About Me and My Blog and Amazon Store

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Langley, BC, Canada
I love to read. I love books. I like to talk about books and recommend them. I read everything including cereal boxes and junk mail! I heard once that if you're not reading at least 3 books at a time you're not reading enough! This blog will keep track of the books I've read and whether or not I liked them. It will be a little bit of everything from Christian fiction to Science fiction and fantasy. Feel free to participate by suggesting books to review and giving your comments. Occasionally I am given free books by Publishers in exchange for a review. I am not told how to review them or compensated in any way for the review.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Fall of Giants by Ken Follett

Penguin Books sent me a copy of Ken Follett’s Fall of Giants back in the summer. It’s taken this long to finally get it read. But you shouldn’t let that scare you. I’m not really a fan of historical fiction so it sat for a while before I picked it up. What might scare you is the size of the book. At 985 pages it’s a big book. I think that might end up being a detriment to some people as you literally have to sit with the book in your lap as it’s too heavy to hold up.

But he does need that many pages and more to tell the story. This is book one of the Century Trilogy so there is a hundred years of storytelling to be done between this and the next two books. This book covers 1911-1924. The story spans 2 continents, a world war, 5 families and politics at every level. He follows the families as they are impacted by the war and the politicking that accompanies the war. The families represent both the poor and the aristocracy. Several real historical characters are featured such as Lenin and Woodrow Wilson but these aren’t the main characters.

I enjoyed this book even though it took me awhile to get into it. If you like historical fiction and aren’t intimidated by the size of the book I think you will really like this book. His characters are engaging and even though it’s fiction it reads like these events could have happened. He stays true to the feel of the time and place.

When I started the book I wasn’t that interested in finishing it. However, now that I’m done I am interested enough to want to read the sequel, on my kindle. And that I think is the true test of a good novel, it leaves you wanting more.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Reading Challenge for 2012

February 7, 2012 is the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens. In celebration and as a challenge to myself I've decided to read and review all his major works in publication order. Since English was my major in University I have already read a number of his books. But I thought it would be fun to start at the beginning. Along the way I will insert some of his life and times as it relates to the book I'm currently reading and reviewing.

Here's the list

The Pickwick Papers - 1836
Oliver Twist - 1837
Nicholas Nickleby - 1838
The Old Curiosity Shop - 1840
Barnaby Rudge - 1841
Martin Chuzzlewit - 1843
Dombey and Son - 1846
David Copperfield - 1849
Bleak House - 1852
Hard Times - 1854
Little Dorrit - 1855
A Tale of Two Cities - 1859
Great Expectations - 1860
Our Mutual Friend - 1864
The Mystery of Edwin Drood - 1870

He also wrote some short stories and 5 Christmas stories, including a Christmas Carol. I'll reserve the right to leave these out of the list for now and decide later if I'm going to include them.

I'm looking for a good biography of Charles Dickens that I can use as a reference so I'll include a review of that as well. Should any of you readers of my blog (I know you're there even though you are very quiet) would like to join me in this reading adventure I'd be happy to have you come along. First up, The Pickwick Papers.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Reading Slump

I've been in a bit of a reading slump this past month. I’m bored with the books I’m reading. My favourite authors all have new books coming out in the next month but there’s nothing I’m really interested in reading right now; which is too bad because we’ve hit the season of reruns on TV and Christmas movies. I’m not a big fan of Christmas movies so I’ve actually got the time to read. As I’ve been writing this the thought occurred to me that I should maybe try re-reading some of the books I’ve enjoyed. I tend not to do that but I think the cure for any slump is to just keep on doing it until the enjoyment comes back. This works for exercise so maybe it would work for hobbies as well. Or maybe I could start my 2012 reading challenge early.

So how do you overcome slumps in your life? Are you reading anything right now that you would recommend?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

I don’t know how other reviewers operate but I have to finish a book before I can review it. This makes it much slower for me to produce reviews, especially since I tend to like big books. So I've been reading this book for a while and have only just finished it.

A Game of Thrones is the first novel in a fantasy series published in the mid 1990’s. This year an HBO series was launched based on the book so I guess that’s why they’ve become popular again.

I found this book a bit complicated at first but enjoyed the story very much. There are 3 plot lines and within each storyline a particular character is featured. It’s not a first person novel though but is told in a third person point of view. The story continues on with each change in point of view but it does mean you have to pay attention when advancing to the next chapter to understand which plot is being featured. The stories of three families are told, the Starks, the Lannisters and the Targaryens.

Although it’s a fantasy novel I didn’t find it overly so. I think people who aren’t necessarily fans of fantasy would enjoy the story telling and action through this novel. A Clash of Kings is next in the series.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Snow Angel by Glenn Beck

The Snow Angel is a heart-warming story punctuated by heart wrenching scenes of family violence, unhappy children and forgotten seniors. Glenn Beck touches all the emotions in this story of a family that’s lost its way.

It’s told from the perspective of the father and the daughter. The story begins on Christmas Eve and ends on the same day. In between the tale is told of a family that struggled with alcoholism, abuse and how that pattern continued through the daughter’s marriage. It’s also a tale of friendship, love and the importance of community. It’s a story of hope and ultimately forgiveness.

This is well-written with endearing characters. I can enthusiastically recommend this book for your Christmas reading or gift giving.

Friday, November 4, 2011

I read more than one book in October!

