Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Nancy Drew Challenge March Recap

The Nancy Drew Challenge is a reading challenge for 2010 for readers to attempt to read all 56 original yellow hardbacks that were in the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories. Click here for more information or to sign up for the challenge. At the end of each month, I will put up a post where participants of the challenge can recap how they did during that month.


Whoops! I totally forget to post this until tonight! It's been a loooong month heh.

Anywho, this month I was able to catch up on my reading and read 9 books this month. I've noticed that the writing is starting to get a lot better. The mysteries are getting more complex and actually starting to be real mysteries. Also the books are getting more violent. Obviously they are not in the same league as harder mysteries but they are definitely not the innocent books that started the series. In those, the worst that happened to Nancy is that she would be locked in closet. Now she's getting hit on the head on purpose with the intent to purposely harm or even being thrown off the side of a boat by masked men. Not everyone seems to love Nancy Drew eh?

The romance factor seems to have slightly kicked up a notch. Things are still squeaky-clean with Ned but Nancy seems to be flirting a bit (ok barely) with other guys OR she's avoiding them all together. Ned still wants to get it on, it seems (Oh Nancy, do we have to solve a mystery EVERY time we get together?). My favorite book involving relationships was THE HAUNTED BRIDGE, where Nancy and the girls have to deal with the irksome Martin Bartescue. It is the first time in the series where you see Nancy get visibly frustrated with anyone. And I loved it how she even asks rather snarky to him at times. Way to go, ghostwriter!!

Random things I noticed while reading
-In The Whispering Statue, Bess suggests that Nancy use the name Carrie Fisher as a disguise. I wonder if that's where Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher got their famous daughter's name from...
-Also in the Whispering Statue, it's mentioned several times that the statue looks like Nancy. It looks so much like her that even though it's a statue from way back when in Italy, it has the exact same 1970s hair flip style that Nancy does!
- Has anyone noticed that George constantly gets hurt in the books? From sprained ankles to getting her hand caught in a mouse trap, poor George is always sacrificed.
- I found The Mystery of the Ivory Charm to be incredibly stereotyped towards Asian Indians to point where it becomes insulting. From the way they speak to the showing of culture, it was borderline offensive. Also what are the odds that there was only ONE Indian man living in River Heights and he happened to be part of the mystery? Now that I think about it, as it stands he seems to be the only non white resident of River Heights.

How was Nancy Drew for you in March?

Book Review: "Where Do I Go?" by Neta Jackson

Gabrielle Fairbanks has nearly lost touch with the carefree, spirited young woman she was when she married her husband fifteen years ago. But when the couple moves to Chicago to accommodate Philip's business ambitions, Gabby finds the chance to make herself useful. It's there she meets the women of Manna House Women's Shelter; they need a Program Director-and she has a degree in social work. She's in her element, feeling God's call on her life at last, even though Philip doesn't like the changes he sees in her. But things get rough when Philip gives Gabby an ultimatum: quit her job at the shelter or risk divorce and losing custody of their sons. Gabby must take refuge, as in the song they sing at Sunday night worship: "Where do I go when there's no one else to turn to? . . . I go to the Rock I know that's able, I go to the Rock."

This is a book that I don't know why I kept delaying to read. I loved the original Yada Yada Prayer Group series and had been very excited that a spin off series had been created. When I finally did read it, it was a breath of fresh air. Yes, characters from the original books are sprinkled throughout but the story is Gabby's story. I really felt for her throughout the book. There were times when I did want to shake her for being unreasonable but for the most part, I totally sympathized with her. There were so many issues that were pressing her from being away from her kids, dealing with a mother in law who doesn't like her, trying to cope with her own mother who is suffering dementia, and having a husband who is no help whatsoever. I really liked her adventures at the women's shelter. It really makes one think about those who live there and those who run the place to give those women hope.

It always amazes me when an author is able to write a character that is so easy to hate. And I hated Philip. I could not believe the way he acted towards Gabby and how he would treat her. He was just absolutely horrible. He wasn't physically abusive but he was emotionally abusive towards her. There are signs of how his childhood and relationship with his parents might attribute to how he views his marriage but it's still no excuse whatsoever. I have no idea what he wanted from Gabby except maybe make her into his trophy wife. I mean he didn't even want his kids up there with them, he never fought to have them stay in Chicago. By the time the end of the book comes, I just wanted to kill him! Honestly, there was so much rage in me towards him.

The book ends on a huge cliffhanger but luckily I already owned the second book it the series and finished that one (now just waiting anxiously for the third). I've read that some people complained how they don't like being left hanging in a series, but that's the point of a series - to keep you reading the rest of the books in the series.

Even if you don't like Christian fiction, I really think you will like this book. It does a wonderful job at opening your eyes about the homeless and women's shelters and what goes on to run such a place. The book is never condemning or preachy. Even though faith issues are talked and touched upon many times, it's more a discovery of them rather than evangelizing. I felt this book to be WAY more realistic than most Christian fiction. I wasn't surprised by this as the books in the main Yada Yada Prayer Group series dealt with issues not found in other Christian books. And that is the reason why I would be comfortable recommending this book to non Christian readers. It's so nice to read books that don't just stay in the bubble and will reach out and make you uncomfortable.

Where Do I Go? by Neta Jackson is published by Thomas Nelson (2008)

This review copy was provided by the publisher

Waiting on Wednesday

My Name is Memory by Ann Brashares
Releases: June 1, 2010

Daniel has spent centuries falling in love with the same girl. Life after life, crossing continents and dynasties, he and Sophia (despite her changing name and form) have been drawn together-and he remembers it all. Daniel has "the memory", the ability to recall past lives and recognize souls of those he's previously known. It is a gift and a curse. For all the times that he and Sophia have been drawn together throughout history, they have also been torn painfully, fatally, apart. A love always too short.

Interwoven through Sophia and Daniel's unfolding present day relationship are glimpses of their expansive history together. From 552 Asia Minor to 1918 England and 1972 Virginia, the two souls share a long and sometimes torturous path of seeking each other time and time again. But just when young Sophia (now "Lucy" in the present) finally begins to awaken to the secret of their shared past, to understand the true reason for the strength of their attraction, the mysterious force that has always torn them apart reappears. Ultimately, they must come to understand what stands in the way of their love if they are ever to spend a lifetime together.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Book Review: "The Promise of Morning" by Ann Shorey

Ellie Craig grieves the loss of three infant children, and when long-hidden secrets are brought to light, she must find a way to contact the family of her long-lost father. Meanwhile her husband, Matthew, faces controversy in his church and competition from a new arrival in Beldon Grove, who claims to be both a minister and the son of the town's founder. Will Matthew find the courage to reclaim his church? And will his unexpected travel companion help Ellie's heart mend?

