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Monday, December 29, 2008

The Christmas Sweater...Review

About the book:
If you could change your life by reversing your biggest regrets, sorrows and mistakes...would you? New York Times bestselling author and renowned radio and television host Glenn Beck delivers an instant holiday classic about boyhood memories, wrenching life lessons, and the true meaning of the gifts we give to one another in love. We weren't wealthy, we weren't poor -- we just were. We never wanted for anything, except maybe more time together....When Eddie was twelve years old, all he wanted for Christmas was a bike. Although his life had gotten harder -- and money tighter -- since his father died and the family bakery closed...Eddie dreamed that somehow his mother would find a way to have his dream bike gleaming beside their modest Christmas tree that magical morning. What he got from her instead was a sweater. "A stupid, handmade, ugly sweater" that young Eddie left in a crumpled ball in the corner of his room.

Scarred deeply by the realization that kids don't always get what they want, and too young to understand that he already owned life's most valuable treasures, that Christmas morning was the beginning of Eddie's dark and painful journey on the road to manhood. It will take wrestling with himself, his faith, and his family -- and the guidance of a mysterious neighbor named Russell -- to help Eddie find his path through the storm clouds of life and finally see the real significance of that simple gift his mother had crafted by hand with love in her heart. Based on a deeply personal true story, The Christmas Sweater is a warm and poignant tale of family, faith and forgiveness that offers us a glimpse of our own lives -- while also making us question if we really know what's most important in them.

I thoroughly enjoyed it. I thought it was a completely true story, but Glenn explains at the end that while it was a true story, he novelized his experiences and condensed them into this book. Whatever the reason, the Christmas Sweater is a must-read story of faith and forgiveness.

Eddie's father has died and his mother works 4 jobs to provide for him. As Christmas approaches, all he wants is a bike. What he finds under the tree instead, is a hand-made sweater which, at first, represents all that is missing in his life. But, as we read Eddie's story and the experiences that follow, we find, as he does, that the pathway of life isn't always easy, but with God's love, you can get through it and even enjoy the journey along the way.

I didn't like Eddie at first. He was a selfish boy even before his dad died, but afterwards he became downright prickly. He pushes everyone away with his ugly accusations and cruelty. Then, through some remarkable, spiritual experiences, he finally comes to understand that he is not alone: God loves him and his family loves him.

Some might say the book is predictable and full of platitudes, but I found it thought-provoking and compelling. There is a ring of truth to the lessons that Eddie learns. Lessons we can all learn from. This is a book that I know I will read again.

Thanks to my local bookstore for having a copy I could purchase.  You can get your own copy here.

Read 12/08

* * * *

4/5 Stars

Through the Storm...Review

About the book:
We all want our children to succeed. What happens when they do?

Britney Spears wanted to sing ever since she was a little girl. But the years of sacrifices, auditions, performances, albums, fame, and paparazzi left the little Louisiana family swept up and spun around, and nothing turned out the way anyone ever imagined or wanted. Now Lynne shares the inside story of the Spears family as only a mother can.

Through the Storm takes readers outside the narrow orbit of the Hollywood glitterati. Lynne shares how fame forever changed their family; her regrets letting managers, agents, and record companies direct the lives of her children; the challenges that shaped Lynne and Jamie's failed marriage and how they affected Bryan, Britney, and Jamie Lynn; the startling events that led to Britney's breakdown; the aftermath of Jamie Lynn's pregnancy; and how the family has tried pulling together to recapture a sense of hope and purpose.

Through the Storm, says Lynne, is "the story of one simple Southern woman whose family got caught in a tornado called fame, and who is still trying to sort through the debris scattered all over her life in the aftermath. It's who I am, warts and all, with some true confessions that took a long time to get up the nerve to discuss."

I liked this book more than I thought I would. I figured it would be some tabloid-esque piece of trivia. What I found, instead, was a thoughtful book written by a loving mother. Lynne shares her story and that of her famous family. She shares the ups and downs as well as her fears.

An incredibly easy book to read and while somewhat shallow and trivial, I came away with the impression that Lynne was very naive and trusting when it came to allowing her daughters to pursue their dreams of entertaining. She blindly trusted too many people, rather than educating herself about the entertainment world and taking an active role in her daughters' careers.

