Monday, January 31, 2011

Book Review: "The Book of Tomorrow" by Cecelia Ahern

Summary from Born into the lap of luxury, sixteen-year-old Tamara Goodwin has never had to look to tomorrow, until the abrupt death of her father leaves her and her mother a mountain of debt and forces them to move in with Tamara's peculiar aunt and uncle in a tiny countryside village. Lonely and bored, Tamara's only diversion is a traveling library. There she finds a large leather-bound book with a gold clasp and padlock. Intrigued, she pries the lock open, and what she finds inside takes her breath away.

Tamara sees entries written in her handwriting and dated for the next day, and when they happen exactly as recorded, she realizes she may have found the solution to her problems. But Tamara soon learns that some pages are better left unturned and that, try as she might, she can't interfere with fate.

Believe it or not this was my first Cecelia Ahern book. I know, she's HUGE in chick lit and as a chick lit fan, I'm not sure why I haven't read any of her other books before. I do own most of them, they're just in that huge TBR pile I need to get to.

Tamara is first introduced to the reader as a spoiled rich teenage girl who got away with everything and had everything she wanted, until her father's suicide. She and her mother, who has become depressed and withdrawn, are sent to live with family because her father's debts have made it impossible to keep up their lifestyle. While there, Tamara butts heads with her aunt who seems too overprotective, too nosy and too mysterious. Desperate to get away, she runs into a traveling library where she discovers a book that tells of her own secrets...but today. Because of that book, Tamara sets off on discovering the past. Who really are these relatives she's staying with? What is really going on with her mother? What secrets do the walls of the place that they are staying at hold? Who is she really? There's so much mystery in the book that it's impossible to not be intrigued by the story. I got sucked in immediately and wanted to find out all the secrets just as Tamara did. I didn't find the storyline to be predictable at all.

I seriously felt at times like I was reading a gothic mystery akin to Northanger Abbey or Jane Eyre. Being set in an Irish countryside, isolated, with relatives you don't know, with secrets about the house and its inhabitants make for a good story. The overall ending is a little sad at all the love that is lost when everything is revealed. However, it fits with the rest of the book and answered all the questions that I and Tamara both had.

My only qualm is that while the book does play an important role, it's not nearly as big as I thought it would be. It's also never fully explained as to why it contains what it does but I guess that is the magic realism in the story that must be accepted. This book can be very easily classified as a modern day YA gothic mystery with magic realism. It's a wonderful blend of all those elements and I really found myself lost in the story. It took all my willpower not to turn to the end of the book to solve the mystery and figure out everything that was going on. I really loved the characters and I loved seeing Tamara grow and mature as the story progressed. I read this book in one sitting simply because I could not put it down. If Ahern's other books are anything like this, I am diving into my pile to try to find them now. Simply put, it's really brilliant and an excellent story to boot. One of my favorite reads of the new year. HIGHLY recommended.

The Book of Tomorrow by Cecelia Ahern is published by Harper (2011)

This ARC was provided by the publisher

Sunday, January 30, 2011

My Library Reads No. 6

My Library Reads is a spotlight on the library books that I have read during the previous week. This is not a post on what books I borrowed but books that I read. Since I don't review library books, this is a way to still be able to showcase them on my blog.

BTW, if anyone knows of another meme that is like this on another blog, could you please let me know? I don't know of any myself, but if there is one already in place, I'd like to give credit where credit is due!

Library Books read from 1/23/11 - 1/29/11

The Diva Cooks a Goose by Krista Davis (Berkley Prime Crime, 12/7/10)

Cozy Mystery: 4th Book in the Domestic Diva Mystery series. Cute book that takes place in Alexandria, VA which is right near me. The mystery involves a neighborhood wide theft of presents and then the death of a woman everyone loved until her dirty secrets came out. There are lots of household tips sprinkled throughout the book as well as recipes at the end. Hope there are more books in the series.
The Damascus Way by Davis Bunn & Janette Oke (Bethany House, 1/1/11)

Christian Fiction - Biblical Fiction: 3rd book in the Acts of Faith series. This was probably my least favorite book of the series. I didn't feel that the characters got enough depth to them and sometimes the book seemed to lag a little. I also felt that there would have been more interaction with actual Bible characters as the previous books had had. Still it was engaging Biblical fiction with an interesting storyline involving a man, his two wives and his daughter. I'm not sure if this is the last book in the series because I felt the ending was a little hanging.

The Twin's Daughter by Lauren Baratz-Logsted (Bloomsbury USA Children's Books, 8/31/10)

Young Adult: A wonderful gothic mystery that kept me in the suspense from the beginning. There were lots of twists and turns, with things happening that I didn't see coming. It's a really good suspenseful and historical read that I think that teens and fans of young adult fiction will really enjoy.

Elixir by Hilary Duff (Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, 10/12/10)

Young Adult: I was pleasantly surprised by this story. I know that it was mostly ghostwritten but the book is really engaging and I do love the premise of an elixir of life. There's lots of travel in the book and really interesting characters. I also loved the Shakespeare references as well as Holiday Inn breakfast buffets (yay to not staying in expensive hotels!) I hope there's a sequel because I felt left hanging and want more.

The Education of Bet by Lauren Baratz-Logsted (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 7/12/10)

Young Adult: I really really enjoyed this book. First of, it's historical fiction. It's a plot that has been used several times in the past (girl masquerades as a guy) but I felt that this book had a fresh take to it. Bet wants to go to school but because she's a girl she isn't allowed to. Meanwhile, the males that are privileged to go don't want to be there. Her adventures at being a guy are funny but also gives a good look at how guys are when girls aren't there. Problems that involve being a girl also arise and I was glad to see how it was handled. My only qualm is that the book is a bit short but I enjoyed every bit of it.

The Book of Spells by Kate Brian (Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, 12/21/10)

Young Adult: I've been reading the Private series for the past couple of years and it's one of those series that I love/hate. The last book, the series took a 180 and now it seems that there are witches involved. This is very weird because not once in the entire series is this ever mentioned. Now with this prequel it turns out that witches have been a part of Billings history for many years. I didn't feel any satisfaction while reading, it felt more like Private set back in time, the characters were acting very much the same. I also felt that the book ends abruptly. I wouldn't mind seeing another spinoff series showing off these characters.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Movie Review: "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader"

In case you didn't already know, I am a HUGE HUGE HUGE Narnia fan. I grew up reading the Narnia books and I still try to read them every couple of years (hmm, if I can read Harry Potter every year, I should do the same for Narnia). I also watched those BBC versions of Narnia on my VHS player faithfully (mainly because I had crushes on Peter, Edmund and Caspian). My sisters and I used to pretend that the back wall in our closet led into Narnia (I mean who didn't?) So it was with great excitement that I looked forward to this movie as soon as I heard that Narnia was being made at the box office. But I got scared when Disney pulled out after Prince Caspian and it looked like the series was heading the way of Davy Jones Locker. But then Fox rescued it and more movies were to be made depending on how this one did. Well, after seeing it, it will be a miracle if there are more.

