Saturday, December 26, 2009

Forever Christmas by Christine Lynxwiller

Typically I read Christmas themed novels from Thanksgiving to January 1. I have only been able to read 1 this year! Forever Christmas is a charming fun novel set in Jingle Bells, Arkansas... a community I had no trouble imagining! In fact, I would love to visit there one day.

Jingle Bells saved a young Kristianna Harrington and now she is determined to save Jingle Bells. Summer Valley Corp. wants to move in, providing much needed jobs and revenue for this dying town, but part of the bargain is a name change. As it is all the business have a Christmas Theme.. Candy Cane striped bowling pens at the bowling Alley, businesses with names like Blizzard Barbecue, Reindeer Games and Toy Story, and Snow Place Like Home Pet Boarding. Even Kristianna owns a Christmas themed business, a shop she inherited from her grandmother called Forever Christmas.

It seems preposterous that the name change would fly.... but then the town starts to split as some see the increase of income and others hold on to the traditions of the past. The addition of Jingle Bells newest residence, Shawn Webber, attorney for Summer Valley doesn't help.

Kristianna's emotions are on a roller coaster and she feels she is fighting an uphill battle as more and more lean towards the change. When she is betrayed by one of her nearest and dearest, she isn't sure she can continue the fight. Change is not something she likes and it appears everything she holds dear and true is changing right before her eyes.

Lover's Knot by Emilie Richards

My reading time has been very limited the past month of so. I seem to either be running here and there or just too tired to read. Hopefully that will change in 2010!

I recently read the 3rd book in Emilie Richards' Shenandoah Album Series. A friend told me about these books. We are both quilters and the titles are quilt pattern names, plus a quilt or quilting plays into the storyline a bit.

I really enjoyed Lover's Knot. It was different than the earlier books in several ways, one being that portions of the book jump back in history to tell the story of someone who migrated to the Toms Brook area. It was easy to compare the character from the past, Leah, with the current day character, Kendra, whose husband is Leah's grandson. Both women suffered losses in their lives. Both had plans that were drastically changed by a sudden tragic event. Both persevered and became stronger as a result.

Kendra needs a break. She needs to get away from the city.... from her life... from her husband, Isaac. She chooses to spend time in an old cabin in the Shenandoah Valley that her husband inherited from his grandmother. Isaac was adopted as a child and knew nothing of his biological family and really wants nothing to do with them. Kendra, on the other hand, is drawn to the cabin in the woods and to the woman who lived there. She senses a story that needs telling.

The discovery of 2 skeletons in a cave... an odd quilt with mysterious names embroidered on it... and the cabin bring change to both Kendra and Isaac's lives. Change that is exhilarating at times and painful at others, but in the end ... change that is needed.. required.

A beautiful story of seeking the truth and finding that no matter what you find, it really does set you free. A story of learning what is really important in life. Of reconnecting.... renewal....reconciliation...revival.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Harry Bentley's Second Chance by Dave Jackson

I love the Yada Yada Prayer Group books and I enjoyed the first book in Neta Jackson spin off series based on the Yadas (Yada Yada House of Hope series), but I was skeptical about Dave's book... a Yada Yada Brothers Novel. My skepticism was misplaced! It was very eye-opening to delve into the male mindset. To see the Yada Brothers up close and to get to know Harry Bentley better. I first met Harry in Neta's Where Do I Go? novel (which I reviewed earlier this year).

The neat thing is Second Chance runs parallel with Where Do I Go? And while the story lines overlap, the 2 books are not repeats of each other. Each one looks into the life on a specific character during the same period of time. And each is very well done!

Harry blew it as a dad... but now he has a second chance to make a difference in his grandson's live. A grandson he didn't even know he had. A grandson who is already half grown with more street smarts and attitude than Harry wants to deal with. But there is a nagging... a drawing to the child. There are hurdles to jump over and mountains to climb, but Harry is determined to take full advantage of the blessings God has placed in his life.

An Unexpected Match by Dana Corbit

A fun Love Inspired Romance about 2 mismatched childhood friends, their mothers misplaced matching making and second chances. Matthew Warren has become a single father and cannot seem to find a nanny to quit his child. Haley Scott came home to be married only to have her fiance' leave her at the altar. What is she to do now. The Warrens and Scotts have been friends all their lives and their mothers have it all planned out. The 3 Scott girls will marry the 3 Scott boys. They even have them paired up. So when Haley steps in the help Matthew out and the attractions start to pop, the mom's are less than please. Matthew goes with Caroline, not Haley! The moms, as well as Matthew and Haley, quickly learn that God has a plan and His plan is always better!

