Saturday, December 31, 2016

Ender's Game (The Ender Quintet #1) by Orson Scott Card book review

375802 Ender's Game (The Ender Quintet #1)

Andrew "Ender" Wiggin thinks he is playing computer simulated war games; he is, in fact, engaged in something far more desperate. The result of genetic experimentation, Ender may be the military genius Earth desperately needs in a war against an alien enemy seeking to destroy all human life. The only way to find out is to throw Ender into ever harsher training, to chip away and find the diamond inside, or destroy him utterly. Ender Wiggin is six years old when it begins. He will grow up fast.

But Ender is not the only result of the experiment. The war with the Buggers has been raging for a hundred years, and the quest for the perfect general has been underway almost as long. Ender's two older siblings, Peter and Valentine, are every bit as unusual as he is, but in very different ways. While Peter was too uncontrollably violent, Valentine very nearly lacks the capability for violence altogether. Neither was found suitable for the military's purpose. But they are driven by their jealousy of Ender, and by their inbred drive for power. Peter seeks to control the political process, to become a ruler. Valentine's abilities turn more toward the subtle control of the beliefs of commoner and elite alike, through powerfully convincing essays. Hiding their youth and identities behind the anonymity of the computer networks, these two begin working together to shape the destiny of Earth-an Earth that has no future at all if their brother Ender fails.

~from author's web site

My Review:10/10

Oh this book was so good. It hooked me right away and didn't let up, even after the last page. I'll be thinking about this one for a while.

I could have done without the crudeness/language, but when you're dealing with so many adolescent boys, what can you expect? And then throw in battle/competition... I guess it was accurate if nothing else.

Ender is human to the core and so relatable. I made his choices with him. I grieved his losses and loneliness and regrets. And I was put back together with redemption right along side him. His thought processes and strategies are intelligent and fascinating to live vicariously through. And the story itself in all its sci-fi glory is limitless. It's brilliance, yet easy to absorb.

i've heard that this is a story that only gets better with time and can be appreciated anew at any age, so I can't wait to experience this story all over again. The best of the best.


[ the only thing I didn't understand was Peter's character. I feel like I missed something there. He seemed so ruthless and twisted. He manipulated and played his sister, I'm sure of it. I was sure of it all along, that he was setting her up to take the fall for him as Demosthenes, then he would swoop in as Locke and take over. I thought for sure that his childhood threats made right before Ender left would come true (that Peter would convince Valentine that he had changed, she'd let her guard down and Peter would kill Ender, and only then would Valentine remember what he said and realize that she'd been fooled). And then Valentine threatens to expose Peter for the psycho that he is right before she leaves.... and then nothing happens. Apparently he lives another 60 some years, ruling in peace and prosperity on Earth? What? So... he really did change? Or he changed after they left? Was he really messing with them all along and never actually meant his threats as he always claimed? This didn't sit quite right with me. His character had me anxious the ENTIRE book and then didn't seem resolved.]

Monday, December 26, 2016

For the Record (Ozark Mountain) by Regina Jennings book review


For the Record (Ozark Mountain Romance #3)

Jennings Offers Another Delightful Blend of History and Romance
Betsy Huckabee might be a small-town girl, but she has big-city dreams. Writing for her uncle's newspaper will never lead to independence, and the bigger newspapers don't seem interested in the Hart County news. Trying a new approach, Betsy pens a romanticized serial for the ladies' pages, and the new deputy provides the perfect inspiration for her submissions. She'd be horrified if he read her breathless descriptions of him, but these articles are for a newspaper far away. No one in Pine Gap will ever know.
Deputy Joel Puckett didn't want to leave Texas, but this job in tiny Pine Gap is his only shot at keeping his badge. With masked marauders riding every night, his skills and patience are tested, but even more challenging is the sassy journalist lady chasing him.

My Review: 9.5/10

Fantastic as always! This book was such a page turner that I've already read it twice- once because I had to know what happened and couldn't put it down, and now a second time to really savor and appreciate the story.

It was a little odd for me for Betsy to be our heroine. She was a rascally child and I blinked and she's all grown up. Ah but such is life. And though I don't really remember him at all, I thought it was really cool that two worlds collided by bringing Joel Puckett into this story. Now I'll have to go back and reread those stories so I can appreciate the depth they add to this novel.

