Thursday, December 16, 2010

City of Tranquil Light

City of Tranquil Light
Author: Bo Caldwell
Genre: Fiction, Historical
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Publishing Date: September 28, 2010

Will Kiehn is a simple Midwestern man. Growing up in a farmer’s home it seems inevitable that he will continue to work the land like the generations before him. However, in the early 1900’s God places a call on his heart for the country of China. Answering that call, he leaves all that is familiar he catches a boat and moves to the North China Plain in 1906. In China he meets fellow missionary Katherine, a dedicated nurse with struggling language skills. They fall in love, marry, and dedicate their lives to serving together in China.

The early 1900’s is a time of great turmoil in China. The two-thousand-year-old dynasty is crumbling and the nation plunges into violent civil war. Will and Katherine make their home in Kuang P’ing Ch’eng- City of Tranquil Light. They are well accepted by the people of the city and Katherine’s nursing skills are an open door for many new converts. However, the country is far from safe. Disease threatens the life of their newborn, Will is kidnapped by bandits, and rebel soldiers take the city by storm. In the midst of it all we journey with Will and Katherine and their unending love for each other as they pour out their very lives into the country they have adopted as home.

The depth of this book will captivate you. The story is told alternatively through Will and Katherine’s viewpoints. Will tells the story as an aging widow and we see Katherine’s story through her journal entries. Their love for each other and their dedication for their calling is truly beautiful. Bo Caldwell creatively weaves in portions of her own grandparent’s story as missionaries to China into the novel which adds a wonderful spark of meaning into a book already overflowing with meaning. The historical aspects of China that are revealed through the book are fascinating and not over done. You’ll walk away wanting to know more.

You’ll find yourself completely drawn into Will and Katherine’s story. Like any truly good book you won’t want this one to end. I found myself overwhelmed at the sacrifices the missionaries of old had to make. Many missionaries packed their belongings into coffins because they knew their bodies would only ever return to the place of their birth. Will and Katherine became a part of China and China’s impact on their lives was permanent. I dare say that this book could impact you much the same. In it you’ll find the soft whisper of the Father as he creates his story in the characters but also as he whispers his story to the reader. A story of love, of sacrifice, of a God who transcends cultures to reveal himself to his beloved creation.

Rated: PG- for war violence and drama

***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Stars Collide

Stars Collide
Author: Janice Thompson
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Hollywood
Publisher: Revell
Publishing Date: December 2010

Kat Jennings and Scott Murphy are television stars. While filming their third season of the popular TV show Stars Collide the script, both on stage and in real life, takes some interesting twists. As their characters fall in love on TV Kat and Scott are already in love with each other in real life, head over heels in fact. Kat’s grandmother, Lenora Worth, is an aging former Hollywood star. Eccentric, unique, beautiful, and just a tad loopy, she manages to blur the lines between her granddaughter’s real life and her TV life. Before you can blink Grandma confuses an on-air proposal and Kat and Scott are “engaged” in real life…although they aren’t, but their characters are on TV. Confused? Imagine how Grandma Lenora feels!

The plot thickens as Lenora invites the paparazzi in for a sneak peak at all the “wedding” planning. Meanwhile, Kat and Scott are still enjoying their budding romance and not quite sure what to do with all of the confusion. There is also something strangely mysterious about Rex, the show’s producer. He and Lenora seem to have a past and their admiration for each other is hard to miss. Lenora wavers between eras and manages to be glamorous and endearing in whatever decade she’s currently residing. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself laughing out loud as she invites Kat to go swimming with her in the “cement pond” or loudly announces the couple’s “engagement” to Scott’s parents visiting from out of town.

If you love movies at all, particularly old movies, then you will love this book. I was hooked from the moment the characters started talking about Doris Day. The many references to movies and old movie stars is truly delightful. It portrays Hollywood in a refreshing way. As you ride down Sunset Boulevard in “The Pink Lady” you’ll see a softer side of Hollywood through Grandma Lenora’s eyes. Lenora is well developed and hilarious. Her memory loss is frustrating at times and I felt occasionally a bit overworked. You’ll fall in love with Kat as you journey with her as she falls in love, finds healing from her Father God, and grows as a person.

