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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Follow Me...Review

About the book:
"On a summer day in 1946, Sally Werner, the precocious daughter of hardscrabble Pennsylvania farmers, accepts her cousin Daniel's invitation to ride his new motorcycle. Like so much of what follows in Sally's life, it's a decision driven by impulse and a thirst for adventure, a decision with dramatic and far-reaching consequences." 

Soon Sally abandons her newborn baby, the result of her impetuous joyride. Shamed, confused, and filled with a yearning to have a bigger life than the one ahead of her, she finds work, she finds love, she finds people of great kindness and others whose cruelty would crush a weaker woman. Fueled in equal measure by her eternal optimism and her mercurial moods, she embarks on an odyssey of self-creation that spans six decades, the story of which she entrusts to only one person: her granddaughter and namesake. It's an uncommon legacy that young Sally believes until her father - a man she has never known - enters her life and offers another story altogether, forcing her to uncover the truth of her grandmother's secret history.

Follow Me is a beautifully written book. It is slow starting and difficult to get into, but at times the writing is almost lyrical and vivid. I've had a difficult time putting my finger on why I didn't love it, when I know that so many people did.

In 1947, 16-year old Sally Werner runs away from home, leaving her newborn son in a basket on her parent's kitchen table. Running away is what Sally does best. She runs away, lands on her feet and when things get difficult, runs away again. Fortunately, each time she runs away from a difficult situation, she finds good, caring people who help her.

The words, saga, tragic and secret come to mind when describing this novel. Sally's story is a saga full of tragic family secrets that destroy relationships.

The story is told by Sally's namesake granddaughter as Sally shared it with her. Sally's story is vivid and interesting and as soon as you get into it, the modern day granddaughter steps in, dropping hints of what is to come. Towards the end, the narration changes to become the granddaughter's father telling her his version of what happened between himself and Sally's daughter.

Occasional, unnecessary, and graphic profanity, which is the main reason it didn't get 3 stars.

Thanks to Miriam Parker at Hatchette Books and the Early Bird Blog Tour for the opportunity to review this book. For a summary of the book and a list of other book bloggers participating in this tour, go here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 4/09

* *
2/5 Stars

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Noticer...Review

About the book:
A new story of common wisdom from the bestselling author of The Traveler's Gift.

Orange Beach, Alabama is a simple town filled with simple people.  But like all humans on the planet, the good folks of Orange Beach have their share of problems - marriages teetering on the brink of divorce, young adults giving up on life, business people on the verge of bankruptcy, as well as the many other obstacles that life seems to dish out to the masses.

Fortunately, when things look the darkest - a mysterious man named Jones has a miraculous way of showing up.  An elderly man with white hair, of indiscriminate age and race, wearing blue jeans, a white T-shirt and leather flip flops carrying a battered old suitcase, Jones is a unique soul.  Communicating what he calls "a little perspective," Jones explains that he has been given a gift of noticing things that others miss.  "Your time on this earth is a gift to be used wisely," he says.  "Don't squander your words or your thoughts. Consider even the simplest action you take, for your lives matter beyond measure…and they matter forever."

Jones speaks to that part in everyone that is yearning to understand why things happen and what we can do about it.

Like The Traveler's Gift, The Noticer is a unique narrative is a blend of fiction, allegory, and inspiration.  Gifted storyteller Andy Andrews helps us see how becoming a "noticer" just might change a person's life forever.

A book that everyone, everywhere should read. Andy Andrews is a talented storyteller, and The Noticer is a terrific blend of fact, fiction and allegory. Much of the wisdom gained from reading is very familiar to the reader. But, when presented in a simple story about a kind old man and his ability to influence a community of people, that wisdom becomes new and inspiring.

"I am a noticer. I notice things that other people overlook. And you know, most of them are in plain sight...I notice things about situations and people that produce perspective. That's what most folks lack--perspective--a broader view. So I give them that broader view...and it allows them to regroup, take a breath, and begin their lives again.
" So an old man named Jones says to Andy, a young man down and out, who feels as if his life is over and his situation hopeless.

Jones is a kind old man who, through the simple act of listening and observing, shows the people of Orange Beach, Alabama, the way to changing their lives and situations. As is often the case, the situation or trial doesn't change right away, but the perspective and attitude of the person does, and that makes all the difference. Life is all about choices. Everything we do is a choice and every choice has a consequence, whether it's good or bad.

A beautiful story, easy to read and one you will return to, again and again.

Andy Andrews has started The Noticer Project, which is a worldwide movement to "notice" the five most influential people in your life, and to express appreciation for them. You can learn about The Noticer Project here. I urge you to check it out.

