Saturday, April 30, 2011

Review on Save the Date by Jenny B. Jones

Save the DateSave the Date by Jenny B. Jones

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ok I’ll admit it, I’m not someone who is easily amused. I truly wish I was the person that laughed at the drop of a hat, but I’m not. With that being said, I want to share that I laughed out loud numerous times when reading this book. Save the Date by Jenny B. Jones at first glance looks like a classic, cute, chick- lit kind of book. I’m thinking, it will be sweet, charming and a nice read. There is nothing wrong with that, but as I got into the book, I discovered much, much more- funny, great characters and a “deeper than meets the eye” storyline.
Our heroine, Lucy Wiltshire is sort of a modern day Cinderella. Growing up in Charleston, South Carolina with a mother who earned her living as a maid did not give her social status at the prominent Montrose Academy where she attended as a child, and as a result endured teasing and bullying there. Fast forward to the present and Lucy is the founder of Saving Grace, a home for foster girls aged 18-21 making the transition to adulthood with her help and guidance. A major problem erupts- one of her biggest backers has pulled the plug on their contributions by a significant amount. She is in danger of losing the home and panicked about her girls, where will they go. Poor Lucy, what’s a girl to do?
Well, the hero of the story has the answer to that query- enter Alex Sinclaire- a former attendee of Montrose Academy and famous former professional football player as well. He has decided to run for a Congressional seat and Alex needs a little help overcoming his somewhat “Playboy” public perception problem. So after a chance meeting at a local gathering where both are present and pictures are taken of them together, he finds that his approval points have skyrocketed. It seems that the public likes a good Cinderella story and he hatches a plan- a staged romance with a win-win scenario- Alex gets a girl on his arm for public events and Lucy gets the funding she needs to keep Saving Grace open. Sounds like a no-brainer for everyone, but add in Lucy’s social awkwardness and propensity towards clumsiness and you get some really hilarious situations.
There is so much more going on in this story than the general romance between these two characters, Alex is dealing with grief and guilt over his twin brothers disappearance and probable death. Lucy struggles with feelings of great inferiority and worth as she describes herself at one of the many social events as “ a cubic zirconia in a sea of diamonds”. They truly go on a journey together in dealing with their respective “stuff”. Their chemistry and banter between each other is fun and amusing in one moment and truly deep and probing in the next. Add in Lucy’s love of all things science fiction, specifically Star Trek and the book just gets better and better. I couldn’t go into detail on the supporting characters here, but they are well written and really, really funny. When a well know socialite winds up at one of Lucy’s gatherings of her sci-fi friends and is asking questions about Star Trek, I about bust a gut.
It truly is rare for me to find a book where I am laughing uproariously in one moment and shedding tears the next, while seeing great spiritual elements in the whole thing. Elements like our struggles with our worth and figuring out the whole man-pleasing versus God-pleasing dilemma. I highly recommend this book. You will not be disappointed and I will be keeping my eye on Jenny B. Jones in the future. I know this is a Niagara Falls kind of review- much gushing- but I still stand by it. Great book, great characters and great read!

I was graciously provided a digital copy of this book by Thomas Nelson through the NetGalley program. All opinions expressed were my own and I was not obligated to write a positive review.

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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Children's review on "This Little Prayer of Mine" by Anthony DeStefano illustrated by Mark Elliot

This Little Prayer of MineThis Little Prayer of Mine by Anthony DeStefano

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This Little Prayer of Mine written by Anthony DeStefano with illustrations by Mark Elliot is a book for young readers full of faith, hope and prayer. With its rhyming verse, the book does a wonderful job of bringing in the various aspects of prayer into a typical child’s day. There are different trials, joys and the reminder for all the things to be thankful for.
A particularly poignant part of the book showed a scene where a boy is all alone while all the other kids are hanging out without him- a very relatable circumstance for most kids- and the child is leaning on God to know that He is with him and that “everything’s all right”. Mark Elliot’s illustrations particularly on this page of the book are spot on and really showed the emotion on his face at being “left out”.
I think this book would be so reassuring for young children to read or be read to. It encourages them to know that through whatever circumstance you face, there is nothing to fear because God is with you. He has plans for your future and the sky is the limit where God is concerned. I would definitely recommend this book for those wanting to foster their children’s hearts towards prayer. It beautifully shows the ongoing dialogue that they can have with God throughout all aspects of their lives. I recommend this book for pre-school to early elementary aged children.

