Monday, December 30, 2013

"A Queen Named Esther" & "David Battles Goliath" Reviews

A Queen Named Esther is a soft-cover children’s book that tells the story of Esther from the Bible. The illustrations are taken from The Beginner’s Bible, also from Zondervan.

This little book is an excellent retelling of the story of Esther. It stays true to the biblical account but is told in a way that is easily understandable for children. The characters are drawn in a cartoonish fashion, but I think this keeps the story more relatable for children.

The story of Esther is a hard one to tackle for children, since it is so intricate, but this version does a good job of explaining how Esther became queen and how she had to choose whether or not to be willing to stand up for and help save her people.

The recommended age group for this book is 2-5. I think this is very appropriate. My four-year-old daughter really liked the pictures in the book, and she also said that she liked the queen.

A Queen Named Esther is a wonderful Bible story book that tells of the courage of Esther and the love of our great God.

David Battles Goliath is a children’s book that tells the story of David and Goliath from the Bible (1 Samuel 17). The illustrations are taken from The Beginner’s Bible, also from Zondervan, and it is a soft-cover format.

My four-year-old daughter is very familiar with the story of David and Goliath (mostly from VeggieTales), but she still enjoyed this book. The illustrations are colorful (if a bit cartoonish), and the story is told in a way that is easy for little ones to understand. It also handles the violence that comes along with this story in a way that is truthful but not too frightening. (There is a picture of Goliath lying dead on the ground with David standing over him, but even that picture is not too upsetting).

The recommended age group for this book is 2-5, and I feel that it is appropriate. Younger ones will enjoy listening to the story, and beginning readers will be able to use this book to start reading more on their own.

This retelling of the story of David and Goliath focuses on David’s great faith in God. David believed that the Israelites would be delivered from the Philistines, and this book is written as such in an exciting and uplifting way.

I will give both of these books ... 4.5 BookWorms.

A Queen Named Esther & David Battles Goliath
by Kelly Pulley
Publication date: September 24, 2013

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Zonderkidz. 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, December 27, 2013

"Stranded" Review

Darcy St. James thought her undercover journalism days were over. But then her best friend Abby convinces her to join her in an investigation on board an Alaskan cruise ship. When Darcy arrives on the ship and discovers that Abby has disappeared, Darcy’s task becomes even more difficult.

Gage McKenna and his siblings love doing their job of taking tourists on various Alaskan excursions. When the McKenna family is approached about running the off-board activities for an Alaskan cruise ship, Gage decides to head it up. He thinks this job will give him the opportunity to get Darcy St. James – a girl who he thought he might be able to care for but who abruptly left his life – out of his mind.

When Gage realizes that Darcy is doing publicity for the cruise ship, he is stunned. And when he finds out that Darcy is actually undercover, he is dismayed. Gage is attracted to Darcy, but he is not interested in being with someone (again) who is not completely genuine.
As Darcy searches for the truth of what happened to Abby, she and Gage are thrust into the middle of something even more sinister than they believed.

Stranded is the third book in the Alaskan Courage series by Dani Pettrey. You can read my reviews of Submerged and Shattered also.

In usual Dani Pettrey fashion, this book starts off with a bang. You could probably read this novel without having read the first two in the series, but it might be a bit chaotic in the beginning if you are not already familiar with the characters. It took me a bit to remember who all the characters were and to get familiar with them.

The story starts off strong with the disappearance of Abby and with Gage and Darcy ending up working together to find her. The suspense portion of this novel is done very well. I was interested in the mystery surrounding Abby’s disappearance, and it was fun to follow all of the twists and turns along the way. The only thing that kind of got in the way of the suspense was that although I appreciated Darcy’s dedication to finding her friend, I sometimes thought the way she went about it was either naïve or a bit over the top and reckless.

As for the romance between Gage and Darcy, it pretty much followed the same pattern as the previous novels. Gage and Darcy did seem to be meant for each other, but the romantic conflict seemed rather more limited in its scope than it could have been. It was a bit tiresome that Gage kept having to rescue Darcy all the time (see the previous paragraph on her being reckless...) - I mean, he 'saved' her, what? Three times, I think? Just a bit much.

I mentioned in my reviews of the previous novels in this series that they both had a clear message of grace and forgiveness that comes through, and that is true for this novel as well. Gage is really struggling with questions that all of us ask at one time or another such as why would a loving God allow bad things to happen, especially to children? This portion of the novel was difficult for me to read, but it was written with a sense of hope and continued faith in God with the focus being clearly on Christ.

As I mentioned earlier, there are a lot of characters in this novel. This is mostly due to the fact that this is the third book in the series, which is to be expected. I actually think that one of the best parts of this book was how it set up the story of Jake that will hopefully be told in the next book. I have been interested in his story since Submerged, the first book in the series, so the next novel is going to have a lot to live up to!

Overall this book was a good continuation of the series. The setting of the Alaskan cruise ship was really interesting, especially since I would love to go on an Alaskan cruise someday. I just hope I don't have to deal with the things these characters did on that cruise!

I will give Stranded ... 3.5 BookWorms.


Stranded by Dani Pettrey
Alaskan Courage #3
Bethany House Publishers
Publication date: September 1, 2013

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."

Monday, December 23, 2013

"Christmas in Apple Ridge" 3-in-1 Review

Experience the holidays with the Plain folk of Apple Ridge, Pennsylvania, in these touching novellas centered around love, romance, heartache, and restoration from best-selling author Cindy Woodsmall.

