Friday, September 28, 2012

Amanda Flower's A Plain Death ~ Reviewed

Amanda Flower
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: B&H Books (July 1, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1433676974


Welcome to Appleseed Creek, the heart of Ohio’s Amish Country, where life is not as serene as it seems.

While her Cleveland friends relocated to Southern California and Italy, 24-year-old computer whiz Chloe Humphrey moves with some uncertainty to Appleseed Creek to direct technology services at a nearby college. Her first acquaintance is Becky, an ex-Amish teenager looking for a new home.

While driving Chloe’s car, Becky collides with a buggy, killing an Amish elder. But what looks like an accident is soon labeled murder when police discover the car’s cut brake line.

Now, Chloe must take on the role of amateur sleuth to discover who the real intended victim was before the murderer makes a second attempt. Becky’s handsome Amish-turned-Mennonite brother, Timothy, a local carpenter, comes in handy along the way. With God’s help, they’ll solve the mystery that’s rocking this small community.


A Plain Death begins with a young computer whiz named Chloe Humphrey who moves to Appleseed Creek to head up the computer department at the local community college.  On the way there, she rescues a young Amish girl, Becky, who has run away from home, from two local thugs.  Chloe then takes Becky in, but before barely getting her foot in the door, problems arise.  Becky borrows Chloe’s care without asking (and having no driver’s license) and gets into an accident, killing an Amish elder.  It’s later found out that someone cut the break line in the car, leaving everyone to wonder who the intended victim was and who the culprit is.  So Chloe, along with Becky’s Mennonite brother, begin doing their own investigation to find the murderer.

This was an enjoyable book.  It kept my attention really well and I was able to stay interested from the beginning.  One thing I really liked was the author’s description of Applewood Creek, specifically the town square and where the little Amish Farmer’s Market was set up.  I was able to envision the whole thing in my head, and wished I could have been there!  If you enjoy Amish stories, I’m sure you’ll enjoy this book, with all its twists and turns!

Reviewed by: Sarah Meyers

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Jackson Keene's Nolichuck! TJ's Wild Frontier Adventure ~ Reviewed

Nolichuck! TJ's Wild Frontier Adventure
Author: Jackson Keene
ISBN: 678-1-936127-50-4
Publisher: WhoooDoo Mysteries a division of Treble Heart Books
(September 19, 2011)
Page Count: 281


TJ s just an ordinary fourteen year old kid with extraordinary

problems at home and school: A broken up family from his parents
bitter divorce, evil bullies almost every afternoon, failing grades,
boring classes, snobby girls, mean teachers, cut from basketball
tryouts, few friends. Life is rough for TJ Cockrell. And then that
mysterious little green book had to go and throw him into the past.
And not just any past, but into the untamed forbidding forests of 1802
eastern Tennessee along with the savage Indians, wild beasts,
bloodthirsty robbers, backwoods ruffians, and log cabin living! Yup,
it s definitely not 2011 Knoxville anymore.



As much as I hate to say it, I was a bit biased toward this book. I've
never been to fond of westerns, and I committed the horrendous act of judging a book by it's cover (Sorry!). Lucky for me Nolichuck! had just enough of a small green magical book to get me interested. It
turned out not to be strictly a western... perhaps a fanestern? or a
westasy? In any event it is centered around TJ - the son of a famous
historian and member of a broken family. TJ is your average teenager,
teased at school, ignored by the "cool kids", with a little Ta i-kwon-do  knowledge thrown in. After his parents divorce the whole world seems a dark place. Then he wanders into his fathers study and...

Well, you'll have to read the book to find out more. If your a fan of
pioneer life and magical green books you just might find what your
looking for in Nolichuck! TJ's Wild Frontier Adventure. Good Luck, and happy reading!

