***Note from Susan * Hi People!! So between getting ready for my mission trip to NY and my day job I've been REALLY busy lately! So my wonderful Mother agreed to help me out by doing a book review. Hope you guys enjoy and I'll see y'all in my next NY update!**
A Ladies of Harper Station Novel
She Trusts Him for the Job,
But Can She Trust Him With Her Heart?
Men are optional. That was the credo Emma Chandler's suffragette aunts taught her and why she established Harper's Station, a women's colony that offers
a fresh start to females in need. But when a dangerous and shadowy assailant tries repeatedly to drive the women out, Emma is forced
to admit they might need a man after all. One who can fight. And there is only one man she trusts enough to ask.
Malachi Shaw has finally earned the respect he's always craved by becoming an explosives expert for the railroad. Yet when Emma's telegram arrives,
he rushes back to Texas to repay the girl who once saved his life. Only she's not a girl any longer. She's a woman with a mind of her own
and a smile that makes a man imagine a future he doesn't deserve.
As the danger intensifies, Emma, Mal, and the ladies of Harper's Station must choose safety or whether to risk everything to fight for their future.
I (Susan's mother) should probably start this review by stating that just prior to reading this novel, I read two other stories over the last week or so. One was a mystery-historical romance so that was a little different from the norm and the other was an extremely well written story that ended up having the romance as a backdrop to the setting instead of vice-versa and was very refreshing to read.
I've read my fair share of fiction. In fact, I LOVE to read. When my children were little I had to be careful with my reading. Once I opened a novel I became so absorbed in it that everything else around me just faded away. "Just one more chapter" was often heard coming from my lips as my children ran around me doing pretty much what they pleased because I was so distracted. I still am this way; the children are just older now so it's not such a big deal. As I said, I've read my fair share of fiction, much of that Historical Romance. I've even read some of Ms. Witemeyer's work before. And it is not that she is a bad writer; in fact, I prefer her work to some others. It is just that there was very little "uniqueness" to this story. I pretty much could tell you everything that was going to happen before the third chapter was finished. I will say that I did not know "why" the town was in danger until she revealed it, but it really didn't matter to me because I could predict so many other parts of the story. Even little "hints" were so obvious.
Emma Chandler thinks that men are optional. Unfortunately for us, as is with sooooo many Historical Romance novels today, a unique storyline is optional as well. Don't get me wrong. It's not that this story is bad but it is predictable.
The first line on the back of the book hints that this is to be a series of novels: A Ladies of Harper Station Novel
There were several other characters in the story that I wouldn't mind reading more about IF they could be more original. However, I would probably never find myself re-reading this novel. It just didn't have enough to draw me back to it again and again.
As I mentioned before, Ms Witemeyer isn't a bad author, she just needs something new and refreshing. Much like many other authors of today.
Overall, I would give this 2 stars out of 5 (see side bar for review scale). I wavered between 2 and 3 but honestly, I know I would not keep it to re-read and really could have used my time more wisely so the 2 stars fit better.
**NOTE* A word to the discerning parent of pre-teen or teen readers, even though most of the "physical romance" is limited, it is a little more detailed than I would prefer my unmarried daughter to read. Unmarried girls don't need any help in the romance-fantasy department in my opinion and the less they read about the tingling on their arms, flipping in the stomach, husky breaths on their neck, and intense kissing the better. Just my opinion though.**
P.S. I was given No Other Will Do by Karen Witemeyer by Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest opinion
My family attends a Messianic congregation. By Messianic I mean that we believe that Jesus was a Jew and we study the Bible through a Jewish mindset. We look at the traditions and customs of the Jewish people and through that we are given a better understand of the way the Bible was laid out and the way Jesus taught while HE was here on earth. It's been a big eye opening experience to study with this mindset because I use to read certain parts of the Bible (mainly Paul's letters) and be very confused by how certain things were laid out. But by looking at the culture and time frame these events and letters of The Bible were written in it has opened up new meaning and a greater understanding to GOD's truths for me.
So naturally I would be drawn to a book about a Gentile going through the Biblical Exodus and how GOD adopted her into HIS family. The Bible says in Exodus 12:38 that "A mixed multitude went up with them (the children of Israel) also, ..." (parenthesis are mine). What would it have been like to be the average non-Jew leaving Egypt? What would they have felt like? What might be going through their minds? These questions intrigued me to dive into Kiya's story.
After the first few chapters introduce you to the main character, an Egyptian slave named Kiya, the story starts off with the first of the ten plagues of Egypt; the Nile turning to blood. The author wastes no time in throwing Kiya, and you the reader, into the chaos that invaded Egypt but, at the same time, allows you to experience what all exactly was going on during the time of the plagues. While I wish a little more time was given to the plagues as a whole Mrs. Cossette stays true to the timeline of The Bible where it mentions how long each plague lasted (ex, one week for the water into blood, three days of darkness, and so on...). Most of the time I feel (or at least I know I myself do this) we tend to overlook the "time" parts of The Bible when it mentions how long certain events took place and view it as only a day or so in our minds. This can greatly distort our idea of The Scriptures so I was very pleased with how Mrs. Cossette handled the timing element of the story.
About halfway through the book the actual exiting from Egypt begins. The hardships of living in the desert and the challenges the Israelites experienced almost gives the reader a sense of pity and understanding towards the complaints of the Israelites (almost, but not quite). You can really see how their patience with GOD would run out and despair would set in. But, like in the original account, GOD always took care of HIS people and the amazement of those miracles was magnified and made personal to Kiya and the reader.