If you go by my posting of reviews it looks like I hardly read at all anymore. That's certainly not true. But I have been bogged down in a couple of books that are taking some time to get through. And I read some books just for fun and decided not to review them all.

The books with reviews coming are Ken Follet's Fall of Giants and George R.R. Martin's A Game of Thrones.

So keep checking back and I'm working on a fun challenge for 2012 that I will tell you about soon.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

I don’t like books about racism. I’ve avoided reading this one because I thought I didn’t need to hear again about the racial conflict in the 1960’s. It makes me angry and sad to read about how white people have treated other people of different races and colours. And so, I have ignored all the hype about this book and steadfastly refused to read it.

Until I went on my vacation and my sister insisted that I would love this book. I broke down and bought it and was mesmerized by the first words. This book made me laugh and cry. It’s the type of book that people who see you reading it want to talk to you about. I talked to a guy in the elevator whose girlfriend was reading the book and loved it. It’s the kind of book that you can talk to about with a black hotel receptionist who grew up in Alabama and hadn’t read the book but had seen the movie. I encouraged her to read the book; I wish I could talk to her once she’s read it.

The story is told in the voice of the black women who work as servants and in the voice of the white woman who is writing the story. It was a bit difficult for me to adjust to each chapter being told in a different voice as the story was so mesmerizing that I was sometimes slow to realize that now someone else was talking. But that is really the only criticism I have of an other- wise flawlessly written novel.

This is a debut novel for Kathryn Stockett and I surely hope that she has a sequel in the works. If you’re like me and have avoided this book, please go out and buy it. It’s worth the read and worthy of the discussions you will have about it.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

New York to Dallas by JD Robb

As you can tell from my other reviews I’m a long-time fan of this series by JD Robb. This 33drd book in the series does not disappoint and the author does a great job of bringing Eve Dallas’ past and present together in a riveting thriller.

All the books in the series have been leading up to this story. As more and more of Eve’s past has become known it’s been apparent that at some point she would have to confront it and in this book she comes face to face with her childhood nightmares. As always there is a generous helping of humour and romance in this story which helps to temper some of the ugliness of the crimes being committed.

Although I enjoy a good first person story, the beauty of a 3rd person narrative is that you get to hear what all the characters are thinking, not just the main one. That’s important in this kind of book where the plot is driven by the dialogue and not necessarily the action. As Eve spends more and more time trying to profile her suspect and target where she will capture him we get variety and insight by getting to hear what the suspect is thinking and feeling.

I’m surprised that this series hasn’t hit TV or the movies yet. It would make a great crime/drama/sci-fi series with the right casting and scripts.
I can see far ahead in this series. In fact it could now be called In Life instead of In Death and focus on things like Eve and Roake’s children which I’m sure will be showing up sooner rather than later and even delving into the futuristic aspect that so far has only been a setting for the stories rather than a plot line. This series still has a long way to go and JD Robb shows no signs of stopping for which I’m glad.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ghost Story by Jim Butcher

Penguin Publishers sent me a copy of this to review. It is the next book in the series called The Dresden Files. I’m both glad and sad that they sent me the book. Glad because it was a great book; sad because it’s the first time I’d read anything in the Dresden files and now I know the end but haven’t read anything that came before.

However, if you happen to be a Dresden fan then I have to believe that this novel would be a satisfying and compelling continuation of the story.

Harry Dresden is a wizard who has an unfortunate condition; he’s dead. But he can’t continue on into the afterlife until he finds out who murders him. His ghost is commissioned to find the murderer, save his friends who are in danger and probably save the world at the same time; all without benefit of his body or his magic.

This is an entertaining read. The plot while fantasy is still believable and the characters are well written. Not having read any other books in the series I’m not sure if Harry is normally a thoughtful guy but in this book he spends a lot of time ruminating on his life and how he got to be the way he was. He was a sarcastic, confident and caring person in life and his ghost also has those qualities. The dialogue is great and I’m sure would be even more entertaining for those who have read the series and are used to the way Butcher writes.

This is like a Harry Potter book for adults. But with more adult type of angst and moral dilemmas (yes even for a ghost). If you’re a Dresden fan, you have to read this book. If you’re not and think you might like to be, start with Storm Front the first in the series and work your way up to this book. It’ll be worth the wait.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Paradise Prophecy by Robert Browne

This novel was sent to me by Penguin Publishers for a review.

Robert Browne’s novel is based on the story of John Milton’s Paradise Lost. To refresh your memory, Paradise Lost is Milton’s epic poem about the final war in Heaven when God casts Satan and his followers out of heaven.

Browne’s version focuses on Satan’s followers and their attempt to turn earth into a hell for Satan to come back and rule. With current events as a backdrop and ancient secrets as the momentum this story is a fast-paced fantasy-thriller.

This book is definitely not written with a Christian world-view in mind so it’s best not to try and figure it out theologically. He did a great job of keeping me guessing whether or not good would actually win over evil.

I don’t usually give the synopsis from the book jacket but it’s the best way to give you an idea of what the book is about. So here it is.

