Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Tale of Two Young Girls on the Journey of Their Lives

I loved the format of this book, with it's two short stories delicately intertwining the lives of two young girls, Sierra and Christy.

Both stories tell of the girls embarking on summer vacations that hold many possibilities and excitement, with a hint of romance.

In the first tale, "Now Boarding at Gate 10", we are along with Christy Miller and her family on their trip to Wisconsin. She is still aching from a the departure of her boyfriend, Todd, and isn't all too happy about the trip, but once they arrive in Wisconsin, she is reunited with an old friend, and a romantic spark leads her to the conclusion that there is something to be said about finding a balance between life and love, and that there is a place for her in God's world.

In the second tale, "In the Event of a Water Landing", Sierra Jensen is on a journey to Montana with her friend Jana. She is irritated at Jana's boycraziness, and aches for the days when she and her friend could just be themselves. She turns often for guidance from her much-read Bible, and finds a way to be confident in herself as a young woman as she leaves her girlhood days behind her in search of where she fits in the great scheme of things.

I enjoyed both of these novellas, and would recommend them to any young lady for light and comfortable reading. A great little book to give or get for a summer vacation.

I received this book free in exchange for my honest review ~ from Blogging For Books. If you won like to get your free books, too, please click the Blogging For Books link to the left.
Please visit the Blogging For Books site to rank my review :) thank you!!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Great Read - An Unlikely Suitor - Nancy Moser

This period novel follows the story of Italian immigrant Lucy Scarpelli and her mother and sister, 3 women struggling to make ends meet in 1895 New York. The Scarpelli’s are seamstresses working in sweatshops and out of their small, dilapidated apartment when they are unexpectedly evicted because their building is being torn down. Desperate to help her family, Lucy sets out to find them a new place to live and happens upon new jobs for them as well. Her families luck begins to change and their lives take a sudden grandiose turn when they acquire a modest apartment above the dress shop of Madame Moreau.

Lucy has big dreams, and those dreams begin to take flight when she befriends Rowena Langdon, a socialite with a physical injury that hinders not only her confidence, but also her social standing. Lucy creates a wardrobe for her new friend that enhances her beauty, disguises her infirmity and establishes a bond between the two young women. When Rowena travels to Newport, she is determined to figure out a way to bring her new friend along, even if it means defying the social rules of the time.

Once in Newport, Lucy experiences many situations that make her uncomfortable in her social position. She begins to see that she is nothing more than a seamstress, and regrets leaving her family behind to “pretend” to be something she is not. In the midst of her self-doubt and realization that she may never be able to rise above the status that she was born into, Lucy meets Dante. Dante is everything that she has never allowed herself to desire, and she finds herself inexplicably in love.

Meanwhile, Rowena is struggling with her own self-doubt and pulls further away from the man that she is to be married to. She realizes that she is not in love with the man her parents have arranged for her to be betrothed to and that she is actually in love with another, a man below her social status and forbidden by her family. 

As the two young women grow closer, their lives intertwine in more ways than one, until secrets and deceptions are exposed and confidences are betrayed. Will Lucy and Rowena ever be able to be with the ones that they love? Will their friendship survive disasters of envy, betrayal and social barriers? This novel is beautifully written, with characters full of life and emotion. Even if you are not particularly fond of period pieces, this novel’s story of love, friendship and determination shine through to make an enjoyable read.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Bethany House Publishers  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 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

An Edge of Your Seat Coming of Age Story- Promises to Keep by Ann Tatlock

As the text from the back cover promises – “A mother fleeing unspeakable danger to keep her children safe… Two young girls guarding secrets in a “cross my heart and hope to die” pledge… A father desperate to be reunited with his family…” this novel is full of unforgettable characters, twists and turns, and a heart pounding finale.
Meet Roz, an 11 year-old-girl in 1967, caught in the middle of her tween years, desperate to be an adult, yet clinging to her childhood as it swiftly disappears. Her family is torn apart by an angry father and a mother determined to keep her life under control. Roz finds herself in a new town, in a new house, and all alone. Her mother, older brother, younger sister and herself have moved into the house on McDowell Street, where they discover an unlikely friend. Tillie, the “old lady on the front porch” begins as a burden and a sad reminder of the past, yet she soon becomes a pillar of strength for a family that is faltering.
Reading this story, I experienced a gamut of emotions, and found myself lost in the tender world of Roz. It was a true to life depiction of the struggles of being an almost teen, and the sadness of seeing your family torn apart. When Roz meets up with her father, I felt the hope of the young girl, and found myself praying that somehow, someway, she would be able to bring her family back together. The final chapters of the novel kept me at the edge of my seat, with an unexpected climax that I won’t disclose. I certainly didn’t expect it.
I thoroughly enjoyed Tatlock’s tale, and felt a bond with the characters. She writes with wit and intelligence, and adds a certain voice and reality to the words on the page. I highly recommend this novel, it is a light and easy read that doesn’t disappoint.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Bethany House Publishers  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 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Gray Matter ~ by David Levy, MD with Joel Kilpatrick

 When I first received this book, I read the back cover, and set it aside. It didn't appear that it would be the type of book that I would be interested in, so I decided to hold off on reviewing it for a while. I finally picked it up and began to read one cold, stormy evening, and I haven't been the same since.

