Saturday, July 31, 2010

Nancy Drew Challenge July 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.

Well, I am personally almost done with the challenge! In July I read 8 books, #s 44-51. So only 5 more books to complete my goal! Well the books I read for this month really had me getting annoyed with George. In every book she keeps mocking Bess for eating. Well you know what? It's nice to see a girl with a healthy appetite and so what if Bess is slightly plump? She is doing just as much as Nancy and George is doing. I'm not quite sure if that is what the authors intended but it seems to be a subliminal message saying it's not ok for girls to eat. The stories lately have been rather forgettable or either really outlandish. Ned seems to get kidnapped a lot. I just find this amusing. Also I had no idea he was going to be an engineer.

Also even though the story was just meh..this probably is my favorite cover of the entire series


There is just something about how the face is framed between leaves that looks like a lot of modern books that are out there today. It is probably the non cheesiest looking cover out of all the books, at least to me.

How was Nancy Drew in July for you?





Thursday, July 29, 2010

Dark in the City of Light by Paul Robertson

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Dark In The City Of Light
Bethany House (July 1, 2010)

by
Paul Robertson



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:




Paul Robertson is a computer programming consultant, part-time high-school math and science teacher, and the author of The Heir. He is also a former Christian bookstore owner (for 15 years), who lives with his family in Blacksburg, Virginia.





ABOUT THE BOOK

What Evil Haunts the Shadows of 1870s Paris?

Baron Ferdinand Harsanyi — After his wife's mysterious death, this Austrian attaché holds control over mines whose coveted ore could turn the tide of war.

Therese Harsanyi — Swept up in new romance and the spectacle of Paris, the Baron's daughter is blind to the dangers stalking her family and the city she loves.

Rudolph Harsanyi — Unsure whom to trust, the Baron's son's grief over his mother's death twists into growing anger and a desire to break free.

As France and Prussia plunge toward war, one family is caught in a web of deceit, political intrigue, and murder that threatens to tear them apart.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Dark In The City Of Light, go HERE.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Book Review: "How to Be an American Housewife" by Margaret Dilloway

How to Be an American Housewife is a novel about mothers and daughters, and the pull of tradition. It tells the story of Shoko, a Japanese woman who married an American GI, and her grown daughter, Sue, a divorced mother whose life as an American housewife hasn't been what she'd expected. When illness prevents Shoko from traveling to Japan, she asks Sue to go in her place. The trip reveals family secrets that change their lives in dramatic and unforeseen ways. Offering an entertaining glimpse into American and Japanese family lives and their potent aspirations, this is a warm and engaging novel full of unexpected insight.

As the first generation daughter of Asian immigrants to the US, I am always on the lookout for books that tell the stories of immigrant parents and their American born children. It doesn't matter what culture the people are from. The stories end up all being the same of people having to adapt to a new culture and wanting what's best for their children, while the children struggle with both their parents' culture and their new homegrown one. Since I am Asian American though, I really enjoy the stories that involve Asian immigrants. One of my favorites is The Joy Luck Club which I think pretty much explains my mother's relationship with my sisters and me. I had heard several comparisons of this book with The Joy Luck Club so I had been looking forward to reading it.

The writing is beautiful. I felt really drawn into both Shoko and Sue's stories. I could see both the scenes in Japan and in American clearly from the narrative. Shoko's story is sad. While she made most of her own choices, the way that things happened just were done very melancholy. Her transition to the American lifestyle must have been difficult as she is mostly alone except for her husband. It's understandable for her children then to not be able to fully understand their mother because a lot of her culture she didn't share with them.


Japanese culture is rich in this book. The first half of the story is told in flashback's from Shoko's point of view so we see the country through familiar eyes. Then during the second half, Sue visits the country for the first time and everything is seen with wonder and newness. It is also interesting to see the Japanese viewpoint of Pearl Harbor and the atomic bomb droppings. There are many stories from the American point of view that show the Japanese as the bad guys so to see the flip side is always informative and enlightening.

The excerpts from the fictional guidebook that Shoko used are both informational and unintentionally amusing. It's a good way to showcase how the culture was during that time, both for the Japanese war brides and how Americans viewed women in general. I went on the author's website to see the actual book she based this book on, and it's quite interesting to read the actual tips that were recommended.

If there was anything I would add to the book, it would be possibly seeing things from Charlie's point of view. I feel that his character was only seen from his wife and daughter's POVs so therefore we never get a full sense of his personality. I would have very much liked to know what he was thinking when he arrived in Japan and met Shoko and then his experience of having an interracial marriage in America. Actually I think it would be a great book to do the same story from Charlie and Mike's POVs. That would be excellent to get the same story from the views of the men in the family, especially with the revelation of the truth about Mike.

Honestly this book is one of the best books that I have read in 2010. As soon as I go back to visit my parents' home, I will be giving this book to my mother to read. I have a feeling that she is going to be able to relate to Shoko a lot and will therefore enjoy this book as well. This is a great book for mothers and daughters, and especially for anyone who parent was an immigrant to the US. It's a wonderful way to experience culture through reading. VERY HIGHLY recommended.

How to Be an American Housewife by Margaret Dilloway is published by Putnum (2010)

This ARC was provided for a tour with TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Book Review: "The Seeker" by Ann Gabhart

Charlotte Vance is a young woman who knows what she wants. But when the man she planned to marry joins the Shakers—a religious group that does not marry—she is left dumbfounded. And when her father brings home a new wife who is young enough to be Charlotte's sister, it is more than she can bear. With the country—and her own household—on the brink of civil war, this pampered gentlewoman hatches a plan to avoid her new stepmother and win back her man by joining the Shaker community at Harmony Hill. Little does she know that this decision will lead her down a road toward unforeseen peace—and a very unexpected love.

This book starts off with your typical evil stepmother story, where the father is clueless and bewitched by his younger new wife. He seems ignorant to his adult daughter's feelings and doesn't seem to realize that his new wife is trying to get rid of anything from the old household including his own daughter. Charlotte is caught between her devotion for her father and growing hatred for his new wife. Her original plan to escape is thwarted when her fiance announces that he is going to join the Shakers, a group known to advocate celibacy where marriage and children are forbidden. Due to her desire to save the slaves in her household and because she feels that she has nowhere else to turn she also joins the Shakers, even though she doesn't agree full with their lifestyle.

I still don't understand the Shakers nor do I agree with their lifestyle. I really question all those men who joined the group because they didn't want to get married. It makes me wonder about them. Still though, this book does a much better job at explaining their way of life I felt than the other two books in the series did. Also it was interesting to read about how they dealt with all the soldiers from the Civil War and their desire to help them out. Charlotte is an interesting character as she struggles with her family, her feelings for both her former fiance and the new man in her life Adam, her feelings towards slavery, and then having to adapt to the Shaker lifestyle. She could have turned out to be one of those spoiled rich girls who is used to having everything done for her, but instead her character matures and grows throughout the whole story.

