Monday, February 28, 2011
Bound by Guilt
By C.J. Darlington
Published by Tyndale
Roxi Gold has been shuttled from one foster home to another for most of her life. She longs for a family and will do anything to fit in, even if it's against the law. Soon she’s traveling the country in an RV, stealing rare books from unsuspecting bookstores. She knows it’s wrong, but if she refuses, she’ll be put out on the streets.
Police officer Abby Dawson has seen the worst of society, and not just at work. Her ex-husband wrested their daughter away from her in a bitter custody battle. The job she once loved has become a chore, the world isn’t any safer, and there’s no joy in her life.
One fateful night, a man’s innocent blood changes both Roxi’s and Abby’s lives forever. One searches for justice; the other finds herself on the run until a first edition of The Great Gatsby catches up with her. Will the power of forgiveness set them free, or will they both remain bound by guilt?
I was intrigued by the beautifully bound book and the troubled teen on the front cover. I was thrilled to receive a review copy of such an intriguing, tension filled, heartfelt book. This novel kept me spellbound on many levels, as C.J. took me through the homey Book Barn - a place I’d love to go and explore its treasures myself. The author’s passion for books and her book experience shines through in this haunting, suspenseful tale of a teen caught in a hopeless web she struggles to get out of. Contrast to a female cop named Abby, a character who feels trapped in a different kind of situation! She too is looking for a way out!
Roxie longed for a family of her own and a place to call home. She was abandoned by her mom and shuffled though the foster care system at a young age, ending up with a distant relative. Roxi felt trapped in the family business she wanted no part of. But where would she go? If she didn’t comply, they’d give her back to foster care and she couldn’t have that.
Abby Dawson is a cop with an attitude. She joined the force to help people and clean up the streets. Abby felt she did very little good when the bad guys didn’t stay in jail long, and were back out on the streets. Life didn’t quite seem fair in the legal system or in her personal life either. Where was she headed? Her life had no meaning?
Then Roxi and Abby’s life change in an instant! Abby receives a phone call from her dad that rocks her world, and sets Abby on a new path in life. Roxi has started down a new path as well...one she never thought she’d be on – ever. Will this event be the end to both of them? Or will they both seek the truth and be set free, in more ways than one.
The author says, “If you take away one thing from Bound by Guilt, may it be the challenge to look past outward appearances and reach out to a hurting teen in your life. Teenagers, even those with tattoos and nose rings, need people like you and me to love them for who they are. I hope we can be Jesus’ hands and feet and love this generation unconditionally,”
While reading this story I could sense the authors’ soft spot for teens and the
people society throws away. This is a book that will touch your heart, mind and emotions. It will also get you thinking about how you can be the hands and feet of Jesus in your corner of the world. C.J.’s a deep thinker and full of love that radiates on every page she writes. She shows how God uses flawed characters’ to do amazing things in their lives if we let Him!
C. J. Darlington has been in the antiquarian book selling business for over a decade. Her passion for books and the experience she’s had in book selling bleeds through in every chapter. It was enthralling. In the author notes, C.J. mentions she used a real life story as the back drop to this book. It made the story all the more interesting for me. I enjoyed how C.J. took the reader behind the scenes of the mysterious world of antique books, buyers, sellers and thieves. The world that C.J. creates is sincere, interesting, suspenseful and clever!
I can’t wait to have my book club read and discuss this book. You’ll definitely want to read this book, I’m sure you’ll be talking about it to friends and co-workers. I’m looking forward to the next book C.J. writes, you will too!
Reviewed by: Nora St.Laurent
The Book Club Network
Friday, February 25, 2011
All For One by: Melody Carlson
Christian Fiction, Softcover, 336 pages
Release Date: March 1, 2011
Publisher: David C. Cook
Life is heating up for the four Lindas-and it's not just hot flashes! Abby's losing sleep over her husband's health and neglecting her bed-and-breakfast dreams. Caroline mahave waited too long to put her Alzheimer's-afflicted mom in a care facility. Marley's hard-won indenpendence is threatened by her grown son's neediness. And Janie's having a hard time being everyone's rock as the relationship she counted on falters. Add to that a house fire, a missing set of dishes, a bully brother, plus a half-crazy blonde named Donna, and things get really complicated. But with each new twist their lives take, the Lindas are learning that good friends are the best family a girl can have.
This fun book would make a great chick flick! The third book in 'The Four Lindas' series, this fun story follows 4 friends (all named Linda) living out the mid to later half of their lives with vigor. You read from each woman's perspective (each goes by her middle name) individually, which gives this book a personal feel and each of their personalities and situations are drastically different. But they have two things in common- their shared first name and their faith in God. I enjoyed this book, but believe it could be even more enjoyable to ladies a bit closer to the ages of the women in the book. Over all a fun read!
Reviewed by: Rachael Schnitker
Thursday, February 24, 2011
Morning's Refrain (Song of Alaska, #2)
by Tracie Peterson
Genre: Christian Historical Romance
Pages: 368 Trade Paperback
Date Published: March 1, 2010
Publisher: Bethany House
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
When Phoebe Robbins learns her family will move to Sitka, Alaska, she is unsure what this wild, untamed land might offer her. But before she even sets foot on this new territory, she has an unexpected encounter with Dalton Lindquist.
Dalton is a man haunted by dark family secrets. When he decides to pursue answers to his past, he finds he must leave Sitka... and the lovely Phoebe. But Dalton is not the only one who has sought her attention. His best friend, Yuri, determines to claim her affection, as well.
As the past collides with a tenuous future, the battle for Phoebe's heart is only the start of the challenges that face them...
I really loved reading the first in this series Dawn's Prelude and this continuation of Lydia's son Dalton's story in Morning's Refrain was delightful. Once again there is a beautiful cover for a beautiful story. In this second book in the Song of Alaska series readers are brought into the story of Dalton trying to come to terms with the legacy of evil men in his biological family and his possible love at first sight relationship with Phoebe Robbins.
