Monday, June 30, 2014

Inspired Thoughts

I finished reading "Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore" recently on a 2 hour car trip. It was a fascinating read, and while I am not looking to do a full review on the title, it did leave me with some lingering thoughts.

"Mr Penumbra" is a great combination of old, dusty books and shiny, new Google things. Normally, people would view those two at odds with each other, but here they played together so nicely. Author Robin Sloan was out to prove that you don't need one OR the other, but that the two can co-exist.

During one point of the novel our MC, Clay and girl interest Kat start talking about the Singularity. In layman's terms it is basically the point in humanity's future where technology becomes smarter than it's creator. This is apparently difficult for the human brain to grasp. Kat challenges Clay to think as far ahead into the future as he can; what will it be like. Of course he lists the things we all think of, flying cars, video phones, travelling in space, colonies on the moon and/or Mars....but what comes beyond that? What will humanity look like in 3014?  What comes after flying cars and virtual reality? Body and/or mood enhancers? (Never works. Ask the Doctor...) But what about beyond then? Where else can our ''me'' obsessed culture go?

One hundred years ago people would have had no concept of smart phones, e readers, Targets; how can we then try to fathom the future 1,000 years from now? Consider how quickly we have grown technologically since even the 1980s. Those smart phones people could never have dreamed of are so fully integrated into our everyday lives.

Since I struggle with the future, I thought back to the past; were there answers there? I was reminded of all the great inventions that have gotten us to where we are. And there is a difference between the 'most useful' inventions and the 'coolest' inventions. So I created a little list :) I tried to think of the inventions that truly revolutionized our world, and that I would hate to live without, versus inventions that we could do without, but are pretty cool and we wouldn't want to do with out

Most Useful:
-The printed press
-Automated 'house servants' (dishwashers, washing machines)
-motorized transportation
-Sliced Bread :))

-Touch Screens
-Blu Ray/DVDs
-Video games in general

I can't wait until those lists include flying cars, sonic showers, cancer cures, living books, holodecks, time travel, transporters, and lightsabers.

So what do you hope to see invented in the future?? What items can I add to my lists??

PS For more resources that explore this and similiar ideas read anything by Isaac Asimov, Johnny Depp's newest movie "Transcendence", and even season 4 episode 2 of the Big Bang Theory, to name a few   

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Princess Ever After Review

Princess Ever After by Rachel Hauck
Visit the author's website HERE
Publisher: Zondervan
Publishing Date: February 4, 2014
Netgalley Summary: 
Regina Beswick was born to be a princess. But she's content to be a small-town girl, running a classic auto restoration shop, unaware a secret destiny awaits her. One that will leap from the pages of her grandmother's hand-painted book of fairytales. Tanner Burkhardt is the stoic Minister of Culture for the Grand Duchy of Hessenberg. When he is tasked to retrieve the long-lost princess, he must overcome his fear of failure in order to secure his nation's future---and his own. Yet lurking in the political shadows is a fierce opponent with sinister plans to abolish the throne forever. Overwhelmed with opposition, Regina must decide if she's destined to restore old cars or an ancient nation. Together---with a little divine intervention---Regina and Tanner discover the truth of her heritage and the healing power of true love
I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. Buy a Kindle copy today !

My Thoughts:
I finally got my hands on the book I referenced in this Just a Thought post. I am sad that I don't have it in a physical copy to match book one of the series, but may just yet convince myself to go buy it. Especially since it is so pretty :)

"Princess Ever After" is a little weaker than it's predecessor, which I didn't review here on Sunrise Avenue, but heads up: I loved it. Still, it is a dreamy, romantic, princess read. Honestly? It reminded me a lot of the Princess Diaries movie. Regina, or Reggie, is the quintessential girl next door. She grew up in the South, loves cars and racing, and is the life of the party. Along comes handsome Tanner with some astonishing news: Reggie is the long-lost princess of Hessenberg and the country needs her help to restore their independence. Of course she is torn; should she leave everything and everyone she knows to accept her inheritance or let Hessenberg fend for itself.

