Wednesday, September 28, 2011

"The Wounded Heart" Blog Tour & Giveaway!

The Wounded Heart by Adina Senft was sent to me as an advanced review copy by Faith Words/Hachette Book Group. It is the first in the “Amish Quilt Trilogy” by this author.

About the book:

A widow with two small children, Amelia Beiler is struggling to make ends meet. She is running her late husband’s business, but it’s not what she was raised to do, which is run a home. When she gets an offer for the business from Eli Fischer, she’s only too relieved to consider it – especially when it looks as if Eli’s interest might include more than just the shop.

But when she begins to experience strange physical symptoms and is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, it is difficult not to question God’s will. If she pursues the treatment she believes in, she risks being shunned. But how can she allow Eli to court her when she can’t promise him a future?

The more she gets to know Eli, the more Amelia is torn between what logic tells her is right, and the desire of her heart.

My Take:

I have read several Amish fiction novels recently, and I have to say that they are starting to grow on me. In this particular novel, once I got all of the characters straight at the beginning, the story moved along at a nice pace and was interesting. I was especially interested to see what would happen in relation to Amelia’s physical problems. The emotions that were portrayed about her illness were very real, and her determination to hold on to her late husband’s shop was inspiring.

As is always the case when I read Amish novels, I tend to get too focused on the doctrine of the Amish church (which I obviously do not completely agree with, since I am not Amish) instead of just enjoying the story. There is a lot of time spent in this book questioning what God’s will is. I will not go into that theology here, but I will say that I don’t think God’s will is whatever the Amish Bishop says it is. (For example, Amelia would be disobeying God’s will if she sold her shop to someone outside of the Amish Church.) I just think that we need to be careful when we use the phrase “It was God’s will.” Please search the Scriptures to discover what God’s will is instead of relying on man. To me, the Amish bishop and deacons in this book came across as very harsh and condescending, which was hard for me to read.

What I liked most about this book was the relationship among the three friends, Amelia, Carrie, and Emma. So many Amish books focus on family relationships (as they should), but I really enjoyed the closeness that these three friends shared. I appreciated the time they spent together making their quilt (throughout the book, they get together once a week to work on a quilt) and how they supported each other and even confronted each other when necessary. I realized as I read the book that these three friends would be the focus of each of the books in the Amish Quilt Trilogy, and I look forward to reading Carrie and Emma’s stories when they are released.

I will give The Wounded Heart by Adina Senft … 3 ½ BookWorms

The Giveaway:

The publisher of The Wounded Heart, Faith Words, would like to give away a copy of this novel to one of my readers. To enter the contest, please fill out the form below by October 6th. I will announce the winner on my blog (and through email to the winner) on Friday, October 7th.

The winner is Dolores Pyer!
The Quilt:

In the three books of the “Amish Quilt Trilogy,” Amelia, Emma, and Carrie make a quilt together. Each book in the series has instructions at the end for making this quilt. I also have instructions for making a pot holder in the same pattern as the quilt in the books. If you would be interested in having a copy of these pot holder instructions, please leave a comment with your email, and I will send you a PDF copy.

Thanks for stopping by the blog tour for The Wounded Heart!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Faith Words/Hachette Book Group. 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."

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Book Club Ratings -- June, July, August, September

Because I have been receiving so many review copies of books lately, I am going to have to start doing things a little differently for my Book Club books. I just don't have time to write a full review of each of the books that I read for Book Club.

I want to make clear that I do actually read these books, and we do actually talk about them during our meetings (regardless of what some of the husbands might think...!).

So, in the future, I will be listing my Book Club books on my "To Be Read" and "Currently Reading" lists, but I will only post about them on my blog quarterly. And I will just be giving a short review of the book and my BookWorm rating instead of a full review.

If you want to know more about any of the books that I mention for Book Club, please leave a comment with your email, and I will get back with you.

Book Club Selection for June:  The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows

Winning the award for the book with the longest title was our Book Club selection for June. For a description of the book, please click here.

My favorite part of this book is that the story is told through letters written to and from the members of the Society. This book made me laugh out loud but also made me cry. (And that is something, because I am not a 'crier.')

I will give The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society ... 4 BookWorms.

