Monday, December 27, 2010

"The Radleys" by Matt Haig

How long can a dysfunctional family of vampires live as abstainers in a world of "normal" people? Clara and Rowan, the unsuspecting children in the family, don't understand why there are rashes, headaches, shyness, bullying, and problems with garlic plaguing them. That is until the night Clara can't control things anymore and finds herself in a situation she never would have imagined. This is the time when their parents (Peter and Helen) have to tell them the truth. There are no more places to hide. A call has been made to Will, Peter's big brother, much against Helen's better judgment.  Will is an active, deadly, and "I don't really care" vampire who responds with a visit and disrupts the household even more. Helen wants Will to leave for more reasons than those known to her husband, and Will plays on that. Will they be able to control their urges especially with Will around? How much sway will Will have over what is happening in the family? Is there really an alliance between the police and some of the vampires? Once she has tasted blood, will Clara be able to turn back?

I had a hard time getting into the story at first, but kept reading because I wanted to know what was going to happen. This is a different type of vampire book, yet carries a lot of the same information as others you may have read. The characters are life-like and the story interesting. If you like the vampire genre, you will enjoy this book. I won this book in a Free Press contest, and thank them for the opportunity to read it.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

"The Hand of Fate" by Lis Wiehl with April Henry

Lis Wiehl & April Henry have done it again! "Hand of Fate" is a fast-paced murder mystery that will grab you from the beginning and hold you right up to the end. We find Cassidy, Nicole, and Allison (the Triple Threat Club) once again working together to solve a case. Jim Fate is a radio talk show host who does his best to stir up controversial conversations, thereby boosting his popularity and show ratings. He is murdered in a possible Sarin gas attack. There are many suspects but only one real killer. The three women work together to bring that killer to justice. Along the way, they deal with panic in the city, a lost child, politics in the workplace, and abusive relationships. Who and what killed Jim Fate? Will you solve the murder before the book's end?

I really enjoyed this book. The characters were familiar to me from "Face of Betrayal," and the authors let me get to know more about them. The storyline is very realistic, and the reactions of the characters are as well. It is the second "Triple Threat" novel, and I look forward to more in the series.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

On this wonderful Christmas Eve, I would like to take the time to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year! Here's hoping that we all slow down and enjoy friends, family, and fun a little more in the new year. Bring on 2011!  =)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

"The Liturgical Year" by Joan Chittister


“The purpose of the liturgical year is to bring to life in us and around us, little by little, one layer of insight after another until we grow to full stature in the spiritual life.” pg. 21
The Liturgical Year, what is it? What are its components? In her book, Sister Joan Chittister lays out the year beginning with Advent and continuing through Lent, Easter, and more, explaining the importance of each to the Christian walk. The chapters are short, making it easy to make time to pick up the book and read one at a time – creating something to meditate upon. With each explanation, the reader is drawn to the truths that lead to a fuller, deeper Christian walk.
I enjoyed reading this book and look forward to using it as a study text to accompany my Bible. While I have been in church all my life and have many study books, it is nice to have the liturgical year put together within easy reach. This book is a great resource not only for personal devotional study, but for group study as well. I received this book as part of the Book Sneeze program, and thank them for the opportunity to review it.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

"Three Seconds" by Roslund and Hellstrom

Drugs, murder, infiltrators, prison, corruption – all this and more can be found within the pages of “Three Seconds” by Roslund and Hellstrom. Piet Hoffman is a former criminal turned infiltrator for the police, who is trying to do his part in getting mafia control of the drug trade out of Aspsas prison. Ewert Grens is a police detective who while haunted by the death of his wife, is pulled into the investigation at the prison. What does it mean to be burned while you are in prison? What happens to the recordings Piet made? Where is the line between the good and bad guys?  Will Ewert Grens be one of the few good guys left standing at the end?

While the book picked up in the middle and sped to the end, I had a hard time getting into it. It seemed that the authors spent a little too much time setting things up for me. I also didn’t like all the darkness and maliciousness that seemed pervasive in the characters whether they were the police or high ranking government officials or prisoners. They were always thinking that “the end justifies the means.” This book makes good reading for dark crime novel fans, and does make for interesting group discussions as we found in the First Look program at Barnes and Noble. I thank them for the opportunity to read and discuss this ARC.

“Blind Hope” by Kim Meeder and Laurie Sacher


“Sliding to a stop, Laurie planted both of her poles and looked at me thoughtfully. ‘My sweet blind dog had helped me understand that in every sorrow, fear, and loneliness, whether I could see Him or not, God has always been with me.” pg. 102
A storm filled woman and an unwanted dog form a partnership of love and life-changing lessons. Laurie wanted to do adopt a dog. She thought she had found the perfect, cute dog in a home that didn’t want her. Instead when she arrived, she found Mia, a dog with many problems. Through caring for Mia, Laurie has come to recognize many realities about her relationship with God. As Laurie shares her thoughts and lessons with Kim, the owner of the Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch, the words “trust, listen, and believe” stand out. Those words become very special to all of them.
While I thought this book was going to be about a rescued dog, I found rather a book about examples of right relationships and communication with God. It is more of a readily available counseling book. The short chapters and quick object lessons enable you to grasp what the author is saying easily. This book is great for sharing with someone who needs to be lifted up, and would make a great discussion choice for book groups.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

"A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens


I think one of my favorite things about this season is reading Christmas literature. It was fun to be in a discussion about "A Christmas Carol" this month, and I thought I would post my thoughts on the individual Staves here. If you haven't read this, I encourage you to take the plunge. It isn't long, but it is good.  =)

