Book Review: What They Meant For Evil

This book is so beautiful. The author, Rebecca Deng, narrates her own harrowing life where trauma starts in her small village located in South Sudan. She as a young girl experienced what no person at any age will likely or should have to experience. Her story starts in the mid-1980’s as the Sudanese government is involved in a civil war with rebel fighters who have become fed up with the government’s tyrannical rule over them. It was honestly hard for me to follow who was part of her people and the people that were invading her village continually. It seemed like all of Sudan was in an uproar because of several groups of people fighting. Civilians lost their homes, livelihoods, families and were disconnected from everything they knew. 

Eventually, Deng ends up in a refugee camp with some of her relatives. It’s an awful place to live but it’s her first opportunity to go to school and learn. Best of all, her faith in Jesus grows as she is invited to church with an encouraging group community.  I felt like the author was telling her story in a way to build up the suspense because she saw a glimmer of hope when she was given the chance to go the United States. At that point she had been living in the refugee camp for eight years. And bad things happened to her and others over and over again so I was preparing myself for the worst. 

Despite the ugliness of the world she had to endure, she flourishes in her faith and let God lead her to her purpose. In addition to writing a beautiful book, she has built a beautiful life for herself and others around her. As the book title indicates, what was meant for evil, God turned to good. I rate the book 5 out of 5

Book Review: Confessions of a Christian Mystic

This book is also titled Confessions of an American Mystic. I suppose this was to help the author River Jordan reach a wider audience. The book is a memoir of the narrator’s life. She reviews significant events in her childhood. She has memories of what happened to her and what affected others. The book covers a wide scope of the author’s life but not really in any particular order. The book was in the format of a natural conversation between friends getting to know each other better.

The book was good but slow-going. The author is talented with her words; I suppose however, that not all of her narrations kept me as engaged as a very intense and suspenseful mystery. Her confessions are nothing like that of a mystery. In fact, she unveils wisdom through her many stories. I felt like I was reading her version of parables from her life. She told a story and although she didn’t outright give you a summarizing lesson after, she gave enough musings of her own so the reader can glean what her point of the story was. I didn’t read the story in one, two, or three sittings. No, I took my time reading a chapter or two here or there but I wasn’t in a great hurry to finish the book. It’s the one thing I like about memoirs, you don’t put as much stake into it as you do with others (I tend to do it with historical fiction books of all things) but the various stories I remember from her periodically cross my mind in a casual way.

This book is a slow read as I said in the beginning and although it didn’t hold wildly great interest, the book gave me a time of relaxing solitude where I only had to ponder on the thoughts of one person. I rate the book a 4 out of 5.

 

Book Review: Don’t Date Rosa Santos

This book is geared toward high school aged teenagers and young adults. Nina Moreno wrote this book focusing mainly on Rosa and the history of her family in previous generations. Her grandmother came with her husband from Cuba and her mom was born during that journey. As relations between the US and Cuba are somewhat improving Rosa sees her chance to finally see the home her grandmother grew up in. Rosa has always been yearning to see the country of her family though she has a completely new and great community in her harbor town in Florida. Throughout the telling of this story many other plots unfold. A wedding, a cultural festival, preservation of their town and a love interest most unexpected by Rosa.

I liked the overall story of the book. The author included some cultural rituals and beliefs and practices that kind of bothered me because it didn’t make any sense but that was part of the backstory for the grandmother.

I rate this book 4 out of 5.

Book Review: The Inn at Hidden Run

I loved this historical fiction book written by Olivia Newport. She perfectly compiled the stories of characters in modern day Colorado with those in 1878 Memphis, Tennessee. I’m telling you right now. You don’t even need to read the rest of this post; just get the book and start reading it. You’ll love it.

I know for some people it takes some convincing so I’ll indulge those by giving you a brief description with no spoilers. The characters in the book were friendly, personable and so real life-like that, as I was reading through their conversations, actions and thoughts, it almost felt like I was in the same room as they were. The author did such a good job with their personalities that they were almost overbearing especially to people who consider themselves introverts. Even strangers could easily be swept up in the group of characters and be overwhelmed.

Meri was the stranger that appeared in Canyon Mines Colorado and easily acquired a job working for Nia and her husband Leo at their inn. Nia is described as being very curious and impulsive which is followed through by her actions. And that’s how she gets in quite the conundrum with Meri because now there are some big trust issues and the only way to work it out is to get Jillian and her dad Nolan roped in to lend their expertise in genealogy and family mediation, respectively.

