Saturday, June 30, 2012

SunsetSunset by Karen Kingsbury
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The end of an era. SUNSET, the last book in a three series, fourteen book sequel, was good, but not the awe inspiring conclusion I expected. This goes to show more is not always better.

It goes without say that the Baxter family as a whole was the key characters in this final installment. Every individual family member’s story came to some sort of predictable conclusion. Once again, there was a lot of reviewing, for the consideration of first time readers. But, for those of us that have read the whole series, I found myself breezing over large sections of reflection.

I was sad to see John Baxter move on, even though it was realistic that a man of his age would find someone new to love. I also didn’t like the reintroduction of Angela Manning. It felt forced and a bit unbelievable. In a previous volume, Angela met Kari face-to-face, but in this book, she didn’t recognize her. I would think, even if Angela was in self-destruct mode, she would not forget the wife of the man she had an affair with.

All that to say, on a whole, this series was very enjoyable. I made this reading journey part of my New Year’s resolution since I had started reading the series when it was first released, continued to buy each volume, but stopped reading them because of other commitments. I had put Karen Kingsbury at the top of the Christian fiction writer’s pedestal for years because I felt she was a ground breaking author who wrote about Christian characters that were flawed and far from perfect. But, since the introduction of the Redemption Series in 2002, so many other Christian authors have burst onto the scene with great storytelling skills. Authors like: Irene Hannon, Candace Colvert, Richard Mabry, Lynette Eason, Ronie Kendig, and the list goes on.

Anyone who says Christian fiction doesn’t have the same intensity as secular fiction hasn’t exposed themselves to some of these newer, edgier, authors.

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Saturday, June 23, 2012

A Personal Stand: Observations and Opinions from a Freethinking RoughneckA Personal Stand: Observations and Opinions from a Freethinking Roughneck by Trace Adkins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A PERSONAL STAND by Trace Adkins was part autobiographical, part personal commentary, and completely enjoyable.

Anyone who knows Trace Adkins’ music knows there are two sides to the country singer. He’s got his alcohol induced, rebel rousing anthems, such as Honky Tonk Badonkadonk, One Hot Mama, and I Got My Game On. And then there are his introspective tunes like You’re Gonna Miss This, I Wanna Feel Something, She Thinks We’re Just Fishing, and the haunting Arlington. And now, in the pages of A PERSONAL STAND, you get to hear Trace Adkins’ opinion on hot topics like, Immigration, 911, the wars we are waging on foreign soils, the economy, and you get a feel for his passion for history and his beloved South.

I finished A PERSONAL STAND in one day because it was so different from the fiction I usually read. In a word, I would call the country singer with the bad-boy image a conservative. Though he expresses his disappointment with the Republican Party of late, his values and principles line up with what this country was founded on. Freedom. Not the freedom to burn the flag, abuse free speech, or turn the other cheek when others walk all over our constitution, but the freedom to disagree with the government without personal threat, to put in a hard’s day work for a hard’s day pay, the importance of military involvement versus tolerance of radicals, why deportation of illegal’s is not us as a nation being intolerant, but the U.S. needing to protect its borders and following the laws on the books to protect our own economy, and numerous other topics.

A PERSONAL STAND was a great read! Though Adkins’ doesn’t sugarcoat his personal abuses of alcohol or the break-up of his marriages, he sure hits the nail on the head in regards to the state of our union. If we could only rally together the Republicans in office right now, and force them to read our constitution for themselves–instead of allowing the liberal media to interpret it for the nation unchallenged–they could get our country back to the basics of why we left Europe hundreds of years ago. Our forefathers wanted a strong, free, republic, not a hand-holding, passive, milk-toast society that is more interested in being everyone’s friend then wielding our strength when injustice calls for it.

On a personal note: I could’ve done without some of the swearing. I feel strongly that someone does not need to swear or use vulgar language to get their point across. In fact, sometimes I feel the use of inappropriate language devalues the speaker’s impact. Even if you are a good-ole-boy, allow your passion to speak for yourself instead of the shock value of crude language.

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Friday, June 22, 2012

SomedaySomeday by Karen Kingsbury
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

SOMEDAY by Karen Kingsbury, the third in the Sunrise series allowed us a glimpse at Dayne and Katy, a Hollywood couple the paparazzi are determined to break up. While SOMEDAY also touched on Luke’s troubled marriage, Ashley’s heartache from the death of her infant daughter, the loss of the CKT (Christian Kids Theater), and the growing relationship between John Baxter and Elaine, Dayne and Katy were the main focus.

The ups and downs of Dayne and Katy’s relationship/marriage were pretty predictable. At times, I felt Katy’s character was a little off the mark. Katy I feel is a person who loves with all she is. And at times, she seemed to give up too easily on Dayne. I appreciated the growth we saw in Dayne, and his desire to get right with the Lord.

