Month: December 2014

The Redeeming (Age of Faith #3) by: Tamara Leigh

I give this book three out of five stars for being an enjoyable read with some colorful combat scenes. It’s a love at first sight kind of romance with some interesting action to build on future books.
What I liked:
1) The male protagonist Christian Lavonne. I really liked his introduction in the last book and I looked forward to a book featuring him.
2) The climax to the conflict between Christian and his ill father. Their conflict was introduced in the last book, and it was a believable ending to the strife between them.
3) The twist in how the final battle at Soaring played out. It was very exciting with a lot at stake for many of the characters.

What I didn’t like:
1) The romance between Christian and Gaenor. I didn’t see what/how/why Christian fell in love with Gaenor. I was hoping it would be more than just a lust/love at first sight kind of thing. Unfortunately I don’t see how else to explain their attachment. There wasn’t much else that passed between them to create a burning romance.
2) I wasn’t very attached to the heroine Gaenor. She repeats mistakes, falls for people she barely knows, doesn’t speak her mind, and overall didn’t grow or progress much as a character.
3) I was hoping to see more of how Christian’s time and training as a Monk would shape his current life. It didn’t seem to have much if any impact. I found it a little odd how quickly Christian was able to shift into his duties as Baron. I’m not sure lack of combat training would be his greatest struggle.

Dead Until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse #1) by: Charlaine Harris

Narrated by: Johanna Parker

I gave this book three out of five stars for its entertainment and the unique characters. As a fan of the HBO television series True Blood, I looked forward to reading the book it was based on and have waited to read them so I would not taint either television or book experience. It was fun to find elements in the book that never made it to the show and discover characters added or altered in the series that were not organic to Harris’s work.

What I liked:

1) The environment. All the little bits of the southern setting enriched the story.  The descriptions of humid heat, pine pollen, the type and conditions of buildings, and the sounds of crickets and frogs were great.

2) The Fantasy. Sookie considers her telepathic ability a “disability”. The Vampire mythology was pretty much the usual but had a unique twist of how Vampires had “come out” and were mainstreaming into society. They drank synthetic blood and the media claimed vampires were victims of a horrible virus that caused allergies to garlic and silver. When Sookie discovers her boss is a shifter she has an epiphany and figures there must be all kinds of myths that were real.

3) The mystery. Having watched the show, I knew who the killer was, but I still enjoyed the suspense of how the killer was revealed.

What I didn’t like:

1) The way in which this book is written. It’s poor technical construction was painful, absolutely painful. I was glad I was listening to this book instead of seeing its poor construction on paper. Harris’s number one crime is her use of adverbs. Harris loves adverbs so much she made one up: “shame-facedly”. I’m still in shock by how this work went to publication with that in its pages. For fun I kept a running list of every adverb used in only the final two chapters of the book:

Alertly

Instantly x 2

Expectantly

Thoughtfully

Thoroughly

Reluctantly

Reproachfully

Drowsily

Finally x 4

Abruptly

Comfortingly

Hopefully x 2

Enthusiastically

Quizzically

Heavily x 4

Cautiously

Doubtfully x 2

Curiously

Firmly x 2

Practically

Sadly x 2

Dreadfully

Slightly

Softly x 2

Shame-facedly

Graciously

Helplessly

Eagerly

Intently

Sloppily

Unexpectedly

Abruptly

Loudly

Sympathetically

Questioningly

Earnestly

Cheerfully

Ghastly

Dutifully

Wryly

Obediently

Obligingly

Vehemently

Carelessly

Hesitantly

Involuntarily

Carefully x 5

2) The connection between Sookie and Bill was lust, there’s very little romance. I can’t tell you what Bill loves about Sookie, besides feeding or having sex with her, he never reveals his attachment. While they shared personal information with one another, Bill’s character was very flat. He tells her how naive she is and later laughs while he tells her how she knows nothing about the world. What a charmer. Sookie’s biggest enchantment with Bill: she can’t read his mind. So yeah, not much love connection there.  The only sex scene that didn’t make me yawn, was the one in the cemetery when she found Bill alive.

3) Clothing and life details. Harris likes to tell you head to toe what every characters wearing. This is useful and fun when some of the eccentric choices of clothing for vampires were described. It seems pointless and strange when Sookie’s bar uniform or lame taste in every other article of her attire is described. I wanted to check the year this book was written when Sookie put a banana clip in her hair. I also did not understand why details about brushing teeth, shaving legs, and use of facial moisturizer were shared on more than one occasion.

 

Fruit Cake is something that evokes happy memories of Christmas for me. I remember the excitement my dad and I shared when the heavy round tin of Fruit Cake arrived. My father hoarded it, and the two of us rationed it until February. We would eat it before bed and my father, who rarely drank alcohol, would occasionally indulge and have a bit of Brandy or dessert wine with it. The tin took up the entire bottom shelf of the refrigerator and the rim was always copiously wrapped in tape. The sweet, alcohol-infused smell when the lid was removed gave a hint at the red wine or brandy my grandmother used to cure the cake.

An acquired taste, my grandmother only made the cake for those who enjoyed it. The short list included my uncle David, my father and myself. When I went off to college, I graduated to getting my very own Fruit Cake. After my grandfather’s passing it got more difficult for my grandmother to continue the tradition. I was deployed to Bosnia during the Christmas of 2003 and in one of my letters home I offered to take over the tradition of making the Fruit Cake.

