Friday, June 23, 2006

Robin Lee Hatcher's Diamond Place ~ Reviewed

Diamond Place
By Robin Lee Hatcher
Published by Revell
ISBN 10: 0-8007-1856-9

Nobody loves baseball more than ten-year-old Lyssa Sampson. Nobody. For as long as she can remember, she's had only one dream: to be a pitcher at the Little League World Series. But Coach Mel Jenkins has other plans, and Lyssa sets her mind to a little innocent scheming to make her dream come true.

When Coach Jenkins appears to be interested in Lyssa's single mother, Terri, Lyssa sees an opportunity for a little matchmaking. Maybe her efforts will help her mother find happiness again—and give Lyssa a chance at her dream at the same time. But will Terri and Mel hit it off? Or will misunderstandings spoil Lyssa's plans?

The third book in the Hart's Crossing series, Diamond Place is warm and engaging. Part of the book is in ten-year-old Lyssa's point of view, and Hatcher finesses you right inside that kid's head, not to mention her heart. Her skill at transitioning from child to adult is smooth and totally believable. A story without a villain, yet enough conflict to make it a page-turner, I really enjoyed this little book and wished it were longer. I'm looking forward to the next in the series—that is after I go buy the first two, and read them.

Reviewed by Ane Mulligan

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Lori Copeland's Monday Morning Faith ~ Reviewed

Monday Morning Faith
By Lori Copeland
Published by Zondervan, September 2006
ISBN-10: 0-310-26349-2

The New Guinea jungle holds many allures, but not for librarian Johanna Holland. Johanna is simple aghast at the lack of hot showers and … well … clothing! She is positive the mission field is most certainly not God's plan for her life, but will that mean letting go of the man she loves?

I wasn't sure I'd like this book, but I was delightfully surprised. Johanna Holland is a forty-year-old spinster librarian, caring for her aging parents. When she meets widowed doctor Sam Littleton the unexpected happens. She falls in love. But Sam is called to foreign missions and Johanna is definitely not.

This story plays out with unexpected twists, but stays true to character. Johanna changes and grows in her faith, but I loved the ending Copeland wrote. It was absolutely perfect. Totally unexpected, but oh, so satisfying. I won't say more, but this is a must read.

Due out in September, get the kids back in school, curl up with a cup of fragrant tea and get lost in a wonderful read. Poignant, heart-warming and funny, Monday Morning Faith receives a high recommendation.

Reviewed by Ane Mulligan

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Elizabeth White's On Wings of Deliverance ~ Reviewed

On Wings of Deliverance
By Elizabeth White
Published by Steeple Hill
ISBN: 0373873603

"To make up for her sordid teen years, Bernadette Malone has spent her adult life in service to God. But her past has finally caught up with her: three young women—friends from her former life—had taken the truth about that past to their premature graves, and Bernadette was next on the hit list. Border patrol agent Owen Carmichael knew all about the dark side of life. And he couldn't turn down his friend when she came to him for help. Owen would protect Bernadette with his life. But her powerful enemy was prepared to kill again to prevent the revelation of his scandalous actions."

A delightful find, White’s romantic suspense novel hits the ground running and never slows up. Border patrol pilot Owen Carmichael is on the beach in Mexico, preparing his plane for return to the United States, when his missionary friend Benny (Bernadette) Malone suddenly appears, running for the plane and screaming that they have to take off immediately. Bewildered, Owen protests until he sees who is behind her; a man who is firing at them with a semi-automatic weapon. Now convinced, Owen jumps in and they take off, but not without the plane’s being damaged. They end up crashing not long afterward on a farm.

Owen and Benny are uninjured but now face the prospect of getting back to the United States without the gunman finding them and finishing the job. Even worse for Owen, he has no idea who he’s running from or why. Benny knows but doesn’t seem willing to share much information. She will only tell Owen that her present predicament is related to something that happened in her past. She is intent not just on escaping from the hit man, but on getting to Memphis to put things right.