Disclosure-I was graciously provided with a free copy of this book through the Blogging for Books program in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed are my own.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Review on Petra,City in Stone

PetraPetra by T.L. Higley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In Petra, City in Stone by T.L.Higley, our story starts out with a young man who sees his fiancĂ© and friends brutally murdered right before his eyes. Next we meet a beautiful young woman who has been continually abused by her live in boyfriend. She is a mother and does everything she can to protect her young son from his father’s short temper and over eager fists. They all need an escape hatch from their current situations. Sounds like all the makings of an exciting contemporary novel, right? Actually this story takes place in 106 AD, starting off in Rome and then quickly moving to Petra, the capital of the Nabatean Kingdom. But the storyline follows many themes and questions that still ring true and are relevant to us today.

Our young man is “Julian” and a man who is fighting his past failures in Rome and runs to Petra in the hope to start over and forget his past. The beautiful young woman is Cassia, who also flees to Petra as her abusive lover has now been murdered. She arrives in Petra with her young son Alexander in tow, hoping to make a fresh start in Petra with her son. Unfortunately, her son is taken from her and she is in a desperate quest to get him back. The current queen and High Priestess Queen Hagiru is an evil woman and holding him from Cassia. Julian, along with the elder of the Christian church of Petra -Malik- and his flock hatch a plan to rescue poor Alexander from his current plight.

There are many wonderful sub-plots going on in this story- Alexander and his ability to rely on God’s strength and not his own. Another lesson he learns is how to come out from under the trap of being a man pleaser instead of a people pleaser. This is especially important as the calling for Julian’s life by God begins to unfold throughout the novel. Cassia with her abusive past , trusts no one, and so her journey in trusting Jesus takes awhile before she is able to surrender her life to him. My favorite part for Cassia is when she learned to love from a place of strength, being God’s own, instead of loving from a place of need. It was a well written touching scene in the book.

I really enjoyed this book- fast pace, great characters that drew you in, and the author’s descriptions of Petra were very beautiful and intriguing. There were just so many elements to it that I enjoyed- the suspense, the spiritual truths and the romance all worked together to bring forth a really great story. Very well done! This is my first read by this author and I am looking forward to reading more by her in the future.

Disclosure- I was kindly given a digital copy of this book by the B&H Publishing group in connection with the Netgalley program. The opinions expressed in this review are my own.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Children's Review- Thank You God for Mommy

Thank You, God, For MommyThank You, God, For Mommy by Amy Parker

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thank you God for Mommy, by Amy Parker is a wonderful book filled with the message of a mother’s unconditional love for her child. The author touches on all the wonderful qualities a Godly mother possesses by showing the Mother and Child (Panda Bears in this instance) in lots of different classic mother/child situations. With darling illustrations of a mother Panda bear with her child, you see them swinging on swings in one moment and the mother holding her child tight in the next moment when s/he is frightened by a storm. The author shows how the mother cares for her child with her actions, her sweet words, and gentle touch. We also see the mother in her important role as a role model and teacher of faith.
This book is perfectly suited for pre-school aged children as the rhyming sing-song quality will make it a book that your pre-school child will want to read again and again. And for you wonderful mothers out there, it will affirm you in the fact that your role is so important in your children’s lives. So just in time for Mother’s day- pick up this book for your favorite preschooler and preschooler’s mother!

Disclosure-I was kindly given a digital copy of this book for review purposes by Thomas Nelson through the Netgalley program. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions expressed are my own.

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Friday, April 22, 2011

Review on "Rooms" by James Rubart

Rooms: A NovelRooms: A Novel by James L. Rubart

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What if you had the choice of choosing A) A life with prestige, fame, wealth and power or B) A life with a deep and meaningful relationship with God? What if you had the opportunity to wander back and forth between both lives and see the results of those choices? Pretty thought provoking stuff. James Rubart examines these ideas and many more in his book Rooms: A Novel.
Micah Taylor, a very successful up-and-comer Seattle based Software mogul, is put into a huge quandary. “Is the life I’m living really the life I want?” when he receives a mysterious letter from a deceased Great Uncle Archie. In this letter, his uncle has left him a rather large house built for him in Cannon Beach, Oregon. Having never met this Great Uncle, Micah is incredibly confused and rather skeptical that this offer can be real. “It’s time to face your past”, his Great Uncle writes him and that’s the last thing that Micah wants to do. But the mystery is too much, so Micah acquiesces and goes to check out the house. It is a house like no other and “face his past” he does, along with a great many other things in his life that need serious attention. The house was designed specifically for Micah and its quite a ride as he confronts many things in the ever-changing house. There are now choices to be made worldly success, or God- and he finds himself with one foot in both worlds. What would you choose?

