Monday, July 28, 2014

Review of "Firewall" by DiAnn Mills

Genius software developer Taryn Young marries a man she has only known for three months, and while at the airport getting ready to depart on her honeymoon, the terminal explodes - many are killed and she wakes up in the hospital where her husband's secrets begin to come to light. FBI Agent Grayson Hall is assigned to her case (which has more twists and turns than a rollercoaster.)

The entire book takes place over the course of about a week (which had to have been a really long and awful week for our characters as they go through one catastrophe after another) - and although I was mostly engaged and as a whole enjoyed it, didn't love it. There were a couple of things that just didn't gel for me. First, she's a super genius - but totally misses how much she is being played. Although I can see how her personal life is different, her judgment is way off in a number of ways throughout the book. Second, all of the plot twists were exhausting rather than exciting for me. On the good side, it was an interesting story in a field you don't typically read about (high security software programs) and the main character's repartee/dialogue is good. Also, there is (yet another) plot twist at the end that I personally didn't see coming.

The bottom line is I have mixed emotions; you'll just have to read it and decide for yourself!

Review of "Wild Thing" by Dandi Daley Mackall

12 year old Winnie Willis lost her mother at a young age (and has always believed it is her fault). It's been extra hard as she and her mom had so much in common, primarily their love of horses. She lives with her father and younger sister, Lizzie, who is 11. They've moved many times since her mother's death, and Winnie has finally found a place she wants to stay - especially as her dream horse is in town, and she is desperate to figure out a way she can own it. Winnie is passionate about caring for animals and is willing to defend them no matter the cost.

This first book in the "Winnie the Horse Gentler" series is a great story about healing and hope. The author also includes lots of extra information about horses, including a diagram of the "parts of a horse", "horse talk" (the translation of horse communications), and even a "horse-o-pedia" (terms). It is a wonderful series for your pre-teens and teens, especially those who love animals.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Review of "Game On" by Emmitt Smith

Emmitt Smith is a Hall of Fame running back who has long been a fan favorite and philanthropist. He is married to a former beauty queen, Pat, and together they have five children. Emmitt retired from professional football after more than a decade with a plan for the rest of his life; he has always been goal-oriented and possessed VERY big dreams, even as a small child. This book is his "to-date" memoir, focusing on his experiences (his journey to the top in the football world, culminating in his induction into the Hall of Fame in 2010, being a champion on the TV show 'Dancing With the Stars', being featured on NBC's reality series "Who Do You Think You Are?" that researches celebrities' heritage) - and much more!

With chapter topics that range from having a great attitude - and CHOOSING to do so even when circumstances are challenging; surrounding yourself with wise counsel and loving support; planning -rather than hoping- for the best; and much more, this book provides wise counsel from someone who has lived his life by a huge code of excellence. He does not come off as thinking he is perfect, rather, he shares from his heart how others can learn from his mistakes as well as his strong work ethic and faith in God.

Football fans will certainly like this book, but it is really for anyone who wants to be inspired.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Review of "Love Idol" by Jennifer Dukes Lee

Blogger Jennifer Dukes Lee has written a great debrief on many people's concerns about their "approval rating" - the constant (or near constant!) concern of what other people think of you. This book tells her personal story, taking you through the hard-earned journey she continued to be on in her move towards health and wholeness that is based on her relationship with Jesus and the way He sees her, not other's opinions. She shares personal stories about her family, her thought process, and much more. It is clear that she sincerely desires for others to know the freedoms we can experience in life when we filter things through the truth of how God sees us: Preapproved. Chosen. Unconditionally loved. Real.

I will be frank, I began this book thinking that this wasn't a prominent issue in my life personally. (Although I was interested in what she had to say, I did not expect to relate and understand it the way that I did.) Whether this is a concern for you or not, this is good stuff for everyone! And if you are ever worried, concerned, fearful of failure, or find yourself caring "too much" what others think - this will be an especially wonderful book for you. Lots of truth to be found here.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Review of "Robot Wars: Death Trap" by Sigmund Brouwer

It is the year 2039 and teen Tyce Sanders lives on Mars! He live in an experimental colony that hopes to eventually help relieve the overpopulation of Earth. His scientist mother has asked him to tell his story in a journal for the kids on Earth who are following the Mars Project. Tyce loves science, is very smart, is in a wheelchair, and is the only young person there - in fact he's the only person ever born on Mars. This series of books follows Tyce in his Mars adventures and is two stories in one; this is the first in the series.

