Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Finding Marie (Frasier Island, Book 2) by Susan Page Davis

Marie Belanger, a naval lieutenant’s wife, unexpectedly finds a computer flash drive in her carry–on luggage at the airport. Moments later the woman she had been sitting with on the plane from Tokyo is murdered. Suddenly her journey from San Francisco to her home in Maine becomes a nightmare as Marie is forced to run for her life.

Her husband, Lt. Pierre Belanger, contacts his best friend, Lt. Commander George Hudson, and together they set out on a search for Marie that spans the country. As hard as they try, they seem to stay one step behind their enemies, who are just one step behind Marie.

My Review:
As soon as I began reading, I knew I was in for a treat. This exciting suspense novel kept me turning pages long after my tired eyes screamed for me to stop. I completed the 400-page novel in two days! I resented the need for sleep!

The dialogue is done so well. The French chef's syntax is "spot on."

This is the second in the series. It can be read it without reading the first one, Frasier Island and is a stand-alone novel. However, the beauty of reading a series in order is that the characters are already known. I loved Pierre before I opened the book, and I had heard about Marie, who is his perfect match. I can't wait for the third Inside Story. To buy a copy, click here but be prepared to lose some sleep!

Friday, December 26, 2008

108th Street by T. David Lee

David is petulant, angelic, greedy, noble, conniving, trustworthy, heroic and charitable. He’s all of these things, he’s all of ten years old, and he behaves just like most of us did at that same age. Living in New York City in 1958, he’s in the middle of the Baby Boomer generation in the heart of the largest city in the country, and all he wants to do is stand out, to find something he can claim as his alone. The exuberance of childhood swirls around him as he plots a course for triumph that leads him straight to calamity.

In this warm and funny portrayal of life from a simpler time, the author creates a vivid story line about one boy’s quest to be the best. Even though young David Lee hasn’t a clue about how to manage it, he’s determined to be declared the smartest boy in school.

The lengths to which he goes, and the depths to which he falls in pursuit of his goal frame an intimate tale set against the backdrop of life in the 1950s in the greatest city in the world.

My Review:
I chuckled my way through this humorous trip down memory lane that tells of a ten-year-old New York City boy during 1958.

This narrative is written in first-person, chronological order and divided into chapters of incidents that stand out in David's life. One chapter gives a good reason to prefer balcony seats at the neighborhood theater. Another chapter, written with a touch of tension, tells of a good site for viewing a house fire. A field trip to a bread factory, a family night out at a local restaurant, and the competition to accumulate the most awards in fourth grade each have their own chapter. Road trip and vacation take on new meanings. The book answers the question of when you might hear, "Please pass the magnet" at a dinner table.

One of my favorite chapters is The Fiery Fourth, when cousin Keith inadvertently invents cut-off pants while celebrating the fourth of July.

The reader meets Mrs. Bauer, a fourth-grade teacher who quickly makes David the teacher's pet. The following year, Mrs. Weingarter, his fifth grade teacher, gets the opposite impression after a bad beginning. The only way David can impress her is by coming up with a blue ribbon science fair project, so he decides to meet the challenge. We watch as he enlists as much help as he can so that he has as little to do as possible. There's an unexpected twist at the finish that the reader will enjoy.

From cover to cover, less than one year passes during this peek into boyhood. The combination of nostalgia mixed with humor, makes for an enjoyable read. Profanity is included.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas, Everybody!

What I want to know today is … what are the most “wintery” books you can think of? The ones that almost embody Winter?

My Answer
I can't think today without including Christmas, so here's a list of Christmas books or books with Christmas in them that I've read in the past. Reviews for most titles can be found on my sidebar.

Skipping Christmas by John Grisham
The Mitford Snowmen by Jan Karon
Esther's Gift by Jan Karon
A Carol for Christmas by Robin Lee Hatcher
Sarah's Song by Karen Kingsbury
Then Comes Marriage by Angela Hunt and Bill Meyers
Flirty with Forty by Jane Porter
Christmas Around the World by Chuck Fischer
A Treasury of Christmas Miracles by Karen Kingsbury
One Holy Night by J. M. Hochstetler
White Christmas Pie by Wanda E. Brunstetter
Engaging Father Christmas by Robin Jones Gunn
The Winter of Candy Canes by Debbie Viguié
The Death and Life of Gabriel Phillips by Stephen Baldwin, Mark Tabb
Cole Family Christmas by Jennifer Liu Bryan, Hazel Cole Kendle
Snowbound Colorado Christmas: Almost Home/Fires of Love/Dressed in Scarlet/The Best Medicine by Susan Page Davis, Tamela Hancock Murray, Darlene Franklin, Lena Nelson Dooley
For the Love of St. Nick by Garasamo Maccagnone

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Baker's Fatal Dozen: A Cozy Crumb Mystery by Lisa Harris

Get ready to cook up a second helping of Pricilla Crumb and her hilarious schemes to serve up justice.

When Reggie Pierce, who runs Pricilla Crumb's favorite bakery, is found dead, Pricilla finds herself hot on the trail of another sticky scandal that begins with murder. Bus as Pricilla chases after clues to catch a killer, will the road to her long-distance romance with Max hit a permanent detour?

My Review:
This is one of those small paperback mysteries that prove to be a quick, enjoyable read. I connected to Pricilla. the sixty-five year-old retired-but-still-working protagonist who just cannot stop investigating Reggie's murder. She's so sure that her friend didn't do it. There's romance in the mix too as she vacillates between loving Max, who lives 200 miles away and letting him go.

The vivid descriptions of Baker's Dozen Bakery (what a good name for a bakery!) had my mouth watering. Although the ending was weak, this is a fun read.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

2009 Christian Readers Challenge & Read and Review Challenge

In addition to participating in the reading challenge that Michelle at 1 More Chapter is hosting, which I posted about here, and the challenge Read Your Own Books, hosted by Miz B, which I posted about here, I've decided to participate in yet three more reading challenges. They seem to be doable for me as they all allow overlapping.

