Monday, November 26, 2012

Rich, Liberal, New Yorkers: A Family in Turmoil: The World Without You by Joshua Henkin

It's the Fourth of July, a year since Leo Frankel, a journalist, was killed in Iraq. Now his family is gathering for the Memorial. It's been a difficult year for everyone. Each family member brings their own trauma. His parents are planning to separate. His sister, Clarisse, is desperately trying to have a baby. Lily is angry at the world and the war that claimed her brother. Noelle, who has become an Orthodox Jew living in Israel with her four sons, is angry with her husband who has been fired again. Thisbe, Leo's wife, plans to move in with her lover, but worries about what the family will think. As the weekend progresses, tension increases. Old resentments are aired, as are memories of Leo, leaving everyone feeling tender and abused.

Henkin's prose is sometime mesmerizing. You actually become part of the family drama. As with real people, the characters can become annoying, irritating and loveable. The characters, particularly the sisters, are so well drawn you feel you know them. I had more trouble with the parents. The book starts with their decision to separate, which sets the tone for the weekend. However, I had trouble with the strength of their motivation. It seemed weak for seventy-year-old people who have been married for forty years, presumably happily.

The characters are strongly liberal, Jewish, and from New York. This may turn some people off. It's a world that many of us don't inhabit. However, dysfunctional families all have many traits in common. This one is not an exception. You are drawn in as you experience their trauma. This is a book you'll enjoy, if you like well-written family dramas.

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

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Gentle Mystery with Roots in World War II: The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

Fifty years ago, Laurel witnessed a horrible tragedy. Her beloved mother stabbed a man who entered their farmhouse yard and killed him. Laurel knew her mother intended to kill the man, but she couldn't believe it until now.

Fifty years later, Laurel's mother is dying. Now Laurel wants to know what really happened all those years ago and most of all why. She begins a quest and enlists her brother Gerry, who was a baby at the time, to find why her mother killed the intruder.

The story is told through several characters. Laurel tells the story in the present, but interspersed with that we have stories from her mother and her mother's friends from WWII. It is a credit to the author's talent that she is able to weave the time periods together and keep the reader anxious for more.

I enjoyed the book and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys mystery and romance. The book is well researched and gives an accurate picture of the hardship faced by ordinary people in Great Britain during the blitz. At first I didn't like moving back and forth between the time periods. It seemed to slow the action. I wanted to know why the murder occurred. However, the back and forth movement became rhythmic and gave me a chance to know the characters. Once in they flow, I found it an excellent way to tell the story.

I reviewed this book for Net Galley.  

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Parenting is Not for the Weak Hearted: The Best Advice I Ever Got on Parenting by Jim Daly

Nobody ever said it was easy to raise the next generation to be responsible, productive members of society, but this book offers some helpful suggestions. Children are people who expect to be treated with respect and love.

This does not mean that we have to let them rule the family. I love chapter two in this book. It discusses the nine myths of parenting. I think we all feel guilty at not giving our children more that we had, not suggesting that they can be greater, but that doesn't mean pushing them into endless activities and giving them opportunities that perhaps they don't want all designed to make them more successful than we were.

Children need love, limits, and respect. If we can give them these three things, they will find their own ways to succeed in life using the talents God gave them.

This is an excellent book for parents. The chapters deal with different perspectives on child rearing, but they are all excellent. It's a great book to discuss with your spouse, or in a Christian group dedicate to parenting. I highly recomment it.

I reviewed this book for Worthy Publishing.  

Marriage Isn't Easy, But This Book has Great Suggestions: The Best Advice I Ever Got on Marriage by Jim Daly

Whether you've been married a long time, or are a newly wed, you realize that marriage isn't romance. That does not imply that marriage can't have romance, but there's more to it. Marriage is a partnership. Respecting and loving your partner is the basis of a good marriage.

This is a wonderful book for anyone looking at their long-term marriage and wondering how to make it better and for anyone starting out. The book is a series of chapters by people who have been through the goods and bads of marriage and are offering advice from their perspective. You don't have to take all of it, but it's a perfect way to think about how to make your marriage all you want it to be..

I recommend this book for individuals, and for groups looking to improve marriage relationships. It will make you think and give you excellent examples.