When I Lay My Isaac Down by Carol Kent

Carol Kent allows us to enter her private world which has been turned upside down and inside out. Her one and only son, a 25 year old Lieutenant in the Navy, graduate of the Naval Academy, devout Christian, husband and father, kills a man... his wife's ex-husband. This is not a self-defense situation, not a heat of the moment, not a protecting my family thing... it is willful, premeditated murder. Carol and her husband are overwhelmed with grief for their son and what could have been... for his young family... for the family of the victim... and for themselves and all they have lost. But through it all they cling to God. Are they angry with Him? Yes. Disappointed? Yes. But they live out Job's cry "Though thou slay me, I will yet praise You." And while this story is tragic, God is at work. He does not abandon this family. And we, the readers, have a lot to learn from the Kents. We all have Isaacs in our lives. Theirs was their child. Yours might be a career, a home, a hurt, a dream or many other possibilities. We have to learn to do like Abraham and fully surrender EVERYTHING to the Lord, even our Isaacs. Abraham withheld NOTHING from the Lord, not even his son.

Kent's story will tear at your heart and, if you are a parent, you will feel the need to pray more and in a different way for your kids. It will also encourage and inspire and challenge you to let go of that to which you are clinging... that which you won't fully and completely give to God.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Where Do I Go by Neta Jackson

Where Do I Go is Book 1 of Jackson's new Yada Yada House of Hope Series. I absolutely adored the Yada Yada Prayer Group series and am so happy Jackson decided to write a "spin-off". While the main focus is on a new character who is not part of the prayer group, the story is connected to the Yadas and many of the characters from that series show up in this one. For me, it was a bit like going back to visit some old friends and making new ones also. Gabby Fairbanks has moved to Chicago... away from her children... away from her career... and thrown into a new world and a lifestyle she has no desire to embrace. Determined to make the best of it, Gabby sets out to explore her new home and discovers Lucy, an ill homeless lady. In a gesture of good will she puts Lucy in a cab and sends her to the nearest shelter, Manna House. Her husband, Philip, hopes that is the end of it... but it isn't. Gabby cannot get her thoughts off Lucy and ends up going to the shelter to check on her. She comes home with more than she bargained for... a job opportunity and a tiny spark in her dead faith. As Gabby flourishes, her marriage doesn't... and as her faith grows, her life falls apart.

Warning.. this book has a cliff hanger ending and leaves many questions unanswered. I have no idea how many books are planned for this series, but I do know number 2 is out! And Neta Jackson's husband has written a series that parallels this one... the Yada Yada Brotherhood. I have the first in that series in my to read stack.. Harry Bentley's Second Chance.

This is an excellent read! If you love the Yada Yada series, you must read this one! And if you have not read the Yada series, I encourage you to do so a.s.a.p. They are one of the best series I have read! Not just entertaining, but Faith building!

The Best Question Ever by Andy Stanley

One of the wonderful Titus 2 women God has placed in my life is also my Bible study leader. She devours books like this and is always saying '"You need to read....." The Best Question Ever is one of her "need to read" books. So I read it!

Now I know the obvious question is... what IS the best question ever? But, of course, I cannot tell you that! I will tell you that Stanley has a unique perspective, based solidly on Scripture, for making decisions. He has practiced this for 20+ years and has shared it with many people. This question will bring clarity to decisions involving money, relationships, time, career .... ever aspect of your life large and small.

The Maverick Preacher by Victoria Bylin

This is the first Love Inspired Historical book I have read and I thoroughly enjoyed it! Bylin is also a new author to me. Adie has a lovely home at Swan's Nest with her infant son and the ladies she has taken in. They are a mismatched bunch that create a loving family. Then one night Joshua Blue shows up on Adie's doorstep sick and exhausted and in search of his long lost sister. Despite her "rent to no men" rule, Adie takes Josh in for just the night... that is until one of the ladies sees him and, thinking he is out to harm them, shoots him. As Josh recoups at Swan's Nest, he learns first hand of the threats and violence against them. He determines to stay put and protect Adie and her charges. But how can he continue to look for Emily is he stays and what will become of Adie and her son if he leaves?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Sisterchicks in Wooden Shoes by Robin Jones Gunn

Off on another SisterChick adventure! These books are delightful reads filled with fun and laughter and a dose of Faith. In Wooden Shoes, Summer decides she needs to escape the reality of her world a bit and heads off to the Netherlands to meet Noelle, who has been her penpal since 3rd grade. Their adventures seem right up my alley... their good intentions are often met with hilarious mishaps and confusion.. and yet they get through each one with laughter and usually some chocolate! (Chocolate is a running theme in this series!). During their time together, Summer is able to make peace with her present and possible future and Noelle makes peace with her past. It is all about letting go and letting God. Something we all struggle with doing!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

My Heart Remembers by Kim Vogel Sawyer

I discovered Sawyer a year or so ago when my neighbor loaned me a book of hers. Some of the first Christian fiction I ever read was by Janette Oke and I quickly fell in love with Historic Fiction. Sawyer reminds me a bit of Oke and others who tend to write about the past.

My Heart Remembers centers around three children, Maelle, Matthew and Molly Gallagher... three orphans who are placed on an orphan train and sent out West. Although they plan to stay together, the powers that be have other plans. A wealthy couple has specifically asked for a baby girl with red hair and green eyes and Molly fits the bill. Soon after she is taken Maelle and Matthew find homes of their own and so the 3 siblings are separated. As she says Good-bye, Maelle slips each one a remembrance of home. To Molly, the family Bible; to Mattie, a photograph of them with their parents and for herself, the letters her mother wrote to her Da in their younger days. Maelle vows she will find her two younger siblings.

