Thursday, May 12, 2016

Forgiving My Daughter's Killer

Hi again. BookLook Bloggers provided this volume free in return for a review. 

This book is written by the mother whose teenage daughter was murdered by the daughter's teenage boyfriend. Nancy French, a co-writer of various conservative leaning books, helped. We hear the voice of the middle aged mom, who provides a very personal look inside her family and pain (at one point, she even explains her inability to have sex with her husband after the shooting). French also contributed to a Q&A at the end with the killer himself. 

The book is about family, faith and restorative justice. The author and her husband are the co-founders of the Ann Grosmaire (her daughter) "Be the Change" Fund, a charitable fund to promote forgiveness and restorative justice.  This is a form of justice that is based on three principles: crime is the violation of people and of interpersonal relationships, violations create obligations on the part of the offender and the central obligation is to right the wrongs. It fits in with the author's Catholic/Christian faith (her and her husband practicing different forms of Christianity over their lives) as well as being valuable to the victims as well as hopefully those who commit the crimes.  

It is a very good book though obviously hard to read, especially early on when basically it is waiting game for Ann to die (perhaps, this provides everyone a chance to get ready better in some small way).  Early on, though it isn't easy particularly for the father, the parents were open to forgive the killer.  I think the fact they knew him, there was some expectation he would actually marry Ann, factored in here.  Plus, the author (Kate) herself experienced death before -- as a child, her brother accidentally killed someone with their father's gun.  Still, her empathy is remarkable on some level, clearly, though there are other accounts of people who forgave a killer without having a personal connection with them beforehand.  I think some can "relate" with her a bit more on that end. Some might say "I couldn't do this" all the same.

The book tells a remarkable story as well as (without being heavy-handed or let's say overly angelic) talking about her faith through all of this tragedy.  It is well written and overall reads like a novel. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Feisty and Feminine : A Rallying Cry for Conservative Women

Hi again. BookLook Bloggers provided this volume free in return for a review. 

Let me be honest here. This book is not really a match to my ideological position. But, that is fine -- it's useful to read other points of view. Still, the audience of this book is not me. It basically is for conservative women, the biblical figure of Esther in particular used as a metaphor -- it is a guidebook for conservative women who want to defend their morality courageously or at least out in the open, at times in the face of adversity and criticism. It is not really, from my vantage point, exactly a means to convince the general reader that the conservative viewpoint is correct. The title itself is fair warning. 

I find this somewhat unfortunate. I do think, however, you have to review a book on its own terms, not on the terms you personally wish it to be. On its own terms, the book is pretty good. It is written by the CEO and president of Concerned Women for America, so the tone at times that suggests some average women out there struggling among experts (e.g., when she was a talking head on some t.v. show) is a bit much. Still, the book is written in a down to earth way that touches a range of issues in a way useful for the general reader. To be clear, "conservative" here has a specific Christian focus (well, sure; look at the publisher) and a chapter looks at the Israel issue in that fashion. Likewise, some might have different ideas of what "conservative" really means. 

But, if you want to read a book on the basic point of view of a conservative women, in part to hear the other side, this is a pretty good place to look. I give it an average rating (three stars) since it didn't impress me as superior and felt somewhat stereotypical. Which is fine really, but was a limiting thing. Till next time.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Sister Dear by Laura McNeill

Hi again. BookLook Bloggers provided this volume free in return for a review. So, I received it before the official release date.

The book starts with the last moments of Allie's decade long imprisonment for killing someone who we soon know was a in her mind a travesty of justice. She comes back to try to rebuild her life, her sister (Emma) basically the only one on her side in prison.  Her now teenage daughter (Caroline) has learned to see her aunt as her mother and Caroline's relationship with Allie is in shambles. Allie's father still suspects she did the crime and her mother seems to be trying to keep appearances, not wanting to face up to what happened and is happening.  Meanwhile, the local sheriff has to deal with a sick wife and Emma with the stress of taking care of a teenage niece.  The book provides us with different perspectives in their voices -- Allie, Caroline, Emma and the sheriff too.

I have seen complaint that the last book by the author was not really "Christian" fiction, defined ("Christian novel") by Wikipedia as "a Christian world view in its plot, its characters, or both, or which deals with Christian themes in a positive way." That is rather open-ended, but often is taken to mean a certain conservative type of Christianity as well as requiring a certain lack of offensive language or sex.  This book to me fits the rules -- the basic plot involves redemption, forgiveness and trying to start again while not letting one's situation get you down or let despair win.  But, this isn't really the basic point here. The point is to tell a good story -- in particular, Allie trying to find out the truth.  That works too.

I would give this book an average rating.  The different perspective technique is one I like -- there are various ways to look at a situation, each person has their own way of doing that.  And, stepping into their shoes, looking at things through their eyes, is to me a good way to go.  Plus, the author basically does a good job doing that.  I cared about these characters and believed what was said about them, what they did.  The book itself -- a paperback -- was attractive, easy to read and good as a product.  The explanation of the mystery was believable and things kept our interest as the plot developed -- being purposely vague here.  On the other hand, the book was not that "next level" sort of book -- it was basically workmanlike -- that "wows" me.  I did at times find it plodding.

So, I would recommend this but give it three stars.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Code 13

Hi again. BookLook Bloggers provided this volume (of "The Navy JAG Series") free in return for a review.  As last time, others might be in better stead to review this if they didn't come into this cold. OTOH, there is something to be said to a reader who is coming at this as a stand alone novel.