Betsy is such a unique character. She is clever and funny and brave and assertive. Definitely someone you want to be friends with. I loved her determination to make her own way. And the predicaments she gets herself into had me laughing out loud. This book is a perfect blend of sassiness and warmth. Highly recommended!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor's Journey Into Christian Faith by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield book review


The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor's Journey Into Christian Faith

Rosaria, by the standards of many, was living a very good life. She had a tenured position at a large university in a field for which she cared deeply. She owned two homes with her partner, in which they provided hospitality to students and activists that were looking to make a difference in the world. There, her partner rehabilitated abandoned and abused dogs. In the community, Rosaria was involved in volunteer work. At the university, she was a respected advisor of students and her department’s curriculum. And then, in her late 30s, Rosaria encountered something that turned her world upside down—the idea that Christianity, a religion that she had regarded as problematic and sometimes downright damaging, might be right about who God was, an idea that flew in the face of the people and causes that she most loved. What follows is a story of what she describes as a “train wreck” at the hand of the supernatural. These are her secret thoughts about those events, written as only a reflective English professor could.

"Conversion put me in a complicated and comprehensive chaos. I sometimes wonder, when I hear other Christians pray for the salvation of the “lost,” if they realize that this comprehensive chaos is the desired end of such prayers. Often, people asked me to describe the “lessons” that I learned from this experience. I can’t. It was too traumatic. Sometimes in crisis, we don’t really learn lessons. Sometimes the result is simpler and more profound: sometimes our character is simply transformed." —Rosaria Butterfield

My Review: 9/10

I've been wanting to read this book for a long time but it wasn't easy to track down through my library.

It was very insightful and I'm so grateful that Ms. Butterfield had the courage to share her testimony despite there being some painful backlash from people she cared about.

To be honest, her account as a former lesbian confirmed some opinions I had- namely that as group the LGBT community is no more accepting or tolerant than the religious community. They have a reputation for being inclusive, but what I read was prejudices against Christians, open mockery of Christian beliefs, disdain and feelings of superiority, and a hard heart against people of faith, being unwilling to listen and have an open mind. Accepting only those who believe as you do is not acceptance.

I know that there is a lot of hate out there. And some people try to do what is right in wrong ways. We all do from time to time. But "homophobe" has become a label (more like a slur) used to shut conversation down. This is a particular pet peeve of mine as it is inaccurate (the vast majority of people labeled this way do not have any fear at all of homosexual people) and hypocritically hateful.

The saying goes that the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and so, the loudest, most obnoxious protestors get the most attention and unfortunately can end up representing a group of people that never asked for it. The trouble is, that as Christians we've been taxed with loving people and loving God. When you love someone, you don't help them hurt themselves. You don't enable them. God teaches us through the Bible that homosexuality is sexual sin, though perhaps no more weighty than any other form. As such, it drives a wedge between a person and their heavenly Father, and bleeds into other areas of life. As a Christian, trying to love people and our God, how can we encourage and support something that takes people away from Him and ultimately hurts them? That's a position that holds no single right answer. I think the right way to handle it varies from person to person. I felt that Ms. Butterfield's story gave me a new appreciation for unorthodox ways and for patience and gentleness.

However, her LGBT background does not dominate the book. This book ran the gamut, covering a lot of information and a lot of years. At times, it seemed to go off track into dissertations on religious beliefs or practices (possibly due to her background as a professor). But the majority of it was a personal history and I appreciated her transparency. Her struggles and pain were relatable and her triumphs inspiring. There was still a layer of pride to a lot of the things she relates, probably emphasized in audio book format (she reads VERY emphatically). But thinking our own way is the best way, if not the only way, is common among human beings and (hopefully) makes me more aware of this tendency in myself.

I highly recommend this book as it is thought provoking, challenging, and opens channels for communication.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Life Just Got Real by Sadie Robertson book review

Life Just Got Real

Life Just Got Real

This book is written by Sadie Robertson (of Duck Dynasty and Dancing with the Stars fame) about a teen whose life is uprooted when her father passes away and her mother moves the family to Nashville, TN, from Lousiana. As if adjusting to city life and a new school wasn't enough, A.J. Smith is tossed into the life of Kate Kelly, a wealthy type-A personality who manages her life like it's a career. Kate has a reality show deal in the works and New Girl A.J. is not part of the plan. But God has plans of His own and before they know it, their very different lives are intertwined.

My Review: 7/10

Teens will probably enjoy this book even more. This was a cute read. Though I read a lot of YA, I tend to avoid ones that are centered primarily in the halls of high school. But I was intrigued by the author.

This book was a quick read but still had depth. I'm probably too removed from the target age to understand "frenemies" or why you'd deal with manipulative lying drama queens, because I'd have blown Lauren off from the first. I did like that AJ didn't waste time worrying or analyzing over rumors, but confronted people directly. And I loved the relationship building, particularly with God.

Things wrapped up a little too nicely at the end for me. I didn't find it realistic. And I was surprised that it was already over. I felt like a lot more should have/could have happened. It felt like there was still more to tell.