The Myth
When God cast the archangel Satan into Hell, ending the War in Heaven, peace prevailed on Earth. Until the fallen angels took revenge in the Garden of Eden. Ever since, mankind has been in a struggle between good and evil, paradise and apocalypse: the fall of Rome, The Crusades, World Wars, nuclear proliferation, the Middle East Crisis... The War in Heaven never really ended-it just changed venues. For millennia, God's angels have been fighting Satan's demons on Earth, all in hopes of bringing about Satan's greatest ambition, the Apocalypse.
The Reality
Satan has never been closer to his goal than right now.
Agent Bernadette Callahan is a talented investigator at a shadowy government organization known only as Section, on the trail of a serial killer with nearly supernatural abilities. Sebastian "Batty" LaLaurie is a religious historian who knows far too much about the other side- and that hard-earned knowledge is exactly what Callahan needs. This unlikely duo pair up for a race across the globe, decoding clues left in ancient texts from the Bible to Paradise Lost and beyond. In the process they stumble upon a vast conspiracy-one beyond the scope of mankind's darkest imagination.

I enjoyed this book and am looking forward to the sequel. If you like paranormal/fantasy type writing and can remember that this is a story and not a theological essay then you will also enjoy this book.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Books and Technology

It occurred to me today that I’m reading 3 different books in 3 different ways. Currently I’m listening to Catherine Coulter’s FBI thriller, Blow-Out on my IPod while I walk on the treadmill. I’m also reading the Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin (doesn’t that make you wonder what the R.R. stands for?) on my Kindle and I’ve just started the Paradise Prophecy by Robert Browne which is an actual book sent to me by Penguin Publishing for review.

Ever since I was little, I’ve had a book in my hands. I remember doing dishes with a book propped up on the window sill; sitting in a corner reading at Christmas time when everyone else was talking or playing games and of course reading in every room of the house including the bathroom. There were times when I couldn’t read though, for instance in a car on a long trip. Instant car sickness. I still get motion sickness if I’m not driving, but now I can listen to books on my IPod. The Game of Thrones is a series 4 big paperbacks which would be bulky to take on a trip; now I can take them on my Kindle along with a bunch of other books.

Book snobs say that the only way to read a book is to have a physical copy in your hands. I have to respectfully disagree. Technology hasn’t weakened the reading world but strengthened it. What do you think? Are you embracing the new reality of books and technology?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Ideal Man by Julia Garwood

I arrived home from work last week to find a box of books from Penguin Publishing Company for review.

The Ideal Man has one of the best opening paragraphs I’ve ever read. After the first couple of lines I was afraid I wasn’t going to like the book but I’m glad I kept reading as there was a surprise at the beginning of the next paragraph. No I’m not going to tell you what it is; you’ll have to read it for yourself.

Dr. Ellie Sullivan is a trauma surgeon. After a long weekend of surgeries she decides to take a break by going for a run; and runs smack into an FBI takedown in which shots are fired and people are hurt. While taking care of the injured she meets Max Daniels and her world changes forever.

This is an entertaining mystery/romance. There is lots of suspense, humour and snappy dialogue. It was an easy read; I finished it in a couple of days. A great book for a lazy summer (or winter) weekend.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Red Right Return by John H. Cunningham

Red Right Return is set in Key West Florida and is the beginning of a new series. The main character is Buck Reilly. He is a treasure-hunter, pilot and bankrupt. He hides away in Key West after his company files for bankruptcy among some rumours and allegations of wrong-doing. During the investigation, he loses his parents and his only brother is estranged. He goes to Key West to lose himself and eke out a living as a charter pilot/salvage operator.

This is a fast-paced adventure story. It reminded me a bit of Clive Cussler and his character Dirk Pitt in the pace of the story. It’s definitely a page-turner. The timing is good and if the plot seemed a bit over the top sometimes that might just be the nature of adventure stories.
Buck Reilly is a flawed character who is beginning to figure out his flaws. He is a bit more introspective than most action heroes and I think that it will be interesting to watch him develop in future stories.

This is John H Cunningham’s first novel and it’s a very good one. I should mention that I hope he cleans up the language a bit in the next books although it was appropriate for the setting. I should also mention that it's only available as an ebook. But if you’re looking for a fun adventure story to read then buy this book, you won’t be disappointed.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Time of Death by J.D. Robb

I received a review copy of Time of Death from the Penguin Group. This is an anthology of 3 novellas published by JD Robb, Eternity in Death, Ritual in Death and Missing in Death. Although these are reprints and not new books this is a good packaging/marketing tool. I like it when publishers use anthologies especially in long running series. It’s a good way to get a taste of the series and decide if you like it enough to invest in other books without first spending a lot on new books.

In each of these books we discover a bit more about the main character Eve Dallas. In Missing in Death, her husband says of her “it takes more than skill and duty to make a good cop…it takes an unfailing sense of right and wrong.” In each of these books Dallas doesn’t just solve the crime, she wrestles with the motives and the feelings that each criminal brings to the crime.

These are books where the murders happen relatively early in the story. The balance of the story is the deduction of who did it and why it was done. Along the way we find out more about what makes Eve Dallas tick and why she is a good cop.

This book is a good introduction to the series. You will want to go back and catch up on the story, find out about her childhood, how she met her husband, why she doesn’t like his butler. But you don’t need to know all that to enjoy this anthology.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Silent in the Sanctuary by Deanna Raybourn

Silent in the Sanctuary is the sequel to Silent in the Grave, reviewed here
Once again we meet Lady Julia Grey who has been recuperating in Italy. Her Father Lord March has summoned her and her siblings home for Christmas and she returns to England to celebrate Christmas with her family. When she arrives she finds the rest of her family along with some additional guests invited by her father. One of them is none other than Brisbane, the detective that she had met and assisted in a murder investigation that led her to needing to recuperate in Italy. She hasn't heard from him since she's been away and is suprised and pleased to see him again, until she is introduced to his fiance. This is a murder mystery so there is eventually a body to find, there are ghosts afoot and family intrigue.

