Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Michelle McKinney Hammond's Playing God ~ Reviewed

Playing God: A Novel (Paperback)
by Michelle McKinney Hammond
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (June 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736921168

Product Description

Michelle McKinney Hammond, bestselling author of The Last Ten Percent, pens her second novel and explores the heartache that can come when women try to play God in their own lives.

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” After seven years as a counselor, the once idealistic Tamara Roberts has absorbed so much of the loss, doubts, and trials of her clients that she begins to question how God can let so much hurt happen in the lives of good people. Corinne Collins’ husband, a respected religious leader, is unfaithful with another man; Lydia Deveraux tries to take matters into her own hands to settle the score between her and her famous but absent producer husband; Jamilah, Tamara’s best friend, is trying to save a young girl neglected by her mother. In contrast, Felicia Sample (featured in The Last Ten Percent) is married, saved, and feeling blessed after a past of indecision and mistakes.

This riveting novel with intersecting story lines will remind readers that God is loving, all–knowing, merciful, and the One completely in control—if only we’ll believe and wait for His victory.
My Review:

Playing God is the first of Michelle McKinney Hammond I've ever read. I've seen her non-fiction books and recognize her picture. But she and I are on different pages in life so I didn't know if I'd ever relate to her.

After being pulled into her story, I can tell you that she is quite the communicator. Her characters are real and transparent. The plot moves along at a fast clip and the tension is definitely in place as I found myself wanting to slap some sense into a character or two. Or hoping that someone, somewhere would intervene.The plot centers around Tamara, a good Christian woman who's expecting a reward from God. She sees that others who've been foolish or out of control seem to have the whole package now, a little scarred maybe, but so what. Tamara wonders why her own package deal isn't better, surely it deserves some serious bling/beauty and depth after all she's given up for God. Tamara becomes a victim of they older brother syndrome from the infamous Prodigal Son parable from the Bible. Several other key players struggle with their own faithquakes, fears and consequences. Many of them interact with Tamara because she is their psychologist.

McKinney Hammond's voice is a mixture of sassy girlfriend and teacher/preacher. There is an element of teaching through each of the stories that intermingle. A quippy line or two, scriptures to support the lesson and lessons taught through dialog among the characters. I think this story might be a terrific way for the "good girls" who are thinking about dangling a toe into the refreshing looking world-water to do just that without paying the high price of screwing up. Counselors may find a great resource to refer to clients who may be struggling in areas touched on in the book. The issues covered are heavy ones: faithquakes, judgmentalism, infidelity, child and sexual abuse, immorality, closet homosexuality, pastors who do harm and glossy exteriors that are designed to cover up pain and ugliness. Readers may find the novel to offer some soul balm or a little hope. The topics I just mentioned are handled honestly so edgy Christian fiction fans may want to check into it, too. Sensitive souls may want to dig a little deeper as much of the story veers into PG-13.

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Monday, August 25, 2008

Gwen Freeman's Crazy Fool Kills Five ~ Reviewed

Crazy Fool Kills Five: A Fifi Cutter Mystery (Paperback)
by Gwen Freeman
Paperback: 280 pages
Publisher: Capital Crime Press (May 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0979996007

Book Description:

Free-spirited independent insurance adjuster Fifi Cutter is back in the saddle in Freeman's follow-up to 2007's Murder... Suicide... Whatever. A private charter jet carrying two Singaporean businessmen crashes after taking off from Van Nuys, Calif., when Jim Farnswell, a mentally unstable ex-airline employee, shoots the pilot. Parts of the fuselage land on a Winnebago, killing its occupant, Earl Dean Rayburn. In the subsequent lawsuit against the airline, Fifi's friend Victoria Jane VJ Smith represents Rayburn's wife, and Chinatown lawyer Reg Wong represents the families of the businessmen. Reg hires Fifi as a document clerk to help with trial preparation, but shenanigans involving a missing tape and Farnswell's past lead Fifi into some very tight spots. To complicate matters, Fifi finds herself falling for Daniel Boatwright, a cute single lawyer on the wrong side of the case.

My Review:

For those of you who love a little spice with your mysteries, or a little murder with your chick-lit, you might want to check into Fifi Cutter and her crazy little life.

