Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Paige Torn by Erynn Mangum

Paige Alder #1

The girl who does it all might miss what's most important.

Everyone knows they can count on Paige Alder. But between volunteering at church, putting in overtime at work, and helping her best friend plan an anniversary party, she's lucky to grab a cheese stick for dinner. She can't even remember the last time she had a few minutes to relax or dig into God's Word.

Then she meets laid-back Tyler, an attractive, Jesus-loving guy.

Will he be able to help Paige get her priorities on track?

My Review:
Paige is a likeable, busy, people-pleasing, twenty-two-year-old Christian. Unable to say no, she rushes from helping one person to another. She barely has time to eat on the run. She believes she worships by serving and even neglects her Bible study because of her many commitments.

Some good church people wrestle with the question, "Is service for God the same as spending time with Him?" The author clearly defines the problem and solves the dilemma. I really liked this part.

However, one part that had me groaning aloud with disbelief was when in the space of one and a half hours, Paige takes "a long, hot shower," and takes her "time blow-drying [her] hair and putting on makeup." She then curls her "hair into long, beachy curls" and digs out her sewing machine and sews a skirt, complete with a hem! (248-9) No one could possibly do all of this in such a short period of time.

The BIG disappointment is the abrupt ending. The reader is left hanging and the author taunts them to buy the next novel in the series in order to read the "next chapter in Paige Alder's life." Really! I feel gypped.

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

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

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

Monday, June 24, 2013

Pieces of the Heart by Bonnie S. Calhoun

Quilts of Love series (Book 9)

Cordelia Grace watched Bernard Howard, the love of her young life, go off to fight for our country in WWII. And she has spent the last three years creating the Pine Cone quilt that will grace their marriage bed when he comes home. Each row of triangles signifies a layer in her life, sets of memories, hopes, dreams, and prayers for her future, enough spoken words to cover them forever. Her image of their “happy-ever-after” grows proportionally as the quilt expands.

But is the man that returns from the war, the same man that she remembered? Are the dark shades of color that she had to use for the outside edges of the beloved quilt prophetic of her life to come? Can love and faith overcome all?

My Review:
Bernard and Cordelia are a young couple in love, and much like Romeo and Juliet, circumstances prevent them from marrying as early as they'd like. Frustrated, Bernard enlists. They both endure a time of testing. Much research on WWII African-American soldiers is evident. Separation from white soldiers must have been extremely humiliating for soldiers like Bernard, who had enjoyed mixed company all his life.

Cordelia's love for Bernard as he wrestles with battle fatigue makes this reader ache.

There's so much to the story that it seems choppy at times.

The theme and history of a Pine Cone quilt carries throughout the story. I like the way the quilt becomes an intricate part of Cordelia's life.

Discussion questions included.

Thank you to Bonnie at Christian Fiction Blog Alliance and Abingdon 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, June 19, 2013

Lock, Stock, and Over a Barrel by Melody Carlson

Dear Daphne series

With high hopes, Daphne Ballinger lands her dream job at The New York Times. But it's not long until writing about weddings becomes a painful reminder of her own failed romance, and her love of the city slowly sours as well. Is it time to give up the Big Apple for her small hometown of Appleton?

When her eccentric Aunt Dee passes away and leaves a sizeable estate to Daphne, going back home is an easy choice. What isn’t easy is coming to terms with the downright odd clauses written into the will.

Daphne only stands to inherit the estate if she agrees to her aunt's very specific posthumous terms--personal and professional. And if she fails to comply, the sprawling old Victorian house shall be bequeathed to . . . Aunt Dee’s cats.

And if Daphne thinks that’s odd, wait until she finds out an array of secrets about Aunt Dee's life, and how imperfect circumstances can sometimes lead to God's perfect timing.

My Review:
I enjoyed this first book in the series, and I'd like to read the next one. The author cleverly wets the reader's whistle without creating a frustrating hanging non-ending. Daphne inherits her aunt's estate with a few strings attached. She is to live in the old, Victorian house and care for two cats. Secondly, she is to write her aunt's advice column, Dear Daphne; and thirdly, she is to marry--within a year! This promises to be an interesting year for Daphne and for the reader.

Daphne is an easy person to like. She makes friends quickly when she relocates back to her childhood home. The people of Appleton are typical small town folk. I think it'd be a nice place to live.

I look forward to the next book in the series.

Discussion questions included.

Thank you to Bonnie at Christian Fiction Blog Alliance and B&H Publishing Group for my copy.

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

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

Monday, June 17, 2013

Fear Has a Name: A Novel by Creston Mapes

The Crittendon Files
How Far Would He Go To Keep Them Safe?

It was more than a break-in. More than a stalking. It was personal. When a stalker targets his family, journalist Jack Crittendon must uncover who the person is and what his motives are--if he is to protect the ones he loves. It will lead Crittendon into a world of behind-closed-door secrets and faith gone awry, as does his investigation of a missing pastor, whose apparent suicide is more than it appears.

Each move Crittendon makes weaves him tighter and tighter into a web of lies, greed, hypocrisy, sin, and danger. He believed he'd never give in to fear. But that was before. And holding on to his faith won't be easy. Nor will keeping his family safe, and ending the terror. Because that might require him to step over lines he never dared to cross.