Special thanks to Andy Andrews and Thomas Nelson Publishers for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Andy here. You can get your own copy of this gem here.

Read 4/09

* * * * *
5/5 Stars

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Follow Me...Blog Tour

Follow Me, by Joanna Scott.

About the Book:
On a summer day in 1946 Sally Werner, the precocious young daughter of hardscrabble Pennsylvania farmers, secretly accepts her cousin's invitation to ride his new motorcycle. Like so much of what follows in Sally's life, it's an impulsive decision with dramatic and far-reaching consequences. Soon she abandons her home to begin a daring journey of self-creation, the truth of which she entrusts only with her granddaughter and namesake, six decades later. But when young Sally's father--a man she has never known--enters her life and offers another story altogether, she must uncover the truth of her grandmother's secret history.

Boldly rendered and beautifully told, in FOLLOW ME Joanna Scott has crafted a paean to the American tradition of re-invention and a sweeping saga of timeless and tender storytelling.

About the Author:
Joanna Scott is the author of nine books, including The Manikin, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; Various Antidotes and Arrogance, which were both finalists for the PEN/Faulkner Award; and the critically acclaimed Make Believe, Tourmaline, and Liberation. A recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a Lannan Award, she lives with her family in upstate New York.

Thanks to Miriam Parker at Hatchette Books and the Early Bird Blog Tour for the opportunity to review this book.

**My review will follow in a day or so. I'm not finished with the book and I don't want to post an incomplete review.** In the meantime, check out any of these book bloggers for other reviews of this book.


Saturday, April 25, 2009

Life is Tough - I Doubt I'll Make it Out Alive...Review

Welcome to another stop on the Life is Tough Virtual Tour and Life Saver Challenge, with Stacy Gooch-Anderson.

This was, quite simply, a delightful book about finding the joy in life. Stacy Gooch-Anderson, author of The Santa Letters, has written a book of humorous vignettes about the ups and downs of motherhood and life in general.

Stacy shares 28 lessons that she has learned over the course of her life, and with each lesson we see how she, not only, grew from the experience, but changed her perspective.

With lessons like, "Life is like a roller coaster. You can scream every time you hit a bump or throw up your arms and enjoy the ride" to "Sometimes it's better to leap first and then look. The view might scare you otherwise", we learn that humor is the best way to deal with life's challenges.

Stacy has taken her life is tough concept and recognized that we all need "life savers" in our lives to help us make it through. That life saver could be a person helping you out, or a thought that brightens your day and gives you something to ponder. On her blog, Stayin' Alive With Stacy, she provides a daily "life saver" or gem of wisdom. All are funny, but thought-provoking and true.

To learn more about Stacy, find the other tour stops and book reviews, and see the daily life saver, please visit Stacy's blog. You can purchase your own copy of Life is Tough from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Deseret Book or Seagull Book.

Read 4/09

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

So Not Happening...Review

About the book:
New York's social darling Isabella Kirkwood just woke up in a nightmare: Oklahoma.

Isabella Kirkwood had it all: popularity at a prestigious private school in Manhattan, the latest fashions, and a life of privilege and luxury. Then her father, a plastic surgeon to the stars, decided to trade her mother in for a newer model.

When her mother starts over with her new husband, Bella is forced to pack up and leave all she knows to live with her new family in Oklahoma. Before her mother can even say "I do," Bella's life becomes a major "don't."

Can Bella survive her crazy new family? Will the school survive Bella? How can a girl go on when her charmed life is gone and God gives her the total smackdown?

I don't read many teen books, but this one was a lot of fun.

Bella Kirkwood is a mini little New York socialite. Daddy is a rich, famous plastic surgeon and Bella is spoiled beyond belief. When her father has a mid-life crisis and decides to trade her mother in for new and different models, Bella has her own crisis. To make matters worse, her mother meets a man on the Internet and travels to Oklahoma to marry him. Bella not only gains a stepfather who works in a feminine products factory and lives on a farm, but his two bratty sons, and a down-home country lifestyle with no credit cards and no more Marc Jacobs purses.

Her first attempts at making new friends backfire, but she soon finds her place and a job with the school newspaper. She learns to trust a little more in God and along the way has some very funny adventures.

Jenny B. Jones has crafted a really delightful story. While the characters are a bit stereotyped, they are certainly likeable. The issues of divorce and remarriage and how they affect children are real and believable. Bella is fun, and parts of the story were laugh out loud funny.

An easy, light read, easily recommended for teenage girls. I look forward to the sequel.