The Morning's Refrain also contains a continuation of the story of another Gray child, Evie and her loveless marriage that she fled to Alaska to avoid over fifteen years ago. Every chapter draws in the reader and leaves one begging for more. I am so glad that I already have the third book in the series here for me to jump into immediately.
Reviewed by: Margaret Chind
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
A Man's Heart [Paperback]
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Zondervan; Original edition (October 12, 2010)
Jules sacrificed marriage to tend to her ailing father. Now Pop is gone, Cruz hates her, she's caring for her deceased friend's children, and her sister is furious that she's been disinherited---all while Jules is struggling to save her father's drought-stricken potato farm.
How much can one woman bear? Can she ever win back Cruz's heart?
Lori Copeland's experience and talent carries this book about a woman who has jilted her man not once but twice, in favour of researching potatoes! Lori makes a potentially predictable story interesting by making Jules the one with commitment issues and the desire to pursue her career and Cruz, ready to settle down. The conflict between them both is realistic given Jules' rejection of Cruz and the life he offers and thankfully isn't resolved in a simple fashion. The relationship between Jules her sister is a highlight as the chalk and cheese siblings discover an affection for each other as they bond over the young children in their care. Lori's fans will enjoy this contemporary tale of love lost and rediscovered.
Reviewed by: Rel Mollet
Friday, February 18, 2011
By Irene Hannon
Published by Revell
U.S. Marshal Jake Taylor has seen plenty of action during his years in law enforcement. But he'd rather go back to Iraq than face his next assignment: protection detail for federal judge Liz Michaels. His feelings toward the coldhearted workaholic haven't warmed in the five years since she drove her husband--and Jake's best friend--to despair . . . and possible suicide.
As the danger mounts and Jake gets to know Liz better, he's forced to revise his opinion of her. And when it becomes clear that an unknown enemy may want her dead, the stakes are raised. Because now both her life--and his heart--are in danger.
Fatal Judgment is a chilling story that can be taken from today’s headlines. Irene Hannon pens a realistic, intriguing, gripping story I couldn’t put down. In light of a recent shooting that took place in Tucson, Arizona a month ago, of a female politician and a man in Florida who held a school board at gun point earlier this year, the situation in this book is very real. I was thankful to receive a review copy of a book where a federal judge’s life is in danger. The FBI procedures Irene Hannon describes, add to the drama and realism of the story.
This book felt like a combination of the television shows CSI and Law and Order, without all the graphic photos, explicit violence and foul language. This author did extensive research on how U.S. Marshall’s operate and the FBI agencies work together to protect the innocent. It was fascinating to see things from their point of view.
There was a believable spiritual thread throughout the book that I enjoyed. I also liked the authors’ balance of violence and faith, too. The judge says, “Faith is a funny thing. It’s easy to believe while life is rolling merrily along. But in times of trial, it’s tempting to turn away from God. Yet, that’s when we need him the most.”
Judge Michaels had to think about her situation-there was no time to freak out.
“She had to keep her wits about her. Think clear. Her life depended on it. Who would try to kill her? She forced herself to examine the facts, just as she did in the courtroom, doing her best to take emotion out of the equation. The facts were straight forward…her stalker was committed in finishing the job he set out to do three weeks before.” She realized she needed supernatural help.
The judge's life is turned upside-down and not in a good way-she craved her routine. Anything normal-she liked her organized, predictable life. She prays as she looks through case after case to see who could possibly want to kill her.
U. S. Marshal, Jake, had met Liz Michael’s five years ago at her husband’s funeral. Liz’s husband was his close friend. Funny his friend didn’t have nice things to say about his wife over the years. He had a good idea what this Liz was like and wanted nothing to do with a woman like her.. He’d do his job and be civil. The more interactions Jake with Liz the more he was surprised at what he discovered. He found a sensitive, broken woman in the middle of a crime scene, worried more about others than herself. She wasn’t anything like his friend described. How could that be? Jake was uncomfortable with the feelings he felt in her presence and when he smelled her perfume, oh my—he had to stop this line of thinking? He was a professional and would separate his emotions from his work. He couldn’t get distracted...the Judge’s life depended him being focused on finding the killer.
I liked how this author took her time in having the reader get to know Federal Judge Liz and the U.S. Marshall Jake. Both parties had their own personal baggage to deal with, which affected how they operated in current time. Fatal Judgment is a captivating, romantic, suspense story that I was drawn into quickly and stayed up late reading. This is the first book in the Guardian of Justice series. I highly recommend this book. I can’t wait to read the next installment.
Reviewed by: Nora St.Laurent
The Book Club Network
Finding Hope Through Fiction
Irene Hannon's decision to write romantic suspense has paid off in spades. Having penned numerous contemporary romances for Steeple Hill's Love Inspired line, Irene turned her hand to romantic suspense to great acclaim with her Heroes of Quantico trilogy. The same excellent character development and intriguing suspense marks the first book in her Guardians of Justice series, Fatal Judgment, as Jake Taylor reluctantly takes on the protection of a women he dislikes, Liz Michaels. The animosity between Jake and Liz is realistic and the tentative transformation of their feelings for one another is refreshingly genuine. The suspense kicks along nicely and Irene will garner new fans with this series. For me, the epilogue was overly sentimental but will have many readers sighing with happiness! I'm looking forward to Jake's sister Alison's story, Deadly Pursuit, releasing this September.
Reviewed by Rel Mollet
Thursday, February 17, 2011
The Glory of Green
By Judy Christie
Published by Abingdon Press
Small-town journalist Lois Barker expects her wedding day to make headlines, but little does she know what a historic day it will turn out to be.
Grace and tragedy unfold in Lois Barker's third year in Green, Alabama, as wedding plans are underway!
While Lois tries to get rid of her groom-to-be's catfish collection, he's giving up his homestead to a needy Mexican family at their church.
