Thursday, September 28, 2006

Debra Clopton's No Place Like Home ~ Reviewed

No Place Like Home
By Debra Clopton
Published by Steeple Hill
ISBN 0-373-87393-X

When her ancient RV caught fire, candy maker Dottie Hart was stranded in Mule Hollow. So much for her promise to help her brother with is women's shelter. She would never make it to California now!

Help arrived in the nick of time, in the shape of handsome sheriff Brady Cannon. And though Dottie made it clear she was just passing through, the local matchmakers had another agenda. No single woman had yet encountered them without leaving happily married … a sticky situation for the lovely confectioner.

Perhaps Brady could convince her that love was its own sweet reward …

And so the saga of Mule Hollow continues. The humor Clopton infuses into her love stories makes a fun read. Although I missed Samantha the mule, No Place Like Home is populated with the characters we've come to know and love.

When young hitchhiker Cassie Bates is picked up by Dottie, the unlikely friendship leads Dottie into an adventure she never bargained for. Cassie's been reading Molly's newspaper column and has come to Mule Hollow to get herself a cowboy. The matchmakers, Adela, Norma Sue and Esther Mae, are in fine form as they attempt to steer Brady and Dottie together. Just when it looks like they might get their way … Brady shuts the door. Now what? Well, you'll have to read it to find out. Be prepared for laughter and tears in another adventure in Mule Hollow.

Reviewed by Ane Mulligan

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Jill Elizabeth Nelson's Reluctant Burglar ~ Reviewed

Reluctant Burglar
By Jill Elizabeth Nelson
Published by Multnomah
ISBA 1-59052-686-4

Art stole her heart—now can she return the favor?

If Desiree Jacobs knows anything, it's art. Her father, whose security is internationally renowned, taught her everything he knew. Most of all, he taught her about honor. Integrity. Faith. So surely God will forgive her for despising the one man determined to destroy her father's good name?

Special Agent Tony Lucano knows Hiram Jacobs is an art thief. But what he can't figure out is Desiree. Is she an innocent victim … or a clever accomplice?

Then Hiram is murdered. And alone with his company, he leaves Desiree a hidden container full of stolen paintings. But she can't admit her father was a thief! That would destroy their business, put people out of jobs, and embarrass international museums that have been displaying clever forgeries. No, she must find out why her honest father would turn criminal. And she must return the priceless art to the rightful owners without their knowledge. Even if it means facing down a ring of cutthroat art thieves … or accepting help from the man she most distrusts.

If you read this novel, book a manicure. Nelson's writing is witty, her characters multi-dimensional, but above all, the suspense will have you biting your nails. Thus the manicure. Anyone who reads this blog knows I don't DO suspense. I've already admitted to being Queen of the Big Honkin' Chicken Club. Halfway through Reluctant Burglar the suspense was getting so intense, I thought about giving it to someone else to finish. But Jill dared me to finish it.

The story is wonderful—full of twists and turns I never say coming. If you like suspense, you'll love Reluctant Burglar and count it as one of the best of 2006.

Reviewed by Ane Mulligan

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Travis Thrasher's Blinded ~ Reviewed

by Travis Thrasher
Publisher: Moody Publishers (August 1, 2006)
ISBN: 080248672X

Michael sits in a café in on a late Friday afternoon. He has sixteen hours to kill before his flight home to Chicago, sixteen hours in which to re-live his business failure. He came here to complete a merger that's taken the last six months of his life. At the last minute, the buying company axed the plans and now the jobs of 250 people are on the line. He's alone in a strange city, at a low point in his life, and ripe for disaster.

It comes in the form of a gorgeous female. They've flirted with each other over their glasses of wine and now she's seated at his table. He tries to convince himself it's nothing, but before she leaves he has a name, Jasmine, and a phone number tucked into his pocket.

He also has a wife and two children back home in Chicago. But his home life hasn't been the best lately and besides, he's in New York! Lisa will never know what transpired here. And so Michael rationalizes his first step into trouble he never could've dreamed up back home in the Chicago suburbs.

Blinded by Travis Thrasher is a novel that drew me in from the opening sentence. Michael is a well-written character at war with himself. He's a man who has worked hard to provide for his family, but is losing them in the process. An only child, he must become parent to his mother, and watch her succumb to the disease that is taking her mind. Temptations abound, from billboards, magazines, and his morning paper. And the Internet is a gold mine of enticing places that swamp his mind with forbidden thoughts. Michael is a man struggling to make it on his own, and drowning in the process. Fast-paced, it's full of twists and turns, that kept me off balance and guessing until the end.

Review by Cheryl Russell

Friday, September 15, 2006

Mary DeMuth's Wishing on Dandelions ~ Reviewed

Wishing on Dandelions
by Mary DeMuth
Published by: Navpress
ISBN: 1576839532

Description: When Miss Peach arrives to take over the only place Maranatha's ever called home---leaving trails of fabric swatches and cloying perfume in her wake---it rouses Maranatha's issues with trust. Can the 17-year-old, whose childhood was bruised by abandonment and abuse, sort out the confusing layers of love for friends, family, boyfriends---and God?

