Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Illustrated Compendium of Amazing Animal Facts

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The Illustrated Compendium of Amazing Animal Facts
Maja Safstrom
Ten Speed Press

     I love the cover of this hardcover book! It's quirky and fun, and looks very good on my bookshelf. The Illustrated Compendium of Amazing Animal Facts is a small book of black-and-white drawings of various animals with facts scattered about them. Some animals have more facts that others, but they're all very interesting. (although I could have done without the animal excrement-related ones. Eww.) Some of the drawings were cute, although I think the best ones were used on the cover; some of the drawings were a little underwhelming. Still, it's an enjoyable book and I was following my mother around the house telling her random animal facts as I was reading it.

     My favorite fact is probably that a group of owls is called a parliament.

I received this book for free from bloggingforbooks.com in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Reluctant Duchess

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The Reluctant Duchess
Roseanna M. White
Bethany House

Lady Rowena Kinnaird may be the heiress to a Highland earldom, but she has never felt good enough—not for her father, not for the man she thought she’d marry, not for God. But after a shocking attack, she’s willing to be forever an outcast if it means escaping Loch Morar and the men who have jeopardized her life.

Brice Myerston, the Duke of Nottingham, has suddenly found himself in possession of a rare treasure his enemies are prepared to kill for. While Brice has never been one to shy away from manor-born ladies, the last thing he needs is the distraction of his neighbor, Lady Rowena, who finds herself in a desperate situation. But when the moody Earl of Lochabar tries to trap Brice into marrying Rowena, Brice finds he’s not as opposed to the idea as he expected to be.

Rowena wanted to escape the Highlands, but she’s reluctant to resort to marrying a notorious flirt just to gain his English home. And when she learns that Brice is mixed up in some kind of questionable business with a stolen treasure, she fears she’s about to end up directly in the path of everything she was trying to avoid.

     While I didn't enjoy The Reluctant Duchess quite as much as The Lost Heiress, I still devoured it. I haven't been reading quite as many historical romances lately, which has been a very good choice for me-I find that I'm much more enjoying the ones that I do read.

     One aspect of the book that I really liked was how the author treated Rowena's father. He could have easily been made into a one-sided villain or tyrant, but instead White chose to make him a more complex character. While I did grow frustrated with some of Rowena's ideas and decisions, I thought the book did a good job of showing how easy it is to get a skewed view of things when we can only see pieces of a greater whole. I loved Brice, but I also appreciated how some consequences of his flirtatious nature came back to bite him. Basically, one thing I find that I really enjoy about Roseanna White's books is that she'll take a lot of situations, ideas, or character archetypes that you typically find in romantic fiction, but then flesh them out and make them real. I'm looking forward to seeing how this series wraps up in A Lady Unrivaled! After all, we still have to find out what's going to happen with those red diamonds...

Rating: 8

I received this book for free from the author in exchange for my honest review

note: this book, while "clean" does deal with the aftermath of a woman who has been raped, something younger readers should be aware of. There is some violence and a few kisses between married couples.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Tasting Rome

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Tasting Rome
Katie Parla & Kristina Gill
Clarkson Potter

     A gorgeous hardcover cookbook, Tasting Rome had me within its first few pages. Filled with mouth-watering dishes, beautiful photographs, and write-ups about Rome both past and present, I fell in love with this book at first glance.(just the picture of a gelato stand was making my mouth water.)

     A closer look at the recipes has me a little more mixed. I love Italian food, but I am an American, and some of the dishes are a little outside my comfort zone. Still, there are more than enough other recipes to make up for it. However, because several of the dishes are unfamiliar to me, I do wish that the book had a picture of every recipe so I knew a little more of what I was getting into.

     Still, overall I think this book is a keeper, and it will probably end up being one of the more used cookbooks on my shelf.