Thanks to First Wild Card and Thomas Nelson for the opportunity to review this. You can read the first chapter here. You can find out more about Jenny B. Jones here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 4/09

* * *
3/5 Stars

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Jantsen's Gift...Review

About the book:
Nine years ago, Pam Cope owned a cozy hair salon in the tiny town of Neosho, Missouri, and her life revolved around her son's baseball games, her daughter's dance lessons, and family trips to places like Disney World. She had never been out of the country, nor had she any desire to travel far from home.

Then, on June 16th, 1999, her life changed forever with the death of her 15-year-old son from an undiagnosed heart ailment.

Needing to get as far away as possible from everything that reminded her of her loss, she accepted a friend's invitation to travel to Vietnam, and, from the moment she stepped off the plane, everything she had been feeling since her son's death began to shift. By the time she returned home, she had a new mission: to use her pain to change the world, one small step at a time, one child at a time. Today, she is the mother of two children adopted from Vietnam. More than that, she and her husband have created a foundation called "Touch A Life," dedicated to helping desperate children in countries as far-flung as Vietnam, Cambodia and Ghana.

Pam Cope's story is on one level a moving, personal account of loss and recovery, but on a deeper level, it offers inspiration to anyone who has ever suffered great personal tragedy or those of us who dream about making a difference in the world.

A deeply moving, true story. Pam Cope seemed to have the perfect life, or rather, she was obsessed with creating the perfect life. That life revolved around her husband and two children and all their activities. But, with her 15 year old son Jantsen's sudden death in 1999, her life changed forever. Pam is very open about how her grief drove her into depression and how she struggled to find meaning in her life. Her candor is refreshing as she recounts that after all the years of attending church looking like the perfect Christian family, she really didn't know God at all. But, as she finally turns toward him, her life begins to change again.

Pam and her husband Randy, started a foundation with money that had been donated in Jantsen's name after his death. Wanting a purpose and a legacy for him, they accept an invitation to travel to Vietnam to inspect an orphanage, with the intent of supporting its work. This trip changes their lives. Pam's perspective changes as she realizes how many at-risk children there are in this world. She and her husband adopted two children and have made it their mission in life to help as many others as they can.

Pam speaks of her experiences establishing homes in Vietnam and Ghana, where children who have been sold into slavery or prostitution can be rescued, sheltered and educated. The level of commitment and service that the Cope family has put into this project is amazing. They are an inspiration to people everywhere, that one or two people can truly make a difference in this world.

Thanks to Anna Balasi at Hatchette Book Group for the opportunity to review this book. You can find out more about Pam Cope and the Touch A Life foundation here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 4/09

* * * *

4/5 Stars

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

What to Do on the Worst Day of Your Life...Review

About the book:
There is no question that times are tough. People are losing their jobs, losing their homes, even losing their faith. In What to Do on the Worst Day of Your Life, pastor and author Brian Zahnd looks into the life of David to bring readers strength in the hope that they can overcome. Nobody knew adversity like King David. He had a call and an anointing on his life, and yet he had to find strength from the Lord daily to keep from losing what was rightfully his. Because he didn’t quit in the time of trouble, he fulfilled his destiny. You will be delighted at the way Pastor Zahnd uses David’s story to present 10 principles that will build hope and encouragement in your heart. Let the Holy Spirit establish these 10 truths in your spirit. With these 10 principles at work in your life, you can snatch victory from the jaws of defeat—even on the worst day of your life.

I absolutely loved this book. Truly a gem.

Brian Zahnd tells David's story from the bible and makes it relevant for us today. Before David became king he had, what could be called, the worst day of his life. After having been away from home a few days, David and his men returned to Ziklag to find it ransacked, burned and their families and riches taken by the Amalekites. Brian not only retells David's story, but he relates the actions that David took, to what we should do on our own worst days.

In this beautiful little book we are reassured that while God will give us trials, there is always a purpose. Through faith and hope we can always overcome. As Brian says, "In David's story we see he beauty of God's grace and find hope for our own troubled situations."

One of the things I enjoyed about this book is that it's practical, with real life situations and suggestions and reminders. It's one that I will read again.

Thanks to First Wild Card and Christian Life for the opportunity to review this. You can read the first chapter here. You can find out more about Brian Zahnd here.  You can purchase your own copy here.
Read 4/09

* * * * *

5/5 Stars

Monday, April 13, 2009

Musing Monday

This week's Musing Monday asks:

How do you respond to the comments on your blog? Do you try to email individually or comment on post yourself answering the comments above? What do you think is the best way to respond to comments and do you respond to all of them? Do you feel slighted if you don't receive a response back from the blog owner? (question courtesy of Jenn)

This was a great musing. I have and will, but I don't respond to every single commenter on my blog. Depending on the type of response, I will respond to the commenter via email, if they have their email visible (people not having their email visible is a big pet peeve of mine). If it's answering a question or a response that I want future commenters to see, then I will also comment to the original post. I received a negative author comment in response to my negative review, and I responded by commenting on the post myself.

