Saturday, August 30, 2014

Caroline's Secret, by Amy Lillard

Amy Lillard is a new author for me, but I have always enjoyed reading stories about the Amish and their way of life. In this installment, Caroline and her daughter Emma have moved to Oklahoma to Well's Landing, an Amish community. They hope to start their lives a new with a new home, a new community and having left the past behind.

Enter Andrew Fitch, an Englisher, who moves to Well's landing to work for his uncle. He is also looking for a fresh start as a widower. He just needs to leave the past and forge a new life. Little does he realize that it will involve an Amish woman and her daughter.

But Caroline has a secret from her past that needs to come out. This secret can mean the difference between starting over or living with guilt and bitterness.

Amy Lillard explores issues of Forgiveness, Grace and Mercy. She explores our need to express our hurts, our pasts, our disappointments and live life in the present not the past or the future.

I enjoyed the book very much. It is a bit predictable, as many Amish stories are, but still this one is fresh and new and the underlying issues that are explored make it very worth the reading.

Worthy Brown's Daughter, by Phillip Margollin

Worthy Brown is a slave. His owner takes Worthy and his daughter to Oregon to look for new opportunities, but also to flee the problems that he has created in the south. Attorney Caleb Barbour is not a nice man. He is also a lawyer with no ethics. That has gotten him in trouble.

Then there is Matthew Penny, another lawyer with great moral character and a desire to serve even those who cannot afford to pay him. Needless to say Penny and Barbour are not going to like each other. Especially when Worthy Brown realizes that he can be demand his freedom from Barbour since Oregon doesn't hold to slavery. Barbour grants the request but keeps Worthy's daughter, Roxanne.

Worthy hires Penny to sue Barbour to get his daughter back. Thus enters the intrigue of a lawsuit.

Woven throughout this though is the other stories. Sharon Hill is a former prostitute who seduces men to get her way and her money. Enter Benjamin Gillette a wealthy widower whom Hill sets her sites on. Then enter Judge Jed Tyler who sets his sites on Hill. So, now you have a love triangle where there truly is no love.

Wrap all this up with a true love story in Penny falling in love with Heather Gillette, Benjamin's daughter, and you add to the mix.

The story is written in pure Phillip Margolin style. It is fast paced and intriguing. You are drawn in by the good development of the characters and you are also drawn in by the historical background of Oregon in the mid 1800's. Add to that the issue of slavery, the presidential election of Lincoln and a bunch of other hard nose characters and you have a story that you will thoroughly enjoy.

This is a great end of summer read as you head towards the fall and back to the major routines of life. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Nine Years Gone, by Chris Culver

Steve Hale did something as a college student that seemed correct at the time but now is coming back to haunt him. Nine years ago he helped his girlfriend, Tess Girard, disappear. But they also framed her father, Dominique for her kidnapping and murder. But the body was never found, because Tess never died.

Now, nine years later, Dominique has been put to death by the State of Missouri for his conviction, and Tess has resurfaced into Steve's life and is causing major trouble.

Steve is married and working on adopting his niece. He is a successful writer and his wife a successful doctor. But their lives are about to change as Tess brings death, turmoil, seduction and blackmail into their lives. Tess wants Steve back. She also wants Steve to kill her mother so that she can get more money from the family.

Chris Culver is a great writer, the mystery and suspense are fantastic. His writing will keep you turning the pages and keep you guessing about how it is going to turn out until the very last chapter.

I thought this was one of the best mystery / thrillers that I have read in several years. I can't give it six stars, but I would have.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Take Back the Morning, by Evan Howard

My first disclaimer, this book is listed in the Christian Book Category.  Unfortunately I have some definite frustration with the Christianity that is portrayed in the book.  The main character, Justin, is unable to formulate a good argument for faith in Jesus without the aid of a pendant that appears to give him the edge in his preaching, that edge seems to be achieved by how the pendant seems to capture the listener and sway them.  If the speaker is evil, then the pendant sways towards evil.  If the speaker is good, then it sways towards good.

Also the book talks more about loving each other and living in peace than it does about Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.  Yes, there are parts in the novel where Jesus is shown in a good light and as the one who changes lives, but the main message appears more watered down than correct.

NOW FOR THE REVIEW OF THE BOOK -- without taking theology into account.

Justin Connelly disappeared and was presumed dead after the 9/11 attacks.  He was in the North Tower along with his coworkers.  They were stockbrokers.  He and his employer, Candace, fled down the stairs and got out just as the tower started to collapse.

Justin took the opportunity to disappear from his former life.  He was ashamed of his actions of deception in stock trading, and he was ashamed of his actions in regards to his marriage to Tori.

