Monday, April 28, 2008

Grounds to Believe by Shelley Bates

Last week I read and reviewed Bate's A Sounding Brass. I comment that I didn't realize it is book 3 of a trilogy... the Elect Trilogy. Grounds to Believe is book 1. I don't normally like reading books out of order. Knowing what lies ahead seems to ruin the earlier books for me. That was not the case with this one. Bates' book link and flow, but they are not connected at the hip. They will stand alone. And though I knew a bit about what would happen in this one, to be honest I would have figure it out while reading. These books are not mysteries... you can see where they are going. It is the getting there that is intriguing. The Elect Trilogy deals with a toxic cultish church... and it does so in a respectful manner. The members aren't whackos like so often betrayed in movies and such. Yes, their beliefs are skewed and some of what they do is a tad bizarre (like dressing head to toe in black), but the people themselves are basically good folks who believe they are living the life God has called them to live. Bates does a good job showing how the leadership gets and holds control over their members. In Grounds, she shows an inside look (as it were) to the recruiting of a potential member. She also shows, in more than one character, how the pressures of this lifestyle can cause a fracture within persons. And she shows that not all who belong are truly convinced.... it just takes a bit of light to dispel the darkness.

Very, very good book. Both the ones I have read in this series are excellent and I am looking forward to reading book 2 - Pocketful of Pearls.

Someday by Karen Kingsbury

Karen Kingsbury is right at the top of my favorite authors list. Her books are phenomenal! Someday is book 3 in the Sunrise series.. which is the 3rd (and last) series that focuses on the Baxter family. There is one more book coming out soon. It is going to be very difficult to say Good-bye to these folks.... and what is cool is we won't have to. Kingsbury is going to have a blog that focuses on the characters from these 3 series. A very cool idea indeed!

It is impossible to share much from the book as you need to read the entire series.. all 3.. from the beginning. They most definitely flow together. I can tell you that if you read no other Christian Fiction books, but these you will be pleased. They are really some of (if not the) best books out there.

The first book in the first series is Redemption. Grab it and get started. It won't take you long at all to catch up. These are "too good to put down" books.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

One More Sunrise by Michael Landon, Jr. and Tracie Peterson

I saw this book several times in CBD catalogs and contemplated reading it. I love Peterson's works, but wasn't sure about Landon. Still my interested was peaked. Then I read a review of this book ( ) and knew it had to go on my to-read list. Last week I saw it on the new fiction shelf at my library and snatched it. I am so glad I did.

One More Sunrise is a wonderful store of restoration and healing... of letting go of the past and of mistakes... letting God heal those hurt places and then moving forward. One of the things I love is that there are characters that don't allow this to happen (which is sad) and the reader is able to see those lives in contrast to the ones who accept God's grace. There are some powerful messages in this novel and a wonderful story. The story is set in 1950s heartland America in a small rural setting with farming as its core. Many of the lives there are as dry and dusty and infested as the landscape, but then hope comes in the form of a corporate farming enterprise that is going to revitalize the town and the lives of its inhabitants, but at what cost?

There is another interesting aspect of this novel. One my friend mentions in her review also... an angel. There is no way to discuss it without giving too much away, but I will say I believe this was handled well. I was reminded a bit of Landon's father and his series... Highway to Heaven.

I was pleasantly surprised by this one and will definitely be on the look out for any others by Landon and Peterson.

Invisible by Lorena McCourtney

Ivy Malone is a hoot! She is also the main character in Invisible, which is book 1 of the Ivy Malone Mysteries. There are 4 out to date. I don't know if the author has more books planned or not, but I know I will read all of them!

I love fun mysteries... I like serious ones too... but I needed something light and fun and this fit the bill perfectly! Ivy is an widowed senior adult with no children and a lot of time on her hand. Vandals keep hitting the cemetery and it appears the police aren't doing a thing about it, so Ivy takes matters into her own hands and stake out the cemetery. But then when she witnesses a body being tossed into the river; realizes her young neighbor has disappeared mysteriously and sees her home is vandalize and a threatening message left for her, she steps it up a notch. Determined that nothing and no one is going to get in her way, Ivy dives in with a vengeance to find who-dun-it!

