Book Review: Summoning Grace by Samsara Saj

Late last year, thanks to my presence on the website BookBloggerList, several authors have reached out to me to read and review their books. Many of these authors are fledgling writers and these books (some of them self-published) are their “babies” and as with any baby, I want to handle them with thoughtfulness and care. So I have to keep this in mind in my review of Samasara Saj’s novel Summoning Grace.

The back jacket of Summoning Grace is as follows:

“Bridget McKenna, a lawyer practicing for more than twenty-five years, has disturbing recollections from her childhood after a family birthday party. As she tries to handle the impact of these revelations, she turns to Jack Cassidy, the only man she ever loved, with whom she has not been in touch for three years. Being with Jack helps her connect the dots regarding the work she does as an attorney, where the corruption of politics and the ugliness of domestic violence reveal to Bridget the sexual shoals a woman must navigate. By contacting Jack, she starts the process of reaching into her soul for the reckoning that awaits her.

Once she reconciles herself to the darkness of her painful past, through the grace of God, she finds the strength to summon all the faith, courage, and grace that she can, to deal with professional obstacles, family loss, and her greatest challenge, rescuing her only brother, Joe.

Told in eighteen chapters, Summoning Grace explores the deepest self-examination a woman can undertake, providing her the wisdom and understanding to help those she loves with kindness and dignity.”

This summary is a bit of a bait and switch. Little of this book focuses on Cassidy and domestic violence. Nor does Summoning Grace focus on Bridget’s past. Also the book jacket classifies this novel as a romance, but it is more of a family story. Therefore the second and third paragraphs are a better description of this novel over-all.

Bridget’s family, the McKennas, are a loving and close-knit family who join forces when only son Joe gets seriously ill. The McKennas decide to work together to help Joe and his family in a very trying time. I liked the idea of a family being functional and totally messed up. It comforted me like a bowl of chicken soup.

However, when dealing with Joe’s illness Bridget is convinced she is the only one who can handle his care, even more so than the hospital staff. Not only did I find this to be a slap in the face to the people who work in the medical field, I also thought it gave short shrift to Joe’s wife, children and the other McKenna siblings.

Bridget is also a rather off-putting in her law career. Only she can handle the profession and everyone from her colleagues to her clients are incompetent losers.

To add to Bridget’s “Mary Sue” perfection, she is a diva in the kitchen, a true Julia Child reincarnated. And when it comes to family get togethers and holidays, she always brings masterful dishes. Considering she’s busy with Joe and her career, I found this element a bit implausible.

Ultimately by making Bridget an ideal person—loving sister, top notch attorney and fabulous chef—Saj has given us a character who is really insufferable and without complex layers. I like characters who have their share of flaws and who are multi-dimensional. These characters are more relatable and interesting to read.

Still I must commend Saj for at least writing a book. She’s technically proficient and I respect her deep faith. I believe she has the ability to write a better book and I believe she wants to express herself with love and hope in her heart. These are noble ideas and much needed in our challenging world.

So though I can’t recommend Summoning Grace, I can encourage Samsara Saj to keep on writing. Don’t let my review deter you.

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Book Review: Delivering Virtue by Brian Kindall

It’s 1854. Some people would call Didier Rain a foolish rake with a sinful desire for both liquor and women of ill-repute. Didier would prefer if people considered him a gentleman poet and true bon vivant, a lover of the finer things in life. No matter what, Didier is the unlikely hero of Brian Kindall’s delicious mix of western and fairy tale in the novel Delivering Virtue.

Didier is chosen by a secretive Mormon sect to be a Sacred Deliverer of an angel haired baby girl named Virtue to the bride of the Prophet Nehi in the City of Rocks. Didier knows very little about taking care of babies but after being offered a princely sum of $30,000 Didier is only too happy to take on this task. How hard could it be? Didier is about to find out.

Outfitted with a few supplies and completely in over his head, Didier faces challenging enemies and encounters who want nothing more than to keep Didier from completing his colossal journey. But he also meets true allies like a Native American woman whose lactating breasts keep Virtue fed and growing oddly at a very fast rate. And all of these elements make Delivering Virtue one heck of a tale, with twists and turns that kept me riveted.

Are some of Didier’s actions a bit questionable? Well, yes. A lot of people wouldn’t approve his love of booze and brothels. But for the most Didier’s heart is in the right place and as Delivering Virtue unfolds you view Didier as a man of honor, a true hero, even if this knight in shining armor has a few rusty spots.

Delivering Virtue is hard to sum up in a review. My only advice is read it to fully capture it fantastical tale is a delicious blend of Louis L’Amour western, Brother’s Grimm fairy tale, Tim Burton film that hasn’t made its way to the silver screen and one really weird LSD trip (not that I know what an LSD trip is like).

Author Kindall has a magical way with words. His prose has a visionary quality; he truly shows while he tells this story. His use of dialogue is funny, thoughtful, bawdy and entirely entertaining. Every single character in Delivering Virtue is necessary and intriguing who move the story forward and the book closes with a fully-satisfying denouement.

If you’re wondering why I haven’t given the plot of Delivering Virtue away too much in this review it’s because I believe it needs to be read to be truly enjoyed. I can’t truly sum this book up in one little review. I want the reader to experience the book like I did.

Though I finished reading Delivering Virtue a few weeks ago; it is still with me. I think it would make a great film and I keep thinking of actors who would make the perfect Didier (sadly, Paul Newman is no longer with us). 2018 isn’t even half-way over, and already Delivering Virtue is one of the best books I’ve read this year. And I do hope it’s not the only adult-oriented book Brian Kindall has in him (he’s written several books for young adults). He’s immensely talented and I hope for more great work from him. He’s definitely a writer to watch out for.

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Wonderful news. Paul Schroeder who wrote the book Practice Makes Purpose sent out a PR related email and it found its way into my email queue. In this email he praised my review of his book:

“Lastly, The Book Self Blog recently posted a review of Practice Makes PURPOSE. I’m grateful to Bookish Jen for her thoughtful review (read an excerpt below). Jen has lots of interesting reviews of other books that readers may find interesting. I encourage you to visit her blog and look around.”

He also provided a link to my blog via this email. How lovely of you, Mr. Schroeder. I can’t thank you enough.