Book Club Selection for July:  Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

Ender's Game is one of my favorite books, and it is my husband's favorite book of all time. My husband had been trying to get me to read it for a long time, but I really hadn't ever been into Science Fiction. I finally gave in, and I was glad I did!

Because I enjoyed Ender's Game, I read other books that my husband enjoyed, such as The Lord of the Rings and books by Michael Crighton. Now those books are on my list of top favorites. I guess this means I should listen to my husband, huh?!

Ender's Game is not for everyone. I have friends who have loved it and some who have hated it. That's okay. I get the book, I emphathize with Ender, and it will always be one of my favorites.

There are many other books in the Ender series as well, but I have only read one of them. My husband has read them all but insists that Ender's Game is the best.

I will give Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card ... 5 BookWorms!

Book Club Selection for August:  The Man with Two Left Feet by P.G. Wodehouse & an outing to see the movie The Help.

Okay, okay, I know that I said I read all of the books that my Book Club selects, but I didn't read The Man with Two Left Feet. My apologies to Mr. Wodehouse. Hopefully I will read it someday, as I was able to get a free Kindle version from Amazon. (Get your copy here).

Since we read The Help back in January (see my review here), we decide to go as a group to see the movie version when it came out in August. Unfortunately, I was at the Women of Faith conference that weekend and could not go with the group. My wonderful husband took me to see The Help another time, since he knew I was disappointed about not being able to see it with my friends.

The movie version of The Help was very good and was very much like the book. The acting was exceptional, and you could definitely enjoy the movie even if you had not read the book. (I think the book is better, but I think that 95% of the time with books that are made into movies!).

Again, hopefully I will have time to read The Man with Two Left Feet someday, and The Help was an excellent movie!

Book Club Selection for September:  The Wednesday Letters by Jason F. Wright

For our November selection in 2010, we read Christmas Jars by this author (see my review here), which I liked quite well. The Wednesday Letters is pretty much in the same vein as Christmas Jars, and you can read a synopsis here.

I did not enjoy The Wednesday Letters as much as I enjoyed Christmas Jars. I thought it was sappy just for the sake of being sappy. (You kind of expect this more from a Christmas book, which is why I was more forgiving in my review of Christmas Jars). But, The Wednesday Letters did tell a story of forgiveness that was extraordinary. The way the main characters were able to forgive was incredible.

I will give The Wednesday Letters by Jason F. Wright ... 3 BookWorms.

So, that's it for now. We are reading The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins for October and Finding Noel by Richard Paul Evans for November. In December we will have our Christmas party and book exchange.

-- Shoopette

Friday, September 23, 2011

"A Lancaster County Christmas" Blog Tour and Contest

A Christmas book review in September?!
Why not?
If my husband had his way, there would be Christmas music playing in the Shoop household all year long!
And a new Christmas book is a great way to get us in the spirit and prepare our hearts for the upcoming Holiday Season.

About the book:
Jaime and C. J. Fitzpatrick began their married life as most couples do--in love and looking forward to a bright future together. But four years later they've drifted apart and are almost ready to call it quits.
Mattie Riehl was hoping to give her husband Sol the Christmas gift they have both longed for--news that a baby was on the way. But as usual, she is disappointed. The holidays bring an acute awareness to Mattie that her dream of a big Amish family isn't likely to become a reality.
Then a winter storm raging outside blows the Fitzpatricks into the Riehl home--and into a much slower pace of life. Can these two couples from different worlds help each other understand the true meaning of love this Christmas?
With her trademark plot twists and attention to detail, Suzanne Woods Fisher offers readers a beautiful Christmas story of love, forgiveness, and what truly matters in life.

