Monday, December 27, 2010

"The Radleys" by Matt Haig

How long can a dysfunctional family of vampires live as abstainers in a world of "normal" people? Clara and Rowan, the unsuspecting children in the family, don't understand why there are rashes, headaches, shyness, bullying, and problems with garlic plaguing them. That is until the night Clara can't control things anymore and finds herself in a situation she never would have imagined. This is the time when their parents (Peter and Helen) have to tell them the truth. There are no more places to hide. A call has been made to Will, Peter's big brother, much against Helen's better judgment.  Will is an active, deadly, and "I don't really care" vampire who responds with a visit and disrupts the household even more. Helen wants Will to leave for more reasons than those known to her husband, and Will plays on that. Will they be able to control their urges especially with Will around? How much sway will Will have over what is happening in the family? Is there really an alliance between the police and some of the vampires? Once she has tasted blood, will Clara be able to turn back?

I had a hard time getting into the story at first, but kept reading because I wanted to know what was going to happen. This is a different type of vampire book, yet carries a lot of the same information as others you may have read. The characters are life-like and the story interesting. If you like the vampire genre, you will enjoy this book. I won this book in a Free Press contest, and thank them for the opportunity to read it.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

"The Hand of Fate" by Lis Wiehl with April Henry

Lis Wiehl & April Henry have done it again! "Hand of Fate" is a fast-paced murder mystery that will grab you from the beginning and hold you right up to the end. We find Cassidy, Nicole, and Allison (the Triple Threat Club) once again working together to solve a case. Jim Fate is a radio talk show host who does his best to stir up controversial conversations, thereby boosting his popularity and show ratings. He is murdered in a possible Sarin gas attack. There are many suspects but only one real killer. The three women work together to bring that killer to justice. Along the way, they deal with panic in the city, a lost child, politics in the workplace, and abusive relationships. Who and what killed Jim Fate? Will you solve the murder before the book's end?

I really enjoyed this book. The characters were familiar to me from "Face of Betrayal," and the authors let me get to know more about them. The storyline is very realistic, and the reactions of the characters are as well. It is the second "Triple Threat" novel, and I look forward to more in the series.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

On this wonderful Christmas Eve, I would like to take the time to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year! Here's hoping that we all slow down and enjoy friends, family, and fun a little more in the new year. Bring on 2011!  =)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

"The Liturgical Year" by Joan Chittister

“The purpose of the liturgical year is to bring to life in us and around us, little by little, one layer of insight after another until we grow to full stature in the spiritual life.” pg. 21
The Liturgical Year, what is it? What are its components? In her book, Sister Joan Chittister lays out the year beginning with Advent and continuing through Lent, Easter, and more, explaining the importance of each to the Christian walk. The chapters are short, making it easy to make time to pick up the book and read one at a time – creating something to meditate upon. With each explanation, the reader is drawn to the truths that lead to a fuller, deeper Christian walk.
I enjoyed reading this book and look forward to using it as a study text to accompany my Bible. While I have been in church all my life and have many study books, it is nice to have the liturgical year put together within easy reach. This book is a great resource not only for personal devotional study, but for group study as well. I received this book as part of the Book Sneeze program, and thank them for the opportunity to review it.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

"Three Seconds" by Roslund and Hellstrom

Drugs, murder, infiltrators, prison, corruption – all this and more can be found within the pages of “Three Seconds” by Roslund and Hellstrom. Piet Hoffman is a former criminal turned infiltrator for the police, who is trying to do his part in getting mafia control of the drug trade out of Aspsas prison. Ewert Grens is a police detective who while haunted by the death of his wife, is pulled into the investigation at the prison. What does it mean to be burned while you are in prison? What happens to the recordings Piet made? Where is the line between the good and bad guys?  Will Ewert Grens be one of the few good guys left standing at the end?

While the book picked up in the middle and sped to the end, I had a hard time getting into it. It seemed that the authors spent a little too much time setting things up for me. I also didn’t like all the darkness and maliciousness that seemed pervasive in the characters whether they were the police or high ranking government officials or prisoners. They were always thinking that “the end justifies the means.” This book makes good reading for dark crime novel fans, and does make for interesting group discussions as we found in the First Look program at Barnes and Noble. I thank them for the opportunity to read and discuss this ARC.

