Saturday, March 26, 2011

Heaven is for Real

Heaven is for Real: A Little Boys Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back
Todd Burpo with Lynn Vincent
Thomas Nelson
Trade Paperback
ISBN: 978-0-446-8499-4615-8
170 pages
Fiction - Christian

Who really knows about heaven? Most of us have read the Bible version of heaven, but still question its
reality. How do we know if it really exists?

Rev. Todd Burpo always believed in heaven which is to be expected for a minister. However, what he
didn’t plan was having his four-year-old son explain the reality of heaven to him.

Colton Burpo seemed to have the flu along with his older sister. When the sister improved and Colton
didn’t, Todd, and his wife, Sonja, prayed and fortunately took their son to another medical facility to
discover that his son’s appendix had burst. During this frustrating time, the family began to question
their faith.

Colton was finally able to return home, healthy. What was shocking was when Colton started to
describe heaven and events that he could not have possibly known about such as the miscarriage of a
baby before he was even born.

Todd Burpo, Colton’s father, works full-time as an operator of a garage door company, an Episcopalian
pastor of Crossroads Wesleyan in Imperial, Nebraska, a wrestling coach, and a volunteer fireman. Lynn
Vincent has written Same Kind of Different as Me, Going Rogue: An American Life, and has been the
co-author of nine books.

Heaven is for Real is for all of us who occasionally question our faith. It is written in a casual style that
makes you feel a part of the Burpo family. The story is well-written and concise even though it moves
quickly. Personally, I am keeping this book close to me for those times that I need a little reassurance of
God’s love.

The Dog Sox

Russell Hill
A Caraval Mystery
Pleasure Book Studio
March 15, 2011
Trade Paperback
ISBN: 978-1-929355-74-7
180 pages

Some men will do anything to impress their girlfriend. Ray Adams who has worked as a building
contractor for years decides to give his younger girlfriend, Ava Bell, the perfect gift. Yes, Ava adores
excellent jewelry, but the real gift is a minor league baseball team named the Knights Landing Dog Sox.
After all, what else can you buy for this glamorous professional attorney to keep her interest?

On the team are many has-been and want-to-be players, but most of the focus is on the pitchers
especially Billy Collins. He possesses an unhittable curve throw that is almost guaranteed to strike out
every batter. Unfortunately, he has problems making it last for all nine innings and if he is
distracted, then his aim is off.

Billy’s dad has been absent for many of his nineteen living years, but now he is back trying to claim his
cut of Billy’s talent. Since his mother’s death, Billy has had limited contact with his dad and still carries
anger from the abusive relationship. The team, owner, and manager all try to discourage Billy’s dad
from having any interaction with his son and attempt to limit the contact permanently.

The Dog Sox is about the people on the team, as well as the support for the team. It’s about the
relationships and the interactions of doing what is best for the individuals, as well as the team. The
story, although short, is fast-paced and carefully developed into a well-written novel.

Russell Hill has worked as an English teacher for many years. He has written over twenty novels
including Robbie’s Wife, Lucy Boomer, The Heeler, Ghost Trout, The Search for Sheepheaven Trout, and
recently The Lord God Bird. Both The Dog Sox and The Lord God Bird are short novels that are expertly
and concisely written.

I look forward to Russell Hill’s next novel which I am sure will be full of his quirky realistic characters and
tell a tale worthy of any master storyteller

Sunday, March 20, 2011


Franny Billingsley
Dial Books
Penguin Group Inc.
March 2011
ISBN: 978-0747583813
358 pages
Fiction/Young Adult/Fantasy

Living near London in the first half of the twentieth century gives most readers a sense of the setting.
However, living in a swampy area creates an environment based on superstition and witchcraft.

Briony Larkin has guilt issues. She feels responsible for her twin sister’s lack of development due to a
childhood injury and also her stepmother’s death. What really happened?

Briony and Rose Larkin are the unusual twin daughters to the local Reverend. For years, Briony lived as
the wolfgirl of the swamp while Rose seemed to be a lost immature child. Since their mother died
giving birth to the twins, the Reverend struggles raising with these two.

Finally, the two sisters are developing love interests and their relationship with their community is
becoming strained, especially when a suspected with is hung. After her death, since the body did not
turn to dust, that was the proof that the red haired woman was innocent.

Briony has the gift of second sight and can view when someone will die. She also sees spirits, brownies,
and creatures that normal people do not even know exist. She doesn’t want to die by being accused of
being a witch, so she has the constant challenge of not fitting in, when she truly feels that she never
does belong.

