Saturday, November 22, 2014

Review - "Trading Secrets" by Melody Carlson

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Trading Secrets
by Melody Carlson
Published by Revell
288 Pages
Target Audience: Teen Girls
Genres: Christian Fiction, Youth Fiction, Young Adults, Contemporary, Amish
About this book:
"The truth may set you free--but it might also land you in some uncomfortably hot water.

Over the years, Micah Knight has exchanged many letters--and many secrets--with her longtime Amish pen pal, Zach. But Micah's kept quiet on the biggest secret of all--the fact that despite her name, she's a girl.

Now Micah finally has the chance to meet her pen pal face-to-face. She wants nothing more than to experience life on Zach's Amish farm, but she's more than a little anxious. Will he be angry at her for deceiving him all these years? And will she risk losing his friendship to find something more?"
I don’t normally read Amish fiction, but this book sounded interesting and I’ve liked other books written by Melody Carlson, so I picked this one to read. I really liked it! It did seem a bit unrealistic, but it was a sweet coming of age story for young adults with themes of friendship, trust, and truthfulness. It was interesting to read about some of the Amish culture and I liked reading about the characters’ reactions to each other’s lifestyles and the contrasts shown between the Amish and English lifestyles. I also liked that the story was mainly about friendship instead of romance. I enjoyed reading this book and I would recommend it for teens. I would also love to see a sequel!

Some of the questionable content: References to actors and movies including Twilight; crushes, flirting, and mentions of kissing; Micah and Lizzie watch Amish reality shows; mentions of girls’ undergarments

Language included: stupid; dumb; 1 crud; skanky; “Amish goddess”; hottie and hot used multiple times in reference to guys’ looks

* I received this book for free from Revell Reads in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Review - "The Christmas Cat" by Melody Carlson

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The Christmas Cat
by Melody Carlson
Published by Revell
176 Pages
Target Audience: Adults
Genres: Christian Fiction, Christian Romance, Contemporary, Holidays, Animals
About this book:
"He felt his face flushing as Cara opened the door. Wearing a garnet-colored knit dress and with her dark hair pinned up, she looked even prettier than he remembered. Suddenly he wished he'd thought to bring a hostess gift. Like a cat.

After years abroad, Garrison Brown finds himself at the home of his beloved grandmother who has just passed away. He must sort out her belongings, including six cats who need new homes. While he hopes to dispense with the task quickly--especially since he is severely allergic to cats--his grandmother's instructions don't allow for speed. She has left some challenging requirements for the future homes of her furry friends.

Can he match the cats with the perfect new owners? And is it possible that he might meet his own match along the way?"

The Christmas Cat was a cute, heartwarming, and sometimes funny holiday story. It was a quick and lighthearted read that seemed just the right length for a holiday story. It was funny reading about how Garrison (who is allergic to cats) had to deal with the cats that were left in his care and had to find homes for them based on very specific instructions. I liked reading about the personalities of each of the cats and finding out who would become each cat’s new owner. The only thing I didn’t like about the book was that it seemed to end a bit abruptly and the ending seemed a bit rushed. Overall, it was a sweet story and I enjoyed it. Although I’ve read books by Melody Carlson before, this was the first Christmas story I’ve read by her and I’m now interested in reading more of her Christmas stories. I would recommend The Christmas Cat to animal lovers and to those looking for a lighthearted Christmas story to read.

* I received this book for free from Revell Reads in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Review - "To Everything a Season" by Lauraine Snelling

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To Everything a Season
by Lauraine Snelling
Song of Blessing series, Book #1
Published by Bethany House Publishers
352 Pages
Target Audience: Adults
Genres: Historical Fiction, Christian Fiction, Christian Romance
About this book:
"Beloved Author Lauraine Snelling Returns Again to Her Popular Red River Valley Setting.

Trygve Knutson is devoted to his family and his community. With his job on the construction crew, he is helping to build a future for the North Dakota town of Blessing. Though he loves his home, he sometimes dreams of other horizons--especially since meeting Miriam Hastings.

Miriam is in Blessing to get practical training to become an accredited nurse. She's been promised a position in the Chicago women's hospital that will enable her to support her siblings and her ailing mother. Although eager to return to her family, Miriam is surprised to find how much she enjoys the small town of Blessing. And her growing attachment to Trygve soon has her questioning a future she always considered set in stone.

When a family emergency calls Miriam home sooner than planned, will she find a way to return? If not, will it mean losing Trygve--and her chance at love--for good?"
Longtime readers and fans of Lauraine Snelling’s books may enjoy this book, but as a first time reader of Ms. Snelling’s books, I was disappointed. This book did not read like a first book in a new series. The characters living in the town of Blessing are never really introduced; it seems your just supposed to already know who all the characters are and how they’re all related. And there are so many characters! I had a hard time keeping track of who all the characters were and how they were all related to each other and I had to keep going back to previous chapters to remind myself who they were. By the end of the book I still couldn’t remember who all the characters were. I realize this a new spin-off series based off of some of Ms. Snelling’s previous series and that it would be better to read the previous series before reading this one, but since this is the first book in a new series I thought it would be easy enough for a new reader to follow and would have enough back story or information about the characters to be able to understand without having to read the previous series. To me, it seems like this book would have been better if published as a continuation of another series instead of a brand new one.

