Thursday, July 31, 2014

Book Review: "Captured by Love"

Jody Hedlund has a gift for torturing her readers. (That’s a compliment!) Her characters, especially in her most recent book, Captured by Love, experience one predicament piled upon another upon another, so that her readers just have to keep reading to learn if everyone will survive! Hedlund’s stories are intense.

Hedlund also has a gift for bringing unusual historical settings to life. The combination makes her novels a treat. This was especially true of Captured by Love, set on Michilimackinac Island (now just Mackinac) in Michigan in 1814 near the War of 1812. Angelique MacKenzie is struggling to survive, living at the mercy of an abusive stepfather and through hardships cause by the war. Engaged to a childhood friend banished from the island for his American loyalties, she hopes he will return in time to rescue her.

His brother, Pierre, has just returned. A successful and adventurous fur trader, he is dismayed to discover the conditions his mother has had to live in all alone and nearly blind. Longing to get back to the life he loves, he wrestles with his conscience over what is right to do.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and recommend it to fans of historical Christian fiction. I received a complimentary copy from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for this honest review.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

July's Review Round-Up

Dear Readers:

Though it's true I post most of my book reviews here, at Pages Read and Pondered, I also post a few each month at Wildflower Faith. Here are the links to those reviews that I wrote in July:

Veil of Secrets by Shannon Ethridge and Kathryn Mackel

Framing Faith by Matt Knisely

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Book Review: Sticking Points

Gen Xers.

If you find the similarities and differences between these generations intriguing, irritating, or both, you will enjoy reading Sticking Points by Haydn Shaw. Shaw wrote this book to help the four generations currently in the workplace understand each other better, so that they can work together more effectively, leveraging each other’s strengths instead of complaining about traits each finds perplexing in the other. He compares communicating with someone from another generation to speaking a foreign language or adjusting to another culture and explains why with insight and a touch of humor.

Shaw knows what he’s talking about, too. So many times, as I was reading the book, I’d stop to remember a workplace misunderstanding from my past and think, “Well, that explains so much!” I’m sure I’ll find this knowledge useful often from here on out.

In the introductory section of the book, Haydn explains the problem and his particular five-step solution. In Part 1 he defines the four generations and identifies historical occurrences that have influenced them, that, in a sense, have made them who they are (in general, as a generation, not necessarily as individuals). After that, he defines the twelve most problematic generational sticking points and shows how his five-step solution can help leaders in the workplace turn each problem into a workplace strength.

I read the book through from one cover to the other, but others may find it more practical to read the opening section and Part 1, using the sticking points section as a reference as specific problems arise. If you associate with people of other generations, whether at work, home, church, or any other place, you will appreciate the content of this book.

I earned my copy of this book through the Tyndale Rewards program. I am choosing to review it for credit toward another Tyndale Summer Reading book!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Book Review: Critical Pursuit

I enjoyed getting to meet Officer Brinna Caruso in the first book of Janice Cantore’s series about her. Brinna is a K-9 search and rescue officer who has devoted her career to catching criminals who prey on children. As the story opens, Brinna’s own childhood kidnapping is making headlines as the anniversary of her rescue approaches. People want to know how she’s doing twenty years later. Unfortunately, this news gets the wrong kind of attention from the wrong kind of person, and Brinna finds herself under pressure to capture a kidnapper before another child gets hurt.

Due to circumstances beyond her control, she temporarily gets a new partner, Detective Jack O’Reilly, who is coming back on patrol after working in homicide. Grieving the loss of his wife and child to a drunk driver, O’Reilly is struggling to find his way. Brinna worries she can’t count on him.

Critical Pursuit offers an intriguing and suspenseful story full of emotional quandaries and deep questions about God’s existence and involvement in our lives, Heaven, family, justice, social responsibility, cooperation, grief, and internal peace. I’m looking forward to reading the sequel soon!

No one sent this book to me for review. I obtained it myself and am reviewing it by choice for credit in Tyndale’s Summer Reading Program. I recommend it to you!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Book Review: Annie's Stories

Annie’s Stories is a novel about a young woman working as a housekeeper in New York City in 1901. A recent immigrant from Ireland, she’s looking for a place to call home. She dreams of opening a library in her father’s memory someday.

There were a lot of elements that I liked about this book. The women of Hawkins House, where Annie lived, were an interesting assortment of characters. Seeing New York City in the early 1900’s through the eyes of a postman was intriguing, too. And I loved learning about the publishing industry, the Wizard of Oz, the Magdalene laundries, the Pinkerton detectives, and the Irish seanchai. Annie’s Stories has a lot to offer those interested in history.

The story itself, though, was missing something. Both main characters (Annie, the housekeeper, and Stephen, the postman) were passive. The story happened to them. Both were frustrated and bitter about events of their past. Both were anxious about what their futures might hold. But neither did much of anything to contribute to the story. Instead, supporting characters brought them information or created problems for them to wonder about. For the most part, these other characters did all the work while Annie and Stephen watched, figured out what it all meant for them, and, occasionally made a wrong decision in the name of self-interest.

