Friday, December 30, 2011

The Canary List [Review]

Title: The Canary List
Author: Sigmund Brouwer
Labels: Fiction | Suspense
Publisher: Waterbrook Multnomah
Publication Date: June 21, 2011
Contains: Touchy subjects
Buy It: Amazon | Book Depository | The Publisher

My Rating: (Didn't like it)
Blurb: Protected by the dark of night, Jaimie Piper runs. But is anywhere safe when Evil is hunting you? She’s just a twelve year-old girl, bumped around between foster homes and relegated to school classes for challenged kids, those lagging in their test scores or with behavioral issues. But her real problem is that she can sense something the other kids can’t—something dark. Something compelling her to run for her life.
          All Crockett Grey wants is to mark the anniversary of his daughter’s death alone. But when his student Jaimie comes to him, terrified, her need for protection collides with his grief, and a tangled web of bizarre events sends them both spiraling toward destruction. Crockett’s one hope of getting his life back is to uncover the mysterious secrets of Jaimie’s past and her strange gift. It isn’t long before his discoveries lead him to a darker conspiracy, secrets guarded by the highest seat of power in the world—the Vatican.
          This is going to be a relatively short review in comparison to my past ones, because in my opinion, The Canary List had little going for it. I really hate giving bad reviews, but this was one book where the cons outweighed the pros.

          The one thing I can say in the positive is the natural, believable voice of Jaimie Piper. I did like that in any chapters from her point of view, everything was portrayed just as a twelve-year-old girl would see it. The way she thought accurately showed the understanding she had as a twelve-year-old, while still giving way to things she couldn't understand due to her age. It was a good balance.

          As for the cons, well, I don't particularly approve subjects such as child abuse, or abuse of any sort for that matter. Anything pertaining to inappropriate sexual actions is a black letter in my book. Hence, I'm afraid I could not enjoy this book as the topic repeatedly came up as a prominent part of the plot.

          The other major element to this book that I didn't like was the involvement of demons and perversion in the Catholic church. I myself am not Catholic, but even so it turned me off to have to read of such things. True, there are such people today in any denomination of religion, but the book, to me, seemed to make it a ridiculously big conspiracy. And the apparent involvement of demons did nothing to help my opinion of this book. I'm afraid I cannot and will not recommend this book to anyone.

          I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for this review. These opinions are my own; I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated for this review. 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Courtship of the Vicar's Daughter [Review]

Title: The Courtship of the Vicar's Daughter
Author: Lawana Blackwell
Labels: Fiction | Historical Fiction
Publisher: Bethany House
Publication Date: November 1, 2007
Contains: N/A
Buy It: Amazon | Book Depository | The Publisher

My Rating:  (I liked it very much)
Blurb: In The Courtship of the Vicar's Daughter, Julia Hollis and Vicar Andrew Phelps are planning their December wedding and working toward blending their families together. With young Phillip Hollis about to leave for boarding school, and Elizabeth Phelps practically engaged to curate Paul Treves, both families seem prepared for the coming event.
          But Jonathan Raleigh, the Oxford rogue who broke Elizabeth's heart in the past, suddenly appears in Gresham professing to be a Christian and apologizing for his behavior. Then he takes a difficult position as Gresham's schoolmaster to prove he has changed. While Elizabeth will have nothing to do with Jonathan, she realizes she must come to terms with Paul Treves. The curate is handsome and godly and considered a "catch", but their romance is without the foundation of friendship she once had with Jonathan. Is this a love that was meant to be? Meanwhile, readers will be delighted when another unlikely romance blooms between two characters in Gresham who will need all the help they can get from an unusual source. [From Goodreads]
          Lawana Blackwell has my utter respect. Despite the rather large cast of characters in The Courtship of the Vicar's Daughter, each and every one had such a unique personality. All the characters - even minor ones - were well-rounded, believable individuals.

          The book itself almost seemed to have several different ongoing plots, though all, for the most part, involving a romance in the small village of Gresham. I'm really not even sure there was a single main character, but rather many. Now, while that may scream chaos to the reader, I actually found all the characters and plots neatly interwoven into an very good book. On a slight side note, I also love Blackwell's writing style (or at least the style she uses in this book).

          The only complaint I had against this book is that it didn't draw me in until I was a good chunk into the book. Actually, I didn't have any real interest in what was going on until the introduction of Seth (p. 69). Once he came onto the scene, I held out through the uninteresting parts for the sections of each chapter that spotlighted Seth. I am glad to say I eventually did become interested and drawn into the other character's lives and stories, but not nearly as soon as I would have liked.

          My two favorite characters were definitely Seth and Mercy. The Courtship of the Vicar's Daughter is a great read and I would most certainly recommend it.

          I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for this review. These opinions are my own; I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated for this review.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Unpublished: *Notice!*

          Hello everyone! The Unpublished Series has been fantastic in the approximately two months of its existence. We'll call these few months Season 1, just for fun. Season 1 had a total five reviews, with a total of 23 page views combined. Those who viewed reviews from Season 1 came from the USA, Canada, Germany, Ireland, Belgium, and Japan. Cool much?

