Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Sisters Club

The Sisters ClubFour women have little in common other than where they live and the joyous complications of having sisters. Cindy waits for her own life to begin as she sees her sister going in and out of hospitals. Lise has made the boldest move of her life, even as her sister spends every day putting herself at risk to improve the lives of others. Diana is an ocean apart from her sister, but worries that her marriage is the relationship separated by the most distance. Sylvia has lost her twin sister to breast cancer, a disease that runs in the family, and fears that she will die without having ever really lived.
When Diana places an ad in the local newsletter, Cindy, Lise, and Sylvia show up thinking they are joining a book club, but what they discover is something far deeper and more profound than any of them ever imagined.  With wit, charm, and pathos, this mesmerizing tale of sisters, both born and built, enthralls on every page.

I really enjoyed reading this title!  It read quickly and I thought the pacing was good.  The relationship between these women was fascinating to watch develop.  I had to suspend belief a little bit because I wasn't sure that these women really would develop a relationship so quickly in this way.  But I appreciated a break from the norm book that depicts women as hateful to each other. I loved each of the women and was rooting for them to become better.  My only disappointment was the lack of books in the actual book.  Aside from the titles mentioned at the beginning of each new section, they didn't seem to tie into anything.  For a group that started in a bookshop, I would have liked to hear a little more about that.  Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone who likes reading books about relationships among women in a positive way.

   * I received this book from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review *

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Penguin Lessons

The Penguin Lessons: A True Story'I was hoping against hope that the penguin would survive because as of that instant he had a name, and with his name came the beginning of a bond which would last a life-time.'

Tom Michell is in his roaring twenties: single, free-spirited and seeking adventure. He has a plane ticket to South America, a teaching position in a prestigious Argentine boarding school, and endless summer holidays. He even has a motorbike, Che Guevara style. What he doesn't need is a pet. What he really doesn't need is a pet penguin. Set against Argentina's turbulent years following the collapse of the corrupt PerĂ³nist regime, this is the heart-warming story of Juan Salvador the penguin, rescued by Tom from an oil slick in Uruguay just days before a new term. When the bird refuses to leave Tom's side, the young teacher has no choice but to smuggle it across the border, through customs, and back to school.

Whether it's as the rugby team's mascot, the housekeeper's confidant, the host at Tom's parties or the most flamboyant swimming coach in world history, Juan Salvador transforms the lives of all he meets - in particular one homesick school boy. And as for Tom, he discovers in Juan Salvador a compadre like no other... The Penguin Lessons is a unique and moving true story which has captured imaginations around the globe - for all those who dreamed as a child they might one day talk to the animals.

Hmmm...this book.  Aside from the cover being adorable, I couldn't help but absolutely fall head over heels for Juan Salvador.  I mean, a penguin, named Juan Salvador???  Instant love.  He is probably my most beloved animal in a book, because I so desperately wanted to have him for myself.  However, I wasn't always as in love with the direction of the story.  I realize it was a true story, but I wanted more about the penguin!  Rather than stories that didn't involve him, but involved the culture and politics of Argentina, I would have loved to hear from others about the affects of Juan on their lives.  We heard about the author and Diego, but I have to believe there was more.  I would have so much enjoyed it if the author would have been able to connect with those people from long ago to hear their accounts as well.  That's why the book only got 3 out of 5 stars from me because the star just wasn't showcased as much as I felt he needed to be to make it great.  In the meantime, I'm looking for a stray penguin...   

 * I received this book from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review *

Saturday, September 12, 2015

From Good to Grace

From Good to Grace: Letting Go of the Goodness GospelMany women feel as if they do not do enough and are not enough. They're always trying hard to be good: a good friend, mom, wife, Christian, employee, or ministry leader, hoping for that "atta-girl" from God. With compelling illustrations from her own life, Christine Hoover leads readers to the understanding that they're living by a lesser gospel, the gospel of goodness, one without Christ's grace. Relying on Scripture, they can start asking, "What does God want "for" me?" before asking, "What does God want "from" me?" Women will breathe a sigh of relief at this powerful message of freedom and hope. Rather than serving God out of obligation or duty, they'll be compelled to love and serve God with great joy.

