Monday, March 31, 2014

Visible Threat {a Tyndale House review}

I've read a few books by Janice Cantore, and I just love her novels.  As a retired police officer, she writes with a realism I always enjoy.

Visible Threat is her newest release, and the second book in a series. The first book, Critical Pursuit, is also fabulous, but this novel does stand alone.  I reviewed Critical Pursuit a few months ago, and it was wonderful.  I was pretty excited to learn more about Brinna Caruso and her K9 partner, Hero.

The publisher describes the book as follows:
Officer Brinna Caruso wants perfection—perfect justice and a perfect world. She wants to save and protect all the innocents in the world, no matter the cost.

Orphaned and struggling to get by, Ivana and her sister left Bulgaria for America with dreams of a better life. But since they arrived in Long Beach, everything they were promised has turned out to be a lie.

After a dead girl is found in the river with a mysterious tattoo on her hip, homicide detective Jack O’Reilly asks for Brinna’s help. Unaware of the depths of evil that will be uncovered, Brinna finds herself flung into a dangerous frontier—an organized human trafficking ring.
The best thing about all of Cantore's novels is the realism -- on a high-speed chase, you really feel like you could follow the same path described in the book, as she gives details that scream out that she is describing either a real set of streets, or at the very least, one she has created in detail.  The police paperwork, the interaction between officers, the red tape -- these all scream out that Cantore knows her subject.

The worst thing about Cantore's novels is also the realism.  Cantore talks about subjects, human trafficking in this particular novel, that aren't necessarily a lot of fun to think about.  Slavery is still a reality, and it is more prevalent than people want to think.  If you are trying to avoid thinking about these modern slaves as real people who are truly being victimized, you may want to avoid this and stick with fluff novels.

This book will make you think.  Personally, I think that is a good thing.

You can check out the first chapter and the note from the author here.

Disclaimer:   I received this book for free from Tyndale House Publishers.  No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received a complimentary product does not guarantee a favorable review.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Young Women of Faith Bible {a BookLook review}

A certain little girl young lady of mine just celebrated her 8th birthday.  She's also been asking for a real Bible.

So, when BookLook Bloggers (formerly BookSneeze) put the Young Women of Faith Bible out there to be reviewed, I had to go for it.

This happens to be the NIV version, which is perfect for Trina right now.  She has recently gotten involved in the Awana program at a neighboring church, and NIV is the version her work is in.  Being able to look things up in her very own Bible has been a pretty big deal.

She had a Bible before this, but her favorite thing with this one is that it is "actually real, because my other one skipped stuff."

Let me tell you what the publisher says about this Bible:
Popular study Bible for girls 8 and up, now available in the updated NIV.

Designed to encourage girls ages 8 and up to develop a habit of studying God's Word, this Bible is filled with engaging features to help them learn more about themselves and their relationship with God. Weekly studies and many of the side notes are linked to the women's study Bible, the NIV Women of Faith Study Bible, allowing mothers and daughters to share God's Word together.

Features include:
  • Weekly Bible studies apply biblical truths to life
  • Side notes address difficult passages and offer historical and cultural insights
  • "I Believe" statements of faith and foundational beliefs
  • "Memory Challenges" are verses worth remembering
  • "If I Were There . . ." include Bible stories that place the reader in the Bible character's situation
What Trina thought:  Trina loves the colors.  She loves that her brothers have NO interest in borrowing her Bible.  She loves that it is a real Bible and the verses match up to what she has read in other places.  Did I mention that she loves the colors?  And the butterflies and flowers?

What her mom thought:  I worried that this Bible would be too "cute" and that it might be something that tries too hard to appeal to kid culture.   It is cute.  And I've been impressed with the notes and applications.  I'll talk a bit about that.

