Friday, December 31, 2010

Top Ten Books of 2010

For several years, I have complied a top ten list of books I've read in 2010. This year the list is, in no particular order:

Courting Morrow Little by Laura Frantz
Her Mother's Hope by Francine Rivers
Nightshade by Ronie Kendig
An Eye for an Eye by Irene Hannon
The Gathering Storm by Bodie Thoene
A Hope Undaunted by Julie Lessman
The Silent Governess by Julie Klassen
Fatal Judgment by Irene Hannon
Sons of Thunder by Susan May Warren
The Preacher's Bride by Jody Hedlund

Honorable Mention:

A Tailor Made Bride by Karen Witemeyer
Head in the Clouds by Karen Witemeyer
Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn
Heist Society by Ally Carter
The Gallagher Girls Series by Ally Carter

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Last Doughboy of World War I

As today is Veteran's Day/Armistice Day I thought this would be a good article to share. In many ways, World War I, is a forgotten war. I found this man's story to be quite interesting. He's definitely lived a very full life!

The Last Doughboy of World War I

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Canterbuy Papers by Judith Koll Healey (Historical mystery)

Description from goodreads:

Set in lavishly described medieval England and France, The Canterbury Papers is an enthralling and suspenseful debut novel combining dark family secrets, duplicity, and a missing heir to the throne.

The wily Eleanor of Aquitaine, queen of France and then of England, sends her former ward, Alaïs, the sister of the king of France, to retrieve a cache of letters hidden in Canterbury Cathedral. Letters that, in the wrong hands, could bring down the English king. In return, Eleanor promises to reveal a long-held and dangerous secret involving Alaïs -- a bargain the French princess is powerless to resist.

Before Alaïs can complete her mission, she is abducted, an event that sets in motion a dangerous plot. It will require all of Alaïs's considerable strengths, along with help from the very intriguing leader of the Knights Templar, to unravel dark secrets, unmask evil villains, and escape with her life.

My thoughts:

When I was in college, it was a well known fact that I am not a fan of medieval history. However, through recent viewings of Simon Schama's A History of Britain (the best documentary series ever, imo), I have found I am fascinated by Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. As The Canterbury Papers is set during that time period, I decided to borrow the book from the library.

Alaïs is a French princess who had been pledged to marry Henry and Eleanor's son Richard. She had grown up in the English court. The Canterbury Tales takes place years after her childhood, at the opening of the book, she is a mature woman living at the court of her brother King Philippe of France. She is asked, by Eleanor, to travel to Canterbury to retrieve letters Eleanor sent to Thomas a Becket years earlier. In return for these letters, Eleanor promises to tell Alaïs the truth about her past.

Alaïs' journey is a tale of intrigue, which kept me guessing until the very end. The true allegiances of many characters were not revealed until the end. I often found myself wondering aloud what would happen next.

The Canterbury Papers is subtitled a novel of suspense, I found it to be a novel which kept me guessing until the very end.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

In Every Heartbeat by Kim Vogel Sawyer

From the back cover:

Three best friends, three cherished dreams, three searching hearts...

As three friends who grew up in the same orphanage head off to college together, they each harbor a special plan for the future. Libby Conley hopes to become a famous journalist. Pete Leidig believes God has called him to study to become a minister. And Bennett Martin plans to pledge a fraternity, find a place to belong, and have as much fun as possible. But as tensions rise around the world on the brink of World War I, the friends' differing aspirations and opinions begin to divide them as well.

When Libby makes a shocking discovery about Pete's family, will it drive a final wedge between the friends or bond them in ways they never anticipated?

My thoughts:

I always enjoy Kim Vogel Sawyer's novels, and In Every Heartbeat was no exception. I looked forward to reading this one, because the time just prior to World War I is one of my favorite historical periods. It was very interesting to see college life in the early 20th century.

I felt In Every Heartbeat had a little bit of a slow start, however it picked up once the situation with Pete's family was introduced. Unlike Libby and Bennett, Pete's parents are still alive, and he bears the emotional scars of their abandonment. This was my favorite part of the book.

