Here and Gone – Haylen Beck

Fleeing her abusive husband with her two children, Audra is stopped by a cop in the middle of the Arizona desert. A routine stop turns into a bust for possession for drugs Audra has never seen before … but the worst hasn’t happened yet. Audra is soon to have the fight of her life to save everything she loves.

Here and Gone

Reaction:

Here and Gone easily drew me into the story, and the real world quickly drifted away. I finished reading it in a few hours. The feelings stirred up while reading Here and Gone included fear and anger, and those feelings were hard to shake off.

Characters:

The characters fit well into their roles; all were well-done. Collins was the “good” cop, desperate but not really a bad person. Whiteside … he was dark. The “bad” cop, with no conscience and nerves of steel. My favorite character would be Sean, Tandy (even though he only had a short role), or Special Agent Mitchell. It’s really hard to decide. Especially nice was how Beck showed the inner turmoil of the characters without flat-out explaining it, like in this section:

“When he finished, Mitchell remained still, her gaze on the notebook. The muscles in her jaw bunched. After a few moments she inhaled, exhaled, and got to her feet.” pg. 194

Recommendation:

If you enjoy great writing and are a fan of thrillers, then this is definitely a book for you.

 

Disclaimer: I received this book for free in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

As Kingfishers Catch Fire – Eugene H. Peterson

The author of As Kingfishers Catch Fire, Peterson, is a pastor – and you can tell in his writing. Divided into teachings from each gospel, As Kingfishers Catch Fire is full of fascinating information. I frequently found myself reading aloud to my husband from this novel. Unfortunately, it simply wasn’t keeping my attention. I kept being distracted by other books. This book is really only for those who want to learn and are able to focus to do so.

However, if you can focus, there is quite a bit going on in this book. Peterson has a lot of valuable insight to offer. One example of this insight is as follows:

“They [the Israelites] did not want to live by faith but by sight. … They wanted gods they could use to get what they wanted, like the gods they had in Egypt. … True, in Egypt it hadn’t worked to their benefit, but that was because they didn’t own the gods. … And when you stop to think about it, so do we [want gods]. ”

pgs. 31-32

If you stop and think about that passage, it makes a heck of a lot of sense. As Kingfishers Catch Fire requires the reader to stop and think frequently, so do not pick up this book looking for a quick read. It requires time and effort. A notebook to take notes with would also be helpful.

Recommendations: this is the kind of novel that would be good for a long-term Bible study group or someone who really wants to delve deeper into the Word of God.

 

Disclaimer: I received this book for free in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Approval Junkie by Faith Salie

As Approval Junkie was written by a comedian, I’d expected it to be funny. It wasn’t for me, though. I suspect Salie was aiming for an older, more experienced audience to better appreciate her tale.

Approval Junkie by Faith Salie review

Approval Junkie:

Faith Salie is a genuine approval junkie. Whether she’s looking for roles on T.V. or getting the best grades possible or even choosing a dress for divorce court, Salie always tries to please others – until she learns that it’s really herself she needs to please.

Some Valuable Information:

Approval Junkie read very much like a self-help novel (not necessarily a bad thing) at parts and I struggled to stay focused throughout most of the book. It wasn’t all slow, however. Salie provided some valuable information in a chapter about listening; “There’s a huge difference between listening to help yourself seem funny or smart or right and listening to help someone express himself.” Pg. 88.

Somewhat Offensive Parts:

There were parts that I found somewhat offensive as a Christian, so be warned if you decide to pick up Approval Junkie that a small portion of the book does consist of references to Jesus in a not-so-reverent way.

Recommendation:

Although I found that the story didn’t draw me in, I would still recommend it to other women, particularly mothers. Salie wrote multiple chapters and sections on motherhood, attempting to become a mother, and related struggles.

 

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Lola – Melissa Scrivner Love

Failing to see who the true leader of the small gang, The Crenshaw Six is could be a huge problem for the Mexican cartel. She lives in the shadows, with everyone misjudging her as harmless – but Lola should not be underestimated. There are huge decisions to make, sides to choose, and punishments to deal out.

It's a man's world - but in this thriller, some women should not be underestimated. Lola by Melissa Scrivner Love

Lola really brought to light how invisible women can be. A great example was on pg. 53 “She doesn’t fear Lola, because in Mila’s mind, they are equals. Women in a man’s world.”

Positives & Negatives on Details:

A fast paced and interesting read, some parts were pretty intense and had me wanting to throw the book. Lola was a well-developed character, and I liked reading Lola narrating her own tale. In some parts I appreciated the glossed-over description, where what could have been quite gruesome wasn’t too bad to read at all – but in other parts I wished for more details.

