Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmas Came Early!

Look what I got in the mail yesterday!!!

I know right?!?!  I'm freakin out, cause there's a number of new books coming out that I've had my eye on and this is one I was so despretely hoping I could read! 

Thank you Random House!

Description: In her forties – a widow, too young, too modern to accept the role – Becky Aikman struggled to make sense of her place in an altered world.  In this transcendent and infectiously wise memoir, she explores surprising new discoveries about how people experience grief and transcend loss and, following her own remarriage, forms a group with five other young widows to test these unconventional ideas.  Together, these friends summon the humor, resilience, and striving spirit essential for anyone overcoming adversity.

   Meet the Saturday Night Widows: ringleader Becky, an unsentimental journalist who lost her husband to cancer; Tara, a polished mother of two, whose husband died in the throes of alcoholism after she filed for divorce; Denise, a widow of just five months, now struggling to get by; Marcia, a hard-driving corporate lawyer; Dawn, an alluring self-made entrepreneur whose husband was killed in a sporting accident, leaving two small children behind; and Lesley, a housewife who returned home one day to find that her husband had committed suicide.

   The women meet once a month, and over the course of a year, they strike out on ever more far-flung adventures, learning to live past the worst thing they thought could happen.  They share emotional peaks and valleys – dating, parenting, moving, finding meaningful work, and reinventing themselves – while turning traditional thinking about loss and recovery upside down.  Through it all runs the story of Aikman's own journey through grief and her love affair with a man who tempts her to marry again.  In a transporting story of what friends can achieve when they hold each other up, Saturday Night Widows is a rare book that will make you laugh, think, and remind yourself that despite the utter unpredictability and occasional tragedy of life, it is also precious, fragile, and often more joyous than we recognize

Saturday Night Widows releases on January 22, 2013!
Review to come soon!

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

I am on a roll with picking some fabulous books lately!  This one was our book club pick of December and I gobbled it up. Like gobbled.  My friend Julie and I were texting each other all evening - "what page are you on?" "Now what page are you on?"  "Are you finished yet?"  Even though the format of the way it was written was very different than what I'm used to, I finally found my rhythm and started flying through it.  The author writes where the narrator is Clay, and anything written in italics is what he's hearing narrated on a cassette tape by Hannah.  Sometimes two different things were going on at the same time and I had to really focus to keep the stories straight.  But. so. worth. it. 

This book has been around actually for 5 years and I had seen some other reviewers rave about how great it was.  I'm so glad it was chosen for book club and that I voted for it! 

Seriously, if you've ever been bullied as a child or even in high school, this book will speak to you as it did me.  There's a not lot from childhood that I'd like to remember (mainly because of school), and I don't think adults realize what happens to a kid's self-esteem when other children are constantly making fun, teasing or bullying them.  If Jason and I are blessed with a child or children and I hear of someone bullying them, you better believe I'm going to do something about it.

Read this book, it's amazing.

Description: Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers thirteen cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker, his classmate and crush who committed suicide two weeks earlier.

On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he'll find out how he made the list.

Through Hannah and Clay's dual narratives, debut author Jay Asher weaves an intricate and heartrending story of confusion and desperation that will deeply affect teen readers.

Rating: *****

Recommend: For sure.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

In the Woods by Tana French

Can we just talk about this book for a minute?  I had seriously high hopes for In the Woods because of all the fantastic reviews I had read.  And even though I did enjoy it, I was left so completely unsatisfied and frustrated by the time I finished it, that I wanted to scream.  I mean seriously??!?!?!  There's 2 murder mysteries that are investigated throughout the book - but ONLY ONE OF THEM is solved?!!  Who does that?! I mean really?  Tana, you're killing me!  I can only hope that in the following books of this series that the author revisits that unsolved mystery, because I'm so utterly annoyed that I don't know what happens and was left hanging.  Ugh. 

The storyline itself was very intriguing and I very much enjoyed the banter between Rob Ryan and Cassie Maddox.  When I finished In the Woods, I read the preview first chapter of the second book in the series (The Likeness) and I think my interest is piqued enough to keep reading - BUT if the author pulls any more stunts like that, I'm seriously going to lose my mind and drop the rest of the series. 

