Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Read Love Reviews: Paper Angels

Paper Angels by Jimmy Wayne with Travis Thrasher

Pub. Date: November 1, 2011
Publisher: Howard Books
Format: pdf, 240pp
Age Range: Adult
ISBN-13: 9781451606195 (for Hardcover)
Source: NetGalley




 Synopsis from BN.com:
Kevin Morrell is a forty-three-year-old husband and father who runs a successful design and marketing firm that's crashed into the suffering economy. Attempting to navigate the busyness of the mall at Christmas, Kevin is humbled when he stumbles across the Salvation Army's Angel Tree Project. His wife insists that he take a paper ornament.
The name on the ornament is Thomas Brandt, a fifteen-year-old still reeling from the implosion of his family—from years of verbal abuse from an alcoholic father to a mother who finally left him behind, only to find herself and her children penniless and struggling. The only thing has allowed Lynn to survive is her faith. Thomas shares that faith, but he also wonders why God has seemingly abandoned them.
This is the story about a man and a boy one December. A man whose life is changed by a simple expression of kindness, and a boy who takes that expression of kindness and shows the true meaning of Christmas.
My Review:


Paper Angels is clearly inspired by Country singer and Author Jimmy Wayne's own life. He was himself once a recipient of the Salvation Army's Angel Tree program. Having lived through hard times himself, he feels a personal responsibility to give back. Knowing Jimmy Wayne's music and background, I was curious to read this book, and thanks to NetGalley, I was able to do so. 

I began reading on Christmas Eve and finished the day after Christmas. Paper Angels tells an important story. Readers will understand a little more about the Salvation Army and the organization's Angel Tree program. But more importantly, readers will be given an immeasurable gift. For this novel is a fitting book to read at Christmastime to remember what the Spirit of Christmas is all about.

The two storylines and two families intersect thanks to the Angel Tree. When Kevin pulls Thomas' angel off the tree at the mall, he begins to think about more than himself and his own troubles. Additionally, each time he goes to buy a gift for Thomas, Kevin has an encounter with someone from his past with whom he has lost touch. Through his giving to Thomas, and his interactions with friends, Kevin begins to learn how to be a better husband, father, and friend. And just as importantly, his faith, which been forgotten and nearly lost, is refound.

Thomas' storyline is the most compelling part of the novel. And Thomas is also the strength of the book. You'll want to read the story through to its conclusion just to find out what kind of Christmas and what kind of ending Thomas has. This young man is both giving and forgiving. He is compassionate and kind. He has his own struggles and troubles, but he overcomes them through faith and love. I won't give anything away, but Thomas has a heart of gold. And we can all benefit from reading this book at Christmas time and remembering that, even if our lives are difficult or stressful, there is always someone who is hurting and struggling more than we are. If we remember to look past ourselves and help others, we'll be rewarded more than we could ever imagine. I hope that those who read this book are inspired to be generous and give of themselves to make someone else's life a little bit happier. Not just at Christmas, but all year through.


Sunday, December 25, 2011

Sunday Inspiration (20): Christmas Day Edition

"Good Tidings of Great Joy" by Walter Rane
"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."

Luke 2:8-14, King James Version

 

Merry Christmas to All! Hallelujah the Savior is born!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Read Love Reviews: The Christmas Bus

The Christmas Bus by Melody Carlson

Pub. Date: October 1, 2006
Publisher: Baker Publishing Group
Format: Nook book, 134pp
Age Range: Adult
ISBN-13: 9781441200921
Source: Barnes & Noble




Synopsis from BN.com:
Welcome to Christmas Valley - Christmas Capital of the Pacific Northwest!

It's only two weeks before Christmas, and Edith Ryan is disappointed to learn that none of her children are coming home for the holidays. Her large house, which doubles as The Shepherd's Inn the rest of the year, will feel so empty without them. And it's too late to open the inn for Christmas reservations--surely everyone else has their plans made by now. In a town where Christmas is a way of life all year long, going through the holidays alone is just about enough to bring her to tears.

Suddenly, Edith knows what she has to do - she'll invite strangers to book those rooms usually reserved for family during the week of Christmas. When the guest list shapes up to include a cantankerous old woman and a mysterious young couple with a broken-down hippie bus and a baby on the way, Edith wonders if she made the right choice.

My Review: 


Barnes & Noble offered The Christmas Book as a free Nook book for a short time. Having read another of Melody Carlson's Christmas novellas, I decided to hop on the free offer before it was gone! (If you are reading this now, you're too late.)  