My Two Blessings is hosting The Winter Reading Challenge which runs from December 21st, 2008 through March 20, 2009.

The rules are very flexible:

1) Choose any number of books you would like to read and post them on your blog.
2) They can be fiction and/or nonfiction including e-books and audiobooks
3) They can overlap with other challenges.
4) Sign up on Mr. Linky.

My goal for this challenge will be two books per week, which totals twenty-six.

Miz B is hosting a Christian Readers Challenge.

This challenge asks you to:

* create a list of Christian books that you’d like to read
* titles can be fiction, nonfiction, or a mixture of both
* read these between January 1st - April 30th, 2009
* overlaps with other challenges ARE allowed
* eBooks and Audiobooks ARE allowed

Here's my list:

1. Red, White, and Blue by Laura Hayden
2. The Perfect Match by Susan May Warren
3. Kiss by Ted Dekker and Erin Healy
4. Sweetwater Gap by Denise Hunter
5. Gatekeepers by Robert Liparulo
6. Scrapping Plans by Rebeca Seitz
7. She's in a Better Place by Angela Hunt
8. Age before Beauty by Virginia Smith
9. Against All Odds by Irene Hannon
10. A Cry in the Night by Coleen Coble
11. Tender Grace by Jackina Stark
12. Daniel's Den by Brandt Dodson
13. God Is My Coach by Larry Julian
14. For Couples Only by Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn

Miz B is also hosting the 2009 Read & Review Challenge. The rules are similar to those above. You need to:

* review each book you read between January 1st and December 31st, 2009
* Keep your reviews clean and respectful
* reviews can be as short, or long, as you wish
* you MAY overlap with other challenges
* eBooks and Audiobooks ARE allowed

This should be a snap for me as I already review everything I read. I plan to keep my reading challenge updates on Sally's Reading Challenges and my reviews will be kept at this location in two sidebar listings: author and title.

For more details, click on any of the links above.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Winter of Candy Canes by Debbie Viguié

The Sweet Seasons series. They’re fun! They’re quirky! They’re Sweet Seasons—unlike any other girls’ books you’ve ever read. You could call them alternative, God-honoring chick lit.

Join Candace Thompson on a sweet, lighthearted, and honest romp through the friendships, romances, family, school, faith, and values that make a girl’s life as full as it can be.

Seasons change and so will life for at least one park employee. It’s Christmas time, and Candace is working as an elf at The Zone theme park, passing out candy canes. Her biggest worry is what to get Kurt for Christmas until she discovers that one of her coworkers may not celebrate at all. Will Candace and her friends pull together to show the true meaning of Christmas? (Ages: 13-16)

My Review:
Reading this yummy book is an enjoyably sweet treat. It's book three of the Sweet Seasons Novel series, but it can be easily read and appreciated on its own. The story grabs the heart of teens as two high school teenagers, Candice and Tamara--best friends solve problems as only teens can. The characters are slightly flawed and therefore, quite believable. The protagonist is the leader of a Bible study at her church. There's school, parents, part-time jobs, and shopping that fill their busy schedules. Boys play a prominent part in their lives, but it's clean--no sex is even hinted. The author has teen dialogue down pat.

Parents, teachers, and employers are respected; how refreshing! There's a bit of romance, a time of tension between two opposing viewpoints, a sad scene that causes the need for a tissue, and a delightful ending. The real meaning of Christmas is covered. If you have a teenager or know one, this teen fiction is a good idea for them! I'm passing my copy along to my granddaughter.

And now, the first chapter:

Candace Thompson was once again eye-to-eye with Lloyd Peterson, hiring manager for The Zone theme park. This time, though, she felt far more confident. She had already spent her summer working as a cotton candy vendor, and she had worked one of the mazes for the annual Halloween event. She had even saved the park from saboteurs.

Now she was back, and this time she was interviewing for a job working the Christmas events at the park. Surely after everything she had done for the Scare event, she had nothing to worry about. She tucked a strand of red hair back behind her ear as she gazed intently at the man across from her.

“So you want to work Holly Daze?” he asked.

She nodded. Christmas at The Zone was a big deal, and the park began its official celebrations the day after Thanksgiving.

“You keep hiring on for short bursts of time and then leaving. Do you have some sort of problem committing to things?” he asked, staring hard at her.

She was stunned, but answered, “I don’t have any problem with commitment. I signed on to do specific things, and the jobs ended. That’s not my fault. I didn’t quit.”

“So, you plan on making a habit of this?” he demanded. “Are you going to show up here again in a -couple of months expecting me to give you some kind of job for spring break?”

“No, I — ”

“I know your type,” he said, standing up abruptly. “You’re just a party girl. No commitments . . . no cares . . . just grab some quick cash and get out. You think you can handle Holly Daze? Well, you can’t! You’re weak and a quitter. You’re going to bail on me as soon as your school vacation starts, and then what? Well, let me tell you, missy. You aren’t wanted here. So just pack your bags and get out!”

By the end of his tirade, he was shouting, eyes bulging behind his glasses and tie swinging wildly as he shook his finger under her nose. Candace recoiled, sure that he had finally flipped out. I’m going to end up as a headline: Girl Murdered by Stressed-Out Recruiter, she thought wildly. Well, I’m not going down without a fight! She jumped to her feet and put some distance between her and the wildly wagging finger.

“You need to calm down!” she said, projecting her voice like her drama teacher had taught her. Her voice seemed to boom in the tiny office. “Pull yourself together. You’re a representative of this theme park, and there is no call to insult me. Furthermore, I’m not a quitter. I’ll work for the entire Christmas season. Then the next time I come in here, I’ll expect you to treat me with some respect. Do you even realize what I’ve done for this park so far? Seriously. Take a chill pill.”

She stopped speaking when she realized that he had gone completely quiet. She held her breath, wondering when the next explosion was going to come. Instead, he sat down abruptly and waved her back to her chair.

“Very good. You passed the test,” he said, picking up a pen.

