Saturday, June 15, 2019

A Family of Strangers: My Review

About the Book:

All her life Ryan Gracey watched her perfect older sister from afar. Knowing she could never top Wendy’s achievements, she didn’t even try. Instead Ryan forged her own path while her family barely seemed to notice.

Now Wendy shares two little girls with her perfect husband while Ryan mourns the man she lost after a nearly fatal mistake in judgment. The sisters’ choices have taken them in different directions, which is why Ryan is stunned when Wendy calls, begging for her help. There’s been a murder—and Wendy believes she’ll be wrongfully accused.

While Wendy lies low, Ryan moves back to their hometown to care for the nieces she hardly knows. The sleuthing skills she’s refined as a true-crime podcaster quickly rise to the surface as she digs for answers with the help of an unexpected ally. Yet the trail of clues Wendy’s left behind lead to nothing but questions. Blood may be thicker than water, but what does Ryan owe a sister who, with every revelation, becomes more and more a stranger?

Is Wendy, who always seemed so perfect, just a perfect liar—or worse?

My Comments:

I'm a reader of romance novels and women's fiction.  I rarely read murder mysteries, and when I do they tend to be packaged along with romance or women's fiction, like A Family of Strangers.  I'm smart enough to realize that these books are fiction, but when I finish reading any book, I like to think that once I accept the premise that these people lived at a certain time in a certain place, the rest of the book could be true--even if it is stupid self-published romance about aliens--once I accept that those aliens exist, I like to be able to consider the story plausible.  

This book begins with Ryan, who is a true-crime podcaster, getting a phone call from her much older sister.  The sister has been out of town on business, and is afraid she is going to be framed for a murder. She needs to disappear for a while.  Can Ryan watch the kids--she had left them with the grandparents, but Grandpa just had emergency heart surgery and Grandma can't handle everything.  Ok, so far, so good.  Maybe not the smartest move on the sister's part, but hey, I've never thought I'd be accused of murder, so who knows what was going through her mind.

Over the next few months, Ryan's sister, Wendy, drops some clues and Ryan does some sleuthing and finds out not only what likely happened to her sister, but also learned that some things about her own life weren't what she thought.  At the end, my only thought was "really?".  None of it made any sense.  Ryan followed this trail of clues but I just don't think that if the initiating incident had happened to the characters Richards drew that the rest of the story would have gone down that way.  Honestly the only halfway realistic part of the story was the romance plot and yes, surprisingly enough, she and the guy ended up together.  

While Emilee Richard's books are usually favorites, I'm afraid this one just wasn't.  

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy via NetGally.  Grade: C+

Monday, April 15, 2019

The View from Alameda Island

The View of Alameda Island

About the Book:

From the outside looking in, Lauren Delaney has a life to envy—a successful career, a solid marriage to a prominent surgeon and two beautiful daughters who are off to good colleges. But on her twenty-fourth wedding anniversary Lauren makes a decision that will change everything.

Lauren won’t pretend things are perfect anymore. She defies the controlling husband who has privately mistreated her throughout their marriage and files for divorce. And as she starts her new life, she meets a kindred spirit—a man who is also struggling with the decision to end his unhappy marriage.

But Lauren’s husband wants his “perfect” life back and his actions are shocking. Facing an uncertain future, Lauren discovers an inner strength she didn’t know she had as she fights for the love and happiness she deserves.

My Comments:

This book was unbelievable.  I don't mean exceptionally good or exceptionally bad; I mean that so many improbable things happened that by the end of the book there was no doubt that it was fiction.  While there was nothing that happened that in and of itself was impossible, the combination just had me shaking my head.  

One of the impossible stories had to do with a Catholic priest.  After many years in the priesthood, the last few on the "bishop track" Fr. Tim decides that while he still has faith in God and in the Church, he no longer wants to be a priest--he wants to work for an organization that serves the poor, and, of course, he doesn't want to be celibate anymore.  Once he makes the decision to leave, he gets into a relationship with a woman he has known for years and in the space of a few months has been laicized and has married the woman in a Catholic church.  

