Thursday, June 24, 2010

Review: A Fine Line

A Fine Line is the fifth and final book of the Baxter Series by Kathy Herman.

From the back cover: "The city council voted to let Thompson Tire Corporation build a plant in Baxter, threatening the town's quaint culture."  Once again there are rumors flying in Baxter.  It is believed that the mayor's vote was swayed because of an alleged relationship with Sheila Paxton, the attorney for the tire company, instead of his belief that this plant will help the community financially.  Ellen Jones, the editor of the newspaper, once again finds herself a part of the story after Sheila dies suddenly.  Will she dig into Sheila's past?  Is she in danger if she does?  Is she in danger if she doesn't?  Who is she in danger from?  And what do they want from her?

The other big plot point in this book is the ruined reputation of Mayor Charlie Kirby because of his alleged relationship with Sheila Paxton.  Will he and his wife be able to work out their relationship?

This book is one of my favorites in this series (the other being Day of Reckoning).  Kathy Herman kept the suspense high throughout the book, right to the end, unlike the last two where the latter part of the book was focused on relationships and reconciliation after the major conflict was resolved.  I also loved the way she tied important information from the previous books into this book to tie it all together, as a farewell to characters I have come to know and love.  A reminder of what the town has gone through.  It was finally in this book I realized that Ellen is the character who has a major role and who ties everything together.

All in all, I give this book 5 stars.  I love the sentimentality, the suspense gripping the reader throughout the book, the twists and the way she worked with Mayor Kirby and his wife through their relationship troubles.  And the reminder that there is a fine line to guard against going over when it comes to fidelity in marriage.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Spring Reading Thing 2010 Wrap Up

It's time to wrap up the Spring Reading Thing 2010.  

Summer just crept right up on me.  In fact, looking at Hannah, and realizing she is 2 months old, is so shocking, I have no idea where these last two months have gone.  Furthermore, I can't believe we are almost halfway through this year already. Time really does fly.  Why is it that time really does seem to go faster as you get older?  

I realize I started this challenge late, but I set my goals and it seems I set them a tad too high.  In other words, to answer Katrina's first question posted over at Callapidder Days, "NO" I didn't finish the books on my list and I am a bit upset with myself.  I started out strong, I thought.  I had changed my list a few weeks into when I started the challenge because I had discovered some different books I wanted to read.  I posted about that here.  From my updated list, here are the books I did finish.

From the Christian Suspense:

Deadline by Randy Alcorn (which I have yet to review, but I loved it)
Tested by Fire by Kathy Herman
Day of Reckoning by Kathy Herman
Vital Signs by Kathy Herman
High Stakes by Kathy Herman
A Fine Line by Kathy Herman
(the last two books in the Baxter series by Kathy Herman above were not on my list but I couldn't put the series down once I got started.  Which is one reason why I didn't finish all the books I planned to read.  You can read reviews for all the books in the Baxter series at my book blog, Me, Myself, I Read.  
As stated in the update post, I did put Dominion by Randy Alcorn on hold for now as it was just so long and bulky so it was difficult to hold while nursing, which is when I do the majority of my reading.  

I did not finish any of the books in my Non Fiction category.  I am trying to read Better Late Than Early: A New Approach to Your Child's Education by Raymond S. Moore.  It is hard for me to get into this book for some reason.  I am reading Einstein Never Used Flash Cards by Kathy Kirsh-Pasek and Roberta Michnick Golinkoff , but the second half of the book is not as easy for me to focus on.  And I started reading Storm Warning by Billy Graham but then I misplaced it.  

I have definitely been addicted to my fiction books.  In fact, I started reading Twilight by Stephenie Meyer again in anticipation of the Eclipse movie coming out next week.  I have also started reading The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod, another vampire series my daughter's friends are reading and she decided she would read after finishing Breaking Dawn.  Seeing as she is at her dad's this week, mommy helped herself to the books when they became available through the library.  

From the Nancy Drew challenge:

The Secret of the Old Clock
The Hidden Staircase
The Bungalow Mystery (I technically finished this one morning of the 21st, so I probably shouldn't count it, but I wanted to mention I had finished it, though I haven't written my review yet)  
You can also find reviews for these books over at Me, Myself, I Read.

I realize I had better pick up the pace if I am going to reach my goal for my other reading challenges I am participating in.  To see all the challenges I am participating in go here.

I would like to answer some more of Katrina's questions in the remainder of this post.

  • What was your favorite book that you read this spring? Least favorite? Why?
           It is a toss up for me when it comes to picking a favorite book.  I enjoyed both Day of Reckoning and A Fine Line by Kathy Herman.  I feel, out of the series, these two held the most suspense and kept me glued to the book.    Better Late than Early by Raymond S. Moore would have to be my least favorite because of my difficulty in being able to get into it.

  • Did you discover a new author or genre this spring? Did you love them? Notlove them?
I am so glad I started participating in these reading challenges.  I am now addicted to Christian Suspense!  I found a great site called The Suspense Zone that lists Christian Suspense authors and the suspense books they wrote.  i am looking forward to reading more by Kathy Herman, for starters.