The Christmas Bus is a nice little read to help get you in the Christmas spirit. It's not going to win awards for literary value, but it accomplishes what it sets out to do.  

The novella, which reads a little like Jan Karon's Mitford, tells a heartwarming story of a small town called Christmas Valley. The hamlet capitalizes on the commercial side of Christmas to draw tourists. But in Carlson's tale, the characters learn a lot about the true meaning and spirit of Christmas. This story teaches about hospitality and generosity and serves as a gentle reminder to all of us to open our hearts at Christmastime.

While The Christmas Bus is for the most part predictable, Carlson succesfully creates a comforting, heartwarming tale. And she does throw in a surprising little twist at the end that I enjoyed.

If you are looking for a short, peaceful book to read in December, The Christmas Bus is a nice diversion and a relaxing way to sit a spell to escape the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.

Recommended for Christmas cheer!


Read Love Reviews: White Christmas Pie

White Christmas Pie by Wanda E. Brunstetter

Pub. Date: September 2008
Publisher: Barbour Publishing, Inc.
Format: Paperback, 300pp
Age Range: Adult
ISBN-13: 9781597899376
Source: Library




Synopsis from Goodreads.com:
Step into Amish country for this bittersweet holiday romance. Here you'll meet Will Henderson, a young man tortured by his past, and Karen Yoder, a young woman looking for answers. Add a desperate father searching for his son, and you have all the ingredients for a first-class romance that will inspire and enthrall.

My Review: 


White Christmas Pie is my first experience reading a Wanda Brunstetter book. I know that she has a good reputation for writing Amish Fiction, so I was excited when, on my way to the checkout, I saw this on a special display at the library. I snatched it up, added it to my pile, and went merrily on my way.

White Christmas Pie is a very easy read. While's it's not deep, its characters are not fleshed out, and the story is fairly predictable, I found the experience to be very comforting. Reading Christian fiction, particularly Amish Fiction, is a breath of fresh air. It's akin to watching Little House on the Prairie. People are simpler, life is gentler, and one is restored and refreshed for having spent a little time away from the world at large.

While there is nothing bad about the story, the fact that much of plot centers around contrivances and misunderstandings takes it down a notch. Still, this fact didn't take away from my enjoyment of the novel. I happily turned the pages to see Will, Karen, Regina, Mark, Frank, et al through to the end. I wanted a happy ending for them all and the author was kind enough to oblige.  

Christmas Pie could probably be shared by mother and daughter. I would imagine the novel is safe reading for anyone 12 or older. It's clean, positive, and uplifting. And though the story has its turmoil, it is never dark or weighty.  From what I've read on goodreads, this book is not necessarily on par with the rest of Brunstetter's other work, so don't be misled. I look forward to reading more by this author.



Monday, December 19, 2011

Read Love Reviews: Liesl & Po

Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver

Pub. Date: October 4, 2011
Publisher: Harper Collins
Format: Hardcover, 307pp
Age Range: 9 to 12
ISBN-13: 9780062014511
Source: Library




Synopsis from Goodreads.com:
Liesl lives in a tiny attic bedroom, locked away by her cruel stepmother. Her only friends are the shadows and the mice—until one night a ghost appears from the darkness. It is Po, who comes from the Other Side. Both Liesl and Po are lonely, but together they are less alone.
That same night, an alchemist's apprentice, Will, bungles an important delivery. He accidentally switches a box containing the most powerful magic in the world with one containing something decidedly less remarkable.
Will's mistake has tremendous consequences for Liesl and Po, and it draws the three of them together on an extraordinary journey.
From New York Times bestselling author Lauren Oliver comes a luminous and magnificent novel that glows with rare magic, ghostly wonders, and a true friendship that lights even the darkest of places.

My Review:

 

Liesl & Po reads like a fairytale. Young Liesl, hidden away in the attic by an evil stepmother, eventually finds her way to freedom and adventure. While there are common tropes here, the story is not derivative. Liesl & Po is a magical tale with a unique premise and original ideas.

The story feels at once period and timeless. While it seems at times like the novel could be Victorian, there is nothing that pins it down to any one time or place.  You'll instantly fall in love with the characters. Liesl is brave, artistic, and smart. She is befriended by Po, an unusual character whom I could never adequately describe. The reader is drawn to it with both curiosity and compassion. You really should find out for yourself what makes Po so loveably unique! Along the way, we also meet Will, who is taken with Liesl from the start. Each of her friends is drawn to Liesl for different reasons, but as the story progresses, the three are united in both mission and friendship.

