Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2010 End of Year Survey

The Perpetual Page Turner created this great end of year survey for bookish folks.

1. Best book of 2010?

It's impossible to pick just one. My list of top ten eleven inspirational romances posted yesterday.

My favorite mainstream title would be Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins.

2. Worst book of 2010?

I really don't like to name names...

3. Most Disappointing Book of 2010?

...but I will in this case. Charlaine Harris's Dead in the Family. This one lacked the luster of earlier titles. To borrow a phrase from the author, I think it's time for this southern vampire series to meet the sun.

And time for Sookie to end up with Sam (in case Charlaine's taking requests).

And probably time for me to stop reading vampire books.

4. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2010?

No Other by Shawna K. Williams

5. Book you recommended to people most in 2010?

Even though they're older, I'm always talking about Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers, and Deeanne Gist's A Bride Most Begrudging and Measure of a Lady. Perfect examples of why I love edgy inspirational romance.

6. Best series you discovered in 2010?

Hands down, The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

7. Favorite new authors you discovered in 2010?

Denise Hunter

8. Most hilarious read of 2010?

Doctor in Petticoats by Mary Connealy. Don't read it if you hate laughing.

9. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2010?

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (Hunger Games Trilogy)

10. Book you most anticipated in 2010?

A Hope Undaunted by Julie Lessman and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins are tied for most anticipated and for the only books in 2010 that I actually posed with.

11. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2010?

A Pearl in the Sand by Tessa Afshar

12. Most memorable character in 2010?

The boy with the bread, Peeta Mellark from the Hunger Games Trilogy.

13. Most beautifully written book in 2010?

Havah by Tosca Lee

14. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2010?

Goal, Motivation, Conflict by Debra Dixon

15. Book you can't believe you waited UNTIL 2010 to finally read?

Again, Goal, Motivation and Conflict.

Book Blogging in 2010:

1. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2010?

Since I just started this year, they're all new to me. But I love the camaraderie I've built with my fellow inspy book bloggers. I listed several of their blogs in this post from September, but there are more on my buttons page.

2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2010?

Never Without Hope by Michelle Sutton. It was one of the first books I reviewed on this blog and I like the way it turned out.

3. Best discussion you had on your blog?

I really enjoyed the Christian Fiction Book Club discussion for The Sweet By and By.

4. Most thought-provoking review or discussion you read on somebody else's blog?

I thought the Edgy Christian Fiction Summer Blog Tour sparked lots of great discussion.

5. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?

Judging the Romance/Romantic Suspense category for the inaugural Inspy awards.

6. Best moment of book blogging in 2010?

Meeting fellow book bloggers Julia from Dark Glass Ponderings and Debra from Inkwell Inspirations at at book signing for Ruth Logan Herne from Seekerville. Putting faces to names was great fun.

7. Best bookish discovery (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?

The book blogging community! When I started blogging, I discovered this whole online network of book bloggers out there. Who knew?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christian Fiction Book Club December/January

December's book club ran into a few glitches. Our host had some power problems and didn't get to post her discussion.

This month's selection was Grace by Shelley Shepard Gray. Unfortunately, I was pressed for time this holiday season and didn't get to read it. However, three great blogging pals did read and discuss it and I wanted to point you toward their blogs.

Juju from Tales of Whimsy

Renee from Doorkeeper

Gina from Hott Books

January's book club host is Lydia from The Overweight Bookshelf.

Now, here's what we need. We need a January book pick. Suggestions? Volunteers? Anyone? Bueller? Edit: We've picked Crossing Oceans by Gina Holmes for January.

Here are some books I already plan to read for review in January:
1. Angel Harp by Michael Phillips
2. Serendipity by Cathy Marie Hake
3. The Girl in the Gatehouse by Julie Klassen
4. Defending Glory by Anne Albert
5. Destiny's Dream by Delia Latham

Renee Ann (from Doorkeeper and February's book club host) suggested these titles:
1. Within My Heart by Tamera Alexander
2. Sons of Thunder by Susan May Warren

Which of these should we use as our book club pick? Or should we try for something else? I haven't checked out Netgalley recently. Do they have anything good right now? Inspy bloggers, what are you reading in January?

