Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Kristin Billerbeck's A Girl's Best Friend~Reviewed

A Girl’s Best Friend
By Kristin Billerbeck
ISBN 1591453291
Integrity Publishers

Morgan Malliard is a beautiful socialite, the daughter of a rich jeweler. Credit cards, shopping sprees and designer shoes are her world. She has everything a girl could want, or so it seems on the outside. Her love life is falling apart, and the entire city of San Francisco can read all about it in the newspaper. Not even new shoes will help this humiliated and heart broken girl.

Lilly and Poppy, her best friends, are there to help pick up the pieces. They challenge Morgan to look closely at her life and try to live without her father’s money or credit line for awhile. Lilly and Poppy see something that Morgan doesn’t – an unhealthy father/daughter relationship.

Morgan, desiring to understand her poor choices in men, accepts the challenge. She leaves her father’s mansion, the credit cards, the clothes and shoes (most of them, anyway). It’s only a few hours before she realizes how much she has relied on her looks and her father’s money for acceptance. Her identity has been wrapped up in material and superficial things and suddenly she has no idea who she really is and what she has to offer the world. If she isn’t wearing high-end fashion, does she have any value?

With the help of her friends and God’s tenderness, Morgan begins to see her life differently. She begins to see the truth. Broken and vulnerable, this socialite learns lessons about honesty, forgiveness, and God’s faithfulness.

As I read the last page, my heart filled with gratitude to God for the goodness He has bestowed upon my own life. I loved this book.

Reviewed by Dawn Burns

Monday, May 29, 2006

Sarah Anne Sumpolec's The Encore~Reviewed

Becoming Beka~The Encore
by Sarah Anne Sumpolec
Published by Moody Publishers
ISBN 0-8024-6458-0

Life is never easy, or simple.

Beka's senior year is in full swing when she finds herself at the center of a controversy that threatens to get a popular teacher fired. Of course, Mai is probably behind it all. She's still determined to make Beka's life miserable.

But Beka has bigger problems then Mai. Her sister is acting aloof. Her dad seems really worried about something at work. Gabby is going to be her stepmom. And Beka is still thinking about Josh. He's away at college, but says he wants to get to know her better. What does that really mean?

Thank goodness for Mark. He always seems to be around with a shoulder to cry on. Then again, he's also always leaning in for a kiss. Could se really have a future with him? And what does the future hold anyway? College seems likely until a whirlwind trip to L.A. opens the door to a whole new world of opportunity in the music industry.

Nothing is easy or simple in Beka's world. But one thing's for sure. As she tries to pick out melodies on her guitar & in her life--she also wants to keep her ears open to what God has to say.

This book had a great Godly message, and really kept you on your toes. It's perfect for the teen age group and I would recommend it to my friends. It had a slow start but it picked up with the action soon after. The characters were all well-written and thought out; the plot was very well planned. I really liked it & it's intense, but enjoyable. Everything flowed perfectly and tied to a good end, making you ready for another book.

Reviewed by Hilary St. Laurent

Friday, May 26, 2006

Hope Lyda's Altar Call~Reviewed

Altar Call
by Hope Lyda
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers
ISBN: 0736915907

Life's fantastic for Mari Hamilton, including a job she loves and the "perfect beau." She's even thrilled to be an attentive bridesmaid for her friend Sadie, who's planning the wedding of the year! But as Sadie nears the altar, her once-logical single friends struggle with irrational emotions, and Mari ponders her own path. Is it finding Mr. Right---or faith to do the right thing?

This is my first title by the author Hope Lyda. She also wrote Hip to Be Square. (I haven't read it, but I've heard it's a great story. It certainly has a snappy sounding title.) Altar Call is the sequel, but can be read as a stand-alone.

Mari is an honest heroine with a quirky love for food, especially if it's fattening. She's basically a nice girl with an assortment of odd, but classy friends. She thinks she's found love in her current man but over the course of the story, discovers that sometimes what you think you want doesn't fly with what you have. Sometimes what you need is what you want; you just don't always see it at first. Even her parents and friends misread her relationship.

I'm still a tad skeptical of her fiance. He seemed awfully chummy with his female cohort who worked with him on this "important" project that all but consumed him. Once she opened her heart to God's choice for her, she saw what He wanted for her life, and as in any true romance, she then goes running to catch the train before it whisks her true love away forever.

