Saturday, March 27, 2010

Abbie Ann

Title: Abbie Ann
Author: Sharlene MacLaren
ISBN: 978-1-60374-076-0

From Goodreads:

Abbie Ann Kane, the youngest of Jacob Kane's three daughters, is a busy woman. Between running the Whatnot, the family's general store, being active in the Women's Christian Temperance Union, and assisting the elderly citizens of Sandy Shores, Michigan, she has little time for frivolous matters. And those include matters of the heart. When the recently divorced Noah Carson comes to town with son Toby in tow to pursue a shipbuilding business, Abbie Ann tries to keep her distance-especially when his flagrant ex-wife shows up. But God has other plans in mind

My take:

I have been not-so-patiently awaiting the arrival of this book ever since finishing book 2 in The Daughters of Jacob Kane Series. :o) Let me just get my praise for the cover out of the way. Isn't it gorgeous? All the covers in the series have been just phenomenal. The model really exemplifies the character and the boat and scenery are really beautiful.

Now for the book itself ~ I love how the author draws characters that live and breathe. I'm a character person. It doesn't matter how good your plot idea is, if the people in it aren't interesting and you don't care about them it just won't be a good story. You don't have to worry about that with this story. Jacob Kane's daughter's have all been strong, sassy and wonderfully three dimensional. Abbie Ann is no different.

She can't cook, doesn't think marriage is in her future and is bent on closing down all those dens of iniquity otherwise known as saloons. Since that pretty much makes her anti everything your normal woman is expected to be, she is sure to ruffle more than a few feathers. One of them is the man who she's been courting for nine months and the other is a mystery man who has threatened to harm her if she doesn't stop her "meddling."

Noah Carson comes into town hoping for a fresh start. He was a very successful ship builder until his wife and business partner cheated on him with each other and wanted the company instead of their child. So Noah lost everything but Toby and is working in the window business for his uncle. His wagon is run off the road and into Jacob's display window. Nobody is hurt, but Noah and Abbie Ann are drawn together in a way that neither welcome.

Noah doesn't trust women and wants to keep to himself. Abbie Ann is drawn in by both Noah and his son, but doesn't believe in divorce and knows Noah isn't a committed Christian. Throw in Abbie's beau who dislikes all her causes, refuses to help her and tries to force her to stop now ~ and an unexpected offer for Noah, a couple surprise visitors ... and there is plenty to keep this story hopping.

I liked the way both Noah and Abbie weren't perfect. Noah regretted not being a better dad and realized how carried away he got when building a ship and how that meant he wasn't giving his son his best. He even was willing to accept his part of the blame in his marital problems. He didn't suddenly become better either. It was realistic. I could see him as a real person.

Abbie was the same way. She felt more comfortable out doing her charity work than doing cooking and domestics. She worried that she wouldn't make a good wife because of it. She is stubborn but dedicated to the people and causes she feels are important. It can take quite a lot to change her mind once she's made it up, which can be unfortunate if she's come to a wrong conclusion.

The romance was bittersweet and filled with pitfalls they both had to navigate. I think the dedication they showed towards each other (in different ways and times) is part of why this was such a powerful love story. You watched as they grew individually over the course of the story - as people who were better able to understand and love each other. It was a masterful job by a terrific author.

This is one of those books I can see myself reading again. As the last daughter, I imagine it's the end of the series. I'm sad to see them go. This has been a wonderful family to read about and I thank Sharlene for sharing them with us.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Asking for Trouble

Title: Asking for Trouble
Author: Sandra Byrd

From Goodreads:

When her family moves to London, 15-year-old Savvy Smith has to make her way in a new school and a new country. She just knows the school newspaper is the right place for her, but she doesn’t have the required experience, and the cute editor-in-chief is not looking to train anyone. She has to come up with a way to prove herself and nab the one available position on the newspaper staff at Wexburg Academy.
London Confidential is a new series where British fashion, friendships, and guys collide, and where an all-American girl learns to love life and live out her faith.

The author had this to say:

Tell us about yourself and why you got into writing.

When I was a kid I wanted three careers: to be a hair stylist, to be a waitress, and to be an author. After I mohawked my Barbie and gave myself a bad red dye job I knew I wasn’t cut out for the hairstylist career. I actually was a waitress in a Jewish deli when I was a teenager, and I worked for a caterer. Although I loved talking to my customers, especially Holocaust survivors, and watching them slice a clover-stained cow's tongue, writing was the real passion. And it stuck!

