Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Tale of Love and Forgiveness




The second book in the Ladies of Summerhill series is much like the first. A young woman, Charlotte Hale, wants to be a newspaper reporter. When offered the chance of an undercover assignment, she jumps at it, although he has qualms about the ethical nature of her assignment, particularly after she meets her handsome employer, Daniel Wilmont.

The plot is predictable and the book much too long. As a novella, it might work better. The author has a tendency to wander about in the middle and then rush the ending. The prose is stilted and the character's speech is very formal. I assume the author thinks this is the way people talked at this period.

The Newport setting is intriguing. I enjoyed reading about the manners of the denizens of the cottages and their relationship to the working class. The themes of forgiveness and a young woman finding her relationship to God are a plus and the author handles them with delicacy. If you like romance with a Christian undertone, you may enjoy this book.

I review this book as part of the Thomas Nelson Book Sneeze Program.  

Friday, December 24, 2010

An Exploration of Good and Evil



Three Seconds is a fast paced crime story, but much more. The plot revolves around the Eastern Europeon Mafia drug traffic. Infiltrators are used by the Swedish police to get information on criminal activities and in this book to attempt to stop the trade.

The central character, Piet Hoffman, works for the Swedish police as an infiltrator. A man with a criminal past, he is used by the police but also distrusted. In the course of his duties, he takes on a dangerous mission with the blessings of the highest levels of government authority. It is in this juxtaposition of the criminal world with the government bureaucracy that the exploration of good and evil occurs.

I found the book fascinating and highly recommend it to lovers of crime fiction and to those interested in character study. For the crime lovers, the clever ruses employed by the criminal element are delightful. (I just hope law enforcement officers are reading this as well as the criminals.) For those interested in psychology, the characters, from Piet, the infiltrator, to Grens, the harden cop, and of course, the beaurocrats, are well drawn and thought provoking.  

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

What a Marvelous Way to Spend a Year



A Year With God is a unique devotional experience. The book uses God's words from the Old Testament to illustrate the themes of: love and hate, hope and fear, joy and sadness, perseverance and quitting, and many more.

I found the length of the devotionals exactly right for a few minutes of meditation in the morning, or any other time of day that is appropriate for the reader. While not being heavily theological, the devotionals were easy to read and gave you something to think about. I find it helpful to have something that starts my thinking on a topic. I don't like long treatises that try force you to adopt the writer's point of view.

For anyone who wants an uplifting start to the day and an assurance of God's love and care for us, I can highly recommend this book.

I reviewed this book as part of the Thomas Nelson Book Sneeze Program.  

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Romance set in Colonial Philadelphia



Where Hearts Are Free is the third book in the Darkness to Light Series following the adventures of the Clavel family in their new home in Pennsylvania. The main characters in this book are Philippe and Charles, the sons of the family who are working as indentured servants in Philadelphia. The book contrasts the situations of the two brothers. Charles works for a man who abuses his servants. Philippe works for a wealthy family and is well treated.

Bridget, the daughter of the family, falls in love with Philippe although a wealthy girl marrying a servant is unthinkable. The story revolves around Bridget's desire to make her own marriage choices and her parents desire to have her make a suitable match. Through the striving of the young lovers, the book shows the power of Christian love and God's ability to make good things happen.

While the story was interesting, I found the writing very stilted, and it wass difficult to get involved in the fate of the characters because they didn't seem real. However, the story is interesting, and the setting is good. For readers of Christian Romantic Fiction, it should be an enjoyable experience.  

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Biblical Interpretation of the Middle East Conflict



This book presents a very readable perspective on the Middle East conflict from a biblical point of view. I have always been fascinated by the origins of the conflict. Bryant leads the reader through the Bible story of Abraham's family and relates how the original conflict began. I found the explanation of Sarah's use of her handmaiden, Hagar, to help God fulfill his prophecy particularly interesting. Bryant makes an excellent point that God will fulfill his prophecies in his own time. Helping him the way Sarah tried to leads to more problems than it solves. It's a very cogent argument for having faith that God will do what he says if we believe.