Be warned: Due to my outrage, I am going to spoil this movie heavily for you. You have been warned.

Before I blast what I hated, let me talk about the things I did love about the movie. First off, Ben Barnes as Caspian is just gorgeous. They couldn't have picked a better person to play him. Unfortunately it doesn't seem as if this movie has made him into a huge star like it should have. I liked the actor picked to play Eustace, Will Poulter. This is the first thing I've ever seen him in and I think he played the part very well. The other version of Eustace from the BBC movies was a bit chubby so it kinda ruined how I saw him when I read the books. I think that Poulter will be able to hold his own as a lead character if the Silver Chair ever gets greenlighted. I also loved the scene when Aslan transforms Eustace back into a boy. It's done way less graphic than what is said in the book and we see it happening live and not in a flashback. I cried when I saw him pawing the ground and what it was representing. While I wasn't happy with most of the changes, there were some that made sense and I could accept. The whole plot about Edmund constantly feeling second in command, first to Peter and then to Caspian makes absolute complete sense. It's hinted briefly in the books but the story comes out more evidently in the movie. Also Lucy's jealousy about Susan is understandable as well though as to why anyone wants to be Susan is beyond me. I did like the brief reference to Jill Pole BUT it's clearly stated in The Silver Chair that Eustace and Jill were NOT friends before the beginning of the book because Eustace was part of the gang that tormented Jill and he doesn't change until after he gets back home from this voyage.

However there were some changes in this movie that I absolutely hated. I understand that a movie cannot be 100% faithful to the book. I get that the director and screenwriters cannot please the fans 100%. But for everything that is good and pure, if you are going to take one of my absolute favorite books of all time into a movie, do not ADD things that do nothing to the plot!

First off, the whole reason for Caspian's voyage has been changed. Instead of hunting for the seven Lords because he promised this when he became king, Caspian is searching for them on a rescue mission. It's dumb. I'm sorry. The original plot had enough purpose already. There is only supposed to be one talking animal on the ship. This is important because in the Silver Chair, Eustace feels terrible for eating the venison because he had one talking friend, Reepicheep. Instead there are several, including a minotaur who cracks jokes??? When they get to the Lone Islands, I can accept the rushed landing and sidestepping going on the grassy island. But the entire sequence involving Lord Bern is RUINED. Why is he in jail??? And he's never made into a duke. And don't get me started on the Green Mist. WHY???? And that family that joins the crew of the Dawn Treader? I was seriously rolling my eyes.

There's a lot more I could talk about: the merging of Lord Octesian and Lord Restimar on the same island, how events were NOT done in the order that they were in the book, the White Witch continuing to pop up, Lord Rhoop NOT returning to the table BEFORE they get to Aslan's country, how Ramandu's daughter is a star herself, this whole thing about magic swords, Reepicheep's quest to get to Aslan's country is diminished, Caspian getting to Aslan's country, etc etc.

This pains me because I wanted to love the movie. I want Narnia to be huge in popularity so that the other books can be made into movies especially the ones that never got brought to live by the BBC versions before. But sadly, after watching this movie, I can't find myself recommending it. Just because there are Christian values in the movie does not make it a good movie that I can recommend to other Christians. Ok, I won't lie, I will still probably get this movie on DVD because I have to complete the set. However, it is going to be a miracle if The Silver Chair is going to be made and IF it's going to get made I beg the writers to PLEASE follow the book. There is a reason why the books are so popular and why so many people went to go see LW&W. Because you followed the book!!!!! Learn from history!!!!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Book Review: "Never Been Kissed" by Melody Carlson

Summary from All Elise wants is to have her first kiss before she turns sixteen. Is that so bad? But when a friend's poor advice and the powers of electronic technology combine, Elise heads down a dangerous road. She is accused of "sexting" and gets kicked out of school. But is she really the one to blame?

This powerful and realistic story from beloved author Melody Carlson shows teen girls the impact of their choices when it comes to respecting themselves and their integrity. Honest and relevant, Never Been Kissed will make girls laugh, cry . . . and think.

This book took me by surprise. While the description above mentions the main plot of the story, the back of the book doesn't mention it at all. Therefore I was expecting a rather bland story of a girl who's never been kissed and gets her first kiss in high school and how magical and wonderful it was. I should have known better. Melody Carlson is known for pushing those racy and usually unmentionable topics in other Christian fiction books into her stories. In fact as far as I know, this is the first CF book I've read that even mentions sexting at all.

The beginning of the story has new girl Elise entering her junior year at a new high school. She wants to create a new identity and start her year off right. Almost immediately she catches the eye of one of the hottest guys in the school. When Elise and Asher start emailing each other, I was really embarassed for Elise because of her emails. I kept thinking "OMG girl, stop giving it all away up front!" I want to note as I said earlier, I didn't realize where the story was headed and just kept thinking about how naive Elise was being. Then when sexting comes into play, it started making more sense and I felt I was on a roller coaster ride, not knowing what was going to happen next. I don't want to spoil the ending but what gets me is that there are some people who do things with no thought about how they might hurt others and frankly they just don't care.

Elise's grandmother is a wonderful parental figure, giving her guidance and helping her during the rough time. I was a bit sad that her own mother chose not to believe her especially without hard core evidence or allowing Elise to defend herself. This is especially appalling since there's no mention at all that she's ever given her mother reason to doubt her in the past. She handled it a lot better than I ever could, I don't think I would want to face anyone in public.

I'm not a big fan of the cover. I feel that it does nothing for the story and is by all accounts very bland. Other than this, this was an excellent book. It's a topic that is VERY relevant to teens out there, and yes even Christian teens as so portrayed in the story. I'm just saying that don't think that because a teen is a Christian doesn't mean they won't come across a situation like this. I feel that this book (like many of Carlson's other YA books) can reach both audiences and discuss a topic that needs more attention.

