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Friday, June 25, 2010

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Chasing Lilacs by Carla Stewart

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing Chasing Lilacs FaithWords (June 17, 2010) by Carla Stewart


Carla Stewart’s writing reflects her passion for times gone by. She believed in Jesus, the power of the written word, and a good cup of coffee. She's a country girl living now in a mid-sized city with her engineering husband who just happens to be her best friend and biggest fan.She and her husband have four adult sons and delight in the adventures of their six grandchildren.


I grew up in the Texas Panhandle with two younger sisters and loving parents. Small town school. Great neighbors. Today, those small-town, fundamental things resonate within me -- the twang in people's voices, the art of being neighborly and just being a decent human being.

Growing up, I preferred the company of books over TV and playing outdoors. I imagined myself in many different careers, but given my down-to-earth raising, I settled on nursing. I didn't faint at the sight of blood and did well in science, so it seemed a natural choice.

I worked as a registered nurse off and on through the years, but primarily I stayed home with my four rambunctious boys and dreamed of the day when I could write the novels I loved to read. When our youngest son was in high school, I quit my job as a nursing instructor and settled in to pen my first novel. It's been quite a journey. One I wouldn't trade for anything.

I'm committed to writing the stories of my heart and am truly thankful to Jesus, my Savior, for allowing me this freedom. May all the glory be His.

Chasing Lilacs is her first book!


It is the summer of 1958, and life in the small Texas community of Graham Camp should be simple and carefree. But not for twelve-year-old Sammie Tucker. Sammie has plenty of questions about her mother's "nerve" problems. About shock treatments. About whether her mother loves her.

When her mother commits suicide and a not-so-favorite aunt arrives, Sammie has to choose who to trust with her deepest fears: Her best friend who has an opinion about everything, the mysterious kid from California whose own troubles plague him, or her round-faced neighbor with gentle advice and strong shoulders to cry on. Then there's the elderly widower who seems nice but has his own dark past.

Trusting is one thing, but accepting the truth may be the hardest thing Sammie has ever done.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Chasing Lilacs, go HERE.

My Mother's Review

Chasing Lilacs was a very enjoyable book.  Since I grew up in the1950's, so many things in the book struck a familiar cord—such as the sting of the red stuff our mothers would put on a scratch, and the bottles of soda pop with the metal lids at the drug store or gas station.  Also familiar were the girlish disagreements Sammie had with her friends, but these come no matter what year you grew up.  Sammie goes through a very hard time with the mental health of her mother and her mother's death.  The author made the situation very real, and the reader can sense the frustration and anger of a girl maturing into a young woman during her family difficulties.  There were some terms and word usage that I found objectionable, but they were not extreme.  The mystery in this novel is not a cops-and-robbers type mystery but one of circumstances and the lack of forgiveness on the part of some of the characters. There are wonderful characters who love Sammie and aid her with the adjustments she needs to make.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Commencement Speech Fail

Book Review: Wildflowers of Terezin by Robert Elmer

Novelist Robert Elmer just found a new fan. I've always enjoyed reading history (it was my minor in college), and Holocaust history has always been an area of fascination, especially the heroic escapes. For those reasons (not to mention Robert's expert hand at plotting and characterization), I found Wildflowers of Terezin hard to put down and a must-read for anyone interested in Holocaust fiction in the same vein as Tricia Goyer.

Here we find a loyal, hardworking pastor, Steffen Petersen, getting pulled into covert, even illegal, activity as he helps Jews get across the border and away from the Nazis. Meanwhile, a love interest blossoms between him and Hanne Abrahamsen, a Jewish woman herself. Add to the mix the pastor's brother, who is part of the dangerous Danish Underground, and you find a recipe for suspense and daring escapes.

