Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Widow of Saunders Creek

I love it when I find something that I swear I'm going to hate and it turns out to be a real gem. The Widow of Saunders Creek by Tracey Bateman didn't sound all that appealing to me at first. I hear widow and I start thinking about sappy romances and God's true calling, etc., etc. Thankfully, this story had a lot of depth and added witches, seances, spirits, and demons to the plot.

The story follows Corrie, a widow of six months (her husband died a heroic death in the military) as she moves out into the country to live in the house that was her dead husband's grandparents. After his untimely death he left it to her, stirring resentment in the family because they wished it had been given back into the family, not given to a widow who had no kids and no further ties with the family. Despite some negative vibes she decides to move in hoping it will somehow make her closer to Jarrod's (her husbands) spirit. Little did she know she would be getting just that wish.

Doors slam close, paintings get re-arranged, sounds are heard and Corrie quickly becomes convinced that her husband is indeed in the house with her. It doesn't help that Jarrod's eccentric family all agree with her. Crazy Aunt Trudy (a witch whose talents were given to her by God, hardy har har) convinces her to hold a seance to find out what Jarrod wants. The only one who doesn't believe there is a spirit in the house is handyman, Eli, Jarrod's cousin. He is hired by Corrie to fix the house so they start to see each other on a regular basis. Feelings start to develop between the two but Corrie gets mad when Eli tries telling her it's a demon inside of the house and not Jarrod. Tensions rise, the house gets spookier, and Corrie and Eli are confused how to proceed. Is Corrie ever ready to love again? Can she forsake her husband in death for his cousin?!

If that at all sounded interesting please read. Just a quick note for all my avid readers, this IS a christian romance although it isn't preachy (thank goodness) or too in your face. All in all I thought it combined a few different genres and did a pretty darn good job of conveying a spooky, uplifting, and moving story.

I received this book for free from Waterbrook Press in return for my honest, unbiased opinion.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Maria's Trail, The Early Adventures of Chica, Heroine of The Mule Tamer Trilogy

I had the privilege of getting to read an advance manuscript of John C. Horst's upcoming work, Maria's Trail, The Early Adventures of Chica, Heroine of The Mule Tamer Trilogy. John has been really good about letting me read his works as they come out and I try to be good about reviewing them in a timely manner :)

As I've mentioned before westerns aren't really my thing, fortunately The Mule Tamer Trilogy has proved to be the exception to the rule. The characters are diverse and engaging and you can't help but cheering them on every time something dreadful seems to befall them (which is a lot). Throughout the trilogy Chica has remained my favorite character. She's crude and crass, yet she somehow is still the classiest damn woman you've ever met. She's a wild Mexican mix between Annie Oakley and Robin Hood. She's a free spirit and one of the most lovable characters in the trilogy.

This prequel helps us understand Chica's early life and why she is the way she is. Maria (Chica) suffered through a lot of tragedy but it never crippled her, it just made her stronger and more resilient. Maria's Trail gives us a glimpse of many of the stories that are mentioned in the Mule Tamer and fleshes them out. We get the real back story on Sombrero del Oro, the Indian tribe, and Chica's "uncle."

All in all this was a fantastic read and it made me love Chica's character even more. I highly recommend you read it when it is released in September!!!

When You Reach Me

Even  though this book is intended for children, it left me guessing til the very end. I couldn't put the dang book down! This Newbery Award winning book for middle readers follows Miranda, a 12 year old, as she muddles through sixth grade, making friends, and deciphering crazy notes that seemingly predict the future.  The short chapters keep you hooked and it isn't til the end that you realized you've spent an entire afternoon frantically turning pages.

Miranda is quirky young girl who has to deal with the crazy man on the street who sleeps under a mailbox, her mom's boyfriend, Mr. Perfect, and the loss of her best friend, Sal (just to name a few). Despite everything life throws at her Miranda stays strong and discovers something amazing in the process.

