Saturday

Hello from the Gillespies by Monica McInerney

MY REVIEW
I was happily reading thinking this book is going to be good. We have a nice mix of characters, some a little whacky. We have one point of view, which I love! I just hate head jumping, different from head hopping. Head jumping is when the reader is jerked about willy-nilly to get the BIG picture, regardless of how it affects the story flow.

McInerney was doing a fine job pouring out the heart of Angela. It drifted very close to depressing, but still excellent writing. You could almost feel her muscles clinching, and hear her thunderous sighs. Great writing.

Then it happened. A head jump, then another, and another. Admittedly, this was done rather well because the transitions took you quite smoothly from one point of view to another. I was impressed. Okay, so we have some head jumping. I'll get over that. Maybe...

Then here comes the gratuitous sex. It really did not make much sense at that particular point in the story, then I got it, the character had zero self-control which was flagrantly exhibited in how she lost her job. Not a spoiler alert because the back cover tells you the whole family comes together, and this daughter is in New York, so somehow she has to get to Australia to a ranch, which they call stations.

No foul language so far, but we have head jumping and we have sex scenes, not graphic, but still... then we find out what's going on in the husbands head with another head jump and I gave up. Who wants to read a book that has no anticipation? In the back of your mind, you are worrying with Angela. "He can't be having an affair... can he? Surely, not. But if he is..." Then boom, you know the answer and are completely deflated. I did not read anymore.

There has to be a little drama to keep the pages turning. The build up in the first few pages of this book promised plenty of drama, and some really good writing. But, for me, it fell flat on story planning. Good character development for all the characters. Nicely done, but still fell flat on story flow.

I give it 2 stars. Good writing, bad story planning and flow. Loses this reader's interest on page 122.


ABOUT THE BOOK


For the past thirty-three years, Angela Gillespie has sent to friends and family around the world an end-of-the-year letter titled “Hello from the Gillespies.” It’s always been cheery and full of good news. This year, Angela surprises herself—she tells the truth....

The Gillespies are far from the perfect family that Angela has made them out to be. Her husband is coping badly with retirement. Her thirty-two-year-old twins are having career meltdowns. Her third daughter, badly in debt, can’t stop crying. And her ten-year-old son spends more time talking to his imaginary friend than to real ones.

Without Angela, the family would fall apart. But when Angela is taken away from them in a most unexpected manner, the Gillespies pull together—and pull themselves together—in wonderfully surprising ways…

Tuesday

A matter of heart by tracie peterson

MY REVIEW
This novel has such great possibilities, and lived up to the promises on the back cover. Tracie Peterson usually does live up to her promises!

I'm not sure that someone can be so convicted of selfishness like depicted in this book without somehow knowing/feeling the Holy Spirit's conviction. Then again, maybe Jessica was feeling the conviction of the Holy Spirit and I somehow missed that connection. She definitely has a heart change before inviting Jesus in, and that could be a theological problem for some.

At any rate the story is a good one, but has too many characters for there to be solid character development of them all.  The two main characters are well-developed. They most definitely have reasons for falling in love with each other. They also have definitely characteristics, and they do not behave contrary to those characteristics. For some readers that doesn't seem to be a problem, but for me it is a reading deal breaker. I especially like the way consequences for actions are interwoven into the storyline. That kind of detail is rarely used to advantage in telling a tale, and Peterson does well with that.

 The secondary characters such as Jessica's mother and father have sort of wishy-washy development. However, you do see some character growth towards the end of the book. It is a bit start-stop so it isn't as smooth as it could have been. Sometimes it is best to have secondary characters have a firm foundation so you can measure the growth of the primary characters. This start-stop doesn't hurt the storyline too much. All in all it is a fairly good read.


ABOUT THE BOOK
Texas born and raised Jessica Atherton is a wealthy young woman whose heart was broken when the man she intended to marry wedded another. But her world is upended when two new men come into her life, and both manage to stir her heart.

Harrison Gable is a successful young lawyer with ambitions that match Jessica's dreams. His warm, attentive manner and thoughtful gifts make her feel special.

Austin Todd, a former Secret Service agent, enjoys working now as a Texas Ranger cattle inspector. But after learning of forged gold certificates and missing printing plates, he's drawn back into the world of intrigue and agrees to help solve the case. Jessica is drawn to his kind nature and the unspoken pain she sees in his eyes.

If Jessica follows her heart, where will it lead?

