Thursday, April 29, 2010

Gina Holmes's Crossing Oceans ~ Reviewed

Crossing Oceans
By Gina Holmes
Published by Tyndale
ISBN# 978-1-4143-3305-3
280 Pages

Back Cover:

Sometimes love demands the impossible

Nothing deepens a stream like a good rain . . . or makes it harder to cross. Jenny Lucas swore she’d never go home again. But life has a way of upending even the best-laid plans. Now, years after she left, she and her five-year-old daughter must return to her sleepy North Carolina town to face the ghosts she left behind. They welcome her in the form of her oxygen tank-toting grandmother, her stoic and distant father, and David, Isabella’s dad . . . who doesn’t yet know he has a daughter.

As Jenny navigates the rough and unknown waters of her new reality, the unforgettable story that unfolds is a testament to the power of love to change everything—to heal old hurts, to bring new beginnings . . . even to overcome the impossible.


Time! There never seems to be enough time to do the things that matter! Knowing you only had months to live, what would you do? (Thanks to the publisher for the review copy of Crossing Oceans.) I have to be honest I didn’t think I could read this book because I had lost my dad to cancer a short time ago. But Gina Holmes pens a brilliant story of love and sacrifice. It’s one I won't soon forget!

Gina Holmes’s story reminds me of A Walk to Remember and The Notebook both written by Nicholas Sparks. This author has an amazing gift to masterfully blend together a memorable story filled with a special tenderness, hope, love, forgiveness, mixed with a sense of well-timed humor, throughout her book, that touched my heart deeply. It ignited warm feelings of love and hope inside I can’t explain.

Isabella’s mom, Jenny is sick. Jenny is on a mission to go to North Carolina, to make peace with her family and her past. She knows what it’s like to lose a mom at a young age. She was going to do everything in her power to make this journey easier for her daughter.

Five-year-old Isabella is the common denominator between two families not fond of each other. She looks to her mom, Jenny, for an understanding of the change taking place in her world. Jenny reaches out to God for the strength to do the impossible. I could only hope God would give me the strength to be like Jenny when my time is near.

I anxiously turned the pages of Crossing Oceans, as I read of Jenny’s last days and remembered my dad’s. As I finished the last page, healing tears slid down my cheeks and a knot formed in my throat; forever touched in my heart, mind and emotions by the words I had read.

This author gave me a peak into how it might be to have my heavenly daddy and my earthly daddy waiting for me when it’s my time to run into their loving arms! Home at last! God prepares us for this passage if we let him. Gina gave me a glimpse into a young woman’s crossing to the life after—a journey all of us must take.

Gina Holmes, this book is a gift to me and I suspect it will be for many others. I had no idea you could write like this. I’m excited at what God can do through your obedience to Him, your writing and this book. I’ll be waiting in line to read your next book for sure! Yes, there will be a line :D

Reviewed by: Nora St Laurent
ACFW Book Club Coordinator

Bonus Review:

I am always hesitant to review a book written by a friend. Can you imagine how much more apprehensive I was reading the debut novel from not only a friend but a critique partner? A critique partner lives to rip and shred work to point out what's wrong and what needs to be changed to make the work readable.

Though I've critiqued Gina Holmes for years, I had just glimpses into Crossing Oceans and I knew it was a very different style from her previous suspense novels. Her suspense is strong. But how well would her voice translate to women's fiction?

Once I opened her book and began to read I can say that her voice translates with a poignant grace that is rare in a debut novelist. And Crossing Oceans is a story that Holmes was meant to tell.

Holmes tackles a heavy story line with a touch of whimsy and deep, deep melancholy, sometimes in the same paragraph. A young mother, emotionally orphaned when her mother died and father cocooned himself in a cloak of angry grief, finds herself forced to return to the home she had escaped. Jenny has Stage IV metastatic cancer and must reunite with the family she fled for the sake of her little girl's very near future need. With less than a year to repair and restore relationships Jenny tackles the past and the future, the present and the pain, all while attempting to give her daughter, Isabella, memories and love and what life she has available to give.

This is a novel that quickly overcame the author and my relationship with her. The story told itself in a realistic and three-dimensional tale of life and death, sorrow and fear, choices and consequences, pain and beauty, loss and hope. Holmes voice is similar to some of my favorite authors in the Christian fiction genre, Siri Mitchell, Charles Martin, Susan Meissner, Claudia Mair Burney, Lisa Samson and Bonnie Groves.

Crossing Oceans is not an easy read. It is haunting and beautiful and raw. Expect to cry and expect to remember this family long after you turn the last page.

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Jennifer Hudson Taylor's Highland Blessings ~ Reviewed

Highland Blessings
By Jennifer Hudson Taylor
Abingdon Press
ISBN: 978-1-4267-0226-6

Review by Michelle Griep

Scotland, 1473. Highland warrior Bryce MacPhearson kidnaps Akira MacKenzie on her wedding day to honor a promise he made to his dying father. When he forces Akira to wed him, hoping to end a half-century-old feud between their clans, she struggles to overcome her anger and resentment. Yet her strength in the Lord becomes a witness to Bryce. But there is a traitor in their midst…and murder is the ultimate weapon.

Highland Blessings is Jennifer Hudson Taylor’s debut novel—and a smashing debut it is. She captures all the elements of fifteenth century Scotland and ties them into one memorable tale. Big beefy warriors, creepy castles with dungeons, tempers and tantrums and treachery weave together in an action-packed story that will leave you wanting more. Good thing I hear she’s working on a sequel.

The hero of the story, Bryce MacPhearson, is the character that stole my heart. In trying to do what is right, he sometimes ends up in more trouble than he bargains for. He’s carefully compassionate, an interesting quality in a man born with a sword in his hand.

Akira, the heroine, is a bit impetuous and sometimes downright careless in her actions, which is quite the contrast to Bryce. Beneath that layer, however, is a heart that cares deeply for people, no matter into what family they were born.