          Now, for the more depressing news. The Unpublished Series is taking a one month hiatus, until the beginning of February. With Christmas and family around, this week is going to be busy, and in January I am taking a two week college class, which will leave me with little to no time to write reviews. Sad, but a fact. I think it's best for everyone if this series takes a clean break until all the craziness simmers down.

          In the meantime I am going to be keeping an eye out for projects to be scheduled in for Season 2. I think that pretty much wraps up everything here. If you wouldn't mind, please take a few seconds to fill out the recommendation form, linked below. Thanks, and enjoy your Christmas!


Finished Manuscript and Other Updates

December 22, 2011:
          I finished my first complete manuscript! Ahhh! The Lighthouse (to be renamed) is complete (first draft) at   94,472 words, forty-two chapters, and roughly 271 pages. There is no set date for the starting of the second draft, but I will be taking approximately a one month break.

          In January I am taking a two week college class, so any serious writing/editing is on hold until I get back. Most likely no starting dates will be set any earlier than February. Even so, I'm starting to construct my list of possible people for my "editorial team", who will start coming onto the scene sometime after the second draft. Exciting stuff! I'm also looking into both independent publishing and traditional publishing. Hopefully by the time that comes around I'll have all my researching homework done.

          During my hiatus from writing The Lighthouse, I have a pile of books that need to be read and reviewed before my class in January, so that'll keep me busy in my spare time. When I get back, I'm going to be kicking butt on the school so I can finish up and put in a lot of hours rewriting before I start working this summer. Ah, the craziness!

December 23, 2011:

          Woke up today to about 3-4 inches of snow! Woohoo! It's about time it found its way to Vermont. However, it's melting fast :-(  I'm hoping it will snow again before Christmas - there's just something wrong with Christmas in Vermont with no snow. Makes me think of the movie White Christmas.

         Enjoy your Christmas!!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Love Blooms in Winter [Review]

Title: Love Blooms in Winter
Author: Lori Capeland
Labels: Fiction | Romance | Historical
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers
Publication Date: January 1, 2012
Contains: N/A
Buy It: Amazon | Book Depository | The Publisher

My Rating: 
Blurb: 1892Mae Wilkey's sweet next-door neighbor, Pauline, is suffering from old age and dementia and desperately needs family to come help her. But Pauline can't recall having kin remaining. Mae searches through her desk and finds a name—Tom Curtis, who may just be the answer to their prayers.
          Tom can't remember an old aunt named Pauline, but if she thinks he's a long-lost nephew, he very well may be. After two desperate letters from Mae, he decides to pay a visit. An engagement, a runaway train, and a town of quirky, loveable people make for more of an adventure than Tom is expecting. But it is amazing what can bloom in winter when God is in charge of things. [Taken from Goodreads]
          Love Blooms in Winter is not exactly what I would call the best book I've ever read. Yeah, I know, terrible way to start off a review, right? While it wasn't all bad, this book failed to capture and maintain my interest and attention. Plot itself was alright, but the characters kept making me want to bang my head against a wall.

          Let's start with one of the main characters, Mae Wilkey. She's a sweet girl born and raised in the small town of Dwadlo, but inconveniently has to take care of an elderly woman, Pauline, who has no family. She's also got this chump beau that had been courting her for forever but won't seal the deal with an engagement. Enter Jake, Mae Wilkey's beau. Why is he such a chump, you ask? Personally, I found him to be ridiculously stuck up and annoying as I'll get out. The more I realized the kind of person this Jake was, the more I lost respect for Mae and her willingness to put up with his garbage. 

          Then Tom Curtis came along. Now this guy I liked. Mae finds his name in Pauline's desk and automatically decides he must be kin. Reasonable assumption. But the poor guy gets dragged out the North Dakota to take care of the kin he's never met, gets the joy of falling in love with a great girl who just so happens be having a repeated brain fail as she continues to stick with her jerk of a beau. I felt really bad for him, but he did keep the book alive enough for me to keep ploughing through. The only other character that really struck my interest was Pauline. She was just...hilarious. She was probably my favorite character.

          The other thing that bothered me was random things that seemed totally out of place. (Due note, I read an advanced galley of this book, so hopefully the lines will be tweaked before the book comes out on January 1, 2012.) For instance, at the beginning there was a dating reference. Now, I'm not entirely sure exactly when the term "dating" really started to be used, but in the time period that this book is set in it felt totally out of place. Plus, it was never mentioned again, and instead the term "courting" was used. There was one other phrase that made me want to do a face-desk, too: "He was so...Tom." It immediately made me think of something I would expect to read in some vampire book (don't know why that came to me)...vampire books that I do not care for.

          As much as I hate giving downer reviews, I honestly didn't really like this book. It didn't draw me in, didn't hold my interest, and half the time I wanted to strangle one or more of the characters. Events that seemed random and out of place killed what might have saved this book for me.

