Girl On Point

Girl On Point

Four Stars

Girl on Point will go on sale for .99 cents from July 2nd-July 5th 2017 on Amazon.com

 

 

Sit down and strap yourself down folks, because you’re about to take a wild ride through the pages of a kind of thriller that will leave you breathlessly wondering what is going to happen next.

Alex is the girl who appears to have it all and in the blink of an eye loses everything she holds dear. Her younger sister is shot dead in a convenience store robbery gone wrong. The police have their suspicions, but are unable to find the evidence to lay charges and it looks as if the perpetrators are going to get away with it. Alex’s family have all but been destroyed since the death of her sister. Her mother is drinking heavily and holds Alex responsible for her sister’s death and her father is drowning in sorrow despite his attempt to keep going with life and clinging to routines and work. Alex herself is battling depression and survivor guilt.

Through impulsive decision making Alex gets hold of the police file on her sister’s murder. Inside she reads the reports and sees the photographs of the girls whom the police suspect.  Despite the serious consequences for her future, Alex sets out to change everything about herself and charm her way into the gang that killed her sister and get the evidence the police need so they can bring justice to the whole situation.

In this journey Alex almost loses sight of who she really is as a person and glides seriously close between the lines of acceptable and unacceptable behaviour.  There are emotional tussles within her own self as she feels a sort of sympathy for the killers and the lives they have led so far, and yet underneath is a seething hatred and need for revenge.  Constantly throughout the book you wonder if Alex has gone a step too far and if she is going to be caught out by this gang. It is truly stomach twisting and there were times when the book had to be closed and a moment taken to calm down and deal with the ramifications apparent in the current situation.

This book looks at themes such as forgiveness, friendship and misguided behaviours to maintain the friendships and love in all its forms.  It looks at what the unexpected death of a family member does to the remaining people, looking at the grief that can destroy as effectively as a bullet. There are activities depicted within these pages that are callous, there are actions that are truly jaw dropping and there is a lot of confronting acts. It looks at the power of revenge and wrestles with the rights and wrongs of wanting to take revenge into our own hands.

One negative concern in this book was the use of the term ‘ho’ used as a sisterly teasing word between Alex and Jenny.  It seems that feminism is neglected in the decision to use the word ‘ho’, a vulgar and demeaning word used to belittle women in modern society.

Powerful, fast paced, gripping and at times almost painful to read, this short book is a ripping good yarn.  It is with eagerness we await Guerriero next book.

Bay Song

Bay Song

Three Stars

 

Holly being nervous around other people is an understatement. She doesn’t mind them living their own lives in their world, as long as they leave her alone in hers. Even talking to other people is difficult. One might say that she was skittish even. Holly is only 24 but she has deep dark secrets that keep her separated from other people for fear they will discover them. She lives in splendid isolation in a home on a huge piece of land that abuts the bay with a wooded area as well. She sees this land as her own private oasis and only goes to town when she really has to.

 

Cade is a writer whose last book was considered a flop and he is under pressure to write another best seller. He takes some time off from his life in busy New York City and comes to his hometown of Cape Charles to try and find inspiration for the next book that he was contracted to write. He’s in his 30’s and worries that if the next book isn’t as successful as his earlier books his career as a true life crime writer will be over. When then he stumbled onto the attractive Miss Holly and determines that there is a story to tell there and he is going to find and write about it.

 

From two different points of view, we read the story of how Cade woes Holly into a friendship that develops into something more. We read as he slowly wins her trust and becomes a part of her life. She is defensive at first and then gradually allows him to be a part of her world. It’s not all smooth sailing and the friendship profoundly changes the world for both of them. The story takes place over the course of a month and is an evenly paced story to follow.

 

The only real negative in this story that seems glaringly obvious is that it is almost unbelievable that Holly, having kept secrets all her life, would suddenly change her ways and trust Cade so easily and so quickly. But that would go against the nature of romantic fiction, so we shan’t dwell on that too much. There are also some explicit sexual scenes. There is far more explicit scenes written in other books than this one, but there are clear sexual content that might make some readers shy away.