The years pass by and all three grow up never knowing where the others are or if they are even alive. In fact, Molly never knows the others exist until she is a grown woman. It is interesting to see the different paths each has walked and where those paths have taken them.

As is no surprise to the reader, they all end up in the same settlement in Missouri... each for very different reasons. They go about their separate lives, dealing with their own demons and heartaches. They even meet, but each has different names now and no reason to think they are related. But soon Maelle see one of the ties from home she gave her siblings and it as if a veil is lifted and their eyes are open to the truth.

This is a happy ever after kind of book. A fast moving, easy to read one also. But none the less a very fun, uplifting, entertaining read.

The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton

When I go to the library, usually to pick up a book I have requested, I always peruse the new books shelves and I usually find at 1 or 2 books to add to my stack. Sometimes they are new books by favorite authors and occasionally they are books by an author I don't know but something about the book captures my attention. Such was the case with The Wednesday Sisters. I have never heard of the author nor the book, but the cover caught my eye, the title intrigued me and when I read the synopsis on the back I knew I wanted to meet these ladies.

In The Wednesday Sisters (set in California during the 1960s) is a group of five young mothers who meet at a local park. They start out chit chatting about their children, as young mothers do, and the conversation moves on from there. They eventually turn their talk to books and then to writing and decide to form a writing group... thus the birth of the Wednesday Sisters Writing Club.

In this novel we follow these friends -- Frankie, Linda, Kath, Ally and Brett -- through the various bumps and bruises, highs and lows that life throws at them. Through prejudice, infertility, rejection, adultery, fear... through promotions, acceptance, courage and victory. The ladies grow in knowledge and strength and in their friendship with each other.

One thing I love about this book is that Clayton doesn't sugar coat everything and spin happy ever after fairy tales. We see these women and their lives warts and all. We see them celebrate with each other and we see them disagree and fall apart together. She presents the issues of the time in truthful ways not pressing an agenda and allowing her characters to be real and have real thoughts and reactions to the changing world in which they live.

Most often the books I review are distinctly Christian. The Wednesday Sisters is not. That said, except for 2 scenes, I found nothing offensive in it. There are, however, 2 scenes... both deal with sex... both contain graphic detail and one has a word considered extremely vulgar. I have to say that the word fits the mouth that utters it and the situation, still... some may prefer to not read a book with any language in it.

I truly enjoyed reading The Wednesday Sisters and plan to look for other books by Clayton.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

This is Morton's 2nd novel and the 1st one I have read by her. If her other work is even half this good, she will go on my must read list. I absolutely loved The Forgotten Garden! I am not even sure where to begin in describing it.... for it is a bit like 3 stories in 1 that twine together to create the truth.

Once upon a time there was a little girl. She was placed on a ship headed to Australia and then abandoned. After a long voyage, she was discovered by the port master who took her home for one night... or so he thought. Nell became the child he and his wife longed for and enjoyed life as the oldest of a household full of girls. That is until her mother's death.. when her father told her the truth... she wasn't who she thought she was.

Eliza was always running... from whom or what she wasn't sure... and then one day she was caught and thrust into a fairy land where she was allowed to visit and watch, but never to really belong. Her heart ached for to be needed and loved and in time, that ache was eased but at great cost.

Cassie feels a bit unwanted and a bit unpurposeful. Unsure of what life holds for her, she sets off to England to unravel a mystery only to discover herself along the way.

Morton's writing is a delight to read... her descriptions are like paint strokes on canvas... clear and vivid... creating a masterpiece in the mind's eye. Her characters are round and full and so real. I could see them.. hear them.. it was truly like being with them.

I know a lot of you read Christian Fiction only, so I need to tell you that this is a secular work. But I also have to add that it is clean and just too good to miss!

I am waiting for her first novel to be free at my library and looking forward to future works!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Passion Denied by Julie Lessman

This is the third and final book in Lessman's Daughter of Boston series. If you enjoy Historic Romances, then you will like this series. The books center on the O'Connor girls and their family and are set in early 1900's Boston around the first World War.

A Passion Denied is Elizabeth's story. Beth has been in love with John Brady as long as she can remember, but sadly he has always seen her as a little sister. She wants more and believes he does too, but he refuses to be more than friends. Finally Beth, now called Lizzie, turns her attentions elsewhere only to find herself caught in a web of deceit and hurt... and to her shock she finds Brady right in the center.
Can love truly conquer all? When trust is destroyed, can it be rebuilt? Does forgiveness extend to everyone and every circumstance?

A Passion Denied takes a love sick romantic girl and opens her eyes and heart to the realities of real life love.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

A Passion Redeemed by Julie Lessman

A Passion Redeemed is Lessman's 2nd book in The Daughters of Boston series. (set in Boston and Ireland, early 1900s) This is most definitely a series that needs to be read in order! And one I highly recommend any lover of Christian Historic Fiction to read! Even if you aren't a fan of Christian Fiction, read this series... it might change your mind!

