Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Missy Tippens' Her Unlikely Family ~ Reviewed

Her Unlikely Family
Missy Tippens
Mass Market Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Steeple Hill (February 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0373874707

Book Description:

Add One Rebellious Teenager

Try To Mix

Take responsibility for his orphaned niece, yes. Raise her himself, no. A good boarding school was what the girl needed, not an uncle who was never home. But then Michael Throckmorton's niece ran away. And the big-hearted, beautiful diner waitress who'd taken her in wasn't letting her go so easily. Josie Miller had a few conditions for Michael. Oddly enough, he was willing to listen. Yet days later, why wasn't he hauling the teen back to school and himself back to the city? Could it be that an unlikely family was forming?

My Review:

Missy Tippens' debut novel "Her Unlikely Family" should appeal to romance lovers. Michael, the tall, dark and handsome "hero" is well-written as a sensitive guy under his buttoned up banker image. Josie, the heroine, is all softness and yearning in a self-imposed protective shell, and Lisa the teenage niece is a rebel with a reason.

Tippens has studied the craft and has married a tight story with the classic romance formula and small town charm.

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Leah Starr Baker's Bunko Babes ~ Reviewed

Bunko Babes
By Leah Starr Baker
Published by Emerald Pointe Books
ISBN: 0-97851-375-4


A refreshingly, real look at the transforming power of true friendship.

It is called, "The Bunko Babes" and anyone who has ever awaken at the crack of dawn, cooked breakfast, clothes an army, run errands, forgotten the dry cleaning, lost the cell phone, played chauffeur to three rowdy boys, cooked dinner, taken on the role of nursemaid, while trying to be as enticing as a French Maid to your husband, then this is the book for you!


The title intrigued me. I've played Bunko once and didn't want to come home. The back cover grabbed me. I have great friends and I enjoy my girlfriends. The Bunko Babes celebrates those friendships. With characters that take on life, I was completely immersed in the story of these women from page one and didn't stop reading until I turned the last page. I felt like I was part of their circle, another friend.

Well written and slightly reminiscent (and only because of the close friendships) of The Sister Circle, The Bunko Babes is a rollicking story of friendship. But don't be fooled. It contains some deep truths, revealing people who hurt. But it also reveals the sustaining power of loving friendships and restorative power of forgiveness. If you have girlfriends like that, you'll love this book. I give it a high recommendation.

Reviewed by Ane Mulligan

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Leanna Ellis' Elvis Takes a Back Seat ~ Reviewed

Book Description:

Elvis Takes a Back Seat by award-winning novelist Leanna Ellis is the endearing story of Claudia, a young widow determined to fulfill her husband’s last request by hauling a three-foot bust of Elvis Presley in the backseat of a vintage Cadillac from Dallas to Memphis to return it to its rightful owner. The road trip—taken with an eccentric aunt who actually knew the “King of Rock ’n’ Roll,” and a temperamental teen with a suspicious mind of her own—hits some royal roadblocks and detours as these women uncover pieces of their past along with the bust’s mysterious history. What they find along the way changes their lives forever, inspiring readers to also step out in faith.

My Review:

This review will a little ambiguous because I so do not want to ruin this read for anyone.

"Elvis" is poignant, charming, difficult and full of hope. Faith is handled honestly and with dignity. Relationships are discovered, dissected and bathed in all the shades of love. Pain is multi layered and realistic.

The writing is compelling and tight. The characters are people I'd like to meet. Heavy subjects like life, death and faith are handled with grace.

A Christian novel steeped in all of the aspects of faith, "Elvis" will likely be in my top reads for 2008. I recommend it for readers of heavy, hopeful fiction. Fans of Karen Kingsbury and Annette Smith's "A Bigger Life" should find "Elvis" satisfying. I also suggest "Elvis" to those who struggle with faith and don't want to give up belief but need a little help with the details.

