Par for the Course

11 Mar

Par for the CourseRay Blackston

Publisher: FaithWords

Publication Date: 2008

Paperback: 241 pages

Book Blurb:

Golf, politics, and romance collide as golf-range owner Chris Hackett meets an attractive political correspondent who turns his world upside down.

Chris Hackett owns and operates Hack’s Golf Learning Center, an eccentric golf range in Charleston, South Carolina. Chris jumps at the chance to step up his game when an attractive new student and political correspondent, Molly Cusack, suggests that Chris capitalize on the highly polarized presidential election. His pitting of Right versus Left means even more income, plus a sharp new girlfriend, and soon Chris, his sidekick, Cack, and their unique golf range are the talk of the town… until someone takes the political insults too seriously.

The question is, will Molly, stick around long enough for Chris to learn the true meaning of “playing politics”? Or is she just another “moving target”?

Stand alone or series: Stand alone

Why I read this book: The Flabbergasted series stole me away. I wanted to check out a new novel by him.

Review:

Blackston is at is again with another all-star cast of wacky, lovable characters. Chris Hackett has found his calling—he teaches golf lessons to beginners at golf range he owns. Cack is happy tending the grounds, telling passersby his views on what is wrong with the world, and insulting customers on a bullhorn every Tuesday during Wack the Cack. When Molly Cusack, a cute, single, outspoken political correspondent, learns of this unusual game she has a new idea. In an election year when temperature run high, why not take advantage of the wide dichotomy and make a little extra cash? On Friday night all the democrats come to take a wack at the right, with Cack shouting political insults at them from his high-powered, wire-mesh golf cart. On Saturday night republicans get the same chance. Soon Chris finds there’s a world of polarized issues—country fans and hip hop lovers, high school spirit teams wanting to wack the opposing team’s mascot and a round of wack the Baptists for eleven atheists (the Christians were given the chance but they didn’t think it would be quite right to Wack the Pagan). But with all this tension abounding, someone is bound to get their feelings hurt and maybe hurt a little more than just feelings.

I greatly enjoyed this book, though I have to say it doesn’t beat Flabbergasted. The cast of characters is as fun as ever. It’s complete with another men’s accountability group, which is always fun to witness. I would love to have seen Molly a little more rounded, we get a limited view of her as she flits about the country. Chris is excellently rounded, we understand him—what makes him tick, what gives him joy, what made him who he is today. Though we don’t have a backstory for Cack we don’t need one, we all know the type and Blackston uses him perfectly.

The book wasn’t as God-centered as the Flabbergasted series. Part of what I loved about that series was the unique insights into faith that it offered. This novel was definitely more golf-centered. I learned terms I didn’t even know existed. This was a fun read and I would recommend it to anyone looking for something light and enjoyable. I’m certainly going to check out other Blackston books, I’ll let you know more!

Green

12 Feb

GreenAuthor: Ted Dekker

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Publication Date: 2009

Paperback: 416 pages

Book Blurb:

As foretold by ancient prophets, an apocalypse destroyed Earth during the twenty-first century. But two thousand years later Elyon set upon the earth a new Adam. This time, however, he gave humanity an advantage. What was once unseen became seen. It was good and it was called…Green.

But the evil Teeleh bided his time in a Black Forest. Then, when least expected, a twenty-four year old named Thomas Hunter fell asleep in our world and woke up in that future Black Forest. A gateway was opened for Teeleh to ravage the land. Devastated by the ruin, Thomas Hunter and his Circle swore to fight the dark scourge until their dying death.

That was then. Now the Circle has lost all hope. And Samuel, Thomas Hunter’s cherished son, has turned his back on his father and is aligning dark forces to wage the final war. Thomas is crushed–but determined to rescue the Circle and his son even if he has to cross two worlds to do so.

Stand alone or series: Fourth in The Circle series, they also consider it book zero, but don’t listen.

Why I read this book: I loved The Circle series! There was no way I was not going to read this book.

