Thursday, April 21, 2011

"Angel Sister" Review

“Angel Sister” by Ann H. Gabhart was sent to me by Revell Publishers/Baker Publishing Group for review. This is the first book I have read by this author.
“Angel Sister” takes place in the small town of Rosey Corner, Kentucky, in 1936. The Great Depression touches every corner of the nation.  The lingering effects of World War One continue to affect the country as well.
Fourteen-year-old Kate Merritt, the middle sister in a family of three girls, works hard to keep her family going. Her father, Victor, struggles with alcoholism and the stress of the remembrances of fighting in the war. Her mother, Nadine, tries to keep things going but is almost running out of strength. Her sisters, Evangeline and Victoria, seem oblivious to the things going on around them.
When Kate discovers an abandoned little girl, Lorena Birdsong, on the steps of the church and takes her home, the seemingly small act brings secrets to light that will change the lives of the Merritt family and the people of the town forever.
At first, I had a little trouble getting into this book. I felt the first chapters unfolded too slowly, and I thought keeping up with the family members was a little confusing. I kept wondering when we were going to get to the actual story. I enjoyed getting to know the characters, but I wasn’t grabbed by the narrative immediately. When I finally realized that I should just sit back and enjoy getting to know the characters, the novel completely changed for me.
To me, this novel felt a lot like the movie “The King’s Speech,” which I saw recently. The book and the movie do not have anything to do with each other, but the general feeling is very similar. There is a plot, and the plot is central to the tale. But the point of the book/movie is not the plot. It’s the characters. It is how the characters grow and change and relate to one other. The development of the characters from the beginning of the book to the end is emotional and very relatable.
This books endeavors to answer some hard questions of life. Why do bad things happen? Does God really care? Is forgiveness possible after years of anger and bitterness? It also deals with some intense moments of the horrors of war. However, it focuses on how God can give us love and joy in the midst of the trials of life.
After a little bit of a slow start, “Angel Sister” blossomed into a beautiful, character-driven story of love, forgiveness, and redemption.
I will give “Angel Sister” by Ann H. Gabhart… 4 BookWorms.

You can read my review of this book online at The Christian Manifesto website here.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received this book free from the publisher - Revell/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, April 13, 2011

"Couples Who Pray" Review

"Couples Who Pray" by Squire Rushnell & Louise DuArt was sent to me by Thomas Nelson Publishers through their Booksneeze Blogger Review Program.
When I got this book to review, my husband and I were very excited.  We both wanted to start praying more, and specifically start praying together more.  Shortly after we discussed doing so, we got "Couples Who Pray" and another book about praying (to be reviewed soon) in the mail.  We were very excited to learn how best to pray with one another, so we read "Couples Who Pray" together each night.  Unfortunately, this book doesn’t tell you.
The book starts with the authors giving a summary of what you will learn in the rest of the book.  We were concerned that it sounded like an infomercial.  They talked about all of the “famous” couples that participated in the 40 Day Prayer Challenge and how it benefitted their marriages.  Then, the rest of the chapter was spent explaining how if you pray together for 40 days, at least 5 minutes a day, then your marriage will be happier, your marital intimacy will improve, communication will improve, and your life in general will improve.
On the surface, those are all good things.  But, those things should not be the goal of praying.  Prayer is about communing with God.  It is about seeking His face, learning His will, praising His name, and humbly asking for His guidance and wisdom and help.  Prayer isn’t about rubbing some verbal lamp and having God do his genie thing and grant your wishes.  But, this was just the first chapter.  Perhaps we are just being too cynical.  We need to give this a chance.
It didn’t get any better.  The first scripture verse mentioned in the book didn’t occur until page 36, and it wasn’t even part of the text.  It was a clipart-type picture thrown on the page seemingly to increase the page count.  It seems to me that if you are writing a book about talking to God, you might want to include some things that He has to say about it.  Now, in the book's defense, there is a list of scripture verses in one of the appendices.  However, this is mainly given as a list of verses to discuss and pray about, nothing specific to why and how we should be praying.
Despite the lack of what God has to say about prayer in this book, there were plenty of things mentioned that others had to say about it.  The personal testimonies in this book are plentiful, just not helpful to us.  Each one sounded the same.  “Our marriage was falling apart, we decided to pray together each night, and our lives are great now.”  And they all are having wonderful intimacy (sex) as a result.  They made sure to mention that a lot.  A lot.

