Saturday, December 27, 2008

A Cedar ove Christmas by Debbie Macomber

Yes, another Christmas story by Macomber!   I really do love her books.  The Cedar Cove series was the first books of hers I read... and she is still adding to that series.  Her Christmas story set in Cedar Cove is no disappointment.  I have to admit the story is a bit... not really hokey, but sort of contrived.  Mary Jo Wyse is a young woman who finds herself pregnant and alone. Great with child, she goes to Cedar Grove to find the baby's father only to learn he is not there.  Grace and Cliff Harding take her in and she finds herself staying in their barn apartment.  The born, usually reserved for horses, is being temporarily used to house the animals from the community live nativity... including a cantankerous camel.  Mary Jo's brothers, the three Wyse guys, come in search for her and find themselves lost... they even get bad directions from an scrooge like character named King... and they bring their sister 3 gifts (you guessed it!).  Despite all that, the story really is sweet and I am hopeful Mary Jo will pop up in future Cedar Grove books.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Shack by William P. Young

I have been trying to determine how to review this book. It is virtually impossible to do so without giving away parts of it. My friend, Cecelia Dowdy, wrote a wonderful review on her blog recently:

I also found this wonderful review:

I know that this book has been talked about a great deal and seems to be rather controversial among Christians. Both of my children have read it… one loved it, the other hit a point and refused to finish it. I can see parts of it that might bother some folks. I certainly don’t agree with the way everyone in the book is portrayed, however I was able to look past it and focus more on the story.

Overall I enjoy the message of the book. It focuses a great deal of God’s love for us… His plan for each of us… trusting Him… forgiveness… issues that are of great importance to everyone. However, I will say that I felt the Trinity was treated too casually. I love that through Christ we are able to have an intimate relationship with God, however, I don’t think should lessens our reverence towards Him nor does it diminish His Awesomeness. I felt The Shack did that.

For those who have never heard of this book, the main character is a father who has been through a horrible tragedy and has pulled away from God. One day he finds a note in his mailbox asking him to come to the Shack and it is signed Papa... his wife’s special name for God. Mac doesn’t want to go.. he feels certain it is a cruel joke.. and yet he is drawn to follow through and make the trip. Once at the Shack he finds more than he ever expected… a personal encounter with the triune God all separate and all human.

There is no doubt parts of this book could be offend some readers…. No doubt you will disagree with parts of it… I, however, do not see it as blasphemous or heresy…. Just a very different perspective.

There's Something About Christmas by Debbie Macomber

This was such a fun book to read! Emma is a writer for her local newspaper, but all she writes are ads and obits. Then her boss drops a series of feature articles in her lap. There is a national fruit cake contest and 3 of the 12 finalist are from her state. Emma’s job is to interview each one… sounds easy… but what she doesn’t count on is how she will get to each lady… flying in a small place with Oliver Hamilton, a local pilot who refused to purchase advertising space from Emma. Mix Emma’s animosity towards Oliver and her fear of heights and you’ll find a great deal of laughter between these two fruit cakes!

A Gift to Last by Debbie Macomber

A Gift to Last includes two heartwarming Christmas tales.

The first in Can This Be Christmas. I loved this story and could see it made into a Christmas special with ease. It’s December 24 and holiday travelers are searching any mode of transportation to arrive home in time for the holidays. A train lode of weary travelers find themselves stranded in a small New Hampshire depot in a snowstorm. Tempers flare… stress is high… but somehow good will wins out and the strangers spend a Christmas together that they will never forget.

Shirley, Goodness and Mercy are three angels who love to come to earth, but when they do then often bring mischief with them. After much begging, Gabriel has agreed to give them a new assignment only it isn’t what they bargained for. Greg Bennett is at the bottom of the pit. The family business he inherited on the verge of folding… he is in the midst of his third divorce… he has no children… no friends… no family… he has alienated them all. So when he finds himself slipping into a church and offering up a fragile prayer, he never dreams God will really answer… or how!

On a Snowy NIght by Debbie Macomber

On a Snowy Night contains 2 wintertime tales… The Christmas Basket and The Snow Bride. Both were a delight to read.

In The Christmas Basket, we meet Noelle McDowell on her way home for the first time in 10 years. She left the day her fiancĂ©’ stood her up. One of Noelle’s younger sisters is getting married and she has been called home for the engagement party. Dreading what… or whom… she might find there, Noelle takes a deep breath and heads home. She soon discovers that the feud between her mother and her ex-fiancĂ©’s mom still exists, as strong as ever! And Noelle also discovers that she and Thom Sutton are still in love and were both victims of their mother’s long standing rivalry. Now they must find away to bring their moms together so that they can have a second chance at happiness.

The Snow Bride takes us on a jaunt to wintry Alaska. Jenna Campbell is a level headed woman with a solid career and no sense of adventure. So when she quits her job and flies off to Alaska to meet and possibly marry someone she met on the Internet, her friends and family are speechless. Jenna’s plans are side tracked when she accepts Reid Jamison’s offer to fly her from Fairbanks to the small town where her intended lives. Reid knows all about Dalton and his womanizing ways and determines to protect Jenna by taking him to his home to meet his sister, a woman who knows Dalton well also. What he didn’t count on was his hometown living up to its name… Snowbound. Now he and Jenna and stuck there in his home without his sister, who has gone to Fairbanks and can’t get back home. The blizzard rages on and so does the tension between Reid and Jenna. Will she Dalton find her? And when he does, how will she explain why she is with Reid?

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Loving Your Spouse Through Prayer by Cheri Fuller

This is the second book I have read by Fuller. As with her other book, I enjoyed her writing style... I felt like I was chatting with a friend... and I learned a number of things. Fuller encourages the reader to pray with and for your spouse. She talks about different things for which we should pray and shares a number of stories of real life marriages and how prayer has effected them. She also has a section with specific prayers, based on scripture, for specific needs like Joy, Grace, a Fruitful Life, Trust instead of Worry... and many more. Each chapter also has questions that can be discussed, if you do this book with your spouse or in a small group, or if you work through the book alone you can use these for journaling. Each chapter also includes a specific marriage prayer for the topic being discussed. This would be a great book for newlywed's... but it is also a wonderful book for any married couple... no matter the season of life.

