Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Time Travel Gone Wrong

Tom Barren lives in the kind of world science fiction authors have been writing about for years: flying cars, a focus on entertainment, food that doesn’t go bad. It seems like paradise. The problem is he’s a screw-up. His father is a genius, but Tom can’t seem to find himself which leads to a difficult relationship with his brilliant father.

When Tom’s mother dies, his father tries to give him another chance. The great next frontier is time travel, and Tom’s father thinks he can master it. He has trained chrononauts ready to go. Tom’s father adds him to the team as the understudy of the most promising chrononaut. This would be fine. Tom would never get a chance to time travel, but the best chrononaut becomes unable to take the mission. Tom decides to go and ends up in a very wrong place, 2016 in our world. Needless to say there are no flying cars and other amenities. Now Tom has to decide whether he wants to go back or stay in this strange land.

This is a clever story, and Tom is an interesting character. He engages in lots of soul searching about why he has so much trouble. One reason is that he’s not a genius like his father. It’s easy to empathize with Tom. He’s a believable character.

The book is slow starting. Tom spends pages telling us that he made a terrible mistake, taking us into his world, and providing his family background. I found this section much too long, but when he actually gets to time travel and ends in the wrong place, the action picks up.

If you like science fiction and are interested in time travel, this is an amusing book.

I received this book from Penguin for this review.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Bourbon and the Potter Field Christ

Willie McFee grows up in Twisted Tree, Kentucky. His family is relatively well off, although the town is suffering the effects of having the bourbon distillery, owned by the McFee family, shut down by Prohibition.

Although Prohibition is over, Barley, Willie’s father shows no interest in reopening the distillery. Willie encourages him dreaming of becoming the distiller as his grandfather planned. Then a drifter comes to town. He dies and is buried in the Potter’s Field on the McFee property, but that’s not the end of the story.

Gossip circulates giving the man credit for performing miracles. Soon people arrive to pray at the site. Rumors that he is the Second Coming of Christ spread changing the town and the McFees.

This historical novel is true to the time presenting the problems and dislocation caused by Prohibition and the Depression. It’s also historically accurate that during the period itinerant preachers and drifters wandered from place to place giving voice to the word
of God and sometimes miracles happened.

The characters in the book are well developed. Willie struggles with his ambition and his father’s retreat from the world. The townspeople are representative of people caught in a difficult situation they cannot control.

The story is full of twists. The several plots coming together from World War I and the Depression to the problems of Prohibition. If you enjoy a well written historical novel, you’ll enjoy this book.

I received this book from Harper Collins for this review.

Monday, January 16, 2017

A Hard-Boiled Thriller Writer Finds God

Andrew Klavan is best know for his hard-boiled, gripping crime fiction and the movies made from it like True Crime and Don’t Say a Word. However, there is another aspect to Klavan. Born a Jew in the wealthy suburb of Great Neck, he was a constant seeker of truth.

As a child, he retreated into his stories to the exclusion of the real world, at least partly due to the fraught relationship with his father. Klavan first became interested in Christianity when he realized that the stories he loved including the crime fiction of Chandler had a basis in Christianity. It didn’t lead him to a conversion immediately, but the search for truth was there even in his most desperate, suicidal moments.

I enjoyed this book. Klavan is an excellent writer. He brings you into his world and takes you through all the difficult times and good times that led him to finally accept Christ and be baptized. If you’re a writer, or an aspiring writer, the description of his search to learn his craft is enlightening. He hated school and believed that experience was the road to becoming a writer. Eventually, he did go back to school and earn a degree at Berkley. It was there that he started reading great literature and his search for truth really began.

I recommend this book. Although his search led him from agnostic Judaism to Christianity, the story is really about the search for truth. It’s beautifully written, and the story of his life gives insight into not only becoming a Christian, but becoming a writer.

I received this book from BookLook Bloggers for this review.   

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Conan Doyle, Houdini, and the Unmasking of a Medium

In the 1920s following WWI and the influenza epidemic, many people were anxious to communicate with dead relatives. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, was one of these people. He lost his son in the war and was convinced that he could communicate with him through a medium.

