Archive | December, 2013

Lost in Dreams

31 Dec

Lost In DreamsRodger Bruner and Kristi Rae Bruner

Publisher: Barbour Publishing, Inc

Publication Date: 2011

Paperback: 368 pages, but for me this was an e-book

Book Blurb:

Join eighteen-year-old Kim Hartlinger, as she arrives home from a life-changing mission trip to a remote Mexican village. This second novel in a new series for teen girls will challenge your faith-and capture your heart-as you journey with Kim through the biggest struggle of her life and faith.

(P.S. I’m so sorry this blurb tells you nothing. Worst one I’ve read yet. However, not an accurate reflection of the novel. Plenty of substance there.)

Stand alone or series: This is the second in the Altered Hearts series. It follows Lost in Dreams which I loved. I didn’t know for the longest time that there was a follow-up because Lost in Dreams seemed like such a stand alone I didn’t even bother to look.

Why I read this book: Like I said, I loved the first.

Review:

When it comes to the timeline you could pick up the second book without noticing. When it comes to tone however there couldn’t be a bigger difference. Kim is still riding the planes home from Santa Maria when the book begins. The fun and formidable Aleesha is with her through the first connecting flight and man do I love that girl. Aleesha tells Kim about the Season of Pebbles—a time in our lives when many things go wrong—and Kim’s Season is about to begin in full swing.

Warning: The next two paragraphs contain spoilers.

Kim’s mother dies in a car accident on her way to pick up Kim at the airport. The grief and depression that follows engulfs Act 1 and makes for an incredibly different read than Found in Translation. It’s intensely sad. I found myself on the verge of tears for hours as I worked through the first part. About a quarter of the way through the book things take an upward turn when she is invited on another mission.

Not that the first part isn’t important, but the missions part of the book is my favorite. It’s the same funny, uplifting, conflict filled plot that made the first so great. Here’s were the Christian message starts to shine through and pick Kim up from the depths she was in and picked me up as well.

This book has some old characters and some new ones. All of whom are multi-layered, caring and more than a bit cheeky. The Bruners really do a great job at character building as well as with missions—through their description as well as the outreach that their novels provide. The lives of the characters are wholly centered on God and I find that refreshing.

I’m more hesitant to recommend this novel than the first. Not because it wasn’t as excellently written as Lost in Dreams. Act 1 was so sad and if anyone reading this is like me, I can’t help but imagine “What if this happened to me?” That being said, the sadness of Act 1 made the transformation in the next two acts all the more beautiful. I still recommend this novel, but be prepared. I certainly wasn’t.

Advertisements

White

24 Dec

WhiteTed Dekker

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Publication Date: 2004

Paperback: 400 pages

Book Blurb:

Time Is Running Out In Two Realities.

In one world, a lethal virus threatens to destroy all life as scientists and governments scramble to find an antidote. In the other, a forbidden love could forever destroy the ragtag resistance known as The Circle.

Thomas can bridge both worlds, but he is quickly realizing that he may not be able to save either.

In this mind-bending adventure, Thomas must find a way to rewrite history as he navigates a whirlwind of emotions and events surrounding a pending apocalypse.

The fate of two worlds comes down to one man’s choice–and it is a most unlikely choice indeed. Life. Death. Love. Nothing is as it seems. Yet all will forever be transformed by the decisions of one man in the final hours of the Great Pursuit.

Stand alone or series: The third (at least that’s how I prefer it) in The Circle Series.

Why I read this book: I couldn’t not. It was all I could do to not pick up this one after I’d finished the last at three in the morning. It was, however, the first thing I grabbed when I woke up the next morning.

Review:

Our world has come to a stop and Other Earth has just sped up.

Thomas is missing on our world. Kara and the government don’t know if he’s dead or alive. But Kara is on a mission to find him. Not in our reality but in the other. In that reality the Horde is closing in on The Circle. Though they number only sixty-seven against the hundreds of thousands of Horde, Ciphus and Qurong will not be satisfied until they are stamped out. Foreseeable action and an unforeseeable love, mark the ending of this thrilling trilogy.

This novel’s subheading is called “The Great Pursuit”. This refers to Elyon/Justin’s relentless pursuit of every life. There is much argument and discussion about what this means among The Circle. The once Supreme Commander of the forest guard now refuses to pick up a sword against his enemy. Thomas will not kill when he knows Elyon has called them to love. Elyon pursues the hearts of the Horde as much as he woos the Circle. The Circle has been given commandments to follow which are very similar to the Bible in our reality. Yet, this subtitle has a double meaning. It also refers to Thomas’s unlikely pursuit of a woman that shall remain unnamed.

