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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Mating Rituals of the North American WASP...Review

About the book:
After arguing with her live-in boyfriend about his inability to commit, Peggy Adams flies to a friend's bachelorette party in Las Vegas, and wakes up next to a man she can't remember. Hung-over and miserable, she sneaks out of the sleeping man's hotel room and returns home to New York, where her boyfriend apologizes for the fight and gives her a Tiffany box containing a pre-engagement ring. Not what she expected, but close enough! The next day she receives a phone call from the Las Vegas one-night stand, Luke, claiming she's already married to him¬-and he faxes her the license for proof! Both are ready for an annulment, until Peggy arrives in quaint New Nineveh, CT, where Luke cares for his Great Aunt, and the old woman makes Peggy an offer she can't refuse.

After a drunken evening in Las Vegas, Peggy Adams wakes up next to an unknown man, horrified to learn they're married. Luke is East-Coast WASP royalty in Connecticut and Peggy is pre-engaged to her live-in boyfriend,and lives in New York. When they attempt to get an annulment, Luke's eccentric great-aunt offers them a chance to make millions of dollars by remaining married for a year. Agreeing, Peggy soon finds herself immersed in the posh old-money world of the WASPs (White Anglo Saxon Protestants) on the weekends and keeping it all a secret during the week.

A cute, light, summer read, this was a slow starter for me, but one that I ultimately ended up enjoying. As I read, I did find myself getting frustrated with the inability of Peggy and Luke to communicate. As well, Peggy, especially, wasn't the most likable person, but she kind of grows on you towards the end. Luke is almost too conservative and there is the expected clash of culture. I did like that the author poked fun at the WASP culture: never showing emotion, preppy and conservative dress, pride in the old-American heritage, the competition among Ivy League graduates, etc. There were some laugh-out loud funny parts. While the characters remained shallow and undeveloped, overall this was still a light, if slightly predictable, enjoyable read.

There is very mild, unnecessary use of the "F" word.

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 5/09

* * *
3/5 Stars

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Secret...Review

About the book:
In the seemingly ordinary Amish home of Grace Byler, secrets abound. Why does her mother weep in the night? Why does her father refuse to admit something is dreadfully wrong? Then, in one startling moment, everything Grace assumed she knew is shattered. Her mother's disappearance leaves Grace reeling and unable to keep her betrothal promise to her long-time beau. Left to pick up the pieces of her life, Grace questions all she has been taught about love, family, and commitment. Heather Nelson is an English grad student, stunned by a doctor's diagnosis. Surely fate would not allow her father to lose his only daughter after the death of his wife a few years before. In denial and telling no one she is terminally ill, Heather travels to Lancaster County--the last place she and her mother had visited together. Will Heather find healing for body and spirit? As the lives of four wounded souls begin to weave together like an Amish patchwork quilt, they each discover missing pieces of their life puzzles--and glimpse the merciful and loving hand of God.

The first book in the Seasons of Grace series. I loved Beverly Lewis' Daughters of Abram series. So, I had high hopes for this one, and while I didn't hate it, I didn't love it. Like the title states, this is a novel full of secrets and questions.

The story revolves around the Byler family. Mother Lettie is haunted by secrets from her past, father Judah struggles with his wife's discontent and is unable to do anything about it, daughter Grace worries for her family and wishes for her own marriage. A young Englisher, Heather, comes to Amish country to get away from her own terminal diagnosis.

Lettie's depression and regret cause her to leave her family behind as she searches for answers. Grace tries to pick up the pieces and keep her family together as they move through their own anger and frustration at Lettie's abandonment. Grace is recently betrothed, but finds herself doubting her decision to marry Henry. Here as in most Lewis novels, we learn about the ways and beliefs of the Amish people. The brethren of this novel were much more compassionate than those in some of her others.

This book started out slowly and, at one point, I was tempted to simply start skimming so I could review it and move on to other books. However, I am glad I read the whole thing: the characters are fairly well developed and, for the most part, likable. I am curious as to how Heather's story will play out, because she seemed to be dropped into the book with no point or purpose. I do want to read the rest of the series.

You can get your own copy of the book here.

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

Read 5/09

* *
2/5 Stars

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Mating Rituals of the North American WASP...Blog Tour

Mating Rituals of the North American WASP, by Lauren Lipton.

About the book:
Peggy Adams is comfortable in her New York life, until she makes an unusual agreement with Luke Sedgwick, the last scion of an old New England family. The deal: Stay married for a year, and the two will inherit the Sedgwick mansion in New Nineveh, a quaint, preppy Connecticut town. But entering Luke’s world isn’t easy. Peggy must quickly learn how to pass herself off as a proper Connecticut wife and a perfect WASP. (Hint: At parties, nobody actually eats the food.) To make matters worse, she finds herself falling in love with the man she’s married to—despite that he seems to have no feelings for her.