Description:  As dusk approaches a small Dublin suburb in the summer of 1984, mothers begin to call their children home. But on this warm evening, three children do not return from the dark and silent woods. When the police arrive, they find only one of the children gripping a tree trunk in terror, wearing blood-filled sneakers, and unable to recall a single detail of the previous hours.

Twenty years later, the found boy, Rob Ryan, is a detective on the Dublin Murder Squad and keeps his past a secret. But when a twelve-year-old girl is found murdered in the same woods, he and Detective Cassie Maddox—his partner and closest friend—find themselves investigating a case chillingly similar to the previous unsolved mystery. Now, with only snippets of long-buried memories to guide him, Ryan has the chance to uncover both the mystery of the case before him and that of his own shadowy past.

Richly atmospheric, stunning in its complexity, and utterly convincing and surprising to the end, In the Woods is sure to enthrall fans of Mystic River and The Lovely Bones. And look for French's new mystery, Broken Harbor, for more of the Dublin Murder Squad.

Rating: **** (It would have gotten 5 stars if I would have found out what happened!!)

Recommend: It is a great murder mystery, so if you're into those - then yes.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Whoa.  Like seriously, I'm not even sure what else to say other than whoa.

I genuinely didn't think I would like this book.  I'm not a huge fan of historical fiction or memoirs - so a nonfiction, historical novel?  Ugh.
But that's the awesome thing about book clubs!  In our book club, we each get a turn to pick 3 books from totally different genres and styles and let everyone vote on which one they would want to read.  Unbroken ended up with the most votes.  AND I was a good book club member and decided to go along with everyone and give it a shot. 

Oh.my.word.  This is one of the best books I've ever read.  It was hard to get through some of the gruesomeness at times, but in the end it's all worth it.  I just couldn't understand how one man lives through all that????!!!!!  It's unbelievable, truly.  And I'm almost as blown away that this is only the author's 2nd book (the first being Seabiscuit) and that she managed to so thoroughly research her subject and historical documents.  Un-freakin-real.  I'm already thinking of picking up a few copies for some folks.  If you haven't read this yet - READ IT.  End of story.

Description: On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood.  Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared.  It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane’s bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard.  So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War.

The lieutenant’s name was Louis Zamperini.  In boyhood, he’d been a cunning and incorrigible delinquent, breaking into houses, brawling, and fleeing his home to ride the rails.  As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics and within sight of the four-minute mile.  But when war had come, the athlete had become an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown.

Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater.  Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion.  His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.

In her long-awaited new book, Laura Hillenbrand writes with the same rich and vivid narrative voice she displayed in Seabiscuit.  Telling an unforgettable story of a man’s journey into extremity, Unbroken is a testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit.

Rating: *****

Recommend: To anyone & everyone. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Eve and Adam by Katherine Applegate and Michael Grant


I read this in 2 sittings. 

It. was. awesome. 

I loved the concept immediately and had marked it on my TBR list along with the hundreds of others I may never get around to reading -but then a miracle happened, and it showed up on my front door compliments of MacMillan Book Publishers.  It's always exciting to get an advanced copy from a publisher - it's 10x more exciting when it's a book you not only are dying to read BUT LOVE. Holy crap, I love it when that happens!

Eve and Adam is a story about 2 modern-day teenagers who find out they aren't exactly like every other normal person out there and discoverWAY more than what they bargained for. From page 1 it starts out with a bang and doesn't let you off the ride until you turn the last page.  It was exactly what I needed to escape into this last weekend as I came off a super intense work week.  At one point Sunday evening my husband asked me if I wanted to watch one of our favorite shows together and I completely turned him down because I wanted to finish the book.  150 pages later, I was so extremely satisfied with everything this book was. I. Loved. It.  The next day I brought it in to work to give to my friend Debbie who I knew would fall just as in love with it as I did. 

Great premise, great writing, great ending, great, greAT, GREAT! 

Eve and Adam comes out in stores next Tuesday, October 2nd! Pre-order your copy here! 

Description: Sixteen-year-old Evening Spiker lives an affluent life in San Francisco with her mother, EmmaRose, a successful geneticist and owner of Spiker Biotech. Sure, Evening misses her father who died mysteriously, but she’s never really questioned it. Much like how she’s never stopped to think how off it is that she’s never been sick. That is, until she’s struck by a car and is exposed to extensive injuries. Injuries that seem to be healing faster than physically possible.

