Where I share my love of books with reviews, features, giveaways and memes. Family and needlepoint are thrown in from time to time.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Touching Wonder by John Blase (Book Review)

Title: Touching Wonder: Recapturing the Awe of Christmas
Author: John Blase

Publisher: David C. Cook

My thoughts: This was a wonderful little book that really made the Christmas season human. It takes the birth of Jesus, as written in Luke 1, 2, and makes it read as if you are right there. You see different perspectives in history ranging from Elizabeth, Mary's cousin, to the shepherds who came the night Jesus was born.

Each chapter starts out with a portion of Luke using The Message version. The author than restates that part of Luke as explained above. He ends the chapter with a prayer, really putting the humanness of today into what we have just read.

I am probably not doing the best job of describing what a wonderful little book this is. Small enough to tuck in your purse, it disguises the weight of the message that it brings - The Lord is come!

About the author: John Blase's work includes Living the Questions and Living the Letters Bible-study series, the Worldviews reference book (TH1NK), Real Life Stuff for Couples, and The Message Children's Bible. A former pastor, John currently edits by day and writes by night. He and his wife, Meredith, have three children and make their home in Colorado.

Touching Wonder
Publisher/Publication Date: David C. Cook, September 2009
ISBN: 978-1-4347-6465-2
127 pages

It's Monday! What are you reading? 11-30-2009

What are you reading on Mondays? is hosted by J. Kaye at J. Kaye's Book Blog. If you would like to participate, please leave your link with Mr. Linky at J.Kaye's blog - but you can also leave me a comment - I would love to know what you are reading!

Old Books Reviewed!
1. Saint John of the Five Boroughs by Edward Falco
2. Tidings of Great Boys by Shelley Adina
3. Thirsty by Tracey Bateman

Kid's Books Read and Reviewed this week
1. Sports Picture Puzzles by Matt Bruning
2. Mighty Machines Picture Puzzles by Matt Bruning

Finished last week - need to be reviewed
1. Fireflies in December by Jennifer Erin Valent
Bo's Café: A Novel by John Lynch, Bill Thrall, Bill McNicol

Still Reading
1. Hoodoo Sea by Rolf Hitzer
2. Nibble & Kuhn by David Schmahmann
3. The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder: A Novel by Rebecca Wells (bathroom book)
4. Beg, Borrow, Steal: A Writer's Life by Michael Greenberg

On audio:
1. A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

Up this week:
1. Touching Wonder: Recapturing the Awe of Christmas by John Blase
2. Treasured: Knowing God by the Things He Keeps by Leigh McLeroy
3. The Cost of Dreams by Gary Stelzer
4.A Note From An Old Acquaintance by Bill Walker
5. Tales for Delicious Girls by Barbara Knobova

What are you reading this week?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Mailbox Monday/In My Mailbox 11-29-2009

Mailbox Monday is hosted at The Printed Page or In Your Mailbox at The Story Siren. Please stop by those posts and take a look at what packages everybody else got this week!

I won this during the readathon in October.

Bloodroot by Amy Greene

Named for a flower whose blood-red sap possesses the power both to heal and poison, Bloodroot is a stunning fiction debut about the legacies—of magic and madness, faith and secrets, passion and loss—that haunt one family across the generations, from the Great Depression to today.

The novel is told in a kaleidoscope of seamlessly woven voices and centers around an incendiary romance that consumes everyone in its path: Myra Lamb, a wild young girl with mysterious, haint blue eyes who grows up on remote Bloodroot Mountain; her grandmother Byrdie Lamb, who protects Myra fiercely and passes down “the touch” that bewitches people and animals alike; the neighbor boy who longs for Myra yet is destined never to have her; the twin children Myra is forced to abandon but who never forget their mother’s deep love; and John Odom, the man who tries to tame Myra and meets with shocking, violent disaster. Against the backdrop of a beautiful but often unforgiving country, these lives come together—only to be torn apart—as a dark, riveting mystery unfolds.