Heart of Texas Vol. 1 & Vol. 2 by Debbie Macomber

The Heart of Texas books are re-releases of older Macomber works... 2 books per volume. These are light fun stories that are great at allowing the reader to escape a bit from the craziness of the world!

Volume 1 contains Lonesome Cowboy & Texas Two-Step. In Lonesome Cowboy, Laredo Smith is picked up along the side of the road by Savannah Weston and gets more than a ride to call in his broken down truck... he gets a job offer. Savannah lives at her family ranch with brother, Grady. Grady is runs the ranch, Savannah takes care of the house and her antique rose business. So when Savannah hires Laredo without even consulting Grady tension mounts. What she sees in this shiftless drifter, Grady can't fathom. But Savannah does see something in Laredo... a chance to have more in life... a chance to do something more than just "settle"... and Laredo finds a chance to be a part of something he never dreamed possible... a family.

Texas Two Step finds Ellie Frasier struggling to deal with her father's death and hold onto his feed store. Everyone in Promise, TX loves Ellie... after all, she's one of the guys. Glen Patterson knows that for sure... Ellie is one of his best pals. So when he starts to see Ellie in a different light, he runs... he wants nothing to do with these feelings! Not for Ellie... not for any woman.

Volume 2 is made up by Caroline's Child & Dr. Texas. Caroline is Savannah's best friend.. has been for years... but Caroline has a secret. She has never told anyone the name of the father of her 5 year old daughter, Maggie. Caroline has another secret.... Grady Weston. Her heart is completely lost to a man who doesn't even notice her. What's a girl to do? Just when Caroline feels there is hope for the future and a life of love, the past comes crashing in and collides with her future... and Maggie ends up in the middle and in danger.

Dr. Texas is a cute story about Dr. Jane Dickinson, who moves to Promise, TX to fulfill her obligation to work in rural Texas for 2 years in response to their paying her college tuition. All she wants to do is make some friends, fit in and get her 2 years over with so she can move back to CA to her uncle's practice. But Jane does anything but fit in... this California girl sticks out among the locals. She eats much healthier fare than BBQ and beans... doesn't wear normal jeans or boots... and doesn't ride a horse. Cal Patterson steps in to help remedy the horse riding dilemma and along the way his heart is taken for the ride of a lifetime.

Both books were delightful to read and I have no doubt Volume 3 will be great too!

Windigo Twilight by Colleen Rhoads

This is book 1 of Rhoads Great Lakes Legends series for Love Inspired Suspense books. I thought Rhoads was a new author for me, but then I learned that she has also published under the name Colleen Coble. So not a new author for me, but a new name.

Windigo Twilight is a nice story, not overly suspenseful and with plenty of predictable romance tossed in. It played out a bit like a television suspense show.... which isn't necessarily a bad thing... but it was a bit too predictable for my taste. That said, I still enjoyed reading it and look forward to reading the other two books in this series.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Only Best Place by Carolyne Aarsen

I forget how I heard about this book, but I am thankful to whomever it was that lead me to it. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time. Neta Jackson (author of the Yada Yada Prayer Group series) is quoted on the back covering as follows: “… Carolyne Aarsen writes for every woman who has said yes with her mouth but not her heard, who has left he comfort and safety of the known and stepped (mentally kicking and screaming) into the unknown.” That quote really does sum up Leslie VandeKeere (the heroine).

Leslie is living the good urban life with all the energy and rush she loves. She has a happy family and a great career… both pull her in a zillion directions, but she thrives in the tension of the moment. So she is far from thrilled when she finds herself uprooted and replanted on her husband’s family farm in Montana. Leslie has never pictured herself as a farmer’s wife and she is determined this is a temporary time of duty as her husband helps his mom with the struggling farm.

When other family members indicate the move is permanent and Leslie’s husband doesn’t correct them, Leslie knows a battle is on and she knows in her heart there can be no winners. She is surrounded b people… family… and yet she feels totally alone. No one seems to care about her… her wants, her needs, her plans.

As Leslie struggles to find a way, she finds that she is not alone… God has not forsaken her… and she learns the only best place is in her heart.

Excellent book! The characters are rich and real… the situations are not sugar coated or exaggerated… they are very real… and the solutions are not easy and cost in a number of ways.

Dying to Decorate by Cyndy Salzmann

This is the first book I have read by Salzmann and probably won’t be the last. I enjoy her writing style and her characters. The book is chick lit, so written in first person, which I don’t always enjoy. But it worked well here. Salzmann is able to work in more dialogue and information about other characters and scenes than some chick lit writers, so this book isn’t just about the “main” character with her doing all the talking.

The cover says that Dying to Decorate is a Friday Afternoon Club Mystery, which indicates to me that there are (or will be) more books concerning the group of women we meet here. The Friday Afternoon Club (FAC) is made up of a group of girlfriends who get together once a week (guess when? LOL) to unwind and vent a bit. They pray for each other… encourage… exhort… and have a whole lot of fun. Oh yes, food plays a bog roll in their getting together and Salzmann has been kind enough to include recipes with each chapter. I will definitely be trying some of the goodies she has shared!

Lucy is a member of FAC and she is drowning in grief. Her husband is killed suddenly, then her mom dies and her daughter leaves for college. Lucy holes up at home wearing the same ratty clothes, eating junk food (or nothing) and watching Lifetime movies. Not a horrible way to spend a day, but not months! FAC comes to the rescue! Upon learning that Lucy as inherited a pre-civil war home, the group decides it is time for a road trip!

At Locust Hill they find mystery and adventure and along the way God opens their eyes to His truths and teaches that He still has work for them to do.

I did enjoy reading this book and would like to read others in their series… if there are any. I do have one thing I didn’t like and I will share it… but I have to warn that it is a bit of a spoiler. So if you don’t want to know, stop reading now.


