Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Let's All be Brave Review

Let's All Be Brave: Living Life with Everything You Have
Let's All be Brave by Annie F Downs
Visit the author's Website HERE 
Publisher: Zondervan
Publishing Date: July 29, 2014
Goodreads Summary:
Annie F. Downs admits she's not exactly the bravest girl in the world. She still cries sometimes when she leaves her parents' home in Georgia, she's never jumped out of a plane, and she only rides roller coasters to impress boys. But Annie knows that courage resides inside each and every one of us, and she's on a mission to triumph over her own fears while encouraging the reader to do the same. As a single young woman, writer, speaker, and blogger, Annie Downs shares her journey toward bravery with honesty and humor. Using wonderful stories from her own life, contemporary real-life examples, and fascinating historical and biblical references, Annie encourages readers to grab hold of the brave life that they desperately desire. How often does fear hold us back from the very things we most want to taste, touch, and experience? The call to be brave isn't just for one person---it's for everyone. Let's All Be Brave is more than a book, it's a battle cry. Annie challenges us to live boldly, she calls us to step into those places that require courage, and she gives us the help to take the next step forward---even when it's scary. This non-fiction, essay-driven book opens the door to many different views of courage---nudging, encouraging, and inspiring readers to be brave whenever given the chance.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. Download two free chapters direct from Goodreads or buy it from CBD in paperback for $9.99! (9/29/14)

My Thoughts:
I loved this one. Whoops! Let me backtrack and say spoiler alert: I loved this one. :) Annie Downs has such a unique writing voice. I've read her blog posts many times before and seen her lovely face at the InRL conferences. This book I just knew would be a hoot. Downs is honest and truthful and best of all, funny. I literally found myself laughing out loud at her antics, but then a few pages later, seriously touched. I think the two words that best describe Annie Downs are: Authentic. Relatable.

Most complaints I have run across on Goodreads has been about how different her life is from the reviewer's. My life is different from Down's, but her life matters to HER. I am shocked that people would put the book down because they didn't think Downs was 'brave enough'. She was doing things that were big and brave for her and her personality and life. I can certainly admire that! And while her life is different from mine, Downs still feels completely relatable. Her feelings are real and her thought process felt so...me. I was instantly able to connect and get into the matter of the book.

If anyone knows me, they know that I am not bold and definitely not brave. I'm an introvert, and INFJ, a viewer of life and people but not a participant. If I could, I would never change my routine and life would always safe and comfortable. My idea of adventure is trying a new restaurant on date night. That is ME and I am fine with that.  But Downs encouraged me to take a tiny step everyday, to live in God, to find a small way to be brave and expand my comfort zone. To find my yeses and noes.

One tiny complaint about the book: while reading it did feel slightly disorganized within the chapters. The connections were still there from chapter to chapter, but from section to section within the chapter sometimes it felt disjointed and unconnected.

The last chapter was just beautiful, completely thought provoking. It was the perfect way to end the book. Overall, Downs' book was fantastic. It had the right balance of funny and seriousness and the right amount of challenge without seeming overbearing. 'Let's All be Brave' is a book I could easily recommend to anyone, married or single, old or young. 4.5 stars for sure. Now is the best time to pick up a copy; Bloom Book Club just announced that 'Let's All Be Brave' is their pick for the season!! I can't wait to do a re-read and watch all the videos with Annie Downs. Hop over to their website and check it out.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Thirteen Review

Thirteen (The Last Thirteen, #1)
Thirteen by James Phelan
Visit the Author's website HERE
Publisher: Kane Miller
Publishing Date: August 26, 2013
Goodreads Summary:
13 books. 13 nightmares. 1 destiny.

I click my fingers and everybody dies.

Sam wakes from his nightmare to discover the terrifying reality. It will come true.

Kidnapped from school and finding out his parents aren't who he thinks they are, Sam is suddenly running from danger at every turn. Nothing will ever be the same again.

With his life and identity shattered, Sam's salvation is tied to an ancient prophecy. He is in the final battle to save the world, up against an enemy plotting to destroy us all.

He alone can find the last thirteen.
I received this book from Usborne Books and More. All opinions are my own. Buy a paperback copy today for $5.99! 

My Thoughts:
One of the biggest complaints I have seen in reviews of this book is that it seems so 'young'. The readers who say this must go into the book thinking it is typical YA, but it isn't. 'Thirteen' is what I could classify as 'upper middle grade'. It reads like a middle grade, but it has some heavier topics mentioned in it that some middle graders might not be fully read for. With this in mind, I think the reading experience is much more enjoyable.