Review:

So I like the theory behind having a book zero. It completes the circle, which is fitting for The Circle series. However, in actuality it doesn’t work. Please, I repeat, please do not read Green first. I know it says book zero so numerically that’s before one, but just don’t do it. The novel was written forth and should be read fourth. Here’s why: If you read this novel first and it will give away all the main plot points of the other three books. It will take the suspense away because you already know what is going to happen. Suspense is the fuel these books run on, plot is highly important. If you take those away, as you will by reading this book first, you will find your experience significantly lessened.

Also, if you take this book as it’s intended, that it completes the loop and the same story plays out over and over again, quite honestly that’s disappointing. It means nothing changes. And you’ll end this novel hoping that it does.

It’s difficult for me to focus on the content of this novel because I couldn’t get past how misleading this book zero could be. The first three novels worked seamlessly together as one piece. This novel stuck out like a sore thumb. While the characters are the same, the plot is entirely separate from the other three. Yet it references the plotline of the other three frequently, it also references the Lost Books series—the teen series Ted Dekker wrote that was set in this world. It seemed the story was often lost in its own complicated world plotting. I just kept thinking, I’m not sure how much of this would make sense if I hadn’t already read the 3 Circle books and the 7 Lost Books novels. And I’m sorry I’m being so vague and convoluted when it comes to the plot, but if I were clear I would give away important plot points from this novel and the previous novels.

It was also significantly darker than the other novels. The new characters, Janae and Billy, leave a bitter taste that made me not want to read this before bed. I was so lost in all of these things that I’m not sure if I enjoyed it or not. Perhaps if you don’t overthink it as I did, you might be able to enjoy the latest edition of the world Ted Dekker can’t seem to leave. Otherwise I would say take the Circle series as it was originally intended—as a trilogy.

The Island of Heavenly Daze

28 Jan

Island of Heavenly DazeLori Copeland and Angela Hunt

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Publication Date: 2001

Paperback: 272 pages

Book Blurb:

To a casual visitor, the island of Heavenly Daze is just like a dozen others off the coast of Maine. It is decorated with graceful Victorian mansions, carpeted with gray cobblestones and bright wild flowers, and populated by sturdy, hard-working folks-most of whom are unaware that the island of Heavenly Daze is not just like the other islands of coastal Maine. The small town that crowns its peak consists of seven buildings, each inhabited, according to divine decree, by an angel who has been commanded to guard and help anyone who crosses the threshold.

Unexpected hijinks and heart-warming results occur when mortals and immortals cross paths-and unaware visitors to the picturesque establishments of Heavenly Daze discover that they have been entertained by angels.

Stand alone or series: One of five and I was so glad there were more.

Why I read this book: In my ever-widening search for new and different Christian novels I ran across this series and it intrigued me.

Review:

If you’ve read Jan Karon’s Mitford series or Thomas Kinkade’s Cape Light series, you’ll find yourself on similar ground to the story set in Heavenly Daze. The main difference being that on the island of Heavenly Daze, angels don human flesh and walk among the mere mortals. I found this a fascinating premise and wanted to learn more.

There are twenty-nine residents on the small island off the coast of Maine—only twenty-two are human. For me, I can’t really tell who I like best. The humans, much like me, are flawed. So the conflict of the novel comes from them. But the challenges they face are not an ending world, an impeding hurricane, or other “great” misfortunes. They are problems that you and I would face—a stubborn garden, an unyielding maternal figure, a bald head. Not monumental in a total sum and yet, it mattered to me. And the lessons they learned were all the sweeter for being applicable to my own life.

The angels make up the other contingent of the island. These creatures have an insight I envy and a peace that so often eludes my grasp. Yet while I read of their lives here on earth and in heaven that peace crept into my own live. I used their joyous point of view as my own.

I grew quite attached to the inhabitants of Heavenly Daze and devoured the rest of the novels just like I gobbled up this one. I was sad when I finished, yet content that they’d touched my life in such a simple and intimate way. I encourage you to check out the Heavenly Daze series. In fact, I encourage you to buy them and pass them around as I have done. This is a wonderful series that’s got a little something for everyone and is a joy to read.