With grace and unflinching verisimilitude, Amy Greene brings her native Appalachia—and the faith and fury of its people—to rich and vivid life. Here is a spellbinding tour de force that announces a dazzlingly fresh, natural-born storyteller in our midst. (Random House Website)

I received this book from the author for review.
The House on Fortune Street by Margot Livesey
It seems like mutual good luck for Abigail Taylor and Dara MacLeod when they meet at university and, despite their differences, become fast friends. Years later they remain inseparable: Abigail, the actress, allegedly immune to romance, and Dara, a therapist, throwing herself into relationships with frightening intensity. Now both believe they've found "true love." But luck seems to run out when Dara moves into Abigail's downstairs apartment. Suddenly both their friendship and their relationships are in peril, for tragedy is waiting to strike the house on Fortune Street. Told through four ingeniously interlocking narratives, Margot Livesey's the House on Fortune Street is a provocative tale of lives shaped equally by chance and choice. (back cover)

The next three books came through Paperback Swap from my wish list -
Betrayed by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast
Fledgling vampyre Zoey Redbird has managed to settle in at the House of Night finishing school. She finally feels like she belongs, even gets chosen as the Leader of the Dark Daughters. Best of all, she actually has a boyfriend. . .or two. Then the unthinkable happens: Human teenagers are being killed, and all the evidence points to the House of Night. While danger stalks the humans from Zoey's old life, she begins to realize that the very powers that make her so unique might also threaten those she loves. Then, when she needs her new friends the most, death strikes the House of Night, and Zoey must find the courage to face a betrayal that could break her heart, her soul, and jeopardize the very fabric of her world. Betrayed, the second book in the House of Night series, is dark and sexy, and as thrilling as it is utterly shocking. (back cover)

Dark Highland Fire by Kendra Leigh Castle
A werewolf from the Scottish Highlands who, up until now, has lived a charmed life. . . Desired by women, kissed by luck, Gabriel MacInnes has always been able to put pleasure ahead of duty. But with the MacInnes wolves now squarely in the sights of an ancient dragon, everything is about to change. . . A fiery demi-goddess fleeing for her life. . . Exiled from her realm, on the run from a dragon prince who will stop at nothing to have her as his own, the last thing Rowan an Morgaine wants is to accept the protection of Gabriel and his clan. . . By force or by guile, Rowan and Gabriel must uncover the secrets of their intertwining fate and stop their common enemy before he demands of them the ultimate sacrifice. . . (back cover)

Gone by Michael Grant

In the blink of an eye. Everyone disappears. GONE.

Except for the young. Teens. Middle schoolers. Toddlers. But not one single adult. No teachers, no cops, no doctors, no parents. Just as suddenly, there are no phones, no Internet, no television. No way to get help. And no way to figure out what's happened.

Hunger threatens. Bullies rule. A sinister creature lurks. Animals are mutating. And the teens themselves are changing, developing new talents—unimaginable, dangerous, deadly powers—that grow stronger by the day.

It's a terrifying new world. Sides are being chosen, a fight is shaping up. Townies against rich kids. Bullies against the weak. Powerful against powerless. And time is running out: On your birthday, you disappear just like everyone else...(Harper Collins website)

The next three books I picked up at the BookEnds at my local library.

The Widow of the South by Robert Hicks
Carnation Plantation, 1894: Carrie McGavock is an old woman who tends the graves of almost 1,500 soldiers buried here. As she walks among the dead, an elderly man appears -- the same soldier she met that fateful day long ago. Today, he asks if the cemetery has room for one more. Based on an extraordinary true story, this meticulously researched novel flashes back to 1864 and the afternoon of the Battle of Franklin, five of the bloodiest hours of the Civil War. Carrie's plantation has turned into a Confederate army hospital; the pile of amputated limbs rises as tall as the smoke house. But when a wounded soldier named Zachariah Cashwell arrives, he awakens feelings she had thought long dead -- and inspires a passion as powerful and unforgettable as the war that consumes a nation. (back cover)

HeartSick by Chelsea Cain

A Living Nightmare. Portland detective Archie Sheridan spent years tracking Gretchen Lowell, a beautiful and brutal serial killer. In the end, she was the one who caught him. . .and tortured him. . .and then let him go. Why did Gretchen spare Archie's life and then turn herself in? This is the question that keeps him up all night -- and the reason why he has visited Gretchen in prison every week since. A Deadly Obsession. . . Meanwhile, another series of Portland murders has Archie working on a brand-new task force. . .and heading straight into the line of fire. The local news is covering the case 24/7, and it's not long before Archie enters a deadly game of cat-and-mouse with the killer -- and his former captor. But this time, it's up to Archie to save himself. . . (back cover)