“What test?” she asked, edging her way back into the chair.

“The ultimate test. You’re going to be one of Santa’s elves.”

“Doesn’t Santa, you know, have his own elves?” she asked, still not sure that he was completely in charge of his senses.

“Of course Santa has his own elves. However, when he’s here at The Zone we supply him with courtesy elves so that they can continue making toys at the North Pole,” Mr. Peterson told her.

“So, I’m going to be a courtesy elf?” she asked.

He nodded and handed her a single sheet of paper. “Sign this.”

She took it. “What? Just one thing to sign?” She had expected another huge stack of forms that would leave her hand cramped for hours afterward.

He nodded curtly. “You’re now in our system as a regular seasonal employee. All of your other paperwork transfers.”

“Regular seasonal” sounded like some kind of contradiction to her, but she was still not entirely convinced his outburst had been a test. She scanned it, signed her name, and then handed it back to him.

“Good. Report to wardrobe on Saturday for your costume fitting,” he said.

“Okay, thank you,” she said, standing up and backing toward the door.

“Welcome back, Candy,” he said, smiling faintly.

“Thanks,” she said, before bolting out the door.

As soon as she was outside the building, she whipped out her cell phone and called her friend Josh, a fellow employee of The Zone.

“Well?” he asked when he picked up.

“I think Mr. Peterson has seriously lost it,” she said. “He totally flipped out on me.”

Josh laughed. “Let me guess. You’re going to be an elf.”

“So he was serious? That was some whacked-out test?”

“Yeah. Elves are considered a class-one stress position, and it can get pretty intense.”

“How hard can it be to be an elf?” she asked.

She was rewarded by a burst of laughter on the other end.

“Josh, what is it you’re not telling me?”

He just kept laughing.

“Okay, seriously. You were the one who convinced me to work Holly Daze. I think it’s only fair you tell me whatever it is I need to know.”

“Sorry!” he gasped. She wasn’t sure if he was apologizing or refusing to tell her.

A girl bounced around the corner and slammed into Candace.

“Josh, I’ll call you later,” she said, hanging up.

“Sorry,” Becca apologized.

Becca was one of Candace’s other friends from the park, one who had some sort of bizarre allergy to sugar that made her uncontrollably hyper. Candace looked suspiciously at Becca. Her cheeks were flushed, her eyes were glistening, and she was hopping from one foot to the other.

“You didn’t have sugar, did you?” Candace asked, fear ripping through her.

“No! Promise,” Becca said.

“Then what gives?”

“Roger made me laugh really hard,” Becca explained.

Roger had a crush on Becca and had wanted to ask her out since Halloween. It hadn’t happened yet.

“Oh,” was all Candace could think to say.

“So, are you working Holly Daze?” Becca asked.

“Yeah. I’m going to be an elf.”

Suddenly, Becca went completely still, and the smile left her face. “I’m sorry,” she said.

“Why?” Candace asked.

Becca just shook her head. “I’ve gotta get back to the Muffin Mansion. I’ll catch you later.”

She hurried off, and Candace watched her go. Okay, now I know there’s something -people aren’t telling me.

She debated about following Becca and forcing her to spill, but instead she headed for the parking lot where her best friend Tamara was waiting. She walked through the Exploration Zone, one of the several themed areas in the park.

The Zone theme park was created and owned by John
Hanson, a former professional quarterback who believed in healthy competition at work and play. His theme park had several areas, or zones, where -people could compete with each other and themselves at just about anything. Almost everyone who worked at The Zone was called a referee. The exceptions were the costumed characters called mascots. Most of them, including Candace’s boyfriend, Kurt, were to be found in the History Zone. -People visiting the park were called players, and the areas of the park they could reach were called on field. Only refs could go off field.

Candace cut through an off field area to get to the referee parking lot. She waved at a few other -people she recognized from her time spent working there. Finally, she slid into her friend’s waiting car.

“So are you going to be the Christmas queen?” Tamara asked.

“What am I, Lucy VanPelt? There’s no Christmas queen in Charlie Brown’s Christmas play, and there’s no Christmas queen in The Zone,” Candace said.

Tamara fake pouted. “Are you sure? I think I’d make a beautiful Christmas queen.”

Candace laughed. Tamara was gorgeous, rich, and fun. Her whole family practically redefined the word wealthy, and, with her dark hair and olive skin, Tamara was usually the prettiest girl in any room. She didn’t let it go to her head, though. Anybody who knew Tamara would vote for her as Christmas queen.

“Although I think you would, they’re only hiring elves.”

“You’re going to be an elf?” Tamara smirked.

“Hey, it beats being a food cart vendor,” Candace said.

“But you’re so good at it. Cotton candy, candy corn . . . you can sell it all.”

“Thanks, I think. So, what are we doing tonight? Kurt’s going to swing by at six to pick us up.” Just mentioning her boyfriend’s name was enough to make Candace smile. She closed her eyes for just a minute and pictured him as she had first seen him — wearing a Lone Ranger costume. With his charm and piercing blue eyes, she had fallen for him right away.

“You told him my house, right?” Tamara said, interrupting her thoughts.

“Yeah. So, who’s this guy you’re taking?”

Tamara sighed. “Mark.”

“Uh-huh. And?”

“Remember my cousin Tina?”


“Well, she broke up with him over the summer, and he’s been all shattered since then. He won’t date other girls; he just mopes over her.”

“Attractive,” Candace said sarcastically.

“Tell me about it. Well, Tina asked me if I could help him get his confidence back and get over her or something.”

“A pity date? Are you kidding me? You want Kurt and I to double date with you on a pity date?”

“You don’t think I’m about to go by myself, do you? No way. That’s the best-friend creed. When you’re happy, I’m happy. When I’m miserable, you have to be too.”

“Great,” Candace said, rolling her eyes. “So, where are we going?”

“That’s the problem. I was thinking dinner, but then we’d have to talk, and frankly, I don’t want to hear him go on about Tina. Then I thought we could see a movie.”

“You wouldn’t have to talk to him,” Candace confirmed.

