Book Review: Unclaimed Legacy

Unclaimed Legacy
History Mystery #2
by Deborah Heal

My rating: 2.5 / 5
Genre: YA Christian sci-fi

Spoiler notice: The following review may contain some spoilers for the first book in the series, Time and Again.

Abby’s summer tutoring job continues, but the computer program that allowed them to “time surf” the history of her pupil’s house has stopped working. When they house sit for a relative of a friend, though, the program invites them to view the history of a whole new area, this time alongside the handsome John Roberts. They get much more than they bargained for.

This second installment in the series is, to me, a step down from the first. While the story that they dig up in the lives of the past occupants of the house is more in-depth than what is shown in the first book, it’s also a lot darker. What bothers me more, though, is the story in the present time.

I’ll start with some good things before I get to what might seem like a rant. I really liked the little name game that John and Merri, Abby’s pupil, played throughout some of the story. I liked that the little boy with the deaf mother has people who care enough about him to help with his speech issues. And I did like the “Old Dears” as characters–maybe just a little over the top, but generally cute (the big secret between them notwithstanding). I also really liked Merri’s connection with the Old Dears. It was nice to see her come out of her shell more, even as her mom ignored her more than before and her dad acted like a typical fictional deadbeat dad (not quite so typical in the end, though).

However…if I wasn’t a fan of Abby (the main character, mind you) in the previous book, I just plain disliked her in this book. Her best friend, with whom she talks on the phone a few times throughout the book, refers to Merri, as “chubster,” as well as several other unflattering, harsh terms, which she uses because Abby had previously used them in referring to Merri. Abby chides her friend, but only because Merri is trying to do better now, not because Abby recognizes that those were just horrible things to say about the 11-year-old girl she’s tutoring, who already has huge issues! If Merri had heard any of those terms, would she have just accepted that they were okay to use in the past, before she was “trying”? No, she’d probably be devastated.

Then there’s the developing relationship between Abby and John. The problem is that he tends to take off when things get a little intimate. This leads Merri’s mom to speculate that maybe he’s gay, because goodness knows he couldn’t possibly have any other reason to not paw a girl he likes. But thank goodness he checked out her butt so that we can lay that question to rest. Seriously? And there’s a friend of John’s who’s basically a 90s tech geek, right down to the 90s lingo. It was really strange.

This book, like the previous, has absolutely nothing in the way of mid-chapter scene transitions, which can be really jarring when you’re reading and suddenly it’s another day, location, etc. Overall, though, it’s the characters and present-day plot that make me not so sure I want to read the final book in this series. Especially since the synopsis involves Abby’s best friend who almost seemed offended when Abby told her not to call Merri a chubster, and who otherwise is a bit pushy and annoying to me. If you’re really into history, you may still find this series to your liking if the things I mentioned above don’t bother you. Definitely start with the first book, though.

Find out more about Unclaimed Legacy

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NaNoWriMo Day 24

The Words: 1801 words total for the day.

I didn’t have as much time to write this afternoon as I’d hoped, with some pre-cooking to do for Thanksgiving and other housework to catch up on. But I made sure to at least get normal par for the day, and hope (for real, this time) to have a lot of extra time to write tomorrow afternoon.

The Story: I finally finished the 3rd storyline in the series and started on storyline #4 today, the final one (none of this denotes the actual order these storylines will be in the book, by the way, just the order in which I’m writing them).

Total word count: 64,615

With 6 days left of NaNoWriMo, be sure to check out episode 5 of the NaNoMusical, where the stresses of the month catch up to the characters in my favorite song of the whole thing!

NaNoWriMo Day 23

The Words: 2172 words total for the day.

The newest expansion of World of Warcraft launched today. My son bought me the pre-order for my birthday back in May, and my husband was pushing for me to play as soon as it launched. So even though I’m terrible at balancing my time when I have an active WoW account, I did play with them this evening.

So while waiting for the launch time, I did a few sprints with my daughter, and at least got close to my personal daily goal of 2500 words. Fortunately, my writing time has been in the afternoons most often this month, while we generally play at night. Hopefully this won’t ruin the rest of NaNo for me.

The Story: I’m on the last scene of storyline 3, which involves a visit to prison and a reunion of old enemies. I’ll definitely finish the scene, and thus the entire storyline, tomorrow, and will only have one thread of story left to write to finish the draft.