About Suzanne:
Her interest in the Amish began with her grandfather, W.D. Benedict, who was raised Plain. She has many, many Plain relatives living in Franklin County, Pennsylvania, and travels back to Pennsylvania, as well as to Ohio, a couple of times each year for research.
Suzanne has a great admiration for the Plain people and believes they provide wonderful examples to the world.  In both her fiction and non-fiction books, she has an underlying theme: You don't have to "go Amish" to incorporate many of their principles--simplicity, living with less, appreciating nature, forgiving others more readily-- into your life.
When Suzanne isn't writing or bragging to her friends about her first new grandbaby (!), she is raising puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind. To Suzanne's way of thinking, you just can't take life too seriously when a puppy is tearing through your house with someone's underwear in its mouth. Suzanne can be found on-line at:
My Take:
This is the first book by Suzanne Woods Fisher that I have read, except for her recent non-fiction release, Amish Values for Your Family. I had heard a lot about her Amish novels, so I was looking forward to reading this one.
The story takes place over a three-day period beginning on December 23rd. The Fitzpatricks are stranded at the Riehls farmhouse, and it is soon discovered by the reader that everyone present has some things to learn about love and forgiveness. The story is told from the point of view of all five adults who are present in the house (C.J., Jaime, Mattie, Sol, and Mattie’s cousin, Zach), which I thought would be confusing but actually ended up giving the novel an overall cohesiveness that I really enjoyed.
When I discovered that this book was to revolve around an “English” couple getting stranded during a snowstorm with an Amish couple, I was a little leery.  The plot sounded very good, but I have read some Amish novels that seem to show the Amish way of life as perfect and the English way of life as wrong or evil. That was not the case at all with this book. Each character learned something from the other characters and from the other characters’ way of life that would continue to help them in the future.
This rather short book was a breeze to read—I read it in a day—but it was not breezy or light in its meaning.
A Lancaster County Christmas is a unique and engaging novel that makes you think about what truly matters in life.
I will give A Lancaster County Christmas by Suzanne Woods Fisher … 4 BookWorms.

Link to buy the book: "A Lancaster County Christmas"

Be sure to follow the blog tour here - many of the bloggers have copies of the book to giveaway!

About the contest:

To celebrate the release of her first Christmas book, Suzanne Woods Fisher has teamed up with her publisher, Revell, to bring you the "Christmas in September" iPad Giveaway!

The winner will be announced on 9/27 at the A Lancaster County Christmas Facebook Party! Details below. Tell your friends and join in the fun (9/7-9/27).

Suzanne and Revell will be presenting one merry winner with a Christmas Prize Pack (valued at over $600):
  • A Brand New iPad 2 with Wi-Fi
  • $25 gift certificate to iTunes
  • A copy of A Lancaster County Christmas

To enter, click one of the icons below. But, hurry the giveaway ends on 9/26.

But, wait! There's more! The winner will be announced at the A Lancaster County Christmas Facebook Party on 9/27 at Suzanne's author page. During the party she'll be revealing something *BIG* - you won't want to miss it. She'll also be hosting a book chat, trivia contest and giving away a few early Christmas presents! Hope to see you there.

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Revell/Baker Publishing Group 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 22, 2011

"Water's Edge" Review

Water’s Edge by Robert Whitlow was sent to be as an advanced review copy by Thomas Nelson Publishers. My husband read this one, and he helped me with this review!
In Water’s Edge, Tom Crane is a successful young lawyer in a major Atlanta law firm.  He has a beautiful girlfriend, a nice apartment, and is about to make partner at the firm.  When his father, a small town lawyer from Tom’s home town, and another man from the town drown in a fishing accident, Tom needs to go home to take care of his father’s affairs.  Just before leaving, Tom’s world crumbles.  He loses his job, his girlfriend leaves him, and he still has to deal with his father’s death.
Upon returning to his home town, Tom starts closing his father’s law firm and discovers that his father’s death might not have been an accident.  Upon further investigation, he discovers nearly 2 million dollars in one of his father’s accounts and evidence that his father might have been involved in fraud.  Meeting the daughter of the other victim of the boating accident, Tom must navigate the deceptive and confining roads of small town America to find the truth, both about his father, and about his own faith.
I have mixed feelings about this book.  For the most part, it was very well written.  The characters developed at a good pace, with only one major exception.  The descriptions of a small town were accurate, and painted a very good picture.  You really got the impression that you were right in the middle of the situations.
But, there were a few problems I had with the book.  The first was the abrupt change of heart that the main character had.  One moment he is a skeptic about God; perhaps even so much as to say that he thought it all a complete waste of time.  Then, one morning, he was sitting at his father’s desk and read a verse that his father had written before his death.  After reading the verse, Tom suddenly has a complete change of heart and becomes a true believer.  This change was just so abrupt, without anything leading up to it, that it seemed unbelievable. However, maybe this has truly happened to others and this is just unbelievable to me because it was not my experience.
Also in this novel, Tom was faced with the decision to stay in his small home town and take over his father’s small law practice or to go back to Atlanta and try to get a job at another large law firm.  The author certainly leads the reader down the path that staying in his home town is the “right” choice or the “Christian” thing to do.  Now, perhaps he was trying to imply that it was the right choice for this character, but that is not how it came off.  I definitely got the impression that going back to Atlanta was the selfish thing to do.  I had a problem with that.  Often in life, we are presented with choices that are neither good nor bad.  Instead, it is more of a choice between good and good.  Would it have been sinful for Tom to go back to Atlanta? Not if he continued to live his life according to the Bible and to glorify God. Sometimes, it is okay to take the job that pays more money.  Staying in the small town might have been a good choice for Tom, but the author came across as portraying the Atlanta job as ‘bad’ because it was in a large city and had good pay and the small town job as ‘good’ because it was in the small town and paid less.
Despite a few differences of opinion with the author, I did enjoy this book.  The mystery of the death of his father and the whole secrecy of the money kept me entertained.  I figured most of the story out by the end but still had a few surprises. 
I will give Water’s Edge by Robert Whitlow… 3 BookWorms