I also have to point out the unsettling mindset that this book has towards tithing. Here is a direct quote from the book: 

"You may know what tithing is, but the question is: what's in it for you?... the concept of tithing isn't just about money. And it's not about other people. It's about you, and what happens to you when you give to others."

The book does go on to say that tithing is about giving as an act of obedience to God. But the whole feeling of that section was one of that if you tithe, God will give you even more money back. While I believe God will take care of those who trust in Him, I also know from personal experience that this does not always mean financially.

Any book that claims to be based on prayer and the Bible is getting off on the wrong track when it has you ask the question, "What's in it for you?" Sounds like Prosperity Gospel to me.
In addition to not actually helping us figure out how to pray, this book was difficult to read.  The chapters are broken into sections that are typically two to four paragraphs long.  Each section seems to jump to another topic with no transition or even relevance to what was being said in the previous section.
My husband and I were very disappointed in this book.  We know that praying together is very important to our marriage and our Christian walks.  We also know that praying together can do everything that this book claims it can do.  But, that isn’t the point of praying.  We want to be in the presence of our Lord, humbling ourselves in His majesty.  We don’t want to be kids shouting “Trick-or-Treat” and hoping we get the good candy bars.  If you want to pray with your spouse, I highly encourage you to do so.  However, you will get more use out of the title of this book than you will from actually reading it. 
This is a first for Shoopette’s Book Reviews. I will give "Couples Who Pray" my lowest rating…1 bookworm.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received this book free from the Thomas Nelson Publishers through their Booksneeze Blogger review program. I was not required to write a positive review (obviously). 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.”


Update:  Has anyone else read this book? What did you think? Please don't feel I will think less of you if you liked it! This book just wasn't for us.

Monday, April 11, 2011

"The Priest's Graveyard" Review

“The Priest’s Graveyard” is the latest from suspense author Ted Dekker. It was sent to me as a review copy by Hachette Book Group/Center Street Publishers.

This novel, which is filled with issues of morality, focuses on two main characters, Danny and Renee, who are brought together through unusual circumstances.

Danny is a priest with a troubled past and an even more troubling present. Having lost his mother and sisters in the wars in Bosnia, he has decided to be God’s “Avenging Angel” here on earth. Danny hunts people who are evil in God’s eyes (according to his reasoning) and gives them the choice to fix their ways or die, hence the title.

Renee is a former drug addict who was rescued by a guy named Lamont. After caring for her and bringing her back literally from the brink of death, Lamont informs her that he has discovered that his boss is a bad man and that he is concerned for his life. Soon, Lamont goes missing, and Renee knows that the boss is responsible.

Fortunately for Renee, the same man is on Danny's list.

After a providential meeting, the two go through a journey of vengeance on the man who has caused so much pain.  During the journey, the two grow closer together and deal with questions of morality and guilt.

Although this book was well written and fast-paced, I often found it predictable. I read on Amazon that this book has a huge surprise twist in it, and it does, but I figured it out three quarters of the way through. (Now, that might just be my cynical nature coming through…I never trust anyone or anything in a book or a movie!)

I almost never think this about a book, but I thought this one would probably make a better movie.  I felt that the development of the characters could have been much deeper.  Perhaps seeing it on screen would have made it clearer.