The beginning of this book makes you feel horribly sad for Ellie as the reader learns about how she's buried three children all before the age of 30. Then just as she's starting to get over from that, more tragedy strikes. Honestly, I don't think there's anything sadder than having your children die at a very young age. Then she finds out that her dad (who she had thought was dead all these years) has actually now really died and that her relatives had been keeping the truth from her all these years. Really, I have no idea how in the world she was able to bounce back after all this because there weren't many people for her to depend on for support. I also liked reading about the Shakespeare play that took place in the town. First, the arguments that Matthew would have about the play were interesting especially since I didn't feel as if it was very convincing. Second, just reading about what went on in the play was fun to read as well.

While I enjoyed the story, I wasn't a big fan of the characters. I did not like Matthew's character at all. First off, I know that this story is set in the 1800s but the age difference between Matthew and Ellie rather creeped me out. He seemed very legalistic and seemed more concerned about what was happening to his beliefs rather than that of his family's. I just could not believe that he left his family like that in the middle of the story. Personally I thought that was extremely selfish of him to leave his wife and children like that. I liked Ellie's character a lot better but at the same time I felt she was a bit naive as well. I know why she wanted to have hope of more family, but at the same time did she not realize how big of a territory Texas was? There seemed to be multiple story lines running throughout the book, so many that it was a bit hard to keep up at times. Some characters were pretty much cardboard characters who never grew throughout the book. I did like the ending however, it didn't feel forced or even cliched. Despite the faults I felt the book had, I did enjoy reading it as a whole. This is the second book in the series but it can be read as a stand alone novel.

The Promise of Morning by Ann Shorey is published by Revell (2010)

This review copy was provided by the publisher

Monday, March 29, 2010

Book Review: "Hollywood Nobody" by Lisa Samson

Fifteen-year-old Scotty Dawn has spent her young life on the road, traveling to movie sets with her single mom, Charley, a food designer. Yet even though Scotty is wise beyond her years, she still struggles to find her identity. Complicating matters is a mother who offers no guidance and a father she's never met.

Now Scotty is determined to discover what she wants from life. She's even documenting the journey on her "Hollywood Nobody" blog. But as Scotty begins to find dark answers to tough questions, will her story have a happy ending?

Lately, I seem to picking up YA book after YA book about teens in Hollywood. They've been ranging from teen actors to behind the scenes looks but each has given a unique perspective into what it's really like in the movie industry. Some have been more realistic than others but overall I've found them to be really fun to live vicariously through these characters. What makes this book stand out from the others is that even though it's a Christian YA book, it has all the fun, wittiness and snarkiness as the general market books.

I really enjoyed reading this book. Samson makes Scotty into an actual believable 15 year old. It didn't seem at all that an adult was writing this book, it felt more like a teen was the one who penned the novel. Also, I really liked how real celebrities were used in the story. Obviously the main characters were going to be fake stars, but actual real life actors are mentioned throughout the book adding a touch of realism to the story. Somehow this makes the book more credible and realistic than books that make up stars. Scotty (and Samson as the author) shows that she actually knows her way around the movie industry and is not just a rabid fan who's in love with a teen heartthrob. There's lots of humor in the book and even a touch of mystery as well.

The only thing I question is how quickly her blog achieves fame. While I really liked the blog posts and appreciated the realistic comments, I just found it a bit hard to believe that so many people found it so fast. There are LOTS of Hollywood blogs out there and it would take a long time to achieve the popularity as them. But I did love how Perez Hilton's blog gets a small shoutout. Overall I really enjoyed reading this book. The storyline draws you in and the characters really get to you. Scotty is a very likable character, mainly because she's so easy to relate to. You really want to root for her and her fight for the right to eat cheese. While this book is published as a Christian novel, I didn't find it preachy at all. Scotty explores learning more about the faith but it's not done in a pushy way. I can't wait to read the rest of the books in the series.

Hollywood Nobody by Lisa Samson is published by NavPress (2007)

This review copy was provided by a publicist

Love Finds You in Homestead, Iowa by Melanie Dobson

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Love Finds You in Homestead, Iowa

Summerside Press (March 1, 2010)

by

Melanie Dobson



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Melanie Beroth Dobson is the author of the inspirational novels Together for Good (2006), Going for Broke (2007), The Black Cloister (2008), Love Finds You in Liberty, Indiana (2009), Love Finds You in Homestead, Iowa (2010), Refuge on Crescent Hill (2010), and The Silent Order (2010) as well as the co-author of Latte for One and Loving It! A Single Woman's Guide to Living Life to Its Fullest (2000).

Prior to launching Dobson Media Group in 1999, Melanie was the corporate publicity manager at Focus on the Family where she was responsible for the publicity of events, products, films, and TV specials. Melanie received her undergraduate degree in journalism from Liberty University and her master's degree in communication from Regent University. She has worked in the fields of publicity and journalism for fifteen years including two years as a publicist for The Family Channel.

Melanie and her husband, Jon, met in Colorado Springs in 1997 at Vanguard Church. Jon works in the field of computer animation. Since they've been married, the Dobsons have relocated numerous times including stints in Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, Colorado, Berlin, and Southern California. These days they are enjoying their new home in the Pacific Northwest.

Jon and Melanie have adopted their two daughters —Karly (6) and Kinzel (5). When Melanie isn't writing or entertaining their girls, she enjoys exploring ghost towns and dusty back roads, traveling, hiking, line dancing, and reading inspirational fiction.


ABOUT THE BOOK



Times are hard in 1894. Desperate for work, former banker Jacob Hirsch rides the rails west from Chicago with his four-year-old daughter, Cassie. When a life-threatening illness strands the pair in Homestead, Iowa, the local Amana villagers welcome the father and daughter into their peaceful society. Liesel, a young Amana woman, nurses Cassie back to health, and the Homestead elders offer Jacob work. But Jacobs growing interest in Liesel complicates his position in the Amanas. Will he fight to stay in the only place that feels like home, even if it means giving up the woman he loves? Or will Liesel leave her beloved community to face the outside world with Jacob and Cassie at her side?

If you would like to read the first chapter of Love Finds You in Homestead, Iowa, go HERE.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Canvas Print Winner

Congrats to the winner of the Canvas Print Giveaway!


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Book Review: "Songbird Under a German Moon" by Tricia Goyer

The year is 1945. The war is over and 21-year-old Betty Lake has been invited to Europe to sing in a USO tour for American soldiers who now occupy Hitler's Germany. The first nights performance is a hit. Betty becomes enthralled with the applause, the former Nazi-held mansion they're housed in and the attention of Frank Witt, the US Army Signal Corp Photographer. Yet the next night this songbird is ready to fly the coop when Betty's dear friend, Kat, turns up missing. Betty soon realizes Franks photographs could be the key to finding Kat. Betty and Frank team up against post-war Nazi influences and the two lovebirds hearts may find the answers...in each other. But will they have a chance for their romance to sing? The truth will be revealed under a German moon.

