Saturday, August 26, 2006

Susan Meissner's In All Deep Places ~ Reviewed

In All Deep Places
By Susan Meissner
Published by Harvest House
ISBN 0-7369-1665-2

"Luke could understand that God would purposely place humans on a planet with limitations … but that he would also instill on every person a tiny longing for heaven; a longing designed to blossom. He even began to feel that tiny longing stir within his own heart and soul. In all made sense except for one thing …"

For bestselling mystery author Luke Foxbourne, an uncharacteristic bout of writer's block is the least of his worries when his father's stroke pulls him back to his hometown to run the family newspaper. Soon, Luke's disturbing childhood memories of the house next door—and Norah, the young girl who lived there—begin to resurface.

Norah was a blonde wisp of a girl who grew up beneath a perpetual cloud of misfortune. Luke's childhood promise to protect her was an unrealistic one, as tragedy continued to strike in ways that caused him to question God's goodness.

When Luke decides to tell their story, a soul-searching memoir ensues. But how will it end? Norah moved away years ago, taking with her any hope of closure for Luke. Determined to know the truth, Luke seeks her out to find the answers to this real-life mystery—a mystery solved in all deep places.

In All Deep Places is a poignant, heart-wrenching story of a gallant boy and a hapless girl, both driven by the unrealistic expectations of their youthful friendship. The title is apt, and Meissner has drawn deep from a well of emotion. Though much of the book deals with tragic events, it's not dark, but it is haunting—a story that will remain in your heart. A book you can't read and remain the same.

Reviewed by Ane Mulligan

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Marta Perry's Tangled Memories ~ Reviewed

Tangled Memories
By Marta Perry
Published by Steeple Hill
ISBN 0373873840

All Corrie Grant wanted was to know who she was – where she came from. Raised from infancy by her great Aunt Ella, Corrie longed to understand what had happened to her parents and why their love hadn’t held their tiny family together.

After the death of Aunt Ella, Corrie found herself sorting through family papers turning up her birth certificate with her father’s name blank. She eventually learned her father was from the blueblood of Savannah, Ga.

Baxter Manning was an elderly tycoon who held a self-righteous control over his family. He manipulated their every move and when they stepped out of line, the price was a heavy one. After all, who wants to be disowned by one of the wealthiest men in Savannah? Corrie finds her way into Baxter’s presence, demanding to know about her father, Trey Manning, Baxter’s son. She didn’t want his money, and she didn’t want his name. She only wanted to understand.

Upon her entry into the Savannah home, she meets Lucas Santee, the right-hand man to Baxter, and the one who keeps the family in line and at peace. But the Manning family immediately takes the offensive, accusing Corrie of being there to take their place as heirs to the family money. Pettiness, greed, and selfishness all play a part in trying to rid Savannah of Corrie and her questions.

Numerous attempts are made on Corrie’s life as she tries to piece the family puzzle together. Which member is desperate enough to kill for the family money? Is it Eulalie, the family matriarch; Deidre, the spoiled southern daughter, or Ainsley, her brother? Perhaps it’s Lynda, the long-time family friend. Just how far will this Georgia blueblood family go to keep their secrets buried and their money safe? The distance…they’ll go the distance.

This love-inspired suspense is a fast read, loaded with twists, turns and sudden jolts which hold you tight into the story. Marta Perry does a wonderful job of intertwining Corrie’s determination with her faith and allows her goodness, witness and her honesty to change the heart of one man. Her ability to gently place a spiritual message neatly within the pages of her books makes this read an especially pleasurable one.

Four stars to Marta Perry.

