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Tuesday, 31 May 2011

The Sweetest Thing by Elizabeth Musser

The Singleton family's fortunes seem unaffected by the Great Depression, and Perri--along with the other girls at Atlanta's elite Washington Seminary--lives a carefree life of tea dances with college boys, matinees at the cinema, and debut parties. But when tragedies strike, Perri is confronted with a world far different from the one she has always known.

At the insistence of her parents, Mary "Dobbs" Dillard, the daughter of an itinerant preacher, is sent from inner-city Chicago to live with her aunt and attend Washington Seminary, bringing confrontation and radical ideas. Her arrival intersects at the point of Perri's ultimate crisis, and the tragedy forges an unlikely friendship.

From the first page, I knew this was my kind of book. It had that southern charm and familiarity. I also love reading about the Great Depression, and this was a whole new side I had never seen before. You usually don't read about wealth and people having a good time at parties, it's usually heartbreaking stories about families starving and having to give away children. Of course, this book had both. Rich families and very poor families. I think it was a great balance between the two.

I love Atlanta, so the setting was great for me. I also loved the bits about Chicago and Moody Bible Institute. Everything was well researched and fun to read about. You also got emerged into the culture back then. From pop-calling to fashion to the Sawdust Trail, I loved every bit of it.

I was afraid that it was going to turn into a kid-solves-complex-mystery-even-when-after-they-were-told-to-stay-away book, but it didn't, which I was glad. You see too many of those and they're predictable and boring. Instead, it had just enough mystery to keep you reading and add depth to the plot. Overall, I enjoyed the book very much!

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes from Bethany House. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Monday, 30 May 2011

The Lady of Bolton Hill by Elizabeth Camden

Female journalists are rare in 1879, but American-born Clara Endicott has finally made a name for herself with her provocative articles championing London's poor. When the backlash from her work forces a return home to Baltimore, Clara finds herself face-to-face with a childhood sweetheart who is no longer the impoverished factory worker she once knew.

In her absence, Daniel Tremain has become a powerful industry giant and Clara finds him as enigmatic as ever. However, Daniel's success is fueled by resentment from past wounds and Clara's deeply-held beliefs about God's grace force Daniel to confront his own motives.

When Clara's very life is endangered by one of Daniel's adversaries, they must face a reckoning neither of them ever could have foreseen.

The Lady of Bolton Hill started out like I expected - two teens, one rich and one poor, both falling in love with each other. But I did not expect characters being thrown in jail, revenge, suicide, kidnappings, black-market shipping, and riots.

I was pleasantly surprised.

Camden took this novel into a direction I really liked. She took historical facts from that time period, such as under-paid railroad workers and "the tortured conditions children endured when they were shoved beneath the surface of the earth to mine coal" (page 30). Throw in an idealistic journalist determined to defend underprivileged workers who is in love with a poor-boy-now-turned-into-industrial-titan who is too angry to provide better opportunities for his workers, and you have some story right there.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes from Bethany House. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Friday, 27 May 2011

New Kid Catastrophes

TJ Finkelstein is your average seventh grader trying to survive junior high. Average except for . . .

Just moving from the Midwest to crazy, money-is-no-object Malibu, California.

Becoming mortal enemies with the school’s most popular girl, who stars on the Dizzy Channel.

Oh yeah, and being followed around by two goofball boys from the 23rd century!!!

That’s right—Herby and Tuna have traveled back in time to study TJ for a class project. Unfortunately, she is the only one who can see them. And unfortunatelier (don’t try that word on your English teacher), their “help,” which involves using whacked-out 23rd-century gadgets, only leads to more mayhem and plenty of side-splitting laughter.

Join this unlikely trio as they stumble into one hilarious catastrophe after another . . . while accidentally learning the importance of such core values as love, honesty, patience, and kindness.

I was so excited to finally read a new book by Bill Myers! Yay! I love his Journey to Fayrah, Wally McDoogle, Blood Hounds, and McGee and Me series.

I didn't know if TJ and the Time Stumbers would be as good as his other series, but I loved it even more! Both me and my brother were, like, "Eh, it doesn't look that great." But we were hooked from page one. I don't really like the cover, so maybe that's why I didn't think I would like it so much (I know, I know. Don't judge a book by it's cover).

Every chapter started out with a time travel log done by Herby and Tuna. I really liked that and I think it added more depth (and humor!) to the story. Myers always amazes me because his books are so funny and yet they cover serious topics. By page eleven you read about TJ dealing with the death of her mom and Chad's divorced parents. It's not depressing, it's just true to life. The story also comes with hope - TJ discovers what a wonderful future she has ahead of her. Sorta like on Meet the Robinson's.