About the author:
Lauren Lipton is a journalist who specializes in lifestyle, business, fashion, and trend stories. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Conde Nast Portfolio, In Style Weddings, Martha Stewart Weddings, Forbes Woman, Glamour, Marie Claire, and on National Public Radio's All Things Considered. She lives in New York City and in Litchfield County, Connecticut.

Thanks to Miriam Parker at Hatchette Books and the Early Bird Blog Tour for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Lauren Lipton here.

**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.


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Ruby Unscripted...Review

About the book:
Ruby's finding out that life is all about improv . . .

Small-town girl Ruby Madden has moved to Marin County, California; home of high-dollar homes and green living. The girls wear shoes that cost more than her entire paycheck at the Underground Coffeehouse & Theater, and the students are well-traveled and full of life experiences that Ruby can only dream of.

All the stresses of adjusting to her new life have put a strain on her ability to trust God. Yet when mysterious and eye-catching Kaden invites Ruby to join the school's film group, the puzzle pieces start to fit. Her love of art finds perfect expression and the film friends seem to really get her. When a major Hollywood director hosts an amateur film contest, Ruby and her friends are stoked.

But Ruby's old life is tugging her backward and her frantic balancing act throws her new life totally off track. To top things off, Ruby makes a mistake that could cost her the chance of a lifetime.

Life would be so much easier if Ruby just had a script to follow with a happy ending guaranteed. But what's the fun in that?

A delightful book. After her parents divorce, 15-year old Ruby Madden moves from conservative, rural Northern California to liberal, affluent Marin County, near San Francisco. Her younger brother moves with her and her mother and step dad, while her older brother remains with their dad and step mom. Ruby struggles with not only trying to maintain friendships left behind and adjust to a new, very different school, but also with making new friends and finding her place.

She finds herself working in her aunt's coffee house and wandering around a new school so large it needs a map. As Ruby figures out her life and her place in this new world, she begins to make friends and finds herself part of a group of amateur filmmakers. With some guidance from a coffeehouse customer, Ruby just might find her way.

Really, a fun novel. It's been a really long time since I was a teenager, and the times were different than today. Yet, some teen themes are timeless and moving and changing schools and leaving behind best friends and crushes is hard no matter what your era.

Cindy Martinusen-Coloma captured a delightful voice in Ruby. She's honest and full of faults, but very likeable. Ruby struggles with maintaining her long-distance friendships and supporting her best friend Kate, via texting, through Kate's difficult choices. She finds herself friends with a charming, gay school mate who helps her transition into school. One day on the wrong side a group of rich girls, she finds herself friends with others the next day.

Ruby has a tender faith in God and finds it tested as she works her way through the new situations and life she's been given.

Light, entertaining and easy to read, with realistic themes of faith and friendship as well as a well-handled situation of teen drinking. Easily recommended for teen girls. I look forward to reading more of Cindy's work.

Thanks to First Wild Card and Thomas Nelson Publishers for the opportunity to review this. You can read the first chapter here. You can find out more about Cindy Martinusen-Coloma here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 5/09

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Monday, May 18, 2009

Musing Monday

Today's Musing Monday asks:

Do you remember how you developed a love for reading? Was it from a particular person, or person(s)? Do you remember any books that you read, or were read to you, as a young child? (question courtesy of Diane)

I don't remember when I started liking books or reading. It's been a part of me forever. I always had books in my room, and there were always books in our home. I always loved them. I would get books in my Christmas Stocking, in my Easter Basket, for any special occasion. Whether it was a conscious effort on the part of my parents, I don't know. I remember that my mom would read aloud to my sisters and me, especially during car trips. I have two sisters who are big readers like me, and one who reads, but not as voraciously as the rest of us.

Growing up, I adored the Little House books. I wanted to be Laura. I also loved the Bobbsey Twins and many of my books are inscribed from my mom and dad. I loved Betty Cavanna books, and the Katie Rose books by Lenora Mattingly Weber. (Those confessions alone, really date me!) My very favorite book from childhood is the Little Golden Book, Little Mommy. My original copy was old and worn and falling apart and for a long time it was out of print. Imagine my joy last year, when I found it in my Christmas stocking. It was reprinted!!

I loved going to the library. The elementary school librarian was my favorite teacher in school. I can still see the layout of the library and I can remember where certain books were on the shelves. Same goes for my hometown library. I would ride my bike to the library and stay for hours. In the summer, I loved to climb the tree in our front yard and read, hidden in the leaves.

Both of our boys are big readers. We made a conscious effort to have books around them from the time they were babies. We've always read to them and with them, and they see us reading. I love seeing them enjoy books as much as I do and I adore it when they want to share what they've read with me.

I worked full-time for many years and during that time I certainly didn't read to the same level that I do now. I read when I could on a lunch hour and usually at night before falling asleep. Several years ago, after I had quit working, my youngest was in school full-time. It was then, that I got back into reading and discovered book blogging and reviewing.

What about you? Did you always love reading?

