within the pages of Ronie Kendig’s riveting Wolfsbane. Demolitions expert Danielle Roark thought escaping from a brutal Venezuelan general was a challenge. Now she’s charged with espionage and returned to the jungle where a new nightmare begins. Will Dani survive or become just another political pawn destined to be lost forever? Former Green Beret Canyon Metcalfe is disgusted with the suits on Capitol Hill. Still wrestling with the memories of a mission gone bad, he and Nightshade launch a mission to find Dani. Can Canyon rescue Dani, armed with nothing but raw courage?


I was thankful for the review copy of this realistic, thought-provoking, fast-paced novel. It had me look at war in a way I hadn't before.

It’s a gift to be able to write such a compelling, death-defying drama that stirs a reader's emotions deep to the depth of their soul. Ronnie Kendig has this gift and talent. This author had me laugh, cry and glued to the page anticipating the enemies next move. I was instantly wrapped up into her characters and there horrific situation. If this book were a movie I would have covered my eyes in several parts because I was afraid of what would happen next and what I might see. Yes, I'm a chicken! Grin! But since I've read several of Ronnie’s books already I knew things wouldn’t get too graphic. That was reassuring.

Ronie Kendig pens an honest portrayal of how disturbing it is to be a female POW. Women face unique challenges to survive. A person never knows what they'll be willing to do to escape. Fear. Hatred. Guilt. Hope. Finally--Peace are all felt. Ronnie takes the reader through a wide range of emotions with her larger than life characters. The rhythm and flow of this suspenseful story-line took the reader from extreme riveting highs, to heart-wrenching moments you’ll never forget. This is a book you’ll want to experience.

This author has written a powerful and moving book that transported me to the front lines of war like I’ve never experienced before. I could feel the intense humidity, hear the explosion of gunfire, see through their night goggles, and hear the intense quiet sounds of the enemy slivering near; it’s nothing like you've ever seen or heard before. There is a depth and intensity in the characters that touched me. This is a page-turning action story, with vivid imagery, engaging characters, and a lot of heart. I highly recommend Wolfsbane, It’s brilliantly written and an emotionally compelling a book you shouldn't miss!

Reviewed by: Nora St.Laurent

Friday, October 07, 2011

William Boykin's and Tom Morrisey's Kiloton Threat ~ Reviewed

By William G. Boykin and Tom Morrisey
Published by B and H
ISBN# 978-0-8054-4954-9
262 Pages

Book Description:

Taken from what could be tomorrow's headlines, Kiloton Threat is a novel that explores the frightening potential of nuclear weapons in the Middle East today. Out of the house churches of rural Iran, a Christian masquerading as a Muslim gains the confidence of a high-ranking leader in the Iranian nuclear program and opens his eyes to Christianity. The man’s newfound faith stirs his desire to flee to the West, taking with him intelligence that would allow Coalition forces to neutralize his nation's devastating capabilities. But no one in such a position could ever escape unnoticed.

Enter Blake Kershaw, a highly trained U.S. Special Forces officer who has already made extraordinary sacrifices for his country that include faking death and losing his true identity. His mission to infiltrate Iran and extract the high-value defector strains the relationship with the woman he loves— one of the few people on earth who knows his real story. With even more intensity, it shows the price that must sometimes be paid when political correctness fails and a man has to stand up for what is right.


I’m thankful to have received a review copy of this action-adventure drama story I couldn’t put down. I appreciated the fact that these authors took sometime in explaining what the Twelfth Imam, AKA “Mahdi” is and why I should know about it in the first place. These authors didn't bog the reader down with technological information but used laymen’s terms to get their message across. It was easy to explore along with the characters in the story the possibility of how WWIII could start in the Middle East and get the attention of the whole world.

My favorite character was Blake Kershaw, a highly skilled U.S. Special Forces Officer. His new mission is to infiltrate Iran and extract the high-value defector. This mission puts a huge strain on his relationship with Ali, his fiancé.

Ali, is the one person on earth he can be himself with. He doesn't have to hide anything from. He says this to Ali, “You know I am not going to walk away from this kind of thing. We’re talking the fate of a nation here. Not our nation, but that doesn't matter. We’re going to need more than my help to do this. We’re going to need God’s help. Together we will pull this off.”

Blake knew this much, “Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway.” That’s how he did his job.