“Yeah, but what if — ”

“He tries to grab a hand or put his arm around you.”

“Exactly, and I don’t think me giving him a black eye was what Tina had in mind.”

“I guess that also rules out any kind of concert possibilities?” Candace asked wistfully.

“Yup. Sorry.”

“So, what did you come up with?”

“I was thinking . . . theme park?”

“No way. Kurt doesn’t like to spend his downtime there.”

“I thought he took you to that romantic dinner there over the summer.”

“It was the nicest restaurant he knew, and he got an employee discount.”

“Charming,” Tamara said.

“Plus, ever since we got trapped in there overnight, he’s been even more adamant about avoiding it when he’s off work.”

“I can’t believe you two get to be the stuff of urban legend, and you don’t even appreciate it.”

Candace sighed. It was true that she and Kurt had spent one of the most miserable nights of their relationship trapped inside the theme park. Urban legend, though, had since transformed the story so that they were supposedly chased through the park by a psycho killer. It was still embarrassing to have -people point at her and say that she was the one. Around Halloween she had given up trying to correct -people. They were going to believe what they wanted.

“Earth to Candace. Helloooo?”

“Sorry. So, what does that leave us with? Shopping?”

“No need to torture both our dates,” Tamara said.

“Then what?”

“I don’t — miniature golf!” Tamara suddenly shrieked, so loudly that Candace jumped and slammed her head into the roof of the car.

“Tam! Don’t scare me like that.”

“Sorry. Miniature golf. What do you think? Built-in talking points, lots of movement, and zero grabby potential.”

“I like it. I’ll have to borrow one of your jackets though.”

“At least you’ll have an actual excuse this time,” Tamara teased.

A few minutes later they were at Tamara’s house and upstairs raiding her wardrobe. As Tamara considered and discarded a fifth outfit, Candace threw up her hands.

“Maybe if you’d tell me what you’re looking for, I could help.”

“I’m looking for something, you know, nunlike.”

Candace stared at her friend for a moment before she burst out laughing. She fell to the floor, clutching her stomach as tears streamed down her face. Tamara crossed her arms and tapped her foot, and Candace just laughed harder.

“I don’t know why you think that’s so funny. You know I don’t go past kissing.”

“Tam, nuns can’t even do that. And if you’re looking for something that will completely hide your body, then you’re going to have to go to the mall instead of the closet. You don’t own anything that doesn’t say ‘look at me.’ I’m sorry, but it’s true.”

“Really? Maybe we should go to your house. Think I could find what I’m looking for in your closet?”

“Not since I started dating and mom made me throw out all my old camp T-shirts,” Candace said with a grin.

“Then hello, you’ve got no call to laugh.”

Candace stood up, stomach still aching from laughing so hard. “Tam, I’m not criticizing. I’m just telling you, you’re not going to find what you’re looking for.”

Tam reached into the closet. “Oh, yeah, what about this?” she asked, producing jeans and a black turtleneck.

“If you’re going for the secret agent look, it’s a good choice.”

Tamara threw the jeans at her, and Candace ducked.

“I could wear some black pants with this. Would that be too funereal?

“For a pity date? Go for it.”

Candace opted to borrow Tamara’s discarded jeans instead of wearing the skirt she had brought with her. They turned out to be slightly tighter on her than they were on Tam, and she had to admit when she paired them with her red scoop-neck top that she looked really good.

When Kurt arrived a few minutes later, he whistled when he saw her.

“Keep the jeans,” Tamara whispered to her. “Obviously, they work for you.”

Kurt then looked at Tamara and frowned slightly. “Did you just come from a funeral?”

“No, but thank you for thinking so,” Tamara said with a smirk.

“I don’t — ”

Candace put her finger over his lips. “Don’t ask,” she advised him.

He smiled and kissed her finger, which made her giggle.

The doorbell rang again, and Candace turned, eager to see the infamous Mark.

Tamara opened the door, and Candace sucked in her breath. Mark was gorgeous. He had auburn hair, piercing green eyes, and model-perfect features. He was almost as tall as Kurt, and he was stunning in khaki Dockers and a green Polo shirt.

“Hi,” he said, smiling.

Tamara glanced at her and rolled her eyes.

“Hi, Mark.”

Kurt drove, and Candace was quick to slide into the front seat with him, leaving Tamara and Mark to the back. She shook her head. Mark was not her idea of a pity date in any sense of the word. Maybe Tamara would come around if she actually talked to him.

They made it to the miniature golf course and were soon on the green. Candace got a hole in one on the first time up to putt, and Kurt gave her a huge reward kiss.

When they moved on to the next hole, Tamara whispered in her ear, “Thanks a lot. This is supposed to be a no grabby zone. Now Mark will be getting ideas.”

“Tam, you really need to relax a little.”

They made it through the course in record time, and Kurt gave Candace another kiss for winning by one stroke. After turning in their clubs, the guys headed inside to order pizza while Candace and Tamara went to the restroom.

“This date is the worst,” Tamara groaned once they were alone.

“What’s wrong with you? He’s gorgeous.”

“Really? I guess I just can’t see past the Tina mope.”

“What mope? He hasn’t even mentioned her, and he’s done nothing but smile all night. You should totally take him to Winter Formal.”

“No way. This is a one-date-only kind of thing. I’m not taking him to Winter Formal.”

“Fine. Suit yourself. I’m just telling you that if it weren’t for Kurt, I’d be taking him to Winter Formal.”

Tamara laughed.

“As if. There’s no way you’d ask a guy out.”

“I don’t know. You might be surprised.”

“It’s a moot point anyway. I’ll find someone to take.”

“You could always take Josh,” Candace suggested.

“You’re not setting me up with Josh, so just forget it.”


“Find out for me, though, if Santa needs a Mrs. Claus,” Tamara said.

“You’re going to find some way to be the Christmas queen, aren’t you?” Candace asked.

“Even if I have to marry old Saint Nick.”

They both laughed.