I also understood her fear and distrust of the media. I believe very little of what I read and hear reported by media outlets. I think that the entertainment media, especially, have a distinct lack of integrity in their reporting.

I don't follow Britney Spears in the media. I really don't care about her or her life. I did, however, appreciate the viewpoint her mother gives about how difficult life in the public eye can be. I'm sure that Lynne Spears is a loving, concerned mother just like the rest of us. Parenting itself is difficult, parenting in a fishbowl must be a nightmare.

Thanks to my local library for having a copy I could borrow.

Read 10/08

* * 

2/5 Stars

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Fall Into Reading 2008 Challenge Wrap-Up

It's time to wrap up my Fall Into Reading 2008 Challenge list. Katrina at Callapidder Days hosted the challenge and, as always, it was fun.

I read 26 books. Some of them were on my original list, but most were just added as I found them or they came up on my list in the library. Most I liked, some I didn't.

I read some delightful Christmas Books, including The Paper Bag Christmas, by Kevin Milne, and Finding Father Christmas and Engaging Father Christmas, by Robin Gunn. I had my first taste of an author responding to a negative review when I reviewed Chasing Diana, by Jack and Robin Firestone. I thoroughly enjoyed The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Schaffer, but was disappointed in Going Down South, by Bonnie Glover.

The books I read are as follows, in reverse order and all have been reviewed here on the book blog.

Your Roots are Showing, Elise Chidley
Let Them Eat Cake, Sandra Byrd
More Letters from Pemberley, Jane Dawkins
White Christmas Pie, Wanda Brunstetter
First Families: The Impact of the White House on Their Lives, Bonnie Angelo
American Wife, Curtis Sittenfeld
Doesn't She Look Natural?, Angela Hunt
When the Soul Mends, Cindy Woodsmall
When the Morning Comes, Cindy Woodsmall
The Paper Bag Christmas, Kevin Alan Milne
Going Down South, Bonnie Glover
Dark Pursuit, Brandilyn Collins
When the Heart Cries, Cindy Woodsmall
The Quilter's Kitchen, Jennifer Chiaverini
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Schaffer
One Perfect Day, Lauraine Snelling
Engaging Father Christmas, Robin Gunn
Finding Father Christmas, Robin Gunn
Chasing Diana, Jack Firestone
The Secret Journal of Brett Colton, Kay Lynn Mangum
Sisters, Ink., Rebeca Seitz
Midwife of the Blue Ridge, Christine Blevins
Matrimony, Joshua Henkin
Nice to Come Home to, Rebecca Flowers
Talk of the Town, Lisa Wingate
The Tenth Case, Joseph Teller

Thanks Katrina, for hosting this. I read anyway, but it's fun to have a little challenge to motivate me along. I'm now off to find another challenge. Any suggestions?

Friday, December 19, 2008

Your Roots Are Showing...Review

About the book:
Lizzie Buckley has a life many women dream of - a gorgeous husband, a beautiful home and darling (when they're not fighting) three-year-old twins. But ever since the birth of her children, she's had a fantasy about locking herself in her bedroom for twenty-four hours with a good book and a box of chocolates.

Unfortunately, her husband James doesn't understand her feelings. And when Lizzie unburdens herself in a flaming email to her sister Janie, then hits send at the wrong moment and accidentally shoots it off to James instead, her fairytale life gets a big dose of reality. With the word "divorce" ringing in her ears, Lizzie finds herself moving out and embarking on a totally different life - working hard to reinvent herself as a runner, a gardener, and a writer of children's books.

But despite transforming her body, her neglected career, and her libido (courtesy of the local landscape gardener), Lizzie can't get over her soon-to-be ex. As Lizzie discovers, sometimes the fairytale ending is just the beginning of the real story.

Lizzie Buckley has what appears to be a perfectly wonderful life: a lovely home, a handsome husband and two beautiful twin toddlers. But, as so often happens to tired young mothers, she suffers from exhaustion, some depression and a decreased desire for s*x. She writes an email to her sister, venting about her frustrations and, unfortunately, sends it to her husband by mistake.

What follows is a charming novel about life and love, and family and friends, and what happens when two people who really love each other forget how to communicate. After her husband leaves, Lizzie must pick up the pieces of her life and put it back together. As she does this, she finds herself again.