As usual life explodes with possibilities for Lois Barker in Green and her trust in God is being tested.
Once again, Christie draws her readers in to the town, the life, the humor, and the drama in Green. I felt like I was visiting old friends in my hometown. Warm, funny, and nostalgic, The Glory of Green is a wonderful narrative of small town America, pulling together in tragedy. A great read! Novel Journey and I give it a high recommendation.
Reviewed by: Ane Mulligan, editor
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
A Secret Identity, Amish Farm Trilogy Series #2
By: Gayle Roper
Number of Pages: 304
Vendor: Harvest House Publishers
Publication Date: 2010
Readers will be delighted as popular author Gayle Roper continues her contemporary Amish series (that began with A Stranger’s Wish) with book two in The Amish Farm series, A Secret Identity.
Cara Bentley is raised by her grandfather to appreciate family. When she discovers—quite by accident—that he was adopted, her whole perspective changes. If he wasn’t a Bentley, who was he? If she isn’t a Bentley, who is she? She determines to find her “real” family.
Ending up in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, she takes a room at the Zook family farm. When she seeks the help of attorney Todd Reasoner, the search for the truth begins in earnest.
But as mysterious accidents begin to happen, Cara suspects her attempt to find out the truth is not welcome—and neither is she.
A Secret Identity involves a young writer named Cara Bentley who finds out that her grandfather was adopted. In her search for her real family, she finds herself in Bird-in-Hand, Pennsylvania, where she not only finds more leads on her family, but she finds the possibility of love in her new lawyer, Todd Reasoner.
It took me a couple of chapters to get into this book, but once I did, I had a hard time putting it down. The book was written from Cara’s point of view. I really liked this for a change, as it’s fun to know what the character is thinking at all times. It almost puts you in her place. There was a bit of suspense throughout the book as well, which kept me on the edge of my seat. .
This book was a great read, and I would recommend it to anyone who loves Christian fiction!
Reviewed by: Sarah Porter
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
By Janice Thompson
Published by Revell
Kat Jennings and Scott Murphy don't just play two people who are secretly in love on a television sitcom--they are also head over heels for each other in real life. When the lines between reality and TV land blur, they hope they can keep their relationship under wraps. But when Kat's grandmother, an aging Hollywood starlet with a penchant for wearing elaborate evening gowns from Golden Age movies, mistakes their on-screen wedding proposal for the real deal, things begin to spiral out of their control. Will their secret be front-page news in the tabloids tomorrow? And can their budding romance survive the onslaught of paparazzi, wedding preparations, and misinformed in-laws?
From the sound stage to a Beverly Hills mansion to the gleaming Pacific Ocean, Stars Collide takes readers on a roller-coaster tour of Tinseltown, packing both comedic punch and tender emotion.
Janice hits a home run with Stars Collide. I am so thankful to have received a review copy of a book that has it all, mystery, romance, fun and laughter.
Kate Jennings and Scott Murphy are the main characters of a T.V. sitcom. The shows ratings have slipped in the polls. The studio wants to spice up the script and have these stars finally commit to each other. It’s time. It’s been three seasons. The problem is that they want to spice up their personal life too and say they are the real deal on and off the set. Kate and Scott are uncomfortable about this. They’ve never gone out on a date and only interacted on stage. Now this! Everything is happening so fast.
Kate is smitten with Scott Murphy in real life but has never told him. Scott hasn’t mentioned his feeling for her either. She felt the chemistry but did he? Now the engagement scene is scheduled on the show, along with their first kiss on and off stage. She was thrilled to finally find an actor that felt working on family friendly projects in Hollywood was important. They both felt Hollywood needed more people willing to stand up for what they believed in.
The producer says to Kate, “Love stories were about the chase, not the catch.”
What bothers me, there is so much more said Rex, “people think the only love story is the “falling in love’ part. The part that produces romantic feelings, they forget that the story is really just beginning at the first kiss. The true love story-in real life, anyway – is the part that comes after walking with each other through thick and thin. Staying with that person when he does something stupid and you feel like killing him, having his babies and dealing with dirty dishes and laundry. Walking someone you love through a health crisis. The ravages of Alzheimer’s, even.”
How true. I like how Janice puts this, love is more than a feeling. Things get crazy when Kate’s grandmother thinks the engagement scene she witnessed on the set is real. The lines between reality and fiction were blurring for Scott, Kate and her grandmother. Where does one stop and the other begin? Lenora couldn’t be more thrilled to be planning her granddaughters wedding. Kate doesn’t want to break her grandmother’s heart, but at the same time she didn’t know what to do. Her grandmother is calling the media and planning a wedding.
This story drew me in at the front cover and continued reeling me in from the first page. I enjoyed the fun, the mystery, the twists and turns of the story. Janice even surprised me at the end. Treat yourself as I did, to Janice’s’ book, the first in a new series. You’ll forget about your cares and be swept away into this humorous, enchanting story with witty and quirky characters you will adore. It’s fun, fun, fun! I highly recommend this and any of Janice’s other books.
Reviewed by: Nora St.Laurent The Book Club Network
Finding Hope Through Fiction
Monday, February 14, 2011
The Choice, Lancaster County Secrets Series #1
By: Suzanne Woods Fisher
Number of Pages: 320
Publication Date: 2009
With a vibrant, fresh style Suzanne Woods Fisher brings readers into the world of a young Amish woman torn between following the man she loves--or joining the community of faith that sustains her, even as she questions some of the decisions of her elders. Her choice begins a torrent of change for her and her family, including a marriage of convenience to silent Daniel Miller. Both bring broken hearts into their arrangement--and secrets that have been held too long. Filled with gentle romance, The Choice opens the world of the Amish--their strong communities, their simple life, and their willingness to put each other first. Combined with Fisher's exceptional gift for character development, this novel, the first in a series, is a welcome reminder that it is never too late to find your way back to God.
