Friday, June 25, 2010

Shakespeare's Landlord by Charlaine Harris

I don't read much secular fiction these days.  Years ago I did, but over time the amount of coarse language and sex became a bit much for me and I discovered Christian Fiction.  However, there are a few secular series I read with relish (anything by Debbie Macomber... the Elms Creek Quilters series by Chiaverini... the Shenandoah Album series by Emilie Richards to name a few).

I have shared on the blog that we have a new amazing library in my little corner of the world... so close that I could walk... if the temp and humidity ever become bearable!

As I have been perusing the shelves and just marveling at this treasure, I have picked up some books by authors that are new to me.... stretching myself a bit.  Some forays have been delightful.. others not good at all (See previous post on Delta Belles).  Shakespeare's Landlord falls somewhere between the 2 leaning a bit more toward the delightful side.

This is book introduces amateur sleuth Lily Bard of Shakespeare, Arkansas.  I have to admit the Shakespearean link is what caught my eye. I am a huge fan of the Bard... having read most of his works and wrote my Senior Thesis in college on the use of Light and Dark in his plays.  The town's name and Lily's last name are pretty much the only links to ole Will... at least in this book.

The characters are fun.. quirky and eccentric at times... the storyline is fun and well done.  I am one of those folks who usually figure out a mystery early on, but I was very near the end before "whodunit" became clear to me. 

Lily is a loner... with a secret... so she is not thrilled when she stumbles upon a dead body. She does her best to distance herself from the crime, even making an anonymous 911 call... but to no avail.  Her link to the body and her secret soon come rolling out and her life is turned upside down.  Her best bet is to get this crime solved so people can move on and forget it and go back to ignoring her.  

I would caution that there is some coarse language in this book... only 3 or 4 times, but still.. and while there are no grand detailed scenes,  unmarried characters sleep together.  To some these things are trivial.  To others they are deal breakers.  I use to be of the first school... I am finding myself moving more and more towards the latter.  Neither added anything to the story and while I know they are real-world occurrences, I just don't know that I want to read the real world... I spend a lot of time there and when I read, I like real people and settings but cleaned up a bit as the world should be.

Still, all in all it was a nice read.

No Distance Too Far by Lauraine Snelling

This is book 2 of the Home to Blessing series.  Snelling has several series that center around the fictional town on Blessing North Dakota:  Red River of the North (6 books), Return to Red River (3 books), Daughters of Blessing (4 books) and Home to Blessing (2 books so far...with a 3rd releasing soon).  I absolutely love all of these!  They are easily some of my favorite books!  I enjoy the setting, which is very "foreign" to this Southern girl, and I adore the characters who have become old friends.  Each time a new Blessing book comes out I get excited to catch up on the families and meet their new neighbors and friends.  It is like going back home for a visit.

So there was no doubt I would love No Distance Too Far... and I did.  The focus of this series, so far, is on Astrid.  A young woman who has completed medical school and is now struggling with where she should go to serve the Lord in her calling.  Will she head into the jungles of Africa to work as a Medical Missionary or to an Indian Reservation near her home of Blessing where the need for medical care is great or will she go home to Blessing and serve the people there along side her sister-in-law, Dr. Elizabeth Bjorklund? Only God knows and He is not making it as clear to Astrid as she would like.

Following some advice of her mother's, Astrid decides to take a step of faith and heads to Athens, GA to attend Missionary School.  There are those who believe a single woman, no matter how educated, has no business heading off into the dark heart of Africa. They advise she find a husband and try again.  But Astrid pushes on... determined to complete the training there even though she has no certainty that Africa is God's plan for her.

All the while Joshua is settling in Blessing, building a home that he hopes Astrid will share with him, and wondering how to get her to settle back in ND instead of going to Africa.  He is also learning that God has a plan for his life and things for him to do.  Family and friends in Blessing struggle with Astrid's choice as they anticipate a new hospital and wonder how Elizabeth can manage as the area's only doctor.

It is intriguing to see all this play out on the pages of this book.. to read the thoughts and prayers of those involved... to see God's hand at work.  A wonderful read.  I look forward to the next book in the series!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Praying Life by Paul E. Miller

I forget where I heard about or read about this book, but I am so glad I did!  It is a wonderful book to breathe some fresh air into your prayer life.  In the last section, Miller covers some practical points like using prayer cards and journals and such, but through out the first 2/3s he just shares prayer stories and what God has taught him as he has developed his praying life. 

His thoughts will encourage and challenge... they will make you stop and think about how you pray and why... and whether or not you pray just because it is something Christians do or if you really expect an answer.  He  prays about everything with unabashed boldness... after all, God wants to be a part of our lives.. ALL of it. 

This is not a 5 steps to a better prayer life book.. nor is it a theological tome on prayer... it is an open and honest look at prayer and how it looks in one man's life and how it could look in yours.

Delta Belles by Penelope Stokes

Years ago I read a book or two by Stokes... The Blue Bottle Club... The Amethyst Heart... are 2 I remember. I also remember at the time that I felt certain she and I would not see eye to eye on some doctrinal issues, but I was never offended or bothered by those differences.

As I was wandering through our local library recently I saw she had a number of works out I had not read... I also noticed she had a sticker on her books that indicated she was a Mississippi writer (I live in Mississippi).  I read the summary of Delta Belles and immediately knew I would like the story. 4 friend who all went to Mississippi College for Women (know as the W in Mississippi) who are now all grown and coming back together for a reunion. And I did enjoy the stories... the characters reminded me of people I knew.. much of the topics of conversation were familiar to me as they centered around places and events I know or at least know of. 

But I never finished the book.  I rarely.. RARELY.. don't finish a book. I will push through the worst written drivel due to some self-possessed obsession with finishing any book I start. That said.. I often never start a book if I feel I won't enjoy it... if I don't start it, I don't have to finish it. So was Delta Belles that poorly written? No.. in fact the writing is wonderful.. the characters full and real.. the story lines completely believable and uncontrived.. but there came an issue.. at first I felt I could over look it.. but as the book progressed it went from being a side line to a strong point. That issue is homosexuality.

I will not toss aside a book just because there is a homosexual character or characters... most of us know people who are gay... consider them friends... care about them. But  not all of us consider the choices they make to be sin. I do.  I believe with every ounce of my being that the Bible is clear on this and so, for me, reading a book that goes beyond just condoning it, but actually spends a great its time promoting it, was not a good use of my time nor something I felt best to place in my mind. 

I debated not writing a review at all.  I don't think I have ever written a negative review.  But then I thought maybe someone would like to know ahead of time about this book. I guess is could actually draw someone to it.  But it may also prevent someone from starting a good story only to feel the need to walk away from it as I did.