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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Tidewater Inn by Colleen Coble - A Brief Book Review


     This was an interesting read. The theme of greed versus generosity isn't one I have come across often. Underlying themes of forgiveness and trust in God were also addressed. Sometimes forgiving is an act of generosity, and withholding it an act of greed.
     I have read many of Coble's mysteries, and am a big fan. I especially enjoyed the Rock Harbor series. This book, while enjoyable, is my least favorite of her books. It seemed less plausible, less realistic. I am beginning book two in this series today though; so I wouldn't say it was a wash.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Choosing by Rachelle Dekker - An Invitation to Journey


     A friend asked me recently if I ever savored a book by leaving it on a table just to look at before reading it. Immediately a mental image of The Choosing on my nightstand popped into my mind. I had rushed right out to by it the first week it was available, not waiting for a reduced e-book sales campaign.  Then it sat, calling to me, until I had time to truly immerse myself in its pages. I was not disappointed, not in the least, in spite of how I had built up the possibilities of this book in my mind. Throughout reading The Choosing I was anxious to review it, to pass the word on to my fellow readers about the depth of this story and the talent of this author. However, when it came time to sit and share my thoughts, I procrastinated.  Why? I just didn’t feel like there was any way my words could do this tale justice. So I am just going to simply share a brief description to help the readers decide if this book is for them, and welcome those who choose to join the journey.

     Rachelle Dekker’s debut novel falls within the dystopian genre. Washington D.C. is occupied by a group of people who were fortunate enough to survive immunizations which proved to be deadly for many. The Authority is in control of individual destinies, determining one’s place in society. Young women have once chance at being selected for marriage, not to be chosen would yield a cruel fate of their own making. Carrington Hale’s mother had prepared her for her Choosing Ceremony her whole life. She was confident in the outcome. How could things go so horribly wrong? Young men are placed in occupations for which The Authority finds them best suited. Remko had always been satisfied with his solitary life as a City Watch guard; that is, until he met Carrington. Then there is Aaron, a speaker of truth or a leader of rebellion, or both? The ideas he promotes are unsettling. Is there something more, Someone more, who determines individual worth, Someone greater than The Authority? What sacrifices are necessary to find the answer to those questions? What sacrifices are our protagonists, their friends, their family willing to make?

     I invite you to join me on the journey, the journey of seers. 

Through Waters Deep by Sarah Sundin - A Book Review

     Through Waters Deep

     A look at the book list on Sarah Sundin’s website indicates that Through Waters Deep is her eighth published book. In her acknowledgments section in the book she mentions that she is new to mystery writing. Well, I never would have guessed that while reading this book, and am glad that she has another mystery in this Waves of Freedom series in the works. While Ms Sundin is described as a World War II author, this was also her first book about the Navy. She was quite brave to take on a new genre and a new area of research simultaneously, and she pulled it off marvelously.

     Through Waters Deep is set in 1941, as America struggles in its decision as to whether to enter another war or to refrain unless directly attacked. Emotions run high on both sides of the argument. There are some who might take matters into their own hands, arranging circumstances to sway public opinion.  Mary Sterling, a secretary in the Boston Navy Yard, an unlikely detective, is pulled into the intrigue of identifying a saboteur who might be trying to do just that. Ensign Jim Avery, a high school friend of Mary’s, supports her investigation even though he is anxious about her safety, and wonders about the possibility of a budding romance; that is until the vibrant Quintessa , Mary’s best friend and Jim’s high school crush, arrives on the scene. Sabotage, mystery, and romance, all ingredients for a great read, are included in just the right combination.  

      I loved that the mystery is introduced on the first page of the story. Sundin’s pool of suspects is like the ripples from tossing a stone into a pond, every growing circles, with a bulls-eye forming in the center. The circumstances surrounding the mystery and the events that unfold are plausible, and there is no magically pulling out new facts or characters at the end in order to solve the mystery. Red herrings are seamlessly woven into the story. Sundin followswhat P.D. James refers to as the fair play rule. The information that is available to the detective is also available to the reader, but clues are provided with “deceptive cunning.”  

     The research that went into writing Through Waters Deep is well evident. Sundin’s care to use era appropriate vocabulary, especially in naming places in Boston, demonstrates her detailed research, as does her knowledge  and use of naval terminology. The feel she got from exploring ships, climbing inside naval gun mounts, and touring Boston, including historical Charlestown, comes through, heightening the reader’s senses as they are immersed in the story’s setting.

     Sundin’s protagonist, Mary Sterling, deals with the issue of pride; the reader will cheer her on as she learns to differentiate between using one’s God given gifts and talents to draw attention to self and using them to glorify the Giver. Ensign Jim Avery floats through life, fearful of making waves that might bring about undesired consequences. The reader will share his heartache and struggle alongside him as he learns to find balance in his life. Sundin develops the readers’ attachment to even her secondary characters by focusing on the underlying motivations for their actions, motivations that readers can identify with.  This novel, and others like it, make it clear why recent research has found evidence that literary fiction increases the readers ability to empathize.

     I thank Revell Publishers and Christian Fiction Blog Alliance for providing Through Waters Deep for my honest review. I did not receive any monetary compensation for a favorable review and the opinions expressed here are strictly my own.      

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Lady Bornekova by Sara R. Turnquist – A Book Review


     I met Sara Turnquist at a recent writers’ conference, and was happy that she offered me the opportunity to read and review her debut novel. Life had a way of getting in the way of completing The Lady Bornekova as quickly as I would have liked, and appreciate Sara’s patience with me. I did enjoy this novel, as I have an interest in historical novels set in the Czech Republic. While I have not searched for books of this type, I have had the fortune to stumble upon them, and was indeed fortunate to receive a copy of this novel.
     The theme of this book, standing up for one’s beliefs even when doing so places one in extreme danger, continues to speak to Christians in this day and age of both political correctness and religious persecution throughout the world. The heroine, Karin Bornekova, and her friend, Pavel,  adhered to the ideas put forth by Jan Hus, an early Christian reformer and predecessor of the Protestant movement, something that threatened the nobility as well as the church. They had to make a choice, how far would they be willing to go, what risks would they be willing to take, in order to remain faithful to their faith, to their beliefs. We must also make that decision before trouble arrives.
     This author’s strengths, as displayed in her debut novel, include her ability to pace her story to maintain reader interest, her skill at creating mental images without lengthy descriptions that cause the story to drag, her placement of information that helps the reader to infer and desire to confirm these inferences without giving away too much too soon, and sentence structures and vocabulary that, for the most part, respect the reader’s intelligence.  As a debut author, we anticipate that there will be areas in which the author can hone her craft. In this case, that would be to avoid the trap of inserting current day, Western civilization vocabulary and phrasing (e.g. tough love, active cases, making real time notes) and social norms into other periods of time or cultures. Since Sara posed questions in the reader’s mind at the end of the story, she will likely have the opportunity in future books to demonstrate a closer adherence to the culture revealed in her research. This author’s talent makes her one to watch for in the future.