This story is about an Amish girl, Carrie, who is in love with a boy named Sol. They plan to marry, but he decides he wants to play baseball so he leaves the village. When Carrie’s father dies unexpectedly, she rushes into a marriage of convenience with a man named Daniel. Things seem to be going well until more unexpected tragedies ensue.
I really enjoyed reading this book, as the life of Amish people is very interesting to me. Parts of the story line made me sad, but in the end, it was interesting how everything tied together for the best interest of Carrie.
I found the character of Veronica McCall very interesting. She’s the type of character that walks in the room and takes charge. While I enjoyed her character, I didn’t agree with what she was trying to accomplish.
Reviewed by: Laura Porter
Friday, February 11, 2011
Never Say Never
By Lisa Wingate
Published by Bethany House
Kai Miller floats through life like driftwood tossed by waves. She's never put down roots in any one place--and she doesn't plan to. But when a chaotic hurricane evacuation lands her in Daily, Texas, she begins to think twice about her wayfaring existence. And when she meets hometown-boy Kemp Eldridge, she can almost picture settling down in Daily--until she discovers he may be promised to someone else.
Daily has always been a place of refuge for those the wind blows in, but for Kai, it looks like it will be just another place to leave behind. Then again, Daily always has a few surprises in store--especially when Aunt Donetta has cooked up a scheme.
Review: Captivating characters thrown together by a hurricane. All the ingredients for a wonderful read, and Lisa Wingate delivers it with some down home humor undergirded by wisdom. Inspirational and fun, Novel Journey and I recommend this book for a really good read.
Reviewed by: Ane Mulligan, editor
Thursday, February 10, 2011
NIPPED IN THE BUD
By Susan Sleeman
Published by Barbour Publishers
Prepare to attend the Pickle Fest in Serendipity, Oregon, along with Paige Turner and Adam Hayes. But first you must help them unravel the mystery of how the city manager wound up dead in a mound of mulch, in the city park, that Paige was hired to landscape. Can Adam’s knowledge of the law keep her out of jail and win her love?
I had read a Love Inspired/suspense novel by this author and was glad to receive a review copy of Nipped in the Bud. The cover of the book looked intriguing, fun and so did the premiums.
Susan Sleeman has a colorful array of characters that make things interesting in this small town where everyone knows your name and your business too! Paige Turner hosts a gardening radio show and has the strangest people call in to get their gardening questions answered. She does her best to answer their wacky requests.
Paige's boss at the radio show starts running taped programs of her show and calls it the "Best of Through the Garden Gate" show while the town tried to figure out who killed Bud and why. Paige is there number one suspect. She had a huge argument with Bud the day before they found his body, and of course, news travels fast by word of mouth in that little town. Who was the real killer?
The reader gets to know Paige better through these pre-recorded radio shows; there are excerpts from them at the beginning of each chapter. They cracked me up! This sets the tone for the chapter, and the caller’s with their serious gardening questions for example…
“…you mentioned the stunning flowers you can get from bulbs, and it sounded like an easy way to garden.”
“That’s right…once you plant them at their optimum depth, pretty much the only work they require for beautiful flowers year after year is a little fertilizer and dividing them when they get large.”
“…I brought every kind of bulb I could think of and so far, no flowers at all.”
“Really, I’m surprised. What type of bulbs, have you tried?”
“Forty watt all the way up to one hundred twenty. Even tried the new compact fluorescents, with no success.”
Is that funny or what? Not only does this author have a talent for writing, a passion for gardening that shines through the entire book, she also has a great sense of humor. Paige grew up in this small town, moved away and came back. Mitch, the sheriff, has a beef with her from the past and would love to see her arrested. This story gives a whole new meaning to “innocent until proven guilty”.
Seems the whole town thinks Paige is guilty except for Lisa, her best friend and Adam Hayes, her handsome attorney. How can she prove her innocence when she had no alibi? Her best friend and lawyer tell her to let go and let God help her in this, but how could she? Give up control? They say God can work things out better than she can? Really?
Paige says, “Control of my day (life) was priority to me, and I didn’t react well when things didn’t go as planned…If I trust God, it will be easier?...I’m not ready to give up control just yet. I’ll think about it, try it even, but I’m not going to give in just like that.”
Have you thought this? Susan shows how God is so patient with us! Grin! I enjoyed this cozy mystery with Mr. T, Paige’s crazy talking bird, Lisa, her mothering best friend, Adam Hayes her very cute gentlemen and Christian attorney, and Paige herself, a radio host who is trying to get her landscaping business off the ground. This story brought a smile to my face and warm feelings in my heart!! Susan had me guessing 'who done-it?' right up until the end! This book is the thing you need on a snowy day. Turn off the TV, get this book and sit by the fire. Susan will give you hours of entertainment and fun! I highly recommend it!
Reviewed by: Nora St.Laurent
The Book Club Network
I admit I am more a suspense fan than a mystery fan but Susan Sleeman's Nipped in the Bud is a fun and intriguing read as Paige Turner sets out to prove she is innocent of the murder of city manager, Bud Picklemann. With humour, twists and turns and excellent romantic tension between Paige and her attorney, Adam Hayes, this is a read that will keep your attention from start to finish. Nipped in the Bud is my first Susan Sleeman and Hometown Mystery read and it won't be my last of either.
Reviewed by: Rel Mollet
Wednesday, February 09, 2011
The Amish Midwife, Women of Lancaster County Series #1
By: Mindy Starns Clark, Leslie Gould
Number of Pages: 304
Vendor: Harvest House Publishers
Publication Date: 2011
A carved box with two locks of hair, the title to property in Switzerland, and a burning desire to learn about her biological family lead nurse midwife Lexie Jaeger from Oregon to Pennsylvania. There Lexie pledges to help her biological Aunt Melia, a lay midwife who has been charged with manslaughter after an Amish client and her baby die. Lexie always knew she was adopted, and when she finally meets her birth grandmother, she feels she has come home-until secrets begin to unravel.secrets that could tear her birth family apart.