Conan Doyle became friends with Houdini. Both were interested in Spiritualism, but Houdini, the great illusionist, was skeptical of the claims of most mediums. After Conan Doyle’s visit to the US where he lectured on Spiritualism, the Scientific American became interested. They proposed a contest to find whether mediums could do what they advertised.

Conan Doyle and Houdini were judges. Conan Doyle was a believer, but Houdini was skeptical. The only medium who seemed to be genuine was Mina Crandon, known as Margery. Conan Doyle believed in her completely, but Houdini was not convinced. It became a contest between the medium and the illusionist.

If you’re interested in Spiritualism in the 1920s, this is a great book. The author gives an in-depth picture of what people believed and why the belief was so prevalent. I enjoyed the historical picture, but found the book very slow starting. We got a long biography of Houdini and likewise a picture of Conan Doyle after the war.

For me the action starts after the midpoint of the book when the contest takes place. The early history is useful because it gives context for why Houdini and Conan Doyle believed what they did. However, you have to stick to some rather boring chapters to get to the contest and discover the outcome.

I received this book from Blogging for Book for this review.  

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Good Advice for Finishing Your Writing Project

29995904There are as many reasons as writers for why a project that starts with enthusiasm dwindles to a pile of paper shoved into the back of a desk drawer, or some other hiding place. The authors have grouped the excuses we use to ourselves into six categories: shame, doubt, arrogance, yearning, fear, and judgement. The authors have been afflicted with these emotional pitfalls and write knowledgeably about what they are and how to over come them.

The core suggestion in this book is having a writing buddy. This is not someone who critiques your work, but rather someone to whom you tell your goals for accomplishing the writing tasks you’ve set for yourself. Having another non-judgmental person with whom you share your accomplishments helps you to keep on track.

Using a writing buddy instead of a critique group has several advantages. Critique groups often have judgmental members who reinforce your negative thoughts, like you have no talent and will never be a published writer. Since there is no competition between you and the writing buddy, at least there shouldn’t be, you can be free to share your aspirations and keep slogging away at your project.

This program has helped numerous people complete writing projects. If you’re having trouble getting back to the novel, play, dissertation, or other project, it’s worthwhile to think of giving this a try.

I received this book from Penguin Group for this review.  

Monday, January 9, 2017

The Taskforce Uncovers a Multi-point Terrorist Attack Designed to Cripple America

The Panama Papers have several people very concerned. Dexter Worthington used one of the accounts fifteen years ago to bribe a Saudi business man. Now a successful defense contractor, he fears exposure. The Taskforce is also concerned. They too have accounts that might show up in the Panama Papers.

Pike Logan and Jennifer Cahill are assigned to interdict the leak and control the damage. Since the assignment sends them to the Bahamas, this seems like a plum assignment and maybe time for a vacation in the sun. Once in the Bahamas, Pike and Jennifer find things that seem more complicated than a simple case of leaked information.

In fact, the Saudis have been using some of the accounts to fund terrorism around the world and the next attack is soon to take place. Called Ring of Fire, the attack is designed to disrupt shipping in the biggest ports in the US. Acting with little information, Pike and Jennifer start pulling the threads they have in an effort to avert disaster.

The is a typical Pike Logan fast paced thriller. The plot is complicated since several groups of terrorist are involved and acting independently. If you like action, this is a great read.

The characters are typical action heroes. Pike reminds me more of a superhero than a Taskforce investigator. Jennifer is a great character. She doesn’t take crap from Pike and holds her own in the action arena.

I particularly like the realistic background information: Saudis funding terror, the use of drones as killing machines, and Mossack Fonseca, the law firm that created the Panama Papers. If you like fast paced action, you’ll enjoy this book.

I received this book from Dutton for this review.  

Ghosts, Murder, and a Dive Gone Wrong

Mer Cavallo, marine biologist, takes a job as a divemaster while waiting for her dream job in the Antarctic. When she rescues a diver in distress who insists that he’s seem a ghost on the site of the sunken USS Spiegel Grove, the rescue sparks interest in looking for ghosts at the site.

A team specializing in tracking ghosts on ship wrecks charters the Lunasea, the boat Mer works on. They want to search for ghosts and do it at night. The tension among the team members is palpable since it includes both the ex-wife and the fiancée of the team leader, Ishmael.