Lots of spunk and fun in this one!

A Sounding Brass by Shelley Bates.. PBS.. and the Library

About a year ago my friend, Cecelia Dowdy, wrote a review for this book on her blog ( ). I was intrigued and added it to my "get this book to read" list. So I popped it onto my wish list at Paperback Book Swap and a few weeks ago someone listed it and I got it. I have to make a plug for PBS. It is a great way to "recycle" books. You post your books when you are done reading them. If someone wants one, you say OK.... print a label and mail it off at your cost (which runs about $2.00). And you earn 1 point. For each point you get to choose a book that is in the system and have it mail to you. You pay nothing for that book. Technically the books aren't free, since you have to pay postage when you send yours, BUT $2.13 is cheaper than more books out there.

I will add that PBS is normally my 2nd resort. I usually look at my local library first. A library is a wonderful thing and often underutilized. If you haven't been to a library in years, you might be surprised at what you will find there. Many off the ability to search their stacks online and even put in requests via the Internet. Mine even allows me to recheck books through their website.

Finding free or cheap books is much easier than you think!

So on to the review.... What peaked my interest in this book is one of the things Cecelia liked best about it.... it centered around a cultish church. I have always been a bit fascinated with cults, whose beliefs seem so ridiculous to me and yet people who seem normal follow them wholeheartedly.

In A Sounding Brass, we see a group of people who have lived their lives tied to The Elect only to find it shattering before their eyes. The leadership has been arrested and is on trial, a new charismatic lay-leader is introducing new ideas into the fellowship and many are feeling rejected by their faith and unsure of what they to believe.

This book grabbed hold of me from the start... it took me 2 days to read it, but only because I had to eat and sleep and take care of my family! LOL! One thing I wish I had known.. this is book 3 of a trilogy. It is, in my opinion, able to stand alone. The author does a great job weaving in the necessary background material without making it sound like a quick summary paragraphs stuck in to catch up the reader.

There is nothing on the book cover or in the book telling us it is book 3... I found out when I did a search on Shelley Bates to see what other books she has written. I have book 1 from the library -- Grounds to Believe and Book 2 is on my wish list at PBS (since the library doesn't have it) -- Pocketful of Pearls.

This is a wonderful book... the writing is excellent... the story intriguing... the characters rich and real.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Design on a Crime by Ginny Aiken

This is book one of Aiken's Deadly Decor Mystery series and it is a fun read! If you are looking for riveting spine chilling suspense, then this book isn't for you. BUT if you want a bit of silliness and mayhem mixed with intrigue and chaos, this is it! After searching to find and define herself, Haley Farrell is launching her career as an Interior Designer. Unfortunately she is sidetracked when her dear friend and mentor is murdered and she finds herself the prime suspect. When it seems that the local authorities aren't going to look elsewhere, Haley decides to take matters into her own hands and find the real killer.

There are 2 more adventures (so far) in this series and I am looking forward to reading them. They are light and fun and have just enough twists and turns to give my brain a light workout.

The Mahoney Sisters Trilogy by Tracey V. Bateman

I really like mysteries and the Love Inspired Suspense series mysteries have surprised me. These are good! There is just the right amount of intrigue and adventure mixed in with romance and a nice healthy dose of faith.

Tracey Bateman has written a series about 3 sisters... hence the name, The Mahoney Sisters.

Book 1, Reasonable Doubt centers on Keri Mahoney. Keri's childhood sweetheart is whisk away by his aunt after his parents are killed in a car wreck. Although they vow to stay in touch, forces beyond their control prevent that from happening. Now, 15 years later, Justin is back in Keri's life along with his twin sons and a murder investigation hanging over his head. Can Keri keep her personal feelings out of the way and be the cop she was trained to be? Did Justin kill his wife? Or is there someone else out there responsible... someone who now wants to remove Justin and his boys from the picture also?

Book 2, Suspicion of Guilt focuses on Denni Mahoney. Denni runs a home for girls who have just left the foster care program and entered young adulthood. She helps them find employment, take college classes and prepare to function independently in the real world, but someone doesn't like what she is doing. Flooded basements, fires in the kitchen, and missing items are just a few of the not-so-subtle hints he or she is leaving. Denni is determined to move forward ignoring the warnings, but Detective Reece Corrigan has other plans. Reece is determined to get to the bottom of the attacks even if that means suspecting one of the girls in the home.

