Monday, September 7, 2009

Squat by Taylor Field

What would it be like to live 24 hours in the life of a homeless man in New York? Taylor Field knows the answer.

He is a Princeton graduate but instead of taking a lucrative job and settling down to a comfortable life, he chose to be a missionary to inner city New York. He and his family have lived there since 1986. This is a fictional account of his real life experiences.

is the tale of a day in the life of a man named Squid. Due to some bad choices, Squid is now being hunted by Saw. Saw is involved in Satanism, drugs, and collecting "rent" from fellow squatters. Saw turns the other squatters against Squid by offering a reward to anyone who helps him catch his prey.
Squid has had a rough life. He was abused by his mother's boyfriends, grew up in poverty, suffers from obsessive compulsiveness, and finally escaped to find a home living in a squat. His closest friends are his sometimes mentor Unc and Bonehead(who is obsessed with hitting rocks with a stick). Unc sums up their lives as...

"We live in squat. We don't know squat. We don't have squat. We don't do squat. We don't give a squat. People say we're not worth squat."

The one ray of happiness in Squid's life is his unspoken love of Rachel, a soup kitchen volunteer. Rachel truly cares about everyone. Even this goes wrong for Squid when he is introduced to Rachel's boyfriend Jason.

With limited resources, Squid must stay ahead of Saw until the inevitable showdown. The suspense keeps building as each hour passes. This is definitely a book you don't want to start unless you have plenty of time to read it. It is hard to put down. And once you read it, you will never look at other people the same way again. Especially those who are down on their luck.

After reading that the author is a missionary to the homeless, I expected this novel to contain a heavy handed message. I would not have been surprised to find a weak story wrapped around a sermon. Instead, I was glad to see that Taylor has managed to craft what I think is one of the best Christian novels of the year. And this is just his first fictional novel. I can't wait to see if he writes another.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Monday, August 31, 2009

Obsessed by Ted Dekker

Today, I am taking a look back at Ted Dekker's Obsessed(released Feb. 2005). On occasion, I will be looking back at books that have been recommended to me. If your local bookstore does not carry them, they can usually order the book for you.

Obsessed is one of my favorite Dekker books. Ted has produced many exciting thrillers. This is one of the best.
Stephen Friedman is making a good living. An ordinary guy. Until he discovers a secret, his past is not what he thought it was. From the grave of a Holocaust survivor comes the message that he is the heir to an incredible fortune.
As Stephen begins his quest, so does another man. The only other man who can understand the clue to the treasure is a serial killer named Roth Braun. Unknown to Stephen, Roth has been waiting 30 years for him. Roth was stopped from killing him once before but this time he will let nothing get in his way. Roth is one of the most sadistic villains in Christian fiction.

The chapters alternate between the story of what happened in the concentration camp Torun that set these events in motion, Roth's obsession, and Stephen's quest for the truth. The author does an excellent job of turning up the suspense with each chapter. This is one of those books that you will not be able to put down once you start reading it.

This book helped convince me that Ted Dekker is one of Christian fiction's greatest treasures.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Author's Website: Ted Dekker

A Bigger Life by Annette Smith

Sometimes you start reading what you think will be a good but not great book. Not too many pages into A Bigger Life, I knew that Annette Smith had written one of the best books of 2007.
Once I began reading the story of Joel Carpenter's life, I could not put it down. It reminds me of the writing of Nicholas Sparks(The Notebook, Message in a Bottle, A Walk to Remember). Sparks novels pull you into the life of the characters and doesn't let go until the end of the book. This is that kind of novel. Joel's problems and how he deals with them are realistic. Everything is not solved by a quick fix. His friends will seem like people you know.

This is the kind of writing that we need more of in Christian fiction. A Bigger Life will go on my shelf next to The Notebook and A Walk to Remember.

I will definitely be looking for more books by this author.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Author's Website: Annette Smith

Monday, August 24, 2009

Coral Moon by Brandilyn Collins

Brandilyn Collins follows the first book in the Kanner Lake Series(Violet Dawn) with Coral Moon. Brandilyn has written numerous books in the Hidden Faces, Bradleyville, and Chelsea Adams series. Kanner Lake looks to be another good series for fans of suspense novels. A unique feature of this series is the characters have a blog called Scenes and Beans. It is interesting to keep up with the characters between books. Take the time to visit the site.