As ever, this novel will keep you on your toes. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll race through to the end which is bittersweet. Oh, I’m not talking about the plotline. I’m talking about the mixed emotions I felt at the end. Happy that my heart could finally stop racing and sad that such an excellent trilogy had come to an end…. Then surprise, surprise it hadn’t quite. I’ve still yet to read White so I don’t quite know what to think of this novel written five years after the trilogy’s end. Tune in next month to find out. In the meantime read White

Perfectly Dateless

17 Dec

Perfectly Dateless

Kristen Billerbeck

Publisher: Revell

Publication Date: 2010

Paperback: 257

Book Blurb:

Daisy Crispin has 196 days to find the right date for the prom. There’s only one problem—her parents won’t let her date or even talk to a guy on the phone. Oh, and she’s totally invisible at school, wears lame homemade clothes, and possesses no social skills. Okay, so maybe there’s more than one problem.

Can she talk her parents into letting her go to the prom? Or will they succeed at their obvious attempts to completely ruin her life?

Perfectly Dateless is hilarious, shocking, and totally real. You’ll fall in love with Daisy’s sharp wit and resourcefulness as she navigates the world of boys, fashion, family and friendship.

Stand alone or series: Series! Thank goodness, I just can’t get enough of Daisy and her mom.

Why I read this book: Daisy reminded me of me. An A type personality who has a lot of trouble fitting in in high school, who loves to write, works hard and saves like crazy, and tries to follow God’s will even when it’s hard.

Review:

Daisy is a character that I can relate to. She wants to fit in, but can’t get it quite right. She’s an uptight girl who makes a plan then executes it down to the T. Daisy is too focused on working hard, whether that’s getting the grade or saving up some money. But it’s these smarts that make her so sassy. Her snappy quips hit the mark every time and had me rolling or shaking my head in agreement.

If there’s one thing Kristen Billersbeck excels at in this novel is characterization. The quirky cast of Perfectly Dateless is vividly drawn, from the boys she crushes on to her crushingly strict parents. Claire is Daisy’s best friend who goes through phases like they’re days of the week—her Goth period is complete with dark poetry and a plastic spider nose ring. Amber’s “lanky, mile long body” is equipped with golden tresses and a razor-sharp tongue that can be sweet as sugar when she’s trying to steal the hazel-eyed Chase Doogle. And then there’s Mrs. Crispin…

Besides Daisy, I think Mrs. Crispin is the best written character. She would get barely a sentence out and my hands would start to clench. According to Daisy, her mom’s favorite word is irreverent and she believes that keeping her daughter in ugly, ill-fitted clothes is suffering for her faith and not suffering for bad fashion choices.

My favorite, and possibly the most painful, scenes to read where between Daisy and her mother. This is where Kristen Billerbeck’s wit really begins to shine as words fly between mother and daughter. But what made it more interesting than the hundreds of other mother daughter conflicts was how God centered it was. Even though Daisy disagreed she always tried to be respectful towards her mother. And some ages old Christian debates about modesty, dating and what it means to live a Christian played out between them in a way that left me wanting to hear more.

I could go on about plots and twists and boys, but I don’t want to spoil it! I would recommend this book to teens and moms as a fun read that will not only leave you laughing but also leave you thinking about where you stand on these issues.

Worlds Collide

10 Dec

Worlds CollideAlison Strobel

Publisher: Waterbrook Press

Publication Date: 2005

Paperback: 384 pages

Book Blurb:

Some Decisions Change Your Day. Some Will Change Your Life.

While the headlines screamed “Hollywood Heartthrob Marries Girl Next Door,” the public relationship of Jack Harrington and Grace Winslowe never revealed the private struggles that threatened to pull them apart–and when celebrity biographer Jada Eastman starts digging, she discovers that there’s more to this couple than anyone could guess.

Their relationship began like a scene from one of Jack’s movies. Leaving behind a dead-end relationship and the bitter Chicago winter, Grace had moved to Southern California to start a new life. Meanwhile, Jack had established himself as an up-and-comer with considerable acting talent, and a private heartache. When a fateful accident pulled the two of them together, they couldn’t avoid their initial attraction or the vast differences in their values and lifestyles.

Now, against the backdrop of Beverly Hills and the 24/7 nature of the entertainment world, Jada grapples with her own beliefs as she encounters the spiritual chasm of this famous couple. Can Grace and Jack face the consequences of their own personal histories–and can the biographer avoid being affected? As the three of them examine the couple’s bittersweet story, it becomes clear that everyday decisions can carry lifetime consequences when individual worlds collide.

Stand alone or series: Stand alone. I love a good stand alone.

Why I read this book: Sounded good. Nothing more than that. It captured my attention from book flap to book’s end.

Review:

The novel begins several years into Jack and Grace’s marriage. They had managed to keep the press at bay when it came to their private lives, but now they are ready to reveal all to Jada Eastman for a book that they hope can change lives as their lives were changed.

