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Eric Wilson "novelist" RSS Feed (Nashville, TN United States)
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Superior Justice (Lake Superior Mysteries)
Superior Justice (Lake Superior Mysteries)
Price: $3.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Meet Jonah Borden, September 15, 2012
I've long been a fan of mystery writers ranging from the sparse style of Raymond Chandler to the poetic grittiness of James Lee Burke. For me, a memorable mystery revolves around a sense of place and a strong protagonist.

Meet Jonah Borden, a "hard-boiled man of the cloth." This preacher with a penchant for good food, an occasional drink, and chaste romantic encounters is funny, cynical without being whiny, and honorable without being squeaky clean. Hard not to like this guy, right? And to top it all, he finds himself entangled in dark matters along Lake Superior. So there you have it, the strong protagonist and sense of place. I've never been to the Great Lakes, but Hilpert paints the setting with such skill and ease that I find myself dreaming of visiting someday. That lighthouse on the cover? Yep, I wanna go there.

But character and setting are fueled by a good plot, and Hilpert puts his characters through their paces as they try to unravel a solid, even surprising mystery. Borden is sucked into the midst of twisted dealings due to the killer's decision to make a private confession protected by Borden's religious position. This forces Borden into a dangerous dance with criminals, cops, and yes even love.

In the end, we are left satisfied yet hungry for more Jonah Borden. With snappy dialogue and tight prose, Hilpert kicks off a great new series, and I can only hope to see more Lake Superior mysteries.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 2, 2012 1:59 PM PDT

Moby Dick: or the Whale (Modern Library)
Moby Dick: or the Whale (Modern Library)
by Herman Melville
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.70
96 used & new from $1.99

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Torture or Triumph?, December 26, 2011
Why are school kids tortured with doorstop classics like this? It's no way to spark that love of reading in them, and it's a male-driven book, with rare mentions of women in 600 pages. I read this for my own good pleasure, on my own good time, and with that in mind . . . I loved "Moby Dick." This was no torture, but a triumph!

Based loosely on actual events from the early 1800s--the sinking of the Essex after being rammed by a whale, and the numerous whaling encounters with a monstrous whale nicknamed "Mocha Dick"--this classic novel is an epic tale of the sea, of the men who lived and died on ships, and of the leviathans that provided them sustenance and danger. Melville creates a cast of memorable characters, seen through the eyes of Ishmael. We meet a goodhearted cannibal named Queequeg, a driven and vengeful captain named Ahab, his shadow named Fedallah, and the voice of reason named Starbuck. These men and many others take sail on the Pequod, a sturdy whaleship, and roam from Nantucket across the world's vast oceans. The further they go, the more they realize they are at the whims of Captain Ahab, who wants not just any whale, but specifically Moby Dick, the huge white whale that cost him his leg in a previous misadventure.

Melville does a great job of transporting us to the mid-1800s, into the lives of memorable and colorful men, and onto a ship with all its gory whaling work. His chapters on whales and the art of whaling are nearly encyclopedic, but if read leisurely, they can be very entertaining and educational. This world of whaling becomes fantastical, almost larger-than-life, and I was enthralled. Along the journey, the Pequod encounters other ships as well, and we feel that the noose is slowly tightening as the whalers hunt down their near-mythical prey. Yes, Ahab and his men go whale hunting in small boats quite a few times, giving some high-seas drama throughout, but it's the final confrontation with the great whale that provides the best suspense.

This book is pretentious and overwrought at times, but it is filled with so much life, with bits of humor and comedic hyperbole, with amazing descriptions of the sea and sky, and with keen insights into human nature. As it spreads its sails in the gusting wind, it filled me with wonder and bracing sea-salt air. It wowed me with passages of allegorical depth. I savored it a long month, and when it was over, I felt gorged on one of the richest literary feasts I've ever experienced. This is truly an epic tale, and a great look back at some of our country's history.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 30, 2013 10:35 AM PST

Mid-Life Christmas
Mid-Life Christmas
Price: $0.99

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 3.5 Stars . . . A Yuletide Gift, December 15, 2011
Looking for a quick read? A lighthearted Christmas short story?

I've known Cory Clubb for a few years, and he has a warm smile, a kind manner, and a subtle sense of humor. All of this comes through in his Yuletide gift to readers. I sat at the computer to read a page or two, and ended up reading the whole thing. It flows nicely, and the pacing is done well. I liked the laughter and heart in it, as we follow a middle-aged man recently let go at work. He is facing the holidays, afraid to face his wife and kids, and he ends up taking an unexpected job that teaches him a whole new lesson about the meaning of the season.