There are a number of features specific to this Bible, as noted in the publisher description.  What I love is that the Bible text is there, like any other NIV Bible.  And the little extras have pink backgrounds, and little icon images to help you figure out what that note is about.
  • Starting in Genesis, you have a pink book introduction, which is much like any other book introduction to Genesis -- Who wrote it, when, what are we learning, what are some of the stories, etc.
  • There is a bright pink flower, which indicates a good memory verse, for Genesis 1:1.  Trina loved that she already knew that one.
  • There is a pink heart with the words "I believe," which indicates some sort of statement of faith or foundational beliefs.  This one says "God created everything."
  • There is a pink sidebar with a little swirly curlicue thing that gives notes on Genesis 1:27 and talks about how God must have had fun creating everything.  It ends with a reminder that next time you look into a mirror you are to remember that you are a special creation.
  • A couple pages later, there is a pink butterfly sidebar.  The butterflies are for notes to explain difficult passages, or historical/cultural information.  This one talks about temptation.
  • The first of the 52 weekly Bible study passages is on Genesis 3:8.  The study is on friendship and shame, and it is a full page, with references to elsewhere in the Bible (1 Peter 2:24, Isaiah 53:4-6, Acts 22:3-21, Jeremiah 31:3, and Psalm 34:5).  It directs you to the next Bible study.
  • Then there is a journal box.  This is a spot where you can read about thoughts other girls have.  This one has to do with being jealous of a perfect older sister.
  • There is also a pink sidebar with a star, for "If I Were There..."  The first of those has to do with Methuselah and what it would be like to live 969 years.
Overall, I am impressed.  Apparently, if I had a Women of Faith Bible, some of this stuff would coordinate, but this Young Women version certainly stands on its own!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Questions God Asks {a New Leaf Publishing Group review}
Recently, I've been reading an ebook, Questions God Asks: Unlocking the Wisdom of Eternity.  I found it to be completely fascinating reading.

The basic premise is that Israel Wayne has written a chapter addressing the questions GOD asks -- because "when God asks questions they are meant for our edification."

From the New Leaf Press, a division of New Leaf Publishing Group:
God knows all things. Yet, as strange as it may seem to us, the Bible is filled with questions that God asks. These questions assist us in understanding both our Maker and ourselves. Examine fundamental assumptions about God, human nature, relationships, origins, purpose and destiny in this revealing book. Stop demanding answers from God and begin answering the questions He asks of us.
I expected to find the book interesting.  It was. But it was more than that.  I really loved reading through this and thinking about things.  The questions were made very personal, and now I find myself reading the Bible differently too.  I can't read the stories, and hear the questions being asked, and not think about what God is asking me.

Then there were parts that I found just laugh-out-loud funny.  In the chapter where God asks Eli, "Why Do You Honor Your Sons More than Me?" you read about Samuel and how after watching Eli and his sons, you'd think Samuel would have picked up some parenting tips, yet Samuel's sons had pretty lousy reputations as well.  It goes on to say, "Samuel anointed the young king David, who as a child doubtless saw Samuel's sons on the covers of the tabloids at the Bethlehem grocery store."  That image struck me as funny... but true, in a way.  David, of course, didn't do better in parenting his sons. 

You can check out the video trailer:

You can see what others have to say about Questions God Asks at the New Leaf Publishing Group blog!

Oh, and on March 31 (can you believe it is nearly the end of March?) there is going to be a Facebook party, with lots of amazing things being given away.  Read more at the blog!

Disclaimer:   I received this book for free from New Leaf Publishing Group.  No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received a complimentary product does not guarantee a favorable review.   

Friday, March 28, 2014

Pirates, A Super Hero, and a Mess Detective {a BookLook review}

My kids love Veggie Tales, and have for absolutely forever.  So the idea of presenting a certain someone with a birthday present of an I Can Read! version of some Veggie Tales stories was perfect.

Pirates, A Super Hero, and a Mess Detective, by Karen Poth, is delightful.

From the publisher:
In this 3 in 1 bind-up of VeggieTales I Can Reads, Junior learns that even pirates have to go to school, the town of Bumblyburg takes an angry mud bath, and Larry forgets to listen … again! Young readers follow their favorite Veggie friends in easy-to-read stories that help teach early reading skills as well as sound morals and Bible-based life lessons. Books included in this title include:
  • Pirate in Training
  • LarryBoy and the Mudslingers
  • Listen Up, Larry
What Trina thought:  She loved that she could actually (mostly) read these three stories all by herself.  Especially after getting through the stories once, it was easier and easier to actually decode some of the weird things like all the -ould words.  She giggled at the storylines, and had to read aloud to anyone who would listen.

What I thought:  I loved that the book has repetitive vocabulary, so Trina really had the chance to read and re-read and re-re-read words or word families.  Veggie Tales motivated her, and she was determined to conquer the storyline.  These aren't quality literature, but they aren't twaddle either.  Stories featuring characters she already loves, espousing values I love, with great pictures and basic early reader vocabulary?