OK, here is the deal. In this home that Lucy inherits, they find a secret room and in it an old quilt with what appears to be blood stains on it and some metal they learn is part of an old pair of shackles. Lucy is distraught as she decides her ancestors tortured folks. No one really seems to have any idea what the room was for or why the items are there. Then they are given a journal and over time, as they read, they learn that Locust Hill was a station on the Underground Railroad. Now maybe it is just me, but when I read of the room and the items in it, the first thing I thought of was the UGRR. It seems a bit implausible that grown women wouldn’t think of that… wouldn’t put those pieces together. It didn’t ruin the book for me, but it did seem a bit unrealistic.

On the Run & Stranded by Lorena McCourtney

On the Run is book three and Stranded is book 4 of McCourtney’s Ivy Malone Mysteries. To date, there are 4 books in their series. I have read them all and loved them all. I am hoping the series hasn’t ended. It was difficult to tell from book 4 and there were definitely some loose ends still flapping in the wind.

On the Run finds Ivy tooling around in an old dilapidated RV with her cat, Koop. Still running from the Braxtons (who are still determined to silence Ivy for good), she finds herself in the small town of Dulcy, Oklahoma. While there, Ivy picks up a new friend and traveling companion, Abilene, who has her own reason for being on the run, and to know surprise she stumbles across 2 dead bodies. Once again, Ivy’s sleuthing skills come in handy as she and Abilene poked around in the Northcutt’s lives and find a large motive for murder.

In Stranded, Abilene is still traveling with Ivy and as the title indicates, they get stranded… in Hello, Colorado. Ivy and Abilene find a bit of peace there and find that they fit in with the locals. With the RV out of commission and no money for repairs, they hunker down for a bit and find jobs and a place to stay…. a home with a sordid past… a very recent sordid past… a murder and their landlady is the prime suspect. Ivy is determined Kelly had nothing to do with her uncle’s murder and sets off to find out who did.

Both books are wonderful… so much fun to read. Ivy is a hoot and the characters she meets along the road are rich and colorful… not flat cardboard cut outs. This is must read series for mystery lovers, but you definitely need to start with book 1 and read them in order! Warning: you will be hooked!

An Undivided Heart & A Place to Belong by Nancy Moser & Vonette Bright

These are books 3 & 4 in the Sister Circle Series by Moser and Bright. Another wonderful series based on women and their friendships… and another series best read in order (as most are). Evelyn Peerbaugh continues to run Peerbaugh Place, a boarding house for single women. In An Undivided Heart, Evelyn finds herself with all new tenants and it comes as no surprise that she has gotten more than she bargained for. One tenant’s name is vanity (ok… not really, but it should be) and another is engaged to a demanding man who uses her like a doormat and she lets him. Fortunately Mae, Piper, Audra and Tessa are still around to encourage and help. Their sister circle continues to go and to grow as Evelyn embraces the new sisters God has placed in her life.

In A Place to Belong, Peerbaugh Place is once again empty and Evelyn is worried about her financial well being. On top of money worries, Evelyn also has love trouble… her heart is drawn to a certain someone who doesn’t seem to share her feelings. Despite her need for income, Evelyn finds herself opening Peerbaugh Place to new sisters who have no means to pay rent and as she steps out in faith, she finds that God has new plans for her home and her heart.

8 Sandpiper Way by Debbie Macomber

You will find a many reviews here on my blog for Macomber’s books. I really enjoy her writing, She is a secular writer, but her books tend to be clean and I have noticed more and more references to faith in her books. The first Macomber novel I read was 16 Lighthouse Road, which is book 1 of the Cedar Cove series. I love this series and will be saddened when and if it ends. 8 Sandpiper Way is the latest Cedar Cove installment, although there is a Christmas tale available now also and the promise of book 9 in the fall (too long a wait!)

8 Sandpiper Way picks up where the last Cedar Cove novel left off (which means you need to read them in order). I was reunited with old friends like Olivia and Jack, Grace and Cliff, Terri and Bobby, and more. Life is moving on at a rapid pace in Cedar Cove… babies are on the way… love is in the air… illness threatens the happiness of one family… secrecy another… and while many things are resolved, there are plenty of loose ends left hanging to whet the reader’s appetite for book 9. Did I mention we have to wait until September 2009 for that one! So not fair!
I cannot recommend Macomber’s books enough and Cedar Cove is a great place to start. You will fall in love with the people there and will find bits of yourself in many of them

Friday, November 7, 2008

A Passion Most Pure by Julie Lessman

My friend, Susan, and I trade off books from time to time and this is one I caught her reading one day. I had never heard of the author nor seen the book, but the cover and summary on back intrigued me, so she loaned it to me.. and I am so glad she did.

A Passion Most Pure is Lessman's debut novel and book 1 of her series, The Daughters of Boston. (I recently learned that book 2 is out and will be grabbing it up soon!)

Faith O'Connor has a problem... she's in love... with the man who loves her sister. How could this have happened and why can't she stop these feelings? To top it off, her parents do not approve of Collin McGuire for any of their girls and forbid her younger sister to see him. What will they do when they learn of Faith's heart and that it appears Collin may have feelings for her also? As this struggle with love threatens to rip their family apart, America is thrust in the the first World War and the O'Connors have a new battle to contend with. The women and children head to Ireland, as the men go off to war with everything left hanging in the balance while they wait for the world to return to normal... if it ever does.
I look forward with great anticipation to reading more books by Lessman in the future. Just what I need! Another wonderful author to add more books to my to-read stacks! :)

A Promise to Believe In by Tracie Peterson

As I have stated before, Peterson is one of my favorite authors. I cannot think of any of her books that I don't like. Certainly I like some more than others, but they are all great reads! A Promise to Believe In is no except. It is book 1 in her new Brides of Gallatin Country series, which has made my to read list grow longer and will cause me to exercise patience between the publishing of each book in the series.

Many of Peterson's books are set in the west and in days gone by, so it comes as no surprise to the reader to find herself in the Montana wilds in the late 1800s. There are other elements to A Promise that are seen in previous works by Peterson, such as the wonderful way she shows grace to the "soiled doves" who worked in the saloons, the struggles with faith we continue to face today, and the power of God's Spirit to change lives. In the midst of that familiar territory come new faces and new situations for the reader to ponder and enjoy.

