Thursday, October 30, 2008

Eric Wilson's Fireproof~ Reviewed

By Eric Wilson
Published by Thomas Nelson
312 pages

Back Cover: Inside burning buildings, captain Caleb Holt lives by the firefighter's adage: "Never Leave Your Partner".

Growing up, his wife Catherine always dreamed of marrying a loving, brave firefighter…just like her father. Now, after seven years of marriage, she wonders when she stopped being "good enough". Countless arguments and anger have them wanting to move on to something with more sparks.

As they prepare for divorce, Caleb's father challenges him to commit to a 40-day experiment. "The Love Dare", wondering if it's even worth the effort, Caleb agrees, for his father's sake more than for his marriage.

Surprised by what he discovers about the meaning of love, Caleb realizes that his wife and marriage are worth fighting for. His job is to rescue others. Now Captain Holt is ready to face his toughest job ever…rescuing his wife's heart.

Review: Caleb is a hero – a hero, that is, to everyone but his wife.

What has happened lately? Things were so great! When did things start to change? Now his wife wants out – "fine" he thinks. I'll give her out!! He seems to be the only one doing anything in this marriage anyway. He never gets any respect from his wife. Doesn't she see all he pays for and does in their marriage? She just doesn't get it!! Caleb's thoughts begin to turn to divorce.

When Caleb tells his father that he has been thinking of a divorce, his father asks him to hold off on the divorce for 40 days. His dad says that there is a book that he wants Caleb to read -- and follow what it tells him to do. Out of respect for his father, he honors this request. The book arrives in the mail – the front cover reads "LOVE DARE". Caleb starts to read this book "Man, can dad be serious? Why does he have to do this?" Caleb starts out doing this dare half-heartedly. He does what he can to get by!! He skips over all the scripture verses (that's his dad's thing not his), but he does the practical things mentioned in the book -- nothing more.

Caleb and Katherine get into a huge fight one day. She definitely wants out and after the fight he is willing to let her go. This "Love Dare" thing is a joke. He calls his father and informs him that the dare is off. His father asks if he could just talk to him before he makes up his mind about anything. Caleb agrees. Caleb's father shares with him how life can be challenging and how he almost gave up on his marriage too! Caleb is surprised, but then again knowing his mother, he isn't. The discussion goes ok until his father starts talking about his relationship with Jesus. Caleb didn't need a crutch – he didn't need any help -- thank you very much!! But in a scary way, his father was starting to make sense. Caleb agrees that the choices he's made in life have gotten him this far,but it wasn't pretty to look at. What to do?? This was really tough stuff!

The author, Eric Wilson, had his work cut out for him when he turned the movie "Fire Proof" into a book. It is a powerful story. Although I had seen the movie two times before reading the book, it did not spoil the experience for me; it actually filled in the missing pieces the movie didn't cover. The book helped answer the questions I had in my mind while watching the movie. Questions like: How did Catherine and Caleb meet? What was their marriage like before it went bad? It kind of eludes to why their marriage was very strained in the movie, but what did Caleb really think about what he was doing on the internet? How did Catherine feel about it all? Who was Gavin? This book also includes pictures from the movie, information on the making of the movie, and a great letter from Stephen Kendrick about his experience with "Fire Proof" from his point of view. This book has it all -- it even includes discussion questions for your book club meeting.

This book takes the movie a little deeper for you with the action, funny scenes and romance. Eric Wilson does a great job of telling the rest of the story that the movie didn't have time to tell. I enjoyed the book so much, I was compelled to do a search for other books that Eric Wilson has written. Eric has written other novelizations' such as "Fly Wheel" and "Facing the Giants". Some of his other books include "Dark to Mortal Eyes", "Expiration Date" and his newest book "Field of Blood". You'll definitely want to check them out! In Eric's other books, he is not limited creatively and really comes alive in his story telling – you definitely won't be disappointed -- I know I wasn't!!!

Nora St. Laurent
– Book Club Servant Leader

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tracey Bateman's Dangerous Heart ~ Reviewed

Dangerous Heart(Westward Hearts Series #3)
Tracey Bateman
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Avon Inspire (October 14, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0061246352

Book Description:

For the past seven years, Ginger Freeman has had one goal: find Grant Kelley and make him pay for allowing her brother to die. Growing up motherless with a father who leads an outlaw gang, Ginger isn’t exactly peaches and cream. So when she finally tracks down Grant on a wagon train headed west, she figured providence had stepped in and given her the chance she’s been waiting for.

On the wagon train, finally surrounded by a sense of family and under the nurturing eye of Toni Rodde, Ginger begins to lose her rough edges. She’s made friends for the first time and has become part of something bigger than revenge. Not only has her heart softened toward people in general, but God has become a reality she never understood before. And watching Grant doctor the pioneers, she’s realized she can’t just kill him and leave the train without medical care. Putting her anger aside, before long, Ginger’s a functioning part of the group.

But when the outlaw gang, headed by her pa, shows up and infiltrates the wagon train, she is forced to question her decision. Only self-sacrifice and her new relationship with God can make things right. But it might also means she loses everything she’s begun to hold dear.

If you would like to read from the first chapter of Dangerous Heart, go

My Review:

Tracey Bateman brings the final book in her Westward Hearts series. Having not read the first two, I can't compare it to them, but, I imagine that fans of the series will find much to like as several characters seemed to finish out stories while others deepened relationships only hinted at in previous novels.

Classic prairie style romance complete with danger, drama and bad guys. Bateman threw in cholera, nasty cures and enough sensory information that I know for a fact that if I ever get a chance to time travel I won't be going back to places where doctoring required more guess work than tools. Nor where bathing involved the possibility of catching pneumonia since a bath on the trail involved open bodies of water.

Tracey Bateman write chick-lit and prairie romance with equal skill, no wonder she's a favorite of many.

