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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Shoulder Bags and Shootings...DNF...Review

About the book:
Fashionista and amateur sleuth Haley Randolph is in hot pursuit of the season's newest must-have handbag. But soon she's also in hot pursuit of a killer--when she discovers the corpse of none other than her designer purse party rival. . .

Life is beyond fabulous at the moment for Haley Randolph. She just spent two amazing weeks in Europe with her boyfriend Ty Cameron, owner of Holt's Department Store where Haley works. And now Ty's grandmother, Ada, is letting Haley drive her way-cool Mercedes. Things would be perfect if she could just get her hands on her latest fashion obsession: the new Sinful handbag.

Every store in town is out of stock, and Haley would rather die than buy a knockoff. But when she finds the body of her nemesis, Tiffany Markham, in the trunk of Ada's Mercedes, she's not so sure she wants to trade places after all. . .

Topping the list of suspects, Haley doesn't deny seeing red when Tiffany and her business partner not only stole her purse party idea, but also made more money. But Haley wasn't jealous enough to commit murder. Now she'll have to solve this mystery quickly--and find that Sinful bag--before she becomes a killer's next fashion fatality. .

I tried.  I just can't do it.  The premise sounded like fun, entertaining chick lit.  Unfortunately, the book is just like the main character, shallow and trivial.  Perhaps I'm just too old to enjoy a story about a flighty, superficial young woman whose sole purpose in life seems to be fashion and avoiding true responsibility.  Think the girl from Confessions of a Shopaholic.  I didn't read the book, but sat through the film trying not to fall asleep while everyone else around me laughed themselves silly.  Haley reminds me of Rebecca.  So, if you liked Confessions, I think you'll like Shoulder Bags and Shootings.

You can find a more positive review with a different perspective at Booking Mama.

Thanks to FSB Associates for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Dorothy Howell here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 7/10

1/5 Stars

Friday, July 30, 2010

Hanging By The Thread...Review

About the book:
For ten years, a secret society has risen to power. They have infiltrated every facet of the federal government. They are powerful. They have extraordinary access to public funds. They have incredible technologies. And freedom is their nemesis.

They have sought to destroy economic freedom, amass power to the federal government, and create mass dependency. They call themselves THE THREAD. And now, they are poised to destroy the Constitution and rise to power.

But, on the eve of their burst into power, a copy of their plan falls into the hands of a young man in the Utah State Capitol building. A small group forms and comes to understand the plan of The Thread. And now, the race is on. Time is short and the group must struggle to preserve their lives, their nation, and freedom itself.

I'm not a political junkie.  I have a limited (at best) knowledge of economics. But, I think this story is timely.  Very timely.  You can say what you want about conspiracy theorists but many people are concerned about what they see happening in America today.

Colton Wiser discovers an interesting and disturbing document in a copy room at the Capitol Building in Salt Lake City.  Curious, he shows it to his roommates and soon finds himself racing to meet an economics professor at Brigham Young University.  As the four men study this plan, they realize that the future of America and the very freedoms they cherish are in danger. When masked men burst through the door, they realize they, themselves, are also in danger.  They must find a way to prevent a bomb detonation and make the country aware of a terrifying plan to overthrow the government. 

A fast-paced story that spans 24 hours. Think an educated Jack Bauer, but with a lower body count and a bit more control. 

This was a terrific, albeit somewhat pedantic, way to explain and teach economics to others.  Dr. Isaacson's lectures at the back of the book are thought-provoking lessons about economic freedom and the way it relates to human happiness.

Overall, a compelling debut novel and one I can easily recommend.

Thanks to the author and Bostick Communications for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Donald B. Anderson here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 7/10

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Confessions of Catherine de Medici...Review

About the book:
The truth is, none of us are innocent. We all have sins to confess.

So reveals Catherine de Medici in this brilliantly imagined novel about one of history’s most powerful and controversial women. To some she was the ruthless queen who led France into an era of savage violence. To others she was the passionate savior of the French monarchy. Acclaimed author C. W. Gortner brings Catherine to life in her own voice, allowing us to enter into the intimate world of a woman whose determination to protect her family’s throne and realm plunged her into a lethal struggle for power.

