Friday, August 31, 2012

What Your Husband Isn't Telling You - David Murrow

In What Your Husband Isn't Telling You: A Guided Tour of a Man's Body, Soul, and Spirit, David Murrow walks the reader through the three areas of a man's life (body, soul, and spirit), and discusses the reasons that men struggle and what about his nature causes those struggles.  He defines the two driving forces in a man's life to be Provider and Protector, and then explains how those affect everything a man thinks and does.

This book left me conflicted.  While on one hand, I can foresee situations that will make me reflect on this book and how the author addressed it, I felt let down by his cynicism on both men and women.  He makes a point at the beginning of the book to acknowledge that not all men struggle with the same things, and that some of the points in the book may not apply to the reader's husband, but he doesn't seem to give the same leeway to women.  He seems to assume that that majority of his female readers will fall into all of the same pits when it comes to understanding their men or handling their struggles.  The other disappointment comes from how much emphasis he puts on the nature of men as a reason for their behavior.  He does occasionally say that men shouldn't be given free reign to act on these excuses, but by the end of the book, it begins to feel like an awful lot like a free pass for men's behaviors, and women are just supposed to understand why they happen without being able to change anything.  In addition, the author sprinkles in enough scripture to make his reasons seem Biblical, but he leaves God out of several lines of reasoning.  He talks a lot about "culture" and "society" driving the definition of a man, and leaves out that God created men to be different than women.  He even mentions Joshua from the Old Testament "dismissing the cautious advice of ten spies but accepting the counsel of two risk takers," as if Joshua was merely acting as a "manly man" instead of trusting God's provision and protection in taking the Promised Land.

My rating of the book started to fall the further I read.  In the end, I give it 2 stars.  I think it could have been much better, but I did still take a few points from it that I hope will help in my relationships with the men in my life.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

What I Didn't Say - by Keary Taylor

When the book What I Didn't Say opens, Jake is your fairly typical American teenager from a small town, or in this case, small island.  He's a football player, dreaming of graduation when he'll join the Air Force, and crushing on a girl whom he can't tell how he feels.  Well, he could if he wanted to, he just can't work up the nerve.  However, with a few drinks in him, and some encouragement from his equally drunk friends, he finds the courage to go find her to declare his love.  His entire future changes in a horrific accident which renders him mute for life.  Now, the girl, Samantha befriends him, and their relationship grows, but he no longer has the voice to tell her what's on his heart.  Meanwhile, Samantha herself is holding on to secrets that could also change her life if anyone were to find out.  Can their relationship withstand the secrets and the silence?

The accident that happened to Jake was shocking and heartbreaking; I can't even imagine having your entire life altered by one stupid mistake, and living with the consequences every single day.  With the consequence being the loss of his voice, he can't even scream or rant or complain to anyone.  His struggles with accepting his fate felt very true; he realized that he had a choice to make and that it was his choice alone to decide to wallow in his new disability, or to accept it and move on.  It wasn't an easy choice, and he didn't make it and move on without ever looking back, but I liked that he was able to look at it and know he was at the fork in the road.

I also enjoyed several of the other characters in the book.  I liked that Samantha was smart and working hard to get herself where she wanted to go.  Jake's friends stayed loyal even after the accident left him disabled and with ugly scars; again, it was realistic in that it wasn't an easy decision, there were definitely awkward moments, and thoughts of blaming the accident on them, but they were still there, and they kept working on staying friends.  Jordan, Jake's sister, was also incredibly loyal, helping him out, having his back, encouraging him.  It was very sweet.  I loved Jake's whole family, from his mom who could feed the entire island at any given time, yet discouraged his friends from cursing in the house, to all 6 of his siblings who kept his life busy and the house loud.

I give this book 3 stars.  I enjoyed the characters, and it was an interesting journey to observe for both Jake and Samantha to figure out their situations and new realities.  I liked that, for the most part, characters were able to look beyond themselves and see where others needed help.

Right now, this book is only $1.99 for Kindle on Amazon!  But for only 5 more days!
You can find Keary Taylor's website HERE.  Her Author's Note at the end of this book gives the reader a glimpse at her own story and how she put her heart into this work.