I envisioned Blake to be several different leading men rolled into one! Blake had the heart of a Godly Warrior, like David in the bible. He had the determination and strength to carry out any mission, no matter the personal risk. In a pinch when Plan “A” wasn’t working out the way everyone thought it would and/or when regular supplies weren’t available for Blake to use (like they were supposed to be-Grin!) – He reminded me of MacGyver– a man who could think on his feet, a man who was resourceful and could use everyday items to get the operation accomplished.

Blake’s first and foremost a soldier. A soldier always followed orders. That’s the man in a nutshell. I highly recommend this fast paced military novel. I enjoyed the rhythm and flow of the action adventure and this story. The information in this book helped clear up a few military things for me and also helped me understand a little more about the Twelfth Imam!!

I was thrilled to read another book by Tom Morrissey and I've enjoyed them all. I look forward to this new writing team and the stories they will write.

Reviewed by: Nora St.Laurent

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Anne Mateer's Wings of a Dream ~ Reviewed

Wings of a Dream
By Anne Mateer
Published by Bethany House
ISBN: 978-0-7642-0903-1


Rebekah Hendricks dreams of a life far from her family's farm in Oklahoma, and when dashing aviator Arthur Samson promises adventure in the big city, she is quick to believe he's the man she's meant to marry.

While she waits for the end of the Great War and Arthur's return, her mother's sister falls ill. Rebekah seizes the opportunity to travel to Texas to care for Aunt Adabelle, sure that her glamorous and exciting life is about to start.

But the Spanish flu epidemic changes everything. Faced with her aunt's sickness, Arthur's indecisiveness, and four children who have no one else to care to them, Rebekah discovers she must choose between her desire to escape the type of life she's always led and the unexpected love that just might change the dream of her heart.


Historical fiction is not my favorite. Combine it with historical romance and I steer away. But Anne Mateer not only held me captive in the pages of Wings of a Dream, I lost sleep because I couldn't put the book down. Delightful characters you'll fall in love with, precocious children you'll want to hold, and that new fangled invention, the automobile, all combine to deliver a heartwarming story. You'll chuckle and you'll shed some tears, but you'll absolutely love Wings of a Dream. Novel Rocket and I highly recommend Wings of a Dream.

Reviewed by: Ane Mulligan, editor
Novel Rocket

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Steven James's The Queen ~ Reviewed

By Steven James
Published by: Revell
517 Pages

Book Blurb:

Critically acclaimed author Steven James has written four other award-winning Patrick Bowers novels as well as many works of nonfiction. He has a master's degree in storytelling and has taught writing and creative storytelling on three continents. He lives near the Blue Ridge Mountains of Tennessee with his wife and three daughters.


Latest in the Patrick Bowers series by Steven James is the best yet!

I am lucky enough to be married to a woman who reads voraciously and happens to know many authors. A couple of years ago Nora happened to hand me a copy of The Pawn by Steven James. She knows me well and understands that I cannot resist a good detective novel. I am captured by thrillers, mysteries and lawyers fighting in the court room stories.

From the very first chapter of Steven James' series about FBI Special Agent Patrick Bowers series, I have been inextricably pulled into his world of suspense. His books are not for the timid. Keep in mind that Agent Bowers chases down serial killers and investigates some heinous criminals. However there are other sides to Patrick that take us deep into his relationships. He is a widower with a teen step daughter. His wife who he loved intensely is diagnosed with cancer and dies not too long before we meet him in the first book. He was struggling to be a husband and stepfather to his wife's daughter before losing her and now two unrelated, grieving, extended family members are thrust into a relationship they both need and desire but have no clue about what to do with.

This is one of many relationships that complicate Patrick Bowers personal and professional life throughout the series. I mention this because, although one could pick up the Queen and enjoy the exciting pace of the story without ever reading the first four books, I must tell you that you will miss the richness and depth of the relationships that are developed from the first page of book one.

The Queen is clearly the best book of the series so far! I am not saying that the other books lacked anything, because they did not. Each book in this series is well crafted and the endings of all of these stories kept me up much later than I planned, because I was compelled to finish them. They pick up momentum and become a irresistible force, page after blistering page. Special Agent Bowers is a geospatial investigator. What this means is that time and location matter, though mostly the location of the crimes, in the due course of his investigations. He is at odds with his co-investigators who lean primarily on profiling, most of the time. He is Sherlock Holmes meets Criminal Minds!