For more Musing Mondays, visit Should Be Reading.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sunday Salon

I haven't done a Sunday Salon in a while. It was a productive book week for me: 5 book reviews posted and two scheduled for later blog tours. I don't think this next week will be as productive! It was also a thought-provoking week for me in regards to writing negative reviews. The Social Frog posted about this and it got me thinking. This topic will forever move through the book blogging world, and I don't think it will ever go away.

I think that honesty in reviewing is important. Being honest means that occasionally, even often, a reviewer will not like a particular book. I don't absolutely love every book I read. Some I like more than others, several I've absolutely hated, and some I don't finish. I'm not the only person who does this. I also think it's important to not be mean in our effort to be honest. Simply not liking an author's book isn't being mean, and a negative review can certainly be tempered with positive aspects.

No one likes negative comments. Whether it's a book review or someone not liking your outfit on a particular day, negative comments are difficult to take. But, what pleases one person is not going to please another.

I have had several authors send me their books directly. I have had several authors comment on my blog, both for positive reviews and negative reviews. Last year, one claimed to respect my opinion, but it was clear in their lengthy response that they were offended. My response in that case is always the same: it’s unrealistic for an author to expect every reader to love and adore their book the way they do. Readers always respond personally to any book read: sometimes we react from our own experiences, or perhaps something just simply touches a nerve. We take the things we read, just like we take our day to day experiences and we make them our own, often in ways the author didn't intend. Books also often make us aware of things in ourselves that we might not have previously realized.

I'm often surprised when I see a negative review about a book I've loved. But, I also find it interesting to see someone else's take and perspective. I think it's unrealistic to think that we can convince other people to see books the same way we do. We can only share our opinions and hope that those who read them will take that opinion and think on it. If it causes reflection, then it's a good thing.

What do you think?

You can find more Sunday Salon postings here.

Friday, May 15, 2009

A Lady of Secret Devotion...Review

About the book:
Cassandra Stover can't believe her luck when she becomes the companion to Mrs. Jameston, a wealthy society woman. Not only can she help her widowed mother and sister, but Cassie genuinely comes to care for the elderly woman who treats her like family. Enter Mark Langford, an insurance investigator, and everything changes for her. 

When Mark reveals that he is investigating Sebastian Jameston, the son of Cassandra's employer, she agrees to pretend they are courting so he can stay in close proximity to the family. Motivated by her devotion to Mrs. Jameston and her own suspicion regarding Sebastian, will the game of pretense that Cassie and Mark embark upon allow a tentative love to grow...especially when unexpected danger puts them both at risk?

The third book in the Ladies of Liberty series by Tracie Peterson. Each book stands alone. Set in 19th century Philadelphia, Cassie Stover is hired to be a companion to Mrs. Jameston, a very wealthy, elderly woman. Cassie's father was killed when she was a teenager so she and her mother have always worked to provide for themselves and her younger sister. Living with Mrs. Jameston brings Cassie into a world she could have imagined.

When Mrs. Jameston's wayward and ruthless son, Sebastian, returns home, Cassie fears for her safety and that of her employer. Sebastian is suspected of fraud and murder, so when handsome Mark Langford asks Cassie to help him investigate Sebastian, she agrees. There is romance and a bit of mystery and intrigue, and certainly danger. What Cassie doesn't plan on, is falling for Mark in the process.

Like the other books in this series, this is an enthralling, light historical read. Cassie is a woman of faith, Mark is a man who struggles with his, but ultimately comes to accept it. The novel is Christian without being overly preachy, the characters are likeable and the story is interesting. Of the three, I think I liked this one the best.

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

Read 5/09

* * *
3/5 Stars

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Booking Through Thursday...Gluttony

Mariel suggested this week’s question: Book Gluttony! Are your eyes bigger than your book belly? Do you have a habit of buying up books far quicker than you could possibly read them? Have you had to curb your book buying habits until you can catch up with yourself? Or are you a controlled buyer, only purchasing books when you have run out of things to read?

Yes, we love books at our house. Before I rediscovered my local library, I was always buying a new book or two at every opportunity. For me, for my husband, for my boys. My TBR pile is huge. I keep working my way through it, but it keeps getting bigger. I receive books in the mail to review and they add to it. I see books on Goodreads or reviews from other bloggers and I get those books from the library and it keeps getting bigger.

It's nice when there is no time limit on when a book needs to be read. It's also nice to have a ready-made reading stack available. The only thing I have "curbed" in the last year or so, is how many books I actually purchase. The library has been very good for my pocketbook. I can read it there, first, and if I really like it, then I can purchase it later. My real weakness is my boys. I can say no to a lot of things, but when they bring home school book orders, I have to set limits or we would go crazy!!

Go here for more interesting Booking Through Thursday posts.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A Lady of Hidden Intent...Review

About the book:
When her father is falsely imprisoned for slave trading, Catherine Newbury finds her English world turned upside down. Whisked away with trusted servants to America, she is forced to disguise her past and create a completely new life. Taking on a servant's last name, Catherine becomes an accomplished seamstress whose dress designs are sought throughout Philadelphia.

