Fiction review: The Ticket

The Ticket, by Debra Coleman Jeter is a coming-of-age novel about a girl named Tray. She lives with her mother, dad, and grandmother. Sometimes her mother can be sweet, but more often than not, Tray takes care of her mother and suffers her criticism. Her mom is mentally ill and seems to be bi-polar in actions and words. Tray has no idea what will come next. Her father is gone a lot and doesn’t try to communicate when he’s home. Only the grandmother shows her consistent love.

Tray is tall and gangly and uncomfortable with her looks—not helped by having a gorgeous mother who criticizes her for not being pretty. She’s left out of the cool group at school and going through typical adolescent thoughts and mood swings. I get the impression she’s around twelve years old, the book says she’s fourteen. Tray tends to deal with people by making snide remarks. Tray loves clothes—though she can’t afford many new ones—and draws the clothes she wishes she had.

Near the beginning of the story, her father wins the lottery—thus the book’s title. All through the book this fact is handled masterfully. I absolutely loved this plot thread.

As the story develops, a man flashes Tray and almost kidnaps her, and following that trauma are several family disasters in rapid succession.

Debra Jeter is an excellent writer and weaves the story of Tray’s family and personal issues so well that you hardly perceive it. I read the Kindle version and found no errors. She writes wonderfully crafted sentences, and the plot is very good. The ending is satisfying and sweet.

But, I can’t recommend this book because of too much information about: personal bodily functions, adolescent development, and the way-too-graphic flasher scene. I would never recommend it for any teen. The Ticket is realistic, but I don’t think several of these details help anyone’s thoughts (Philippians 4:8).

Also, though this is a “Christian” book, there are few true Christians in it and no clarity at all with them. The grandmother reads her Bible and sometimes quotes a verse—as well as pithy, non-biblical sayings. I get the impression she is a true Christian. There’s another family that seems to be Christian, but there’s nothing more. The lack of any spirituality left me feeling disappointed.

Also, be aware of: immodest clothing, mild language (that alludes to but stops just short of a curse word), and gambling (not glorified).

My sincere hope is that the author will use her incredible talent to write a truly redemptive story in the future.

Fiction review: Belinda Blake and the Snake in the Grass

Belinda Blake and the Snake in the Grass, by Heather Day Gilbert captivated me first because I have read this author’s books before, and second because of its brilliant, whimsical cover. I couldn’t resist; I had to read it.

The opening scene has Belinda Blake, a cute little blond, meeting gorgeous Stone Carrington the 5th, her landlord’s son. She has a ball python wrapped around her neck, taking the snake for a walk, as its doting owner requested.

Exotic pet sitter, Belinda, is soon into mystery and intrigue after she finds a dead woman wearing Louboutin stilletos in her flowerbed.

Add to the dead woman a shedding python and the aqua-eyed, tennis playing rich boy next door, and you have all the ingredients for a great read.

Believe me, it doesn’t disappoint. More mysteries, possible culprits—Mrs. Gilbert had me suspecting almost everyone—and it’s a fun book for rainy afternoons.

The content is clean with nothing besides innocent friendship kisses. Some of the characters drink to excess (not viewed in a favorable light).

I enjoyed it and can hardly wait to read the sequel, which might be even better.

Stay tuned.

Fiction review: The Masterpiece

The Masterpiece, by Francine Rivers came highly recommended, and truthfully, I can understand why. But, I was disappointed. I have never read Francine Rivers before, and this book makes me wonder if I want to give her a second chance. I might, but I might not. Let me explain.

The protagonist, born Bobby Ray Dean, is now a successful artist who uses the professional name, Roman Velasco. He has grown up on the streets—not of his own choosing—and doing graffiti, running from the police, and rebelling against all authorities in his life, even those who love him. He does bad-boy graffiti all over the world–his character obviously inspired by Banksy.

Years later, he does the kind of art that sells, and with his innate talent, he makes a lot of money.

Grace Moore (notice her name, very significant) comes to work for him. She’s a lovely person, a single mom who is determined to overcome. She is also a new Christian. Of course, she’s beautiful, and so is he, and there’s an immediate physical attraction between the two protagonists. But, to her credit, Grace keeps her boundaries, and Roman despairs of ever having a relationship with her.

It’s here in the story where I believe the author gets into stuff that’s so unbelievable that I just couldn’t go with it. Both Grace and Roman have visions of angels, demons, and hell. Roman ends up with an injury caused by a demon biting him. (Seriously! Kind of like Jacob in the Bible, only that was Jesus.) It’s the familiar near-death heaven story, only he goes to hell and comes back. I just can’t.  