 The last legitimate descendant of the illustrious Medici line, Catherine suffers the expulsion of her family from her native Florence and narrowly escapes death at the hands of an enraged mob. While still a teenager, she is betrothed to Henri, son of François I of France, and sent from Italy to an unfamiliar realm where she is overshadowed and humiliated by her husband’s lifelong mistress. Ever resilient, Catherine strives to create a role for herself through her patronage of the famous clairvoyant Nostradamus and her own innate gift as a seer. But in her fortieth year, Catherine is widowed, left alone with six young children as regent of a kingdom torn apart by religious discord and the ambitions of a treacherous nobility.

Relying on her tenacity, wit, and uncanny gift for compromise, Catherine seizes power, intent on securing the throne for her sons. She allies herself with the enigmatic Protestant leader Coligny, with whom she shares an intimate secret, and implacably carves a path toward peace, unaware that her own dark fate looms before her—a fate that, if she is to save France, will demand the sacrifice of her ideals, her reputation, and the passion of her embattled heart.

From the fairy-tale châteaux of the Loire Valley to the battlefields of the wars of religion to the mob-filled streets of Paris,
The Confessions of Catherine de Medici is the extraordinary untold journey of one of the most maligned and misunderstood women ever to be queen.

I've seen such glowing reviews of this book and while it was promising, I just expected something different. The book is well researched, but the author takes liberties and much of the story is, understandably, speculation.  Historically, Catherine's story is rich and mythical with much suspense, intrigue and sorrow.  She was a strong, enigmatic woman who fought hard for what she believed in.  I found the inside peek into royalty fascinating:  children married off at early ages simply for political reasons, mistresses who exert incredible influence and the early deaths of so many.  The explanations and descriptions of the conflict between the Catholics and Huguenots (Protestants) was interesting, but ultimately dragged the story down and I finally just had to skim a lot of parts.

I don't normally force myself to finish books I don't like, and I wish I'd just set this one aside when I was first tempted to do so. The tone of the book didn't set well with me for some reason and there was too much sex for my reading tastes.  Many others enjoyed the book and you can find more positive reviews at So Many Precious Books, So Little Time, Cafe of Dreams, and Booking Mama.

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

Read 7/10

1/5 Stars

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Lunch in Paris...Review

About the book:
In Paris for a weekend visit, Elizabeth Bard sat down to lunch with a handsome Frenchman--and never went home again. 

Was it love at first sight? Or was it the way her knife slid effortlessly through her pavé au poivre, the steak'spink juices puddling into the buttery pepper sauce? Lunch in Paris is a memoir about a young American woman caught up in two passionate love affairs--one with her new beau, Gwendal, the other with French cuisine. Packing her bags for a new life in the world's most romantic city, Elizabeth is plunged into a world of bustling open-air markets, hipster bistros, and size 2 femmes fatales. She learns to gut her first fish (with a little help from Jane Austen), soothe pangs of homesickness (with the rise of a chocolate soufflé) and develops a crush on her local butcher (who bears a striking resemblance to Matt Dillon). Elizabeth finds that the deeper she immerses herself in the world of French cuisine, the more Paris itself begins to translate. French culture, she discovers, is not unlike a well-ripened cheese-there may be a crusty exterior, until you cut through to the melting, piquant heart.

Peppered with mouth-watering recipes for summer ratatouille, swordfish tartare and molten chocolate cakes, Lunch in Paris is a story of falling in love, redefining success and discovering what it truly means to be at home. In the delicious tradition of memoirs like A Year in Provence and Under the Tuscan Sun, this book is the perfect treat for anyone who has dreamed that lunch in Paris could change their life.

Having been to Paris some years ago, reading this book makes me want to return.  Elizabeth captures the essence of Paris and the differences between the French and American cultures.  Elizabeth's voice is lyrical and descriptive. The book is simply a pleasant diversion, nothing stellar or radically new.  At times it's heartwarming, at other times it's a bit whiny.

Some readers will want to know that the book includes mild, unnecessary profanity and non-graphic pre-marital sex.   It opens with the line, "I slept with my husband halfway through our first date" and that nearly turned me off of reading it.  But, while similar in tone to Under the Tuscan Sun and other such memoirs, this was a book that I ultimately enjoyed.  I really loved the inclusion of so many recipes.

