Tuesday, January 15, 2019


Shapiro, Dani. Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2019.

Dani Shapiro took a DNA test. The man she believed to be her biological father was not. She discovered her parents difficult conceiving a child led them to a clinic where her mother was artificially inseminated not with her father's sperm but with that of a young doctor. A first cousin match led to the man's identity. Correspondence between Shapiro and her biological father took place. The eventually met. While I enjoyed the DNA story, the publication of the memoir revealing the man's identity appears to be a violation of genetic genealogy ethics, particularly when she continually voiced the man's concern for privacy. I received an advance electronic copy of the book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I hope the final version includes her biological father's consent to be named.

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

The Belting Inheritance

Symons, Julian. The Belting Inheritance. Scottsdale, Arizona: Poisoned Pen Press, 2019.

A woman who bore four sons expects to die soon. Two of the sons were declared dead in the war. The other two live. A man claiming to be her son David shows up. Is he who he states he is? The woman believes he is. The two sons do not.  Will the sons be able to prove he's an impostor before she dies--or will the alleged son inherit with a changed will? It's a pleasant way to spend a few hours. I either read this book previously or one with a very similar plot because the plot seemed familiar all the way along to the ending. I received an advance copy from the publisher through NetGalley with the expectation of an honest review.

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Book Love

Tung, Debbie. Book Love. Kansas City, Missouri: Andrews McMeel, 2019.

Cartoonist Debbie Tung's book will be adored by bibliophiles everywhere. It's not really a graphic novel. It's more of a collection of thoughts on books and reading with some of them serialized over several pages. It makes a perfect gift for the book lover. I received an electronic copy of the book from the publisher through NetGalley with the expectation of an honest review.

Sunday, December 09, 2018

Jesus and the Jewish Roots of Mary

Pitre, Brant. Jesus and the Jewish Roots of Mary: Understanding the Mother of the Messiah. New York: Image, 2018.

Before I begin this review, I want to mention that I'm a Protestant and a seminary graduate. The review is written from my theological perspective. I know some will disagree with my thoughts on the book. That's okay. We can just agree to disagree. Now for the review: I looked forward to a book on the Jewishness of Scripture; however, this book fails because of flawed theology. It venerates the Virgin Mary rather than glorifying God and Christ.  I'm thankful to attend a church where the pastor rightly divides the Word of God and brings out the Jewish context of the Scriptures while emphasizing the One who is worthy of worship -- and it's not Mary. This review is based on an advance electronic copy provided by the publisher through NetGalley with the expectation of an honest review.

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

The Division Bell Mystery

Wilkinson, Ellen. The Division Bell Mystery. Scottsdale, Arizona: Poisoned Pen Press, 2018.

A gun's discharge disturbs those dining in a parliamentary dining room. They find an American capitalist who is a Parliamentary member's guest dead. At first glance, it appears a suicide, but a robbery attempt in his rooms, further investigation, and his granddaughter's insistence he would not end his own life make them suspect homicide. With no one else in the room and no way for someone to leave without being seen by the member of parliament discovering the corpse, how did the murderer get away? The room is sealed. Jenks, who had been assigned to the businessman, turns up dead in the robbery attempt. A notebook written in cipher by the American was among his effects. How did he gain possession of it? It's an interesting whodunit from the golden age of mysteries. The author, a parliamentary member, provided glimpses into the life of a member of the House of Commons. I received an advance electronic copy from the publisher through NetGalley with the expectation of an honest review.

The Arsenal Stadium Mystery

Gribble, Leonard. The Arsenal Stadium Mystery. Scottsdale, Arizona: Poisoned Pen Press, 2018.

When a soccer player collapses and dies at a London stadium, it is up to Inspector Slade to catch the killer. He always gets his man. With little cooperation from those most likely to know anything useful, it is challenging. The man was not popular, and motives or potential motives abound. Slade suspects the murder is connected to the death of a girl a few years ago. He just needs to make the puzzle pieces fit . . . and he finally does. I enjoyed this Golden Age mystery and would love to read more books with Inspector Slade. I received an advance electronic copy from the publisher through NetGalley with the expectation of an honest review.

Murder at the Mill

Shaw, M. B. Murder at the Mill. New York: Minotaur Books, 2018.

Iris, an artist, arrives to paint a portrait of Dom Weatherby, and finds him dead following a party on Christmas day. At first the local officers presume it to be suicide but when the toxicology report shows chloroform, she knows her hunch it was murder is correct. What follows is a rather convoluted plot. Although the book improves as it goes along, I failed to connect with the amateur sleuth and the official investigators seemed too far removed from the investigation. Another thread follows an older case which was determined to be suicide but provides motive for the current one. Iris also determines a wrong conclusion in that case, finding the guilty party. The similar circumstances make the plot too unrealistic. I received an advance electronic copy from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, December 02, 2018

The Forbidden Place

Jansson, Susanne. The Forbidden Place. Translated by Rachel Willson-Broyles. New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2018.

