Beast of Stratton by Renee Blare


There is a lot in this story to like. At times the story whooshes along so fact you barely hear the railroad crossing warning before the train has passed. However, other times it moves really slow, but the prose is staccato like high heels clacking along a cement platform.

Character development is nicely done. You meet a young woman who has a mission to find out where her father is. You have to figure out that she's going undercover to the job where he was last seen. She's and architect, but is pretending to be a secretary (she was one a long time ago, so it's okay, she knows what to do). We get a good feel for Aimee, we know she's a firecracker, and that she's good at what she does. We also know that she loves her father AND she loves him for good reasons: He's faithful, true, honest, etc. so the characters are very believable.

I like the way we meet the Beast of Stratton; in your face and sort of growling. It's a long time into the story before you figure out what his problem is, and why he's so grumpy.There is one character, I think it's one character who is usually called Ian, but something Sebastian. That part was very confusing, so I'll tell you that he's the head of security and he really is a good guy.

About style...
Blare makes a lot of points in the narrative without a lot of care that the reader truly understands what is going on. I get this kind of writing because I wrote this way a long time ago. It's to be efficient with words so that the words carry a lot of impact. However, the word economy here is very distracting to the storyline. The reader has to waste time trying to figure out exactly what is going on, and sometimes who is doing the action. That dams up the story flow, and can actually keep the reader from enjoying the suspense. This is the fault of the editor mostly, not the author. Authors tend to get caught up in story telling and frequently we leave out words and sentences because our brains are working faster than we can type. The editor on the other hand must make sure the story flows fluidly so the reader can shoot the rapids as well as savor the deep, quiet waters. That is what makes a good story a great novel.

Dialogue needs some work as well. Sometimes it's hard to tell who is talking to whom. Although, what the characters say to each other is believable.

For the ending to have the kind of huge impact that I know the author is going for, more time should have been spent on the mother. It's great what happens in the end, but frankly I didn't get to know the mother so I really didn't care if she was forgiven or not. Maybe you will feel differently about it. Maybe I'm just getting old and I don't like the sound of high heels walking across a concrete platform. I like the sound of steady rain on the roof, and splashes of puddles, and white water rivers because it's all going somewhere with a purpose that is clearly discerned.

 I liked the book. It is interesting and a very good premise, so I give it 3 stars out of 5.


 He appears the beast, but she sees the man...

Architect Aimee Hart, determined to locate her father, infiltrates Miles Stratton’s engineering firm as a secretary. Her presence wrenches the shaggy, wounded man from his penthouse, and the quest begins.

Betrayed by his best friend, Miles would rather hide than help, especially from the man's daughter. But something's not right. Someone’s trying to destroy Stratton Industrial. A decorated war veteran, he's defended his own before and the Beast of Stratton can do it again.

Even with the enemy at his side.

The Search for Reason by Michael E. Dreher


There are many things that are very good about this book. I think all Christians who have been believers for a while should read this book or at least one similar. We often take our faith for granted never doubting God's existence or His grace. But we do often doubt His mercy else why would we constantly beat our head against the walls for our past sins?

This is a refreshing walk down a path searching for faith in a very reasonable world. Everyone needs to remember what faith is all about, and to know that regardless of our beliefs God really does have our best interests at heart. He's real, and personal, and intimately involved in our lives. This book reminds us of those things, and that is a very good thing.

The beginning is done very well. We have a brief look at what Matthew's life is like; without graphics we get the picture. Then we slip into his thought processes as he muddles about trying to make sense of a gut wrenching blow to his equilibrium when his friend dies. Matt comes face to face with how God can change a person inside out. All this is written very well, and to the point. The character development is excellent, and he's fully believable as a 30-something.

The other characters are drawn with a deft pen as well... the bad influences are really bad, and the good ones are not preachy or prudes. They are just average Christians who have a noticeable heart for God, and are not ashamed of saying so. Michael makes good use of prayer as well.

There is a lot of background story that bogs down the story flow, though. The quest is all about Matthew, not the psychologist so we don't need to go down any side roads with him. That is very distracting and it does not move the story along. Although, the psychologist does help Matt to understand somethings, and Dreher uses that character to tackle some hard questions. The story would move along at a much better pace if all that back story was removed and used in a different book that tackled some of those things that long-time Christians face every day.

Another drawback is that the story is very wordy, and Dreher uses a lot of passive voice verbs instead of action verbs. In his next book, he needs to pay closer attention to verb tense as well. All that said, this is a good first endeavor for a new author. I look forward to more from him.