Totally delightful.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Praying for Boys {a Bethany House review}

Boys.  I was blessed with four of them.  They are all now in double digits, ranging from the just-turned-10-year-old to the still-16-year-old, and they are a handful at times.  I've read more than my share of parenting types of books that are either about general parenting, or about parenting boys in particular.  I've read a few books on praying for your kids.

I'm not sure why this title got my attention.  Praying for Boys.  It's direct and to the point, and maybe that intrigued me.  And it is written by Brooke McGlothlin, not that the name meant anything to me.  However, she's a co-founder of The MOB Society, and that is something that got my attention.  I've always been impressed with what I've seen there, especially since it seems like they live in the real world where boys make messes, exasperate their mothers, and the moms aren't perfect either.

So, assuming this was going to be just another one of those books that makes me feel inadequate, I requested to review it.

Surprise!  Brooke doesn't make me feel like a spiritual failure.

Here's what the publisher says about this book:
Instead of trying harder to change your boy's behavior or worrying about his future, enjoy the peace that comes when you pray specific prayers for him straight from the Bible. This encouraging book helps you target your prayers on what your son needs most--from patience and self-control to having a pure heart and making wise decisions.
Today you can start giving whatever concerns you have to God and
- learn to fight for your son's heart in prayer
- look at raising boys as a gift
- see how even quick prayers make a difference
- understand boys' deepest struggles, no matter their age
- rest in knowing that God is the only One who can change your son's heart

Written for moms but great for dads (and grandparents) too, this easy-to-use book is filled with uplifting stories and biblical wisdom that will equip you on your journey to raising a godly man.

Includes a 21-Day Prayer Guide for Small Groups, in Person or Online!
This is a no-nonsense book that doesn't patronize me, but actually encourages me.  And that's just the chapters before you get to the prayer part of it.  Brooke doesn't give any checklists of empty promises (do A, B, C and D and you are guaranteed to have a model-citizen son) and she does come across as real.

The prayer part of it -- and I worried a lot about this based on other materials about praying for your kids -- is easy and straightforward and doesn't make me feel like I'm putting on airs or trying to be something I'm not.

Great book.  I'm seriously considering it as a baby shower gift for a couple new mamas that I know.

Disclosure:  Bethany House provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.  No other compensation was received, and all opinions are my own.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Things taking up my time

I haven't blogged a real blog post in ages, and I'm sorry.  There's been a few things going on around here, nothing traumatic, but it just all adds up to a lack of time spent on my blog.

Food Pantry - we are transitioning the pantry so that we are no longer open on Sundays.  That is going to free up a whole lot of time.  I really love being able to serve our community, and I love that the kids get a chance to do so.  But when it takes up anywhere between ten and forty hours of my time during the week, other stuff suffers. 

Awana Program - a friend invited Trina to Awana at a neighboring church, I invited Richard along as well... that was January, and the kids have been involved ever since.  The teens started attending the Youth Group that happens there as well, which means I do have to take them all.  Richard and Trina are getting so very much out of Awana, and the big guys are enjoying the current video series that the youth group is discussing.

I asked for advice from a private forum about what to do with Trina.  She's in 2nd grade, and finished up the first Sparks Book in early March.  She was given the second Sparks book on March 9, and after the meeting this week, she was nearly through with it.  She has a couple verses and an obedience chart thingy to do this week.  The question was... do we start Book 3 when there are only 4 weeks left?  The decision was made that we would do that, and if she finishes, great.  If she doesn't finish (which is what I expect) we'll just work on it over the summer, as it is still great for her whether it "counts" or not.

Bountiful Baskets - we're supposed to be changing to Friday nights, and at some point, it might go back to every other week.  I think that is going to make things easier for me.  It's funny - I've taken photos of my baskets every single week, but I just can't seem to get a blog post up.

My mother is now doing Bountiful Baskets in Fargo.  That is a bit of a nightmare though.  They finally got one site open, and it is capping out in mere minutes every week.  Mom has been able to contribute for a basket twice now.  It's a bit like playing the lottery though.  Enter everything fast, fast, fast and pray you get through.

Computer -  my computer was completely on its last legs, and I did finally get a new (to me) machine.  I'm still struggling with getting everything transferred over here, and find myself not having what I need when I need it.  I'm getting there, though, and it is nice to NOT have my computer shutting itself down every ten minutes.