Stave 1 - Here in "Marley's Ghost" we see two distinctly different types of men. Scrooge and Marley were penny-pinchers who didn't enjoy life. On the other hand we have Scrooge's nephew and clerk who are happy with the season for the sake of the season. Yes, times are difficult, but they were not bah humbugging everything. Marley enters to warn Scrooge to change. Hmmmm, isn't that fitting for today? Instead of concentrating on material wealth, spend time enjoying the season and those around us.
Stave 2 - "The First of Three Spirits" - This is the part of the story that gives us a glimpse into another life of Ebenezer. He had been happy. He had been a participant in life. Now as he looks back, the memories are too painful for him. I am always amazed at his reactions because he seems so harsh at first. This section shows us that he does have feelings, so there seems to be hope for him.
Stave 3 - "The Second of Three Spirits" represented all the good of Christmas to me - things like: celebrating even when you don't have what others think is enough; putting aside anger and malice; enjoying laughter and merriment. Scrooge had absolutely no idea that people were this happy and content with so very little. He found himself enjoying what he could not join. After all the hope and joy, we get a sense of foreboding when we meet the two "children" - Ignorance and Want right before the next ghost comes to take Scrooge on a new journey.
I liked this part and love the Cratchits! It was also fun to "meet" others as they enjoyed the spirit of Christmas.
Stave 4 - "The Last of the Spirits" This is the "spookiest" and saddest of all the staves for me. This ghost does not speak, rather points so that Scrooge makes the discoveries himself. I believe that Scrooge had begun to change before this ghost arrived because not only was he anxious to get the visit underway, but he also knew the spirit had something to teach him. It did seem to surprise him that death was such a big part of this episode.
Hope, laughter, and light fill Stave 5, "The End of It." Scrooge is changed and wants everyone to know it by his demeanor. The huge turkey is given in secret, and I loved when he suggested, and paid for, transportation for the delivery. Scrooge joins his nephew and niece for Christmas dinner, thoroughly surprising and delighting them. This whole story seems meant to show us all that change is possible for anyone.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

"The Cat Who Went Into the Closet" by Lilian Jackson Braun

Can a cat sense danger and help solve crimes? “The Cat Who Went Into the Closet” will make you a believer. Jim Qwilleran (Qwill) is renting the Gage mansion in Pickax and has brought his two Siamese cats (Koko and YumYum) with him. While both cats have attitudes, Koko seems to have an affinity for “finding” things and exploring. While trying to figure out what Koko is doing, Qwill hears that the former owner of the mansion has committed suicide in Florida. Qwill begins an investigation into her death and makes many discoveries. Did Euphonia Gage really kill herself? Where will the objects Koko finds lead Qwill?
This fun romp of a mystery kept me captivated as I wondered what Koko would do next. The murder mystery is also interesting, but a bit predictable. If you enjoy fun, relaxing, enjoyable reading, this is a book for you. It is perfect for a day at the beach, when you are homebound in the snow, or just relaxing in the backyard. Lilian Jackson Braun certainly makes the cats come to life!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

"Three Cups of Tea" by Greg Mortenson


What started as one man’s quest to climb the world’s second largest mountain, K2, turns into a quest to build schools to educate the children of rural Pakistan and Afghanistan. Greg Mortenson tells many stories of how he fell in love with the people (especially the children) of Pakistan and Afghanistan and his belief that all children, male or female, deserve an education. He also writes about fund-raising with its ups and downs, of building schools and all the proverbial red tape involved, and of historic events happening as he was building (i.e. the death of Mother Theresa and our “911”) and the effects they had on his process. Through the triumphs and tragedies, one thought kept shining through - the need to slow down and actually see and get to know others. The tradition of the three cups of tea is explained this way – the first time you are given a cup you are a stranger; the second time you are an honored guest, and the third time says you are family. Tea is a precious commodity in more ways than one.
“Three Cups of Tea” is the interesting, true story of Greg Mortenson and his quest to make peace happen through building schools and education. His struggles and his triumphs kept me reading; his recounting of historical events brought back memories. I recommend it to anyone who loves a good non-fiction read and also to reading groups. It has great topics for discussion.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

"The Koala of Death" by Betty Webb

Are you looking for a fun, interesting murder mystery? Well, I have one for you in "The Koala of Death" by Betty Webb. Teddy Bentley lives on the "Merilee" and works at the Gunn Zoo. After finding the body of Koala Kate in the water next to her boat, Teddy is thrown into the mystery of who killed her and why. Along the way, Teddy learns to do a television show, finds another body, does some investigating on her own (much to her boyfriend's chagrin), discovers a family secret, and is almost killed. Come meet Teddy, her boyfriend Joe (the Sheriff), Aussie Outback Bill, Teddy's rich mother Caro, Speaks to Souls, and the animals from the zoo. They will all keep you entertained as you solve the mystery.
I really enjoyed this book. It was a quick read and kept my interest all the way through. I will be looking to read more books by Betty Webb, including the first Zoo Mystery, "The Anteater of Death."

"Flight of Shadows" by Sigmund Brouwer

Caitlyn is a "freak" even in this post-apocalyptic society. She is being chased by Mason, an evil man bent on killing her. The ones he works for want what made her "special" or "freakish." The product of a scientific experiment, Caitlyn has been hiding "Outside" for a while making it however she can, but after being caught up in a night battle, finds herself linked with Razor. While initially stand-offish and nervous, Caitlyn partners with Razor for safety. Through their investigation into Caitlyn's past and what makes her special, they form a bond that is almost unbreakable. What does the hump on her back signify? What does the black microfabric hide? Which type of person would you be - Influential, Industrial, Invisible, or Illegal?

