Thursday, February 4, 2016

Review of Undaunted Hope by Jody Hedlund

Hedlund triumphs again with Undaunted Hope,
the third book in the Beacons of Hope series. 

Who doesn’t love lighthouses? The history behind the lights and their keepers along the shores of Michigan makes for great settings in this series of historical romances. 

Hoping to escape a tainted reputation from her past mistakes, Tessa Taylor arrives in a remote area of upper Michigan as the new teacher to the children of copper miners. From the moment she arrives in Eagle Harbor, she needs rescuing—time and again—by the handsome assistant lightkeeper. Tessa is drawn to Alex Bjorklund, but as a teacher, is under obligation to remain a single woman. Besides, she could never involve herself with a lightkeeper; she wants nothing to do with the lake or a lighthouse ever again.

The town of Eagle Harbor is being held hostage by the corrupt chief clerk of Cole Mine—the town’s source of income and supplies. The workers and their families refrain from standing up to the abusive boss for fear of retribution. Will Tessa be able to stand up against the evil Mr. Updegraff?

As always, Hedlund’s characters have terrific depth. They are faced with choices that cause them to rely on God’s guidance to discover their own strengths and weaknesses.

This page-turner’s plot is full of twists and turns. Just when you think there’s a resolution, another snare is tossed into the story.

This series has a common thread besides light houses—a wooden cross and a letter. Although this book is perfectly fine as a stand-alone, readers of the series will enjoy how the story of the cross and letter resolve in this volume.

My favorite part of all Jody's books comes after that last page, in the Author's Note. That is where she reveals the real people and real stories that influenced the novel. I only wish my high school History class had been so interesting! 

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and recommend it for readers of inspirational, historical and light romance.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Review of Piercing The Darkness by Frank Peretti

I was having a heavy conversation with a good friend about spiritual forces, and the prevailing wickedness in a current situation. She jumped up and said, "I've got a book for you to read!" A minute later she was back with not one, but two Frank Peretti books. She explained that he writes novels about spiritual warfare going on around us. I was intrigued...


If you don't believe in God and/or don't like reading books with heavy spiritual messages, do yourself a favor and skip this one. I read several negative reviews based on a dislike of the genre rather than quality of writing or story. Don’t buy Christian fiction, and then blast it for being spiritual. One reviewer went as far as to accuse the author of false allegations against a well-known organization that has a similar name to the powerful group in the story. True—one does infer the connection while reading—but knocking the story because it isn’t true doesn’t seem fair to the author. It is FICTION. And, if a buyer would read the summary before purchasing... Well, enough said.

On the other side of the coin, most of the positive reviews seemed to be based on emotion tied to religious conviction. Am I alone in not buying a book solely because I share the faith of the author? This book does speak to some serious issues, and gives an awe-inspiring view of the angelic realm that perhaps surrounds us as we go about our daily lives, but that alone does not a good book make. I don’t give stars based on agreement in spiritual matters.

Peretti’s writing style: There were a number of characters introduced early on—it was hard for me to keep them straight—so this is not a book to pick up if you read a few minutes before bed each night. Also, this author doesn't mind using lots of run-on sentences--and by run on, I mean paragraph-length. Aside from a couple of minor details, the writing was technically correct. However, based on style alone, I would give this book just two stars on the Goodreads’ scale—it was okay. The pace was not to my liking, structurally speaking, and it was rather lengthy. At times I wanted him to hurry it along.

I really struggled reading through all the names of the evil spirits. Some lame—some too abrupt. For me, it was often an interruption in the flow of the story that should have wound up on the editing floor. Also, most of the battle scenes were hard to enjoy—just spirits zooming and slashing everywhere. (I admit to 'speed-reading' a bit during some of those.)

The storyline: There were two intertwined storylines to this book—one in the spiritual realm and one in the earthly realm. Although the plot was far-fetched and at times complicated, it will touch a cord with Christians who see the fallenness of today’s world and sense a climate of persecution toward the Church. Peretti’s story hits close to home in what we see happening in today’s culture—both in the secular society, as well as in the church itself. I see this as the selling point of this story.

