Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A great legal thriller! -- Fatal Convictions

I just finished Fatal Convictions by Randy Singer, and it was great!  I have to admit that this book caught my attention for an unusual reason.  When I read about an author who is both a lawyer and a preacher, that combination struck me as interesting and unlikely.  Then when I read that one of his main characters was also both lawyer and preacher, well I had to see how that would all play out!  This is the first of Randy Singer's books that I have read, but I don't intend for it to be the last.

Fatal Convictions is a suspenseful legal thriller.  It started off a little slow, taking some time to set up the story and background information on the characters.  But once it took off -- well, I found it really hard to put down.

Alex Madison and his partner Shannon Reese are in need of a profitable case to help keep their law practice afloat.  Alex stumbles across what might be the perfect personal injury case involving the wife of a Muslim imam.  Things get much more interesting, though, when the imam is accused of murder, suspected of ordering an "honor killing" of the wife of one of the members of his mosque.  Alex finds himself having to make very hard decisions.  Should he take the route that will save face in his church and his law practice, or is he morally bound to defend the man everyone thinks is guilty but Alex believes just might be innocent?  Conflicting cultures and beliefs, life-threatening dangers, potential love interests, and more make this a very exciting read that I highly recommend.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Contest for Francine Rivers Books

I just found a notice for a great contest.  Check this out!
Just one week left to enter for a chance to win a complete Francine Rivers library! The drawing is open to everyone, and you can enter multiple times. Complete details here:

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Life Without Limits by Nick Vujicic

Life Without Limits by Nick Vujicic tells the story of a young man who knows what it means to have severe limitations but not be limited by them.  Nick was born without arms or legs, and with the support of a strong family, his own determination, and faith in God, he has learned to live life fully and has a passion to share his story as a means of inspiration to others.

Having seen an online clip about Nick, I was pleased to have the opportunity to read his story.  The book contains a lot of inspirational advice mixed in with stories of Nick's childhood and adult life.  I was a little disappointed, though, in the flow of the book.  The ideas seemed rather disjointed and repetitive, and I had hoped to learn more of his personal story.  Although Nick's faith in and dependence on God was very evident, there seemed to be more emphasis on personal strength and determination.

I would say this was not a bad book, but not my favorite read.

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(I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah's Blogging for Books program for my honest review.)

Friday, March 25, 2011

A suspenseful Amish story -- The Amish Midwife

The Amish Midwife by Mindy Starns Clark and Leslie Gould is a real page-turner, a suspenseful Amish story that keeps you guessing until the very end.  Like Mindy's other Amish books, this one has a little extra twist to it.  This one involves a main character who is an outsider but finds a close connection to the Amish, not necessarily known at the beginning of the story.

Lexie Jaeger has a good life in Oregon as a nurse-midwife.  She grew up as an only child, knowing that she was adopted, but with few details of her roots.  After her dad shares a small piece of information just before his death, Lexie feels compelled to find the truth about her biological family.  She leaves her practice, her childhood home, and James, the man who loves her and waits for her to come back to Oregon.

Lexie's search leads her to Marta Bayer, a lay-midwife serving mostly Amish women in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  Marta obviously has answers to many of Lexie's questions, but her own problems keep her from giving Lexie what she wants.  Lexie finds herself reluctantly drawn to help Marta, as she becomes involved with several of the Amish people and with Sean, a local doctor.  As Lexie presses forward and finds the pieces to her story, the ripple effects are much greater than she could ever have imagined. 

I would definitely recommend The Amish Midwife to fans of Amish fiction and to those who have never tried the genre but simply enjoy an intriguing story.  It is a great story about love, forgiveness, and the freeing power of the truth.  I am looking forward to the next installment in The Women of Lancaster County series due to come out in July.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Dealing with Tough Issues -- Vicious Cycle

Vicious Cycle is another great Terri Blackstock story, a follow-up to a previous novel, Intervention.  Both of these books deal with the very tough, but very real, issue of drug abuse and its impact on the users and their families.  Terri wrote both these books not with just intellectual knowledge of the subject, but from the heart of a mother who has dealt with this very hurtful issue in the life of her own child.  That "heart knowledge" comes through in the way Terri brings her characters to life and tells their story in a way that doesn't sugar coat the problems and pain that come with addiction. 

