Monday, March 10, 2014

Reviewing books while a dog helps me type

We've borrowed a dog for the weekend. He's very sweet. Having finally decided he doesn't need to follow my footsteps everywhere (and cry outside the bathroom), he's taken to sitting by the patio door watching birds and squirrels play. I have to leave the door slightly open for him, else I'll end up returning him to his owners with a seriously bruised nose--maybe with a few more days he'd realize you can't chase squirrels through the glass. But at least the weather's warmer and the wind's not freezing me.










When not chasing squirrels, our dog friend rather likes helping me on the computer, which reminds me rather of when my sons were small and helped me play guitar. Some jobs are simply better done alone. Of course, the kids grew up, and the one who plays guitar, having no small helpers, does it way way better than I. Meanwhile, the dog's off chasing another squirrel, so I'll see if I can post a few book reviews. Do grab some coffee and save a cup for me. Dog likes helping me in the kitchen too, and I'm slightly worried I'll trip over him while brewing some for myself.

My first book review for today is of Thistle Down, by Sherrie Hansen, a lovely novella set in a small Scottish village where the pastor finds himself counseling two young couples who each want to get married before the other. Somebody's stealing artifacts from church. Old ladies are trying to marry the pastor off. And a pleasing mix of secular and spiritual wisdom makes this a thoroughly enjoyable lunchtime read. Enjoy with a lively easy-drinking 2-star coffee.

Moving to the US, my next review is of Lydia’s Party, by Margaret Hawkins. Lydia is setting up her annual bleak midwinter party for a group of women friends, but the bleakness is threaded with genuine friendship, pathos and humor, and quite a few surprises. Surprisingly uplifting and beautifully told, this is one to enjoy with a rich, elegant, complex 4-star coffee.

Lady Blues, by Aaron Paul Lazar, is a mystery set in the beautiful Genesee Valley, starring Gus LeGarde. Like Lydia's Party, the story revolves around protagonists who are no longer young. Gus meets an Alzheimer's patient whose memory and music are returning. He finds himself involved in a race to discover the old man's lost love, while avoiding evil enemies and protecting a frightened woman. Enjoy this well-balanced tale with a smooth, full-flavored 3-star coffee, and watch out for earlier books in the series. Gus is a great character.

On The Pineapple Express, by H. L. Wegley, is a more explicitly Christian tale of suspense. Faith is shared very naturally as the characters struggle to survive and save girls stolen into slavery. Real faith and real-world situations blend convincingly, and the author does an excellent job of telling his story and his faith without being preachy. A good, exciting Christian suspense, set in the beautiful Pacific Northwest as a Pineapple Express blows warm, wet and windy, this is another to enjoy with a well-balanced smooth 3-star coffee.

Moving now to a slightly less real world, The Petrosian Invitation, by T.P. Keating is set in England and Russia, and tells of a rich young Russian who just happens to be a vampire, meeting a less rich young Englishwoman who happens to make the perfect chocolate dessert. It's a match made in the kitchen, and it's a surprisingly sweet, fun read, very different from the usual vampire fair. Enjoy with a lively easy-drinking 2-star cup of coffee.

Bill Hiatt's Divided Against Yourselves is set in a convincing blend of real-world, small-town California and, well, somewhere else. Imagine King David meeting King Arthur's Taliesin, both of them speaking through the voices of American teens. Add magic, powerful weapons, evil adversaries, and a healthy dose of everyday teen hormones and parental dismay and you'll get the picture. This is a really well-written teen series with a fascinating (and growing) premise. Enjoy with a 4-star elegant complex cup of coffee and wait eagerly for more.

And finally, not for teens (unless they're watching Game of Thrones), Laura Eno's Jewel of Shaylar pays tribute to the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe while sending a young adult into an alternate universe where magic has been corrupted, and humanity is failing. Women weave powers for their men, while David weaves his way through foreign territory, meets strange creatures, and seeks his absent father. It's the start of what looks like a fun new series. Enjoy it's complex and clever world-building with a complex, elegant 4-star cup of coffee.

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