Never Been Kissed by Melody Carlson is published by Revell (2011)

This review copy was provided by the publisher

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Book Review: "The Fates Will Find Their Way" by Hannah Pittard

Summary from Sixteen-year-old Nora Lindell is missing. And the neighborhood boys she's left behind are caught forever in the heady current of her absence.

As the days and years pile up, the mystery of her disappearance grows kaleidoscopically. A collection of rumors, divergent suspicions, and tantalizing what-ifs, Nora Lindell's story is a shadowy projection of teenage lust, friendship, reverence, and regret, captured magically in the disembodied plural voice of the boys who still long for her.

Told in haunting, percussive prose, Hannah Pittard's beautifully crafted novel tracks the emotional progress of the sister Nora left behind, the other families in their leafy suburban enclave, and the individual fates of the boys in her thrall. Far more eager to imagine Nora's fate than to scrutinize their own, the boys sleepwalk into an adulthood of jobs, marriages, families, homes, and daughters of their own, all the while pining for a girl–and a life–that no longer exists, except in the imagination.

A masterful literary debut that shines a light into the dream-filled space between childhood and all that follows, The Fates Will Find Their Way is a story about the stories we tell ourselves–of who we once were and may someday become.

This isn't normally the type of book that I would pick up but I'm so glad that I did.

The main focus of the story is on Nora and what happened after she disappeared. Part of the book follows her life after her disappearance, the family she raised, the lovers she had and the experiences she went through. The other half of the book focuses on the people left behind in her hometown, the ones that heard about her disappearance and how it affected them for the rest of their lives. The setting is small town suburbia where everyone knows everyone. Even though Nora is no longer a part of their lives physically, she's still there haunting everyone in their memories. I don't have any brothers so I didn't know what it was like to grow up with boys but from this story, I would say that Pittard has entered the mind of male and portrayed it very well.

The book is written in first person plural which is another style of writing that takes me a while to get used to. However it first perfectly for the story and gives the reader an insider's look into the viewpoints of the characters. There is several instances of strong cursing as well as sexual situations in this book but I feel that they help move the story forward and are not thrown in casually.

Overall, this is a beautiful and haunting book about lost innocence, growing up and always wondering "what if". There's no tidy conclusion to the story, but life isn't always have a neat and happy ending. The prose flows fast and you get sucked into the story right from the beginning. It's a wonderful read and I encourage those to step out of their normal comfort zone and pick up this extraordinary book.

The Fates Will Find Their Way by Hannah Pittard is published by Ecco (2011)

This ARC was provided by the publisher

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Book Review: "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" by Amy Chua

Summary from All decent parents want to do what's best for their children. What Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother reveals is that the Chinese just have a totally different idea of how to do that. Western parents try to respect their children's individuality, encouraging them to pursue their true passions and providing a nurturing environment. The Chinese believe that the best way to protect your children is by preparing them for the future and arming them with skills, strong work habits, and inner confidence. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother chronicles Chua's iron-willed decision to raise her daughters, Sophia and Lulu, her way—the Chinese way—and the remarkable results her choice inspires.

Before I start this review, I wanted to say that I haven't read any of the other reviews about this book. I am writing this review purely from my own viewpoint and from my own experiences of being raised by a Chinese mother. I was excited to read this book for two main reasons. 1) I'm half Chinese and therefore was raised by a Chinese mother and 2) I'm looking to expand my reading this year and am reading a lot more books dealing with Asian culture.

There were many occasions while reading that I would call out to my husband (who is Caucasian) at how similar this was to my childhood or how I could relate very much to what Chua was saying. Several things stood out to me that I know others have problems with. Chua didn't let her go on sleepovers, play dates or be in school plays among other things. Her main concern was that they focus on their music as well as their studies. Well growing up, my parents didn't really let us do any of that either. And I'm not weird or abnormal. If we did go to a sleepover, like Chua's daughters, we came back extremely grumpy and irritable forcing them to come to the conclusion that sleepovers were not the best for us at such a young age. We did have friends in school and in church but mostly we kept to ourselves. When you have sisters, you pretty much have built in playmates.

Many of the things that Chua said about how Asian immigrant parents view their children and their way of living also mirrored what happened in my home as well. There are some points in the book where I agreed with what she said about how some Western parents do tend to molly-coddle their kids whereas Asian parents would be more strict. There were times when I was growing up when I wondered why instead of complimenting me on what I did well, my mother would focus on what I didn't do well instead. However now I know that she wanted me to focus on my weak points, not to make me feel bad, but to improve on them. I do feel that discipline is a lot more prevalent in most Asian families that I know. Note: My parents did not raise me as strict as Chua did her kids, therefore if she had, I would be a total failure.

I don't agree with everything that she did however. There are some parts in the book where I thought she went too far with how much she wanted her daughters to practice their instruments. She also said in the book that she never thought about doing this to get recognition for her own self but there are times during the story where I felt that she was just like pageant mothers. Why else should Lulu play at her own Bat Mitzvah than simply to show off to everyone how well she does when the audience will consist of nothing but family and friends who will congratulate the parents? Also, I was NOT a fan of her tearing up her children's birthday cards. Her reasoning was that since she spent the big bucks and time and effort on their birthday parties, they should spend equal amount and fervor for her birthday. Well maybe, her kids didn't want big parties.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book.
This book is extremely readable. Chua's narrative flows very smoothly and it's really easy to get hooked into her story. I know that there are MANY people who disagree with Chua's way of parenting. I know that there are a lot of people who are angry with how she treated her kids and that what she did borders on child abuse. I also know that there are many Asian American kids who despise their parents for treating them in the same way Chua treated her kids. For me, however, I will just say that first before you say anything or make any judgments, you need to read the entire book first. After that, I still feel like there are just some things a lot of people, mainly those in Western culture, won't get unless you've grown up and been raised in an Asian environment. While I don't agree with ALL of Chua's parenting techniques, there are some that absolutely make sense. My parents raised me like that and I came out a perfectly decent (if not geeky) person and I hope that my own children will come out that way. If anything at all, this book will create a lot of discussion after reading it, regardless of what your feelings are before reading.

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua is published by The Penguin Press (2011)

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

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Book Review: "Fatal Judgment" by Irene Hannon

Summary from U.S. Marshal Jake Taylor has seen plenty of action during his years in law enforcement. But he'd rather go back to Iraq than face his next assignment: protection detail for federal judge Liz Michaels. His feelings toward Liz haven't warmed in the five years since she lost her husband--and Jake's best friend--to possible suicide. How can Jake be expected to care for the coldhearted workaholic who drove his friend to despair? As the danger mounts and Jake gets to know Liz better, his feelings slowly start to change. When it becomes clear that an unknown enemy may want her dead, the stakes are raised. Because now both her life--and his heart--are in mortal danger.