The three Gallatin sisters live in the wilds of Montana with their father at a stagecoach crossroads which is about to be birthed into a town. Gallatin House is a place for travellers to find rest and a good meal before continuing on their journey. After spending years travelling around with their restless father, the girls are settling into a life of normalcy when tragedy strikes. Their father is accidentally killed and now the girls must decide how to move forward.

Gwen, the oldest Gallatin girl, is certain she is cursed. Everyone she loves dies.... her mother and baby brother, her husband of only a few days and now her father. She fears what will happen to her sisters and wonders if they should part company to ensure the girls' safety. As Gwen ponders what to do and works to keep the roadhouse running, a stranger arrives with strong opinions and accusations against Gwen. Can she convince him she is innocent of his charges and send him on his way or does God have a different plan.... one that requires healing and open hearts?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Thursdays at Eight by Debbie Macomber

I have really become a big fan of Macomber. My friend, Jody, introduced me to her a year or so ago. Her books are not Christian fiction, but they are clean... and often issues of faith come up. Occasionally there is some language (this book has a tiny bit) and I know in one or two of her books characters sleep together outside of marriage. Interesting thing about that, to me, it isn't glorified... in fact, the 2 books I am thinking of have consequences to those actions.

All that is said as a bit of a "warning" to those who read Christian fiction and might try a Macomber book. They are really good!

When I read the synopsis of Thursdays at Eight I knew I would love it! Four ladies at different stages of their lives and going through different seasons meet at a journalling class. As friendships develop and the class ends, they decide to keep meeting once a week for breakfast and so the Thursday Breakfast Club is formed.

We, the readers, are given a "fly on the wall" view of the club and the lives of these ladies. We watch Claire deal with her husband's infidelity and divorce; we watch Liz seek to find purpose for her life; we see Karen work through her dreams and learn that what you want isn't always what you need; and we sit with Julia as she comes to term with a late in life unexpected pregnancy.

This is a book about life and about friendships... those wonderful relationships women seem to form that keep us sane!

Great read! My only regret is I can't go visit them all again and see where they are now and what they are doing!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Letters from Lexington by Phil Hardwick

Letters is the final book in Hardwick's Mississippi Mystery series. He is now writing a series, with the same focal character, called the American Mystery series. In his new series, P.I. Jack Boulder travels to various states to solve crimes.

I enjoyed Letters from Lexington. In some ways it is the best written on all the Mississippi Mysteries series. The plot was unique and the characters a it more three dimensional than in previous books. I have been through a bit of Lexington many times on I-55, but I have never actually been into the town. So I had no point of reference to any of the landmarks and local highlights Hardwick featured in his book.

As I have said in previous reviews of this series, I believe these books would be entertaining to anyone from Mississippi or with ties to the state. The charm in these books is found in the settings more than the characters and the plots. Still, all in all, they provide a nice bit of relaxed reading without straining the brain too much... and that is often just what the doctor ordered!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Jessie by Lori Wick

Jessie is the third (and I believe final) book in Wick's Big Sky Dream series. Most of the characters have been introduced and some even featured in the earlier books in this series, but the story itself can stand alone. That said, I think the reader would enjoy it more by reading the previous books ... Cassidy and Sabrina.

In book three, we are given a front row seat in Jessie Wheeler's world. Jessie is an only child who grew up in the apartment over her father's mercantile. She has been helping out in the store as long as she can remember and now that she has lost both her parents, she is running it on her own. Jessie is a can do girl... like her father, she needs no one's help and makes sure she is always in charge... and like her father she has no time for such silliness as God.

Seth Redding is on his way to Texas, when he finds himself the victim of robbery. Penniless, he heads into Token Creek in search of a job. The mercantile is the last place he normally would consider, but the lovely girl working there has caught his eye. Jessie hires Seth for the day... and that one day turns into another and another... and quickly Jessie and Seth realize they love each other and want to spend all their days together. And so their life together begins.

But after the birth of their daughter, Hannah, the stress and strain of married life, running the store and parenting takes it toil. Seth and Jessie fight continuously and when an opportunity to leave presents itself, Seth takes it... leaving Jessie, Hannah, and his unborn child behind.

Eight years pass and Seth returns to Token Creek... a changed man... a new creation in Christ. A lot has happened over those years... many things of which he is ashamed... but the one thing that hasn't changed is his love for Jessie. Will she see that he is a changed man? Will she give him a second chance? Can they be a family again? and most importantly, can he help her see the truth of Christ?
You can read my review of the previous books in this series here:

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Fountain Creek Chronicles (Trilogy) by Tamara Alexander

I have read some things by Alexander in years past... books she wrote for either Love Inspired or HeartSong, but this series are the first novels I have seen by her. The books are Rekindled, Revealed and Remembered. They are all connected by characters and it is best to read them in order, although they can all function as stand alone books.

Fountain Creek is an area set in Colorado in the late 1800s. In book one, Rekindled, we are drawn into the lives of Kathryn and Larson Jennings, a couple whose life has not turned out as planned and whose marriage appears to be falling apart.

One wintry night, Larsen doesn't return home and Kathryn finds herself alone and unsure of the future. She struggles over the next months to keep their ranch despite the obstacles and confrontations that come her way. When a body is found and declared to be Larsen's, Kathryn sees no hope for the future and resigns herself to failure. But God has different plans.

Revealed (Book Two) is a story of second chances. Annabelle Grayson is given a second chance in the form of Jonathan McClutchens, but then Jonathan dies and Annabelle finds herself at a crossroads. Does she go back to a place she knows, but where she has no opportunity to make a new life for herself and her unborn child or does she press on to the ranch Jonathan bought and prepared for their life together? Determined to press on, Annabelle hires a guide... Jonathan's brother Matthew, who has made his dislike of Annabelle known from the start.

What Matthew doesn't realize is he has an opportunity for a second chance also. A chance to stop running... a chance to make peace with his past... and a chance for love.