Nathalie, a biology major, returned to her Swedish hometown where her parents died in what was believed to be a murder-suicide. She's come to study the plant life in the bog. Things change when she finds a friend seriously injured and left for dead in the bog. Soon bodies are discovered in the bog. I was disappointed in this book. The solution was pretty obvious. While the police are present in the investigation, I never got a real feel for their work on the case. The novel seemed too focused on other aspects. While the author tried to provide a dark atmosphere, she never really achieved it. If you are looking for good "dark" Scandicrime, look elsewhere. I received an electronic copy through NetGalley with the expectation of an honest review.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

The Cat in the Christmas Tree

Scottsdale, Peter. The Cat in the Christmas Tree: A Magical Tail. n.p.: n.p., 2018.

This chapter books shares the story of a mischievous black kitten named Shadow. Shadow keeps getting in trouble with Nathan's parents Justen and Sara. They threaten to send him back to the SPCA after Christmas. Fortunately the magical tree intervenes. The story itself was okay, but I was disappointed in the illustrations. Chapter books don't contain as many illustrations nor the illustration quality of picture books, but this one's would not please children at all. They all look pretty much like public domain .gif files. I love cats -- and I love cats in Christmas trees, but this book simply fails to capture the magic. I received an electronic copy through NetGalley with the expectation of an honest review.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

The Monkhood of All Believers

Peters, Greg. The Monkhood of All Believers: The Monastic Foundation of Christian Spirituality. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2018.

Greg Peters, an Evangelical turned Anglican, believes the principles behind monasticism apply to all believers, not just to those who choose a cloistered life. Written for an academic audience, rather than a lay audience, the author includes illustrations from many fathers of the church. He uses Martin Luther from the Reformation period. The book includes nearly 800 endnotes and an extensive bibliography. Although published by a traditional Evangelical publisher, the book is more likely to resonate with a more moderate audience. I suspect a similar book aimed at a lay audience would sell well. I received an advance electronic copy from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

The Christmas Forest

Boxall, Rebecca. The Christmas Forest. Seattle: Lake Union Publishing, 2018.

Abandoned book. Enid suffers with Asperger's Syndrome and is invited to spend Christmas in Australia with Fred. Her sister Bess encourages her to leave her comfort zone and accompany him. Will she do it? The book's premise was strong, but the narrative lacked continuity. About 60% into the book, I finally called it quits. I received an electronic copy of the book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Barking with the Big Dogs

Babbitt, Natalie. Barking with the Big Dogs: On Writing and Reading Books for Children. New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 2018.

This interesting collection of essays written by author Natalie Babbitt, best known for Tuck Everlasting, reflects her views on books, literature, and writing. One gains insight into the author and her work by understanding what her likes and dislikes are. She always writes for a fifth grader, yet her books are enjoyed by younger and older children as well as adults. She really doesn't enjoy classic literature that much, but she's married to a husband who does. She wasn't that great of a student, yet her books are read by schoolchildren all over. Readers will appreciate these essays. I received an electronic galley from the publishers through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Midwife of Borneo

Rogerson, Wendy Grey and Barbara Fox. Midwife of Borneo: The True Story of a Geordie Pioneer. London: SPCK, 2018.

Wendy Grey, a Northumberland vicar's daughter,  studied nursing to become a medical missionary. She answered a call to Borneo, working at an Anglican mission. Shortly after her arrival, she found herself performing a surgery with a doctor's phone directions. She relates other stories from her time in Borneo, including a suitor whose beliefs did not match hers very strongly. At the end of three years, she returned to England, intending to take another post in a more moderate climate. God had other plans for her. I enjoyed this medical missionary story. Photographs illustrating the text and helping put names with faces were included. I received an electronic copy from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

A Day in the Life of a Raindrop

Dunn, Stephen D. A Day in the Life of a Raindrop. Illustrated by Dejah Moore. n.p.: n.p., 2018.

A cute book rhyming book showing a raindrop's contemplation as it goes through the day. Unfortunately some of the rhymes took incorrect forms of words in an attempt to make the rhyme fit. Illustrations were okay but not spectacular. I received an electronic copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Jingle Bells

Pierpont, James. Jingle Bells. Illustrated by Jade Goegebuer. n.p.: Xist Publishing, 2018.

I received this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review, but unfortunately the formatting was so terrible the book was unreadable. You could only make out parts of a few words. Illustrations seen were mediocre.

