Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Veterans Day Salute

Bill DeWitt (Shoopette's Dad)
Honorably discharged as Petty Officer 2nd Class (E-5) after four years in the United States Navy -- 1964-1968.

Bill enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1964 and served primarily on the USS America (CV-66), an aircraft carrier. The USS America was attached to Fighter Squadron (VF-33), and Bill served as an Aviation Fire Control Technician (AQF-2). He worked on the electronics that controlled the air-to-air missiles on the F4-B Phantom fighter jet.

The time period when my dad served was the early Vietnam War era. His aircraft carrier was also involved in the rescue effort of a Navy electronic intelligence vessel during the Six-Day War in June, 1967, when the USS Liberty was mistakenly attacked during the Arab-Israeli conflict.
My dad learned as much as he could about electronics in the Navy, and after he was discharged, he used the G.I. Bill to attend college at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. After earning his Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Electrical Engineering, he spent the next 40+ years as a Professional Engineer in various companies and then as a Full Professor of Electrical Engineering Technology at Purdue University.

Orlo Shoop (Shoopette's father-in-law}
U.S. Army, Chief Warrant Office IV, retired after 23 years of service.

After attending Wabash College in Indiana, Orlo entered the U.S. Army in 1971 in the midst of the conflict in Vietnam. While stationed in Hawaii, he graduated with a Bachelor's degree from Chaminade University.
During his career in the U.S. Army, Orlo was stationed at various bases throughout the world including bases in Hawaii; North Carolina; Wurzburg, Germany; Arizona; Georgia, Heidelberg, Germany; and Nebraska. He served in Military Intelligence including being stationed at Headquarters USAREUR - Heidelberg, Germany, during the U.S. Gulf War in the early 1990s. He finished his career at STRATCOM in Bellevue, Nebraska. Beyond that, since he was in Military Intelligence, we can't say anything else -- it's classified. :)
My husband grew up in this Army household and moved at least every three years during his childhood. The motto in the Shoop household was, "Home is where the Army sends you."
After retiring from the Army, Orlo moved his family back home to Indiana. He has spent the last 20 years working for Purdue University in IT/Technical Operations.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

"Annihilation" Review

Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; the second expedition ended in mass suicide; the third expedition in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another. The members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within weeks, all had died of cancer. In Annihilation, the first volume of Jeff VanderMeer's “Southern Reach” trilogy, we join the twelfth expedition.

The group is made up of four women: an anthropologist, a surveyor, a psychologist (the de facto leader), and our narrator – a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain, record all observations of their surroundings and of one another, and – above all – avoid being contaminated by Area X itself.

They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers―they discover a massive topographic anomaly and life forms that surpass understanding―but it's the surprises that came across the border with them and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another that change everything.

My husband's take:

I am a huge fan of Sci-Fi and fantasy books, and I have been for as long as I can remember. But even I must admit that sometimes they can be a bit cookie cutter. The hero finds him/herself in space/a distant land and must conquer the aliens/dragons and save the love interest. Occasionally you get something different, but that really doesn’t happen too often. 

Now don’t get me wrong – I still love reading these types of books even if it is the same basic story over and over. I’m a fan, and there is something to be said for the familiar. 

However, Annihilation is something different. Very different. So different that it is hard for me to put it into a category or even decide if I liked it or not.

The story is of an expedition in Area X. Actually, this is the story of the 12th expedition in the strange area that has been cut off from the rest of America. Each of the previous expeditions all died in very strange ways, so this expedition is treated differently. Four women with varying skill sets enter the zone, completely alienated from the history of the area and each other. They don’t even know each other’s names. With tensions already high, they start to become affected by Area X and slowly descend into madness.

This book is written from the perspective of one of the four women’s journal entries. The author does a fantastic job of painting a picture of the surroundings and giving you a real grasp of the tension among the four women. One of the women is a psychologist who has given them hypnotic suggestions to try to control them without their knowledge. When the narrator figures this out, she immediately tries to figure out why. Each of the women’s mental state decays throughout the novel, which is actually pretty cool. Our main character sees them all start to lose it but can’t figure out if she is going crazy or not. The descriptions of Area X were amazing, and trying to figure out what happened to the area and the previous expeditions was appealing, too.