Ok, I can accept that if Robyn Carr is not Catholic she wouldn't realize how impossible that is, but the book main character's first marriages are each abusive in their own way and the behavior of each ex just gets stranger and stranger as the book progresses.  If either one of them had a spouse like those it would be unusual; that they both did?  Just bizarre.  At the end of the book something  happens to the ex's and it is all just too convenient.  

On the other hand, I really liked Lauren and how she stepped up to take control of her life.  Her new man is everything her husband wasn't--focused on her and what is good for her rather than on himself.  

All in all, I've seen much better from Carr but she did keep me reading and involved in the story until the end.  

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy via NetGalley.  Grade:  B-

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

A Sin By Any Other Name

About the Book:

The Reverend Robert W. Lee was a little-known pastor at a church in North Carolina until the Charlottesville protests, when he went public with his denunciation of white supremacy in a captivating speech at the MTV Video Music Awards. Adulation poured in from around the country, but so did threats of violence from people who opposed the Reverend's message. Weeks later, Lee was ousted from his church in North Carolina.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Gaze Upon Jesus: My Review

About the Book:

What if you had walked beside the Virgin Mary from the Annunciation to the point at which she and Joseph found Jesus in the temple? How might seeing Christ as a child impact you and your faith?

WINE: Women In the New Evangelization offers its second, six-week scripture study, this time following the infancy and early years of Christ as seen through the eyes of Mary and other familiar and imagined women in the gospels.

Founder Kelly Wahlquist and ten other members of WINE uniquely blend scripture reflections, imaginative encounters, and visio divina “sacred seeing” with practical spirituality and discussion questions that will help you take a prayerful and creative journey through Advent and the Christmas season.

Not much is known about the childhood of Jesus, but the Gospels highlight six key moments in his early life:

  • the angel Gabriel proclaiming Jesus’ birth to Mary at the Annunciation
  • a pregnant Mary visiting her cousin Elizabeth
  • the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem
  • the presentation of Jesus in the temple
  • the flight of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus to Egypt
  • discovering the twelve-year-old Jesus in the temple
Week by week, you will dig deep into each of the scriptural vignettes of Jesus’ early life and grow in your faith as you learn about virtues such as humility, patience, charity, reverence, prudence, and courage.

Each chapter uses an image that allows you to practice visio divina, the ancient practice of praying with sacred art. The images are included in an eight-page, full-color insert.

Gaze Upon Jesus will appeal to women who want to deepen their relationship with Jesus during Advent. Contributors to this inspiring scripture study include: Alyssa Bormes, Sarah Christmyer, Mary Healy, Maria Morera Johnson, Stephanie Landsem, Elizabeth Lev, Joan Lewis, Deborah Savage, Kelly Wahlquist, Katie Warner, and Carol Younger. Popular Catholic media personality Teresa Tomeo, also a member of WINE, wrote the foreword for the book.

As an individual or group study, Gaze Upon Jesus is a memorable way to encounter the God who sent his Son to show us his loving Father’s heart.

My Comments:

I like to write, but I've always said I'm more of a journalist than a novelist.  As much as I like to read and as many books as I have read, I don't have the desire/ability to create characters and to get inside their heads so to speak.  

One type of prayer that is often recommended is reading a story from the Bible and then imagining yourself in the scene and speaking to the characters.  Its not something I do well.  However, with Gaze Upon Jesus, I don't have to do it well; the authors already have. 

Each chapter in the book includes "the rest of the story".  Have you every wondered how Joseph found out Mary was pregnant?  Did Mary tell him?  Did he find out in the dream?  Did someone else tell him?  In this book, Joachim got the job, and after he had decided to take her into his home, Joseph traveled with Joachim to Elizabeth's house.  I'll let you read the book for the full story, but you can see where I'm going with this--the authors fill in the blanks left by Scripture.  I find these types of stories make Biblical characters much more real.

The book also contains prints of great pieces of art that depict the written about incidents, with the idea that you can use them as mediation aids.

I've really enjoyed this book and give it a B+.  Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy via NetGalley.  

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