Review of “Domino Effect” by Davis Bunn

The Domino Effect

Davis Bunn’s novels are creative and contemporary, though his character development often leaves something to be desired.  That’s what made his latest book, “Domino Effect”, so interesting.  The novel revolves largely around the main character, Esther -a solitary, analytical risk-analyst who predicts and attempts to prevent a global economic meltdown.  Bunn actually does a great job developing Esther’s character, creating a woman who has endured deep personal loss and tragedy throughout her life and consequently is a remote and isolated adult who takes comfort in the solidity of numbers, patterns and algorithms.  As an added and interesting touch, Esther is also a genius. But Bunn does such a thorough job depicting Esther as closed-off and anti-social, that she’s not especially relatable from the reader’s perspective.  This contributes to a contrived feeling throughout the book, as Esther is drawn into increasingly meaningful relationships, despite seeming disinclined towards personal interaction. That progression from her isolation to her healthy socialization would actually work fine except that the plot is compressed into an incredibly short time period.

The post-2008 banking setting makes this novel extremely jargon heavy; however, explanation and description of the banking and trading terms is thoroughly conveyed through the characters’ dialogues. The uninformed reader (I fell squarely into this category) will learn quite a bit about trading, the stock market and banking practices throughout this book.

The plot is interesting and realistic; banking practices that brought about the 2008 global recession were mitigated through government intervention and regulations. Though many unethical practices were curtailed, some banks developed new, risky schemes for amassing quick profits and the global economy faces total, imminent (and diabolically engineered) collapse.  While the story is fictional, it definitely rings of truth and perhaps acts as a warning for consumers today.  As mentioned, this story is condensed into a very brief time period, events progress quickly and there’s never a dull moment.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Light reading, deep themes: A review of Dana L. Sleiman’s book “Courageous”

Product DetailsI decided to read this book because I was intrigued by the historical setting of this Christian novel;  you don’t see a lot about the Crusades in this genre. I somehow missed the fact that this was book #3  in “The Valiant Heart Series.” Generally I try to start with the first book when it comes to sagas. That said, although I knew I was missing back stories on the characters, I still enjoyed this book and am interested enough in the story line to read books #1 and #2. And lucky me, I found book #1 free on Amazon today!  

Here’s what I liked about “Courageous”:

First, I felt the author did a good job treating the topic of the Crusades with sensitivity and balance.  Sleiman touched on the perspective and motives of both the European crusaders and the Muslim inhabitants of the land. While the Crusades are long over, religious divisions and war clearly continue and many of the themes touched on in this book are relevant today. On that note, the author went briefly into some of the differences and divisions existing among sects within the Muslim faith (then and now), and she graciously addresses the exclusivistic claim of Christianity: there is only one way to be saved, and that is faith in Jesus Christ.  In “Courageous” one of the main characters befriends someone of an opposing belief system and as their friendship grows, these women lovingly and respectfully discuss their beliefs with each other.

The importance of prayer and  worship is a dominant theme in this book as is the Christian’s highest calling- to sacrificially love and serve others.  Reconciliation, forgiveness, grace and healing are also touched upon throughout.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Bethany House Publishers.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

 

Great story, but a little too cliche

Fading Starlight

Kathryn Cushman’s new book “Fading Starlight” started off great with a modern-day, Hollywood fashion – industry setting. The reader is immediately drawn into main character, Lauren Summer’s, devastating career debacle and the challenge she faces of redeeming herself and starting over.  This book holds a touch of mystery, conveys the appeal of new beginnings, offers insight on God’s grace, and depicts the balance between waiting on Him for direction while also taking steps of faith. So, not only is it entertaining, there are also a lot of great truths packed into this novel. However; as the story progressed I found myself feeling a little let down. Most of the characters were simply too cliché , the conflict and outcomes too predictable.  The story progressed at a good pace only to hit warp speed at the end, making it seem disjointed somehow. I enjoyed the fashion history and the modern setting, and I appreciated the depth-and working out- of the moral conflict the author developed through the story line, I just wish the characters and outcomes were slightly less predictable.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Review of Live Fearless (Adult Coloring Book)

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While adult coloring is all the rave these days, I’m not much good at sitting still and coloring for extended periods of time.  Sitting still and reading, yes, but not coloring. However; I have noticed the times I have spent coloring and doodling were, admittedly, relaxing. When I was given the opportunity to review this book I went for it because “Live Fearless” is more than just an adult coloring book- it’s also something of a reflective journal with a scripture and a page for reflection on the opposite side of the design. Theoretically, as you color, you also reflect and meditate on the scripture on each page. This feature really appealed to me because I love memorizing scripture and I know that doing something while I memorize is very effective.

