Month: November 2020

Book Review: 337 by M. Jonathan Lee

“337” by M. Jonathan Lee is, at it’s heart, a character study of Sam Darte, a man whose mother disappeared when he was a teenager. Through present-day action and Sam’s memories of the past, the author skillfully weaves an elaborate portrait of this individual, and how the past contributed to making him who he is today.

Much of the focus is on relationships….notably Sam’s with his mother, father, brother, grandmother, and estranged wife. Each relationship is treated with depth and empathy, and it was heart-breaking to see how Sam’s past has negatively affected how he relates to the important people in his life.

Despite police evidence and court findings, Sam still isn’t sure exactly what happened to his mother. He spends time reviewing documents and questioning his grandmother in an attempt to finally learn the truth. This quest ultimately leads to some interesting results, both factual and personal, which I won’t mention to avoid spoilers.

Overall, I found the book to be incredibly sad, but very much worth reading. I enjoyed seeing how Sam learned more about who he really was, and who he wanted to be. In the end, I view the story as both a cautionary tale about the value of time and a reminder about the importance of family. This is a deeply emotional and moving novel, and one I highly recommend.

One note: I was lucky enough to receive the special double-ended upside-down edition from the UK publisher. This version is only available in the hardback edition, and only from UK booksellers. That being said, while this feature is unique and interesting, reading a copy of the book without it will NOT affect the story, or your enjoyment of it, in any way.

All in all, five out of five chunks of rich, sharp cheddar!

Book Review: The Love Note by Joanna Davidson Politano

“The Love Note” by Joanna Davidson Politano is one part historical fiction, one part romance, one part women’s empowerment, one part Christian fiction, and one part pure literary magic. The book tells the story of Willa, an 1800s nurse who yearns to be a doctor rather than follow the path society (and her father) expects of her….namely, to get married and be a full-time wife.

In the course of trying to steer clear of marriage, Willa makes a deal with her father and finds an old love letter. This propels her on a course of self-discovery and strengthened faith.

The novels truly shines in several areas:

1. Character development: While we learn the most about Willa, several other major characters are portrayed in great detail, which makes them feel like real people you (as the reader) could meet and interact with. I loved how their hidden motivations for their actions were slowly revealed as more information is gradually uncovered about each person’s past and experiences.

2. The love note plot: The note Willa found early on plays a major role in the story. I loved seeing how different people came across it, believed it had been written for them, and reacted to the words. I also appreciated the way Willa’s search for the (long ago) intended recipient is seamlessly woven into the current events in her life. The author skillfully manages to tell several people’s stories at once without ever overwhelming the reader. I enjoyed learning about all of them, and some will stay with me long after I’ve finished reading.

3. The wonderful little quotes at the start of each chapter: Although it’s never stated explicitly, I believe these are Willa’s own musings. All were entertaining, and some were downright profound.

4. The unexpected surprises: Certain things happened throughout the story that I wasn’t expecting. I liked how these small (and not so small) events peppered the narrative, giving me some enjoyable surprises.

5. The faith element: Willa, as well as other important characters, is a Christian. I liked how her faith guided her actions, and how she actively sought out God when circumstances grew difficult. Her story provides wonderful inspiration and support for Christians who are struggling, and a nice faith boost to those who aren’t.

All in all, this is a truly special book. Five out of five perfect razor-thin slices of mild cheddar!

Book Review: The Price of Valor by Susan May Warren

“The Price of Valor” by Susan May Warren is the third book in the Global Search and Rescue trilogy. While I believe this one can be read as a stand-alone, you’ll care a lot more about what happens to the characters if you’ve read the first two books. A new-to-the-series reader could absolutely follow the plot and enjoy the story, but I felt much more invested in the outcome based on having read the series in order.

This volume focuses on the relationship between Ham and Signe, which has been teased in the first two books. I was thrilled to see their story taking center stage in this one, as enough hints had been dropped earlier to make me eager to learn their backstory, as well as to see what would happen in the present. I was not disappointed! Both characters are well-written and realistic, and their interplay (and issues) make perfect sense based on what the reader knows about each of them. To avoid spoilers, I won’t go into any further details, but suffice it to say these two experience an exciting and intense storyline!

As a fan of the series, I was happy to see a few chapters devoted to Jenny and Orion as well. Aria and Jake got a couple of mentions, as did other Search & Rescue team members from earlier books.

This book is action-packed! It opens with the team on location in Italy for a mission. Just in case the actual mission wasn’t exciting enough, there is a volcanic eruption followed by a tsumani. Of course the team leaps into action to help with the disasters. The descriptions of Italy, both natural features and man-made edifices, were detailed enough to allow the reader to “see” everything without bogging down the story.

Back in the states, the action doesn’t let up. There is plenty going on with Signe’s situation, and some loose threads regarding White (a friend-of-the-team) are addressed.

In terms of the Christian element of the story, Ham’s faith is bolstered through conversations with old friends and new acquaintances. Signe’s spiritual journey was more dramatic, as she grew up with little faith of her own, and has further to go. Both were beautiful examples of how God reaches out to people in their daily lives.

Natural disasters, political intrigue, spycraft, and relationship drama…”The Price of Valor” has it all! And Susan May Warren is equally adept at writing about all of these aspects.

Five out of five super-thin slices of perfect Provolone!