I felt like I knew what Reggie's choice would be right from the beginning. Not just because it is the nature of the book, but because she herself seemed to accept it a lot easier than I expected. Of course she resisted a little bit, but she did it in such a way that it felt like even Reggie knew her ultimate choice. Because of this odd disconnect with herself, I also felt oddly disconnected to Reggie. Tanner on the other hand?? Yup, love him. He is smart, romantic, caring, and so respectful. Move aside Reggie...

Reggie and Tanner together? It is an odd combination. Their romance is one of the things I disliked about the book. Perhaps I would have appreciated it more if the author had been given more space to flesh it out. But trying to start a relationship while discovering your heritage, a new country, a new people and way of life, saying goodbye to everything you've ever known...yeah. Romance would be the last thing on anyone's mind. Sure, romantic interest, but Tanner and Reggie's relationship just progressed too quickly in the situation for me to believe.

Perhaps I am nitpicking or perhaps I am comparing it to the first book too much, but these 'little' things were so noticeable to me. And while I still loved the story, I really wish the author had been given more space and time to flesh things out. What I do like? Hauck's writing. She manages to create a whole country, people, and history flawlessly. Hauck takes a whole fictional world and seamlessly integrates into reality. I found myself frequently believing Hessenberg and her problems were real!

"Princess Ever After" is still a great fairy tale-esque story that speaks volumes to the little girl in me. And while I didn't experience smooth sailing, it is a book and series I could easily recommend to any reader who loves fairy tales, happy endings, and Princess Diaries. I gave book one 5 stars, but I am giving book two 4 stars. Can't wait to see what Hauck will do with her next installment!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Summer Book Bingo Reading!

I completely forgot to share a my Summer Book Bingo card! I found the bingo card generator from "Books on the Nightstand" podcast. I love that each card is unique and features different categories. I wanted to go with the first card I choose, so here is my card:

As you can see, I have already checked two off :) But my goal is to simply read as many off the board as possible. I'm going to get at least one bingo for sure, but I would also love to see myself getting an 'X' or a '+'.

Books Checked Off
All links lead to my reviews or the Goodreads page
Thriller/Suspense: Poirot Investigates
With a child on the Cover: Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full
Historical Fiction: The Butterfly and the Violin

I will continue to update throughout the summer! As you can see I have given myself until Labor Day. Join in the fun! Also check out these great bingo boards from Retreat by Random House. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Kissing Bridge Review

The Kissing Bridge (Seven Brides for Seven Bachelors #3)
The Kissing Bridge by Tricia Goyer
Visit the Author's Website HERE
Publisher: Zondervan
Publishing Date: April 1, 2014
Netgalley Review:
Caught between a stifling Amish community and an unnerving outside world, a devout young woman on the run is about to become the newest arrival to West Kootenai, Montana. On the day of her sister's death, Rebecca Troyer took her first step away from the Amish. Rebecca had always strayed a little outside the fold---a job at an Englisch bakery, long weekends with non-Amish friends---but nothing could have prepared her family for what she is about to do: Rebecca is abandoning the community to attend nursing school. She is headed to college, into 'the world.' But she has to make it across the country first. When she stops in West Kootenai, at the home of a lapsed Amish friend from her youth, Rebecca finds a lot more in Montana than she had bargained for---namely a handsome working man named Caleb Hooley. Caleb is at a crossroads of his own. A daredevil bachelor with high standards, he has decided he'll never find an Amish woman who can quench his thirst for adventure. Needless to say, the pretty Amish girl who has fled her community in secret catches his attention immediately. As hearts are opened and secrets are revealed, Rebecca and Caleb find they have much more in common than just their Amish background. But can this runaway find love with a risk-taker who has lost his faith in God? All it will take is one week in the wilderness to find out . . .
I recieved this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. The Kindle version is $7.99 today! (6/20/14)

My Thoughts:
"The Kissing Bridge" is book three of Goyer's "Seven Brides for Seven Bachelors" series. I read and reviewed book two and rated it with 3.5 stars. Seeing book  three up on Netgalley was pretty exciting and I jumped on it right away. 