Thanks to my local library for having a copy I could borrow.  You can learn more about Elizabeth Bard here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 7/10

* * *
3/5 Stars

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

How do people find my blog, Part 3

It's been almost a year since my last installment of How Do People Find My Blog. Sometimes, it's quite interesting, and even a bit confusing! So, sit back and laugh at some of the searches that have brought people to 2 Kids and Tired Book Reviews.

 find something for my kids to do when i do my house work... LOL! Lock them in their bedrooms? Lock them out of the house? Give them chores to do too?

BOOK about only allowed having two kids... Ok, how many children you have is UP TO YOU. It's between you and your husband. If you're a Christian, it's between you and your husband and God. No one else can tell you how many you should or shouldn't have. Now, if you're looking for a book written about someone who was only allowed to have two kids, that's a different story...

whats the book where two kids have adventures in a garden... It's called The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. It's one of my favorites. And, the play is awesome too.

does god want me to go to college... Don't be looking online for that answer here, dear. You need to ask God directly, and then listen for His answer.

spells that work for kids instantly... Um, sorry. You won't find anything like that here. We're strictly a non-spell family.

kids new york tired getting around... I've never been to New York. Sorry. Can't help you.  

modern recipes for kids... Wrong blog. I don't necessarily have recipes for kids on my cooking blog, but I have a lot of easy recipes that my kids like to make with me.

flatline book on medical corruption...
My doctor husband would like this one.

why kids love cookies... Um...because they're smart, and duh, they're kids!

a done kids book review to copy... You are dishonest, and if it's for your child, you're being a terrible example. 

You can see other installments of How do People Find My Blog here: Part 2Part 1.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Seeker...Review

About the book:
Charlotte Vance is a young woman who knows what she wants. But when the man she planned to marry joins the Shakers--a religious group that does not marry--she is left dumbfounded. And when her father brings home a new wife who is young enough to be Charlotte's sister, it is more than she can bear. 

With the country--and her own household--on the brink of civil war, this pampered gentlewoman hatches a plan to avoid her new stepmother and win back her man by joining the Shaker community at Harmony Hill. Little does she know that this decision will lead her down a road toward unforeseen peace--and a very unexpected love. 

The setting is the early years of the Civil War.  Charlotte Vance's new stepmother does all she can to force Charlotte out of her home.  After her fiance's desertion and with the threat of the servants she loves being sold off, Charlotte decides that leaving Grayson plantation is her only choice.  She and her slave Mellie join the Shakers, as Charlotte wants a place to hide and a way to convince Edwin that he should marry her.  When Adam Wade, illustrator for Harper's Weekly reenters her life, she must search within herself to find out where her true conviction lies.

I loved the historical aspect of this novel.  The Shakers abhorred violence of any kind and wouldn't take up arms, but did feed and help all manner of soldiers who passed through their village.  Ann Gabhart did a fantastic job of interweaving the Civil War into the story, while making Charlotte's story center.  The letters between Charlotte and Adam were terrific.

Before reading Ann Gabhart's book The Believer, I was not familiar with the Shaker religion at all. I found it fascinating.  I don't understand the conviction of those who chose that lifestyle, but I do admire their faith and diligence in living it. Like The Believer, this novel also explores the idea of following one's heart and learning for yourself the path God wants you to take.

Available July 2010 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Thanks to Donna Hausler from the Baker Publishing Group for the opportunity to review this book. You can find out more about Ann H. Gabhart here. You can purchase the book here.

Read 7/10

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Country House Courtship...Review

About the book:
It is 1818 and Miss Beatrice Forsythe is determined to marry well. After all, her sister married the Paragon, Mr. Phillip Mornay, five years earlier--which all but guarantees that she, Beatrice, can also make a famous match to a wealthy man.
But her sister and husband have disappeared from high society as they raise a family at their country estate.

Can Beatrice persuade them to chaperone her in London?

Meanwhile an old acquaintance, Mr. Peter O'Brien shows up at the house as the candidate for a vicarage to which Mr. Mornay holds the rights. Will old passions and jealousies be revived? Or can Mr. O'Brien and the Mornays ever live near each other as friends? And what about Beatrice's rash promise to marry the curate, made years earlier? At seventeen now, she has no wish to marry a mere clergyman--despite his agreeable countenance and winsome gentle ways.