The story was a slow paced one and didn’t really reflect the summary on the back of the book. Miriam isn’t even introduced in the story until nearly halfway into the book which I found to be odd since she is supposed to be a main character. The story focuses more around a bank robbery and the everyday lives of some of the characters than it did around a relationship between Miriam and Trygve. The family emergency mentioned in the summary that calls Miriam home didn’t even happen until the end of the book, so the questions asked in the summary are never answered in this book and the book ends with a cliffhanger type of ending. The summary just seems misleading.

I also don’t agree with Ms. Snelling’s beliefs that it doesn’t matter if you’re a Christian or are a follower of the Catholic faith; that ultimately you’re a saved Christian if you're either one. I don’t agree with this. Christianity and the Catholic faith are not the same thing and Christians and Catholics believe in different things.

I did like that the book was centered around a Norwegian family as I haven’t really read books where Norwegians are the main characters. That made it more interesting. And I liked the close-knit relationship the family had. It was also interesting to have part of the story revolve around the work of female doctors. But overall this book just wasn’t for me and I doubt I’ll be reading the next one in the series.

*I received this book for free from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Review - "Thunder" by Bonnie S. Calhoun

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by Bonnie S. Calhoun
Stone Braide Chronicles series, Book #1
Published by Revell
432 Pages
Target Audience: Young Adults
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Christian Fiction, Dystopian, Fantasy
About this book:
"The Time of Sorrows is long past.
The future of Selah and her people is shrouded in mystery.
And the clock is ticking.

Hidden in the tall grasses along a shore littered with the rusted metal remnants of a once-great city, a hunter crouches. It is the eve of her eighteenth Birth Remembrance and high time she proves to herself and her brothers that she can stand on her own two feet. Selah Rishon Chavez waits not for game but for one of the small boats that occasionally crash against the desolate shoreline. Because inside one of these boats she will find her quarry--a Lander.

These people from an unknown land across the ocean are highly prized by the Company and bring a good price--especially if they keep the markings they arrive with.

Everything falls to pieces when the Lander whom Selah catches is stolen by her brothers, and Selah wakes the next morning to find the Lander's distinctive mark has appeared on her own flesh. Once the hunter, Selah is now one of the hunted, and she knows only one person who can help her--Bodhi Locke, the Lander her brothers hope to sell in the Mountain.

With evocative descriptions of a strange new world that combines elements of disturbing scientific advances, devious political conspiracy, and survival in a hostile wilderness, Bonnie S. Calhoun weaves a captivating tale of a society more like our own than we may want to admit. From the tension-laced first scene to the captivating last page, "Thunder" is an epic journey into the heart of humankind that explores how far we are willing to go when we're pushed to the limit."

 This review is hard for me to write as there are extremely few books I’ve read that I would completely not recommend, and I dislike writing negative reviews. Honestly, I didn’t even finish this book and I can’t remember a time when I’ve done so purposefully, instead of not finishing a book due to lack of time. I tried to read the whole book, I truly did, but gave up about 268 pages into it.

I enjoy reading some dystopian books and when I saw a new book fitting that genre being published by Revell, I was excited to read it. That excitement was short lived.

My first problem with the book is that the summaries I’ve read about what the book is about didn’t disclose what Selah and the Landers are. When it comes to books dealing with the spiritual world or paranormal like themes, I am extremely picky and discerning with what I choose to read. While not officially stated that the characters are such by the point in the book that I read up to, it seems that Selah is basically some kind of a half angel (the angels being the Landers) and half human hybrid. One indication of this is that the Landers’ mark is wing shaped. If even that bit of information had been disclosed in the book’s summaries it would have been helpful as I could have figured out what this book was most likely about. Even if I’m wrong and the Landers aren’t supposed to be angels, and Selah a half angel and half human hybrid, they are definitely some type of supernatural beings. Had I known that I would have passed on reading this book. I know there are differing opinions on reading books that deal with descendents of angels and humans, but I personally choose not to read books that deal with that subject. I think writing about half angel/half human hybrids or hybrids similar to such in fiction is messing with the spiritual world in a way it shouldn’t be.

Needless to say, once I figured this out early on in the story I wasn’t enthusiastic about reading this book. But I received a review copy of this book and felt like I should still continue to read it to give a proper review. I thought I could at least read it and review other aspects of it. But the more I read, the less I cared about the book and eventually gave up reading it.

My biggest concern and what caused me to give up on the book is that the Landers started mentioning auras and channeling and such a few times. While really not detailed, I just don’t think that this stuff belongs in a book marketed as a Christian book the same way I wouldn't want the Christian characters, or if not Christian characters, the "good guys" of the story to be involved with witchcraft or something similar as it makes those things look harmless or good. It just really bothers me when this stuff is put in "Christian" books.

As for the supposed romance between Selah and Bodhi, it seemed to be based on nothing more than physical/sexual attraction and felt more like lust for each other than anything else. By the time the story got to the part that was supposed to be romantic
, I was basically rolling my eyes because the characters really didn’t even like each other. All they seemed to care about was how good the other looked (ex. How good Bodhi looked with his shirt off) or how they felt when they saw how good the other looked or were near/touching each other, such as Bohdi giving Selah “shivers” or how "adrenaline freshened her nerves, and sent electricity up her arm" at a point when their fingers touch and stuff like that. To me, nothing but sexual tension and I would like there to be more to a relationship than that. Let’s just say I could really care less about their romantic relationship up to the point I read.