Gwen Freeman writes Fifi and her attitude with great flair and freshness. Fifi's voice is a blend of crusty detective and snappy sista. Some moments are laugh out loud funny as Fifi interacts with her equally dysfunctional half-brother and his revolving door of companions.

The murder mystery takes a backseat to Fifi's personality but it is still a worthy mystery with plenty of red herrings and twists. Be warned that Fifi's tongue and thoughts lean toward R-rated so don't expect squeaky clean family reading. However, if language doesn't disturb you, this is a fun read. I'll keep my eye out for more Fifi Cutter and Gwen Freeman.

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Friday, August 22, 2008

Allison Pittman's With Endless Sight ~ Reviewed

With Endless Sight
By Allison Pittman
Multnomah Publishers
370 Pages

Back Cover:

Born into a life of privilege, fourteen-year-old Belinda never questions her security, even as she leaves Illinois with her family to discover new adventures in the West. But when disaster falls, Belinda is left wounded, weak, and alone. Her faith in God gives her the only strength she knows in a harsh new world.

Belinda's journey takes her to a snow-covered mining camp and a red-roofed brothel in the Wyoming mountains, but not before she must spend a lonely winter with the man who took away the life she knew. Throughout the grief and hope of a strange land, Belinda must decide if her faith is big enough to allow her to forgive.

The satisfying conclusion to the Crossroads of Grace series, 'With Endless Sight' offers a rich story of family, new beginnings, and the freedom that grace can bring.


Although this is the last book in a trilogy, this story was strong enough to stand on its own. The year is 1861. I was gripped by the story as Belinda's father packs up the family and moves them to the Wyoming Territories. They leave their family and comfort in Belleville, Illinois. Dad's a dreamer and this is an adventure of a life time; Belinda's mother is not convinced. She is a dutiful Christian wife who submits to her husband (but she doesn't have to like it). Her husband was so caught up in the new frontier and the opportunities of building something big.

The adventure began with a train ride, which was followed by a luxurious boat ride. Wow, things were grand!! Then came the wagon coach ride for days and days. Life as they had known it was over. As I read about all the discomforts of traveling this way for days on end, I never thought of all the uncomfortable things that could be encountered. It really made me appreciate what we have today which I sometimes take for granted. Even with gas prices being so high, I think I would rather ride a bike then a wagon coach.

Life as Belinda had known it, is definitely over when they get to their destination. There's nothing that she can do to bring it back. But, in spite of what her mother thought, she was determined to make the most of this adventure. Her cousin Phobe wasn't helping either. Her attitude was almost worse than her mothers.

Then something unforeseen happens to rock Belinda's world even further. It was totally a whole new world out here!! Her faith is being tested and she's really torn up to find out what she really believes. Her faith is wavering. Who is this God she has been serving? God is asking her to do the impossible. Can't He see she's in tremendous pain? She can't give any more! But, she does. She hears the Lord say "Be Still". God is asking her to forgive the very man who caused so much pain in her life. How could she? (She knew that God hadn't given her a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind.) She memorized the scripture, but putting it into practice was another story. It sounded great on paper, but now God was asking her to do the unthinkable. She had to let God work thru her it was the only way. "Be Still" she kept hearing. So, she waited.

How fast life can change. She didn't appreciate what she had when she had it. Food, nice clothing and a warm bed. It was the simple things in life that she appreciated now. Funny how that is. It was harder and harder to not let the circumstances of this life get her down. At one point she felt blessed to find shelter with "souls wounded as mine. (she thought) I didn't have to spell out my pain; they knew it all too well. And I could talk to God without opening my mouth." She learned how quickly one simple step could change your world and everything you thought you knew. Belinda was starting to believe that she had run out of choices. She had to play the cards that were dealt to her. But a friend reminds her that we always have choices – no one can take that away from you.

This is a book that helps me to be thankful for the little things in this life that I take for granted. When I was done reading this story, I was thankful that I wasn't a woman born during those times who had to be put through the hardships of daily life and how women are viewed. In many ways Allison Pittman reveals the struggles we deal with today, are not that much different from women back then. We are in a spiritual battle. We don't fight against flesh and blood put against principalities and powers – the bible says. Allison does a beautiful job of showing that struggle with the back drop of the wild, wild west. It's made me want to go back and read the other two books in this series.

