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Sunday, May 13, 2018

My review of The Masterpiece by Francine Rivers

About the book:

A successful LA artist, Roman Velasco appears to have everything he could possibly want―money, women, fame. Only Grace Moore, his reluctant, newly hired personal assistant, knows how little he truly has. The demons of Roman’s past seem to echo through the halls of his empty mansion and out across his breathtaking Topanga Canyon view. But Grace doesn’t know how her boss secretly wrestles with those demons: by tagging buildings as the Bird, a notorious but unidentified graffiti artist―an alter ego that could destroy his career and land him in prison.

Like Roman, Grace is wrestling with ghosts and secrets of her own. After a disastrous marriage threw her life completely off course, she vowed never to let love steal her dreams again. But as she gets to know the enigmatic man behind the reputation, it’s as if the jagged pieces of both of their pasts slowly begin to fit together . . . until something so unexpected happens that it changes the course of their relationship―and both their lives―forever.

My review:

The MasterpieceThe Masterpiece by Francine Rivers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this book, though I suspected that I would given the author is one of my favorites. I haven't read a novel by Francine Rivers in the past four years, though, so it's been awhile. This story was engaging and well-written. Then again, all of her novels are easy to digest and enjoy. This story was set during the present day and in California. One of the main characters went from rags to riches and discovered both poverty and wealth bred discontent. The other main character lived under a cloud of shame for past mistakes as many women do. Of course, her choices came from a life of insecurity that started when she was a young child. She had lost her parents and was resented by the person tasked to take care of her. The characters had intense backgrounds and shared a trauma bond of sorts, though they didn't even realize that was one of the things that attracted them to each other in the first place.

I tend to enjoy historical novels the most, but I did enjoy this story for the redemption theme and example of how waiting on God's timing is always best. Jumping ahead will only get us hurt. Often our impulsive behavior interferes with God's greater plan. The message was clear. God can save anyone, but we have to trust Him and not try to change the person ourselves. We know this is true (those of us that believe) but this story shows how that process could ideally happen. Good story.

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Sunday, February 25, 2018

My review of Bread of Angels by Tessa Afshar

About the book:

Purple. The foundation of an influential trade in a Roman world dominated by men. One woman rises up to take the reins of success in an incredible journey of courage, grit, and friendship. And along the way, she changes the world.

But before she was Lydia, the seller of purple, she was simply a merchant's daughter who loved three things: her father, her ancestral home, and making dye. Then unbearable betrayal robs her of nearly everything.

With only her father's secret formulas left, Lydia flees to Philippi and struggles to establish her business on her own. Determination and serendipitous acquaintances--along with her father's precious dye--help her become one of the city's preeminent merchants. But fear lingers in every shadow, until Lydia meets the apostle Paul and hears his message of hope, becoming his first European convert. Still, Lydia can't outrun her secrets forever, and when past and present collide, she must either stand firm and trust in her fledgling faith or succumb to the fear that has ruled her life.

My review:

I've read two of Tessa's books prior to this one. Both made my favorites list for that year mainly because I read them practically straight through. As a reader, I want to get lost in a book to the point that I forget I am reading. Tessa's writing is very good.

That said, this story didn't grab me as much as the others. But that may have more to do with the distractions I've had this year than the story itself. This novel features Lydia, a character came from the New Testament, and the other two books featured women from the Old Testament. The author did a good job setting up the New Testament time period and developed the setting so I could relate to the characters. I also saw Paul and his followers through Lydia's eyes. That was well done.  This story was never boring, just different,

I found some parts of this book to be more captivating than others, probably due to my familiarity with the story like the woman that followed Paul and Silas around saying they were servants of the most high God. Like most Biblical fiction authors, Tessa offers a fresh perspective that may cause you to ponder your life and priorities. At any rate, this book is worth taking the time to read if you enjoy Biblical fiction.

Bread of Angels was published by Tyndale Fiction and released in June 2017,

Saturday, February 24, 2018

My review of Shadows of Hope by Georgiana Daniels

About the book:

A story of hope in the aftermath of inconceivable betrayal and broken dreams...

What if. . .you struggled with infertility but unknowingly befriended your husband’s pregnant mistress?

What if. . .the woman you were seeing behind your wife’s back gets pregnant, threatening your job and marriage?

What if. . .your boyfriend never told you he was married and you discover you’re pregnant?

Crisis pregnancy worker Marissa Moreau suspects her husband is cheating, but little does she know how close to home her husband’s infidelity hits. College student Kaitlyn Farrows is floundering after a relationship with her professor leaves her pregnant. Soon she lands a job and a support system at the local pregnancy resource center and things seem to be turning around. But when Marissa and Kaitlyn become friends, neither one knows they share a connection—Colin, Marissa’s husband and Kaitlyn’s former professor. When their private lives collide, the two women must face the ultimate test of their faith and choose how to move forward as they live in the shadows of hope.

My review:

I loved the realistic theme in this book and particularly how it ends. Things don't always go the way we might expect, or even hope for in life. To portray a different ending would be to fluff up the harsh realities that are the consequences of our actions. Every action we take in life directly influences the lives of others whether they are complicit in the sin, or not. Too often the innocent are hurt the most. And some things can never be made right no matter how hard we try.