But even though parts of this story were interesting, I still felt as if it was missing…something. I’m not sure if “missing” is the right word to use here, but it was definitely lacking in story lines and progressions. There didn’t seem to be much of a story arc – just a slow descent into more questions. And each question that was raised seemed to just lead to more questions. There were no answers – none at all. There were lots of little storylines that looked like they might be promising, but they went no further than a few steps and then veered right back onto the path to nowhere.

It doesn’t help that I didn’t realize this was the first book in a trilogy (I should have known. Is it possible for someone to write a book that isn’t part of a trilogy these days?), so the ending was completely unsatisfying. Maybe there would be more of a story arc over the entire trilogy and maybe those questions would get answers eventually. When I did learn it was a trilogy, the biggest question that came to mind was – is this book good enough for me to want to read two more? And like all of the other questions raised in this novel, I really don’t know the answer to that one, either. 

I will give Annihilation ... 3 BookWorms.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from HarperCollins UK/4th Estate Publishing through NetGalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising." 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

"A Worthy Pursuit" Review

A teacher on the run. A bounty hunter in pursuit. Can two enemies learn to trust each other before they both lose what they hold most dear?

Stone Hammond is the best tracker in Texas. He never comes home empty-handed. So when a wealthy railroad investor hires him to find his abducted granddaughter, Stone eagerly accepts.

Charlotte Atherton, former headmistress of Sullivan's Academy for Exceptional Youths, will do anything to keep her charges safe, especially the orphaned girl entrusted to her care. Charlotte promised Lily's mother she'd keep the girl away from her unscrupulous grandfather, and nothing will stop Charlotte from fulfilling that pledge. Not even the handsome bounty hunter with surprisingly honest eyes who comes looking for them.

When Miss Atherton produces documentation that shows her to be Lily's legal guardian, Stone must reevaluate everything he's been led to believe. Is she villain or victim? 

Then a new danger forces Charlotte to trust the man sent to destroy her. Stone vows to protect what he once sought to tear apart. Besides, he's ready to start a new pursuit: winning Charlotte's heart.

My Take:

Books by Karen Witemeyer were some of the first ones I read when I started doing book reviews several years ago. Some of her novels I have thought were just OK, but there are a couple of hers that I would list among my favorite books that I have reviewed.

Fortunately, this latest novel can be counted as a favorite.

First of all, the setup for this book was one that I thought was very unique. A bounty hunter chasing a supposedly kidnapped girl and a guardian trying to protect that same girl from her disreputable grandfather – it made for a great stepping off point for the rest of the novel.

And what a multi-layered novel it was.

The complicated setup only led to an intriguing novel that had so many dimensions that I never once felt bored. There were just so many things that led to my overall enjoyment of this book. The talented children, the bounty hunter with a heart of gold, the uptight music teacher who was running from the emotional turmoil in her past, the suspense, the witty banter – all of it came together into a very well-written book that was extremely hard to put down.

One thing that has been lacking in recent novels I have read is the depth of the characters. This was definitely not lacking with A Worthy Pursuit. Charlotte and Stone and especially the children leapt off the page. They never once felt as if they were cookie-cutter characters, and their actions and dialogue seemed genuine. The plot of this novel really could have led to many Big Misunderstandings in order to keep the characters apart, but even though one time it got close, it never fully went that route. And for that I am very grateful! 

I also appreciated the relationship between Charlotte and Stone. I knew where it would ultimately end up, but it was fun to see their journey. Even though the physical descriptions at times were a bit eye-rolling or unnecessary, their courtship still felt genuine, and I liked seeing how they fell in love.

The suspense throughout this novel was something else that kept things interesting. I like having another dimension to a romance besides the courtship, and this novel definitely had that. Poor Stone was beaten up and shot at so many times it became borderline unbelievable, but it still made for an interesting story.

One of my favorite aspects of the Charlotte character was her love of music. I so related to how she could just let go and lose herself in the music when she played the piano. I saw a quote years ago (attributed to a German opera house), and the last part said, “God gave us music that we might pray without words.” This came to mind at once when Charlotte played the piano in the book, and there are so many times when I feel the same way when I play.

If I had to pick something that could have been done a little bit better, it would be the spiritual aspect. The two main characters already had a relationship with God, and they did rely on Him and the Bible for guidance. It was very seamless in its presentation, which is something I appreciate, but I wish at times that it just went a bit deeper.

Something that I thought was really cute in this novel was how Stone, because of his career as a bounty hunter, ended up being portrayed in dime novels as a character. It was a neat way for Stone to relate to Lily as her protector, and I thought it was just flat-out funny at times. Stone’s friend and fellow dime novel character, Dan, was fun, too, and I would love to read a book about him in the future!