School - trying to juggle two high schoolers and everyone else too is still causing me stress.  Sometimes I really miss the days when everyone was younger and things really didn't "count" -- we could skip around a bit more, and I knew they were getting a fantastic education.  And I didn't have to think about transcripts.

Reviews - I have read nearly all the books over on the "upcoming reviews" list, but have not written reviews.  <sigh>  I gotta do that.  I also have a number of reviews for The Old Schoolhouse that simply have to get done. 

So, that is some of what is up here.  I've got some blog posts swirling around in my head, but I'm just not sure when those will happen...

The Perfect Score Project {a Blogging for Books review}

With two sons in high school, the whole SAT thing is certainly something 'out there' for me.  Scholarships, admission, whatever... the whole thing is scary and intimidating.

When I read about The Perfect Score Project: Uncovering the Secrets of the SAT, I thought maybe I could learn a little something.

Debbie Stier, the author of this book, is a mom of teens, and she worries too.  Probably more than I do.  Let me give you the publisher's synopsis though:
The Perfect Score Project is an indispensable guide to acing the SAT – as well as the affecting story of a single mom’s quest to light a fire under her teenage son.

It all began as an attempt by Debbie Stier to help her high-school age son, Ethan, who would shortly be studying for the SAT. Aware that Ethan was a typical teenager (i.e., completely uninterested in any test) and that a mind-boggling menu of test-prep options existed, she decided – on his behalf -- to sample as many as she could to create the perfect SAT test-prep recipe.

Debbie’s quest turned out to be an exercise in both hilarity and heartbreak as she took the SAT seven times in one year and in-between “went to school” on standardized testing. Here, she reveals why the SAT has become so important, the cottage industries it has spawned, what really works in preparing for the test and what is a waste of time.

Both a toolbox of fresh tips and an amusing snapshot of parental love and wisdom colliding with teenage apathy, The Perfect Score Project rivets. In the book Debbie does it all: wrestles with Kaplan and Princeton Review, enrolls in Kumon, navigates, meets regularly with a premier grammar coach, takes a battery of intelligence tests, and even cadges free lessons from the world’s most prestigious (and expensive) test prep company.

Along the way she answers the questions that plague every test-prep rookie, including: “When do I start?”...”Do the brand-name test prep services really deliver?”...”Which should I go with: a tutor, an SAT class, or self study?”...”Does test location really matter?” … “How do I find the right tutor?”… “How do SAT scores affect merit aid?”... and “What’s the one thing I need to know?”

The Perfect Score Project’s combination of charm, authority, and unexpected poignancy makes it one of the most compulsively readable guides to SAT test prep ever – and a book that will make you think hard about what really matters.
For me, more than the SAT advice, which was good, the book was valuable because Debbie never tries to make you feel she's got all the answers for either SAT prep or for parenting.  She makes mistakes, she learns a lot over the course of her experiment, and she kept me laughing besides.

I need to read real.  I try to write real here on this little blog, but lately, I don't pull that off real well either.  But so much out there is just a six-step checklist of all the things you need to do to turn out perfect children.  I always figure that I haven't met any perfect parents, so how could any of us/them possibly turn out perfect kids.

Debbie is refreshing because she is real.  She totally screws up in this test-prep gig of hers.  She keeps on keeping on, adapting a bit yet doing what she thinks is best.  And isn't that what we all try to do?

This isn't a book about taking the SAT.  It is a book about succeeding in the important things.

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Explore Rocky Mountain National Park and Explore Glacier National Park {a Moms of Master Books review}

I've reviewed a number of Awesome Science videos in the past, and we love them all.

But now I have the chance to talk about my two absolute favorites, thanks to Master Books.

Awesome Science: Explore Rocky Mountain National Park with Noah Justice -- this one is definitely my favorite.  Not only does he talk about the national park nearest to us, but he also talks about the Great Sand Dunes, a place we've been frequently, and Garden of the Gods, where we've been even more often.

So this video took place practically in our backyard.  Okay, well, our backyard is pretty boring, but everything is within a few hours of us.

Oh, and he visits Devil's Tower in this video too.  Another place that is pretty cool, but a bit further of a drive for us.

A big focus of this DVD is erosion and the formation of the Rocky Mountains.
The other title is at my favorite-ever National Park.  Awesome Science: Explore Glacier National Park with Noah Justice.