Lexie learns the true meaning of the Pennsylvania Dutch word demut, which means "to let be" as she changes from a woman who wants to control everything to a woman who depends on God.
THE CHOICE is about a nurse/midwife named Alexandra who loses her adoptive parents. Her father had given her a chest of papers about her real family before he died, and she decided to investigate. A friend leads her to a job in Pennsylvania and a connection to her family.
I enjoyed the process of seeing the character move out on her own and find more clues about her heritage. It’s interesting to me how the character gets close to her real family, yet they want nothing to do with her due to the circumstances of her birth.
The story was very believable, and I enjoyed it very much. I would highly recommend it to any reader who enjoys learning about the Amish people.
Reviewed by: Laura Porter
Tuesday, February 08, 2011
By Michael Phillips
Published by Faith Words
Widowed at 34, amateur harpist Marie "Angel" Buchan realizes at 40, that her life and dreams are slowly slipping away. A summer in Scotland turns out to offer far more than she ever imagined! Not only does the music of her harp capture the fancy of the small coastal village she visits, she is unexpectedly drawn into a love triangle involving the local curate and the local duke.
The boyhood friends have been estranged as adults because of their mutual love of another woman (now dead) some years before. History seems destined to repeat itself, with Marie in the thick of it. Her involvement in the lives of the two men, as well as in the community, leads to a range of exciting relationships and lands Marie in the center of the mystery of a long-unsolved local murder. Eventually she must make her decision: with whom will she cast the lot of her future?
I devoured the Shenandoah Sisters series Michael Philips wrote, so I was anxious to receive a review copy of Angel Harp. I couldn’t wait to see the adventure Michael Phillips would take me on next. I love how this author develops his characters and lets the reader know them inside and out. I also enjoy how Michael, who has a second home in Scotland, was able to show the reader this country with fresh eyes. I was amazed at how he captured the innocence of experiencing this country for the first time. Michael is also gifted in how he writes believably from a female point of view. Marie is the main character I enjoyed getting to know and felt her struggle. The author let me know her from her deepest parts of heart and mind. Marie’s life’s been on hold since her husband died, and was going nowhere. As her birthday approaches she reflects on her life and decides to start living it. She didn’t want to give up on her dreams; she finally desired to make them happen. Marie realizes, “When you let your dream die...you don’t only lose the dream...you stop dreaming altogether.”
Marie sets out on her dream trip to Scotland. She gets off a bus in a small town that catches her eye and starts walking until she finds a place to spend the night, determined to set out on foot to discover the land and its people in the morning. She is also on a mission to find the perfect place to play her harp and be one with the land.
Marie plays her harp in a beautiful park and meets the most amazing girl named Gwendolyn. She’s 12 years old and is captivated by the harp Marie is playing. Gwendolyn is drawn to Maria and her music, but her aunt doesn’t want her to talk to strangers. Marie has experience teaching children to play the harp, so when Gwendolyn says she loves the music and the harp; Marie offers to instruct her on how to play. Marie gives the harp and a quick lesson to Gwendolyn and watches in amazement. She can’t believe her ears, it’s absolutely magical. She has never seen anyone play the harp like this without training, it was astounding.
Marie has a plan to stay in Scotland longer than she’d thought. She has a purpose. She wants to teach Gwendolyn play on her harp every day if she could. She wanted to bring joy into this girl’s life and watch her talents bloom and grow.
Marie then meets Pastor Iain Barclay. He hears her play the harp which gets them talking about spiritual matters and how music stirs the soul. Iain talks about a personal relationship with Jesus, something she knew nothing about. He tells her, "Life is a Journey, a quest for truth and understanding...God is in the business of waking people up. It’s all about finding truth, walking in integrity, becoming who we’re meant to be, discovering who God is. Those are the things that matter.”
Word gets around about Marie’s music and Alashdair, the Duke, requests her to play for him at the Castle. Alashdair says to her later, “Your music sparked something in me that I had not felt for many years, maybe that I had never felt…I thought I had never heard anything so lovely, so peaceful, so haunting…It made me both sad and happy at once…All these thoughts rushed though me in an instant. Your music forced me to confront myself…”
Maria’s love for music and her ability to express herself through music is a gift everyone in this small community wanted to be part of. Maria starts to feel alive and fall in love with this town and its' people - people who aren’t afraid to tell her what’s on their mind. Love always brings complications. Marie finds her life has taken an unbelievable turn playing for Duke’s in castles and also in a beautiful church setting. Maria must decide the direction her life should go and where she will spend it. She has tough choices and the reader feels her anguish and start rooting for her.
Once again I was whisked away into Michael Phillips world with a story that spoke to my spirit and touched my heart in so many ways. Michael knows relationships and how the power of God can move in peoples hearts like no one else can. This author has a way of describing music, how it moves the human spirit in a special way and can change lives like the spoken word can’t. I enjoyed the characters and their struggle. I loved the complexity of the situation and how God provides a way when there seems to be no way out. It was a treat to read this novel and get to know these unforgettable characters I grew to love and wanted to hang out with long after the book ended. I felt my soul refreshed. You will too.
Reviewed by: Nora St.Laurent
The Book Club Network
Monday, February 07, 2011
By: Kimberly Stuart
Number of Pages: 288
Vendor: David C. Cook
Twenty-year-old Nellie Monroe has a restless brilliance that makes her a bit of an odd duck. She wants to be a private investigator, even though her tiny hometown offers no hope of clients.
Until she meets Amos Shetler, an Amish dropout carrying a torch for the girl he left behind. So Nellie straps on her bonnet and goes undercover to get the dish.
But though she’s brainy, Nellie is clueless when it comes to real life and real relationships. Soon she’s alienated her best friend, angered her college professor, and botched her case. Operation Bonnet is a comedy of errors, a surprising take on love, and a story of grace.
