Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Homecoming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingfield

The Homecoming of Samuel Lake was a birthday gift from my mother-in-law.  She said she had read it and thoroughly enjoyed it and wanted me to give it a shot as well - knowing full well, that I'm hugely skeptical of Christian fiction.  I was truly hoping I would be pleasantly surprised and would discover a new favorite Christian author and could get lost in some wholesome and well-written fiction.  But alas.....I was pretty bummed by this one.  Honestly, it wasn't the style of writing that I was unhappy with, but more just the storyline that truly disappointed me.  There's two topics that deeply disturb me - animal abuse and molestation of children.  Seriously, I just couldn't get past it - from the feeding of the kittens to the dogs, to the whipping of the horses - to the sexual abuse of a young girl.  Gross.  Seriously?  Yes, there is evil in this world - we're all quite aware of it and yes, Christian fiction shouldn't shy away from it - but do we need to cover every single evil thing in the world within 300 pages?  It was some serious overload and I found it so disturbing and depressing that I couldn't even enjoy the miraculous and uplifting ending that lasted all of a few pages.  Ugh.  I'm actually quite surprised my mother-in-law enjoyed it as much as she did.  If I had any idea there was animal abuse and child molestation all within the same book, I would have never picked this one up.  Bummer.

Description: Every first Sunday in June, members of the Moses clan gather for an annual reunion at “the old home place,” a sprawling hundred-acre farm in Arkansas. And every year, Samuel Lake, a vibrant and committed young preacher, brings his beloved wife, Willadee Moses, and their three children back for the festivities. The children embrace the reunion as a welcome escape from the prying eyes of their father’s congregation; for Willadee it’s a precious opportunity to spend time with her mother and father, Calla and John. But just as the reunion is getting under way, tragedy strikes, jolting the family to their core: John’s untimely death and, soon after, the loss of Samuel’s parish, which set the stage for a summer of crisis and profound change.

In the midst of it all, Samuel and Willadee’s outspoken eleven-year-old daughter, Swan, is a bright light. Her high spirits and fearlessness have alternately seduced and bedeviled three generations of the family. But it is Blade Ballenger, a traumatized eight-year-old neighbor, who soon captures Swan’s undivided attention. Full of righteous anger, and innocent of the peril facing her and those she loves, Swan makes it her mission to keep the boy safe from his terrifying father.

With characters who spring to life as vividly as if they were members of one’s own family, and with the clear-eyed wisdom that illuminates the most tragic—and triumphant—aspects of human nature, Jenny Wingfield emerges as one of the most vital, engaging storytellers writing today. In The Homecoming of Samuel Lake she has created a memorable and lasting work of fiction.

Rating: **
Recommend: Not my cup of tea.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Sea Change by Karen White

I really enjoyed The Memory of Water, so picking up Sea Change was a no-brainer.  I think the water-themed books are what draws me, since I grew up in Seattle and find it so soothing to read about an environment involving a lake or ocean. 

Sea Change was also good, but I've been in a horrible reading rut and unfortunately this didn't help much.  It was slow moving and I struggled with picking it back up again.  Still, a great story and if you've never read Karen White, you should give her a try.  I really love how she thinks outside the box and mixes a bit of paranormal and history into her storylines.

Description: For Ava Whalen, a new marriage and a move to St. Simons Island means a new beginning. But what she doesn’t realize is that her marriage will take her on an unexpected journey into the deep recesses of her past that will transform her forever… For as long as she can remember, Ava Whalen has struggled with a sense of not belonging, and now, at thirty-four, she still feels stymied by her family. Then she meets child psychologist Matthew Frazier, and thinks her days of loneliness are behind her. After a whirlwind romance, they impulsively elope, and Ava moves to Matthew’s ancestral home on St. Simons Island off the coast of Georgia. But after the initial excitement, Ava is surprised to discover that true happiness continues to elude her. There is much she doesn’t know about Matthew, including the mysterious circumstances surrounding his first wife’s death. And her new home seems to hold as many mysteries and secrets as her new husband. Feeling adrift, Ava throws herself into uncovering Matthew’s family history and that of the island, not realizing that she has a connection of her own to this place—or that her obsession with the past could very well destroy her future.

Rating: ****

Recommend: A tad slow for me, but a great read nonetheless!