About Me and My Blog and Amazon Store

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Langley, BC, Canada
I love to read. I love books. I like to talk about books and recommend them. I read everything including cereal boxes and junk mail! I heard once that if you're not reading at least 3 books at a time you're not reading enough! This blog will keep track of the books I've read and whether or not I liked them. It will be a little bit of everything from Christian fiction to Science fiction and fantasy. Feel free to participate by suggesting books to review and giving your comments. Occasionally I am given free books by Publishers in exchange for a review. I am not told how to review them or compensated in any way for the review.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Iscariot by Tosca Lee

I was given an Advanced Reader’s copy of this book due to be published in February 2013 by Simon and Schuster Canada. 
I don’t normally read Biblical fiction.  It just seems so contrived to me and I’m never happy with the way characters are portrayed.  So it was with some hesitation that I accepted this book to review.  However, I was hooked by the end of the first chapter. 
I’ve always considered Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of Jesus as an imposter; someone that Jesus allowed among his disciples because of the part he needed to play in the unfolding of Jesus’ own story.  But Tosca Lee portrays him as a devoted follower of Jesus.  The back story that she creates for Judas is completely plausible and it’s fascinating to watch his love for Jesus grow throughout her story.  He is in constant conflict though because he is also a passionate follower of the Law and the belief that the Messiah would come as a conqueror of Rome.  As the story unfolds and he becomes more and more aware of Jesus’ true purpose the conflict in Judas grows.
Lee’s ability to create atmosphere and memorable characters is truly inspired.  I felt like I was there; participating in the various scenes and feeling the emotions of the characters as they try to reconcile who Jesus is with the ideas of messiah that they’ve grown up with.  I felt deeply for Judas and his struggles.  She handles the end of the story with grace and compassion and again I felt that it was an entirely plausible scenario.
Her story is well-researched and very well written and I highly recommend it for anyone who is interested in a deeper understanding of Jesus and the man who betrayed Him.  I’d encourage you to pick it up in February when it is published.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

My book club decided to read this as our December book.  As I started it I realized I’d never actually read this before; just seen a lot of movies about it.
I think this was one of Charles Dickens best books.  It’s short, only 90 pages and easy to read.  But the descriptions are amazing and once again the characters he creates from ghosts to Tiny Tim are extremely well written and memorable. 
Here’s Dicken’s first description of Scrooge: “Oh!  But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge!  A squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner!”    Here is the description of Scrooge at the end of the story; “he became as good a friend, as a good a master, and as a good a man, as the good old city knew.”   You already know what happened to him in between those two descriptions to bring about the change in him. 
I encourage you to read the story again or for the first time. May we all learn to keep Christmas well.   And a Tiny Tim would say, God Bless us, every one!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Casual Vacancy by J K Rowling

 Worth reading until the end. At times I didn't want to finish it but I stuck with it. I didn't really like any of the characters and mostly I didn't care about the town and it's issues. But by the end I did. She has a great ability to create atmosphere. The characters in Harry Potter were memorable because of the specialness; in this book the characters are memorable because they are so ordinary. She is a great writer. Even though this is an adult book a lot of the main characters were still teenagers dealing with teenager angst things.
I hope she lightens up a bit in her next book but even if she doesn't I'll probably still read it.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


I wonder if every reader wishes at some point that she could write?   Over the years I've tried my hand at short stories.  I've even written the odd script or two for the drama team at church.  But the form of writing I keep coming back to is poetry.  I rarely share my poetry but have lately been playing around with it again. 

A friend has a story blog (Sort and Polish you should check it out) and she wrote a blog that inspired my latest poem.  her blog starts with We awoke to the song of a frog this morning.   I took that simple phrase and came up with this.

I awoke to the song of a frog today
A solo before the chorus joined in,
With the wind keeping time in a breezy beat,
Nature’s band tuned to the pitch of the dawn   

First a bass, then an alto entered the song
While the trill of a bird sang counterpoint
In harmony nature’s song was sung
As if it was meant to be heard today
By The Creator of music;
and me.