“Stubborn grace, it turned out, came in various forms, straight from the hand of God and in the form of a cranky old lady in a bonnet.” (p.262)
Operation Bonnet it the most original, funny, delightful tale that I have read in a very long time! The characters were such an eclectic group of people – each of them struggling with a private issue that ultimately led them to a very unexpected point of grace. Nellie is the protagonist of the story, and her twenty-year-old life makes about as much sense to her as the wild and unruly mane of red (excuse me, orange) curls that adorns her head. Born to a couple of people who’d rather play golf and spend money rather than raise their only daughter, Nellie finds herself caring for her grandmother and desperately trying to pursue the closest thing she has ever had to a dream – the life of a private detective.
Sounds like a hodge-podge of issues, huh? Well, once you meet Nona, Matt and Amos – oh, and don’t forget Tank! – this story takes on the characteristics of adventure, light romance, and contemporary, realistic issues that every man and woman have had to face at some point in time. Kimberly Stuart develops each character with their own, unique blend of quirkiness, and then intertwines their lives in such creative ways that the reader must keep the pages turning at a rather rapid clip to discover what becomes of their lives. There are Amish characters in the book, by the way, but not in any role that you’ve ever seen them placed within. That fact alone adds a bold, unique feel to this story amid everything I’ve been reading lately. I cannot begin to tell you the number of times I laughed out loud, giggled, cried and just simply sighed when I read the truth of the human condition so creatively captured in this story.
The truth in this story? Well, there are many truths about the human heart that will touch you. My favorite? Probably this one on page 213: “You cry or pout or laugh or whatever you must about what needs to be let go. And then let go. Never try to run the world. Only a God of bottomless grace can pull off a feat like that.” The journey that the reader takes until this point is one you won’t soon forget. This tender, funny story will linger in your heart for a very long time.
Bravo! Kimberly Stuart! Bravo!!
Reviewed by: Kim Ford
I love a novel that makes me laugh and makes me pause at moments of poignancy in between laughs. Operation Bonnet is a delightful story that does just that. I would not have picked up the book based on the cover or the title. I'm not a fan of the Amish trend in Christian publishing. However, another reviewer recommended it to me, suggesting that she thought I just might love it and she was right.
Kimberly Stuart has written previous novels that I've either liked or liked a lot. Operation Bonnet blows them all out of the water and is one I loved.
Nellie is a twenty-year-old crazy-haired girl genius with a hunger for private investigating and a sacrificial love for her Nona. Nellie works at a golf shop, studies PI techniques and takes care of her Nona while her parents travel the world. Her best friend Matt helps her score sweet spying tools and listens to her rants. Nona is losing it, but it's slow enough and the spells are infrequent enough that Nellie thinks she can hold off the inevitable. Her life is full. Rich? Fulfilling? Not quite because she lives in a town where crime is rare, stealth is rarely required, and folks are pretty decent. Boring. Then Amos, the used-to-be Amish boy comes to town. He is hired by Tank, the golf club owner, for the annual project, this year, a mini-golf course. Amos is a walking culture shock with a concern. One that he thinks he could hire Nellie, P.I. to look into. She only will need to infiltrate the tight-knit Amish community to help him out. One that he has been firmly shunned from.
Nellie enters a stretching period where she helps, in a backwards, inside-out and upside-down sort of way. And in the process she grows up a little bit and finds out a lot about life.
I loved this novel. Charming, sweet, funny, sweet, touching, did I say sweet, and interesting. If you read one novel this year, I'm thinking you could do far worse than this one.
Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer
The sight of this cover stopped me in my tracks as I tried to make sense of what this book might be about. Was this an Amish book? Not like any I’ve ever seen. I was thankful for the review copy of this book so I could find out what Kimberly Stuart was up to inside this new novel.
Operation Bonnet is the most hilarious P.I. detective story I’ve read in quite a while. The fact that Nellie Monroe’s first case involves her going undercover to gather information from inside an Amish community is a hoot and very clever, tongue and cheek writing on Kim’s part.
Nellie is a twenty something gal who definitely walks to the beat of her own drums, works hard, is serious about being the best PI possible, and is loyal and caring to her friends and family. She ponders why her grandmother loves God so much. Nellie asks her grandmother why she paints, “…first to honor God who paints the sunsets and oceans and human hearts. And second so I don’t get cranky like so many of the old people in this world.”
Nellie says, “I’ll go every week to the pastry shop and help bake. I’m not a cook and don’t care to be, but if I have to roll out pastry dough for three hours to get a woman to talk about what it’s like to be Amish and female in the twenty first century, doggone it, I will.”
Matt, Nellie’s friend since elementary school supports her in her P.I. career choice but has been acting kind of weird lately. Nellie has noticed his muscles, how Matt looks all manly all of a sudden and how her stomach has started to flip when he looks at her a certain way. What was going on there? She didn’t have time to figure out that right now she was in the middle of her first case! Her client was a shunned Amish boy named Amos and he needed her help.
Kimberly Stuart is not a new comer to Christian fiction but Operation Bonnet is the fist book I’ve read by this author. I love Kimberly’s humor and how real and honest Nellie is. I enjoyed Nellie’s friend Matt and how Amos seeks her for insider information from a certain Amish Community. Kimberly has a gift of making the reader laugh out-loud yet at the same time pens a spiritual thread that is sincere and natural. Kimberly reminded me of another author that makes me laugh out loud, Jenny B. Jones. I’ll definitely be looking for Kimberly Stuart’s other books. I can’t wait for her next book to hit the shelf; you’ll anxiously be waiting for it too.
