Sunday, September 26, 2010

While We're Far Apart by Lynn Austin

Rating: 5 Stars

I have been anticipating the release of While We’re Far Apart for a few months and the novel lived up to my expectations.  Lynn Austin delivered yet another thought-provoking, engaging, and multi-faceted novel.  Like Austin’s earlier A Woman’s Place novel, While We’re Far Apart examines the lives of several different characters during World War II, but I found this novel to be much more engrossing and moving.   Each chapter is told from the perspective of one of the three main characters: Esther, a motherless 13-year-old child whose father enlists in the war; Penny, a sheltered young woman who takes a risk and volunteers to care for Esther and her younger brother Peter, and Mr. Mendel, a Jewish widower whose son and extended family are living in Hungary and experiencing the autocracies of the Nazis.  As the characters face inevitable life changes, they are forced to overcome fears, prejudices, and cruelty and confront secrets that they did not know existed.  Can they embrace these changes and trust God to see them through times of uncertainty and grief?

While I was reading the novel, I often found myself thinking that the plot would make an excellent movie.  The characters were realistic and well-developed and although the story was told from several different perspectives, the plot flowed seamlessly and the lives of the main characters tied together to create a moving and intricate snapshot of life during the tumultuous years of World War II.  I would have enjoyed a slightly longer epilogue to conclude the stories of the main characters since I found myself wondering about their lives a few years later.  I hesitate to call that a flaw, however; I believe that I wondered about the character’s futures because I began to care about them throughout the novel.  Only a talented author can create characters that readers truly care about.  That is why Lynn Austin remains one of my favorite authors! I highly, highly recommend this book.   ~M

Moon Over Tokyo by Siri Mitchell

Rating: 4.5 Stars

After reading Siri Mitchell's She Walks in Beauty last year, I became a big fan of her writing.  Within the last year, my sister and I have read both her historical and contemporary novels and we have enjoyed each one of them. Most recently, I read Moon Over Tokyo, a novel that follows the life of an American newspaper  reporter and inspiring writer, Allie O'Connor.  Allie is a somewhat quirky and sarcastic, but very relatable character as she struggles to embrace life in Japan.  In a "it's a small world twist" Allie meets Erik Larsen, a former high school classmate who she considered her rival.  As her friendship with Erik develops, Allie is forced to examine her prejudices, dreams, and her life in and out of Japan.

I believe that one of Mitchell's greatest strengths is her ability to describe a setting so thoroughly that readers feel as though they have been transported through time or across the world.  Moon Over Tokyo is a perfect example of that strength.  Although I have never been to Tokyo, Mitchell's descriptions and imagery allowed me to envision the scenery, the skyscrapers, the hustle and bustle of the populated city, and the serenity of the smaller seaside or mountain towns.  The one minor fault that I found with this novel is that the voice of Allie O'Connor is very similar to the voice of the main characters in Mitchell's other contemporary novels.  Despite the similar voice, the setting and the plot made this story unique.  I highly recommend this novel to my fellow readers.  It is a quick and fairly light read, but I plan to keep this book on my shelf for quite a while! ~ M

The Enclave by Karen Hancock

Rating: 4 stars
While browsing through the book section of a discount store, The Enclave caught my eye. The front cover and the synopsis suggested that this novel would be a suspenseful read, with a touch of science fiction.  As an avid reader of historical fiction, I was not convinced that I would enjoy this novel.  But…unable to resist a bargain, I decided to give it a try; and I am glad that I did!

Karen Hancock delivers an imaginative and mysterious story that delves into the world of genetic science.  When Lacey McHenry begins working at the Kendall-Jakes Longevity Institute, she is unaware that she will face unfathomable dangers to her life by a mysterious intruder and the scientists who she esteems.  Cameron Reinhardt is an absent-minded scientist who is ridiculed for his Christian beliefs.  As he uncovers the Institute’s secrets, Cameron is forced to face painful and terrifying secrets from his past.

Meanwhile, life exists in an underground community, The Enclave.  Protected by an intimidating group of “Enforcers,” the Enclave’s inhabitants are virtual prisoners in a secret world, held captive by the lies generated by a mysterious leader.  Will the inhabitants who seek the truth find their way above ground and into the light?

A few of the science fiction elements and the imagery of genetic mutations were a bit unsettling for me, but the story was exciting, and well-written with well-developed characters.  The mystery surrounding the Longevity Institute and the Enclave kept me engrossed, and the conclusion was action-packed and satisfying. Although this is not a book that will read again, I highly recommend it to other readers, especially those who enjoy suspense and science fiction.   ~M

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Movie Review

We just watched Flywheel, a movie that a co-worker recommended.  View our review on the Movie Review page!    ~M

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Tale of Another Reader...

Unlike my sister, I have been a bookworm since a young age.  As a very young child, I asked my mother to read Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes until I memorized many of them. Throughout elementary school, I eagerly awaited the next Scholastic book order, and I loved the Babysitters Club and Sweet Valley Twins series.  Reading was my reward after completing my school work.   

Today, visiting the library and bookstore or browsing books online is something that I cannot resist.  Finding a new book and anticipating the twists and turns in the plots is exciting.  Reading continues to be a way that I can reward myself after a long day at work.  Since my sister has become such an avid reader, we can discuss the books that we read and analyze their plots.  I have to admit, in terms of the number of books read, she is now more of a bookworm than me! 

Until recently, I have never endeavored to count or create a journal about the number of books that I have read.  After all, reading is not about quantity, but enjoyment.  My sister is able to combine both by setting personal goals, enjoying the books that she reads, and then being proud of reaching her goals.  I am proud that she has reached her personal goals as well; so she did influence me to set a personal goal recently.  Summer is my down-time, and I hoped to read at least 20 books.  A few weeks ago, I met my goal, but I do not anticipate being able to continue at the same rate.  Presently, work consumes most of my weekdays.  And, I can't forget to point out that this blog will have an impact on my reading time as well.  We have both committed to this endeavor; so we will see where it leads...

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Tale of One Reader...

Several years ago, I was not a bookworm.  Today, thanks to my sister, I am; and I cannot imagine what I did before I rediscovered the joy of a good book.  Books are my stress-relievers and companions.  I enjoyed reading as a child, and I especially loved reading books like the Boxcar Children with my mother before bed.  Sometime after elementary school, I drifted away from reading and did not return to my old hobby until college.  After my lifelong bookworm sister persistently asked me to start reading I again, I finally relented and read Hope by Lori Copeland.  I was immediately pulled into the light-hearted, adventurous novel with a spunky heroine.  Gradually, my inner bookworm began to re-emerge.

My daily reading regimen is to read for a few hours each day.  Since I work full-time, my reading time is limited to my lunch hour and my wind-down time before bed.  In 2008, I decided to track the number of books I read in a year.  I set my goal at 50 books and began tracking my progress in July 2008.  By July 2009, I read a total of 55 books, primarily Christian/Inspirational fiction, along with a few classics.  During my past reading year (July 2009-July 2010), my goal was to read 60 books and expand my selection of books to include other genres.  My latter goal led me to begin reading the Harry Potter series, which I did not expect to enjoy.  I am now an avid Harry Potter fan! To my surprise, I read a total of 71 books last year.  I am sure that other readers exceed my total, but I definitely feel a sense of accomplishment that I exceeded my personal goal!

My new goal for my current reading year is to read 70 books and write reviews for many of the books, thus the creation of this blog.  This blog is not solely my own, however; it is a joint endeavor with my fellow bookworm/sister.  Together, we are diving into to blog-pool to post book reviews and ramble about a few other topics.   A year of blogging begins now...


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