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A Reluctant Queen

Reviewed by   Cathy

Just the Facts:  A Reluctant Queen by Joan Wolf Thomas Nelson 2011  

Verdict: ★★☆☆☆

Who Cares? Romance readers of all ages

Short Bio: Esther is coerced into submitting herself as a candidate to the new Persian King because her guardian uncle believes she can save the slave nation of Israel in Babylon.  She is a Jewess but was admonished to tell no one.  To her amazement, the King chooses her as queen.  For the next year, Esther falls in love with the King and the two of them become physically and emotionally intimate.

While she is queen, Esther begins a social justice program, namely disbanding the harem which she is ever jealous of.  She resents her uncle and God for placing her in a trapped environment in which she has a husband that she now loves and has lied to about her background.  As their love grows, the king and Esther spend whole summer vacations together and he declares to her that her influence in his life is supreme and he will deny her nothing.

Haman, the Edomite, who has a lone prejudice against Jews in general and her uncle in specific, plans and implements (in the king’s absence)an edict to kill all the Jews.  When Esther finds this out, she determines that the only way to save her people and her uncle is to risk her life by entering a male only ceremony, in which the king must raise his sceptre to grant her her life.  The entire palace staff come to her support and assure her that the whole country supports the Jewish community and she heads off to the ceremony assured that her influence with the king is strong enough to conquer all.  After the king grant Esther her life back, she confronts Haman in the presence of the King, acknowledging that she is a Jew and her people are in danger.  The king, disturbed that his reputation will be ruined if the country believes he is prejudice against the jews, rescinds Haman’s edict and hangs him.  He sends messengers to every part of the land to ignore the edict and the country, who all respect the jews, obey.  Esther and the King live happily ever after

Eyewitness Account:  

Historical Fiction can be a tricky genre.  The authors that do it the best, keep the skeleton of the events true and embellish the characters and the relationships.  Wolf wove a wonderful story, the characters were engaging and the plot moved at a lively pace.  But it was no more the story of Esther than Abraham Lincoln as short, fat and bald, or a Joan of Arc so fashion conscious she spent her days as a courtier.  She missed the entire love story as it truly was.  It went more like this…

The almighty God-bridegroom picked a bride/queen – Israel.  His bride was kidnapped by Babylon and sentenced to a life of slavery far from her home. When rumblings through the kidnap country threatened His bride, the bridegroom stepped into action to save her.  He picked a woman to be the symbol of his nation-bride and placed her in the kidnappers harem.  She was incognito and managed to stay out of the radar until it came to her attention that she had to appeal to the enslaver to acquire the freedom of her people.  

She had no friends in the harem and every reason to believe that her enslaver would kill her for initiating contact, which was strictly forbidden. She had no support save her bridegroom God and prayed unceasingly (as did the entire Jewish nation) for his power to go with her.  She approached the throne room knowing that she didn’t want to live if her people were all dead and wanted to die with them.  But the bridegroom God, worked a miraculous act and the enslaver remembered putting her in the harem while in a drunken stupor.  Esther has no basis with him to ask for a favor so she spends the next week, trying to establish a relationship of some sort by inviting him and Hamaan  to dinner on three different occasions.  On the last night, empowered only by the bridegroom God, she implores him to have mercy on her and her people.   But alas, it is too late,  a king’s edict once sealed is irrevocable.  But the enslaver, is touched by the power of the bridegroom God’s symbol of his love and permits the Jews to defend themselves.  A battle of  Lord of the Rings proportions ensues and the Bridegroom God again supernaturally rigs the battle and his bride not only is free of the enemies wishing to annihilate her, but it is the beginning of returning home to be reunited with her true love.   WOW!  Her story pales in comparison.

Notable Quotes:   “Esther feared that God would take her husband as punishment for her obedience.”