I'd love see an e-book chosen as a book club pick. If you are an e-book publisher or author who'd be willing to donate about 5 copies of your title to our book club for January or a future month, please contact me through the sidebar.

Top Eleven Christian Romances of 2010

Today's list started out as a top ten list...really, it did.

But yesterday I finished a book called Driftwood Lane by Denise Hunter which was too good not to make the list. Problem is, all of my other choices are too good to take off the list.

So this Top Ten Tuesday, I'm going to shoe-horn one more title in here and call it my Top Eleven Christian Romance Reads of 2010 (and by 2010, I mean that's the year I read them, though some were published earlier). In no particular order, they are:

1. Lost in Nash Vegas by Rachel Hauck
2. Diva Nash Vegas by Rachel Hauck
3. Rodeo Redemption by Teri Wilson
4. Maid to Match by Deeanne Gist
5. Within My Heart by Tamera Alexander
6. Seaside Letters by Denise Hunter
7. A Hope Undaunted by Julie Lessman
8. Doctor in Petticoats by Mary Connealy
9. Sons of Thunder by Susan May Warren
10. Masquerade Marriage by Anne Greene
11. Driftwood Lane by Denise Hunter

(Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish).

Monday, December 27, 2010

Review- Driftwood Lane by Denise Hunter

I wasn't three chapters into this book before I found myself browsing for vacation rentals in Nantucket. There is just something about The Nantucket Love Story Series series by Denise Hunter that really makes me want to visit the island. Driftwood Lane is the final title in the series, but only the second I've read. And though I love this author, I refuse to read the last two books (or in this case, the first two) until my feet are buried ankle deep in Nantucket sand.

Driftwood Lane is a contemporary romance and a perfect example of why I love this genre. Take one romantic location (a bed and breakfast on an island off Cape Cod), one handsome leading man who's good with his hands (Jake- the plumber slash carpenter) then mix in a little romantic tension (there's the small matter of the heroine's fiance waiting back home) and you have the recipe for a love story that will leave your toes tingly.

Denise Hunter is definitely my favorite discovery this year and even though I'm saving her last two books for my summer vacation, I notice she has a cowboy series coming out this spring. I do love my cowboys...

Want more info? Here's the back cover blurb:
Meridith Ward has crafted a carefully ordered life to make up for the chaos that plagued her childhood years. But one phone call upsets all that. Within the span of several minutes, Meridith learns that the father who abandoned her is dead and she's been named the sole guardian of his other three children. She nervously heads to Nantucket to care for the siblings she's never met with plans to stay until their uncle returns from his trip before relinquishing guardianship to him.

She arrives to find the children living at Summer House, a Bed & Breakfast that's falling apart around them. Meridith wants to move on as soon as possible, but the inn will never sell in its dilapidated condition. Then an itinerant handyman, Jake, shows up with an offer she can't refuse.

Much like the powerful ocean just a short walk from her deck, Jake appeals to Meridith. But she senses he is also capable of pulling her under in a heartbeat. What if the thing she fears the most is exactly what she needs? Can she trust God with the details and relish the adventure?

My rating:

Thanks to Crazy Book Tours for my review copy.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Review- Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room

I've swapped blogs for the day with Amber from Seasons of Humility. While I'm over there reviewing romance, she's here reviewing a devotional.

Here's a description of the book from Tyndale House Publishers:
"How many Christmas mornings have you found your family gathered around the tree with presents beautifully wrapped and a scrumptious feast on the table, but with hearts that have not been prepared to truly take in the wonder of God become human? Not this year. Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room, a family Advent devotional from Bible teacher and mom Nancy Guthrie, is designed to bring your family together during a season that is oftentimes too much about programs and presents, and simply not enough about Jesus. Along with devotions for every day in December, this resource includes explanations of some hard-to-understand aspects of popular Christmas carols, and discussion questions to draw in your elementary through high school-aged kids, transforming this time together from a dry lecture into a treasured family experience."

My Review:

This is a beautiful book for the whole family to go through together during the Christmas season! With focused devotional pieces on Jesus' birth (and the surrounding events), prayers, questions to ponder, verses, hymns, and places to write down the family's thoughts, this book goes in depth into the true reason we celebrate Christmas.

