Thursday, February 26, 2015

Review of My Heart Stood Still by Lori Copeland

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My Heart Stood Still
is an inspirational romance by Lori Copeland. Although I typically enjoy this genre and don't really care that the books are light, easy reads, I can't say that I really enjoyed this one.

From the book's description:

The three wily and beautiful McDougal sisters can swindle a man faster than it takes to lasso a calf. But their luck is running out, and they’re about to be hauled off to jail. When the wagon carrying them falls under attack, each sister is picked up by a different man.
Anne-Marie, the middle sister, is saved by Creed Walker, a Crow warrior. It’s loathing at first sight, but with bandits on their tail and a cache of gold to hide, Creed and Anne-Marie need each other. Will they learn to put aside their differences and trust each other—and God? And can their growing faith turn their lives around?

The story was rather choppy. I felt as if we went from event to event with not much character development in between. The happenings were rather unrealistic, and, although it's fiction, I want it to be mostly believable.

This is one of a series that apparently tells the story of each of the sisters in the book. I haven't read the others in the series and don't really know if they are interrelated. But, I don't think I'll be looking for the others.

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

You can find the book on Amazon here:

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 was not compensated in any other way.

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Review of Saving Justice by Susan Crawford

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Saving Justice is an inspirational romance by a new to me author, Susan Crawford. I looked forward to the review, however, because I enjoy the genre.

From the book's description:

After losing her brother to gang-related violence, elementary schoolteacher Kinley is on a mission to help her at-risk students. When one of them, Justice, is caught in an act of vandalism, she intervenes.
Entrepreneur Nash McGuire has gone to great lengths to overcome the poverty he grew up in. When working on a renovation project in his old neighborhood he collides with a juvenile delinquent and his do-gooder teacher.
Kinley believes Justice can overcome the influence of his environment; Nash knows the odds and has little patience with Kinley’s naivety. But as the boy’s mandatory community service forces Justice and Kinley into Nash’s life, he can’t help but discover a boy searching for love and purpose–a boy very much like he once was.
Then Justice is accused of another crime. And Kinley’s stubborn belief in the boy’s innocence is just too much for Nash to accept…

Saving Justice has characters that I liked. The story was inspiring and interesting. At times I felt like the action wasn't very realistic and that there was a "choppy" feel to it. But, overall, I really enjoyed it. And, at the end I found myself teary and was moved for the characters as the story resolved.

The book isn't something deep and thought-provoking. But it's a good story with interesting characters. And themes of following God's will and letting go of bitterness for the past can make the reader pause and consider.

I give this one 4 stars and a PG for content. (There is reference to drug usage.) You can preorder your Kindle edition here:

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.

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Review of Second Hand Cowboy by Lacy Williams

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I don't think it's any secret to my readers that I enjoy a Christian fiction romance novel. It might be twaddle and certainly not very deep literature, but there's something enjoyable about just tuning out the world and getting caught up in a good book. And a good inspirational romance can be touching and inspiring.

Second Hand Cowboy is an inspirational romance by an author that I've read and enjoyed before- Lacy Williams. From the book's description:

Iris Tatum hasn’t seen her high school sweetheart Callum Stewart since he left years ago without a single word. Then she witnesses a horrific hit-and-run accident, and comes face to face with her past–and Cal’s triplets. A volunteer paramedic, Iris can’t walk away. No matter how much she wants to.
Bull rider Callum Stewart was run out of town at age twenty and vowed never to return. Only one thing could bring him back: building a future for his sons. Now, thanks to the accident that left him with a broken leg—he needs help to care for his boys. He has no choice but to accept Iris’s grudging help.
As they rediscover a friendship–and the sparks that never faded between them–Callum’s secrets are brought back with a vengeance. How can they keep the past from destroying their future?

I thoroughly enjoyed this read. The characters are compelling and easy to like. There's a good balance between the action and the character development. And the lessons the characters learn about themselves and God's plan for them are inspiring ones to think about.

I suppose there's nothing deep and meaningful about this read, but it is very enjoyable. And there are encounters between the main characters that do make you think about relationships and about God's will for us.

I give Second Hand Cowboy 4 strong stars and a PG for content.

You can preorder your copy now:

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

Visit As We Walk Along the Road for homeschool support and encouragement.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Review of The Babylon Contingency by Clifford Longley

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 Babylon Contingency is a mystery/suspense. When I first began reading, I thought I wasn't going to be very impressed. But as I read along, I was glad I had given the read a chance. The action and suspense kept me interested, and the ending was a twist that kept me guessing.