Carter Danby, an architect who was touring England, met Catherine at a party in her English home the very night she was forced to flee. Five years later they meet again when his sister and mother come for a design consultation. Carter is sure he's met the dark-haired beauty before, but can't quite place her….

Drawn to Catherine, yet realizing she is hiding a painful past, Carter longs to create a future together with her. Catherine desires above all else to see her father set free—even at the cost of her own dreams. Will love be the sacrifice?

Growing up wealthy and privileged in Bath, England, Catherine Newbury's life changes forever, when her father is falsely imprisoned and his lands and fortune seized. Her own life in danger, Catherine is sent to America with her family's trusted servants. She must hide her identity and carve out a new life for herself. She becomes an accomplished seamstress and dress designer, with her patterns and designs sought by all. All the while, Catherine saves her money, hoping to save enough to help free her father.

When Catherine meets Carter Danby, a young man she'd met several years earlier when he toured England, she worries that her family's secrets will be revealed. She trusts that her faith in God will provide a way for her to help her father and, perhaps, find her way to true love.

Like the first book in the series A Lady of High Regard, this was a fun, historical read. It's a complete stand alone book, however, and they need not be read in order. I really liked Catherine and Carter. Christian without being overly preachy, the characters are likeable and the story is interesting.

A entertaining, yet easy read. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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

Read 5/09

* * *
3/5 Stars

Making Light of Being Heavy...Review

About the book:
These days everyone has a society-driven mindset and totally forget to laugh, especially at themselves. This may be cliche but the author truly believes that laughter is the best medicine and thinks everybody should laugh every day. Period. 

Over the years as a person blessed with the fat gene, Kandy has been in many situations where if she could not find humor she probably would end up on the couch in the psychiatrist s office. This book is about as politically incorrect as it gets for such a subject but it is also based on reality. This is a reality that many women have just like Kandy but do not think they can (or should) at times just laugh about it. Her intention when she started writing this book was to hopefully give insight to many who could never relate but at the same time perhaps provide a different perspective to women just like her. It is a point of view that has given her the strength to live her life happily and project these feelings onto everyone she comes in contact with. She has a great sense of humor and a quick wit and guarantees you will be laughing (and thinking) with each chapter of Making Light of Being Heavy

I'm not quite sure what I expected when I agreed to review this book. The teaser certainly sounded great:

"These days everyone has a society-driven mindset and totally forget to laugh, especially at themselves. This may be cliche but I truly believe that laughter is the best medicine and I think everybody should laugh every day. Period. Over the years as a person blessed with the fat gene, I have been in many situations where if I could not find humor I probably would end up on the couch in the psychiatrist's office. This book is about as politically incorrect as it gets for such a subject but it is also based on reality. This is a reality that many women have just like me, but do not think they can (or should) at times just laugh about it.

My intention when I started writing this book was to hopefully give insight to many who could never relate but at the same time perhaps provide a different perspective to women just like me. It is a point of view that has given me the strength to live my life happily and project these feelings onto everyone I come in contact with. I have a great sense of humor and a quick wit and guarantee you will be laughing (and thinking) with each chapter of
Making Light of Being Heavy."

While I could relate to many of the author's thoughts and experiences, since I have struggled with my own weight issues for most of my life, I didn't find the book funny. Oh, it had funny parts, and I do agree that you need to love yourself the way you are, and that everyone is different physically. I also truly believe that humor and laughter can get you through hard times. I can also be as politically incorrect as the next person, but this was a forced, sarcastic humor that didn't appeal to me. Instead, I sensed an underlying layer of sadness through out it.

Like I said, I'm not sure what I expected in the first place though. I know that many others will really enjoy it, and I am glad that the author has accepted herself and can laugh find humor in situations that could be painful and embarrassing.

Thanks to Pump Up Your Book Promotion for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Kandy Siahaya and purchase the book here or here. You can find other, more positive reviews here, at As The Pages Turn, Great Books and Fresh Coffee, and divine caroline.

Read 5/09

1/5 Stars

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Passion Redeemed...Review

About the book:
Graced with physical beauty, though shallow of heart, Charity O'Connor is a woman who knows what she wants. She sets her sights on the cantankerous Mitch Dennehy, editor at the Irish Times, who has unwittingly stolen her heart. And although the sparks are there, Mitch refuses to fan the coals of a potential relationship with his ex-fiancée's sister. But Charity has a plan to turn up the heat and she always gets what she wants--one way or another. Is revenge so sweet after all? Or will Charity get burned? Full of intense passion, betrayal, and forgiveness, A Passion Redeemed will delight Lessman's fans and draw new ones. 

I'm glad to say that Charity redeemed herself. I really didn't like her in the first book, A Passion Most Pure. This one, though, is her story. Charity has always been the difficult O'Connor daughter: headstrong and tarty, with a deep disdain for her older sister Faith. As Charity's story unfolds, we learn about the past and the misguided reasons for Charity's hatred towards Faith.

