Friday, July 30, 2010

Book Review: The Seeker by Ann Gabhart

I have never read a book by Ann Gabhart before, so I wasn't sure what to expect. I have read many fiction books about the Amish people, but none about the Shakers. I was curious to see what the author was going to say about this unusual group of people.

Seeker, The: A NovelThe Seeker is about Charlotte Vance, a young woman engaged to a man who decides he would rather join the Shakers, a religious group that forbids marriage. Charlotte decides to change his mind by following him to Harmony Hill, the community where the Shakers live and work. As Charlotte learns more about the Shakers and their strange ways and beliefs, her stepmother takes over the Vance family farm and tells everyone (including Charlotte's father) that Charlotte has gone to Virginia. Set in Kentucky during the 1860's, this book describes what life was like for those who found themselves in the midst of the turmoil of civil war.

I have to admit I had an uneasy feeling as I read this book, especially the passages that described the beliefs of the Shakers. I hoped that the author would make it more clear that these are not the teachings of the Bible, but of a woman who claimed to be the second coming of Jesus. They are fascinating to read about, but it's sad that they believe what they do.

This sounds like a place I would like to visit someday. I like Shaker furniture, and though I don't agree with much of their beliefs, I admire their skills and expertise in the work that they have done. And the simple life is quite attractive.

The plot is weak in some areas, and some of the characters (such as Charlotte's father) are under developed. However, the Shaker characters were interesting and varied. I especially like Sister Martha and the relationship between her and Charlotte. And while the romantic element is nice, it was too contrived. 

I give The Seeker 3 1/2 out of 5 stars.

Available July 2010 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

(I received this book from Revell Books for review purposes. I received no monetary compensation for this review. All opinions expressed are completely my own.)

Believer, The: A NovelThe Outsider: A NovelAnn Gabhart has written two other novels about the Shakers, The Outsider and The Believer. Both are published by Revell.


(Aren't the covers of these books absolutely beautiful?) 





By the way, here is a blog where they are having a giveaway for this book. Go check it out (and tell them I sent you!):
Also, other reviews of The Seeker:
 
 
 

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

WWW Wednesdays

WWW Wednesdays is a meme from Should Be Reading, where we answer three questions: What are you currently reading? What did you recently finish reading? and What do you think you'll read next? If you want to participate, answer the three questions, then put your link on the Should Be Reading Blog in the comment section. Happy reading!



Must Love DogsWhat I am currently reading: Must Love Dogs by Claire Cook - One of the requirements for our summer reading program this year is to read a book and watch the movie. So I picked Must Love Dogs. I hope to have it finished in just a few days so I can go on to my next read. I'm not sure if I'll review this one on this blog.


Seeker, The: A Novel




What I recently finished reading: The Seeker by Ann Gabhart- This one is another title published by Revell. I will post a review within the next few days.


 
 
The Knight (The Patrick Bowers Files, Book 3)What I'll probably read next: I still need to get to City of Veils (see description here), but then I will read The Knight so that I can read The Bishop (both by Steven James). I am part of a blog tour for The Bishop and will post my review during the week of August 1-7. It is another one from Revell.






Well, that's it for this week. What are you reading? Are you reading in order to write reviews, or just reading for pleasure(I know, you can do both at the same time!)? What books are you talking about to your friends? Which ones do you recommend? Are there any you particularly dislike? Let me know!


Sunday, July 25, 2010

Book Review: The Messenger of Athens by Anne Zouroudi

I have a wonderful publicist at Little, Brown (a division of Hachette Book Group) who sent this book to me. And although it wasn't a book I would have pulled off the shelf to read, I have to admit I liked it. Mostly.

Description (from the publisher):

The Messenger of Athens: A NovelIdyllic but remote, the Greek island of Thiminos seems untouched and untroubled by the modern world. So when the battered body of a young woman is discovered at the foot of a cliff, the local police - governed more by archaic rules of honor than by the law - are quick to close the case, dismissing her death as an accident.


Then a stranger arrives, uninvited, from Athens, announcing his intention to investigate further into the crime he believes has been committed. Refusing to accept the woman's death as an accident or suicide, Hermes Diaktoros sets out to uncover the truths that skulk beneath this small community's exterior.

Hermes's methods of investigation are unorthodox, and his message to the islanders is plain - tell the truth or face the consequences. Before long, he's uncovering a tale of passion, corruption and murder that entangles many of the island's residents. But Hermes brings his own mystery into the web of dark secrets and lies - and as he travels the rugged island landscape to investigate, questions and suspicions arise amongst the locals. Who has sent him to Thiminos, and on whose authority is he acting? And how does he know of dramas played out decades ago?