NO SPOILERS HERE: The ending was a little disappointing. You know when you say to yourself, “I can’t wait to see how he ties all this together!” Well, it wasn’t all I was expecting. He did tie it together, although not convincingly in some areas. It lacked the ‘Wow!’

On a personal note, I felt a bit convicted about my prayer life. As we begin to see the battle between the evil forces and God’s warriors, we are reminded to stay awake: 

“…It was a perfect place to begin the process.” His beastly 
face grew tight and bitter. “Until they started praying. 
Until they ceased being so comfortable and started 
weeping before God! Until they began to reclaim the 
power of the…” The Strongman sealed his lips.

“The Cross?” the aide volunteered. 
 (Excerpt from page 36)

On another personal note, I thought I'd share this photo of
the table where I keep my bedtime reading. Girly, isn't it?

I struggled a little with what rating to give this book, finally settling on four-stars—the ‘really liked it’ on Goodreads’ scale. The writing wasn’t my cup of tea, the plot had holes like swiss cheese, but in the end, I read for entertainment—and I was thoroughly entertained!

I was also intrigued by the thought of the spiritual battle going on around us. More importantly, I was invested in the characters. Even when I wanted him to hurry along, I wasn’t willing to skip over anything. I wanted to know that good wins over evil. I wanted the ugly spirit to get his ‘what’s coming’. I wanted the MC to be safe and saved. I wanted the righteous to triumph!

This was my first Frank Peretti novel. It is book two in This Present Darkness series. There are hints about the first previous story from an out-of-town character, but you need not read these books in order. 

I plan on reading the other book
my friend loaned me
before I make up my mind
on this author.

Perhaps I'll review it here in the near future.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Here we go again...

Didn't I sound oh so motivated in this post? That's because I was. I really put a priority on writning. I was picking up momentum. And then...

Life. Others. Obligations. Shoe boxes. Holidays. The list of excuses goes on and on. At first, they seemed valid. I was leading an in-depth ladies Bible study on top of my regular obligations of preparing for my Sunday school class with elemetary kids, mentoring a local teen, doing paperwork for my husband's club board, and holding down the Mrs fort. And then came OCC!

Operation Christmas Child--the shoe box ministry of Samaritan's Purse--is near and dear to my heart.
I volunteer everyday during OCC collection week, which always falls the week before Thanksgiving. There is very little time involved before collection week starts, and nothing after it ends. So on the Monday before Thanksgiving, we packed up the displays, labels, refreshments, tables & chairs, cartons, and balloons. We finished and triple-checked our paperwork. We said our goodbyes and drove back into our regular lives.

That's been over a week. I haven't opened my manuscript.

Sure, Thanksgiving was in there, but Ray and I took a day trip out of town that didn't require any cooking, cleaning, or rearranging of furniture. Black Friday brought another family dinner in another town, to which I only had to bring a sweet potato casserole I prepared that morning. So Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday I had no excuse.

And truthfully, my volunteer work wasn't all-day-long work--so not really an excuse there, either. Nothing I do fills my entire day. I always have free time. But I say things to myself like, "I've only got an hour until I have to leave," and "It's almost time to start dinner, now."

Do you know how many words I could have typed in all those chunks of minutes here and there? Well, I don't know either, but I do know that any amount is a lot more than zero.

While it's true for me that it's hard to just pick up and write without a little refreshing on the previous day's work, why didn't I make notes or worked on some problem areas in those bits of free time? Time Management. I could probably learn a few things about that from author Jody Hedlund.

On these pages, I often promote Jody's books. Her historical novels require much research.  Yet, she finds time for a few other things, according to the 'about' tab on her website:

"Together we have five children ranging in ages from a senior in high school down to fourth grade, with a set of twin daughters in the mix to make things more lively. I spend the major part of each day teaching my children at home. And then I spend the major part of each evening running my kids to all of their many and varied activities!"
Yes, you read that right. She home-schools five kids! And puts out books at a regular pace.

I am now going to put on my
'cone of shame
and open that manuscript. 

What keeps you from your WIP? 

Disclosure: No animals were 
harmed in the making of this post.