Friday, December 30, 2011

The big book of American trivia

The Big Book of American Trivia
J.Stephen Lang
Tyndale House Publishers

What make of car was named for a chief of the Ottawa tribe? What popular toy, launched in 1960, was a plastic box filled with aluminum powder? What historic masked parade takes place in Philidelphia on New Year's Day? And, what Northern "rust belt" state, leads the narion in the growing of Christmas trees?
The answer to these questions and three thousand more can all be found, dancing across the pages of this entertaining and factual book. World records, Hollywood cinema, Presidents, facts about your home state and a plethora of other interesting subjects will arrest your atntion as you learn share and enjoy these facinating facts in America's history!
Have fun teaching your children, stumping your friends and expanding your own knowledge. Fun for road trips, fireside,educational settings and more, this book will keep you entertained for hours. Who knew learning could be so fun?! And just in case you still don't believe this informational book can be amusing, ask yourself this, What men-only contest started by Carnival cruise line is now a feature of every cruise ship? A. The Mr. Hairy Chest contest, of course!

This book is put together really well. All of the trivia questions are sorted by category, and the answers are easily found on the next page. This book is fun and educational. I even found the size and feel of the pages to be optimal. A much reccomended book to anyone who enjoys learning... You never know when random tid-its of knowledge will come in handy!
I received this book free from the publisher for review.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Dragons of Chiril

The Dragons of Chiril
Donita K. Paul
Waterbrook Press
June 2011

Tipper watched as yet another one of her father's sculptures headed down the road on the back of a wagon, pulled by her seedy art dealing liaison. She hated selling on her father's masterpieces, especially since he had no say in the matter as he had been gone more years than he had been present in her life. She missed him, but she also needed the money from his artwork to pay the expenses of the large estate she and her mother still inhabited.
Beccaroon, her vibrant grand parrot, had been charged by her father to keep watch over her. Sometimes he could understand what her dad must have felt towards her. He was fiercely protective of her, and even though her show of affections ruffled his feathers, he loved her, just as she loved him and cherished their friendship.
Lady Peg was outside when they arrived home. Tipper loved her mother, but was often exasperated at her ever present state of confusion and befuddle talk. Lady Peg still talked as though she conversed with her father every night. Would Tipper ever be able to help her mother see the truth of his absence?
Upon going to bed that evening, Tipper is shortly thereafter awakened to see a vision of her father. After a very brief exchange with him, she falls back asleep with a feeling that what she witnessed was actually a real encounter. Trying to convince Beccaroon the next morning was altogether another story. Hopeful that what she saw wasn't a dream, they decide to wait up for his re-appearance the next night. 
Their world is about to drastically change. Everything they thought to be normal will be challenged. Discovering that their minor dragons can understand them, seeing animals crawl out of a wizards cape, watching atumanhofer appear out of thin air.... All things that will now define their idea of everyday occurrences. As the two set out on a quest to save her father's life, they are met with strange, dangerous,and new landscapes filled with distrusting people.
Being forced to adapt to the very present, Tipper finds herself on the adventure of her life. But will this escapade lead them down the road to her fathers healing before it's too late? In a struggle of good verses evil, surrounded by a wonder filled and mysterious world, they embark on a most unexpected journey.

I was drawn to reading this book, having previously read and loved the author's DragonKeeper Chronicles. I was a little bit dissappointed with this book. While there is no question she is a talented writer, it didn't capture the entrancing magical feel I had come to expect from her writing. That having been said, I wouldn't hesitate to finish the series, as this is the first. I would reccommend it, but I would suggest the reader try the DragonKeeperChronicles first, to help understand all the different characters and settings that are developed in her first series.
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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Grace Effect

The Grace Effect
How the Power of One Life Can Reverse the Corruption of Unbelief
Larry Alex Taunton
Thomas Nelson Publishers
November 2011

