Tuesday, May 31, 2011

"The Ambition" Giveaway Winner!

Thank you to everyone who left comments over the last week!

I have randomly chosen a winner of a copy of "The Ambition" by Lee Strobel from all of my followers and from all of the comments that were left on my blog during the contest.

And the winner is....


who is a follower of my blog and also left a comment on my review of "The Ambition."


If you see this blog post, please send your name and mailing address to me at

shoopettesbookreviews (at) gmail (dot) com

I will also send you a message through Google Friend Connect.

Thanks again to everyone who left comments. I love hearing from my readers!!!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

"The Ambition" Review and Giveaway!

The Ambition is the debut novel from Lee Strobel, who is best known for his non-fiction “The Case for” books, such as “The Case for Christ.” I received this book for review from Zondervan Publishing, and it was released on May 17, 2011.
This novel takes place in modern-day Chicago, and is centered on a huge church that has sprung up in the suburbs over the last decade, Diamond Point Fellowship. Its head pastor, Eric Snow, suddenly has political aspirations. This news, along with a current ‘investigation’ of the church by a reporter from The Chicago Examiner throws the church, and its leadership, upside down.
Garry Strider is the reporter currently investigating Diamond Point Fellowship. After being recently passed over for a Pulitzer, Garry is desperate for any dirt that can help him write an article that will truly be Pulitzer Prize-worthy, and hidden sins in a church as large as Diamond Point will only help him.
Attorney Tom O’Sullivan did not want to follow in his father’s footsteps, but that is exactly where he finds himself. But doing ‘errands’ for the mob seems to be the only way to get out of his gambling debt. After this particular errand is over, Tom vows to conquer his addiction once and for all, however he can.
After a little bit of a rocky start and what I saw as ‘new author’ issues (introducing six or seven main characters in the first two chapters was a little much for me), I was pulled into the tangled web of the lives of these characters. I knew that the seemingly disconnected characters would somehow come together, and I was not disappointed.
It is rare to read a novel that contains all of these themes of murder and corruption but that does not also contain gratuitous violence and language and sexual material. That is one thing that was so refreshing about The Ambition. The spiritual aspect, for me, was a bonus that still fit well with the story and was not over-the-top. (The one exception maybe being the miracles that take place, but I really don’t want to get into some theological discussion here, especially since I don’t really know what my stance would be!)
The ending, I think, leaves a door open for a possible sequel. There is finality to the end of the book, but I could also envision the characters in a follow-up novel.
Political intrigue, mob hits, jaded investigative reporters, corrupt judges, disillusioned pastors:  The Ambition has everything necessary for a remarkable suspense novel. To me, this book delivered just that.
I will give The Ambition by Lee Strobel… 4 BookWorms

You can see my review of this novel online at “The Christian Manifesto” here.
Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received this book free from the publisher, Zondervan. 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.”

And now for the contest!
I have a copy of The Ambition to give away. If you are a follower of my blog, you will receive an automatic entry. To gain additional entries, you can become a new follower of my blog or you can leave a comment on any of my posts.
The more comments you leave, the more entries you will get! J
My contest will run through Monday, May 30th, and I will announce the winner on May 31st!

The Christian Manifesto website will also be having a contest for The Ambition. It will run sometime in June.