As for other sexual references, Selah is assaulted/attacked by guys twice, the first time being in the first chapter. One part says that one guy is looking her up and down and she felt like he was groping her. They hit her more than once and hold her down in the sand to the point where she almost passes out. A man also did something to a girl that is a character in the story at one time, but no details about this had been given by the point I read up to. It was mentioned a couple times though, and I assume he abused her.

These are my main dissatisfactions with the book. There are more, but I won’t continue with other things that may be considered spoilers.

As for the storyline or plot itself, it was okay, but not great. The parts relating to the Mountain got to be boring. Ultimately, for a book in the dystopia genre, the world the characters live in just didn’t draw me into the story like it normally would. I guess it’s because I was expecting a more realistic "what might happen in the future United States after a catastrophe occurred" type of world, but instead got some kind of paranormal fantasy world I wasn’t expecting that was supposed to take place in the United States’ future 150 years after a nuclear attack. It didn’t even feel like the story took place in the United States to me, but in some fantasy world instead. It’s as though the author couldn’t decide what type of story to write or what genre to base their story on. The end result is a book combining several genres in a confusing mix that really doesn’t make sense.

The only thing I can actually think of that I somewhat liked about the story was the sisterly bond that Selah had with her siblings and others in the story and how she thought better of some characters than they deserved.

Will there eventually be some kind of allegorical message to this series by the time it is finished? Will Selah’s and Bodhi’s relationship be about more than physical/sexual attraction to each other? Will there be some kind of clear reference to Christianity which I have yet to see at some point in this series? Maybe is my answer to all of these questions, but I have no interest in finishing this book or reading the next installments in the series to find out.

* I received this book for free from Revell Reads in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Review - "Where Treetops Glisten" by Tricia Goyer, Cara Putman, and Sarah Sundin

Where Treetops Glisten
by Tricia Goyer, Cara Putman, and Sarah Sundin
Published by WaterBrook Press
368 Pages
Target Audience: Adults
Genres: Historical Fiction, Christion Fiction, Christian Romance, Holiday
About this book:
"The crunch of newly fallen snow, the weight of wartime

Siblings forging new paths and finding love in three stories,
filled with the wonder of Christmas.

Turn back the clock to a different time, listen to Bing Crosby sing of sleigh bells in the snow, as the realities of America’s involvement in the Second World War change the lives of the Turner family in Lafayette, Indiana.

In Cara Putman’s
"White Christmas", Abigail Turner is holding down the Home Front as a college student and a part-time employee at a one-of-a-kind candy shop. Loss of a beau to the war has Abigail skittish about romantic entanglements—until a hard-working young man with a serious problem needs her help.

Abigail’s brother Pete is a fighter pilot hero returned from the European Theater in Sarah Sundin’s "I’ll Be Home for Christmas", trying to recapture the hope and peace his time at war has eroded. But when he encounters a precocious little girl in need of Pete’s friendship, can he convince her widowed mother that he’s no longer the bully she once knew?

In Tricia Goyer’s "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas", Meredith Turner, “Merry” to those who know her best, is using her skills as a combat nurse on the frontline in the Netherlands. Halfway around the world from home, Merry never expects to face her deepest betrayal head on, but that’s precisely what God has in mind to redeem her broken heart.

The Turner family believes in God’s providence during such a tumultuous time. Can they absorb the miracle of Christ’s birth and His plan for a future?"
 I really enjoyed reading Where Treetops Glisten! I haven’t really read novellas, but was intrigued by this collection since the stories take place during World War II, my favorite time period to read about in historical fiction. I’m glad I picked it to read.

The book starts out with a prologue set in 1941 to give us a taste of what the Turner family is like before starting the novellas. Each of the three novellas is set nearly a year apart from each other and each centers around a different sibling in the Turner family. At the end of the book is an epilogue which nicely ties all three novellas together with a satisfying ending to the story of the Turner family. Also included are “Holiday Cookie Exchange” recipes and a readers guide.

It amazes me how well the authors wrote these stories to where they intertwine so well together. When previously mentioned characters where mentioned in a different novella they still felt like the same characters. The authors have done a wonderful job of tying the stories together.

I loved the historical part of this book and loved that each of the stories took place around Christmastime. I felt like I was in Lafayette, Indiana during the 1940’s with the Turners and could imagine visiting Glatz Candies and admiring all their delicious holiday treats. How I wish I could! I enjoyed reading about the three different siblings and their different personalities and stories. I liked how each story took place in a different setting: Abigail’s taking place at home during the war, Pete’s taking place at home during his furlough but with thoughts of his time serving in the war as a pilot, and Merry’s taking place overseas in the Netherlands. It gave each of the stories a different feel from the last and showed different sides of the war. It was also interesting to see that each novella is titled after a different Christmas song and how that song ends up being a part of the story. My only real complaint to this book is that the novellas sometimes felt a bit rushed in their endings.

I really did love the characters in this book, my favorite probably being Linnie, a sweet, energetic child who is seen as a handful by most, but made me smile.

