Category Archives: Religious/Inspirational

Marybeth Whalen. The Wishing Tree. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013.

The Wishing TreeJust as the pieces of Ivy Marshall’s life are shattering, it seems like all of the elements in her sister Shea’s life are fitting together seamlessly. Shea’s long-term boyfriend Owen plans a grand, romantic proposal on national television. Meanwhile, Ivy discovers that she’s losing her job at the family company because her father is shutting down her local branch in Asheville. On top of that, she finds out that her husband Elliot has cheated on her. Ivy bears Shea’s good news through gritted teeth. To add insult to an already terrible situation, Ivy’s family and friends blithely tell her not to worry about her job termination and to see it as an opportunity to prepare for Shea’s upcoming wedding. For the time being, Ivy has decided to keep word of her marital discord under wraps. Since she and Elliot married under tense circumstances, she is ashamed to admit possible defeat to her family.

Six years ago, Ivy was engaged to Owen’s cousin, Michael. Childhood friends Ivy and Michael and Shea and Owen coupled off naturally in their teens. Their lives were set on a happy track, but when Ivy met Elliot at a ski lodge on vacation, she recognized Elliot immediately as her true soul mate. She abandoned her family and her home in Sunset Beach and tossed away her former life to move to Asheville and wed Elliot instead. Lately though, Ivy observes that she and Elliot only seem to discuss “the business of life – what groceries they were out of, what bills needed to be paid, when they were expected to be somewhere” and she rues that their spark has mellowed. Elliot’s betrayal unhinges Ivy, but it is not a total surprise. The instant Ivy learns of Elliot’s infidelity, she sets out for Sunset Beach without waiting around for an explanation.

The process of wedding planning is near traumatic for Ivy, especially since the news team that covered Shea and Owen’s engagement story is also interested in broadcasting their wedding. As all the decisions and preparations play out before Ivy’s eyes, she cannot help but consider the wedding she was supposed to, but never had. She fights back jealousy for Shea and what appears like a perfect wedding. Disillusioned by a broken engagement and a failing marriage, Ivy flings herself alternately between the men in her life, Michael and Elliot, confused about which path to take into the future – her past or her present. As she wonders what could have been with Michael, she plays a dangerous what-if game.

But Elliot is not ready to let Ivy go and he uses creative measures to communicate his remorse. In a charming and modern twist on traditional love notes, Elliot creates a Twitter account and tweets his apologies and affections for Ivy through the handle, @ElliotIdiot. Forgiveness is a concept central to novelist Marybeth Whalen’s The Wishing Tree. One of Ivy’s greatest struggles is learning to accept being alone. While Ivy owes forgiveness to many people in light of her impulsive actions, she must also separate her individual desires and fears, and forgive herself, before she can find a happier ending.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Brunswick, Buncombe, Coast, Mountains, Religious/Inspirational, Romance/Relationship, Whalen, Marybeth

Tyora Moody. When Rain Falls. Deer Park, NY: Urban Christian, 2012.

whenWhen she was a young girl, Candace Johnson was present when her mother was killed by a drunken, abusive lover.  Aunt Maggie took Candace in but her home was one of harsh, religious judgments, and Candace fled as soon as she could.  In the years since Candace made a good life for herself, marrying a police detective, raising two children, and opening her own beauty salon in Charlotte, North Carolina.

But good friends and a loving spouse are no protection from the violence of the world.  Candace’s husband is killed, and two years later the murder remains unsolved. Candace has kept herself together for the sake of her children, but as When Rain Falls opens, she is hit with another hard blow: her best friend, Pamela Coleman, is murdered in her own garage.  Her husband’s former partner is one of the detectives investigating Pamela’s murder.  The other investigator, Darnell Jackson, is new to the Charlotte police force, but not new to Charlotte.  The failure of the police department to solve her husband’s murder prompts Candace to investigate Pamela’s death; she just can’t loose her two soul mates without getting some answers–and some justice.