From the book's description:

A riveting international adventure-mystery
Investigating a burglary at an English country house, Detective Chief Inspector Robbie Peele comes face to face with one of the most mysterious objects in world archaeology, the Phaestos Disk—and with the Middle Eastern terrorist cell determined to steal it.
The vital clue is a long abandoned Muslim village in Crete, where a Victorian gentleman explorer witnessed horrors that were meant to be secret and recorded what he saw in coded diaries. Seeking the truth about the Phaestos Disk, Peele and his assistant, Sarah Shipton, are on the cusp of solving the mystery when they are caught in an ancient Egyptian burial chamber during an earthquake.
In the end Peele has to ask far harder questions than simply who committed the original burglary. The origins of the Phaestos Disk are inextricably bound up with the Middle East peace process in ways that frustrate and astound him.
Certain to draw readers into a world of ancient secrets and international intrigue, The Babylon Contingency is a riveting read from experienced journalist and broadcaster Clifford Longley.

The book is written in first person from Robbie- the detective's- perspective. This was a little difficult at first- especially because there isn't lots of character development, just much of him relating the things that are happening. But as I read, I began to like it. It's a Sherlock Holmes sort of book. The British detectives, the who-done-it style. I was drawn in.

As I said, I didn't really get to know any of the characters very well. Even Robbie doesn't talk much about his feelings or personal life. And I typically don't like a story where the characters aren't developed. But the fast moving, action and suspense story line kept me interested.

One note: Kregel is a Christian publishing name from the UK. This book isn't a Christian read. Robbie is pretty much an atheist, and his opinions are backed up by the archeology research in the story. At the end, he's coming to a sort of peace with religious types. That's about the sum of the Christian message. And another of the main characters has come to the realization that whatever religion he wants to be is all about the same. If you're not looking at it for a Christian worldview, it's a pretty "clean" story. There is some indication of characters' who are committing adultery, but there isn't a huge focus on this and, of course, no particulars.

I give this one a PG-13 because of the action violence. And I give it 4 stars for readability.

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 was not compensated in any other way.

You can find The Babylon Contingency on the Kregel website here or on Amazon here:Kregel Amazon Page. This week you can get the digital book for $1.99.

Visit As We Walk Along the Road for homeschool support and encouragement.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Review of The First Principle by Marissa Shrock

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.

I'm always on the lookout for good young adult literature. It's a difficult genre because so much of popular fiction just reflects the fads and trends that I don't want my kids to be involved in. So I'm always glad to see alternatives with a Christian worldview. Unfortunately many of these prove to be not very well done. So, of course, kids won't choose these to read because they just aren't good books. I was intrigued by the description of The First Principle, one of these Christian alternatives to the dystopian society novels.

From the book's description: 

In the not-too-distant future, the United Regions of America has formed. Governors hold territories instead of states, and while Washington, DC, is gone, the government has more control than ever before. For fifteen-year-old Vivica Wilkins, the daughter of a governor, this is life as usual. High school seems pretty much the same--until one day, that controlling power steps right through the door during study hall.
When Vivica speaks out to defend her pregnant friend against the harsh treatment of Population Management Officer Marina Ward, she has no idea she's sowing the seeds of a revolution in her own life. But it isn't long before she discovers her own illegal pregnancy. Now she has to decide whether to get the mandatory abortion--or follow her heart, try to keep the baby, and possibly ruin her mother's chances at becoming president.
A rebel group called the Emancipation Warriors, who are fighting to restore freedoms once held unalienable, offer her asylum. Can Vivica trust these rebels to help her or will they bring everything crashing down around her? Accepting their help may come with consequences she isn't ready to face.
Marissa Shrock's debut novel crafts a chilling story of what may be to come if we allow the economic and moral crises currently facing our country to change the foundations on which we built our independence--and of the difference one person can make when they choose to trust God's lead.

I wasn't sure about The First Principle when I first picked it up. The cover image wasn't appealing. That may sound silly, but it's often the first thing that draws me to a book. And when I began reading I wasn't sure if the book was going to have a decent plot that could stand on its own or if it was going to be a cheesy knock off. But I was very pleasantly surprised.

The First Principle has a good cast of characters. They were believable and likable. Told in the first person viewpoint of our heroine- Vivica- the story also lets the reader get to know the other characters well.