The Sound of Sleigh Bells
Beth Hertzler is unable to let go of a past tragedy, but when she discovers a large, intricately carved scene of Amish children playing in the snow, something deep inside Beth’s soul responds. Determined that her niece meet the gifted artist, her aunt tracks him down, but it’s not that simple. Will Jonah be able to offer Beth the sleigh ride she’s always dreamed of and a second chance at real love?
The Christmas Singing
Mattie thought her childhood sweetheart adored her until he abruptly ended their engagement on Christmas Eve. Brokenhearted, Mattie moves away and pursues her longtime dream of becoming a cake decorator, and even finds a new beau. But when Mattie is forced to return home three years later, will learning the truth behind Gideon’s rejection restore her Christmas joy – or open the door to even deeper heartbreak?
The Dawn of Christmas
Sadie enjoys her freedom away from home and her mission trips to Peru, but after four years, her Old Order Amish family insists it’s time to come home and settle down. Levi, a bachelor who distrusts women after a family heartbreak, also has no desire for romance. To keep their families from meddling in their lives, Sadie and Levi devise a plan—but soon discover that the walls around their hearts are breaking down. Can they let go of their prejudices, learn to trust each other, and embrace a future together?

For more information click here. You can also read Chapter One here.

About the Author: Cindy Woodsmall is a New York Times and CBA best-selling author of numerous works of fiction and one of nonfiction. Her connection with the Amish community has been featured widely in national media. She lives in the Foothills of the North Georgia Mountains with her family. - See more at:

My Take:

Two years ago I read and reviewed the second of these three novellas - The Christmas Singing - and it was a very nice read for the Christmas season. So I was looking forward to reading the other Apple Ridge Christmas novellas as well.

In the first novella - The Sound of Sleigh Bells - I was immediately drawn in to the story of Beth and Jonah. I liked both of them as characters, and I was rooting for them to get together the whole time. I also liked how they communicated through letters, even though it was kind of strange that neither of them completely knew who they were writing to. I was interested in Beth's past very much, but I did think that it got to be a little drawn out that the reader didn't know for so long what actually happened in Beth's past. I think her development would have been even better if I knew exactly what she was struggling with through at least half of the novella instead of just having it be revealed closer to the end.

Since I have already reviewed The Christmas Singing, I won't rehash it here. You can read that review here.

As for The Dawn of Christmas, I think it was my favorite of the three. I was truly rooting for them to get together throughout the course of the novella - maybe even more than I was rooting for Beth and Jonah in the first one! Sadie was such a realistic character, and even though the reason Levi had "sworn off women" seemed a little far-fetched, I still was sympathetic towards him. The Dawn of Christmas was probably the most humorous of the three as well, which helped to endear it to me.

I also liked how the characters from the first novella were in the second and so on. It was neat seeing these characters "later on" in the story.

For a nice, heartwarming read at Christmas, Christmas in Apple Ridge is a good bet.

I will give Christmas in Apple Ridge ... 3.5 BookWorms.

Christmas in Apple Ridge 3-in-1 by Cindy Woodsmall
Collection of three novellas
WaterBrook Press
Publication date: October 9, 2012

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from WaterBrook Press. 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, December 20, 2013

"The Perfect Christmas Pageant" Review

Hayley Hippo is so excited when she is chosen to direct the annual Christmas pageant, and she just knows that she will be able to make everything perfect this year.

But when the shepherds forget where to stand, Joseph forgets his lines, and the baby Jesus gets a baaaad haircut, Hayley is dismayed. She just knew her pageant would be perfect, and now it is a complete disaster!

Join the Everyday Zoo gang created by Joyce Meyer as they learn about the true meaning of Christmas and what should really be the focus of this special time of year.

My Take:

Our family really enjoyed the first Everyday Zoo book that we reviewed last year – Every Which Way to Pray – so we were excited to be able to review a Christmas book with these fantastic characters.

First of all, the writing and illustrations in this book are top-notch. The story is easy to read (it is written for kids ages 4-8), and the pictures just leap off the page and bring everything together. My four-year-old daughter loves the cute animals in this book, especially the little lamb that plays baby Jesus in the pageant. She says that is her favorite part.

The other thing that is so fantastic about this book is its message. Of course the message comes across that “Jesus is the reason for the season,” but it’s even more than that. Hayley comes to understand that nothing in this life is perfect, but Jesus was perfect. And that is why he should be the complete focus of the Christmas season. I love the transformation of Hayley’s heart in this way over the course of this short children’s book.

The Perfect Christmas Pageant is an outstanding children’s book that emphasizes the true meaning of Christmas.

I will give The Perfect Christmas Pageant ... 5 BookWorms!

The Perfect Christmas Pageant
by Joyce Meyer
Publication date: September 24, 2013

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Zonderkidz. 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, December 13, 2013

Veggie Tales "Knights, Vikings, and a Battle of the Bands" Review

Knights, Vikings, and a Battle of the Bands is an ‘I Can Read’ Level 1 (beginning reading) book from Zonderkidz. It’s a 3-in-1 hardback book with three tales about the many vegetables of VeggieTales.

The first story is Princess Petunia and the Good Knight, and it is a lesson in showing love towards others and putting them first.

All of the Veggies are excited for the Great Pie Games to begin! As knight after knight steps forward to show off his skill, Princess Petunia keeps noticing one particular knight who always puts others first. When it comes time for Princess Petunia to pick a winner of the Great Pie Games, who will she choose?

This story is reminiscent of the VeggieTales video Duke and the Great Pie War, but it is not the same storyline. I actually like the story and message in this book better. It’s an easy-to-read story for beginning readers that emphasizes loving others over being the winner of a game. The illustrations are vivid, and the names of the Knights are just hilarious.