Overall, and honestly, I didn't think "The Kissing Bridge" was as good as "The Promise Box". Unlike the last book, I struggled to connect with the characters. This is purely a personal judgement, but I just couldn't come to understand them. Why did Rebecca have to run away? If Rebecca truly didn't judge Marianna, why was their friendship now full of secrets and holes? Caleb initially falls in love with Rebecca because he thinks she is daring, yet Rebecca is turned off by Caleb's wild how exactly did they fall in love again? Plus, I have never in my life experienced a moment where I felt compelled to put schooling or work ahead of love and family so I just couldn't understand where Rebecca was coming from. 

I enjoyed reading more about Marianna and Ben. Each time they are mentioned in these following books, it feels like getting a peek behind the "Happily Ever After" curtain. They are married, and they are in love, but life is still tough. Marianna is still struggling to level out her Amish upbringing and new modern life. Together they are also struggling to conceive a child. I love that Goyer keeps adding the previous couples into the current books. It adds such a layer of real-ism.  I really hope she continues to do this, especially bringing us more Lydia and Gideon, throughout the series as it adds such life to the books. 

One of my biggest loves, and takeaways, of "The Promise Box" was the idea behind the Promise Box itself. I couldn't wait to see what Goyer was going to do with kissing bridges. Sadly, it felt like she didn't do as much. Bridges seemed important to Rebecca, but I never truly understood why or felt the weight of importance myself. Slight spoiler ahead:: Towards the end of the book a bridge is used in a double whammy event. The first event seemed unnecessary to me and I read through it quickly hoping to get to the second event that I was anticipating. End slight spoiler.

Even though I couldn't connect to "The Kissing Bridge" as well as I was hoping, Goyer still does a good job of breaking the typical Christian Romance storyline molds. I may have wanted more from the ending, but I appreciate that it wasn't so cut and dry. It leaves room for imagination and, hopefully, seeing them in further books. Goyer is still a master writer and I will continue to read her books! I am rating this particular work with 3 stars. I would recommend it to readers of Amish fiction, Christian Romance, and to those who've enjoyed Goyer's previous works.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

New on the Shelves (2)

I don't think I will be making this feature a habit but I have just been so blessed lately to receive so many books! I need to highlight a few more :))

Books I have won around the web....
The Waiting: The True Story of a Lost Child, a Lifetime of Longing, and a Miracle for a Mother Who Never Gave Up
The Waiting by Cathy LaGrow
Won a Copy from Young Wife's Guide
Goodreads Summary:
An unforgettable true story that will touch your heart and make you believe in love's enduring legacy, and in the power of prayer.In 1928, 16-year-old Minka was on a picnic in the woods when she was assaulted and raped. And suddenly this innocent farm girl--who still thought the stork brought babies--was pregnant. The baby was secretly born, named Betty Jane, and given up for adoption. For decades, Minka wrote letters trying to get news of her daughter; she kept loving and praying for her, even though she never dared believe they would meet again. Until nearly eighty years later, when Minka whispered her secret, impossible prayer for the first time: "Lord, I'd like to see Betty Jane before I die. I promise I won't bother her or interrupt her life. I just want to lay eyes on her." Unbeknownst to Minka, that very same day, a judge was releasing the sealed adoption records to her 77-year-old daughter. And soon, Minka's phone would ring. Written by Cathy LaGrow (Minka's granddaughter), "The Waiting" brings three generations of this most unusual family together over the course of a century to tell a story of faith that triumphs, forgiveness that sets us free, and love that never forgets.