Of course, Myers had me giggling, snorting, and laughing throughout the whole book. Time travel has been done again and again, but not quite like this before!

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes from Tyndale House. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

When the Soul Mends by Cindy Woodsmall

Hannah Lapp ran from her life of being Old Order Amish after a tragic rape, and the untrust of of everyone she once loved. After adjusting to Englischer life, going to nursing school, and helping to raise the niece and nephew of her new love, Martin Palmer, Hannah thinks she's finally moved on from the hurt of the past. But when an accident back home bids Hannah to return, she finds herself confronted with all the conflicting emotions she thought she put behind her. Circumstances force her to spend time with the man she thought she never wanted to see again. Her former fiance', Paul Waddell. Her father, who she holds responsible for ruining her used-to-be dreams, is back in her life and as stubborn as ever. Should Hannah forgive past mistakes? Is there more to the situation then meets the eye? Was Paul really in the wrong all those years? And if she does forgive him, what about her life with Martin?

I was a little bored at the beginning of the book, but very quickly it caught my interest, just as Cindy Woodsmall is faithful in doing. I was on the edge of my seat many times, and I was pleased that the ending of the book wasn't so predictable like other books. I kept wondering What's going to happen? Who will she end up with? Will she ever learn to look past old mistakes? It was a good book, and sad story, but there was hope. And I think hope is what you need "When the Soul Mends".

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Masters & Slayers by Bryan Davis

Expert swordsman Adrian Masters attempts a dangerous journey to another world to rescue human captives who have been enslaved there by dragons. He is accompanied by Marcelle, a sword maiden of amazing skill whose ideas about how the operation should be carried out conflict with his own. Since the slaves have been in bonds for generations, they have no memory of their origins, making them reluctant to believe the two would-be rescuers, and, of course, the dragons will crush any attempt to emancipate the slaves. Set on two worlds separated by a mystical portal, Masters and Slayers is packed with action, mystery, and emotional turmoil, a tale of heart and life that is sure to inspire.

Masters & Slayers (book one in the Tales of Starlight series) is sorta like a sequel series to Dragons of Starlight, which is a series for teens. This book however was written as a fantasy series for adults, but I would say high schoolers would enjoy it too.

Starlighter is my favorite book by Bryan Davis. I loved reading Masters & Slayers because it started off right where Starlighter did, but from Aiden's perspective. That was really cool. It revealed a whole new side to the story. I was really glad to see Marcelle as one of the main characters and loved her reading from her perspective too.

I was really into the book until *spoiler* Cassabrie started to muddle Aiden's thoughts and takes charge. The whole disembodied spirits thing is sorta weird to me. It makes sense for the plot, and Davis did a great job making it not too weird, but it kind of threw me off and I didn't like the last half of the book so much.

Overall, it was a good read and I'm looking forward to the sequel. I don't like this series as much as Dragons of Starlight, but the sequel might change my mind!

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Sword in the Stars by Wayne Thomas Batson

Centuries have passed since the Silence, and the few remaining faithful cling to the ancient prophecies of the First One. They wait for the Caller and watch the skies for the Sword in the Stars, even as the world they've always known unravels around them.

Murderous Gorracks have secretly penetrated the kingdom's borders. Their attacks grow more brazen...more horrific, threatening to touch off a war on a scale that hasn't been seen in seven ages.

In the capital city of Anglinore, noble King Aravel ponders the advice of this twin brother Morlan: declare all out war on the Gorrack nation. While Anglinore's High Shepherd, the wise Sebastian Grenlaff urges caution and listens to troubling voices on the wind.

Queen Mariel, due to deliver a child any day, suspects the unthinkable about her husband's brother Morlan. She sets off alone to Morlan's castle in Dunharrow, hoping against hope that she can keep old wounds from erupting in war.

Alastair Coldharrow, tortured by an addiction to the outlawed Witchdrale and haunted by a violent past, wagers his life on the hope that the foretold Halfainin, the Pathwalker, would come. When at last, the Sword appears in the Stars, Alastair begins a fruitless search for the Halfainin that leaves him disillusioned, broken, and lost. Used to caring only for himself, Alastair will enter a maelstrom of conflict as loyalties are tested, dark schemes are hatched, and the many realms of Myriad brace themselves for war.

Will Alastair realize what he has before its too late...for everyone?

Some books aren’t good enough to just be read. They deserve a spot outside under a tree or in front of a fireplace with piping hot chocolate.

And then there are some books that don’t need to be read in a special place because they whisk you away from our world into theirs. Books that suck you into past, present, and future. Through a wardrobe or through swirling ink called letters upon paper. Sword in the Stars was this kind of book.

I loved every little detail. The characters, the plot, battles, prophecies, Shepherds, the list goes on and on.