I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Be Still My Soul - by Joanne Bischof

In Be Still My Soul, Lonnie Sawyer hasn't lived an easy life.  With a controlling father and an overly submissive mother, she has tried to blend into the background to avoid being noticed.  Until the night Gideon O'Riley walks her home and requests a good night kiss.  Even though Lonnie knows she fought him off and nothing happened, she can't prove it, and her father forces Gideon to do "the right thing," by marrying her.  Forced to marry Lonnie, can Gideon get past his anger and resentment and become the husband she needs him to be?

This book surprised me by how much I enjoyed it.  I read the entire book in a day, because I could not put it down.  I especially enjoyed the hero characters of Jebediah and Elsie.  It's rare for an older couple to be placed in the saving role in a novel, but the mentor relationship is so important for younger men and women to understand how to change and grow.  It really worked well in this story, and I wanted Jeb and Elsie to take me under their wings!

Gideon struggles a lot with not only the changes he needs to make, but with the very idea that he needs to change.  He didn't want this marriage, he didn't want Lonnie, why should he step up and help her?  His personal growth through the book felt very honest and realistic.  It was a gradual change, and it was believable.  As a reader, I wanted him to change more quickly for Lonnie's sake, but he had to learn his lessons slowly and want to really change.

There is definitely an element of sadness in the book, but it fits the story and doesn't feel excessive.  I know there are readers who don't like to read sad books, so I like to prepare you if that's you!

I'm excited to see that this is the first book in a series, and I look forward to reading the next one!
I give this book 4 stars.

You can read an excerpt from Chapter 1 HERE.
You can find Joanne's blog and website HERE.

Please consider rating my review:

I received a copy of this book from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Full Disclosure - by Dee Henderson

Ann Silver is a woman full of secrets and intrigue.  It's what makes her good at her job, and allows her to have a very select circle of friends.  When Paul Falcon is introduced to her, he finds that he wants to know those secrets, and is only further intrigued by where their circles overlap.  She drops some information in his lap that leads to very big breaks on a very important case that he has been working for a long time.  The farther he gets into his relationship with Ann, and the further into the case he gets, the more secrets are revealed about her past. In the interest of Full Disclosure, can she trust him with her secrets?  Can he handle them if she does?  Where does the crime trail lead, and how exactly are she and her influential friends involved?

This is a really hard review for me to write.  I really really wanted to like this book.  The entire O'Malley Series has a place on my bookshelf, and this book made me want to re-read them all.  I enjoyed the reference to the O'Malley characters here, but it made me a bit squeamish to read that Ann was the author of the books.  It felt self-promoting, as additional characters were frequently commenting on how good the books were and telling her what a good author she was.  Other than a token appearance, however, most of the previous characters (Ann's "friends" whom she fictionalized) didn't really engage with this story.

As much as I liked the character of Paul Falcon, I found Ann to be a bit tiring.  She was touted as a good listener and a good friend, but this book only gave her the one side of being needy and selfish with her time.  I can't say that I would have wanted more of her story, though, because the book already felt overly long.  The two major crime stories took an eon to intersect, and I was able to guess the main part of the "twist" at the end fairly early on in the story.  Also, the side notes from Ann's day job of investigating difficult murders just served to add uneccessary grief to the book.  If we had just seen Ann's burden and need to leave the job behind, it would have sufficed, instead of knowing exactly how bad the crimes were.

I think I can still give this book 3 stars, based primarily on the characters of Paul, Sam, and Rita.  I would have liked to have seen Paul's storyline with his family play out a bit more, and his dialogue and pursuit of Ann be dialed back a notch.  I would have liked to have seen more interaction with the O'Malleys, at least enough to catch up on where they were "now."  Additionally, even though I liked the main two crime stories, they were just too drawn out to keep me in suspense.  I do love Dee's writing style, I just wish this book had been more concise.

I had high expectations for this book, but feel that it fell a bit short for me.

Find the website for the book HERE.

I received an advanced reader copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my early and honest review.

The Deposit Slip - by Todd M. Johnson

Erin Larson left her father's farm and the town of Ashley when she was in high school; now she's back to mourn her father's death and to sort out his estate.  When she finds The Deposit Slip for $10,000,000 in his safety deposit box, she is determined to find out where it came from and where the money is now.  Only, the bank denies that the deposit exists, and no lawyer will see the case through, until Jared comes along.  Jarod has ties to the town of Ashley, and he needs a big case worth a lot of money, but can he make it through this case without going broke or endangering the lives of those involved?  Will Erin find out where her father might have come across 10 million dollars?

