Monday, July 2, 2012

Review of Novel: "Chasing the Sun" by Tracie Peterson

Tracie Peterson has been a favorite author of mine for some time. So when I learned of another series coming out, to say I was excited is an understatement. The Civil War era, including the time before as well as after, has been an interesting period to revisit. While this is purely a work of fiction, it also gives us a look into possibly how some people may have been affected.

Two people following in obedience to their fathers find themselves in Texas or on the front lines in a battle that occurred at Vicksburg. Never could Hannah or William see any reason to establish a working relationship on the ranch let alone, entertaining thoughts of their future. However, Hannah Dandridge is in Texas after her father recently lost his second wife in the South. Her father moved for many reasons one of which was the hope of a better future for his three remaining children.

William is a Texan through and through; yet, he too in obedience found himself fighting for the North. By nature a peaceful man, loving his ranch and the state of Texas, he comes home with a wound that keeps him in constant pain only to find out his family's ranch has been given away. What happened to it and by whose authority was this done? He comes home to find a different family living in his home and an older gentleman seeking to grasp a firm hold, not just on the ranch, but on Hannah as well. Mr. Lockhart was in business as a lawyer with Hannah's father, but was there more to this partnership? Was the final requests of the father, Mr. Dandridge, really true or only the scheming of his partner Mr. Lockhart?

So many questions remained unanswered for the Dandridge children. Their future is very uncertain. Where will they live if the ranch is given back to William? How can a confession have changed more lives than anyone could have imagined? In a story of forgiveness, love, struggle, and intrigue set toward the end of the Civil War, we see these storylines and more presented in this fictional novel that will grip a reader from the first page to the last. There is a sequel to this story already published, Touching the Sky (June 2012) and Taming the Wind (September 2012). This novel, Chasing the Sun, is one of Tracie Peterson's masterpieces. Pick up a copy for yourself and go back in time via your imagination. You will be so glad you took the trip!

Other reviews can be located on my personal blog at You can follow me on twitter @lcjohnson1988. Other social media websites that you can find Lisa Johnson's reviews and contests are at Book Blogs, LibraryThing, Goodreads, and Shelfari. Simply go to these websites type in Lisa Johnson and it will take you to my profile and personal page. Thanks for reading and watch for more articles here in the future.

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Book Review: Awaken

Timothy George
MVP Publishing Group
257 pages

Awaken is a powerful story about heritage and restoration. Author Timothy George takes an innovative approach in this African-focused tale by combining mysticism and adventure while openly challenging what readers think they know about the continent's history.

After his father's death, Thomas Jet, an investment banker, meets Dr. Oble, an African psychic seer, when he attends his family reunion in South Carolina. Dr. Oble addresses Thomas as Jesse, the name of his late uncle. After his encounter with Dr. Oble, Thomas begins to have disturbing dreams, which leads him to reach out to the psychic. While in Virginia on business with his old Army buddy, Jack Regis, Thomas connects with Dr. Oble again to learn more about his family history. He tells Thomas about the oral history of many African tribes that was passed down through the generations. Thomas learns that he is a part of that tradition.

As a favor to Thomas, Jack, a former CIA agent, uses his connections to collect information about Dr. Oble. This act sets off a series of events that brings both Thomas and Jack to the attention of the CIA. The men later learn that a security firm called the International Bureau of Commerce (IBC), which is staffed by mercenaries, has also taken an interest in them.

When Dr. Oble summons Thomas for the final time, Thomas finds himself with other men Oble has recruited from across the country. During their awakening, the men learn that they are descendants of the leaders of seven African tribes. They are charged with regaining Africa's greatness after centuries of colonialism and corporate pillaging. An elusive artifact and lost treasure are the keys to "The Brotherhood" achieving its goal of restoring Africa to its former greatness.

