Saturday, July 7, 2018

The Baker's Husband by Jeannie Sharpe

The Baker's Husband is a mystery/romance. The mystery surrounds Chloe Livingston's husband, who has been gone for two year, since an accident where his car was totaled but he wasn't found. The romance involves Mitchell Terrison, a detective who is in charge of finding Chloe's missing husband. Although two years is a long time and Chloe finds she is attracted to Mitchell, her feelings are complicated by her belief in the sanctity of marriage and the fact that despite numerous problems, Chloe loved her husband.

The most fascinating part of this book, is Mitchell's dilemma. He's competing with the man he's trying to find, who may or may not be dead. I was reminded of Rebecca by Dame Daphne du Maurier, although in The Baker's Husband the story is about a potentially dead man rather than a dead woman.

Another aspect I found interesting in the book was Chloe's religious beliefs. She's a Christian who prays often, both in public and in private. I like the way Jeannie Sharpe handled this aspect of Chloe's personality. Of course Chloe prayed for miracles, but more often she prayed for strength. And the plot followed a logical path rather than one altered by divine intervention.

The book reads quickly and the dialogue is especially well constructed. This is a good read for anyone who likes a unique romance.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul, White Horse Regressions, Hopatcong Vision Quest, and Under a Warped Cross.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Prayers for Sale by Sandra Dallas

Prayers for SalePrayers for Sale by Sandra Dallas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Prayers for Sale is a series of short stories linked together with a book length narrative about the relationship between two women living in the Colorado mountains during the gold rush years. One of the women is 86 and has lived in Middle Swan for many years. The other is a young woman who has just moved to the small mountain town with her husband. The younger is lonely and needs a friend, while the older needs someone who is interested in hearing the stories of her life. Both women have experienced similar tragedies and have a need to share the pain.

The book's strength is in Sandra Dallas' ability to capture life among the women of this small nineteenth century town: their language, their quilting, their gossiping, their society class levels, and the way they forget all these things to help each other during hard times. The plot that unifies the story is a little spotty, with elements that are introduced, then forgotten, then brought back in ways that could have been handled better. Also, the overall narrative doesn't come into its own until the end of the book.

Steve Lindahl – author of Under a Warped Cross, Hopatcong Vision Quest, White Horse Regressions, and Motherless Soul.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

His Father's Blood (Legends of the Family Dyer, #2) by David W Thompson

His Father's Blood (Legends of the Family Dyer, #2)His Father's Blood by David W.  Thompson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

His Father's Blood is David Thompson's follow up to Sister Witch: The Life of Moll Dyer. Both books are excellent reads, historical fictions with elements of mysticism. The first novel brings magic in gradually, while this novel throws its readers into a world of spells, demons, and spirit animals from the beginning and keeps the fast pace going throughout.

John Dyer, Moll Dyer's great-great grandson, spent the first ten years of his life with his father, a shaman with a dark side. After his father died, John lived with his great grandfather until he was old enough to set out on his own. This background left John with a shaman's magic as well as a book of powerful spells he'd inherited from Moll. Yet his power seems more a curse than a blessing, specifically in the way it affects his relationship with the woman he loves.

His Father's Blood is a thrilling adventure, but also a beautiful romance. The strength of John and Ada's love is such that when Ada is separated from John, she uses the following words to describe her concept of Hell: “The room is locked, and just outside the door, you can hear the voices of everyone you’ve ever loved. You feel their happiness, you hear their laughter, but you cannot see them, or touch them, and they cannot see or hear or touch you.”

This is a great novel for anyone who enjoys magic realism.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul, White Horse Regressions, Hopatcong Vision Quest, and Under a Warped Cross.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

September Summer by Virginia Babcock

September SummerSeptember Summer by Virginia Babcock
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

September Summer is an interesting read about an FBI task force working to capture a terrorist who is reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes' nemesis, Moriarty. This brilliant lunatic taunts the force perusing him and leaves clues concerning his next targets, appearing to enjoy the thrill of his bombing as part of a cat and mouse game. He kills many innocent people while pursuing his insane attempts to change world politics, but he also has legitimate rationalizations for his anger. Among these are America's “...addiction to fossil fuels and the way the entire nation polluted the world.” Combining real issues with berserk actions creates a complex, interesting villain.

The novel also includes a romance between Jenny, a young woman recruited to help the task force and one of the FBI agents. This relationship displays some very immature and thoughtless actions on both their parts, which make it seem real. Yet it also develops some unique and beautiful ways of connecting, including an intimate discussion during which they share their spiritual beliefs. That was one of my favorite parts of the novel.

