Friday, February 25, 2011

Book Review: Voyage with the Vikings

Here’s a new treat for young Adventures in Odyssey fans!

While giving a tour of Whit’s End to her cousin Patrick, Beth discovers that the Imagination Station is missing. The two children find it in Mr. Whittacker’s workshop, but there’s something wrong. Mr. Whittaker can’t get the machine to work and worse yet, there’s a note in the machine asking for help. When Mr. Whittaker finds that the machine fires up for Beth and Patrick, he asks them to fulfill the quest in the note. What follows is an adventure of a lifetime where the cousins meet Erik and Red and his son Leif in Greenland. Will they be able to find the mysterious Viking Sun Stone and return to the Imagination Station before Leif sails away with it on his ship?

Written for ages 7 and up (reading levels 1st through 7th grades), this book includes historical facts about early Christians among the Vikings and information about Greenland. Voyage with the Vikings is the first of five books in this new series, and sure to be a delight for young readers.

I received a free copy of this book for my review from Tyndale House Publishers.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Book Review: Judgment Day by Wanda L. Tyson

Alexandria Fisher-Hawthorne and Marcus Crisp make an interesting Private Detective team. Add in their superbly talented and somewhat mysterious assistant, Razz, and you have the makings for some first class mystery/thriller detective stories.

In this book we meet Suzanne Kidwell, host of a cable news channel show. In the time she’s been on the air, she has brought several high profile cases to the public’s attention – but unfortunately, her drive to beat competitors to the story makes her skimp on checking the facts. That has made a lot of enemies. As people around her begin dying, Suzanne herself becomes the chief suspect in their murders. That’s when she hires Alex and Marcus to help her. It doesn’t take long for the PI’s to uncover the horrible scheme that Suzanne has inadvertently stumbled into, but who is behind it all? And why is it so important for them to get Suzanne out of their way?

Wanda L. Dyson has given us an enjoyable, fast-paced read. I look forward to reading her other books.

I received a free copy of this book from Waterbrook/Multnomah Press for my review.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Book Review: Beneath the Night Tree by Nicole Baart

Single parent Julia DeSmit is defined by the roles she fills: mother, granddaughter, sister, student, worker…. Mothering her five-year-old son and her eleven-year-old brother is the great joy of her life, but also a huge burden. Although she shares the task with her aging grandmother, Julia still feels the weight of her responsibilities. Her long time boyfriend, Michael, seems to hold the promise for a better life – security, love, shared responsibilities – but while he is in school miles away those promises remain elusive. The biggest problem that Julia faces, though, is how to maintain the closeness and love she feels with her small, unusual family once Michael becomes a permanent part of her life. Will his love hold the key to the normal life she hopes awaits her? Then without warning Julia is contacted by the last person she ever expected to hear from again – the father of her five-year-old son. With his single question - “Do I have a child?” - Julia’s well-ordered life is gone. What takes its place is the answer to the prayer that she didn't hope to pray - a prayer answered beneath the night tree.

Nicole Baart’s writing is a joy. Even though the story constantly beckoned me to turn the pages quickly, I found myself rereading paragraphs in order to savor her lyrical prose. I will certainly look for her previous books, After the Leaves Fall, Summer Snow and A Moment Between, and I look forward to her next offering.

Tyndale House Publishers provided a free copy of this book for my review.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Why Romance?

I’ve had several people ask me why I’m writing a Romance novel…especially people who have known me for awhile and know how much I enjoy reading a good book. And up until the last few months, I never would have put any “romance” novel into that category of “a good book”. So what has changed?

First of all, I started looking at the romance genre in a different light when I found out that Harlequin (yes, Harlequin) will consider publishing unsolicited, un-agented manuscripts from previously un-published authors (aka, newbies).

It is extremely hard to break into the publishing world, no matter how talented you are. My childhood fantasies aside, no publisher is going to pick my manuscript out of the trash pile of unsolicited manuscripts and shout “at last, I’ve discovered the next great American novel!” No. My unsolicited manuscript wouldn’t even reach a publisher’s office, let alone their desk. The same goes for agents – after all, who wants to risk anything on another crazy lady from the mid-west who thinks she can write? But there are places for newbies to get their material in front of the right eyes – one of them is to write a decent book and get it published by a house like Harlequin.

So I started reading these things, surreptitiously checking them out from the library in the self-service line. I was surprised at what I found. Some of them, to be sure, ended up being returned before I reached the second chapter, but most of them were pretty good stories. I started finding the genres within the genres and started identifying my favorite authors. I started reading the books critically (as in “How to Read a Book” by Adler and Van Doren) and discovering the formula.

That’s where romance novels got their bad rap, of course. They’re unapologetically formula books – just like westerns, mysteries, adventure stories, science fiction, fantasy….. There are some elements the story must have, some way the ending must come about, or else the book doesn’t belong in that genre. Unfortunately for the reader, a book doesn’t have to be good to get published if it fits into the genre and the publisher thinks they can make money off of it. But the best stories in any genre are written by talented people who make their readers forget that they’re reading a certain genre – they’re just reading a good story.

And then the formula writer who can write a good story and get it published has a way into the publisher’s office and the agent’s list. Once published, an author has cred. The better the book, the better the cred, and the better the cred the greater the hope of eventually being published outside the romance genre. If the author wants to. Because once the author discovers the secret joy of writing romance fiction, they may never look back. But that’s a subject for another post.