Sunday, August 31, 2008

Dark Star by Creston Mapes


As I staggered through the chaos of rock 'n' roll fame - the drugs and alcohol, the selfishness and turmoil - Endora was the gentle voice in my ear telling me I was special. Telling me I was adored. She was my personal psychic. And she said I had a unique purpose, a calling to give my fans happiness.

To be their God.

My band, DeathStroke, dominated the work of rock. Yet strife ruled our inner circle. My family didn't know me. I love no one but myself.

And yet Karen Bayliss was praying for me. That I would come to know her Jesus. She was not a fan. Didn't care for my music. Just my lost soul.

Now Endora is dead and I've been charged with first-degree murder.

This is my story.

My Review:
I stood at the marked-down table, picking up and putting down books. When I picked up the next, nothing about the cover nor the back page appealed much to me. However, I noticed the author's name: Creston Mapes. I had read Nobody and thought it a good read. So, with that thought in mind, I bought this dark looking book. I took it home and put it into the pile of books to be read one day. A few months later, I picked it up again.

From the first sentence, I was hooked. "It was a glorious blaze, the fire we set." Oh, this author can write!

A rock star moves deeper into the darkness as he gains fame and fortune--everything that most people dream would make them happy. But he's not happy; something's missing. The protagonist, Everett Lester, the lead singer from DeathStroke is quite believable. His actions offend me, and then my heart begins to soften. I ache when I read about his childhood. How could anyone survive? Yet he did; people do.

When Everett makes a connection with psychic Endora Crystal, I hold my breath. It's easy to see that she is pure evil. The downward slide is predictable, but the story moves along and never drags.

It's written in first person in a flip-flop style as the young singer finds enormous success, and then flips to the trial where he faces Murder One for the death of his psychic. I find it a gripping read, because I want to discover not only what happens next, but how did it come about?

This is not typical Christian Fiction. It's an edgy, gritty tale of today's rock bands. I heartily recommend it to all ages, whether of not you listen to rock!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Dream in Color: How the Sánchez Sisters Are Making History in Congress by Linda and Loretta Sanchez with Richard Buskin

Foreword by Nancy Pelosi

By sharing moments from their childhood in Southern California, Linda and Loretta will pass on the values and traditions they learned from their parents--Mexican immigrants who, despite not having graduated high school themselves, made sure all seven of their children went to and graduated from college--that enabled them to conquer challenges and make history. They will speak frankly on the professional highs and lows, successes and scandals that constitute their distinguished careers, and show that the key to realizing your dreams is, above all else, always be true to yourself.

Often considered Congress's Odd Couple, these warm witty sisters are not only perfect role models for young Latinas in the US, but for all young women looking to break out and create a brighter future for themselves.

My Review:
In an unusual joint memoir, congresswomen Loretta and Linda Sanchez tell their story, with first one speaking and then the other. The flow is smooth and easy to follow. These history-making Latina ladies have already made their mark in American history as the first sisters to serve together in Congress. In addition, Loretta is the first Head Start child to be elected to Congress, and Linda is the first person of color to represent a district in Orange County, CA. Because of their never-say-die attitudes, I have no doubt that many more heights will be reached during their lifetimes.

Working with a professional author, made me think that this would be a well-crafted read, but unfortunately, it tends to repeat. Bob Dornan's defeat by Loretta is mentioned over and over. Their father's many difficulties as an immigrant in a new land, and their mother's remarkable struggle to gain her college degree and teach is referred to again and again. Indeed, it could be argued that this is a memoir of their inspirational parents rather than of the sisters.

That aside, it's a good motivational book, especially to anyone who feels as if she is struggling against the odds. I therefore recommend it.

Friday, August 22, 2008

It's Not About Me by Michelle Sutton

Annie has it all. She’s attractive, graduated with honors, was accepted at the college of her choice, has supportive parents, good friends, and a steady boyfriend who loves her. The focus of her life is to please everyone and not make any waves. Her reputation means everything to her.

But one night Annie’s safe world is shattered. As she fights to put the pieces of her broken life back together, against her will she is caught in a war between two brothers, both of whom claim to have her best interests at heart.

Who will Annie choose? And will she finally come to know the One whose love will never fail, even in her darkest hour? Will she learn the truth about life - that it’s not about “me”?

My Review:
I couldn't sleep, so I grabbed this book that I won in a giveaway. It had just come in the mail that afternoon. I read until 3:30. Bleary eyed, I collapsed into bed, slept for a couple of hours, woke up and drank some coffee, and picked it back up. It's a real page turner! By the end of chapter one, I was hooked.

In this edgy Christian fiction novel, topics not usually touched on are thoroughly covered. When Annie and her mother talk about sex, it's realistic. Conversations like this are sticky in real life, so I imagine they're difficult to put on paper, but this author manages. Other topics: church attendance, gossip, alcohol, premarital sex, and abortion, are taken on in such a way as to bring honor to the cause of Christ.

