Friday, September 30, 2011

A unique read with a triumphant ending: My book review of Snitch by Booker T. Mattison



Publisher: Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group
Publication Date: May 1, 2011

Book Synopsis as provided by the publisher:

On the streets of Jersey City there is a simple code. You don't talk to the cops. You don't snitch. Period. But when bus driver Andre Bolden witnesses a crime on his route, he is compelled to make a choice. If he keeps silent, he might lose his job and be gnawed by his conscience. If he snitches, he could lose his family--even his life.

MY REVIEW

I found Snitch to be a unique read, and the world of Jersey City to be as foreign to read about as the plains of Africa. Snitch reads like a movie, with crisp scenes and a fast pace. It was not written in my favourite writing style, but I did find that the character of Andre is well-developed as he hits rock bottom and then gropes towards the Light, with a host of supporting cast who added spice and variety, such as former gangster-turned-pastor, "Rock", or the group of men who call themselves the "Realness". I particularly enjoyed the latter half of the book, where God's faithfulness shines despite the tragedy that hits. The closing scenes are triumphant and a celebration of what it means to be both a man and a warrior for God. I enjoyed peering into the black urban street life of Jersey City, glimpsing the dark underpinnings but also the hope of Christ shining in unexpected places.

I give this book a solid recommendation, and award it 4 out of 5 stars.

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

End of the World? The Mayan Apocalypse by Mark Hitchcock and Alton Gansky

I am certain that over the course of the next year, more and more people will be talking about the Mayan calender and the infamous date of 12/21/12, much like occurred with the Y2K scare. For years already, speculation has abounded about the ancient calender and news organization are likely to continue to capitalize on people's fears (for a good article on the issue, see this USA Today piece). On Dec.12, 2012, the sun will be aligned with the center of the Milky Way for the first time in about 26,000 years, and people are wondering - what will that mean for the people of Earth? Disastrous Solar flares? Meteorites? Volcanoes? The end of the world as we know it? The destruction of the economy?

I won't get into the details of the different opinions about what may or may not occur on that day, but I am interested in knowing:

What do you think that day will bring?




Mark Hitchcock and Alton Gansky have teamed up to write a novel considering exactly such scenarios as posed above. Check out my review below:

--

Book Synopsis as supplied by the publisher, Harvest House: 

On the heels of Mark Hitchcock’s prophecy bestseller 2012, the Bible, and the End of the World comes a suspenseful novel (coauthored with bestselling novelist Alton Gansky) about the supposed expiration date of planet earth—December 21, 2012.

Andrew Morgan is a wealthy oil executive in search of the meaning of life. In his quest for answers he encounters the ancient Mayan predictions that the world will end in 2012. That the claims seem supported by math and astronomy drives him to check on them. Then he meets Lisa Campbell, an attractive Christian journalist also researching the Mayan calendar. When he learns that she is a Christian, he quickly dismisses what she has to say.

As the time draws closer to December 21, 2012, a meteorite impact in Arizona, a volcanic eruption, and the threat of an asteroid on a collision-course with earth escalate fears. Are these indicators of a global apocalypse? Will anyone survive? Does Lisa’s Christian faith have the answers after all? Or has fate destined everyone to a holocaust from which there is no escape?

MY REVIEW


The Mayan Apocalypse is action-packed, with suspense and mystery and grand What-if? scenarios. I enjoyed peering into the authors' imaginations of what could be, and was captivated by the details of the ancient Mayan predictions. However, I was a bit disappointed with the overall character development, and found a lot of the dialogue to detract from the pace of the story. Some of the interactions between the journalist, Lisa, and the "newbie" reporter were just downright annoying. In the end, I found the idea of the book, with it's focus on the Apocalypse as prophesied by an ancient culture, to be more entertaining than the novel itself.

For these reasons, I cannot really give the book more than 3.5 out of 5 stars, and a mild recommendation. It wasn't quite what I was hoping for and didn't provide the same level of enjoyment as previous books I've read by Alton Gansky. However, readers who enjoy novels about the end-times will likely appreciate the different twist represented by this book.  

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Book Review: Double Take by Melody Carlson



Publisher: Revell
Publication Date: June 1, 2011


Book Synopsis as provided by the publisher:

What do you do when your life is not all it's cracked up to be? Get a new one.