          I received an advanced galley for free from the publisher through netgalley for this review. These opinions are my own; I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated for this review.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Smitten [Review]

Title: Smitten
Author: Colleen Coble, Kristin Billerbeck, Diann Hunt, & Denise Hunter
Labels: Fiction | Christian | Romance
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Publication Date: December 20, 2011
Contains: Clean as a whistle.
Buy It: Amazon | Book Depository | The Publisher

My Rating: 
Blurb: Four friends devise a plan to turn Smitten, Vermont, into the country's premier romantic getaway-and each finds her own true love along the way.
          With Smitten Lumber closing, residents wonder if their town can stay afloat. Then four friends and local business owners-Natalie, Julia, Shelby, and Reese--decide the town is worth saving. How will they do it? They'll turn Smitten into a honeymoon destination!
        As Natalie, Julia, Shelby, and Reese work to save the town, each discovers romance in her own life. Meanwhile, the faith of a little child reminds the whole town what it means to have real faith in the God who is the always and forever Love.
          Discover a novel written by four of Christian fiction's most popular romance novelists- friends in real life who've drawn an amazing story of four friends! Includes a Reading Group Guide as well as "Conversation over Coffee with the Authors". [Taken from Goodreads]
          Smitten is best romance I've read, hands down. I'm not big on super sappy, or "steamy" romances, neither of which would describe this book -- woohoo! On the other hand, it was everything I had hoped for and more.

          It was neat that a quarter of the book was dedicated to the romances of each of the four main characters. Despite the separation of love stories, each was intricately connected to the others and carefully entwined together such as real life. Each and every character, from main characters to side characters, was so realistic - it was super easy for me to get into the story and feel involved and able to relate to the characters. I also really like that we got to see some chapters/sections from the guys' viewpoints, which I really appreciated. And they thought like guys. Maybe that sounds dumb, like "no duh", but seriously, male characters - particularly in romances written by girls (and vice versa) - don't sound like guys.

        That being said, there were parts were all I could do was crack up at the crazy thoughts of either character (male&female). Guys and girls really do think differently, and that really came out in Smitten. Sometimes it was funny, such as the last story were I just had to laugh because it was so ironic. Other times it was sad. And then there was an occasional time when I was like, "Kiss him/her already!!!" Good times.

          Maybe that second-to-last statement sounds like I was annoyed or something. To the contrary. I love books that stir up the reader's emotions, make me want to laugh, cry, or occasionally slap the character upside the head. But really, it's all good.

          Last but most certainly not least, I loved the fact that this book is clean. I hate reading books that give me too much info, or go into inappropriate boundaries. That is by far my biggest pet peeves with books. But Smitten was fantastic in this area! No grossness, no inappropriate behavior, zippo, while still maintaining an epic romance. Recommended 100%!

          I received this book for free from the publisher through booksneeze for this review. These opinions are my own; I was not required to write a positive review.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Scroll [Review]

Title: The Scroll
Author: Grant R. Jeffrey & Alton L. Gansky
Labels: Fiction | Suspense | Christian | Futuristic
Publisher: Waterbrook Multnomah
Publication Date: September 6, 2011
Contains: A few crude comments.
Buy It: Amazon | Book Depository | The Publisher
Book Trailer: Click Here!

My Rating: 
Blurb: Dr. David Chambers, leading archaeologist, has spent his professional career uncovering the facts in the artifacts. His work sets the standard for biblical research in the Holy Land. But surrounded by the evidence, David has sunk into an abyss of doubt. A painful experience with a seemingly unresponsive God has left him without hope. The Old Testament scriptures that used to fill his mind with wonder now drive him to frustration. His unanswered questions have ripped him from both his academic pursuits and the love of his life, his fiancee, Amber.
          An old friend and mentor reaches out to David, enticing him with the riches described in the enigmatic Copper Scroll. Losing ground with his peers, his love, and his faith, David Chambers has a choice to make. Will he undertake one final dig to unlock a secret that could alter the course of history? Do the mysteries of the Old Testament hold the key to the political turmoil of the Middle East? In a world where faith has been eclipsed by the allure of doubt, The Scroll offers a different journey: a gripping adventure to find truth worth dying for.
          Suspense is definitely a well-suited label for this book. At first, when I found out the book is set in 2012, I wanted to plant my face into a wall. I couldn't help but wonder if this was going to end up being a end-of-the-world type book that would only feed the world's crazy contemplation of what next year will bring. Thankfully it didn't turn out to be like that...for the most part.

          While the book itself never actually came out and spelled out the end of the world coming in 2012 (supposedly), it occasionally alluded to it, particularly at the very end of the book and in the epilogue. But enough about that. That fact that is was set in the near future helped the setup, for sure. The team of archaeologists that David Chambers is recruited to comes into possession of some pretty sweet high tech devices, which I won't name specifically for the sake of keeping this spoil free. Even though most of these devices don't exist (at least that I know of....), it's easy to imagine such technology within the near future. The fact that the book is set within the next year also helped in that while the author's had some room to grow the technology, it was close enough to present times to keep most everything else the same as it is today.

          The obvious danger of the 'mission' Chambers and his colleagues are on makes this book ridiculously interesting. Something always seemed to be up, whether it was the paranoid head of security (one of my fav characters), ex-fiancee distracting him, annoying coworkers, name it. It was kinda crazy how many characters had died by the last chapter, quite a few of them extremely awesome, lovable characters at that. It added some sadness between all the epic explosions of events.