Review by: Kelly Klepfer

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Matthew Raley's Fallen ~ Reviewed

Matthew Raley
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Kregel Publications (February 29, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0825435757


As Jim finishes a long day at work, his gaze lands on an expensive car pulling up to the coffee shop visible from his office window. His jaw dropped when the attractive young woman behind the wheel stops her car...and out steps his young, married pastor, Dave. Jim wants to give Dave the benefit of doubt, but as chairman of his church board Jim feels duty-bound to confront him. But as he begins to explore his pastor's private life, will be be able to handle the truth that he uncovers?

My Review:

What a tangled web I read. ..Wow.

Fallen grabbed me immediately and did not let go until the final silken strand. Matthew Raley has written a book that may need to become part of seminary curriculum. Maybe Fallen should be required reading for elder or deacon boards. Without heavy discussions regarding theological ideology, or overwhelming use of scripture, Raley manages to wind the reality of truth around cheap grace, religiousity, legalism, licentiousness, grace, forgiveness and accountability. And pride gets the life sucked out of it.

Two male characters from different circumstances and generations interact with affection, wariness, concern and pain. I found myself agonizing with Raley's main character ,Jim while he got more entangled with his own thoughts as well as the series of facts and perceived realities. I have been Jim, and I dare say I've been a Dave.
I know many will think this is a story about dangerous pastors, but don't miss the point that wound its way around my heart. Our lives are woven and God doesn't miss a stitch. He'll use whatever means to make sure my life is one that glorifies Him. No matter how painful or costly, God will shape the ones He loves and died for.

This story is overtly Christian. But with an honest look at religion vs. relationship and enough mind games to entice readers who don't claim Christianity but love cat and mouse games. I'd suggest it to anyone who has ever been burned in church politics, too.

Raley is a new author to watch. I'm looking forward going to get my hands on his next novel. I hope it will be soon.

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Craig and Janet Parshall's Sons of Glory ~ Reviewed

Sons of Glory
Craig and Janet Parshall
Paperback: 408 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (January 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736913262
ISBN-13: 978-0736913263

From the publisher:

Boston, Massachusetts-1770.Having left Scotland, the Mackenzie family now lives on in three brothers--Nathan, Edward, and Robby--as the turbulent story begun in Crown of Fire and Captives and Kings concludes.

When Nathan, a young lawyer, witnesses the Boston Massacre, he and his mentor John Adams--though both pro-independence--are pulled into defending British soldiers.

During the following conflict with his fellow patriots, Nathan also struggles with his minister brother, Edward, who remains firmly loyal to what he considers the God-ordained British government.

When youngest brother Robby, a radical patriot, is arrested, Edward and Nathan must each search heart and soul. In the end, they and their families pledge themselves to the colonial cause. To them, however, ultimate glory does not rest with a new nation and new political system. Rather, true glory resides in doing God's will in the midst of dangerous and uncertain times.

My review:

Sons of glory was packed with action and historical events. Want to learn more about the tensionbetween the colonies and England before the American Revolution? You'd love this book. It goes into what happened at the Boston Massacre and the trial that followed. I found that part of the book particularly fascinating. It reminded me of the movie Amistad, which also had fabulous court scenes. The lawyers were brilliant in their defense and very brave to go against the popular opinion even though it was based on faulty facts and false testimony. I also enjoyed Robby's plight and holding my breath as I waited to find out his fate. All in all this was an engaging tale and one of the best books in the series. Assuming the authors got all of the particular facts correct, historians and historical fiction lovers will adore this book.

Michelle Sutton (pen name) The Edgy Inspirational Author

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

William Young's The Shack ~ Reviewed

The Shack
By William P. Young
Published by: Wind Blown Media
248 pages

Back Cover:

Mackenzie Allen Philips' youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Four years later in the midst of his Great Sadness, Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack for a weekend.

Against his better judgment he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare. What he finds there will change Mack's world forever. In a world where religion seems to grow increasingly irrelevant "The Shack" wrestles with the timeless question, "Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain?" The answers Mack gets will astound you and perhaps transform you as much as it did him. You'll want everyone you know to read this book!