A small, simple, yet lovely hardcover book, Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room can sit anywhere in your home as a reminder to set aside time to gather everyone together and learn about God and His amazing gift in Jesus, as well as what our practical, real response to His gift should be in how we live our lives year-round. This book is thought-provoking and insightful! Here are just a few lines from some of the devotionals that I underlined:

We have to clear other things--even good things--out of our schedules if we want to make time to listen to him by reading his Word and talking to him through prayer.

Wouldn't a better question to ask each other be, "What are you giving for Christmas?"

Because of what Christ accomplished on the Cross, we can be friends with God instead of his enemies.

If we're not careful, ordinary life can cause us to lose our sense of wonder over Jesus' coming.

I loved that this book included hymns for the family to sing together, along with explanations of the hymns that are helpful. And I also loved that the pieces for Christmas Eve and Christmas are solely Scripture reading (with a hymn following each)--emphasizing our need to spend time in God's word.

While this is a family devotional, I would recommend it more for older children, teenagers, and their parents. I think this material would still be good for younger children, but some of the concepts discussed might be a bit hard for little ones to grasp.

That being said, I highly recommend this book! I read it before Christmas break, so I haven't had the chance yet to read it with my family. But I think whether this book is read alone or with your family it is a beneficial read full of great reminders!

*With thanks to Tyndale House Publishers for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.*

Amber Stokes is a college student at Corban University. She is an English major who loves to write poetry, short stories, novels (her first manuscript is still a work-in-progress), and, of course, blog posts! It is her desire to follow God's will in her life, wherever He leads her.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Review- Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball

Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball by Donita K. Paul is a delightful story about what happens to the neighborhood cat lady and the office nerd when a little bit of Christmas magic drops into their otherwise mundane little lives.

I loved the anti-hero aspects of the main characters. Both the hero and heroine are boring, non-descript people. Cora lives a solitary existence with her pet cat and though she participates in Christmas rituals, never actually celebrates the holiday. At thirty, Simon still lives with his parents and carries around the sting of rejection left over from his geeky high school years. But as the author peels back their layers to reveal a beauty that runs deeper than what's on the surface, we really begin care about these characters.

I loved the idea of a novel mixing magic and fantasy with an element of faith. It was completely different than anything I've ever read. This is a Cinderella fairy tale complete with a wicked sister, a magical ball and a Prince Charming. And it definitely charmed me this Christmas.

Want more info? Here's the back cover blurb:
Can mysterious matchmaking booksellers bring two lonely hearts together in time for Christmas?

In a sleepy, snow-covered city, Cora Crowder is busy preparing for the holiday season. Searching for a perfect gift, a fortuitous trip to Warner, Werner, and Wizbotterdad’s (a most unusual bookshop) leads to an unexpected encounter with co-worker Simon Derrick. And the surprise discovery of a ticket for a truly one-of-a-kind Christmas Ball.

Every year, the matchmaking booksellers of the Sage Street bookshop host an enchanting, old-fashioned Christmas Ball for the romantic matches they’ve decided to bring together.

This year, will Simon and Cora discover a perfect chemistry in their opposite personalities and shared faith? Or will the matchmakers’ best laid plans end up ruining everything this holiday?

My rating:

The book trailer:

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Will you consider ranking this review for me? Thanks!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Review- A Lady Like Sarah by Margaret Brownley

The last Inspy nominee, A Lady Like Sarah by Margaret Brownley, was one of the panel's favorites. This novel is about a tough outlaw with a heart of gold. Sarah Prescott may not know much about the Bible, or much about polite society, but she knows what she wants and she fights for it.

A Lady Like Sarah is a high action story combined with a sweet romance. It was a quick, fun read with a strong faith element and it reminded me a little of another one of my favorite authors, Mary Connealy. I will definitely seek out other Margaret Brownley books.

What more info? Here's the back cover blurb:
Sarah Prescott has never known a respectable life. Just a hardscrabble childhood and brothers who taught her to shoot first and ask questions later.

Justin Wells left Boston in disgrace, heading out alone on the dusty trail to Texas. But when the once-respected clergyman encounters a feisty redhead in handcuffs with a dying U.S. Marshal at her side, their journey takes a dramatic turn.

His high society expectations and Sarah's outlaw habits clash from the start. With a price on her head and towing an orphaned baby rescued from the brink of starvation, Justin and Sarah make the difficult journey toward Rocky Creek. There, justice will be meted out. Perhaps- they hope- with a healthy portion of grace.

