Fab Four Book Picks

Book reviews by the Fab Four and our Fab Friends

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Violet Dawn


by Brandilyn Collins
Book One of the Kanner Lake Series

Paige Williams slips into her hot tub in the blackness of the night--and finds herself face to face with death.

Alone, terrified, fleeing a dark past, Paige must make an unthinkable choice.

In Violet Dawn, hurtling events and richly drawn characters collide in a breathless story of murder, the need to belong, and faith's first glimmer. One woman's secrets unleash an entire town's pursuit, and the truth proves as elusive as the killer in their midst.

Pammer here: Another breathless edge-of-your-seat-need-more-fingernails-and-keep-the-lights-on read! On page one the roller coaster ride begins. With Brandilyn's superb writing skills she draws you in immediately, to care about this lonely woman named Paige. You read and flip the pages because you become part of the town and you can't wait to see what happens next, good or bad. Though the spiritual struggle isn't as in-your-face as most of her other books, it's there and it is universal. You may find yourself on the pages of Violet Dawn.

As Paige longs to belong, she hides her past. Sometimes to face the future with a fresh face, we must deal with our past.

And you'll become attached to all the zany characters populating the local Java Joint. You'll want to know more about them. The best part is that you can. Just go to http://kannerlake.blogspot.com to the Scenes and Beans blog. It's terrific fun to read and comment. Make sure you read the comments following the post, they're a riot! If you are interested in learning more about the Kanner Lake series....go to http://www.kannerlake.com

Run out and buy this book. Make sure your night light is stocked. And think twice before you crawl into that hot tub.

Monday, August 28, 2006

A GIRL'S BEST FRIEND by Kristin Billerbeck

A GIRL'S BEST FRIEND (Spa Girls Collection #2) by Kristin Billerbeck

From the back cover:

THREE FRIENDS. ONE SPA. AND AN INFINITE AMOUNT OF OVERSHARING!

From the outside, Morgan Malliard has it all: diamonds at her disposal, a willowy figure, a doting daddy and all the elegance that money can buy. But money can’t buy happiness—or an identity to call her own—and Morgan is realizing her perfect life has no purpose other than spectacular grooming (which isn’t really a purpose at all . . . unless you’re a chimpanzee). Then a falling-out with her father drop-kicks Morgan into the real world, and she is suddenly forced to get an actual job, wear affordable shoes and cope with public transportation—not to mention deal with that mysterious hottie who may or may not be stalking her!

It’s time for a spa getaway with her best gals, Lilly and Poppy—because there’s just something about lying under a pile of sweet-smelling papaya plaster that can help a girl figure things out. Like the fact that life isn’t aobut living up to a perfect ideal, and that with God’s grace, the beauty of it may just be in the flaws after all . . .

Camy here:

I loved this book. I liked it better than SHE'S ALL THAT, book one of the Spa Girls Collection, because I related more to Morgan than I ever did to Lilly.

Lilly was neurotic in book one, and she's still neurotic in this one. I didn't quite buy her underlying fears behind the fiasco with meeting Mrs. Schwartz, even after discovering the reason why (don't worry, I'm not revealing any spoilers). She proved how strong she was in book one, so her motivations didn’t quite ring true for me, personally.

I'm totally gellin' with Morgan. She's a bit shallow but it's almost like a front. I can completely relate to her desire to please people. It's the engine in her Beamer. Everything she does, even succumbing to losers and being bullied around, is prodded by that desperation for everyone to like her. It's so much like who I am, maybe that's why I liked her so much.

I also related to her desperation for a husband to love her. It brought back the kind of angst I felt when I was single. Morgan works through her fears and lack of trust in God to a better place—not completely "with it," but more understanding of herself and her weaknesses, and God's strength.

I loved that the message behind her singleness wasn't to suck it up, or a pious sermon to make Jesus her only love, or even to just wait for her prince to come one day. Morgan is left to muddle it through herself until she dukes it out with God and comes to her own understanding of her Father's love.

The underlying characters of the people in Morgan's life deepen as the book moves forward, and there's nothing unbelievable in the extra layers revealed, but the story is richer as it progresses.

