Book Talk Tuesday: Occupation

Occupation by Michael Berrier is the tightest, fastest, most thrilling suspense (or suspenseful thriller??) I’ve read in a good long time. Occupation

I bought it because Mike’s a friend and I enjoyed his first book, Cash Burn. I finished it in a day because it’s a ripping good story that I couldn’t tear myself away from.

The blurb says: Occupation is about a modern-day Robin Hood named Theo Hillman who gets in over his head when a partner in crime commits murder, and Theo is implicated as an accessory.

From the opening scenes to the end, I could hardly put down my Kindle to feed the cat. And if you knew how demanding our cat is, that would tell you a lot about the pacing and suspense Mike loaded every page with.

Theo is an engaging hero, wounded and wanting to do the right thing, but stymied by his own misguided convictions. Until he’s in so deep that doing the right thing will cost him everything.

I really loved this book and can’t wait to see what Mike comes up with next!

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Book Talk Tuesday: Silver Bells

I have several Christmas traditions. I watch a cheesy Hallmark movie almost every day of December (or I used to. Since I now share the television set with a retiree, I’m way behind on my cheese intake). Anyway, I also read a few Christmas books. I listen to Handel’s Young Messiah and other favorites.

While I like cheese in my movies, I don’t like it in my books.

Silver Bells by Deborah Raney could be a Hallmark movie but it’s free of cheese, making it a delightful holiday read.

Michelle had to drop out of college and take a job with her hometown newspaper. She enjoys the work and she especially enjoys flirting with her co-worker Rob.

It’s too bad Rob’s the boss’s son and the boss has warned Michelle not to fall for Rob.

Michelle learns the newspaper business and manages to make a friend of Becky whose story the paper covered when her husband was arrested for domestic violence.

Rob likes Michelle a lot. So much that he quits his job so they can be free to date. He’s about to declare his intentions when her old boyfriend returns from Viet Nam and Rob isn’t sure which man Michelle cares for more.

Silver Bells is the perfect book for curling up with under a plush afghan while sipping a hot drink. It evokes the holiday season without being cloyingly sweet.

I recommend it for your holiday reading pleasure!

Woe! It’s Wednesday: The List of Thirty, Part 2

I made it to Berkeley and I got to check off another entry on my List of Thirty.

photoAnne Lamott was pretty much what I expected. A bit snarky and cranky with some self-deprecation and honesty mixed into a heavy dose of faith and encouragement. Perhaps most surprisingly, I didn’t cry when I met her!

Of course, I pretended I was an average reader who enjoyed her work. I didn’t mention the ways she’s influenced me to live more transparently, to be more authentic. I didn’t talk about what I’d learned from her regarding “s****y first drafts,” in her writing craft book, Bird by Bird. I shook her hand, thanked her for the evening and asked her to sign my copy of Bird by Bird, brought from home.

Perhaps I wasn’t practicing what she preached and what I claim to have learned about being transparent and honest, but I think it’s better that way. No one wanted to deal with a semi-hysterical stalker/fan in the middle of Berkeley’s First Congregational Church. I got to keep my dignity. And Annie wasn’t saddled with yet another overwrought reader who wouldn’t let her out of there to get back home to her dogs.

Some of my “take-aways:”

  • Beginning a life of faith and as a writer are pretty much the same. You start where are, you move forward. It’ll be hard and it’ll stink, but it’ll get better.
  • You forgive someone when the pain of carrying the grudge around becomes harder and heavier than the pain of letting it go.
  • Especially if you realize they hurt you out of their own self-loathing and if lashing out at you is what enables them to feel better about their own miserable and small life, then let them. You can let it go, knowing it’s not about you, it’s about their own miserliness.
  • No matter how I feel about someone, Jesus would want me to wash their feet. Annie pretty much despises Dick Chaney but she readily admits she’d wash his feet because Jesus would want her to. And she expects Mr. Chaney would wash her feet for the same reason.

I came home and put a check by Annie’s name and perused the list for my next target. I blew a chance to meet Steve Martin a few months ago. Actually, I blew the potential that I might have a chance to see Steve Martin. Not quite the same thing as meeting him, but if I’m serious about this list, it’s time to be a bit more proactive.