I was pleased to learn that Robert Elmer had done quite a bit of research, which was obvious due to the historical authenticity I found on each page. Though I've read quite a bit about the Holocaust, I was delighted to learn new things about this terrible period in history through the Danish lens. One fascinating detail was how Steffen and Hanne used coffins and "funerals" to whisk Jews across the river to freedom. I was also unfamiliar with Terezin and found the details about this labor camp fascinating, especially the way authorities lied and tried to hide the terrible conditions under a facade of deception.

I was impressed by the twists and turns in this plot and by the deft and tasteful handling of the romance elements. I don't get into "kissy" romance novels and was uncertain how Elmer would handle this part of the story. I was pleased with how he handled the romance with restraint and tied up everything so well at the end, providing a thoroughly satisfying read. The novel also pleased by providing spiritual depth, which seems to be lacking in so many offerings these days. Congratulations, Robert, on another novel. I enjoyed reading your novel and look forward to whatever the Lord leads you to write next.

Read more about the book at my blog.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Book Review: Andrea Carter and the Trouble with Treasure by Susan K. Marlow

What a fun novel by Susan Marlow! I don't often get to read young adult fiction with so many suspense novels on my TBR pile, so this was a fun departure for me and a nice break from routine. But though this is a young adult novel, I'd have to say that Susan's pacing, prose, and deft handling of character and details were better than ever. Though the conflicts introduced at the beginning of the novel are clearly aimed at young adult readers, the more serious complications that emerge later are great reading for adults too.

The basic story line is that Andi and her friends, including one of her brothers, Mitch, go on a trip and try panning for gold. The experience is not nearly as glamorous as Andi and her buddy, Jenny, expect it to be, but the trip is far from over. A rattlesnake spooks Jenny's horse,and Jenny falls off, cutting her head. Later, when Mitch is shot, Andi is put to the test—to stop the bleeding and save her brother's life, and to trust God for the outcome. In the end Andi learns that there are more important things in life than panning for gold and striking it rich.

This was a fun, engaging story that had plenty of suspenseful hooks and and plot developments to keep me reading. As usual, Andi is a perky young lady who likes to have fun with her friends and always seems to run into trouble. This novel seemed to show a more mature Andi facing adult-style choices. I was pleased to see a shaken Andi praying to God for help when she knew she couldn't solve her problems on her own. Action packed with a clear faith message, Trouble with Treasure is a winner on several angles. Great job, Susan!

Visit the author's Web site.

Order the novel at

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Movie Recommendation: Emma (BBC)

My wife and I watched the new Emma movie this past spring and were impressed by the overall quality and presentation of this production. Though this is a much more modern Emma than previous productions, this longer movie version does so much better at developing the characters and providing back story to further flesh out the plot and story conflicts. It's also fabulously filmed, brilliantly acted, and squeaky clean. If you like period movies made from classic literature, you won't want to miss this one!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Deceit by Brandilyn Collins

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing
(Zondervan, June 18, 2010) by

Brandilyn Collins


Brandilyn Collins is an award-winning and best-selling novelist known for her trademark Seatbelt Suspense®. These harrowing crime thrillers have earned her the tagline "Don't forget to b r e a t h e..."® Brandilyn's first book, A Question of Innocence, was a true crime published by Avon in 1995. Its promotion landed her on local and national TV and radio, including the Phil Donahue and Leeza talk shows. Brandilyn is also known for her distinctive book on fiction-writing techniques, Getting Into Character: Seven Secrets a Novelist Can Learn From Actors (John Wiley & Sons). She is now working on her 20th book.

In addition, Brandilyn’s other latest release is Final Touch, third in The Rayne Tour series—young adult suspense co-written with her daughter, Amberly. The Rayne Tour series features Shaley O’Connor, daughter of a rock star, who just may have it all—until murder crashes her world.


Skip Tracer Joanne Weeks knows Baxter Jackson killed his second wife---and Joanne's best friend---seven years ago. But Jackson, a church elder and beloved member of the town, walks the streets a free man.

The police tell Joanne to leave well enough alone, but Joanne is determined to bring Jackson down. Using her skip tracing skills, she sets out to locate Melissa Harkoff, now twenty-two, who lived in the Jackson home at the time of Linda Jackson's disappearance.