I did really like the questions of morality that are brought up in this book.  Danny, the priest, struggles with his decisions of vengeance and judgment.  Is everything absolute?  Are there any gray areas of morality?  Is lying always wrong or, is it okay to lie if it saves someone else?  Is it okay to murder someone if it saves the lives of all of his future victims?  These were fascinating questions that really made the characters interesting.

I would also like to offer a word of caution about this book – It would be at least a PG-13 rating.  The descriptions of drug use and its affects were somewhat graphic.  In addition, there are several scenes of violence against Danny’s victims. I would not let this stop you from reading this book, but know that it is gritty and true-to-life.

Although this was a good book and Ted Dekker had a good idea for a story, I felt he lacked the follow through to make it great. If you enjoy Ted Dekker, you will probably like this one.

I will give “The Priest’s Graveyard”…  3 BookWorms.

To see my review on The Christian Manifesto site, please click here.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received this book free from the publisher -- Hachette Book Group/Center Street 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.”

Saturday, April 9, 2011

"Heart of Stone" Review

“Heart of Stone” by Jill Marie Landis, the first in the author’s ‘Irish Angel’ series, is a book I picked up from the library. I signed up to participate in a blog tour for the second book in this series, “Heart of Lies,” but I wanted to read the first book first. (Call me picky, but that’s just the way my Mama raised me!)
This series begins with the story of Laura Foster, who runs a stylish boardinghouse in Glory, Texas, in 1874. Laura has made a name for herself in Glory over the last few years while also keeping the people of the settlement at a distance. She knows there is too much in her past (the death of her parents, her separation from her sisters, and her unspeakable childhood) that would cause her destruction.
Enter the Reverend Brand McCormick, who is taken with the young hostess of the boardinghouse and is determined to close the distance that Laura has put between herself and the people in the town. When secrets threaten to be revealed, will there be forgiveness or only bitterness and betrayal?
On the whole, I thought this book was not bad. The premise has been done before, but it mostly held my interest, and there was even a twist thrown in that I didn’t see coming. (That is an accomplishment for any book I read, since I don’t trust anyone or anything in any book!) Yet, I found myself wanting more from this novel. Occasionally the actual writing confused me. The dialogue did not seem to flow very well at times, as if the people were not really listening to each other when they were having a conversation. (Maybe that is pretty realistic, though…) Someone would ask a question, and the other person would make a comment that did not answer the question at all. This was just something that bothered me and made the book kind of hard to read.
I will say that this novel does a good job at portraying the various responses that one can get when something negative from his or her past comes to light. Our response as true believers should be one of forgiveness and acceptance, just as Christ forgives and accepts us. But how many times do we put on our judgmental attitudes and attribute those attitudes to being righteous? May we all have a spirit of forgiveness in our hearts that is willing to welcome all people into our churches and our lives.

I will give “Heart of Stone”by Jill Marie Landis…  3 BookWorms


If you have not read this book, and you want to, I would advise that you not read any further in this post. Otherwise, read on, readers!

I have to point out that in this book I was very discouraged that Brand, the REVEREND asked Laura to marry him before he knew that she was a believer. Maybe I am missing something, but I’m pretty sure that I remember her having her conversation with God after they had been on their picnic and he had asked her to marry him. I think this is a major error in this book. Of course, before the picnic, he had no reason to believe that she wasn’t a Christian. But after their conversations about her past, he really should have known. Not that she couldn’t be a believer in Christ because of her past, but because her words and actions clearly showed that she had not allowed Christ to release her of her past.
This was just something that I felt didn’t match with the way a follower of Christ, and especially a pastor, would act.


