Thursday, April 30, 2009

'Angel of Wrath' by Bill Myers

I think it’s no secret by now that I am quite taken with Christian fiction. And if it was an unknown fact for some, it’s no longer so. I enjoy reading this genre for many reasons, one of them being my faith (duh). However, this type of fiction has many sub-genres, including historical, mystery, thriller and contemporary. Some are mildly Christian, others quite hard-core I should say. I happen to like the hard-core ones the most. Because I am also a thriller fan, reading books about gory murders and evil characters is my favorite activity. Add to it the God and faith factor and I am lost in a book until it’s over. Now, I hope you’ll know why I loved Angel of Wrath by Bill Myers.

Angel of Wrath is apparently a sequel to another book by Mr. Myers but I couldn’t tell I was missing anything from the previous installment and can safely say that it can be read independently. We have three major characters here: Charlie Madison who is a retired Special Ops agent, Lisa, Charlie’s friend and a retired FBI agent, and Jaz, Charlie’s niece who even though deaf, can hear and sense a lot more than others. These three end up in Lisa’s childhood town to help her brother, pastor Thomas stop the chain of ruthless murders. The murdered are members of Thomas’s rapidly growing church and their bodies are always accompanied with an appropriate verse from the Bible referring to their specific sins. Parallel to the murders, a group of teenagers who believe themselves to be a New Age satanists, worship both the love of God and the wrath of Lucifer to bring about a new world order. This coven of teens quite stupidly and inadvertently releases a horrifying creature into the world. And so the murders and the terror of this hellish entity are what the whole town has to face up to before everyone gets destroyed.

First of all, let me just say that putting the fact it’s a Christian book aside, Angel of Wrath is quite a thriller. The action was very rapidly developing and it happened to be the first book in a long time that I managed to read within one day (and not even a whole 12-hour day). I honestly could not concentrate on doing anything else and had to drop all other activities just to know what happened in the book. My attempts at forgetting about Charlie, Lisa and their families for a while so I could concentrate on my own were futile. The best part of it all was that the killer was not really a secret and still it wasn’t about who kept murdering all those people but why and who would be next. On top of all the action and really fast writing, I can now add the Christian factor to it which, in my opinion completed the whole book. Mr. Myers wants a reader to think deeper about the little and big sins we commit and about the power of forgiveness and love which are really at the core of Christianity. Need I say that I was moved to tears at the end of the book? I suspect that I may be more sensitive than others when it comes to reading Christian fiction, but it’s just such a surprise to read a great thriller and yet find myself thinking about all the good things, including the redeeming power of love.


Special Thanks to Miriam P. from Hachette Book Group for sending me a copy of this book.

If you want to find out more about Bill Myers, visit his official site which has a lot of interesting info.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

I'm basking in the glamour of my blogging friends' appreciation!

The past two weeks have been really fruitful in terms of awards. I have been awarded several times by wonderful blogging ladies out there. It's taken me quite some time to share the news but better late than never. Most importantly, I am giving all the girls who've bestowed the awards on me a huge hug and a big, big thank you!

And now on to the awards. Melissa from Melissa's Bookshelf , Blodeuedd from Book girl from Mur-y-Castell and DeSeRt RoSe from DeSeRtRoSe Booklogue awarded me the 'You Don't Say' award which has the cutest panda ever! Thank you girls so much!

"We give and get awards for having a great blog and being a good friend. What I want to award is those people whose comments have meant THE WORLD to me. It takes time to visit a blog and leave a comment ... I wanted to recognize some special bloggers whose comments have made such an impact on me. The “You Don’t Say?” Award is awarded to these special bloggers in hopes that they will pass the award along to 5-10 of their best commenters!"

Here's the thing, I honestly would include these girls on my list of bloggers to get the award if the weren't the ones who gave it to me. they are great commenters and always write something nice. However, I also have a few other wonderful ladies, who appreciate my posts enough to read them and leave comments. Here they are:

1. Drey from drey's library.

2. Bev from Merry Weather

3. Alaine from Queen of Happy Endings

4. Teddyree from The Eclectic Reader

5. Cindy from Cindy's Love of Books

On to the next award. Cathy from Kittling: Books, Alaine from Queen of Happy Endings, DeSeRt RoSe from DeSeRtRoSe BoOkLoGuE and Amy from Passages to the Past awarded me with Friendly Blogger Award. I have to admit that it was a long coveted by me award ;-). The name says it all and I, in return, am giving it to:

1. Cecilia from Epic Rat

2. Jo-Jo from Jo-Jo loves to read!!!

3. Anna from Diary of an Eccentric

4. Blodeuedd from Book girl of Mur-y-Castell

If that wasn't enough lovely Mishel from mis(h)takes gave me the One Lovely Blog award.

