Archive | August, 2013

Will of Wisteria

30 Aug

Will of WisteriaDenise Hildreth Jones

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Publication Date: 2007

Paperback: 342 pages, though I read this one as an e-book

Book Blurb:

Four headstrong siblings must satisfy their father’s dying demands–or risk losing his fortune. Let the clash of wills begin.

Charleston blue blood Clayton Wilcott “got religion” late in life; so late, it turns out his kids never took to it. So he’s left a provisional will delivered in a highly unorthodox way.

Now they’re going to have to honor Daddy’s commandments from beyond the grave–for a full year–or be cut off from their substantial inheritances.

The scent of wisteria lingers in the air as the four spoiled Wilcotts battle for their birthright. Told in Denise Hildreth’s trademark blend of humor and heart, this Southern tale is about learning to love, learning to live, and learning to bend.

Stand alone or series: Stand alone and stand out if I do say so myself. It is unlike most of the Christian fiction books I read.

Why I read this book: I’m always looking for new Christian authors and this particular book happened to be available at my library.

Review:

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked up this book. I liked the title and it claimed to be Christian fiction so I figured that was a good enough reason to try. The beginning was sad, the four siblings’ lives were a mess—some with tragic back stories and some who just couldn’t get their act together. The anger and resentment did not make for an easy read. More importantly I saw nothing that would rate this novel as Christian and I was worried that I would have nothing to review for you fine folks. However I was determined to stick it out because I’m one of those strange people who when I start something sad—book, movie, etc.—I must stick it out to see the happy end or I feel uneasy. And I’m glad I did.

The journey that these sibling undertook was one worth watching. Their father was not much a father while he was living which left gaping holes in the lives of his children. Knowing that there was little he could do to reach him while he was alive, he reached out from death at a final attempt to help them find the value in themselves, a value beyond their monetary inheritance. I really enjoyed the novel once the siblings started to make some progress but it was a long time, about halfway, before they did. A little past half way is when faith started to be mentioned in the story as well. I find it hard to describe how it entered in. It seems to me that faith does not play a large role in the story. As some children start to get their lives in order they also find pieces of God, but there’s no large discussion of him. I suppose what I find odd is the novel did not try to preach to me by subtle or blatant methods and that’s something I expect from Christian novels. Now this may not be true for everyone who reads this novel, but it was for me. I found their personal journeys, not their spiritual journeys, to be the more engaging part of the story.

I liked the story quite a bit despite, what was for me, the hard start. I would recommend this novel to friends and readers. But be aware you’re in for a more serious read, though funny at times this book is not a comedy. For me, I must have the right mindset for a book—serious, comedy or otherwise—to really get off on the right foot. But I think you’ll Will of Wisteria is worth your time.

To all my readers and followers thanks for checking out The Word and Other Words! This post ends my kick off month for the blog. As much as I’d like to keep up two or three posts a week, it’s simply not feasible for me. So from now on I’ll be reviewing one book a week. The posts will go out on Tuesday, because nobody likes Mondays and it gives you the rest of the week to check it out. If you’ve got any ideas or requests I’d love to hear from you. Happy reading!

Hot

27 Aug

HotLaura L. Smith

Publisher: NavPress

Paperback: 166 pages

Book Blurb:

How far will she go to make him notice her?

Lindsey is gorgeous and dresses like a model, but inside she feels alone. She feels as though no one truly understands her—until she meets Noah. Noah possesses a calm self-confidence Lindsey craves. But what price will she pay to escape to the comfort of Noah’s soft words and strong arms?

Drawn into a world where fashion, boys, and popularity rule, will Lindsey discover what truly matters before it’s too late?

Stand alone or series: Stand alone, however one of the friends is the star of her own novel: Skinny.

Why I read this book: Many Christian fiction books I’ve read avoid the topic of sex or (when it comes to teen fiction I’ve read) the best friend has sex and gets pregnant, the friends fall out but make up after the girl has seen the light and repented. This book was obviously going to tackle the topic head on. I wanted to see how the author would handle such a difficult subject. And I must say I don’t agree with how she handled everything.

Review:

I found HOT hard to read, because on several occasions it got, well, hot. I thought reading about the struggles of sex would be easier if read through a Christian standpoint. Yeah. Not really.