Reviewed by:
Kelly Klepfer

Monday, October 27, 2008

Donn Taylor's Rhapsody in Red ~ Reviewed

Rhapsody in Red
By Donn Taylor
Published by Moody Publishers
ISBN-13: 978-0802451163


It Was a Bad Day to Find a Corpse on Campus. Preston Barclay is a self-made recluse (and he likes it that way). Teaching college history allows him time to grieve the loss of his pianist wife and find relief from the musical hallucinations that have been playing in his head since her death. But when he and headstrong colleague, Mara Thorn, discover the body of another instructor on campus, Press’s monotonous solitude is shaken up.

When the preliminary evidence singles out Press and Mara, they must take some chances (including trusting each other) to build their own defense—by bending the rules just a little bit.

They form an unlikely alliance to stay ahead of the police, the college’s wary and incompetent administration, and whoever is trying to get away with murder. Or else they both might end up unemployed, behind bars, or worse...


Donn Taylor's delightful sense of humor flows onto the pages of Rhapsody in Red. He's taken one reclusive professor, coerced him into playing mediator between two fellow educators, and then accused him of murdering one of them. Add to that a philharmonic orchestra performing in this professor's head. Then top it all off with a few masterful plot twists, and you've got one of the most memorable characters we've seen this year. Novel Reviews and I give it a high recommendation.

Reviewed by: Ane Mulligan

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Andrea Boeshaar's Courting Disaster ~ Reviewed

by Andrea Boeshaar
ISBN # 978-1-60260-032-4
Heartsong Presents, 2008
Genre: contemporary romance

Cadi Trent runs a nonprofit called "Disaster Busters." She and several faithful friends are on call anytime a natural or man-made event puts people in trouble, anywhere in northern Iowa. Fran Parker smells a rat. Are the intentions of these "do-gooders" all they say they? Or do they plan instead to gain the locals' confidence, only to rip them off and add outrage to all the damage nature can do?

Both Cadi and Frank keep busy getting over their own trauma: Cadi, the flood that wiped out her family, and Frank, the storm that took his beloved wife, leaving him with two active youngsters to raise. Can these wounded souls look past the superficial prejudices each has about the other, and let God work something fantastic out of disaster?

Ms. Boeshaar's tender romances are familiar to me, but this one really resonated. I took delight in reading of northern Iowa towns, some of which I know quite well. The dance between Cadi and Frank was neither rushed nor drawn out too long. The secondary characters were nicely sketched in, and didn't take over the love story. The name "Disaster Busters" had me trying to say the name three-times-fast, and I failed. I'd love to read more Iowa-set stories than I've seen so far, because it's such a wonderful place and has its own flavor. Ms. Boeshaar has captured the "certain Iowa stubborn" that Meredith Wilson made so famous. Recommended for anyone older than four and younger than ninety-four. Or thereabouts. I enjoyed the book very much.

Four stars.

Reviewed by:
Deb Kinnard

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Tim Downs' Less Than Dead ~ Reviewed

Less than Dead
Tim Downs
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (September 9, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1595543074

Book Description:

Some secrets just won't stay buried.

When strange bones surface on a U.S. senator's property, the FBI enlists forensic entomologist Nick Polchak to investigate the forgotten graveyard. Polchak's orders are simple: figure out the mess.

But Polchak, known as the "Bug Man" because of his knowledge of insects and their interaction with the dead, senses darker secrets buried beneath the soil.

Secrets that could derail the senator's presidential bid.

Secrets buried in the history of a quaint Virginia town.

Secrets someone is willing to kill to protect.

With the help of a mysterious local woman named Alena and her uncanny cadaver dogs, Polchak sets out to dig up the truth.

But with a desperate killer hot on his trail, he'll be lucky to wind up anything less than dead.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Less Than Dead, go HERE

My Review:

How have I not run into Tim Downs and the Bug Man? Seriously! I LOVED Less Than Dead. Creative, clever writing, snappy sarcastic dialogue, three dimensional and humorous characters, and great plotting make this one of my favorite reads of the year. The fact that it contains major forensic oohs and ahhhs only added to the enjoyment. I will go back and pick up the rest of the series, but I can't imagine that they will be any better than Less Than Dead.

I love Nick and his nose for sniffing out trouble, when he's not making his own that is. I think I have maybe found a favorite fictional leading man in Nick. Alena was a tragic and mysterious leading lady and I love the idea that they'll be together in future books. The forensic details and Alena's dog skills were fascinating. The major story is the teamwork between the two major characters and the mystery pales in comparison to their friendship and all it's implications, though the underlying plot of a politician and skeletons is intriguing.

Two notes to others who may be looking to avoid or for something. Though a Christian fiction publisher, the Christian message is very, very light and there is a term or two that could offend very conservative readers or those looking for a strong inspirational thread. Secondly, the book is about murder and details pertaining to murders including icky facts and dialogue, so squeamish souls may want to thoroughly check out this novel.

Crime novel, forensic, mystery, or snappy character fans should find Less Than Dead to be a satisfying read.

Mr. Downs you have earned yourself a new fan.

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Ann Gabhart's The Outsider ~ Reviewed

The Outsider
By Ann H. Gabhart
Published by Revell
ISBN-10: 0800732391

Back cover:

For as long as she can remember, Gabrielle Hope has had the gift of knowing--visions that warn of things to come. When she and her mother joined the Pleasant Hill Shaker community in 1807, the community embraced her gift. But Gabrielle fears this gift, for the visions are often ones of sorrow and tragedy. When one of these visions comes to pass, a local doctor must be brought in to save the life of a young man, setting into motion a chain of events that will challenge Gabrielle's loyalty to the Shakers. As she falls deeper into a forbidden love for this man of the world, Gabrielle must make a choice. Can she experience true happiness in this simple and chaste community? Or will she abandon her brothers and sisters for a life of the unknown? Soulful and filled with romance, The Outsider lets readers live within a bygone time among a unique and peculiar people. This tender and thought-provoking story will leave readers wanting more from this writer.


