Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Day-Day, by L. N. Cronk

David and Laci are back, this time as young newlyweds.  They move to Mexico so that Laci can begin missionary work, and the young couple longs to start their family.  But when they suffer a series of traumatic blows, David begins to seek out God's will for their lives, and finds an answer was staring him in the face all along.

This is the second book in the Chop Chop series, and let me tell you, it is a major tear jerker.  I wept, I mean really wept, as I read this book.  I know so many women that have suffered through various fertility issues, so this book really hit home for me.  I love that Cronk does not shy away from putting her characters through a lot of trials, because that is how life really is.  Christians face so many trials, sometimes with grace and humility, sometimes with anger and fear.  It is nice to see this represented in Christian fiction; it makes the stories so much more relatable.  Fertility issues are not easy to tackle, so I applaud the author for doing so with tenderness.

I felt like the story was so real.  It sounded like real people talking, having conversations I have heard my friends have time and again.  I think Cronk has done a fantastic job of creating reoccurring characters to whom readers become endeared.  Each part of their story reveals new, fresh sides to the characters, so that we want to keep reading, so as to see where the story takes us.

I think this story, and this series, will greatly appeal to most Christian fiction readers.  Because the books are relatively free from any inappropriate content, save some tough issues, I think they would be appropriate reading for young adult readers looking to transition into more adult books.  These topics are tough, but I think writing about them, particularly from a perspective of faith, is so necessary.

I received a review copy courtesy of the author.

Monday, November 28, 2011

An Amish Wedding, by Beth Wiseman

Three different women, three different stories, all interwoven, all showing the trials of planning an Amish wedding.  Priscilla King wonders if all the set backs and bad luck are God's way of telling her not to wed.  Naomi Fisher is tired of playing matchmaker for everyone else, while she remains alone.  Rose Bender struggles with allowing friendship to grow into love.  Will these women find their own happiness in the end?

Sometimes, you just need to read a nice sweet love story.  Or three.  This book make me happy.  Just plain happy.  Not a lot of books do that, and while this book was not high literature, it did elicit a specific feeling, so in and of that, it is successful.  I really enjoyed the way the book was three stories, with all the characters making appearances in the various stories.  It made for nice short reading sections, with the added benefit of continuity.  My only critique is that I might have changed the order of the three a bit, since we hear hints of Priscilla's troubles long before we actually read her story.  However, I think with some of the action seeming to take place simultaneously, the order is kind of irrelevant.

I really enjoyed the three main female characters, but I have to say Naomi's story was the one I enjoyed the most.  Having married later than many of my peers, I felt that was the one to which I most related.  Each story was written by a different author, and I think each had their own unique voice, but never strayed from the main concept of the book.

Fans of Amish fiction will enjoy this three-in-one book, as will anyone in need of a nice sweet romance.

I received a review copy courtesy of the publisher.
I review for BookSneeze®

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Girl Who Couldn't Say No, by Tracy Englebrecht

Tracy was a young girl from South Africa who found herself in the "family way" at the age of fourteen.  Through the book, we learn what it is really like to be a teen mom, how it affects your life in the long run, and how your life need not be the tragic cliche we all associate with teen parenthood.  We also learn that in order to survive, one must have a sense of humor.

I really enjoyed this book.  I felt like Tracy gave an honest and endearing account of her experience as a teen mother.  Our culture is currently obsessed with teen parenting, and the drama that it can create.  One need only to look at MTV's program line up to confirm this.  Yet Tracy shows that, while teen parenting is not what most girls dream of, nor is it the optimal situation, it does not have to mean a death sentence or doom the mother to a life of trashy drama.  I loved that Tracy did what she needed to do to make life as good as possible for her kids.  I also loved the fact that Tracy parents gave her so much support.

A few reviewers have criticized the fact that Tracy talked about her dating life, and (gasp) the fact that she had sexual partners after have a child at such a young age.  Um, hello, what century are you living in?  Why is it wrong for a young, healthy woman to have, and heaven forbid, enjoy sex?  Why is it so awful that she sought out love and partnership?  