I also wished to read more of how the story ended. There were a few parts that felt a little unfinished. That aside, it was nice to read a tale from the wrong side of the tracks, to see the world how Lola sees it. To see that not everything is black and white, not everyone is all good or all evil – and sometimes those who appear good really aren’t good at all.

Recommendation:

Lola was a very good read, although I would not call it a thriller. I recommend it to anyone who wishes to see the world from another perspective. The narrator grew up in a bad area, the victim of bad parenting who decided to make something of herself – not good, but not “all evil”, either.

 

Disclaimer: I received this book for free in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

The Witch Of Lime Street by David Jaher

The Witch of Lime Street: Séance, Seduction, and Houdini in the Spirit World
By: David Jaher

In a captivating narration of a face-off between the accomplished escape-artist Houdini and the charming hostess of 10 Lime Street, Jaher draws us into the unknown. Houdini has stunned audiences everywhere with his daring feats, but he desperately wants to communicate with someone he loved and lost – his mother. With a slow build, Jaher sets the scenario and introduces the cast. In an unfulfilling search to contact his mother, Houdini exposes flimflam artists everywhere – he has a very definite view on what is acceptable or not, and taking advantage of those grieving loved ones falls into the “unacceptable” category. When Houdini befriends a huge proponent of the Spiritualist movement but remains unconvinced of the mediumship displayed being genuine, it isn’t long before a scientific contest to prove authentic mediums exist is established.

In this captivating narration, Jaher brings to life the show down between the witch, Margery, and Houdini - the escape artist.

Not a Typical Historical Read

Despite personal opinions on mediumship and séances, there were events in The Witch of Lime Street that had me as a reader baffled. As Jaher’s novel is depicting actual historical events, it would have been easy for the novel to come across as dry and boring, however that was not the case. Once the stage was set the novel drew me in and I was eager to discover what happened next. Houdini was a very complex, realistic character. Despite his pride and arrogance, he also came across as deeply layered – passionate about his cause and desperately determined to prevent “mediums” with nothing more than street tricks (something Houdini himself was very familiar with) from fooling the bereaved.

The “witch” known as Margery was also a very complex, well-written character. Despite her background, Margery is described by all who meet her as cultured and of a far better stock than a typical run-of-the-mill medium. Despite the rigorous testing Margery is put through (and tolerates with good humor) in order to determine whether or not her mediumship is genuine, Margery offers very little resistance and continues to go above and beyond as an excellent hostess. As Jaher introduces more information about Margery, as a reader you start to realize the difficult position Margery is in. She is a character that induces a sympathetic response the more you understand her.

More Information Would Be Nice

It would have been nice to hear more about involvement from Bess, Houdini’s wife (she is mostly present at the beginning and end of the novel, and not in any major way) however, with the sources Jaher worked with for this novel it is understandable that she may not have been mentioned much (and this story does not revolve around her). I also would have very much liked to have read whether any verdict on the Crandon’s involvement with the “lost boys” was determined – and if not the Crandon’s, where were those children? Jaher briefly introduces the mystery in the chapter entitled “Lost Boys” (pg. 345), but doesn’t tell us of any solution.

Typically, historical novels are not in my zone of interest, but The Witch of Lime Street was a fascinating read and I’m glad to have read it. Jaher primarily came across as pro-Spiritualist, but he still presented the story with countless sources as evidence to back him and without noticeably skewing the facts either way. For those who wish to review Jaher’s sources, he lists them in the back of the novel.

 

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

The Tea Planter’s Wife – Dinah Jefferies

Ordinarily Jefferies’ novel wouldn’t have been something I would choose to read, but the description sounded interesting. The title and cover kind of age (in my opinion) the selection of readers likely to choose this book.

However, once I became invested in the story, I couldn’t put it down. The last night reading it, I told myself “just until the end of this chapter” (it was eleven at night). At the end of the chapter, though, the part I was anticipating still hadn’t arrived … so I told myself, “just until this part is resolved” (now almost midnight). When the part was resolved, there weren’t that many pages left to read, so I might as well finish the book … right? It was after one in the morning when I finished The Tea Planter’s Wife, but it was worth it.

An engrossing novel that I couldn't put down. Jefferies pulls you into the story to live in the 1900's with Gwen, and the ending is not what you expect.