This is a good one for teens to read. I'm passing it along to my granddaughter.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Sisterchicks in Sombreros, Sisterchicks Series #3 by Robin Jones Gunn

Two Canadian sisters inherit beachfront property in Mexico and take off on an adventure to claim their inheritance. They travel opulently by cruise ship to Ensenada and survive a rocky trip through Baja California, only to be shocked when they arrive in San Felipe. Their beachfront property is, indeed, on the beach, but the "structure" is a cement slab and the Airstream trailer their uncle parked on the property in the early 1960s! With the help of a few locals, the Canadian cuties figure out that they are reconnected as sisters and discover that everything that happened along the way was part of God's plan.

My Review:
This is the perfect chick lit to have on hand when the reader just wants to relax and enjoy a funny story. Two "almost twins"--sisters who were born so close together that folks always asked if they were twins--share a space of time thanks to the gift of a cruise from their wealthy aunt. They move from the luxury of being platinum card members, who receive VIP treatment on a cruise ship, to a Mexican hovel with no electricity or running water, and meet Rosa, who knows the definition of graciousness.

The sisters cannot speak Spanish, and the Mexicans cannot speak English, but they manage. They end up appreciating the good things that they have always had. The trip moves them closer to each other and closer to God. There were a few times in the story that I held my breath, hoping that the story did not stray from its lighthearted track. Not to worry; the author knows how to handle an enjoyable tale.

Never having been on a cruise, I learned a good deal about the luxury of taking a cruise to Mexico. For me, this certainly was a bonus. The characters enjoy their trip and so did I.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Restorer's Son (The Sword of Lyric Series #2) by Sharon Hinck

Plunged again into the gray world of Lyric and Hazor, Susan and Mark search frantically for their teenage son, Jake, as all signs hint that a trusted ally has betrayed them and threatens their son. Assassins and political intrigue, false leads, and near misses beset their path, which will lead them into the dark prisons of Hazor before the One's purpose is revealed.

Cast out by those he trusts and preferring to cross swords with the One rather than submit to His will, Kieran flees to enemy Hazor, only to find that the One knows no borders. Pursued by his calling, Kieran journeys to Sidian, where he finds a boy without a home, a king with burning questions, and a nation torn by darkness. As he embraces the tasks the One has set before him, this new Restorer learns that the One requires his all--perhaps even his life.

My Review:
In the interest of fair play, I must state that the fantasy genre is not my favorite. I am one of the few readers who did not care for Harry Potter. (*gasp*) Please don't hate me!

A friend gave me this copy of The Restorer's Son, and I had it sitting in a stack of books to be read. Several times, I'd reach under it to choose another title. Finally, I gave in; "I must read this one," I mused. So, I did not have a good attitude about the book.

Surprisingly, I liked it! Yes, it's a good read, and mind you, I haven't read the first in the series. The characters are well defined. Kieran is a round character with plenty of faults for people like me to relate to. It's awful to say this, but I love his temper. He questions God and why things must be done in a certain way at a certain time, just as I have done. There's a good fight scene, but I can say no more without revealing what I should not. Susan, a nurturing mom, does what I might do and acts as I might act under the same circumstances. There's a couple of realistic roll-their-eyes teenagers in the novel. The plot moves along at a reasonable pace, with a good story line. Yes, it's a good book. I'm glad I finally picked it up.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

In the Dead of Winter (Ivy Towers Mystery Series #1) by Nancy Mehl

Ivy Samantha Towers is forced to return to Winter Break, Kansas, to make funeral arrangements for her Aunt Bitty. Ivy is suspicious that her aunt’s death is not accidental when she discovers that Aunt Bitty had fallen from the ladder in her used bookstore. Her suspicions are realized when someone leaves a note on an envelope stating that Aunt Bitty was murdered.

Ivy immediately begins to make a list of suspects—and in a small town, that is virtually everyone. Ivy’s childhood friend, Amos Parker, is now the Sheriff of Winter Break, but he seems to be warning Ivy to leave town. Why? A missing book and an extra coffee cup leave more questions than answers.

My Review:
What a pleasant surprise I had in store for me when I won this book! I found myself intrigued from the first sentence. This author can write! Her writing reminds me of Jan Karon's Mitford series, and is so descriptive that now I crave a Ruby’s Redbird Burger!

A recipe for Aunt Pettibone’s Huckleberry Muffins is included at the end of the book.

The plot involves a young college student, looking for the place God would have her settle. She's left the small town where she grew up and changed her name to reflect her new adult status. Now, she must return to bury her great Aunt Bitty, an owner of a bookstore. Soon after her arrival, she begins to suspect murder took her aunt, not an accident as she had been told. A good tale unwinds.

Friday, August 1, 2008

God's Power to Change Your Life (Living With Purpose) by Richard Warren

Most people can think of different areas in their lives they'd like to change. But actually changing them? That's the problem! The good news is, God is all about changing lives. In this book, Rick Warren gives you practical principles from God's Word for change and growth in ten areas of your life.

My Review:
The nine fruits of the Spirit (love, joy, peace,patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control) are discussed in detail with two specific steps at the end of each chapter for the reader to use to put thoughts into action. Rick Warren writes in a conversational tone, making his steps easy to follow. A good choice for a book on spiritual growth.