Reviewed by: Nora St. Laurent
Book Club Servant Leader – ACFW Book Club Assistant

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Matt Bronleewe's House of Wolves ~ Reviewed

by Matt Bronleewe
Published by Thomas Nelson
ISBN# 978-1-59554-250-2
320 pages
Back Cover

Back Cover: An August Adams Adventure

A mysterious book with a dangerous secret. An evil brotherhood out to conquer the world. One man stands between them...with his family in the balance.

In the twelfth century, Henry the Lion collected the rarest relics in Christendom. And to protect his most precious acquisitions, he encoded the whereabouts in a gorgeous illuminated manuscript called The Gospels of Henry The Lion.

The manuscript has been showing up and disappearing ever since. No one knows where the relic has been hidden...or its ultimate power.

Only one man holds the key to the mystery.

He's carrying it in a briefcase at his son's school for show-and-tell, and he thinks it's a fake. But he's about to find out just how real it is.

Because the wolves are rapidly closing in. And if August Adams can't decode the secret in time, the world's balance of power will forever be altered.


Be prepared to enter August Adams' world of non-stop action, heartfelt adventure filled with intrigue, suspense, humor and love. And, not necessarily in that order. Beware -- once you pick this book up and start reading, you will lose all track of time and forget anything you had scheduled that day. I have to admit that I was a little less than excited about reading this book when I looked at the cover. 'House of Wolves' - I really didn't want to read about wolves or blood! I'm very happy to report that there is lots of action, fighting, gun fights, bloodshed and bad guys acting really bad...but nothing is extremely graphic. I loved it!!

August Adams is one likable guy who reminds me of an Indiana Jones-type character. Adams is a man totally into his work, who loves books and really enjoys the challenge of chasing down rare antiques. That's his specialty, rare antique books. He gets into the most unpredictable situations while researching the locations of these rare books, and then guarding them once they are found. I loved August's quick wit and sense of humor (like Indiana Jones). And just like in the National Treasure movies, relics have to be found in order to chase down the treasure. In August's case, the books are the treasure.

In 'House of Wolves', August Adams isn't looking for an adventure. But the action and adventure grab him as he is watching his son, Charlie, as his ex-wife goes out with her new fiancé to pick out rings. He couldn't believe she was doing that! He felt it was a little bit soon, but he couldn't think about that right now; he had Charlie to think about.

August Adam's father sends him the greatest birthday present (or so he thought it was at the time), in the mail. He thinks it's from his father, but there's no card with it. Who else would send him such a rare find? While August is admiring the great condition of the book, he starts to feel sick to his stomach when he realizes exactly what book this is. He knows his father, Cleveland, shouldn't have it and he can't imagine what his father did to get this book. Why did his Cleveland send it to him? This can't be good. August doesn't have to wait long to get answers to his questions. A "secret society" soon discovers that Mr. August Adams is in possession of the book they want, and they will stop at nothing to get it. August will have to thank his dad for sending such unbelievable trouble his way - after he stops some guy from killing him and Charlie!... and so the adventure begins in "House of Wolves.

Just when you think August is in the clear, something else happens. But, it may not necessarily happen to him. I was intrigued by the many interesting characters in this book, and so much was happening, but it all tied together. This book is definitely a page-turner! I loved never knowing what to expect with each chapter I read. This book was so refreshing because it is not a formula style book.

There is a special bonus at the end of this book in the author notes. Here the author tells the reader which parts of the story are real and which parts he added to make the story work. Not only did Matt reveal which events are factual, but he also tells which relics are real. Wow! Since I'm not a history buff, I wasn't aware that some of the events depicted in the 'House of Wolves' were real. It was quite amazing. I have to say I love learning about history this way!

You will definitely want to check out 'Illuminated' (the first book in this series) where you will learn how August Adams became the book hunter. I know you'll enjoy all the adventures he got himself into before 'House of Wolves'. The third book called 'The Deadly Hours', is to be on bookshelves August 2009, mark your calendar – I know I have.

Reviewed by: Nora St.Laurent

Bonus Review:

House of Wolves is an entertaining sophomore offering from Matt Bronleewe starring August Adams who may be one of the more charming anti-heroes to appear in fiction in a long time. Fascinating facts are written into amazing stories involving death, secrets and believe it or not, fun humor. This series really deserves to see the big screen. Feeling very much like Indy and National Treasure, House of Wolves takes the reader along for a thrill ride as August attempts to save the world (only because he has to). Big Honken Chickens may not like the smattering of violence. However, the humor manages to ease the drama a bit. I love the family interaction between August, Charlie, Grandpa and April. I hope Bronleewe is hard at work on the next chapter of the Adams' lives. I can't wait to read it.

