Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Review of Firewall by DiAnn Mills

This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase through these links, you may be helping to support a voracious curriculum buying habit. Be warned. And thank you for clicking through to purchase.

The plot of Firewall holds lots of promise: action, suspense, intrigue, and even a little romance. There were things I really enjoyed about it. But there were also some things that made it not quite a good read.

I was definitely drawn in to the story immediately. It was active and exciting right from the start. I was drawn to Taryn Young, our main heroine; and I even liked Grayson Hall- our hero- although he was a little "prickly" at the start. The story moved quickly and so kept me interested and reading.

Unfortunately parts of the story just seemed choppy. There were things that the characters did or said that sometimes didn't seem to make sense in the situation. And some of the scenes were confusing. In the scenes between Grayson and his fellow FBI agent at the beginning, it was difficult for me to keep straight who was who, and they almost seemed to change personalities. And, although the majority of the book is in 3rd person told mainly from Taryn's perspective, there was an out of nowhere change to first person from a different character's perspective at one point.

Although it kept my interest because I definitely wanted to know what happened, the choppy segments and the sometimes confusing elements cause me to not recommend it as a really good read.

I give it 3 stars and a PG-13 for content.


Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I wasn't compensated in any other way, and all of the opinions are entirely my own.


This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Firewall
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (July 1, 2014)
by
DiAnn Mills


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


DiAnn Mills believes her readers should “Expect an Adventure.” She is a fiction writer who combines an adventuresome spirit with unforgettable characters to create action-packed novels. Her books have won many awards through American Christian Fiction Writers, and she is the recipient of the Inspirational Reader’s Choice award for 2005, 2007, and 2010. She was a Christy Award finalist in 2008 and a Christy winner in 2010.

DiAnn is a founding board member for American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Inspirational Writers Alive, Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, and is the Craftsman Mentor for the Christian Writer’s Guild. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops.

DiAnn and her husband live in Houston, Texas. Visit her website or find her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/diannmills


ABOUT THE BOOK

After a whirlwind romance, Taryn Young is preparing to board a plane at Houston International Airport, bound for a dream honeymoon, when a bomb decimates the terminal. Injured but still alive, she awakens to discover her husband is missing and they’re both considered prime suspects in the attack. Further, the FBI is convinced her husband isn’t who he appears to be.

Agent Grayson Hall’s number-one priority is to catch those responsible for the day’s act of terror. All evidence is pointing to Taryn and her new husband. But his instinct tells him her pleas of innocence are genuine. Is her naiveté just for show, or could she truly be another victim of a master scheme, possibly linked to the software she recently developed for her company?

With both their lives and reputations on the line, and the media outcry for justice increasing with each passing minute, Taryn and Grayson have no choice but to trust one another . . . and pray they can uncover the truth before they become two more casualties.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Firewall, go HERE.


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Friday, July 18, 2014

Review of When I Fall In Love by Susan May Warren

This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase through these links, you may be helping to support a voracious curriculum buying habit. Be warned. And thank you for clicking through to purchase.

If you've been around Leah's Good Reads for while, you may know that I'm a huge fan of Susan May Warren's books. Her newest series is all about the Christiansen family. I had the privilege of being on the launch team for the first book in the series- Take a Chance on Me. Then I was able to read the second book- It Had To Be You. I loved both of these books, so I was super excited to receive the third book in the series- When I Fall In Love.


This installment follow Grace Christiansen as she heads to Hawaii to attend a cooking school camp. She's not very adventurous and wouldn't have chosen this for herself. But her family keep pushing her to have adventures and expand her experiences. In Hawaii she meets Max Sharpe, who is actually on the same professional hockey team that her brother Owen played for (and that Jace from Book 2 played for.) It seems that Max and Grace are destined for a relationship, but Max has a dark secret in his family and avoids serious relationships.

Once again, I loved the book. Susan does such a wonderful job drawing the reader in and causing up to be absorbed in the characters and in the story. Her characters are deep and compelling. There's a perfect balance of reading behind the scenes to know the characters' thoughts and emotions and providing enough action to keep the story engaging.

Susan uses such descriptive words that invoke a response as we read. I can read her books and really feel as if I'm in the story, as if I know the characters. I find myself thinking about the characters in between reading, and I wonder how they are and what's going to happen to them. (If you are a book lover, you won't think I'm crazy!)