I literally couldn't put the book down once I picked it up. From chapter one, I was thrust into a new problem of Morgan's rather than anything leftover from book one in the Spa Girls Collection.

I think this would be appropriate for junior high girls, but many of the themes on singleness might not really appeal to them or fit where they are in their lives. However high school girls, collegiates, and 20- to 30-somethings will understand and relate to Morgan's troubles.

This was a great book. The author popped me into her convertible and took me for a ride through her story, and I never wanted to get off.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Heather's Sarcastic Saturday

Okay, okay you’re going to have to excuse my tardiness here. I have a good excuse…reason…excuse…reason, yeah that’s the ticket. I got a rejection letter today. Yes, ladies and gentleman a rejection letter. It actually wasn’t that bad of a rejection. At least it wasn’t a form rejection, yes? LOL

But here’s the kicker, they sent me my ms back to me. I didn’t put in a SASE for them to do that, so they ate that cost. Thought that was kinda cool.

HOWEVER, what do I do with this pile of paper? It’s obvious it’s been read so it’s not like I can send it to another house. I hate to just toss it in the dumpster…some homeless dude may come along and dig it out and put his name on it and send it to another house, and that folks, would really suck.

I could wallpaper my office (yeah, yeah, I don’t have an office. Humor me, please?) with it. Make it like a mural. Showcase my masterpiece for the world (Yes, the world comes into my office frequently!) to see my brilliance…uh less than brilliance?

Make 265 paper airplanes and fly them off my third floor balcony. Now I’m thinking this one is a cool idea…well except for the 8 lane busy street that isn’t too far from my balcony, methinks the police may have issues with this…and of course there’s the whole littering issue. Which brings us back to that whole bum finding all the planes, putting his name on it and submitting it himself thing. (refer to the third paragraph.)

Ooooh or my favorite idea yet! Bonfire, baby! Can you say s’mores, anyone?

Friday, August 25, 2006

TIDINGS OF JOY BY MARGARET DALEY-Steeple Hill Publishers


www.MargaretDaley.com
www.SteepleHill.com

ISBN: 13:978-0-373-87399-9
ISBN: 10: 0-373-87399-9

Oct. 2006 release

From back cover:

A new home for the holodays?
He came to Sweetwater to repay a debt. Chance Taylor didn't expect to have feelings for his new landlady, Tanya Bolton. He could see newly widowed Tanya had worked hard to put the pieces of her world back together, caring for her wheelchair-bound daughter and taking a job at the local bank.

Chance's arrival interrupted Tanya's routine. . .and brought unexpected happiness to her life. But the secret obligation he struggled with meant Chance could lose Tanya--and his chance for a fresh start--forever.

Cheryl here:

This is the last book in the Ladies of Sweetwater Lake series, and each book is a keeper. This story really touched me, as I've had someone very dear to me serve time in prison for something that wasn't only his fault, but he took the punishment of everyone for it. The character of Chance really reminded me of my loved one. I enjoyed his journey though the book.

Margaret dealt with several unique issues in this book: someone being incarcerated when he was innocent, wrongful death of loved ones, Bipolar disorder, a child with a disability, and bullying. I really wish this book would be required reading in junior high and high school because the way the characters dealt with this issue in the book taught me things that I wish I'd known in school, and that I know I'll tuck away for if my children struggle with this issue.

Can I just say that page 106 made me SOB outloud. SOOO touching. If ya wanna know. . .trust me. . .go get this book! Every page pulled at my heartstrings and I found myself either swiping tears because of lump-in-your-throat poignancy, or smiling through the entire page.

I am always floored at how this author manages to make me care deeply about her characters by two or three pages into the book. Usually in the first few paragraphs though.

The heroine, Tanya, reaches out to Chance in such a sweet way, as do her circle of friends. . .who have been heroines/heros in the previous Sweetwater books. If you like series where characters are revisited. . .I really think you'll love this one. I loved how the townspeople rallied around Chance to befriend and defend him when people questioned his innocence. Though his conviction was overturned before the book, having spent two years in prison made the judgemental people leery. He tried to keep to himself, but Tanya wouldn't let him be a hermit. I loved that about her. I loved how much time the hero and heroine spent together, and how he was so close, renting the apartment above her detached garage.