The March family is unconventional. Even though the story is set in Victorian England Julia Grey is a very modern thinking and acting heroine. The detailed descriptions and well-written characters make this an interesting and entertaining story to read.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


To repurpose something means to adapt for use in a different format or product.

I rented a condo in Harrison Hot springs this past weekend and while we were picking up the key we noticed that the desk they were using was an old piano frame. I asked them about it and it turns out that the piano belonged to his mother, now deceased. Neither of them were musical but they wanted to keep the piano and I guess being practical people decided to hollow out the middle and the strings and create a desk out of the rest of it.

At the time it seemed charming to me but the more I think about it the more it upsets me. A piano is supposed to be used. Even old pianos properly tuned can produce beautiful music (stay with me, this will ultimately be a post about books). Even when not being used, a piano has the promise of beautiful music but once the musical part of the piano is removed there’s nothing left but an empty shell.

Books are meant to be read. Often people will use books as a decorating tool or horror of horrors a hiding place for valuables after they’ve created a hollow in the book. An unread book holds the promise of entertainment, information or both. A book that’s been read holds the promise that it can be re-read at any time and provide even more hours of enjoyment. So, if your books are gathering dust or propping doors open please consider reading them or giving them away to others to enjoy. Some things aren't meant to be repurposed.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Split Second by Catherine Coulter

Catherine Coulter’s FBI thriller series has long been a favourite of mine. In this book, FBI agents and married couple, Dillon Savich and Lacey Sherlock are once again on the hunt for a killer. This time it’s a serial killer with ties to another famous serial killer, long dead. There are two new agents who have been added to the story, Lucy and Cooper. Along with the story line of the killer is another story that involves Lucy and her family and a ring that Lucy has fallen heir to.

This is a great story with lots of action scenes. There is also a lot of dialogue and often a narrative assist in knowing what the killer is thinking at certain times which means that you get to hear the story from all angles.

I basically read this story straight through to the neglect of many other things this weekend. If you’re going on vacation and need a book to read I’d highly recommend this one.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Spiritual Rhythm by Mark Buchanan

Mark Buchanan is a Canadian pastor on Vancouver Island. This is his 6th book. I’ve read several of his books and have also heard him speak a couple of times. He’s my favourite kind of communicator, direct, real and honest.

In this book he is comparing spiritual growth to Seasons, not to the seasons of life i.e. youth, adult, senior etc. but the actual seasons of Winter, Spring Summer and Fall. He begins with a statement that generally characterizes spiritual growth, busyness = maturity, the more you do for Jesus the more spiritual you are. Recognizing the fallacy in that he adds another component, busyness+commitment=fruit. But that doesn’t seem right either. Finally (and I’m obviously paraphrasing a chapter here) he realizes that the better model of spiritual growth is Seasons. “Fruit grows in seasons and all seasons are necessary for growing it” (pg18). Each season we go through has a purpose for making us more like Christ.

Then he goes on to describe the seasons. Winter is the absence of light, of God of friends, winter is death. A stark description but true I think of many people who have at times felt far from God either because of depression or circumstances or any number of reasons. Spring is hope, renewal, new beginnings. Summer is vitality, a foretaste of heaven, a time for joy and warmth and fruitfulness. Fall is harvest; a time to reap what we’ve sown in the other seasons. Each season has its purpose and he also describes various activities that can help bring clarity to your life as you experience each season. This is a book that he has lived. There are lots of personal examples and stories.

Part 2 of the book discusses the rhythm of the seasons, and how we can join in with the rhythm of each season. Often spiritual growth is discussed in terms of balance but he says we need more than balance. He says that while staying in the boat requires balance, getting anywhere in the boat requires rhythm. “We crave balance but we need rhythm”. (pg 198) Finding the rhythm of the season that you’re in will help to propel you through that season and on to the next. Of course he ends up with some spiritual disciplines like worship, reading the Bible, prayer and community. These are watchwords of any spiritual growth discussion. But in this book these disciplines are the well of water that sustain us through each season

This is a long review but I really wanted to give you a taste of what the book is like. I found this book to be very helpful in understanding the season that I’m in and in finding value in that season. I know that you will find it valuable as well.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Body in the Gazebo by Katherine Hall Page

Faith Fairchild is a caterer/minister’s wife/amateur detective. I just realized that a lot of mysteries I’ve been reading lately have been set in church settings. I’m sure there’s a blog post in there somewhere that I will have to explore later, lol.

The Body in the Gazebo is the 19th book in this series. In this story, mysteries from the past and present are explored. Faith’s minister husband has been accused of stealing money from the church and while Faith works to clear her husband she is also involved in hearing the tale of the body in the Gazebo. Her best friend’s elderly mother is ill and needs to confide in someone. She chooses Faith and in a series of flashback stories tells about the murder of her brother. Meanwhile Faith’s best friend is encountering her own past as she attends her son’s wedding.
There are a lot of story lines in this book. It’s not confusing but it is a little bit dull sometimes as the narrative seems to drag a bit. All of the action happens in the last few chapters. An interesting twist is how social media is used in the story to help with the mysteries.