"Heart of Lies" Blog Tour

“Heart of Lies,” by Jill Marie Landis, is making a blog tour stop today at Shoopette’s Book Reviews. I was given a copy of this book from Zondervan Publishers through their Blogger Program.
“Heart of Lies” is the second in the ‘Irish Angel’ series by this author. It focuses on the next sister who was forced to be separated from her family as a child. Laura, the oldest sister and the main character in “Heart of Stone,” has been searching for her sister, Megan. The detective she hired has a lead, and it is then that this next story begins.
Maddie Grande has spent her whole life as she knows it growing up on the streets of New Orleans as a member of a group of child thieves and beggars. As an adult, she moves to the bayou with her two “brothers” hoping for a peaceful life. Her tranquil existence is shaken when her lawless brothers get her involved in a kidnapping. The detective on the case, Tom Abbott, soon has Maddie running for her life and from her heart.
For me, the setting of “Heart of Lies” was a more interesting read than the first novel in this series. I don’t think I have ever read a Christian fiction novel that was based on a child growing up in a gang of thieves (unless you count “Oliver Twist,” and I wouldn’t necessarily classify that as Christian fiction), and that aspect of the book was really interesting. Mechanically, this novel had a better flow to it than the first one. The dialogue was more realistic, and the story mostly moves along. At first I enjoyed the ‘chase’ between Maddie and Tom as it related to the kidnapping. But I always get bored with chase scenes, and so it did get a little long (and unrealistic at times) for me.
The story was rather predictable, but sometimes I like that in a novel. I wanted Maddie to be able to experience forgiveness and the chance for a new life.
I think the author gave a good example of forgiveness and renewal among the lives of the characters in this book. However, I don’t think the issue of faith was brought up enough. It seemed to me that a relationship with God never came into the picture, either for Maddie or for Tom. The kidnapped little girl, Penelope (who was a shining star in this book) seemed to have the most faith of anyone. The views expressed seemed to be based more on people being ‘good’ or ‘bad’ rather than their faith in Christ. To me, this story would have been so much better if both Tom and Maddie had asked for forgiveness not just from each other, but from God as well. Hopefully I am getting ahead of myself and this will be made clearer in the coming novels in this series.
The story in “Heart of Lies” did draw me in, and I look forward to the next novels in this series.

I will give “Heart of Lies” by Jill Marie Landis… 3 BookWorms

About Jill Marie Landis
Jill Marie Landis is the bestselling author of over twenty novels. She has won numerous awards for her sweeping emotional romances, such as Summer Moon and Magnolia Creek. Her latest book Heart of Lies is the second installment in the Irish Angel Series, which also includes Heart of Stone. With her toes in the sand and head in the clouds, Jill now lives in Hawaii with her husband, Steve. Visit Jill Marie at

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received this book free from Zondervan Publishers through their Blogger 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.”

Friday, April 8, 2011

"Money & Marriage" by Matt Bell Blog Tour and Contest

“Money & Marriage” by Matt Bell was sent to me by the publisher, NavPress, through LitFuse Publicity. This is a blog tour that is making a stop at my blog today!
Everyone who is married knows that money is a big deal within a marriage. Financial problems are frequently the cause of marital strife and even divorce. In “Money & Marriage,” Matt Bell takes engaged or newly married couples through some basic steps to ensure financial stability and also to find a common ground within the marriage when it comes to money. Many topics are discussed, including how to prioritize financial goals, getting out of debt, saving, and buying a house.
Since I have been married for almost 11 years and have been through several classes and read several books on managing finances, I can’t say that I had any great revelations while reading this book. However, this book would have been wonderful to go through when my husband and I were engaged or newly married. It covers the most necessary aspects of finances that should help put couples on the right track to managing their money well, and according to Biblical principles, within their marriage.
In the first few chapters there are some lists of questions for couples to ask of themselves and also each other. I did think that the lists were a little overwhelming. It might be better to take those in smaller chunks. Answering them thoroughly all at once would be really time-consuming.
All-in-all, I feel “Money & Marriage” would be an excellent resource for couples to use during pre-marital counseling or for newlyweds to use as a small group study.
I will give “Money & Marriage” …. 4 BookWorms.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received this book free from the publisher, NavPress, 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.”

About Matt: Matt began his career as a radio journalist, with his work featured on National Public Radio, the NBC Radio Network, and several other networks. His reporting earned national awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and United Press International.

