Friday, December 28, 2012

Good Start, But Doesn't Live Up to It's Potential: Cover of Snow by Jenny Milchman

Nora Hamilton wakes from a drugged sleep to discover that her husband, Brendan, hung himself during the night. Why did he take his own life? Nora has to know. Her mother-in-law and even the police chief hint that it could have been because of problems in the marriage, but Nora can't/won't believe it. Small things happen. Her sister finds the two wine glasses she and Brendon used on the last night. One of them contains the residue of a drug apparently the one used to make her sleep. She finds a bottle containing the drug in a drawer of Brendan's desk. The prescription is for ten days earlier, but why did he need a drug to help him sleep?

Brendan was a police officer like his father and the police have been like a family, but now Nora begins to fear them. The deeper she goes the more dark secrets she uncovers about the her husband's family, the police force, and the town. The constant threat of snow and the white wilderness, where it's easy to lose your way and freeze to death, provide an eerie background for Nora's search for answers.

The opening scene that draws you in. The descriptive language brings you into the snowbound countryside and gives the story a suitably feel of menace. The plot grips you in the opening, but gradually it drifts into complexity with side plots that do eventually lead to the conclusion, but distract from the main action.

Nora is not a likable character. She's driven by events and does little except drive around her wintery world from one dangerous situation to another. The police seem unrealistically evil and the inciting incident, that happened 25 years ago, not important enough to account for so many deaths.

The writing becomes more flawed as the book progresses. There are awkward sentences and in some cases the events seem to be out of context. This is primarily a problem of editing. I'm surprised the problems weren't caught. I did read an ARC, but I would have thought the obvious errors would have been eliminated before a bound galley was released. However, that may still happen before publication.

This is a good book to read if you are in the midst of a snowstorm, but curled up by a warm fire.

I reviewed this book for the Amazon Vine Program.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Good Message -- Charming Romance

Molly Hatfield feels responsible for her crippled brother, Donny. When a fire destroys their home in the mining town of Dobson Creek, Colorado, they travel to Cactus Patch in the Arizona Territory where Molly hopes to become the heiress of the Last Chance Ranch. Although she doesn't particularly like ranching or cows, Molly hopes the ranch will provide a secure home for Donny.

One of the stipulations of becoming the heiress is that she must sign an agreement that she'll never marry. This doesn't bother Molly. Her primary concern is Donny's welfare, until she meets Dr. Caleb Fairbanks. Molly has always been overly protective of Donny, but Caleb sees a need for the young man to become more independent and so their stormy romance begins.

I enjoyed the book. Molly and Caleb and interesting characters, but in some ways Donny is the focal point. I thought the author's message was excellent. Both animals and humans need the freedom to grow so they can maximize their abilities. It takes several painful experiences, but Molly finally sees the wisdom in Caleb's treatment of Donny and it frees her to be in love.

This is the second book in the series about Last Chance Ranch, but can be read as a stand alone. I enjoyed both books, but I thought the tension in the first book was more realistic. Still it's a good read.

I reviewed this book for the Thomas Nelson Booksneeze Program.  

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Mouth Watering Pictures, Tasty Food: Not Just for Teens: Teen Cuisine: New Vegetarian by Matthew Locricchio

Whether you're a vegetarian, or even a cook, Teen Cuisine: New Vegetarian is a book you'll enjoy. What grabbed me first was the quality of the book and the pictures. This book could be displayed in your living room. The pictures are so tempting you find yourself wanting to try the recipes.

I have to admit I'm not much of a cook, so the recipes laid out in simple steps are perfect for me. They will also be good for teen cooks, or other novices. Recipes are laid out in three sections: On Your Mark, Get Set, and Cook. If you follow the steps exactly as presented, it's hard to make a mistake, and you end up with gourmet dishes.

The commentary on each recipe is interesting. I particularly liked the sections on Waldorf Salad and ketchup. I never actually thought about making ketchup, but the recipe is so well laid out I plan to try it. Another valuable feature is the Chef's Tip. The tips give useful information on how long it will take to prepare the dish, for example should you start some parts an hour or so before doing the rest of the preparation.

I did try a couple of recipes and can recommend the red, white and blue cheese potato salad and the smart bars. Both were delicious. I highly recommend this book for teen cooks, or anyone else who likes vegetarian food.