Other Books Read by This Author: None

Rating:

☆☆☆☆ Plot Development

★★☆☆☆ Characterization

★★★☆☆ Writing Style

★★☆☆☆ Original Idea

★★★☆☆ Page Turner

Overall

★★☆☆☆
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How to really love your adult children

Reviewed by Cathy Peterson

Just the Facts: by Gary Chapman 3-2011 Moody Publishing

Verdict: ★★★☆☆

Who Cares? parents of dysfunctional children

Short Bio: More than 10 years after Parenting Your Adult Child was published, much has changed – including young adults themselves, as well as their parents. Economic upheavals, challenges to traditional values and beliefs, the phenomenon of over-involved “helicopter parenting” – all make relating to grown children more difficult than ever. Yet at the same time, being a parent of an adult child can bring great rewards. This revised and updated version of Dr. Gary Chapman’s and Dr. Ross Campbell’s message will help today’s parents explore how to really love their adult child in today’s changing world. The book includes brief sidebars from parents of adult children and adult children themselves with their own stories. An online study guide will also be available.

Eyewitness Account: I really respect the knowledge that these authors brought to the table for the average parent trying to figure out the relationship with their now adult children.  And I’m sure that this book is a great resource for parents of drug addicts and and those with failure to thrive as adult issues.  However, my children just got married and one moved overseas.  They aren’t crowding my home.  I don’t want them to change or be more of anything.  I just wanted to know how I could have a more enriched relationship.  I felt like if my children weren’t dysfunctional in some way, that nothing could be lacking and the relationships were fine.   I would never deny someone with severe issues a chance at help.  But I felt really strange that not one of my questions about relationships the first year of marriage and if your child settles far away were even addressed.

Notable Quotes:

Other Books Read by This Author:

What are other people saying?

Rating:

★★★☆☆ Plot Development

★★☆☆☆ Characterization

★★★☆☆ Writing Style

★★★☆☆ Original Idea

★★★☆☆ Page Turner

Overall ★★★☆☆


The Janus Stone

Reviewed by Cathy Peterson

Just the Facts: by Elly Griffiths 1-2011 Houghton Mifflin

Verdict: ★★★☆☆

Who Cares? mystery/suspense readers

Short Bio: when construction workers demolishing a large old house in Norwich uncover the bones of a child beneath a doorway—minus its skull—Ruth is once again called upon to investigate. Is it a Roman-era ritual sacrifice, or is the killer closer at hand? Ruth and Detective Harry Nelson would like to find out—and fast. When they realize the house was once a children’s home, they track down the Catholic priest who served as its operator. Father Hennessey reports that two children did go missing from the home forty years before—a boy and a girl. They were never found. When carbon dating proves that the child’s bones predate the home and relate to a time when the house was privately owned, Ruth is drawn ever more deeply into the case. But as spring turns into summer it becomes clear that someone is trying very hard to put her off the trail by frightening her, and her unborn child, half to death.

Eyewitness Account: Despite the stereotypical vilification of church leaders, this books gives an interesting mystery to unravel and a nest of intertwined relationships to figure out.  The plot flowed nicely between character development and plot advancement. I’m looking forward to more from this author

Notable Quotes:

Other Books Read by This Author: The Crossing Places

What are other people saying?

Rating:

★★★☆☆ Plot Development

★★☆☆☆ Characterization

★★★☆☆ Writing Style

★★★☆☆ Original Idea

★★★☆☆ Page Turner

Overall ★★★☆☆


Lost Voices

Reviewed by Cathy Peterson

Just the Facts: by Sarah Porter 7-2011 Harcourt books

Verdict: ★★★☆☆

Who Cares? FICTION – JUVENILE: Family & Everyday Life: Family
FICTION – JUVENILE: Family & Everyday Life: Social Issues
FICTION – JUVENILE: Gender-Specific: Girls & Women
FICTION – JUVENILE: Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Magic

Short Bio:

