Tag Archives: The South

The Rhythm of Secrets by Patti Lacy

Word Lily review

The Rhythm of Secrets by Patti Lacy (Kregel, December 2010), 320 pages

Rhythm of Secrets by Patti Lacy Summary
Sheila Franklin has lived three separate lives. Now a conservative pastor’s wife in Chicago, she is skilled at hiding secrets — a talent birthed during childhood romps through the music-filled streets of New Orleans. But when the son she bore at the age of 18 comes back looking for answers and desperate for help, her greatest secret — and greatest regret — is revealed. Eager to right past wrongs, Sheila’s heart floods with memories of lyrical jazz music and a worn-out Bible. But when her husband learns her history, she’s faced with an impossible decision: embrace the dream — and son — she abandoned against her will or give in to the demands of her safe but stifled life. ~from GoodReads

Thoughts
I had heard good things about this book, but the cover was a major hurdle for me. It looks … self-published. I think it was Amy’s review that got me over that hurdle. Thanks, Amy. This is one of those instances where my cover-judgment would have dis-served me.

I’m just going to give it to you in bullet points, because that’s what my notes look like, and it’s been way too long since I read it for me to remember specifics.

• The musical threads Lacy uses to tie the pieces of the story together are brilliant. This gives the whole book almost a rhythmic, poetic feel.

• The pacing lagged at times.

• There is an incredible amount of time (number of years) covered in the book. I think she mostly pulled this off, but it might have contributed to the feeling of slow pacing somehow.

• I liked that there’s a bit of a mystery for the reader to uncover.

• And I really liked the setting(s) of the book.

• There was something else that just didn’t quite feel right about it, but I, even after many months, can’t put my finger on it.

Not really related, but still: I think this book (reading it and writing about it) have finally gotten me to where I can spell “rhythm” correctly on my first try. That was one of the words I always had to try a couple times before I found the accurate spelling. So there’s that.

Rating: 4 stars

Other reviews
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A Wedding Invitation by Alice J. Wisler

Word Lily review

A Wedding Invitation by Alice J. Wisler (Bethany House, October 1, 2011), 312 pages

Summary
Samantha Bravencourt mostly enjoys her quiet life near Washington, DC, working in her mom’s clothing boutique. When she gets an invitation to her friend’s wedding in North Carolina, she’s excited to see her college pals again. But that trip turns out differently than she expected. She’s reunited with Carson, who she had taught alongside with at the refugee camp in the Philippines, as well as with one of her former Amerasian students, who needs help.

Thoughts
A Wedding Invitation is very pink. I’m not talking about the cover here, either. The content is very girly, very pink. I wish I could describe this better. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I wasn’t quite ready for it. But speaking of the cover, why oh why can’t the girl on the cover match the description of the main character (olive skin, brown eyes)? I do like the flowery swirls, though, which are integrated inside the book, as well.

I loved the flashbacks to Sam’s time at the refugee center, as well as the touches of Asia (even if they seemed to center around food).

I was frustrated by the ignorance of fiber arts demonstrated in the book. Wisler uses a ball of yarn in a metaphor to indicate that someone is tightly wound, although yarn balls are supposed to be wound very loosely. And when a character crochets, she uses a “needle,” rather than the appropriate tool, a hook. But that’s not the main problem I had.

Overall, it was hard for me to connect with Sam. The characters didn’t communicate well with each other, and while I could usually guess what was going on inside her head, sometimes it felt like she was just, well … kind of crazy — acting on unmotivated whims. Honestly, I think Wisler was trying to adhere to the ‘show, don’t tell’ rule, but I’m not sure she quite succeeded. And other than Sam, most of the rest of the characters felt pretty flat.

Rating: 2.75 stars

Read an excerpt of A Wedding Invitation by Alice J. Wisler.

About the author
Alice J. Wisler is the author of four novels. She taught at the Philippine Refugee Processing Center in the mid-1990s. She lives in Durham, North Carolina. Since the death of her son in 1997, she’s taught grief-writing courses.