When Mr. Tristan Barton comes on the scene as the tenant of the Manor House, Beatrice's hopes seem to have found their object. But when Ariana falls gravely ill, secrets come to light, motives are revealed, and the pretenses that are easy to keep up in the sunlight begin to crumble. Hearts are bared, truths uncovered, and when all is said and done, a country house courtship like no other has occurred!

Linore Rose Burkard's books are simply delightful.  This is the third and final installment in the stories of Forsythe/Mornay families.  Beatrice is an endearing, charming character.  A bit jealous of her sister's situation in life, Beatrice longs for her own wealthy match.  She's disappointed that her sister and Mr. Mornay have retired to their country estate and have no plans to return to London, and Beatrice worries that she'll miss her season of coming out.

However, drama comes to the country as an old acquaintance shows up to apply for the position of curate.  At the same time, a charming, if not roguish visitor also moves into the neighborhood.  Beatrice finds her attentions divided as she grows up and learns that what she searches for is often right in front of her.

A simply charming story and a fitting end to the Regency trilogy.  The books Before the Season Ends and The House in Grosvenor Square as well as this one all stand alone, although I recommend reading them in order, simply for wonderful stories, as well as character history.

Thanks to the author for sending me a copy to review.  You can learn more about Linore Rose Burkard here.

Read 7/10

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Monday, July 19, 2010

Courting Morrow Little...Review

About the book:
Morrow Little is haunted by the memory of the day her family was torn apart by raiding Shawnee warriors. Now that she is nearly a grown woman and her father is ailing, she must make difficult choices about the future. Several men--ranging from the undesired to the unthinkable--vie for her attentions, but she finds herself inexplicably drawn to a forbidden love that both terrifies and intrigues her. Can she betray the memory of her lost loved ones--and garner suspicion from her friends--by pursuing a life with him? Or should she seal her own misery by marrying a man she doesn't love?

This sweeping tale of romance and forgiveness will envelop readers as it takes them from a Kentucky fort through the vast wilderness to the west in search of true love.

Laura Frantz has done it again. If it's possible, I think I enjoyed this one more than The Frontiersman's Daughter. Morrow Little returns to the wild Kentucky wilderness after having spent several years in the east with her aunt. She has never come to terms with the fact that years earlier, raiding Indians killed her mother and baby sister and abducted her older brother. While her father has found the ability to forgive, Morrow hasn't. However, her father has befriended Shawnee Indians and as Morrow allows herself to get to know them, her heart begins to soften.

When she falls in love with Red Shirt, Morrow is aware that her life will change, and she will not be accepted everywhere she goes, just as he isn't. Thrilling adventure and frightening peril await her. But with love in her heart and faith in God, Morrow knows she can overcome anything.

Laura's descriptions are vivid and stunning. She has an exceptional way of showing, not telling. Her characters are well developed and you're drawn to them and care about them. Morrow's fear on the trail becomes your fear. Her heartache is your heartache.

This was a book I couldn't put down, and one I was sad to see end. Enthralling and easily recommended, especially for fans of historical novels. I look forward to more from Laura Frantz.

Available July 2010 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Thanks to Donna Hausler of Baker Publishing for the opportunity to review this book.You can learn more about Laura Franz here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 6/10

* * * * *
5/5 Stars

Friday, July 16, 2010

In a Heartbeat...Review

About the book:
First came the bestselling book, then the Oscar-nominated movie—the story of Michael Oher and the family who adopted him has become one of the most talked-about true stories of our time. But until now, Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy have never told this astonishing tale in their own way and with their own words.

For Leigh Anne and Sean, it all begins with family. Leigh Anne, the daughter of a tough-as-nails U.S. Marshal, decided early on that her mission was to raise children who would become "cheerful givers." Sean, who grew up poor, believed that one day he could provide a home that would be "a place of miracles." Together, they raised two remarkable children—Collins and Sean Jr.—who shared their deep Christian faith and their commitment to making a difference. And then one day Leigh Anne met a homeless African-American boy named Michael and decided that her family could be his. She and her husband taught Michael what this book teaches all of us: Everyone has a blind side, but a loving heart always sees a path toward true charity.