I reviewed this book for the Amazon Vine Program.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Revenge Kidnapping

Eight years ago, the Piper successfully kidnapped children for profit, throwing the city of San Francisco into panic. Each of the children was returned to the parents after the ransom was paid, except for the last kidnap victim. A reporter, Scott Fleetwood, was contacted by the Piper. Thinking he was working with the kidnapper, Scott played a dangerous game that ended with the kidnapped boy, Nicholas Rooker, dead. Now the Piper has one of Scott's twins. He wants to make Scott suffer. He wants revenge.

The plot of this book is full on action. The story opens with the kidnapping of Scott's son and the tension mounts as ransom attempts are made and the Piper's demands become increasingly hard to meet. He doesn't always want money. The twists in the plot will definitely keep you reading. In fact, it's important to read quickly so that you don't stop to question the character development.

The characters, particularly Scott, are eaten up with guilt for what happened to Nicholas. He'll do anything to save his son. You can feel his pain. The role played by the FBI agent, Shiels, is more difficult. He too feels guilty, but mostly he blames Scott. However, Shiels, too, made mistakes and blaming Scott seems a great deal like shifting the blame. I didn't like the character. I thought he was a bumbler. He wants to capture the Piper, but his desire to blame Scott and his failure to trust him lead to some bad decisions.

If you enjoy suspense, this is a book for you. The writing is clear and the story moves along at a good pace. However, I would not recommend it for character development. Not only is Shiels a difficult character, but some of the other characters, particularly the agents, are so poorly developed as to be caricatures. The mother, Jane, is not really believable. She's upset, but I would have expected the tension to create more angry scenes between husband and wife. Still it's a good read.

I reviewed this book for the Amazon Vine Program.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Journey to Embarthi to Protect the Magic Sword, Eirian: The Call of Eirian by C. Aubrey Hall

The Journey to Embarthi to Protect the Magic Sword, Eirian

Orphaned by the murder of their parents, the twins, Diello and Cynthe, now homeless are journeying to Embarthi, the home of their Fae mother. When their parents were killed the twins discovered that their simple life hid many secrets, the most important that the powerful sword, Erian, was hidden on the farm. Now the twins are keepers of the sword and are trying to reach Embarthi, and they hope safety.

This book is a delightful fantasy filled with Fae, Faelins, goblins and other magical creatures. The twins journey through a wintery landscape where they must contend with the threat of starvation and the fear of being discovered by the goblins who killed their parents in order to gain possession of the magical sword.

If you like fantasy, this is a fun book. The characters are well drawn and the setting imaginative. I particularly liked the fact that the boy twin, Diello, is given a major role. It should make the book more interesting for boys.

I reviewed this book for the Amazon Vine Program.

Must Have Resource For Both Beginner and Advanced Self-publishers

If you've written a book, or are thinking about it, this book is a must read. The authors describe the process of writing and publishing including tips on writing your book, formatting for publication, using a variety of publication avenues, and getting your book to readers. They even include a section on how to build a social media platform.

If you're a beginner, the first chapters on how to get your book ready for publication are probably the most immediately important. However, I suggest reading the entire book so you have a roadmap of where you're going. Don't let some of the more technical chapters frighten you, once you get into the process you'll realize how valuable these chapters are.

My favorite chapter for the advanced self-publisher is the on how to convert your file. There are many different ways to go depending on your goals for distribution, and your level of experience. Some conversion methods are easier than others. Amazon Kindle tries to make it as easy as possible for fiction books. I found the caveats for nonfiction authors extremely useful. This chapter is worth the price of the book.

The text of this book also showcases how to use the features of ebooks, particularly Kindle. It's extremely helpful to be able to click on a link in the book and visit the website, or page under consideration. I was impressed. The website for APE also has very useful information.

I highly recommend this book for all writers. Even if you plan to use a traditional publisher this book can give you insight into the publishing industry and considering the changes that are happening every day, you may want to eventually consider self-publishing.

APE How to Publish a Book by Guy Kawasake and Shawn Welch

I reviewed this book for Net Galley.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

What is the sublime? The Sublime from Antiquity to the Present by Timothy M. Costelloe

Philosophers from Longinus to the postmoderns have tried to answer this question. It has been defined as inherent in the object, or in the mind and reactions of the observer. It has been seen in nature, art and oratory. Some of the best philosophical minds, Kant, Burke, Hegel, and others have tried to define it. This book brings together a collection of essays that shows the breadth of the concept.