I truly feel that this novel was reminiscent of what I really liked about Karen Witemeyer’s books back in the beginning of her career. A Worthy Pursuit is definitely a favorite read of the year.

I will give  A Worthy Pursuit ... 4 BookWorms.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Bethany House Publishing. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising." 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

"The Finishing School" Blog Tour

The Finishing School: How One Book Nerd Began Living What She Learned (Nyree Press, August 2015)

Are you tired of waiting for change to happen in your life? Do you feel stuck, even though you want to live more intentionally?

In today's world, our most precious pursuit of a life well lived gets squeezed out by the silliest of things: binging on Netflix or ice cream, shopping trips for things we don't need, bad habits we can't seem to get a handle on, and so much more. Valerie has been there despite knowing what she wanted for her life. Actually do it? That's the challenge.

After gobbling up all the non-fiction and self-help books her donut-filled belly could handle, she decided it was time to put her knowledge to good use and start actually living it out. You will hear about her journey through victories and plenty of failures and find practical tips to apply to your own pursuit of holiness. You will find homework at the end of each chapter that includes a worksheet to put real change in motion for your own life as well as recommended books to further study those topics that really test you.

Purchase a copy:
About the author: Valerie Woerner is owner of Val Marie Paper. She and her husband, Tyler, live in Louisiana with their daughter, Vivi Mae. The Finishing School is her first book.

Connect with Valerie: websiteTwitter, Instagram
My Take:
I think we all struggle with getting things done and just not having enough hours in the day. My six-year-old daughter even commented on this the other day. She was disappointed that she just didn't have enough time to do everything she wanted to do in one day!
So what do we do about it? Make lists? Tell ourselves we are failures who will never do better? Give up and watch Netflix all weekend? Maybe. But what's the best thing we can do?
Be intentional.
That's what I got from this book, The Finishing School. The most important thing to think about when trying to "get your life together" is to be intentional. Intentional with what you do, intentional with whom you have relationship, intentional in your time spent with God.
Woerner covers many different areas in this book including joy, hospitality, friendships, health, rest, and contentment. There are a lot of topics covered, which may seem overwhelming. I would recommend taking it slowly and doing a little bit at a time - being intentional but also not stressing yourself out!
At times this book read more like a memoir than a self-help book. It's nice to have examples and feel as if other people are in the same boat. It just needs to really be balanced in a book like this.
I do find it ironic that the author says that she has read all of the books, and her answer to that is to -- write another book! It was helpful to have so many books narrowed down in this book, though. And of course I appreciated how she always referred back to the only book that we really need to follow - the Bible!
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Nyree Press through Litfuse Publicity. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Thursday, September 17, 2015

"Israel's Mission" Blog Tour

About the DVD:

What's your mission?

God gave the assignment to His people thousands of years ago: to bring "lost sheep" back into the love and safety of His kingdom. He said to become a "Kingdom of Priests," and put God on display to show the world what He is like.
It's still our task today.
In this thirteenth volume of the That the World May Know ® film series, you'll glimpse the urgency and rewards of welcoming the strangers and prodigals the Lord longs to embrace. Discover the mission that can give your life - and the lives of those around you - greater meaning than you ever imagined.

Join renowned teacher and historian Ray Vander Laan as he guides you through the lands of the Bible. In each lesson, Vander Laan illuminates the historical, geographical, and cultural context of the sacred Scriptures. Filmed on location in the Middle East and elsewhere, the That the World May Know ® film series will transform your understanding of God and challenge you to be a true follower of Jesus.

Designed for use with That the World May Know: Israel's Mission Discovery Guide.

Filmed on location at these biblically significant sites in Israel and Jordan:
-Back to the Father's House - Negev Desert
-Show Them the Way - Timnah
-Prodigal Sons and Daughters - Qatzrin
-Return from the Far Off Country - Jerash
-Welcome Home - Qatzrin

Purchase a copy:

About the author:

Ray Vander Laan is the founder of That the World May Know Ministries and creator of the Faith Lessons video series with Focus on the Family. An ordained minister, he holds the chair of biblical cultural studies as a religion instructor at Holland Christian Schools in Holland, Michigan. He and his wife, Esther, have four children and fifteen grandchildren.

