April 16, 2014

"Shades of Mercy" Book Review and Giveaway

"Shades of Mercy" by Anita Lunstrea and Caryn Rivadeneira is a great book.  It's enjoyable from the very beginning and by the end it's a page turner that doesn't stand a chance of being left alone when any free moments pop up during your day.  The characters are compelling and real and the authors do a wonderful job of of creating almost instant empathy for all of their plights.  The main characters, Mercy and Mick, have had a sweet friendship since childhood.  We meet them as teenagers who are now in love and forced to hide their relationship because of the nature of their cultural backgrounds. Here is a short summary from the publisher:
"It's 1954 and the world-even the far Northwoods of Maine-is about to change. But that change can't happen soon enough for fourteen-year-old Mercy Millar. Long tired of being the "son" her father never had, Mercy's ready for the world to embrace her as the young woman she is-as well as embrace the forbidden love she feels.
When childhood playmates grow up and fall in love, the whole community celebrates. But in the case of Mercy and Mick, there would be no celebration. Instead their relationship must stay hidden. Good girls do not date young men from the Maliseet tribe. At least, not in Watsonville, Maine. When racial tensions escalate and Mick is thrown in jail under suspicion of murder, Mercy nearly loses all hope-in love, in her father, and in God himself.”
I believe this book would appeal to many different types of readers. It's a Christian romance novel mixed with a political and historical storyline filled with adventure, drama, and even a natural disaster.  And the good news is, I've been given three copies of this book to give away to you! 

How to enter:
 *Leave a comment on this blog post telling me the last book you read, or what you plan to read next
 *Make sure I have a way to reach you if you are picked- either your comment needs to be linked to an email address, or leave an email address in the comment itself

 *You must live in the US
 *Each person must enter only once 
 *Deadline to enter is Friday April 25th, 2014 at Midnight PST
***The three winners will be chosen by random number generator***

March 7, 2014

Reviewing "In the Secret Service"

"In the Secret Service" by Jerry Parr, is an incredibly fascinating book  filled with interesting and eye opening stories from his life's journey in the Secret Service.  I kept asking myself "are we allowed to know all of this stuff?" Parr shares so much with the reader, I felt lucky to be privy to such rich historical details. He is a captivating story teller and has had so many unique and amazing experiences throughout his life, I think it's a viable idea that someone should make a movie about him. I would be there opening night. :)
Here is a short summary of the book from the publisher:
"Meet Jerry Parr. In 1981, he was the agent standing next to Ronald Reagan when John Hinckley, Jr., stepped out of the crowd, intent on killing the president. In the Secret Service is an adrenaline-filled ride through the life of the agent who saved Ronald Reagan’s life. Jerry spent much of his life as a silent eyewitness to history, with a gun at his fingertips. What motivates a man who is ready at a moment’s notice to step into the path of a bullet? In In the Secret Service, you’ll also follow Jerry’s inner journey. That journey led him from the halls of the powerful to the streets of the poor in Washington, D.C., to the mountain passes of war-torn El Salvador to help orphans.
You won’t want to miss this insider’s perspective on the Secret Service and a look into the heart of a man who was—and is—ready to sacrifice himself for another. At times heart-pounding, at times heartrending, this richly textured memoir of a Secret Service Agent will first move you to the edge of your seat, then to the depths of your soul."
I would recommend this book to literally everyone. Even if you aren't an autobiography reader, or aren't into politics, read this book.  It is extremely riveting and you may be surprised at all that goes on behind the scenes in the job of protecting government officials and foreign dignitaries. I would also highly recommend this book to students as a supplement to learning about major events in US history.  Go get it. 

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

January 31, 2014

Reviewing "Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl" by N.D. Wilson

"Notes From the Tilt-A-Whirl" by N.D. Wilson is a celebration of language .  It is written in a format that combines stream of consciousness with poetry and drama.  Wilson views the world as a work of art created by God, the Artist, and he delves deeply into various subjects and topics from the point of view of seeing something for the first time, taking it all in, and appreciating the intricacies of the beautifully created world around us. He warns the reader from the beginning that this is not an ordinary book, and he is correct about that.
I agree with Wilson that the world is a vastly beautiful work of art, filled with drama, joy and pain.  I appreciate his master of the English language and his use of words to paint a picture for the reader. That said, I had a hard time getting through it.  I'm familiar with this format of writing and was excited to get into it, but I found myself rereading portions over and over and having a hard time concentrating and figuring out exactly where he was going.  At times, I wasn't sure what he was talking about.  But I don't want to discourage anyone from reading this book because I think I just wasn't the right target audience.  Many, many people have fallen in love with this book and I am in the minority. I would encourage you to check it out and let me know your take on the whole thing.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com® <http://BookSneeze.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

January 1, 2014

Reviewing "The Double Wedding Ring"