Tricia Goyer has a knack with turning almost any historical event into an interesting, page turning read. She's brilliant at using intense historical research mixed with an intriguing story line. Here she takes those tours we always hear about, where the troops get a show from musicians to bring back morale and gives it a literary spin. The story is extremely realistic as I felt I had traveled back in time and over the Atlantic with the American troops.

I thought it was interesting that even though the story takes place in Germany at the end of WWII, the focus still stays on the American experience in Germany. I say this because the story could have focused on the Holocaust or on rebuilding American-German relationships that had gone bad during the war or on an hate rampage against the Nazis that were still left. Not that there's anything wrong with any of these story lines, it's just that they've been used before. This story however about the USO tour is fresh and extremely interesting because I really don't know much about it. I've seen film clips and some museum exhibits but not enough to really know about these performers.

If there was anything at all I didn't like about the book, it was I felt Betty was a bit naive at times. I totally understand that this is her first time away from home and her family and she's nervous and just trying to fit in. I just felt that some of her conversations with Kat just sorta irked me a bit because it was obvious was Kat was trying to say (or not to say) and Betty just didn't get the meaning. Other than this I really enjoyed this book. As I said the history is just sweeping, the research well done, there's a bit of mystery and the book also shows both the glamor and horror of war. Tricia has once again captivated me with another book of hers and I just couldn't put it down. Another winner here and I can't wait til her book comes out.

Songbird Under a German Moon by Tricia Goyer is published by Summerside Press (2010)

This review copy was provided for a blog tour with LitFuse Press

Other stops on the blog tour here

Contest

Leave a comment on Tricia’s blog or send an email through her website CONNECT page and answer this question: What era in history do you wish you'd lived in and why?

Earn extra entries by signing up for Tricia's newsletter here, becoming a Fan on Facebook or Tweeting about the contest on Twitter (use hashtag #songbird)!

You’ll be entered to win one of three signed copies of Songbird Under a German Moon.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Book Review: "Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter" by Seth Grahme-Smith



While Abraham Lincoln is widely lauded for saving a Union and freeing millions of slaves, his valiant fight against the forces of the undead has remained in the shadows for hundreds of years. That is, until Seth Grahame-Smith stumbled upon The Secret Journal of Abraham Lincoln, and became the first living person to lay eyes on it in more than 140 years.

Using the journal as his guide and writing in the grand biographical style of Doris Kearns Goodwin and David McCullough, Seth has reconstructed the true life story of our greatest president for the first time-all while revealing the hidden history behind the Civil War and uncovering the role vampires played in the birth, growth, and near-death of our nation.

I have been getting a bit tired at all the mash-ups that seem to have popped up in the past year. While I thoroughly enjoyed Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, it was because when it came out it was the first and therefore unique. After that book became a hit, I swear every time you turned around there was another literary classic being entangled in a battle with monster or some figment of imagination. Seriously, it made me sad that authors couldn't come up with something original, that they had to take a classic work and put their spin on it. Therefore I was pleasantly surprised to hear that this book was coming out. While it does do a mash up, instead of taking classic literature it uses one of the great real life men that our country has ever seen.

I was really surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. I knew that I enjoyed Grahme-Smith's work from PPandZ so I had a feeling that I would get a kick out of this book too. He skillfully blends history with humor. I love how certain events get explained that they happened due to vampires. It's not done in an unbelievable way because the author writes like an actual popular historian. Actually all that's missing would be a bibliography at the end of the book. I would actually find it hilarious if one day all the real accounts of Abraham Lincoln get destroyed and all that's left will be this book which a future generation will depend on to get an understanding of Lincoln.

The pictures in the book are the best. Every time I came across one, I would break down and start laughing. Some of them are obviously cut and paste jobs but others look like the real thing (some I can't tell if they have been doctored or just as they are with a funny caption). My favorite is the one with Jefferson Davis and John Wilkes Booth. It's a serious picture but the caption just makes it stand out (and me in almost tears from laughing so hard).

If you're looking for a serious book about Abraham Lincon, run far far away. If you are a history purist who can't stand the thought of someone writing a fictional, much less sensationalist view of our 16th president, stay away from this book. But if you are a history fan and love humor, this book is just wonderful. It's an engrossing read and if it was a true account, I would call it extremely well researched. As it stands, it's one of the more unique reads of the year. And a hoot to boot.


Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahme-Smith is published by Grand Central Publishing (2010)

This ARC was provided by the publisher

Waiting on Wednesday


Reality Check by Jen Calonita
Releases: June 14, 2010

Sixteen-year-olds Charlie, Keiran, Brooke, and Hallie have just been signed up for their own reality television show. They can't even believe it. "You'll be The Hills meets The Secret Life of the American Teenager," the Armani-suited executive tells them, "and the hottest thing on our network." How could they say no?

But soon enough, cameras following them everywhere and interfering producers surreptitiously scripting their lives start to affect the four best friends' relationship. Brooke seems to want all the screen time. Keiran is abruptly written out of the show-and consequently the group's friendship-when she doesn't rate well. As soon as Charlie realizes what's going on, she figures out the perfect way to give the studio and her home audience a much-needed reality check.

Because friends don't let friends do reality shows.


"Waiting On" Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine

Heart of Stone by Jill Marie Landis

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Heart Of Stone
Zondervan (March 1, 2010)

by

Jill Marie Landis



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jill Marie Landis is the bestselling author of over twenty novels. She has won numerous awards for her sweeping emotional romances, such as Summer Moon and Magnolia Creek. In recent years, as market demands turned to tales of vampires, erotica, and hotter, sexier historical romances, Jill turned to writing Inspirational Western Romances for Steeple Hill Books. She truly feels back in the saddle again, working on stories that are a joy to write. With her toes in the sand and head in the clouds, Jill now lives in Hawaii with her husband, Steve.





ABOUT THE BOOK
Laura Foster, free from the bondage of an unspeakable childhood has struggled to make a new life for herself. Now the owner of an elegant boardinghouse in Glory, Texas, she is known as a wealthy, respectable widow. But Laura never forgets that she is always just one step ahead of her past.

When Reverend Brand McCormick comes calling, Laura does all she can to discourage him as a suitor. She knows that if her past were discovered, Brand’s reputation would be ruined. But it’d not only Laura’s past that threatens to bring Brand down─it’s also his own.

When a stranger in town threatens to reveal too many secrets, Laura is faced with a heartbreaking choice: Should she leave Glory forever and save Brand’s future? Or is it worth risking his name─and her heart─by telling him the truth?