“Blind Hope” by Kim Meeder and Laurie Sacher

“Sliding to a stop, Laurie planted both of her poles and looked at me thoughtfully. ‘My sweet blind dog had helped me understand that in every sorrow, fear, and loneliness, whether I could see Him or not, God has always been with me.” pg. 102
A storm filled woman and an unwanted dog form a partnership of love and life-changing lessons. Laurie wanted to do adopt a dog. She thought she had found the perfect, cute dog in a home that didn’t want her. Instead when she arrived, she found Mia, a dog with many problems. Through caring for Mia, Laurie has come to recognize many realities about her relationship with God. As Laurie shares her thoughts and lessons with Kim, the owner of the Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch, the words “trust, listen, and believe” stand out. Those words become very special to all of them.
While I thought this book was going to be about a rescued dog, I found rather a book about examples of right relationships and communication with God. It is more of a readily available counseling book. The short chapters and quick object lessons enable you to grasp what the author is saying easily. This book is great for sharing with someone who needs to be lifted up, and would make a great discussion choice for book groups.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

"A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens

I think one of my favorite things about this season is reading Christmas literature. It was fun to be in a discussion about "A Christmas Carol" this month, and I thought I would post my thoughts on the individual Staves here. If you haven't read this, I encourage you to take the plunge. It isn't long, but it is good.  =)

Stave 1 - Here in "Marley's Ghost" we see two distinctly different types of men. Scrooge and Marley were penny-pinchers who didn't enjoy life. On the other hand we have Scrooge's nephew and clerk who are happy with the season for the sake of the season. Yes, times are difficult, but they were not bah humbugging everything. Marley enters to warn Scrooge to change. Hmmmm, isn't that fitting for today? Instead of concentrating on material wealth, spend time enjoying the season and those around us.
Stave 2 - "The First of Three Spirits" - This is the part of the story that gives us a glimpse into another life of Ebenezer. He had been happy. He had been a participant in life. Now as he looks back, the memories are too painful for him. I am always amazed at his reactions because he seems so harsh at first. This section shows us that he does have feelings, so there seems to be hope for him.
Stave 3 - "The Second of Three Spirits" represented all the good of Christmas to me - things like: celebrating even when you don't have what others think is enough; putting aside anger and malice; enjoying laughter and merriment. Scrooge had absolutely no idea that people were this happy and content with so very little. He found himself enjoying what he could not join. After all the hope and joy, we get a sense of foreboding when we meet the two "children" - Ignorance and Want right before the next ghost comes to take Scrooge on a new journey.
I liked this part and love the Cratchits! It was also fun to "meet" others as they enjoyed the spirit of Christmas.
Stave 4 - "The Last of the Spirits" This is the "spookiest" and saddest of all the staves for me. This ghost does not speak, rather points so that Scrooge makes the discoveries himself. I believe that Scrooge had begun to change before this ghost arrived because not only was he anxious to get the visit underway, but he also knew the spirit had something to teach him. It did seem to surprise him that death was such a big part of this episode.
Hope, laughter, and light fill Stave 5, "The End of It." Scrooge is changed and wants everyone to know it by his demeanor. The huge turkey is given in secret, and I loved when he suggested, and paid for, transportation for the delivery. Scrooge joins his nephew and niece for Christmas dinner, thoroughly surprising and delighting them. This whole story seems meant to show us all that change is possible for anyone.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

"The Cat Who Went Into the Closet" by Lilian Jackson Braun

Can a cat sense danger and help solve crimes? “The Cat Who Went Into the Closet” will make you a believer. Jim Qwilleran (Qwill) is renting the Gage mansion in Pickax and has brought his two Siamese cats (Koko and YumYum) with him. While both cats have attitudes, Koko seems to have an affinity for “finding” things and exploring. While trying to figure out what Koko is doing, Qwill hears that the former owner of the mansion has committed suicide in Florida. Qwill begins an investigation into her death and makes many discoveries. Did Euphonia Gage really kill herself? Where will the objects Koko finds lead Qwill?
This fun romp of a mystery kept me captivated as I wondered what Koko would do next. The murder mystery is also interesting, but a bit predictable. If you enjoy fun, relaxing, enjoyable reading, this is a book for you. It is perfect for a day at the beach, when you are homebound in the snow, or just relaxing in the backyard. Lilian Jackson Braun certainly makes the cats come to life!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

"Three Cups of Tea" by Greg Mortenson

What started as one man’s quest to climb the world’s second largest mountain, K2, turns into a quest to build schools to educate the children of rural Pakistan and Afghanistan. Greg Mortenson tells many stories of how he fell in love with the people (especially the children) of Pakistan and Afghanistan and his belief that all children, male or female, deserve an education. He also writes about fund-raising with its ups and downs, of building schools and all the proverbial red tape involved, and of historic events happening as he was building (i.e. the death of Mother Theresa and our “911”) and the effects they had on his process. Through the triumphs and tragedies, one thought kept shining through - the need to slow down and actually see and get to know others. The tradition of the three cups of tea is explained this way – the first time you are given a cup you are a stranger; the second time you are an honored guest, and the third time says you are family. Tea is a precious commodity in more ways than one.
“Three Cups of Tea” is the interesting, true story of Greg Mortenson and his quest to make peace happen through building schools and education. His struggles and his triumphs kept me reading; his recounting of historical events brought back memories. I recommend it to anyone who loves a good non-fiction read and also to reading groups. It has great topics for discussion.