Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Top Ten Books That Were Hard for Me to Read

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke & the Bookish

This week's topic is the top ten books that were hard for me to read be it subject matter, difficult book, cringeworthy, etc.

So it got me thinking. What have been some books that have been hard to read for me? My first response is anything non-fiction,  but then I realized that there are some fiction books on the list. So here they are - a mix of nonfiction, fiction (both Christian & secular), and classic literature.

1.  The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell - This was  being read as a book study for a Mary Kay thing I was going through. I love my best friend. She ADORES nonfiction, and agreed to read this with me so that I could actually read it and stay in the class. I can't remember when I read a more boring book. In fact, I don't think we finished it. Reason for top 10: difficult to read

2. The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling - I knew going into it that it wasn't Harry Potter and not to expect Harry Potter. But I can't remember what I expected, but it sure wasn't what I got! I really felt dirty after reading this book. Reason for top 10: cringe-worthy

3. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte - I read this in 8th grade. I remember hating it. I've not picked it up to read again since. On the flip side, when I read Wuthering Heights my senior year, I LOVED it! Reason for top 10: boring

4. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald - This was also required reading in school. Sometime in high school I believe. To this day, I still don't know what it's about as I don't remember a thing about it.
Reason for top 10: probably boring

5. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens - I've actually suffered through this book twice. Once in high school and once in college. I remember some of it (Pip, Miss Haversham), but that's it. I've read other works by Dickens that I have enjoyed, but this one was just not for me. Reason for top 10: struggle to read

6. Veiled Rose by Anne Elisabeth Stengl - I love fantasy. It's one of my favorite genres. I understand that Christian Fantasy has some high expectations to live up to (ie Chronicles of Narnia & Tolkien). But this one. It kept putting me to sleep. Often. And I was completely lost. It probably would have been helpful to have read the first book before this one. Reason for top 10: put me to sleep

7. Do You Think I'm Beautiful by Angela Thomas - The first time I attempted this, I got to page 11 and couldn't go on. Not because it was cringeworthy, but because I didn't want to hear the message. It was causing me to face things in my own life that I didn't want to face. Fast forward five years, I gave the book another chance and did manage to get through it. Thanks again to my best friend. She and I would read a chapter and talk about it together. It really ended up being a really good book. Reason for top 10: difficult to read

8. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by JK Rowling - I'm sure that this shocks most of you. Especially if you've known me longer than a minute. But when the first book came out, I really wasn't all that interested in it. In fact my college roommate had to read it for her Children's Literature Class and asked me to read it out loud. By the time we got to chapter 5, she asked me to read and give her enough info to pass the test, which I did. I liked it, but didn't love  it. It wasn't until I was teaching and my students were talking about seeing the movie, and I decided to see the movie, that I fell in love with the series. I now count this series as one of my favorites. Reason for top 10: wasn't interested

9. Wings of Glass by Gina Holmes - The topic of this one is very hard. It's not one for the light-hearted. The book deals with abuse and how the victim chooses to stay in the relationship. This was a book that surprised me. It really drew me in. I gave it 5 stars last year. This one is probably the only one on the list that I've got on here because of the subject matter.  Reason for top 10: subject matter

10. Kingdom Come by Tim LaHaye & Jerry Jenkins - I recently wrote a post where I ranted about this book and you can read my rant here. I did find it hard to read. And I was so disappointed in this. Which as a result, has made me disappointed in the authors.
Reason for top 10: cringe-worthy (for me at least)

And there you have it. My top ten.

What are yours? Tell me in the comments section. Leave me a link to your post and I'll stop by for a visit. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Tried & True - A Review

Published - September 2014, Bethany House Books
Series - Wild at Heart Book 1
Author - Mary Connealy
Title - Tried & True
Format - ebook, paper, audio
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Kylie Wilde fought for the Union disguised as a man. She, along with her older sisters, still dress as men in the wild west in order to claim their years of service as an exemption for homesteading. However, she'd much rather dress in skirts and have her hair long. When land agent Aaron Masterson arrives on her claim, he soon discovers that she is in fact a woman. In good conscience, Aaron can't allow for Kylie to live as a man just to claim the exemption. Yet someone wants Kylie's land, whether she is dressed as a man or as a woman. Aaron soon discovers that he will do anything in his power to keep Kylie safe. But will it be enough?

I've long enjoyed Mary Connealy's books. Each one is filled with humor and fun. This one was no different. I loved some of the situations Kylie finds herself in. She falls off a roof into the arms of Aaron. She finds herself put in jail. And others.

Kylie was just fun to read about. I could tell that she loves her family and they her. It'll be fun to read Shannon's story next and see how Matt Tucker and she go together. My prediction for book 3 is that Bailey will find her match in Gage Coulter. But of course, I could be wrong.