Find Ray online:
See what other reviewers are saying here:

My Take:

My husband regularly teaches a class at our church called "Overview of the Bible." In it he spends six weekly sessions going through every section of the Bible and talking about how God's plan of redemption is seen throughout and how we can apply the Bible to our everyday lives.

This DVD series reminded me a lot of that class. The emphases are a bit different - this series is more specific than my husband's class - but the way it looks at the "big picture" of God's plan is very similar.

I really didn't know what to expect when I started this series - I'm not a huge history/geography buff - but I was blown away by the use of the historically significant sights in this series. It was fascinating to see where these events in the Bible took place, and it was neat to kind of take a tour along with the people in the video.

The teacher - Ray Vander Laan - was a dynamic speaker who did an excellent job of relating the messages of the lessons to everyday life. He was very passionate about the topic, and it was very easy to listen to him.

There is a study guide/book that goes along with this DVD series. The discussion questions and notes in it that relate to the DVD lesson are very good. There are also additional pages that provide an in-depth personal study for each of the five lessons. While the personal study is very good, I think it might be difficult for some people to fit that part of the study into a busy schedule, especially if this was a weekly series. The personal study section for Lesson One is 30 pages, and the one for Lesson Three is about 33. I would love to have an hour or two every day to devote to studying the Bible! But that just isn't able to happen many days.

That being said, this series is meant to be an in-depth series. I did appreciate the thoroughness of the study guide and the videos. If I was doing this with a small group, I would probably stretch it out over 8-10 weeks and really dig into it.

I would also like to add a comment about the camera operation of the videos. At times the videos were very dizzying. This was especially true when Mr. Vander Laan would walk back and forth while he was teaching. Now I don't have a problem with teachers walking back and forth. My husband does it all the time! But when the camera would be zoomed in on him and would try to follow him back and forth rather than using a wider-angle shot, it became very, very dizzying. I realize that this is the new normal for movies and such these days. My eyes/brain/inner ear just can't always keep up!

Overall, I think this DVD series is excellent, and I am looking forward to maybe being able to experience others of this type in the future.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Zondervan Publishing and Focus on the Family through Litfuse Publicity. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Friday, August 28, 2015

"Irish Meadows" Blog Tour

1911, Long Island, New York
Faced With an Uncertain Future, Sometimes All You Have Left Is the Courage to Dream

Brianna and Colleen O'Leary know their Irish immigrant father expects them to marry well. Recently he's put even more pressure on them, insinuating that the very future of their Long Island horse farm, Irish Meadows, rests in their ability to land prosperous husbands. Both girls, however, have different visions for their futures.
Brianna, a quiet girl with a quick mind, dreams of attending college. Vivacious Colleen, meanwhile, is happy to marry---as long as her father's choice meets her exacting standards of the ideal groom. When former stable hand Gilbert Whelan returns from business school and distant relative Rylan Montgomery visits Long Island during his seminary training, the two men quickly complicate everyone's plans.
As the farm slips ever closer to ruin, James O'Leary grows more desperate. It will take every ounce of courage for both sisters to avoid being pawns in their father's machinations and instead follow their hearts. And even if they do, will they inevitably find their dreams too distant to reach?

Irish Meadows
by Susan Anne Mason 
Historical Romance
Courage to Dream series book 1
Bethany House 
See what other reviewers are saying here:
Susan Anne Mason's debut historical novel, Irish Meadows, won the Fiction from the Heartland contest from the Mid-American Romance Authors Chapter of RWA. A member of ACFW, as well, she lives outside of Toronto, Ontario, with her husband and two children.

Find Susan online: website, Facebook
My Take:
As I started reading Irish Meadows, I was immediately taken back to 1911 on a Long Island, New York, horse farm. The writing is very descriptive and really captures the scenery and atmosphere of this time and place.

As I kept reading, I realized that the only plotlines were going to be ones about the romantic relationships between Gilbert/Brianna and Rylan/Colleen. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, I usually prefer for my historical romance to have a few more interesting things going on around the romantic storyline. Even so, I decided to keep reading to the end to see where things went.

Brianna and Gil’s relationship was one that went back-and-forth throughout the story and sometimes seemed contrived, especially at the end. I actually didn’t really like their relationship to begin with anyway. I felt that it was kind of weird that they were in love. I could understand if he had been a farmhand or something (“Farm boy – fetch me that pitcher?” “As you wish.”). But he had been raised as a brother in Brianna’s house. Sure, they weren’t biologically related, but it still seemed odd to me, and I just couldn’t get past it. Plus, I felt as if they spent more time not liking each other than actually liking each other!

