Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Crossing Oceans by Gina Holmes

Yea!! I love it when I come across a new author and am completely blown away! Crossing Oceans is a breath of fresh air in Christian Fiction today. I have such difficulty finding an inspiring and not overly-cheeseball story in the Christian genre. When I saw this in the library, I honestly didn't even know it was Christian fiction, I was just purely drawn to the cover (yes, I'm a cover snob). It wasn't until I read the acknowledgements that I discovered the author's faith.

The story itself was so moving and spoke so deeply to me on forgiveness, selflessness and love. It's not often that you sit there on the couch after the last page has been turned and just have to soak in the magnitude of what happened. I was completely enamored with Jenny and the choices she had before her as she lived out her remaining time with her daughter, Isabella. I don't want to say too much, because honestly through the entire story I really wasn't sure which direction things were going to go. It wasn't at all unpredictable and even though I've never been faced with cancer, I felt her sorrow, fear, courage and determination the entire journey.

There is a scene with Jenny and Craig that had tears literally rolling down my face. Ok, maybe two scenes where I cried, but the first one where he takes her someplace blindfolded and then explains why he brought her there....uh-mazing. Loved it.

Gina, I'm super excited to have found you and hope you continue to publish more books! Gina can be found at her website or her popular blog Novel Journey.

Description: Jenny Lucas swore she-d never go home again. But being told you-re dying has a way of changing things. Years after she left, she and her five-year-old daughter, Isabella, must return to her sleepy North Carolina town to face the ghosts she left behind. They welcome her in the form of her oxygen tank-toting grandmother, her stoic and distant father, and David, Isabella-s dad . . . who doesn't yet know he has a daughter. As Jenny navigates the rough and unknown waters of her new reality, the unforgettable story that unfolds is a testament to the power of love and its ability to change everything-to heal old hurts, bring new beginnings . . . even overcome the impossible. A stunning debut about love and loss from a talented new voice.

Rating: *****

Recommend: I loved it so much I'm highly recommending you get your hands on your own copy! I'm passing my copy on to my mother-in-law whose been anxious to read it as well.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Moonlight Mile by Dennis Lehane

Moonlight Mile is the sixth book in the Kenzie & Gennaro series, but primarily follows up as a sequel to the fourth book Gone Baby Gone. I actually hadn't read any others in the series before this one, but I had seen the movie Gone Baby Gone so I was able to somewhat trek along. I found Moonlight Mile to be extremely fast paced and I thoroughly enjoyed the quick wit of Patrick & Angie (a.k.a. Kenzie & Gennaro), but overall this style of story is not really my thing. It was quite violent in some places and though I can stomach that in a book, there's no way I could have handled some of the scenes visually. Thankfully the humor was there to break up the intensity and not allow it to get too heavy.

If detective stories are up your alley, than I would highly recommend Moonlight Mile for a quick & exciting read. I probably won't read any others in the series, but I wouldn't dismiss Dennis Lehane altogether because I very much enjoyed Shutter Island and Gone Baby Gone.

Moonlight Mile releases today in stores. Thank you to Harper Collins and Shelf Awareness for the Advanced Reading Copy!

For more info and a sneak peak into the first 3 chapters, please visit Dennis Lehane's website.

Description: Amanda McCready was four years old when she vanished from a Boston neighborhood twelve years ago. Desperate pleas for help from the child's aunt led investigators Kenzie and Gennaro to take on the case. The pair risked everything to find the young girl—only to orchestrate her return to a neglectful mother and a broken home.

Now Amanda is sixteen—and gone again. A stellar student, brilliant but aloof, she seemed destined to escape her upbringing. Yet Amanda's aunt is once more knocking on Patrick Kenzie's door, fearing the worst for the little girl who has blossomed into a striking, clever young woman—a woman who hasn't been seen in weeks.

Haunted by their consciences, Kenzie and Gennaro revisit the case that troubled them the most. Their search leads them into a world of identity thieves, methamphetamine dealers, a mentally unstable crime boss and his equally demented wife, a priceless, thousand-year-old cross, and a happily homicidal Russian gangster. It's a world in which motives and allegiances constantly shift and mistakes are fatal.

In their desperate fight to confront the past and find Amanda McCready, Kenzie and Gennaro will be forced to question if it's possible to do the wrong thing and still be right or to do the right thing and still be wrong. As they face an evil that goes beyond broken families and broken dreams, they discover that the sins of yesterday don't always stay buried and the crimes of today could end their lives.

Rating: ***

Recommend: If you like action/suspense thrillers, then for sure you should pick up a copy!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Night Road by Kristin Hannah

You know you got your hands on a great book when you can't stop thinking about the characters long after you've set it down...and then again when you wake up the next morning. Kristin Hannah writes in such a way that you almost feel like you're reading letters from a friend. As I'm brushing my teeth last night, I'm thinking to myself, "What is Lexi going to do now?!" and "Come on Zach, you have got to see what's going on here." or "Jude, sheesh woman, get it together!" I couldn't control my constant inner dialogue between reading intervals and constantly wanting to know what happens next. If I had 2 solid days of free time, there's no doubt I would have read Night Road straight through.

