Friday, September 23, 2011

A delightful Christmas visit to Amish country -- A Lancaster County Christmas

What could be more fun than a visit to Lancaster County in the snow?  Since I probably won't get a chance to do that for real anytime soon, I'm so glad Suzanne Woods Fisher took me there in A Lancaster County Christmas.

If you've read Suzanne's other novels, you'll get the chance to revisit some friends, Sol and Mattie Riehl, who are living the Plain life with their son Danny and Mattie's cousin Zach.  Mattie is losing hope in her life-long dream for a large family, and her fear is taking its toll on her and her family.  Jaime and C. J. Fitzpatrick are drifting apart, as Jaime is enjoying her father's new-found interest in her life and she is worrying about her husband's relationship with a co-worker.  When a snowstorm on the day before Christmas Eve brings the families together unexpectedly, the Amish family and English couple learn a lot about each other and each person discovers much about themselves.

A Lancaster County Christmas contains many of the elements of a typical Christmas story, where you expect to find personal and inter-personal conflict and where Christmas miracles occur.  What makes this story so rich is how deeply Suzanne takes you into the characters' thoughts and feelings.  As the characters, who live at such variying paces, each see themselves through the perspective of the others, I am reminded once again how different, and yet how very much alike we all are in our need for the peace of God that seems to show up so vividly during the season of miracles.

If you want to start your Christmas season off a little early and in a very enjoyable way, I would reommend you give A Lancaster County Christmas a try.

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

This book was provided free from the publisher for my honest review.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A fun contest by Amy Clipston

Here's a chance to have one of your recipes included in a book by one of my favorite Amish authors.  Click here to enter:  Amy Clipston contest

Irene Hannon does it again! -- Deadly Pursuit

Irene Hannon has written another great story filled with just the right mix of suspense, romance, and faith in Deadly Pursuit, the second installment in her Guardians of Justice series.

Alison Taylor is recovering, both physically and emotionally, from a serious accident and immersed in her work with a child protection agency.  Mitch Morgan is an ex-Navy SEAL who has returned to his hometown of St. Louis where he is a detective with a local police department.  Alison and Mitch are set up on a date by Alison's brother Cole and find they enjoy their time together.  When seemingly random pranks heat up to real danger for Alison, drama and romance abound for both of them.  And the faith that sustains Alison causes Mitch to look for what's missing in his life.

Irene Hannon's writing is captivating and her characters come to life.  She drew me into the story in the very first pages -- the very first sentences -- and kept me wanting more up until the very last.  Even though the distinction between the "good guys" and "bad guys" became apparent early in the story, the details of how the story plays out kept me in suspense and turning pages. 

Irene Hannon's extensive research into so many elements of the story make the setting and details ring true -- including the inner workings of the law enforcement agencies and the descriptions of how a person's body reacts to trauma.  Anyone familiar with the St. Louis area will feel at home with her descriptions of real locations.  My own town of Potosi even made it into the story with the mention of the prison from which one of the characters has recently been released.

Although Deadly Pursuit can stand alone, I would highly recommend that you read the first book in the series, Fatal Judgment.  And if Irene's Heroes of Quantico series is any indication of how the stories in a series just get better, I can't wait for the third installment!

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

This book was provided free for my review from the publisher.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Another Jenkins Hit! -- The Betrayal

Jerry Jenkins has written another hit with The Betrayal, the second of his Precinct 11 series.

Detective Boone Drake has been shot while involved in the greatest sting in Chicago history.  And in an unexpected turn of events, he has found himself falling in love with Haeley Lamonica, a big step as he continues his healing from losing his family in a tragic accident.

Before Boone has the chance to recover enough to leave the hospital, he finds that something has gone terribly wrong and things are not what they seem.  Somewhere within the police department, there are people who can't be trusted, and there doesn't seem to be an easy way to determine who those people are.  Is Haeley a victim of a set-up, or is there a side to her that Drake knows nothing about?  Who can he trust to find the answers about Haeley that he needs?  What can he do to guarantee the safety of the key witness in the sting operation?  And is Drake's own life in danger?

This story is fast moving and full of suspense.  The distinction between the "good guys" and the "bad guys" is not completely clear until the end of the book.  The drama leading up to that climax will keep you turning the pages. 