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers. 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, September 16, 2011

"Hope Rekindled" Review

Hope Rekindled is the final book in the "Striking a Match" series by Tracie Peterson. You can read my reviews of the first books in this series here: "Embers of Love" and "Hearts Aglow". These novels take place in Texas during the 1880's. 
After her life was turned upside down in the previous book, Deborah’s world has righted itself, and things seem to be falling into place. She is finally planning to marry Christopher when he once again receives urgent family news that takes him away. This time, though, he returns to Texas with some ‘baggage’ that Deborah never expected.
Faced with this new obstacle, Deborah once again questions her future as a wife and also as a physician. Add to this the fact that the logging community is still reeling from the recent fire that claimed the mill, and Deborah’s life once again seems to be going out of control. But all is not as it seems in the town of Perkinsville, and their salvation may come from the most unlikely of places.
Did you notice how I used the words “once again” three different times in my description of this book? It is because this third book in the series seemed to almost be a retelling of the second book. There were so many times when I felt as if I was reading the second book all over again instead of the third one. Once again, Deborah and Christopher are planning their wedding when something takes him away, keeping them from getting married. When he returns, something else gets in their way. I am not saying that the things that keep them from getting married aren’t important…just that it seemed as if we had already done this before…many times. This story might have been better told through only two books.
The issues with the logging company also felt a little repetitive, but I was more interested in that story than I was interested in the romance between Deborah and Christopher. The relationship between Stuart and Jael, though tragic, was compelling. I liked how the Vandermark family all helped each other when things got difficult, and the way the contract issue was resolved was marvelous.
Though Hope Rekindled was a bit tedious in its conclusion, the “Striking a Match” series still had a lot of what I like in Christian historical fiction.
I will give Hope Rekindled by Tracie Peterson … 3 BookWorms.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers. 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 15, 2011