I have enjoyed Irene Hannon's books in the romantic suspense genre because I feel that they give me more of what I want: suspense over romance. I want the story to focus more on the action and adventure while having the romance be a secondary subplot. It can be there but I would rather see the couple engage in the suspense than actually getting engaged.

This book is packed with suspense right from the beginning. The reader is taken on a thrilling ride as what looked to be a domestic related shooting turns into a whole lot more. As a federal judge, Liz's life is in danger and the assassin is unknown. Hannon however shows the reader the assassin and we see things from his point of view. I found reading about to be more interesting than Liz and Jake's escapades. Learning his back story didn't really make me more sympathetic for him. I found it sad at the way he chose to focus his attentions on. The details of the type of government that was presented were quite scary as I know that there are actual groups out there that do believe in that sort of thing.

While reading this book, I was eerily reminded of the events in the book and the tragic shooting involving Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tuscon. The situation there was taking place during the exact time frame that I was reading the book so it was a bit scary to see so many parallels between the two situations. Both featured an citizen who was angry with the government, interesting in radical movements and ultimately decided to take things into their own hands in an extremely violent way. While I don't like seeing what I read come to life, at the same time it's strangely exciting to see a book written in such a true to life way.

This is one of the reasons why I do love Hannon's books over other Christian romantic suspense writers. Her books are well researched and actually show real situations and not focus on just the love story.
As for the love story itself, I felt it was believable and while maybe just a tad rushed, I felt that I could buy it. Unlikely most couples in Christian fiction, Jake and Liz have a history together and a past that they share. This allows for more development because they have something to build on and aren't just meeting for the first time and falling in love 3 days later. It's a more mature relationship that has issues that must be dealt with first.

Overall I really enjoyed this book. The suspense is top notch, I was on the edge of my seat throughout the entire novel. All the characters in the book are very intriguing and well developed. Even Martin's sister, who I thought wasn't going to be a big deal in the story, ended up surprising me with the depth of her character. This is another winner from Hannon and I wish more romantic suspense authors who write in this field would take notes from her. I am really looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

Fatal Judgment by
Irene Hannon is published by Revell (2011)

This review copy was provided by the publisher

Monday, January 24, 2011

Book Review: "The Samantha Granger Experiment: Fused" by Kari Lee Townsend

Summary from the publisher: When you make a face or cross your eyes, do your parents tease that if you’re not careful, your face might stay that way forever?
Well, my parents said that if I’m not careful, I’ll turn into one of my gadgets.

I thought they were joking, people!

But—somehow, someway—I have become a living, breathing, walking piece of technology. Apparently my head now has a built-in GPS and my palm is equipped with talking and texting capabilities—just like my cell phone!

Now I’m a techno-superhero with powers that seem to have a mind of their own. And, in my case, keeping a secret identity is harder than it sounds. I short-circuit every time Trevor Hamilton looks my way.

Like being a girl isn’t stressful enough.

Kids and technology. They're glued to it 24/7. What would happen if that literally were to happen to them? That's exactly what happens to Samantha Granger in this book as a magical substance transforms her body into the most high tech piece of communication equipment ever made. Her hand has become a phone, her brain is filled with all sorts of knowledge akin to a encyclopedia, she has a built in GPS system and she can take pictures and videos with the blink of an eye. Warning to all kids, if you're not careful you might become what you wish for!

As others have said, this book is really cute and I highly concur with them. I love seeing how Samantha takes these new powers and uses them for good and to help others. It never enters her mind to use them in any other way, to back stab enemies or find out secrets that could potentially harm others. Pretty much after she figures out what's going on, she sets off to help those in need. I loved how everyone kept messing up the superhero names that she came up with as well as how everyone assumed that the masked masquerader was automatically a male therefore Samantha has to constantly correct them without looking too obvious.

Not only is there the technology aspect with a bit of action thrown in, but there is also Samantha's every day life in school. There she relies on her best friend to keep her secret (and also become her faithful sidekick) and help her in her adventures. She also is dealing with a crush that seems to interfere with her new abilities because every time he gets close, Samantha's new powers are immediately triggered. It takes teen romance and the phrase love is electrifying to a whole new level.

Overall this was a really fun story to read. It's perfect for middle grade readers and young teens who are constantly on their Iphones and Blackberries. They'll not only get a kick out of Samantha's adventures but it's also a good way to see an extreme version what happens when what your mom tells you actually comes true. I'll be looking forward to the next book in the series.

The Samantha Granger Experiment: Fused by Kari Lee Townsend is published by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky (2010)

This ARC was provided by the publisher

Bloggiesta Wrap Up

Bloggiesta: Pedro

So Bloggiesta came and went. How did I do?

Well, let's start off by this. Last year during Bloggiesta, I had set out for a whole weekend of working on my blog. Unfortunately that didn't happen because my husband got in a pretty bad car accident. This year, I had a limited time of when I could work on my blog but still had planned for at least one day and a few hours over the weekend. All was well....until my husband broke his leg Friday night falling on black ice. And it was a pretty bad break because he needed surgery on Saturday morning. Thus my Bloggiesta plans pretty much went kaput. He's doing don't worry about him. Because next year I am going to forbid him from stepping outside of the house for the 3 days Bloggiesta takes place.

As for the goals I had set before:

I wrote 6.5 reviews. I had planned for 8 but 6.5 is good considering what happened. Spent most of Friday working on these.

I also did put up a twitter button on my blog! Did this on Sunday, took me a while to find one that I liked and fit my blog. It's not entirely perfect but at least now it's there for people to use.

Next time will hopefully be a bit more fruitful.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Why I'm Not the Target Audience for Christian Fiction

I feel like this post is going all over the place. You would be appalled to get inside of my brain sometimes.

If you've been reading my blog for any amount of time over a month, then you know that I like reading Christian fiction. I know that many of you don't and you probably never will, but that's ok with me. I don't like reading science fiction or erotica and I never will so I can perfectly understand your sentiments.

Lately, I've been feeling rather ignored by the Christian Fiction community. Please note before I start this, I'm not begging for books to review. I have more than enough, believe me. I just feel like I'm being ignored by Christian authors and publishers that are heavily involved in the CBA/ECPA publishing industry. I mentioned this in my blogging goals earlier this month that I feel like even though I read and review a lot of Christian fiction, I also read and review a lot of general market fiction and I wonder if that is part of the turn off.

