Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Until Proven Guilty by J.A. Jance a J.P. Beaumont mystery

J.P. Beaumont is the detective assigned to the murder of a little girl named Angela. She was the daughter of a woman living under the control of a preacher named Brodie and the "church" that he led. When J.P. began investigating Angela's mother, Suzanne Barstogi, he realized that the Rev. Michael Brodie and Faith Tabernacle had some strange hold on the lives of the "true believers." An ex-member of that body of believers informed J.P. that things went on at the secret services that were not what one would expect in a worship service. While involved with Angela's murder case, he also became involved with a woman he met at Angela's funeral. A newspaper columnist named her the"woman in red" and J.P. was totally taken by her. It was a whirlwind romance which he thought had nothing to do with Angela's murder. Angela's father appeared and was held under suspicion for the murder. But, of course, a person isn't guilty until the courts can prove it. The discovery of Angela's body dressed in a Holly Hobbie nightgown was just the beginning of an episode that changed J.P.'s life and that of many others.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Return to Red River by Lauraine Snelling

Return to Red River is the series following Red River of the North. In these three books the saga of the Bjorklund family continues as Thorliff goes to college and his horizons expand. Through all of his new experiences he remains tied to his home in North Dakota and the strong faith and family ties there. As Thorliff follows God, Elizabeth also follows His leading in her life. These stories of daily lives include issues of faith, family, hard work, pain, kidnapping, love and romance. The family relationships developed in Red River of the North continue in Return to Red River.
These two series are best read in order. Story line and characters are developed throughout.

Red River of the North series by Lauraine Snelling

Sophie's Dilemma is the second book in the Daughters of Blessing series by Lauraine Snelling. Blessing and its characters first appear in her Red River of the North series which has six books. It begins in Norway with the Bjorklund family and follows them as they come to America. They arrive in New York but then travel to the Dakota Territory to claim farmland and homestead. This series is about the daily lives, tragedies and happy times of that family and their growing community of friends. As the Bjorklund family and the town of Blessing changes, so does the Dakota Territory.

Sophie's Dilemma by Lauraine Snelling

Sophie and Grace grew up as twins-together at all times in sleeping and waking hours. Everyone in the family and school learned to sign so they could communicate with Grace and she learned to lip read. Growing up in North Dakota in the 1800s was quite different from today. When Sophie and Grace were small their aunt and mother bought the first sewing machines in the farming community of Blessing. The cooperative bought a threshing machine and they would travel farm to farm for several months one year and later for six weeks helping each other to bring in crops. Hamre was one of the Bjorklund boys-big, strong and blond with blue eyes that attracted all the girls. He worked hard on the farm but his dream was to own his own fishing boat and spend his days on the sea. Since he was older than Sophie he waited for her to grow up and then asked Lars for his blessing to court her. Lars felt that she still had some growing to do and asked Hamre to wait a year. But Sophie could not stand the thought of being apart from Hamre for a year and persuaded him to take her with him when he returned to Ballard, Washington and the sea. Sophie wanted adventure more than she wanted to knit and sew like other girls of her day. The decisions and actions of these two young people in love changed their lives and caused hurt for them and those who loved them. Sophie learned about waiting for her man when he went to sea for months. She stood in cold, smelly conditions in a cannery for weeks until she was fired. And when tragedy struck and the Ballard community was shaken, she finally returned to Blessing and the people who encouraged her in her daily life. When Sophie asked her aunt what to do she said "Pray first". Faith and prayer were all important to many in Blessing and Sophie was reminded of this many times in Ballard and when she went home again. How would people receive her after she hurt them so badly? She was not able to sit and feel sorry for past mistakes. The future and more growth awaited her. More innovations came to them all as with the sewing machine and thresher, later the washing machine helped in their lives. Even medical innovations and treatments for women impacted Sophie and her family. She was home with people who loved her. Now what will she do?

Monday, August 13, 2007

Marvel 1602

Written by Neil Gaiman, Art by Andy Kubert and Richard Isanove, with covers by Scott McKowen

The premise of the series is simple: What if Marvel’s Silver Age superheroes had appeared in Britain of 1602, instead of the America of the mid-20th Century? The result is intricate, intriguing, and most of all, entertaining.

In this timeline, Nick Fury is Sir Nicholas Fury, Queen Elizabeth’s spymaster, and Peter Parker, sans his Spider Man super-powers, is Peter Parquagh, Sir Nicholas’ protégé. Carlos Xavier runs a haven for witchbreed (mutants) like himself whilst his nemesis The Grand Inquisitor (Magneto) has his own agenda in Spain. The Fantastic Four still gain their powers on a voyage to the remote frontier, but this time to the New World instead of outer space. Doctor Doom still rules Latveria, and is still a villain, but as a physically unscarred Count Otto Von Doom. Doctor Strange, Daredevil, Black Widow, Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, Captain America, Thor, Hulk and The Watcher are some of the other characters you’ll find subtly altered in these pages.

Overall all, Marvel 1602 lived up to my expectations. I liked reading about characters that were similar to my old friends, but different. I liked how Neil Gaiman entwined historical characters, like Virginia Dare, with fictional superheroes. And I loved the historically inspired covers.

Apparently it was the writer’s and artist’s creative choice, but I found the use of multiple, small panels, laid out in fairly standard patterns to be slightly disappointing. Something this epic, with all the historical details, needed larger panels and more dramatic layout. Perhaps, these small panels also dictated the simplified, slightly anachronistic, clothing choices for our heroes, so they could be as recognizable in their tight panels as if they were wearing their contemporary costumes.

While it was nice to see so familiar faces, it also meant that many of them were given short shrift -- the Hulk and Thor and the Fantastic Four particularly. Luckily, some of this may be addressed by the sequels: 1602 New World and 1602 Fantastik Four, but I don’t believe either has been collected into a graphic novel yet.

This graphic novel collects the eight book series. It includes the “script” for the first issue that Neil Gaiman delivered to Andy Kubert, a great addition for both aspiring comic book writers and artists. Scott McKowen also talks about the process behind the creation of his unique scratchboard covers in a short article. Plus there are several preliminary sketches of characters, as well as a couple of pages of the enhanced pencil art that Andy Kubert delivered to colorist Richard Isanove.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment by James Patterson

When I heard that James Patterson had written a book for teens, I was skeptical. Could an adult author write successfully for this very picky age group? The answer is . . . YES! Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment is the first book in his trilogy for teens. The main character, Maximum Ride, and her "family" are all genetic experiments. Scientists added avian DNA to their developing fetuses while they were still in their mother's wombs. After they were born, the resulting winged children were taken into scientific custody and treated like lab animals: numbered instead of named, kept in small animal cages, experimented on to discover their unique traits, and never, ever treated like human beings. Maximum and five others (Fang, Iggy, Nudge, the Gasman, and Angel) escaped with the help of a sympathetic scientist and formed a family. Now, after months of freedom, the scientists are trying to track them down and bring them back.

Maximum Ride is a great action/adventure series for teens (and adults!) who enjoy Alex Rider, Harry Potter and other exciting reads.