Charity O'Connor was born beautiful and early on became aware of the sway she held over people. She is use to getting whatever she wants... that is until she sets her sights on Mitch Dennehy. Mitch is far from immune from Charity's beguiling ways, but he is determined to not fall prey to them. So Charity turns things up a notch and enters into a dangerous partnership that almost costs her life.

While this is a lovely romantic tale with a bit of adventure woven in, there is a deeper story... one of a young girl so broken and hurt that she creates a wall around her heart and refuses to let real love in... of a girl who sees her worth only through the eyes on men who admire and desire her beauty... of a girl who feels unloved by her earthly father and her heavenly Father and at a loss to rectify either relationship... it is at its heart a story about a heart that needs Jesus.

SPOILER ALERT... this next part gives part of the storyline away and a bit of the ending, so if you plan to read the book you may want to stop here.


I was very intrigued at the "why" behind Charity's hard heart and her anger at God and her father. I actually liked how Lessman worked in the childhood abuse of a relative. Not that I like the idea of that happening! But for whatever reason it caught me off guard. I think because I wouldn't expect that subject matter in a book set in 1919. I believe it was handled very well. While Lessman didn't sugar coat the situation, she also didn't provide gory details that we all can conjure up with our imaginations.

My one "complaint" came with the ending. I wasn't sure I really liked the ending. Didn't really like with whom Charity ended up. BUT I have started book 3 and it works! LOL!

I do love this series.... the settings... the characters... the conflicts... all of it!

The Secret by Beverly Lewis

I had no idea Lewis had started a new series until I saw The Secret sitting in the New Fiction area of my library. The Secret is book 1 of her Seasons of Grace series. Lewis is, by far, the queen of Amish Fiction. There are elements that seem to be repeated throughout a number of her books and yet she is able to spin her tale in such a way that the reader doesn't feel it is a rehash of the same ole story again and again.

Grace Byler has known something wasn't right with her mother for some time. She weeps and wander off in the night when she thinks no one is watching. She often seems to be far off in her thoughts as if she is reliving another time and place. Grace so wants to know what and why, but questions are not encouraged in her Amish family. And even when their lives are turned upside down by the unthinkable, they do not discuss it.

The title refers not only to the secret in Grace's mother's life, but also to the secret each member of her family holds in their heart and the secret they seem to guard from the watchful eyes of others in the order.

As always a wunderful gut story from Lewis!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Take One by Karen Kingsbury

Kingsbury is one of my absolute favorite authors. I have never read a book of hers that I did love. She is one of those authors who hook me in quickly and keep me wanting more. Her characters are so real life and so three dimensional. I honestly feel like I know them once I finish the book.

Take One is book one of her latest series ... Above The Line. 2 men... former missionaries with a new mission... have set out to set the world on fire with a passion for the Lord... through film.

Chase Ryan and Keith Ellison have started a small production company and are embarking on their first project.... The Last Letter being filmed on location in Bloomington, Indiana. Keith's daughter, Andi, is at college there and the shoot will give them opportunities to spent time together. God is in the mix and everything is running smooth... for a while. But then the world steps in... trouble with actors, temptations, lack of funding, technical difficulties and more put this project on shaky ground. Do Keith and Chase have the faith to hold on and to motivate others to do the same?

The fun part, for those who have read other Kingsbury works, is that old friends pop in throughout the book... the Baxters, Dayne and Katy, the Flannigans... this is not a continuation of earlier series, but we do get to peep in and see what is happening with them.

As always an excellent book!

A Silent Terror by Lynette Eason

Marianna Santino's world is one of silence. Deaf since birth, Marianna is quite comfortable with things the way they are and doesn't miss being part of the listening world. That is until she finds her roommate murdered, but Marianna was the intended target and the killer is still after her. Detective Ethan O'Hara is baffled by the case. Who would want a teacher at a deaf school dead and why? He devotes his time and energy to solving the case and protecting the teacher. A wonderful mystery / adventure that will keep you guessing with a bit of romance stirred in.

Bluegrass Courtship by Allie Pleiter

This is book 2 of Pleiter's Kentucky Corners series from Steeple Hill (Love Inspired). We are once again in Middleburg, Kentucky... the heart of horse country. Drew Downing and Missionnovation have come to town to restore and rebuild a local preschool. Everyone in town is all a buzz.. everyone that is except Janet Bishop of Bishop's Hardware. Janet has been on the receiving end of a smooth talking Christian... and she lost... her heart, her dignity and her faith. She wants nothing to do with Downing and is show, but she feels burdened to keep a close eye on the work to prevent cutting corners and shoddy workmanship. What she finds.. reluctantly.. is a crew that is above board doing more than necessary... and slowly but surely she feels the wall around her heart begin to crumble and her faith being restored.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Love to Last Forever by Tracie Peterson

This is book 2 of Peterson's Brides of Gallatin County series and it comes as no surprise that it is a great read! I really do love Tracie Peterson's books... and I am sucker for stories set out west during the pioneer days.