Tracie's website

In the Heart of the Dark Woods by Billy Coffey

MY REVIEW

First, I think a 12-year old is too young to have to face some of the things Allie has to face. But then, there are numerous children younger than her who face things far worse.

Also, I seriously doubt that a man could possibly understand how incredibly awful and uncomfortable it is to have one's first menstruation, but Billy gives it a good try. Although, I do not understand why that had to be described in such vivid, living color right at the beginning of this book. Perhaps if I had read the first one, it might have made more sense. In fact, the whole book probably would have made more sense to me, so reader beware. I really think you need to read the first one.

I have loved Billy Coffey's writing since I first discovered his blog. He is so poignant, and on target with his writing about ordinary things. He makes the inanimate animate, emotions take on a life of their own and stir the soul when he is talking about real life things. His fiction has a different depth, and is slightly more on the dark side than the light. I have a hard time understanding that this comes from such a word-weaver. I'm thinking that is why God made us all so unique and or souls so deep.

Check out his blog and check out his books. You'll be glad you did.

ABOUT THE BOOK

A motherless girl hungry for hope . . . and the dream that could be leading her astray.

Almost two years have passed since twelve year-old Allie Granderson’s beloved mother Mary disappeared into the wild tornado winds. Her body has never been found. God may have spilled out his vengeance on all of Mattingly that day—but it was Allie’s momma who got swept away.

Allie clings to memories of her mother, just as she clings to the broken compass she left behind, the makeshift Nativity scene assembled in Allie’s front yard, and to her best friend, Zach. But even with Zach at her side, the compass tied to her wrist, and the Nativity characters just a glimpse out the window, Allie cannot help but feel lost in all the growing up that must get done.

When the Holy Mother disappears from the yard one morning, Allie's bewilderment is checked only by the sudden movement of her mother's compass. Yet the compass isn't pointing north but east . . . into the inky forest on the outskirts of Mattingly.

Following the needle, Allie and Zach leave the city pavement behind and push into the line of trees edging on the Virginia hill country. For Allie, the journey is more than a ghost hunt: she is rejoining the mother she lost—and finding herself with each step deeper into the heart of the darkest woods she's ever seen.

Brimming with lyrical prose and unexpected discoveries, In the Heart of the Dark Wood illustrates the steep transition we all must undergo—the moment we shed our child-like selves and step into the strange territory of adulthood.

"The Devil Walks in Mattingly . . . recalls Flannery O'Conner with its glimpses of the grotesque and supernatural. The story unwinds slowly and with a convincing voice that draws the reader deep into the unexplainable." —BookPage

“Billy Coffey is one of the most lyrical writers of our time . . . we leave his imaginary world hungry for more, eager for another serving of Coffey’s tremendous talent.” —Julie Cantrell, New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of Into the Free and When Mountains Move (on The Devil Walks in Mattingly)

Wednesday

Playing by Heart by Ann Mateer

 An engaging and charming novel. I love the premise: Local girl coaches a basketball team, and teaches music. She is also a award winning math scholar. She thinks she wants one thing, but finds out she's quite happy with another thing.

How often we have goals and motivations that seem to be our own devise, but actually turn out to be thrust gently upon us by someone else. Sometimes we find out before it's too late, and other times we never find out until we wonder why we're not happy with our goal met. That has happened to me before. I've worked hard to get to a certain place, and when God yanked the rug out from under me, I found out that I would never have been happy on that particular rug.


This story is extremely well written. The time is after the turn of the century, and everything is on target. There's no modern day jargon, nothing out of sync with 1910 or so. There is such smooth transitions from one point of view to another you don't realize the view has switched. There's not stop start jerk at all. Story flow is very good, you have the calm deep waters and the white water excitement. The pages almost turn themselves. You will probably find yourself thinking of the storyline if you can tear yourself away from it long enough to do something mundane like go to work (or school). The plot is a bit predictable, but then what romance isn't?

The character development is extraordinary. I would have liked for the music teaching aspect to have been developed a bit more, but all in all there were no disappointments. The character descriptions were in the proper place so you weren't jerked out of the story because you had pictured one character one way only to find out half way through the story that character didn't look that way at all. (Something that happens far more often than it should!) Lula slowly comes to realize her goals may have been a bit skewed. Chet slowly understands why Lula is so fascinating (and it is not because she seems aloof to him.) The love develops with plenty of reasons for them to fall in love. Perfect!

ABOUT THE BOOK: When Chet, a local coach, agrees to help Lula with her new teaching responsibilities, she'll learn more than she ever expected about life and love

Dear Leader by Jang Jin-Sung

Riveting. Exciting. Nail-biting. Thought provoking. Eye-opening. Heart wrenching.