Wishing on Dandelions is another amazing work of art by the author, Mary DeMuth. The prose is beautiful, the story is riveting, and I loved the entire novel. The characters are so real. Some parts were so funny they had me rolling and other parts had me on the edge of my seat. I loved Watching the Tree Limbs, but I think I love Wishing on Dandelions even more. I love how the author shows true Christianity in her stories through the love that is shown to Maranatha by the people who care about her.

I also loved the honest portrayal of merely religious people and their stifling ways. They are often the people who stunt the growth of new and struggling believers. Oh, and the tension between Maranatha and the two Charlies was fantastic, and the racism issue very realistic. Plus, the reluctance Maranatha exhibited in regards to helping put the "bad guy" in jail is very typical of abuse victims. They are SO afraid. Totally believeable.

Georgeanne and the uncle are so classic--as is their relationship. I loved watching them grow emotionally by occasionally popping from behind their protective walls to show affection to Maranatha the only way they knew how.
And I loved Camilla's quirky poem ministry to Maranatha. Great stuff! You have to read the story to get my meaning there. The long and short of this review is...I don't want the series to end. I want to see Maranatha get married and deal once again with the issues that will arise when she makes those sacred vows and bears children. I hope the publisher agrees! Highly recommended!

Michelle Sutton (pen name)
"Writing truth into fiction"
Great Beginnings finalist 2005
writer/book reviewer

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Trish Perry's The Guy I'm Not Dating ~ Reviewed

The Guy I’m Not Dating
By Trish Perry
Published by Harvest House
ISBN-10: 0-7369-1872-8

What’s a girl to do when she’s just decided to give up dating, and then a handsome new guy shows up? Not just handsome, but drop-dead gorgeous? And a Christian, too!

Kara Richardson finds herself in that predicament when she meets Gabe Paolino, owner of the new deli in town, in Trish Perry’s debut novel, The Guy I’m Not Dating. Like a giddy teenager, Kara fumbles over her words when she meets Gabe and catches herself unintentionally flirting. “She was still new to the whole dos and don’ts of the no-dating concept, but flirting probably wasn’t at the top of the “do” list.”

The attraction being two-way makes it even more of a challenge. Gabe asks Kara out for lunch the second time they meet. When she declines, explaining her decision not to date, he smiles and nods, then says, “Okay, then. I’ll respect your wishes, how about that? Just friends. Maybe that will make you want to go out with me someday.”

But she wants to go out with him now! Kara is torn by her interest in Gabe and her desire to stick with her decision. The rest of the book is a fun, warm-hearted, humorous journey as these two are thrown together and discover even more they like about each other while exploring further what it means to not date.

I chuckled out loud before I finished the first chapter. Not only did the charming premise appeal to me, but the characters themselves were believable and delightful. I found myself captivated. I could not put it down, and all the other books in my stack sat untouched while I devoured this one. It had a sweetness to it, and it satisfied me on several levels. My one complaint is that sometimes she used ‘said’ when an action beat would have sufficed, and that made it sound a bit disjointed in spots, but for the most part her writing was smooth and I breezed through it, laughing cover to cover, and the story and characters were so well-developed, I could overlook that one ‘glitch’.

Reviewed by Reni Bumpas

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Ted Dekker's Saint ~ Reviewed

By Ted Dekker
Published by WestBow Press (Oct. 2006)
ISBN: 1595540067

How does one cope when their identity is stripped from them and everything they believed to be true turns out to be lies?

This is what Carl Strople is forced to face an hour after he awakens tied to a bed next to his wife.

Carl and his family have been kidnapped. To save his wife and son, he must cooperate with their captors and kill two people within the hour.
The instructions are simple:
Kill Joseph and Mary Fabin.
No head shots.
No one else is to die.
Return within sixty minutes or your family dies.

Armed with a gun loaded with only two cartridges and using skills he learned in the Special Forces, Carl races to the Andrassy Hotel where the targets are staying. Overpowering the two guards at the door was easy, killing the targets became complicated.

Carl finds the Fabin’s waiting for him. With a tape recording made by Carl’s wife Kelly as proof, the Fabin’s tell Carl that he is in fact a missing CIA agent by the name of Peter Marker. Kidnapped by an underground operation known as the X Group two years previously, Carl’s memories and identity have been stripped and then rebuilt over and over again in order to train him as an assassin.

Carl finds himself faced with two choices: Believe that the woman tied to the bed with him less than an hour earlier is his wife and that she will die along with his son if he doesn’t kill the Fabin’s, or believe the Fabin’s story that everything he has been told is a lie and his wife is waiting for him back home in America.

Things soon become even more complicated for Carl Strople, otherwise known as Saint. Through torture and specialized drills, Carl has learned to shot with accuracy from 2000 feet out and has gained extraordinary emotional control. He has been trained for a specific mission, one that dangles by a thread when Carl comes face to face with the past the X Group tried to erase from his mind.

Ted Dekker has once again raised the bar in fiction. Comparable to any “24” television episode, SAINT is a tightly woven coil of twists that will keep readers glued to its pages long into the night. SAINT is Dekker at his best: action, suspense, and romance, with a touch of political intrigue.

