Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Hello, Sunshine

Hello, SunshineSunshine Mackenzie has it all…until her secrets come to light.

Sunshine Mackenzie is living the dream—she’s a culinary star with millions of fans, a line of #1 bestselling cookbooks, and a devoted husband happy to support her every endeavor.

And then she gets hacked.

When Sunshine’s secrets are revealed, her fall from grace is catastrophic. She loses the husband, her show, the fans, and her apartment. She’s forced to return to the childhood home—and the estranged sister—she’s tried hard to forget. But what Sunshine does amid the ashes of her own destruction may well save her life.

In a world where celebrity is a careful construct, Hello, Sunshine is a compelling, funny, and evocative novel about what it means to live an authentic life in an inauthentic age.

This is one of those books that appears to be a quick, easy read that's defined as chick-lit.  All of that is true, but it was more than that as well.  I read this book in under 24 hours and I didn't want to stop.  It was funny, charming and didn't require my brain to work too much.  It reminded me that I actually miss reading fun books like this.  It made me start looking for more books just like it.  But, best of all, I actually took some lessons away from it.  I have been thinking a lot about the life we live on social media prior to this book but this really hit it home for me.  What image am I trying to portray about myself?  Is it true?  Do we really "know" someone because we are social media friends and followers?  Am I cultivating true relationships?  This book will have me reflecting on those questions for awhile.  Looking forward to reading other titles by Laura Dave and novels that have the same qualities that this one had because I just don't read them enough anymore.   

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

Remarkable Faith: When Jesus Marveled at Faith in Unremarkable People

Remarkable Faith: When Jesus Marveled at Faith in Unremarkable PeopleThis collection of inspirational vignettes, based on eight of the Bible's unlikely examples of faith, will give readers a fresh intimacy with Jesus.

REMARKABLE FAITH tells the stories of people whose faith was of such quality that Jesus himself marveled at it-people who were broken, needy, and dependent. These eight inspiring vignettes weave history, theology, and fictional detail into their biblical accounts to bring relief and a new perspective to those whose faith feels unremarkable. Written to encourage and relieve discouraged Christians who wonder if their faith is a disappointment to God, this book will demonstrate that remarkable faith-the kind Jesus marveled about-isn't about achieving or performing. Readers will discover they can exchange their performance-based evaluation of their faith with a fresh, life-giving intimacy with the Jesus who delights in transforming inadequacies into irrepressible affection. 

The description of this book was the main reason I picked it up, however something was just missing from me to give it my full attention.  I loved having the scripture and I really enjoyed the retelling of the story with more details.  I could picture it happening and it just gave me a wonderful image of each Bible story.  It was the application section that just fell flat for me.  I didn't relate the story to the application.  At times, it just seemed to not fit together.  I actually felt that those sections were not needed because the stories had enough impact on their own.  So that would be my only criticism.  I would have liked those sections to tie together better or just not have them at all.      

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

Beartown

BeartownPeople say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever encroaching trees. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys.

Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden, and the semi-final match is the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected.

Beartown explores the hopes that bring a small community together, the secrets that tear it apart, and the courage it takes for an individual to go against the grain. In this story of a small forest town, Fredrik Backman has found the entire world.


Based on Fredrik Backman's other novels, this one came as a surprise.  A went into it expecting the tone to be different than his other works, but I was still caught of guard, in mostly a good way.   The story was beautifully told and it kept me engaged even though it took almost halfway through before anything truly happened.  This book made me feel sadness and anger in ways that most novels don't.  I felt a part of the Beartown and wanted to help the characters see the destruction they were creating.  My only criticism would be the overuse of foul language.  I take heat for saying this, but I find it detracts from the story rather than adds to it.  I realize this is my personal opinion, but I find myself disengaging when the language used becomes too much.  Sometimes a book makes me scared of being a parent, and this one did exactly that.  However, I must say that it opened my eyes to parent/child relationships and how you have to stay engaged with your children.  I'm looking forward to reading Mr. Backman's future works!
 