A funny, enthralling novel set in contemporary England. Lizzie's voice rings true and while you both cringe and laugh at her antics and misjudgments, you cry with her frustrations.

Elise Chidley captures what it's like to be a wife and mother. A terrific debut novel. I can't wait for more.

Thanks to Hatchette Books for the opportunity to review this book. You can find out more about Elise Chidley here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 12/08

* * * *

4/5 Stars

Monday, December 8, 2008

Twilight the Movie

Disclaimer: I haven't seen the film version of Twilight. I borrowed the books from the library. I don't plan to see the movie, at least until it's at the Dollar Theater or even a nearby Red Box.

It's no secret that I'm not a Twilight junkie. I even liked Breaking Dawn the best.

Stephenie Meyer claims to have been inspired by Pride and Prejudice. (Not my Pride and Prejudice anyway.) If you want to read a terrific review of not just the film, but of Edward and Bella and their whole twisted non Darcy/Elizabeth relationship, read this blog post. Then come back and tell me what you think. I tend to agree: Bella is no heroine and Edward is simply a pretty boy who, despite his years of immortality, has never grown up.

Gosh, I miss Angel. He had a purpose. He wore leather jackets. And his heroines? Cordelia and Buffy. Now there were girls to be reckoned with.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Let Them Eat Cake...Review

About the book:
Lexi Stuart is at a critical crossroads. She’s done with college but still living at home, ready to launch a career but unable to find a job, and solidly stalled between boyfriends.

When a lighthearted conversation in French with the manager of her favorite bakery turns into a job offer, Lexi accepts. But the actual glamour is minimal: the pay is less than generous, her co-workers are skeptical, her bank account remains vertically-challenged, and her parents are perpetually disappointed. Her only comfort comes from the flirtatious baker she has her eye–but even may not be who he seems to be!

So when a handsome young executive dashes into the bakery to pick up his high profile company’s special order for an important meeting–an order Lexi has flubbed– she loses her compulsion to please. “What am I going to do?” he shouts. “Let them eat cake!” she fires back with equal passion and a nod to Marie Antoinette. And then, something inside Lexi clicks. Laissez la révolution commencer! Let the revolution begin! Instead of trying to fulfill everyone else’s expectations for her life, Lexi embarks on an adventure in trusting God with her future–très bon!

Definitely chick-lit. Light and fluffy with very little depth or substance. Lexi is a college graduate going from job to job. Her degree is impractical, having something to do with French culture and literature. She moves back home, only to find that her parents are in the midst of preparing to sell their home and move to a retirement community. Predictably, Lexi's choices disappoint them. However, Lexi loves all things French and is determined to find employment that will indulge her.

When a casual conversation with the manager of a French bakery leads to a job offer, Lexi jumps in only to find that the pay is inadequate and the staff are difficult. The story is fairly predictable, but Lexi is likeable. She's real, there is nothing fairy-tale about the story. She says the wrong things at times and makes mistakes. Her family is annoying, but whose isn't at times? The story is Christian, without being preachy or religious.

Overall, a light, enjoyable read.

Thanks to my local library for having a copy I could borrow.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 11/08

* * *

3/5 Stars

More Letters from Pemberley...Review

About the book:
Letters from Pemberley, Jane Dawkins's popular continuation of Pride and Prejudice, described Elizabeth Bennet's first year at Pemberley as the newly wed Mrs. Darcy. More Letters from Pemberley picks up the story in 1814 and follows the life of one of literature's best loved figures for another six years to the twilight of the Regency period in 1819.

Again incorporating Jane Austen's own words and characters from her other works (who appear with different names, either associated with Austen's life, borrowed from another of her novels, or a word-play on their original name), Jane Dawkins has pieced together another literary patchwork quilt. The result is an entertaining and satisfying tale which …will surely delight Jane Austen fans, and please the many readers of
Letters from Pemberley who asked for more.

I enjoyed this book much more than the first one. The story picks up where the previous one left off, in 1814 and follows Elizabeth and Darcy for another 6 years. The letters are written by Elizabeth to her sister Jane, her Aunt Gardiner, and Charlotte Lucas, among others. In this story, Elizabeth has matured and grown in her roles as wife, mother and mistress of Pemberley.