I would definitely recommend this to teens and young adults.There are not enough books for that age group that model healthy relationships and growing your faith in practical ways.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Harry Potter inspired wizard wands Giveaway!

I got started making these wands for my daughter's harry potter themed birthday party- they were part of the decorations/props, used in the kids' "charms" class and then eventually party favors as they went home in the goodie bags.

It was easily the most investment with all the materials to make a variety of wands and it was also easily the most fun DIY project that I did for her party. And I did a lot: floating candles, floating Hogwarts acceptance letters, house banners, potions bottles, an owlery, honeydukes, and platform 9 3/4, just to name a few. Thank you Pinterest!

Anyway, to recoup some of cost, and to save some other busy moms some time, I sold the leftover wands which were such a HUGE hit at her party. They went like gangbusters.

Fast forward a year later: I've sold over 1200 wands, introduced new themes like Hogwarts House colors, Elsa/Frozen inspired colors, and wedding inspired colors, and gone international. Shout out United Kingdom! <3 p="">
I've recently launched a Facebook page to share new styles, answer questions, receive feedback and really just share the journey.

To that end, I've set up a giveaway for a set of wizard wands so you can check them out yourselves, because no matter how hard I try, the pictures just never do them justice (as my reviews seem to agree)!

Enjoy! :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, June 10, 2016

The Beauty of Darkness (The Remnant Chronicles, #3) book review

 The Beauty of Darkness (The Remnant Chronicles, #3)

The Beauty of Darkness (The Remnant Chronicles #3)

Lia and Rafe have escaped Venda and the path before them is winding and dangerous - what will happen now? This third and final book in The Remnant Chronicles is not to be missed.

My review: 9.5/10

This book was amazing. Everything I hoped it would be and more. I highly recommend re-reading the first two books though. There were a lot of references to people and events that happened in the previous books (which I had not read since they came out- over a year and two years ago) that I was hazy on at best.

I also wish there had been a complete History of Gaudrel, Song of Venda, and Last Words of Morrighan (if I remember those titles correctly) as an appendix instead of just the pieces woven throughout the novel. Sometimes I needed the context, but more so, I found the world building fascinating and would have loved to read those histories in their entirety to get the full picture the way that Lia did.

Without giving away spoilers, I'll just say that the relationships were realistic and I appreciated the resolutions. Characters stay true to themselves and are perfectly flawed.

I loved the way that the plot was built. I loved the way that the final threat met his end. It was perfectly done.


The only complaint I had is that Rafe cheated with Lia. I don't care what the circumstances are. If you are promised to another and haven't ended it yet, have the integrity and respect enough for everyone involved to WAIT. I didn't find it romantic. It was totally unncessary. And I worry about what YA readers will take away from it.

Because the world isn't split between Rafes and Mikaels. People change and grow. They allow their fleeting emotions to rule their decisions. They change their minds. And rarely is there a Kaden waiting in the wings to immediately mend your broken heart.

Monday, May 30, 2016

The Magnolia Duchess (Gulf Coast Chronicles, #3) book review

 The Magnolia Duchess (Gulf Coast Chronicles, #3)

The Magnolia Duchess (Gulf Coast Chronicles #3)

Fiona Lanier is the only woman in the tiny Gulf Coast settlement of Navy Cove. While her shipbuilding family races to fill the demand for American ships brought by the War of 1812, Fiona tries to rescue her brother who was forced into service by the British Navy.

Lieutenant Charlie Kincaid has been undercover for six months, obtaining information vital to the planned British invasion of New Orleans. When a summer storm south of Mobile Bay wrecks his ship and scatters the crew, Charlie suffers a head injury, ultimately collapsing in the arms of a beautiful mermaid who seems eerily familiar. As Charlie's memory returns in agonizing jags and crashes, he and Fiona discover that falling in love may be as inevitable as the tide. But when political loyalties begin to collide, they'll each have to decide where their true heart lies.

My review: 10/10


They say to never judge a book by its cover. And this is why. Though the cover is lovely, this book is so much more than lovely.

It was such a perfect blend of heaping doses of history, adventure, realistic, relatable characters, challenges and growth in faith, and love that I couldn't put it down. And felt the urge to read it all over again, immediately upon finishing it, savoring rather than devouring, this time.

The history was clearly painstakingly researched, and the effect was that you really felt like you were there. It was so fascinating. The changing view points, which typically annoys me, made total sense due to the war setting of the novel.

The adventure was larger than life, reminiscent of Bible stories. And there were several major characters' stories intertwined and woven together despite vastly different heritages. Their personalities and reactions to situations were very human, unapologetically so. I expected Fiona's character to fall apart several times and no matter what, no matter how things looked and, I believe, no matter how things could have gone, she always pushed on. She always endured. Definitely the kind of heroine I want to read about.