Reviewed by: Nora St.Laurent
Friday, February 04, 2011
From The Dead [Paperback]
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Segue Blue (August 31, 2010)
A preacher's son, a father in hiding, a guilty heart filled with secrets: When Jesse Barlow escaped to Hollywood, he hungered for fame--but eleven years of failure result in a drug-induced suicide attempt. Revived at death's doorstep, Jesse returns to his Ohio hometown to make amends with his preacher father, a former love, and Jesse's own secret son. But Jesse's renewed commitment becomes a baptism by fire when his son's advanced illness calls for a sacrifice--one that could cost Jesse the very life he regained. A story of mercy, hope, and second chances, From The Dead captures the human spirit with tragedy and joy.
There are so many things I could say about this book. It was edgy. It was heart-wrenching. It was honest. Bottom line...it had a lot of guts. In some ways the story made me think of a Nicholas Sparks novel, at least for the second half of the book.
The first half was more gritty, especially the language - yeah, that included those touchy f-bombs. But it didn't upset me, because it truly fit the story. And I can't stand that word, but it wasn't overly done, in my opinion. It just made the characterization more real in my mind.
I love a story that is emotionally gripping and makes me think about my own life. This book does that. I seriously didn't want to do anything except read this book and nearly read it straight through (darn that day job.) At times I kept thinking things were so intense that the author wouldn't go "there," and then he did. I thought, how much worse could this guy mess up his life? Not much more. But those things was essential in order to illustrate the change in Jesse that occurred later on. It made the story seem more real.
One thing I really loved was the spiritual thread in this book. I didn't find it forced or sappy, and in fact, was more natural than many inspirational books I've read...because it was so honest. It was one of the books greatest strengths (besides the romance,) and thankfully, wasn't in the least bit corny. The main character did a lot of thinking about his life. For most people spirituality is part of that reflective process. The author did a fantastic job showing Jesse processing those things in his life.
I don't often feel moved to tears, but numerous times as I read this story I started to get misty-eyed. And when it came to romance, the scenes between Jesse and Caitlyn were very powerful and emotionally evocative. Though the author is a man, he knows how to reach a woman's heart when he writes romance. I felt breathless several times. Truly!
I loved the embedded message in this book about not running from your problems, or you'll never heal. I loved the message about the difference between selfish love (if you can even call it love) and unselfish, true love. Jesse discovered their was more to life than his initial ambitions in Hollywood, and that was powerfully illustrated when he returned home. Great plotting!
In regards to main characters and secondary characters, the author mastered those distinctions. I felt like I knew everyone in this book personally. I understood them. The only weakness I found was an occasional point of view shift, but that only lasted a few sentences and then things were back on track. But the story was so incredible otherwise, that I'm not factoring that in to my rating at all.
The fact that the author pulled no punches was the main reason this book resonated so much with me. The characterization was very strong. Everyone was three dimensional. There was a particular scene in the first half of the book that was so realistically written, it blew me away. It showed Jesse's pain and just how low his life had gotten. I was probably emotionally impacted in as much as Jesse was (and he's not even a real person!)
In fact, through most of this book I felt like I was Jesse (and he's a guy, I'm not) so that is a sign of great writing. I felt like I lived in his head and wasn't pulled out of the story once. So if you aren't afraid of realistic, gritty language and scenes as long as there is a powerful faith message and a heart gripping plot, you'll want to get this book. It's staying on my keeper shelf.
Reviewed by: Michelle Sutton
Thursday, February 03, 2011
Heart of Lies: A Novel (Irish Angel Series) [Paperback]
Jill Marie Landis
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Zondervan (February 15, 2011)
Raised in a tribe of street urchins, Maddie Grande was taught to be a thief and beggar on the streets of New Orleans. But Maddie doesn't know her real name or where she came from. Raised by Dexter Grande, Maddie and her twin 'brothers' have recently left New Orleans and moved to the bayou. The twins are rarely there, but Maddie has come to love the swamp. She has learned to fish and trap and sell pelts at the local mercantile. Maddie longs to change her life but knows that her brothers will never give up their lawless ways. When they kidnap the daughter of a wealthy carpetbagger, the twins force Maddie to hide the precocious eight-year-old while they return to New Orleans to wait for notice of a reward. Pinkerton agent Tom Abbott is assigned to the kidnapping case in which Maddie has become an accomplice. In a journey that takes them to Baton Rouge, a mutual attraction becomes evident, but Tom and Maddie cannot trust each other. Will Maddie and Tom listen to their hearts or will they choose honor over love? Will Maddie ever discover who she is? Will her real family ever find her?
Heart of Lies revolves around a woman named Maddie Grande. After spending most of her life as an orphan in a New Orleans street gang, she is now living in the bayous with her twin “brothers,” who continue to spend their time stealing and causing problems in New Orleans. When they come home with Penelope, a kidnapped eight your old girl of a wealthy family, in hopes of getting a reward, Madeline is torn as to what to do. In the meantime, Pinkerton Agent Tom Abbott has been hired by a woman in search of her long lost sister, and his investigation leads him to Maddie Grande, not just in regards to the lost sister, but in regards to the missing Penelope. The events following keep the reader on edge to find out what will happen next.
I really enjoyed all the twists and turns this book takes. There are so many different elements to the story line. At times, you have to think back to remember how everything ties together, yet it wasn't difficult to follow. I enjoyed the adventure in the story, and how everything seemed to fall into place for the characters by the end. The only thing I would have liked to have seen done differently is seeing the character come to repentance in Christ. She comes to terms with the things she’s done in her life that were wrong, and can see them for the wrongs that they are, but the author doesn't delve into the spiritual side of their lives as much as I would have liked. However, it was a wonderful book…a great read for those who love adventure.
Reviewed by: Sarah Porter
Wednesday, February 02, 2011
By Ginny L. Yttrup
Published by B & H
Back Cover: "I collect words. I keep them in a box in my mind. I'd like to keep them in a real box, something pretty, maybe a shoe box covered with flowered wrapping paper. Whenever I wanted, I'd open the box and pick up the papers, reading and feeling the words all at once. Then I could hide the box. But the words are safer in my mind. There, he can't take them."