I love the tender romance. But along with that, I love the way that Susan brings in a spiritual focus without being "preachy."

I can definitely recommend this one, and of course, I'm now eagerly awaiting book 4 in the series!

I give this one 5 stars and a PG rating.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, and I was not compensated in any other way.


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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Review of How To Teach Your Children Shakespeare by Ken Ludwig

This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase through these links, you may be helping to support a voracious curriculum buying habit. Be warned. And thank you for clicking through to purchase.

How to Teach Your Children ShakespeareI have a confession. Although I'm an avid reader and read many genres, I wasn't all that interested in Shakespeare when I was in school. I think we had an obligatory part of a play to read in high school; but the writing was difficult, and I felt sometimes as if we were over-analyzing everything when I just wanted to read the play. I was familiar with Shakespeare and somewhat knowledgeable about the difference between a comedy and a tragedy. I knew enough to be considered "well read", but I really didn't have much interest in the Bard.


And then I began to learn more about a Charlotte Mason style of education and classical education. Both of these homeschooling methods use readings of Shakespeare. And as I studied these methods and read more of why teaching Shakespeare was really important, my interest was peaked. (By the way, reasons why we should teach Shakespeare should be a whole other blog post, but you can read some about it here.)

We began a gentle introduction to Shakespeare by reading some of the classic books that have Shakespeare's plays as stories. As the kids got older we began taking one play a semester and reading through the actual play with a modern translation handy. And last year we were able to watch a YouTube presentation of A Comedy of Errors.

And so when I saw the book How To Teach Your Children Shakespeare by Ken Ludwig, I was intrigued. I expected a good, solid book with some ideas about introducing Shakespeare to children successfully. I didn't expect much different from the techniques I already knew, but I was hoping to have some ideas to add to my Shakespeare repertoire. Instead, I got much, much more.

How To Teach Your Children Shakespeare isn't necessarily written to homeschool families. Indeed, Ludwig assumes that parents are going to be using these ideas on the weekends and something above and beyond to teach their children. The book is so much more than just suggestions. It is a collection of 25 passages from some of Shakespeare's works (with some additional passages thrown in throughout and extra passages at the end if your child wants to keep going.) Ludwig gives parents a step by step guide to help their kids memorize the passages- and to memorize the passages for themselves. The meanings of words and ideas in the passages are broken down. For it is much easier to memorize when we grasp the meaning behind what we are memorizing.

Ludwig provides additional resources and quotation sheets that he suggests to use in teaching the passages at a website that he gives readers in the book. He groups the passages by play, and the book includes passages from A Midsummer Night's Dream, Twelfth Night, Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, Henry IV, As You Like It, Henry V, Hamlet, and The Tempest. Throughout there are also chapters that cover various aspects of Shakespeare's work.

I love this book. I was busily devouring myself just so that I could learn more about the plays we had been reading. I had several ah ha! moments when I finally understood a phrase whose meaning had alluded me. I haven't even gotten around to using it with the kids yet, but I do plan to work on teaching them the passages. I've always been a fan of memorization, and I love the idea of familiarizing kids with Shakespeare's work using memorization.

Although it's not written to homeschoolers, I recommend this as a great addition to your homeschool resources- especially if you use classical or Charlotte Mason methods and are introducing your kids to Shakespeare.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own, and I was not compensated in any other way.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Review of Rope of Sand by C.F. Dunn

This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase through these links, you may be helping to support a voracious curriculum buying habit. Be warned. And thank you for clicking through to purchase.

In the last two years I've had the privilege to read and review Mortal Fire and Death Be Not Proud by C.F. Dunn. These are incredible reads that combine suspense, intrigue, romance and a taste of the the supernatural. The first book- Mortal Fire- ended in such a way that I thought I would perish waiting for the sequel. I've just had the opportunity to read the third book in the series- Rope of Sand- and I was NOT disappointed.


Rope_of_Sand_COV[1]I can't reveal too much about the book's plot without ruining the first two for you. But here's the synopsis from the back of the book:
"Emma has discovered Matthew’s secret, but this is only the beginning. In order to prepare for the future, she must also understand the ghosts of his past."
C.F. Dunn's characters are incredibly compelling. Although the stories are in first person with professor Emma D'Eresby as the narrator, readers don't have any difficulty getting to know the other characters because Dunn's writing style helps to reveal them all through Emma's eyes.