Lindsey and her friends were characterized well. I could feel a sense of camaraderie as they squished around a table at school or in the mall and chatted to their hearts’ content. They worked well as a group and (most of them) also functioned well as individuals. Many had their own backgrounds and problems that enabled them and Lindsey to develop throughout the story.

Lindsey’s family plays a dynamic part in the story. Though parents and sibling weren’t developed as individual characters, the family dynamic was clear—the rebellious sister, the frazzled mother, the loving but absentee dad (because of work). Her family has a heavy influence on Lindsey’s decisions throughout the novel. Though I don’t think one needs to have family issues to make waiting for sex difficult.

I think Smith could’ve delved a little more into the “why we wait” topic. Through a youth group sermon she talks about waiting because God wants us to wait and how we could be burned if we misuse his gift. However she doesn’t often express reasons for waiting in a positive light. Sex is a beautiful gift within marriage, and only within marriage is it kept from the things that can tarnish and spoil it like guilt and shame. It should be celebrated, not something to hide. Couples who wait, statistically, have happier, healthier, lasting marriages.

The even bigger problem is that she doesn’t address ways safeguard our purity. And she barely addresses how hard it is to wait. I think these are the two topics that most need addressed when discussing sex and Christianity and waiting in the modern world. It’s incredibly important for girls who are waiting to know that they’re not alone with their struggles. And more importantly, to have dialogue about boundaries and about how to handle difficult situations, even if it’s in a fictional setting.

Warning! Warning! Spoiler!

I must say, I was very disappointed when she actually had sex. The front said “She was tempted to give in…” I really hoped that meant that she wouldn’t give in. However that’s not the case. Her turn around after having sex was smooth and believable. And I was proud that Smith didn’t go the sex-before-marriage=pregnant route.  There was a slow reconciliation that what she did was wrong. She knows that she will never be the same, will never be able to get that gift back, but she realizes that God still loves her and is able to confront her boyfriend. The book ends with that confrontation but we don’t know how it ends, only that she’ll depend on God.

Though her one-eighty after having sex is great, I think it leaves a lot to be discussed on the subject of teens and sex. It is possible to wait. I made it through my teen and college years and waited until the day I was married. It’s hard to wait in high school and it only gets harder.  If your teen is reading this book it needs to be coupled with a serious discussion about boundaries, about ways to safeguard your body and your emotions as you wait. It’s not an easy fight but a worthy cause.

I’m not sure I would recommend this book, I wouldn’t count Lindsey as a role model. It’s not one I’ll be passing around with my friends anyway. However it could be a good tool to start that discussion with your daughter that you’ve been dreading. I know it’s not an easy talk but, trust me, it makes a huge difference. And girls, if you’re reading this, talk to your moms, or if your mom is a non-believer, talk to a woman in your church.  It’s not an easy topic, but talking to a trusted elder can help you feel less alone in the battle you are fighting. From me and all my friends who are waiting: You’re not alone!

 

A Delirious Summer

23 Aug

A Delirious Summer

Ray Blackston

Publisher: Revell

Publication Date: 2004

Paperback: 331 pages

Book Blurb:

Would you travel thousands of miles just to get a date?

Neil Rucker’s tempted. His life as a Spanish language teacher in Ecuador affords little opportunity for romance. So when his worst student, stockbroker-turned missionary Jay Jarvis, negotiates a trade of extra credit for a respite in Greenville, South Carolina, Neil’s delirious summer begins.

But the girls of Greenville aren’t waiting for dates. They’ve crafted a plan—a database and an organization—to find Mr. Rights in every denomination and congregation… if only Neil and the other available bachelors show up at the same places they do.

As the girls church-hop in search of the perfect man, Neil struggles to keep up and find the perfect girl among the Neopolitan choices: short, demanding redhead Lydia; thrill-seeking and lead-footed blonde Darcy; and the very tardy but dangerous raven-haired Alexis with the pierced eyebrow.

Between reckless driving, the double-double mochas, and the lessons in crabbing for dinner, Neil will have to figure out who’s the girl for him—a process that would render any guy delirious.

Stand alone or series: A bit of both I’d have to say. This book is second Blackston’s wonderful debut, Flabbergasted. However, A Delirious Summer has a new narrator and follows a new plot line with old plot lines intertwined. It could easily be read as a stand alone but why? Flabbergasted is fabulous… though if you’ve read the book blurb above it’s given away the biggest surprise of the prior novel.