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, March 14, 2016

The Calling (Blog Tour)

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The Calling
Rachelle Dekker
Tyndale

Remko Brant had never been so sure of anything as escaping the Authority City with Carrington Hale. But bravado comes easy when you have nothing to lose. Now a husband, father, and the tactical leader of the Seers, Remko has never had so much at risk. As he and his team execute increasingly dangerous rescue missions inside the city, they face growing peril from a new enemy. Recently appointed Authority President Damien Gold claims to be guiding a city shaken by rebellion into a peaceful, harmonious future. But appearances can be deceiving. In order to achieve his dangerous ambitions, Gold knows he must do more than catch the rebels--he must destroy the hope their message represents . . . from the inside out.With dissension in his own camp--and the City Watch soldiers closing in--Remko feels control slipping through his fingers. To protect those he loves, he must conquer his fears and defeat Gold . . . before one of them becomes his undoing.


RachelleAbout the Author . . . The oldest daughter of New York Times bestselling author Ted Dekker, Rachelle Dekker was inspired early on to discover truth through storytelling. The Choosing is her critically acclaimed debut novel. She graduated with a degree in communications and spent several years in marketing and corporate recruiting before making the transition to write full-time. She lives in Nashville with her husband, Daniel, and their diva cat, Blair. Visit her online at rachelledekker.com.



Author Q&A, courtesy of Tyndale Publishers

The Calling is the second book in The Seer Series. Does it pick up right after The Choosing leaves off? No, a year and a half has passed when we rejoin the characters in The Calling 

This book is written from Remko’s perspective. Did you face any challenges writing from a male point-of-view? There was definitely a looming pressure as I started to write the book. As a woman writer, I wanted to make sure Remko felt masculine and authentic, so I was constantly aware of how he sounded, and how he reacted. Once I got into a flow with his character though, it started to feel more familiar I didn’t have to think about it as much. 

In the book you talk a lot about surrendering to fear. What does this look like and how does this help us to not be afraid? I think sometimes the natural reaction to fear is to hide from it, or try and push it away. It’s the idea that if we can’t see it then it must not be there, but we all know that unless dealt with the unseen things often come back to bite us. The only way to face fear is to walk through it; surrendering to Father God and letting Him reminder us of our true identity. Only then do we really see that the light within us is always greater than the fear we face. 

What do you hope readers will take away from the story? I hope they take a moment to see themselves as children of the Father. I hope they see that true freedom and fearlessness rest in surrendering, and that when they stand with the Father than nothing can stand against them. There is incredible peace in that truth, and I hope, like I am beginning the experience, that readers feel that same peace.

What can readers expect in the final book of the series? Characters they know and some new ones I hope they’ll love! More questions of identity, and fear, but the characters will also be looking at forgiveness and letting go. I’m really happy with the way the final book played out, and I’m hoping readers will be as well. 

Hayden's Review: 

     Dystopian fiction is either a hit or a miss for me, but I was impressed with the world and society of Dekker's The Choosing, so I knew that I would be reading the next book in the series.

     Some of the theological points I did find to be a little sketchy, but mostly because I felt that while not necessarily incorrect, they could be taken the wrong way- they were just vague enough to make me squint my eyes for a moment. I also may be one of the few people who doesn't really care for the character of Aaron. I believe he's supposed to be a sort of Jesus figure, but he just seems a little too mystical or something for me; I can't quite put my finger on it, but he's not a favorite.

     Again, I feel like the world of The Calling is very well done. The government structure and society is plausible, and the characters realistic. However, as interesting as this book is, it is also so frustrating
There were times I wanted to shake people for their decisions and there were many times I wanted to do something a bit more violent to some of the manipulative and scheming government figures. Because of that, I can't say I really enjoyed the book much, although I'm sure due to its engaging premise, many people will.

Rating: 7

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review

Sunday, March 13, 2016

A Fool and His Monet

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A Fool and His Monet
Sandra Orchard
Revell

Serena Jones has a passion for recovering lost and stolen art--one that's surpassed only by her zeal to uncover the truth about the art thief who murdered her grandfather. She's joined the FBI Art Crime Team with the secret hope that one of her cases will lead to his killer. Now, despite her mother's pleas to do something safer--like get married--Serena's learning how to go undercover to catch thieves and black market traders.