There are definitely some parts of the slang and some cultural references which we foreign to me, being fairly unfamiliar with South African culture, but that did not hinder my ability to appreciate this book.  It is a nice, lighthearted memoir (not all memoirs have to be heartrending and melodramatic by the way) that made me laugh.  I appreciate the honesty, and really enjoyed the nice easy read.  Memoir fans who appreciate lightheartedness would enjoy the book, as would many fans of the teen mom type reality television shows. 

This book was from my personal library.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Five Sons of Charlie Gisby, by Brendan Gisby and Phil Gisby

Having grown up thinking he had few blood relations, Brenden was surprised when Facebook brought so many Gisby family members out of the woodwork.  Through the miracles of social media, the progeny of Charlie Gisby were able to connect, and learn the rich tales of their family history.

I am a sucker for a great memoir, particularly when it involves family lineage.  Having come from a family with its own rich history, I simply adore learning about other families, particularly of the same time period.  Brendan and Phil allowed me, through this book, to glimpse the drama of their family.  Since my own grandmother was born in the early 20th century, I was able to relate to a lot of the issues that the Gisby family encountered, including both World Wars, having seen the impact of the same issues on my own family.

I love that the history of this family blends personal accounts with historical documents from the same period.  It helped to reinforce the living history which all our families hold.  I found myself really rooting for all of Charlie's sons, and feeling quite connected to them.  

If you are interested in genealogy, and the types of personal stories that can be revealed through genealogical studies, I think you will love this book.  Additionally, the book will appeal to fans of historical writing and memoirs.

I received a review copy courtesy of the author.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Two Moon Princess, by Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban

Andrea is a princess in what seems to be a medieval town on a totally different planet.  She finds it difficult to fit in, and wishes more than anything she did not have to become a proper lady.  When she discovers an ancient portal, she is transported to California on modern day Earth, and realizes that her family is full of secrets.

Andrea is a character going a pretty typical coming of age journey, hers just happens to be taking place as she hops between two parallel worlds.  I have no major problem with the concept of parallel worlds, nor with the coming of age storyline.  I did not, however, enjoy the execution of either concept in this book.  As a whole, the book seems to be halfheartedly executed.  The book tries to weave Spanish history and culture into the story, but for someone unfamiliar, it is totally lost.  The character and plot development seem inadequate, in my opinion.  We learn little about Andrea as a character, and I found the story to be lacking depth.  We learn very little of her experience on Earth, other than the fact she meets a cute boy, and it is never described to my satisfaction how she is able to adapt to her new and foreign surroundings so quickly and easily.

This is probably a perfectly fine book for a young adult reader, considering it offers lots of angles, and crosses several genres including fantasy and romance.  But I felt it did not translate as well for an adult reader as some young adult books do, simply because I wanted it to be meatier, better developed.  

This book is from my personal library.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Shatter Me, by Tahera Mafi

Juliette's touch is lethal, a fact she has learned the hard way.  In a split second, an attempt to help a fallen child has turned her into an instrument of death.  Unable to deal with her, Juliette's parents send her away.  Now she is in a prison, where life is even grimmer that it is outside in a totally destroyed world.  But when Juliette learns the truth about her imprisonment and meets up with a familiar face from her childhood, life takes on a different perspective.

If this book and I were in a facebook relationship, our status would be "it's complicated".  I really liked the concept of the story, as well as the character of Juliette, despite her obvious similarities to Rogue from X-Men.  I really saw a lot of potential in this book, but to get to it you really have to wade through a ton of drama.  So. much. drama.  I felt like I was reading the diary of a 12 year old girl.

The writer's style is most certainly unique, and quite powerful when properly harnessed, but oh my word, the metaphors used are just too much.  About 100 pages into the book, I felt like things calmed down a little.  Whether this was due to me just getting used to all the dramatics, or whether this is because the writer's power was more appropriately channeled I honestly cannot say.  All I know is, the first part of the book was a bit exhausting, but once I got into it, I really liked the story, and the romance of the situation.