Against her wishes, Mer is the divemaster on the night cruise. When they reach the site, Mer, Ishmael, and Amber, his fiancée, go down, but only Amber and Mer come back. Now the police are involved and Detective Talbot seems to think Ishmael has been murdered, and Mer is responsible.

I like the characters in this book. Mer is the complete scientist trying to understand what happened in a logical way, looking for facts. My favorite character was Leroy, captain of the Lunasea. His sage advice is given with just the right amount of salty dialog.

The setting in the Florida Keys is realistic. This is a great book to read when you’re freezing in the winter snow of the North. Although I know nothing about diving, the scenes seem technically accurate. The danger underwater keeps you on the edge of your seat.

If you enjoy mysteries with good characters, interesting plot, and ghosts. You’ll enjoy this book.

I received this book from Alibi for this review.

An Abortion Survivor Tells Her Story

Melissa Ohden was a teenager when she discovered that she was the survivor of a botched abortion. She was one of the lucky ones. Adopted by a caring family, she lived a normal life and grew to her teenage years feeling loved. Even with her family’s support it was wrenching to find out that her birth mother tried to kill her.

After going through a difficult adjustment, Melissa decided to try to find her birth parents. She wanted to know more about where she came from. Her quest could have turned into a nasty scene of recrimination when she met her birth mother’s family, but Melissa had grown beyond that. She was lucky to be alive, had a good childhood, and now a loving husband. Although it wasn’t easy, she wanted was to learn about her birth mother and forgive her.

This is not an easy story to read because it is emotionally gripping. She’s honest about the trauma of learning about the abortion and the self-destructive behavior she engaged in trying to come to terms with what she learned. The abortion haunted her making her feel like a mistake.

Abortion is a major life decision that affects families, the birth mother, and in this case the child who survived. I highly recommend this book. If you are concerned about abortion, or know someone who is thinking of having one, it’s something to consider. Early abortions don’t carry the same of risk of having a child who survives, but they can still be traumatic for the mother. Melissa Ohden has done a good job telling her story. I hope it helps others dealing with the decision about abortion.

I received this book from Handlebar for this review.  

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Detective D.D. Warren Teams with Quince and Connor to Solve a Cold Case

Detective D.D. Warren is working a cold case. Ten years ago, Jaylin Banks was strangled in a stairwell of the campus library. She wasn’t sexually assaulted and the three men who were in the library at the time, her boyfriend and two security guards, have alibis. D.D. enlists the help of profiler Pierre Quincy and his wife, Rainie Connor, a former police officer, to help question the suspects.

The suspects are interviewed, but no new information is elicited until D.D. begins to wonder if there was a 4th man. This line of thinking leads to some new evidence and the case takes shape. 

Although a short story, about 40 pager, this is a full D.D. Warren detective story. The questioning of suspects by Pierre and Raine is well done. It keeps you guessing about who is telling the truth and whether they will be able to identify the killer.

I love Lisa Gardner’s mysteries. The characters are well drawn and even in a story as short as this one, there are twists that keep you guessing. If you’re a Lisa Gardner fan, don’t miss this one. If you’re new to her novels, this is a good place to start.

I received this book from Dutton for this review.  

Monday, January 2, 2017

An Attractive Bible for Girls (or Anyone)

The first thing I noticed about this Bible is the attractive cover. It does look like a journal. The background color is turquoise with a snowflake type design in gold, white and bright pink. The turquoise ribbon marker carries through the theme. The Bible is held closed with a bright pink elastic strap.

The pages are bright white with inch-and-a-half lined margins for journaling, or just jotting notes. The pages, like most Bibles are very thin and the print is small, but quite readable. The attractiveness of the Bible entices you to read and think about what you’re reading.

There is a table of contents listing the books of the Bible and a second one listing them in alphabetic order. The only additional material is a table of Weights and Measures at the end and a preface at the beginning. The preface is fairly standard for an NIV Bibles
discussing the translation philosophy.

Although this Bible is marketed with an eye toward teen-age girls, it is appropriate for any age. There are other NIV Bibles for journaling, Crossway has one, but the cover art makes this one special.

I highly recommend this Bible if you’re looking for a gift for a young girl, but it would make a wonderful gift for anyone.

I received this book from Handlebar for this review.