The second story in this 3-in-1 is What’s Up with Lyle? This story features Junior Asparagus as Lyle in a lesson about using your gifts.

All Vikings are the same, right? They are mean and spend their time plundering and sailing around in big ships. But not Lyle – he likes to knit! The other Vikings laugh at Lyle and his knitting, but when things go terribly wrong with the Vikings’ ship, will Lyle be able to save the day?

Also reminiscent of a VeggieTales video – Lyle the Kindly Viking – this story is once again easy to read and has a good message. The message in this one does not come across as well as the one in Princess Petunia and the Good Knight, but it is still good. Lyle must decide if he will use his gift of knitting to help the Vikings who were mean to him. The illustrations in this one convey the story exceptionally well.

The final story in this compilation is Junior Battles to Be His Best. It is a lesson in having confidence to do your very best.

Junior Asparagus loves to play the tuba, but when his family and friends encourage him to join the upcoming Battle of the Bands, he says, “No way!” Junior must learn that God can give him the confidence he needs to perform in front of others and do his very best.

I can’t think of a VeggieTale video that this story reminds me of, but it is still a good story. The illustrations seem a little bit flatter in this one, but they are still cute and get the essence of the story across. My four-year-old daughter says that she likes this story about Junior and the battles of the bands the best out of all of the ones in this book. She likes that Junior plays the tuba. The message in this one is good – to work hard and ask God to help you do the best than you can in any situation.

We love the VeggieTales characters, and these three stories are really good. The words and sentences are simple and easy to read for beginning readers, and the stories teach lessons while still being entertaining.
I will give Knights, Vikings, and a Battle of the Bands ... 4.5 BookWorms.

Knights, Vikings, and a Battle of the Bands
by Karen Poth
Publication date: September 24, 2013

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Zonderkidz. 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, December 11, 2013

"The God Puzzle" Blog Tour

About the book: The God Puzzle is a colorful, easy to use tool to help you communicate to your child the rich truths about God, His ways, His will and His love. The God Puzzle will help you address doctrinal themes of the Christian faith in a kid friendly way, present Bible lessons in an interactive way that will hold the child's attention, and deliver quality teaching with no preparation needed.

Seventy-five percent of children leave the church when they leave home. Something isn't working. Sunday School isn't doing it all. Kids need answers, good ones. And they need them from you, the parent. This book enables you to give them simple, clear answers.

What makes The God Puzzle unique?

- Ready made discussion questions for parent to ask their child in each lesson

- Can be done at any pace that works with your family . . . every night, once a week, 10 minutes here, 30 minutes there . . . it fits into realistic family life

- Puts the pieces together for a child to understand God, the Bible, and the Christian faith

- In each lesson the child responds to the truth so they understand their relationship to God is personal and life transforming

- Any parent, whether they know nothing or a lot about God, can start teaching their child today with no prep

- Deep theology put into language a child can understand

- Deeply Biblical, each lesson points to Christ

- Put in an order that starts with creation, and teaches the Bible as one story that all points to Christ

- Child stays engaged by filling in blanks, crosswords, drawing, matching and using their Bibles as they learn

Purchase your copy:

About the Author: Valerie Ackermann has a BA in Theology and has been a full time Children's Ministry Director at Parkwood Community Church in California for over 10 years. She is also a weekly Sunday school teacher, wife, and busy mom of two boys ages 9 and 11. She has hands-on experience as a children's ministry professional, teaching and leading children of all ages. Growing up in a Christian family in a small town in Saskatchewan, Canada, she has wonderful memories of knowing God from an early age. She has a passion for kids to know the deep truths of God.

Find out more at

My Take:

I am always looking for new and creative ways of teaching the Bible to my daughter. She has several coloring and activity books that are biblically-based that are pretty good, and we try to read a chapter from the Bible each day.

When I saw The God Puzzle up for review, I jumped at the chance to get it even though my four-year-old is a little younger than the target age for this book. (7-12)

What I liked most about this book was how relevant it was to children in the present day while still being completely focused on the Bible. The way the author does a wonderful job explaining difficult concepts like the Trinity, sin, and hell in a way that a child can easily understand. The gospel is clearly presented, and the entire book points to Christ, just as the Bible does.

I also liked how this is a true Bible study workbook for kids. Every lesson encourages kids to read verses from the Bible, study them, and apply them to their lives. There are some games and puzzles to complete that would keep the child engaged, but they don't take away from what is actually happening throughout this book, which is the study of God's Word. I can see this workbook starting a lot of "God Talk" between kids and their parents.

My husband liked this book as well. He teaches "Overview of the Bible" classes at our church, and he especially liked the pages at the end that showed the categories of the different books of the Bible and some verses to memorize. He also liked how the book emphasized the whole plan of Scripture and how it all points to Christ.

The only negative that I was able to see with The God Puzzle was that there were a couple of errors/typos that I noticed as I glanced through the book - things like there being too many blanks to fill in for that particular word. (Page 85, in particular).

When I first requested to be included in this blog tour, I thought that I could maybe modify the lessons in this book to accommodate my four-year-old daughter. As I looked through the book, however, I realized that this book is geared for elementary and middle-school-aged children and would be difficulty to adapt for preschoolers. This is my own fault, and I will not mark my rating down because of this. We will definitely be pulling this workbook out in the future to go through together with our daughter.

I will give The God Puzzle ... 4½ BookWorms.