The whole concept of dystopian fiction has actually grown on me since reading a few books with dystopian or post apocalyptic themes.  And I think this book does dystopia quite well.  Once I got to the part of the book where more action took place, I seemed to like it a lot better.

At the end of the day, I still say I liked the book quite well.  Do I love it?  Not quite, but it was entertaining and provided me with a good night's entertainment.  Still, I am not ready to make our relationship committed, and I will still be looking for better dystopian fiction with which I have more in common.

I received this as part of the Amazon Vine program.

Forgotten: Seventeen and Homeless, by Melody Carlson

Adele thought her life might finally be on an upswing.  Her mom got a new job in a new town, along with a condo.  They move over the summer, and Adele starts off on the right foot at her new school.  She is hanging out with popular kids, making friends, perhaps even finding romance.  Then, in the blink of an eye, Adele finds herself abandoned by her mother, and homeless.  Will she be able to survive?

I really commend the author for taking on the topic of teen homelessness.  While the book itself was a little soft, the topic is one of real concern, and one we rarely see portrayed in young adult books.  The storyline makes it easy to see how good kids end up in bad situations.  Adele was not a runaway, or a drug user, nor was she suffering from mental illness, yet she ends up homeless.  A good kid, who makes decent grades, and has a part time job, ends up homeless.  Bravo to Melody Carson for breaking down stereotypes of the homeless.  While Adele's mom has mental healthy issues that contribute to the situation, Adele herself is a fairly well adjusted, normal kid.

The thing that bothered me about the book was it seemed to keep the reader at arms' length.  We never really get to know the characters, we are left with lots of unanswered questions, and we are only scratching the surface of the story and the issues at hand.  I think this could have easily been developed into a more detailed, longer novel, with more depth and character development.  As it is, I felt more like I was reading a blog of a homeless teen than a novel written about a homeless teen.

All in all, not a bad book.  This book would be a great way to open up a dialogue about homelessness with young adults.  Unfortunately, the book just left me wanting more.  More about the characters, more about the story, and more about the impact of Adele's homelessness on her life in the long run.

This book is from my personal library.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Why We Broke Up, by Daniel Handler

Min and Ed were an unlikely couple, as he is a jock and she is, well, artsy.  But when they got together, the passion burned with the fire of a thousands suns, as teenagers are wont to do.  And when they broke up, it had to be equally passionate.  So Min is writing Ed a letter, and removing all traces of him from her life.  She is telling him exactly why they broke up.

At first, as I was reading this, I thought the character of Min was unlikely to represent the normal teenage girl.  She is highly intelligent, more than many adults, she like foreign films and is highly ironic.  But what makes her like  almost every other teenage girl in the world is her propensity for drama.  One need only to read a few teenage twitter streams to realize everything, absolutely everything, in the teen world is highly dramatic.  From a literary standpoint, this may not be the most well written book, but in terms of it representing how a teenager would react and write, it was actually pretty spot on.  I also enjoyed the illustrations, which in and of themselves are full of emotion, yet very simple.

Min is a highly emotional character, and I have seen at least one reviewer refer to her as hormonal.  Why must passion and emotion in a female character be classified as a result of hormones?  Perhaps she is merely and artistic teenager.  While not as dramatic as Min, I was an emotional kid, and I hated the fact that people assumed it was my hormones.  As if this is the only reason women of any age are allowed to have actual feelings.

I loved hearing Ed and Min's love story, even within the framework of a highly emotionally charged break up letter.  I think the book will appeal to many young adult readers, because this clearly relates to their lives, and the microcosms in which they reside.

I received this review copy courtesy of the Amazon Vine program.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

31 Dates in 31 Days, by Tamara Durika Johnson

Tamara had been through quite a few breakups and failed relationships, so, upon turning 31, she decided to change her views on dating and relationships by undergoing a dating experiment.  She would go on 31 dates in 31 days.  The first 30 would all be first dates, some with people she knew, some with blind dates, and she would blog about each one.  The final date would be on Valentine's Day, and she would let her blog readers help decide which of her 30 first dates would get a second date on Valentine's Day.  She had no idea what she had gotten herself into.