You actually write books for both adults and teens. What do you like about writing for both groups?

I love writing for women of all ages - young women, i.e., tweens and teens, and adult women all the way into their eighties. Funnily enough, even though we all mature in so many ways, a lot of the concerns we have as young women stick with us. We are relational, we are emotional, we seek to find our unique place in the world in whatever situation and during whatever age we find ourselves. And because women ARE relational I often hear from them via my website after they read my books. I love that!

What can readers look forward to in the final two London Confidential books?

The final two books in the series release on September 1, 2010 and talk about good friendships and bad, why it's important for Christian girls to stick with only liking, even crushing on, Christian boys, how to persevere in times of trouble, and taking your first adult steps in your faith. When girls open any of the books, they'll find a girl who is a lot like them, with dreams and hopes and fears like theirs, and God who works things out in ways they would not have imagined. There are friendship ups and downs, school ups and downs, guy ups and downs, family issues and lots of fun. I wanted to write books that would be fun to read, and yet still be meaningful. I hope the girls find the books to be just that.

My take?

I have a thing for accents too. ;o) This was a fun book that was well written and was an easy read. I wouldn't hesitate to suggest it for a friend with a young girl. The main character was believable and the story was *redeeming* without being preachy. I liked that she learned her lessons through her own strength of character and choices rather than them being forced on her or taught to her by someone else.

I want to thank Tyndale for my review copy of this book. It did not influence my review and I plan to donate it to my church youth group. :o)

66 Love Letters

Title: From God to You 66 Love Letters: A Conversation with God that Invites you Into His Story
Author: Dr. Larry Crabb
ISBN: 978-0-84999-1966-4

From Goodreads:

Dr. Larry Crabb knows that if we could see the larger story of God and humanity, our world would never be the same. That story is found in large part in the sixty-six letters of the Bible.

Written in a conversational first person, as if God is speaking directly to us, Dr. Crabb looks at each individual book in scripture and boils it down to a one- or two-sentence message to us from that particular book. He then unpacks each sentence in a short chapter answering the question, What does God want me to hear from this love letter? The book's epilogue then fits all sixty-six pieces of the jigsaw puzzle together into one coherent paragraph and reveals the beautiful picture of what God has been about since the creation of the world. Far from being comprehensive, this is a personal approach to helping readers know God and his great love for them, his message for all mankind, and how their lives fit into His larger story.

My take:

I didn't enjoy this book. I don't have any problem with the fact that God has written the Bible to us out of His love ~ or that we should be able to talk to Him in a personal, approachable way. What makes me uncomfortable is when someone decides to take on the other side of that conversation and writes what they think God is saying ~ and they aren't staying strictly with the Bible. Plus he seems to believe that the Bible is too difficult for people to understand. With so many new good translations out there, the really important things aren't that hard to grasp.

I am not one of those that thinks we need all the thee(s) and thou(s) in order to be holy, but that pendulum can swing too far in the other direction too. For example, in this book God supposedly says of Genesis that, "The three of Us were making preparations to throw a party, to invite others to a dance, to a dance We've been enjoying since before time began. But there were no 'others' to invite. So at a family council, We decided to create people, human beings just like you whom We could enjoy as they enjoyed Us and all the beauty We had made."

Or "The drama of the first eighteen chapters of My second love letter shows the lengths I must go in order to free weak and helpless people from bondage to an evil power greater than themselves. Ask any sex addict what I'm talking about." Okaaay ... So that's the first example that would pop into God's head? Or is it Dr. Larry Crabb's idea?

Now again, I do think we need to relate but we're back to my pendulum problem. It applies to the idea of respecting God too. Some people were too strict with this: flailed themselves, and thought to please God you had to be perfect and go out and do a bunch of good works. Others think all you need to do is be born because God loves everyone. That's a pendulum swinging too far in both directions. The truth is in the middle. Same with this whole familiarity thing. I think we should be able to talk to God like a friend and approach him without fear ~ but we still need to respect who He is and not rewrite His words and being like this.

I think if it was a book about anyone else who had written a bestselling book and their words were being taken out of context ... someone wouldn't be happy. Of course, the author can always argue God told him to do it. :o) My only point is that there are tons of books about the Bible on the market. They manage to help make the point without trying to "portray" God for the people. There is only one God and I think He does that job just fine by Himself.