This book is a little harder for me to review than recent titles I have read.  I feel conflicted.  I ABSOLUTELY love the message of this book.  A life with Jesus does not have to be perfect, just filled with grace, for yourself and others.  However, I felt that many times the same ideas were repeated over and over.  I think this book could have been broken down into more sections to break up the thoughts.  It just started to feel like it was repeating itself.  Again, the message it was relaying was exactly what I needed to read, but I found myself often zoning out because it just all ran together.  I guess what I am trying to say is as much as I think the message is beautiful and one so many need to hear, this book could use some more editing.  If you are looking to change your mindset of trying to be "good" all the time, this book will help you see what you can discover.

 * I received this book from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review *

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Love in the Details: A November Wedding Story

Love in the Details: A November Wedding StoryWhen Josh returns to his hometown of Martinsburg, Texas, to help his best friend get married, he didn’t intend to run into church wedding coordinator—and ex-girlfriend—Holly. He can’t help but pine after the girl he never got over.

Holly broke up with Josh years ago in an attempt to ensure his future success. But she loved him then and still loves him now. As she helps him plan his best friend’s wedding, she can’t help but feel horrible for the pain she caused him. And even though she longs to be with Josh, she doesn’t feel worthy of his big-time lifestyle when she is more comfortable in her small town world. Will Josh and Holly be able to keep things as they are when their true feelings threaten to surface at every turn?

This novella didn't blow me away, but I don't think I expected it to either. I was looking for a light read that would be a buffer between other books and this worked. I would mention that I actually thought the plot of this book could have easily been made into a full novel and fared better. The characters had great background and I would have loved to have more, but as a shorter story it was just nothing special.

* I received this book from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review *

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Friends of Jesus

The Friends of JesusIn our everyday lives, friends are the people whom we spend the most time with, go through struggles with at times, and who know us best. Each of Jesus' friends; Peter, John, Matthew, Judas, Mary Magdalene, and Lazarus; traveled with Jesus and were part of His daily ministry, and each has a compelling story to tell. There were some who would question or doubt Him; and one would even betray Him. Kingsbury brings these fascinating personalities to life in ways that will not only help bring you closer to the truths found in Scripture, but also to Christ.

By combining valuable, instructive Bible study with compelling, insightful character sketches of Jesus; companions, Kingsbury provides you with a deeper understanding of the scriptural teachings featuring these fascinating people. Emotionally powerful, thought-provoking, and soulful, The Friends of Jesus will help you to appreciate the Bible and understand how it applies to your relationships with the most important people in your life.

This book was powerful is such a way that you truly felt like you could have been there.  It took Bible stories that I have heard many times and just made them fresh and new.  It was written beautifully and with such care to detail.  I haven't read the first in the series, but will be picking it up very soon.  I hope the author continues this series and that more people will experience the stories for the first time again like I did.  The series is called Life Changing, which is exactly what I hope this book will do for its readers! 

* I received this book from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review *

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Etta and Otto and Russell and James

Etta and Otto and Russell and JamesI've gone. I've never seen the water, so I've gone there. I will try to remember to come back.

Etta's greatest unfulfilled wish, living in the rolling farmland of Saskatchewan, is to see the sea. And so, at the age of eighty-two she gets up very early one morning, takes a rifle, some chocolate, and her best boots, and begins walking the 2,000 miles to water.

Meanwhile her husband Otto waits patiently at home, left only with his memories. Their neighbour Russell remembers too, but differently - and he still loves Etta as much as he did more than fifty years ago, before she married Otto.

I wish I knew where to begin with this book.  I was so intrigued by the blurb above, but the book ended up going in a direction I didn't expect and kind of lost me.  There were just so many things I was hoping to find out and understand and it just never got there.  I waivered back and forth between a 2 and a 3 star rating.  If magical realism is your genre and you don't main vague endings, pick it up.  If this is frustrating to you, I would probably skip it.  I loved the idea of the book, but the storyline just didn't deliver in my opinion.    

* I received this book from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review *

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Somebody I Used to Know

Somebody I Used to Know 
When Nick Hansen sees the young woman at the grocery store, his heart stops. She is the spitting image of his college girlfriend, Marissa Minor, who died in a campus house fire twenty years earlier. But when Nick tries to speak to her, she acts skittish and rushes off.
The next morning the police arrive at Nick’s house and show him a photo of the woman from the store. She’s been found dead, murdered in a local motel, with Nick’s name and address on a piece of paper in her pocket.
Convinced there's a connection between the two women, Nick enlists the help of his college friend Laurel Davidson to investigate the events leading up to the night of Marissa’s death. But the young woman’s murder is only the beginning...and the truths Nick uncovers may make him wish he never doubted the lies.
I was so excited to read this book from David Bell, and it delivered way more than I even anticipated! I just felt so immersed in the story.  I was connected to the characters in a way that made me not want to stop reading, but then I also just didn't want it to end.  I was a little nervous about the book being over 400 pages but it read like a book under 300.  So entertaining, engaging on many levels.  I only had one disappointment regarding a character that played a crucial part in the book with the main character, but it was like Mr. Bell just kind of forgot to include the character toward the end.  If you love books that create a mystery and you want to try and piece it together, this is for you.  If you figure it out, more power to you!   

