Monday, July 21, 2008

Just Between Us by Deborah Bedford

This is the 2nd book I have read by Bedford and as I stated in my review of the first one, she is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. There is a great quote on the back cover of this book:

"Bedford... should appeal to readers of faith who enjoy an inspirational love story wrapped around deeper issues." - Publishers Weekly
That really does sum up what she does... she takes a sweet love story, but she sets at the core deeper issues.. things we often avoid.. and she handles them with grace and love.
Just Between Us focuses on teenage pregnancy, loss of a loved one, adoption, feeling unloved, and more. Ann Small is 14 and she is pregnant. She knows her dad is going to kill her.. once he notices. Richard Small is totally wrapped up in his job. He works as much as possible to avoid the pain and void left by his wife's death.... and part of what he ignores is his daughter, Ann.
Enter Monica Albright via the Big Brothers / Big Sisters program. Monica is there to love, encourage and support Ann. What she fines is that Ann's father needs her just as much and, to her surprise, she needs him.

Captured in Canton by Phil Hardwick

Book 3 of Hardwick's Mississippi Mysteries series is just as much fun to read as the first two. Again, this is my home state and I was familiar with a good bit in this book... although there were some new discoveries made! I love the character, Jack Boulder. He popped up in book 2 and was in book 3 also. I wonder if he will continue through the series? I know Jack Boulder... maybe not by that name, but I know him. I can picture him and hear him clearly!

This was a lighthearted fun mystery with quirky characters that reminded me of so many folks I know!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Winter Turns to Spring by Catherine Palmer and Gary Chapman

This is the fourth and final book in Palmer and Chapman's Seasons of Marriage series based on the teachings found in Chapman's book, The Four Seasons of Marriage.

I have loved this series and hate to see it come to an end. I want to keep up with Cody, Patsy and Pete, the Hansen family, Ashley and Brad and all the rest of Deepwater Cove. In fact, I would love to go visit them!

In Winter Turns to Spring, Brad and Ashley are faced with a major decision... do they try to save their troubled marriage or do they just toss in the towel and get on with their own individual lives? Unfortunately, they spend so much time fighting that the question never gets discussed... they just stay in reactive mode.

In the meantime, the Hansen's are planning a wedding.... Jennifer is doing some soul-searching... Patsy and Pete have plans to make... Cody is determined to drive (and scares everyone regularly!)... and a small lost dog brings a bit of fun and love to some who need it.

Come to Deepwater Cove and visit the folks there... they are a kookie lively bunch with big hearts!

Now and Always by Lori Copeland

Lori Copeland is one of my favorite authors. I cannot think of a single book of hers I didn't like... Now and Always is no exception. It is a contemporary novel, but includes horses... which seem to show up often in Copeland's works.

The setting for this book is a unique one... a private, secluded home that provides shelter to battered women. Candlelight is Katie's heart.... her mission in life... but she is struggling to keep it going. Managing money isn't her forte, but she is determined to do her best. Enter Warren, an old high school friend who has gone from Nerd to hunk.. and rich to boot! Warren has moved back home and Katie solicits his help to get her on her feet financially.

In the meantime, a high-profile client is drawing unwanted media attention.... Katie takes in 4 injured horses despite a lack of funding to care for them... Ben, the town sheriff has given up trying to get Katie to go out with him... and someone wants the shelter closed now. Who can Katie trust.... and who does her heart belong to? Can she dig herself out of the financial pit she is in and protect the women in her care?

Only God has the answer.

84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

My daughter and I love British movies and shows. We recently read about a movie starring Sir Anthony Hopkins called 84 Charing Cross Road and are looking forward to watching it soon (Netflix has it to rent or as a instant watch). In reading the review, I saw that it came from a book so, of course, I had to read the book first. Fortunately my local library had it.

What a charming book! I learned that this is a true story which makes it even more sweet!

Helene Hanff was a script editor and writer back in the mid-twentieth century. She also loved old books, especially British copies of old books. She preferred the delicate paper they used and the charm of their covers and bindings over the mass market editions found the the U.S. One day she wrote to a used book store in London called Marks and Company and a lovely relationship began. Over the course of 20 years she corresponded with the members of the Marks and Company staff and even with some of their family. She purchased many books from them and supplied them with lovely treats at a time when England was living under a ration.

84 Charing Cross Road is a compilation of letters... those she wrote and those she received. I doubt every letter is here.. but many are and they are wonderful! Letter writing is an art form in and of itself!

This is a small book... easily read in one sitting. It is the perfect book for a quiet afternoon and a cup of tea!

When You Believe by Deborah Bedford

I had never read anything by Bedford before this book. I saw a write up (ad) about a book of hers in the back of another book I was reading and was intrigued. So I decided to see what my library had in stock. I am sooo glad I did! I really enjoyed this book and look forward to reading more by this author.