Oh and the descriptions of Seattle! Having grown up in the Greater Seattle area most of my life, I was so comforted and excited to see such accurate descriptions of favorite places back home. I couldn't help but smile when I knew EXACTLY which triangle piece of grass the homeless hang out at just past the Pike Place Market, or dinner at Canlis, or the view over Elliott Bay. It was awesome because I could clearly picture where everything was taking place and after moving away from Seattle 4 years ago this story brought me right back to home.

I have been a huge fan of Kristin Hannah's since reading Angel Falls years ago and since then have not read a novel of Kristin Hannah's that I didn't absolutely love. She is truly one of my favorite authors and one I will always highly recommend!

A special thanks to Bookreporter.com for selecting me to review an advanced copy! For more info on Night Road please go to Book Reporter or visit Kristin Hannah on Facebook! Night Road will be released on March 29, 2011, so mark your calendars!

Description: Jude Farraday is a happily married, stay-at-home mom who puts everyone’s needs above her own. Her twins, Mia and Zach, are bright and happy teenagers. When Lexi Baill enters their lives, no one is more supportive than Jude. A former foster child with a dark past, Lexi quickly becomes Mia’s best friend. Then Zach falls in love with Lexi and the three become inseparable. But senior year of high school brings unexpected dangers and one night, Jude’s worst fears are confirmed: there is an accident. In an instant, her idyllic life is shattered and her close-knit community is torn apart. People—and Jude—demand justice, and when the finger of blame is pointed, it lands solely on eighteen-year-old Lexi Baill. In a heartbeat, their love for each other will be shattered, the family broken. Lexi gives up everything that matters to her—the boy she loves, her place in the family, the best friend she ever had—while Jude loses even more.

When Lexi returns, older and wiser, she demands a reckoning. Long buried feelings will rise again, and Jude will finally have to face the woman she has become. She must decide whether to remain broken or try to forgive both Lexi…and herself.

Night Road is a vivid, emotionally complex novel that raises profound questions about motherhood, loss, identity, and forgiveness. It is an exquisite, heartbreaking novel that speaks to women everywhere about the things that matter most.

Rating: *****

Recommend: If you haven't read one of Kristin Hannah's books yet, I highly recommend starting with this one! She is a fantastic women's fiction author from the beautiful Northwest.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Her Daughter's Dream by Francine Rivers

Dear Francine Rivers - I love you. Please do not wait so long to write another book. K, thanks bye.

Her Daughter's Dream was the sequel to the Her Mother's Hope which I had read last May. Usually when I pick up a hefty sized book I get a bit nervous that it will take me forever to get through it. But with Francine, the more pages the better, because I don't want her stories to ever end. She is hands down THE best Christian writer out there and more versitile than anyone I know of. She can write historical fiction, current fiction, Christmas stories, novellas... pretty much anything and I have read and loved every single one.

This series takes the reader through 4 generations of women starting around WWII and ending through 2004. The first book was quite heavy and could even seem disheartening at the struggle of relationship between Marta, her parents and then her own daughter Hildermara. But really, Francine was only setting the stage for the redemption and growth to take place in the next generations of the second book. I thought her writing demonstrated so well what we often aim for generationally in wanting to learn from our parents mistakes and grow in the midst of our own, so that we can set up the next generation for even more growth & success. And at the same time, this 2 book saga also depicts so clearly how if we are not careful to recognize the unhealthy patterns of ourselves we can too easily pass them down to the next generations as well.

I appreciated that Francine Rivers included a three page note at the end of Her Daughter's Dream explaining how the inspiration of this series came from experiences in her own life and the women in her family.

Description: In the dramatic conclusion to Her Mother’s Hope, the Cold War has begun and Carolyn is struggling to navigate her shifting family landscape and the changing times. With her mother, Hildemara, away in a tuberculosis sanatorium, Carolyn develops a special bond with her Oma Marta. But when Hildie returns, tensions between she and Marta escalate, and Carolyn feels she is to blame. College offers the chance to find herself, but a family tragedy shatters her independence. Rather than return home, she cuts all ties and disappears into the heady culture of San Francisco. When she reemerges two years later, more lost than ever, only her family can help rebuild a life for her and her daughter, May Flower Dawn. Just like Carolyn, May Flower Dawn develops a closer bond with her grandmother, Hildie, than with her mother, causing yet another rift between generations. But as Dawn struggles to avoid the mistakes of those who went before her, she vows that somehow, she will be a bridge between her mother and grandmother rather than the wall that separates them forever. Spanning the 1950s to the present day, Her Daughter’s Dream is the final chapter of an unforgettable epic family saga about the sacrifices every mother makes for her daughter—and the very nature of unconditional love.

Rating: *****

Recommend: To everyone, but especially the daughters who've struggled in the relationships with their own mom.