Owen is a confident young man, sometimes bordering on cocky, and he’s sure he can get them back to the States safely. At times he even seems happy of the opportunity to prove himself to Benny by protecting her, since he has secretly been in love with her for some time. My one qualm with the book comes when Owen makes a call back to the States to his brother, who offers to fly down and pick them up. Owen turns down the offer and says he can handle the situation. I found it hard to believe anyone would drag himself and his beloved through a foreign country with a hit man hot on their heels when they could have been safely home in a few hours. But perhaps the author intended us to shake our heads at this point and realize that Owen, though loveable and strong, is in many ways young and innocent. Benny, on the other hand, lost her innocence at an early age and has been through things that Owen cannot imagine.

This tension between Owen’s love of Benny as the beautiful, pure missionary woman that he idolizes and Benny’s desire to suppress the truth about her shameful past is the heart of the story. The two characters are both believable and sympathetic in their struggles to come to terms with Benny’s past, defeat the evil man who once ruled her life, and find love. Even with such a serious theme, the book is full of humor and witty dialogue, sometimes laugh-out-loud funny. I highly recommend On Wings of Deliverance. Moreover, the book (though perfectly enjoyable on its own) is part of a Love Inspired Suspense series called The Texas Gatekeepers. This is the first of that line I have read, but I intend to read more of White's novels in this series.

Reviewed by Robin Johns Grant

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Stephen Bly's Wish I'd Known You Tears Ago ~ Reviewed

Wish I’d Known You Tears Ago
By Stephen Bly
Published by Broadman and Holman
ISBN: 978-1-4000-7166-1

In this closing book of the Horse Dreams trilogy, restless Indiana schoolteacher Develyn Worrell has finally found her groove. Ready to savor summer’s end in a cozy Wyoming town from her childhood, she exhales for a time of peace and contentment. Then a sudden series of random troublesome events resets the pace.

Such chaos would be overwhelming to Devy, except for the steady friendship of Cooper Tallon. He may lack the charm and flash of other cowboys, but always seems to have just what her heart needs. And with her trust in the Lord still growing, she’s actually looking forward to whatever happens next.

Stephen Bly is author of a hundred books, mainly westerns, historical and contemporary, written from a Christian worldview. He writes with the philosophy, “Make the reader laugh and make them cry, and if the plot drags, shoot someone.”

He achieved his goal with me, though more on the side of laughter than tears. Time and again I laughed out loud, usually at some cowboy’s witticism. This book is very relational. It has mother/daughter issues, wonderful friendships and romance. Add in a bit of mystery, some personal struggles, cute western guys, and an ornery burro, and you’ve got one fun read.

I would recommend starting this series at the beginning with book one, Memories of a Dirt Road. Although I read and enjoyed Wish I’d Known You Tears Ago, without first reading its predecessors, I was confused about some of the story lines and how the characters connected.

Learn more about Stephen Bly and his books at
Reviewed by: Janet Rubin

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Randy Singer's The Cross Examination of Oliver Finney~Reviewed

The Cross Examination of Oliver Finney
By Randy Singer
Published by WaterBrook Press
ISBN 1400071666

Randy Singer has taken novels to a new level. In his clever way of weaving a courtroom suspense, he’s also intertwined this fiction novel with a sister non-fiction work. This ingenious way of sharing Christ through fiction yet enticing the reader to study the corresponding non-fiction novel makes reading the Cross Examination of Oliver Finney a true suspense.

In this novel, Judge Oliver Finney is selected for the newest craze of reality shows – one which pits religions against each other in an effort to prove one is correct. There’s only one real catch. Each participant must have a life threatening illness; twisted, yet habit forming for the reading.

Finney, dieing with lung cancer, has been chosen to defend Christianity against a Hindu, a Buddhist, a Muslim and a female scientist. The reality show, developed and financed by a billionaire who is dieing with a brain tumor, opens the book in the first chapter to set the pace, then the reader only assumes his presence lurking in the shadows for the remainder of the book.

Nikki Moreno, an aspiring law clerk studying to take her LSAT, serves with the Judge before he is chosen for the show. During their work together Judge Finney begins to teach her about a special code used by the writers in Biblical times. He introduces her to an apologetics book he’d written entitled The Cross Examination of Jesus Christ.