You don’t need to read the whole series to enjoy this book. Each story is a standalone story but if you want to start at the beginning you will have 19 books to read and a chance to get to know the Fairchild family and the town they live in.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Tell Me Your Secret by Deirdre Purcell

The story begins in Ireland in 1944 and spans 60 years. It’s a tale of a family with secrets, terrible secrets formed by misplaced ideas of discipline and justice.

The Shine family lived in the “Big House” in their Irish village. Violet Shine is a beautiful 16 year old who has fallen in love with a village boy who would be deemed very unsuitable by her family. So they have been meeting secretly. Naturally, her father discovers them and the story unfolds from there. The punishment meted out to her is truly unimaginable for she is imprisoned in an attic in their house for nearly 35 years!

Despite that last sentence this is not a story of revenge or even hate. It’s a beautifully told story of love and forgiveness. The story is told in many voices, starting with Violet’s. Claudine is the modern voice of the story, the real estate agent who is interested in the old house in the village now in disrepair but still worth a lot of money. She begins to investigate its ownership and discovers a startling connection to her own story about family.

The story is told in the first person by a variety of speakers and it’s easy to be completely taken in by the tale, indeed it was hard for me to put the book down. This is the first book I’ve read by Deirdre Purcell but I can tell it won’t be my last.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

One of our Thursdays is Missing by Jasper FForde

This is a pure fantasy novel so if that’s not your genre you won’t enjoy the book. However, if you have a great imagination and love books and have always wondered what happens really inside a book when the reader stops reading then this series is for you.

This is the 6th book in this long running series. The main premise of the series is that there is a book world that exists alongside the real world. Thursday Next is a literary detective who can jump between the real world and the book world to solve problems. We first met her in The Eyre Affair where she was instrumental in stopping a criminal who was kidnapping book characters and holding them for ransom. Over the years, she’s gotten married, had children (named Tuesday and Friday of course) and continued to bridge the gap between the real world and the book world.

While I was writing this I decided that it’s impossible to give the plot line for this novel. If you haven’t read the series you won’t have a clue what’s going on; so if you’re interested start with the first book The Eyre Affair. Having said that, this is a great continuation of the series. It’s funny, very imaginative and totally believable in an odd fantasy sort of way. There are actually a few pictures in the book, art that adds to the written text in helping you to imagine what the settings look like.

I hope I’ve piqued your interest enough to give this series a try. It's definitely worth reading.

Monday, May 23, 2011

In Plain Sight by Lorena McCourtney

This is the second in the Ivy Malone series. I enjoyed this book even more than the first one. Ivy Malone is a feisty senior with wit and wisdom. This book made me laugh out loud several times as she again encounters murder and mayhem.

Finding her home town a bit dangerous as a crime family is now targeting her (read the first book Invisible to find out more about that story) Ivy decides to go away for a while and ends up in another small town looking after her teenage great-niece. Ivy quickly becomes involved with her neighbours, takes on a second job and, oh yes, finds another body. All this while looking over her shoulder wondering if any of the bad guys have caught up with her yet.

If you haven’t read the first book you can certainly still enjoy this one. There’s enough of the back story to know why she is getting out of town and who is after her. But I think this is a series that you will want to start at the beginning.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


I was thinking recently that it would be hard to find a specific review if someone was looking for it on my blog. So I've embraced the world of labels. I've organized most of my reviews by genre. If I've reviewed a specific author more than once they get their own label. And since The Guernsey Literary Peel and Pie Society is currently my favourite book and in a class all its own, it also gets its own label. If you have any other suggestions as to how this blog could best be organized feel free to share your comments. And by the way, I haven't said thanks for reading lately, so thanks for reading my blog, I hope you enjoy it and the books I review.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Principle of the Path by Andy Stanley

The Principle of the Path is not rocket science or even a brilliant new way of looking at the Will of God. What it is though, is a very readable and thoughtful book about choosing the right paths in life. If you have a high school or college or grad in your family this year, this is the book I would suggest getting for them to read.

He talks about how good intentions aren’t the fuel that’s needed to reach the destinations we choose. His premise is that the path determines the outcome. For example if you’re on a path that is leading to an unhealthy lifestyle, that’s the destination you will reach no matter how much you may want to be healthy. You need to choose another path, i.e. a healthy lifestyle to get the desired destination.

The rest of the book fleshes out that premise. There are plenty of biblical stories and illustrations that help to prove his point. One part that particularly resonated with me was his statement that “Divine direction begins with unconditional submission. Not information” (pg.88). I think most of us would prefer the information first but that’s not always how it works.

Ultimately there’s nothing new in this book especially if you’ve been a Christian for a long time and have done a lot of reading on finding the will of God. However, what makes this book worth picking up is its readability and common sense approach. There’s something here for everyone who needs help in finding the right path.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

One was a Soldier by Julia Spencer-Fleming

This is the latest installment in the Rev. Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne series. Clare has just returned from a tour of duty in Iraq as a helicopter pilot. She resumes her pastoral duties and relationship with the Chief of Police. Despite telling everyone that she is “just fine” she’s not fine. She joins a therapy group specializing in war vets and helping them reintegrate back into their regular lives. The therapy group might have been successful if the participants weren’t so invested in making sure everyone knew they were “fine”. Of course all this stuffing of real feelings eventually begins to seep out and they all start to unravel in their own ways.

As is usual in this series there is a good mixture of the sacred and secular. Clare’s faith is a very real one and her failures are very real ones as well. The characters in this series are flawed and in this book the flaws are visible to everyone but the character. The plot centers around a very good mystery but the sub plots are about dealing with transition and loss.