In Remembered (Book Three), Veronique Girard is sent from the only world she has known, France, to the rugged America West in search for her father who went to American when she was a small child. It was always the plan for Pierre Girard to send for his family once he was established, but he never did. Veronique doesn't know if her father is dead or alive, her only clue is a letter sent many years earlier from Willow Springs, Colorado.

Once there, she finds life in a America.. especially the West and especially gold mining towns, is much different than her native France. With the help, all be it reluctant, of Jack Brennan, Veronique sets off to find out what happened to her father. Along the way she finds that God is a god who often gives us much more than we ask or imagine.

This is a lovely series of Historic Fiction filled with romance, faith and a bit of intrigue at times. Alexander does a nice job of creating believable characters and realistic plot lines all while intertwining bits of faith within the story. I will certainly be on the lookout for her books in the future.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Love the Sinner by Lynn Bulock

Love the Sinner is a Gracie Lee Mystery and part of the life, faith and getting it right books published by Steepe Hill Cafe'. Gracie Lee Harris has sells her condo in Missouri and moves to California to be near her husband, who is in a coma. Dennis had moved to CA earlier to set up his business and get everything in order for Gracie Lee to join him.... or so she thought. After months in a coma, Dennis dies... the victim of foul play... and Gracie Lee finds herself a suspect along with a number of other women... Dennis' mother, his ex-wife, daughter and pregnant fiance'. Dennis was a busy boy to say the least. As Gracie tries to process it all, she meets Linette who invites her to a support group (Christian Friends) that meets at her church. On a whim, Gracie goes and there she finds friendship, support and the Lord she had long since left behind. With renewed strength, Gracie sets out to discover who killed Dennis and why.... and all before she becomes the next victim!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Sisterhood of the Queen Mamas by Annie Jones

I have read 2 or 3 other books by Jones and loved them. She tells funny, quirky, upbeat stories with characters that might seem unreal to some folks, but remind me a lot of my relatives! LOL!

The title of this one is enough to get you hooked... I mean really, who can resist The Sisterhood of the Queen Mamas?! In Sisterhood, we travel to Texas and meet two friends... Maxine and Odessa... both are wives of retired ministers and both are in search of the same thing... "The entire twenty-piece line of chip-proof kitchenware made by the Royal Service Company of Akron, Ohio, the black-and-gold-on-white Hostess Queen pattern" and what better place to find it than Five Acres of Fabulous Finds Flea Market.

What neither bargain hunter expect to find were hurting souls... ministry opportunities... and sisterhood. Jan is the perfect Christian with a secret so big it is about to engulf her. Bernadette is a servant with a love for weddings, but no groom in sight. And Chloe needs to be freed from her black mood and clothing to see her true inner beauty.

Maxine and Odessa have their work cut out for them and they are up to the challenge... in a hot air balloon no less!

John's Quest by Cecelia Dowdy

Over the years, I have "met" several authors online. It has been fun to talk with them, especially through the writing and publishing process. One of my author-friends is Cecelia Dowdy. Cecelia keeps me posted through her blog ( ) and my online Christian Books List about her upcoming books. So I was thrilled to read John's Quest. It seems like she finished writing it forever and a day ago and I wondered if I would ever get to read it! LOL! Well, I finally did and it was worth the wait!

John's Quest covers a lot of unfamiliar territory. It deals with an abandoned child... a single woman rearing a child that is not her own... the relationship between a believer and non-believer... agnosticism... blindness.... and Dowdy handled all of this beautifully without making any one thing the main focus. It all wove together into complex lives that in many ways mimic what we all are dealing with... trust, seeking God's will and guidance, uncertainty, faith, love.

In John's Quest, Monica Crawford goes from being a successful career woman who has her life on track and organized to being the single mom of an angry, street smart, 7 year old who has been left on her doorstep. Add to it that Scotty is blind and hasn't really been taught to work with his disability and the fun begins. Enter John French... volunteer extraordinaire. John is hired to tutor Scotty, but along the way he finds that he is drawn not only to the child, but to his Aunt Monica.... and Monica is drawn to John... but there is a hitch, a big one. John is a devout Agnostic... and Monica is a strong Believer... and so that is that... or is it?

I highly recommend John's Quest. It is a fun yet thought provoking book. And be on the lookout for more books by Cecelia Dowdy.... I know she has one or two more in the works right now!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Satisfy My Thirsty Soul - Linda Dillow

Most of my reviews are for fiction... specifically Christian Fiction. Reading, for me, is an escape... it is how I relaxed and get away from the craziness of the world. But I do enjoy non-fiction also. Satisfy My Thirsty Soul is the 3rd book I have worked through by Dillow. I loved Calm My Anxious Heart and Creative Counterpart and recommend them both.

Satisfy focuses on moving into a more intimate relationship with God through a life of worship. Not just worship, as in singing, but worship as in fully surrendering your life and focuses on WHO God is. You are challenged to spend time in personal worship daily and Dillow includes practical ways to do that, as well as suggests various scriptures. There is also a wonderful chapter on stillness... quieting your soul before the Lord.

This book contains an optional 12 week Bible study in the back. I strongly suggest doing that work as you read. It takes you deeper into Scripture and into yourself. There is also a companion journal. I purchased it. Nothing wrong with it, but not really worth purchasing. Any journal or notebook will do if you want to journal as she suggests.

If you are looking for something to waken you a bit and push you towards a closer walk with the Lord, this book may very well be what you are looking for.

Picket Fence Promises by Kathryn Springer

I discovered Springer with her book Front Porch Princess. Loved that book! Picket Fence Promises is set in the same town and revolves around many of the same characters, but the focuses shifts to Bernice Strum and a blast from her past.... movie star Alex Scott. What is Alex doing in Prichett, Wisconsin!? Bernice has just recently reunited with the baby she put up for adoption and now this. How will she begin to tell Alex and Heather about each other?

In the midst of this emotional turmoil you will find more laughs than you can stand in the form of protective friends, farm animals, a cow with an ego problem and an active group of youth.

Can't wait for more books by Springer!