 * I received this book from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review *

Monday, June 22, 2015

Inside the O'Briens

Inside the O'BriensFrom award-winning, New York Times bestselling author and neuroscientist Lisa Genova comes a powerful new novel that does for Huntington’s Disease what her debut Still Alice did for Alzheimer’s.

Joe O’Brien is a forty-four-year-old police officer from the Irish Catholic neighborhood of Charlestown, Massachusetts. A devoted husband, proud father of four children in their twenties, and respected officer, Joe begins experiencing bouts of disorganized thinking, uncharacteristic temper outbursts, and strange, involuntary movements. He initially attributes these episodes to the stress of his job, but as these symptoms worsen, he agrees to see a neurologist and is handed a diagnosis that will change his and his family’s lives forever: Huntington’s Disease.

Huntington’s is a lethal neurodegenerative disease with no treatment and no cure. Each of Joe’s four children has a 50 percent chance of inheriting their father’s disease, and a simple blood test can reveal their genetic fate. While watching her potential future in her father’s escalating symptoms, twenty-one-year-old daughter Katie struggles with the questions this test imposes on her young adult life. Does she want to know? What if she’s gene positive? Can she live with the constant anxiety of not knowing?

As Joe’s symptoms worsen and he’s eventually stripped of his badge and more, Joe struggles to maintain hope and a sense of purpose, while Katie and her siblings must find the courage to either live a life “at risk” or learn their fate.

I am a huge fan of Lisa Genova's novel, Still Alice.  I was hoping to have the same feelings while reading this novel, but it just didn't evoke the same emotions for me.  I actually know someone who died from Huntington's disease, so I did feel a connection to the main character.  Where I felt the author took a wrong turn was only exploring Joe's story and Katie's story.  What about the other siblings?  They felt so two dimensional because the book didn't give me anything to connect with them.  And the wife, we never heard from her.  I saw the affects the disease took on the spouse of the person I knew and I felt it could have been so powerful and helpful to others facing the same thing.  I know that sometimes a book with multiple perspectives can be overwhelming but I felt this novel could have greatly benefited from this format.  It is a great read to familiarize yourself with this awful disease, but just wanted more.  As a side note, I was annoyed and bothered with how much this book used the "f" word, especially when there really seemed to need for it.      

* I received this book from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review *

Friday, June 12, 2015

We Never Asked for Wings

We Never Asked for WingsFrom the beloved New York Times bestselling author of The Language of Flowers comes her much-anticipated new novel about young love, hard choices, and hope against all odds.

For fourteen years, Letty Espinosa has worked three jobs around San Francisco to make ends meet while her mother raised her children—Alex, now fifteen, and Luna, six—in their tiny apartment on a forgotten spit of wetlands near the bay. But now Letty’s parents are returning to Mexico, and Letty must step up and become a mother for the first time in her life.

Navigating new terrain is challenging for Letty, especially as Luna desperately misses her grandparents and Alex, who is falling in love with a classmate, is unwilling to give his mother a chance. Letty comes up with a plan to help the family escape the dangerous neighborhood and heartbreaking injustice that have marked their lives, but one wrong move could jeopardize everything she’s worked for and her family’s fragile hopes for the future.

Vanessa Diffenbaugh blends gorgeous prose with compelling themes of motherhood, undocumented immigration, and the American Dream in a powerful and prescient story about family.

I wanted to love this book, I mean I really did want to love it.  Especially after reading the author's acknowledgments about being so invested in the book and concerned about reception for her second novel.  But unfortunately, I didn't love it like I hoped I would.  I enjoyed reading it, but somewhere along the way it just fell flat for me.  There were just too many things, too many stories, too many circumstances that seemed resolved too easily or just plain overlooked that I felt really could have made the story more whole had they been handled differently.  I will still read her books in the future, but it just didn't quite captivate me like The Language of Flowers did. 

