Fiction Review: Elizabeth Camden’s “Until the Dawn”

An interesting and fun book that kept a joyful tone, even while dealing with some darker moments. I really enjoyed reading this work!

Vivid descriptions are what catch the reader’s attention first, so detailed they nearly come off the page. And the characters have quirks and depth that bring them into crisp clarity in the mind’s eye. The premise may be that oft-told tale of love winning the day, but these characters are ones you’ve not met before, and will enjoy getting to know.

The setting was very unique, with the fledgling Weather Bureau, and the station Sophie maintains not something I’ve ever read before. This unique factor is framed very well in the surrounding town and culture, making the historical part of this work well done. While the tale is complete by the last page, there was so much more story to be told! I felt there were some loose ends I would have liked the answers to, but in all, it was a satisfying read.

My greatest recommendation of this book comes from the great multi-generational stories of redemption the reader gets to see. Watching the way the different characters choose their paths is a highlight of the work. Definitely check it out!

I received a review copy of this work from the publisher

Non-Fiction Review: Brother Nathan’s “Love Casts Out Fear”

What an inspiring book! A great call to action in my own faith, with a good lesson on the great work that happens when you follow God’s calling – even when it’s hard, dangerous, or goes against worldly wisdom.

I plan to give this book to my children, once they are a little older, as a teaching tool on some very weighty concepts. Hatred, revenge, jihad, these are elements that exist within our world today, which we must learn to respond to in a Christlike fashion. Brother Nathan gives us his perspective on his journey from a broken 6-year-old boy, to triumphal renewal as a young man and beyond. His writing style gives the reader a very real, but gentle treatment of the struggle he went through facing these big impacts on his life.

I loved the insider’s look into the history and context of what is going on in Egypt and its regional neighbors – not the media’s sanitized or sensationalized version. The stories of their daily lives and needs made those people real to me, and brought a deeper sense of global community.

Definitely check out this book!

I received a review copy of this work from the publisher through NetGalley

 

Non-Fiction Review: David Ring, John Driver, and David Wideman’s “The Boy Born Dead”

“God doesn’t throw away broken things, God uses broken things.”
My absolute favorite books are stories of redemption, and this one is an amazing example, made even better by the fact it’s true!

I really enjoyed reading this work, not only for the story, but for the way it is told. The storytelling style was masterfully done, going between points of view, but never losing the narrative. And the authors completely capture the tone of a teenage boy recounting the events, so the whole immersion is complete for the reader.

This was a one-sitting read for me, as I didn’t want to put it down! I really liked it and highly recommend it. Beyond the surface story, this is a great book for getting a look at the lives and struggles of pastor’s kids, disabled kids, and children who have dealt with a major loss, without getting overly dramatic, as some tales can do. I felt it gave a better understanding of how to relate to someone at that age going through difficulties, and greatly appreciated that part of the work.

Above all, this story is real. No sugar-coating, nor melodrama, just a group of friends recounting how they impacted each other and their world, stirring the reader to go and do the same.

I received a review copy of this work from the publisher through NetGalley

Fiction Review: Le French Book – “Backstabbing in Beaujolais”

My day-job includes coverage of current events around the world. I had just finished reading Backstabbing in Beaujolais when I got to watch an in-depth report on the Chinese wine market, the high-end buying frenzy and the corruption crackdown. It was so cool to get a deeper perspective on topics that had just been introduced through the book!

A new aspect for the authors this time was to incorporate time-skip and flashbacks, as one often comes across in today’s crime dramas. They started with the murder, and then jumped back in time to all the events leading up to the death. It added a layer of depth to my reading. I felt like I was actually a part of the action, looking at each character through an investigative lens, trying to figure out the answer before the reveal.

And in my own personal standard for a great mystery tale, I was completely surprised by the twist! It was NOT the body I was expecting. I get a deep satisfaction out of works that I can’t immediately tell the ending, and this book – indeed, this series – has never let me down. Layers upon layers of intrigue! Murder on top of murder, crimes on top of crimes. I would think I had an idea of what would happen next, only to be upended by great twists.

One other detail stood out to me in this work, the authors’ lovely defense of the police force and all they do, through the words of their characters. Even in their criticisms, they were understanding and praised the police for all they do for the communities they live in. This resonated with me deeply, as many of the aforementioned current events I deal with every day have recently been much less kind to the men and women putting themselves on the line for their communities. 

A great work! Excited for the next!

