Choose Joy – 3 Minute Devotions for Women

Choose Joy: 3-Minute Devotions for WomenChoose Joy: 3-Minute Devotions for Women by Compiled by Barbour Staff

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sometimes there’s nothing better than a quick pick me up when life threatens to overtake you. Just a little reminder that we are the beloved of the God of All and that we are not alone in our busy journeys. This book is perfect to grab hold of and read whenever you have the need. And for a busy woman, three minutes can be found in even the craziest of schedules.

There does appear to be a bias to believe the woman reading the book is a wife and mother, although it doe make reference to the work place at times, but that must be frustrating to women who do not act in those roles. It is written in a simplistic manner, as if women cant or don’t want to be challenged with deep truths or theological ideas. The ink used comes over as a pale grey colour on the Kindle Paperwhite, making it somewhat harder to read and making highlighting next to impossible.

It touches on a number of topics and has an equal number of Old Testament verses to New Testament verses. Overall this is a sweet book filled with encouragement focused on women.

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I Am the Mesenger

I Am the MessengerI Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It must be hard to write a book after writing one that came into such fame as The Book Thief. This book is proof of that. If not being compared to The Book Thief it would have been a perfectly acceptable read. But because I unconsciously compared to what might be considered a modern day classic, it comes out somehow lacking.

Ed is a bit of a loser to be honest. Nineteen, no higher education, no career, lying about his age so he can be a taxi driver, when he isn’t working he is hanging out with his mates, Merv, Ritchie and Audrey playing cards. We’re introduced to the characters when they are in the middle of a bank robbery. Ed acts out of character and appears to shoot at the robber, earning himself a touch of local notoriety with it. Then the cards start appearing in his life. The Ace of Diamonds, Clubs, Spades and Hearts. Each card carrying names, addresses or clues for Ed to work out and do good deeds for complete strangers. Its an odd little book.

It feels like the book is trying too hard to be deep and meaningful. Its a kind of mystery that ends with a total turnabout. The meaning of the story is to live life to the fullest, make the most of your life and don’t be complacent. But the idea that someone set up so many meaningful moments just to make a difference in Ed’s life is more than a little far fetched. It never feels believable, even with the dirty mates and the unrequited love for Audrey.

Personally I enjoyed the nod to Australian culture and the names of Australian business’ scattered through the story.

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Never Coming Back: a tale of loss and new beginnings

Never Coming Back: a tale of loss and new beginningsNever Coming Back: a tale of loss and new beginnings by Deirdre Palmer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This story looks at the many ways grief, guilt and loss makes us react to it and how it touches upon all our relationships. Layla carries the heavy burden of feeling responsible for her best friend Danni’s death.

Melody and Reece appear to have come to terms with their daughters death, but cling unnaturally to Layla, her best friend and daughter substitute.

Kate is a counsellor who appears outwardly to encourage Morgan, her boyfriend to fulfil his dreams and become a writer, but is emotionally pulling away from him.

Layla feels deeply guilty that if only she had been there with her friend rather than skipping off to be with her boyfriend, that her best friend wouldn’t have died.

A fluke meeting between Layla and Morgan has the potential to be something wonderful if Layla can just get past her guilt.

This is primarily a book about finding forgiveness, what it takes to make a relationship work and when its time to let go of false ideas. Told in the current day with occasional flash backs to the night of Danni’s death, this gentle book explores forgiveness in all its guises.

Easy to read, the twist will leave you heartbroken. The characters are well written and wonderfully human. It is a slow paced book that has romance and mystery in equal parts.

Beautiful.

The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo

The Girl with the Lower Back TattooThe Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Amy Schumer doesn’t hold back in her performances on stage, nor does she keep anything back in her book. Not a novel, it is a group of essays on various topics and of varying interest. Sometimes it felt that Schumer was writing with her comic hat on and at other times it felt like we were allowed to glimpse into the very real world in which she actually lives in.

Strong on girl power and self empowerment, Amy Schumer beats an unapologetic feminist drum. Written almost as if Schumer is writing to the reader alone, she weaves personal and professional stories together with ease. With disarming honesty she talks about the rape that resulted in her loosing her virginity and she talks openly about her experience in a domestic violence situation. She also gives some serious advice on how to make it as a comedian or any other career you have in mind; work bloody hard for it.