My only issue with the story was the dialogue. It didn't always flow naturally in that people rarely used contractions in speech. Most people speak using contractions often. Otherwise it was a truly delightful read. I enjoyed getting to know Mari and her friends and I hope Ms. Lyda continues on with a third book. By the way the story ended, I can definitely see possibilities for a sequel. If you love engaging chick lit with quirky characters, you'll want to read this one. :)

Michelle Sutton
Writing truth into fiction...digging deeper, soaring higher Great Beginnings finalist 2005 http://edgyinspirationalauthor.blogspot.com/
Writer/fiction reviewer

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Alison Strobel's Violette Between~Reviewed

Violette Between
By Alison Strobel
Published by Waterbrook Press
ISBN 1-57856-794-7

Violette is the quintessential artist: passionate, emotional, and full of life. Her husband, Saul, loves her sense of joy and she thrives on his love for her. But Saul’s sudden death shatters the heaven they’d created in their marriage. Violette quits painting and wallows in her sorrow until a friend pushes her to work again—and inadvertently introduces her to a new client, Christian.

Christian lost his wife years ago and not only knows Violette’s pain first-hand but offers her a chance to love once more. Soon Violette and Christian begin to feel something they both thought they’d lost forever. When tragedy strikes again, though, Violette retreats into her memories of Saul—and needs to decide if she wants to find her way back to healing.

Set in Southern California, Violette Between addresses the pain of losing one’s deepest love and explores how to move on from that pain to engage in new relationships.

Alison Strobel’s style in Violette Between is unusual. A bit confused at first, I soon caught on to her method of switching from Christian’s memory to Violette’s experience as she revisits her own memories. The majority of the book is spent in the past, Violette’s being a combination of first and third person, but Strobel pulls it off.

The characters are unique and real. I like the way Strobel handles Xavier, a homosexual who is one of Violette’s best friends. She doesn’t try to make a political statement by including him. Xavier just is who he is.

Violette’s deceased husband, Saul, failed to capture my heart. I felt myself wishing I could tell Violette that he’d never really appreciate her the way Christian does. That may have been Strobel’s intention.

Christian, on the other hand, is warm and humble with his own set of questions. He struggles with anger toward God for the loss of his first wife and now the potential loss of Violette. One of my favorite things about Christian is how he begins to notice beauty in the ordinary because of being with Violette and he credits her for it.

Violette is the most colorful character. She’s shy but straightforward and she lives to create beauty. Through art she brings nature’s beauty to those who need it most.

I was sad to say ‘Good-bye’ at the end and wished to have a little more time to see Christian and Violette together.

Violette Between is a wonderful novel of characters and their struggle through grief to the joy that waits on the other side.

Reviewed by Terri Thompson

Saturday, May 20, 2006

F.P. Lione's, SKELLS ~ Reviewed

F.P. Lione
317 pages
ISBN# 0-8007-5962-1

Reviewed by Erin Valentine

Tony Cavalucci, one of New York's finest, has eleven years experience as a police officer dealing with the Big Apple's skells, those lost souls that make up the city's homeless and criminal population. As a cop, Tony deals with the skells, rookie officers, an arrogant inspector, and a society that sometimes seems intent on punishing the men and women in law enforcement for simply doing their jobs. As a new Christian, he grapples with his jaded co-workers, his own sobriety, a resentful family, and a commitment to chastity until he and his fiancée Michele are married. It can be tough being a Godly man in contemporary society, and perhaps doubly so for someone who is surrounded daily by the worst a city has to offer.

This novel, the third in Lione's Midtown Blue series, is rich in gritty details. The reader is allowed the opportunity to travel along with Tony as he completes his rounds with partner Joe Fiore. A typical night might involve a domestic dispute, a rape victim, or a mace-wielding robber. These conflicts, however, are only a tad more frightening than Grandmother Cavalucci and the engagement party she insists on throwing for Tony and Michele. In addition to the glimpse the reader is offered into the workings of a big-city police department, the novel delivers an unflinching, multi-faceted look at Italian-American family life.