For many years Gabrielle has followed the “truth” taught by her Shaker community. Once she starts to question these teachings and seeking the Eternal Father’s heart, her desires are to follow a different path. This thought provoking book shows how easily we can be misled if we follow someone instead of The One.

Now I understand why this is a dying religion for that is all it is, religion. I also see a little of all of us in Elder Caleb, Sister Mercy and Sister Helen as they find fault in Sister Gabrielle and the world but cannot see their own sin and rigidity. How can we love if we don’t know Christ? How can we really believe we live without sin? How many of us do choose the Biblical teachings that suit us but ignore the parts we don’t like? I often would like to isolate myself as the Shakers do to lessen the world’s influence but I know the only way to be protected is through the grace and mercy of Christ.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

Great book.

Ginger Aster
Suwanee, GA.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Don Reid's O Little Town ~ Reviewed

O Little Town
By Don Reid (of the Statler Brothers)
Published by David Cook, October 2008

ISBN: 978-1-4347-9930-2


Christmas 1958: Elvis is on the radio, Ike is in the White House, the Lord is in his holy temple ... but there is no peace in Mt. Jefferson.

In a small town where everybody seems to know everybody, there are still a few secrets. Three families find they are connected in ways they never suspected: an angry teen, a dying man, a lonely wife, a daughter in trouble ... just ordinary people, muddling their way through ordinary challenges. Illness. Marriage. Bad decisions. Friendship. Faith. Forgiveness.

Spanning three generations, O Little Town is a tender tale of love and redemption.


O Little Town is a nostalgic Christmas story set in a small town in an innocent era. It was inspired by a mysterious event of which I won't tell. You'll have to get the book and read it. Suffice it to say, I thoroughly enjoyed O Little Town, Reid's first novel. The characters are the same folks living in your town, just around the corner and next door. You'll recognize them and the trials they're going through.

A perfect Christmas gift for the readers in your life, Novel Reviews and I give O Little Town a high recommendation.

Reviewed by: Ane Mulligan

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Cynthia Hickey's Fudge-Laced Felonies ~ Reviewed

by Cynthia Hickey
ISBN # 978-1-60260-181-9
Heartsong Presents Mysteries, 2008
Genre: Mystery

Ethan Banning is a murderer—of rosebushes, that is. Summer Meadows once had a prize blue rose until Ethan, Mr. Hunky-and-Unreachable, got close to it. When she and Ethan dig into the scene of the planticide, they find more than a rose victim—the plant's roots are entangled with a velvet bag full of diamonds.

Add one released convict, a brunette bombshell just returned to town, a bloody glove and a missing diamond broker. Stir in a brand-new chocolate shop, a half-cup of danger and a few tons of mutual attraction, and you get a page turner.

Ms. Hickey draws her characters with a deft hand. The mystery is well played out and its resolution took me unawares. I don't read mysteries by choice—I'm more of a straight romance gal, so the masterful nature of this book was a delightful surprise. If you like your mysteries drawn with colors both light and dark, this mostly-lighthearted bonbon of a story is just for you.

Four stars.

Reviewed by: Deb Kinnard

Monday, October 13, 2008

Susan Meissner's The Shape of Mercy ~ Reviewed

The Shape of Mercy
By Susan Meissner
Published by WaterBrook Press
ISBN# 978-1-4000-7456-3
Pages 396

Back Cover : "We understand what we want to understand. That's how it is. How it's always been."

Leaving a life of privilege to strike out on her own, Lauren Durough breaks with her family's expectations by taking a part-time job from eighty-three-year-old librarian Abigail Boyles. The mysterious employer ask Lauren to transcribe the journal entries of her ancestor Mercy Hayworth, a victim of the Salem witch trials.

Immediately, Lauren finds herself drawn to this girl who lived and died four centuries ago. As the fervor around the witch accusations increases, Mercy becomes trapped, unable to fight the overwhelming influence of snap judgments and superstitions. Lauren realizes that the secrets of Mercy's story extend beyond the pages of her diary, living on in the mysterious, embittered Abigail.

The strength of her affinity with Mercy forces Lauren to take a startling new look at her own life, including her relationship with Abigail, her college roommate and a young man named Raul. But on the way to the truth, will Lauren find herself playing the helpless defendant or the misguided judge?

Can she break free from her own perceptions and see who she really is?


When I started reading this book I was totally drawn into the characters lives and the situations they struggled with. I didn't read the back cover and had no idea that this story was about the Salem Witch Trials. I'm happy to report that this story is a wonderful blend of excerpts from Mercy Hayworth's diary, with events that happen in her life leading up to the trials, and snippets of Lauren Durough (a young college student) and Abigail Boyles (x-Libran) lives, and how they reacted to the diary. Mercy spills her heart out onto the pages of her diary, and it transcends time to reach out and touch the hearts of both Abigail and Lauren. It touched mine too. I don't think I could have endured reading this book if all Susan Meissner talked about was the witch trials, which were so heart wrenching.

Abigail is an 83 year old retired librarian who contracts Lauren Durough to transcribe an original diary written around the 1690's by Mercy Hayworth. Lauren is taken by Mercy's life and is quickly consumed with her story. Lauren soon discovers that there is more to Mercy than the diary she is transcribing. Abigail points out to Lauren "A woman is more than what she says about herself!" Lauren agrees that this was definitely true of Mercy.

Lauren soon discovers the "love" story in the middle of all the sadness in Mercy's life. Lauren could see how Abigail was drawn into the love story like no other, by a girl so young and innocent. When Lauren is transcribing, she thinks of what her father told her "People are always watching you, so you can't give them something to talk about. If you reveal a weakness they will use it against you. You must always guard your appearance." Her father was speaking of the company he ran, the money he made and the standard that was set for him as the owner of the company.

Lauren realized that her father's words had a whole new meaning for Mercy Hayworth during the time of the Salem Witch Trials. People started watching everyone and accusing them of terrible things, things that were not true and could not be proven untrue. Mercy struggled in her spirit; she knew that all the people accused were not witches, but if she spoke in defense of the accused, she would become accused of being a witch herself. If she said nothing, she condemned her friends with her silence. "What would God have her do?", she wondered.