Why I read this book: If you couldn’t tell by the near slobbering above, I loved the first book. Reading the second was a no brainer. I took it with me to the beach because in a shelf full of heavy novels I knew this one would discuss such subjects in a fun and funny way that wouldn’t leave me feeling down while sunning in the sand. (And there was almost a guaranteed beach trip in the novel.)

Review:

I never know how to talk about a Ray Blackston novel except to say: YOU SHOULD READ IT!!!! However, that’s not very helpful for a review.

Blackston is a funny guy who writes modern day Christian novels from a guy’s perspective (which we need more of) in a way that guys and girls can enjoy. He’ll take you to crazy places with even crazier people who you’ll come to love in just a few pages. Not only will you be laughing so hard people on the airplane will look at you funny (they were looking at me), but he also addresses subjects like God’s will vs our will and temptation in a down-to-earth, incredibly relatable way.

Neil Rucker is what he calls an almost missionary—teaching missionaries how to speak Spanish all over Latin America. Now furlough has arrived and he ends up in the lovable, zainy town of Greenville, South Carolina. Swept up in a whirlwind of dates with some of Greenville’s most eligible church-hoppers Neil has no idea what he’s gotten himself into.

You’ll find yourself laughing, affirming “Uh-huh” right along with Quilla and wondering how on earth the characters ended up there, but you’ll never be bored. I know I couldn’t put it down. This is a two thumbs up recommendation to guys, girls, your neighbor across the street you never talk to, that person you always pass in the grocery store and anyone else you can think of.

 

Redeeming Love

20 Aug

Redeeming Love

Francine Rivers

Publisher: Multnomah Books

Publication Date: 2007

Paperback: 479 pages, though I read the e-book. Don’t worry, this one’s safe, no typos.

Book Blurb:

California’s gold country, 1850. A time when men sold their souls for a bag of gold and women sold their bodies for a place to sleep.  Angel expects nothing from men but betrayal. Sold into prostitution as a child, she survives by keeping her hatred alive. And what she hates most are the men who use her, leaving her empty and dead inside. Then she meets Michael Hosea. A man who seeks his Father’s heart in everything, Michael Hosea obeys God’s call to marry Angel and to love her unconditionally. Slowly, day by day, he defies Angel’s every bitter expectation until, despite her resistance her frozen heart begins to thaw. But with her unexpected softening come overwhelming feelings of unworthiness and fear. And so Angel runs. Back to the darkness, away from her husband’s pursuing love, terrified of the truth she can no longer deny: Her final healing must come from the One who loves her even more than Michael Hosea does…the One who will never let her go.  A life-changing story of God’s unconditional, redemptive, all-consuming love.

Stand alone or series: Stand alone, I love it when they know to stop. A great thing can sometimes be lessened when they try to squeeze more out of it. And I do believe this was a great thing.

Why I read this book: I was writing an essay on Christian fiction and I came to the section on genres. Now historical fiction is a HUGE genre in Christian fiction, but I had been turned off of it at a young age by one too many no-so-pathetic deaths in a book that shall remain nameless. However, that book and a couple I’d read prior were enough to turn me off the historical side of things. So when it came to the historical section I had little to write about and knew I needed at least one example. I’d heard a lot about this book. It was part of the women’s book club at multiple churches I’d been a member of and I figured there was a reason for that. In fact there is, with over a million copies sold this book stayed in the Christian best-seller list for a decade and the author has gone on to receive more acclaim. I figured, if I’m going to read historical Christian fiction I might as well read the best.

Review:

This book was hard to begin. The story starts when Angel, then Sarah, is a child. All through the 46 page prologue I cringed because I knew what was going to happen. Redeeming Love is the story of a prostitute’s path to redemption, and I did not want to see that happen to this sweet, innocent little girl. But happen it did. Then the story skips ahead ten years and her tragic fate is a bit easier to swallow when she’s a “grown-up”, though I hardly call eighteen an adult. What Angel has suffered is hard to swallow but everything changes when Micheal Hosea walks onto the scene.