The book doesn't rely completely on the past. Bryant also discusses the history of the formation of Israel from lands the Arabs believed had been given to them by God. I learned a great deal from this discussion. I found the second part of the book particularly interesting. Bryant presents a series of chapters giving us the perspective of the players in the Middle East conflict. It was helpful to see how each group firmly believes it is in the right. Unfortunately, this is not a good omen for resolution of the conflict.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the roots of the Middle East Conflict.

I reviewed this book as part of the Thomas Nelson Book Sneeze Program

Friday, September 24, 2010

A Very Uneven Novel



The most positive thing you can say about The Wake of Forgiveness is that the author has a very descriptive writing style that transports you into the time and place. Unfortunately, the author hasn't mastered the creation of suspense. The story skips back and forth between time periods. This ruins the most suspenseful scenes and keeps the reader wondering where he is in the story. This is a good bad example of the problems with extensive flashbacks.

The book is primarily a character study. I believe it was competently done, but the characters were so cruel and their motivations so selfish that I had a hard time getting interested in their problems. Perhaps the author was trying to say that the harsh land forms harsh characters.

One reason I cannot recommend this story is the amount of animal cruelty. I found the scenes where animals were being hurt repugnant. This might not bother some people, but animal lovers need to be warned about the graphic nature of the scenes where horses are abused.

I read the book as part of the Barnes and Noble First Look Program. I was very glad to have an opportunity to read the book and particularly to discuss it with other readers. It's not a book I would have chosen to read, but I learned something. 

Monday, September 6, 2010

A Brief Look at an American Hero



Although I've read may other books about the Civil War, this one make General Lee come to life. I found the details of his early life, particularly his life with his wife and family fascinating. Somehow, other books failed to make Lee, the husband and father, come alive. In fact, I thought that he didn't like spending time with his wife and family. Being a military man, he spent a great deal of time apart from them, but the brief glimpses of his letters to Mary and his children changed my mind.

This book is not a comprehensive biography, but rather a glimpse of Lee, not only as a fighting man, but as a very human person. Before reading this book, I had never really thought about his religious beliefs. Now I understand what a strong impact his belief in God had on his actions both as a man and a general.

I strongly recommend this book to anyone who wants to know more about General Lee. It's not a comprehensive biography, but in a few pages it gives an excellent feel for the man and his times, not just the Civil War hero, but his early life and how important his allegiance to Virginia was to him.

I reviewed this book as part of the Thomas Nelson bloggers program.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Buckley and Conservatism





Until I read this book, I didn't know much about William Buckley. Now, although I'm not an expert, I at least understand something of his impact on the conservative movement in America. I grew up in the 50's and 60's hearing a lot about politics, but not realizing the role Buckley played. I recommend this book to anyone who, like me, is unfamiliar with the conservative political movement and the part played by William Buckley.

A major advantage of this book is that it's short. Some people may want more detail, but if the purpose of the book was to introduce Buckley and his political philosophy; it did a good job. The author cites numerous other works by the author and other more comprehensive biographies. If this book piques your interest there is a plethora of material to follow up on.

I liked the brevity of the treatment that allowed me to learn about the Firing Line program, and the National Review, as well as Buckley's essays, philosophical works and novels. I'm not sure I would have tackled a longer biography, knowing so little about the subject. Now that I know more, doors have been opened.

I review this book as part of the Thomas Nelson Book Sneeze Program.

Buckley and Conservatism

Until I read this book, I didn't know much about William Buckley. Now, although I'm not an expert, I at least understand something of his impact on the conservative movement in America. I grew up in the 50's and 60's hearing a lot about politics, but not realizing the role Buckley played. I recommend this book to anyone who, like me, is unfamiliar with the conservative political movement and the part played by William Buckley.

A major advantage of this book is that it's short. Some people may want more detail, but if the purpose of the book was to introduce Buckley and his political philosophy; it did a good job. The author cites numerous other works by the author and other more comprehensive biographies. If this book piques your interest there is a plethora of material to follow up on.

I liked the brevity of the treatment that allowed me to learn about the Firing Line program, and the National Review, as well as Buckley's essays, philosophical works and novels. I'm not sure I would have tackled a longer biography, knowing so little about the subject. Now that I know more, doors have been opened.

