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Yesterday’s Tomorrow

I read a review of Catherine West’s Yesterday’s Tomorrow quite a while back on God With Us: Finding Joy (http://janetsketchley.wordpress.com). I put it on my To Read Someday list.

A book set in Vietnam during the war wouldn’t normally have been my first choice, but the more I read, the more it drew me in. Of course, I want a story with a compelling plot, but I’m primarily drawn to characters that I grow to care about. And YT definitely fits the bill.

I love books. I always feel a sense of accomplishment when I turn the last page. However, I don’t always look forward to that time of day when I can open a specific book and plunge into the story, but that’s exactly how I felt about reading YT.

It’s not an easy book to read, but anyone who is old enough to remember the Vietnam War knows it wasn’t an easy time. Emotions ran high. The author doesn’t pull her punches. Because of it, it is a compelling story. The characters are real. Their stories are real. Their joys are real. And so are their heartaches.

The author doesn’t create a sanitized version of reality, nor does she overwhelm readers with too much disturbing detail. To me, she strikes the delicate balance.  And it’s just plain believable – another element of fiction that truly matters to me.

The pages of YT overflow with action, suspense, drama, character interplay, and an overarching romance (minus the fluff). If this appeals to you, I highly recommend Yesterday’s Tomorrow.

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The Corruptibe

I enjoyed a number of things about Mark Mynheir’s The Corruptible. First, I loved the short chapters. It was easier to justify “just one more chapter.”

I also liked the fact that it was written in the first person. I found it drew me into the story. It was more like sitting across from the protagonist, having him tell me the story, than being a distant observer. (Occasionally, the character referred to things he wouldn’t likely notice – even though he was a PI. I found it a little distracting. That’s one of the challenges of writing in first person: staying in the protagonist’s head yet giving readers enough information.)

The characters were distinct and easy to remember. There were enough of them to make the story interesting, but not so many that I got lost. (Although the only Christian character in the book played an important role, for some reason – maybe because she was the only believer – she seemed more like an extra rather than a regular cast member.)

I appreciated the fact that Mynheir didn’t sanitize the story. It was, after all, about a murder investigation and undercover police work. (I didn’t feel he pushed the bounds into the “unacceptable,” but some Christians might view The Corruptible as too edgy.)

All in all, if you enjoy police dramas such as Law and Order, Criminal Minds, and CSI, you will almost assuredly, enjoy reading The Corruptible.

I received a free electronic version of the book from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review.

Justified

I hope there isn’t a rule that says you shouldn’t review a book you’ve edited. If there is, I’m about to break that rule.

Mystery. Suspense. Intrigue. That’s what you’ll find in Rob Delion’s first novel, Justified.

If something stands out and makes you ask, “Why did the author include that tidbit of information?” and he or she never answers the question, it rubs like a burr under a saddle. Persistent. Distracting. Annoying.

Because I had to edit on my first read-through, I’d often ask, “Does this need to be here?” A few such things got dropped from the first draft, but many were indispensable. I loved those Ah Ha moments, coming across their importance as I continued to read.  To me, that’s craftsmanship. It requires an author to see the big picture while only letting readers see as much as they need to at any given time.

I’m a visual learner. I want enough details to paint a picture. On the other hand, I’m not all that patient. I don’t want to read a description of every rock and blade of grass. Rob has achieved that balance. Months after reading it, I can still see a slide show of scenes playing in my mind.

When I watch a movie that keeps me on the edge of my seat, I need the occasional breather. From time to time, I want to laugh – or at least exhale. Justified propels the reader forward with the right amount of downtime.

As I said to Rob, “Make me care about your characters, and I’m hooked.” I care about the characters in Justified and am looking forward to the sequel. Get busy writing, Mr. Delion.

Order your copy of Justified at either address below or pop by Rob Delion’s Facebook page and arrange for him to send you a signed copy. (You may also want to visit Rob’s blog at http://quillzone.com)

http://www.chapters.indigo.ca/books/Justified-R-H-Delion/9781770692985-item.html?ikwid=justified&ikwsec=Home

http://www.amazon.com/gp/search/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=r.h.+delion&rh=n%3A283155%2Ck%3Ar.h.+delion&ajr=0

The Canary List

I recently joined Blogging for Books. In exchange for reviews, I receive free e-books. (Residents of the U.S. can request hard copies of the books they would like to review.)