When a local museum discovers an irreplaceable Monet missing, Jones leaps into action. The clues point in different directions, and her boss orders her to cease investigating her most promising suspect. But determined to solve the case and perhaps discover another clue in her grandfather's murder, she pushes ahead, regardless of the danger.
 

     I really enjoyed this book! I love art, so the whole idea of the series is really appealing to me. Sometimes it did move a little slowly, and it looks like we might have the makings of a love triangle (of which I have definite Opinions on which guy I like better) but other than that it was a really fun read. I wasn't expecting it to be as funny as it was, and the highlight of the book was definitely Serena's family--especially Aunt Martha. I loved that woman. :)

Rating: 8

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

A Daring Sacrifice

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A Daring Sacrifice
Jody Hedlund
Zondervan

In a reverse twist on the Robin Hood story, a young medieval maiden stands up for the rights of the mistreated, stealing from the rich to give to the poor. All the while, she fights against her cruel uncle who has taken over the land that is rightfully hers. Forced to live in the woods and hide with the poor people she's grown to love, she works to save and protect them, but she never anticipates falling in love with the wealthy knight who represents all she's come to despise.

     I've thought long and hard about this review, because I think this is a book that I shouldn't have selected to review. I read the previous book in this series (An Uncertain Choice) and didn't overly care for it, which is probably a good indicator that I wouldn't like the second book in the series, either. But A Daring Sacrifice had a synopsis about a reverse Robin Hood, and well...I kind of have a weakness for Robin Hood stories.However, if you read and loved An Uncertain Choice, you probably won't want to read this review or put much stock in it, since many of the problems I had with that book popped up in this one, too.

     It was really a struggle to get through this one. Part of this might be because it's geared to a slightly younger audience, and yet the romance (and torture) is a little strong for that age group, at least in my opinion. In addition to this (and a bit different from the previous book) I didn't really care for the characters in this one. I read the first several chapters of this book and several chapters at the end, but I ended up skimming a section in the middle; I hate doing that with books, especially ones that I've received for review, but sadly, I just had a really hard time with this book. I have enjoyed other books by Jody Hedlund, though, so maybe it's just this series I'm not a big fan of.

Rating: 4

I received this book for free from booksneeze.com in exchange for my honest review. 

Monday, March 7, 2016

Playing the Part

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Playing the Part
Jen Turano
Bethany House Publishers

Lucetta Plum is an actress on the rise in New York City, but is forced to abandon her starring role when a fan's interest turns threatening. Lucinda's widowed friend, Abigail Hart, is delighted at the opportunity to meddle in Lucetta's life and promptly whisks her away to her grandson's estate to hide out.

Bram Haverstein may appear to simply be a somewhat eccentric gentleman of means, but a mysterious career and a secret fascination with a certain actress mean there's much more to him than society knows.

Lucetta, who has no interest in Abigail's matchmaking machinations, has the best intentions of remaining cordial but coolly distant to Bram. But when she can't ignore the strange and mysterious things going on in his house, it'll take more than good intentions to keep her from trying to discover who Bram is behind the part he plays.

     This book, like nearly all of those I've read by Jen Turano, was entertaining. She has a flair for physical comedy that you don't find often in Christian historical fiction, and her characters get into the wildest and craziest situations. That being said, I think this concept went a little too far in Playing the Part. Some of the scenes were a bit of a mess, and several were just too unrealistic for me, even for a book that's meant to be nothing more than a light-hearted romp. That's a shame, for this book did have a lot going for it in the beginning- I loved the setting and the Gothic references, and the characters had potential.

     However, there were just some very strange plot choices that didn't do anything for the book as a whole, and the entire thing felt a bit too meandering and slapped together. The writing didn't always feel well-edited, and oftentimes Victorian decorum is thrown out of the window in exchange for comedic effect. Also, as an amateur actress myself, the ending was also incredibly odd to me, and I had to read it twice to make sure I'd read it correctly. Overall, I do feel disappointed because judging from the description, this is a book I really should have loved, but I didn't.

     But for all my complaints, it does have a cast of marvelous (and oftentimes hilarious) characters, and there were several great elements (secret writers! haunted houses! goats!) that kept this book far from usual Christian romance fare.

Rating: 7

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.
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