Sitting in the restaurant well past closing, apologist Larry Taunton carries on a conversation with well known atheist Christopher Hitchens. If present, you would be sitting in on a conversation much like the public debates they both regularly appear in: God or no God, and the way His presence or lack there of effects the world we live in today. But in all of Taunton's debating, teaching, studying and learning, he never imagined his biggest lesson learned would come from a little Ukranian girl, Sasha. 
Having been left behind while his wife and three sons traveled to the Ukraine on a mission to help in theorphanages, he could not have prepared himself for the email he received from his son shortly after their stay. His family had fallen in love with one of the orphans, and wished to discuss adopting her.
A year later, family in tow, he traverses across the world in hopes of bringing their little girl home with them. Meeting with much opposition from a corrupt Ukranian system, they learn much about a desolate country and it's attempts to better itself through Socialistic/Communistic customs and teachings. Having learned nothing from their painful past, the Ukraine has become the trash heap of history.
Through many trials, much extortion, and utter shock of just how nefarious this country has been and become, Taunton learns a lesson in Grace. He sees a world through the eyes of a child that has been lost tofaithlessness. With  new insights, he returns home with a new strength in his belief that a world cannot and hasnever been able to function, when people and society try to govern themselves without a God.

I really learned a lot while reading this book. The author is a very good teacher, while retaining the non-scholars interest. It is always enjoyable for me to learn history in the midst of a good story. The story of Sasha is heartwarming, and quite honestly made me wish I could bring all the attention starved orphans into my home. He paints a very undisguised picture of modern day Ukraine, and while it isn't pretty, I desire to step foot on their soil and see for myself a country that has rejected God as far back as their history has been accurately recorded. I did wish for a little more development into his own thoughts on grace verses Atheism, but overall, a very good book. I think a wide range of persons will enjoy this.

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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Reclaiming Lily

Reclaiming Lily
Patti Lacey
Bethany House Publishers
October 2011

Getting out of the van, Gloria and Andrew Powell are finally standing in front of the Chinese orphanage that houses their baby. Excited to start their life as parents, they are dismayed to find out that there are no babies to be adopted. Full of grief from years of waiting, they try to console themselves that their baby is somewhere else in China. But then she sees her. The minute Gloria meet seyes with that dark haired, dark eyed, beautiful child, 'Joy', they would call her, she knows she was destined to be their child.
Dr. Kai Chang, growing up a child of assumed Chinese counter revolutionaries, could never have dreamed this would be her life. Living in Boston, graduate of Harvard, and working for one of the best medical institutions in the country, this was beyond the good fortune she thought her 'healing hand' would bring her. However she knows she won't be satisfied until she fulfills her mother's last dying wish "reclaim Lily".
After years of searching for her sister, Dr. Kai finds Lily, living in Texas with the family who adopted her. Hesitant to leave her work and loving boyfriend behind, she feels it's pertinent she meets Lily, to have her tested for the genetic disease that killed their mother.
Dealing with troubles of their own, the Powell's are very inconvenienced when Joy's sister contacts them out of the blue telling them they must meet and discuss a matter than could effect Joy's life permanently. Full of mistrust, they decide to still meet her. During their hostile conversation, they receive news about Joy that forces them to put their anger on hold and go help her.
In the wake of a natural disaster, the four are thrown together in ways they would not have ever wanted or imagined. But as they re-examine their lives and their hearts, friendship begins to bloom. What will it take to reclaim Lily, and will they be willing to come to terms with the plans the Lord has for their lives, even if it means letting go of one they love.

While I liked parts of this book, and it held my attention long enough to finish it, it did not draw me in.  I enjoyed learning what I did about China, and gleaning bits of information about other topics I might not have otherwise learned about, but I can't say I would enthusiastically recommend this book. I struggled with the writing style throughout the book, but I do believe it is worth a read, especially for those who identify with the characters and their situations. It just will not sit on the top of my favorites list.
I received this book free from the publisher for review.
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Friday, November 18, 2011

The Christmas Singing

The Christmas Singing
A Romance from the Heart of Amish Country
Cindy Woodsmall
Waterbrook Press
October 2011

Berlin Ohio was home now for Mattie. Moving from Pennsylvania had meant leaving her Mamm and Daedbehind, she missed them dearly, but standing in her very own cake shop, looking around at all she had accomplished, she knew moving here had been the right choice in mending her broken and confused heart.
Meeting Sol was an added bonus. He was as steady as the tide. Her relationship with him was safe, comfortable. Life would go well with Sol by her side. No surprises, no lies.
But Mattie's world is turned upside-down when a tragedy befalls her. Distraught and hopeless, she is ushered back home to stay with her parents, taking some time to heal. Little could she have known or wished that her heart would not find this homecoming, a time for rest.
Finding herself in close quarters with Gideon, the man who broke her heart, Mattie is determined to get to the bottom of the truth, or his lies, as she believes. But as she seeks the truth behind his betrayal, she finds herself having to answer questions in her own heart.
Knowing she has to get home to Sol, and her life in Berlin, she has been forced to think of what that will mean for her. By going home, she will be leaving Gideon behind. So who has a stronger claim on her heart? And will she listen even if it tells her?
Surrounded by the magic of Christmas, and her loving Amish friends and family, Mattie is given the chance to make a new path in fresh fallen snow.

