Sunday, September 25, 2011

Review of There You'll Find Me by Jenny B Jones

Finely Sinclair travels to Ireland to retrace the footsteps of her brother, Will, who had been killed in a terrorist attack two years previously. She's attempting to compose a song that will honor her brother's memory and use as her audition piece for the Manhattan Music Conservatory. On the plane, she meets Hollywood teen heartthrob, Beckett Rush, who is wrapping up the filming of his latest vampire movie in Ireland. Since she needs a tour guide and he needs an assistant, the two pair up. He's fascinated that she appears to be the only girl immune to his charm. In the midst of Finely's quest for her song, she breaks down and struggles with school, her feelings for Beckett, the overwhelming grief still plaguing her from the loss of her brother, and an English assignment at a local nursing home. Finely knows she's searching, but feels that God isn't listening. It'll take a miracle for her to find what she's searching for.

I selected this book to review because it's set in Ireland. That's really the only reason I selected - because I love anything Irish. I'd never read anything written by Jenny B Jones before, though I have several friends who have recommend her to me multiple times. I started the book thinking it'd be a light, sweet read. I was not prepared for the depths of emotions I felt while reading the book. Finely's soul searching is the biggest theme throughout the book. She's questioning if God is even listening to her anymore. Her host family, specifically the daughter Erin and the mother Nora, are concerned about her health. They can see right through the excuses that she gives. Her music teacher, Sister Maria, hears her play and tells her to follow Will's footsteps and listen to what God is telling her. Yet Finely has a hard time doing that. I've been there. Well not with the composing music part, but the part of having a hard time hearing God. I've questioned if God was even listening, and if He was, then why weren't things better? And I've asked why this had to happen, and I don't understand. All questions that Finely struggled with and discussed with Beckett about. But God still gets through in the end. The search for a specific cross proves to be Finely's breaking point. That and Mrs. Sweeney, her English assignment. Finely must find her hope in order to be able to soar freely.

I think that the message of searching for something that you don't even know about is the ultimate truth in the book. Finely didn't realize she needed hope. She wanted answers to her questions. And I know that those questions are ones I've asked over and over again as I've grown up. But it's the searching and the seeking that helps me grow. Because I discover, as Finely eventually does, that God is always listening and hadn't left. We just aren't truly hearing what He says.

I received this book for free for the purpose of review from My thoughts and opinions are my own.

Saturday, September 24, 2011


You know, I never really thought about how much I have spent on books in the past. I thought about that yesterday. Since I've started this blog and been reviewing books for Waterbrook, Bethany House, Thomas Nelson, and Tyndale, I've received (or will be receiving soon) 10 books to review. I've finished half of them. Am currently reading 2 more. Have 2 in transit. And 1 waiting for me to read. I added up the retail cost of each of these books. If I'd had bought them at the store, I'd have paid close to $140 total! Wow! That's 10 books I've received for free and I save $140! Good thing that my budget had already allocated that money onto other things.

My sales director picked up her hot new Mustang on Wednesday. We had a car party today at our sales meeting. It was fun! And then when I helped Laura to her car because she'd had so much with her, she gave me a ride to my car in the Mustang! I decided it's time to get to work and hold parties and team build so that I can get my own brand new Malibu! And so I've already got one party booked. Need to get 9 more on my books before next Saturday. Of course, the parties don't have to be held this week - just anytime between now and December. Also I need to place my order to get my holiday products before they sell out!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Review of Sound Among the Trees by Susan Meissner

When Marielle marries Carson Bishop and moves into the family home of his first wife, Sara, she is immersed into a house that is shrouded in grief and secrets. Holly Oak, the house, is a pre-Civil War antebellum home that survived the devastation of Fredericksburg, Virginia during the war. Marielle first hears of the alleged ghost, Susannah Page, haunting the house from Susannah's great-granddaughter, Adelaide, shortly after her arrival. Each of the women who have lived in the house have suffered deep sorrows. But is it the house seeking atonement or is it Susannah's ghost causing the women to suffer? Marielle must discover the truth for herself by reading Susannah's story and make up her own mind whether or not Susannah's ghost haunts the house. Was Susannah wrongly accused of being a Northern spy and sympathizer despite being married to a Confederate officer or was there something else behind the mystery that is Susannah is the question Marielle hopes to find an answer to so that she, her husband, and her stepchildren can put the past behind them and live as a new family.

Contemporary meets the Civil War. The setting was truly right up my alley as I'm long time fan of the Civil War period. The way that the mystery surrounding Susannah and her story in the contemporary portion of the book gripped me. I couldn't wait to uncover the truth along with Marielle. When I got to the portion of the book that told Susannah's story through letters to her cousin, I was even more fascinated. I finally understood the sacrifices that Susannah made to save the ones she loved.