The author uses a strategy that I’m seeing more in more in novels which is to tell the story moving back and forth in time. I find it a bit disconcerting to start with until I’ve figured out the sequence of events. On a Kindle it’s not so easy to flip pages back and forth and I wish I’d remembered that the table of contents was organized by dates; that might have helped me orient myself in the beginning. But after a while the story is good enough to not be distracted by the style.

This is a solid entry in this series and the ending suggests that series will continue which makes me happy.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Invisible by Lorena McCourtney

Ivy Malone is an elderly widow who lives along and goes to church. She lives in a comfortable neighbourhood with life- long friends surrounding her. Life is good if a little dull until her best friend passes away and she finds herself involved in a couple of mysteries.

Mystery #1 involves vandalism in the cemetery where her friend is buried and Ivy decides to do some midnight reconnaissance to see if she can find out what’s happening.

Mystery #2 involves her friend’s renter Kendra who disappears. Eventually as in all good stories the two mysteries appear to be related and Ivy is hot on the trail of would be killers, thieves and vandals. Her faith in God is a strong part of the story and the ensuing discussions about faith are very natural.

This is a good story. Think Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple with an evangelical bent. It’s the type of book where you don’t have to worry about the language or inappropriate scenes. This is Book #1 in the Ivy Malone series and I’ve already downloaded Book #2.

Thursday, April 7, 2011


I’m not a sports fan; nor am I a fan of biographies. So it was a little strange to me that I chose to review the book about Albert Pujols. If you’re a baseball fan you know who he is. If you’re not then you might be forgiven for not knowing that he is said to be on his way to being one of greatest baseball players ever. In just over 10 seasons of playing he has hit more home runs than Babe Ruth and has more RBI’s than Hank Aaron and more hits than Pete Rose did at the same age. He is 31 years old.

Besides being a great baseball player, Albert Pujols is also a Christian. And that’s why I wanted to read the book. Professional athletes with a good reputation are getting harder to find so when someone like Pujols comes around he is worth reading and writing about.

This is definitely a book about baseball. It’s a chronicle of his years playing with the St Louis Cardinals. It is heavy on stats; but people who like sports love stats! Woven among the baseball stats are stories about Albert’s life and faith. He is a strong believer who is actively sharing his faith, even to the point of witnessing to players who stand on first base with him.

The book portrays the good and bad. It doesn’t sugar coat his moodiness and ability to annoy people. It does give us a glimpse into a life lived in a fish bowl. It addresses the steroids issue going so far as devoting a whole chapter as a defense of Pujols and insisting that he is clean.

One quote attributed to Albert shows the kind of player he is. He said “This is my job, I get paid a lot of money to play this game, and I know the people expect a lot from me” (pg. 187) Another quote shows the kind of Christian he is. He says, “I don’t want to be remembered as the best baseball player ever. I want to be remembered as a great guy who loved the Lord, loved to serve the community and who gave back.” (pg.189)

I really wanted to like this book but I did find it a little dull. I think if you are a true sports fan and like all the stats and rehashing of games played then you will enjoy this book.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A River in the Sky by Elizabeth Peters

Elizabeth Peters is a prolific author who is at her best when writing archaeological mysteries. She has several series of books but my favourite is the series that stars Amelia Emerson and her family.

Generally the books are set in Egypt and over the years the family has had many adventures while excavating different archaeological sites. This book is in a different setting, Jerusalem.

Early in the 1900’s, Amelia’s husband is asked by the British Government to go to Israel and stop someone who is attempting to locate the Ark of the Covenant. The Government is afraid that a sloppy excavation could cause an unstable political situation to become worse and the Emersons are asked to use their considerable knowledge and skill to prevent any trouble.

Never ones to travel lightly, the whole family and some extras are brought along for the adventure. As is typical of the Emersons murder, kidnappings and general mayhem quickly ensue.

It was nice to have a change of setting. One of the things I enjoy about these novels is the bit of historical facts that are included. The Biblical setting and ensuing discussions were also an interesting addition to this novel. This was an enjoyable addition to the Ameila Peabody Series.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Shadows in the Street by Susan Hill

This novel was my first experience of reading on my new Kindle. For the most part I really enjoyed the experience of reading on the Kindle. The only thing I really missed was being able to tell how much of the book I had left. There is a tracker device at the bottom that tells the percentage of the book read but I like being able to see the pages. Other than that, reading on a Kindle is actually somewhat better than having a book in your hands. For instance when you click on the book to read you are taken to the exact same spot you ended the last time; no more fumbling around trying to remember which page you’re on. (that’s usually what happens to me because I tend to lose bookmarks).

Now onto reviewing the actual story. Susan Hill is one of the many authors whose new books I wait for eagerly. I’m enjoying her Simon Serrailler series of which this is the latest one. Even though Simon is the main character it is definitely an ensemble cast and each player is given a story line which mingles with the others to create a rich and full bodied tale.

This book is set in a small British town where Simon is a detective on the police force. Someone is murdering the town’s prostitutes and he is called back from holiday to help out with the investigation. The first characters we are introduced to are a couple of the “working women” who will be some of the main characters of the novel. We are a given a glimpse into their less than ideal lives but we are also given a glimpse into the efforts they are making to clean up their lives and become “normal”.