This book offers action and suspense; it is also intellectually stimulating. George exposes the reader to obscure historical references like the remote viewing programs the United States government funded from the 1970s to the mid-1990s, and the trans-Atlantic expeditions of African King Abubakari Bakr II. The idea of descendants of African tribes accepting the call to rebuild the continent, which has been ravished for so many years, makes for an exciting storyline. I found myself not only cheering for the main characters, but also enlightened by George's descriptions of African culture. The ending leaves the reader wanting to know more about the exploits of Thomas and "The Brotherhood." I suspect (and hope) a sequel will be forthcoming.

Awakenis provocative and insightful. I highly recommend it.
Melissa Brown Levine
Independent Professional Book Reviewers

Melissa Brown Levine is a writer, book reviewer and manuscript consultant. She is the author of "I Need to
Make Promises: A Novella and Stories." Read an excerpt at

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Review of Winds of Wyoming

Title: Winds of Wyoming
Author: Becky Lyles
Pages: 416
Publisher: Stonehouse Ink
Year: 2012

Note: I received a complimentary book from the author for an honest review.
Since I was a little girl, I have loved westerns. The western genre has captured the imagination and makes the heart yearn for the outdoors. A story set in the state of Wyoming with all kinds of twists and turns is especially enjoyable for a western fan like me. Here in this particular work of fiction we find a woman who wants to run from her past, start a new life and is afraid to be transparent.

Kate Neilson earned a marketing degree while incarcerated in a Pennsylvania prison. Shortly after her release, she moved west to fulfill her internship requirements at a Wyoming guest ranch. Kate has lost all she has known and what she believes to be unattainable in the future. Her parents and brother die in an accident. She then is shuttled through the system, enduring heartaches and ending up being followed by a man who only wants to hurt her more. As we progress through the novel, we meet many characters with each one having various past experiences that some allow to affect their present in a negative way.

At Whispering Pines Ranch, Kate has an opportunity to turn from her former life of crime when she encounters a neat elderly lady who befriends her from the first moment they meet. Dymple takes her faith in God to a place Kate has never seen or known. Laura, the ranch co-owner, is a lady who is struggling with being a widow, but loves her son and all that she and her husband have built. Then there are the Hughes, a father and daughter team who are very twisted in their thinking, making those at Whispering Ranch wish they would just go away.

In her novel, author Becky Lyles weaves a western fiction that keeps getting richer with every page turned. While some of the plot may seem obvious, don't be fooled because you might be surprised when you read the last page. Winds of Wyoming is an awesome novel with characters that any reader could identify with in one way or another. The novel reflects that God loves and forgives, and shows the dependence on Him that is needed for everyday living by the characters. That, in turn, reminds us all of our true need of Him for everyday life. Get your copy today, relax, and enjoy this great book. You won't believe how much time passes as you find yourself engrossed in the story!

Rating: Five stars

The Sequel to Winds of Wyoming...

Winds of Freedom: Winter storms blast across the Whispering Pines Guest Ranch, and a cold wind blows through Kate Neilson's soul. In the midst of her own anguish, she struggles to care for her elderly aunt and help her best friend, who finds herself trapped in a desperate situation, and encourage her husband, whose ranch and livelihood are threatened.

Go to to enter to win an autographed copy before it ends June 30, 2012!

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Convergence: A Novel of a Catastrophic Future

Well thought out, systematically executed science fiction (or fact), this novel is humanity's frantic response to the effects of its own ignorance. Of the catastrophe, climate change is only one of the effects. What becomes clear is that when an "effect" arises, it then can and does "affect" other systems. It is kind of an anti-symbiosis wherein the damage caused by ever increasingly interdepending disasters fuels the fire for their own destruction.

This is not a spoiler. The narrative of Convergence ends with a note from an anthrohistorian in 2721, 700 years after the collapse. "A finite world can support only a finite population; therefore, population growth must eventually equal zero." In addition to the controversial partisanship stalemating problems such as climate change, economic inequality and unceasing warfare, overpopulation has become equally destructive. By the narrative's end, the author states the uncomfortable question bluntly. As much as we've done (or propose to do) about those economic, social and climate issues, should we also consider regulating human breeding? And if so, how can we prevent a Big Brother scenario if such considerations are made and implemented?
Paul Boerger's novel "Convergence" addresses this very issue by presenting a stark, dystopic future resulting from multiple problems all converging at a certain time: 2020. The novel makes the case that we are able to prevent our own destruction, genetically determined or not, but this requires keen awareness of ecology, evolution, conscience, economic equality and the relative morality in terms of the social and the individual good. Perhaps the most shocking or thought-provoking elements of the book is the warning about overpopulation. Although not outright liberal, this novel differs from works such as 1984, Brave New World, and Anthem in that it proposes that a lack of government reform on social and industrial practices (rather than an overabundance of state interference) are to blame for the impending catastrophe.