Our MC, Sam, is ripped from his normal, everyday life and thrust into a strange world where dreams are prophetic. But also changeable. The story starts off with a BANG and we keep on running for the first nine or so chapters. I love that Sam, and his accidental new friends Alex and Eva, are just typical kids trying to deal with a very a-typical experience. It made the story feel more believable to me and pulled me in that much more quickly.

The rest of the events occur in typical MG fashion: quickly, with rapid acceptance from our main characters. Does this bother me as a 26 year old reader? Yeah a little, but that is why I like knowing ahead of time that this is a MG book so it is written for a much younger audience, and that audience doesn't like lengthy paragraphs and pausing to reflect on the character's feelings. When I am in the mood for action, laughs, and a quick story, I like to pick up a MG. 'Thirteen' delivers this completely.

The ending is a complete cliffhanger, which is great for a series that is 13 books long!! One Goodreads reviewer was very peeved about the length of the series. but to me it makes complete sense. I've heard each book ends in a cliffhanger. Is the publisher looking to make more money on each installment? Probably. But it also helps get kids reading and interested in reading! When a young preteen boy is excited to read something, then by all means, give him more of what he wants! It also helps when the series is worth your time ;)

'Thirteen' is a great book for boys, or girls, around the ages of 12-15. There are some fight scenes, indicated violence (nothing graphic), blowings ups, and a generous share of teen life at a sci-fi-ish boarding school. It is a quick read and enjoyable at any age. I give it 4 stars and recommend it to those who like non-violent violence, middle grade fiction, mystery, and intrigue :)

Thursday, September 25, 2014

A Light in the Wilderness

A Light in the Wilderness
A Light in the Wilderness by Jane Kirkpatrick
Visit author's website HERE
Publisher: Revell 
Publishing Date: September 2, 2014
Goodreads Summary:
Letitia holds nothing more dear than the papers that prove she is no longer a slave. They may not cause white folks to treat her like a human being, but at least they show she is free. She trusts in those words she cannot read–as she is beginning to trust in Davey Carson, an Irish immigrant cattleman who wants her to come west with him.
Nancy Hawkins is loathe to leave her settled life for the treacherous journey by wagon train, but she is so deeply in love with her husband that she knows she will follow him anywhere–even when the trek exacts a terrible cost.
Betsy is a Kalapuya Indian, the last remnant of a once proud tribe in the Willamette Valley in Oregon territory. She spends her time trying to impart the wisdom and ways of her people to her grandson. But she will soon have another person to care for.
As season turns to season, suspicion turns to friendship, and fear turns to courage, three spirited women will discover what it means to be truly free in a land that makes promises it cannot fulfill.

Based on a true story
I received a copy from the publisher. All opinions are my own. Buy the paperback version direct from the publisher today! 

My Thoughts:
Based on the life of a real black woman who followed the Oregon Trail, A Light in the Wilderness by Jane Kirkpatrick is a tale of injustice and the pursuit of freedom. Kirkpatrick did a TON of research for this novel and it truly shines through. The true to life details of the Oregon Trail and life as a black woman during that time period are what kept me going to the very end. 

The summary indicates that we will follow the lives of three separate women as their lives intertwined. I found this to be a bit false. Every now and then we would get a chapter from Nancy's point of view, but it was usually brief and didn't reveal much about her life or character. We got even less from Betsy, she held about three chapters before her life ran into Letitia's and then she became solely a background character. Letitia, then, was the true star. We follow her life from Missouri, where she secretly and dangerously marries a white man, along the Oregon Trail and finally into homesteading in Oregon. 

Kirkpatrick stuck incredibly close to the historical details. So instead of getting what I wanted from the story, I only got what really happened. Which is good and nice, but for me, it just didn't make that great of a re-telling. The book read too much like a textbook with just brief fictional tidbits thrown in (conversations and little details). It lost what personality it had once we hit the Oregon Trail. While I like a good historical fiction, this one felt too factual and not enough fiction for me. 

While I like Letitia (and her courage!) the story just didn't feel like a story to me. We covered too large of a time period in the character's life and so I felt we were just drifting in and out for the 'highlights'. This kept me from truly connecting and placing myself in Letitia's (well-worn) shoes. Wonderfully researched, true to history, and very well written...but this book was just not for me. I struggled to finish, but finish I did. I can only give it 2 stars but would encourage you to check it out if you like true to history life stories and strong female lead characters.   