This book is about so much more than the gruesome details of how this little girl dies. The author deals with this subject tactfully and respectfully. All of a sudden I was reading along and the thought occurred to me that this book might be like a book I read (that really touched me) called “Dinner with a Perfect Stranger” by David Gregory; but it was nothing like that book. That book was fun and light hearted. William Young takes you into the depths of Mackenzie’s pain and has God show up.

God wants to heal Mackenzie from the inside out. Mack can’t believe this is happening. Did he die and go to heaven? This can’t be God he doesn’t care about him or love him because he let his innocent daughter Missy be murdered. I don’t want any part of this God he thinks. I don’t know why he came?

I don’t want to say too much detail about this book. I don’t want to tarnish your experience. I don’t want you to be swayed one way or the other on how God wants to use the message of this book to reveal Himself to you in a very unexpected and exhilarating way. But I do want to share this with you; a little glimpse inside this powerful book. The experience of this book is like listening to a song that touches your heart to the core and when it’s all over there is no clapping just silence as everyone reflects on what just happened in their heart, soul and mind.

The glimpse : This is what Mack says to God “ I hate all this – this crying and blubbering like an idiot, all these tears,” he moaned.

“Oh child,” spoke Papa tenderly. “Don’t ever discount the wonder of your tears. They can be healing waters and a stream of joy. Sometimes they are the best words the heart can speak.”

The Lord has His fingerprints inside this book for you to find and be transformed. This is not only a GREAT book; a must read; but an experience that will alter the way you look at life and God forever.

Reviewed by: Nora St. Laurent
Book Club Servant Leader

Bonus Review:

I didn't want to read this one. I have such a huge stack of books to get through that I couldn't bear the thought of one more...especially one I didn't think I'd like. I expected The Shack to be melodramatic and poorly written. Young was turned down by a lot of houses, and I figured that his writing skills might have something to do with it. But The Shack ended up on my local book club list, and I picked up a copy and began reading.

I was surprised by what I found between the covers of this little novel. The writing is compelling, a little overdone is some spots, a little mechanically iffy in others. The beginning scenes are a little slow moving, but it's solid and descriptive writing that paints pictures and engages senses. But the story, wow. The story is gripping and beautiful and awful and full of pain and sorrow and joy. I wept through a few scenes. Not dashed a tear away, but wept.

I'm not going to recommend it to everyone. There are some who shouldn't read it. If you can not separate fiction from doctrine, why set yourself up for annoyance? Theologically, this book soars on imagination, wonder, questions and it oozes grace. The Shack doesn't belong on a shelf full of Biblical study tools. Nor should it be read to discover error or to fuel a bully pulpit. The Shack should be read by people who are desperate to find healing or those who are sick and tired of religion. If you are afraid to think outside of your doctrinal lines, you will find much to be offended about. On the flip side, if the Shack or anything outside of Jesus becomes your hope for salvation, stop, turn aside to the Bible and discover Jesus as written through the Holy Spirit.

The several struggles I've noticed seem to be focused on the depiction of God and the gospel message. The author very clearly states that this is a story, a fictional account. Young bravely takes liberty with God, creating pictures and dialogue, putting words and emotion and spice into the God of the Bible. If this offends you, then you are probably not ready for the message in The Shack. But if you have an image of God as a lightning bolt throwing bully or a disinterested floating ruler or a bumbling fool, The Shack may just change your mind and possibly your life. The book does not share a Gospel where Jesus is anything but God the Son and fully human. His death and resurrection are clearly portrayed. The uncomfortable issue with the theology stems from the author's stretch of imagination and his obvious love for God. Truth is, God doesn't behave the way we expect Him to. Why should He? God doesn't answer to us, God doesn't have to do things the exact same way He has in the past, He's not bound by our limitations. God is complete and full without our understanding of His business or our definition of Him. God is big enough to work through fiction, truth, the Bible, nature, other people and whatever else He might choose.

