The Church Ladies

by Lisa Samson

Samson delivers again in this engaging story of Poppy Fraser, a reluctant preacher’s wife who’s struggling to hold herself and her family together.

This story doesn’t boast clever plot twists or fast-paced action; It unwinds at a slow and steady pace–like one of the many walks Poppy takes to gather her thoughts throughout the book. As she grapples with the guilt of a past affair and the pain of an increasingly estranged daughter, Poppy resents the pressures and expectations of being a preacher’s wife. While she constantly entertains the notion of running away from it all, Poppy’s real relief comes in an unexpected place: A group of minister’s wives who begin prayer meetings when Poppy’s best friend loses her son in an accident. These “church ladies” influence Poppy’s faith journey and as she does some difficult soul-searching, she eventually learns to embrace the grace she so desperately needs.

When I see Samson’s name on the cover of a book, I’ve come to expect two things: beautiful prose that captures the raw emotion of her characters and a story that has a hopeful heart. It’s not for the action-junkie crowd, but if you don’t mind a quiet pace, you’ll enjoy Poppy’s story.

The Cubicle Next Door

by Siri L. Mitchell

This was the first Mitchell book I’ve picked up, and I was rewarded with a cute “chick lit” story, complete with quick-witted characters and humorous situations that kept me smiling as I turned the pages.

The Cubicle Next Door centers around Jackie Harrison, a civilian employee at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. As the story opens, her office is about to be “compartmentalized” into cubicle space for two. Bewildered by the antics of her new officemate, Joe Gallagher (a pilot turned instructor at the Academy), Jackie begins to write about her frustrations on her online blog, The Cubicle Next Door. But just as Jackie’s feelings for Joe start leaning toward romance, a national news program features her blog on a special report: Suddenly everyone’s attention is fixated on Jackie’s unproclaimed love for her officemate–including Joe himself!

I enjoyed the witty banter between Jackie and Joe, but it was in the more sincere moments of Jackie’s vulnerability that the story became most endearing. From a whirlwind makeover by her grandma’s best friends to her first-time attendance at an Air Force football game, Jackie slowly allows her world to expand beyond the safety of her online blog. And of course, her feelings for Joe help prod her along the way.

With a clever plot and characters you want to cheer along, The Cubicle Next Door delivers a great mix of romance and reality. And for extra charm, Mitchell adds entertaining glimpses of the quirks and traditions of the Air Force Academy and Colorado Springs. In my opinion, it’s a winning combination, and I recommend this title for those who enjoy the chick-lit genre.

Evidence of Mercy

by Terri Blackstock

I picked up this book during a recent vacation in North Carolina. Though I wouldn’t categorize the story as anything particularly noteworthy, it was an entertaining read.

Evidence of Mercy centers on the story of Lynda Barrett, a lawyer whose life gets shaken when someone sabotages her plane and attempts to take her life. Jake Stevens, a perpetual bachelor enjoying the good life, has a rude awakening when he becomes also becomes a victim in the crash.

While I sometimes struggle with the unrealistic plot developments (Despite warnings from the nurses on staff, Lynda manages to wheel herself through the hospital, up the elevator, and into Jake’s ICU room just a day after she’s wounded in the crash, for example), I did enjoy the overall story. It unfolds at a nice pace, with a nice combination of action and personal character development to keep the reader interested.

Not really a mystery, I think Evidence of Mercy could be better described as a combination of light suspense and romance. If you enjoy that type of story, I think you’ll find this an enjoyable book.