 

This is a romantic novel through and through, but it is willing to explore deeper issues such as the effects on a woman after being raped and it looks at what isolation from the world can do to a person. It explores morality and choices, and whether it’s right or wrong to keep secrets. This is no easy breezy soft novel for you to simply wander through. Rather is keeps you guessing as to the motivation of Holly’s mother to leave her at such a young age. It is slightly darker than a classic love story with a good bit of underlying mystery thrown in, but that’s what makes it so appealing; it’s much more than your typical romance novel.

A Winter’s Love

A Winter's Love

Madeleine L’Engle

Four Stars

 

Originally published in January 1957, this book features the lives and loves of Emily Bowen, married to Courtney and yet finding herself falling in love with Abe Fielding whilst juggling the demands of motherhood, loss of a child and her place in the world.

 

 

This book has a dream like quality to it, written in a daydream manner. Nothing is ever direct, crude or cruel, but rather it weaves a spell around the reader who becomes caught up in the magical time of falling head over heels in love and also yet the discomfort of knowingly cheating on the one who you made vows to.

 

 

Emily is a confused woman living within a strained marriage, not quite sure of her place in the world now that she is no longer fulfilling the role of the supportive wife to her husband Courtney, who has lost his teaching job at a prestigious New York school and now finds himself at a loose end, wondering where to go to provide for his family and regain his battered ego.

 

 

…she could see, staring and wondering, wondering what it was she felt about the man who lay there, what beyond the habit of love. It was a deeply ingrained habit and there was nothing to have changed it, but she stared with a sort of horror as though daylight would reveal a stranger.

 

 

Having previously planned on a sabbatical in Switzerland, they go live in a cosmopolitan town up in the Alps where the extramarital affair begins. Abe and Emily have always had an attraction to each other, but now that Courtney is becoming difficult and aloof as he deals with his wounded ego, it is easier for Emily to justify falling for the overtures of Abe. And the reality is she is a beautiful woman, who wins the attentions of more than just one man in this bustling town.

 

Emily is also the busy mother to both Virginia, a teenager and a young four year old daughter Connie. To complete the household, Virginia’s friend Mimi Oppenheimer has come to spend the holidays with the Bowen family, the Jewish friend who unexpectedly finds herself dealing with the racist undertones of a Europe that has the Second World War still fresh in its memory.

 

The affair is only ever described in the earliest stages, with almost nothing more than kissing and a quick fondle in the dark, a welcome change from more modern down and dirty stories. The novel is written in an almost ethereal manner, too beautiful for this world, set in the enchanted reality of the Swiss Alps in the winter time.

 

For suddenly she realised that there was no decision to be made. Once the dream was over, once the eyes opened to the daylight, there was no choice except to leave the world of the dream.

 

This is a glorious book, simple and kind, exploring what marriage and love means in a modern world.

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

Three Stars

 

The timing of my reading this book was a little off. I had just lost my dog of 14 years to death and found the whole reality of bereavement too much to bear, so I put off reading this book and simply re-borrowed it from the library. Six weeks later I was able to read the book and not burst into tears at every page. Just.

 

The start of the book is pretty intense with Doughty talking about having to shave her first cadaver and the effects of cremation on the human body. How the skull of the man she had shaved turned to dust in her hands. How a film of human ash falls over everything. There really is nothing like diving into the deep end of a tough topic head first.

 

Doughty touches on the death rituals that many other cultures in their dealings with death which were fascinating, even if at times it came across as a little disgusting. She takes us into the real workings of a crematory and shows the reader the ins and outs of the business. The realities of the human body being cremated is on full display in exacting detail, but its no worse than an episode of The Walking Dead or and of the CSI franchises.

