Monday, May 26, 2008

Review for Finding Hollywood Nobody

This Nobody does it better. After knocking it out of the park with the first of her Scotty Dawn books, Hollywood Nobody, Lisa Samson has done it again with Finding Hollywood Nobody, a quirky tale that not only picks up where the last one left off (thank you, thank you) but continues to grow a well-rounded and flawed, but lovable, heroine you just have to root for.

Scotty still has her nomad life but now has a little more information into the where’s and why’s of how it all came to be. Loaded with this information in a newer RV, she becomes braver and hungrier for more. Her tender heart for those in need hasn’t changed either though she risks more when reaching out.

Lisa has never shied away from controversial subjects and still doesn’t here. It is refreshing to have those taboo subjects—ones our youth face everyday, but too many adults don’t want to discuss—addressed in a moral and thoughtful manner. There is reality here in this brilliant work of fiction. How Ms. Samson blends the fantasy life of a teenager on the run and hiding in the Hollywood crowd with real issues teenagers are dealing with daily only goes to show what a craftsman she truly is.

Finding Hollywood Nobody is a must for the YA crowd and I can only hope mothers and daughters will read it together and discuss it—maybe over a lunch of grilled cheese sandwiches. I think Lisa and Scotty would approve.

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Monday, May 12, 2008

A Whisper of Freedom

Tricia Goyer has taken us back to the past and shared insights wrapped around amazing storylines multiple times. Her third and final installment of her Chronicles of the Spanish Civil War isn’t a let down, I promise.

Ms. Goyer puts her readers in war-torn Spain, describing detail so avidly, one wants to help, to rescue, to make things right. It all becomes so real, it nearly jumps off the page.

Sophie Grace has just escaped her ex-fiancé, found the man she truly loves is still alive, and knows for certain she is in Spain for a purpose/

However, Michael is not over Sophie or the gold that slipped through his fingers.

And then there is Walt who is more of an enigma that ever and knows something he’s not telling.

The writing is nearly lyrical, the story transfixing, and you’d swear the characters were real—at least the care you feel for them will be.

I highly recommend this book and cannot wait for Ms. Goyer’s next venture.

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Saturday, December 08, 2007

Review for A Shadow of Treason

Fine, I admit it. I love history. Not so much the dry stuff like dates, etcetera, but even that can be fun if you learn the nuances and trivia behind it all. It’s the personalities, the reasoning and the what if’s that make it so enjoyable.

That’s why I love Tricia Goyer’s books.

Her most recent historical, A Shadow of Treason, is part of her Chronicles of the Spanish Civil War series. Tricia explains in the foreword that the Spanish Civil War was something she knew little about before doing her research for her WWII books. Like her, I find that time period to be fascinating.

The first book in the series, A Valley of Betrayal, beautifully set the scene (to read my review of A Valley of Betrayal, click here). A Shadow of Treason picks up the story and takes the reader deeper into the lives of the characters, moving ever closer to the final part of the trilogy.

A Shadow of Treason finds Sophie Grace still in Guernica, Spain after General Franco, with the help of the Nazi’s, has bombed and burned the historic village. Having already lost Michael, the fiancé left her safe home in Boston for, she finally has come to terms with her heart—she is in love with Philip Stanford, the American volunteer soldier in the Abraham Lincoln brigade who’d rescued her in her escape from Madrid. Just when she is ready to look forward to a life with Philip, Walt Block, the shady newspaper reporter who’d helped her get into Spain calls in a favor. A big favor. And he drops a bomb of his own on Sophie’s dreams, making her choose between Philip and helping to save the people of Spain who she has come to love.

The twists and turns will keep you guessing. The intrigue will keep you reading. The beauty of Goyer’s prose will keep you thinking about this story long after you finish the last word. She has hit her stride when it comes to word craft with this book—I believe it is her best to date.

As a stand-alone, however, I would not recommend A Shadow of Treason. You would lose too much of the depth and panorama of the story. By reading the trilogy in order, the story takes on a life of its own and you come to care deeply about the characters. If you have already read A Valley of Betrayal, then grab A Shadow of Treason and inhale the senses-grabbing prose. If you have not read A Valley of Betrayal, why not? Get it now and travel along with unforgettable characters to a time that should not be forgotten. Then you will be ready for A Shadow of Treason.