* I received this book from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review *

Friday, June 5, 2015

Family or Money?

17720896 This is a simple story. It begins with an immigrant grocer selling vegetables from a pushcart and ends in a court case with two billion dollars at risk. Two brothers, sons of the founder, inherit equal shares of a burgeoning food chain. One dies, and his widow, suspecting that she is being short-changed from profits earned, sues to recover.

Now it becomes complicated. The author, an insider with over thirty years working in the food industry, spins a yarn of a twisting, turning labyrinth that features a love tryst, intrigue, betrayal, and greed. The characters and dialogue are real, authentic, and they draw you from the printed page into the middle of this fast-moving action.

Russell Riley is the highest-ranking non-family member of this company and it's his job to protect and grow the business while the two families duke it out in court. But even he can't stay entirely above the fray because he owns stock that could provide the swing vote for control.

If you are in the mood for an insider's take on a nasty and vitriolic family food fight that ended in a celebrated court case, Blood Feud is it.

A book that can simply be described as the breakdown of a family by money.  While I found this book to be engaging, it seemed just like so many other books that involve family business and greed.  I was hoping for a surprise element or something that would differentiate it from other stories.  While disappointed with the overall storyline, the one thing I did enjoy was learning about the supermarket industry.  That were definitely the most fascinating aspect of this book. But beyond that, it's not one I would highly recommend.

 * I received this book from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review *

Monday, April 6, 2015

Love triumphs all

The Day We MetFor fans of Jojo Moyes’s Me Before You comes a beautifully written, heartwarming novel about mothers and daughters, husbands and wives. The Day We Met asks: Can you love someone you don’t remember falling in love with?
A gorgeous husband, two beautiful children, a job she loves—Claire’s got it all. And then some. But lately, her mother hovers more than a helicopter, her husband Greg seems like a stranger, and her kids are like characters in a movie. Three-year-old Esther’s growing up in the blink of an eye, and twenty-year-old Caitlin, with her jet-black hair and clothes to match, looks like she’s about to join a punk band—and seems to be hiding something. Most concerning, however, is the fact that Claire is losing her memory, including that of the day she met Greg.
When Claire meets a handsome stranger on a rainy day, she starts to wonder if Greg still belongs in her life. She knows she should love him, but she can’t always remember why. When Greg gives her a blank book, Claire fills its pages with private memories and keepsakes, jotting down beginnings and endings and everything in between. The book becomes the story of Claire—her passions, her sorrows, her joys, her adventures in a life that refuses to surrender to a fate worse than dying: disappearing.
While initially tempting to compare this book to Still Alice, I started to realize it wasn't the same at all.  While it does address the awful disease we know as Alzheimer's, the story is about so much more.  It's about family, the decisions we make, and most of all love.  I don't want to give anything away, but I did find it a bit predictable and a little too wrapped up, but i still loved the characters and felt connected to their story.  If you are a fan of Still Alice, I think this is a great book to pick up soon!

  * I received this book from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review *

Friday, March 6, 2015

Give me "More" Jesus!

More by Tammie Head People everywhere are looking for something more. Churched and non-churched alike. They're in the grocery store aisle behind you, in the nail chair beside you, singing praise songs in front of you, and perhaps in the mirror staring back at you. People feel messy; plagued by looming feelings of ineffectiveness, indifference, depression, and purposelessness.

Does this sound like you?

Perhaps you keep wishing your life were better than what you are currently experiencing now. What if more of God is actually what’s missing from your life? Do you encounter the freedom God brings each day? Whether it's a messy life or a messy problem in your life, it can become a walking miracle when we see God anew and wholly surrender to Him.

You were made for more than surviving. Old stale religion never satisfies. Neither do the solutions the world has to offer. What all of us need is an encounter with God that reveals truth and sets our hearts ablaze. Tammie has seen this in her own life as well as in countless lives around her. Join her in More for a picture of how you can move from a life marked by messes to one that is truly miraculous.

This book is exactly as the titles suggests - more. For someone who was just searching for more of Jesus, this book really helped me see just how much he loves me and wants me to seek him, despite the mess of life around us. One of my favorite passages said this "He always wanted you. Before you came to be. Before your beautiful limbs and life were delicately crafted in your mother's womb. You were pondered in His own heart and mind. Never were you a mistake or a complicated burden. You were His then. You are His now. And you will be His forevermore." Can anyone else love you like this? Pick up More: From Messes to Miracles if you just want more.

* I received this book from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review *