The Significance of Singleness

Hitchcock, Christina S. The Significance of Singleness: A Theological Vision for the Future of the Church. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2018.

Christina Hitchcock, who is no longer single herself, attempts to provide a theology for singleness for 21st century Evangelicals. While she is correct that 20th and 21st century Evangelical leaders encourage marriage, she may be drawing conclusions in their attitudes toward singles with which the leaders themselves would challenge. Certainly many singles are lonely and friendless in churches. They can't be friends with married members of the opposite sex without being accused of trying to come between the person and spouse. They can't be friends with members of their own sex in the 21st century without people wondering if they are homosexual. People automatically assume a relationship if befriending a single member of the opposite sex. It's a lose-lose-lose situation all around. Hitchcock upholds three historic women as "role models"--Macrina, Perpetua, and Lottie Moon. Hitchcock's entire theology seems to be based on her idea that single people are called to serve God in a more profound way. Everyone is called to serve God--not just single people. Not all single people are called to be missionaries. Her use of the ancient saints fails to add anything to her argument as most Evangelical readers lack familiarity with the figures--and even her efforts to introduce them do not particularly make the readers want to be like them. It's unfortunate the book was written for an academic audience. The laity of the church needs to be reminded single people are human. Churches quit trying to minister to singles. Many of them simply encourage them to go into classes composed primarily of married persons. The lonely single remains lonely because the couples gravitate toward each other, failing to include the single. Secondly, the author fails to acknowledge the range of singles. Some have never been married--and that number is on the rise. Some are divorced. Among the divorced, some have children and some do not. Some are widowed. Ministering to single people is difficult because of the variety of ages and causes for the singleness. Her singleness theology is only geared toward the "single, never married" crowd. I was hopeful this book might contain something that will help the church minister to the needs of a diverse group of singles. Instead, I suspect we'll continue to see the church missing on opportunities to minister to this group and to see the number of single persons in churches dwindle in spite of a growing demographic. I received an electronic copy of the book from the publisher through NetGalley with the expectation of an honest review.

Friday, November 09, 2018

Little White Fish and the Beautiful Sea

Genechten, Guido Van. Little White Fish and the Beautiful Sea. New York: Clavis, 2018.

Octopus asks Little White Fish what is the most beautiful thing in the sea. Before Little White Fish answers, the other marine animals answer. Little White Fish's answer, of course, steals the show! The illustrations are beautifully drawn. It's certain to please young readers. I received an electronic copy through NetGalley with the expectation of an honest review.

Alycat and the Friendship Friday

Bourque, Alysson Foti. Alycat and the Friendship Friday. Illustrated by Chiara Civati. Herndon, VA: Mascot Books, 2018.

Alycat's class will visit a doctor's office. A new student arrives. When Alycat's friend offers to let the new student sit with her on the bus, Alycat feels left out until she comes up with a way to include all three of them. Illustrations and text are mediocre. The book does provide instructions for making the friendship bracelets Alycat designed. I received an electronic copy of the book from the publisher through NetGalley with the expectation of an honest review.

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

The Latecomers

Ross, Helen Klein. The Latecomers. New York: Little, Brown, and Company, 2018.

Bridey and Thom leave Ireland for America, planning to wed once they arrive. Thom dies aboard ship, and Bridey arrives in America pregnant. She considers returning to her family in Ireland, but remains. A young woman who helps Bridey helps her place the child with a Catholic charity and provides Bridey with a job. When the woman's own child dies in birth, she adopts from the charity with Bridey still working for the family. The bond between Bridey and Vincent is strong. Bridey returns to Ireland when the family's patriarch dies. The story follows several more generations in a somewhat chaotic matter. The flow between the older generation and the newer ones does not work well for the reader. Genetic genealogists will love the epilogue. The author provides historical notes and a good bibliography, features unusual for a novel. I really enjoyed Bridey and Thom's story, the story of Bridey's first days in America, and giving up the child for adoption. I even enjoyed some of Bridey's story after that point. Unfortunately, the more the story began to focus on the Hollingworth family, the less interested I became in the story being read. The character development that took place in the early generations did not extend to the later ones. Those generations felt rushed. What started as a good read became just a mediocre one for me. I received an electronic copy from the publishers through NetGalley with the expectation of an honest review.

A Season of Grace

Snelling, Lorraine. A Season of Grace. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2018.

Nilda, a recent arrival in Minnesota from Norway, hopes a person from her past does not follow her to Minnesota. In the new country she finds two new chances at love, but the past still haunts her. While I enjoyed the glimpses into settler life, I did not enjoy the overall story which seemed disjointed. I normally enjoy immigrant stories, and I appreciate the faith expressed in the lives of the settlers, but this book simply didn't work for me. The novel does not make me want to try other works by the author.