So, for all my adult coloring friends, (Vicki Maddox I’m thinking of you in particular), I think you would LOVE this book. For all my short-attention spanned friends, who, like myself enjoy occasional coloring, I think you would also really enjoy this book.  The coloring pages are not so huge and intricately detailed you feel you’ll never finish them, and “Living Fearless” is a really creative spin on a prayer/reflection journal. Finally, for all of you “non-adult coloring” folks- this book would be a great gift for the color-er (yes, I just made up my own noun there) in your life.

(Final note here: this book is appropriate for any age in my opinion- not just adults.)

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

“Like Never Before – Great Depth, Spiritual Insight and Romance

I have enjoyed all of Melissa Tagg’s books to-date.  She is excellent at developing her characters and weaving spiritual truth into contemporary, realistic settings.  “Like Never Before” is book #2 in the Walker Family Series, and while you needn’t have read “From the Start” (book #1) to enjoy this book, you’ll really enjoy it a lot more if you have.  Themes found in “Like Never Before” include the guilt a working, single parent can struggle with, the guilt of moving on after the death of a spouse – and how the death of a spouse can affect extended family relationships.  Divorce,  disappointment with God,  false security and reconciliation are other themes that combine to make “Like Never Before” an emotionally engaging story with great depth, spiritual insight, romance and a hint of mystery.  It had been awhile since I’d read the first book in the series (again, these books can stand alone but are better as a series), so it took me a little while to “refamiliarize” myself with the Maple Valley setting- for that reason I felt like it was a bit of a slow start.  But, as I got into the story and the characters, I developed a great appreciation for its depth.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Review of Elizabeth Camden’s “Until the Dawn”

Set in New York in the early 1900’s, “Until the Dawn” takes on the opposing worldviews of naturalism and Christianity, and in particular the untenable belief that if you cannot see or prove something, it must not exist.

Author Elizabeth Camden packs in some thought-provoking metaphors, like the idea that we may limp along in life as best we can with painful, infected emotional or spiritual wounds, which-unhealed- ultimately destroy our relationships and rob of us joy.

Camden’s characters are always entertaining, dynamic and realistic.  This is a romance, so of course there’s a small element of predictability, but one thing that sets Camden apart in this genre is her humor and ability to keep things real.  She’s also an excellent descriptive writer, in this case vividly portraying isolated, small-town life along the Hudson River. (She includes some incidental history of the development of weather forecasting as well).

Fans of Elizabeth Camden won’t be disappointed, while those unfamiliar with Camden will gain appreciation of a great writer who always manages to address relevant issues of contemporary society in a framework of historical fiction.  “Until the Dawn” will definitely provide you several hours of absorbing entertainment.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Review of “Forgiven” by Terri Roberts

Forgiven: The Amish School Shooting, a Mother's Love, and a Story of Remarkable Grace

School shootings are all too frequently in the headlines, but after the reporters, the analysts and the politicians have moved on, what remains for the families of both the victims and the perpetrator is grief, the unanswerable question “why”, and a road that leads either to bitterness or healing.

Terri Roberts chose healing after her adult son, Charlie, a married man and the father of  three young children, shot ten Amish schoolgirls one October morning in 2006, killing five and wounding the other five, before taking his own life.  The Amish response to the Nickel Mines School shooting stunned the world; from the first day it was one of  forgiveness, compassion and gracious concern for the family of their daughters’ murderer.

Terri’s book “Forgiven” is a mother’s heart-wrenching testimony to the power of that forgiveness, the  healing it brought her, and how she learned to surrender to God in circumstances she could not control and had no power to change.