There's no one overriding conflict in this novel. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, someone to die, a criminal to challenge Tony in a contest of wits, but to no avail. Rather, Skells is about one man and the way in which his own perceptions have changed as a result of his re-birth. Joe guides Tony with pertinent scripture passages as Tony struggles with old prejudices and habits, and the enjoyment of the book comes from a willingness to follow along with this young man as he accepts his new understanding of just what it means to accept a faithful God who washes us clean with His grace.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Jonathan Rogers Wilderking Trilogy~Reviewed

The Wilderking Trilogy
By Jonathan Rogers
Published by Broadman & Holman
The Way of the Wilderking ISBN: 0805431330
The Secret of the Swamp King ISBN: 0805431322
The Bark Of The Bog Owl ISBN: 0805431314

Jonathan Rogers has created a literary world that I don't particularly want to visit - it's pretty much swamp and full of creepy crawlies, snakes and gators.

But I loved reading about his world, and I would kind of like to swing through the trees - Feechie style.

I also had a desire to get my own Feechie. Though I don't know that we'd let it live in the house, it would be great to hang out with.

I recommend this series to adults as well as older children (eightish and up) of both genders. Omniscient point of view makes sure we aren't in the dark regarding any of the characters. This clever tale of war and integrity, and loyalty and brotherhood is inspired by the early life of King David.

Mr. Rogers (the author - not of the neighborhood fame) must believe that children are intelligent and creative and clever because he has written a series peppered with subtle humor that challenges vocabulary and the world's view of how we are supposed to live.

Lovers of Narnia and the Princess Bride should eat this up like rotten lizard eggs.

Reviewed by Kelly Klepfer

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

R.K. Mortenson's Landon Snow & the Shadows of Malus Quidam ~ Reviewed

Landon Snow and The Shadows of Malus Quidam
By R. K. Mortenson
Published by Barbour Publishing
ISBN: 1597890448

Book Description: Landon Snow is heading into the darkness, hot on the trail of his younger sister Holly who has set off on a mission of her own. Emerging in the magical realm of Wonderwood, Landon discovers that Holly has been kidnapped by shadowy wolf-like creatures. With the help of his old friends-a horse named Melech, elfish Odds, and the poet/prophet Vates-Landon learns what he needs to do to set his sister free. But he'll need lots of courage. Will Landon be able to rescue Holly from the shadows of darkness and free the Odds from Malus Quidam's evil power?

In book two of the Landon Snow series, Landon has tells his sister Holly about his adventures in Wonderwood. His sense of relief at finally sharing his secret is short-lived when she refuses to believe him. Holly insists he must prove this strange world exists and the only way to do that is to take there. Landon agrees, happy Holly will finally get to meet his other-world friends.

But on this trip, things start to go wrong from the start. The talking books have developed an attitude. Black, worm-like shadows, dubbed "bookwyrmin" (German for bookworm) by the grumpy books, slither everywhere-Grandpa Karl's study, the secret tunnel and the Button Up Library (BUL).

Then somewhere in the library, Holly vanishes. Lured below the BUL, she is now a prisoner of Ludo, leader of the Odds and the keeper of the Great Coin. Landon follows her and is almost captured himself. He is rescued by his friends Melech and Hardy, but must leave Holly behind in Ludo's tree. As Landon, Melech and Hardy race to meet with Vates, he notices darkness covers Wonderwood. At his reunion with Vates, Landon learns that the night like daylight is caused by the Shadows of Malus Quidam, an evil ruler intent on conquering Wonderwood.

Landon also learns he is Wonderwood's only hope to defeat the Malus Quidam and his shadows. If Landon fails, he and Holly will be trapped in Wonderwood forever. But he won't face the fight alone. He knows the only way to defeat Malus Quidam is to remember where his true strength lies.

Randy Mortenson's fertile imagination is apparent in this second book in the Landon Snow series. Landon Snow and the Shadows of Malus Quidam, just like LS and The Auctor's Riddle is a fun read, great for all ages. I've recommended this series to several friends.

Book Review by Cheryl Russell

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Marta Perry's A~Land's End~Reviewed

Land's End
By Marta Perry
Published by Steeple Hill, June, 2006
ISBN 0373873727

Confused and angry, Dr. Sarah Wainwright returned to the Georgia island of St. James in search of answers to her husband's mysterious death—in an apparent lovers' tryst with the wife of wealthy industrialist Trent Donner. Anger seemed to be the only edge Sarah had – Trent's control of the island and his protectiveness for his young daughter were enough to drive even this scandal back into the shadows.

A man whose life depending on keeping his secrets; a woman whose future depended on learning the truth—could her quest set them free, or would it destroy them all?