     I grew up reading the "Nancy Drew Mystery" books. I don't know if you could call it "reading" actually, it might be more appropriate to call it "consuming".   My parents would pick up a pile of those books for me either from the library or the bookstore, and I would relegate myself to my bedroom for days on end finishing one book after the other.  Throw in a couple "The Babysitters Club" books and I was one enthralled kid.
    There's something about the way Clare O'Donohue writes, and the characters she creates that brings me back to that time. Each book in the "Someday Quilts Mystery series" has a puzzle that needs to be solved, and along the way you come to love the characters and care about what happens to them.  They are quick, fun reads and I'm always left wanting more.  "The Double Wedding Ring" did not disappoint and I think I finished it in about two days. The story grabs you from the beginning and keeps you in suspense until the very end.
    The underlying plot which sets the stage for the book involves wedding planning and romance, but the suspense comes when Nell Fitzgerald is once again called to solve a murder mystery. Well, not exactly "called" but "compelled" to solve it.  If you've read any of the "Someday Quilts Mystery" series you know what I'm talking about, and if you haven't read any of them and you grew up enjoying the same kind of books I did, I suggest you start reading right away.

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Plume/Penguin Group in exchange for an honest review.

December 22, 2013

Reviewing "Captive Trail" by Susan Page Davis

    "Captive Trail", by Susan Page Davis,  is the second book in the "Texas Trails" series and takes place in mid 1800's Texas.  Centered around a young woman who was kidnapped by the Comanche as a little girl, the book begins shortly before Taabe Waipu's harrowing escape from her Comanche village. She is found lying in the road and is taken in by a group of Ursuline nuns who nurse her back to health within the walls of the mission, all the while trying to figure out Taabe Waipu's true identity.
     I completely enjoyed this book and was immediately attached to the characters. The relationship between Taabe Waipu and the nuns is heartwarming even in its youngest stages when communication was almost impossible.  I also enjoyed the relationship between young Quinta and Taabe Waipu. Quinta was able to communicate with Taabe in a way that the adults could not, and their interactions were very sweet. The nuns' faith and tenacity were inspirational as they vigilantly protected their young charges from outsiders. Throughout their many adventures, they never lost hope or lessened their faith in God's protection.
    I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction with lovable characters and exciting story lines.  I look forward to reading the next book in the series and would recommend getting all of them at once so you don't have to wait too long to read the next one. They can also be read out of order if you so choose.

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Moody Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Reviewing "The Spymistress"

    "The Spymistress" by Jennifer Chiaverini is a very well researched historical novel based on the life of civil war heroine Elizabeth Van Lew. Even though she was born to a wealthy slave holding family in Richmond, Virginia,  "Lizzie" held very strong Union sympathies and dedicated herself to caring for Union prisoners of war during the Civil War.  She also gathered military intelligence, helped construct the Richmond Underground and aided prisoners escaping from the Confederate Libby Prison.
     I was drawn into the book right away and found the first half of the book to be very interesting and enthralling.  Lizzie took many risks to help the prisoners, including risking her own life. There was also a lot of drama taking place in the Van Lew household as the family struggled to hide their Union patriotism while staying true to their beliefs.   About halfway through the book I started to feel bogged down with details.  Chiaverini obviously did a huge amount of research in preparation for this book and it is apparent in the extreme attention to detail. While the first half of the book felt like a novel, a some point in the middle, I started feeling like I was reading a history book. I would have enjoyed more character development in place of the involved explanations of the battles and prison scenes.  That said, if you are a history buff, this book would probably be right up your alley. And if I was a history student, I would have definitely chosen to read a book like this over (or to supplement) a typical history book.   I would recommend this book for readers who enjoy highly detailed historical fiction and Civil War fiction based on real events and characters.

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Dutton books in exchange for an honest review.

December 19, 2013

Reviewing "The Dawn of Christmas" by Cindy Woodsmall

"The Dawn of Christmas" is a charming love story which is perfect for the holiday season.  I knew I would enjoy it because I am a fan of Woodsmall's and also of Amish fiction in general.   Although it is slightly predictable because of the nature of the book, there are several twists and turns that leave the reader guessing what will happen next.
Woodsmall's writing style is such that I quickly get attached to the characters. From almost the very beginning of the book, I was rooting for the two main characters, "Sadie" and "Levi".  They've both had bad experiences with love and the pair seem determined to never fall in love.  Even thought this is a short novella sized book, it is packed with drama, romance and adventure. The story kept my interest throughout the book, and the suspense toward the end had me turning the pages as fast as possible.

Here is a short summary from the publisher:
"Sadie enjoyes 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?"

One of the strong themes of the book is how powerful and wonderful love is, and the lengths that people will go to, to show the ones they love how much they mean to them. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Amish fiction, with a romance at the center of the storyline.  Even though it has a holiday theme, it would be a great read for any time of year. (Especially  good in the middle of summer when you need to picture yourself in a snowy climate to escape the heat.)

Disclaimer: I received this book from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing group for free in exchange for an honest review.