Monday, July 30, 2012

The Widow of Saunders Creek

The Widow of Saunders Creek by Tracey Bateman  is basically a romance novel- with the typical formulaic plot- but with a new twist- a supernatural element.  Basically the plot of the story is about a beautiful widowed woman who eventually finds a new love.  A 30 year old woman recently widowed after her husband dies a heroic death in Iraq, believes the quaint nostalgic country home she returns to is haunted by the ghost of her deceased husband.  She feels drawn to the property by the spiritual presence she attributes to as her husband. She has an inner conflict, in which she strongly misses his presence but also feels angry that he sacrificed his life for strangers leaving her a window.  Nevertheless, she is fortunate ebough to capture the attention of a handsome, single young man, who coincidenlty is also attracted to her.  Basically, Eli becomes a buffer of sorts- in that she is never left alone to grieve- something that many widows really arent fortunate enough to have. Eli becomes her personal caretaker, handyman, taxi driver, friend, pastor, and counselor all rolled into one.  Anything Corrie needs- Eli is at her service.

This young widow, whose life revolved completely around her husband, feels duty bound to honor her commitment even after his death. Her strong sense of marital bonds and her delusion that her husband is truly inhabiting the house, in spirit, is the driving force behind her thoughts and actions as she struggles to cope with a possible new realtionship with his close cousin, Eli. 
Personally, I feel that Corrie, the 30 year old beautiful woman is self centered and condescending. She is fortunate enough to be wealthy and therefore does not need to work to support herself.  Her ideal circumstances most likely do not represent the reality of most young widows who must struggle for neccesities.  Her interactions with Eli as well as the other characters in the story hint at her superiority complex- her pride at being physically fit, thin and beautiful at age 30, and condescending in  the way interacts and as she percieves others who are economically or socially or physically less fortunate.  Personally, I really canot imagine any reader being able to relate to this self centered woman who basically takes every fortunate aspect of her life for granted while wallowing in self pity.  Religion, and more specifically, Christianity- is viewed passively as nostalgic.  It is hard to believe how Eli, a devoted pastor, can so easily fall in love with a woman who basically is agnotic and has no personal faith in God.  The story just seems so superficial and in fact, is a bit dissapointing that a pastor can be so deluded by physical beauty and fall in love with a woman who basically has no faith in God. 

A strong part of this novel is the fact that the author rightly attributes the spirits and ghosts as demonic rather than that of her departed husband.  Eli, the pastor, is the voice of reason, and Eli's words of wisdom are in allighnment with scripture when he warns Corrie of the dangers of the supernatural.  In a culture where so many believe in ghosts and mediums and palm readers, this book is a welcomed and important voice of reason.  I believe the author should have spent more time focusing on this point. 

The ending is too perfect in the way all the pieces come to gether- much like a fairy tale in which the beautiful princess and hero gets married. It almost seems that the message of this book focuses on the neccesity of marriage to feel complete in contrast to faith and dependance on God. This is a very good story about characters with strong morals with unexpected twists- but the ending is just too perfect in stark contrast to real life. As a blogger I recieved this book from Walter Brook Publishers for the purpose of writing this review.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Children of Angels by Kathryn Dahlstrom

Children of Angels: Book One of the New Nephilim Series by
Kathryn Dahlstrom is a new fiction fantasy novel for young pre-teen readers.  The book tells the story of a lonely, misunderstood teenaged boy named Jeremy Lapoint.  I believe many young readers will be able to relate to the less than ideal circumstances of the main hero.  This story seems to be a hybrid of a super hero styled action story and fantasy rolled into one.  Typically of many superhero or teenaged novels, the young hero- Jeremy's life seems to be plagued with an incredible amount of bad luck- being raised by his mom while his dad is in prison as he suffers daily humilation and bullying in middle school.   Then, by chance, one day he miraculously learns that he is actually part angel, more specifically, a Nephilim and that he has special abilities such as the ability to fly.  It seems as it is a dream come true- and in fact many middleschoolers with less than ideal lives perhaps entertain fantasies of having unique superhero like powers as well. He encounters angels and demons alike and his life gains new importance.
There are some stereotypical elements to this story: such as the depiction of the handsome, young, blond angelic looking angel- a typical presentation of what the media portrays angels to be and the evil demon.  The sterotypical bully and lonely misunderstood hero is also included.  The inclusion of pop-culture, such as the ever popular ipod and other memorable details are also included.   The epic battle of evil vs good is portrayed as Jeremy tries to fight off demons, with the help from Asiel, his guardian angel.