If the bonnie homelands of Scotland intrigue you, then don your kilt and hie yourself over to the nearest bookstore. This is one trip to the past you won’t want to miss.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Kathy Herman's The Right Call ~ Reviewed

By Kathy Herman
Published by David C. Cook
ISBN# 978-1-4347-6784-4
390 Pages

Back Cover:

Ethan Langley is home for the summer, and is eager to renew his friendship with Vanessa Jessup and her infant son, Carter. Vanessa’s parents, Police Chief Brill Jessup and her husband, Kurt, approve of this friendship and think Ethan is thoughtful, kind, hard-working and ambitious. Before Ethan is even settled, a series of random shootings leaves someone he loves dead. While police are scrambling for suspects, Ethan learns shocking details that could break the case-but imperils the lives of those he's come to love. Will he make the right call?


“A man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. 2 Peter 2:19,” it’s a biblical truth played out in, The Right Call. Kathy Herman shows how we’re all slaves to something—either to God and righteousness, or to the flesh and its demands. I love how Kathy Herman brings bible truths to life and for that reason I jumped at the chance to receive a review copy of The Right Call – which is the final book in this series.

All Ethan wanted to do for the summer was spend time with Vanessa and her little son, Carter, to see if they had something more than a friendship between them. But, an unexpected death has Ethan reeling in grief over someone he loved. He almost feels guilty about wanting to hang out with Vanessa and concentrate on their growing love for one another, until a co-worker, Stedman Reeves, calls Ethan, all in a panic, and asks for his help. Stedman is up front about his addictions and how it’s lead him to be framed for a murder. All the proof points to Steadman’s guilt, and he knows that there is no way he can prove his innocence. Steadman begs Ethan to go to Vanessa’s mother, Police Chief Brill, with the facts he’s just heard. Ethan’s been dealt another blow. He’s faced with the hardest choice of his life. Will he make the right call?

This is definitely a page turning and suspenseful story, that's intermingled with heart altering truths brought to life. I also enjoyed the town Kathy created, along with its supporting characters at Nick’s Grill. Not only did you get to see the police chief up-close and personal at work and with her family, but Kathy gives you a glimpse into what the town thought of her and what was happening around them. The restaurant most of the town people ate at, sort of reminded me of the T.V. show Cheers, 'where everyone knows your name'. It’s where they ate, had fun, the food sounded great and the fellowship was even better. I will most definitely be reading more of Kathy Herman.

Reviewed by: Nora St.Laurent
ACFW On-Line Book Club

Friday, April 23, 2010

Cathy Liggett's Beaded Hope ~ Reviewed

Beaded Hope
Cathy Liggett
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (February 15, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1414332122


Four American women, all with their own challenges, embark on a mission trip to South Africa. Their lives are changed as they encounter a group of South African women who suffer from AIDS yet demonstrate great joy and faith in the face of overwhelming adversity. When the Americans discover the amazing beadwork that has been taught to generations of women in the community, they uncover a way to help these proud people support their families by selling their craft.


Emotional turmoil, infertility, self interest and escape are only some of the reasons four American women travel to South Africa on a missions trip that will transform their world view, their faith and their relationships. The physical, spiritual and emotional journey Gabby, Cassandra, Heidi and Katie walk, will intrigue you and evoke sympathy, understanding and compassion. Cathy Liggett has drawn her cast of characters with such a deft hand you will find yourself identifying with their motives, tension and joy over and over again. This is a beautifully written story of friendship and faith and the challenging example of those who have so little yet their lives are rich with hope and love. I have selected Beaded Hope for my book club ~ they are in for a real treat!

Reviewed by: Rel Mollet

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Evan Drake Howard's The Galilean Secret ~ Reviewed

The Galilean Secret: A Novel
Evan Drake Howard
Hardcover: 448 pages
Publisher: GuidepostsBooks (May 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0824947940

Product Description:

A crumbling scroll long lost in a forgotten cave offers a provocative and illuminating new interpretation of the man known as Jesus. An expertly plotted story based on the author's actual research in Israel, the novel entwines two stories: one set amidst the modern-day conflicts in the Middle East, the other set in ancient Palestine, yet both offer a perspective on the universal struggle for true freedom and love.

The relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene has long fascinated scholars and intrigued nearly all believers. What was the nature of their relationship and how has it influenced Christianity since the first millennium? With compelling storytelling in the style of Dan Brown coupled with years of exhaustive study, Evan Drake Howard has created a magisterial novel that asks, and attempts to illuminate, enduring questions on the nature of love.

In first-century Jerusalem, the faithful Judith finds herself caught in a web of romantic betrayal and intrigue. She must reconcile her faith with her conflicting feelings for two brothers, one the Zealot Dismas and his brother, the sensitive merchant Gabriel. A letter written by an insightful Galilean rabbi changes their lives forever and sets each on a new path of discovery, humanity and love.

In modern-day Israel, amidst the war-torn countryside, Karim Musalaha, a young Palestinian, finds himself with similar struggle. Caught between his brother's relentless ambition for martyrdom and his powerful love for a woman he cannot have, his life seems an endless journey of rage and despair. Until one day, while seeking refuge in a long forgotten cave in Qumran, he discovers a crumbling scroll with a mysterious text. Still legible after two millennia, Karim reads a message that indeed changes his life forever. But will the cost be worth his newfound knowledge?


In what will grab its share of controversy, Evan Drake Howard, exercises his knowledge of Israel and scripture texts and massages them into a novel entitled the Galilean Secret.

The Gospel of John states (John 21:25) that Jesus did things beyond what was chosen to appear in the accounts of His life. Howard has stretched this concept into a dramatic imagining of the lives and interactions of those who followed Jesus. It is a brave man who will attempt to build on the Jesus depicted in scriptures. Howard has done that, putting words in His mouth and flesh and personality into a character that may leave many readers offended and others ecstatic over this fictional Jesus's enlightenment.

