Thursday, March 29, 2007

Marta Perry's Restless Hearts ~ Reviewed

Restless Hearts
By Marta Perry
Published by Steeple Hill
ISBN-10: 0373874243

A search for her roots brought midwife Fiona Flanagan to Pennsylvania Dutch country—and made her wonder whether she should turn back. The area's mixture of Amish and English culture confused her, and her first encounter with local police chief Ted Rittenhouse didn't help. he'd thought she was breaking into her own office!

Despite the misunderstanding, Fiona could see that Ted's tough-as-nails exterior hid a kind soul—one caught between two worlds, seeking a place to belong. She felt the same, but trusting him with her heart would require the biggest step of faith she had ever taken.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The story kept moving along, each storyline developing strongly and with clear resolution of all the problems. I could identify with the heroine and look forward to more books about her. I enjoy reading fiction about PA Dutch and have read other stories with this theme. The medical part also held my interest.

Reviewed by Cathy Schanz

Friday, March 23, 2007

John Aubrey Anderson's Wedgewood Grey ~ Reviewed

Wedgewood Grey
By John Aubrey Anderson

Published by FaithWords

ISBN 0446579506

In the second installment of the Black or White Chronicles comes Wedgewood Grey, by John Aubrey Anderson.

Set in a small Mississippi community, the war between good and evil continues at Cat Lake. In the dead of night, evil forces descend as a young black woman and her son are brutally attacked by a group of young white boys. When ex-convict, Mose Washington comes to the woman’s rescue, Mose is unable to avoid the law and so begins his journey as a fugitive.

In the tradition of A Time to Kill, Anderson’s novel centers on the premise that it was nearly impossible for a black man in the sixties to receive justice in rural America. Interwoven with the spiritual realm, complete with demons that control some of the
festering unsaved souls in the Delta, Anderson manages to weave a tale that will keep readers looking forward to book three.

There is some warning to readers before reading this book if they fall more into the fan grouping of the romance genre or other more feel-good type books. Wedgwood Grey is scary in some of its graphic depictions of evil, which might leave more gentle readers unsettled. The violence rating in parts of the book is rated R, by this reviewer’s account, but on the other hand, there is no cursing.

For readers who prefer a hard-edged adventure with characters who embrace the Christian faith to fight off evil, Wedgewood Grey is their book.

Reviewed by Tina Ann Forkner

Monday, March 19, 2007

Susan Page Davis's Frasier Island ~ Reviewed

Frasier Island
By Susan Page Davis
Published by Harvest House Publishers
ISBN-10: 0736920668

After specialized underwater training, Ensign Rachel Whitney is posted to a remote island in the North Pacific, a tiny scrap of rock guarding a highly classified secret. She could love her new assignment if her commanding officer, Lt. George Hudson, were not so obstinate and a bit distrustful.

Despite George's first reaction to her presence on the island, Rachel sets out to prove she is perfect for the job. She doesn't dream of being a heroine or falling in love, but months later, when word leaks out about the prize they are guarding, Rachel and George have few resources besides each other and their faith in God to foil an enemy attack that could endanger all of America.

Wow! This story packed some emotional punch. I enjoyed the romance and the suspense equally. That's very unusual for me because I usually prefer the romance, but the intrigue was fabulous! The romantic element and suspense were so intricately woven together that separating the two elements would've unraveled the entire story.

I loved George about as much as Rachel did! He was such a great hero in every sense. The longing they felt for each other was perfectly done. It made my heart ache despite the fact that they were fictional characters. At times I lost sight of that fact and just wanted to see them together. And that first kiss....ahhhhh. Very satisfying. Rachel was tough, but lovable and cute. I enjoying experiencing her character growth along with her. Trust was hard for her to learn, but rewarding when she experienced the benefits of putting her life in God's capable hands.

In some ways this story had an exotic feel like the Hawaiian setting of Heitzmann's novel Freefall (which was awesome!) Frasier Island was different in that it had a touch of Gilligan's Island sentiment. Portions of the book had a real "castaway" feel. Rachel made me think of Maryann because she was fun and dainty, yet also tough when needed.

George and Rachel were so isolated on that island that at times it made me get the shivers. And not knowing who the bad guy was for the last third of the book was quite exciting. Sure, there were little hints dropped as who it might be, but I felt the tension as they hid from the unknown. I loved how they had to protect themselves and stay on the offensive at the same time. Brilliantly done!

