Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Good Beach Read

Libby Holladay, an historic preservationist, unexpectedly inherits the 1800s Tidewater Inn and some valuable beach front property on Hope Island from the father she thought died when she was five. Her partner, Nicole, learns of the inheritance when she's on Hope Island hoping to close a deal to buy and restore the old lifesaving station. As she tells Libby about her good fortune, two men grab her and force her into a boat. Libby rushes to Hope Island to look for her friend and find out about her mysterious inheritance. At Hope Island, she falls in love with the scenic town, but finds herself the main suspect in the disappearance of her friend. Libby is met with hostility by the brother and sister she didn't know she had, but is welcomed by other members of the community including her Aunt Pearl and a handsome Coast Guard Captain.

Libby is a very likable character. She meets hostility with grace and generosity and never stops believing that Nicole will be found alive. Alec, the Coast Guard Captain, is likewise a strong Christian character. He believes in Libby's innocense and helps her keep looking for Nicole. Aunt Pearl is a delightful character, exactly the kind of aunt you'd want to welcome you into the family.

I enjoyed the characters and setting for Tidewater Inn, but the plot, although there were interesting twists, didn't give the reader enough clues to help solve the mystery. I felt the attempt to keep Libby as the primary suspect was forced, and the final revelation of the villain was unexpected. I find that unfair in a mystery book. However, it's a great summer read. The setting on Hope Island is delightful and the Christian message, excellent.

I reviewed this book for the Thomas Nelson Booksneeze Program.   

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Continuing Conversations with God: Proof of the Afterlife by Brother Gary Joseph

After what he describes as a near death experience (NDE), Brother Gary Joseph began to experience visitations from dead family members and to have conversations with God and Jesus, which he calls locutions. He documented these encounters in his journal. This journal plays an important part in this book because Brother Joseph quotes long passages from it. Many of the encounters with family led to reconciliation with the departed loved one. This was particularly true with his father with whom he had an abusive relationship growing up. The depiction gives hope that even the most difficult relationships can be resolved through God's love.

I found the book difficult. The NDE is not like any I have read about previously. In fact, he was not pronounced dead and apparently didn't see a physician. Personally, I don't believe you have to have an actual NDE to come close to God or Jesus, but I found his description troubling.

The concept of the book is excellent. We should all be striving for a continuing conversation with God and Jesus and trying to find redemption for our failures, particularly our failed relationships. There is much excellent advice in this book. For that it is well worth reading. However, if you're looking to be convinced about NDEs and the afterlife, I think other descriptions are more helpful.

I reviewed this book for PR by the Book.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Historical Drama and Romance in the Dakota Territory

Humiliated by the man she thought would offer her marriage, Sophia decides to become a missionary. She was totally surprised when Congressman Rexford Montgomery proposed marriage to Annabelle, her roommate. Instead of remaining at the woman's college in New York where she was the French instructor, Sophia decides to take advantage of her Russian heritage and become a missionary to China. Instead of China, she finds herself in the Dakota Territory at a Ponca village as the schoolteacher, and, of course, there is a handsome Agency carpenter, Will, helping her make the school livable.

If you like historical fiction, I highly recommend this book. Sophia is an engaging character. She comes from the Russian nobility and is constantly making small mistakes because of her background. She never expected to become a missionary and instead of a traditional Protestant background, she grew up in the Russian Orthodox Church. 

The portrayal of the Ponca Indians is delightful. It's historically accurate and gives a very clear picture of what the Indians suffered after being deprived of their lands and placed in Agencies by the white men. If for no other reason, learning about the Poncas is a good reason to read this book.

I reviewed this book for the Thomas Nelson Booksneeze Program.

Monday, June 11, 2012

A Book to Savor: Against Wind and Tide by Anne Morrow Lindberg

As an artist and a woman, Anne Morrow Lindberg seemed to have it all: healthy children, a famous husband, and acclaim for her writing, but like all of us there were mountains to climb. This series of diaries and letters gives us a glimpse of the inner woman and how she stood up to the challenges in her life.