Monday, September 10, 2012

From Blood by Edward Wright

I started this book on a Saturday morning and neglected everything until it was done!   I wasn’t interested in this book to start with because of the title but I was encouraged to read it and I’m glad I did. 
Shannon Fairchild is a mess.  That’s the first line of the first chapter and is pretty descriptive of the main character.   She’s in limbo in her life having stopped writing her PhD dissertation and started a house cleaning business.    Her world is turned upside when her parents are murdered.  Her mother’s dying words “find them and warn them” sends Shannon on the hunt for some friends of her parents and also for the person who killed them.  In the process of finding out who killed her parents, Shannon finds a mystery about her own past.
The action and plot twists are endless and entertaining.  The characters are believable and I enjoyed the glimpse into the 60’s protests that provides the framework of the story.
My only complaint with the book is the title.  To me it conjured up visions of vampires and such and I am squeamish about violence so I was not inclined to read the book because of that.  But obviously the book is not about any of that.   The title is to do with the motivation of Shannon to carry on with the quest to find out about her parents and their past.  The author describes it as responding to a call that came from her very blood. 
Edward Wright is a new author to me and I fully intend to find and read his other books.  If you want an engaging mystery with nonstop action then clear your weekend and read this book.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Books Read in August, 2012

Summer nights are for reading and I had a week of vacation so there was lots of time to read
 in August.  Following is a list of the books read and my recommendations.

Janet Evanovich –  Pretty much all the same, light summer reading, not recommended if you’re squeamish about language/sexuality talk-but very funny and highly entertaining despite that
·         High Five,
·         Hot Six,
·         Seven up,
·         Hard Eight,
·         To the Nines
·         Ten Big Ones

John Dunning –   Great series about an ex-cop turned bookstore owner/book scout-lots of information about books and interesting mysteries
·         Booked to Die
·         The Bookman’s Wake

Robert Parker – Jesse Stone novels- I’m hooked on the TV movies starring Tom Selleck so decided to read the books.  Good mysteries and great character development about an alcoholic police chief in a small town of Paradise where things are never quite as they seem and murder happens on a regular basis.
·         Night Passage
·         Stone cold
And finally for something completely different I read
  • the Disciplined Life by Calvin Miller. 
He passed away in August the day after I had downloaded this small book to read.   Everything by Calvin Miller is worth reading and I highly recommend it.

Saturday, August 11, 2012


This is the second in the Buck Reilly series by John H Cunningham. It is an e-book so you can only get it on your computer or e-reader.     Buck is a seriously down on his luck ex-corporate type, current treasure hunter living in Key West, Florida.  Trouble seems to follow him around.  In this book a friend is kidnapped and Buck is commissioned to find him. 
This is an adventure/mystery story with lots of twists and turns.  The story takes place in Florida and Cuba and has Buck again facing some seriously bad guys.  I started reading it in a walk-in-clinic where I was waiting to get a prescription; it was a two hour wait and the time flew by as I got absorbed in the story and the chase.
Buck is a cliché name for a character who is not at all a cliché.  Sure he’s flawed but he has a definite sense of right and wrong; an ability to make good friends and has a strong sense of responsibility.   In my last review (Red Right Return)  I complained about the language and it wasn’t an issue in this book.  Buck is a likeable character. The story is told in the first person so we have the benefit of his thoughts and feelings.  This isn’t just an adventure story; it’s a story about the ability to move on with life even when bad things happen to you; it’s evolving into a love story and above all it’s a good story. 