My grandmother mailed me the recipe and informed me it was top secret — she had never shared the recipe with anyone. The recipe was given to her when she worked as the house girl for the Fort Benjamin Harrison Post Commander in the late 1930’s. It was a magazine recipe.  The Commander’s wife had my grandmother use it to make Fruit Cakes as gifts. While some people hate the idea of getting one, Fruit Cake is a luxury gift because they are so expensive and time consuming to make. My grandmother began making Fruit Cake with the recipe after that until I took over the tradition in 2004. I have been making Fruit Cake every winter for nine years. It’s one of the last remaining ties I have to my dad’s family.

2014 would mark my tenth year making them, but I’ve decided against it. The decision was difficult, emotional, and made me examine my beliefs and myself. To explain this, I need to provide a short description of where things stand with my Dad’s side of the family.

The connection between my dad’s family and mine has been lacking for a long time. Who is responsible for that? Good question. Yet I’m certain the finger is pointed at me.  I won’t deny that I’m comfortable with the current level of communication. In my opinion, if anyone on that side misses me, they know where to find me. We all have access to the post office, email, telephones, and Internet. Of the forty some relatives on that side of the family, four were at my wedding, one was at my father’s funeral, and none were around after the birth of my children. I’d enjoy more frequent contact, but I don’t pine for it or let my feelings get hurt by their lack of interest in my family or me.

My sister and I are fifteen years apart and not very close.  But a few years ago she had no place to live.  My husband and I took her in and let her live with us, drive our car, all rent free.  Within a few months there was a falling out and she had to leave. Last spring my stepmother asked me for the fruitcake recipe so she could give it to my sister with whom I still had no  contact. She told me my sister wanted to enter it in a heritage recipe baking lot at the Minnesota State Fair. I told my stepmother no, it’s a tradition and a secret recipe. This summer my sister reconnected with me briefly on Facebook. There were no apologies, but we were speaking again. This past Sunday she messaged me and I got a knot in my stomach. I knew the only reason she was reaching out to me was because she wanted something from me and I suspected it was the fruitcake recipe. I admonished myself for thinking the worst of her.  Why was I jumping to conclusions? I needed to think the best and not the worst.

Unfortunately, my gut instinct was right and she wanted the fruitcake recipe. I was conflicted.  Our grandmother had guarded this recipe, never given it out, and gave it to me only when I agreed to take on the tradition. Was it really mine to give to whomever, or was it my responsibility to honor and respect my grandmother by keeping it secret?

Our grandmother is still alive and I told my sister to ask her for it. I decided if Grandma wanted her to have it she would give it to her. My sister said she had asked for it and according to her, Grandma doesn’t know where it is. My sister insisted I give it to her saying, “Why is this such a big deal?”

What an excellent question.

I was angry as this was the only reason she contacted me. I felt protective and suspicious of her and her motives. My selfish pride was chanting, “No! It’s mine, it was given to me, and you will never, ever, never get this recipe from me!” Knowing this was pride, I wanted to cave and just hand it over and humble myself. Then I was hit with an overwhelming sadness that handing this over would equal me handing over the final tie I had to my Dad’s family since his death. The one consistent thing we shared. A tradition I loved and one which brought back happy memories of my father.

Thoughts and emotion overwhelmed me and so I did the one thing I knew I should, I prayed about it. The answer was simple and came quickly. My actions need not be a reaction to the past or what happened, they needed to be acts of love and reflect God’s grace. I needed to let go of the tradition, forgive the past, and move on. Then a passage jumped out at me this past Tuesday during Bible study and reinforced what was put on my heart:

Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye. – Mark 7:13 (KJV)

It was what I needed to hear. It was a clear reminder that my focus needs to be on God. I needed to think about love and forgiveness and not be ruled by tradition and jealous sentiment.

I’ve enjoyed the fruitcake tradition and now I am letting it go. My sister can take on the tradition, enter the recipe in the state fair, or do nothing at all with it. I will not let a tradition or a cake recipe wrestle away my peace of mind.

Here is the original recipe my grandmother sent to me in 2004:

 

 

 

 

Romulus Buckle & the City of the Founders (Chronicles of the Pneumatic Zeppelin #1) by: Richard Ellis Preston Jr.

I gave this book four out of five stars. I love detail, and this book is full of details. Not the silly irrelevant kind that drive a reader mad, but the kind you are thankful for when you are taken deeper into the story and character narratives. Descriptions so clear they make your mind sing as you are easily transported to this place that, in this temporal realm, does not truly exist.

What I liked about the book:

  1. The Characters. The multiple characters and wicked new post apocalyptic world are worth the details and character descriptions at the front of the book. Fantasy and Science Fiction fans will not have a problem with the narratives. I’m just going to tell readers more accustomed to the softer narrative genre’s to take the learning curve in stride, it is all there for good cause.
  1. The action. There is no waiting for action, battles, thrill, or combat in this book. You get thrown into the story from the start and it presses forward in a fast, thrilling, and very entertaining way, with parts that even made me laugh out loud. I enjoyed the stress of flying a Zeppelin, the unusual in fighting flying dinosaurs, and the interesting in navigating hostile territory with a robot resembling an owl.
  1. The environment. I read fantasy and science fiction so I can to be taken somewhere new and different and this is achieved in this book. The cultures and landmarks are relatable, but it was wonderful being taken 300 years past a world apocalypse, which transformed the face of planet earth. I found the result highly creative and entertaining.

The only reason I did not give this book five stars was my strict criteria that a five star read be something I might read again someday. I don’t think I’ll need to; this is a highly memorable and fun book.