"Forever After" Review

“Forever After” by Deborah Raney was sent to me as an advanced review copy by Howard Books. This title will be realeased on June 14, 2011. It is the second in the three-book “Hanover Falls” series by this author. You can read my review of the first book, “Almost Forever,” here.
“Forever After” continues the story of the lives of the people who were affected by the fire at the Hanover Falls homeless shelter the previous year. This novel is told from the point of view of Lucas, the firefighter who was seriously injured in the fire, and from Jenna, a young widow of one of the firefighters killed in the blaze.
Lucas has endured over a year of recovery and therapy as the result of his injuries in the Grove Street Homeless Shelter fire. On top of that, his father was one of the firefighters who perished the night of the fire, and he has had to deal with why his father was taken and he was left. Lucas is struggling to find his place in a world that is now so foreign to him.
Jenna’s world was forever changed the night of the shelter fire. Her husband, Zach, never returned from that late-night run, leaving Jenna and Zach’s parents adrift in a world that practically revolved around him. Now, a year later, Jenna is struggling to see where her life is going. She doesn’t want to go back to where she came from, but she also doesn’t know how to sustain the artificial existence in which she has lived over the past few years.
Through the course of the novel, Lucas and Jenna help each other move forward into lives that neither of them planned for themselves. At the same time, things are still occurring at the homeless shelter that have the residents of Hanover Falls wondering if it should have been put back into operation after the first fire.
Like the first book in this series, “Forever After” delves into the topics of forgiveness and faith. I always enjoy a Christian fiction novel that tells the story of someone giving his/her heart and life to Christ. I also appreciated how the author showed a character who had gone through some deep water spiritually but who came through with an even firmer commitment to living their life by faith.
I think I enjoyed this second book in the series a little more than the first one. It didn’t feel as heavy since there had been somewhat of a significant time period since the actual tragedy of the fire had taken place. It didn’t feel as odd that the two main characters in this book were drawn to each other. I also really like it when ‘series books’ continue the over-arching storyline from one to the other while focusing on different characters in that story. This makes these books easier to read as stand-alone novels if you want.
While I thought this book was written well, there were a couple of things that bothered me. One thing was that at one point Lucas is driving in his truck over a long period of time, and he talks to Jenna on his cell phone the whole time! In my head, I was thinking that maybe he was using a hands-free device, but then it is made clear that he wasn’t. I know that this might not seem like a big deal, but it really bothered me!
The other thing was that the people in this book drank coffee all the time! Now, I am not a coffee drinker, but it seemed as if every time they turned around they were going for coffee or making coffee. Lucas and Jenna seemed to be able to have a serious conversation only over a cup of coffee!
I realize that these critiques are small. Please don’t let them dissuade you from reading what is a good second offering in the Hanover Falls series. I look forward to the final chapter in the lives of those affected by the Grove Street Homeless Shelter fire.

I will give “Forever After”…. 3 ½ BookWorms

You can see my review of this novel online at "The Christian Manifesto" here.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received this book free from the publisher, Howard Books, as an advanced review copy. 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.”

*** Spoiler Alert ***
I need to also tell about another thing that bothered me in this book. I felt like I was already giving too much away in this review in telling some of my gripes. But, I have to put this in, too. At one point in this story, Lucas goes to a training session several hours away. By this point he and Jenna are somewhat dating, and they will be separated for six weeks. Jenna freaks out! “Six weeks?” she says, in the same way you would say six YEARS. That seemed very odd to me. It would be extremely difficult to be separated from my husband and daughter for six weeks, but I could do it if I had to. It would be much harder for me to do that than it would be for this 20-something girl to not see her semi-boyfriend for that long. The whole conversation they had about the separation just made it seem like it was the end of the world. Please.