I'd never read any of Susan Meissner's books before, and I have to wonder why. I'm not sure why I never gave her a chance, but I will definitely keep my eyes open for additional ones by her to read. I really enjoyed this book. Usually I'm reading 3 or 4 books at one time, and yes that was true in this case. But this was one I started on Sunday night and finished on Friday because I couldn't put it down. I found the book to be intriguing and different than most of the books I read as there were really two stories in the book - Susannah's and Marielle's.

I'd have to say that there were a total of four major characters in the book - Adelaide, Susannah, Marielle, and the house itself. I'd never really thought about a house as a character but because the house was so pivotal in each of the lives of the women, it was a character of its own. The understanding of love and sacrifice and survival is a strong theme in the book. Each human character must come to her own understanding of Susannah's past and the house in order to move on with her life. This appears to be easier for some than for others. I found myself thinking too about Susannah's story. And if I'd been in her shoes. Would I have had the strength and the courage to do what she did to save the ones she loved? Or would I have taken an easy way out? I don't know.

Overall, I'd rate this book four out five stars. I received this advance readers copy for free from Waterbrook/Multnomah for review. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Book Review - Out of Control by Mary Connealy

Rafe Kincaid is a man who is used to be in control. He runs a successful ranch and growing up had a tendency to control aspects of his younger brothers' lives. His perfectly controlled life is about to spin a bit out of control when he meets the beautiful Julia Gilliland. Julia is also used to being in control, specifically of her family. She is fascinated with geology and is enthralled by the idea of exploring the cavern she has found near her father's cabin. When she gets trapped in the cavern and Rafe rescues her, he takes control of the situation in the only way he can - he kisses her. Sparks begin to fly as these two battle over exploring the cavern. Add to the mix, Rafe's brothers and Julia's very pregnant stepmother, and a mysterious man bent on harming Julia and the result is that not only are sparks flying like crazy, but Rafe also has to come face to face with demons of his past.

This is the first book I've ever read by Mary Connealy. My cousin loves her books, so when this was a selection for me to pick for review, I picked it. I enjoyed the book. I found the characters to be very lively and engaging. I loved the humor that was laced through the book as well. I did think that the spiritual element could have been a little more entwined into the story and the characters' lives. There are really almost two budding romances in the story. Rafe and Julia is one. Ethan and Audra is the other. I will be passing this along to my cousin to read and I look forward to the next one in this series.

I received this book for free from Bethany House Publishers for the purpose of reviewing. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Remembering...10 years ago

I look back 10 years ago...

That Tuesday morning started off just like any other morning for me. I got up. Got ready for work. I was finishing up my 3rd or 4th week of teaching 3rd grade. The world was still a safe place.

You see, I'd graduated from college the previous December and here I was, fulfilling my dream, teaching 3rd grade. I'd always wanted to be a teacher. Ever since I was in 3rd grade and decided I wanted to grow up to be just like Mrs. Clark. But anyway, I digress.

The schoolday started off like the others so far this year. My class of 19 arrived and we started our day with Math. Then around 8:30, my kids joined another class for PE. This was my conference period. I remember it clearly. I was on the phone with a parent when the teacher in the room next to mine screamed. I dropped the phone and ran to her room. She had tears streaming down her face and said that her husband called to tell her to turn on the TV. And that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. I shook my head to fully grasp it. And my eyes were drawn to the TV. I was watching a replay of what only moments before had happened. There was smoke coming out of the top floors of the World Trade Center. And then the second plane hit. And not long after, the Pentagon.

I couldn't believe what I was watching. All of a sudden, my mental image of a safe, secure world was shattered. I was numb. The parent conference I was in the midst of conducting all of a sudden didn't really matter anymore. I don't remember if I finished the conference or not. The rest of the day was rather subdued. Parents started picking up their kids. The administration would send the librarian or one of the music teachers or someone from the office to the classrooms to get the child or children whose parents were there to pick up the kid. Sure the kids were wondering what was going on and why this child or that child was going home. They were also wondering why the teachers were not teaching class as usual. By lunchtime I had about 5 kids left in my class. I combined my class with two other teachers and we plugged in an educational video (or several of them) and let the kids watch them. We were glued to the news. The scheduled faculty meeting was canceled.

I got home. Somehow. Mom hadn't gotten home yet. But she got there shortly. I turned on the TV. I didn't care what channel I put it on, I just wanted it on. I saw the towers collapse.