I reviewed this book for Worthy Publishing.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Power of Secrets

Secrets can destroy relationships and lives. Sophie Caldwell has returned to Hickory Ridge. Growing up as an outcast orphan, she longed for acceptance. Now she's the owner of the newspaper, but will the town accept her. The mystery of her family, who and what she is still haunts her.

Ethan Heyward, an architect, has built the lovely resort of Blue Smoke above the town of Hickory Ridge. Ethan is successful and seems to have it all, but he carries a secret that eats into his soul.

Ethan and Sophie are immediately attracted to each other, but their secrets are like a wall keeping them apart, each afraid to allow the other into their hidden pain. As Sophie struggles to make the newspaper successful. Ethan struggles with his relationship with his irascible employer wondering whether he should stay in Hickory Ridge now that the resort is complete.

This is the final book of the Hickory Ridge Trilogy, however, it can easily be read as a stand alone novel. The author does a good job of introducing characters from the two previous novels without long descriptions of what happened before. The setting is delightful presenting a picture of a lavish resort and it's effect on a small town in the late 1800s. The characters are well drawn. Sophie's and Ethan's struggles with their pasts are realistic and the desire to know their secrets draws you into the book.

I highly recommend this book for readers of historical fiction with a Christian background.

I reviewed this book for the Thomas Nelson Booksneeze Program.  

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Motorcycle Gangs, Race Horses, and a Crumbling Mansion Provide Plenty of Action

Jack Haliday is working undercover to expose a gang dealing in drugs and arms led by Gunner, the leader of the Nomads motor cycle gang.

Shane West is having a difficult morning. On his way to the stable to exercise the young horses he trains, he finds Krebs, one of the stable hands, slacking off as usual and fires him. Krebs, a nasty customer, plots his revenge.

Vic Deveraux has ridden horses for the West Stable for many years, but he's getting old. When he causes a serious accident on the track because he can't control his horse, Shane offers him an easier job. Vic's pride is hurt. When he encounters Krebs and his partner Riviera, he's ready to fall in with their scheme to kidnap Shane, hold him prisoner in a crumbling mansion frequented by the Nomads, and demand a ransom.

The author weaves together the two plot lines for an action packed finish at the old mansion.

The book is an enjoyable read, if you like plenty of action, some of it rather nasty. That's the positive side. On the negative side, the characters are rather one dimensional. Krebs is so evil you expect to see horns and a tail. I have to admit there wasn't much time for character development in the very intense action environment. However, it you prefer books where the characters actions and beliefs drive the plot, this isn't for you. The characters are primarily in the service of the action.

I give the book five stars for action and three stars for character.

I reviewed this book for Acorn Book Services through the Net Galley program..  

Friday, November 9, 2012

A Year to Savor Chesterton

A Year With G. K. Chesterton is an excellent companion piece to The Quotable Chesterton. Kevin Belmonte, the editor of both works, has brought together snippets of Chesterton's work that will make you want to find the longer original works and dig in.

The book is designed as a devotional to be savored over the course of a year, but once you get to know Chesterson's delightful wit and the breadth of his scholarship you may find yourself sneaking in more than one piece. I had trouble putting the book down. I became fascinated, particularly, when Belmonte quotes for the same work on successive days.

The only problem I have with the book is that I would like to have the cites for the quotes used to expand on the scripture passages. It would make it much easier to track down the sources. I recommend this book highly for either the person familiar with Chesterton who wants a daily bite, but it is also good for anyone wanting to become familiar with this thinking. It's a real treat.

I reviewed this book for the Thomas Nelson Booksneeze Program.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Striving to be Free

Tessa, sold at an early age to a woman who trains beautiful young girls in the skills of being a hetaera, longs for freedom. She has a luxurious life supported by Glaucus, one of the leaders of Rhodes, but she is basically a slave subject to Glaucus whims. One night, having had enough, she storms away from a dinner where Glaucus entertains his friends. Later he accosts her, they struggle, and Glaucus is accidentally killed. Horrified, Tessa sees all her dreams of freedom vanishing, but with the help of Simeon, Glaucus' steward, and Nikos, who she believes is a newly acquired slave, she continues to fight to attain her freedom.