I liked how this book ties in the first book with one of the supporting characters. Since it's been almost two years since I read the first book in the series, I didn't recognize her at first. It wasn't until she told her background story that I realized it was her and also how much time had passed in the story since then. It's a bit sad how her story ended but that was the life that she chose. I can't recall if characters from the second book in the series show up in here.

Overall, I felt that this was the best book of the series. The qualms I had with the first book have disappeared as the Shakers are explained more and even though I don't agree at all with their ways of life, the book shows how the Shakers were having to adapt with the outside world more. In fact the only real qualm I had with this one is that I felt Selena's story at the end is handled rather rushed as she never comes back to defend her actions. I would classify this book as more historical fiction that historical romance as there is not really much interaction between Charlotte and Adam throughout the book. There is a lot of information about Civil War Battles in this book which, as a historian, I really enjoyed. This book can be read as a standalone but if you are wanting to learn more about the Shakers I would recommend reading the entire series. I haven't come across many books focusing on this sect so it's always interesting to learn more about them. I'll be looking forward to reading more books in the future from the author.

The Seeker by Ann Gabhart is published by Revell (2010)

This review copy was provided by the publisher

Monday, July 26, 2010

Book Review: "So Over It" by Stephanie Morrill

Senior year is over and Skylar Hoyt is ready to forgive and forget. Or at least forget. She wants a fresh start where people don't know about her partying past or her younger sister and her baby. A place where she won't run in to her ex-boyfriend every time she leaves the house. When she gets the chance to spend the summer in Hawaii with her grandparents, Skylar jumps at the chance to get out of town. But when her sister needs her, Skylar has to swallow her pride and come back home. Will she be strong enough to rise above the gossip and live the life God wants for her?

I've read a lot of young adult fiction, both Christian and general market. Even though I'm not a complete expert on the subject, I feel that I am one of the few readers who has read both kinds and can do a fair comparative. Sometimes general market YA has too much sex, language and drinking for Christian readers. Sometimes Christian YA is too clean and unrealistic for general market readers. I like reading books that have a balance between the two, where a Christian teen can read a YA book and still be able to relate to real life issues without sugarcoating.

Stephanie Morrill's series The Reinvention of Skylar Holt has manage to capture both worlds in a wonderfully written story. In the conclusion of the series, the reader finds Skylar still struggling with getting rid of her past and being able to move on with her life. A family vacation in Hawaii might do the trick..or it might not as her grandmother tries to fix her up with the cute next door neighbor boy. Skylar is still not completely over her ex boyfriend Chase so her feeling with new guy Justin become severely conflicted. Plus she is also having to deal with her teenage single mom sister and all the feeling and conflicts that go along with her situation.

Skylar has to tackle many things that a lot of Christian teens are carefully sheltered from. Since becoming a Christian, she's been able to stay away from her past life but it keeps following her around. There's a lot of boy drama in this book but it's handled realistically and that I feel a lot of girls will be able to relate to. Since this is the third book in the series, I HIGHLY recommend reading the other two books before delving into this one. While it could possibly be read as a stand alone, it is much better to read the other two books as you will be able to understand Skylar, her family, her situation and all the characters a lot better.

My only qualm about the book was that I felt it ended a little abruptly. I was a bit disappointed that the resolution to Skylar's problem (which had been plaguing her throughout the series) was only resolved literally at the very end of the book. I actually turned the page hoping to see more but alas the book was over. I just felt that a little bit more to the story might have helped.

Other than that, I thought this was a good conclusion to the series. Overall, I have really enjoyed these books as I felt that they have been a good portrayal of realistic teen life as well as introducing audiences to a multicultural family. I honestly feel that a lot of teens, whether Christian or not, will be able to relate to Skylar and her feelings, emotions, wants and needs. Morrill has done wonders writing this book and I will look forward to reading whatever she has coming up in the future.

So Over It by Stephanie Morrill is published by Revell (2010)

This review copy was provided by the publisher

Friday, July 23, 2010

Book Review: "Lumby on the Air" by Gail Fraser

Pam and Mark Walker are celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary with a week-long family reunion and a ceremony renewing their vows. But when Mark's brother-in-law starts broadcasting his radio talk show from Montis Inn, his disparaging remarks about small-town life cause immediate rifts that only widen when he sides with a real estate developer who wants to turn Lumby into an asphalt Aspen. As the controversy pits family against family, and neighbor against neighbor, will the spirit that defines Lumby triumph once again?

A return trip to Lumby can never come too soon. This time the townsfolk are looking to see the family reunion of the Walkers at Montis Inn. Lots of preparations must happen to make sure this goes off without a hitch. Of course, this story would not be complete without traditional Lumby fare such as Mark making impractical decisions or Hank the flamingo showing up in unexpected places.

There is a lot to like in this book. I love the humor in this book. I guffawed during the raccoon/cat scene. I mean really...what would you do if you walked in on that spectacle? Actually the whole bit involving the cat was humorous as the old bull has become attached to her. How often does that happen? It's something you only read about in those internet forwards. Also there's lots of food. That's something about these books that I love and ever since Pam rehired Andre, the food at Montis sound delicious. Those ribs that were mentioned sounded divine. I also really liked reading about Pam's mother's new relationship. It was also really nice to see that even though Pam had misgivings and was uneasy at first about this, she eventually was able to let go and allow her mother to move on. Reading this book gave off a warm cozy feeling.

While I loved returning to Lumby, I would have to say that this book was my least favorite of the series. This mainly has to do with Mark's family. I really did NOT like his brother in law and totally agreed with his son's perspective of him. Carter was just rude, outspoken and very insensitive. He was so inconsiderate throughout the book that honestly every time he showed up, I wanted to skip reading. At the same time, I wish Pam and Mark had been less passive and more adamant about the rules of staying at Montis Inn and enforced them. I wasn't too big a fan of Mark's niece Jessica but I could understand the teen angst and desire to fit in. There also seemed to be a lot less interaction with the rest of the townsfolk, even the monks don't get that much page time. The books are wonderful because of all the colorful characters from around town. This book seemed to more of a Mark and Pam story and I missed seeing everyone else.

Even with these quibbles, I still enjoyed the book. I love how all the stories tie into one another. With the focus on Montis Inn, I could really see the setting come to life. The picture in my head of the inn was very clear as things were described that I hadn't read about before. The character development, while a bit predictable, was very nice to read. Plus there's all the humor and small town charm that make the Lumby series great. As I have said before these books are total comfort reads. I'm a bit sad that this is the newest book because now I have to wait until the next one!

Lumby on the Air by Gail Fraser is published by NAL Trade (2010)

This ARC was provided by a publicist

Stars in the Night by Cara Putman

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Stars In The Night
Summerside Press (July 1, 2010)

by
Cara Putman



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

A Word From Cara:

I graduated from high school at sixteen, college at 20, and completed my law degree when I was 27.