Interspersed, really woven into the fabric of these stories are the issues surrounding grief, forgiveness, who God really is and who we are to Him and to each other. The richness of this book is in the inner healing of the people who are a part of this story. There are questions asked that the reader is left to answer. I highly recommend this book for reading groups who can handle stories about homicidal maniacs and the people who catch them. I guarantee that there will be topics in each of these books that will generate deep discussion of issues that lead to healing. Teen relationships, self inflicted cutting, alcohol abuse, marriage, broken homes, grief, un-forgiveness and forgiveness and much more.

When I said that the Queen is the best of the series I mean it. Is it because of the culmination of so many issues involved with the story line? Is it because I have come to know these people in the book and care about them? Or is it because the author has created a world where we can care deeply for these characters and what happens to them? Maybe it is all of that.

I was lucky enough to meet Steven James at the 2010 Christy Awards in Atlanta. (I am trying to entice him into joining ) I felt myself wanting to ask him to say hello to Agent Bowers for me! He makes his characters that real!

I know one thing. I am looking forward to getting my hands on the next book (due out in the Fall of 2012)!!

If you would like to know more feel free to visit his website and while there invite him to join us here at TBCN? I honestly believe that his books will lead to intimate discussions in any reading group!

The Book Club Network

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Julie Lessman's A Heart Revealed ~ Reviewed

A Heart Revealed
By Julie Lessman
Published by Revell
ISBN# 9780800734169
505 Pages

Back Cover:

Ten years ago, Emma Malloy fled Dublin for Boston as a battered woman, escaping the husband who scarred her beautiful face. The physical and emotional wounds have faded with time, and her life is finally full of purpose and free from the pain of her past. But when she falls for her friend Charity's handsome and charming brother, Sean O'Connor, fear and shame threaten to destroy her. Could Sean and Emma ever have a future together? Or is Emma doomed to live out the rest of her life denying the only true love she's ever known?

Filled with intense passion and longing, deception and revelation, A Heart Revealed will hold readers in its grip until the very last page.


I am grateful to have received a review copy of a novel that is written by an author who's passionate about her relationship with Jesus and others she loves. Not only does Julie have a zest and love for life but Julie’s passion for her Savior radiates throughout this book and not in a preachy way, but an honest and enlightening way. Julie’s newest novel shows that what we have in our hearts is revealed through our actions, thoughts and words. Just like Julie’s characters this often takes us by surprise, thinking we’ve dealt with that matter or didn’t realize a matter bothered us so much. I enjoyed this complex and tender story.

I loved A Hope Undaunted, the first book in the Winds of Change series, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on A Heart Revealed and see where Julie would take me next. This story started out in the time of the great depression of 1931 – where people struggled to survive. They had a hard time balancing, work and family just like we deal with today. This author also talks about true love, making a time for passion, talking face to face (not texting) and how we have to work at keeping a love relationship alive.

I also like how Julie shows that just because these characters accepted Christ in their hearts and go to church; it’s not all happily ever-after. Life can be painful at times and God wants to heal our hurts if we let him. I also enjoyed how Julie Lessman naturally weaves the theme of how we can be free in Christ through forgiveness! Julie shows us how unforgiveness can keep us a prisoner to the pain of the past and never let us walk in what we can be in current time. It’s the freedom we have in Christ through forgiving others, and ourselves. You never know what heavy burden someone was carrying around before Jesus set them free.

Julie answers the question, what does it look like to accept Jesus into our hearts, say we love Him but don’t make him Lord of our lives? And what does someone do when they discover their heart is still bleeding from deep hurts they hide from their conscious mind. Julie shows this very thing and so much more in A Heart Revealed. Each of us has a story to tell, we don’t get out of this life alive and untouched by the tragedies of the world. I love how Julie shows her passion for God through the characters' passion for each other and how all relationships take work.