Michael gets under her skin, but not in a good way. He’s unlike any other man she’s encountered and she hates that she can’t stuff him into a box with all the others. Their marriage is one of… well, I won’t give away how they end up there but they do. Michael loved Angel from the minute he saw her and pursues her at God’s urging, but it’s not easy. Angel fights him at every turn, she doesn’t trust men, she despises the thought of love and hates the God who did not come to her and her mother’s aid when they needed it the most.

Their courtship is a constant tug-of-war, a back and forth that doesn’t get tiring. In fact, it’s all the more beautiful for Michael’s relentless pursuit of Angel despite all the things that happen. Angel’s melting heart is fascinating to watch and their relationship is as hot as it is heartwarming. I’m often wary of men written by women in romances, I’ve run into one to many effeminate men with bulging muscles waxing poetic on the oceans found in a women’s eyes. It is not so with Michael Hosea, he strikes just the right note, and if you’re anything like me you’ll find yourself falling for him long before Angel’s heart opens.

The story is incredibly engaging, and heartbreaking. But understanding the depths from which Angel comes, makes her transformation all the more satisfying. The story kept changing in ways I didn’t expect, adding new layers, new characters, new complications. And I’m not an easy person  to surprise. I would extraordinary story to any adult, and I do stress adult. The content is troubling at times and I believe that as time passes a reader will be able to appreciate the story better. I know in my teen years it would not have had the same impact. So read it! But be prepared, it’s not a light story, it’s also not one you can put down.

Notes From a Spinning Planet: Mexico

16 Aug

Mexico

Melody Carlson

Publisher: Waterbrook Press

Publication Date: 2007

Paperback: 225 pages, and thank goodness I had it in paperback. I couldn’t stand another e-book fiasco.

Book Blurb:

Madison Chase’s holiday break is drawing to a close and she’s eager to leave the grey Washington winter and join her Aunt Sid on a warm vacation in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Maddie is pleasantly surprised when her good friend Ryan McIntire shows up to enjoy the trip with them. But when Ryan runs into his high-school crush—the beautiful Shelby Wagner—Maddie’s jealousy threatens to spoil their sun-drenched days.

Unsure of her relationship with Ryan, Maddie distracts herself by befriending a local girl, Fracesca Tarrago, who is both intelligent and hardworking, but lives in deep poverty. As Maddie does what she can to help Francesca, she discovers a secret that Shelby has been keeping from all of them. Can Maddie put aside her conflicted feelings and love Shelby enough to help her?

Follow Maddie to the romantic beaches of Mexico as she explores a love deeper than simple affection—and discovers the beauty of true sacrifice.

Stand alone or series: Third and last of the Notes from a Spinning Planet series.

Why I read this book: The novel that I’m currently writing is not so surprisingly set in Mexico. I wanted to see how another author would handle things like the language difference and the culture.

Review:

On her last adventure, Maddie explores Cabo, a Mexican tourist spot that ranks among Cancun and the Riviera Maya. Much of Maddie’s stay at the two wildly different resorts does not grasp real Mexican life as Carlson  has striven to do in her other novels. However, Sid and Maddie are here for a vacation and not a hard-hitting story. Some Mexican authenticity is found through Maddie’s friendship with Francesca. Much like Lydia in the Papua New Guinea trip, Maddie take Francesca under her wing and helps her out in whatever ways she can. Together they explore a small Mexican town a few hours for Cabo and visit Francesca orphanage where all may not be as it seems.

This novel also brings up self-image issues for Maddie when she begins to compare herself to the tanned and long-legged Shelby. She revisits past struggles and fights against a reoccurrence. The comparison game is easy to play but instead Maddie prays and distracts herself with the beauty of their surroundings. Though self nit-picking is something most women can fall into, I know I can when I have a particularly numerous amount of zits or when I can’t get my oddly wavy hair to sit just right, or one of a dozen other things I regularly pick on myself about. Maddie sets a great example of how to combat such thoughts and fights sinking into self-doubt and pity.

I was really proud of Maddie in this novel. Not only did she fight for herself with looks, she proved strong in many other areas. She stood up to a bully, confronted a friend with a problem and decided she would be just fine with or without the attention of a boy. I felt she really came into her own in this trip and though I don’t typically like drawn out series I would’ve been happy to read another and see where this next chapter in her life would take her.