Reviewed by Cindy Sproles

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Like Dandelion Dust ~ Karen Kingsbury

Like Dandelion Dust
Karen Kingsbury
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Center Street

Book Description

"Jack and Molly Campbell enjoyed an idyllic life in their small hometown outside Atlanta with their adopted 4-year-old, Joey. Then they receive the phone call that shatters their world: a social worker delivers the news that Joeys biological father has been released from prison and is ready to start life overbut with his son. When a judge rules that Joey must be returned to his father, the Campbells, in a silent haze of grief and utter disbelief, watch their son pick a dandelion and blow the feathery seeds into the wind. Struggling with the dilemma of following the law, their hearts, and what they know to be morally right, the Campbells find that desperation leads to dangerous thoughts. What if they can devise a plan? Take Joey and simply disappear...LIKE DANDELION DUST. "

Reviewed by Gina Holmes:

Let me start by saying this is my first Karen Kingsbury novel. It won't be my last. I found that Karen has an amazing ability to bring the reader on an emotional roller-coaster ride. It was equisite the way she made me cry and even the feelings of love, joy and grief that crept up as I read this book.

The writing itself was unobtrusive so that the characters took center stage. It was a dark story with a heavy feel but that did not put me off at all. Life is sometimes dark and I like that Ms. Kingsbury didn't sugar-coat it.

I took mental notes as I read this work and hopefully some of her ability to evoke an emotional response in readers will rub off on me. I recommend Like Dandelion Dust.

From what I've heard, this is one of her heavier novels but very well written and absolutely worth a read in my opinion.

Susan Meissner's A Seahorse in the Thames ~ Reviewed

A Seahorse in the Thames
By Susan Meissner
Published by Harvest House
ISBN 0-7369-1760-8

Alexa Poole was to spend her week off from work quietly recuperating from minor surgery. But when carpenter Stephen Moran falls into her life—or rather off her roof—the unexpected happens. His sweet, gentle disposition proves more than she can resist and now she's falling in love with him.

And then the news comes that Alexa's older sister, Rebecca, has vanished from the Falkman Residential Center where she has lived for the past 17 years, since an auto accident left her mentally compromised. Alexa, fearing the worst, calls her twin sister in England and Priscilla agrees to come home despite a strained separation from her family—not to find Rebecca but to deliver some startling news.

As Alexa begins the search for Rebecca, disturbing questions surface. Why did the car that Rebecca was riding in swerve off the road, killing her college friend, Leanne McNeil? And what about the mysterious check for $50,000 found in Rebecca's room and signed by her friend's father, Gavin McNeil?

And can Alexa, in love for the first time, embrace the news about Stephen's future with courage?

This is a fast moving story, thoroughly entertaining and mesmerizing. I read it in one sitting, stopping only long enough to make dinner. Not your typical love story, Susan Meissner sweeps her readers away on a journey, beginning with the first paragraph: "Stephen's wounded body lies just inches from me ... I look at him lying there, an injured man I barely know, and all I can think is, 'So this is what it is like to fall in love'."

It's a saga of coping and broken relationships, and not once did I think, "No way." The coping mechanisms for the members of this family were all different and not contrived at all. Alexa, who wants to be needed, coped by doing, Priscilla by running away and their mother by breeding pugs and ignoring the problem.

Meissner's unconstrained writing style turned off my "inner editor" from page one until I closed the book. I found the ending just right. Satisfying but fitting, she avoids tying it all up in a neat little bow of predictability. I enjoyed A Seahorse in the Thames so much I ordered another of Meissner's books which I will begin tonight.

A Seahorse in the Thames receives this reviewer's high recommendation for a great read.

Reviewed by Ane Mulligan

Friday, August 11, 2006

Siri Mitchell's The Cubicle Next Door ~ Reviewed

The Cubicle Next Door
By Siri Mitchell
Harvest House Publishers
ISBN 978-0-7369-1758-2

Jackie Harrison, a computer administrator at the Air Force Academy, is a self-proclaimed geek who must share her cubicle space with the new guy, instructor and former pilot Joe Gallagher. She turns to her online journal to vent and eventually to express her growing feelings toward this office neighbor who is everything she is not--fun, happy, and social.

But when her blog is featured as a top pick on primetime news, everyone reads it--including Joe. Will he figure out the words of adoration and confusion are written about him? And will Jackie ever risk expressing her heart offline?

In this wonderfully witty story of love, forgiveness, and finding the strength to move on despite ones past, Siri Mitchell has created two unforgettable characters. Joe is lovable in his enthusiasm and determination, contradicting the surly, cynical attitude of his new and geeky cubicle mate.

