Rainer Maria Rilke

"Live a while in these books, learn from them what seems to you worth learning, but above all love them. This love will be repaid you a thousand and a thousand times, and however your life may turn,-it will, I am certain of it, run through the fabric of your growth as one of the most important threads among all the threads of your experiences, disappointments, and joys."--Rainer Maia Rilke

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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Biblical Thriller....and A Bit More

Book Of Dreams by Davis Bunn
(Adult Christian Thriller)
Published by Howard Books, a division of Simon and Shuster

This is a book that will grab you in the very first chapter and won't let you go until the very last. 

Elena is a psychologist in London, grieving for the loss of her husband and still trying to get on with the normal business of living when a client walks through her door and turns her life upside down.  The client is having the same repetitive mysterious dream and while it should be a simple case of counseling, Elena soon finds she is thrown into a world of international and political financial intrigue.  She also finds she is able to interpret and help others after she becomes the recipient of an ancient manuscript that allows her to see messages from God, becoming a conduit for those around her who both seek and turn away from God.  In short, it is a story about being open to God's word and listening to his prompts.

The topic of the book is both relevant and frightening and can hold its own against any political thriller on the market today.  Many readers tend to dismiss Christian fiction as light; don't make that mistake with this book.  It cuts straight to today's headlines.  The book itself was masterfully written and each chapter ended in a way that made you want to race to the next.  While the last few chapters started to drag, the ending was a surprise and points the way towards a series that is sure to be on the bestsellers' lists for a long time.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

An Old-Fashioned Detective Story

The Corruptible by Mark Mynheir
(Adult Mystery)

Old-fashioned gumshoe detective stories are really things of the past.  Modern stories are all CSI-ish with crime labs and fingerprints and all that technological stuff that makes solving a crime really hard for the average reader.  Not so with this story.  It is a throwback to the good, old days of Raymond Chandler and other masters of the art of sleuthing.

The story centers around Ray, who used to be a cop.  An injury from a gunshot wound has him off the force and making other plans for a living and he isn't handling the change well.  He's cranky and mean to those around him and he drinks-a lot.  There are only two people who seem to be able to tolerate him:  1. an assistant, a young man who lives with him and does all the muscle work.  he appears to be semi-literate and is being tutored by 2.  a Bible-thumper from Ray's past who wants to convert him and is being quite successful, although she doesn't know it.

Ray is called in on a case of business theft.  The thief is a rogue cop and Ray has to solve the case before the theft turns to murder.  As he digs deeper, he finds that the business isn't quite as clean as first thought.

While I really liked the story, I loved the ending!  A last minute curve ball really threw me and for someone who is into mysteries like me, that is hard to do.

If you like old-fashioned detective stories, give this one a go.  It's a fun read and a throwback to an era in mysteries that I miss.  If you want the glitz and glamour of CSI, look elsewhere.

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Supernatural Cliff-hanger

Borrowing Abby Grace by Kelly Green
(Teen Thriller)

My favorite series are those that have lots of changes:  I hate when I am stuck in one place with one person too long (after all, if I want that, there is my own life to live). My favorite heroines are those that has a little chutzpah in them: pushovers make me want to throttle someone.  My favorite books are thrillers:  ones where I can't wait to turn the page and keep on with my roller-coaster read.

Borrowing Abby Grace ticked all those boxes for me.  The premise is so original and is sure to keep me coming back for more.  Abby, or the main character who may yet be someone else altogether, wakes up in the back of a van, apparently in the middle of a kidnapping, with amnesia. How's that for the first chapter?  And from there, the action just keeps going.

After foiling the kidnappers and returning home, Abby is told that she is a Shadow-a creature that inhabits the body of another person in order to help them in some way.  If she can't figure out what they need and in a timely manner, she might just be trapped forever in this body and never figure out who she is or how to get home, if she can ever remember where home is.  The family she has landed in has huge problems.  How exactly is she supposed to know what to do and when to do it?  What I love is that the author didn't pull any fast ones here.  I loathe books where the ending is a trick, something the reader had no way of knowing but that neatly sums everything up.  This book doesn't do that--we follow right along as the main character bumbles her way through.

I love series, like this, that you can just drop in on. I like the idea of a new story and new characters in every single book and this one is setting me up for one grand adventure after another. These kinds of books give the reader a chance to get to know the characters as they grow and develop.  Abby is one of my favorite types of heroines.  She is charming and funny with just the right amount of spice.  I am pulling for her all along, even though I don't know much about her because she doesn't know too much about herself.