Update on Fall Into Reading Challenge 2010:
Her Daughter's Dream by Francine Rivers
Black Rain by Graham Brown
Night Road by Kristin Hannah
Moonlight Mile by Dennis Lehane
Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks
Best Friends Forever by Jennifer Weiner
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
The Possibility of Everything by Hope Edelman (added to challenge)
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (added to challenge)

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

I have to admit I probably have the worst memory known to man. So it took me a bit of ramping up before I could finally place everyone and what role they played in the first two books. I really wish I would have reread Catching Fire before jumping into Mockingjay. My poor friend Julie had to put up with my endless questions, "Now who was Peeta?" Haha, you think I'm kidding..... Ok, you can pick your jaw up off the floor now.

There's quite a few mixed reviews on how this all wrapped up, and since I'm not a big believer in spoilers (at all), then I'll just say that I was completely content with the way it all ended. Ok, a teensy bit sad about one thing, but overall content.

If you haven't read this series yet, honestly now is the best time to get started because you won't have to wait a year like we all did! I just got my friend Alicia hooked on the series and she texts me regularly with updates on her progress. I hope she doesn't call me asking questions, cause I probably won't be able to help much ;-)

Five stars on the series and so glad I pushed myself to try a writing style I would have never otherwise tried if it wasn't for the fabulous blogging community out there so highly recommending it!!

"My name is Katniss Everdeen. Why am I not dead? I should be dead."

Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived, even though her home has been destroyed. Gale has escaped. Katniss's family is safe. Peeta has been captured by the Capitol. District 13 really does exist. There are rebels. There are new leaders. A revolution is unfolding.

It is by design that Katniss was rescued from the arena in the cruel and haunting Quarter Quell, and it is by design that she has long been part of the revolution without knowing it. District 13 has come out of the shadows and is plotting to overthrow the Capitol. Everyone, it seems, has had a hand in the carefully laid plans -- except Katniss.

The success of the rebellion hinges on Katniss's willingness to be a pawn, to accept responsibility for countless lives, and to change the course of the future of Panem. To do this, she must put aside her feelings of anger and distrust. She must become the rebels' Mockingjay -- no matter what the personal cost.

Rating: **** (I said five stars on the SERIES.) :-)

Recommend: All three!

The Possibility of Everything: A Memoir by Hope Edelman

I was overall intrigued, but oftentimes annoyed by this memoir. It got way too New-Agey in many parts and there were a couple times I felt like the author's insecurity of what reviewers thought of her came through in her writing...and that annoyed me. After all, she is a New York Times bestselling author, so why is she sharing moments of insecurity like that with the reader, which not to mention has nothing to do with the actual story?

Anyway, the parts about dealing with "Dodo", her daughter's imaginary friend and how it affected their day-to-day life, their marriage and their relationships was extremely interesting. But the random tangents and pages of information on the Mayan's beliefs of the moons and stars and blah, blah, blah....Lord help me, I was like - ok, get on with it already.

So I guess my impression of this book is - meh, half and half. It was interesting enough to keep me turning the pages, but not interesting enough to recommend it to anyone.

Thank you to Shelf Awareness and Random House Publishing for the Advanced Review Copy!

Description: From the bestselling author of Motherless Daughters, here is the real-life story of one woman's search for a cure to her family's escalating troubles, and the leap of faith that took her on a journey to an exotic place and a new state of mind.In the autumn of 2000, Hope Edelman was a woman adrift, questioning her marriage, her profession, and her place in the larger world. Feeling vulnerable and isolated, she was primed for change. Into her stagnant routine dropped Dodo, her three-year-old daughter Maya's curiously disruptive imaginary friend. Confused and worried about how to handle Dodo's apparent hold on their daughter, Edelman and her husband made the unlikely choice to take her to Maya healers in Belize, hoping that a shaman might help them banish Dodo–and, as they came to understand, all he represented–from their lives.An account of how an otherwise mainstream mother and wife finds herself making an extremely unorthodox choice, The Possibility of Everything chronicles the magical week in Central America that transformed Edelman from a person whose past had led her to believe only in the visible and the "proven" to someone open to the idea of larger, unseen forces. This deeply affecting, beautifully written memoir of a family' s emotional journey explores what Edelman and her husband went looking for in the jungle and what they ultimately discovered–as parents, as spouses, and as ordinary people–about the things that possess and destroy, or that can heal us all.From the Hardcover edition.

Rating: ***

Recommend: nah.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Fall Into Reading 2010 Challenge

My word do I get nervous when it comes to signing up for challenges! I feel all this pressure and unless I'm sure I can complete the challenge, then I don't want to participate at all (thus my despise of New Years resolutions - ick.)

But I'm going to do my best and give it a shot, PLUS I need that extra push to get some of these books read!!

Callapidder Days is hosting the Fall Into Reading 2010 Challenge which will take place September 22 - December 20th, 2010. We just have to make a list of which books we want to read during that time, then post our list on to Callapidder's blog. It should be fun and I'm looking forward to it - plus my list of books are all ones I'm extemely excited to read so I shouldn't have a change of heart when it comes to picking the next one up.

Here's my list - I'm sticking to 7 so I don't get overwhelmed!