Still with this book, the reader is introduced to another fun cast of characters that, thankfully, will be carried over into books 2 and 3.

One of the things that I love the best about Connealy's books is that they are light-hearted. It doesn't take a lot of brain power to read them. And I can truly just sit back and enjoy it. This was the perfect book to read at work on breaks - I didn't start crying like I do with some, and it made me laugh.

Now if only next summer would get here so I can read Shannon's story!

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

Recommended to fans of Mary Connealy, Karen Witemeyer, cowboys, romantic comedies, westerns

Rating - 4 stars

Sunday, September 28, 2014

September Bride - A Review

Published - August 26, 2014, Zondervan Books
Series - A Year of Weddings
Author - Kathryn Springer
Title - September Bride
Format - ebook
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Annie Price hopes that Red Leaf will be a place to start over. A place for her to finally find a home. She's soon a respected member of the community and assisting the historical society on a re-enactment of a historical wedding, as the bride. Deputy Jesse Kent can't believe that his mother turned over the managing of the bookstore to a complete stranger. Yet when he meets Annie, he is drawn to her. He has a hard time setting aside his hurt from the past to get through to who Annie is. He soon finds himself paired with her as the groom in the re-enactment. As they prepare for the wedding, they both start feeling things for the other. Can Annie find a place to call home with Jesse? And will Jesse be able to finally set aside his doubts and trust Annie?

I really enjoyed this one. It's not my favorite of the series, but it is sweet. I loved how Annie initially met Jesse - he pulled her over because of a broken tail light. I also loved how Jesse wanted to protect his mother.

I'll admit I giggled a bit when these two were thrust together into the roles of bride and groom for the wedding re-enactment. But as the story went on and the secrets were uncovered, I found myself really hoping that Annie really was all she seemed to be.

I received a Kindle copy of this book from Thomas Nelson/Zondervan's Booklook Blogger program for the purpose of reviewing. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

Recommended to fans of weddings, novellas, Love Inspired, romantic comedies

Rating - 4 stars

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten Books on My Fall To Be Read List

Top Ten Tuesday is a feature hosted by The Broke & the Bookish

This week's list is the Top Ten books on my Fall To Be Read List. This is really hard for me. So I'm only listing ones that I know come out this fall.

1. Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan - I cannot wait for this conclusion. I will drop EVERYTHING to read it. I've loved this series and the Percy Jackson books.

2. Surprised by Love by Julie Lessman - I've enjoyed this series so much and am looking forward to Megan's story.

3. Deceived by Irene Hannon - well I've already read it because I got my review copy in early. But the review goes live next week. Trust me when you read it and see why I've got it on my list.

4.Love Unexpected by Jody Hedlund - I love Jody's rich novels. This is the first in a series, so I'm really excited about it.

5. Tried & True by Mary Connealy - I love her books. This one came out August/September and I've had it in my pile.

6. Where Treetops Glisten - It's a WWII novella collection. Can't wait to read it.

7. The Butterfly and the Violin by Kristy Cambron- it's been making the rounds on Goodreads and I'm wanting to read it.

8. At Bluebonnett Lake by Amanda Cabot - This Texas girl loves sweet romances. It looks to be a fun read

9. A Most Inconvenient Marriage by Regina Jennings - the cover's caught my eye on this one.

10. The Princess Spy by Melanie Dickerson - another fairytale retelling. Of Course I'll read it.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Love's Fortune - A Review

Published - September 2014, Revell Books a division of Baker Publishing Group
Series - Ballantyne Legacy Book 3
Author - Laura Frantz
Title - Love's Fortune
Format - ebook, paper
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Rowena Ballantyne has lived a sheltered life in her Kentucky home. When a rare letter from her Pittsburgh family summons her father back to the city, Wren has no idea that her life is about to change drastically. When she meets her wealthy family members and enters their world, Wren feels more like a country girl than the beautiful debutante they want her to be. James Sackett has been a pilot for the line of Ballantyne streamers. With danger following him closely, he's asked to winter in Pittsburgh. James and Wren soon strike up a friendship, and when he's asked to be her escort for the upcoming social season, he agrees. Wren's duty is to make a match. A wealthy match. Yet her heart is pulled to James. Will James be a gentleman and let her do her duty, or will he follow his heart and claim this songbird as his own?

I have loved both of the other two books in this series, so I had extremely high expectations for this one. I am thrilled to say that it met and exceeded my high expectations. I think that this book is my favorite in the series. Once again, Laura has crafted a novel rich in historical detail. The story itself is beautiful as well.

I adored James. I thought that his struggle was so well written. He loved Wren, yet he knew that they couldn't be together and that it was his job to see her engaged to someone suitable. Yet still he struggled. He struggled with his feelings. He struggled with what would be best for Wren. He struggled with knowing that by loving her, he would could very well be tying her to a marked man.