I had a hard time getting into this book, and that may be because I haven't read the first one, "Broken Angel." At points the book is very dark and difficult to read, but most post-apocalyptic books are. I did like the characters and will be getting the first installment of this series and then will reread this one. I recommend it to anyone who likes post-apocalyptic books (like "The Road") and also think it would also make an interesting choice for book group discussions.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

"The Secrets Beneath" by Kathleen Fuller

Becky Yoder lives in Middlefield, Ohio; a community inhabited by both the Amish and the "Yankees." She is thirteen and very inquisitive. The house next door to her home had been empty for some time, when suddenly odd things start happening. First, there is an old man with a van and then a scary looking man with lots of tattoos. Becky's curiosity is peeked when she sees the old man digging in the backyard at night. What is he doing? Is he burying something or looking for something? Another mystery drops into Becky's lap as her cousin Amanda arrives from Paradise, PA. Becky is very surprised to learn that Amanda may stay with her for the entire school year. She knows she shouldn't spy or but into another person's business, but questions pop into her head anyway. What has happened to Amanda's mother? Will she be able to make Amanda feel welcome and safe? Throughout the story, Becky learns that secrets are secret for a reason. Sometimes you just need to pray for a good outcome even when you don't know everything.

Kathleen Fuller writes about the Amish with knowledge and skill. Her research and love for the people is evident. I have read "adult" books by Ms. Fuller, and was pleased to have the opportunity to read this YA novel, which is the second in her "Mysteries of Middlefield" series. The characters are realistic and the mysteries will keep you guessing until the end. This book will make a great gift for any teenager, and is a wonderful read for adults as well. I received my free copy through the Book Sneeze program and am very happy to write a review for the book. I also recommend any books by Kathleen Fuller to you.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

"Vixen" by Jillian Larkin

The Roaring 20's, radically different from today. Really? Are people or their choices really different today, or is it the day in which we are living. Seventeen seems to be the age of stretching and reaching beyond the bounds, and that is true for Gloria Carmody, Lorraine Dyer, and Clara Knowles. While Gloria and Lorraine come from the privileged life of Chicago, Lorraine grew up in PA, but ran away to NYC. The three are brought together for the upcoming wedding of Gloria to Sebastian Grey. But when illegal activities like drinking and the speakeasy life beckon; or unheard of relationships like those between a black man and a white woman or the opportunity for a relationship with a gangster come into focus, what will their choices be? "Vixen" will keep you on the edge of your seat and leave you wanting more!

I had the privilege to read "Vixen" as part of Barnes & Noble's First Look Group. Jillian Larkin has a hit on her hands with this YA novel, a novel that will appeal to readers of all ages. Her study of the time period and attention to detail transported me to the time of flappers and speakeasies. Her characters are real, as are the situations they find themselves in. I found myself cheering, booing, and becoming teary-eyed while reading. This is a great book for young adults, as well as those not quite "young" anymore, and for reading/discussion groups. There are three promised in The Flappers series, with "Ingenue" coming out in August 2011, and after that "Diva." Not only will it be difficult to wait for "Ingenue" to come out, but I hope there will be more than three in the series! Well done, Jillian!

Monday, November 15, 2010

"Heaven is for Real" - audio version - by Ted Bumpo

Writing this book, "Heaven is for Real," must have been a challenge for Ted Burpo. After all, he had lived it. He and his wife had almost lost his son. Colton was four years old when he was misdiagnosed after his appendix burst and poison spilled into his body unchecked for days. They thought they would lose him. Thankfully, God had other plans. Once, healed, Colton began to tell his parents about heaven and what he saw there. It came out at odd times and in short spurts. While everything was matter of fact to Colton - the "markers" on Jesus, the angels singing, meeting his great grandfather and unborn sister, etc. - it was anything but to his parents. This story should bring hope and wonder to everyone who hears it.

I had the privilege of reviewing this audio book through the Oasis Audio Review Program.As a listener, I was totally drawn into the story with its roller coaster ride of emotions. There is a difference between reading a book and hearing the characters in your mind, and actually hearing a participant in the events read it to you. It was easy for me to hear the pain and anguish of a parent, the wonder and amazement of a child, and the hope and spirit of a Christian whose view of Heaven is expanded and renewed. This audio book would be a wonderful choice for anyone who is traveling; a great choice for families to listen to and discuss together; and as a choice for book discussion groups.
"Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this audiobook free from Oasis Audio as part of their Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Sunday, November 14, 2010

"To Fetch a Thief" by Spencer Quinn

Chet and Bernie are on the trail of a missing elephant and her trainer, but much more comes to play as their investigation unfolds. There are exotic animals showing up in odd places, a circus going down in ruin, a soon to be ex-husband complicating their case with vengeance of his own, and then there is Suzie Sanchez; all pieces in this third installment of the hit series by Spencer Quinn. Chet, the canine member of the Little Detective Agency, narrates the story. The elephant goes missing and as the investigation heats up, Leda is stalked. Who is stalking her and what does it have to do with the case? How is Marvin Winkleman involved and what is his double standard? How will things end up for Bernie and Suzie? The many twists and turns in this story will keep you reading and asking for more. Come find out more about Chet, Bernie, Suzie, Popo, and Peanut as their story unfolds.

"To Fetch a Thief" is another hit from Spencer Quinn. I love reading the story from Chet's point of view. The writing in interesting and the characters are captivating. I can't wait for the next installment and recommend the entire series to anyone who loves animals and mysteries. The other two books out already are, "Dog On It," and "Thereby Hangs a Tail." You also might want to check out Chet's website at: http://www.chetthedog.com/

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

"Heaven is for Real" by Todd Burpo w/ Lynn Vincent

He's just a little boy, only four years old. Could he really have visited heaven and come back to tell us about it? Colton and his family had gone on vacation to try to relieve some of the stress of his father's illnesses. But Colton ends up in the hospital with an emergency appendectomy. It gets worse as he has to undergo another surgery a week later. Thankfully he recovers and the family is on the road again. Colton relays some interesting information to his family about angels singing to him and sitting in the lap of Jesus while his father was praying and his mother was on the phone. How could he have known that? He also talks about other things he sees in Heaven (like Jesus' red "markers," gem/crown colors, wings) leading the family to wonder just what happened to Colton during surgery. This story is amazing.

