Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Review of "Runaway" by Dandi Daley Mackall

Dakota Brown is a foster kid who is constantly planning to run away.  Even prior to arriving at Starlight Animal Rescue ("Where problem horses are trained and loved, where abandoned dogs become heroes, where stray cats become loyal companions, and where people with nowhere to fit in find a place to belong"), she is already plotting her escape.  She loves to make lists, because they make her feel in control.
What she doesn't yet know is that this family is perfect for her.  They love Jesus, animals, and her.  Speaking of animals, even though Dakota has never been around horses (she's only studied them in books), turns out....she's a horse whisperer.  :)
An abused horse she names Blackfire just may save her life.
This is a great new series by Dandi Daley Mackall.

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Review of "Glorious Appearing" by Tim LaHaye & Jerry B. Jenkins

We're finally number 12.
It's almost exactly seven years after the peace treaty has been signed with Israel!  The Tribulation is about to conclude with Jesus's return to earth.  The Jewish Remnant and Tribulation Force are primarily gathered in Petra; the "Unity Army" led by Nicolae is still attempting to wage war against them; and when Christ returns, boy are they in for a surprise (The authors describe a literal "pit" that those who don't choose Christ tumble into).  I especially enjoyed our character's thoughts and reactions to seeing Jesus.  Obviously this is the author's interpretation of what might happen, but I still liked it.  I have to say I was a little bummed that almost all of our original Tribulation Force members don't make it to see the Glorious Appearing - to be so close! (within day(s)....)
This was a satisfying conclusion to a great series.

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Review of "Mad Dog" by Dandi Daley Mackall

Wes Williams is a 14 year old foster kid from Chicago who wants nothing more than to be with his mom, who is currently in rehab.  He has some anger issues, and is also gifted in training dogs.  The mother of his foster dad, Georgette ("George") gives Wes the task of training some dogs for a pilot program for the local assisted living retirement home.  His foster family is pretty awesome, and while there is some resolution to some of his anger and challenges in the end it is definitely not a "pat" answer.
I enjoyed this book and recommend the series for both pre-teens, teens, and adults as well!

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Monday, August 29, 2011

Review of "Armageddon" by Tim LaHaye & Jerry B. Jenkins

One year left to go of the Tribulation....and Armageddon (The Cosmic Battle of the Ages) is coming.

When we left off in "The Remnant", New Babylon (the Antichrist's home base) was suffering from a plague of darkness.  Because of this, Rayford and Abdullah are more easily able to get Chang out of New Babylon.  Buck and Chloe, along with Kenny (now four) and some of the other Tribulation Force members are in a safe house in San Diego.  After they see some GC nosing around, eventually Chloe's curiousity gets the best of her and she goes out of the compound to investigate - and is captured.  Those at Petra continue to thrive; some of our long time friends are seriously injured, even killed; everyone is gearing up for the great battle.....we are left with a cliffhanger - who will survive and make it to the Glorious Appearing?

Not gonna lie....I got a little emotional reading this one.  Looking forward to number 12!

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Friday, August 26, 2011

Review of "My Foolish Heart" by Susan May Warren

First of all, let me say that I love Susan May Warren and her books, too. Although I can't say this one was my favorite - I liked it a lot.  It was not my favorite because I kept feeling a little frustrated (although I suppose that was the point) about the constant near misses, the miscommunications, and darn it - people kept eating donuts and not discussing the health issues associated with them.  But I digress (I love donuts. They just don't love me.)  However, I did enjoy much of the humor in this book as well as some of the fun "wink wink" moments woven throughout.
Issy suffers from panic attacks and phobias following the tragic death of her beloved mother.  She works from the security of her home as the host for a radio show called "My Foolish Heart", counseling on love, romance, and sensibility.  Enter Caleb Knight, her new next door neighbor and the new high school football coach.  Through a series of fun events he calls into her show, and chaos ensues......You'll have to read it yourself to find out more.  :)
I fully appreciated the redemptive nature of this story and definitely loved the happy ending - we all have foolish hearts from time to time, and Issy learns that a 'formula' does not always equal God's best.