It's spring break of her senior year and Madison Van Buren is fed up. Stressed over decisions on colleges, her parents' bickering, and pressures from her boyfriend, Madison gets in her car and just drives away. Meanwhile, seventeen-year-old Anna Fisher wants to escape the so-called simple life of the Amish--which for her consists of caring for younger children, sewing, cooking, and gardening--and she's well aware that her future will simply be more of the same with a man she doesn't love. Worlds collide when Madison and Anna meet for the first time in a small town, realize they look uncannily alike, and decide the grass is greener on the other side. Neither of them will ever be the same.

MY REVIEW

Double Take poses an interesting scenario, the ability to exchange lives for a week with someone else to discover what life would be like if you'd been born into a different family. Carlson managed to create a scenario that seemed largely believable due to the fact that Anna was supposed to be helping out an aunt she hadn't seen in two years, and Madison's parents were likewise out of town, so that the people they mostly interacted with were none the wiser about the switch taking place. I did have to suspend my belief somewhat in regards to one key character not recognizing that Madison was not actually Madison. Also, a weakness that stood out for me is that there was no real consequences or accountability for their actions in the story with the exception of Madison having to apologize to one man for flirting with him and leading him on. Although they made a decision that was naive and lighthearted with no intent to cause harm, deceiving people is really no simple thing and this side of the story is somewhat glossed over.

However, taken at face value, it is clear Carlson is attempting to provide a lighthearted read that also imparts some deeper truths. I always enjoy reading about the Amish and the simplicity they've embraced, and Carlson not only provides an entertaining story, but also highlights our overindulgence in material possessions and how this can get in the way of our relationship with God. Carlson's conclusion was spot-on, as she writes "But Madison felt certain that God appreciated simplicity. Because that was where she had found him. And that was where she was determined to remain".

Teens looking for a fun story with some deeper themes should count on picking up this book. A strong recommendation due to the important message contained in these pages, I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

3 free christian ebooks from Abingdon Press and Authors Debbie Viguie, Ronie Kendig, and Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Christian book publisher Abingdon Press is offering 3 Christian Fiction ebooks for FREE for a limited time.
Here they are:

For your Amazon Kindle (or the NEW Amazon Fire Tablet!), click on the following links:








Barnes & Noble and Christianbook are also offering these ebooks for free as well if you do a quick search on their websites. If you download the epub from Christianbook.com then you can put it onto your Kobo or Sony Ereaders.

Enjoy! 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Free christian non-fiction ebook for Kindle, Nook, and Kobo from author Matt Sorger

Grab this newly made free ebook entitled "Power for Life", currently available for free from Amazon, Christianbook.com, and Barnes & Noble:



Or for a universal epub go to: Christianbook.com  
Or for a nook book follow this link: Nook Book

Enjoy!

Book Review: Thank You, God, For Blessing Me



Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Publication Date: October 4, 2011

Little Hermie, a baby catepillar who grows up to headline numerous other children's books from Max Lucado in the Hermie & Friends series, now is featured in a new line of Little Hermie books. In Thank You, God, for blessing me, Little Hermie goes through his day thanking God for all the many blessings that God has given him.

Filled with bright pictures and featuring an easy to read rhyme, toddlers will greatly enjoy this short but entertaining read. Toddlers will come away with an important message about being thankful for the many good things God has given to them. When I read this book with my own toddler, I found it held his attention and he really enjoyed looking at the pictures. I am sure I'll be reading it to him over and over!

A solid recommendation, I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

Book has been provided courtesy of the publisher, Thomas Nelson, via the booksneeze program, for the purposes of this unbiased review.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Newly released free ebook for Kindle, Nook, or as an EPUB for Kobo & Sony

Today another nonfiction Christian book became free for a temporary time from Publisher NavPress. The book is available on Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble.com, and on Christianbook.com.

Amazon.com

 

  NOOK







If you download the book from Christianbook as an epub, you can put the ebook on your Kobo or Sony or other ereader device.
Happy Monday!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Book Review: Forsaking All Others by Allison Pittman




Publisher: Tyndale House
Publication Date: October 1, 2011

This second book in the sister wife series continues the story of Camilla Fox, who at the end of the first book is left lost in the snow after being forced to leave her home when she refuses to be rebaptized into the Mormon religion. The cost to her decision is staggering as she is forced to leave her children behind. After Camilla is rescued from the snowstorm, Forsaking All Others follows Camilla's journey to Salt Lake City, where she discovers that her very life is at risk. With the help of the U.S. army, she flees back to her parent's home, returning like the prodigal son with the hope of open arms but unsure whether she'll be truly welcomed. Throughout the story, she longs to be reunited with her children and must trust God to guide her steps and show her how she can be a mother to her children without giving up her faith in God.