Deep South by Nevada Barr
Anna Pigeon finally gives in to her bureaucratic clock -- and signs on for a promotion. Next thing she knows, she's knee-deep in mud and Mississippi. Not exactly what she had in mind. Almost immediately, as the new district ranger on the Natchez Trace, Anna discovers the body of a young prom queen near a country cemetery, a sheet around her head, a noose around her neck. It's a bizarre twist on a best-forgotten past of frightening racial undertones. As fast as the ever-encroaching kudzu vines of the region, the roots of this story run deep -- and threaten to suffocate anyone in the way, including Anna. . . (back cover)

What books found a home with you this week?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thirsty by Tracey Bateman (Book Review)

Title: Thirsty
Author: Tracey Bateman

Publisher: Waterbrook Press

My synopsis: Nina Parker is an alcoholic. Her husband has divorced her. She does not have custody of her children. Her reputation as a vet has been tarnished. And now, after an episode with her ex lands her in rehab, she finds herself relocating to her hometown of Abbey Hills. She plans on staying with her sister Jill for awhile until she can save up some money for her own place. Meagan, now fifteen, will be accompanying her for spring break.

Abbey Hills contains only painful memories for her. She grew up as the daughter of an alcoholic father and began drinking at a young age. She made it through high school, but after the night of her graduation, she finds herself pregnant with no clear picture as to what happened. She moves away from Abbey Hills determined to make it on her own. She is able to quit drinking during her pregnancy and the first few years of Meagan life - then she meets Hunt, her now ex, and slowly the drinking once again becomes routine. Abbey Hills, even though it is full of past regrets, is now her chance at a new life and a new start with her daughter Meagan.

Jill just happens to be the sheriff of Abbey Hills. On their first night in town, Jill gets a call that there has been a murder, and a pretty gruesome one at that. Some animals have also been found carved up with their hearts missing. Nina becomes a catalyst for the events that transpire, even though she is unaware of it.

My thoughts: I liked the way that the book told Nina's back story, alternating between Nina and her ex, Hunt. It fills in all the gaps while also moving the story forward. Nina is very likable and I can relate to her relationship with her teenage daughter. I sort of felt that she had been dealt a bad hand and I was happy that she was staying sober. Throughout the book, she seems to slowly be regaining faith in herself and faith in her family.

Publisher/Publication Date: Waterbrook Press, October 2009
ISBN: 978-0-307-45715-8
384 pages

*This book was provided to me for my unbiased review by Elizabeth at Random House.*

Tidings of Great Boys by Shelley Adina (Book Review)

Title: Tidings of Great Boys (an all about us novel)
Author: Shelley Adina
Publisher: Faith Words (Hachette Books)

My synopsis: This was another fun installment in the lives of Carly, Lissa, Gillian, Shani and Mac - with the main story this time centering around Mac - or Lady Lindsay MacPhail.

Mac's parents have split up, so she is undecided on whether or not she wants to go home to Scotland for winter break from Spencer Academy. Her family home there is a castle, and it just isn't going to be the same with just her dad. So she comes up with a plan to invite the gang from Spencer to come for the holidays. With a little manipulation, the plan falls into place and as soon as finals are over, they all head for Scotland.

Things don't go so well in Scotland though. Mac has this grand plan to get her parents back together and she thinks if she throws a Hogmany dance on New Year's Eve that her mom will have to come back, as she will think that Mac won't be able to do it without her. Unfortunately the castle is not in good shape, and their finances are even worse. Add to that some drama concerning Shani and an innocent remark taken out of context which causes her ex, Prince Rashid's family to become incensed and who knows what will happen!

My thoughts: I have really enjoyed reading this series of books, even though I cannot imagine the life they lead at Spencer Academy. I like the way the author includes the girls' faith in Christ and shows how they are able to be regular, popular teens and still be Christians. I also like the way the girls are so unafraid of showing and sharing their beliefs. If you like to read YA books or have a daughter, niece, granddaughter, etc - introduce them to these books.

*This book was provided to me for my unbiased review by Hachette Books.*

It's All About Us
The Fruit of My Lipstick
Be Strong & Curvaceous
Who Made You a Princess?
Tidings of Great Boys
The Chic Shall Inherit the Earth (coming in January)

Tidings of Great Boys
Publisher/Publication Date: Faith Words, Sept 2009
ISBN: 978-0-446-17963-8
229 pages

Saint John of the Five Boroughs by Edward Falco (Book Review)

Title: Saint John of the Five Boroughs
Author: Edward Falco

Publisher: Unbridled Books

About the book: When 22-year-old Avery Walker, a senior at Penn State, meets Grant Danko, a 37-year-old performance artist from Brooklyn whose stage name is Saint John of the Five Boroughs, her life changes radically as she leaves college to live with Grant in Brooklyn and pursue a life as an artist. Worried about Avery, her mother, Kate, and her aunt, Lindsey, and Lindsey's husband, Hank, travel to Brooklyn, where they all face a crisis of their own and make life-altering choices.