While recuperating in Spiker Biotech’s lush facilities, she meets Solo Plissken, a very attractive, if off-putting boy her age who spent his life at Spiker Biotech. Like Evening, he’s never questioned anything... until now. Solo drops hints to Evening that something isn’t right, and Emma-Rose may be behind it. Evening puts this out of her mind and begins her summer internship project: To simulate the creation of the perfect boy. With the help of Solo, Evening uncovers secrets so big they could change the world completely.   Rating: ****   Recommend: Absolutely!  And no, just cause I received an advance copy, does not mean my opinion of this book was swayed in any way, nor was I compensated for my review (haha, now that's kinda funny.)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

You know as I was walking into work this morning, with my book in hand, I literally thought to myself - "This morning has already started out crappy with terrible news from the dentist, but there's just something comforting about holding a book in your arms to make your troubles disappear." Is that weird? Does anyone else ever feel that way? I guess that's why we read oftentimes anyway, isn't it? To escape the realities and difficulties of life?  Or maybe gain a new perspective that makes you realize that your life isn't really all that difficult after all?  I digress.

After a long wait from the library, I finally picked up my copy of Insurgent. I absolutely loved Divergent, and was so excited to pick up right where I had left off! BUT the problem was - my memory sucks! AND so I spent several of the first chapters trying to remember what was going on - who was who, what factions each person belonged to, and what the characteristics of each faction was! Ugh.  I kinda wished I would have read them back to back, I think I would have enjoyed it all that much more.  But even still - Insurgent did not disappoint!  I totally loved it!  What is with me and these dystopian YA novels?  I NEVER would have thought that I would get into these type of books!  And to top it off, I'm dragging many of my friends right along with me ;-)  I'm really looking forward to book #3 of the series, which is as of now still untitled and expected to come out fall of 2013.  There's no chance I'll remember anything by then, so I'll have to re-read the series or a whole lotta reviews on Goodreads in order to get up to speed.  Seriously, if you haven't started this series yet - I highly suggest doing so - and remember that I was the one who told you too before all the hype finally comes around and a movie is made ;-) (Uh-hum, sisters).

Description: One choice can transform you--or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves--and herself--while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Tris's initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable--and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.

"New York Times" bestselling author Veronica Roth's much-anticipated second book of the dystopian "Divergent" series is another intoxicating thrill ride of a story, rich with hallmark twists, heartbreaks, romance, and powerful insights about human nature.

Rating: ****

Recommend: Absolutely!  I'm loving this series big time! AND so is my book club!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Love at the Speed of Email by Lisa McKay

I have no idea why this book has such a high rating on Goodreads.  Ms. McKay if you see this review - please don't be pissed.

Y'all - this book was gouge-your-eyes-out-with-a-pencil boring. (Please refrain from bitching me out for writing my honest opinion.)  It was our August book club pick and I honestly thought I would enjoy it since it's a memoir of how Lisa and her husband met via the Internet & email correspondence.  Trust me! I have nothing against meeting a man online - I DID IT!  This has nothing to do with that at all - but everything to do with feeling like I was reading someones travel journal. I swear, just when something started to get super interesting, we were back to talking about where she's flying to.  Ugh. I just couldn't get into it - and yes, I did finish the entire book.  I was annoyed, plain and simple.  It reminded me why I rarely read memoirs.  This month, our book club pick is Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand and I'm REALLY hoping I enjoy it.  On my way to Seattle, I noticed a woman reading it and I took that as a good sign (fingers crossed!). But until then - I'm currently reading Insurgent, book 2 after Divergent by Veronica Roth.  Review coming soon!

Description:  "Lisa looks as if she has it made. She has turned her nomadic childhood and forensic psychology training into a successful career as a stress management trainer for humanitarian aid workers. She lives in Los Angeles, travels the world, and her first novel has just been published to some acclaim. But as she turns 31, Lisa realizes that she is still single, constantly on airplanes, and increasingly wondering where home is and what it really means to commit to a person, place, or career. When an intriguing stranger living on the other side of the world emails her out of the blue, she must decide whether she will risk trying to answer those questions. Her decision will change her life."