I would encourage you to read the original Exodus account (found in Exodus chapters 1-19) as you read along with Counted With the Stars. While the author does a very good job of keeping true to the original account, this is NOT The Holy Scriptures. She does use creative liberties in some parts (like in the parting of the red sea and the giving of the covenant at Mt. Sinai) that add to the development of the story, but they are not Biblical truths.
Overall Counted With the Stars by: Connilyn Cossette is a great story putting names and faces to the original Exodus. I give it a 4 out of 5 rating (see side bar for review scale). I didn't give it a 5 because I felt like the story needed to be a little bit longer. While the author did a tremendous job overall, I felt some areas of the book needed a little more time than was given to them. Also, while she did create some great points and drama to add to the story, and it is evident she did her research, like I said before this book is NOT The Bible and I was afraid that by giving it a 5 that people would read it with the mindset that it was 100% accurate to Scripture. As with everything in life we should do our research so that we can present OURSELVES as "... approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." 2 Timothy 2 : 15 NJKV
P.S. I was given Counted With the Stars by: Connilyn Cossette by Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest opinion
Eight setups. Eight awkward dates. Eight things God tried to teach her along the way.
(Some of which she’s still trying to figure out.)
Stephanie Rische was starting to feel invisible. All around her, her friends were getting married, and she found herself decidedly alone. Stephanie couldn’t help but wonder if there was something broken in her—was she not pretty enough? Not fun enough? Not dateable enough (whatever that meant)? So she started praying in earnest for God to bring the right man into her life. And instead, He brought her matchmakers. Eight of them, to be precise.
Beloved blogger Stephanie Rische debuts with this charming, vulnerable, and (who are we kidding?) often mortifying true story of a girl who tried really hard to find someone to fall in love with—even when she mostly just ended up falling flat on her face. But amid the most cringeworthy setups and awkward encounters, Stephanie found God’s grace and love meeting her there in ways she never could have imagined—once she opened her eyes to see.
I read this book for one reason:
Because of the title.
I mean come on! If you saw a book with a title like I Was Blind (Dating) But Now I See by: Stephanie Rische wouldn't you pick it up just to see what it's about? But even though I had only one reason for reading this book I have thousands to re-read it and for recommending it to others.
Most books about singleness (at least in my experience) seem to fall in one of two categories: the You're-Single-But-Jesus-Is-All-You-Need book and the Here's-How-To-Get-You-a-Good-Christian-Man book.
This one is neither.
This is a book chronicling one woman's journey through the ups and downs of singlehood and how God taught her lessons about life and living it abundantly. The author is very personal and as you read you begin to feel that you're not reading a book as much as you're sitting down with a good friend being open and honest with each other. Ms. Rische also is not this famous person who has experienced life in a way we as readers haven't. She's your average woman going through a life very similar, if not exactly like, yours. Her struggles are not the far off ones like battling a foreign disease but the everyday I-don't-even-want-to-get-out-of-bed-because-I'm-single-and-I-hate-it battles that take place in the moment by moments of our day. So many times I would be reading a chapter and I would think "I feel the same way at times! Wow! I thought I was the only one!". Ms. Rische is very relatable and personal to her audience.
Secondly this book is very easy to read. The author divides her book into 8 parts consisting of 6 or so chapters about 5 pages long each. The book is laid out very much like a devotional in the fact that each chapter is a story that stands by itself but goes along with the part its in. You can read one story (but I bet you can't ;) and feel satisfied with putting the book down for the night and not have the "need" to finish it in one setting because the main character is hanging off the edge of a cliff about to die. I actually didn't want to rush this book; I wanted to let it play out in the way the author's life played out in reality.
And finally, this book is funny y'all! I mean FUN-NY! It takes a rare kind of book to make me laugh or cry out loud but this one accomplished that with no problem. I would be sitting on the couch reading and then all of a sudden start belly laughing and my family would just stare at me like "What is your problem?" Oh if only they knew what I knew at that moment!
The only downfall I had was that I wish there were more references to scripture throughout the story. The author does use a few to make a point (and honestly a few of them I thought were a stretch) but I personally wish there were a few more than what she did use.
I Was Blind (Dating) But Now I See by: Stephanie Rische brings home the grand prize of 5 out of 5 stars from me (see side bar for book rating scale). With humor, relatable experiences, and beautiful honesty this book is an excellent reminder of the all familiar truths we so easily forget. I'm honestly debating on keeping this book for my singleness survive kit (am I the only one who has one?) or giving it away to someone I know on their own singleness journey. But either way this will be one purchase that will be worth every cent you spend.
***Note and spoiler alert...
Although the author does get married her happy ending does not come from meeting her husband. It's almost like she finished the book and remembered "Oh yeah! I got married!". This is actually my favorite part (not because it's romantic) but because the author finds true happiness in life (and realizes it) before she even meets her soulmate. One of the biggest pit falls that women (and men) fall into is that we have to have a mate in order to be truly happy. Mrs. Rische shows that she experienced completeness in life when she finally accepted the life GOD had planned for her and stopped trying to make it into what she thought it should be. What a beautiful ending to a beautiful story and that same ending can be yours too...
If you so choose it.***
Additional Note: I was given I Was Blind (Dating) But Now I See by: Stephanie Rische by Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for my honest opinion.