Despite Jackie's reluctance to leave her comfort zone, Joe opens up a world of fun and excitement that draws her in. But in direct proportion to Jackie's ability to have fun, is her fear of letting go.

Though I tripped over some of the military humor, not being military, I highly recommend this contemporary chick-lit style romance. You'll find the story fresh and the verbal sparring between Joe and Jackie laugh-out-loud fun.

Reviewed by S. Dionne Moore
Murder on the Ol' Bunions/ Summer of 2007

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Tricia Goyer's Arms of Deliverance ~ Reviewed

Arms of Deliverance: A Story of Promise
By Tricia Goyer
Published by Moody Press
ISBN: 0802415563

The fourth and final novel in this exhilarating series capturing the tales of men and women swept into World War II. Two friends, Mary and Lee, land similar reporting jobs at the New York Tribune on the eve of the war's outbreak and soon they become competitors. Mary's coverage of a bombing raid over Germany leads to a plane wreck and an adventurous escape attempt from across enemy lines. And when Lee hears of Mary's plight, she bravely heads to war-torn Europe in an effort to help rescue her friend. Will there be enough time for diplomacy or will war get the best of everyone?

Arms of Deliverance is a powerful and fascinating tale portraying the evil of the Nazi regime and the heroic people who resisted by refusing to conform. And, as usual, Tricia's storyline and writing is as gripping as the Thoene's, and I've read all of their books.

One character's plight I found particularly gripping. Rebecca Lodz, a Czech Jewess, had to change her name to Katrine and pass herself off as Aryan to survive, only to end up in the Lebensborn project, where German babies were bred for the Reich. Two female reporters were sent on dangerous missions (at their request) to report tales of heroism to inspire Americans and boost morale. Unfortunately, they both encountered terrors of war that made them question their judgment, but they "hung in there" despite their fear. They experienced things that imbedded in their minds and changed their hearts forever. (I love how Tricia always has strong female heroines in her books. Yes, even Rebecca had incredible strength.)

The Destiny's Child navigator, Eddie, is incredible and handsome--the ultimate hero, and of course, a Christian. He bonds to one of the female reporters during their plight and he proposes a plan that has Mary afraid--the title's name sake, yet she agrees to trust God. (I don't know how she does it, but Tricia always has me sighing over the guys in her stories.) The author also does what most excellent authors do...she takes the characters' worst fears and makes it happen, then adds even more trials to their load.

Great writing. Excellent twists and turns. Incredible plot. Strong faith element. Enthralling story. I don't want this series to ever end. What a great way to teach young people today about true heroism in the midst of a cynical society obsessed with self-preservation.

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

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

R.K. Mortenson's Landon Snow and the Island of Arcanum ~ Reviewed

Landon Snow and the Island of Arcanum
by R. K. Mortenson
Publisher: Barbour Publishing (October 2006)
ISBN: 1597893587

Landon Snow is in the middle of a football game with archrival Tangleriver when his vision goes askew. As he grasps the football, players from the opposing team fade away and a cadre of animals-bears, a wolf, a panther-materialize in their place. The football he's holding morphs into an unknown furry creature he throws aside. A bizarre chant peppers the entire unnerving experience. The vision fades as quickly as it comes, except for the referee who now looks like a zebra. And the gorilla standing where his coach should be. For the first time, Landon's adventure begins miles from his grandparents' home, and the library, in Button Up, Minnesota.

But the weirdness that is his latest adventure continues after Landon and his sisters arrive at the BUL. (Button Up Library). Bridget, his youngest sister, is along this time. They're at the library during the daylight hours instead of the middle of the night, and everything is wet.

Really, REALLY wet. There's enough water involved to float a boat. Or an ark. Or a pirate ship. Maybe even all three.

But Landon and his sisters have a completely different mission on this trip. They must travel deep into dangerous territory in order to right an earlier wrong. But the inhabitants of the Island of Arcanum will do what they must to stop Landon by whatever means necessary. But with the help of his friends, both old and new, Landon decides this is a task he must undertake. Especially for red-haired Ditty.