As is the case with many e-books, "Mid-Life Christmas" has tons of typos and grammatical errors, but the cover and layout make up for a lot of that. Although the difficulties in the characters' lives are mostly hinted at, giving the story little sense of true conflict, this allows it to be a cheery story for this time of year. The dialogue, in particular, works very well, showing the differences between teens, businessmen, and a wife with her priorities in place.

Thanks, Cory, for sharing this. The story is a great reminder of the need to notice the cares and hurts of others, even when we are trying to deal with our own.

Black Sunshine
Black Sunshine
by Ninie Hammon
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.49
30 used & new from $8.28

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Secrets and Suspense, December 12, 2011
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This review is from: Black Sunshine (Paperback)
A natural disaster. A family tragedy. And a horrific deception.

Ninie Hammon once again uses her storytelling prowess to unfold the drama of a small town in the mountains of Kentucky, where twenty years earlier an explosion killed 27 men working in the coal mines. Now, as the town commemorates that tragic event, the two survivors come toe to toe and face the dark truths of that day.

Will Gribbins is one of those survivors, a man who left Aintree Hollow and lost himself in the Navy and in the bottom of a bottle. In doing so, he broke an unspoken promise and left the other survivor, Lloyd, to deal with the guilt and the town's grief. The childhood friendship between these two men is put to the test when they confront each other after two decades. Both harbor secrets. Both wish to remedy the past in their own ways. As their fateful choices lead to a deadly final encounter deep in Black Mountain, there is only one person capable of mining their secrets for the family to see. This person is a mentally challenged young man named Jamey Boy, a teenager who carves images from jet-black coal, images that are prescient and prophetic. Jamey Boy has no idea that his art will peel back layers of deception, and no idea that he too will be forced to make a fateful choice.

I've read two novels based in the world of modern American mining, "Black Sunshine" and Dale Cramer's "Bad Ground." Both are on my list of favorite books. Both take time digging deep into the characters and settings, but churn up incredible things for those patient enough to discover treasure. Hammon captures the voices of backwoods Kentucky with great skill and warmth. Her research adds so much depth to her novels, without becoming burdensome. And in the end, she always twists and turns the plot, adds elements of mystery and suspense, and leaves us with life lessons that feel as genuine as the characters.

by Kerry Nietz
Edition: Paperback
Price: $15.20
24 used & new from $4.01

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Moonshards!, November 19, 2011
This review is from: Freeheads (Paperback)
Kerry Nietz exploded onto the scene with "A Star Curiously Singing," which was cool and unique, while also stylish and controlled. The sequel, "The Superlative Stream," took the trilogy in directions with more religious and political perspectives, but remained fresh and impossible to fit into any tidy box. It was sci-fi at its finest, with Bradbury's subtlety, Wells' imagination, and Crichton's readability. I was thrilled to hear of "Freehead," the third book in the DarkTrench Saga. The cover initially threw me, since it is completely different in coloring, but I actually like the shaggy-headed silhouette as a symbol of something different from the bald-headed figure on the earlier covers.

In keeping with the title, our debugger hero, Sandfly, and his female counterpart, HardCandy, are ready to be free from religious tyranny and electronic control. They decide to return to Earth, only to find that the planet is a mess. Through some miscalculations, they end up landing on the moon instead, only to find that the moon has gone through some changes as well. In fact, the moon is inhabited--but by friend or foe, they are not sure. Rails, I had fun reading these views of the lunar topography, as they actually bore a lot of resemblance to the vision portrayed in H.G. Wells, "The First Men in the Moon" (one of my favorite Wells' books). Even as Sandfly and HardCandy adjust to a new time zone and paradigm on the moon, Sandfly cannot escape his desire to take freedom to Earth's enslaved masses. His own thinking has been reprogrammed to understand that the tyrannical god, called "A", of his childhood is not the fully dimensional "A-Cubed" of his new understanding.

Following in the example of the God who stooped, who came down to the level of the common man, Sandfly sets out on a desperate and somewhat foolhardy mission to reach his home planet and bring about change for those locked up by fear, rules, and oppression. Burroughs and Bradbury, it's a thrilling, deeply intelligent and deeply spiritual journey through a future that is all too real. Nietz does a fantastic job of creating characters, settings, futuristic dialogue, and a fitting conclusion to one of my favorite trilogies.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 6, 2011 8:46 PM PST

11/22/63: A Novel
11/22/63: A Novel
by Stephen King
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $22.93
317 used & new from $0.90

14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Harmony (in the Land of Ago), November 15, 2011
This review is from: 11/22/63: A Novel (Hardcover)
Stephen King has long relied on the everyday details of American life to create believable stories. This believability is what has made many of them scary. No matter how farfetched or outlandish, we buy into them just enough to keep turning the pages.