Reviewed by: Jayshua Nelson

Monday, September 24, 2012

Courtney Walsh's A Sweethaven Homecoming ~ Reviewed

Courtney Walsh
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Guideposts Books (August 1, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0824931718


The Sweethaven Circle is back -- and so is a friend they thought they'd never see again!
The women of Sweethaven are enjoying an Indian summer when their old friend -- the missing member of their scrapbook circle -- arrives back home. Meghan Rhodes has moved on with her life, leaving Sweethaven and its painful memories in the past. But when her ex files for custody of their twins, she takes the first flight back to the beach town full of haunting memories. Meghan wants to make things right with her ex-husband, her children, and the friends she'd convinced herself she no longer needed. But is she too late? Meghan works with friends Jane, Lila, Adele, and Campbell to begin a new scrapbook for memories yet to be made. Picking up where A Sweethaven Summer left off, A Sweethaven Homecoming explores the strong bonds of friendship, the power of forgiveness, and the importance of unconditional love.


A Sweethaven Homecoming revolves around a group of women who used to spend a lot of time together scrapbooking who have grown apart, but come back together again, amidst trials and tribulations.  Meghan, who has been a successful country star, returns to try to get custody of her children, whom she abandoned two years previously, while trying to avoid her feelings that she still has for her ex-husband.  Jane, a Pastor’s wife, realizes she hasn’t learned forgiveness when Meghan shows up, as Jane’s son, Alex, drowned tragically while in Meghan’s care.  Lila returns to get away from her husband, Tom, whom she has found out fathered a child with her best friend, Suzanne, twenty five years ago.  Campbell, his daughter, now wants to be in their lives and get to know them, and Lila doesn’t know if she can trust him again.

Once I got into this book, I really enjoyed it.  It took a while to keep the characters straight as I hadn’t read the previous book.  And each chapter begins with the character’s name who’s perspective it’s being told from.  That, I did enjoy.  It’s nice for a change not having to see the whole story from one person’s point of view.  I really liked how everything came together at the end and the way the characters were reconciled to each other.  It was a very heartwarming story!
Reviewed by: Sarah Meyers

Friday, September 21, 2012

Beth Wiseman's Need You Now ~ Reviewed

Need You Now
By: Beth Wiseman
Format: Paperback

Number of Pages: 320
Vendor: Thomas Nelson
Publication Date: 2012

ISBN: 1595548874



When big-city life threatens the safety of one of their children, Brad and Darlene Henderson move with their three teenagers from Houston to the tiny town of Round Top, Texas.

Adjusting to small-town life is difficult for the kids, especially fifteen-year-old Grace who is coping in a dangerous way.

Married life hasn’t always been bliss, but their strong faith has carried Brad and Darlene through the difficult times. When Darlene takes a job outside the home for the first time in their marriage, the domestic tension rises. 

While working with special needs children at her new job, the widowed father of one of the students starts paying more attention to Darlene than is appropriate. Problem is, she feels like someone is listening to her for the first time in a long time.

If Darlene ever needed God . . . it’s now.

Experience a family’s triumph over lies, betrayal, and loss while still clinging to the One who matters most.


Need You Now is about Brad and Darlene Henderson and their family.  They move from Houston, Texas to Darlene’s Grandparents’ farm in Round Rock, Texas, to shield their children from the perils of big city life.  Each family member has their own difficulties and struggles to contend with while adjusting to small town life.  When Darlene takes a new job after being a housewife for 20 years, and one of their children’s life becomes threatened, Darlene and Brad’s marriage begin to suffer.  You wonder if they can over come the obstacles, and hope they remember to turn back to the Lord.

This book was a little slow going at first, but once I got into it, I had trouble putting it down.  Darlene starts out as a confident woman of God, but she’s never really had any trials or struggles to test her faith, and when they come about, she nearly crumbles.  But she has a wonderful friend and neighbor, Layla, who is a great encouragement to her.  The struggles the family goes through are very true to the time period we’re living in.  I liked how the story pointed back to the Lord in the end, bringing the family together.