 * I received this book from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review *


Saturday, June 10, 2017

Here and Gone

Here and Gone 
Here and Gone is a gripping, wonderfully tense suspense thriller about a mother's desperate fight to recover her stolen children from corrupt authorities.. It begins with a woman fleeing through Arizona with her kids in tow, trying to escape an abusive marriage. When she's pulled over by an unsettling local sheriff, things soon go awry and she is taken into custody. Only when she gets to the station, her kids are gone. And then the cops start saying they never saw any kids with her, that if they're gone than she must have done something with them... Meanwhile, halfway across the country a man hears the frenzied news reports about the missing kids, which are eerily similar to events in his own past. As the clock ticks down on the search for the lost children, he too is drawn into the desperate fight for their return.



Whew!  There were moments in this story that gave me goosebumps like no other!  It was gripping from the start and I found myself thinking about it even when I couldn't be reading it.  It made me stop and think about my two children and what lengths I would go to protect them as their mom. However, it also gave me pause in thinking that I need to be a little more watchful of people and situations that may not always be as they seem.  The writing was engaging and fast-paced, but my one problem would be towards the end it became a little to unbelievable and tied in a bow.  Don't get me wrong, I like a satisfying ending, but I think I wanted more.  The book could have been 50 -100 pages longer and explored additional details that could have made for a more interesting conclusion.  I wanted more of Danny's story and felt that the side of the Black Net could have been more developed.  Basically, I just wanted more!  Definitely enjoyed the book and would like to read more stories like this one in the future.

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

 

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Everything We Left Behind

Everything We Left BehindTwo months before his wedding, financial executive James Donato chased his trade-laundering brother Phil to Mexico, only to be lost at sea and presumed dead. Six and a half years later, he emerges from a dissociative fugue state to find he’s been living in Oaxaca as artist Carlos Dominguez, widower and father of two sons, with his sister-in-law Natalya Hayes, a retired professional surfer, helping to keep his life afloat. But his fiancĂ©e, Aimee Tierney, the love of his life, has moved on. She’s married and has a child of her own.  Devastated, James and his sons return to California. But Phil is scheduled for release from prison, and he’s determined to find James, who witnessed something in Mexico that could land Phil back in confinement. Under mounting family pressure, James flees with his sons to Kauai, seeking refuge with Natalya. As James begins to unravel the mystery of his fractured identity, danger is never far behind, and Natalya may be the only person he can trust.

I tried so hard to love this book as much as I enjoyed the first, Everything We Keep, but I just did not.  While I appreciated the effort, it just felt forced, overly complicated and at times unrealistic.  I just wanted to get to the end to find out what happened, yet I really didn't care how.  It was fast paced, but the constant back and forth at times were confusing, even though I usually enjoy this style of storytelling.  I feel bad, giving a negative review, but I just enjoyed the first book so much and what it created but then that all was lost.  

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

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Breakdown

The BreakdownIf you can’t trust yourself, who can you trust?
Cass is having a hard time since the night she saw the car in the woods, on the winding rural road, in the middle of a downpour, with the woman sitting inside—the woman who was killed. She’s been trying to put the crime out of her mind; what could she have done, really? It’s a dangerous road to be on in the middle of a storm. Her husband would be furious if he knew she’d broken her promise not to take that shortcut home. And she probably would only have been hurt herself if she’d stopped.
But since then, she’s been forgetting every little thing: where she left the car, if she took her pills, the alarm code, why she ordered a pram when she doesn’t have a baby.
The only thing she can’t forget is that woman, the woman she might have saved, and the terrible nagging guilt.
Or the silent calls she’s receiving, or the feeling that someone’s watching her…

Oh my word...I don't even know what to say about this book!  I loved "Behind Closed Doors" and it was an incredible read, but I think I enjoyed this even more!  While there were times I suspected certain people, it still threw me for a loop and kept me on the edge of my seat.  As a busy mom, I very rarely sit down and read for a lot of time solidly, but I read this book in 2 sittings.  There were a couple things that felt a little far fetched, but I honestly didn't care.  I will automatically read anything this author publishes.  Since finishing this book, I've tried to pick up other things and I can't find anything I am interested in.  That's the sign of an incredible read!