The story is also incredibly interesting. The intrigue, the sweet romance, the suspense- all keep the reader entranced throughout the story.

Without giving too much away, I was confused by an abrupt happening in this book. It made things seem a little choppy, appearing out of nowhere. But I was quickly caught up and swept up in the story again. So the book was still a fantastic read.

These books are the kind that make me want to finish so badly because I want to know what happens, but at the same time I am so sad to see the end. I've been missing the characters since I finished the story a couple of days ago. (Other readers will know what I mean and not think me crazy!) And I can't wait for a fourth book to find out how Matthew and Emma's story continues.

I give this one 5 stars and a PG13 for content.


Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own, and I received no other compensation for this review.



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Review of Shenandoah Dreams by Lisa Belcastro

This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase through these links, you may be helping to support a voracious curriculum buying habit. Be warned. And thank you for clicking through to purchase.

When I read the synopsis of Shenandoah Dreams I was very intrigued. History, time travel, adventure: it all seems as if a great story is forthcoming. I was pretty disappointed, however, with the reality.

The story was very choppy. There was little development of the characters, so I didn't feel a connection with them at all. The time travel element was done in a very confusing way, and it took me quite a while to be able to follow. I also get confused when a large chunk of time seems to pass in a story with no explanation. I found that happening at the end of the book, and that contributed to the overall choppy feel. I just had a really hard time connecting with the story and with the characters in this read.

I give this one 3 stars and a G for content.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review purposes. All opinions expressed are entirely my own, and I was not compensated in any other way.





This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Shenandoah Dreams
OakTara Publishers (July 1, 2014)
by
Lisa Belcastro


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Lisa Belcastro lives with her family on Martha’s Vineyard. She loves chocolate, gardening, outdoor activities, cooking, laughing, reading, traveling, a healthy dose of adventure, and her cat Ben, who keeps her company while she spends hours working at the computer.

She was inspired to write Shenandoah Nights, the first book in the Winds of Change trilogy, while chaperoning two Tisbury School summer sails with her daughter, Kayla, aboard the schooner Shenandoah. The weeklong adventure, sans electricity, Game Boys, iPods and modern conveniences, kindled her imagination to dream of an altogether different voyage.

In addition to writing romance novels, Lisa currently pens the cuisine column for Vineyard Style magazine. She has worked as a staff and freelance reporter and photographer for The Chronicle of the Horse and as assistant editor at The Blue Ridge Leader. She has written articles for USA Today, Dressage (London), USA WEEKEND Magazine, The Blue Ridge Leader and Sidelines.

When she’s not at her desk, Lisa is living in paradise, volunteering at her daughter’s school, serving in her church community, planting and weeding her numerous gardens, trying to run a marathon a month, or walking the beach looking for sea glass.

ABOUT THE BOOK

What if she met the man of her dreams...in another century? Tisbury, Massachusetts, Martha s Vineyard. It s just a dream, Melissa Smith whispers as she stares into the intense eyes of a man dressed in Colonial clothes, as though stepping out of an American Revolution movie set. A school chaperone with Holmes Hole Elementary, she d boarded the old schooner Shenandoah for a weeklong educational sail. But they are not visiting Plimoth Plantation, the Boston Tea Party Museum, or the Concord Bridge reenactment. They re sailing the waters around the island of Martha s Vineyard. Yet, when she awakes in Cabin 8, the captain claims to be Isaiah Reed, who sailed the original Shenandoah in the eighteenth century. He cannot possibly be real, Melissa thinks. And traveling back in time is impossible. But days pass, and she s still in 1770. What if Isaiah, who is simply too handsome to be real, is real? What if the fire he ignites in her from barely a touch isn t in her imagination? Can a dream last for weeks on end? If so, how will she find her way home...to the twenty-first century? And can she bear to leave the one man who has captured her heart, when everything in her longs to stay? A Vineyard Romance Romance, history, adventure. Get swept into the exciting Winds of Change series.

If you liked to read the first chapter of Shenandoah Dreams, go HERE.


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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Review of Here to Stay by Melissa Tagg

This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase through these links, you may be helping to support a voracious curriculum buying habit. Be warned. And thank you for clicking through to purchase.

Thankfully I've had some great books to read for review lately. And tonight I just finished Here to Stay by Melissa Tagg.


I love a Christian romance that not only has a sweet, clean romance, but also brings me closer to God and encourages my walk with Him. Here to Stay fit that perfectly.

