Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Simplify Your Holidays

Title: SIMPLIFY YOUR HOLIDAYS: Holiday Tips for Busy People to Turn Holiday Stress into Organizational Success!
Author: Marcia Ramsland, Organizing Pro
2008
Audio CD

Christmas—the most stressful time of the year. Sometimes it seems like it is virtually impossible to keep up with all the demands of this holiday.

SIMPLIFY YOUR HOLIDAYS is an engaging hour-long interview that will give you the organizational tips you need to enjoy the holidays this year. You will learn:

. The eight-week date (the same every year!) that will simplify your holidays
. Gift ideas for the hard to please
. A gift wrap center with seven key items
. Trigger dates to start shopping and wrap early
. Decorating tips and how to get motivated

Ms. Ramsland is promoting her new book My Christmas Holiday Notebook with this audio CD, and in addition to the valuable tips you’ll learn by listening, if you buy My Christmas Holiday Notebook you will get a large binder with places to hold your gift lists, holiday charts, the Thanksgiving menu including menu and shopping lists, and holiday inspiration all in one place. My Christmas Holiday Notebook is available at Marcia Ramsland’s website www.OrganizingPro.com. Ms. Ramsland believes that anyone can become more organized. Also visit her website for free Ezine tips. I feel that this book would be invaluable for anyone. Even the audio CD SIMPLIFY YOUR HOLIDAYS was enlightening.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Big Picture

Title: THE BIG PICTURE
Author: Jenny B. Jones
Publisher: NavPress
2008
ISBN: 978-1-60006-208-7
Genre: Inspirational/young adult

Katie Parker thought life was finally starting to even out. She is dating the cutest boy in her school, her foster mom is responding to cancer treatments, her foster grandparent is getting married… but then it all comes to a crashing halt.

Katie’s boyfriend is spending more time with an old-flame than he is with Katie. Her mother is released from prison and fighting to get custody of her daughter – and looks like she is succeeding. And the teen hangout in In Between is in danger of being shut down by a major who only sees dollar signs.

As Katie’s life takes a serious nose-dive, Katie must rely on her faith to keep it all together. Yet God seems to be taking a long vacation. Can Katie trust God to see her through—and will the big picture include a happily-ever-after?

THE BIG PICTURE is the third book in the Katie Parker Production series. I had the privilege of reading book one in the series, but not book two. I was hoping to read the books in order, but I never did get my hands on the second book in the series. However, this is a book that easily stands alone. I didn’t feel lost at all when I picked up the book and started to read.

I enjoyed the opportunity to get to know Katie and go through her ups-and-downs with her—and even learned a thing or two in the process. I have learned some devastating news right before starting this book, and like Katie, I have to learn to trust God to see me through. It was good that God took the time to remind me, through fiction, that He is the one in charge of THE BIG PICTURE. Don’t miss this book. $12.99. 375 pages.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Searching For Spice

Title: SEARCHING FOR SPICE
Author: Megan DiMaria
Publisher: Tyndale Fiction
March 2008
ISBN: 978-1-4143-1887-5
Genre: Inpirational/women’s fiction

Linda Revere has been married to Jerry for twenty-five years and their marriage has driven into a rut. Their two kids are teenagers, and Jerry is a college biology teacher, Linda makes a living as a sales person for a photographer. Linda feels there has to be more to life—more to marriage—than what she’s got.

So, Linda decides to jump-start her marriage with romance. But why isn’t it going with the script? A romantic dinner for two turns into an unromantic dinner for three. A love note from Jerry turns out to be a reminder for him not to forget to take stuff to work. What will it take for a twenty-five year old marriage to find new life?

SEARCHING FOR SPICE is a phenomenal debut novel. Linda is a realistic heroine, and Jerry a totally male hero, and both of them together make this story sing. The two teenagers and host of friends and co-workers turn this into a winner. Ms. DiMaria’s voice is definitely fresh, filled with humor and real life.

The faith message of the novel isn’t strong, and the story could conceivably be sent in any city or town large enough for a community college and a photographer. But the story is definitely character-driven, and held my interest. Any married woman who’d like to spice up their marriage would enjoy this book. It might give them some ideas. $12.99. 363 pages.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Linka's Diary

Title: LINKA’S DIARY
Edited by Marvin G. Slind
Sketch Editor Gracia Grindahl
February 2008
ISBN: 1-932688-28-5
Genre: Journal

Caroline Dorothea Margrethe Keyser (Linka) was born in Norway in 1829. Married to Hermann Preus in 1851, Hermann and Linka emigrated to America and settled in Wisconsin where she quickly became an important member of the Norwegian society. Hermann served as pastor in a newly emerging Norwegian Synod.

LINKA’S DIARY is a journal of Linka’s life which is divided up into four sections. The first section is the observations of an adolescent, merely comments on events going on around her. (Some are funny.) In the second section, you can see a major maturing in Linka’s entries as she comments about her engagement, marriage, and emigration to America.

The third section is rather sporadic as she gets busy with her family and it is supplemented with letters she receives from other pastors’ wives she knew as friends. The fourth section is mainly sketches (quite well done!) of events that happened around her.

If you are interested in history from 1854 to 1874, this is definitely the book to read. It will give one woman’s opinion of the world around her, and is quite interesting reading. It also has several photographs in there or Linka, her family, and friends. The book also includes a foreword, introduction, and a historical context, as well as endnotes. Invaluable information for historians and homeschoolers, as well as anyone who might find Linka or Hermann in the branches of their family tree. $30.00. 387 pages.