1. Her Daughter's Dream by Francine Rivers
2. Black Rain by Graham Brown (our bookclub pick)
3. Night Road by Kristin Hannah (ARC) 4. Moonlight Mile by Dennis Lehane (ARC) 5. Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks6. Best Friends Forever by Jennifer Weiner 7. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
To see what other participants are reading, just visit the Callapidder's linky page.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Moonlight In Odessa by Janet Skeslien Charles

Y'all this was a home run for me! I was so pleasantly surprised with Moonlight In Odessa. Whenever I pick up a debut book from a new author, I get a little nervous about what I might be getting myself into. And this was Janet Skeslien Charles' first novel. As embarrassing as this is to admit, I had received Moonlight in Odessa close to the time it was published in September of last year from Bloomsbury USA and just now got around to reading it. I know, somebody slap my hands!

But seriously, I would so recommend this to all of you! It was a very intriguing storyline and some of it I completely related to being as how I myself met my husband through an online dating service called Christian Cafe. Now I wasn't a foreigner looking for a VISA, but the long distance relationship part and inner conversations of trusting someone new was definitely familiar! I just fell in love with Daria, a woman in the Ukraine who is struggling to make her mark in an oppressive country and yet to not lose hope that love was out there waiting for her. She had so many internal struggles and I found myself empathizing with her and cheering her on through her long journey from Russia into America. And I do hope that this second novel she's writing is a sequel that picks up right where she left off with Daria in America, because I felt like it was just getting really good and so badly want to know what's happened with her since!

Overall, a great read and one I highly recommend! I will for sure be keeping Janet on my radar in the future! And thank you to Bloomsbury USA for the free copy!

Description: Odessa, Ukraine, is the humour capital of the former Soviet Union, but in an upside-down world where waiters earn more than doctors and Odessans depend on the Mafia for basics like phone service and medical supplies, no one is laughing. After months of job hunting, Daria, a young engineer, finds a plum position at a foreign firm as a secretary. But every plum has a pit. In this case, it’s Mr. Harmon, who makes it clear that sleeping with him is job one. Daria evades Harmon’s advances by recruiting her neighbour, the slippery Olga, to be his mistress. But soon Olga sets her sights on Daria’s job.

Daria begins to moonlight as an interpreter at Soviet Unions(TM), a matchmaking agency that organizes “socials” where lonely American men can meet desperate Odessan women. Her grandmother wants Daria to leave Ukraine for good and pushes her to marry one of the men she meets, but Daria already has feelings for a local. She must choose between her world and America, between Vlad, a sexy, irresponsible mobster, and Tristan, a teacher nearly twice her age. Daria chooses security and America. Only it’s not exactly what she thought it would be…

A wry, tender, and darkly funny look at marriage, the desires we don’t acknowledge, and the aftermath of communism, Moonlight in Odessa is a novel about the choices and sacrifices that people make in the pursuit of love and stability

Rating: ****

Recommend: Absolutely!

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Passage by Justin Cronin

If you plan on reading The Passage and don't want the plot spoiled for you, I wouldn't continue reading this review.

I feel like the only way I can give a thorough explanation of why I disliked The Passage so much, is to be specific on why I had such issues with it. And unfortunately, contrary to popular opinion out there, I am definitely NOT a fan.

The first 100 pages or so of this book completely sucked me in and I was all on board with the premise, thinking that it would be good for me to get outside of my comfort zone and enjoy an intriguing science fiction/thriller once in a while. And just when I was getting attached to all the different characters and able to keep track of who was who - the author then kills everyone off!!!! Are you kidding me?! This is at like 300 or so pages in and he just starts from scratch and fast forwards a hundred years after the virus disaster breaks out! THEN I got to spend the next hundred pages or so trying to relearn new characters, NEW SLANG AND LANGUAGE (which kinda pissed me off - I mean "Flyers!" seriously?) and figure out what the crap is happening now. It moved so ridiculously slow in some places and then the momentum took off in others. Which thankfully, it did get pretty exciting at times and that kept me going, but really my main motivation in finishing the book was having some closure at the end by finding out how it all wraps up. And all I could keep thinking as I'm plowing through all 800 some pages is - 'Man, he should have broke this up into a 3 part series!" Finally around 1am, sometime last week, I'm nearing the last 50 pages and thinking, 'This is it, it's all coming down to this' - and then I come to realize, IT'S THE END OF PART 1!!!! WHAT?! I mean are you kidding me? I was so frustrated, cause after all that I didn't have hardly any closure.

And just a little side note, I know most people are thinking of these creatures as vampires, but really I would liken them more to an enlarged, scaly bat. They can't speak at all and instead make clicking noises in their throat and hunt in packs of three, which is more animalistic than human. The only 'vampirish' characteristic about them is that they can't survive in daylight and feast on humans.

Description: "It happened fast. Thirty-two minutes for one world to die, another to be born."

First, the unthinkable: a security breach at a secret U.S. government facility unleashes the monstrous product of a chilling military experiment. Then, the unspeakable: a night of chaos and carnage gives way to sunrise on a nation, and ultimately a world, forever altered. All that remains for the stunned survivors is the long fight ahead and a future ruled by fear—of darkness, of death, of a fate far worse.