Overall, a great collection of three heartwarming historical novellas that are sad, funny, and sweet at different times, but have a nice ending showing how God has led the Turner family through the war in ways they weren't expecting. I can see myself reading this book again in a different year around Christmas. I would recommend this book to those who like to read historical fiction books with romance in them. I look forward to reading more books by these authors.

*I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Review - "Playing by Heart" by Anne Mateer

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Playing by Heart
by Anne Mateer
Published by Bethany House Publishers
320 Pages
Target Audience: Adults
Genres: Christian Fiction, Historical Fiction, Christian Romance
About this book:
"Lula Bowman has finally achieved her dream: a teaching position and a scholarship to continue her college education in mathematics. But then a shocking phone call from her sister, Jewel, changes everything.

With a heavy heart, Lula returns to her Oklahoma hometown to do right by her sister, but the only teaching job available in Dunn is combination music instructor/basketball coach. Lula doesn't even consider those real subjects!

Determined to prove herself, Lula commits to covering the job for the rest of the school year. Reluctantly, she turns to the boys' coach, Chet, to learn the newfangled game of basketball. Chet is handsome and single, but Lula has no plans to fall for a local boy. She's returning to college and her scholarship as soon as she gets Jewel back on her feet.

However, the more time she spends around Jewel's family, the girls' basketball team, music classes, and Chet, the more Lula comes to realize what she's given up in her single-minded pursuit of degree after degree. God is working on her heart, and her future is starting to look a lot different than she'd expected."
Playing by Heart is a sweet story with well developed characters, unique story aspects, and plot twists that I wasn’t expecting. The chapters switch back and forth between the first person point of views of both Lula and Chet. I wasn’t sure about that style at first, but I ended up enjoying reading the story from both perspectives. Although I’m not a sports fan, it was interesting to learn about how basketball was played at the time the story takes place, which is during World War I. While it's not what I’d call a very fast paced novel, I was enthralled in the story and I wanted to know what was going to happen next. My heart hurt for the characters at certain points in the story and I could relate to some of Lula’s struggles. I liked seeing Lula grow in her faith as the story progressed and how she’s dealing with either trying to trust God with His plans for her life or trying to only please certain family members by fulfilling their dreams for her life. The romance was clean and sweet. This was the first book that I’ve read by Anne Mateer and I look forward to reading more of her books! I really enjoyed reading Playing by Heart and would recommend it to those who enjoy reading historical fiction or clean Christian romances.

*I received this book from Bethany House in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Photography Book Review - "Your Family in Pictures" by Me Ra Koh

Your Family in Pictures
The Parents' Guide to Photographing Holidays, Family Portraits, and Everyday Life
by Me Ra Koh
Published by Amphoto Books
160 Pages
Genres: Nonfiction, Photography, Reference, Hobbies
About this book:
"For parents (especially moms) with little to no photography experience who want to capture better portraits and photos of their families using any camera.
What parent doesn’t want to capture the perfectly imperfect joy of family life through photos? From holidays and vacations to portraits and shared moments, celebrated photographer (and mom) Me Ra Koh not only helps moms and dads take better photos, but inspires them to discover photography as a way to connect with, cherish, and celebrate their family. With forty beautiful “photo recipes” anyone can follow—with any camera—preserving your family’s story has never been easier!"
Your Family in Pictures is a great book for those who tend to leave their camera settings on auto because they don’t have much time to play around with adjusting their camera settings all the time trying to figure out what works, or are not sure what settings they need to set their camera to in order to get the results they want in their photos. I will admit it. I bought a DSLR camera and I almost always leave it in auto mode. After buying it, I had planned on studying more about photography so I could figure out what to set my camera to for the photos I wanted to take, but life got in the way and I haven’t had the time to study photography much, which is why I leave my camera on auto unless I have a few hours to play around with the camera settings and am taking pictures of still objects. But when it came to taking pictures of people, I didn’t know what settings to set my camera to in order to get the best results. Well, that’s were this book is a great book to have. The author provides a lot of tips and information in an easy to understand format to help get the best results with the photos you take of your family (or people in general) whether you’re using a point and shoot camera or a DSLR camera.

Chapter 1 is about setting yourself up for success. It includes tips for finding the best lighting, ideas for getting your family in the mood for taking photos, tips for black and white photos, ideas for candid photos, and more.

Chapter 2 is about developing a photographer’s eye. Some of the things included are tips on how to figure out what type of pictures you like to take and what you look for in your photos, tips on when to shoot in black and white versus in color, ideas to experiment with like taking photos with different colors, textures, shapes, etc., and how to be a storyteller through your photos.

Chapters 3-7 are each focused on different themes that you would take photos for. The themes are Everyday Life, Holidays, Family Portraits, Tweens and Teens, and Family Vacation and Travel. In each one of those themes are different topics related to the themes, such as “Fourth of July” under Holidays or “A Day at the Beach” under Family Vacation and Travel. Each topic has a “photo recipe” listed which includes helpful information on how to take great photos relating to the topic selected. Each photo recipe lists when to take the photo, how to prep for the photo, what settings to put your camera on for both point and shoot and DSLR cameras (aperture, iso, shutter speed, etc.), how to compose the photo (the best lighting, angle, framing, etc.), and how to capture your photo (what to focus on). There are also example photos for each topic with the settings the photographer used to get the photo listed next to it.

Also included in the book is an appendix with tips on choosing a camera and the differences between point and shoot and DSLR cameras, as well as an index in the back of the book.