I so badly wanted this book to be perfect because it is SO close! Much like forgetting salt when making cookies it is missing the “it” factor. Poor Scott is likable, but largely underdeveloped. He’s an important prop but he simply remains a prop for most of the book. He steps in when needed but there is just something missing with him. However, do not let this stop you from reading this book! I had my doubts about a “Hollywood” book but I loved it for so many reasons. Don’t be surprised if you find the urge to pop Pillow Talk or An Affair to Remember in your DVD player and escape back to a different Hollywood and join Grandma Lenora in her memories. You’ll be so glad you did!

Rated: G

Audrey Leach at Baker Publishing

Monday, December 13, 2010

Still House Pond

Still House Pond
Author: Jan Watson
Genre: Historical, Fiction
Publisher: Tyndale
Date: July 2010

Lilly Gray Corbett is an adventurous 11 year old growing up in Kentucky in 1896. She can’t imagine anything better than living right on Troublesome Creek. She  loves her mama (Copper) and her step-daddy (John) and all of her little brothers and sisters. Lilly’s mama is an accomplished mid-wife and is often traveling around to deliver babies. Lilly  enjoys pleasing her mama but doesn’t always like babysitting all those sisters and brothers. She’d rather be outside near the creek discovering something, or someone, new.

Lilly’s daddy died when she was little in Lexington. One day Aunt Alice writes and invites Lilly to come spend part of the summer with her in the city. Copper has a hard time letting go of her little girl and allowing her to travel by herself on the train. However, she relents and Lilly is ecstatic about her adventure. In a mix-up of catastrophic proportions Lilly misses her train and is kidnapped by an angry neighbor. The family thinks Lilly is on the train bound for Aunt Alice and when that train crashes they fear the very worst. You’ll find yourself caught up as the story jumps between different characters and each character experiences their own defining moments. You throw in the Pelfry family maid who has a run in with a nefarious character and you’ll keep on reading this one.

There is something so effortless about the way Jan Watson writes and they way her books read. She’s been a favorite of mine for some time. She allows you to not only enter into the story but you enter into the lives of the characters. Still House Pond  doesn’t just bring you one event in the life of Lilly and her family, it allows you to join in on their day to day lives. It’s like settling into a warm quilt and enjoying a chat with friends. You’ll easily find yourself caught up in this read. Your heart will race as Lilly is kidnapped, hurt as Copper fears her daughter is dead, and be angry at the carelessness of the characters. You’ll enter in and enjoy every minute of it, I promise!

Rated PG- for birth scenes

Thank you to Tyndale Publishing for providing a copy of this book!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Son of Hamas

Son of Hamas
Author: Mosab Hassan Yousef (with Ron Brackin)

The shocking true story of a Hamas insider who rejected his violent destiny- and is now risking everything to expose closely guarded secrets and show the world a way to peace.
From his earliest days, Mosab Hasson Yousef had a view of the inner workings of Hamas. The son of one its founders, from childhood he was immersed in the mysterious world of Middle Eastern terror and politics. Arrested time and again by the Shin Bet, the Israeli internal intelligence service, he eventually made the decision to become a double agent. For ten years Yousef lived deeply embedded within Hamas, suspected by no one, yet passing vast amounts of information to Israel. In this way he prevented assassinations, stopped suicide attacks and provided information leading to the arrests or killings of many terrorists. He was Shin Bet’s most valuable source of information about Hamas.

In the late 90's a "chance" encounter with a British visitor opened Yosuef's eyes to the Christian faith. Curious and intelligent, Yousef took this opportunity and was immediately struck by the difference between Jesus Christ and Mohammed, between the Christian faith and the Islam he had inherited from his fathers. In the months that followed he made a slow conversion to Christianity and was quietly baptized.

Yousef now lives in the US under political asylum. The book chronicles Yousef's heartbreaking separation from his family and his homeland as God draws him near.

This book is truly fascinating. I'm a sucker for true stories and this does not disappoint. I did find myself bogged down in many of the historical and political background but it was pertinent to the story (can we say "short attention span"?). It brings what you see on the news to real life. You'll find yourself challenged, overwhelmed, and inspired. A gripping read!  

Thank you to Tyndale House Publishing for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my review!
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