Wednesday, July 13, 2011

THE ALE BOY'S FEAST by Jeffrey Overstreet

The Ale Boy's Feast is the fourth and final installment of Jeffrey Overstreet's fantasy series, The Auralia Thread. The first book in the set, Auralia's Colors, won a Christy Award and captured my attention when I read it. However, the rest of the series, although creative and a beautiful allegory, was at times difficult to follow and introduced so many characters that it became confusing.

Overstreet has a wonderful mastery of vocabulary. His writing is descriptive yet sometimes not concrete enough, making it difficult to imagine what was happening. It takes a lot of concentration to get into the rhythm of his writing. And as a father of three, I usually can't sit down and read longer than five minutes without being interrupted.

I appreciated that Overstreet included a guide at the end of his book to help keep track of the story's characters. Yet I still had trouble keeping them all straight, especially since Overstreet uses a hyphen and two names for each of his characters, and many of them looked the same to me. Other characters are mentioned in brief and then disappear all together.

I'm glad I read the series and did enjoy it. But at this stage in my life, simpler books are easier to read. Now that I know the plotline, twists, and turns, I may pick it up in the future and come to appreciate Overstreet's masterful plot and weaving.

If you're interested, (although it is book four), you can preview the first chapter.

3 out of 5

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

NICK OF TIME by Tim Downs

Warning: Do not read this book in libraries, around sleeping children, or when playing hide and seek. It will have you laughing out loud as you cheer on the Bug Man! I've said time and time again that protagonist Nick Polchak is one of the funniest and most memorable fictional characters you will ever come across.

Although his wedding is only days away, forensic entomologist Nick Polchak can't seem to put aside his work, especially when it comes to solving the murder of a close friend. Hot on the trail of a killer, Nick relies on his understanding of bugs and how they interact with decomposing bodies to find clues other investigators have missed - and in doing so, he unearths secrets from an old cold case.

However, his dedication to all things bugs will cause his fiancĂ©e to question his dedication to her. And when Nick is missing in action, she follows Nick to the Poconos with three of her highly trained tracking and cadaver dogs. Hilarity ensues, and a well written mystery follows.

This is Tim Down's sixth Bug Man mystery, and I've loved them all. Except for an occasional simile or metaphor that tries too hard, this book is a great mystery just in time for the summer. I hope Tim Downs continues to write this fun series.

4 out of 5

I received this book free from Thomas Nelson publishes as part of their blogger review program. I am not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use and Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Sunday, February 27, 2011

THE SHAPE OF MERCY by Susan Meissner

When Lauren answers a simple ad requesting transcription services, she has no idea how much the job will change her - and the lens through which she sees the world. Lauren spends a few evenings a week transcribing a 300-year-old journal written by a young woman who witnessed the Salem witch trials - and became a victim before it was over. The deeper Lauren digs into Mercy Hayworth's story, the more she is overwhelmed and moved by the woman's heroic acts. And the more Lauren understands, the more she realizes that just like Salem's citizens, she too passes judgement on others without considering truth first.

This book captured my imagination with its promising premise. What was it really like for a young woman who had her future ripped away from her because of hysteria and the accusation of witchcraft? Written within the safety of a journal, what might she say? I quickly found myself caught up in this story and read it over a weekend. I found the subplots compelling and wondered how this story would end - even though I know Mercy Hayworth would meet a timely end. But what of journal's new owner, an elderly woman with long-hidden secrets? What is she hiding?

Ultimately, this book has me wondering about how easily I judge others and how quickly I make a determination about the lives of others. I've never thought much about judging others, always assuming that I don't. Now I'm not so sure, and it'll be on my mind for a while.

I struggled a little with the ending and how the author justified a particular action as an act of mercy and love. Although I may not agree with the conclusion, I was captivated by this unique plot and enjoyed my escape into Susan Meissner's story.

3.5 out of 5

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

THE MOUNTAINS BOW DOWN by Sibella Giorello

This ain't the Love Boat.

Forensic geologist and FBI agent Raleigh Harmon was looking forward to exploring the Alaskan landscape during a much needed vacation. That was until a passenger is found hanging off the side of the cruise liner. Instead of relaxing in the sun on a deck chair or hiking through the wilderness with a rock hammer, Raleigh is pulled into a confusing mystery linked to Hollywood starlets. And the more she digs, the more she discovers a web of deceit and narcissism. And she only has a few days before the cruise ship ends and all her suspects disperse throughout the world.