**Note from Susan: Hey guys! I hope everyone is staying warm this winter. There is nothing like getting all nice and cozy inside with a great book and a warm cup of tea (or hot chocolate, or coffee, whatever your taste may be :). This review doubles as guest post because it is actually written by my brother Jonathan. Jonathan is an aspiring author who, you will find out quickly, has a beautiful way with words! I asked him to write this review for me to see if book reviewing is something he might be interested in. I hope you guys enjoy his review and I'll catch y'all later in another post!
P.S. Also, be a dear and write Jonathan a nice little comment telling him how he did :)**
The Shadow of War.
A Clash of Brothers. A Terrible Sacrifice.
In the Face of Powerful Darkness, Who Will Prevail?
The island of Seare is at war. The Red Druid is gathering strength and power to stand against Conor, Eoghan, and the brotherhood. But there is strife within the brotherhood as well. Eoghan still refuses to claim his rightful rule, and the resulting conflict creates an uncomfortable distance between him and Conor. When Conor leaves to find the key to defeating the Red Druid, Eoghan and Aine worry he will succumb to the danger, and they attempt their own mission to defeat the Red Druid through Aine's magical gifts.
But Nothing--And No One--Is As It Seems.
I'm always fascinated to see a book which belongs to a series that boasts "a novel" proudly on the front cover (I say "proudly" though it is usually typed in teeny print below an eloquent title such as The Sword and The Song). My thinking goes along the lines of: "Oh boy! A series comprised of novels that can stand by themselves but united are even better!" And the fact that the declaration is so small makes me feel like I am in on a privileged secret that possibly no one else knows about. What could be better?
Needless to say, I have been let down more than once, and I realize it is largely based on slightly unreasonable expectations.
Such was my approach to The Sword and The Song. I was expectant and slightly wary. Naturally, I was not prepared to be wary about everything, though, so the first line smacked me in the face (metaphorically, like a limp fish). The author, C. E. Laureano, started the book off with no reserves. The first sentence states that our hero has just dodged a swinging sword by a mere couple of inches (a mere couple of inches more than I am able to dodge limp fish). Engaging right? Well, it might be.
To me it would have been fine if not for the fact that The Sword and The Song makes the third (Third!) book I can give you the title of that starts off in that way, and the second to use almost the exact same sentence to do so. The other two (which were both from separate series) didn't go over with me quickly either. I'm fine when an author goes all in in the first chapter. I think it's great. But certain ways that authors try to go all in make me feel like maybe I've just experienced the best that they had to offer. Ernest Hemingway and Baby Shoes aside, if an author can contain the best they have to offer in a single sentence I find it, well, small.
Not a good start, I'll admit. But other than a few of my own misgivings (mostly concerning fish and my slow reflexes) the story was well rounded and fascinating to a point. It does take a minute to get up to speed. Politics rein for a few short chapters, and confusion abounded as I learned a million new words. It took a while but soon I was reading "Hm-hmm" and "Ahrrd-dard-dard-hmmm" and "Fi-fu-hmm" like a pro (and proudly doing so, though I'm glad I wasn't reading out loud).
The author throws magic in a lot (At times I felt like I was reading a video game). Largely she used the idea that magic was the infestation of power from the character she used to represent GOD. But unlike C. S. Lewis' Narnia she didn't seem to capture the theological aspects of that. She only got the wow factor.
In an interview with the author she says:
"...Of course, the addition of magic changes things, so I got to imagine how the existence of supernatural gifts and blood magic might have affected their culture. I also re-envisioned the faerie mythology from a neutral, mischievous role into something more malevolent."
Characters and Such:
As the book progressed I learned to respect the main character, Conor (In my opinion he is the best part of the book). He is discerning and relatively knowledgable. And, according to an interview with the author, Conor is also her favorite character:
"...He’s definitely the one I find most personally relatable. He knows he was created for something greater, but he doesn’t always make the right decisions—he lets his emotions sway his thinking and he lets down the people who depend on him—but he always comes through in the end. In that way, he’s something of a Biblical hero than a superhero...David was described as a man after God’s own heart, but he still did some seriously stupid things. "
Conor struggles in meaningful ways that feel far less half hearted and half developed than they could have easily been, and I can only imagine how much more meaningful they would be if I had read the other two books in the series first.
Which may bring us to the problem. I have not read the first two books in the series.
Which may have brought us to the other problem. I find myself able to pass on the other two.
While I don't regret reading the book exactly, it was not my style. The character development, while not as outstanding as J.R.R. Tolkien or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, was, in fact, developed well. Certain characters really stood out to me in their own way. The problem is their own way just wasn't to my taste.
What I'm saying here is this: Too many things got in the way of me enjoying The Sword and The Song. It has themes of sacrifice in it, but it also has random threads of selfishness. It has people strongly devoted to their moral code and to their religion, but it also has awkward acts against that same religion and code (I am referring to things that I found too common to just be explained away as "contrast"). Between that and a couple of sexual references, though they were relatively tastefully handled, I find it hard to recommend. Going by the rating system on the side bar, I would give it a 2 (and three quarters) out of 5.
Here are some additional insights into the author from the above mentioned interview:
What do you hope readers will take away from your books?
"I didn’t want to write a “safe” story where you know that everything is going to be okay and everyone will come out unharmed—because real life isn’t like that. It can be scary and messy and unpredictable. But through it all, if you look hard enough, is the ever-present thread of God’s grace and provision. My greatest wish is that readers come away with the understanding that they have a purpose, that they matter, that God cares for them as individuals and not just as a face in the crowd. I’ll consider my job done if readers walk away with hope."