My writing journey started in 2005 when I decided to write my first novel. Now I have eleven books published with more on the way.

People say I've accomplished a lot and that I must have life by the proverbial tail. Hardly! I grew up as a home schooled kid when home schoolers were misunderstood and oddities.

I struggle with balancing my writing and law career, plus being a good mom and wife.

I often fear people won't like my books.

I've walked through the deep pain of miscarriage.

Really, I'm just like you – I don't have it all together and have gone through tough times. But in His strength, I've discovered a strength I never knew I had. A strength I want you to discover, too.

In the end I'm just an ordinary mom who has seen God do some wonderful things as I've been obedient to step into the calling He's led me into.

Stars in the Night Background

Stars in the Night was an idea that had begun to percolate in my mind. I’d written two World War II series and was actively looking for my next setting. My husband, a huge World War II history buff, and I were kicking ideas around, and I’d decided Hollywood was probably the next place for me. I’d gone to the library and gotten a stack of research books when I got the call. An editor I knew but had never worked with wanted to know if I might be interested in a new line they were starting. As we talked, I got so excited. And then she emailed me their guidelines, which listed that Hollywood was a location they were interested in setting books.

Only God could have known ahead of time. But because I followed His prompting I was ready to run with an idea. Stars in the Night is the result.



ABOUT THE BOOK

Hollywood 1942. When attorney Audra Schaeffer's sister disappears, Audra flies to Hollywood to find her.

Any day Audra might have been flattered by the friendly overtures of Robert Garfield, a real-life movie star. But on the flight from Indianapolis to Hollywood, Audra can think of little else than finding her missing sister. When Audra arrives in the city of glitz and glamour, and stars, and learns her rising starlet sister has been murdered, all thoughts of romance fly away.

Determined to bring the killer to justice, Audra takes a job with the second Hollywood Victory Caravan.

Together with Robert Garfield and other stars, she crisscrosses the southern United States in a campaign to sell war bonds. When two other women are found dead on the train, Audra knows the deaths are tied to that of her sister.

Could the killer be the man with whom she's falling in love?

If you'd like to read an excerpt of Chapter 1 of Stars In The Night, go HERE.

Contest: Lots of opportunities to win and great prizes, and the grand prize contains some of Cara's favorite classic movies as well as all of her WWII novels: Launch Contest!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Book Review: "Courting Morrow Little" by Laura Frantz

Morrow Little is haunted by the memory of the day her family was torn apart by raiding Shawnee warriors. Now that she is nearly a grown woman and her father is ailing, she must make difficult choices about the future. Several men—ranging from the undesired to the unthinkable—vie for her attentions, but she finds herself inexplicably drawn to a forbidden love that both terrifies and intrigues her. Can she betray the memory of her lost loved ones—and garner suspicion from her friends—by pursuing a life with him? Or should she seal her own misery by marrying a man she doesn't love?

I don't know much about the history of Kentucky. For example, I had no idea that the state (or territory at the time) used to be spelled Kentucke. Thanks to this book, I was able to learn this while enjoying a wonderful story. Morrow Little has returned from the city and finishing school to her frontier home to her father. They are still recovering from the Indian massacre that took the life of Morrow's mother over a decade ago. Now a young woman who is of marriageable age, Morrow faces many suitors all eager to take her hand in marriage. I was impressed with the way that Morrow handled returning back to home. She accepts that this is her chosen path but doesn't give in easily to the first person who shows favor in her way. Her character is very likeable especially her relationship with Red Shirt. I found him to be a very interesting character and wish that there had been some scenes from his point of view. A lot of the story deals with forgiveness and learning to let go. This is a path that is prevalent in a lot of inspirational fiction plots, but Frantz manages to use it with a different twist.

For me the most interesting part of the book was the interracial marriage and blending of cultures. I was a little afraid that the book would take a stereotypical turn in terms of Native American and Caucasian romances but luckily the story did not go there. In fact after a while, race is not mentioned at all, even by the people surrounding the couple. Even though this is in a historical context, it's always nice to see multiculturalism make its way into Christian fiction.

Overall I felt that this book was an enjoyable historical romance and a pleasant way to spend a day. I liked the historical context of the book as well as the romance bit. It was believable without being too sappy. While not being a deep heavy read, it's a good way to do some escape reading. This was my first Laura Frantz novel and I believe that I will be returning to read more of her books.

Courting Morrow Little by Laura Frantz is published by Revell (2010)

This review copy was provided by the publisher

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Book Review: "Priceless" by Tom Davis

Stuart Daniels has found purpose in life. After suffering the fallout of a tragic assignment, Daniels rediscovered faith and hope after a chance encounter with an extraordinary African orphan. Now his photo work also carries a personal mission: To educate people on the devastating effects of AIDS around the world. But when Daniels receives his next assignment to Russia, he unwittingly finds himself a key player in rescuing young girls caught in the tragic sex-slave trade.

This book tackles a subject many people don't like talking about. It goes outside our comfort zone. We don't like hearing about things that will make us uncomfortable. However human trafficking and the sex slave trade is something that we really need to know more about. There are so many innocent people all over the world that disappear every day against their will into this horrible industry. It is disgusting how humans will do this to another human simply to make money. I honestly do not know how anyone can live with themselves by being a part of that.

Readers are reintroduced to Stuart Daniels who is a photojournalist know for taking edgy assignments. He is still affected from his trip to Africa when he takes on a new assignment going undercover to save girls from the sex slave trade in Russia. The book gives an underground view into the seedy side of Russia but it does this without being negative towards general Russian culture. What happens to do girls is told without going into too much graphic detail but be aware it is still not for the faint of heart. It's disgusting to even read or think about what is implied about what will happen to them. It's incredibly sad to know that girls age 13 or even younger are subject to this kind of treatment. The worst part happens when a religious figure uses his position and power to encourage the sex trade as his mind has been severely twisted.

The book is full of action and suspense. I could easily see this book being made into a movie or a TV show. It's a non stop roller coaster ride and you don't know the twists or turns of where the story will lead you. Stuart's adventures are nail biting and danger lurks around ever corner. As weird as it is to say this, even though the story is hard to read, it's a fun ride because the story is very well written.


Just like the first book in this series, Priceless is a book that everyone needs to read. Yes the subject matter can be difficult to read and it will push your comfort level, but this is a subject that needs more attention. It is appalling to think that while many of us live in peace and luxury while there are so many who have been unwittingly placed in this horrid situation with no way of getting out. As with the first book, I really wish that someone like Oprah would choose this for her book club so more people would be aware of it and the situation. Again, I challenge you to read this book and see if you are not affected by it. Davis has written another outstanding book and I am looking forward to seeing what he will affect me with next. HIGHLY recommended.