          I really don't know what else to say without blowing the entire plot. In short, the plot was just amazing. The characters were fantastic, well rounded, realistic...I'm pretty sure they're actually real, still hiding out in Israel and digging up holes. *wink wink*

          This book is now a new fav of mine. The suspense and excitement started on the first chapter and only grew, right up to the very end. Highly recommended! The ending also left off with a very interesting setup, should there ever be a sequel...

          I received this book for free from Waterbrook Multnomah through blogging for books for this review. These opinions are my own; I was not required to write a positive review.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Unpublished: The Other Side

Title: The Other Side
Author: Daediel
Contains: Curse words (8/30p.) 
Cover Thoughts: Love it!
My Rating:  ☆  (6/7)
Blurb: "I live in a world where caring is a gift only to be bought by the rich."
          Some people are born with their eyes open. Some people aren’t. And there are those who become something else.
          I never knew which one of those was me. No one cared enough to tell me. But I know what matters. I know I have to keep on watching what this city doesn’t. Picking up what everyone else scatters, leaves behind in the hurry of greed.
          I need to listen. 
Characters: This is probably one of the best character jobs I've seen in a long time. The main character, Tom, was extremely consistent, well rounded individual. I loved the way he thought, even though I did find him to a bit of a melancholy character (which is totally fine, we need fewer hotshots and more normal characters in the literary world :P) 

Imagery/Mood: Seems to me getting a good, desired mood to come across is a rather difficult thing to do -- few writers, especially unpublished ones, seem to be able to pull it off. Daediel's sure got it pinned down though! The imagery in The Other Side was fantastic, as well. Probably my favor line was “They’re a soundtrack without life.” Best of all, Daediel didn't overdue the imagery -- there was just the right balance. 

Plot: The Other Side currently (at the time of this review) has only four chapters up, a total of 30 pages. I've heard it said numerous times that the first 50 pages of a book are extremely important for catching the reader's attention; if you don't, there is a strong possibility of the reader putting the book aside and never picking it up again. While these first 30 pages in The Other Side weren't filled with fast-paced action, I found my interest kept through everything that was going on. The thoughts and feelings of a MC living in a boring, uncaring world was enough to make me want to continue reading. I'm interested in seeing where this story goes. 

Dialogue: I thought the dialogue throughout the entire story had a natural, believable flow to it. 

Other: Not much to be said here in the 'other' category. General mechanics were good, SPaG was good. Let's talk title. I really love the title The Other Side. I feel like there's a lot of meaning in it, a lot of back story playing into it. I can't wait to find out exactly how it ties into the plot. 

My Impression: I want to know when there's more. :) Fantastic piece of writing! The only thing that bothered me was the occasional foul language, which, as some of you probably know by now, is one of my biggest pet peeves, second only to sexually inappropriate content (The Other Side was totally clean in that way--hooray!). Still, in that way it fell within the bounds of what I consider eligible for a pick, which I'll most certainly be considering. 

Little Miss: The Rules of a Writer (First Edition) [Repost]

I thought this blog post was pretty hilarious at parts, as well as true. So, with permission from the wonderful Katherine Rae over at Katherine Rae, I've reblogged it here for anyone else to enjoy. Be sure to stop by and say hi at her blog!
The Rules of a Writer (First Edition)

As writer’s, we have no rules. We can tell our story how we please. Whether or not we’ll please everyone with that story, it doesn’t matter. As writer’s, we have free will of literature.

As readers, however, we have limits. We can read stories in whatever voice we please, make up our endings (just don’t tell the writer), and even change characters names that we can’t pronounce. However, there are a few rules that I suggest you don’t break.

Because as writer’s, we can simply put you into a book, and kill you.

To Judge a Writer, You Must First be a Writer
“How can you be a writer? You’re not that creative.” That comment will surely hurt anyone’s feelings, except a writer’s. You see, dear readers, are writers, we don’t consider it creative. We consider it those little voices in our heads, constantly in character, telling us what to write, when to write it, and how to write it. Yes, we make up a whole scenario, a whole plot, and even a whole title, but to us, it’s a habit. It’s a way of life. Some people dance, some people bake, some people breathe, we however, write.

A Writer’s a Writer, No Matter How Small
“You’re not a writer. You’re not published.” You caught me; I’m a chef. By the way, you just got the role of a main character… in which way would you like to die? Car accident, fire… gun shot?

You don’t ever tell a writer she’s not a writer. Whether or not those six novels that fill her college-bound notebooks are published, she isn’t exactly what Webster Dictionary defines as a ‘skilled cook who manages the kitchen (as of a restaurant)’. She’s a writer.

Never ask, “What are you writing about?”
It’s the same as asking, “So what are you deeply, too-personally thinking about?” better yet, it’s like asking a schizophrenic, “What are the voices telling you to do now?”

It’s our inner thoughts; our deep, personal conversations with ourselves that we have before we fall asleep. Something you just don’t go asking people about, no matter how close you are with them.

When a Writer Does Open up (which is rare), I Don’t Suggest Making Suggestions.
Truthfully, the chances of me wanting your feedback on my ideas when I didn’t ask are slim. That’s like me saying to you, “That’s a good outfit. Do you know what would make it better?...”