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

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

"The Berenstain Bears Thanksgiving Blessings" Review

Ride along with the Bear family on Thanksgiving Day as Brother and Sister learn about all the things they—and YOU—can be thankful for ... including faith, family, and the huge feast waiting for them at the end of their journey to Gramp's and Gran's. Includes a sheet of colorful stickers featuring the whole Bear family.
For more information, click here.
My Take:
“Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house we go!”
This is a song that my parents and I used to sing every time we travelled to my grandparents’ houses during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. I have great memories of the fun, family, and faith that went along with each of these celebrations.
In this Berenstain Bears book – Thanksgiving Blessings – the Bear Family is thankful for many things on Thanksgiving Day. Among these are faith and freedom and family and friends. The Bears ponder these things as Papa Bear tells the history of how the Europeans first came to America and why they came. He also talks of being thankful for work and play.
As the Bears arrive at Grizzly Gramps’ and Gran’s house for Thanksgiving dinner, they are even more mindful than they were at the start of their journey of how many Thanksgiving Blessings they have.
This story is another good one in the collection of Berenstain Bears holiday books that have been released over the last few years. There is not too much of a story here but rather an explanation of various blessings to be thankful for during this time of year. However, my four-year-old daughter enjoyed it, and she also really liked the stickers that were included with the book. Her favorite part of the book was the song “Over the River and Through the Woods,” which, of course, I sang to her as we read the book.
I thought the content was appropriate for ages 4-8, which is the age range given for this book. It explains the history of Thanksgiving and mentions the Native Bears as sharing food for the first feast. It also mentions that the most wonderful blessings of all are family and friends. I would say that the most wonderful blessing of all is eternal life in heaven and a joyful life on Earth through Christ, but I see the point that the book is trying to make.
The Berenstain Bears are a favorite of mine, and I think this little book is a good addition to our Bears library.
I will give The Berenstain Bears Thanksgiving Blessings … 4 BookWorms.
The Berenstain Bears Thanksgiving Blessings
by Mike Berenstain
Publication date: August 20, 2013

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Zonderkidz. 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, November 25, 2013

"Fifteen Minutes" Review

Zack Dylan grew up on a horse farm in Kentucky with a wonderful family and a faith in God that sustains even during difficult times. Zack wants nothing more than to marry his college sweetheart and settle down in Kentucky where he can sing and lead worship for the youth at his local church.

But when financial problems come to his family and the farm, Zack decides to take his talent to a national stage by auditioning for a singing competition called “Fifteen Minutes.” Zack feels that he has enough talent to make it far in the competition, and he is convinced he can use this time to be a light for God as well as help out with his family’s financial difficulties.

More quickly than he ever thought possible, Zack becomes a national sensation. As he rises up the ranks on the show, Zack is asked to compromise his beliefs and to keep quiet about his relationship with God and about his relationship with his fiancé back home. The producers of the show only see the bottom line and will do whatever it takes to make Zack
into exactly who they want him to be, no matter the cost.

A behind-the-scenes look at a fictitious “American Idol”-type competition, Fifteen Minutes examines fame and everything that goes along with it.

Admittedly, I have not really enjoyed the previous novels by Karen Kingsbury that I have read. They were not horrible, but they just were not my types of books. But the summary of Fifteen Minutes struck me as interesting, and I wanted to keep an open mind and give Karen Kingsbury another try.

The first thing I noticed about this book was how easy it was to read. It had an interesting plot and, for the most part, it kept my attention. The behind-the-curtain look at a national singing competition was the most interesting part for me, and it seemed to be it was realistic. I used to watch “American Idol” when it was in its early seasons, but it has been a very long time since I have seen it. I got tired of all of the drama that went on that distracted from the actual singing part of the show. Even though it’s been a while since I have seen this type of show, I could see the competition of “Fifteen Minutes” unfolding in my mind’s eye as I was reading, almost like a movie.

As in the “Bailey Flannigan” series by Karen Kingsbury that I previously reviewed, I felt as if this book was not always extremely relatable in the sense of it focusing on all the fame and fortune, since I doubt most people will ever have to deal with that. However, it is a good reminder that as Christians we should be living out the love of Christ in our lives every day and in every circumstance.

I also thought that the “fame is bad” point that was made in this book got tiring after a while, and it definitely bogged down the story at times. I understand what the author was trying to say when writing this book, but it just felt as if I was being beaten over the head with it. “Fame is bad. There is always a price to pay with fame. There is no way to completely live as a Christian in the secular world of music and Hollywood.”

I also wonder what else might be going on as the author was writing this book, considering
that Karen Kingsbury is so famous herself. Is it different because her fame is within a Christian setting? I say that it’s not. So it made me wonder where this “fame is bad” mantra was coming from. It definitely seemed as if she had an agenda.

The best part of the message about fame, however, was the point that as Christians, we are not meant to worship people. We were made to worship God. This is an excellent point that has stuck with me since I finished the book.

As for the story as a whole, it wasn’t bad. Zack’s plotline was very interesting, but it was sometimes surprising to see just how easily he fell into the fame game. He seemed to be really naïve about things at times, but then again, he was young and had never had his faith tested like this before.

There were a few other stories told in this book as well. The reader gets the story from the view of Reese, Zack’s fiancé back home, as well as two of the judges of “Fifteen Minutes.” Their stories were fairly interesting, but each of these characters seemed to be written to the extreme, which kept them from being completely realistic to me.

Overall, this novel had an interesting plot that might actually have made a better movie than a book.

I will give Fifteen Minutes ... 3 BookWorms.

Fifteen Minutes
by Karen Kingsbury
Howard Books
Publication date: October 29, 2013

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

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

"Singularity" Blog Tour

Jevin Banks is searching for a killer--and answers to terrifying questions he never even thought to ask.
When his friend is murdered, illusionist Jevin Banks is determined to find out what really happened. Drawn deep into a web of conspiracy and top-secret research on human consciousness, Jevin won't stop digging until the truth is revealed. Soon he uncovers a dark secret that could change the very fabric--and future--of human life on the planet.