Juxtaposed on that scene is another setting which is the Anglican church of the town. There are shadows here as well. Light and dark are definite themes in this novel. But the lightness and darkness often show up in unexpected places

Loss and how people deal with loss is another main theme of the novel. Many of the characters are dealing wth the loss of loved ones, others are dealing with the loss of what they thought would be their normal lives.

As a main character in the series, Simon seems to play a smaller part in this book. He’s a bit moody and introspective and I’m interested to see how Susan Hill develops his character in subsequent stories as he seems a bit stalled now.

The ending is unexpected, I hadn’t figured out ‘who did it” by the end. But I thoroughly enjoyed following the clues and getting to know the characters better. I’m looking forward to her next book.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Kindle Review

My kind and generous sister got me a Kindle for Christmas. Because they were oversold in Canada it wasn’t available at Christmas time so I just received it a couple of weeks ago when she was in town for a visit.

So far I love almost everything about it. I like that it’s lighter than most paperbacks I read so carrying it around with me is easy. I also like that I don’t have to wait for a favourite author to be published in paperback before I can read a book (I tend not to buy hard cover books very often). It came with a cool cover that has a built in light. It’s easy to read and navigate. One feature I really like is that the Kindle store provides free samples of books so you can read several pages to see if it’s one you really want. You can make notes and highlight just like in a “real” book. And another bonus to the e-reading world is that you also see which sections other readers have highlighted.

Another feature I discovered that I haven’t tried yet is that you can download mp3 files and listen to music while you read! How cool is that?

There are only a couple of things that I’m not happy with at the moment. One is the battery life. It doesn’t seem to stay charged as long as the information says it will. And although there is a battery icon it doesn’t seem to move much so I’m getting critical battery failures without any warning. And it was a surprise to me (although I guess it shouldn’t have been )that the books are charged in US dollars. Which could be a problem when the dollar goes down again. However there is a good selection of free and .99 cent books so I don’t really like I will ever be without reading material.

All in all I’m really enjoying it and will just have to remember to charge it up more often. Thanks, Maureen, it is a great gift!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Fatal Judgment by Irene Hannon

Jake Taylor is a US Marshall back from a tour of duty in Iraq. Just as he is settling in to his new job he is assigned to protect a Federal Judge whose sister has just been murdered. It turns out that he has history with this Judge and he is not looking forward to meeting up with her again. It also turns out that his previous opinion of her may be based on faulty information.

This story is Christian fiction at its best. It’s a conspiracy theory based mystery with more than hint of romance and a lot of suspense. It bodes well for the series called Guardians of Justice.

If you like Christian fiction then you will want to check out this book.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Wrestling with Angels by Carolyn Arends

Carolyn Arends is a Christian music artist who also writes books. I don’t listen to much Christian music but I was able to attend a concert of her at Christmas time and while I enjoyed her music what I enjoyed more was her story telling. She is a natural story teller which also comes out in the songs that she writes.

The book is about faith and doubt. It’s a personal story but with universal application and appeal. The stories revolve around her questions and sometimes the answers that she arrives at during her questioning. There’s a lot of biography in it and some of my favourite stories were ones that included Rich Mullins a friend of hers and a favourite musician of mine.

Carolyn’s wrestling with questions that I think we all have. One of the final paragraphs in her book will give you a clue as to the kind of writing you will encounter if you pick this book up to read. Speaking of Pascal’s “God-shaped vacuum” quote she says, “calling this vacuum God –shaped may seem like a leap, unless of course you encounter a God whom you cannot prove exists, but nonetheless fits the hole in your soul like a key in a lock.”(pg. 232). I like that.

Friday, February 18, 2011

A space invasion, but not the alien kind!

I've been quiet for a couple of weeks due to a break-in where my computer (among other things) was stolen!! I did notice that during those weeks I got more reading done. I finished Flash Forward which was ok but way too much scientific technical stuff for me so it made the story move more slowly than I like. And I finished a book by Francine Rivers called Her Mother's Hope. It was a good story and an easy read.

Fortunately I had insurance and things are slowly getting replaced. of course the computer was the first thing to be replaced. Even though my space was invaded I'm grateful that the only damage was to the door and there was no other vandalism. I'm also grateful that I wasn't home at the time. I'm still not feeling quite safe there yet but I will eventually get a new a stronger lock (I eliminated the ideas of an alarm and a dog!)

I'm starting on Humans the sequel to Hominids and I'm reading Three Cups of Tea so there will eventually be some more reviews coming.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Hominids by Robert Sawyer

My favourite types of science fiction books always involve time travel or alternative universes. In Hominids, a scientific experiment has caused a breach between parallel universes. In one universe, humankind has evolved from the neanderthals. The second universe is our current one. The accident causes a neanderthal to be transported to our world and the adventure begins.

Yes, I know it sounds silly especially if you're not into science fiction (if not you should probably stop reading here, lol). However it turns out to be a good mystery as well as a fascinating anthropological look at scientific thought and how communities develope and there is even a little bit of romance.

Robert Sawyer(he also wrote Flash Forward which I'm just about finished reading) has an active and interesting imagination. I'm ordering the sequel called Humans from the library and look forward to reading it.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

This first novel by Canadian Alan Bradley is about 11 year old Flavia de Luce. She lives with her Father and 2 sisters in an old English mansion and the story is set in the summer of 1950. Flavia is a budding chemist with a particular interest in poison. She doesn’t have just a child’s chemistry set though, no she has a working lab where she mixes concoctions and tests them on her unwitting sisters.