Priceless by Tom Davis is published by David C. Cook (2010)

This review copy was provided by the author

Heartless by Anne Elizabeth Stengl

I'm currently reading this book so expect a review in a few weeks (yes I know the last time I said this, it ended up taking THREE YEARS before I posted that review. I promise it won't be that long this time)

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Heartless
Bethany House (July 1, 2010)

by

Anne Elisabeth Stengl


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Anne Elisabeth Stengl makes her home in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she enjoys her profession as an art teacher, giving private lessons from her personal studio, and teaching group classes at the Apex Learning Center. She studied illustration at Grace College and English literature at Campbell University. Heartless is her debut novel.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Princess Una of Parumvir has come of age and will soon be married. She dreams of a handsome and charming prince, but when the first suitor arrives, she finds him stodgy and boring. Prince Aethelbald from the mysterious land of Farthestshore has traveled far to prove his love--and also to bring hushed warnings of danger. A dragon is rumored to be approaching Parumvir.

Una, smitten instead with a more dashing prince, refuses Aethelbald's offer--and ignores his warnings. Soon the Dragon King himself is in Parumvir, and Una, in giving her heart away unwisely, finds herself in grave danger. When Una makes the wrong choice, catastrophe ensues for the princess and her family, and love, courage, and trust are needed when darkness engulfs the kingdom.

Only those courageous enough to risk everything have a hope of fighting off this advancing evil.

There are some delightful things and scenes: the Twelve-Year Market that appears in its own good time and sells fairy goods; a clever blind cat who is invariably underfoot and has, of course, a secret!

If you would like to read the first chapter of Heartless, go HERE.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Book Review: "The Promise of Lumby" by Gail Fraser

At Montis Inn, the success of Pam Walker's on-location restaurant is leaving her overworked and frazzled, while her husband Mark's fascination with Internet auctions leads to some outlandish purchases, one of which requires military clearance. Meanwhile, Lumby's only veterinarian, Dr. Ellen Campbell, has decided to sell her business, and the townsfolk are in full panic mode. Who will tell blind Jeremiah that his old horse Isabella is eating rabbit feed, and who will help little Timmy convince his parents that a puppy is the perfect pet?

When animal doctor Tom Candor arrives in Lumby, he seems the answer to everyone's prayers. But some residents are not so trusting of the shy, pensive vet, especially newspaper owner Dennis Beezer, who is determined to expose Tom's secrets. The repercussions lead to an unpredictable, over-the-top adventure, and a heartfelt lesson the people of Lumby won't soon forget...

Oh Lumby, once you come to visit, you never want to leave again. This story is filled with a lot of heart and love. There's so much in this book but it never feels overwhelming when reading. I love the humor that goes into the story as it makes the characters and town come alive. As always my favorite bits are the sheriff's notes and news articles. The small town charm comes through in those and always are great for a laugh.

The main focus of this book is on Tom Candor who has come to replace the town's long term vet. He's hiding from a past that he hopes no one in Lumby will find out. He eventually confides in town handywoman Mac who he discovers a special connection with. The story tracks how Tom keeps doing everything to avoid his past and how the townsfolk slowly begin to find out and try to figure of whether of not they can trust him. The side story involves the monks of the town and their ever growing animal collection. Thanks to a news article, they are getting unique animals sent to them from all over the world and they have no idea how to keep up with their new zoo. It's quite hilarious reading about their adventures.

Even though in the past books I have enjoyed being at the Montiss Inn, Pam and Mark both got on my nerves a bit in this edition. Mark seems to have no control over his spending habits as he keeps buying things that not only his budget can afford but also are almost completely useless to the inn's well being. It's just annoying because one would think that a grown adult could and should check all information before making such rash purchases but he doesn't and then has to pay to consequences. Subsequently Pam never rebukes Mark for wasting their money, therefore allowing him to continue this trend. The problem I had with Pam involved her reluctance to give up control of her kitchen to their new chef whom they needed. While I can understand her feelings, I felt that it got a bit out of hand and I'm glad that she finally realized her mistake.

Other than this minor qualm, I really loved reading this book. There's a lot of humor and overall a really good story. Lumby is a small town but Fraser writes the books without the stereotypes other books give to small towns. These are total comfort reads and are read best with a cup of tea or lemonade at your side. While these books are best read in order to get the full range of the characters, they can be totally read as stand alones and be highly enjoyable. I am so glad I discovered Lumby and I enjoy the time spent during each visit and can't wait to return again.

The Promise of Lumby by Gail Fraser is published by NAL Trade (2009)

This review copy was provided by the publisher

Monday, July 19, 2010

Book Review: "The Recipe Club" by Andrea Israel and Nancy Garfinkel



Lilly and Val are lifelong friends, united as much by their differences as by their similarities. Lilly, dramatic and confident, lives in the shadow of her beautiful, wayward mother and craves the attention of her distant, disapproving father. Val, shy and idealistic—and surprisingly ambitious— struggles with her desire to break free from her demanding housebound mother and a father whose dreams never seem to come true.

In childhood, "LillyPad" and "ValPal" form an exclusive two-person club, writing intimate letters in which they share hopes, fears, deepest secrets—and recipes, from Lilly's "Lovelorn Lasagna" to Valerie's "Forgiveness Tapenade." Readers can cook along as the friends travel through time facing the challenges of independence, the joys and heartbreaks of first love, and the emotional complexities of family relationships, identity, mortality, and goals deferred.

The Recipe Club sustains Lilly and Val's bond through the decades, regardless of what different paths they take or what misunderstandings threaten to break them apart . . . until the fateful day when an act of kindness becomes an unforgivable betrayal.

Now, years later, while trying to recapture the trust they've lost, Lilly and Val reunite once more—only to uncover a shocking secret. Will it destroy their friendship, or bring them ever closer?

When I first picked up this book, I honestly did not know what to expect. Then I flipped through the book and saw that the story was written through emails, letters, newspaper clippings, illustrations and lots and lots of recipes. I began to be intrigued as I love stories that are told through correspondence as opposed to a more traditional method. I find that stories written that way tend to be read a lot faster and can be more enjoyable as you feel like you get sucked more into the story.

The story focuses around the friendship of two women and their relationship since childhood. Told through their letters and recipes, the reader learns how the women became friends, experienced life together and then the circumstances in their life to cause them to drive apart from each other. It's a wonderful glimpse of not only their lives but the culture of the time period as the story takes place from the 1960s to present day. It's really interesting seeing the characters grow up and change, as they start off as young girls and mature into women.

I will admit that there were times in the book where I didn't like both characters. Lilly comes off as brash and arrogant at times. I also couldn't figure out why Val would want to stay friends with her after Lily insults her at several points in their friendship. Also with the tension between Lilly and her father, Val sometimes seems as if she's rubbing her friendship with Lilly's dad back in Lilly's face. I also did not like Lilly's mom. I don't want to pass judgment on people but it was obvious that she never really wanted to be married or to be a mother in the first place and it showed throughout her life and how she treated her family. Seriously there were major communication problems between both families.