Coming at this book from a Christian world view I found that James Rubart really raises so many truly intriguing questions in this book and takes Micah Taylor on quite a spiritual journey- one that we can all relate to. What are those things in our life that we have let pull us away from a deeper relationship with God? There are so many fascinating aspects to this story that I can’t fit it in to this review. I would encourage you to read it for yourself and just like the house in the story that was ever-changing , I suspect that each reader will take away something different that impacts them in a unique way. My only negative comment is I felt that the story got a little slow in the middle, but it truly is worth plowing through because the ending brings the whole story to a great conclusion. I will definitely keep reading this author and look forward to reading his next book “Book of Days”.

I was graciously provided a review copy of this book by B&H Books through the Netgalley program and the opinions I expressed were my own.

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Monday, April 18, 2011

Review on Max Lucado's "Max on Life"

Max On Life: Answers and Inspiration for Today's QuestionsMax On Life: Answers and Inspiration for Today's Questions by Max Lucado

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Max Lucado’s book!Max On Life: Answers and Inspiration for Today's Questionsis a book chock full of great answers. As a best- selling author, Max has many fans, who have sent him letters over the years asking for his sage advice. For those of you who have had the pleasure of reading Max Lucado books in the past, you know that Max has a way of bringing the scriptures alive in a way that so many of us can understand them a little bit better and easily relate . In this book, Max has broken down his many “questions” posed by readers into different categories ranging from needing Hope-“how do I forgive the unforgiveable?” to questions on “Marriage and Home”, ”How can we regain some balance in our lives?” ,to questions of Heaven and Hell-“Will I recognize my loved ones in heaven?”, and all sorts of other subjects besides. The questions and answers usually range from a page to a page and a half so the book can be read in smaller chunks, if so desired. Max tackles so many really important questions in a clear, concise and scriptural way that I really recommend this for everyone’s library as it is so nice to be able to refer quickly and easily to the different sections- and a topical index is provided at the end of the book for easy reference. Lastly, Max has an addendum at the end of the book for aspiring writers out there to help provide them with encouragement and direction. This is yet another Max Lucado “wonder-book” that you don’t want to miss.
Disclosure- I was given a free preview copy through the Booksneeze program. The opinions expressed are my own.

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Friday, April 15, 2011

Review on "The Art of Romance" by Kaye Dacus- Book coming out May 1st

The Art of Romance (The Matchmakers #2)The Art of Romance by Kaye Dacus

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you are looking for a nice, contemporary, romantic, Christian fiction novel with an artistic flair... and meddling Grandma’s, then this is the book for you. The Art of Romance, by Kaye Dacus starts us out with 2 plotting Grandmas “Sassy” and “Perty”- don’t you love them already?- who have decided that it’s time for a little matchmaking for their respective Grandkids Caylor and Dylan. As these Grandma’s are a part of a larger group called collectively the “matchmakers” (this is Book 2 in The Matchmakers Series), Caylor and Dylan stand no chance. After all these Grandmas are in a race for Great Grandchildren!

This story involves an accomplished and Tenured English Professor and author Caylor Evans and the struggling,in more ways than one, artist Dylan Bradley. Dylan Bradley is coming off of a bad and dominating relationship with an old colleague at a former college in New York and trying to heal from his past mistakes and start over in a whole new place, his home town of Nashville, Tennessee. He is doing this by moving in with his Grandparents to try and get his life back in order. He has a lot of work to do, in terms of his relationship with God, his parents , brothers, etc., because his former relationship was incredibly toxic in his life, not exactly a time to meet someone new and start a relationship. But, in time, they do and there are many hurdles to overcome during this story. A part of the story that I really loved was one involving Dylan and his 3 brothers- they all come together via a Skype type of interlude- and I don’t want to spoil it, but- I just loved how the author incorporated that into the storyline because it is just so “now”. It turns out that Dylan is not the only one with a skeleton in his closet, it appears that Caylor has one of her own. So both of them need to be honest and have “some esplainin' to do”( Imagine Ricky Ricardo accent here).