If you'd like to buy a copy, click here.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Snowbound Colorado Christmas by Tamela Hancock Murray, Lena Nelson Dooley, Susan Page Davis, Darlene Franklin

Four stories of romance set against the great blizzard of 1913 in Denver, Colorado. Curl up with this cozy collection of historical romance.

In Tamela Hancock Murray's opening novella, Fires of Love, Thalia Blooms’s Christmas party on December 3, 1913, is the talk of Denver, but no one dreams the gently falling snow will continue six days and accumulate to nearly four feet. Thalia’s only dread is having to see the man who once jilted her. Could an allergy to rhubarb ruin her whole party or bring together two people who are meant for each other?

In Lena Nelson Dooley's The Best Medicine, Rose Fletcher attends her friend's party and becomes reacquainted with a man who used to work on her father's ranch. Are her feelings just lingering infatuation, or could there be a future for two people from such different backgrounds?

In Susan Page Davis's Almost Home, Patricia Logan leaves the party and sets out on horseback with her old friend Jared, but they soon regret leaving the safety of town and plunging into the snow. Can Patricia rekindle an old camaraderie and see it transform into lasting love?

In Darlene Franklin's Dressed in Scarlet, heiress Natalie Daire nearly runs down a man in the storm. She takes refuge at the famous Brown Hotel. What could a sudden friendship with a ordinary mechanic teach her about life?

My Review:
This book is a collection of four romance novellas. It is easy to pick up and put down because each story is under 90 pages. The story lines are straight forward and simple to follow. They share the same setting: a Colorado blizzard in 1913, and even the characters move from one story to another.

However, these are four distinctly different tales. The first is not written as well as the others, and quite frankly, that turned me off. The final novella is simplistic. Uneven writing makes for a frustrating read.

Characters are not well developed. Maybe it's me; I just don't care for romance novellas. I prefer plots with twists and turns. I appreciate sparkling dialogue and a bit of intrigue. A lover of romance stories might enjoy this book.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Fall Into Reading 2008 - Wrap Up

The Fall Into Reading Challenge hosted by Katrina at Callipider Days ended yesterday. There were 286 participants!

I'd decided to read 12 books for the challenge. I added additional titles as they came into my home. Here's my list. You can find my reviews by clicking on the title or the author's name, located in alphabetical order on my sidebar.

1. Altar Call by Hope Lyda (reading when the challenge began)
2. Rain Song by Alice Wisler
3. Out Of Her Hands by Megan DiMaria
4. Until We Reach Home by Lynn Austin
5. One Holy Night by J. M. Hochstetler
6. White Christmas Pie by Wanda E. Brunstetter
7. The Death and Life of Gabriel Phillips by Stephne Baldwin/Mark Tabb
8. Beloved Captive by Kathleen Y’Barbo
9. Rhapsody in Red by Donn Taylor
10. The Rook by Steven James
11. The Jewel of Gresham Green by Lawana Blackwell
12. The Outsider by Ann H. Gabhart
13. A Firm Place to Stand by Marja Bergen
14. Pure by Rebecca St. James
15. The Gifted Gabaldon Sisters by Lorraine Lopez
16. by george by Wesley Stace
17. Never Surrender by LTG (Ret.) William G. Boykin
18. Move On, Move Up by Paula White
19. Arsenic Soup For Lovers: When Chicken Soup Doesn't Work by Georgia Post
20. The Good Person Guidebook by Richard Bayer, Ph.D
21. Key West: A Comprehensive Guide to Florida's Southernmost City by Sarah Goodwin-Nguyen
22. Life After Genius by M. Ann Jacoby
23. Alphine Americas Photography by Olaf Soot; Essays by Don Mellor
24. What You Should Know About Politics by Jessamyn Conrad
25. In the Beginning: Art of Genesis by Chuck Fischer
26. Queen Vernita's Visitors by Dawn Menge
27. Cole Family Christmas by Jennifer Liu Bryan
28. Crafting Jewish by Rivky Koenig
29. Thou Shalt Not Whine: What We Whine About. Why We Do It and How to Stop! by January Jones
30. Wild Goose Chase: Reclaim the Adventure of Pursuing God by Mark Batterson
31. Lady Flatterley by Linda Wagner
32. Sunset by Karen Kingsbury
33. Flirting with Forty by Jane Porter
34. For the Love of St. Nick by Garasamo Maccagnone
35. Christmas Around the World by Chuck Fischer
36. The Tutu Ballet by Sally O. Lee
37. One Perfect Day by Lauraine Snelling
38. Dark Pursuit by Brandilyn Collins
39. Flirting with Forty by Jane Porter
40. Engaging Father Christmas by Robin Jones Gunn
41. Frasier Island by Susan Page Davis
42. The Little Giant of Aberdeen County bt Tiffany Baker
43. Where Do I Go? (The Yada Yada House of Hope) by Neta Jackson

This was my first reading challenge, and I enjoyed the experience. The only book not read is one that a publisher's assistant failed to send. (Boo. Hiss. Bad assistant!)

I am amazed at how long my list has grown! I was afraid that I'd bitten off too many titles, but this challenge helped me to chomp through a pile of books. The hardest part of the challenge was making a list three months in advance! Of all the books, my favorites are: Until We Reach Home, Rhapsody in Red, The Rook, Dark Pursuit, and One Perfect Day. The most disappointing read is For the Love of St. Nick by Garasamo Maccagnone. I'm already planning on challenges for my future reading, and I look forward to Katrina's Spring Challenge!

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Little Giant of Aberdeen County by Tiffany Baker

When Truly Plaice's mother was pregnant, the town of Aberdeen joined together in betting how recordbreakingly huge the baby boy would ultimately be. The girl who proved to be Truly paid the price of her enormity; her father blamed her for her mother's death in childbirth, and was totally ill equipped to raise either this giant child or her polar opposite sister Serena Jane, the epitome of feminine perfection. When he, too, relinquished his increasingly tenuous grip on life, Truly and Serena Jane are separated--Serena Jane to live a life of privilege as the future May Queen and Truly to live on the outskirts of town on the farm of the town Sadsack, the subject of constant abuse and humiliation at the hands of her peers.