While Libby and Pete's stories were tied up very well, Bennett's story was left incomplete at the end. I would love to see a second book focusing on Bennett.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Doctor in Petticoats by Mary Connealy

From the back cover:

When nurse Beth McClellan survives a stage coach accident, she soon realizes the derelict traveling alongside her is a doctor, and she forces him to help tend the injured. Alex Buchanan, army deserter, finds he can only care for the patients as long as Beth is right beside him, giving him yelling at him.

Beth thinks he's a lunatic when he proposes that they marry and work together in her hometown. But there's no denying his skill, and she can see the emotional price Alex pays to help hurting people. Besides, the owes the guy for saving her own sister.

So she agrees to marry him.

And that's when the real trouble begins. A murderous bounty hunter is on Alex's trail. Alex only has to live long enough to turn himself in, and then he may face a firing squad. Not exactly the honeymoon of Beth's dreams.

Alex may find the faith he lost while surrounded by the horrors of war, but will doing the right hing by facing his past cost him his wife...and his life?

My review:

This was my first book by Mary Connealy, and I can say beyond any doubt, it will not be my last. I absolutely could not put Doctor in Petticoats down from the first chapter. It's quite possibly one of the funniest books I've read all year.

Doctor in Petticoats is filled with color characters. The voice that Beth has is just marvelous. I loved her sisters and parents (and have since learned one of Ms. Connealy's earlier books tells the story of Beth's parents, I will definitely be borrowing that one from the library.) I'm looking forward to reading Sally and Mandy's stories as well.

While reading Doctor in Petticoats, I couldn't help but think of how much my stepdad would enjoy a movie version of the book. He loves westerns, and I could clearly imagine his reactions to the last third of the book.

Doctor in Petticoats is a book I highly recommend.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Dead Travel Fast by Deanna Raybourn

From the back cover:

A husband, a family, a comfortable life: Theodora Lestrange lives in terror of it all.

With a modest inheritance and the three gowns that comprise her entire wardrobe, Theodora leaves Edinburgh — and a disappointed suitor — far behind. She is bound for Roumania, where tales of vampires are still whispered, to visit an old friend and write the book that will bring her true independence.

She arrives at a magnificent, decaying castle in the Carpathians replete with eccentric inhabitants: the ailing dowager; the troubled steward; her own fearful friend, Cosmina. But all are outstripped in dark glamour by the castle's master, Count Andrei Dragulescu.

Bewildering and bewitching in equal measure, the brooding nobleman ignites Theodora's imagination and awakens passions in her that she can neither deny nor conceal. His allure is superlative, his dominion over the superstitious town, absolute — Theodora may simply be one more person under his sway.

Before her sojourn is ended — or her novel completed — Theodora will have encountered things as strange and terrible as they are seductive. For obsession can prove fatal...and she is in danger of falling prey to more than desire.

My review:

I loved Deanna Raybourn's Lady Julia series when I read it this winter. I also enjoyed reading The Dead Travel Fast.

It reminded me a lot of Victoria Holt's novels. Specifically, it reminded me of The Devil on Horseback, which just happens to be my favorite Holt novel.

The book begins with the death of Theodora's grandfather, in the opening pages Theodora's brother-in-law wonders what is to be done with her. That question is answered when she receives a letter from her school friend Cosmina, inviting Theodora to visit her in Transylvania. So Theodora travels from modern western Europe to feudal eastern Europe. She enters a world completely foreign from her own.

The Dead Travel Fast is a very atmospheric novel. I could see the dense woods, and hear the howls of the wolves as I was reading. I could easily visualize the decaying castle at the top of the mountain. It was a wonderful book to escape into.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Hillsong United - Hosanna - With Subtitles/Lyrics

Sunday Worship: Hosanna by Hillsong United

Above you will find a video of one of my favorite worship songs, Hosanna by Hillsong United. It's one we sing often at church, in fact it was our closing song this weekend. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

I'd Tell You I Love You But Then I'd Have to Kill You by Ally Carter (YA)

From the back cover:

Cammie Morgan is a student at the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women, a fairly typical all-girls school--typical, that is, if every school taught advanced martial arts in PE and the latest in chemical warfare in science, and students received extra credit for breaking CIA codes in computer class. The Gallagher Academy might claim to be a school for geniuses, but it's really a school for spies.