"Convergence" shifts back and forth between three essential time periods: pre-convergence (2020), post-convergence (2220) and the convergence itself (2021). The perhaps intentional irony is that pre-sight (not hindsight) is 2020, the very year global problems are beginning to converge. As each scientist reiterates, at any point in time during the novel, these problems were preventable. A virus breaks out, many small wars are being fought around the world (so many, that the total far exceeds the fighting in either of the World Wars), and the gap between the rich and poor has never been greater. Each problem leads to others and exacerbates them all. Thus, the convergence is not just a coalescence of world changing events, but an exponential chain reaction making each event more catastrophic.

The omniscient narrative shifts back and forth between the three years (2020, 2021 and 2220) with a series of updates or news reports, making the novel read like a non-linear (yet cogent) series of articles, damage control documents and journal entries. As the novel jumps from year to year, it also follows separate lives, some of whom also converge on each other, reinforcing one of the novel's central themes which is that "everything affects everything." And despite the constant shifting in perspective and time, the narrative flows quite smoothly, the complex convergence of catastrophic events coalesces like the analogous, yet paradoxical, perfect storm.

The novel ends with a short note from Boerger and an inclusion of the essay "Tragedy of the Commons," by Garret Hardin, which proposes regulation on human breeding. The article makes a very methodical argument on the ecological and evolutionary impacts of legislating such regulation. Without legislative regulations on breeding, only those who are selfless and intelligent enough to restrain from breeding will do so voluntarily. Ergo, by the rules of evolution, in time, those thoughtful restrainers will be weeded out, leaving only those who do not consider the social good. In other words, conscience will be weeded out evolutionarily. This is an even more stark outcome of the typical post-apocalyptic scenario because we not only would have lost a sense of humanity; we would also have lost the awareness of its value.

Reviewed by: Nicole Sorkin, Pacific Book Review

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Lucy Come Home - A Novel

Title: Lucy Come Home
Author: Dave & Neta Jackson
Year: 2012
Pages: 424
Publisher: Castle Rock Creative, Inc.

Wow! The threads of storytelling are expertly woven in this work of fiction by the Jacksons. Dave and Neta Jackson keep the readers spellbound throughout the book by using flashbacks with their main character named Lucy. Lucy was raised in a family who eked out a living working at migrant farms and living in migrant camps.

Lucy becomes very mature at a young age as she learns to care for her younger siblings, almost becoming like a second mother to them. As Lucy begins to enter her teenage years and her body changes, the adventure begins to take a dangerous turn. Bo is a young man who has a similar background though he has mainly worked in carnivals traveling all over. Starting as a friendship, they begin a journey through their growing up years with them sometimes being together and other times apart.

Within the pages of this fictional work, we see friendship, faith, God, and other themes running from beginning to end of the Lucy Come Home. There are times when we see what life was like for Lucy as she was growing up as well as when she falls in love. The time frame of the story begins with the Dust Bowl, and then on to the Depression as well as World War II and beyond.

While you read this book, you see the depth of love and friendship people have for each other. You might be reminded of all that could happen in a lifetime, and be thankful for the times you have with family. This is also a story of looking for one lost lamb in a sense, one who has a hard time understanding the love of God as well as the love of family.

Times were sure hard then, trying to put food on the table was a daily struggle for life for all families. Yet Lucy's family was blessed with another whose faith she remembered in her later years. A story like this tugs at your heart and reminds us what is most important in life, especially when one encounters life-changing events. Grab the book, a tall cool drink, a quiet place to curl up and get lost in a wonderful tale. Why not share the book with others when you're through?