If you would like to read the first chapter of Heart Of Stone, go HERE.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Book Review: "As Young as We Feel" by Melody Carlson

Once upon a time in the little town on the Oregon coast, there were four Lindas—all in the same first-grade classroom. So they decided to go by their middle names. And form a club. And be friends forever. But that was 47 years and four lives ago. Now a class reunion has brought them all—the New York lawyer, the empty nester, the frustrated artist, and the aging starlet—together again in their old hometown, at a crossroads in their lives. They’re about to explore the invigorating reality that even the most eventful life has second acts…and there’s no statute of limitations on friendship.

Unlike the characters in this book, I never had the privilege of sharing my name with anyone in my classes. Deborah has been a popular name in the 50's, it seemed to die down by the time I entered this world. Even though the characters are in their 50s, I still enjoyed reading about their experiences. Class reunions are always fun to read about because it's interesting to see how the popular crowd has fared throughout the years or how your crush from high school is no longer hot. What I found unique about this book is that the four Lindas weren't best friends in high school, they had just bonded because they all shared the same name back then. Now they've grown apart and created new identities for themselves.

Caroline's character was the most interesting to me. Her situation with her mother was sad to read and frustrating to read about. It's hard to see someone you love start to slowly break down mentally especially when it's a parent. I was a bit confused as to how her mother survived on her own. It seemed that Caroline didn't visit her all that much before the book started. I don't know how her mother hasn't burned the house down or hurt herself severely living on her own. Abby's story was a bit of a letdown. She seems to be kind of a push over, allowing her husband to do what he wants and doesn't think about what makes her happy. I got really annoyed at the way he would put her down and then accuse her of making his life miserable. Even at the end when they start to resolve their problems, he's still not making 100% of an effort.

As for the other two women, I didn't really feel as if I got to know Marley or Janie. They just seemed to be the two characters that lived far away and then chose to come back to their hometown. There wasn't really much growth in their characters other than discovering that they weren't happy in their present situation. I did find it quite interesting that Marley's son is gay and other than a few mentions of her ex husband being displeased it's just a way of life for them. It was the same with Janie's boss, it's casually mentioned but not a factor. Which I thought was very refreshing for Christian fiction, to NOT be judgmental.

I will admit that even though I normally love Melody's books, this one feel sort of flat. Melody is known for pushing very edgy material in her other books and this one didn't really have it. I think there was just too much dialogue between the characters. There was just a LOT of talking that seemed to be just chatter or small talk. I never really bonded with any of the characters like I normally do. Overall though I enjoyed it. There is a bit more faith talk in this book as opposed to other Carlson books, but for the most part it doesn't feel in your face. Since I do enjoy her books, I will be reading the next book in the series.

As Young as We Feel by Melody Carlson is published by David C. Cook (2010)

This ARC was provided by the Amazon Vine program

Monday, March 22, 2010

Book Review: "Scattered Petals" by Amanda Cabot

Longing for adventure, Priscilla Morton leaves Boston and heads for Texas, never dreaming that the adventure she seeks will leave her badly injured and her parents dead. Priscilla is determined to rebuild her life and make a home for herself in the beautiful Hill Country. But the bandits who took her parents' lives also destroyed her hope for the future.

Ranch foreman Zachary Webster knows what the future holds for him, and it's not a woman like Priscilla. She deserves a cultured East Coast gentleman, not a cowboy who's haunted by memories of his mistakes. The best thing he can do is leave her alone.

When necessity draws them together, Priscilla and Zach begin to forge a life that, like the scattered petals of her childhood, is filled with promise. But then the past intrudes, threatening their very existence.

Oh historical romances tend to be hit or miss with me. While I love historical books, most of them tend to be modern day romances set in historical settings. Pretty much it's a romance of today with long dresses, horse and wagons, and no electricity. Therefore I'm pretty picky and while the story need not be completely historical, the story has to grab my attention. Luckily this series has done that. I really enjoyed reading about the adventures of the townsfolk of Ladreville.

Priscilla had a horrible way to enter the story and I felt really bad for her. I really liked how Cabot doesn't allow her to wallow in misery nor does she become too happy too fast. Rather her reactions are quite normal for someone who has gone through her situation. The same with Zach. He doesn't overplay the hero nor does try to force Priscilla into doing anything she isn't comfortable with. Everything happened naturally which was very refreshing to read. I was quite surprised with the ending because it was a situation that normally doesn't happen in Christian fiction. Let's just say, people would normally die in order to create a big happy family instead of letting them stay as they are.

I was a bit worried at first that this book would fall into the cliches of all other historical Christian novels I read. The signs pointed there. Getting pregnant after being raped (somehow this ALWAYS happens in Christian fiction), a marriage of convenience to save face, another man who's in love with the female lead who is also a good guy. Luckily even though these are all there the story still manages to give fresh insight.

One thing I really find interesting about the story is the continuing rivalry between the French and German settlers of the town. Even though they have left their native land behind, both groups are still sticking to the old ways and are very bent on keeping their lives in that way. While they are fine with just living together in the same town, they don't really want to blend together. Intermarriage is pretty much out of the question, even sending all the children to the same school is hard to manage. The fact that there are two different nationalities trying to fit in to their new country while still maintaining their native roots was very interesting.

The only qualm I had was with the villains, their story (for all 3 of them) weren't really fleshed out. They seemed to be a bit cardboard in their actions and as such, everything the scenes were switched over to their POV, I found myself wanting to go back to Priscilla and Zach. Even though this book is the second in a series, it can be read as a stand alone. So far I have been enjoying this series. While a bit predictable at times, it's sweet and I like the setting and characters. Overall if you like historical romance set during the American west, you will enjoy this book. I know I will be looking forward to the next book in the series.

Scattered Petals by Amanda Cabot is published by Revell (2010)

This review copy was provided by the publisher

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Canvas Print Giveaway


Thanks to the folks at Uprinting.com I have a giveaway for you guys! The prize is an 16 x 20 Rolled Canvas. Turn your most precious moments into masterpieces! Get that artist’s feel and transform your favorite photos or work into canvas art. These thick and high-quality canvases are ultra durable and will a long time. You can click here to find more information about Canvas Prints, where you can also print online.

To enter, please fill out the form below with your information. YOU MUST FILL OUT THE FORM TO BE ENTERED. Any entries left in the comments will NOT be entered.

Open to US entries only (no PO Boxes as the prize will be shipped by UPS).

I'll pick a name and draw a winner on Sunday, March 28. Good luck!

In a nutshell

Prize: 16 x 20 Rolled Canvas Print for One (1) Winner

Specifications: 1 Business Day Turnaround

Shipping: FREE UPS Ground Shipping

Eligibility: Limited to US Residents only



Saturday, March 20, 2010

Spring Reading Thing 2010



FINISHED!!!!!



