Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Imposters of Patriotism - A Review

Imposters of Patriotism
Imposters of Patriotiam Cover.jpg

Ted Richardson

A Review

Historical fiction is really two different genres.  There are those books which are set in a former time period but which are purely fiction and have no connection to truly historical events.  Historical fiction also includes a group of books that are woven from one or more significant events in history - those events not only form the backdrop for the story, but become an integral part of the story.  "Imposters of Patriotism" is a part of this second sub-genre.

The year is 1778.  George Washington and much of the Continental Army is stranded at Valley Forge waiting out a devastating winter.  Watching his men suffer and die with inadequate provisions, deadly illnesses, and increasingly more difficult odds of defeating the British forces being led by General William Howe.  General Washington, seeking what is best for his men and for the country, writes a letter to General Howe offering to negotiate a surrender.  Due to circumstances beyond his control, General Washington's letter is never delivered.  As unlikely as it seemed at the time, the Americans proceed to win the war and gain the independence they desired.  The letter is all but forgotten.

Moving between the past and the present time, we follow the letter and its discovery, as well as collaborating documents, by an antiques dealer living in Savannah, GA.  In the weeks following the letter's discovery, the lives of Matt Hawkins, the antiques dealer, and his friends are threatened by a number of individuals who have put their own interests above those of their country.  "Imposters of    Patriotism" follows the letter, through flashbacks, to its discovery and disclosure to the American public.  In the process, it weaves a great deal of well-known history that adds considerable credibility to this exciting story.

The weaving of fiction and history works well - except for one small flaw.  One major character is described as "the most direct descendant of George Washington."  The problem is that George Washington had no known children of his own. He raised two of Martha's (a widow) children from her previous marriage and two of Martha's grandchildren, but with no children of his own, he had no "direct descendants".  The author may have been better off describing this man as Washington's "closest living relative" and the problem would be solved.

The book was an exciting read - whether the history from the 18th century, glimpses of known events from the early 19th century, or following the lives of Matt Hawkins and his friends as they follow the evidence and their hearts. The book forced me to examine history that I had not previously known, I was introduced to places and people that gave me a deeper appreciation for the men and women who sacrificed for the freedom we still enjoy today. Along with a good mystery, this book should hold many a reader's attention.  And get started soon, as the author has another volume arriving later this year.

This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review.  The opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Seven Men - A Review

A Review

I first encountered Eric Metaxas last year as I read his abridged autobiography of Dietrich
Bonhoeffer.  I was pleased to have the opportunity to review another of his recent books.  I have not been disappointed.

After nicely presented “Introduction”, the book focuses on short biographical essays on seven men who have influenced western culture:

  1. George Washington
  2. William Wilberforce
  3. Eric Liddell
  4. Dietrich Bonhoeffer
  5. Jackie Robinson
  6. Pope John Paul II
  7. Charles W. Colson

Eric Metaxas claims that each of these men had character traits that allowed them to stand out in their in own lifetimes and to world in the years (and, in some cases, centuries) following their death.  

Using the biographies penned by the author, I would agree with his choices except for that of George Washington - a slave owner, a poor military leader for much of his life, and misleading statements made about his own life all contribute to my concerns.  He had traits that made him stand out (humility and leadership skills); but, given the picture of his life portrayed by Metaxas, George Washington does not compare to the other six  men examined in the book.  It is possible that Metaxas missed discussing the faults of the other six, but given the emphasis he gives to the faults of George Washington, his name does not belong with the other six.

My other concern is that the list of names is decidedly Western and European.  Given the international nature of the church, there must be African, Asian, and South American representatives that will have stood the test of time.  The author hints that more books may be coming in this series - perhaps they will cross the cultural boundaries avoided in this current book.

Despite these two concerns, the book was well worth the time I spent reading it over the past week.  The character traits represented by these seven men make each of them stand out in their own time and for all time.  The traits exhibited by these seven are well worth emulating by the men being raised to lead the next generation, as well as our own.  
This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review.  The opinions expressed are my own.

Hidden Agenda - A Review

A Review

Undercover cop meets son and daughter of cartel boss - that sums up this book.  Oh, did I mention that they have to run, literally, for their lives.  

The book is another Christian thriller with a hint of romance that kept this reader guessing and on the edge of his seat from page one to the very end. I was fairly easy to trust Olivia as she and undercover cop Michael Hunt get to the bottom of the drug trade that transpired across most of the Southeastern seaboard of the United States.  On the other hand, Olivia’s brother Ivan was more difficult to decipher.  The occasional times he slipped away, the phone calls, the leaks to the cartel - I often thought he might be responsible.

The “cartel” was not well-defined.  Since this was the third book in a series, it is possible that reading earlier volumes would clear up that mystery - I had not.  That one missing piece of information provided the only hole in an otherwise excellent story. It was not clear, either from the story or from the book’s front matter, whether reading earlier books would have helped in understanding some of this story’s background.  The missing books did not distract from the storyline - except for the possible definition of the “cartel”.  

