Monday, December 30, 2013

Chloe Doe

This is the harrowing story of a seventeen year old girl who has been rescued from a life of prostitution. Instead of being grateful and looking forward to the future Chloe can only look at the past, she can't begin to imagine a future. One of the doctors in the Madeline Parker Institute for Girls finally starts to get Chloe to open up about her troubled past and let go of her feelings. The story is told through a series of flashbacks and life in the home. We are introduced to her troubled childhood and the other girls in the home that are struggling with equally bad and sometimes worse problems. It's chilling and heartbreaking.

Why Read Moby Dick?

I listened to the audio-book version and it started out promising but I was quickly bored. I never really had any desire to read Moby Dick and reading this almost, almost, made me mildly interested in picking up the classic. Author, Nathaniel Philbrick, brings together history, Melville's personal letters, and the original work itself to make a convincing argument on why it's worth reading this imposing classic American tome... close buddy, close. I was really intrigued by the historical aspects, but as the two discs droned on... I lost the will to read Moby Dick. It was worth a shot though!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Magicians

If you combined Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia AND Neverwhere together you still wouldn't be able to properly explain this book. It's the most complex literary fantasy I've read since Lord of the Rings.

Take a super smart teenager, tell him he's a magician, send him to magic college, and then then have him and his magic buddies discover a magical object that will transport them to another world, a world they thought only existed in their favorite children's books, then maybe, just maybe, you will have a small idea of what in the hell this book is really about.

It's a great read (although I kept comparing it to Harry Potter) although a bit too long for me. It was a real battle of the wills to read this all in one sitting (took me around six hours to plow through it). Definitely, a must read for fantasy nuts.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Dream More

Prior to reading this little inspirational memoir by Dolly, all I really knew about her was her botoxed body and the quote, "It takes a lot of money to look this fake." This inspirational guide filled me in on a lot more on who the hell Dolly really is.

First off, I should clarify that I listened to the audiobook version which is narrated by Dolly herself. Second off, this isn't really an inspirational guide as it is a memoir of achievements, so it's really mainly for Dolly fans and not the average listener. She talks a lot about the importance of reading and dreaming but mainly does that so she can talk about her foundations and the work that she's done. Which to be clear, isn't a bad thing or anything. It's just not a guide to achieving your dreams or breaking any barriers.

It wasn't a bad listen (there's lots of songs as well) but thankfully it was only an hour and a half.


Sorta Like a Rockstar

If I had a dollar for every time I teared up or started crying in this book I could have just bought the damn thing instead of borrowing it from the library. That being said, this was a fabulous read. As such author, Matthew Quick, is now in my all time favorite authors category.

This story opens up with Amber Appleton, an extraordinary girl who never thinks of herself first. Her four best friends are the high school rejects, the autistic kid, the only black kid in the county, the kid in the wheel chair and the kid with the stutter. Together they are Frank's Freak Force Federation (in honor of their favorite teacher). Amber's sunny optimism also gives her a unique group of friends outside of school. She volunteers as an English teacher to a bunch of Korean immigrants and helped them form Korean Diva's for Christ (Amber teaches the language through old soul music), she spends time with the old folks and debates with Joan of Old for laughs, and she writes haikus with a lonely Vietnam vet. She does all these things for the benefit of her community and she does all of this even though she's homeless and living in a school bus with her mom.

Despite all of her optimism something horrible happens, something life shattering, and it's up to the community to make Amber see that she's still important and that she's needed. Bad things happen to good people all the time and she needs to turn her sunny optimism back on herself. She has made such an impact on everyone and no one wants her to forget all the good she's accomplished.


Thursday, December 26, 2013


I didn't even read the description, I saw it was written by Mathew Quick and I started reading. Two hours later I was crying in a bathtub and screaming at my cat. This book is intense. I was quite literally hooked from the very first sentence. I started reading it at dinner and I couldn't put it down, so naturally I took it in the tub with me to continue. An hour later I was crying in freezing cold water and yelling at the kitten to shut up and stop headbutting the door. It was so good I couldn't even stop for a moment to get out of the tub.