Well it's that time of the year again! Katrina at Callapidder Days is issuing out the command to get our reading lists out and done!
I started these twice-yearly challenges because I thought it would be fun to share my love of reading with other bloggers and to push myself to read some books I might not otherwise read, or to finish some books I had started and then abandoned & stashed under my bed. I thought there were probably others out there who would appreciate the accountability and encouragement that a challenge can provide. And along the way, I discovered there were lots of people who — whether they needed the extra push or not — loved to share what they planned or hoped to read during the upcoming months.

So that’s the point of the Spring Reading Thing: sharing some reading goals with all the other participants and doing it in a way that works for you. If you want to push yourself, go for it! Or if you just want to share what you’re hoping to get around to reading before June, that works too. The most important thing is to read this spring, to enjoy it, and to share that enjoyment with others.

So without further adieu is here is my list for the challenge! . Note: These are all my library books, which means these MUST be read by the end of the challenge or face the wrath of fines! I haven't listed books I own because I don't know if I'll get around to them, but they might pop up at the end of the challenge on my list.

Christian Fiction
  • Rachel's Garden by Marta Perry
  • Where Grace Abides by BJ Hoff
  • The Outlaw's Twin Sister by Stephen Bly
  • Guarded Secrets by Leann Harris
  • Double Take by Jenness Walker
  • Christmas Peril by Margaret Daley and Debby Giusti
Young Adult
  • After by Kristin Harmel
  • Unbelievable by Sara Shepard
  • Wicked by Sara Shepard
  • Killer by Sara Shepard
  • Sophomore Switch by Abby McDonald
  • A Gift of Magic by Lois Duncan
  • Broadway Lights by Jen Calonita
  • Disenchanted Princess by Julie Linker
  • Being Nikki by Meg Cabot
  • Ex-Mas by Kate Brian
  • The Breakup Bible by Melissa Kantor
  • Haters by Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez
  • Laguna Cove by Alyson Noel
  • Cliquetionary by Lisi Harrison
  • A Match Made in High School by Kristin Walker
  • Heartless by Sara Shepard
Chick Lit
  • The Cougar Club by Susan McBride
  • How Dolly Parton Saved My Life by Charlotte Connors
Cozy Mystery
  • While My Pretty One Knits by Anne Canadeo
Middle Grade
  • Scones and Sensibility by Lindsay Eland
Nancy Drew Books
  • The Secret in the Old Attic by Carolyn Keene
  • The Clue in the Crumbling Wall by Carolyn Keene
  • The Clue of the Leaning Chimney by Carolyn Keene
  • The Ghost of Blackwood Hall by Carolyn Keene
  • Mystery of the Tolling Bell by Carolyn Keene
  • The Clue in the Old Album by Carolyn Keene
  • The Clue in the Jewel Box by Carolyn Keene
  • The Quest of the Missing Map by Carolyn Keene
  • The Clue of the Tapping Heels by Carolyn Keene
  • Mystery of the Moss Covered Mansion by Carolyn Keene
  • Mystery of the Brass Bound Trunk by Carolyn Keene
  • The Secret of the Wooden Lady by Carolyn Keene
  • The Clue of the Black Keys by Carolyn Keene
Ok you may be wondering why there are so many Nancy Drew books on my list. Well that's because I'm hosting The Nancy Drew Challenge and I'm on track to read all 56 yellow hardback Nancy Drew books this year. Also lots of YA as well, leftovers from the books I checked out for a YA reading challenge. Anywho, 39 books in all! There will be more at the end since these are just library books. I read over a 100 books during the Fall Challenge but this one will probably be less due to trying to finish up school. As always, we shall see what I will come up with in June!

Faith 'n Fiction Saturday


My Friend Amy, who brought us Book Blogger Appreciation Week has a new carnival in the works, the Faith 'n Fiction Saturday.

Each week she will post a blogging prompt, which participating bloggers will answer on their own blogs. Then they head back to the original post and sign Mister Linky! This way we can all come to know each other more closely.


Today I'd like to talk about YA fiction for Christian teens. The Christian fiction market for YA is still quite small and not varied. It seems heavy on fantasy or girly books. Let's be honest.

But that doesn't mean there's not a wealth of great books published in the general market for Christian teens. Today's challenge is to compile a list of recommended books, Christian or general market for Christians teens.

I've been reading a lot of mainstream YA lately and while I enjoy them very much, many of them include some cursing, sex, or drinking that some Christian readers might be offended with. So my list includes Christian YA fiction with some general fiction that shouldn't give problems.

Here's my list:

Diary of a Teenage Girl series by Melody Carlson (Multnomah)
True Colors series by Melody Carlson (NavPress)
Notes from a Spinning Planet series by Melody Carlson (Waterbrook)
It's All About Us series by Shelley Adina (Faithwords)
The Miracle Girls series by Anne Dayton and May Vanderbilt (Faithwords)
Ruby Unscripted by Cindy Martinusen-Coloma (Thomas Nelson)
Beautiful by Cindy Martinusen-Coloma (Thomas Nelson)
Katie Parker Prodution series by Jenny B. Jones (NavPress)
Secrets of My Hollywood Life series by Jen Calonita (Poppy)
Sleepaway Girls by Jen Calonita (Poppy)
North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley (Little Brown Books for Young Readers)

These might have some "mature" themes in it, but I really enjoyed these books

The Lonely Hearts Club by Elizabeth Eulberg (Point)
The Vinyl Princess by Yvonne Prinz (Harper Teen)
Crowned by Julie Linker (Simon Pulse)
Confessions of a Triple Shot Betty by Jody Gehrman (Dial)
The Sweet Life of Stella Madison by Lara Zeises (Delacorte Books for Young Readers)

When You Wish by Kristin Harmel (Delacorte Books for Young Readers)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Book Review: "Coral Moon" by Brandilyn Collins

Leslie Williams hurries out to her car on a typical workday morning and discovers a dead body inside. Why was the corpse left for her to find? And what is the meaning of the message pinned to its chest? In Coral Moon, the senseless murder of a beloved Kanner Lake citizen spirals the small Idaho town into a terrifying glimpse of spiritual forces beyond our world. What appears true seems impossible. Or is it?

Kanner Lake doesn't seem to be a place that welcomes newcomers. Dead bodies pop up as often as they do in Cabot Cove, home of Jessica Fletcher. It's sad because the setting of the town seems like it would be the perfect place to settle down no matter what stage of life you are in. The characters in the story really make the novel. I really like hanging out with the crew at Bailey's. I could totally see myself hanging out there, grabbing a cup of coffee and catching up with the local gossip. Collins creates a wonderful blend of small town charm with spine tingling suspense. The actual mystery of the book is very well done. The book delves into topics that are normally shied away from in Christian fiction, as it deals with some slightly paranormal/supernatural subjects. Conservative readers might be wary but for someone who doesn't see that often in CF, I loved it. I myself didn't find it TOO scary but it does make a great page turner.