P.S. I was given The Sword and The Song by: C. E. Laureano_ by Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for my honest opinion.
Ray and Betty Whipps both served in Europe during WWII: Ray as an infantryman under General Patton in the trenches of Normandy, Paris, and Belgium, and Betty as a field nurse in Cherbourg, France. The two met when Betty tended to Ray after he was injured in a mortar blast. Both strong Christians, the two bonded over their shared faith, and as Betty nursed Ray back to health, they fell in love and vowed to marry after the war. However, soon after Ray returned to his unit, he was captured by German forces and held captive in Stalag VII, Germany’s largest prisoner of war camp. It was there that Ray’s faith was put to the ultimate test as he endured the most horrific weeks of his life—weeks marked by brutality, malnutrition, back-breaking labor, and near-constant death. The only thing that kept him alive was the dream of someday reuniting with Betty.
Told in first person from Ray’s perspective, with personal wartime letters from Betty interspersed throughout, ’Til We Meet Again is a sweeping love story set amid the backdrop of WWII. The perfect combination of “in the trenches” battlefield accounts and classic 1940s romance, this memoir reads almost like a novel. It is an epic story of faith, hope, and love, and a nostalgic look back at one of the most memorable periods in American history.
I am very proud to be able to review this book because I come from a heritage of veterans. My two great-grandfathers fought in WWII, one of my grandfathers served in the military during peace time and the other fought in the Vietnam War. I am honored to be able to live in a free country because my forefathers fought for the freedom I now have and getting to hear stories from them about their time in service is something I thoroughly enjoy. 'Till We Meet Again is no exception.
Even though this is a non-fiction book, it reads like a fictional story; which is one of the aspects of this book that I loved. There are very few non-fiction books I like so I enjoyed the fact that I felt like I was reading an actually story and not a history book full of facts. There were even times I forgot that what I was reading really did happen because of the "story like aspect" of the book. Having the letters inserted at the end of the chapters helped "bring me back to reality" and give a more personal feel to the story.
This book did, in my opinion, a good job at taking the violent aspect of war and making it palatable. It didn't hid from the blood of war making this story into a "fairytale", but it did put it into a way that was easy for the reader to digest.
While the book itself is a great WWII drama I felt that it was marketed wrong. 'Till We Meet Again is the story about Ray and Betty's romance but I felt more so that it was about Ray's personal wartime story. The book starts out when Ray is just a little boy in Ohio and takes you through his teenage years, the day he is drafted, and on through his time spent in training and service. He does not meet his future bride until over half way into the book. After that the rest of the story seems to but put into high gear as it hurries to get to the end. The description on the back of the book (see above) describes the time Ray spends in Stalag VII-A (Germany's largest POW camp) as the most important and climaxing part of the story. However, this is not the case and the spiritual journey of Ray was down played here. The time Ray spends in captivity is greatly rushed and without much detail. While marketed that this time was Ray's most trying test of faith, we barely get anything out of the author(s) as to what exactly was going on inside his head and heart other than he was just "tired and defeated". Throughout the entire book the author(s) mention and show how Ray's strong faith in GOD was the main thing pulling him through, but we don't get much back ground on how he got to this point. In the beginning the author(s) describe a point where Ray began to struggle with his faith but the very next thing that happens is Ray is drafted and suddenly all of his doubts seem to be forgotten as he clings to the hope he has in Messiah. While the authors did a wonderful job pointing the finger back at GOD and how HE worked through the whole story and giving HIM all the credit, I wish they would have spent some more time developing Ray's spiritual progression to the point of his unshakeable faith than they did.
Over all 'Till We Meet Again is an exciting, epic. The ending I felt was a bit rushed and a few key elements I felt were not full developed like they should have been. But the book does a great job showing a real life war through the eyes of a real, ordinary soldier in a way that we as civilians who have never experienced such can stomach. I'd give 'Till We Meet Again by: Ray & Betty Whipps with Craig Borlase a 5 out of 5 (see side bar for rating scale).
Ray mentions at the end of the book, he not "any kind of hero". If we view a "hero" as someone to be idolized as a god than no, Ray is not a hero. He is a victor. A conquer who by following the orders of his Heavenly General persevered through, in my opinion, one of the worlds most spiritually testing times in history. And through his and his wife's story, and the stories of my grandfathers and other veterans, I am given the courage to stand strong in the face of danger. For my GOD is with me wherever I may go.
"Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest."
Joshua 1:9 KJV
P.S. I was given Till We Meet Again by: Ray & Betty Whipps with Craig Borlase by Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for my honest opinion.
Where Legend and History Collide,
One Young Woman Will Fight for the Innocent
Born a baron's daughter, Lady Merry Ellison is now an enemy of the throne after her father's failed assassination attempt upon the king. Bold and uniquely skilled, she is willing to go to any lengths to protect the orphaned children of her former village--a group that becomes known as "The Ghosts of Farthingale Forest." Merry finds her charge more difficult as their growing notoriety brings increasing trouble their way.
Timothy Grey, ninth child of the Baron of Greyham, longs to perform some feat so legendary that he will rise from obscurity and earn a title of his own. When the Ghosts of Farthingale Forest are spotted in Wyndeshire, where he serves as assistant to the local earl, he might have found his chance. But when he comes face-to-face with the leader of the thieves, he's forced to reexamine everything he's known.
