Monday, October 29, 2012

Romantic Thriller with a Horse Farm Background

Rachael Parker is trying to rebuild her life after a serious accident ended her riding career. She has returned to the family farm she inherited in the Poconos and is trying to make a business of training horses, but someone doesn't want her on the farm. Her sister Sarah is also having problems. Her husband, Troy, is drinking too much and has become abusive.

Police Chief Mike O'Connell becomes involved with the sisters' problems when he answers a domestic violence call and meets Rachael who tried to protect her sister. Mike is drawn to Rachael from the first moment, but she's prickly and he's still blaming himself for failing to stop a serial killed from almost killing a friend's fiancé.

The setting in the book is interesting, but I would have liked to see more of the horse farm operation. The Poconos are beautiful mountains. I think the author could have used them to increase the ambiance of the story.

I wasn't impressed with the characters. Both Rachael and Mike are agonizing about their pasts. It gets old after awhile, particularly since it seems to occupy a good portion of their thoughts.

The plot was much to easy to figure out. The Watcher is supposed to add an eerie element to the story, but very quickly we figure out who he is and why he wants to kill Rachael. Because it's so easy to figure out, I thought the novel went on too long with not much new happening.

I didn't read the first book, “She Can Run,” but I don't think it's necessary to understand the present events. The author brings them up constantly. At some point, you just want to tell Mike to get over it.

If you like romantic thrillers, you may enjoy this book, but I can't recommend it highly.

I reviewed this book for the Amazon Vine Program.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Warriors for Christ: Soul's Gate by James L. Rubart

The fulfillment of a prophecy made thirty years ago over Reese is being fulfilled. Four people have come together to become warriors to fight for healing, strength and renewal in the name of Jesus Christ. Each of the participants has a deep wound that keeps him or her from fully opening to others. Through training that involves entering the souls of those needing healing through the soul's gate, these four are able to bring healing to each other and open themselves to help others.

Although this book is primarily fantasy and science fiction, it has a good message. We need to heal each other through prayer and be willing to listen and help others to realize their potential. The characters are well drawn and interesting. We care about what happens to them and cheer at their successes. The book has plenty of action. In fact it can be read on two levels, as an allegory or as an action adventure story. In either case, it's an enjoyable read.

On the negative side, the author has several tricks of writing that stopped the story flow for me. His characters don't walk, stride, stroll, amble or trudge. They shuffle. People wearing slippers shuffle; teens wearing unlaced high-top sneakers two sizes to large shuffle; very old people often shuffle. Vibrant young healthy warriors for Christ, it seems to me, should have other modes or propelling themselves across the floor. The other problem is the inconsistent capitalization of proper names. Sometimes Reese is written with a capital letter, but in the same paragraph it may be written, reese. I found this confusing. Possibly the copy I received is an ARC (Advance Reader's Copy), but I don't think so.

I recommend this book for the message of healing and particularly if you like fast paced fantasy and science fiction.

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

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Excellent Theme, But the Characters Don't Live up to the Challenge

Beth Borzoi makes a mistake. She tries to help her friends get enough money to pay a vet to save their horse's eye by stealing a show saddle from one of the ranch hands. They decide to reward her by allowing her to ride a champion racehorse they don't own at night in a dark field. All goes well until a gray wolf attacks the horse. As a result of the attack, the horse has to be put down. The owner brings a lawsuit which threatens to ruin the Borzoi's and take their ranch. Beth prays for a miracle, but although she can apparently heal animals, her prayers seem less successful when trying to save her family.

The theme of this book is excellent. God does listen, but he chooses how he will respond to our prayers. Sometimes the miracles that happen aren't what we expect, and we find them difficult to understand and deal with. The is an excellent message. However, I found the characters poorly conceived to carry off the strength of the theme. Beth is twenty-two years old. She's lived on a ranch all her life, is an excellent horse woman, and wants to become a vet. The idea that someone with this background would leap on a strange racehorse in the dead of night in a field she is unfamiliar with is not only strange, it's unbelievable. On top of that, I found it amazing that she would steal a saddle and give it to some supposed friends who haven't been taking care of their horse the way they should have. Throughout the book, I found this unbelievable quality in the characters. Rose, Beth's mother, seems to be unusually harsh not only with her daughter, but in the way she treated her father. Some of the minor characters, like Wally who loves to dig holes, were delightful, but the main characters simply didn't ring true.

I found the book hard to enjoy because the characters were so jarring in relation to an excellent message. I also felt that the book left too many things up in the air at the end, possibly because the author had no good way to tie up the threads of the plot. To avoid spoilers, I won't go into specifics, but everything seems to turn out well for Beth while leaving the main issue of how the family would save the ranch completely up in the air. I can recommend the book for it's message, but the poorly drawn characters detract from it.