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Monday, January 14, 2008

George Bryan Polivka's The Hand that Bears the Sword ~ Reviewed

The Hand That Bears The Sword
By George bryan Polivka
Harvest Housel July 2007
ISBN 978-0-7369-1957-9

Newlyweds Packer and Panna Throme are once again thrust into high adventure. Pirate Scat Wilkins returns with evil intentions for Packer as the Trophy Chase sets sail for the deep waters once again. A new and surprising Hezzan in the Kingdom of Drammun has diabolical designs on not just Packer but on the entire Kingdom of Nearing Vast. And, at home, Panna must await Packer’s hopeful return while imprisoned by the lecherous Prince Mather.

Will Packer and Panna escape their separate dangers and find happiness in the Kingdom of Nearing Vast…or will the invading Drammune army steal away their future and that of all the people of Packer and Panna’s homeland?

Well, I won’t give away the answer, but let’s just say that in usual Polivka style, The Hand That Bears the Sword ends with a surprising twist—and leaves the story wide open for book three.

What I enjoy most about Polivka’s writing is his amazing and fresh descriptions. “Bench Urmond was purpose poured into a granite mold.” This is just one small example of the insight he gives to develop a character in the reader’s mind. Polivka is a master of showing versus telling.

I also enjoyed the hilarious antics of Panna keeping the prince at arm’s length. While men will like the action/adventure of the story, women will cheer for Panna and look forward to the scenes involving her.

The overall theme of the book is that God does answer prayer but most often not in ways we expect—and it’s usually better if we don’t get in the way. He is sovereign and carries out His purposes even when, or perhaps especially when we lose heart.

If you enjoyed The Princess Bride, then you’re sure to enjoy The Hand That Bears The Sword. It’s a delightful mix of humor, adventure, and romance. But be forewarned…you will want to rush out and buy book three, The Battle for Vast Dominion, as soon as you’ve closed the back cover.

Review by Michelle Griep

Friday, January 11, 2008

Diann Hunt's For Better or for Worse ~ Reviewed

For Better or for Worse
By Diann Hunt
Published by Thomas Nelson
ISBN-13: 978-1-59554-195-6


She's a wedding coordinator ... He's a divorce attorney

She begins marriages ... He ends them.

How could these two possibly find common ground?

Wendy Hartline is finally starting to settle into the single life. After a difficult season of grief following her husband's death, she's taken over the family business of coordinating memorable weddings.

Life has become ... comfortable.

Then the charming and incredibly frustrating Marco Amorini opens a legal practice—specializing in divorces next to her wedding chapel and stirs up everything.

Wendy learns that perhaps there is such a thing as second chances in this hilarious story of the pleasures and pains of new love in midlife.


Diann Hunt frosts a three-tiered-wedding-cake of a story with the delectable icing of humor. Poor Wendy not only has to deal with her own love life, her daughter and son-in-law are tossing grenades at each other, and the cake topper is Wendy's son has proposed to Marco's daughter. Not wanting their children to marry too young, Marco and Wendy embark on a scheme to break them up.

I kept my husband awake with my laughing, so For Better or for Worse was banned from the bedroom. Hunt tosses in a couple of twists you won't see coming. What you will see in her characters is your neighbor or perhaps ... a bit of yourself. And you'll laugh all the way through.

Delightful and completely satisfying, For Better or for Worse delivers the expected high caliber book of Diann Hunt. If you enjoy laughter, I highly recommend For Better or for Worse.

Reviewed by Ane Mulligan

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Kathryn Mackel's Vanished ~ Reviewed

Kathryn Mackel
ISBN# 978-1-59979-211-8
292 pages

Book Cover:

A Terrorist’s bomb. A rogue experiment. An impenetrable mist. And no one is coming to help…

After a bomb explodes in a working-class neighborhood of Barcester, Massachusetts, police sergeant Jason Logan fights to keep order and assist the injured while desperately waiting for aid to arrive. In the mist from the bomb preventing ambulances and fire trucks from coming in? Or has something far more occurred?