This wonderful story gave me goosebumps as I read it. Did Colton really experience these things? I don't know. Some people may say that he is just repeating things he has heard in Sunday School, church, and at home. But I do know this, Heaven is for real! I recommend this book to people who love inspirational tales and will be giving it as gifts. Thank you to the Book Sneeze program for the opportunity to review this book!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

"Face of Betrayal" by Lis Wiehl with April Henry

A missing Senate page, a grieving family, a Senator, a stalker, and more await you in "Face of Betrayal" by Lis Wiehl. The main conflict of the story is that of Katie Converse, a high school senior and Senate Page. She left her home to walk the dog and never came back. What happened to her? While following this story, we meet the women of the "Triple Threat Club," a police officer, a reporter, and a federal prosecutor. Each has her own life with its problems, and we get to see their vulnerabilities as Katie's story unfolds. The intriguing story also leads to a homeless man and his daughter who have been living in the park for about two years. Do they have anything to do with what happened to Katie? Who is stalking Allison? What will happen with Rick and Cassidy? What about Nicole? And, how does Katie's story end? This fast-paced book will keep you guessing to the end.

What a great book! I love crime stories, but especially those that entwine the lives of the investigators and bystanders into them. This book filled all the requirements and, while I had a suspect at the beginning, I didn't know for sure until the end. Hats off to Lis Wiehl and April Henry. It was interesting to find more than one "Face of Betrayal."  I can't wait to get a copy of "Hand of Fate."

Monday, October 11, 2010

"Deeply, Desperately" by Heather Webber

A missing woman, a lost love, and complicated romances are just part of "Deeply, Desperately" by Heather Webber. Lucy Valentine is working hard to start her own portion of the family match-making business. She is also working hard at keeping Sean (the man she loves) at a safe distance due to the family "curse." But, will that last? She is also getting threatening letters from someone. While the police are investigating, she still worries. Who is behind the letters and do they mean her harm? Come join Lucy as she works to find lost items and people in this latest "Lucy Valentine" novel.

I enjoyed reading this book as much as the first installment, "Truly, Madly." It is a fun, sometimes comical read with lots of real detective work thrown in. So, if you like to mix up your reading, why not add this latest novel by Heather Webber. You just might find yourself smiling and laughing as much as me.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

"A Suitor for Jenny" by Margared Brownley

"Where men and women are concerned, there's no such thing as a perfect match," he said. "There's only a God match." pg. 68
"The Bible says that no matter your plans, it's the Lord's plan that prevails." pg. 175

Rocky Creek, TX, will never be the same. "Colonel" Jenny Higgins loves her sisters and promised her father she would take care of them, so she brought them to Rocky Creek to find husbands. Can manuals give the right advice in husband selection? Or should they consult God and His plans for their lives? And, what would happen to all of Jenny's plans if her sisters followed their own hearts and strayed from her carefully laid path? Jenny is also alone, but feels certain she can take care of herself and doesn't need a husband. Until Rhett steps into her path. Will love find a way, or will the past haunt both of them? "Guilt was more isolating than prison bars, self-punishment the worst possible kind." pg. 306

I was privileged to receive a copy of this book through the Book Sneeze program, and totally enjoyed it. The cover was the first thing to draw me in, then the cast of colorful characters and scenes carried me along to the end. I was cheering for all of them, wondering how each bit of the story would be worked out. I had never read anything by Margaret Brownley, but am now a big fan. Her books are on my gift and recommendation lists!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

"Crescendo" by Becca Fitzpatrick

"Hush, Hush" first introduced us to these characters, and Becca totally carries the story through in "Crescendo." Nora and Patch start out together, but a fight leads to a tumultuous break up. Somehow Marcie is in the mix, along with a lot of danger. Throw in so many bad choices by Nora (not staying home, B&E, fights, etc.) and you have a roller coaster ride through the book. Who is in control? Who is the Black Hand? Who tried to kill Nora? Is Patch a good or bad guy? What about Scott? Rixon? The answers to these questions await within the pages of "Crescendo!"

I was thrilled to receive an advance copy of this book and discuss it with others at B&N. Because I hadn't read, "Hush, Hush," I bought and read that first and recommend it to everyone. The background is there. Becca Fitzpatrick has a great way of weaving a story for her characters that keeps her readers actively involved. I can't wait for the next book, which doesn't come out until next year. :(

Saturday, September 25, 2010

"DragonSpell" by Donita K. Paul

Kale is a lowly servant girl from River Away who has found a dragon egg. She is immediately sent to the City of Vendela to see the rulers there. Kale is excited to enter the city as she has never seen anything like this before, but during an attack is drawn into a cave and to more dragon eggs. She soon discovers that she is expected to go on a quest with Leetu and Dar to find a meech egg. She is the mighty "Dragon Keeper," although she doesn't believe it. Through their travels they meet good dragons, the kimens, some Urohms, and Wizard Fenworth, as well as a three-headed monster and other evil beings. She also discovers that the evil Risto is out to defeat her and her companions. Will the strength of Wulder and Paladin be enough to help her? Will she discover the meech egg? What other dragons will hatch and share their powers with the company?