Michael Oher's improbable transformation could never have happened if Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy had not opened their hearts to him. In this compelling, funny, and profoundly inspiring book, the Tuohys take us on an extraordinary journey of faith and love—and teach us unforgettable lessons about the power of giving.

Oh. My. Goodness.  I loved the film The Blind Side, but I really loved In a Heartbeat.  Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy share their story, in their words.  The chapters alternate between Sean's voice and Leigh Anne's voice, as well as several chapters they write together.  All three Tuohy children:  Collins, Michael and S.J., as well as Sandra Bullock and Tim McGraw each write something as well.

Sean and Leigh Anne share a strong faith in God and a strong belief in making a difference.   I love Sean's Popcorn Theory about noticing others:  that, "you can't help everyone.  But you can try to help the hot ones who pop up right in front of your face."  The Tuohy's didn't plan on stopping to pick up Michael Oher, they didn't plan on giving him a home and they didn't plan on adopting him.  They are very open about the fact that their decision to stop and pick him up changed their lives, in a heartbeat.

The Tuohy's share their stories; how they each grew up and the experiences that shaped them.  They believe in being cheerful givers and in raising their children to be cheerful givers.  In a Heartbeat is an inspiring story about a remarkable family.

I loved the humor.  I loved the honesty.  The little asides, like the one where Leigh Anne says she doesn't actually wear skirts as tight as the ones Sandra Bullock wore in the film, simply make this book more personable.

Thanks to First Wildcard and The B&B Media Group for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy here.  You can read the first chapter here.  You can purchase your own copy here

Read 7/10

* * * * *
5/5 Stars

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Shades of Morning...Review

About the book:
Marnie didn’t know much about miracles.Mistakes maybe. Accidents. And monstrous mess-ups. She knew a lot about those. But miracles? Those were for other people. 

Marnie Wittier has life just where she wants it. Quiet. Peaceful. No drama. A long way away from her past. In the privacy of her home, she fills a box with slips of paper, scribbled with her regrets, sins, and sorrows. But that’s nobody else’s business. Her bookstore/coffee shop patrons, her employees, her friends from church—they all think she’s the very model of compassion and kindness.

Then Marnie’s past creeps into her present when her estranged sister dies and makes Marnie guardian of her fifteen-year-old son—a boy Marnie never knew existed. And when Emmit arrives, she discovers he has Down syndrome—and that she’s woefully unprepared to care for him. What’s worse, she has to deal with Taylor Cole, her sister’s attorney, a man Marnie once loved—and abandoned. 

As Emmit (and Taylor) work their way into her heart, Marnie begins to heal. But when pieces of her dismal past surface again, she must at last face the scripts of paper in her box, all the regrets and sorrows. Can she do it? Or will she run again? 

This is one review that doesn't come quickly or easily. It's certainly a book that doesn't leave you right away.  Marnie's life is full of regrets.  Regrets that she can't let go.  Regrets that she carries around with her, literally as well as figuratively.  She's a kind-hearted woman who can't forgive herself of her past misdeeds/mistakes. When Emmit shows up in her life, she finds herself forced to face her fears and her past.

With real, flawed characters, Marnie's story unfolds in a narrative manner with flashbacks and memories all interspersed.  Some twists and turns along the way make it compelling and unexpected, yet it's a tender telling of forgiveness, love and the second chances we all hope for.   

I liked it, I didn't love it.  It touched me, it didn't necessarily resonate with me.  It's not light reading, but not overly heavy either. Simply put, this thought-provoking book reinforces the belief that God uses ministering angels to help us in our journey through life. With discussion-promoting questions at the end of the book, I think this would be a terrific book club read. 

Thanks to KBK Public Relations and  Multnomah Books for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Marlo Schalesky here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

 Read 6/10

* * *
3/5 Stars

Friday, July 9, 2010

Keeping the Feast...Review

About the book:
A story of food and love, injury and healing, Keeping the Feast is the triumphant memoir of one couple's nourishment and restoration in Italy after a period of tragedy, and the extraordinary sustaining powers of food, family, and friendship.