Terri’s story is gripping and well-written.  In a world where grief, tragedy, and evil cannot be avoided, the message Terri Roberts offers is one every person needs to hear.  To forgive and (perhaps to be forgiven) is the only path to healing when we suffer because of another person’s choices.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Bethany House Publishers.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Review of “Sabotaged” the final book in Dani Pettrey’s Alaskan Courage Series

Product Details

“Sabotaged” wraps up the Alaskan Courage series with the-ultimately-happy ending the reader expects and a great dose of intrigue and adventure along the way.  As a whole, this is a good, clean series that delivers well-developed suspense and romance.   Its mildly edgy as far as Christian fiction goes and will keep you turning the pages, though it won’t keep you up at night.  The modern, outdoors adventure and the “who-done-it” crime scenes will appeal to older teen or young adult readers and I’d recommend it if you’re shopping around for a young woman in that age group.

This series stands apart from others in the Christian romance genre because of the Alasakan setting and the emphasis on outdoors adventure.  You definitely want to read these books in order as there are a lot of characters to keep track of, but that gets easier with each subsequent book because you become more familiar with who’s who (and who’s with who), and because by book three author Dani Pettrey begins to keep the focus on the two main characters who are hooking up (while solving the latest crime) and she relegates the others to the background- which really helps.

“Sabotaged” has a great plot line that keeps you guessing, although the action is a bit stilted at the climax.  There’s also a considerable amount of gushy “happily-ever-after” at the end, but since this is the final book in the series that’s understandable.  Again, this is an entertaining series- read this book last but if you’re looking for a good series definitely give the Alaskan Courage series a try.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Heavy on the history- just the way I like it! “Beyond All Dreams” by Elizabeth Camden

Elizabeth Camden’s historical, romantic fiction is always heavy on the historical side, which is exactly what I love about her books.  Set in Washington DC at the turn of the century, “Beyond All Dreams” depicts the controversy over the extravagance that went into the construction of the Library of Congress (one of my favorite places to visit in DC!) and the scheming and maneuvering that defines Congress.  This book also focuses on the role of women in the workplace and the particular rules that governed them as employees, giving the reader a great appreciation for how much culture and society have changed in that regard over the past one hundred and some years.  Camden’s characters are likeable and real, though if I’m going to compare apples to apples, I have to say that “Beyond All Dreams” doesn’t quite measure up to “Against the Tide”- which is my all-time favorite book by Elizabeth Camden.  However; this is still a great read- especially if you’re a fan of history, if you enjoy visiting Washington DC and want to know more about the historical landscape of the city, and if like me, you particularly like your history candy-coated with a fictional story-line.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Bethany House Publishers.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

The Patmos Deception by Davis Bunn

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I always enjoy Davis Bunn’s international “thrillers”  (in quotes because they’re not intense or suspenseful enough to be thrillers, but that’s the closest genre description I can think of. Perhaps international, religious intrigue is more accurate. ) I believe one of Bunn’s greatest giftings as an author is his ability to really create a sense of place, drawing the reader into the story not so much because she connects with the characters or the plot but because she is able to imagine herself in the setting.  The food, the smells, the sights- Bunn takes you there.  In the Patmos Deception you will vicariously travel to Greece and become truly hungry for Greek food and you’ll probably begin longing for an extended vacation there – I know I did.  Compared to other recent books by Bunn (The Lion of Babylon series in particular) this book develops the characters a lot better and gives you a far greater sense of connection to them.  You can actually visualize them and care about them to the extent that anyone cares about fictional characters.

As for the plot, it was interesting, but it was a bit convoluted, twisting here and there without building a great sense of momentum.  As the characters work to uncover an international smuggling ring involving Greek antiquities they spend plenty of time building friendships, eating really, really good food and boating.  They also exchange incidental lessons in Greek history and modern-day economical hardships.  Personally, I enjoyed all of that, I’m merely commenting on it because I think it did contribute to the sense that the story meanders a bit.   Finally, the Patmos Deception does contain a cliffhanger, and not one I expected since its about relationships as opposed to international intrigue, but it did produce the desired effect – I’ll be on the lookout for the next book in this series.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Bethany House Publishers.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.