The secondary characters were also terrific. Pierre was a dream and Brian was creepy at first. I can't wait for the next book in the series. Oh, and the last chapter of Frasier Island was probably the best part of the story.

Talk about great endings! This was no wall-banger. It made me want to sigh and grin like a fool. I loved this book!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Ted Dekker's Skin ~ Reviewed

By Ted Dekker
Published by WestBow Press
ISBN-10: 1595542779

“Hello, Colt. It’s payback time. Red”

The red words painted on a gray door plunge police officer Colt Jackson into battle with Sterling Red, serial killer. But Colt isn’t the only person Red has a personal agenda against.

As a freak storm ravages Nevada, traveler Wendy Davidson is waylaid on her journey to Utah when she comes across a stranded brother and sister seeking emergency medical care. Wendy takes Carey and Nicole Swartz to Summerville, only to find the town under siege with a killer on the loose.

Waved down by Wendy, Colt takes the trio to the doctor’s house. Relief is short-lived however when a tornado hits Summerville and the four find themselves trapped in the basement.

Morning arrives, and with it comes a few surprises.

Colt, Wendy, Carey, and Nicole are soon joined by Jerry Pinkus. Thrown together by circumstance, the random group find themselves targeted by Red, and soon discovers a commonality ties their fates together.

As Red manipulates them and what they perceive as reality, the five must overcome their differences and suspicions to save themselves and the townsfolk.

Ted Dekker’s latest offering isn’t for the faint-hearted. More cutting edge than SHOWDOWN or HOUSE, Dekker takes readers on a ride which twists and turns to the very end.

Following on the heels of SHOWDOWN, HOUSE, and SAINT, all of which contain supernatural elements, SKIN is Dekker’s first novel since THR3E that twists its way to a natural, yet unpredictable, ending.

This is Dekker’s first general market release, which is probably a good thing. His delivery is sure to raise voices within CBA. As SKIN explores the question of true beauty, bodies pile up and ensure that this isn’t a cozy read. Despite the general market release, Dekker is quick to assure readers that SKIN isn’t much different from his previous books. It contains a strong metaphoric message, but without the obvious Christian labels. As a Christian reader, I found SKIN’s theme to be just as powerful as Dekker’s earlier books. There is no watering down here.

Readers of Dekker’s previous works will notice each book from the Circle Trilogy series on contain subtle tie-ins. SKIN is no different. Although the connection to the earlier books is minimal, Dekker has revealed in recent interviews that SKIN shares a mirror scene with an upcoming young adult book, part of a series which will expand on the Circle Trilogy. If you haven’t read any of Dekker’s previous books, then don’t fear. SKIN is a complete standalone which can be enjoyed as such. However, delving into the Circle Trilogy, SHOWDOWN, SAINT, and HOUSE will give you added enjoyment to the experience.

If you’re looking for a book with strong characters, snappy dialogue, and a mind-bending plot, then SKIN is just the book for you. Putting it down late at night will be your only problem.

Reviewed by Vennessa Ng

Sunday, March 11, 2007

MaryLu Tyndall's The Reliance ~ Reviewed

The Reliance
By MaryLu Tyndall
Barbour Publishing 2006
ISBN 978-1-59789-360-2

A young bride separated from her husband just as a child has been conceived. . .
A grieving husband tempted to take his anger out through the vices of his heart. . .
A marriage and a ship threatened to be split apart by villainous Caribbean pirates. . .

Captain Edmund Merrick, convinced his pregnant wife, Charlisse, is dead, sails away to drown his sorrows. Having turned his back on God, Edmund reverts to a life of villainy and joins forces with the demented French pirate Collier. When Edmund’s mind clears from its rum-induced haze, will he be able to pull himself up from the depths to which he has sunk?

Believing herself abandoned by her new husband, Charlisse begins to battle her own insecurities, as well as the vengeful pirate Kent who now holds her and the Lady Isabel captive. Will Charlisse lose her love for Edmund as well as the life of her unborn child?

As they battle the tempest that threatens to tear them apart, is there any way Edmund and Charlisse can regain the helm and steer their way back to the haven they both so desperately seek? Or will their love drown in a whirlpool of treachery and deceit?