Tyndale House Publishers sent me a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for this honest review. I was hoping the girl on the cover would find her own grand adventure. I was thankful, at least, that she did discover home

Monday, July 14, 2014

Book Review: Praying the Attributes of God

Praying the Attributes of God could easily be called Allowing the Attributes of God to Lead You into Worship. That’s exactly what this book does—beautifully! Author Ann Spangler has chosen 17 of the characteristics of God identified in the Bible and written five devotionals for each. Readers get to reflect on one attribute per week.

On Mondays, Spangler introduces the attribute of the week, defining and exploring biblical, traditional, and cultural usage of the term. For Tuesdays through Thursdays, she gives Bible verses to reflect on, ideas for prayer (including praises, thanksgiving, confession, and petition), and a simple devotional thought for each day. On Fridays, Spangler summarizes lessons for the week and offers more Scripture to consider, including a list of additional verses readers can look up on their own. These are especially helpful for those who want to continue their study through the weekend.

I appreciated the whole package and plan to do this devotional study again in the future. If ever you just want to take some time to prayerfully reflect on Who God Is, What He does, and what that means for you, this book can help with that endeavor. I do recommend this one.

No one sent this book to me to review. I earned my copy through Tyndale Rewards and am choosing to review it for credit in Tyndale’s Summer Reading Program.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Free Books!

A few of the books I've earned
Have I mentioned I love books? Have I mentioned I especially love free books?

If you love free books, too, Tyndale House Publishers has a rewards program where you can go to earn free books. (If you earn it, is it really free? Well, you won't have to spend any money.) To sign up, click here and enter your e-mail above the nifty little promo code that will give you 25 free points to start with. It will also give you your own sweet, little promo code link to post on your blog just like I'm doing here, so you can earn 10 free points toward your reward whenever someone clicks on it and signs up, too.

I've earned several great books since I joined the program a few years ago, most recently, Saving Amelie by Cathy Gohlke, which I'm expecting to get in the mail any day.

How else can you earn points for free books? By taking surveys, subscribing to devotionals, posting book reviews, joining focus groups, and joining the birthday club. That's right. You get 15 points, and then, a downloadable gift every year just for being alive! So click on through to start earning some fun, free books! Happy reading!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Book Review: Misery Loves Company

Well, who wouldn’t love (and be slightly terrified by) a story about a book review blogger who gets kidnapped by an author who appears to be disgruntled over her last review of his work? All Patrick Reagan will tell Jules Bellano is that there’s something important she must figure out before they run out of time. All Jules wants to do is go home!

At first, I thought the story might turn out to be a little bit cliché. But the author’s descriptions of what people were thinking and feeling drew me in anyway. After that, the story took so many unexpected turns. I had fun trying to keep up! Readers actually have three mysteries to solve: one kidnapping, two deaths. And as the author divulges information, she also explores issues such as personal motivation, God’s goodness and trustworthiness, addiction, and compassion versus righteousness. As a bonus, because the main characters are writers, the book also includes a bit of great writing advice.

Suspense fans will love this book! (Writers will, too.)

No one sent this one to me to review. I obtained it on my own and am reviewing it for credit in Tyndale’s Summer Reading Program.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Book Review: Child of Mine

Wow! I have a new favorite book for 2014! Child of Mine was just that good. David and Beverly Lewis kept me guessing the whole way through, then delighted me with the way everything turned out for everyone. I. loved. this. book.

Though there is an Amish woman on the cover, make no mistake, this is not an Amish book. Laura Mast, a shunned Amish woman with a mysterious past, has been Natalie Livingston’s nanny all of Natalie’s life. When Natalie’s parents were killed in a tragic accident, her uncle, Jack Livingston, became her guardian, adopted her, and asked Laura to continue on in the role of nanny, giving as much continuity as possible to Natalie’s life. His younger sister, San, agreed to help for a time. Her dreams lie in the fashion industry in New York, however. When she gets her big break, she’ll be moving away.

 As it turns out, that won’t be the only change Jack and Natalie may have to face. A secret investigation brings a young woman named Kelly Maines into their lives. Eight years ago, Kelly’s daughter had been stolen right out of her crib. Since then, Kelly has sacrificed everything in her search for her missing child. Soon-to-be-nine Natalie fits the profile perfectly.

This book asks a lot of interesting questions, exploring concepts such as integrity, forgiveness, family, sacrifice, and the essence of true motherhood. Though each character in the book has personal desires, each also wants to do the right thing, the just thing, the best thing for all concerned. This makes for a lot of inner conflict—and a beautiful story!

Bethany House Publishers sent me a complimentary copy of Child of Mine in exchange for this honest review. I highly recommend this story to you.