POSSIBLE SPOILER:

Another favorite scene from this book was him coming home to that Christmas tree she decorated for him. In fact, this book had several sweet moments where the characters gave one another gifts. I found myself wishing I could see Crystal's artwork. I loved how courageous this teenager was in the face of her disability, and the girls trying to bully her. Another favorite moment in the book was when her friends stood up for her. Everyone needs friends like the Sweetwater crowd. I LOVED how Crystal chose to be kind to the girl who bullied her. If you want to know how Crystal managed to repay meanness with kindness. . .you'll have to go get the book. LOL!

The winter setting made me crave hot cocoa and crackling fireplaces during the holiday season. This town and these characters make you want to visit there and meet them they seem so real. I loved how Chance reached out to Tanya's daughter Crystal, and all three of them worked out tough issues during this story, yet it wasn't so emotionally heavy it seemed sad. It was still light reading which provided a nice escape. The only downside is this being the last Sweetwater book. I could live with a few more books from Sweetwater, and a few more of these poingnantly crafted characters. I even loved the service dog, Charlie. He seemed real. Look for this book, red spine, green cover with a beautiful black lab in a Santa hat wherever books are sold. I believe you won't be sorry you spent the four bucks, and in fact you will probably want to try and get the entire Sweetwater series.

Very poignant moments, sweet and tender romance between hero and heroine, and touching story. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!!!!

Squirrel (Cheryl Wyatt)





Wednesday, August 23, 2006

A Seahorse in the Thames


by Susan Meissner

Alexa Poole was to spend her week off from work quietly recuperating from minor surgery. But when carpenter Stephen Moran falls into her life--or rather off of her roof--the unexpected happens. His sweet, gentle disposition proves more than she can resist and now she's falling for him.

And then the news comes that Alexa's older sister, Rebecca, has vanished from the Faulkman Residential Center where she has lived for the past 17 years, since an auto accident left her mentally compromised. Alexa, fearing the worst, calls her twin sister in England, and Priscilla agrees to come home despite a strained seperation from her family--not only to find Rebecca but to deliver some startling news.

As Alexa begins the search for Rebecca, disturbing questions surface. Why did the car that Rebecca was riding in swerve off the road, killing her college friend, Leanne McNeil? And what about the mysterious check for $50,000 found in Rebecca's room and signed by her friend's father, Gavin McNeil?

And can Alexa, in love for the first time, embrace the news about Stephen's future with courage?

A Seahorse in the Thames is an emotional ride that begins and ends with the heart.

Pammer here: Susan has done it again. This is a masterfully created work of art. Her storytelling skills are so smooth, you are drawn into the story before you even know what hit you. Her characters are so rich and real that you root for them from the get go.

A Seahorse in the Thames is a story of hope and finding sparkles of wonderful gifts where you least expect them and often when you are not looking.

Wonderful and gripping, get this book.

Monday, August 21, 2006

GEORGIA ON HER MIND by Rachel Hauck


GEORGIA ON HER MIND by Rachel Hauck

From the back cover:

HOW DO YOU EMCEE YOUR CLASS REUNION WHEN YOUR LIFE IS ON A TILT-A-WHIRL?

Until 10:30 a.m., Monday, February 6, Macy Moore was Miss Most Likely To Succeed, a corporate executive on the fast track, with a marriage-material boyfriend and a cool city condo. By noon she was as good as fired…and dumped. How in the world could she go home to Beauty, Georgia, now?

Thank goodness for the Single Saved Sisters. With loyal friends Lucy, Adriane and Tamara by her side, Macy retreated to the House of Joe for coffee, consolation and consultation. Could they help her put her life back on the right path?

Camy here:

This is such a fun book! It starts off on possibly the worst day of Macy's life, and the heroine's sassy humor kept me riveted to the page.

I really like how the author addresses the struggles of single women in the corporate sphere--not in a glamorous New York or Los Angeles job, but in a decent company in bustling Atlanta, Georgia.