While on Paradise Island the Judge learns of a possible plot to possibility injure or kill one of the contestants. Knowing his internet activity is monitored every moment, he devises a code in conjunction with his out of print apologetics book. He hopes his young female co-worker will remember his friend, Wellington Farmington – computer geek math whiz, to help decipher his code in time to end the plot.

What happens next? The first letter is actually the last letter and groups of two or three represent simple words…guess you’ll have to decipher the code.

An excellent read which markets not only a fiction work, but also a unique non-fiction piece which actually does approach the true cross examination of Jesus. Interesting and clever, this is a book (or books) you’ll want to experience.

Reviewed by Cindy Sproles
Kingsport, Tennessee

Saturday, June 17, 2006

James Byron Huggins' Sorcerer~Reviewed

by James Byron Huggins
Publisher: Whitaker House
ISBN: 0883688182

All Michael Thorn, retired LA detective and former Special Forces operative, wants to do is live a quiet, normal life. He and his wife Rebecca have bought Montabular Hill, an old Victorian mansion situated on an isolated hillside that overlooks the village of Cedar Ridge, not far from Salem, Massachusetts. He looks forward to raising his two children, eleven year old Anthony and his eight year old sister, Malorie.

But as his SUV tops the last ridge after the nine day drive from Los Angeles, his warrior instincts begin to awaken, triggered by a storm that seems to appear out of nowhere and center over his new home. His sense of unease increases as he enters the silent house. The last family that lived here, died here, their murders still unsolved. Thorn isn't a superstitious man, but now he feels a fear he'd never had in combat. One that drives him to explore the deeper than usual basement of the old mansion.

A puff of air exhaled by an old wall compels him to stop. As his fingers trace the brittle rock, he detects indentations left by bullets that mar the upper stones. After his family is asleep, Thorn tears down the wall.

He discovers a corpse so old most of the skin is gone. Bones are shattered by bullets fired long ago. Unusual pictographs scratched on the wall rattle this seasoned war veteran when he realizes only the corpse could have made them, which means the man chained to the wall in his basement had been buried alive.

Thorn leaves the body to call the sheriff. When he returns with the local law enforcement, the body is gone. The only clue is a line of skeletal footprints that lead out of the basement.

An ancient power is free again with a need to feed upon the living to regain its former strength. As death and chaos descend upon the quiet New England hamlet, Thorn, a Catholic priest, an old professor and a mysterious group known as the Assassini battle to destroy the evil that once fought Moses. Defeated once, the ancient sorcerer known as Jannes will do whatever is required to ensure his victory.

Slowed down a bit at times by explanations of Special Forces procedures/training, Sorcerer is still a fast-paced, supernatural thriller that leaves the reader in suspense until the very end. Highly recommended.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Diann Hunt's RV There Yet? ~ Reviewed

RV There Yet?
By Diann Hunt
Published by WestBow
ISBN 1-5955-4142-X

Life's a journey. Midlife's an adventure. But two weeks in a RV with the hot-flash sisters could drive anyone over the hill.

DeDe signed on for this cross-country RV trip selflessly, for Millie and Lydia's sakes. Besides, she needed to get her mind off a love gone wrong and a demanding gourmet chocolates business. And it's for a good cause—sprucing up the old summer camp in Colorado to save it from closing. It will be a fun, memorable last hurrah before she turns fifty. Right?

But DeDe's more of a luxury hotel kind of girl. She likes mints on plumped pillows and room service. Bunking with friends in a motor home the size of a phone booth is not her style. And with the mysterious biker gang and a stalking boyfriend, the RV seems to be shrinking.

Still, with friends, a bountiful supply of truffles, and a boy from her past who has aged very well, this trip might be the best vacation ever!

A hilarious story that celebrates the life in midlife—even the occasional moose and mosquitoes—and the surprising grace of God.

