Saturday, June 15, 2013

A White Room

By: Stephanie Carroll
Unhinged Books

Emeline Dorr has a problem. A loveless marriage, inability to be accepted in society, and now her home is starting to turn against her. After her father passed away, and her mother squandered whatever money was left on his funeral, Emeline had no choice but to marry into money in order to keep her family from ruin. But actions always bring consequences. A marriage based on circumstance brings unseen challenges that threaten the very fabric of her sanity. Is it possible that a well bred woman at the turn of the 20th century can find her place in society, a lasting love, and a purpose in life - all at the same time?

This is a very different book from ones that I have reviewed before.  A White Room is a historical fiction novel set in 1901 and, though far outside my particular tastes, Carroll pulled it off quite well. There were plenty of times that I found myself connecting with the main character and feeling with her.  If all Historical Fiction novels were like this one, I would read more Historical Fiction.

The writing is far from amateur and, being that this is Carroll's first foray into writing a full fledged novel, that is incredibly refreshing. I have, unfortunately, been witness to established, published writers penning novels that a sixth-grader could improve upon. This offering is vastly different. Carroll's writing style draws the reader into the story. Though a first-person narrative (I don't care for first-person), I found the plot to be well thought out and executed.

As for the story itself, it follows a young woman who has to marry for duty, not love. She finds herself trapped in a marriage of inconvenience, both for herself and (seemingly) those around her. Everything she touches to fall to pieces and she can't quite to figure out how to stop the spiral that is swallowing her whole.

I mentioned earlier that I don't care for historical fiction, but I found the story engaging and there were a few times I simply couldn't put my e-reader down.

I, for one, certainly hope that the challenges Carroll faces in getting recognition are overcome.  A White Room is, by far, a quality read for anyone.  Get. This. Book!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Relentless (the Dominion Trilogy #1)

By: Robin Parrish

Grant Borrows’ life has just taken a drastic left turn. There’s another man in the world wearing his face and living his life. What’s more, the man he sees in the mirror is a stranger.
Somehow, he’s been Shifted —his whole life fundamentally altered, in the space of a single breath. But the changes don’t stop at skin-level. Inexplicably, he’s able to affect objects around him by simply thinking about them. And as he soon learns, he’s become the central figure in a vast web of intrigue that stretches from an underground global conspiracy to a prophecy dating back over seven thousand years, that tells of his coming. Enemies and allies find him at every turn, but one thing they all learn very quickly is that you don’t want to push Grant Borrows too far…
Can destiny be undone?
The players are ready. The game is in motion. And the pace is Relentless.

I downloaded this book quite some time ago - far enough back that I have no idea what drew me to the book, other than the price (free). I had put off reading it because I didn't want to get caught up in a trilogy and my experience has taught me tat very few trilogies have individual books that can stand on their own. I finally decided to bite the bullet and dive into Relentless about a week ago.
Wow. Just- wow. . .

Starting at chapter one, this book was hard to put down. Once I got into the flow and the characters, it became downright impossible. My number one complaint about really good books is that they end too quickly - not so with Relentless. It could have ended several times before the final word was placed, but the momentum was too great, and the story too compelling to be cut short. This was a book that demanded to be given the proper attention, from the author as well as the audience, and I'm so glad that Parrish delivered!

Grant Borrows has a problem, but he isn't aware of it yet. In fact, he's not even aware that his name is Grant Borrows. He becomes aware of his problems on his way to work one day when he sees a man that is identical to himself in every way - right down to the brass bracelet that his grandfather made in World War II. Suddenly, grant is thrust into a world where he doesn't know who to trust, including the face in the mirror. What do you do when your world is violently torn away from you and given to someone else? You find out why. That is what Grant does and he takes us along for the ride of a lifetime!

