Thursday, August 27, 2009

Culpa, by Morgan D. Jones (OakTara)

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I, just this minute, finished reading Culpa. I eyes haven't cleared yet, so please forgive any typos.

This was s-o good. I wasn't sure at the beginning how I would receive Mr. Jones's offering. It's a hefty 519 pages, but the climax is well worth the journey.

My first concern was that Mr. Jones penned his tome in the third-person omniscent voice. That means he tells the story as a narrator who has all the facts from the beginning to the end, and can share them with the reader at will regardless of how far the tale has progressed and what his characters know--although there is contemporaneous dialog and action, don't worry. That style has the potential pitfall of disassociating, or distancing, the reader with the characters themselves. Not so with Culpa.

Culpa follows the life of one Brock Stowolski, a former seminarian who has abandoned his calling for the trappings of the world. Enticed by the lure of the self-made man, Brock follows his dream; that is, his egocentric dream of self-fulfillment and wordly success apart from the God who called him. And he falls into most of the traps such a deception has to offer--but he thrives in those traps, deceived by the grit, determination and talent instilled in him by God, but used apart from God. You genuinely come to hate Brock. You really do. Until...

I won't reveal the 'until.' There is a family he destroys, a business he nurtures through guile and ruthlessness, and a soul he places in serious peril. But God has another plan, right at the point of the story where you believe there is no hope, no salvation for such a man as Brock. God, as He is wont to do, turns the tables and forces us to examine our own attitude toward the sinner.

Mr. Jones has done a great job in developing plot and character to the point to where you think you have them nailed, then only to discover there is hope and there are foibles in those whom we thought were capable of neither.

Bravo! Good book. Buy it!

The Sweetgum Ladies Knit for Love, Beth Patillo (Waterbrook)

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(My wife, Jeannie, is the guest reviewer for this book. I've captured her thoughts as well as the story synopsis below. At least, I hope I have...)

Six lives in Sweetgum, Tennessee, are in for changes in ways none of them anticipated.
Once a month, the women of the Sweetgum Knit Lit Society gather to discuss books and share their knitting projects. Inspired by her recent, and unexpected marriage, group leader Eugenie chooses “Great Love Stories in Literature” as the theme for the year’s reading list–a daring selection for a group whose members span the spectrum of age and relationship status.
As the Knit Lit ladies read and discuss classic romances like Romeo and Juliet, Wuthering Heights, and Pride and Prejudice, each member is confronted with her own perception about love. Camille’s unexpected reunion with an old crush forces her to confront conflicting desires. Newly widowed Esther finds her role in Sweetgum changing and is surprised by two unlikely friends. Hannah isn’t sure she’s ready for the trials of first love. Newcomer Maria finds her life turned upside-down by increasing family obligations and a handsome, arrogant lawyer, and Eugenie and Merry are both asked to make sacrifices for their husbands that challenge their principles.

Even in a sleepy, southern town like Sweetgum, Tennessee, love isn’t easy. The Knit Lit ladies learn they can find strength and guidance in the novels they read, the love of their family, their community–and especially in each other.

The interaction between the Knit Lit ladies, and the reactions they have to the selections of their book club from their own life perspectives, provide a rich filling for a cozy story of evolving lives. Interwoven with metaphorical allusions to knitting, this is a tribute to love and all its complexities.
If you enjoyed Jan Karon's Mitford series, this is a good bet for you.

Yup, Jeannie like it–and she's a hard sell. :-)

The Rose House, by Tina Ann Forkner (Waterbrook)

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The Rose House is story of a private grief, a secret painting, and a woman's search for hope. Still mourning the loss of her family in a tragic accident, Lillian Diamon finds herself drawn back to the Rose House, a quiet cottage where four years earlier she had poured out her anguish among its fragrant blossoms.

She returns to the rolling hills and lush vineyards of the Sonoma Valley in search of something she can't quite name. But then Lillian stumbles onto an unexpected discovery: displayed in the La Rosaleda Gallery is a painting that captures every detail of her most private moment of misery, from the sorrow etched across her face to the sandals on her feet.
What kind of artist would intrude on such a personal scene, and how did he happen to witness Lillian's pain? As the mystery surrounding the portrait becomes entangled with the accident that claimed the lives of her husband and children, Lillian is forced to rethink her assumptions about what really happened that day.

Ms. Forkner has excellent eye-pen coordination in describing La Rosaleda, its surroundings, and, particularly the enigmatic Rose House featured on the estate, which has a history of its own. However, some plot amibuguity, what seemed to me to be a rushed romance between Lillian and Truman and a few curious dialog snippets yanked me from the dream at spots. Altogether, though, a good read.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Confidential Life of Eugenia Cooper, by Kathleen Y'Barbo (Multnomah)

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This is a fun read, especially for those who, like myself, are blessed with a touch of the Walter Mitty syndrome.