I was skeptical about this book when I first looked at it. When Bethany House sent me a list of books to review for the month of March (yes I know this is in April, I'm late) they gave me the option of looking at the first chapter before I committed to the whole book. In the first few pages the main character portrays herself as very feministic but as the story continues you begin to see the truth. Lady Merry struggles to be the leader of outlaws while still wanting to be the woman she was created to be. In the end, she learns how to lead her band of troops while still being the gentle submissive spirit the children crave in a motherly figure.
There were, of course, a few issues that I wished were handled differently regarding the way characters portrayed physical contact with others of the opposite gender. There are a few kisses shared and Lady Merry is described as experiencing a "feeling of hot fire" whenever she kisses this one man. There is also one time when the two main characters share a kiss and the guy "pressed her body to his with a fervor she had never dared imagine". I just think that, considering this book is targeting ages 7-12 (according to the definition of juvenile fiction) the author should have phrased sentences like the one mentioned above differently. Young minds (especially those going through puberty) can go a little crazy sometimes and often they will re-read sentences like these because they want to know what it would feel like to be in a situation like that. I say this because I remember doing the exact same thing at that age. Authors targeting middle and high school age audiences should be cautious when capturing these moments. I realize that these subjects can not be avoided at this age (and they shouldn't be) but they should be handled with the most care as they are introduced into what is really a child's world. ***Please read the comment section below. The author contacted me about this part of the review to clear up a misunderstanding. She was super nice and I appreciated the fact she took the time to comment.***
Besides the physical issues mentioned above along with a little bit of blood there is not much to be concerned about with this book. It is overall clean with an important message about womanhood, faith, love, and ultimately trusting GOD no matter what has happened in our past or current circumstance. The book has a good story line with characters you're sure to love (like Allen, Wren, and Cedric for example). If you're looking for a story with action, an awesome female hero, and a not-so-sappy prince charming, Dauntless is all that and more. I give Dauntless by: Dina L. Sleiman a 4 out of 5 rating (see side bar for book review scale). This is apparently the first in a series Mrs. Sleiman is starting called The Valiant Heart Series. I hope to be able to review the others in the series as they come out. I would especially love to see a book about Allen as he was my favorite character and I wished he could have his own story.
P.S. I was given Dauntless By Dina L. Sleiman by Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest opinion.
**NOTE I was not given any of these book for review purposes as with my other book reviews, these are just my honest option and I choose these books of my own free will.**
Every year for the past couple of years one of my friends and I have this tradition: I give her a book for Christmas and buy a copy of the same book for myself. We then spend the next couple of months reading through the book and emailing each other about it. It's been a great way for us to connect since we rarely get to see each other due to our different schedules.
I L-O-V-E books! They have the power to not only teach you but to transport you into another world away from your own regular life for just a moment. So I thought I'd share with you all some of my top favorite books of all time. Whenever you are looking for another great read all of these are amazing so give one (or two) a try!
Heartless By: Anne Elisabeth Stengl
The Tales of Goldstone Woods
Princess Una of Parumvir has come of age and will soon marry. She dreams of a charming prince, but when her first suitor arrives, he's not what she'd hoped. Prince Aethelbald of mysterious Farthestshore has travelled a great distance to prove his love--and also to bring hushed warnings of danger. A dragon is rumored to be on the hunt and blazing a path of terror.
Una, smitten instead with a more dashing prince, refuses Aethelbald's offer--and ignores his cautions with dire consequences. Soon the Dragon King himself is in Parumvir and Una, in giving her heart away unwisely, finds herself in his sights. Only those courageous enough to risk everything have a hope of fighting off this advancing evil.
I came across Heartless by complete accident, but OH AM I SO GLAD I DID!!!!!!!!! Heartless is the first book in The Tales of GoldStone Woods series (I actually did a review of the sixth book in this series, Shadow Hand, on this blog). All of the books in the series are really good but Heartless could stand alone by itself. From best I can tell the story line is loosely based on G-D's relationship with the church (and if not, there are several places where it practically SCREAMS IT!). This was also the first book that made me cry. I had never cried in a book before until this one and it was all I could do to keep the tears from falling.
I would recommend this book to anyone above the age of 10 or 11. There are some intense moments and there is blood, but nothing really extreme (younger children might be frightened in certain parts). There is no sexual content except for one kiss and at one point the main girl develops a crush on someone, but these are all very minor and need no cause for concern.
However, there is a large amount of swearing going on in this book and throughout the whole series. They don't use what we would consider "bad words", however they swear and curse by former heroes and villains from their country's past (you can read more about my thoughts on this issue here in my Shadow Hand book review).
The Wingfeather Saga By: Andrew Peterson
Once, in a cottage above the cliffs on the Dark Sea of Darkness, there lived three children and their trusty dog Nugget. Janner Igiby, his brother Tink, their crippled sister Leeli are gifted children as all children are, loved well by a noble mother and ex-pirate grandfather. But they will need all their gifts and all that love to survive the evil pursuit of the venomous Fangs of Dang who have crossed the dark sea to rule the land with malice and pursue the Igibys who hold the secret to the lost legend and jewels of good King Wingfeather of the Shining Isle of Anniera.
There are several reasons to like this book: #1 they are written by my FAVORITE singer/songwriter of all time Andrew Peterson. #2 He wrote them to and for his children (remember that if you ever, correction, I mean WHEN you read them). #3 It's about true and ultimate love and the price we all must pay to fulfill the calling G-D has given us. Heartless may have been the first book I cried in but this series is the first one I've literally curled up in a ball and BAWLED during.