Monday, May 16, 2011

"Leaving" Review

Leaving by Karen Kingsbury was sent to me by Zondervan Publishing through a blog tour. It is the first in the ‘Bailey Flannigan’ series by this author.
Bailey Flannigan is a college student in Bloomington, Indiana (since I am a Purdue girl, I won’t mention which school…). She has dreams of performing on Broadway and has just landed the audition of a lifetime for the musical Hairspray in New York City. While she is excited about this opportunity, Bailey is anxious about leaving her beloved home and family in the Midwest. She also has reservations about her former boyfriend, Cody, who broke things off with her without much of an explanation.
Cody Coleman knows that his decision to end things with Bailey was for her best. He moves to Indianapolis to be closer to his mother and to pursue a job as an assistant high school football coach. While Cody’s life seems to be headed in the right direction, he still can’t get Bailey out of his mind and heart.
This first book in a series of four sets the stage for the tale of Bailey Flannigan and her adventures in New York and also with the major decisions that take place in the life of a 20-year-old.
Let me say from the start that this is the first Karen Kingsbury book that I have ever read. I know that some of you will think that it is just wrong for me to claim to be a fan of Christian fiction when I have not read Karen Kingsbury! My defense is that up until now, I mostly stuck to Christian historical fiction, and I’m pretty sure that Karen Kingsbury writes contemporary novels. (Feel free to correct me if I am wrong).
Since this is my first novel by this author, please bear with me for the review. I received this book through a blog tour, and I was told that it was the first in a new series. Imagine my surprise when I discover that the characters in this book have already been established in three or four other series based on the Baxter/Flannigan families. I felt as if I was starting a movie halfway through or trying to watch a TV show drama that had already been on for three seasons. I was confused. I have to say, though, that the author did a pretty good job of catching me up on what I needed to know in the lives of the characters. However, there were so many characters to keep straight from the very beginning of the book that I felt as if a family tree listing somewhere in the book would have been very helpful.
As far as the content and story of the book, I thought it was okay. Again, I have not read any of Karen Kingsbury’s other series, so I have nothing to compare to. I felt that the author did very well incorporating faith in God into all areas of the characters’ lives. However, the ‘tests’ of faith in Bailey’s life were not very relatable. Bailey’s struggles mostly revolved around taking a role on Broadway or continuing to star in movies in Hollywood. She also has three guys who are interested in her… Cody (who seems to be an average Joe), Brandon (a Hollywood movie star), and Matt (a player for the Indianapolis Colts). I don’t know about you, but I was a college student (and a Christian) at a school in Indiana (Go, Purdue!), and my opportunities for a career or for dating didn’t quite reach that high! (No offense, honey! You are better for me than any movie or NFL star!!!)
There was also another storyline about the characters of Landon and Ashley, who are characters in the Baxter family and are from the previous series. While their story helps to continue the story of the Baxter family, I’m not sure why it was really included in this book. It seemed out of place. I’m sure it would have fit better if I had read the previous books, which I apparently need to do! J
I can’t say that I was too excited about this book after I finished it. Maybe it is just the set up novel for the next three to come. I wouldn’t mind reading them, but it wouldn’t be my first choice. However, if you are a fan of Karen Kingsbury, and especially if you have read the previous series, I’m sure you will enjoy this new one. If you are a fan and read this book, please comment and let me know what you think. I’m sure you can be a better judge than I can!
Because of my confusion with the backgrounds of the characters and because of a hard-to-relate-to storyline, I will give Leaving … 2 ½ BookWorms.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received this book free from Zondervan Publishing for a blog tour. 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, May 12, 2011

"Snitch" Review

Snitch by Booker T. Mattison was sent to me by Revell Publishers/Baker Publishing Group. It is a contemporary novel that takes places on the streets of Jersey City.
A bus driver, Andrew Bolden, sees someone shot down right in front of him during a late-night route. Knowing that the shooter saw him, Andre has a choice to keep silent and possibly lose his job or tell what he saw and become a snitch, an act often punishable by death on these streets. Adding to the dilemma is Andre’s concern for his infant son and his former girlfriend. This one event that occurs in Andre’s life leads to a waterfall of other experiences (including some things from his past) that will shape his life from here on out, hopefully for the better.
For me, this novel drew me to the characters immediately. They seemed to be so true-to-life, and I really cared what was happening to them and how they were hopefully going to grow and change. The spiritual aspect of this book was done so well. Time and time again, Andre is confronted with what he believes, with what he thinks about God, and how God should be in his life. But the author does this without being preachy or sounding fake. It is through his everyday life and struggles and through everyday people that Andre encounters matters of faith.
This book was also very eye-opening for me. The reality of life on the street was thought-provoking and was realistic, I’m sure. I appreciated that the people in this book were willing to step up and try to change their community for the better. I also thought that the author did a good job putting lots of different issues into the book without making the characters sound whiny or ‘woe-is-me.’ The things that Andre deals with are real and could happen to anyone, no matter their race or gender or situation.
While this narrative has excellent character development, it is a gritty suspense novel at its core. The story starts off with a bang (literally), mellows towards the middle, then races on to its conclusion. My only complaint was that the ending, for me, was somewhat unsatisfying. I felt that the characters still had more to do and to say. But, I could be misinterpreting the resolution that was presented.
Snitch is an absorbing novel that explores faith, justice, and community while telling an intense tale that is pulled directly from urban life.
I will give Snitch by Booker T. Mattison…. 4 BookWorms.

See my review on The Christian Manifesto here.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received this book free from Revell Publishing/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.”

