Wednesday, 28 November 2012

The Pirate Queen by Patricia Hickman

When I pick up a novel it's for one of two main reasons: 1) I love the storyline, subject, or author and am dying to see what happens this time, or 2) it's strikingly unusual and different to anything I've seen before. This time it was reason #2.

Check out the back page blurb here.

I do like going for books with a new slant, and this one was interesting and not quite what I expected. I'm hard to impress, but this one has stayed in my mind, so that's a good thing, too. From the outset the settings are gorgeous and classy.

The book gets straight into the action and everything is easy to picture because we've seen similar scenes from Hollywood. Saphora is complex, but to me she also seemed a bit benign. For some reason she lacked fire and if she were real I'd feel like giving her a good shake. She accepts everything, rolls with the punches, and just gets on with it. As things progress, she's less willing to be walked all over and it was good to see how her growth and personal revelations came about. Others may view her differently, but this is my take.

Bender was also someone I wanted to give a good shake (obviously both husband and wife were well-written to elicit this response!). He's so bossy and absolutely typical of many of the folks in his social class. How he handles his illness is intriguing, and how he arrives at being so approchable and tolerant is not laid out like many other writers would do it. It seems Patricia resists the need to explain his responses so we can work it out for ourselves (thanks for giving us such credit :).

The husband is dying. He's obviously rethinking being a time-poor moron and so now enjoys every moment he's got while the family pours into the situation. We don't need to have it spelled out, and yet because the only background we have on Bender is what Saphora and everyone else thinks of him, his changes of heart are fast. It's Saphora's point of view.

It would have shaded in some more colour for me to have Saphora regret some of her own contributing behaviour more (scarcely raised). Bender is the instant bad guy for cheating and he seemed to write off his wife with little explanation. These two needed a marriage course much earlier in the piece (if they were real), but this is the way the story and life goes. It's a good highlight for what goes wrong when not enough is poured in and invested with relationships that matter, and also what can happen if a partner is or isn't willing for something to happen. Much of life gets left undone.

It is definitely time to say hello to life.

Tobias is the absolute hero of the book, in my mind. He's easy to disregard at his first entrance, but is a perfect example of what can happen in life if we go at it with eyes and ears open. I loved his character, and character he has. I also really enjoyed the quotes at the start of each chapter.

It's not your usual read, but that's what makes it worth picking up. There's a 13-Question Reader's Guide in the back, and it'd be interesting fodder for a book club discussion. Death is handled realistically, and in Bender's case, delicately. Grab a copy and give yourself some food for thought. Patricia's other titles (on her website) look equally as distracting.

PS~ Work on your marriage. Don't be a self-imposed victim of neglect.

"By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established;
through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures." Proverbs 24v3,4

C'est par la sagesse qu'une maison s'élève, Et par l'intelligence qu'elle s'affermit;
C'est par la science que les chambres se remplissent De tous les biens précieux et agréables.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

In Sheep's Clothing by Susan May Warren

A darling young lady aboard the MV Doulos gave me this book at least three years ago, and I must admit it sat unread until last week, nestled comfortably in my exponentially tall, unread stack of 26 books. I was looking for something different, something with a bit of verve to break the sameness of my week. This was perfect.

You know I hate to reinvent the wheel, so go ahead and read the back page blurb here and also find the first chapter (woo-hoo!).

Published in 2005, it's great to see the ways a quality novel can truly withstand the test of time. This little ripper also deals with a topic close to my heart - salvation of the lost. Susan MW handles it so effortlessly. For the KC (key character) Gracie, it's almost a tangible pain for her to have not saved a single soul for the whole two years she's been in Russia (which would bug me, too), considering she arrived as a missionary and is about to head home.

From the moment I picked up the book the pedal was to the metal and I was racing through Russia like no other novel before. Guns, bad guys, car chases (joy), missionaries, betrayal, forgiveness, more bad guys, and of course there's the good guys. Did I love it? Oh yes!

What makes the deft handling even better and totally believable is that SMW lived in Russia for eight years. Presently I have a friend there in a missions capacity, and I know she would have loved this book. Everything she has mentioned rated a mention here, and this plausibility makes the story rock. The place and atmosphere can be felt - not to mention every Bond and Bourne film does come to mind a teency bit.

The tension (romantic and otherwise) between Gracie and Vicktor is cranking from word go, and anyone who knows anything about Christian fiction will wholeheartedly acknowledge SMW really knows how to write a guy from a guy's perspective (must have done about fifty marriage courses and now employs all she knows ;). Vicktor is a man's man, edgy and precise. His story is something wonderful when it finally comes out.

Be warned: it is a thriller. Just avoid the trouble and get the family take-out for dinner. It won't take you longer than five or six hours. SMW, you owe me many fingernails, and much sleep. Did my foot ever stop tapping? Just as well it was on the carpet or it'd have kept hubby awake :)

The beauty of this book is that there are two more that follow up on the lives of other characters. Do try and find them ;)

For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help. Psalm 22v24

Thursday, 1 November 2012

In A Nutshell...

The other day I was reading this passage and it occurred to me how relevant it is in today's world. People who don't choose Jesus as the only option seem to wade through 'religion' like a bug in a gust... bits and pieces coming from everywhere but getting nowhere. Maybe it's time to give the only way a chance...

Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.

“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are His offspring.’

“Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by man’s design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.”

When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.” At that, Paul left the Council. Acts 17v22-33

WHY is it so hard to believe that God is the only way, the only One that can save? Is He really so far-fetched that many other options are preferrable?

Don't try and firgure Him out. It won't work.

Just believe.