I also enjoyed Wren. I loved how she was so honest. Even when her family tried to change her, she still was so true. But she was also the good girl and wanted to please. In some ways, I'd say that was her biggest flaw.

Of the secondary characters, Izannah was my favorite. I thought that she was one character who could easily have stolen the show. I would love to have read more about her and her family of brothers. But I loved how she was so supportive of Wren.

I kept turning page after page just engrossed in this book. I really didn't want the book to end. I think it took me just a little over a week to read this as I was reading at work. I've yet to discover a Laura Frantz book I haven't enjoyed, though I've not yet read all of hers. I do own some on my Kindle that are waiting for that someday to come when I can read them.

While this is book 3 in the series, it stands alone and could be read out of order. I personally recommend reading them in order as the experience is very rich.

I received a copy of this book for free from the author and another copy from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing. My thoughts and opinions are my own. I've already shared one copy with a friend. :)

Recommended to fans of Gone With the Wind, historical fiction, Cathy Gohlke, Laura Frantz, family dramas, Julie Lessman, JoAnne Bischof

Rating - 5 stars

Go behind the scenes of how a book cover is made.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Bride in Store - A Review

Published - August 2014, Bethany House Publishers
Series - Unexpected Brides Book 2
Author - Melissa Jagears
Title - A Bride in Store
Format - ebook, paper
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Mail-order bride, Eliza Cantrell is so anxious to meet her future husband that she arrives a week ahead of schedule. Only things haven't gone as she planned. First the train she's on is robbed and she's relieved of her dowry. Then when she does arrive, she finds that Axel, her groom, isn't even in town. William Stanton, Axel's business partner, would make a much better doctor than store owner. When Eliza arrives, wounded, with no money and no groom in sight, Will feels responsible for her. Sparks soon fly between Eliza and Will. Matters are only complicated when Axel finally does make an appearance. What will Will and Eliza both be willing to sacrifice to chase their dreams or does God have a bigger plan in place for them?

After being delighted by the first book in this series last year, I was eager to read this one. I'd met Will in the first book and had no idea that his story would be in this one. Until I started reading it. And then I was delighted to read about Will as a grown rather than the teen he'd been in the first book.

I love the sparks that fly between Eliza and Will. I also love how even though he has no formal schooling or training, Will is the town's favored doctor. The journeys that both main characters go on shows how deep they really are. I also loved how each was willing to give up their own dream for the other's happiness.

For me, this was a quick read. The story moved along at a smooth pace and the characters were delightful. My heart broke for the family when their new baby died.

I'm really hoping that we get to catch up again with Eliza and Will in the third book.

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

Recommended to fans of historical romance, mail order brides, Karen Witemeyer, Jody Hedlund, Mary Connealy

Rating - 4 stars

Friday, September 12, 2014

A Rant of Sorts

Sometimes I just have to wonder what I'm thinking. For most of this past summer, I've been listening to the Left Behind Series mainly because the first book was part of the Tyndale Summer Reading Program. And while it was nice to revisit this series, I see now why I never took the time reading either the prequels or the final one Kingdom Come. The final one came out 7 years ago, and by that point I was already over the series. Especially since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows came out that year.

This isn't exactly a review per say, it's really more of a rant.

For those who haven't read either the Left Behind Series or this book, here is what this one is about.
Following the years of the Tribulation and Christ's triumphant victory over the Antichrist, Nicolae Carpathia, believers have been reunited with their loved ones. Set during the Millennial Kingdom, Rayford Steele and others who survived are enjoying the peaceful kingdom of Christ on earth. His grandson, Kenny Williams, has grown up and is working with his parents at a child care center. When he is asked to infiltrate a group of dissidents, he agrees. Though he realizes it could very cost him the love of the woman he is in love with. But with lies cast against his character and Kenny's parents and friends doubting him, Kenny must trust in Jesus in a way he never has.

Ok, so that's pretty much the synopsis. This book was not only VERY slow moving, but I felt it wasn't even written by the same people. There is so much wrong with this book. I think I see why I've never actually read it when it came out. I didn't need to know what was going on. I think that the authors decided to capitalize on the success of the series and truly only wrote this for the money.

From my understanding of Scripture, I've always been taught that Jesus is the ultimate sacrifice for our sins and that there is no need to offer the Old Testament sacrifices again. In this book, it appears that life in the kingdom is like the Old Testament times - sacrifices and all - only with Jesus as the ruler of the world.