My last family vacation, really, involved a train trip across North Dakota and Minnesota and then about a week at Glacier National Park.  We did a ton of hiking, and going out to visit glaciers was just incredible.  I remember the wildflowers especially.

So it is about a place I loved.  More than that, though, the primary topic is ice ages and how they could happen and what type of evidence there is about them.

I particularly loved when Noah brought up the impending ice age scare of my childhood.  My kids never seem to believe me when I tell them what I was taught about "climate change" in school.

These eight episodes are all wonderful, and I'm thrilled to have these two newest titles in my home.

You can go see what other Moms of Master Books have to say about these Awesome Science titles.

There is a Book and a Treat Facebook party coming up tonight, March 25 at 7 pm Central Time, where you could win cool prizes -- and discuss the series too. 

Disclaimer:   I received these DVD for free from New Leaf Publishing Group as part of the Moms of Master Books program.  No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received complimentary products does not guarantee a favorable review.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A Sky Without Stars {a LitFuse Review}

In the past few months, I've reviewed a number of titles in the Quilts of Love series.  These books are all quite different -- different authors, different genres, different times -- but they all involve quilts, and they all involve love.  They also are all fairly easy reads.

The most recent one, A Sky without Stars by Linda S. Clare, took me on a journey to Arizona in the 50s.  Quilting within the Lakota and Navajo cultures is not something I've ever really thought about.

I don't think this plot synopsis is particularly accurate, but it gives a rough idea as to what this book is about.  From the publisher:
In 1951, Frankie Chasing Bear is a Lakota caught between cultures. She wants to raise her son Harold to revere his Lakota heritage, but she knows he will need to become as a white man to succeed. After his father's killed in a barroom brawl, Harold and Frankie move to Arizona, where she begins a Lakota Star pattern quilt for Harold with tribal wisdom sung, sewn and prayed into it.

She distrusts Christians, as her own parents were forced to convert at an Indian School, until she meets BIA agent Nick Vandergriff, a half-Lakota who's also caught between cultures. Nick must convince Frankie that white men and Christians aren't all bad as he tries to win her heart in order to put the stars back into her sky.

My thoughts:  The story drew me in, with its start on a reservation in South Dakota -- a place we've prayed for, and played a tiny part in, with groups sending clothing, books, etc. along with people to love on the people there.  That part was a little strange, thinking about people I know being the representatives of the "White Man's God" that Frankie struggle with.

The action quickly moves to Arizona, though Pine Ridge comes up throughout the story.

What I found particularly compelling about the book was Nick.  He has struggled with alcoholism in the past, and a failed marriage, and he feels like an outsider in two worlds -- a half-breed who doesn't truly fit with the Indians he is trying to help, nor with the White Man's ways either.

He's been sober for a decade or so, yet he struggles still with the call of the bottle.  I'm not an alcoholic, so I won't swear that Clare "nailed it" in her descriptions of his struggles, but it sure felt realistic to me.  That whole fight to not do what you know full well you should not do.  And rational you finds it completely crazy that you are pulled to something you know is bad for you.  Yet that fight to do the right thing, the healthy thing, still rages.

This book doesn't make my 'favorite ever' list, but it was a fascinating glimpse into a culture not often represented in historical fiction.

Don't miss this month's Quilts of Love book, A Sky Without Stars, by Linda S. Clare. Linda is celebrating the release with a Kindle HDX giveaway and joining her fellow Quilts of Love authors, Barbara Cameron and Joyce Magnin, for a Facebook "Spring Fling" party on April 1st.


One winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire HDX
  • Scraps of Evidence by Barbara Cameron
  • A Sky Without Stars by Linda S. Clare
  • Maybelle in Stitches by Joyce Magnin
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on April 1st. Winner will be announced at the "Spring Fling" Facebook Party on April 1st. RSVP today and connect with the authors from the Quilts of Love series, Barbara Cameron, Linda S. Clare, and Joyce Magnin, for an evening of book chat, quilt trivia, prizes, and an exclusive look at the next Quilts of Love book!

So grab your copies of Scraps of EvidenceA Sky Without Stars, and Maybelle in Stitches and join Barbara, Linda, and Joyce on the evening of April 1st for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the books, don't let that stop you from coming!)

Don't miss a moment of the fun; RSVP today by clicking JOIN at the event page. Spread the word—tell your friends about the giveaway and party via FACEBOOK or TWITTER. Hope to see you on April 1st!