This is the second volume in "The Navy JAG Series" of novels by Don Brown, who has more than one series for those who like adventure stories with a Christian flavor.  An early tell here is the copyright page with reference to various biblical quotes.  But, the reader can enjoy this as merely an adventure story bouncing around per whatever location we are at the beginning of the new chapter.  

The narration is a bit clunky for my tastes and go tedious soon enough.  The title drop comes soon: "Administrative Law Division (Code 13). The book is topical -- the drone warfare plot device the subject of one or more recent films.  There is action, romance ("her old flame, P.J. MacDonald" etc.) and some appropriate Bible quotes.  The author's own experience in JAG (Judge Advocacy General's) Corps does give things a sense of real life though I'm not knowledgeable enough to judge really.

Didn't really like it.  Two stars. 

Saturday, March 26, 2016

black and white bible, black and blue white

Hi again. BookLook Bloggers provided this volume (subtitle: "My Story of Finding Hope after Domestic Abuse," I'm using the capitalization found on the cover here) free in return for a review.  

They specialized in Christian books, including Zondervan publishing. This book is by an author who has wrote for them before. She will be familiar to many, including going by the acknowledgments three unnamed Supreme Court justices who assisted in some fashion. Some will be more familiar with the question posed earlier: "Should marriage be based on a model of mutual submission and equality [her position] or on a model of male headship? Some might also be upset that she does not go into more detail when discussing biblical citations. I found one review that complained about this. 

I don't come at this from the theological background of some readers or the author herself, who has a Ph.D., many books and a long career teaching. So, though I at times did find the biblical snapshots a bit too general, a lack of detailed biblical exegesis did not really upset me. Early on, the author suggested stories, here a biography of her own experiences (with two decades of hindsight from her divorce for perspective), could be most helpful. And, her own story and others (including various biblical and literary lights, including Charles Dickens) is very helpful in that respect. 

The book uses these stories mixed in with a discussion of various angles involved in dealing with domestic violence, focusing on women being the victims.  She overall comes off as a liberal feminist generally speaking but accepts the Bible as is -- e.g., no reference that Timothy is not really "Paul" but Pauline writing written after his death.  She also at one point respects Tipper Gore's concerns over rock lyrics and without context opposes Fifty Shades of Grey. Nonetheless, a person not really biblical orientated could appreciate the book.  It should have a wide readership there.  It helps that it is down to earth, conversational in tone. Again, not reading her past work, don't know if this is a standard style.  It just worked for me. 

I think this was very good but would have appreciated an index. Maybe, that was a cost-saving device. The quotations, including on the Acknowledgment Page (an amusing quirk), worked as well.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

I Said Yes

Hi again.  BookLook Bloggers provided this volume free in return for a review. Here you go.

I'm not a fan of the Bachelor or Bachelorette ... at least did not watch either show ... but admit to finding the concept somewhat intriguing.  The mindset of someone who would go on such a show and the chance to provide a behind the scenes look was basically my thoughts when choosing this book.  Looking at her biography and such, she also seemed to be an attractive woman who I was somewhat interested in hearing more about.  To give you a taste on my expectations here.

Early on, a theme was suggested by the author -- she wrote the book with A.J. Gregory who wrote two books (per her website) "which chronicles finding faith in the middle of unavoidable and sometimes harsh realities." -- when Emily admitted to having second thoughts about "saying yes" to a second engagement.  The book in effect is her life story and how she can say "yes," yes to "hoping, dreaming, wishing" again and be satisfied with her choices.

This book is not just a story of her experiences on reality programming though that is eventually handled.  This should be kept in mind if you choose this book.  Some have noted this -- they were disappointed with the amount of time spent on her early years and family life.  But, the book is about Emily Maynard Johnson, not "Emily, reality t.v. star."  And, this is seen in the book as a whole -- it is a very person book.  It if anything overuses the word "I," actually.  The personal is a plus in the book, since you get a sense of the person and it feels real. 

Let me summarize my feelings on the book as a whole.  Overall, it was a pleasant book, easy to read and regarding a subject with a deep enough biography (including some tragedy) to warrant a biography.  Her struggles, keep the faith (multiple biblical references) and success story in finding the "real deal" to be happy with shows how a Christian reader will appreciate this story. Honestly, some might be turned off by us of a reality show to obtain a mate, which might be deemed wrong. I was somewhat disappointed the chapters on her experience there did not go in more detail, but it is good to get her perspective on that point as well.  Finally, honestly, at thirty years old, her life is obviously only in the first stage.  I prefer biographies that cover more ground there.

Basically, it was a middle of the road read, good for what it was.  I would give it three stars out of five.  Till next time!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The Garden Gate

I have not reviewed something for a while but by chance saw a reference to Book Look and decided to return to the fold.  To move to a new book, I first have to handle this one.  The book was provided to me free and in return am obligated merely to provide my opinion.  It is my own alone.

Okay.  This book is apparently part of a series, one I'm not familiar with, so perhaps reading it cold is not ideal. But, it also provides a different perspective as well.  Overall, the book is written in the point of view of a young woman and her experience with the spirit world, particularly angels. This book specifcally focuses on Prissie's saying good bye to her angel friend Koji, as well as the further development of her friendship with the young man Ransom. The most interesting story line with in the book is the interactions with Adin, a fallen angel that has been tormenting Prissie for some time.

I think that I would have liked it better if I read it from the beginning of the series.  Nonetheless, overall, it was a decent read.  Average basically thus the three stars.