"Hearts Aglow" Review

Hearts Aglow is the second novel in the “Striking a Match” series by Tracie Peterson. You can read my review of the first book in this series, Embers of Love, here.
In Hearts Aglow, Deborah Vandermark and Dr. Christopher Clayton continue their working relationship—he is teaching her to be a doctor—as well as their courtship. But most people in the town of Perkinsville, Texas,  in the 1880’s do not take kindly to the idea of a female physician, especially one who is courting her teacher.
The prejudices in town also come to the forefront when an African-American man and his son are killed in cold blood by the self-proclaimed “White Hand of God.” Deborah’s family is especially shaken by this event, since the ones killed were the husband and son of Sissy, the family’s long-time employee and friend.
When Christopher receives startling news about a family member and must leave Perkinsville for an indefinite period of time, Deborah is left to deal with a world that feels as if it couldn’t get more turned upside-down.
This second book in the “Striking a Match” series took all of the social aspects of the first book up a notch by starting off with the controversial murders of two African Americans. While it is hard for me to understand the hatred of some of the characters in this book, I feel the author does a correct portrayal of the emotions of some people of this time period. I just hope that there really were true Christian people in history who were like the Vandermark characters—those who loved people regardless of their skin color or heritage. Also, the sermon illustration of Joseph that the pastor uses in this novel makes the whole book worthwhile.
Through this series I have been very interested in the inner workings of the lumber mill town of Perkinsville. In true Tracie Peterson fashion, there is an adversary who threatens the livelihood of the town and its inhabitants. This part of the story kept this second book interesting when I felt it lagged a bit in some of the other storylines.
I also thought that the characters in this book sometimes went in the wrong direction when it came to spiritual matters. I am not going to debate theology over a fiction novel, but I will say that it seemed as if they relied a lot on their feelings about what God wanted them to do with their lives rather than always looking to God’s Word.
I have been a fan of Tracie Peterson for a while, and this series appealed to me because of the setting, time period, and the medical storyline.  While the first book, Embers of Love, wrapped up rather well (it was eight months until I read the second book), this one left so many cliff-hangers that I would recommend reading the second and third books back-to-back.
Hearts Aglow is a thoroughly-researched historical fiction novel that will have fans of Tracie Peterson looking forward to reading the conclusion in the final book of the series.
I will give Hearts Aglow by Tracie Peterson … 3 ½ BookWorms.


Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received this book free from the publisher, Bethany House (Baker Publishing Group). 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 14, 2011

NIV Busy Mom's Bible Review

I received a digital copy of the NIV Busy Mom’s Bible, to review through NetGalley, from Zondervan Publishing.

Marketing Copy:

The NIV Busy Mom's Bible is a trim, go-anywhere pocket Bible that gives you inspirational content quickly during the course of your day. Packed with one-minute thought starters and featuring the entire Old and New Testaments of the most-read, most-trusted NIV Bible, plus relevant and encouraging thoughts for the day, this is spiritual fuel for your busy mom-on-the-go lifestyle.

My Take:

The New International Version of the Bible is one of my favorites. It is easy to read and to understand.

The NIV Busy Mom’s Bible is a complete version of the Bible with helpful study aids for busy moms. The “Thought Starters” are devotionals that are spiritually deep but that don’t take a huge amount of time to do. There are thirteen “Thought Starters” (or subjects) with three or four devotionals each. Each devotional has a one-minute, five-minute, or ten-minute track, which I thought was very helpful based on how busy my day turned out to be.

This Bible has full-color maps that are very detailed. It also has a table of weights and measures and a rather thorough concordance. It comes in many different styles and colors. For product information, click here.

I thought the concept of this Bible was good, but I am wondering if this would be executed better as a separate devotional book instead of an entire Bible. I would prefer to buy a smaller and more thorough book that had one-minute, five-minute, and ten-minute devotionals in it and use it with my own Bible rather than purchase another Bible.

While this Bible is not an in-depth study Bible, it would be a good reference for those who might need a short devotional on busy days.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received this book free from Zondervan 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.”

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Guest Review of "Forbidden"

Forbidden (The Books of Mortals #1) by Ted Dekker & Tosca Lee was sent to me as an advanced copy by Center Street Publishers. It is being released today, September 13, 2011.

My husband read this one (this is really more his type of book than mine…), so I am letting him do the review today!

This Sci-Fi-ish book is set in the future after the human race has come back from the brink of destruction following the Zealot War.  Nuclear holocaust nearly destroyed humanity, and drastic steps were taken to prevent it from ever happening again.  The best minds left on earth discovered the parts of DNA responsible for human emotion and eradicated all of them but fear.  Now, living in a society governed by a religion based on fear (the only human emotion left), war and violence are literally a thing of the past.  The last act of violence took place nearly 500 years ago, making a martyr out of the founder of The Order, the new and only religion in the world.