I appreciated that her fire, intelligence, skills, and penchant for men's pants didn't make her completely devoid of female sensibilities (particularly those of the time period) like crying, feeling frustrated and talked down to, worries that she wasn't taken seriously, and just naive judgment sometimes.

I only imagine what it was like to live through those times. But I believe the only way to emerge intact would be to place your hope firmly in the Lord, as atested to in this book. It was so well done. Really, all of this book was so well done. It was just so good. Seriously, stop reading this review and get your hands on a copy.

Monday, May 23, 2016

No Other Will Do by Karen Witemeyer book review

 No Other Will Do

No Other Will Do

Men are optional. That's the credo Emma Chandler's suffragette aunts preached and why she started a successful women's colony in Harper's Station, Texas. But when an unknown assailant tries repeatedly to drive them out, Emma admits they might need a man after all. A man who can fight--and she knows just the one.

Malachi Shaw finally earned the respect he craved by becoming an explosives expert for the railroad. Yet when Emma's plea arrives, he bolts to Harper's Station to repay the girl who once saved his life. Only she's not a girl any longer. She's a woman with a mind of her own and a smile that makes a man imagine a future he doesn't deserve.

As the danger intensifies, old feelings grow and deepen, but Emma and Mal will need more than love to survive.

My review: 8/10

I enjoyed this book. There were parts that had me laughing and smiling and were just what I had been hoping for.

I don't usually like blatant women's movement stories during this time period because it usually seems too progessive and unnatural for the time; it's not usually believable for me. But this one was different. The attitudes and struggles felt authentic. And there was a lot of originality; I don't recall having read a historical novel involving an explosives expert before nor a full women's colony.

The story reminds me of an old western, so naturally there is gun slinging drama and face offs that just aren't my taste. But it didn't overwhelm the story.

My favorite parts of the story were actually the beginning/backstories. I could have read a whole novel about a kid's survival and what shapes him into the man he becomes. It was very well done.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

An Elegant Facade (Hawthorne House #2) by Kristi Ann Hunter book review

 An Elegant Facade (Hawthorne House, #2)

An Elegant Facade (Hawthorne House #2)

Lady Georgina Hawthorne has worked tirelessly to seal her place as the Incomparable for her debut season. At her first London ball, she hopes to snag the attention of an earl.
With money and business connections, but without impeccable bloodlines, Colin McCrae is invited everywhere but accepted nowhere. When he first encounters the fashionable Lady Georgina, he's irritated by his attraction to a woman who concerns herself only with status and appearance.
What Colin doesn't know is that Georgina's desperate social aspirations are driven by the shameful secret she harbors. Association with Colin McCrae is not part of Georgina's plan, but as their paths continue to cross, they both must decide if the realization of their dreams is worth the sacrifices they must make.


My review: 10/10

This book was phenomenal. I think I liked it even better than the first book, and that's saying a lot. How exciting to have a new author to love and anticipate!

There was a lot of overlap between the two books. There is certainly good reason for it, and I probably would have found it more interesting if I had just recently finished the first book.

The themes of faith and belonging and purpose are more subtle for most of the book until they really pick up at the end, which I found realistic. We often try to relegate God to the background until we realize how lost we've gotten ourselves, don't we?

The struggles were brutally honest at times and the thinking, though flawed was very human, very relatable. Each character's voice was distinct and the romance was not too over-the-top dramatic.

I highly recommend this book and cannot wait for Ms. Hunter's future books.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

A Haven on Orchard Lane by Lawana Blackwell book review

 A Haven on Orchard Lane

A Haven on Orchard Lane

Much-Loved Lawana Blackwell Delivers Another Charming Victorian-Era Tale

In difficult circumstances, Charlotte Ward, once a famed stage actress, tries to restart her career--only to experience disaster. Against her better judgment, her estranged daughter, Rosalind, comes to her mother's rescue and moves her to a quiet English coastal village.
Charlotte is grateful to get to know Rosalind after years apart. As one who has regrets about her own romantic past, it's a joy for Charlotte to see love blossom for her daughter. For Rosalind, however, it's time away from teaching--and now she must care for the mother who wasn't there for her. And what could be more complicated than romance?
Together, mother and daughter discover that healing is best accomplished when they focus less on themselves and more on the needs of others.

My Review: 8.5/10

I was SO excited to get this book! I have waited such a long time for a new Lawana Blackwell novel. And it doesn't disappoint.

There is a lot of leaning on God (and learning to trust Him) in this book, which I loved. There is a little intrigue and a lot of forgiveness and God-driven purpose. I respect that Ms. Blackwell does not feel the need to tie up every loose end and doesn't have every character change for the better, no matter the effort and prayer involved. It makes it easier to relate to.