Have a lovely new year!

Hello!

4 Jan

Hello everyone! I’m so happy you’ve decided to return for another great year! This year will see a few changes around the blog. Stay tuned to see what they are!

Have a great new year! I’ll be praying for you!

Lost in Dreams

31 Dec

Lost In DreamsRodger Bruner and Kristi Rae Bruner

Publisher: Barbour Publishing, Inc

Publication Date: 2011

Paperback: 368 pages, but for me this was an e-book

Book Blurb:

Join eighteen-year-old Kim Hartlinger, as she arrives home from a life-changing mission trip to a remote Mexican village. This second novel in a new series for teen girls will challenge your faith-and capture your heart-as you journey with Kim through the biggest struggle of her life and faith.

(P.S. I’m so sorry this blurb tells you nothing. Worst one I’ve read yet. However, not an accurate reflection of the novel. Plenty of substance there.)

Stand alone or series: This is the second in the Altered Hearts series. It follows Lost in Dreams which I loved. I didn’t know for the longest time that there was a follow-up because Lost in Dreams seemed like such a stand alone I didn’t even bother to look.

Why I read this book: Like I said, I loved the first.

Review:

When it comes to the timeline you could pick up the second book without noticing. When it comes to tone however there couldn’t be a bigger difference. Kim is still riding the planes home from Santa Maria when the book begins. The fun and formidable Aleesha is with her through the first connecting flight and man do I love that girl. Aleesha tells Kim about the Season of Pebbles—a time in our lives when many things go wrong—and Kim’s Season is about to begin in full swing.

Warning: The next two paragraphs contain spoilers.

Kim’s mother dies in a car accident on her way to pick up Kim at the airport. The grief and depression that follows engulfs Act 1 and makes for an incredibly different read than Found in Translation. It’s intensely sad. I found myself on the verge of tears for hours as I worked through the first part. About a quarter of the way through the book things take an upward turn when she is invited on another mission.

Not that the first part isn’t important, but the missions part of the book is my favorite. It’s the same funny, uplifting, conflict filled plot that made the first so great. Here’s were the Christian message starts to shine through and pick Kim up from the depths she was in and picked me up as well.

This book has some old characters and some new ones. All of whom are multi-layered, caring and more than a bit cheeky. The Bruners really do a great job at character building as well as with missions—through their description as well as the outreach that their novels provide. The lives of the characters are wholly centered on God and I find that refreshing.

I’m more hesitant to recommend this novel than the first. Not because it wasn’t as excellently written as Lost in Dreams. Act 1 was so sad and if anyone reading this is like me, I can’t help but imagine “What if this happened to me?” That being said, the sadness of Act 1 made the transformation in the next two acts all the more beautiful. I still recommend this novel, but be prepared. I certainly wasn’t.

White

24 Dec

WhiteTed Dekker

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Publication Date: 2004

Paperback: 400 pages

Book Blurb:

Time Is Running Out In Two Realities.

In one world, a lethal virus threatens to destroy all life as scientists and governments scramble to find an antidote. In the other, a forbidden love could forever destroy the ragtag resistance known as The Circle.

Thomas can bridge both worlds, but he is quickly realizing that he may not be able to save either.

In this mind-bending adventure, Thomas must find a way to rewrite history as he navigates a whirlwind of emotions and events surrounding a pending apocalypse.

The fate of two worlds comes down to one man’s choice–and it is a most unlikely choice indeed. Life. Death. Love. Nothing is as it seems. Yet all will forever be transformed by the decisions of one man in the final hours of the Great Pursuit.

Stand alone or series: The third (at least that’s how I prefer it) in The Circle Series.

Why I read this book: I couldn’t not. It was all I could do to not pick up this one after I’d finished the last at three in the morning. It was, however, the first thing I grabbed when I woke up the next morning.

Review:

Our world has come to a stop and Other Earth has just sped up.