The story line was interesting and fast moving enough to hold my interest and keep me thinking about what was going to happen next between readings. There is some suspense and quite a bit of action. There were some scenes in the story that were rather unbelievable and that didn't flow as well. But, overall, the story went together well.

The book ends in such a way that there can easily be additional novels in a series. I easily recommended the book to my teen readers, and I know we'll look for more to follow.

I give The First Principle 3.5 stars and a PG-13 rating (for some violence and suspenseful scenes).

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 was not compensated in any other way.

***Special offer for this week only. The First Principle ebook is free today- February 9- and is $1.99 through February 15!*** Visit the Kregel Publications Amazon page here- Kregel Publications

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Friday, February 6, 2015

Review of Roadmap Genesis: A DVD That Explores the Importance of the Book of Genesis in Our Modern Lives

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.

I have to be honest as I begin this review. It was a difficult one for me because, as I watched this DVD- Roadmap Genesis- I realized that the film producer was coming from a different perspective than that of my own and than that of what I expected from the film's description. I've given some objective information about the DVD and a short reasoning for why I'm uncomfortable about the film. I never want a review to turn into an argument or a bashing of ideas. So I'm keeping my opinion part brief. If you, as a reader, have objections or your own opinions of the film, I welcome hearing those in the comments.

Roadmap Genesis is a documentary produced by Nolan Lebovitz. The story of how he came to produce the film is very interesting. He was once a film producer of psychological thrillers. After becoming a father and having a family, he began to question what he was producing and giving to the world. His search for answers for his life led him to the Bible and the book of Genesis. He was very impressed by what he read, and he ended up becoming a Rabbi to change the world for good. His documentary- Roadmap Genesis is a record of his journey as he travels around and talks to a variety of people about their opinions of the book of Genesis.

From the film description:
Roadmap Genesis is a film documentary that makes the case that the Book of Genesis is a roadmap containing guideposts on how to live a productive, fruitful, and fulfilling life that will help our society lift itself out of its current decline and return it to prosperity, promise, and accomplishment.

When Filmmaker Nolan Leibovitz found himself at a crossroads in his life, he knew he had to choose between continuing to make the Hollywood suspense thrillers that were his livelihood and trying to make the world a better place for his new young family. After much struggle, he found his answer in the Book of Genesis.

He decided to combine his love of the Book of Genesis with his passion for filmmaking and set out to travel the United States, interviewing clergy and public figures in order to build an undeniable argument about the continued importance of the Book of Genesis as guiding force in our Judeo-Christian country.

Roadmap Genesis invites Americans of all faiths to engage in a dialogue about the relevance of the Bible in the modern age. Through interviews ranging from Gov. Mike Huckabee of Fox News Channel to Rabbi David Wolpe, from Alan Dershowitz to the Archbishop of Chicago Cardinal Francis George, from Erick Stakelbeck of the Christian Broadcasting Network to Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis and the Creation Museum, and many, many more, Nolan explores the rules that God has set forth to help us maintain a successful and working society.

Based on the list of those who were interviewed, I was interested. Some of those names I recognize, and I expected a certain viewpoint. There were some well-known names in this list and some I hadn't heard of. The producer also interviews people on the street with some interesting questions about God and the Bible and Genesis specifically.

Here are some things I liked about the film:
  • The premise of Genesis as a road map is a perspective that I agree with. I do believe that Genesis, along with all of the Bible, is extremely important in guiding our lives.
  • I liked the variety of people who are interviewed. It's interesting to hear comments from people on the street and from more well-known personalities.
Unfortunately, there was a key perspective in the film that I did not agree with. The producer- and some of the people interviewed- seemed to view Genesis as a road map, not because it is the literal, inspired truth of God, but because it is a guide of sorts, in the same way that other great literature would be a guide. There are several times when people who are interviewed discuss evolution and how a belief in Genesis doesn't have to be "against" science because Genesis isn't literal. This is definitely not my perspective. Yes, I believe that Genesis is important. But I believe it's important because it's God's literal word and a history of our world. I believe that the foundation of the gospel- of Christ come to die for us- is in the book of Genesis.

One of the biggest reasons that I think there is this difference in perspective is because of the Jewish faith of the producer. That isn't included in the film's description, but I definitely think his faith and beliefs shape this film. And it's something I probably could have known if I had researched the film more thoroughly. Although it's always interesting to see other perspectives, it is a little difficult when dealing with matters of Scripture.