No other book about spiritual journeys, or relationships with God have ever touched me as deeply as this book. I read it, with the full expectation that it would be a decent read, and perhaps I would learn a bit about the personal struggles of a neurosurgeon. The book definitely deals with the personal struggles, but it is so much more than that. This book literally touched my soul.

Dr. Levy begins by sharing his desire to get to know his patient's in a deeper way then their diagnosis. He feels that by delving into their lives on a spiritual level, he can treat them as whole people, rather than merely a medical problem needing surgery. His idea ~ to pray with his patients before and after their surgery. "To say that praying out loud with a patient before surgery would put me out on a limb is putting it mildly. It would catapult me out of the tree." Once he finally finds the courage to take the first step and pray with a patient, his life changes. The simple act of saying a prayer with his patient Mrs. Jones has a profound effect on him and her. They part and prepare for surgery in a cloud of peace.

Not all of his patients are receptive to the idea of praying with Dr. Levy. Some are downright hostile. But the ones that he shares the intimate spiritual moment with are forever changed. As the narrative continues, Dr. Levy explores deeper spiritual awakenings with his patients, from finding forgiveness and breaking free of bitterness and anger. Not all of his surgeries have the outcome he desires, some fail miserably, but the journey is nonetheless deeply moving and triumphantly inspiring.

I found myself in tears after several of the stories, and had to put the book down for moments in order to let the weight of them sink in. I was completely taken in by Dr. Levy's honesty about some of the more difficult cases, his occasion struggle with his own faith, and how he found his way back each time. "...if you want to do something well, you have to be willing to do it poorly at first."

This book was an amazing read. Throughout the narrative, I would stop and contemplate Dr. Levy's message. I found myself forgiving those who have harmed me in the past, letting go of bitterness that has been festering in my soul for far too long. I felt closer to finding my way down my own spiritual path, and it felt wonderful. This book has deeply affected me, more so than any devotional I have ever read. I highly recommend reading Gray Matter. It may not change your life, but it will certainly make you stop and think, even if just for a moment.

I received an ARC (advanced reader copy) of this book from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Max Lucado's Hermie and Friends ~ A Bug Collection

I was on of the 50 lucky people to receive the DVD Box Set of Max Lucado's Hermie and Friends A Bug Collection. This particular selection was in high demand on the BookSneeze program. I was very excited to receive my DVD's and to show them to my children, ages 5 1/2 and almost 3.

The DVD contains three separate disks, each containing an episode of Hermie and Friends. Each episode is introduced by Max Lucado and Hermis, who discuss some of the themes of the story to come. Some of the voice talents in this series include Tim Conway, Richard Kind, and Victoria Jackson.

The first DVD was "Milo, the Mantis Who Wouldn't Pray ~ It's About Prayer". In this episode, Milo the Mantis' Snack Shack is struck by a storm, and Milo is devastated. He struggles to find a way to express his sadness, but refuses to pray about it, or ask for help from God.

The second DVD was "Buzby and the Grumble Bees ~ It's About Bee-having." In this episode, Buzby has some trouble with his niece and nephew misbehaving and everyone sets out to teach them a lesson.

The third DVD was "Hailey and Bailey's Silly Fight ~ It's About Getting Along." Ladybugs Hailey and Bailey, who usually get along, have a huge fight in the garden and everyone else is forced to take sides. They struggle to make up before the good deeds that they set out to do get ruined by their bad mood.