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

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Spies, Intrigue and Romance in Windson Castle during WWII: Princess Elizabeth's Spy by Susan Elia Macneal

Maggie Hope is now a full fledged spy. She made her appearance as Mr. Churchill's Secretary in the first book in this series. Although she flunks out of spy training, Mr. Frain is there to use her talents as a spy in the Windsor castle household. Frain and his MI5 colleagues are concerned that the Nazis plan to assassinate the king, abduct Princess Elizabeth, and put the Duke and Duchess of Windsor on the throne.

Maggie, understandably, isn't thrilled in moving from a secretarial position to becoming a governess, but she agrees. She enters the castle under the pretext of teaching Princess Elizabeth maths and becomes a friend and confidant of the two princesses. In the spy business Maggie is not only a novice, she lacks understanding of people's character and motives. Her subsequent success in solving the mysteries in Windson Castle is astonishing to say the least.

The book is a quick, easy read. It's slow in many parts. The opening where Maggie flunks out of spy school is particularly boring. Although a murder takes place at the castle, Maggie isn't equipped to handle the investigation, so she waltzes around the outside wondering about people, she agrees at the end, she doesn't like.

I can't recommend this book for lovers of historical fiction. It's too light on historical detail and too heavy on the way the castle looks. However, if you want a light romance and a glimpse of royals, you may enjoy this book.

I reviewed this book for the Amazon Vine Program. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Well Researched, but Presents Primarily the Political Jefferson: Thomas Jefferson the Art of Power

Statesman, scientist, philosopher, farmer, aesthete, lover: Thomas Jefferson is endlessly fascinating. In this biography, Meacham concentrates on the political Jefferson and how Jefferson developed his vision of what the United States should become. We learn about his early life, but it fairly cursory. The majority of the book is about his political achievements with some slight divergence into this romantic life.

I was disappointed that we were given so few glimpses of Jefferson the scientist and farmer. His inventions are fascinating and shed a more complete light on the man who was also an eminent statesman.

The Sally Hemings controversy seems to always intrigue biographers. Meacham votes for the current explanation endorsed by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation. He quotes their report in the notes and gives references for dissenting opinions. He relies heavily on Madison Hemings account of events, particularly on what happened in France between Jefferson and Hemings. Although interesting, Madison's account seems to have some discrepancies which is unsurprising in a primarily oral history. I suggest that interested readers follow the notes and other sources to reach their own conclusions.

I enjoyed the book, but had reservations about the use of one line quotes. I read many of the notes, and I encourage anyone interested in scholarship to do the same. Jefferson was a brilliant multifaceted individual. Although the biography does a good job of presenting the statesman, it doesn't really to justice to the other facets of this complex individual.

I reviewed this book for the Amazon Vine Program.  

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Ambitious Review of Philosophy in a Christian Context: Philosophy: A Student's guide by David Naugle

David Naugle presents a review of philosophy: metaphysics, philosophical anthropology, epistemology ethics and aesthetics in a slim volume of slightly over 100 pages. The book is designed as an overview for the beginning student in philosophy and obviously requires a great deal more information and study to bring the intricacies of philosophy to life.

The book is well written. He states his position as primarily Augustinian and canonical Trinitarian thesism. In this framework he discusses the major philosophers from Plato and Aristotle to Kant and Hegel. While the book is necessarily sketchy in reviewing these major philosophical trends, it does give useful information and a way to view philosophy in a Christian context.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book. However, I had an extensive undergraduate grounding in philosophy. I would recommend the book to anyone who wants to put Christian philosophy in the context of the other major philosophical schools. I particularly enjoyed the final chapter in which Naugel discusses the vocation of Christian philosophers. You can disagree with his point of view, but it has a great deal of merit and is well worth reading.

I reviewed this book for Crossway Publishing.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

An Epic Battle Between Good and Evil: Fallen Masters by John Edward

A dark cloud is rapidly heading for earth. Scientists and religious leaders are meeting to try to decide how to counter the unimaginable cataclysm they see approaching. In the anticipated battle, each of the main characters is called upon to use their talent to fight either on the side of good or evil.

The battle is not confined to earth. The Other Side is heavily involved. Both good and evil are represented among the departed. The fallen angels encourage evil in the world. The Fallen Masters are people who have done exceptional good on earth. Each is paired with a living person to influence them to use their talents for good.

On the positive side, the story presents a dilemma many of us see: the increased presence of evil in the world. The characters are interesting and the plot involves a looming catastrophe which involved each of the characters.

On the negative side the book is too long. The action breaks down in the middle where there is a long section on what happens on the other side. It completely broke the rhythm of the book for me. The characters may be interesting, but there are too many of them. Instead of following a few characters we leap back and forth between numerous stories. It gives the book a choppy disjointed feel.

In the beginning, I enjoyed the book. I was intrigued by the characters and the looming disaster. However, as the book plodded along, I lost interest. The outcome was a foregone conclusion and it took forever to get there. I can't recommend this book. The theme is excellent, but the writing isn't up to the challenge.

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