Friday, September 26, 2008

A Sister's Test

Title: A SISTER’S TEST
Author: Wanda E. Brunstetter
Publisher: Barbour Books
January 2008
ISBN: 978-1-59789-272-8
Genre: Inspirational/romance

Ruth Hostettler is planning on marrying Martin Gingerich, and her one desire is to fill their house with children. But while she waits for her dreams to come true, she has plenty to occupy her time. Her sister, Grace, is having a baby soon, and another Amish family has lost their mother.

Someone is also continuing their attacks on the Hostettler family. A stink bomb is thrown threw a barn window, the house and a buggy are toilet papered, a garden is destroyed and threatening notes left on the barn, and clothes drying on the line are shredded. But the worst attack of all leaves Ruth reeling. Her faith put to the test, Ruth finds herself spiritually adrift. Will Ruth find the courage to keep living?

A SISTER’S TEST is the second book in the Sisters of Holmes County series. Readers will want to read the first book A Sisters Secret first so they will know what is going on in the second book, though I think enough backstory is covered so most readers won’t be confused.

The book covers the life of each of the sisters and the parents, so we know what happens with Grace since her marriage, and Martha, and the others. The main character in this book was Ruth though. I enjoyed getting to know her better, and the rest of the family, and sympathized with them with each and every attack on the family. Don’t miss A SISTERS TEST. $14.95. 287 pages.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Shack

Title: THE SHACK
Author: William P. Young
Publisher: Windblown Media
2008
ISBN: 978-0-9647292-4-7
Genre: contemporary

Mackenzie Allen Philip’s six-year-old daughter was abducted during a family vacation and evidence shows that Missy had been brutally murdered. Her blood stained dress is recovered miles from their camping site in an old abandoned shack.

Four years later, Mack’s oldest daughter is going through psychological troubles, and Mack receives a suspicious note from God inviting him back to the shack where Missy was murdered.

Mack isn’t sure whether to go or not, but when his wife decides to take their two remaining children and go visit her sister, he decides it’s the perfect time to head out. What Mack discovers in that old shack will change his life forever.

THE SHACK isn’t really a well-written story. It is told, not shown, which kept me distant from the story. Plus there is an extreme over-use of flowery descriptions that caused me to skim over passages.

The story itself is rather sad. A child abducted, a family in mourning, a situation that is about the worse case possible. I had to keep reading (skimming) to find out what happens. Theologically, the book is trash, promoting several (many) untruths. But it does leave a feel good message that does touch the reader’s heart, about a God that will meet you in your darkest place to bring healing. $24.99 hardcover. 264 pages.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Matter of Wife & Death

Title: A MATTER OF WIFE & DEATH
Authors: Ginger Kolbaba & Christy Scannell
Publisher: Howard Fiction
2008
ISBN: 978-1-4165-4388-6
Genre: Inspirational/women’s fiction

Mimi is completely overwhelmed. Her four children are driving her insane, and with a new baby, she is getting no sleep. In a desperate measure, Mimi takes the baby on a drive, and—blessings, the baby falls asleep! Unfortunately, when Mimi stops at a red light, she falls asleep, and ends up with a ticket for obstructing traffic.

Only meeting with her three other friends, all pastors wives, keep Mimi sane. But even her friends have their share of problems. Jennifer has been trying to conceive for ages, and has been taking fertility treatments, and driving her friends crazy with updates. Lisa’s teen daughter’s attitude stinks. And Felicia’s four-year-old keeps getting kicked out of daycare for biting other kids.

Why is life so messy—usually when others expect you to be perfect?

A MATTER OF WIFE & DEATH is the second book in the Secrets from Lulu’s Café series. I read both books in the series, and even though it has been quite awhile since I read book one in the series, I had absolutely no problem picking up A MATTER OF WIFE & DEATH and understanding what is going on in the story line.

I did have a bit of trouble keeping the characters and their situations separated at first, but as the story progressed it became a little easier to glance at the chapter, see who the main character is in that chapter, and remember which set of circumstances that individual is suffering through. Readers will enjoy A MATTER OF WIFE & DEATH, and maybe help them to understand that even pastor’s have imperfect lives. As a pastor’s wife, I can understand many of the challenges these women are facing. $12.99. 340 pages.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Family Squeeze

Title: FAMILY SQUEEZE
Author: Phil Callaway
Publisher: Multnomah
March 2008
ISBN: 978-1-59052-916-4
Genre: Family life

You’ve been warned about middle-age spread. But no one told you about the squeeze.

Your parents are getting older, and you suddenly are finding yourself responsible for things that they’ve never taught you in college. Such as, what do you do when your mother thinks that your son’s IPod is her hearing aid?

But not only are you caring for aging parents, but your own children are teenagers. See you later, can I borrow the car keys?

With humor and hilarity, Phil Callaway offers hope to those who are in this sandwiched generation. There is a light at the end of the tunnel (and it isn’t just another train.)

I enjoyed reading FAMILY SQUEEZE and wish this book would have been out a few years earlier when I was suffering from the FAMILY SQUEEZE. But at least it provided plenty of laughs and lots of memories as I read it. I even shared some parts with my family.

