Review of Spy of Richmond

Spy of Richmond

 

In her novel, Spy of Richmond, Jocelyn Green tells the story of Sophie Kent, the daughter of a southern slaveholder who dares to write abolitionist articles for the newspaper. When she is caught, she must redirect her efforts. Convinced that the war must end quickly, Sophie decides to become a Union spy in the heart of the Confederate capitol. With the help of her personal slave, Bella, and a handsome journalist, Harrison, Sophie plays the dangerous game of espionage in the waning days of the War Between the States where one mistake could cost her life. Will she survive and see the conflict to its end? Or will someone close to Sophie betray her and everything she holds dear?

To the author’s credit, the settings in Spy of Richmond are meticulously researched. The reader can feel the devastating consequences of war as they are experienced by the characters, from prison to plantation. In many ways the atmosphere of the war-torn South is an effective piece of the plot because of the emotional response it evokes, which increases the story’s historical credibility.

The novel is told mostly from Sophie Kent’s point of view. However, since there are many events occurring at the same time in different places, the story is told through many characters. Each voice is unique and adds variety and perspective without losing flow or cohesiveness. The personalities in Spy of Richmond are multifaceted and realistic. They reveal a depth in their words and actions which make them empathetic even when unlikeable. Each personality is strong which makes the conflict more profound. The dialogue, with distinct inflection, reflects the authenticity of each participant and reveals their motivations a little at a time, propelling the story forward without divulging too much information.

Spy of Richmond is a heart-pounding, adrenaline-pumping thrill ride. The twists and turns of the plot are well-crafted and historically plausible. The action is balanced between internal motivations and external events. The romance angle is not overdone, and adds surprising suspense. As a result, there are no lulls and the plot continues to intensify, finishing with a satisfying ending.

The novel is geared toward Christian women, but anyone who likes historical fiction would enjoy it as well. Although there is some violence depicted in Spy of Richmond, it is done tactfully and true to the historical record. A strong Christian message is communicated throughout but avoids the preachy tone that befalls so many novels in this genre.

Spy of Richmond is book four in Jocelyn Green’s Heroines Behind the Lines: Civil War Series. It is a stand-alone novel but the series should be read in sequence order as there are continuing story-lines which one might not understand otherwise.

In conclusion, Spy of Richmond is a masterfully told, spell-binding tale full of suspense, betrayal, courage, and love. It is set during one of the darkest times in American History and is rich in detail and description. Spy of Richmond may be the best book of the year in its genre.

I was given a free copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

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Review of Dreaming Spies

Dreaming Spies

 

In her book, Dreaming Spies: A Novel of Suspense Featuring Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes, Laurie R. King weaves a tale of intrigue and international blackmail. The famous couple is seeking rest and relaxation on a boat bound for California, but the respite is short-lived when a criminal from Holmes’ past boards the same ship. Soon after, a woman and a rare book of poetry are missing, and people are not at all what they appear to be. Russell and Holmes are determined to find answers, and the trail leads them to Japan and Emperor Hirohito and back to London again. Will Russell and Holmes find what they are looking for? Or will one of the best minds in detective lore be outsmarted?

The story begins in Oxford before a flashback to the boat trip that took Russell and Holmes to Japan a year earlier. The well-researched history, culture and setting make “The Land of the Rising Sun” come alive in incredible ways. To the author’s credit, the intricate customs, vivid landscapes, and detailed attention to the historical background in 1920s Japan becomes a plot in and of itself.

Dreaming Spies is told through the eyes of Mary Russell, the wife of Holmes, who has a dominant voice throughout the novel. Though not to the level of Austen or Dickens, the narration is effective, humorous and has a literary feel and style to it. As Russell tells the story,

Sherlock Holmes as a main character is astute, witty, and wise, although he remains in the background. Every character in the novel has a unique and authentic voice, whether Japanese or English. The female leads are assertive, capable, and entertaining. However, Sherlock’s character is not as assertive as portrayed in Doyle’s work, which is a bit surprising.

The plot of Dreaming Spies is event driven as one would expect with a mystery. However, as well-written and effective as the descriptions are, they compose the majority of the first two-thirds of the novel. This underscores the literary quality of the book, but slows the pace at times to what seems like a crawl. If the reader is willing to be patient, events move more rapidly as the story moves towards the end.

Dreaming Spies’ target audience is women and those who like Historical novels with a bit of English flair. Readers should be aware that the only objectionable material (this includes language) is found in a few scenes at the end of the book when the perpetrators are unmasked. The graphic imagery was a disappointment, unnecessary, and didn’t fit the tone of the majority of the novel.