Reviewed by: Sarah Meyers.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Harry Kraus's A Heartbeat Away ~ Reviewed

A Heartbeat Away: A Novel [Paperback] 
Harry Kraus (Author) 
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook (September 1, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 143470257X
When a brilliant surgeon undergoes a heart transplant, her life transforms as she begins experiencing memories of a murder she never witnessed.
The residents worship her. Nurses step out of her way. Her colleagues respect and sometimes even fear her. But surgeon Tori Taylor never expected to end up on this side of the operating table.
Now she has a new heart. This life that was formerly controlled and predictable is now chaotic. Dr. Taylor had famously protected herself from love or commitment, but her walls are beginning to crumble.
And strangest of all, memories surface that will take her on a journey out of the operating room and into a murder investigation.
Where there once was a heart of stone, there is a heart of flesh. And there is no going back.
I love medical fiction and a good mystery. Harry Kraus provides both in A Heartbeat Away.

Tori Taylor is a surgical legend. Nurses hate her, students fear her, other physicians grudgingly respect her. But a virus has ravaged her heart leaving her barely able to function. The story opens as Tori receives word of a donor heart match and just in the nick of time.

Tori goes under the knife feeling the full frustration and dislike of the entire nursing staff and fighting fears she won't even acknowledge. She wakes up in the recovery room with a nightmare raging in her mind...memories of fire and hatred and the sense that someone was in grave danger.

Overnight, Tori's life turns upside down. Emotions and needs she never accepted because they were weaknesses haunt her, along with the continued nightmares and visions. Her reign as a queen of ice has left her life in shambles. Few friends, no family, staff members who'd rather see her suffer than comfortable, distrust.... consequences of who she'd been.

Then, the plot thickens and Tori finds herself in a thick mire of murder, abuse and terror. Two people help Tori, one believes her crazy ideas that the visions and nightmares might have been her heart donor's final moments.

Those that grow weak in the knees over blood may want to avoid this one. As are those who get a little squeamish with grittiness in relationships. One scene in particular gives the book a parental warning. There is a secondary plot line that involves teenagers who take a relationship a little far physically.
Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Monday, September 17, 2012

Lisa Bergren's Glamorous Illusions ~ Reviewed

 Lisa T. Bergren 
Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (June 1, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434764303 
When Cora Kensington learns she is the illegitimate daughter of a copper king, her life changes forever. Even as she explores Europe with her new family, she discovers that the most valuable journey is within. The first book in the Grand Tour series takes you from the farms of Montana through England and France on an adventure of forgiveness, spiritual awakening, and self-discovery.
Glamorous Illusions is about a young woman named Cora Kensington.  The story takes place during the summer of 1913.  Cora has just returned to her parents’ farm, only to face her father’s failing health, as well as the chance that they could lose the family farm.  Suddenly,  Wallace Kensington, one of the wealthiest men in Minnesota, shows up at their door, revealing a long kept family secret – Cora is really the daughter of Wallace Kensington, as a result of an affair he had with her mother.  Before she knows it, Cora is whisked away with Mr. Kensington, introduced to her half-siblings who want nothing to do with her, and sent to Europe with her siblings for a European tour.  Through the tour, she learns more about her family and about herself.                  
 This was a great book!  I loved it from the very beginning.  I enjoyed seeing Cora’s character develop, and seeing how she worked through her struggles, as well as facing judgement from others regarding her illegitimate parentage.  It was great to watch her attitude change about the whole situation throughout the book.  I wish the story would have kept going, but I’ll have to be patient and wait for book two to come out.  I can’t wait!

 Reviewed by: Sarah Meyers

Bonus Review:

As usual, flawless writing from Lisa Bergren. You'll travel from Montana to England and Paris, from a dirt poor farm to an elegant estate, and meet characters rich and poor that you'll love and hate.

