The Protector


by Dee Henderson

Published 2001

Sorry, I got the last three books of this series from the library in a single-bound volume, so I don’t have very good pictures for them.  Anyway.

In this fourth installment of the O’Malley series, we follow the story of Jack, a firefighter.  And while the other three books have stayed fairly focused on the individual sibling chosen as that book’s hero, this book actually spends a lot of time also following Jack’s sister, Rachel.  Jack is working as a firefighter and is close friends with Cole, who, among other things, does arson investigation.  Cole is interested in dating Rachel, and so all the main characters tie together harmoniously.

A series of arson fires seem to center around Jack and his shift, and Cole cannot figure out why.  As usual, the story pacing is excellent.  In this book, the fact that Jennifer, the youngest sister, is sick with cancer, is much more to the foreground.  That has always been something going on throughout the rest of the series (it is the catalyst for the fact that this entire family is reevaluating its religious perspective), in this book it becomes a more active part of the story as Jack, Rachel, and the rest of the siblings continue to wrestle with the fact that Jennifer may, in fact, die.

Jack, of course, is also not without his own love interest, and Cassie’s story is also an interesting one.  An ex-firefighter, she is still recovering from a major injury caused during a fire the year before.  As a Christian, she is working to keep her life in perspective, and it is good to see both her and Cole, also a Christian, work through some issues from that angle.  (Becoming a Christian does not magically fix all the problems in your life, and I appreciate the way that Henderson deals with that truth.)

All in all, another good story and an excellent addition to the series.  4/5.



by Barrett Tillman

Published 2007

In this biography from the Great Generals Series, we learn about the life of Curtis LeMay.  I was expecting this book to be an incredibly dull account of the general who bombed Japan during WWII, but it was actually a fascinating read about a man who did so much with his life that we were already through WWII within the first third of the book.

I was also gratified to learn that LeMay is an Ohio native.  Always good to find a fellow Ohioan out making history.  :-D

But in all seriousness, this was an interesting book, if nothing else than for LeMay’s opinions on defense and nuclear weapons.  He was a strong and uncompromising man who determined what he believed to be the best course of action and then followed it.  While not everyone may agree with his views, one cannot help but admire his intelligent determination.

Elephants Can Remember


by Agatha Christie

Published 1972

In this Poirot case, our intrepid hero is once again called into action by his friend Mrs. Oliver.  However, this novel follows one of my least-favorite types of Christie’s mysteries–a mystery from the Past.  As Poirot and Mrs. Oliver do their research (mostly by interviewing ‘elephants’–people who were around at the time of suspected murder), the plot becomes to become entangled with loads of extraneous and contradictory information.  As with most of Christie’s novels that focus on a past history, it is difficult to relate to the individuals involved, mostly because most of them are dead, or we hear of them only through hearsay.  Also, Christie spent a lot of this novel complaining about modern society (much as she did in Hallowe’en Party) through the voices of her characters, and that gets rather dull after a while.

All in all, while it was a fine mystery, it is not up to the caliber I expect from Christie.  3/5.

Princess Academy: Palace of Stone


by Shannon Hale

Published 2012

So I discovered this sequel to The Princess Academy at the library, and I was super excited because I really enjoyed the first book.  In this sequel, Miri and her friends are traveling to the capital city to attend the royal wedding.  The girls are to stay the whole winter, and possibly an entire year.  Miri is excited about an opportunity to attend a real school, and Peter is traveling along with the girls in order to apprentice himself to a stonecarver in the city.  When they arrive, though, the girls discover that there is much unrest in the city and the surrounding countryside.

I really enjoyed this book; I think that it had more depth than the first.  Miri befriends some rebels who are full of grand-sounding ideals, and it is interesting to watch her learn that there is no Utopia; change can bring good for some, but will always bring pain and difficulty to others.

Also, I was really scared of the love-triangle aspect of the story, but it really wasn’t that big of a deal.  Actually, it was exactly as big of a deal as it should be, which basically never happens, so that was exciting, too.

This was definitely a 4/5 and a strongly recommended read.

A Hope Undaunted


by Julie Lessman

Published 2010

So a while back I was studying the 1920’s and this book was set in the 1920’s, so I thought that I would give a shot.  However, I just now got around to reading it, and let me tell you something: if you want a textbook example of how not to write Christian fiction, this is it.

Overly complicated plot, flat and stereotyped characters, dull and lifeless platitudes (mouthed, not lived), unnecessary love triangles, and the list goes on.

Sassy Kate is determined to be a strong, independent woman who won’t be held back by an overbearing man like her religious father who is constantly trying to ruin her life by making her follow rules.  When she stays out past curfew with her wimpy, puppy-dog, over-eager-to-be-physical boyfriend, her father punishes her by making her work for the summer as a volunteer for an orphanage organization in Boston.  Except who is charge of said orphanage?  None other than Kate’s childhood nemesis, Luke, who has, of course, grown from a scrawny and obnoxious little boy into an incredibly attractive young man.

And I was going to write more about this plot, but I just don’t even want to relive this story.  IT WAS TERRIBLE.  Suffice to say, Luke goes off and sacrificially marries his friend because she’s pregnant with her ex-boyfriend’s baby because he raped her after they had broken up and Luke marries  her because he feels super guilty because back in the day before he was a Christian he slept with this chick, too, and she got pregnant then (apparently she’s super fertile) but he never knew it and then she started dating the  horrible rape dude and he beat her up and made her miscarry the Luke/chick baby SO even though Luke is desperately in love with Kate (even though she’s incredibly annoying, bossy, obnoxious, and stuck-up) he still marries the chick.