Jillian’s discoveries into Meri’s family’s past unrolls the part of the story that is in Eliza’s perspective during the late summer/fall when an epidemic of yellow fever hits Memphis taking much of the population and leaving devastation in its wake.

Beautifully told story, and if you are still not convinced, I rate this book 5 out of 5.

Book Review: We Were Killers Once

I read In Cold Blood by Truman Capote in my sophomore English class. I found the book to be a combination of horrifying actions and descriptive detail that occasionally still flit through my mind and the rest to be a very interesting story on true events at that time.

The book begins with Jerry Beaufort just getting out of prison after doing about 30 years for dealing drugs. He was supposed to be sentenced to life as it was his third strike but his sentence was commuted since he was a nonviolent offender. Or so they thought. Jerry is in fact guilty of so much more than dealing drugs and it takes the reader to the very ending of the book to discover his part in the historic crimes. Part of the book is written in the first perspective of a former FBI agent who married a former priest. She really has no involvement with Jerry at all and couldn’t imagine that her husband would. What I didn’t like was that her side of the story was written in first person. Obviously she’ll live to tell the story till the end. That’s kind of a pet peeve of mine in a mystery thriller.

Becky Masterman wrote We Were Killers Once as a historical fiction drawing facts from In Cold Blood and the police reports regarding the murders. Her book is like a spin-off of the one by Capote with more detailed events that were merely mentioned by Capote. She took much of what was already told and elaborated further into the possibility of there being more to the historical crime than was admitted and discovered. I love that even though her book is fiction it matches up to the actual events enough to be true.

I rate the book a 5 out of 5.

Book Review: The Golden Bride

This book was written by Kimberley Woodhouse as part of the Daughters of the Mayflower series. When I read the title I had a strong feeling that the setting for the story would take place in San Francisco around 1849 to the early 1850’s. The book illustrates the historical time of San Francisco being populated by men primarily in search of gold while others capitalized on the men’s desperation in their search for gold by hiking up prices of supplies to extreme amounts. Good and honest people were few and far between. Despite the rising amount of people living there, San Francisco was turning into a very uncivilized place.

The author uses the information she found in her research to write a book with characters of corruption, cruelty and deceitfulness. But as one of the daughters of the Mayflower, Olivia moves to the city and begins to shine a light of hope and faith in the midst of trouble. She lived in Santa Barbara until her parents died from sickness. In order to quickly settle their debt to move to where her brother lives in San Francisco, Olivia marries Hezekiah. He pays her debt and promises to take her to San Francisco. It’s most definitely not a marriage of love but a marriage of selfishness which really isn’t a marriage at all. Hezekiah is determined to quickly get rich by finding gold which annoys Olivia because he spends money on supplies instead of food. Then he dies before they make it to the big city. Joseph is a recently saved gold miner. Daniel, Olivia’s older brother took the time to help Joseph find Jesus. Joseph is now prosperous in material and spiritual means. He employs people fairly and continues to visit Daniel at the Livingston restaurant which Daniel owns and operates. It’s how Olivia and Joseph meet when Olivia finally makes it to San Francisco alone, as a widow.

After her experience with Hezekiah being careless with a one track mind on greediness she vows to never marry a man interested in gold. In fact, she thinks it would be better to not marry ever again. She carries a considerable amount of guilt for the events and her private thoughts of Hezekiah surrounding the events of his death.

This book was about so much forgiveness for others and yourself. Olivia and the other. Christians in San Francisco are a minority there but are determined to be there for the salvation of others. I like this book because it portrayed a time of great change and how it affected people during that time. I don’t want to give much away about Olivia and Joseph’s relationship, because this review isn’t about spoilers, but I do want to say how much Olivia’s way to getting closer to Joseph is about forgiving herself and putting more trust in God. Also, Olivia’s ancestors make appearances in the form of personal journals written long ago which I thought was really cool. I mean, just think about thoughts written so long ago being read and having an effect on one of your descendants.

I rate the book 4 out of 5.

Book Review: The Dark Bones

I received this book in an uncorrected format from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Loreth Anne White wrote a story about a middle-aged woman coming back to her rural hometown in Canada after the sudden death of her father. Everyone in her town thinks her father’s death is a suicide but from the beginning Rebecca had suspicions about her dad’s demise. He had called her with serious allegations of a mystery from 20 years ago. Rebecca has the strong feeling that her father’s renewed investigation led to his murder, not suicide.

The book isn’t simply a mystery; the author tied in romance. Long lost romance at that. Throughout the book Rebecca must find out if her boyfriend from her teenage years can be trusted with her love or if he can be trusted with anything at all.