The whole cast of characters, be they villainous or sympathetic, comes vibrantly off the page and into your imaginative space. You'll be transported into another world as you journey along with Liesl and friends. You'll laugh, sneer, cheer, and maybe even cry. For while this tale has sprinkles of magic, humor, and adventure, it is most importantly about love and relationships. At book's end when you discover the real-life inspiration behind the novel, you'll understand why Lauren Oliver put so much genuine heart its telling.

Lauren Oliver's Liesl & Po, with its spirited heroine, its fresh take on ghosts and "the Other Side," and its tender portrayal of love and loss is nothing short of a joy to read. 

Highly recommended!




Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sunday Inspiration (19)



"It is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty founder was a child himself."
Charles Dickens




Sunday Inspiration is a weekly feature hosted here @ Read Love.
It began from my desire to share a nugget of encouragement or wisdom.
I didn't intend for it to be a community thing, but due to positive feedback,
I'm giving it a try! (Thanks, Kate)

Participation is welcome!
Your quote need not be faith-based, but it should be positive and uplifting.


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sunday Inspiration (18)



"Reflect on your present blessings of which every man has many, not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some."
Charles Dickens




Sunday Inspiration is a weekly feature hosted here @ Read Love.
It began from my desire to share a nugget of encouragement or wisdom.
I didn't intend for it to be a community thing, but due to positive feedback,
I'm giving it a try! (Thanks, Kate)

Participation is welcome!
Your quote need not be faith-based, but it should be positive and uplifting.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

CD Reviews: NewReleaseTuesday.com
Crisis Worship by Pavilion Towers Worship

I'd like to share my newest CD review for NewReleaseTuesday.com:

Crisis Worship  by Pavilion Towers Worship.

This CD is a terrific worship record from Society Revival Music Group, a record label founded by Jerel Paul Bland aka Rel Paul (see my review of his CD Spoiler Alert). The main vocal is a beautiful female voice from Pavilion Towers Worship Leader, Cortney Joi. Learn more about Cortney Joi and the group here.
Click through on the CD cover to hop over to NewReleaseTuesday.com to read my review.


Pavilion Towers Worship - Crisis Worship
4.5 stars

NewReleaseTuesday.com is a terrific site, full of Christian music (and book) reviews and news.  Each week, you can stream an entire album!  If you're interested, click on the logo below to learn more! Right now, you can stream this record!







I have been asked to join the Album Review Staff at NewReleaseTuesday.com, the #1-ranked Christian music website.
Each month I'll be writing two or three reviews for them.
(Note: I will still be posting book reviews, etc., here on Read Love.)

*I receive no remuneration for my reviews at NewReleaseTuesday.com.*

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Read Love Reviews: Highland Sanctuary


Highland Sanctuary by Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Pub. Date: October 1, 2011
Publisher: Abingdon Press Fiction
Format: egalley, 336pp
Age Range: Adult
Series: Highland #2
ISBN-13: 9781426714214 (for paperback edition)
Source: NetGalley



Synopsis from Amazon.com:
Gavin MacKenzie, a chieftain heir who is hired to restore the ancient Castle of Braigh, discovers a hidden village of outcasts who have created their own private sanctuary from the world. Among them is Serena Boyd, a mysterious and comely lass, who captures Gavin's heart in spite of harboring a deadly past that could destroy her future.

The villagers happen to be keeping an intriguing secret as well, and when a fierce enemy launches an attack against them, greed leads to bitter betrayal. Then, as Gavin prepares a defense, the villagers unite in a bold act of faith, showing how God's love is more powerful than any human force on earth.

My Review:


Where to start? I was intrigued at the idea of reading a historical novel set in the medieval Scottish highlands. I began with high hopes. In the early going, the novel had promise -- reading was gentle and easy, and there was a fairytale-like quality to the book. The setting and characters seemed almost enchanted. To her credit, Taylor created a village nestled into the highlands seemingly hidden from the world and all its evils. Its inhabitants were different, but kind and warm. This felt like a good place to live and, for the reader, a good place to visit.

We get a glimpse of Serena as a baby in a prelude to the story. This creates mystery and narrative tension. However, the manner in which her villainous father returns to the story is a little disappointing. Despite this shortcoming in the narrative, Serena is a sympathetic heroine and we want her to be happy. Her mother and the other secondary characters who love her are all well-drawn and endearing.