The book provides a winter diversion as we wait for Spring to settle in with its warmth.  Whether on a break from work or a late night read before heading to bed, Lisa Harris has provided an exciting read with lots of excitement.  I’m ready for more.,

This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review.  The opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Promise to Protect.jpg

A Review

A rocky ride as a murderer roams the countryside for Leigh - who is holding a secret that she is unwilling to share with those who could help her the most. With the murderer and the secret hanging over her, she is sure the world as she knows it is coming to an end.  Leigh would have to risk it all to find out how much change was going to take place.

The people seemed real, the story believable, and the mystery is complex enough to hold the readers attention for several hours as Sheriff Tom Logan, his deputies, and other law enforcement personnel seek to identify the person or people behind the rash of crimes that have hit Bradford County.

As the story progresses it makes clear that God does change people - people with deep hurts and scars.  A lesson we all must learn.

This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review.  The opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Double Cross - A Review

Double Cross
DiAnn Mills

A Review

Double Cross is the second book in a series based on the staff of the FBI stationed in Houston, TX.  There is  little to connect the two books other than that minor theme - different characters, different plots, different lessons.

The current book left this reader a bit frustrated.  He generally does not mind a good mystery with a hint of romance, but this book seemed to reverse that relationship, in that it appeared to be a romance with a thread of mystery running throughout the book.  The mystery was well-developed with enough turns and triggers to make the book of interest - but there were few points where romance did not distract from that story.  

The story focused on the teamwork between an experienced FBI agent (Laurel Evertson) and a Houston Police Officer (Daniel Hilton).  At first their work is strictly  professional, but each must explore the possibility that something more is drawing them together.  And, even as the case comes to a close, it is not clear how their relationship can grow - perhaps in six months.

A couple of questions might help another reader know whether this book is for them:
  1. Would you recommend this book to a  friend?  If that friend enjoyed romance novels.
  2. Would you recommend  this author?  Yes, since I have enjoyed other books by the same author.
  3. Would you purchase this book for yourself?  Probably not - it focused too much on the romance between two major characters to make it a favorite book of mine.
  4. Will you be reading another book from this author?  Absolutely!

And I hope others will as well.

This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review.  The opinions expressed are my own.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Lethal Beauty - A Review

A Review

Mia Quinn had said it, "I know that everything is connected ... I just don't know how. … Mia imagined the head of this operation as a spider sitting in a web.  Profiting from every base instinct.  He had most of the seven deadly sins covered: lust, sloth, greed, anger, gluttony, envy, and even pride.  He had found a way to make an enormous amount of money.” And those sentences define this  gripping story of slavery, drug abuse, and murder.

And it would put her, her family, and her friends, in danger before the needed answers would come into place for this single mother trying to raise both a teen boy and a pre-schooler in the 21st century. Along with dealing with murder and crime on a daily basis, as a District Attorney, she must also fit the decisions (some good and some bad) of her children into her busy life.

As a believer, it did not always make sense - in fact, life sometimes did not make sense - but she was determined to make her way and to guide her children as best she could.  

Though the book is not smothered in spirituality, faith does play a role in the lives of many the books characters. It is the simple life of faith that stands out as Mia Quinn seeks to solve the riddles that are put in front of her.  Not all of them will be resolved - at least not in this book, leaving room for at least one more story from Lis Wiehl surrounding the character of Mia Quinn.  I will eagerly be waiting for another book in the series.

This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review.  The opinions expressed are my own.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Transcending Mysteries - A Review

A Review

Transcending Mysteries is a disappointing look  at the Old Testament as a precursor to Jesus Christ for the current reader.  Though the authors are well-known members of the contemporary music scene, the book never rises to the level of greatness one would hope for.  As this reader made his way through the book it felt as if he were making his way through a scrapbook - a scrapbook composed of pieces cut from the Old Testament, a series of journal entries, and lyrics from hits from the contemporary Christian music scene.  This scrapbook did not make for easy or helpful reading.

Though the connections seemed limited, I did appreciate the book’s use of The Voice as its standard, but not only Bible translation. I also appreciated the use of CCM to support the authors’ written message.  I have occasionally used favorite hymns as the foundation for a sermon series. It may not have worked here, but I do appreciate the effort. I also appreciate the use of two voices, one male and one female, to give meaning to the book’s words.

What could have added to the books value?  Let me suggest things:

  1. The inclusion of an audio CD including performances of the songs highlighted in the book.  I enjoy CCM, but did not know all the songs referenced.
  2. Reading much like a journal, I found many of the entries in this scrapbook to be too personal, rather than scholarly.  Personal may be important to the author, but not so much to this reader.  I would have like to see a greater emphasis on the truth of scripture, as opposed to the truth of scripture “to me (i.e. the author).” In the same vein, many of the entries are responses to the other writer’s comments, rather than to the scripture.    

Having said this, it is not clear to this reviewer where this book might find a home.  It does not seem suitable for use in a college or seminary classroom.  It might be of interest to some who are beginning a study of the Old Testament, but I can think of several more helpful introductory Old Testament texts that I might recommend as a better place to begin a study of the OT.  

Hence, the bottom line is that I was disappointed, though there may be value to the book for some.

This review is based on a free copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review.  The opinions expressed are my own.