As civilization swiftly crumbles into a primal landscape of predators and prey, two people flee in search of sanctuary. FBI agent Brad Wolgast is a good man haunted by what he’s done in the line of duty. Six-year-old orphan Amy Harper Bellafonte is a refugee from the doomed scientific project that has triggered apocalypse. He is determined to protect her from the horror set loose by her captors. But for Amy, escaping the bloody fallout is only the beginning of a much longer odyssey—spanning miles and decades—towards the time and place where she must finish what should never have begun.

With The Passage, award-winning author Justin Cronin has written both a relentlessly suspenseful adventure and an epic chronicle of human endurance in the face of unprecedented catastrophe and unimaginable danger. Its inventive storytelling, masterful prose, and depth of human insight mark it as a crucial and transcendent work of modern fiction. (From the Publisher, Random House)

Even though my review is less than flattering, I do really want to thank Random House Publishing for sending me a copy to review!

So in closing - in MY opinion, this is not the Great Summer Read of 2010 (as it has been proclaimed to be), but I do think it would make for a much more fascinating movie being as how I could watch in two hours what took me two months to get through, not to mention I've heard the rights have been sold to Ridley Scott's production company.

For more flattering reviews, please visit Charlotte's Web of Books, Hey Lady or Book Chatter. I love these ladies and highly value their reviews, so I was a bit surprised we felt so differently about the book. But just so you don't think I'm crazy, you can also visit Devourer of Books or visit Goodreads.com.

My rating: *

Recommend: I've heard that this book is likened to The Stand by Stephen King (which I've never read) so if you're a fan of The Stand, than you might enjoy this as well. Otherwise - don't waste your energy on the book and just wait for the movie, it will save you A LOT of time!!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Slower than Molasses

Must. Finish. Strong.

This book is killing me people but I'm compelled to finish it. Lord help me, of course it has to be 770 pages long. I honestly thought this would be a serious page turner, but its just bad. AND it's an ARC. I feel horrible that a less than flattering review is coming, but seriously its taken up two months of my reading time.

I only got a hundred or so pages left, so I hope to finish real soon!!

Anyone else read this?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo was our April/May Book Club pick. Most everyone in our book club seemed to really enjoy it and rated either 4 or 5 stars on Goodreads.com, but as good as it was it was also extremely intense and at times very hard to stomach. It is definitely for an adult audience and I wouldn't recommend reading it at night when you're home alone! The paperback came in at close to 650 pages and it wasn't until page 200 that it started to grab me. There was a lot of setup and honestly I was grateful for the two separate story lines, because the half concerning Mikael Blomkvist's libel conviction was seriously too boring and informational for me. I just couldn't get into the whole Wennerstrom side of things.

I'm on the fence about reading the sequel The Girl Who Played With Fire. It's the 2nd book of the 3 part trilogy and even reading the prologue and part of Chapter 1 from the end of TGWTDT, I could tell its going to definitely be another one that's hard to stomach. Apparently, they've made a movie on TGWTDT and its coming soon to theatres, but again I just don't think I could see it. Some people like that whole Hanibal Lector suspense thing, but I'm just not one of them. Still, a very captivating and intriguing read, but not my first pick for an enjoying read.

Description: An international publishing sensation, Stieg Larsson's Girl with the Dragon Tattoo combines murder mystery, family saga, love story, and financial intrigue into one satisfyingly complex and entertainingly atmospheric novel.

Harriet Vanger, a scion of one of Sweden's wealthiest families disappeared over forty years ago. All these years later, her aged uncle continues to seek the truth. He hires Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist recently trapped by a libel conviction, to investigate. He is aided by the pieced and tattooed punk prodigy Lisbeth Salander. Together they tap into a vein of unfathomable iniquity and astonishing corruption.

Rating: ****

Recommend: Not for the faint of heart. There is some intense sexual brutality that is hard to get out your head. Yeesh!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Her Mother's Hope by Francine Rivers

If you've followed this blog at all, you know that I adore Francine Rivers! And after one too many years of waiting, she finally came out with a new book called Her Mother's Hope. I reserved my copy with the library immediately and savored every one of those 483 pages. She just has such a captivating way with her writing and completely entrances you with her stories. I love everything about her writing - never too much detail, but enough to pull you into the setting.

Her Mother's Hope is the first book in a 2 boook series. I hope this is just the start of a whole slew of writing for Francine, because there just isn't enough good Christian writing out there. I'm not a huge fan of Christian books, just because they can be so darn cheesy sometimes! But Francine knows the perfect balance of bringing you into the story and making it so relatable and yet you're also able to draw encouragement and valuable lessons to live by. She doesn't apologize for the spiritual threads woven throughout her story, yet she doesn't cram it down your throat either.

A couple months back, our book club chose her book A Voice In The Wind, and many ladies commented how much they enjoyed it even though they themselves aren't professed Christians. I just think that Francine has such an amazing platform to speak from and is planting so many thousands upon thousands of seeds in women's hearts of who God is as a Father and His love for his children. Even with the story being set back in Switzerland in the early 20th century, you still find yourself being able to relate to the character's feelings and dilemma's. I absolutely loved it - five stars from me!