Today, Matt is a full-time personal finance writer and speaker. He is the author of two books: "Money, Purpose, Joy" (September 2008) and "Money Strategies for Tough Times" (April 2009), both by NavPress. Matt has been quoted in USA TODAY, U.S. News and World Report, the Chicago Tribune, and Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine, has written for, and has been a guest on WGN-TV and several nationally syndicated radio talk shows.

Matt holds a Master's degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from DePaul University, where he wrote a thesis about the emergence of America's consumer culture and its influence on people's beliefs and behaviors.

Matt lives with his wife and their three young children in the Chicago area. Visit his website and blog at

Link to buy the book: click here

About the giveaway:

Matt Bell's (a.k.a Matt About Money) Money & Marriage has just released (NAVPress) and is a great resource for engaged or newly married couples.
Matt says about the book, “I wrote “Money & Marriage” because I believe in marriage. I’m sure it isn’t news to you that money is a very common source of stress between spouses. It’s even a primary factor in many divorces. I wrote this book with no less of a goal than to save many marriages from disaster, and to help all couples use money in a way that strengthens their relationship and increases their joy.”

To celebrate Matt has put together a Nest Egg Giveaway with a prize package worth over $250!

Enter here:

One winner will receive:

•    A Free 1 Hour Financial Session
•    A $100 Visa Cash Card
•    A signed copy of Matt’s Money, Purpose, Joy and Money Strategies for Tough Times

To enter just click on the icon above. Then tell your friends. And hurry - the contest ends April 11th. The winner will be announced on Matt's blog on April 13th.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

"Almost Forever" Review

“Almost Forever” by Deborah Raney was sent to me as a review copy by the publisher, Howard Books. It is the first in a series of three books, the “Hanover Falls” series.  I was actually asked to review the second book in this series (“Forever After”), but I wanted to read the first one first, so they sent both to me! J

“Almost Forever” begins tragically with a fire that occurs at a homeless shelter in the small town of Hanover Falls, Missouri, killing five firefighters and seriously injuring another. One of the widows of the fire, Bryn, was actually at the shelter that night, and the story is mostly told from her point of view. Her story unfolds through her soon-after-the-fire involvement with a widower, Garrett, who lost his wife in the blaze.  To further complicate things, Bryn has a secret she has been keeping ever since the fire occurred.
As far as emotions go, mine were all over the place when reading this book. The beginning was sad, reading about the grief of the widows who lost spouses in the fire. However, I did think that the author did a good job telling about this part of the story without getting so heart-wrenching that I had to stop reading the book! The middle of the book got a little boring for me when it dealt with the relationship between Bryn and Garrett, but it picked up closer to the end of the book when the plot changed course a bit and became much more thought-provoking.
After saying all of that, I did enjoy reading this book, despite the roller coaster of emotions. The story, after it started moving along a little more, is one that brings up many questions relating to forgiveness, both from God and from others. The book delves into so many other issues as well, including pursuing a relationship so soon after losing a spouse and the complicated topic of the benefits and roadblocks to having a homeless shelter in a small town. I thought the characters in the book were pretty much based in reality, and they definitely took their faith seriously.
Where the characters differed from reality for me was how soon the relationship between Bryn and Garrett developed. It was hard for me to swallow how quickly they were drawn to each other. While I have never been in their shoes, I also can’t imagine how long (if ever) it would take my heart to heal after losing my love. I am sure, though, that it would be longer than just a few months.
This novel really makes you think about how you would act and what you would do if you were in Bryn’s situation. It thoroughly explores the concept of whether or not “the truth will set you free.”
This was my first time reading a book from Deborah Raney, and I am looking forward to reading the rest of the novels in the Hanover Falls series.
I will give “Almost Forever”… 3  BookWorms.

You can also read my review of this book on The Christian Manifesto.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received this book free from the publisher, Howard Books. 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.”