Now, if you’re a writer yourself, then sure, have at it, but those every-day-modern people that do things like hold office jobs for a living? What, exactly, do you know about making up characters and stuffing them into scenarios that are way beyond the human imagination? About as much as I know about holding an office job: zilch.

Never ask, “What are you doing?”

This rule has its exceptions, but you must remember: writer’s work in strange ways. We might write down everything you or the people around us are saying to get dialogue, take three hour long walks alone to get over writer’s block, or even study, too in-depth, the strangers in Wal*Mart to get characters.
No matter what you ask us though, we’ll just mutter a, “nothing,” and continue our unusual acts.

So, there you have it. As writer’s, you might think this is ‘wrong’ but this isn’t an opinion piece. It’s just an article, written by me and my free will of literature. Just my personal ways of life, I guess.

For those who want to bash my ideas of this article? Remember: I am one of those crazy writers, who will put you into a book, and kill you.

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Christmas Singing [Promo!]

          Promo time! I'm sad to say I haven't had the opportunity to get a copy of The Christmas Singing, but I've read other books by Cindy Woodsmall, and I'm sure it's just as fantastic! You should definitely pick up a copy -- come back and tell me how it was!

          Mannnnnn. After watching the trailer, now I really want to go get myself a copy! *raids the piggy bank* Anyone up for an except? Follow the link below!

          You can even get 30% off and free shipping on The Christmas Singing (and any other title!) when you use the promo code CHRISTMAS11 at checkout on The coupon code expires on December 20, 2011. So hurry and get yourself a copy!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Mail Time: Random Book, Anyone?

          So I was expecting a book in the mail today, just not this book. To be completely honest, I've never even heard of it, the author, or the publisher. In short, I have no idea where it came from. I mean, technically I do. From the mailing address it appears it came from the publisher, but I've never even heard of the publisher! Nor is the publisher or author, as far as I can tell, in any way associated with any of the review sites I am on. No note was including, not even a request for a review. Just a bubble insulated paper package with the book. Random much?
          But hey, don't get me wrong - I'm not complaining the least bit. I am totally cool with getting free books from random sources. I've heard of such things happening, but it's never actually happened to me. Guess I can't say that anymore...
          I'm not really concerned about how it found its way to me...just curious. I am extremely careful about who I give my mailing address to, so I'm pretty sure I don't have any random stalkers; besides, what kind of stalkers send you books?
          My guess? Either the publisher was being awesome and decided to send it to me (yay!), or a relative or family friend ordered it and sent it to me without telling me ('tis possible).
          Whatever way you look at it, I have a new book to read and review! Thank you, random provider!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Writing Update

          Most of you who follow this blog know me from inkpop. Those of you who don't...well you should look me up :P. Anyway. Those of you who have known me on inkpop for a long time (or have 'liked' my fan page...because I post obsessively about my book on there...) know the project I've been working on for like, the past year and a half-ish, is The Lighthouse. Some of you may have even noticed that it's no longer on 'public' on inkpop. Sorry, dedicated readers.

          I took it off public because honestly, it stinks. Yes, I know I've had some really great comments on it from you awesome inkies, but lets be legit here. It is no where near being ready for anything. And at this point, not even reading.

          Yes, I know I'm a perfectionist at heart. But seriously. When I rewrite, the first half of the book needs to be rewritten into 1st person point of view, and the point of view narrowed to only two characters. No worries, no characters are getting ditched (at least, not at the moment....), but it seriously needs to be refined. But anywayy. That's not why I'm writing this post. On to the real reason!

          I just thought I should let you all know that my book has only 8 more chapters left until it's done!! *freaky girly squeal that you did not just hear* Also, it's a mere 7,000 words from being complete as far as word count! :D I'm so excited. And it has a deadline.

Deadline: December 24, 2011

          Yay! And then I am taking a mini break :P. I might work on some other projects that have been on the back burner, but I'm not touching The Lighthouse until after the Christmas season is done. Actually, I might not until the beginning of February. But that all depends. Ya see, I might be taking a two week college class in the middle of January, so if I'm gone and cramming for classes and what-not I'm not going to have time to be working on anything but school. Then again, if I don't get accepted into the classes, I'll be free in January and will start editing and rewriting then. So, we'll see.

          Speaking of The Lighthouse, though, I'm contemplating changing its name to Refuge. Any feedback on it? I'd love to hear!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Unpublished: Black Diamond

Title: Black Diamond
Author: Frenchie24
Contains: Curse words on 11/67 pages. 
Cover Thoughts: Not bad at all.
My Rating☆  (5/7)
Blurb: It was raining when I met Drew...sounds like a cliché for a love story, doesn't it? He was annoying and arrogant but I helped him. It was the least I could do. In exchange, he helped me. He taught me about my past, about my history. About the secret life my parents had held as spies, before they went missing.
          Now we're hunting for a few pages of a journal, written by my great times two billion grandmother. It’s hidden in the Arctic Circle somewhere, and I’m going to get it with four people. My genius of a little brother, Ducky, Drew, his girlfriend, Maggie, whose twin, Starr, is out to kill everyone, and Jace, my new boyfriend. Yet I’m the only one I can trust. Nobody said the life of a spy was easy...
Characters: The main character, Ridley, was a believable, well written character, especially considering she played the part of the average, ordinary teenaged girl. Her brother, "Ducky", I found to be rather quirky and amusing in his part of the brilliantly-minded younger sibling. And then there's Drew. Despite his rather arrogant  self and need for a slight attitude adjustment, I actually really like him. He just had this humorous, likable personality while still being an annoyance to Ridley. Each of these three main characters I found to be very well-developed. Excellent! 