Ten-year old Kaylee Wren doesn't speak. Not since her drug-addled mother walked away, leaving her in a remote cabin nestled in the towering redwoods-in the care of a man who is as dangerous as he is evil. With silence her only refuge, Kaylee collects words she might never speak from the only memento her mother left behind: a dictionary.
Sierra Dawn is thirty-four, an artist, and alone. She has allowed the shame of her past to silence her present hopes and chooses to bury her pain by trying to control her circumstances. But on the twelfth anniversary of her daughter's death, Sierra's control begins to crumble as the God of her childhood woos her back to Himself.
Brought together by Divine design, Kaylee and Sierra will discover together the healing mercy of the Word-Jesus Christ.
REVIEW: “I can’t talk. I can’t breathe. Tears choke me.”
That’s exactly how I felt when I read the last page of this book. I’m thrilled to have received a review copy of such an astounding, debut novel. I haven’t read anything this profound, inspiring and life changing since Redeeming Love and June Bug. The author is a master wordsmith and trusts the readers’ imagination to fill in the blanks about the abuse Kaylee endures and talks about it without being graphic. Ginny L. Yttrup has overcome sexual abuse in her own life, is compassionate towards its victims and has penned a story filled with healing and hope. Ginny shows the reader a way to shine the light of Jesus in the darkest places of life in a real way.
Kaylee is a ten year old girl fascinated by words. Words are a colorful protective shield she uses to give her hope and clarify things she doesn’t quite understand. Kaylee is a bright and loving child surviving day after day anticipating her mother’s return.
I enjoyed Ginny Yttrup creative writing style. It was fun to read and had a powerful impact to the story, for example Kaylee says, “my favorite C word - co-loss-al. It means awesomely huge.”
She uses it to describe the colossal redwood trees she loves. The tree is her special place to hide her earthly treasures and new words. The author’s style adds richness to the novel and gives Kaylee a distinctive way of expressing herself.
“I’m so hungry I could eat the scrambled egg in one bite. Instead, I try to make it last, make it seem like more. I take tiny bites. I think of a word that I added to my box this week.
Sa-vor – verb 1) to perceive by taste or smell, esp, with realism 2) to give oneself to the enjoyment of: savor the best in life.
Yes, I savor each bit of my eggs.”
This author’s unique voice allows the reader to experience and see the healing power of love in action. This book is not preachy but potent. The message is clear “Jesus is the word – the most important word”
Ginny had me going in parts of the story I thought I had figured out, and threw in twists I didn’t see coming. Parts were surprising, suspenseful and I found myself nervous for the characters. This book is quite an experience, one you’ll never forget and don’t want to miss. This novel is one of the reasons why I read and promote Christian Fiction. I highly, highly recommend it. Treat yourself to reading Words. I don’t know where Ginny will go from here but I’ll be following.
Reviewed by: Nora St.Laurent
The Book Club Network
Brilliant, brave and beautiful are the words that come to my mind when I ponder Ginny Yttrup's debut novel, Words, a story that is captivating and generates tears of sadness and joy. Drawing from her own experience of abuse, Ginny invites readers, with skill and sensitivity, into young Kaylee's traumatized world revealing her fears and her determined spirit. Sierra is a complex character whose battle with loss and devastating guilt will resonate with anyone who looks back on their life choices with regret. Words is a compelling reminder that while tragedy and sin are confronting and soul shattering, there is hope and healing to be found in the forgiveness and grace Jesus offers. I cannot speak highly enough of this new found talent and I look forward to reading many more of her books to come.
Reviewed by: Rel Mollet
“There isn’t a word for what I feel.” (p. 125)
Sierra Dawn and Kaylee Wren are people for whom words cannot begin to name the hurt that they feel and the pain they have suffered. Sierra, at the point in her life we meet in the story, is a thirty-four year old artist struggling beneath the stronghold of her past. Kaylee Wren is a ten-year-old that lives in the daily nightmare of poor choices created by her drug addicted mother. When these two lives intertwine, God sets in motion a miracle of love and grace, mercy and healing that only He could orchestrate. The journey is both painful, and beautiful, and it is one you will remember long after you read the final page.
Ginny Yttrup’s debut novel, Words, is a well-written story about some very difficult life circumstances. Sadly, the circumstances are all too real in many lives that have become enslaved to a variety of addictions. The resulting chaos and pain are vividly set forth in this novel alongside the wonderful grace and mercy of our Heavenly Father who does indeed redeem us from the vilest situations. He loves us in ways we cannot begin to fathom, and he never wastes a moment to share his glorious grace throughout our every circumstance.
Ginny Yttrup has captured truth – God’s truth – so beautifully and so poignantly that at times my heart ached so badly that I simply had to put the book down. However, by the end of the story, tears of pure delightful freedom ran down my face as I rejoiced in the truth of this story and all it means in my own life.
Reviewed by: Kim Ford
Tuesday, February 01, 2011
Promises to Keep
By Ann Tatlock
Published by Bethany House, Feb 1, 2011
A mother fleeing unspeakable danger to keep her children safe ...
Two young girls guarding secrets in a "cross my heart and hope to die" pledge ...
A father desperate to be reunited with his family ...
Promises to Keep is family drama at its best. From page one, the exquisitely written characters wind their way into your heart and mind, until you become a member of the family. I revisited my girlhood with Roz and Mara, linking little fingers in "pinky promises" and shared secrets.
Told from eleven-year-old Roz's perspective, the complexity of emotion is deep as she struggles to understand family dynamics. Tillie is a story unto herself. To say she's a character is an understatement. She's a hoot, adds some gentle humor to the saga, and is the kind of character all writers love to discover. Ann Tatlock is a master storyteller, one of the best, and in Promises to Keep, she outdid even herself. Novel Journey and I give it our highest recommendation. A must read.
Reviewed: Ane Mulligan
Editor, Novel Journey
Reviewed by: Kim Ford