Each of the books in this series focuses on one of the three Gallatin sisters, but the story always includes the others and each book builds on the previous one so definitely read them in order. Book 2 focuses on the youngest Gallatin sister, Beth. Beth is a romantic often sneaking off to read a cheap romance and to day dream of finding her own Lord Wodehouse. What she doesn't realize is all she wants and needs is right before her eyes. Nick Lassiter has loved Beth almost since the first moment he saw her, but how can he convince her that they are meant for each other. In the meantime Adrian Murphy has set his cap for Beth and doesn't seem to want to take No for an answer.

Things seem to finally be moving in the right direction for Beth and Nick when a secret from his past shows us... in the flesh... threatening their budding relationship.

This is a very sweet book and one that really focuses on walking by Faith.... hoping in things not seen instead of focusing on what we can see.

On to book 3 soon!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Monday Morning Faith by Lori Copeland

I am a big fan of Lori Copeland's fiction. Her books are usually light and funny and a joy to read. Monday Morning Faith doesn't fit that bill. Now let me quickly say it was a joy to read... a wonderful book... but far from light and funny (although there are some hilarious scenes!). In Monday Morning Faith, Copeland seems to step out a bit and present a look deep inside the heart... a heart satisfied with the Status Quo... a good heart... a heart that loves the Lord, lives a good life, does good things, sits in church every Sunday... but a heart that is satisfied to do just that... sit and not grow.

Johanna Holland is a never-married 40 year old librarian with a nice comfortable life... but all that is about to change. In a matter of weeks she goes from caregiver of her elderly parents to single lady with time on her hand.... and then Sam enters the picture. Sam is everything Johanna is not... at least she thinks he is. He is a widower with a call to missions... active hands-on missions in Papua New Guinea. And somehow he is able to convince Johanna to accompany him on a mission trip to this far away place.

We watch as Johanna attempts to adjust to life in the jungle among natives who speak no English with missionaries who haven't been able to break the language barrier with the natives. There are snakes... mud...monkeys... animals that are considered sacred and so can't be eaten...disease... crime (in a fashion)...heat... bugs... none of the comforts of home... isolation...

So does Johanna survive? Does she decide God is calling her to missions or does she decide He just wants her to stay home? I want give that part away, but I will tell you it is not what most of us would assume is going to happen. Copeland gives things a bit of a twist.

Throughout the book the reader is privy to Johanna's thoughts... to her struggles and questions ... her excitement and heartache... her anger and frustration... her love and compassion... I loved that the most. It was enthralling to me to watch everything play out inside her as I also watched things happening to her and around her.

Like I stated at the beginning, this is not a light and easy fun read. It certainly isn't difficult read, but it is a bit heavier than Copeland's normal fare.. and soo worth it! This is definitely one of the best books I have read this year. Very challenging, thought provoking and insightful.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Meet Me at the Well by Virelle Kidder

The subtitle of this book is "Take a Month and Water Your Soul" and that is just what you do. For 31 chapters you listen as Kidder pours out her heart.... sharing the journey God has taken her on with all its bumps and bruises... and along the way she shows where God was walking with her step by step. She includes scripture for meditation and some wonderful thought provoking questions and ideas for journaling each day. Each days reading can be done in 10 or so minutes if your life is overly full right now. And if you have more time, you can do further meditation and dig into the Word for a deeper time with God.

Meet Me at the Well is a wonderful way to breathe fresh air back into your quiet time and your life! And once read, I believe it is a book you will pick up from time to time for a word of encouragement and hope.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Bluegrass Hero by Allie Pleiter

Bluegrass Hero is book 1 in the Kentucky Corners series from Love Inspired. I have to admit I wasn't sure I would like this book. It is set in Kentucky and involves a horse farm. I am not a horse fan... I think they are beautiful animals... from a distance! Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the heroine of this book feels the same way... Emily Montague is a girl's girl... she loves old-fashioned charm and romance...anything connected to Paris, France... and especially soaps. In fact, she runs her own soap shop called West of Paris. Gil Sorrent's a guys guy... no sweet smelling stuff for him. He works with horses all day at his farm, Homestretch, which provides an opportunity for guys who have taken a wrong turn in life to get back on the straight path. Gil enters Emily's shop for a birthday gift for his niece and ends up with a bag full of trouble. The men at his farm get the idea the free samples Emily sent home have some power to attract women and so it begins.... a tug of war between Emily and Gil with the farmhands in the middle. Of course all of this is heightened by the undeniable attraction between the two. But will their pasts create an insurmountable wall between the two? And will Homestretch Farm survive after a member makes the choice to fall back into a life of crime?

Bluegrass Hero is a very enjoyable read and I am looking forward to reading future books in this series.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Sugar and Grits - DiAnn Mills, Martha Rogers, Janice Thompson, Kathleen Y'Barbo

I was at my local library last week and saw this book on one of the New Fiction shelves. The title intrigued me (I love grits... without sugar), but what really grabbed me was one word in the tag line: "Southern Hospitality Enriches Mississippi Romances"... Mississippi... I am a Mississippi girl... I love my state... the people, the places, the food, the stories... so I knew I had to read this collection.