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

A Valley of Betrayal--A Review

History. The word brings about strong feelings—you either love it or hate it. What I’ve learned though is that most people who claim to hate it usually had a teacher who focused on dates and names and forgot that history is full of people, personalities, and amazing grace.

Tricia Goyer hasn’t forgotten that. And she proves it again with her latest book A Valley of Betrayal where she veers away from her usual historical period and presents us with the fruits of her exploration into the turbulence that preceded World War II.

To be honest, the closest I’d come to learning about this time came from being in the play The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. The teacher, Miss Brodie, thinks she’s inspired one of her students to go join her brother in the fight for Spain. Unfortunately her information is fatally flawed. But for that powerful scene in the play, I wouldn’t have known anything about Franco and the Spanish Civil War.

As I read A Valley of Betrayal, I realized I still knew next to nothing other than the name Franco.

However, Tricia uniquely wraps up the major points in a compelling story that places the reader in the midst of the fight. She pulls no punches noting that good guys don’t always win, good guys aren’t always easy to spot, and both sides had truths and propaganda. Claiming God doesn’t make your side right and noble pursuits without God are empty.

I do recommend you have a strong sense of the major groups before reading—what I mean is, read Tricia’s introduction and remember which groups belong to the Loyalists and which to the Nationalist. Without that, it can become confusing.

Also be ready to have to wait for more as this is only book one of the three book saga, Chronicles of the Spanish Civil War. I believe the wait is worth it based on this first story. The characters are compelling, flawed yet you want to cheer for most of them—others I just wanted to hiss at and beat to a bloody pulp, but then , that’s just me.

Want to learn about history in an enjoyable, exciting read? I recommend Tricia Goyer’s A Valley of Betrayal. It can make a history lover of you.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Marta's Promise

The setting is uncommon, the plot based on historical facts not well known, but I found the story of Marta’s Promise to be compelling.

Set in 1766, the book takes us through the determination and horrors faced by Lutheran refugees leaving their German homeland and starting a new life in Russia. Though very familiar with the church history of Martin Luther, I had not known of the plight of the Reformers and the history behind the story fascinated me. Occasionally the story dragged but I found the information from the slow part to be important to fully understanding what happened. Authors Jeanne Dennis and Sheila Seifert head-hop a bit but it doesn’t distract from the storyline of young reformer, Marta Ebel.

Alone in the world, emigrating after her parents have died and all her brothers taken from her, Marta is thrown together with a small boy she must keep safe and a handsome rogue of questionable character with unexplained actions. Nothing is as it should be but as she draws closer to God, Marta learns He has a different viewpoint on many things.

If you like historical fiction that it authentic, you will enjoy Marta’s Promise.

The Jade Bracelet

Have you ever read a story that transported you to another time and place so completely that it was a physical shock to put the book down? Author Wilma Wall accomplished this goal for me with her latest book, The Jade Bracelet. I have to confess, I was not drawn to the subject matter but having been requested to read the book, I did.
Now I’m glad I did.
The Jade Bracelet is told in third person but has only one POV throughout. I came to understand Elsa Meier and identified with her first as a child, then as a young woman and then finally as a wife and mother. What I found most interesting is that so much of Elsa’s childhood parallels Ms. Wall’s growing up years as a daughter of missionaries stationed in China and I would love to know just how much is autobiographical.

Elsa’s later years detour from the author’s but the story keeps you enthralled all the way from China to California and back to China again, authentically viewing through a child’s eyes and again through the eyes of an adult.
Any woman can relate whether she has been a missionary or not, whether she has lived outside her home country or not. This book transcends locale and rests on relationships and learning to get them right—three generations trying to do just that. I highly recommend this book and look forward to more from Ms. Wall.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Embraced by the Arms of Deliverance

I love history. I have since I was little and my dad would tell me stories about when he was in World War II. Of course, he was careful about sharing things a child shouldn’t know.

Tricia Goyer was careful, too. She skillfully shared a part of the war that, to my knowledge, hasn’t been widely known. Without overly graphic intent, she opened my eyes to the horrors, the truth and bravery of my parents’ generation. And she did it well.