If you are caring for older parents and have teenagers – or see this scenario coming in a few short years, then you might consider buying a copy of FAMILY SQUEEZE. It is definitely a book that will help you get through those difficult years with hope and hilarity. Don’t miss this lighthearted book about the challenges of the middle years. $13.99. 187 pages.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Washington's Lady

Title: WASHINGTON’S LADY
Author: Nancy Moser
Publisher: Bethany House Books
June 2008
ISBN: 978-0-7642-0500-2
Genre: Inspirational/historical

Martha Curtis has known too much loss. Her father-in-law, her father, her husband, and two of her children all die in less than eight years. Martha vows never to love again, but before too long, she finds herself enamored with a war hero, George Washington. Still, Martha worries whether George can settle down to a simple life of farming and being a father to her children.

Martha’s own mother seems to be against the union. She raised Martha to be a wealthy plantation wife, not a soldier’s wife. She warns Martha not to take this step, but Martha insists she loves George and is going to marry him anyway.

But marrying George isn’t the marital bliss that Martha dreamed of. Instead, she has to risk everything dear to her. Can she find the courage to get behind a dream much larger than her own?

WASHINGTON’S LADY is the third book in this series, preceded by Mozart’s Sister, and Just Jane. I enjoyed reading each of the three books based on real life events about these ladies, and Ms. Moser even details at the back of each book which parts are real and which parts are fictionalized, and why she came up with the idea the fictionalized account might have happened.

I enjoyed getting to know America’s original first lady. One has to admire her for her courage, even when life batters her down. It makes me glad for the contemporary time that I live in, and that we need not worry so much about people dying from simple illnesses. WASHINGTON’S LADY is a book excellent for history buffs, homeschoolers, and even readers of historical romances. Don’t miss WASHINGTON’S LADY. Discussion questions are included at the end of the book. $13.99. 352 pages.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Next Level

Title: THE NEXT LEVEL
Author: David Gregory
Publisher: WaterBrook Press
February 2008
ISBN: 978-1-4000-7243-9
Genre: Christian Living

Logan is desperate to get a job to please his father. So, business degree in hand he enters the Universal Systems building and is hired on the spot as a trouble-shooter. His job is to evaluate the company’s five divisions.

THE NEXT LEVEL was surprising to me, as when I read the blurbs, it sounded like just another non-fiction book about how to reach the next level in your Christian walk. However, while THE NEXT LEVEL is that, it is written as a fiction novel, with a realistic main character, and we go through each level with him, learning as we go. And by the time we reach the fifth floor, it is a total “wow” experience.

No matter where you are in your walk with Christ, you will definitely benefit from reading THE NEXT LEVEL. This book will help you know:

Ø What is your ultimate purpose
Ø How you know when you are achieving that purpose
Ø How our culture sidetracks us from the true meaning in life
Ø What would life look like if you were living out your true purpose

THE NEXT LEVEL is a book that all Christians need to read. It will definitely give you something to consider, and possibly could change your life…If you decide to take it to THE NEXT LEVEL. $12.99 hard cover. 119 pages.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Journey to the Homeland

Title: JOURNEY TO THE HOMELAND
Author: Hannah Stahlhut
Publisher: Baker Trittin Press
March 2008
ISBN: 978-0-981-4893-0-8
Genre: Inspirational/youth

Keegan is orphaned when he is only six-years-old, but a phenomenal boy, he moves from place to place, working as a servant while he seeks a permanent home. However, Keegan has a unique gift—an ability to communicate with animals—and when this ability is discovered, Keegan is usually ran out of town.

When Keegan is eleven, he’s happily settled with a caring family who offers him a home. However, he keeps his ability a secret—especially the existence of his best friend, Adrian, a jaguar.

However, when Keegan tries to save a little girl, his gift is discovered, but they believe that the girl, Nora, is the one with the gift, and the king’s men kidnaps her. Keegan feels horrible about this, but isn’t sure what to do. Keep silent, and let the girl be taken, or try to stop the kidnappers?

JOURNEY TO THE HOMELAND is the first book in the 2007 Championship Series sponsored by Baker Trittin Press to find talented teen authors and artists. The grand prize winner, Hannah Stahlhut’s book is the first in the series to be published.

JOURNEY TO THE HOMELAND is a gripping story, sure to appeal to boys and girls alike. Set in a mythical land, it is still realistic enough that even tweeners that don’t like fantasy will be able to relate to the story. Written for kids ages 8 – 12, this is a book that will appeal to a wide range of reading likes. Don’t miss this talented author’s debut novel. $10.95. 107 pages.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

My Heart Remembers

Title: MY HEART REMEMBERS
Author: Kim Vogel Sawyer
Publisher: Bethany House Books
March 2008
ISBN: 978-0-7642-0262-9
Genre: Inspirational/historical/women’s fiction

Maelle Gallagher woke up in the wee hours of the morning, to a fire. Her father helps her rescue her younger brother and sister, but he and their mother die in the fire. Orphaned, a police officer takes the three children to an orphanage, but he misunderstood Maelle when she told the officer her name, and told the orphanage her name is Michael. So, Maelle is placed in the boy section of the orphanage, dressed in boy clothes, but at least she is with her little brother.