I really enjoy Collins' writing. She really knows how to create suspense and write a good plot that intrigues the reader without resorting to using language or being too gory. To some readers who are used to the graphic descriptions found in mainstream suspense novels, this book will seem almost like a cozy mystery in comparison. However to readers who are used to clean fiction, this book raises the bar and could be seen as a book that could keep you up at night. The story keeps the reader's attention without having to depend on cliches that are often found in either Christian fiction or mystery and suspense novels. While this is the second book in the series, they can be read as stand alones. Reading the first book will help to understand the characters better but you won't feel lost if you just jump into this one. Overall I'm really enjoying the Kanner Lake series and am looking forward to reading the rest of the books.

Coral Moon by Brandilyn Collins is published by Zondervan (2007)

This review copy was provided by the publisher

Here Burns My Candle by Liz Curtis Higgs

This week, the


Christian Fiction Blog Alliance


is introducing


Here Burns My Candle


WaterBrook Press (March 16, 2010)


by


Liz Curtis Higgs

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

In her best-selling series of Bad Girls of the Bible books, workbooks, and videos, Liz Curtis Higgs breathes new life into ancient tales about the most infamous—and intriguing—women in scriptural history, from Jezebel to Mary Magdalene. Biblically sound and cutting-edge fresh, these popular titles have helped more than one million women around the world experience God's grace anew. Her best-selling historical novels, which transport the stories of Rebecca, Leah, Rachel, and Dinah to eighteenth-century Scotland, have also helped her readers view these familiar characters in a new light. And her nonfiction book, Embrace Grace, winner of a 2007 Retailers Choice Award, presents her message of hope in an engaging and personal way, speaking directly to the hearts of her readers.

A veteran speaker, Liz has presented more than 1,600 encouraging programs for audiences in all 50 states and 10 foreign countries: South Africa, Indonesia, Germany, France, England, Canada, Ecuador, Scotland, Portugal, and New Zealand. In 1995, she received the Council of Peers Award for Excellence from the National Speakers Association, becoming one of only 32 women in the world named to their CPAE-Speaker Hall of Fame.

Feature articles about Liz have appeared in more than 250 major newspapers and magazines across the country, as well as online with Salon.com, Beliefnet.com and Spirituality.com. She has also been interviewed on more than 600 radio and television stations, including guest appearances on PBS, A&E, MSNBC, NPR, TBN with Kirk Cameron, CBC Canada, BBC Radio Scotland, Rhema Broadcasting New Zealand, Radio Pulpit South Africa, LifeToday with James Robison, Focus on the Family, Janet Parshall's America, 100 Huntley Street and Midday Connection.

Liz is the author of twenty-six books, with more than three million copies in print. Her fiction includes two contemporary novels, one novella, and four historical novels. And she has written five books for young children.

ABOUT THE BOOK

A mother who cannot face her future.

A daughter who cannot escape her past.


Lady Elisabeth Kerr is a keeper of secrets. A Highlander by birth and a Lowlander by marriage, she honors the auld ways, even as doubts and fears stir deep within her.

Her husband, Lord Donald, has secrets of his own, well hidden from the household, yet whispered among the town gossips.

His mother, the dowager Lady Marjory, hides gold beneath her floor and guilt inside her heart. Though her two abiding passions are maintaining her place in society and coddling her grown sons, Marjory’s many regrets, buried in Greyfriars Churchyard, continue to plague her.

One by one the Kerr family secrets begin to surface, even as bonny Prince Charlie and his rebel army ride into Edinburgh in September 1745, intent on capturing the crown.

A timeless story of love and betrayal, loss and redemption, flickering against the vivid backdrop of eighteenth-century Scotland, Here Burns My Candle illumines the dark side of human nature, even as hope, the brightest of tapers, lights the way home.

Watch the book video:







If you would like to read the first chapter of Here Burns My Candle, go HERE.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Book Review: "Balancing Acts" by Zoe Fishman

Charlie seemed to have it all—beauty, brains and a high-paying Wall Street job far away from her simple Midwest upbringing. Then, in the middle of her “quarter life crisis,” she decides that the banker’s life isn’t what she wanted after all, quits her job and opens her own yoga studio in Brooklyn. But like any new business, finding customers is an uphill battle. When she hears about her college’s 10 year reunion, she straps on her best salesman smile and invades midtown—determined to drum up some business.

Unexpectedly, she reconnects with three college classmates—women who, like Charlie, haven’t ended up quite where they wanted to in life. Sabine, a romance book editor, still longs to write the novel brewing inside of her. Naomi, a child of the Upper East Side, was an up-and-coming photographer and social darling, but now is a single mom who hasn’t picked up her camera in years. Bess, a California girl trying to make it in New York, dreams of being the next Christiane Amanpour, but instead finds herself writing snarky captions for a gossip mag, which is neither satisfying nor rewarding. When Charlie, who has her own past to contend with, signs them up for a weekly beginner’s yoga class, they become all too aware of the lack of balance in their lives. Each has to dig deep and fight their inner demons to reconnect with what they truly want out of life.

I'm not a yoga person. Believe me I've tried. I've just never gotten into the craze and to be honest I'm not very flexible. Still, I was drawn to this book because I love stories about friendship. And this book definitely did not disappoint. Even if you're clueless about yoga like me, it's absolutely possible to really enjoy this book. The writing is refreshing and relaxing almost as if you have done a session of yoga yourself.

I read this book after a recent first time trip to New York City and I was very excited to read about the city as this was the first book I had read that took place in NYC since my trip. Even though I didn't recognize any of the places, the story takes place in Brooklyn which is where I stayed for my trip as well as mention of the subway. This might be old news for folks who are New Yorkers or have been there several times but for me it was very exciting that I could finally relate to what everyone was talking about.

All four of the characters were easy to relate to and I found myself liking all of them. Naomi's character was probably my favorite as I felt her story involving her son, her ex and her medical issues, to be very in depth and yet engaging to read. Bess, while annoying me at bit at first, soon grew on me as she struggles to find her identity between her life in NYC and with her boyfriend. I really liked her visit with her parents as it helped her to discover where she belonged. Charlie's story didn't really stand out to me as the other three did but I really liked how her story is the anti Sex and the City. She was very brave to go after what she felt her heart wanted as opposed to staying in a job that was financially secure. Sabine's story had be cracking up. I loved her reactions with Subway guy because that's probably who I would have acted myself and I found myself laughing over the situation. I was very worried for a bit that the Sabine/Zach storyline was going to end up like an episode of Sex and the City where the good guy gets dumped for a jerk. I won't spoil the ending but I'll say I was VERY satisfied when my assumptions turned out wrong.