I review this book as part of the Thomas Nelson Book Sneeze Program.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Fascinating Glimpse of Military Genius



Although not as detailed as some biographies, this book gives us a glimpse of Patton and the characteristics that made him a military genius. I particularly enjoyed the chapters on his early life and ancestors. The stories about his childhood and early adulthood bear out the idea that genius is one tenth inspiration and ninety percent perspiration. In order to be great at any profession you have to have a feel for it. However, unless the feel is buttressed by a substantial amount of work, the potential for genius is not fulfilled.

I thought this book was an excellent one for the general reader. It gave enough facts and background description to give you the feel for the era and the political and military concerns without getting too bogged down in battlefield events.

I also liked the description of the roles played by the other generals: Eisenhower, Bradley and Pershing. If the book had been longer, I would have liked to hear more about their interactions, particularly the early encounters. However, I felt the author did a good job at what he set out to do, which was to give an overview of Patton's career for the general reader.

I reviewed this book for Thomas Nelson. 

Thursday, July 29, 2010

A Gentle Romance



A thirty year old woman, Ann, comes home to what she thinks is a celebratory weekend. Her younger sister is graduating with a Master's Degree. The weekend becomes tragic when a drunken driver hits their car and the sister dies. This opening draws you in, particularly when the younger sister dies humming a tune that begins to haunt Ann.


While the book is a romance, the thrust of the story is on Ann's relationship to God. She starts as a non-believer, and the tragic death of her sister does nothing to change that. She meets her sister's neighbors, Tammy and her mongoloid son, Keith. They strike Ann as encroaching; not people she wants in her life. However, as she gets to know Keith and understand his simple faith, particularly his faith that angels are around us helping us, she begins to love them.

I recommend this story for those who like a good read, not exciting, not outrageous, but a simple heartwarming story. It makes a very good case for the Christian dilemma of bad things happening to good people. Perhaps, if viewed correctly, they are God's way of helping us grow.

I reviewed this book or the Thomas Nelson Book Sneeze Program.  

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Jesus for Today





MacAurthur has an important message for Christians today. In The Jesus You Can't Ignore, he shows us the Jesus many people seem to be understand. The real Jesus was neither meek not mild. He opposed the false piety of the Pharisees even though it led to his death. He didn't try to sit down and give have a nice chat with them. He told them where they were at fault. We, as Christians shouldn't be afraid to do that. Too many Christians today are taking the easy non-confrontational path. When the world is full of religious leaders pushing the easy pop-culture forms of religion, we need to stand up for what we believe. It doesn't help to hide behind pleasant sounding dialect.

MacArthur's point is that it's not easy to follow in the footsteps of Christ. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. In today's world so many churches fail to give what MacArthur calls “hard” preaching. If Christians stand back and fail to confront the false religions and false teachers, then we have lost our way. Christ confronted the religious leaders who preferred to give outward appearances of piety than to tend to their spiritual needs and those of their congregation. Today the risk of falling into the same trap by trying to curry popular opinion is very great. External observances do not substitute for spiritual commitment.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Loved the Cover





I can say two positive things about “Love on a Dime.” The cover is fantastic. It makes you want to pick up the book. The other is that it's a Christian romance novel. Unfortunately the story doesn't live up to the promise of the cover. It is a formula romance, and not a particularly good one.

I hate to be critical, but the characters are wooden; their speech, stilted. I assume the author thinks this is the way people talked in that era. Having read some excellent romance novels from the same time period, I doubt it.

Probably the most disappointing part was the way setting was handled. Newport in the summer should have been a delightful backdrop for a romance. However, the author fails to use detail to bring the area to life. By this, I don't mean pages of description, rather the telling details that make a scene memorable.

The novel does bring out Christian values. The characters learn to put their faith in God and that, ultimately, allows them to fulfill their heart's desire. This is a positive aspect to the book when so many romance novels concentrate on erotica and adulterous sex.

Unless you're looking for a Christian novel, or love formula romances; give this book a miss.

I review the book as part of the Thomas Nelson Book Sneeze Program.  