I don't have time to go back and read every post I comment on, nor do I have time to follow every thread via email, hoping that someone will respond to a comment. If I comment on a post and I know that the blogger responds to each commenter, I will sometimes subscribe to that feed. But, rarely. If someone wants to talk to me or respond to a comment I make, my email is visible and I'm more than happy to chat. I don't feel slighted if someone doesn't respond. I figure that most bloggers are as busy as I am.

Go here for more Musing Mondays.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Never Say Diet...Review

About the book:
Chantel Hobbs lost two hundred pounds without the help of surgery, pills, point systems, or a trendy diet. And just as important, she kept the weight off.

Her dramatic turnaround began with five decisions–personal, no-excuses commitments that kept her from losing sight of her goals. It worked for Chantel and it will work for you. Once you unconditionally change your mind your body will follow, and your life will never be the same.

In this book you will discover:

·How to move beyond past failures and get over your old excuses
·How changing your eating patterns can break food’s hold over you
·Why winning the weight-loss battle must come from the inside out
·The simple workouts that deliver lasting results and are fun to do
·How to overcome the naysayers, the diet police, and your own nagging doubts
·How to prioritize your health, juggle family and career, and stay motivated when life takes unexpected turns
·Why the diet industry wants you to keep coming back
·And much more!

You will find straight talk on developing the determination, commitment, and personal responsibility it takes to achieve weight loss that lasts. It’s time to stop getting ready for the event and start getting ready for life!

I'd like to tell you that after reading this book I lost 60 lbs. I haven't. It's my fault, no one else's.

While not offering a great deal of new health/diet information, Chantel does offer an inspiring story. She lost 200 lbs and has kept it off, now becoming a personal trainer. How she did it is chronicled in the book. Diets aren't the key, changing yourself and how you view food and exercise is.

Chantel's core is the power of what she calls, "the brain change". She has 5 non-negotiable decisions: be truthful, be forgiving, be committed, be interested and, surrender. She wants you to come to understand that God is on your side, that you can't give up, and that a lifestyle change begins with small, baby steps.

Chantel outlines a fitness and diet program which looks great. This is one books that I will go back to.

Thanks to First Wild Card and WaterBrook Press for the opportunity to review this. You can read the first chapter here. You can find out more about Chantel Hobbs here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 4/09

* * *

3/5 Stars

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Real Solutions for Busy Moms...Review

About the book:
Kathy Ireland communicates with moms every day: online, at the grocery store, at church, at speaking engagements, and on her company website. She is grateful that her conversations don't center around beauty tips or requests for autographs or advice on how to dress. Rather, she has the honor of hearing from real women who struggle with balancing the responsibilities of marriage, raising children, managing a household or career or both, and finding any time left to take care of themselves.

As the involved mom of three very active children, the supportive wife of an emergency room doctor, and a dynamic businesswoman, Kathy knows of these struggles firsthand. She credits her strong faith in God and her parents' love and support for any success she has today and dedicates her days to finding the solutions that can make life easier for busy moms in all phases of life. As she tackles the tough financial concerns families feel today and many other issues, Kathy offers empathy and encouragement. She shares stories from her own life and wisdom she has gained through her years from teenager with a paper route to successful supermodel to mom to entrepreneur with a dream for big business.

Real Solutions for Busy Moms supports one of Kathy's favorite sayings: "You can do it all, just not all at once."

After her modeling career, Kathy Ireland focused on her family and building a business. Here she shares some simple ideas for balancing your life. Based on Christian principles she offers up a casual, easy to read book about being the best wife and mom you can.

For the most part, there is nothing new or groundbreaking here. But, as I read, I found myself being reminded of those obvious things we sometimes forget: better ways to manage money, communicating with our children, making our home a place of happiness. I loved her thought of "every home needs happiness".

Kathy talks as if she's your good friend, dispensing advice and offering comfort. Each chapter has sections on real life, with solutions to problems. It's a book that offers hope and help together. It's easily read in one or two sittings and it's a book you could go back to again and again.

An honest, practical book about being a mom.