Kelly Klepfer

Monday, August 18, 2008

Robin Parrish's Merciless ~ Reviewed

Merciless (Dominion Trilogy #3)
Robin Parrish
Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: Bethany House (July 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0764201794

Book Description:

From the earth's depths crawls a figure with skin like granite, flames for eyes, and the face of Grant Borrows.

Oblivion has arrived.

Every clock around the world has stopped. Time has frozen.

The Secretum have fulfilled the prophecy, unleashing on earth the most powerful being to walk the earth in thousands of years. His name is Oblivion and his touch is death.

He can't be slowed He can't be stopped. And he can't be killed.

But as long as any live who trust in hope and love and freedom, the fight is not over.

They have only one chance before he brings forth the Darkworld.

Oblivion is: Merciless

My Review:

Merciless is the final novel in the "Dominion Trilogy." Comic book-type heroes, doomsday ruination of the world, death, sorrow and pain fill this book with dark moments. Robin Parrish not only handles these moments with page-turning intensity but also sensitivity.

This story is a loose allegory of the fall and redemption of man. Parrish handles the lean spiritual aspects with an interesting historical focus which made the storyline appealing. A Christian label on a book that doesn't have the plan of salvation spelled out but is much told in a world view of the awareness of man's fallen state and his need for redemption.

There are difficult passages dealing with heavy violence or loss of life. Super sensitive readers need to be aware of this. Merciless isn't an easy read. With prose that seemed more fluid than Fearless, Parrish also relaxed his vocabulary which will help readers who may not want to read with a dictionary. This also tightened his prose and made the story more natural and compelling.

The Dominion Trilogy is a solid adventure series with heroes that are truly bigger than life told in a voice that commands attention late into the night. Adventure lovers should look further into these novels.

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Thursday, August 14, 2008

James Robinson's The Flower of Grass ~ Reviewed

The Flower of Grass
By James E. Robinson
Published by Kregel's Publishing
256 Pages

Back Cover: "John Allen had come back to say goodbye. But he was too late; there would be no atonement."

John Allen returns to his home town after the death of his alcoholic, abusive father. He has been gone 16 years and has become a successful writer, but with major addiction problems of his own. Now he
struggles to make amends with his careworn sister and dropout younger brother – and, perhaps, to pick up the pieces of his teenage love affair with Jessie.

But Jessie has grown tired of waiting for letters that ceased to come, and has married. At cost might their love be rekindled?

An exquisitely written, passionate and thoughtful novel, this is a classic love story framing deeper themes of mortality and passing time, the true nature of faith, and the delicate balance of human relationships.

Review:"Life's about living out what's in front of you, and trying to accept whatever life brings us, one day at a time, as a gift." John Allen had rushed home as fast as he could, but he was too late. He missed talking to his father face to face one last time. He wasn't ready to face his home and the woman he left behind. He has been clean and sober for about a year now. He was ready - or so he thought until he got there. It felt like nothing had changed, but at the same time everything had changed.

Fear, shame, failures and memories flooded his mind. He wasn't prepared for the memories that hit him when he moved into his father's cabin; nightmares of his childhood and other demons haunt him there. This was the pain that made him leave home in the first place. He thought he had dealt with these demons, but here they were, up close and personal and on a new level. Can he get through this sober? He didn't have good feelings about this. Then there is Jessie, the love of his life. The love that he left behind. He just wants to talk with her and say he's sorry and finally say goodbye. She deserved that much. They just needed to clear the air so that they both could move on. It's been many years, many broken promises. She was married now. He knew that, but they still needed to talk.

Maybe it would be best to send a note to Jessie. This way he wouldn't invade her space and it would be her choice to contact him. After all, Jessica has been married 6 years. He just thought he would say he's sorry and try to explain. He had written her letters in the past he just couldn't mail them. Jessie is not the only one that he's hurt in his absence. His siblings share their own pain with him and what they have been through since he was gone.

