Category Archives: Fiction

Fiction Friday! Beauty for Ashes

Beauty for Ashes (The Isaiah Cadre) by Alyce-Kay Ruckelshaus

How do you maintain your faith in times of unexpected trouble or trauma? Especially when it hits you out of nowhere. And what if the trauma has long-lasting effects—perhaps for the rest of your life? Would you still be able to trust God?

Beauty For Ashes: Isaiah Cadre, Book 1 (Isaiah Cadre Series) is the first of a series by my friend, Alyce-Kay Ruckelshaus. It chronicles the story of Kelly, a student at Westmont College in Santa Barbara in 1981. She is an MK (missionary kid) and in love with Matt, a PK (preacher’s kid). She is also part of the Isaiah Cadre, a group of dorm mates who have committed themselves to God and one another.

The book starts off a little slowly, but sets the stage well for an idyllic college experience, deep friendships, and young romance. It gives context that will be important later. And then the unthinkable happens and in a moment, Kelly’s world is shattered. Her faith is tested. Her love is tested. Even her friendships are tested.

The book offers a realistic portrayal of the way many people handle sudden trauma. It especially demonstrates how trauma affects a normally logical person, and how shame can distort one’s thinking.

I highly recommend this book. I loved it even though it’s not  my demographic. It’s well written, fast moving, and thoughtful. The author offers discussion questions for personal use or better yet, for a book group. Or even for a cadre. And best of all, it’s free on Kindle!


Do You Want to be Transformed?

Transformed: Challenging Myths About the Power-Filled Life by Christy Wimber

Transformed: Challenging Myths About the Power-Filled Life       by Christy Wimber

For those of us who are serious about our faith, the idea of becoming transformed is always a priority. We’re always looking for the next step in our metamorphosis into Christlikeness. That’s why I was excited for the opportunity to review Transformed: Challenging Myths About the Power-Filled Life by Christy Wimber (Kregal). I was eager to learn what John Wimber’s daughter-in-law would add to my Christian walk. Her chapter topics increased my enthusiasm: what Jesus said yes to, mercy, renewing the mind, identity, grace, and calling. She identifies transformation as a journey, not a destination and focuses on deliberate, sacrificial choices as vehicles for transformation. All good ideas.

Unfortunately, the book fell short of my expectations. I think there were some good ideas in it, but they were often lost in a rambling narrative that would have benefited from a strong editor. Her writing was not tight and she often didn’t choose the best words or phrases to make her arguments. Her points were weakened by redundancy and rambling. Callout boxes didn’t reinforce or repeat important concepts. They were simply the next sentence, with little reason for being set apart. There were few stories or examples – just narrative. And while she offered some good theories, there was little in the way of practical “how to.” The result was a book I was not eager to return to and few memorable points.

I would love to see this book rewritten and re-edited. It’s clearly a concept needed by today’s Christians. But sadly, this edition doesn’t cut it.

Lethal Harvest: Fiction Friday

Lethal Harvest by William Cutrer and Sandra Glahn

Lethal Harvest by William Cutrer and Sandra Glahn

Lethal Harvest: A Novel is a difficult book to review without spoilers, so forgive the vagueness. It is a captivating medical thriller that centers on the disappearance of one member, Tim Sullivan, from a partnership running a fertility clinic in Washington, D.C. Sullivan is a nephew of the current U.S. president and, like him, carries a recessive gene for akenosis, a neurological disease that results in rapid deterioration of motor function. Unbeknownst to his partners in a DC fertility clinic, Tim is conducting research into akenosis using DNA implantation techniques. About the time the disease begins to affect the president, Sullivan’s car runs off the cliff.

Meanwhile, one of Sullivan’s partners confuses clones of discarded eggs (which, unknown to him, Sullivan was using for research) with the correct eggs for implantation. The twins that result develop confusing health challenges, resulting in a lawsuit, a bombing, and new challenges for the third partner, Ben McCay, an obstetrician and chaplain.

While there were some weak plot elements, including threads that didn’t seem to move the story forward and too much focus on the romantic relationship, these were overshadowed by the moral, ethical, and medical aspects of the book. It was a page turner. If you love medical thrillers, this is a good read. [Note: this edition of the book is an update of an earlier edition, which was a Christy Awards finalist.]


If I Run | Fiction Friday

If I Run by Terri Blackstock

Casey’s DNA is all over the crime scene, but she can’t go to the police. Not after the way they’ve failed her before. She knows she can’t hang around to find the truth. So she runs…

And then there’s Dylan, a friend of the victim and a war veteran with PTSD. The family hires him to help the overworked police force find the murderer. He’s always just one step behind her. But the more he learns about Casey, the less he knows what to think. The evidence just doesn’t add up. Is there more to this story than what seems obvious?

Terri Blackstock is one of my favorite suspense authors, and
If I Run doesn’t disappoint. It features gradually revealed characters in dueling first person chapters with a plot that keeps the reader on her toes. It’s a compelling read that’s hard to put down, although much of the action takes place in the heads of the two main characters rather than through action or dialogue.