However that this is just pretty much that I am not the target reader for Christian fiction. I feel that the targeted reader for Christian fiction is a middle age, middle class Conservative white woman, who lives in the South to midwest, is Evangelical, who has several kids, tends to either be a stay at home mom and is usually pretty softspoken about her beliefs. While there is nothing wrong with this type of person, it just isn't me. At all.

This is me:

1) I'm Asian-American
2) I live in a big city that is not Nashville or in the midwest
3) I'm in my mid-late 20s.
4) I read general market fiction A LOT
5) I curse. (well not all the time, but it slips out quite a bit)
6) I have my master's degree and I plan on working full time after having kids
7) I'm married but I don't want kids for a few more years.

Amy has done a wonderful post on
What Can Be Done about Christian Fiction and includes her views on the two different types of readers of Christian fiction.

It's very interesting me how many people who are Christians and who are readers don't read Christian fiction. I know that there are a lot of book bloggers who are like this but there are also many people I've met in my church who don't read them either. Except for Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti, many people had never even heard of any Christian fiction authors. The people I talked to, while reading a lot of Christian non fiction, had never even thought about reading Christian fiction. I'm not sure what this says about the marketing of Christian fiction.

I've gone back and look at books where I wrote glowing reviews on them because I applauded them for showing realistic characters who live in situation almost exactly like mine. I said in my reviews that I felt that I could give these books to those who don't normally read Christian fiction and feel confident that they wouldn't find these books to be preachy or condemning and that the writing was spectacular and extremely well written. I felt that these authors were more concerned about writing their story well than trying to insert any messages.

Well, I went on Amazon a few months later to see what other people thought about these books, and well not to my surprise, MANY people didn't agree with me. However, they didn't agree with me on the issue of writing style or literary content. No, they were angry because they didn't think the book was "Christian" enough. They were mad at the publisher for allowing the characters to do these things and that the publisher should be ashamed for allowing a book like that be published by them. Apparently teens and young adults in their 20s, Christian or not, shouldn't be drinking, smoking, cursing, or even thinking about the opposite sex. They don't want to see characters in a book go through messy things in life without a happy ending it seems.

I experienced something quite personal year involving a family member who faced substance abuse addiction. I asked on twitter if there there were any Christian fiction books that dealt with this subject. Sadly between several of us, we could only come up with less than 5 books. One of them, I highly recommend is Crystal Lies by Melody Carlson. Aside from these, that's it. Apparently it's a subject that no one wants to breach because it's messy. Do Christians not want to deal with how it is for a person who's watching a family member struggle with addiction? It saddened me that I could not find anything to relate about what I was going through in the Christian fiction circle.

On the other side of the spectrum, there have been books that annoyed me to no end because they were too safe, too perfect, too tidy ending. And I either stopped reading the book before I finished or if I did finish it and wrote a review, the review was pretty negative because I felt the book was too unrealistic and that no one's life ever turned out like this. Like I pretty much hate conversion scenes tucked neatly at the end of a book. I also hate how in a lot of Christian romantic suspense, the man and woman will fall in love after less than a week of meeting each other for the first time and then get married in the epilogue which takes place just a few months later. I also dislike books where I feel like I'm constantly getting preached at left and right to the point where there are actual sermons written in the text spoken by the pastor of the church that are coincidentally exactly what the main character needs to hear. Yet I find myself being the one dissident in a whole mass of reviewers who LOVE this type of book and declare that this is what all Christian fiction should be like.

So regarding Amy's post, it frustrates me to no end, to see bloggers who clearly fall in Camp 1 continue to receive books from authors and publishers who seemed like they were writing for Camp 2, and see those bloggers/readers blast the book for not fitting their needs. Where as me, who is about 80% Camp 2/20% Camp 1, and probably would have loved the book because it was written for someone like me, get shunned because publisher/author is trying to market to 1 because they have the power of influence when it comes to sales. Therefore since 1 didn't like it, sales will be low and books like that will no longer be written. It's an extremely frustrating cycle.

Publishers say that there is no interest in the books, but they don't offer the books so how will they know? One example is cozy mysteries. Cozy mysteries are HUGE in general market fiction. I just discovered them last year and I am completely addicted to them. I found a few back list titles of Christian cozy mysteries and was looking for me and then found out that most publishers will no longer accept any more submissions of manuscripts for these books because they don't sell well in Christian market. Which baffles me because even most general market
cozies are "clean" so maybe Christian readers are just reading those instead?

What do I want to read in Christian fiction? To start off with, I really don't like that label to begin with, but I have a feeling that it's going to get used no matter what so I will just have to get used to it. I want books that are realistic. I'm not saying they have to be edgy. I just want a book that I can relate to. I understand the multiculturalism issue. I am a rarity in terms of Christian fiction readership. But if I'm going to read about a 20-something year old, I don't want to see her acting like she's in her 40's and up, simply because the author is that age. I want to read about women my age who went to college and don't want to have kids yet because they want to pursue a career and don't feel guilty about it. I want to read about what I'm going through right now and really, I just can't find it and it's frustrating.

I had more to write but my husband broke his leg last night and is going into surgery around the time this is being posted so I am pretty much at a loss for words and just trying to tie things up on this post. Perhaps there will be a part 2 in the future.

My other thoughts on Christian fiction that I've written on my blog throughout the years:

Cliches in Christian Fiction
"Edgy" Topics in Christian Fiction
Should Christian Fiction be Labeled?
How I Review Christian Fiction
Lending Christian Fiction Books
Recommending Christian Fiction Books to Non CF Readers
Diversity (or Lack of) in Christian Fiction
Still More Lack of Diversity in Christian Fiction

Quoting Amy:
We would love to open up this conversation to more of you. We think that a lot of people have feelings on this issue and would like to express them. We also think that a lot of you might have ideas. We just really believe in keeping the conversation going! So we will be having a Twitter chat on Monday at 1 PM EST/10 AM PST to discuss what can be done about Christian fiction, how people feel about it currently, and share ideas for serving both camps. Please join us on Twitter and use the hashtag #CFChat. (We considered #WhatupCF but thought it might be too irreverent :) Publishers, authors, readers, librarians -- all are welcome. Please please join us!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Book Review: "Angry" by Laura L. Smith

Summary from Watching her parents go through a divorce is devastating for Emma and has turned her life into a tailspin. She’s angry at everyone around her. She’s angry at her siblings because she's always stuck baby-sitting them, her parents for ruining her life, and herself for not measuring up to anyone’s standards. Will she turn her torment over to God and put her trust in Him before it’s too late?