Even though Cammie is fluent in fourteen languages and capable of killing a man seven different ways with her bare hands, she has no idea what to do when she meets an ordinary boy who thinks she's an ordinary girl.

Sure, she can tap his phone, hack into his computer, or track him through town with the skill of a real "pavement artist"--but can she maneuver a relationship with someone who can never know the truth about her?

My thoughts:

First, I want to thank my friend, Laura J. for recommending this author. I'm not a fan of first person narrative, so it did take me just a bit to get into the book. That said, I truly enjoyed this book. I loved the world, which was brought to life. A super, secret spy school filled with genius students, and a very colorful faculty. I found both Cammie's mother, who is the headmistress, and her Covert Ops teacher, Joe Solomon to be very interesting characters.

The book takes place during the fall semester of Cammie's sophomore year. She's known as the chameleon because she's able to blend into her surroundings so well. But when she meets an ordinary high school boy who notices her, Cammie has no idea how to handle it.

The book is quite hilarious in some places, yet just as poignant in others. I'm looking forward to reading more about Cammie's missions.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Sister Wife by Diane Noble

From the back cover:

What if the man you loved told you God wanted him to take another wife?
What if the woman was your best friend?

Set in the heart of the earliest days of a new 19th century sect known as the Saints, The Sister Wife, is a riveting account of two women forced into a practice they don't understand, bound by their devotion to Prophet Joseph Smith. When Mary Rose marries Gabriel, neither of them could foresee how quickly the community would turn to the practice of plural marriage. Devastated when Gabe is faced with an order from the Prophet to marry her best friend, Brownyn, Mary Rose tries to have the faith to carry through with the marriage. But can she really be married to the same man as her best friend?

Can Mary Rose and Brownyn face betraying both their husband and their God to do what is right?

My take:

Mormon polygamy is a subject which has been in the new the last few years. From the legal proceedings against various polygamy leaders to the success of HBO's drama series Big Love, Mormon polygamy has been brought to the attention of the American culture. I am a fan of Big Love, and I admit the show has made me ponder the psychological and sociological aspects of modern day polygamy.

The first section of book, where they are on the ship to America was a little slow for me, however I felt the story picked up when they arrived in Nauvoo. Almost from the beginning, Mary Rose is hearing the rumors of polygamous relationships amongst the leadership of the sect. The scenes were Joseph Smith gives the men his revelations about polygamy were fascinating. It was deceptive and manipulative all at the same time, just like Eve and the snake in the Garden of Eden. The later scene where Gabe is trying to convince Mary Rose that it is imperative for his marriage to Brownyn to be consummated is just as manipulative.

I won't say The Sister Wife was an easy read, because it was not. However, it was one of the most thought provoking books I've read this year. It was not a light read, quite honestly I found it to be spiritually dark in many places. A Christian reader will be shaking their head at the Mormon theology, and at the actions of the characters. However, the light is there, peaking through the darkness. The seeds of later redemption are planted.

The Sister Wife was a book which stayed with me long after I read the last page. Honestly, it is the first book I can remember renewing at the library, even though I've finished reading it. I look forward to the rest of the books in the series, and to the journey to redemption.


My apologies for being MIA the last few weeks. Real life sorta took over for awhile. I am back, and I'm planning to post at least one review tonight, possibly two. Hope everyone is well.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Ransomed Dreams by Sally John

From the back cover:

With the flash of a bullet, Sheridan Montgomery's world ceased to exist.

Her husband, Eliot -the U.S. ambassador to Venezuela - may have physically survived the assassination attempt, but he would never be the same again. And Sheridan had accepted neither would their marriage.

But when a man that Sheridan had hoped to never see again brings new information about her past, it spins her life down a side road - a path that makes her question everything she thought knew about herself, her husband, and their life together.