I don’t know what to think about Luke. Before the 911 scenario he was such a passionate, straight arrow type of person. Since then, he just seems to jump off the deep end whenever life gets tough. I found myself not liking him when he was portrayed as a husband not wanting to deal with the everyday family trials. He acts like he is trapped by his circumstances instead of embracing family life.

I am off to read the last in this series.

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Saturday, June 16, 2012

SummerSummer by Karen Kingsbury
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

SUMMER, book two in the third Baxter saga was definitely filled with emotion, and a little disillusionment.

The joy of two Baxter sisters expecting within weeks of each other is quickly doused when we find out Ashley’s pregnancy could be a difficult one. This storyline had a lot of emotion packed into it. But, what I found disappointing with SUMMER was the storyline surrounding Dayne and Katy Matthews.

Fresh off of the highly anticipated wedding of Katy and Dayne in SUNRISE, Kingsbury barely lets them get feet out of the Bahamas sand of their honeymoon before she is setting them up for disaster. Up to this point, even though we traveled through highs and lows with Katy and Dayne, I felt Kinsgbury had painted them to be a little stronger and deeper than the characters that continue on in SUMMER. Immediately, their marriage is put to the test as they star in both a love story and a reality show. And just as quick it seems Katy and Dayne forget the struggles and hard times they have overcome and the strength of their love for each other, and begin to allow seeds of doubt to be planted in their hearts and minds regarding each other’s faithfulness and commitment to their marriage. I found this about-face in their relationship to come out of leftfield. Now granted, I knew with them being a Hollywood couple this would eventually become part of their storyline. But within the first month of their marriage? Come on . . . give them more credit than that. Katy has been portrayed as solid and practical, and Dayne has just had a brush with death. I really feel Kingsbury kind of insulted the characters she had spent the last series fleshing out for the readers. The ending was bittersweet, and with Katy and Dayne walking such a fine line, I don’t know that I am looking forward to reading SOMEDAY.

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Sunday, June 03, 2012

My Review - Shadow in Serenity

SHADOW IN SERENITY was a unique book that I quickly found myself engulfed in.
Carny Sullivan grew up the child of traveling carnival con artists.  She can spot a con from a mile away. And because of that, the minute Logan Brisco blows into town she knows he’s a con just waiting to happen.  She calls him on it publically, but he quickly diffuses her claims.  Carny is determined to expose Logan before he fleeces the town of Serenity of everything they have.
As Carny watches Logan’s every move and does her best to trip him up, she makes one mistake.  She allows herself to get too close to the dashing man with the easy smile and soon finds there is more to the man they she counted on.  With the town’s people in love with him, and willing to follow him to the ends of the earth, Carny is torn.  Maybe he isn’t the swindler she thought him to be, or is she, along with everyone else in Serenity going to fall prey to the ultimate con.
This story was very captivating.  I found myself torn between Carny getting the opportunity to show the people of Serenity that she in fact is right in her analysis of Logan, and me wanting Logan to turn out to be a standup guy.  Without spoiling it for others, this story has an ending that satisfied both of my desires. 
With the unique setting and colorful characters, SHADOW OF SERENITY was a fresh approach to an otherwise basic premise. 

The Mask - A Christmas Fable

This was a charming story, that though set around Christmas, it is really a story about exposing the person inside of you.

As the story goes, there was a rich man who was quite attractive on the outside, but inside he was ugly. His loves were riches and power, and he had no conscience when talking to people with cruel words or taking from others merely because he wanted something. Soon, his face became as disfigured as his heart. His features were distorted, his lips twisted into a permanent sneer. At first, he denied his disfigurement, but soon he realizes his own ugliness and closes himself off from the world. All alone be soon feels empty and wanders outside at night. When he stumbles across a beautiful mask in a small store in town, he buys it to cover his hideousness. While wearing the mask that boasts a permanent smile, he soon finds himself doing acts of charity. The story ends with the mask being broken, only to reveal the man's face is no longer twisted and ugly. Because now, his heart matches his face once again.

The story rings of Beauty and the Beast, but has a charm of its own.
SunriseSunrise by Karen Kingsbury
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

SUNRISE by Karen Kingsbury is the first in the SUNRISE series, but the eleventh book that follows the Baxter family. With each book, we get to trail along as the Baxter family continues to live and grow. SUNRISE follows Katy and Dayne as they solidify their relationship and look towards their happily-ever-after. But I can’t help but feel the next book in the series, SUMMER, is going to have the per verbal other shoe drop. Karen Kingsbury doesn’t usually allow her characters to be happy or free from tragedy for too long.

The only flaw to these books, is if you have read them from the beginning, you might get frustrated by all the rehashing Ms. Kingsbury does. It is obvious she is trying to let each new reader understand the ins and outs of each of the Baxter's. But the constant overviews get boring to the reader who already knows all the back story.

So, I will start SUMMER, holding my breath, wondering what new tragedy or drama the Baxter family has headed their way.

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