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Original Essays | June 20, 2014

Lauren Owen: IMG The Other Vampire

It's a wild and thundery night. Inside a ramshackle old manor house, a beautiful young girl lies asleep in bed. At the window, a figure watches... Continue »


Customer Comments

Melinda Ott has commented on (117) products.

The Boleyn Reckoning (Boleyn Trilogy) by Laura Andersen
The Boleyn Reckoning (Boleyn Trilogy)

Melinda Ott, July 15, 2014

I've been waiting for this book since I read the last word of The Boleyn Deceit. I'm always wary of alternative fiction, but this series completely sucked me in to the very last page of this, the last book.

I read each of the books in this trilogy as they came out, which meant that there was a substantial period of time between my readings of each book. If I had it to do over again, and I would recommend to anyone who is interested in these books, to just binge read the three, one right after the other. None of these, at least of all The Boleyn Reckoning, is a standalone book.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I never knew where the plot was going, and that rarely happens to me anymore. Three of the four main characters--the three fictional ones--were all dynamically written. And the fourth, Elizabeth, was--to me--the most interesting of all. Of course, I don't know if I can give all the credit to Andersen for that. Let's face it, Elizabeth I is one of the most captivating women in history.

I had only a few minor complaints, and that really reflect on the series as a whole and not specifically this book. I felt some of the secondary "real" characters, such as Jane Grey and Mary Tudor, sort of appeared and disappeared throughout the book and I wish they would have been more present throughout instead of just appearing here and there.

This is not meant as a criticism--if anything, it is a compliment--but I felt a little off my bearing by this whole series. I am quite familiar with this period in history (it was my major!), but I kept forgetting that these books were fiction and the at William, Dominic, and Minuette never existed and that none of this ever happened!

Unless you are a hard-core purist and accuracy-fanatic when it comes to historical fiction, I would recommend this series to anyone. However, as I said, you need to start at the beginning and read straight through to the conclusion.
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Evergreen by Rebecca Rasmussen

Melinda Ott, July 8, 2014

There are books that are non-stop action from the first to the last page and there are books that are more like a meditation. Evergreen is one of those quiet books. It is definitely more a character-driven book than a plot-driven one...if you like those sorts of things.

And I do like those sorts of things.

Rasmussen has created a group of flesh-and-blood characters, all of whom are dealing with the repercussions of one act and one decision. Rasmussen is smart how she handles this--the book is divided into 4 parts that span the generations from 1938 to 1972. She is able to cut out the superfluous material and get right to the heart of these characters in a way that I've seen few writers do. These characters will get right into the reader's soul. Rasmussen is able to bring out the humanity in each of these characters so all of them are relatable in some way.

Rasmussen is also very successful in setting the place of this novel Evergreen is set apart--apart from town, apart from lumber camps, apart from just about everyone except these characters. Even still, I was able to picture this place in my mind's eye and feel like I was there with the characters.

As I said, this is a deeply character-driven novel, which I know does not appeal to everyone. However, if you enjoy character novels and, frankly, just beautiful prose, you will enjoy Evergreen.
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Big Stone Gap by Adriana Trigiani
Big Stone Gap

Melinda Ott, July 7, 2014

This is a book that has been on my TBR list forever, but I pushed it up the queue when I found out the movie version (written and directed by Trigiani herself) would be out soon. Considering that I now have the following 3 books in the series waiting for me, you can guess that I liked this one!

Big Stone Gap is the sort of book that is a bit meatier than a "beach read" but definitely not as taxing as literary fiction. In other words, my ideal summer read.

There is a definite down-home, folksy feel to this book which appealed to me, but might not to everyone. The town of Big Stone Gap is chock full of characters, enough that I worried that I would start to get them mixed up. Luckily, Trigiani does an excellent job of developing even the secondary characters so that none of them are forgettable. I especially enjoyed the main character of Ave Maria. I could completely understand why she felt stuck in her life and her plans of leaving town made complete sense to me.

While one or two of the plot twists seemed to be a little too out of the blue for me, overall I found this a completely engrossing novel. And now I'm ready to start on Big Cherry Holler!
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In the Field of Grace by Tessa Afshar
In the Field of Grace

Melinda Ott, July 3, 2014

I went into this book a little bit biased--I adore the story of Ruth! I also think that it is one of the easier Old Testament stories to use as a basis for Christian Fiction. Its plot isn't vague, as in the case of Noah and the Ark, and it isn't too detailed in the Bible, as in the case of Esther. It's also a love story--and who doesn't love a romance?

I will say that I quite liked Afshar's take on the story. She stays close to the source, filling in details only where needed. She also infuses references to other passages in the Old Testament, as well as sections of the New Testament. She gives a very plausible reason why Ruth would follow Naomi away from Maob and back to Israel, which I appreciated.

She also weaves in a few subplots, with mixed results. While the relationship between Adin and Dinah is interesting, I do think she spent a bit too much time on it and I felt that it started to pull away a bit too much from Ruth's story. Afshar may also have had some problems with her transitions. I say she "may" have because I was reading an electronic review copy of this book--the version I read had some very abrupt scene changes. However, it could be that some formatting corrections in the final copy may have cleared these up.

This book is very firmly in the "Christian Fiction" genre. If that is not your thing, I would not recommend this book. However, if you enjoy this genre, you should give this book a try!
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12 Huge Mistakes Parents Can Avoid by Tim Elmore

Melinda Ott, July 2, 2014

As my children approach school age, I'm finding myself drawn to books like these--how to help them without hindering them. Elmore presents a very easy to follow and instructional book for parents in my position. Let's face it, there are some out of control parents over there--those who just don't let their kids grow up (and this can pose some real problems in adulthood. I know a few of these "kids" and, whoa, it's not pretty, folks!)

This book is very well organized. I will say that it is a little formulaic, but that works well here. Elmore tackles 12 issues by defining them, exploring them, and then offering suggestions for parents. I would say that very little of what he says is surprising, but the way he phrases it makes the reader realize that they might possibly be treading on thin ice and this might be the time to turn things around.

This book is put out by a Christian publisher and it came to me under the "Christian / Parenting" banner. I will say that Elmore keeps his faith-based talk to a very bare minimum. True, what he advocates is in line with what many consider "Christian" parenting principles, but it is really more common sense than anything. I don't think that a non-Christian would have any issue or would be bothered by the contents or language of this book.

My only complaint is that Elmore sometimes goes just a bit too far. For example, he frequently talks about how parents go to great lengths to protect their children and he does give some examples--not letting them walk to school on their own (if it is nearby) or advocating that play structures be removed from playgrounds. But he also includes things such as insisting kids wear seat belts and bike helmets. I get it about overreaction to "treacherous" playgrounds, but I do think it is just common sense (and good parenting) to make sure your kids wear seat belts and bike helmets. So, my advice to a reader would be to go in to this book willing to take his hyperbole with a grain of salt.

All in all this is a solid parenting book--and one I wish had come out 35 or 40 years ago.
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