The recipes in the book look easy to make and sound absolutely delicious. I really like how a lot of the titles of the recipes tied into the story. Seriously I got really hungry while reading this book and had a craving to cook after I finished. The illustrations in this book are really nice too and add to the story. There is some slight cursing and talk about sex in the book (one letter asks and answers what it was like about the first time, actually that was quite humorous). Overall, I really enjoyed reading this book. Don't be daunted at all by the size as most of the book is recipes. It's an extremely fast read and you really get sucked into the story. I have the sudden urge to go start cooking every recipe in this book or find a recipe club of my own. If you love a good story and food, this is the perfect book for you.

The Recipe Club by Andrea Israel and Nancy Garfinkel is published by Harper (2009)

This review copy was provided by the publisher

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Movie Review: "The Karate Kid (2010)"

Well I don't know about most of you but I grew up watching the original Karate Kid. It came out right after I was born, but we watched it constantly on VHS growing up. "Wax on, Wax off" could be heard quoted constantly at family reunions and anyone who had the name Daniel was always referred to as Daniel-son. Mr. Miyagi is forever an icon. (Did you know that Pat Morita was the first and only Asian American to be nominated for an acting Oscar?) Therefore when I heard that there was going to be a remake of this classic movie, I was thinking "Seriously????" Even though Jackie Chan was going to be in it (and it was probably between him, Jet Li, or Chow Yun Fat for the studios to pick from), I didn't really have any desire at first to see the movie. Why mess with perfection?

Then I was dragged along to the theater with my sister and her boyfriend. They were willing to pay for my ticket so I figured "Well, if I don't have to pay, then if it's bad I can't complain right?" OMG I'm so glad I ended up going. This movie ended up being FAB. I'm just going to say while there are references to the original movie, it is a different movie in it's own right. The movie is actually about kung fu as opposed to karate but I suppose they wanted to use it to keep the tie-ins.

Jaden Smith is OUTSTANDING. He is so adorable. And a really good actor to boot. His character was nothing like I was expecting. I thought he'd be really annoying and thinking he was better than everyone in his new surroundings. I thought he might be cocky as he shows off American culture vs. Chinese culture. I was totally wrong. He's just so gosh darn adorable that I could not understand why in the world anyone wouldn't like him. But those bullies were just horrible! I felt so bad for him throughout the movie. Smith's acting was just wonderful though. So full of passion and you could tell he really got into his role. BTW I don't know how many 10 year olds have 6 packs!

I loved that it was set in China. It gave a wonderful setting with a different culture and was very respectful of the country. It was fascinating to see the country from an outsider's point of view but not in a harsh light. Jackie Chan's character made me cry! The scene where he explains to Dre about why he acts the way he does had both me and my sister sobbing. While there's no way he can replace Mr. Miyagi, his character is wonderful and the scene where he confronts the bullies is great to watch. I also loved the scene where we first meet him and he catches the fly. It's a direct reference to the original movie but with a humorous twist that the theater audience got immediately.

Speaking of bullies, this movie is full of them. While it's horrible to watch it on screen, it's even more horrible that this happens in real life all the time to kids. I'm sure there have probably been hundreds if not thousand of kids that could relate to what happened to Dre. The action sequences in this movie are not horribly violent but some scenes are painful to watch. Be prepared for your kids to beg you to sign them up for martial arts classes.

If there is any qualm I had with the movie, it was with Dre's mom. She's a good mom but she seemed a bit clueless at times. Taraji P. Henson is an Oscar nominated actress but I didn't feel as if her talents were used to the fullest in this movie. Also it's not really explained WHY she has to go to China. Other than that, I really really enjoyed watching this movie. So far this has been the only movie my entire family has gone to see in theaters this year. And my entire family loved it. My other sister took my parents who kept raving about it. My sister who went with me was cheering along with me while watching.

This movie totally blew me away and I think it is one of the best family movies of 2010. Jaden Smith has a VERY bright future ahead of him. He is a very talented actor and I hope he continues to choose movies that will showcase his acting talents, if he decides to follow his parents in their chosen careers. I hope that fame doesn't get to his head and that he remains down to earth and humble. Therefore, if you haven't already seen this movie, I highly recommend it. It's a great family movie and great for those who enjoyed the original. There is some kung fu violence but nothing overly graphic. Oh and for all you Justin Bieber fans...stick around at the end of the movie during the credits and you can hear his crooning.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Nerds Heart YA Tournament

Yes I'm way late in posting the results of my choices for the tournament. Please forgive me! Tip for everyone: DO NOT MOVE. It will wreck havoc on your life!

Anyways, I was very excited to be chosen as a first round judge for the Nerds Heart YA tournament because I'm trying to go outside my normal genres and read more general market fiction. However, when I saw the books that I would be judging I was a bit surprised. I appear to be the only mainly Christian fiction blogger in the first round judging list and I was given the only Christian fiction book in the entire tournament. Still though, the book was one of my favorite Christian YA reads of 2009 and the other book look interesting as it was one I normally would never have picked up so I was more than read for the challenge.

The two books I was chosen to read was Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin (Simon and Schuster Children's 2009) and Me, Just Different by Stephanie Morrill (Revell 2009).


Jason Blake is an autistic 12-year-old living in a neurotypical world. Most days it’s just a matter of time before something goes wrong. But Jason finds a glimmer of understanding when he comes across PhoenixBird, who posts stories to the same online site as he does. Jason can be himself when he writes, and he thinks that PhoenixBird – her name is Rebecca – could be his first real friend. But as desperate as Jason is to meet her, he’s terrified that if they do meet, Rebecca will only see his autism and not who Jason really is.

This was VERY powerful read. I haven't read too many books that focus on autistic teens, the majority are either on children or adults and the majority of them are from someone else's perspective. Therefore this was one of the first books about autism from the actual autistic person's POV. Other books I've read have shown the autistic character to be nearly noncommunicable with the rest of the world. Here Jason is able to reach out to people, he just appears to choose not to at times. His world instead is in his writing and in the internet community he's allowed himself to be a part of. There he finds a kindred spirit in a girl who shares her stories with him and he responds by giving her tips. Jason begins to believe that she could possibly be his girlfriend.

There are several scenes that the reader feels horribly awkward being able to read into Jason's mind. That's always the case when you read something that's in first person but I just felt really bad for him at times and it's almost cringe worthy. I really like how he's incredibly creative and the stories that he would create. The qualm I had was more so that the book felt like a upper middle grade, young YA feel to it as opposed to an older YA audience.