One day after walking home from work, Rom is accosted by an old man who gives him a package.  The old man calls himself a keeper and says that Rom’s father was a keeper too.  Now, Rom must take the package and protect mankind’s last hope.  Rom is confused, and things get even more terrifying when he witness the old man being murdered by the ruler’s elite guard, something which is incomprehensible in this age.  Rom opens that package and discovers that it contains blood that, when drunk, will awaken all of the emotions that humanity has lost.
Now Rom and his friends must decide the future of the world.  Having emotions is something that they have only read about in history books.  Human emotions like love, joy, and happiness are something they can’t possibly comprehend.  But, history also tells of greed, envy, hate, and ambition.  These are what led to the Zealot War in the first place.  Is the wealth of new emotions worth the cost of the negative ones?  And what of the current rulers?  They teach only Order, and anyone outside of Order is punished, even by death.  Thus begins the Book of Mortals.

The concept of this book is fascinating.  How do you try to describe someone feeling emotions for the first time?  The intellectual exercise of trying to imagine feeling for the first time is exhilarating.  How can you relay those thoughts to your readers?  I was very excited to find out.  And I did…5 times.  The first time someone drank the blood and felt emotions for the first time, it was interesting and exciting.  It took a few chapters (they are pretty short chapters) to convey it all, but it was done well.  Then, the next person took the blood, and the same thing happens again.  Then again.  Then again.  By the time the fifth person took the blood, I was ready to start skipping chapters.  Okay, we get it.  Their emotions are powerful and scary and they don’t know what to do.  You explained that already.  Get on with the story.  But, then we learn of someone ELSE who has found another way to get emotions (sort of), and we get to read about it all over yet again!
For this reason, this book takes forever to get going.   My wife does book reviews all the time (you know that if you are reading this on her site!), and she told me that this is a disturbing trend in series today.  Many authors will decide to do a trilogy from the start.  When that happens, the first book is mostly background and mostly boring.  The pace quickens at the end of the book making for an exciting (usually) ending, encouraging you to read the second book.  The second book is either a rehash of the first book or filler.  The third book is the story they wanted to write, but they wanted to sell two more books in the process.  I am not sure that Dekker and Lee were trying to do that here, but I will say that the first two-thirds of this book were nearly painful to get through.

On the other hand, it did end well.  Finally, the story started and we could get on with the plot.  I am now somewhat interested to see what happens to some of the characters.  Even though some of the more interesting characters were killed off, I still wouldn’t mind finding out what happens from here.
Also, I would like to say that I have a bit of a problem with the theme of the book.  From what I have read, Ted Dekker is a Christian novelist who is seems to be trying to get away from the title of Christian novelist.  Most of his stuff is pretty clean and it does have some religious overtones if you try to find them, but for the most part he tries to stay away from that now.  Then you get to this book.  The religious allegory is undeniable.  (See my spoilers below for more on this). I think Mr. Dekker needs to make up his mind.  It would make reading his books less confusing.

Overall, I would give this book 2 1/2 bookworms.  It has potential to be a good book, but it took WAY too long to get started.

Thanks, honey! We will have to decide later if we want to continue with this series or not.

(Watch out! Major Spoilers Below) 

So, is this a Christian book or not?  Everyone in the book is named Rom or Avra, or Triphon.  Then we meet the person that the whole book centers on, and his name is Jonathan.  He is predicted in a prophecy to be born with emotions for no reason (almost immaculately) in 500 years.  He is prophesied to be the one to become the Sovereign and rule the world.  According to the prophecy, everyone on earth is dead and only those with emotion are alive.  At one point, he actually says “by his blood we were brought to life”.  Then, at the end of the book, we learn that the boy’s name is actually Jonathan EMMANUAL!  COME ON!  If you want to stop being known as a Christian writer, then stop writing books where the main character is a picture of Christ!

Monday, September 12, 2011

"The Harvest of Grace" Review

The Harvest of Grace by Cindy Woodsmall was sent to me as an advanced review copy by Waterbrook Press through their Blogging for Books program. It is the third in a series of “Ada’s House” novels by this author. The first two books are The Hope of Refuge and The Bridge of Peace.

Unlike most Amish women, Sylvia Fisher has a unique passion in life – to run her family’s dairy farm. She loves tending the herd and even doing the daily chores that go along with a farm of this size. When an issue with an old beau comes to light, Sylvia escapes to another Amish community, where she is determined to help turn around the debt-ridden Blank family dairy farm.