I'd been reading a lot of good things about Sibella Giorello and her Raleigh Harmon series. This is book three in the series, and I thought it would be a good opportunity to see what all the buzz was about. The mystery was good, but it never fully captured my attention. I found the plot a little confusing with too many characters and suspects. Because Raleigh is a forensic geologist, there was a great deal of information about science and rock properties. This makes Raleigh a very unique character and Sibella's story lines different from any plots I've ever read. But I've always had a difficult time wrapping my brain around scientific subjects, which may have been a reason I found it difficult to become engaged in this book.

Sibella Giorello is a good writer, and her book The Stones Cry Out won a Christy Award. Maybe it would have helped if I'd read the first two books in the series, but The Mountains Bow Down didn't meet my expectations. If you're interested, you can read an excerpt from her book.

2 out of 5

I received this book free from Thomas Nelson publishes as part of their blogger review program. I am not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use and Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Monday, January 24, 2011

RIVER RISING by Athol Dickson

Athol Dickson's River Rising is a haunting and redemptive novel that is fast becoming a modern-day classic. River Rising won the 2006 Christy Award for suspense novels.

I've read River Rising twice, and Dickson's vivid scenes have stayed with me, even years after my first reading. Dickson's unique voice lends to his rich storytelling; his symbolic narratives ring with truth and beauty; and his messages prompt a stirring and ache in the soul.

In a long-forgotten attic, Reverend Hale Poser stumbles across a clue to his missing family tree. Armed with this new information, he returns to his roots in a small village in the Louisiana swamp. He takes a job as a janitor at the local infirmary and is soon deemed a miracle worker after helping with the birth of a little girl. But when she disappears without a trace, Hale is thrust into a dark and evil conspiracy. His search for the missing baby leads him into the expansive bayous and to a place that time has forgotten.

Dickson excels at allegorical storytelling, and River Rising's spiritual themes include pride's deceptive nature, racism, the nature of miracles, and Christ's humility.

5 out of 5

Saturday, January 15, 2011

THE JUSTICE GAME by Randy Singer

Christ Award winner Randy Singer's The Justice Game is a high adrenaline legal thriller that explores the passionate debate over gun control and the Second Amendment.

Singer kick starts his book with a murder at a TV news station and never lets up. Tension builds as the gun manufacturer is taken to court for turning a blind eye and selling weapons to a gun store that enabled felons to make illegal purchases.

The characters are well developed, and underlying mysteries fuel the suspense as two vying attorneys defend their clients and try to keep an unknown blackmailer from revealing their own long-buried secrets.

Singer, a career lawyer, knows his stuff and writes compelling legal thrillers. The conclusion seemed a little too perfect of an ending, but the story is well developed and the plot kept me more entertained than any of the legal shows now on TV.

4 out of 5

For more information, follow the links below:

Saturday, January 8, 2011

HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS by Robert Liparulo

In the first book of Robert Liparulo's young adult Dreamhouse Kings series, Liparulo takes readers over the threshold of adventure into a room of suspense, mystery, and danger. Actually, it's a whole bunch of rooms, with a touch of magic, horror, and boyhood dreams thrown in.

When the King family moves to a new town and into a new home, it's not long before Xander and his brother David discover that the abandoned Victorian house is hiding secrets. Spooky, goose-bump secrets. And when the boys discover a twisting hallway with room after room of odd antechambers, things begin to spiral out of control. Each room is a passage to a different world and a different time - and none of them are safe. Before the Kings understand the house's secrets, Mom is kidnapped by a monstrous man into one of the rooms and disappears.

Liparulo's House of Dark Shadows is Act 1 of the six-book series. Many mysteries and oddities are introduced, and Liparulo will explore these enigmas in future editions. It appears that Liparulo is going to take readers on a wild ride into a house of every boy's dreams - a place that bring adventure and risk to life.

The dialog feel a little stiff in places, but overall, this is the start of an exciting and imaginative read.

Don't take long to find this book's address. Wipe your feet on the welcome mat and enter Liparulo's fascinating House of Dark Shadows.

4 out of 5