Readers who enjoyed THR3E and BLINK will be pleased to find Dekker has returned to the psychological thriller genre. But be warned – all is not as it seems. SAINT is part of Project Showdown, so it stands to reason that the book switches to supernatural midway through. The only disappointment here for me was an element at the end of the story that didn’t seem to be foreshadowed earlier on in the book.

When asked about SAINT, Dekker likened it to the story of all of us born into the Kingdom. When the world tries to beat the Kingdom out of us, we can easily lose our first love and become confused about who we are and what we want to be.

Once more, Dekker has integrated an important message for all of us into a plot that will entertain and inspire until the very last page.

Reviewed by: Vennessa Ng
Review Blog:

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Taylor Field's Squat ~ Reviewed

By Taylor Field
Published by B&H Publishing GroupISBN: 0805432922

Twenty-year old Squid lives in a "squat", an abandoned building, blocks from Wall Street. He lives an uneventful life within the homeless subculture, abiding by its own particular codes of conduct.

But now, he's violated a fundamental principle-he's stolen cash from another street person named Saw. A violent and unpredictable drug dealer, Saw has placed a bounty on Squid's life. For the cash-strapped homeless, the promise of cash if they deliver Squid is more than they can resist.

For twenty four hours, Squid is on the run, out thinking and out maneuvering the hunters. But his obsession with the mission worker Rachel is his downfall. Trapped in an abandoned alley he knows he must fight a fight he's guaranteed to lose.

Taylor Field has an M. Div from Princeton and a Ph. D. from Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. He has worked in New York's inner city since 1986 and is able to bring a unique perspective to his story.

At three hundred pages, "Squat" isn't a long read, but it is a compelling glimpse into a subculture most Americans chose to ignore. Since the book covers a twenty four hour time period, the pace is quick, and that is a bit of a drawback. I was never pulled into the story, but watched it unfold from the sidelines.

But Squid, at times, did strike a chord. Squid is on the streets by both choice and circumstance. He left home years ago to escape his mother's abusive boyfriend, and is now trapped in a cycle. The one thing Squid longs for is to be seen as important and worth remembering. He wants people to look past his obsessive compulsive tendencies and the stereotype of the streets to see him for who he is.

In short, he wants to be important enough to someone that they will remember him when he's gone. Just like anyone else.

All of the book's royalties will be donated to Graffiti Community Ministries, Inc, the service arm of the East Street Baptist Church, aka Graffiti. You can visit the website at:

Review by Cheryl Russell

Friday, September 01, 2006

Jacqueline Winspear's Messenger of Truth ~ Reviewed

Messenger of Truth
Jacqueline Winspear
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
ISBN: 0805078983

"London, 1931. The night before an exhibition of his artwork opens at a famed Mayfair gallery, the controversial artist Nick Bassington-Hope falls to his death. The police rule it an accident, but Nick's twin sister, Georgina, isn’t so sure. For help with the case, Georgina seeks out Maisie Dobbs, psychologist and investigator. Before long, the evidence surrounding Nick’s death leads Maisie to the beaches of Dungeness in Kent and the underbelly of London’s art world, in another confrontation with the perilous legacy of the Great War.”

Although this is the fourth entry in the Maisie Dobbs mystery series, Messenger of Truth was my introduction to the 1930s-era British sleuth. A blurb on the cover compares Maisie to Agatha Christie's Miss Marple, only “younger, prettier, and not tied to St. Mary Mead.” From that, I expected a sort of madcap, cozy mystery—which did not turn out to be the case. The book’s tone reflects a somber time in England's history. Unemployed veterans of World War I—many maimed or disabled—fill the streets. Poverty runs rampant. And people are talking of that controversial political figure in Germany, Adolf Hitler.

The mystery of Nick Bassington-Hope's death is almost overshadowed by the drama unfolding in the characters' lives and the society around them. Maisie herself served as a nurse in the war, and she started life in service to a wealthy family. Consequently, she finds herself struggling to respect clients like the Bassington-Hope family, wealthy artists who have been able to indulge their interests. In stark contrast, Maisie's assistant, Billy, shares his small flat with an entire family of unemployed in-laws. When his young daughter catches a serious fever, there is no money for a doctor.

There are hints that Maisie suffered a breakdown recently, and she finds herself fascinated by Nick, the deceased artist and subject of her investigation. Nick's art reflects the same emotional turmoil and struggle to adjust after the war that Maisie herself is experiencing.

Messenger of Truth is not published for the Christian market, but has little to offend in the way of sex, violence, or language—although a couple of four-letter words are scattered about. Maisie's spiritual life seems to tend toward Eastern or New Age beliefs. When her assistant's daughter is ill, she does not pray but engages in a sort of visualization technique: “Opening her mind, she imagined the sweet face of Lizzie Beale…She told Lizzie that her heart was strong, that she could rest now, and that when she awoke, she would be well again.” Fortunately, this type of scene is not typical of the book as a whole.

If you're looking for a fast-paced thriller, this book probably isn't for you. But if you want a character-driven, thoughtful narrative that is rich in period detail, you'll enjoy Messenger of Truth.

Reviewed by Robin Johns Grant