This book gets 3 stars out of 5. I liked it. If the writing were tightened up quite a bit, and some of the characters' back stories were trimmed, it could get 5 stars.


 Matthew Edwards thought he was living the dream. He was young, successful, and had his sights set on a bright future. Then, out of the blue he received a phone call that turned his world upside down. His childhood best-friend that he had not seen in 15 years, died suddenly, and the news rocked him to his core. After receiving the news, a series of “coincidences” had him searching for answers. Trying to deal with the death of a friend was hard enough, but then he found out that his job might be on the line, as well as the partnership he dreamed of. Nightmares of a faceless child haunted his sleep, and the peace he thought he had in his life had all but vanished. “How much could one person take,” he would wonder, as he tried to piece things together before his life fell apart.

After the funeral, the questions that plagued him left him restless and void. “What’s the reason to all of this? How could God allow this to happen? If he was a God of love, how come there is so much pain and suffering?” More and more, he tried to find the meaning in all of it. “I need to know,” he would think. So at the behest of his mother, he sought answers in a place that he never thought he would; a psychologist. While he found answers to some of his questions, he still felt as if he had a hole in his soul. Without knowing what to do next, or where to find the peace he so desperately needed, he took a step in the direction that he ran from many years before.

Will he be able to find the peace or reason he seeks?


Art of being Broken by Aaron Mark Reimer


There are some sparkling gems of wisdom in this book. Reimer has a beautiful way of telling his stories in a style that is truly down to earth, and very human, and very open about his brokenness. You can tell that some of life's kicks bruised him deeply, but he is positive about how God is the great Healer.

This book would have been much better if it had an introduction telling the reader where he was going, and what his purpose was for writing the book. You don't get a feel for the purpose until you are almost finished reading. Each chapter does have a purpose. But if you are like me, you rarely read the chapter headings, so you miss the purpose of the chapter. I don't have to have things spelled out for me, so I figured out that the book is basically an autopsy of brokenness, or maybe a better term would be anatomy of brokenness. The fact that every person is broken because every person is human is discussed thoroughly. The fact that God heals brokenness when the person is willing to allow Him to, is also explored thoroughly. This goes without saying, but so many people never acknowledge the truth humans are broken and need God to be healthy souls.

This book would be great for small group discussion (and only a 14-week length if you take a chapter each week). You may be able to study 2 chapters a week because the first chapter Fine is followed by Broken Things Are Broken, which is a natural flow. I would suggest highlighting those things that strike your heart with a true resonance, and then discuss those things.

You can't read this book fast, because each chapter needs to be savored as well as pondered. However, you can read it on many different levels. As a devotional type reading a chapter a day, or on a much deeper level if you really want to learn something that will stick with you for longer than a month. I strongly urge youth pastors to consider using this book as a summer study for youth groups. The wisdom imparted here is priceless if you learn it earlier rather than later.

For adults there is a lot of humor, tongue-in-cheek, and tremendous amount of honesty that begs the reader to be honest with himself or herself. So reader beware.

I have to tell you that the book is a bit wordy and takes a little while to get to the point. The chapters do not have a thesis statement at the beginning nor do they have a conclusion statement at the end, so it is a bit difficult to key in on the author's points unless you dig for them. Because of this, I give it 4 of 5 stars.

What if everything isn't fine?
What if there is life outside of our shells?
What if there is beauty underneath our masks?
What if there is healing beyond our brokenness?
What if we could see the image of God in ourselves?
What if God's best art is made from our broken pieces?

In The Art of Being Broken, Aaron Mark Reimer opens up an authentic, sometimes awkward, occasionally hilarious, one-way conversation about our brokenness, the things we use to cover it, and the healing that can come through exposing it.


Review: God's Crime Scene: A Cold-Case Detective Examines the Evidence for a Divinely Created Universe

God's Crime Scene: A Cold-Case Detective Examines the Evidence for a Divinely Created Universe
God's Crime Scene: A Cold-Case Detective Examines the Evidence for a Divinely Created Universe by J. Warner Wallace

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book won't hit the shelves until August 2015, but I read an ARC, and am quite impressed. The perspective is unique, from the point of view of a homicide detective. Looking for all kinds of clues relating to why God is, and why only God could create the universe. If you have ANYone in your family that is agnostic or atheistic, if you have anyone that believes science is above all and end all, then you must get them to read this book.

Wallace presents a wall of evidence that cannot be denied. Step by step, or maybe I should say, brick by brick he builds a solid case for the Intelligent designed, and God-created universe. Everything leads to Christ. You can't go wrong with this book.

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