This time around, he takes us through a wormhole of sorts into the past. This wormhole always lands back in 1958, but returns the time-traveler to the present with only two minutes gone by. Can Jake go back, live for five years, and change the world's very future by stopping the 1963 assassination of John F. Kennedy. The concept is a gripping one, but can it really keep us turning 842 pages? It sure can!

"11/22/63" is a wonderful, nostalgic, frightening, and mind-bending trip, and according to King it's a story he wanted to write four decades ago. Instead, we get this tour de force with the gift of hindsight and foreknowledge, making it a much more poignant commentary on things past and present. In King's skillful hands, we learn the rules of this time-travel, we buy into its possibilities, and we care about our intrepid but very human narrator. We care even more when Jake tries to save one of his students in the present from a horrific family murder in the past. We care the most when Jake meets Sadie, a long-legged, stumbling but not clumsy lady who wins his heart and changes his direction.

Sure, we want to see what happens when Jake meets Lee Harvey Oswald. Sure, we want to know if he'll save JFK. And, even more important, what that action would produce in the future. Most of all, though, we want to believe in love and fate and purpose and destiny. Somehow, King manages to give weight to all of them without explaining away their complexities too simply. In his time-traveling story, the past doesn't want to be change, and yet it harmonizes in many ways with the future. The Land of Ago, as he calls it, is intricately linked to the Land of Now, and to mess with the former can cause titanic shifts in the latter.

If "The Stand" was King's masterpiece of his own Land of Ago, "11/22/63" is the masterpiece of his Land of Now. This is easily one of my favorite reads of the past year or two. I cared about these characters. I believed this could be happening. I laughed. I got misty-eyed. And I turned the final page with a stronger belief than ever in the power of love and the need to accept the past for what it is, good and bad, and look ahead.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 15, 2011 5:44 PM PST

His Steadfast Love (Darkness to Light)
His Steadfast Love (Darkness to Light)
by Golden Keyes Parsons
Edition: Paperback
Price: $14.04
96 used & new from $0.60

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 4.5 Stars . . . Facts, Faith, and Feeling, November 8, 2011
I discovered the writing of Golden Keyes Parsons through her excellent debut, the historical novel, "In the Shadow of the Sun King." It was released originally with a less romance-oriented cover, and the book was a page-turner full of religious and political intrigue. Despite the publisher's decision to market her as more of a romance writer (and resulting mixed reviews that reflect readers' false expectations), she has solidified her place amongst my favorite writers of readable yet well-researched historical novels.

"His Steadfast Love" is the most romance driven book yet, based on the title and cover, though in actuality it brims with Parsons' trademark attention to detail and research. We find ourselves in southern Texas, at the beginning of the Civil War. Amanda is a young woman raising her siblings in place of her deceased mother, but she can't help harboring emotions for the northern gentleman on the premises. When war breaks out, Kent Littlefield must head back to the Union side, and Amanda's heart is in turmoil as news of battles and deaths come through the mail. Adding to her torment, her own brother is a Confederate soldier.

With two men to worry about, and with her own household to watch over, she begins to doubt God's power and love. Where is He in the midst of the fighting between friends and families? Why does He not intervene? She sees this same bitterness and struggle in her father, who refuses to accept her love for the Union officer, and in her brother, who returns from the battlefields with hatred for the Blue Bellies who pillaged his beloved South.

Parsons mixes in many interesting tidbits about the war, particularly from the less often examined perspective in Texas. She balances believable romance with the tensions of the day. And her characters wrestle with doubt and unforgiveness in ways that could apply to many situations in our present political climate. Once again, Parsons rises above genre expectations and schmaltzy covers and gives us a quality story.

DVD ~ Daoming Chen
Price: $16.96
43 used & new from $10.29

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Still Quaking, November 6, 2011
This review is from: Aftershock (DVD)
Twenty years ago, I traveled through much of China, but in the years since I've had a hard time finding films that represent the modern country and lifestyle. Most Chinese films that make it to America focus on magic realism and/or martial arts, such as one of my favorites, "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." With no prior knowledge of "Aftershock," I picked up the DVD and watched it with my wife.

From the opening scenes, I was moved by this film. "Aftershock" takes us back to 1976, to the most deadly of modern earthquakes, and uses good special effects to show us the devastation that led to 240,000 dying in a matter of minutes. Two young twins are caught under a concrete slab, and the mother must choose which one will be saved, as the moving of the slab will kill the other child. In some heart-breaking scenes, the mom chooses to save her son. Years go by, during which she raises her boy and tries to deal with her guilt. Meanwhile, her daughter survives and is adopted by two rescue workers, a husband and wife in the military.