Part treatise on love one another with plenty of sermonizing by multiple characters, part soap opera with love triangles, violence, lust and selfishness, part historical told completely in modern language, this story is timeless and speculative. Basic plot involves a hidden letter that a modern day Muslim finds that could end up bringing peace to the Middle East. However the details of that letter are controversial and may end up doing more damage. Both the ancient narrative and modern stories are interwoven and told throughout the novel, each building on and launching the story to it's final conclusions.

I did find the writing to be utilitarian vs compelling though the read was fairly quick in spite of the nearly 500 pages. I'm not sure what group of readers I'd suggest try out this novel. I struggled with The Shack's female version of God, but was able to see the purpose of the writer. I'm still struggling tremendously with the liberties Howard took with Jesus and His group of disciples. So I'm going to suggest that those who had any issues with the portrayal of God in The Shack avoid the Galilean Secret. I haven't read the Da Vinci Code because I couldn't get past the first chapter. However, some of the same themes play out in this novel.

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Kathy Herman's The Last Word ~ Reviewed

By Kathy Herman
Published by David C. Cook
ISBN# 978-1-4347-6785-1
390 Pages

Back Cover:

When Vanessa Jessup returns home from her sophomore year of college, her mother, Police Chief Brill Jessup, is stunned to see that she's pregnant—by one of her professors. While Brill is glad her daughter rejected the father's abortion ultimatum, she's also hurt that Vanessa ignored her upbringing and angry that the professor has disappeared, without so much as a nickel of child support.

But that's not all Brill's got on her plate. One of her detectives has been killed, and the attacker has threatened to come for her next. When a second cop is wounded, public criticism mounts as Brill attempts to stay alive long enough to catch the perp. And she's trying to find that deadbeat dad, while Vanessa struggles with decisions about the future.


I was so excited to get a review copy of this book, which is the sequel to The Real Enemy. Kathy Herman puts her characters in a new police drama at work and at home.

Police Chief Brill and her husband, Kurt, welcome their daughter, Vanessa, everyone’s looking for a fun, peaceful summer. But, news from Vanessa squashes all that! They meet Ethan, Vanessa's friend from college, who came home with her to lessen the blow she was to tell her parents.

At work, Brill is being stalked by an inmate just release from prison. This man is on a mission and will stop at nothing until justice is done in his own mind. He’s out to get the people that put him behind bars. Brill is willing to do whatever it takes to keep her and her family safe, but she can’t be with all of her family 24/7. This man is good and has already taken out a few cops—he means business.

Kathy talks about topics that are uncomfortable but real. Christians have problems like everyone else. God says, in this world you will have trouble. This story is nail biting suspenseful, action packed and has a strong spiritual thread. I really enjoyed it and I’m looking forward to reading the last installment of this series called, The Right Call.

Reviewed by: Nora St.Laurent
ACFW Book Club Coordinator

Monday, April 19, 2010

Sandra Byrd's Asking For Trouble ~ Reviewed

Asking for Trouble, London Confidential Series #1
By: Sandra Byrd
More in London Confidential Series
Tyndale House / 2010 / Paperback

Product Description:

When her family moves to London, 15-year-old Savvy Smith has to make her way in a new school and a new country. She just knows the school newspaper is the right place for her, but she doesn’t have the required experience, and the cute editor-in-chief is not looking to train anyone. She has to come up with a way to prove herself and nab the one available position on the newspaper staff at Wexburg Academy.


Stop that plane! I MUST go to London after reading this book! Teen anglophiles will unite after picking up these books. Seriously, I so envy Savvy and her new life. Sandra Byrd made me drool after reading her Lexi Stuart series. Now I want to talk with a British accent and have a cuppa tea with scones and Devonshire cream.

Savvy is my type of girl. Seriously I loved reading about her. Even though she's an American transplant, she doesn't act obnoxiously or try to compare everything to American stuff. While she wants to fit in, she doesn't go out of her way to get into the in crowd or become popular. She just wants to find her niche. I loved how she had to go through several trial runs before finding it and how the teachers would be relieved when she said she wasn't coming back. The newspaper story is handled very well and even though I think that advice columns are a bit passe, I liked Savvy's approach to it.

I want a Fishcoteque pub near me! First off, Savvy's mom is super cool to just let her go there after school on her own (in a new country no less). Second, the food sounds absolutely delish (I'm totally craving some fish and chips right now). Third, the place is described as being a really fun, yet safe hangout that you can go and grab great food and chill with your laptop. And it's British! What more could you possibly want? Fishcoteque is one of the best hangouts I've read in a YA book this year.

I honestly have no complaints about this book. It was really fun to read and allowed me to travel to somewhere I've always wanted to go to in my life. I really like how Savvy is mature enough to explore places on her own, yet still respects her family and gets along very well with her parents. Their search for a church is quite funny as I can relate to the same ordeal with my parents about trying to see where we would finally fit in. It's really nice to know that even in a different country and culture that there are lots of things that are still the same. Ok, I take it back as there is one tiny little detail I had a problem with. I'm not quite sure why this book is marketed towards 8-12 year olds. It's more of a 11-15 year old targeted range if anything. Other than that little quibble, I LOVED this book and I cannot wait to read the rest in the series. Oh...London is calling...

Reviewed by: Deborah

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Francine Rivers's Her Mother's Hope ~ Reviewed

By Francine Rivers
Published by Tyndale House
ISBN# 978-141-43-186-3-9
450 pages

Back Cover:

The first in an epic two-book saga by beloved author Francine Rivers, this sweeping story explores the complicated relationships between mothers and daughters over several generations. Near the turn of the 20th century, fiery Marta leaves Switzerland, determined to find life on her own terms. Her journey takes her through Europe and finally lands her with children and husband in tow in the central valley of California. Marta's experiences convince her that only the strong survive. Marta wants Hildie, her oldest daughter never to doubt her love-but the challenges of life conspire against her vow. Each woman is forced to confront her faulty but well-meaning desire to help her daughter find her God-given place in the world.