I like how the author has taken most of the guesswork out of figuring out what settings to put my camera on when I want to take a certain type of photo. For example, if I want to take a photo of a Christmas tree all lit up with lights, I can go to that topic in the book and set my camera settings to the settings listed in the photo recipe. I may need to make some minor adjustments, but it’s great to have a good starting place to begin with rather than not having any idea about what to set my camera to and missing out on a great photo because of taking too much time to figure out settings. I also like that her focus in this book is capturing your family’s story in your photos. As a scrapbooker, that is something that’s important to me as that is what scrapbooking is about: capturing and preserving your family’s story and memories. Overall, this is a great book for novice photographers who want to take their cameras off of auto mode and learn how to take better quality photos.

*I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Review - "Thief of Glory" by Sigmund Brouwer

Thief of Glory
by Sigmund Brouwer
Published by WaterBrook Press
336 Pages
Target Audience: Adults
Genres: Historical Fiction, Adult Fiction, Christian Fiction
About this book:
"A boy coming of age in a time of war…
the love that inspires him to survive.

For ten year-old Jeremiah Prins, the life of privilege as the son of a school headmaster in the Dutch East Indies comes crashing to a halt in 1942 after the Japanese Imperialist invasion of the Southeast Pacific. Jeremiah takes on the responsibility of caring for his younger siblings when his father and older stepbrothers are separated from the rest of the family, and he is surprised by what life in the camp reveals about a woman he barely knows—his frail, troubled mother.

Amidst starvation, brutality, sacrifice and generosity, Jeremiah draws on all of his courage and cunning to fill in the gap for his mother. Life in the camps is made more tolerable as Jeremiah’s boyhood infatuation with his close friend Laura deepens into a friendship from which they both draw strength.

When the darkest sides of humanity threaten to overwhelm Jeremiah and Laura, they reach for God’s light and grace, shining through his people. Time and war will test their fortitude and the only thing that will bring them safely to the other side is the most enduring bond of all."

 **Note: I do not recommend this book for anyone who is not an adult due to some gruesome and graphic scenes/descriptions and mature themes.**

First off I would like say that I chose this book because I love reading books about World War II (both fiction and non-fiction) and I was excited to see a new realistic Christian historical novel based on that time in history being published. When I chose this book to read I was expecting a realistic look at what happened in the Dutch East Indies during World War II which is what this book was. I didn’t chose this book because I wanted to read a Christian romance novel and I wasn’t expecting it to be a feel good book with a happy ending. I’ve read enough books about World War II to know about a lot of the gruesome, brutal, and horrific things that happened from all different sides of the war. That being said, even though I was expecting this to be a realistic WWII fiction book, I unfortunately didn’t enjoy this book.

For the most part the book was a well written book. After reading it I can tell that Sigmund Brouwer is a talented writer that is knowledgeable about or has done his research about the subjects he has written about. I had only read a couple of Sigmund Brouwer’s juvenile fiction books before, and although I did enjoy them, the writing was more of a simplistic style since the books were written for kids. That’s not the case in this book. The author has done a good job at making me feel like I’m living the events of the story just like the characters. Sometimes it wasn’t always a good thing for this book to be so descriptive though, and one part, although short, actually made me squeamish and that part wasn’t even war related.

This book didn’t really feel like a Christian book to me either. Yes, there were a few references to the Bible and to Christianity, but the book still felt like more of a mainstream novel than a Christian one due to some of the descriptions in this book and because of the way most of the characters acted. Half the time Jeremiah was angry at God and thought the Bible wasn’t true. The other references included the children reading Bible stories, a couple short parts where the characters had discussions related to the Bible, and there was a faith related part toward the end of the book, but it was very subtle and not detailed, unlike the other detailed parts in the book that I could have done without.

Also, while I didn’t choose this book because I wanted to read a Christian romance novel, because of the summary this book has I’m sure a lot of people will think that this book is mainly a romance novel. It’s not. While it does have some romance in it, for those looking for their next Christian romance novel to read, I am suggesting that you look for a different book.

I didn’t know anything about the Dutch East Indies during World War II, so I did enjoy the historical aspect of this book and would rate that part of it highly. There were also a few characters I liked in the story. But overall this book was depressing and heart wrenching and I didn’t care for some of the crude or overly detailed gruesome descriptions or details that were in it, some of which weren’t even war related that I felt the book could have done without. I was also hoping for more of a Christian theme to it or more Christian related content. Unfortunately, even with my love for reading books about World War II history, I just didn’t enjoy this book.

I am putting the negative parts and sexual references in this book in a spoiler as some of these things could be spoilers to the story.

