Monday, August 30, 2010

Pearl by Lauraine Snelling

The legacy of the Dove House continues in Pearl, the second book in Lauraine Snelling's Dakota Treasures series. Ruby, Opal and the ladies of the Dove House are joined by Pearl, a school teacher who harbors physical and emotional scars as well as a secret that she is running from. The ladies bind together to face more unexpected circumstances – some good, some bad. As romance blossoms, trouble brews. Pearl is running from an arranged marriage, money is still tight for Ruby and Opal has picked up some disturbing habits. In the end, only by trusting in God will each woman come to find rest, joy and love.

I liked this book, although I did not think it was as good as the first book in the series, Ruby. The beginning was a little slow. However, about a fourth of the way through, the book captured my interest and I enjoyed reading the rest of it. The one thing that bothered me about the book was that although we know Pearl's mother died and Pearl has a scar, we never quite find out the complete circumstances about the incident. It is possible that this may be explained in one of the later books in the series. The first book in the series also had a lot of openness to the ending. I definitely would not recommend reading this book without first reading Ruby as it was heavily built upon the first book.

One Hand, Two Hands

One Hand, Two Hands by Max Lucado is the story of a young girl who explores all the different things one can do with hands. The young girl is joined by her animal friends who mimic what she does as well as provide her with ways to use her hands. From writing a letter to grandma to picking up socks to clapping, so many things can be done with these wonderful hands that each person has been equipped with.

One Hand, Two Hands will be enjoyed by any child who loves stories and animals. The illustrations by Gaby Hansen are well done, colorful and fun looking. The story teaches a good moral about using our hands to help others as well as acknowledges just how miraculous hands really are. Towards the end of the book, the narration also points the reader towards God and concludes with a request for God to use these hands again. I would recommend this for ages 8 and under. Even toddlers who cannot read will enjoy the illustrations.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Ruby by Lauraine Snelling

At the request of her dying father, Ruby Torvald resigns her position of governess and takes her younger sister, Opal, to meet him and to claim their inheritance. What her father fails to mention is that their inheritance is the Dove House – a saloon filled with gambling, liquor and “hospitality services.” When Ruby and Opal arrive, they are understandably shocked. After the death of their father, they face the daunting reality that they must claim their inheritance to keep Ruby's promise to their father. Ruby's determination to restore the Dove House to a respectable family establishment is met with resistance on all sides. Ultimately she finds that her strength alone is not adequate for the task, but there is One whose strength never fails.

Somehow this book was not what I expected, but in a good way. I found myself cheering Ruby on as she struggled against the many challenges. The characters seemed authentic and Opal's character was especially amusing. This is only the first book in the Dakota Treasures series and the ending was somewhat resolved and somewhat open. I am eager to continue reading the rest of the books in this series.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Amazing Adventures, Creative Connections and Daring Deeds: 40 Ideas That Put Feet to Your Family's Faith

Amazing Adventures, Creative Connections, and Daring Deeds by Tim and Alison Simpson is a family devotion book aimed at getting families to reach out with their faith. Rather than simply, reading a devotion and talking about it, by using this book, the family will also have ideas to put each person's faith to work in a very real and meaningful way. Topics include: The Ten Commandments, Giving to the poor, Fear, Forgiveness and many more.

Each devotion is only a few pages long and includes four parts. The first part is a text that the family will read together. This is followed by an activity that is done within the family. The third part includes Scripture reading and discussion questions. There are different questions suggested for different ages. Remember, this part is about discussion, not just answering the questions. The questions are actually designed as icebreakers to get discussion flowing about the topic. The final section is often a challenge of sorts. It gives guidance about how to take this devotion and apply it by reaching out to those outside of the family.

This book is very flexible. It is definitely suited at families that have children. Personally, I don't think a family would do more than two of these devotions a week. The things-to-do in the final part of each devotion are often time consuming or cost money. For example, the very first devotion in the book challenges the family to pack up every bit of non-perishable food and give it away. In my house, that would be very costly. This is not necessarily bad. It just makes for something that is not quite feasible for everyday use.