  • Did you learn something new because of Spring Reading Thing 2010 — something about reading, or yourself, or a topic you read about?
I didn't really learn anything new about myself.  Just the same old, same old... Give me a fiction book and I will bury myself in it.

  • What was your favorite thing about the challenge?
I enjoyed the fact that there was no pressure in this challenge.

Head on over to Callapidder Days' Wrap Up Post to see the list of links to all the other wrap up posts to see how everyone else has done.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Review: High Stakes

This is the fourth book in the Baxter Series by Kathy Herman.  In this book Angie Marks arrives in town as the trial of Billy Joe Sawyer draws near.  She has tattoos and body piercings, which causes the locals, who are focused on her appearance, to gossip about her and reject her.  She has a hard time finding a job, until Mr Bailey hires her as a live in housekeeper, causing his family to question his judgement.  She is in town for a reason that only she knows, but when there are attacks on key witnesses in the murder trial people begin to suspect her involvement just because of her appearance.  
When Angie is implicated in a gruesome murder the community feels they were right to suspect her.  And because the accused killer has taken her into hiding with him she is unable to try to prove her innocence.  At the same time the real killer is out there and she is not safe.
This is a story of looking past appearances and into the heart.  Once again, not letting yourself become judgmental of people who are different than yourself.  I have to say this was not one of my favorites in the series.  The suspense conflict is resolved by the middle of the book and the author then focuses on the mystery of why Angie is in Baxter to begin with.  It becomes a story of family reconciliation.  I do have to say there is more of a whodunit in the mystery of who really committed the murder.  But the way it was resolved seem too convenient, almost unbelievable, and it was almost as if the author wanted to get that part of the story over with and concentrate on the story of Angie.  I do like the relationship that developed between Mr Bailey and Angie.
All in all I would have to give this book 3 stars. I did find it ironic that this book was actually listed as a suspense book on the website where I found lists of Christian Suspense authors and their books, while the first books in the series, which I found more suspenseful, were not.  The website is called The Suspense Zone.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Review: The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner

Here's another book I didn't have listed as one I wanted to get read by June 20th for the Spring Reading Thing.  Fortunately it was a quick read (would have been quicker if I had a print copy, seeing as my computer was going way to slow and would stop responding).  Okay, now on to the book.

The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner is a novella by Stephenie Meyer.  In this story the author shares the story of the newborn vampire army that is being created by Victoria in the third book of the Twilight Saga: Eclipse.  The author shares, in her introduction, that she chose to highlight Bree's perspective because she is the one newborn that Bella had a name for and whom we, as readers, have any focus on besides Victoria and Riley.  She is also the newborn who lives the longest so we can get the story of the attack through to the end.  The story begins with Bree having already been a vampire for several months.  It takes place within the week that they will be attacking the Cullens.  The reader is introduced to a horde of vampires, some of which we begin to know better than others.  We see the precarious lives they lead, the constant uncertainty of survival when you are a being surrounded by others who are out of control, violent and blood-thirsty.  Bree becomes close to two other newborns, Diego and Fred, and we see how she tries hard to avoid detection by everyone else in order to preserve her life.  This book just expands upon the background story of what is happening in Seattle while the events of Eclipse are taking place.  But we do get some of Bree's story in her memories, not a lot though.  And we get some insights that bring to light some details that occur in both Eclipse and Breaking Dawn.

I really enjoyed this story, but it was depressing to realize Bree was discovering truths about a world she would shortly have no part in.  By learning about this newborn vampire world through the eyes of a newborn the reader can see how different and unusual  Bella really was after she became a vampire.  As I read this book I realized I had compassion for vampires, not just Bree but the others as well.  They were being used by Victoria, and instead of just being killed outright for the vampire's nourishment, they were changed with no hope for a future, because one way or another they would end up dead.  I found it interesting that Ms. Meyer had the newborns believing things about vampires that everyone who knows anything about vampires probably believed to be true, until reading her version of what vampires can and can't do.  One other thing, I don't remember the vampire's skin when exposed to sun being described in quite the same way in the series.  Though, as I was thinking about it I realized in the series we get Bella's point of view and she is seeing with human eyes.  In the novella we always see through vampire eyes. 

I really anticipated being able to see the Cullen family again, even if it was only through Bree's eyes for a short time and the story didn't disappoint.  And through Bree's eyes we at last had a glimpse of what was happening at the main battle while Edward and Bella were being attacked by Victoria and Riley.

Very well done.  I wish Stephenie Meyer would consider sharing more of the Twilight world through other stories seen through the eyes of other minor characters.  Of course I really wish she could finish Midnight Sun because by seeing the story through Edward's eyes we will get glimpses into many others as well.