*I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Review - "Samantha Sanderson On the Scene" by Robin Caroll

Samantha Sanderson On the Scene
by Robin Caroll
Faithgirlz: Samantha Sanderson series, Book #2
Published by Zondervan (Zonderkidz)
256 Pages
Target Audience: Girls, Ages 8-12
Genres: Christian Fiction, Youth Fiction, Mystery
About this book:
"What if getting to the bottom of a mystery means learning how to love your enemy? As Samantha and the rest of the middle schoolers prepare for the upcoming Spring Fest, “mean girl” Nikki faces the reality that her parents are getting divorced. Samantha has a hard time sympathizing---Nikki has never been very nice to anyone, let alone Samantha. But when Nikki becomes victim of a string of attacks, Sam takes it upon herself and uses her super sleuth abilities to get to the bottom of the bullying. After all, articles on bullying are just what the school paper needs instead of all that silly fluff like popularity tips. Samantha enlists the help of her tech-savvy BFF, Makayla, but while the two track down clues, they leave a trail of trouble behind---and may even be directly responsible for the break-in of their very own school’s computer lab!
Samantha Sanderson is a resourceful seventh grader with the extraordinary dream to become an aspiring award-winning journalist. Sam and her best friend, Makayla, are always sniffing out the next big mystery to report in the school paper---that is, when they aren’t busy navigating the crazy world of middle school, faith, and friends."
 In book #2 of the Samantha Sanderson series, Samantha Sanderson On the Scene, Sam finds out that “mean girl” Nikki Cole is being bullied and decides to try to help her, even though Nikki has never been very nice to Sam. After learning about Nikki being bullied, Sam comes up with the idea to write about the topic of bullying for her school's newspaper. But Sam’s articles get her into trouble again and this time they may be the cause of a break in of their school’s computer lab. Can Sam figure out who is bullying Nikki and why? Is the break in of the computer lab related? And can Sam learn to befriend Nikki and others who have never really been kind to her?

I liked Samantha Sanderson On the Scene just as much at the first book in the series. It’s a great continuation of the series. I really liked how Sam tried to befriend and help Nikki in the story, even though Nikki had never been friendly toward Sam. It illustrates a good lesson for girls that we should love and be kind to even our enemies.

The spiritual content is similar to the first book. Sam goes to youth group at her church and the Bible verses Psalm 34:12-14, Proverbs 31:8, and Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 are discussed while at youth group. Sam prays at different times in the story. Also, Sam learns to trust God while her family is trying to make a tough decision about something that will impact all their lives.

This book does deal more with the subject of divorce than the first book. It also has more mentions of crushes, who likes who, who’s going to homecoming with who, etc. than the first book.

I enjoyed reading Samantha Sanderson On the Scene just as I enjoyed the first book in the series. It’s a great mystery for girls that deals with the real topic of bullying. I’m really looking forward to reading the third book in the series when it comes out!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Sewing Book Review - "Super Stitches Sewing" by Nicole Vasbinder

Super Stitches Sewing
by Nicole Vasbinder
Published by Potter Craft / Crown Publishing
176 Pages
Genres: Nonfiction, Sewing, Crafts, Hobbies, Reference
About this book:
"Does your sewing machine come with lots of fancy stitches that you've never thought to try? This essential guide to machine and hand stitches will teach you how to use any and every stitch for professional-looking seams, hems, gathers, darts, and more. Unlock your full sewing potential with 57 machine stitches, 18 hand stitches, and tips to choose the correct needles, threads, and sewing machine accessories, complete with detailed step-by-step tutorials and illustrations.

This comprehensive stitch dictionary is a must-have companion for any sewer, whether you just bought your first sewing machine or you’re a seasoned expert looking to polish your skills. If your passion is dressmaking, tailoring, or simply mending your own clothes, Super Stitches Sewing gives you all of the information you need to make every project a success."

Super Stitches Sewing is an excellent stitch guide for sewers. The book is broken up into three main sections. Section 1 features Machine Stitches and Section 2 features Hand Stitches. For each stitch featured in the guide, there is a photographed example of the stitch and an illustrated tutorial on how to sew the stitch and/or how to use the stitch. The book also lists the difficulty level of each stitch, and there is an “Essential Facts” box for each stitch which has information such as alternative names for the stitch, key features of the stitch, substitute stitches, the common uses for the stitch, the fabric types you can use the stitch with, which presser foot to use if it’s a machine stitch, and the thread and needle types to use.

The third section of the book features different types of tools and equipment. It lists the different types of hand sewing and machine needles, thread, and presser feet, and gives information about each type such as key features, common uses, sizes (needles), the fabrics to use them with, and more. This section also lists the different types of sewing machines and the differences between them.

Also including in this book are “Expert Tips”, which are helpful sewing tips printed all throughout the book, a glossary of sewing terms, and an index in the back of the book.

I consider myself an advanced sewer when it comes to hand sewing and an intermediate sewer at machine sewing. For the most part, I only use the straight stitch and zigzag stitch when machine sewing because, to be honest, I never knew what most of the other stitches were called or how to use them. Well, this book now shows how to use all those stitches in an easy to understand and informative way without having a bunch of unnecessary or confusing information. How to use those stitches is no longer a mystery for me and I can’t wait to try some of them. There are even a couple of hand stitches in this book that I didn’t know before. This book is an excellent sewing reference guide that I would definitely recommend to beginner and intermediate sewers, as well as some advanced sewers who may want a refresher on stitches they haven’t used in awhile. I will definitely be keeping this book next to my sewing machine for reference purposes from now on.