Now, two years later we catch up with Justin as he is sailing with friends and they run into a storm and are almost drowned.  Justin rescues one of his friends but then ends up in a coma (for six hours?  really a coma lasts longer than that). During the time of his coma he has a near death experience of visiting hell and eventually meeting Jesus.  He is given a second chance and sent back to earth to finish a task.

The book has mystery, spiritual warfare, romance, history/archeology.  There is an interesting story weaved here by Howard, but I couldn't get passed what I termed a poor theology.

So, the book gets 1 star for being Christian (it is a very poor reflection of Christianity) and 5 stars for intrigue and mystery.  Thus I end up with three stars.

I'm not sure who to recommend this to.  Yes it is fiction, but the theology is poor and should have been developed more carefully.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Inca's Death Cave: An Archaeological Mystery, by Bradford Wheler

Where do I start. I thought this book was about Archeology. Well, it is. BUT, it is also about history, technology, the Vatican, a Billionaire and well, a bunch of young adults who have nothing better to do than develop cutting edge software while helping solve an archeological mystery of hundreds of years.

TECHNOLOGY: Wheler will describe so many computer ideas both hardware and software that you will need a degree in computer science to keep up. He also will hit on drones, surveillance devices and cutting edge aircraft to make you think the book is about modern toys of the rich. Then he will have a Billionaire that seems to be just a bit to nice for us to believe, but believe we must.

ARCHEOLOGY: Now we have a Cornell University Professor and his Graduate Assistant who become the main focal point of the novel. They are bright, engaging, fun loving and just plain normal people, or are they? Abbey is a Phd student who has a steel trap mind for details and information. She may be about archeology, but her grasp of information makes her a waking computer data base. Not just about archeology but history, finances, economy, computers, etc. It's almost unreal to think someone can be this gifted. But gifted she is.

Abbey is going to help the professor work through the historical documents that they need to find the Inca Death Cave and the secrets that is holds. She will become proficient in ancient 1600's era Spanish as well as modern Spanish so that she can read the history and texts of monks and scribes in their original languages instead of in the rough English translations. The professor is not that gifted.

Then there are the "Reject Team" members that Walter Falone (the billionaire) assigns to help the professor. THEY ARE NOT REJECTS by any stretch of the imagination. They are geniuses in their own fields. These young people will help the professor and Abbey achieve the unachievable.

Now, don't get me wrong, Professor Rob is not an old dottering fool. He is brilliant in his own way and understands people, students, issues and science enough to lead the group to achieve what Walter Falone hopes they can achieve.

This book is so well written that even though you start to get lost in the descriptions of technology and science you can't help keep reading. You want to know what is going to happen.

I kind of lost track but I think there are maybe six plot lines that you will follow. They all are fun. They all are interesting, and they all pull together to form one giant great novel of mystery and intrigue.


Monday, August 18, 2014

The Billionaire Club, by Will Dresser

On New Years Day the richest man in the world and his entire family is gunned down by the Mexican Cartel, or was it someone else? This is the beginning of the end for the world's Billionaires. It turns out that someone is taking his time in killing off the richest people in the world in order of their wealth.

As each one is moved to the top slot they become the next target. Wes Franklin and his team see the pattern and try to take action. But their adversary is a bit to slick for them and is able to continue his hunt for the Billionaires. At issue is his desire to obtain their wealth through false documents that change the wills of the Billionaires.

Eventually Franklin and his team will meet up with an old friend, and I mean a very old friend, Jared Kennan Cain. Can Cain help them put an end to the chaos?

The book is well written and it appears that Dresser is improving with every book. Having met with the author on one occasion to discuss his books I appreciate his desire to bring history, Egyptian antiquities and murder and mystery together. I think he does a very good job. His book is well researched and his use of multiple international locations is superb. He gives good and accurate detail to the sites that he uses in the book.

His character development is good. While we know the main heroes of the story he brings in new villains that he has to develop, and develop them he does. We get to know Reggie Harper, a billionaire in his own right very well. We get to know his greed, his pure evil, his desire to accumulate more and more wealth with no concern for others. His team of thugs is also amazing. A former Ultra Flight Club Champion who is the worlds deadilest weapons free fighter. His fists can put down an elephant. He is also ruthless.

Then there is the right hand man for Reggie, Bruce Billingsley. He is the accountant, computer genius who has the ability to break through any fire wall and steal money out from under the noses of even the most meticulous billionaire and his lawyers.

All these come together to form a gang of cutthroats who don't care one whit about men, women or children when it comes to getting what they want.