Avery's boyfriend, Grant Danko, carries dark secrets within him that have caused his life to go off the rails. Grant is about as lost as a man can get, adept at making bad choices. But when he finally faces his moment of explosive truth, something extraordinary happens.

Saint John of the Five Boroughs is beautifully turned, a stunning and layered novel about the effects of violence, both personal and cultural, on its characters' lives. It's about the way violence twists character, but also about the possibilities for redemption and change, for achieving a kind of personal grace. Edward Falco once again proves to be a master of urgency and suspense, of events careening out of control, as he brilliantly explores why we make the choices we make -- both the ones that threaten to destroy our lives, and those choices that might save us. (back cover)

My thoughts: Normally I like to give my own synopsis of a book, but I waited too long to write this review and I didn't want to forget any details. It was also before I started jotting down notes which I have been trying to do lately. But anyway - this book was very good in making you believe that these people were just "lost" in life. They were going through the motions, but it seemed like they were letting life happen to them, rather than making life happen. And not everything that happens is good - to be honest, most of what happens is pretty depressing - but it was also pretty realistic. The end of the book took me by surprise - and it was when they finally made a choice for themselves about where they wanted their life to go. This was a good book, the characters were interesting - I kept picturing an old boyfriend as Grant because of his restlessness and inability to achieve anything. (Guess that is why he became an old boyfriend.) I am not sure that I even liked either Grant or Avery at the beginning of the book - but sometimes not likely the characters keeps you reading, because you want them to redeem themselves. By the end of the book I had started to understand them a little more and was actually cheering them on.

About the author: Edward Falco grew up in Brooklyn and teaches at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia, where he is director of the MFA program in Creative Writing. He is the prize-winning author of several books including his new and selected stories, Sabbath Night in the Church of the Piranha and, most recently, the highly acclaimed novel Wolf Point. (back cover)

Saint John of the Five Boroughs
Publisher/Publication Date: Unbridled Books, October 2009
ISBN: 978-1-932961-88-1
424 pages

*This book was provided to me for my unbiased review by Caitlin at Unbridled Books.*

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Win a $25 Gift Certificate from Ecostore!

I want to introduce you to a new (to me) company today - Ecostore USA. This company is an extension of EcoStore NZ which has been around for 20 years. They provide safe and healthier alternatives to household and personal care products. I was able to try out their Vanilla Shampoo and their Citrus Spray Cleaner to review for this giveaway.

The Vanilla Shampoo says it is for dry and damaged hair and is excellent for chemically treated hair. I really like this shampoo a lot. I find that most shampoos that I use these days leave my hair feeling coated and sometimes are even hard to rinse out. Not this Vanilla Shampoo. It lathered up well - and when I went to rinse it, it left my hair feeling clean without the coating. That was a nice change!

The Citrus Spray Cleaner came at a good time. My husband tore all the ceramic tile out of our kitchen last weekend to put in a new laminate floor. If you have ever taken out ceramic tile, you know the layer of fine dust it can leave behind. I was able to use this Spray Cleaner on the counter tops, cupboards, stove, microwave - pretty much anything that was covered with this dust. It worked as well as any other spray cleaner and the best part was, I did not have to worry about spraying it in the kitchen where I might place food, or spraying it around my kids and our dogs/cat, because it contains No Nasty Chemicals (tm).

Ecostore has offered one of you lucky readers a $25 gift certificate to use at Ecostore USA. (USA only) It is very easy to enter this giveaway. Just go to their blog and sign up for their No Nasty Chemicals newsletter. Then come back here and let me know that you did. (Must leave me an email address so I can contact you if you win!)

For additional entries you can do any of the following:
Visit Ecostore USA and tell me something you learned about them or a product you would like to try.
Sign up to be a follower or let me know that you already are.
Tweet about this giveaway or post it on your blog.
Each of these is worth one entry and they must be posted in separate comments.
This giveaway ends December 18th. Winner will receive gift certificate via email.