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry

This was another book club pick that I normally wouldn’t have read on my own.  But from the first chapter I was hooked.
Towner Whitney fled her childhood home of Salem, Ma in order to escape her crazy family and after the death of her twin sister.  But she’s been drawn back by the disappearance of her Great-Aunt Eva.  In the opening paragraph Towner admits that she herself is crazy and lies all the time.   Her mother Mae is a recluse, living on an island and rescuing abused women and supporting them by teaching them how to make lace and selling it.  Both her mother and her aunts are lace readers; women who can see the future in the patterns of the lace they make.
This is a complicated story that flits between fantasy and reality; past and present.  Told mostly from Towner’s point of view the lines are always blurred as she tries to piece together the reason why her Aunt has disappeared and how that will affect the rest of her life.  This is a mystery on many levels; the disappearance of Eva; the mystery of what happened to Towner and her twin sister; who really is Cal Boynton, the resident cult leader.  Naturally since the setting is Salem, there are witches who are on a collision course with the Cal Boynton and his particular brand of religion. 
This book was hard to put down.    It’s fast paced with twists and turns that I wasn’t expecting.  The ending is particularly shocking but does help to make the rest of the story make sense. 
This is Barry’s first novel and I’m looking forward to reading her second one The Map of True Places. I highly recommend this book.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Charles Dickens by G.K. Chesterton

I’m not really a fan of biographies but am trying to broaden my reading and thought that understanding ore about Dickens would help me to understand and enjoy his novels more. (Please note that I will be quoting some of the book but as I read this on my Kindle stating pages is problematic so I won’t be able to do a true footnote.)
Chesterton is an early 20th Century writer who wrote on a wide variety of subjects including theology.  He also wrote mysteries and fantasy stories.  There are a lot of biographers of Dickens but I thoroughly enjoyed Chesterton’s style and his take on what made Dickens tick.
The book starts out with a lengthy discourse on what makes a person or thing “great” in the eyes of society.  Chesterton doesn’t really define it although he tries but in the end he says, whatever greatness is, Dickens was great.  The fun of reading anything by Chesterton is that he is so quotable.  For instance during the discussion about greatness he writes “Every man was waiting for a leader.  Every man ought to be waiting for a chance to lead”.  He also says of the time that Dickens lived that “It was a world that encouraged anybody to be anything.  And in England and literature its living expression was Dickens.”
Another quotable quote from Chesterton on the troubles during Dickens’ early years “Circumstances break men’s bones; it has never been shown that they break men’s optimism.”  Chesterton paints Dickens as an optimistic, exuberant person who infused his novels with these characteristics. He also tended to wear his heart on his sleeve.  He felt things keenly and was very sensitive and did not generally take criticism well.
Chesterton does a very thorough job of characterizing Dickens as well as critiquing his books.  It was a bit hard to follow some of his thoughts as he talks a lot about British politics and literary people of that age that I’m not particularly familiar with.  However I think it was worth reading and is a great review of Dickens in context.  If you’re interested in a biography of Dickens I highly recommend this one.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

One for the Money by Janet Evanovich

It’s taken me years to get into this series.  But with the movie coming out these books are popular again and I thought I’d give it another try.  Plus I liked the idea that there are 18 books in the series that I get to read if I like.
Stephanie Plum has just lost her job and is running out of options.   She’s sold her furniture to pay bills and needs to find a job.  Her mother suggests asking her Cousin Vinnie for an office job.  Vinnie runs a bail bonding company and as luck would have it, doesn’t need anyone for the office.  He is down a couple of bounty hunters though and Stephanie talks him into giving her his most wanted fugitive worth $10,000.00 to her if she can bring him in.  The fugitive is a police officer accused of killing an unarmed man.  The good part is she went to high school with him and Stephanie figures bringing him in will be easy. Of course it isn’t or there wouldn’t be a book.  Much mayhem ensues with Stephanie becoming the target of an insane boxer and the fugitive police officer coming to her rescue a few times. 
I enjoyed the story and will continue to read the series.  Stephanie has a crazy Italian family with a Grandmother who will have you laughing out loud.  I could do with less sexy bits but I’m a bit of a prude when it comes to my reading most people probably wouldn’t be bothered by it.  It does fit in with the story so I’m hoping that the rest of the series is a bit tamer in that regard.  On the whole though it was a quick easy read and I looked forward to Two for the Dough, the next book.