This fantasy is interesting, colorful, and drew me in immediately. I enjoyed reading about the different races and peoples, with characters realist and life-like. Donita K. Paul has a wonderful way with words. It was especially neat to read about the birth of each dragon and find out what their special gift was. My favorite quote is found on pg. 237. "Frightened," Leetu continued. "Well, it is a lie to face scary things and pretend you are not frightened. Just as it is deceitful to look at the beauty of that scene" --she nodded toward the mountain range-- "and pretend the grandeur does not stir your soul. Perhaps not false, but folly, to take in with the eyes and deny with the heart."

"Hush, Hush" by Becca Fitzpatrick

Am I being stalked? Who is after me? Am I imagining this? These are just a few of the questions Nora needs to find answers to in "Hush Hush" by Becca Fitzpatrick. A change of partners in class forces Nora and Patch together unleashing the powers of a possible high school crush along with denial. Nora's best friend, Vee, is used against her, luring her to seedy places. But which, if any, of these people is out to hurt Nora? Is it Patch, Jules, Elliot, Marcie, or someone unexpected? The answer awaits you in the pages of the book.

I enjoyed this book, even though parts of it were predictable. It is similar to other young adult novels I have read lately, but it contains its own twists and turns, which encouraged me to continue turning the pages. I didn't want to put it down and look forward to reading the sequel, "Crescendo."

Thursday, September 23, 2010

"The Nativity Collection" by Robert J. Morgan


Six wonderful Christmas stories are included in this book by Robert L. Morgan; stories that you will want to share with your family and friends during the holiday season.  How can losing your car, or forgetting your lines, or impending tragedy, or a honeymoon, or a carver and a cradle bring out the true meaning of Christmas? You will need to read the book to find out! Each story points the way to the true meaning of Christmas and how to make the beauty of the season shine through words, giving, and celebration. The characters are real and the stories easy to identify with. The wonderful photography adds texture and realism to each tale.
I really enjoyed reading this book. From the first page, the stories captured my attention and I couldn’t put the book down until it was finished.  This is a book I will share with my family during the holidays, and will purchase as gifts as well. These are stories that will remain with me throughout the year, not just the holidays. I want to thank the Booksneeze program for the opportunity to read and enjoy this book!

Monday, September 20, 2010

"The Wake of Forgiveness" by Bruce Machart

“The Wake of Forgiveness” is a complex story of several families living in Lacava County, TX, somewhere around 1900. Through the eyes of the author, we are able to glimpse the hard life endured on the farms, and the struggle to establish business and industry. But more than that, it is the story of a father and his four sons; a story filled with anger, fighting, abuse, and maybe even some love. The two main families are the Skala’s and the Villasenor’s. The main character, Karel Skala, is the youngest of the sons and was born on the day his mother died. How he grows, marries, and deals with life’s situations will keep readers interested and wanting more.
I had a hard time getting into this book because of the graphic violence. But, once I got to the second section, I wanted to know more. Bruce Machart has delivered a book that will be a success! Thank you, Barnes & Noble First Look, for making it possible for me to read the book before it comes out! It was well worth the initial struggle! This is a great book for discussion groups.

Friday, September 10, 2010

"Outlive Your Life" by Max Lucado


Outlive your life? What does that mean? In this book, Max Lucado, provides answers and examples to help and encourage everyone to live life to its fullest, in turn, touching the lives of others. With chapters like, “Calling Mr. Pot Roast,” and “Let God Unshell You,” it is easy to see that each person can make a difference. Actions don’t have to be out there for everyone to see, but can be simple, everyday things that encourage people as they pass along our path. God uses the simple things to get our attention, and normal, average people to accomplish his plan. Will you be one who will “Outlive Your Life?”
This book made me think of the song, “Brighten the Corner  Where You Are,” and I have been happily singing that for days. It has been an encouragement to me, and I encourage everyone to pick up this book and let it make a change in your life. You should also find it useful in a book discussion group. It is especially wonderful to note that all of the author’s royalties will be donated to benefit children and families around the world.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

"The Butterfly Effect" by Andy Andrews

"The Butterfly Effect" repeatedly makes the point that what you do matters, not just today, but far into the future. Mr. Andrews illustrates this point with the story of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, a Colonel in the Union Army. It was July 2, 1863, in Gettysburg, PA. Colonel Chamberlain and his men were attacked over and over and are down to almost nothing when he tells them to charge. The results of that charge are amazing! Then, there is the example of Norman Borlaugh and his work with hybridized high yield, disease resistant corn and wheat for arid climates. It has saved millions of people. But, was it really just Norman?

There is an actual "Butterfly Effect," and I enjoyed reading how it went from something scientists thought was laughable to a scientific fact called, "The Law of Sensitive Dependence Upon Initial Conditions." It is a quick read that will change your philosophy about the seemingly inconsequential things in life. I am thankful to the Book Sneeze program for having the ability to read and comment on this book. This is great reading for everyone, and I recommend the children’s companion, "The Boy Who Changed the World."

"The Boy Who Changed the World" by Andy Andrews

Does what you do really matter? Even when you are a child? Yes, each life matters. "The Boy Who Changed the World" is a wonderful story for children showing how each person affects others around them. Norman Borlaug was a normal young man who loved to play in the cornfields. But, there was something Norman didn't like and that was knowing that someone didn't have enough to eat. His plan was to grow special seeds to grow super plants and try to stamp out hunger. Norman studied and succeeded, but was Norman the only one responsible for this success? You will need to read the book to find out!
 
