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Tag Archives: suspense

Non-Fiction Books I’m Liking (Fall 2017)

I just realized I have not posted my favorite non-fiction books for this fall yet!  So I will squeak them in the tail end here before December.  My dashboard has not been cooperating with me the last few weeks, so pictures and links are not as I would like but I’m trying to work with it.  So read on for some books about spiritual journeys that I’m sure will be inspiring!

Until We All Come Home, by Kim de Blecourt~  I am finishing up this book (about 90% of the way through it), but am blown away by the incredible journey this ordinary woman of faith endured while she and her husband were in an international battle to adopt their Ukrainian-born son.  I feel it is easy to connect with this woman because A) she does not live too far from my corner of the world; B) she works in voice over; C) it seemed that almost everything imagineable was determined to block her path.  If you find yourself easily frustrated by myriad details, this book might not be for you.  Still waiting to see how this ends, but it is wonderful seeing how God worked in the middle of her long waiting period, during which she battled depression and severe spiritual oppression in a dark part of the world.  I often find myself praising and thanking God for how He answered her prayers, even if her story wasn’t easy.  I hope to meet Mrs. de Blecourt one day.  I highly recommend this read! 

The Ragamuffin Gospel, by Brennan Manning~  Do you find yourself running on fumes spiritually?  Need a cup of refreshing water in the middle of your desert?  I had heard a lot things about this author, Brennan Manning.  I’ve heard good; I’ve heard bad.  I know people I respect that that admire his work, and others view it with fear.  I determined to read at least one book by him and find out for myself what I thought.  I started with this particular book because it is his most famous.  To be honest, my opinion of it alone is an elevated one.  I found such encouragement in his word pictures, his simple eloquence.  It is imaginative, well-written, and a classic in it’s own right.  It seemed I’d read a passage in a chapter right when I needed it at that time.  The major theme it dwells on is the grace of God.  Manning reflects the easy yoke and light burden God offers to us “ragamuffins”.  I could quote my favorite parts, but would much rather you tried it for yourself.  Does this mean I would agree on everything with Brennan Manning?  No, I will not commit to that; I believe it is always wise to test instead of blindly accept anything we come across.  There were one or two things I’m not sure I would completely agree on even in this book.  And yet, I found the good far, far outweighed those areas.  My advice is to be prayerfully engaged while reading.   

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Posted by on November 29, 2017 in Non-Fiction Books I'm Liking

 

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Book Review: “In Sheep’s Clothing,” by Susan May Warren

1247812Genre: suspense; Christian; contemporary; romance

Plot Summary: [from goodreads] On the run from the murderer of her best friends, missionary Gracie Benson is all alone in Siberia. What she doesn’t know is that she has in her possession a medical secret that will save millions of lives — or cost her’s. Trying to keep her alive is an FSB agent, a man pursued by his own demons, including a killer who destroyed his father’s life. He and Gracie find themselves in a decades-old mystery of betrayal and Cold War secrets. Only with the help of their friends — a group of Americans and Russians committed to freedom — can they outwit the old guard . . . and save Gracie’s secret, as well as her life.”

My Book Review: One of the things I often look for in a book is a setting in an exciting far-off place with a little intrigue, mystery, and suspense.  Of course, some romance along for the ride doesn’t hurt, either!  This book has all of those elements and it was an entertaining read.  One of the things that made it interesting was that the author has had past experience in being a missionary in Russia with some exciting adventures of her own, just like the heroine Gracie Benson she writes about.

Although I wouldn’t consider Warren’s writing style the best I’ve ever read, I did enjoy the plot twists. The pace kept moving and kept me interested to find out what would happen next.  I also loved reading about Russia (ehnd verking on my Rrrussian ehccent!).  The Cold War has always intrigued me and although the story is set in the modern day, it doesn’t escape the effects of that era.

e24f5c8ea9477d8016e3c1681a56cd1cOne thing I didn’t like was how the romance part of the story develops so quickly over the course of 2-3 days between Gracie and FSB agent Viktor. For the longest time Gracie fights her attraction (but doesn’t do too well of a job of it).  This is for the reason that Viktor is not a believer in Jesus and as a missionary she doesn’t believe in being unequally yoked.  That makes sense to me as a Christian.  It’s really hard to maintain a relationship when two people don’t believe the same fundamentals.  I realize that most of Warren’s audience will probably be Christian, but for anyone who isn’t this teaching comes across as arrogant if not explained well.  I felt the book missed an explanation.  To top things off, SPOILER ALERT Viktor eventually comes to faith in Christ and so –how conveniently- can begin dating Gracie.  This is just too gift-wrapped and bow-tied for my satisfaction.  It’s like we’re all so happy he’s a follower of The Way so he can kiss Gracie.  I would have rather it hinted that he and she *might* follow through on a relationship sometime in the future, once the chaos of the plot was over.  It would have been more believable. END OF SPOILER.

There also seemed to be an awful lot of unnecessary characters peppered throughout (in the form of Viktor’s friends), but I was glad to see that the sequel picks up with them. There is actually a trio in the series Mission: Russia”:

  1. “In Sheep’s Clothing
  2. “Sands of Time”
  3. “Wiser Than Serpents”

I enjoyed the action of this first book enough to want to go through with the rest.  So, if you like a bit of drama and romance, I think this will peak your interest!