Kanner Lake is a small Idaho town that was the sight of a murder in the first book. Coral Moon follows a second murder that occurs in this rural community. The murder appears to be senseless. The victim was very well liked. Who did it? Why did they do it? What is the secret of the mysterious note left pinned to the victim? As the clues are gaithered, it looks like the murderer could be the ghost of a former resident. Or is it one of the people from the first book? But that is impossible, isn't it? The author will keep you on the edge of your seat until the mystery is solved.

I thought that this book was not quite up to the level of the first book. At times, some of the supporting cast seemed too much like characters in a novel instead of real people. It pulled me out of the story. Overall it is still a good book and worth reading.

The third story(Crimson Eve) is previewed in the back of this book. It looks to be a good one. Brandilyn continues to write some of the best opening chapters of any author I have read.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Author's Website: Brandilyn Collins

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Lost Sheep by Brandt Dodson

The only bad thing about the fourth Colton Parker Mystery is the wait for the next book in the series. The Lost Sheep is more proof that Brandt Dodson is one of the our best writers. A new book by Brandt automatically goes to the top of my must read stack.

This is the first time that we have seen Colton leave the familiar setting of Indianapolis. The cause? His teenage daughter runs away. The trail leads to what has to be a father's worst nightmare-Las Vegas. With the help of a local cowboy, he is hot on the trail...realizing that each day his chances of finding his daughter become slimmer.

Colton continues to struggle to do the right thing while doing what he has to to save his daughter. But when a cult leader named Malak is opposing him, Colton has to decide between doing things his way or God's way.

With the level of personal involvement, Brandt has raised the bar for future installments. I will be anxious to see how things work out in the next book.

Highly recommended. If you have not read the earlier books, read them in the order listed below. The author has written them so they can be read in any order but the story is best read in order.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Author's Website: Brandt Dodson

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Root of All Evil by Brandt Dodson

The third Colton Parker mystery is another great read in the crime noir tradition. This is one of those books that pulls you in and you can't believe how long you have been reading when you stop to check the clock. Brandt Dodson is a fascinating storyteller.

At the start of this book, Colton is still struggling with money but his reputation as a private eye is growing. Wealthy businessman Berger Hume is looking for the son he has never met. Berger is dying. Colton is racing the clock to find the son and prove that he really is Hume's son. This leads him into a conflict with Satan's Posse(a notorious biker gang). When Colton's daughter is threatened, it becomes personal.

Along the way, we get the chance to revisit with some of Colton's(and our) favorite hangouts. Old friends appear. Brandt has done a great job of building a history around the characters in this series. You just know that they have a life outside of these stories.

I am eagerly awaiting book four(The Lost Sheep) to see what happens to Colton's daughter. Based on his reaction when Callie has been threatened in the past, this should be the private eye's greatest test.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Author's Website:
Brandt Dodson

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Seventy Time Seven by Brandt Dodson

Some memories stay with you forever. One of those memories for me is the first time I saw a Humphrey Bogart movie. My first one was Casablanca. Once I saw it, I was a Bogie fan for life. Bogie played a tough guy with a heart of gold. He always played a character that had a problem. Rick in Casablanca tried to forget his broken heart by drinking his life away. But when his friends(including the girl who broke his heart) were in trouble, he would step up and do the right thing.

Watching Bogie movies led me to reading the works of various hardboiled crime writers. Authors like Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, and Lawrence Block. None of these wrote Christian fiction. What they did write about that appealed to me was people. Most of them are not perfect but they did the right thing when it mattered. They overcame their faults, rose above their problems, and helped the people who needed them. I don't have a problem with alcoholism. I never shot a person. But we have all fallen short of the glory of God and needed redemption. Everyday I ask God to forgive me for the sins I have committed. I believe that is why this type of story(whether it is a Bogie movie or a crime novel) touches my heart.I have been looking for an author who writes hard boiled crime fiction from a Christian point of view. Brandt Dodson is that kind of writer.

Seventy Times Se7en is the second Colton Parker novel. Colton is a P.I. who used to work for the F.B.I. He was fired from his job and had a fight with his wife. She left and died in a car wreck. His teenage daughter blames him for her mother's death. Colton does not understand why his wife was a Christian. In this book, Colton is hired to find the wife of Lester Cheek. Lester's wife left without an explanation. In the process, Parker has to take on an international hit man and stop a murder for hire. At the same time he is trying to reconnect with his daughter. A daughter who wants nothing to do with him.

Brandt has managed to craft a Christian hard boiled novel. This book gives me the mix of Christian fiction and crime story I have been waiting for.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Author's Website: Brandt Dodson