Fourteen-year-old Luce has had a tough life, but she reaches the depths of despair when she is assaulted and left on the cliffs outside of her grim, gray Alaskan fishing village. She expects to die when she tumbles into the icy waves below, but instead undergoes an astonishing transformation and becomes a mermaid.
A tribe of mermaids finds Luce and welcomes her in—all of them, like her, lost girls who surrendered their humanity in the darkest moments of their lives. Luce is thrilled with her new life until she discovers the catch: the mermaids feel an uncontrollable desire to drown seafarers, using their enchanted voices to lure ships into the rocks. Luce’s own remarkable singing talent makes her important to the tribe—she may even have a shot at becoming their queen. However, her struggle to retain her humanity puts her at odds with her new friends. Will Luce be pressured into committing mass murder?

Eyewitness Account: This account of what happens to abused and molested children is heartrending.  Luce’s character is so easy to empathize with.  The use of male images, the sea, metamorphosis, and song add to the enchantment of this tale.  Even to the most detached reader, the societal structure and hierarchy the mermaids create for themselves are a very realistic look at how abused people will tend to treat each other.

Notable Quotes:

Other Books Read by This Author:

What are other people saying?

Rating:

★★★☆☆ Plot Development

★★☆☆☆ Characterization

★★★☆☆ Writing Style

★★★★ Original Idea

★★★☆☆ Page Turner

Overall ★★★☆☆


Genius Files – Mission Unstoppable

Reviewed by  Cathy Peterson

Just the Facts:By Dan Gutman 1-2011 Harper Collins

Verdict: ★★★★

Who Cares? Junior mystery and adventure readers

Short Bio: For twelve-year-old Coke McDonald and his twin sister Pep, this summer’s family cross-country RV vacation is nothing toget excited about…until Coke and Pep are chased off a cliff, locked in a burning school, and start receiving mysterious messages in codes and ciphers. Mom and Dad are lovably kooky and hilariously clueless, but Coke and Pep are more than up to the task. From California to Wisconsin, it’s a race against time to find out who’s after them, who’s leaving the notes…and just what being a part of The Genius Files entails!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Eyewitness Account:This book was tons of fun to read.  Who knew our country had so many fun things to see. Coke and Pep are a little “cute” but considering the danger they are in every chapter, a light attitude may be exactly what is called for.  These two use their brains and solve the toughest of problems with MacGyver-like utensils.  The best part of this book is that the reader can get online and follow the road trip taken as he reads each chapter.


Notable Quotes:

Other Books Read by This Author:

What are other people saying?

Rating:

★★★★ Plot Development

★★★★ Characterization

★★★★ Writing Style

★★★★ Original Idea

★★★★ Page Turner

Overall ★★★★


Smuggled

Reviewed by Cathy Peterson

Just the Facts: By Christina Shea 7-2011  Grove Atlantic Inc

VerSmuggleddict: ★★★★☆

Who Cares? Fiction, historical fiction,

Short Bio: When five-year-old Eva is trafficked from Hungary to Romania at the end of the war, she arrives in the fictional border town of Crisu, a pocket of relative safety, where she is given the name Anca Balaj by her aunt and uncle, and instructed never to speak another word of Hungarian again. “Eva is dead,” she is told. As the years pass, Anca proves an unquenchable spirit, full of passion and imagination, with a lust for life even when a backdrop of communist oppression threatens to derail her at every turn. Time is layered in this quest for self, culminating in the end of the Iron Curtain and Anca’s reclaiming of the name her mother gave her. When she returns to Hungary in 1990, the country is changing as fast as the price of bread, and Eva meets Martin, an American teacher who rents the apartment opposite hers and cultivates a flock of pigeons on his balcony. As Eva and Martin’s cross-cultural relationship deepens through their endeavor to rescue the boy downstairs from his abusive mother, Eva’s lifelong search for family and identity comes full circle.

Eyewitness Account:This book connects the reader with Eva with a very strong cord of excellent writing.  The reader immediately sees the dichotomy between left-handed, free-spirit, Eva and right-handed, submissive Anca.  As her life develops, with Anca’s crushed hand symbolizing the death Eva, one must read on to see if these two ladies will merge or if one must die for the survival of the other.   I was very impressed with the creativity of this plot, albeit, a bit disappointed that the solution to all problems turned out to be American?