My rating for this book is five stars.

Other reviews can be located or requested at
Or follow me on Twitter @lcjohnson1988

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Mary Magdalene - A Wonderful Work of Fiction

Title: Mary Magdalene

Author: Diana Wallis Taylor

Year: 2012

Pages: 304

Publisher: Revell

Mary Magdalene is somewhat of an enigma in the stories that are in New Testament. Sometimes when we use word stories we think the people, places, and events are figments of the imagination. However, as far as the Bible is concerned, these aren't; they were real people living in real time through life here on earth. Mary Magdalene lived during the life of Christ and ministered to Him. He delivered her from demons possessing her. We know that she was the first to see that the Lord had indeed risen from the dead, mistaking Him for the gardener.

In this work of fiction, Mary Magdalene is presented in a way that captures what life might have been like for this woman. Diana Wallis Taylor does a brilliant job of keeping Mary's character in the reality of the time when the real Mary lived. Diana weaves the customs of the times and the Jewish observances into her characters and setting. There are also Jewish customs depicted during that era, which include the teaching of the Torah, as well as pieces of the life of Christ.

While this is truly a work of fiction, it is easy for the reader to grasp the imagination of the author as to what life was like in the Middle East. We are given a possible way that Mary meets the Lord, what the disciples may have been like, and times the Word of God was recited. Some of the other characters in the story are real at one time, but how they may have interacted with others and the Lord is the result of the imagination of the writer. It is a captivating story of love of parents, children, husband, and the community. Nathan, who is Mary's husband in the story, is seeking an answer to help Mary as she is persecuted by the nightmares of the past. With each passing year, she gets worse until Nathan hears of a man from Nazareth.

Once you begin the story, you won't be able to put the book down as the writer takes the reader on an adventure into the past during the time of Christ. Mary, the mother of Jesus, is seen and how she may have interacted with her other children, how they may have thought as well as acted towards Jesus. I highly recommend this book. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel as the writer worked hard not to "Americanize" the time or life of Christ or use our language today, but the language of Jews in that era.

My rating of this work is five stars.

Other reviews can be read on the blog located at You can follow me on Twitter @lcjohnson1988.

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Saturday, June 9, 2012

Mockingjay - The Hunger Games Book 3

In the third and final volume of The Hunger Games, Katniss has once more escaped the warrior's arena with her co-tribute Peeta, for whom she has feelings but cannot quite put them into words, and yet she is now called on to lead the revolution as the Mockingjay.

In Book 1, Katniss and her co-tribute Peeta, are sent to The Hunger Games Arena as representatives of District 12 and they make it to the winner's platform and are thanked for their survival. Katniss and Peeta were to have settled down and lived a quiet life of safety and contentment.

However, as we later found out in Book 2, President Snow and Panem see Katniss and Peeta's victory differently. There are rumors of rebellion in the air and they seem to swirl around the pair of Hunger Games winners so rather than their quiet, safe life together, Katniss and Peeta are pulled into a world of more intrigue as President Snow and company try to determine if Katniss is, indeed, the leader of the revolution or just an innocent dupe. Indeed, the President makes a special trip to District 12 to see Katniss, whose home District also happens to be the poorest area that sends its tribute to Panem and The Hunger Games.
After planning the 75th Anniversary "Games," Katniss and Peeta have to savage their opponents again to attain victory again.

Book 3, opens with Peeta suffering from an apparent case of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome) after two rounds of nearly constant battle and fear. All he wants is a little quiet and some understanding, however, Katniss becomes the Mockingjay - the real leader of the revolutionary movement.

It does make sense as Panem is very upset with the Katniss/Peeta team for surviving the trips to the arena and President Snow and his circle are equally as upset. The only welcome Katniss receives is from the revolution and being a natural leader she takes over as the Mockingjay. By worrying about Katniss and her partner, Panem and Snow have driven Katniss, now the ultimate warrior, into the arms of the revolution. It is a classic self-fulfilling prophecy.