I really loved how the stories blended together yet each character was given her own separate story. The writing in the book flows very nicely and I was immediately drawn into the story. I wouldn't say this book is chick lit although it can read like one. More so, it's a book about women and friendships and how life may not turn out the way you had intended but it still works out for the best. I liked how even though not everyone has a conclusion that is entirely happy, it is where they accept their lives to be for the time period. This is Fishman's debut novel and it's a winner. I cannot wait to read her next book no matter what the subject as long as she keeps writing like this. VERY HIGHLY recommended. Namaste.

Balancing Acts by Zoe Fishman is published by Harper Paperbacks (2010)

This review copy was provided for a blog tour with TLC Book Tours

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Book Review: "Scrapping Plans" by Rebeca Seitz

The focus moves now to youngest sister Joy who was adopted from China as an infant. Always the quiet one, she and her husband’s struggle with infertility is being drowned out by sister Kendra’s wedding day, her daddy’s new romance, and another Sinclair sister who may see that double pink line on a pregnancy test before Joy does. Will a trip back to China help Joy understand that God’s timing is perfect, and His plans are the ones to follow?

When I first picked up this book, I was very excited. There aren't many Christian fiction books that feature an Asian American as the lead character (or even background characters really). Therefore I was really excited to finally see another POC character in the spotlight.

Sadly, I was little disappointed as to how Joy's character was handled. First off, she's adopted. Now I understand that all the girls in the series are adopted which is the purpose of the series. But I swear, except for a handful of books, every time there's an Asian American character in Christian fiction, she has to be either adopted, an immigrant or mixed race. Why can't anyone write about American born Asian characters? That aside, I got disturbed by several characteristics about Joy. One, out of all the characters she's the only one that's extremely neat and orderly and disciplined, something that's usually a stereotype of Asian characters. Second, I was very extremely disturbed to read this line "Is it odd that I love French food yet Chinese blood runs through my veins?" Why in the world would that be odd??!!! Just because you're Asian means you HAVE to like Asian food? Believe it or not, I know some white folks that love Asian food and hate typical American food, tell me is that weird?? It was just blatant stereotyping which I detest reading.

It's sad because I enjoyed for the most part the rest of the book. Infertility is an issue that many couples face and it's hard on both of them. I understand the frustrations between both Joy and her husband and why each other doesn't want to face the reality that something might be wrong. It's something that no couple wants to have to deal with and it's always hard when everyone else around you seems to be having babies except for you. I wish that there had been more about Joy's visit to China as I always love reading about travels. What we got was really good (especially the bit about the food) but I would have love to read more. Another plot of the book involved Tandy and Kendra (Meg is notably absent for the most part in this book) trying to figure out their feelings involving their father's girlfriend. Personally, I felt they were acting like brats considering they are both either married or about to get married and their father has been a widower for awhile. They have their own lives to worry about so I'm not sure why they kept interfering with other people's lives.

Something I thought was interesting was that there was no mention at all about what race/ethnicity Scott is in the entire book. Yet on the book of the book he is portrayed as an Asian man. Not a big deal, but interesting as nothing of that is mentioned at all. Just wondering if it was an assumption that because Joy was Asian she would have to marry an Asian man?

Overall, I felt that the issues I talked about earlier really affected me from getting into the story. I wanted to gel with the characters and dive into their stories but lines like what I mentioned hindered me from it. Other people might not be as affected by it like I did, but as an Asian American female who doesn't see a lot of portrayals of other Asian American in Christian fiction, it is a big deal for me. I was sad at how it was treated because otherwise the story would have more impact on me as a reader.

Scrapping Plans by Rebeca Seitz is published by B and H Publishing (2009)

This review copy was provided by the publisher

Waiting on Wednesday

Alice in Charge by Phyllis Reynolds Nayor
Releases: June 15, 2010

Alice’s memorable last year of high school is being overshadowed by some very difficult situations. A sudden increase in vandalism at the school leads Alice to discover an angry and violent group of students—teenage Neo-Nazis. Then an awkward hallway encounter gets a classmate to confess that a new, attentive teacher has been taking advantage of her. All at once, Alice’s safe and comfortable school starts feeling strange and serious—all this plus the normal senior year pressures of college applications and life-making decisions. Alice has two options: step up or melt down. The choice is simple, and true to the character that readers have loved for years….Alice steps up—in a big way.

The Right Call by Kathy Herman

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


The Right Call

David C. Cook; New edition (March 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist, of The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Kathy Herman is a best-selling suspense novelist who has written fifteen novels since retiring from her family’s Christian bookstore business. Kathy and her husband, Paul, have three grown children and five grandchildren and live in Tyler, Texas. This is the third title in the Sophie Trace trilogy, which also includes The Real Enemy, and The Last Word.


Visit the author's website.

The Right Call, by Kathy Herman from David C. Cook on Vimeo.




AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
















Drew Langley jumped at the loud thud upstairs and resisted the temptation to bang on the wall and dispel the roaring laughter that followed. Was he the only student in the apartment building still studying for finals?


A warm breeze rattled the blinds, and he closed his eyes, inhaling the intoxicating fragrance of magnolia blossoms wafting from the south campus of Stanton College. It took every ounce of discipline he could muster not to close his books and give in to the lure of spring.


He heard rubber soles on the hardwood floor and lifted his gaze as his roommate came to a quick stop in front of the mirror over the worn living-room sofa.


Tal Davison wet his fingers and smoothed his hair. “I see you’re still studying. I guess that means you’re not coming.”


“To what? I thought you had a date.”


“Why do you make me tell you everything twice? You’re worse than my grandmother.”


Drew put down his pencil. “Sorry, I’ve been focused on other things. Tell me again. I’m listening.”


Tal came and stood in the doorway of Drew’s bedroom, his arms folded across his chest. “I’m going over to Henry’s for a junk-food buffet and beer. You’re invited.”


“Thanks. But I really need to study for my English lit final. It’s next week, and I’ve got chapters of catching up to do.”


“Suit yourself. I’m brain-dead. I couldn’t learn another thing if you paid me.” Tal started to go and then stopped. “Listen, thanks again for letting me move in here for the last few weeks. It’s nice sharing an apartment that doesn’t reek of marijuana. I hope I haven’t been as big a pain as your other roommate.” He shot Drew a half smile.


Drew leaned back and folded his arms. “Hey, not at all, man. I hope you don’t think I’ve been ignoring you. It’s just that I have to keep up the grades. No four-oh, no scholarship. There’s no way I can afford to attend Stanton without it.” I don’t have a rich father footing the bill.


“Doesn’t it cramp your style to go to college in Sophie Trace? Your parents are pretty close by, aren’t they?”