Bedford dealt with an issue that is often ignored in Christian Fiction... sexual abuse of a child. Not a pretty subject, but a very real issue in the world today... and Bedford handled it well. She didn't sugar coat the pain and shame and scandal, but she also didn't pout out all the gory details. The reader's imagination takes care of that.

Lydia Porter is a school counselor who has been waiting for Mr. Right and happiness. She doesn't complain or even nag to God.. she just waits patiently. And now, it has arrived... in the form of Charlie Stains. Their friendship has grown and love has blossomed, but all of that is about to be tested. One of Lydia's student has confided in her that she is being abused sexually and she is pointing a finger at Charlie. Can Lydia be such a horrible judge of character? Can a person be so two-faced as to be a pillar of the community and church and yet a evil Cretan also? What should Lyddie do? Expose Charlie? Try to dig for more information? Whatever, her first priority is to protect the child.

Trust and faith are tested in a fire that seems to have no end in When You Believe. But the Word assures us that the Truth will set you free and indeed, it does.

Giving Christ First Place from Gospel Light Publications

This is part of the First Place Weight Loss program offered at many churches. I am not in a First Place program. A group of online friends decided to do this Bible study together. There are 5 days of work each week and then 2 days of review (just reading, not digging). The work is light, but good. This study does get the participant into the Word. The homework can easily be done in 15 minutes a day... and certainly you can dig deeper on your own.

The focus of the study is evident in the title... putting God first in your life. Most of the topics covered are expected... prayer.. obedience.. surrendering all to God.. but even though they are expected, that doesn't lesson the need to address them. I don't know a Believer out there who knows everything they need to about any of those subjects and surely none of us have mastered them!

While this is part of a weight loss program, weight loss doesn't take center role here. There is a section in the back on healthy eating (complete with recipes) and exercise, but the study itself is a Bible study. That said, they do talk about valuing our body as the temple of the Holy Spirit.

This is a nice study to do in your Quiet Time or on your own. I am certain it would be fun to do with a group of friends and then meet weekly to discuss.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Yellow Rose Bride by Lori Copeland

I love Lori Copeland books... especially her historic romances. She just knows how to tug at a girl's heart strings!

Yellow Rose Bride is actually a rewrite of an earlier secular market book by Copeland (Bridal Lace and Buckskin) The Taylor's and the Baldwin's have a family feud reminiscent of the Hatfields and McCoys.... but no one really knows the root of the feud. Vonnie Taylor and Adam Baldwin grow up intent on hating each other, but along the way their hearts get in the way and they fall in love. In an impulsive move they run off and get married... a marriage which last 1 days and is never consummated. No one knows except the 2 of them and the judge that annuls the union. Years pass and each builds their own life. Vonnie becomes a master seamstress specializing in wedding dresses, while Adam is groomed by his father to take over the family ranching empire.

Life changes when Adam becomes engaged to Vonnie's friend, Beth, who asks Vonnie to make her wedding dress. Vonnie and Adam are both forced to face their past and the feelings that still remain.

A tragic death brings the an end to the family feud or so everyone thinks. But only the truth can really set them free....but how can the truth be found in all lies and deceptions that have been fabricated?

Not by Chance by Kathy Herman

This is the 4th and final book of the Seaport Suspense Series. I cannot say enough good about this series. I plan to go back and read Herman's earlier series - the Baxters - as well as her more recent series - Phantom Hollow.

Not by Chance deals with an issue that has been with us since the tower of Babel and will continue with us until the end of time... racism. Brandon Jones has come home in hopes of finding a purpose for his life... what he finds is a friend in RuWeeza Taylor. Her faith amazes Brandon and challenges him to take a deeper look at himself. Unfortunately there are those who don't approve of a white man spending time with a black woman and as a result, Brandon and Weezie find themselves targets a hate crime. But it doesn't stop there. More African-Americans are targeted and the hatred builds. Despite their best efforts, law enforcement cannot find the culprit (or culprits) and the community is getting angrier and more frightened.

Add into the mixes a young biracial boy struggling to find where he fits in... an age old secret society.... a hotshot report who needs to learn to use some discretion.... and you find yourself on the brink of chaos.

While Herman exposes blatant, vile, evil racism, she also sheds light on more subtle forms of racism that most people display without even realizing it. As is true with the other books in this series, Herman makes her reader stop and think... to look into their own lives and see what needs pruning and refining.

Again, I cannot recommend this series enough! Excellent writing, wonderful characters and thought provoking story lines!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

All Things Hidden by Kathy Herman

Book 3 of the Seaport Suspense series.. wonderful! Each book in this series seems to get better! In All Things Hidden, Herman once again tackles some difficult issues in a sensitive and realistic way. Unforgiveness... stubbornness... pride.... and consequences of sin are just a few. There is a lot going on in this book, but it works! Ellen Jones is facing the fact that her father, a widower, has Alzheimer's... fairly advanced. She has avoided him for so long due to unresolved issues and anger in their lives and now she may not have the chance to make peace with him. In the mean time her older son, Owen, is facing the consequences of past sin. I have to admit I love that Herman gives a clear picture (through Owen) of how we become new creations in Christ, but she doesn't sugar coat his life. Yes, he's been saved, but he has consequences from the sins of earlier years that will have a lasting effect on his life and his family. And then there is the murders. Ellen's father wanders off and apparently witnesses a stabbing. Due to his mental incapacity he is unable to help the police, but does the killer know that? Strange phone calls... possible peeping toms... attempted break ins... someone is trying to get the Jones' attention.