I received a review copy of this work from the publisher through NetGalley

 

 

Fiction Review: Patrick Carr’s “The Shock of Night”, with novella “By Divine Right”

Upon reading of The Staff and the Sword series by Mr. Carr, he became one of my favorite authors – so after learning of his newest book, I was waiting at fever pitch excitement for its release. I’m not ashamed to admit my squeal of glee when it finally came in the mail! And rightly deserved, as this work exceeded my anticipation and expectations in every way!

I downloaded and read the novella prequel before diving into The Shock of Night, and I am very glad I did. I recommend anyone who wants to get into this series, (which should be everyone), make sure to pick up the novella. It helps to establish the lore and mythology of the world Mr. Carr has created for us, as he has a wonderfully immersive style, and there is a lot of terminology to become familiar with. The novella also sets up the circumstances that allow Willet to act as he does throughout the main work – which might otherwise appear odd to those who don’t know the backstory.

My favorite works are those with stories of redemption at their core, and this book definitely delivers on that point. And this is no simple, easy redemption, but hard-fought, and well written. There are so many twists and turns, that often I would think I had figured out what came next, only to be surprised over and over again. It was a GREAT read.

The immediate tale is nicely wrapped up on the final page, but there is so much more story to be told! The mysteries teased on the back cover still linger, awaiting further masterful unfolding. I continue to eagerly await the next installments of The Darkwater Saga.

I received a review copy of this work from the publisher

Non-Fiction Review: Kenny Lao’s “Hey There, Dumpling!”

I’ve had dumplings and steamed buns for two days straight now, and I still want more! These recipes are delicious! And a lot of fun to make. A big part of Mr. Lao’s book is urging you to get together with friends and family to make his recipes, and I can assure you, it is just as much fun as he says!

The very first thing you notice about this book is Mr. Lao’s enthusiasm! His passion for life, family, and food – especially dumplings – spills from each page, and it is impossible not to get excited as you read! You will be eager to dive in and make the recipes. This was something that stuck with me, as often I have either found dry cookbooks that are just a recitation of ingredients, or books that are more narrative with a few recipes thrown in. Both initially interest me, but after a few uses, they sit untouched on the shelf. However, Mr. Lao’s book reminds me of meals with friends and family, where “delicious, how did you make that?” and “I’ll write the recipe down for you” are passed around the table as often as the serving dish. Actual excitement for sharing the food! I was very impressed.

What sold me, as any good cookbook should do, was the great, mouth-watering pictures of the dishes! Be forewarned, they will most likely make you hungry. And as Mr. Lao’s writing style is to encourage the reader and explain all the ways that you CAN do it, all factors combine to stoke the reader’s eagerness to cook! (And subsequently, eat!)

Speaking of pictures, as we made our different dough for the buns and dumplings, I was often asked if it looked right. Mr. Lao gives great description, but no pictures, of the basics, which would have been helpful. His personalized notes and descriptions were of great help, however, so our attempts still turned out very tasty!

There are personal touches, comments, and drawings all throughout the book, which are both helpful and fun. For example, many help the reader get a sense of what sort of flavors are in a dish, and who might like or dislike it. I really appreciated those when choosing which recipes to do with different groups of friends.

I used the e-book version and found the links within the recipes to different places in the book to be very helpful. For those using the print edition, I would recommend a good cookbook stand with bookmarks on different recipes, as there is a lot of turning back and forth from dough, to filling, to dip.

Highly recommended, and on my Great Gifts to Give list!

I received a review copy of this work from the Publisher through NetGalley

Fiction Review: Joseph McCullough’s “The Science-Fiction and Fantasy Quiz Book”

I received this title right before my family was to take a cross-country trip, and it proved to be a great way to pass the time and keep everyone engaged. We took turns reading out the questions, and it was fun to hear the discussion among family members as we worked together to remember answers that were tougher than others. The questions are not necessarily grouped by any specific time period or show, and can jump from older sci-fi/fantasy knowledge to modern-day from one question to the next. As we had a range of ages riding together in the car, usually someone knew the answer, and it was fun to hear that person tell the others about a show or character they previously had never heard of.

It was a tiny version of the best parts of sci-fi/fantasy fans everywhere. The ability to come together and enjoy talking about our favorite shows and stories, sharing with those who understand our passion for the genre, and learning from each other.

I recommend this book to be shared with others! Just don’t try to read it in one sitting!

I received a review copy of this work from the publisher through NetGalley