Thanks to First Wild Card and Howard Books for the opportunity to review this. You can read the first chapter here. You can find out more about Kathy Ireland here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 4/09

* * *

3/5 Stars

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

To finish a book, or not...

Lisa at Books on the Brain posed an interesting question. One that is common to many readers. If a book doesn't interest you after a period of time, do you finish it?

I struggle with this one too, but only when it comes to books I've agreed to review, not books I simply wanted to read. For example, I've got four books that I received to review for different blog tours. In several cases, the required blog tour posts went up, but I've never posted my reviews, since I really don't care to finish a couple of them. Some I will review, I just haven't gotten them posted yet. So, I'm torn: do I post a review that says why I didn't finish it, or do I just set them aside and let it go?

I have no problem posting a negative review for a book that I've agreed to review or where I've received the ARC or a new copy. I know that some reviewers don't like posting negative reviews when they've been asked to read a particular book. But, I think that negative reviews are part of the deal.

Does an unfinished book fall into that category? Obviously I didn't like it enough to finish it. Or perhaps I didn't exactly not like it, it just didn't like it. Does that make sense?

I think there are too many good books out there to waste time on ones you don't like. I haven't finished books for that reason. It's when I've committed to review it that I wonder... What do you think? Share. Discuss. Bring me your wisdom.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Lemon Tart...Review

About the book:
A recipe for murder!

* 5 families living on Peregrine Circle
* 1 flowered curtain tieback
* 1 missing child
* 1 body in the field

Mix with a long list of suspects and top with two very different detectives. Increase heat until only the truth remains.

Award-winning author Josi S. Kilpack introduces a new series of culinary "cozies" that is sure to tantalize mystery lovers. In this debut volume, cooking aficionado-turned-amateur detective, Sadie Hoffmiller, tries to solve the murder of Anne Lemmon, her beautiful young neighbor - a single mother who was mysteriously killed while a lemon tart was baking in her oven. At the heart of Sadie's search is Anne's missing two-year-old son, Trevor. Whoever took the child must be the murderer, but Sadie is certain that the police are looking at all the wrong suspects - including her!

Armed with a handful of her very best culinary masterpieces, Sadie is determined to bake her way to proving her innocence, rescuing Trevor, and finding out exactly who had a motive for murder.

A lot of fun. I'm not normally a big fan of mysteries, but I'm a big fan of Josi Kilpack. Lemon Tart is simply a fun book to read.

Sadie Hoffmiller is one of those neighbors you wish you had living next door. A widow whose children are raised, Sadie loves to cook and bake and look out for her neighbors. When Anne Lemmon, a young, single mother moves into the neighborhood, Sadie becomes her friend and mentor. When Anne is tragically murdered while a lemon tart bakes in her oven, Sadie decides to begin her own investigation. Anne's young son is missing and Sadie is convinced that the police detectives aren't able to solve the murder and find Trevor.

Josi has given us a cast of interesting characters and blended the story so well, that I didn't have the actual murderer figured out until the very end. Sadie is delightful and you just want to laugh out loud at her antics and thought processes as she trips up the detectives and forms her own opinions and conclusions.

A simply delightful read. Light, but not fluffy and packed full of delicious recipes that I'm determined to try. I'm excited that this is part of a series. Sadie is someone I want to visit again.

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

Read 4/09

* * * *

4/5 Stars

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Booking Through Thursday...Libraries

Today's Booking Through Thursday question:

Suggested by Barbara: I saw that National Library week is coming up in April, and that led to some questions. How often do you use your public library and how do you use it? Has the coffeehouse/bookstore replaced the library? Did you go to the library as a child? Do you have any particular memories of the library? Do you like sleek, modern, active libraries or the older, darker, quiet, cozy libraries?

I love the library. I always have. When I was young, I wanted to be a librarian. If I ever go back to school for my master's degree, it will probably be in Library Science.

I always loved going to the library as a child and finding new books to read and bringing home old favorites. I can still see certain library shelves, in my mind, where I found my favorite books. In elementary school, the librarian was my favorite teacher. I was a library aide in elementary school and also in junior high school.

I go to my library weekly. Sometimes more. I love the ability to reserve books online and then pick them up when they're ready. On busy days, it really helps. At other times, I love to browse and walk up and down the aisles to discover new books.

I can't see a coffeehouse /bookstore ever replacing a library. Those are nice places to read, but nothing compares to the library itself. I like cozy libraries, I like new and sleek ones. I love windows.

Our current library is simply old. It's not cozy or even very inviting. It's crowded and small and has outgrown its location. But, I love going and when they finally get around to building our new one, I will go there, just as often.

Go here for more interesting Booking Through Thursday posts.