Tuesday, June 06, 2006

I’m excited to introduce my new blog, “Rave Reviews.” As an author and book lover I enjoy passing on recommendations and thought on my favorite books. In the future you can look forward to:

Positive reviews on books, both new and old
News on the latest releases from authors that I know and love
Recommended reading lists for occasions like summer and holidays, for teens, kids, and reading together as a family

Since I read a wide variety of authors and genres, both from the Christian and general market, you can expect to read about everything from classic spiritual books, children’s and young adult classics, to “Oprah picks” and the Christian fiction. The one thing that I can promise is that I will only write about books that I can say something positive about. I will include warnings if a book contains material that some might find upsetting or offensive, but again, I only post books that I enjoyed for one reason or another.

With summer right around the corner, let’s start with a suggested summer reading list. Unlike the dry reading list from school days, why not check out some titles that I (am many of my friends) have enjoyed over the past year.

Fiction from the Christian market:

Leather and Lace by DiAnn Mills
Casey O’Hare has been riding with Davis Jenkins and his gang of outlaws since she was 14 years old. Now she wants a different life—to live like a decent woman. But nobody runs from Jenkins and lives.
I’m not typically a fan of “westerns” (I am however, a fan of DiAnn Mills, which is why I was drawn to it) but this book, set in Texas 1884, literally roped me in, as I gained a new appreciation for women like Casey, who didn’t exactly choose a life of crime. She is a character that I really cared for and wanted good things for, as she struggled with her new faith, her feelings for the kind but haunted Morgan, and whether it will be possible to clear her name and live a normal life.

When the Lion Roars by DiAnn Mills
When 16-year-old Rachel is kidnapped by slave traders in Sudan, an Arab-born Christian literally risks his life to find her. He, American doctor Lauren Kerr, and Ben Alier, a commander in the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army, must put their prejudices aside as they search for Rachel, try to keep a young Sudanese boy from a deadly future, and stay alive in the crossfire.
DiAnn Mills’ love for Sudan and its people really resonate in this moving story of sacrifice and suspense.

Dawn of a Thousand Nights by Tricia Goyer
My friend Tricia is a one of the best when it comes to great historical fiction. Like her first two books, Night Song (excellent, by the way, and highly recommended) and From Dust and Ashes (the next in my to-be-read stack but I’ve heard wonderful things about it), the story takes place during WWII.
The romance of Dan and Libby—two pilots stationed at Pearl Harbor—is interrupted when Dan accepts a call to the Philippines. Japan attacks soon after and Dan is suddenly fighting for his life in the Bataan Death March to a horrific prison camp. At home Libby fights her own battles, struggling to be taken seriously as a female pilot, all the while wonders if she will ever see Dan again.

Becoming Olivia by Roxanne Henke
Third in the Coming Home to Brewster series (read After Anne first then you can easily dive into this one), Olivia suddenly finds herself lost in a pit of anxiety and depression. At the same time her teenaged daughter is caught in a struggle of her own.
Roxanne Henke (also a friend of mine) did a wonderful job of presenting a picture of this all-to-common problem, in a way that was, as she puts it, not depressing. Using a multiple-first-person viewpoint we see the effects on, not only Olivia, but her family and—this is an interesting twist—her therapist.

Songbird by Lisa Samson
Abandoned by her mother at age eleven, Charmaine is thrown into a world of foster homes, until her gift of singing and a few quirky but loving characters help her find a more promising path. But after finding love with a traveling minister, and success as a gospel singer, Charmaine discovered a horrible truth. The illness that haunted her mother has been passed on to her. Afraid of losing the love of her husband, who believes that all mental illness is somehow connected with weak faith, she suffers alone until she no longer can.
Songbird spans several decades, following Charmaine as she tries to survive on her own, encounters those who will change her life forever, and discovers God’s grace and love. I truly loved Lisa Samson’s unique voice, her larger-than-life characters, and her ability to weave in a touch issue without leaving me feeling like I’d just read the script for a movie-of-the-week. This is definitely on my top-10 list for 2006!

Wounded Healer and Warrior’s Heart (Books 1 and 2 in the Homeland Heroes series) by Donna Fleisher
Erin and Chris fought side-by-side in Dessert Storm, until a secret from Chris’s past drove them apart. In Wounded Healer tragedy brings them back together, as Erin discovers the reason behind Chris’s “dark side” and helps her find hope in Christ.
Warrior’s Heart continues their story, as Chris tried to hold onto her new life, shake off the pain of her past, and show Erin’s husband Scott that she isn’t a danger to his wife. All this is happening as a real threat lurks in the background.

The Color of the Soul by Tracey Bateman
When Andy—a black reporter from Chicago who escaped the racism of the south—is called to Georgia to write the life story of a 100-year-old Southern woman, he gets much more than notes for an article. As she pours out the details of her past, along with some terrible family secrets, questions from Andy’s own history are finally answered.
While I found this book difficult to read at times (it does contain violence and a bit more sexual content than most Christian fiction but each scene has a purpose, revealing the ugliness of slavery and racism) I gained new perspective for those days before Civil Rights. This is a beautiful story of family history and reminded me of those great multi-generation sagas that I used to love!


Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller
I probably need to be careful how I word this recommendation. This is not your typical “Christian Living” book. It is written by a man who isn’t afraid to say the word “crap” and admit that he and his friend often smoke pipes while discussing the Bible. At times I found his comments hard to take and uncomfortable to read. But what I love about Blue Like Jazz is that 1) the author was so honest, even at the risk of being accused of sounding “unchristian”. Somehow he always managed to a get a point that left me thinking “Yeah, I see his point,” or “I’ve felt that way too.” 2) A well-known Christian publisher was willing to release it for the rest of us to enjoy.
Donald Miller expresses his thoughts on faith in an unconventional and intriguing way. He really got me thinking about my own areas of self-absorption, judgmental behavior, my approach in sharing Christ, and many other issues. This is a book that would be fun to read as a group (or at least with one other person) so you can talk about it.

Laughing Matters: Learning to Laugh when Life Stinks by Phil Callaway
I heard Phil Callaway speak at the Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference in April and actually picked up this book for my husband. Before he had a chance to crack the cover I was hooked on it, laughing my head off over each chapter.
Phil is a many who has learned through trial and tears, the power of laughter when life is at its darkest. Weaving in the long struggle of his wife’s mysterious illness, he inspires readers to learn to praise God, enjoy His blessings, and find healing in laughter, even when life is at its stinkiest.

Unveiling Mary Magdalene by Liz Curtis Higgs
This unique book opens with a fiction story of a contemporary Mary, a woman haunted by inner demons and eventually “saved” by a kind inner-city pastor, who leads her to Christ and a healing love that frees her to serve God’s people in ways that she never dreamed possible. It later moves into an in-depth study of Mary Magdalene, dispelling the myths and revealing the truth about this amazing servant of Christ.

Fiction from the General Market:

Light on Snow by Anita Sheve
When a lonely 12-year-old girl and her widowed father find an abandoned baby in the snow they are suddenly forced out of their isolation. Life gets even more intense when the baby’s mother appears at their door. As they discover the truth behind her terrible choice, Nicky and her father must also decide whether to turn the girl in.
Some might find this book slow-moving but I couldn’t stop reading it, even as I began to accept that it most-likely would not be tied up in a happy little bow at the end. It’s one of those books that left me wondering about the characters long after a finished.

Peace like a River by Leif Enger
I finally picked up a copy of this book after hearing people rave about it, two years in a row at the Mount Hermon Writer’s Conference. It definitely lived up to all the hype. I still tell friends that it’s one of the most beautifully written books that I have ever read.
Told from the point-of-view of 11-year-old Reuben, the book follows a family on a trip through the Midwest, as they search for Reuben’s older brother Davy, who committed murder in order to protect the family. I fell in love with the entire family (including Reuben’s cowboy poet sister) as they move from town-to-town, torn between finding Davy and allowing him to keep running.

The Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
This book is found in the Young Adult section and is wonderfully written. Personally, I found some of the content a bit “adult” for the age group that it was actually written for, and the author definitely wasn’t writing from a Christian perspective, but I loved the story and characters.
In 1906, desperate for money and a way out of her difficult home life, 16-year-old Mattie takes a job at the Glenmore hotel. She finds herself caught in the mysterious death of a young woman—a murder that inspired Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy. The author does a beautiful job of weaving together Mattie’s life at the hotel, flashbacks of what brought her there, and the tragedy that drives her to pursue more than life has handed her.

I saw these last three books on “Summer Reading” shelves at Barnes and Noble and Borders. For the others visit your local Christian bookstore.
And okay, I wouldn’t be a good author if I didn’t also mention my newest book, Want More? Joy, Book 3 of the Brio Devotional series. Though written for teen girls adults seem to enjoy it too. Using true-to-life stories (some fiction and some from real life), Scripture, thought-provoking questions, and journal pages, it examines what gives us joy, what robs us of it, and what it do when joy seems out of reach.

Until next time!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oprah's 4 interviews with Jill Bolte Taylor were the first that Oprah did after Eckhart Tolle and they take everything Tolle talks about to another level. Oprah's copy of Jill's book, MY STROKE OF INSIGHT, was dog-eared and all marked up and kept reading from it the way she read from A New Earth and recommended it highly.

Oprah's recommendation was enough for me. I read My Stroke of Insight and I loved it too. This story is as inspiring as The Last Lecture or Tuesdays with Morrie - and even better, it has a Happy Ending!

I bought the book on Amazon because they have it for 40% off retail and they also had an amazing interview with Dr Taylor that I haven't seen anywhere else - Here is the Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/My-Stroke-Insight-Scientists-Personal/dp/0670020745/ref=pd_bbs_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1211471755&sr=1-2

9:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read "My Stroke of Insight" in one sitting - I couldn't put it down. I laughed. I cried. It was a fantastic book (I heard it's a NYTimes Bestseller and I can see why!), but I also think it will be the start of a new, transformative Movement! No one wants to have a stroke as Jill Bolte Taylor did, but her experience can teach us all how to live better lives. Her TED.com speech was one of the most incredibly moving, stimulating, wonderful videos I've ever seen. Her Oprah Soul Series interviews were fascinating. They should make a movie of her life so everyone sees it. This is the Real Deal and gives me hope for humanity.

6:21 AM  

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