Paula and John met in Italy, fell in love, and four years later, married in Rome. But less than a month after the wedding, tragedy struck. They had transferred from their Italian paradise to Warsaw and while reporting on an uprising in Romania, John was shot and nearly killed by sniper fire. Although he recovered from his physical wounds in less than a year, the process of healing had just begun. Unable to regain his equilibrium, he sank into a deep sadness that reverberated throughout their relationship. It was the abrupt end of what they'd known together, and the beginning of a new phase of life neither had planned for. All of a sudden, Paula was forced to reexamine her marriage, her husband, and herself.

Paula began to reconsider all of her previous assumptions about healing. She discovered that sometimes patience can be a vice, anger a virtue. That sometimes it is vital to make demands of the sick, that they show signs of getting better. And she rediscovered the importance of the most fundamental of human rituals: the daily sharing of food around the family table.

A universal story of hope and healing, Keeping the Feast is an account of one couple's triumph over tragedy and illness, and a celebration of the simple rituals of life, even during the worst life crises. Beautifully written and tremendously moving, Paula's story is a testament to the extraordinary sustaining powers of food and love, and to the stubborn belief that there is always an afterward, there is always hope. 

This is another one of those books where the review doesn't come easily, but the story stays with you. Paula Butterini and John Tagliabue were recently married journalists living abroad when tragedy struck and John was shot in Romania.  Prone to depression in the past, John settled into a deep depression following the shooting.  Keeping the Feast is the story of their experience with getting him healthy again.  Having lived in Rome and having a deep love of Italy, due to the Italian heritage they both shared, Paula and John returned to Rome in an effort to find comfort and healing.

The feast part of this story comes from her focus on cooking. Shopping for the day's food and cooking those meals were the two things that helped keep her grounded as she struggled with the day to day unknowns.

This is very much Paula's story and how she reacted to John's life changing experiences.  I would like to read John's version of their experiences.  And I wished for some recipes, as so many of her meals sounded delicious, but I also understand that not cooking by the book is somewhat liberating and refreshing.

While not a completely happy memoir, I found it well written, enthralling and quite lyrical.  It also ends on a happy, positive note.  Paula certainly has a way with words and descriptions and her story is moving.  It's a terrific account of how depression truly is a sickness; a sickness that affects whole families, even if it is only one person who actually suffers from the illness. That Italy and Paris happen to be the settings is simply a bonus.

Thanks to my local library for having a copy I could borrow.  You can learn more about Paula Butterini here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 7/10

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Sheriff's Surrender...DNF...Review

About the book:
A murder in Fergus, Idaho, has the town’s women scared. But the men don’t seem able to stop the rash of thefts, assaults, and vandalism that follow. Half a dozen women band together to arm themselves against trouble. The gunsmith's plain sister, the emporium's owner, a couple of rancher's wives and saloon girls take their shooting lessons seriously. The men are skeptical at first and slightly amused. 

The new minister's wife shocks the town by joining the club, and other women follow her lead. When they show no sign of letting up on their drill, the men beg the sheriff to disband the club and put their women back where they belong. Those are fighting words to the ladies. Domestic rebellion threatens until a new murder grabs everyone's attention. Will the sheriff and his men find the killer and put him away? Or will that honor belong to the Ladies' Shooting Club? 

A bit of mystery, a bit of romance, a few strong women.  It has all the makings of a great novel, but it was just one that I haven't been able to get into.  I've finally set it aside for good.  It's gotten great reviews though and fans of historical fiction will probably enjoy it. 

Thanks to First Wildcard and Barbour Publishing for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Susan Page Davis here.  You can read the first chapter here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 7/10

1/5 Stars

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Tales of the Heart...Review

About the book:
3-in-1 Collection

Bridget's Bargain

When the potato famine of 1845 forced Bridget McKenna to flee her home in Ireland, she came to America to work as a scullery maid on a Virginia plantation. That was four years ago. Now, Bridget dreams of bringing her father and six siblings to join her in America. She also dreams of marrying a God-fearing man, and when she meets the tall, handsome Lance York, it seems her dream might come true. He's English, however, just like the cruel landlord who oppressed Bridget's family in Ireland. Could there be more to him than she realizes?