This book is powerful and very real in its message. This is a slice of life that shows lost love and the bitter affects that addiction has on everyone's life. Johnny returns home to something he didn't expect; he is welcomed with open arms and he didn't deserve any of it! He had left so much behind – the ones he loved are the same people he couldn't face because of what he had become. They showed him a love he didn't deserve. It was almost overwhelming. He had learned that "life can be so cruel and mean" – pain is part of life. Without pain, I reckon we might take all the beauty for granted. Then love finds us. Love was new for Johnny.

Johnny finally comes to the conclusion that "No one person can save us. Only Jesus can." Johnny also realizes when he says "Something happened to me; I lost who I really was, lost everything true. You wouldn't have liked me. " That's why he stayed away. But, none of his past seemed to matter to his family and friends.

Johnny has to face the pain of his childhood and the stronghold his father has on him even from the grave. Will Johnny let his heavenly Father love him totally? Will he believe what his heavenly Father says about him or will he still buy in to all the lies? Can he walk in what Jesus says about him and love?

You will be powerfully moved by this story. It will get you thinking about the real meaning of love and life. I can't wait to see what James Robinson will write about next.

Reviewed by Nora St.Laurent

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Tracey Bateman's That's (not quite) Amore ~ Reviewed

That's (not quite) Amore
By Tracey Bateman
Published by Faith Words
ISBN-13: 978-0-446-69895-5


As interior designer and part-time baker for Nick Pantalone's coffee shop, Laini thinks she can juggle two jobs and two men. Can she do it all or will she just get burned?

When Laini Sullivan lands a job designing Nick Pantalone's coffee shop, there are two problems: one, Nick's nephew Joe hates all of her ideas, and two, Laini has to admit he's right—she's a disaster at design. Still, she can't risk losing the job. To compromise, Joe brings in help on the project, while Laini continues to bake the goodies that keep his customers lining up.

Their relationship is moving along until new guy Officer Mark Hall implies that Joe's family is tied to the mob. Things spin out of control when Laini meets the family, including "the uncles," who seem to confirm Mark's suspicions. To make things worse, Nana Pantalone makes it clear Laini isn't the kind of girl she has in mind for her grandson. Laini's not sure if she should give Joe the benefit of the doubt or set her sights on Mark and just fuhgetaboutit.


Grab a white chocolate latte and send the kids to the neighbors, 'cause you're in for a fab fun read! That's (not quite) Amore is perhaps the most hilarious romance I've read, bar none. Set in Manhattan and Long Island, you can feel the vibes so indigenous to New York. Laini is self-deprecating (can we all say "been there"?) as she finds herself alone in the apartment she once shared with her friends. They've all gotten engaged and married, leaving Laini alone with a ticking biological clock. The third in the Drama Queen series, That's (not quite) Amore gets Novel Reviews and my highest recommendation.

Reviewed by Ane Mulligan

Bonus Review:

This is my first Tracey Bateman novel. It won't be my last. Fun characters run amok through food, coffee, design, hormones and drama.

Italian grandmothers, "the uncles," crime drama, angst, angst and more angst plague Laini while she struggles with the fact that she can't figure out who she is and what she wants to do with what she's got. Bateman masterfully manages a huge and very eclectic cast of characters. Humor is laced throughout, yet there is a touch of melancholy for those who like a hint of it in their chick-lit.

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Monday, August 11, 2008

August ACFW Book Releases

We've got 14 new Christian novels this month. Though technically summer lasts into September, August holds more hot, kick-back days to read to your heart's content! And we've got plenty of good choices to pick from!

Also, don't forget to check out my new Spotlight on best-selling author Rachel Hauck!, who also happens to have a new release this month.

1. A Lady of Secret Devotion, Ladies of Liberty series Book 3 (independent series where each book stands alone) by Tracie Peterson from Bethany House Publishers. Cassie Stover gets caught up in an intriguing mystery that may cost her her heart, if not her life.

2. An Irishwoman's Tale, First book of related books by Patti Lacy from Kregel Publications. A family crisis sends an impetuous Irishwoman and her chatty Southern friend back to the breathtaking cliffs of County Clare.

3. Bluegrass Hero by Allie Pleiter from Steeple Hill Love Inspired. Farm owner Gil Sorrent has his hands full when bathshop owner Emily Montague's soaps clean up his farmhands.

