Friday, December 30, 2011

Dancing Bones - Patsy Clairmont

Synopsis from B&N: We all want to live on a peaceful mountaintop where we can look down on the world below without getting hurt. With her trademark humor and style, Patsy Clairmont uses the story of "dancing bones" in Ezekiel to remind us that life in the valley can be pretty breathtaking, too. It's often in the valley that we learn and love the most. Rather than running from our troubles, Patsy says true "valley girls" find grace, freedom, and a sense of humor in the midst of turmoil.

I picked up this book on clearance at our local Christian bookstore last spring. I am just now reading it.

It took a few chapters for me to get into it; then I finally began to catch the message.

We all long for “mountain top” experiences. But let’s face it, most of life is lived in the valley and we don’t fully experience the mountaintop until heaven. So let’s make the most of our valley times.

Patsy Clairmont helps point out all of the things we have to appreciate in the valleys of life: friends, pets, wonder, solving the puzzles, food, salvation and so much more. She encourages readers to not look at the “valleys” in their lives as something to drudge through. Oh no. She challenges us all to dance.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Martyr's Song - Ted Dekker

Synopsis from B&N: Marci is waiting for a miracle. She longs to possess physical beauty that will save her from being a teenage outcast. The miracle that she receives comes in the form of an old woman's story. It leaves her skin untouched, except for tears of joy.

Not my favorite of Dekker’s books. So while I checked out the other three books in the “series”, I will be waiting some to read them. Perhaps I’m just not in a Dekker mood right now.

There are four books in the series. But in the intro to The Martyr’s Song it said they can be read in any order. Ack! My left-brained mind can’t handle that. So during my wait I’ll be sorting out recommendations for which order to read them in.

I disagree with the Barnes and Noble synopsis that this is the story of Marci. To me, it was really more the story of a village in Bosnia told through the vehicle of Marci and her self-derision.

It was hard to read at times. Like all Dekker’s book, it makes you think. Would I be able to have Nadia’s courage? The father’s faith? What would I do if placed in the same situation? You are forced to recognize there is a life beyond this one…which is so much more real than what we experience here and now.

Home in Time for Christmas - Heather Graham

Synopsis from B&N: Centuries ago, by a scaffold in Manhattan, rose petals drifted gently to the ground like snow on a wintry Massachusetts night. Melody Tarleton is driving home for Christmas when a man—clad in Revolutionary War-era costume—appears out of nowhere, right in the path of her car. Shaken, she takes the injured stranger in, listening with concern to Jake Mallory’s fantastic claim that he’s a Patriot soldier, sentenced to death by British authorities. The last thing he remembers is the tug of the noose.

Safe at her parents’ house, Melody concocts a story to explain the handsome holiday guest with the courtly manners, strange clothes and nasty bump on the head. Mark, her close friend who wishes he were more, is skeptical and her family is fascinated—though not half so fascinated as Melody herself. Jake is passionate, charming and utterly unlike anyone she’s ever met. Can he really be who he claims? And can a man from the distant past be the future she truly longs for?

Thanks, Rhonda, for the book recommendation! It was just what I needed to kick off my Christmas break.

While I will say the book was predictable and there were a few curse words sprinkled throughout, that gets all of the negative out of the way. I enjoyed the story and the characters. They were all kind of quirky but definitely in a good way. I still didn’t like Mark at the end, but that’s okay. The rest of them made up for it.

I liked the elements of time travel and the contrast of how values have changed.

Definitely a good, light read – fit for the season.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Christmas Wedding - James Patterson & Richard DiLallo

Synopsis from B&N: The tree is decorated, the cookies are baked, and the packages are wrapped, but the biggest celebration this Christmas is Gaby Summerhill's wedding. Since her husband died three years ago, Gaby's four children have drifted apart, each consumed by the turbulence of their own lives. They haven't celebrated Christmas together since their father's death, but when Gaby announces that she's getting married—and that the groom will remain a secret until the wedding day—she may finally be able to bring them home for the holidays.

This was pure fluff. Which sometimes (more times than not) I’m okay with. I guess I just expected more from James Patterson.