Many Christian romances are about women in more rural towns with jobs in smaller businesses, and as a woman who worked in a corporate arena, I have a hard time relating to the kinds of lifestyle and career conflicts they have.

In this book, I completely understood the dilemmas and stresses Macy went through. Corporate backbiting, downsizing confusion, inept managers, and most importantly, the lure of the corporate paycheck. As a single woman without dependents, this is can become a serious temptation and can influence lifestyle changes that might not be for the better. I know, because I've struggled with it.

Macy's also in her early thirties, so her concerns aren't the same as a fresh-faced ingénue off to tackle Manhattan. While she still has the same struggles with her job and men as other singles, she has a more mature outlook and also other types of lifestyle issues that a younger woman wouldn't have to deal with--like older parents, established siblings and cousins, and the family expectations of an older woman that wouldn't necessarily be addressed in a younger one.

Macy's friends--the Single Saved Sisters--are cute, although their bantering is a little sweet for my taste. I loved how the author used their struggles and events in their lives to cause more problems--both internal and external--for Macy.

I didn't quite agree with everything Macy did, but I completely related to the kinds of problems she got into--or that she got herself into!

While I'm not from the South, I never felt alienated by the different culture--rather, it was very entertaining and enlightening. It wasn't as lavishly done as SAVANNAH FROM SAVANNAH by Denise Hildreth, but the Southern flair is rich and warm.

A light-hearted, engrossing read--once I picked it up, I just kept reading. I think that twenty- and thirty-somethings, whether single or married, will enjoy this book.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Heather's Sarcastic Saturday

Is it a bad thing when your friends are always comparing you to their teenagers? Now I realize I hang out with a slightly...ahem...older crowd, but come on!

I know they’re not talking about my youthful appearance. Granted, I had to show ID until I was twenty-five just to get a jerky sample at Sam’s, but THAT is another story. I have wrinkles and a few gray hairs popping up… I’m almost twenty-eight!!! What’s up with the gray??? Sigh. Yet again, THAT is another story.

It like can’t be like because I like put the word like in like my speech like all the time because like I don’t like do that! Like oh my god!

We’re not talking just one friend, no not even just two, we’re talking three. Count them with me. One, two, three of my friends compare me with their teenager...I’m thinking this can’t be a good thing.

Now, personally I don’t pay attention to age which is why I have such a wide range of ages in my friends. Never really have. But...I choose to take this as a compliment, sure that’s the ticket!

Monday, August 14, 2006

EMILY EVER AFTER by Anne Dayton and May Vanderbilt

EMILY EVER AFTER by Anne Dayton and May Vanderbilt

From the back cover:

A quirky and quick-witted girl moves to Manhattan and holds on for dear life.

Emily Hinton needs out. She comes from a small town in California where the church handbell choir concert passes for a decent way to spend a Saturday and she’s known all the boys since kindergarten. She dreams of sophisticated people, love, and Louis Vuitton. When she lands a job at the world-famous publishing house Morrow & Sons in New York, she knows that she is finally on her way. She packs her bags, says good-bye, and sets out for Manhattan, where she will fit in, even if it kills her.

In spite of her naïveté, she quickly becomes friends with the girls at work and begins to learn a thing or two about how things are done in Manhattan. She soon attracts the attention of the handsome Bennett and is swept into a whirlwind romance, but an overnight visit to his parents’ home at Thanksgiving and his seemingly idle flirtations with one of her colleagues give her second thoughts about what Bennett really wants. Her uncertainty about her feelings escalates when one of the hometown boys she left behind reappears in her life. Emily’s days at the office are also becoming complicated: an ambitious editor is breaking all the rules to publish a controversial book that demeans everything she believes in. Will she stand up for what she knows is right and risk losing it all?

Balancing her passion for the glamour of New York City with her determination to live by her morals turns out to be much more difficult than Emily ever imagined. Her roundabout quest for happiness will endear her to anyone who has ever dreamed of making it big, and faced more than a few pitfalls along the way.

Camy here:

This was a fun excursion to New York City from the eyes of a career woman who lived and worked there. The authors’ experiences in the city shone through in the little details of Emily’s life that popped up in every corner.