I also recommend…

 
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Posted by on November 11, 2017 in Book Reviews

 

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Book Review: “Nightbringer,” by James Byron Huggins

untitledGenre: suspense; Christian fiction, fantasy

Plot Summary: A group of tourists are stranded at a reclusive monastery high up in the Italian Alps.  But that’s the least of their worries.  A hair-raising screech in the dead of night lets them know they and the monks are not the only ones at the ancient abbey.  What is out there and what is it looking for?  And who is the mysterious hero in their midst who seems to know more than he’s telling?

My Book Review: I became interested in reading another book by author James Byron Huggins after I finished his novel, “Rora” (see my review of it here).  I hunkered down with this adventure in the winter and prepared to be entertained.

This was an easier read than Rora.  The latter dealt with the hard historical account of the Calvinist martyrs in Italy, while Nightbringer was more in the fantasy/supernatural genre.  Although this isn’t the first or the last Christian novel to deal with the subject of the Nephilim, it was the first I’ve read, and I was entertained with the ‘what if’ of what would happen if the descendants of Anak were still on earth.  Of course, if this were truly the case it would very unsettling, but in fiction it makes for great adventure!

The first third of the story was the most interesting to me, as it was able to keep my interest with it’s mystery. But once that mystery was revealed (too early on), the suspense was dropped.  Unfortunately, I felt the author got himself into a rut in the middle of his story.  I was quickly bored reading about one battle after another with the Nephilim beasts and the descriptions that went on page after page.  In every episode, it seemed Cassius (our hero) was severely wounded worse than he ever had before, then quickly recovered and preparing for his next battle, where he was wounded worse than ever before that… and the cycle would go on chapter after chapter.

I can see guys liking this story perhaps more than I did. It has the action, the battles, the hero that may appeal to them.  But it is not a serious work of fiction, and definitely not literary.  If you are looking for something exciting and light, this is for you.

If you liked this book, I also recommend…:

 
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Posted by on July 19, 2017 in Book Reviews

 

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Movie Review: Mrs. McGinty’s Dead

eb573d1180cc7b5cbff9aae960b7398fBased on the book by Agatha Christie.

Version: 2008; starring David Suchet.

Genre: mystery

Plot Summary: [from IMDb:] “A pair of photographs are the only clues that Poirot has to solve the murder of a village charwoman, and to prove the innocence of the victim’s lodger.”

My Review: To be honest, it’s been a long time since I read this particular Poirot mystery.  I remember it had a lot of female characters, and it was the first time I had read anything where the character Ariadne Oliver made an appearance.  I also remember I enjoyed the mystery a lot, because it featured a common storytelling technique of Christie’s, which is to involve a mystery with roots beginning far back decades ago and the detective must piece together how the current generation of characters are affiliated with the past.  I couldn’t recall the details, however, such as who was killed, who had done it or why.

This is one of the more recent Poirot productions starring David Suchet, compared with when they first started filming them in the 1980’s. The quality of it is very good, and I loved the creepy atmosphere of the film!  The period set contributed heavily to this, along with a swirl of yellowed dead leaves, and the signature Poirot music.  Love, love, love it!

Another thing I appreciated was that this murder mystery wasn’t gorey and it didn’t make me feel too uncomfortable. On the flip side, it could also be considered predictable.  I cannot verify if it stayed true to the book, but to the best of my memory I believe it was for the most part.  Poirot was his lovable old self, and the new role of Ms. Oliver (played by Zoe Wanamaker) was totally convincing as the Agatha Christie-herself-inspired character.

This movie makes for great autumn entertainment, so grab a comfy blanket, slippers, and hot cocoa, and have fun some evening!  🙂

 

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2017 in Movie Reviews

 

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Book Review: “Matorni’s Vineyard,” by E. Phillips Oppenheim

serveimageGenre: futuristic; suspense; intrigue

Plot Summary: Mervyn Amory is a British tennis player on his way to Monte Carlo for a holiday.  He takes a train trip that turns out to be anything but leisurely.  When an Italian spy passes on vital information to him just before he is assassinated, who will Mervyn trust?  Can we trust him?  And who is the beautiful Italian diva who has close ties to the Princess?

My Book Review: It’s been a few years since I’ve dipped into Oppenheim, but I have to say this was much more interesting to me than the last two I’ve read.  It had a flavor of The Great Impersonation, as far as the intrigue and atmosphere go.  It wasn’t hard to read, and provided some fun entertainment.

The best part was that it kept you guessing about who you could trust. I can’t say there were any huge plot twists that maybe the average reader wouldn’t see coming, but yet it keeps one suspecting everyone– even the main character.

I felt disappointed in how the Dictator was treated in the end. SPOILER ALERT: I felt the winners dealt him too soft a hand and they dared to trust someone to continue leading a large European country who had just threatened to pitch the continent into another world war.  Who’s to say he wouldn’t ever try something like that again?  On the other hand, I suppose this type of international dealing is realistic, considering how the world treated Hitler and Germany before WWII. END OF SPOILER. Oppenheim set his book in the 1940’s, which would have made the tale futuristic for readers at the time it was published in 1928.  Of course, the dictator-character Matorni represents Mussolini himself.  Oppenheim also had some of this type of foresight in my favorite of his (The Great Impersonation).