Serena is at the center of a love triangle. I quickly decided that I favored one suitor over the other, and Serena's heart chooses fairly quickly as well. However, this brings to mind another flaw in the novel -- one of the suitors vanishes from the book near the end. It's hard to believe that a man would promise marriage and so readily disappear without trying to win his desired bride.

I liked the hero, Gavin, very much. He is compassionate, chivalrous, and kind to the village of "misfits". I had emotional investment in the outcome of the novel for him. I was sorry to see that he was not given enough opportunity to be heroic. Usually the hero rescues the damsel-in-distress and saves the day, right? Not so here. He was rendered impotent by the choices the author made.

While I enjoyed the novel, it never blossomed into the book I had hoped it would be. The fairytale-like quality remained, but in a different sense. To some degree the book always felt like a tale rather than events happening to real people. There was never enough sense of immediacy or depth of emotion. One could find parallels between Highland Sanctuary and The Scarlet Letter. Each novel has a character who is judged by a "religious" and supposedly "pious" authority/culture. However, while the latter is thick with psychological and emotional tension, the former has little. Highland Sanctuary suffers for being a little too neat. Real life is messy, and the happenings of this book, messy as they were, could have been depicted with more depth and nuance.

All of the quibbles mentioned above don't hurt the overall reading experience much. For some time, this was en route to being a four-star book. As I said, it started off nicely and I hoped it would continue to build interest. It did for a time. The plot built slowly and at a certain point began to pick up speed and scope like a tumbling stone. In the end, though, the novel's end was its demise. The author, while not having made anything more than casual Christian references to God, prayer, and faith, suddenly presented a sermonette in the form of a letter from one of the characters. There was a comparison made connecting a sacrifice (which I felt was empty and unnecessary) to Christ's crucifixion. The connection felt heavy-handed, and the letter unauthentic and disconnected from the character's voice.

To sum up, what started with charm and grace lost its sparkle and hiccuped a bit coming to a close. Overall, though, the book was entertaining. Though it is part of a series, Highland Sanctuary stands alone and can easily be enjoyed without having read the first book in the series, Highland Blessings. The messages of this tale have merit: Love conquers all, home is where your loved ones are, and true sanctuary is only found in Christ. In short, while the ideas are good, the execution could have been improved.

Recommended with reluctance.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sunday Inspiration (17)



"Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time."
Laura Ingalls Wilder




Sunday Inspiration is a weekly feature hosted here @ Read Love.
It began from my desire to share a nugget of encouragement or wisdom.
I didn't intend for it to be a community thing, but due to positive feedback,
I'm giving it a try! (Thanks, Kate)

Participation is welcome!
Your quote need not be faith-based, but it should be positive and uplifting.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sunday Inspiration (16)



"Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things that escape those who dream only at night."
Edgar Allan Poe






Sunday Inspiration is a weekly feature hosted here @ Read Love.
It began from my desire to share a nugget of encouragement or wisdom.
I didn't intend for it to be a community thing, but due to positive feedback,
I'm giving it a try! (Thanks, Kate)

Participation is welcome!
Your quote need not be faith-based, but it should be positive and uplifting.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

CD Reviews: NewReleaseTuesday.com
Glory by Michael W. Smith

I'd like to share my newest CD review for NewReleaseTuesday.com:

Glory  by Michael W. Smith.

The newest release from Michael W. Smith, Glory, is an instrumental album, and serves as a kind of companion to his 2000 album Freedom.

Click through on the CD cover to hop over to NewReleaseTuesday.com to read my review.


Michael W. Smith - Glory
5 stars

NewReleaseTuesday.com is a terrific site, full of Christian music (and book) reviews and news.  Each week, you can stream an entire album!  If you're interested, click on the logo below to learn more! Right now, you can stream this record!




I have been asked to join the Album Review Staff at NewReleaseTuesday.com, the #1-ranked Christian music website.
Each month I'll be writing two or three reviews for them.
(Note: I will still be posting book reviews, etc., here on Read Love.)

*I receive no remuneration for my reviews at NewReleaseTuesday.com.*

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Sunday Inspiration (15)


"He that lives in hope dances without music."
George Herbert







Sunday Inspiration is a weekly feature hosted here @ Read Love.
It began from my desire to share a nugget of encouragement or wisdom.
I didn't intend for it to be a community thing, but due to positive feedback,
I'm giving it a try! (Thanks, Kate)

Participation is welcome!
Your quote need not be faith-based, but it should be positive and uplifting.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Author Interview: Q & A with Nicole O'Dell

I'm so thrilled to be presenting the first Read Love Author Interview!