Other reviews (more positive than mine!)
Books, Movies and Chinese Food
A Peek at My Bookshelf
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I received this book from the publisher as part of the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance. I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.

False Witness by Randy Singer

Word Lily review

False Witness by Randy Singer (Tyndale, April 2011; originally published by Waterbrook in 2007), 432 pages

False Witness by Randy Singer

Summary
Bounty hunter Clark Shealy gets a call: His wife’s been kidnapped by the Chinese mafia and to get her back Shealy must bring them Kumari, who developed an algorithm that could break the internet (it quickly discerns the prime factors of very large numbers). Also, three law students get involved in case with a couple in witness protection.

Thoughts
Most of the way through, as I was reading, I really enjoyed this book. It’s suspenseful, and I found it promising. And I liked the parts about the Dalits in India (what there was of them). But in the end, False Witness was annoying.

I’m still greatly disappointed at the key to this giant, supposedly unsolvable mystery, was so simple — and given away to the reader so early. I’m not a math whiz, but I knew it immediately. I don’t believe the simplistic nature of this code fits the character of its creator, and I don’t believe Singer when he says it’s brilliant and unbreakable. Maybe I watched Numb3rs too recently?

One other pet peeve of mine irritated by this book: use of a euphemism for a body part. They have scientific names, people! Why are these words considered embarrassing or dirty? So. Very. Annoying.

I’m not sure if it was a matter of doing too much? The book being too long? The last 50 or so pages could have been an epilogue, though, and I think it would have been an improvement for me. In the days after finishing this book, my frustration with it — by and large just the last few dozen pages — grew and compounded.

I wish I liked this book, but I didn’t. It does have some positive qualities (see my first three sentences here), but they were far outweighed for me by its weaknesses.

Rating: 2.25 stars

About the author
Randy Singer is an author, trial attorney and preacher. He and his wife live in Virginia.

Other reviews (Mostly more positive than mine!)
The Friendly Book Nook
Books, Movies and Chinese Food
A Peek at My Bookshelf
Sugarpeach
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I received this book from the publisher. I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.

When Sparrows Fall by Meg Moseley

Word Lily review

When Sparrows Fall by Meg Moseley (Multnomah, May 3, 2011), 352 pages

Summary
When the pastor of young widow Miranda Hanford’s close-knit church announces his plans to move the entire congregation to another state, Miranda jumps at the opportunity to cut ties with Mason Chandler and his controlling method of ruling his flock. But Mason threatens to unearth secrets from her past, and she feels trapped, terrified she’ll be unable to protect her six children.

Thoughts
I like the characters, and I especially like the themes explored in When Sparrows Fall. I think it was pretty well-done, too. The comparisons and contrasts drawn between this small, fringe (large home-schooling families, marked by homemade dresses and long hair for the women and girls), body of believers and the church more generally were well handled and intriguing. I actually know someone whose pastor told his congregation they were all moving to another state, like Mason did in the book, and I was sucked in immediately.

But the romance felt obligatory, separate. I wasn’t a fan.

This probably sounds nit-picky, but Moseley frequently mentions (describes, even) the trademark clunky shoes all the women of this group wear. But even with all the various context and descriptors, I couldn’t picture them. This disappointed me.

I found it interesting how the book brings in praying for the souls of people who have already died, especially since it’s published by a large Christian publisher. And I found myself disappointed by how the idea was so quickly rationalized away in the text.

The story dealt with gender roles, art, medicine, and more in connection with the church. Excellent! When Sparrows Fall is compelling, and I look forward to reading many more books by Meg Moseley (this is her debut novel).

Read the first chapter.

Rating: 4.5 stars

About the author
Meg Moseley (blog, Facebook) has written a column for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. She home schooled for more than 20 years. She and her husband live in northern Georgia.

Other reviews
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I received this book from the publisher. I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.