I personally didn’t find the humour to my taste in this book. As a piece of comedy it missed the mark for me, but as a girl power really cry it was totally working. There were times I found the topic boring and pointless but I’m probably in the minority.

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To Clear the Air

To Clear the AirTo Clear the Air by Mechtild Borrmann

translated by Aubrey Botsford

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a clever murder mystery that will keep you guessing until the end. Set in Germany near the Dutch border we go back to 1967 and then jump to the 2000’s with small chapters taken from unknown points of view that lead to an introduction to families in a village long known to each other, but with no love lost between them.

It takes several chapters before the initial murder of an older man is committed and the police officers are finally introduced. Peter Bohm is the lead investigator with his team of Van Oss and Steeg and together they work to try and solve the murder of one man when three days later another murder is brutally executed. It seems the good towns folk know more than they are admitting to and its difficult to put the pieces together. Then it becomes a race against time before the killer strikes again. Against this great mystery we have the chance to look into Bohm’s private life as he tries to work out if his wife Brigitte has left him for another man.

All this makes for a really engaging thriller that has many twists and turns. Borrmann is a German author who has written several crime novels to date, more of which will be translated into English I hope. The characters, although sparingly written are engaging and believable. The detectives are not so jaded with their work that they have become blasé about the murder of another person. The chapters from the perpetrators point of view are chilling. It is a crime spree with its trail leading back to a crime from thirty years ago, one in which to town folk are reluctant to talk about.

This was a really enjoyable read.

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Where Dead Men Meet

Where Dead Men MeetWhere Dead Men Meet by Mark Mills

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a somewhat complicated thriller that has fast scenes with a lot of background that does slow the pace of the story at times.

We begin the mystery with the murder of Sister Agnes, a kindly middle aged nun working on an orphanage. And lets be honest, is there any better way of starting a mystery than with the death of a good nun? Then we are introduced to Luke Hamilton, working for the UK embassy in Paris despite his not having ‘typical’ English looks. Luke was adopted by his parents from Sister Agnes’ orphanage and was very close to her, making her death quite the blow. Then we are introduced to Bernard Fautrier, one of the main characters in the book who apparently saves Luke’s life from not one but two assassination attempts. It is then revealed that Luke isn’t who he thought he was, yet nor is it possible to be sure of who he might be and finding the truth might take all the courage he has. This leads to a story that takes place in several cities across central Europe. New characters are introduced and dispatched at high speed. There is a romance storyline but it is subtle and not the central theme of the novel.

Set in the turbulent times of 1937, there is some historical knowledge in the book to underscore the story. Luke becomes involved with a group smuggling Jewish families out of Nazi Germany, the war in Spain and the rise of Stalin in Russia are all touched upon, but not a great deal of detail is given apart from the basics.

If you can suspend belief that an amateur can outwit professional assassins and the like, this is a very entertaining read.

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Sugar

SugarSugar by Kimberly Stuart

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Charlie Garrett is a whiz when it comes to butter and sugar. She is a pastry chef extraordinaire. After not seeing exactly eye to eye with her current boss she moves from the restaurant capital of the world, New York to the laid back town of Seattle to become Head Pastry Chef at her former boyfriends new restaurant Thrill. Seattle happens to be where her best friend Manda lives, who is happily married with three kids and a personal worry that Charlie is missing out of a full life because of her dedication to her job. Worried enough to set her up with Kai Malloy, a handsome cook and owner of his own diner that she knows. Cue the sparks of attraction. Then we discover that the former boyfriend has lured Charlie to his restaurant not so much to be his pastry chef but to be his co-star in a reality TV series. Life goes on from there.

Charlie is a great character; not perfect, but prone to making snap decisions and being a little neurotic about food and hygiene. She is annoyingly beautiful but she does have to work hard for the perfect body she has. The attraction between Kai and Charlie feels real. The utter madness of a commercial kitchen rings true. Kai is a cool customer who balances the high strung Charlie out. And the frantic busyness of Manda dealing with three young children is a real treat to read.

Kimberly Stuart is a Christian author writing good fictional work. There are a few expletives in the book but nothing to get too worried about. There is also an absence of preachy test that so often clutters up ‘Christian novels” which is actually refreshing. The romance wouldn’t be embarrassing if your grandmother picked up the book to see what you were reading.

I really enjoyed this introduction to Kimberly Stuart’s writing and eagerly look forward to her next offering. She weaves a delightful, classy romance that will hit the sweet spot for many readers.

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