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.