If you've never heard of a Grand Tour, then you might want to pick up this tale. Grand Tours were quite the rage for the elite during the late 1800's and into the early 1900's. This book, first in a trilogy, gives you an up close and personal glimpse into one of these tours.

At times I found the pacing to be a little slow, the angst in heroine Cora a little over the top, and fact that the copper king of Montana is her dad to be a little unbelievable. Overall, though, this is an enjoyable read for a lazy day when you want to mindlessly drift away into another time period.
Reviewed by: Michelle Griep

Friday, September 14, 2012

Melanie Dobson's Love Finds You in Mackinac Island, Michigan ~ Reviewed

Love Finds You in Mackinac Island, Michigan
By: Melanie Dobson
Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 320
Vendor: Summerside Press
ISBN: 1609366409


Though Elena Bissett's once-wealthy family is determined to find her a rich suitor, she'd rather secretly meet a fisherman named Chase at the lighthouse---where they work to solve a decades-old mystery. But when she's forced to meet elusive millionaire Chester Darrington, her two worlds collide. Must she choose between her heart and her family's future? 320 pages, softcover from Summerside.
 Love Finds You in Mackinac Island Michigan is about a young woman named Elena Bissette.  Her family is vacationing at Macinac Island, possibly for the last time, as her family’s fortune is nearly gone.  Her mother feels it is up to her to marry well to save the family fortune and business, but Elena wants nothing to do with it.  She doesn’t want to marry for wealth – she wants to marry for love.  In the meantime, Chester Darrington (whom Elena’s mother is hoping will fall in love with Elena) is a handsome, wealthy, eligible bachelor who is tired of woman falling over him for his money.  He wants a woman who shares his interests and his love of inventions and new things.  Chester and Elena meet by chance at an abandoned lighthouse, though neither of them reveal who they really are.  The each realize they have fallen in love with each other, but when they meet again at a ball and realize the true identity of the other, their trust is broken.  How can they love someone that hasn’t been truthful.
This was such a wonderful story.  I really enjoy this time period.  I liked Elena’s character a lot, as she didn’t want to conform to society.  I felt bad for her, struggling to marry well to please her mother, yet wanting to find true love.  Chester’s character was fun, too.  I just loved their “chance” meeting, and found myself having a hard time putting the book down because I was anxious to see how they finally realized who the other was, and if that would change anything.  I highly recommend this book!

Reviewed by: Sarah Meyers

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Don Reid's The Mulligans of Mt. Jefferson ~ Reviewed

The Mulligans of Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Jefferson Series #2
By: Don Reid 

Number of Pages: 400
Vendor: David C. Cook
ISBN-13: 9781434764942


Childhood pals Cal, Harlan, and Buddy were known in Mt. Jefferson for their troublemaking. But when World War II tears them apart, they wonder if their friendship will survive. In 1959, Harlan is shot---and Buddy and Cal are the first to arrive at his bedside. Can they discover who put Harlan in the hospital---and why?

Don Reid's book, The Mulligans of Mt. Jefferson is a feel good tale wrapped in the lives of likeable, very human characters. The story surprised me a few times and kept me hooked until the end.

The setting of the hook was the feel of the story. Told in a homey story-teller cadence,  this novel evokes a simplicity and warmth from a time in history that has all but disappeared in our lives filled with crashing waves of easy data and instant communication. The polished writing didn't take away from the story either and I found myself entering the lives of the characters as if I vaguely recognized them.

The grabber that took me along for the ride was a strong cord of unraveling mystery. Hidden details pulled at me, compelling me to read a little further.

Finally, the characters were fleshed out and imperfect but guys that reminded me of some of the men I know and respect, even when they behave badly.

This is a great book to curl up with, especially now that the nights will be getting longer and cooler. Don't expect heavy scripture and lots of conversations about God, Reid handles the faith elements realistically. The characters have discussions about faith only because it feels right for them to do so. And it's not heavy and cloying. Of note is that there are some heavy plot lines, too. Sensitive readers may want to look further before reading.