When the three children are placed on the orphan train going west, Maelle requests that they be placed together. The director says they will be, but Molly, the one-old-baby is ripped from Maelle’s arms and given to a wealthy couple. Maelle and Mattie are placed with a photographer, looking for a strong man to help with the photography business, but the photographer gives Mattie away to another family, thinking that Maelle is really a boy, and he calls her Michael.

Maelle vows that someday she’ll find her brother and sister again, but details of their adoption and placement are sketchy at best. Will she even have a hope of seeing them again?

MY HEART REMEMBERS is probably the best book I’ve read by Ms. Sawyer. Loosely based on a true story, the book accurately portrays what the orphans must have felt as they rode the train and were separated from their siblings.

The book starts out in Maelle’s point of view, but as the children grow up, Mattie and Molly’s point of views are added. I wondered if it were even possible for the three siblings to even find each other again, but I hoped that they would. I thoroughly enjoyed reading MY HEART REMEMBERS. Don’t miss this book. $13.99. 352 pages.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Sweet September

Title: SWEET SEPTEMBER
Author: Tricia Goyer
Publisher: Guideposts Books
2008
Genre: Inspirational/women’s fiction

The Slater children are slowly adjusting to life on the Nebraska farm with their grandparents. Sam has no interest in schooling and wants to spend all his time working with his Uncle Pete and his grandfather. Emily is finally beginning to make friends, and Christopher is spending most of his time alone making interesting discoveries.

Charlotte is still struggling with having teenage children to raise and not only is she struggling with Sam over his grades, now she learns that someone has been robbing them. Will they find the culprit? And will the family pull together to find the answers?

SWEET SEPTEMBER is the second book in the Home to Heather Creek series. Readers will not want to miss the first book in the series, Before the Dawn as SWEET SEPTEMBER is a continuation of that story. The third book in the series, Circle of Grace, will be available soon.

I enjoyed learning more about Charlotte, her family and her circle of friends in this well written book. The faith message is expertly woven in, and I enjoyed the way Ms. Goyer took a bit of history and wove it seamlessly into a contemporary novel. Readers will not want to miss SWEET SEPTEMBER or any of the other books in this series. Visit http://www.shopguideposts.com/ for this book and any other books published by Guideposts. 246 pages.

Blog Tour Contest: Since Sweet September is all about family, Tricia wants to meet yours. Leave a comment on the Tricia’s blog tour post (http://triciagoyer.blogspot.com/2008/09/sweet-september-blog-tour.html) sharing who your favorite family member is and why and you’ll be entered into a drawing to win William-Sonoma’s Pumpkin Harvest Loaf Pan & Quick Bread Set.

About Tricia: Tricia Goyer is the author of twelve books including From Dust and Ashes, My Life UnScripted, and the children's book, 10 Minutes to Showtime. She won Historical Novel of the Year in 2005 and 2006 from ACFW, and was honored with the Writer of the Year award from Mt. Hermon Writer's Conference in 2003. Tricia's book Life Interrupted was a finalist for the Gold Medallion in 2005. In addition to her novels, Tricia writes non-fiction books and magazine articles for publications like Today's Christian Woman and Focus on the Family. Tricia is a regular speaker at conventions and conferences, and has been a workshop presenter at the MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) International Conventions. She and her family make their home in the mountains of Montana .

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Sister's Choice

Title: SISTER’S CHOICE
Author: Judith Pella
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
March 2008
ISBN: 978-0-7642-0134-9
Genre: Inspirational/historical

Maggie Newcomb isn’t at all good with normal household things. She can’t sew, she can’t quilt, she’s tolerable in the kitchen. And she prefers dressing in overalls instead of dresses. However, now she’s set her eyes on Colby Stoddard—and his mother is one of Maggie’s worst critics. Deciding the way to the son is through the mother, Maggie starts taking steps to improve herself.

However, Colby is being set up in a match with beautiful, wealthy Tamara Brennan, and she is the object of Evan’s desire. Maggie and Evan team together to try and break off the developing relationship between Tamara and Colby. But this scheme brings unexpected consequences. Will Maggie get what her heart truly desires?

SISTER’S CHOICE is book two in the Patchwork Circle series by Ms. Pella. I read book one, but other than a few references to book one, book two easily stands alone. I enjoyed getting to know Maggie and the other characters and watch as she struggled to master what she believed she needed to know to wed the man of her dreams.

The faith message is expertly woven in and isn’t preachy. The rural setting really could be set in a rural area anywhere, it doesn’t seem to be localized in any particular place. The characters are realistically developed, and even the secondary characters add to the storyline. Don’t miss SISTER’S CHOICE by this extremely talented author. A quilt pattern is included at that back of the book. $13.99. 347 pages.

Monday, September 15, 2008

When Zeffie Got a Clue

Title: WHEN ZEFFIE GOT A CLUE
Author: Peggy Darty
Publisher: WaterBrook Press
March 2008
ISBN: 978-1-4000-7333-7
Genre: Inspirational/cozy mystery

Christy Castleman doesn’t quite know what to think when a young girl named Zeffie, steps into the second hand shop Christy runs. Zeffie tells Christy that she needs to sell a jewelry box to pay for her grandmother’s medical bills, which prompts Christy to offer the girl more than the jewelry box is worth.

But when Christy is looking through the jewelry box, she finds a clue hidden in there to a murder that happened years before to an old family friend. How dangerous could it possibly be to take the jewelry box back to the family farm and ask around about it?