Next Door Daddy by Debra Clopton

I love Clopton's Mule Hollow series. These books are fun and silly and full of real people dealing with real issues of faith. In Next Door Daddy, widow Pollyanna McDonald is determined to show the world that she can take care of herself and her 8 year old son. Polly moves to Mule Hollow, not to get a man like most of the women there, but to open a Bed and Breakfast and make a home in the country for her son. What she doesn't bargain for is her neighbor, Nate Talbert. Nate is a widower and recently asked God to do something to bring him back to life... to give him purpose and meaning. A boy looking for a father figure was not what Nate had in mind, must less a pretty young determined widow. But then God's ways are not our ways.

Tracie Peterson

I thoroughly enjoy books written by Tracie Peterson. I cannot think of a thing she has written that I didn't love. I read the last 2 books in her Ladies of Liberty trilogy this weekend and as always, I was not disappointed.

A Lady of Hidden Intent is book 2. Catherine Newbury loves her life in England and has no plans to ever leave, but when her father is wrongly accused of slave trading she must flee to avoid arrest and ridicule. She finds herself in America and starts a new life with a new name. Over the years, her reputation as a dress designer grows and many of the wealthier socialites in America seek her talent.

Catherine's life is one of hiding, as she fears she will be found out and sent back to England. She also fears what has become of her father and hopes to save money to procure legal counsel to prove his innocence.

Carter Danby met Catherine in England when she is young, so when he meets her again in America he doesn't recognize her... but he knows there is something familiar and mysterious about her and he is determined to learn more.
Can Catherine trust Carter with her secrets and her heart?

Book Three is A Lady of Secret Devotion. Another wonderful story of love amidst danger. Cassie Stover has been hired as a companion to Mrs. Jameston.... a job she thoroughly enjoys! That is until Mrs. Jameston's son arrives. Shot in a supposed accident, it quickly becomes clear that Mrs. Jameston's warnings about her son and his unsavory ways were not exaggerated.

Mark Langford is an insurance investigator who has been sent to follow up on his friend, Richard's, investigation of insurance fraud and to find who killed Richard. He has but one name to go on... Sebastian Jameston.

Mark enlists Cassie's help to expose Sebastian's crimes and send him to jail, but at what costs? Is it worth risking the life of Mrs. Jameston, Cassie and her family?

2 more by Phil Hardwick

I recently zipped through 2 more of the Mississippi Mysteries by Phil Hardwick. I believe there is 1 more in this series.

Cover-Up in Columbus is a fun read. I have been to Columbus a time or two and know a bit about it, so that helped me with my bearings. The plot was one that might seem a bit unbelievable, but I know of a case in my hometown that bears a close resemblance.

A wealthy father changes his will and cuts out all of his 4 children save his youngest son and, no surprise, shortly thereafter the son is killed by his young nephew in a hunting accident and the father dies of a heart attack. Sounds tragic, but nothing out of the ordinary here. There was a witness to the accident... everything is on the up and up... or is it. P. I. Jack Boulder learns that often what appears to be obvious is far from it. This story takes some twists and turns through this historic Mississippi town to uncover deception throughout the Newbury family and a great deal of jealousy and hate.

Sixth Inning in Southaven is a fast paced read. Southaven is a bedroom community of Memphis. It didn't start that way... it was a small town in MS just inside the state line, but Memphis grew and in some ways consumed Southaven. I have driven through it many times on my way to Memphis, but at most stopped there for gasoline. I think that is par for the course for most Mississippians. Sadly, I rarely think of Southaven as being a town.

Sixth Inning provided some insight into the actual town and the people there. It also provided a quick bit of intrigue as P. I. Jack Boulder, on a road trip to clear his head, finds himself arrested for the murder of a man he doesn't know. This is a book full of Murphy's law. Boulder is at the wrong place at the wrong time... 2 lawyers who plan to represent him end up in the hospital.. and it becomes obvious someone is trying to frame him or kill him.. which ever comes first.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Searching for Eternity by Elzabeth Musser

This is the second book I have read by Musser and as before, I loved it. Her books are so different. They deal with deeper issues than a lot of Christian fiction, but not in a way that is too academic or theological for the average reader... and yet she doesn't dumb the issues down either. She also connects her stories with historic events or times and it is evident that she has done her research along the way.

Searching for Eternity begins in France with 12 year old Emile De Bonnery... the son of a French father and American mother. Emile loves in life in Lyon and never plans on it changing. But then in the course of 24 hours a most drastic change occurs. Emile's father disappears and he and his mother flee to America leaving behind everything he has ever know.
Over the course of his teenage years, Emile adapts to the American South as best he can. He befriends Eternity Jones, a girl with as much uncertainty in her life as he has in his. Emile's search for the truth about his father sends him digging into the past... the French Resistance... and the closer he comes to finding the truth, the more difficult it is to conceive.

Excellent book!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Conspiracy in Corinth by Phil Hardwick

I have only been to Corinth once or twice, but I know enough about it to recognize some landmarks and history in this Mississippi Mystery by Phil Hardwick. Like the others in this series, I believe these will mainly appeal to folks who live in Mississippi or have a connection to the state.

Some of the earlier mysteries had pretty decent storylines. This one seems a bit forced and almost as if Hardwick wasn't sure where he was going so he just ended it.

Still, it was a nice read. There are 3 more in this series, which I plan to enjoy.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Back Home Again by Melody Carlson

Bumped into this book at the library when I was getting another friend to read. It just happens to be book 1 in the Tales from Grace Chapel Inn series. I did some digging and found that after reading book 1, the rest of the books in this series can be read in any order. This one needs to be read first as it gets everything rolling. I also found that this series is written by a number of different authors. I have already grabbed 2 more from my library. There are 32 in all!

Back Home Again is a delightful tale of 3 sisters coming.. well home again. Their father has died and the 3 sisters have inherited the family home... a large Victorian located in a quaint little town in rural Pennsylvania. Jane, a professional chef, considers turning the home into a restaurant, Alice pictures a youth ministry and pianist Louise dreams of a music conservatory.