My favorite moments in Land's End were spent living in Marta's fictional world. The beautiful and lush part anyway. Some sinister and creepy moods also loomed a little too realistically in her narrative. Her word tapestry transported me to the deep south.

I won't give away any plot by sharing the following word weaving.

" A dolphin lifted from the water in a perfect silver arc, and her breath caught in her throat...Sunlight was warm on her shoulders, accentuating the golden haze that gleamed from the sand and sea oats. No wonder these were called the Golden Isles."

"The drapery of Spanish moss seemed to stir at her passing and then swing down, hiding Land's End from view, like Brigadoon vanishing into the mist."

"The rocker squeaked slightly, and a breeze off the ocean lifted her hair and bent the golden sea oats on the dunes. Bougainvillea rioted over the latticework that marked the end of the veranda, and sunlight danced on the water. Only the humans were miserable."

"Evening hadn't brought much coolness to the air once she'd gotten away from the shore. It clung to her, heavy and oppressive, as if she wore a wet, wool blanket.

With enough twists and creepiness to keep the suspense lovers happy, Land's End also offers a sweet love thread that is of course satisfying to the very end. Maybe similar to the southern version of iced tea -- sweet tea.

So if you like your sweet tea with lemon or your romance with a twist of suspense, this should go down real easy. Curl up with Land's End in your favorite rocking chair, on your wraparound porch, next to the climbing roses - just don't do it after dark.

Reviewed by Kelly Klepfer

Monday, May 15, 2006

Lyn Cote's Carly~Reviewed

By Lyn Cote
Published by Warner Faith
ISBN 0-446-69436-3

Carly Leigh Sinclair is tired of being afraid, and she is tired of secrets. Plagued by nightmares resulting from a traumatic childhood incident in which she was kidnapped and held hostage, Carly decides to go against her mother’s strong objections and join the army, wanting to know if she “has what it takes.” This rebellious act adds stress to her already troubled relationship with her mother, Leigh, whose refusal to reveal the truth about Carly’s biological father has driven a wedge between the two.

As Carly struggles to survive basic training and the abuse of a fellow recruit and eventually finds herself flying to Kuwait to be a part of Desert Shield and Desert Storm, she wrestles with issues of faith and family, finds herself falling in love and discovers that she has more courage than she realized.

The author did a fine job capturing my emotions. I found myself rooting for Carly as she fought her way through basic training, fearful for her as she went to war and then sobbing over the last few chapters which were full of heartache and loss, happy reunions and restored relationships.

“Carly” is the last book in Lyn Cote’s “The Women of Ivey Manor” series, which chronicles the stories of four generations of women: Chloe, the family’s matriarch, her daughter Bette, granddaughter Leigh and great-granddaughter Carly. The series follows the women from the early twentieth century and the Depression, on through World War II, The Civil Rights and Women’s movements of the sixties, and finally Operations Desert Shield and Storm.

Reviewed by Janet Rubin

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Lorena McCourtney's On the Run~Reviewed

On the Run
By Lorena McCourtney
Published by Revell
ISBN 0800759567

Super senior sleuth Ivy Malone is spunkier than Miss Marple, with a curiosity that just won't quit. That inquisitiveness has gotten her into plenty of trouble, including murder, mayhem, and a place on a mini-Mafia hit list.

Now Ivy's headed across country with a stray cat and God as her only companions. But just when she thinks she's safe, two dead bodies turn up—discovered by Ivy, of course.

My mom loved books, especially mystery, so I cut my literary teeth on Agatha Christie. Mom and I discovered Mrs. Pollifax when I was in my teens, and she quickly became one of our all time favorite sleuths. I can't wait to introduce Mom to Ivy Malone.

On the Run is delightful, suspenseful, well-written and clever—petty much anything I could ask for in a book.

Wonder if Ivy is looking for a place to park her RV. Other than the unsavory characters she brings with her, I'd love to have her stop by for a long visit.

I recommend this great read to Lillian Jackson Braun fans who will love Koop the quirky cat. Mrs. Pollifax fans will enjoy Ivy's choice of weapons.
I could go on and on. Bottom line: if you like quirk and mystery and three dimensional characters, you'll have a blast On the Run.