The images that poured over the news that day and the rest of the week were startling. We may have had Bible Study that night. I don't really know. I remember that even if we didn't, the house was soon filled with the members of the Bible Study. There was a special service at the church the next night. I'd never seen the place so packed. And again on Sunday.

War and terrorism were real to me now. And I realized that in those moments I grew up. I no longer thought that America was safe. Safe from terrorism. Safe from attack. No longer.

I remember also sitting at lunch with my other teachers and one of them asking me how I could be so calm. I didn't feel calm. But I guess I had an outward appearance of calm. My reply to her was this "Even if something were to happen right here right now, I'm not worried. If I die, I'll immediately be sheltered in the arms of Jesus." I'd never been quite that bold before.

Words of patriotic songs took on new meanings. Heroes were found in the ordinary. I know that I gained a new appreciation for the police and the fire departments.


The last few days I've had the Alan Jackson song "Where Were You When The World Stopped Turning" running through my mind. I'm not the biggest fan of country music. Yet for some reason, these lines "Where were you when the world stopped turning on that September day?
Were you teaching a class full of innocent children" kept going through my head. Probably because I was teaching a class of innocent children.

I've grown up hearing how my mom felt when she got the news that Kennedy had been shot. My grandparents telling stories of December 7, 1941. Sure, I remember the Challenger explosion. I was actually sitting at school watching it. But as a child, it didn't register with me. This did. It's knowing that I was an adult at the time that this major piece of history happened. And that the world will never be the same again.

I'm linking a few of youtube videos that I think pay a powerful tribute. I take no credit for these videos. I think they're beautiful.

I'd love to be able to share the video lesson that my brother put together (or found) for his teaching on 9-11.

I know that this post is a bit different than most of mine. But I really wanted to reflect.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Dreams aren't they funny

The other night I had some pretty crazy dreams. I don't know if it was entirely due to the combination of watching NCIS, NCIS LA, reading, and being really tired or not. But in my dreams, somehow I was the main character in the historical fiction book I'm reading but it was combined with the investigations of NCIS and NCIS LA. Very strange. Because there I was in the long dress of the late 1800's being a part of crime solving with modern technology. I'm awfully glad that no one could analyze my dreams and tell me I'm crazy or something. :)

I know God uses and gives dreams to people to talk to them. The Bible is full of those incidents. I'm not sure if I've ever had God speak to me directly via a dream. I know of people who have though. And those people hold onto the promise they were given. I think it's neat to have faith like that.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Review of Mercy Come Morning

Krista's mother is in a top care facility for Alzheimer's patients. Krista travels to New Mexico to spend the last weeks of her mother's life with her. They've been estranged for years. Krista never understood her mother and feels that her mother never understood her. While there, she reconnects with her high school sweetheart, Dane. He tenderly cares for Krista's mother and for Krista while she searches for answers about her life, her mother's life, and her relationship with Dane.

I enjoyed this book. I've read several of Lisa Tawn Bergern's books before but it's been a long time. True the story started off a little slow, but it picked up as it moved along. Seeing how Dane's care facility was built around the Alzheimer's patients so that the patients could have the best care while still being free to live in their own worlds was very neat. What really got me though was seeing Krista let go and finally learn that her mother has always loved her - she just didn't know how to say the words.

I received this book for free from Waterbrook/Multnomah for the purpose of reviewing. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

God's Love Letters to You by Dr. Larry Crabb

Designed to be read as a daily devotional over a period of 40 days, Dr Larry Crabb highlights specific "Love Letters" from God, meaning books of the Bible. Each book is set up with a short letter where God is talking directly to you the reader. It then has a few thought provoking questions and a prayer to pray to help you get your mind onto the things God's teaching you in the chapters.

I've never read a devotional book that is set up as specific love letters. It was neat to find something that was out of my normal realm of reading. The nuggets gleaned from some of the chapters did make me want to turn to my Bible and read that particular book. I'm sad to say that I didn't act upon my instincts though. There were several letters that I enjoyed more than the rest. These included Ruth, Habakkuk, Luke, Ephesians, 2 Timothy, Hebrews, James, 1 John, and Revelation. Why did these particular letters stand out to me? Well aside from Ruth being my favorite book of the Bible, there was a lot I could learn about overcoming obstacles. The others did make me think or look at a concept in a different way.

For the most part, as a primarily fiction reader, this non-fiction book held my attention better than most nonfiction. I probably wouldn't have picked it up at the bookstore simply because it is nonfiction. But having given it a fair shot, I did enjoy it overall.

I received this book for free from Booksneeze for the purpose of reviewing. My thoughts and opinions are my own.