At the end of World War 1, when her family returns to Boston, Charity stays behind in Ireland. Her reason is to help care for her ailing great-grandmother, but her ulterior motive is to catch Mitch Dennehy, her sister's former fiance. Although her efforts to hurt Faith drove Mitch and Faith apart, Charity realizes that she loves Mitch, and she sets her cap to catch him. Charity's attempts at seduction only serve to endanger her life, and after being attacked by a dangerous suitor, Charity is sent home to America. Against his better judgment, Mitch accompanies her. When her lies again come between them, Mitch returns to Ireland, determined to find another girl worthy of his love and passion.

As Charity finally comes to terms with her life and accepts God, her faith is tested when she fears Mitch will never love her again.

I love how Julie Lessman has created such real characters. I think that there is a fine line in romance novels of how detailed are an author's descriptions of those relationships, etc. In mainstream romance novels, I think there is often far too much detail and description of passion and passionate encounters. In Christian romance novels, the passion and romance is often only lightly hinted at or glossed over completely. People in love, regardless of their faith, feel passion and attraction to their spouse or suitor. For those who strive to live a chaste life and not indulge those passions prematurely, there is tension and struggle. Julie Lessman has brought that tension to her books. Her characters are real, her story compelling.

I'm looking forward to book three.

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

Read 5/09

* * *
3/5 Stars

Monday, May 11, 2009

A Passion Most Pure...Review

About the book:
Refusing to settle for anything less than a romantic relationship that pleases God, Faith O'Connor steels her heart against her desire for the roguish Collin McGuire. But when Collin tries to win her sister Charity's hand, Faith isn't sure she can handle the jealousy she feels. To further complicate matters, Faith finds herself the object of Collin's affections, even as he is courting her sister. The Great War is raging overseas, and a smaller war is brewing in the O'Connor household. Full of passion, romance, rivalry, and betrayal, A Passion Most Pure will captivate readers from the first page.

The first book in the Daughters of Boston series. Faith O'Connor fell in love with Collin McGuire as a young girl. Collin is a bold, brash rogue who lacks Faith's devout faith in God. When Collin begins secretly courting Faith's younger sister, Charity, she isn't sure her heart can handle it. After circumstances bring them together a couple of times, Collin begins to realize he has feelings for Faith as well.

When America joins World War 1, Collin is sent to battle along with Faith's father Patrick and her brother Sean. Her mother returns to Ireland with the rest of her children to wait out the war. In Ireland, Faith meets Mitch and, thinking that Collin is lost to her forever, lets herself fall in love. When Charity's conniving nature comes between Faith and Mitch, Faith returns to America.

I enjoyed this terrific book about family, loyalty and love. Julie Lessman has crafted a delightful story about real people: Christians who are human and struggle with the human desires of passion and anger and hate. Faith is determined to keep herself pure and worthy of a strong God-blessed marriage like her parents have. She struggles against her attraction to Collin, especially when Collin takes advantage of some solitary situations, and Faith must fight her passions.

A bit long, the story covers a lot of ground in Boston as well as in Ireland. The tension was such that you really don't know who is going to win Faith's heart until the very end. I liked Faith, I liked Collin. I loved her parents, Marcy and Patrick. I hated Charity and given that the second book in the series is about Charity, I hope she redeems herself.

There is preaching as well as multiple scripture references, which are understandable, given the subject matter. An easy, compelling read. I didn't want to put it down.

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

Read 5/09

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Great Eight...Review

About the book:
Olympic Gold Medal figure skater Scott Hamilton shares his eight secrets to finding happiness in the face of a life filled with challenges, difficulties, and career-canceling odds.

With never-been-told, behind-the-scenes stories from the skating world, personal challenges including testicular cancer and a brain tumor, as well as divine miracles, Olympic Gold Medal figure skater Scott Hamilton shares the secrets to his lifelong journey to find the silver (and gold) lining in the clouds of life. His life principles, fashioned into eight secrets that begin with the rote of learning to skate the figure 8, are the keys. Scott says, "Skating taught me how to be happy. I have always kept these eight as my own private, personal secrets that I practiced daily with repetition, focus, and discipline. Now I want to share them with the world."

I have always liked and admired Scott Hamilton. I loved watching him skate, and like many others, I remember his 1984 Olympic Gold Medal win in Sarajevo. Scott's struggles in his life, especially his sickly youth, are well-known. He's also a two-time cancer survivor, and a happily married man with two children.

When a person first learns to skate, they learn the compulsory figures. They trace a figure eight, over and over again on the ice. It's slow, tedious, repetitious work, but it trains and builds the skaters muscles in ways that strengthen them and allow them minute control over their movements on the ice. Scott is very open about the fact that it was his proficiency in the compulsory figures that ultimately won him the 1984 Olympic Gold Medal.