This book almost defies description. It's about basketball, growing up in the hood, mental health, family, relationships, integrity, the final frontier, and soo much else. Finley was one of the only white boys in the slummy town he grew up in, but that didn't stop him from playing basketball. His earliest memory is playing basketball in the backyard with the neighbor girl, Erin, and working hard to please his dad and his pops. His whole life has been spent trying to move forward and get out of Belmont, away from the Irish mob and the drugs. But Coach has just asked Finley for a favor. Boy21, has just moved to the neighborhood and Coach thinks that Finley is just the man to help break him out of his shell and play basketball. But will Boy21 stop Finley's momentum or maybe, just maybe, help him realize that looking back at the past doesn't have to be paralyzing. I can barely describe this book without giving anything away. So just read the damn book and message me about it so we can talk and cry together. It's well worth the read!

The Colorado Kid

I was looking for a short mystery read and this definitely fit the bill. That being said, I threw the book across the room. Be warned.

Stephen King, as always, does a masterful job of storytelling. He sets the scene and then hooks you and reels you in until you can only helplessly turn the pages. This tiny mystery novella (less than 200 pages) is narrated by two old journalists who tell the beautiful young intern the most tantalizing and unsolved crime they know. The reader, like the intern, gets hopelessly sucked in as they recount the strange incident of the Colorado Kid. A dead body, thousands of miles from home, no answers, ruled as an accidental death? The questions keep coming until *SPOILER* you get to the end and discover (turn back now if you want to read this!) that it's still unsolved!! This story ends with no conclusion!!! Ahhh!!!! That being said it was still a mighty fine read. All hail the ever talented Stephen King.

Looking for Alaska

STUPID FEELINGS! Why John Green why?!? Why do you lure me in with your beautifully flawed characters, witty dialogue, and the wonder of searching for the great perhaps only to stomp on my feeble little heart?!?!?! Why?!?

That being said. I loved the shit out of this book. It was perfect. I loved every single character. They were perfect, and by perfect, I mean faithful representations of flawed human teenagers, invincible, convincing, and full of wonderment.

Miles Halter (aka Pudge) leaves behind his parents and exciting friendless life, to go to a boarding school in hopes of finding the great perhaps. He immediately becomes best friends with his roommate, the Colonel, and is introduced to an exciting group of kids, Lara (the exotic foreigner), Takumi, and Alaska, the most intoxicating girl he's ever met. Together they make the school year more exciting, pulling pranks, smoking cigarettes, reading, drinking, and questioning their lives. It's a wonderful coming of age story. John Green understands teenagers better that I did when I was one. His narration and dialogue is spot on.

An absolute must read. You'll laugh and cry (although not as badly as in "The Fault in Our Stars") and want to go read every single word ever written by John Green. Also, he mentions Kurt Vonnegut several times in the story, a fitting tribute to a fellow Hoosier author.

Fresh Off the Boat

Not very often am I hooked from the first line, but Eddie Huang did just that. This was definitely the most exciting, enticing, and hilarious memoir I've read this year. Eddie recounts his childhood as an American born Chinese and all the cultural differences between him and "normal" Americans. In this country it can be tough to be different; Eddie recounts the experiences bringing "stinky" Chinese food to school, getting in fights, relating to hip hop, and having to deal with stereotypes. Times were tough in high school and college, but he was an exceptional student so even though he got into a lot of trouble, teachers saw potential in him and helped him as much as they could. Although he finished law school he still wasn't happy; not until he opened up his own restaurant in New York did Eddie feel he made it and felt like a true American, living the dream.

Listening to the audiobook was a real treat, as it was narrated by the author himself. Eddie has a hilarious and yet serious narration of his memoir, plus has the ability to start yelling in Chinese when he's describing his mother (hilarious). This is a great book for everyone. There is stuff for foodies, hip hop aficionados, American minorities, sports fans, memoir junkies and more. Truly a great read!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Why Diets Don't Work

I was intrigued by the cover and summary of the book but I felt it fell a little short of my expectations. Joyce Tilney attempts to provide a manual for losing weight the "Christian way," but fails to really include a lot of instruction. The book opens up with "The devil wants you fat!" and talks a lot about the battle with Satan and the temptations we face, but fails to really outline a plan to get healthy except to advocate praying and fasting. Tilney condemns comfort food or eating for pleasure. She states time and again that food is for fuel only, not enjoyment (which leads to fat). While I know logically that food is fuel and we shouldn't overeat, is it really so criminal to enjoy something tasty? Why would God make such delicious treats only to have us not enjoy them?

Another thing I had a beef with (get it? food pun!) ,was the author's many miraculous tales. For example she prayed to Jesus and a cancerous lump instantly disappeared or this story on how the Holy Spirit helped her stop craving sweets (page 19):

"One day I wanted a piece of coconut cream pie. I had visions of the pie dancing through my thoughts. I was remembering just how good it tasted when I suddenly heard, "The Lord is your shepherd and you shall not want" (Psalm 23:1). Instantly the craving was gone."