My heart soon went out to Mercy Hayworth who was an author and faithful, loving daughter . She wrote stories of fairies and talking birds, and at the age of nineteen, fell victim to the Salem Witch Trials. In 1692, seven young girls in Salem, Mass., began having hallucinations and seizures. Unable to account for their afflictions, and believing as most Puritans did, anything unexplainable and terrible was of the devil, and the local physician declared that they were bewitched. I hadn't studied this topic in school much and had no idea how the trials began. I was astounded at the fact that this community believed such a thing. But given that our modern world has so many cults all over the place, I guess it wasn't such a stretch to believe that something so horrible could have happened in 1692. The characters in this story, both past and present, discover that life is full of choices, some really hard to make. But choices none the less. I love how Susan puts it "NEVER let someone else tell you what to think!" How true that is!

You will walk away from this book wanting to search out more about this time period and what else Mercy went through that Susan Meissner didn't tell you about. This book will definitely make you think about your own life and how you look at people!! This story was so moving. I can't wait to read another book by Susan Meissner.

Nora St. Laurent – Book Club Servant Leader

Bonus Review

Susan Meissner at her best—The Shape of Mercy is a unique and captivating story where past and present intersect. Masterfully drawn, the compelling characters will live on in your heart long after you close the book.

Though I knew Mercy's sad end going in, I was as drawn into her life as Lauren, wondering what Mercy had done to be accused of witchcraft. Her only crime was being a little different and having a rival in love with the same young man. In an age where superstition grew to hysteria, all it took was an accusation to seal Mercy's fate.

Meissner is brilliant at pacing, and Lauren's story unfolded bit by bit, making it difficult to put down. It's hard to say which character was my favorite, and the surprising ending crowned a memorable read. Novel Reviews and I give The Shape of Mercy our highest recommendation. A five-star read.

by: Ane Mulligan

And Bonus Review #2

Susan Meissner captivates from page one. She takes a handful of people in quiet crisis of the soul and pulls them together into a story, weaving threads of mercy, love, grace and tragedy from present day to 1692.

The point of view and focus changes from ancient, fragile diary pages to modern here and now issues like relationships keeps the horror of the happenings during the Salem Witch Trials from becoming too much and too hard.

I know a book or a movie is pure gold if I walk away but can't leave the characters or the situations. I know a novel has gotten under my skin if I feel a sadness that colors how I think or absorb things for a few days. The Shape of Mercy is a golden sliver.

Some will not like it. Readers who don't care for deep literary styles or a glimpse into sorrow or evil be warned - heavy subjects are covered -- life, death, regret, love. Others might not want to read it if they expect all Christian fiction to have a gospel message clearly presented, there is only a light touch within these pages. However, there is a depth that will cause a reader to look within and ponder life and death.

Susan Meissner has yet to disappoint me. I hope her work continues to receives wider notice. Talent with all aspects of writing put her solidly in the category of must read.

by: Kelly Klepfer

Friday, October 10, 2008

Barton, Arnold's Hometown Favorite ~ Reviewed

Hometown Favorite
Bill Barton, Henry O Arnold
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Revell (September 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 080071914X

To read chapter one -- click here.

Product Description

Talented, handsome, and personable, Dewayne Jobe rose from humble beginnings in rural Mississippi to play college football in Southern California and beyond. One of the best wide receivers in college ball, Dewayne is assured a promising career in professional football and easily finds success both on and off the field. Not only is he a great player, he's got the wife, the kids, and the pristine white picket fence to boot. But catastrophe looms right around the corner and ultimately strikes with a crushing vengeance. Will Dewayne's faith and character stand the test of such tragedy? Or will he lose everything--including the love of his life? This modern retelling of the story of Job will capture readers with the age-old question of why bad things happen to good people--and how good people can survive.

My Review:

I wouldn't have chosen this book to read for pure entertainment. My major reason is football. I'm not only not a fan, I don't get the game. I also do not care for omniscient point of view. The authors vocabularies and talent resulted in some overwriting as well. That said, I was won over by the story.

Though I skimmed football details fairly often, football non-fans can find something to enjoy in this story. I'm not going to give away many details since they would be spoilers. I will recommend this novel to folks who wouldn't have issues like mine as stated above, and who are looking for edgy Christian fiction. There are usages of slang and a smattering of curse words in this novel. Heavy subjects like child endangerment, violence, sexuality,drinking and drug use give the book a solid PG to PG-13 rating depending on your sensitivity.

The authors paint a picture of grace and hope. Despair pops up, forgiveness and restoration are covered. It's not a light read, but it could be just the ticket for some folks. Those who are fans of Creston Mapes novels may want to check out Hometown Favorite.

Kelly Klepfer

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Melody Carlson's The Other Side of Darkness ~ Reviewed

The Other Side of Darkness
By Melody Carlson ISBN#978-1-400-7081-7
Published by Multnomah

Pages 390

Back Cover:

Once again, I have kept the demons at bay. As a wife and mother, Ruth knows her prayers are crucial to her family's welfare. She stands between her precious children and evil, and she can't afford to be careless.

Thankfully, Ruth has powerful allies in her
pastor and her church. If only her husband, Rick, understood. He's exasperated about the money Ruth keeps spending on church and their kids' Christian school.

Doesn't he see that these are their best defenses in shielding their
daughters from the dangers of the world?

But the forces that threaten Ruth's faith, her family – her very life- are not the ones she perceives. Ruth doesn't realize that her heartfelt desire to obey God is mingled with the dangerous currents of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. In the end, will her own strategies for protecting her family be the very thing that tears them apart?


Hold on to your heart when you read this gut-wrenching real situation in which Melody Carlson describes how someone could easily find themselves in a cult. I think the circumstances of this situation makes it scary and real when you see how the little things that grab the main character Ruth at first. It's the little things - like words said, things prayed about that prick her spirit and weigh heavy on her heart. But she brushes them off as nonsense in the beginning, when she finds herself in the middle of a church split. She's confused about what to do.