As the hours tick by, Logan tracks the terrorist mastermind – who he learns is not done wreaking havoc. Cut off from modern medical resources, nurse-practitioner Kay de los Santos treats the injured and soothes the fearful, unaware that her teenaged son Ben is on the run from both the cops and the terrorist.

The vanished begin a battle from survival against enemies they’ve always known – and forces they’ve never even imagined.


This book starts out describing the events that happen after a bombing. The author has broken down the events of this book into hours. The first section is named “The First Hour” (of course it is!) What do the police and federal agents do immediately after a bombing has occurred? This is a post 911 book. References are made to that event and how things are done differently now. The book is suspenseful and Kathryn develops about 5 main characters all of which have their own drama’s happening in the middle of this tragedy.

As I was reading along and got into “The Fifth Hour” of the book some really unexpected things started to happen. I didn’t see how this author was going to tie this all up and explain this new twist in the story. I only had 5 chapters to go in the fifth hour. There wasn’t enough time. Then I thought if she did tie it up it would have to be quick and it would ruin the story. I read the last page of the book and realized that this was book#1 in a new series that she is writing.(I didn't read the back cover of this book first) Ok, that explained a lot. This book really leaves you hanging. All 5 main characters are in the middle of suspenseful drama. She definitely leaves you wondering what exactly is keeping this town in Massachusetts stranded.

Why hadn’t anyone come to help them? What is that mist? Will the bomber strike again? Who is this all connected?

I don’t know how long you’ll have to wait for the sequel. All I know is that it will be worth the wait.

Nora St.Laurent
Book Club Servant Leader

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

L. Frank James's Mr. Inside ~ Reviewed

Mr. Inside: A Novel (The Adventures of Lost and Found International) (Paperback)
by L. Frank James
Paperback: 280 pages
Publisher: The Salt Works (October 30, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1934080012
ISBN-13: 978-1934080016

Book Cover Copy:

By the early 1970's, Dr. Gustov Miller, an internationally renown scholar, has developed a keen sense of solving ancient mysteries and has established his own company, called Lost & Found International. He runs it with only two employees, his assistant, a lovely Christian woman, Miss Beatrix Peeters and James Morrison, his "Mr. Outside," who finds himself in life-threatening situations while searching for lost or stolen artifacts, under the remote direction of Dr. Miller.

The action-packed story-line includes Gus and Jim being hounded, beaten, and thrown off a moving passenger train -- all while risking death in their race against time to solve the mystery of their lives.

The invisible hand of God is seen in riveting clarity as it affects the lives of the characters. A page-turner, Mr. Inside entertains, engages and impacts the reader in unexpected ways.

My Review:

Mr. Inside surprised me more than once.

The novel began with a flashback to main character Gustov Miller's classic and typical preacher kid's childhood including the homey neighborhood and church potlucks. After his parents pursue a new call, one into missions, a horrifying and tragic scene unfolds in Africa sending Miller down a road that was both understandable and sad.

Then began an alternating slap-stick cat and mouse game interjected with character studies and spiritual discussions. Some were well done, others fell into stereotypes and all managed to come together at the end and get tied up neatly. There were a few twists and plenty of quirky characters. Mr. James handled the art of mystery and storytelling very well. He also covers quite a bit of spiritual ground with minimal preaching.

I would like to go back and read An Opened Grave: Sherlock Holmes Investigates His Ultimate Case which received critical acclaim.

Those who love quick reads, plot twists and classic detective style characters might want to check into Mr. Inside.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Dave Jackson's Forty to Life ~ Reviewed

Forty to Life
Dave Jackson
Published by Bethany House
331 pages

Back Cover: MURDERER. It's a word few people ever expect to apply to them.But for fourteen-year-old Ray, it's suddenly a reality. Provoked by a gang leader into the random shooting of an innocent guy, Ray now faces a forty-year sentence in Chicago's infamous prison system. As far as Ray is concerned, it might as well be for life.