Gaby is a likeable character but nothing special. Her family all has issues (drug abuse, job loss, major medical issues) but, for some reason, those things are all glossed over. They’re not dealt with in any semblance of a realistic way.

The “mystery” groom was really no surprise.

I do have to say, I read the large print version. And sometimes I like to do that because then I feel like I’m making progress faster.

But can I talk about the cover? The bride on the cover is wearing a traditional wedding gown and doesn’t even look like she is near 50 years old. Gripe.

If you’re looking for a good Christmas read, I’m sure there are better ones out there.

Cartel - Sylvia Longmire

Summary from B&N: Having followed Mexico's cartels for years, border security expert Sylvia Longmire takes us deep into the heart of their world to witness a dangerous underground that will do whatever it takes to deliver drugs to a willing audience of American consumers. The cartels have grown increasingly bold in recent years, building submarines to move up the coast of Central America and digging elaborate tunnels that both move drugs north and carry cash and U.S. high-powered assault weapons back to fuel the drug war. Channeling her long experience working on border issues, Longmire brings to life the very real threat of Mexican cartels operating not just along the southwest border, but deep inside every corner of the United States. She also offers real solutions to the critical problems facing Mexico and the United States, including programs to deter youth in Mexico from joining the cartels and changing drug laws on both sides of the border.

I picked up this book after my hairdresser (thanks, Alison!) mentioned it because the author is a client at her salon (go to Buckingham studios in O’Fallon!).

It was…wow…a lot more intense (as in some gruesome details my stomach was barely strong enough to handle) than I expected. But it was also eye-opening and taught me a lot about the drug wars in Mexico, the effect on the U.S., the cartels who control, etc. I had no idea (I do seem to be saying that a lot recently after taking in a non-fiction read).

Having lived in Tucson, which is two hours from the border, I think I should have been more aware. Nope. Totally clueless. Did you know that cartels are growing marijuana in our state and national parks?!?!

I loved all of the information details packed into this book. And that Longmire doesn’t just look at it as a “Mexico problem.” Because the issues affect the United States in many ways and, let’s face it, people in the U.S. are huge consumers of illegal drugs that are pushing up from Mexico. And the fact that our weapons go south to arm the drug war…I hadn’t realized that before.

I think what I like best, though is that Longmire does offer solutions. They’re not short-term solutions. But they are something – and better than saying “here are all the issues and there is no hope.” In fact, she even points some to the changes the current president of Mexico has already made that are making a small dent.

Anyway, good reading on a current “in the news” topic.

Mothers and Daughters - Rae Meadows

Summary from B&N: A rich and luminous novel about three generations of women in one family: the love they share, the dreams they refuse to surrender, and the secrets they hold.

And they sure do hold a lot of secrets. It was amazing how little these three women – grandmother, mother, daughter – know of each other. It makes me think about how well the people “close” to me really know (or don’t know) me.

The chapters alternate between Violet (grandma), Iris (mother), and Samantha (now adult daughter and mother herself) and their stories. Although I would say that Samantha is the true main character. We learn more about her…and about the others through her.

The story was engaging…my only disappointment was that I wanted it to continue so that I could learn more about the three generations.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Chritmas Carol and Other Christmas Stories - Charles Dickens

I’m sure that most of us are familiar with A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. That was our December book club book. Some of us had read it before; others had not. We all professed a love for the Muppet version.

That being said, I was not aware that Dickens had written two other “Christmas” stories. They were included in my book and are entitled The Chimes and The Holly Tree. And, after muddling through them, I see why they’re not well known.

While I enjoy Dickens’s imagery in A Christmas Carol and can make it through some of the drearier parts because I know what’s coming, The Chimes was just plain creepy. I have no understanding of what the point really was and what the moral was (if there happened to be one). And it was far creepier than Marley’s ghost.

The Holly Tree wasn’t as creepy (although there was mention of murderous inn keepers) but was kind of just a nice story.

Over all, I would say the “Other Christmas Stories” were quite the disappointment. However, A Christmas Carol is always a good read.