The relationship between Rylan and Colleen was definitely the more interesting of the two. A man studying to be a priest having to decide whether or not he should give up his commitment to the church for love is a compelling romantic plotline. Again, this relationship seemed a bit odd since they were distant relations, but I guess if it was distant enough, it would be OK. The book wasn't too clear on that point.

If I had to pick a favorite character, it would be Rylan. I liked his easygoing personality, and I appreciated his struggle.

As for the spiritual aspect, I really had a hard time with how it was portrayed in this novel. God was mentioned quite a bit – praying to Him and turning to Him in times of need – but Jesus was barely discussed. One character even turns to God, but it all happens without any reference of Christ and His sacrifice for sins. I just think it’s dangerous to portray salvation without mentioning the cross and what Christ did for us.

Now, I am not someone who has to have her Christian novels filled with salvation experiences and preaching. I realize that a book can just be a good, clean novel that is enjoyable. But if the book brings up spiritual aspects, I expect them to be based on truth and include Jesus. It is Christian fiction, after all. As an example, at one point this statement is made: “What [Rylan] needed was absolution – to confess his offense to a priest and receive a clergyman’s counsel. It was the only way to make up for his sin and find a way to move forward.” While I do believe that confession is good for the soul, again, where is Christ in this? The only way to “make up” for his sins was to confess to a priest? There is absolutely no way we can make up for our sins. Christ is the only way (Hebrews 9), and I’m actually kind of surprised that Bethany House publishers would allow this in one of their books.

I also thought that there were many portions of the novel that focused on clich├ęs and drama rather than reality. There were many references of “following your heart” and many eye-rolling moments of romance. I understand what the author means when the characters talk about following their hearts. I wouldn’t want my daughter to end up in a loveless marriage. But the Bible says that “the heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick. Who can understand it?” – Jeremiah 17:9 (NASB). I think it is dangerous to portray following your heart as always being the right thing no matter what. There was a lot of talk about God’s will and wanting God’s will for their lives, but there was no clear look at how that might be accomplished. All of the talk about following the heart and doing what a person wanted to do seemed to be in conflict with the talk about God’s will.

I realize that I have pretty much skewered the spiritual portions of this novel, but the more I read Christian fiction, the more I realize how very far away from Christ these novels can get. As I said earlier, not every book has to preach the gospel. But when a book tries to do so and falls short, I feel it should be noted. This novel just seemed to be Christian fluff which doesn’t do anybody any good in the long run.

Now that I have said all of that, I think my favorite part of this novel was the setting. I liked the horse farm atmosphere, and I wished that it had been explored even further. The part of the story focusing on the family possibly losing the farm was interesting and might have been something that could have been elaborated on in order to create even more suspense.

If I had to pick one word to describe this novel, it would be “drama.” I really thought that the story would revolve around more than just the two romances, but it didn’t. If straight romance is what you like, then you might want to give this series a try. I really wanted to like this novel much more than I did.

I will give Irish Meadows … 2 BookWorms.  


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers through Litfuse Publicity. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."  

Thursday, August 20, 2015

"Through Waters Deep" Blog Tour

Through Waters Deep (Revell, August 2015)

It is 1941 and America teeters on the brink of war.

Outgoing naval officer Ensign Jim Avery escorts British convoys across the North Atlantic in a brand-new destroyer, the USS Atwood. Back on shore, Boston Navy Yard secretary Mary Stirling does her work quietly and efficiently, happy to be out of the limelight. Yet, despite her reserved nature, she never could back down from a challenge. When evidence of sabotage on the Atwood is found, Jim and Mary must work together to uncover the culprit. A bewildering maze of suspects emerges, and Mary is dismayed to find that even someone close to her is under suspicion. With the increasing pressure, Jim and Mary find that many new challenges---and dangers---await them.

Sarah Sundin takes readers to the tense months before the US entered WWII. Readers will encounter German U-boats and torpedoes, along with the explosive power of true love, in this hopeful and romantic story.

Purchase a copy:

About the author:

Sarah Sundin is the author of With Every Letter, On Distant Shores, In Perfect Time, and the Wings of Glory series. In 2014, On Distant Shores was a finalist for the Golden Scroll Awards from both AWSA and the Christian Authors Network. In 2011, Sarah received the Writer of the Year Award at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. A graduate of UC San Francisco School of Pharmacy, she works on call as a hospital pharmacist. During WWII, her grandfather served as a pharmacist's mate (medic) in the Navy and her great-uncle flew with the US Eighth Air Force in England. Sarah lives in California with her husband and three children.