Disclaimer:  I received this book through LitFuse Blog Tour.  No other compensation was received.  All opinions expressed in this review are my own.  

Monday, March 10, 2014

Distortion {a LitFuse Review}

Terri Blackstock is joining my list of favorite authors, so I was thrilled to review her newest book, Distortion.  This title is the second in the Moonlighters Series, and was every bit as fabulous as the first in that series, Truth Stained Lies.  Probably better, actually.

In Truth Stained Lies, I was introduced a group of sisters, who end up "moonlighting" as investigators when their brother lands in jail, suspected of murdering his ex-wife (or estranged wife, I don't remember for sure at the moment).

Distortion picks up with another murdered spouse -- this time it is Juliet's husband.  And it appears that she and her kids are in danger too.  Here's what the publisher says about the story:
Juliet Cole's life has been dismantled by the murder of her husband. She doesn't know who---or what---to trust when everything she has believed to be true about her marriage has been a lie.

A husband's lies can have deadly consequences.

When Juliet Cole's husband of fifteen years is murdered before her eyes, she thinks it was a random shooting. Devastated and traumatized, she answers hours of questioning, then returns home to break the tragic news to her boys. But a threatening voicemail takes this from a random shooting to a planned, deliberate attack.

Juliet realizes that she and her children are in danger too, unless she meets the killers' demands. But as she and her sisters untangle the clues, her husband's dark secrets come to light. The more she learns, the more of her life is dismantled. Was her husband an innocent victim or a hardened criminal?
The sisters are again involved in investigating this crime, and it leads them to all kinds of places they didn't want to go.

I love a good mystery, and this fits the bill.  A good Christian mystery is even better, and this fits that bill too.  Imperfect people, many of whom are believers, mostly doing the best they can.  The situations can seem a little far-fetched at times, but not enough to be unbelievable.  And a lot of the twists and turns of the investigation are things that you can sort of see coming, but usually only a half-step ahead of the characters.  That's always nice.

Since this is the second book in a series, the big question I always have is, "Do I have to read #1 first?"  I do think this title mostly stands on its own, however there are at least a few things that wouldn't make a lot of sense without knowing the previous story.  Not enough to truly detract from the tale, but my recommendation would be to try to start with Truth Stained Lies.

One thing I really did like about this title, though, is that it is not a murder/romance.  Not that there isn't a bit of romance involved, but it comes across as part of life, not a central focus of the story. 

Can't wait to see the next in this series, only hopefully it won't have to involve another murdered family member.

Don't miss Terri Blackstock's latest release in the Moonlighters series, Distortion.

The book releases March 11th, and Terri will be kicking off the release with a fun Facebook Distortion party and giving away a Kindle Fire HDX. PLUS readers can pre-order the ebook for just $4.99 between now and 3/11 everywhere ebooks are sold.

One winner will receive:
  • A brand new Kindle Fire HDX
  • Distortion and Truth Stained Lies by Terri Blackstock
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on March 11th. Winner will be announced at the Distortion Facebook Party on March 11th. Connect with Terri for a "suspenseful" book launch party with prizes, a book chat, and more.

Don't miss a moment of the fun; RSVP today by clicking JOIN on the event page. Tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 11th!

Disclaimer:  I received this book through LitFuse Blog Tour.  No other compensation was received.  All opinions expressed in this review are my own.  

Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Thief {a LitFuse review}

I love historical fiction.  There are a few time periods that I really, really love... and historical fiction involving biblical events is a recent addition to that list.

The Thief: a Novel by Stephanie Landsem intrigued me.  A story involving absolute nobodies (and some almost nobodies) at the time of the crucifixion, and the changes in their lives as a result of encountering real hope.

From the publisher:
A Roman centurion longing for peace and a Jewish woman hiding a deadly secret witness a miracle that transforms their lives and leads them to the foot of the cross.

Longinus is a Roman centurion haunted by death and failure. Desperate to escape the accursed Judean province, he accepts a wager. If he can catch the thieves harassing the marketplace before Passover, he'll earn a transfer away from the troublemaking Jews.

Nissa is a Jewish woman with a sharp tongue and no hope of marriage. Only with the help of Mouse, the best thief in Jerusalem, can she keep her blind brother, Cedron, fed and a roof over their heads.