Based on frightening scientific realities and bristling with mystery, suspense, and intrigue, Singularity is the riveting sequel to Placebo.

Available November 2013 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group
My Take:
My husband read and reviewed this book since he previously read and reviewed Placebo. Here is his review:
The last book that I read in this series Placebo had some good points and some bad points. 
Unfortunately, this book seems to have taken the good parts out and expanded on the bad parts. 
My biggest problem with the last book was with how dark it was.  This book takes that to a whole new level.  The descriptions of the torture in this book are extremely graphic.  The things that the antagonists would do to their victims were just plain awful.  There were several descriptions of sexual assault-type situations which were again very graphic.  I actually had to skip several paragraphs during those parts of the book.  I “watch a movie” in my mind as I read a book, and I decided that I didn’t need those images in my head.  I believe that those parts could have been toned down or just insinuated, and the story would not have been affected.
The other part of the last book that I didn’t like was the long expositions on the “scientific” parts.  This book does that again only much longer.  The focus of this book is the ability for humans to merge with machines and computers to eventually live forever.  In an effort to head in that direction, the antagonist has implanted chips into himself to control a robotic arm.  That was pretty cool.  However, as our protagonists are learning about all of this, they hold many, MANY conversations about what is currently possible, where we are headed, and the moral implications of it.  There were a couple of times where they started talking about the moral implications of melding man and machine or engineering humans, but they would brush past that and then drone on about the details and possibilities which just didn’t help the story.  The first time they talked about it, it was useful.  Every time after that was just annoying and boring.  And that is a shame because the author could have really done some cool and thought provoking stuff with that.  
Also, in this book, the God Talk was forced and felt like it was added after the book was written.  You could have completely removed any mention of God from this book and it would not have changed anything.  In the last book, the two main characters, Jev and Charlene, were falling in love and taking things slowly.  Charlene was a believer and Jev was seeking and growing closer to making a decision.  In this book, Jev is not interested in God and the two are living together!  What happened?  That was a great storyline that could have really made for an excellent continuation in this book, but it was completely ignored or changed.
The “mystery” of this book was pretty lame, too.  The book keeps talking about extending human life indefinitely and controlling machines with your mind.  But, the impetus for the antagonists was to steal a mind controlled drone.  Why?  The mind control was just a shiny bell on what the bad guys wanted.  They wanted to steal the drone.  Make the story about that.  Ignore the mind control stuff.  It just made the motivation for the bad guys murky.  And, frankly, I didn’t care.  It was like two different stories were being told, and neither was very fully fleshed out.
Overall, I did not enjoy this book.  It was too dark, too graphic, unnecessarily technical, the storylines were confusing and not fully fleshed out, and it was just boring.  I will not be reading the next book in this series.  And, it will take some serious convincing before I read anything by this author again.

I give it 1 BookWorm.

My husband and I were both aware that this book would be darker than most, but it just went too far. I wasn't able to even get that far into it before I had to stop reading. Again, we realized that this material would be more graphic and darker than other Christian fiction. We knew that going in, and we still we not able to get past all of the things that just made this book feel wrong. We both think that this book should not have been published by a Christian publisher. While we understand that sinful subject matter will be addressed in a Christian book (because we are all sinners), nothing in this book pointed towards redemption and forgiveness for those sins. Where was Christ in this Christian book? Where was the hope that we can have through Christ alone? It seemed like a completely secular novel with God thrown in here and there, and we expect more from Christian publishers.
The opinions expressed are our own. We feel this way towards this novel and not towards Revell Publishing's other novels.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Revell Publishing. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

"His Word in My Heart" Review

Memorizing Scripture...memorizing passages of Scripture...will change you - the way you think, the way you live, the way you know God.

We want to memorize Scripture - we really do - but so many other things become our priority. The kids need to be fed, the laundry done, and a work schedule negotiated. So, we daily strive without doing the most important thing, the best thing - putting God's Word in our hearts and minds. And then we wonder why - Why am I not growing?  Why do I still struggle with this same sin? Why is my family faltering?

The good news is YOU can do it. In this updated classic, Janet Pope will share practical tips and strategies - including how to harness technology - to enable you to start memorizing the living Word today.

Find more information about this title here.

About the Author: Janet Pope, a gifted teacher and communicator, teaches a weekly Precept Bible study and has a blossoming speaking ministry. She spent 10 years with Campus Crusade for Christ before moving to Foundations for Living where she has served for the last 12 years. A diligent student of the Bible, her passion is to lead others to the oasis of God's Word. Her unique contribution to the body of Christ is that she has memorized over 120 chapters of Scripture, including 14 books of the Bible. She is author of His Word in My Heart: Memorizing Scripture for a Closer Walk with God. Janet and her husband, Ethan, live in Dallas, Texas and have two children in college.

My Take:

When I was a child, I was really good at memorizing things. The order of the books of the Bible? No problem - with and without at catchy tune. Psalm 23? Psalm 100? Passages from Isaiah, John, and 1 Corinthians? I recited them regularly in Sunday School.

But over the years my Scripture memory has become very lacking. You could partially chalk this up to being busier as an adult and to mommy brain (which is a real thing!), but mostly it is due to the fact that I just haven't been as diligent about it as I was as a child.

And that really needs to change.

The biggest takeaway I received from this book, His Word in My Heart, is the idea of memorizing entire passages (and even books!) of the Bible rather than picking verses here and there. This makes so much sense. It makes for an easier way to memorize since one verse flows into the next, and it keeps you from taking a verse out of context.

