Friday, December 28, 2012

Book Review for Fire of the Raging Dragon by Don Brown

            This is the first novel by Don Brown that I've read, and I was pleasantly surprised. Brown mixes action, international intrigue, a small hint of romance, faith, and a few other elements into a very readable book. The story follows several different US Navy officers and ships as they become pawns in a very deadly game played between the USA and China. China has a new president who takes very aggressive action in expanding the role of his nation on the world stage. The President of the US ultimately gets placed in a difficult situation of placing his own daughter in the middle of an international conflict. 

Brown does a phenomenal job of accurately portraying China and some of the human rights abuses that take place there without making the book a political soapbox. The factual undergirding of the story only serves to heighten the fictional aspect, as the reader is left with a "this could really happen" feeling throughout. 

Very enjoyable read, highly entertaining, and well-written! 

This work gets 5 out of 5 stars.

I received a free copy of this book from Thomas Nelson in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Book Review: Deadline by Randy Alcorn

            Randy Alcorn is well known for his non-fiction works that are thought provoking and insightful. He carries this same level of skill into the world of fiction, where he begins a series that revolves around a couple of different characters, with each installment featuring one of the men in the group. Deadline is the first in that set and features journalist Jake Woods, a well known and popular columnist for a newspaper in Oregon. Jake is very comfortable in his little world. His marriage fell apart due to his own twisted morals, but he has two very close friends who fill the social gap in his life. One is a committed Christian, the other a equally committed humanist. Both have features that draw Jake and both have features that he disagrees with. When tragedy strikes their little group, Jake is brought face to face with reality. This life is short, and if there is nothing after it than what is the point? Is there is no definite right and wrong, then what gives any kind of purpose to anything that anyone does? These questions haunt Jake as he begins to realize exactly how off track he's been with his views of the Bible and Christians in general. As he digs deeper into the worlds of his two friends, and finds himself in the middle of a murder investigation, he begins to truly grasp the consequences of living as if nothing more than this world matters, and he finds them sobering, launching a search for true meaning in this world.

            Alcorn writes a compelling story, though at times it feels like he is incorporating too much into it. In addition to Jake's help in a murder mystery and personal faith journey, Alcorn weaves in extensive material on Heaven, channeling Frank Peretti a little bit. He also takes a lot of time exposing media bias, issues surrounding abortion, drug use, easy sex, etc, that seem at times to be a little over the top. As a conservative Evangelical, I agree with every position Alcorn takes, but the challenge in expressing those positions along with full arguments in a fictional work creates unique challenges, not the least of which are problems of documentation of facts, studies, etc. It felt at times like you are getting hit by five different water hoses from five different directions (thus a novel with a  fairly simple storyline that takes up 424 pages with small print and margins). Overall though, Alcorn does a nice job, and his work only improves with experience! 

I give Deadline 4 out of 5 stars.

I received a free copy of this book from Multnomah's Blogging for Books program in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Book Review: A Home in Drayton Valley

A Home in Drayton Valley by Kim Vogel Sawyer had me heartbroken at first.  Between a mother of two young children dying of cancer and a close-up look at poverty with the effects of alcoholism/gambling on a family – this book had all the makings of a sad read.  Not my kind of book.  But I kept reading, and I have to say that I am glad I did.
It takes a truly gifted author to change your opinion about a character.  I started out despising Joss and all that he put his family through, to cheering him on as he changed to something altogether different.
Tarsie is tossed in as the woman who makes a deathbed promise to her best friend, only to realize she has no idea where that would lead her.
I can honestly say I was challenged by the message of this book, which is all too rare for Christian fiction anymore.  First, only God can perform change in a person’s life.  And secondly, we can trust Him to arrange our steps according to His plans.  I almost hesitate to call this a love story because it certainly took a unique route to get there.
5 out of 5 stars
I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Book Review: Whispers in the Wind

Whispers in the Wind by Lauraine Snelling is book 2 of the Wild West Wind stories.  To be totally fair, I didn’t read the first book of this series and that may contribute to my disappointment with this book.
Cassie Lockwood was formerly a show stopping trick-rider and sharpshooter from a Wild West show no longer in existence.  She decides to find the ranch in South Dakota her deceased father left to her in the hopes of a new life for her and the friends she has brought with her.  The only problem is it turns out the ranch is part of a joint ownership with the Engstrom family.  The only problem is that this partnership is one that Mavis Engstrom has kept secret for years in the hopes that no Lockwood would ever come and lay claim to his or her half of the ranch.
Cassie is faced with the cruel reality of surviving South Dakota living, the hostility of the eldest Engstrom son, and the prejudice of the neighbors who don’t approve of her Native American companions.
My biggest gripe with this book is its lack of plot.  The characters are all fairly uninteresting and flat with very little change from beginning to end.  Even though the mother, Mavis Engstrom, tries to be a spiritual mentor to Cassie, it comes off sort of forced and awkward.
In the end, it seemed like some things were left hanging – perhaps to be written in the next book.  I just feel that a book should have enough to hold my interest all by itself even if it is part of a series.
3 out of 5 stars
I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Book Review: Nothing to Hide by J. Mark Bertrand

            The latest installment in the Roland March Mystery series lives up to all reader expectations. Roland March is wonderfully cast as a man wrestling with the faith of Christians in his life while also weighing the claims of the atheists he knows. He must balance this all with what he sees on the street as a Houston Homicide detective. Faith plays a very small role in this novel, but a key small role. The story line centers around a murder victim who is tortured beyond recognition, an FBI story that explains but doesn't explain the circumstances, and the involvement of Mexican drug cartels. Throw in a blast from Roland's past, and you have all the makings of a classic murder mystery mixed with international intrigue and government cover-ups. While Bertrand has a slight similarity to Dan Brown in that he incorporates a twist into the story that is somewhat given away fairly early, it doesn't take away from what is a very well written and fast moving novel. The author does a nice job and I will pick up any other novels that he may produce in this series.

 I give Nothing to Hide 4.5 out of 5 stars.

I received a free copy of this book from Bethany Publishers in exchange for a fair and honest review.