Thelma and Louise move over! Hilarious doesn't begin to describe this Baby-Boomer's rollicking road adventure. I laughed out loud so much my husband made me read it in the other room. Every one of the zany situations they got into gave me a sense of déjà vu. I have to say, I really connected with DeDe—especially when it comes to Millie's trumpet. But the highlight for me was when DeDe decided to drive the RV—and landed … well, you'll just have to read it for yourself.

With a great storyline, terrific characters—each one different in personality, and a writing style that left me breathless, Diann Hunt has a hit on her hands. This will sit at the top of my 2006 list of most recommended books.

Reviewed by Ane Mulligan

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Soul Hunter ~ Melanie Wells

The Soul Hunter
Melanie Wells
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Multnomah
May, 2006
ISBN: 1590524276

Book Description

"Peter Terry Returns A knock at her door. A bloody axe. A murder weapon in her own living room. The elusive white man with the slash on his back is out hunting again, chasing souls. Peter Terry is haunting minds, invading dreams, and wrecking lives. As Dylan Foster searches for answers, she stumbles upon a dark cult of angel worship. Harking back to the days of Noah, it's now blinding and intoxicating young people, leading them to their deaths. In this battle for souls, everything's up for grabs, leaving Dylan grasping for strength as the battle rages around her. When at last she discovers the truth, it is far from the truth she expected."

Reviewed by
Gina Holmes

Although there is a super-creepy villain on the cover of The Soul Hunter, demonic Peter Terry doesn't make much of a show, making this novel have more of a super snarky chick-lit mystery feel rather than horror. In my opinion, what really makes this book stand out is the true to life heroine: A sassy thirty something, single, academic who always finds herself in the middle of one mess or another.

For mystery lovers, you'll be pleased by the twists Melanie throws at you. The writing is superb and the plot satisfying and unpredictable.

Melanie Wells is an excellent storyteller. Her writing is hip, sassy, relevant and highly entertaining.
The Last Ten Percent
by Michelle McKinney Hammond
Published by Harvest House
ISBN: 0736914803

Relationship expert McKinney Hammond's debut novel takes a witty look at imbalances within the dating world! Tracy hears a news report that confirms her worst suspicions---society is woefully short of eligible single men. But together with her intelligent, successful girlfriends, she decides this "man shortage" won't ruin her life---and discovers that faith is the key to lasting fulfillment.

Now this is some soul-stirring fiction. Spiritual truth brought out by the perils experience by five gorgeous women who all struggle with the same thing...the meaning of true love. As each women suffers through their individual trials, they learn to trust each other, and more importantly, they find God in the midst of their pain. Though I think the author had one too many characters' points of view, overall the story was fabulous.

I felt their pain, longed for healing in their futures, and grew with them in my heart. Ms. Hammond has a gift for conveying the true struggles most women have in regards to matters of the heart. She does it in such a smooth way that you feel like you learned something, yet it was so seamlessly woven into the story itself, that it's not obvious. I loved the 'sistah' teasing and the cultural snap she brought out in their relationships.

Of all the chick lit I've read this past year, this one really pulls you in. I want to read a sequel because I feel like these ladies are my friends. I want to see them get married and grow with them some more. I didn't want the story to end, yet the conclusion was truly satisfying and didn't leave me hanging.

Though far from perfect, each woman in this story developed true inward beauty, and for that, I feel blessed to have been a part of their spiritual journey. This is not a sappy, preachy attempt to convey Christian themes to the reader. The Last Ten Percent deals with the humiliating, ugly things in life and brings the reader to the point where they want to see these ladies find love in Christ alone. I can't say enough great things about this story.
It's a must read in my book! Check it out!

Michelle Sutton (pen name)
Writing truth into fiction...digging deeper, soaring higher
Great Beginnings finalist 2005
Writer/fiction reviewer

Monday, June 12, 2006

Allison Pittman's Ten Thousand Charms~Reviewed

Ten Thousand Charms
By Allison Pittman
Published by Multnomah
ISBN 1-59052-575-2

Wyoming Territories, 1860.

Gloria is in trouble. A mining camp is a merciless place when you're young, pregnant … and a prostitute. No matter. Life will not defeat her.