The premise of this story was intriguing, and I enjoyed the suspense of finding out if the money existed, where it came from, and where could it be now.  I liked Jarod and wanted Erin to find closure.  However, there were so many characters in this story, and so many of them seemed to have secrets, that it was hard to get invested in more than that.  Too many characters had hints of backgrounds that the author wanted to tease out, and there just wasn't room in the story to fully flesh them all out.  He did do a good job of tying everything up at the end, though, and it didn't feel like there were loose ends.

If I hadn't just read a really good suspense book before this one, my review might have been more favorable.  As it is, I enjoyed the plotline and the story, but can only give this book 2.5 stars.  I did see that this was a debut novel by Mr. Johnson, so I would enjoy watching him develop as an author.  If his writing style tightens up a bit, I think that his story-telling is enjoyable enough to produce some great books.

I received a copy of this book for free from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

A Heartbeat Away - by Harry Kraus

Tori Taylor is an accomplished surgical oncologist, at the top of her game and climbing the professional ladder.  Only two things stand in her way: a virus that has substantially weakened her heart, and the staff that she has belittled and criticized in her pursuit of perfection.  Now, that same staff is in charge of her own surgery and rehabilitation as she undergoes a heart transplant in the very hospital in which she has previously been untouchable.  Once the new heart is in place, Tori begins to change.  She has nightmares about things that aren't from her own memories, she cries more, and she has compassion for the people around her.  The new Tori wants to understand where these changes came from; whose heart was this before it became hers? Has the new heart changed her?  Or has God used the experience to change Tori?  As Tori seeks answers, she may find more than she bargained for, and not everyone is happy that she's searching.

This was a fantastically written book.  The suspense kept me guessing, but never with blind turns to throw me off course.  Information was revealed in a logical way, where I never felt that things were being intentionally hidden; instead, I learned things as the characters discovered them.  Even with three stories unfolding simultaneously, I was enthralled with every character in the book.  Each time the point of view shifted, I was eager to find out more about that aspect of the story, and I couldn't wait for them to all come together.  I know that the science vs. religion conflict is a big one in the medical community, and Tori's initial doubts and inner debates felt very real, as well as her eventual realization that even science requires faith.

A Heartbeat Away is one of the best books I've read recently, and I debated between giving it 4 stars or 5.  In the end I give it 4 stars, but it's probably closer to a 4.5.  I definitely recommend it to anyone who likes a well-written suspense novel, or even to try it if you don't usually!

I have read several of Harry Krause, M.D.'s novels and have enjoyed all of them.  This is another author from whom I keep an eye out for new releases.  Reading the "Getting to know Harry" section at the book only made me appreciate him and his writing more.  I hope you'll try one of his books!

I received this book for free from David C. Cook publishers via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Starring Me - by Krista McGee

We first met Kara McKormick in First Date, where she befriended Addy during the reality show to win a date with the President's son.  When we pick up with Kara in Starring Me, she and Addy are still friends, and Kara is hoping to pursue a career in acting.  The opportunity arises for her to audition for a teen-driven variety show, but what Kara doesn't know is that the audition is based less on talent and more on her character.  Even less expected is that this search for a career will also lead her to God.

Chad Beacon is one of America's current heartthrobs.  Having celebrity land in his lap after winning a reality talent contest, he is hoping to broaden his career options by adding acting to his resume.  His parents know that if he is to spend a significant amount of time with a female co-star, his heart will become invested in her, and so they, understandably, want a say in choosing the actress.

I really enjoyed First Date, and had been looking forward to learning more about Kara in this sequel. Her spunkiness and her friendship with Addy continued to enrich the story.  Kara's family, too, added life and depth to the book, and felt like a family I would love to be a part of.  I loved watching her journey of faith, from her complete denial of the existence of God, to the questioning of his existence, to her acceptance and joy at the discovery that He loved her.  Her emotions always felt real and honest, and for the most part, the people that helped her get there seemed genuine.

My only issue with the book was perhaps that Chad felt too perfect.  He didn't really seem to struggle with anything, and even though his faith was his own, he was very quick to agree with everything his parents suggested.  I've known solid teenage Christians, but I don't know if I've ever known someone that in sync with their parents.  His character felt a little flat for all the perfection.