The story has more drama in it, but birth and death are a part of life and, for the most part, I felt the situations created here were plausible. Darcy's accident was a bit overly dramatic, but not distracting. No one can replace Jane Austen, and no one can recreate the voice of Elizabeth Bennet. However, this is a charming book and very easy read. I think it might have been richer though, if we could have read the responses to Elizabeth's letters.

My only complaint is the same one I had with the first book. Jane Dawkins thought it would be interesting to incorporate some of Austen's other characters into both novels. All have different names and I found it confusing and distracting. With some, it was obvious as who they were supposed to be, but with others is was more annoying. Again, a cute idea that fell flat.

Overall, an easy enjoyable read.

Thanks to my local library for having a copy I could borrow.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 11/08

* * *

3/5 Stars

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Still Life 2008, used with permission from Cindy at Rosehaven Cottage.

Happy Thanksgiving. May you find many reasons to be grateful today.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

White Christmas Pie...Review

About the book:
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.

The Amish life fascinates me, and I've thoroughly enjoyed many of the Amish-themed books I've read. I've never read Wanda Brunstetter before, but she came highly rated and this one looked interesting.

The story centers around Will Henderson, an English boy who, at the age of 6, is left with an Amish couple. His father ostensibly plans to return for him, but through lost messages and miscommunications, never does. Will grows up believing that his father abandoned him. Predictably, as his impending wedding to Karen nears, Will finds that he harbors many doubts about his father and an unforgiving heart. Conveniently, at Thanksgiving, his father suddenly reappears in Will's life.

I'd call this Amish-light. It's a sweet novel with a great deal of unrealized potential. The characters are one-dimensional and the misunderstandings and lack of communication are far-fetched and unrealistic. The ending is convenient and contrived. Will and Karen and the rest of the cast don't inspire any compassion whatsoever. The recipe for the White Christmas Pie mentioned in the story is included in the book. My impression is that the author thought it would be a cute gimmick, but instead of a rich story with depth, we are left with the sugary fluff.

From other reviews I've seen, most of Brunstetter's books receive better reviews than this one has, so I will not count her out yet. Overall, a sweet story. A light, easy read. Nothing more.

I read my own, personal copy, but you can purchase your own here.

Read 11/08

* * 
2/5 Stars

Monday, November 24, 2008

Peak...Review by the Boy

About the book:
After Peak Marcello is arrested for scaling a New York City skyscraper, he's left with two choices: wither away in Juvenile Detention or go live with his long-lost father, who runs a climbing company in Thailand. But Peak quickly learns that his father's renewed interest in him has strings attached. Big strings. He wants Peak to be the youngest person to reach the Everest summit--and his motives are selfish at best. Even so, for a climbing addict like Peak, tackling Everest is the challenge of a lifetime. But it's also one that could cost him his life. Roland Smith has created an action-packed adventure about friendship, sacrifice, family, and the drive to take on Everest, despite the incredible risk. Peak is a novel readers won't be able to put down.

This review is from E, my avid 10-year old reader. He dictated it so, for the most part, these are his words.
This book is about a boy named Peak whose dad gives him an opportunity to summit Mount Everest with him. If Peak makes it to the top before his 15th birthday, he will become the youngest person ever to summit Everest.

Peak and his dad go to Everest together. His dad has climbed before and so he often goes ahead of Peak because he's used to the lack of oxygen. Peak and his friend Sun-Jo, the grandson of a sherpa, climb together. This book is very descriptive and talks about the views and how difficult it is to climb Everest and even about the sicknesses you can get.

This book is really entertaining. It holds your attention. I had a hard time putting it down, even when I was at school. Seriously. I sometimes snuck in some reading during math. I could not put it down.

In this book, there is a sentence that says, "For a climber, saying that you are stopping by Everest is like saying you are stopping by to see God." This sentence is kind of true, because this is the biggest mountain in the world and one of the most amazing things you can see.

You definitely should read this book! It's one of the best books I've ever read!

Thanks to the school book fair where we were able to purchase a copy!  You can purchase your own copy here.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Booking Through Thursday...Honesty

Today's Booking Through Thursday asks:

I receive a lot of review books, but I have never once told lies about the book just because I got a free copy of it. However, some authors seem to feel that if they send you a copy of their book for free, you should give it a positive review.