Imagery/Mood: There didn't seem to be as much imagery or description as there could have been. I think it would make this story even stronger. 

Plot: Although the five chapters that I read didn't move far into the action I can tell is coming in this book, it moved along well and, as far as I could tell, everything helped build up the plot, with no unnecessary scenes. I can't wait to see where this story goes! 

Dialogue: Realistic, natural, believable. 'Nuff said. 

Other: I was really impressed with general mechanics of Black Diamond. For having read 67 pages, I only spotted three minor SPaG/plot flaws that needed to be pointed out -- very minor at that. I can tell Frenchie has worked a lot on this piece to fine tune it to the best it can be. 

My Impression: I greatly enjoyed reading Black Diamond, and I'll be watch-listing for the time being until I can read more of it, and will definitely consider for a pick. 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Sound Among the Trees [Revew]

Title: A Sound Among the Trees
Author: Susan Meissner
Labels: Fiction | Contemporary
Publisher: WaterBrook Multnomah
Publication Date: October 4, 2011
Contains: 1 Intimate scene setting, p. 92
Buy It: Amazon | Book Depository | The Publisher
Book Trailer: Click Here!

My Rating:  File:Star½.svg
Blurb: As a young bride, Susannah Page was rumored to be a Civil War spy for the North, a traitor to her Virginian roots. Her great-granddaughter Adelaide, the current matriarch of Holly Oak, doesn't believe that Susannah's ghost haunts the antebellum mansion looking for a pardon, but rather that the house itself bears a grudge toward its tragic past.
          When Marielle Bishop marries into the family and is transplanted from the arid west to her husband's home, she is soon led to believe that the house she's just settled into brings misfortune to the women who live there. With Adelaide's richly peppered superstitions and deep family roots at stake, Marielle must sort out the truth about Susannah Page and Holly Oak -- and make peace with the sacrifices she had made for love.
Let me just start out by saying that A Sound Among the Trees is a fantastic book. Except for one minor scene setting I considered to be inappropriate (p.92), I loved it from start to finish. Marielle is this newly married girl who ends up living in her husband's first wife's childhood home, currently owned by said wife's mother. So on top of being married for the first time, adjusting to living with her husband, Carson, who clearly still clings to remnant memories of his dead wife, and becoming an instant mom to Carson's two kids, she gets to live his mother-in-law. Awkward much?

I loved the history laced into this story. The family home, Holly Oak, has been passed down through generations, all while surviving death, loss, and battles in the Civil War. Quite literally. Everyone in this book seems to have a different take on what the story behind the house really was - everything from cursed, to haunted by Susannah's ghost, to attempting restitution. And poor Marielle gets dragged along for the ride with everyone's crazy stories.

Marielle struggles to find the truth and put the house and it's inhabitants to peace, while shuffling her personal life now-turned-upside-down. My favorite part of this book boiled down to the letters Susannah Page -- supposed traitor/Union symphathizer who allegedly haunts the ancient house -- wrote during the Civil War. Her voice was so natural, even in letters, and true to the time. I absolutely loved finding out her true story and that of the house she lived in. I would recommend this book in a heartbeat!

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review, in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Going Deep by Gordon MacDonald [Review]

Title: Going Deep
Author: Gordon MacDonald
Labels: Christian Living | Spiritual Growth
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Publication Date: October 18, 2011
Contains: Zippo. Clean as a whistle.
Buy It: Amazon | Book Depository | The Publisher

My Rating: 
Blurb: What is a deep person?If you'd like to become one, would you know how? Would you like to help others become deep? If so, you have come to the right place. In this fascinating book, best-selling author Gordon MacDonald discovers that his small New England church could be headed for trouble. Why? Because of the serious shortage. There are plenty of good people, well-meaning people, sincere people -- but not enough deep people.
          In his celebrated and engaging style, Gordon transports you back to the fictional setting from his critically acclaimed book, WHO STOLE MY CHURCH? He identifies the crucial missing component in his community: people of true depth, people of real influence. And he offers unforgettable insights on how to cultivate spiritual maturity and exhibit life-altering faith. As it turns out in Gordon's town--and probably yours-- what's needed is people who are willing to seek Christ passionately with a hunger to go deep. This may be exactly what you've been looking for.
          The first and most impressionable thing that really stuck out to me was the length. Going Deep is long. And I'm not just talking about the number of pages (although it's long that way as well, at 400 pages). The pages would have been no problem for me if it had been engaging and maintained my attention span.

          Don't get me wrong. MacDonald had some interesting thoughts and points, and I found a number of nuggets of wisdom. However, it was just a bit too drawn out for me. For one, the book is fictional -- except for the two main characters, Gordon and Gail -- and follows this "cultivating deep people" experience over the course of two fictional years. MacDonald starts at square one when the idea just that -- an idea -- to when it begins to bear fruit, with all the ups and downs between. With that in mind I didn't really become interested in it at all till I was more than halfway through, at the point where the fictional group actually starts meeting and growing deeper.