A must read! You won't regret it, Rebecca Stead creates a masterpiece for your imagination!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Higher Power of Lucky

What an amazing book for children!! Lucky, the main character, is a down on her luck 10 year old living in the desert in the middle of nowhere. However, she refuses to look at the negatives of her life however and is very grateful for everything that is good, no matter how small.

Lucky's mother died when she was only eight years old and her father (someone she's never even met) brought his ex-wife from France to watch over the daughter he never wanted. His ex-wife, Bridgette, agrees because she always wanted a child and had no job prospects in Paris. Lucky looks up to her "guardian" very much but is always scared that she will leave her to go back to France.

The "town" that Lucky and Bridgette live in only has a population of 43 and is just a bunch of dusty old trailers in the middle of the desert. Everyone is so poor, that once a month, all the adults go to the nearest city to pick up their government surplus. I think this little tid bit was one of the reasons I liked this story so much. Lucky isn't your average kid, she's at the bottom of the food chain and she knows it, it's her reaction however, to the world around her that makes her special. She never thinks about how little she has, she thinks about what she can do with what she has.

Some of her friends consist of, Lincoln, a boy her age who is constantly tying knots, Miles, a 5 year old that goes house to house begging for cookies and for someone to read him "Are You My Mother," and HMS Beagle her trusty mutt that always follows her on adventures. How can you not love the story with characters like this!?

It's a short little story and I would definitely recommend it to anyone. It was well worthy of the Newbery Medal it received.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Books like this make me want to get back into reading young adult novels. This was utterly fantastic. I thoroghly enjoyed learning about Charlie's struggles though his "anonymous" letters. It was a unique format and Charlie bared his soul to a stranger in hopes that an outsider  might understand and refrain from judging him.

While quite humourous at times, this novel also managed to be poignant and heartbreaking as Charlie tries to overcome his emotions and become accepted amongst his peers and within his own family. High school is tough for everyone, but for someone without friends it's even worse. How does one fill the time? Thankfully, Charlie encounters Sam and Patrick. The brother and sister duo take it upon themselves to take Charlie under their wing and help him enjoy his first year of high school. They're not the only ones however. Charlie's english teacher gives him extra readings and assignments, something which Charlie enjoys. The books Bill gives him help him better understand his life and those around him. As the year progresses he starts to become one of the group but he still goes through emotional trials. From trying drugs, to covering the fact that his best friend is gay, and being secretly in love with Sam Charlie learns how important it is to be honest with those around you, but more importantly how to be honest with oneself.

All in all this was a FANTASTIC read and I cannot wait to see the movie staring Emma Watson next month, I really hope it follows the book closely!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Little Amish Diddy

Growing up I had never read an Amish romance, I can now say that I have officially read three. While they aren't my favorite, and they certainly aren't a genre that holds a spot on my bookshelf, every once in a while it's a little bit of a guilty pleasure to read something so far out of my usual reading pattern. Coincidentally, all the Amish "chick lit" I have read is written by the same author, Cindy Woodsmall. Her Latest work, "The Scent of Cherry Blossoms" follows basically the same story line as the last two of hers I read. This book isn't necessarily part of a series, its meant to be a stand alone romance but If you happened to read "The Christmas Singing" you'll notice that it takes place in the same town and some of the characters are the same.

Basically, a young Mennonite girl by the name of Annie goes to stay with her Daadi (grandfather) because she thinks her mother and brothers are straying too far from the faith. While in Apple Ridge with her grandfather, Annie helps out a local Amish family (the Zooks) run their diner while their crippled son, Roman, is away working on a distant relative's generator. Roman's twin, Aden, has always had a huge crush on Annie, and working in the diner together becomes too much for the both of them. Their romance however, is forbidden because Mennonites and Amish are not allowed to mix. If you want to find out how it ends (spoiler alert, ends just like the Christmas Singing did!) read until the very last page. It's a little sappy, a little predictable, and a little over the top but like I said it's a guilty pleasure.