Author MaryLu Tyndall broadsides the reader with a rip-roaring adventure on the stormy Caribbean. It’s all here, from walking-the-plank to rat-infested ship holds, while interspersed throughout with love, devotion and duplicity.

It’s a given that handsome and brave Captain Merrick is my favorite male character, but a close second goes to his first-mate Sloane. A crusty curmudgeon, he’s got a heart as big as the sea. His care and protection of Charlisse in Merrick’s absence is admirable, and his conversion toward the end could make a grown pirate cry.

Many new characters are introduced, but the heart of the story is the faith journey of Charlisse and Merrick. Charlisse’s new faith catches wind and sails in the midst of tragic events. Merrick’s trust in God plunges to murky depths so gloomy, the reader wonders whether he’ll drown in his doubts.

I must admit to being nervous when embarking on The Reliance since my heart had already been kidnapped by Tyndall’s first book, The Redemption. But before the end of chapter one, I’d been reeled in. Tyndall is a master of character development and rope-dangling scene endings. Once you begin reading, your everyday life will be thrown in the hold until the last page.

Two thumbs-up, five stars, ten yo-ho-ho’s and a bottle of rum for Tyndall’s masterpiece, The Reliance. My only concern is how she’ll be able to top this with the third and last book in the series due out later this year.

Don’t get stranded ashore and miss the adventure. Set sail for the nearest bookstore and capture this treasure!

Reviewed by Michelle Griep

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Craig and Janet Parshall's Captives and Kings ~ Reviewed

Captives and Kings
By Craig and Janet Parshall
Harvest House Publishers 2007
ISBN 13: 978-0-7369-1513-7

Authors Craig and Janet Parshall blend fascinating storytelling, excellent research, and their passion for the early 1600s in this exciting follow up to Crown of Fire.

Andrew, astute, applied, and ambitious, has little but contempt for his wayward and adventuring brother, Phillip… who in turn resents what he sees as Andrew’s high-handedness and superior attitude. The rift is deep, and it seems it will be permanent after Andrew learns of Phillip’s unwitting involvement in a court plot and insists that he and his son, Peter, flee to the new colony of Virginia.

So far apart in both body and heart, will the two brothers ever meet on common ground again, let alone find their way to forgiveness?

Without giving away the story, the main characters each play an important role in one of three themes interwoven throughout the book. Andrew travels on a journey of forgiveness. Peter fleshes out true submission, and Phillip presents a picture of true repentance.

Readers who enjoy a quick pace with rapidly changing scenes are sure to like the short chapter lengths. At times, I did wish for a bit more depth into the characters thoughts and feelings rather than the continual action.

Everyone’s heard of the King James version of the Bible, so readers should appreciate the historical highlights from this snapshot during the reign of James. I particularly liked the description of London and felt drawn into the period.

Even though this book is a sequel, having never read the first (Crown of Fire), I had no problem getting to know the characters or following the story. Overall, historical fiction lovers should come away with a smile on their face after reading Captives and Kings.

Reviewed by Michelle Griep

Friday, March 02, 2007

Karen Harter's Autumn Blue ~ Reviewed

Autumn Blue
Karen Harter
ISBN 1-931722-61-7
Hatchette Book Group/Center Street

Sidney Walker is doing her best at raising her three children alone. But lately her sweet son, Ty, has become broodingly angry. When the deputy sheriff arrests Ty and later invades their home with a search warran connected with another local crime, Sidney is overwhelmed. As much as she wants to believe her son is innocent, the evidence is too strong to ignore.

As autumn rolls across the landscape, Sidney fights to save her son from himself and give him renewed hope. Though her options seem to grow more limited, Sidney finds she is not as alone as she thinks, and the solution just may be in the most unlikley of people.

Karen's tale weaves a beautiful story of grace and forgiveness. Millard Bradbury, a crusty old neighbor with a painful secret, is given a second chance to love the unlovable. Pushed to his limit, he calls on his past mistakes to find strength to endure and is rewarded with a new reason to live another day. Sidney's personal struggle to provide the father figure she thinks her children need, rush her to sacrifice love for companionship.

The implications of such a mistake are made clear before she gets to the point of no return and she is rewarded with the potential for a love beyond her expectations.

Note: Conservative readers may find some word choices unacceptable.
* * *
Reviewed by Sandra D. Moore
Murder on the Ol' Bunions, March 2008