I loved the exotic location set in Monaco. Although the story is not historical, the details feel accurate, as if they were.  There is a romance as a side plot included, but I can’t say it was very believable because of how fast it occurred in such a short amount of time.  But if you want a bit of ‘alternate history’ type genre, this might interest you.

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2017 in Book Reviews

 

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Book Review: “Wildwood Creek,” by Lisa Wingate

18059811Genre: mystery; suspense; 1800’s; romance; contemporary fiction

Plot Summary: Allie Kirkland is an aspiring film student working on the set of a reality tv show.  The series, documenting the historical mining town of Wildwood Creek, stars contemporary people living as the pioneers would have in 1800’s Texas.  But there’s a mystery surrounding the place:  All of the people of the town disappeared over a hundred years ago, and historians have never been able to solve the eerie puzzle since.  What happened so long ago?  Will the same thing happen again?  And what is the mystery concerning the historical character of Bonnie Rose?

My Book Review:  Wildwood Creek is the fourth in the “Moses Lake” Series by Lisa Wingate, but the first I’ve read by this author.  I am under the impression that these books do stand alone, but some of the characters reappear in some of the same books.

I thoroughly enjoyed this read.  It was one good piece of storytelling!  The story skips back and forth between the present day (from Allie’s POV) to 1800’s Texas (Bonnie Rose’s viewpoint).  This kept the suspense throughout the book and consequently kept my interest.  I love books that slowly divulge secrets throughout, while somehow still spinning more mysteries.  The suspense also gave me some anxiety, and having my emotions invested in a story is a good thing!

The writing felt solid, the chapters weren’t too long, and I enjoyed the character of Allie.  Although there is some romance included, the novel really wasn’t about that aspect of it and I’m not really sure I would qualify it under the romance genre.  I could identify with her in that she has lived her life for a long time expecting things to always be hard, difficult, and miserable.  But something changes her perspective throughout the course of the book and she begins to realize that she can embrace all of life, both good and bad.  She opens herself up to life as a whole as a result.

bb0116d38b9c0cfbee13ed3966a14d64There were a few nitpicky things I felt didn’t benefit the story.  In some ways I felt that things dragged on too long in the present day setting.  The character of Bonnie Rose, though I sympathized with her, started to become redundant with her narrative.  Some extra characters didn’t really feel like they had anything to do with the plot and probably weren’t necessary.  I still had unanswered questions after finishing the book, such as SPOILER ALERT: Why did Allie look like Bonnie Rose?  Why did the mysterious director want her to play the schoolteacher?  Did he have inside information that no one else did, and if so, what?  END OF SPOILER.

A couple of surprising plot twists keep things even more interesting near the end so I never got bored.  I really liked how the author didn’t end things exactly how one would expect in a typical romance, SPOILER with Bonnie marrying another man for a number of years, instead of the handsome captain.  But that she was happy and learned to love him despite him never being her first love.  END OF SPOILER.  Another aspect I really enjoyed was the epilogue, in which Allie listens to an early historical recording of one of the characters who survived Wildwood Creek.  It somehow added a feeling of history to an entirely pure work of fiction.

I would definitely recommend this to anyone, and I hope I’ve peaked your interest.  Those who loathe preachy novels will appreciate that this isn’t one of them.  I’m planning on reading other stuff from Lisa Wingate in the future!

 
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Posted by on October 27, 2016 in Book Reviews

 

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Book Review: “The Agony Column,” by Earl Derr Biggers

3234828Genre: mystery; suspense; intrigue

Plot Summary: Geoffrey West is a young American staying in a rented flat in London when he meets another fellow American—the pretty daughter of a senator who is touring with her father. The year is 1914 and it is the hot month of July. Talk of war is in the air as the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand makes headlines. But there is another column in the newspaper that catches both Americans’ attention: the personal notices in the Agony Column. As Geoffrey communicates to Marian via this modern-day version of Facebook, he delivers an exciting narrative of mystery, murder and suspense that may threaten his life.

My Book Review: I found this vintage publication on Librivox and found it to be a short but cute read. Chapters are long, but the plot moves right along and it didn’t take long to finish. All of the fun melodramatic elements of a dime novel are present in the tale: murder, spies, ladies in black veils, strangers at a restaurant, espionage, cloak and dagger, shadow-filled alleys…

This wasn’t the classic of the century, but it made for some good entertainment. It certainly had a couple of huge plot twists towards the end that kept me on the edge of my seat! (Talk about a way to keep a lady’s attention!) If you’re in the mood for something light, fun, and adventure-filled, you may enjoy this WWI-era story.  I know that for myself, I plan on reading at least one other book by this author!

*This book was also published under a different title: The Second-Floor Mystery.  I believe it was turned into an early film by this name.

*To listen to the Librivox audiobook for free, click here.

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2016 in Book Reviews

 

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