This is designed so that you read the chapter and then the book in the Bible. The book is of good quality and it is well written.

I was given this book by Thomas Nelson to review. In no way did that influence my review.

Thomas Nelson Product Page

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Highland Blessings

Title: Highland Blessings
Author: Jennifer Hudson Taylor
ISBN: 978-1-4267-0226-6

From Goodreads:

Highland Blessings is the story of a highland warrior who kidnaps the daughter of his greatest enemy and clan chief to honor a promise he made to his dying father. Bryce MacPhearson, a highland warrior, kidnaps Akira MacKenzie on her wedding day to honor a promise he made to his dying father. While Akira’s strength in the Lord becomes a witness to Bryce, she struggles to overcome her anger and resentment when he forces her to wed him, hoping to end a half-century-old feud between their clans. While Akira begins to forgive, and Bryce learns to trust, a series of murders leaves a trail of unanswered questions, confusion, and a legacy of hate that once again rises between their families. Clearly, a traitor is in their midst. Now the one man Akira loves no longer trusts her, and her own life is in danger. Can Bryce look beyond his pain and seek the truth? Will Akira discover the threat against her before it’s too late? How will God turn a simple promise into bountiful Highland blessings?

My Take:

There is something that makes me go weak in the knees at the thought of a Scottish warrior. Jennifer has created one of my favorites in this book. Not only is Bryce strong, but he has their characteristic loyalty to family, he's sinfully handsome and wants to fulfill his dying father's wish. The only problem lies with carrying that out. His elder brother is now chief and has no intention of tying himself with a rival clan just to make peace. The lady in question, Akira, is just as strong willed as she is beautiful. He can't help but admire her and regret the actions that may have placed her in harm's way.

The rivalry between the two clans has been long standing and many would like to see Bryce fail. It's hard to overcome so many years of hate and prejudice. Trust is hard won and easily broken. Plus someone is working hard to inflame the tempers of both clans.

Bryce is a terrific character. He feels bound by his father's dying wish, and yet drawn to Akira himself. Her strength and courage are something he admires, and he enjoys their verbal battles and her beauty. He's first angry at Evan's refusal and rude comments about Akira, then becomes jealous once Evan shows some interest in her after all. He's a strong leader and has the respect of his men. He also has a tender side. He tries to see to her comfort and is upset by the accidental pain he causes her. He does have trouble with trusting her ~ and her family.

Akira is brave, intelligent and resourceful. She's also stubborn. She puts her own needs and desires below those of her people. She's no pushover physically either. She has skill with a blade and eventually manages to talk Bryce into giving her one of her own. She has a blind spot when it comes to her clan and doesn't believe any of them could possibly be behind any of the incidents. She also believed all the MacPhersons (Bryce's clan) were nothing more than brutal barbarians with no regard for human life. I love this quote from the beginning of the book ~ just after she's kidnapped and put up quite a fight:

"Akira wisely remained silent. The man seemed to contradict even his own character. He didn't want her to believe him a barbarian, yet he had ridden onto MacKenzie land with warriors and carted her off against her will, thrown across his lap like a sack of potatoes. Then he bound her wrists with a leather strap and tried to convince her that he was a caring gentleman with good manners. There could only be one explanation. The man was daft."

When one of the many plots against the peace ends up with the death of Evan, Bryce becomes chief and intends to marry Akira himself. The truce called for her to marry the chief of the clan ~ it didn't say it had to be his brother. He was the one who believed this was the path to peace, and he was attracted to her. But can he trust her? They both want an end to the fighting, but she is there against her will and bad things have happened to both sides. She hasn't been welcomed with open arms either.

I don't want to tell you too much more and ruin the story, but I have got to tell you ~ this is in contention for my favorites list as well. Such awesome characters and their relationship sent off enough sparks for an early 4th of July (in more ways than one ~ they fought hard too).

I just want to briefly mention another character that was unusual. Bryce and Evan were two of three sons. The third brother is named Sim. He is deaf (but can read lips) and doesn't speak. His brothers protect and provide for him. They are preparing to teach him to fight, but Akira wants to teach him academics so he can keep the books. She and Sim become good friends.