This is a great book to help children understand that they can make a difference. The illustrations are bright and colorful, and make the story come alive. This is the children's companion to Andy Andrews' "The Butterfly Effect," which I recommend to adults. I was privileged to read a preview copy of this book through the Book Sneeze program from Thomas Nelson, and plan to buy it for my grandchildren.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

"One Hand, Two Hands" by Max Lucado

"One Hand, Two Hands" is a delightful book filled with easy to learn rhymes and wonderful illustrations. The principles of using our hands to be helpful and thankful are not preachy, but rather catchy rhymes that children will love to hear and then use. There is an emphasis on using hands with kindness (petting a dog), creativity (making a card), and love (giving a hug). Toddlers will love having it read to them, beginning readers can easily use it to practice, and older children won't mind reading this one out loud.

I enjoyed reading this book while thinking about the children in my life who would love it. The illustrations made the reading so delightful, and I loved its ending of folding hands in prayer! It makes a great baby shower or birthday gift, and a great addition to any home library. Thank you to the Book Sneeze book reviewer's program for the opportunity to have a copy.

Friday, August 27, 2010

"Shadow Bound" by Erin Kellison

An unsuspecting world's existence depends on some skillful wraith fighters. Adam has put together a worldwide network of people (Segue) to find ways of fighting and killing these wraiths. But the wraiths are getting stronger, pulling the souls from more victims. Still they study, train, and prepare. Adam has to find a way to kill what took his brother and his parents. Talia is a half-breed, hunted by the Demon, unsure of what her place is. Shadow appears to be her friend and ally. Together Adam and Talia make a seemingly unstoppable team, but are they? Can they stop the insanity before it consumes them?

When I started reading this book, I knew I wouldn't be able to put it down. The characters seem so real and the story line kept pulling me along. I wanted to know who would live and who would not, who would stay true to life, and who would give up. While the end had some predictability to it, there was enough unpredictability to keep me reading. Are you game to check out Shadow?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

"Antiphon" by Ken Scholes

What do mechoservitors, kin-wolves, kin ravens, Behemoth, the Marsh King, and gypsies have to do with each other? All are part of this third installment of "The Psalms of Isaak." Runners deliver messages and search the land with the use of magic and black root; Nebios is hunted and called "Abomination;" Jin Li Tam makes an unexpected journey with Jakob; and Winter and Ria discover the tenuous tie that binds them. All the while, mechoservitors hurry to meet together to save the Antiphon. Come read of the continuing journey "home" and of those who wish to thwart that journey. The twists and turns will keep you guessing all the way to the end. Here's hoping that the fourth installment will be out next year!

I was privileged to read "Antiphon" as part of Sneak Peek at Barnes & Noble. While I haven't read the first two installments, I was able to pick up on the plot. This is a book that is difficult to put down, and I recommend it to anyone who loves sci-fi/fantasy. I will be reading the first two books, then re-reading this one, to prepare for "Requiem" (hoping for it to come out in 2011).

Thursday, August 19, 2010

"Mudbound" by Hillary Jordan

Mississippi, 1940's - prejudice and abuse are alive and well, even after men returned as heroes from the war. Hillary Jordan pulls you back in time to let you experience life as it was in her rural setting. Her characters each tell their story, letting the reader understand their perspective on events and people. It is easy to picture the farm, the weather, the people, the story. The story is compelling and very hard to put down.

I really enjoyed this book. Ms. Jordan makes it easy to "hear" her characters. She makes it easy to visit with them and either love or hate them. It would make a great book discussion choice groups. This is a story that will stay with me and is one I will share with others.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

"Dug Down Deep" by Joshua Harris

Do you wonder why you believe what you believe? Do you have more head knowledge than heart knowledge about God? If so, this is the book for you! Joshua Harris uses practical stories and Scripture to point out how each of us can come to know God more deeply, thereby becoming a better Christian. Chapters like, "Ripping, Burning, Eating," "God With A Bellybutton," and "Changed, Changing, To Be Changed" pull the reader in, as each chapter begins with a wonderful quote setting the tone for what you are about to read. His easily understood principles and encouragement make it easy to find yourself in a deeper relationship with God.


This is the first book I have read by Joshua Harris, but it won't be my last! I found his writing style pulled me in just as Max Lucado's does. The book is great for a personal Bible study, but would also be wonderful for groups. There are many discussion points here, and either way you read it, you will want to talk with someone about what you learn.

Monday, August 9, 2010

"Resurrection in May" by Lisa Samson

May has graduated from college and doesn't really know what she wants to do with her life. She is floundering in relationships and in life until the decision to go help the people in Rwanda. Before leaving on her journey, May meets Claudius and learns that life can truly be peaceful. But, Rwanda ends in a nightmare that May can't get beyond. Death was not what she wanted to witness. As she returns home to Claudius' farm, May begins to find the healing spring available to all. And, as she meets Eli again, finds she has that to share with him. Can May and Eli help each other heal? Will they find their way back to each other?

I found myself totally drawn into this story, finding the characters alive and believable. I think my favorite is wise, easy-going Claudius. He seems to have eyes that can see all, and helpful ways that move when others can't see them. This story of the renewal of life is a powerful one, one that can lift us all. I recommend it to single readers and groups alike. There is plenty here to discuss. Thank you to the BookSneeze program for the free book and opportunity to read it.
http://booksneeze.com

Monday, July 26, 2010

"Bad Girls fo the Bible" by Liz Curtis Higgs


In this first book on “Bad Girls of the Bible,” Liz Curtis Higgs encourages her readers to take a new look at these women who had a problem with sin. It may have been for a moment, for a season, or they may have been “bad to the bone,” but each has something to teach us. As each chapter opens, Ms. Higgs gives us a real time story based on the life of the woman she is discussing before introducing us to her. Tying the past to the present, each story shows how Satan continues to tempt in the same manner year after year. Each chapter also offers us hope and steps for change, along with questions to ponder alone or in a group.  Come take a new look at Eve, Potipher’s Wife, Lot’s Wife, the Woman at the Well, Delilah, Sapphira, Rahab, Jezebel, Michal, and the Sinful Woman. Come glean wisdom from their lives.
I found this book to be full of wonderful suggestions on how to combat the devil; how to win the daily struggle with sin. It gave me new insights into the lives of these women, and how I can grow from studying them. I now want to read the rest of her books!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