Temptation (Temptation, #1)
Temptation by Karen Ann Hopkins
Won a copy from Somewhere Only We Know
Goodreads Summary:
Your heart misleads you.
That's what my friends and family say.  
But I love Noah. 
And he loves me.  
We met and fell in love in the sleepy farming community of Meadowview, while we rode our horses together through the grassy fields and in those moments in each other's arms. 
It should be  
forever, easy. 
But it won't be. 
Because he's Amish. 
And I'm not.

Subterranean by James Rollins
Won a copy from Cheap Thrills
Goodreads Summary:
Travel to the bottom of the earth to a place you never dreamed existed. Beneath the ice a hand-picked team of specialist makes its way toward the center of the world. They are not the first to venture into this magnificent subterranean labyrinth. Those they follow did not return.

Over the rocks...Across the yawning caverns...beyond the black river...You are not alone. Into the darkness where breathtaking wonders await you-and terrors beyond imagining...Revelations that could change the world-things that should never be disturbed...At the bottom of the earth is the beginning. Keep moving toward a miracle that cannot be, toward a mystery older than time.

In Her Dreams by Katherine Givens
Won during Armchair BEA
Netgalley Summary:
A flirty, fun, mix-and-match romance about two sisters who are betrothed to the wrong men...

Evangeline Vernon is a woman on the verge of spinsterhood — until the prim and proper Duke of Manchester steps in. Her family is pleased with the match, but the duke is not the passionate man Evangeline craves. Her heart belongs to an alluring, golden-haired gentleman, perfect in every way...except one: he doesn’t exist. 

Angela Vernon is everything a proper, well-brought-up woman should be. She knows her place and understands society’s expectations — which include not being jealous of her sister and not coveting her sister’s suitor. But how can she bear the heartache of watching the only man she loves marry not only her sister, but a woman who doesn’t see past his exterior to the man he is beneath?

And from Baker Publishing...
Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look
Atlas Girl by Emily T Wierenga
Goodreads Summary:
Disillusioned and yearning for freedom, Emily Wierenga left home at age eighteen with no intention of ever returning. Broken down by organized religion, a childhood battle with anorexia, and her parents' rigidity, she set out to find God somewhere else--anywhere else. Her travels took her across Canada, Central America, the United States, the Middle East, Asia, and Australia. She had no idea that her faith was waiting for her the whole time--in the place she least expected it.

Poignant and passionate, Atlas Girl is a very personal story of a universal yearning for home and the assurance that we are known, forgiven, and beloved. Readers will find in this memoir a true description of living faith as a two-way pursuit in a world fraught with distraction. Anyone who wrestles with the brokenness we find in the world will love this emotional journey into the arms of the God who heals all wounds.

And from Booklook...
Home Behind the Sun: Connect with God in the Brilliance of the Everyday
Home Behind the Sun by Timothy Willard and Jason Locy
Goodreads Summary:
Timothy Willard and Jason Locy show readers how to discover the brilliance of God in the shadows of everyday life.
Life opens up before each of us, it beckons, it tempts, it thrills, it betrays. And what do we desire? All of it and none of it.
We're not in this to survive, but to live. We want to experience joy in the everyday grind of work, relationships, and parenting. We want healing in our suffering. Forgiveness in the midst of our pains. Purpose through the journey. We want to break free from the temporal and live with an eternal perspective. We want to be brilliant.

In Home Behind The Sun coauthors Timothy Willard and Jason Locy invite you to step out of the shadows and into the brilliance. They want to introduce you to the God of the mysterious. A God who combats despair with joy, topples bitterness with forgiveness, and eliminates cynicism with belief and whimsy.
You’re invited home. Home, behind the sun.

So suffice it to say... I had better get to reading! Whew! What are you reading this week??