Readers should also be aware that, although Dreaming Spies is a stand-alone novel, it would be helpful to be familiar with Sherlock Holmes and King’s previous books in the series, as there are several allusions to them in the narrative.

Apart from the disappointing few scenes at the finish, Dreaming Spies is well-written and a lovely, leisurely, and literary read, full of exotic places and fascinating people.

 

I was given a free copy from the publisher for my honest review.

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Class, Race, And Illegal Immigration By Victor Davis Hanson Posted February 20, 2015

The driving forces behind three decades of de facto non-enforcement of federal immigration law were largely the interests of elites across the political spectrum.

Employers in agriculture, construction, the hospitality industry, landscaping, and food processing wanted access to cheap, industrious foreign national laborers. So do the well-off households of the American Southwest, whose current aristocratic reliance on immigrant nannies, housekeepers, gardeners, and handymen rivals something out of Downton Abbey. Such facts were why Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers were known once to have patrolled the border to keep out illegal aliens and thus not depress wages of American workers and thereby ruin their own efforts at unionization. Large employers like open borders; entry-level and poor American workers obviously do not.

Identity politics elites are the other advocates of open borders. Since the 1970s they have became self-appointed spokespeople for group rather than individual grievances. Without a large and constant pool of 11 to 20 million unassimilated foreign nationals, the Mexican-American and generic Latino communities would follow closely the Italian-American assimilated experience of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Indeed many do.

But unlike the case with recent past immigrants, millions of illegal alien residents increasingly warp federal and state statistics, from health to education, that guide policy. The result can be often surreal: a third-generation American, such as a typical middle-class suburbanite named Jason Lopez, now has grounds for preferential treatment in hiring and college admissions, as if his mere patronymic resonates solidarity with the plight of poorer illegal aliens and thereby earns him all sorts of offsets. Apparently because huge yearly influxes of terribly poor people cross the border each year illegally from Latin America and Mexico, lots of American citizens of Hispanic heritage, who have never been to Mexico and cannot speak Spanish, suddenly are felt to be deserving of special compensation to help rectify statistical imbalances among those with Latino heritages.

There are other mythologies about illegal immigration. Many who favor open borders are either helped economically by the influxes or avoid in the concrete the ramifications of their own ideology. A community like Silicon Valley is emblematic of the hypocrisy: the louder wealthy elites call for border relaxation and amnesties, the more likely they are to yank their children out of public schools that border the Redwood City or San Jose areas, which are struggling with second-language students, gangs, and the usual problems of adjustment arising from hundreds of thousands migrating from an impoverished central Mexico to barrios bordering an affluent Menlo Park or Palo Alto. California’s expenditures on infrastructure as a percentage of its yearly budget have dived, as medical, law enforcement, legal, educational, and social welfare expenses have soared—a phenomenon that falls largely on the middle classes through higher state taxes and reduced services.

Ethnicity is terribly misunderstood in the immigration debate. Racism, xenophobia, and nativism are the usual slurs leveled as supporters of immigration enforcement. In fact, they and the public in general favor generous legal immigration, based on ethnically-blind meritocratic criteria, rather than family ties, political pressure, and mere proximity to the border.

In contrast, ethnic chauvinism drives too much of Latino support for amnesties: if there were small numbers of Hispanic illegal aliens, but large numbers of Chinese or Nigerian aliens residing in the U.S. illegally, the issue would largely disappear from the concerns of most Latinos, or, rather, they would likely favor strict immigration enforcement. Indeed, one reason why there has not been so-called comprehensive immigration reform is that Latino elites quietly, but vehemently, oppose any serious effort at making legal immigration meritocratic, and based on considerations other than ethnic ancestry—a fact the Democratic Party, which benefits from open borders and periodic amnesties, likewise prefers to keep silent about.

Illegal immigration, embraced by liberals and many affluent conservatives, is illiberal to the core. Take away the ethnic, economical, and political self-interests of our elites, and illegal immigration is mostly about ethnic chauvinism (La Raza is a fossilized racial rubric first given currency by Francisco Franco in fascist Spain), the exploitation of cheap labor, higher taxation on the middle class to pay for the social costs of labor for the well off, and a callous indifference shown the unemployed and low-wage American worker. The solution is to close the border, enforce existing laws, remove immigration policy from the political arena, and adopt a generous, legal immigration protocol that in ethnically blind fashion evaluates all potential immigrants on meritocratic criteria such as education and work skills.