Reviewed by Kelly Klepfer

Friday, May 12, 2006

Sally John's Castles in the Sand~Reviewed

Castles in the Sand
By Sally John
Published by Harvest House, July, 2006
ISBN 978-0-7369-1317-1

When Susan and Drake Starr discover their twenty-year-old daughter Kenzie is pregnant, their lives are turned upside down. The news sends Drake, a pastor of a huge San Diego church, reeling—and he sends Kenzie packing. Susan finds herself caught in the middle. Does loving Drake mean cutting ties wither only child? What will this path mean for her daughter? For herself? When Susan seeks the refuge of a beach house, a secret from her past resurfaces.

Sally John delivers the perfect sequel to The Beach House in this captivating story. When I first read the description, I thought I wasn't ready for another emotional, gut-wrenching tale. But John's style and gripping characters pulled me in from the first sentence. I couldn't put it down. The cliché about characters walking off the page and into your heart is a truly apt statement in this case.

I compare Castles in the Sand to And the Shofar Blew. It's that good. Sally John has penned a memorable story of an imperfect pastor and his flawed wife making life changing mistakes, yet experiencing forgiveness and redemption—coupled with a message to allow our pastors and their families to be real. Too often the church expects its leaders to be so far above reproach, we cripple them emotionally, leaving them unable to admit even the smallest sin.

And when I turned the last page, I sighed. The book has a very satisfying end, but I didn't want it to be over. Like after a great movie, I sat for a while with the book in my lap, reviewing the characters and their lives in my mind. They had become friends.

Castles in the Sand is a riveting novel of God's mercy when our very foundations crumble, and in this reviewer's opinion, destined to be an award-winning book. I read the galley, but will purchase the book to keep in my library to be re-read and shared and loved. I also plan to give one to my pastor and his wife to read.

Sally John has earned a permanent place as a favorite author of mine.

Reviewed by Ane Mulligan

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Gary E. Parker's Her Daddy's Eyes~Reviewed

Her Daddy’s Eyes
By Gary E. Parker
Published by Revell
ISBN: 0-8007-3123-9

Just three weeks before she walks down the aisle to marry the man of her dreams. Allie Wilson stumbles across a photo of her long-lost father. In spite of her mother’s warning and her fiance’s growing impatience, Allie can’t shake the strange urgency she feels. She has to find her father…now. Is it a simple case of bridal nerves? Is it her curiosity, her conscience, her father’s wish that spurs her on? Or is it something deeper?

Risking everything, Allie joins forces with a handsome stranger in a cross-country search for the father she never knew. But is she following a call from God or tracking a bitter heartache better left untouched? And what does it all mean for Allie’s impending marriage?

All Allie knows is that she has a lot of questions—and there’s only one man who can give her the answers.

In this touching story, author Gary Parker hits on one of the greatest needs in a woman’s life—to be loved. Allie Wilson needs to know what happened to her father, and she feels she must know before her marriage, set to take place in just a few weeks. Along the way, Allie discovers a few things she never expected, like the need for hope in someone greater than herself—unimaginable to her fiancé—the fact that miracles can happen and the possibility that God cares enough about each person to get involved in their life.

Her Daddy’s Eyes is an easy read. Allie’s urgency to find her father gripped me, and I didn’t want to quit reading until I discovered the answers with her. The characters and plot are not complex but are believable and work together to produce a touching story with a satisfying end.

Reviewed by Terri L. Thompson

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Waking Lazarus ~ T.L. Hines

Waking Lazarus
Hardcover: 352 pages
Bethany House Publishers

(July 2006)
ISBN: 0764202049

Jude Allman isn't your typical hero. He's a mentally ill janitor who has an odd habit of dying and coming back to life. Everyone wants the same thing from him: to know what's on the other side. To run from his notoriety, he changes his identity and sinks into his own private world of paranoia and shadows. Until a woman who knows his past shows up at his door,forcing him to ponder things he never wanted to think of again.

Waking Lazarus is not a flowery, purple prose type of literary book. It's suspense written to be a page turner. The characters are real, quirks, flaws and all. The storyline of the serial killer stalking children is gritty, but not too much so as Mr. Hines is careful to keep the grisly details "off stage."

Waking Lazarus ended with a couple of unexpected twists, adding to the satisfaction of the read. All in all, I found this book to be a wonderful first novel and exactly the type of book I've been hoping would come out of the CBA. My highest praise both to this author and the editor who took a chance on it.

