Thursday, May 26, 2011

Tea & Read: Blood Covenant

Title: Blood Covenant
Author: Lisa Harris
Rating: Spend the day sleepy (five stars out of five)

Last year, I read Lisa Harris’ first novel, Blood Ransom ( Since then, I am more impressed with Harris writings and her life.

This second book picks up where the first left off, an African country in turmoil. It introduces two new characters, Dr. Paige Ryan and Nick Gilbert, humanitarian aid workers. I instantly fell in love with these two characters because their flaws were balanced and credible. No going into depression about a hang nail here. The characters have problems and realistic reasons why they have those problems.

Paige really gripped my attention because of her response to the death and destruction of life she sees. I understand how she feels because I imagine I will feel the same way. She handles the overwhelming nature of the work she is to do much the way many humanitarian workers do, battling hopelessness with hope.

Harris has also done a great job of realistically portraying the life of humanitarian workers. The climate of uncertainty and danger carries through the book, making it a quick read and a page turner. And the writing doesn’t hinder the flow of the story. Harris’ descriptions create a great atmosphere to the novel. They give the perfect picture of the beauty of the untamed jungles and mountain peaks of Africa, but also give a stark picture of the reality of refugee camps and the pain and suffering there.

Beyond Harris’ highlight on the problems with war in improvised countries, the story doesn’t just rely on that to be gripping. Harris’ includes some interesting plot turns that keep the conflict and suspense up to nail-biting levels. She doesn’t use the horrors of the RD as shock value. This story very much about how Nick and Paige respond to the desolation they see.

I mentioned that I wasn’t just impressed with Harris’ writing, but with the author as a person. I recently discovered that Harris’ has begun her own non-profit humanitarian organization at God’s prompting ( Such bravery and courage. I will read as many more of Harris’ books as she writes and am looking forward to the day that I can support her work in reaching out those in need.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Tea & Read: Love on Assigment

Title: Love on Assignment
Author: Cara Lynn James
Rating: Two cups of tea (four stars out of five)

Sometimes reading the second book in a series can be disastrous. You jump into a serious feeling lost, confused and wishing you’d read the first book. But sometimes, reading the second book first can be a great blessing. When the second book is great, there’s a good chance that the first book was great, too.

I loved the premise of the book, a reporter going undercover as a governess. Actually, I thought there were so many unique elements about this book that captured my attention. I love James’ use of the media, even at its limited capacity in the early 1900. I loved that the author created Daniel to have standards, but still not be high and mighty or preachy. I loved the way Daniel’s flaws were believable and realistic.

Of course, there is an element of deception in Charlotte’s behavior. Lately I’ve read several Christian fiction books that have included lying characters and found that deception in Christian fiction is a fine road to walk.  James, however, does a great job to show Charlotte’s discomfort with the charade she’d playing with Daniel.

The writing was great and the pacing was good. The rest of the characters in the book endeared me to them. Even Daniel’s mother, who was a course character, was portrayed well-rounded.

This book has given me hope for James’ other books, Love on Dime and Love by the Book will be as great as her others, no matter what order I read them in.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Tea & Read: Delivered With Love

Title: Delivered with Love
Author: Sherry Kyle
Rating: Wall Target Practice (one star out of five)

It pains my heart to write negative book reviews. I want to absolutely love every book that I read, especially when it’s an author that I’ve never read before. I want them to become my new favorite, which was the cast when I started reading Delivered with Love.

This book began with an engaging opening. Having lost my mother to cancer, I immediately sympathized with Claire. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it halfway through the book before I gave up on it.

I don’t mean to vilify the book. Kyle has good descriptions and a nice flow to her writing. And the premise of the book, going a great adventure definitely has its appeal. But this book stretched my belief in the events of the plot. Several times I found myself putting the book down because something so unbelievable happened. Also, Claire was a little bit too trusting of strangers that made her a little dislikable to me. I wondered often about the
type of persons she’d have to be to accept some of the offers she gets in the book.

My biggest problem with this book, however, was all the confidences that Claire experienced. Too many things connected too neatly. Again, I found myself disconnecting from the story because I simple could not wrap my brain around the way everything conveniently connected.