All in all, I loved this first installment.  It holds lots of promise and I can't wait to see where the next book goes.  I have to read it--to answer all my questions and theories about who this person is!  The idea is very unique in a market that tries to hard to be like every other supernatural best-seller.  The real treasure here is not the measure of 'sameness' it has, but the measure of uniqueness. 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

A New Favorite Book of Poetry

She Walks in Beauty:  A Woman's Journey Through Poems selected and introduced by Caroline Kennedy

What a beautiful book!  From the front cover to the color and fonts and even the inside shadow pictures of flowers-every detail is so meticulous.  It is an absolutel delight to the senses from sight to sound.  This book of poems was hand selected by Caroline Kennedy.  While she didn't write any of the poems, seeing the ones that she selected as her favorites gives me an insight into a person I have always looked up to.

The poems are divided up into the different eras of a woman's life and include:  Falling in Love; Making Love; Breaking Up; Marriage; Love Itself; Work; Beauty, Clothes, Things of this World; Motherhood; Silence and Solitude; Growing Up and Growing Old; Death and Grief; Friendship; and, How to Live.  Each section includes a variety of poems, both well-known and scarcely known and run the full gamut of emotions.  Some had me cracking up, some had me crying and more than a few made me want to burn a bra or two in protest.  What fun--and isn't that what a poetry book is supposed to be?  If you're one of those hoity-toity poetry people who snap your fingers instead of just laughing out loud, you'll be fine.  This is a book for all of us.

I do have some new favorites after reading the book and invite you to take a glance at these :  "After Making Love We Hear Footsteps" by Galway Kinnel; "Summer with Monika" by Roger McGough; "Unfortunate Coincidence" by Dorothy Parker; and "I'm Going to Georgia", an old folk song.

If you're looking for a nice coffee table book to show how cultured you are, this one would be impressive.  If you're looking for a poetry book to read over and over again, one that will get you through bad days and good, one that will resonate within all your 'woman-ness' (I know it isn't a word, but it should be), this one is it.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Naughty Steampunk

The Gaslight Chronicles:  Photographs and Phantoms by Cindy Spencer Page
(Adult Steampunk)

First, a definition of steampunk for those of you unfamiliar with this particular genre of book. Typically, it will include:
  • an alternate history that involves technology not yet invented but that could have been used in history
  • steam engines, for whatever reason
  • usually set during the Victorian era with strong hints of futuristic technologies and/or supernatural entities
I have read steampunk before and while I don't love it, there are some quite crafty steampunk novels floating around (namely the Scott Westerfield series beginning with Leviathan).  This novel by Page sounded more promising because of the  hints of paranormal romance.  I'm a sucker for that!  So combining paranormal romance with steampunk really got my interest.

To say this novel completely shocked me would hardly be an understatement.  It all started innocently enough.  Amelie, the main character, come from a magical family.  Her grandmother had foresight, the ability to see into the future or see beyond what mere mortals see.  Amelie is an independent Victorian woman and spend her days making a living taking photographs of tourists by the seashore.  She is shocked to discover her own precognition abilities....many of her photos shows a hazy blur in the form of a snake strangling the person in the photograph.  That person soon turns up dead.  Enter Lord Lake, from the Order of the Knights of the Round Table, to investigate.  Sexy, aloof and powerful in the magical arts.

Sounds like a great set-up for a unique story, then POW!  Like an express train from nowhere, Ms. Amelie turns into a seductress of epic proportions.  She turns Victorian staid and respectability into a graphic sexual scene that had me blushing a bit.

And, then the story is over.  Just that quick. 

Honestly, I wanted a little bit more.  Not the graphic scenes but the other parts, the parts that had me intrigued in the beginning.  The paranormal romance, the hints of precognition and magical genius, the main character who  I really was starting to like before she flung her clothes off like .....I don't even know of an instance in real life where one would throw one's clothes off so quickly.

So, in short, I really liked the story...up until a point.  If graphic sexual writing is not your thing, move on to another steampunk.  If this is just the kind of steampunk you enjoy, you will love this installment in the Page line.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Heart-breaker and Heart-healer

Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis

It isn't often that a book can grab me in the introduction in a grip so tightly I can scarce put it down; but, this one did.  It isn't  often I read a book where every word resonated within me like a bell; but, this one did, clanging loudly and forcefully.  It isn't often a book makes me re-examine my core beliefs and values; but, this one did, leaving me shaking some moments, laughing at others and crying at still more.  It is a book that is oddly hard to put down yet I had to walk away after every chapter to think about it (and grab a few more tissues).  It is a book that stays with you and tickles your conscience; one that keeps you up at night asking yourself questions you don't really want to confront.