In prison, Ray finds his gang banger ties difficult to escape and even necessary for survival. Just when he's resigned himself to this new existence, though, Fay receives an unexpected gift - forgiveness. Even as he learns that the source of this forgiveness is God, Ray struggles with accepting it. And then the ultimate test comes: When faced with the man who ruined his life, can Ray extend the same forgiveness that has been handed to him?


Raymond Slewinski age 14, starts out to prove to a gang leader that he is a man not a chicken. But Ray doesn't expect the feelings he has and to see what he does after the gun in his hand goes off. Everything seemed in slow motion to Ray as he watched the blood spray out of the young man's chest. All of a sudden Ray realizes he just shot someone he goes to school with. What had he done? Was Greg going to die? Ray had to get out of there.

Shooting someone in "real" life was very different than shooting a guy in a video game. The person you shot doesn't come back to life. You can't have a do over! The game is over for good. Ray's world is crumbling fast. He is on the fast track to prison. How did the police find him so fast? There was no get out of jail card in his future. Ray gets arrested and stays in a juvenile detention center until his case comes to trial. Things aren't so bad there. He hears bad things about the adult prisons. By the time his case comes to trial he will be considered an adult.

He is haunted by this message in his head "You do the crime, you do the time? He knew that was the way society worked, but some how, even 1 ½ years after pulling the trigger, Ray still had not been able to accept that he actually murdered someone. A murderer? How could this be?" He thought he wasn't that bad. This was his first offense. How had things gone so wrong?

While Ray is serving his sentence in adult prison he learns that he could have a second chance at a productive life; even in prison. His cell mate tells him "A guy can turn around if he wants to. God does forgive" Ray soon discovers forgiveness is not a feeling but a choice. A choice he could make that would change his life forever - hadn't Greg's mom forgiven him?

I never really thought about the big differences in juvenile detention centers and adult prisons. Dave is descriptive but not really graphic. I didn't give much thought to the whole legal system and politics that go on before and during a trial until I read this book. Dave does set the mood and creates the heaviness within the adult prison walls effectively. Ray Slewinski is not a perfect kid and slips up many times even in prison. I found myself getting frustrated with Ray and his decisions. I wanted to say to him "Haven't you learned anything?"

But I soon realized that my Heavenly Father has probably looked down at me and wanted to say the very same thing. It's the choices I make every day that bring me life or death. My choices help me get closer to my Abba Daddy, or I can completely turn my back on Him. He still loves me and is waiting with open arms for my return. I'm so glad our Heavenly Father is patient with me; He shows me kindness, love and mercy when I don't deserve it.

This is the essence of the story. "He Came to Pay a Debt He Didn't Owe Because I owed a Debt I Couldn't Pay." I'm glad that God is God and I am not! This is a powerful story.

Nora St.Laurent
Book Club Servant Leader

Friday, January 04, 2008

Julie Lessman's A Passion Most Pure ~ Dual Review

A Passion Most Pure
By Julie Lessman
Daughters of Boston book 1
Revell 1/1/2008
ISBN 978-1-4000-7251-4

Book Description:
Refusing to settle for anything less than a romantic relationship that pleases God, Faith O'Connor steels her heart against her desire for the roguish Collin McGuire. But when Collin tries to win her sister Charity's hand, Faith is not sure she can handle the jealousy she feels. To further complicate matters, Faith finds herself the object of Collin's affections, even as he is courting her sister. The Great War is raging overseas, and a smaller war is brewing in the O'Connor household.

Michelle Sutton review:

This is moving to the top of my list of favorite books of all time. It's packed with romantic tension, and emotional and spiritual passion. It made me crazy as I wasn't sure what I wanted them to do and my feelings were all over the place. I did enjoy the ending, though, as it was very satisfying and I cried through the last three chapters or so. Don't read ahead if you get this book. It'll spoil the joy and wonder of the story for you. I was tempted to do that several times (which I never do) because I so desperately wanted to know who Faith ended up with, but I was good and I'm glad I didn't peek.