These are just a few of many reasons (I give a few more here) why this series is O-MAZ-ING. The author meant for the series to be read aloud as a family but they work well for personal reading as well. However, parents should be cautioned. While written for children of all ages the series deals with several grown -up aspects such as loss, pain, war, and death. Parents are advised to pre-read the series before reading it aloud or giving it to children to read for the first time to discern what their kids can and cannot handle. I know a family whose mother read this aloud to her 9 and 7 year old and she had to warn them ahead of time before certain chapters were read. I'm not saying that this is a bad book for young children, Andrew Peterson does a good job handling these aspects, but they are eye opening especially to children who have never been exposed to these aspects before.
The Giver By: Lowis Lowery
Jonas's world is perfect. Everything is under control. There is no war or fear of pain. There are no choices. Every person is assigned a role in the community. When Jonas turns 12 he is singled out to receive special training from The Giver. The Giver alone holds the memories of the true pain and pleasure of life. Now, it is time for Jonas to receive the truth. There is no turning back.
I had to read The Giver for a school assignment during my 9th grade year of homeschooling. I always said that if I ever have to do an in-depth paper on one book, it will be The Giver. The Giver is about choice and design. Though not written from a Christian perspective (from best I can tell), if one reads it in this mindset you can easily pick out how G-D design the universe to work, even amidst the fall, and how when we try to control and change that design we mess things up.
The Giver is a pretty clean book. There is no cussing or violence but death is a relevant part of the plot. There is some sensuality towards the beginning. During one of the earlier chapters Jonas goes to a retirement home to help with bathing the old which takes place in a large open room. He has a whole conversation with an elderly woman as he bathes her and it is discussed that she is naked. In the chapter preceding the one at the retirement home Jonas has a dream in which he and one of his female friends are alone in the bathing room at the retirement home. Nothing is done but Jonas does talks about how he felt in the dream and he mentions that he has no shirt on. So some things are mentioned but not in great detail.
For this reason, and many others, I would NOT recommend The Giver to anyone under the age of 14 maybe 13. This book is deep and goes in-depth on several subjects that I think only someone who can understand the issues addressed should read it.
**NOTE: This book has recently been made into a movie under the same title. And while the movie is really good and stays close to the book, I recommend you read the BOOK before you watch the MOVIE. The book goes in far more depth and you will appreciate the movie more after reading the book.**
The Horse and His Boy By: C.S. Lewis
The Chronicles of Narnia
Bree, the horse, has been kidnapped from Narnia and longs to return there. Shasta, on the verge of being sold into slavery, decides to run away with him in search of the home he's always dreamed of. But the journey is full of surprises and fraught with dangers, and when the companions uncover a treasonous plot, it also becomes a race against time.
Out of the 7 books in this series The Horse and His Boy is probably my favorite. I mean there's nothing like a good 'ole runaway-orphan story line with a talking horse thrown in for extra measure! I'll assume that everyone has already read The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, the second book in the series, and probably the most popular. The Horse and His Boy takes place during Peter, Susan, Edmond and Lucy's reign as kings and queens of Narnia (known also as the "Golden Age of Narnia"). For those of you who never knew there were any other Narnia books I'm pleased to be the one to tell you that there are six others so enjoy them all!
I recommend The Horse and His Boy, along with the rest of The Chronicles of Narnia to any age group. There is something in there for everyone and all the books are clean and appropriate. The Horse and His Boy is a great story about wanting to belong and the journey we must all take to find our place in this world.
When Britisher Lady Sydney Hathwell's father dies, the American who planned to wed her suddenly reneges. Stranded in America and penniless, Sydney contacts a relative in Texas who, mistaking her male-sounding name, invites his "nephew" to join him on his ranch.
"Big Tim" Creighton, however, is appalled when this mincing fop arrives at Forsaken. He determines he'll turn Fancy Pants Hathwell into a man before the boss returns home. From the get-go, he has "the kid" mucking stalls, clearing and plowing a field, and assisting with a difficult calving. But when Sydney's true identity is uncovered, Tim resents being deceived. Yet in time, he also finds that he doesn't like all the attention Sydney garners now that she's wearing pretty gowns...
Together Sydney and Tim will discover the importance of family and what it means to be a man--and a woman--of God.
I first read Fancy Pants when I was about 11 or 12 and have read it many times since then. Though not part of a "series" per say, Cathy Marie Hake has written several other books after the publication of Fancy Pants that revolve in the same town around the same time period. Several characters pop up throughout the other books from previous books. Fancy Pants is the first in this timeline.
For a historical romance this book is pretty clean which is why my Mom let me read it at age 11. There is a part were the ranch hands get the main girl drunk by accident and because of it she meets one of the "soiled doves" at the saloon. The "soiled doves" of course know that she's a girl and decide to go along with her little plan. Sydney pays them to allow her to come up and use their bath without fear of someone knowing who she really is. So there are some scenes in a bar, but nothing happens like you think would happen in a normal bar and "upstairs" scene. There is a part where a man accidentally walks into a woman taking a bath but he immediately turns away and walks out. Also, there are quite a few scenes where Sydney is having to bind up her... ahem... self to hide her womanish figure but unless you are a man reading these parts, I found no problem with that.
