I made my first animated GIF for my employer who described what they wanted and left me to figure it out. This was long before I knew about GIMP, but these steps are relatively straightforward and should work even in the latest version. GIFs can be fun for memes and playing around. They can also be used for marketing or to create simple, animated stories. Play around with it and have fun. https://linuxwebdevelopment.com/make-gif-animation-file-gimp/
The story begins with a focus on the two main characters and a promise made between best friends fourteen years earlier. They swear to save each other from growing old alone (with old being defined as thirty) by getting married. Trouble is that fourteen years is a long time for teenage insecurity to build into walls, especially with a deep friendship at risk.
James doesn’t want to pressure Lauren, or stand in her way if she loves another. He set his mind so firmly on the deadline, he’s done little to clue Lauren in on the love he already had when he’d offered the promise. Even worse, Lauren’s tentative attempts to make him aware of her feelings are too subtle to break through his belief that she isn’t ready, almost costing him both best friend and love. She is reluctant to risk their friendship over feelings she’s sure are one sided.
All of which leads them to within spitting distance of their shared thirtieth birthday still ignorant of how their feelings are returned. Yes, it falls in the “if they would only talk to each other” category. But, the barriers develop throughout the story and are plausible enough to stand when considered through the lens of someone afraid of throwing away what they have by asking for more only to be rejected. It helps that while James and Lauren are blind, the other characters are quick to point out their mistakes, giving each something to actively reject rather than recognize their own cowardice.
The only jarring element for me was a firm separation of the sexes in traits and perceptions that comes up several times. However, James’ father does suggest that just because many women or men hold a certain opinion doesn’t mean they all do. The same could be said for James blaming his reticence on his gender when Lauren is just as bad. So what the characters say and what they demonstrate doesn’t match…not in a contradictory way, but in the way people believe things to be true so never look to see they aren’t.
The book starts out as inspirational romance light, with the focus on an earthly relationship, or rather non-relationship. A mention of God here or there makes His presence known, but they face no real questions of faith. That doesn’t mean the story is without conflict by any measure though, and internal struggles soon turn to faith ones because they’re blind to God’s will.
This story begins with questions of risk: when to take the chance and when to hold tight. James even looks at God’s call for perseverance and ties it with his patient waiting, a false connection to my mind. Both characters are inspired by their pastor’s sermon on God’s will to recognize how they’ve been ignoring their faith and failing to trust in God to know what’s best. These are solid themes, and while the risk is only gnawed upon by the main characters, their group of friends and family all take on the challenge of understanding how to hear God’s will in their lives, leading to some good discussions.
They both have much to learn about taking chances on love and not standing in their own…and God’s …way.
The strong characters I love from Valerie Comer are here in full force between over-involved sisters, meddling friends, and those on the sidelines who make themselves known. Once the story turns to a stronger inspy focus, it’s in the form of discussions that explore the meaning behind scripture, something only possible because the cast is much broader than just the leading pair. There are even fun metatextual discussions about writing and fiction versus reality…by fictional characters. This is thanks to one friend being a freelance fiction editor.
I enjoyed the story and the characters’ struggles, which–though self-inflicted–carried elements that rang true especially with the ongoing self-revision to make their poor decisions appear logical. The rich community filled with people who care about each other and look out for their friends’ emotional and spiritual wellbeing even when it’s not appreciated forms a solid part of my enjoyment. I look forward to hearing the stories to come, and even those that have already happened in this crowd, a sign of a robust fictional world.
If you’ve been following my blog, you know I have an interest in new ways to recycle and turn our waste into something wonderful, but Dan Phillips takes this concept to a whole new level. He creates whimsical recycled homes often for folks who otherwise would not be able to afford a house while training unskilled folks in the building trade. It’s a trifecta of things I value so how could his projects not make me smile?
I’ve reviewed other books in the Red Dog Conspiracy, but this one ties more closely to the prequels than the actual series in its focus on the commoner, in this case, a policeman. The struggle of those without power or influence in a world defined by those values is a favorite of mine, but often puts character agency at risk. Loofbourrow works around this by giving her characters agency within the limits of their position coupled with frustration at how those limits compromise the characters’ values. Drawing Thin is a strong example of this feat.
This book is true to the “guy on the street” view. It shows us the situation in Bridges isn’t as clear cut as previously believed, but rather, there are multiple parties unhappy with family rule even among officials. It also brings home the contradictions of trying to uphold the law when the ruling families are above it in both their actions and the ability to enforce their own rules brutally.
Paix Hanger is honorable and full of conviction. He is a crusader who has had to learn his crusade is tainted. It has hindered his career in the past and continues to make things difficult. Paix struggles with this when others accept it as life.
He’s a good man. People trust him and want to help him, but his own convictions make that difficult. Those convictions sometimes lead him astray, and even when they don’t, they put others around him at risk. I liked how he didn’t hold to his vision and ignore contrary evidence when presented with it. Instead, he attempted to come to terms with what he learned. While I didn’t always support his choices, I respected him for his approach.
This sounds like the story has only one character, which isn’t true, though Paix is very much the focus as well as the POV. Many others who appear only briefly or are critical throughout are given just enough backstory or personality to bring them to life. You get a real sense of the hierarchy and how even childhood friendship plays a part in who looks out for whom.
The case Paix is working is horrific, involving as it does kidnapping and crimes against children. It puts his convictions to the test as little else could, revealing friends where before he’d thought he had none and showing even those protected by the Spadros Family are not safe. His work forms both the background and the crucial pressure in his struggle, but more than that, the insights he gains affect his perception of his personal choices and brings everything he thought he knew into question. Whether it’s because of Bridger morality or the families’ power, Paix is caught on a precipice where every choice has costs for him and those around him, friend or foe.
This story is constrained by the events in the first book of the Red Dog Conspiracy. I think it did a good job of using those events to get the heart of one honorable police officer in a world where corruption drags even the best officers down.
P.S. I received this copy from the author as a thank you for beta reading an earlier version. I read the final to see what had changed and enjoyed the improvements.