Fiction Review: Jessica Dotta’s “Born of Persuasion”

When I received this book I knew it was part of a trilogy, however, I did not know until I finished that it was in essence a very long chapter one, not a standalone work. I personally am not a fan of series that don’t make each work a complete tale within the whole of the overarching story. If an author is worried about bringing readers back, they should not default to the cliff-hanger, “tune in next thursday,” gimmick, but strengthen the work they already have. A great story, a well-crafted world, will bring the audience back again and again.

The pace of this work was much slower than those of my most recent reviews. This gives the reader time to completely understand the feelings and mindset of Julia, as we see everything from her point of view, and her perception.

However, we are told the tale by future Julia, looking back on everything that happened. I thought this was a neat twist on the “unreliable narrator,” as Julia gives us no reason to doubt or rethink anything that is happening, until she herself throws out a “what if” or “perhaps” into our reading.

The action doesn’t really pick up until about the last third of the book, and while I liked the opportunity to get such an in-depth look into Julia’s mindset, I felt it work was so focused on character development, it didn’t allow itself to just relax and tell the story.

An interesting read, just be forewarned that you must invest in the trilogy as a whole to complete the story.

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

Fiction Review: Rachel Bach’s “Fortune’s Pawn”

As a fan of the mecha genre, I am always drawn toward stories that incorporate some sort of suit, just to see what variation they do upon the theme. Fortune’s Pawn does not disappoint. My only quibble? I now want my own Lady Grey!

The thing I enjoyed most while reading Fortune’s Pawn was Ms. Bach’s unique descriptions. She perfectly captures the image she is trying to paint in our minds, but with an unexpected simile or metaphor. It really pulled the reader in and made the world the author created an immersive experience right off the bat.

I also liked the way in which Ms. Bach built her characters throughout the book. We get a fully rounded picture without slowing down the pace of this fast-moving book for any lengthy exposition.

And fast-moving indeed! The reader is kept at a relentless pace, which is great for building the atmosphere of the story and conveying the world in which Devi lives and operates.

I enjoyed the character of Devi, but toward the end of the book, something seemed off. While she is supposed to be a strong-willed, give no quarter character, she came across more as head-strong, which is at odds with our first introduction to this decorated officer. We are introduced to an unconventional, yet perfect military officer, and since her whole life’s goal depends upon her performance on Caldswell’s watch, I expected more crisp, perfect military performance. It feels like her character gets off track somewhere.

As there are two more books in the trilogy, which I look forward to reading, perhaps they will finish out Devi’s tale in a way that reconciles all parts.

Nevertheless, a fun read!

I received a review copy of this book from the publisher through Netgalley.

Non-Fiction Review: Dr. Sedler’s “Stopping Words That Hurt”

Do you truly understand the power of words?

I thought I did. My hobbies, my career, my goals – all relate in some fashion to the use of words, written or spoken.

And then, Stopping Word That Hurt. It has been a while since I read a work that challenged me, pulled and stretched, and at the end of reading, I felt I had not only expanded my mind but my Self through reading it.

Dr. Sedler has been both teacher and counselor along his career path, and this shows in the way he does not talk down to his reader, but speaks directly to them, in a firm tone of authority. There is no hedging in his demeanor, no gray area in his text. His chapters have a stark clarity about them, like the crisp contrast you see through a properly calibrated microscope. It took me a little bit to get used to his style, but once I did, I completely enjoyed the book.

“There is something about putting words in writing that creates hesitation and even fear in people. We call it accountability.” – pg 42

Accountability – that is the core theme of Stopping Words That Hurt. As children, we are taught that gossiping and careless words are hurtful, and that we should watch what we say, but do we truly understand why? What’s the harm in tossing a little “aside” to the audience? And how binding are the words we speak on ourselves or others?

To answer, let me share with you a new Bible insight I learned during my reading of the book. Dr. Sedler brings up the story of the Fiery Furnace, a favorite of Sunday Schools everywhere. But he focuses on something I had always overlooked. King Nebuchadnezzar built his statue and commanded all people of his entire nation to bow down to it. The entire nation of Babylon. Now honestly, if three guys didn’t bow down, how was he to know? Well, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were already set apart because they, along with Daniel, had become high officials in Babylon through the Lord’s favor. There were those who were jealous of their success. So they murmured, they gossiped, and when they had enough people to support them, they went to the king with their accusations. We know how the end of that story turned out. That’s a pretty cool “extra” to add to your Bible story, but have you ever caught what happened next? After they were saved from the fire, King Nebuchadnezzar declares all who speak against God will be punished. Some time passes, and the king happens to speak out in pride against God, and is stricken to live like an animal until he repents. His punishment came as a fulfillment of his own decree. I had never seen that correlation.

Wow.

With many other examples Dr. Sedler drives home how words really do hold incredible power, and that we are accountable for how we use them. So then, the question becomes. how are we to interact with others?

“Spirituality is not measured by how well we expose an offender, but by how effectively we assist in the effort to restore an offender.” – pg.47

“When a person falls into a sinful pattern, our greatest desire should be for restoration not consequences. for repentance not persecution, for humility not embarrassment.” – pg. 84

Stop and think a moment. Did Jesus ever shame or humiliate someone into repentance, into a relationship with him? Then why often, does the Church, trying to be Christ’s hands and feet on earth, act like that is the way to reconcile the world? This point gave me many things to think about, and I weigh everything I write or speak much more carefully now.

I’ve not even begun to scratch the depths of the many new insights and truths Dr. Sedler gave me a new understanding on. There’s much more on the topic of gossip and murmuring:

How odd that people spend so much time and energy coveting what is not theirs, and so little time and energy cultivating what is given to them by God! – pg. 77

As well as the power of words of encouragement. Something for you to ponder – why do we give more weight to the critic than the encourager in our lives?

These, as well as many other examples of the way words impact our lives, and how to use their power in uplifting ways, how to avoid and diffuse the negative.

Each chapter has extra verses and reading suggestions for context and further research, and closes with a few questions to think about. At the end of the book is a strong call to reconciliation – I personally found it to be very convicting and it stirred me to action in my own life.

I hope you enjoy reading this book as much as I did!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher through Netgalley

Fiction Review: Le French Book – “Mayhem in Margaux”

Winemaker Detective #6

“The slow pace, odd characters, and provincial rhythm spoke to her more than American hard-boiled fiction with their bursts of gunfire, bloody pursuits, and plot twists on every page…too many were formulaic, as far as she was concerned.”

This quote explains EXACTLY why I like this series so much. I love mystery stories, but it is true that here in the American mainstream you see a formula employed again and again. Writers use it because it works, but then you train your reader/viewer to expect the surprise, which dulls the reveal just a touch. With these works, I’ve NEVER been able to predict what’s going to be on the next page. The only surety I have about any of the series is that it will be a sumptuous, sensual experience of food and wine and story.

Mayhem in Margaux gives us the human, fatherly side of Cooker. We get to see his family life and interactions. This was nice because up until now, Elizabeth has been a character almost only in name. We’ve seen glimpses of her in the hall, heard Cooker laud her as his wife, but now we get to meet the lady herself. I loved the family dynamic between Cooker, Elizabeth, and Margaux. There was no pretense on the part of the authors, it wasn’t stilted in the slightest. A true portrait of family life, which I greatly enjoyed.

The mystery this time is straightforward in the who, what, and why when we get to the reveal, but in the meantime, we really get drawn into the frustrations of the winegrowers, the heat and fatigue that can wreak havoc on their crop, so we can understand why the culprit did what he did.

I eagerly await the translation of the next in the series!

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