It's not something that Ruth intentionally seeks out to be a part of; "they" draw her into one of the churches that split. Ruth likes Pastor Glenn, who left and went to start his own church. The members that stay behind try to warn Ruth of Pastor Glenn's questionable behavior. 'Things aren't what they appear to be', they tell her. But Cynthia, the new church secretary, starts befriending Ruth. Cynthia has answers to the accusations and starts grooming Ruth for a good position in the new church. They "need" Ruth - and her money. Oh, it's not said like that; it's more subtle. They start building Ruth up by telling her she was made for this position, and Ruth likes the attention and responsibility.

Pastor Glenn's assistant and worship leader at the new church, Bronte, heads up the prayer meeting where Ruth discovers some pretty disturbing things from her past – things she doesn't remember but the "new" church members tell her she has experienced. "Ruth you just have to trust God" they tell her. Fellow members of the new church set out to train Ruth to do 'Spiritual Warfare' to fight the enemy. It's the only way the demons will leave her and her family alone. Ruth must trust them because she needs to be set free from this horrible event in her past - she can't remember. Ruth has unsettling feelings about all this. The Holy Spirit is trying to rear it's head in Ruth's reality but she chalks it up to being a child of the faith and weak in character. Ruth was determined to learn to be like the others and become a strong warrior in this battle she signed up to fight against the devil.

"God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love, power and a sound mind." Cynthia and Bronte don't lead Ruth to this scriptural passage -- that's for sure -- the very passage Ruth needs to be free. They feed her a bunch of half truths and twisted scripture to back up the lies. And, since Ruth was not a self-thinker, she believed everything they told her.

Ruth's husband, Rick, tries to tell her these "new" church people are filling her up with fear so they can control her. Rick says, "I'm not a theologian Ruth, but the Jesus I know is about love and forgiveness. Your church gives more glory to Satan than it does to God." Ruth doesn't listen to him because he doesn't go to her church. "What does he know?", she asks herself. The others warned her not to listen to Rick and what he had to say. She had to fight the good fight.

I truly felt for Ruth and her family in this story. Melody Carlson does such an amazing job of portraying Ruth getting drawn into this cult hook, line and sinker. She also describes what Ruth's immediate family does to help her as they see her getting in deeper and deeper into the "new" church, being driven far away from them all.

Melody Carlson tells the story from a first person point of view which made it read as if you were in Ruth's head as she struggles with her inner turmoil. This story is all too real!! Cults are popping up everywhere and I've always wondered how someone would get into one in the first place. Melody Carlson delivers a story of hope, forgiveness and redemption. It was difficult to read in some parts because I wasn't sure how far Ruth would be lead down the wrong path with this "new" church. I think this book is a must read for everyone. Melody Carlson gives us a glimpse into the world around us. You will never forget Ruth and her struggles. It's haunting.

Nora St. Laurent – Book Club Servant Leader

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Melanie Dobson's The Black Cloister ~ Reviewed

By Melanie Dobson
Published By: Kregel Publications
ISBN# 978-082-5424434
288 pages

Back Cover:

The Black Cloister is a suspense novel about two young women—one who is traveling across Germany in search of answers about her past and another who is trapped in an abusive religious cult and doesn't know how to break free.

The idea for this story was sparked a few years ago while my family and I were living in the former East Germany. As I visited Martin Luther's Wittenberg and learned about the Reformation, I was intrigued by Katharina von Bora (Martin Luther's wife) and her daring escape from a German abbey.

When we returned to the States, I met a woman who had been raised overseas in an abusive religious cult. I began researching cults, and the initial idea about Katharina's escape grew into a contemporary novel that exposes the corruption and spiritual abuse of cult leaders as well as illustrates the balance of God's grace with obedience and service to Him.


This book grabbed at my heart strings right away. Melanie unveils a cult named "Chosen". Elise wonders how any intelligent person could ever get involved in an occult. She couldn't understand how people stayed in an occult once they knew what it was? When Elise gets right into the heart of the matter and faces the leader of the group "Chosen", she had no idea who she is messing with. She needs help but how can she go about getting it? She went to Europe with her own money and of her own free will. She lied to her family and friends about where she was going and what she was doing in Europe. Why would anyone search for her? Help her? What was she thinking when she went on this trip? Answers!! She should have thought about how to get out of a bind once she got into one. She had no clue as to how big and powerful this cult "Chosen" was.

How do cults begin? How do they keep going? This book does answer some of these questions for you. It also shows how cults twist the word of God in people's heads and get them to believe a lie. Elise is a young woman driven to find answers to her past. Who is she? Where did she come from? No one will tell her. She wants answers and she wants them now. Why won't anyone tell her about her mother? About her past? Her mother is dead and she doesn't know who her biological father is. Why won't her adoptive father Steve tell her? She has to take matters in her own hands. She has waited long enough.

Elise embarks on a mission trip to Europe to find information about her mother and her past. She doesn't have many clues to go on, but she knows that her mother's name is Catrina and she was born in Germany. She has told her adoptive family that she is off to Europe on a trip for school. She has made an appointment with her mother's closest friend Addison Wade, who has political connections and aspirations. While Elise is over seas she will find out the information that she is seeking (one way or other); Addison had to know something. It just might be the last thing she gets to do in her young life. Elise has no idea what she is up against and how dangerous it is, but she soon realizes that this might have been the biggest mistake in her life.

Elise has gone to college to study women's history. She feels it might be her mission in life to teach women about their past in history, so that they can overcome their circumstances just like the women before them did. Just like Katharina von Bora did. She was a woman that escaped from the abbey in Europe. She found freedom in Christ which lead to her marrying Martin Luther. Together they changed the world, and Elise also wanted to make big changes in her world. She knew that educating women was the key to such change. She would help teach a whole new generation of women about overcoming their situations like Katharina von Bora who have success stories against incredible odds of failure.