Resurrection in May by Lisa Samson, Faith ‘n’ Fiction Round Table

Word Lily review

Resurrection in May by Lisa Samson (Thomas Nelson, August 3, 2010), 336 pages

Summary
May Seymour’s graduated from college, but she’s still adrift. So when she has a chance to go to Rwanda on a mission trip, she takes it. She’s there as the genocide begins.

Thoughts
I participated in a Faith ‘n’ Fiction round table discussion of this book.

The writing is mesmerizing. The characters are beautifully drawn, so very human.

I quite enjoyed the journalism and photography aspects of the story. I found the rural Kentucky setting endearing.

It was an angle on the Rwandan genocide that I hadn’t experienced before, and I quite appreciated it (as I have other representations). It doesn’t, by any means, replace the need for Hotel Rwanda and the like, but it does provide a different aspect of the story. I think this story is a bit more accessible than some others, because it doesn’t begin and end in the genocide.

The healing, forgiveness, growth and resurrection themes were profound, gorgeous.

Really a great book. Awesome. All the praise I’ve heard for Lisa Samson is warranted, based on this book. I’m glad I finally read one of her books; this will definitely not be my last Samson read.

About the author
Lisa Samson lives in Kentucky.

Other reviews
Books, Movies and Chinese Food

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I received this book from the publisher. I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.

The Miracle of Mercy Land by River Jordan

The Miracle of Mercy Land: A Novel by River Jordan (WaterBrook, September 7, 2010), 352 pages

Summary
Mercy Land’s life is settled, and she’s content. She lives at Miss Perry’s boarding house, she’s Doc’s go-to girl at the Bay City newspaper (the Banner), and she visits her family every weekend on nearby Bittersweet Creek. She loves her job, as well as Bay City and her roots. She knows who she is. But then a very strange book shows up at the newspaper office in the middle of the night. The book reveals the lives of the people in Bay City.

Thoughts
I was really looking forward to this book, since I read River Jordan’s Saints in Limbo [my review] last year and fell in love. So, yes, my expectations going into The Miracle of Mercy Land were very high.

I’m happy to say those expectations were fully met! I loved this book. I can’t say at this point whether I loved this one or Saints in Limbo more.

The writing thrilled me, right from the beginning.

“The events that lay before us as a nation were a large, uncharted territory, watery in their shifting possibilities. The only thing certain was that the future would have to reveal itself in due time, and most likely it would be different from anything we had expected. In the meantime we went through our daily routine with a type of laughter we hoped would stave off impending enemies and allow our sacred routines to remain a part of our carefully plotted lives. For the moment the edges of our existence played out sweetly, simply, and untouched by the things we knew were happening beyond the borders of our existence. There was a whole ocean between us and trouble. It seemed like an ocean should be enough.”

~ page 3, The Miracle of Mercy Land by River Jordan; emphasis added

The setting (coastal smalltown Alabama) is beautifully depicted; it lives. (Speaking of, this book is set in the 1930s, but for the most part the time period isn’t all that relevant.) The characters are flawed but clearly drawn and sympathetic. The story itself is grand. Is that high enough praise?

I will probably read every book Jordan writes.

Other than Saints in Limbo and The Miracle of Mercy Land (both published by WaterBrook), Jordan is also the author of:

About the author
River Jordan (@RealRiverJordan) teaches and speaks across the country on the power of story. She and her husband and their Great Pyrenees, Titan, live in Nashville. She began her writing career as a playwright and spent over 10 years with the Loblolly Theatre group, where her original works were produced, including Mama Jewels: Tales from Mullet Creek, Soul, Rhythm and Blues, and Virga.

I hope to have an interview with the author to post soon!

Other reviews
Reading to Know
Rundpinne
Lighthouse Academy
2 Kids and Tired Book Reviews

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I received this book from the publisher. I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.