I think that Kaye Dacus does a nice job of taking her characters on a journey where they truly do grow and change. They are not perfect people, some more flawed than others, but with God’s help trying to change and grow and become all that they are meant to be. I just think it brings hope to show the process and how they change, as opposed to,” they are perfect from the beginning and have it all together all the time”. Kaye Dacus always throws some cute humor in her characters as well, which makes it fun to read. It’s also a pretty sweet love story with just the perfect ending. So, if you’re in the mood for that sweet Contemporary Christian Romance- then I think you’ll enjoy this book. And the moral of the story- always listen to your Grandma.

Disclosure-I was graciously provided with a digital copy of “The Art of Romance” by Kaye Dacus , published by Barbour Books through the Netgalley program. The opinions I expressed are my own and I was not obligated to write a positive review .

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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Review on Mine is the Night by Liz Curtis Higgs

Mine Is the Night: A NovelMine Is the Night: A Novel by Liz Curtis Higgs

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Warning : this book will prove to be hazardous to your laundry pile- as in- “not gonna do it until I finish this book”.

Mine Is the Night: A Novel is a lovely historical fiction romance that takes place in 1746 in Selkirk, Scotland. This book alone can boost the travel industry to Scotland with Higgs beautiful description of the countryside. Mine is the Night is a retelling of the biblical story of Ruth and Naomi set in Scotland in the 18th century. Sounds unique- yes it is- but oh so good!

The Kerr women Elisabeth, and mother-in-law Marjery are two women who are truly at the end of their rope. Both are widows and trying to start over and escape their reputation as being Jacobite rebels. Marjery’s sons, one of them Elisabeth’s husband, both died in a battle at Falkirk, against King George( and for Prince Charlie) making them enemies of the king. Because of this, Elisabeth and Marjery are left in the world with no money, their former titles stripped and with their only hope being a distant cousin Anne to give them a roof over their heads. Unfortunately, Anne is barely scraping by for her own existence, how was she possibly able to take them in? But take them in she does, and Elisabeth, never being afraid of hard work, seeks to make her way and help provide for them by picking up her needle and becoming a seamstress.

Enter our hero and Kinsman redeemer Lord Buchanan who is new to the city of Selkirk and he fortunately is in need of a seamstress to help clothe all the new help in his employ. Elisabeth is just the one he needs, in more ways than one. He is an Admiral for the kings Navy, so when he discovers Elisabeth’s former affiliation with the Jacobites, it paves the way for a few road blocks as his interest in Elisabeth grows. As the story unwinds every character shows much growth, grace and faith to bring the story to it’s lovely and very romantic conclusion.

I will admit that I am a new reader to Liz Curtis Higgs, and having not read Here Burns my Candle, I was still able to follow this book just fine. The storyline just drew me in from page one and the characters were truly wonderfully written and you were rooting for each one as they all had their different challenges that they were facing. The author’s extensive research on both Scotland, as well as the story of Ruth from the Bible truly showed in her writing and the Scottish words thrown in for good measure made the read just that much more authentic and delightful for me. I am more than eager to go back and read the first book in this series as well as her other books set in Scotland. I highly recommend this book!

I received this book free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group as part of their BloggingForBooks program. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are my own.

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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Review on "Havah-the story of Eve" by Tosca Lee

Havah: The Story of EveHavah: The Story of Eve by Tosca Lee

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Havah: The Story of Eve was truly a very different read for me. Now when you hear the word "different" ,sometimes a negative connotation is stirred up in your mind. But that really is not the case here-I really just mean it as different as in not the same as other's writing. It took me a little bit to get into this book, but I'm really glad that I hung in there because as things began to unfold I really believe that the author Tosca Lee explored some very interesting themes as to what Eve's life might have been like before and after the fall. Writing a story like this is a little tricky because you fight the whole "we know what's going to happen" angle. But Tosca Lee's writing really captures you and you can't help but hope that somehow Eve won't take the apple from the serpent or that Cain might decide that he doesn't really have to kill Abel after all. But true to the story these things do play out as well as lots of other tough life drama like jealousy, strife, sickness,shame and regret all come into the story in deep and heartbreaking ways. Tosca Lee is a new author for me and her writing is very passionate. Her early writing in the story describing life in the garden was very ethereal and creative. There were a few times that I felt like the word choices made me go "huh?", and sort of momentarily took me out of the story. However, that was just near the beginning, so I found it kind of interesting that it felt like the writing style changed as the story went on which was very unique, after the fall there seemed to be a shift, which makes total sense to me- From paradise to a fallen world. I would like to explore some of Tosca Lee's other writing, it definitely is not run of the mill and I applaud her for taking on this story, what an undertaking and she really took a lot of risks in her writing- very different.