The book was a good mystery and suspenseful enough but I couldn’t feel any romance between the two Rebecca and her old flame. I think the author tried to do too much in one book. After all the actions done, pain experienced and years past I couldn’t feel the love being rekindled through the course of one story. The author created very developed characters and it made the book seem more sophisticated and a more creative read than I thought it would be. Overall the book was average. I don’t feel like I wasted my time reading it but I don’t think it added to my life in a great way.

I rate this book a 3 out of 5.

Book Review: The Alamo Bride

Well, I’m back from my self-imposed break that really shouldn’t have been so long. I mean, it’s been at least two months since you’ve heard from me last and I am sorry about that. I did enjoy not being under the restriction of posting a review after reading my books but it’s time to get back to it!

My first book of the new year is The Alamo Bride by Kathleen Y’Barbo. The setting took place in Texas and around the time of the Battle of the Alamo. The main characters are Ellis, a descendant of Maribel who is the main character in a previous Bride sequel book and Clay. Ellis and her family moved from New Orleans to Texas for the promise of adventure. Her father and brother love the land so much that they volunteer to fight in the Texas Revolution. Clay is supposedly working for President Jackson at the time and was responsible for carrying out special missions to help the Texans win. This is very unclear to Ellis at first as she has him tied up while in her care after suffering from gunshots. Honestly, even knowing the backstory of Clay’s character, his motives were unclear to me also. He was supposed to have meetings with important people involved in the war and was supposed to be closely acquainted to President Jackson. He didn’t seem to play an important part in the war though and never appeared to successfully complete any of his missions including a personal goal to find the family treasure that was very valuable according to his late grandfather.

Their romance was the only aspect of the book that seemed to be fully completed. And as with the other books in the sequel their love didn’t seem based on anything real and long lasting. Clay claimed to be in love with the high-spirited Ellis who only seemed that way when others described her as so or when she argued about her own personality traits and decisions.

One part of the book that the characters share is the calming effects of memorizing Psalm 91. One verse says, “He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust”, which I thought was a great point of the author to make. God is our connection and he is the most important part of our relationships.

I enjoyed reading the book because I always learn something when there is history involved. Some parts of the book were quite realistic and still involved adventures that kept me interested as a reader. Unfortunately, a majority of the events seemed very watered down. I rate the book a 3 out of 5.

Book Review: The Liberty Bride

MaryLu Tyndall formed a great storyline between the two main characters of the book who are of course the love interest of the story. The setting starts out on Charlotte, Emeline’s fathers merchant-turned-privateer ship. She is crossing the Atlantic home to Baltimore after spending the last few years in England in an effort to become a proper lady. Or her father’s attempt, anyway. Because of her mother’s death and her father’s disapproval Emmeline thinks God is punishing her for not being proper enough. Meanwhile Owen doesn’t care at all what God thinks of his thoughts and actions. His only goal is to successfully complete his mission as a spy. But it seems as if Emeline gets in his way. First , as a n attractive young lady, then as a traitor to her country and finally as a kindhearted person who is willing to sacrifice her own well-being to protect others.

I really did like the storyline of the book. The setting is 1814 which is just before the end of the War of 1812 between the USA and England. I didn’t like that the author put loyalty to their country before God. Believe me, I am all for staunchly supporting my own country. I am proud to be a USA citizen but I think Christians should work harder for God. I would have liked to see how a real romance would have been handled between characters on opposite sides of the war. Would their love have prevailed because of their love and faith in God? The author made slight mentions of having friendships and respect for individuals that should be considered enemies but there is no follow up into it.

I rate the book 3 out of 5.

Book Review: The Cumberland Bride

This book is written by Shannon McNear and is part of The Daughters of the Mayflower series. Katarina Gruener is a descendant of the main characters in the previous books, most recently Faith Lytton. I felt an instant connection with her because our names are pronounced the same, only spelled differently, and we each have a parent coming from Germany. Her love story with Thomas is very long and drawn out due to the detail the author includes in the description of setting and events. Even though I felt like it was a slower read than others it was more relatable and easy to make sense of their affection toward each other at the end.

It did annoy me that the plot seemed to be over long before the book was. The author includes a great dialogue between the main characters and their families, yet seems to make their love a plot on its own when it is evident that the events, such as discoveries of family secrets and Indian slayings and abductions are the plots that drives the characters to each other. Once that was all said and done I questioned why the book kept going. I love long books, by all means! This book had nothing left to say though and though their love was written sincerely, I found no emotion to getting to the end because it was more drawn out than it should have been.

I give the book a 4 out of 5.