Tuesday, April 30, 2013

THE QUEEN OF KATWE reviewed by "Doc" Hilton

If one is blissfully unaware of the many opportunitites, advantages, luxuries and conveniences that one has been blessed with simply by living in these United States of America . . . and one wishes to remain in that state of blissful ignorance . . . please do not read this book.  Tim Crothers pulls no punches, and he makes no apologies, as he recounts the way in which that elusive (to some, like this reviewer!) game of chess has transformed the life of one young girl from the slums of Kampala, Uganda.

Phiona Mutesi sleeps in a decrepit shack with her mother and three siblings and struggles to find a single meal each day. Phiona has been out of school most of her life because her mother cannot afford it, so she is only now learning to read and write.  Phiona Mutesi is also one of the best chess players in the world. 

Phiona’s dream is to one day become a Grandmaster, the most elite title in chess.  But to reach that goal, she must grapple with everyday life in one of the world’s most unstable countries, a place where girls are taught to be mothers, not dreamers, and the threats of AIDS, kidnapping, and starvation loom over the people of Katwe.

Taking the nuances of chess as an outline, Tim Crothers chronicles the life of Phiona Mutesi from a 9-year old girl who could only see to the next sunrise to a 15-year old tournament champion in the Chess Olympiad, the world’s most prestigious team chess event.  You’ll learn lessons from Phiona herself as she shares how chess transformed not only her daily existence, but her entire philosophy of who she is, who she wants to be, and how she has the ability within her to get there.

This book is not for the squeamish, or the faint of heart.  A word to the wise is sufficient.

The Queen of Katwe
Tim Crothers
Non-fiction \ biography
224 pages
$26.00 U.S.

5 stars

Sunday, April 28, 2013


“The tower-top choir began, “Hail the day that sees Him rise . . . Christ, awhile to mortals given, Alleluia / Reascends His native heaven, Alle. . .”

The final Alleluia never registered in Felicity’s ears.  It was extinguished by a much nearer shriek.  Her own.

The piercing scream tore a second time from her throat as she watched in horrifying slow motion a cassock-clad figure from the back of the choir catapault across the parapet and arc over the side of the tower.”

Felicity Howard, according to Inspector Nosterfield, is “making a habit of this.”  The “this” in question happens to be an association with murders, and the subsequent victims.  The corpse in question was a former ordinand of Magdalen College, a Deliverance Minister, and a former student of Father Antony.  He was also holding a strange emblem of a double-headed snake in his dead hand.  The police ignore the telling clue and dismiss the death as a suicide.  But Hwyl’s widow is convinced otherwise, and pleads for Felicity and Antony to help her uncover the truth. 

Matters grow murkier as Felicity and Antony, leading a youth pilgrimage through rural Wales, encounter the same sinister symbol as they travel.  Lurking figures follow them.  Then a body is found face-down in a well . . .

Having never read a book by Donna Fletcher Crow, I was very excited to get the opportunity to review what has turned out to be a page-turner and a half.  While the background is solidly rooted in the Catholic faith (hence The Monastery Murders), I feel the book has universal appeal.  There are Catholic offices practiced throughout the book, and the leader of the intrepid group of pilgrims is a Deliverance Minister of the Catholic Church.  Yet one is drawn into the story effortlessly, and soon becomes one of the pilgrims as well.  This is Book Three of The Monastery Murders series, and while references are made to the previous books, this book easily stands on its own.  The characters are refreshing, true to life, and true to themselves throughout the book.  The settings are vividly illustrated through the author’s exquisite command of the Queen’s English, and the pace never falters or runs away from the reader.  History, romance and murder . . . an unbeatable combination guaranteed to keep you up nights!

5 stars

An Unholy Communion: Book 3 of The Monastery Murders
Donna Fletcher Crow
Fiction \ Christian\ Suspense
Lion Fiction
383 pages
£7.99 U.K.
$14.99 U.S.

Monday, April 15, 2013

STRESS TEST reviewed by "Doc" Hilton

Have you ever had one of those days?  Days where not only is nothing going right . . . but everything is going wrong, as well?  Meet Dr. Matt Newman.  He’s having one of those days.  Unfortunately for him, it just doesn't seem to end.

Someone wants him dead.  Someone wants him framed, convicted, and put away for life on murder charges.  Someone else has just booted him out of her life.  Matt just wants to get on with his life.  But even his own body won’t let him get away with that. 

On the plus side, Matt has a missionary brother who is interceding on his behalf, and a fiery, red-headed lawyer who chose her faith over the world. 

With the police convinced he’s a killer and the kidnappers still trying to finish what they started, finding the truth – and the faith to keep going – will be the toughest stress test Matt has ever endured.

Dr. Mabry is one of my favorite physicians . . . I mean authors.  Maybe, just maybe . . . I mean both!  He has the unique ability to take the world of medicine – the good, the bad and the ugly – and make it understandable to the man on the street.  Really understandable.  And he doesn't need three pages of confusing (sometimes terrifying) medicalese to do so.  In Stress Test, Dr. Mabry skillfully weaves together the story of – well, life.  Because life happens, and when it does, it’s not pretty.  But underlying Matt’s story is The Story that explains everything.  This book is one that will keep you up nights.  You won’t just want to find out “whodunit,”  you’ll want to find out why it all happened in the first place.  And the answers may very well keep you up for many nights afterward.

Stress Test
Richard L. Mabry, M.D.
ISBN 976-1-4016-8708-3
Fiction / Christian / Suspense
Thomas Nelson
312 pages
$15.99 U.S.

5 stars