I believe every American should read this book.It gives you an up close and personal, insider point of view of North Korea, and one man's desperate escape. I had no idea that North Koreans had such foul-mouth habits. However, the foul language is not overpowering, more like pepper than salt.

Jang (not his real name) has a tremendous writing talent. He has an excellent grasp for suspense, timing, and even uses the flashback (which I really, really hate) to good advantage in the least annoying way.

Go buy this book! You will be so glad you did. Just know that after you read the last page, you will most likely be thinking about it for weeks afterwards.

ABOUT THE BOOK...
In this rare insider’s view into contemporary North Korea, a high-ranking counterintelligence agent describes his life as a former poet laureate to Kim Jong-il and his breathtaking escape to freedom.

“The General will now enter the room.”

Everyone turns to stone. Not moving my head, I direct my eyes to a point halfway up the archway where Kim Jong-il’s face will soon appear…

As North Korea’s State Poet Laureate, Jang Jin-sung led a charmed life. With food provisions (even as the country suffered through its great famine), a travel pass, access to strictly censored information, and audiences with Kim Jong-il himself, his life in Pyongyang seemed safe and secure. But this privileged existence was about to be shattered. When a strictly forbidden magazine he lent to a friend goes missing, Jang Jin-sung must flee for his life.

Never before has a member of the elite described the inner workings of this totalitarian state and its propaganda machine. An astonishing exposé told through the heart-stopping story of Jang Jin-sung’s escape to South Korea, Dear Leader is a rare and unprecedented insight into the world’s most secretive and repressive regime.

The Name Quest by John Avery

MY REVIEW

I'm sorry, I do not have a photo of the front cover as this came to me as a PDF from the author for review.

The Name Quest is an excellent study book. I found it intriguing as well as enlightening. Avery offers an in depth study of the names of God with a lot of background and history to go with it. It is not the kind of book you'd sit down and read while drinking tea. It is a great reference book, and would be good for a Bible study group to study together.

I do highly recommend this book, it is well worth the money. You'll be pleased that this one is in your library, especially if you study the Bible deeply. Hats off to John Avery.

5 of 5 stars

Take Back the Morning by Evan Howard

MY REVIEW

I found this story totally off the wall, and too on the edge of Christian for my taste. To me, it smacks of New Age junk rather than a life changing or thought process changing experience.

For example, God wants His children to lean on Him for everything, and to pray to Him without ceasing. It is too unlike God for some physical object to be the focus of near worship because it helps a person to say the right words, and because it gives "comfort". What a crock. I could not set aside my credulity because this teetered over the edge.

While I have never been in a coma, nor do I know anyone who was in a coma, I seriously doubt that a person can have a "near death experience" while in a coma. There is nothing about "near death" in a coma except that physical activity has ceased. All the vital signs are regular and everything is working properly except for the consciousness to speak out loud.

This gets zero stars. Nothing believable about it.


BOOK DESCRIPTION

IS IT REALLY DARKEST BEFORE THE DAWN?

OR IS THE DEEPEST DARKNESS FOREVER?

The answer has been kept secret.

Until now.

A corrupt stockbroker on the run…

An economy in turmoil…

And a mysterious pendant sought by the richest woman on Wall Street.

Terrified of going to jail, Justin Connelly faked his death and fled the seductions of Manhattan for the quiet corners of Providence, Rhode Island. His only keepsake was an antique pendant engraved with strange markings.

But then a sailing accident almost kills him for real. In his near-death state, Justin is taken into the darkness of hell itself, where he sees things that drive him out of hiding and back to his abandoned wife in New York.

But Tori has moved on, and his old enemies on Wall Street are not happy to see him. They want the pendant, which, in the wrong hands, could destroy humanity—and Justin’s former boss definitely has the wrong hands.

The only way out is to swallow his pride, and his doubt, and work with Tori and her new fiancé to expose the truth.

As world economies—and his own soul—hang in the balance, Justin must decide whether to sacrifice everything for the light he has found.


A spiritual thriller for the crises of our time

A Message To Deliver by Jeremiah Peters

MY REVIEW

There are many who love this book. Love the characters, love the premise, love the plot line and its simplicity. Love the interactions between good (Melissa) and evil (demon/co-worker).

I had trouble getting into the story because naiveté does not have to be dumb or ADHD, which is how Melissa's character reads to me.