Does a promise last forever when everything has changed? With honesty and grace, best-selling author Sally John tells a moving story about the unexpected detours our lives can take and the hope it's never too late to find our way back.

My thoughts:

I kept thinking of Don Henley's song "The End of the Innocence," while reading Ransomed Dreams. If I were to sum up the first part of the book in one thought it would be; "When happily ever after fails." Sheridan and Elliot's lives shattered in an instant on a Caracas street. Sheridan even goes as far to refer to things as "B.C.E." (Before the Caracas Event) and "A.C.E" (After the Caracas Event). They've built a new life for themselves in a sleepy Mexican village, but that peace is shattered when they are visited by Luke Traynor, who had been with the ambassador's entourage in Caracas. Luke's visit sends Sheridan on a journey with exposes both the past of her family and the past of her husband.

I liked the quiet introspection of Ransomed Dreams. It was not a flashy novel, but I found it to be very thought provoking, and for that reason I could not put it down. I liked the voices of the secondary characters and the voices of Sheridan and Elliot. I loved the little glimpses into the diplomatic world, and the interludes that showed Sheridan and Elliot prior to his injuries. They truly seemed to be a power couple. I also loved how the prologue and epilogue were bookends.

I checked Ransomed Dreams out from my local library. I almost never purchase a book that I borrow from the library. However, I am seriously considering purchasing Ransomed Dreams as it is a book I believe I would love to read again.

Organizational Thoughts

Lately, I have been thinking about how I want to organize this blog. I have decided it would be best to stick to a schedule, or at least try to stick to one. Without further ado, there is what I am thinking:

Sunday Worship: On Sundays, I'm going to post a video. It will either be a worship song, hymn, or a Christian song. I will also write a little bit about what draws me to the particular song.

Musical Monday: A review of a CD. It will be mostly Christian music, since I mostly listen to Christian music. I'll also post a youtube link to one of the songs from the CD.

Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursdays will likely be devoted to book reviews. I will likely only review books which I can give a positive review. I don't write critical reviews well at all.

Figure Skating Friday: I also describe myself as an obsessed figure skating fan. Really what else do you call someone who has more VCR tapes than she cares to count, and most are filled with 6-8 hours of commercial free figure skating? Right now, I plan to post a skating video, and a little about the skater and/or program. In October, when the skating season starts, I'll post about the Grand Prix events, etc.

Saturdays will likely be a hodgepodge of movies, television, and documentaries. In case you've not noticed I am a little bit of a nerd. ;) Oh, and I might review non-fiction books I've read too. I mostly read history and political science books.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Hillsong Live

I have always loved music. In the last few years, I have come to truly love modern worship music. Needless to say I was thrilled when I found out Hillsong would be coming to Lexington. To make this even better, the event was at my church!

I'm not even certain I have the words to describe the last few hours. It was nothing short of amazing. It was a truly wonderful night of worship. Then again, aren't all nights of worship wonderful?

I haven't exactly figured out how to post a link to a video yet. So I'm going to leave the lyrics of one of my favorite songs from tonight. It's called "You," and the lyrics are speaking so much to me right now.

Verse 1:
Invading all my weakness
You wrapped me up in grace
The worst of me succeeded by the best of You

Verse 2
My heart is overtaken
My soul is overwhelmed
The worst of me succeeded by the best of You

Verse 3
My dreams have found their purpose
My future in Your hands
This life would have no meaning if it weren't for You

So I lay me down
For Kingdom come
Steal all that is within me
Cause all I want in this world is more of You

And the less of me it is You
Increasing as I fade away
Your life for all the world to see
God It is You who breaks the chains
It is You who lights the way
And everything I am cries out for You

Verse 4
Lord make me more transparent
Your life in mine displayed
And let every earthly glory
Go back to You

So I lay me down
For Kingdom come
Steal all that is within me
Cause all I want in this world Is more of You

And the less of me it is You
Increasing as I fade away
Your life for all the world to see
God It is You who breaks the chains
It is You who lights the way
And everything I am cries out for You

Right now, I'm especially liking the part about laying me down.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Nightshade by Ronie Kendig

From the back cover:

After a tour of duty in a war-torn country, embattled former Navy SEAL Max Jacobs finds himself discarded and alienated from those he loves as he struggles with war-related PTSD. His wife, Sydney, files a restraining order against him and a petition for divorce. Max is devastated.