Filled with mishaps, laughs, and adventure, Margaret Brownley's inspiring romance will keep readers cheering for Sarah as she struggles to become a true lady.
My rating:

Don't forget to comment on my Inspy week reviews as extra entries for the Sons of Thunder giveaway. I'll choose a winner Sunday.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Review- Blood Ransom by Lisa Harris

The next Inspy nominee is Blood Ransom by Lisa Harris. Blood Ransom a Christian thriller/suspense with a romantic sub-plot which makes it a genre I don't usually read and review.

I found this story about a surgeon and human aid worker caught up in a governmental conspiracy very realistic. My husband is from Africa, and though this takes place in a fictional country, I recognized authentic details and descriptions in the events and situations portrayed.

Since I'm not a fan of thrillers or suspense novels, I've enlisted the help of my friend Carman from A Sequence of Continuous Delights and Christian Book Giveaways to share her opinion:

This book is fast-paced, action-packed, and a great read. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It really opens your eyes to a lot of things that most people never consider when living in our comfortable homes in our relatively safe country(s). The twists and turns of the plot were well written and kept me guessing until the very end. Those who love action, light romance, danger, and intricate plots will be sure to enjoy this book.

Carman's rating:

Want more info? Here's the back cover blurb:
Deep in the heart of Africa, two American lives are about to change forever. Natalie Sinclair is working to eradicate the diseases decimating whole villages in the Republic of Dhambizao when she meets Dr. Chad Talcott, a surgeon on sabbatical from a lucrative medical practice now volunteering at a small clinic.

Meanwhile, things are unraveling in Dhambizao, Joseph Komboli returns to his village to discover rebel soldiers abducting his family and friends. Those who were too old or weak to work lie motionless in the African soil. When Chad and Natalie decide to help Joseph expose this modern-day slave trade-and a high ranking political figure involved in it-disaster nips at their heels.

Where is God in the chaos? Will Chad, Natalie, and Joseph win the race against time?

Romance and adventure drive this powerful thriller about the modern day slave trade and those who dare challenge it.

Don't forget, all comments count as an extra entry toward my Sons of Thunder giveaway!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Review- Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart by Beth Pattillo

Though I've read plenty of Jane Austen, before this Inspy nominee, I'd never read any Austen-inspired fiction. Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart is a quirky little story about a woman who finds herself caught up in a mystery surrounding the first draft of Pride and Prejudice.

I loved the setting (there's something very romantic about Oxford), and I enjoyed the eccentric cast of characters. The romance in the last chapter is some of the best I've read. Pattillo took a risk by writing as Jane Austen for a good portion of the novel, but I think it was a huge success.

The inspy in this inspirational romance is very, very subtle. I mention it because one of the complaints I've heard about Christian fiction is the authors' heavy handed treatment of faith in inspirational stories. If you didn't know Guideposts was a Christian publisher, you might not even recognize this one as an inspirational romance.

So, for my readers who are not sure Christian fiction is their cup of tea, I think Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart might make a good first taste. It's a fresh, offbeat novel which has definitely inspired me to seek out other Austen-esque stories.

Want more info? Here's the back cover blurb:

Claire Prescott is a sensible woman who believes in facts and figures, not fairy tales. But when she agrees to present a paper to a summer symposium at Oxford on her ailing sister's behalf, Claire finds herself thrown into an adventure with a gaggle of Jane Austen-loving women, all on the lookout for their Mr. Darcy. Claire isn't looking for Mr. Anyone—she's been dating Neil, a sports fanatic, and knows he's the right one for her.

But when a tall, dark and dashing stranger crosses her path, will the staid Claire suddenly discover her inner romantic heroine? Her chance meeting with a mysterious woman who claims to have an early version of Austen's Pride and Prejudice—in which Lizzie ends up with someone other than Fitzwilliam Darcy— leads to an astounding discovery about the venerated author's own struggle to find the right hero for Lizzie Bennett. Neil's unexpected arrival in Oxford complicates Claire's surprising—and unwelcome—journey to the truth about her feelings for her longtime fiance.

Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart is the story of a woman who finds that love isn't logical and that a true hero can appear in the most unexpected of places.

