Wednesday, 18 September 2019

B Book Reviews

December 2013 Book Reviews

The Reinchenbach Problem by Martin Allison Booth

Reviewed by Kelly Klepfer


I was sent a copy of The Reinchenbach Problem for review, and although the title wouldn't have made it a must read, the topic made it a have to in my book. This twisty tale full of intrigue and danger is a fictional account of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle getting caught up in a mystery of his own. 
 
The creator of Sherlock Holmes takes to rural Switzerland to sort out his feelings about his larger than life character. His fame, his medical practice and his spiritual seeking created his need to go to a pristine, mountainous area where he could enjoy brisk walks and engage in conversations with friendly locals and other tourists and hopefully hide from the spotlight.
 
However, as happens in every good story, the plan is changed for Doyle. 
 
Beginning from the second a young man enters Doyle's train compartment and works his awkward self under Doyle's reluctant wing, the good doctor's delightful vacation turns into a cloudy nightmare. 
 
Within hours of his arrival into the pastoral refuge there is a horrible death with the shadow of unanswered questions hanging over it. And, on top of that, Doyle is known by the other tourists. One hands the author a book that he's written and expects that it will change Doyle's life, another needs a little marriage counseling. Then there is the character of Sherlock Holmes…is there a spirit of Sherlock? A seance is suggested, just for the fun of possibly meeting the real Sherlock. 
 
Things spiral out of control, so much so, that the suspicious death seems connected to Arthur Conan Doyle. 
Can the creator of the world's most brilliant and quirky detective solve a case without Sherlock's help? And can he do it in time to save his own neck? 
 
I really enjoyed this read. Set in the early 1900's/late 1800's the language is formal and slightly foreign which adds all the more to the story. Readers who get frustrated by prose with heavy vocabulary might find that a deal breaker, but those who love a meaty read should find the prose very satisfactory. And speaking of prose, there are some beautiful paragraphs, the writing is a delight to read. I appreciate a slower moving story that takes time to paint a picture, and this novel does that. 
 
But though there is plenty of scenery and introspection, there is also plenty of activity. Unfortunately, I didn't have the luxury of sitting down and reading the novel over several long sessions. I will reread it to see what I didn't pick up in my shorter snippets spread out over several weeks. There were bursts of activity with a few cliff-hanger moments. I did have a few issues with keeping track of the large cast of characters and the last 1/4 of the middle may have gotten a little boggy for me. But those may be issues completely related to my need to set the book down for several days. 
 
I loved that there were little facts about Arthur Conan Doyle's life thrown in and it was interesting to see his struggles with spiritism vs the Catholic religion play out. His personal life played out a little and hinted that he might have a bit of a wandering eye. After reading it I did read a very short bio about Doyle and indeed the author seems to have done his homework. 
 
Overall, if you are a Sherlock Holmes fan this book needs to end up in your to read pile. A great gift idea for friends or family who love a good mystery or Holmes. Did Sir Arthur Conan Doyle have a little bit of Sherlock Holmes in his blood? Well, you'll just have to read The Reichenbach Problem to find out. This novel is one I'll hang onto and I don't do that with all of them. Definitely a 4+ out of 5.

Fields of the Fatherless by Elaine Marie Cooper

Review by Samantha Coville

It’s 1775 and Betsy is young woman living in Massachusetts. While her mother may be teaching her to sew, she wants to learn how to protect the ones she loves. Because, even though no one will talk about it, Betsy knows a war is brewing with England and she wants to be ready when it finally comes. And she’s hoping that God will be on their side when it does.

What I loved most about this novel was the way that author Elaine Cooper made the setting so real to me. I didn’t feel I was reading about a historical event, I felt I was there experiencing it with Betsy and her family. There’s plenty of action and I was happy to see that Cooper didn’t keep it clean and pretty like most Christian authors do. It is the beginning of the revolution and there is blood. It makes it so much more real.

I admit, though, that the storyline of the characters didn’t really grasp it. I feel like I’ve read this before a few times. I loved the story of the revolution but it could have easily been about anyone else. I do, however, adore the journal entries that start each chapter. They make Betsey more real and make her likeable to the reader.

So, overall, not a bad showing on Cooper’s part. I might have to find more by this author and give her another chance. If you’re into historical fiction, you should definitely pick it up. If you aren’t, get it anyway; you might be surprised. Three and a half muskets out of five!

Palace of the Three Crosses by Christina Weigand

Reviewed by Sarah Heath

Christina Weigand’s Palace of the Three Crosses picks up where the previous book in the trilogy, Palace of the Twelve Pillars, left readers hanging in suspense. In it, we are reunited with Joachim and Brandon, the twin princes of Crato. Having gone through many trials and tribulations, have they each been truly healed and has their relationship been fully mended? Can they trust each other? Now faced with a missing mother and a kingless country, the princes must make many hard, adult decisions.  In Palace of the Three Crosses, both physical and spiritual battles take place for the kingdoms in the land of Ramajadin, and for the hearts of the princes of Crato.

When Joachim is chosen as the new king of Crato, his brother becomes wrought with jealousy and turns back to the evil ways of Sidramah. As much as Brandon makes poor choices, he is a character with which many readers will be able to relate. Brandon betrays his brother, he falls in love with the wrong girl, and yet, through it all, the reader roots for him. Much like the humans of this world, he messes up time and time again, falls for Sidramah’s lies countless times, and yet, Asha still fights for him. Palace of the Three Crosses is full of love and loss, hope and despair, but as dark as the prince’s situation becomes, there is always the light that hope brings shining like a beacon in the dark. I’m very much looking forward to how Christina wraps up Brandon and Joachim’s stories in Sanctuary of the Nine Dragons,which will be coming out in February!

Sheep Walkers Daughter by Sydney Avey

Reviewed by Deborah Piccurelli

This was a lovely read, rich with detail in setting, time, and culture.

The Sheep Walker’s Daughter takes place in the mid 1950s, and begins where the main character, Dolores Carter, is dealing with her mother’s death. Dolores had moved in with her mother, Leora Moraga, to take care of her years before becoming a widow, while her husband served in the military. And now she is alone, except for her daughter, Valerie, who is off on her own, traveling and pursuing post-graduate studies.

Dolores and Leora had maintained a tension-filled relationship. There were things Leora would not tell her daughter concerning relatives. She never got to know her father, Alonso Moraga, a Basque Spaniard, nor was she told why he left his little family and returned to Spain. So many secrets.

As she gathers her mother’s belongings, Dolores finds papers and articles that imply there is a past to her life she might want to revisit and become a part of. She begins to dig, and is satisfied with her findings. Little does she know that she doesn’t have the whole story, and that Valerie already knows much more than she does, and has published the family story in a novel in Spain.

Along the way, Dolores makes some new friends and reacquaints herself with old ones. After four years of widowhood, she now has a love interest. Her life has changed in so many ways. She quits her job at the bank to return to what she loves best as a means of income: art.

This novel is very well-written. The way Avey strings her words together is, at times, pure poetry. Here is an example:

“His eyes catch the light and invite me in.”

Some of her sentences are humorous:

“He uses his straw like an Electrolux to suck the last of his soda pop from the melting ice at the bottom of his glass.”

Just a word of caution: Though this is a book with a religious theme, I want to alert those who are sensitive about what they read that there are a few, what I would call, mild curse words contained in the story.

Bottom line, if what I wrote above does not affect your reading, and if you like books about all kinds of relationships, wrought with secrets and family drama, you will love The Sheep Walker’s Daughter.

 

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