My thoughts:

The detective, Hermes Diaktoros, is a great character. I like how the author describes this fat man and his wonderful way of dress. After telling us that he is wearing a fine suit, a shirt with a crocodile on the front, and an Italian leather belt, she then writes this:

"But the gray curls of the fat man's hair were too long, and the prominent frames of his glasses were unfashionable, and dated. And his shoes, his shoes were baffling. For who but an eccentric, with such a marvelously tailored suit, would wear tennis shoes - old-fashioned, white canvas tennis shoes?"

The other characters are interesting as well. There's the chief of police ("...from between the stacks of paperwork, like a rat peering out from a hole, he watched the fat man, the skin of his face eerily pale in the shadows, the deep black of his narrowed eyes and clipped moustache stark as ink drawn on white paper."), Jakos, the proprietor of a cafe ("...a once-handsome man with Brylcreemed hair and an Errol Flynn moustache..."), Thassis ("The third man drank again from his glass and, squinting, viewed the fat man. His eyes were deeply lined, as if the squint were habitual to him - perhaps through myopia, perhaps from the irritation of cigarette smoke: one cigarette, freshly lit, burned between his nicotine-stained fingers, whilst a forgotten second was a still-smoking, ashy remnant in the foil ashtray before him... His rail-thin body was wasted from long-term abuse; the hand holding the cigarette shook.") and Adonis ("This man had a curious disability, a fusing of the vertebrae at the top of his spine. Unable to turn his head, when he spoke, his eyes swiveled towards the target of his remarks, but his torso remained rigidly facing forward. It made him both comical and grotesque, yet he might once have been an attractive man."), to name just a few. Ms. Zouroudi has a way with words when it comes to characterization.

The plot is intriguing. The flow is smooth and the mystery engaging. I felt myself pulled along by the story as the scenes changed from present to past and back again in a quick-paced, yet coherent manner.

I think this book has many good elements save one: too much information when it came to describing the sexual experiences of the residents of the island. I became quite irritated when yet another man was aroused at the sight of a particular woman or when someone described their encounters with a member of the opposite sex. Most (if not all) of these portions of the book were unnecessary to the plot. The author could have at least written these incidents without using such language. I would have enjoyed the story so much more.

If I rated the book just on basic plot alone, I would have given it a 4 1/2. But, because of the parts mentioned in the above paragraph, I give it an overall rating of 3 1/2.

(I received this book from Little, Brown for review purposes. I received no monetary compensation for this review. All opinions expressed are completely my own.)

        

Friday, July 23, 2010

Book Review: Beautiful Malice by Rebecca James




Beautiful Malice by Rebecca James is a somewhat interesting story. The main character, Katherine, has experienced heartache that no one else could imagine. She begins her life over in another city. That is where Alice befriends her and the two become very close. Katherine finds herself opening up to Alice and others and begins to overcome her fears and deal with the pain of her past. But Alice has a past of her own, secrets that, when revealed, will change the lives of all who are close to the two girls.

Beautiful Malice: A NovelI think this book is the first for Ms. James, and if so, she did well. I know from experience how hard it can be to put your heart on paper, and I admire anyone who has published a novel. I was enthralled by this book, reading to the end to see what would happen. Since it is written in first person, you know that Katherine will survive, but you don't know how. The ending was at times sad, but there were also happy moments.

I don't think the characters were fully developed. There seemed to be gaps that didn't explain some things about why some of the characters did what they did. And the whole story dragged a little until about 3/5 into the book when Katherine finally had some good things happen in her life. The rest was too depressing for my taste, even though I like to read mysteries/thrillers. The events don't all have to be negative in order for the whole book to be exciting.

The last chapter was satisfying and I was glad to see it end that way. All the characters (save one) appeared to get what they deserved in the end.

I give Beautiful Malice 3 out of 5 stars.

(I received this book from Pump Up Your Book! for review purposes. I received no monetary compensation for this review. All opinions expressed are completely my own.)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Book Review: Courting Morrow Little by Laura Frantz



I'm so glad to be writing this review of Courting Morrow Little by Laura Frantz. I will tell you right now that I highly recommend this book. And I will be sure to look for more books by this author. It's so nice to find one that you really enjoy.