Welcome to the world of Skylar Hoyt, a high school senior whose exotic Hawaiian looks have propelled her to the height of the "in" crowd, but who's no longer sure that's where she really fits. New friends, old friends, a reluctant romance, and a family crisis swirl around Skylar as she tries to keep it together and figure out who she really wants to be.

This book exemplifies why I think that Christian YA fiction is getting a lot better over the past few years. First off, the book features a POC character AND features her on the cover! And the cover model LOOKS exactly how the character is described in the book. As I've stated in the past, muti cultural characters are few and far between in adult Christian fiction, yet they seem to thrive in the YA world. This book deals with Skylar who is your average teenager trying to just fit in while meanwhile her family is in turmoil. Her sister has a secret that she's trying to hide from everyone and then there's the issue with her parents relationship as well. Plus there's boy trouble which every teen girl must face but it's done very realistic and one that most will be able to relate to.

By the way this is the first book in the series and I've read the second one and it's even better. Total props to Morrill for portraying realism in YA Christian fiction. Seriously major props. The book tackles issues that other Christian books just don't want to touch with a ten foot pole. This makes this book even more able to pass along to general market readers. It is not preachy at all and shows teens they are not alone in how they feel. The book shows what it's really like to be a teen and how hard it can be when you feel as if you are all alone in the world.

Decision:

I enjoyed both books tremendously and it was a hard decision to pick between the two. Ultimately my vote went to: Me, Just Different.

My reasoning was that I connected more with Skylar than I did Jason, on many different levels. Also I felt that Me Just Different was more of a YA read than Anything But Typical as the protagonist is older and deals with more issues that many teens face. I also still preferred the chick lit feel of the second book but that was purely just my own preferences. I would highly recommend both books to be read. Anything But Typical for it's unique perspective and Me Just Different for those who haven't read any Christian YA and want to try it out.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Book Review: "Stay" by Allie Larkin

Savannah "Van" Leone has been in love with Peter Clarke ever since she literally fell head over heels in front of him on the first day of college. Now, six years later, instead of standing across from him at the altar, Van's standing behind her best friend Janie as maid of honor, trying to mask her heartache and guilt as Janie marries the only man Van's ever loved. Before, Van's mother died, she told Van never to let Peter go, but as the couple exchanges vows, Van wonders if her fairy tale ending will ever come true.

After the wedding, Van drowns her sorrows in Kool-Aid-vodka cocktails and reruns of Rin Tin Tin, and does what any heartbroken woman in her situation would do: She impulsively buys a German Shepherd over the Internet. The pocket-size puppy Van is expecting turns out to be a clumsy, hundred-pound beast who only responds to commands in Slovak, and Van is at the end of her rope... until she realizes that this quirky giant may be the only living being who will always be loyal to her, no matter what.

Van affectionately names her dog Joe, and together, they work to mend the pieces of Van's shattered heart. And it certainly doesn't hurt that Joe's vet is a rugged sweetheart with floppy blond hair and a winning smile. But when the newlyweds return from their honeymoon, Van is forced to decide just how much she's willing to sacrifice in order to have everything she ever wanted, proving that sometimes life needs to get more complicated before it can get better.

When I start reading this book, I didn't know what to think. I had been really looking forward to reading it as there had been a lot of buzz before the book's release and the cover looked really cute. When I actually started reading, I had mixed emotions because I didn't know what was going to happen. I didn't know if Van was ever going to turn out happy or if she would do the unthinkable and hurt her best friend. And because of my uncertainty, I couldn't put the book down. It drew me right into the story and made me not want to stop turning pages.

Van's story is multi-layered. There were so many elements to this story that it could be overwhelming at times but eventually everything was tied together. The biggest is Van having to get over her love for her best guy friend who is now married to her best friend. Then there's the relationship she has with her best friend's mother where there are past issues that two need to work on. Then there is the whole situation with the dog which brings her to meet the handsome vet who slowly wins her heart. It's a in depth read that is both entertaining and enlightening. I could really relate to Van's predicament with Joe and taking care of him. My husband's dog, while not a huge beast like Joe was, pretty much was exactly like him in every other way. It was easy to see myself in Van's shoes dealing with him. I love books about dogs and while Joe might have been frightful in the beginning, turns into a wonderful teddy bear.

While I enjoyed the book, I did have a few qualms. The biggest was that Van sometimes got on my nerves. I did like her character very much, but there were times when I wished that she would stand up for herself more. It finally does happen but I felt that it was a little too late. The other thing that I had a problem with was the language. While I don't get normally bothered by cursing in a book, the constant use of the f-word kinda grated me. I don't like seeing the word all the time, but I can understand it when used for emphasis. However, when it's just thrown around, it seems like it's just being used unnecessary. I just felt that it was used too much in this story. Of course that just might be how Van's character is and how she chooses to express herself.

Overall, I did enjoy this book. This was a fun read and one that I couldn't put down. If you are a chick lit fan and a dog lover, there is no way you can not love this book. It's an enjoyable read that is perfect for a beach read or a lazy summer afternoon. I am going to be on the look out for more books from Larkin as I feel that she has a very bright future ahead of her.

Stay by Allie Larkin is published by Dutton (2010)

This review copy was provided by the publisher

The Sister Wife by Diane Noble

This week, the


Christian Fiction Blog Alliance


is introducing


The Sister Wife
Avon Inspire (June 22, 2010)


by
Diane Noble






ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Diane Noble is a former double finalist for the prestigious RITA Award for Best Inspirational Fiction, a finalist for the Romantic Times Career Achievement Award and the Reviewers' Choice Award, and a three-time recipient of the Silver Angel Award for Media Excellence.

With more than a quarter million books in print, Diane feels incredibly blessed to be doing what she loves best—writing the stories of her heart.

For the last three years Diane has been honored to be lead author for the popular Guideposts series, Mystery and the Minister’s Wife (Through the Fire, Angels Undercover), and has recently returned to writing historical fiction. She is currently writing book two of her new historical series, The Brides of Gabriel. Book one is The Sister Wife.

Diane’s hometown is Big Creek, California, a tiny village nestled in the rugged Sierra Nevada back country. As a child, Diane’s older brother Dennis fueled her creative streak by entertaining her with his own gift of storytelling. Growing up without TV and iffy radio reception, Diane became an avid reader, inhaling more than one hundred novels—both YA and adult—in a single
year by the time she reached seventh grade. Her passion for reading continues to this day.
Now empty nesters, Diane and her husband live in the Southern California low desert, near a place known for the lush and beautiful gated communities of the rich and famous.


ABOUT THE BOOK



What if the man you loved told you God wanted him to take another wife? What if that woman was your best friend?

Set in the heart of the earliest days of a new nineteenth-century sect known as the Saints, The Sister Wife is a riveting account of two women forced into a practice they don't understand, bound by their devotion to Prophet Joseph Smith.

