Sunday, February 20, 2011

Softly and Tenderly by Sara Evans with Rachel Hauck

I really enjoyed the first book of the Songbird Series, and I love Rachel's writing, so I knew I needed to check this one out.

Let's begin with the summary:

Jade has moved from her past toward a bright future. But then the man she loves most destroys her trust.

Jade Fitzgerald's hope for a perfect marriage shatters when her husband confesses he has an illegitimate son. What's more, he wants to raise the boy in their home.

Hurting and confused, Jade embarks on a road trip to Iowa to take her sick mother to her childhood home. In the comfort of the old homeplace, Jade struggles with her fears and the tug of her first love. With the help of her family and her faith, she comes to understand her future doesn't rest on the power of her past, but in the goodness of God's mercy.

And now, my review:

I found a lot of the world in this book. So often, in Christian fiction you’re protected from the harsher side of recurring infidelity, selfish living, deception, temptation, even the frightening aspects of mental illness. This book dives deeply into those areas, without apology. It’s definitely not the usual read. It reads as very real.

But against the backdrop of darkness and the heroine’s troubled life, we find the name of Jesus over and over. We see His grace. We watch Him break in with redemption. His light is brighter in their darkness. Loved this quote: “Jade was learning to be at home with Jesus. No matter what her circumstances.” Great takeaway. The title's referenced hymn worked very well in the storyline. Rachel Hauck has her own way of incorporating spiritual elements (the Jesus factor) into her novels, which I love. Well done.

This novel was very engaging. Readers will have a hard time putting it down. I was hooked from page one through the end. If you’re interested in reading something well-written, but a little raw in terms of emotions and situations, you’ll enjoy this outside-the-box book. I look forward to the final book in the Songbird Series: Love Lifted Me.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Angel Song by Sheila Walsh & Kathryn Cushman

Do you ever crave the supernatural? Here's a review for Thomas Nelson's offering, Angel Song by Sheila Walsh and Kathryn Cushman.

Let's begin with the summary:

“Angels eagerly watch over Annie Fletcher's every move. She just doesn't know it yet."

When Annie Fletcher returns to Charleston to see her younger sister, Sarah, receive her master's degree, she finds herself riding in the back of an ambulance, watching helplessly as Sarah fights for life. During the ride, Sarah appears to talk to someone who is not there, humming a melody Annie has never heard before.

Neighbor Ethan McKinney is there to lend a shoulder when Sarah unexpectedly dies. And as a carpenter, Ethan volunteers to help Annie get the Fletcher family home into shape for selling. Ethan's presence is distracting, but what troubles Annie is her neighbor Tammy's 12-year-old son. Keith has Down Syndrome and the guile to believe he can see and hear angels.

God begins to reveal Himself to Annie - both in her newfound friends and through heart-rending and clearly supernatural events. Annie discovers faith in God, finally experiencing the comfort that His angels really do surround us.

And now, my review:

Sometimes we humans crave the supernatural. I’m so grateful for God in my life as He fulfills that longing. The heroine of Angel Song didn’t want anything to do with the supernatural, with God or with angels. Fortunately for her, they weren’t listening. But she is listening, and she hears them.

Cushman and Walsh portray the heroine’s pain-filled life where she lives behind a wall, trying to be something she isn’t. The authors aren’t afraid to touch on universally deep issues—like the love of a child for a parent, unconditional love, fear of abandonment and career choices.

Sometimes we humans, out of fear of abandonment, reject others before we can be rejected. I loved this line: "Most people I know would kill to have what you keep throwing away with both hands." So good.

At times the book reads like a romance, though it isn’t categorized as such. I liked the romance thread and appreciated its inclusion. I believe it greatly added to the story. I found myself relating with the heroine in her struggles, but I also so wanted her to choose God, to choose life, embrace Truth, get free.

This book speaks to our culture’s craving of supernatural elements, but in an unusual way. (The heroine calls the angels’ interruption into her life “haunting her.”) This book doesn’t sugarcoat real life issues, doesn’t offer easy answers, and doesn’t make impossible promises. But the story does offer hope while glorifying God and celebrating His unconditional love. I was surprised how much I enjoyed the novel and will gladly recommend it to others.