The movie is a sweeping epic in many ways, showing us these different characters' lives and choices. It has humor, sorrow, and romance. At times, it fails to fully engage us in some of those different life choices, because we don't have time to see some of those elements fleshed out. Nevertheless, it leads to dramatic final scenes when the family members are reconnected in 2008.

As a Westerner, I loved seeing the differences in culture represented here. Certain scenes are rendered with great melodrama, and others are passed over with understatement. Oftentimes, the balance of those moments is the opposite of the way a Hollywood film would do it. This adds so much to the experience, also giving us insights into the Chinese mindset and family structure, but also creates some emotional obstacles from a Western viewpoint. The decision, for example, to have grandmothers raise healthy parents' children is one that seems accepted, almost expected.

The photography is excellent, the acting is strong (except for a bit of wooden dialogue delivered in the English-speaking scenes), and there are some moments in this powerful story that will leave you quaking within. The final scene serves as a somber and respectful memorial to those who died in this tragic event.

The Night Sky: A Journey From Dachau to Denver and Back
The Night Sky: A Journey From Dachau to Denver and Back
by Maria Sutton
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.07
56 used & new from $7.35

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 4.5 Stars . . . Unexpected Treasures, November 3, 2011
Recently, Maria Sutton contacted me about reading and reviewing her personal story, "The Night Sky." I get such requests every day, and I reject them since I have other commitments already in place. Something, though, about this woman's tenacity inspired me. Had she truly spent 43 years tracking down the truth about her father, her World War II roots, and her own mother's parentage? Sure, I thought. Let's see what such a person has written.

"The Night Sky" is a beautiful hardcover volume, with quality photos and layout. Maria spent most of her growing-up years in America, coming from Europe after the devastation of World War II. As a child, though, she overheard a conversation that started her on a search to find her biological father. She heard he was in the Polish Air Force. She envisioned him as a dashing, honorable hero. Until the age of the Internet, she tried writing hundreds of letters and visiting libraries and city halls to find information. She was stymied also by her own mother's reluctance to revisit the past.

I cracked the cover, wondering if the pages would capture the emotion of a decades-long search, fearing it might become ponderous or confusing. To my delight, Maria Sutton manages to approach this very personal subject with a reporter's eye for detail. In fact, she has a past as a federal investigator, and some of this shows. She travels to different parts of Europe and Eastern Europe in her search, and eventually uncovers the hard truths about her father. It does not end there, however, because she also discovers unexpected treasures pertaining to her mother, treasures that bring this story full circle in touching and ironic ways.

It's a true story, a factual and easy-to-follow story, but it's also wrought with emotion and the desire that we all wrestle with, to know ourselves, our past, our future, to know the meaning of family and heritage. Maria reconciles these issues in a satisfying way, and I applaud her sharing this for others who are on that same journey.

All Is Grace: A Ragamuffin Memoir
All Is Grace: A Ragamuffin Memoir
by Brennan Manning
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.24
79 used & new from $7.98

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Spyglass into the Storm, November 2, 2011
My confession: I've always heard great things about Brennan Manning's books and speaking, but only glanced through some of his writings. His confession: it's all about grace, and the less it's about us, the more it's about God.

With high expectations, I dove into this thin volume in hopes of knowing all there is to know about this beloved man who has been used by God through his successes and failures alike. The writing gripped me right away. It's sparse, to the point, with not many frills--yet so very effective. Manning shares with us his early doubts and lack of acceptance as a child, with a mother who wanted a baby girl, and a father who just wanted a job and some self-respect. He speaks of his brother, a tough, but likable kid. His sister, a sweet soul. We follow his journey from the streets of Brooklyn to a stint in the Marines to a life dedicated to ministry as a Franciscan monk. But Manning always wanted something more. He left each of these things behind, looking for something deeper that would deal with his longtime hurts and scars of the heart. Eventually, we learn of his marriage, his bouts with alcoholism, and his inability to face his own mother's death.

There is so much to like here, and coming in at a very short 230 pages (probably half that, if done in smaller font and with less pictures and blank pages), it is worth every second. For me, though, each step deeper made me also wish for more. I wanted more details, more information about his speaking and ministry, and more heartfelt dives into the addiction he battled. It is honest, yes. It is honest in the way a spyglass gives a clear view into a dark stormy night. We see details, but feel there is still so much more.

But, as Manning says, "All is Grace." I look forward to sharing an eternity with this brother in the family of God. I thank him for all he's done to encourage and free others. And if this is truly his last confession, I thank him for that too.

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