Find Sarah online:
website, Facebook, Twitter
My Take:
I have been waiting for this new series from Sarah Sundin for a long time, and I was excited to get started on it! I’m actually not too fond of World War II-era stories, and I usually avoid them – except for those by Ms. Sundin. She has the ability to portray the atrocities of World War II in a way that shows strength during the battle as well as hope for the future.

When I first started reading this novel, I enjoyed the characters of Jim and Mary right away. Over the course of the story, I got to know them well, and I would even go so far as to say they are among my favorite characters from Ms. Sundin’s books. As someone who also does not like to be in the spotlight, I very much related to Mary and her struggles. Jim was also a likeable guy, even though I kept wanting him to be a bit more aggressive (not in a bad way) as to where his relationship with Mary was going. I really enjoyed the banter between them and the way that their friendship eventually turned into more (which is how it happened between my husband and me back in the day)!

As for the other characters, there were a lot of them. Because this novel centered mostly on a mystery at the Boston Navy Yard, suspects were just coming out of the woodwork. At the beginning, these many secondary characters were a bit hard to keep straight, but as I kept reading, things fell more into place, and the sabotage aspect of the plot lent a great deal to the overall story. Sometimes the naval jargon in this novel got confusing, but I did appreciate the research and the attention to detail.

As I mentioned earlier, the previous books by this author are some of the only books about World War II that I have ever truly enjoyed. The balance that is portrayed between surviving the horrors of war and continuing to have hope for the future is what makes the novel readable. This hope comes only from a relationship with God through Jesus that gives the characters the strength to carry on no matter what they face. This was definitely true in Through Waters Deep

As for the lighter side of the novel – the romance between Mary and Jim – it was sweet, and I very much enjoyed watching their love grow. The era of the 1940s and its culture was an especially fun backdrop for this romance.  While I enjoyed most of the development of Mary and Jim’s courtship, at times their lack of communication tiptoed dangerously close to the Big Misunderstanding, which is my biggest pet peeve in a romance novel. I realize that it is based in reality – I’m sure we have all struggled with communication at one point or another – but when characters base their actions on assumptions of what the other person is thinking and feeling, it sometimes gets really tiring to read.

In spite of this, Through Waters Deep is still one of my favorite reads of the year. I liked that this one had a mystery to it, and any main character who references Nancy Drew is definitely one that I’m going to like! I also liked that this series is set in the Navy. My dad is a Vietnam-era Navy veteran, and I enjoyed getting a glimpse of the Navy life. The tensions of America being on the brink of war made this novel that much more suspenseful, and the main characters were such that I wanted to keep reading to find out what else happens to them in their lives. My favorite secondary character was definitely Arch, Jim’s friend from the Navy, and I am so glad that he will be featured in the next book in the series.

Overall, Through Waters Deep is another winner from Sarah Sundin, and I am looking forward to the next one!

I will give Through Waters Deep ... 4 BookWorms.

Dive into Sarah Sundin's explosive new series, Waves of Freedom, with book one,                  Through Waters Deep

When evidence of sabotage on the Atwood is found, Jim and Mary must work together to uncover the culprit. A bewildering maze of suspects emerges, and Mary is dismayed to find that even someone close to her is under suspicion. With the increasing pressure, Jim and Mary find that many new challenges–and dangers–await them in the midst of their budding romance.

Join Sarah in celebrating the release of Through Waters Deep by entering to win an               Anchors Aweigh prize pack!


One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A copy of Through Waters Deep
  • A nautical tote bag
  • A set of compass rose notecards
  • A "Hope Anchors the Soul" journal
  • A Boston Tea Party earl grey tea set
  • Through Waters Deep apron
  • A set of nautical tea towels


Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on August 24th. The winner will be announced August 25th on Sarah's blog.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Revell Publishing through Litfuse Publicity. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising." 

Monday, August 17, 2015

"A Stranger's Secret" Review

Lady Morwenna Trelawny Penvenan made many mistakes in her younger days. Now that she is a young widow and mother, she is determined to make things right for her son, who is the heir to the title of Penvenan. Everything becomes even more complicated when Morewenna is accused of purposely crashing ships off the coast of her land in order to steal their goods. When a mysterious, unconscious stranger washes up on the shore – with the Trelawny medallion around his neck, no less – she really doesn’t know where to turn next. 