My only complaint is that it’s the first of a trilogy, which means I’ll have to wait way to long for the next installment. Thanks to LitFuse for the review copy.





Last Chance Hero by Cathleen Armstrong| Fiction Friday

Last Chance Hero by Cathleen Armstrong

Last Chance Hero by Cathleen Armstrong

Things are happening in Last Chance, New Mexico. Dr. Jessica MacLeod has opened a medical office right on Main Street, and high school hero Andy Ryan has returned from the NFL to coach the high school football team. Which is significant because Last Chance is a football town, and the residents expect Andy to repeat the winning streak he was part of as a high school player. Jessica could care less. She’s never been to a football game and never wants to go to one. How can she settle in to Last Chance if she isn’t a football fan?

Last Chance Hero features all of the characters we’ve come to love: Elizabeth, Lainie and Ray, Kaitlyn and Olivia, Chris and Sarah, Juanita, Rita and more. And it introduces us to two new captivating characters. I read this book with great sadness. You see, it’s the last in the series. I’m going to miss these friends and their ongoing, captivating stories. And I’m looking forward to Cathy’s next books. She’s an author who is here to stay!

If you haven’t read the entire series, now would be a great time to start!

Welcome to Last Chance

One More Last Chance

At Home in Last Chance

At Home in Last Chance | Fiction Friday

Occasionally I like to review fiction, especially when it’s written by someone I know. Being an ordinary woman, I do love to relax with a good novel from time to time. I call this feature Fiction Friday. It won’t happen every Friday, but every now and then, I want to encourage you to take a few hours off and snuggle in with a good book. Today’s book is At Home in Last Chance: A Novel (A Place to Call Home) by my friend and colleague, Cathleen Armstrong.

Free spirits Kaitlyn Reed and Steven Braden have always had a similar philosophy of life: when the going gets tough, they get going – out of town and away from the problem. Now they are both in Last Chance, New Mexico and trying to start over.

Kaitlyn is working to reestablish a relationship with the seven-year old daughter she left behind with her brother, the new owner of the Dip n’ Dine, six months earlier. Steven is working on the family ranch with Uncle Joe Jr. and trying to prove that he isn’t the irresponsible charmer the town has always known him to be. As Kaitlyn and Steven are drawn to one another, one big question keeps getting in the way: how can they learn to trust each other when they don’t even trust themselves?

At Home in Last Chance: A Novel (A Place to Call Home) is the third in the Last Chance series. My friend Cathy Armstrong has once again captured the folksy, small town friendliness of rural New Mexico. Her characters and plot are strong, but the town itself is what captivates me.

You might want to catch up and read the whole series. Welcome to Last Chance introduces the series, followed by One More Last Chance. I guarantee you’ll be hooked.


One More Last Chance by Cathleen Armstrong | Fiction Friday

Last week I reviewed Cathleen Armstrong’s debut novel, Welcome to Last Chance. This week, her second novel, One More Last Chance, launched. I’m delighted to share it with you.

One More Last Chance

One More Last Chance By Cathleen Armstrong

Chris Reed, the Dip ‘n Dine’s new owner, is determined to make changes in the menu, much to the frustration of Carlos, the cook. Sarah Cooley, Elizabeth’s granddaughter, has returned to Last Chance to teach. She, like many of the Last Chance townsfolk, doesn’t like change. And then there’s Olivia, who brings change to both of their lives in ways neither expected.

Once again, Cathleen has written a captivating and engaging novel. Not only are her characters likable and fully developed, but the town of Last Chance is itself a “character,” drawing the reader into the setting of rural New Mexico. As the plot twists and turns, we fall in love with both the characters and the town.

I know you’ll love the Last Chance series. It has a flavor unique among women’s fiction – grace with a side of chili.

Welcome to Last Chance by Cathleen Armstrong | Fiction Friday

Occasionally I like to review fiction, especially when it’s written by someone I know. Being an ordinary woman, I do love to relax with a good novel from time to time. I call this feature Fiction Friday. It won’t happen every Friday, but every now and then, I want to encourage you to take a few hours off and snuggle in with a good book. Today’s book is Welcome to Last Chance: A Novel (A Place to Call Home)by my friend, Cathleen Armstrong.

Welcome to Last Chance

Welcome to Last Chance Cathleen Armstrong

The last thing Lainie Davis expected on her exodus from her life in California was to end up in the podunk town of Last Chance, New Mexico, but her car had a different idea. It limped as far as the parking lot of the local saloon before dying completely. But with characteristic small town friendliness, the residents of Last Chance stepped up to make her feel welcome.

Cathleen Armstrong has created real, likable characters and a real, loveable town. Last Chance reminds me of the town I grew up in many years ago. A place where strangers were welcomed without a lot of questions. A place where neighbors pitched in to help where needed. A place where change happens when you aren’t looking. I was filled with nostalgia as I got acquainted with the folks and setting of Last Chance.

If you enjoy women’s fiction with a little romance, a little intrigue, and a little tension, you’ll love Welcome to Last Chance. And the sequel launches next week. Stay tuned for my review of it.

Disclaimer: I was privileged to be part of Cathy’s critique group as she wrote this book. It’s better than I remember.