Sunday, January 30, 2011

Stars Collide by Janice Thompson

A Backstage Pass

Kat Jennings and Scott Murphy don't just play two people who are secretly in love on a television sitcom--they are also head over heels for each other in real life. When the lines between reality and TV land blur, they hope they can keep their relationship under wraps. But when Kat's grandmother, an aging Hollywood starlet with a penchant for wearing elaborate evening gowns from Golden Age movies, mistakes their on-screen wedding proposal for the real deal, things begin to spiral out of their control. Will their secret be front-page news in the tabloids tomorrow? And can their budding romance survive the onslaught of paparazzi, wedding preparations, and misinformed in-laws?

From the sound stage to a Beverly Hills mansion to the gleaming Pacific Ocean, Stars Collide takes readers on a roller-coaster tour of Tinseltown, packing both comedic punch and tender emotion.

My Review:
The plotline of this story is an interesting one. A rising television star lives in a Hollywood mansion with her grandmother, an aging actress with Alzheimer's onset. Characters are rather one-sided, without flaws. For instance, Kat, Scott, and Rex seem to have an unending supply of patience when dealing with Lenora's antics. Lenora lives more in the past than the present; however, at the book's end, she seems completely aware of everything going on, which causes some confusion.

A cute bit used throughout the novel had one character stating a line from a film and another responding by giving the actor, film title, and date.

The end drags a bit. It seems to read more as a comic book. If you have the ability to suspend your disbelief, this would be one to read.

Thank you to Donna Hausler for my copy.
Available January 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

If you would like to read an excerpt, click here.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Rhythm of Secrets by Patti Lacy

Sheila Franklin has lived three separate lives. Now a conservative pastor's wife in Chicago, she is skilled at hiding secrets--a talent birthed during childhood romps through the music-filled streets of New Orleans. But when the son she bore at the age of eighteen comes back looking for answers and desperate for help, her greatest secret--and greatest regret--is revealed.

Eager to right past wrongs, Sheila's heart floods with memories of lyrical jazz music and a worn-out Bible. But when her husband learns of her shady history, Sheila is suddenly faced with an impossible decision: embrace the dream--and son--she abandoned against her will or give in to the demands of her safe but stifled life. As she struggles to reclaim both her son and her identity, Sheila soon realizes that God's grace spans both seas and secrets and that He is all she really needs.

With dynamic writing that makes the reader feel the heartache of a teenage mother, struggle with the disillusionment of an abandoned boy, and revel in the idea of grace despite flaws, rising star Patti Lacy takes her fans on a journey they won't want to end--and won't soon forget.

My Review:
Sheba becomes Sheila becomes Sylvia. So many changes! Furthermore, written using a frame device, settings move between today and yesterday as Sheila/Sheba/Sylvia relates her story. This could be a bit confusing for some, but I liked the technique. The reader must focus; this is not a book to read through quickly.

When the unwed protagonist finds herself pregnant, her thoughts and actions are accurately painted by the author. What choices were there in the 60s? Has society really changed? Position in society as well as racism play a part in this story, adding to the complexity of the plot.

Thank you to Bonnie at Christian Fiction Blog Alliance and Kregel Publications for my copy.

If you would like to read an excerpt, click here.

If you would like to buy a copy, click here.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Fatal Judgment by Irene Hannon

U.S. Marshal Jake Taylor has seen plenty of action during his years in law enforcement. But he'd rather go back to Iraq than face his next assignment: protection detail for federal judge Liz Michaels. His feelings toward Liz haven't warmed in the five years since she lost her husband--and Jake's best friend--to possible suicide. How can Jake be expected to care for the coldhearted workaholic who drove his friend to despair?

As the danger mounts and Jake gets to know Liz better, his feelings slowly start to change. When it becomes clear that an unknown enemy may want her dead, the stakes are raised. Because now both her life--and his heart--are in mortal danger.

Full of the suspense and romance Irene Hannon's fans have come to love, Fatal Judgment is a thrilling story that will keep readers turning the pages late into the night.

My Review:
Irene Hannon sure can write a compelling story! Her research impresses me, and her characters are quite believable. From cover to cover, this story demanded my full attention; I could not allow any interruptions.

I have one complaint, however; the author writes in sentence fragments, which throws off this retired English teacher. I guess it's her style, but I prefer complete sentences.

Nevertheless, this is a book worth reading, and I recommend it heartily.

Thank you to Donna Hausler of Baker Publishing Group for my copy. This is one Christian fiction that I think most readers will enjoy.

Available January 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Someone To Blame by C. S. Lakin

In the wake of heartrending family tragedies, Matt and Irene Moore move with their fourteen-year-old daughter, Casey, to a small town. Their goal is to get far away from the daily reminders that leave each of them raw and guilt-ridden. Their hope is to find redemption, repair, and renewal. Instead, the threads that hold them together unravel even more.