The Tiger by John Vaillant

This book was a complete departure from my usual reading.  First of all it is non-fiction.    I know I should read more non-fiction but I’m just not interested in it.  Secondly, it’s a book about animals, and I’m not really an animal person.  But this was a choice by my book club so I had to read it.
The book is a true life tale about a man-eating tiger that terrorizes a village in Russia and the team of men sent out to kill it.  It’s told in kind of a revolving story style.  One chapter about the man the tiger killed; the next chapter about the tiger; the next one about the man who lead the team of hunters.  There’s a lot of detail in this book.  There’s evolutionary theory about the development of the tiger and the land it lives in; there’s some animal psychology with a lot of mythical and folk lore knowledge thrown in.    He also includes a lot of background on the political climate of Russia at the time.  These particular tigers are becoming extinct and the author is passionate about his desire to preserve them.
The story is told like a mystery.  The murder occurs; the group has to identify and hone in on the one tiger responsible; then they have to track him and bring him to justice.  In between the gathering of facts are stories about the characters involved.
The key point of the book is that the author believes the tiger killing the man was an act of revenge against the man who had stolen some of its food.    I found this a bit farfetched and though it might have been handled better as a novel but apparently some animals do have long memories and can reason to this extent. 
The book is very well written and has some beautiful descriptions of the land in it.  I think it’s probably worthy of all the hype it’s received even though it’s not my particular cup of tea.  I did finish the book and am glad we read it.  

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Buried in a Book by Lucy Arlington

This is the first novel in a new series.  Lila Watkins is a middle aged single mother of one son who has just lost her job as a newspaper journalist.   While looking for a new job she comes across an ad for an intern at a literary agency in town called “A Novel Idea”.    It’s a bit of a step down instead of a step up in her career but she’s always wanted to be a literary agent and this might be a way of getting her foot in the door.    Of course, she gets the job and is on the scene when a local homeless man is murdered in the reception area of the agency.
This is a fun book for people who like to read.   It provides a bit of an inside look into how publishing a novel  works and besides getting to know the ins and outs of a literary agency there is a good murder mystery to solve.    This is an easy to read, entertaining book and I look forward to the next one called “Every Trick in the Book.”
One of my favourite things about the book might be the dedication which reads   “To aspiring writers of all ages.  The world needs more stories.  Don’t give up on yours.”   

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

This was a complete departure in reading for me; I usually don’t read young adult stuff and wasn’t very interested in reading these books.  But my new book club was reading the Hunger Games so I decided to give it a try and was hooked from the first chapter.
The premise is horrifying.   It’s set in a futuristic society which has arisen after the destruction of North America.  A Capitol district populated by the rulers of the society is surrounded by 13 districts.  There was an uprising against the Capitol resulting in a Treaty that among other things ushers in the Hunger Games.  These Games are the Capitol’s way of providing a yearly reminder and punishment for the people who instigated the uprising.  Each year 2 children are chosen from each district to participate in a televised battle to the death.  There can be only one victor.    As the description in the book says “this is the Capitol’s way of reminding us how totally we are at their mercy.  How little chance we would stand of surviving another rebellion”.
The main character is a 17 year old girl named Katniss.    The book opens with the reaping, a time when the 2 participants from each district are chosen, 1 male and 1 female.  Katniss is not chosen but her 12 year old sister is and Katniss invokes and old rule that says she can volunteer to go in her sister’s place.
That’s all of a summary I will give you.  This book is a page turner.  In fact I stayed up late a few nights to finish it.   Katniss is a strong female character.   After the first chapter I completely forgot that she was only 17years old.  Yes, there is some violence in the book but it is in context and not overdone (in my opinion).   By the time I was finished the book I needed to read the rest of the series.  It is well developed and again in my opinion, well written.   I won’t say anything about the other two books as it’s impossible to say much without giving the story away. 
There are strong themes of good and evil, love, family and of course coming of age throughout the series.    This book evokes strong emotion from people.  My book club had people who loved it and others who hated it.   I think that if you can stomach the premise you will get to read a really good story with likeable characters and things to think about.   I highly recommend this series.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens

This novel follows the life of Nell and her grandfather. Nell has been orphaned and is living and taking care of her grandfather. They live and work in the old Curiosity Shop selling a collection of “old and curious things”. The grandfather begins to worry about how Nell will be taken care of when he dies and tries to ramp up his financial affairs by taking to gambling. Of course it turns out that he is a very bad gambler and must turn to loan sharks to finance his efforts. The evil Mr. Quilp is a dwarf whose outside ugliness is matched only by his ugly character and evil personality. He conspires to take away the shop and the grandfather becomes almost senile and very ill. In desperation, Nell convinces her grandfather to run away and to put as much distance between themselves and the dwarf as they can.