This story was an eye opener! It revealed the deep pain that is inflicted on innocent person when they become a cult member. Melanie felt the need to tell this story and raise awareness about how dangerous cults can be, and how they are not so easy to get out of once you are in. She discovered this affter her encounter with a woman that was raised overseas in an abusive religious cult. The message of this book is one of hope, and recovery. It will change the way you think about cults, for sure. This a story you won't soon forget.

Nora St. Laurent
– Book Club Servant Leader

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Elam and Johns' Monday Night Jihad ~ Reviewed

By Jason Elam and Steve John
Published By: Tyndale Publishing
358 pages

Back Cover:

A Story that combines all the action of a first-rate spy thriller with the intrigue of professional sports.

After a tour of duty in Afghanistan, Riley Covington is living his dream as a professional linebacker when he comes face-to-face with a radical terrorist group on his own home turf. Drawn into the nightmare around him, Riley returns to his former life as a member of a special ops team that crosses oceans in an attempt to stop the source of the escalating attacks.

But time is running out, and it soon becomes apparent that the terrorists are on the verge of achieving their goal – to strike at the very heart of America.


This story grabbed my attention right from the start! The authors show you a terrorist in the making and what it takes to make someone want to give their lives for a cause! I'm not a huge football fan, but I found the action and preparation for football fascinating, and in some parts, very suspenseful. This is a story could have been taken out of today's headlines (let's hope not anytime soon!).

Riley Covington is someone you want on your team. He has seen enough military action to last a life time. He wants out of the military to peruse a dream – A Pro Football Dream!! Life is great for a season until one day his world (and everyone else's) is assaulted with bombs on American turf once more. Riley remembers September 11th and how he was fighting the enemy in Afghanistan. He has a change of heart and wants back into the action – this wasn't about revenge – this was about keeping America Safe – that's what he was trained to do overseas. Now they have come onto his turf and he wants in on the Home Land Security special ops team.

Riley Covington was a lieutenant in the special ops of the United States Air Force unit in the war. He is a man that carried out his mission the way he'd been trained, nothing more – nothing less. He's a leader, hard worker and loyal to a fault . He's a kidder – he has a dry sense of humor that's funny. He knews how to have a good time. Sometimes you need that in war situations to make it through. "You can get war out of your days, but you can never get it out of your nights." Riley knew this all too well.

Riley listened to a sermon that really touched him. The Pastor said "the terrorists were only willing to die for their beliefs; the policemen lived out their beliefs every day until their lives were taken from them (the pastor went on) – Paul knew that dying was the easy part – living for Christ is the hard part – daily putting yourself second and others first. Keep your lives in perspective. It's not about you. It's about what you can do for God and for those He puts in your path." This clinched it for Riley – he was definitely wanted in the Special Ops Unit . He was going to help get these terrorists off American soil.

Author Jason Elam is a professional football player. I was intrigued how he talks about what the players go through with training , security at games, and what would happen if they were attached. Jason and Steve bring a realism into this story that is unnerving in spots. They made you think at "What If the unthinkable happened again? Are we ready? What would we do if the terrorists were to attack us on our soil again? It was disturbing to ponder but something that we definitely need to think about. We are touchable we know that now. Is Homeland Security ready for another possible attack? Where do we get our REAL comfort in the middle of the storm? Have we learned that as a nation?

I loved how Jason and Steve bring that possibility to life. I want a man like Riley Covington and his special Homeland Security unit on my team. Men who have a heart after God and a willingness to do the right thing now matter what the cost. You will want Riley and his guys on your team too after reading this book.

Nora St. Laurent
– Book Club Servant Leader

Monday, October 06, 2008

Siri Mitchell's A Constant Heart ~ Reviewed

A Constant Heart
Siri Mitchell
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Bethany House (October 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0764204319

You may read the first chapter here.

Product Description

Born with the face of an angel, Marget Barnardsen is blessed. Her father is a knight, and now she is to be married to the Earl of Lytham. Her destiny is guaranteed ... at least, it would seem so. But when her introduction to court goes awry and Queen Elizabeth despises her, Marget fears she's lost her husband forever. Desperate to win him back, she'll do whatever it takes to discover how she failed and capture again the love of a man bound to the queen.


I am not a die hard fan of romance. Usually, they make me laugh because of the ubergooey sweetness and contrived plot points. I won't read them as a rule, and if I attempt one and see the words heaving and bosom on the same page, I'm done. Historicals are usually a safer bet for me, but sometimes I find myself nodding off and needing a strong whiff of smelling salts to continue.

I was a little apprehensive about A Constant Heart. If I mention I tend to be slightly ignorant of general history, you might not be surprised based on my previous paragraph. But, I took a chance on A Constant Heart because I loved The Cubicle Next Door. And I am a fan of All the Tea in China. If Siri Mitchell, who wrote a favorite novel attempted a historical, wouldn't it be a lot like All the Tea in China, another favorite novel?

Yep. Score. So imagine my surprise after reading a negative review at Amazon. The reviewer didn't care for A Constant Heart. I loved it.

Fascinating facts about a volatile time and a costly career intruigued me and made me want to look deeper into the reign of Queen Elizabeth. The story of the marriage and eventual love affair between the Earl and Countess was deeply melancholy and sweet. One scene in which the couple has a conversation with a salad and no words made me laugh out loud. The consequences and obstacles that the Lady and Earl faced while courtiers, to a queen who would be the very sun, were page turners. The writing leans literary, poignant in several scenes.

Told in alternating first person POV with the voice of Lytham and Marget, this is a very satisfying novel on many levels. If you would be unsettled by a unique POV switch, or with melancholy at the loss of life, fortune, and/or love, you may struggle with the story. A touch of violence in the age of quarterings and the Tower of London, and promiscuity in the court are elements that make A Constant Heart lean toward PG-13. Christian Fiction fans may find a lack of deep spiritual truths as well. But, if you love Mitchell, or if the era fascinates you you probably need to take the plunge.