Total word count: 62,814

Enjoy today’s NaNoToon from this day in 2009!

NaNoWriMo Day 22

The Words: 2766 words total for the day.

My husband had online course work to complete today (he got a bit behind), so in order to give him some quiet in the computer area, my daughter and I took to the living room to write. For me, this meant using my Neo, which I haven’t used much this month.

We did a 10-minute sprint and a 15-minute sprint, and then took a break for a while. While supper cooked, we did a 20-minute sprint, and that put me past 2500 words (my daily word goal).

I don’t know if it was a coincidence or not, but in all three of those sprints, I hit the upper limit of my average when doing a sprint, meaning how many words per minute I type. Most of the time, I am somewhere in a range with a difference from min to max of only 10 words per minute, though I’ve had some outliers in both directions. But with all three of those sprints, I was at the max. I don’t know if it has anything to do with writing on the Neo or not, though to be honest, it did feel faster. Maybe I should keep doing that and see what happens.

The Story: I was not real thrilled with what I wrote today, but I think that’s just because I had to look at a side of something that I’ve avoided in the past. And I think I got a little out of character with the main character in this storyline, so I’ll have to scrutinize that in the revision and either change it here, or make it part of his character that is seen earlier in the story too.

I think I should be done with this storyline either tomorrow or Tuesday. That will give me a full week, or close to it, to write storyline #4. That may be just enough time, or it may turn out to be too much or too little. If I’m running out of time, I’ll raise my daily word goal. If I end with some days left in the month, I’ll write some new scenes for storyline #1 that I have planned to slim down the length there.

Total word count: 60,642

Enjoy today’s NaNoToon from this day in 2009!

Book Review: A Castaway in Cornwall

A Castaway in Cornwall
by Julie Klassen

My rating: 4.5 / 5
Genre: Christian historical romance

Laura Callaway feels like a castaway as she searches flotsam and jetsam from nearby shipwrecks on the coast in Cornwall for anything that might be of value, either monetarily or sentimentally. She’s not completely alone, but she does feel abandoned by her parents. Then she discovers a real castaway on the beach–Alexander Lucas, who managed to survive a shipwreck. As Laura helps nurse him back to health, clues begin to surface about his identity, and before she knows it, Laura is caught up in a game of spies, smugglers, and prisoners.

This book had my attention from chapter one and kept it all the way through. I was surprised to realize how many pages it had once I was done, and the only reason it even took me more than two days to read is because I was too busy to get back to it like I wanted to. Laura and Alexander were both really interesting characters, and the description of shipwrecks, smugglers, and treasure kept me firmly in early 1800s England.

Even side characters and small side plots were interesting, and what I really liked about the story is that the romance wasn’t so in-your-face, as if it was the only thing that mattered in the book. The half-point detraction was for a few minor quibbles that mostly came about near the end of the book. Some things were resolved a bit too easily, in my opinion, including a relationship that ended up feeling like it was only strained to give the MC a stronger reason to feel “castaway.” Also the villain’s arc ended with a trope that I find tired.

Overall, though, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and am already looking for more from this author. I highly recommend it to fans of Christian books in the historical and/or romantic genres.

Thank you to Netgalley and Bethany House for providing me a copy of this book to review.

Find out more about A Castaway in Cornwall
Publication date: December 1, 2020

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If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

NaNoWriMo Day 21

The Words: 2546 words total for the day.

I started on my writing even later today, as my daughter and I went to my sister’s house to babysit her two young kids until after supper so their parents could have a much-needed evening out. My daughter and I did a 20-minute sprint together when we got back and planned to do more shortly before her bedtime. However, we got caught up in watching the BBC miniseries North and South together (her first time watching it, and she’s super into it!), so I did a couple of sprints alone after she went to bed to hit my personal daily word count goal.

The Story: Things are really advancing in storyline #3. The battle that this entire book is based around has come, and the MC of this storyline does not waver in his loyalty. However, there’s something looming…something sinister that might call that loyalty into question.

Total word count: 55,311

Enjoy today’s NaNoToon from this day in 2009!

NaNoWriMo Day 20

The Words: 2358 words total for the day.