The story is a great descriptor of the greed that can consume anyone in our world today. The story is fast paced and riveting, but the moral implications are stunning and frightening.

Thanks Will for another great book.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Shadow Maker by James Hannibal

Friends, this is the second book by James Hannibal.  Shadow Catcher was his first.  I have become internet friends with James as we share some very common beliefs.  He is a Christian and has a strong work ethic and moral integrity.  He is a former U.S. Air Force Pilot.  He has flown the A-10 Wart Hog, Predator Drones and the B-2 Stealth Bomber.  He knows his stuff.  That makes this book very interesting in that he takes the story a step beyond a Predator Drone strike to show the aftermath and reprisal's that it can bring.

I truly hope you will give James a read.  He also has a blog at

Nick Baron is back and in for the Chess game of his life. Baron is part of a team that has used drones to deliver killing strikes at terrorist targets. But he and the others take great pains to avoid collateral damage at all costs.

They have track a terrorist to his dessert home and are ready to strike. There appears to be no one there that would keep them from launching the attack. So, it is confirmed and put into play. BUT, then walks out the son of the terrorist that they are after. They try to abort the mission but it is too late. The explosion comes at a cost, collateral damage.

This collateral damage will come back to haunt Nick and all his friends and workers at Romeo Seven. They will be targeted for death because of this drone strike.

Not only that but the world will be brought to it's knees by the terrorist who wants revenge. Can Nick and the Romeo Seven organization be able to stop the destruction or will they be eliminated one by one as the chess game plays on.

James Hannibal brings us a mystery/military thriller that will give you a reason to stop and think through what the importance of our drone project is, what war is truly like, what happens when collateral damage occurs and finally what love and loyalty can make people do.

The action is non-stop and you will be drawn in and not want to stop reading until you get to the end.

One thing I thought about while reading this story is the historical fact that many coups that happened throughout history had the victor executing all of the family members of the former King or Dictator. I always wondered why they would do that when it included innocent children and women. Well, Hannibal gives us a good reason to understand why that practice use to happen and was more the norm than the unusual.

Nick will deal with a lost breed of ancient assassins who are fanatical in their desire to bring hurt and pain to the people whom their leader wants brought down. But their work is to start by killing all those around their final victim to inflict as much hurt and pain as possible.

What will happen to Nick, to Romeo Seven, to Nick's family and his friends?

So, why did I give the book four stars? Well, the book is good, but I am sure that Hannibal will get better with more writing and bring us another book that will be the one that hits it out of the park. Hannibal just has a little more maturing to do as a writer.

The read is good, enjoy!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Nantucket Sisters, by Nancy Thayer

A nice romantic summer read. It is a classic story of two young girls who grow a friendship across the boundaries that class distinction usually tries to set. Emily is from a wealthy family that comes to Nantucket during the summer months to their several million dollar home for a summer get-away. Magee is the young girl who lives on the island year round and would be consider lower middle income. Her mother is a seamstress and her father has abandoned the family.

Despite their differences the girls become wonderful friends and share as much time together as they can growing up. The story will at times skip a few years to bring you to a new level of development. These skips do not deter from the story at all.

Magee's mom meets a man who also lives on Nantucket year around but is not part of the wealthy jet set crowd. Although he has substantial land holdings for a Nantucket local. He owns a 25 acre farm and a small home in the town. Thaddeus Ramsdale marries Magee's mom, Frances, and moves Frances and her two children to the farm.

Thaddeus is a wonderful influence for Ben, Frances' son and also for Magee. The kids grow up become teenagers and then young adults. Class distinction becomes more prevalent, but the girls continue to be friends.

I won't give the rest of the story away, you need to read it on your own. There are several topics that the writer will Thayer will address in her story. They would be;

1. Class distinction and the harm that it brings to children and teens
2. The problems that absentee parents can bring on teenagers (they don't mature and grow easily into wisdom)
3. The problem of young people experimenting with alcohol and sex
4. The theme of two young adults who aren't ready for parenthood and marriage jumping into it because of a baby not because of love.
5. The problem of being a single parent.

Now, let me say this. I was not a fan of the casual sexual relations that are portrayed in the book. I know that is todays culture, but it still bothers me. I was appreciative of Thayer not writing explicit detailed sexual scenes. I was also appreciative of how Thayer leads the casual sex into the typical result of unwanted pregnancies that change the life course direction of young people who are not yet ready for parenthood or understand what marriage will bring.

She does give us a great view though of two young girls, pregnant before they want, but who turn out to be the best of parents to their girls.

I'm sure you will enjoy this read and find that there are enough plot twists to keep you interested.