The spiritual thread is very real. You don’t have to be a city girl to remember the agonies and throes of dating, manipulative boyfriends, the lure of money and career.

The nice thing about this book is that the authors show Emily’s mistakes without any goody-goody side to her that make me want to gag. This is a flawed, normal heroine (imagine that!) who succumbs to some temptations and not to others, who knows what’s right and doesn’t always do it.

I also liked how her uncle Matthew shows how a person can truly serve God with complete abandon. He never comes across as too good to be true. He also shows the heart for the lost in the big city, for both the homeless and the rich and successful. It was a very nice counterpoint to Emily’s seeking and wandering.

I didn’t always understand the motivations behind some of Emily’s actions, and I also never quite related to her desire to leave her small California town for New York. I’m from a small Hawaii town and I moved to California, but I didn’t have the kind of tight friendship Emily had with Jenna, and my parents wanted me to experience the mainland while Emily’s parents are reluctant for her to go. Emily had a lot of strong ties to her hometown and I never really understood why she needed to go to New York so badly.

The authors’ voice (voices?) are funny and fresh. Sometimes it seemed to ramble a bit, but on a whole, the story moved along like a raft on a class 3 river—ups, downs, snags, but always moving onward.

The ending is cute and climactic. Emily’s strength makes her someone to root for.

Entertaining book. I don’t know if I’d give this book to a junior high school student because some of the singleness themes are rather mature, but I think it could be a good read for college and possibly high school students, and definitely 20- and 30-somethings.

Excerpt of chapter one at Amazon under “Editorial Reviews.”

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Heather's Sarcastic Saturday/Sunday

Okay I totally spaced that I was supposed to write today so this is coming in a little late, so late that it’s now Sunday morning. Sigh.

For several weeks now, I’ve been going to the track and walking one and a half to two miles. Trying for every day but not always making it, life tends to get in the way even with the best of intentions. I’ve been making it at least five days out of the week.

There is one guy who is always there and you can watch him mouth the words “left, right, left, right” as he rounds the track. Now tell me, does he not know how to walk without telling himself which foot to use next? If he doesn’t mouth it does he just stand still? What happens if he gets off rhythm and his right foot goes out as he says left? Does this turn his world on it’s axis?

I walk around that track pretty fast (1/2 mile track), no I don’t do an 8 minute mile but I don’t do too badly. There is this one woman who is there every day. She runs. It’s interesting... she passes me several times for each time I make a round. I can just imagine her thought process as she passes us walker-type-people. “Geez, am I passing her again? Someone needs to teach that chick how to travel. Running is where it’s at.” Seriously, I want to stick my foot out one day and chant at her “the tortoise and the hare, the tortoise and the hare!”

Then there are the people with ipods, cd players, fm radio armbands and cassette players (Yes, I said cassette players... I’m not even going to touch that one. LOL), I love watching these people to see which ones will sing along with their music... which ones will put a little cha-cha into their walk.

Of course I can’t leave out the fools… oops, not fools, brilliant people, yeah brilliant people who talk on their cells as they walk. Okay, okay I confess that’s me, I do this. But at least you can see my phone! Other people use the ear pieces and you don’t see the phone so you think there are these nutty people walking around the track talking to themselves.

I walked 12 miles this week... how about you?

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Jade by Marilynn Griffith


Each book out from Marilynn Griffith is better than the last. Jade is no exception. Jade was a perfect book to kick back and relax with. It went deep as well as making you laugh. The Shades of Styles series has four multicultural women in the fashion industry struggling to learn important life lessons.

Her characters are rich and well rounded—very down to earth and some one you know, in not seeing yourself in them. Marilynn will make you cry and laugh as well as make you dig deep into your own life.

Jade is one of the best books I’ve read this year. Go buy it... you won’t regret it.

Check out her website and her blog!

Monday, August 07, 2006

Prayer request

Hi guys,

This is Camy. This is a request for prayers for our co-bloggers Cheryl Wyatt and Pamela James.

Cheryl just had hip surgery on the 31st and is going through a painful recovery right now.

Pamela has intense spiritual warfare going on and some housing problems, too.