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Review of "Look to the East" by Maureen Lang

Part of the Great War Series, "Look to the East" was an insightful peek into a French Village during its occupation by the Germans in the first World War.  Initially, I had a challenging time getting into this book, but about a third of the way through I began to enjoy it, and was hooked.  Maureen Lang has done an excellent job of telling a special story about Julitte Toussaint and Charles Lassone, who come from extremely varied backgrounds (he is privileged, she is adopted, and poor in belongings - but rich in spirit).  Through a series of circumstances they are drawn to each other, and eventually fall in love.
This was a very educational and interesting story and I am glad I read it!

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Review of "The Remnant" by Tim LaHaye & Jerry B. Jenkins

We're getting closer to the home stretch!  As we left off in "Desecration", a huge number of believers have gathered in Petra, a place of refuge.  Nicolae plots that this would be the perfect time to destroy them all as they are in one place...however, a miracle occurs and the believers are unharmed by his attempts.  Rayford (in Petra), Buck (Chicago safehouse) and Chloe are again spread out and have trouble reaching each other.  (Chloe has gone on a mission of sorts, leaving Kenny behind - which btw I as a mother thought was a little unusual....)  The Chicago safehouse is compromised and our primary Tribulation Force members go to San Diego with the eventually rescued George Sebastian.  In more Bowl Judgments, freshwater everywhere is turned to blood, and the sun is super hot.  Not all of our favorites make it to the end of this installment alive...but I suppose that it would be extra unrealistic to hope that they would all be present at the final "Glorious Appearing".
Darkness overtakes New Babylon, and Armageddon is coming...

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Review of "Desecration" by Tim LaHaye & Jerry B. Jenkins

Lots of travel in this ninth book of the Left Behind series!  Believers traveling to refuge in Petra, the Trib Force spread out again....Around the world, those who have taken the mark of loyalty begin to suffer from boils (the first "Bowl Judments"), and oceans are even turned into blood as we move further into the last half of the Tribulation.  As the newly self-declared god, Nicolae "desecrates" the temple in Jerusalem by setting up his throne and attempting to sacrifice a pig, a major insult/faux pas/way to make people mad.  Hattie takes a stand, Chang wrestles with his double marks, and Chloe goes on a mission.
All in all this isn't my favorite of the entire series, but I enjoyed this book and can freely recommend it.

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Review of "The Mark" by Tim LaHaye & Jerry B. Jenkins

Loyalty, loyalty, loyalty.  How far would you go?  In the eighth book of the Left Behind series, His Excellency, The Risen Potentate (I love all these names), Nicolae Carpathia has come back from the dead and is now indwelt (see book #7) by Satan himself.  The time has come for the "mark of the beast" to be established - a 'loyalty' mark to the Global Community.  Without this on their forehead or hand they cannot buy/sell, move about freely, etc.; and if you refuse to get it, you will die.  Good thing the Co-Op has already been established.  :)
Many of the Trib Force members are now in the Strong Building in Chicago, an area which the GC thinks is radioactive.  They are hoping this will buy them some time, especially as they are past the halfway point now - less than three and a half years to go.

I especially found interesting the several different scenarios presented in regards to taking the mark: there were the obvious "sign me up, I'm in" and "no ways", but there were people who STILL had to think about it (even after all we've been through!), and even a believer forced against his will to take it....this book made me think again, thoroughly - that if I were tested past what I think my mind and/or body should handle....what would I do, specifically?  And if I had chosen not to take the mark, would I turn myself in and get it over with, or try to make it to the end, keep fighting?

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Review of "The Indwelling" by Tim LaHaye & Jerry B. Jenkins

Number Seven. Just as it's title declares, the indwelling of Satan happens here.  We begin with the world at large in an uproar due to the assassination of Supreme Potentate Nicolae Carpathia.  Is he really dead?  And who did it?  Although Rayford is accused, the cliffhanger from Assassins is resolved.  The Great Tribulation begins; we find Hattie; Leon gets a bit too big for his britches; and by the way, Nicolae's pretense of peace has ended - no more mister nice Antichrist!  Side note: living through the Tribulation with a baby would be extra hard...Just saying.
Even though this entire book takes place over only a few days, I didn't feel that it dragged - bring on number eight!!