          Another thing lacking was emotion and description -- the glue to the plot. Any feelings concerning what the main characters where going through during this venture were flat out told, but rarely carried over to the reader. There was little description -- I'm really not even sure what many of the characters look like. Without anything to be able to relate to as a reader, I didn't feel engaged or connected in any way that would have made a better, lasting impression on me.

          The one other thing that bothered me was the fact that this entire "idea" and experience is fictional. It only has two real characters, and everything else right down to the church and congregation is fictional. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I didn't see anywhere that it has actually been lived out as it is in the book. No evidence that this actually works, that this would actually help a person to deepen in their spiritual growth/leadership. In my non-professional opinion, I think this book would have been better written in a better format, such as a devotional, for example. The entire thought that this is just fictional makes me wonder if it would even be worth a try.

           "Perhaps we need to remind ourselves that just because a person drops out doesn't mean that a mistake was made...Unless you think that Jesus made a mistake with Judas." - Going Deep

           I received this book for free from Thomas Nelson's Booksneeze program for this review, in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Unpublished: Butterfly Promises

          'Fixing' would mean setting that smile back on his face, and bringing the laughter back to his lips. It would mean enabling him to breathe without the help of a machine. It would mean taking away the constant pains that attacked his body, causing his eyes to tighten with pain. 'Fixing' would mean putting the life back in him, when it was so clearly slipping away. Fixing things would mean bringing back our butterfly catching days.
          ‘Fixing’ was clearly something that would never happen. [Taken from the long pitch]

          Butterfly Promises is a short story written by ChriWrites, in which the main character, Tess, is at the bedside of her dying friend, Toph. The cover: beautiful. And I loved the font.

          I liked how, throughout the story, we get brief glimpses of Tess and Toph's childhood together. While in some stories flashbacks and weight the story down and drag it out, each flashback in Butterfly Promises builds up and supports the story as a whole.

          ChriWrites did a fantastic job in the imagery department -- absolutely awesome! Vivid, precise  descriptions that easily painted the scene in the reader's head in a wonderful way. Plus, I liked the repetition of the phrase "...they swooped across the pink, orange, and cream colored skies, and a faint fluttering noise filled the air as a million butterflies darted home for the night." Mood was another thing that stuck out to me while I was reading Butterfly Promises. I'm not sure I know how to explain it, but it seemed to me that the reader felt all the right emotions in the right places.

          The plot was great. I mean, besides the fact that one of the characters was dying...:P Besides that, everything flowed nicely. I concisely learned everything I needed to know to understand what was going on, as well as understand how Tess felt.

          Butterfly Promises is a fantastic short story, and I can't wait to see what HarperCollins has to say about it when it reaches the top five (ranked #15 at the time of this review).

CASC Warning (otherwise known as the “Momma Bear Warning”):
1/5 pages contained curse words. Inappropriate/Sexual content: Clean as a whistle.

Rating: (4/5)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Small Part of the Big Picture

          I was talking to my mom today about how we don't always see the results of our ministry, or the ways we affect other peoples lives. It made me think of the tapestry illustrations. Maybe you've heard it, maybe you  haven't. Either way, it's always good to be reminded that despite the stress and "fruitlessness" you may see, there is fruit from your labor in the bigger picture.

          This is the part of life that you see. This little jumbled up mess that doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense a lot of the time; yet if you stare at it long enough with a good attitude, you can find beauty despite chaos of it. In fact, since this picture represents all you have the chance to see in life, there's a chance you might not even realize that it looks like a jumbled mess. More power to you.

          Then we've got the whole picture. It's still the backside of the real thing, because honestly, only God sees the real thing exactly as it is. Looking at this, you can at least see the whole thing, but it's still blurry and rough. Parts of it still don't make sense. Few if any get to see this though, because as I said earlier, we generally only get to see our small corner of the universe and the lives within.

          Then there is God's view. Full of the finished color, detailed in every respect, with perfect sense. He sees everything, every life and they way they are intertwined. We see the mess, He sees the picture. The big picture. All of it.

          While we're at the bottom struggling to keep going, He's up at the top weaving our lives into His gorgeous tapestry. So when life is looking down, and you're feeling like there isn't much point in your life, or that everything's going wrong, just remember that God isn't finished yet -- and you're a part of a larger, greater picture.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

You Know You've Been Going To The Orthodontist Too Long When...

          For those of you who have the pleasure *cough* of having braces . . . we know how you feel. Here's a few things that let you know you've been going there far, far too long.

