Monday, June 27, 2016

A Missing Person and Murder with an Undertone of Family Love

Detective Manon Bradshaw, thirty-nine and longing for a family, is looking for love from men she meets on dating sites and immediately takes to bed. When Edith Hind, the beautiful daughter of a physician to the royal family, disappears from her Cambridge apartment, Manon knows this will be a big case.

Miriam Hind, Edith's mother, thinks about her family and how, if not perfect, they are what she has, and she's grateful. She's particularly concerned about Edith, but believes she'll make the right decisions. Then Edith disappears and the family is thrown into disarray.

As the investigation turns into weeks, it becomes clear that Manon and Miriam have to consider the possibility that Edith is the victim of murder. The two women grow close as the case progresses. Manon sees something she wants, but Miriam knows how difficult it is to get and keep a family together.

This is a good mystery, fast paced with plenty of twists, and a surprise ending. If you enjoy British mysteries, this is a good one. The added benefit is the well-defined characters. Manon and Miriam are two sides of a woman's life: Manon the career woman who wants a family, and Miriam who has a family she loves and knows how difficult it is to keep it together.

The secondary theme of the book is family love and how love requires tolerance and understanding. I enjoyed the book, the mystery is well done and keeps you guessing, but the theme makes the novel special.

I received this book from Random House for this review.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Back at the Monestary, Sister Eve Finds Murder

Sister Evangeline Divine, better known as Sister Eve, is back at the Pecos monastery for a conference on Sister Maria de Jesus de Agreda, the Blue Nun who bilocated from Spain to visit the Jumano Indians converting them to Christianity. The conference promises to be particularly important when Dr. Kelly Middlesworth, the opening speaker, tells Sister Eve that she has new information that may help in getting sainthood for Sister Maria.

Kelly's brother, Anthony, is a monk in the Pecos monastery. He found Sister Maria's writings at the pueblo church and took them to show Kelly on the understanding that she wouldn't tell anyone else. Kelly didn't keep her word, and Anthony was furious.

The night before the conference Sister Eve is praying when Anthony stumbles into the chapel. He found Kelly dead, and he's distraught thinking he caused the murder. Sister Eve knows he isn't guilty, but now she has to prove it before the police arrest Anthony.

The plot is fairly complex. While we don't know who killed Kelly, a number of people, including her brother had the chance. Although the author tries to hide the identity of the murderer, it's fairly easy to figure out early in the novel, so unless you like reading about Sister Eve's adventures, this removes some of the fun of trying to solve the mystery yourself.

I found the early part of the book with everyone stumbling over each other in the middle of the night and making a hash of the murder scene unrealistic. The action picked up when Sister Eve left the monastery to try to solve the mystery on her own.

I can't recommend this book. The author throws in too much backstory bogging down the action and the characters are rather thinly drawn. The subplots, particularly that involving Sister Eve and a handsome detective, are well done, but they can't carry the novel.

I received this book from BookLook Bloggers for this review.  

Thursday, June 23, 2016

A Path For the Republicans to Win in 2016

From an analysis of the 2008 and 2012 elections, Morrissey found that the result was decided by voters in a handful of counties. The amazing fact is that if 100,000 voters had switched their votes in Ohio, Florida, Virginia, and Colorado the result would have been different.

Based on this analysis, Morrissey, identifies counties in seven states that could make the difference in 2015. He chooses counties in Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia, Wisconsin, Colorado, and New Hampshire. In each case he shows how the county voted in 2012 and 2008, how it voted the past statewide election, the make-up of the county, and income level. In addition, and I thought these were the most interesting points, he reports interviews with the county residents and looks at how the Republicans could change the dynamic in 2016.

For me, the most telling interviews were the ones that questioned how much the people running for office cared about the issues that were important to county residents. One man said that he was always being asked to contribute to the Republican Party, but no one had ever asked him about which issues were most important to him. This underscores the fact that people do care about what is happening in Washington and the State House. They do have valid opinions and not everyone is a low-information voter.

I hope the Trump campaign, and whoever the other Republican candidates are, will read this book and take to heart the valid points being made. The election does not have to be lost.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.  

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

More than the Sport of Horse-racing, a Look at the American South

Henry Forge, a young boy who has just killed a neighbor's bull, runs through the cornfield to escape the thrashing he knows his father will give him. A horse appears in the field ridden by Filip, a black man who works for Henry's father. Filip coaxes the boy on to the horse, but instead of taking him for a ride, he deposits him with his father. Henry insists that he's not guilty. His father knows this is a lie, and it makes the beating worse, but Henry, unrepentant, comes away with a hatred of his father that plays out in the rest of the novel.