Flavia literally stumbles upon a body in the garden one night after overhearing an argument between her Father and a stranger. Thus begins Flavia’s quest to discover the murderer. This will use all of her considerable mind and powers of persuasion. During this quest she will learn about herself and her family.

This book is a kind of Anne of Green Gables meets Nancy Drew. Flavia is bright and articulate endowed with an active imagination. She is also curious and prone to getting in trouble. All in all this is a delightful book and hints at a series in which Flavia encounters more crimes to solve. Although the main character is a child this really isn’t a children’s book although I think teenagers would enjoy it. Oh yes, the mystery does indeed involve pie.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

The story is told from the viewpoint of 14 year old Susie Salmon who has been raped and murdered and is now in heaven watching her family implode and her killer go free. If that sounds a bit gruesome it really isn’t. It’s a beautifully written book about violent death and how a community copes. The unique part is that along with the first person voice we also have access to the thoughts and feelings of the people on the earth as they go about their daily lives. This allows Susie to comment on what’s happening as well.

That’s the good part about the book. The more difficult part is that as it moves along you begin to really wish they would just let go; both the family and the dead girl. Perhaps that was the author’s intent because that’s what the book is about, letting go. There are a couple of disturbing scenes to me that I wish could have been left out but the conclusion is an amazing one and worth getting to.

I’ve avoided reading this book because I didn’t like the title but in the end the lovely bones are not what you think they are going to be and she does describe what she means by it. So I highly recommend this book with the caution that it could be upsetting and disturbing to some people.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Mere Churchianity by Michael Spencer

I often buy a book just because I like the title, and I liked this title. In this case though, I actually knew who Michael Spencer was and that was enough to make me want to pick up this book when I saw the title. Most of my friends know that I am an avid reader of blogs. A couple of years ago, I came across Michael’s blog called The Internet Monk. He was an ex-pastor with a Master’s Degree in Theology. I enjoyed his blog for its honest and often humorous look at Christians and the church. Michael passed away after a brief battle with Cancer, in early 2010. This book had just been finished and was in the process of being published when he died.

Mere Churchianity is written to people who are leaving the church. Michael assumes that these are sincere Christians who love God but who are finding that the church has disconnected somehow from Jesus. The first few chapters describe these types of churches. In this book he’s talking against the churches that have become institutions unto themselves; ones for whom the program is more important than the message. He says these are churches interested more in numbers than individuals and budgets than helping the poor.

As a former church staff person there is much that I agreed with. As a former church staff person responsible for discipleship and leadership training there is much that I disagreed with as I read this book. To read his book you would think that there were no churches all that were worth attending. I happen to know that’s not true. I know there are sincere people on church staffs who want nothing more than for people to know Jesus and to mentor them in their faith. One of my favourite quotes from the books is “You have a mission from your King. The church is called to serve and resource you as you live the Jesus –filled life in the world. (pg. 158) I think that would be a great mission statement for a church, simple and to the point.

While he seems to be applauding people who leave the church to make their own spiritual path he does insist that this must be done in some sort of community. He is not at all insisting that people try to follow Jesus all on their own. He says that a Jesus-shaped Spirituality is both personal and communal.

If you’re easily offended, you might not like this book, but you should probably read it anyway. This book will challenge you and your assumptions about church and Christianity.

100 Books in 2010 Reading Challenge-

44. The Christmas Gift by Cecilia Ahearn
43. I shall not Want by Julia S;pencere-Fleming
42. The Laughter of Dead Kings by Elizabeth Peters
41. Painted Laides by Robert Parker
40. Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi
39. Indulgence in Death by J.D. Robb
38. Chasing the Night by iris Johansen
37. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
36. 8 Days to Live by Iris Johansen
35. This Body of Death by Elizabeth George
34. Chapter and Hearse by Lorna Barrett
33. True Blue by David Baldacci
32. Bury your Dead by Louise Penny
31. Homicide in Hardcover by Kate Carlisle
30. The Last Colony by John Scalzi
29. The Tomb of the Golden Bird by Elizabeth Peters
28. A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton
27. The Grilling Season
26. Silent on the Moor by Deanna Raybourn
25. Host by Peter James
24. Deadlock by Iris Johansen
23. Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn
22. The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny
21. U is for Undertow by Sue Grafton
20. Broken on the back row by Sandi Patty
19. The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larrson
18. The Heart Mender by Andy Andrews
17. The Girl who played with fire by Stieg Larsson
16. Acts of Malice by Piers Shaugnessy (audioA)
15. Switch by Grant Mckenzie
14. Killer Smile by Lisa Scottoline
13. The Me I want to be by John Ortberg
12. Necessary as Blood by Debroah Crombie
11. Big Jack by J.D. Robb
10. Away by Jane Urquhart
9. To Close to Home by Linwood Barclay
8. Healing Waters by Nancy Rue
7. Bad Guys by Linwood Barclay
6. Healing Stones
5. The Devil's Punchbowl by Greg Iles
4. The Last Days by Joel C Rosenberg
3. Death at Wentwater Court by Carola Dunn
2. Bad Move by Linwood Barclay
1. A Rule Against Murder by Louise Penny

Happy New Year!

Hope you all had a great Christmas and New Year. I had a terrific time on my vacation.

I will be posting more reviews soon. I didn't get as much reading done over the holidays as I'd hoped and have a few books on the go. First up will be a review on the book Mere Churchianity by Michael Spencer. So look for that sometime this weekend. It's an interesting and challenging book.