“Thanks to the scholarship I can live off campus. That’s all the independence I need. It’s nice going home whenever I want. My parents really help me stay on track.” Drew studied Tal’s expression.


“I take it you wish your dad wasn’t so close?”


Tal got quiet for a moment and seemed to be somewhere else. “He’s much too busy to breathe down my neck. And he doesn’t care about my grades as long as I pass and he can tell his cronies that his namesake’s attending his alma mater and is going to work for him after graduation.”


“Is that so bad?”


“I just wish he cared more about me and less about his image. I’m not sure I can ever measure up to his expectations.”


“Come on, man. You’ve got it made in the shade. All you have to do is get through one more year, and he’ll hand you the job of a lifetime. I thought you were pumped about it.”


Tal flashed a crooked smile. “I’m trying to be. It’s my big chance to make Dad proud of me. It’s all he’s talked about for years. But there’s a lot of pressure, learning to run a big corporation. The closer I get, the more intimidated I feel.”


“He must think you can do it, Tal. There’s a lot at stake for him, too.” Even if he is handing it to you on a silver platter.


“Maybe I’ll buy a little time after I graduate—tell Dad I’m burned-out and need to backpack across Europe for a while before I jump into the corporate world.”


A grin tugged at Drew’s cheeks. “Then you’d need someone to babysit your Hummer. Can I apply for the job? Man, I wish I’d been there when your dad had it delivered to your birthday party.”


“It was an awesome way to turn twenty-one, all right. But I’d trade it in a heartbeat for a relationship with my dad like you have with yours.”


“I guess I take it for granted.”


“Well, don’t,” Tal said. “I can’t remember the last time I sat down and had a real conversation with mine. He’s either working himself to death or hiding out at the lake house with wife number four—the fashion model who’s got silicone for brains.”


“I didn’t realize she was his fourth wife.”


“And she’s pregnant with daughter number seven. Maybe he’s going for the record.”


“Yeah, but you’re still his only son. And you and your mother are close.”


“Not in proximity. She’s spending a lot of time in New York with her boyfriend. He deals in fine art, and she likes to go to the auctions with him. I doubt I’ll see her anytime soon.”


Drew shifted his weight. Why hadn’t Tal mentioned before that his mother was seeing someone?


“Actually, I’m happy for her,” Tal said. “And I don’t mind sharing her Nashville house with the maid, the cook, and the butler. I’ll lie around the pool and read sci-fi novels and give my brain a rest. I’m so burned-out I can’t stand to think about another year of studying.”


“You’ll be ready to hit it again in the fall. Just think how good you’ll feel when you get your degree.”


Tal smiled wryly. “Would you believe my dad’s executive bonus last year was ten million? I must be nuts not to be more excited about the job.”


No kidding. “So why aren’t you?”


“I don’t know … my dad’s ruthless. And the company takes precedence over everyone and everything. I want more out of life than that.”


“I hear you. But if it were me, I’d at least try it long enough to earn a couple million and then go do whatever I wanted.“


“I’ve thought of that.” Tal stood up straight, the result of his beer drinking and bingeing hanging over his belt. “But I have a feeling that once Dad has me under his thumb, I’ll never get out from under. What I really want to do is go to the police academy.”


“Have you told him how you feel?”


“I tried. But Dad doesn’t really care how I feel. It’s my duty as his only son to keep the family business going. If I turn my back on that, he’ll basically disown me. Not that we’re close now, but it’s hard to think of having no dad. Hey, enough serious talk. It’s party time. Sure you don’t want to come?”


“Yeah, I’ve got to hit the books. Who’s your designated driver?”


“Don’t need one. I’m walking.”


“You think that’s smart? Henry’s neighborhood isn’t exactly the safest part of town.”


“I’ll be fine. But I’ll tell you what”—Tal laughed and tossed his keys to Drew—“if I don’t make it back alive, the Hummer’s all yours.”



©2010 Cook Communications Ministries. The Right Call by Kathy Herman. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Book Review: "Before I Fall" by Lauren Oliver




What if you had only one day to live? What would you do? Who would you kiss? And how far would you go to save your own life?

Samantha Kingston has it all: the world’s most crush-worthy boyfriend, three amazing best friends, and first pick of everything at Thomas Jefferson High, from the best table in the cafeteria to the choicest parking spot. Friday, February 12 should be just another day in her charmed life.

Instead, it turns out to be her last.

Fortunately, she gets a second chance. Seven chances, in fact. Reliving her last day during one miraculous week, she will untangle the mystery surrounding her death—and discover the true value of everything she is in danger of losing.

Don't let the size of this book hinder you from reading it. Yes it's almost a 500 page book but believe me it's a page turner and you won't want to stop reading. There's a lot that goes on this book and it can be a bit confusing at first as to where it's all heading but once you get sucked into the story, you don't want to get out of it. I didn't like Samantha or her friends at first. They are the Mean Girls of their school, the popular girls who get what they want and everyone pretty much has to worship them. They don't care what who they hurt as long as they get what they want. Then at a party, everything changes.

I was wondering at first that this book would be a teen girl's version of Groundhog's Day where the same day would get relived over and over again until the very end when she would finally snap out of it. As it stood, from the first day I wasn't sure what was going to happen during the consecutive days that followed. While the same day does repeat itself, it was very refreshing not to keep reading the exact same events over and over again. Samantha was able to figure out pretty quick that she would be able to change things and make each day different. My favorite day was the day she spent with her family. It was just very sweet to read and you could tell that it meant a lot to both Samantha and her family to have her spend the entire day with them. Maybe for teens that read this book will take a lesson out of that and realize that no matter how much your friends and popularity mean to you at the moment, family is what should always come first. By the last day, I was pretty much in near tears as Samantha has realized what she has to do to make things right and the cost of her sacrifice.

There are lots of side stories that are just as interesting as well. The whole Valentine's Day Flower thing was something I dreaded in high school because I never got any flowers except maybe one or two from friends. Also the situation with the teacher was a bit disturbing because it seems that I've been reading lately more of teacher/student relationships in YA books. I hope this isn't a fad that isn't going to continue. I understand why Samantha did it in the book and that eventually she learned from it. While this is a book that is aimed at the young adult audience, I would recommend this more towards older teens as the book deals with issues of suicide, losing one's virginity and teen drinking.

This book has the best of both worlds. There is the fluff of a regular teen chick lit novel but there's also a heavy serious message woven through the story. It's a deep read that is both captivating and haunting at the same time. The author is the same age as me and I'm in awe that she's created a story that sticks me with me long after I finished reading. I really enjoyed reading this book and I look forward to anything else written by her. HIGHLY recommended.

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver is published HarperTeen (2010)

This ARC was provided by the publisher