Aaron Blank returns to his Amish home, after months in rehab, to find a distant father and an unlikely farmhand in Sylvia. Aaron has plans to rescue his parents from their debt, but Sylvia has her own plans for the farm. Will the two be able to find common ground? And will either of them be able to come to a place of forgiveness and grace?

Because I had not read the first two books in this series, I was a little confused throughout most of this book. The author does give a short recap of the first two books, as well as a list of characters, which was helpful. However, I did not think the summaries covered the stories enough to get me completely up to speed. I would say that this book, unlike other series books I have recently read, was more difficult to read as a stand-alone novel. I followed the story of Aaron and Sylvia quite easily, but as for the other characters’ stories (Lena & Grey, Ad & Israel, Cara & Ephraim), I felt I didn’t know their stories or their backgrounds enough to truly care about them. If you read this book, I recommend reading the first two books in the series first!

I think my favorite story in this novel was Aaron’s. I appreciated how he conquered an addiction with God’s help and how he planned to continue to rely on his faith in God in the future. I also thought that Sylvia’s story was a unique one to tell within an Amish community, and I enjoyed how she came to realize at the end that she wasn’t different. She just needed to find the right person for her.

In this novel, I felt there was an undercurrent of deceit, jealously, and lack of true forgiveness that contrasted too sharply with the overall umbrella of the Amish faith. While I realize that the Amish are imperfect people (as we all are), it seemed to me that too much sin in this book was overlooked and accepted and not handled in true Amish fashion. This novel did show the human side of Amish people, and that was refreshing. I just think there were too many things that were “swept under the rug” that would not have been in an Amish community. An example of this is that Aaron’s father (Michael) said the words that he forgave Aaron for his addiction and for leaving the farm. But throughout most of the rest of the book, Michael acts horribly toward his son. He lacks a spirit of forgiveness even though he has claimed to have forgiven Aaron. Is that true forgiveness? People of the Amish faith must forgive anyone who asks, but doesn’t that also mean acting as if you have forgiven them and not just saying the words?

Despite my feelings expressed in the last paragraph, this novel still portrayed grace and forgiveness in an excellent way in the other storylines and at the end of the book. Also, all of the plots in this series of books are wrapped up nicely with an epilogue at the end of The Harvest of Grace.

I will give The Harvest of Grace … 3 1/2  BookWorms

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received this book free from Waterbrook Press through their Blogging for Books program. 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, September 5, 2011

"Blue Skies Tomorrow" Blog Tour & Contest

About the book:
Lt. Raymond Novak prefers the pulpit to the cockpit, but at least his stateside job training B-17 pilots allows him the luxury of a personal life. As he courts Helen Carlisle, a young war widow and mother who conceals her pain under a frenzy of volunteer work, the sparks of their romance set a fire that flings them both into peril. After Ray leaves to fly a combat mission at the peak of the air war over Europe, Helen takes a job in a dangerous munitions yard and confronts an even graver menace in her own home. Will they find the courage to face their challenges? And can their young love survive until blue skies return?

About Sarah:
Sarah Sundin received the 2011 Writer of the Year Award from the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, and her second novel A Memory Between Us is a finalist for an Inspirational Readers' Choice Award. Her stories are inspired by her great-uncle who flew with the U.S. Eighth Air Force in England during World War II.  Sarah lives in California with her husband and three children.  Visit with Sarah online at