Serena Jane's beauty proves to be her greatest blessing and her biggest curse, for it makes her the obsession of classmate Bob Bob Morgan, the youngest in a line of Robert Morgans who have been doctors in Aberdeen for generations. Though they have long been the pillars of the community, the earliest Robert Morgan married the town witch, Tabitha Dyerson, and the location of her fabled shadow book--containing mysterious secrets for healing and darker powers--has been the subject of town gossip ever since. Bob Bob Morgan, one of Truly's biggest tormentors, does the unthinkable to claim the prize of Serena Jane, and changes the destiny of all Aberdeen from there on.

When Serena Jane flees town and a loveless marriage to Bob Bob, it is Truly who must become the woman of a house that she did not choose and mother to her eight-year-old nephew Bobbie. Truly's brother-in-law is relentless and brutal; he criticizes her physique and the limitations of her health as a result, and degrades her more than any one human could bear. It is only when Truly finds her calling--the ability to heal illness with herbs and naturopathic techniques--hidden within the folds of Robert Morgan's family quilt, that she begins to regain control over her life and herself. Unearthed family secrets, however, will lead to the kind of betrayal that eventually break the Morgan family apart forever, but Truly's reckoning with her own demons allows for both an uprooting of Aberdeen County, and the possibility of love in unexpected places.

My Review:
I enjoyed reading this book; it's well written. The story moves at a reasonable pace, and the characters are unique. There's Truly, the giant, who grows up believing that she killed her mother (who died while birthing her), and believing that she is unworthy of any kindness. Her best friend is Amelia Dyerson, a shy girl who manages to communicate without many spoken words. (How challenging that must have been to write!) Next is Dr. Robert Morgan, the fifth Dr. Robert Morgan the small town has had--each one of them arrogant and mean-spirited. Then there's Marcus Thompson, a man with a brilliant mind, but a smallish, somewhat handicapped body. These are round characters, all with secrets and flaws. Even the minor characters are well written!

As the only "pretty" character is Dr. Morgan, one of the themes is that beauty is only skin deep. How much more difficult life is for the imperfect person.

The novel is written in first-person narrative and third-person omniscient voice, allowing the reader to understand the different thought processes. There's a bit of profanity included. There's a bit of a romance. (It could have been left out.) There's more than a bit of mystery. And there's a tale that demands deeper thought once the final page has been turned.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Booking Through Thursday - Generosity

Do you give books as gifts?

To everyone? Or only to select people?

How do you feel about receiving books as gifts?

My Response:
I carefully choose each gift for each person. Like most of you, I've spent hours trying to find the perfect gift. I have given books as gifts and plan to continue in the future, but I am very careful about matching the book with the reader. Some people on my gift list don't like to read, and I'd never give those people a book; that would be thoughtless.

Once I was part of a group that received the same book for a Christmas present. A member of my book club gave everyone in the group the same book with the intention that the gift would be our next group read.

My family and friends know the way to my heart. Most special occasions in my adult life have been punctuated with me receiving books. There's something about opening a book-shaped package that causes me to twitch with excitement. I generally squeal and hug the precious tome once I've seen the title. That's my Perfect gift.

BTW: I'm having several book giveaways now. Check my sidebars.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Where Do I Go? (The Yada Yada House of Hope) by Neta Jackson

A story of seeking-and finding-God's will in unlikely places.

Gabrielle Fairbanks has nearly lost touch with the carefree, spirited young woman she was when she married her husband fifteen years ago. But when the couple moves to Chicago to accommodate Philip's business ambitions, Gabby finds the chance to make herself useful. It's there she meets the women of Manna House Women's Shelter; they need a Program Director, and she has a degree in social work. She's in her element, feeling God's call on her life at last, even though Philip doesn't like the changes he sees in her.

But things get rough when Philip gives Gabby an ultimatum: quit her job at the shelter or risk divorce and losing custody of their sons. Gabby must take refuge, as in the song they sing at Sunday night worship: "Where do I go when there's no one else to turn to? ... I go to the Rock I know that's able, I go to the Rock."

My Review:
Although this book is one of a series, it is a stand-alone read. I have not read any of the Yada Yada books, and yet I read this one without having any missing pieces. The protagonist, Gabby, is a likeable mother-of-two whose successful husband lands her in a high-rise luxury apartment in Chicago, right on Lake Shore Drive. Gabby's a free spirit--someone who thinks that Lake Michigan is made for her to dance in. She enjoys the simple things in life. Unfortunately, her husband wants a corporate wife--someone who will help him move to the upper crust of society. They seem to be polar opposites.

And that's where there's conflict. Gabby's perfect world begins to crumble, and the reader witnesses her scramble to keep it together. Does she succeed? A tissue is necessary for this one. The end does not conclude as expected. Oh, this book is a must read! I look forward to the next in this series.

If you'd like to buy a copy, click here.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Giveaway! Your Best Life Begins Each Morning: Devotions to Start Every New Day of the Year by Joel Osteen

The potential to live your best life starts with each new morning. With every sunrise, you can choose to approach the day with an attitude of faith and expectancy. Bestselling author Joel Osteen writes, "When you get up in the morning, the first things you should do is set your mind in the right direction . . . and then go out anticipating good things."

Now, for the first time, Pastor Osteen presents a tool to accomplish that goal. Based on his book, Your Best Life Now, he offers prescriptions for positive living in 365 daily messages. Each message is accompanied by a relevant scripture.

Joel Osteen is the senior pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas. Listed by several sources as America's largest and fastest-growing congregation, Lakewood church has approximately 45,000 adult attendees every week. Millions more watch Joel's messages as they are broadcast on national and international television networks. He resides in Houston with his wife, Victoria, and their children. You can visit his Web site at

My Review:
Have you ever decided to begin daily devotions only to fall behind because you just cannot seem to find the time? Here's your guide! This tiny 4" x 6" palm-sized book contains devotions in a workable size. It will easily fit into a purse, a briefcase, or an office desk. The softly padded cover is a touch of luxury, and the book ribbon permanently attached will easily keep the reader's place.

