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

Cover Art
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.