And I am passing it on to Smash from Great Books and Fresh Coffee.

And Teddyree from The Eclectic Reader deemed me worthy of receiving the Lemonade Award. Just perfect for the summer.

1) Put the Lemonade Award logo on your blog or post.

2) Nominate at least 10 blogs that show great attitude or gratitude.

3) Link to your nominees within your post.

4) Let the nominees know that they have received this award by commenting on their blog.

5) Share the love and link to the person from whom you received your award.

This one is difficult since all the bloggers I got to know show really a great attitude and gratitude.Here are some of them:

1. Cathy from Kittling:Books

2. Shelburns from Write for a Reader

3. Softdrink from Fizzy Thoughts

4. TexasRed from TexasRed Books

5. Beth F. from Beth Fish Reads

6. Diane from Bibliophile by the Sea

And last but not least, Blodeuedd from Book girl of Mur-y-Castell gave me the Your Blog Is Enchanted award. I love Tink on it.

The only requirement for this award is that you shared it with whomever you like, sharing the love is always a good thing. The blog has to show only one characteristic, caring. So, start sharing this enchanted award with five other bloggers. Let your bloggers know they have received this enchanted award. (Remember, fairies are fickle wee things, don't incur their displeasure by ignoring their gift.)

1. Michele from Reader's Respite

2. Melissa from Melissa's Book Shelf

3. Julie from Joyful Days

4. Mishel from mis(h)takes

5. Desert Rose from Desert Rose BookLogue.

6. Teddyree from The Eclectic Reader

Okay, I am overwhelmed by all these awards and greatly humbled actually. I never realized that my blog was liked and appreciated by so many. THANK YOU!

'The Pursuit of Perfect' by Tal Ben-Shahar

For the past few years I have noticed a bothersome tendency in me. At some point I realized that there were a whole lot of issues in my life and problems I have with myself and that a few self-help books might help. So I started reading these books obsessively. The tendency I mentioned is that I do not have enough determination to actually stick with any of the techniques I read about in the self-help books. Another thing is, I become frustrated with the mixed messages I get while reading and that just adds to my quick disenchantment. I honestly thought that would be the case with The Pursuit of Perfect by Tal Ben-Shahar but after having read it, I think there might be actually something more to it.
The main thought throughout the book is how trying to live a perfect life, to have perfect looks and perfect careers is actually ruining our lives. Shortly said, perfectionism is bad. On the other hand, we, the people obsessed with the perfect, should instead try to attain a state of optimalism, a term Mr. Ben-Shahar came up with. Tal Ben-Shahar is a perfectionist and he noticed long time ago that trying to have it all and avoiding failure, negative emotions and get the goals no matter what was making his life miserable. He had done a lot of research to find a way out of his misery and the outcome is The Pursuit of Perfect, in which we are presented with a solution: a middle ground and acceptance of our human nature. The book offers some simple, yet great exercises which do not require a lot of time or effort, and most importantly leave some space for error, since they need not be done perfectly. At the core of the whole book is that our society shuns pain, sorrow, unhappiness and requires us all to be always at our best behavior, always smiling, always being nice to customers and fellow employers and if there is a shadow of anger or sadness lurking about, we run to doctor’s for pills and therapies, because these emotions are absolutely unwelcome. Ben-Shahar argues that as humans we are equipped with tools within ourselves to deal with negative emotions and one of these tools is “going with it”, instead of burying a specific feeling we have and we don’t want to have, be it fear, jealousy, anger and so forth. The more we deny ourselves these emotions the more persistent they will be and sooner or later they will resurface making us miserable.
I have to say that despite my doubts about a self-help book ever working for me, The Pursuit of Perfect appealed to me a lot. First of all, even if perfectionism was never one of my many vices, I realized that I was too among the hordes of people trying to live up to societal expectations of the perfect. From the first pages I could tell that this book had a potential of opening my eyes and also giving me permission to just act according to my human nature, to be simply ‘good enough’ and not necessarily ‘better than’. Mr. Ben-Shahar’s writing is very accessible and quite persuasive. To give you an example, I have always been a person who would suddenly feel envy towards somebody else and then immediately I would scorn myself for feeling this horrible emotion, put it aside and in the end beating myself for the rest of the day about how I must be a bad human being for feeling envy towards somebody that most likely doesn’t deserve it. A few days ago, I was sitting in a public place, waiting my turn to be serviced and reading the part of the book which talks about not suppressing our negative feelings but instead accepting them. And wouldn’t you know, there comes a drop-dead girl, wearing sexy clothes and attracting stares of every male specimen in the room. I immediately start being jealous and think of all the reasons why she really is looking ridiculous and completely overdressed and how she truly is screaming for attention. But instead of suppressing these emotions of jealousy and low self-confidence, I decided to just stay with them and take a closer look at the girl. I allowed myself to feel the negativity, I accepted the fact that I indeed was being jealous and went back to reading my book. Hours later, when I left the building, I all of a sudden realized that I completely forgot about that girl, didn’t beat myself up for being jealous and I had a fairly good, relaxing time as opposed to being literally devoured by envy. So there you have it. It worked and I have a strong feeling that if this one worked, others might too.