Joining us is Nicole O'Dell, author of The Wishing Pearl. If you missed my recent review it's here.  
I'm grateful that Nicole was willing to take time out of her busy schedule as an author, mother of six, and radio host to answer some questions. The Wishing Pearl is part of a new series called The Diamond Estates novels.  Each book will introduce readers to a different girl whose life circumstances drive her to Diamond Estates, a residential home for troubled teens.  Book Two, The Embittered Ruby, is scheduled for release in April 2012.

Q: Let's start with your newest release, The Wishing Pearl.  I really enjoyed reading about Olivia and watching her journey unfold.  In what ways is Olivia's story based on or inspired by your own experiences as a teen?
A: When I was a young teen, I started making some really bad choices in response to some things that happened to me. My life spiraled out of control, and I got to the point where I didn’t think I’d get it together unless I got out of my circumstances. I went to live at a residential home for girls called Teen Challenge. I lived there for about eight months, and so much of what you read about Diamond Estates is how it was at Teen Challenge.

Olivia’s story is not completely my own, but her life and the lives of the girls she meets at Diamond Estates (and the ones in books two (The Embittered Ruby) and three (The Shadowed Onyx) are sort of a conglomeration of all I saw and experienced. 

Q: I particularly enjoyed Olivia's relationship with her brother Jake, and later with Tammy.  How the deaf are perceived and treated is very important to Olivia, and her interactions are respectful, kind, and compassionate.  It's interesting that Olivia may be best heard by these deaf characters.  Is there a real-life inspiration for Jake or Tammy?
A: No, there's no specific real-life inspiration from my own life. But everyone who steps beyond physical limitations and other things that people might see as setbacks inspires me. The inner strength and resolve to overcome is a beautiful picture of human strength. Also, in Olivia's case, you're completely right in identifying the connection between Olivia only feeling truly heard by the two deaf characters. Being heard is a real struggle for Olivia, and we find out toward the end of the book that much of the pain from her past is rooted in misinterpretation of the facts.


Q:  Tell me about Teen Talk Radio and the work you do with and for teens.
A: Teen Talk Radio is a weekly talk show that airs live at www.choicesradio.com on Thursdays at 10PM EST. Listeners can also subscribe for free on iTunes and receive each show in their iTunes folder. You can do that right here: http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/teen-talk-radio/id372833535?ign-mpt=uo%3D4

On the show I deal with topics like peer pressure, sex, relationships, dating, friendships, loyalty, self image, etc. Anything that pops up of interest to teens. I also have guests on each week whom I believe will be an inspiration to my teenage listeners.



Rockome Gardens, photo copyright Outdoor.com
Q:  On your Facebook Page, you mentioned going to Rockome Gardens in Arcola, Illinois.  You said you planned to "hang out among the Amish...and do some research for a book."  Are you planning to write an Amish novel? Please share!
A: Ah! Very observant. lol Yes. I can't share the details just yet, but I will say that this won't be your typical Amish series. Definitely not what you'd expect from an Amish story.. :)





Q:  Okay, for our last question let's talk a bit about reading.  What was your favorite book as a teen? And what do you enjoy reading now?
A: The Hiding Place, anything by Bodie and Brock Thoene, Randy Alcorn's The Deadline.... Funny enough, I'd still pick any of those up for a re-read. Most of my reading now is to review books for the radio show, my blog, or for my friends. I love having access to so many books!! 




Nicole O'Dell on the Web: 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

CD Reviews: NewReleaseTuesday.com
Spoiler Alert by Rel Paul

I'd like to share my newest CD review for NewReleaseTuesday.com:

Spoiler Alert by Rel Paul.

I'm extra excited about this one! Spoiler Alert has become pretty special for me.  It was my first experience listening to a rap/hip hop album from start to finish.  And it's 20 songs deep so it clocks in at just under 80 minutes of music! I love it, and I can't wait until the physical copy I ordered arrives in the mail!

Click through on the CD cover to hip hop over to NewReleaseTuesday.com to read my review.  Thanks!


Rel Paul - Spoiler Alert
4.5 stars

By the way, you can buy this CD right now as an Amazon MP3 purchase for $8.99! Wanna try one track? I recommend my favorite, "Crescendo of the Heart."

