Monday, June 25, 2012

Good times of stress

Well, well, well. These past weeks have been pretty hectic: too much work, too much paper work, too many minor problems, one rather big problem and a few misunderstandings; you know. the days in the life of the typical average person. I'm tired, somewhat frustrated, a little sleep deprived and hurting all over my neck, my shoulders, my back and my head. Yes, I am stressed. Very, very stressed. I haven't had time to read, let alone write reviews, and lets not talk about how I went a week and a half without internet... It has been a very interesting few weeks.

But enough. I'm here to talk about how in the midst of all this mounting tension and stress I have been able to be joyful. You see, joy, true joy, does not depend on your circumstances. A while back, I wrote a review for the Joy of Calvinism and I quoted one of the most reassuring lines I have ever read: "Joy is not an emotion. Joy is a settled certainty that God is in control." And this line alone has given me hope because it is true, and since it is true, in times of stress, like this one, I am not only able to be joyful, I can also have peace. This is how my life looked like last week: my husband and I wanted to buy a simple $8.00 gift for our son. We went to the nearest ATM because the vendor only accepted cash. However, my husband came back from the ATM pursing his lips and moving his head from side to side. We only had $15.00 in our bank account. And it was one of those moments when you can go either way: crazy or cool. We kept our cool. Somehow, thank God, we didn't start to think about the phone or electricity bills that would soon come our way. No, we didn't panic. We quickly gathered our jaws from the floor, walked to our car, went home and took note of the many things we could not do until our next paycheck, which, quite frankly, included everything except breathing.

Now, a couple of days ago, my husband received an unexpected call. A job he had done (as a musician) finally paid off, and he was told to go and pick up a check. And it was a very good check; exactly what we needed to get us through this next week. To us, it was God at work. To the skeptics, it was an overdue payment. But you know what? That check could have come sooner, or it could have come later. Our miracle was that it came when it did: just in time.

This is me, with stress and joy.
We can have joy in times of stress. God will see us through. We can let go, breathe and let Him work it all for our good. That is His promise. Yes, we get frustrated, sad, tired and everything else that comes with the territory of being stressed. It's normal and expected. But I have hope. I have the certainty that everything is in God's hands because He is in control. Nothing escapes Him or surprises Him. So we can be calm and have peace. I can have joy in the midst of all my troubles.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Threat of Darkness, by Valerie Hansen

Overview (from Goodreads): As a nurse and special advocate for children, Samantha Rochard is used to danger in small town Serenity, Arkansas. But when she suspects a little boy is in jeopardy from his powerful father, the danger turns on her. Her only source of protection? The handsome police officer who broke her heart five years ago. Yet after John Waltham comes to her rescue in more ways than one, Samantha must trust in him-and the Lord-to watch over her...and save one sweet little boy.

Review: This novel is about much more than what the overview says. Yes, there is an abused child, and, yes, Samantha does try to rescue him with the help of her ex-boyfriend, John. But her life is also in danger right from the beginning, a direct outcome from a very scary situation that she goes through as the book opens. And it is a great way to begin a novel: it got my attention, had me interested, and got me wondering what would happen next. 

Samantha is a character who has gone through a lot and who has an inner battle with God about what happened in her past with the man she loved, and a struggle with herself about the way she is feeling toward this man again. So she is someone anyone can relate to. John, on the other hand, is almost useless. As a cop he is always either late or getting knocked out. Cops in general here are very mediocre; they apparently don't know the first thing about doing a simple search, securing evidence or interrogating witnesses or suspects. And that is very irritating. 

The plot is actually pretty interesting, and I love the fact that, since it is written in third person, we get to see how both Samantha and John feel and think. It has mystery, suspense, romance and action, you know, all the goodies. However, the dialogues, as well as some actions, sometimes lacked continuity. For example, the characters would speak and I would read again because from one person to the next you get the impression that part of the dialogue is missing, like one person is answering something that was never asked, or another asked something that was never answered. Another example: Samantha and John would search inside the house because an intruder had been there, but they couldn't find anything, so they would say, "Let's search again, in case we missed anything the first time around." But in the next paragraph, they would go outside to search around the house, and then change their minds, get in the car and go someplace else. It's as if the author forgot her original intention.

The ending was too good to be true, and the too good part was so rushed that it would have been better to give it a fair treatment in an epilogue. 

One last note, during the whole novel, Samantha's problem and threat is front and center, not the abused child. However, towards the end, it's the child's case that gets all the action, and Samantha's case is resolved but very uneventfully. 

So the action and suspense is good enough to interest you in the first place. The police mediocrity is bad enough that you may feel deflated. The problems with the dialogue and continuity is disappointing. But you will want to stick around for the resolution when the case of the abused child takes center stage and the action will hold your attention. 

3 out of 5 stars 

*I received a copy of this book from Harlequin through NetGalley in exchange of an honest review.