The Forges are one of the oldest families in Kentucky. Their long lineage is a tale of corn farmers who own huge tracts of land and slavery. Henry informs his father that he will change all that. He plans to turn the farm into a stable for raising thoroughbred horses. His father, exceedingly angry, tells Henry that he has no feel for his own bloodlines. However, when Henry becomes the owner of the farm, he does exactly what he said. With the help of his daughter Henriettta, a black man named Allmon, and a filly named Hellsmouth, he plans to change the orientation of the family.

This is one of the most beautifully written books I have read in a long time. The words are lyrical and the images vivid. Unfortunately, many of the images have to do with rape, violence, incest and cruelty. All these dark acts are the substance of the story which is essentially about racism. It is not an easy book to read.

The main characters Henry, Henrietta, and Allmon are not likable people. In spite of the excellent writing, they left me cold. The secondary characters are much more interesting, including Ruben, the jockey who rides Hellsmouth.

The setting is vivid and the many threads of the plot are expertly drawn together. If you enjoy a beautifully written novel that gives much to think about, you'll enjoy this book. I highly recommend it.

I received this book from Net Galley for this review.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

A Political Thriller Based on Chicago Corruption

A tragic accident takes the lives of six children. They are burned to death when an out-of-control tractor-trailer slams into the family van. This horrific accident begins the story of corruption and politics in the world of Chicago and Illinois. The political corruption emerges when the driver of the tractor-trailer confesses that he bought his license from the DMV for a contribution to a political fund-raiser and a bribe.

This view of the disastrous consequences of corruption begins the story of the rise to power of the first African American President. The details of corruption brought about by the quest for money and power come right out of the pages of the newspapers, if anyone is looking. I was fascinated by the detail the author brings to the story. He doesn't give any relief from the ugly facts of how politicians get into office, including the highest office.

This book is fiction, but in many cases thinly veils the actual happenings that you see on the news. Politics is a corrupt game. The people we elect are often not what they seem and their desire is not to do the best for the citizens of the country, but to get their share and enforce their will on the country.

This book is a page-turner. The author gives us characters, particularly Mars Gregory, a man close to, but not really part of events. He watches in disbelief as his partner and the other players do things to gain their ends that at the beginning of the novel he would have found unbelievable.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. If you're a political junkie, it's a must-read. If you want an education in the seamy underside of politics, this book will open your eyes and have you listening to the news more critically.

I received this book from Net Galley for the review.

Mystery and Intrigue in an English Village at the Time of WWI

Esther Aumery is excited. She has a present for Daniel, the grounds-keepers' son, for whom she has a strong attachment. She wakens at dawn to the sound of a cart driven wildly. Looking out the window, she sees a face of pure evil that she will never forget.

Later that morning before school, she and Daniel with the other villagers find a girl dressed in a filthy rags stuffed under a hedge on the main road. Daniel carefully removes the girl from the hedge wraps her in a blanket and makes arrangements for her to be taken to the workhouse, but on the way there she disappears.

The village settles back to normal, but that isn't the whole story. Later, Clary a maid in the village manages to keep Daniel and Esther apart. Esther marries Gervase Lincoln, the owner of Barrow Hall whose young daughter disappeared causing the death of his wife. Daniel agrees to marry Clary believing that she is pregnant. However, the question of who she really is hovers over their lives.

This is a dark book with plenty of intrigue reminiscent of the Brontes. The pace is leisurely spanning the time from before to after WWI. The story moves slowly with a great deal of beautiful description that draws you into the life of the village.

From my point of view the problem with this novel is not the setting or the plot, but the characters. Daniel and Esther seem flat. Many highly emotional events happen to them and around them, but for me they remained static.

I recommend this book if you enjoy long, dark, novels, but if you're interested in good characters, this many not keep you interested.

I received this book from Net Galley for this review.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

A Way to Make American Churches More Reachable by Everyone

Many Americans, particularly some pastors, think bigger is better. Roberts sees many pastors who believe their role should be to grow a mega-church. Many of these pastors seem to desire the adulation that comes from having a large congregation and being perceived as a leader who can give excellent lessons. But, is that what God wants from his church? I think Roberts' answer is 'No.'

Roberts leads a small church in a Texas town but he has connections with a number of leaders in other countries, particularly the East. He believes that much of what these churches are doing is more in line with God's work than the mega-churches that fill with worshipers on Sunday, but have little carry over into these worshipers daily lives. He believes that pastors should be more interested in making disciples than in self-aggrandizement.

Roberts believes churches should emphasize growing the church through loving relationships that emphasize Jesus. Inspiring others to take up the call to build new churches and supporting this endeavor is more important than building a mega-church. Give other people a chance to be involved in the ministry.

This is a valuable book for anyone looking at churches in America today. I enjoyed the book and think that if more pastors took Roberts ideas to heart and practiced them we would have a more vibrant Christian life today.

I received this book from Handlebar for this review.