*I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Review - "Samantha Sanderson At the Movies" by Robin Caroll

Samantha Sanderson At the Movies
by Robin Caroll
Faithgirlz: Samantha Sanderson series, Book #1
Published by Zondervan (Zonderkidz)
272 Pages
Target Audience: Girls, Ages 8-12
Genres: Christian Fiction, Youth Fiction, Mystery
About this book:
"Sam Sanderson is an independent, resourceful, high-tech cheerleader. She dreams of becoming an award-winning journalist like her mother, and so she’s always looking for articles she can publish in her middle-school paper (where she secretly hopes to become editor). And with a police officer for a father, Sam is in no short supply for writing material.
It seemed like the perfect opportunity. When an explosive device is found in the local theater, Sam gets the lead on this developing and controversial story---controversial because the movie theater has recently come under attack by a renowned, outspoken atheist for allowing a local church to show Christian movies. Sam’s police-officer father happens to be heading the investigation, and Sam can’t resist doing some sleuthing of her own with the help of her best friend Makayla’s techno-genius. But when Sam’s theories end up being printed in the school paper, she lands in big trouble---and danger!"
Samantha "Sam" Sanderson dreams of becoming a journalist like her mother. When there is a bomb scare at her local movie theater, Sam finally has the lead on a story for her middle-school newspaper, where she hopes to eventually become chief editor. She thinks this is a story that will help get her there. But the theories and suspicions that Sam writes about of who may have placed the bomb make some people angry and may put Sam in danger. Can Sam solve the mystery?

I really liked Samantha Sanderson At the Movies, the first book in the Faithgirlz: Samantha Sanderson series. It is a well written mystery book for girls that had me guessing until the end. Sam learns some good lessons the hard way about how to be a good journalist and about not betraying someone’s trust.

Sam is a Christian in the book. She goes to youth group at her church and she prays at different times in the story. She also witnesses to her friend. 1 Timothy 4:12 and Proverbs 22:11 are quoted in the book.

Sam and her friend Makayla do some questionable things in this book, however, that I think parents and adults should be aware of. While at school, Makayla hacks past the school’s firewall in order for the girls to look up something on the internet. Sam also eavesdrops a few times in the story (although it usually started out as an accident) and she doesn’t always do what her dad tells her to do.

Overall, I really enjoyed the first book in the Samantha Sanderson series and I would recommend it, especially for those who like mysteries. I’m now looking forward to reading book #2 in the series, Samantha Sanderson On the Scene!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Review - "Wild Thing" by Dandi Daley Mackall

Wild Thing
by Dandi Daley Mackall
Winnie the Horse Gentler series, Book #1
Published by Tyndale
192 Pages
Target Audience: Girls, Ages 8-12
Genres: Christian Fiction, Youth Fiction, Animals
About this book:
"Twelve-year-old Winnie Willis has a way with horses. She can gentle the wildest mare, but other parts of her life don't always come as easily. Along with her dad and sister, Lizzy, Winnie is learning how to live without her mom, who was also a natural horse gentler. As Winnie teaches her horses about unconditional love and blind trust, God shows Winnie that he can be trusted too. Readers will be hooked on the series' vivid characters, whose quirky personalities fill Winnie's life with friendship and adventure. In #1 Wild Thing, Winnie's fearful heart finally begins to trust God again as she tries to gentle the horse of her dreams, Wild Thing."
Wild Thing is the first book in the Winnie the Horse Gentler series. Twelve year old Winnie Willis, her younger sister Lizzy, and their dad have moved several times within the past two years since Winnie’s mother’s death. Lizzy doesn’t want to move again and neither does Winnie after she meets a beautiful Arabian horse called Wild Thing. Winnie wants to buy Wild Thing and gentle her the way her mom used to with her horses, but she doesn’t have enough money to buy the horse. Will she find a way to get the horse of her dreams? Or will Winnie and her sister have to move again?

I really enjoyed reading Wild Thing. The only other horse related book that I’ve read by Dandi Daley Mackall is Horse Dreams (Backyard Horses Book #1), and while that book was more of a cute, lighthearted horse story, Wild Thing has more of an emotional side to it. Winnie struggles with guilt because she blames herself for her mother’s death. She doesn’t think that her dad has forgiven her or that God could love her anymore. In the book she learns of God’s forgiveness, grace, faithfulness, and unfailing love and she begins to trust God again.

In the back of the book is a “Parts of the Horse” horse diagram, a “Horse Talk” guide, and a “Horse-O-Pedia” glossary of horse related words and terms, all of which make a nice educational addition to the book.

While this book is recommended for ages 8-12, I think older girls would enjoy it, too. Wild Thing was a great book and I would definitely recommend it for Christian girls, especially girls who love horses. I truly enjoyed it and would now love to read the rest of the books in the series.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Review - "Horse Dreams" by Dandi Daley Mackall


Horse Dreams
by Dandi Daley Mackall
Backyard Horses series, Book #1
Published by Tyndale
160 pages
Target Audience: Girls, Ages 8-12
Genres: Youth Fiction, Christian Fiction, Animals
About this book:
"Fourth-grader Ellie James has a great imagination. She spends a lot of time daydreaming of owning a black stallion show horse and winning trophies in the horse show. But when the answer to all her dreams and prayers gallops into her life, will Ellie be able to recognize it? Join Ellie and her quirky family in their exciting, horse-loving adventures."
Ellie James is a fourth-grader who loves horses and dreams about owning a horse of her own. She daydreams and prays about someday owning a black stallion. Ellie daydreams so much about horses (including in class) that when she tells her teacher that she sees a horse outside the school, no one believes her and they think she’s just daydreaming again. But is she?