Book 3, Betrayal of Trust spotlights the oldest Mahoney sister, Raven. Raven is in a high powered, fast moving career that keeps her from family and from faith. She is too busy striving to be a mover and a shaker and dealing with secrets from her past that feed her insecurities and doubts. Then a once in a lifetime opportunity presents itself. Matthew Strong is pulling out of the Senate race and he is being mum as to why. Every report wants this story and Raven, as Matt's former fiance, is sure she has an inside track. What she doesn't expect is to walk into a situation where she could loose her heart and possibly her life.

All 3 of these books were great reads! And all 3 are now available at Paperback Book Swap (look for my account! )

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

True Light by Terri Blackstock

Terri Blackstock is one of my absolute favorite writers. I have never disliked any of her books!

True Light is book 3 in her Restoration series. I have heard a number of folks say these books are weird. They certainly are different... extremely creative and original... and downright good! I haven't been disappoint with any of them!

It is difficult to share a lot about the books, as it might spoil the plot for someone who plans to read them. Suffice it to say that life in Oak Hollow continues to be a challenge with no electricity. Crime is on the rise.. people are desperate.. life has certainly changed dramatically since the pulses started. And no one knows when they will end.

There are those who push on, adapting, coming up with legitimate ways to provide for their families and others. And there are those who steal and who kill.

In True Light a teenage boy is shot and Mark Green is arrested for the assault. There is no real evidence, but Mark's father was a criminal so he is guilty by reason of birth. Mark finds himself in the foulest of places... a jail with no electricity and no running water... and no one willing to clean it. But God has him there for a purpose. Mark is eventually able to see the why and even to see what God wants him to do there, but he isn't happy about it. However, he obeys even when it means opening himself up for more hate and cruelty.

There is so much more to this story... we see young teens struggling to deal with all that is happening around them... neighbors turning against neighbors... friendships and marriages being strained to the brink of snapping.. and yet, there is always the undeniable hope of Jesus... which Blackstock incorporates beautifully in her books.

Read True Light... go back and read Last Light and Night Light first. Each book builds on the previous ones. And there is a 4th one on the way... Dawn's Light. I think it might be the final installment in this wonderful series.

How Starbucks Saved My Life by Michael Gates Gill

NOTE: This is a secular work... one I thoroughly enjoyed... but there is course language used several times in the book. It is a non-fiction work and I have no doubt the use of such language fits the different situations. However, since most of the books I review are Christian fiction and free of language, I wanted to "warn" any potential readers.

The subtitle to How Starbucks Saved My Life is A Son of Privilege Learns to Live Like Everyone Else... and that is the thrust of the book.

I stumble across a quote that was taken from this book a few weeks ago and the title intrigued me. What I found was a wonderful biographical journey that made me ponder if I am living life in my own little bubble unaware of all that is happening around me.

Michael Gates Gill was reared in a rather affluent home. The son of a writer for New Yorker magazine, it was normal for Gill to meet and socialize with the likes of Robert Frost, Ernest Hemingway, Jackie Onassis and others from the top elite. After receiving an Ivy League education, Gill joined a prestigious advertising firm and embarked on a 25 year trek up the corporate ladder. Over the years he found time to marry and father 4 children, but very little time to actually be there with them or for them.

Then it happened. The firm was bought out and the new owner liked "young." And so at 53 Gill finds himself out of work and at a loss. He tries to run his own consulting firm, but it fails. He has an affair and fathers another child, bringing an end to his marriage and further damaging his relationship with his older children. And then he is diagnosed with a rare, but operable and benign brain tumor that is robbing an ear of its hearing.

Feeling completely down and out, Gill wanders into a Starbucks in his old neighborhood to enjoy a bit of luxury in a latte. What he finds is a job. Not as manager... not as marketing exec... a job at the bottom... sweeping, mopping, serving coffee.. whatever is needed.