Arms of Deliverance, Goyer’s fourth novel set during WWII, takes you into the lives of three women, each dealing with her own identity. Katrine needs to hide who she is, Mary longs to acknowledge who she is, and Lee is discovering what she is made of. They are from very different worlds and, when their paths cross, the lives of these women become intricately intertwined. A Czech Jew involved with a Nazi officer, Katrine is far from the person she thought herself to be—and if her Nazi discovers her secret, more than her life is at stake. Mary and Lee are both female journalists given a rare opportunity to go overseas and report from the European theater of the war, but that’s where their similarities end.

Ms. Goyer has woven a compelling story I could not put down until I came to a very satisfying ending. I highly recommend Arms of Deliverance. BTW, click anywhere on the book's title in this review to link to the first chapter. You may have to scroll down a bit but it is well worth it for the great read.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Everything’s Coming Up Josey

So, what to do you do when your fiancé marries your sister (who just happens to be your best friend)?

Becoming a missionary to Russia isn’t the first thing to pop into my brain. In fact, I gotta say, the idea of the memoirs of a Russian missionary just didn’t appeal to me the same as they did to the heroine of Susan May Warren’s new book Everything’s Coming Up Josey. But, with Josey Berglund as the tour guide through her misadventures, I have to say I have a new outlook.

Ms. Warren’s foray into chick lit shows how well her voice is tuned to the genre. There’s just the right balance of snark to vulnerability, laughter to tears to make this one of the most enjoyable reads in a long time. To say I liked the book is to put it mildly. It is fun, it is quirky, it whispers a statement (rather than banging you over the head with a mallet) that keeps you thinking of Josey long after you put the book down. I highly recommend!

Fighting for Bread and Roses by Lynn A. Coleman

A mystery within a mystery, story within a story, Lynn A. Coleman’s Fighting for Bread and Roses keeps you guessing until the last.

While researching for her latest book on the Bread and Roses strike of 1912, well-known author Lindsey Marc (a.k.a. Lindsey Taylor) becomes wrapped up in a mystery nearly one hundred years old. And she’d better unravel it quick in order to solve the mystery stalking her every move.

Ms. Coleman paints a believable background for heroine, ratcheting up the stakes for a read that is hard to put down. ForeWord Magazine awarded Fighting for Bread and Roses their Book of the Year Award and in my estimation, it earned it. Ms. Coleman is to be congratulated. A great read. I highly recommend it.

Wish I’d Known You Tears Ago by Stephen Bly

Can you really live your dreams? Is there a way to revisit the happiest time of your life? Develyn Worrell, Indiana school teacher, took a chance and is about to put that to the test in Stephen Bly's Horse Dreams trilogy. This, the final book of the series, has her wrapping up her summer vacation in the sleepy little town of Argenta, Wyoming.

I hadn’t read the first two books of the series before I read this one so it took me a bit to get into the story—the confusion didn’t last long and though Wish I’d Known You Tears Ago can stand on it’s own, I suggest going back and reading the series in order for total understanding. This is a laid back read in spite of the excitement at the beginning and the end. The western way of life blankets everything—attitudes, drawls, and humor. What might be a tad bit strange in corn-fed Indiana will seem perfectly at home in Argenta. If you like a kicked back pace and cowboy wisdom, then you will enjoy Wish I’d Known You Tears Ago, but I still think you should read the first two (Memories of a Dirt Road Town and The Mustang Breaker) first.

Cowboy by Staci Stallings

A man who longs for someone to see his real self. A woman healing and learning to move on. One night in the rain their stories come crashing together to ask the question, “Can there be two loves of a lifetime in one life?”

Staci Stallings paints a poignant picture of learning to live again after the loss of a spouse in her book, Cowboy (also available as an e-book). The plot is simple yet pulls at the heartstrings. Learning to love, learning to trust, returning to God and being willing to hurt again if needed, Ms. Stallings takes you into the lives of people from two different worlds and lets their worlds collide. Beth is the determined breadwinning waitress and single parent to her five-year-old daughter. Timothy, as America’s number one country singer Ashton Raines, carries the world on his shoulders to keep his band and entourage going. But, as himself, Timothy longs to let someone else hold up the sky while he fights his grief over the loss of his wife.

If you like touching romance done God's way, I recommend Cowboy, available through Spirit-Light Publishing. If you’d like a sneak peek at the first three chapters, click here.