Jennifer Hudson Taylor has created a great book that not only captures a romance between two interesting people, but deals with an issue that is very timely. Both these characters had to deal with whether they were willing to trust each other and God for what was going to happen in their lives. In this economy, I think many of us can relate to needing that same kind of trust. Things look pretty scary to us, but God has it all in His hands.

I want to thank the author for sending me an advance reader copy (the first one I've ever gotten). It didn't influence my review but I am grateful for it and the chance to read the book. I hope you all will consider adding it to your list.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Blogger Award

I was awarded this by Katy @ A Few More Pages who mentioned that she got it from Lori @ Some of my Favorite Books at the end of February. That rung a bell for me. So I looked it up. Sure enough, Lori gave me that award too ~ right before my computer died, I got sick ... I fell behind and I totally forgot about the award. I have been making posts, but not like I used to. I apologized to all of you, but I certainly owe a special one to Lori. Thank you both for this award and I am so sorry for not mentioning it sooner.

For receiving this award, I'm supposed to list 10 random things about well as, pass it along to 10 other bloggers. we go:

10 random things about me:

1. I once won $100 in a grocery store by hula hooping for longer than anyone else.
2. I celebrated my 18th birthday by eating pizza with strangers in the processing station for new Army recruits.
3. I once had a man offer my mother and father several camels so I could become one of his concubines (in a middle eastern restaurant).
4. I love to do drama (and do well) but get stage fright ~ sometimes so bad that my hands will shake too hard to hold the props. Funny thing is, nobody off stage ever notices.
5. My husband and I were married by proxy. A notarized paper took his place and I called him to tell him we were married. {We did re-marry in a church on our 1 year anniversary.}
6. I have a collection of old books ~ especially schoolbooks. I like the 50s a lot because of the pictures; it just seems like a simpler time, but I have some from the 1800s.
7. I like to make jewelry, but I don't like to wear it except to dress up.
8. I am a total sucker for a good romance, whether it's a book, movie, TV show, a real life story ...
9. I had to quit ebay because I was known to fight too hard to win even if the price went to high. I don't know whether it was competition, that I got sentimental over the item ... I'm not sure. Thankfully I nipped my "problem" in the bud. lol
10. I find it easier to reach out online than in person. I'm almost painfully shy until I get to know people.

Since it has been so long and most of the people I know, Lori & Katy know as well ~ this award has made it through the ranks. However, I think all my followers are Sugar Dolls that I would love to learn more about. If you have not been given this award before ~ then please consider it yours now. I would love to see it up on your blogs.

Blessings ~

Friday, March 12, 2010

Book Questionnaire

Katy @ A Few More Pages had this great Book Questionnaire on her blog and I decided to do it as well. :o)

Rules of this survey - no two answers can be the same book and all books must be fiction.

Book next to your bed right now: Abbie Ann by Sharlene MacLaren
Favorite series: Daughters of Bosten by Julie Lessman
Favorite book: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
The one book you would have with you if stranded on a desert island: It's couldn't pick a fictional book for this category - I would take a Bible with me.
Book/series you would take with you on a long flight: The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien
Worst book you were made to read in school: Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Book that everyone should be made to read in school: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Book that everyone should read, period:Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
Favorite character: Jamie Fraser in Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series
Best villain: Mr. Brocklehurst in Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre
Favorite concept series: I'm not really sure that I understand this category, but I'll say The King Raven Series by Stephen Lawhead
Favorite invented world: Narnia
Most beautifully written book: The Scarlet Thread by Francine Rivers
Funniest book: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

It was really hard for me to pick different books. I kept wanting to use the same book to answer several questions. You are welcome to participate! I'd love to see what your choices would be!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

King Raven Series

Titles: Hood, Scarlet, Tuck
Author: Stephen R. Lawhead

From Goodreads:
Robin Hood

The Legend Begins Anew

For centuries, the legend of Robin Hood and his band of thieves has captivated the imagination. Now the familiar tale takes on new life, fresh meaning, and an unexpected setting.

Hunted like an animal by Norman invaders, Bran ap Brychan, heir to the throne Elfael, has abandoned his father's kingdom and fled to the greenwood. There, in the primeval forest of the Welsh borders, danger surrounds him-for this woodland is a living, breathing entity with mysterious powers and secrets, and Bran must find a way to make it his own if he is to survive.

After losing everything he owns, forester Will Scarlet embarks on a search for none other than King Raven, whose exploits have already become legendary. After fulfilling his quest--and proving himself a skilled and loyal companion--Will joins the heroic archer and his men.