But soon, Christy discovers that the jewelry box harbors a lot of secrets. A jewel theft. A mansion murder. And other dangerous secrets. Will Christy let go of the past before it’s too late?

WHEN ZEFFIE GOT A CLUE is the third book in this cozy mystery series, but it easily stands alone, as I never read the first two books, yet I had no trouble understanding what was going on. Christy was a true heroine, calm, collected, and curious, opening the door for all kinds of discussions with other interesting characters. I did figure out who-dun-it as soon as this character was introduced, so it was no big surprise, but I did enjoy reading along to see how Christy would figure out the truth, and what mishaps she would get herself in.

Set on the coast of Florida, the story has lots of interesting ocean events that helped bring the story to life. The writing didn’t really draw me in, so I felt disconnected the entire book, but the story was good enough to keep me reading. If you like cozy mysteries, this is definitely a book to consider. $13.99. 341 pages.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Falcon and the Sparrow

Title: THE FALCON AND THE SPARROW
Author: M. L. Tyndall
Publisher: Barbour Books
August 2008
ISBN: 978-1-60260-012-6
Genre: Inspirational/historical

Dominique Celene Dawson is a traitor. She has no choice but to be one. Either she betray mother England, or she’ll never see her brother again. Dominique has been offered a rule as governess to the six-year-old son, William, of the Navy Admiral Chase Randal—but her real position is to gather information for Napoleon.

But the Admiral seems determined to dismiss Dominique before she’s even had a chance to prove herself. Her French accent immediately marks her as the enemy—and the Admiral’s sister is insisting upon Dominique’s immediate dismissal. But Chase is finding himself attracted to her, physically, and mentally. Will Dominique’s deception cost her chance at love?

THE FALCON AND THE SPARROW is the most recent book by talented author, M. L. Tyndall. A step away from her recent successes at writing pirate romances, THE FALCON AND THE SPARROW is a regency, set in England during the time of unrest between France and England.

At first I found the characters a bit stiff and even rude, but I think that was the nature of the characters, as most of them seemed to overstep the boundaries of polite civilization. However, as the story went on, the characters loosened up some and I enjoyed reading about them—and the story. Dominique is a quite strong heroine, and Chase a true war hero, expecting nothing less than perfection from his crew—whether aboard ship, or at home. Don’t miss THE FALCON AND THE SPARROW. $10.97. 320 pages.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

A Clearing in the Wild

Title: A CLEARING IN THE WILD
Author Jane Kirkpatrick
Publisher: WaterBrook Press
April 2006
ISBN: 1-57856-734-3
Genre: Inspirational/historical

Emma Wagner is tired of the constraints of the religious colony she lives in. Women are supposed to be quiet and serve in submission and they have no say. A thinker, Emma resents the limitations placed on her. However, any form of dissent is discouraged, so Emma often finds herself irritating the colony’s leader, Wilhelm Keil.

When Emma and her husband Christian arer sent along with eight other families to scout out a new location in the northwest, Christian thinks he has found the perfect location in the Washington territory, but when Keil arrives, he chooses to move the group to Oregon instead.

Emma hopes that Christian will break away from the group, and she tries to encourage him to do so. Will Christian give in to Emma’s pleas, or will she be forced to obey her husband and Keil and move to Oregon?

Based on a true story, the entire Change and Cherish series, starting with A CLEARING IN THE WILD is a fascinating look at history, and at a religious cult that existed in 1850. Ms. Kirkpatrick weaves in a lot of historical facts, and the style of writing is as though Emma herself is telling the story.

A CLEARING IN THE WILD is not really a gripping story, but it is instead a story to be savored, slowly, and not read through in a day. The reader suffers right along with Emma, and at the end of the book, looks forward to the next installment… This book—and series—will stay with the reader for a long time. I read the books out of order, but I highly recommend that they be read in the right order as you will get the biggest impact from the series that way, instead of starting out lost and trying to figure out what has happened in prior books. $13.99. 365 pages.

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Bride Bargain

Title: THE BRIDE BARGAIN
Author: Kelly Eileen Hake
Barbour Books
September 2008
ISBN: 978-1-60260-175-8
Genre: Inspirational/historical


Clara Fields and her aunt Doreen are trying to keep up with the wagon trail headed west to Oregon, but when one of their cantankerous oxen gets lose, they are kicked out of the train. A store-owner in Buttonwood, Nebraska, generously offers Clara and Doreen a place to stay until spring when the next wagon train comes through, and in exchange, he wants them to cook and clean for him. Clara is quick to take him up on the offer.

But the store owner comes up with another plan, marry his son, Saul, and he would give Clara and Doreen his house. After some thought, Clara agrees. She needs a home for Doreen, and how hard would it be to find a wife for a successful, good-looking doctor?

But Saul isn’t cooperative at all. He isn’t interested in any of the local women, and one by one, they are getting taken by the other young men in town. And even worse, the only woman Saul does seem interested in is Clara—and she’s not on the market. How can Clara possibly keep her end of the bargain?

THE BRIDE BARGAIN is book one in the Prairie Promises series by Ms. Hake. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this fun new series and am looking forward to the other books in the series.