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Writing Circle from Hell




The idea for The Writing Circle is excellent. A writing circle is a closed part of society for many people. Avid readers want to know more about writers. This offered a peek into what goes on behind the scenes. That being said, I was disappointed in the novel. The writers in the writing circle were all very self-absorbed, jealous people with the possible exception of Virginia. I didn't feel interested in any of them, if I hadn't been reading the book for a First Look, I probably wouldn't have finished it.

The presentation of the characters dragged without much plot in the early chapters. There was a great deal of back story, much more that I felt was necessary to understand the interaction among the people in the group. The characters seemed pretty much stock characters. From the beginning Gillian was the villain. Nancy was the victim. I think the author was trying to make a point about morality; however, portraying Gillian as completely self-absorbed and amoral reduced the impact of her actions.

I wanted to like the book. I think the theme was a excellent choice. However, I was disappointed in the execution. 

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

An Important Warning for our Times






Billy Graham's Storm Warning Is a revised and updated version of the 1992 book by the same title. It is even more relevant today than when it was written. The world is filled with portents of disaster: war, hunger, natural disasters, broken families. This list is long. Graham urges Christians to wake up and follow the dictates of Jesus Christ however difficult that may be.

In the last several chapters of the book, Graham gives an excellent description of the horrors that accompany the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. Relating the troubles in our own times to John's vision is excellent. Using the images from Revelations, Graham makes you feel the urgency for Christians and the whole world to take the message seriously. We may be living in the end times. It is a time to renew our faith and live as Jesus taught.

This is a book that should make us all think about how we want to live and what we can do to prepare ourselves for Christ's coming. I very much enjoyed the book and highly recommend it. It's a book that will make you think.

I reviewed the book as part of Thomas Nelson's Book Sneeze program.  

Friday, May 7, 2010

Congratulations to the Winner of Heart Mender

Thanks to everyone for participating. I dumped your names in a hat and let my husband pick one. (So you can blame him!)

The luck winner is Katie Hines.

I'll be sending out the book directly.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Gulf of Mexico in World War II Spawns A Heartwarming Love Story


 

Who can resist little know facts about submarine activity off the coast of the United States coupled with a love story? I thought I knew a great deal about World War II. Much to my surprise the submarine activity along the Southern states and the Gulf of Mexico was extensive. The facts in the book are amazing. Can you believe that German sailors were mingling with movie goers in New Orleans? The background in this book was exceptionally interesting.

But the war history wasn't the best part. A damaged young woman and an equally damaged enemy sailor find love, turn their lives around, and surprisingly, live happily ever after. But the romance isn't sticky sweet. It portrays the need for forgiveness and has an aspect that makes the best thrillers sell like hotcakes. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and can't recommend it highly enough for an educational and inspirational read!

As a bonus, I'm giving away a copy of the book, “The Heart Mender." If you leave a comment, I will enter your name in the drawing. I'll announce the winner by Friday, May7, 2010. Check the blog to see if you won!!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Is the End of the World Immanent – 2010 question?


I found this book fascinating. As the author points out, most of the “prophesy” concerning the end of the world in 2012 is based on superstition and faulty logic. However, I did get some new information. In the first place there is increased volcanic activity in the world. This could be exceeding dangerous if one of the super volcanoes, like the one in Yellow Stone National Park, blow. The book also points out that increased volcanic activity could be a by-product of increased solar energy entering out atmosphere. The book was worth reading just to discover these facts.

The question of the world ending in 2012, however, remains unresolved. I seriously doubt it is tied to the end of the Mayan calendar, or any other prophesy, either the I Ching, or the Bible. I do believe that the world will end one day for each of us. Whether it ends in a global cataclysm, or as the result of the natural end of our years on earth, we must behave as Christians and be ready for the eventuality. God will be the final judge of what happens to the world. It is our job to be ready whenever that happens.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Map: A Christian Thriller




Reading this book, I felt I'd stumbled into the men's locker room. I enjoyed the opening. David Murrow starts with a fiction section that reads much like the DaVinci Code. It's predictable and mildly exciting., but it gets the book off to an interesting start. Without the fiction portion, I believe the book would get bogged down with not enough content.