"The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner" by Stephanie Meyer

This "Eclipse" novella details a small portion of the life of newborn Bree Tanner. Stephanie Meyer totally immerses the reader into the life of a newborn vampire, fears, thirst, and the unknown. Bree is part of a violent coven held together by Riley, a servant of her. As their thirst rises, Riley chooses who goes out to hunt. He also expects Diego to clean up the messes so humans don't figure it out. But, what is the real purpose of the coven? Who is the "her" Riley talks about? Come take a peek into Bree's vampire life and meet the others who are with her. Come find out how the Cullen's fit into this story.

This was a very quick read, only 178 pages. I really liked Bree, Diego, and Fred; and found myself totally immersed in Bree's story. I recommend this book to any of you who have read the "Twilight" series as it will give you a view you haven't had before. You may find yourself feeling new anger and new empathy. Now, can we get Stephanie to write about Renesmee????

Saturday, July 17, 2010

"A Soft Place to Land" by Susan Rebecca White

Two half-sisters, sent to live apart from each other after the death of their mother and father/step-father. Julia is sent to live with her biological father and his wife; Ruthie, now an orphan, goes to live with relatives she doesn't really know. The loss to both is great, both in family and in each other. Each girl must make choices in her life, all the while needing reassurance from the other. Traveling alone can be hard and the burdens cumbersome. What happens while they are apart? What happens when the opportunity comes for Ruthie to return to their old house? How do these sisters deal with secrets, and what happens when betrayal enters the picture? Will these sisters find in each other "A Soft Place to Land"?

I enjoyed this book, and have discussed it with others in one of my reading groups. Our discussion covered things like: choices parents make without really thinking (guardianship), bonds between sisters (siblings), the effects the death of parents have on children, betrayal, and forgiveness. It would be great to have a sequel to tie up the loose ends. This book works with our without a group, although it is better to have someone to discuss with because there are things you WILL want to rant about.

Monday, July 5, 2010

"Hidden Wives" by Clare Avery

Two teenage sisters, a polygamist sect, and many horrible secrets fill the pages of "Hidden Wives." Rachel and Sara live in a home with their father, his wives, and other children, part of Blood of the Lamb sect. Rachel is determined to live the Principle, but Sara has her doubts due to her pending marriage to her uncle. Neither girl wants to defy the church, but something isn't right. Is Rachel really so beautiful that she causes men to lust after her? Is Sara really so rebellious that she deserves the punishments she endures? Can they escape before it's too late? Come meet Sara and Rachel, along with their family, Prophet Silver, Luke, Irvin, and Ernadine as their story unfolds before you.

I want to thank the authors for giving me the opportunity to read this book. It read like something right out of today's news. The story was so compelling, the situations so real, that I couldn't put the book down. I needed to know what happened to these young women. No one should ever have to live this way. While this book is good for anyone to read, reading groups will find this book especially enjoyable. It is full of discussion topics like: polygamy, incest, rape, interracial relationships, child abuse, and suicide, which will keep the discussion going long after the book is finished.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

"Venom and Song" by Wayne Batson and Christopher Hopper

The seven Elven lords (Tommy, Jimmy, Autumn, Johnny, Kira Lee, Jett, and Kat) have returned to Allyra. The cost has been high, but the celebration and coronation leaves everyone in high spirits. But, for how long? The seven now have to learn how to fight properly before going up against the Spider King and his host. Does everyone want them to have the time, or do they want to rush the fight? What do they do when a traitor is found in their midst, and are there more? As they train, the Spider King attacks, wrecking havoc on the Elves' plans. Now the seven must pull together as a team and fight through pain, fear, and enemies to find the Keystone and Rainsong. Can they find it fast enough to help the Elves and save their world?

Book two of the Berinfell Prophecies picked up right where book one left off. I received this book as part of Thomas Nelson's Book Sneeze program, and was very happy to have been able to read the first book so close to this one. The characters were alive to me, and I again felt myself wishing to meet them. The story captured my imagination and pulled me in, introducing me to new characters and creatures. Gnomes, elves, scarlet raptors, and more await you as you enter Allyra. It will capture your imagination and leave you wanting more! The lessons presented within these pages are worth learning at any age.

Monday, June 28, 2010

"Odd Thomas" by Dean Koontz


Odd Thomas is a short-order cook who can see the dead. Two people know about this sight, Wyatt the police chief, and Stormy, his girlfriend. His day is not going well. First he has to deal with Penny and her murderer, then he sees a man he nicknames “Fungus Man” in the diner eating a huge meal. To top it off, bodachs (dark, evil wraiths) come in and hang around this man. Odd knows this means there will be death and mayhem, but how much and where? Through covert investigation, Odd finds that it is going to be something big, something horrible, and it will happen on the 15th. Is there anything he can do to stop it? What will happen to his town and the people in it? Who is trying to set Odd up?
Once again, Dean Koontz writes a novel that keeps the attention of his reader. I had to keep reading to find out what happened, to find out who would survive, and who was the bad guy. This book is worth reading if you like suspense and stories of the macabre. With other books in the series, I look forward to spending time with Odd again.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

"Curse of the Spider King" by Wayne Batson and Christopher Hopper

From the land of Allyra to planet Earth, "Curse of the Spider King" weaves the story of Elves, Dreadnaughts, Gwar, Drefids,  the Spider King, and seven seemingly normal earth-bound kids.  Hundreds of years have passed since the Spider King and his helpers drove the Elves underground. While the Elves think all of the lords, including their babies, are dead, a plot is hatched to send the seven baby lords to earth. Why would the Spider King's minions do that? What did they fear if not the King himself? Now that these seven are turning thirteen, they meet strange new people, some wanting to share information and history with them, many wishing to kill them. As their worlds are turned upside down, many questions arise. Who are the good guys? What are their hidden powers? Who will make it to Allyra? Are any other Elves still alive? These questions and more are answered within the pages of the book.