In the end they compromise and create a Bed and Breakfast. The project is stressful to say the least and the 3 sisters, as different as night and day, struggle with everything from the costs to paint colors... but in the end they create a home for their guests and a new start for each of them individually and together.

Very sweet... warm... feel good reading.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Other Daughter by Miralee Ferrell

I read about this book on my friend, Cecelia Dowdy's blog ( ) Cecelia is a wonderful writer of Christian Fiction. Her blog has reviews of books she's read and occassionally an interview with other authors. Be sure to check it out!

Cecelia's review peaked my interest and I knew I had to read this book. I am so glad I did. The premise of the story intrigued me. A young teen shows up at a stranger's home announcing that her mom has died and she has come to live with her dad.

Susanne and David's marriage is a rocky rollercoaster ride and just when it seems things are looking up, an unknown daughter appears on their doorstep. Susanne's trust in David is shattered and she wonders if it can ever be reparied or if she even wants it to be.

David is confront with his past... a past he thought he had long ago put away. Now a Christian, he has to face the consequences as he tries to establish a relationship with a daughter he's never met, salvage his marriage and hang on to what he has with his other 2 children.
Add into the mix that Susanne is not a believer and a friend who feeds her fears, doubts and anger... a nasty mix.
This is a wonderful book.. not just a mellow drama playing out on the pages. Ferrell deals with some issues most of us like to keep tucked away in a box... Christian's married to non-believers, adultery in a Christian marriage, the reaction of the Church body to sin within their ranks, and more.
Excellent read! I strongly recommend this one.

The Potluck Club Takes the Cake by Linda Evans Shepher & Eva Marie Everson

This is the final book in a wonderful trilogy... which normally would make me sad (I hate to see series come to an end), but the authors are starting a new series featuring the Potluck Club Ladies and I am looking forward to enjoying those adventures!

The Potluck Club books, like the Sister Circle books, center around the diversity of women and their friendships. The six members of the Potluck Club share food, prayer, and all the various aspects of their lives... ups, downs, fears.. you name it.
In Takes The Cake, things are moving at a frantic pace.. there's a wedding to plan.. rumors of a high profile engagement.. secrets revealed.. hearts open to hurt.. and healing. This is a wonderful series full of fun and faith!

Round the Corner by Vonette Bright & Nancy Moser

This is book 2 of the Sister Circle series and another wonderful book! I so enjoy books that celebrate the diversity of women and the importance of friendships. In Round the Corner, the original borders at Peerbaugh Place have moved on with their lives (never fear, they are still part of the storyline!) Evelyn is struggling with the thought of new borders and yet, she needs the income. Enter another group of diverse women, including a dear friend, and a woman who gets angered when a room isn't available for her.

Once again, forgiveness... the need for Christ and total surrender... trust... all are themes in this book. If you have read book 1 (and you really do need to read these in order), you will love seeing where the former borders are in their lives and what they are up too!
More fun, laughter, tears and growth at Peerbaugh Place!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Sister Circle by Vonette Bright and Nancy Moser

The Sister Circle is another treasure I have recently discovered. I read about it on a blog (wish I remembered where!) and thought it sounded pretty good. It is more than pretty good, it is great! The Sister Circle is book 1 of a series (The library called today to tell me they have book 2 on hold for me.. whoo hoo!) While I won't say a man wouldn't enjoy reading this book, it is definitely one written for women. In fact, women and their friendships are the main topic.

Evelyn Peerbaugh is trying to cope with widowhood... but the financial burden left as a result of her husband's untimely death makes it more difficult. While working in her attic, she finds an sign from days gone past when her husband's grandparents used the family home as a boarding house. Seeing the sign as confirmation of her idea to reopen Peerbaugh House, Evelyn hangs out the sign and before she can spread the news via word of mouth or advertise, God sends her tenents. They are nothing like she imagined.. and nothing like each other.

The Sister Circle follows their adventure as they learn to live together in some sort of harmony despite all their many differences. As they work and cry and laugh and argue together, they discover how precious friendship is and how God can weave together even the most diverse hearts.

Excellent book! I am looking forward to reading the entire series!

Newcomer in New Albany by Phil Hardwick

Yet another Mississippi Mystery... and this one was better than the last one I read. I don't know the town of New Albany that well. I went to college about an hour from it, but never venture north for a visit. So nothing was familiar to me and yet I enjoyed reading about this small Mississippi town. I also enjoyed the mystery which seemed so realistic to me! It was very soap opera-like, but something I could see happening here! Big city radio talk show DJ, Jill Polaris moves home to small town Mississippi for a change of pace... or so she says. After raising some hot topics on her radio show, Ms. Polaris disappears...leaving no hint as to where she might be. Jack Boulder is called in to investigate and as he discovers not what happened to Ms. Polaris, he unearths secrets folks prefer to leave buried. A fun easy read.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Swan House by Elizabeth Musser

Often I pick up a book thinking it looks good from the outside and hope the outside mirrors the inside.... and everyone in a while I am right... and then there are those books that surpass your expectations. The Swan House is one of those books. I cannot really explain how much I enjoyed this book.

I have never read anything by Elizabeth Musser, but was intrigued when I saw The Swan House on the new fiction rack at my local library. From the synopsis, I thought it would be a sweet tale of a young girl working through a loss and learning to help others along the way. And it is all that... and more.

The Swan House is set in 1962 Atlanta. Mary Swan Middleton, age 16, lives in all white Buckhead.. the daughter of high society and wealth. Tragedy shatters her world and Mary Swan looses her way. The family suggests Mary Swan reach out to help others in her grief and so she finds herself in the lower income inner city neighborhood of Grant Park dishing up free spaghetti dinners on Saturday mornings. While there Mary Swan is forced to see the realities of the world... the realities that have been hidden from her.

As one might expect, prejudice is a big issue in this book. What I love is how it is handled. Musser doesn't just look at racism... she looks at other forms of prejudice which are just as prevalent in our world. Whether it is due to faith... gender... social status... financial condition.. mental health... or skin color... there are many forms of prejudice.