Waking Lazarus is tight, fast paced, gritty, and inspiring. A definite recommend.

Reviewed by
Gina Holmes

Monday, May 08, 2006

Brandilyn Collins' Violet Dawn~Reviewed

Violet Dawn
By Brandilyn Collins
Published by Zondervan, Sept. 2006
ISBN-10: 0-310-25333-7

Paige Williams slips into her hot tub in the blackness of night—and finds herself face to face with death. Alone, terrified, fleeing a dark past, Paige must make an unthinkable choice.

In Violet Dawn, hurtling events and richly drawn characters collide in a breathless story of murder, the need to belong, and faith's first glimmer. One woman's secrets unleash an entire town's pursuit, the truth proves as elusive as the killer in their midst.

I am not a reader of suspense. I'm the self-dubbed secretary of The Big Honkin' Chicken Club (Deb Raney and Robin Lee Hatcher are the President and Vice President, although loyal fans of Brandilyn's women's fiction). My mistake came when I auditioned for the Kanner Lake town blog (be watching blogdom for the Scenes and Beans blog). I had to read the book. What a ride! Breathless (yes, I forgot to breathe) as a victim running from her stalker, I sprinted—literally flying from a scary page to scary page.

But Collins is a high-caliber writer. So much so that I couldn't put the book down until I turned the last page. Okay, I'll admit it—I cheated—at one point, I had to look ahead to the outcome, before I could go back and read every page. Hey—I'm in The Big Honkin' Chicken Club—we're allowed. However scary as it is, Violet Dawn has a great story and colorful characters you can't help but love. Well, all but the killer. Brandilyn Collins spices her seatbelt suspense with a dash of humor and heart-wrenching predicaments.

Who knows? When the next book in the Kanner Lake series arrives, I may try again. Oh yeah … don't forget to breathe.

Reviewed by Ane Mulligan

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Joyce Livingston's The Widow's Club~Reviewed

The Widow's Club
By Joyce Livingston
Published by Barbour

The lovely widow Valentine Denay seems to have it all—a beautiful home in Nashville, adequate finances, good looks, a great persona. Nearly every day she opens up her home for coffee with her dear friends—and fellow widows—of Morning Glory Circle cul-de-sac. And when Val's pastor asks her to organize the church bazaar, she willingly gathers her friends to help her.

Everything is going well in Val's life until she gets a new neighbor—the flamboyant Barbie Baxter, her old high school rival, fresh from divorce number three and looking for husband number four. With Barbie's arrival, Val's life is thrown in to utter chaos as their old rivalry rears its ugly head. Barbie is not only mesmerizing Val's friends and confidants, but her blatant flirting threatens Val's unexpected chance at romance.

Livingston, a recent widow herself, pens a tale of five friends dealing with the struggles of widowhood. The characters are original if not somewhat eccentric, and the story juxtaposes humor with sorrow and angst. While I found Barbie Baxter to be slightly stereotyped, I must admit she added a few guffaws—some out of sheer astonishment over her antics. I found Val's reaction to Barbie grounded in reality. While desiring to honor Christ and win Barbie to Him, Val struggled with wanting to tell Barbie what she really thought. Hmm. That hits a little close to home.

The Widow's Club is altogether a delightful read, filled with characters you want to get to know. Well, perhaps with the exception of Barbie. I'm not looking forward to her to move next door to me any time soon. However I am looking forward to the sequel, The Invasion of the Widow's Club, coming Spring of 2007.

Reviewed by Ane Mulligan

Friday, May 05, 2006

Nikki Arana's In the Shade of the Jacaranda~Reviewed

In the Shade of the Jacaranda
By Nikki Arana
Published by Revell
ISBN 0-8007-3049-6

When a couple faces a life-shattering situation, can love, commitment and faith keep their family together? After Angelica Amante defied her wealthy parents' wishes and married an illiterate Mexican stable hand, Antonio Perez, she thought their love had overcome the biggest hurdle they would ever face. But just as Angelica throws herself into her work as a defense attorney, she discovers she is pregnant—and her world is turned upside down.

As her husband struggles to save his fledgling landscape business, Angelica must juggle the challenges of a demanding boss and an unexpected pregnancy. Then their doctor becomes concerned about the health of their unborn child, and her relationship with her parents becomes troubled. Soon both Angelica and Antonio are confronted with decisions that shake them to their core. Will their faith in God and their love for each other sustain them—even when it seems their dreams are slipping away?

