Monday, June 23, 2008

Found in Flora by Phil Hardwick

This book probably won't appeal to anyone who has never lived in Mississippi or at least has a personal knowledge of the state. But for this Mississippi. it was a fun read. This is book 1 in Hardwick's (a local business leader) Mississippi Series which consists of 10 novellas.

Quick and easy to read, the mystery in Found in Flora really isn't all that mysterious. What was fun, for me, about the book was reading about a place I know fairly well. I was able to fully envision the places mentioned and the characters. But Hardwick has done his research and added information about various sites and circumstances from our state's history that I didn't know. I enjoyed learning those tidbits.

I have no doubt I will read the other 9 books. They will be fun Summer reading.

Circle of Grace by Penelope Stokes

I have read a number of Stokes books over the years and enjoyed them. She and I don't see eye to eye on certain doctrinal issues, so there are usually a few small things in her books that I don't agree with... but they in no way lessen the enjoyment nor do they take away from the message she shares.

Circle of Grace is by far the best thing I have read by her. It is a wonderful story of 4 very different young women who are thrown together through a class assignment in college. As a result, unexpected friendships arise and they become connected for life. Over the years they keep in touch through a circle journal which that pass around via mail sharing bits and pieces of their lives.. the bits and pieces they want the others to see.. sugar coated and prettied up.

But then life takes a drastic turn for one of the friends and she realizes it is time to come clean... to tell the truth and in that telling find freedom. So a reunion is planned. What she doesn't realize is that each one of them is seeking a kind of freedom and truth. And it is found in faith and in this bond they call friendship.

A very sweet story...... one that brought laughter and tears for me.

Victory Club by Robin Lee Hatcher

I have been meaning to read this book for a while, so when I came across it on the shelf at the library last week I added it to the large pile growing in my arms.

What a great read! I haven't read a lot of fiction set during WW2, so that intrigued me. The central characters of this book are 4 women who form a bond of friendship that sees them through all the ups and downs of life.

It's 1943 and while there is a war raging around the world, folks at home are dealing with their own personal wars. Loved ones overseas.... financial strains... loneliness... temptation. 4 friends start the Victory Club to reach out and help others... believing it will help them not miss their loved ones so much. What they find is the Club helps them as much as it helps others.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Sisterchicks Go Brit by Robin Jones Gunn

Another fun Sisterchick read! I love most all things British....especially British lit. One of the Sisterchicks in this book is a Brit Lit fan and so they end up visiting a number of places connected with literature in one way or another. It was fun to go along with them. I hope to make the trip in person one day.

Best friends, Kellie and Liz are off to take a sweet older lady, Opal, back to England to visit her sister. They are expecting a few days to site see while there. What they find are unique quirky adventures and kindred spirits to enjoy the journey with them.

Once again, the Sisterchicks in this book are a tad older than the ones I remember from the early ones. I am not quite where they are... my nest still holds some chicks... but I am headed there and so I seem to relate a bit with these older women.

In Go Brit, the Sisterchicks learn about taking a risk... in fact, wise Rose tells them the best thing a woman can do for herself is give herself permission to take risks. I need to learn that... now.. not later.

As with all the Sisterchick books, this is another great read! I am ready for another adventure... perhaps the next one I take will be in real life and not on paper!

Sisterchicks in Gondolas by Robin Jones Gunn

This is my favorite Sisterchick book so far (and I have read them all ... even the newest one set in England). I don't know that the adventure is greater... the characters more real...the message deeper, but it just spoke to my heart. I needed to hear what this book said.

I enjoy reading the Sisterchick books. They are fun tales full of laughter and tears and.. well fun. But there is also something to be learned in each book. And the cool thing is instead of just reading about it, you get to experience it as the characters learn.

The Sisterchicks in this book are a tad older than I remember the earlier ones being... they are over 50... and they are off to Venice where they communicate in spite of a huge language barrier.... set out to taste ever flavor of Gelato they can find.... and find goodness and mercy following them all the way.

This Sisterchick book is all about grace... about joy in the midst of circumstances... about God being there even when you don't sense Him.... and about life not being over (nor service and ministry) just because you are "older".

An excellent read!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Waiting for Summer's Return by Kim Vogel Sawyer

Kim Vogel Sawyer has become one of my favorite authors. I just love her writing style. She really draws the reader into the character... their thoughts, actions and emotions. And she paints wonderfully vivid word pictures in her books... not only of the settings, but of the various characters and of situations or scenes.

Summer Steadman travelled west with her husband and children to start a new life, but not the one that has been thrust upon her. Before reaching Oklahoma, Summer's husband and children all succumb to Typhoid Fever and she finds herself alone in a German Mennonite community in Kansas. Summer is angry.... at herself for ever mentioning travelling west to her husband... and at God for taking everyone she loved from her. And she is scared. What does the future hold for her?

Peter Ollenburg lost his lovely Elsa on the boat to America. Still he and their son, Thomas, moved forward along with Peter's grandmother. They have made a home for themselves in Gaddert among their people. Following an injury, Thomas is required to remain home to heal and his schooling is falling behind. Peter hears of Summer and that she is a learned woman. He decides that God has brought them together to solve 2 problems. Summer will live on his land and eat at his table in exchange for tutoring Thomas until he is well.

Such a simple idea turns into a scandal among the towns' people who fear anyone different than themselves. But Peter stands firm knowing that in the eyes of God he is doing what is right.

Along the way Summer learns a lot about faith... and she finds herself among the ashes of her life. She learns how to have joy in the midst of pain and how to open one's heart to love again.