I also love that Musser doesn't paint a black and white picture (no pun intended). She shows all the various shades of gray found in life. Yes,bigotry and fear exists... believe it or not some folks or so use to it that they don't even realize they are prejudiced... and there is bigotry on all sides.... but in the midst of it all, Musser also paints a glowing picture of the love and grace we, as believers, are called to pour out of all those around us.

This is an excellent book that handles a very real problem from our past... and one that still plagues us today... in a very well thought out and thorough way.

The Lumby Lines by Gail Fraser

While standing in line waiting to pick up a book on hold at the local library, I decided to peruse the new fiction... as I often do. There I was intrigued by the cover art on a book called The Lumby Lines. I read the back summary and thought it sounded nice, so I gave it a try. I am so glad I did! What a fun read! What a fun place. I saw a review that said it was like Mitford... not so... not really. Yes, it is a small town with the eccentricities you find there, but it is very different from sweet gentile Mitford. Lumby is a diamond in the rough in the Pacific Northwest that doesn't really want to be found... and the folks there are not to fond of new people moving in. So they aren't all that thrilled when a young couple from Virginia by a long abandoned monastery and set out to create an Inn.

Lumby will make you laugh and cry... but mostly laugh! I so wish I could share some of the antics! And oh the treasures that are found... both tangible and non-tangible. You will fall in love with Mark and Pam Walker and with the various Brothers who were once at Montis Abbey. A truly delightful read!

There are 2 more books out in this series and a fourth one coming.. and I plan to read them all!

Note of Peril by Hannah Alexander

I discovered Hannah Alexander (a husband and wife writing team with neither named Hannah or Alexander) several years ago and love their books. They write mysteries... mostly medical mysteries or at least the medical community plays a role in their stories. Note of Peril is a Hideaway Novel. Hideaway is a fictitious town in Missouri, close to Branson.... and it is home to Grace Benson and Michael Gold, performers in Branson musical show. The pressure is on for Grace... someone is sending her notes and gifts.. working to dredge up her past and possibly destroy her future. Then the director of the show dies of what appears to be a heart attack, but there are doubts and questions surrounding his death. Grace doesn't know who she can trust and Michael can't protect her all the time.

More Mississippi Mysteries

I have read through 2 more of Phil Hardwick's Mississippi Mysteries. They are for the most part delightful books. Probably not something that would appeal to someone with no ties to Mississippi.

Vengeance in Vicksburg is full of history, just as Vicksburg is... and of course their is a murder for Jack Boulder to solve. I live just east of Vicksburg and shop there regularly. ... and I have, of course, been to many of the historic sites found there. The story here is a good one... some fun characters to meet.... not a huge twist at the end, but a slight one... although even a mild mystery buff can figure out who-done-it.
Collision in Columbia disappointed me a bit. Again, I know this town. My father-in-law was raised there... so many of the places mentioned I knew. The story is a good one, but there are some very contrived moments where characters ask dumb questions so that the other character can fill them in on background info. The story would have been fine without it. Also, some of the history shared is pushed a bit. In one part the character reads from a history book and it is quote verbatim. I also didn't like the ending. It just seemed to miss the mark to me.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Twenty Wishes by Debbie Macomber

Twenty Wishes is another Blossom Street book, but not part of the knitting series. It is a bit like a spin-off. All the old gang are there, but instead of centering around Lydia and A Good Yarn, this book focuses more on Anne Marie. Anne Marie is the owner of Blossom Street Books. Recently widowed, Anne Marie is trying to make a new life for herself without completely letting go of the old one.

A group of ladies meet at a book discussion and finding that they are all widows create a widows club. They meet sporadically at Anne Marie's shop.

The book opens with their having a Valentine's Day party. While together, they come up with the idea of creating a list of wishes... 20 wishes (not too few, but not too many)... things they hope to do one day. The idea is a bit tongue in cheek, but once apart the ladies get rather caught up in making their lists and in fulfilling those wishes. In fact, the idea spreads to others not in the group. (I am even thinking of starting my own list!)

Along the way these ladies learn a lot about themselves, their strength, healing and the ability to love again.

A very sweet book! And while romance is certain a part of it, there are other loves found in this book too. I like that Macomber doesn't make happily ever after only available to women with men in their lives.

Back on Blossom Street by Debbie Macomber

I really enjoy Debbie Macomber books and the Blossom Street books are some of my favorites! I originally bought them for my daughter, who is a knitter, but I found that I love them even though I don't knit.

Like the first two books in the series, Back on Blossom Street centers around A Good Yarn, Lydia Goetz's knitting shop on Blossom Street in Seattle. The atmosphere is warm and inviting and the folks you find there are as different as night and day... yet the bond they share is strong and unbreakable.

Many of the old favorites are back... Alix, Jacqueline, Margaret... and there are new faces... Collette, Susannah (not new if you have read Susannah's Garden), Anne Marie.

Things are busy on Blossom Street.... Alix and Jordan are in the midst of wedding plans and things are not going well. His mother and Jacqueline have taken over and Alix is about to implode under the pressure.

Tragedy strikes Margaret's family and brings about a change that threatens to destroy the very core of her family.

Collette is the newest member of the Blossom Street family and she has a secret... one she is determined to hide for as long as possible.

And Lydia has decided it is time for a new knitting class. This time they will be making a prayer shawl... and along the way the knitters learn that the comfort the shawl is intended to give the recipient, leaks its way into their own lives.

As always this is a wonderful read with rich characters and strong story lines.

In Plain Sight by Lorena McCourtney

This is book 2 of the Ivy Malone series. I loved book 1 -- Invisible -- and hoped book 2 would be as fun to read. It was!

In Plain Sight continues a story line from Invisible, but in an interesting way. Many of the characters are old friends from book 1, but McCourtney also introduces the reader to new folks... and even to a new place.

Ivy decides she needs a change of scenery and plans a trip to visit her niece and family in Arkansas. She ends up staying for 3 months and as only Ivy can, she ends up right in the middle of a crime.

There are some great laughs... some strong truths... and some sweet moments throughout In Plain Sight. Definitely one to add to your must read list... but be sure to read Invisible first! The story lines build on each other.