Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Longings of the Heart

Since this is a book blog, I'll start by saying I'm halfway through the latest release by Bonnie Leon, "Longings of the Heart", as I write this. My husband and I arrived home on the 19th of October after six days spent touring several eastern states, and Niagara Falls, Canada.

Optomistically, I believed I'd have lots of time to read on our vacation and couldn't wait to dive into "Longings of the Heart." Things didn't work out that way.

The morning after our arrival in Maryland we left to drive through Pennsylvania for a tour of the Gettysburg National Military Park. Even after 145 years following that dreadful 3-day battle, the souls of the fallen seem to cry out from the ground. After spending the better part of a day at the Military Park I left with a better understanding of the battle tactics and heartfelt awe at the bravery of the men who fought and died there.

From Pennsylvania we traveled north through Buffalo, New York, and into Canada for two days at Niagara Falls. No time to read there, either. We walked, rode the "Maid of the Mist" to the base of the Falls, and went down a tunnel to stand at the foot of Horseshoe Falls. The word "awesome" is greatly overused, but it's the best way I can describe the power of those mighty waters. To think that power is only a small fraction of what our Lord possesses turned my mind to worship.

After leaving Niagara, we traveled south through NY and PA, touring the Allegany State Park at the NY border. On all sides we were surrounded by a mosaic of reds, yellows, golds and greens covering every hillside. I've always heard of the abundance of color on the eastern hills in the autumn, and we certainly weren't disappointed. It was breathtaking. Another reminder of God's goodness--He could have made everything in this world black, white and gray. Colors are one of his grace notes.

All of this to day that after 1300 ground miles in six days, Bonnie Leon's "Longings of the Heart" is still tugging at me to sit still long enough to finish it. I'm loving the story--hopefully by next week I'll be reviewing Leon's latest achievement rather than posting excuses.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Rhapsody in Red

Donn Taylor’s Rhapsody in Red doesn’t exactly fit my “debut novel” theme, but it’s close, in that it is author Taylor’s first novel for a prominent publisher. Rhapsody in Red is a mystery filled with suspense and laced with humor. The protagonist, Preston Barclay, is a history professor at a small college that has morphed from a Christian institution to a secular one in order to draw more students. “Press” Barclay’s wry comments on college faculty infighting will bring a smile to the reader’s lips even as they’re racing through the story.

Rhapsody in Red has all the outer accouterments to cause browsers to select this novel from among others on the shelf. The cover is bright red, with a black stiletto (the shoe, not the dagger) above the title. Back cover copy reads, “That Wednesday, two weeks before Thanksgiving, was a bad day to find a corpse on campus.” But what really drew me in was the introduction of the secondary character, Mara Thorn, as the Wiccan head of the department of religious studies. That addition gives the story an additional twist. Press and Mara have the misfortune to discover the murdered body of a dead colleague, and the further misfortune of being the primary suspects of the crime.

The story takes off at a run from that point, and doesn’t slow down until the surprising conclusion. Every time I told myself I’d read to the end of a chapter, then put the book down, I found myself saying, “Well, one more chapter, then I’ll stop.” Donn Taylor added several dimensions to this novel, which in my opinion, raise it above the average mystery. His protagonist, Press Barclay, suffers from musical hallucinations, so many scenes are enlivened by Barclay’s description of the melodies that are haunting his mind. Taylor cleverly sets the mood for much of the action in Rhapsody in Red by describing the instruments playing in Press’s head. Further, Taylor’s droll sense of humor, especially when directed at the faculty of the university where his protagonist is employed, will cause the reader to snicker even while his heart pounds with the suspense that Taylor so adroitly weaves into each chapter.

Rhapsody in Red rates high on my recommended list. I hope Taylor is hard at work on a sequel!