I’ve read and have been deeply moved by Francine Rivers’ books, so I anxiously awaited my review copy of this epic story. Francine does an amazing job of creating complex characters which instantly grab at your heart strings.

The reader first meets Marta Schnieder as a young girl doing her best to cope with a task master father. She loves to learn and has great dreams of speaking many languages, going to college and maybe even owning a business. Marta's dream crashes when her father demands she work several jobs to make money for the family. Marta vows she will never be just a servant girl. She would prove her father’s image of her wrong.

Her mother comforts Marta saying, “Marta, listen to me…It doesn’t matter what your father plans, nor what his motives might be. God will prevail. God will use anything to His good purpose if you love and trust Him.”

Marta says, “I know what I want in life, and I’m going after it. I’m not going to let things happen to me. I’m going to make things happen.”

Not only is Marta feisty, but she has a good eye for business and will fight for what is right. I was amazed at how Marta embraced modern conveniences as they were available. The first big leap was indoor plumping. What a treat for her and her family.

Since I’ve grown up having all these new gadgets I found it quite interesting to read about people discovering them for the first time. It was fascinating to see how it changed family dynamics and the way people lived life. I was intrigued by history with all its changes and how people treated one another during each phase.

I enjoyed the use of personal letters written between the characters. It was very effective in getting to know the heart of each character; it also made the story very personal. You’ll be as interested as I am to see how this family survives the war in the sequel, which is due out Fall of 2010.

Reviewed by: Nora St.Laurent
ACFW Book Club Coordinator


Marta is driven by ambition and guilt. Hilde is the antithesis of her mother. Neither
knows how to communicate their heart. As powerful as Redeeming Love, Her Mother's
Hope will give every woman, who has been a mother or a daughter, hope for mending
the rifts in their relationship, no matter how deep the divide, how devastating the
mistakes, love has the power to heal. Novel Journey and I give Her Mother's Hope our
highest recommendation. It's a 5 star read.

Reviewed by: Ane Mulligan,
editor, Novel Journey


As a fan of author Francine Rivers best selling novel Redeeming Love I was excited to learn that she was coming out with a new long book. I mean five hundred pages long. It is not often that you can find good epic novels these days and I was eager for this first book in a two book series. In reading Her Mother's Hope I was not disappointed. Very thought provoking it makes me consider my own actions in raising my daughter as well as to look back on experiences of my own childhood and memories of my mother while I was younger. Mis-communication is a powerful thing that often does not get resolved and on the off chance that things can be put to right opportunities are invaluable.

The note from the author at the end of this book tells you that this book was a journey of her own in an attempt to understand a misunderstanding between her mother and grandmother. It is fascinating to see history intertwined into the pages of fiction and bring the characters to life. Even though this is her family story brought to view, it is easy to see bits and pieces of other lives in the characters. I find this book to be very educational and eye opening. You never seem to realize how when you try so hard to do one thing you might be accomplishing another.

Full of emotions all over the spectrum Her Mother's Hope is a book that you will want to make time for as it will be hard to put down. I recommend the story, I look forward to sharing it with my mother and I am eager for the second book in the two-book series "Her Daughter's Dream".

Reviewed by: Margaret Chind

Friday, April 16, 2010

Kimberly Stuart's Stretch Marks ~ Reviewed

Stretch Marks: A Novel
Kimberly Stuart
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (September 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0781448921

From the Back Cover:

Mia is a granola-eating, sensible shoe–wearing, carbon footprint–conscious twenty-something living in a multicultural neighborhood in Chicago. Her mother, Babs, is a stiletto-wearing Zsa Zsa Gabor type who works as an activities hostess on a Caribbean cruise line … and if you guessed there’s some tension there, you’d be right. Factor in an unexpected pregnancy and Mia’s idealistic boyfriend—Lars is such a visionary he doesn’t believe in the institution of marriage—and the mother-daughter relationship is, well, stretched very thin. As is Mia’s sanity when Babs shows up to … help.


With a healthy dose of wit and a touch of whimsy Kimberly Stuart takes on the challenge of a prickly yoga enthusiast who inadvertently ends up pregnant by her tree-hugging, commitment/job-phobe live-in. This alone is enough to challenge Christian fiction readers. But that's not all this novel is about. Toss in the estranged mother who is opposite in all ways and pushy about it. Add a touching teen Juno situation and a will-they, won't-they romantic scenario and, well, you get the general idea, lots of drama and opportunity for change.

This out-of-wedlock pregnancy from a live-in arrangement is a plot enthusiastically brought to you by David C. Cook who seem to have heard the cry of those who are looking for realistic fiction with a bit of heavenly hope tossed in. I applaud the decisions being made at David C. Cook. Not only are the recent novels edgy, but they are well-written.

The scenario of Mia and her unraveling life leaves a lot of opportunity for Mia to come to terms with reality. She is forced to look at the world a little differently since she is carrying a child. The Christian elements in this novel are light. You won't find verses at the beginning of each chapter. Sensitive readers may find a bit to squirm about as Mia and company aren't exactly embracing a Christian walk. There was maybe a bit too much story which hindered some development of a couple of relationships and some timing issues popped up now and again.

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Mike Mason's The Blue Umbrella ~ Reviewed

The Blue Umbrella: A Novel (Paperback)
Mike Mason
Paperback: 448 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (October 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434765261

Product Description:

An orphan faces an evil magician in this literary fantasy for readers of all ages that probes the depths of good and evil.

The life of ten-year-old Zac Sparks changes overnight when his mother is killed by lightning. He's sent to live in Five Corners with his Aunties, two cruel old hags who obviously don't like him. It isn't long before Zac knows something really strange is going on. Five Corners is populated with weird characters--a midget butler, a girl who doesn't speak, a blind balloon seller, and a mysterious singer who is heard but not seen. Then there's the Aunties' father, Dada. Zac's first encounter with Dada is so terrifying he faints dead away.