I think this would be an excellent book for younger readers, especially because of the way the sensitive subject (abortion) was handled. However, I was frustrated with the Melissa at first, and was too grateful that she "wised up" quickly. She is not stupid because she has great reasoning skills.

I have a problem with the theology that a human can come back to earth to give a message, which is an angel's job. If this had been an angel on a mission to deliver the message, then I would have enjoyed it a lot more, I think. I could have set aside the adjustments to earthly life from Heavenly life as good reading instead of frustration. There was no explanation for the human coming instead of an angel. One little sentence of explanation would have settled my discomfort. Maybe, I'm being too picky, and maybe you won't be that picky. But to each his own, and I prefer my fiction be a bit more theologically correct even if it is spec fiction.

 2 stars of 5 stars because of those things I've listed above.

ABOUT THE BOOK 


Melissa is on a mission from God. With no memories of her life on Earth, she is immersed in a foreign world, far different from her home in the paradise of Heaven. As Melissa struggles to discover the intended recipient of God's message, she simply tells everyone she meets the good news of God's love.
Her new friend Todd Simmons blames abortion providers for the death of his mother. When an abortion clinic opens in the neighborhood, Todd starts down the path of vigilante revenge.
As Melissa battles the influence of demonic forces, will she be able to save Todd and deliver God's message or will the dark truth of her past lead her to abandon her mission?

The Healer's Touch by Lori Copeland

MY REVIEW

Normally I can really get into a Lori Copeland novel. She is such a great writer, and does fantastic research. You get a good feel for the era of the novel, and her characters are very well developed.

This novel is no exception. Except... I had a lot of trouble with the characters. I really have no patience for stupidity. Not that the characters were stupid, but the way the two sister were developed made me want to scream with frustration. It was giving me so much stress, I had to quit reading the book.

I did love Ian a.k.a. Joseph. The patience he exhibited is extraordinary. I would not have had such patience... did not have it because I had to quit reading it.

Giving Copeland credit, she absolutely did give excellent reasons for the silly thought processes of her characters. The build up to a confrontation is quite humorous, too. This is a great study of how prejudice infiltrates and spreads through gossip and intolerant bull-headedness.

It is well-written, with good, quality premise, and believable characters. Just because I had no patience for Lyric and Lark, doesn't mean you won't enjoy the story.

I give it 4 of 5 stars. I liked the premise very much, and I liked one character very much. I had great sympathy for the loneliness that Lyric felt. The plot unfolded at a good pace. It was just the tactics for character development that I had no patience for.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Lyric Bolton doesn’t ask for much—just friendship and acceptance from her rural Missouri community. But her family is regarded with suspicion and fear because of her mother’s sickness—a sickness of the mind that grows worse by the day. Lyric is resigned to a life of isolation and doesn’t see any way out…but that’s before Ian Cawley bolts into her life on a runaway stallion.
As she opens her heart to Ian, Lyric dares to imagine a different life. But what will happen when he discovers the secret she holds closest of all?

Monday

The City by Dean Koontz

MY REVIEW

I can hear a lot of you saying, "But Koontz is not a Christian fiction writer!"

You are correct. But I really like the way Koontz writes so I asked to review this book and the publisher graciously gave me permission.

This is not typical Koontz. You know everything will be okay in the end because the beginning is actually the end. The City reminds me a lot of The Prayer of Owen Meany. I really liked that novel, too. 

You are quickly whisked back to last century (around the 60s) to the life of one nine-year-old boy called Jonah Kirk who has eight or nine names of famous black musicians between the Jonah and the Kirk. Add a good-for-nothing father and a wonderful Christian mother set in an apartment house in the middle of a big city (Chicago, I think, it really is not important which city). Then stir in some truly evil people that have zero feeling for the sanctity of life, a wonderful Japanese neighbor who is struggling with his own demon, and you have the perfect mix for a great literature reading experience.

[Spoiler Alert!] There are numerous religious connotations in this novel. I was a tad disappointed in Miss Pearl at the end. I think Koontz tried to bring in some whiffs of his old time novels with how this character acted in the climax. There could have been some truly remarkable insights that Jonah could have shared during this part, but that opportunity was sadly missed. I hope Koontz gains a lot more courage in his later works. It is not wimpy or craven to own up to one's Christian beliefs... then, again, maybe he did own up and he really believes all that about Miss Pearl being The City. If so, I missed the allegory's true meaning. [End Spoiler Alert!]