The two investigations–Candace’s and the official one–turn up unpleasant facts about Pamela, her law firm, and some respected people in her social circle.  Candace and Detective Jackson butt heads over Candace’s activities even as they find themselves thrown together (and attracted to each other) in various social situations.  The author does a good job of balancing several threads of the story–Candace’s backstory, her struggle as a mother and as a Christian, the possibility of a new romance, and the murder investigations–and concluding them in a satisfying way.  The community of family, friends, and clients who support Candace is well drawn, adding another layer to the novel.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Mecklenburg, Moody, Tyora, Mystery, Piedmont, Religious/Inspirational

Sarah Martin Byrd. The Color of My Heart. Greenville, SC: Ambassador International, 2013.

color heartHow well do we know our neighbors?  How well do we even know our own family?  Laura Carter loves her husband, Cam, and although she knows his father Monroe is a hard, racist man, she treats her father-in-law with respect.  Laura accepts the fact that Cam, an accountant, has to help his father with his farm, and she does not object when Cam goes out at at night to assist his dad.  Laura believes that she and Cam are a team, and that together they can weather any storm.

Laura’s belief is put to the test in more ways than she could have imagined.  Laura has always known that she was adopted.  At her birthmother’s request, it was a closed adoption–Laura has never know anything about her birth family.  As The Color of My Heart opens, Laura’s birthmother, Nelda Brinson, is dying and Nelda’s grandmother makes the fateful decision to contact Laura.  Nelda and her Me-Maw live so close by that Laura can visit them, and in doing so she finds out that her mother and her people are African Americans.  As Laura, Cam, and their daughters are adjusting to that fact and getting to know their new family, their older daughter Larkin becomes pregnant.  The baby’s father is her long-term boyfriend, a boy whose father is a good friend of Cam’s father and who shares his racist views.  Sarah Martin Byrd weaves these three strands together in multi-generational story that contains history, horror, cruelty, compassion, and uplift.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Byrd, Sarah Martin, Davie, Iredell, Piedmont, Religious/Inspirational, Rowan

Emilie Richards. One Mountain Away. Don Mills, Ont: Harlequin, 2012.

onemountainawayCharlotte Hale has lead an outwardly enormously successful life, building her own real-estate company in Asheville, North Carolina from scratch. Her rise from the poor daughter of a drunkard in the tiny mountain town of Trust to a wealthy mogul is the stuff of which American legends are made. Unfortunately, while the financial and business portions of her life have been rich, her personal life has suffered greatly. Her twenty-seven year old daughter, Taylor, cut her mother out of her life when she became pregnant at seventeen, and Charlotte has never met her granddaughter. Similarly, Charlotte has not spoken to her ex-husband, Ethan, since he left their marriage to support their daughter during that time.

Charlotte has never regretted her actions, moving ahead with confidence. Until the day that she is diagnosed with an acute form of leukemia, and realizes that life is too short and precious to waste on anger. She begins to focus on the important parts of life, and to attempt to rebuild many of the relationships she damaged, including those with her ex-husband and daughter. Along the way, she reaches out to a young, pregnant woman named Harmony, who is a complete stranger to her, but who desperately needs help. Since she refused to help Taylor so many years ago, opening her home to Harmony is a way of partially absolving her sins. But it doesn’t help everything–Charlotte still knows that the greatest reconciliation, and the hardest, is with the blood kin whom she betrayed. Will Taylor ever be able to forgive her mother?

Part of the Goddesses Anonymous series from Harlequin, this thoughtful novel encourages the reader to reconsider what’s most important in life before it’s too late.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Buncombe, Madison, Mountains, Religious/Inspirational, Richards, Emilie

Travis Thrasher. Hurt. Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2013.

hurtIn this fourth and final installment in the Solitary Tales, author Travis Thrasher takes us back once more to the fictional town of Solitary, North Carolina.

Chris Buckley has tried everything when it comes to the evil in Solitary. He’s mocked it, pretended it doesn’t exist, given in for a time, even run away. Nothing has stopped his demon-possessed great-grandfather, Walter Kinner, from giving up his satanic control on the town. Worst of all, Chris is somehow the centerpiece of his upcoming final showdown with the powers of good. Tired, terrified, but most of all determined never to give in to the Devil, Chris takes the only course of action left– fighting back. It’s hard enough being a teenaged boy without having to fight the powers of darkness, but with his belief in the powers of God growing stronger every day, Chris has hope where before he had none.