Ironically, I knew someone in the very same situation as the characters in this book. I can't be specific or it would be a spoiler. Let me just say that I found the ending to be very believable because the exact same thing happened to a friend of mine. They say truth is stranger than fiction. It would seem a bit too much of a coincidence if I hadn't known what happened to my friend by direct report. Any other ending would not have rung true to me. Bravo to the author for crafting a scenario that depicts what would really happen as opposed to what people wish would happen. I found even the internal dialog to be honest.

This is a bit of a heart-wrenching and sobering read, but it was well-thought-out and also very well-written. I enjoyed it and highly recommend it to people who are tired of stories that have unrealistic themes. This is a story you can really sink your teeth into. Savor it. I know I did.

Shadows of Hope will be released in April 2018. I was sent a review copy (ARC) from the author in exchange for an honest review. Most of the books I've started over the past two years I haven't finished. I can honestly say that I finished this one because it held my interest. To go ahead and pre-order your copy at a discounted price on Amazon click  HERE

Sunday, January 14, 2018

My review of The White Queen by Philippa Gregory

About the book:

Philippa Gregory presents the first of a new series set amid the deadly feuds of England known as the Wars of the Roses.

Brother turns on brother to win the ultimate prize, the throne of England, in this dazzling account of the wars of the Plantagenets. They are the claimants and kings who ruled England before the Tudors, and now Philippa Gregory brings them to life through the dramatic and intimate stories of the secret players: the indomitable women, starting with Elizabeth Woodville, the White Queen.

The White Queen tells the story of a woman of extraordinary beauty and ambition who, catching the eye of the newly crowned boy king, marries him in secret and ascends to royalty. While Elizabeth rises to the demands of her exalted position and fights for the success of her family, her two sons become central figures in a mystery that has confounded historians for centuries: the missing princes in the Tower of London whose fate is still unknown. From her uniquely qualified perspective, Philippa Gregory explores this most famous unsolved mystery of English history, informed by impeccable research and framed by her inimitable storytelling skills.

With The White Queen, Philippa Gregory brings the artistry and intellect of a master writer and storyteller to a new era in history and begins what is sure to be another bestselling classic series from this beloved author. 

My review:

This book was easy to read and held my interest. I had a lot of interruptions so it took longer than usual to finish, but that was by no means due to story. The characters were solid and believable. After watching The White Queen on Starz (three times) I decided to buckle down and read the book. I loved story as much, if not more than, the others (Red Queen, White Princess, etc. that I've read previously.)

Philippa has a way with words that brings scenes to life. She writes with a dignity that is refreshing because she doesn't need to infiltrate the stories she writes with sex in order to truly entertain. The book followed the made-for-TV series closely. The mini-series was based on her novels about the Tudors and Plantagenets. I've been fascinated by the Cousins' wars (War of the Roses) for years. The brutality of power and the fear that infiltrated their minds and hearts made it a tough time to live in. All stories set in Medieval England fascinate me. I would highly recommend this book to historical fiction lovers- especially those who find the 1400 -1550s intriguing.

The White Queen was published by Touchstone Books and released in August 2009. 

Sunday, December 03, 2017

The Courage of a Samurai by Lori Tsugawa Whaley

About the book:

The Courage of a Samurai is a Japanese American's journey into bushido, the samurai's code of ethics. Each chapter features a timeless message about Japanese and Japanese Americans who applied the principles of courage, integrity, benevolence, respect, honesty, honor, and loyalty to overcome life's challenges, and emerge stronger individuals. The Courage of a Samurai provides the reader a look 'inside' this ancient code through the lives of inspiring individuals.

Why did Chiune Sugihara, aka the Japanese Schindler, save the lives of Polish and Lithuanian Jews during World War II against the orders of the Japanese and Lithuanian governments? Understand the meaning of Honor in Saigo Takamori's, aka The Last Samurai, determination to preserve the samurai's way of life. Learn why "Go for Broke!" was the motto of the famous World War II all-Nisei 100th/442nd RCT, and discover why this simple motto reflects the essence of the way of the warrior.

The Code of Bushido can guide us through the challenges we all face, and inspire us to live a life of honor, courage, and integrity in today's fast-paced and changing world. Sharpen your sword, and let the journey begin!

My review:

I enjoyed this book. I don't typically read much non-fiction (though it seems like I have been reading more these past few years.) I decided to read this book because it featured Japanese culture and values and I wanted to learn about those things. Many of the examples used came from WWII heroes. That was a dark time in American history when we put people in internment camps simply because of their national origin. America put people in prison (even if they were born as American citizens) based on their racial background "just in case" they were Imperial Japan sympathizers. I enjoyed reading about those heroic events, then I set the book aside and forgot where I placed it so a few months went by... and recently I found it and finished it.

I do find WWII era stories interesting when they are based on real events and real people. I read a book in the series for children called "I am America" and they shared historical information that children need to know. Until I read that book for my son's library at his school I didn't know anything about the internment camps. Then I found out some were still around and can be seen today (though no longer used) like the one in Arizona near Gila River.

Anyway, I really enjoyed the examples the author used. In some ways the way the book was written was simplistic enough to understand, yet deep enough to be meaningful. The takeaway value in this books is self-sacrifice for honor is a beautiful thing. I hope to remember that the next time I want to put myself first and am feeling self-centered. We all have our days since we are human, but there is a part of me that wants to embody the traits of the Samurai that are outlined in the book. 

The Courage of a Samurai: Seven Sword-Sharp Principles for Success was published by and released in October 2016. You can buy a copy HERE
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