Pay attention to that key word: literary. This is very similar to the old timey novels of yesteryear where the reader gets a lot of description that makes you feel the heat, the chilling rain, the taste of the ice cream and hot dogs. You are taken for an in depth tour of some of the most chilling villains, but it is not like a jerky head jumping ride. The transitions are smooth and extremely expert. This is more a psychological thriller than one of Koontz's monster fear factors of his early career. Unlike a lot of today's fair, you actually want to read to the very last word. The ride is very satisfying.

The book will hit bookstores on July 1st. Get in line!

Five of five stars. I was tempted to give it four stars because of one segment in the climax, but the book overall deserves five stars. You'll pay a lot of money for the hardback version, but it is worth every penny. The book is a keeper.

ABOUT THE BOOK

The city changed my life and showed me that the world is deeply mysterious. I need to tell you about her and some terrible things and wonderful things and amazing things that happened . . . and how I am still haunted by them. Including one night when I died and woke and lived again.

Here is the riveting, soul-stirring story of Jonah Kirk, son of an exceptional singer, grandson of a formidable “piano man,” a musical prodigy beginning to explore his own gifts when he crosses a group of extremely dangerous people, with shattering consequences. Set in a more innocent time not so long ago, The City encompasses a lifetime but unfolds over three extraordinary, heart-racing years of tribulation and triumph, in which Jonah first grasps the electrifying power of music and art, of enduring friendship, of everyday heroes.

The unforgettable saga of a young man coming of age within a remarkable family, and a shimmering portrait of the world that shaped him, The City is a novel that speaks to everyone, a dazzling realization of the evergreen dreams we all share. Brilliantly illumined by magic dark and light, it’s a place where enchantment and malice entwine, courage and honor are found in the most unexpected quarters, and the way forward lies buried deep inside the heart.

Acclaim for Dean Koontz

“A rarity among bestselling writers, Koontz continues to pursue new ways of telling stories, never content with repeating himself.”—Chicago Sun-Times

“Tumbling, hallucinogenic prose. ‘Serious’ writers . . . might do well to examine his technique.”—The New York Times Book Review

“[Koontz] has always had near-Dickensian powers of description, and an ability to yank us from one page to the next that few novelists can match.”—Los Angeles Times

“Koontz is a superb plotter and wordsmith. He chronicles the hopes and fears of our time in broad strokes and fine detail, using popular fiction to explore the human condition.”—USA Today

Wednesday

Review: The Grand Sophy


The Grand Sophy
The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars



This is one of my favorite Heyer novels.

I fell in love with Georgette Heyer's novels when I was a teenager when I was spending my entire allowance (except for my tithe) on books. Heyer is well known for her humorous scenes in her books, and this one is no exception.

You can never go wrong with a Heyer novel except one and that was Charity Girl.

If you are looking for an excellent premise, a good plot line and story flow with well-developed characters, then read this book. Light, entertaining, and excellent escape from mundane life material.



View all my reviews

Monday

Deliver Us From Evil by Don Basham

MY REVIEW

I disagree that demons can actually inhabit a Christian, which Basham seems to be saying. However, I do know that demons can oppress true believers because of sin, because they allow that kind of persecution from the demonic realm. Satan will take and use any means to ruin a believer's witness. When a Christian allows such inroads, then trouble follows.

This book should be a must read for any church body. Basham gently, but inexorably outlines how Christians deceive themselves and other members of the body. Then he exposes how Satan uses such to encroach upon our peace of mind that is our right because of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Just as God deals with each of us individually, so does Satan and his minions. This book unlocks those so called secrets, and shines a bright light upon the workings of the demonic realm.

Buy the book, read it, pass it along to your sisters and brothers in Christ, teach a class on it. The body of Christ is sick with unbelief, and we need this kind of knowledge to make her well, and strong, and flourishing within the power of God so that others will see the light and come to Christ. Amen!

5 of 5 stars.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Are Christians at risk of demonic invasion?
Absolutely not, thought Pastor Don Basham when another pastor suggested evil influences might be causing turmoil in his church and failures in his ministry. But after more troubling and perplexing problems, Basham began to discover he was wrong.
In this page-turning account, Basham chronicles his reluctant journey from disbelief to acceptance in the existence of demonic spirits. More than a story, he imparts what he discovered about demons, the difference between infestation and possession, and how to engage in spiritual warfare. He also describes the biblical tools that bring about deliverance from demonic influence.
Through this moving story, you will learn how to recognize the presence of evil spirits, pray for deliverance and protect against demonic invasion. It’s never too late. You can find the freedom and healing you need—and be an agent of deliverance to others.

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