Unfortunately, his very real demons know exactly how to keep him on their side– by threatening the ones he loves. His mother has been missing for some time, held by Walter’s henchmen. They’re also threatening his latest girlfriend, the sweet and guileless Kelsey. Since his other two girlfriends, Jocelyn and Lily, have both ended up as bloody sacrifices, Chris was reluctant to start dating again. But there’s just something about Kelsey that makes him think everything will be okay. But there is a long fight ahead, and no telling who will emerge triumphant. Will faith, hope, and love keep back the darkness?

Check out this final chapter in the Solitary Tales in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Henderson, Horror, Mountains, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Religious/Inspirational, Thrasher, Travis

Payne, Peggy. Revelation. Wilmington, N.C. : Banks Channel Books, 1995, c1988.

revelationDr. Swain Hammond is perfectly happy before he steps out into his yard one summer night and hears the voice of God. He has a nice house with his beautiful wife in the heart of Chapel Hill, where he grew up. They don’t have a family, but neither wants children–they’re happy by themselves. Although he works as the minister of Westside Presbyterian Church in Chapel Hill, Swain would count himself as the last man likely to hear any kind of divine message. His congregation is made up of individuals who aren’t inclined to make literal interpretations of scripture, and neither is Swain. Yet, while his wife is grilling pork shish kebabs only a few yards away, God speaks to him.

The next year of Swain’s life is fraught with anguish. Far from the joy and peace he imagined hearing the voice of God would bring him, instead it seems to bring nothing but trouble. The congregation doesn’t know what to think of their formerly intellectually detached leader claiming to hear directly from God. At first they staunchly stand beside his right to free speech, but as the year wears on and Swain begins to preach about believing in miracles and hearing His voice again, they become uncomfortable and even angry. A few demand he step down, while others think he should seek counseling. Even Swain’s beloved wife, Julie, doesn’t know what to think.

In the midst of all this turmoil are the local children. Swain has never liked children, or felt comfortable around them. But when a boy named Jakey Miles, the son of a local woman he had a crush on in high school, is blinded in a terrible accident, Swain finds himself drawn to the boy. Against his will, he finds himself reflecting on his own childhood, where his intelligent parents played cruel games of emotional chess with one another that inevitably left young Swain traumatized. As the minister questions his faith, his relationships, and himself, one thing becomes startlingly clear–happiness is where you least expect to find it.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

 

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Filed under 1980-1989, 1988, 1990-1999, 1995, Orange, Payne, Peggy, Piedmont, Religious/Inspirational

Mia Ross. Hometown Family. New York: Love Inspired Books, 2012.

Matt Sawyer left Harland, North Carolina as soon as he graduated from high school.  He knew that he didn’t want to be a farmer like his father and he felt stifled by the closeness that his father and siblings expected from each other.  But it was his unspoken bitterness and grief over the early death of his mother that set him on a life of rambling, a life with no commitments, not even to his kin.  But now his father has died, and Matt finds that he has to stay in Harland to save the family farm and the way of life that is so dear to his siblings.  Matt agrees to stay long enough to get the harvest in; once that’s done, he’ll go back to his work as a mechanic in Charlotte.

But Matt didn’t count on meeting Caty McKenzie, or, really, meeting her again.  She was three years behind him in school and his awareness of her was slight.  He knew little about her other than that his brother John was clearly sweet on her.  But now Caty is a lawyer–his father’s lawyer.  It’s Caty who breaks the news to the Sawyer siblings that the farm has been left to all of then, with the stipulation that all decisions about it must be unanimous.  Matt can’t imagine that he and his sister Marianne can agree on anything, and he feels guilty knowing that his brother John has only worked on the family farm, nowhere else.

Matt’s clearly got some work to do: get over his guilt about leaving his family, his distaste for farming, and his habit of running from uncomfortable feelings–like his romantic interest in Caty McKenzie.  In contrast, Caty seems like she has an uncomplicated life.  She loves being back in her hometown and is looking forward to restoring the house that she grew up in.  But Caty’s childhood included the tragic death of her mother, and in restoring her childhood home she comes face-to-face with a secret from the past.  Will she be able to face that, especially after a house fire undoes her restoration work and almost kills her?  Over the course of the novel her faith, her hometown friendships, and Matt Sawyer’s growing love for her allow them both to see a life in Harland that neither expected.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Piedmont, Religious/Inspirational, Romance/Relationship, Ross, Mia

Marybeth Whalen. The Guest Book. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012.