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Press Play Trailer Release


About the Book

Press Play cover (1)
Press Play
Author: Eric Devine
Release Date: October 28th, 2014
Publisher: Running Press Kids
Greg Dunsmore, a.k.a. Dun the Ton, is focused on one thing: making a documentary that will guarantee his admission into the film school of his choice. Every day, Greg films his intense weight-loss focused workouts as well as the nonstop bullying that comes from his classmates. But when he captures footage of violent, extreme hazing by his high school’s championship-winning lacrosse team in the presence of his principal, Greg’s field of view is in for a readjustment.
Greg knows there is a story to be told, but it is not clear exactly what. And his attempts to find out the truth only create more obstacles, not to mention physical harm upon himself. Yet if Greg wants to make his exposé his ticket out of town rather than a veritable death sentence, he will have to learn to play the game and find a team to help him.
Combine the underbelly of Friday Night Lights with the unflinching honesty of Walter Dean Myers, and you will find yourself with Eric Devine’s novel of debatable truths, consequences, and realities.
Pre-Order This Title
unnamed (7) unnamed (8)

Find The Author

head shot
Eric Devine is the author of multiple works of Young Adult fiction, most recently Dare Me, withPress Play being published 10/28. He is also a veteran high school English teacher who spends as much time teaching as he does completing field research for his novels. His work has been listed byYALSA and Booklist for reluctant readers and for Best in Sports. He is married to his high school sweetheart, and his wife and he have two wonderful daughters and two not-so-wonderful Labradors. Find out more at ericdevine.orgfacebook.com/ericdevineauthor, or Twitter: @eric_devine


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, September 22, 2014

Cruel Beauty Review

Cruel Beauty
Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
Visit the Author's website HERE
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publishing Date: January 28, 2014
Goodreads Summary:
Based on the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, Cruel Beauty is a dazzling love story about our deepest desires and their power to change our destiny.

Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him.

With no choice but to fulfill her duty, Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, Nyx abandons everything she's ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people.

But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle-a shifting maze of magical rooms-enthralls her.

As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex's secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Even if she could bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him? With time running out, Nyx must decide what is more important: the future of her kingdom, or the man she was never supposed to love.
This was a library read! Part of my slow transition to get back to the library :) Buy it from the Book Depository today.

My Thoughts:
I was excited to read a fairy tale retelling. 'Cruel Beauty' was on my radar since it released this past winter. Its Beauty and the Beast connections is what caused me to pick it up in the first place, but by the time I closed the cover I was amazed that anyone could even make that connection.

The story starts off with a bang. We the reader are expected to hit the ground running. Nothing in the world is explained. Sometimes this works well for an author, here it just left me bewildered and took me right out of the story. And while on the subject of confusing, can I just mention the end: whaa??

Nyx is nothing like Belle. Belle is light hearted and sees the best in everyone. Nyx most definitely was not. She was raised from birth to marry an evil ruler and has been plotting his murder just as long, yet Nyx didn't feel disciplined enough to be an assassin for a demon. This part fell to another case of BA girl doesn't actually complete any BA moves. But still, even though Nyx is such a dark, depressing character, she really worked. Angry, yet slightly caring, full of dark malice, flawed, unwanted. It was an interesting mixture that I don't think I have read in an MC before.

Nyx's relationship with Ignifex was very dark, also very full of anger and selfishness. I was also annoyed each time Nyx threw a tantrum and would hit Ignifex; physical abuse ain't my thang. I had to give a big sigh for this as well: it was pretty 'insta-love' right off the bat. Their whole relationship just progressed too rapidly. I struggled to believe a girl who had been training for years to murder her betrothed could so quickly fall in love with that very same man. Something like this called for more time. Overall, I did not find their relationship was very well explored.

As for the plot? Well, let me quote a friend from Goodreads:
The plot kind of falls by the wayside. Nyx isn't very diligent in her quest to topple the evil lord to begin with. Once a certain revelation reveals her initial plan may not be the best idea, she basically abandons it and decides her purpose in life is to be naught but a lovey-dovey wife.
My words exactly.

I believe that 'Cruel Beauty' could have been so much more. The idea of Nyx's character and her relationship with Ignifex had some great bones. I just wish the author had been given more pages to tell it properly. With all the dark, angry love, this book needed a slow burn. Overall, it just didn't feel fully developed to me. I would love to see these ideas again however and dearly hope someone does try this combination again soon. 'Cruel Beauty' wasn't a complete flop for me, but it surely wasn't a hit. 2 stars and I can only recommend to strong fans of Beauty and the Beast retellings and readers who enjoy a dark, gothic romance.

