Thursday, October 20, 2016

Another Time Around the Track

Last spring, I found a book series on Hoopla Digital that I really enjoyed it.  It was a series about the Christiansen Family by Susan May Warren.  So, I was curious about her new series that begins with Wild Montana Skies.  This book is about a pilot, Kacey Fairing, who is returning home from a deployment to Afghanistan--trying to recover and cope with PTSD.  Enter her daughter, Audrey, and Kacey's high school boyfriend, Ben King.

The book follows these three as they cope with a weather tragedy and as Ben and Kacey try to help others in need.  This is a story of the truth coming out.  It is a contemporary romance, but it isn't as bad as a Harlequin--or as bad as the second book I'm reviewing in this post.

I like some romance in a novel.  There's plenty in Wild Montana Skies for me.  It isn't too physically descriptive, though, and I'm grateful for that.  This is the funny part of romance novels to me.  Where is the line that bothers me when it comes to romance?

I think the line is the one between the words "hot" and "handsome".  When an author's tone about romance tends towards the first word, the descriptions tend to be more physically graphic and rooted in the surface physical attraction between characters.  When an author's tone gravitates towards the second word, there is more of a lasting type of emotion that's not just about physical attraction.  It's more about the heart and feels more grounded somehow.

The second book I read this week was Irene Hannon's new book Tangled Webs.  This romantic suspense tends towards the first word more, which is why I didn't like it.  It felt more Harelequin-like.  The attraction between the two main characters was instant and felt very unrealistic because of the issues they were both dealing with and--PTSD--for different reasons.  I read this book because I've
wanted to give Christian Suspense another chance.  I enjoyed the last book I read by Lynnette Eason,
because it wasn't so focused on romance.  This book, on the other hand, was far more romance than suspense.

The two main characters, Dana and Finn, are neighbors at a lake.  After first meeting and realizing they are both attracted to each other, Finn finds reasons to be around Dana more.  Enter the suspense-- two people who don't want Dana to stay in the cabin where she's residing.  As the story progresses and Finn tries to figure out who is threatening Dana, they begin dating.  I wasn't sure that how PTSD plays out for both of the main characters was really realistic, either, which took away from the story for me--that's the difficulty I run into sometimes with realistic fiction.

One thing I will say for the romance in this book, even though it is more Harlequin-like in tone, the author doesn't cross any physical boundaries that I was really uncomfortable with.  A few months ago, I read a few pages in a secular romance novel just to understand what it was like.  It only took a few pages and I had to quickly put it down because it was unwise for me to read.  The pages were filled with cussing, physical affection that was far too physical for me to be comfortable with, and an attitude towards dating that reminded me of the difference having God in my life makes in my relationships.

Please note that I received complimentary copies of these books from the publisher.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Melody Carlson's Annual Christmas Novel

For the past few years, I have enjoyed reading Melody Carlson's annual Christmas novels.  Every Fall, a new one comes out.  This year's novel is titled The Christmas Angel Project.  With this story, it's hard to explain the story without giving the crux of the plot away.  So, I'm not going to.  This story is one of 4 friends who grow and walk through some tough times together around Christmas.

Melody Carlson writes these novels like Hallmark Channel Christmas movies (since they're the only ones nowadays who really make cheesy movies like the story of these books).  But, they're fun to read.  There's something about Christmas that makes people think of healing, family, friends, and fellowship.  That's what this book is all about.

Does the plot flow?  Yes.  Are the characters flawed, yet likeable?  Yes.  Does the writing make it easy to picture the story?  Yes.  It's just fine.

If you enjoy tv movies or cheesy Christmas stories, you'll like this short story.  It would be fun and easy to read while sipping a cup of hot tea.

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell Books for review.

Books on my reading list...

Recently, I read two really good books.  They were very different from one another, though.  One was good and it took concentration and effort to read; while with the other, I made myself put it down after each chapter so that I could savor it and make it last.

The first book was The Blessing of Humility by Jerry Bridges.  This book was not what I expected.  It surprised me with insight that I had never understood before.  I'm in my 40s, yet I had always seen the Beattitudes as a group of verses that were grouped by pattern, rather than meaning.  In this book, I felt like Jerry Bridges opened my eyes to see the pyramid that the Beattitudes form--each verse building upon the previous to help us understand God's plan for our salvation.  The book was very insightful and helpful to me when I was teaching a group of 2nd to 5th graders about the Beattitudes this summer.   I found time and time again that the curriculum book missed the point of the verses.  I had to abandon the book and turn to Bridges' book for help understanding the verses and how they connect together.  If you have never delved into the Beattitudes, I would highly recommend this book!  I have always found Jerry Bridges' writing to be very easily understood and I found the same with this book.

The second book on my desk is titled Ragged Hope:  Surviving the Fallout of Other People's Choices by Cynthia Ruchti.  I recently read several fiction books by this author and discovered this book by her on Amazon.  The title made me very curious because of my own life and some struggles close friends of mine are walking through.  Ms. Ruchti wrote a wonderful, encouraging book.  Each chapter of the book was about a crisis someone has walked through or is still walking through (some trials affect our lives for a lifetime).  After the stories, Ms. Ruchti talked about how God sustained the people and their perspectives.  She included questions at the end of each chapter about how the story might relate to you personally and then how it might relate to someone you know.  She includes wonderful suggestions about how we can love people better who find themselves in situations like these.

I remember when I had a miscarriage before I had my oldest daughter.  Several people didn't talk to me because they simply didn't know what to say--they were paralyzed.  When I mentioned this to a family I know, they said they had a similar experience when one of their children died.  There were some people that never talked to them again--because they didn't know what to say.  Sometimes eventhough we're called to love one another, we can be afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing and making someone's hurt worse.  I think this book can help with ideas so that we don't end up not doing something when people we care about are hurting.