The only criticism that I have is that the mother-daughter relationship seemed to have been resolved very quickly considering the circumstances. I mean, I'm glad it didn't drag on unnecessarily. It's just that I really felt for Rosalind and didn't think I'd forget as easily. Children desperately desire relationships with their parents, and will forgive them almost anything. But the effects still last- trust issues, bitterness, jealousy, insecurities, whatever forms the abandonment takes. So to have Rosalind just immediately jump into a healthy and happy relationship with her mother alienated me a bit as reader. But just a bit.

From the way it ended, I don't think we can expect this one to turn into a series, but I sure hope this means there will be more of her books to look forward to in the near future. There are just none like her.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Reluctant Duchess (Ladies of the Manor #2) by Roseanna M. White book review

The Reluctant Duchess (Ladies of the Manor, #2)

The Reluctant Duchess (Ladies of the Manor #2)

Lady Rowena Kinnaird may be the heiress to a Highland earldom, but she has never felt good enough—not for her father, not for the man she thought she’d marry, not for God. But after a shocking attack, she’s willing to be forever an outcast if it means escaping Loch Morar and the men who have jeopardized her life.

Brice Myerston, the Duke of Nottingham, has suddenly found himself in possession of a rare treasure his enemies are prepared to kill for. While Brice has never been one to shy away from manor-born ladies, the last thing he needs is the distraction of his neighbor, Lady Rowena, who finds herself in a desperate situation. But when the moody Earl of Lochabar tries to trap Brice into marrying Rowena, Brice finds he’s not as opposed to the idea as he expected to be.

Rowena wanted to escape the Highlands, but she’s reluctant to resort to marrying a notorious flirt just to gain his English home. And when she learns that Brice is mixed up in some kind of questionable business with a stolen treasure, she ’fears she’s about to end up directly in the path of everything she was trying to avoid.

My Review: 5/10

I loved the beginning of this book so much. Having not read the first book, it was a little confusing at first, with all the nicknames and titles and changing view points. But it picked up so quickly that I found myself doing the "just one more page... chapter" dance til 2 am when I finally felt I could pause and sleep.

Things were starting to get good. I liked that the book dealt with real issues and real fears and that Rowena was honest in situations most people might plead the 5th in.

Then things started to shift. Brice went from being patient and understanding to over the top doting. And Rowena responded in anger and resentment that he apparently thought her incompetent. What? You are suffering the after effects of recent abuse, frequently being overwhelmed by fear, and when he tries to be sensitive to you, you're offended and assert your independence?! It was like she had a personality disorder.

Both of them really started to bug me- Brice with his flawless patience and Rowena with her Proud Daughter of the Chief vs. Insecure Dowdy Victim back and forth. And then things went from bad to worse. Rowena embraced insecurities and stupidity.

That was the last straw for me. She was warned about dangerous people and yet... she was never on her guard, ate up everything they said, aligned herself with them and then started covering for them. Within the space of minutes. I could see how this was going to play out- her insecurities would breed jealousy and desire for Brice. She would be duped. She would be threatened. Their true nature would be revealed, he would save her, convince her of his love and all would end happily. I don't mind predictability. But the characters became insufferable to me in their naivete and gullible-ness.

And despite it starting out SO good, at about 50% of the way through, I was too angry to finish it.

I wouldn't recommend this book but the beginning gives me hope for this authors potential in future books. I might even check out the first one in the series, since Brook seems intelligent and like a fighter and that's the kind of person I want to read about.

Friday, March 11, 2016

At Love's Bidding (Ozark Mountain Romance #2) by Regina Jennings book review

At Love's Bidding (Ozark Mountain Romance #2)

At Love's Bidding (Ozark Mountain Romance #2)

After helping her grandfather at their Boston auction house, Miranda Wimplegate discovers she's accidentally sold a powerful family's prized portrait to an anonymous bidder. Desperate to appease the furious family, her grandfather tracks it to the Missouri Ozarks and makes an outlandish offer to buy the local auction house if they promise not to sell anything until he arrives.

Upon their arrival, however, they discover their new business doesn't deal in fine antiques, but in livestock. And its manager, ruggedly handsome Wyatt Ballentine, is frustrated to discover his fussy new bosses don't know a thing about the business he's single-handedly kept afloat. Faced with more cattle than they can count--but no mysterious painting--Miranda and Wyatt form an unlikely but charged partnership to try and salvage a bad situation getting worse.

My Review: 8/10
I love Regina Jennings and her writing style. I wait all year for her books. They are guaranteed to make me laugh out loud and smile stupidly to myself. This book is no exception. Elmer (and his Lady) and Betsy were hysterical. Intelligent and sassy, but still warm.