The setting is beautifully done. The Isle of Rhodes, the people, the architecture and the politics all come alive. The historical detail is excellent. For me, the characters were not as well conceived as I would have liked. Tessa doesn't trust anyone. While this is understandable, it seemed that the author carries it too far. When people try to help her, she pushes them away hard. I suppose this could be psychologically accurate, but it seemed a little overdone.

The plot surrounds keeping Glaucus' death a secret so that Tessa can accompany him to Crete and gain her freedom. I found keeping the death a secret in a house full of servants with his wife in the same house a bit far fetched. However, the book is well worth reading for the historical detail. I recommend the book for anyone who enjoys historical novels with a Christian undertone.

I reviewed this book for the Thomas Nelson Booksneeze Program.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Action, a Biblical Mystery, Strange Humanlike Creature, and Romance: The Blood Gospel by James Rollins

Dr. Erin Granger is working a dig in Caesarea when she's called away to examine some ancient ruins discovered during an earthquake at Masada that left everyone, except one boy, dead. She teams up with a special forces unit, led by Sgt. Jordan Stone, that is examining the find. A strange priest, Father Korza, arrives at the site and attatches himself to the team.

Examining the ruins they discover that they are on the track of a centuries old book, the blood gospel. However, they're not the only ones looking for the book. A strange, humanlike, group with supernatural powers, the strigoi, are also after the book.

I thoroughly enjoyed the adventure. The characters are appealing. The supernatural foes, and friends, are fascinating, and the hunt takes them to fascinating locals. The book is a little long, but if you enjoy this sort of fiction, you'll want it to last. This is a great book for reading during a snowstorm when you can just curl up and enjoy. 

I reviewed this book for the Amazon Vine Program. 

Something for Everyone: Fast Action, Romance, Kinky Sex: Havoc by Carolyn McCray

A militant Islamic sect has stolen Rinderpest, a dangerous biological weapon. A special forces team is searching for the thieves. Unfortunately, Brandt, the special forces leader, kills the thief before being able to extract the location of the Rinderpest. As he's dying, the thief says something that links Islam and Judaism. Trying to understand the connection, Brandt solicits help from Dr. Rebecca Monroe, the finacé he left when he married the mother of his child. She is a paleo, DNA, archaeologist and an expert in ancient Judaism and Islam.
Rebecca is being targeted by another sect. Led by Aunush, a violent woman, and the lover of the sect's Master. The sect tries to eliminate Dr. Monroe. When they fail, they start tracking the special forces team. The race is on to find the Rinderpest and the secret of the first tablet Moses brought down from Mount Sinai.

Havoc is primarily a chase scene with lots of action, murder and mayhem. An added benefit is the romance between Rebecca and Brandt. Their attraction is still alive and consumes a great deal of their thoughts. To this was one of the weak points of the novel. While the pair are being shot out of submarine torpedo tubes and throwing themselves out of moving vehicles, they're thinking about each other and what went wrong with their romance.

If you love action, biblical mysteries, a broken romance, and strange assassins, you'll enjoy this book. It's not one of the best, but it's a fast read.

I reviewed this book for the Amazon Vine Program.

Living with the Knowledge that Heaven is Real

Colton Burpos' unique experience of traveling to Heaven and meeting Jesus changed life for Todd and Sonja as much as it did for their son. In this devotional, they discuss the many ways their life has gotten better, and how they have been able to help people understand what will happen when you go to Heaven.

Each of the short chapters focuses on how Colton's parents have dealt with his experience. I particularly enjoyed the chapters about how the family adjusted. With Colton getting so much publicity it would be easy for the other children to become resentful. Todd and Sonja talk realistically about how they give the other children additional attention when they're home and build them into the speaking engagements.

This book repeats much of the information in Heaven is For Real, but the emphasis is now on how do you live with what Colton learned. The chapters are short devotionals that can be used to meditate on what knowing about Heaven can mean in your life. I particularly enjoyed the ones dedicated to the importance of guiding young children. Colton brought back Jesus' message that he loves children. The Burpos have understood the message and focus on children's ministry, an area that is too often relegated to second place in our churches.

I highly recommend this book. The realization that Heaven is real changed the Burpos life. It can change yours also.

I reviewed this book for the Thomas Nelson Booksneeze Program.