 

Doughty has a sense of humour, and it comes across in this book, but behind the humour is the willingness to broach tough topics that we as a modern society don’t like to talk about. She encourages us to make the most of the time we have with our dying relatives and find out what their wishes for their funeral arrangements are. She also talks about the growing popularity of cheap, no frills kinds of cremations that appear to lack the human touch yet speak so clearly to our avoidance of the topic of death.

 

This is an interesting book for starting potentially uncomfortable but necessary conversations.

 

Gladden the Heart

Gladden the Heart

Olivia Newport

Two Stars

 

Kish Valley, Pennsylvania 1847

 

Susanna Hooley is a 21 year old Amish woman who is friends with Patsy Baxton, the daughter of Charles Baxton, a fiery Methodist revival preacher. They have been friends all their lives and are able to ignore or at least respect the differences between their faiths whilst still enjoying the common bond that they share. Susanna is being courted by Adam Yotter, who is the nephew of her next door neighbour. Life seems to be going along charmingly when Noah Kauffman, Susanna’s cousin starts very strange behaviour of appearing to go into a trance and start to preach the Word of God, which he is expressly forbidden to do. There is no explanation given for this behaviour, but almost every day, like clockwork, he will lose his sense of self and begin preaching sermons that would make even Charles Baxton proud.

 

This of course, is seen in a negative light according to the Amish Bishop. It is thought that Noah is trying to bring attention to himself (a grave issue for the Amish) and that he is capable of stopping the behaviour if he but wants to. Susanna gets pulled into helping his wife Phoebe look after Noah, as is Patsy. They see that Noah has no control over this behaviour, but is a danger to himself when he is preaching because he is unaware of his surroundings.   Adam is unsure what to make of the situation. He wants to be faithful to the Bishops leading, having sworn an oath to be submissive to church leadership, yet he is also aware that Susanna wouldn’t knowingly go against the Bishop but is compelled to look after her cousin and has her father’s blessing. He is also influenced by his uncle who doesn’t believe that Noah is preaching for the wrong reasons and is open to the whole situation.

 

At the end of the novel a crisis situation occurs where Noah wanders off into the forest at the back of his property whilst in a trance and ends up in dire circumstances. This results in people from both religious persuasions to have to work together to save Noahs life. Of course, it is also the catalyst for Adam and Susanna working through their issues and coming together as a happily ever after book should.

 

Olivia Newport takes this very unusual situation of ‘sleeping preachers’ and has turned it into a short novel about the Amish and the English who lived among them. This story is thin and weak in substance. The whole sleeping preacher situation is really intriguing to modern ears, yet it isn’t really enough given within the book to merit a whole novel such as this. A kind of examination is inferred but the potential to see the break in the Amish groups to become Mennonite and Amish was not taken advantage of. There is very little in the way of other plot lines, unless you call the occasional disagreement between Adam and Susanna and their understanding of Noah’s behaviour as a deep plot line. Romance is part of the overall scope of the book, but as it is an Amish couple courting, there is very little in the way of actual romance and it doesn’t seem very likely the way it is portrayed.

 

Overall this book is an oddity. It has a really interesting premise as a foundation, yet it is not taken full advantage of. It can’t seem to make up its mind if it is a romance novel or an exploration of the sleeping preachers phenomenon that were so prevalent in the mid 1800’s. It could have been an interesting historical novel about the breakup of the Amish church and culture that happened in great numbers during this period, but ultimately, this too was ignored. In the end, this doesn’t satisfy any area of interest and comes over somehow as lacking.

A missed opportunity.

 

Transformed: Exposing the Charismatic Myths That Hold You Back

Christy Wimber

Four Stars

 

“The word ‘transformation’ here means metamorphosis. It literally means to be change from the inside out.”

 

In this book Christy Wimber takes us through a journey of looking at what the Christians life ought to look like if living it fully in God’s plans. It discusses how God wants to transform every part of our lives, both the good and the bad. It is a call to arms for the church to better serve the people within the church and the people in the world who are desperate for God whether they know it or not.