Description: The first in an epic two-book saga by beloved author Francine Rivers, this sweeping story explores the complicated relationships between mothers and daughters over several generations.

Near the turn of the 20th century, fiery Marta leaves Switzerland determined to find life on her own terms. Her journey takes her through Europe and finally lands her with children and husband in tow in the central valley of California. Marta’s experiences convince her that only the strong survive.

Hildie, Marta’s oldest daughter, has a heart to serve others, and her calling as a nurse gives her independence, if not the respect of her mother. Amid the drama of WWII, Hildie marries and begins a family of her own. She wants her daughter never to doubt her love—but the challenges of life conspire against her vow. Each woman is forced to confront her faulty but well-meaning desire to help her daughter find her God-given place in the world.

Recommend: Absolutely!

Rating: *****

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Friendship Factor by Alan Loy McGinnis

I read this book very slowly in tiny bits & pieces over the last 6 months or so. It is so full of valuable nuggets of information that I would just take a bite or so and then savor the wisdom found within these pages. I truly enjoyed it and would highly recommend The Friendship Factor to anyone desiring a deeper understanding of human relationships and how to form healthy friendships.

Description: At the heart of each relationship, says McGinnis, is the friendship factor--the essential ingredient of warmth and caring. With captivating case histories and anecdotes about such famous people as George Burns, Howard Hughes, and C.S. Lewis, McGinnis shares the secret of how to love and be loved.

Rating: ****

Recommend: Absolutely.

Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

After very much enjoying the Twilight series, I had also heard some good things about the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris, and wanted to check out the first book Dead Until Dark.

Um yeah, no thanks.

It was an easy read like it was directed at a younger audience but the content was way too mature for even me at times and I really do hope teenagers or kids aren't reading these! Yikes!

I didn't care at all about any of the characters and thought they were all so shallow and there was so much focus on sex, geez....enough already! But because there is such a buzz about them (and I had to wait FOREVER for a copy from the library) I really wanted to see what they were all about. If I had teenagers and they wanted to read these, I of course would want to read it first so I knew what type of stuff my kids were filling their minds with. I would hope most parents would take the time to look into what types of books they're kids are into. As a matter of fact, I still have not read any of the Harry Potter books but want to just so I know what's out there and why there's so much hype about them. I have many friends who love them and others who won't read them but already have a set opinion on them, and in those situations I always want to read it myself to form an opinion on the matter.

I'm glad I read it for the sole reason of knowing what they're about, but I have zero interest in reading the others in the series.

Sorry y'all. You win some you lose some.

Description: Sookie Stackhouse is a cocktail waitress in small-town Louisiana, but she keeps to herself and doesn't date much because of her "disability" to read minds. When she meets Bill, Sookie can't hear a word he's thinking. He's the type of guy she's waited for all of her life, but he has a disability, too--he's a vampire with a bad reputation. When one of Sookie's coworkers is killed, she fears she's next.

Recommend: Nope.

Rating: *** (Only cause it kept my attention & was easy reading).

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane

Even though I had heard the term "Apartheid", I wasn't quite familiar with what it was, where it occurred or when it took place. If Kaffir Boy was written purely as an historical account, I couldn't have gotten through it, but because it was told as a true story from the author himself, that definitely helped keep my attention throughout.

Kaffir Boy was definitely an eye-opener for me, and there were moments when it was hard to digest and believe that these things actually happened to someone and that even at his age of 4 years old in the beginning of the story, he could remember so many details! My friend Julie had chosen it for our book club (a couple months back - yes, I'm JUST now getting around to finishing it) and I thought it was a great choice for us ladies. It's not something I would have picked up on my own and at times it was a struggle to get through only cause it covered so many years of this man's life. Coming in at 368 pages it was a bit too drawn out for my liking, but I was nonetheless fascinated and at the end desiring to find out what happened to Mark once he arrived in the U.S. and what the transition into college and American culture was like for him.

There is a sequel to this story that was published in 1990 where Mark tells of life since arriving in the U.S. at age 18 on a tennis scholarship and the struggles he faced in becoming the man he is today. The book is called Kaffir Boy in America and I'll be adding it to my ever-growing TBR list.

Description: Mark Mathabane was weaned on devastating poverty and schooled in the cruel streets of South Africa's most desperate ghetto, where bloody gang wars and midnight police raids were his rites of passage. Like every other child born in the hopelessness of apartheid, he learned to measure his life in days, not years. Yet Mark Mathabane, armed only with the courage of his family and a hard-won education, raised himself up from the squalor and humiliation to win a scholarship to an American university.

This extraordinary memoir of life under apartheid is a triumph of the human spirit over hatred and unspeakable degradation. For Mark Mathabane did what no physically and psychologically battered "Kaffir" from the rat-infested alleys of Alexandra was supposed to do -- he escaped to tell about it.

