Monday

Review: Through Raging Waters

Through Raging Waters Through Raging Waters by Renee Blare
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed reading this book, although I seriously recommend you read the first book first. I was a bit clueless in the beginning because I didn't know who was who... and there just isn't much character development in this one. So take your chances.

I realize there is a tendency to groan when a person has read the first book and then has to plow through a rehashing of characters before the story takes off. However, there is a way to write that will make it easier reading for everyone, but that isn't done here.

Characters seem a bit cardboardish at times, but the scenery descriptions are top notch. You are there in the middle of the floods with raging water all around. You feel the cool air, and smell the fireplaces, and you hear the little ding of the bell over the pharmacy door. No question that Blare has a knack for descriptive writing.

She has a tendency to write cryptically. There are some jumps in conversations, and some head hopping without transitions that make for a bit of a "jerky" read rather than a swift story flow which is what Blare is striving for, I'm sure. She's got the talent, for sure. I expect her books to get better and better as her writing skills develop.




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Review: Saving the Marquise's Granddaughter

Saving the Marquise's Granddaughter Saving the Marquise's Granddaughter by Carrie Fancett Pagels
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The story is well written for the most part. However, there are so many places where Pagels lost me, or switched things around. At first Suzanne could understand German, then she had lots of trouble piecing together what Johan and family were saying. Other places, the story had a breakneck flow, and then suddenly bogged down. I sort of like that (in limited quantities) because it gives me time to think about everything. But even so, this was more bogging as in a soap opera rather than a deeply moving romance. While most was well written, this is not actually a historical romance. That would mean there should be some actual, history.

[Insert a wailing whine here.] Why doesn't someone teach writers how to do research before writing novels? Why don't publishing house editors insist on real research from the authors, and why don't publishing houses require editors to have education before they hire these editors? And WHY don't publishing houses have fact checkers???

I was so excited to see this book on my Netgalley shelf. Finally, a great 16th or 17th century historical romance. Nope... it's supposedly taking place in 1742. That's about 75 years after the religious wars and Catholic terrorism against Huguenots happened which began in the early 1500s through the middle of the 1600s, then it became more of a political war. My 8th great grandfather was a Huguenot and immigrated to Virginia from France in 1625. I do not know his story, so I was hoping to glean a bit of history at the same time enjoy a good romance.

Well, the romance was fairly good... the history, not so much. Besides the timing of the novel, there wasn't a whole lot of costume discussion, although there was a lot of powdered wigs in the royal court (which was true in the 1700s (18th century), not the 1600s.

Here's another question. Johan's family were supposed to own a lot of land, but their farm couldn't sustain two families, which is a plot ploy that requires Johan to take Suzanne to America. In places the plot seems forced, not a natural flow where the characters are not well developed. Sometimes Johan's brother is portrayed as an okay fellow, other times he's a dirty, rotten scoundrel. Which is it? Suzanne has a terrible habit of agonizing over some things, and just letting other things flow around her without notice. That was annoying for me.

I have this 2 stars. It has such tremenous potential, but it fell flat for me. I'm not a fan of soap operas, and I think that is probably it. On the other hand, I read this off Netgalley, and publishers have a really bad habit of submitting undedited (I mean really RAW stuff) on there. So take this honest review with a grain of salf.



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Friday

Review: DawnSinger

DawnSinger DawnSinger by Janalyn Voigt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I highly recommend you NOT get the eBook version. I did not know there was a glossary at the end that would explain SO much about things I was clueless about. I wondered the whole way through why didn't the author write in such a way to explain some things. Why were all these creatures named these weird things that had a Celtic ring with no explanation. However, I really liked the way the wingabeasts were explained with nothing more than that the creature whinnied. Ah! Pegasus!

Ah well, the writing was pretty good, and the story line and premise was also good except for the fact that two people fall in love that shouldn't fall in love did. (view spoiler)

Please remember this is the eBook format that is getting the 3 stars. When you read something that doesn't make sense, it is very hard to keep going. When I read the part mentioned in the spoiler alert, I quit reading. For fantasy fans, this would probably be a great read. But the two things worked together for me to spoil my enjoyment. That's just me.

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Review: Spaceport West

Spaceport West Spaceport West by Giles Chanot
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I think it is rather unfair to compare this to Hitchhiker's Guide. It's a different premise as in colonizing Mars, and politics of Earth. Quite different. I love the inserts of the UK's Space Guide; they are quite amusing.

