Thursday, August 25, 2011

Dry as Rain by Gina Holmes

Eric Yoshida has just blown his last chance at a reconciliation with his already estranged wife, Kyra, by committing the cardinal sin of sleeping with his co-worker. As if that wasn't bad enough, the morning after his one night stand begins with a phone call that his wife has been in an accident. Racing to the hospital, he discovers she has sustained a concussion that, while not physically serious, has hindered her ability to remember the details of their troubled marriage. Eric, initially stunned by this turn of events, gradually begins to wonder if he's being given a second chance to make things right with Kyra and start over. Can he have the wife he still loves back in his life without having to tell her about the affair? Or will Kyra's memory eventually dig up the past he longs to leave buried?

Gina Holmes makes the interesting choice of having Dry as Rain told from Eric's point of view. I can't recall the last time I read a novel, written by a woman, that delves solely into the male psyche. Not being a guy myself, I can't say how accurate she is but it's how I imagine the average man's brain works. I felt Eric's frustration, longing and anxiety were well portrayed, plus the relationships between he and his best friend Larry and son Benji rang true. The dialogue was realistic; compelling, but not over-complicated. I did feel the many issues resolved themselves too quickly toward the end of the book. After all the build up to Kyra's memory returning, things seemed to lose steam in the last few chapters. In my opinion, it would have been more interesting had Ms. Holmes spent more time focusing on the after math of Kyra's inevitable realization of her husband's infidelity. I also wanted a little more remorse from Eric for what he had done. Yes, he acknowledged his wrong and wanted to make things right, but it didn't seem he really understood the depth of his betrayal to their marriage and kept expecting Kyra would eventually forgive him. He just came across as too calm, not torn up or grieved enough, about the whole situation. But maybe that's my female point of view clashing with his male outlook?

Either way, I did find this a good read and would check out more of Gina Holmes books if given the chance.

I was given a complimentary copy of this book by Tyndale Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers

This book is stunning and rather ground breaking in Christian fiction for its gritty, truthful, content. While not gratuitous at all, it still manages to paint a clear picture of the depravity and desperation humanity can stoop to when left to our own devices.

When I first read this about ten years ago, it floored me. I wasn't expecting such honesty, having grown used to the gentle "fluff" that seemed to permeate most Christian publications. The subject matter alone was enough to keep most away with a fifty (or a hundred) foot pole. How does one tackle prostitution with sensitivity while maintaining a semblance of realism? Somehow, Francine manages to do both, which is why Redeeming Love is still on bestseller lists fourteen years after its initial re-release into the Christian market.

From the first chapter, this book grabbed me by the throat and wouldn't let go. My heart ached for Angel the "child of darkness" who, having experienced so much horror from a young age, slowly closes herself down to an emotionless shell of a woman. She sees no future beyond the daily scrape for survival and the constant scraping away of her very soul. In her eyes, every man is the same, wanting only one thing. And she's good at that one thing; the best in fact. Until Michael Hosea.

I won't give away the plot details, but Angel's journey is still as relevant today as ever in its ability to impact and change lives. We need more stories like this which have the power to not only touch hearts but entertain minds. That double edged sword is the mark of an enduring classic.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Lady of Bolton Hill by Elizabeth Camden

This was an interesting read; maybe a bit hard to classify topic wise. Even though the book's cover might indicate a purely romantic nature, I'd say it's a mixture of action, mystery, and politics with a dose of love story to soften things up. Those are pretty substantial themes to conquer in a little over 300 pages but, for the most part, it works.

We start out with a little back history into the relationship between our protagonists, Daniel and Clara. Their friendship as teenagers, built upon a mutual love for music and composition, has flourished despite social class barriers until an unexpected tragedy forces them apart. Twelve years later, Daniel and Clara find themselves brought back together yet not under the best of circumstances. She has just left prison and he is embroiled in legal/business dilemmas that threaten to undo his company's hard earned profits. No longer poor, Daniel still feels the need to prove himself to Clara while also holding onto a long held vendetta from the past. So caught up in his anger and need for vengeance, he is not the same man Clara remembers from her childhood. But can she uncover the Daniel she knew before it's too late?

I love historical fiction and The Lady of Bolton Hill is a nice addition to the genre. The writing was excellent, descriptive without being wordy, and has a certain finesse that speaks of intelligence. I also found the bits of humorous dialogue sprinkled throughout delightful, without being annoyingly cliched. The only thing that seemed a bit heavy handed was the biblical aspect. Clara came across too preachy at times, spouting off scripture at every turn to anyone who would listen. (Or even those who did not want to listen.) A few times, I wanted to yell across the pages for her to back off and tone it down so as not to further irritate those she was addressing. An incident that comes to mind is right while Daniel's house is being destroyed, Clara can't just let him come to grips with the horror of it unfolding before his eyes. Instead, she gets in his face to lecture him some more and then has the nerve to tell him it's only things he is losing, despite the fact some of those "things" are quite meaningful to him. Not the best time to be saying something like that if you have any trace of sensitivity. It was so obnoxious, my mouth was gaping open. If someone ever did that to me, I would be furious. Talk about adding insult to injury!