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Bonus Review:

Review by Michelle Griep

In the court of Queen Elizabeth beauty is a curse, friendship is bought and sold, and true love is the unpardonable sin. Will Marget risk everything for the man who’s captured her heart?

A Constant Heart is historical fiction at its finest. Siri Mitchell effectively transports the reader back through time to experience Elizabethan England.

Ever wonder what would make a woman pluck her forehead back a few inches or paint her face white, ruining the skin beneath? When the character Marget attends court, she wonders the same—until she is shunned. Peer pressure worked as well in the 1500’s as it does today.

Instead of my usual knee-jerk reaction to relegate such women to the status of Neanderthals, Siri Mitchell’s characterization not only gave me a clear understanding but empathy as well for the difficult choices these women had to make.

I think the message of this novel is best summed up by the character of Joan when she says, “If you try to be anyone else, then that is the worst that can happen, because you cannot ever be them—and then you give up being you.” Teenagers aren’t the only ones who need this reminder, especially in today’s world of competition.

What I enjoyed most about Mitchell’s writing is her attention to detail. This is showcased in her stunning and sometimes shocking explanation of the lead paint women used at Elizabeth’s court and the devastation it caused to their bodies. She’s obviously done her research but manages to avoid lecturing with her storytelling finesse.

A Constant Heart is a great read that elicits a wide range of emotions. I’m putting it on my list of favorites, and once you’ve read it, I’m sure you will, too.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

ACFW October Book Releases

Chilly, cloudy and breezy - a perfect Fall day and a great time to curl up with a cup of tea and a good book. And we've got 17 new releases to choose from. Check them out.

Also, don't forget to check out my new Spotlight on author Megan DiMaria, who also happens to have a new release this month.

1. A Constant Heart by Siri Mitchell from Bethany House Publishers. In Queen Elizabeth’s court…beauty is a curse, friendship is bought and sold, and true love is the unpardonable sin.

2. A Little Bit of Faith, The Precious Girl's Club Book One by Cindy Kenney from Precious Moments Inc. Girls will discover how having a little bit of faith can help them overcome big challenges in this first book of a new series that encourages girls to celebrate the unique ways God made each one of them special and "precious in His sight."

3. A Taste of Murder, The Classical Trio Series Book 1 by Virginia Smith from Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense. When a young woman attends a small town's Bar-B-Q Festival, she stumbles across the path of a ruthless killer who's had a taste of murder... and is hungry for more.

4. Buffalo Gal, South Dakota Weddings series Book 1 by Mary Connealy from Heartsong Presents. A vegetarian and a cattle rancher go to war and fall in love.

5. Engaging Father Christmas (a novella) Sequel to Finding Father Christmas by Robin Jones Gunn from FaithWords. Miranda Carson returns to England to spend Christmas with Ian, now her boyfriend and her recently located family; unforeseen circumstances stand in the way of a happy Christmas.

6. Longings of the Heart Sydney Cover Series Book 2 by Bonnie Leon from Revell Publishing. John and Hannah Bradshaw survived betrayal and imprisonment. Now as they reach for a new beginning one evil heart lies waiting to tear their lives apart.

7. Love Finds You in Snowball, Arkansas, Launch book for Love Finds You series by Sandra D. Bricker from Summerside Press. Full-on, laugh-out-loud romantic comedy for the inspirational romance market.

8. My Sister Dilly by Maureen Lang from Tyndale House. Two sisters; one committed the unthinkable, one will never forgive herself.

9. On A Whim, The Katie Weldon Series Book 3 by Robin Jones Gunn from Zondervan. Katie and Rick are ready to move their relationship forward but as they make that step Katie’s life comes unglued leading her to rely on God’s plans for her.

10. Out of Her Hands, Sequel to Searching for Spice by Megan DiMaria from Tyndale House Publishers. Her children are making questionable choices, her father-in-law’s is coping with loss, and her best friend’s moving away. How can Linda manage when it’s really all out of her hands?

11. Snowbound Colorado Christmas by Susan Page Davis, Tamela Hancock Murray, Darlene Franklin, and Lena Nelson Dooley from Barbour. Love snowballs in four couples’ lives during the Blizzard of 1913. If they live through the storm, will love be there to greet each young woman on Christmas morn?

12. The Case of the Bouncing Grandma, Bouncing Grandma Mysteries Book 1 by A.K. Arenz from Sheaf House. Has Glory hit her head one too many times or was there really a foot dangling from the back of that carpet?

13. The Christmas Kite by Gail Gaymer Martin from Steeple Hill. An eight year old disabled boy provides the catalyst for his mother's and a reclusive kite builder's healing, as he opens their eyes to God's promises and love beyond understanding.

14. The Face of Deceit, Jackson's Retreat Series Book 2 by Ramona Richards from Steeple Hill/Love Inspired Suspense. When Karen O'Neill's "face vases" spark murder, art crime investigator Mason DuBroc knows a long-hidden secret is appearing in her art . . . a secret someone will kill for.

15. The Shape of Mercy by Susan Meissner from WaterBrook Press. The 300-year-old diary of a victim of the Salem Witch Trials challenges a young English major's worldview.

16. Waiting for Daybreak by Kathryn Cushman from Bethany House. A young pharmacist must choose between exposing negligence or keeping the job that's paying her dying mother's medical bills.

17. Walk with Me, Contemporary Minnesota series Book 1 by Becky Melby and Cathy Wienke from Barbour Publishing. When the first parolee in the Sanctuary program run by Sydney Jennet’s church turns out to be a handsome blue-eyed believer, her small town, and her heart, are no longer safe.

Happy reading ~

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Tosca Lee's Havah ~ Reviewed

Havah: The Story of Eve
by Tosca Lee
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: NavPress (October 10, 2008)
ISBN-13: 978-1600061240

Book Description:

What was it like to be the first woman on earth, to wake to a brand-new creation---and Adam? Why did she become so beguiled by the serpent? In this lyrical retelling of the biblical narrative, Lee brings Eden to life, revealing the dawn of mankind from Eve's viewpoint!