Kate Ties the Knot

Seven years of widowhood have made Kate Flynn a strong, independent woman who even operates her own dressmaking shop. But when her eight-year-old son, Adam, has a run-in with a burly shipbuilder, she realizes the necessity of some godly male influence. Adam starts working in a warehouse owned by John Joseph O'Keefe, better known as J. J., who looks out for Adam and feels a growing attraction to his young protege's mother. Kate's emotions are as tumultuous as the ocean as she wonders what the future will hold.

Follow the Leader

The Civil War has destroyed everything Valerie Carter held dear. Struggling to come to terms with her emotional devastation, she accepts a teaching position in Freeland, Maryland, and her heart is gradually warmed by her students' affection. She also finds herself attracted to Paul Collins, a young widower with three children who has a childlike faith in Jesus Christ. Will Paul be God's instrument to free Valerie from the bonds of bitterness?

A 3-in-1 compilation of three books previously published in the 1990s.  These are light Christian romance novels that read like mass market paperbacks. Each is about 150 pages long.  Bridget, Kate and Valerie are good women and here, like in most mass market-type romances, typically, the hero and heroine each have issues, one of which is one of them needing to strengthen his or her faith.  They fall in love, but must overcome their petty misunderstandings before they can marry and everything wraps up neatly and they live happily ever after.

This is light reading at its best.  Good for an escape read when you don't want to have to think or concentrate too much.  Follow the Heart has the most serious plot as it deals with racism and the KKK, but is still light enough to be entertaining not sober.

Thanks to First Wildcard and Whitaker House Publishing for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Loree Lough here.  You can read the first chapter here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 7/10

* * *
3/5 Stars

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Lizzi & Fredl...Review

About the book:
Austria, 1938. Europe trembles under the shadow of Hitler and the spreading threat of Nazism. Though some Austrians welcome the idea of belonging to the Fatherland once more, many more fear such a day. The Steiners are one such couple that dreads that ultimate day.

They have carved out a successful life for themselves in Vienna. Twenty-seven-year-old Fredl is an accomplished master jeweler, while twenty-six-year-old Lizzi is a professional dressmaker. When Fredl receives papers ordering him to Munich, Germany, to serve the Nazis in their war preparations, the couple knows they have no choice: they must leave Austria. As Hitler and his troops gain force in their homeland and annex Austria, Lizzi and Fredl endure a harrowing flight to France, uncertain whether they will ever see their country again.  

But France holds no safety for them. Fredl is captured by French Nazi sympathizers and must outwit his captors to survive in Vichy-controlled concentration and labor camps. Separated from Fredl, Lizzi evades arrest and relies on her guile and chutzpah to search for her beloved husband.  

What follows is an incredible seven-year odyssey filled with danger and endurance. From their long, arduous journey to Paris to Fredl's unbelievable rescue from a train bound for a Nazi death camp, Lizzi and Fredl delivers a remarkable true story of courage, faith, and overwhelming love.

I enjoy family histories and memoirs. So often reality is much more enthralling than fiction, and Dr. Stanford's story of his parents' experiences during World War 2 is just that: enthralling.  At the beginning of World War 2, Lizzi and Fredl Steiner, along with Fredl's two brothers and their wives, flee Austria in hopes of finding peace in Paris and then immigrating to the United States.  Forced from one place to another, Fredl is sent to a work camp and Lizzi is left on her own to find work.  Through narration, letters, and chapters that alternate between Lizzi and Fredl,we learn of their experiences and struggles as they endure hardships and frustrations while they work to be reunited and immigrate to America.

Dr. Stanford explains in the preface that as his parents were sharing their story with him, there were many times when they discovered memories and experiences they had kept from each other in an effort to shield one another.  The book is well researched and includes many personal photographs, as well as historical ones.

Something that stands out to me is the portrayal of those many kind and thoughtful people who helped Lizzi and Fredl in their journey.  I believe that most people are inherently good, and the Steiners were blessed many times over by the kindness of others.

While the dialogue and narration are more formal and simple, the story is fascinating.  Lizzi and Fredl were remarkable people and theirs is a beautiful, compelling love story.

Thanks to author and Bostick Communications for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Dr. William B. Stanford here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 6/10

* * * *
4/5 Stars