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

If y'all haven't heard of The Fault In Our Stars then you need to come out from the rock you've been under!  This one's been on book club lists for quite a while now and was a pick for our own book club back in July.  I had been dying to get my hands on a copy, and was completely enraptured by the story of Hazel and Augustus and their individual battles with cancer as teenagers.  I know, I know - there's lots of tear-jerkers out there involving a kid with cancer - but the way that John Green lays it out makes you sincerely care for these kids.  I finished this book with so much more respect and truly more in awe of how people can be so brave and strong.  It was a wonderful story....but the ending - well - let's just say I wanted to throw this book across the room when I finished it. 

Description: "Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 13, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs... for now.

Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault.

Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind."

Rating: ****

Recommend: For sure!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Sweetwater Creek by Anne Rivers Siddons

I read this a couple months back but am just now getting to my review!  I was determined to finally pick something off my very own shelf this time.  I don't know why, but even with shelves and shelves of beautiful novels - I still find myself perusing the new fiction at the library and bringing it home to read.  I wonder if there's a support group for people like me?

This was the first one on my shelf, so I grabbed it and dived in on a Saturday morning.  It completely drew me in and as bizarre as it got in some places, I think I really liked it? Pretty sure. Yeah, liked it.  I think.  It was a little weird though.   One thing I did really enjoy was all the detail of raising Boykin hunting spaniels.  I've been toying with the idea of raising labs myself and it gave me a glimpse into what that business would look like.

Description:  From bestselling author Anne Rivers Siddons comes a bittersweet and finely wrought story of friendship, family, and Charleston society.

At twelve, Emily Parmenter knows alone all too well. Left mostly to herself after her beautiful young mother disappeared and her beloved older brother died, Emily is keenly aware of yearning and loss. Rather than be consumed by sadness, she has built a life around the faded plantation where her remote father and hunting-obsessed brothers raise the legendary Lowcountry Boykin hunting spaniels. It is a meager, narrow, masculine world, but to Emily it has magic: the storied deep-sea dolphins who come regularly to play in Sweetwater Creek; her extraordinary bond with the beautiful dogs she trains; her almost mystic communion with her own spaniel, Elvis; the dreaming old Lowcountry itself. Emily hides from the dreaded world here. It is enough.

And then comes Lulu Foxworth, troubled daughter of a truly grand plantation, who has run away from her hectic Charleston debutante season to spend a healing summer with the quiet marshes and river, and the life-giving dogs. Where Emily's father sees their guest as an entree to a society he thought forever out of reach, Emily is at once threatened and mystified. Lulu has a powerful enchantment of her own, and this, along with the dark, crippling secret she brings with her, will inevitably blow Emily's magical water world apart and let the real one in--but at a terrible price.

Poignant and emotionally compelling, Anne Rivers Siddons's "Sweetwater Creek" draws you into the luminous landscape of the Lowcountry. With characters that linger long after you've turned the last page, this engaging tale is destined to become an instant classic.

Rating: ***

Recommend: Hmmm...I would say if you're into dog stories you might really like it. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Then Came You by Jennifer Weiner

I have several friends who are long-time fans of Jennifer Weiner.  So I decided to give one of her books a try and Then Came You sounded right up my alley.  I love Women's Fiction that deal with surrogacy or infertility - it just intrigues me.  I was drawn in from page 1 and have had a seriously hard time putting it down so I could get some sleep.  The characters are interesting and the flow is easy, BUT I will say that I am very frustrated with the detail that was given in a love scene between two of the women.  Seriously, I have no desire to read the sexual details between a homosexual couple and I really think the author should say something in the preface or description if there is a lesbian/gay relationship involved.  It just caught me completely off guard and I wish I had known since it would have actually determined whether or not I wanted to read the book.  I have no problem watching tv shows that include a gay character - but I'd really rather not watch an intimate scene between the two of them - REALLY not my thing.  And to be clear - I don't appreciate fiction that gets too descriptive or explicit with sex scenes period.  Along those lines, I've had several folks ask me if I plan to read Shades of Grey, and as a Christian I could not in good conscience read erotica and in my opinion its no different than porn.