When a controversial teacher miraculously heals Cedron, Longinus longs to learn more about the mysterious healer. Instead, his journey leads him to Nissa, whose secret will determine the course of both their futures.

Unexpectedly caught up in the arrest, trial, and crucifixion of Jesus, they wonder who this teacher is who heals others but does nothing to save himself. Is the mercy he offers in his teachings real, or just another false promise? Can Nissa and Longinus overcome their pasts to find a future free of their shackles?

The Thief is an evocative story of two people trapped in their circumstances and the life-changing power of forgiveness and love.
If you've read other book reviews I've written, you know I tend to be someone who picks up a book intending to read just one chapter, and I don't set it down until it is done.

While this book did not quite do that to me, initially, it is still a book I highly recommend.  The slow start gives time for plenty of solid character development, and the amount of research Landsem had to have completed is also apparent. 

It does really feel like you've been transported to Jerusalem.

One concern I always have with historical fiction that includes major real people as characters (you know, like Jesus!) is whether or not their interaction with the fictional characters is at all believable.  Many books I do actually enjoy still have totally unrealistic encounters between characters and real, historical people.

It is much better, however, when I'm reading along and the characters encounter real people and I just keep reading without thinking, "Yeah, right."  And that made The Thief more fun to read.  I wasn't rolling my eyes at the unlikely coincidences.

thiefbloggerbuttonDon't miss Stephanie Landsem's outstanding sophomore effort, The Thief.

Best-selling author Tosca Lee had this to say of the book: Filled with memorable characters, The Thief is a tale of hopelessness turned to hope, of high stakes made higher, and ultimate love. What happens when a character at the lowest rung of society crosses paths with the most well-known figure in history? The story of The Thief. I couldn't stop reading.

Stephanie is hosting a Kindle Fire HDX and book giveaway at her website.

CLICK THE BUTTON to find out more and enter to win.

Find out what readers are saying HERE. (Click the REVIEWS bar.)

Disclaimer:  I received this book through LitFuse Blog Tour.  No other compensation was received.  All opinions expressed in this review are my own.  

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Scraps of Evidence {a LitFuse Review}

Last fall, I reviewed a couple of books in the Quilts of Love series, the most recent being Tempest's Course.  I really like the premise -- loads of different authors, writing books in different genres, tied together by the fact that each book features a quilt (or quilts) in some way.

Scraps of Evidence, by Barbara Cameron, is a mystery.  Not just a mystery, but a murder mystery.  And a romantic mystery too.   That is exactly the kind of book I love to lose myself in for a time.

Scraps of Evidence was a fun read.  Though I have to say, I pegged just who the serial killer was before I knew we were looking for a serial killer.  I kept hoping I was wrong, and there were a couple points in the story where I wavered briefly in my thoughts on 'whodunit' but I was correct.

Even with figuring out the mystery part, I enjoyed the story.  The basic plot is that Tess became a cop after her best friend was murdered the night of their senior prom.  Tess is a good cop, and makes detective -- and her first partner is a new guy from up north.  Logan and Tess quickly establish a great working relationship, and a fun outside-of-work relationship as well.  Right off the bat, another murder occurs though, and it can be tied to the murder of her friend.  And the story takes off from there...

What I enjoyed about this book is that, while a very easy book to read, it did bring up some interesting issues.  A homeless man is a suspect, and there is some back and forth about whether the homeless actually commit more violent crime than other people.  Almost everyone in the story is a workaholic -- at least Tess is.  Logan too, really.  Is that what our priorities should be?

Why do horrible things happen to decent people?

And one that really hit home for me right now -- what do you do when you see signs of abuse in people you know?  And how do you step in?

Fortunately, the story didn't give pat answers and even the characters didn't figure it all out in their particular situation.

Gave me something to ponder.

Barbara Cameron's Scraps of Evidence is the newest book in the Quilts of Love line, and Barbara is celebrating with an "intriguing" Kindle HDX giveaway!

One winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire HDX
  • Scraps of Evidence by Barbara Cameron
  • Tempest's Course by Lynette Sowell
  • Aloha Rose by Lisa Carter
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on March 8th. Winner will be announced on the Quilts of Love blog on March 10th.


Spread the word—tell your friends about the giveaway via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning.

Disclaimer:  I received this book through LitFuse Blog Tour.  No other compensation was received.  All opinions expressed in this review are my own.