Teen angst. I know parents dread it coming. Unfortunately almost every teen is going to face it sometime in their life. It be nerve wracking for everyone as they are on pins and needles trying to avoid be blasted and yelled at from the surly teenager. For the teen, this can be the worse time of their life unless they know how to handle it correctly. Emma is going through that part of her life right now. And not handling it in the right way.

Even though I was a big fan of Smith's previous books, this one didn't feel as if it held up as well as its predecessors. The biggest draw for me with Smith's books is that I feel that she writes just how a real teen girl would talk and act. In this book, I didn't get that vibe with Emma. I just never felt that she was acting like a teen girl. There were some parts where she acted very young for her age and other times when she sounded like an older woman. While I understand her anger at her parents, it just felt like she was PMSing quite a bit.

Books about divorce are never fun. I know that this probably happens all the time but I really hate it when the kids blame the mom for the divorce and think that their dad is perfect and in the right for leaving her. I didn't feel as if the situation with Emma's mom got fully resolved. It just sort of ends abruptly. Actually the same goes with the whole faith aspect of the story. Emma gets angry with God and then pretty much calms down immediately. Her parents make no mention that they share her faith. It gets a little preachy at some points which can be a turn off to those that pick up the book that don't share the faith.

Overall, it's a good read but not my favorite of the three books that share these characters. I don't think that general market YA fans will welcome this one as much as the others. I wonder if this time if the length of the book (160 pages) hinders the story as I felt that more characterization and development of Emma would have helped the reader be able to understand her more. I do think that this is a good read for teens in general as it tackles issues that they face every day. I don't think any of the topics mentioned in the story are too much for a YA audience. In fact, I would have welcomed more talk of it to make it more realistic. I do want to read more of Smith's books in the future and am looking forward to seeing what other relevant topics she will tackle.

Angry by Laura L. Smith is published by NavPress (2010)

This review copy was provided by the publisher

Bloggiesta #4

Bloggiesta: Pedro

It's Bloggiesta Time! What does that mean? It's Bloggers Dancing Around a Sombrero filled with books! Ok, not really.

This is an event hosted by Natasha from Maw Books Blog. In her own words: "In short, it’s a blogging marathon. A opportunity to cross those nagging items off of your to-do list and improve your blog while in the good company of other awesome bloggers doing the same thing."

Unfortunately for me, I always have rotten timing during Bloggiesta weekend and something always comes up to not make me be able to participate as fully as I would like to. Therefore I only have all of Friday to really get some work done. Hopefully I'll be able to get some time on Saturday or Sunday but I can't guarantee that.

Now what do I plan on doing during Bloggiesta? Well my main goal is writing reviews. I have about 15 books that need reviews to be written. I'm guessing that will probably take up all my time tomorrow. I also need to put a twitter button up somewhere. Yes, I know I am about 3 years behind on that.

If I do find spare time to work on more stuff I also would like to (and these are from last year's Bloggiesta):

Make a Review Database - I plan on eliminating the labels portion on the sidebar and creating a database with links to all reviews (there are almost 500 so this is a huge task) in alphabetical order and by genre time permitting.
Fix Images on Reviews - several of my older reviews have had their book covers disappeared so I would like to go back and fix them
Fix Formatting on older reviews - Prior to switching to this new template, I had used colored texts (gasp!) and reviews are now looking funny due to images not being centered.
Add Amazon Associate links to older reviews - not really necessarily but I like consistency :)

I doubt any of these will get done so I'm not too worried. I will one day make that review database. One day.

So anywho, as long as I get that twitter button up and at least 8 reviews done, I'll call it a success.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Book Winner

Congrats to the winner of the giveaway for Love on Assignment

Book Review: "The Weird Sisters" by Eleanor Brown

Summary from There is no problem that a library card can't solve. The Andreas family is one of readers. Their father, a renowned Shakespeare professor who speaks almost entirely in verse, has named his three daughters after famous Shakespearean women. When the sisters return to their childhood home, ostensibly to care for their ailing mother, but really to lick their wounds and bury their secrets, they are horrified to find the others there. See, we love each other. We just don't happen to like each other very much. But the sisters soon discover that everything they've been running from-one another, their small hometown, and themselves-might offer more than they ever expected.

This is one of those books that I don't feel worthy to write a review about. I absolutely loved this book. Right from the beginning I was immediately sucked into the story. Any book about sisters and reading gets an automatic 5 star in my book. Coming from a family of three girls who all love reading, I felt drawn to this family like a moth to the light. I may not have loved everything that these sisters did but I loved reading about them, learning about them, and discovering more how their lives had an effect on everyone they came in contact with.

The story is deeply engaging and right from the beginning I felt as if I was connected with the characters. I both felt sympathized and got angry with all three women and their decisions. Even though we don't meet Cordy until a bit later on in the book, I felt as if I already knew her through Bean and Rosalie's views. Each sister holds a sad story but eventually overcomes it and finds a better and new outcome in life for herself.

The best part of the story for me was the obvious love of books. One of my favorite scenes in the book was when Bean is trying to explain to an ex boyfriend why she has time for reading. She talks about how she doesn't sit for hours in front a TV mindlessly watching. She always has a book on her so that way when she's at line in the store or in a waiting room she can just pull out her book and start reading. I just absolutely love how the whole family loves books. Another favorite part of the book was the different reading styles of the three sisters. From reading out front in everyone to avoiding everyone because of reading to hiding your reading from everyone, the three girls still know how to enjoy a good book. In this retrospect, they sound just like my family. Three sisters who have been known to lose themselves into a good read.

The only thing that threw me off about the book was the unknown narrator. I'm not sure if I missed if the narrator was revealed or if it's left to the reader to decide who it is by the end of the story. It just confused me in the beginning of the book because the narrator speaks in first person and uses words such as "our father, our mother" yet all of the girls are spoken about in third person. I don't find it annoying or a distraction to the story because you get used to it after a while. It was just different way of writing for me.

This is a wonderful debut novel and I look forward to reading more from Brown. If you love a sister story, Shakespeare or reading in general, this will be a perfect read for you. HIGHLY recommended.