Having zero experience with auctioneering and the midwest, I had a little trouble envisioning some of what was described, but I learned a lot too.

For me, Miranda and Wyatt's story just didn't hit me as hard as previous stories. I just didn't feel that chemistry with them. The only thing I can really put my finger on is that I didn't like that they ended up having to conceal things from each other. I'm glad it wasn't blown out of proportion, the way that so many other stories are, but it made me anxious while I was reading it, fearing the worst.

I still highly recommend this book. Ms. Jennings does an amazing job at bringing unique characters to life. Trust me, you want to know these people.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Atlantia by Ally Condie book review

17731926 Atlantia

Can you hear Atlantia breathing?

For as long as she can remember, Rio has dreamt of the sand and sky Above—of life beyond her underwater city of Atlantia. But in a single moment, all her plans for the future are thwarted when her twin sister, Bay, makes an unexpected decision, stranding Rio Below. Alone, ripped away from the last person who knew Rio’s true self—and the powerful siren voice she has long hidden—she has nothing left to lose.

Guided by a dangerous and unlikely mentor, Rio formulates a plan that leads to increasingly treacherous questions about her mother’s death, her own destiny, and the complex system constructed to govern the divide between land and sea. Her life and her city depend on Rio to listen to the voices of the past and to speak long-hidden truths.

My Review: 6/10

I had such high expectations for this book. The beginning really draws you in. And it was such a cool idea- mixing mythology with dystopian challenges. There was some mystery, but I had trouble really envisioning the setting, and therefore losing myself in the story. Some things were never really explained (like the connection between the sirens and the bats, etc.) so I was left with a lot of questions and skepticism.

The relationships were a little off for me, too. I didn't understand why Bay (and her mother, and later her aunt, for that matter) didn't just explain the circumstances, instead of keeping Rio in the dark and making decisions without her. But then, if anyone had communicated with her, there wouldn't have been much of a story. But, that kind of set up really falls flat for me. I'm not into books that are built up around The Big Misunderstanding or The Lie by Omission or similar veins, if that's the only thing holding the storyline together.

I didn't believe the romance(s) and felt like the story would have been a bit stronger without going there.

I'm just glad it wasn't made into a trilogy.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

It Happened at the Fair (It Happened at the Fair #1) by Deeanne Gist book review

It Happened at the Fair

It Happened at the Fair (It Happened at the Fair #1)

Gambling everything—including the family farm—Cullen McNamara travels to the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair with his most recent invention. But the noise in the fair’s Machinery Hall makes it impossible to communicate with potential buyers. In an act of desperation, he hires Della Wentworth, a teacher of the deaf, to tutor him in the art of lip-reading.

The young teacher is reluctant to participate, and Cullen has trouble keeping his mind on his lessons while intently watching her lips. Like the newly invented Ferris wheel, he is caught in a whirl between his girl back home, his dreams as an inventor, and his unexpected attraction to his new tutor. Can he keep his feet on the ground, or will he be carried away?

My Review: 10/10

Excellent book. Not only was this another 1893 World Fair novel jam packed with history (which I LOVE), but it featured two exceptional main characters: a woman who had good reason to be filled with mistrust, suspicion, and secrecy, who second guessed herself when appropriate, protected herself, apologized when she should, and was capable of changing her mind. And a man who was sincere in both word and deed, and respected himself and others (particularly women). A man who stays faithful to the one he's commited to, even when his interest starts to fade and shift. A man who works very hard to keep his distance from temptation. I respected them both so much.

Seriously, as a reader, I have so much appreciation for an author who gives me characters that I don't have to make excuses for or turn a blind eye to some uncharacteristic or questionable choices.

The story was believable and the characters lovable, with humor and history scattered liberally throughout the pages. My favorite kind of novel.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver book review

Vanishing Girls

Vanishing Girls

New York Times bestselling author Lauren Oliver delivers a gripping story about two sisters inexorably altered by a terrible accident.

Dara and Nick used to be inseparable, but that was before the accident that left Dara's beautiful face scarred and the two sisters totally estranged. When Dara vanishes on her birthday, Nick thinks Dara is just playing around. But another girl, nine-year-old Madeline Snow, has vanished, too, and Nick becomes increasingly convinced that the two disappearances are linked. Now Nick has to find her sister, before it's too late.

In this edgy and compelling novel, Lauren Oliver creates a world of intrigue, loss, and suspicion as two sisters search to find themselves, and each other.

My Review: 10/10

Lauren Oliver is a genius. A genius. This book is a masterpiece. It is a work of art. It is so... AHHHH you just never see it coming. She is the rare type of author that, after not being able to put this book down, I immediately had to reread it when I finished. And it was entirely different the second time. Every time you read this book, you will go deeper, uncovering more layers and a new appreciation for Ms. Oliver's brilliance.