Notable Quotes:  The best thing about Americans is they are not Germans.

Other Books Read by This Author:none

What are other people saying?

Rating:

★★★★☆ Writing Style

★★★☆☆ Organization

★★★★★ Original Idea

★★★★☆ Page Turner

Overall ★★★★☆


“Comfort” book mystery


Reviewed by Cathy

Just the Facts: Guilt by Association by Marcia Clark to be released April 2011 Galley edition by Netgalley

Verdict: ★★★☆☆

Who Cares?  FICTION – ADULT: Mystery, Detective, Suspense & Thrillers: Mystery & Detective

Short Bio:  Los Angeles D.A. Rachel Knight is a tenacious, wise-cracking, and fiercely intelligent prosecutor in the city’s most elite division. When her colleague, Jake, is found dead at a grisly crime scene, Rachel is shaken to the core. She must take over his toughest case: the assault of a young woman from a prominent family.

But she can’t stop herself from digging deeper into Jake’s death, a decision that exposes a world of power and violence and will have her risking her reputation–and her life–to find the truth.

With her tremendous expertise in the nuances of L.A. courts and crime, and with a vibrant ensemble cast of characters, Marcia Clark combines intimate detail, riotous humor, and visceral action in a debut thriller that marks the launch of a major new figure on the crime-writing scene.

Eyewitness Account: As a mystery connoisseur, this is what I call a comfort book. It has all the expected things people imagine in a mystery: A death leaving questions as to the reputation of the deceased, a nosy investigator getting involved in someone else’s case to the point of endangering her own job, a love affair with a member of the investigating competition that both gives access to all clues they found and challenges Rachel’s fear of relationships, lastly, a group of friends that help her pull off all the illegal things she does to solve the case. The natural evolution of plot and Marcia’s character development are definitely the whipped cream and cherry on top of this comfort, sundae mystery.

Other Books Read by This Author: I don’t know that Marcia has written any other fiction. Nonfiction includes Without a doubt and Marcia Clark: Her private trials and public triumphs

Rating:

★★★☆☆ Plot Development

★★★☆☆ Characterization

★★★★ Writing Style

★★☆☆☆ Original Idea

★★★☆☆ Page Turner

Overall ★★★☆☆


Pearl in the Sand

Reviewed by Cathy

Just the Facts:

Verdict: ★★★★

Who Cares? Christian Historical Fiction/Romance

Short Bio: Rahab hears of a holy and compassionate God moving his people across the country and directly to hers. Will she and her family be destroyed? Could it be this God cares about her more than the blood thirsty ones she knows or more than her family who sold her into prostitution? Will all she risks be enough to save them and then what? Where will she live and how will she continue after the city falls?

Rahab is a savvy and beautiful businesswoman. When she meets Salmone, she has no hope that such a distinguished man of integrity would find her of interest. Her only hope of fitting in with these strange new people is to study and win the approval of this wonderful God. After Salmone is wounded in battle, neither of them is sure what God’s future for either of them will be. Rahab is sure that her past can never be put behind her and she will be unworthy for the rest of her life. How will these two be able to find a life together?

Eyewitness Account: This was the most delightful account of a story I have known since the age of 6. Not many people have taken on the hard questions this story brings. Why would Rahab betray her own city? How could a prostitute just join the Israel nation and end up a matriarch of the line of Christ? How does she reclaim her purity enough to have a normal married relationship?

Tessa tells the sweetest story of God calling and wooing a woman to himself. I loved every page of this, a true love story.

Other Books Read by This Author: As far as I know, this is Tessa’s first novel

 

Rating:

★★★★★ Plot Development

★★★★★ Characterization

★★★★ Writing Style

★★★★★ Original Idea

★★★☆☆ Page Turner

Overall ★★★★