Rating: *** (only cause it was so long, had it been shorter I would have given it 4 stars)

Recommend: There are parts where I would definitely say is more appropriate for an adult audience, but yes I would still recommend if you're not familiar with apartheid in South Africa.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Book Club Pick

This next month's book club pick is The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and I was wondering if any of you folks had read it yet and what you thought of it??

Description: A spellbinding amalgam of murder mystery, family saga, love story, and financial intrigue.

It's about the disappearance forty years ago of Harriet Vanger, a young scion of one of the wealthiest families in Sweden . . . and about her octogenarian uncle, determined to know the truth about what he believes was her murder.

It's about Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist recently at the wrong end of a libel case, hired to get to the bottom of Harriet's disappearance . . . and about Lisbeth Salander, a twenty-four-year-old pierced and tattooed genius hacker possessed of the hard-earned wisdom of someone twice her age--and a terrifying capacity for ruthlessness to go with it--who assists Blomkvist with the investigation. This unlikely team discovers a vein of nearly unfathomable iniquity running through the Vanger family, astonishing corruption in the highest echelons of Swedish industrialism--and an unexpected connection between themselves.

It's a contagiously exciting, stunningly intelligent novel about society at its most hidden, and about the intimate lives of a brilliantly realized cast of characters, all of them forced to face the darker aspects of their world and of their own lives.

It sounds fascinating don't you think? I trust your opinions first and foremost, so go ahead and fill me in - any thoughts?

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Total Neglect On My Part

Ugh. I've been so busy lately that I haven't had any time to get crackin on my stack of books piling up! And as the weather turns warmer here in Nashville, I'm itching to get outside, sit in the sun and enjoy a good book!

Any spare moment I get I pick up Kaffir Boy which was last month's book club pick. It is so freakin intense and not one I would recommend before heading off to bed. Even still, I'm thoroughly enjoying it and will write up a review as soon as I've finished. I don't normally pick up these type of books unless they're assigned for book club, so its good that I'm getting stretched outside of my comfort zone.
One of my huge goals this summer is to read some of the ARC's I've received over the last 6 months. I feel awful I haven't gotten to them yet, so I'm making that a HUGE priority to work on. Even just yesterday I received The Passage by Justin Cronin from Random House Publishing and I can't wait to get started on it! The cover is just intoxicating and the storyline is again not normally something I would pick up and completely intriguing. Have any of you read this one yet? I'm curious as to what y'all think?
Other books on my ARC list to knock out are The Possibility of Everything by Hope Edelman,
Best Friends Forever by Jennifer Weiner,
Moonlight in Odessa by Janet Skeslien Charles,
and then finally Then Came the Evening by Brian HartEven confessing that I have these titles and have not reviewed them yet puts a huge knot of guilt in my stomach and I feel just sick thinking about it. Like just as guilty as I still feel about not sending out all my thank you cards for our wedding 4 years ago (yeah I know I suck and it eats away at me ALL the time).

As for other updates - my inlaws arrived into town last night and will be staying with us for a week! I'm super excited because it will force me to relax and enjoy some fun things! We have planned to work on a puzzle (I'm a puzzle nut and love them), head out to see the Bodies Exhibit, maybe catch a movie and then Friday I'm off work for Good Friday (you gotta love the South!)! As a special treat, my inlaws brought me a HUGE box of Myers Lemons from their tree. Myers Lemons are SO good with a glass of sweet tea and I have so many of them now that I'm going to look up some recipes to use them with. Plus Sherry recommended squeezing the juice into ice trays & freezing it to make the lemon juice last longer. Then all I have to do is drop a few cubes into my ice tea whenever I want it - LOVIN' THAT IDEA!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


I was perusing the giveaways on Goodreads and came across a new book being released on March 1st by Francine Rivers, Her Mother's Hope - FINALLY! I'm so excited to finally get my hands on a new FR book! AND it's part one of a two book series, which means another one will soon follow!! Yes!!If you haven't read Francine Rivers you are missing out - one of my favorite authors of all time! I have given Redeeming Love away many times as gifts to friends & family.

Francine - if you ever happen to see this post - THANK YOU for releasing a new book!!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Fireworks Over Toccoa by Jeffrey Stepakoff

It's rare that I would give a book five stars, but there isn't anything that I didn't absolutely love about Fireworks Over Toccoa! I was lucky enough to be chosen to receive an Advanced Reading Copy through the publisher via a Goodreads Giveaway and was so pleasantly surprised to discover I'd received a copy in the mail.

I probably read more than half of the book while soaking in the tub with a cold drink. And after the water had gone tepid, I would refill with more hot water & just keep on reading. I could not put this one down! I thought it was in the ranks of a Titanic-ish, epic love story. Romantic, tragic, passionate, fun...it captured me from page one straight through to the end. And what really adds to the story, is that it takes place during World War II. It's just my opinion, but I think it would make for a terrific movie. I highly recommend this one - you'll find it in stores on March 30th!