The rest of the novel focuses on their adventures and misadventures as they walk through England looking for a safe haven. At their darkest moments there always seems to be some kind person to rescue them but that rescue is usually brief and they must run away again.

I found this book to be a bit exhausting at times. Dickens says in his intro to the book that he deliberately drew characters who were grotesque and wild in order to enhance the innocence and sweetness of little Nell. But after a while I found myself wishing she could just catch a break and be left alone for a while! Of course I’m sure that was what Dickens intended.

The book starts out with a narrator but eventually Dickens decided that it was too awkward of a way to tell the story so he abandoned the narrator after a few chapters. I didn’t even notice the change until the end when I re-read the beginning and realized that the narrator had disappeared.

The ending is both satisfying and very sad. Satisfying in that most of the bad guys get their just reward, and sad, well, you can imagine what happens but if you want to know for sure you should read the book.

  Barnaby Rudge is the next book in line. But I think I’ll take a break and read the two biographies I have of Dickens first.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Betryal of Trust by Susan Hill

The Betrayal of Trust is Susan Hill’s 6th book featuring Simon Serrailler, a detective in a small town in England.

A torrential downpour has flooded the town and during the clean up a skeleton is discovered. The remains turn out to be the body of a young woman missing for 16 years and the investigation into her death begins. A case 16 years old requires old wounds to be reopened, secrets to be revealed and much review of files taken with many cups of tea (it is after all set in England).

As with all her novels, the mystery is just the foundation for the story. It’s a solid foundation and interesting in itself but there are many other layers to the book. Her characters continue to evolve. Simon is a very flawed leading man. In many of the previous books I’ve not liked him at all. But in this book he’s starting to become aware of his flaws although hasn’t done much about it yet.

I found this book disturbing in some ways. Part of that is because of the themes, old age, dying, dementia, terminal illness and the care of people who are terminally ill and assisted suicide are all explored in this story. And the exploration is honest and uncomfortable as she doesn’t leave us with any easy answers.

By the end the mystery is solved but the story is not resolved. So there will be more Simon Serrailler books. You don’t need to have read any others to enjoy this one; there is enough back story to be able to read this. But I would encourage you to start at the beginning with The Various Haunts of Men and get to know the main characters. Hill’s writing is very good and while her books are entertaining , they also make you think.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens

This novel follows the Nickleby family and especially the son, Nicholas. The family meets hard times early on. Nicholas’ father is rendered poor and then dies leaving his wife alone with two children. Nicholas approaches his estranged uncle for help and is directed to a school for boys where he is to be the teacher. He is appalled by the way the students are treated and finally breaks away, throttling the headmaster and escaping with one of the boys who remains with him through the rest of the story. He then meets up with an acting troupe and becomes a writer for a short time. He’s called back home to avert a disaster occurring to his sister and remains to care for his mother and sister by becoming an assistant in an accounting firm. This turn of events leads to the happiness that eventually ends the novel.

There are a host of comical characters in this novel perhaps as an antidote to all the evil ones that are also part of the story. I often found myself chuckling at the escapades that these comical characters got themselves involved in. It is also peopled with Dickens usual wide variety of characters. There are villains both poor and rich; women both foolish and wise; beautiful young girls in need of rescue; children in need of rescue. In fact, rescue may be one of the main themes of this book.

It is also a true old fashioned romance. Love is also a major theme. It’s fascinating to see how the story plays out and the ending is true old fashioned happy one.