I wish a book like this had existed when I was still single.  I was the girl who was always in a relationship, from the time I started dating in high school.  Consequently, I was also the girl who went through lots of bad breakups.  By the time I was in my late 20s, I was starting to lose hope, so I know exactly how Tamara was feeling.  I felt like this book spoke to my soul.  Even though I have found my soulmate, and we married two years ago, I remember going through everything Tamara went through, and that is why I felt so connected to this book.

Tamara writes honestly, and from the heart.  While she does tend to see the positive side of each of the dates, she is brutally honest about how she feels about herself.  I loved the message of this book, and my favorite part is how, during an interview, she explained that while not all of her 30 dates were her prince charming, each of them was someone's prince charming, and deserved to be treated with respect.  I also enjoyed how Tamara talked about the experiment changing her view of and love for all people, not just men.

I highly recommend this book for all single girls, to show not only do good men still exist, but that sometimes, to find love, we need to adjust our own ways of thinking, and step outside the box.

I received a review copy courtesy of the publisher.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Wendy and the Lost Boys, by Barbara Silkstone

Wendy Darlin, real estate agent, independent woman, modern day pirate?  Not really the life Wendy envisioned for herself when she promised to look after the criminal miscreant Charlie Hook.  When Hook basically holds Wendy, her friend, and an investigator hostage, they have no choice but to help him recover his ill gotten treasure.

Remember the old Rocky and Bullwinkle show, how there was a segment called fractured fairy tales?  That was my favorite part of the show.  So, to me, it is absolutely no surprise how much I adore Barbara Silkstone's "fractured fairy tale for adults" re-imagining of Peter Pan.  I found this book to be, in short, a hoot.  The writing is clever, and had me doing that really unattractive giggle-snort combination many times throughout my reading.  I love the way the characters embody the essence of the original classic characters, with snarky modern twists.  

Be aware, this is not the Peter Pan story you want your kids reading, it is clearly intended for adult readers.  Yet it appeals to the childlike part of us that loved the classic original stories.  Combine that childlike love with modern politics and technology, and you get this smart, snarky, hilarious mystery.  The story is richly developed and leaves you guessing until the very end.  I am liking this grown up version of Peter Pan even more than the original.

I received a review copy of the book courtesy of the author.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Chop Chop, by L. N. Cronk

For as long as he can remember, David has been friends with Laci.  Even when she does things that annoy him, like chop off her long hair to send to a charity that makes wigs for cancer patients.  David things this is the stupidest thing, until Greg moves to town.  Greg becomes friends with both Laci and David, and a strong bond, as well as strong faith, develops between the three of them.  When the tragedy strikes, with that bond, and that faith, be enough to see David through?

I loved this book.  I will say it again.  I loved this book.  I was moved to tears more than once during the reading of this book.  It is not often that I find a Christian book that has so much depth.  This book deals with love, faith, death, forgiveness, and the pains of going from childhood to adulthood.  We watch David, Laci, and Greg take a tremendous journey, and I felt as though I was taking it with them.

The characters in this book are really well developed, I think in part because we hear the story being told by David.  To hear a character's thoughts allows the reader to connect with the character, and I felt very connected to David.  I loved seeing that these kids were not perfect.  As Christians, we often put a lot of pressure on our youth to be perfect, so I find it encouraging that these characters sometimes struggled with their faith, or with doing the right thing; young readers need to see characters in these types of situations.

The book is highly emotional, particularly toward the end.  It was actually quite difficult for me to watch these characters go through the devastating event they went through, but it is a situation that is relevant and could have been taken from the headlines over the past few years.  I think this book is an excellent read, to adult or young adult readers, and can actually be quite a source of comfort.  As this is the first in a series, I can honestly say, I cannot wait for the second.

I received a review copy courtesy of the author.