Allison Pittman has again written a powerful, moving story in Forsaking All Others. The circumstances of Camilla are both heartbreaking and inspiring as we watch her faith in action, despite the enormous cost of being separated from her children, and the author has succeeded in bringing to life a truly endearing character. The rich, historical details regarding Mormonism that are woven into the story are fascinating to read about and consider.

Even though this is the second book in the series, Pittman did a fine job of reviewing the first book through a clever "letter" sent to a journal that is placed at the beginning of the story. I think that readers who haven't read the first book would be able to enjoy this book despite missing out on the first story. The first half of the story did not move quite as quickly as I would have liked, but the writing is rich and the drama of Camilla's hard choices does keep the story moving along. The ending is all I hoped for, though bittersweet in it's triumph.

God's love and grace shines through this story, and this is definitely a worthwhile read. I strongly recommend this book, and give it 4.5 out of 5 stars.

This book has been provided courtesy of Tyndale House Publishers, who provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for the purposes of an unbiased review.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Book Review: Paper Angels by Jimmy Wayne with Travis Thrasher



Publisher: Howard Books
Publication Date: November 1, 2011

Country music artist Jimmy Wayne and author Travis Thrasher have penned a moving story about 43-yr-old Kevin Morrell and 15-yr-old Thomas Brandt and the intertwining of the lives through the Salvation Army's Angel Tree program. Kevin is facing the likely closure of his 10-yr-old marketing firm, while anticipating the coming birth of baby twins. Thomas, together with his mom and his younger sister, is trying to simply survive, as his mom has chosen to leave his alcoholic father and is struggling to make ends meet. All will find hope in their faith in God and through acts of kindness to each other, in the true meaning of Christmas.

I found Paper Angels to be a book with a lot of heart, and I especially enjoyed the character of Thomas. Despite his poverty and the bullying he endures, Thomas rises above his circumstances in a manner that is sure to inspire readers. I do have to acknowledge that I found parts of the story a bit slow, especially some of the scenes with Kevin and his struggling company and his worries about being able to provide for his family. While I can definitely relate to his struggles, for some reason I just found that his scenes caused the book to drag a little, and I would look forward to returning to scenes involving Thomas or his mother. However, overall I definitely found the book to be worth reading and there were even moments that brought tears to my eyes in the latter chapters, especially due to Thomas and his unselfish and forgiving behaviours. I found that the book brought to life the hope that God gives us, and also highlights our chocies to make a difference, and not let our circumstances give us an excuse to do nothing.

Any readers who have not yet had the privilege of giving to others through the Angel Tree program will find it difficult to resist from doing so after reading this story. I give this book a solid recommendation of 4 out of 5 stars.

I received an advanced reader's copy of this book from the publisher via the netgalley program.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Book Review: Angel Sister by Ann H. Gabhart



Publisher: Revell
Publication Date: February 1, 2011

Book Synopsis as provided by the publisher:


It is 1936 and Kate Merritt is trying hard to keep her family together. Her father has slipped into alcoholism, her mother tries to come to grips with their dire financial situation, and her sisters seem to remain blissfully oblivious to all of it. Kate could never have imagined that a dirty, abandoned little girl named Lorena Birdsong would be just what her family needs.

MY REVIEW

Angel Sister was one of the most beautiful novels that I have read so far this year. I absolutely love reading books where children are featured as main characters, and this one was particularly well done. The characters are realistically portrayed, dealing with hurts and disappointments in a way that brings to life the power of forgiveness and reconciliation and God's love for us. Kate is a character that I found especially endearing with her spark and determination, and her rocky relationship with her grandfather was especially well-handled. The book captured my attention through-out and dealt with some incredibly difficult issues like alcoholism and child abuse and rejection without getting bogged down. I enjoyed it right from the first chapter to the satisfying conclusion.

Gabhart has spun a richly textured novel, a powerful story that will stay with me for some time. I highly recommend this book and give it 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Free fiction and non-fiction ebooks for kindle, nook, and as epubs

Phew! I've been starting to wonder when some more ebooks would be made free!

As of today, there are several more options for your Kobo, Kindle, Nook reader, Ipad, etc. They are being offered for free as of today, for a limited time.