When Mary Rose marries Gabriel, neither of them could foresee how quickly the community would turn to the practice of plural marriage. Devastated when Gabe is faced with an order from the Prophet to marry her best friend, Bronwyn, Mary Rose tries to have the faith to carry through with the marriage.

But can she really be married to the same man as her very best friend? Can Mary Rose and Bronwyn face betraying both their husband and their God to do what they feel is right?


If you would like to read the Prologue and first chapter of The Sister Wife, go HERE.





Watch the book video!



Thursday, July 15, 2010

Book Review: "Touching the Clouds" by Bonnie Leon

Kate Evans is an adventurous and independent young woman with a pioneering spirit. She pilots a mail-delivery plane in the forbidding Alaskan wilderness, the lone woman in a male profession. But even that seems easy compared to finding true love. She likes a fellow pilot and would even consider marrying him—if it weren't for Paul, a mysterious man on her mail route with a gentle spirit and a past to hide. Can Kate break through the walls Paul has put up around his heart? And will her quest for adventure be her demise?

I have to say, after finishing this book, I think it's Bonnie Leon's best novel to date. I had a really good time reading this book. After several series that took place in Australia, Leon returns to the setting of her earlier novels, Alaska. To me, I felt that the author enjoyed returning to the familiar setting because the story just seemed to flow with fluidity. I never got bored once while reading, and neither did I feel that the story seemed to have a slow point. Kate is a very likable character and I felt drawn to her immediately. She doesn't try to force herself into a predominately man's world but she is willing to prove herself to be on par. I really liked the settings of the towns and people Kate meets along the way during her travels. The book was very respectful of the native Alaskans and their culture and I enjoyed learning about them.

What I liked best about the book is that a story is able to be told without having to bring in major conflict from an antagonist. Kate was struggling with her own feelings and thoughts which was more than enough to create a story. It's nice to not have to introduce another plot line just to feel as if you have to include it. The only thing I didn't like was the love triangle bit because it is always inevitable that someone was going to get hurt. Usually it is the person who doesn't deserve it at all mainly because they were kept in the dark about other people's feelings. It's a element used in a lot of romance novels and Christian fiction that I find tiring, cliched and annoying. Therefore I hope that future books in the series allow that person to find someone else.

Overall I really enjoyed the book. Leon's writing is engaging and she portrays Kate as a strong female who is daring and willing to take risks. Unnecessary drama wasn't included and there were no annoying characters either. As it's been several years since I read Leon's other books that took place in Alaska, I'm not sure if there are any ties to other books. I felt that this book was of better quality than the two Australian series. I'm going to be looking to future books in this series and reading more about adventures in the Alaskan wild.

Touching the Clouds by Bonnie Leon is published by Revell (2010)

This review copy was provided by the publisher

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Book Review: "Perfectly Dateless" by Kristin Billerbeck

Daisy Crispin has 242 days to find the right date for the prom. There's only one problem—her parents won't let her date or even talk to a guy on the phone. Oh, and she's totally invisible at school, has to wear lame homemade clothes, and has no social skills. Okay, so maybe there's more than one problem. Can she talk her parents into letting her go to the prom? Or will they succeed at their obvious attempt to completely ruin her life?

I have been a big fan of Kristin Billerbeck's adult chick lit for years so I was really excited when I heard she was going to be writing a YA novel. Her style of writing is excellent and I've been able to introduce many Chick lit fans who normally don't read Christian fiction to her books. I was hoping that with this book I would be able to do the same with the YA crowd. That being said, we have a winner here.

Ah prom. This book brought back to mind so many memories of that dreaded event. It makes me want to laugh at how much emphasis is placed on that night and how silly it all is. I could totally relate to Daisy and her quest to make it to that night and all the planning she wanted to put towards it. I remember being that age and thinking the exact same things she did. I've seen other reviews mention that they didn't like Daisy's character so much because of her attitude and the fact that she would be rude at times. Well if I had parents like she did, I would be the exact same way! Daisy also appears to be a bit in the dark about how to act in social situations. This can be blamed on her parents as well as they do not seem to encourage her being in social groups. Either way, it's realistic and gives off the feeling that she is not someone who is always doing what her parents say and has her own mind and feelings. Her feelings about boys in this book are genuine and realistic. I love her diary and the comments she made about them. It almost felt like reading my old teenage diary.

While I really enjoyed the story and Daisy's character, I can't say the same thing about her parents. Everything is explained by the end, but that doesn't make up for their behavior for the majority of the book. Her parents are portrayed as stereotypical, over the top, controlling Christian types who I personally abhor. I really did NOT like the way they treated Daisy. Some of the things I could understand like clothes, make up and dating. Even though they are a little overbearing on those, she is still living in their house and I can see where she would need to respect their decisions. However, it really made me angry when her father refused to listen to her about her college choices. It's one thing to not like what your kid chooses to do for college but it's a complete opposite to forbid them to go simply because it's not what you would have done yourself. And what really got me was that Daisy's wants to study neuroscience which is an extremely advanced field AND she's totally capable of doing it. However her father thinks it's not Christian to study science and refuses to even listen to her. It just really floored me. Also the fact that they kept hiding so much stuff from her really got on my nerves. I was horribly embarrassed for her during the school assembly scene. Say what you want about them loving her, what they did was EMBARRASSING. I hope by the next book they will have changed.


I just want to say I absolutely love the color of this book. It's so simple yet the colors and design really make it stand out. It's one of the best Christian YA covers I've seen and other publishers need to take note. If you want to get the attention of the general market crowd, this design is a keeper. This appears to be the first book in a series so I am looking forward to reading more of Daisy's adventures. This is definitely a series I will try to recommend to all YA readers.

Perfectly Dateless by Kristin Billerbeck is published by Revell (2010)


This review copy was provided by the publisher

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Book Review: "Motorcycles, Sushi and One Strange Book" by Nancy Rue


Normal? While family dinners and vacations to touristy destinations are ordinary events for her "normal" friends, fifteen-year-old Jessie Hatcher's normal life means dealing with her ADHD and her mother's bipolar disorder. So why is Jessie shocked when the unexpected happens? Now her "normal" includes living in Florida with the father she always thought was dead and learning the secrets of sushi from a man who teaches by tormenting her. Life isn't any saner with her dad, but a cute guy and a mysterious book might just be the crazy Jessie needs.

From the cover of this book, this looks like it will be your normal, fluffy, Chick-lit YA story. Well as the old saying goes, don't judge a book by it's cover. The cover may be light but the story is heavy and deep. As soon as you start reading, Jessie's situation hits you from the get go. She's only 15 but she's experienced a lifetime of hardships that some adults will never have to face. It made me sad to think that she's had to deal with her mother who is bipolar all by herself and with no one else to help her out at all. It's caused her to have to lie about it to her friends her entire life and there's no one to turn to when she's in desperate need of help. Then out of the blue, she gets a phone call from a man who says he's her biological dad who she thought was dead all these years. Jessie's life begins to change starting on that day.