That being said this book wasn't all moot. There was a few shreds of good dieting/lifestyle changing advice. You just have to search through all the bunk to find it.

Disclosure of Material: I received this book free from the publisher through the book review program, which requires an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s CFR Title 16, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Captive Trail

The continuation of "Texas Trails: A Morgan Family Series," follows Billie Morgan, aka Taabe Waipu, as she escapes from her Comanche captors twelves years after being abducted. She has been an Indian for so long that she no longer remembers the english language or customs of the white people. But all is well, as she is taken in by four loving nuns who do their best to restore her faith, body, and mind.

As she adapting to the new lifestyle she starts to like Ned, the stage coach man that drives by weekly. He helps her as much as he can to recall her childhood, the time before she was captured by the Indians. As memories start to come back to her Taabe wonders if she'll ever find her real family or if they'll even love her. Soon though she pushes aside those worries because her Comanche betrothed has come looking for his runaway bride. Will she ever meet her real family? Will she outrun the Comanche? Will she ever get to be with Ted? Read to find out more!

Even though the second book in the series was written by a different author, I still thought it flowed well and connected with the original story. Well written and engaging.

I received this book for free from Moody Publishing in return for my honest, unbiased opinion.


I probably haven't read this book since second grade, but my initial reaction to this book is still spot on. It's fabulous. Even as an adult I still laughed out loud. The scene where the cat, Chester, is trying to get rid of the vampire rabbit, Bunnicula, by "staking" him with a thawing steak is hilarious. I can just imagine that orange tabby covering the bunny with the steak and then hitting it repeatedly. Too funny. They don't make kid's classics like this anymore.

For those of you unfortunate few who have never read this timeless tale... you're missing out. The story follows Harold and Chester, the pets of the Monroe family as they encounter a third pet to their household, a bunny named Bunnicula. The cat Chester is convinced that Bunnicula is a vampire because he sleeps all day, can't stand garlic, has fangs, and turns vegetable white by draining them. Harold the dog doesn't really care one way or another, but Chester is convinced they have to act... before it's too late.

It's a funny and classic story. I will have to re-read the rest of these in the series.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Lone Star Trail

Sometimes inspirational romance can be a little heavy handed or "over the top" (i.e. the spirit of the Lord told me to forgive my rapist and offer him supper, etc.), but this managed to be inspirational without scaring away the non or mildly religious crowd.

This historical romance follows a family of German immigrants as they settle in Texas, the newest state in the Union. Things begin badly when one of the children, Ulla, dies upon arrival. As they try to move inland their wagon breaks and they have to rely upon the kindness of a strange family. Even though it is Christmas, the Morgan family takes in the Fleischer family until they can find a house to live in. Jud, the oldest son (and head of the Morgan Ranch since his father's death) resents the immigrants coming to Texas and snatching up all the land. His view begins to change though, when he notices how pretty the eldest German daughter is. It just goes to show that offering Christian charity and hospitality can open many doors. An uplifting and romantic read.

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

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Rosie Project

This book was really hyped up for me. And while it was good, it wasn't that good. It was fast paced, funny, and inventive, but... I wasn't sold on all the characters. Particularly Rosie.

Th story is centered on Don Tillman. A brilliant, yet... intense genetics professor(imagine Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory) . Things have to be orderly, schedules have to be adhered to, and standards have to be met. Don decides that the time is right to find a wife, but in order to find the perfect mate he needs to set rules. Thus begins "The Wife Project." He makes a questionnaire to easily weed out the women who smoke, drink, aren't good at math, have bad BMI's, aren't on time, etc. The only problem is, will Don ever find someone who meets all the criteria?

Along comes Rosie, an attractive, smart, and funny girl. The only problem is, she doesn't fulfill all of his requirements, she failed three questions. Why is Don enjoying himself around her when she has proven to be an unsuitable candidate? Hilarity ensues.

A fast, fun read.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Politically Correct Holiday Stories

I was looking for a quick funny holiday book and sadly this did not deliver. It was inventive and unique, for sure, but... not what I wanted to read at all. Thankfully it was only 99 pages or I never would have finished it!

This tiny book is a collection of short re-imagined holiday tales that have been politically corrected. The reindeer lobby for better rights, Clara won't go off with the nutcracker because "such a journey is symbolic of the violent abduction that occurs in the wedding night [she then mentions that Dorothy and Alice have never been the same]," Frosty melts due to global warming, etc.