I was gone all afternoon so didn’t get any writing done until after supper. I did one 10-minute sprint with my daughter then, and then we did more sprints later, before she went to bed.

The Story: The main character of this storyline had a very dispiriting task to complete, which he succeeded at this time, though he may have wished he hadn’t. Then I got to write the aftermath of an event in book #2 in the series (which is coming out in 10 days!!), and that was a lot of fun for me.

Total word count: 55,311

Enjoy today’s NaNoToon from this day in 2009!

Book Review: Obsessed

Obsessed
by Ted Dekker
My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Historical thriller, Christian

It’s 1973, and Stephen Friedman is a realtor in Los Angeles. He has no family, no history, no roots, but that doesn’t bother him–or so he claims. When he finds out that a Jewish Holocaust survivor who died recently might have been his mother, it doesn’t affect him–or so he tries to convince himself. But then he learns that she may have left behind a vast treasure…and some very real danger, both of which are now his to uncover.

This book is quite captivating, as basically a conjunction of many different people’s obsessions. Shown in dual timelines, love, hate, hope, thirst for power–all of these combine into a story that spans almost 30 years. The second time period shown, besides Stephen in 1973, is that of 2 women in a concentration camp in 1944-45. And while their lives are threatened by the man who runs the camp, Stephen’s life is threatened by that Nazi’s serial killer son. It’s really interesting to go back and forth and see the story play out, but also see how the son, Roth Braun, was shaped into a psychopath by his equally sadistic father.

The biggest downside in the story, in my opinion, is right there in the title. It’s not the obsession, per se, but how unrealistically quickly it’s developed by Stephen. And the jump from being obsessed with getting his hands on what his mother might have left to being in love with a woman he’s never met, simply because he’s told they were born for each other, doesn’t stir any emotion in me. Except eye-rolling. Is that an emotion? Plus, too many people in the story seem to have the same take on love and obsession, which is fairly unrealistic.

I also think suspense could have been built a little more without some of the scenes shown from Braun’s perspective. And there was one particular major action he took that did not really add anything to the plot.

Overall, though, I enjoyed the book a lot. It’s not my first time reading it, but it is my first time in 10+ years. I’m really glad it held up as the book I remember loving, and I would recommend it for all fans of Christian suspense or thrillers (understanding that it’s fairly light on a Christian message).

Find out more about Obsessed

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If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

NaNoWriMo Day 19

The Words: 2271 words total for the day.

I was beginning to think I wouldn’t get more than 600 words again today, when I hadn’t done any writing by 9 pm (even though that used to be the beginning of my writing time). But then my daughter and I did a couple of word sprints together. After she went to bed, I did one more by myself and at least got close to the daily word goal I’ve set for myself (2500).

The Story: The main character of this storyline was given a daunting task, but he rose to the challenge. He really did have a decent plan, and it wasn’t completely his fault that he failed.

I had one of those moments that happens sometimes, where my outline states that something happens, but doesn’t say how. Because at the time I wrote the outline, I failed to realize that there would need to be some detail there, or it wouldn’t come across very well in the story. So I had to try to brainstorm what the character would do in this situation, preferably without slowing down my writing output during a sprint. And it led to my first real “Aha!” moment this month. A completely random thing I wrote into the story two days ago turned out to be exactly what I needed in this moment! It was a small “Aha!” moment, comparatively, but I still loved having that realization, and it was enough to award myself the “Eureka Moment” badge.

Total word count: 52,953

Enjoy today’s NaNoToon from this day in 2009!

NaNoWriMo Day 18

The Words: 609 words total for the day.

One 10-minute sprint was all I did today, a bit of a break after hitting 50k yesterday.

In a case of epic timing, my winner’s shirt arrived in the mail today (I pre-ordered it in October), a perfect reward for winning yesterday! That’s one of the reasons I decided to push for the win yesterday, even though it meant writing more than I’ve been wanting to per day. It’s also another reason I only did one sprint today–to keep from running out of story before the end of the month.

The Story: Not a lot happens in 600 words, but I did get a chance to revisit a location and a scene (sort of) from a previous book. I always enjoy things like that.

Total word count: 50,682

Enjoy today’s NaNoToon from this day in 2009!
And this is a good time to watch episode 4 of the NaNoMusical, where things really heat up!