Dickens wrote as much to inform as at to entertain and so in this novel he takes on boys schools and reveals some of the horrible treatment lavished on the children because of the greed of the owners. (Greed is another theme in the book) He says in the preface that “any man who had proved his unfitness for any other occupation in life, was free, without examination or qualification, to open a school anywhere”. Apparently there were many school masters who thought that the description of his school and its master was based on them Dickens insisted that Mr. Squeers character was representative of a class, and not any individual person.

Despite the continuous portrayal of good and evil, this is a relatively light-hearted book for Dickens. By the time it was published he was married with 3 children. Jane Smiley in her book Charles Dickens:A life, concludes that Dickens was enjoying his own domestic life at this point and allowed that to come across in the novel. She also notes that although the novel had early success it ended up being one the least-read.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and it may end up being one of my favourites. If, like me, this is one of his novels that you’ve not read I would encourage you to pick it up and immerse yourself in the life and times of a Victorian gentleman named Nicholas Nickleby.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Sixth Man by David Baldacci

David Baldacci’s 21st novel The Sixth Man is evidence that as a writer he is only getting better. I’ve read all his books and own a lot of them and I’ve yet to read a book of his that is boring or formulaic.

In this book we encounter characters that we’ve met before Sean King and his partner Michelle Maxwell. Now they are private detectives working on their own and not for the Secret Service or FBI. They’ve been called into a case to help a lawyer friend of Sean’s. As they drive to a meeting with the lawyer they come across a broken down car on the side of the road. As they approach to help, Sean recognizes the driver, who is dead, as the lawyer they were going to meet. They quickly discover that it was murder and get involved in a mystery that is full of twists and turns and really bad people.

Baldacci’s characters have depth and personality. The themes are familiar ones; greed, selfishness and pure evil meet honesty, goodness and unselfishness. The stage is the US intelligence community and the lengths that some people will go to protect themselves rather than their country.

If you are familiar with Baldacci’s books this is an excellent addition to your reading list. If you’ve not read his books before I would highly recommend picking this one up and starting in on the feast of stories that will entertain you for years to come.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

Published in 1838 Oliver Twist was Dickens second novel. In the Preface he says that he wrote it because he thought the criminal lifestyle was being glorified and he wanted to show what it was really like. He didn’t think any of the characterizations were over the top but insisted they were true to life

I’m sure you’re familiar with the story. Oliver starts life in an orphanage. He earns the wrath of the people in charge by requesting more food. Because of this they decide to make some use of him and offer 5 pounds to anyone who will take him off their hands. He eventually becomes an assistant to an undertaker. After much abuse and taking an instant dislike to the work he runs away, falls in with a group of thieves and thugs, runs away again, they get him back etc. He does eventually meet some kind and generous folks who look after him and help to solve the mystery of his birth.

That summary of course does no justice to the book at all. Dickens was well known for his ability to create memorable characters and this book is populated with many memorable people. The good are very good and the bad characters are very bad. In the end of course, good triumphs and evil is punished. I thought some of the scenes where Oliver is overcome with his feelings were a bit extreme but apparently Dickens himself was a very emotional person and felt things very deeply so I think he musts have put some of himself into Oliver’s character. The dialogue is long and lazy. In modern day novels the dialogue is often short and snappy probably a testament to our short attention span. Dickens gives his characters long speeches and the descriptions of the surroundings are often long and poetic. But I never found myself bored. In fact the last few chapters were hard to put down.

I was impressed with the satire in the book. Dickens had already developed a very particular way of viewing the world and often presented these views under the guise of satire. There is also a very strong presence of God in the novel. Oliver is often seen pleading to God for help and protection and the themes of redemption and forgiveness are very strong. Dickens clearly felt that morality was based in a firm of belief in God; however, he had no use for people who professed piety but were only looking out for themselves.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel. Nicholas Nickleby is next.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Inside Google Books: Doodling for Dickens’ Birthday: A behind the scenes look

Tomorrow, Feb 7, is Charles Dickens birthday. I'm well into Oliver Twist and enjoying it immensely. But I haven't finished my review of it yet so in honor of the actual birthday I'm posting a link to Google's doodle in honour of Dickens. Also Google is making available Dicken's books available for a free download so check those out as well.