"I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review."

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

James Bond for Moms

I'm not going to lie, it took me a hot second to get into this book. I was like "A former spy that's now a mom has to get back into the game to confront an old supposedly dead enemy?!?!? really?!?" Thankfully the book turned out to be pretty awesome and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

As previously mentioned, Lucy (formally known as Sally Sin) has retired from her long and successful career as a spy and settled down with a husband and toddler, a job she finds nearly as difficult as taking out terrorists in foreign jungles and dodging death at every turn. After a few years of retired bliss however, she is suddenly called back to duty when her former nemesis, Ian Blackford, has "come back from the dead." Ian Blackford was a former spy for the US government that went rogue and no matter how many times Sally Sin tried to capture him, she was always the one who got kidnapped. It almost turned into a cat and mouse type of game between the two although Blackford never really harmed her (he was too intrigued, oh and did I mention he resembles James Bond!??!). Now that Ian Blackford is back into the picture Lucy (Sally) must step her game up to protect her three year old son, Theo, against whatever he has up his sleeve.

This novel was witty and magically made motherhood comparable to being a covert agent (nearly as deadly, especially when it comes to bathtime). The story picks up after the first few chapters and the end leaves you thirsting for more. I definitely can't wait to read the next in the series. Bravo Beth McMullen on a superb first novel, I hope there are many more to come!

I received this book for free from GoodRead's Giveaways in return for my honest, unbiased opinion.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

"A drug person can learn to cope with things like seeing their dead grandmother crawling up their leg with a knife in her teeth. But no one should be asked to handle this trip."

That quote pretty much sums up this entire book. From the intro until the very last line this books hooks you with such intensity and ferocity that you can't get away. You have to plow through it and hope your mind is still intact when you stumble through to the end. Read with caution! And for the love of God do not be taking drugs or raving drunk when reading this because you may just lose your mind!

"Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" has been on my to read list (and to watch list!) for just about forever so I was more than willing to give it a try this weekend when I went on a roadtrip to Elkhart. The library had an audiobook copy that was only 5 1/2 hours long (perfect!) and was unabridged. I was good to go. The narrator was brilliant and I easily got lost in his voice. The story starts out with Thompson and his attourney getting ready to head to Las Vegas to cover the Mint 400, a motorcycle event. For the trip they make sure to pack enough drugs, booze, and narcotics to kill a herd of elephants. The entire story basically follows them as they lose their minds in the desert and all the crazy shenanigans they get themselves into under the powerful narcotics. It's intense. I've never tried hard drugs and this semi-autobiographical novel cements my decision to never try them.

That being said, Thompson is an amazingly prolific writer and the story flows from one drugged up incident to another with ease. I definitely want to see the movie now, but I think I'll wait on re-reading it. It was pretty damn intense. Great book but definitely not a beach read for the light of heart. Proceed with caution!!! 

Saturday, August 4, 2012

An Enlightening Read!

Understanding theology and philosophy of religion is a daunting task. Thankfully this compilation of prolific writers, saints, and theologians is tactfully cut up into bite size portions that the average person can digest and understand. James Stuart Bell takes the most significant passages from Christian writers and thinkers that influenced the masterpieces of C. S. Lewis and puts them all together in this great work. Bell even goes so far as to write a short biography of each individual quoted/referenced in the book and why C. S. Lewis was impacted by their work.

The amount of time that must have gone into compiling this truly magnificent work is staggering, there are hundreds of beautiful inspiring passages artfully grouped into categories so that they can better be understood as a whole. This book is great not only for C. S. Lewis fans who want to see where he gathered his inspiration from, but for people trying to get a deeper grasp on the complexities and beauty of the Christian faith. Unlike other philosophical religious works, this gathers many different thinkers and doesn't try to overwhelm you with the magnitude of their great work. It's an enlightening and inspiring read.

I received this book for free from Waterbrook Press in return for my honest, unbiased opinion.