Wednesday, November 30, 2011

An Intersection of Nightmare and Reality

Rats - vermin with a crazed blood lust race through Central Park. An elderly woman, leading a group of campers, suffers a stroke and is eaten. A little girl full of rat trivia witnesses the rat assault, and another more deadly attack. Rats fall from the trees sated with the blood of three people strung up in bags in the Ramble in Central Park. The opening has all the aspects of a nightmare. Reality intervenes in the police investigation of the murder and near murder of the three people.

Mallory and her partner Riker are charged with the identification of the victims and in the process discover the intersection of fifteen year old crimes in the Ramble with the new victims. It's payback time.

The intricate plot keeps the reader moving through the investigation. The bonus is the imagery; rats turn up throughout the narrative keeping alive the idea of monsters. The psychology of the investigators and the criminals also intersects; who is crazy?

This book is not for squeamish readers, but it has many rewards. The proliferation of characters are well drawn, and the subplot of their place in Mallory's background is used perceptively. I enjoyed the book although the images often verged on nightmarish fantasy. Carol O'Connor is a master of her craft. This is a book well-worth reading.

I reviewed this book as part of the Amazon Vine Program.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Month that Changed the World

On December l, 1941, America was a divided country. The war in Europe and the Japanese incursions in the Far East seemed far way. The America First Committee urged citizens to stay out of the war, and many agreed with that sentiment. Then came December 7, 1941 and America would never be the same. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor changed the isolationist country into one completely focused on winning the war.

Craig Shirley uses a unique format to tell the story of the month of December 1941. We are treated to a comprehensive selection of items from the newspapers of the day. Not only, do we learn about the battles and the public reaction to them, we hear about what people were doing for recreation, how much things cost (a truly amazing difference from today.), and stories of individual heroism both in the military and on the home front. It's hard to imagine the devastation of losing two sons on the same day in the Pacific, but that was the plight of more than one family.

I highly recommend this book if you love history. It's also a book that brings home how much our country today resembles the country prior to World War II. There are many stories in the book that should make us all stop and think about our beliefs and where we're going. The challenges are not so different.

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

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Gentle Love Stories

Three young women, friends living in the same community, face challenges preparing for their weddings. Rose Bender, recently engaged to her best friend Luke Raber, begins to wonder if she's made the right choice. Luke seems distant, not the ardent suitor she dreams of. Naomi Fisher is a successful matchmaker for everyone except herself. Naomi thinks she has resigned herself to life alone, but her sister's approaching wedding makes her question her decision. Priscilla King is preparing for the perfect wedding she's dreamed of since she was sixteen. She and Chester Lapp are very much in love, but as things go wrong with the wedding preparations, they begin to question God's plan.

I loved this book. The authors did a skillful job using the same setting to tell the interwoven stories. The plots are interesting, but it's the characters that keep you reading. The young women are genuinely likeable. Their problems feel real and the resolutions are satisfying.

I recommend this book if you're a fan of Amish stories, or just love a good romance.

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

Sunday, November 13, 2011

An Occult Western

Lucas McCade, superstar rodeo cowboy, has retired and taken a job in Oklahoma at the Falling Star Ranch. His wife is delighted, but his teenage son, Connor, isn't pleased. He's missing his friends and his plans for playing for the Texas Longhorns. The McCades settle in. The ranch is lovely, and they've found a church, but something is ominous. Not everyone is who they seem and evil hides even in the sanctuary of the church.

The plot is interesting, combining all the elements of a western with the occult. I thought I would enjoy it, but the structure of the book left a lot to be desired. The characters are cliches; the superstar who is a regular guy, the rebellious teenager, the beautiful girl and her disturbed counterpart.

The setting is interesting, but there is way too much description. Every time we meet a new character we have to hear what he or she is wearing, etc. I found that too much description slowed the story and didn't add much to the understanding of the characters.

I can't recommend this book. It purports to be a Christian book, but there are many too many curse words, and the Christian element, for me, is thinly veiled. The book starts realistically enough, but ends with what one can only describe as unrealistic melodrama.

I reviewed the book as part of the Thomas Nelson Booksneeze Program.