Playing on the figure eight concept from figure skating, Scott shares with us, the eight secrets that helped him find happiness. Scott is open and honest, he doesn't have any airs or attitudes here. He shares that your challenges can also be gifts: how you deal with your challenges defines you, not your challenges themselves. One of my favorite chapters was the concept of keeping the ice clear: communicate and deal with problems and issues as they happen, don't let your frustrations fester.

Scott also says, "I'm a big believer that smiling--and its first cousin, laughter--can get you through the toughest times." When you fall during a figure skating routine, jump right up and go back into the routine, smiling. Rolling your eyes and pointing out the mistake makes it all the more profound and ultimately can make the judges focus on that mistake alone, rather than everything else that was perfect. People around you are the same way and will overlook a lot of flaws and issues when you're smiling and positive.

Scott believes that happiness in life is a choice, and I agree with him. Overall, a wonderful book. Easy to read, entertaining and often profound. Look at your life, focus on the good, think positively and like Scott says, "Smile like Kristi Yamaguchi".

Thanks to Thomas Nelson Publishers for the opportunity to review this gem. You can learn more about Scott here. Purchase your own copy of this terrific book here.

Read 5/09

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Thursday, May 7, 2009

She's in a Better Place...Review

About the book:
Jennifer Graham is struggling to make ends meet while running the Fairlawn Funeral Home, raising two children, and studying for her national board exam. Her work takes on a new dimension when Gerald Huffman, her assistant and mentor, reveals that he has a serious illness. When she learns that he and his daughter haven't spoken in years, Jen decides to help them reconcile . . . but things don't go exactly as she planned. Jennifer is longing for stability in her life . . . but she soon discovers that life isn't stagnant; it's always changing. Once again, the mortuary is a setting for lessons of laughter, love, and life. 

The third and final book of the Fairlawn Series. Of all three books, I enjoyed this one the most.

As Jennifer Graham is struggling to make the Fairlawn Funeral Home a successful business, she's also raising her children and studying for her national board exam to become a licensed mortician. Her life takes another turn when Gerald, her beloved friend and mentor, is diagnosed with terminal cancer. Wanting him to reconcile with his estranged daughter Kirsten, before his death, Jennifer invites her to Mt. Dora. Kirsten isn't willing to listen to anyone and Jennifer's attempts to facilitate a reconciliation don't go according to her plan.

This novel had the depth that I found lacking in the two previous books. The topic of Gerald's illness and pending death was handled incredibly well and with dignity and respect. Gerald has been my favorite character in this series, but I did finally like Jennifer here. There was a bit of humor too, and Leticia's attempt at a "living funeral" were laugh-out-loud funny.

I still hate the narration style and find it incredibly distracting. Here, as in the first two books, Jen's story is told in first-person, which I rarely like, but isn't as bad as the rest of the narration. The chapters alternate between Jen and the other characters like her mom, Gerald, Kirsten, etc. These supporting characters aren't written as first-person, but are an awkward present-tense third-person narrative. As I've maintained through the other books, the story would have been much stronger had the author maintained the same style throughout it. To give the author credit, she has crafted a fairly compelling set of characters, because even though I hated the narration style, I still read all three books.

An interesting, enjoyable read, if you can get past the narration issues.

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

Read 5/09

* * *
3/5 Stars

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Crossed Wires...Review

About the book:
This is the story of Mina, a girl at a Sheffield call centre whose next customer in the queue is Peter, a Cambridge geography don who has crashed his car into a tree stump when swerving to avoid a cat. Despite their obvious differences, they've got a lot in common -- both single, both parents, both looking for love. Could it be that they've just found it? 

Crossed Wires is an old-fashioned fairy tale. It is about the small joys and tribulations of parenthood; about one-ness and two-ness; about symmetry and coincidence; about the things that separate us and the things that bring us together. 

A real story, about real people. People with families you could understand. People you could possibly know, and certainly, people you would like.

Mina, a young single mother, works each day at a call center for an auto insurance company. Peter, a widowed, single father with twin daughters, teaches at Cambridge University. Their worlds are miles apart, literally and figuratively, but when Peter calls one day with an accident claim, something clicks. The phone wires cross in such a way that two people who, by rights, should have never met, are unwittingly drawn towards each other.

At first, they simply speak to each other on the phone weekly. Their lives move forward and the supporting characters: Peter's twin daughters Cassie and Kim, his graduate student Trish and two best friends Martin and Jeremy, as well as Mina's daughter Sal are delightful additions to the story. There are small, every day joys and larger, every day frustrations. Then, as their friendship develops, Peter is the one to whom Mina turns when she faces a parent's greatest fear.

Quintessentially English. An enjoyable, moving read. Quite simply, what should be simply an ordinary story is, instead, a charming story about the ups and downs of every day life and the joy you can find in family and friends.