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book! Totally not my typical demographic, but I liked it so much I'm going to go get the rest of the series. Your pre-teens/teens will (especially) love it!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Review of "All Right Here" by Carre Armstrong Gardner

The first in the Darling Family Series, our heroine Ivy has been married to Nick for six years and has yet to be truly included into his family - or really, into * his* heart, either. Ivy is kindhearted and generous with a little quirky thrown in. Nick is solid and dependable with a bit of the type A. :-)

A turning point in their relationship comes when the three kids next door are abandoned by their mother, and Ivy invites them in without hesitation. What's more surprising is that Nick, although not exactly enthusiastic, is agreeable. As time goes on they officially become foster parents; all the while swirling around them are difficult relationships, God, substance abuse, affairs, racism, heartache, and growth.

One of the best fiction books I've read in a long time, this debut novel by our author is real, funny, touching, moving, didn't have a false ending, and made me think. Perhaps more importantly, it made me feel. The characters are interesting and relatable. The story drew me in so well that I finished it off in only a few hours, and it left me wishing the next one wasn't more than a year out. I can't recommend this book enough!

Review of "Wish" by Jake Smith

James McConnell has had one wish for a very long time, and it's that his son, 9 year old Aaron, didn't have leukemia. Although Aaron has been in remission for some time, when the cancer comes back James is devastated - and angry.

Aaron's wish is to see his dad (who was a college baseball star with solid pro potential before deciding to get married and have a family was more of a priority to him) play in the major leagues. Jake Smith's debut novel, "Wish" is the story of one family's journey to peace no matter the outcome.

Baseball fans will especially enjoy the play-by-play descriptions and Aaron's savant-like stat knowledge. Check it out!

Review of "Haunted Waters" by Jerry B. Jenkins & Chris Fabry

The first book in the Red Rock Mysteries series, 13 year old twins Ashley and Bryce are still missing their father, who died unexpectedly. Four years have passed, and in that time they've moved to Colorado from Illinois, and their mother has recently remarried. Although they like their stepfather Sam well enough, adjustments are still happening. When Sam plans a weekend trip to see a historic "vug," they are excited, until crazy things - including crime and danger!! - begin to happen. And you'll just have to read it to find out what happens next!

An interesting book for your pre-teens and younger teens, Ashley and Bryce are real kids with real problems, handled in a healthy way. I especially liked how Ashley handled disobedience. An unusual premise, I am eager for my pre-teen to enjoy this series and look forward to getting the next one.

Review of "30 Days to a More Beautiful You" by Kylie Bisutti

A devotional book for pre-teen and teen girls, Kylie has given a wonderful tool to teach truth about developing REAL inner beauty. A former Victoria's Secret model, Kylie left modeling (you can read her story in the book "I'm No Angel") because she felt that ultimately the job was compromising her true beliefs.

Every day's reading has a Bible verse, topic, some thought provoking questions, and a True Beauty Tip. She talks about things like your worth and value, your uniqueness, and finding our true identity in Christ - seeing yourself how He sees you.  It is seriously easy to recommend this book as a devotional for your daughter -or a gift for a girl you love!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Review of "In the Secret Service" by Jerry & Carolyn Parr

This was such an interesting book! An autobiography of the Secret Service Agent who was protecting President Reagan when he was shot, Jerry Parry has led a very interesting life. He was born during the Depression and as a child had a dream of working in the protection industry after seeing a movie starring (who else (!) Ronald Reagan as a Secret Service Agent. He was able to watch history unfold literally around the world at a very close up level. He served his country for several decades and saw the Kennedy assassination, Watergate, several presidential elections, protected heads of state and royalty from around the world, working with integrity and along with his accomplished wife, raising a family (three daughters) at the same time. Following his retirement, Jerry & Carolyn began to serve their fellow man as Jerry studied to become a counselor, pastor, and missionary. His wife Carolyn is a federal tax judge and they have dedicated themselves to serving God and others.

I found this book fascinating and well written. I can easily recommend it!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Review of "The Advocate" by Randy Singer

Author Randy Singer's book, "The Advocate" is a powerful story covering about five decades during the reign of Rome. Mr. Singer is a great storyteller in general (you'll like them all, my personal favorites are "The Judge" and "Dead Lawyers Tell No Tales") but typically bases his novels on present day fiction. This is his first piece of historical fiction.