Description: The lives of four very different women intertwine in unexpected ways in this new novel by bestselling author Jennifer Weiner (In Her Shoes; Best Friends Forever). Each woman has a problem: Princeton senior Jules Wildgren needs money to help her dad cure his addiction; Pennsylvania housewife Annie Barrow is gasping to stay financially afloat; India Bishop yearns to have a child, an urge that her stepdaughter Bettina can only regard with deeply skepticism until she finds herself in a most unexpected situation. Interlocking dramas designed to ensnare; bound to be a bestseller.

Rating: *** (Only cause other than that 1 scene in the book, the rest of the story was fairly intriguing.)

Recommend: I honestly cannot recommend it just cause I don't think any of my friends would personally want to read the explicit descriptions given in the sex scene.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Within the first few pages, I was thinking, "Oh crap, this is going to be EXACTLY like The Hunger Games. Dangit." Which I loved The Hunger Games, I just didn't want to read a copy-cat version of it.  But you guys - IT'S SO NOT!  This was our first pick in the new book club I've joined and I was so pumped to read it!  This book clocks in at 487 pages which freaked me out a bit - but it's YA, so I was able to crruuuiise right through it within a matter of days. 

I thought the concept of factions that were divided up by personality traits was so intriguing and genius of the author to come up with.  I DID NOT see that ending coming and devoured the last 150 pages within a couple of hours.  I know some folks are predicting this trilogy to become as popular as The Hunger Games, but I'm not sure if I necessarily agree.  I do think it's going to be big - but maybe not that big.  Still, I'm jumping on the bandwagon and getting my hands on Book 2 Insurgent

Our book club meets at the end of June to discuss their thoughts and I already know quite a few folks have already finished their copy and really enjoyed it!  Maybe we'll all have read Insurgent before we even get together ;-) Get your copy of Divergent here.

Description: In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves… or it might destroy her.

Debut author Veronica Roth bursts onto the literary scene with the first book in the Divergent series—dystopian thrillers filled with electrifying decisions, heartbreaking betrayals, stunning consequences, and unexpected romance.

Rating: ****

Recommend: Absolutely!  Clean, exciting and seriously intriguing! Loved it!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge

This is one of those books that you either love or you hate.  I'm blown away by such strong opinions that are given under the reviews on Goodreads.  It only goes to show how the design and creation of a woman is under attack today.  I for one - completely loved and appreciated the gems of wisdom, counsel and insight that I found within these pages.  I, along with the ladies in our home group, read this book and did the workbook alongside it at the same time.  It challenged me in deep and personal ways to forgive, heal and change the way I see myself and other women.  I was able to reflect on the woman I am and who I desire to be.  Sure there's some things in Christian books you might always disagree with - and in every chapter of the workbook, you were encouraged to write those down!  It's ok to disagree with some of their ideas or even to not identify with the descriptions of a woman. After all, I never was the little girl to dress up like a princess - I was in torn up jeans digging around in my sandbox!  But the pearls of wisdom I did find within these pages were invaluable to my life today and I'm grateful for the opportunity to read it with some of my closest girlfriends.  

Description: Every little girl has dreams of being swept up into a great adventure, of being the beautiful princess. Sadly, when women grow up, they are often swept up into a life filled merely with duty and demands. Many Christian women are tired, struggling under the weight of the pressure to be a "good servant," a nurturing caregiver, or a capable home manager.

What Wild at Heart did for men, Captivating is doing for women. Setting their hearts free. This groundbreaking book shows readers the glorious design of women before the fall, describes how the feminine heart can be restored, and casts a vision for the power, freedom, and beauty of a woman released to be all she was meant to be. By revealing the core desires every woman shares-to be romanced, to play an irreplaceable role in a grand adventure, and to unveil beauty-John and Stasi Eldredge invite women to recover their feminine hearts, created in the image of an intimate and passionate God. Further, they encourage men to discover the secret of a woman's soul and to delight in the beauty and strength women were created to offer.

Rating: *****

Recommend: HIGHLY!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Sister by Rosamund Lupton

I had a really difficult time getting into the groove of this book.  After talking with my friend Debbie who loaned it to me and my husband Jason, I came to the conclusion that it was very frustrating to me to read the narrative from the older sister Bee constantly talking to her dead sister Tess and it always being a one-sided conversation.  Because I never really got to know Tess, I really didn't have any attachment toward her or care about her murder or pregnancy.  I had no problem reading a chapter and then picking it up weeks later to read another one.  This book really dragged on and on for me.  I'm sure that seems surprising to most of you who have read it, because it's a very highly rated piece of fiction - but I just couldn't get into it.  The last chapter did end fantastically, but overall it's not one I could easily recommend to others.  Shoot, cause I really wanted to like it!

