Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Daily Devotional Series: The Gospel of John by Kristi Burchfiel

The Daily Devotional Series: The Gospel of JohnThe Daily Devotional Series: The Gospel of John by Kristi Burchfiel

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I suppose I could only give this one 3.5 stars, because each day's devotional focus is so short.  I think that's an advantage for readers who want something really quick, but I think I like a longer reading for my devotionals. Thus, I was a mite disappointed. I do have to say that the Gospel of John cannot fail to inspire believers with the majesty and power of the deity of Jesus, and his profound love for everyone.  John called himself "the disciple whom Jesus loved." That man was so tapped into the love that Jesus has for us that the Romans couldn't even kill him when they tried boiling him in oil.   That's a lesson for every believer to learn right there.  So I was thrilled to get a copy of this devotional for free on Amazon Kindle.  I have been specifically meditating on God's love for me (right believing leads to right living), and I already feel it has changed my life profoundly.  John's gospel is required reading for believers who are on the same path for that reason stated above.  I loved the prayers at the end of each devotion, and they definitely packed a punch for their short length.

So even though I didn't give this one a higher rating, I still feel it is a very worthwhile daily journal for less than a month of study.

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Saga, Volume 2 by Brian K. Vaughan

Saga, Volume 2Saga, Volume 2 by Brian K. Vaughan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a very good follow up volume in the Saga series. It reads as though it picks up immediately after the first volume ends, which is great. I enjoy this series, but at times, I feel as though the writer/artists are deliberately trying to be shockingly gratuitous with their subject matter. The violence is quite graphic and there are at least two borderline pornographic scenes on top of the sexual content that I feel is acceptable in a mature-themed graphic novel. I didn't even understand the point of showing the porny images, honestly. I took a double take, and I felt like I had to look again to make sure I saw what I thought I was. One was so gross I had to show my aunt. I couldn't even see what the point of that was.

After all my ranting, I guess I have to explain what appeals to me about this graphic novel. What wins me over with this series is the fact that at its heart, this is a story about the purest forms of love. It's a story about a family that is committed to stay together and fight for a life for their young daughter. Even the cold, amoral bounty hunter turns out to have an altruistic side for a child who is in a very bad situation. I am a sappy, diehard romantic, and I can't help but love a story where enemies fall in love and are willing to face any obstacle for their family, where people sacrifice and fight for love. I enjoyed meeting Marko's parents, and I can see why Marko fell so hard for Alana. She reminds me of his mother in the best ways. Similarly, Marko reminds me of his father, the more gentle, but steady as a rock member of the partnership.

As before, I loved the narrative of Hazel, the young daughter of Marko and Alana. I have a feeling she will be the best of both of her parents, and she will be tough as nails for all she has gone through in her short life. The way this story is written, they are in almost constant danger, and you know that it's only going to get worse, considering that they have the rulers of both planets on their tails, and a very determined bounty hunter.

I just plain love the setting and the out there science fiction/adventure tone. If they toned down some of the violence and sexual content, I could see this is a fun series for basic cable. Of course, they could go in the direction of the HBO/Cinemax and Showtime series and keep the over the top stuff as well. I'd probably end up watching it, but I admit I would cringe or cover my eyes on some parts. That's how I roll.

Anyway, despite the porny parts, I really enjoyed this second book. I'm looking forward to the next installment.

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Hellblazer Constantine, Volume 3: The Fear Machine by Jamie Delano

Hellblazer, Vol. 3: The Fear Machine (New Edition)Hellblazer, Vol. 3: The Fear Machine by Jamie Delano
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I confess that I started reading this series out of order. I can't say if that affected my rating. I will say I was disappointed with this first read of Constantine in the graphic novel format. I have read a novel with him Hellblazer: War Lord, and I liked that more.

In all honestly, I am completely square when it comes to free love sex, drugs, and alternative religions. None of that are things I would choose for my life. Yes, that's an obstacle with this book, because they play a big part in this story. However, I believe all humans are equally worthwhile, and I care about the connection you form with a character, even if I don't necessarily agree with their choices.

John Constantine is on the run, implicated in a series of brutal murder with occult elements (when he actually saved the world in that situation and didn't kill those people). He runs into a group of earth-religion practitioners and bonds with a strange young girl with precognitive abilties named Mercury. Her mother Marj, is the poster child for an aging flower child/hippie chick. Her friends are all good-hearted, kind people who have a penchant for psychedelic drugs, earth spirituality, and living off the land. They generously take in Constantine, and he bonds with them. Constantine has led a rough, cynical life, but I get the impression that he is a kind person at heart, and goes out of his way not to harm others. When Mercury is kidnapped, he vows to get her back, even though it takes him back into the eye of the dark, occult storm he is trying to escape.

My biggest issue with this story was the graphic violence and the horrible murders that took place. I admit I am sensitive to that kind of thing. Ritual murders and stuff, and pretty much any kind of heinous murder or violence like that disturb me. This was all done by the bad guys, of course. So it's perfectly warranted to dislike them. ( I wish they had gotten more comeuppance in the end.) The Fear Machine concept was interesting, but stomach-turning. I think fundamentally, I hate when people's fears and weaknesses are manipulated, and I certainly hate innocent people getting harmed for whatever reason. Also, some aspects were confusing and didn't translate in the visual medium well. I had some question marks, even when I finished this book.