4. Criminal Obsession by Tamara Tilley from Evergreen Press. The most terrifying part was she knew it was just a game to the killer.

5. Double Jeopardy Book 2 of The McClains: Bound by faith, honor and love by Terri Reed from Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense. Anne Jones witnessed a murder. Now she’s in hiding. But someone knows where—and who—she is. Her new handsome boss has vowed to keep her safe. Yet she will have to disappear again lest she put both their lives in jeopardy...

6. Hidden Deception by Leann Harrison from Steeple Hill. Haunted by the past, Elena struggles to trust God for the future.

7. Hidden Treasures Book Two of the McBride Sisters' series by Kathryn Springer from Steeple Hill Love Inspired.
Searching for a valuable painting on the Halloway's estate is risky business for photographer Meghan McBride . .but when she comes face to face with Cade Halloway, who's there to sell the former family vacation home, she discovers the real risk is losing her heart.

8. Love Starts With Elle Lowcountry book 2 by Rachel Hauck from Thomas Nelson. Elle Garvey loses everything to gain it all. Heath McCord heals from his painful past in order to find true love a second time.

9. Miss Aggie's Gone Missing The Misadventures of Miss Aggie: Book One by Frances Devine from Barbour Publishing's Heartsong Presents Mysteries. In attempts to rescue Miss Aggie Pennington-Brown from her many misadventures, Victoria Storm and her elderly boarders find hair raising and sometimes hilarious adventures of their own.

10. Quills & Promises Delaware Brides, book 2 by Amber Miller from Barbour/Heartsong Presents. Separated from Madison when he leaves to fight the French and Indians, Elanna Hanssen must choose between her heart and her head, especially when Madison's integrity is questioned.

11. The Falcon and the Sparrow by M.L. Tyndall from Barbour Publishing. Against the European upheaval of the Napoleonic wars, a young timid lady is forced to betray her own country or watch her brother die.

12. The Flower of Grass by James E. Robinson from Monarch Books (Kregel in the U.S.). A classic love story framing deeper themes of mortality and passing time, the true nature of faith, and the delicate balance of human relationships.

13. The Fruit of My Lipstick All About Us series by Shelley Adina from FaithWords. Teenager Gillian Chang is prepared for anything boarding school can dish her--except love.

14. Unbridled Dreams by Stephanie Grace Whitson from Bethany House Publishers. Liberty Belle's dream to be a headliner for Buffalo Bill's Wild West has come true. . . so why isn't she happy?

Happy reading ~

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Davis Bunn's All Through the Night ~ Reviewed

All Through the Night
By Davis Bunn
Published by Bethany House
360 pages

Back Cover:

Broken relationship and unfulfilled promises scar Wayne's past like burned-out craters. Though he possesses both a soldier's brawn and a financial wizard's brain, he lives a life that challenges neither. But when he gets sweet-talked into helping a quirky group of seniors who've been scammed, he discovers it will take a lot more than muscle and quick thinking. Breach a con man's high-security estate to recover stolen money? No problem. Become part of a community? Love again? Not on your life.

A lawyer with her own painful past is intrigued by Wayne and asks him to take on another unusual case. Tatyana's wealthy employer believes he's been visited angel? Did a messenger from God in a pinstriped suit truly bring a divine warning, or is this merely another cruel hoax? Tatyana is willing to trust Wayne to protect her boss' life, but she's reluctant to open her still-wounded heart.

Drawing on both his physical strength and analytical skill, Wayne races to unmask dangerous forces hiding behind a corporate façade. But he will need to marshal all his resources – and then some – against an unseen enemy bent on destroying his fragile bid for a second chance at life …and love.


Wayne Grusza is a Special Forces trained military man, who just so happens to be a CPA. Weird combination, but Wayne has the best of both worlds. He'd seen enough action in the war to last him a lifetime so when his sister, woman pastor, Eilene Belote, wants him to help solve a case for Hattie Blount Community - a place she calls home. Wayne seriously considers the offer. He really has no place to go or any place to call home for that matter, so he checks out their financial books he had nothing to lose. It's the least he could do for the sister who had always been there for him.