Thomas is missing on our world. Kara and the government don’t know if he’s dead or alive. But Kara is on a mission to find him. Not in our reality but in the other. In that reality the Horde is closing in on The Circle. Though they number only sixty-seven against the hundreds of thousands of Horde, Ciphus and Qurong will not be satisfied until they are stamped out. Foreseeable action and an unforeseeable love, mark the ending of this thrilling trilogy.

This novel’s subheading is called “The Great Pursuit”. This refers to Elyon/Justin’s relentless pursuit of every life. There is much argument and discussion about what this means among The Circle. The once Supreme Commander of the forest guard now refuses to pick up a sword against his enemy. Thomas will not kill when he knows Elyon has called them to love. Elyon pursues the hearts of the Horde as much as he woos the Circle. The Circle has been given commandments to follow which are very similar to the Bible in our reality. Yet, this subtitle has a double meaning. It also refers to Thomas’s unlikely pursuit of a woman that shall remain unnamed.

As ever, this novel will keep you on your toes. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll race through to the end which is bittersweet. Oh, I’m not talking about the plotline. I’m talking about the mixed emotions I felt at the end. Happy that my heart could finally stop racing and sad that such an excellent trilogy had come to an end…. Then surprise, surprise it hadn’t quite. I’ve still yet to read White so I don’t quite know what to think of this novel written five years after the trilogy’s end. Tune in next month to find out. In the meantime read White

Perfectly Dateless

17 Dec

Perfectly Dateless

Kristen Billerbeck

Publisher: Revell

Publication Date: 2010

Paperback: 257

Book Blurb:

Daisy Crispin has 196 days to find the right date for the prom. There’s only one problem—her parents won’t let her date or even talk to a guy on the phone. Oh, and she’s totally invisible at school, wears lame homemade clothes, and possesses no social skills. Okay, so maybe there’s more than one problem.

Can she talk her parents into letting her go to the prom? Or will they succeed at their obvious attempts to completely ruin her life?

Perfectly Dateless is hilarious, shocking, and totally real. You’ll fall in love with Daisy’s sharp wit and resourcefulness as she navigates the world of boys, fashion, family and friendship.

Stand alone or series: Series! Thank goodness, I just can’t get enough of Daisy and her mom.

Why I read this book: Daisy reminded me of me. An A type personality who has a lot of trouble fitting in in high school, who loves to write, works hard and saves like crazy, and tries to follow God’s will even when it’s hard.

Review:

Daisy is a character that I can relate to. She wants to fit in, but can’t get it quite right. She’s an uptight girl who makes a plan then executes it down to the T. Daisy is too focused on working hard, whether that’s getting the grade or saving up some money. But it’s these smarts that make her so sassy. Her snappy quips hit the mark every time and had me rolling or shaking my head in agreement.

If there’s one thing Kristen Billersbeck excels at in this novel is characterization. The quirky cast of Perfectly Dateless is vividly drawn, from the boys she crushes on to her crushingly strict parents. Claire is Daisy’s best friend who goes through phases like they’re days of the week—her Goth period is complete with dark poetry and a plastic spider nose ring. Amber’s “lanky, mile long body” is equipped with golden tresses and a razor-sharp tongue that can be sweet as sugar when she’s trying to steal the hazel-eyed Chase Doogle. And then there’s Mrs. Crispin…

Besides Daisy, I think Mrs. Crispin is the best written character. She would get barely a sentence out and my hands would start to clench. According to Daisy, her mom’s favorite word is irreverent and she believes that keeping her daughter in ugly, ill-fitted clothes is suffering for her faith and not suffering for bad fashion choices.

My favorite, and possibly the most painful, scenes to read where between Daisy and her mother. This is where Kristen Billerbeck’s wit really begins to shine as words fly between mother and daughter. But what made it more interesting than the hundreds of other mother daughter conflicts was how God centered it was. Even though Daisy disagreed she always tried to be respectful towards her mother. And some ages old Christian debates about modesty, dating and what it means to live a Christian played out between them in a way that left me wanting to hear more.

I could go on about plots and twists and boys, but I don’t want to spoil it! I would recommend this book to teens and moms as a fun read that will not only leave you laughing but also leave you thinking about where you stand on these issues.