The one bright spot is Sky Porter, the proprietor of the general store across the street, a friendly soul who encourages Zac--when the Aunties aren't looking--and shows him a kindness that is sadly lacking from his dismal life. But Sky isn't what he seems either, and when Zac learns Sky's amazing secret he realizes, to his dismay, that this wonderful man may have a very dark side as well.

Discovering that Dada is an evil magician who is intent on stealing the ultimate treasure, Zac knows many lives are at stake, including his own. With time running out, he must turn to the one person who might be able to help: Sky Porter. Can Zac trust him?


“Hath the rain a father? Or who hath begotten the drops of dew? Out of whose womb come the ice? And the hoary frost of heaven, who hath gendered it? The waters are his as with a stone, and the face of the deep is frozen.” (Job, Chapter 38 verses 28-30)

Weather is something that shapes our lives in tremendous ways. Sunshine brightens our mood, tornadoes and hurricanes terrify us, and a beautiful rainbow leaves us speechless with wonder. Mike Mason has taken the essence of the weather, from its raging terror to its silent an awesome beauty and built upon it a children’s fantasy that will be long remembered. As a matter of fact, The Blue Umbrella will always remind me of the very specific and trustworthy ways that God arranges every event of my life.

Simply but very intelligently written, The Blue Umbrella begins as a rather dark tale of loss and anguish. Pricilla and Esmeralda Henbother come swooping down into Zachery Sparks’ life during one of his darkest moments and make it even darker. Swept away to the very strange town of Five Corners, Zack begins to notice many unusual things about its people – especially the people and events going on at Porter’s store across the street. Asking non-stop questions, Zack eventually uncovers many of the secrets in the town. With each discovery, Zack learns something about the human heart and its fickle ability to turn abruptly from friendship to vengeful anger. Zack also learns that trustworthiness is the foundation of life’s most important relationships.

As in any good children’s fantasy, the bad guys are especially cruel and scary people, and the good guys seem almost too kind to be sincere. However, Mike Mason has turned these polar opposites into believable characters that draw you deep within the story. The author’s own interview at the end of the book assures the reader that this powerful reflection of Christ’s love for us was not purposefully intended from the start, but it flows beautifully from the story as I’m sure it flows from the heart of the author.

Mike Mason’s novel, The Blue Umbrella, will provide parents with many teachable moments with their children. I think it would be particularly effective read aloud and discussed as a family. No matter how it’s enjoyed, whether individually or as a family, The Blue Umbrella will be a story that children will return to again and again for the sheer pleasure of a well-told story. Mike Mason is a very talented wordsmith, and I hope he will continue to write stories for children.

Oh, and just another note...this is a 400+ page novel, so be aware! This is intended for children 9-13, and particularly those who like to read.

Reviewed by: Kim Ford

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Brandon Mull's Fablehaven: Keys to the Demon Prison ~ Reviewed

Review for Fablehaven: Keys to the Demon Prison
by Brandon Mull
Hardcover: 544 pages
Publisher: Shadow Mountain (March 23, 2010)
ISBN-13 978-1-60641-238-1

Product Description

Since ancient times, the great demon prison Zzyzx has protected the world from the most dangerous servants of darkness, including Gorgrog, the Demon King. After centuries of plotting, the Sphinx is on the verge of recovering the five artifacts necessary to open the legendary prison. Facing the potential of a world-ending calamity, all friends of light must unite in a final effort to thwart the Sphinx s designs and find a safe home for the five artifacts. To this end, Kendra, Seth, and the Knights of the Dawn will venture far beyond the walls of Fablehaven to strange and exotic magical preserves across the globe, where the end of every quest becomes the beginning of another. In this explosive series finale, allegiances will be confirmed and secrets revealed as the forces of light and darkness collide in a desperate struggle to control the keys to the demon prison.


Fablehaven: Keys to the Demon Prison was a fantastic adventure. It lived up to the name of Fablehaven and was my favorite of the series by far. Just when you thought there were no more magical creatures to introduce, they appear in greater numbers than ever before. The chapters build up upon each other just as the books in the series do. This book leaves you no place to stop and take a break. The chapters blur together so much that sometimes you don’t know that you’re on a different chapter until you realize that you’ve been reading for a few hours non stop. The plot twists in this book were fantastic. The end battle scene, the final battle between good and evil, was ridiculously intense. I had been looking forward to this book for over a year, and it filled all my expectations.

Reviewed by: Reid A (teen reviewer)

Friday, April 09, 2010

Siri Mitchell's She Walks in Beauty ~ Reviewed

She Walks in Beauty
Siri Mitchell
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Bethany House; Original edition (April 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0764204335

Book Description

For a young society woman seeking a favorable marriage, so much depends on her social season debut. Clara Carter has been given one goal: secure the affections of the city's most eligible bachelor.

Debuting means plenty of work--there are corsets to be fitted, dances to master, manners to perfect. Her training soon pays off, however, as celebrity's spotlight turns Clara into a society-page darling.

Yet Clara soon wonders if this is the life she really wants. Especially when she learns her best friend has also set her sights on Franklin De Vries.

When a man appears who seems to love her simply for who she is and gossip backlash turns ugly, Clara realizes it's not just her marriage at stake--the future of her family depends on how she plays the game.

If you would like to read the first chapter of She Walks in Beauty, go HERE.


“Why do we have to pretend to be people that we aren’t? Why do we have to be thinner than we are, and happier than we feel, and know the uses of dozens of kinds of spoons when usually just one will do?”
(p. 76)

Clara Carter was quite brilliant to ask so many intelligent questions! Although the society she was born to frowned upon women who attempted to learn anything at all beyond the required social graces, Clara was blessed with the fortitude not only to learn, but to continually question everything. The answers that eventually reveal themselves are both shocking and heart-breaking!