  1. When you walk in and you don't even have to tell them you're there anymore, because all the receptionists know you by name. As long as they see you come in, you're good.
  2. You always park in the exact same place, every time. In fact, you now refer to it as "my parking spot".
  3. You're outraged when they change the normal bottled water to those stupid mini-bottles, or change/take away the coffee machine.
  4. You retaliate by taking twice as many mini-bottles before you leave.
  5. You are now used to being blinded by the overhead lights.
  6. Thinking about "accidentally" biting their fingers no longer happens on a regular basis, although occasion it crosses your mind...
  7. The random stuff your orthodontist says or sings while working on your teeth no longer strikes you as weird. Now it's just normal. They gotta do something to entertain themselves all day, right?
  8. You still wonder exactly how much longer it's going to be before they're satisfied and take them off...
  9. Your orthodontist is now comfortable enough with you to tease you about torturing you as they try to force the bracket doors closed, and about how much fun you're going to have over the next 6-8 weeks. They are joking, right?
  10. When you go to schedule your next appointment, the receptionist already knows your preferred day and time frame.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Unpublished: Superhero

          We all grew up hearing stories at bedtime. For the boys—superhuman men flying around in jumpsuits and saving the world from dastardly villains. For the girls—princesses locked away in towers awaiting their prince charming and his mighty steed. I was a girl, so I should have liked the princess stories, but I was a bit different.
         Superman, Spiderman, Batman—they all fascinated me to no end. I would run around my house with a bed-sheet tied around my neck, zapping away the evil dust bunnies with my laser vision. I didn't want to sit around all day waiting to be saved. I wanted to be the one doing the saving.
          And now I understood that those stories were complete bull. I was a wretch living in one of the slave cities of the nation, and I was the damsel in distress. I was the one waiting to be saved. But superheroes didn't exist, and no one was going to swoop down from the sky and save the day.
          At least, I used to think that. Until I saw the mask. [Taken from the long pitch]

          I read chapters 1-5 of SuperHero. First off, I'd like to say I loved the cover. Awesome picture, perfect colors--it just worked. Alright, moving on. :P

          I loved the characters. Elena has such a unique character voice, and her story is definitely interesting and entreating. Sera, the best friend, I didn't particularly care for. She seems to come off as an extremely weak character, although once in a random while she did something really brave or outspoken or totally out of what her character seems to be like...kinda random like... Then we have "the masked man". *sigh* I love him already. I mean com'on, who doesn't love the darkly dressed masked dude who apparently can leap up huge skyscrapers in seconds and disappears without a trace?

          The first (0 as it's labeled, I take that to mean it's technically more of a prologue?) chapter was...well, I can't even think of a word to describe it. You'll just have to read it for yourself. Though it was a scene that usually I'd have a hard time stomaching -- a detailed massacre -- it was written amazingly well, without any gory grossness that would destroy my desire for dinner, while still maintaining all essential details, vivid imagery, mood & tone, and all else necessary for an incredible first chapter. My hat goes off to the author.

          I really liked the powerful yet simple imagery used throughout the story (or at least the five chapters I read...:P). It didn't go above and beyond the call of duty, but was perfectly descriptive in every sense of the word. Another thing I was really impressed with--despite the number of pages I read, I had ended up with a ridiculously short comment to leave on the project itself. Why? Because there are only a small handful, no, a fingerfull, of random typos throughout it. Excellent job! K, enough of my rambling. :P

          K, the only thing I really didn't like was about this awesome story was 1) a random scene [in chapter 2, I believe it was..?] that I considered to be inappropriate and unnecessary, and 2) the cursing used throughout. Not heavy, but I'm all for complete cleanness in both these areas.
          Besides the two points listed above, I thought this was a great story, and I'm sure it'll go far once it hits the published world.

CASC Warning (otherwise known as the “Momma Bear Warning”):
14/59 pages contained curse words. 2/59 pages contained sexually inappropriate content.

Rating: (4/5)


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Praying For Your Future Husband [Review]

Title: Praying for Your Future Husband
Author: Robin J. Gunn & Tricia Goyer
Labels: Christian Living / Relationships / Single Living
Publisher: WaterBrook Multnomah
Publication Date: May 3, 2011
Contains: Mature personal stories, recommended readers 13+ of age
Buy It: Amazon | Book Depository | The Publisher

My Rating: 
Blurb: From when we were small girls, most of us dream of "The One," our future husband. We think about what it would be like to be a bride. We wonder who that special guy is and when we'll find him. The great news it that what you do now can make a difference in your life and the life of your future husband!
          Authors and good friends Robin Jones Gunn and Tricia Goyer believe God answers women's prayers for husbands--even husbands they may not meet for years. They invite young women to pray boldly for their future mate...while also asking God to prepare their own hearts.
          Before I say anything else, I just need to say that I loved this book. Immensely. In fact, I plan on rereading it...several times.

          Praying for your future husband is a concept a lot of people have thought of and done, but I think a lot of us don't even think about praying for specifics -- realistic and spiritual specifics, not height, weight, and eye color. Praying For Your Future Husband points out specifics that every one of us want in a guy (even if we don't really realize it) and that are spiritually beneficial to both you and him. These things include praying for patience, understanding, trust, faithfulness, protection, commitment -- to name a few. In the process of praying for your husband, your own heart ends up being changed and being brawn nearer to God.

          In each chapter Robin and Tricia, as well as other women, share their personal stories of how God worked in their lives and the lives of their future husbands as they prayed for them. It's awesome to see first hand accounts of how prayer changes lives.

          I recommend this book to every young women -- even those that have already found Mr. Right. In fact, I already have plans to get this book for some of my girl friends. :-) I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review, in exchange for my honest review.