Clever but I just wasn't having it.

Sex and the Single Christian Girl

The past few years has seen a flurry of Christian self help books on sexuality for women. Marian Jordan Ellis attempts to take everything that's already out there, expand upon it, and wrap it up in a neat little bow. She did a decent job, although I found it went in circles and was a little repetitive. Many passages, prayers, and stories were repeated time and again. That being said, I still thought the author did a good job getting her message across.

Ellis lists reasons why fighting for purity is essential and then backs it up with scripture and testimonials. She then lists many lies we deceive ourselves with such as; it's ok because we love each other, he won't love me if we don't do it, once you've lost you're virginity it doesn't matter anymore, we're eventually going to get married, etc. She then refutes each lies and teaches the reader ways to resist temptation and fight for your purity.

This guide isn't just for 15 year old Christian virgins. It's for all girls whether they are still pure or not. It's about getting back on track and staying there.

It's a fast read and I especially enjoyed the cute little romantic movie quotes that opened up each chapter. 

I received this book for free from Library Thing in return for my honest, unbiased opinion.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

What Once Was Lost

Despite the normal grumblings I have about historical Christian fiction (women belong in the house, men know best, etc.) this was actually a pretty good book. Kim Vogel Sawyer actually had the audacity to counter some of my least favorite aspects of Christian romance (finally!).

This historical romance is set in rural Kansas during the mid to late nineteenth century. Christina Willems runs a well loved poor house on the outskirts of town but when a fire ruins the only home she's ever known she has to find accommodations for her and all the residents. Finding someone to take in Tommy, an eleven year old blind boy turns out to be difficult. Desperate and with no where else to go she entrusts him to a faithless bachelor, Levi Johnson. While Miss Willems busies herself trying to secure funds to rebuild the house and look after her wards sparks begin to fly between her and Levi. The more frustrated she becomes with her the more the attraction grows. The turmoil in her heart isn't the only ache Miss Willems has to face however, someone is trying to sully her good name in town and she has no idea why. Will the townspeople stand by her? Will Levi? Read to find out!!!

As stated, for a Christian historical romance I was pleasantly surprised. Yes there were many instances of women aren't as worthy or capable as men (it's in the bible!) stuff, but the author addresses and counters it. Another redeeming factor was Cora, a young pregnant and unwed girl who, shockingly, isn't stoned or ridiculed (not by everyone in the town anyways, there are good Christians!). Overall, a good quick and uplifting read.

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

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Almond Tree

I wasn't initially excited to read this book; the cover art was boring, it would probably be depressing, blah, blah, blah. Stupid excuses, all of them! This was a fantastic read. I'm so glad I got the opportunity to read it.

This book did more for my understanding of Israeli/ Palestinian problems than any thing else I've read. I'm not a political connoisseur by any means so this really opened my eyes.

The story is a bout young Palestinian boy who despite all odds keeps his chin up and eventually escapes from extreme poverty. His toddler sister is blown up by a land mine when he was a child, another one was gassed to death, his father is wrongly imprisoned for fourteen years, their house gets blown up, they live in a tent for years, it's tragic. Horribly tragic. However, for young Ichmad there is an out, his brain. Ichmad is amazingly talented at math and science and those will eventually become the keys to his success. He succeeds in leaving he country but his brother never forgive him for, "siding with the enemy."

A truly great novel that explores the problems in the Middle East, illustrates the need for peace, and the need for universal education. Education is key to uplifting people out of poverty and despair.

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

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Sisterchicks on the Loose

I adored this book. It made me want to hop on a plane and have some life changing adventure. Oh wait, I've done that, but this made me want to do it with my best friend. Robin lovingly recounts her spur of the moment trip with her best friend Penny. When they were young mother's they promised each other they would go to Finland to find the last of Penny's blood relatives, well, that time has come.

This fictional memoir recounts their first adventure together in 1993 and how it changed their lives. It brought them closer to each other, their families, and God. Who knew what an 11 day trip could do for the soul. In that time they "bared all" in a sauna with 2 ladies in their 70's, lost luggage, got puked on, found long lost family, and much much more. It's a light fun read that will have you laughing and sympathizing. A great quick read, I most definitely want to read more in the series.