The first chapters of the book present the philosophical discussions on the subject. I was fascinated by Longinus' treatment. I'd read the Greek philosophers, but was unfamiliar with his work. The collection of essays gives a broad overview of the changing concept of the sublime giving the reader access to the entire historical perspective in one volume.

The second section of the book is a series of essays on particular aspects of the sublime ranging from religious perspectives, architecture, American understanding, Dutch literature and the fine arts. Each author brings a slightly different perspective. I found each one fascinating, but my favorite was architecture. I found the following story very descriptive of the idea of the sublime experience. Boulee wanted to place Newton's sarcophagus at the bottom of a dome pricked with holes so the light could shine through like twinkling stars. Thus the viewer could experience the quintessential sublime scene in the presence of Newton's body. This story relates the concept of the sublime to infinity and the intense feeling produced by being in the present of the sublime.

For anyone interested in the concept of the sublime, this is an excellent book because it presents so many diverse philosophical and practical discussions. It's very readable. Each chapter in addition to the philosophical perspectives presents illustrations of the sublime. I particularly enjoyed the concrete discussions relating the concept to art, architecture and nature. It's an excellent choice for both specialists and for readers simply interested in the concept. I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A Study of the Humanity and Diety of Christ Jesus: The Man Christ Jesus by Bruce A. Ware

The question asked by the author, Bruce Ware, is how can we understand that Christ lived as a human man while still the son of his father and thus a diety. Ware does a good job of addressing this issue on several fronts: Increasing in Wisdom, Growing in Faith, Resisting Temptation, and Living as a Man. The essential argument in all cases is that Christ was fully human and filled with the holy spirit. It wasn't easy, any more than it is for any human to resist temptation and growing in faith and wisdom was not made that much easier by his divinity. He still had to grow as any human does. Ware argues that Christ had to be fully human for his accomplishments and his sacrifice to be understood.

The chapters devoted to each of the questions are readable, informative, and make a good argument. At times, I thought he pressed the analogy farther than the evidence supported it. This was particularly true in the chapter on “Living as a Man.” I accept that in the historical context and in the context of the Old Testament prophesies, Christ had to be a man. To give twelve reasons for this seemed to be overkill.

For me, probably the best analogy in the book was likening Christ to a king who has gone out among his people not telling them of his kingship. He retains his kingship, but he also functions as a man and this is the way his subjects see him. I think this is an excellent description of Christ Jesus the man.

This is an excellent book for a discussion group. While Ware's arguments are cogent there is room for disagreement. He also presents discussion questions at the end of each chapter. They seem to me to be good start to discuss not only this book but the relevant sections in the Bible.

I reviewed this book for Crossway.

Monday, December 3, 2012

If You Love Rock Harbor, You'll Love It Even More at Christmas

Bree and Kade long for a baby, but seems impossible after her miscarriage. Lauri, Kade's sister, has become involved in the mystery of a boy who died parachuting into Little Pine Lake. Hilary wants Zoe to be told that Laurie is her birth mother. Many human problems await resolution as the Christmas season approaches, and as usual, Samson, Bree's rescue dog, is there to save his people.

This novella is a very short trip to Rock Harbor, but it brings those who love Rock Harbor up to date with all the happenings. Because it's so short, it will only be a taste for those new to the series, but hopefully, it will make them want to them to continue.

This book is a heart warming way to start the Christmas season.

I reviewed this book for the Thomas Nelson Booksneeze Program.

Neither a Compeling Mystery nor an Absorbing Family Drama: The Drowning House by Elizabeth Black

Clare Porterfield, a professional photographer, returns to her childhood home in Galveston after the death of her only daughter. Clare is caught up in remorse. Did the famous picture she took of her daughter lead inexorably to her death? Clare is also caught up in remembrance of her own childhood. After she and her best friend, Patrick, started a fire in which a girl lost her life, she was sent to live with her Grandmother. Now she wonders if that was the only reason. Galveston seems to be filled with secrets about her family and earlier secrets about the Carraday family who own the big house across the alley.

The author has a captivating ability to bring you into the area she's describing. You can actually feel the heat, dampness, and decay in Galveston. That's the best part of the book. I couldn't be sure whether the author was attempting to write a mystery or a family saga. In neither case, did she catch and keep my attention. The solution to the mystery is predictable in the first fifty pages.