NewReleaseTuesday.com is a terrific site, full of Christian music (and book) reviews and news.  Each week, you can stream an entire album!  If you're interested, click on the logo below to learn more!





I have been asked to join the Album Review Staff at NewReleaseTuesday.com, the #1-ranked Christian music website.
Each month I'll be writing two or three reviews for them.
(Note: I will still be posting book reviews, etc., here on Read Love.)

*I receive no remuneration for my reviews at NewReleaseTuesday.com.*

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sunday Inspiration (14)


"If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world."
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity





Sunday Inspiration is a weekly feature hosted here @ Read Love.
It began from my desire to share a nugget of encouragement or wisdom.
I didn't intend for it to be a community thing, but due to positive feedback,
I'm giving it a try! (Thanks, Kate)

Participation is welcome!
Your quote need not be faith-based, but it should be positive and uplifting.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sunday Inspiration (13)


"'The greatest friend of truth is Time,
her greatest enemy is Prejudice, and
her constant companion is Humility
."
Charles Caleb Colton, The Lacon






Sunday Inspiration is a weekly feature hosted here @ Read Love.
It began from my desire to share a nugget of encouragement or wisdom.
I didn't intend for it to be a community thing, but due to positive feedback,
I'm giving it a try! (Thanks, Kate)

Participation is welcome!
Your quote need not be faith-based, but it should be positive and uplifting.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Read Love Reviews: The Wishing Pearl

The Wishing Pearl by Nicole O'Dell

Pub. Date: October 1, 2011
Publisher: Barbour Publishing, Inc. 
Format: Paperback, 367pp
Age Range: Young Adult
Series: Diamond Estates #1
ISBN-13: 9781616264543




Synopsis from Amazon.com:
Sixteen-year-old Olivia Mansfield can’t wait to escape the confines of her home, which promises nothing but perpetual torment and abuse from her stepfather. When poor choices lead her to the brink of a complete breakdown, Olivia comes to a crossroads. Will she find the path to ultimate hope and healing that her heart longs for?

From the Author:

This is the book of my heart. All of my books mean something special to me and are borne out of many of my own choices or experiences. But this one, in many ways (not all) is the story of finding my own faith and hope at a residential Teen Challenge center when I was a young teen. The reasons Olivia landed at Diamond Estates and the path she walked to get there are very different than my own, but Olivia and I shared the same need: Jesus.

My Review:

I won a copy of this book through a Goodreads First Reads giveaway.  And one day, not long after receiving the email notification from Goodreads, I received a package from Amazon.  The author, Nicole O'Dell, had bought me a copy of her book! How cool is that? I've never received a giveaway book so quickly before! I was really impressed and grateful.

The Wishing Pearl is the first in a planned series of Diamond Estates novels.  Diamond Estates is a Christian outreach center, a residential treatment facility for troubled teens.  In book one, we meet Olivia Mansfield, whom O'Dell manages to introduce to us in a way in which we can immediately sympathize with her.  The opening scene has her playing her oboe:  "The oboe understood her.  It sang her somber song.  Melancholy and forlorn...Perfect words to describe its cry and Olivia."  Right away, you want to learn about Olivia and her sadness.  And you find she is a nice girl.  She's not a bad girl, but she is losing her way -- she starts to make poor choices.  As Olivia navigates these choices, the author expertly shows her thought process, which is legitimately and believably one of a sixteen-year-old girl.  Eventually, Olivia's life becomes unmanageable, and she reaches a breaking point which ultimately takes her to Diamond Estates.  Her flight begins more as running away from danger in fear than running toward God or rescue, but Olivia is able to learn to trust in God and regain the faith that she had lost as a child.  This book chronicles her journey.
 
Rather than go into the plot in-depth, I'm going to touch on some aspects I particularly enjoyed.  First, Olivia's relationship with her brother Jake who is deaf. He and Olivia have a very special relationship.  The novel uses their relationship, as well as another deaf character, to show compassion and empathy toward people who are different.  Second, there are humorous moments that help keep the book and its serious topics from feeling too heavy.  Third, I enjoyed getting to know Olivia's three roommates.  The girls' group dynamic is very well done.  And although there is an occasional weighty one-on-one discussion, the lighthearted moments show the girls as friends and family.  This character-centered aspect helps keep the novel from feeling like an Afterschool Special.  Finally, I liked that the mean girl -- yes, every book has one -- is served a portion of grace rather than revenge.  This is definitely an idea worth exploring in teen literature!