From the moment her aunt tightly laced her into her first corset and began to teach her to talk about nothing in particular, Clara felt the falsehoods of proper society deeply. Clara’s father and aunt acted with unnatural determination to ensure that her debut in society coincided with the heir of De Vries’s return from abroad. For you see, the pursuit of a spouse among properly suited society was painfully purposeful and included the act of cutting – literally and completely snubbing someone. Both Clara and her best friend Lizzie are set upon a collision course in an effort to become engaged to the heir of the DeVries fortune. Eventually, one of the two would be cut from the race!

She Walks In Beauty carried my heart and mind into the very depths of the Gilded Age. New York’s upper class in the late 1800’s was as opulent and ostentatious as the imagination was able to reach. Young women were molded and poured into a set of social graces as rigid and unforgiving as the corsets they wore beneath their gowns, and the results were often just as deadly! Clara’s situation was particularly heart-breaking, because her mother had died at a young age, and her father paid her little attention. When the decision was reached that Clara would debut a year early, her aunt fired her governess and truest confidante. The moment Clara lit into her aunt over this rash decision I knew that there was much more to her character than even she realized!

And oh! How I praised God for Harry De Vries! And his sister Katherine! Harry may have been the younger of the two brothers, but he had more character in his pinky finger than old Franklin had in his entire body!!

All in all, every detail of this social setting is carefully designed and cleverly paces so the reader’s anxiety reaches “hysterical” levels as the story nears its end. On page 341 Clara’s thoughts finally become crystal clear and these thoughts come to mind: “Just in case, I whispered a prayer. I prayed that if God truly cared for me, just as I was, that He would make a path for me. Because there would be no undoing what I was about to do.”

Praise God, He answers prayer! The last chapters of this book will leave you breathless! You cannot imagine where God’s hand moves in the lives of these characters! After all of the pompous, self-centered depravity of New York’s society pours its filth upon Clara Carter, she discovers the truth behind these wise words: “I must insist that you matter to Him much more than you seem to realize.” (p. 159)

Reader, this review has waxed too long, but I want to make sure you understand the full scope of Siri Mitchell’s She Walks in Beauty! There are moments that will make you laugh out loud (the visit with the mortician’s wife!), and there are moments that will make you weep. You will shake your head in wonder that two seventeen-year-old girls would be thrust into such extreme social settings. You will also feel like shouting in glorious praise when these same young women blossom into ladies who reflect all that is truly precious in the human heart. She Walks In Beauty is most excellent!! I cannot recommend this novel highly enough!!

Reviewed by: Kim Ford

Bonus Review:

Siri Mitchell's historicals have been some of my favorite books. She Walks In Beauty is not an exception.

With poignancy, grace and beautiful prose, Mitchell, takes the reader back to the late 1800's. In a time when women had few choices and society had many expectations, Mitchell introduces us to Clara Carter, a young lady who must debut and must catch the most eligible and desirable bachelor in the city.

The story is full of rich details of the gloss and glitter of the affluent and powerful and stark glimpses of what lies beneath the glitz.

If you love historicals or Siri Mitchell, run , don't walk, to a bookseller.

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Bonus Review:

Siri Mitchell is one of my favourite writers of contemporary romance and and her recent foray into historical fiction has been equally impressive. She Walks in Beauty is her third stand alone historical romance that highlights an element of fashion women felt bound to pursue. In an effort to ensure a marriage to the eligible de Vries heir, Clara Carter's father and aunt chart a course for young Clara which includes corsets, the latest fashion, etiquette training and exacting social behaviours. While Clara deplores the preening and parties, her loyalty and devotion to her family sees her acquiescing to the standards set by her aunt. Siri has created a wonderful character in Clara, a young woman struggling to understand the strictures of her society yet eager to do right by her family. Extremely well researched with fascinating details of corsetry and societal expectations, a gorgeous romance and enthralling plot, She Walks in Beauty is a beautiful story that highlights Siri's consummate talent. Simply brilliant!

Reviewed by: Rel Mollet


In the past, you may have read my opinions of Siri Mitchell and seen that I enjoy the writing, but that the story was imperceptibly depressing. I was shocked and appauled with the lack of soul in Constant Heart, A yet the historical elements were incredible and the writing so true. It was in reading Love's Pursuit that each page was not able to turn fast enough and I was truly stumped until the end but still taken aback and frustrated with the circumstances and sadness of the situation. Yet She Walks in Beauty is a delight, a breath of fresh air, and quite the heart titillating beat within a prose of words met by the ear as poetry.

I loved this novel. Each page was another treasure. Every time I had to leave the novel and come back to the story it was as if I were returning to a friend. In years passed I have always wanted to read a tale about the Golden Age in New York City and this novel was not one to disappoint. Yes it had the historical details and some harsh facts which I have come to know Siri's books for. Yet this one has a heart and a soul with tons of personality that laced through the pages and made the next chapter more than just a little something worth coming back for.

Clara Carter is a debutante, and this is her story. It is a suspense, it is a hard life and facts historical, it is a romance, and it is a tragedy. I highly recommend it.

Reviewed by: Margaret Chind

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Joe Boyd's Between Two Kingdoms ~ Reviewed

Between Two Kingdoms
by Joe Boyd
Standard Publishing
Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 176


In this work of allegorical fantasy, author Joe Boyd takes us on a pilgrimage to a land of two kingdoms, but with only one true King. An ancient land, where children never grow old, is the first setting as a living land called the Upper Kingdom. Here foundations grow in trees and rivers sing and breathe. The second setting is a dying land, where the darkness of a false prince threatens to swallow everything in its shadow, called the Lower Kingdom.
Enter the adventure with Tommy, a child of the Great King, as he and his friends accept the challenge to live as grown men and women in the Lower Kingdom. Here hope is hidden, vision is clouded, and pride twists truth into a beautiful yet deadly deception.


Between Two Kingdoms is a fantasy book with usable data for our daily lives. This is the first thought I had while reading these stories filled with verbal imagery. What I found was so much more. There was one surprise after another as I read each and every chapter. I saw me in those pages. I saw you in those pages. Joe Boyd has a great imagination and grasp on all things not of this world and of this world. The way he describes constant distractions that keeps our lives from being 100% happy and free is one extreme. All the ideas I realized I have on Heaven and the way the church should be are revealed as another.