As Joanne drives home on a rainy winter night, a hooded figure darts in front of her car. In her headlight beams she glimpses the half-concealed face of a man, a rivulet of blood jagging down his cheek. She squeals to a stop but clips him with her right fender. Shaking, she gets out of her car in the pouring rain. The man will not let her see his face. Before he limps off into the night he warns her not to talk to police.

As Joanne tries to find Melissa, someone seems to be after her. Who was the man she hit on the road. Is Baxter Jackson out to silence her? Or is some other skip she's traced in the past now out for revenge?

If you would like to read the first chapter of Deceit, go HERE.

My Review

My mom is reading my copy now, but I'm looking forward to reading Deceit when she's done and will provide a review at this site. When I showed her the book, she squealed and grabbed it. As many know, my dad has brain cancer, and I try to give my mom a pile of new books whenever I can to encourage her and help her get her mind off things. Congratulations, Brandilyn, on another novel!

Should Christians Be on Facebook?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

What You Don't Know Can Hurt You

Yours truly wrote an article for this month's Christian Fiction Online Magazine. Check it out using the link below.

Spine Chiller Thrillers

Book Review: Darlington Woods by Mike Dellosso

What a fun, compulsive read! I had a very difficult time putting this novel down—just ask my wife. As soon as I began this novel, I didn't want to stop. This is one creepy, addictive read that is a true page-turner. Unfortunately, I had to set it down due to my schedule, but I had the novel done in just a few days; then I needed a week or two to chew on it. I haven't read a novel that kept me so glued in quite a while, so this book ranks as one of the most riveting novels I've read this year. 

Mike Dellosso's writing and pacing just keep getting better and better with each offering, and this is his best yet. The short scenes and strong hooks kept me going because I wanted to find out whether Rob would find his son, Jimmy. Other questions needed answers too. What exactly happened to Rob's wife and his son? These details are unclear at the beginning—by design, I'm sure. Why does Rob disregard what the police said and still think Jimmy is alive? What is this other story about the boy? Is this supposed to be about Jimmy? Is this story supposed to be allegory or reality or a mix? Read carefully—or you might regret it later.

Darlington Woods is a fascinating, fast-paced, and short read you won't want to stop once you start. As far as genre, the novel crosses several: mystery, suspense, horror, even fantasy. Yes, there are some literal monsters in this story, so you may need to suspend disbelief and accept the fact that you are reading a story that crosses the line from reality into a creepy realm called "Darlington." As I read, the darklings reminded me of the Darkseekers who fear the dark in the movie I Am Legend. Other parts of the story are reminiscent of Jurassic Park, Frank Peretti, and Ted Dekker, though I must say that this is much better than anything current by Dekker as far as spiritual message. I was excited to see a clear message emerge instead of something barely even implied.

Mike Dellosso has fun with this one and likes to play with readers a little bit, so careful reading is essential. Otherwise important clues may be missed. Along the way, I confess, some aspects of the plot didn't make complete sense to me or raised questions that didn't seem to be fully answered. Perhaps it was just me, and a second reading might help. By the end of the story, of course, almost all questions are answered along with some clever new revelations that took me by surprise. The plot is mind-bending for sure with several twists and turns many readers won't see coming. I'm still wrestling through the full implications of the story's spiritual message; the author did a great job of tackling the issue of fear and saying loud and clear that Jesus is the answer. In the end, this is fiction, after all, and readers will need to decide for themselves.

All in all, this novel is a riveting example of what Christian fiction can do—balancing plot and truth—when handled by an author who knows how to use it. At the end, while trying to catch my breath, the powerful truth about light overcoming darkness came through loud and clear, and I kept thinking about it long after I turned the last page. Bravo, Mike, on another great novel! I'm looking forward to your next book.

Note: A special thank you to Strang Communications for providing my free review copy.

Visit the author's Web site.