On a side note, with a little adaptation, many of these devotions could be used as Sunday School or Children's Church lessons.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NavPress Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

The Bennet sisters are in danger of being poor and homeless should their father die and at least one of them not be married. When a new neighbor, Mr. Bingley, moves to the neighborhood and appears to be single, Mrs. Bennet is determined that one of her daughters will marry him. What ensues is an interesting courtship between Mr. Bingley and Jane Bennet, the oldest of the sisters. During the course of this courtship, Jane's younger sister, the headstrong Elizabeth, encounters the brooding Mr. Darcy, a dear friend of Mr. Bingley. Their first impressions of each other are not amiable and lead to dislike on both sides. The dislike is enforced on Elizabeth's side by her new acquaintance, Mr. Wickham. She openly accepts Mr. Wickham's reports of Mr. Darcy and her prejudice grows. A surprising proposal by Mr. Darcy and its aftermath lead Elizabeth to rethink her prejudices. What she can not know is that Mr. Darcy's pride is also being reanalyzed by himself. Will the two ever be able to overcome their pride and prejudice? And if they can, what will be the result of it?

This was the first time I have read Pride and Prejudice and it has cemented Jane Austen as one of my favorite authors. The story line was intricate, marked by detail, humor and romance. Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy are an enjoyable match and I sympathized with Elizabeth's irritation. I was especially amused by the character of Mr. Bennet. His wit had me laughing, while at other times, his parenting skills appeared to be sorely lacking.

Austen masterfully crafted this story that was published when she was only 21. I am a little in awe of Jane Austen. The two other books by her that I have read were good, but, in my opinion, this one is the best.

This Barnes & Noble Classic edition included an Introduction and Notes by Carol Howard. The Notes were especially helpful in understanding certain portions and the introduction was good. However, the introduction contained a lot of spoilers and I am thankful I read it after reading the book.

Pride and Prejudice: Book vs. Movie

After I finished reading Pride and Prejudice, I absolutely had to watch the movie. I had seen it before, but this time, I saw it in a completely different light because I knew all the background behind what the characters were saying. The movie does a good job of telling the story, but due to time constraints, it can not express everything as fully as the book does. As expected, the movie does deviate from the book in some parts, but I did not find any of its deviations offensive to the story. The main story line remained the same and there were parts that were verbatim from the book. I think I enjoyed the movie more once I had read the book than when I had watched it previously.

Whoever chose Simon Woods to portray Mr. Bingley did an excellent job. He acted just like the Mr. Bingley in the book and looked sufficiently like what I would have imagined him to look like. The other characters were also suitable to their counterparts in the book.

As almost always is the case, I liked the book better than the movie. However, this movie is still quite good and even more enjoyable now that I have read the book.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

An Echo of Hope by Dianna Crawford

She might be named Hope, but Hope Underwood gave up on marrying her true love, Michael Flanagan, years ago. After waiting seven years for Michael to return to Reardon Valley, Hope reluctantly married Ezra Underwood and later gave birth to her son, Timmy. When Ezra is killed in the war, Hope continues to live with her in-laws, the Underwoods, and tries to build a loving home for her son. The day that the soldiers of the war return to Reardon Valley is filled with joy and homecoming, but the messenger that brings Ezra's last letters to Hope and the Underwoods is none other than Sergeant Michael Flanagan. His very appearance causes not only a stirring in Hope's heart, but also a stirring of anger and prejudice in the community. Will Michael be able to overcome his father's reputation and establish himself as a man worthy of Hope Underwood? It's not going to be an easy task, but Love always finds a way.