This is a great book! But I cannot say I am surprised. I have been a fan of this author since her very first book, and have yet to be dissapointed. I love everything Christmas, so this was delightful and descriptive holiday read. The book is a quick read,(partly due to the page number, and partly because it was so fun to read) but the author does a great job giving just enough story. I felt nothing was over talked about or forgotten. i will most defintly be sharing this book, as all my reading friends will enjoy it!

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Encounter

The Encounter
Stephen Arterburn
Thomas Nelson
November 2011

Greeted by the bitter cold, Jonathan "gold' Rush, founder of a fortune 500 company, steps off his private jet into Fairbanks Alaska. Despite the snow being a logical reason for shivering, he knows, deep down, the chill he has, is rooted in his heart, and he has unfinished business here.
 Reluctantly giving into his mentor's advice, he decides to finally make amends with his past, in hopes of being set free from the harbored anger that has caused his life to spiral out of control. He knows in order to move on, he must go back, and face his past.
Ada Guthrie looks at the newspaper clip once more before she adds it to the memory book. One more glimpseat her precious son. She would do anything to turn back time and revoke her decision to abandon him that day, so long ago. And for his forgiveness? Guilt wouldn't even let her dream of such.
Jonathan, in his feeling hopeless about finding his mother, who's name he doesn't even know. decides to let a local reporter befriend him when she tells him she can help, 'off the record'. After walking into a few dead ends, they meet a lady named Mercy. And Mercy knows about Ada. Will she give Jonathan the puzzle pieces to his past?  And if confronted with the truth, will he decide to finally forgive?

I liked this book. The author's writing style made it an enjoyable read. I liked his descriptions and his characters. I believe the book was meant mostly to be thought provoking, but I still hoped for more story development, as I was very much entertained while reading. I'd want no changes to the story itself, just fluffed out a bit more. I would however still tell others to read this. It's a short read, I think the story is intriguing enough for a fiction reader, and has depth enough for the person seeking answers.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Fyodor Dostoevsky

Fyodor Dostoevsky
Peter Leithart
Thomas Nelson Publishers
September 2011

Daravoe. Fyodor's favorite memory. He could remember when his parents bought the three-room bungalow there, complete with thatched roof and clay walls. Oh to be in those woods filled with terror and excitement, to run through the quiet cottage, to explore! He felt the whole family become free as they entered the countryside. It's where he first gathered literary material and had his first taste of grace.
Back in Moscow Fyodor and his siblings would often cower around their father. He was a good father, instilling them with the Word, and teaching them Pushkin, who would always stay close to Fyodor's heart. But unlike their kind and compassionate mother, their father was given in irritable rages and tirades. However the children cherished his love and teaching of the arts, and his story telling at night.
After publishing Poor Folk, his first novel, a masterpiece unlike anything yet written in Russia, he became involved in numerous literary circles, listening to writers he respected. Deemed socially awkward and sickly, he was also known for his short fuse at such events. One night, while goaded into an impassioned speech, by a colleague, he met his demise, having been overheard by a spy. The next time he would see these friends, they would all be emaciated and standing in front of a firing squad.
Having been spared at the last minute, he spent years of exhile in the bitter cold of Siberia. Sleeping in lice infested beds among criminals, he found the harsh conditions and his own sociological studies began to form the basis for one of his best selling novels.
Upon release, he kept on with his urgency to write and print his views. Sometimes hardly having enough money to eat, other times at the pinnacle of public admiration. He found love, he found lovers, and he met with loss. But then he found Christ, which radically changed him and the peoples adoration of him forever. Once despised he grew to be a most loved author.