There faith message is expertly woven in and isn’t preachy. I loved getting to know Cara, Doreen and Saul, and the cast of secondary characters really filled the story out. The story was laugh out loud funny at times. I loved the different twist to the wagon train story. Don’t miss THE BRIDE BARGAIN. It is a great story with a unique take. $10.97. 288 pages.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Blessings

Title: BLESSINGS
Author: Kim Vogel Sawyer
Publisher: Bethany House
February 2008
ISBN: 978-1-59789-406-7
Genre: Inspirational/romance

Trina Muller has wanted to work with animals for as long as she remembers. She’s tired of waitress job at the local café, and when Dr. Groening offers Trina a job at his veterinarian clinic, Trina sees it as a dream come true. Finally, she’ll be working with animals.

But the job isn’t all Trina imagined it would be. Dr. Groening won’t let Trina work with the animals, she’s only allowed to clean up after them. So, Trina starts sneaking around behind her parents back, studying on a non-Mennonite friend’s computer, trying to earn her GED and then start on-line classes to get her own license in Veterinary Medicine. Trina’s parents and her long time boyfriend, Graham Ortmann disapprove of Trina’s desires to care for animals.

Graham loves Trina, but when her secret comes to light, he is outraged. How can he marry someone who willfully disobeys the dictates of the Mennonite fellowship?

BLESSINGS is the third book in the Summerfeld Trilogy series, but it easily stands alone. I love Ms. Sawyer’s Mennonite series, and read the first two books in this series, but my favorite is easily book three. I identified with Trina and Graham right from the start, and hoped things would work out for them both to achieve their dreams.

If you enjoyed the first two books in this trilogy, you aren’t going to want to miss BLESSINGS. It is a perfect book to read as back-to-school season is still in full swing. It will cater to the time of the year as well as give you something good to read. $14.95. 284 pages.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Before the Dawn

Title: BEFORE THE DAWN
Author: Carolyne Aarsen
Publisher: Guideposts Books
2008
Genre: Inspirational/Women’s fiction

Charlotte Stevenson’s world has been torn apart. Her estranged daughter, Denise, has been killed in a car accident, leaving her three children orphans. According to Denise’s will, she has named Charlotte as care-giver. So Denise flies out to California to bury her daughter and take the three children back to rural Nebraska to Heather Creek Farm to live.

But everything is not automatically a bed of roses. Sixteen year old Sam is upset, fourteen year old Emily misses her friends and wants to return to California, and the youngest, Christopher, just wants to fit in.

As Charlotte and her husband, Bob, struggle to adjust to having teen grandchildren they don’t know, the three kids struggle to adjust to the death of their mom and a new life far from home. What if Charlotte makes the same mistakes as she did the first time?

BEFORE THE DAWN is the first book in the new Guideposts series Home to Heather Creek. It was very well written and the emotions are realistically portrayed. I could feel the hurt of the grandparents and the children, and the confusion they all experienced. I enjoyed getting to know Charlotte and her family and friends as they struggled to settle into a routine, with school, chores, and life.

The faith message is expertly woven in and isn’t preachy. I enjoyed the realistic touches of life on a farm, learning to drive, and struggling against boundaries that are portrayed in this book. Don’t miss BEFORE THE DAWN, an excellent beginning to a new series. 280 pages.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Generation Hex

Title: GENERATION HEX: Understanding the Subtle Dangers of Wicca
Authors: Dillon Burroughs and Marla Alupoaicci
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers
August 2008
ISBN: 978-0-7369-2401-8
Genre: religion

Mom, someone cast a spell on me!

Should you be concerned if this happened to your child? What is with all this talk about witches, wizards, spells, and portions? Is that just fantasy fiction or is it realism?

GENERATION HEX is an expose of Wicca, a well researched book that will help you

Ø understand what Wicca is and why it is the fastest growing religion in America
Ø recognize the difference between Wicca and biblical superstition
Ø be alert to Wicca’s subtle dangers
Ø learn how to communicate the truth to those caught up in Wicca’s deception

Filled with well researched details about what Wicca is, what they believe, what they are, and are not, etc., the book also addresses how fast Wicca is growing and among what crowds, and even tackles the subject of Harry Potter and whether that is as innocent as we are lead to believe. One of the chapters is written by a former witch, who is now a Christian, and gives even greater insight into what Wicca is all about.

GENERATION HEX is definitely a book that every parent, teacher, pastor and youth worker needs to read. It explores the history, cultures, and practices of Wicca. Wicca is penetrating our culture, our schools, and even our families, and we need to learn to be a light in our world. $9.99. 173 pages.

IMPORTANT LINKS:
Marla’s Website and blog: http://marriageleap.com
Dillon’s Website: http://readdb.com and Blog: http://readdb.blogspot.com/
Generation Hex on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0736924019
Read an excerpt: http://harvesthousepublishers.com/texts/excerpts/9780736924016_exc.pdf

Monday, September 8, 2008

It's Not About Me

Title: IT’S NOT ABOUT ME
Author: Michelle Sutton
Publisher: Sheaf House
September 2008
ISBN: 978-0-979-74851-6
Genre: Inspirational/YA

Annie Myers has it all. She’s beautiful, dating one of the pastor’s sons, and has lots of friends. She’s been accepted at the college of her dreams. Annie cares a lot about what people think about her, and tries not to cause any problems. Her boyfriend, Tony, has asked her to marry him when they both graduate from college (in four years) and even though Annie has reservations, she accepts, because she doesn’t want Tony angry. But Tony is pressuring Annie for sex and she’s having increasing difficulty saying no.