Parrish laid a solid foundation in the first chapter, and then constructed a nearly perfect building by developing his characters succinctly, thoroughly, and completely. He explored almost every area that I was curious about, and the places that he wasn't as thorough weren't that important to the story - I am just insatiably curious.
The writing in this book is about the most solid I have ever seen, third only to DekKer and Peretti. I was sucked into a world that I never saw coming, and the whirlwind it created was astonishing.

I HIGHLY recommend this book! Anyone who likes to read can find something to draw them in with Relentless. I am now on the lookout for more of Parrish's work. If Relentless is this good, there has to be more out there!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Hostile Witness

By: Rebecca Forster

Some secrets aren't uncovered. They are unleashed...

Josie Baylor-Bates returns to the practice of criminal defense when her friend's sixteen-year-old daughter, Hannah, is arrested for the brutal slaying of her step-grandfather-a California Supreme Court justice. Although all evidence points to Hannah's guilt, her family's disturbing relations may play a more significant role than anyone could guess. As Josie unravels a circle of secrets, she discovers a shocking truth that could save her client-or destroy them all..

Another Amazon free find, and another really good book. Josie Baylor-Bates is a lawyer with a troubled past that comes back to haunt her. After getting a client off of a murder charge, the client kills again, proving their guilt and proving Josie's abilities. It's a national story that haunts her for years. When an old college roommate shows up at her door needing legal help, Josie has no idea that Pandora's box is about to be opened with her agreement to serve as counsel. Josie finds herself in the midst of more controversy than she ever imagined and, perhaps most troubling, she isn't sure of her client's innocence.

I admit it: I used to watch Matlock as a kid. With the recent passing of Andy Griffith, this book has taken on a whole new level for me. The story is compelling, and it's very well written, but the nostalgia of legal thrillers is what really made this book great in my eyes.  Forster has either done her research well, or she is really good at faking it because the courtroom scenes had a feel of realism. I could feel Josie's passion in her cross examination and I could her her fist hitting the bar as she made her arguing points.
There was more coarse language than I felt appropriate. Yes, I realize that is how most people speak in today's society, but I don't see the need to move the story along. To me, crude language detracts from the telling. I am more enamored with an author who can tell a tale and bring across passion without resorting to colorful language.
Any sex scenes involved were not the focus, nor was an inordinate amount of space devoted to them, which is another mark of a quality writer. You don't need sex to sell a story, and Forester uses just enough to add color to the relationships.
The writing was exquisite, and the story itself fantastic. I had it figured out at one point, then Forster made me question everything I thought I knew. In the end, - well, I'll leave that up to you to find out.

I found Hostile Witness to be a very well written effort, and it makes me want to find more of her work. I highly recommend Hostile Witness if you enjoy legal thrillers, or just plain old good writing.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Right Ascension

By: David Derrico

Humanity's position of political and technological dominance within the galaxy is suddenly shattered when a sleek alien vessel arrives unexpectedly at Earth. Admiral Daniel Atgard and the crew of the Apocalypse embark on a mission to find these enigmatic aliens, but the focus of the mission quickly turns from finding answers to exacting revenge. Meanwhile, a belligerent species of reptilian warriors, seeking to avenge a previous defeat at the hands of the human-controlled United Confederation of Planets, takes this opportunity to plan an all-out assault on Earth. Faced with overwhelming odds and the terrible knowledge of mankind's most horrifying secret, Daniel must choose between honor ... and humanity's very survival.

I don't like science fiction novels. It's an odd thing to me. I like both Star Trek and Star Wars, but the thought of reading about adventures in space doesn't appeal to me in any way. With that in mind, I have no idea what I was thinking when I downloaded Right Ascension to my Kindle. Perhaps I wasn't aware of what the book was about. I think it may have been during a time that I was simply downloading titles that sounded good. "Right Ascension" doesn't sound like science fiction, but then again, I don't think I was concerned about that because I wasn't anywhere near that genre on  In any event, when I flipped the first digital page and saw the date set in 3040, I'm pretty sure I let out an audible groan. I decided to give it a chance, however, and soon I was in the midst of an intergalactic firefight. . .

. . . And I was hooked.