I got out of the mood of the journeys when Murrow claimed them to be an exclusively male province. The purpose of the book is to describe the three journeys of Christ as found in Matthew. The idea is that we start from a journey of submission followed by a journey of strength and ending with a journey of sacrifice. The concept relates well not to just church attendance, but to many aspects of life, particularly where decisions must be made, acted on and the consequences lived with. I found all of this fascinating.

The book concentrates on what it starts out to do: encourage men to become more interested and involved in church. I agree with Murrow that the journeys are beneficial for men, but I could equally see the application to women. The emphasis on masculine and feminine is a fine metaphor but in fact the way he explains them, they refer more to characteristics than physical people. Women are perfectly capable of taking the same journeys as men, and I believe the church would function better if both sexes were encouraged to do so.

I enjoyed the book, but I think the focus is too narrow. The idea can be explained simply. If it were broadened to include a larger population that would benefit from the journeys, I think it would be more interesting.

I reviewed this book as part of Thomas Nelson's Book Sneeze Program.

The Map: A Christian Thriller




Reading this book, I felt I'd stumbled into the men's locker room. I enjoyed the opening. David Murrow starts with a fiction section that reads much like the DaVinci Code. It's predictable and mildly exciting., but it gets the book off to an interesting start. Without the fiction portion, I believe the book would get bogged down with not enough content.

I got out of the mood of the journeys when Murrow claimed them to be an exclusively male province. The purpose of the book is to describe the three journeys of Christ as found in Matthew. The idea is that we start from a journey of submission followed by a journey of strength and ending with a journey of sacrifice. The concept relates well not to just church attendance, but to many aspects of life, particularly where decisions must be made, acted on and the consequences lived with. I found all of this fascinating.

The book concentrates on what it starts out to do: encourage men to become more interested and involved in church. I agree with Murrow that the journeys are beneficial for men, but I could equally see the application to women. The emphasis on masculine and feminine is a fine metaphor but in fact the way he explains them, they refer more to characteristics than physical people. Women are perfectly capable of taking the same journeys as men, and I believe the church would function better if both sexes were encouraged to do so.

I enjoyed the book, but I think the focus is too narrow. The idea can be explained simply. If it were broadened to include a larger population that would benefit from the journeys, I think it would be more interesting.

I reviewed this book as part of Thomas Nelson's Book Sneeze Program.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Psalms in a Modern Context


The psalms have always been one of my favorite parts of the Bible. The feeling of a people living close to nature comes through in this modern translation. I found it quite delightful. Some people might quibble that the translation is not completely true to the sources usually used for biblical translation, but I found that the poetry of the translation gave a good picture of the intention of the psalms.

The book also includes daily reading plans for Advent and Lent. I read the psalms in conjunction with the plans and found the combination useful. The cited Bible verses were not always exactly on point for me in the strict sense of Bible study, but they made me think.

The book itself is beautifully done. It's printed on heavy paper and the pages have a colored background that I found restful. All in all I found the book a good tool for contemplation and Bible study.

I reviewed this book for the Thomas Nelson Book Sneezer Program.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Write with Your Senses Wide Open

Travel



I don't have trouble putting down a book. I can do it for an hour, a day, a month, a year, or never pick it up again. Eternal on the Water by Joseph Monninger (available from Simon and Schuster in February) is different. I couldn't put down, not because of the tragic love story, the spunky heroine, or the honorable hero. Monniger's strong sensory images drew me into that world. I felt the fine spray of paddles dipping in the racing river, tasted the first bittersweet sip of hot coffee on a brisk morning, saw sunlight filter though the pines to awaken iridescent colors from a black bird wing.


To show rather than tell, we must use all five senses to draw the reader into the story. I love camping, so the images in Eternal on the Water, appealed to my senses stimulating emotion. Emotion drives the story. The more our senses are awakened to the emotions we once experienced, the more we feel a part of the story. Senses not only connect us to the story, they announce the emotion. Slimy things crawling on the floor hint at something unsavory afoot. Champagne bubbling on the tongue telegraphs happiness and celebration.