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown is published by Amy Einhorn Books (2011)

This ARC was provided for a tour with TLC Book Tours

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Book Review: "A Man's Heart" by Lori Copeland

Summary from Jules broke off her wedding to Cruz practically at the altar. Not just once, but twice. Now the man Jules loves best can't stand the sight of her.

Only for Pop could Jules have made such a sacrifice. And now Pop is gone, leaving Jules with his struggling Washington State potato farm; with a sister excluded from his will; and with a heart wounded by the sacrifice she has made on behalf of her father.

It looks like strengthening her relationship with her sister and improving the prospects of the Blue Bayou farm will be Jules' chief concerns. But when cancer takes the life of her best friend, Jules finds herself caring for her friend's two small children as well as the Blue Bayou.

A drought-stricken farm. A promise to a dead friend and two needy little lives. And disturbing memories stirring up a growing relationship with her sister. How can one woman handle it all?

The answer lies with a God who holds the keys to yesterday, today, and tomorrow—and to the heart of the one man whom Jules could ever love.

This is a love story, a sister story and a potato story. That's an unlikely combination but it's the best way to describe this story. Jules love Cruz but due to decisions she's made in the past, their relationship has been rocky and the two could be described as estranged. Meanwhile her relationship with her sister Crystal is not the best there ever was. Their parents relationship crumbled and the sisters are as different as night as day. Potatoes become the focus then of Jules' life as she is on a mission to create the perfect potato.

I will admit that if I was Cruz, I would think twice about having a relationship with Jules after she's already left him twice in the past. I honestly do not think I would have given her another chance. The story starts off right before their wedding when Jules decides she can't do it and runs. The thing that bothers me about women (or men) that do this is that they let it get so far before they realize/decide that marriage isn't going to work for them. The only reason why in this story it sticks is because the overall theme of forgiveness and unconditional love are full out on display. The subplot about Jules' friend dying and then the custody of the children takes that theme to another whole new level as well.

Overall, as with other Lori Copeland books, I enjoyed reading this story. I was really glad to see Jules graduating from college as I feel that if you do choose to pursue this path, it's important to complete and meet this goal. Her potato study was quite interesting and as a fan of potatoes I would be interested if her theory ever came true. The writing is engaging even if the characters become a bit cliched at times. It's not the best Christian fiction that's out there but it does make for an enjoyable afternoon of reading. Fans of Copeland's previous books will know what to expect and will enjoy this one as well.

A Man's Heart by Lori Copeland is published by Zondervan (2010)

This review copy was provided by the Amazon Vine program

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Book Review: "A Suitor for Jenny" by Margaret Brownley

Summary from When looking for a husband, it's best to go where the odds are in your favor.

And that would be Rocky Creek, Texas, 1880. But Jenny Higgins's plan to find husbands for her two sisters hits a snag when enthusiastic applicants fail to meet her stringent requirements.

Rejecting her sisters' choices for mates and riding herd on her growing feelings for Marshal Rhett Armstrong, she refuses to give up.

Jenny thinks choosing a husband is not a job for the heart. It'll take one strong and handsome marshal to convince her otherwise.

Women finding husbands. It's a never ending saga that has lasted throughout history and will go on forever. Jenny is the oldest sister who has been left in charge of her two younger sisters. They have arrived in Rocky Creek to set out to look for husbands. Due to circumstances in her past, Jenny is determined to find respectable, well to do spouses that can provided security for her younger sisters. She develops an unconventional set of tests and procedures that the eligible men must pass before they can be even considered. However, the men of the town aren't happy with her set up. It turns out neither are her own sisters who would much rather find their own mates the old fashioned way.

There's a lot of miscommunication in this book with the characters but it adds to the charm of the book. I loved how devoted Jenny is to her sisters even if she goes about it the wrong way. I also loved her growing relationship with Rhett, even if she doesn't realize that there is one. He's intrigued with her from the first day they met but he's careful to let her realize it before he makes any moves. The characters are fun to read about and I enjoyed seeing all the colorful townsfolk. I did feel sorry that back then a woman had to rely completely on her husband for everything.

While I enjoyed the story very much, there were certain parts of the book that left me a bit irritated. I was not a fan of how Mary Lou's eventual intended kept treating her throughout the story. I do not like men who just assume they know what a woman needs or wants. He just kept acting very arrogant and tells Mary Lou how it's all going to be and that is that. I seriously wanted to slap the guy because I wouldn't want to be treated as if I didn't have a mind of my own. The thing that bothered me the most is that this is all seen as romantic for the reader. My other qualm was just Jenny's attitude in general. I understand completely why she is acting this way and I understand her concern for her sisters. I just felt that she was doing everything completely the wrong way. I know the whole story is based on this and while I liked her character very much, I just kept shaking my head at the antics she kept doing in order to secure spouses for her siblings.

Overall though, this was a fun and enjoyable historical romance. This is the second book in the Rocky Creek Romance series but if you haven't read the first book you won't be lost when starting this one. Brownley's style of writing is very engaging and it draws the readers into the Rocky Creek world very easily. The main thing you will get when you finish reading is thinking about what does it mean to have a spouse and the reasons as to why you want one. Love should be the most important qualification because if it isn't there, no matter how financially secure you are, the marriage cannot survive properly without love. I look forward to reading the next book in the series. Quick note: I'm not a fan of the cover at all. It looks very very awkward.

A Suitor for Jenny by Margaret Brownley is published by Thomas Nelson (2010)

This review copy was provided by the publisher

Monday, January 17, 2011

Nancy Drew Challenge Winners

Congrats to the winners of the Nancy Drew Challenge giveaway. A special congrats because all these winners read ALL 56 of the Nancy Drew books in 2010!

The winners of the Secret of the Old Clock Game are

Ryan G
Tina C
Andrea F

The grand prize winner of the 5 Pack of Nancy Drew games is

Peggy O.

Congrats to all and hope you had a very happy Nancy Drew Year!

Book Review: "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Presents Earth" by Jon Stewart

Where do we come from? Who created us? Why are we here? These questions have puzzled us since the dawn of time, but when it became apparent to Jon Stewart and the writers of The Daily Show that the world was about to end, they embarked on a massive mission to write a book that summed up the human race: What we looked like; what we accomplished; our achievements in society, government, religion, science and culture -- all in a tome of approximately 256 pages with lots of color photos, graphs and charts.

After two weeks of hard work, they had their book. EARTH (The Book) is the definitive guide to our species. With their trademark wit, irreverence, and intelligence, Stewart and his team will posthumously answer all of life's most hard-hitting questions, completely unburdened by objectivity, journalistic integrity, or even accuracy.