Do you think reviewers are obligated to put up a good review of a book, even if they don’t like it? Have we come to a point where reviewers *need* to put up disclaimers to (hopefully) save themselves from being harassed by unhappy authors who get negative reviews?

As always, another terrific question. I started reviewing books mostly by accident. I love to read and I wanted a way to keep track of what I read. I started this blog to do exactly that: keep track. My early reviews are pretty brief. I soon found though, that I liked writing up reviews and being creative. I started finding other book blogs and making new friends through Goodreads too. I was finding new books to read, many of which I wouldn't have read without first seeing a recommendation from someone else.

I think that honesty is very important. I, for one, want to know what someone really thinks about a book. I don't want a sanitized version of the jacket synopsis. I've tried to be honest in all my reviewing and because of that I've posted some negative reviews. Several negative reviews came from books I had received as ARCs for free. Did I relish writing negative reviews? No. But, I couldn't say that I liked a book when I didn't. I've had several authors comment on my reviews, but only one commented on a negative review. And, while they said they respected my opinion, it was clear that they'd taken offense. I felt bad for that, but I truly didn't like the book, and I found nothing redeeming about the main characters.

It can't be easy, as an author, to see negative reviews of something you've put your heart and soul into. Every writer has an idea in their mind of what they want their books to say and how they want them received. Every reader has expectations about books, whether from what is clearly printed on the back of the book, their own experiences or other reviews. To have every reader love and adore the book like they do is incredibly unrealistic for any author.

Should negative reviews be softened? Perhaps. On this one particular review, I did go back and softened a couple of sentences which, in hindsight, were probably unnecessarily harsh, but I didn't change my review.

Over the last couple of weeks, I've watched some of the drama on other blogs, with honest reviews and angry author responses. And, perhaps "disclaimers" on our blogs aren't a bad idea. I may work on one of those. But, I also think that if an author is going to send out a book for review, they should check out the blogger ahead of time. If the book is a legal thriller and that blogger hasn't been very positive about legal thrillers, then don't send them the book and expect a glowing review. And on the same note, I've become more selective about which ARCs I will review. For awhile, I just accepted every ARC that came my way, but after some experience, now, if I truly think I won't like it, I won't request or accept it.

Just my two cents. Go here for more Booking Through Thursday posts.

First Families: The Impact of the White House on Their Lives...Review

About the book:
The first book of its kind,
First Families will provide a lively look at how first families struggle to deal with the new life imposed on them, find a balance between their public and private selves, and create a family home amid the grandeur. Indeed, over the years the White House has taken on the character of a living force, shaping and warping the families it shelters.

First Families is the more than 200–year–old story of these wives, children, extended families and pets of 42 presidents who have lived in the White House, all with mixed feelings about the delights and drawbacks of the dwelling that is both a symbol and a home.

First Families weaves together the stories of presidents and their families, from George Washington to George W. Bush, to capture the intense ups and downs of their lives, both public and private, at the White House. In addition to chronicling dark moments in the lives of the first families and the nation––when presidents walked within the living rooms and bedrooms of White House determining whether or not to go to war––Bonnie Angelo also provides fascinating behind–the–scenes accounts of the illnesses and deaths of children and spouses within those same rooms, the stirrings of love, the squabbles of marriage, the joyful weddings of sons and daughters.

A fascinating account of life in the White House. What is it like being a First Family? How has life in the White House changed over the years? How was it different for Dolley Madison, Bess Truman and Jacqueline Kennedy? Which first ladies were beloved by all and which were the most difficult to like? Who is responsible for the Japanese cherry trees which blossom each April? Who was married in the White House and which presidential children got into the most trouble?

I found this an entertaining and easy book to read. Some stories I'd heard before, but most were new. Bonnie Angelo is a longtime correspondent for Time and reported on the White House for years. She's definitely done her research and shares many delightful anecdotes about past presidents and their first ladies and families, from George Washington to George W. Bush. We learn which First Ladies relished their roles and which ones were reluctant celebrities.

