Book Review: Coal River by Ellen Marie Wiseman

Coal RiverCoal River by Ellen Marie Wiseman

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

In 1912, nineteen-year-old Emma Malloy has lost everything and everyone she loves. Her parents are killed in a theater fire in New York, and she’s forced to move to the town of Coal River, Pennsylvania, to live with her mother’s sister and her family. A place where she had vowed never to return.

Coal River is a mining town with a deadly past. The Bleak Mountain Mining Company is run by a heartless, selfish old man named Hazard Flint. He’s breaking every mining law that’s written in order to line his pockets with money from the production of coal, even sinking as low as hiring children as young as six and seven years old. Children are getting maimed, and some even lose their lives trying to earn a few pennies to help their parents make ends meet between paychecks.

Emma’s arrival triggers hostilities and memories that had long been buried. She finds herself being accused of bringing bad luck to the town. She searches for ways to win the hearts of the mining families and to help in their efforts to bring change to the mining company. However, all her efforts backfire and she ends up in deep, deep trouble.

I get the general theme of this story, but I was annoyed by how the author kept using flashbacks to remind us of all that Emma has lost. On one page, Emma’s repulsed by the guy she believes contributed to her brother’s death, and then a few pages later she’s asking him to do favors for her. It’s these repetitive scenes that earned this novel such a low rating in my opinion.

Her aunt and uncle treat her worse than a slave in their home and tell her she’s worthless trouble. They are constantly threatening to send her to the poorhouse if she doesn’t do as they say. I doubt the poorhouse could have been any worse than having to live with them, but during that era, being in the poorhouse was considered more shameful than anything else.

This novel was too bleak for me, but don’t just take my word for it. Read the novel and judge for yourself.

Time for me to find another book to read

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Book Review: The Good Girl by Mary Kubica

The Good GirlThe Good Girl by Mary Kubica

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Loved it! Very suspenseful. Didn’t see the ending coming at all. I’ll definitely look for more by this author.

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Book review: A Salty Piece of Land by Jimmy Buffett

A Salty Piece of LandA Salty Piece of Land by Jimmy Buffett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I chose this book because I’d never read anything written by Buffett, but I love his music. I didn’t expect much to be honest. I was just looking for something different than the murder mystery and emotional suspense that I usually read.

A Salty Piece of Land is more fantasy than anything. How can someone be in the right place at the right time? All. The. Time. I kept expecting the main character, Tully Mars, to wake from a crazy dream. Tully flees his home in Wyoming to avoid a run-in with the law. He takes his beloved horse, Mr. Twain, and heads south. From there it’s one incredible encounter after another. As bizarre as some of the events are in the story, I still got caught up in the excitement of the adventures and the message of hope and anything is possible as long as you believe.

If you need a break from vampires, time travel, and government espionage (well there is some of that), you should give this book a look.

Time to find another book to read.

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Book Review: Sidelined, Overcoming Odds through Unity, Passion, and Perseverance, by Chuck Pagano, with Bruce A. Tollner

Sidelined; Overcoming Odds through Unity, Passion, and Perseverance

by Chuck Pagano, with Bruce A. Tollner

Publisher: Zondervan (2014)

What’s it like to win your dream job, and then receive the news that you have cancer? Ask Chuck Pagano. The message is clear. Even on the darkest of days, those who remain faithful remain strong.

Shortly after reaching a lifelong goal of becoming a head coach in the National Football League, Pagano was given more life changing news. Diagnosed with leukemia during his first year with the Indianapolis Colts, Coach Pagano had to rely on his family and new team to help him overcome the potentially life threatening disease.

Unsure of the team’s reaction, he continued to coach from his hospital bed through phone calls, text messages, and emails. Chuck’s determination and drive were nothing new to the players on his team. As the effects of chemotherapy took their toll, Pagano’s team kept reminding him of his own words, “Trust, Loyalty, and Respect” – they would mean so much more by the end of the season.

While reading Sidelined, I was continually inspired by the “pep talks” of Pagano’s trusted friend, Kevin Elko. These nuggets of wisdom are expertly woven among the game day recaps and the updates on Pagano’s physical status during the course of the disease and the effects of its treatment. Elko’s (Elks as Pagano refers to him) ability to use scripture to inspire determination is essential in Pagano’s defensive lineup against leukemia.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is a football fan, going through a rough patch in everyday life, or facing the unknown through illness. It’s a helpful reminder that one must not give in to one’s condition, and to use your faith as a guide for living.