I recommend September Summer for readers who enjoy romance and action with lots of detail and complex characters.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul, White Horse Regressions, Hopatcong Vision Quest, and Under a Warped Cross

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Saturday, May 19, 2018

The First Scheme by K A Meng

The First SchemeThe First Scheme by K a Meng
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

At the sound of gunfire, Joann Fields wakes up. She is unable to clear her thoughts and when she struggles out of bed, she finds she has trouble walking. She shouldn't feel this way. She only had one glass of wine. Still, she needs to find her husband, so she makes her way out of the bedroom. There are plenty of people in her town who would love to hurt both her man and her.

That's how The First Scheme starts. From there, the story follows a unique and intriguing path with twists and surprises that pull readers into the story. The novel also has characters with backgrounds intricate enough to produce mixed emotions about their fates. Together these facts produce a novel that stands well on its own, but is also perfect for the first book of a series.

The First Scheme is a great read for anyone who likes a good crime story.

Steve Lindahl – author of Under a Warped Cross, Hopatcong Vision Quest, White Horse Regressions, and Motherless Soul.

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Saturday, May 12, 2018

The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson

The Orphan Master's SonThe Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Orphan Master's Son is a thoroughly researched novel about one man's life in North Korea during the reign of Kim Jong-il (the father of North Korea's current leader). It is a magnificent book for readers who like books that make them think, but not a good match for readers looking for a light, fun read. It is long and contains detailed descriptions of the infamous prison camps and of torture sessions. Adam Johnson spent years researching his story, visiting Pyongyang and interviewing people who defected. He received a well deserved Pulitzer for his efforts.

This is an important book for a time when North Korea is back in the news and when the current American president has expressed an admiration for authoritarian leaders worldwide. This is also a period of “alternative facts” in our country, which is not very far from Johnson's description of the story versus the man:

“If a farmer is declared a music virtuoso by the state, everyone had better start calling him maestro. And secretly, he'd be wise to start practicing the piano. For us, the story is more important than the person. If a man and his story are in conflict, it is the man who must change....But in America, people's stories change all the time. In America, it is the man who matters.”

Jun Do is the son of a man who runs a labor camp for orphans. His mother, a singer, was stolen from the family to work in Pyongyang. Within the camp, Jun Do receives special treatment due to his father's role, but he is given an orphan's name which carries a stigma as he grows older. The plot follows Jun's life on a fishing boat, as a national hero, and in a prison camp. In part 2, the novel continues with Jun, but also shows life through the point of view of a biographer, whose job it is to use torture to get the stories of people who have been assigned to him. The plot is also advanced through stories told to the people of North Korea over loud speakers placed in all populated areas.

Although the magnificence of this book stems from the way it reveals life in North Korea, there is room for a relationship of love and sacrifice. I recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a unique read, one that requires some thought from its readers.

Steve Lindahl – author of Under a Warped Cross, Hopatcong Vision Quest, White Horse Regressions, and Motherless Soul

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Friday, May 11, 2018

Dream of Darkness (The Rise of the Light, #1) by H.M. Gooden

Dream of Darkness (The Rise of the Light, #1)Dream of Darkness by H.M. Gooden
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

About a third of the way through Dream of Darkness, Cat, the sixteen year old heroine of the story, settles in with her sister, Vanessa, for some serious Harry Potter binge watching. If you could see yourself doing the same thing, this is the perfect book for you. It has teenage girls with mystical powers who set out to save their town from someone controlled by a dark, satan-like creature.

The novel also has numerous references to Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice, the play the students are producing that year. Robin Goodfellow (also known as Puck) is one of Shakespeare's characters as well as a sprite out of old English folklore and a spirit who visits Cat in her dreams. Here's what Robin tells her:

“Look to your dreams for answers, and let your friends know to look to theirs. You will find help if ever you need it and you have only to ask and it shall find you.”

The plot of H. M. Gooden's novel is fun, but the best part of the book is the relationship between the two sisters. There's a little jealousy and a period of great guilt, but mostly there's love and support shared between both girls. When Gooden throws in Evelyn, a mutual friend with powers of her own, the picture is complete and the girls are ready to take on the evil threatening their world.

Steve Lindahl – author of Under a Warped Cross, Hopatcong Vision Quest, White Horse Regressions, and Motherless Soul

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