Wonderful book! And there is a sequel coming. Can't wait to read it!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Forbidden by Beverly Lewis

My mom introduced me to Lewis' books years ago with The Shunning and I have been a fan ever since! Her Abram's Daughters series is my favorite so far, but I am for certain loving the Courtship of Nellie Fisher books. The Forbidden is book 2 in this "wunderful gut" series and it was a great read. Some of the themes here are the same as seen in other books by Lewis. The stories are set in the Amish world and deal with the struggle between being plain or fancy, but what I am enjoying with this series is the view of Old Order and New Order Amish.

In previous books it seems that the Amish society is very black and white... if you don't believe as they do and live by their rules, then you are out... shunned. But in the Courtship books, we see a group of Amish who choose to live as the Amish live, but have learned the truth of salvation by grace and embrace it fully. They are the New Order Amish and, at least in this bit of fiction, they are not being forcibly banned from their friends and family. Although there are some who are shunning them out of their own fear and ignorance.

Nellie's family is one that has joined the New Order, all except Nellie who is determined to stay true to the Old Order and her beau, Caleb Yoder. But Caleb's father doesn't care about their love or Nellie's determination. He threatens to disinherit Caleb if he continues to court Nellie.

Families and friends are at odds with each other over the New Order.. which has within itself a split. There are those who are committed to live the Amish way, but with their new faith in Jesus as their Savior and others who want to go further and accept not only Jesus, but some of the ways of the modern worlds such as cars and electricity and the likes.

The Amish are so often seen as a peaceful people with no strife or conflict, but if Lewis' books are true to their character (and I believe they are) then the world's view of the Amish is tainted. They struggle with many of the same issues we all struggle with... faith... obedience... temptation... and the outcome of their struggles are often life changing.

Friday, June 6, 2008

A Touch of Grace by Lauraine Snelling

I love taking a trip to Blessing, North Dakota. I have actually never been to North Dakota in person, but Snelling takes me there when I read her Daughters of Blessing books. A Touch of Grace is book 3 in this wonderful series.

Set in the early 1900s, the Blessing books continue the story of the Bjorklund family and their friends. There are 2 previous series (well worth reading!) that tell the story of the Bjorklunds' journey from Norway to the United States and their trials, tribulations and triumphs in establishing their town in North Dakota. These series are the Red River of the North series (which has 6 books) and Return to Red River (which has 3 books). Characters flow from those books to the Daughters of Blessing series.

When I read these books it really is like going to visit friends. A Touch of Grace focuses mainly on 18 year old Grace Knutson. When I started reading about Grace and all she was doing, I thought "Wow! I remember when she was born!" LOL! And I do! Grace is twin sister to Sophie ... 2 very different sisters!

Grace's loves Blessing and sees no reason to ever leave home. Despite her family's concerns, she loves Toby Valders and hopes to marry him one day. But when Toby shares the news of a special woman in his life, Grace realizes he sees her as no more than a friend. Her heart is broken and she decides to leave Blessing for a while and find her own purpose in the world.

Jonathan Gould is a wealthy New Yorker who has spent the summer in Blessing learning the value of hard work and discipline. He invited Grace to come to New York and though she initially declines, her heartbreak pushes her to take him up on his offer.

Both Jonathan and Grace have conflicts in their lives concerning their future. Jonathan has fallen in love with the life of a farmer and decides to walk away from his opulent lifestyle and the society his family values. Grace, while frightened of New York at first, comes to love the people she meets there at school. And much to her surprise, she finds that her heart is able to heal and she is able to love again.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Double Blind by Hannah Alexander

Hannah Alexander is actually a husband and wife writing team... and no, she isn't Hannah and he is Alexander. They are Mel and Cheryl Hodde. Mel is an doctor and they live in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri. Their books, at least all I have read, are medical suspense novels and most are set or at least connected to the fictional town of Hideaway, MO.

I was skeptical the first time I read one of their books. I am not really into medical thrillers.... never was a fan of Robin Cook and authors like that. But I decided to give them a try and I am so glad I did! Now when I see a Hannah Alexander novel, I snatch it up!

Double Blind is a great read, but there's more to it than that. With this book "Alexander" stepped out of "her" comfort zone a bit... or at least it seemed that way to me. Sheila Metcalf is a nurse in Hideway, but with cutbacks and lack of seniority she finds herself doing fill-in work on a sporadic basis. Then comes the call. She is needed in Arizona at Twin Mesas, a Christian school for Navajo children. Although she is Caucasian, Sheila attended Twin Mesas for 5 years while her parents worked there. She was a carefree happy child when they moved to Arizona. She left a broken and frightened child without a mother and full of unanswered questions.

Now people are dying at Twin Mesas, there seems to be a mysterious virus sweeping the reservation and the children are terrified and acting out. Sheila sees this as an opportunity to not only help, but to face her past and get some answers concerning her mother's death.

Preston Black loves Sheila and isn't keen about her racing off to Arizona, but how can he stop her. She has made it clear that she cares for him, but as long as he doesn't share her faith their relationship stops at being friends. And now she is returning to a place she considers home and to long ago friends, including her childhood friend, Dr. Canaan York. Could he be competition for Preston?

The setting of this novel is rather foreign to me. I have read other books set in the desert, but I have never been there personally. And I know very little about Native American beliefs and folks lore, which are both highlighted in Double Blind.

Double Blind is a very engaging story that intrigues and draws the reader into the happenings. I finished it yesterday and I still find myself wondering how the students at Twin Mesas are doing.

I found Double Blind in the new fiction section of my local library. Look for it at your library or online at