What an emotional roller coaster ride! I got whiplash from the plot twists and the changing of the tides. My heart soared and plummeted along with Faith. I could not stop reading this book and hauled it with me everywhere. It's long (like 480 pages) but I wouldn't cut a thing. Everything is relevant and important to the story. I'll admit that I was extremely curious about this book after reading an article that said it was overly sensual. I disagree. Just because you are in her head and her thoughts are honest doesn't make it sensual. A lot of author's can write about kissing but most aren't daring enough to write the honest thoughts in a heroine's head. That's what this author did that was so fabulous. If she took out the internal thoughts she would remove the alleged sensuality, but then the passion is squeezed from the story and it would be a dry scene with description, but no life. I loved this story. It's daringly innovative and the most fabulous debut I've ever read. Plus, the historical portion of the novel was well done, too. I felt like I was there!

One last thought...I see this as a clearly Christian novel in that the emphasis is that having passion for God is what makes a marriage a beautiful, solid, and holy union and anything less than that is robbing you of the joy you could experience if you loved within the boundaries God set. It's a very strong message but done naturally and through the story. It feels real. I knew men like Collin who were insanely jealous of a woman's relationship with God and how they said they felt like they were competing with Him. Without the love of Christ in our hearts we are truly deprived of the most intimate love their is. This story delivers that message with such perfection I want every woman who has not married yet to read this book! It would save a lot of heartache if women trusted God in regards to their marriage partner. He wants marriage to be an example of his love for us and that cannot exist in a marriage without Him at the center.

Before you judge this book you need to read it for yourself. Initially I struggled with the number of POVs but once I got into the story I see how important that was for the author to include so many. Bravo!

Bonus Review by Michelle Griep

A Passion Most Pure is an intense drama involving the O’Connor family, Irish-Americans who live on the south side of Boston. Historically, the reader is drawn into the trench warfare of WWI. Emotionally, the story delivers a gamut of feelings from love and jealousy to sorrow and joy. Spiritually, there is a message for believers and unbelievers alike.

The story centers around eighteen-year-old Faith O’Connor, a stalwart believer who struggles with a feisty anger and passion for Collin McGuire. Collin feels the same for her but does not share her faith. That’s where Charity, Faith’s younger sister, takes advantage of the situation. Sixteen and drop-dead gorgeous, she gains Collin’s attentions to the point of their engagement. It’s quite the emotional love triangle, especially since there’s already a deeply rooted jealousy on Charity’s part because she feels their father loves Faith more than her.

Kicking the romance factor up a notch, the relationship between Faith’s parents is still sizzling after two decades. When her father is sent off to war, her mother languishes to the point of returning home to Ireland.

Without giving away several surprises at the end of the story, there are some unexpected plot turns that come out of nowhere, all resulting in a satisfying read.

I must admit that while an interesting concept and well-written, once the love triangle was established, I was ready to move on as a reader. The spats between Faith, Collin and Charity didn’t hold my attention nearly as much as they did at first.

A Passion Most Pure is Julie Lessman’s debut novel. She’s already garnered many writing awards, and I’ve no doubt there will be more to come.

If turn-of-the-century Americana with a bit of a European twist sounds intriguing, then this is the book for you.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Julie Klassen's Lady of Milkweed Manor ~ Reviewed

Lady of Milkweed Manor
By Julie Klassen
Bethany House January 2008
ISBN 978-0-7642-0479-1

Charlotte Lamb, a fallen vicar’s daughter, hopes to secret herself away in London’s Milkweed Manor. But once there, she is mortified to find herself in the care of a former suitor, a physician whom her father long ago rejected as unsuitable—a man who now hides secrets of his own. Both are determined, with God’s help, to protect those they love. But neither could guess the depth of sacrifice that will be required of them.