Breakers, a small community perched on the rocky coast of the Pacific Northwest, is draped with cold isolation that seems to mirror the hearts. As they settle into their new life, old grief settles with them. Matt is always on edge and easily angered, Irene is sad and pensive, and Casey is confused and defiant. They've once more set the stage for calamity. Into this mix comes Billy Thurber, a young drifter with his own conflicts, whose life unexpectedly entangles with the Moores. His arrival in Breakers parallels a rash of hateful and senseless crimes, and soon the whole town eager for someone to blame goes after Thurber with murderous intent. Out of this dangerous chaos, however, the Moores find unexpected grace and healing in a most unlikely way.

Author C. S. Lakin explores our need to assign reason and fix blame for the pain and grief in our lives. Though the circumstances are fictional, the emotions are real and universal, making Someone to Blame a great and inspiring read.

My Review:
Right off the bat, let me tell you that this is a good read!

No parent should have to bury their child, but the Moores have this burden. They decide to move, hoping that a new location will give them a fresh start. However, their feelings, memories, and guilt go with them. Although this may sound depressing, the book is not. The author reveals a bit of their past here and there.
The tension-laden plot is paced such that the pages almost turn themselves.

The characters are well-rounded--like folks we already know. That Billy Thurber gave me the creeps! Teenage Casey loves Shakespeare, and the author creatively intersperses connections to his literature into Casey's thoughts.

Although the classification is Christian fiction, it's not preachy; therefore, all readers should like this one.

I loved the way the author handles the final four chapters, revealing the previous three months. This settles all unanswered questions.

Don't miss this one!

Thank you to Bonnie at Christian Fiction Blog Alliance and Zondervan Publishing for my copy.

If you would like to read the first chapter, click here.

If you would like to buy a copy, click here.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Serendipity by Cathy Marie Hake

Todd Valmer should have known better. A farmer who's been through several disasters, he travels to Virginia to fetch his widowed mother to cook and help him around his Texas farm . . . or that was the plan until she keels over on the train and they get kicked off.

Maggie Rose barters for a living and also makes soaps, lotions, and perfumes with a special rose recipe passed down from mother to daughter for generations. She hasn't wanted to marry . . . until that handsome Texan shows up. Her heart skips a beat, and when he proposes, a hasty marriage follows. What ensues, however, is a clash of culture and a battle of wills--and it's clear they both mistook instant attraction and infatuation for love.

As their marriage loses its sparkle and fills with disillusionment, Todd and Maggie must determine what is worth fighting for. He dreams of a farm. Maggie wants to fulfill the family tradition with her rose perfumes. Todd's mother, however, has entirely different plans for her son that do not include Maggie. In light of their hasty marriage and mistaken dreams, is there any hope of recapturing their love and building a future together?

My Review:
This light-hearted novel comes with instructions for dealing with a difficult in-law.

The plot involves a sharp-tongued, mother-in-law, who suffers a stroke, and her tough cookie daughter-in-law as they struggle to settle into their new home in Texas. Todd, the son/husband works hard to hang on to his heavily mortgaged land, but like most men, doesn't see his world crumbling. Miscommunication and misunderstandings abound as these three learn to adjust--in a one-room house.

Hake is adapt with dialogue; she peppers the novel with metaphors and similes. Reading Maggie's mountain dialect often caused me to chuckle aloud. For example, when discussing her plan for bartering, Maggie says, "Ma, he's going to be slicker 'n snot on a glass doorknob. But he tried cheating us, and... I'm agoina teach him a lesson" (229).

The end is a bit choppy. Transition is lacking between Chapters twenty and twenty-one, but overall, the book is well worth the time spent reading it.

Thank you to Bonnie at CFBA and Bethany House for my copy.

If you would like to read the first chapter, click here.

If you would like to buy a copy, click here.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Grown-up Girlfriends by Erin Smalley & Carrie Oliver

Finding and Keeping Real Friends in the Real World.

Even when life is hectic and harried, every woman has a God-given longing for relationship, and her female friends play an important role in filling that.

Oliver and Smalley help women distinguish between self-centered, insecure, childish relationships and other-centered, healthy, “grown-up” relationships. Using personal anecdotes and scriptural principles, they explain ten characteristics of a grown-up friend and offer ideas on how readers can develop these attributes in themselves.

Finally, they tackle the tough issues of friendships, such as how to support a friend in crisis, how to work toward forgiveness when a friend has injured you, and how to determine when it is best to let a friendship go.

My Review:
Using anecdotes, Bible verses, and word pictures to describe a myriad of complex relationships, these two authors guide women toward a better understanding of how friendships grow. A Focus on the Family book.

I checked this out of my church library. I felt that with my recent move, I could brush-up my friend-gathering skills. Although comprehensive, with plenty of information gleaned from other works about the subject, I felt the material was pretty much what anyone should already know. The reader is encouraged to grow-up by becoming more like Christ.

Each chapter sums up with Reflection Questions.

If you would like to read the first chapter, click here.