Although at first I doubted the probability of this wealthy girl marrying an uneducated stable hand, Arana handles the story in a way that I believed. She documents the difficulties of an immigrant, and the prejudices, with sensitivity. I found myself drawn to the prayer-warrior grandmother, and I liked how Arana portrayed the woman. The husband, Antonio, while uneducated is intelligent, and untainted by American culture, he reveals a strong, child-like faith.

The second book in the Regalo Grande series, In the Shade of the Jacaranda delivers a simple message wrapped in a story of love: Believing IN God isn't enough—you have to believe God.

Reviewed by Ane Mulligan

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Robert Elmer's The Recital~Reviewed

The Recital
By Robert Elmer
Published by WaterBrook Press, June 20, 2006
ISBN 140007164X

Gerrit and Joan discovered the beauty of second chances when they fell in love. But life isn't "happily ever after" when the widowed dairy farmer and big-city piano teacher get married. When they move to Chicago to pursue a teaching opportunity for Joan, Gerrit the country boy must find new purpose in an unfamiliar urban world. It's not an easy change for him, but his friendship with Zhao, a visiting Chinese musician, begins to give him a new sense of purpose. Meanwhile, Joan tries to accept her husband for who he is, even as she finds her place as a music professor in this clash between small-town values and big-city ways.

In this poignant sequel to The Duet, Gerrit and Joan explore the difficult questions of relationships as they redefine the meaning of love and home and learn painful lessons about mutual sacrifice.

The Baby Boomer generation is changing the definition of retirement. Younger at heart than their parents at the same age, fifty is the new thirty, and love can be just as exciting the second time around. And it comes with its own set of difficulties, including new careers.

Robert Elmer serves up a love story with a side helping of humor in this delightful tale of a second marriage as Gerrit and Joan explore their differences and similarities. I laughed at their "mixed marriage" discussions, comparing his Dutch Reformed to her fundamentalist Nazarene as they lobbed scripture-grenades at each other.

But I was most impressed by Elmer's deep understanding of Joan and her psyche. There wasn't a moment in this novel where I didn't believe her thoughts and feelings. His distinct voice for each character remained true throughout the book. His characters are flawed, real people who will steal your heart as they put off their pasts and go forward, often with disastrous results.

I didn't read The Duet, and I'll go back and do so, but it's not necessary to fully enjoy this book. Funny and tender, this is a definite recommended read.

Reviewed by Ane Mulligan

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Shepherd & Everson's The Potluck Club Trouble's Brewing~Reviewed

The Potluck Club Trouble's Brewing
By Linda Evans Shepherd & Eva Marie Everson
Published by Revell (June 2006)
ISBN 0-8007-3065-8

The Potluck Club ladies are at it again, and ace reporter Clay Whitefield is still trying to uncover all their secrets. But is he keeping a secret of his own? Hiding behind a tough façade, Deputy Donna is haunted by a failed rescue, but there's more to it than meets the eye. Evie has finally caught the man of her dreams, but the road to romance is unpaved and rocky. Vonnie's birth son has decided to come to Summit View, but his arrival may destroy her marriage. Lisa Leann is opening a Bridal Shop with a dating service. A self-appointed match maker and devoted gossip, she's wreaking havoc among the Club members. Lizzy's son, Tim, is having marriage problems of his own and wants to move back in with mom and dad. Goldie's estranged husband and her daughter are conspiring to get Goldie to take him back, but years of her husband's philandering have her wary. When she meets a man in her new job, will she find her heart to be trustworthy?

Trouble brews at every turn, and the ladies need prayer. But when the Potluck Club threatens to break up, can they find glue strong enough to mend it? Funny, endearing and poignant, the members of the Potluck Club walk off the pages and into your life. They're your next door neighbor and pew partner at church. One of them might be you.

I loved the first book of the series, and this second one is even better, if that's possible. What I find so fascinating, and frankly amazing about this book, is the way it's written (see tomorrow's interview with Eva Marie Everson). Each author writes three of the characters, yet their stories intertwine seamlessly.

As I turned the last page, I was delighted to see there is a third book in the works. I've grown to love the ladies of the Potluck Club, as you will, too. It will be fun to see if Clay ever uncovers all their secrets. Somehow I have my doubts.

Reviewed by Ane Mulligan