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

Friday, December 13, 2013

Chanel Bonfire

Mommy dearest had nothing on the evil manipulating mother in this memoir. My childhood seems like a cake walk in comparison. Wendy Lawless recounts her childhood and teenage years trying to come to terms with her mother; a woman who threatened to kill her two daughters, who told her she should have had abortions instead of having kids, who tried to sleep with Wendy's boyfriend, who threw out all their toys, who told her kids their father hated them and never wanted to see them again, and many more terrible evil things.

Despite being horribly depressing, this memoir is moving and intriguing and the optimism that Wendy managed to hold onto is moving. It's a short memoir that will make you want to hold your kids and tell them how much you love them and really sincerely mean it.

Romulus Buckle & the Engines of War

This is officially the first steampunk novel I have ever read and it wasn't too bad! I really didn't think I would enjoy it, but after awhile it grew on me. The main character Romulus Buckle, swashbuckeling captain of the "Pneumatic Zeppelin" is your typical James Bond, cocky, womanizing, brave, type. You just have to like him (although his attraction to two of his step sisters is a little odd for me).

This is the second in a series and it picks up immediately where the last one left off and ends in such a cliffhanger that you're stuck waiting for the next installment. I'm not sure how many are in the series but this book sets it up for a major war against the founders. The whole point of this book is uniting all the warring clans together to fight a common enemy, the Founders.

It's super fast paced. I'm fairly positive that Buckle did not sleep once during the entire book. The characters are pretty well developed and leave you with enough curiosity that you'll want to see how they develop later on in the series.

This book is all steam punk with some fantasy elements thrown in (flying krakens, sabertooths, martians, etc.) so if you're into that kind of thing you will most definitely love this book.

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

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Night Guest

I don't remember who recommended this book to me but I was not a fan. This was one of those books I started reading without knowing anything about the plot or storyline. Bad idea.

The story follows this elderly lady, Ruth, as she slowly loses her mind to old age. She starts hearing noises at night and is convinced there is a tiger lurking in the hallway. Soon after, a bossy woman named Frida, invites herself into the house and tells Ruth the government has sent her as part of a program for the elderly. Things go downhill from there. Frida uses Ruth's frail state to take advantage of her. While it's clear that Frida develops a soft spot for Ruth and admires her, it's obvious that she plans on milking this poor old lady for all she's worth by exploiting her aging mind.

While it was beautifully written, I didn't feel that this story did anything for me. I just felt bad for the old lady. Read at your own risk.

Love in the Time of Cholera

Marquez, Gabriel Garcia. Love in the Time of Cholera. 13 CDs. unabridged. 15.5 hrs. Blackstone Audio. 2013. ISBN 978148293971. 

Nobel Prize winning author, Gabriel Garcia Marquez (One Hundred Years of Solitude) spins a tale of romance and heartbreak that spans decades. Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza fall hopelessly in love in their youth, but when Fermina forsakes Florentino's love to marry a wealthy doctor, he is anything but dissuaded. He spends a lifetime waiting for her; no woman could ever replace her spot in his heart. Romance is the only thing that he can live for and as long as Fermina lives, even with another man, his heart will keep beating in the hope that he can win her back. This story of unrequited love is unsurpassed in it's eloquence, tragedy, and redemption. Beautifully told by the talented voice actor Armando Duranwhose strong voice carries the story along . Although translated from it's original Spanish, Duran keeps the Spanish roots present with his accent and masterful pronunciation. A wonderful classic for fans of narrative and historical literature. Erin Cataldi, Johnson County Public Library, Franklin, IN

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Passion Pursuit: What Kind of Love Are You Making?

Before I review this title I feel I need to warn you, I am not married. So this book doesn't relate to me... yet. That being said I thought this was a WONDERFUL manual for the married Christian woman! I had expected this to be a dry tome of "please your husband," "missionary style only," or "only have sex once a month," etc. But what I found shocked me... in a good way!

Authors Linda Dillow and Dr. Juli Slatterly put together this wonderful ten week manual to help transform the emotional and physical passion of married Christian couples and save marriages in the process. Each week is a different theme focusing on a passage from the Bible and the book is full of written exercises, talking points to share with your husband, prayers, and personal testimonials from other Christian women.

This book is meant to be completed solo or with a group of other women. The authors realize that sex and passion are topics not often focused on in Church or are hard to bring up with a priest which is why they completed this handy guide. This is useful for any stage of marriage, the beginning or when you are in your eighties, it is full of helpful hints and ideas on how to get your romance back on track.

I received this book for free from Moody Publishing in return for my honest, unbiased opinion.