Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Been reading some terrific books lately!

Saturday Morning and A Standard Christian

Christian fiction is better than ever.

I've read two terrific books in the past few weeks, and I now offer them for your enjoyment and edification:

Saturday Morning, by Lauraine Snelling

Lauraine Snelling is best known as a writer of historical Christian fiction, but she hits one out of the park with her latest contemporary fiction offering, Saturday Morning.

Snelling brings together four women of diverse backgrounds who are each going through crises in their lives. Their interweaving stories, and the way they band together for friendship, support and prayer, makes for such an engaging tale, I had a very difficult time putting the book down.

There's Andy, who after raising her children and supporting her traveling businessman husband for years, now finds herself with a thriving lavender farm and skyrocketing lavender product business. (Coincidentally, I have had my own love affair with lavender for the past several months! I love its fresh, clean fragrance. I thought lavender was grown in France; didn't realize it's a big business here in the U.S.) Suddenly, Andy's husband wants to move to San Francisco...and Andy doesn't want to go.

There's Hope, who runs a downtown San Francisco rescue mission called "Casa de Jesus." Big business is threatening to close the doors--just as Hope gets some of the biggest, most life-changing news of her life.

There's Julia, an attorney whose troubled granddaughter has run away to--you guessed it--San Francisco.

And there's Clarice, an wealthy aging widow who arrives in the Bay City, stunned and penniless, courtesy of the gigolo husband who duped her.

The idea of women coming together for support and prayer is one that Lauraine Snelling hopes will catch on. She tells me, "My dream would be that women would come away from (the book) saying, 'I have to have a group like that,' and do everything they can to build that group and to take the time for that group and to be blessed that way."

By the way, I was able to interview Lauraine Snelling by phone today, and hope to provide more excerpts from our interview shortly.

A Standard Christian, by Jeri Massi

"Never, in all my life, had I heard anything so beautiful and so true as Handel's Messiah...Christ had come; Christ had died; Christ had risen. Everything foretold had come to pass; everything not yet past would pass. Even the men who made great claims would pass away with time. In the end, all that would be left would be that sweet claim extending a command to comfort the people of God, to bring them into heaven, to take away their sin forever and give them the knowledge of God."--"Grace Jovian" in A Standard Christian.

For young Grace Jovian, listening to The Messiah for the first time is just one of many revelations along her path to a solid faith in God. It's a path that also includes plenty of roadblocks, stumbles, and lessons from surprising sources along the way.

In this sequel to Jeri Massi's Secret Radio, Grace is out on her own after graduating from a Bible college that represents an extreme,almost cultish branch of fundamentalist Christianity. As a manager-trainee at a department store in a western North Carolina town, Grace struggles with her faith as she realizes that the truths in God's Word often differ wildly from what she's been taught.

On one level, the book is almost a roman a clef chronicling the public scandals spawned by the sect from which Grace has emerged. On another, it's the story of Grace growing up: battling mice in her mountain cabin, suffering a major health setback, achieving physical fitness, making new friends and learning important lessons from those friends, Christian or not. But mainly, it's the internal story of Grace's seeking after a real, solid faith. And it makes for a very absorbing and readable tale.

Author Jeri Massi tells me: "One great purpose of the book is to show the humanity of every human being, saved or not, the value of every life, and the constant work of God's grace that is often visible but also inscrutable, unable to be fathomed, even imperceptible. The other purpose is to show that God works when we don't think He is working."

Ultimately, although Grace never claims to have "arrived," she's able to agree with the wisdom of a friend who tells her, "Just accept that you're a standard Christian with all the flaws and keep going back to Him."

Jeri Massi has chosen the self-publishing route for this series, which started with "Secret Radio" and will conclude with a third book in early 2006. Massi has been oft-published, though--most recently, her excellent Valkyries series. You can read my review here.

...and one I hope to review in the near future:

If I Gained the World, by Linda Nichols, isn't a new book--it was loaned to me recently by a friend who knows I love fiction.

This book grabbed me and didn't let go. I can't wait to read more of Linda Nichols!

...and two I hope to be reading soon...

Robin Lee Hatcher's "Victory Club" just arrived on my desk--I can't wait to read it; it's no secret that I love Robin and her writing.

And I've promised Infuze Magazine (an online magazine for which I've reviewed a couple of books previously) that I'll review Jack Cavanaugh's "Dear Enemy" for them. Both are World War Two-themed books, so it looks like I'll be spending some time in the 1940's! of the great pleasures in life!

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