"Horse Dreams" is a cute horse related story for pre-teen age girls. In the book, Ellie learns that prayers aren’t always answered in the way we want them to be or the way we expect them to be answered. Another theme of the book is that we shouldn’t judge people (or in this case, a horse) by how they look.

Ellie’s brother Ethan is deaf and communicates with Ellie, her parents, and her friend using sign language. The title of each chapter is spelled out in sign language along with the English title, and the whole sign language alphabet is listed in the back of the book along with a glossary of horse related words and terms. I thought both made a nice addition to the book.

I like the way Ellie’s faith is portrayed throughout the book and how genuine it feels whenever Ellie is praying or thinking about God and her relationship with Him. Bible verses are also quoted at the beginning and the end of the book (1 Samuel 16:7 and Ephesians 3:20).

One thing to mention for parents is that in one part of the book Ellie leaves a horse show without telling anyone where she is going and walks alone to and from an animal farm a good distance away at night, which isn't a safe thing to do. Her parents never question her about this decision later in the book.

Also, one thing I wish had been written in the book was

This book was an enjoyable read and I think it is a great book for Christian girls, especially girls who like horses.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Review - "Death Trap" by Sigmund Brouwer

Robot Wars: Death Trap, Book One

Death Trap 
by Sigmund Brouwer
Robot Wars series, Book #1
Published by Tyndale
288 pages
Target Audience: Boys and Girls, Ages 10-14
Genres: Science Fiction, Youth Fiction, Christian Fiction
About This Book:
"Set in an experimental community on Mars in the year 2039, The Robot Wars series features 14-year-old virtual reality specialist Tyce Sanders. Life on the red planet is not always easy, but it is definitely exciting. Tyce finds that the mysteries of the planet point to his greatest discovery—a new relationship with God. He talks about his growing faith and curiosity in a manner that kids can relate to as they are probably wondering some of the same things. Each book contains two exciting adventures. In the first adventure, the Mars project is in trouble and only Tyce holds the key. In the second adventure, Tyce has discovered there may be killer aliens on the loose.
Robot Wars is a repackaged and updated version of Mars Diaries. There are now five books in the series; each book contains two stories. These new books contain a foreword about how far science has brought us."


In Robot Wars, Book #1: Death Trap, we are introduced to 14 year old Tyce, the first - and so far only - kid to be born and to live in an experimental community on Mars in 2039. Due to a spinal injury that happened when he was a baby, Tyce is disabled (his legs are crippled) and he uses a wheelchair. He longs to go outside the dome that they live in on mars and actually see what the real Mars is like rather than seeing it through a virtual reality program, but he can’t due to having to use his wheelchair which would sink in the sand on Mars. At the beginning of the series Tyce is not a Christian. His mom is a Christian and tells Tyce about God and trys to convince him to put his faith in God, but Tyce only believes in science and what he can see and measure.

Death Trap is split up into two journals. The two journals were originally published as books one and two in the Mars Diaries series.

In the first journal, the community on Mars is faced with an oxygen crisis where they are running out of oxygen and must figure out what to do. If they don’t find a way to fix the problem quickly, they could all die. During this crisis, a long kept secret is revealed to Tyce and he must make a tough decision of his own.

In the second journal, a scientist working in an experimental greenhouse is attacked by some unknown creatures. There aren’t supposed to be any living creatures on Mars, so what are these creatures and where did they come from? Could they be aliens? That is what Tyce wants to find out.

I used to see the original versions of these books (when they were published as the Mars Diaries series) a lot at my local bookstores and thrift stores and for some reason was never interested in them. Apparently I thought they were about a totally different plot or of a different genre than what they actually are. I wish I had given them a chance and read one of the books sooner as I did enjoy reading the first book in the Robot Wars series and probably would have liked it even more when I was younger. The book was interesting and had several plot twists. The first journal had some very emotional parts in it. I liked the pace of the book and I wanted to keep reading to find out what was going to happen. I really did like the book and I would now like to read the rest of the series to find out what happens to Tyce in his other Mars adventures.

I think this book is a good book for the ages it is intended for, and some adults (like me) will enjoy it as well, although a lot of adults will probably find it too simplistic in comparison to adult science fiction books. I like that this series can be read by both boys and girls. It seems there are an abundance of books published by Christian publishers for girls, but not many for boys. I definitely think this would be a great series for boys to read, especially if they are interested in space, science fiction, and robots.

One thing I do not like so far about this series is the newer “Robot Wars” title. I think it can be misleading as there is no actual robot war in this book (and although I haven’t read the other books in this series, I don’t think there is one in them either). I thought the Mars Diaries title for the series was a better choice that wouldn’t lead to confusion about what this book is about.


Hello, and welcome to my blog! My name is Alisha and I'm a 21 year old Christian who loves to read. I decided to create this blog so I had a place to post my book reviews and other book related stuff and also as a way to possibly help bookworms like myself discover some new books they might like to read. Most of the reviews I write will be for Christian fiction books (both children's and adult books) in all different genres, but I will also post reviews for other books (mostly youth fiction books) if they are books that would be okay for Christian readers to read. I'm also an artist, seamstress, and crafter, so I will be posting reviews about sewing, craft, and art books occasionally.
Once again, welcome to my blog! I hope that while you're visiting you may find a new book to read!