RATING: 5 STARS

I received this book for free from BookLook.com in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: “A” is for Alibi, by Sue Grafton

Today’s post is brought to you by the letter “A”.

For years, I’ve been thinking about reading all the Sue Grafton books, in order, from A – Z (as soon as X, Y, and Z become available). And now, I have finally started that series. These novels began in 1982. One thing that stands out immediately is the use of technology. In this first installment, the word “cell phone” never came up. There were trips to the pay phone, and messages retrieved from the front desk of hotels and answering services, but no cell phones, or email for that matter. I can’t wait to read about the evolution of technology through the words of Sue Grafton… {hugs herself} so, on with the show.

A is for Alibi

“A” is for Alibi

by Sue Grafton

Random House Publishing (c) 1982

Private investigator Kinsey Millhone is hired to find out who really killed prominate divorce lawyer, Lawrence Fife. Not a problem, except that the trail is 8 years old, and someone has already been tried and convicted of the crime: his beautiful young wife, Nikki.

Nikki has claimed her innocense all along, yet no one will listen. Now, out of prison on paroll, Nikki looks to Kinsey to help her find out who set her up.

The suspense begins as soon as Kinsey re-opens the investigation, with the blessing of homicide detective, Con Dolan. His interest in the case has more to do with an unsolved murder that happened around the same time of the Fife murder; he’s hoping Millhone can turn up new evidence to help solve the murder of 24 year-old, accountant Libby Glass. There’s a connection, but the District Attorney could never find enough evidence to pin this one on Nikki Fife, so the case has gone cold while they prosecuted what they deemed “a sure thing”.

“Alibi” is a fantastic read. The characters are well developed and believable. There are just enough twists to keep the reader guessing, but not so many that one loses sight of the main plot. Grafton starts this series out with a bang, and I’m looking forward to going through this alphabetical adventure.

Score 5 STARS for this one Ms. Grafton

 

Book Review: Seagrass Pier: A Hope Beach Novel, by Colleen Coble

Seagrass Pier: A Hope Beach Novel

By Colleen Coble

Thomas Nelson

Elin Summerall was in need of a heart transplant. Fortunately, a perfect match came by way of murder victim, Laura Watson. Soon after surgery, Elin begins to experience a phenomenon known as “cell memory.” She’s having nightmares of the murder which took her donor’s life. As news of this hits the media, people begin to search out Elin for more questioning.

Past acquaintance, FBI Agent Marc Everton, shows up to investigate the connection between the murder of Laura Watson and the murder of his FBI partner. His belief is that the killer in both cases is the same. He’s not the only one interested in talking to Elin; the murderer himself wants to find her to shut her up for good.

Elin retreats to an isolated cottage on Hope Island where she hopes to protect her young daughter and her mother who suffers from dementia. The suspense begins as Elin receives threatening, cryptic messages from the suspected killer. She’s desperate to have the psychopath behind bars, but the only one that will help her is Marc, who is on leave-of-absence from the Bureau and has been told to stay away from the investigation.

Seagrass Pier is an attention grabbing thriller, with non-stop action; although at times, the list of characters and their connections to each other can be a little confusing. For more background information, I suggest reading the other titles in the series: Tidewater Inn and Rosemary Cottage, before reading this title . However, my curiosity kept me turning the pages to find the answers to my questions, and I got them.

Tender moments stirred emotions, which is always a good sign. So I was pleased with the overall theme of the novel, and I hope to read more works by Colleen Coble. Her way of adding a touch of God’s grace to each situation helps the reader to remember that no matter how difficult a situation may be, there is always hope.

Rating: 4 stars (the number of subplots takes away from the main plot of the story)

I received this book for free from BookLook.com in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: Jupiter Winds, by C.J. Darlington

jupiter-winds-400

Jupiter Winds, by C.J. Darlington

Mountainview Books

Seventeen year-old Grey Alexander and her younger sister, Orinda, learn to survive after the loss of their parents in this fast-passed sci-fi thriller. In 2160, North America is under the control of a dictatorship that uses technology to its advantage for controlling humans and their actions. Before their mysterious disappearance, Grey’s revolutionary parents take their children into hiding to avoid having them become electronically “connected”. Only Mrs. March, a trusted, elderly, family friend, knows the girls’ secret, and she will stop at nothing to protect them.

While reading Jupiter Winds, I couldn’t help but compare it to The Hunger Games. You have two sisters who draw on their courage and determination to survive through the loss of a parent; the government of the futuristic country has fallen into the hands of a dictatorship known as Mazdaar; and the girls are forced to smuggle and trade contraband in order to survive; however, that’s where the comparison stops.