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

Monday, May 8, 2017

Are You Sleeping

Josie Buhrman has spent the last ten years trying to escape her family’s reputation and with good reason. After her father's murder thirteen years prior, her mother ran away to join a cult and her twin sister Lanie, once Josie’s closest friend and confidant, betrayed her in an unimaginable way. Now, Josie has finally put down roots in New York, settling into domestic life with her partner Caleb, and that’s where she intends to stay.

The only problem is that she has lied to Caleb about every detail of her past—starting with her last name.

When investigative reporter Poppy Parnell sets off a media firestorm with a mega-hit podcast that reopens the long-closed case of Josie’s father’s murder, Josie’s world begins to unravel. Meanwhile, the unexpected death of Josie’s long-absent mother forces her to return to her Midwestern hometown where she must confront the demons from her past.

 I could definitely understand why this novel would be compared to Serial and I think that was a fair assessment.  It really gave me insight on how the people who are a part of these in real life must feel to have it dredged up again and on display for everyone to see.  The characters in the book were engaging, some likeable, others not.  It kept me engaged and wanting to read more.  There was something missing for me to take this to a full 5 stars, but I think for a book compared to a cultural phenomenon it could have been way worse.  Well done on a solid book!

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


Glory in the Ordinary

 



For stay-at-home moms, it's easy to view other people's work as more valuable to God, dismissing the significance of seemingly mind-numbing, everyday tasks. In this life-giving book, Courtney Reissig encourages moms with the truth about God's perspective on their work: what the world sees as mundane, he sees as magnificent. Discussing the changing nature of stay-at-home work and the ultimate meaning of our identity as image bearers, Reissig combats common misunderstandings about the significance of at-home work—helping us see how Christ infuses purpose into every facet of the ordinary.






I enjoyed the premise of this book because as a stay-at-home mom I often struggle to find purpose in the mundane tasks of everyday.  The author gave great examples and tied them in nicely.  She did make me see that what I do everyday truly matters.  My only criticism would be that the book seemed in the description to be marketed to stay-at-home moms, but often times the author would talk about work-at-home moms and working moms.  While I have no problem with that, it can often time be hard to discuss a topic that includes all three groups.  If the author intended it to be for stay-at-home moms, I would have just stuck to that group in the book.  If she meant for it to include all moms, I would have marketed as such instead of referencing stay-at-home moms.  Just a little thing I noticed, but can really vary the audience that will pick the book up if they feel like it isn't for them.

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




Tightropes and Teeter-Totters

Tightropes and Teeter-Totters: Finding Balance in the Ups and Downs of Life 


Lisa Pennington knows how to get up after losing her balance, even with a full house, a not-so-full bank account, and never enough energy. In her latest book, she offers readers:Strategies for finding balance in marriage, motherhood, and bad moods. Playful yet biblically based tips for turning hard days around. Inspiration for shaping obstacles into opportunities. Ways to respond to irritations with gratitude. Enthusiastic encouragement for living out God’s purpose.For every woman who wonders if her satisfaction in life will ever match her dreams, Pennington has real-life answers full of hope and humor.




This was a wonderful book that teaches how to keep your balance in life.  It used the word BALANCE to list the steps.  I really enjoyed the setup and the examples she gave.  I would definitely reference this book in the future if I needed a reminder of finding balance.  I can see myself pulling it out at different times when facing difficulties.  I would be interested in reading more by Lisa Pennington soon!