Sadly, I couldn’t finish the book. My fear was that the ending would just be another convenient connect and would leave me angry. I decided to quit while I was ahead so that I can give Kyle another chance if she publishes another book.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Tea & Read: Diagnosis Death

Title: Diagnosis Death
Author: Richard Mabry
Rating: Wall Target Practice (one star)

This is the first book I’ve read from Richard Mabry, who has entered the Christian fiction world filling a much needed niche, medical thrillers. Needless to say that I expectations for this book was very high. Unfortunately, the book disappointed me very much.

I must confess up front that I didn’t finish the book. More like couldn’t finish. This book required me to suspend my disbelief too much. The medical aspect was credible enough. I could almost smell that yucky hospital smell while I was reading it. Also the writing was solid and had a good flow and pacing to it. The novel drew me in right from the beginning. Sadly, this wasn’t enough to keep my attention.

The biggest turn off was the main character, Elana. So many times her behavior was either confusing or conflicting. She begins the book mourning her husband so heavily that she’s not sleeping. But then, halfway through the book, she’s showing interest for another man. I thought that was too big of a change.

Also, some Elana’s decisions threw me off. I found it hard to follow her motivations behind those decisions. I got to the point where I really didn’t care what happened to her, which motivated me to give up on the book.

I sincerely hope that Mabry continues to write for the sake of the medical thrillers genre, but I leery about attempting another one of his books, unless I get it from the library.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Tea & Read: Save the Date

Title: Save the Date
Author: Jenny B. Jones
Rating: One cup of tea (three stars out of five)

Jenny B. Jones has been my go-to writer for YA. I love her writing style and wit. Every one of her book contains gut-busting funny scenes and characters. I was excited about reading her latest book, Save the Date, since it is was not a YA book.

Although I love Jones style, I finished the book feeling torn. I had a love-hate reaction to so many things in the book. For instance, the characters were great. I loved Lucy’s weird group of friends. They were hilarious.  I loved Lucy and Alex. They were engaging and I actually cared about what happened to them. But I didn’t like Lucy and Alex’s interactions. They were constantly snipping at each other, to the point that it was hard to believe that they fell in love. Also, their dialog was snappy and witty, but it didn’t seem like they were saying anything of substance to each other.

I like the premise of the book: a contract marriage, but, I didn’t like that both Alex and Lucy were Christians and they were completely okay with lying. I understand that Christians are imperfect and they lie, but it was hard to sympathize with their plot. I also didn’t like the fact that there were no real consequences for their lies. If this was not a Christian fiction book, the “means justify the ends” attitude that Lucy had might not have bothered me that much. But because Lucy was a Christian, it disturbed me how easy it was for her to continue to lie and that she never had to suffer any consequences for lying to so many people.

Another love-hate issue was the character named Julian. I loved the risk that Jones made including such an effeminate man in her story. Unfortunately, he came across very cliché gay. I would love to know if that was the author’s intention. Despite that, Julian was one of the funniest characters in the book.

I really don’t know how to rate this book. The writing was solid and the setting was plausible. However, the characters and plot, namely the ending of the novel, caused me to lower my score for this book. Now, because I’ve been a loyal follower of Jones’ writing, I will buy her next book. I also would encourage others to read this book despite my review. It is definitely a book readers need to form their own opinion about.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Tea & Read: Within My Heart

Title:Within My Heart
Author: Tamera Alexander
Rating: Two cups of tea

Historicals are very popular right now. I’ve been reading a lot of them lately and sadly, I grew weary of them. It seemed that I kept selecting historicals with similar plotlines. So when I picked up Within My Heart by Tamara Alexander, I groaned and said “Another historical.” Thankfully, that sentiment didn’t last long. Within five pages, I realized that this was not just another historical.

Alexander masterfully creates the world of Rachel Boyd and Dr. Rand Brookston. Rachel is a widower raising two boys and trying to run her and her late husband’s ranch. Dr. Rand Brookston is the doctor for the small town of Timber Ridge but has dreams of being more.

This book was full of unique twists and turns that it sets it in a different category than other historicals. Most books I’ve read focus more a specific time period, but Within My Heart presents wonderful characters and engaging storylines. Alexander portrays death in dying in a way I don’t think I’ve ever seen in Christian fiction. She tells the story of loss that presents a perfect balance between sadness and hope.

Rand and Rachel’s romance draws you in, but Alexander does a great job of also creating meaningful secondary characters. Also, there are just some amazing plot twists that had my jaw dropped. I can’t say enough about this book. The only reason I didn't give it the highest rating was that I didn't read it in one day, but I could have if my life wasn't so insane. If you like historicals, you’ll love this book.