The stories are deeply rooted in the bible, which is to be expected, considering they are a Tommy Nelson publication, however, I was expecting an almost sugar coated Bible story; what I got was some pretty intense lessons on God and how God expects us to live our lives, and how we should behave according to the Bible. I wasn't prepared for the heavy religious lessons, anticipating instead a sort of Veggie Tales storyline with a sprinkling of Christian values and morals. I'll admit, we aren't a religious family in the sense that we discuss God, Jesus and the Bible in explanation for everything that we do or don't do. I have taught my children about God and Jesus, and have read them Bible stories. However, I felt that the Hermie and Friends episodes were a bit too religious for us. I enjoyed the ladybugs, and thought the animation was well done, and Hermie is adorable; but Buzby the Elvis impersonating bee was too much, and the stories as a whole did not capture my children's attention. I know many families that would enjoy these DVD's, but they just weren't the best fit for us.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Flight of Shadows ~ A Novel by Sigmund Brouwer


I’ll admit, I’m not much of a Speculative Science Fiction enthusiast, but I was intrigued by Brouwer’s vision of the future. Unfortunately, having missed the first novel in the series, it took some effort (especially not having a grasp on futuristic fiction) to figure out the way the world in this novel worked.  The characters kept me going, though, I was engaged by them just enough to care about what may or may not happen to them. 

The story is set in the not so distant future, in an America that looks nothing like what we know today (or maybe it does, if you look beneath the surface, ironically) where social class is differentiated clearly and there is no chance of a shift of position. Influentials rule this world. They live the high life of luxury living and fancy clothing, and have the ability to enslave those beneath them.  The Industrials, what would equate to the middle class, have it hard. They are tattooed on their faces to identify them, and work day in and day out for the Influentials. They live outside of the cities in shantytowns and clusters of beaten down communities. Outside even further are the Illegals, the folks that are allowed no entry into the world of the other two, and are forced to scrape a living however they can. Amongst them are the Invisible, those that have no real ties to any class; those that have escaped from the trappings of Appalachia. Appalachia? In this world, Appalachia is its own nation, ruled with an iron fist of fundamentalist religion, where many of the characters have made a desperate escape.

The lead character is Caitlyn Brown, a young woman with a mysterious past and an awful secret. She hides her deformity with loose clothing and hides in the darkness, trying, without success to not be noticed. But, the problem lies in her past, in her creation. She is the result of a genetic experiment and many dangerous people want to harm her. She is wanted by a bounty hunter, who has escaped Appalachia to hunt her down. She is wanted by the government who want to harvest her DNA. She is wanted by her dearest friends, who wish to help her escape out West. She is wanted by the police for trumped up charges. Everyone who discovers her secret wants her for one reason or another, and not many of them are good.

While it took me a while to decipher all of the ins and outs of the world in which Caitlyn lives, once I had sorted out the classes and where everyone fit in, I was able to root for Caitlyn and Razor, her unlikely hero. Would they escape the maniacal clutches of Mason? Was Razor to be trusted at all? And the Doctor that Caitlyn waffles about visiting, the one who had promised her father that he could fix her deformity, will he be all that he seems? Will any of the questions that arise throughout Caitlyn’s terrifying adventure be answered? Will Caitlyn find the peace she desperately seeks? Perhaps. Perhaps not. If Science Fiction is your thing, you will definitely enjoy this novel.

I received this book free in exchange for my honest review ~ from Blogging For Books. If you would like to get your free books, too, please click the Blogging For Books link to the right.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

An Amish Love ~ Three Amish Novellas

I haven't been reading many "actual" books lately, as I have been enamored with my Christmas present, my beautiful Kindle. However, I did put it down long enough to read through this beautiful collection of Amish romance stories entitled, "An Amish Love" by Beth Wiseman, Kathleen Fuller, and Kelly Long.

I am a huge fan of Amish literature. Whether it is romance, historical fiction, non-fiction, or cookbooks, I devour every bit of writing I can if it has to do with the Amish. My family has roots in Amish country, and I have always been taken with the simple and sustainable way that they live. I enjoy the glimpses into their world, even if it is through fictionalized accounts.

These stories are wonderful. They engage you and carry you away to the Amish world, one that is so far away, yet so very close. The characters are true and endearing. The descriptions are vivid and captivating. I loved that the stories were short, but not lacking in character development or plot. They capture your attention and cart you off into the world of the Amish, but not for too long.

My particular favorite story was the first in the book, "A Marriage of the Heart". It was definitely a romance story with a twist. I enjoyed the way that Abigail and Joseph manipulated each other, until they both began "to understand the tender truths of life-long love." They are each looking for a way out of the lives that they lead, and wind up falling ~ in love and into the Amish ways. This was a captivating story that I read in one sitting.

All of the stories in this book have similar qualities. Each of the characters is looking for "a way out" when what they ultimately find is "a way in". The stories intertwine, but also hold up well on their own, so you are able to just read one, or skip around them without losing any context.

I also loved that there are Old Order Amish recipes included. There is nothing better than a fresh batch of Amish cookies to go with your Amish romance novella! I definitely recommend this book, for any fan of Amish romance, or for someone who wishes to read a love story that isn't buried in sex scenes.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the 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 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”