The Lower Kingdom in this book is filled with filth, doubt, pain, tears, fear and so much more. It is what we may already know about Earth and things we wish we could forget. On the other hand, the Upper Kingdom with the King on the throne and the Prince by his side are glimpses of Heaven for me.

Do you like to read stories that stand alone as individual pieces or be a part of one giant story or puzzle? Do you like C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien fantasy books like The Chronicles of Narnia or The Lord of the Rings? Have you read The Shack by William P. Young? If you have, then this book fits right in with those stories and descriptions of who, what and where God is and Jesus his son. If you have not, I hope that you will read them all in the future. You don’t have time to read them all? Ok, then read this one first because it is the shortest and then work your way to one of the others. I believe you will love this story and place it on your shelf for many to read. It will be a classic in the future just like all of C. S. Lewis’ works. I give this book 5 out of 5 stars.

Be blessed!

Reviewed by: Brad

Monday, April 05, 2010

Harry Kraus's The Six-Liter Club ~ Reviewed

The Six-Liter Club
by Harry Kraus, M.D.
Published by Howard Books, April, 2010
ISBN: 978-1-4165-7797-3


In 1983, Dr. Camille Weller is the first black woman to attain the status of attending staff at Medical College of Virginia. She is gritty, assertive, and used to excelling over her male colleagues. A trauma surgeon, Camille enters the prestigious Six-Liter Club on her first day on the job. A sparsely populated “club,” the Six-Liter Club is a group of surgeons who have managed to save a patient who sheds an overwhelming six liters of blood.

Given her groundbreaking status, work is challenging enough for Camille, but her private life is even more complicated. Born in Africa and orphaned as a young child, Camille was raised by a white aunt in the South. She is troubled by flashbacks from her youth, growing up in the Congo as a child of an American missionary and a Congolese mother. After a counselor mistakenly convinces Camille that her father abused her as a child, she must learn how to find the truth and accept the faith of her father.


Harry Kraus has plumbed the depths of the female psyche, making Camille Weller a credible and memorable character in his sophomore novel, The Six-Liter Club. A fresh voice in fiction, Harry doesn’t overpower the story with an excess of medical jargon. I never felt lost or like I was standing on the outside looking in.

His protagonist, Camille, is faced with professional prejudice, both gender and color, and is tired of going along with “the boys.” Making her life more complicated are the nightmares and flashbacks that plague her, and she worries the stress of her job is affecting her sanity. Throw in a love interest and a few surprises I never saw coming, The Six-Liter Club is a great read. I give it a high recommendation.

Reviewed by Ane Mulligan
Editor, Novel Journey

Bonus Review

I must admit that I went into reading this with slight trepidation. In my mind I basically dared Harry to “Make my day.” How dare he try to write a book from an African American woman’s point of view, especially since I am one!

Well preconceived notion or not, I was blown away by Six-Liter Club! Harry channeled all of the emotions and angst of a woman in that position, into a cohesive and fast moving story. Camille Weller rang true as a person placed in those difficult circumstances, and many of the emotions she felt, I have also experienced.

The story is a fast-paced easy read of a medical community without all the tongue-twisting medical references that could slow you down. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and look forward to his next.

Reviewed by: Bonnie S. Calhoun at: Bonnie Writes

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Lori Copeland's Three Times Blessed ~ Reviewed

Three Times Blessed, Belles of Timber Creek Series
By: Lori Copeland
Number of Pages: 288
Vendor: Harpercollins Publishing
Publication Date: 2009
ISBN: 0061364932


Audrey Pride is trapped in Thunder Ridge. The typically dry-as-a-bone small town is deluged with rain for weeks, preventing travel in or out--and the wagon train that gets stranded in town is plagued with a violent illness.

The three friends who had planned to be the schoolmarms in the three neighboring towns of Thunder Ridge, Beeder's Cove, and Blackberry Hill now must find other ways to earn their keep, But all this distraction doesn't stop Audrey's fascinations with the widower Eli Gray. Her feelings continue to grow, especially now that she's started to take care of Eli's son during his grandmother's sickness. But Eli had built a wall around his heart. After losing his wife while he was away at war, he's never forgive himself and does not seem interested in opening his life up to anyone new. But as the town sags under the weight of water and illness, they must come to depend on each other in ways they never thought possible. Will Audrey be able to convince Eli that he deserves more than a solitary existence?


Three Times Blessed is the second novel of the Belles of Timber Creek and picks up right where the first novel, Twice Loved left off. I am looking forward to the third book in the series One True Love with much anticipation.

This book contains a love story that is tragic and common in the old west, but still just as beautiful. The particular book in the series contains a lot of death and sadness. But it also contains hope and blessings. Through the good occurrences and the bad, the c...more Three Times Blessed is the second novel of the Belles of Timber Creek and picks up right where the first novel, Twice Loved left off. I am looking forward to the third book in the series One True Love with much anticipation.

This book contains a love story that is tragic and common in the old west, but still just as beautiful. The particular book in the series contains a lot of death and sadness. But it also contains hope and blessings. Through the good occurrences and the bad, the characters are able to find their strong suit in the Lord and to continue on. I agree with some that the death did start to get a bit heavy, but in the end it is a great book and just shows more of the good writing from Lori Copeland.

Reviewed by: Margaret Chind

Thursday, April 01, 2010

ACFW April Book Releases

1. A Promise Forged, Heartsong Presents Historical Ohio Series by Cara C. Putman An historical from Heartsong Presents. A player in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League finds challenges and love as she travels with her team.

2. Abbie Ann; Daughters of Jacob Kane, 3rd & final installment. by Sharlene MacLaren An historical romance from Whitaker House. Abbie Ann, president of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union in 1907, butts heads with a handsome divorcee, blindsided when she realizes her utter attraction to him.