Macy Dillon and her family used to take a vacation to Sunset Beach, North Carolina every year. Her most treasured childhood memories are of walking the beach with her mother, brother, and especially her father. But Darren Dillion passed away when she was just sixteen, and Macy’s life has contained a gaping hole ever since. Macy is barely holding it together, working at the local grocery store, and suffering through her mother’s forced celebration of her father’s birthday each year. The only good thing that has happened since Macy’s father’s death is her now five-year-old daughter, Emma, even though Emma’s father walked out on them both shortly after she was born.

But this year at the birthday celebration they hold annually for her deceased father, Macy’s mom announces that they are once more taking a family vacation to Sunset Beach. Macy begins to hope. As a child, her father encouraged her natural artistic talent by asking her to draw a picture in the guest book at their beach house rental each year. Amazingly, another child, a young boy, would answer Macy’s drawings each year with a drawing of his own. The children traded drawings for ten years without meeting, but in what she knew would be her final drawing, Macy promised to come back and find him. Macy is determined that this trip to Sunset Beach will be the one in which she finds the boy. But when they arrive, no less than three men begin vying for Macy’s attention…and any of the three could be the artist. Will she ever find out his identity? And will her family ever find peace without her father?

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Brunswick, Coast, Religious/Inspirational, Romance/Relationship, Whalen, Marybeth

Kim Cash Tate. Hope Springs. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2012.

Hope Springs is a small, fictional town 40 minutes east of Raleigh, North Carolina. Geraldine “Grandma Geri” Sanders, the matriarch of the Sanders clan, holds family reunions here every summer and every Christmas, welcoming her far-flung chicks back to the nest where they grew up. Some, like her granddaughter Libby who lives in Raleigh, haven’t strayed so far. But her other adult grandchildren are so far away; some haven’t visited in years. Sisters Cyd and Stephanie grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, where they spend most holidays with their husbands’ families. Janelle has refused to make the journey down from her home in Maryland ever since she lost her husband two years ago.

The Sanders aren’t the only family in Hope Springs hosting a reunion: the Dillons, their neighbors for many years, are all congregating after the death of their patriarch, Jerry Dillon, who also happened to be the local pastor. His son Todd and daughter-in-law Becca are also heavily involved in ministry, but have moved outside of Hope Springs. Now all the adults from both families have a chance to reconnect over shared happiness and sorrow, and each person must ponder what God truly wants for him or her in their hearts. When Grandma Geri contracts cancer, everyone pulls together, and what is meant to be a Christmas visit turns into a months-long extended stay.

While the novel is told through the eyes of Stephanie, Janelle, and Becca, we witness everyone’s journey together as a family in more ways than one. Will Stephanie be able to adjust to her family after so many years away? Will Janelle eventually overcome her husband’s death, and even find new love? Will Becca do what’s right for herself and her children? Most importantly, will everyone survive in a house full of young children and toddlers? Only God has the answers.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Piedmont, Religious/Inspirational, Tate, Kim Cash

Ann Tatlock. Traveler’s Rest. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 2012.

There is an old adage about letting going of what you love: if it returns it was yours all along, if it doesn’t it never was. But what if you are the one who was let go, and you never wanted to be in the first place?

Jane Marrow finds herself in that heartbreaking situation when her fiance, Seth Ballantine, returns from Iraq a quadriplegic. He loves her, but Seth is unwilling to let Jane forfeit a “normal life”: to be carried over the threshold by her husband, to become a mother, and to be free of full-time care giving responsibilities.  He worries that she will waste her life away with him and will eventually resent him if they go through with the wedding. For her part, Jane is unwavering: she is resolved to never leave Seth or to give up on their plans, even though practically everyone has given her an “out”. Seth finally explains that her insistence on staying together is hampering his recovery, so she gives him some space.

At the Veterans Affairs hospital in Asheville, Jane meets a variety of people who support her and Seth in this difficult time. Two Ugandan cousins serve as aids in the hospital, and they always lighten the mood. A retired doctor with an uncomfortable past, Truman Rockaway, helps Jane understand forgiveness and faith. And Jon-Paul Pearcy is a volunteer musician at the VA who shows Jane and Seth that it is possible to live a full life with a disability. Along the way, Jane learns about love, trusting God, and letting go.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Buncombe, Mountains, Religious/Inspirational, Tatlock, Ann