My Review:

In the memoir/narrative style that worked so well in Demon, A Memoir, Tosca Lee has returned with her sophomore novel which captures the essence of a woman we all have disparaged a time or two. A woman who traded paradise for a lousy piece of fruit. Havah or Eve, as we know her, is a woman we all resent a little if not a lot, after all the rest of us wouldn't have fallen such obvious temptation. Without her choice we'd be mosquito, disease and death free. A rough price tag.

Enter Lee's mesmerizing word weaving and the epic story that spans a thousand years. From Eve's first blink we witness and almost experience ecstasy, whimsy, beauty and the very presence of God in and through all. The reader is invited to feel the wind, taste the wonder of virgin creation, and delight in God's handiwork. One animal in particular seems to be very wise. He befriends Havah and asks profound questions. His eye is always turned toward her, noticing her beauty, her strength and even the love the Creator bestows upon her. And his beauty is beyond anything she sees in Paradise, a remarkable creature full of reflective, glittering, color and light.

I wept as Eve slowly succumbed to that which looked pleasing, smelled delicious and was able to give knowledge. Surely she wouldn't die. Such a simple act. Death from a taste of the forbidden?

A woman who knew no sorrow found herself plunged into it. With each birth, and each death, Havah begins to despair of ever finding her paradise, or of the promise's fulfillment. Death becomes tangible in every season, every face and every relationship. But, through it all, the death, the despair, the gloom shone the promise. A seed, from her own body, to restore and heal, would enter the now broken world and bring the light with it.

Havah is not only a novel full of beautiful prose spinning, it is a book that causes the reader to pause and consider the state of the soul within. As I read Havah, I was faced with a personal struggle regarding whether I would chose to forgive someone close to me. Havah's path toward death convicted me of my own frailties. In Eve's shoes, I would've fallen.

I recommend this novel to everyone. Be forewarned that the themes and the realities are PG -13 -- from the innocent wonder of the first marriage -- to the decay and sin that enters the world.

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Michelle Sutton's It's Not About Me ~ Reviewed

It's Not About Me (Second Glances Series #1) (Paperback)
by Michelle Sutton
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Sheaf House Publishers (September 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0979748518

Product Description:

When a young woman's life is shattered by a brutal attack, she is torn between two brothers, both of whom claim to love her. She is attracted to both, but which one does she love? How can she choose when her decision may cause a permanent rift between them? And more important, will she give her heart to the One who will sustain her even when human love fails?

Read the first chapter here.


It's Not About Me is a deeply character driven drama about choices and relationships. Teen girls will especially connect with Annie as she struggles with her feelings of attraction and her doubts, the pressures she faces, and a tragedy that changes her life. Secondary characters deal with heavy issues as well, and I'm glad to see that there will be a second story that looks deeper into the lives of Annie's friends.

Issues such as sexuality, alcohol and the differences between real faith and religion are covered in depth. Plenty of drama and twists to keep the pages turning,and loads of truth to keep the focus on hope and restoration rather than the ugliness of sin.

Overall, Michelle Sutton's freshman novel is solid and lays a foundation that will no doubt win some fans who love what she is serving up. I would recommend the book to older teen girls without reservation unless they are very sheltered. Younger teens would benefit from the decisions made by a couple of characters that demonstrate both good or bad consequences. The book offers some heavy make-out sessions and some violence so I would recommend that cautious parents read the book before turning a kid loose with it. However, compared to what's on television and the internet, this edgy-for-Christian-Fiction novel is tame and offers hopeful food for thought.

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

And a bonus:

I applaud Michelle Sutton for asking the tough questions of life in this book directed towards teenagers to read. It was refreshing to see an author tackle the subjects that no one wants to talk about . Michelle has created a book that teens can use to start talking about the uncomfortable issues. They can now say to a friend, "Hey, I just read this book and it was talking about..." I have to say that in the beginning it took a little adjustment to read the description of how Annie's boyfriend was touching her. But I later felt it was this would help to describe what goes on between a man and a woman; things that may lead to situations that are hurtful in the long run for both parties. There is no doubt about what not to do and how fast things can get out of control. I loved how Michelle made these characters come alive.

Annie is your typical teenager just going through the motions of life, trying to be "good" and doing all the "right" things because she goes to church and that's what is expected of her. Then the unthinkable happens to her; she starts to see life in a whole new light. She questions everything and starts to listen to that still, small voice that is piercing her heart. Her boyfriend, Tony, can't take what's happened to her and goes out to deaden his pain in ways he hadn't done before. He is totally unavailable to Annie and her pain.

This adds to Annie's whirlwind and she loses her purpose in life. Everything has changed.

Tony's brother, Dan, reaches out to Annie and her family as a friend. Everyone is devastated about what has happened to Annie. Everyone feels uncomfortable, and no one knows what to say. Dan is able to talk to Annie and her family and pray for them. And, ask those questions they hadn't thought of before and help them see things from a different point of view. God's. Michelle asks questions in her book like: "If someone goes to church all of their life, does that make them a Christian?"; "Just because someone one professed with their mouths to be a Christian, are they?"; "What makes a Christian?"; "Is pornography dangerous? What could it hurt to look at these magazines?". "Why do bad things happen to good people?"

I loved how Michelle tackled these and other matters in her book. Teens many not run to their parents to get these questions answered, or even feel comfortable asking the questions in the first place. I feel that Michelle is helping bridge the gap between teens and their parents. This could give teens the courage to talk to their friends about these tough issues. They now have a tool and can start talking about the book and let it go from there. Thank you Michelle, for bringing a book that I think will really touch the lives of many teenagers. It's a book that draws you in right from the start, be prepared to stay up late once you start reading "It's Not About Me". Michelle makes you want to find out what happens next -- I couldn't put it down; you won't be able to either!!

Nora St. Laurent – Book Club Servant Leader