This is the story of a young woman named Katie Davis who abandoned her Mid southern upbringing just after graduation from high school to travel across the world and become a modern-day American Mother Theresa.  She spends her days ministering to the sick, feeding the poor and changing the family tree of almost everyone she comes in contact with.  At the tender age of 22, she has adopted 13 young girls and has created a loving home in the face of adversity that most of us cannot even begin to grasp.  Her story is so outrageous that is seemed impossible to me before I started reading.  Page by page, word by word, Katie had me hooked.  She has a way of writing, of telling her story, that feels like two friends having a heart-to-heart.  And what a heart that girl has!

I came to believe absolutely what she does to the core:  that one individual can change the world, one person at a time.  She makes it seem so easy.  But Katie believes it so much more strongly than any one person I have ever read about and that is what made this story so inspirational for me.  Ultimately, it wasn't only her Christian convictions (which are cement-hard and awe-inspiring); it is her bravely in the face of absolute defeat and diversity.  To face daily the struggles that she does (poverty, disease, famine, abuse and endless, endless need), and keep on going make her a hero that any reader could find inspiration from. 

But her Christian conviction bothered me.  Because this book changed me and I didn't really want to be changed.  This is where all Christians should be warned because after reading this book, you cannot remain the same kind of Christian you were before.  This is a book about stepping out of your Christian comfort zone and living the religion and while that kind of talk is popular right now all over churches all over the land, this girl did it.  This book is powerful and comfortable and so very true. 

It isn't a book you can cast off after you've read it. It isn't one you can put aside and then move on to the next great hero. It is a story that will stay with you and change you and will cause you to look for ways to create the kind of change you see in the book.

And after you've read, what are you going to do about it? 

Because the first question I had was 'How is it possible to do what she did?' 

Now I am left only with this question, 'How is it possible not to do what she did?' 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Reading Fundraiser

Author BK Bostick is hosting a fundraiser in relation to his latest book, Huber Hill and the Dead Man's Treasure.  His neighbor, Alyssa, was diagnosed with a Meningioma brain tumor on December 5, 2010.   Says Bostick, "The only way to get it out was through surgery. It took four surgeries to get out as much of the tumor as they could and now she's almost finished with her radiation treatments. Alyssa is an inspiration to me. Her positive outlook and attitude while facing something so terrible is truly remarkable. Because of the inspiration she's given me, I am trying to give back. I will be donating 100% of royalties from all pre orders of Huber Hill and the Dead Man's Treasure along with sales during the first two weeks of launch (Oct. 1-16) to Alyssa and her family. "

Visit www.treasureforalyssa.com for more information.

Bostick is also offering to give away a replicated gold coin bookmark to each reader who goes to his author page on Facebook and clicks 'like'.  Go to: http://www.facebook.com/bkbostickauthorpage

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Young Adult Action Adventure

Huber Hill and the Dead Mans' Treasure by B.K. Bostick
(Young Adult Action Adventure)

This book has all the best of what I love in an adventure story:  kids actually getting outside and having an adventure rather than a cyber-adventure; a treasure map with ghosts and Spanish bullion and swords; an adventure that hinges upon an ancient mystery; and a great message about never giving up and the importance of keeping your word and believing in family.

Huber Hills is an oh-so-typical adolescent.  His parents are on the brink of divorce; he is competing against his smart, athletic and popular twin sister; and he is also the victim of a relentless school bully.  The only sure thing in Huber's life is his Grandpa Nick. 

When his grandfather suddenly dies, Huber is devastated.  But Grandpa Nick left something behind for his favorite grandson-a treasure map and a story of riches beyond belief.  Knowing he has to try and find the treasure, Huber enlists the help of his sister and once-bully turned friend.  They all head into the mountains for the adventure of a lifetime.  And Huber is determined that nothing will separate him from this last request of his grandfather.

What a great and fun read!  I never get tired of old-fashioned adventure stories like this.  They always take me back to my youth and the hours I would spend reading of dashing heroes and lost treasures.  These kinds of books are so few and far between.  As a teacher, I scour bookshelves and lists looking for that next great story to recommend to my students.  This one I will have no problem finding a willing and eager audience for!  A great first read by this author and the best news yet?  It's only the first in what I suspect will become a favorite new series for me.