My rating:

Don't forget, all comments count as an extra entry toward my Sons of Thunder giveaway!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Review- Seaside Letters by Denise Hunter

My celebration of Inspy week continues today with the next Romance/Romantic Suspense nominee, Seaside Letters by Denise Hunter.

Seaside Letters
was everything I want in a romance. It grabbed me from the first chapter with angst and emotion and kept me glued to my seat until the book finished some three hundred pages and a couple of hours later. I did not get up to get a drink, I did not get a snack. I did not answer my cell phone. I just sat there and read the entire novel in one sitting.

This is the kind of book that makes me LOVE romance (and yes, all caps required). The heroine was vulnerable and wary. The hero was resourceful and extremely patient. Their relationship was a cat and mouse game where the stakes rose as each chapter passed.

There is some suspension of disbelief required of the reader to get through the middle plot twists, but really, romance lovers like myself are used to suspending disbelief in order to enjoy the story (Twilight, anyone?).

Shout out to Denise've just made another slightly obsessed book blogging, fan. I'll be tracking down everything you've written!

Want more info? Here's the back cover blurb:
Sabrina never intended to fall in love with Tucker McCabe, the man she serves coffee to every morning at a Nantucket cafe--especially since he's unwittingly tied to a past she deeply regrets. But she's fallen hard, though she's kept her feelings a secret.

When Tucker learns Sabrina is the research assistant for a local mystery writer, he asks Sabrina to help him with a little sleuthing of his own...locating an elusive woman he's fallen for online.

If Sabrina accepts the job, she'll spend her evenings in close proximity to a man who can never be hers. If she turns him down, he'll hire someone else--and that would be a disaster. Because if someone else sifts through all those letters and finds out the truth, Tucker will discover her secret...

That the person he's trying to find is her.

My Rating:

Don't forget, all comments count as an extra entry toward my Sons of Thunder giveaway!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Review- Sons of Thunder by Susan May Warren

Inspy Award winning novels are books that possess exceptional literary qualities and respectfully grapple with some element of the Christian faith. The Romance/Romantic Suspense category was filled with outstanding choices and those of us on the panel found it a very difficult category to judge. We debated right down to the wire, but I'm confident we made the right decision.

Our 2010 Inspy Award winner is Sons of Thunder by Susan May Warren-an epic story which spans a couple of decades, and takes place on several continents. Though I don't usually care for World War II novels, the setting of this one swept me away. Warren took us from the Greek Isles to prohibition era Chicago, and back again, with enough description to make me feel like I've lived in both places.

She filled the book with rich detail, multi-layered characters, and plot twists I never saw coming. I loved how she weaved the story around historical events and actual people.

Fair warning, this is no light and fluffy read (a fact that suits this edgy christian fiction lover just fine). Warren has mastered the art of brainstorming the worst possible thing that could happen to her characters-then writing it in. These are flawed people who've drawn the short straw in life and nothing's off the table when it comes to self preservation. But resourcefulness will only get them so far. At some point each must decide if "God will deliver us" is just a platitude or a promise he can believe in.

Sons of Thunder easily places in my top ten of 2010. It's the kind of novel that would make an excellent movie. I wonder if anyone's bought the film rights yet. Hollywood, are you listening?

Want more info? Here's the back cover blurb:
Sophie Frangos is torn between the love of two men and the promise that binds them all together. Markos Stavros loves Sophie from afar while battling his thirst for vengeance and his hunger for honor. Dino, his quiet and intelligent brother, simply wants to forget the horror that drove them from their Greek island home to start a new life in America. One of these "sons of thunder" offers a future she longs for, the other—the past she lost.

From the sultry Chicago jazz clubs of the roaring twenties to the World War II battlefields of Europe to a final showdown in a Greek island village, they’ll discover betrayal, sacrifice and finally redemption. Most of all, when Sophie is forced to make her choice, she’ll learn that God honors the promises made by the Sons of Thunder.

My Rating:

It's giveaway time!

I'm sending one lucky reader my copy of Sons of Thunder. Just leave a comment on this review between now and Sunday to let me know you're interested (be sure to include your email address if it's not in your profile). To earn extra entries, come back this week and comment on the rest of my Inspy nominee reviews.

In other news, today I am over at Hannah's blog, Project Journal celebrating the Christmas season with her. Be sure to check it out!


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