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

Becoming a Woman Who Knows God by Name

Becoming a Woman Who Knows God by Name: Protected, Encouraged, and Strengthened by His PromisesThese names of God give you important insight into His steadfast character. Seek the Lord on a deeper level by getting to know Him as He reveals Himself in the Bible...Elohim—Creator of your life and purpose Jehovah Jireh—Provider of your endless supply Jehovah Rophe—Healer in your brokenness Jehovah Shalom—Peace in your fear and uncertainty.  Knowing God by name makes Him more approachable and His Word more applicable. Learning who He is and how deeply He loves you gives you confidence to walk by His side day by day.

Strengthen your trust in God for every circumstance, hope, and step of faith in this study of some of the most beloved aspects of His nature. Let His heart assure your heart as you become a woman who knows the God of the universe by name.



I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book for my devotional time.  It was thought provoking and kept me engaged.  My only criticism would be at times it felt more like a textbook and lost my interest at times.  Jen Wilkin wrote a book called "None Like Him" that talked about the qualities of God and it felt similar, but Jen's title was more engaging.  Not that I need something to be surface level, but I don't think a person new to the Word of God would understand some of the text.  This book is well researched and I appreciated the knowledge I came away with.  

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

I Liked My Life

I Liked My LifeMaddy is a devoted stay-at-home wife and mother, host of excellent parties, giver of thoughtful gifts, and bestower of a searingly perceptive piece of advice or two. She is the cornerstone of her family, a true matriarch...until she commits suicide, leaving her husband Brady and teenage daughter Eve heartbroken and reeling, wondering what happened. How could the exuberant, exacting woman they loved disappear so abruptly, seemingly without reason, from their lives? How they can possibly continue without her? As they sift through details of her last days, trying to understand the woman they thought they knew, Brady and Eve are forced to come to terms with unsettling truths.

Maddy, however, isn’t ready to leave her family forever. Watching from beyond, she tries to find the perfect replacement for herself. Along comes Rory: pretty, caring, and spontaneous, with just the right bit of edge...but who also harbors a tragedy of her own. Will the mystery of Maddy ever come to rest? And can her family make peace with their history and begin to heal?
 
This book was just okay for me.  I liked the premise and enjoyed the journey, but I thought it took a little longer than I would have liked for it to get to the conclusion.  While I wouldn't describe this as a "ghost story" I tend to not like books that have elements of someone beyond the grave because it just feels unrealistic to me.  I think the story could have been told without that aspect which is why my rating is 3 stars, instead of 4.  I would read this author again depending on the description of the book.   

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

Hope Unfolding: Grace-Filled Truth for the Momma's Heart

Hope Unfolding: Grace-Filled Truth for the Momma's HeartGod’s love, plans, and promises for you are forever unfolding. I get it, Momma. I totally get it.  Every day you wake up and try your very best. You love, give, and pour out your life for the ones who call you Momma. But no matter how much you offer, there are still days you feel as though you come up short. You worry, Am I loving these babies enough? Is this ever going to get easier? Why does it seem like I am the only one who cannot balance it all? Sometimes, we just need hope (and maybe a long uninterrupted nap). We need someone to help tune our hearts to the voice of the Father and to remind us that He has not forgotten about us. In Hope Unfolding, Becky Thompson is a friend who reminds you that you aren’t alone, and that God is still writing your story. She guides you to encounter the Truth of God’s presence that not only fuels you with strength, but also a fresh confidence. And beyond gaining faith that tomorrow could be different, you find hope and purpose where you are standing today.

This book has been on my shelf for a while and I've just kept skipping over it.  Oh, how I regret that!  I could have benefited from reading awhile ago, but so glad I finally picked it up.  The other just had an honest way of relating to each chapter and I just felt myself in each area.  I loved the stories mixed with God's word.  It was very easy to understand, yet challenged me on many levels.  I believe this author has another book available and I hope to get my hands on it soon.  As a side note, the cover of this book is beautiful!

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



Friday, April 28, 2017

Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon April 2017

Current Totals:
Pages Read: 21
Time Read: 20 minutes
 
Update: 10am - So far I haven't read much.  The kids woke up way earlier than normal so it's been a slow start.  