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Monday, September 10, 2012

Vickie McDonough's End of the Trail ~ Reviewed

End of the Trail (The Texas Trail Series)
Vickie McDonough
Paperback: 256 pages

Publisher: River North; New Edition edition (May 25, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0802404081

End of the Trail is part of a six-book series about four generations of the Morgan family living, fighting, and thriving amidst a turbulent Texas history spanning from 1845 to 1896.

Brooks Morgan left home 11 years earlier and is just too stubborn to return home. In 1896 he pulls into the town of Shoofly to take refuge from a storm and befriends John Langston in the local cafe. A high stakes poker game ends with Brooks holding the deed to John's ranch with one condition - Brooks must promise to take care of Keri. Brooks agrees, assuming that Keri is a horse.

Overcome by guilt, Brooks return to the cafe to give back the deed but finds John on the floor dead. Brooks heads off to take care of John's ranch and is ambushed. With a noose around his neck, hands tied behind his back he offers a prayer up to God. A stunning shot is delivered from the rifle of a lady on horseback that breaks the noose and frees Brooks. But could this lady - Keri - be an enemy, too?
End of the Trail takes place in a little town called Shoofly.  A young man named Brooks Morgan, who ran away from home ten years ago due to rebellion and not wanting to take responsibility, befriends a sick man named Will Langston.  Brooks agrees to stay on and take care of him and in the process becomes good friends with him.  A high stakes poker games leaves Brooks as the new owner of Will’s property along with the promise to take care of “Keri.”  However, just shortly after the game, Will is found murdered.  In the meantime, Will’s niece, Keri, returns from finishing school, anxious to get back to life on the ranch, only to find her uncle dead and her ranch in possession of a young, seemingly arrogant man.  As they learn to deal with one another on a daily basis, they also have to deal with the fact that someone is sabotaging their ranch in order to gain possession of it.
I believe this is book 5 in Texas Trails: The Morgan Family Series.  I have read all of them, but it’s interesting that the last couple don’t really tie in with the previous ones, except the family name and their link with horses is there.  This was a great book, though.  I enjoyed seeing Brooks finally grow up and take responsibility and I also liked seeing Keri develop into a young woman. 

Reviewed by: Sarah Meyers

Friday, September 07, 2012

Carolyn Zane's Beyond the Storm ~ Reviewed

Beyond the Storm: Quilts of Love Series [Paperback]
Carolyn Zane 

Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Abingdon Press (October 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1426745974


After a tornado rips through her town, store owner Abigail comes across a piece of fabric from a wedding dress among the devastation. Abigail is moved to start collecting other swatches of fabric she finds – her neighbor’s kitchen curtains, a man’s necktie, a dog’s bed – which she stashes in shopping bags. As she pursues her seemingly absurd quest, horrible realities spark the question, “What kind of a God would allow such tragedy?”

As she struggles to reconcile her right to happiness amidst the destruction, Abigail begins piecing together a patchwork quilt from the salvaged fabric in hopes it will bring some peace. But a new relationship with Justin, a contractor, may require too much of her fragile heart.  Will her pain and questions of faith give way to the courage to love? 


Beyond the Storm revolves around a young woman named Abigail.  She owns a beauty shop in the little town of Rawston.  She is very materialistic and hasn’t grasped what’s really important in life.  However, her outlook changes when a devastating tornado destroys the town.  As the town begins to draw together to lift each other up, Abigail also develops a closeness with a young contractor named Justin.  Through the love and support of the town as well as family and friends, Abigail begins to see what’s really important in life, and that the Lord has been nearby all along.
I really enjoyed this story.  There were also a lot of sub plots involving other characters, and I enjoyed seeing how those characters grew and changed as well.  It shows how much God can use a tragedy to draw people closer to Him.  Abigail’s character went through quite a change, but it was great to watch it develop.  One would hope that if a tragedy such as this swept through a town or city, that the people would come together like they did in this story, and that many would be brought to Christ through it.
Reviewed by: Sarah Meyers

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Robert Whitlow's The Choice ~ Reviewed

By Robert Whitlow
Published by Thomas Nelson
ISBN# 978-1401685614
432 Pages

Back Cover :

One young woman. Two very different roads. The choice will change everything.