Although this book could probably stand alone, parts of the story fit together best if you have read The Brotherhood.  The first book moved at a slower pace and involved a lot of personal introspection by the main character but helped to set the backgraound for The Betrayal.  If you enjoy police drama with a Christian view, both books are definitely worth your time.

This book was provided free by Tydale House Publishers for my honest review.

An Amish story that is "out of this world" -- In Plain Sight

If I were trying to think of two different genres of fiction to put together into one story, I don't believe I would ever have come up with Amish and science fiction.  Marlayne Giron did just that in her newest book, In Plain Sight, and I have to say that it did not work for me.

Twin brothers, one with silver eyes and one with gold, show up in an Amish community, attempting to fit in by dressing and behaving as Amish.  As crop circles begin to appear in fields and farmers in the area suffer loss to crops and livestock, one of the brothers falls in love with a local Amish girl, and the boys live with and are defended by her family.  Things become more and more complex as the brothers look for a way to repair their damaged space ship and make contact with other beings of their own kind. 

Following all the incongruous events of this story just did not make for enjoyable reading.  There were also several unpolished elements in the actual writing of the book.  I have read some favorable reviews of the book, so there is evidently an audience for this type of story.  For me, though, it was just too far "out there."

Monday, September 5, 2011

A Whisper of Peace

In A Whisper of Peace, Kim Vogel Sawyer took me to a time and place I had never visited before -- just before the turn of the 20th century in the "wilds" of Alaska.  And I very much enjoyed the visit!

It took all of a couple of pages to become drawn in by Lizzie "White Feather" Dawson, a young, self-sufficient Athabascan woman with a strong need to belong to someone.  Alone since the death of her mother and banished by her tribe because of her white father, she longs to fulfill her mother's dying wish of reconciling with her grandparents.  If that fails, her only other hope is to go to her father in San Francisco, where he returned after abandoning Lizzie and her mother years before.

Clay Selby, accompanied by his step-sister Vivian, follows his dream of being a great missionary like his father and moves to Alaska to set up a mission in the Athabascan village.  Earning the confidence of the native people is a big challenge, especially after Clay and Vivian become friends with Lizzie.  And Clay is driven to get the mission building completed, anxious to stand behind the pulpit and preach so that he can bring the natives to God.

As is often the case, things don't always go as planned.  But God's plans for all of the characters are much better than their own.  Lizzie finds a place to belong -- where she never would have expected.  Clay gets his chance to minister -- not in the way he had thought.  Vivian finds peace -- after first finding truth.

As expected, this is another great book from Kim Vogel Sawyer.  The characters come alive, the story keeps you wanting more, and God is honored.  I would  highly recommend A Whisper of Peace.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Amy Clipston Contest

Amy Clipston is running a new contest to celebrate the release of her new book, Naomi's Gift.  Go to her blog and check it out!  Amy Clipston Books

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Security for Doubting Hearts -- A Confident Heart

In A Confident Heart, Renee Swope begins by sharing a vivid image that came to her at a moment when she was experiencing self-doubt.  As she stood in front of her mirror, getting ready for an event that she doubted she was competent to handle, she turned around and saw a shadow on the wall, distorting the image of her body.  When she faced the light, she didn't see the shadow; when she turned from the light, the shadow was there, larger than life.  The lesson carried over into her relationship with God -- when she turned her back to His light, she would encounter the shadows of doubt, but when she faced His light the shadows disappeared.

Throughout the book Renee uses examples from scripture and from her own life to point out how doubt keeps Christians from living with a heart that is confident and secure in God's promises.  She leads her readers to understand some of the blessings of living in that security with thoughts such as these:
  • In our experience with God, we can go beyond believing in Him to believing Him to the point of relying on him, no matter what we feel.
  • "Until God's love is enough, nothing else will be."
  • Like a radio has AM and FM frequencies, we can have AM (against me) or FM (for me) thoughts.  Our own thoughts are often AM, but God's are always FM.
  • "Jesus did not die on the cross just to get us out of hell and into heaven.  He died on the cross to get Himself out of heaven and into us!" 
In the last chapter of her book, Renee summarizes with a list of doubts we might face in our lives and the truths that God offers to counter those doubts.  That list alone makes the book well worth reading.  I can see myself referring back to this book for encouragement, in whole and in part, multiple times when doubt comes calling.  I would recommend this book to anyone who ever suffers from or is trapped by self-doubt.

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

This book was provided to me free of charge for my honest review from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.