John William MacGregan is in despair. His beloved wide died in childbirth. And while John is a resourceful man, raising an infant daughter on his own seems impossible.

Thrown together by a seemingly cruel fate, Gloria and John Williams make a pact: She will nurse his daughter; he will raise her son. Neither asks for marriage. They are joined by necessity, noting more. But after a move to the new Oregon Territory, facing John William's faith day after day, and receiving an older woman's motherly mentoring, Gloria longs for something more. For the love she's been denied all her life. If only that life hadn't made her unfit, not only for John William … but for God.

Then tragedy strikes—making even the resolute John William question his faith. Terrified, Gloria turns to the One she has never been able to trust. But can even God save what now means more to Gloria than life itself: her newfound family?

Although compared to Francine Rivers' Redeeming Love, Allison Pittman's Ten Thousand Charms stands on its own merit. It is a different story. Instead of Hosea and Gomer, it's loosely the story of David and Bathsheba.

Pittman's characters are well written and multi-faceted. While I felt one of the conflicts introduced wasn't fully developed, there was enough thrown at Gloria to make the read satisfying. I liked the way Pittman ended the book, leaving the reader to imagine the rest. Pittman has delivered a beautiful picture of how God takes the worst of humanity and washes us clean. A murderer and a prostitute—neither one able to outrun God's amazing grace and love.

Reviewed by Ane Mulligan

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Stacy Hawkins Adams' Nothing but the Right Thing~Reviewed

Nothing but the Right Thing
By: Stacy Hawkins Adams
Published by: Revell
ISBN: 978-0-8007-3097-0

Life seems sweet for Serena McDaniels. She has a handsome husband, a beautiful home, and a job she loves.

But there are two things she can’t get out of her mind—the children she craves and a best friend trapped in an abusive marriage. With two miscarriages already, Serena’s not sure her dream of motherhood will ever come true. She can’t help her friend, Erika, leave Elliot behind without jeopardizing her own safety. And she watches helplessly as her husband, Micah, struggles for answers to a personal dilemma.

Can Serena trust God to lead her life and the lives of her loved ones—no matter what?

Stacy Hawkins Adams addresses the hard-core non-fiction of real life in her fictional novel, Nothing but the Right Thing. Her real character’s struggle with real problems demonstrates the need we all have for God’s guidance through the junk life so often presents.

As a pastor’s wife, I easily related to Serena and Micah. I praise God we’ve never been voted out of a church, but we know pastors who have. Standing in obedience to God can get tough, but those who do are blessed by Him. Micah shows us that humility and integrity are honorable if not always popular. His wife, Serena, refuses to put on airs and recognizes her own spiritual shortcomings. Like Micah, her heart is for God, and she obeys even when her greatest desire becomes her greatest sacrifice.

Serena’s best friend, Erika, discovers that God loves her enough to pick up the pieces of her broken life and put them back together in such a way that the end result is a life filled with creativity and joy.

Nothing but the Right Thing inspires faith, hope and a renewed passion for God’s calling.

Reviewed by Terri Thompson

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Dean Koontz ~ The Husband

The Husband
Dean Koontz
Hardcover: 416 pages
Bantam (May 30, 2006)
ISBN: 0553804790

Reviewed by: Eric Wilson

Koontz is a master craftsman, mixing rapid-fire pacing with social commentary. In "The Husband," he builds another solid foundation, using: a wife in the hands of deranged men, a man pushed to his limits for love, and a family's twisted history.

The story is satisfying on a number of levels. It delivers suspense, humor, insight, and moral challenges to readers. I raced through 300-plus pages in a day and a half, thoroughly engrossed in this struggle for love and survival. To what lengths would I go for my wife's safety?

Along the way, Koontz raises questions about sociopaths, child-rearing, and the presence of evil in a materialistic world. In the somewhat predictable climax, however, I experienced little emotional reaction to a story so rooted in the depths of the heart. Is love all about emotion? Is it merely a feeling? Or is it, as "The Husband" discovers, a commitment to a relationship which requires every resource of our physical, emotional, and spiritual strength?