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Review of "Assassins" by Tim LaHaye & Jerry B. Jenkins

And now there are six.....
Rayford is really struggling with anger in this book.  (Somewhat understandably....but I digress).  Safe houses have been set up for believers all over the world, and the Tribulation Force's movements are more limited - and this chafes him.  He is also dealing with a growing desire to be the one to get to Assassinate the Antichrist.  (Much of Assassins focuses on "who will do it", and the answer may surprise you.)  Hattie disappears; technology continues to play a huge part in the espionage; the Sixth Judgment begins - and those 200 million horsemen of the apocalypse, just crazy.
One of the things I most appreciate about this series is how I am able to envision a picture of what the end times could be like - it helps the actual book of Revelations to come more alive.

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Review of "Apollyon" by Tim LaHaye & Jerry B. Jenkins

Book number five in this exciting series....Apollyon is on a fast pace and things are really starting to happen.  The Trib Force has now mobilized across the world and their reach is wide with the huge influx of believers from the Soul Harvest.  Both Rayford and Buck cut all ties with the Global Community - their 'double' life is just getting too close; others take their place on the inside.  We still have five years of the Tribulation to go before the Glorious Appearing; Chloe is pregnant; and Hattie Durham is also pregnant with Nicolae's baby, and still resisting the truth! The Two Witnesses (Eli & Moishe) are at the Wailing Wall where Nicolae argues with them; he has openly pronounced any believers to be directly opposed to the Global Community, but he will still attend the Great Meeting of the Witnesses in Jerusalem, led by Tsion Ben-Judah and attended by the 144,000 (and more).  The next Trumpet Judgment (crazy details about those locusts....creepy) begins.

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Review of "Soul Harvest" by Tim LaHaye & Jerry B. Jenkins

The fourth in the Left Behind series, this book picks up with our main characters immediately following a devastating global earthquake.  Buck and Rayford are searching for their loved ones; Rayford's wife Amanda (one of the few characters in this series I care very little for) has her integrity called into question - was she truly a believer? or was she working for Carpathia? - and she's missing; Tsion Ben-Judah begins to post his teachings online and antics ensue to keep the website encrypted so he may continue without GC interruption; and hearts really are turning in great numbers to Christ.  Carpathia is on a rampage (when isn't he...) to rebuild his Global Community.  Believers begin to recognize a "mark" on the forehead of other true believers (this will play a major part in determining Amanda's truthfulness) and allows more espionage, because really, how else will they have any clue as to who to trust! And, the Judgments begin.
Lots of events....and I can't wait to see what happens next.

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Review of "Journey to Riverbend" by Henry McLaughlin

A solid first offering from new author Henry McLaughlin, this book had many things I enjoyed and only a few I perhaps didn't.
Our main characters are Michael Archer (who has come to town solely to deliver a message from a dead man to his estranged father) and Rachel Stone (a former prostitute - she was essentially forced into the lifestyle following long term molestation and abuse), who has an incredibly close relationship with Christ.  They are both well defined examples of redemption and forgiveness - I loved how really, the majority of the town embraced Rachel - and those who sterotypically judged her were frowned upon, interesting for that time period (1878).  I also enjoyed learning more about the 'search posse' - I understood the concept, but the author clearly illustrated how people really stuck their necks out for another, because it was the right thing to do.
I could have lived without some of the uber-descriptiveness of the shall we say, romantic interludes and even the violence - some things (totally my opinion) would have been a bit better left to my quite active imagination.
As a whole, although I can't say I LOVED it, found it to be a good read.

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Monday, August 15, 2011

Review of "Nicolae" by Tim LaHaye & Jerry B. Jenkins

Book number three in the Left Behind series.  Nicolae Carpathia has declared himself the Grand Potentate of essentially the entire world, whom he has dubbed the Global Community.  Rayford is still employed as a pilot by GC and as such has access to important information for the Tribulation Force.  We meet some new characters (Mac, Ken Ritz, Amanda) and Hattie returns....
Where book number 2 was my transition book, Nicolae is full of action.  War and bombings everywhere, a major worldwide earthquake occurs (which kills about 1/4 of the world's population), our main Trib Force members are scattered all over the world and major chaos ensues.