Autumn has dreams to work in Paris, but she's been stuck running her family's failing inn. She has a rocky relationship with her mom and sister. And now Blake Hunziker- son of the competition inn's owner- is back in town. Blake has his own issues. He's been running since the death of his brother after his brother's involvement in drugs. But he wants to come home and settle in together. Both Blake and Autumn learn to find healing in their relationships. And they both learn that where God leads them is the best possible place for them to be.

I loved the characters. There was a perfect balance between the story line and the character development, so I had the chance to get to know them well. I loved the story. It's a sweet romance. Although it's similar to the typical Christian romance, it wasn't too predictable; and the story moves along well with some unexpected twists and turns.

I love the focus on encouraging the reader's relationship with God without being preachy or pushy. When I can read a book for enjoyment, but still walk away feeling edified and encouraged, it's a good read.

I can definitely recommend this one. I give it 5 stars and a PG rating.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher. A positive review was not required and I received no other compensation.

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Friday, July 4, 2014

Review of Ragamuffin: Based on the Life of Rich Mullins (a DVD)- And GIVEAWAY

This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase through these links, you may be helping to support a voracious curriculum buying habit. Be warned. And thank you for clicking through to purchase.

Ragamuffin_Mill_SmallI'm a child of the 80s. I know I've just revealed at least my approximate age. And as a fan of contemporary Christian music, I remember well when Rich Mullins' song Awesome God first came out. I remember the wild popularity. I loved the song just as everyone else did. And I loved Rich Mullins' other music. There was something real and authentic, something that made you feel as if he could really relate what you were thinking. His music made me think about Who God was to me.


I didn't know much about Rich Mullins himself. I do remember hearing that he lived his life very simply, not in the extravagant way he could have given his popularity. And I remember feeling sadness when I heard about the end of his life in a car crash.

About Rich Mullins:
Singer and songwriter Richard Wayne “Rich” Mullins was best known for his worship song “Awesome God” which has been embraced as modern classics by many Christians. His music has been covered by many artists, including Caedmon’s Call, Amy Grant, Jars of Clay, Michael W. Smith, Third Day, John Tesh, and Hillsong United. Mullins’ musical career formally began with Zion Ministries in the late 1970s, where he wrote music and performed with a band called Zion.  Mullins first solo hit, “Awesome God,” appeared on his third album and brought his music to a wider audience. Rich Mullins was inducted into the Hall of Fame by the Gospel Music Association

I was grateful to have the opportunity to review the new DVD Ragamuffin: Based on the Life of Rich Mullins. The DVD is a cross between an interview and a drama. Throughout the DVD, "Rich" is talking about various times in his life. As he talks the DVD also portrays the story of his life. Beginning in Rich's childhood and continuing on until the very end of his life, the DVD gives a first hand look at the life of this man who wanted to serve God with all his heart but who was the first to admit that he wasn't perfect, wasn't holy.

About the DVD:
RAGAMUFFIN is based on the life of Rich Mullins, a musical prodigy who rose to Christian music fame and fortune only to walk away and live on a Navajo reservation. An artistic genius, raised on a tree farm in Indiana by a callous father, Rich wrestled all of his life with the brokenness and crippling insecurity born of his childhood. A lover of Jesus and a rebel in the church, Rich refused to let his struggles with his own darkness tear him away from a God he was determined to love. As he struggled with success in Nashville and depression in Wichita, Rich desired most of all to live a life of honest and reckless faith amidst a culture of religion and conformity.

There were many things I didn't know about Rich's life. The DVD definitely has a sad tone throughout, I thought. Rich Mullins led an often difficult life. Despite his popularity, he was often haunted by the difficult things from his past. The tone made this difficult to watch at times. At the same time, I was very touched by Rich's life and testimony.

I think that watching the story of his life gave me the same feeling that listening to his music always has- the feeling that I'm not perfect but that God loves me and that I'm on a journey to serve God in the best way that I know how. It was edifying to watch even if it wasn't always easy.

It's a pretty long DVD- almost 2 1/2 hours. I don't think my kids would really "get" it because they haven't had the history of Rich Mullins' music. But all of us who are old enough to remember his touching and inspiring music can appreciate this picture of his life.

You can learn more about the film here. And you can purchase it beginning on July 8 here for $19.99. You can enter to win your own copy in the Rafflecopter below.

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.
 Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”


a Rafflecopter giveaway


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