Readers looking for something outside the box, with a few twists and turns, and hope, will enjoy this read.

Highly recommended.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

New Christian Fiction Releases: February, 2011

This list was compiled by American Christian Fiction Writers. More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW FictionFinder website.

1. Angel Sister by Ann Gabhart -- General Fiction from Revell. It is 1936 and Kate Merritt, the middle child of Victor and Nadine Merritt, works hard to keep her family together during the Great Depression. Who could imagine that a dirty, abandoned little girl named would be just what the Merritts need?

2. Another Dawn by Kathryn Cushman -- General Fiction from Bethany. What would you give for a second chance to make things right? When life gets complicated, Grace Graham runs. But now her sister, Jana, is giving her once last chance.

3. Blood Covenant by Lisa Harris -- A Thriller/Suspense from Zondervan. Paige Ryan and Nick Gilbert must put their own lives in the hands of God as they fight for the safety of the refugees under their protection.

4. Deadly Ties by Vicki Hinze -- A Thriller/Suspense from Waterbook-Multnoma. Her enemy will stop at nothing for control. She will risk everything for freedom.

5. Hometown Dad by Merrillee Whren -- A Romance from Steeple Hill Love Inspired. A pair of rowdy boys would be exhausting for two parents—little wonder single mom Melanie Drake feels overwhelmed. Enter Nathan Keller—respected banker, descendant of the town’s father...and baseball coach.

6. Journey to Riverbend by Henry McLaughlin -- A Western Historical from Tyndale. A chance for redemption was something they never expected. A chance for love was something they never dreamed of. Sometimes the journey is only the beginning . . .

7. Lady in the Mist by Laurie Alice Eakes -- A Romance from Revell. By virtue of her profession as a midwife, Tabitha Eckles is the keeper of many secrets. Dominick Cherrett is a man with his own secret to keep: namely, what he, a British aristocrat, is doing on American soil working as an indentured servant.

8. Larkspur Cove by Lisa Wingate -- General Fiction from Bethany House. Adventure is the last thing on Andrea Henderson's mind when she moves to Moses Lake. But when a little girl is seen with the town recluse, Andrea and the new game warden are drawn together in the search for her identity. The little girl offers them both a new chance at redemption and hope--and may bring them closer than either ever planned.

9. Letting Go; Healing Hearts Series, Book 1 by Michelle Sutton -- General Fiction from Sheaf House. From an early age Diane Simmons was trained by her parents in the art of seduction, but she hates that about herself and wants to be loved for who she is, not what she looks like.

10. Raider's Heart by Marcia Gruver -- A Romance from Barbour. Dawsey Wilkes wakes up deep in the Carolina swamps, the prisoner of a rowdy family who support a vigilante intent on bringing justice to the poor. Wooed by the competitive McRae brothers and shunned by their sister Ellie, Dawsey remains intent on getting back home to her ailing father. But has it been God's plan all along to unite these two very different families?

11. Save the Date by Jenny B. Jones -- A Romance from Thomas Nelson. You’re invited to the engagement of the most unlikely couple of the year.

12. The Outlaw's Return by Victoria Bylin -- A Historical Romance from Steeple Hill Love Inspired Historical. J.T. Quinn would know Mary Larue's beautiful voice anywhere. He just never expected to hear her singing in a Denver church.

13. Turbulance by Dana Mentink -- A Thriller/Suspense from Steeple Hill Love Inspired Romantic Suspense. Someone wants to ensure that the flight bringing Maddie Lambert and a transplant organ to her father never reaches its destination. Someone who's desperate enough to sabotage the plane.

14. When All My Dreams Come True by Janelle Mowery -- General Fiction from Harvest House. An adventurous novel of faith, hope, and love in the Wild West.

15. Words by Ginny Yttrup -- General Fiction from B&H Publishing. Brought together by Divine design, Kaylee and Sierra will discover together the healing mercy of the Word-Jesus Christ.