Drawn from fascinating research about the secret lives of women in the nineteenth century, Lady of Milkweed Manor is a moving romantic drama about the redemption of past failings and the beauty of sacrificial love.

It’s a rare book that forces me to press the pause button on my life and simply devour the story—this is one such book. Well-written, emotionally charged, unexpected plot twists, and an amazing balance of foreshadowing with backstory all lend to a remarkable debut novel by author Julie Klassen. The tension builds throughout and keeps the reader guessing until the last page.

Klassen has captured the best of Austen and Brontë. There are complex relationships and plenty of snooty nobility. The ambiance is generally foreboding and ominous which sets quite a gothic stage. This mixture combines into a haunting quality, leaving the characters on the mind of the reader days after the story has been finished.

The only thing I thought was a bit overdone were the references to milkweeds. Interesting, yes. Educational, admitted. But I found myself skipping over the quotes at the beginning of each chapter since the story engrossed me so much more. A small quarrel to be sure, but thought it should be mentioned.

Overall this is a fantastic narrative that will draw you into the era and wreak havoc with your emotions. Kudos to Bethany House for taking on this new author. I’ll be sure to look for future titles by Julie Klassen. Once you’ve read Lady of Milkweed Manor, I’ve no doubt you’ll be anxious for more as well.

Review by: Michelle Griep
And here's a bonus review from Michelle Sutton:
This is truly one of the most emotionally gripping novels I've ever read and it is sure to make my best of 2008 list. My heart pounded with anticipation so many times I lost count. Just when I thought I knew what would happen next, something different took place. The author did an amazing job pulling the reader into Charlotte's life. I longed for her happiness. And there were so many powerful subplots that my head is still swimming with amazement, and my heart is still gripped by this strangely sad, yet hopeful and deeply romantic tale of love and loss, of sacrifice and reward. Bottom line...This story is so full of passion that it will make your heart sing.
Best of all, Lady of Milkweed Manor shows in a tangible and emotionally gratifying way how all things do work together for the good of those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose. The element of sacrificial love in this poignant novel is so incredibly powerful that it will stick with me for years to come. I am so impressed with this author's "voice" and her ability to draw my heart into a story that I plan to read every books she pens from this day forward. I highly recommend this story. If you take my advice, you'll see why.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

January Christian Fiction Releases from American Christian Fiction Writers

Happy 2008!

This month's lineup of Christian fiction comes to you with quite a variety of releases.


1. A Soldier's Promise
, Book One in the Wings of Refuge Series by Cheryl Wyatt from Steeple Hill Love Inspired. A USAF Pararescue jumper and a special needs teacher teaming to make life matter to a dying child freefall into love and an unexpected family.

2. Every Good & Perfect Gift
by Sharon K. Souza, from NavPress. A story about the kind of friendship we all wish for, the quest for motherhood in the 21st century, and a catastrophic illness that changes everything.

3. Family In His Heart final book in the Michigan Island Series by
Gail Gaymer Martin from Steeple Hill Love Inspired. On a Les Cheneaux Island, a young woman escapes her past in Michigan's upper peninsula and meets a man hiding his own secrets and struggling to raise a rebellious teenage son.

4. Just Cause
by Susan Page Davis from Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense. Laurel Hatcher must face trial for her husband’s murder, not once but twice.

5. Learning to Fly
by Roxanne Henke from Harvest House. Learning to Fly is about parenting. Learning to love, live, and let go.

6. Seven Archangels: Annihilation
by Jane Lebak. Satan has figured out how to destroy an angel...and he begins with the archangel Gabriel.

7. Shadow of Danger by
Jeanne Marie Leach from Mountain View Publishing. Rachel faces jealousy, false accusations, an unknown danger, and a jail cell before being liberated by the man she loves but who could never love her.

8. The Restorer's Journey
, Book 3 in the Sword of Lyric Series by Sharon Hinck from NavPress. A new, young Restorer confronts his destiny while Lyric, and the life of his mother, hang in the balance.

Happy reading~Jill Eileen Smith