Thursday, May 5, 2011

"On Hummingbird Wings" Review

“On Hummingbird Wings” by Lauraine Snelling was sent to me as an Advanced Reading Copy by Hachette Book Group.  This book is a recent release, published on April 11, 2011.
Gillian Ormsby left California over twenty years ago to pursue her dream of becoming an executive in New York.  Having accomplished that goal, she now finds herself back in California after a frantic call from her sister, Allie, about their mother’s health. What starts out as a short trip back home to find out if her mother really is dying turns into a longer stay thanks to her mother’s stubbornness and Gillian’s sudden notification from her boss that she is out of a job.
This book leisurely tells Gillian’s story during this period in her life. While she is in California, Gillian befriends several of her mother’s neighbors, including a man who seems to care for her mother and one (Adam) who might be someone she could let into her life and into her heart. The novel takes Gillian through a time of self-discovery as she deals with her mother, her work life, her relationship with her sister, and some long-awaited relaxation time working in her mother’s garden.
For me, this book was nice. I did not find it face-paced or thrilling, but I did not find it extremely boring, either. It unfolded at a relaxed and restful tempo, and it had characters that were likeable. The symbolism between Gillian’s mother and the hummingbirds in the garden was done quite well. I did, however, find myself at the end of the book wanting to know a little more. I wanted to know more about Allie and if her situation and feelings were ever resolved. I also wanted to know a couple of other things, but I won’t list them here in case it would reveal too much. (See the *Spoiler Alert* below if you want to know what I'm talking about!) Suffice it to say, I would have preferred for the story to be more concise in the middle and stretched out a bit at the end.
While this novel was an unhurried one, it did have some little surprises along the way that helped to keep my attention. This is a story of relationships, how our choices affect those relationships, and how those bonds can be helped and healed with the right words and actions.
I will give “On Hummingbird Wings” by Lauraine Snelling…  3 BookWorms

Read my review at The Christian Manifesto site here.

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


There were two other things in this book that I wanted to know more about when I got to the end. One was that I would have liked to further explore Gillian’s journey back to her faith and trust in God. This part of the story was hinted at several times, but I felt it could have been developed more towards the end of the book.
The other thing was that I wanted to know what really happened to Gillian’s mother to make her unable (or unwilling) to get out of bed! Was she really just depressed over here mini-stroke as the others said? Was she still grieving the death of her best friend? And how did she turn it around so quickly as to just suddenly leave with Enzio on the cruise? I thought that was a great surprise in the story, but it seemed out of character to happen so quickly.
If anyone reads this book, let me know if you felt the same way!


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

"Two Brides Too Many" Review

Since I was asked to review the second book in the “Sinclair Sisters of Cripple Creek” series, “Too Rich for a Bride,” then I decided to check out the first book from the library so that I would know what was happening!
“Two Brides Too Many” by Mona Hodgson begins telling the story of the Sinclair sisters (four in all – Ida, Kat, Nell, and Vivian) and their adventures moving out west to Cripple Creek, Colorado, beginning in 1895. The first book narrates the stories of Kat and Nell, as they leave their home in Maine to become mail-order brides in the rugged frontier.
After corresponding with their intendeds through letters, Kat and Nell are both nervous and excited to meet the men who they will marry in Colorado. When they arrive at the Cripple Creek train station, however, they discover that a fire has ripped through the town. With the town in a crisis, the two sisters suddenly find themselves without their promised husbands-to-be and seemingly alone in unfamiliar territory.
For the most part, this story is a lighthearted tale of life in a western mining town. The first few chapters are not lighthearted at all, but after things get straightened out from the fire, the book settles into more of the usual romantic historical fiction story. I really enjoyed the secondary characters in this book. The little girl, Rosita, was so sweet, and Hattie, the owner of the boardinghouse, just leapt from the page! Hattie's wisdom and love of God help Kat and Nell to discover what paths God has prepared for them.
This novel is the first adult fiction novel by Mona Hodgson. She has many children’s books to her credit, as well as numerous magazine and newspaper articles. For a first novel, I thought it was really good. There were a few things that I did find to be unpolished, to my non-writer eye. I found it a bit difficult when the story switched from Kat to Nell and back. It seemed as if their stories should have been split into two different books. Also sometimes the dialogue was difficult to follow. One other thing that bothered me was that the father in this book actually sends his daughters off to be mail-order brides. It was his idea! I realize that I do not live in the year 1895, and I do not fully understand the view of women at that time. Still, it seems a bit harsh for a father who is supposed to protect his daughters to just send them off to be married to who-knows-who.
Anyway, I thought this was a decent first effort for a children’s author writing adult fiction.
I will give “Two Brides Too Many” by Mona Hodgson……  3 BookWorms.