Overall, this was a great sequel.  And I was still left wanting more!  It isn't super deep, but there are some thought-provoking elements to keep it from being too light.  Kara's struggles to decide between career and family, even her decisions over which career path to choose, these are things that most readers can identify with on some level.  Watching how God orchestrated her path to draw her to Himself can cause us to wonder where He has worked in our lives to draw us to Him.

I give this book 4 stars.  I definitely recommend that you read First Date first, and then follow it up with this enjoyable sequel!

You can read Krista's blog HERE.  I look forward to reading more from this author!

I received a copy of this book from Thomas Nelson via NetGalley, in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Five Miles South of Peculiar - by Angela Hunt

Darlene, Carlene, and Magnolia Caldwell grew up Five Miles South of Peculiar, on a large estate handed down from their grandfather, Chase Caldwell.  Darlene and Nolie (Magnolia) have been living in the home together, while Carlene has been working on Broadway as the "famous" sister.  However, Carlene's career has come to a sudden end, and while Nolie welcomes her sister's "visit" with open arms, Darly has reservations and is impatiently waiting for Carly to return to the big city.  Carly can't bring herself to admit her defeat, even as she finds herself drawn back to small-town life.  With the home's ownership only six years away from reverting to the county, all three sisters need to find a plan for their lives, as well as finding their place in each others'.

I have really mixed feelings about this book.  I found myself really drawn to the characters and was quickly immersed in the feel of the town and their lives.  Being invested in the story enough to care about the characters usually makes a book good in my opinion.  However, the inconsistencies in the characters started to bother me throughout the book.  Darlene would say that she wanted to reconcile with her sister, Carlene, but continue to voice how she couldn't wait for Carly to return to New York.  Carly genuinely seemed to desire a renewed relationship with Darly, but she couldn't discuss the reason for her return, and she continued to make changes to Darly's life without discussing them with her.  I know that a prolonged tension usually makes for a more interesting book, but Darly's eagerness for Carly's return became overdone.

The other sticking point that kept me from liking this book more was the feeling that I was being interjected into the middle of the sisters' stories.  Usually I get that feeling when I have picked up a second or third book in a series without reading the first book.  Unfortunately, this seems to be a stand-alone book.  It reads like it would make a much better middle book.  There was so much background information about the sisters' lives that needed to be fleshed out earlier in the story.  Also, the ending was wrapped up so quickly that I would have liked knowing there was another book coming to finish out the new directions that were introduced in a flood at the end of this book.

The mixed feelings make it difficult for me to give this book a rating.  I think I give it 2.5 stars, rounded up to 3 stars for making me care about the characters enough to want to know more about them.

I have read several of Ms. Hunt's books before and have enjoyed them; this book fell a bit short of her other works, in my opinion.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Interrupted - by Rachel Coker

When we meet Alycone Everly, she is a girl of fourteen who has been slowly forced into isolation by a mother whose mental health is deteriorating.  Feeling shunned from town from people who think her mother is crazy, Allie cares for her mother by herself, with only her neighbor friend Sam knowing how bad the situation actually is.  Upon her mother's sudden death, Allie is taken to Maine to Beatrice, the woman who wants to adopt her and be her mother.  Allie refuses to allow Beatrice to take her mother's place, and thus keeps Beatrice, and the love she has to offer, at arm's length.  When Sam shows up unexpectedly next door in Maine, she continues to keep herself aloof, trying to protect her heart from further loss.  Can Sam, the boy who was always there, find a way to help her open up, and find both love and faith?

This book intrigued me, as it is a young adult work, written by a young adult.  Rachel Coker was only fourteen herself when her first book was published.  I really wanted to read a book written by a teen for teens.  I was not disappointed.

Although the book started off a little bit slowly, once Allie lost her mom and had to decide on her own who to be and what to believe in, the story picked up quickly.  She held herself so tightly wound and separate from anyone who wanted to love her, that it made me ache for her and want to help her open up.  Her struggle with wanting to believe in God, even though her mother despised Christianity, felt honest and real, and I was glad to see her overcome the obstacle.  Once she did, the change and peace in her life, even though it didn't change her circumstances, was visible to those around her.

I give this book 3 stars.  Allie had to face so much on her own, but she grew through it and was able to change and grow, and that was an interesting journey for the reader to take.

You can find an excerpt of Interrupted: Life Beyond Words HERE.

I was provided a copy of this book from Zondervan in exchange for my honest review.