Courting Morrow Little: A NovelMorrow Little suffered great tragedy when, at age five, she lost her mother and baby sister to a Shawnee Indian attack. In 1778, at age 17, Morrow returns home to her father after living with her aunt for two years. She gains the attention of several young men at the fort near her home, and they all seek a chance to win her hand in marriage. Problem is, she does not love any of them. Besides, her preacher father is getting very ill, and Morrow does not want to leave him alone. Will she follow her heart and marry a forbidden love, or will she resign herself to a life with one whom she knows will not truly love her?

This novel has all the things I like in a book of this type (what I sometimes call "prairie romance"). The characters are real, the setting inviting, and the romance pure and sweet. I did not once roll my eyes or want to throw the book across the room because of "sappy" writing. Mrs. Frantz is a talented writer who knows how to pull the reader into a good story and entertain with a great plot. There is some (although not much) suspense, and the ending is not totally predictible, as in a lot of books like this. It is simply a good, wholesome, "feel good" book, one that I will keep and pass along to others to read.

I give Courting Morrow Little 5 out of 5 stars!

Available July 2010 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

(I received this book from Revell Books for review purposes. I received no monetary compensation for this review. All opinions expressed are completely my own.)

Frontiersman's Daughter, The: A NovelLaura Frantz is the author of The Frontiersman's Daughter and credits her grandmother as being the catalyst for her fascination with Kentucky history. Frantz's ancestors followed Daniel Boone into Kentucky in the late eighteenth century and settled in Madison County, where her family still resides. She is a member of the Kentucky Historical Society, American Christian Fiction Writers, and Romance Writers of America. Frantz currently lives in the misty woods of Port Angeles, Washington, with her husband and two sons.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

WWW Wednesdays

WWW Wednesdays is a meme from Should Be Reading, where we answer three questions: What are you currently reading? What did you recently finish reading? and What do you think you'll read next? If you want to participate, answer the three questions, then put your link on the Should Be Reading Blog in the comment section. Happy reading!

Beautiful Malice: A NovelWhat I am currently reading: Beautiful Malice by Rebecca James - Pump Up Your Book! sent this one to me for review. It is described as psychological suspense, which I thought sounded like it would be the kind of book I might enjoy. Review to come on Friday.






Courting Morrow Little: A NovelWhat I recently finished reading: Courting Morrow Little by Laura Frantz - This one was a winner! I finally found another "prairie romance" that I really think is a very good example of Christian Historical Fiction. Review will be on this blog tomorrow. From Revell Books.


 
 
 
 
 
City of Veils: A NovelWhat I'll probably read next: City of Veils by Zoe Ferraris - A publicist for Little, Brown sent this one to me. Looks really intiguing. Here is the description of the book from Amazon's website:

Women in Saudi Arabia are expected to lead quiet lives circumscribed by Islamic law and tradition. But Katya, one of the few women in the medical examiner's office, is determined to make her work mean something.



When the body of a brutally beaten woman is found on the beach in Jeddah, the city's detectives are ready to dismiss the case as another unsolvable murder-chillingly common in a city where the veils of conservative Islam keep women as anonymous in life as the victim is in death. If this is another housemaid killed by her employer, finding the culprit will be all but impossible.


Only Katya is convinced that the victim can be identified and her killer found. She calls upon her friend Nayir for help, and soon discovers that the dead girl was a young filmmaker named Leila, whose controversial documentaries earned her many enemies.


With only the woman's clandestine footage as a guide, Katya and Nayir must confront the dark side of Jeddah that Leila struggled to expose: an underworld of prostitution, violence, exploitation, and jealously guarded secrets. Along the way, they form an unlikely alliance with an American woman whose husband has disappeared. Their growing search takes them from the city's car-clogged streets to the deadly vastness of the desert beyond.


In CITY OF VEILS, award-winning author Zoƫ Ferraris combines a thrilling, fast-paced mystery with a rare and intimate look into women's lives in the Middle East.

Sounds good, doesn't it?

So, tell me, what are you reading and what will you probably read next? What is your favorite read so far in 2010? What books are on your TBR list? Send me some links, if you can.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Book Review: Seven Year Switch by Claire Cook (and GIVEAWAY!)

(Be sure and read at the bottom of this post to see how you can enter to win a copy of Seven Year Switch!)




Jill Murray has a fairly comfortable life - one that she has carved out for herself and her young daughter since her husband left them seven years ago. She enjoys her jobs as a travel agent and as a cooking teacher at the local community center.