 

Posted:http://victorhanson.com/wordpress/?p=8224#more-8224

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A Reflection By Elliott Preston Orr

People say with albeit good intentions
That if God heals me then His glory will be shown,
But people often hesitate to mention
The other side of His omniscient throne.

For God to show His power through healing
Would be glorious if it were His will,
But it would also be maybe too appealing
For perhaps my faith would stand too still.

For in truth I want all to realize in whole
That I care not what this ailment does
Because I truly believe in full
That God knew it all before it was.

And in trusting Him I would gladly endure
One thousand years of agony and strife
In order to witness the most glorious cure
Of Christ coming into just one more person’s life.

 

Posted  by Kevin De Young on February 13, 2015

http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2015/02/13/the-most-glorious-cure/

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Books Are Fun In More Ways Than One….

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Review of The Patmos Deception

The Patmos Deception

In Davis Bunn’s book, The Patmos Deception, childhood friends Nick and Cary are reunited years later when they attempt to track down ancient artifacts that have gone missing in modern-day Greece. These relics are crucial in preserving Church History and validating the Christian faith. But this task may be more dangerous by the day as they are not sure who is trustworthy when they encounter chaos and corruption in what was once the cradle of democracy. Meanwhile, the danger of bankruptcy has forced Dmitri, a Greek tour guide, to do the unthinkable, as he is using his boat to smuggle illegal contraband. Will this decision cost him his life?

The Patmos Deception is a suspense-filled, page-turning tale written by a master story-teller. Davis Bunn has the gift of transporting the reader to places of which one only dreams through vivid descriptive language. Greece and Turkey come alive as the setting and culture are painstakingly researched and expressed in emotive detail. The plot is filled with empathetic characters and action is non-stop to the very end.

The only structural weakness of the plot in The Patmos Deception is the finish, which feels rushed. It is as if Bunn is in a hurry to tie up loose ends and leaves one very important question unanswered. However, if this unanswered question leads to a sequel, it may not be a bad thing. Also there is an assertion on the subject of Greek politics that may not be true, as Fascism is characterized as “far right.” Because Fascism is known by its philosophy of big, centralized, government control (as in the Nazi’s Social Democratic Party), it should be considered “far left.”

One other weakness in The Patmos Deception is the spiritual focus communicated throughout the book. Rather than emphasizing a Christian message based on a biblical foundation, the theme is laced with mysticism and an experiential emphasis that may confuse readers as to what orthodox Christian faith is. This sends mixed signals about Christianity and should be treated with discernment and caution.

Overall, The Patmos Deception is a well-written, enthralling adventure for readers who love to escape to exotic places and enjoy a suspense-filled ride, with a little romance thrown in as well.

I was given a free copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

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Review of Eight Twenty-Eight

Eight Twenty-eight

In their book, Eight Twenty-Eight: When Love Didn’t Give Up, Larissa and Ian Murphy recount their story of love, upcoming marriage and a horrific car accident that puts their lives on hold. Dreams of happiness and hope were replaced in an instant with the reality of Ian’s catastrophic brain injury and certain death. But in the course of coma, the Intensive Care Unit, and extensive rehabilitation, God’s sustaining and sufficient grace becomes unmistakably evident. Through what seem like impossible circumstances, the truth remains that God does indeed cause all things to work together for good for those who are called according to His purpose.

Eight Twenty-Eight is a beautiful, well-written account, mostly from Larissa’s perspective, of what life was like for the Murphys before and after Ian’s life-changing accident. Once a strong, able-bodied, budding filmmaker, Ian is now trapped in bed, struggling to survive. Will Larissa be able to look past Ian’s disability and love him for the person he has become, and can she carry the responsibility that comes with it? It is this question and more that Larissa explores as she details the incredible highs and devastating lows while helplessly watching the one she loves struggle to stay alive.

Eight Twenty-Eight is a raw, riveting, emotional story that explores deep theological truth. It is through this heart-breaking journey that the Murphys discover that God’s love, mercy, and grace meet at the deepest point of human need despite devastating circumstances. The Murphys’ love for each other is as authentic as it is amazing, and tested through incredible difficulty. At times the narrative is challenging to follow because it switches from the present-day to the past with little warning. However, Eight Twenty-Eight: When Love Didn’t Give Up is well-written, worth the read, and a testimony that love conquers all because God is enough.

I was given a free copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review

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