Description: Lily was married for just days before her husband was sent abroad to fight in WWII. Now, he and the other soldiers are returning, and the small town of Toccoa, Georgia plans a big celebration. But a handsome and kind Italian immigrant, responsible for the elaborate fireworks display the town commissioned captures Lily's heart and soul. Torn between duty to society and her husband, and a poor, passionate man who might be her only true love--Lily must choose between a love she never knew and a commitment she'd already made.

Poignant and elegant, FIREWORKS OVER TOCCOA is a mosaic of all the emotions that only love can make possible.

Rating: *****

Recommend: For sure - but be aware, there is one steamy passionate love scene!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls

I'm a little speechless on even where to start with this book. I think my mouth fell open from page one and didn't shut until page 288. My friend Amy bought this book for me as a birthday gift last year and I finally got around to picking it up. But once I did, it was hard to put down - well except for the times I needed to take a deep & cleansing breath. It was a lot to digest, let me tell ya. If anything, this book proves that we can literally become who we want to be and our past or upbringing does not need to define who we are. I am completely astounded at the drive and strength of Jeannette Walls and her siblings to be successful, educated and independent. Too many times society and individuals cast blame for their problems on the parents who've raised them or the surroundings they were raised in. If you hapepn to believe this, then I challenge you to read The Glass Castle, it will blow your mind.

Description: Jeannette Walls grew up with parents whose ideals and stubborn nonconformity were both their curse and their salvation. Rex and Rose Mary Walls had four children. In the beginning, they lived like nomads, moving among Southwest desert towns, camping in the mountains. Rex was a charismatic, brilliant man who, when sober, captured his children's imagination, teaching them physics, geology, and above all, how to embrace life fearlessly. Rose Mary, who painted and wrote and couldn't stand the responsibility of providing for her family, called herself an "excitement addict." Cooking a meal that would be consumed in fifteen minutes had no appeal when she could make a painting that might last forever.
Later, when the money ran out, or the romance of the wandering life faded, the Walls retreated to the dismal West Virginia mining town -- and the family -- Rex Walls had done everything he could to escape. He drank. He stole the grocery money and disappeared for days. As the dysfunction of the family escalated, Jeannette and her brother and sisters had to fend for themselves, supporting one another as they weathered their parents' betrayals and, finally, found the resources and will to leave home.

What is so astonishing about Jeannette Walls is not just that she had the guts and tenacity and intelligence to get out, but that she describes her parents with such deep affection and generosity. Hers is a story of triumph against all odds, but also a tender, moving tale of unconditional love in a family that despite its profound flaws gave her the fiery determination to carve out a successful life on her own terms.

For two decades, Jeannette Walls hid her roots. Now she tells her own story. A regular contributor to MSNBC.com, she lives in New York and Long Island and is married to the writer John Taylor.

True Colors by Kristin Hannah

I'm already a sucker for books about three sisters, being as how I have two sisters of my own, but this book truly does not disappoint! I've often enjoyed Kristin Hannah, she is just one of those authors you know you can trust will deliver and you don't even have to read the inside cover to know you will immediately devour it.

I immediately connected to the family relationships and felt as if I completely understood where each family member came from and why they made the decisions that they did. There was so much detail, but not so much that it became mundane or boring. And though the storyline was intense at times, it had bits of humor woven throughout that kept it light and entertaining. One message the author highlighted that I so loved, was the difficulty in doing the right thing even when it may cost you the ones you hold so dear. I enjoyed every minute, it was an incredibly story of grace, unconditional love, forgiveness, passion and the strength of family.

I actually wish this was book one of a trilogy, because I fell so in love with the sisters and their families that I wanted to know what life looked like after I closed the last page.

Description: True Colors is New York Times bestselling author Kristin Hannah’s most provocative, compelling, and heart-wrenching story yet. With the luminous writing and unforgettable characters that are her trademarks, she tells the story of three sisters whose once-solid world is broken apart by jealousy, betrayal, and the kind of passion that rarely comes along.

The Grey sisters have always been close. After their mother’s death, the girls banded together, becoming best friends. Their stern, disapproving father cares less about his children than about his reputation. To Henry Grey, appearances are everything, and years later, he still demands that his daughters reflect his standing in the community.

Winona, the oldest, needs her father’s approval most of all. An overweight bookworm who never felt at home on the sprawling horse ranch that has been in her family for three generations, she knows that she doesn’t have the qualities her father values. But as the best lawyer in town, she’s determined to someday find a way to prove her worth to him.

Aurora, the middle sister, is the family peacemaker. She brokers every dispute and tries to keep them all happy, even as she hides her own secret pain.

Vivi Ann is the undisputed star of the family. A stunningly beautiful dreamer with a heart as big as the ocean in front of her house, she is adored by all who know her. Everything comes easily for Vivi Ann, until a stranger comes to town...

In a matter of moments, everything will change. The Grey sisters will be pitted against one another in ways that none could have imagined. Loyalties will be tested and secrets revealed, and a terrible, shocking crime will shatter both their family and their beloved town.

With breathtaking pace and penetrating emotional insight, True Colors is an unforgettable novel about sisters, rivalry, forgiveness, redemption---and ultimately, what it means to be a family.

Rating: ****

Recommend: I highly recommend, its just an overall feel good book!