An entire year is included in this 365-page volume. Each page is dated and begins with a Bible verse, followed by the author's thoughts. The entire devotion is confined in one page. For the person who wants to have daily devotions, but who does not have a big block of time to do them, this is ideal.


The generous folks at Hachette Book Group are allowing me to host this book giveaway for five (5) copies!
  • Winners are restricted to the US and Canada. No PO Box mailing addresses, please.
  • I must have a way of contacting you, so be sure to leave your email address in code in your comment (Please do not ask me to look it up!)
  • I'll close the comments at 6 PM EST December 21st and pick the five winners. I will contact the winners via email to get their mailing information. The winners will have three days to respond. If I do not hear from them within three days, I will select another winner(s).
  • If you're interested, just say so in a comment with that all-important email address in code.
    Example of email in code:

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Faith 'n Fiction Saturday -

My friend Amy is the host for Faith 'n Fiction Saturday. If you're interested, check it out here.

Today's question is:It's Christmas time and one of my favorite things to do is read Christmas themed books. Do you enjoy reading holiday themed books? Do you have any special book you read every year? Do you have a special devotional you like to use? (not fiction..I know!) Have you read any good Christmas books this year?

My Answer:
As a habit, I haven't read Christmas themed books. However, this year, I've read a slew of them--thrillers, romances, and humorous books. I liked this change. So my habit for future Christmas seasons will find me reading books with a Christmas themes. I review everything I read, so anyone interested can check out the wonderful reads I've enjoyed. Two goodies are Engaging Father Christmas and One Perfect Day. To help children focus on WHY we celebrate Christmas, try Cole Family Christmas. What a GREAT book that is for children 9-12!

Most definitely, each Christmas Eve, my family gets together. Food is always involved, we play Christmas music and sing along, and as we gather around the tree, my husband reads Luke 2, the original Christmas story. What a nice family tradition that is; I recommend it.

Giveaway! I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence by Amy Sedaris

Amy Sedaris has appeared in several movies and television shows, and, with Paul Dinello and Stephen Colbert, a co-author of the novel Wigfield, and she co-wrote Strangers with Candy, the hit show on Comedy Central. She's also a regular on The Late Show with David Letterman. She lives in Manhattan with her imaginary boyfriend, Ricky, and her rabbit, Dusty.

Are you lacking direction in how to whip up a swanky soiree for lumberjacks? A dinner party for white-collar workers? A festive gathering for the grieving? Don't despair. Take a cue from entertaining expert Amy Sedaris and host an unforgettable fete that will have your guests raving. No matter the style or size of the gathering--from the straightforward to the bizarre--this volume provides jackpot recipes and solid advice laced with Amy's blisteringly funny take on entertaining, plus four-color photos and enlightening sidebars on everything it takes to pull off a party with extraordinary flair. You don't even need to be a host or hostess to benefit-Amy offers tips for guests, too! (Number one: don't be fifteen minutes early.) Readers will discover unique dishes to serve alcoholics (Broiled Frozen Chicken Wings with Applesauce), the secret to a successful children's party (a half-hour time limit, games included), plus a whole appendix chock-full of arts and crafts ideas (from a mini-pantyhose plant-hanger to a do-it-yourself calf stretcher), and much, much more!

My Review:
This may prove to be the most difficult book I've ever reviewed. It's a cookbook with recipes such as Split Pea Soup, Yogurt Spaghetti, Southern Fried Chicken, Yorkshire Pudding, cakes for special occasions, assorted drinks, as well as instructions on party planning, conversation starters for blind dates, how to give yourself a breast exam, the art of putting on panty hose, and gift ideas for the elderly. Also included are craft ideas such as how to make a needle wallet, a paper clip necklace, brick bookends, and several other useless items. Anecdotes are sprinkled throughout. This might make a unique idea for a quirky hostess gift. Note: contains profanity.


The folks at Hachette Book Group are allowing me to host this book giveaway for five (5) copies!

  • Winners are restricted to the US and Canada. No PO Box mailing addresses, please.
  • I must have a way of contacting you, so be sure to leave your email address in code in your comment (Please do not ask me to look it up!)
  • I'll close the comments at 6 PM EST December 20th and pick the five winners. I will contact the winners via email to get their mailing information. The winners will have three days to respond. If I do not hear from them within three days, I will select another winner(s).
  • If you're interested, just say so in a comment with that all-important email address in code.
    Example of email in code:

  • Giveaway! Katie Brown Celebrates: Simple and Spectacular Parties All Year Round

    Katie gives readers a reason to host a party every month of the year. From a festive New Year's Eve dinner to a lavish Christmas brunch, from the perfect child's birthday party to a down-home family reunion, readers will delight in Katie's signature approach to making any celebration simply wonderful. With delicious recipes, straightforward craft projects, and tips for casual entertaining, Katie shows how any host can make a delicious meal and create gorgeous ambiance without the hassle.

    My Review:
    Here is the Cadillac of cookbooks; it even smells good! The beautifully colored glossy pages are divided into the twelve months of the year with plans for a celebration party that includes invitations and decorations to recipes for appetizers through desserts. Easy craft projects are clever. Recipes are easy to follow. Mix and match menus ideas are in the back, along with a color index. It's a can't miss entertainer's tool.