Derrico brings you right into the middle of the story where you are introduced to a cast of characters so diverse, yet so identifiable, that you can't help but turn the page.  The story follows Daniel, Admiral of the Apocalypse, as he witnesses incredible tragedy that threatens to destroy the whole of humanity. In his search for answers, he discovers more than he barganed for and now he must face the cold reality that mankind, perhaps, deserves the fate that is inexorably drawing near.  Can Daniel face his internal demons and come to grips with the truth that casts a cloud over all he holds dear?

While the story idea is far from original, Derrico masterfully weaves a tale that drives the reader forward. Yes, it was predictable in parts, and it was even somewhat anti-climactic (though that may be a byproduct of my reading habits: reading it in half-hour chunks of time), the story is eloquently told. I wasn't impressed with the planets, or the fights, or the "Earth is gonna die" parts of Right Ascension - I am incredibly impressed with Derrico's storytelling ability. If he can tell such a predictable tale and it is this good, I can't wait to see what he can do with a quality piece of originality!

If you like sci-fi, you'll probably enjoy Right Ascension. Personally, I would recommend this book to anyone, and I am on the lookout for more works from Derrico. It's that good.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Third Murderer

By: Jack Flanagan

A professor's murder at a small New England college and a forgotten manuscript lead recently retired school teacher, Richard MacKenzie, and his wife, Morgana, through a labyrinth of secrets, deceptions, and murder. Will revelations about Morgana's past hinder the ongoing investigation about the professor's death, and damage her marriage? Will Richard be able to save his brother's job? Will the killer be found before he strikes again? Everything depends on Richard. Who said retirement is like a walk in the park?

Another Amazon Kindle find for me, and another really good book. Flanagan creates an intricately woven tale of murder, deception, and innocence in The Third Murderer. Richard MacKenzie is trying to enjoy retirement when news of a death at his alma mater requires his presence as the deceased is a man that his wife, Morgana, dated many years ago. After the funeral, the local Sheriff, who also happens to be Richard's younger brother asks Richard to help him out because the death was ruled a murder, and the newly elected Sheriff has no idea what he is doing. Richard decides to help Kyle out and he and Morgana find out more than they wanted to know - when another murder takes place. This time the victim is a dearly loved professor. Can Richard and Morgana sort through their emotions to find the killer?

Flanagan creates a well thought out story with characters that are instantly recognizable and identifiable. I immediately liked the character of Richard, and I identified with his relationship with his wife.  As the story progressed, I found myself liking certain people more and other characters less. I got wrapped up in the story and I didn't want to put it down at all.

The Third Murderer is in first person so it reads like a commentary, and I must say, Richard is quite funny.  Since Richard and Morgana are married, there is some sexual material, but it is done with a class and panache such as I have rarely seen.

I am quite taken with this book. I will be looking for more of Flanagan's work, and I suggest you look for him as well. It will be well worth your time.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Project Cyclops

By: Thomas Hoover

“A high-tech launch site, a missing nuke, and Arab terrorists with nothing to lose . . .”
In the sun-dappled waters of the Aegean, ex-agent Michael Vance pilots the Odyssey II, a handmade replica of the sailcraft of the ancient hero Ulysses. Out of nowhere, a Russian Hind gunship with Arab terrorists at the helm fires upon the tiny ship below. The terrorist's destination is a tiny Aegean island where a U.S. aerospace corporation carefully guards the Cyclops 20-megawatt laser launch facility. But the company security force is no match for the firepower of the Arab invasion and the launch site is quickly overrun. With helpless horror, the executives can only watch as renegade technicians convert the launch vehicle into a ballistic missile that can deliver their stolen thermonuclear warhead to any city in the U.S.
Left for dead amid the smoking ruins of Odyssey II, Michael Vance washes up on the occupied island – and becomes America’s only hope.