Description: When her mom calls to tell her that Tess, her younger sister, is missing, Bee returns home to London on the first flight. She expects to find Tess and give her the usual lecture, the bossy big sister scolding her flighty baby sister for taking off without letting anyone know her plans. Tess has always been a free spirit, an artist who takes risks, while conservative Bee couldn’t be more different. Bee is used to watching out for her wayward sibling and is fiercely protective of Tess (and has always been a little stern about her antics). But then Tess is found dead, apparently by her own hand.

Bee is certain that Tess didn’t commit suicide. Their family and the police accept the sad reality, but Bee feels sure that Tess has been murdered. Single-minded in her search for a killer, Bee moves into Tess’s apartment and throws herself headlong into her sister’s life—and all its secrets.

Though her family and the police see a grieving sister in denial, unwilling to accept the facts, Bee uncovers the affair Tess was having with a married man and the pregnancy that resulted, and her difficulty with a stalker who may have crossed the line when Tess refused his advances. Tess was also participating in an experimental medical trial that might have gone very wrong. As a determined Bee gives her statement to the lead investigator, her story reveals a predator who got away with murder—and an obsession that may cost Bee her own life.

A thrilling story of fierce love between siblings, Sister is a suspenseful and accomplished debut with a stunning twist.

Rating: *** (3 stars only cause the ending brought it up from a 2!)

Recommend: Nah.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Nobody's Child by Austin Boyd

I was deeply honored to be contacted by Austin Boyd and offered a copy of his book Nobody's Child, book one from his new series The Pandora Files.  I'd already had it on my "to-read" list with Goodreads and thought the concept sounded intriguing and original.

I had no idea when I first added the book to my TBR list, that it was in fact a Christian book.  I hate to be so honest, but I've read so much cheesy Christian fiction that I would have probably intentionally overlooked this one if it was flashing "Christian fiction" anywhere near it. GAH! I hate feeling that way about Christian fiction!  But let me tell you, when I finally DO come across a well-written piece of fiction that challenges me, inspires me and moves me the way Nobody's Child does, I seriously shout my praises from the rooftops!!! And anyone who I've been in contact with over the last month as I've been reading it (yes, I'm terribly slow reader), has heard of my love for Austin Boyd's Nobody's Child - from my co-workers, to my family, to all the friends in our home group.

And please excuse me as I gush for a minute more - but this man KNOWS what he's talking about when he writes.  As a hugely accomplished and well-educated man, it's comforting to know that when a author writes about something, they actually know what they're talking about.  Do you get what I'm saying?  There's nothing more irritating than a author who pretends to know what they're talking about and makes it up as they go.  Austin Boyd has published award winning poetry and dozens of technical articles and papers during his career as a Navy pilot, was a NASA astronaut finalist, and a spacecraft engineer.  As if that's not enough accomplishments for one person in a lifetime, he's employed as a CEO for Inergi Inc, an engineering and design firm and works with a crisis pregnancy center in Huntsville, AL. Are you kidding me?!

I find it extremely refreshing to read a fiction novel from a Christian perspective that touches on bioethics, through a personal and touching story as this one.  I quickly found myself emotionally invested in Laura Ann McGhee's struggle to fight for her family inheritance, and yet still hold true to who she was and her values. There were many times Austin could have comprised Laura Ann's character in her relationship with Ian and because he did not I enjoyed it that much more. 

Austin Boyd will be added to my favorite Christian (but not religious!) author list to join the ranks of Francine Rivers, Gina Holmes and Frank Peretti!  I'm looking forward to checking out more from Austin Boyd, specifically his recent work, H2O which also looks very good!

Description: Nobody’s Child sweeps you into a world where unprecedented choices never intended by heaven lead to unintended consequences never before seen on earth.

Meet… Laura Ann McGehee—Determined to honor her father’s dying request, the young West Virginia woman will do whatever it takes to save the family farm, including using the one remaining financial resource she has—her body.

Sophia McQuistion—Thanks to the unusual sacrifice of a woman she has never met, she carries the child she could never conceive.

