Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Death of a Witch

I've had a very lazy reading year (might have something to do with teaching 28 university class hours), but now I'm on summer vacation, I'm back in the U.S., and I have nothing more pressing to do than read.

What was my first choice? An old favorite and friend: Hamish Macbeth. M.C. Beaton's latest, Death of a Witch, did not disappoint. Hamish is as charming as ever as he tracks a serial killer in Lochdubh, Scotland.

Catriona Beldame moves to Lochdubh while Hamish is on holiday in Spain and immediately trouble follows. The village men are spotted visiting the “witch,” and not-too-surprisingly, murder results—in fact, multiple murders.

Despite chronically a killing spree, Death of a Witch is a light and enjoyable read. Hamish is brilliant, and his love life is as tangled as ever. Marion Chesney (aka M.C. Beaton) is now in her 70s, and this is the 25th book in her series. I just hope Hamish finds some sort of romantic happiness before it is too late.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Shack--The Popular Book That Lacks

The Shack, by William Paul Young, has earned itself incredible and unexplicable media exposure. Young wrote the book for his children to explain his ideas about God. Young's friends published the book by creating a publishing company after legitamate publishers rejected the work. I know why they rejected the work.

The book has a compelling story that sucks you in and then leaves you floating in a hundred pages of philosophy about God. The compelling story involves a tragedy around Mack's youngest daughter. Mack, turning from God and carrying great sorrow, ends up spending a weekend with the Trinity as he learns to deal with his pain.

The Trinity are portrayed as three beings (who can change appearance) but are somehow linked into one. For example, Mack meets God as a huge, African-American woman with a sense of humor and a love of coooking and a great love for her "boy" Jesus. Mack then spends the weekend learning how God's plan is about love and forgiveness and not about institutions (like religion or commandments).

Youngs's philosophy is often contrary to my own, but that's not what irks me about this book. What irks me is the poor writing, the skimming over of important healing processes, and the complete boredom I found trying to slog through the weekend of philosophy. I'm glad to know what's behind all of the hype, but I really had to force myself to finish this book.

On the positive side, I have to give Young credit for a few things. His message of tolerance and love and forgiveness is positive. His message of a personal relationship with God and Jesus is also wonderful. And if Young had to choose between simply writing his opinion about God vs. encompassing it in a story, I give him credit for choosing a story.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Guest Blog - Sorrow on Sunday by Ann Purser

For as long as I can remember Canadians have been paying quite a bit more for books than Americans have. If you look at the back of any paperback you will see what I mean. They are pre-priced and often the Canadian price is about three dollars more than the US one. During the past six months, the US dollar has lost its value internationally. At one point the Canadian dollar was on a par with the American dollar. When this happened, I asked the encyclopedia to whom I am married if this was affecting the cost of books in Canada at all. He told me that distributors were complaining about the price of books in Canada. If the dollar was on a par why should Canadians pay more for books?

During our recent stay the Canadian dollar was not par with the American but it was worth 90 American cents for a few days. Because of all of this, I was not totally surprised when I bought a paperback in Montreal that cost only C$7.50 when the American price was $6.99. The truth is I was delighted. I have always felt that publishers were really penalizing their Canadian audience.

The book I bought at the new lower pricing was Sorrow on Sunday by Ann Purser. It has been a long time since I have read one of her books. Of course it is a mystery. It is set in a small town in England and the heroine is a bright woman who is probably around forty. Purser started the series with Murder on Monday in which Lois Meade sets up her own business called New Brooms. She is an efficient and thorough house cleaner and soon discovers that she is just as good as a business woman. Because her job takes her in and out of local homes, the local police detective Hunter Cowgill decides that it is to his advantage to have Lois work with him on a few of his cases.

By Sorrow on Sunday Lois is a well established undercover agent for the police. However, she soon discovers that her work with Cowgill is no longer a secret when she becomes the target of a local crime syndicate. This mystery moves along at a good pace. It is uncomplicated and an easy and entertaining novel. I cannot decide whether I like Lois or not. She probably would have me totally intimidated if she and I were to meet. I am neither sassy nor outspoken.

Since Purser has made it all of the way through the week, her book that came out last November has a new theme, Warning at One. I’ll have to see if I can find it at my local library now that I am on my way back home.