  As someone who enjoys Russian classic literature, I was eager to read this book.  The author does a good job helping the reader gain more insight into Fyodor's personal life. I did like the book, but I found a couple areas to be a little slow. However, it was really almost true to form for classic Russian works,where the author most often fills pages with his views on the political state of his country. It was a short and quick read, I did enjoy it and I do feel it's worth a read. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to know more about Fyodor, or enjoysficionalized biographies.
* I received this book free for review from
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Sunrise on the Battery

Sunrise on the Battery
Beth Webb Hart
Thomas Nelson
October 2011

With three beautiful daughters, a loving husband of twenty years, an immaculate home, and promises to climb the social ladder, Mary Lynn has it all. This is a life she never dreamed of as a child. It's a life she loves- one she thrives in.Then why does a Christmas Eve church service leave her longing for more? Having an encounter with the Lord, she realizes He is missing from her family life, and she longs for Jackson, her husband, who has all but forgotten God, to share this new part of her. So she prays for him.
Jackson is an intellect and a buisness man. He abundantly provides for his family and soaks in all the education he felt he was deprived of while being forced to farm with his father. But his drive to know more and do more has blinded him to the pressures he bestows on his daughters and the choices they make in spite of them. 
Accidently leaving behind some of his books on the plane to England, Jackson is desperate for something to read. Anything will do. Mary Lynn, trying to keep him from fidgeting, hands himThe Message, a modern interpretation of the new testament. When he reads it front to back and goes out to buy the old testament too, she feels her prayer has been answered. She had no idea what his zealousness would unleash.
Feeling betrayed by her husband's faith, socially shunned and wounded by God, she is forced to make some decisions. What is most important to her? Will she choose what her husband has found? Or will she let her bitterness take roots and grow?

I really enjoyed this book!  I kept waiting for the part that would make me say " eh, it's a little too cheesy" or " well, at least it had a happy ending". But that part never came. I enjoyed every part of this book. It made me laugh, tear up, cringe and smile. Beth Webb Hart does a great job telling her story. As someone who loves the arts, I loved all of her classical references. This is the first book I have read by this author, and I would most definetly read her other books. I feel she expresses her faith is a very real and undaunting way. I would reccomend this book to all Christian fiction readers, and all those who just like a good read.

Out of a Far country

Out of a Far Country
by Christopher Yuan, Angela Yuan
WaterBrook Press

Leaving a life of unshared secrets and wounds from her parents, Angela Yuan sets off to America hoping to find a new start and happiness in marriage. But with her in-laws opposing the union from the very start, the marriage seems destined for disaster. 
Years, children and a thriving business later, she finds herself in a loveless marriage. Worse than fighting, her husband Leon won't even participate in conversation. Clinging to her children for her source of happiness, her world is shattered when her youngest son, Chris announces he is gay. Meetingopposition and judgment from his mother he storms out of the house, to his 'real family', the gay community.
Feeling she can no longer carry on under this load of oppression, she decides end her life. As a self-proclaimed atheist, she feels the need to reach outside the bounds of godlessness in hopes of finding some sort of closure before leaving this world. She has Leon drive her to meet with Father Foley, little could she have known about changes the Lord had in store for her life.
Even though on academic probation from dental school, Chris Yuan's life is at it's climax.  Fully immersed in Lexingtion's gay community, he finds himself rising to the height of popularity, something he has never experienced. Having thrown away a life of awkwardness and shame, he now embraces what he believes to be his true identity. 
But as he revels in his ever rising star status, he finds himself flirting with danger. Like a drug high, he is intoxicated with the destructive life he is leading. Surrounded by glitz and glam, he fails to see the pitfalls associated with drug dealing and sexually transmitted diseases. He has no idea how quickly his world is about to change. Suddenly he is forced to see who his true family is and own up to his actions.
As restoration begins to take root in both mother and son's lives, their paths cross again on a much different road. embracing grace, Angela is determined to love her son despite his decisions, in hope of winning him over to Christ. With her marriage on the mend, and an ever pursuing God, hope, grace, and mercy have wrapped their arms around the Yuan family in this story of redemption.