David Chastain wants nothing more than to find out what happened to his father and return to his ship-building business. He definitely didn’t plan on being in a shipwreck and winding up under the care of a beautiful lady of the manor.  

As Morwenna and David spend more time together, it is discovered that each may hold secrets that could answer questions for the other. Did Morwenna’s adventurous parents have something to do with the death of David’s father? And does Morwenna have something to do with the multiple attempts to keep David quiet?

As the questions mount, David and Morwenna are drawn together. But can they trust each other enough to find out the truth? 

A Stranger’s Secret is the second in the “Cliffs of Cornwall” series.

When I requested this book, I didn’t realize that it was the second in a series. I knew that it was labeled a ”Cliffs of Cornwall” novel, but it didn’t say anything about it actually being a series. That being said, I was a bit lost through some parts of this book.  

I was able to pick up on most of the background for Morwenna eventually, but the other characters continued to be confusing even as I kept going in the story. The names of the secondary characters were not always recognizable, which made it harder to keep them straight – especially when they were sometimes referred to by their first names and sometimes by their last names. I felt as if I needed a character list at the beginning! And while the main characters were well-drawn, the other ones seemed to just be thrown in here and there when needed. There was a real disconnect between the main characters and the secondary ones, and I don’t really know how that could have been rectified.
Even though the characters were sometimes confusing, the overall storyline was good. I liked how Morwenna and David met and the circumstances and emotions that played out during their relationship. As I said earlier, the main characters were much more fleshed out than the others which made me care more about them than I was expecting at the beginning of the book.

The secrets and mysteries in this novel were really what kept it going. At times it became a bit slow when Morwenna and David would start on their inner monologues. But then another part of the mystery would unravel (or poor David would be drugged again – seriously, how many times did that happen?) and the story would again pick up.

As for the spiritual aspect, it was there – David and Morwenna both professed faith in God – but it probably could have been developed a little bit more. I wasn’t completely unsatisfied with how their faith was portrayed. I just thought it needed some more depth to it. I did enjoy Morwenna’s obvious devotion to her young son. Her affection for him was touching, as was her determination to do the best she could for him and for his future.

Overall the plot in A Stranger’s Secret was good even if the characters sometimes made it confusing. 

I will give  A Stranger's Secret ... 3 BookWorms.

A Stranger's Secret
by Laurie Alice Eakes
Zondervan Publishing
Publication date: April 21, 2015
352 pages

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Zondervan Publishing. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Monday, July 27, 2015

"Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor" Blog Tour

About the book:

Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor (Howard, June 2015)

When Heather Toulson returns to her parents' cottage in the English countryside, she uncovers long-hidden secrets about her family history and stumbles onto the truth about a sixty-year-old murder.

Libby, a free spirit who can't be tamed by her parents, finds solace with her neighbor Oliver, the son of Lord Croft of Ladenbrooke Manor. Libby finds herself pregnant and alone when her father kicks her out and Oliver mysteriously drowns in a nearby river. Though theories spread across the English countryside, no one is ever held responsible for Oliver's death.

Sixty years later, Heather Toulson, returning to her family's cottage in the shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor, is filled with mixed emotions. She's mourning her father's passing but can't let go of the anger and resentment over their strained relationship. Adding to her confusion, Heather has an uneasy reunion with her first love, all while sorting through her family's belongings left behind in the cottage. What she uncovers will change everything she thought she knew about her family's history.

Award-winning author Melanie Dobson seamlessly weaves the past and present together, fluidly unraveling the decades-old mystery and reveals how the characters are connected in shocking ways.

Set in a charming world of thatched cottages, lush gardens, and lovely summer evenings, this romantic and historical mystery brings to light the secrets and heartaches that have divided a family for generations.

Purchase a copy:
See what other reviewers are saying here:

About the author:
Melanie Dobson is the award-winning author of thirteen historical romance, suspense, and contemporary novels. Two of her novels won Carol Awards in 2011, and Love Finds You in Liberty, Indiana won Best Novel of Indiana in 2010. Melanie lives with her husband Jon and two daughters near Portland, Oregon.