This story pulled me in from the beginning, making it difficult for me to put it down. I love a good fantasy novel, and this YA fantasy fits the bill. It not only introduced me to believable earthly characters, but to carefully crafted people and creatures from another world as well. Interwoven in the story was the history of the last battle which helps this reader understand what has happened, and what is being hoped for. I recommend this book to young adults, as well as others like me who love a good fantasy novel. I can't wait to start on Book 2 - "Venom and Song" - which is sitting here waiting for me. 

Saturday, June 19, 2010

"The Scent of Rain and Lightning" by Nancy Pickard

When Jody Linder was three, her father was killed and her mother disappeared. Now 26, Jody moves back into their home working to make it hers. An unexpected visit from her three uncles sets Jody's world into a chaotic spin focusing on that fateful night when she lost her parents. Billy Crosby, the man in jail for the murder, has been released and is coming home. As Jody relives memories from her childhood, Nancy Pickard shows us Jody's fears and growth, loneliness and anger. Along with her family, we also meet Valentine Crosby and her son Collin. What will happen when Billy gets back to town? Did he commit the murder and dispose of Jody's mother? What relationship is there between Jody and Collin? The book builds to a surprising climax and an ending not easily forgotten.

I absolutely loved this book! I read it on my Nook, while sharing it with my husband, and found it a quick, suspenseful, exciting read.  The characters and setting are so real that the book comes alive as you read. This is a book I will definitely read again, and I recommend it to individual readers as well as groups. It is a story you will want to discuss with others.

"The Lace Reader" by Brunonia Barry

How is reality defined? Is it the same for everyone? "The Lace Reader" is an intriguing tale filled of twists and turns that will keep you guessing what is real. Towner (Sophya) returns to town because Eva is missing, and this move dredges up the memories of her past. As she confronts the issues in her life, Towner discovers many truths about herself, her family, and abuse. The setting is Salem, MA.  where witches walk among the regular citizens, as do the "Calvinists" (a cultish group of extremist religious fanatics). Each has a part to play in Towner's reality, but which part? What really happened to Lyndley (Lyndsey)? Emma? the women on the island? and why has Towner been seeing a psychiatrist for so long? Love and forgiveness, truth and fiction, hurt and healing are all woven into the fabric of this story.

I should have known this book would be filled with twists because Towner tells us not to believe her, "I lie all the time," at the beginning of the book. There were many times when I found myself wondering what was going on because the story would change; but I guess that was like looking at the lace, seeing the vision blur, then seeing the clarity of form. I enjoyed the quotes from Eva's "Lace Reader's Guide" at the beginning of each section as they gave some insight into what was coming. I began thinking this book would be about interesting women with a special talent for seeing things in lace, and instead found a book about the effect abuse has on families. While it is interesting, it also bogged down for me at times making me lose touch with the story. While I liked this book, I enjoyed Ms. Barry's second book, "The Map of True Places," much more!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Book Give-away

Hi Everyone! I just discovered that I have a brand new copy of "The Heart Mender" to give away. It is a wonderful book about forgiveness and second chances, and if you would like to be put in for the drawing, please respond to this post. I will take all the entries and pull one at random on June 30th.  Good luck!


Donna  =)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

"The Writing Circle" by Corinne Demas

The Leopardi Circle is comprised of Bernard, Virginia, Gillian, Adam and Chris, but they are down one member. Nancy is invited to join the group and quickly finds she hasn't been properly prepared for their discussions. As they meet, different members come prepared to read their work. These snippets of writing invite the reader to understand the person behind the pen. How will each take the literary criticism sent their way? Issues of fidelity, trust, and confidence fill the book, as Ms. Demas tells us of her character's lives and loves. The reader will meet other family members and see how they truly interact with others away from the circle.  What happens when they find that someone can't be trusted? How does the book's beginning tie into its ending?
 
I was privileged to receive a copy of this book through Barnes and Noble's First Look program. This is the first e-book we have discussed, and I had fun reading it on my Nook. The beginning drew me as the characters and story took shape, with the story building to a climax that surprised and saddened me. I recommend this book to individuals and groups alike. There is much to discuss here.

Monday, June 14, 2010

"Storm Warning" by Billy Graham

Today headlines scream to us about various destructive actions of nature (earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes, etc.), the banging for angry drums between countries, worry over the stock market and monetary systems around the world, and so many other negative things that impact our lives that it is hard to find something positive in our day. "Storm Warning" helps explain what is going on in relation to what the Bible has to say. Rev. Graham points out that first, man needs to accept salvation through Christ to provide security for the future, then he can understand what is happening. Rev. Graham took the time to update his original book to be reflective of today's concerns, and then also explains about the "four horsemen of the Apocalypse."
 
I enjoyed reading this book. It is heavy, intense, and thought provoking, but also full of explanation. I was drawn into Rev. Graham's descriptions of his crusades in Germany, etc. It was fascinating to read about those open doors and the many people who accepted Christ as their Savior. While I have studied and heard many messages about the four horsemen, I also found myself drawn into his descriptions of the end times. This book is for anyone who wants to understand more about the dilemmas occurring around them and the Biblical solutions available to all. It would be great for book discussion groups.
 
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com <http://BookSneeze.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”