It's easy for a while to get annoyed with Jessie's behavior. Her mother mentions several times that she has the maturity of an 8 year old in a 15 year old body. And it's true, that there are times when I don't understand why she acts so immaturely sometimes and want to get frustrated with her behavior. However then it's explained about her ADHD and all the problems she's had to deal with living with a mother who is bipolar and it all makes sense. I'm not excusing her behavior but it's good to see that this book does NOT condemn the use of medication or psychiatrists.

This book does feature passages from the Bible but they are portrayed in the form of the mysterious book that Jessie finds. She discovers that it speaks directly to her and helps her in times of need. I really liked how the version of the Bible used is The Message as that is one of my favorite versions because I feel that it really speaks to people who normally avoid reading the Bible because they think they cannot understand it. Jessie's usage of the book is sprinkled throughout the story and is not overtly preachy. Instead it helps and guides her instead of dominating over her life.

Topics such as ADHD, mental illness, alcoholism which are normally avoided in most Christian fiction is brought to full attention here. There are even multi cultural characters to help develop the story more. There isn't a happy ending and there is no miraculous event where everyone gets well and lives happily ever after as a family. I wish more adult Christian fiction authors would take note of this as they tend to avoid almost all those elements in their books. Why is it that teens are more open to understand that life is not all roses and sunshine but adults want to avoid reality?

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and I think it's a great start to the series. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the books and discovering how the RL Book will affect all those who come across it. Again, don't dismiss this book as fluff. Be prepared to be affected while you read.

Motorcycles, Sushi and One Strange Book by Nancy Rue is published by Zondervan (2010)

This review copy was provided by the Amazon Vine program

Back on Murder by J. Mark Betrand

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Back On Murder
Bethany House (July 1, 2010)

by
J. Mark Betrand



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



J. Mark Bertrand has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Houston. After one hurricane too many, he left Houston and relocated with his wife Laurie to the plains of South Dakota.

Mark has been arrested for a crime he didn't commit, was the foreman of a hung jury in Houston, and after relocating served on the jury that acquitted Vinnie Jones of assault. In 1972, he won an honorable mention in a child modeling contest, but pursued writing instead. Besides his personal website, visit his Crime Genre website at http://www.crimegenre.com/.

The next book in this series, Pattern Of Wounds will come out in the summer of 2011.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Det. Roland March is a homicide cop on his way out.
A missing girl. A corrupt investigation. They thought they could get away with it, but they forgot one thing:

Roland March is BACK ON MURDER...

Houston homicide detective Roland March was once one of the best. Now he's disillusioned, cynical, and on his way out. His superiors farm him out on a variety of punishment details. But when he's the only one at a crime scene to find evidence of a missing female victim, he's given one last chance to prove himself. Before he can crack the case, he's transferred to a new one that has grabbed the spotlight--the disappearance of a famous Houston evangelist's teen daughter.
All he has to do? Find the missing teenage daughter of a Houston evangelist that every cop in town is already looking for. But March has an inside track, a multiple murder nobody else thinks is connected. With the help of a youth pastor with a guilty conscience who navigates the world of church and faith, March is determined to find the missing girls while proving he's still one of Houston's best detectives.

Battling a new partner, an old nemesis, and the demons of his past, getting to the truth could cost March everything. Even his life.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Back On Murder, go HERE.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Book Review: "Premiere" by Melody Carlson

A recipe for success or a design for disaster? Although they're sisters, Paige and Erin Forrester are like oil and water, night and day, denim and silk. Paige is an outgoing fashionista who loves to be the center of attention, while Erin is more comfortable sporting vintage garb and recording the action around her. When a near disaster turns into the opportunity of a lifetime, these two very-different sisters are given the chance to star in their own fashion-TV show. A guest spot on a hot teen-reality series and their first big red-carpet assignment give this unlikely partnership plenty of room for success-and even more for failure.

I swear Melody Carlson's YA books keep getting better and better with each new series she comes out with. I don't know how she manages to write so many and keep coming up with new ideas in each one but they have all been fantastic. What I really liked about this book was the fact that the story portrays two girls who are Christians YET fully enjoy a life that other girls live without compromising their beliefs at all. Some people might complain that there is too much focus on "material items" and boys but as I've said before, teen girls focus on this stuff so to act like it doesn't exist is not a true portrayal. Erin and Paige have a good relationship as sisters. While I liked Erin's character moreso than Paige's, I still felt it was refershing to have characters who get along with each other, not willing to compromise their beliefs and still enjoy all things that that most teen girls like. I also liked how the two are older teens in the 18-19 year old age range.

I really enjoyed "The Hills" type drama that the Malibu Beach crew provided. While I am not a regular fan of reality shows like that, I really liked how there are subtle references to the actual show especially the fact that characters are supposed to act like themselves "except moreso". Also the fact that there are always more girls than guys to create extra tension and drama to drive up ratings. Underage drinking is referenced due to the characters on the show drinking but it is never made into a huge issue.

There's lots of pop culture references in this book, and while it might make the book seem dated in a few years, for now it works. It really helps the reader be able to connect with the story and it makes the characters' world become true to life. I'm always a big fan of using real people and not made up actors/musicians/movies etc. Mentioning current social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter shows also that Carlson is doing her research and not just randomly throwing in older ones like MySpace (that barely anyone uses anymore) to show that she's hip. Also the dialogue is for the most part stuff that teens will say, although cleaner as characters yell out words like "Witch" instead of harsher terms.

While I really enjoyed this book, I fear for what will happen to it marketing wise. This is not a fault of the book itself or the writing at all. This book would be perfect to introduce to the general market young adult audience. The writing is aimed towards them, there is plenty of pop culture to keep it afresh and relevant and the characters are likable. The story is not preachy at all and it's nice to see for a change YA characters that have morals that aren't prudes. Unfortunately for this book, it is going to get shelved strictly in the religious section of the bookstore where barely anyone is going to find it. The majority of the readers of this book will likely be already fans of Carlson's work or only Christian teens. Also there will be readers of this book who will be unfamiliar with many of the fashion designers or pop culture referenced in this book because their parents do not let them wear or keep up with the trends. Therefore the target audience of this book will be missed. I just wish there was something that could be done because Carlson's books are EXCELLENT and should be read by a larger audience. Unfortunately until a happy balance can be found, she will be undiscovered by the general market audience. Hopefully a few readers of this blog who have never heard her before, will find my reviews of her book helpful and become fans from it.

Either way, I am definitely looking forward to rest of this series. It is combining several of my favorite elements - young adult fiction, celebrities, fashion, gossip, being a Christian, and excellent writing. A great start to a new series.

Premiere by Melody Carlson is published by Zondervan (2010)

This review copy was provided by the Amazon Vine program