In this investigation, Wayne uncovers a scam (they all suspected) and reports to the board that the community is about to lose everything. This was a retirement community and no one could afford to lose a dime. After all, these people were on fixed incomes. Wayne hated this kind of thing, and had little patience for a man that would prey on the innocent and abuse people's trust. He would get their money back the best way he knew how. He wasn't going to lose this community to a con man; not on his watch. This was becoming personal.

As Wayne plots to save the community, he is asked to check out another similar case. He is brought in as a consultant to check out what has happened with another companies books. As he investigates he finds something familiar. He thinks it's strange to have two similar scams take place so close together. This was a small town...there had to be a connection. Wayne soon discovers that Mr. Easton, the President of this big corporation, has been visited by an angel. He isn't sure he wants to get involved in this second case. He wasn't much on religion. His father was a pastor and so was his sister – he'd heard more than enough about religion. Wayne lived life on his own terms - thank you very much. There was no way Wayne wanted to interview a man who talked to an angel. He had to draw the line somewhere.

Wayne meets an olderly woman named Victoria, who lives in Hattie Blount Community, tells him that she is praying for him. He knows his sister and father had been praying for him for years. A lot of good that has done him. But this woman seems to look into his soul and when she says "Worst kinds of addiction, the very worst, are those of the heart. Anger and bitterness don't wound the body like a drug. They gnaw down deep, where the lie can be hidden from almost everyone. The truth is this: the addiction hollows out your soul. No matter what you carry with you,...the Lord can make something good of this, if you let Him." Great! That's the last thing he wanted to hear. But deep down to the core of his being he knew she was right. What was he supposed to do with this information? How could he process that?

Wayne has battles raging on all fronts; on the outside with these scams, murders and bad guys trying to kill him and on the inside of his soul. He is facing things he thought he never would - thought they were gone but their back and now in living color. He wasn't a man that would run and hide. Now what to do? He needed strength beyond what he had to survive. He started to think about what Victoria had to say! Could he turn to God?

This story takes place in Florida, where I lived for many years. It was fun to hear about all the places I had been and all the things I remembered about Florida living. I love how Davis Bunn tells a story that gets to the heart of the matter. In the middle of the fighting, drama and action, Bunn deals with heart issues. Wayne is one lean-mean-fighting-machine. This story is filled with adventure, love and second chances, but not just for Wayne. If you love Davis Bunn, you will totally enjoy this story. If you are new to this author, this is the book to jump into and be totally engaged in his exciting story telling style.

Nora St. Laurent
Book Club Servant Leader - ACFW Book Club Assistant

Bonus Review:

Davis Bunn has written a story full of redemption and hope. The characters are a rag-tag mix of broken and abused. As so often happens, the characters use their pain as fuel to protect themselves and keep others out of the areas that are still wounded.
And they live with the consequences of those choices -- alone.

On the surface All Through the Night is about a trained soldier with an amazing mind for numbers who settles in a retirement community to help them recover from a scam. Entertaining reading with that element alone because Bunn provides a beautiful woman, guns, explosions, fast boats and bad guys.

But the spiritual aspects drove the story. One fragile elderly lady determines to love Wayne and to pray for him. As his heart softens toward her, a deep transformation begins.

After an initial struggle getting into the story, I discovered a good read.

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Chris Fabry's Dogwood ~ Reviewed

By Chris Fabry
Published by Tyndale House Publishers
352 pages
ISBN# 978-1-4143-1955-1

Back Cover:

“There are losses that mark a life forever…but I still had hope that our lives could be salvaged from the past.”

Will Hatfield returns to the small town of Dogwood, West Virginia, intent on pursuing the only woman he has ever loved – lonely to find there is far more standing in his way than lost years in prison. Karin has buried her shattered dreams by settling for a faithful husband whose emotional distance from her deep passions and conflicts leaves her isolated. Loaded with guilt, she tries to raise three small children and “do life” the best she can.

The secrets of Will and Karin’s past begin to emerge through Danny Boyd, a young boy who wishes he hadn’t survived the tragedy that knit those two together as well as tore them apart.

And the trigger that will lay there pain bare and force them to face it rather than flee is the unlikely figure of Ruthie Bowles, a withered, wiry old woman who leads Karin so deep into her anger against God that it forces unexpected consequences.