Excellent read... and book 4 is as good or better!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Eye of the Beholder by Kathy Herman

Eye of the Beholder is Book 2 of the Seaport Suspense Series by Herman. Another great book. It seems that each book in this short series gets better. Maybe it is the fact that the repeat characters are becoming more and more like old friends.

There are a number of hot topics in this book.. mainly terrorism and relations between Jew, Christians and Muslims in the United States. Herman does an excellent job of handling all the various mindsets and opinions. Not everyone is a whacked out nut who hates folks who are different (although there are some of those represented). Many are normal folks who are scared because of past events like 9/11, as well as the treatment of Arab (or anyone who looks Arab) as a result. In no way does Herman excuse terrorism, not at all! She just makes a great point about not assuming someone is the enemy just because they look different and have different beliefs. And she doesn't just deal with how non-Muslims feel about Muslims... she looks at the way Muslims look at the non-Muslim world. It is a good thorough representation of prejudice and fear from many different angles. She also looks at prejudice from other levels.. mental, social, financial and more.

Ellen Jones has become friends with an Iranian-American couple, the Tehrans... as well as a young mentally challenged couple and a blue-collar family... and her husband is not thrilled about it. He feels she needs to elevate her choice in friends to "their standard". Ellen's not going for it... she has a heart for the people God places in her life and prays to see them as He does.

When a boat full of explosives is found near Seaport and Dr. Tehran is questioned, Guy Jones forbids Ellen to have anything to do with them... and the tension arises not only in the Jones home, but in this close knit community where everyone knows everything that is going on.

As Guy and Ellen's marriage starts to fray, Guy's assistant Kinsey slips in all to ready to make things better for not only Guy, but for herself. Guy finds himself turning into someone he's not... and he finds himself caught up in a scandal that will rock the community, his career and most of all his family.

Eye of the Beholder takes a strong forceful look at the question "Who is My Neighbor?" and many of us will find conviction as we realize the answer.

Excellent book!

p.s. I am in the midst of book 3 of this series and it is even better than the 1st two!

A Shred of Evidence by Kathy Herman

My neighbor is a bookaholic also. We regularly share books and as a result find out about new authors we might not have read otherwise. She came bearing 4 books recently. The Seaport Suspense series by Kathy Herman. I had never heard of the books nor the author. I am sooo glad she introduced me to both!

A Shred of Evidence is book 1 in this wonderful series. What I am enjoying is not only the well thought out plot lines and finely developed characters, but the issues that Herman covers and how she handles them. For instance in this book gossip plays a huge role in several different plot lines. There is idle chitchat gossip that takes something simple.. like a date.. and lets it grow into something larger than life.. a wedding. There's overhearing someone say something and letting your imagination go wild... or you emotions (anger in this case) make it into something it wasn't. There's journalistic gossip... personal.. church.. community.. several different kinds and all are not exaggerated. I could see every one of these situations happening in real life. And what is fun is often the gossiper is also a victim of gossip, so that he / she learns first hand the effects words have on others. One thing to note, the suspense in the novel isn't who is spreading the gossip.. the gossip is a consequence of the various action in the book.

Ellen Jones and her husband, Guy, have recently moved to the small quiet community of Seaport, FL. While enjoying a break from writing her first novel, Ellen overhears someone talking about the husband of a young woman she has recently befriended. Instead of telling the wife or confronting the husband, Ellen decides to do some digging on her own and soon finds herself caught up in a web of half-truths and heresay that could destroy a man and his family.

Shred is a wonderful introduction to Seaport and the various characters there. (Although it appears Ellen and her husband are characters from an earlier series by Herman.) This book is full of real life dilemmas such as the struggle most believers have walking the talk.

Great book!

Justice in Jackson by Phil Hardwick

Another fun book from the Mississippi Mysteries Series. The plot is better in this one and the characters a tad more developed. Once again, I felt I was peeking into the lives of good friends. I know folks like most of the characters in this book... and the places are home to me. I currently reside in a suburb of Jackson, Mississippi and know the various parts of the city well. I didn't grow up here, but my family came to Jackson regularly (at least once a month) to shop, go to ball games, visit friends or just go out to eat at Dennery's or some other wonderful restaurant. So understood Boulder's comments of how the city use to be and how it is now. If by chance you are a Mississippian, I strongly recommend reading this series. It is very enjoyable!