Ian Stewart—In Laura Ann’s time of need, he’s more than just a close friend. He is a source of grace, a man who loves Laura Ann through her many trials.

When unusual circumstances place Sophia’s baby in Laura Ann’s care, Laura Ann is now the virgin mother of her own biological son. The media call him “Nobody’s Child.” But somebody wants him badly enough to steal the baby. Weaving together bioethics and faith, Nobody’s Child dramatizes a future that is already upon us with consequences we can no longer avoid

Rating: *****

Recommend: Absolutely! I'd recommend to any and all readers!

**Note: Even though I was given a free copy of Nobody's Child, I'm always honest with my reviews regardless of whether the author reads it or not. If I did not enjoy an ARC, trust me - you'll know. ;-)

New Bookshelf!

I've had PILES of books stacked up in a corner of our bedroom forever and have needed a bookcase that would keep them from getting all dusty and looking super cluttered, BUT at the same time fit in this little tiny corner of the room without looking overcrowded.

My inlaws bought us this beautiful corner hutch for our bedroom to use as a bookcase!

Isn't it beautiful?!
Here's a pic of it with all my lovely books inside...color coded of course!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Best of Me by Nicholas Sparks

It was a productive and yet relaxing 3 day weekend! And one thing I for sure wanted to check off my to-do list was to finish The Best of Me by Nicholas Sparks.  I am a HUGE fan of NS and I've read every single one of his books, but this one just shyly missed the mark for me.  And a brief heads up, there's a bit of a spoiler in this review, but like most NS books it's fairly predictable anyway so does that REALLY count as a "spoiler"?

I love a good romance story mixed in with a bit of suspense, which is true of all of his novels, but this one also added the issue of infidelity.  And as much as I may love the characters and even feel for the situations they may be in - I just can't justify a situation where cheating on your spouse is an ok thing.  Isn't the goal of every writer is that their reader can identify with the characters?  Well this where I take it too personal and I just can't identify or go there in my head.  I too, like anyone else out there, have had a first love back in high school.  And a book like this takes you back to all those old feelings and memories.  And for me, those memories and feelings are best left in the past and not brought to the forefront of my mind where I'm left wondering, "what if?" 

The concept just didn't grab me and I'm bummed that this isn't one I'll be raving to all my friends about.  Marriage is too often cheapened in this day and age and one's own selfishness is too often the priority, leaving the families behind, broken and hurting.  I was disappointed in Amanda and some of the decisions she made. Life is hard and terrible things happen to good people, but it's not a free pass to do whatever you want.  I like this quote a friend of mine posted the other day, "We are not who we are because of what's been done to us. We are who we are because of how we choose to respond."

Bummer, hopefully better luck next fall.

Description: THE BEST OF ME is the heart-rending story of two small-town former high school sweethearts from opposite sides of the tracks. Now middle-aged, they've taken wildly divergent paths, but neither has lived the life they imagined . . . and neither can forget the passionate first love that forever altered their world. When they are both called back to their hometown for the funeral of the mentor who once gave them shelter, they will be forced to confront the choices each has made, and ask whether love can truly rewrite the past.

Rating: ***

Recommend: I think I'm incapable of not recommending a Nicholas Sparks book, but this one would definitely come with a disclaimer. ;-)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

New Year, New Goals, New Books

It's time for me to get off my lazy-iPad-addicted-arse and pick up some new reading material!!

Right now, I'm reading The Best of Me by Nicholas Sparks.  I started it on my way home from Seattle after visiting for Christmas break.  Unfortunately, I had little time to escape away into some reading (ahem, unlike my sister Kati), so it wasn't until the flight home that I was able to crack this baby open. 

I love me some Sparks ;-)

Speaking of new beginnings, the hubbs has decided he's going to get in some serious reading while he's got a couple months of down time before cutting season begins.  On the flight home, he also cracked open a new book (Frankenstein by Mary Shelley) and finished it within 5 days!!!  He thinks he's going to out-read me this year. That's just crazy talk.
As soon as I finish The Best of Me, its on like Donkey-Kong, cause I got my very own copy of Nobody's Child from author Austin Boyd that I plan to devour! Whohoo!!
And for your sheer enjoyment, check out this stop-motion video of books left alone after the bookstore closes.

Be back soon, promise.