My Take:
As far as historical fiction goes, WWI- or WWII-era books are not my first choice. (Just ask my husband how I feel about war movies… most likely he will say, “That is the only type of movie that I can’t get her to watch with me!”)
Author Sarah Sundin has made me wonder if I have been missing out on a fascinating time period for historical fiction.
I really enjoyed this novel. The characters went through so much growth, and I was rooting for them every step of the way. Helen was relatable as a woman who felt she needed to keep up appearances and not burden anyone with her problems or her fears, even with people who cared about her. Ray’s story, with his quest to show courage, showed what it truly means to be a hero. You can tell I like a book when I am cheering and/or yelling at the book as I read it! Helen’s in-laws made me so angry (and thankful for my own wonderful in-laws!), but Ray’s story had me cheering out loud! J
Although I have not read the first two novels in this “Wings of Glory” series (I just didn’t have time to get to them before this blog tour post needed to be completed), I was still able to follow this story well. The only things I had a hard time with were keeping up with all of the characters and some of the technical details. (I really need to just make a list of characters when I start reading a book!) The book would introduce a character named “Betty,” and then later she would be referred to as “Mrs. Anello,” and I would have already forgotten that she was “Betty Anello!” But, I read so many books that it is really not so much an issue with the book as with my brain not being able to hold it all! I also got a little bogged down at times with the ‘technical war talk.’ It was hard for me to visualize what was happening during the battle scenes with Ray. When I read those sections, I just kept thinking that my husband would be more interested in this than I was. However, if I ever get a little downtime in my book review schedule, I definitely want to go back and read those first two books.
I may not turn into a WWII-era historical fiction fan, but Blue Skies Tomorrow has opened my eyes to how enjoyable this genre of novel can be.
I will give Blue Skies Tomorrow by Sarah Sundin ... 4 BookWorms

The Contest:
To celebrate the release of Blue Skies Tomorrow, the final installment of the Wings of Glory series, Sarah is giving one lucky winner A Vintage Kindle Prize Package! 

One winner will receive:

* Kindle with Wi-Fi

* Handmade vintage apron for you and a friend (see a photo here)

* Blue Skies Tomorrow (for Kindle)

To enter just click one of the icons below. But, hurry, giveaway ends on 9/10. Winner will be announced on 9/12 at Sarah Sundin's blog. Details and official rules can be found when entering the contest.

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter

Follow the Blog Tour here:


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Revel Publishing and 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, September 2, 2011

"The Judgment" Review

The Judgment by Beverly Lewis was sent to me as a review copy by Bethany House Publishers. It is the second novel in The Rose Trilogy by this author.

This novel continues the stories that began in "The Thorn.". Rose Ann Kauffman is engaged to Silas Good, an upstanding young Amish man who will make an excellent husband. But Rose Ann still thinks often of Nick Franco, the foster son of the bishop, who left the Amish community amid suspicion of his involvement with the death of the bishop’s biological son. While fighting these feelings for Nick, things also come to light about her relationship with Silas.

Meanwhile, Rose Ann’s sister, Hen, continues to live with her daughter, Mattie Sue, in the Amish community. She is currently separated from her ‘English’ husband, Brandon, who wants Hen and his daughter to move back home or he will sue for custody of Mattie Sue. Hen wants to restore her relationship with Brandon, but she does not want to once again leave the Amish way of life.

Rose Ann and Hen must come to terms with their relationships, while their Amish community must decide what will be done concerning the death of the bishop’s son and the absent Nick Franco.

Overall, I enjoyed this second installment of “The Rose” trilogy. I liked it better than the first book, mostly because it had a better flow to it. (During the first book, I was so confused by all of the characters and multiple storylines that my head was spinning.) The Judgment also wrapped up more nicely at the end while still leaving more to be explored in the final book in the series.

I enjoyed the character of Rose Ann more in this book, too. She didn’t seem to be as childish, and she made a very mature and honorable choice at the end of the book. Her choice sets up the third book in the series very well.

The main issue I had with this story was once again with Hen. I understand that Hen wants to go back to her roots and to rear her daughter in a moral environment. I just don’t think she should insist that her (non-believer, English) husband become Amish in order to do so. Hen and Brandon both have issues that they need to work through, but the reader only gets Hen’s very biased side of the story. As I said in my review of "The Thorn," I need to “…just enjoy the story rather than analyze the theology behind the story.” While I think I was able to do this better during The Judgment, I need to get even better at it when I read the final book in the series!

Even though I was once again frustrated with Hen, the event that occurs in her story near the end of the book also sets up the third book very well.

The Judgment was an easier read for me than the first book in The Rose Trilogy. Maybe it was because I was familiar with the characters and familiar with the story. Maybe it was because the novel was written cleanly compared with the first one. While this novel may have been a little lacking in depth of storyline, I do think that The Judgment is a good bridge between the first and last books of The Rose Trilogy. I look forward to reading and reviewing The Mercy when it is released.

I will give The Judgment by Beverly Lewis … 3 BookWorms.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers/Baker Publishing Group. 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.”