While Ms. Angelo cites many references, she doesn't do so until the end of the book. I found myself wishing that there were footnotes so that I could check references and sources, none of which are found in the actual text. She does have an extensive bibliography at the end of the book, many of which sound interesting and will probably end up on my reading list!

A lively, entertaining book about America's House. Simply enjoyable.

Thanks to my local library for having a copy I could borrow.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 11/08

* * * *

4/5 Stars

Friday, November 14, 2008

American Wife...Review

About the book:
A kind, bookish only child born in the 1940s, Alice Lindgren has no idea that she will one day end up in the White House, married to the president. In her small Wisconsin hometown, she learns the virtues of politeness, but a tragic accident when she is seventeen shatters her identity and changes the trajectory of her life. More than a decade later, when the charismatic son of a powerful Republican family sweeps her off her feet, she is surprised to find herself admitted into a world of privilege. And when her husband unexpectedly becomes governor and then president, she discovers that she is married to a man she both loves and fundamentally disagrees with–and that her private beliefs increasingly run against her public persona. As her husband’s presidency enters its second term, Alice must confront contradictions years in the making and face questions nearly impossible to answer.

While it has its interesting moments, this was one of those books that disappointed me and one I really struggled to finish. I'm not quite sure what I expected, but it wasn't this.

I think I would have enjoyed it a lot more if it were a true work of fiction, with characters completely created from the author's imagination. There are some bibliographical references at the end of the novel about the books which inspired her to write this piece of work. The main character is modeled after Laura Bush, and while the author admits this, I wish she'd just written a biography about Mrs. Bush, rather than some thinly disguised piece of fiction. She's also modeled the Blackwell family after the Bush family, including the President, and having read several Bush biographies, I can definitely see her similarities.

I have always liked Laura Bush, and I'd certainly rather read a real biography/autobiography than a fictionalized one. While I'm sure this wasn't authorized or approved by Mrs. Bush, if it was me, I certainly wouldn't be happy knowing it was "based" on my life.

The book has moderate profanity and too many unnecessary s*x scenes, all of which are far too detailed and most are not necessary to the story line.

And the cover photo has nothing to do with the book. Nothing. At. All. Overall, a disappointment.

Thanks to my local library for having a copy I could borrow.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 11/08

1/5 Stars

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Doesn't She Look Natural?...Review

About the book:
How do you cope when God asks you to bury a dream? In this new series by best-selling author Angela Hunt, readers will meet Jennifer Graham, the no-nonsense chief of staff for a Virginia senator who quits her job after a divorce and finds herself an unemployed single mom. Forced to live with her mother until she can find work on Capitol Hill that does not involve her gregarious ex-husband, her efforts are stymied until she learns that she has inherited a funeral home in picturesque Mt. Dora. Jennifer journeys to the small Florida town with her two sons and her mother, never dreaming that within a mortuary she will discover she has inherited a rewarding career that teaches her far more about life than death.

After a painful divorce, Jennifer Graham finds that she has inherited a small-town funeral home from an elderly great uncle. Needing a fresh start, she and her children move from Virginia to Florida. The Fairlawn funeral home is in need of remodeling and repair, much like Jen's own life.

As Jen embarks on this new journey, she meets new people, makes new friends and learns about herself and her relationship with God along the way. The Christian theme is subtle throughout the book.

The story is light and predictable. Jen decides to keep Fairlawn, and run it, rather than sell it. There is very little depth and minor character development. It's a nice little story that had potential. I liked Jen. I loved Gerald. I thought the ex-husband was a cad, but there was also very little backstory and the conclusion was just a little too convenient for me.

My big complaint with this story is the narration. Jen's story is told in first-person, which I rarely like. The chapters then alternate between Jen and the other characters like her mom, Gerald, and her son. These supporting characters aren't written as first-person, but are an awkward present-tense third-person narrative. It was actually quite annoying and very distracting. The story would have been much stronger had the author maintained the same style throughout it.

I'd give this 2.5 stars. It's a good, not great, story that had a lot of unfulfilled potential.