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Book of Not So Common Prayer Review

The Book of Not So Common Prayer by Linda McCullough Moore
Visit the Author's Website HERE
Publisher: Abingdon Press
Publishing Date: June 3, 2014
Netgalley Review: 
Do you want to pray deeper, longer, more fervently? Do you want to move from the same old, same old prayer routine to a radical, challenging, and inspiring prayer life? Do you want to put more meaning and effort into your conversations with God?
The Book of Not-So Common Prayer is a handbook that combines spiritual insight with practical action steps you can take to change your prayer habits—and change your life. In describing her own transformation from a person who prayed on the run to a person who prays four times a day, Linda McCullough Moore builds a compelling case for a life founded on prayer. Drawing inspiration from the ancient practice of meditation, Moore shows how any time spent in prayer will transform the time you spend with your family, at work, or in play. She then delivers a well-supported methodical process you can follow to experience more depth, meaning, and joy in your prayers.
A masterful blend of useful models and stories of transformation, this beautifully written, evocative, and intelligent handbook will inspire you to embark on a new adventure in faith . . . one step at a time.
I recieved this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. The Kindle version is $9.99today! (6/13/14)

My Thoughts:
If there is one thing I am particularly bad at making time for, it is prayer. I snatched up this book the instant I saw it on Netgalley, hoping it would be what my soul was looking for. It was and it wasn't. 

McCullough writes very intelligently and thoroughly. She takes prayer and breaks it down into the whos, whats, and hows. I especially enjoyed her chapter on the theology behind prayer. Asking herself "...what do I believe about the nature of the practice and the One to whom I pray?"(location 1203) and finding Tozer with a wise answer: "'Acquaint thyself with God.' If this is not the business of our prayers, then I don't know what is.' (location 1212) I loved this 'smart' look at prayer. Too often authors, pastors, teachers, tell us to just go with our gut or to talk to God like a friend. But I am the sort of person who needs it all broken down piece by piece, and McCullough delivers on this aspect. 

Mostly, I loved reading her talk about the 'old' and 'classic' ways of prayer. For example, McCullough states clearly that she is not from the Catholic church, but she has found beauty and meaning in crossing herself throughout the day. This resonated with me because I am also not from the Catholic church, know very little about it, but yet have found myself wanting to cross myself after some of my prayers. The idea, at it's most basic level, is that a person crosses themselves (touching forehead, heart, and each shoulder) as a reminder of the Trinity. Frequently people just go through the motion, but when you stop and truly focus on the divinity of the Trinity or even the Cross, it becomes a beautiful touchstone, a pause, a reminder of who He is. 
I can say that praying with my mind, and heart, and body is a blessed thing to do, not artificial or self-conscious, but right and purposeful and true. Movement helps to concentrate my thoughts;.....In many congregations, making the sign of the cross is not a native practice. Perhaps it should be, not by rote, nor in response to a formal signal, but in the ordinary moment when the heart cries, 'Bless me Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.' (l. 760, 772)
I love the simplicity. I love the cry to take it all back to the Lord, to take it back to the only one who matters.

Overall, 'The Book of Not So Common Prayer' was approachable, thought-provoking, and an excellent intermediate level book on prayer. The book has challenged me to read further on prayer (especially some earlier works) and shake up the ole prayer routine. I am rating this book with 4 stars and could easily recommend it to someone who was looking at a more indepth look at prayer, someone who wants to learn the ins and outs, or a reader looking for some new prayer practices. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

New on the Shelves (1)

I haven't always shared my new books, but this week I got approved for a lot of great books on Netgalley this week! I just have to share :)) I won't share each Goodreads summary here because I don't want the world's longest post :/, but please take a few seconds to check out each one through the links!

Evil Librarian
Evil Librarian by Michelle Knudsen
Goodreads Summary

Team Us: Marriage Together
Team Us: Marriage Together by Ashleigh Slater
Goodreads Summary

All's Fair in Love and Cupcakes
All's Fair in Love and Cupcakes by Betsy St. Amant
Goodreads Summary

The Butterfly and the Violin (Hidden Masterpiece, #1)
The Butterfly and the Violin by Kristy Cambron
Goodreads Summary

Parenting the Wholehearted Child: Captivating Your Child's Heart with God's Extravagant Grace
Parenting the Wholehearted Child by Jeannie Cunnion
Goodreads Summary

I am set for the summer!! Get any awesome books this week??