Another problem for me was the author’s allusions to swearing. Sometimes, she comes very close to providing the reader with the specific words. I don’t feel comfortable with that.

There are the descriptions of sex, semi-nudity, the nightclub scene, and one-night stands that went farther than I wanted to read about. It isn’t play-by-play graphic but enough that I didn’t appreciate it.

Frankly, I think The Masterpiece has several serious flaws, one being it was unbelievable. Too much had happened to both of the protagonists. There are too many loose ends for me and too many coincidences, along with the weird spiritual visions and iffy theology. For example, because Roman has the experience of almost going to hell, and Jesus reaches out to him and brings him back, the author says more than once that Jesus saved him. Later, he really does repent, giving his life to the Lord in true salvation. (Sorry for the spoiler, but this is important to me.) Salvation is when people repent of sin, see themselves as needing a Savior, and call out to Jesus for salvation, and not when they see visions. I felt this was misleading. It bothered me greatly that the most unbelievable part of the book is the supposedly spiritual part. I know this is fiction, but I don’t think authors should play with scenes about God.

Another thing that bothered me was jumping back to different years in the main characters’ pasts and then back to the present. It happens a lot in this book. Why couldn’t the author have made it flow a little better? I wonder why the editor permitted this.

Although the ending was satisfying, the art masterpiece I expected to be revealed at the end of the book seems to have gotten lost somewhere, and a different painting ends up there.

I cannot personally recommend this book.

Fiction review: Secrets and Charades

Secrets and Charades by Cindy Ervin Huff caught my eye because it’s about a mail order bride. It’s a marriage of convenience for cowboy bachelor, Jake Markum—only Evangeline Olson didn’t answer the advertisement or write the letters. Her niece did. It was all a lie.

Jake, a widower, felt he needed a wife, because his brother and sister-in-law died and left him with a twelve-year-old niece to raise. He couldn’t offer his niece class and refinement, as a woman could, so he advertised for a wife.

Jake picks Evangeline up in a neighboring town so they can get married and he can get to know her before the busybodies in his own town get a chance. At the time, he has no idea Evangeline will be beautiful, talented–and a medical doctor. He is pleasantly surprised with her beauty but hesitant about her profession.

The story entertains with several characters who aren’t who they profess to be, growing friendships in many directions, ranch turf wars, and more.

There’s nothing outstanding or profound about this book, but it’s highly entertaining and fun, and there are several good character developments. The plot, though it keeps you going, is a little bit cliché. I believe any mail order bride book will be, so this isn’t a huge criticism. I personally appreciated the author’s acceptance of different ethnic groups. There are quite a few lessons about fairness in this book.

I enjoyed Secrets and Charades, and I think you will, too.

Fiction review: Refuge at Pine Lake

Refuge at Pine Lake, by Rose Chandler Johnson is the first book in her Pine Haven series.

From the beginning, I was drawn in to the main characters, Robin Lancaster, and Matt McLaughlin, both of whom end up for different reasons at the same holiday house on the lake.

The house belongs to Robin’s family, and it’s where she feels peace and calm. One of her motivations for going this summer is just that. She wants to use the time to write and paint—and see her hunky boyfriend, Caleb Jackson, her high school heartthrob.

Matt is a widowed professor and veteran, who needs some time to heal and rest from his traumas. A friend books him into the house on the lake.

Thrown together, they alternately avoid each other. Dealing with their past—and Caleb—keeps this book moving along. I confess I lost sleep in order to finish it in two nights.

This is a lovely book, entertaining, well written, and sweet. Mrs. Johnson goes from strength to stronger in Refuge at Pine Lake. I loved her phrases such as: lapis blue eyes, bruised face turn a multitude of plum-purple hues, mind-controlled by electronic devices, and the color of the sky before a storm.

Mrs. Johnson’s loves for good cooking, Georgia, and people come through loud and clear. I loved the relationship between Matt and an elderly neighbor, the dogs, and many other elements in this book.

This book is clean with no bad language. There is a lot of kissing but no details and nothing further than kisses. Also, dress is casual (shorts, etc.) as one would expect in a lake house setting. No revealing clothing besides shorts and one mention of bathing suits. Refuge at Pine Lake is decidedly Christian in tone and lead characters. This book is suitable for you and your older teen daughters.

I give this five stars and my hearty recommendation.