Where the novel shines is in its portrayal of thoughts and feelings that seem like they are coming from a real teen.  Nicole O'Dell does an exceptional job giving voice to all the feelings of doubt, shame, inadequacy, fear, etc., that a teen -- especially a girl -- can feel.  For teens who are faced with tough situations that give rise to hard questions, fear, and discouragement, the novel provides guidance and hope.  At one point, Olivia is encouraged to "fight the lies".  The explanation that follows this advice, touching on what those lies are, is a terrific lesson that people of all ages can benefit from.  Curious? Read the book!

I really enjoyed The Wishing Pearl and would highly recommend it! I look forward to reading the next installment, The Embittered Ruby, when it comes out next April. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sunday Inspiration (12)


"'Learn what is true in order to do what is right' is the summing up of the whole duty of man..."
-Thomas H. Huxley






Sunday Inspiration is a weekly feature hosted here @ Read Love.
It began from my desire to share a nugget of encouragement or wisdom.
I didn't intend for it to be a community thing, but due to positive feedback,
I'm giving it a try! (Thanks, Kate)

Participation is welcome!
Your quote need not be faith-based, but it should be positive and uplifting.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday (11)

 
"Waiting on" Wednesday is a weekly chance for bloggers to share books we can't wait to get our hands on.  
It's hosted by Jill from Breaking The Spine. 

Available in Paperback January 3, 2012:


Tyndale:  The Man Who Gave God an English Voice
  by David Teems


  • Publisher: Thomas Nelson, Inc.
  • Format: Paperback, 336pp
  • Age Range: Adult
  • ISBN-13: 9781595552211

Synopsis from BN.com:

The English Bible was born in defiance. It was also born in exile, in flight, in a kind of exodus. And these are the very elements that empowered William Tyndale in his bid to bring the English Scripture to the common citizen. Being "a stranger in a strange land," the very homesickness he struggled with, gave life to the words of Jesus, Paul, and to the wandering Moses. Tyndale's efforts ultimately cost him his life, a price he was certain he would have to pay. But his contribution to English spirituality is measureless.
Even five centuries after his death at the stake, Tyndale's presence looms wherever English is spoken. His single word innovations, such as "Passover," "beautiful," and "atonement" allowed the common man to more fully understand God's blessings and promises. His natural lyricism shines in phrases like "Let not your hearts be troubled," and "for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory." Every time we say the Lord's Prayer as it is written in the King James Bible or use the word "love" as it is written in 1 Corinthians 13 or bless others with "The Lord bless thee and keep thee, the Lord make his face to shine upon thee," we are reminded of the rich bounty Tyndale has given us.
Although Tyndale has been somewhat elusive to his biographers, Teems brings wit and wisdom to the story of the man known as the "architect of the English language," the English Paul who defied a kingdom and a tyrannical church to introduce God to the plowboy.
I can never get over that the Bible used to be available in only Greek or Latin.  I can't fathom sitting in those old Masses not knowing what was being spoken unless you were wealthy or privileged enough to be educated.  I'm so thankful for the Reformation and the efforts of the men who brought religion to the masses.

This looks like an informative and enjoyable read!


That's what I'm waiting on! Now how 'bout you?

 



Sunday, October 9, 2011

Read Love Reviews: Erak's Ransom

Erak's Ransom by John Flanagan

Pub. Date: Sept 6, 2011
Publisher: Penguin Group, USA 
Format: Paperback, 273pp
Age Range: 9 to 12
Series: Ranger's Apprentice #7
ISBN-13: 9780142415252




Synopsis from BN.com:

What does it mean to earn the Silver Oakleaf? So few men have done so. For Will, a mere boy, that symbol of honor has long felt out of reach. Now, in the wake of Araluen's uneasy truce with the raiding Skandians comes word that the Skandian leader has been captured by a dangerous desert tribe. The Rangers are sent to free him. But the desert is like nothing these warriors have seen before. Strangers in a strange land, they are brutalized by sandstorms, beaten by the unrelenting heat, tricked by one tribe that plays by its own rules, and surprisingly befriended by another. Like a desert mirage, nothing is as it seems. Yet one thing is constant: the bravery of the Rangers.
In this red-hot adventure, winner of the Australian Book of the Year Award for Older Children, John Flanagan raises the stakes on the series that has already sold millions of copies worldwide.