Though I didn’t particularly enjoy the Papua New Guinea novel, I’m very happy I stuck it out for this final novel in the whirlwind Notes from a Spinning Planet series. Happy reading. And if you’re feeling the urge to explore Mexico after this trip I’d be happy to show you around!

Notes from a Spinning Planet: Papua New Guinea

14 Aug

Papua New Guinea

Melody Carlson

Publisher: WaterBrook Press

Publication Date: 2007

Paperback: 230 pages. Now my copy of this book got lost in the Mexican mail, not very reliable down here. After over a month of waiting we thought it was lost for good so I bought the Kindle version, only to have the original copy show up at my door as I was 81% of the way through the book. DO NOT, I REPEAT, DO NOT BUY THE KINDLE VERSION. There were between two and five typos on every page and I don’t read it with tiny type. I was so distracted and annoyed by all the typos that it was difficult for me to read the book and may have played into the reason I didn’t like this book as much as the first. At times I couldn’t figure out what word they were trying to spell, other times a ??? or % replaced where a word was supposed to be. I could go on because it still really irritates me, but I won’t. I just beg of you, don’t do it!

Book Blurb:

After her life-changing journey to Ireland, twenty-year-old Maddie Chase feels ready for whatever she and her Aunt Sid will find on their trip to Papua New Guinea. But when she sets foot on the beautiful South Pacific island, she can’t help but wonder if it’s really the paradise she thought it would be.

As Maddie delves deeper into the culture and history of the land—and develops relationships with nationals who are eager to share their lives—she finds a tangled past that could help to explain the current health crisis. Will Maddie be about to see past the darkness to offer light to these gracious island people?

Join Maddie on her latest international adventure as she learns that maybe it is possible for one person to change someone’s world.

Stand alone or series: Second in the Notes from a Spinning Planet series.

Why I read this book: Same reason as the first, an interest in teen Christian travel novels.

Review:

At the end of their journey Sid says, “It was different from Ireland, wasn’t it?” And Maddie replies, “Well, they’re both islands, and they’re both green, but that’s about where the similarities end.” I had a very similar feeling about the books. For all it’s history with the IRA, Ireland was still fairly fun and light in comparison, with a dash of romance and a sense of mystery as they chase down clues about certain people’s pasts (vague, I know). There’s no chasing clues, no romantic undertones in this novel, only finding the right angle for a story on the AIDS crisis in Papua New Guinea (did I mention Sid’s a reporter?).

We learn much of the culture through how the people treat others with AIDS and how it is spread. Before landing in the country, Maddie and Sid are taught to fear just about everything about the country. Violent crime is rife in the country, robbery and rape are common and travel by car or bus is dangerous. Unlike, the spectacular country sides and mouth-watering food of the first novel, description in the first half of this novel is more likely to be about open sores and the squalor that those with AIDS are forced to live in. Seeing the living conditions of the people, especial those on the poor side of town can be very disturbing, it was for Maddie and for me. For the first half of the book I didn’t really look forward to picking the book up again. It was so sad, and you’ll see as my list of books grows, I don’t really like dwelling on the sad, at least not when it comes to entertainment.

The second half of the book lightens, somewhat as Maddie and Sid explore the countryside with their new friend Lydia. Lydia is a ray of light even amidst the darkness of the city. She volunteers at the AIDS clinic and her great ambition is to become a doctor so she can make a difference in her country when it comes to the AIDS problem. You learn and care more about Lydia as she takes them to her home town, to a big cultural festival nearby and another missionary village along the way. Through this leg of the journey there is more description of the land and customs. Though still sad, the novel manages to end on a hopeful note.

I am hesitant to recommend this book because it can be hard to read at times, not by reading level but by subject. Readers need to be aware that this novel is not like the first, though readers will still learn a lot about a people and a country that should maybe not be visited, at least not if things are still as described in the novel. I’m looking forward to checking out the next novel in the series, because it looks as if it may return to the lighter tone of the first and because it’s set in Mexico, and I’m interested to see another’s view on my adopted country.

Notes from a Spinning Planet: Ireland

12 Aug

IrelandMelody Carlson

Publisher: WaterBrook Press

Publication Date: 2006

Paperback: 240 pages

Book Blurb:

Affectionately teased as a “country bumpkin,” nineteen-year-old Maddie has never been one to explore new territory. Her first trip outside of the country with her Aunt Sid and Sid’s godson, Ryan, promises to be an exhilarating adventure.