The characters are a bit whacky, and that is what makes this story work. What's scary is the "big reveal" at the end, which is technologically frightening. I don't think we're there, yet, but then doors that open by themselves, men walking on the moon, cell phones, wireless computers, and flat screen TVs were all science fiction at one point in time.

This is a breezy read, and I liked it a lot. But then, I get British humor and love it.

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Review: My Sister's Prayer

My Sister's Prayer My Sister's Prayer by Mindy Starns Clark
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My Mom loved this book... I was not a huge fan, so the book gets 4 stars.

The characterizations are quite good in the modern day story, and the characters are very believable in the historical love story. I really hate the ploy of dual storyline. I learned from my writing professor that you should tell one story at a time so you can tell that story really well. I wouldn't say that these stories are not done well, because they are captivating. However, if you are like me and would rather read one story at a time and not be jostled about by switching from head to head and character to character, then this book is probably not for you. The problem I have with it is that there are no transitions from modern to historical. There should at least be a reason to revert back and forth. Perhaps, I didn't get far enough into the book to realize a reason. I got too fed up with the flipping back and forth.

I received this from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.



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Review: Unholy Code

Unholy Code Unholy Code by Thomas Waite
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

MY REVIEW

Lana rings true as a character. She's believable if a little bit un-girly. I can certainly identify with her terror about her daughter being threatened. I really don't agree with the laize faire of the parents giving their daughter plenty of time to have sex with her boyfriend in her bedroom upstairs. Call me old fashioned, but that is just wrong in my book.

However, the action-packed thrill ride of jihadists, terrorists, cyber-savvy villains, and seemingly a one woman shield between them and the demise of the US... that's still a riveting read.

Reader beware, there's plenty of foul language, sex, murder, and mayhem in this book.

I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Saturday

Review: An Essential Guide to Interpersonal Communication: Building Great Relationships with Faith, Skill, and Virtue in the Age of Social Media

An Essential Guide to Interpersonal Communication: Building Great Relationships with Faith, Skill, and Virtue in the Age of Social Media An Essential Guide to Interpersonal Communication: Building Great Relationships with Faith, Skill, and Virtue in the Age of Social Media by Quentin J. Schultze
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

MY REVIEW

This book is BRILLIANT. Schultze and Badzinsky have taken the interpersonal communication theories and practically applied them to Christian living. But don't let that scare you non-academics off. If you are blessed enough to be teaching a regular Bible study class and you happen to be looking for something to study next, then you've found it in this book. If you are teaching interpersonal communication in college this is also a must read. The whole foundation of communication rests in the One who created it, and who gave us a multitude of practical examples in the Bible.

Truths such as "We can't really separate ourselves as person from our own messages; we are part of the message not just messengers," are expounded upon in each chapter drawing from biblical teaching without being preachy. Our character is part of our message. Schultze and Badzinsky use this theme throughout as well as the basic premise that good interpersonal communication "ultimately flows from our hearts."

From Chapter 1 about being grateful to Chapter 8 about restoring relationships this book is packed with wise counsel, intriguing tidbits, and enduring, biblically-based concepts. The authors use illustrations such as Jackie who so deeply desired community that she put an ad on Craig's List to hire a family for the holidays, practical advice such as How to Avoid a Hellish Boss, debunked myths about conflict, and invigorating truths about living in mutual forgiveness.

You may not find all the technical terms for interpersonal communication theory, but the practical applications are all there and exceptionally good. You will find a discussion in some aspect of each interpersonal communication theory, but none are academically explained. It isn't needed.

The faith aspect of communicating is the foundation of this book after all God created communication when He first created beings. Although, God's type of communication is in the spiritual realm as well as the physical realm. Schultze and Badzinsky note that to enable that kind of communication, one must participate with soul listening. Not even Em Griffin got so specific with listening. It is not only physically with ears and eyes, but emotionally and spiritually listening, too.

One particularly quintessential key is their slight twist on the Golden Rule of Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, is found on page 83: "Seek friends who are the kinds of persons you would like to be--namely, a blessing to others." Each blessing is outlined in each chapter of the book: Grateful, attentive listener, single task oriented, knowing self, relating openly, encourager, promoting peace, earnest relationship restorer. These are those essential things that promote good, clear, interpersonal communication. How succinct!