Hidden, by Shalini Boland

After a life lost in the foster care system, Madison is happy to learn that she has enherited a house where she and her brother can live.  And not just a house, a grand estate, complete with large grounds, caretakers, and resident vampires.  We learn Madison's story as well as the backstory of the vampires, until eventually their paths cross, and romance ignites.

When I saw that this book was marketed as a paranormal romance, I guess I went into it with a certain mindset.  I expected it to be, well, kind of drippy, as many young adult paranormal romances seem to be.  I think in this case, marketing this as a romance is a bit of a misnomer.  The romance does not even occur until quite late in the book, and the story is so rich with action before we even get to the romance.

The story and narrative change with each chapter, in a structure where we alternately learn about Madison and we learn the backstory of Alexandre and the other vampires.  I have to say, of the two storylines, I preferred learning about the vampires.  I found the writing so much richer, luxurious even, with brilliant historical context, and was much more interested in those portions of the book.  I was actually sad when the storyline got the the point where the past had been completely covered, and the focus was solely on the present.

While I thought the character of Madison was sufficiently developed, I much preferred the character of Alexandre and felt much more connected to his story.  The book seemed more focused on him, and as a result, I was more invested in him than in any other character.  Once the book is completely focused on the present, the action does pick up, with a bit of a twist ending.  As this book is the first in a series, I am interested to see where the next book goes, and if I am better able to connect to Madison's character.

All in all, I think fans of young adult paranormal fiction will enjoy this book.  While it may be listed as a romance, it clearly has much to offer across several genres.

I received a review copy courtesy of the author.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Triangles, by Ellen Hopkins

Funny how someone's life can seem so perfect on the outside, while inside they are falling apart.  Holly, a stay at home mom with seemingly the perfect life, finds herself restless and dives headlong into the world of extramarital sex.  Andrea, Holly's friend, watches Holly destroy her perfect life, while Andrea continues to struggle as a single mother.  And Andrea's sister, Marissa deals with a terminally ill daughter, a gay teenage son, and an unfaithful husband.  All three women live vastly different lives, intersecting at points, forming a series of triangles.

Once again Hopkins delivers a powerful story in verse form.  Being fairly familiar with her writing style, I felt at home with the pacing and the changing points of view in the book.  I felt each woman's voice was distinct, allowing readers to come to know each woman individually, as well as seeing how their paths cross.  I found each woman's story to be realistic and relatable, and I enjoyed watching them unfold.

This book is marketed as Hopkins' first adult novel.  Honestly, I found it was not so different from her young adult novels.  Sure, there was a bit more sex and eroticism in Holly's tale, but Hopkins has never strayed from adult themes within her young adult novels.  The main difference I saw was the ages of the main characters; her young adults tend to focus on the story of teenagers.  The writing style and tone are basically unchanged from her young adult books.  This is not necessarily a criticism, as I think many young adult books are written on very adult levels.  It serves to blur the lines between genres, perhaps not such a bad thing.  I think this book would appeal to college age readers who have read Hopkins' work before and are now transitioning into more adult titles.  But, I see no shame in an adult reading young adult fiction, so whether this was marketed as adult or young adult, I still would have enjoyed it.

 I received a review copy courtesy of Crazy Book Tours and the publisher.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Cedardale Court, by Nathan Lee Christensen

Canner has taken his daughter, Chloe, to live with Uncle Henry, in the hopes that a nice quiet life will help them forget their loss.  But life on Cedardale Court turns out to be, well, not so quiet.  When an accident reveals the death of a local teacher, everyone is stumped as to why she was killed, and who did it.  Turns out, pretty much everyone on Cedardale Court has a secret.

I am a huge fan of dark humor, of thrillers that make me snigger and snort.  So, this book?  Right up my alley.  While the main intention of the story is a murder mystery/thriller, the writing is done in such a witty, droll manner that one cannot help but laugh at parts.  Some of the villains in the story are so unlikely, bumbling and tripping their way through their nefarious deeds.  Not since watching "The Trouble with Harry" have I giggled so much over a dead body.  I just loved it.