If you could just shoot a quick prayer to our Lord right now, that would be awesome! Thanks!

Camy and Heather

WHAT A GIRL WANTS by Kristin Billerbeck

WHAT A GIRL WANTS by Kristin Billerbeck (The Ashley Stockingdale series, book 1)

From the back cover:

Ever felt like the last item left on the clearance rack?

As a successful patent attorney, Ashley Stockingdale has all the makings of a perfect catch-the looks, the brains, even a convertible. But at 31, she's beginning to wonder if she's been passed over for good.

Deciding to adopt a new attitude, Ashley suddenly becomes the romantic interest of three men within a matter of days. While her heart enjoys turning the tables on the dating game, the rest of her previously predictable world is being turned upside down. Is it more than Ashley can handle? Or is it exactly what she wants?

Award-wining author Kristin Billerbeck combines comedy with spunk to create a memorable story in What a Girl Wants--an all-too-realistic picture of a single girl's search for being content with who she is...with or without a man.

Camy here:

What a Girl Wants is laugh-out-loud funny. Racy, edgy and romantic without a gratuitous sex scene every other chapter. The heroine Ashley is a real character, not a generic super-Christian woman with a sweet smile and a heart of gold who the hero instantly falls in love with (but not in lust) and wants to marry. No, Ashley is like any girl I'll meet at Valley Fair or Stanford Shopping Center.

As a post-modern Christian, I can entirely relate to Ashley. Her sassy, sarcastic attitude and neuroses are WAY too familiar. Her faith is central to her life, as indicated by her thoughts and decisions, but the way she talks about it is in language that is different from our parents' generation of Christians. The language can come across as flippant and slightly irreverent, but it's the way she makes God more real, more personal and more intimate in her life. For Ashley, God is her friend (albeit a pretty powerful and absolutely holy Friend) rather than Thou-Almighty-God-Maker-of-Heaven-and-Earth.

The book shows Ashley's spiritual journey from a more distant relationship with God to a fully submissive and joyful interaction with her Creator. It doesn't preach. It shows the actions of a woman of God who makes mistakes and needs constant guidance and direction from her Lord, which is how He wants us to be anyway. It is culturally hip and trendy, so that a world inundated by reality TV, web-access pocket PCs, and other forms of ultra-stimulation can relate and laugh and maybe even question the material things they value.

The book perfectly captures the essence of northern California--the attitudes, the environment, the ENGINEERS (I can say that since I married one). The social culture is brought to life and drawn with both love and tongue in cheek. The author brilliantly colors the ethnic melting pot that is the San Francisco Bay Area.

As a hopeless romantic, I'm sometimes left flat by many women's fiction novels, but this book has enough sparks to light the San Francisco Airport runway. I highly recommend this to any romance reader.

This is terrific entertainment, and a message suitable for those of us post-moderns who struggle with what the world says and what God wants. In Ashley, I see the other Christians of my generation who don't want to be influenced by the morals of the world we live in, but at the same time don't want to be total hermit-recluse-bananas in our own exclusive Christian circle. Ashley's discovery of how to be herself, be content, and be God's child is a worthwhile spiritual take-away.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Heather's Sarcastic Saturday

Why is it when you’re finishing up a project all you can think of is your next one? You’re not even done with this one and you want to move on to the next one. Instead of relishing a job well done you want to start a new project to torture yourself over. Never enjoying just being in the moment of doneness.

All week I worked to finish up the last details on submitting my book and all I could think of is the new book I plan on writing. Ideas abounded. Had to stop myself from opening that file all week.

Finally sent it off yesterday morning. (Go ahead, I accept applause, I prefer you throw money though!) It’s currently working it’s way through our postal system to an editors desk.

I said I would give myself the weekend to enjoy a job well done. Opened up a chapter last night to crit for a CP (GREAT chapter btw) and a secondary character started talking to me. What the heck?? No! I’m taking the weekend. Chick was chatty! She wouldn’t shut up. Ugh. So I opened up a new document and let her talk. Learned a few things about her that I didn’t know. But man. I wanted my weekend. LOL

So tell me... do you enjoy the moment of a project being completed? Or do you always have the next thing on your mind?