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January 31, 2024

Two Books by Male Authors

by Susan Roberts

I don't seem to read many books by male authors but I read two in a row last month -- one had wonderful and believable main characters that I loved and the other had main characters who I felt were shallow and very unlikable.  Here are reviews of both books.

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The Last Exchange by Charles Martin

book cover of Christian fiction novel The Last Exchange by Charles Martin
October 2023; Thomas Nelson; 978-0785255970
audio, ebook, print (368 pages); Christian fiction

“Here’s the catch—even if I make it out of here alive, I need a reason to breathe again.”

 This is a sweet story with a tough Scottish bodyguard watching over a weak drug-addicted movie star whose only wish is to have a baby and get out of the publicity that follows her every move.  She can't face her life without a baby of her own so she turns to pills and numerous trips to rehab until her bodyguard decides to help her find happiness.

The two main characters are MacThomas Pockets, who is referred to as 'Pockets'.  After he left the Scottish special forces he's asked by a film director for some input in a new movie and ends up with the job of guarding one of the most famous women in Hollywood.  Maybe Joe Sue is an actress who has done very well in Hollywood.  She often thinks about her younger days that were anything but stable and sometimes she just can't believe her success.  But is she happy???  The answer to that would be no because she desperately wants to have a baby.  Numerous miscarriages have depressed her and she turns to pills to help her get through her days. Pockets's main goal ends up being not protecting her from other people but he spent all of his time trying to protect her from herself.  The book has suspense and love - both learning to love other people and learning to love yourself.

My main problem with this book is that I didn't really like either of the main characters.  Pockets was too rigid at following rules and was unrealistic and Maybe Joe Sue has a heart of gold but it's difficult to like a character who spends most of her time trying to destroy herself.  I also found parts of the book to be pretty unrealistic.  From a personal standpoint - I don't enjoy books where the damsel in distress needs a strong and silent man to protect her.

I just read other reviews of this book and some people really enjoyed it so you might want to give it a try and not depend solely on my rather negative review.

Buy The Last Exchange at Amazon

Kinfolk by Sean Dietrich

book cover of southern fiction novel Kinfolk by Sean Dietrich
November 2023; Harper Muse; 978-1400235636
audio, ebook, print (400 pages); southern fiction

Sometimes it’s the most unlikely meetings that give us life’s greatest gifts.

This beautiful well-written novel takes place in the 1970s in Southern Alabama.  It features some quirky unforgettable characters that prove it's never too late to change and have a second chance in life.

I have read this author's blog and some of his non-fiction but this is the first fiction book that I've read by him and it definitely won't be the last!  He has a way of writing that makes you laugh one minute and cry the next.  He writes characters that you feel like you know (especially if you live in a small town in the South) and characters that you care about long after you've read the last page.

Nub is the town drunk.  He has an ex-wife that avoids him and a daughter who tries to make him change but after 62 years, he feels like he's having too much fun to change his life.  As the novel begins, he and his cousin (his drinking buddy) are drinking at the Legion Hall on Thanksgiving.  Nub ends up in a car accident while the police are chasing him and ends up in the hospital and is told that he needs to change his life but what reason is there for him to make a change after all these years. Then he meets Minnie who works at the Waffle House.  She is a very tall 15-year-old whose dad is in prison and her mom has just committed suicide. To top it off, she's pregnant!  Her goal in life has been to sing at the Grand Old Opry - she has the voice to do it but how often does a poor pregnant girl from rural Alabama get a chance to sing at the place revered by country music fans.  Minnie and Nub meet at the hospital and dislike each other intensely.,  As Nub gets to know Minnie better, he begins to feel sorry for her and wants to take care of her.  Can Nub change and find redemption from his past while he helps Minnie find her path in life?   It was interesting to see these characters change throughout the book -- Nub went from being the town drunk to really caring about someone else, which also changed his relationship with his daughter.  Minnie went from being a pregnant teen with no one who cared about her to becoming strong through her relationship with and encouragement from Nub.

This is a book about family, love, and redemption that shows that it's possible to change no matter your age or your circumstances.   It's about family - not just the family you are born into but also the family each person creates with the people they love and care about.  I loved this story and its characters so much that I think it's time to check out earlier books by this author!

Buy Kinfolk at Amazon

Susan Roberts grew up in Michigan but loves the laid-back life at her home in the Piedmont area of North Carolina where she is two hours from the beach to the east and the mountains in the west.  She reads almost anything but her favorite genres are Southern Fiction and Historical Fiction.   

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