Just as her daughter Emily is graduating from a year of rehab from her drug addiction, widowed mother Barbara Covington finds her family caught in the middle of things she never expected.  Her teenage son Lance, in a misguided attempt to help a friend, ends up in jail on charges of kidnapping a baby.  As Emily also gets involved in helping Jordan, she finds the old cravings tempting her and trying to pull her back into the traps of addiction.  Meanwhile, Barbara has turned to Kent Harlan -- the Atlanta policeman who had earlier helped save Emily's life -- for help.  Kent flies to Barbara in Missouri to offer his assistance, and they both realize their feelings for each other have grown.  The plot becomes more complex and suspenseful as Kent leads an "every minute counts" rush to rescue Lance, Jordan, and Jordan's newborn daughter.

In her masterful writing style, Terri weaves into her story reminders of God's presence and strength and the blessings often taken for granted by families like the Covingtons -- and many others of us.  I would definitely recommend this book to any Terri Blackstock fan -- or any soon-to-be Terri Blackstock fan!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Plain Proposal by Beth Wiseman

Plain Proposal by Beth Wiseman is the 5th and last book in her Daughters of the Promise series, and what a great finish!  Miriam Raber has her eyes on Saul Fisher, but Saul has somewhat of a “bad boy” reputation and is rumored to be planning to leave the community without being baptized into the church.  Just as Miriam and Saul begin to make connection, Miriam’s Englisch cousin Shelby is sent by her parents to spend the summer with the Rabers, and Miriam is not sure whether Shelby will be the sister she never had or an obstacle in her relationship with Saul.  As the summer progresses, all the characters involved learn lessons about each other, about themselves, and about God’s direction.

Beth does a great job (as always) in developing characters with real joys and struggles.  This story takes many twists and turns, and you can’t be sure how everything will be resolved until the very end.  You will find characters crossing over between this series and Beth’s Land of Canaan books – and there seems to be a teaser into the next installment of that series.

An important message comes out more than once in what it means to be a Daughter of the Promise: “You can take your faith anywhere with you.”  Although the main characters come from different backgrounds, have different dreams, and take different paths in the end, that message helps to see them through, in Amish or Englisch settings.

I would definitely recommend this book (and series) to anyone who enjoys Amish fiction or any good story about the love of God and family.

(I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

A great, quick read! -- A Time to Heal

It took me just parts of a couple of days to read A Time to Heal  by Barbara Cameron, book two in her Quilts of Lancaster County series, and that was time very enjoyably spent.  Barbara has a way of sharing lots of interesting information about the Amish way as she brings her characters to life and weaves them together into a great story.

It was fun to revisit Jenny, Matthew, Phoebe, Hannah, and the kinner in Paradise.  Chris, an Englisch acquaintance of Jenny's, comes looking for peace while dealing with physical and emotional injuries of war.  He finds the peace he's longing for, and much more, as he is attracted to the outspoken and determined Hannah.  But he and the Bontrager family face questions, unrest, and tragedies when his past follows him and brings harm to those he has grown to love. 

I would recommend that you curl up under a cozy quilt and enjoy this story of love, hope and forgiveness from a great author.  I'm looking forward to coming back for a visit with old friends when A Time for Peace comes out in the fall.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

If God, Why Evil?

If God, Why Evil? by Norman L. Geisler addresses a difficult question that many of us -- believers and non-believers alike -- often struggle with.  Geisler speaks to the question from a variety of angles, presenting a wide array of arguments and then offering responses from scripture and the writings of others, as well as his own commentary.  Throughout the book, Geisler's arguments stay true to the fact that God is all-loving and all-powerful and that no valid explanation of evil goes against His character.

In an appendix to the book, Geisler provides a critique of The Shack, by William Young.  Although the critique seems to me to be only loosely connected with the rest of the book, Geisler's insights helped to put into concise terms some of the uneasiness I felt when I read that book.

This book is very different from the types of books that I normally read, namely fiction, inspirational Christian living, and women's Bible study.  I believe, though, that it is something I can go back to and gain more insight from in further study.