“Many a man claims to have unfailing love, but a faithful man who can find?” Proverbs 20:6


Chris has a quote by Jackson Browne in the front of the book that speaks volumes about this story “I think that life is full of pain…It’s painful for everybody…Growing is painful. But I think that the only way through it , is through it…and anything that helps is a blessing”. In this story the author shows his characters dealing with the pain of life in many different ways.

My mind and emotions were impacted as I read the first page. Ruthie Bowles helps Karin find answers and peace in her lonely days and sleepless nights. “I have been staring at the hornet’s nest called life, afraid to live, too stunned to move. Ruthie was the one who drew the poison from my soul.” Karin admits. Chris Fabry delivers word pictures like this all through this story. The imagery is powerful and thought provoking.

“Life isn’t pretty so you’ve got to hug the ugly out of it,” Ruthie said to Karin.

I loved the depth of gut level honesty these women share with one another. A close relationship develops between this most unlikely pair Ruthie and Karin. As I read I kept wanting to find out the tragedy and heartbreak that happened in this small town named “Dogwood” that brought so many people together and changed their lives forever.

In the first 4 chapters the author develops individual characters and their situations. Chris makes it easy to know who’s speaking because the character’s name is on top of each new chapter. Before he takes you to the next chapter and a new character ; the author leaves you hanging and wanting to learn more about the character he just introduced. After the 4th chapter I started wondering if and when these people’s lives would intersect. The story really builds up to this intersection of lives. Then it happens their worlds collide in a fast paced action packed climax. Chris Fabry has woven these people’s lives and this story together in a fascinating way. Chris has written many books for children. This is his first adult fiction story. I can’t wait to read what he writes next; you’ll be looking for his next book too!

Reviewed by: Nora St.Laurent

Bonus Review:

Chris Fabry's debut adult novel, Dogwood, is a mosaic of humanity, God's grace and the power of love.

Solidly literary fiction with deep, flawed characters and beautiful prose, Dogwood also contains a mystery within the story that adds tension and a deepening plot. Twists and turns fill this multi-first-person POV novel.

The spiritual elements run deep and into moments that teach, however, the characters who do the teaching end up being so compelling that it doesn't feel preachy, but instead feels like wisdom that needs to be savored and pondered and maybe even considered in the life of the reader.

Sensitive readers may want to use caution because the themes in this book are PG-13 and intense.

Days after finishing the story I'm still mulling over and wondering how I feel about situations and information that I was given in my journey to Dogwood. Haunting may be too strong, but I think there will be a shadow that follows me for awhile as I continue to process what I've read.

Even though the characters had great depth, I struggled with finding sympathy or even like for a main character. But I think this is a back-handed compliment because that means this paper and ink "person" got under my skin.

Those who love literary or general fiction, especially the stories that are infused with a touch from God, may find Dogwood to be a very satisfying read. Fabry is a wordsmith and quite a storyteller. I'm looking forward to his next novel.

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Saturday, August 02, 2008

An Irishwoman's Tale
By Patti Lacy
Published by Kregel
ISBN 978-0-8254-2987-3


Mary Freeman's earliest memory ahs haunted her since childhood: An old oaken table, bitter faces drinking bitter tea, a heated discussion of what's to be done with the "little eejit"—her. Now she is far removed from this family that didn't want her, and separated from her native Ireland. Living in the United States heartland, Mary searched out fulfilling roles—entrepreneur, wife, Christian, mother, community servant—but her loneliness and torment remain as acute as ever.

A crisis in her youngest daughter's life—and the encouragement of Sally, a plucky Southern transplant—propels Mary back to the rocky cliffs of her home in County Clare, Ireland. Her harrowing journey unveils her tragic past, and forces her face-to-face with God.


Patti Lacy's debut book, An Irishwoman's Tale is mesmerizing. Unable to put it down, I devoured it. Knowing the tale was based on a true story, I opened it wondering if Lacy could turn this story into good fiction. She did – in spades. The depth of emotion is equaled only by a multi-published author.

From the first page, I found myself cheering for this hapless child whom life pushed from one dysfunctional family to another. Lacy's narrative employs rich descriptions, bringing to life the wild and rocky cliffs of the Irish coast. Her characters do more than leap off the pages; they engage your heart.

Not often does a debut author pen a work that changes me. An Irishwoman's Tale did just that. Novel Reviews and I give An Irishwoman's Tale our highest recommendation. A five-star read.

Reviewed by Ane Mulligan