You see, at the beginning of their stories neither of them were Christians. They begin in heartbreaking and heartbroken situations with little hope, only will power. They tell their stories through a frame tale, interspersed with Jada’s musings in the present. Jada is also a non-believer and is determined to stay so in spite of the couple’s warm suggestions otherwise. These are stories of hope, love and conversion. They are powerful tales and each start in dark places. But grow even stronger because of the adversities they face.

The novel deals with tough issues like sex, drugs, alcohol and AIDS. While it handles them well, this is not a novel for young ones. It is a powerful and an emotionally difficult read, but in my opinion well worth it.

The stories are woven seamlessly together  and the story they tell is excellent. I was pleasantly surprised by this new author (to me). And look forward to reading some of her other books… Though I’m not sure how they’ll compete with this one. It really was just that good.

Perfecting Kate

3 Dec

Perfecting Kate

Tamara Leigh

Publisher: Multnomah Publishers

Publication Date: 2007

Paperback: 404 pages

Book Blurb:

Kate’s Creed: Thou shalt embrace singledom and be unbelievably, inconceivably happy.

Yeah, right.

Kate Meadows is a successful San Francisco artist looking for a nice, solid Christian man. So when not one, but two handsome men bachelors enter her orbit in rapid succession, her head is spinning just a bit. Michael Palmer is a hunky and famous makeup artist who actually seems to be flirting with her—rather than her physically flawless roommate, Maia. Trouble is, he keeps handing her business cards from various beauty professionals and plastic surgeons. Is he trying to stamp out every last but of self-esteem she has?

Then there’s Dr. Clive Alexander, good-looking enough to be mistaken for Brad Pitt, who sends Kate’s pulse skittering every time he comes near. Too bad he’s only interested in her work—and doesn’t think she’s much to look at. It’s enough to send a girl running for her paint-spattered, relaxed-fit jeans and swearing off mean altogether! But after undergoing a makeover from Michael’s staff,  Kate can’t be oblivious to the admiring glances men throw her way. Maybe she should try contacts…consider some fancy dental work…and you know, that mole really could stand to go. The question now is, what kind of work will Kate do on herself…and who exactly is she trying to please?

Stand alone or series: Stand alone. Tamara Leigh’s first four books out in the inspirational/Christian fiction world are stand alones. I’ve read three out of the four and have the last sitting upstairs in my office, waiting for me. I’ve loved every one so far. Since then she’s written two series: Southern Discomfort, a modern tale that looks in line with her first four in Christian fiction, and the Age of Faith series, a medieval time travel romance that hearkens back to her pre-Christian romance days as a medieval romance writer for Bantam books.

Why I read this book: If you couldn’t tell from above. I love this author! Her character’s are funny, strong women who develop in faith and become much stronger, really just rockin’ women by the end. And of course, she’s got some great, skin-tingling heroes to sweep them off their feet.

Review:

Most women, at least my girlfriends and I, have things we’d like to fix about ourselves. For example, I could really use some extensions and a miracle treatment to make my unruly waves fall into place and if that constellation of zit scars on my forehead would go away that would be just peachy. But Kate takes self-improvement to a whole new level. As of late, she’s let herself go a bit, but a few too many stinging comments about her appearance send her rocketing off in the wrong direction. Once she gets a taste of the positive reaction she receives for her jazzed up look, she goes a bit nutty with self-improvement “quick fixes”. But the zipping and zapping isn’t done to please herself, it’s done for her makeup artist, constantly-surrounded-by-gorgeous-women boyfriend…ish. But for every one procedure she does he give her three more business cards for others, that would make her the “perfect woman”.

If that’s not bad enough, emotionally unavailable Dr. Hotness in the form of Clive Alexander is constantly showing up and setting her off balance. Sometimes quite literally. She fights her attraction for the good doctor while working alongside him to pull of the biggest job she’s yet hand in her artistic career: the new wing of the children’s burn unit. While she’s happy to help children like Jessica, who tug at her heartstrings, being around so many little ones brings its own issues. Kate cannot have children.

If finding Mr. Christian Right wasn’t hard before, try doing it with being able to provide a “little Junior”. Having been rejected again and again in the past for what she couldn’t give she’s reluctant to open up again for the pain it could cause, but the pain if she waits threatens to be greater. Kate struggles to trust God to bring the right man to her, a man that could forego biological children. In fear of what He’ll say, she’s stops asking about the boys because she doesn’t want to know the answer.

I know I’ve done the same. I didn’t want to know the answer, I wanted to do it my way. But I learned, as Kate learned, that God knows best. Trust and faith are at the center of the novel and parallels she draws between herself and God are fresh and altered at least my view on the subject.

As ever, I loved the spunky, slightly nutty main character. The writing was quick and snappy. The beginning didn’t grab me quite as much as Faking Grace, but once the ball got rolling I had trouble putting it down. The plot is fairly predictable… just by the back cover who do you think she’s going to end up with? But with Leigh the journey is always worth the read. I would, as with her other books, recommend this to any girlfriend. Enjoy!