When Annie is brutally stabbed, robbed, and left for dead, Tony refuses to visit her in the hospital because he blames himself. In an effort to be supportive, Tony’s brother, Dan, starts visiting Annie in the hospital. Dan has always loved Annie, but he’s tried to stay in the background, so he wouldn’t hurt Tony.

Now Annie has two brothers fighting over her. And even worse, she loves them both. When her friendships start failing, Annie starts losing it all. Will she find the one who truly loves her—scars and all?

IT’S NOT ABOUT ME is Ms. Sutton’s debut novel and it is powerfully written. There is a warning label on the book (first I’ve ever seen on an inspirational novel) stating that this book has mature content and is recommended for mature teens. I was kind of hesitant about reading this book at first, because I didn’t know what I’d find hidden in the pages that would require a warning. However, the book is tastefully written, and while gritty and sometimes uncomfortable, it handles the issues that, unfortunately, many teens have to face today.

The faith message is extremely strong and even could be considered preachy, but considering the audience Ms. Sutton is hoping to reach, I feel it is appropriate. I enjoyed getting to know Annie, Tony, Dan, and the cast of secondary characters. There is a lot of melodrama, but that is also true to life among teens. This is a book that all teens, males and females, need to read. An excerpt from Ms. Sutton’s second book, coming in 2009, is included at the end of the book, along with a discussion guide. $12.99. 351 pages.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Making of a Gentleman

Title: THE MAKING OF A GENTLEMAN
Author: Ruth Axtell Morren
Publisher: Steeple Hill Books
August 2008
ISBN: 978-0-373-78621-3
Genre: Inspirational/historical

Innocent of a crime, Jonah Quinn nevertheless was scheduled to hang from the hangman’s noose. Just moments before he hangs, he escapes, and takes prison volunteer Florence Hathaway hostage, to ensure his freedom. He lets her go as soon as he’s sure he’s safe.

God seems to have other plans. Sick and with nowhere to go, Jonah finds him looking up Florence and asking for help. Florence and her brother take Jonah in, and come up with a plan to win Jonah a royal pardon. If their plan works. After all, clothing doesn’t change a man’s heart.

THE MAKING OF A GENTLEMAN started out kind of depressing, but once we moved past the hangman’s noose and had Jonah and Florence on the run it improved drastically. I enjoyed getting to know Florence, and Jonah, and the cast of secondary characters made the story complete.

The faith message is quite strong, but fits in with the characters’ voices so it isn’t overly preachy. A fascinating tale, THE MAKING OF A GENTLEMAN is an endearing Regency-era love story. $6.99. 448 pages.

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Renovation

Title: THE RENOVATION
Author: Terri Kraus
Publisher: David Cook
March 2008
ISBN: 978-0-7814-4846-8
Genre: Inspirational/contemporary

Ethan Willis tried to be a good dad. He attended all his teenage son’s ball games, and worked hard at his job restoring old houses to supply their needs. He’s doing the best he can, but sometimes, with Chase’s attitude, the best doesn’t seem to be enough.

When reporter Cameron Dane starts trailing Ethan, trying to get an exclusive on the Victorian mansion he’s restoring, all Chase knows is that she’s trouble. She’s already cut short the annual fishing trip, because Ethan had an important appointment with her. He tries to discourage his dad from seeing her.

Cameron can’t help but be interested in the handsome builder. After all, not all dad’s are as involved in their children’s lives, and the fact that he’s renovating one of the historic mansion’s in town is just icing on the cake. But does she even have a chance of getting closer than arm’s length?

THE RENOVATION is the first book I’ve read by Ms. Kraus. Chock full of detail, the story, at times, seemed to me to get a little bogged down. But at the same time, Ms. Kraus is a master at making the reader envision the setting, from the tilt of the stairs, to the vivid colors of the walls.

I enjoyed getting to know Ethan, Chase, and Cameron, and the secondary characters involved in this story. Not a book to be read quickly, THE RENOVATION is one that you pick up when you have time to savor the words, to dream about the setting, to think about what you’ve read. Discussion questions are included at the end of the book. $13.99. 336 pages.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Black Cloister

Title: THE BLACK CLOISTER
Author: Melanie Dobson
Publisher: Kregel Publications
May 2008
ISBN: 978-0-8254-2443-4
Genre: Inspirational/suspense

Elise Friedman is on a quest to find out what demons in her mother’s past caused her to kill herself. Her adoptive father, Steve, tries to discourage Elise from making the trip, but on the guise of researching a famous woman, Elise makes the trip to Germany to learn the truth about her mother, Catrina. She tracks down the US Ambassador, Addison Ward, hoping Addison will tell her about the past. But Addison advises her to stay out of it.

When Elise meets a cocky young man, Carson, who claims to be backpacking across Germany, they travel to Heidelburg, where Elise attempts to talk to the natives to see if they remember her mother. She doesn’t understand or speak German, and most of those she talks to don’t speak English. Carson offers to help with translations, but he is actually hired by Addison to keep Elise from discovering the truth. Will even Carson’s well-meaning interference keep Elise from becoming ensnared in the same evil that once held her mother captive?

Oh wow. Based loosely on a real story, THE BLACK CLOISTER explores the confusion of children born into cults and often abused. I was hooked from the moment I opened this book, and I couldn’t put it down, reading straight through. Often scary at times, the story is extremely well-crafted and thought provoking.

