BOOK REVIEW: Chasing the Sun, by Tracie Peterson

Tracie Peterson’s latest novel (of more than 90), Chasing the Sun, is based on a remote Texas ranch during the Civil War.  Beautiful Hannah Dandridge is orphaned on a large ranch with two younger siblings to care for, when she discovers that the ranch may not legally be hers.  Conveniently, the guaranteed-handsome William, (son of the previous owner) returns, and initiates flying sparks and fluttering lashes, and a generous slap of Baptist belief and pat Scripture application.  Complete with Comanche warriors, a smattering of Spanish phrases, and a growling geezer as William’s rival, it competes with a Pop-Tart for my attention.

If this is as good as it gets after writing 90-plus novels, it proves that anyone can write.  Thank you, Tracie, for dispelling my fears.

The plot was predictable, the characters uninspired, (yet quoting Scripture right and left), and the ending so pat I expected to hear the echo of “Ole’!” in the background.

One scene gave me the desire to respond with a “ROTFL”: Hannah has just approached  a Comanche warrior to make the gesture of peace, which is granted due to her recent display of excellent nursing skills on the son of the Chief, when William interrupts her.

“She tried not to notice how his rather disheveled appearance only served to draw her attention.  His brown hair seemed a little more wavy than usual, and the top of his bib shirt was unbuttoned and folded back to reveal a hint of dark chest hair.  She looked away quickly, lest her thoughts betray her.”

The few women I have known who would have been capable of presenting the Gospel to a Comanche warrior in full battle dress (Mother Theresa?  Corrie Ten Boom?), would not have had the slightest interest in chest hairs, attached or otherwise.  I also found it irritating that Hannah is not the least bit attracted to the son of the Chief, but perhaps he was lacking in chest hair.

I give this paperback one star: for being written in passable English, and assisting in bonfire-production (the cover makes pretty colors!)  If this is what sentimental Christian women are choosing to read, then the Enemy has already won.  On a more serious note: for a commendable alternative, with edgy plot and insightful characters, I would suggest any work by Francine Rivers, or Lois Henderson.

My thanks to Bethany House Publishers, for kindling: I enjoyed my roast.  (Translation: my  unvarnished, uninhibited and generally negative review is in trade for the receipt of this book).

Resources:

Tracie Peterson

Tracie’s writing tips (oh, goody!)

Texas (just thought you might need a little of the real thing)

TEASER: Frank Peretti is coming out with a new book!

Frank has titled his new book Illusions, and the first few chapters are available here:
http://www.illusionthebook.com/

Frank is the author of New York Times bestsellers This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness, both of which I enjoyed when younger.

Look for the full version March 6th!

author’s website:  Frank Peretti

BOOK REVIEW: Pattern of Wounds, by J. Mark Bertrand

In his second novel about the homicide detective Roland March, author Mark Bertrand brings the oxymoronic Christian murder-mystery to life in Pattern of Wounds.  Rushing through the Christmas season in a noose-tightening suspense and breakneck pace, the detective hardly pauses for sleep.  The gentle process of his spiritual questioning fits the few moments allotted for reflection.  Bertrand winds the story through gritty patches of current crime scene investigations, a deepening trail that looks suspicious for serial murder, and his past experiences with an unsolved family crime.

There was no putting this book down: it had all the raw detail of a CSI episode, while improving plot variations and character development, and minimizing repetitive visual trauma.  The crime remained reprehensible, but no nightmares resulted.  I found Bertrand’s alliterations clever: (describing a walk in downtown Houston), “…passing one, two, three abstract sculptures nestled in among the corporate logo, I feel like an ant in a redwood forest, awed by the imbalance of scale.”  His character sketches bring into piercing detail their subjects and solidify his detective’s evaluating eye:  “…a familiar looking stranger with a Fu Manchu mustache and a nickel-plated barbecue gun on his hip,” or my favorite: “Tammy stands there in a glittering red short-sleeved jacket, a cheap sequined wrapper for the squarish lump of her body.  She holds her hands toward me, her knuckles concealed behind a row of mismatched cocktail rings.”  I can just see her shopping at Ross.  And fitting in the word “zydeco“?  Pure vocabulary brilliance. Yes, you will have to look it up yourself.

While I revelled in the tight pace, authentic prose, I will note that those looking for an Amish romance or ‘Christianese‘ conversion will be disappointed.  This is simply well-written fiction about a tough work environment, with a heady pace.  God is mentioned briefly, faith is touched on gently, but no great leaps of change are made.

I was pleased to complete this book review for Bethany House Publishers, in return for my complimentary copy (which I will be keeping, though it deviates from my usual fare).  I give it 5 stars, and look forward to Mr. Bertrand’s next work.

Further Resources:

prior book, Back on Murder

 

J. Mark Bertrand

 

Book Review: The Skin Map, A Bright Empires Novel, by Stephen R. Lawhead

Breaking into sci-fi layers of history, with gripping action and a web of characters, Stephen R. Lawhead‘s first book of the Bright Empires series, The Skin Map, promises a fast read.  Young Kit Livingstone is astounded when his great-grandfather appears alive before him, and draws him into a tightening race-against-time for the Skin Map – fantastic symbols marking pathways to alternate histories- before the evil Burley Men discover it.  Several story-lines, and time-elements intermingle the characters of Kit, his great-grandfather, his girlfriend Wilhelmina (my favorite), and the instigator of the Skin Map himself, Arthur.  Action, intrigue, and gripping layers of historical events are each woven into a race to the finish.

Stephen Lawhead’s site has a gripping trailer about the book, here.

Having read former works of Lawhead’s, I was pleased to find the intermingling of history, faith and action I expected.
One drawback was the flatness of the individuals – I simply could not drudge up emotion for them (which would have made this more of a page-turner).  The exception for me was Wilhelmina, who is drawn into this astounding alternate history-in-progress, and manages to create her own success.  She exhibits determination and cheerful gumption, while Kit seems to simply float between events.  In all, I give it 3 stars for readability, plot and creativity, but dock it for dull characterization.

Thanks to Booksneeze, for the opportunity of reading and reviewing this new book.  You can too!  Click the link to your right.