Rosy Thornton sent me her novel directly, and for that, I am very grateful! I look forward to reading her other books. You can learn more about Rosy Thornton here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 5/09

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Fifty is Not a Four-Letter Word...DNF

About the book:
As Hope Lyndhurst-Steele approaches her 50th birthday, although she "has it all"--top magazine job, wonderful husband, loving son, many friends--fifty still feels like a four-letter word.

But she doesn't know just how low she can go.

When she returns to the office after her holiday break, she's informed by senior management that the "having it all" woman is OUT--and Hope's out along with her. As she starts spending her days at home, her relationship with her usually patient husband Jack starts to become strained, and her teenage son is more interested in chasing after the local trashy single mom than spending his last year at home with his own mother. And Hope's own mother, who she never got along with, has cheerily announced that she's got six months left to live. Hope is relieved when a solo trip to Paris wakes up her long-dormant libido, but when she returns, she finds that her husband is giving her more space than she'd like--he's moved out.

As Hope wonders if she'll be able to make it to fifty-one with her sanity and her family intact, she discovers some interesting truths about herself and her age--and even if 50 is not the new 30, it could be that the best is yet to come. 

Once again I'm in the minority when it comes to my review vs. my fellow book bloggers. This one was hailed as fantastic, terrific and well worth reading. It wasn't my cup of tea, so to speak, and I didn't even finish it.

While I'm on the over 40 side of life, I'm not quite to my 50s yet. However, from the description this sounded appealing. Hope Steele, a top magazine editor has a terrific job, wonderful husband and son. Life can change quickly and as her 50th birthday approaches, Hope loses her job, her husband decides it's over, her son starts running around with a trashy woman and her mother announces her impending death. Hope leaves it all behind and runs to Paris, hoping she can give her life the jump-start it needs.

I didn't like Hope. I found little to redeem her and nothing to make me care about her. I didn't like the s*x scenes and talk (although they were mild, compared to others) and the profanity was vulgar and unnecessary.

Thanks to Miriam Parker at Hatchette Book Group for the opportunity to review this book. I only wish it had lived up to the expectation.

If you're looking for positive reviews, however, there are many to be found, including these great bloggers: bermudaonion, A Blog of Books, and This That and The Other Thing.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 5/09

1/5 Stars

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Lost Quilter...Review

About the book:
Master Quilter Sylvia Bergstrom Compson treasures an antique quilt called by three names -- Birds in the Air, after its pattern; the Runaway Quilt, after the woman who sewed it; and the Elm Creek Quilt, after the place to which its maker longed to return. That quilter was Joanna, a fugitive slave who traveled by the Underground Railroad to reach safe haven in 1859 at Elm Creek Farm.

Though Joanna's freedom proved short-lived -- she was forcibly returned by slave catchers to Josiah Chester's plantation in Virginia -- she left the Bergstrom family a most precious gift, her son. Hans and Anneke Bergstrom, along with maiden aunt Gerda, raised the boy as their own, and the secret of his identity died with their generation. Now it falls to Sylvia -- drawing upon Gerda's diary and Joanna's quilt -- to connect Joanna's past to present-day Elm Creek Manor.

Just as Joanna could not have foreseen that, generations later, her quilt would become the subject of so much speculation and wonder, Sylvia and her friends never could have imagined the events Joanna witnessed in her lifetime. Punished for her escape by being sold off to her master's brother in Edisto Island, South Carolina, Joanna grieves over the loss of her son and resolves to run again, to reunite with him someday in the free North. Farther south than she has ever been, she nevertheless finds allies, friends, and even love in the slave quarter of Oak Grove, a cotton plantation where her skill with needle and thread soon becomes highly prized.

Through hardship and deprivation, Joanna dreams of freedom and returning to Elm Creek Farm. Determined to remember each landmark on the route north, Joanna pieces a quilt of scraps left over from the household sewing, concealing clues within the meticulous stitches. Later, in service as a seamstress to the new bride of a Confederate officer, Joanna moves on to Charleston, where secrets she keeps will affect the fate of a nation, and her abilities and courage enable her to aid the country and the people she loves most.

The knowledge that scraps can be pieced and sewn into simple lines -- beautiful both in and of themselves and also for what they represent and what they can accomplish -- carries Joanna through dark days. Sustaining herself and her family through ingenuity and art during the Civil War and into Reconstruction, Joanna leaves behind a remarkable artistic legacy that, at last, allows Sylvia to discover the fate of the long-lost quilter.

I've read the Elm Creek books and, with few exceptions, I've liked them all. The Lost Quilter picks up the story of Joanna, the runaway slave from The Runaway Quilt. As with the other Elm Creek books, this one begins with Sylvia discovering a new fact about her family or their quilting. While the beginning and end of the book are about Sylvia trying to find out information about Joanna, the book itself is, Joanna's story.

After her son was born at the Bergstrom farm, Joanna was recaptured and returned to her master in Virginia. She took with her a desire to find her son, her newly found ability to read and her mastery with the needle. Her master sells her to his brother in South Carolina and Joanna begins a new life, finding friends and love. Joanna dreams of returning to Elm Creek and she pieces a quilt, reminiscent of the underground railroad quilts. In it she sews the landmarks she remembers, in hopes that someday it will guide her back to Elm Creek.