Fancy Pants is a great "beginner romance" book for younger girls (like 12 to 14) but was written for women of all ages. Like I mentioned above, there are some things mentioned and discussed in the book (I mean it's about a girl dressing up as a guy to hide her identity), but the author covers and deals with these subjects very well and within reason. This is by NO MEANS a "gay" or "homosexual" book, such things aren't even mentioned, so there is no need for concern.
Hi everyone! Man it seems like forever since I've posted anything on this blog! With school starting back for the rest of my family, a new job position, and an online sewing class I just haven't had the time! So as an apology, I've got another book review for you all. Enjoy!
Unlike the other books I've reviewed this one did not come from a publishing company, this one came from a pastor's wife/friend who works at our local LifeWay in exchange for my honest review. I had never read any books by Chris Fabry but I had heard that he was a very good author.
This book is loosely based on a true story. Mr. Fabry received an email from a fan of his about this man, Billy Allman. The book is about Billy and the angel who follows his life from age 10 to his late 40's. Billy lives a quiet life playing the mandolin and building his own radio station in his home. Malachi, the angel, doesn't understand what exactly is so important about Billy and his life but as he observes him he soon realizes that Billy Allman is more than meets the eye.
Mr. Fabry does a great job telling his tale from not only Billy's perspective, but Malachi the angel's as well. Now I'm not saying Mr. Fabry was spot on and that what he wrote is exactly how angel's feel and think but considering that these beings are such a mystery to us, I think he did really good job. It was interesting that Malachi often referred to how confusing humans and their ways are to him when, at the same time, we can say the same things about them. Malachi struggles to understand why certain events happen to Billy and why he was unable to interfere but his trust and allegiance to his Master challenges us to trust our G-d with such childlike faith even when we don't understand the things that go on in our lives. Malachi is only an angel with no free will but still he knows that G-d is taking care of Billy and his job is to only observe and act when directed.
Billy is the definition of a humble servant and childlike innocence. All he does is to help other people and to tell them of the message of Salvation even to the point where his needs are pushed aside (which can sometimes become fatal to him.) The reader will immediately become attached to Billy and find themselves celebrating his victories and sighing with sadness over his misfortunes.
While the story is very well written, I wouldn't recommend it to anyone under the age of 18. Mr. Fabry addresses issues of rape and sexual child abuse. While the issues are handled well personally I still wouldn't recommend it to anyone under that age group because some of the scenes are pretty intense and a little graphic.
This book receives a 3 out of 5 rating from me (see side bar for book review scale). It's not that the book was bad, as a matter of fact, it was very good it just wasn't really my taste. But I hope that doesn't stop you from following Malachi in observing Billy's life!
P.S. While Almost Heaven is not a sequel, you might want to read Mr. Fabry's June Bug as the stories do intertwine and Almost Heaven reveals parts of June Bug.
P.P.S. You can get Almost Heaven by Chris Fabry at your local LifeWay Christian Book Store.
Amidst the busyness of filming I have managed to slip in some "me time" with a book; mostly because I had to review it for Bethany House. It was a great way to force myself to slow down and relax.
This book is called Captured by Love by Jody Hedlund. I've read her previous work, The Preacher's Bride, and absolutely fell in love with it! Mrs. Hedlund adds adventure to her plot line that prevents the story from becoming too much of a "mush-gush" love story. Also, she portrays marriage and true love as loving someone for who they truly are and sacrificing one's own desires for the other person's betterment. You can tell that her characters really do love each other and are going to honor their wedding vows to the end. These two qualities are what draw me to her books.
Captured by Love takes place on Michilimackinac island in 1814 until early 1815 during a siege by the Americans to claim the island from the British. Mrs. Hedlund offers lots of historical background to not only the island but to the inhabitants' daily lives there. The book is dripping with facts about the geology, biology, and meteorology of Michilimackinac Island. It was almost like reading a history book along with the story! I love books like this one where the author researches about the time and place they are writing about so much the story seems to have really happened!
The story follows Angelique MacKenzie, an 18 year old woman living with her abusive stepfather and Pierre Durant, a fur trader and voyageur. The two grew up as childhood friends until Pierre ran away to become a voyager. Angelique had a crush on Pierre and now that they are adults she can't seem to stop thinking about him as more than just a friend. Pierre also can't believe how beautiful Angelique has become and finds himself being drawn more and more towards her. But, along with many other obstacles, Angelique is promised to Pierre's brother, Jean, who has been banished from the island due to his loyalty to the Americans. With the approaching war Angelique and Pierre face many hardships and broken hearts as they learn to trust in THE L-RD and that sometimes doing the right thing is not easy.
The first half of the book focuses more on Angelique and Pierre's relationship while the second half deals more with the war and their fight for survival. While the plot was amazing and very intriguing, I must admit I had a hard time liking the characters. It's not that I hated them, it's just I didn't really find them interesting. For one, Pierre is very full of himself and in his flirtations with Angelique he tends to brag about himself.
"You're not just saying yes because I'm such a good kisser, are you?"
She laughed. "Of course that's why... What other reason could there possibly be?"
"Oh, let's see. Because you think I'm incredibly handsome, and sweet, and fun. And because I can cook the best stuffed whitefish in the world."
"And because you're very conceited," she teased.
While sometimes these little jokes are cute they tend to get annoying. I much prefer it when the guy is humble than when he's blatantly flirting with a girl. And while I didn't despise Angelique (she was supper sweet!), I just have other literary heroins that I like much better. I really didn't start liking the characters until the last part of the book when they started to overcome some of their "human sinful nature."