Then, out of the blue, her husband shows up, wanting to be a part of their lives once again. And to complicate matters, Jill thinks she may be falling for one of her clients, easy-going, fun-loving Billy. 10-year-old Anastasia does not remember her father, and is thrilled about the idea of him coming home and having a real family for a change. But is Jill ready for her husband to come back? And what about Billy? Jill must make some serious choices, and soon.

Seven Year SwitchClaire Cook, who is the author of Must Love Dogs (which has been made into a movie), has written a fairly good book with Seven Year Switch. There is great characterization (I especially like the part of the next door neighbor, Cynthia, who appears to be a stereotypical blonde dummy but actually turns out to be quite intelligent), and the feelings involved in such a situation were well portrayed and realistic.

Although there is a "happy ending", I ended the book somewhat dissatisfied with the choices Jill made and the attitudes she took on towards those whom she believed were keeping her from being truly happy. It is sad that so many book characters are so selfish and disregard the feelings of others and how their actions will affect their friends and family members. I think Jill is egocentric and unthankful. I suppose I am expecting too much, but I hoped that the ending would have been more beneficial to all.

Am I taking this book reading/reviewing a little too seriously? Maybe I need to lighten up and just enjoy the read. But I can't seem to shake the idea that what I am taking in is affecting me one way or another, and I don't want to believe that this is they way it should be when life can actually be so much better than the way that is portrayed in so many of today's novels.

Well, bottom line, Seven Year Switch is a fun book, a light summer read, and one to learn from. I give it 3 out of 5 stars.

(I received this book from Pump Up Your Book! for review purposes. I received no monetary compensation for this review. All opinions expressed are completely my own.)

Now, for the GIVEAWAY! Would you like to win a copy of this new novel? All you have to do is add your name and email to the comment section. I will choose a winner on August 1 (at 11:59 PM EST), so don't wait to enter! (United States residents only, please)

Be sure and also go to Claire Cook's website to see how you can have a chance to win more of her books: http://www.clairecook.com/author/GIVEAWAY.html.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Book Review: Shades of Morning by Marlo Schalesky

You may have read other reviews of Shades of Morning by now, since the blog tour started on Monday and I'm just now getting my review posted. I read a few before reading the book and I became excited about having the opportunity to read and review it. Now that I have read it, I must say I was not disappointed. Much.

Shades of Morning: A NovelI LOVED one of the main characters, Emmit. Emmit is a boy with Down's Syndrome who lives in New England. His mother dies and he is sent to live with his aunt, who lives on the other side of the continent. His mother's lawyer is a man who was once in love with the aunt. Problem is, she never knew Emmit existed, and she wants no contact with Taylor (the lawyer) or anyone who reminds her of the past she tried to leave behind. But Emmit needs someone to take care of him.

Emmit is a very loveable guy, even when he keeps getting into trouble. He has a way about him that melts his Aunt Marnie's heart. He always seems to do and say just what she needs and helps her overcome her fears and regrets. He is also obviously in love with God, as expressed by his exuberant and uninhibited worship. I know I would love Emmit if I met him.

The one thing that I didn't quite like is the twist at the end. Since I can't elaborate because it would give away a major part of the story, I will just say that I feel that it didn't seem like the best ending to this story. The way that Marnie's friends stuck by her, however, was nice and the romantic element satisfying.

I still enjoyed the book and I would recommend it to anyone who likes a good, clean read.

I give Shades of Morning 4 1/2 out of 5 stars.

Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1601420250

(I received this book from Multnomah for review purposes. I received no monetary compensation for this review. All opinions expressed are completely my own.)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

WWW Wednesdays


WWW Wednesdays is a meme from Should Be Reading, where we answer three questions: What are you currently reading? What did you recently finish reading? and What do you think you'll read next? If you want to participate, answer the three questions, then put your link on the Should Be Reading Blog in the comment section. Happy reading!

Shades of Morning: A NovelWhat I am currently reading: Shades of Morning by Marlo Schalesky - I'm liking this one so far. I read a review of it on Goodreads and the reader loved it, so I hope I will, too. Review to come in a few days here on this blog. Published by Multnomah.







Perfectly Dateless: A Universally Misunderstood NovelWhat I recently finished reading: Perfectly Dateless by Kristin Billerbeck - Published by Revell. It was okay, but not great. My review of this book is here.

 
 
Seven Year SwitchWhat I'll probably read next: Seven Year Switch by Claire Cook - This author is the one who wrote Must Love Dogs, which is also on my TBR list. I will be reviewing Seven Year Switch on July 19. 






What are you reading? What are some that you recommend?