Another thing that really bothered me about this film was that thrown in the mix of the various speakers and interviewees were also clips of various people/celebrities talking about the myth of God and the inaccuracy of the Bible. These clips were placed into the mix with no explanation as to why they were used. Were they viewed as the importance as those who discussed the importance of the Bible? I will admit that some of my discomfort here comes from the fact that I am a black and white person. Whether this is a good thing or not, it is a fact. When sound bites are thrown out with equal importance and no commentary to dismiss or support, I am uncomfortable.

And, that's the final thing that really bothered me. Many of the interview clips were just small sound bites with not much context. It's always difficult to truly know the opinions of the people speaking when there isn't context surrounding their comments. I was particularly concerned about clips from Ken Ham from Answers in Genesis. I'm very familiar with the Answers in Genesis ministry and with their views. They teach a literal interpretation of Genesis, including a literal six days of Creation. The sound clips from Ken Ham, filmed at the Creation Museum, include some little bites about the importance of the book of Genesis for daily life. There isn't anything at all about the literal Creation belief. There isn't anything at all about the primacy of Genesis to the gospel. And, I can't help but wonder what the context of his comments were. And, is it misleading to have a couple of bites from him and then have all of the sound bites about how a belief in Genesis and a belief in evolution don't have be at odds because Genesis can be interpreted so many different ways.

I don't want to diss the film entirely. If you are watching with full knowledge of what you're going to see and you want to experience what people from all walks of life and all different faiths and all different beliefs feel about the importance of Genesis, this could be thought-provoking. But, unfortunately I came in with an idea of a certain viewpoint and this wasn't it. So, consider what the film is really about and consider your own perspectives and your purposes for watching. If you are interested in finding out more, you can enter to win a free copy in the giveaway below. You can also check out the sites below to find out more.

Movie Trailer:

Enter below to win a copy and form your own opinion.

"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 a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”


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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Review of Breaker's Reef by Terri Blackstock

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.

I've long been a fan of Terri Blackstock. Her mystery/suspense writing is always interesting and keeps me reading to find out what happens.

Breaker's Reef is Book Three of the Cape Refuge series. I think I've read the first but not the second. Although there is some continuous storyline, the books can be read as stand alone novels quite easily because each one has a different "case" to be solved.

From the book description:
A Cape Refuge teenager is dead . . .
Then another body is found . . .
Will Sadie Caruso be the next to die?
When a famous mystery writer moves to Cape Refuge, ex-con Sheila Caruso-mother to Sadie and Caleb-is thrilled to get a job working for him. But when a teenage girl is found murdered, Sheila discovers that a scene in one of the eccentric writer's novels matches the crime scene. Exactly.
Then a second dead girl is discovered by Police Chief Cade and Blair Owens. And when this murder mirrors a scene in another of the writer's books, Cade is drawn into a web of trickery and deceit. Shockingly, evidence turns up in Cade's truck-evidence that points to Cade himself as the number one suspect!
Cade tries to clear his name, but when eighteen-year-old Sadie Caruso disappears, tensions mount to a fever pitch. Can Cade find the real killer before Sadie winds up dead? Is the author a demented killer or a hapless victim? And what does Sadie's own mother have to do with the crimes? Secrets are uncovered while lessons are learned about the sins of the fathers being visited upon their children. Will the consequences of Sheila's poor choice in life be fatal, or is there redemption and mercy for her and her children?

The characters in this series are well developed and compelling. I feel as if I get to know each one well. There are main characters that appear throughout the series and then secondary characters that are only a part of this novel. There is a good balance of action, dialogue, and introspection; so I feel as if I can know what the characters are thinking and feeling, but I also don't get bogged down in each one's personal thoughts.

The mystery/suspense in Breaker's Reef is very compelling. I read through this book quite quickly because I found myself wanting to keep on and find out who was the guilty party. I also formed an opinion about who I thought it was...and I was proved wrong!

The only negative, in my opinion, was that occasionally the actions of the characters were a little unbelievable. In order to set up what the author wanted to happen, the characters acted in ways that seemed a little hard to believe.

I still can recommend this one, though, along with the others in the series. I give it 4 stars and a PG-13 rating (because of the mystery and violence).

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 was not compensated in any other way.

Visit As We Walk Along the Road for homeschool support and encouragement.