An Echo of Hope is well-named by the author. At the beginning, it seems that there is barely an echo of hope remaining for Michael and Hope's love. At one point it seemed like there was no way the main characters could ever be together without leaving where they live. Yet, the author found a way to bring them together in a satisfying resolution that was neither cliché nor unrealistic. I loved it. While I would not consider this a mystery, there is an element of drama in the plot that keeps the reader guessing who did it, why it was done and what will happen next? This helped to keep the pace of the story moving and made for a delightful read.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Deep in the Heart of Trouble by Deeanne Gist

Essie surrendered her life to God years ago. With that surrender came the acceptance of her singleness. Now, at age 34, Essie is considered to be an old maid and is content helping with her father's business, running the Corsicana Velocipede Club and spending time with her loved ones. When her father hires Tony Bryant, Essie's under-control world begins to spin out of control – especially when Tony asks for permission to court her! But Essie and Tony both harbor secrets. Essie made a horrible mistake in her past and Tony hides his very identity. Can Essie and Tony both gather the courage to reveal their darkest secrets before the secrets destroy them?

Deep in the Heart of Trouble by Deeanne Gist is the sequel to Courting Trouble and I admit, of the two books, I liked this one better. The plot was filled with romance and at the same time had characters that challenged the reader to grow closer to God. I certainly admired Essie's dedication to God and her understanding that her worth came from God – not a man. She found contentment in her singleness and was willing to stay that way until God decided otherwise. Gist's writing style was catchy, fun and humorous. Mrs. Lockhart's character was absolutely charming. I loved the way she quoted romance novels to make her point. Overall, a good book that I would recommend for a permanent library. I will definitely be reading it again.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Rain Song by Alice J. Wisler (Revised)

Nicole Michelin lives in fear. She avoids airplanes, motorcycles, her past and Japan – the land where her mother died. She lives in fear of her grandmother's death and only finds solace in her fish and her writing. Her online column at the Pretty Fishy Website attracts the attention of one Harrison Michaels. As Nicole and Harrison correspond, he reveals that he knew her as a child and that their parents were friends. Nicole is intrigued, but very hesitant when Harrison suggests that she visit him in Japan. After all, that would require riding in an airplane. Ultimately, this story is about confronting fear and experiencing liberty.

I quite liked the main character narrating the story. The author gave her a unique and pleasing sense of humor. Unfortunately, I was quite dissatisfied with the book. I try to not be overly critical in my book reviews, but there were some issues that bothered me. The synopsis of this book made it sound like a romance. There was little to none. There was potential in the concept, but the author chose not to execute it. Also, I noticed at that author slipped from present tense to past tense writing at points where it should not have been done. I can understand the change if the the narrator were to begin recounting an event from her past. However, this particular slip was not made at such a point. This made for uncomfortable reading. But my biggest complaint about the book is that it stopped right in the middle of her visit to Japan. There was no epilogue, no sequel. Just a bunch of openness and things that were unresolved. (Her relationship with Harrison, her relationship with her father, etc.)

Friday, August 6, 2010

Sorting Through the Clutter

I like to buy books on sale!

I've bought a lot of books.  Unfortunately, I've never read at least a third of them.  I have some books that I've read over and over because I know they are going to be good.  They are going to draw me in and capture my attention. And then there's those that I bought with good intentions and just never got around to reading for whatever reason...

So, I'm making an effort to read some of the books that I've bought and just never had time to read.  Some of them are old and probably obscure. I plan to post reviews of them on here anyway. Eventually, my goal will be to have a book shelf full of extremely good books. Not only do I not have the bookshelf yet, but I have alot of books to weed through.  Some of them may not survive the cut.  But, I'm done with clutter.

Organization makes me happy.  :)

Love Is A Flame: Stories of What Happens When Love Is Rekindled

Love is A Flame contains the diverse stories of marriage experiences from both men and women. I was pleasantly surprised at the stories in this book. I had expected some of them to just be corny. However, for the most part, they were interesting and conveyed important life lessons. Most stories were only three or four pages long. I usually read several of them in a single sitting. At the end of each story, there is a small note from James Stuart Bell, the man who compiled the book. In these notes, Bell simply gives a little counseling about whatever topic was discussed. I think this is an excellent book for any Christian in a marriage relationship. It certainly gives enough advice that there is bound to be something that anyone could benefit from.

The stories in this book were quite diverse. Some were sobering, some were humorous. Some were difficult, some were light. Some of my personal favorites included: Our Honeymoon and the Dangers of the Demon Brew, The Krikat Caper, It Began in the Nursery and The Only Sure Foundation.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."