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of The Blessing of Humility from Tyndale books for review, but I purchased Ragged Hope because the title was something I thought I needed to read--and I was right.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Walking through the Valley

Yesterday, I walked through a valley.  It wasn't fun.  Valleys never are, really.  As I had entered this valley, I had just finished reading a fiction book by a new author I found on Hoopla that I enjoy, Cynthia Ruchti.  The book was titled As Waters Gone By.  It sounds like a bit of an odd title, but it's taken from a single verse of Job.

Job 11:16
You will forget your misery; you will remember it as waters that have passed away.
 (gone away in the NIV)

Yesterday morning, I read the larger portion of verses surrounding verse 16 and they were filled with hope.

starting with verse 13...
If you prepare your heart, you will stretch out your hands toward him.  If iniquity is in your hand, put it far away, and let not injustice dwell in your tents.  surely then you will lift up your face without blemish; you will be secure and will not fear.  You will forget your misery; you will remember it as waters that have passed away.  And your life will be brighter than the noonday; its darkness will be like the morning.  And you will feel secure, because there is hope; you will look around and take your rest in security.  You will lie down, and none will make you afraid; many will court your favor.  But the eyes of the wicket will fail; all way of escape will be lost to them, and their hope is to breathe their last.  ... ending with verse 20.  ESV

Those verses were very encouraging to me yesterday.  Valleys come and go.  But, there is hope because we will get through them.  Some are short journeys, some are long.  Perhaps, some are even life-long.  But, I was reminded that there is hope.  Hope in Christ.  I am loved by Jesus because of who He made me to be.  Nothing can change that.  I need to find my identity and peace in Him.  Always.  When my eyes get distracted and I value other things more, then my heart fills will resentment and struggle.

I am grateful this morning to be through the valley.  I do know there will be another one.  In fact, there will be many more.  But, there is hope.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

TinTin and Red Rackham's Treasure

Yesterday, my girls had a book group meeting (for 4th-6th grade girls).  They talked about a book titled They were Strong and Good by Robert Lawson.  It's a book full of potential material for discussion.

Here are the questions that my girls came up with:
1.  Did you enjoy this book?  Why or why not?
2.  How would this story change if the author was not proud of his heritage?
3.  How does the author's story make you feel about your own family?  Why?
4.  What was the purpose or message of the book?  What was the author trying to say?
5.  How does the story connect to you?
6.  Why does it matter where you come from?
7.  Do you think that the title fits the book?  Why, if so?  If not, what would you call the book?
8.  Robert Lawson described his family as strong and good.  How would you describe your family in 2 words?
9.  Why do you think Lawson described his family as strong and good to begin with?

We also had a discussion at the end about language and the words we use and how they can offend people so we need to be sensitive to not using culturally offensive words.

After their book discussion, they wrote on some slips of paper something they had inherited from someone in their family and put the slips of paper in a bag.  The papers did not have their names on them.  They pulled one paper out at a time and guessed who it belonged to.

My daughters and I chose foods for snack that mattered to our relatives and our own family.

Then, I also set out a Family Tree worksheet from Scholastic to fill out on the table.

But, I also have a son who I needed to keep busy during the book group, so this summer I've had another book group for him going at the same time.  In July, the boys had a theme of Encyclopedia Brown.  This month TinTin was the theme.

Yesterday, my son and three other boys watched TinTin and Red Rackham's Treasure.  Season 1 is free to watch on Amazon Prime.  Afterwards, I discussed a few questions with them.  I found the answers on the TinTin website.

1.  What are TinTin's first and last name?  (see website for answer)
2.  Professor Calculus is funny.  Did he seem like he knew what he was doing?  Do you think he did?
What was your favorite part of this adventure?  What is something TinTin did that you would like to do?
3.  Why doesn't Professor Calculus understand everyone else?
4.  What was your favorite part of this adventure?  What is something TinTin did that you would like to do?
5.  Why is TinTin a hero?  What is a hero?
6.  Captain Haddock--How old do you think he is?  How old is Tintin?  (answers on the website)
7.  What kind of dog is Snowy?  (answer on website)
8.  How did they figure out where the treasure was?  Who gave up?  Who didn't?
9.  Have you ever given up on something and then tried again?

After the discussion, they had a snack, and then drew on blank comic strips from Picklebums that you can find HERE.

Then, the boys went outside and drove R/C cars and a drone helicopter that one of the boys had brought.

It was a fun afternoon for all!

Unrealistic Realistic Fiction

When I sat down a moment ago to write a review of the book I just read, the phrase "unrealistic realistic fiction" came to mind.  My husband perused the book I'm about review and declared that is wholly unrealistic.

It is.  It is a Christian Romantic Suspense novel.  Lynette Eason just published the second book in her Elite Guardians series, Without Warning.  But, I don't think readers really expect all realistic fiction to be realistic.  It is set in the present with people they can picture in a world they live in every day.

Without Warning is about a personal bodyguard, Katie, who gets involved in a case of arson and life.  Katie cares about one of her self defense class students, Riley.  The man who's life is in danger happens to be Riley's uncle, Daniel. Katie quickly gets involved protecting Daniel Matthews and Riley.  The book begins with the arson of one of his six restaurants and escalates in danger from there.  Katie's fellow bodyguards work together with the police to try and solve the mystery.

The first book in the series was fun to read and quick moving--light on the romance, but engaging.  This book is just the same.  I understand my husband's response, but he also doesn't like any of the crime shows on tv.  For the person who likes crime/suspense novels, but is looking for something less gory and bloody--this book is an option.  Lynette Eason has written several series like this one.

If you start reading this book, knowing that it's fiction, you'll be fine.  Just don't expect it to be realistic.

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from the publisher Revell books.