In short, I suppose Clara was the weakest link in the story for me. I just found her attitude holier than thou quite a bit of the time which ultimately made it hard for me to root for her. I actually enjoyed the few times Daniel, or anyone else, managed to put her in her place...until she slipped her way out again to bible thump some more. However, despite all of Clara's pressuring, I liked that Daniel didn't immediately convert his views to placate her but that it was a gradual process, a dawning of sorts. That seemed realistic, which is what I appreciate most in inspirational fiction. The character of Bane was one of the more interesting ones and I was intrigued to learn what made him tick. By the end of the story, I was pulling for him and wishing for more details about his life pre and post Clara. Possible sequal for Bane? Hint hint...

Despite a few quibbles, I look forward to reading Mrs. Camden's next story and think The Lady of Bolton Hill was a very good debut novel. The author is definitely talented, with an engaging style and wittiness that shines through.

Many thanks to Bethany House Publishers for my review copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Stained Glass Hearts by Patsy Clairmont

I've been to Women of Faith conferences several times in the past few years and had the pleasure of hearing Patsy Clairmont speak on various topics in her engaging, witty, style. So when I saw this book available for review, I happily signed up for the opportunity to spend more time with her while not having to leave the comfort of my couch.

Settling in, I flipped to the first chapter-"The Heart of the Matter"-and found myself immersed in Patsy's descriptions of Tennessee hilltops, light, trees and nature. No, this isn't an environmental book but environment does play a key role throughout. The idea of our hearts being like stained glass is a good metaphor which most people can relate too. It's fragility, beauty, detail and especially that way it has of catching the light while allowing us to bask in it's glow holds a wide appeal and also helps to explain why so many churches have become synonymous with it.

Back to the environment I mentioned earlier, Patsy uses this theme to weave our life experiences together, much like a glass maker etches details into a piece of stained glass. We're shown how everyday things such as books, puzzles, poetry and gardening can be a form of therapy, while pointing us to the One who heals broken hearts. The chapter on nature spoke to me the most as I've always felt nearer to the Creator when I'm truly enjoying His creation. God speaks to us, not just in words but in every sense, taking delight when we savor His work of art displayed all around us.

This was a relatively short book, perfect for someone looking to be encouraged but not overwhelmed by a lengthy read. I found it easy to understand with just enough humor to give an added sparkle to the words. There was a simple, flowing, quality and welcoming vibe to the way Patsy shared personal stories along with favorite artistic/media recommendations at the end of each chapter. There's something in here for everyone, no matter where you are spiritually, physically or emotionally. It wasn't preachy but rather insightful. Being able to see inside Patsy's heart as she shared personal struggles/victories openly and honestly was refreshing. She has the ability to say things with candor but a measure of tactfulness also. Next Sunday, I think I'll take a few extra moments to study the stained glass and stretch my fingers out toward the light...

Many thanks to Thomas Nelson publishers for giving me a copy of this book for review purposes. All the opinions are honestly given and I was in no way co-erced to write a positive review.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Mercy Come Morning by Lisa Tawn Bergren

When I first started reading this book I was pretty sure what to expect. The back cover synopsis went something like this-a woman looking to re-connect with her alzheimers ridden mother, a man from her past she hadn't forgotten, second chances, etc. Perhaps, like me, you're thinking "cliche" or I know what's going to happen already. And you may be right. But...

The good news is, the author's talent actually makes the journey seem fresh and believable. We see everything through the eyes of Krista, daughter of Charlotte, who is suffering through her last days of alzheimers. Krista receives a phone call from Dane, owner of Cimmaron, the facility where Charlotte lives, to come see her mother before it's too late. Fighting back her past/present hurt and anger, Krista drives to Taos Mexico, dreading the return to her childhood home and Dane, the man she's left behind more than once...

Each of the characters in this novel was interesting, full of depth and dimension, plus the setting was described so vividly, I wished I were there touching the snowflakes or feeling the crisp winter air on my skin. The mexican culture and dance scenes were an added bonus which also brought some extra warmth to the plot. I found the tid bits about alzheimers as well as the flashbacks from Krista's past, to be subtly woven in to the storyline without merely being thrown there as obvious add-ons. The build up to the finale was well nuanced, keeping my interest throughout, until I breathed a small sigh and felt a smile on my face at the outcome. The relationship between Krista and Charlotte was relatable on many levels, not just to those dealing with the horrors of disease, but every day life. Who hasn't felt anger, frustration, jealousy, bitterness or some strong emotion in a mother/daughter relationship; or any other, for that matter? But as this story shows us, a lot has to do with perspective. Not just ours, but those around us. Krista realizes, she's not the only one who has suffered over the years, but by refusing to acknowledge this, she has shut out those closest to her. Will she let down her walls and be open to finding the truth or continue on her path of self destruction? And what about Dane, her childhood sweetheart, who still has feelings for Krista despite everything? I ended up thoroughly enjoying this book...and if you are a fan of well written, engaging, emotionally satisfying stories, I'm betting you will too!

I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Waterbrook/Multnomah Publishers in exchange for my honest opinion.
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