One of the major themes is her need for solitude to fill the cup of creativity. With five children, finding quiet times is never easy. Although Anne had little houses to write in at most of the places she lived, seizing time for herself came with the price of guilt. I think one of the most fascinating sections is her life on Captiva, an island off the coast of Florida. It's here that she got the idea for “Gift from the Sea.” Some of the sections for that book come word for word from the diary she kept at this time.

I highly recommend this book. If you are a woman in the middle years, I think you will find yourself in the pages. Wanting to be your own person and be acknowledge for your art on one hand, but taking the job of wife and particularly mother very seriously. I loved the book. It's the kind of book you want to dip into from time to time to feel the touch of a courageous soul.

I reviewed this book for the Amazon Vine Program.

Rather Disappointing: Desert Drop by Rex Cusler

Alice James is thrilled to be contacted by, Corina, a sister she didn't know she had. They plan to get together, but Corina is kidnapped on the way to meet Alice. Their father, Leon Stapper, comes up with the money to pay the kidnappers, but it's too late. Alice and her partner, Jim Snow vow to find the kidnappers. The rest of the story involves their quest.

The plot moves slowly with Alice and Jim chasing the kidnappers in a typical detective fashion asking questions. The characters are rather stereotypical TV type detectives. They follow up leads and ask questions, but there's little technique since the subjects almost immediately begin spouting facts. Instead of smart dialog, it's basically a data dump. Another turn off is having the detectives constantly using their first names when they talk to each other. This is not the way people usually speak, and it gets annoying.

I can't recommend this book. I love detective stories, but I was bored by the rather tired plot. Perhaps if you love Las Vegas and are looking for a quick read, it's the book for you, if not, give it a miss.

I reviewed this book for the Amazon Vine Program.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Three Women's Lives on a Collision Course for Heart Island

Birdie Burke, seventy-five-years-old, owns Heart Island. It's been special to her since she was a girl spending her summers there, but it also holds bad memories. Kate, her daughter, feels obligated to spend the usual week on the island, but she's torn between the love and responsibility she feels for her children and husband, and the responsibility she feels toward Birdie to be the 'good daughter.' Emily is trapped in an affair with a man she wants to love, but wonders if she's deluding herself. She does things she knows are wrong to hold him, but how far must she stray from being herself?

The book is suspenseful, tracking the lives of the three ladies as they approach the weekend at Heart Island. I felt the author built suspense very well moving between the three characters. The denouement, when it comes, is expected, but the emotional impact is still sweeping. The end of the book is hard to put down.

The early chapters move fairly slowly. Since this is the saga of a dysfunctional family, much back story needs to be told. The author does this primarily through internal dialog. This isn't bad, but it does slow the story.

If you're interested in a good beach read, this is an excellent choice.

I reviewed this book for the Amazon Vine Program. Heartbroken by Lisa Unger.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Something for Everyone: Science, History, Religion, Politics, and Science Fiction: The Cryptos Conundrum by Chase Brandon

The story opens in the trenches in France during World War I. Dr. Jonathan Chalmers and his friend, Paul Baker, enlisted hoping to be involved in the heroic battle to drive the Germans out of France. Instead they find themselves in muddy trenches being shot at. Both are wounded. Paul dies and Jonathan is sent back to the United States, but not before he has an extraterrestrial encounter that changes his life.

This book is described as a conspiracy thriller, but it doesn't fit the genre. It starts with history and moves rapidly into science fiction. The opening chapters are well done. The description of trench warfare is realistic, and we get to know the hero. However, the rest of the book reads like a meeting in the Washington bureaucracy. Jonathan's character becomes two dimensional and none of the other characters are fleshed out at all.

I felt the book lacked focus. The plot covers hundreds of years and picks up most of the political and scientific controversies from WWII on. On one level, it's interesting to see how the author pieces all the historical incidents together and throws in some religion and science fiction. However, as a thriller, it misses the mark. There isn't enough action. If you love meetings and getting a peek at the bureaucracy, this is the book for you. If not, give it a miss.

I reviewed this book for the Amazon Vine Program.