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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Children's review

The Princess and the Three KnightsThe Princess and the Three Knights by Karen Kingsbury

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Karen Kingsbury not only writes life-changing fiction for adults, but for our children as well in the lovely tale entitled The Princess and the Three Knights. With beautiful and intricate illustrations by Gabrielle Grimard the story just comes to life. The Princess is a beautiful girl on the outside, again as beautifully demonstrated through the illustrations, as she is on the inside. Her father the king is in search of a knight with a heart as beautiful as that of his daughter and so he arranges a competition to find such a knight. This competition will test the knight to ascertain if he has the right character qualities such as courage, strength and a deep faith in God. In the end the character of the right knight is shown and there is a happily ever after.

This story starts out with the scripture from 1 Cor.13:4,7 and really highlights the scriptural principle that "Love protects". I really appreciated the author's pointing out that the character and faith of the knight was the most important thing- really good lessons for little girls. As the mother of girls, I think this is important to drive home. I'm sure that you will enjoy reading this beautifull illustrated and well-written book to the special little girl(s) in your life.

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Monday, April 4, 2011

The Map Across Time by C. S. Lakin

Map Across Time:Gates of Heaven SeriesMap Across Time:Gates of Heaven Series by C.S.Lakin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Map Across Time:Gates of Heaven Series is a fairy tale of the finest kind- full of adventure, intrigue and don't forget to throw in a little time travel! "The Map Across time" is C.S. Lakin's second offering in her "Gates of Heaven series". Her first being "The Wolf of Tebron", which I have also reviewed. Those who have read the first book will appreciate a lot of the background given in this book on the history of how the town of Tebron came to be, but you really can enjoy "The Map Across time" without having read "The Wolf of Tebron".

"The Map across Time" is a truly intricate tale about 2 twins-Aletha and Adin, prince and princess of Sherbourne with many sad predicaments in their kingdom, a dying Queen mother, a completely distracted and greed driven King father, and a dreadful curse that is taking over the kingdom in destructive and all encompassing ways. Adin needs to take a trek across time and return to the past to try and correct mistakes made there, in order to lift the curse that is systematically destroying the Kingdom. Aletha's bond to her twin brother is strong and she finds a way to follow him into the past to help lift the curse. Along the way there are many that help them and a talking pig Winston was one of my favorites.

There are many great proverbs and scripture woven into the story in a really delightful way. The author also used the Old language or law'az, better known as the author puts it as "a liberal derivation of ancient Hebrew". As a tip to the reader, there is a glossary in the back to help with defintions- I just kept a bookmark there for easy reference, but most of the time the context would help you figure out what the word meant.

Yes, I was a lover of Fairy tales as a little girl and this grown up version is just as satisfying as the tales of old. It truly is a wonderful read and I am adding C. S. Lakin to my favorite author's list. Loved it!

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Saturday, April 2, 2011

Review on "Song of Redemption" by Lynn Austin

Song of Redemption (Chronicles of the Kings #2)Song of Redemption by Lynn Austin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"The Song of Redemption", the second offering in the "Chronicles of the Kings" series by Lynn Austin breathes life into the continuing saga of the reign of King Hezekiah. I don't know that I thought that I would have enjoyed these books as much as I have, but I will absolutely keep reading this series as Lynn Austin truly does a wonderful job bringing her characters to life with a fast paced tale.

King Hezekiah is truly beginning his reign and learning what it is to be a King who honors and follows the way of Yahweh and how that plays out. This presents itself in choosing to have one wife, instead of a harem and choosing to have faith in God over fear of the Assyrian's constant threat of attack. Always Lynn weaves in the character's struggles and crisis of faith in a very moving and realistic way. A new character that we meet in this book is Jerusha- her heartbreaking tale is really a page turner as she is a beautiful girl taken and enslaved by the vile Assyrian army on one of their raids through her small town. We learn how she is able to survive her captivity and live to tell about it, truly a survivors story.

I particularly find interesting in this book the very real havoc that idol worship had in this day and age and just how vile and twisted it was in that culture. It is a very thought provoking look to ask ourselves, "what idols do we have today in our own lives that maybe we donh't recognize?". I highly recommend this book and will definitely finish out the series.

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