Check out the following options available on amazon.com, christianbook.com, and barnes&noble.com:












The following is currently free only on kindle but should be free elsewhere soon:




And the following book is free as a nook book and at christianbook.com:

The Harbinger: The Ancient Mystery That Holds the Secret of America's Future by Jonathan Cahn: Book Cover



Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Book Review: The Queen (The Bowers Files Book 5) by Steven James



Publisher: Revell
Publication date: September 1, 2011

Book Synopsis as provided by the publisher:

While investigating a mysterious double homicide in an isolated northern Wisconsin town, FBI Special Agent Patrick Bowers uncovers a high-tech conspiracy that ties together long-buried Cold War secrets with present-day tensions in the Middle East.

MY REVIEW

The Queen captured me from the first sentence and held me victim until the last page. I literally found myself thinking several times, this book is unbelievably good. James is a master of suspense, and the Patrick Bowers thrillers are some of the best in the genre. The scenes are skillfully written and crackle with tension, and the character of Patrick Bowers is masterfully rendered, with the author probing further into Bowers' personal history in this novel than he has done in previous ones. I love reading about Bowers relationship with his stepdaughter, Tessa, as it is so unique and different than many father-daughter relationships that are often portrayed. Tessa herself is quirky and yet endearing at the same time. And, as in his earlier novels, the author has succeeded at creating fascinating villains, especially in the character of Alexei Chekov, who is brutal and violent and yet an enigma of empathy at the same time. The book concludes with a twist that readers likely won't see coming.

James has a special ability to keep the pages turning at a frantic pace and the rest of my life suffers when one of his books is released, as they are just so difficult to put down! I highly recommend this book, and give it 5 out of 5 stars.

**A word of caution is in order: the books in these series are full of gruesome detail that will definitely turn some readers off. Fans of books or television shows that involve FBI agents and who can handle dead bodies and the portrayal of serial killers will not be impacted, but those expecting a gentle romance should steer clear.

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Monday, September 19, 2011

A plea to all authors - PLEASE stop using the salmon metaphors!

I cannot help but literally roll my eyes when I am in the middle of reading a great book, and suddenly the key character finds themselves "like a salmon swimming upstream". Usually, they are making their way through a crowd when this not-so-unique line is employed. Argh!

I am not sure why this metaphor must be used so often. Is it a prerequisite to becoming a famous author, that one must use this phrase to be considered an expert wordsmith? I am especially surprised when reading a book written in first-person and this thought about the salmon goes through the character's mind. My goodness! It's almost unbelievable. Do people actually walk around feeling like a spawning salmon? Do people actually stop and think to themselves, "this is what those salmon must feel like"?

Well, in any case, I will try to refrain from having a hissy fit the next time this line appears in a book, as it appears inevitable. Sigh...

Stay tuned for an upcoming review on a GREAT thriller - without even a HINT of spawning salmon swimming upstream!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Book Review: The Baker's Wife by Erin Healy



Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Publication Date: October 4, 2011

Audrey, a pastor’s wife trying to faithfully live out her beliefs, has been called by God to be a comforter to those who are suffering. A routine visit to a woman dying of cancer results in an experience and choices made that have consequences far beyond her understanding. When her husband and son's very lives become threatened, Audrey must trust God as she's never had to before.

A powerfully written, absolutely thrilling novel, The Baker’s Wife was a wholly satisfying read that captured my attention from the beginning and didn’t let go until the superb conclusion. Healy has a powerful grasp of the written language, using description that adds beautiful detail yet doesn't detract from the suspense she expertly creates. Of all of her books that I have read, this is so far my favourite, written at an unstoppable pace, yet providing glimpses into the power of forgiveness and God's grace. Healy has created beautifully developed characters, people who are flawed, who make mistakes like we all do, and yet their ability to forgive and overcome and find redemption is inspiring.


If you’ve never yet had the chance to read one of Healy’s novels, I strongly encourage you to waste no time in getting this book. You will not be disappointed. A highly recommended read, I give this book 5 out of 5 stars.

This book has been provided courtesy of the publisher via the Booksneeze program and netgalley for the purposes of this unbiased review.


Friday, September 16, 2011

Book Review: Have a New Teenager by Friday by Dr. Kevin Leman



Publisher: Revell
Publication Date: September 1, 2011

Book Synopsis as provided by the publisher: 

Do you know this person? He eats cereal out of a large mixing bowl. Her bedroom looks like a garbage dump . . . on a good day. If there were an Academy Award for eye-rolling, he'd win. She changes outfits three times before breakfast. Congratulations! You have a teenager in your home.