This is, by far, the best book yet in the Landon Snow series. Randy's experience in the Navy shines in these pages. His imagination continues to thrive, bringing alive the delightful characters and settings that is Landon Snow. Some teasers are dropped in here and there, hints to what may come later in the series. His opening scenes where the football players are replaced by animals drew me into this book and I didn't put it down until it was finished. Great book for kids of all ages. Highly recommended.

Review by Cheryl Russell

Friday, August 04, 2006

Cathy Elliott's A Vase of Mistaken Identity ~ Reviewed

A Vase of Mistaken Identity
by Cathy Elliott
Published by Kregel Publications
ISBN: 0825425379

When Thea James discovers a puzzling list inside a vintage vase, she finds four names on the list . . . including her own! Follow this small-town antiques dealer as she becomes a relentless detective on the trail of a killer in this page-turner mystery.

The heroine, Thea, in A Vase of Mistaken Identity is probably the quirkiest character I've ever come across in a novel. It goes with her equally antiquated name.

She did some really bizarre things in the story, and her family was pretty strange, too. Especially her grandmother. What a hoot! Some of the things grandma said in front of Thea made the heroine want to slide under the proverbial table more than once. LOL!

Anyway, at first the story sucked me in. I even snorted a few times, like when Thea was at the car wash. I felt bad for the poor dear, especially when the person she least wanted to see her looking a mess was at her relatives' home for dinner. The author did a bang-up job with that scene. I was there!

However, I'm not much of a cozy mystery reader, so I don't know how things should pan out exactly in regards to the plot. Some of the metaphors seemed over-the-top, and others were perfect! A few bunny trails took me off the path and made me set the book down a few times. When I picked it up a few days later and the action rekindled, I found myself riveted until things slowed down again.

I think this is the first truly cozy mystery I've enjoyed. My favorite lines were..."Or perhaps Thea had better build up the walls around her heart that had begun to crumble in the last few days. She could sense her inner child gathering rocks." Is that a creative line or what? Anyway, this story was fun and a few times had me desperately wanting to find out what the deal was regarding the vase. Then it dragged a bit, then picked up again, etc., etc... Overall, it was an enjoyable read.

Initially I thought the book should have ended earlier, but then the last few pages made me change my mind. I smell another book percolating in the series, and the ending whetted my appetite for another zany mystery courtesy of Thea James, amateur sleuth extraordinnaire. :)

The diner scene at the end was a bit too corny for my tastes, but overall I enjoyed this story enough to recommend it. So if you want to read about some very zany people and snicker at their antics, you will want to read this book.

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

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Cindy Woodsmall's When the Heart Cries ~ Reviewed

When the Heart Cries
Sisters of the Quilt Series, Book I
By Cindy Woodsmall
Published by WaterBrook Press, Sept. 19, 2006
ISBN 1-4000-7292-1

When Hannah dares to love across the boundaries of tradition, will she lose everything? Despite being raised in a traditional Old Order Amish family, seventeen-year-old Hannah Lapp desires to break with custom and marry outside the cloistered community. She's been in love with Mennonite Paul Waddell fir three years, and before returning to college for his senior year, Paul asks Hannah to be his wife. Hannah accepts, aware that her choice will change her relationship with her family forever.

On the evening of their engagement, tragedy strikes, and in one unwelcome encounter, all Hannah has known and believed is destroyed. As she finds herself entangled in questions that the Old Ways of her people cannot answer, Hannah faces the possibility of losing her place in her family, in her community—and in the heart of the man she loves.

Cindy Woodsmall delivers up one of the best debut novels I've read to date. Her extensive research is evident in her characters and their daily lives. Her portrayal of the Amish is so well done I felt transported back in time, but then a moment of modernity would enter Hannah's world and stand out in stark contrast. The first time it happened I was startled. Then I realized that was exactly how the Amish would feel, and I found myself completely immersed in Hannah's world.

Neither one dimensional nor clich├ęd, these characters literally walked off the pages of this novel and into your heart. With the finesse of a symphony conductor, Woodsmall orchestrates every nuance of emotion from the heights of joy to the depths of despair. This is one of the most well written books I've ever read from a new author. A definite recommendation, I can't wait for the next book in the series.

Reviewed by Ane Mulligan