Another of my Kindle free finds on (it's still free as of the last time I checked (today)), Project Cyclops is a suspense novel unlike any I have read before.  Though it was written in 1992 and is somewhat dated in technology as a result, Hoover weaves a very convincing tale. A terrorist has gained control of a nuclear device and a vehicle that is capable of placing it anywhere he chooses. One lone, barefoot man stands in his way. This lone sailor becomes the world's only hope.

The writing in Project Cyclops is solid. The story is believable and the characters are likable. The plot is hardly new, but Hoover's take on it is decidedly original - at least, it is to me.  As this is a mainstream novel, I was expecting the usual unnecessary sex scene, however I was delighted to see that Hoover didn't try and sneak one in. Instead, he left the integrity of the story and the characters intact. Aside from some over-zealous profanity (from the good guys as well as the bad guys), this was quite a well balanced story.

Project Cyclops continues to restore my hope that you can, indeed, find quality books for free from the Amazon Kindle store. This is one of those books that I intend to keep in the library and read from time to time. I highly recommend Project Cyclops to anyone who enjoys a good diversion.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Healing Your Church Hurt

By: Stephen Mansfield
BarnaBooks, an imprint of Tyndale House Publishing

"After everything that happened, I could never go back"
Is that how you feel?  Or have you heard it from others? The stories are all too familiar: The church we once loved broke up or our favorite pastor was fired, or people left when the worship style changed.  The former pastor had an affair or our kids didn't fit in at youth group or we had a major life crisis and no one from the church showed up to help. And so it goes.
Stephen Mansfield has been there.  Though he is now a New York Times bestselling author, a popular speaker, and a consultant who advises leaders around the world, Stephen was also a pastor for twenty years.  And he loved it for most of those two decades . . . until he learned how much a church can hurt.  But then he also learned how to dig out of that hurt, break through the bitterness and anger, stop making excuses, and get back to where he needed to be with God and His people.
If you're ready to take the tough path to healing, Mansfield will walk you through it with love and understanding, showing you that something good is waiting on the other side of even the deepest church hurts.

I needed this book!  This is an issue that I have had to deal with on more than one occasion and, in reading through this book, I realized that I still had hurt from two churches ago that I needed to deal with.  Mansfield says at the very beginning that he isn't here to be a counselor.  He plainly states that he isn't going to nurture, he is going to guide and teach skills to help overcome the hurt inside - and he does this job very effectively.

First off, I will warn you that this isn't a book that will hold your hand and empathize with you and tell you that everyone is out to get you, and that you are justified in being hurt and angry.  Neither does he tell you to simply "get over it".  Instead, he walks you through the process of healing, step-by-step.  There are things that we who are hurt need to realize and accept, and one of those things is our part in our own hurt.  Mansfield starts the book off by sharing about a boy whom he named Timmy (ostensibly to protect him) and Timmy's fondness for candy bars.  He uses this anecdote as a springboard to launch into one very crucial aspect of our church hurt that we MUST come to grips with and eradicate: holding on to the hurt itself.
We often feel justified in our pain by reliving the hurtful incident over and over again, deepening the wound and never allowing it to truly heal.  We must first let go of the pain that we hold on to.  That is step one.

Mansfield writes Healing Your Church Hurt from the perspective of experience.  His "been there, done that" style reinforces the truth that we are not alone in our pain and, reveals the reality that, if he can overcome it, so can we.  His refreshing and engaging style mesh perfectly with the content of this book and it adds up to a book that I highly recommend to any and everyone that is dealing with scarring from fellow believers.  There were many times that I saw myself in what he was describing and it caused me to rethink my 'right' to be hurt.

If you are dealing with pain that was caused by fellow believers, if you refuse to step foot in the door of a church because you have been burned by 'those hypocrites', or if you have shut yourself out of typical church settings for fear of enduring more pain at the hands of those who should be helping to heal, you need to read this book.

I firmly believe that every Christian should read this book.

I received this book for free as a part of the Tyndale blogging for books program.  I was not required to write a positive review as a condition of receiving the book.  I honestly loved it.