The only thing that I would claim to be a negative for this book was that the NetGalley e-book that I received was not formatted correctly during the parts of the book where the author would write out in detail how to memorize Psalm 1 and Titus. These outlines were gibberish with correct words in between. So, I didn't really get the whole outline of how to break these passages down in order to memorize them. I will have to just make a plan on my own.

One other really great thing about this book, however, was that I thought that the author was very encouraging. She has memorized so many books and passages of the Bible, and she knows that anyone can do it if they just try. I was encouraged to start memorizing Psalm 1 (starting just this morning), and I almost have the first verse down. Who wants to join me?

His Word in My Heart is an easy-to-read and encouraging book that will motivate and help anyone to memorize the Word of God and apply it to their lives.

I will give His Word in My Heart ... 5 BookWorms.

His Word in My Heart
by Janet Pope
Moody Publishers
Publication date: August 20, 2013

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

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

"My Hope Is Found" Review

Previously in this series, Gideon O’Riley was able to find love with Lonnie only to be ripped away when a woman from his past, Cassie, declares herself to be his true wife. After several months together, Cassie realizes that she will never have Gideon’s heart and releases him to return home to Lonnie.

But several things still stand in the way of a happily-ever-after for Lonnie and Gideon, including a new man in Lonnie’s life. Toby McKee, a new preacher in Fancy Gap, has spent the last several months helping out at the Bennett farm where Lonnie lives. He and Lonnie become fast friends, and when he proposes marriage, Lonnie sees it as a path to a wonderful new future for her and for her son, Jacob.

When Gideon finally arrives back at the Bennett farm, he finds Lonnie promised to Toby. Will Lonnie choose to go back to Gideon, or will she decide to move down a different path with Toby? Whatever Lonnie decides, will Gideon be able to place his hope and his future in the hands of a loving God?

In the previous novels in this Cadence of Grace series, I was able to enjoy the setting and descriptive nature of the writing even if the story was a bit frustrating at times. This was again the case with the final novel in the series, My Hope Is Found.

The imagery in this novel is stunning. The writing is very descriptive and paints a very good picture of the Blue Ridge Mountains. As I was reading, I felt as if I was right there in the setting of the story. While the format and style of the writing was very descriptive, it was overly stylized for my taste. Sentence fragments. And capitalized conjunctions. These were very, very common and sometimes were more than my “grammar police” brain could take. I don’t mind this from time to time in novels – I do it myself in reviews – but it happened so often that for me it was distracting and kept me from feeling the complete thoughts of the characters.

The story in this novel is told from the points of view of Lonnie, Gideon, and Toby. This gave it a bit more depth, especially since it made it harder to figure out who Lonnie would choose in the end. Normally I can tell as soon as I start reading who the main female character will end up marrying. In this one, I actually wasn’t 100% sure at times, and this is a credit to the writing and character development of the novel.

I thought that the best part of this series was the secondary characters, especially the Bennetts and the Jemsons. I loved how they were so sweet and so willing to help others. Their compassion was a testament to their faith, and it was very encouraging.

Gideon’s spiritual transformation was also a good part of the series. Over the course of the three novels there was much growth in Gideon’s life, and it was obvious that the changes that occurred were things that only God could do.

Although I appreciated Gideon’s growth and the wonderful descriptions of the setting of this novel, the overall plot was still sometimes frustrating for me. Lonnie did not come through as a strong character in this novel. She was extremely wishy-washy, and a lot of the times her feelings and actions were based on rumors and assumptions instead of taking time to find out the facts. Lonnie developed a romantic relationship with Toby in just a few months, and then she couldn’t decide which man she wanted to marry. She said she loved them both. Can you romantically love two people at once? I know I could never do that – not a true love anyway. Maybe I am just being too practical, or maybe it’s because I have never had two men in love with me at the same time, but I just couldn’t relate. Since the moment I fell in love with my husband, I have never loved another, and time apart or other difficult circumstances would not change that.

I will admit that Gideon did need to make a decision for Christ before he could truly be a husband to Lonnie, so maybe that had something to do with it, even though I don’t remember her thinking of it in quite that way. Having Lonnie admit that she was in love with both men at the same time was just too much for me.

I rarely have such a disconnect with an author, and it bothered me throughout this entire series. I really wanted to like it more than I did.

I will give My Hope Is Found ... 2 BookWorms.

My Hope Is Found
by Joanne Bischof
Cadence of Grace #3
WaterBrook Press
Publication date: October 15, 2013

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from WaterBrook Press. 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, November 2, 2013

"Under a Blackberry Moon" Review

When Moon Song, a young Chippewa woman with an infant son, stumbled into Robert Foster’s lumber camp in October of 1867, she was immediately taken in by those who were working at the camp. After settling in there, Moon Song was even able to care for one of the lumberjacks, Isaac Ross – known to almost everyone as Skypilot – when he was injured rescuing one of Robert’s children from a falling tree.

Now that summer has come to the North woods, Robert enlists Skypilot to accompany the young widow Moon Song back to her people on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. When disaster comes to them on their journey, they must depend on each other for their very survival. The longer they are together and the more difficult their journey becomes, the more Moon Song and Skypilot are drawn to each other.

Set in the rugged North woods of Michigan, Under a Blackberry Moon gives an awe-inspiring view of this unforgiving land and the native people who made this place their home.

The Measure of Katie Calloway – a previous novel by this author – tells the story of Robert and Katie at the lumber camp, and Moon Song and Skypilot are both other characters in that novel. After enjoying that novel and others by Serena B. Miller, I was really looking forward to reading this one.