Then a mysterious man appears. He says he's organizing a group that recycles veterans like Max. It's a black-ops group know as Nightshade. With the chance to find purpose in his life once again, Max is unable to resist the call of duty and signs on.

The team handles everything with precision and lethal skill-until they're called upon to rescue a missionary family from a rebel-infested jungle and avoid a reporter hunting their identities.

Will Max yield his anger and pride to a force greater than him-love?

My review:

Dee Henderson was one of the first Christian fiction authors I read when I started reading contemporaries 10 years ago. I loved her series dealing with the military, especially the first book in the series, True Devotion. Therefore, I was thrilled to learn of Ronie Kendig's Nightshade.

This is a book which does not disappoint. I found Nightshade to be a grittier look at the lives of those who defend our country. As a reader, you feel for every single character in this book. You deeply feel the pain of both Max and Sydney as you are reading. You cannot help but root for all to be made right in the end.

On a personal note, I could not help but think of the veterans in my own family as I was reading Nightshade. Both of my grandfathers were World War II veterans, and neither spoke much about the war. Nightshade is a book which honors the service of those who have defended our country.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Courting Morrow Little by Laura Frantz

From the back cover:

Caught between the wilderness and civilization, Morrow Little must find her way to true love

Morrow Little is haunted by the memory of the day her family was torn apart by raiding Shawnee warriors. Now that she is nearly a grown woman and her father is ailing, she must make difficult choices about the future. Several men--ranging from the undesired to the unthinkable--vie for her attentions, but she finds herself inexplicably drawn to a forbidden love that both terrifies and intrigues her. Can she betray the memory of her lost loved ones--and garner suspicion from her friends--by pursuing a life with him? Or should she seal her own misery by marrying a man she doesn't love?

This sweeping tale of romance and forgiveness will envelop you as it takes you from a Kentucky fort through the vast wilderness of the West.

My review:

Where do I even begin with this one? First of all, let me say, I don't believe there are enough superlatives in the English language for me to adequately express how much I love Laura Frantz's work. When I was reading Courting Morrow Little, I was swept away two hundred years or so into my state's early history. This is a sweeping tale of love and forgiveness which is just breathtaking.

Heroines are so important, and Morrow is a lovely heroine. However, heroes are just as important, and Laura Frantz has crafted a truly memorable hero in Red Shirt. Morrow and Red Shirt's story is one which will stay with the reader long after finishing the last page.

Courting Morrow Little has a permanent place on my keeper shelf, and I know it is a book I will read multiple times.

The Gathering Storm by Bodie and Brock Thoene

Description from Goodreads:

As Nazi forces tighten the noose, Loralei must flee
her beloved Germany. But is anywhere safe from Adolf
Hitler's evil grasp?

When her father, a German opposition leader, is
imprisoned by the Nazis, Loralei is forced into hiding and
then on a harrowing flight that will eventually lead her to
London. In the midst of grief and deep losses of her own,
Loralei finds meaning in helping the overwhelming flood
of refugees, including thousands of children, who escaped
Hitler's reach and made their way to freedom, yet sacrificed
everything in exchange for their lives.
While in London, Loralei meets a friend of her father's
from her pre-war life in Germany. . .and falls deeply,
passionately in love. Yet he's a man she can never marry - a mysterious figure who closely guards an age-old secret.

As air-raid sirens now wail over blacked-out London and
Luftwaffe fighters fill the British skies, Loralei looks for a
new reason to live in hope, even amidst the debris of so
much brokenness

My review:

I am a long time fan of Brock and Bodie Thoene's WWII fiction. I first read the Zion Covenant series and Zion Chronicles series over 15 years ago. I must admit I almost screamed with joy when I found there was to be a series bridging the two earlier series. I also screamed (on the inside) when I found The Gathering Storm at Barnes and Noble on Friday.