Travel from Earth to Jupiter has been reduced to a few days journey. But who would want to go to Jupiter in the first place? Certainly not Grey and Rin, that is until Grey is abducted for questioning by Mazdaar’s General Evangeline Yurkutz. The General is determined to uncover the truth concerning the whereabouts of Grey’s parents.

Jupiter Winds is an excellent read. With each turn of a page, our heroines encounter life threatening situations that seem realistic and impossible to escape. The transitions in this novel keep the action flowing, and I especially liked the way the point of view switches from Grey to Rin throughout the story.

This is the first novel I’ve read from this author, but I will be looking to read her other novels and any in the future.

Rating: 5 Stars

I received this book for free from C.J. Darlington in exchange for my honest review.

 

 

My Wish For You This 2014

rebeccalatsonphotography

Becky At Sotol Vista

So, yesterday’s short blog was a “Happy New Year” post.  Today’s post is a “what I wish for you (and for me) in 2014” short blog.

I posted this image of me at the Sotol Vista overlook of Big Bend National Park, Texas, because it represents all of the expansiveness of photography that I wish for you as well as myself.

I hope that 2014 brings many photographic possibilities your way.  And I hope that your camera gear is all fresh, ready and repaired (I just received a bill from the Canon Service Center for work on my 1-DX…..a bit of a surprise but I should have expected a pricey repair for a pricey camera – ahem).

I hope you get to travel more, see more exciting lands / people / vistas, capture more weddings / portraits / portfolios / events, or whatever it is that you enjoy photographing the…

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Book Review: Okay for Now, by Gary D. Schmidt

Okay for Now, by Gary D. Schmidt

Sandpiper, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

A cruel father, an abusive brother returning from Vietnam, and another brother determined to make life a living hell; that’s enough misery to fill anyone with hate and rage, but Doug Swieteck finds an unlikely outlet for his emotions. Doug discovers that he can draw.

When Doug’s father is fired from his job at a lumber company in Long Island, New York, he packs the family up and moves them to upstate New York, where his buddy, Ernie Eco, has lined up a position for him at the local paper mill. Doug’s father is abusive to his wife and kids. His older brother, Chris, is a trouble-maker and is soon accused of robbing several stores in their new home town. His oldest brother, also abusive to Doug, is scheduled to return from Vietnam after his tour-of-duty is cut short by enemy fire. Who knows what battles Lucas will be fighting when he returns?

Okay for Now is filled with laughs, as well as disappointments and misunderstandings. Just when things are going well for Doug, life punches him in the gut. Along the way, there is bribery, deceit, and conniving. If you are not paying attention, you might miss important clues about the way things work in this world. This story is a reminder that while life isn’t always an easy journey, it’s still worth the price you pay for the ticket.

Reading this story brought on a myriad of emotions: from anger at the abusive father, and the mother who did nothing to stop the abuse, to elation for Doug on discovering his artistic ability, and then to fear that he might lose the one person in which he can confide the horrors of his home life. You’ll feel these emotions, as well, when you read Okay for Now.

Rating: 5 STARS

Book Review: Gunpowder Tea, by Margaret Brownley

Gunpowder Tea

By Margaret Brownley

Thomas Nelson Publishing

Miranda Hunt is following in her father’s footsteps as an operative at the Pinkerton Detective Agency, and now she is about to get a chance to truly prove the value of her skills. Her latest assignment requires her to assume the identity of Annie Beckman, a young woman answering an ad for an heiress to the renowned Last Chance Ranch, owned by spirited, eccentric cattlewoman, Eleanor Walker.

While undercover, Annie must identify the person, responsible for a recent string of robberies, known as The Phantom. Before she can even step foot off the train in Cactus Patch, she learns first hand how the Phantom operates. The train is robbed just outside of town.

Annie’s orders are clear, “While learning the ranching business, keep an eye open for the Phantom. Once identified, notify the local law enforcement.” Sounds easy enough, but nothing is ever as easy as it seems, especially when Annie starts experiencing feelings for mysterious and handsome ranch hand, David Branch. Could he be the one to steal her heart? Or, is he a part of the Phantom gang?

Gunpowder Tea is the third book of The Last Chance Ranch series. Although I haven’t had the chance to read the first two stories, I had no trouble picking up the action and learning the identity of key characters. This story is entertaining and suspenseful with twists that are unexpected. I plan to check out more books written by Brownley.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com® <http://BookSneeze.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”