And it completely blew me away.

Since I was familiar with the characters, I was able to get into the story very quickly, and from there the various plot lines were so intense and so exciting that I never wanted to put it down.

My assumption was that the entire book would be about Skypilot and Moon Song’s journey to find her people, so I was a bit disappointed when that part ended halfway through. The journey that Moon Song and Skypilot find themselves on was such an adventure, and I thought that when that part of the book ended that the whole thing would slow down. But it really didn’t. What I did not realize was that there were so many other intricacies to their stories that needed to be told. This is what happened during the rest of the novel, and it was done with amazing skill.

I really liked how balanced this book was as well. The romance between Moon Song and Skypilot was of course a major plot of the story, but it didn’t overshadow what was going on in all of the other areas of their lives. It was told alongside all of those other events, which made it weave throughout the entire novel rather than sitting on top of it and weighing down the other areas of the story.

There was also a good balance between the stories of the fictional characters and the history of this time and place. I always feel so bad when I read about the injustice that was committed by white settlers towards the Native American people. At first I felt as if I was being preached at when this subject was brought to the forefront in this book. But as I continued to read, I realized that I was just being defensive about how the white settlers acted. I mean, most of my ancestry is traced back to Europe – those white settlers who committed such atrocities against Native American and African American people – and so when I read about these things, I feel really bad. I will say that my grandmother’s great-grandmother was Cherokee. That is pretty far back in my lineage, but it is something that I know about, and my family has always been proud of this part of our history. So, even though it was hard to read, the part of the novel that focused on the plight of the Chippewa and other Native Americans at this time was very thought-provoking.

The balance in this novel carried over into the spiritual aspect as well. Even though it was a major plot point – especially when it came to Skypilot admitting that he could not marry Moon Song if she was not a believer in Christ – it was done so well that it felt seamless. The message of salvation through Christ was clear without being preachy. It felt genuine and was very realistic.

I could go on and on about the things that I liked about this novel. The historical setting was fantastic and was described in realistic detail. The secondary characters were well-blended into the storyline – they were realistic without taking over the entire story – and the main characters were sincere and experienced a tremendous amount of growth over the course of the novel. It also had a satisfying conclusion, and I really enjoyed the author’s note at the end.

Under a Blackberry Moon is a grand adventure with a great story, interesting characters, and a sweet romance. This novel might not be for everyone, but for me – someone who loves Christian historical/romantic fiction – it was near perfect.

I will give Under a Blackberry Moon ... 4.5 BookWorms!

Under a Blackberry Moon
by Serena B. Miller
Revell Publishers
Publication date: October 15, 2013

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Revell 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."

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

"Rebellious Heart" Review

Susanna Smith, a young woman living in Massachusetts in 1763, has almost everything she could ever want. The one thing lacking in her life is that she has been unable to receive as complete an education as her younger brother. Since she is a woman from a highly respected family, there is not much more expected from Susanna than to marry well.

Susanna has all but resigned herself to this fact when she is reacquainted with Benjamin Ross, a country lawyer who, despite his Harvard education, is lacking the wealth and status that Susanna’s mother requires in a match for her daughter. But the more time Susanna spends with Ben, the more she wonders if there could be more to a marriage relationship than just a societal match.

Before long, Susanna finds herself involved with Ben in much more than just a burgeoning friendship. Susanna discovers a runaway indentured servant and enlists Ben’s help in aiding the poor girl. In addition, Ben is outspoken about his beliefs over the rights and liberties of the colonists, and the British army is determined to discover who is behind the smuggling that is taking place all over Massachusetts – no matter the cost.

In these uncertain times, will Ben and Susanna have the strength to choose do what is right despite the obstacles that stand in the way of their freedom and of their love?

Based on the romantic relationship between John and Abigail Adams, Rebellious Heart is a rich description of the tumultuous times leading up to the American Revolution and those who had a part in the pursuit of American liberty.

As was true of Jody Hedlund’s other novels, Rebellious Heart immediately swept me into the story, both historically and with the characters. I could picture the landscape and feel the emotions of the characters as the story was told. This was especially true with the adventure of Susanna and Ben helping Dotty, the runaway indentured servant. I was breathless at times as they were being chased while trying to transport Dotty to safety.

Throughout this novel I marveled at how historically rich it was and how it seemed to be so realistic to the times. It was so interesting to see bits and pieces of the various things that led up to the American Revolution. I sometimes think of this as a shorter time period, but in reality, there were years and years of oppression by the king that led to the declaration of independence in 1776 and then finally to war. I thought it was fascinating to see these years fleshed out even more in a historical fiction novel.

While Susanna’s dilemma of having to obey her parents and marry well instead of for love is a much-used plotline in historical fiction, this one had more depth to it than some novels do.  There was more wrapped up in Susanna’s not being able to be with Ben than just her mother’s opposition. Susanna knew how much Ben was involved in the growing dissonance towards the king, and she had to decide for herself what she was willing to sacrifice to be with him.

Even though Ben and Susanna’s relationship had some interesting romantic obstacles and they shared some difficult circumstances, their romance wasn’t as interesting as I had hoped. Susanna longed for someone to see her as more than just a pretty face, and Ben did fulfill this role. But some of the descriptions of their times together were just too much for me. I got a bit bored with hearing once again how Ben took Susanna’s hand and kissed her wrist or how he longed to kiss her neck and her lips. I don’t mind these descriptions in a romance – after all, the main characters need to be attracted to each other. I just got tired of reading about it over and over and over in this novel. I just wasn’t as engaged in their romance for some reason. I kept wanting to get back to the other storylines.