I had heard rave reviews about this book, but I couldn’t get my hands on a copy until a couple days ago.

And as I read, it met every expectation. But I never expected a little romance thrown in there! For me, the best parts were Alastair and Abbagael falling in love. I loved their letters. I thought it was a very good way to cover those six/seven years of war without boring the reader. I’ve noticed Mr. Batson’s trend with girls with curly red hair, and I have to say those are some of my favorite characters of his!

Alastair was a puzzle. His story slowly came together piece by piece, page by page, and goodness, it was an amazing story. Mr. Batson wove together an interesting and exciting tale that had me gasping, sighing, and occasionally laughing.

The only thing I was left wanting was more detail. I have a beautiful story in my head, but not a lot of mental pictures. The Gorraks were described in detail over and over, but I would have liked more on the other inhabitants and lands. But maybe Mr. Batson will include more details in the sequel, The Errant King!

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Upcoming Reviews for May/June 2011

I just got some amazing books in the mail! Reviews should be up by June 10th.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Roadside Assistance by Amy Clipston

Emily Curtis is used to dealing with her problems while under the hood of an old Chevy, but when her mom dies, Emily's world seems shaken beyond repair. Driven from home by hospital bills they can't pay, Emily and her dad move in with his wealthy sister, who intends to make her niece more feminine---in other words, just like Whitney, Emily's perfect cousin. But when Emily hears the engine of a 1970 Dodge Challenger, and sees the cute gearhead, Zander, next door, things seem to be looking up.

But even working alongside Zander can't completely fix the hole in Emily's life. Ever since her mom died, Emily hasn't been able to pray, and no one---not even Zander---seems to understand. But sometimes the help you need can come from the person you least expect.

Considering I know absolutely nothing about cars, I really enjoyed this book! The characters were believable and Zander was adorable. I just don't like his name.

I usually hate books about girls who are tomboys and everyone keeps telling them to be girlie, and when they finally do, they get the guy and realize make-up and clothes aren't that bad. Puh-leeze. Emily was just the opposite. *Spoiler* She stayed true to herself and still got the guy! I think this book really stands out among all the other girl-gets-makeover-and-turns-into-a-model-overnight books that you see a lot.

If would have never thought in a million years that I'd like a book about a girl who works on cars, but I was hooked! I really wanted to go tinker under the hood of a car after I finished reading. Haha, that would have ended in disaster! Clipston did a great job and I really liked the whole book!

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes from Zondervan. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Small is Big by Dale and Barna

Church planters Tony and Felicity Dale and acclaimed researcher George Barna bring a big message to God’s church. How might we change the world if our Christian faith began multiplying at a rapid pace—through a way of life that is explosive and transformational? It happened once before, in the early days of the church; what will it take to bring us to that point of urgency and determination again? Small Is Big (originally published as The Rabbit and the Elephant) offers keys to 21st-century evangelism: leveraging the power of the small—and taking the gospel to where the people are and the pain is. And as God uses us to channel Jesus’ love into a hurting, desperate world, we’ll see his church grow beyond anything we could have imagined.

What would it be like have church like the apostles used to? Small groups of people meeting in their homes to pray and have fellowship. Those people going out and making more "church" groups in other homes in other cities around the world. Well, it's like the illistration they used. Rabbits. Put a girl rabbit and boy rabbit in a room for three years and when you open the door, you'll have a million rabbits hop out. But take something big, like two elephants, and in three years you'll only have one baby elephant. Small things tend to multiply faster, including churches.

This is a very thought provoking book. It actually answered some questions I'd been having like, "Why don't we take church to the world?"

"Why do I just sit on a pew Sunday after Sunday?"

"Should church be boring and non-interactive?"

"Why are so many people leaving tradional, legacy churches?"

I believe God can use anything. Legacy churches aren't bad, and simple churches aren't better. The real definition of a church is "For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst." (Matthew 18:20).

I sometimes volunteer at this ministry called Young America that turned a trailer in the middle of a trailer park a place for kids to come, eat, and have a Bible lesson. And the kids call it church. At first I thought, "Aw, that's cute." But it's so true. A church doesn't have to have a steeple or pews. It can be in a trailer, at a coffee shop, someone's house, on the street, wherever.

The authors were very clear at explaing that simple church is not for everyone. It's growing everyday, but just because simple church is gaining popularity doesn't mean you should go join one right now. You go where God leads you. I think they did a great job explaining simple church. I had never heard of it before. I knew people had Bible studies at coffee shops or at houses (my friend's family just started a church in their house), but I never knew it had a name.

If you're curious about simple church, definently check this book out. It will answer a lot of your questions. Great job, Tony and Felicity Dale, and George Barna!

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.