I have not been as academic as I could have been with this review because it is written so plainly and so effectively it reminds me of God's admonition to Habakkuk in Chapter 2: Then the LORD told me: "I will give you my message in the form of a vision. Write it clearly enough to be read at a glance. Habakkuk 2:2

I don't see how this message could be made any more clear than what Schultze and Badzinsky have written here. Don't waste anymore time, Christian, purchase this book and invest the time to read it. Along with your Bible study, it will change how you communicate with those around you.

ABOUT THE BOOK
Virtually every human endeavor involves interpersonal communication. Leading Christian scholar and media commentator Quentin Schultze and respected professor of communication Diane Badzinski offer a solid Christian perspective on the topic, helping readers communicate with faith, skill, and virtue in their interpersonal relationships. Designed as a companion to Schultze’s successful An Essential Guide to Public Speaking, this inviting book provides biblical wisdom on critical areas of interpersonal communication: gratitude, listening, self-assessment, forgiveness, trust, encouragement, peace, and fidelity. Given the rapid rise and widespread use of social media, the book also integrates intriguing insights from the latest research on the influence of social media on interpersonal relationships. It includes engaging stories and numerous sidebars featuring practical lists, definitions, illustrations, and biblical insights.

I received this book from the authors in exchange for an honest review.

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Wednesday

Review: No Other Will Do

No Other Will Do No Other Will Do by Karen Witemeyer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Great story telling! I was entranced until I ran into some not so great fact checking/modernisms. Just be prepared to be jerked out of the 19th century every once in a while. Plus the dialogue sometimes falls a little flat. I really expect a lot from established writers; they are experienced and supposed to know what they are doing. I also give just as much expectation of experienced editors. Fact checking is one of the must dos. Weeding out modernisms is a must do. I expected a lot more from Bethany House. One other problem that a good editing job would have taken out all the rehashing of problems that the characters do. This rehasing took up at least 8,000 words, and the story would have been much tighter and moved along a lot faster if this angst of the two main characters had been capsuled rather than dragged out.

However, this book is really great story telling summed up in one delicious word: Anticipation! Witemeyer is a genius with anticipation. The mystery part of who is doing the threatening is a sidenote in the story, not the main storyline. I think that part could have been woven in a bit better.

I'm quite sure there were plenty of women who hated men because of what they suffered at their hands. That was a really neat premise. I love strong women characters, but characters that have weaknesses as well make the best and most interesting characters. Witemeyer does a wonderful job with this. She also does a great job with giving the reader several different characters to chew on about the mysterious helper.

Weighing all the pros and cons, this comes out a satisfying read.

I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: The Tank Man's Son: A Memoir

The Tank Man's Son: A Memoir The Tank Man's Son: A Memoir by Mark Bouman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My heart broke for Mark Bouman as I read this book. I had a wonderful father, but my husband dished out verbal abuse almost everyday. I could identify with what was going on in this family, and see the thoughts that must have been going through my teenage girls heads because I didn't have the know-how to stop the verbal abuse.

The story telling had a few flaws. Sometimes the worded illustrations didn't quite click into place, but other times the word paintings were quite vivid with emotions and pain as well as fun times. I really liked that Bouman shared some of those good times with his readers.

One thing that didn't gel as well as other things were the characterizations of brother, sister, and mother. Mother was better than the other two, and I understand why. The siblings were too afraid to open up because it was too painful, and it almost always backfired when the Tank Man used those things against them. So what is not said is just as important to the story as what is said. That is a hard way to write.

As I said earlier, I have suffered abuse. I know how hard it is to forgive the abuser. This is why I know that Mark Bouman could not have forgiven his father without God's help. Years and years of abuse take a deep toll on a person's mind, body, and especially the soul. I was deeply touched by the soul cleansing Mark received, and recognize the same soul-stretching God did for him that he did for me.

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Saturday

Review: An Elegant Facade

An Elegant Facade An Elegant Facade by Kristi Ann Hunter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I very much enjoyed the first book in this series, A Noble Masquerade (Hawthorne House, #1). Hunter points out in the beginning that you don't need to read the first to enjoy the second, and she is absolutely correct. This is a great stand alone book. I enjoyed getting better acquainted with the characters that were in supporting roles in the first book.

Hunter did an excellent job in writing these two books the way she did. It had to be incredibly hard to mingle and entwine them, but to also make them stand-alones. It takes an incredible writer to be able to do this, and Hunter is superb at it.

The characters are fascinating, and the research is spectacular. You'll understand and appreciate that understatement when you get to know Georgina, and Colin, and all the others.