It has also been my understanding of Scripture (and I admit that I could be completely wrong!) that the Church will need no need for food, drink, sleep, etc during this period. The authors have chosen to make even those who were either Raptured or martyred need food, drink, sleep, etc. The authors have also chosen to make the main characters (Rayford, Irene, Abdullah, Chloe, Cameron, Chaim, Tsion, etc) even those who have glorified bodies be in need of food, drink, sleep, etc.

Also, this book introduces a whole new cast of characters while not even mentioning some of the others (Chang, Leah, Hannah, Naomi, etc). I've also been given the impression that the characters (all of them including those who have been glorifed) still go through the normal human emotions.

There are VERY large pieces of the book are basically retelling pages after pages of the main series. And HUGE passages of nothing but Scripture. I don't mind the characters speaking Scripture, I really don't, but the large amounts of it, specifically within the heroes stories, I found to be very tedious and did nothing to move the plot along.

The action scenes are really few and far between. When there is action, it does move quickly, but I've been bogged down in the rest of the "filler" that I'm like oh There's the story!

After the authors have invested twelve books developing the characters, they (the characters) had depth to them. They also had personalities and I felt like I knew them. Yet in this book, the characters are very flat. These are characters that have been fleshed out since the first book (Rayford, Chaim, Chloe, Cameron, Tsion). I felt really cheated. Here were characters I'd come to really know and love and I'm left with really nothing to them.

There are times when I really liked Kenny. But so much of the interactions with Kenny are juvenile and seem to just be a case of "he said/she said." Once everything was wrapped up with Kenny, what happens to him was almost an afterthought. I expected more. Oh and the ultimate final battle. It was like only a chapter long.

What happened to the thrill ride of an adventure I'd come to enjoy and expect from the Left Behind series? Why did the authors write this book as if it's target audience was between the ages of 10-14? I know that my reading tastes have changed over the years since I first read Left Behind. But even with my reading tastes changing, I can still recognize quality when I read it.

Yes, I forced myself to finish the book, mainly because I'd already invested in the series and I really don't like not finishing books I start.

If I had to recommend this book to someone, I truly wouldn't. I've been left feeling very disappointed in a series I've enjoyed over the years. While I don't feel the same way about this one that I felt about Casual Vacancy by Rowling (I felt really disgusted with that one), this is not one I'd recommend. I'd tell you, reader friends, that just read the 12 books in the main series and don't even waste your time or money on this one.

 The rating I'd give this one is 1.5 stars, which I wouldn't round up at all.

This is my own personal opinion and I received absolutely zero compensation for sharing my thoughts. I'd actually read this book via Audible.

Rant over.

Those who know me, know that I will very rarely go off on a rant like I just did. Because that's just not my personality. But every once in a while, I will need to get something off my chest. This particular post, I'll leave comments available for one week and then lock the comments because I don't want it to turn into a debate.

I will say that Audible gets 5 stars on customer service! I had a problem with the playback on Thursday, and through a series of tweets, I worked with the people at Audible to figure out what I needed to do for the problem. They were very very helpful. And while this was my first time to seek help via Twitter, I was very surprised by the fast response.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Nowhere to Turn - A Review

Published - August 2014, Revell Books a division of Baker Publishing House
Series - Hidden Identity Series Book 2
Author - Lynette Eason
Title - Nowhere to Turn
Format - paper, ebook
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For years, Danielle Harding has suffered abuse in silence. On the same day that she and her son leave her husband, is the same day that she becomes a widow. Feeling free at last, Dani and her son set about building a new life. But when what she thought was just a stalking incident escalates into being threatened at gunpoint, Dani is fearful for her life. Evidently she has something of her husband's that someone wants. Not knowing who to trust, Dani turns to Operation Refuge. Adam Buchanan is sent to protect Dani and her son. Yet as the danger grows, so do the feelings Adam feels for Dani. Will Dani be forced to run for her life yet again or will she find the courage to stand tall and not only accept Adam's love, but also his protection?

I've read a few of Lynette Eason's books before and have found them to be very suspenseful. This one was good, but not enthralling like some of her others.

It was very suspenseful, true. I'd figured out pretty early exactly how the stalker kept finding Dani's location at each new safe house, so when that was actually revealed, I wasn't surprised. I thought that the characters were pretty well developed as a whole. Simon, Dani's son, was probably my favorite.

I didn't see that this book had quite the same element of suspense as the first in this series. And when the overall villain was revealed, I felt it had come out of nowhere. Still I did enjoy the book. It was a fast read for me.

I received this book for free from Revell Books for the purpose of reviewing. I was not required to like the book, only give my honest opinion. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

Recommended to fans of Lynette Eason, Irene Hannon, romantic suspense, Dee Henderson

Rating - 3.5 stars - This is another time that I wish that Amazon/Goodreads would offer half ratings! It's not a four star book, but it's not a 3 either. But I will rank it for Amazon/Goodreads as 3.