And I really, really hoped that what would happen is that Luke would fall in love with that chick and that they would live happily ever after, because she was way nicer than Kate and she sincerely loved Luke, and while Luke was off being married, Kate started dating this other mutual friend (whose name I can’t remember) and he was really, really nice and I liked him but do you know what?  The chick DIES while she’s giving birth but Kate doesn’t find that out until after she’s already engaged to the other dude, so, of course, in the end, the other dude releases Kate from their engagement (hopefully because he realized that she was a dreadful person) so she can go off and marry Luke and the other dude goes off to fulfill his life dream of being a priest.

In the meantime, throughout the entire book, the author acts as though the turning point is going to be Kate becoming a Christian, except that is just made to sound so shallow and unimportant.  The book is full of innuendo that is just plain embarrassing because it’s ‘Christian’ innuendo so it’s okay (???) and, in the background, all of Kate’s sisters (who were apparently heroines of their own series of books) are still settling into their marriages and all of them are feeling so put-down by their husbands because their husbands refuse to allow them to work so that of course means that their talents are being wasted at home.

So, in summary (if you’re still with me after all that rambling):

  • The heroine is completely annoying and unlikable
  • The religion is just thrown in for no apparent reason
  • Despite the claim to be a ‘Christian’ novel, the book is full of (very badly written) innuendo
  • The entire book basically teaches that a woman who is not a career woman is wasting her time and talents

Dreadful, 1/5, if that.

Over Sea, Under Stone


by Susan Cooper

Published 1965

This is the first in a series of Arthurian tales set in modern (well, modern at the time of writing) times.  In this book, we meet the Drew children and, more importantly, their Great-Uncle Merry.  In this book, the children set off on a quest to find the Holy Grail, fighting the powers of darkness along the way.

It is a good book.  The pacing is excellent, the story is gripping, and the characters likable (or unlikable, as the case may be).  However, for  me, there are two kinds of fantasy tales.  The first simply avoid the mention of religion completely (Harry Potter, actually, is an excellent example of this).  The second express disdain and scorn for religious beliefs has just another (and inferior) fantasy.  Unfortunately, Cooper’s stories fall into the latter category.  While it is not as blatant in this first book, I have read the rest of the series in the past, and the concept that, basically, King Arthur is the savior of the world, and Jesus merely an echoing myth of King Arthur, is disturbing.

So while this book is, itself, a 3/5, I would not personally recommend the rest of the series.

The Truth-Seeker


by Dee Henderson

Published 2001

In this third of the O’Malley books, Henderson records the story of Lisa O’Malley, a forensic pathologist who works in Chicago (most of the O’Malleys are centered there) and is very, very good at her job.  Lisa is actually one of my favorites of the siblings.  She has a strong sense of humor and loves animals and her house.  Throughout the story, Lisa is working on cold cases, trying to find new leads using more modern technology that wasn’t available at the time of the crimes.  Meanwhile, her brother Marcus’s partner, Quinn, is also working on a cold case–the murder of his father.

This was an interesting and intense book, but the conclusion felt a bit weak to me.  There was a lot of  build up tying several cases together, but the motive was never completely or adequately explained.  So while it’s still a good story, it’s not as strong as the others in the series.  3/5.



by John Wukovits

Published 2006

This is another book from the Great General Series, following the life of Eisenhower.  It was rather interesting to read a book that focused on his military career rather than his presidency.  The book was well organized, concisely written, and was interesting to read, even from a completely non-military perspective like my own.

Hallowe’en Party


by Agatha Christie

Published 1969

In this Poirot novel, our hero again teams up with Mrs. Oliver.  While helping prepare for a children’s Halloween Party, Mrs. Oliver overhears one of the children stating that she has seen someone commit murder, though at the time she was too young to realize what was going on.  Everyone laughs at the child, who is known for her untruthfulness and storytelling, and Mrs. Oliver wouldn’t have given it a second thought if the girl hadn’t been murdered later that same evening.

And so, she calls in Poirot, who begins is investigation.  While it was an alright story, there was a sort of weird vibe in this book that I can’t explain.  It just gave me the weirds.  And in the end, when the murderer is trying to kill again, he gives his victim a cup to drink, but then gets ready to stab her.  He’s stopped (by a couple of high school boys that Poirot had following him to make sure that the girl he was getting ready to kill was safe??  It seems like at this point he had enough evidence to justify having the police keep an eye on this dude, especially after he kidnaps the girl??) in the act of getting ready to stab the girl while she drinks, but when the police get there, the dude is dead because he drank the drink that he was going to have the girl drink, so apparently it was poison?  But if it was poison, why the stabbing?  It was just weird things like that that I couldn’t quite get my head around why the plot was going certain directions.

So, a rather meh book for Christie and Poirot.  2/5.



by Richard B. Frank

Published 2007

So, I’ve recently read several books in this Great Generals Series.  I like the layout of the books, and they have just about the right amount of detail for me; I like to know about people’s lives but don’t always need a 600+ page dissertation.

MacArthur’s life and personality made for an interesting read, and Frank’s writing was easy to follow.  However, the entire final chapter of the book was devoted to how MacArthur would have viewed all major foreign policy since his death.  And it wasn’t even couched in terms of “perhaps MacArthur would have…”  Nope, the author would say things like, “MacArthur would most certainly have disagree with the handling of…” and it just really annoyed me that this random dude thinks that he has the right to make MacArthur’s decisions for him.

Anyway.  Otherwise a good read.