As a family saga, it lacks the participation of most of the characters. Clare's mother is almost a ghost in the story. Patrick doesn't show up until very late in the book. Will Caraday, owner of the big house across the alley, is a presence, but we never get to know him. Everything is seen from the outside.

I loved the portrayal of Galveston., but if you're reading the book for the mystery, or insight into a dysfunctional family, the novel disappoints. I enjoyed the book, but wouldn't recommend it unless you're especially interested in a story set in Galveston.

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

Saturday, December 1, 2012

A Unique Look at the Relationship Between Writer and Editor: Good Prose, The Art of Nonfiction by Tracy Kidder and Richard Todd

Tracy Kidder and Richard Todd have been partners in writing and editing for over thirty years. They came together when Todd was an editor at the Atlantic Monthly and Kidder was trying to find his place as a writer. I found it interesting that Todd chose to work with Kidder through so many revisions because Kidder was so willing to rewrite. That is an interesting insight into their success. Successful writing is attained by rewriting.

The authors tell their story in first person narratives then use this experience to discuss the mechanics of writing. The section on Narrative is excellent and should be read by both fiction and nonfiction writers. How to select the material, pace and most important when to cut scenes for clarity apply to both types of writing.

The section on Being Edited and Editing is a must read for anyone seriously interested in writing for publication. By giving the view of both the editor and the writer, it's possible to see the dynamics operating on both sides. Both want a successful product, but when it's your baby that's being torn apart it's hard to see this. Likewise, it's hard for the editor to know how and when to push to get the best possible product.

I found the section on The Problem of Style liberating. The chapter in addition to discussing various styles, like journalese and propaganda, discusses traditional rules of writing: when to use them and when to break them. That discussion is worth the price of the book. Sometime writers try too hard to slavishly follow the rules and end up losing their distinctive style.

I highly recommend the book for both nonfiction and fiction writers. It gives wonderful insight into writing and editing and is the story of a special friendship.

I reviewed this book for the Amazon Vine Program.

A New Understanding of Jesus, Meshing History with Theology

In this monumental work, Sweet and Viola illustrate Augustine's contention that “In the Old Testament, the New is concealed, in the New, the Old is revealed.” Through careful scholarship they show that from Genesis to the prophets the Bible points to the Logos, the Word made flesh and how the New Testament is the realization of that action. I was particularly impressed with their discussion of the creation account in Genesis as a foreshadowing of the life of Christ.

This is not a book to read quickly. It must be savored and read, preferably, with the Bible handy to read the original words in context. The authors have a myriad of quotes in each chapter. They can be simply skimmed as evidence for their thesis, but it is much more revealing to read the actual words.

I was very impressed with the book. I have read other books that reveal the similarities between Moses' life and Christ's, but this is the first book I've read that puts it all together. I highly recommend Jesus, a Theography. It analyzes the Old and New Testaments together and gives us a much broader understanding of the truth of God's word.

I reviewed this book for the Thomas Nelson Booksneeze Program.

What Price Will a Struggling Artist Pay For Success? The Art Forger by B. A. Shapiro

Claire is a talented artist who has been black balled by the art establishment in Boston. Her lover, Isaac, a well known artist, was blocked. To help him, Claire painted a picture in his style for a show at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA). The picture was a sensation. With all the stress of publicity, Isaac left her. When she tried to claim the picture was hers, the art world closed ranks with MOMA leaving her outside.

She's become a Degas expert, painting reproductions for Suddenly she's offered another chance. Aiden Markal, owner of a prestigious art gallery, offers her the chance to copy a Degas and earn a show at his gallery, but the Degas turns out to be the one stolen from the Gardner Museum in the famous 1990 heist. Now Claire has a choice. Should she take the Faustian bargain and work for Markel, or turn it down? And what price will be demanded in the end, if she agrees?

I found this book interesting on several levels. The Gardner Heist and all the information about art forgery was fascinating. The author wove the details into the plot very well, so it never felt as if she was trying to give a tutorial.

The main character interested me because of the choice she made. It's a fascinating question, How much should you pay for success? Claire is clearly driven by ambition, but she is also concerned about the ethics and legality of what she's been asked to do. Did she make the right decisions? I'm not sure. I think each reader will have to answer that question for himself.

The book doesn't live up to it's publicity as a thriller. It's more of a mystery, but it's enjoyable if you don't expect fast action and you're interested in the details of the art scene.

I reviewed this book for the Amazon Vine Program.