Design for Dying by Renee Patrick

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Design for Dying by Renee Patrick

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

The 1937 silver screen is sparkling, and though Lillian Frost hasn’t made it as an actress, she’s okay with working in a Los Angeles department store. But then her salesgirl job ties her to the case of a murdered Hollywood hopeful in Design for Dying by authors Renee Patrick.

Yes. I said “authors,” there. I was delighted to see that Renee Patrick is the pseudonym of a husband-and-wife author duo. How fun is that?

And this historical mystery novel is rather fun too, but not silly fun. Lillian has a mild, dry humor to her, and though she hasn’t yet found her ideal place in life, she’s got a good head on her shoulders. There’s a crisp smartness to the story’s style, and it’s entertaining without trivializing the murder or the seamy side of Hollywood glamour.

I’ll admit it’s borderline material for my quasi-conservative tastes, partly due to the moderate amount of language I wouldn’t use. But the novel does hold to a level of tact, and it helps that Lillian isn’t a starry-eyed chickadee zooming recklessly down Sunset Boulevard’s fast lane.

While this is a Lillian Frost & Edith Head novel, it’s told from Lillian’s perspective. So I would’ve liked if she ultimately played a stronger role in the solving of the case, instead of more or less being along for the ride when the rubber finally meets the road.

Still, the story’s nod to Lillian’s mother’s legacy is touching. And in all, as the novel has left me in the mood to once again watch the 1937 version of A Star is Born, I think it’s done its job.

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Design for Dying is the first Lillian Frost & Edith Head novel.

 

Red Boots by Kate Willis

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Red Boots by Kate Willis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Maybe another time, Maggie.”

*Inward sigh.*

An old shopkeeper has a chance to bring joy to a young heart in Red Boots by author Kate Willis.

Get ready for a small helping of good old-fashioned Christmas warmth and cheer! There’s a touch of whimsy to this short story, with a pair of boots “listening to the voices” of the shop’s shoppers and “the cash register’s song” filling the atmosphere.

Sure, it can be easy for a pleasant tale as quick as this one to be all holiday schmaltz. But the ingredients of a little regret and a dash of sacrifice make this dessert more than a Christmas popcorn ball.

If you enjoy stories that can give you a Gift of the Magi kind of feeling, check out this little number.

 

The End of Youngblood Johnson by Aaron Johnson

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

The End of Youngblood Johnson by Aaron Johnson with Jamie Buckingham

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Immediately I felt the rush in my stomach. I knew I had killed myself. I tried to get up but could not move. Youngblood Johnson was dying.

For someone who doesn’t read a ton of memoirs, it’s almost strange how engrossed I get whenever I read this one from the 1970s, The End of Youngblood Johnson by Aaron Johnson (as told to Jamie Buckingham.) I’ve read the book three times now.

I mean, if it were a movie, it might be one I’d personally pass on watching. Heroin addiction is absolutely no joke, and Johnson’s earlier life as a junkie wasn’t any joke either. Add in some broken families, poverty, violence, pimps and prostitutes, crooked preachers, crooked cops, jail time–and you’ve got anything but a pleasant, feel-good story on your hands.

Yet, this is a real story. A story of faith that someone actually lived. And, no, the memoir isn’t exactly a pretty one, but life isn’t always pretty.

I don’t read books that seem messy for the sake of mess, books that go into salacious or gory details apparently just to shock my senses. But there are a lot of people who won’t know or imagine just how far redemption can reach if redeemed folks gloss over or remain silent about the dark places they’ve been redeemed from.

So, no, this isn’t a book for the faint of heart. It’s a tragic but ultimately touching and memorable account of one man’s passage from darkness into light.

 

Heart of the Wilderness by Janette Oke

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Heart of The Wilderness by Janette Oke

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When Kendra is orphaned at a very young age, her grandfather, George, sees no better choice than to take her to live with him in the backwoods. But given that George has lived alone as a trapper for years, the life he provides Kendra, away from the city, may not be enough for her in Heart of the Wilderness by author Janette Oke.

I first read this novel a number of years ago, so it didn’t hold any big surprises for me. Indeed, it’s not the kind of read for major surprises or twists. It’s a simple, easygoing story with only a few characters most of the way through.

Now, while I’ve enjoyed a good deal of this author’s easy reading over the years, this one almost seems to wander along the path of Kendra’s childhood, girlhood, and young womanhood. There’s not really a driving focus until quite late in the book. Then the last few chapters awkwardly rush to pull the faith theme together, to introduce some rather last-minute characters, and also to squeeze in a new, underdeveloped romance.

Nevertheless, even with the weaknesses I recognize in these novels, I still consider the Women of the West series to be one of my all-time favorites. It’s trailblazing fiction: some of the first of its kind in ChristFic as we now know it. Historical stories that are easy to digest but that also tuck some important nuggets inside.