Synopsis:

It’s the 1900’s and a young girl named Gwendolyn (Gwen) has just married the love of her life – but he lives across the ocean from her. Gwen is determined, though, that “If Ceylon was where his heart belonged, it was where her heart would belong too” (pg. 15). She settles into her new life on the tea plantation, learning a heartbreaking secret along the way. It’s not long before she has a secret of her own, a secret that could ruin her contented, well-established life.

I loved that Jefferies revealed the secrets concealed throughout this novel slowly, making readers think that they knew the entire truth but then showing us that we were too confident too soon. For one secret in particular, throughout most of the book I thought I’d figured it out – of course the reader knows more than the characters! – but Jefferies proved me too confident once again.

Minor Inconsistencies:

The characters were very real, with insecurities and mistakes, and while reading these 413 pages, the reader exists in the novel. There were a few inconsistencies in The Tea Planter’s Wife that bothered me after reading, but they were minor. One was in the prologue, in the short description of what the unknown woman did before leaving the house (I cannot explain without plot spoiling, but maybe you will notice it, too?). The other was in a description of a ball Gwen attended.. even in Gwen’s (slight) memory of the event, the same detail was included – but it’s a detail that doesn’t make sense when it comes to the explanation at the end of the novel.

Inconsistencies included, I loved The Tea Planter’s Wife, and would gladly read any similar works that Jefferies has to offer.

 

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Reset – Nick Hall

Reset: Jesus Changes Everything – Nick Hall

Something I quickly noticed while reading Reset is that it is written primarily for youth. That isn’t a bad thing, and there is still plenty of valuable insight to be had from reading this book. What that does mean, though, is that stories from the Bible are told in a “creative” way (pg. 99). Although people could be upset by this, it makes sense for Hall to speak in a way his readers will understand. Hall tells the stories as if from modern times, so a younger reader can more easily relate. Reset would actually be a really good choice to include in a youth Bible study.

In Reset, Hall writes a refreshing book that is focused on spiritually encouraging Millennials instead of bashing them for their shortcomings. A book review.

Even as someone that no longer fits that age group, Reset has already impacted my life. Upon reading the section on “The Modesto Manifesto” and Billy Graham, I actually read the whole section aloud to my husband (pgs. 125-128). I love that Hall frequently incorporates scripture as well as stories he has been told or read about throughout Reset. 

Layout:

Reset has two parts, “The Setup” and “Hitting Reset”. The first part helps you realize if you need a reset in your life by telling you stories of people who decided they needed a reset (and why). In this section, Hall also refreshingly tells us something good about our generation. As Millennials we don’t hear good about our generation often, but Hall refuses to only see the negative here. He states, “This is a generation – often referred to as Millennials – that is filled to overflowing with energy and passion and compassion” (pg. 25). There’s a little more to read there, but you’ll just have to pick up Reset. In the second portion of the book, Hall teaches us how to actually reset our lives. Each chapter focuses on different portions of said lives.

For someone in need of encouragement, Reset is a good place to start. Hall points towards The One who has all of the answers, and is honest about his own struggles (even embarrassing ones). Notably, that makes him easier to relate to as a person. He doesn’t hide the fact that even while leading a powerful ministry (Pulse) he still has shortcomings.

I enjoyed Reset, and I think if you want to see change in your own life, then you will too.

 

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Punderdome

While I have listed Punderdome under the book review section, it is not a book – it is a game. It is listed under the book review section because it came from the site I get my review books from.

Review - a card game in which you make puns. Worst pun wins!

I pulled out this card game to play with my in-laws. They usually love games, and play them regularly, so I thought this would be a hit. Rarely am I so utterly and completely wrong.

The game was too difficult.

You’re given a short time period to come up with a pun based on two word cards. For instance, we were given the cards “soup” and “sorority” – someone came up with the pun, “alpha-beta-soup”. That was the only worthwhile pun conceived during the short time we played this game.

Everyone was complaining about how awful the game was, saying it was good that I got it for free because if I hadn’t, I should ask for my money back. They thought I should return it (even though it was free) because it was so “awful”. Several days after playing, they still refer to “that game” and how nothing could compare (to how awful it was).

I was disappointed, but not in the game.

There were some moments when puns people came up with were tears-down-your-cheeks funny, and it was hard to stop laughing at how stupid the puns were. I was disappointed because the players had decided the game was awful, and were not going to give Punderdome a chance. The game takes some getting used to, but I think that with enough time, it could be much more enjoyable.

Yes, the time limit is far too short. Yes, it was very difficult. However, there were funny parts. The players I was with kept getting stuck on the fact that there were far too many times they came up blank. Far too many times they didn’t have an answer and ran out of time.