I resisted reading this series for the longest time and when I finally got started, had trouble stopping.  However, I was ultimately glad I waited - because by then I wasn't forced to wait until the "next" book came out to keep going!  :)

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Review of "Tribulation Force" by Tim LaHaye & Jerry B. Jenkins

The second book in the Left Behind series focuses again on our main characters: pilot Rayford Steele and his daughter Chloe, reporter Cameron "Buck" Williams, and pastor Bruce Barnes.  They have formed their own band of believers, they know that Nicolae Carpathia is the Antichrist, and now what will they do?

Rayford and Buck begin to work for Nicolae and his regime (Nicolae creates "Global Everything") and quickly realize that their status as believers is best kept undercover so they can keep working with the other Trib Force members.  Some personal relationships are further developed but seem a little awkward in their interactions.

To me, this was sort of a setting the scene book.  It is necessary to get from one place to the next, just was not my favorite of all of them....but, I enjoyed it just the same.

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Review of "Left Behind" by Tim LaHaye & Jerry B. Jenkins

The first in the Left Behind series, what has become a New York Times best selling phenomenon (and in my opinion, a well-deserved one) - this is where it all begins.

Pilot Rayford Steele's wife has been telling him how much he needs Jesus, and that "someday" it will be really important to him...but he has been ignoring her.  The book begins with what turns out to be the Rapture, and Rayford begins a search for the truth.  The initial scenes where passengers disappear from the airplane (who does *that*?) is telling to him of what is really going on - it's not a hoax, it's not's the beginning of the Apocalypse!  -and we are off! On a huge adventure.

One of the things I love most about this entire series is that they are able to mix in humor with what could be such overwhelmingly scary scenarios, but this is told in such a way that you are moved not by fear, but by their courage.  It made me think.

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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Review of "The First Gardener" by Denise Hildreth Jones

I'm not sure I can say ENOUGH nice things about this book, but here goes.

Let me preface this by sharing that Denise Hildreth Jones is one of my all time favorite authors.  I have read every book she has written.  Some more than once (I can't get enough Savannah...I laugh out loud - even in the second and third readings....but I digress) and "The First Gardener" truly exceeded my expectations.  It's true, I was prepared to like it, but really, I *loved* it.

We begin with the enviable and lovely life of the first family of the great state of Tennessee.  They are beautiful inside and out, successful, in love, kind to others...the happy list goes on and on.  They long for many children but have only one, their 5 year old daughter, Maddie.  She is the light of their lives and a delight to all.  Jeremiah Williams is the Head Gardener of the governor's mansion and has been tending the first families' gardens for 25 years.  He has a special place in his heart for this entire family.  When tragedy strikes and all of their lives are forever changed, he is an integral part of their healing.

The entire story is handled in ways that I found realistic without being hopeless; funny, yet never irreverent; and most importantly, it communicated biblical truths without being even a little trite - especially in the face of such major heartbreak.  At the risk of sounding a little dramatic, The First Gardener actually changed my life.

I can't recommend it enough.

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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Review of "Springtime of the Spirit" by Maureen Lang

What a interesting time period of history -Maureen Lang has done her research and has written a lovely book about political unrest and sensitivities, as well as romance - in the aftermath of the Great War.
Former soldier Cristophe has returned home to Germany only to find it is not the country he once knew - or even what he thought he was fighting for.  He is requested by a long time family friend to locate their daughter, Annaliese, who has left home for reasons unknown (to her parents).  He finds her right in the heart of the new political scene, scorning her wealthy upbringing and fighting for the working class and women's right to vote and contribute to society as a whole.  Eventually they fall in love....but all of the political unrest and war between the classes will stand in their way.

I haven't read a book (fiction or otherwise) about this specific decade in history and found it very interesting.  It was great to learn about politics and much more in Europe for this particular season of time.  I look forward to reading more of her books.

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Review of "Desert Gift" by Sally John

Whew! This was a sometimes challenging book to read.  Ultimately, I enjoyed it....but there were moments....Jillian, a marriage communication "expert" and her husband have been married more than 20 years when he blurts out that he wants a divorce - right as they are leaving to go on a part work (to promote her new book on, you guessed it, husband/wife communication), part vacation.  He pushes her out the door with this new information and off we go on a journey of self discovery, re-learning how to relate to each other - Jillian becomes more and more aware of how she is perceived, and that good intentions do not always make wonderful results.  I know I found myself relating more to her than her husband (who frustrated me - he spends years being a doormat, and then boom! 'I'm mad at how you've been treating me and we're done', instead of *saying something* as time passed) in this conflict. 
I thought the recipe idea that is mentioned in Jillian's book is cute and that this would probably be a good book for those needing to be reminded that a: how we see ourselves is not always how others do, and b: just because a couple has been married for a million years, does not always ensure long term success - like every other relationship, it takes constant work, healthy communication, and concentrated effort.  But will be worth it in the end!