The stories are set in the fictional town of Calista, MS and revolved around a group of 4 unlikely friends who meet weekly for Bible study. There is Berta who owns Bert's Dirt, a bulldozing service.... Dottie Jean, owner of the Catfish House (reading about her food made my mouth water.. I love Catfish!).. Sassy, a spitfire who owns the local bait shop... and Sue Ellen, the new owner of the local beauty parlor. Each lady finds love in a unique way and often humorous way.

These are 4 light-hearted fun reads... perfect for summer time relaxing... I enjoyed them while sitting in the back yard keeping an eye out for a new puppy exploring his new turf!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Interior Motives by Ginny Aiken

This is book 3 of Aiken's Deadly Decor Mysteries series... and I believe the final book for this series... which saddens me. I have enjoyed these light mysteries and the wonderful characters Aiken created. While the story lines may be a bit light... a kin to Murder She Wrote (which I love), there is a depth to some of the characters that intrigues me. Haley Farrell is not Jessica Fletcher.. she is a young interior designer learning to live light despite her past which includes not only sadness, but personal despair. Her faith is tested over and over in these books and Haley, like all of us, struggles with trusting God.. giving Him control. Dutch Merrill is her nemesis.. or so it seems... a contractor with a sharp wit and keen observation skills. Then there is Bella... oh my Bella and the Balis (her feline babies)... Bella is a hoot... really to kooky to be real and yet I have a feeling I know a Bella or two! She defines the word eccentric and stretches it to whole new heights. Tedd is a wonderful Christian psychologist who has issues of her own and Lila is the karate cop "twin" of Haley (just don't tell them or you will catch their wrath!). Add in a smathering of other fun folks and you have a cast who keeps you entertained with their "doings".

In Interior Motives life is going good for Haley. She is in the midst of renovating Tedd's office... a much needed renovation in her opinion... she is dealing with the issues in her life... she is not having to deal with Lila... life is good. Then she meets Darlene.. a sweet elderly woman who is caring for her husband, an Alzheimer patient, while battling cancer. Darlene's gentle spirit captures Haley's attention as does her fascination with Darlene's home.. a grand old Victorian lady in need of revitalization. Haley agrees to help Darlene bring the old girl back to life, but when she goes for their first consultation plans change. Darlene is dead... the cancer has won... or did it? Why does Haley suspect foul play when no one else does? Why does she call Lila instead of an ambulance? And how is it that every time she goes to redo a house a dead body pops up?

A very fun read... you definitely need to read the book in the series in order as they all build on each other.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Stealing Lumby by Gail Fraser

I love the Lumby series! I forget where I even heard of these books, but I am so glad I did. Stealing Lumby is book 2 and it is just a fun and charming as the first. Much like Jan Karon's Mitford series, one comes to know the town on Lumby and the characters who live there, so reading a Lumby novel is like taking a trip to visit with old friends.

In Stealing Lumby, the famous painting The Barns of Lumby, has been stolen... and so has one of the barns! In learning about the painting, we find that prominent resident Charlotte Ross knows has a personal interest in it and in the painted, Dana Porter. Pam and Mark are busy at Montis Inn, especially once the media descends on Lumby to ask about the painting. In the midst of the media frenzy, Mark continues to add to their collection of animals overwhelming Pam with the reality that she is quickly becoming Mrs. Ole MacDonald! And to top it all off the Monks are caught up in a hostile takeover of their Rum Sauce Company. Hank the flamingo continues to make his presence know and The Lumby Lines continues to supply their readers with all the latest news including information on the upcoming Midnight Moo Doo Iditarod.. an annual Lumby event you don't want to miss!

This is one of the most charming series out there and one, I think, that is a bit of a hidden gem. I am looking forward to the next installment of the news from Lumby and all the rest to follow.

The New Year's Quilt by Jennifer Ciaverini

Another book in the wonderful Elms Creek Quilts series. The New Quilt Year's is a short novel but with a wonderful storyline that weaves the past and present together to create a hope-filled future. Sylvia and Andrew are off on their honeymoon after an impromptu Christmas Eve wedding. After spending a few days in a friend's bed and breakfast, they head to Andrew's daughter's home for New Years. The daughter who doesn't know her dad has remarried and wasn't happy when the idea was mentioned earlier in the year. Needless to say Andrew and Sylvia are nervous... and when Sylvia is nervous she does what calms her most.... she quilts. Throughout the story we find her working to finish a long forgotten project... a quilt based on the New Year's Eve celebrations Sylvia's family held when she was a child. Each block invokes a memory from days gone by which are all artfully told here. Once at Amy's house, Sylvia hopes the quilt will be a sign of a new beginning with a new family and new traditions and adventures to come.
A sweet story about letting go of the past and reaching out for the future.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Million Dollar Mysteries series by Minda Starns Clark

I have heard about this series for a while now. My library, which has a large and wonderful selection if Christian Fiction did not have this one and the budget doesn't allow for purchasing many brand new books these days, so I put these on my wishlist at PaperBack Swap (there is a link to them on the side of my blog). I love PBS! It is a wonderful way to pass on books I have read and, even better, to find more to read! Over the last year or so I received all 5 books in this series and once they were all here I dove in!