Thanks to my local library for having a copy I could borrow.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 11/08

* * 
2.5/5 Stars

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Outsmart the MBA Clones...Review by the Doctor

About the book:
How can you be immensely successful for many years, and yet not be imitated by competitors? Impossible, you say. Not so. Virgin Atlantic, the Body Shop, Apple Computers, and Birkenstock they all achieved this status, and there are ample additional examples. They cracked the secret of successful differentiation that is not imitated and are adored by customers who think that they are incomparable. Dr. Dan Herman calls it an Unfair Competitive Advantage. It's not at all unethical. Everyone has a fair chance of attaining such an advantage including, every reader of this book.

There is a secret to successful differentiation that is not imitated. It is a psychological secret that has to do with the way your competitors think. Most marketers today are MBA graduates who tend to think and operate in typical and predictable ways - you might call them MBA Clones. You can take advantage of their biases and outsmart them. In this groundbreaking book, Dr. Dan Herman not only reveals the secret of successful differentiation that is not imitated but also supplies you with a comprehensive set of practical rules and tools that will enable you to make an unfair advantage your reality.

Dr. Herman, a competitive strategy consultant with vast global experience, a seasoned CMO in a large corporation, a branding professional and a businessman, does not tell you to 'think out of the box' as so many do he provides you with a new and comprehensive toolbox for success.

You'll learn:

-- The secret of successful differentiation that is not imitated
-- How to scan methodically for both strategic and tactical opportunities for success
-- How to integrate a business model, a competitive strategy and a brand concept to create a unitary 'unique success formula' for your company
-- How to create marketing hits short meteoric successes
-- How to use electrifying marketing, just-on-desire branding and the brand drama approach to build emotionally powerful brands, and many other useful additions to your profit-generating arsenal of concepts and methods.

Using a plethora of examples from top businesses around the world, Dr. Herman offers a business oriented-point of view that is fresh and different, and even humorous at times. Even though this book will turn your thinking inside out, everything in it is practical and easily applicable in any kind of business.

This was another book that I thought would interest my husband, so when I was offered the chance to review this book, I took it. He read it and what follows is his review.
I have a simple rating for business books. It goes like this: Did I get something from the book that will increase my income by at least 5x the cost of the book. If so, then it was a worthwhile read.

I liked it. It’s not the most easy read, which I believe may have something to do with the fact that it’s translated into English, but it’s certainly not badly written. If you want to get a different viewpoint on customer/client psychology and have your ideas widened a little, then this is a book worth your time.

I’d give it a B.

Thanks to Pump Up Your Book Promotion for the opportunity to review this book. You can find out more about the book and the author, Dan Herman, here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Peaceful Endings – The NOPOSAM Project...Review by the Doctor

About the book:
A chilling tale of Nanotechnology

Peaceful Endings: The NOPOSAM Project, is a time labeled techno thriller set on the landscape of Rhode Island over two and a half days, where some doubtful government ethics go astray. When Coventry General Hospital overflows with sick patients that are dying from extremely minor injuries, trauma specialist, Dr. Marilynn Harwell, is bound and determined to stop it. Harwell's chance meeting with Doug Talbot, a television cameraman for Channel 16, entwines the two in a race against time to find an antidote. When General Thomas Uxbridge, head of the SIA, a man with his own agenda, puts the two under suspicion, their own lives become threatened, leading to two climactic endings.

When I was offered the chance to review this book, I asked Alan if he thought it sounded interesting to him. He said yes. So, what follows is his review.
As a quick read--this was o.k. The plot was a little simplistic, which kind of spoilt the ending. Some books you read wondering how it’s going to end--this one you read wondering how the author will get you to the ending you’ve already worked out way beforehand.

The characterisations were rather one dimensional--the good guys were good, the bad guys were bad, and there wasn’t any form of development on either side. I like real characters--ones who have failings, and personal dichotomies. Show me someone in life who is one dimensional and I’ll show you either a fanatic or a fool.

Is this a book to buy--not if it’s the only one you’re buying this week. Is this a book to pick up at the library--sure.

I’d give it a B-.
Thanks to Bostick Communications for the opportunity to read this book. You can find out more about the book and the author, Michael K. Tucker, here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

When the Soul Mends...Review

About the book:
Rumors and lies left Hannah’s life in tatters; can the truth possibly stitch it back together?

