Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Crossing by Serita Jakes

The Crossing by Serita Jakes was a compelling novel relating a story of loss, bitterness, death, and renewal. While I enjoyed the book, I felt that the Christian message of the story could have been stronger.

Claudia Campbell has been imprisoned for ten years by memories of a masked gunman who opened fire on her school's bus on the way back from a football game. Cheerleading coach B.J. Remington was killed, but her murderer was never found. Claudia, who was a close friend of B.J.'s, is constantly reminded of that day, and she has never been able to move on. When her husband, the assistant district attorney, reopens the case, the secrets of that day threaten to tear them apart.

Officer Casio Hightower will also never forget that day, the day his dream was destroyed. A star quarterback with several prospective scholarships, he was on top -until one bullet changed it all. Casio is eager to help Victor Campbell find B.J.'s killer, who also shot him. Maybe finding the answer will silence the anger that causes Casio to hurt the woman he loves.

Will Victor, Claudia, and Casio be able to discover that what begins at the crossing ends at the cross?

I really enjoyed this novel. The structure was excellently done, switching between Viktor, Casio, Claudia, and Harper's points of view. Also included are snapshots into the last few minutes of B.J.'s life, told from her perspective. These snapshots are critical in helping the reader understand the mystery of the killer. It adds a considerable amount of suspense because the reader thinks that they understand how the murder occurred, but then there is a major twist in the end which is almost totally unexpected. The mystery of the novel was very exciting, and I loved the twists. Viktor Campbell was an awesome character, and he remained loving in the midst of Claudia's messes.

One of the things I was not found of in the Crossing was the ending. The ending is totally unexpected, and it made me feel really sad. However, I did like how the author Serita Jakes brought back a couple of the characters back to the Lord and how they in turn were able to forgive those who had seriously hurt them. I do wish that God had been pulled more into the story in the middle and beginning. B.J.'s last thoughts ask some very serious questions about sin and forgiveness which I do not feel like the author properly addressed. So if a doubting Christian or a seeker read some parts, they might have some serious questions. This is good, but I just wish that they had been addressed in the novel.

Overall, I enjoyed The Crossing, and I would recommend it to anyone who is prepared for some serious, thought provoking fiction. Do not expect a light read, for the mood of the entire novel is somber and sometimes frightening.

Friday, September 23, 2011

There You'll Find Me

There You'll Find Me by Jenny B. Jones was an enjoyable novel relating the struggles of teen girl whose painful experiences had caused her to walk away from the Lord, and her journey back to God and to love.

Finley Sinclair is not a typical eighteen year old. She is witty, tough, driven, and cannot stand the popular cliches of school. With an upcoming audition at the Manhattan Music Conservatory, Finley needs to finish composing her audition piece. But with the murder of her older brother, Will, she cannot find the ending, and she cannot find her way back to God.

Finley decides to study abroad in Ireland so that she can retrace the steps of her brother's own journey when he was a senior in high school. It is the place where he felt closest to God, and Finley hopes that being in such a special place will help her find peace over Will's death.

Beckett Rush, teen hearthrob and Hollywood player, is also flying to Ireland to finish filming his latest vampire movie. While on the flight he and Finley meet. Finley seems immune to his charm, which only furthers Beckett's interest in her. He convinces her to be his assistant in exchange for his help in following her brother's footsteps.

However, once in Ireland, Finley begins to fall apart. The loss of her brother, the pressures of school, her audition, and her unfamilar feelings toward Beckett lead her a very dangerous vice. When she begins to look into the struggles of another, she begins to understand the workings of God in her life. Will she come back to God in time to keep her new friendships, relationship with Beckett, and finish her brother's story?

I really enjoyed There You'll Find Me. It was an extremely captivating novel, and I did not want to put it down. I was very much in love with Beckett, and his character was one of the sweetest guys I have ever seen. Finley was a tougher character to love because as she continued to fall farther from God and farther into a bad situation, I just wanted to sit her down and talk some sense into her. However, only God can change hearts, and this novel clearly showed that in the end. This book also spoke to me because I really want to study abroad in Ireland, and I loved reading about the kind people and the lovely landscapes that simply shouted out praise to God. I enjoyed seeing the characters grow and develop throughout the storyline, and the only thing I did not like about the book was that it ended! I cannot wait to read more of Jenny B. Jones' novels.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Shadows on the Sand by Gayle Roper

Shadows on the Sand is a sweet tale with some dark underpinnings that can both shock and teach.

Carrie Carter's small cafe in Seaside, New Jersey, is populated with a motley crew of locals...although Carrie has eyes only for Greg Barnes. He is still recovering from the tragedy that three years before took the lives of his wife and children and from the year he spent burying his pain in alcohol. While Carrie's heart dances every time she sees him, Greg never seems to notice her.

When Carrie's dishwasher is killed and her young waitress disappears, Greg and Carrie find themselves working to together to solve the mystery and drawn to each other romantically. But when a shadow from Carrie's past re-enters he life, her new world seems to crumble. Will her new relationship with Greg be shattered by the baggage they both carry, or can they press on together?

This story had some very sweet moments which made me smile and laugh -and cause me to totally freak out the people who were nearby me. I loved the dynamics between Greg and Carrie. Greg was the sweetest guy ever, and he and Carrie worked together splendidly. Shadows on the Sand also had some darker undercurrents. Gayle Roper revealed some of the dreadful consequences of cults and how they can destroy families and lives. It was one of the important themes of the book. A few other themes were forgiveness even when the person hurt you terribly, love, and perseverance through all odds. I really enjoyed this book, and I will definitely be reading more of Gayle Roper's works.

I received this book for free from Waterbrook Multnomah in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Bone House by Stephen R. Lawhead

The Bone House by Stephen R Lawhead is the second book in the Bright Empires Series. It starts immediately where the first novel, Skin Map, left off.
Kit Livingstone, still reeling from the death of his grandfather Cosimo, finds himself on the run to find a map that contains the interlinkings of the multiverse. His survival depends on staying away from the Burley Men and finding the elusive pieces of the Skin Map. Meanwhile Kit's girlfriend Mina is quickly finding out more and more about how Kit is to succeed on his quest. However, so are their enemies. Will Mina and Kit find the parts of the map before those who lurk in darkness do?

The Bone House is an exciting book, filled with mysteries and new thrills. However, the structure of the book reduces the unity and complete understanding of the plot. The storyline jumps from one character to another, from one time to another, to one world to another. Many of the characters are unknown to the reader, so the reader has trouble properly placing the characters in the story. The plot becomes so fragmented at times that I had trouble following what was happening or staying interested in the story. Because the book is about jumping from one time to another and oftentimes one world to another, it is understandable that the author wanted to create a structure that mirrored ley leaps. However, I found it to take away from the overall story. If you can stick with the novel and read past about two thirds of the way, everything begins to make sense and the story becomes less fractured and more enjoyable.
I love Stephen R. Lawhead's novels, so I was a little disappointed in the fractured nature of most of Bone House. If you read The Skin Map and thought it was a little fractured, I would not recommend The Bone House because it is even more so. However, if you loved the structure and plotline of The Skin Map and really want to know what happens next, I would highly recommend The Bone House. And if you have not read The Skin Map, there is no way you will know what is going on in The Bone House.