Remember when I wrote my review for until i found you by Victoria Bylin and I mentioned that I thought couples should be careful with how physical they are with each other because things can become very dangerous? Well this book is another great example of what I mean. As mentioned above Angelique is betrothed to Pierre's brother Jean and while she tries to honor her vow to him, she very quickly ends up basically cheating on him. She and Pierre are not careful around each other and pretty soon they're ending up alone way too much and kissing each other. The author does handle the situations very well in the end however, using them to teach the characters a lesson. I just thought I would elaborate a little more on what I meant in my last book review.
Along with the frequent kisses there are a few sexual references in the book. Angelique's stepfather sleeps with several women and is very unfaithful to his wife. The author does discuss the sinfulness of his ways and Angelique does learn from him but it is mentioned. I think the author handles this issue very well. She doesn't go into much detail but it is mentioned throughout the whole book.
Something else I had a problem with was the "swimming" scenes. Twice Pierre and Angelique go swimming in one of the island's lakes. While them swimming is not what I had a problem with, the fact that Angelique swims in her chemise and Pierre goes without a shirt is. I know this isn't such a big deal in our society today because a chemise of that time covered more than most dress of today do, but the fact of the matter is that this was a woman's underwear and to see a man without his shirt was considered very inappropriate. Nothing happens during these scenes, but the two of them are definitely swimming in their underwear!
All together I'd give Captured by Love by Jody Hedlund a 3.5 rating (see sidebar for rating scale). The story was great and the history amazing but I wasn't fond of the characters and there were a few sexual issues I had a problem with. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone under the age of 17 due to this. But honestly, this book ended in the best way possible! The author wrapped it up soooo nicely that I couldn't have asked for a better ending! I can't tell you how she ended it, you'll just have to read it yourself.
P.S. I was given Jody Hedlund's Captured by Love by Bethany House Publishers in exchanged for my honest opinion.
Hello again dear friends! It's me your friendly neighborhood girl who is a book reviewer by day and a sewing ninja by night! They should really put that on a t-shirt! If they do, would someone buy it for me? 'Cuz I don't want to spend my own money.
Anywho, today I'm going to be reviewing a romance novel entitled Until I Found You by Victoria Bylin. The story is about a woman named Kate whose grandmother just had a stroke. Kate moves in with her grandmother to help until she gets back on her feet. It's also about a born-again-christian named Nick who is trying to live better than his former wild lifestyle. While Kate is in the process of moving in with her grandmother she has a car wreck where Nick saves her life. While the two are immediately drawn to each other there is a slight problem. Nick has vowed not to date for a whole year and he is in his sixth month when they meet each other.
The part about one of the characters vowing not to date for a year then, coincidentally, meeting a beautiful young lady he likes is what drew me to this book in the first place. From a young age I always understood that I was never going to date a guy until I knew that The LORD wanted me to and I was ready for marriage; which included not dating in high school. So I was curious to see how this book turned out! Either it was going to be great or the author was going to totally ruin it!
I wouldn't say the book was totally ruined, but there was a element that I wish was handled differently.
Nick tells Kate up front that he isn't going to date for a whole year so in order for them to spend time together they can't be alone unless it's business related. At first they handled it pretty well. Nick was careful not to end up alone with Kate and if he did it was strictly for business purposes only (or so he told himself). They tried to simply be friends but pretty soon most of that got flushed down the toilet. They began holding hands, going out to eat, and doing some quote "friendly" kissing (and no, it was never on the cheek). I have some guy friends whom I trust and know that I can count on them in the way Kate knows she can rely on Nick. But unlike Kate and Nick, you will never catch us holding hands or kissing, even on the cheek. A friendly slap on the back is about as far as we would go and even then you'd be lucky to catch that! Personally, I think that you must be very careful with what you do physically with someone of the opposite gender, whether it be a potential mate or simply a friend. We humans have these things called hormones that can quickly get out of control so we must be careful because once we open ourselves up to another person like that there is no going back and it can be very hard to not open up ourselves any more. As seen in the book, after Nick and Kate have their "first kiss", they begin having trouble keeping Nick's vow.
In the author's defense however, the characters never "go all the way" with each other. She several times places them in situations where we see them struggle with sexual temptations, but they never follow through with their desires. I just think that they shouldn't have started being "physical", even in little ways in the first place.
While the book is categorized as a "romance" novel, the story in not completely about Nick and Kate's relationship, though that is a main plot line. The author explores many issues such as why we do what we do, aging, living with regret, and trusting in G-d. A huge part of the story is about Nick and Kate's personal walks with G-d and their struggles to trust HIM even when HE seems silent. I felt I could relate to their struggles, especially Kate's. She likes to have everything under control and is afraid of being left alone to face life's challenges. Her constant battle with herself closely mirrors my own. I've never been able to relate to a character in a book before quite like this. Mrs. Bylin's story seemed so real that it could have been true!
The story was beautifully told and excellently written! From the relatable characters to the symbolisms that appear throughout the book to wrap the ending up in a nice little bow, Mrs. Victoria Bylin is truly a rare find author! I will definitely be reading some of her other novels for years to come!
Until I Found You is rewarded with a 4 out of 5 rating from me (see sidebar for rating scale). The ONLY reason it does not receive a 5 is because of the physical issue mentioned above. This is a book that I will definitely re-read over and over again and I'm sure you will too!
P.S. I was given Victoria Bylin's Until I Found You by Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest opinion.
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