This is a great read. As a hairstylist, I am not unfamiliar with the gay community. Having made friends with and gained insight and understanding into their lives, it has been very rare that I will get to hear a story of redemption. This book was very hopeful. Families experiencing this type of story in their own lives will find the very personal and heartfelt confessions in this book to be a salve for their wounds. For the person who have a hard time accepting people because they say they are gay, (or any other destructive lifestyle for that matter) this will be a great book to help you look at that person and try to see them for who they really are and love them right where they are at. This book will open your eyes, and hopefully your hearts. I highly recommend it.
* Ireceived this book free from Waterbrook Press for review
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The Scroll

The Scroll
Grant R. Jeffrey
Alton L. Gansky
Waterbrook Press
September 2011

Having left his faith behind in Herod's tunnel, Dr. David Chambers, leading archaeologist, forges a new path, one that doesn't involve a God whom he believes has forgotten him. Perfectly content, he now spends his time  teaching at one of Boston's most prestigious schools. But digging is a part of who he is, and he yearns to be under ground, discovering something yet to be found. Heartlessly he decides to pursue the Olmec's, something much safer than biblical digs. As he picks up the receiver to call in a few favors, HaShem decides to have someone call him.
Before he can even decide if he has made the right choice, he finds himself on a plane to Jerusalem, at the invitation of his old and well loved friend, Ben-Judah.  Discovering who will be at the dig sites with him, almost sends him packing. And it won't be the first time he lets his new found temper get the best of him. But when things start to heat up, he finds himself in the middle of what could start a war in the middle east. Dr. Chambers has to choose if he will let the hurts of his past, his lost love, his seemingly uncaring dad; decide who he becomes today. Does he still love his former fiance? Will he stay with this project that is shrouded in secrecy and threatened with uncertainty?  Will he Let God back in?
In a race against danger and towards love, Chambers finds a lot more than artifacts. Things he wasn't seeking. Perhaps it was they that found him.

I enjoyed this book, being that is was different from a lot of books I have previously read. I did find a little bit of cheesy dialog at times (which I have to admit I find often in Christian fiction). But it doesn't negate the authors ability to draw you into his story. This book would be a great read for someone who is interested in the biblical and political history of Jerusalem. The authors are very detailed in their research, so be prepared to learn a lot while you are enjoying the story. I did feel that the story had quite an abrupt ending. I was hoping for there to be a little more development and excitement before the epilogue.  But I would still recommend this book to modern/historical fiction fans.

Friday, November 4, 2011

A Lasting Impression


       A Lasting Impression
       Tamera Alexander
       Bethany House Publishers
       October 2011

It's the year 1866, September 7th to be exact, and Claire Laurent has just finished what she knows to be her very best painting. But as she stares at the image of her mother, so delicately included on this, her latest 'Jardins de Versailles', she knows it cannot be called her best, because it, like all of her other paintings, have been forged.
Wishing to paint her own masterpieces, worthy of acclaim, she would do anything to get out from underneath her fathers critical gaze. She could never have known her opportunity for just that, would come as swiftly and painfully as it did.
Not even a day later, Claire finds her self aboard a train heading to Nashville. Leaving behind her beloved New Orleans with memories of her mother and her only living family. Scared and confused she arrives in Nashville, a town she finds beaten down, and war torn.  Desperate for something comforting she goes in search of her reserved accommodations, only to find them most unpleasant. Tired and lost she stumbles into a church with an unlocked door and falls asleep on a bench until morning, never suspecting what opportunities would rise with the sun.
With an overheard prayer, the stumbling into of an intriguing gentleman and the help of a minister, Claire is delivered into a world of wealth and opulence, far beyond her wildest dreams. She begins to hope. But she knows she has to keep her past hidden. If only that 'intriguing gentleman', Sutton Monroe weren't so determined to find out who she really was.
As she fights to keep her past hidden, Sutton fights to keep his past from haunting him. While mourning their losses and dreaming of their futures, they have another thing in common, Adelcia Acklen-Belmont's widowed mistress, who causes their paths collide in a most unexpected way. 
In a nation on the mend from war, Belmont in all it's beauty seems to stand unscathed. But in the midst of Nashville’s ever changing landscape, secrets are unveiled, past wounds are exposed and disappointment threatens. But love is stubborn and wants to take root. Will pasts be forgotten so futures can be made new? 

I did not want to put this book down!  At first glance, I knew I was going to be deeply absorbed. The author did a great job transporting me back into 1866. I would have loved to be in this story. As a creative person, I loved the message she was trying to convey. I even found myself reading parts out-loud to my husband. She did a great job getting me involved in the page turning story, while speaking to my heart. This is a must read for any historical fiction fans!  I especially loved gleaning a little piece of Nashville’s history, as I currently reside here.  Great book, I'll be purchasing more of her work.
(I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers for review)