If you decide to try this game, make sure that your players are pun-loving – but most of all, make sure they are patient. Very patient. This is the kind of game that takes a lot of frustration before you adapt. With the people I’m usually surrounded with, there won’t be many opportunities to play this game – because there is probably only a small, select group of people who would actually enjoy playing Punderdome.

Best of luck.

 

Disclaimer: I received this game from Blogging for Books for free in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Miriam – Mesu Andrews

Miriam – Mesu Andrews

Miriam is focused on her relationship with El Shaddai, even to the point of exclusion of other things. In this review, you'll hear what I thought of Miriam and the story Andrews crafted for her.

First thoughts:

Initially, I was disappointed with the characters, especially Miriam. She seems very focused on herself and her relationship with El Shaddai – but then I realized that Andrews is actually doing a brilliant job of portraying Miriam like the Miriam in the Bible. From the little we read about Miriam in the Bible, she had her own self-interest at heart as well (which is why she was struck with leprosy). Instead of creating likable characters, Andrews presents them realistically – whether we like them or not.

Andrews included a Bible verse to introduce each chapter, which I really appreciated. Unfortunately, Andrews quickly lost my attention. It was a struggle to read about a character that didn’t seem to grow very much. Miriam was self-absorbed throughout the book, concerned with the loss of El Shaddai’s presence. Everything else was an afterthought.

“Can you imagine losing your ability to see colors or taste the sweetness of honey? That’s a shadowy glimpse at the loss I feel at El Shaddai’s silence.” -pg 72

In the very last pages, Miriam finally learns that there are other ways to sense El Shaddai – Yahweh – but by that time I was so thoroughly annoyed with her that it didn’t matter too much.

Miriam was more on the historical side than the fiction side, which is probably why I didn’t like it more. If you are really into history, you would probably enjoy it much more than I did.

 

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Messy Grace – Caleb Kaltenbach

Messy Grace: How a Pastor with Gay Parents Learned to Love Others Without Sacrificing Conviction – Caleb Kaltenbach

Messy Grace book review - Kaltenbach, the author, has an interesting dilemma. His parents are both gay, and he has a newfound faith in Jesus Christ. I found it a really informative glimpse into his life and struggles with loving his parents/friends despite their lifestyles now that he had chosen a separate path.

First let me say that this was an informative, enjoyable read. It had Bible verses throughout, and used those verses to support thoughts and opinions stated in the book. However, Kaltenbach has a phrase he uses constantly – “the tension of grace and truth”. The first few times he used the phrase it was okay, but the repetition quickly got irritating. He also used the word “messy” frequently, but it wasn’t as annoying as the “tension” phrase.

Kaltenbach brought to the table some thoughts on how to react to people from the LGBT community as a Christian, and for the most part they seemed like good, informed ideas – especially since he was raised in the LGBT community, and thus has personal experience to speak from. For instance, Kaltenbach tells us that the best reaction to someone ‘coming out’ as lesbian or gay is to thank the person. He goes on to tell us that this is a very personal confession, and that the person coming out to us is revealing an important part of themselves to us – a part that they would not reveal to just anyone. He tells us how not to react as well; such as, “don’t look disappointed” (pg. 109). By telling us the best way to react, we have a better idea of how to reach out to the people in our lives that identify with the LGBT community.

Messy Grace is also filled with personal stories, both from Kaltenbach’s own experience and his retelling of stories from people he knows. This book will be helpful in reaching out to those that are LGBT, and will allow us to be more informed.

One of my few complaints with this book is that the first five or so chapters are somewhat misleading. Since they refer solely to Christians that mistreat, treat differently, or otherwise insult those in the LGBT lifestyle, Messy Grace would lead us to believe that all Christians act that way toward people inclined towards LGBT – which is not the case at all. Rather, from personal experience, I would say that the Christians discussed within those chapters do not represent the majority of us. Yes, they may be the more outspoken Christians, but that does not mean they are the only Christians. In fact, I would hesitate to refer to people who would treat other people in such a way as Christians, but that is a whole other topic.

If you are curious about Christianity as it relates to the LGBT community and how to act around those in such a lifestyle, read this book. It is filled with informative stories and information, and comes from a Biblical standpoint.

Note:

Before picking up Messy Grace, I was concerned that Kaltenbach might be a Christian who tries to teach ‘Biblical’ acceptance of the LGBT lifestyle, but he does not. My fears were misplaced. He only teaches the hard Biblical reality – otherwise known as living in the “tension of grace and truth” – so don’t let that concern keep you from reading this book.

 

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.