The Stones Cry Out by Sibella Giorello

The Stones Cry Out by Sibella Giorello (book 1 in the Raleigh Harmon series) (Revell, 2007), 272 pages

Summary
It’s summer in Virginia when two men drop from a roof into the rally-fomented crowd below. The victims: a white police officer and a black man with a troubled past. And apparently no one saw what happened.

Thoughts
In Bones (season premiere September 23!), the main character is a forensic anthropologist and she’s paired with an FBI agent. In this Raleigh Harmon series, the main character is a forensic geologist, and she works for the FBI.

I love all the rock, geology, mineralogy stuff. I love that the setting — Richmond, Virginia — plays such a huge role. That the story opens up the history, the racial tensions of the area just makes the story all the better for me.

After reading the second book in this series, I knew I had to read this one, even though I’d heard it wasn’t as good. I’d heard correctly: This book isn’t as good as Giorello’s subsequent books, but it also wasn’t as bad as I’d feared. The character of Raleigh Harmon is still vivid, still strong, still flawed. The main difference, for me (other than different cases, of course), is that the writing’s not as vibrant here as in the two subsequent releases. However, the story still holds together, and I still enjoyed this encounter with Giorello’s writing and Harmon.

Other books in the series:
Book 2 The Rivers Run Dry | [my review: The Rivers Run Dry]
Book 3 The Clouds Roll Away | [my review: The Clouds Roll Away]
Book 4 The Mountains Bow Down in this ongoing series is expected to be released in March 2011, and I hate that I have to wait so long to read it!

About the author
Before turning her hand to fiction, Sibella Giorello (blog: Reading, Running and Real Science) was a features reporter for the Richmond Times-Dispatch for more than 10 years; her work received two Pulitzer nominations.

Other reviews
What You Reading Now?

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I purchased this book. I’m an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.

31 Bond Street by Ellen Horan

31 Bond Street by Ellen Horan (Harper, March 30, 2010), 352 pages

Summary
31 Bond Street opens in 1857 New York City. Wealthy dentist Harvey Burdell is found brutally murdered, in his own home. Emma Cunningham, the widowed mother of two teenage daughters, is accused of the murder, but not before she’s trapped inside her home for weeks by officials with not-so-secret political ambitions. Henry Clinton puts his reputation and practice on the line to defend her.

Thoughts
Everything seemed aligned for me to absolutely love this book. A murder mystery, set in a historical framework, with racial, gender and socioeconomic issues in the fore. It touches on the impact of both the press and the law on peoples’ lives. What could be better?

The novel is a fictional account of an (apparently famous) actual murder trial, which is fun. I enjoyed the illustrations and snippets from newspapers that opened some chapters. Interestingly, my favorite characters were minor players.

I was a bit annoyed at how the narrative went back and forth in time. I had trouble keeping track of the chronology at times, although usually a nonlinear narrative isn’t a problem for me. It was incredibly slow getting around to the information that did, eventually, make me care deeply about this book. Still these are minor issues.

I found the setting absolutely engrossing, vividly drawn and fascinating. I love when that happens!

Bottom line: 31 Bond Street didn’t quite wow me, but I’ll definitely be looking forward to more from Horan. This was a fun, enjoyable read, a great story.

Read an excerpt.

There’s been talk of a movie based on the book — I think it would make a terrific film — and anyone who has read the book can enter the “Cast the Movie” Contest; the prize is handmade truffles from Bond Street Chocolates as well as a signed first edition of the book. The contest is open internationally; it closes August 31, 2010.

About the author
Ellen Horan previously worked as a freelance photo editor for magazines and books in New York City. She has a background in painting and visual art. 31 Bond Street is her first novel.

Check out the rest of the TLC Book Tour stops for 31 Bond Street by Ellen Horan.

Other reviews
Devourer of Books
Bookin’ with Bingo
Killin’ Time Reading
The Book Book

Have you reviewed this book? Leave me a link and I’ll add it here.

I received this book from the publisher, as part of the TLC book tour.