I read Sigmund Brouwer’s The Canary List and posted my review on christianbook.com. Here is the link to that review:

http://www.christianbook.com/the-canary-list-sigmund-brouwer/9780307446466/pd/446466?featurereview=19177091

The Canary List

Recently I signed up for Blogging for Books. The first e-book I chose was Signmund Brouwer’s The Canary List.

The so called “canary list” was created by leaders within the Roman Catholic Church and lists those who can sense the presence of demons. Therefore, they are used to determine if it is safe to proceed – much like canaries were used in the mines to determine the presence of dangerous gases.

If you enjoy a novel with believable characters, several intriguing plot twists, and a good blend of adventure and spiritual insights, you may enjoy The Canary List. I was impressed with the author’s ability to keep me off balance right up to and including the last chapter.

While I wanted to see how everything worked out, I did notice technicalities I would have missed if I didn’t write and edit. Brouwer’s tendency to repeat words, phrases, and information struck me almost right away. Unfortunately, I found it distracting.

Also, because I’m learning about “deep point-of-view,” I was surprised by the number of times Brouwer shows rather than tells. (I consider deep POV the classic show vs. tell – on steroids. Thoughts and emotions are revealed through dialogue and detailed description of the characters’ physical responses.)

And while the author delineates between the faithful within the Roman Catholic Church and those who strive for power and/or secretly worship the devil, some might find the fact that members of the Church play the role of protagonist offensive.

Still, if you enjoy Brouwer’s books, I don’t want to discourage you from reading The Canary List. And if you want to find out how one little girl can turn a schoolteacher’s world upside down, this would be a good book for you.

If I were to rate this book on a scale of one to five, I would give it a three.

Joshua

If an author leaned over to you at lunch and asked if she could send her unpublished manuscript to you for review, I bet you’d jump at the chance…especially if that author was one of your favourites.

That’s what happened to me at the writers conference in June. What an honour!

Shortly after I returned home, Joshua by M.D. Meyer arrived in my inbox. I started reading right away. Having read Lewis, another book in the series, it was like returning to Rabbit Lake for a second visit. The people and places seemed familiar.

Like most people, I enjoy a nice story with a happy ending. However, too often, novels are too tidy, too idyllic. No matter who we are, we’ve likely encountered tragedy and heartbreak of some kind. And I, for one, want a work of fiction to authentically reflect the human condition. I want to care about the characters. I even want to experience the whole gamut of emotions.

Wow! What a ride it was reading Joshua! One thing’s for sure: No-one will accuse M.D. of writing about two-dimensional characters in unrealistic situations. On the contrary, her very believable characters are often in far-too-realistic situations. From Martha, the take charge, faith-filled grandmother to Cynarra, the courageous, heartbroken eight-year-old to Joshua, the lone stallion with a tragic past, readers will come to know and care about each one. And if they’re like me, they’ll cry, gasp, and even get “the warm fuzzies” on occasion.

A skilled author grabs your attention and keeps you on the edge of your seat as effectively as any movie director. Yet, the author does so without the advantages of a soundtrack, dramatic lighting, and award-winning actors. If you want to dive into a compelling story, keep your eyes open for the release of Joshua.

Lewis

If you were repeatedly abandoned, could you welcome back the offender?

If you were abused over and over and over again, could you find healing?

If you never knew genuine love, would you recognize it when it was right in front of you?

Forgiveness and trust are not easy to come by. And, of course, they are the themes of many novels, including this one. The discovery of authentic love is also a theme Lewis shares with many other works.

I met M.D. Meyer at the Write! Canada conference last June. Thanks to social networking, we have kept in touch. I was honoured that she sent me a copy of her newest book Lewis to read and review.

Meyer has a heart for the First Nations people. Without judgment, she explores real issues that could as easily be biographical as fictional. This story could take place in any First Nations community–in any community. And that’s one reason it is so poignant.

The novel strikes a chord with readers. It’s almost guaranteed that we can see ourselves–or someone we know–in its pages. I care about the characters from the first page. And if I care, I’m hooked. As I read Lewis, I was not merely an observer; I was right there with them. Trust me…there were times I felt my heart racing and I had to read further.

Lewis doesn’t candy-coat the issues of abuse and abandonment, but it does offer real hope. If these issues sound familiar, I encourage you to read the book. If you care about someone who is facing these issues, I encourage you to read the book. If you are just looking for a good, character-driven story to immerse yourself in for an afternoon…Yes, I encourage you to read Lewis.