Constantine himself, is a likable character, what I'd consider an amiable rogue (and I do have a weakness for them and antiheroes). I think ultimately he does save the day, but I wish he had done so a little sooner, and the methods he used were kind of questionable and didn't make a lot of sense to me. I love the graphic novel format, but I feel that prose would have worked better for this storyline, and I might have liked this more.

Will I keep reading this series? Yeah. I really like occult detective stories. And while I didn't like some aspects of this particular volume, I am hoping that I will find other storylines that appeal to me more than this one did. Your mileage may vary.

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Sunday, February 09, 2014

Standing in the Shadows by Shannon McKenna

Standing in the Shadows (McClouds & Friends #2)Standing in the Shadows by Shannon McKenna
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oh man. Shannon McKenna is becoming like romantic crack to me. I am blaming my sister 100% for this. She is the one who raved about this author. It took me years to read her, but now, I am broken. I can't not read her. I have to get all her books! I have been blessed to get the last two releases by her as review books (and I freaking loved them), and now I just need to go back and catch up on the earlier books after Behind Closed Doors. In a fit of rebellion towards my stack or required review books, I picked this up this week, and couldn't look back (I need a love story infusion in my life).

I have a fantasy about a guy who is so in love with you, he's crazy about it. His feelings for your border on obsession. He's probably a bit too possessive. The song "Crazy in Love" conveys what I mean. My rational side says that sounds like a bad idea. Honestly, I wouldn't have time for a guy like Connor. I would need my space, although he's so adorable and cute about it, like my cat, who is fixated on me (which gets annoying at times). And in real life, that doesn't work for me. But McKenna understands how irresistible that appeal is in a fiction novel, where all bets are off. Where you can go with a story and feel safe, because it's just between the pages of a book. I'm a mature woman, and I know the psychology of a hero like this doesn't translate well to real life, and I leave those expectations at the door as I read. Even so, McKenna is not so dishonest an author, that she doesn't explore the implications of that sharp edge of intense love that boilers over into obsession. The appeal here is that this love is unselfish. Otherwise, it's not love. In a real life scenario, a stalker fixation is never unselfish. It's always about what the stalker wants and needs. With Connor, you see that he cares so very much about Erin's needs, even if he's rough and uncertain about how to show it. That's something you can learn. And in a mutual relationship, there is room for those understandings to develop with communication.

Gosh, this book hit me right in my marshmallow, die-hard romantic, sappy core. The mutual unrequited love that Connor and Erin had. That love pulled them back together, like two powerful opposite magnets. I think romance had me from the moment I read my first one, at twelve years of age. Since then, I've always been a sucker for a true love story (even the dark ones, maybe moreso, as long as it's a happy ending). I believe that love conquers all, and romance should convey this. Connor and Erin's journey is a bumpy road. They are both less than emotionally healthy, and they have a sick, twisted, megalomanical villain with no respect for boundaries, morals, or human life working to destroy them. Erin's father's fall from grace tainted her life, and Connor's as well. And Connor already had the baggage of a father who was far from emotionally adjusted. To my rather twisted imaginations, this was very fertile ground for a moving romance story. Love has a lot to conquer here. Add some very steamy, melt your fingers love scenes, and it's magic.

Yes, at times, Connor was a bit intense with his personality and his interactions with Erin (a bit grabby). Some readers might not like that. But I never felt like he would hurt Erin. I think he cherished her so much. Connor is like a huge grizzly bear with a teddy bear heart. So appealing to me, these kinds of big, strong marshmallow heroes! Erin was a very sweet, likable heroine. Very normal and that appealed a lot to me. While she was attractive, she wasn't drop dead gorgeous, but to Conner she was! I love when a hero is like that about the heroine. I found her steadfast love for Conner very appealing. He's a hot guy, but you could tell it wasn't just about lust for Erin. Even though the situation with her father went horribly pear-shaped, and it deeply involved Connor, she didn't blame him for it. However, I wanted to shake Erin a little near the end. I understand her uncertainty, but I believe strongly in trust, and she didn't show the trust I felt Connor deserved. However, the situation was a very strange one, with a villain who was playing some serious mind games with them both.

I'll be the first to admit I have no tolerance for kinky sexual stuff. This book isn't in any way kinky. Yes it has very descriptive sexual scenes, but nothing that I cringed about. At the same time, the love scenes are raw, earthy, and strongly sensual. The key is how much emotion is there. It's not just tab A into slot B and variations of that. I think that the author shows how much sexual congress can communicate between two people who love each other. She definitely shows the power of love in those moments as well as in other interactions between Erin and Connor. I would put this book down and sigh at night. That's a good sign for me.

I also loved the interactions between Connor and his brothers. They definitely have each others' backs, and for a family that has a reputation for being dangerous and crazy, there is so much love and caring for each other. They remind me of the GhostWalkers by Christine Feehan (which is a very high compliment). Similarly, Erin's close relationship with her mother and sister show bonds of familial love. You also see the importance of friends and how they add to your family.

Although some aspects towards the end frustrated me, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. You definitely get your romance time and money's worth with this author. I highly recommend her to fans of romantic suspense who love some steamy love scenes, and irresistible (and edgy) heroes who are head over heels, crazy about their heroines. I have a feeling I won't be able to put off reading Davy and Sean's books.

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