My Review:

As this is the seventh in a ten-book series, I can't divulge too much without spoilers.  Therefore, I'm going to do a mini-review.  I'll tell you what I like about this series and what I enjoyed about Erak's Ransom in particular.

With the Ranger's Apprentice series, John Flanagan has created a host of endearing characters.  In this book, a great number of them are thrust together for the latest quest.  The strength of the series is these characters, so I was thrilled to see so many of my favorites in one book:  Will, Halt, Gil, Horace, Evanyln, and Erak.  The comraderie and humor shared by the characters is always a highlight, and there is plenty of that here.

Although number 7 in published order, according to the series timeline, Erak's Ransom fits between books 4 and 5.  Flanagan explains that he realized he failed to address a key moment in Will and Halt's story.  Glancing around the web, there are some readers grumbling that the author went backward in the timeline, annoyed by the knowledge that certain characters will survive, or frustrated at the delay in waiting to find out how the events later in the timeline will play out.  I am thrilled that Erak's Ransom rewinds.  For one, the story allows us to spend quality time with Halt whose presence was lacking in books 5 and 6.  And I always love those rowdy Skandians! 

Erak's Ransom introduces a new desert landscape and three groups that inhabit it:  the Arridi, the Bedullin, and the Tualaghi.  With this new world and new people, we have an opportunity for a different kind of adventure.  And we meet various people, gaining new friends and allies, as well as facing new foes and creating new enemies along the way.  I like that Flanagan's worlds and races are loosely based on our own.  This can be a good opportunity for kids who are reading the books to use them as a launching point to study real-life people and their histories.  For instance, the Arridi are an Arab people, the Bedullin informed by the Bedouin, and the Tualgahi based on the Tuareg.

I highly recommend both this book and series! It's full of adventure, bravery, honor, and action, while also alive with humor.  Clean and intelligent, these books are never dumbed down and are always fun! Think The Lord of the Rings meets Robin Hood for a young audience.

Sunday Inspiration (11)


"O Lord of the oceans, my little bark sails on a restless sea. Grant that Jesus may sit at the helm and steer me safely; Suffer no adverse currents to divert my heavenward course; Let not my faith be wrecked amid storms and shoals; Bring me to harbor with flying pennants, hull unbreached, cargo unspoiled. ...Help me, protect me in the moving sea until I reach the shore of unceasing praise. Amen."
-A Puritan Prayer




Sunday Inspiration is a weekly feature hosted here @ Read Love.
It began from my desire to share a nugget of encouragement or wisdom.
I didn't intend for it to be a community thing, but due to positive feedback,
I'm giving it a try! (Thanks, Kate)

Participation is welcome!
Your quote need not be faith-based, but it should be positive and uplifting.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Giveaway Winner: Jeremy Riddle CD Giveaway


Last night, a winner was chosen for the Read Love 
Jeremy Riddle CD Giveaway!  

I want to thank everyone who entered and read the review!


And the Winner is:

Daniel M.

Congratulations, Daniel!
Please let me know how you like the CD.  I hope you love it! 





Monday, October 3, 2011

CD Reviews: NewReleaseTuesday.com


I have been asked to join the Album Review Staff at NewReleaseTuesday.com, the #1-ranked Christian music website. Each month I'll be writing two or three reviews for them. (Note: I will still be posting book reviews, etc., here on Read Love.)

NewReleaseTuesday.com is a terrific site, full of Christian music (and book) reviews and news.  Each week, you can stream an entire album!  If you're interested, click on the logo below to learn more!


I can't publish my NRT reviews on Read Love, but here are links to my first two posts there if you'd like to check them out.  Just click through on the CD cover to hop over to NewReleaseTuesday.com.  Thanks!



Brittany Hargest - Love All The Way
4.5 stars



 Shane & Shane - The One You Need
4.5 stars





*I receive no remuneration for my reviews at NewReleaseTuesday.com.*

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Sunday Inspiration (10)


"Man can live his truth, his deepest truth, but he cannot speak it.  It is for this reason that love becomes the ultimate human answer to the ultimate human question."
Archibald MacLeish, Time, December 22, 1958






Sunday Inspiration is a weekly feature hosted here @ Read Love.
It began from my desire to share a nugget of encouragement or wisdom.
I didn't intend for it to be a community thing, but due to positive feedback,
I'm giving it a try! (Thanks, Kate)

Participation is welcome!
Your quote need not be faith-based, but it should be positive and uplifting.