Monday, January 23, 2012

Life, In Spite of Me - Kristen Jane Anderson

"Disbelief filled me. I was looking at my legs...lying about ten feet away."
Kristen Jane Anderson, the co-author of Life, In Spite of Me: Extraordinary Hope After a Fatal Choice, is also the main character in the non-fiction work. As a 17-year-old girl struggling with depression and feelings of worthlessness, with nobody telling her differently, she attempts to commit suicide, by laying down on a train track in front of an oncoming train. She survives, even when by all medical and engineering accounts she should have died. However, the train takes both of her legs, leading to a long recovery, and the repetitious refrain of "God must have kept you alive for a reason, Kristen."

The book begins with the night in question, and works both backwards to define how she came to the point of wanting to end it all, and forwards to where she works through both the physical recovery and the spiritual struggle of why she is still alive. She questions whether she would have gone to Heaven or Hell had she been successful, and she begins to work forward in her relationship with God. Her recovery isn't easy, and she relapses several times into depression, before she begins to realize "focusing on myself was the wrong thing to do. God should have been my main focus...and he wasn't." Once she turns her eyes and focus to God, she finds that she has "a beautiful story to share." From there, she feels the call to minister to others who may find themselves hopeless, and lost in darkness with nobody else to show them the Light.

The story of Kristen is an amazing one. Although it speaks directly to readers who may have considered suicide, or know someone who might, it also speaks of God's amazing grace and goodness, his faithfulness to get us through even the toughest, unimaginable situations. Kristen is honest in speaking of her weaknesses, and the story is a compelling transition from a lost soul to one found in Christ. I was amazed that Kristen even came to the point where she was "grateful" for having lost her legs, and could say that it was "worth it," because it brought her to to Christ, and it gave her the opportunity to speak to countless people who were struggling through Reaching You Ministries.

You can read Chapter 1 HERE.

I give this book 4 stars out of 5.

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I received this book for free to review as a part of the Blogging for Books program through Waterbrook Multnomah publishing group. I was not required to provide a positive review.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Inconvenient Marriage of Charlotte Beck - Kathleen Y'Barbo

Set in the late 1800's, Charlotte Beck, at almost eighteen years of age, is pretending at being a woman to convince her father and stepmother that she should be allowed to make her decisions. Given the freedom to make choices, however, time and again she makes the childish one, bringing humiliation to herself and her family. Alex Hambly is trying to be the responsible one in his family, filling in for his brother's shortcomings, and ensuring his family is provided for. Thrown together, the two of them wreak havoc on each others' lives and emotions. Charlotte's father presents them with a potential solution for each of their life's desires: marry each other, and Charlotte gets to go to college, and Alex gets to save his family financially. Not a marriage proposal teeming with the potential for love, or is it?

I really enjoyed Charlotte and Alex as characters - I loved the feisty heroine, and the bemused, unintentional adversary. Their interactions were lively, even with the obvious outcome of them actually falling in love with each other. While in some romance stories, the broadcasting of the "happy ending" becomes annoying, these characters were well-written enough that I found myself wanting them to just give up the charade and admit it already - I wanted them to be together. Nobody else could handle them.

Again, it seems, I was unwittingly roped into a book that was part of a series, without realizing it until too late. Maybe I need to start reading the descriptions more carefully before selecting books for review. There were definitely some questions regarding side characters as I read that, more than likely, would have had fuller answers had I read the previous stories of their pasts.

Overall, I give this book 3 stars. The characters were enjoyable, regardless of the somewhat predictable plot, and I wish I had gotten to know them from their fictional beginnings.

If you want to read an excerpt from the book (although maybe you'd like to find book 1 and book 2 first) go HERE.

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I received this book for free from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing group for this review. I was not required to post a positive review.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Softly and Tenderly - by Sara Evans, with Rachel Hauck

Jade Fitzgerald Benson is married to a prominent lawyer with a powerful family name in a small town. She has admitted her past to her husband, but feels like she is continuing to pay the price as she waits month after month for a successful pregnancy. Max, her husband, has struggled with pill addictions since high school, and continues to see the ramifications in his own life and marriage. In addition, he has kept a secret from Jade that may be what tears them apart. June and Rebel, Max's parents, have their own past and present mistakes that are coming to light and changing the way everyone in the family thinks about each other. Beryl, Jade's mother, is dying of leukemia, and wants to die in her own hometown, where Jade grew up. When Max's and Rebel's most recent faults come to light, June and Jade decide to make a roadtrip of taking Beryl home to die. There, they have to each examine their pasts and decide which path to take for their future.

When I first started Softly and Tenderly, I thought "this has been done before." The story of the illegitimate son showing up on the doorstep of a couple who's having struggles has been written several times. However, even with the somewhat stale initial plot line, the story progressed in new ways, and the characters were well-written enough for me to become engrossed in their lives and become invested in the outcomes.

Additionally, the book seems to be part of a series, which I did not confirm until the end of the book, where it advertises the next part of the "Songbird Series." Although the book stands fairly well on its own, there were several places within the story where I felt like I was supposed to know some background information that I did not. The story probably would have felt more complete had I read the previous installment.

Overall, I would give this book 3 stars. I enjoyed the characters, and the storyline, but between the familiar storyline and the missing pieces from not having read the first book, as a stand-alone book, it could have been better.

I received a copy of this e-book for free from Thomas Nelson publishers as part of their BookSneeze books for bloggers program.