Eugenia “Gennie” Cooper is a high-bred debutante of New York City with a secret affinity for dime-store novels—particularly those of her favorite heroine, bounty hunter Mae Winslow, Woman of the West. Spurred on by Mae’s exploits (pun intended), Gennie dreams of having a “Wild West” adventure. Her chance comes when a servant’s sister, destined to become nanny to a precocious child in Denver, needs a temporary substitute to accommodate her wedding plans. Unbeknown to her parents, Gennie schemes to become that substitute in lieu of her summer trip to Boston.

Ms. Cooper suffers a terribly inauspicious introduction with her new employer, but manages to win the hearts and minds of the household staff and her rebellious charge, Charlotte “Charlie” Beck, albeit more slowly with the latter. Her relationship with silver baron Daniel Beck, Charlotte’s father, suffers through missteps and misunderstandings throughout the tale, but, as a romance demands, emerges the victor when the trail dust settles.

Ms. Y'Barbo crafts a clever story, weaving excerpts from Mae Winslow’s adventures into Gennie’s story. Oh, and, if you read closely, you’ll notice a interesting relationship between Mae’s and Gennie’s dilemmas.

If you like stories about the West in the 1880s and would be intrigued by the exploits of a romantically inclined city girl grappling with the lure of her rustic fantasy world within the reality of her proper societal upbringing, you’ll enjoy The Confidential Life of Eugenia Cooper.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Look Whatchya’ll Did!


Here they are: the long-awaited results of yesterday’s Debut Day on It was so neat to watch the numbers change every hour. Thanks so much for taking part. It was a great kick-off event for the book.

Now, me bein’ an analyst an’ all, it’s only right that I comment on the graph and ‘splain to everyone what it appears happened. (Disclaimer: For those of you who don’t know me very well, the below analysis is purely tongue in cheek. Don’t you dare take any of it seriously)

First, the early part of the day:

As you can see, the book began the day at a ~840,000 ranking. That is stratospheric and is not a good place for a human or a book to be without supplemental oxygen. At the 7:30-8:30 hour, you’ll notice a precipitous—we authors are allowed to use words like ‘precipitous’ with impunity; we can use ‘impunity,’ too—drop in altitude, which is good when your novel is becoming hypoxic. What disturbs me is such little activity between 5:30 and 7:30. Where was everybody? I thought everybody is online cruising at 5:30 in the morning. I blame my sister, Robin, for not dragging out of the sack at a reasonable time and getting things rolling. Where’s family when you really need them?

Second, mid-morning:

At 9:30, you’ll observe a nice leveling out at the ~20,000 mark, where things hesitated a bit before dropping again. I blame the stutter-step on my sister, Robin, for only ordering 1 book instead of the 112 books I nagged her…er, that she promised me she’d buy. What’s up with sibling loyalty nowadays? And explain to me that spike up to ~28,000 at 10:30, when her co-workers were supposed to be chained to their computers, hardwired to, but were instead most likely given a lamely deserved coffee break. Whatever has happened to the American work ethic?

Third, later morning:

After dropping off to a nice four-figure level at 11:30, the book kept to the four-figure mark for most of the rest of the day. No drop-off; no progress; no three-figures. I blame my sister, Robin, for actually working on the job instead of being productive and harassing her co-workers to buy more books like I nagged her…er, like she offered to. Focus has never been a strong point of hers, but this is just unacceptable

Finally, later in the day:

“Languishing” is the only word for it. Yes, languishing. You guessed it: my sister, Robin, probably had the nerve to go home at the end of the workday—I mean, the book-buying day (not that these ever really end)—and she surely let her co-workers do the same. So there were all those computers sitting at the office going to waste. And we wonder why we’re losing ground in the global marketplace. My sister, Robin, has a lot of explaining to do when the next state-of-the-economy figures are released, that’s all I have to say.

So, now that the dust has settled, I want to thank everyone again for being so great during Debut Day—well, except one person.

And for those of you who think I’ve been unnecessarily hard on my sister, Robin, well, you didn’t see the birthday card she sent me…

All kidding aside, the response to Debut Day was phenomenal—even by my sister, Robin. (Okay, so not all kidding aside...). Peaking at 3,800 when the ranking set is over 2.5 million data points is incredible. And, as of the time of this, writing, the book is still below the 9,000 point. Thanks again to all of you. This was terrific!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

'Debut Day' Set for August 4th

As most of you know by now, Tuesday, August 4th, is the day to order The Journey Begun online. However, if you aren't able to order a book on Tuesday, please don't think you can't order at all(!) The book's gonna be there for awhile. :-)

By the way, for those who are electronically inclined, The Journey Begun is now also available as a download onto a Kindle. (What'll they think of next...?)..

(Click image for more info)

I'll post the results of Debut Day when the dust settles. Thanks to everyone in advance.