Chime has issues of jealousy and the problem when it is not controlled. Also are the issues of misplaced
guilt and accusations, as well as arsenic poisoning. The characters are self-centered, unusual, flawed,
and frequently shallow. The storyline does move quickly and constantly is turning and twisting. With
the setting being in the superstitious swamp, there are numerous fantasy aspects.

Franny Billingsley has previously written Well Wished, Big Bad Bunny, and The Folk Keeper. Working as a
lawyer was a challenge and Franny decided to live her successful career to live in Spain while finding
herself. After reading numerous children books, she ran out of money and returned to Chicago to work
as an independent book buyer. She now enjoys her life in this area.

Overall, Chime is an enthralling young adult read. I would recommend that Chime is for the older
teenager due to the relationship issues.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Formula for Murder

By Diana Orgain
Berkley Prime Crime Mystery
ISBN: 978-0-425-23988-9
278 pages
$ 7.99

Working from home is the ideal career for a new mother. However, what kind of job can make you money and still allow you to be a mother? For Kate Connolly, it is being a private detective. Of course, she has the support of her husband and fortunately, the help and guidance of one of her mother’s boyfriends who already has his private investigator license.

Now, how do you get paying clients?

Kate has a natural ability to be at the wrong place at the worse time. While taking her young daughter on a drive to get her first holiday pictures, the two are hit by a hit-and-run driver. The car is totaled but the two of them appear to be fine. Kate cannot forget the face of the driver of the car. Fortunately, a witness is able to give her the information about the car and it is traced back to the French consul.

Naturally Kate and her husband visit the French consul and don’t get much assistance or information, but they do notice two well-known television reporters leaving. When one of these reporters is found the next day murdered, Kate manages to be hired by the victim’s former husband to investigate this death. Of course, she is still looking for who hit her vehicle seems to believe that the two acts seem to be somehow related.

FORMULA FOR MURDER is a well-written cozy mystery. The story keeps a fast pace while being realistic and having somebody always with the baby as well as the guilt for not always being the unrealistic perfect mother. The characters are fun and believable. I do believe that the reader would enjoy this book more if they have read Orgain’s previous books, BUNDLE OF TROUBLE and MOTHERHOOD IS MURDER which have the same characters and personal connections.

Diana Orgain is a resident of San Francisco and uses this setting in her novels.

FORMULA for murder is a fun mystery to read. I look forward to the next book in this series.

Pursuit of Happiness

Pursuit of Happiness
Sheldon Greene
Book Surge Publishing
Harper Collins
October 2010
ISBN: 978-1439262443
474 pages
Historical Fiction

It is difficult for us to truly understand life during the American Revolution. Pursuit of Happiness gives
us that insight through the eyes of Joshua Rutledge, a Quaker from Philadelphia and Amelia Syre, the
wife of a plantation owner on a Caribbean island.

Living as a Quaker, Joshua learns the meaning of a peaceful lifestyle. He is conflicted when he is
approached by a friend to infiltrate the British occupied area. Is this going against the beliefs of his
family? Would his family believe that he is doing the right thing? Within himself, he wonders about
this. Having succeeded at this task, Joshua is given a new assignment directly from General Washington
involving acquiring guns and ammunition from the Caribbean.

Amelia Syre is living the luxurious life on a sugar plantation on the island of St. Catherine’s. However,
things are seldom as they seem. Her husband, Duncan, impregnated her companion and slave. Amelia
is furious and really wants nothing to do with him. Unlike Duncan, she immediately gets help for the
poor girl. Even though Amelia is the mistress, she values her slaves and respects them as humans.
Her slaves trust her and fear her husband.

The story transitions from the disadvantaged colonial troops to the slave rebellions in Caribbean. Other
issues such as smuggling arms, relationships with the French forces, the acceptance and distrust of the
Jewish businessmen, Washington’s crossing of the Delaware, Benedict Arnold, and the struggles of the
colonists from various perspectives are all incorporated into this novel.

Pursuit of Happiness is a Revolutionary War Gone with the Wind and resembles Nelson DeMille’s
historical novels. This is a wonderful story based on real historical incidents and people adding validity
to the author’s fictional aspects. The characters are believable even if they tend to have many romantic
opportunities. The story moves quickly and has constant conflicts to add to the authenticity.

Sheldon Greene is a lawyer in Southern California. He has previously written three novels,
Lost and Found, Burnt Umber, and Prodigal Sons.

Overall, Pursuit of Happiness is a true snapshot, if slightly overly romantic, into the colonial
time period.