Joanna's strength sees her through difficulties with selfish mistresses and the Civil War, and the legacy she leaves behind will finally answer some of Sylvia's questions.

I was prepared to not like this book. I think that, at some point, a story needs to end. While I do think Jennifer Chiaverini runs the risk of weakening a strong story if she insists on giving every possible character their own book, I enjoyed this one. Slave narratives have always fascinated me, and reading the story from Joanna's viewpoint was compelling.

An easy, interesting read.

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

Read 5/09

* * *

3/5 Stars

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Side-Yard Superhero...Review

About the book:
'I know where Bernie Jones is.'With one late-night phone call, Rick Niece is transported back over forty years to cherished childhood memories of small town DeGraff, Ohio. His daily newspaper route, the sights and wonders of a traveling carnival, the sounds of Christmas caroling-the idyllic memories all circle back to one special relationship.To Rickie, being friends with Bernie Jones was no different than being friends with any other boy in town. Bernie's physical world was confined to a wheelchair, but that didn't stop him from being an intrepid daydreamer, adventurer, and hero to Rickie. The unique friendship the boys forged defined an era in both their lives. When he left for college, Rickie promised Bernie they would meet again. Now, decades later, he is making the pilgrimage back to Ohio to fulfill that promise.   

The Side-Yard Superhero is subtitled, "Life in DeGraff: An Automythography". Author Rick Niece defines an "automythography" as, a work of non-fiction that looks reflectively at what we think we remember and how we think we remember it; an iridescent memory based upon truth and fact. This charming memoir is all that and more.

Dr. Rick Niece is the President of the University of the Ozarks in Clarksville, Arkansas and here he describes his childhood in DeGraff, Ohio. His family moved to the small town of DeGraff when Rick was 4 and they moved 16 years later. DeGraff provided the quintessential childhood: paper routes, freedom to run and play, creeks to explore and unguarded swimming holes. It also provided life changing lessons and friendships. Chief among those was Rick's friendship with Bernie Jones, a boy confined to a wheelchair because of Cerebral Palsy. An unlikely duo, Rick and Bernie formed a strong friendship and while Rick was able to occasionally take Bernie away from his to the side-yard existence, Bernie was able to provide an appreciation-of- life-perspective for Rick.

With moments of laugh out loud hilarity alternating with tender tear-filled moments, Dr. Niece has captured the oft-forgotten charms of small-town life. Reading this delightful novel, I found myself remembering my childhood and wishing that my own boys could know the freedoms that I did. Times and circumstances change, but The Side-Yard Superhero makes you long for those innocent days past, when neighbors knew neighbors, communities came together and little boys still had paper routes.

Thanks to Elizabeth McCurry and Phenix & Phenix Literary Publicists for the opportunity to read this book. You can learn more about Rick Niece here. For additional reviews check out these great bloggers: bermudaonion, and This That and the Other Thing.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 5/09

* * * *

4/5 Stars

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The House in Grosvenor Square...Review

About the book:

As Ariana Forsythe plans her wedding, she must adjust to the realization that she will soon become the wife of an extremely wealthy man. She wonders if it's wrong to rejoice that her future husband is rich. But, she promises herself to use her new position to do what she can to aid the numerous street waifs she sees all too often in London.

During a tour of her future home-the house in Grosvenor Square-Ariana impulsively makes plans to redecorate (just a little) according to  her tastes . But when Philip arrives home later, he is informed that an expensive silver candlestick and a miniature portrait of George III have gone missing. Moreover, each time Ariana visits the house, another item disappears.

When Ariana suffers an abduction attempt by two villains, and other mysterious goings-on are unexplained, Mr. Mornay must unravel the mystery of who is after her, and why. He knows he has to prevent any harm from befalling his future bride, even if it means he must keep her under lock and key in his own house!

A sequel to Before the Season Ends.

In 1813 England, Ariana Forsythe is planning her wedding to Phillip Mornay, a wealthy man who shares her faith in God. Philanthropically minded, Ariana looks forward to being able to aid many of the impoverished people she has met.

As Phillip and Ariana make preparations for their marriage, multiple factors and people interfere. Mr. Mornay's housekeeper doesn't like Ariana and does what she can to cast doubt upon the new mistress' character. Add to the mix, a kidnapping plot by two villains bent on revenge against Phillip and you have The House in Grosvenor Square.

Linore Rose Burkhard blends romance with suspense and the result is a fun read that takes you into the regency period of history. A period of time when fashion and position are most important, and a good butler is paramount. An easy, entertaining read.

Thanks to First Wild Card and Harvest House Publishers for the opportunity to review this. You can read the first chapter here. You can find out more about Linore Rose Burkard here.

Read 4/09

* * *

3/5 Stars