And overtime, this now 63 year old white man who is working for a young African-American woman in a Starbucks where he is the only Caucasian and the only person over 30, finds there is more to life than bank accounts, clients, Brooks Brothers suits and all the things he once held sacred.

He learns to live... really live. To SEE those around him.. to care about them.. to listen to them.. to not judge them on appearance... and in the end, despite the hard work and the long hours that his body has to endure, he realizes this is the best thing that ever happened to him.

This story is not all sunshine and roses... there is no sugarcoating... but it is encouraging and uplifting. There is no doubt God was at work in Gill's life and I pray his eyes and heart are open to see that one day.

I also loved all I learned about Starbucks. I am not a coffee drinker and have never been into a Starbucks (shock! LOL!). They are a really great company who respects not only its customers, but also those who work there. Unlike other big corporations who hire part-time to avoid providing benefits, Starbucks offers all their employees benefits and also help to move forward.

I highly recommend this book. I am very glad I read it. I recently found out that it is coming out soon as a movie, starring Tom Hanks. I have no doubt it will be good, but I encourage you to read the book first. There are things that can only be conveyed in print... not on film.

The Heart's Homecoming by Merilee Whren

Eight years ago Sam Lawson stood at the altar, ready to marry his childhood sweetheart, Jillian Rodgers... but Jillian didn't show. In fact, she hasn't shown her face to Sam for the past eight years and he has been just fine with that. He forgave Jill, but that doesn't mean he wants to see her or have anything to do with her.

For eight years Jillian has worked to build a name and career for herself. She has come home to visit family some, but always kept a low profile not drawing attention to herself.

That is all about to change. Jillian's family needs her and no matter how uncomfortable it will be to move back to her small hometown and be near Sam, Jillian is going to be there for her mom and dad.

As Jillian and Sam are thrust together, they become reacquainted and find that each is no longer the person they were eight years ago. Not wanting to pick up where they left off, they decide to see if the "new" Sam and Jillian are meant to be... in spite of the pain of past, the awkwardness f the present and the uncertainty of the future.

The Heart of Grace by Linda Goodnight

This is the 3rd and final book in The Brothers Bond series that Goodnight wrote for Love Inspired. It is a great series... one I think any romance reader would enjoy.

Drew Michaels lives for adventure and danger and he has decided it is best that he does that alone.. no matter how much it hurts himself and his wife. Larissa. Drew informs Larissa in no uncertain terms (and certainly not in person!) that they are threw... he is riding off into the sunset alone leaving her free to find Mr. Right. But Larissa has no desire to go hunting for Mr. Right when she knows she has already found him, Drew.

Larissa prays for the Lord to intervene and He does.. in a big way. Drew is injured while taking war photos. The hospital doctor agrees with Larissa that the best thing Drew needs is rest and TLC, so home he goes with Larissa... the last place he wants to be.

Larissa is getting too close... she will learn his secrets and then it will all be over anyway... why did he get married in the first place!?

God knows why and He has a plan for Drew, his marriage and his long lost brothers.

A Treasure of the Heart by Valerie Hansen

Valerie Hansen is one of the favorite Love Inspired authors and she did not let me down with this book. Lillie Delaney is headed home from Chicago to Gumption, Arkansas... yes, her grandmother will be able to say "I told you so" but Lillie doesn't care. She is tired of the big city and the rat race. She is ready for home and some much needed peace and quiet!

What she finds instead is that her grandfather has run away with another woman, her grandmother refuses to work in her cafe and to take off her pink shower cap and the new pastor is a Harley riding rebel complete with black leather jacket. What on earth has happened to her small home town!?

Lillie learns that the Lord truly does work in mysterious (and strange!) ways!

The Heart of a Man by Deb Kastner

Another cute one from Love Inspired.. and with a neat premise.. one that I haven't seen done before.
Dustin Fairfax was about to inherit a sizeable trust fund.. and with that the ability to help those less fortunate than himself in a big way.. but there is a catch.. Dustin has to become the man his father wanted him to be... polished, professional, urbane... no one would use those words to describe Dustin!
Enter Isobel Buckley, image consultant. Isobel has her work cut out for her if she is going to make this sow's ear into a silk purse. And along the way she's going to learn there is a lot more than clothes that make the man.