Who’s on your list of people who’ve influenced you that you’d like to meet?

Book Talk Tuesday: Cairo

Cairo by Victoria Pitts-Caine is a modern day Raiders of the Lost Ark. With a female Indiana Jones.

Liz McCran gets a phone call from the American embassy in Egypt. Her good friend Addie has disappeared while in Egypt with her new husband. We met Addie and Gary in Pitts-Caine’s last novel, Alvarado Gold, so we know who Liz is looking for when she heads to Egypt with Addie’s cousin, Donnie, also an Alvarado Gold character.

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Addie and Gary were asked to deliver a message for a Christian pastor in the states. They disappear in Egypt and Liz and Donnie head overseas to find their friend and cousin.

An Egyptian man, Rayhan, is assigned to pick them up at the airport, by an American at the Embassy.

Liz feels an immediate connection to Rayhan and it’s expedient to simulate a real relationship (even an engagement) so Liz can move freely around the country. But is the relationship a fake? Or is it real?

The reader is pretty certain of Liz’s feelings for Rayhan, but, as the pair along with Donnie and a stowaway head across the desert in search of Addie and Gary, nothing is what it seems.

If you enjoy adventure stories with an international flavor, you should pick up a copy of Cairo.

The ending is unpredictable and completely fulfilling. Pitts-Caine is excellent at leading the reader along the path she’s chosen, then adding a twist and turn.

Happy Reading!

Woe! It’s Wednesday: The List of Thirty

It’s kind of like a Bucket List. A list of thirty people who have influenced you and whom you would like to meet.

Debbie Macomber, in her non-fiction books Knit Together and God’s Guest List, writes about her List of Thirty, a list of thirty people she would like to meet.  She includes anecdotes about how God brought those people (most of them famous, some of them extremely famous) across her path.

I’ve had my own list for several years now.

And I get to check off two of them within a month of each other.

In November, I went to a writer’s conference and was privileged to learn from Donald Maass, of the Maass Literary Agency and author of Writing the Breakout Novel. I only spoke to him for a minute, but it was enough to earn him a check mark on my list.

Tonight, I’ll be at a reading by Anne Lamott and will hopefully add another check to that list. I’ve said before that Anne taught me two things:

  • Everything I know about being transparent and honest I learned from Anne,

and

  • Not all Christians think like me or are conservative like me but that doesn’t mean they love God and Jesus less or that God and Jesus love them less.

I’ll probably be a basket case if I get to speak to her and won’t be able to articulate what her writing has meant to me and my journey of faith.

But I also know:

  • It won’t be the first time she’s been confronted with a weeping fan

and

  • I’ll be okay and Jesus will still love me and Annie both.

Check back next week and I’ll let you know how it went!

Book Talk Tuesday: Feathers From My Nest

I was busy writing in November and didn’t do much reading. Or rather, what reading I did in November was either newspapers, magazines, or a very few books that I’ve already reviewed.

So we enter December and I’m at a deficit of books, which is a very rare occurrence.

I did finish this one on my Kindle that I’d been reading off and on for several months. Feathers From My Nest: A Mother's Reflections

Feathers From my Nest by Beth Moore.

I’ve done many of Beth’s Bible studies and I love them. She brings a depth and richness to her studies and commentaries that is rare and special. I’ve been to a couple of her live events and several simulcasts. I’m not a “groupie,” but I do esteem and respect Beth.

Feathers From My Nest is a special and rare glimpse of the Moore family off the church platform.

Beth is transparent about her two different lives: Wife & Mother vs. Bible Teacher. The two intersect but Beth works hard at keeping them separate.

I understand where she’s coming from. Who wants a platform speaker, a paragon of perfect hair and spiritual insights as a mother? No one, especially not a teenager.

Feathers From My Nest is a collection of essays of Beth’s thoughts about raising two daughters in this day and age. She shares many of the struggles, a few of the triumphs, and gives all of the glory to God alone.

The book is billed as a “collection of poems and vignettes.” Perhaps because I read an ebook and not a hard copy book, I didn’t see many poems and the pictures were small and grainy.

If you have a recently empty nest, or are soon to reign over an empty nest, I recommend buying a hard copy of this book. I think it would be one to keep on the nightstand and turn to often for comfort and encouragement.