Hi-Lar-I-Ous. That's what this book is. I'm a fan of Jon Stewart and I watch the Daily Show. I have his first book, America (The Book) and as a historian I absolutely loved it. Therefore I was eagerly awaiting Earth as another reference guide that I could laugh at while reading. I was not disappointed. The book is set up as a textbook, a primer for the unknown creatures handling it, to learn about Earth, the way it was when it was inhabited.

Right away as soon as you open up the book, the familiar space to fill in your name (or fake name) in a textbook greets you. Start flipping pages and you'll start seeing pictures, graphs, maps and text to guide the reader into learning more about the planet, the inhabitants, and their habits while Earth existed. I actually read EVERYTHING in this book so it took me quite a while to read ALL the captions and all the text that was in the book. It was worth it because I laughed A LOT. I didn't get offended by anything while reading. The writers take shots at everything but nothing is too one sided in how they approach it. If you're sensitive to this sort of stuff, you might want to skim through certain parts, but overall it's pretty balanced. You just have to have a sense of humor to enjoy this sort of stuff.

While there are probably quite a few people who will not be interested in this book (due to language and some nudity), I found this book to be a wonderful diversion from all that is serious in life. I read this book during a tough time this past month and found it a great way to step back from the situation and just laugh. Comedy is a wonderful way to find bright spots in dark times and the writers of the Daily Show do just that in this book. It's chock full of laughing goodness and it also makes the reader step back and just look at everything with a second glance. Kudos to the writers for bringing to life this wonderful "reference book" and if another life form ever does pick up this book in the future, I'm sure that they will learn everything that they need to know about us and this planet from this book.

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Presents Earth by Jon Stewart is published by Grand Central Publishing (2010)

This review copy was provided by the publisher

Saturday, January 15, 2011

DNF: The Fashion File by Janie Bryant with Monica Corcoran Harel

Summary from As the costume designer for television's Mad Men, Emmy Award-winner Janie Bryant must match couture with the disparate body types and personalities of that show's distinctive female and male characters. In The Fashion File, she not only offers elegant peeks behind those dressing room doors; she describes how you can adapt your clothing choices to match your personal look and preferred style. In addition to its memorable Mad Men stories, this illustrated hardcover dispenses timely wardrobe and accessory details, tips, and advice.

Ok, this is my first DNF on the blog so if it sounds choppy it's because this is the first time I've ever done this.

Sometimes no matter how interesting you think a subject matter can be, sometimes the book just isn't for you. I was really looking forward to reading this but then after I started I wondered why. First off, I don't watch Mad Men. I've tried to get into the show but I just can't even though I adore Jon Hamm. Second, I'm not really into fashion. While I do make sure that I wear what compliments me, I wear things that are comfortable not things that are high in fashion. And that's pretty much what this whole book is about.

I will admit there is a lot of information about fashion in this book that is probably very interesting. The book has a lot of illustrations and tidbits for those that are in that sort of thing. My main problem is that I just don't wear the sort of stuff that's featured in the book. I don't have the body shape of any of the examples given. I don't wear dresses unless I absolutely have to. I just cannot see myself wearing this sort of stuff at any given time except when I feel like I need to dress up for an occasion. It's all very interesting stuff but I feel like this book would probably read better by using it as a reference guide and not straight through in one sitting. While this book may not have been for me, those who enjoy fashion (as well as the show) will really enjoy this book. I know that my sister who is a fan of both will enjoy it and I look forward to sharing it with her.

Here are some other reviews of this book


Minding Spot

The Fashion File by Janie Bryant with Monica Corcoran Harel is published by Grand Central Life & Style (2010)

This review copy was provided by the publisher

Friday, January 14, 2011

Book Review: "Serendipity" by Cathy Marie Hake

Summary from Todd Valmer should have known better. A farmer who's been through several disasters, he travels to Virginia to fetch his widowed mother to cook and help him around his Texas farm...or that was the plan until she keels over on the train and they get kicked off. Maggie Rose barters for a living and also makes soaps, lotions, and perfumes with a special rose recipe passed down from mother to daughter for generations. She hasn't wanted to marry...until that handsome Texan shows up. Her heart skips a beat, and when he proposes, a hasty marriage follows.

What ensues, however, is a clash of culture and a battle of wills--and it's clear they both mistook instant attraction and infatuation for love. As their marriage loses its sparkle and fills with disillusionment, Todd and Maggie must determine what is worth fighting for. He dreams of a farm. Maggie wants to fulfill the family tradition with her rose perfumes. Todd's mother, however, has entirely different plans for her son that do not include Maggie. In light of their hasty marriage and mistaken dreams, is there any hope of recapturing their love and building a future together?

Have you ever read a story where had a problem with either the characters or the plot so much that even though you eventually find yourself liking the story, you still can't fully get into it? That's what happened when I read this book. While eventually I found myself liking some of the characters and the story line finally grabbed my attention, due to earlier events I just could not get myself into the story as I normally would have.

Even though I have enjoyed Cathy Marie Hake's books in the past, this one fell kind of short to me. It took me a while to get into the story. When I started the book, I felt like I was dumped into the middle of the scene and felt a bit lost trying to figure out everything and everyone. As the story moved on, I did learn to like Maggie's character quite a bit. However, I did not like Todd from the beginning and his character didn't really grown on me throughout the book. It seemed to me that the only reason why Todd wanted to marry Maggie was just to find a caretaker for his mother. You can't tell me that he had fallen in love with her that fast after meeting her. I just got really annoyed with how he treated her in comparison to his mother. His mother is a completely different story in herself. I understand her feelings of helplessness after the stroke and I can see how she felt like she could have been a burden after the situation with her daughter. Still, it was getting to the point where she didn't want her son being married at all and instead of allowing Maggie to help them, she wanted her out of the house. She insults everything about Maggie and Todd doesn't really do anything to stand up for her. Even by the end of the book, I still didn't feel as if everything was resolved between the three of them.

Overall, this story probably is not my favorite of Hake's books. While I did like Maggie's character, the other two main characters just did not gel with me and I never got attached to them. I think this book is part of the Gooding series but as there is only a brief mention of Gooding, you don't need to read the other books in order to understand this one. Die hard fans of Hake will probably enjoy this book but casual fans should proceed

Serendipity by Cathy Marie Hake is published by Bethany House (2011)

This review copy was provided for a blog tour with the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance