Sunday, March 1, 2015

Winter Reading Challenge Final Update

I stumbled across Semi-Charmed Kind of Life's Winter Reading Challenge sometime in January. With such specific categories, I knew it would be fun to find books to fulfill each one and that I would certainly find some gems hidden in my library!  I was able to complete all but two of the categories; I just simply forgot to pick up books and then ran out of time this week.  I had to really be focused to squeeze in the last book but I managed to read it all in one day by grabbing every spare minute I could (read while hubby drove on errands, read while cooking, etc).  I will definitely participate in future challenges that Megan hosts. 

I ended up earning 165 points out of a possible 200.  Below are the challenge categories along with the books I read for each one.  The link will take you to my review (using that word loosely as most of them are just quick thoughts really) on Goodreads.  Let me know in the comments if you have read any of these books and what your thoughts on them were.

5 points: Freebie! Read any book that fits the general rules.

Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet: Tasting the Goodness of God in All Things
Every Bitter Thing is Sweet: Tasting the Goodness of God in All Things by Sara Hagerty 

10 points: Read a book written by an author who has published at least 10 books.

The Making of Us

10 points: Read a book of short stories.

My True Love Gave to Me by Stephanie Perkins

15 points: Read the first book in a series that is new to you (so no rereads for this one!)

The Selection by Kiera Cass

15 points: Read a book that was originally written in a language that is not your native language.

Pippi Longstocking

15 points: Read a book written by a local author (either from your state if you live in the United States, or in your country if you live somewhere else - note: author must be from where you currently live).

Rewriting Monday by Jodi Thomas

20 points: Read a "bookish book" (in which books play an important role, e.g. the setting involves a bookstore or library, a major character is an author, or a book that celebrates reading and books.

Books Can Be Deceiving (Library Lover's Mystery, #1)

20 points: Read a book with a direction in the title (e.g. north, south, east, west or any combination of those).

Five Miles South of Peculiar

25 points: Read a book with a song lyric in the title. Be sure to tell us the song name and artist as well!

It Had to Be You (Christiansen Family, #2)
 "It Had to be You" by Gus Kahn, 1924

30 points: Read two books with a different meal in each title.

 Breakfast in Bed by Sandra BrownLunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes

10 points: Read a book with a food (not a drink!) in the title.

Didn't complete this one. I picked up The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen at my library; perhaps I'll read it in March.

25 points: Read a book from a genre you don't usually read.

Didn't complete this one.  The two genres I read the least are poetry and science fiction.  My library shelves Science Fiction books all together so I just browsed the shelves for a title that stood out.   I picked up The Repeat Year by Andrea Lochen; I thought the title seemed different from the other titles I was seeing, more like contemporary fiction so I figured it would be a good one to try.  I'm intrigued by the premise so I will definitely be reading this one in March.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Two Quick Reviews

At Bluebonnet Lake by Amanda Cabot
At Bluebonnet Lake (Texas Crossroads #1) by Amanda Cabot

Amazon         Goodreads

My Review
(Source: borrowed from library)

Sweet contemporary book about finding your purpose and being willing to take risks. I liked the story, the characters, the setting. There isn't anything that I didn't like. It's hard to explain but I liked the story, I just didn't love it. It did take me until a little over halfway to really feel pulled into the book. The secondary characters were delightful and I look forward to reading other books in this series to see how their stories play out.

I gave this book: 

★ = I did not like it     ★ = It was okay     ★ = I liked it    
★ = I really liked it     ★ = I loved it

Free to Love: A Christian Romance Novel (Inspiration Point Series Book 1)
Free to Love (Inspiration Point Series #1) by Kelsey MacBride

Amazon         Goodreads

My Review
(Source: bought)

I'm completely flabbergasted by this book. And I'm not entirely sure how many stars to give it.
I like Julie (really liked her) and several other characters in the book. I don't like the fiance but I do think his character was well-written.
The premise is interesting.
The writing - is just okay, for the most part. There were a few places where it was great but not throughout.
I feel like for all the good things that I liked in this book, there was something not to like. The mother - made no sense to me. At times it seemed like details changed (person's name or something along those lines). I was especially annoyed that the story seemed to abruptly introduce an entire new cast of characters in a completely new setting only to end and prompt me to buy the next book to find out what happens to Julie. It seemed to me that the author wasn't sure what Julie's story was so she gave her another one. 
I like series where there is resolution; there might need to be further resolution -- but I like to be able to walk away knowing that things will be trucking along in that world for a bit. (Harry Potter would be a great example. I'm currently reading through The Selection trilogy and book one wrapped up very nicely even though it was obvious that there was more to the story.)

I like Julie and want to know what will happen to her; I'm not sure if I'm curious enough to buy the next book.   That being said, it does get better reviews on Goodreads and Amazon; I encourage you to check them out for a differing point of view than mine. 

I can loan this book on Kindle once; if you would like to read it, please let me know.

I gave this book: 

★ = I did not like it     ★ = It was okay     ★ = I liked it    
★ = I really liked it     ★ = I loved it

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Every Bitter Thing is Sweet:Tasting the Goodness of God in All Things by Sara Hagerty, A Review

Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet: Tasting the Goodness of God in All Things

Amazon         Goodreads

Book Description

In the age of fingertip access to answers and a limitless supply of ambitions, where do we find the God who was birthed in dirt and straw? Sara Hagerty found him when life stopped working for her. She found him when she was a young adult mired in spiritual busyness and when she was a new bride with doubts about whether her fledgling marriage would survive. She found him alone in the night as she cradled her longing for babies who did not come. She found him as she kissed the faces of children on another continent who had lived years without a mommy s touch.

In Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet, Hagerty masterfully draws from the narrative of her life to craft a mosaic of a God who leans into broken stories. Here readers see a God who is present in every changing circumstance. Most significantly, they see a God who is present in every unchanging circumstance as well.


I received an eARC copy of this book from the publisher. Here is my honest review.

While I have not walked a path of infertility and adoption, this book has greatly impacted me.  I was able to relate to Hagerty on a faith level and there is so much in this book that resonates with me.  Years ago in a Bible Study, someone asked, "Do you know Jesus or do you know Jesus?"  That simple statement set off a desire in me to know Jesus in a deeper way than just being able to recall a Bible story.  Hagerty captures this in her book - she knows Jesus and shares how knowing Him in a deep way rests not just in believing in His truth that is laid out for us in His word but recognizing Him (his face, scent, touch) just as we do those who are most precious to us in earthly form.

This is not a "how-to" book with detailed steps that one can check off.  Hagerty doesn't spell it out in her book, but I would guess that if asked, she would simply tell you to start: talking to God, reading His word, spending moments in your day that you can turn your focus and thoughts to Him rather to other things. This book will show how even in the midst of despair, God is seeking you and that finding peace and joy is possible. 

I highly recommend this book.  I plan to purchase a hard copy of this book to read again at a later date.

I gave this book: 

★ = I did not like it     ★ = It was okay     ★ = I liked it    
★ = I really liked it     ★ = I loved it

Want to Know More?
You can visit Sara's website here: Every Bitter Thing is Sweet
Download the Book Discussion Guide.
She also has a wonderful resource titled Adoration; each month she has compiled a list of ways that we can adore God - one for each day.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Jewel by Amy Ewing, Quick Thoughts ~ 365 Days of YA Reading Challenge

The 365 Days of YA Reading Challenge is having a link up for January reading.  If you haven't seen this challenge yet, you really should jump over and check it out.  The graphic is amazing and full of book recommendations.  What is really neat about this challenge is you could read 4 books up to 365 books if you were able to read a book a day.

The Jewel (The Lone City, #1)
Source: library book
The January recommendation was The Jewel by Amy Ewing.  I like books with girls in fancy dresses on the cover even though I know many readers are over this style of cover art.  I had no idea what the story was about.  Very interesting plot line; hubby and I both remember watching a movie with some similarities many years ago that was based on a book but we can't remember what it was now.  This is a young adult book so one big difference is the age of the main characters.  It's a little - okay, a lot, insta-lovey but I think in this plot framework, it makes sense (plus, teenagers in general I think are prone to insta-love.  In my day, we called it a crush.)  I appreciated that it was a pretty clean read; I would be comfortable with a teenage girl reading this book.  Yes, sex happens, but there are no details and it would easily open discussions on how do you deal with lust?

I liked it but I didn't love it. I definitely want to keep reading to see what happens to each of the characters -- and oh my word - that ending. A little bit cruel to the reader.  Just a little.  

I gave this book: 

★ = I did not like it     ★ = It was okay     ★ = I liked it    
★ = I really liked it     ★ = I loved it

Monday, February 2, 2015

The Best Book I Ever Read {Vampires}

Liza at Reading with ABC just started a feature titled The Best Book I Ever Read on her blog.  She will have a variety of themes/topics for several months.  I thought it sounded like a great way to share books outside of a typical review.

The topic this week is {Vampires}.  I don't typically read books about vampires so please know that I do not have a very long list to pull from.  I recall reading some romance that had a vampire in it; it was okay but was so cliche (or at least felt that way) that I didn't really like it and wasn't inspired to pick up another vampire book.*

A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy, #1)Shadow of Night (All Souls Trilogy, #2)The Book of Life (All Souls Trilogy, #3)

A friend recommended A Discovery of Witches to me during the summer.  I do not know (in real actual life) that many people that love to read as much as I do.  She is one of them and so I immediately looked this book up at the library.  The story follows a witch and a vampire that fall in love.  Harkness creates this amazing world within our familiar world that is completely tangible.  The characters are rich and deep, flawed yet seeking to do the right thing.  The twists in the plot - oh my! 
I don't want to say much because I don't want to give anything away in the form of a spoiler.

I devoured the first two books and then had to wait for the final book to come out in the Fall.  I was very happy to see that it was chosen as best in its category at Goodreads.  Just read them;  especially if you want a grown-up vampire story.  They are adult fiction, but absolutely on par with the Harry Potter franchise in terms of an amazing world and a cast of characters that you will want to know as well as miss once you reach the end of the series.

*Until the Yearathon March challenge last year which was to read Twilight.  I have no desire to read that series so I found another book at Amazon -- you can still pick it up for free here if you are interested.  I picked up Captured by Erica Stevens.  I rated the first book 2 stars, it was okay.  Certainly okay enough for me to pick up books 2-4 to see how the story played out.  I did enjoy the story and the more I read, the more I was drawn into the world and liked the characters.  I still need to read book 5, which I had forgotten about until this challenge came up.  

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher, A Review

Dear Committee Members
Amazon          Goodreads          Barnes and Noble
Books-A-Million                    Book Depository

Book Description

Jason Fitger is a beleaguered professor of creative writing and literature at Payne University, a small and not very distinguished liberal arts college in the Midwest. His department is facing draconian cuts and squalid quarters, while one floor above them the Economics Department is getting lavishly remodeled offices. His once-promising writing career is in the doldrums, as is his romantic life, in part as the result of his unwise use of his private affairs for his novels. His star (he thinks) student can't catch a break with his brilliant (he thinks) work Accountant in a Bordello, based on Melville's Bartleby

In short, his life is a tale of woe, and the vehicle this droll and inventive novel uses to tell that tale is a series of hilarious letters of recommendation that Fitger is endlessly called upon by his students and colleagues to produce, each one of which is a small masterpiece of high dudgeon, low spirits, and passive-aggressive strategies. We recommend Dear Committee Members to you in the strongest possible terms.


I received an eARC copy of this book from the publisher. Here is my honest review.

I am always amazed at the ability of an author to tell a story through a series of letters. Dear Committee Members does so from the perspective of one letter writer yet still paints a pretty clear picture of Jason Fitger and the regrets and frustrations that he faces.  I found the writing to be humorous and as a teacher, see great value in this text for not only vocabulary building but also in discussions about what constitutes "professional" writing and how it differs from casual writing that seems to be used more and more by students.

I noticed one reviewer mentioned that this format could get tiring after just a bit.  I'll admit that about 20% in, I was wondering if the book would hold my attention.  Fitger's letters began to slip into inappropriateness rather quickly and became much more engaging; suddenly I found that I was almost at 90% and boredom was not a concern any longer.  I also found this an easy book to read alongside other books without confusing plot details or characters which typically happens when I read multiple fiction books at a time.

I gave this book: 

★ = I did not like it     ★ = It was okay     ★ = I liked it    
★ = I really liked it     ★ = I loved it

If you enjoy epistolary novels, I highly recommend Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn.

Dear Commitee Members
I like this cover version much better although I do see how the porcupine is a good fit on the cover above.   
Which cover would draw your eye?

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Five Quick Reviews #1

I read quite a bit and tend to get behind in posting reviews.  This year, I will be posting "quick reviews" for books that I have read and want to share with you.  I hope you find something you want to check out as well.  

Refining Felicity (The School for Manners, #1)

Source: Purchased

I read this series several times in high school and college. I remember thinking that the protagonists were spunky and brave and the two spinster aunts were adorable and funny. That still holds true after picking this book up last summer. I look forward to re-reading through the series this year.

I gave this book: 

The Practice Proposal (Suddenly Smitten, #1)

Source: Purchased
I read this over the summer as well - it was a great summer read since the hero is a baseball player and for me, baseball is synonymous with summer.  It was a little kitchy with the "fake" proposal bit but it was pretty tame for a romance novel and the characters were definitely likable. 

I gave this book: 

Forever Dreams  (Montana Brides, #1)

Source: Purchased
I read this in early November and rated it without making any notes; I don't remember a lot about this book to be honest.  I gave it two stars which means it  was okay -- I didn't hate it but I didn't really like it either.  I seem to recall being really annoyed by Gracie.  It gets pretty decent reviews on Goodreads so it must not have been for me.  In the plus column, there were some pretty significant plot twists in this story that I feel like were going to be delved into further in future stories in the series.

I gave this book: 

Lovestruck in London

Source: Purchased -- It is still free for Kindle over at Amazon.
I super enjoyed this story. I read it in late fall and while I may not recall all the details in the story, I remember that I really wanted to know what happened next.  Romance is pretty formulaic and so while I enjoy them, I don't always feel pulled into the story.  Schurig was a new author to me and I really liked the characters that she created and for "new adults" I didn't find myself rolling my eyes at all.  Months later, I saw the title in my review pile and good vibes came back.

I gave this book: 

Until I Found You

Source: Purchased
This is one of the best Christian romances I've read.  And one of the most satisfying.  Nick was completely likable; his strength and his growth touching and genuine.  Kate is also real and while she isn't perfect, she's not a weak whiner.  While they both have doubts about a relationship between them, it wasn't all angsty; instead it focused on who they were, who they wanted to be and how to mesh that with who they were actually becoming.  I will definitely read more by this author in the future.
I gave this book: 

That's it for today.  Have you read any of these books or these authors?  Leave a comment and let me know what you think!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Top 10 Recommendations - Bout of Book 12.0

Trees of Reverie is hosting today's challenge. 

The Challenge: You’ve just started to work at a bookstore (or library) - what are your top ten go-to book recommendations?
I'm pretending that I work in a bookstore, perhaps one called The Shop Around the Corner.  I've been asked to put together a collection of 10 books for my customer to take to a literary baby shower.  Here are ten books I'd recommend to start off any child's library.
32929Room for a Little One: A Christmas Tale98573
1. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown simple, repetitive text, gorgeous illustrations that invite children to "read" the pictures.
2. Room for a Little One: A Christmas Tale by Martin Waddell sweet story set around the birth of Jesus
3. Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson encourages imagination
825377Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!820274
4. The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds encourages art and believing in oneself youTube video reading
5. Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems silly and fun
6. It Looked Like Spilt Milk by Charles G. Shaw encourages spatial thinking
9677870Mix It Up!How to Catch a Star (The Boy, #1)
7. Press Here by Herve Tullet interactive, works for readers of ALL ages
8. Mix It Up! by Herve Tullet interactive, science
9. How to Catch a Star by Oliver Jeffers darling illustrations, sweet story
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom
 10. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. Classic book, great for alphabet awareness
This was a super fun challenge Sarah!  Thanks for hosting!!  Be sure to swing over to her blog, Trees of Reverie and see other readers takes on her challenge.

Bout of Books 12.0 Updates

Monday, January 5, 2015:
Completed: 1 book
Books Read: 2 - Summer of My German Soldier and The Red Scarf
Pages Read: 140
Challenges: Bookshelf Scavenger Hunt
Total Books Completed: 1
Total Pages Read: 140

Summer of my German Soldier PB  The Red Scarf

Tuesday, January 6, 2015:
Completed: 1 book
Books Read: 2 - The Red Scarf and The Magician's Nephew
Pages Read: 142
Total Books Completed: 2
Total Pages Read: 282

The Magician's Nephew

Wednesday, January 7, 2015:
Completed: 0
Books Read:  The Red Scarf
Pages Read: 80
Total Books Completed: 2
Total Pages Read: 362

Thursday, January 8, 2015:
Completed: 0
Books Read: The Red Scarf
Pages Read: 167
Total Books Completed: 1
Total Pages Read: 529

Friday, January 9, 2015:
Books Read: The Red Scarf
Pages Read: 66
Total Books Completed: 1
Total Pages Read: 595

Saturday, January 10, 2015:
Completed: 1 book
Books Read: The Red Scarf and Number the Stars
Pages Read: 149
Total Books Completed: 3
Total Pages Read: 744
Number the Stars
Sunday, January 11, 2015:
Completed: 1 book
Books Read:  Number the Stars
Pages Read: 62
Total Books Completed: 4
Total Pages Read: 806

Final Thoughts:
As I thought when the week started, I was very busy and so didn't have as much time to read as I would've liked.  While I may not have read as many pages or finished as any books as other participants, I am happy with what my outcomes.  This was another fun round of Bout of Books and I look forward to BoB 13.0!  Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene, A Review

Summer of my German Soldier PB

Amazon          Goodreads          Barnes and Noble
Books-A-Million                   Book Depository

Book Description

A 1973 National Book Award Finalist, an ALA Notable Book, a New York Times Outstanding Book of the Year. When German prisoners of war are brought to her Arkansas town during World War II, twelve-year-old Patty, a Jewish girl, befriends one of them and must deal with the consequences of that friendship.


I read this book several times when I was growing up.  It is one of the few books that I clearly remember reading as a young girl.  I picked it up as an adult not sure what my response would be.  Certainly I had a connection to it when I was younger and having finished it today I can say that the connection remains.  My heart aches for Patty and there were several times when tears welled up in my eyes.  This book is set during World War Two and explores the themes of racism (not just black/white but also American/German), patriotism, family, and abuse.  As a teacher, I believe in the power of pairing literature with historical events and this book would work so well in the classroom.  I remember being surprised to learn that there had been POWs on American soil during the war and even more surprised to learn about Japanese Internment camps - two facts that are never mentioned in history textbooks (some high school texts may now reference internment camps).  
That being said, the age difference in this book was shocking to me as an adult.  I don't recall thinking anything about it when I was a child.  Patty is twelve and Anton is certainly older. His age isn't specified but at least he is 18 probably older but no more than 20.  As an adult, that's a really big age gap and seems weird. So that would need to be acknowledged as would the use of slang language that is no longer considered to be appropriate.

I remember why I thought this was such a great book growing up and think that it should be more widely read.

I gave this book: 

★ = I did not like it     ★ = It was okay     ★ = I liked it    
★ = I really liked it     ★ = I loved it