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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Review of "Her Daughter's Dream" by Francine Rivers

I found myself liking Marta more and more in this powerful conclusion to Her Mother's Hope; what a began as a seemingly hopeless tangled mess of relationships was resolved in a story rich in forgiveness - it illustrated beautifully that God can use even the most challenging of situations for something great.  I thought it was especially interesting that just as Carolyn was drawn to her Oma Marta, May Flower Dawn is with her grandmother Hildie....the difference being that Marta encouraged Carolyn to persist in her challenging relationship with her mother; Hildie seems determined to undermine Carolyn every chance she gets.  She is a tough character to enjoy because she is so persistently selfish.
Her Daughter's Dream takes us from the 50's through to present day....again, a rich-in-history lesson illustrating how decisions we make today can have such long reaching effects....but that God's grace can shine through and bring healthy resolution to it all, if we will simply stop being so stubborn and listen more than we speak.

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Review of "Her Mother's Hope" by Francine Rivers

Epic. Truly.  Both this and it's companion book, "Her Daughter's Dream" are simply put, wonderful.  I had a hard time putting them down.  Her Mother's Hope is part 1 that takes us all over Europe, Canada, and finally settles in the central valley of California, sweeping over several decades.  I truly enjoy reading novels set in historical and geographical settings so different from my own because I feel as if I learn a ton of history, get a great feel for the time, all while being entertained.  The character of Marta is intriguing; she was not only unusual for her time, but her determination and work ethic is a great example for any one today.  When analyzing the complex relationship between Marta and one of her daughters, Hildemara Rose, it is heartbreaking to see both "sides" of the story played out....and the far reaching effects that misunderstandings can cause.

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Review of "Bound by Guilt" by C.J. Darlington

C.J. Darlington has another winner with this book.  I read the first one ("Thicker Than Blood"), enjoyed it, and could hardly believe two things: 1, it was her debut novel, and 2, she was sooooooper young when she wrote it.  :)
That said, I was looking forward to reading Bound by Guilt, and it did not disappoint.  I liked the conflict -just enough tension for my personal tastes!- was thankful for the examples of unconditional love shown to Roxi even when she made serious mistakes, and loved the theme of redemption throughout.  I especially enjoyed learning more about Dealers of Rare Books/Antiquities.
I recommend both this and its companion book (I think they can be read independently but personally love to know the 'backstory' I must recommend reading Thicker Than Blood first!)

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Monday, June 6, 2011

Review of "Beneath the Night Tree" by Nicole Baart

I had read the first two books in this "series" quite some time ago, not realizing that there was another soon to come - so I was really pleased to find out what was going on with Julia DeSmit.
We pick up a few years after the last book left off and some new family dynamics have formed, with Julia looking ahead to the larger future.  The overall theme?  I felt it was redemption, something I personally can't read enough about.  Without giving too much away, she makes some tough decisions, this book made me think, and I was simultaneously really glad I read it and sorry when it was over.  It left me wanting more and I highly recommend all three books.

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Review of a favorite, "So Long, Insecurity...You've Been a Bad Friend To Us" by Beth Moore

First of all, the title: "You've been a bad friend..." - Genius.  Isn't it true?  Insecurity is the bad friend no more after reading this book.  I have only read a few other Beth Moore books, but (so far) this one is absolutely my favorite.  I know this is completely cliched, but I laughed, cried, read sections aloud to friends....I didn't even care if they were bored, because I sure wasn't. :)
I cannot say enough good things about this book.  I am grateful that Beth put on paper a lot of the thoughts I didn't think I wanted to share out loud, and then published it, so I could quit feeling weird about feeling, well, weird.
I firmly believe that almost ALL of the problems in this world ultimately stem from people's insecurity.  (Would we even HAVE mean girls without it?!)  If you have ever felt even a tiny bit unsure, check it out....this could be a great book for you.

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