I liked how Julie honestly looked at marriage on so many levels. Julie looked at the parents Marcy and Patrick's marriage along with Faith and Collin, Charity and Mitch, and Katie and Luke. It’s hard to do creative a loving marriage in changing times and almost impossible to do it without God working in you and through your life. This author gives a peek into these marriages that have very different personalities. I loved how she showed that without God marriage isn’t possible. With each husband and wife seeking God’s will for their lives and asking help in loving their spouse the way he would is the only way they make it. Julie did show the fun side of marriage too. All wasn't serious. I enjoyed the tender moments that left most of the romance to the readers’ imagination and I loved reading about them laughing and having fun; especially when the whole family gets together for game night.

Julie talked about being single in this book and enjoying it. I liked how she handled matter. She showed Sean and Emma as being totally fulfilled in being single. They fully walked in all it meant to be for them. They were both single and living for Jesus. I also liked how she revealed that Sean and Emma could be best of friends. They were confidants; they prayed for one another and held each other accountable. I also liked that even though Emma made strong suggestions to Sean that he sought God on his own terms. He didn’t take someone else’s word for what he was supposed to do.

A Priest said to Sean, “Emma sees herself as – a scarred woman, inside and out. Keep in mind that when a woman’s self-image has been destroyed, both by the man she loved and the very sins that have imprisoned her most of her life, she can’t see what you see. It will only be though the mirror of God’s love and that of your own that Emma will finally have a glimpse of the beautiful women God created her to be.” Powerful stuff.

Julie is creative and fun and had a newsletter contest and two people won the prize. The prize was to have their names in Julie's new book. Casey Herringshaw and Michelle Tuller won. It was fun to read Casey’s name in this book because I work with her on the ACFW book club loop.

I loved reading about all the members of the O’Connor family; they all have so much fun interacting with each other. I highly recommend this book and Julie’s other as well for an honest, passionate look at love and life and everything in-between. Her books are definitely worth your time. Let Julie and her books sweep you into the O’Connor family and into the arms of Jesus. You’ll enjoy her passionate characters in this book and her others.

Reviewed by:
Nora St.Laurent
The Book Club Network

Monday, October 03, 2011

Jenny B. Jones's There You'll Find Me ~ Reviewed

By Jenny B.Jones
Published by Thomas Nelson, Oct 4th
ISBN 978-1-5955-4540-4

In a charming cottage in rural Ireland, Finely comes face-to-face with the loss of a brother, the hottest teen actor ... and her past.

When Finely books her trip to the "Emerald Isle" as a foreign exchange student, she hopes to create a new identity and get some answers from God. After all, since her brother's recent death, God seems to have forgotten she even exists.

Now all she wants to do is let her heart heal, see the sights in her brother's favorite country, and work on her college audition piece for a prestigious music conservatory. She plans to sue her brother's journal from his time in Ireland as her guide, yet from the moment she boards the plane and sits next to Beckett Rush, teen star of the hottest vampire flicks, nothing goes according to her well-ordered plan.

The peace and beauty of the Irish village are no match for the chaos that soon becomes her life. When she gets roped into working as Beckett Rush's personal assistant, she finds this famous wild child is not quite what he seems. And as she grows closer to the mysterious actor, hew own secrets refuse to stay put.

As things begin to unravel, Finely takes desperate measures to control her own life and fill the empty spaces her brother left behind. When it all comes crashing down, Finely must discover how to give her past to God ... if there's to be any hope in her future.


Warning! Not your typical 'depressed-teenage-girl-who-falls-in-love-with-a-vampire-novel. In fact this does not even come close to anything "Twilight" in nature, which to me is a very good thing. This book touches the heart on so many levels and delves into difficult issues including: eating disorders, depression, death, forgiveness, and purpose in life. While it does reference vampire books.movies, it's really as more of Beckett's characters occupation than theme of the book. I really loved the use of Ireland as setting for the book. The authors descriptions on the weather, music, food, scenery, etc of this country make you feel as though you are really there. Perhaps, because I am a musician, this book struck a particular chord with me- but I really think that this book encompasses a lot of thing that any young woman struggles with-and the use of music to communicate different plot twists was intriguing. I highly recommend reading this book-I was absolutely captivated by it and could not put it down!

Reviewed by: Rachael Schnitker

Bonus Review:

Jenny B. Jones uses a finely honed sense of humor and a 500 horsepower imagination to deliver quirky characters that will make you laugh and cry then laugh again. This award-winning author just keeps getting better and better. Novel Rocket and I give it a 5-star recommendation. Don't miss this one!

Reviewed by: Ane Mulligan, Sr. editor