I have read Clark's work before in her wonderful and funny Smart Chick Mysteries series, so I knew she was a terrific writer and expected to like these books. But that was not so... I did not like them, I loved them!

The Million Dollar Series is much, much different from Smart Chicks. Where Smart Chicks tended to be funny and clever mysteries with a quirky main character, Million Dollar is much more serious and dramatic. NOT overwhelmingly so... certainly not in a boring way... these are true mysteries with intrigue and twists and turns.. but the best part are the characters, especially the ones that flow from book to book... and the wonderful secondary storyline that is woven throughout this series.

I would recommend these books to any mystery lover... and even to those who aren't fans of mysteries.

Callie Webber is the protagonist in this series... a smart, intelligent woman who is stronger than she realizes. Callie's job is to investigate charitable organizations to see if they are legit and if they are doing what they say they are doing... and if everything works out she has the blessing of presenting them with a grant from her employer, the J.O.S.H.U.A. Foundation. Callie's boss is Tom.... she has never seen him and doesn't even know his last name! That is part of the condition of her job and Callie is willing to accept it. Her life has been tragically altered and she is rebuilding a new normal for herself and helping others is a large part of that.

To say more would give so much away.... just know that while Callie's job plays a big roll in each book, she often finds herself investigating more than finances... murder comes into play a time or two... as does national security and cyber crimes. The settings change from book to book taking the reader along on wonderful adventures from Appalachia to New Orleans and even into the British Virgin Islands.

Oh yes, these are Christian Fiction and Callie's faith and struggles with trusting God play a big part in her life and in these books. While they are in no way preachy, Callie's spiritual journey is woven throughout the pages encouraging the reader and reminding us that we all doubt... we all struggle.. and when we fall down or run away, God is right there ready to lift us up.

You most definitely must read them in order:

A Penny for Your Thoughts

Don't Take Any Wooden Nickels

A Dime a Dozen

A Quarter for a Kiss

The Buck Stops Here

Married in Seattle by Debbie Macomber

Yet another fun, light read from Macomber. Her books are like mini-escapes for me when I need a break from the hecticness of life.

Married is Seattle is another 2 story book.

In First Comes Marriage, Jasmine Hartmann finds herself in a most bizarre situation. Her grandfather has found her a husband.... without her knowledge. According to him, Zach Thomas is her perfect match and when the 2 protests that they do not know each other, must less love each other, Grandfather explains that love will come after marriage. Does Grandfather really know best?

Meg's a single mom with a teenage daughter who thinks it is time for a man around the house. So in Wanted: Perfect Partner, Lindsey places a personal ad for her mom. That alone is bad enough, but then Steve Conlan answers the ad and much to Meg's surprise he is perfect or is he?

Looking for a bit of a mental get away? Grab Married in Seattle and enjoy!

Monday, February 16, 2009

One Perfect Day by Lauraine Snelling

I saw this novel sitting on the shelf while at my local library. I was not familiar with the title, but Snelling is one of my favorite authors so I felt it would be a good read. I was wrong... it was a great read! In fact, I read it in one sitting!

The storyline is different than typical Christian Fiction and Snelling presents it in a very creative and moving way.

Nora Peterson is a wife and the mother of twin teenagers. She is striving for perfection this year... the perfect Christmas... as she comes to term with the reality that her children will be flying the nest soon. But tragedy strikes and Nora's world becomes anything but perfect.

Jenna Montgomery is use to tragedy. As an ER nurse she sees it every day and as the mother of a teenage girl in desperate need of a heart transplant she senses it lying in wait to pounce on her at a moments notice. So when the call comes that a heart is available and the wheels start to move at the speed of light, Jenna is overwhelmed with emotions... joy for her dd... pain for the family of the donor... fear for what lies ahead.

How will these two families find their way after a life event turns their lives upside down? God and faith are the key.

Rebecca's Reward by Lauraine Snelling

This is book 4 of the Daughters of Blessing series. I cannot recommend Snelling's books enough and especially the series (there are 3) set around the community of Blessing. The first series is Red River of the North, next come Return to Red River and finally Daughters of Blessing. While it is not necessary to read each series, I strongly suggest you do. They are just wonderful books!

Rebecca's Reward find Rebecca Baird feeling out of sorts. She wishes her mother were still alive to comfort her and give her advice.... or even her dear friend, Penny, who has moved away from Blessing with her husband and children. Rebecca is stuck without a husband... without a purpose... with 2 stubborn brothers who still think of her as a child.

Dreaming of opening a soda shoppe one day, Rebecca heads off to visit Penny and see a real soda shoppe in person. While visiting, she catches the eye of two young gentlemen.... but to Rebecca's surprise her mind always turns back to a friend in Blessing.