Perhaps this is Koontz's point, in the lack of emotion. Perhaps he wants us to think about the costs of love, instead of about its rewards. If so, his point is well made; the story is well worth reading--and yet, I still wish there'd been just a portion of deep feeling.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Allison Bottke's A Stitch in Time~Reviewed

A Stitch in Time
By Allison Bottke
Published by Bethany House
ISBN 0-7642-0057-7

Dee is out to prove that a middle-aged Christian woman can be Faithful, fashionable and fabulous. In the course of one year, Dee Decker has ad gastric bypass surgery and loses 150 pounds, separates from her husband, buys a whole new wardrobe, flourishes in her glamorous fundraiser job, and becomes a Christian. She's a new person inside and out, and her future looks bright. But then a job offer sends her life in a direction she hadn't expected. Her past and present are about to collide in a major way … and Dee didn't bring the right shoes!

I loved this book from page 1 to page 364. Bottke's characters are fun, dynamic and quirky, and you see them through Dee's eyes—warts and all. I didn't like Lyle Decker one bit. That's where Bottke displays her talent as a writer. This is an inspirational novel, right? We're supposed to want what God wants and that's for marriages to be healed. Well I didn't want that. The guy was a louse and I wanted Dee to ditch him. Bottke kept me so inside Dee's head, I felt like Dee, oblivious to her/my own faults. Everything she/I did was right.

And when the past collides with the present, Dee and I were both in for some eye-opening experiences. I won't give away the ending, but I can tell you A Stitch in Time receives a definite high recommendation from me. Bravo, Allison—give us more!

Reviewed by Ane Mulligan

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Donita K. Paul's DragonKnight~Reviewed

By Donita K. Paul
Published by Water Brook
ISBN 1-4000-7250-6

Before vowing his allegiance to Wulder as a knight, Bardon heads to the mountains for solitude. His life is suddenly complicated by a woman and her granddaughter, N'Rae, on a mission to rescue the woman's son trapped in a chamber of sleep. Bardon learns that more of Paladin's knights are imprisoned--and suspects one of them is Dragon Keeper Kale's missing father.

Charming characters in a colorful make-believe world full of beauty and danger. This is a story of classic good against evil with wonderful spiritual truths layered throughout and enough twists to keep the reader engaged from first page to last. Join Bardon on his journey to self-discovery. Donita pens a novel with the prose of a master wordsmith. If your children and teens love Narnia, they will find this series equally delightful,

Reviewed by S. Dionne Moore

Monday, June 05, 2006

Kathleen Morgan's Wings of Morning~Reviewed

Wings of Morning
By Kathleen Morgan
Published by Revell
ISBN 0-8007-5964-8
Book two of These Highland Hills

Can a forbidden love survive betrayal and suspicion in the Scottish highlands?

Orphan heiress and Scotswoman Regan MacLaren is a bride of only one day when her husband is murdered. Left alone to thwart the revenge her family seeks on her husband’s assassin, Regan suffers a terrible fall and loses her memory—and with it her place in the world.

Meanwhile, laird and warrior Iain Campbell is waiting for the love he knows God will bring him. But a woman near death and without a memory isn’t quite what he expected.

And so begin enormous challenges for Regan and Iain to overcome the unholy ambitions of others while love takes them by surprise.

Author Kathleen Morgan leads the reader on a kilt wrinkling adventure while all the while weaving in Biblical principles of trust and forgiveness. Be prepared to not only enjoy the fast-paced action, but also to do a fair amount of introspection on the state of your own willingness to forgive.

The character of Iain Campbell captured my allegiance from the start. His integrity and compassion, not to mention good looks, are what attracted me most. I must admit to some frustration with Regan and her ongoing mistrust and suspicions of Iain’s motives and behavior.
A fair amount of Scottish culture and history is painlessly inflicted in this enjoyable read—everything from marriage customs of the sixteenth century to weaponry. It also shows how easily the tension between clans combined with man’s inherent greed for power can flare into family feuds.