Each character has their own unique story to tell, which flows nicely in the overall plot.  It is almost like individual strands being woven together into a sinister tapestry.  Everyone really does have a secret, and I love that slowly, all the secrets are revealed in the story.  By learning each character's story or secret, the reader feels connected to them, slowly, without realizing it is even happening.  It really hooked me and pulled me in to the book.

I think that fans of thrillers and murder mysteries will like the book, but I truly hope the readers will enjoy the wry humor of the writing as well, because to me that is what makes the book so memorable.

I received a review copy courtesy of the author.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Killers, by Shaun Jeffrey

As a police officer, Prosper Snow is no stranger to dealing with murder, and he is always determined to solve his cases.  Sometimes, he gets a little to close to the case for comfort.  So, when people start taking his murder investigations away from him, he is determined to find out why.  He learns that the recent murders are tied to a scientific experiment got bad, and the agency in charge of solving the problem wants him on their team.  They will get his cooperation, even if it means blackmale.  But is the killer really the person they think it is?

I am a huge fan of thriller and crime literature, and I have a sick fascination with serial killers, so this book really appealed to me.  While this is the second in a series, I can say, having not read the first, that this book serves as a great stand alone novel.  The character of Prosper Snow, although a bit removed and mysterious, is well developed, and it is easy to find yourself rooting for him to get the bad guy.

I was quite intrigued with the story.  As a student of psychology, I was fascinated by the concept of the experiment at the center of the plot.  I was aware of some of the scientific concepts the study was being based on, yet it still felt like a new spin on old ideas, which I really  enjoyed.  I was surprised to learn who the real killer was, which is always a sign of a well written suspense novel.

Clearly, with a title like Killers, you know there is going to be some violence in the book, but I felt is was not gratuitous.  It served the purpose of driving the plot, and I thought it was well written.  All in all, I think fans of thrillers, crime dramas, suspense, and even mysteries will enjoy this solid novel.

I received a review copy courtesy of the author.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Love You More, by Jennifer Grant

Not all people are called to parenthood, and not all families look the same.  Even those called to parenthood do not always get there in the same exact way.  Jennifer Grant discusses her transition from young married to mother, and how the blessing of international adoption played a role in her family.

What a fitting book to review during National Adoption Month.  And I can honestly say that this book is a blessing to me.  Very few books are so honest and loving about the fact that not everyone is called to parenting, not every Christian is called to adopt, and not every adoption is a smooth as you see in the movies.  I was moved countless times by Jennifer's courage as she related her doubts, not only as an adoptive mother but as a biological mother.  I love that Jennifer is so candid about her fears, her negative opinions on international adoption, and the fact that this is her story, this journey worked for her family, but it may not work for every family.

I know several families who have been blessed by adoption, and I know that each family's situation is different.  Each family has different struggles, and I think often adoptive parents feel that they cannot show frustration or anger or weariness with their children.  They fought so hard to get these children, they feel they must be happy and grateful all of the time.  Jennifer stresses that regardless of how a child comes into your family, as a parent you have a right, if not a duty, to express what is appropriate or acceptable for your child, and what is not.  It is perfectly fine for a parent, adoptive or biological, to be angry or hurt because of their child's actions or words.  It is perfectly fine to feel frustrated.  You have the right to feel what every other mother in the world feels.  

I personally thing this book is a wonderful, loving resource for all families considering adoption, in the process of adoption, or who have gone through an adoption already.  I love hearing Jennifer's story, and I am sure it will bless many families.

I received a review copy courtesy of the publisher.

I review for BookSneeze®

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Faith of Ashish, by Kay Marshall Strom

Ashish's name means blessing, yet he is an untouchable.  He was born to parents who are untouchables in the early 20th century India.  When Ashish drinks from a cup that is not meant to be touched by an untouchable, his entire world changes.  He suffers a terrible beating, and the only way his family can get medical assistance is for them to become the slaves of a wealthy landowner.  Will his family lose their faith in all that is good?

Having very little knowledge of the caste system in India, I found this book to be fascinating.  I had no idea that the social rules were so rigid among this culture. One thinks of India as what we see in Bollywood movies.  I adored the fact that this portrayed such a honest, realistic story about a social class rarely shown or talked about in art.