Fit the images into the story. Long paragraphs of description are unnecessary. The trick is to pick the exact image to bring the story to life. A shower of sparks erupting from the campfire when a pocket of sap in a pine log bursts, the murmur of the river drifting through the pines, the smell of bacon frying over a campfire on a windy morning, streams of water twisting like dark rope in the current: these images tucked into the movement of the story bring us into the world and make it ours.


Friday, February 5, 2010

David's Story – An Inspiration for Us Today


King David wasn't perfect and yet God loved him. If God loved David, a man of many faults, he can love us, too. I think that sums up the message of Max Lucado's latest book. Such a message gives hope to all of us. David, according to the Bible, faced many giants. He was far from perfect and committed the same sins many of us do yet he was beloved by God. He succeeded because when he faced his trials, he thought about God and asked his help.

Lucado skillfully weaves David's story into the trials of people today. Instead of asking God's help and facing our giants, too many of us run away to easy fixes: affairs, addictions, and over work. David, like many of us, was tempted by these easy fixes, but he called on God to help him. When he didn't, he suffered as we all do. When he did, he succeeded mightily. It's tough to go it alone.

I highly recommend this book for anyone struggling with giants in their life. Remember, if you talk to God and Jesus, you're not alone. You, too, can conquer your giants.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Resolve to be an Empowered Writer

Side profile of a businesswoman working on a laptop


Why do we writers leave the responsibility for deciding the worth of our work in the hands of others and then feel completely devastated by rejection? The cure is to become and empowered writer.

The first step is learn your craft. In “No More Rejections,” Alice Orr describes her younger self in the woman's room of a sushi restaurant resting her head against the tiles feeling completely clueless about why her latest manuscript had been canceled after. The solution, according to Orr, is to learn your craft. None of us would trust our bodies to a doctor who said, “Hey, I want to be a surgeon. I think I'll try this operation on you. When I'm finished, I'll ask a senior surgeon whether I did it right.” That may sound facetious, but it's exactly what many aspiring writers do. They labor for months, or years, over their novel then fling it into the mail hoping an editor, agent, or publisher will love it. Anyone can write a novel – right?

As a professional, you should determine whether your novel has potential. You'll still get rejections. Many business decisions and matters of taste are responsible for a publisher's rejection of a manuscript. But when the letter comes back, you should not feel helpless. You do control the destiny of your work, if you understand it's limitations and can assess it's economic potential. Writing is, after all, a business.

The second step is accepting responsibility for your work. In a recent exchange on Amazon's comment section, a writer received a very negative review from a reader. Instead of shrugging it off as a matter of taste, the author became defensive. However, instead of giving her own reasons for the novel's lack of success, she blamed her editor. Editors can be extremely helpful. Mine is superb; but, not all editors are created equal, any more than doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers or mothers. If you really believe your editor is giving you bad advice, it's your responsibility to do something about it. If you elect to take the direction and keep your mouth shut, you can't blame the editor. As a professional, you accepted the criticism and you, not she, are responsible for your work. Your name is on the cover.

This brings us back to the first point. You can only be responsible for your work only if you have a thorough knowledge of your craft. At the start of this new decade, lets all resolve to become empowered writers.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Why do we love the way we do?



For centuries people have struggled to explain love. I'm not sure Dr. Henslin completely succeeded in this task, but the book is very enlightening when it discusses the types of lover and the ways loves goes wrong. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and feel that it brings a message of hope to anyone struggling with an out of control relationship.


I was particularly taken by the discussions of the different parts of the brain and how they influence the way we see ourselves and others. The fact that there are biochemical reasons for why we act the way we do, and the fact that abnormalities are treatable is very hopeful. Understanding the Agitated Lover seems particularly important. The news media are filled with terrible stories about love gone wrong resulting not only in divorce, but also in murder. Too many women suffer with an agitated and abusive lover. Perhaps, if they read this book they will be able to find someone to help.


I think the best thing about the book is that it gives hope to unhappy couples. Maybe their problems are solvable. If you can balance your brain, and understand your partner better, you may become one of the blessed few who finds lasting romance.