Inside Google Books: Doodling for Dickens’ Birthday: A behind the scenes look

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Scroll by Dr Grant R Jeffrey and Alton L. Gansky

I received this book for free as a digital download from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Dr David Chambers is a Biblical archeologist working in the land of Israel. For many years his own personal faith had sustained him as he made important discoveries and helped to prove that the stories in the Bible were true. But now his faith in God is gone, his love for Biblical archeology has waned and he has lost the love of his life because of these other two losses. He is at a crossroads in his life when he gets an important phone call from an old mentor with a request that he can’t refuse.

Grant Jeffrey and Alton Gansky have written a book steeped in history, a mystery of Biblical proportions all wrapped up in a love story. The love story is the simple part, God’s love for us, for the nation of Israel and the love of two people navigating the deep waters of faith and doubt. The history is the history of the land of Israel, its ancient history and current political landscape. The mystery, well, that’s the part I can’t tell you about. But it’s a good one. They do a good job of keeping the suspense going. The novel is well written with equal parts of action and suspense. I sometimes found the archeological/historical references a bit tedious and thought they interfered with the story telling but I suppose the background is necessary for readers to understand the point of the mystery.

If you enjoy mysteries and especially if you are interested in the land of Israel and the part she plays in the story of Christianity and in the future then you will be particularly interested in this book.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens

In 1836 Dickens was asked to write some captions for a story about a Sporting club that would be mainly told in pictures by a famous artist. Dickens grumbled about the theme wanting it to be a travel and investigation club instead. This became a serial called the Pickwick Papers. The first seven installments were completed and then the artist committed suicide. The widow of the artist charged that it was her husband and not Dickens that had written the story. Dickens was incensed by this charge and laboured hard and long to prove it false.

The Pickwick Papers are about the adventures of Samuel Pickwick. Mr. Pickwick and his 3 friends form the Pickwickian club, whose sole purpose is to travel around London and the surrounding countryside, meeting people and reporting on their adventures. It’s good to keep in mind that this was written as a monthly serial so each chapter is a story unto itself although there is continuity to some of the stories.

I was interested to note that Dickens employed the cliff hanger ending to many of his stories; obviously as an enticement to readers to anticipate and buy the next installment. I found it hard to get into the stories but eventually was able to enjoy them for what they were; illustrations of the life and times of an elderly gentleman in the mid 1800’s. There’s romance, duels and much eating and drinking and interspersed among the travel adventures is the occasional ghost story.

I’ve read many of Dickens novels over the years but had never read the Pickwick Papers. I confess that at times I found it a bit tedious but overall enjoyed the adventures and characters in this book. One of the things that Dickens is famous for is his ability to create memorable characters and this book was early evidence of that.

While he was finishing up the Pickwick Papers he was also beginning to write Oliver Twist. That will be my next novel to read.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Beginning of the 2012 Dickens Challenge

Before I begin my reviews I just want to mention that I found 2 great biographies to use as references on Charles Dickens. The first is by GK Chesterton called simply Charles Dickens. While not exactly a contemporary of Dickens, Chesterton lived a few years after him and completely understands the life and times in which Dickens wrote. Chesterton also has an interesting take on the faith of Dickens that we will explore a bit as we go along. The second book is by a modern day biographer named Jane Smiley, a Pulitzer Prize winning American novelist. Her book is called Charles Dickens: A Life. She explores Dickens from a more modern perspective and examines his works with a more modern day literary approach. Both authors bring different perspectives to Dickens life and works and I’m enjoying reading them. I’ll do reviews of these books when I’ve finished them.

Charles Dickens was born on February 7, 1812. Early on he showed talent for acting and writing and his father often made him perform for guests. He was born into a moderately wealthy home and enjoyed some of the finer things in life. His Father lost his fortune and Charles was sent to the factory to work. He hated it. I found this an interesting fact about Dickens as it gave him context to be able to write authoritatively in either an aristocratic voice or in the voice of poverty as he had experienced both.

I’m about half way through The Pickwick Papers and will do my best to have a review of that book along with some more information about Dickens before the end of January. Stay tuned.