Overall, Wings of Morning is an enjoyable escape to another place and time and would be a great addition to anyone’s summer reading list.

Reviewed by Michelle Griep

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Ginny Aiken's Decorating Schemes~Reviewed

Decorating Schemes
By Ginny Aiken
Published by Revell
ISBN 0-8007-3045-3

Haley Farrell is getting her life under control. She's got a great design business, a successful auction house, and loving friends and family. But finding a dead girl on the patio is not a good way to start a decorating job--especially when your general contractor is the main suspect. And the body is only the beginning . . .

Ginny has spun a fun tale around a core of solid truth and does a wonderful job bringing the story to a satisfactory and surprising conclusion. For fans of the character Haley Farrell, this will be a delightful addition to the series. For someone introducing themselves to Ginny Aiken's stories with this book, you may be a little confused and find Haley's personality a bit over the top. Haley's struggle felt real enough, though for someone so concerned about finding the baby, it seemed to take forever for us to get to the actual search. Other than that small problem, the story is an enjoyable read and well written.

Reviewed by Sandra Moore

Friday, June 02, 2006

Susan May Warren's Everything's Coming Up Josey~Reviewed

Everything’s Coming Up Josey
by Susan May Warren
Published by Steeple Hill
ISBN 0-373-78561-5

If you like chick lit, you will love Susan’s latest book. I was laughing out loud at Josey’s misadventures as a first-year missionary. In fact, I think the chick lit format is appropriate for the subject matter, since, by it’s very nature, a missionary’s first year in a foreign country is such that if you don’t laugh at it, you just might spend the year crying. Believe me, I know. I spent a year in Ukraine.

Josey is a 24-year-old ready to jump at the chance to escape her life. Her sister/best friend just married Josey’s ex-boyfriend, Josey has a dead-end, non-glamorous job at the local newspaper, and her best bud from grade school, middle and high school has a fiancé that looks like she spends five days a week in the gym. Yes, Josey needs a change—a big one.

But everyone is shocked when she announces she’s going to Moscow to teach English. Even Josey can hardly believe it, but she discovers a lot about herself—and God—before she even leaves the States. Once in Russia, her complicated, three-ring circus of a love life, and her animal-print, tight mini-skirted roommate, all lead her to her knees praying for God’s direction.

This is a must read for chick lit lovers. Don’t miss it! I highly recommend it, especially if you ever wondered what it’s like to be a missionary.

Reviewed by Melanie Dickerson

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Kim Vogel Sawyer's Waiting For Summer's Return~Reviewed

Waiting For Summer's Return
By Kim Vogel Sawyer
Published by Bethany House
ISBN 0-7642-0182-4

All alone on the Kansas prairie, Summer Steadman has few options. With her husband and children lost to illness, she has no desire to continue on farther west to where she and her husband planned to build their future. Instead, she seeks employment in a small Mennonite community in order to be near the graves of her family.

Widower Peter Ollenburger, the local gristmill owner, needs someone to teach his young son. When he hears of a "learned woman" in town, he believes she is the answer to his prayers. He soon discovers, however, that helping this outsider may have troublesome consequences.

From the first page to the last, Sawyer's ability as a word weaver captured me and immersed me in the world she creates. With an obvious gift for story-telling, none of her characters are stereotype or predictable. The grossmutter's slow acceptance of Summer rang true with none of the expected shenanigans. The boy, Thomas, watched his new teacher with a child's curiosity and the wary prejudice of the sect's teachings about outsiders. Sawyer portrays him with insight, making him come alive.

The Mennonites within the community who don't want Summer in their midst are not over-written, but presented with an honesty that displays their tribulations and traditions. I found the evolution of Summer's faith to be guileless, without preaching or manipulation. I applaud Sawyer for not detailing the conversion of Summer's mother-in-law which in this reviewer's humble opinion, kept it from being too tidy a package.

We've all heard the words before, but in this case they're true. The character's literally lodge themselves in the reader's heart. Tender and poignant, this book receives a high recommendation.

Reviewed by Ane Mulligan