Even as a pregnant, unwed teen in 1974, Sandy Lincoln wanted to do the right thing. But when an ageless woman approached her in a convenience store with a mysterious prophecy and a warning, doing the right thing became even more unclear. She made the best choice she could . . . and has lived with the consequences.

More than thirty years later, a pregnant teen has come into her life, and Sandy’s long-ago decision has come back to haunt her. The stakes rise quickly, leaving Sandy with split seconds to choose once more. But will her choice decision bring life . . . or death?

I caught up with Robert Whitlow and his wife last year at the ICRS conference. He was passionate when he spoke of the book he just finished writing, The Choice. The subject matter was near and dear to his heart. Robert had longed to write a book that honored moms for all they sacrificed to be the bringers of life. I think he achieved his goal in The Choice.

There are a couple of things I look forward to when I read a Robert Whitlow book. One, I enjoy the legal aspect. He brings the reader into the courtroom and shows them the evidence and lets them be in the jury box. The other things I enjoy are his characters and how I instantly feel for them and their situation. Roberts’s sharp wit and sensitivity of the subject matter bring a winning combination for a book. This book is broken into three parts.

Part One introduces the reader to Sandy Lincoln whose a cheerleader in trouble, living in Ruthland, GA in 1974. Her boyfriend wants to marry her, but he’s not ready to be a father. It’s Sandy’s senior year and she has some hard decisions to make. “The Supreme Court ruled that an unborn baby has no protection during the first trimester of the pregnancy. They’ve ruled it doesn’t become a person until its old enough to survive outside the mother’s body. That’s illogical,” Sandy yells to her friend., “If all the grocery stores in Atlanta closed, most of the people in the city would starve before they learned how to grow their own food. Does that mean we’re not people because we’re not as self-sufficient as my parents were on the farm?”

Sandy searches her heart and that of God as what decision to make. She knows it won’t be easy whatever the outcome.

Part Two fast forwards to 2008 – California – Dustin, attorney at law who works at the law firm of Jenkins and Lyons, P.C. moves to GA to handle Dexadopamine cases. Dustin and Sandy’s lives collide in an unexpected way. Sandy Lincoln has been an AP English teacher for a while now! She meets Maria and wants to help her adjust to the English culture and language. Sandy soon learns Maria is in trouble, her father is furious and she doesn’t know where to turn or what to do.

Part Three is The Choice. How far will Sandy go to help Maria decide what is best for her and the baby? What will Maria do? Will Sandy stay committed to be an advocate for Maria when her job is threatened? How far is too far for a school and/or a teacher, guidance counselor to go in getting involved with a student and their life’s choices? Do they have the students’ best interest at heart or do they have their own agenda at stake?

Sandy’s attorney says to her in preparation for the road ahead, “this case goes way beyond a fight over who gets to talk to Maria, when a women’s group like this gets involved in litigation, it’s often because the leaders of the group want to obtain a legal precedent that can be used to advance their goals in other situations, locally, and nationally.”

Sandy was in over her head, this was quickly getting complicated, and she needed God to intercede. Maria was confused, hurt and didn’t speak or understand the English language well. Could Sandy help Maria make the right Choice given all her options?

This was definitely an eye opener for me on how special interest groups can and do take advantage of people and their situations to advance their cause. There’s a tender love story written into the mix and some surprises along the way I liked. I really enjoyed this book and I’m thankful for the review copy!

Reviewed by: Nora St.Laurent
The Book Club Network CEO
TBCN Where Book Fun Begins