Now, however, Will is in prison for a crime he did not commit. His sentence is death by hanging--unless he delivers King Raven and his band of cohorts.

That, of course, he will never do.

Wales is slowly falling under the control of the invading Normans, and King William the Red has given his ruthless barons control of the land. In desperation, the people turn to King Raven and his men for justice and survival in the face of the ever-growing onslaught.

From deep in the forest they form a daring plan for deliverance, knowing that failure means death for them all.

King Raven has brought hope to the oppressed people of Wales--and fear to their Norman overlords. Along the way Friar Tuck has been the stalwart supporter of King Raven--bringing him much-needed guidance, wit, and faithful companionship.

Deceived by the self-serving King William and hunted by the treacherous Abbot Hugo and Sheriff de Glanville, Rhi Bran is forced to take matters into his own hands as King Raven. Aided by Tuck and his small but determined band of forest-dwelling outlaws, he ignites a rebellion that spreads through the Welsh valleys, forcing the wily monarch to marshal his army and march against little Elfael.

My take:

I thought I was pre-reading a young adult series for my son. I was wrong. I can't remember where I purchased this series, but it is listed as general fiction. The action is intense, but there is nothing that made me feel as if I couldn't pass it along to my son afterward.

The language is fantastic and brings to life a Robin Hood unlike any I've ever seen or read about. The author has researched and come up with an entirely new theory not unlike the Roman background the legendary King Arthur has inherited recently.

I thought the setting and characters each came to life magnificently and I was in awe of King Raven as much as any of his Grellon or flock. :o) Their exploits were so daring and fun to read about and yet you were still on the edge of your seat wondering how it would all come about.

If I had one wish it would be for more interaction between the characters. Bran was magnificent on his own, Iwan was a brave and stalwart champion, Tuck was an incredible character ... but the only one who really interacted with all of them and played a major role was Will Scarlet. Even Bran seemed more an isolated hero who stood at the edges of his own kingdom and took center stage when it was time for the spotlight to shine. As a romantic I wish his relationship with Merian had been more of a focus in any or all of the books.

Still, these were some of the most enjoyable reads I've had ~ and that's saying something. :o)

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Winner & An Apology

I wanted to announce a winner in my contest for my copy of Judith Miller's Somewhere to Belong.

I know I'm a day late, and so I did include my late entry (Thank you Martha for your comment and entry) and the random pull ended up picking ... {imagine a drum roll}

April! Congratulations and thank you to everyone for entering. If you didn't win I encourage you to check this book out from wherever you purchase your books. It was a wonderful read with great characters.

I'll be sending April an email to get her mailing address.

In the meantime I wanted to apologize to all my blog readers for being AWOL. I was in the Army, but for those of you not familiar with that term, I just mean for not being around and not warning you ahead of time.

I got pretty sick. I think the stress of everything going on coupled with some kind of stomach bug got me. With my special health blessings I could barely move off the couch, and didn't even read much. Plus my desktop computer is dying - repeated crashes in the last few months. The hard drive is failing. They tried to fix it, but it didn't work. The warranty is up - so we bit the big one and got a new computer. It came in and the last two days I have been trying to switch over everything I can. I can't save everything though - especially since there are some compatibility issues with some of my programs and Windows 7. Grrr. lol

So, I'm sorry for not keeping up and I will try to do better. For those of you who wanted to know, my husband took a job as a car salesman on Monday. He works from 8 am 'til 8:30 pm every day except Sun & Wed. It is just over 30 min away. They don't pay for gas or give him a car. They won't allow personal calls or cell phones. It pays $1500 (a month) for the first 3 months as a safety net - then it is strictly what you make selling cars. They actually make up costs that take away from the earnings of their salesmen. They make them pay for their own business cards - but they can't go get the best deal - the dealership designs & orders them & charges the salesmen. They make the salesmen pay $10 to deliver cookies to each customer they sell a car to. Stuff like that.

He doesn't really like the job, but he is so grateful to have a job and likes the people. He's still in training but hopes to do well. We're also still praying that another job may open up with better hours and pay, but we're thankful for what God has given us. We were also able to refinance our mortgage to save some of the payments and the interest rate - plus it buys us a couple months off on payments. We praise God for all these things. Thank you all for praying. Now - I promise to get back to the books. :o)