In Book 3, we also find best-selling and award-winning author Suzanne Cole changing direction. Not only is she starting to wind things up to their conclusion, but she is broadening the characterization of all of the parties involved giving Katniss a larger-than-life persona and role and leaving her real love, Peeta, to suffer through bouts of PTSD alone. Another love interest appears but when one is finished, one realizes that Peeta is her soul-mate.

Peeta's soul-mate, on the other hand, is now almost a universal soldier, committed to the savagery and war. She has become the ultimate warrior and Panem feels her anger.

Author Collins used her considerable writing skill to make Katniss believable, as well as the situations in which she finds herself. Overall, Book 3 is a fitting lid for The Hunger Games. Collins is able to bring things to a successful conclusion that, as the old ads used to say, will "leave you at the edge of your seat." She does that and more in her crowning achievement in the Hunger Games.

Roberto Sedycias works as an IT consultant for ecommUS-Books
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Catching Fire - The Hunger Games Book 2

After rising out of the poorest District, 12, to win The Hunger Games, Katness Everdeen and her co-tribute Peeta, should have been able to expect lives of safety and contentment, but that is just not the case for the winner of The games. President Snow, leader of Panem and organizer of The games, makes an unscheduled visit to Katniss and Peeta. He is troubled by vague rumors of insurrection brewing in the background and he is also troubled by the apparent linkage of winners with the revolutionary rumors.

This is the world that Katniss and Peeta find themselves as they make a grand tour of all of the losing Districts, including the wealthy Capital. The intrigues continue as Katniss is drawn into planning the 75th Anniversary Hunger Games.

As the planning and story move on Katniss' life reveals itself as she becomes a more rounded individual. Her characterization is becoming broader and she is proving to be more than just a winning tribute. Behind the mask of the competitor, there beats the growing heart and mind of a developing character. That Katniss is growing is due to the carefully planned and well-executed writing of author Suzanne Collins. Katniss is coming to life as a person - a person that the Capital District may have good reason to fear.

Beneath the apparently calm surface of Panem - a country that corresponds roughly to the Old USA and to which the outer Districts owe tribute in the form of warriors for the yearly games - there's an undercurrent of revolution. Are Katniss and Peeta part of this movement or are they just being used by the revolutionaries who hope to overthrow Panem and bring themselves to power?

It's an intriguing question that President Snow is trying to answer with his visit. It is during this visit that Panem also becomes a fuller and richer place with traditions that one could have only guessed at during the Hunger Games (Book 1). In Book 1, Katniss and Peeta are fighting for their lives, while Book 2 brings more calm but also shows that there may be a fire in the background that President Snow and Panem have to deal with.

As all of this is happening, Katniss discovers herself and finds a relationship with an equal, one which helps to define her as an individual and round her character.
The Hunger Games trilogy's author Suzanne Collins deftly handles these background changes as Katniss matures and Panem wonders. It is well done and shows that Katniss is more than just a warrior. It also shows that - as the saying goes - "uneasy lies the power" as Panem tries to halt the revolution.

With Katniss help and planning the 75th Anniversary Hunger Games will truly be something and are something special. Katniss gains humanity as she battles to stay alive in Book 2. The author handles this deftly and builds a nuanced storyline that Hunger Games fans love.

Roberto Sedycias works as an IT consultant for ecommUS-Books
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The Hunger Games Book Review

In what was to be a war to the finish, 12 unnamed entities attack and try to destroy the United States, only to find themselves the losers in a world where Panem -- the former Washington, DC -- emerges the victor. It's a world where the victor has keep its territories subdued. To do so, it invents the "Hunger Games," by Susan Collins, where two of its finest are sent off to a fight-to-the-death contest. It's the ultimate "Fantasy Island" meets the Roman gladiatorial games where the fight is to the death with no quarter.

Into this world arrives Katness Everdeen, 16, from the Appalachian territory, who is making the ultimate sacrifice to save her sister and is partnered with Peeta. Let's look back a little before we move forward.
The key to the world in Susan Collins' "Hunger Games," used to be called "man's inhumanity to man." In this case, though, it's more like man's insanity to man. It is the ultimate reality show except that in this one there is no escape for 23 of the 24 participant.