    The generous folks at Hachette Book Group are allowing me to host this book giveaway for five (5) copies!
    • Winners are restricted to the US and Canada. No PO Box mailing addresses, please.
    • I must have a way of contacting you, so be sure to leave your email address in code in your comment (Please do not ask me to look it up!)
    • I'll close the comments at 6 PM EST December 20th and pick the five winners. I will contact the winners via email to get their mailing information. The winners will have three days to respond. If I do not hear from them within three days, I will select another winner(s).
    • If you're interested, just say so in a comment with that all-important email address in code.
      Example of email in code: you[at]yourmail[dot]com

    Giveaway! Confetti Cakes for Kids: Delightful Cookies, Cakes, and Cupcakes from New York City's Famed Bakery by Elisa Strauss

    Elisa Strauss is the founder and head designer of Confetti Cakes in New York City. A former designer for Ralph Lauren, Strauss is famous for her imaginative and elaborate cakes. Her work has been featured in dozens of magazines, as well as on Good Morning America, The Today Show, Martha: The Martha Stewart Show, The View, and The Food Network.

    She has created confections as elaborate as a platter of sushi, a wine bottle in a crate, and a designer handbag. Now she focuses her talents on her younger fans with this enchanting collection of cakes, cookies, and cupcakes for kids. Strauss starts readers off with 20 delicious recipes and all the basic techniques needed to complete any project in the book. Then she offers step-by-step instructions for 24 jaw-dropping designs that can become the centerpiece of any celebration. Projects span the imagination--from a charming sock monkey, to an MP3 player, to playful hula gingerbread girls and boys--and will appeal to anyone looking for the perfect way to thrill a child with a delectable, spectacular creation.

    My Review:
    When my son was three, I decided to make a train cake for his birthday. I worked for hours on it, and it turned out pretty good, but if I'd had this book, oh the train cake I could have made! How about a cake that looks like a MP3 or a hamburger with fries? There are recipes, explicit decorating instructions, ideas on transporting goodies, templates, even conversion tables, a long list of resources, and an index. If you've ever wanted to learn to make fondant, you'll learn how with this book. Before your next party, this is the book you need.

    The generous folks at Hachette Book Group are allowing me to host this book giveaway for five (5) copies!
    • Winners are restricted to the US and Canada. No PO Box mailing addresses, please.
    • I must have a way of contacting you, so be sure to leave your email address in code in your comment (Please do not ask me to look it up!)
    • I'll close the comments at 6 PM EST December 20th and pick the five winners. I will contact the winners via email to get their mailing information. The winners will have three days to respond. If I do not hear from them within three days, I will select another winner(s).
    • If you're interested, just say so in a comment with that all-important email address in code.
      Example of email in code:

    Giveaway! The Flavor Bible by Karen Page & Andrew Dornenburg

    The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on Wisdom of America's Most Imaginative Chefs

    Great cooking goes beyond following a recipe--it's knowing how to season ingredients to coax the greatest possible flavor from them. Drawing on dozens of leading chefs' combined experience in top restaurants across the country, Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg present the definitive guide to creating "deliciousness" in any dish.

    Thousands of ingredient entries, organized alphabetically and cross-referenced, provide a treasure trove of spectacular flavor combinations. Readers will learn to work more intuitively and effectively with ingredients; experiment with temperature and texture; excite the nose and palate with herbs, spices, and other seasonings; and balance the sensual, emotional, and spiritual elements of an extraordinary meal.
    Seasoned with tips, anecdotes, and signature dishes from America's most imaginative chefs, this is an essential reference for every kitchen.

    My Review:
    This heavy, almost 400-page tome is a great idea for someone who is already a good cook, but who would like to become a gourmet. It's divided into three sections: Learning the Language of Food, Communicating Via the Language of Food, and The Charts, which focuses on the matchmaking of flavors. It's quite detailed. Why there's ten pages on cheese! It's a culinary reference book for the chef at heart.

    The folks at Hachette Book Group are allowing me to host this book giveaway for five (5) copies!
    • Winners are restricted to the US and Canada. No PO Box mailing addresses, please.
    • I must have a way of contacting you, so be sure to leave your email address in code in your comment (Please do not ask me to look it up!)
    • I'll close the comments at 6 PM EST December 20th and pick the five winners. I will contact the winners via email to get their mailing information. The winners will have three days to respond. If I do not hear from them within three days, I will select another winner(s).
    • If you're interested, just say so in a comment with that all-important email address in code.
      Example of email in code:

    Friday, December 12, 2008

    Frasier Island by Susan Page Davis

    After specialized underwater training, Ensign Rachel Whitney is posted to a remote island in the North Pacific, a tiny scrap of rock guarding a highly classified secret. She could love her new assignment if her commanding officer, Lt. George Hudson, weren’t so obstinate—and a bit distrustful.

    Despite George’s first reaction to her presence on the island, Rachel sets out to prove she is perfect for the job. She doesn’t dream of being a heroine or falling in love, but months later, when word leaks out about the prize they are guarding, Rachel and George have few resources besides each other and their faith in God to foil an enemy attack that could endanger all of America.

    My Review:
    When I first began reading, I thought that this was just another romance novel--but boy was I wrong!--this story is much more than that. It's also part suspense and adventure. The story line is one that keeps the attention of the reader. Just when it seems to be concluding, a new complexity develops. The ending is worth the price of the book!

    The characters are believable. Rachel is a new Christian who gets assigned to a naval location with two other men. Talk about lonely! She has a problem with her temper and taking orders from a domineering male. As she stumbles along in her new faith, the reader can't help but root for her. She's almost forced to turn to God, and when she does, the reader can witness her growth in character. George, the man in charge, is a guy who takes time to get to know; there's something in his background that must be revealed. Pierre is comfortable from the first page he appears. These three naval officers assigned on a remote island set the stage for both romance and suspense. A good read!

    Thursday, December 11, 2008

    Booking Through Thursday - Time

    1. Do you get to read as much as you WANT to read? (I’m guessing #1 is an easy question for everyone.)

    2. If you had (magically) more time to read–what would you read? Something educational? Classic? Comfort Reading? Escapism? Magazines?

    My Response:
    Since I am retired, I do have more time to read. And yet, I would like to have even more time to read, and with more reading time, I'd read exactly what I choose to read when I do have time. In other words, I'd read novels, primarily Christian Fiction novels. I'd guess that would fall under the category of comfort reading.

    How about you? If you had more time, would you spend it reading?