Upon her return home, Rebecca is appalled finds her brothers have arranged her marriage to the local store owner... a loathsome man. She puts her foot down and finds herself more alone than ever... or is she?

Decorating Schemes by Ginny Aiken

Decorating Schemes is Book 2 in the Deadly Decor Mysteries series by Ginny Aiken. This book, like the first, is a fun, light mystery that provided a nice escape in the midst of a tough week.

Haley Farrell is determined to move forward... to grasp her new life as the owner of an antiques auction house while building her career as an Interior Decorator. She is thrilled when a friend recommends her for a large job, but not so thrilled when she discovers a dead body while on the initial walk through. Is this Deja-Vu or has she done it again.... found herself right smack in the middle of a homicide? And who would want to kill a young teenage girl? The reality of the situation almost becomes too much for Haley to bear.

Excellent read! I am looking forward to book #3... Interior Motives.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Circle of Quilters by Jennife Chiaverini

This is book 9 in the Elms Creek Quilters series (I think there are 12 or 13 so far... I am behind!) This is such a great series and while it is especially fun if you are a quilter or know something about quilting, it is not written in such a way that a non-quilter couldn't enjoy it.

With the impending departure of 2 of their beloved teachers, Elms Creek Quilts has advertised for new teachers to fill the vacancies. And so the interviews begin. I love how Chiaverini set this book up... each section focuses on one candidate at a time starting with their discovering the job opening and going through the interview process. Quite often their path overlaps with another candidate, so the reader may see the same scene more than once but from a different perspective.

This method keeps the story line moving well, but more than that it develops the characters so deeply in the readers mind. And yes, you do learn at the end who is hired and who is not.... which just whets my appetite for the next book to see how the new person fits in with the rest of the group.

Milk Money by Cecelia Dowdy

This is the 2nd book I have read by Dowdy and once again she has produced a story that entertains and challenges her reader. Emily Cooper is working day and night to keep her family's farm going after her father's death, so she is less than thrilled when Franklin Reese shows up and announces he is a CPA there to audit the business.

Over time Franklin finds himself drawn to Emily, but what he discovers as he audits the farm concerns him.... and his lack of faith and addiction to alcohol add to the turmoil.

Once again, Dowdy has tackled a subject not often seen in romance novels.... especially Christian romance. Often writers try to deal with only neat and tidy lives that are a bit off track. But here Dowdy has taken a dive straight into the issue of addiction. I also love that she doesn't sugar coat it the struggle to be free or even to remain free from its hold.

Excellent work as always!

Heart of Texas Vol. 3 by Debbie Macomber

It is no secret that I am a fan of Macomber and her Heart of Texas books have been some of my favorites. There are 3 volumes in this re-released series with 2 stories per volume. I strongly recommend reading them in order as they build on one another.

Volume 3 includes Nell's Cowboy and Lone Star Baby.

Nell's Cowboy features Nell Bishop, widow, who lives with her 2 children and her mother-in-law. Nell's husband ran their farm, but it is too much for Nell, so she has decided to create a Dude Ranch. A month or so away from opening, Nell gets her first customer. Travis Grant is in Texas doing research for a book when he finds himself with no where to stay for the night. Nell takes him in and he quickly finds himself falling in love with the area, the ranch, the children and with Nell. But is she ready to love again... and how would it work. Travis is a writer from New York... Nell has no desire to leave Texas... is a long distance romance doable? or could Travis have something else in mind?

Lone Star Baby finds Amy Thornton on a bus looking for a fresh start. Six months pregnant and alone, Amy is determined to make a new life for herself and her child. As the bus is passing through Promise, Texas, Amy is compelled to get off... something about the town seems to beckon to her. And so she finds herself taking a huge leap of faith as she seeks out a place to stay and a job. Both are found quickly and Amy finds herself embraced by the people of Promise... most of them anyway, all towns have their judgmental busybodies. And the fact that Amy has caught the attention of Pastor Wade McMillen makes matters a worse. Wade knows he is to reach out to Amy as a man of God, but what about the feelings he has as a man?

Somebody's Santa by Annie Jones

This was the last of the Christmas books I read over the holidays and what a fun book! I really enjoy Annie Jones' books... her writing style, her story lines and her characters are great.

Burke Burdett has a daunting task left to him by his recently deceased mother. It seems she has been playing "secret Santa" in their community for years and no one, not even her family, knows about it. She has bequeathed this role to Burke. And this "secret Santa" is not the normal type who makes up baskets for the needy. No, she took on a much larger challenge by picking individuals with talents and gifts and no means to develop them. There's a doctor whose medical school tuition was paid her, business owners, artists.... over the years she has provided the means for dreams to come true and lives to be changed... anonymously.

The problem? Burke has no idea where to start.... how to do this... and so he reaches out to the person who least expects to be dealing with the Burkett family ever again.. work-a-holic Dora Hoag. Dora is an organizing wizard with a great mind for problem solving. What Burke doesn't realize is she is also a woman... a woman whose heart is lost to him... so despite her best judgment she says yes... if only for a chance to be near the one she loves.