In true Thoene fashion, The Gathering Storm begins with a modern day prologue. However, unlike the earlier books, this one is written in first person from the point of view of the heroine, Loralei Bittick. She is the daughter of an Austrian pastor and his Texas born wife. The story begins in Brussels just as the phony war is ending with the Nazi invasion of the neutral countries. The story follows Loralei's escape from the continent to London. In London, Loralei runs into Eben Golah, who she knew in pre-war Europe. Eben is quite a fascinating character. If I say more, I feel I might be in danger of spoiling the book.

At the end of The Gathering Storm, readers will find short descriptions of upcoming books in the Zion Diaries series. These two books will reintroduce characters from the Zion Covenant and Zion Chronicles. I look forward to reading these new books as well.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Ransome's Crossing by Kaye Dacus

From the back cover:

In order to get to her secret fiance in Jamaica, Charlotte Ransome must disguise herself as Charles Lott, a midshipman who joins the crew of one of the ships in a convoy led by her brother---Commodore William Ransome. Unknown to her, First Lieutenant Ned Cochrane, also in Ransome's convoy, has set his heard on Charlotte after meeting her briefly in Portsmouth. But because he is about to leave for a year of duty in Caribbean, he despairs of finding her unmarried when he returns home.

During the transatlantic journey, an attack on the convoy throws Ned and "Midshipman Lott" together. Though unsure as to whether he should let Charlotte know he sees through her ruse, Ned decides to keep her secret...and hopes to eventually win her love. Charlotte soon discovers that losing her heard to the handsome lieutenant is not the only danger she faces on this Atlantic crossing.

Courage, faith, hope, and love shine in this exciting romantic sea adventure from the Regency era.

My thoughts:

Kaye Dacus is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. Ransome's Crossing is the second book in the Ransome Trilogy, and I recommend reading the first book, Ransome's Honor. Ransome's Crossing also continues the story of William and Julia, who were first introduced in Ransome's Honor. In this volume, they are beginning married life as they travel to her plantation in Jamaica. The focus is equally on Ned and Charlotte, who have been fascinating since their first meeting in Ransome's Honor. I found Ransome's Crossing to be a very satisfying read, and I know it is a book I will read time and time again.

The ending will make you wait patiently (or not so patiently) for the third book in the series, Ransome's Quest.

**A copy of this book was graciously provided by the author, Kaye Dacus and her publisher, for review purposes.**

Sunday, July 4, 2010

While surfing around on the net today, I stumbled across this . A four month reading challenge sounds very interesting to me. Here's the list:

5 Point Challenges

Read a chick lit book

Read a name with a proper name in the title

Read a historical fiction book

Read a book with a one word title

Read a book made into a movie

10 Point Challenges

Read a book with a Civil War theme (any country)

Read a Biblical fiction book

Read a hardcover book

Read a book about a king or queen

Read a book set in France

15 Point Challenges

Read a book by an author you’ve never read before

Read a biography or autobiography

Read a book with a number in the title

Read any book and then post a review

Read any book but read it outside

20 Point Challenges

Read a book in a series AND the one after it

Read a book that was a winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

Read a book considered Christian fiction

Read a book from The Modern Library Top 100

Read a book by an author born in July, August, September or October

I do believe I could do quite well with this! I'm going to give it a try!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Hello again!

Trying to start bloogging a few days after my grandmother's death, was perhaps not the smartest decision I've made. However, I am back, and I do plan to blog with much more frequency now. Happy 4th of July!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Hello World!!!

Hello, world. I've decided to start blogging. I'm going to blog mostly about my interests: reading, writing (although I don't believe I'm ready to let anyone read any of my writing yet), figure skating, and I'm sure there be some mentions of movies and television thrown in for good measure.

I am a huge reader, so expect to see quite a number of book reviews. I mostly read Christian fiction, although I'm certain there will be a few history books thrown in every so often.

Currently I am about to start The Telling by Beverly Lewis.