It's a world where, unlike "Spartacus," who finds his humanity and humanity in the courage of his "brothers of the games," the competitors in the "Hunger Games" slowly lose their humanity and their inhibitions and devolve into mere participants in a TV show where no one is "voted off the island -- you're killed."
How Katness and Peeta, who retains her humanity and convinces Katness to do the same, while, also keeping from becoming victims is the hidden story around which the "Hunger Games" revolves.
The "Hunger Games" is a novel that works because it resonates with its audience very well. Notice that it is meant for readers 12 and older. This puts it about the time the Playstation really became the hot property of the Internet gaming world.

Players were ready to annihilate - no one ever liked being annihilated himself so they developed workarounds (spoilers) where players could gain unlimited supplies of ammunition or oxygen. Spoilers were also developed that gave players more weapons and more powerful weapons and that could also bring them back to life if they had the misfortune to caught in an ambush.
In a larger sense, the "Hunger Games" is a direct outgrowth of this thinking. It reflects an understanding of how to "settle" wars and scores by using weapons. In the "Hunger Games," the players become finely tuned hunting and killing machines who can track and find their enemies and who can split them with one arrow shot.

Unfortunately, since this is a novel when you've used up your quota of arrows, knives, blades and anything else with which you can hack and maim, you are usually the next to fall.
Katness becomes that type of killing machine but her partner Peeta helps her hold onto her humanity. That's what is lacking from the other players in this game. The territories and Panem reflect their times. They are short of food and other basic necessities so they need a gladiator-like distraction and the "Hunger Games" gives them that distraction. That they have forgotten why they are fighting them in the first place is place far down the list.

Like Collins' other work, this one has been well received. It will likely have several more aimed at us before the series peters out. We suspect Katness will have something to do with the final stand and the final "Hunger Game" because she is, after all, the ultimate warrior.
And, while we don't pretend to know what is on the publisher's mind or the author's mind, we can only think that somehow the "Hunger Games" will pass into history, just as Rome's gladiatorial contests did two millennia ago.

Roberto Sedycias works as an IT consultant for ecommUS-Books
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The Hunger Games Trilogy Book Review

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is one of those books that was originally written for a Young Adult audience but crossed over into the waiting hands of adults. There is something so powerful about a well told story that transcends the intended age group and draws in readers of all ages. It has often been said that some of the best books for adults are found between the covers of young adult fiction.

And so it proved with The Hunger Games. Released in 2008, the first book in an eventual trilogy was so beautifully written that it garnered praise from all corners of the literary globe. Critics, fellow authors and readers were taken by the journey of Katniss Evergreen and her role as a sacrificial warrior, manipulated by the state to perform in brutal gladiatorial style games between children that could have only one victor.

Collins managed to infuse this brutal dystopian future with moments of pure beauty that rival any in modern fiction. Written in first person, readers journeyed with Katniss as she is chosen, prepares for battle before the eyes of a viewing nation, sees the larger hands at work and finally realises her place in the world as she begins to fight for her life against other children bent on their own survival in the arena.

Despite a rather inconclusive ending that placed The Hunger Games as only a small part of a larger story arc, the book was embraced. The second book, Catching Fire, continued the story but invariably added little to Katniss' story as the setting again became the arena and survival the goal.

Mockingjay, the final book of the trilogy was released in August 2010 and for many was an unsatisfying conclusion to what could have been a truly memorable series. Collins places Katniss again in the hands of others and much of the story is told as she is manipulated into different situations and reacts accordingly.

The Hunger Games remains a book full of beauty and horror and a story that is worth telling. For the other two books in the series they are great lessons on writing and how to give your character focus amongst the events of plot.

Inger loves stories and loves to write. As a librarian in a previous life she also has an insatiable thirst for general knowledge. You can visit her latest websites which take a look at the best wooden castle toys and puppets for kids [].

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