My Review:
What a terrific read! Creston Mapes knows how to create suspense; yet, at the same time, he knows just when to cut the tension. Two intricate story lines are interwoven: the stalking of a newspaper reporter's family and a megachurch's missing pastor.

When trouble comes his way, Jack Crittendon sometimes wonders if God is really in control. How can God allow bad things to happen to one of His people? And, for what reason might trouble come our way? Jack tends to feel as if he alone is responsible for the protection and safety of his wife, Pam, and their children. Jack's faith is sorely tested in this novel, and questions most people wonder are answered. The complex tale has a satisfying conclusion.

The novel tests the reader. I found myself wondering what I'd do if confronted by the same situations. How important is abiding faith? How deep is mine? Could God use someone who is at the end of his/her rope? Does forgiveness and love really make a difference?

Characters are fleshed out; I could relate to all but one. The character of Valerie Belinds McShane intriques me. She would make for an interesting discussion in a book club setting.

Thank you to Bonnie at Christian Fiction Blog Alliance and David C. Cook for my copy.

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

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

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Slow Moon Rising by Eva Marie Everson

A Cedar Key Novel

One family, one secret--and one chance to make it right.

The beautiful Claybourne home on Cedar Key has long been a place of rest, healing, and release. Each member of the family has turned there in times of confusion, loss, and hurt, only to feel their spirits renewed and their hearts restored.

But Cedar Key might also be the birthplace of a lie that is poisoning the family from within.

Join the five Claybourne women--Anise, Kimberly, Jayme-Leigh, Heather, and Ami--as they search the past and confront the truth. Their unique paths will lead them through heartbreak, misunderstandings, and pain. But their journeys will also bring reconciliation with each other and the precious renewal of love in their own lives.

In her lyrical, evocative fashion, Eva Marie Everson weaves a tapestry of complicated relationships that, when complete, reveals the most beautiful work of art there is--family.

My Review:
This is without a doubt one of my favorite novels! How I hated to have it end. Complex characters are written so well that their experiences could be true.

The story is told from the first-person viewpoint of five different Claybourne women. Rather than the usual way of repeating the same scene over and over from a different angle, the author advances the timeline down through the years as each person shares. Therefore, it flows along. The novel begins in the year 2000 and concludes with the current day. I loved piecing the story together. I did not want to to put this one down as long-kept family secrets are revealed.

Here is your summer read. Don't miss this compelling Christian novel.

Thank you to Donna Hausler for my copy. Available June 2013 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Monday, June 10, 2013

An Open Heart by Harry Kraus

Their Messages—From Beyond the Grave—Might Destroy Him

They hover between life and death, their hearts stopped on the surgery table. And the messages Dr. Jace Rawlings’ open-heart surgery patients bring back from beyond the grave cannot be ignored. For they predict the deaths of people around him, and point a finger of suspicion straight at him.

It thrusts Jace into a firestorm of controversy and danger. A maeltsrom blown by the darker winds of political intrigue and spiritual warfare. And the forces working against him will do anything to stop him from uncovering a truth they will kill to hide. He’d come to Kenya to establish a heart-surgery program for the poor. But what he will find in that place where he grew up will put everything at risk–his marriage, his career . . . his life.

My Review:
I enjoyed this medical suspense novel  that combines Christianity with witchcraft. It is intense, and I must admit, I now much prefer remaining at home. I'll be content to travel through novels like this one.

The author is a board-certified surgeon in East Africa, and he writes about what he knows best. When he includes  medical information, the story deepens. I found myself engrossed and easily able to follow along. 

Discussion Questions included. 

Thank you to Bonnie at Christian Fiction Blog Alliance and David C. Cook for my copy.

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

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

Sunday, June 2, 2013

That Certain Summer by Irene Hannon

Karen and Val are family--yet they're anything but close. Karen has carried the burden of responsibility for her aging mother ever since her gorgeous sister left town years ago to pursue a career in theater. But Val had darker reasons for leaving town--as well as a secret to keep--and coming home has never been an option . . . until their mother suffers a stroke.

Reunited in their hometown, Karen and Val must grapple with their past mistakes, their relationship with each other, and their issues with a mother who is far from ideal. When a physical therapist raising his daughter alone and a handsome but hurting musician enter the picture, the summer takes on a whole new dimension. As their lives intersect and entwine, can each learn how to forgive, how to let go, and how to move on? And strengthened by the healing power of faith, might they also find the courage to love?

With her trademark compelling characters and heartwarming hope, fan favorite Irene Hannon offers her readers an inspiring true-to-life tale of complex family relationships, transgressions revealed and forgiven, and the complicated process of finding love.

My Review:
This Christian fiction novel reveals an old secret combined with love and forgiveness.

Karen, a divorced mother of a teenager, feels frustrated as she bears all of the burdens of her life as well as those of her mother's illness. Her sister, Val, a high school drama teacher, chooses to live a good distance away and until now, has not found many opportunities to visit. However, when their mother suffers a stroke, Karen calls upon Val for help.

The two sisters struggle as they learn to work together to care for their unappreciative mother. Rehab therapy sessions, meal preparation, laundry, and other necessary errands fill their lives. Somehow, the sisters discover a comfortable respect for each other.

Thank you to Donna Hausler at Baker Publishing Group for my copy. Available June, 2013 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.