I don't know how she does it. Everything was so well done that I never suspected a thing; it all just fit perfectly.

That being said, I couldn't love it. This book deals with some seriously heavy issues and it doesn't leave you feeling good which is the only kind of book I can truly love. Lauren Oliver, I implore you, use your powers for good! Give me another Delirium, another good conquering evil, another innocent love. Give me triumph, give me weightless, give me unbroken. I beg of you.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Lady Maybe by Julie Klassen book review

Lady Maybe

Lady Maybe

In the new novel by the three-time Christy Award-winning author of The Maid of Fairbourne Hall, a woman’s startling secrets lead her into unexpected danger and romance in Regency England… 
One final cry…“God almighty, help us!” and suddenly her world shifted violently, until a blinding collision scattered her mind and shook her bones. Then, the pain. The freezing water. And as all sensation drifted away, a hand reached for hers, before all faded into darkness…

Now she has awakened as though from some strange, suffocating dream in a warm and welcoming room she has never seen before, and tended to by kind, unfamiliar faces. But not all has been swept away. She recalls fragments of the accident. She remembers a baby. And a ring on her finger reminds her of a lie.

But most of all, there is a secret. And in this house of strangers she can trust no one but herself to keep it.

My review: 10/10

This book was excellent! I already can't wait to read it again!

Some of the plot lines were clear to me a little sooner than intended, but that didn't ruin anything. And others... I did not see coming at all. This is the kind of story that is so riveting and changing, that it's all you can do to hold on til the end.

For me, I would have liked to have had God more involved in the story, not just the end. It would have been great to have Hannah lean on Him when she was in up to her neck and had no idea what to do. And then to have her just sit back and watch Him work. But then, how true it often is in our own lives. How often do we put the pressure on ourselves to know the best choices, to make the right decisions and have everything planned out, to fix the messes we make for ourselves... and only turn to him when we've tried to handle it ourselves and are now out of options? As it was, I felt the message was strong and true.

There will be readers who will not like this book because of the immorality it addresses. But then, those are likely the same people that think to be Christian is to be above sin. This was the best kind of Christian story: one full of forgiveness and being made new in Christ. It did not flaunt sin, but showed a realistic and often painful portrait of how we invite it into our lives, with the ultimate message being that God redeems. Beautiful.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Mardan's Mark by Kathrese McKee book review

Mardan's Mark (Mardan's Mark, #1)

Mardan's Mark (Mardan's Mark #1)

Death is not their deepest fear.

Abducted by pirates and taken behind enemy lines across the Great Gulf, Princess Srilani is determined to save her sisters and younger brother, the crown prince, from captivity.

She convinces their caretaker, Aldan, and his brother slaves to share the perilous journey home. This ragtag group of unlikely heroes sets out on a quest — pursued by cutthroat pirates, merciless priests, and marauding soldiers — to return the heir to his kingdom before war breaks out.

In this epic adventure fantasy, Srilani and Aldan risk everything to save a prince and a nation, discovering along the way that death is not their deepest fear.

Mardan’s Mark is the award-winning first book in the Mardan’s Mark series.

My Review: 7.5/10

This book was great. It was recommended to me by the author's assistant based on other books I'd enjoyed (namely, Patrick Carr's novels) and I'm so glad!

This is an epic fantasy story with strong religious themes modeled after Christianity.

I liked that obstacles were met with almost immediately. Enemies were not built up as larger than life, looming like an oppressive evil presence hunting them to the ends of the earth, like some other books. This was good for keeping my stress levels down without killing off the suspense; their goals were larger than individual threats and I felt like that was more realistic.

Bearing in mind that this is fantasy, the way Christianity and God were portrayed didn't bother me. I didn't feel like anything was too off the mark. And I feel like some of the situations in the book are good for discussion.

The relationships were obvious from the get go, but I'm okay with that. And some of the surprise plot points were clear from the beginning as well, but that's alright too. I don't need to be taken by surprise to enjoy a story.

The things I didn't like were minor. I didn't think the royal children were as wise as they were built up to be. For example, choosing fake names from the get-go was a great idea. They should have kept up that pretense for the entire novel, if you ask me. They should have guarded their secrets, their identities, their skills a lot more carefully. I felt like they were way too trusting, almost begging to confide in others. And some of their problems were resolved too easily for me to find it entirely believeable.

