Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A.D. 30

Ted Dekker is at the top of my list of fantastic authors. He does not disappoint in A.D.30 which is an excellent historical fiction. Very dissimilar from his other novels, this one is nevertheless just as captivating.

The main character, Maviah, was an illegitimate child of a father who cast her to the slave traders as an infant. In her life she suffered - she was a slave - she was a woman - she was an outcast.  When Maviah becomes with child, she is sent to live with her father's people again, as a slave. It is here an enemy of her father attacks and in the event her infant son is tossed out a window to his death and her father is disfigured and imprisoned.  It is Maviah who is asked to deliver them - the very ones who had turned her out. She accepts her mission, though she will be held in dungeons and be blinded in the process.

Two travel companions: Judah, a Jewish man who sees Maviah as a queen, and Saba, a strong and caring slave who will eventually sees her that way as well. The mission takes them to the private and dangerous quarters of King Herod. Here, Maviah must present herself as a queen. But does she think herself a queen, or an unworthy slave, a victim?

Dungeons, beatings, kings, journeys....through it all they are led to Yeshua, the Messiah. Maviah will face her anger, hatred and grievances as the result of meeting this mystic of 30 A.D. And she is called to surrender. But how? How does one surrender it all? One word......

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Acceptance is the third and final book in the Southern Reach trilogy by Jeff VanderMeerMany readers report it reminds themof the first season of Lost where strange events and even stranger wildlife was present.  The first book "Annihilation" follows the story of the biologist and the other team members as they entered Area X  and document the strange writings and other horrific events that occur.  Authority focuses on the new director, Control, and the outdated government complex charged with the mandate to keep an eye on Area X and for getting information out of the biologist. In Acceptance, a new expedition has been sent to Area X including the biologist and Control.  Control They are determined to deal with what is going on even if it kills one or both of them.  They are also in search of the biologist's husband.  If you remember, he went back to the area in Annihilation. Of course it is possible the biologist also known as Ghost Bird is already dead and what we see now is her avatar.  

This book connects the first two.  It covers more of the early days of  Area X and the events leading up to the twelfth expedition.  It tells the stories of those portrayed in Annihilation such as the lightkeeper and how his presence at the inception of Area X influenced the events to come. Each character's actions and motivations are filled in.  You learn that the area is free of heavy metals, pollutants and and water and air are pure. It is also hostile to humans.

As in Annihilation, the language is beautiful and flowing.  You feel as though you have been transformed to a beautiful, and dangerous foreign world.  Although the entire mystery of Area X is not so much solved in Acceptance, enough of the questions are answered so you feel satisfied.  You do regret leaving this beautiful world full of possibilities. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A New York Christmas by Anne Perry

     Anne Perry's new Christmas novel is a tale of love, betrayal, greed, murder, and selfless devotion.  Perry's annual yuletide offering is set in New York City the year is 1904.  Twenty-three-year-old Jemima Pitt, the daughter of Thomas Pitt, head of Britain's Special Branch, is crossing the Atlantic.  She is traveling with an acquaintance, Delphinia Cardew, who is to marry the aristocratic Brent Albright in a high-society New York wedding. This wedding will join together two wealthy families.
     But Jemima senses a mysterious shadow darkening the occasion.  Missing from the festivities is Delphinia's mother, Maria, who is marked by disgrace.  Nearly sixteen years ago, Maria abandoned young Delphinia and disappeared-and now the Albrights refuse to mention her name.  But then Harley, the groom's charismatic brother, asks Jemima to help him search for Maria and forestall the scandal that would surely follow if she turned up at the wedding, Jemima agrees to assist him.
     Jemima searches from Hell's Kitchen to Fifth Avenue, the Lower East Side to Central Park looking for Delphinia's mother.  Along the way she meets a handsome young police officer named Patrick Flannery and he assists her in her search for the missing mother. Jemima walks into mortal danger, from which not even Patrick Flannery can protect her. Together they find a surprising ending to the mystery of what happened to Maria.
     Once more, Anne Perry delivers a suspenseful, deeply moving novel, and captures the essence of the holiday spirit.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Year We Left Home

by Jean Thompson

After reading the final chapter of ‘The Year We Left Home’, I felt a pang of regret. I would miss the Erickson family of Grenada, Iowa. I would miss them despite their flaws and BECAUSE of them.  Jean Thompson so thoroughly knew this family and presented them in such vivid detail, that I am now sure that I knew them too; that I have met bits of pieces of them in my years of growing up and living in the Midwest. 

The story begins in 1972 at Anita Erickson’s wedding reception. Just out of high school and getting married, this is the future that Anita always saw for herself. Tending to details of the reception and carting in the wedding gifts, we meet Anita’s siblings: Ryan who is just heading off to college, Blake and his vamp of a girlfriend, Torrie, the cynical baby of the family, and Chip, their degenerate cousin. It is winter in Iowa and the reception is held at the VFW. Thompson imagery had me holding a plastic cup filled with punch and smelling the smorgasbord of food that is served on Styrofoam plates.

The story of The Erickson’s is a story in which we all are familiar. We meet the Erickson's at a point when Anita and Ryan must take over steering their own futures; Blake and Torrie have a few remaining years but their leaving is looming on the horizon with both dread and excitement. The novel travels the back roads of Iowa, to Chicago and to the western United States. It comes full circle after thirty years of  struggles, tragedies and concessions when the family all land, fairly intact, back in Grenada to deal with some unexpected beginnings and endings.

Monday, December 08, 2014


Lauren Oliver's first adult novel, Rooms, is an unusual book. It's part ghost story and part dysfunctional family drama. But by ghost story, I don't mean scary, creepy, or horror-filled. The ghosts are two women, Alice and Sandra, whose spirits are trapped in Richard Walker's house. They didn't know each other in life, but they have had to bear each other in death for many years, with their own separate connections to the house. When the book opens, Richard Walker has just passed away, and his estranged wife, two children, and a grandchild have come to the house to prepare it for sale and host a memorial service. Richard Walker's ghost does NOT live in the house, but Alice and Sandra know him and his family well. After all, they have been there a long time, and observed his children, Minna and Trenton, growing up in the house. They behave like two maiden old aunts griping at each other and commenting on how badly things have turned out for the members of the Walker family member. The story alternates between first-person narratives and back stories of the two ghosts and a third-person story line of what is happening to the family members now as they come together for a very emotionally complicated reunion. It's a sad state of affairs for all involved, really, but a fascinating look at personal dynamics, for the living and the dead. The climax builds as Alice tries to devise a way to be released from her confinement to the house. Don't shy away from this book if you don't like ghost stories, because it's so much more than that. It's a beautifully written drama of one family's attempts to navigate the world and the death of a loved one.