I really loved the characters; Ashish is just a child in the book, so his faith is that of a child.  He has no idea what it means for his life and future, the fact that he is an untouchable.  He simply has faith that the world will continue to work the way it always has within his experiences.  An ugly brutal act shows him how little he knows of the world.  Later, when he meets the Christian missionary doctor and nurse, he sees just how little he understands. 

The familial relationship between Ashish and his parents is so tender and heartfelt, the emotions leap from the page. I felt conflicted about the Christian landowner.  In some ways, he is cruel, and greedy.  Yet he tries, in his own mind, to be a good Christian.  Is he a villain, or simply another product of the system into which he was born?

I enjoyed the story immensly, and am anxious to see where the rest of the series will take me.  While this is not the type of story into which I could disappear, it is certainly one which captured my heart.

I received a review copy courtesy of the publisher.

Every Me, Every You, by David Levithan and Jonathan Farmer

Evan was Ariel's best friend, and now, he is part of the reason she is gone.  So, when he begins finding mysterious pictures clearly intended for him, he has to wonder, is it possible she came back?  The pictures lead him on a wild goose chase that has him, and others, questioning his own sanity.  In the end, the bigger question is, did he ever really know Ariel at all?

Everything about this book was incredibly intriguing to me.  The picture and print on the cover tipped me off that this was no normal book.  The book is a combination of pictures and and plot, but instead of the pictures complementing the plot, they actually drive it, and I found that to be incredible.  The pictures have a haunting quality that is equally matched by the shadowy nature of the writing.

I like Evan's character a lot, because he reminds me of someone I would befriend.  I find it fascinating the pull that Ariel has over so many people, yet we know so little about her.  In fact, we do not know what actually happened to her until near the end of the book, although I had some suspicions.  In terms of literary techniques, this book took some getting used to.  The author uses the strikethrough a lot in the writing, to allow us to see the thought of Evan's character that he is not quite willing to reveal yet.  So they are struck through like this.  That felt weird to me at first, but you adjust quickly.

The novel has a dark feeling to it, not sinister, but still dark.  I personally love that, it reminded me a lot of my teenage love affair with Twin Peaks.  I think the book is so unique, it will appeal to a lot of young adult readers, and many adult ones as well.

I received a review copy of this book courtesy of the Amazon Vine program.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Predatory Kind, edited by Joe McKinney

Some readers just love to be scared.  Fear is a funny thing that way, how it can bring so much pleasure and so much dread all at the same time.  And our world is full of things for us to fear, predators both seen and unseen.

Once again, we have a book full of frighteningly fantastic short stories.  Why do I love horror shorties so much?  Because I can read a story, get scared silly, take a break, and start all over again with a new tale of terror.  And trust me, some of the stories in this book are that scary.  The book starts off with a bang, a story about how and why roadside memorials, which I find terribly creepy anyway, really come into being.

My favorite story in the book is titled How the Wind Spoke at Madaket, by Lucius Shepard.  In this tale, the wind is personified, and boy is he pissed.  We learn the dangerous power of the wind, and the reason behind the anger.  It had echos of "The Mist" by King, only we learn more about the reason behind the wind's destructive nature.  I loved it.

If you are a fan of horror, check this out, I think you will like it.  New monsters, new myths, new horror.

I received a review copy courtesy of the publisher.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Out of A Far Country, by Christopher Yuan and Angela Yuan

For years, Chris struggled with the fact that he way gay, mostly because he knew how his parents would respond.  When he is home from dental school for a visit, his parents confront him, and he confirms their suspicions that he is gay.  He turns away from his family.  His mother goes to visit him, preparing to say goodbye before she commits suicide.  Instead, she finds new faith, a faith that saves her, and may one day save her son.

I really wanted to dislike this book, because I thought it was going to be one of those "let's reprogram the gays and make them straight" types of books.  I was shocked to find something entirely different.  This book is written in such an honest manner, and while the parts from the mom's point of view may come across as homophobic, it becomes clear that she is merely confused, dealing with Asian cultural norms, and trying to love her son as best as she can.