Monday, November 7, 2011

An Interesting Prequel

Running from depression and alcoholism, Anna Pigeon takes a bus all the way to Arizona where she gets a job as a seasonal employee at Lake Powell in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. Her job, picking up the human excrement on the shore of the lake, is unpleasant and difficult. When Anna disappears, her co-workers surmise that she's hurried back to New York. The truth is rather different. Anna has been kidnapped and thrust into a deep, rocky hole. Her struggle to escape is the subject of the early chapters.

I have read many of the Anna Pigeon novels and loved them. The descriptions of the national park settings are well done and the characters interesting. In this novel, the description of Lake Powell and vicinity is delightful, but the characters left me cold. With the possible exception of Jenny, Anna's roommate, I found the characters unlikeable. The motivation for their bad decisions was unclear, even at the end of the book. I finished reading feeling unsatisfied.

The plot is fast paced with plenty of gripping moments, but I didn't feel that it hung together. There were too many unbelievable elements, starting with the opening scenes where Anna finds herself at the bottom of a hole.

If you're an Anna Pigeon fan, I recommend this book because it fills in Anna's early history. If you're looking for a believable plot and well drawn characters, I'd give this one a miss.

I reviewed the book as part of the Amazon Vine Program.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Astonishing Tale of a Boy's Visit to Heaven

During a life threatening operation, Colton Burpo has an amazing experience. He visits heaven, meets Jesus, members of his family, and sits near God. It all sounds too good to be true, but I doubt a four-year-old could make it all up. His descriptions of heaven are eerily like those in the Bible, particularly Revelations.

I found the story fascinating. Did Colton really visit heaven? We can't know for sure, but he believes he did, and his parents, after much questioning and hearing his tales, believe that he did. Personally, it makes sense to me to believe that he did visit heaven. It's much like Pascal's Wager, we are more likely to get to heaven if we believe and accept Jesus as our savior. It also helps us to be better people here on earth.

This is also a very warm family story. It made me happy to see how the family interacted. The parents obviously love their children very much. I felt they treated Colton's revelations sensibly and were moved by them, but not moved to exploit their child.The scene where Sonja, Colton's mother, hears that he met the daughter she miscarried is extremely moving.

I highly recommend this book. Even if you don't come away believing, you will experience the warmth of this remarkable family.

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

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Importance of All Work

Work, all work, is an important ingredient of God's plan for a Christian's life. Tom Nelson address the issue that some Christians find difficult. God's work seems to be only that done on a Sunday. Nelson makes the point that all work is important. You are doing God's work whether your calling is to become a pastor, or a missionary, or whether you are called to be a guidance counselor or manager. For me, this is a very important concept. No matter what kind of work we're called to do, we're doing God's work when we do it well.

This book should be read by everyone, particularly people who feel that their work isn't important. Nelson makes it very clear with case histories and Bible stories that everyone has a role to play, and we are all doing God's work. The book is very readable. I enjoyed the chatty style that brings you into Nelson's own life. For a relatively short book, it contains many valuable insights.

I recommend this book. It can be used in vocational counseling as well as read by anyone for a better understanding of God's plan for work in our lives.

I reviewed this book as part of the Crossway Publishers review program.

Family Secrets in an English Country Village

Scotland Yard Inspector Ian Rutledge interviews a dying man who confesses to a murder. Rutledge is intrigued and tries to find out more about the murder, but before he can, the young man himself is found floating in the Thames. When it becomes evident that the murdered man gave a false identity, Rutledge is assigned to investigate. The trail leads him to a small fishing village where the man grew up. The villagers are surly, clearly wanting Rutledge to go away. The reasons are unclear until Rutledge discovers that another murder was committed before WWI, or was it suicide?

I loved this book. I'm a fan of English mysteries and this is a good one. The plot is full of twists keeping the reader guessing the identity of the murderer until the very end. The book is filled with interesting characters and the scene is suitably forbidding. In addition to murder, the village has a secret that makes them shun outsiders.

I highly recommend this book if you like English mysteries. The unveiling of the connections between the characters keeps you turning the pages. All in all a very satisfactory mystery.

I reviewed this book as part of the Amazon Vine Program.