I give this book 5 stars.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Review: Vital Signs

Melissa and Blake Thomas are missionaries who have come home after service in the Amazon.  Melissa is pregnant with their first child and they wanted to be with family.  What they don't know is that they had been exposed to a deadly virus before they left and have now brought it back to their friends and loved ones, who, it is feared, are exposed at their welcome home party.  While Melissa and Blake are fighting for their lives in a protected isolation area of the hospital, those who were exposed are under quarantine in their homes.
Due to the hospital not being completely truthful about the disease there is fear and speculation in Baxter and the surrounding communities.  This leads to violence by a vigilante group.
One of the people who is under quarantine is the daughter of Jed and Rhonda Wilson, who played a major role in book one and a supporting role in book two.  She has given birth, but is unable to be with her children so they are watched by a others.

I enjoyed this book and had trouble once again putting it down, but as I read I felt there were some parts that didn't mesh together really well.  The addition of the vigilante group seemed out of place and not quite believable.  And the second half of the book, after the resolution of the conflict with the vigilante group, was devoted to restoring relationships between fathers and children.  I don't think I will list this book as a suspense book for that reason.  However, the author showed how single, seemingly isolated events in peoples lives can be used in the big picture that God is creating, even though we can't see it at the time.  Focusing on how, as the Bible states, " ... we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose."
I would give this book 4 stars.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Review: Day of Reckoning

This is the second book in the Baxter series by Kathy Herman.  I could NOT put this book down, the story was extremely riveting.  I give this book 5 stars.

The events in this book are instigated by an event that took place 5 years prior.  According to the back cover of the book, "Many felt betrayed by fourth-generation textile magnate G.R. Logan's sudden decision to close the plant and move the operation to Costa Rica in order to hire a cheaper workforce.  The unemployment that followed triggered hard times for this close-knit community.  And somebody means to make Logan pay."

That "somebody" is obvious from early in the book, this is no whodunit story.  The perpetrator in this story kidnaps G.R. Logan's daughter and her best friend, and nobody but the reader is aware of who did it.  The FBI is again involved and tries to piece together who kidnapped the girls and why, using poems he leaves around town or sends to various people.  He does this for two reasons: to make G.R. Logan squirm and to the notoriety he seems to be getting a high off of.

In this book we see the dangers of letting anger and resentment stew inside.  Whether the anger comes out or is left within it is an ugly thing, which is what the author is trying to show with all the horrific acts that the perpetrator commits.  In Kathy Herman's first book of the series we see the importance of God's forgiveness in our lives.  In Day of Reckoning we see our need to forgive.  Extremely Biblical lesson as if we do not forgive others God will not forgive us.  It is important to realize we can't let anger and bitterness take hold, no matter how bad the wrong is that was committed against us.  The perpetrator in this book takes his anger to the extreme, but even those who keep it inside have it eating away at them.  I was a little shocked at the deeds Ms. Herman allowed her antagonist to commit when it came to the ghastliness of his acts.  And to add to the creepiness of it, we see him going about his daily life with no one the wiser and then return to his home to terrorize the girls some more.

Here is part of a character's testimony that really stuck out to me in this book.  "I want everyone who's listening to understand: If you're living with bitterness, a giant is growing inside you.  If you don't slay it, it can get big enough to kill your joy, your purpose, your hopes, your dreams... and maybe even someone you love." Ms. Herman does a great job showing the importance of forgiveness and not giving way to bitterness.  This is definitely not your happy go lucky, every thing will turn out all right book.  Though, we see how God will use all things to His purpose, even though the characters can't see it right away, just like in real life.  Definitely some twists I wasn't expecting.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Review: Tested by Fire

Wow! I just finished the book "Tested by Fire" by Kathy Herman.  I noticed this book on the church library shelf where I take the girls to playgroup.  Figured it would fit into my Thriller/Suspense Challenge.

I highly recommend this novel. There is suspense and mystery, there is mercy and forgiveness skillfully meshed into the storyline. This book introduces the reader to many important people living in the small town of Baxter. As stated on the back cover of the book, "A bizarre houseboat explosion rocks the close-knit community of Baxter to its core." A terrible event that takes the lives of the family who are assumed asleep on the houseboat at the time of the explosion. At first it appears to be an accident, but suddenly evidence is brought to light pointing to the possibility of murder. One of the first characters we are introduced to is Jed, the best friend of the father/husband of the family killed in the explosion. He takes it upon himself to learn the truth. 

This is a close-knit community as stated and everyone wants to know what happened. They want to see justice done to the extent that there is a lot of judging and assuming going on. Because of this we see the importance of knowing all the facts, the importance of letting God be in charge of the vengeance, or lack thereof. We see God's mercy and the power of His forgiveness, not just toward the main characters, but to others in the town with their own personal experiences and conflicts.  I found myself growing to really like the characters in this book, even the ones who at first seemed to have no redeeming qualities; they have become real to me and I feel that is a mark of a good story. 

If it weren't for having to take care of children I wouldn't have put this book down.  The story had me in it's grips from the beginning and I needed to see what would become of the characters I was getting to know and love.
I can't wait to read the remaining books in the series set in the town of Baxter.
I give this book 5 stars!