Find Melanie online: website, Twitter, Facebook

My Take:

I am a sucker for "past and present" stories these days. The book club I am in has read many of these types of books over the years, and we seem to continue to pick them every year. I think it's difficult to tell stories like this well without getting the reader all mixed up, and Ms. Dobson did this well. The "past" time period sometimes felt as if it was a lot earlier in history than what it was, but I still enjoyed the storytelling.

After a bit of an overwhelming start with lots of characters and events, this novel pulls you in and keeps you enthralled throughout. At times the circumstances were just so heartbreaking that it was hard for me to read, but ultimately the love of God, the power of forgiveness, and the hope we have in Christ shone through.

The setting of the story was very interesting and gave a little bit of new life to the usual English countryside novels.

I actually wish more of the novel would have focused on the mystery aspect rather than on the character development, but that is mostly just my personal preference. I really enjoyed the twists and turns of the mystery, and it kept me wanting more.

The characters were written well and seemed very real, but with at least seven points of view, it was sometimes hard to remember who was "speaking" and what was going on. Also, sometimes the realness of the characters was frustrating because the people just kept making the same mistakes over and over from generation to generation!  Again, this put them in the position of realizing the power of forgiveness in Christ, which is ultimately what we all need anyway, regardless of how many times we make the same mistakes - but it was a bit of an overplayed plot point by the end of the book.

Like I said several times, the points of forgiveness, healing, and hope in Christ came through very clearly in this novel. It was a very emotional book, and the characters dealt with real-life situations that can only be redeemed by God. I tend to enjoy novels that are not so emotional, but this was still an engaging story that kept my attention.

I will give Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor ... 3.5 BookWorms.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Howard Books through Litfuse. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Friday, July 24, 2015

"Thriving in Babylon" Blog Tour

About the book:

Thriving in Babylon (David C. Cook, April 2015)

Meet a man forced to live in a fast changing and godless society. He faced fears about the future, concern for his safety, and the discouragement of world that seemed to be falling apart at warp speed.

Sound familiar? His name was Daniel, and with the power of hope, humility, and wisdom, he not only thrived, he changed an empire while he was at it. Though he lived thousands of years ago, he has a much to teach us today.

Even in Babylon, God is in control.

In Thriving in Babylon, Larry Osborne explores the "adult" story of Daniel to help us not only survive - but actually thrive in an increasingly godless culture. Here Pastor Osborne looks at:

-Why panic and despair are never from God

-What true optimism looks like

-How humility disarms even our greatest of enemies

-Why respect causes even those who will have nothing to do with God to listen

-How wisdom can snatch victory out of the jaws of defeat

For those who know Jesus and understand the full implications of the cross, the resurrection, and the promises of Jesus, everything changes---not only in us, but also in our world.

Purchase a copy:

About the author:

Dr. Larry Osborne has served as a senior pastor and teaching pastor at North Coast Church---one of the ten most influential churches in the country---since 1980. Dr. Osborne is the author of numerous books, including Accidental Pharisees. He and his wife live in Oceanside, California. They have three grown children.

Find Larry online: website, Facebook, Twitter

See what other reviewers are saying here:

My Take:

In America these days, it does sometimes feels as if we are living in the Babylon of the Bible. I don't always feel this way, but there are definitely times when the blatant animosity towards God and the Bible in our culture is jarring and very upsetting.

That's one reason I really this book. When I get worried and upset about how things are turning in our society, books like this help to get my focus back to what is important - God, the truth of Scripture, and what we as Christians have been called to do. He calls us to not be reactionary but to be living our lives in such a way that others can't help but see the difference Christ has made - and not just the difference here on Earth but our lives for all eternity.

The writing style of the author is interesting. It took a bit for me to get used to, but it did keep me engaged throughout, which is something that is really important in a non-fiction book. I also think that some of the comparisons to us in America today and Daniel in Babylon in Bible times was a bit of a stretch but only because I feel I need to do some more biblical research to fully understand the life and times of Daniel.

There is not denying it - our culture is becoming increasingly anti-Christian. Jesus even warned that such a thing could and would occur in our everyday lives - "In this world you will have trouble." But the first and last parts of that verse are what we need to focus on in order to live in a world that is in trouble - one that is in dire need of the peace that only comes from the Savior:

"I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."  John 16:33 (NIV, emphasis mine)

Let the truth of the Bible cause you to take heart - Jesus wins. And that gives us hope as well as an urgency to share the gospel as much as we possibly can.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from David C. Cook Publishing through Litfuse Publicity. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."