Kid's Korner: Look, Look Again Puzzle Books (Book Review)

Title: Sports Picture Puzzles
Author: Matt Bruning

Publisher: Capstone Press

Title: Mighty Machines Picture Puzzles
Author: Matt Bruning

Publisher: Capstone Press

About the books: These books contain pages and pages of pictures, where you need to spot the differences in a set of two. They can be very obvious or very clever, and I have found myself stumped a time or two. My five-year-old, who is right in the age range recommended loves them. It is a book he can do by himself, or we can race to see who can spot the differences first. We have found that these make great companions in the car also, as the only thing you really need to read is the number of differences that you are looking for in each picture. The pictures also range from Easy (6 differences), Medium (8 differences), Hard (10 differences) or Extreme (12 differences).

Mighty Machines Puzzle Books
Publisher/Publication Date: Capstone Press, August 2009
ISBN: 978-1-4296-3289-8
32 pages
Age level: PreK-2

Sports Picture Puzzles
Publisher/Publication Date: Capstone Press, August 2009
ISBN: 978-1-4296-3290-4
32 pages
Age level: PreK-2

*These books were provided free for my unbiased review from Capstone Books.*

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Waiting on Wednesday: The Listener

The Listener by Shira Nayman

Publisher/Publication Date: Simon and Schuster, Dec 29, 2009

TWO YEARS AFTER THE END OF WORLD WAR II, a mysterious figure, Bertram Reiner, appears at Shadowbrook, a private asylum whose elegant hallways, vaulted ceilings, and magnificent grounds suggest a country estate more than a psychiatric hospital. At first, the chief psychiatrist -- as genteel as his aristocratic surrounds -- considers his charismatic patient to be a classic, though particularly intriguing, case of war neurosis. But as treatment progresses, Dr. Harrison's sense of clarity clouds over, and he is drawn into Bertram's disquieting preoccupations.

Then, late one night, an intruder is sighted on the hospital grounds, the first in a series of uncanny events that appear to the doctor to be strangely linked; clues abound, yet the truth about Bertram seems always to slip away. Meanwhile, Dr. Harrison's own long-buried troubles reemerge with brutal force. As the careful contours of his existence begin to waver, the doctor is plunged into dangerous, compulsive territory.

When Dr. Harrison finds himself spying on his head nurse, Matilda, even following her one midnight through the underground tunnels that join the hospital buildings, he knows there is no turning back. He is desperate to get to the bottom of the intertwining mysteries connecting Bertram, Matilda, and himself, and senses that everything in his life -- and theirs -- is at stake.

Set against the backdrop of the insanity of war, The Listener explores the havoc historical trauma plays with the psyche, and illuminates the uncertain boundary between sanity and insanity. Shira Nayman's storytelling is mesmerizing. The Listener is a riveting tale of madness, mystery, and passion that excavates the dark corners of the human heart and mind. It is a work of rare depth and power.

What are you waiting for? Waiting on Wednesdays is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Teaser Tuesday 11-24-2009

TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:
Grab your current read.
Let the book fall open to a random page.
Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
Please avoid spoilers!

Scott blinked in disbelief as the yellow light began to transform. "See the blue light in the center. Now where'd that come from?" (p43 Hoodoo Sea by Rolf Hitzer)

Hoodoo Sea
Publisher/Publication Date: Bluewater Press LLC, June 2009
ISBN: 978-1604520262
260 pages

First Wild Card Tour: Bo's Cafe

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Bo's Café

Windblown Media; 1 edition (September 25, 2009)

***Special thanks to Miriam Parker of Hachette Book Group for sending me a review copy.***


Bruce McNicol is president of Leadership Catalyst, Inc. and an international speaker and consultant. He holds a master's in theology and a doctorate in organizational and leadership development. Previously he served for ten years as president of the international church planting organization Interest Associates.

Bill Thrall serves as vice-chair of Leadership Catalyst, mentor, and coauthor of the bestselling TrueFaced resources (www.truefaced.com), The Ascent of a Leader, andBeyond Your Best.

John Lynch is a national conference speaker and writer for LCI, holds a master's of theoology from Talbot Seminary, and has twenty years' experience as a teaching pastor of Open Door Fellowship. He's also cofounder and playwright of a theater troupe in Phoenix.

Visit the authors' website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Windblown Media; 1 edition (September 25, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 193517004X
ISBN-13: 978-1935170044


At the time of this pre-post I hadn't completed the review yet - it should be up later today though!


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