On the whole, though, this was a great read. I highly recommend it, especially to those who like epic adventure stories about a lost heir fighting to reclaim their throne and unite warring kingdoms.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Inhuman (Fetch #1) by Kat Falls book review

Inhuman (Fetch, #1)

Inhuman (Fetch #1)

In a world ravaged by mutation, a teenage girl must travel into the forbidden Savage Zone to recover lost artifacts or her father’s life is forfeit.

America has been ravaged by a war that has left the eastern half of the country riddled with mutation. Many of the people there exhibit varying degrees of animal traits. Even the plantlife has gone feral.

Crossing from west to east is supposed to be forbidden, but sometimes it’s necessary. Some enter the Savage Zone to provide humanitarian relief. Sixteen-year-old Lane’s father goes there to retrieve lost artifacts—he is a Fetch. It’s a dangerous life, but rewarding—until he’s caught.

Desperate to save her father, Lane agrees to complete his latest job. That means leaving behind her life of comfort and risking life and limb—and her very DNA—in the Savage Zone. But she’s not alone. In order to complete her objective, Lane strikes a deal with handsome, roguish Rafe. In exchange for his help as a guide, Lane is supposed to sneak him back west. But though Rafe doesn’t exhibit any signs of “manimal” mutation, he’s hardly civilized . . . and he may not be trustworthy.

My Review: 4/10

This was a poor man's Hunger Games with heavy influences from Divergent, but not really worthy to be mentioned in the same sentence of either.

This book is seriously twisted (bestiality casually referenced for example) and gruesome. What's worse is that it's told from the perspective of a hormone-overloaded, immature, gullible 16 year old girl with a self-righteous God complex who, of course, is so gorgeous that she immediately finds herself at the center of a love triangle. Ugh, if I had to read her stamping her foot and retorting, "I am not!" one more time... I might have gone 'feral' myself. Anything Lane succeeds at is purely by accident.

The plot and it's twists were so predictable, they could be seen from miles away- every last one of them.

It is a bit of a page turner, after a while. It seriously took me years to move past the first couple of chapters because they just didn't draw me in. And Lane was already annoying and naive to me. But after that, I couldn't put it down until about half way through, when it abruptly got a lot more violent and a lot more trite and I had trouble slogging through it again, until about the last 20% when I gave up and skimmed.

I gave it two stars because it was a fairly original idea for a dystopian, as far as I know. But I can't honestly say I'd recommend it to anyone.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Hearts Made Whole (Beacons of Hope #2) book review

Hearts Made Whole (Beacons of Hope, #2)

Hearts Made Whole (Beacons of Hope #2)

After her father’s death, Caroline Taylor has grown confident running the Windmill Point Lighthouse. But in 1865 Michigan, women aren’t supposed to have such roles, so it’s only a matter of time before the lighthouse inspector appoints a new keeper–even though Caroline has nowhere else to go and no other job available to her.

Ryan Chambers is a Civil War veteran still haunted by the horrors of battle. He’s secured the position of lighthouse keeper mostly for the isolation--the chance to hide from his past is appealing. He’s not expecting the current keeper to be a feisty and beautiful woman who’s angry with him for taking her job and for his inability to properly run the light. When his failings endanger others, he and Caroline realize he’s in no shape to run the lighthouse, but he's unwilling to let anyone close enough to help. Caroline feels drawn to this wounded soul, but with both of them relying on that single position, can they look past their loss to a future filled with hope…and possibly love?

My Review: 6/10

I had mixed feelings about this book: disliked about 90% of in increasing amounts and then really loved the last 10%. Or maybe just the epilogue. Usually that would not be enough to sway a 6 star out of me, but that's how strong it was. And it was a message that I felt really needed to be told.

It seemed to me that marriage would be such an easy and obvious solution, that they were going against nature for it to not occur to them and then for them to protest against it. I didn't buy it.

I was annoyed that once again, the characters were "too pretty" and "strikingly handsome despite being dirty." Please.

*slight spoilers*

The drama with Arnie was obvious from the get go, thanks to some not-so-subtle mentions of flashes of anger in his eyes and other things. And even if that weren't the case, why would you EVER consider yoking yourself to that family, knowing what his father was? It just didn't make any sense.

But more than anything, I was disgusted by Tessa. I hated the cattiness and the blatant fighting over a man (stranger). I didn't grow up with a sister, so maybe that kind of thing was actually common, but it just seemed like such a waste, especially when they were now the adults, the parents, to their younger siblings. Desperate times should have solidified their partnership. And how Tessa didn't see the flaw in her own plan was beyond me. The only thing that will make me feel any better is if her story is told next and we get to see her change.

I didn't like the violence/extreme circumstances, which were just too melodramatic for my tastes.

But the redeeming part was the end. I won't give it away, but as much as I didn't like this book, it's worth reading, I think, for the message on priorities, God's power, and relationship with Him.