 

Transformed is not an easy book to read. It is not, for example, the sort of book you read a chapter at a time before drifting off to sleep kind of piece. Rather it is a challenging book that dares you personally in many areas of your life. It is a book to read with an open spirit, ready to learn, grow and change.

 

Wimber is willing to tackle topics that are far from easy, often shied away from because of their difficulty and yet are pressing issues facing the church and the world today.

 

Mental illness is one of the greatest issues that the church faces today in our modern world. So many people are suffering and the church is failing to be a safe place for the hurting to come and ask for healing and support.

“But mental illness is not popular; with mental illness we find shame and stigma.”

“Suffering, especially those who suffer with chronic illnesses, is not a popular topic within charismatic circles. Often we don’t mind you having the condition, but if you’re still suffering after we have prayed for you, then where is your faith lacking?”

Confronting words, and yet all too real an issue.

 

Another serious topic that Wimber talks about is the place of women in head leadership of the church. It has the potential to rip the church as an entity and as a group of people who meet every week apart because believers on either side of the divide are passionate about their point of view. She is careful to walk the line and speak with respect for those who firmly believe women should not be in leadership and testifies to her calling and place in leadership as a pastor.

“Whether or not you and your church leadership believe in women in head leadership, you need to be aware of the culture around you. The younger generations have no problem with who’s leading, whether male or female. …..because the younger generations do not care much about our church structures, but they do want to serve and to change the world.”

 

Wimber teaches that our whole lives are to be an act of worship and not just the funky music we play once a week before the sermon is preached. Everything we do and say is to be an act of worship.

“Worship is more than a musical expression; it is an indicator of what your life is all about.”

She teaches that there is a battle over our lives when it comes to worship, as satan himself was the worship leader who wanted all the worship for himself.

“The battle with worship in your own life is over who will get your attention, your affections and the glory from your life.”

 

This is a really terrific read. It is balanced and it never ever forgets its primary goal is for us to worship God more fully with our lives. It challenges and teaches us, it encourages and warns. Impossible to walk away without being changed, it is well worth the time and commitment to reading this book.

“The world doesn’t care about our spiritual gifts – what it seeks is hope.”

The Thirst

The Thirst

Jo Nesbo

Four Stars

 

This is a creepy, gripping, upsetting and fabulous crime novel by Nesbo who clearly knows what he is doing in this genre. Book eleven in a series, it is possible to read this book as a stand-alone and thoroughly enjoy it, but the feeling after the final words of the book was a desire to go right to the start and read all ten books that came before The Thirst.

 

We are introduced to a vast cast of characters who have their own quirks and foibles but seem human and real all at the same time. Harry Hole (pronounced Hoo-leh) is a retired detective working now in the Police Academy with a great reputation within the Oslo Police for finding the killer, sometimes using some rather unorthodox methods. Katrine Bratt is another character who takes a lead role in this book, as the newly minted Detective Inspector who is the lead detective in the investigation into the brutal murder of Elise Hermansen and was part of the team that worked with Hole when he was an active police officer. There are many other characters in this novel; both reoccurring and new that are introduced to the story line with little preamble. All of them weave a story that keeps the reader spellbound.

 

There is the twist for the reader of knowing exactly who the killer is early in the piece. The real suspense comes from waiting for the police to put the pieces together which takes relatively little time and then the race to capture the culprit before he strikes again. This is a fast paced book, taking little more than a week to go from the first murder to the final scenes, which are hypnotic. They are page turning and impossible to put down.

 

This is a fantastic book, even for those who do not often read the crime genre. It will keep you rapt from the first page to the end, and each twist comes as a surprise. And the ending clearly hints at another book to come in the series, that this story isn’t quite finished and filed away as tidily as the police department might wish to think. It’s all very exciting and the wait for the next book seems interminable.