As Aunt Sid researches peace camps, Maddie and Ryan explore Ireland’s rich landscape. During the journey, Maddie begins to discover more about what she wants from life, while developing a deeper friendship with her irresistible traveling companions.

When Maddie and Ryan dig for the truth about the IRA car bomb that killed Ryan’s father years ago, questions about the past begin to accumulate. Unable to let go of growing suspicions in this mysterious country, Maddie finds herself on a dangerous journey, a journey that will lead her to the greatest discovery of all.

Stand alone or series: The first in a series of three. Check back in on Wednesday and Friday for the reviews of books two and three of the series.

Why I read this book: I won’t give too much away but the novel I am currently writing is geared towards teens and set in a country other than the US. When you’re writing about a particular subject it’s always interesting to see how other authors handle the same subject.

Review:

I’ve always loved travel, particularly in Europe, and this novel has whetted my appetite for Ireland. The novel describes sweet little towns like Clifden and Inishbofin that I would never have found wandering on my own. These towns along with other cities described in the novel are bustling with life that I found easy to get swept into. Carlson’s descriptions are enchanting and through them we learn about the customs and culture of Ireland. And man! does she make me want to try the food! But we don’t just see the surface, Carlson provides the fascinating historical background for the IRA, the RIRA and the conflicts that have plagued Ireland for decades  through Maddie and Ryan’s adventures. The character’s troubles and pasts intertwine with the gorgeous description to create a twisting plot which is entertaining to watch unfold.

Sid and her best friend, Ryan’s mom, came to Ireland decades ago to be a part of the peace camps between Catholics and Protestants in Ireland. Both found and lost their loves in different ways on the island. Now Sid is back to write a story on kids who went to the peace camps decades ago. She brings Ryan along to learn about where his father came from and hopefully find some long lost relatives to give him at least some family in this world. Maddie’s along for the ride and oh what a ride it turns into.

My one sticking point with the novel has to do with Guinness, and yes, I mean the beer. (Okay, I’m not entirely sure if this is a spoiler or not. It does give something away, but it’s not a big plot point, it’s more of a side issue. So, I leave it up to you to decide.) Drinking is part of the Irish culture, so Ryan decides to take advantage of this and the fact that in Ireland you can drink at 18. At first Maddie is freaked out by pubs simply because they offer alcohol, and shocked and appalled by Ryan’s drinking. Because Ryan drinks she assumes he’s not a Christian and confronts him about the drinking, stating she is a Christian and believes it is un-Christian to drink. I know many people with this view and I held it myself for a long time from a mistaken impression. It’s her change of heart that gives me pause. Mine came after a lot of Bible study, where I pulled out my concordance and checked every reference to drink and drinking and the like. I found that there was no mention of not drinking, only in not being over indulgent and losing control. If this had been the path that Maddie took I could respect that. However it was not. A couple pubs into the novel Maddie states: “I’m not sure why, but for the first time since we’ve been in Ireland, I don’t feel all that concerned that I’m sitting in a pub or that Ryan might have a beer. It seems like no big deal. Whether this means I’ve made some kind of spiritual compromise is a mystery to me. But at the moment, I don’t care.” Now this bothered me. If, after study and prayer, she’d changed her mind, okay fair enough. But Maddie just kind of feels it’s alright, at least the queasiness has gone away. I find this dangerous ground. There are many things in my past that felt fine, they felt good in fact and I wanted to give in but my convictions held me back (thank goodness!). Now she states very firm convictions against drinking at the beginning of the trip, but by the end she gives it a try herself without any understanding as to if or why she’s changed her mind.

I know I spent a lot of time on one rather small point in the novel, however I believe teen novels can have a big impact on young lives and I believe that responsibility should be taken seriously. Now, to get off my soap box.

Maddie comes off as a fairly average small-town teen who is trust into the great wide world. She’s a likeable character and I enjoyed seeing Ireland through her eyes. All in all I found it an enjoyable book and would recommend it to teens with an itch for travel, it’ll be a quick and enjoyable read that’ll give you a few more destinations to add to your bucket list.