This novel tells the story of Theophilus, the person referenced in Luke & the book of Acts ("Most Excellent Theophilus"). We begin with a powerful sentence, "I was fourteen years old when I learned what it meant to be crucified" - and the story races off from there. Spanning decades during the time period that include the crucifixion of Christ (Theophilus is portrayed as Pilate's assessore, or advisor during that time), his time as an advocate defending cases he believes in, the reign of numerous Emperors, the rise of the "Way" or what was the early church, to the burning of Rome...this is a novel not to be missed. Full of intrigue, humor, suspense, and emotion, you will definitely want to read this book.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Review of "LEAD...For God's Sake!" by Todd Gongwer

This book was totally not what I expected. I assumed, based on the title and endorsements, that it was a leadership/coaching "how-to" book....and it sort of is...but not exactly. It's actually a story, yes, about leadership, however, the author employs a parable, an inspirational story to get his point across.

Coach Rocker is one of Kentucky's top high school basketball coaches, and he is highly motivated to win. Married with two children under the age of 10, he is in the midst of what was supposed to be a championship season. His team is losing steam and he can't figure out why.

His friend Grant is a highly successful businessman - everything he touches turns to gold - but his personal life is falling apart, and he's drinking too much. Both men desperately want to find out what they must change to be successful, but are they truly willing to examine themselves and find out some of the responsibility lies in their leadership (or lack thereof?) Pick up this book to find out what happens; you'll certainly learn something, too.

Review of "Just 18 Summers" by Rene Gutteridge & Michelle Cox

Friends, family, neighbors are shaken by the recent tragic death of their beloved Jenny. Her sudden absence from their lives leaves a major void that awakens them to the fact that life can be very short and they must figure out a way to make it count. 

Told from the less common "every chapter is told from a different character's view point" style, this touching and still quite humorous book teaches a lesson about what is truly important; people. Not things. The authors manage to make even the most (initially) unlovable characters human without being cliche. I laughed AND got a little teary at times - and I can easily recommend it!! I found it to be both enjoyable and thought provoking without being bossy about its message.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Review of "When I Fall in Love" by Susan May Warren

At first introduction, Grace Christiansen is a homebody who loves to cook - but really, she is much deeper than that. During her brother Darek's wedding, her family gifts her with a three week cooking "vacation" in Hawaii - and when they tell her about the surprise she literally runs from the room having a minor panic attack! But when she thinks about it a little further, she realizes it is time for her to just feel the fear and do it anyway. She is willing to see what's next in the life God has for her.

Max Sharpe is one of her brother Owen's former teammates, and he too is struggling with some serious fears. He longs to be loved and even have a family, but never talks about why he doesn't even date. He is going on the same culinary vacation as Grace, and when teammate (and Grace's future brother in law) Jace tells him to "look out" for her, he has no idea that what's next for both of them could be much bigger than just a few weeks in paradise.

Easily my favorite so far in the Christiansen Family series! I liked this book so much I read it in one sitting (I went to bed way too late, but it was totally worth it!)  ;)

Review of "The Antelope in the Living Room" by Melanie Shankle

Melanie Shankle's first book, "Sparkly Green Earrings" was a memoir on motherhood, and this one (although in a similar style) is about marriage. Both provide the author's humorous and down to earth take on life and family - and both are well done.

In "The Antelope in the Living Room," each of the chapters -with super awesome titles, such as  "We Make Dave Ramsey Sad" and, "That Time I Almost Went on Judge Judy"- tell a different story from Melanie and husband Perry's lives, beginning with the wedding and their lives as newlyweds up to present day. She calls it "the story of a real marriage," and you can easily see their transparency as well as their love for each other. She doesn't sugarcoat, nor is this a cautionary tale; rather, they are simply real stories that make up their lives together for better or for worse.

I had never heard of Melanie, hadn't read her blog prior to reading this, but CLEARLY we would be friends. If we hung out. And that is perhaps the best endorsement I can offer you :)

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Review of "The Fight" by Luke Wordley

The first book from author Luke Wordley, this novel set in England's boxing world is an interesting portrait of how anger can not only consume you, it can literally make you sick inside and out. From our main character Sam's heartbreak over his father's death, to his mom Janet's drinking problem (same root issue), or his boxing trainer's unresolved issues towards his career ending injury - all of our main characters are dealing with a deep seated anger and resentment towards the situations they've experienced.

Sam is just a kid when his father dies, and he responds with extremely aggressive behavior, picking fights and barely speaking to anyone. His mother's response is to begin to drink - to the point she completely checks out. Sam is expelled from one school after another although his caring social worker continues to try and see what makes him tick. When Sam crosses paths with boxing trainer Jerry Ambrose, he begins to see some hope; however, the road to health is a long one for all of them.

I liked this story and was interested to learn about the world of professional boxing. I struggled with Jerry's (seemingly abrupt) flip from faith to despair. Overall, I would recommend that you read it for yourself and see what you think!