This is an excellent Regency novel with all the fol-de-rols of society that are melded so believably with the characters. No modernisms at all, praise the Lord. And the faith factor is ever so tenderly applied. What I find so wonderful is how masculine Hunter makes Colin's faith, and Griffith's, and the others. No namby-pambies here. It is solid reading pleasure.

Another pleasure is there are no ad nauseum repetitions or character agonizing over some problem. Yes, the problems are agonized over, but in such different ways that it seems so fresh like a fresh, sweet orange peeled--nothing dried out, but fragrance surrounding you--ready to be enjoyed.

Five of five stars. Definitely one of the best reads this year.


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Review: A Haven on Orchard Lane

A Haven on Orchard Lane A Haven on Orchard Lane by Lawana Blackwell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

MY REVIEW
I have loved every Lawana Blackwell book I've read, and this one is no exception. I could fill this review with all the positive splendepherous words to describe it and it still would not be adequate. This is an amazing slice of life in 1880s rural England. The culture shines. The research is top notch. The care for characters is quite tender. The best read this year.

I love the community, and small town rendition. I think these people already exist somewhere and Blackwell met them, fell in love with them, and wrote about them. They are all 4-dimensional characters (even the supporting roles). Everyone was in character both in actions as well as dialogue. In fact, the dialogue is quite sparkling. The romance reminds me of Jane Austin.

As I get older, I appreciate older characters more and more. Charlotte is a gem, and I can so much empathize with her. Great faith lessons, too. I'm putting this one in the must read column!

I received this book from the publisher at Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

ABOUT THE BOOK
In difficult circumstances, Charlotte Ward, once a famed stage actress, tries to restart her career--only to experience disaster. Against her better judgment, her estranged daughter, Rosalind, comes to her mother's rescue and moves her to a quiet English coastal village.

Charlotte is grateful to get to know Rosalind after years apart. As one who has regrets about her own romantic past, it's a joy for Charlotte to see love blossom for her daughter. For Rosalind, however, it's time away from teaching--and now she must care for the mother who wasn't there for her. And what could be more complicated than romance?

Together, mother and daughter discover that healing is best accomplished when they focus less on themselves and more on the needs of others.

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Friday

Review: Common Stones: A glimpse into several different worlds, in an effort to become more acquainted with our own

Common Stones: A glimpse into several different worlds, in an effort to become more acquainted with our own Common Stones: A glimpse into several different worlds, in an effort to become more acquainted with our own by Alicia M. Smith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I eventually realized that every day was a choice: A choice to get out of bed, a choice to decide to take one minute, one hour, one day at a time; a choice to brighten my surroundings for myself and for those whom I love; a choice to enjoy life despite any guilt, fear, or void that may still remain; a choice to trust God fully knowing He holds the entire puzzle in His hands while I only see a handful of pieces.

This is the crux of Common Stones, the thesis if you will. Alicia Smith has gathered several stories (including her own) about some blindsiding events that people face during life in this fallen world. She walks with you through several horrific events (such as her beloved father's war with cancer), and then gives you a nutshell filled with succulent seeds of growth. After we hear Ben's story (in his own words, mind you) -- a young man's fight after a debilitating car crash -- Alicia points out some wonderful truths. Surround yourself with good company! And then she outlines characteristics of a true supporter: listens, speaks with respect, supports the need for laughter.

The book is packed with the marvelous life lessons that would help us over those troublesome stumbling blocks that cobble our maturing faith if we'd only take them to heart. I don't know about you, but I'd much rather learn from someone's mistakes rather than stubbing my own toe. Pain is a great teacher, but why must we bear repeated pain when someone else has graciously shared his or her life changing event?

We absolutely should bear each other's burdens. God declares this. One reason is so that the burden does not weigh down our sibling in Christ. Another reason is so that we learn from their mistakes... or hardships... or accidents... or we learn compassion. Whatever the lesson, we grow.

Just as Chappy learned that there were blessings for him and his family from Hurricane Katrina. He just had to stop and listen for the Holy Spirit's urging. Listening to God a few men were able to build a ministry that had far reaching effect on "un-accepting" people. People who found Christ in a coffee shop rather than a formidable church setting.

Words of wisdom abound in this book. Notice the miracles... Let God hold you up... Celebrate the milestones no matter how big or how small... However, one thing that shines throughout this book is that faith is our binding cord and common stone that solidly holds siblings in Christ together. Together we bring Him glory, and together we hold each other up. There's nothing as satisfactory as the family of God.

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