With his signature wit and commonsense psychology, internationally recognized family expert and New York Times bestselling author Dr. Kevin Leman will help you
  • gain respect--even admiration--from your teenager
  • establish healthy boundaries and workable guidelines
  • communicate with the "whatever" generation
  • turn selfish behavior around
  • navigate the critical years with confidence
  • pack your teenager's bags with what he or she needs for life now and in the future
  • become the major difference-maker in your teenager's life

MY REVIEW

Have a New Teenager by Friday is chock-full of common-sense, practical wisdom that manages to keep your attention at the same time. I greatly enjoyed Dr. Leman's writing style, and the anecdotes contained in the book, such as in the "It worked for me" sections, were interesting and insightful. It is a book that I plan on revisiting numerous times in the future, and I truly believe that parents of teenagers and pre-teens will benefit from reading this book. The latter half of the book, which contains 75 topic areas on everything from texting to pregnancy to mouthing off to using social media, is particularly useful, as is the index in the back that lets you quickly look up a subject should you need to consult the book on a certain matter. The material throughout the book is incredibly relevant to the current generation of teens, and acknowledges that they are facing a world very different than the one their parents grew up in. 

One comment I want to make on the book is the claim of having a new teen in only 5 days. While I do not doubt that such change is possible, some families have very complex histories, and issues like abuse or divorce or mental illness are so pervasive that quick change may not always be possible. Regardless, I do believe that the advice contained in the book is useful and timely, and parents should strongly consider adding this book to their "must read" list. I highly recommend this book and give it 5 out of 5 stars.

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Book Review: The Doctor's Lady by Jody Hedlund



Publisher: Bethany House
Publication Date: September 1, 2011

Book Synopsis as provided by the publisher:

Priscilla White knows she'll never be a wife or mother and feels God's call to the mission field in India. Dr. Eli Ernest is back from Oregon Country only long enough to raise awareness of missions to the natives before heading out West once more. But then Priscilla and Eli both receive news from the mission board: No longer will they send unmarried men and women into the field.

Left scrambling for options, the two realize the other might be the answer to their needs. Priscilla and Eli agree to a partnership, a marriage in name only that will allow them to follow God's leading into the mission field. But as they journey west, this decision will be tested by the hardships of the trip and by the unexpected turnings of their hearts.

MY REVIEW

Adventure, drama, a faith that will inspire you, characters defying societal expectations...The Doctor's Lady has it all. This novel is the first I have read by the author, and I discovered that Jody Hedlund provides an entertaining and absorbing read. Although I've read many historical fiction novels about travelling west to Oregon, it was quite interesting to read about the first white women to travel across America and the trials they encountered. One of my primary criticisms about this book is that it was not until the very end that I learned that the novel was based on a factual account of this very event. I am the type of reader that would enjoy looking at a story through the lens of wondering "Wow, this may have really happened!". I wish I had been told this information prior to starting the story, and I'm still not clear why this is not announced somewhere on the back cover or at the beginning of the book, because I would have viewed the story in a different manner.

Despite this fact, I found that the writing was well done, with swift dialogue, expert use of descriptions and detail, and well-developed characters. I found Eli to be a fascinating character with his heart-wrenching background, his strong faith in God, and his counter-cultural view of American Indians. I grew a bit impatient with the unfolding of Priscilla and Eli's relationship and waiting to determine whether they would make their marriage "real" or not, and his self-control when Priscilla practically threw herself at him was rather superhuman! However, I realize that this is a guy's perspective and that this novel was probably primarily written for a female audience, so I shall offer my opinion with a grain of salt.

Readers of historical fiction will readily engage with the characters and find themselves well-entertained and inspired to consider how they themselves can give their everything for Jesus, even at risk of their own lives. A solid recommendation, I give this novel 4 out of 5 stars.

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

New free fiction ebooks from Abingdon Press & Summerside

For those looking for some new fiction ebooks (free, of course!), this week a few more have been made free temporarily from Abingdon Press and a publisher that is somewhat new to me, Summerside. The following books are free on Amazon, Christianbook.com and Barnes&Noble.com:







For some reason, two ebooks from the publisher Summerside are only free currently on Amazon.com in kindle format, but hopefully they'll become free soon from the other major ebook websites as epub books:





Well, there you have it - 5 options for the discerning reader...who doesn't love FREE ebooks?

Take care!