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The Unpublished: Black Diamond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.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Unpublished: X, Y, and Everything Else Super

          X, Y, and Everything Else Super is short story written by LexiHall. The story line follows a couple, Kayla and Dan, as they are sucked into another world via a portal. The two encounter villains from this new world, and are almost immediately forced to defend their lives. In doing so, they discover new talent they never knew they had...or perhaps they didn't have to begin with.

          I wasn't incredibly impressed with the cover, which almost always gets my attention first, even before pitches. I didn't really see how the picture pertained to the story. The colors seemed to clash as well -- don't get me wrong, black and white are fine, but it just wasn't working for this particular cover. Had I been in a bookstore, I almost certainly wouldn't have picked it up.

          Moving into the story. The characters cursed enough to turn me off, as well as cast a negative light on my first impressions of them. Character depth is definitively an area that needs work in this story. Other than what was point black told to the reader, I didn't get a feel for who they really were, what they were like, what they wanted in life. They lacked the realness that pulls the reader in.

          I say brief instances of really great imagery, and strong sentences throughout the story, and I would really like to see a bit more. The author clearly has it in him/her to have solid imagery, it just didn't seem to come out very often in this particular project. A little more work and this point would really strengthen the story.

          Not going to lie, I loved one of the villain's weapon choice -- a fire truck red laser gun. Not sure I'd go for the fire truck red one, but if I had to choose, laser gun would be my pick. I mean really, wouldn't you want to fry people to a crisp in milliseconds? (I'm being completely serious here, by the way.)

          While this project has a few points that could be strengthened, LexiHall did a good job in the overall writing, and I see the potential for it growing into a great piece of writing.

Rating: (3/5)


Waterfall by Lisa T. Bergren [Review]

Title: Waterfall
Author: Lisa T. Bergren
Labels : Fiction / General / YA
Publisher: David C. Cook
Contains: N/A
Buy It: Amazon

My Rating: 

Blurb: Most American teenagers want a vacation in Italy, but the Bantarrini sisters have spent every summer of their lives with their parents, famed Etruscian scholars, among the romantic hills. Stuck among the rubble of medieval castles in rural Tuscany on yet another hot, dusty archeological site, Gabi and Lia are bored out of their minds...until Gabi places her hand atop a handprint in an ancient tomb and finds herself in fourteenth-century Italy. And worse yet, in the middle of a fierce battle between knights of two opposing forces.
          And thus does she come to be rescued by the knight-prince Marcus Falassi, who takes her back to his father's castle--a castle Gabi has seen in ruins in another life. Suddenly Gabi's summer in Italy is much, much more interesting. But what do you do when your knight in shining armor lives, literally, in different world?

          I'm always hesitant to buy books, especially online where I can't really flip through or read a couple random pages in the middle to decide whether it's worth getting or not. I hate spending money without knowing for sure and certain I'll like what I'm getting. With that in mind, I took a bit of a "risk" when I bought this book, from Amazon, not really knowing what I was getting into, despite the fact I had read another of Bergren's book, Mercy Come Morning, and liked it. So you can probably imagine my hesitation.

          Not anymore. Since it's arrival, Waterfall has jumped to one of my favorite books, if not the favorite. Okay sure, I'm a sucker for romance - not the sappy sort, mind you. But mix in American teenagers stuck centuries before their own time (oh the wonders of time travel), Italian sword-wielding guys, and all manner of medieval stakes including life or death situations? What's not to love?

          I loved Gabriella's narration voice. Even stuck living with lords and knights, she maintained the voice (at least, in her actions and head; she did manage to learn to talk in a fairly decent medieval like way...most the time) of a seventeen-year old girl, with the same interests and thought process.

          The plot was amazing, filled with adventures around every corner. The conflict in Gabi over what she wants to do - steal the super amazing guy from his betrothed...who he doesn't even love...- and what she needs to do - save her sister, get home, not mess everything up for everyone else on her way out - was realistic and relatable.

          Well, I've said it once already, and I'm going to say it again. Best. Book. Ever. It's safe to say it's my favorite. I'll be buying the next book in the trilogy, Cascade, as soon as my cash supply allows. This book highly recommended!!