(This book was provided free of charge for review from Bethany House through their blogger program.)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A Friendly Warning! (LEAVING, by Karen Kingsbury)

I had the privilege of being chosen as one of 40 readers to review Karen Kingsbury's newest book, Leaving (book one in the Bailey Flanigan series,) before it is available to the general public.  Karen asked that the review not be a summary of the plot.  Rather, she wanted the emphasis on how the book touched you, why others would want to read it, etc.

So, here is the review I just submitted.  If you are a KK fan, or even if you've never read any of her books, be ready to get this one as soon as it is released on March 22.

A Friendly Warning!

WARNING:  No mother should even think about reading Leaving without a box of tissues nearby!  (Of course, that probably goes for everyone else too!) 

Maybe it’s because of my own place in life, but I saw more of a mother’s heart in Karen’s writing in this story than in most of her other great books.  But mothers dealing with “lasts” in their families make up only part of the story.  Watching the characters we have come to know and love through these many years -- and some we are just getting to know – work through the twists and turns in their lives keeps the story fresh and moving as always.  And Karen is careful to remind us that the "lasts" often provide opportunities for "firsts" and "mores." 

The constant reminders of God’s faithfulness that Karen so beautifully weaves into her story-telling give you something very tangible to take away from the fictional account and into the realities of your own life.  It is such a blessing to feel refreshed and uplifted when you turn the last page of a novel, something you can always count on from KK. 

It was such a special treat to be one of the first to read Leaving, and now I can't wait to follow more of Bailey's story (and those of our other "friends" as well) in Learning, Longing and Loving!  (Am I the only one who has to keep reminding myself that these stories are fictional, that these are not real people?)  

Sunday, March 6, 2011

An "OK" read -- Higher Hope

This week I finished reading Higher Hope, the second novel in Robert Whitlow's Tides of Truth series.  This book was an "OK" read, but not one of my favorites.  As was the case in Deeper Water (the first book in the series) the story moves slowly and in some places gets bogged down for a while.

In a story that continues from the first novel, readers find that Tami Taylor works as a summer law clerk in a Savannah law firm and during her off-work hours serves as a live-in caretaker for elderly Mrs. Fairmont.  She also struggles with mixed romantic feelings for two young men in the firm, one an associate and the other also a summer clerk, with romance being a totally new experience for Tami.  Tami (or Tammy Lynn, as she is known back home) is from a very strong, fundamentalist church and family, and works to stay true to her beliefs and and the expectations of her parents.  Those beliefs earn her both scorn and respect from those she works with and under at the firm. 

It is because of those very beliefs that one of the firm's partners finds Tami to be just the person to work on a case involving Sister Dabney, "an abrasive, outspoken preacher who is either a prophet or a lunatic."  As the case progresses, Tami struggles with the challenge of balancing her career choice with her belief and even questions whether the two are compatible.

As I said, this series is slow-moving and reading it is at times drudgery.  With that said, though, I am interested enough in Tami's story that I do plan to read the final book in the series.

A good international spy thriller! -- The Last Operative

While making a 6-hour ride out of state last week, I read a really good international spy thriller -- The Last Operative by Jerry Jenkins. Of course, Jerry Jenkins is well known as a co-author of the Left Behind series, but he has written many other excellent books, including this one.

According to an author's note in the front of the book, this is a re-write of Jerry's first stand-alone novel, written over twenty years ago.  Through a little on-line research, I found that it was the publisher who suggested this re-write, and Jenkins made several changes in technology, the enemy, and even the main character's last name to come up with this up-to-date story of intrigue and faith.

Jordan Kirkwood is an operative with the National Security Agency, thinking seriously about leaving behind the kind of life that has kept him on the go and away from his family for so many years.  As he waits for his wife to join him in Europe for a long-deserved vacation, he receives information that draws him reluctantly into another case.  By the end of the first chapter, he has suffered horrible personal tragedy and found himself caught up in something much bigger than he imagined.  In fact, as is stated on the cover of the book, "The fate of America lies in the hands of one man," -- and Jordan Kirkwood is that one man.

The book is a real page-turner, with lots of twists and turns in plot and characters.  Who are the good guys, who are the bad guys, where will Jordan go, what disaster will strike next -- these questions and others have unpredictable answers that keep you wanting to read more.  To the espionage, add in the elements of complicated family dynamics, romance, and struggles with faith, and you find an excellent read.