Having fled in disgrace more than two years earlier, Hannah finally has found happiness in the Englischer world, as well as love with Martin Palmer, a man with whom she can safely entrust her heart. But almost immediately after her arrival in Owl’s Perch, the disapproval of those who ostracized her reopens old wounds.

As Hannah encounters former fiancë Paul Waddell, truths unknown to her surface about the events during her absence and she faces an agonizing decision. Will she choose the Englischer world and the man who restored her hope, or will she return to the Plain Life-and perhaps her first love?

The concluding book to the Sisters of the Quilt series, this picks up literally at the end of the second one, When the Morning Comes. After receiving a troubling phone call from her sister, Hannah returns to Owl's Perch to find her dear friend Matthew injured in a fire and his brother dead. She finds that belief in the rumors and lies which drove her away still lingers in the hearts of some of her people. She can see her sister suffering from mental illness and her father in denial of that illness. Hannah, now a nurse, is thrown together with her former fiance Paul, now a family counselor, as they try and get her sister the help she needs.

As Hannah reconnects with Paul, will she find that her love for him has never dimmed, or will she choose to return to Martin and the English life to which she has adapted? Will her father ever accept her? Can they all find forgiveness as lies and the circumstances under which Hannah left are exposed?

Cindy Woodsmall has crafted a terrific conclusion to her trilogy. The characters continue to be compelling and you really care about them. I think she's done a terrific job of detailing the Old Order Amish, Mennonite and English worlds, and how they can and cannot mesh. Although the ending was somewhat predictable, I found it satisfying how everything worked out and who ended up with whom.

I found it interesting that the quilt of the series title isn't a more substantial part of the books. The "Past and Present" quilt that Hannah starts in the first book is mentioned in all of the books and finally comes full circle in the end, but almost as an afterthought. I would have thought the quilt would find more prominence throughout the story.

An easy, enthralling read.

I read my own, personal copy. You can purchase your own here.

Read 10/08

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Sunday, November 2, 2008

When the Morning Comes...Review

About the book:
Her relationship with former fiancé Paul Waddell in tatters, Hannah Lapp has fled her home in hopes of finding refuge with another Amish outcast, her shunned Aunt Zabeth in Ohio. Hampered by limited education and hiding her true identity, Hannah struggles to understand the confusing world of the Englischers and embrace unfamiliar freedoms, but a deepening friendship with the handsome Martin Palmer renews her courage to face the future.

Meanwhile, Hannah’s absence and the distressing events that led to her disappearance create turmoil among her loved ones in Owl’s Perch, Pennsylvania. Her father stubbornly refuses to search for her or to acknowledge increasing signs of instability in daughter Sarah, who suffers secret guilt over her sister’s ruined reputation. Fiancé Paul Waddell is wracked with regret over his betrayal of Hannah’s trust and is concerned with her whereabouts. He befriends Hannah’s remaining allies–brother Luke, best friend Mary, and loyal Matthew Esh–trying to convince them to help search for his love.

The second book in the Sisters of the Quilt series, this book picks up from the end of the first book. Hannah has fled Owl's Perch and sought refuge in Ohio with the aunt she never knew. Her Aunt Zabeth was shunned years before and she shows Hannah the love and understanding that her family couldn't give her. Believing that her relationship with Paul is over, she finds new hope and romance with Martin, an Englischer raised by Aunt Zabeth.

Hannah finds a purpose and career in nursing and as she becomes more comfortable in the English world, finds herself torn between her new life and her old one. When tragedy strikes those she loves back in Owl's Perch, she knows she must return. But, will she come back to Ohio?

A quick read. I found myself anxious for the next book. You really learn a lot about the Old Order Amish, and much of it isn't positive. The people live a simple life, yes, but it is a life very much restricted by the man who is their bishop. There is little talk of forgiveness, the whole focus is on doing what is right, regardless of your personal wants or desires. It is in the world of the English where Hannah truly learns where her faith lies and how God speaks to her.

After Hannah leaves the order, several of her family members begin talking about the situation and realize that she was, indeed, telling the truth about her assault. But, can they bring her back and does she want to return? That becomes the question.

The side story of her sister Sarah's psychological issues is interesting. I will be curious to see how it plays out.

Overall, a heartwarming, enthralling read.

Thanks to my local library for having a copy I could borrow.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 10/08

* * *
3/5 Stars