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Ghost of You Cover Reveal

The Ghost of You
Release Date: 12/30/14
Swoon Romance

Summary from Goodreads:
Emmy has everything she’s ever wanted: a hot boyfriend she adores, great friends, a promising future, and even a well-connected family. But one night rips it all away.

A car accident shatters her world, claiming the lives of her twin brother and her best friend. In the wake of the accident, her friends drift away, her family falls apart, and her boyfriend cheats.

The grief is more than she can handle, so she finds escape at the bottom of a bottle of painkillers. Taking the pills makes her brother alive again, if only in her head. Seeing and talking to her brother as if he were still alive is the only thing that keeps her going. Until Logan King moves to town.

Logan sees past the mask of pristine popularity she wears in public and he’s the only one who can tell she hasn’t moved on. His uncanny ability to read her forces her to open up and she starts to fall for him, no matter how unwilling she is to admit it. But Emmy isn’t the only one keeping secrets and when a close brush with death sparks events that bring everything to light, Emmy will have to decide what’s more important: learning how to forgive and move on, or holding onto the pills and the ghost of her past.

About the Author:
Amanda Burckhard grew up exploring bat caves and hunting for dinosaur bones in the Black Hills of South Dakota. When she wasn’t crossing paths with mountain lions, she was making up stories and devouring books at the library. Although, she still does that.

Amanda loves to travel and cross out things on her adrenaline packed bucket list. Some of the things she's been able to cross out include see an active volcano erupt, ride a gondola in Venice, and pet a tiger.

She currently lives in North Sioux City, South Dakota and works as a microbiologist by day. Some of her obsessions include comic book movies, hot chocolate, sushi, sunshine, and Doctor Who.

Author Links:
 photo iconwebsite-32x32_zps1f477f69.png  photo icongoodreads32_zps60f83491.png  photo icontwitter-32x32_zpsae13e2b2.png  photo iconfacebook-32x32_zps64a79d4a.png

Cover Reveal Organized by:

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Quick Review: Parenting the Wholehearted Child

Parenting the Wholehearted Child: Captivating Your Child's Heart with God's Extravagant Grace
Parenting the Wholehearted Child by Jeannie Cunnion
Visit the Author's website HERE
Publisher: Zondervan
Publishing Date: April 8, 2014
Are you exhausted from the pressure to be a perfect parent raising perfect children in this imperfect world? Do you ever wonder, “How did these precious children get stuck with a parent like me?” If so, let these grace-drenched pages saturate your heart with God’s unfailing love while also equipping you to be a vessel of God’s unconditional love to your children.
With authenticity, conviction, and a lively sense of humor, Jeannie guides parents on a transformative journey into raising wholehearted—not perfect—children, who live from the freedom found in being wholeheartedly loved (and liked!) by God.
Parenting the Wholehearted Child equips parents with Biblical wisdom and practical ideas to teach children they are fully accepted by God, not because of anything they do or don’t do but because of everything Jesus has already done for them.
Woven throughout the book is the good news that it is God’s extravagant grace, not a parent’s perfect performance, that transforms the hearts of children.
I received this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. Buy a copy today.

My Thoughts:
Let me start by listing quickly what I liked: the writing was very well done and put together. Overall, the book was well organized. It would be quite easy for the reader to pick up and navigate.

As you read the Amazon reviews you will see the word 'grace' mentioned time after time. While I feel this was true of the book, I also felt an overwhelming need to be perfect. I find perfectionism and grace to be almost opposites of each other. How can one expect perfectionism from a human without leaving room for grace. Humans make mistakes, and they certainly always will, that is why I find we cannot expect perfectionism from anyone, but instead offer grace, room for mistakes, allowances to try again, space to teach and grow.

Wow I am getting a bit philosophical.....

While there was a fair amount of Biblical application, the book was too overly populated with Cunnion's stories of her kids and how absolutely perfect they act. Should we strive to teach our children to be like Jesus and want to raise them as Christians? As a Christian, YES. But I am also under the firm belief that I should allow my child to be a child. Teach and guide always, but an emphasis on play and learning needs to happen. Life goes by too quickly to expect them to act like adults from day one. Mistakes happen. Grace for the parent, yes please!, but grace for the child as well.

Because the book was well written and wasn't a complete mess itself, I am still giving it 2 stars. However, this book was a DNF for me. I found I wasn't getting what I was looking for from the text. I was also tired of story after story of the author's perfect children and wondering how on earth I could make my child so perfect. I put the book down wondering what I am doing wrong and how I could perfect my child. Blech. But again, there were a few good gems and the basic premise was there. This book would be a good read for the Christian parent who does believe perfectionism is attainable, or a reader looking for some pointers on raising a Christian child.