Although a bit preachy at times, it is all in relation to the setting, and true to the nature of the characters. I enjoyed getting to know Elise, Carson, and all the other characters in this spell-binding novel. Don’t miss THE BLACK CLOISTER. It is a story that will stay with you for a long time to come. Discussion questions are included at the end of the book. 288 pages. $13.99.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

White Soul

Title: WHITE SOUL
Author: Brandt Dodson
Publisher: Harvest House
February 2008
ISBN: 978-0-7369-2141-1
Genre: Inspirational/suspense

Ron Ortega is an undercover agent. His pregnant wife wants him to come home, to give up the assignment so he can be with her when the baby is born. His superiors—and his own ambition—want him in Miami.

Ron’s assignment is to bring down this one man. But as Ron begins to get close to his target, he learns that he is part of Miami’s most vicious gangs. Faced with a critical decision—get his man and get out, or go after the higher ups in the gang and bring it down, Ron discovers that there is no clear choice.

Danger prowls the streets, but Ron is determined to bring it down, to let the good guys win this war. As Ron begins to infiltrate the gang, Ron’s life is in danger. As his faith is tested, Ron must choose whether to succumb to the challenges and temptations—or live the life he’s proclaimed. If he lives at all.

WHITE SOUL—not just another FBI story. While the story is active, filled with enough action to keep a die-hard adventure fan happy, but the story is also character driven. Ron is a hero that I could relate with, and I enjoyed getting to know him, and the secondary characters on the pages of this book.

At times, the story is told more than shown, and there is quite a bit of backstory included, both of which encourages skimming, but over all, WHITE SOUL is well written and held my attention. I couldn’t resist cheering for Ron, and hoping that he will not only get his man, but solve the case as well. $13.99. 272 pages.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Every Good and Perfect Gift

Title: EVERY GOOD AND PERFECT GIFT
Author: Sharon K. Souza
Publisher: NavPress
2008
ISBN: 978-1-60006-175-2
Genre: Inspirational/women’s fiction

Gabby Whitaker has been friends with DeeDee McAllister since they were eleven years old and almost ran into each other on their bikes. DeeDee has the stronger personality, and Gabby was swept along in her wake. Twenty years later, Gabby and DeeDee are still best friends, married to men who are best friends, but DeeDee is about to turn life on a tailspin.

When DeeDee decides she wants a baby, everyone is shocked. After all, she’s always said she never wants children. And now, she’s forty years old. Conceiving is a chore, that doesn’t work according to DeeDee’s time schedule, and Gabby must find the strength to walk with DeeDee down a road she never wanted to go. Especially when Dee starts developing some strange symptoms and blaming them on hormones.

EVERY GOOD AND PERFECT GIFT is about friendship. Every woman needs a friend like Gabby. She was always there for DeeDee, in good times and bad, in sickness and health, and even supported DeeDee’s harebrained schemes. As Gabby is a pastor’s daughter, the faith message is strong, but not preachy. It is absolutely amazing to believe that EVERY GOOD AND PERFECT GIFT is a debut novel. It is strong, powerfully written, gripping from page one, and a story that will stay with you for a long time.

EVERY GOOD AND PERFECT GIFT is an absolutely wonderful book. Filled with strong characters, and a powerful message, this is not a book to pick up, glance at, and put back on the shelf. This book begs to be read, shared, and pondered over. Definitely one of the best books I’ve read in 2008. Don’t miss it. Discussion questions are included at the end of the book. $12.99. 367 pages.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Suspicious Minds

Title: SUSPICIOUS MINDS
Author: Christy Barritt
Publisher: Kregel Publications
June 2008
ISBN: 978-0-8254-2540-0
Genre: Inspirational/suspense

Gabby St. Claire is desperate for work. Crime is down, and so Gabby has started accepting work in mold removal. She starts to rethink her decision when she’s hired to remove the mold from the crawl space of an older home that the owner wants to put on the market. The crawl space is filled with mold, snakes—and Elvis, dead as a doornail and still wearing his blue suede shoes.

When Elvis’ widow begs Gabby to find the killer, Gabby has an excuse to get involved. But she’s no longer the only crime scene cleaner in town, and her rival, Chad Davis, is infringing on Gabby’s territory. As she gets closer to the killer, someone starts trailing Gabby. Will she survive long enough to identify the murderer?

SUSPICIOUS MINDS is the second book in the Squeaky Clean Mystery Series, but it easily stands alone. I enjoyed reconnecting with Gabby, but I had a little trouble remembering and reconnecting with some of the secondary characters. Still, Gabby’s quirky set of friends added to the story instead of detracting from it.

SUSPICIOUS MINDS is a fun read. The faith message is expertly woven in and isn’t preachy. I felt SUSPICIOUS MINDS didn’t start out as well as Hazardous Duty did, but by the time I read a couple chapters I was hooked and had to keep reading to see what happened next. There were a few laugh out loud moments in the book that I had to share with anybody within hearing. I hope there will be another book in this series coming but I was unable to find anything mentioned on the author’s website. Don’t miss SUSPICIOUS MINDS. $12.99. 233 pages.

The Source of Confidence by Heidi Dru Kortman

Text: Philippians 3:3ff. “For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who...