I also thought that the mystery aspect of this novel, along with the story about the runaway indentured servant, was gruesome at times. While it did make the story more realistic, it was sometimes too much.

The message of this novel was something that came across very clear. Should we always submit to earthly authority? What about times when obeying God will cause us to defy that authority? Shouldn’t we oppose tyranny and live according to the laws of a holy God rather than imperfect man? This novel really makes you think about these situations and what the Bible says about it.

I will give Rebellious Heart ... 4 BookWorms.

Rebellious Heart
by Jody Hedlund
Bethany House Publishers
Publication date: September 15, 2013

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."

Friday, October 25, 2013

"Perfectly Matched" Blog Tour

His life runs like clockwork. Hers is a spontaneous adventure.
But God's timing is always perfect.

Anna Olsen knows it's time to leave her sister's increasingly crowded house and start a life of her own. Following both sisters' examples, she becomes a mail-order bride, and after a short correspondence with clock maker and jeweler Edward Parker, she moves to Denver to become his wife.

 Almost immediately it's painfully apparent that Anna and Edward are very different. Anna is a free spirit who would rather be painting and enjoying the company of friends than cleaning house. Edward is a consummate perfectionist who, on their wedding day, hands Anna a list of chores that need to be done around the house daily.

Can this mismatched couple see past their differences to a harmonious future? Or will their disparate passions create obstacles neither is willing to surmount?

For more information, please click here.

Available October 2013 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.
Maggie Brendan is the bestselling author of several books, including the Heart of the West series and The Blue Willow Brides series. She was a 2013 finalist for the Published Maggie Award of Excellence, a 2013 finalist for the Heart of Excellence Readers' Choice Award, a 2012 finalist for Inspirational Reader's Choice award, and a recipient of the 2004 ACW Persistence Award in Atlanta. She is a member of the ACFW; Author's Guild; Romance Writers of America; Faith, Hope, and Love; and Georgia Romance Writers. When she's not writing, she enjoys reading, researching for her novels, and spending time with her family.

You can follow her at her website, her blog, and on Facebook and Twitter @MaggieBrendan.

My Take:

After reading the first two novels in this series, Deeply Devoted and Twice Promised, was expecting a cute, fun story of a mail order bride in Perfectly Matched, the conclusion to the series.

This was true of this novel, but it also had some things that I wasn’t expecting – some good, others not-so-good.

The portrayal of the “odd couple” in this novel was perfectly stereotypical – he as the rigid, wants-everything-to-be-perfect man and she as the flighty, unorganized girl. While this made for an interesting storyline and some nice setups for conflict, it seemed as if the resolutions that were presented were often one-sided. I got the impression that Edward was required to change more than Anna. He has to be less rigid and get rid of his lists and such, but she can continue to be flighty and completely thoughtless? I think Anna needed to do a little bit more growing as well, especially in her attitude towards her duties in her home.

Their relationship as the odd couple was further complicated by their extreme lack of communication, especially when they would just kiss and make up without really solving anything. The back and forth of their relationship made my head spin. Therefore, it was nice when closer to the end of the novel they were able to learn how to better communicate.

The ASPCA aspects of this book were interesting and unique and something that I was not expecting from the summary on the back of the book. I do not claim to be an animal lover, but I never want to see or hear of an animal being mistreated. I think Anna tended to throw herself into her missions at times when maybe she should have been spending time with her new husband and in her home, but I also think that she grew in this area somewhat over the course of the novel.

The spiritual part of this novel seemed a little glossed over to me. The characters prayed and claimed to have faith in God, but it wasn’t always clear and sometimes seemed to be an afterthought rather than Christ being at the center of their lives.

Finally, I feel I must mention something about this novel that concerned me. I read Christian fiction romances because I like the boy-meets-girl stories, but I prefer to avoid the sensuality that comes with most secular novels of that type. Since Anna and Edward in this story are newlyweds, I realize that there will be issues of a sexual nature that will arise, and I would not want Christian novels to shy away from this subject.

However, the endless descriptions of the couple’s passionate moments were way, way too much in this novel. There were no explicit descriptions of sex, but there was much written about the things leading up to it. Here is an example (and it is definitely PG-13):

“Anna could feel his warm, ragged breathing against her face as he kissed her brow. Finding her mouth again, he nipped at her bottom lip playfully. Her pulse quickened and she felt warm in places that were new to her as he lifted her onto his lap and held her in a tight embrace. No words were needed, just the exploring touch and feel of each other.” 

Warm in places that were new to her? Wow. And this sort of wording occurs over and over throughout the book.

Now, the book of Song of Solomon from the Bible is also brought up in this novel, and I will admit that that book could be considered similar in its descriptions. But the verses from the Bible feel sacred while these lines in a fiction book feel as if I am observing private things that I should not be observing. If these actions were taking place in a Christian film, I would feel the same way. I also feel as if that paragraph could have been taken from any number of secular romance novels out there, which does not set it apart as a Christian novel. As a married woman, this part of my relationship with my husband is very important, but what if I was a single woman reading this novel? Is reading this book a good way for a single woman to keep her thoughts pure? I don’t think so.

I always judge things like this by whether or not I would be embarrassed to have my grandmother read it, and this is one book that I will not be passing on to her.

While some things in this novel were unique and entertaining, there were just too many other things that kept me from enjoying this book completely.
I will give Perfectly Matched … 2 BookWorms.

Perfectly Matched
by Maggie Brendan
Blue Willow Brides #3
Revell Publishers
Publication date: October 1, 2013

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Revell 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."