3. Blood Ransom; Mission Hope Series, Book 1 by Lisa Harris A suspense/mystery/thriller from from Zondervan. A woman bounty hunter fights bitterness and revenge to find the killers of her husband.

4. Calculated Revenge by Jill Elizabeth Nelson A suspense/mystery/thriller from Steeple Hill. When a teacher finds on the playground a backpack belonging to her long-ago abducted sister, she turns to the principal, an ex-private detective, to stop a child-killer from targeting her daughter.

5. Chesapeake Weddings by Cecelia Dowdy A romance from Barbour. Life sends three African American women into a tailspin; Can these women let God rebuild their tattered hopes when new romances unexpectedly enter their lives?

6. Code Blue by Richard L. Mabry M.D. A suspense/mystery/thriller from Abingdon. A doctor finds that returning to her home town has put her in the midst of conflict and possibly marked her for death

7. Crossroads Bay by Kathleen Kovach A romance from Heartsong Presents. A beautiful charter boat captain searches for lost treasure while her real prize is the caterer trying to keep up with her.

8. Damages by Deborah Kinnard A romance from Desert Breeze. A story of second chances, found in an unexpected place.

9. In Plain Sight by Michelle Sutton A suspense/mystery/thriller from Desert Breeze. Abused by her gypsy ex-boyfriend and left for dead, Jovana moves to America seeking a new life; two handsome men desire her heart, but she must choose the right one or end up in a situation much worse than before.

10. Lorenzo and the Pirate by Rick and Lila Guzman An historical from Blooming Tree Press. Will Lorenzo Bannister, marooned on a deserted island with two pirates, ever get home to New Orleans?

11. Love Lessons by Margaret Daley A romance from Steeple Hill Love Inspired. Alexa Michaels brings a breath of fresh air into Ian Ferguson's and his daughter's life, but is it enough to make Ian trust in love again?

12. Lucky Baby by Meredith Efken A women's fiction from Howard Books/Simon & Schuster. Will adopting an orphan from China bring Meg and Lewis the happiness they long for?

13. Mountain Peril by Sandra Robbins A suspense/mystery/thriller from Steeple Hill, Love Inspired Suspense. A woman discovers violence has once again entered her life when a grisly website sets the stage for murder and terror on a peaceful college campus.

14. Queen of Hearts by K. Dawn Byrd A suspense/mystery/thriller from Desert Breeze. Daphne Dean never knew that serving her country as a spy during WWII would send her into hiding in an abandoned mental institution with secrets of its own.

15. Refuge on Crescent Hill by Melanie Dobson A suspense/mystery/thriller from Kregal. As Camden Bristow works to uncover the past and present mysteries harbored on Crescent Hill, she discovers a deep family secret hidden within the mansion's walls that could change her life˜and the entire town˜forever.

16. Rodeo Sweetheart by Betsy St.Amant A romance from Steeple Hill Love Inspired. She grew up with a cowboy hat and a pony; he grew up with designer duds and a silver spoon. Will this mismatched couple ever be able to lasso their differences?

17. Rooms by Jim Rubart A suspense/mystery/thriller from B&H Fiction. A young Seattle software tycoon inherits a home on the Oregon coast that turns out to be a physical manifestation of his soul.

18. Scenarios for Girls, Book 3 by Nicole O'Dell General fiction from Barbour. Molly Jacobs isn't sure what she should do: Should she follow through with stealing some clothes for her friends from Magna the trendy girls clothing store where she works? Or should she do what she knows is right, even if it means losing her newfound popularity? Scenarios for Girls are interactive books that allow the reader to choose between alternate endings to make important, moral decisions for the main characters.

19. Scenarios for Girls, Book 4 by Nicole O'Dell General fiction from Barbour. Kate Walker joins the swim team and becomes obsessed with practice and making it through the championships with flying colors. What will Kate do when she's faced with pressure from her teammates to take an illegal substance that will help her swim multiple events in their championship meet? Scenarios for Girls are interactive books that allow the reader to choose between alternate endings to make important, moral decisions for the main characters.

20. Seasons in the Mist; Seasons of Destiny Book 1 by Deborah Kinnard A romance from Sheaf House. An eager historian, a time portal, and intrigue in King Edward III's court.

21. She Walks in Beauty by Siri Mitchell An historical from Bethany House. As Clara Carter makes her debut, she realizes it's not just her heart at stake--the future of her family depends on how she plays the game.

22. Sixteen Brides by Stephanie Grace Whitson An historical from Bethany House. Sixteen Civil War widows join the Ladies Emigration Society and head west to claim homesteads, only to find their organization has other plans. . . involving the word "brides.

23. Sworn to Protect by Diann Mills A suspense/mystery/thriller from Tyndale. Border Patrol Agent Danika Morales is caught up in a conspiracy and her life is at stake.

24. The Anonymous Bride by Vickie McDonough A romance from Barbour. Three mail-order brides arrive expecting to marry the town marshal. But he didn't order a bride. A contest to discover which bride would make the best wife turns into mayhem when there is a fourth anonymous entry.

25. The Cowboy's Baby by Linda Ford A romance from Love Inspired Historical. The prodigal returns but is he too late for a second chance?

26. The Word Unleashed, Book 2 of Face in the Deep by Steve Rzasa A sci-fi/fantasy/futuristic from Marcher Lord Press. Baden Haczyk's adventure continues as he tries to keep the last Bible safe from the religious secret police.

27. Too Close to Home, Book 1 of the Women of Justice Series by Lynette Eason A suspense/mystery/thriller from Revell. An FBI agent and a detective must track down a killer of teenage girls before his next victim hits Too Close to Home.

28. Wildflower Hearts, Book 1 in Series Set in North Dakota by Vickie McDonough A romance from Barbour. Three siblings who live on a ranch face problems and romance in the North Dakota Badlands

29. Wildflowers of Terezin by Robert Elmer An historical from Abingdon Press. In Denmark's darkest days, is it duty, faith...or love?