I am back for my third round of Dewey's 24 hour readathon. We have a busy day with some family activities, but hoping I can do some reading in the morning and in between.  I picked up a couple graphic novels and fiction reads for tomorrow to mix in with a couple of NetGalley titles I need to finish and review.  Thanks again to all who dedicate their time to running this 24 hours.  My plan is to update here with totals as often as I can as well as on Twitter @mustreadsoon if I can do that without getting distracted.  Best of luck to my fellow readers!


Saturday, February 18, 2017

I See You

You do the same thing every day.

You know exactly where you're going.

You're not alone.

When Zoe Walker sees her photo in the classifieds section of a London newspaper, she is determined to find out why it's there. There's no explanation: just a website, a grainy image and a phone number. She takes it home to her family, who are convinced it's just someone who looks like Zoe. But the next day the advert shows a photo of a different woman, and another the day after that.

Is it a mistake? A coincidence? Or is someone keeping track of every move they make . . .

I thoroughly enjoyed this book!  I wanted to read this book after finishing the author's other title, I Let You Go.  This book kept me in suspense and guessing the whole time.  At times I did think you had to suspend belief just a little, but overall I just could not figure this one out and I love that about a book.  The storyline was different than many other suspense type novels which is always a welcomed change.  I will continue to seek out titles by this author in the future because I fly through these books.  The only thing that stopped me from giving it a 5 star rating were the times when things just didn't feel realistic to me, but it didn't affect my ability to get sucked right in to the narrative.  
 
  * I received this book from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review *
 

Word Writers: Ephesians


Word Writers™: Ephesians: Experience the Bible . . . Writing Word by WordThe book of Ephesians calls you to carry on with a rich understanding of God's love and the strength to serve those around you. Get ready to explore this magnificent book through the tried-and-tested inductive study method—with an added writing step to help you treasure each word!

In this exciting Bible study (complete with devotions, questions, and blank pages in the back), you will...

READ—Find out what these verses say.
REFLECT—Discover what these verses mean.
RESPOND—Apply these verses to your everyday life.
WRITE—Rewrite these verses to better remember them.

As you dive into Ephesians you will learn how God intends for you to walk in His love and power, daily drawing closer to Him.

I previously read and reviewed Word Writers: Philippians and in the review I explained that I did not enjoy re-writing the scripture so I didn't even attempt to try it while reading this title.  With that said, I really enjoyed the daily writing even more in this selection and really looked forward to my time to read each day.  I would definitely pick up another one if the author continues the series.

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

Saturday, January 7, 2017

All the Good Parts

All the Good PartsAt thirty-nine, Leona Accorsi is broke, single, back in school, and living in her sister Carly’s basement. She’s perfectly content being quirky Auntie Lee to Carly’s four children. That is, until Leona’s doctor tells her that if she wants to have a child, she’d better do it now.

Leona does want a baby. She always has, but the circumstances have never been right. Now she has a huge decision to make: face motherhood on her own or risk missing out on its rewards.

Unfortunately, she’s let her romantic life go stagnant. She barely even knows any single men. She has just a few prospects: a Vietnam vet and partial amputee, his intimidating son, the sweet but troubled man who tutors her niece, and a fellow nursing student she’s never actually met.
As Leona discovers more about each one, she realizes any of them could be the right man for the job. The more important question is, has she become the right woman?

Well, I sure hope this book isn't an indication of how my reading for 2017 is going to be?!?  I don't often give below a 3-star rating, but I just couldn't go any higher with this title.  I loved the cover of this book and the description was intriguing, but it was so unrealistic I had a hard time getting through it.  I liked Leona, the main character, and basically continued the book because I wanted to know if and who would father her baby.  Beyond that, I just didn't care.  The side characters and plot line were not believable and nor enjoyable.  I'm not really sure what else to say, I just simply did not enjoy the book and hate to say it but I would not recommend reading it.  

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