It is interesting to note that the old testament reference to the Nephilim in Genesis, refers to an extinct race of evil hybrids who are the product of the union between fallen angels that rebelled against God who took women as their wives in direct opposition to God.  The Nephilim are depicted as giant bullies ironically.  Therefore it appears off that the author re-created the Nephilim portraying them as a noble, and dying breed with a biblical and spiritual purpse.  In fact, the last of the corrupt Nephilim race died out in the ancient flood- they were considered an abomination- and not something to be revered or idolized.  While it is interesting to draw upon the ancient stories of the bible- they bear no resemblance to the actual depiction in the bible's version.  Perhaps this may serve as a spring board to capture the interest of a young reader to actually read or learn more about the bible.
The actual cover is reminiscent of computer game animation- in fact it looks like the cover of the art one would expect of a computer game.  For some reader, especially boys- this will add to the appeal.  My 11 year old daughter who commented on the cover itself  just found it a little odd. Keep in mind this book is the first in a new series.  While some readers enjoy books that are part of a series, others may see it as a drawback.    As a blogger I recieved this book from Winepress publishers for the purpose of writing this review. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Travelers Rest byAnn Tatlock

Firstly, my review of the fiction novel, Travelers Rest by Ann Tatlock is very late, because I just received the book in the mail. Based on the title alone- this book isn't what I expected.  After completing two thirds of the book, I learned that the title is taken from a small town named Travelers Rest- which holds an unexpected yet common significance in the lives of two seperate characters- a young woman and an old retired doctor- whose lives cross paths.  Nevertheless the title may have a double meaning because the main characters find true emotional rest and peace in the end of the book. 

 This book is about a young, 25 year old woman, Jane, who feels duty bound to honor her commitment to marry her fiance Seth who was paralyzed from the neck down as a result of a bullet wound he sustained in Iraq.  Her strong sense of moral duty is the driving force behind her thoughts and actions as she struggles to cope with the choice of whether to marry Seth or to move forward and face life without him.  Basically her life appears to center around the pragmatic fact that she simply does not want to be alone the rest of her life.  She has an optomistic, yet naive picture of the future as a caretaker for her fiance.  She even mentions how she spent 6 months doing internet research to learn what it is like to care for a quadraplegic in preparation for a life with her fiance.  On the otherhand, Seth is bitter, angry and depressed at the loss of his health and independance.  He does not want to be a burden and Jane simply serves as a painful reminder of his past.

At  one point of the story when Seth experiences a life threatening episode  of autonomic dysreflexia  due to a blocked catheter, Jane has no idea what is happening. She is confronted with the fact that she isnt the expert on paralysis as she thought she was.  I find this difficult to believe she is caught offguard because information on this common condition which afflicts paralyzed patients is widely available on any internet website about c-spine injuries. If she claims she actually did 6 months of research, surely she would have been familiar with the condition.  In fact as a reader, when the symptoms Seth first experienced were mentioned, I knew right away what it was.  In fact all caretakers of paralyzed people must be educated on the symptoms and causes of this common yet life threatening condition. Eventually Seth dies unexpectedly due to health complications coupled with his lack of will to survive.  His "convienient" death essentially is the answer to Jane's dilema and it leaves her free to pursue another unexpected love interest two years later into the story. 

In the end, it is intereseting to see how the lives of Jane and the retired doctor are tied together with a common bond from Janne's childhood.  The ending is too perfect in the way all the pieces come to gether- much like a fairy tale in which the beautiful princess and hero gets married. The doctor finds the redemption and forgiveness he spent his entire lifetime seeking- and gets married to boot!  It almost seems that the message of this book focuses on the neccesity of marriage to feel complete in contrast to faith and dependance on God.  This is a very good story about characters with strong morals with unexpected twists- but the ending is just too perfect in stark contrast to real life. As a blogger I recieved this book from Bethany Hous ePublishers for the purpose of writing this review.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Grieving God's Way By Margaret Brownley

Grieving God's Way: The Path to Lasting Hope and Healing

 by Margaret Brownley is a 90 day devotional book dedicated for those who are grieving a loss.  There are so many devotional books on the market, but this book is targeted to comfort those who are greiving the death of a loved one.  With a well rounded approach Brownley covers the spiritual, physical and emotional aspects of grief.  In fact, this book is a step by step guide to help a grieving person who may not have the mental stamina to read a lengthy book on theology or a wordy self help book.  In the short, simple to read devotions, she touches on many issues that the grieving may face, from a biblical and practical perspective.  What makes her words even more powerful is that she speaks from experience- writing this book after the loss of her own son.  The Haiku exerpts  By Diantha Ain are included in each day's reading.  The short Haiku- styled quotes suppliment the passages written by Brownley. 
The only issue with the book that it is a broad book -  the references to the specific loss do not target a specific loss such as the loss of a child or the loss of a spouse.  In contrast, the book attempts to address the broad needs of grief from death in general.  At times, specific examples are used- such as cleaning the closet of a loved one, or the effects of complicated grief and unresolved issues.  I feel certain categories of loss are so specific and the grief process for the loss of a child in contrast to the loss of a spouse is significant that they merit their own books. This does not detract from the usefulness of the book- but, a mother left with empty arms who suffered the loss of an infant may not be faced with the same practical issues or grieving issues that may be felt by a widow. This book is a good springboard for the start of the healing process.
As a blogger for booksneeze, I recieved this book from Thomas Nelson publishers for the purpose of writing this review.