I really liked that we got the story from both the mom and Chris at the same time.  I found the chapters in Chris' voice painfully honest, and heartbreaking.  I like that this book did not shy away from him talking about his actively gay lifestyle, nor was the message that Chris needed to become straight in order to become a good Christian.

This is a delicate and private topic for many Christian families, and while this book may not mirror every experience out there, it certainly could be a good resource, or at least a starting point.

I received a review copy courtesy of the publisher.

Holy Ghost Girl, by Donna M Johnson

Donna was raised on the tent revival circuit.  For many years, her mama was the right hand to Brother Terrell.  It soon became clear that mama was also a bit more... Donna grew up watching miracles and sin, holy men and hypocrits, and trying her hardest to make sense of it all.  This, to her, was normality.

I am a huge fan of memoirs, and this has to be one of my favorites that I have read in some time.  Donna does an excellent job of weaving her story in such a way that you are totally transp
orted; you are in that tent with her.  I have never read a memoir that is so vivid and creative in its storytelling.  This would was written better than many fiction books I have read.

I have been around some people who were parts of the Holiness, Charismatic, and Pentecostal movements, so to me this book was a comfortable read.  For those not familiar with this type of spirituality, or not comfortable with organized religion, the book may feel foreign, or far fetched, but I believe the book can appeal to readers across many genres.  I have seen many of the things Donna talks about, which is why the book came so alive for me.  Having never been to an actual revival, however, I was fascinated by the nomadic subculture the revival team developed for themselves.

All in all, this book was fantastically written.  It really captured the reader.  For me, it made me want to learn a whole lot more about David Terrell, and it also made me wonder what happened in the lives of his other followers.

I received a review copy courtesy of Crazy Book Tours and the publisher.


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Live Out Loud, by Heather Wardell

Amy has always been a big dreamer, not just her own dreams, but the dreams of her childhood friend who tragically died.  But never in her wildest dreams did she think she would become a singing sensation, yet that is exactly what happens.  Amy becomes the pop princess Misty Will.  But the biggest question is.... Misty will what?

Once again Heather Wardell gives us a winner.  Wardell has a way of creating characters and situations to which her readers can relate wholeheartedly.  I just love watching Amy's character catapult to fame, and to watch her flounder when fame is a little too much for her to handle.

I liked that this story has a modern feel to it.  Typically, I dislike a lot of pop culture in literature, but in this story it just fits.  This is a story that we can imagine happening in today's world of pop music.  I could totally imagine a singer like Misty rocketing to fame thanks to youtube.  And as a lover of social media, I really enjoy how it factors into Misty's situation.

I was a little surprised at some of the more serious themes at work, dealing with abortion, teen death, and teen sexuality.  I liked that this story had this meat to it, yet was still able to remain so positive.  Well done.

I received a review copy courtesy of the author.

Writing Fiction for Dummies, by Peter Economy

How many people dream of being a famous writer?  But how in the world do you get from plunking away on your laptop to actually getting published?  There are lots of things you need to do to get from point a to point b, and this book will tell you most of them.  Discussions on character development, plot, story line, and theme are just a few of the tools this book contains.

This was the first time I actually read one of the "for dummies" books, because I had a chance to get a good deal on it, and it pertained to an interest of mine.  Which, lets be honest, is probably why anyone would read any of these books.  No one reads about how to write fiction out of sheer curiosity.  And good thing, because they would probably be a little bored.  There is a reason I do not read much nonfiction, and that is because I find it incredibly boring, through no fault of its own.

I thought the book actually contained a ton of great information, was well organized, and easy to read or use as a resource.  It just is not my kind of book, which is absolutely not a flaw.  I am sure I will refer to this book  as a resource if I ever get around to writing.  A bit of the information regarding publishing was a little dated, since self publishing of e-books and small publishers have really changed the market over the past few years, but still the information was valuable, and hopefully will come in handy for me some day.

This book is from my personal library.