Special Thanks to Anna S. from FSB Associates for sending me a copy of this book.
Also, don't forget to visit Tal Ben-Shahar's website to get more info on his books.

Monday, April 27, 2009

It's Monday and it's time for...Borrowed Words

I think that since I posted a review of the book that has to do with Jane Austen, it would be fitting to also quote her today. Jane Austen was very clever and her humor lasts generations. We all know her books and all are familiar with her most famous quotes. The words written by her posted below are probably ones said by many people, many times and that's the beauty of it all. On a side note, I happen to agree wholeheartedly with these words. Without further ado, I give you words borrowed from Jane Austen:

"The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." (Northanger Abbey)

'What Would Jane Austen Do?' by Laurie Brown

I have to be honest here. When I was presented with an opportunity to read and review What Would Jane Austen Do? by Laurie Brown, I considered myself a romance novels’ skeptic. I also was a little anxious to read another Jane Austen-esque book. Well, all my doubts were dispelled shortly after having read just a few pages of this greatly entertaining book.

What Would Jane Austen Do?
introduces us to Eleanor Pottinger, a Jane Austen die-hard fan and a self-made 19th century costume designer. Her adventure starts in England where she travels to join a Jane Austen festival but it certainly does not stop there. Thanks to two, very endearing ghosts she is transported back in time to prevent a duel which, without her help, will have a deadly end. And here the fun begins. Eleanor experiences living in the Regency era to its full extent: dances, soirees, intrigue, courting, hot romance and a thing she wished for the most: meeting Jane Austen. Miss Brown very skillfully introduces the reader to this romantic part of history and really gives us a chance to have a good look into what life must have been for Jane Austen contemporaries.

Eleanor is a delightful character, very funny, clever and most importantly believable. Numerous times I found myself identifying with her or thinking that I would behave similarly in certain situations. The book is a perfect summer read. It is light, very funny, it has time travel, ghosts, suspense and romance. What else can you ask for?

Every woman, every fan of romance and historical novels should put this title on their summer reading list. It will provide a great escape into fantasy with a lot of extra laughs. And to all those skeptics like I used to be, What Would Jane Austen Do? is a perfect choice to be a skeptic no more. If there is a sequel to this novel, I will be the first one to buy it.

Special Thanks to Danielle J. from Sourcebooks, Inc. from sending me a copy of this book.

Friday, April 24, 2009

I had to do it...I just couldn't stop myself.

There seems to be quite a havoc going on in the reading blogosphere recently. I have read all the posts (I think) concerning the reviewing policies and culture, the reasons why we even blog, the lengths bloggers will or will not go as far as getting the coveted ARCs, and so forth. I am sure you all are familiar with the issues and I don’t like to repeat what has already been discussed by bloggers much more experienced and well versed in book reviewing than I am.
What I want to do here is just put in writing all my thoughts and feelings triggered by the controversial posts. I wanted to forego that but it seems to be quite stuck in my head and won’t leave until I write what I think down.
I am a fairly new blogger. I started my blog in November, 2008 and I do still have a loooong way to go in order to ever dream of achieving the status of being ‘popular’. But that’s quite all right with me because popularity and wide readership were never my reasons to start a blog in the first place. My history with books and reading is quite difficult and sometimes tumultuous even. When and where I was growing up played a major role. I was a kid in the times of great, communist censorship, the one that thankfully kids nowadays only read about and seems like a story taken out of Orwell’s 1984. It was very real for me and other children, teenagers and adults around me. We were not allowed to have access to international literature, we knew nothing about America’s great children’s authors, no Dr. Seuss or Beatrix Potter for me. All we were allowed to read were magazines published in the Soviet Union, narrowing our horizons and knowledge to the greatness of socialism and communism. The same articles and other propagandist books or writings made sure that no individualism was allowed and that our love of reading would soon be extinguished before it even had a chance to fully bloom. Yet, somehow I came out of it with a great love and appreciation for a written word. I suspect I was lucky enough to also experience the fall of communism in my country while still being a young girl. You can only imagine my joy, surprise and exhilaration when I got my hands on Winnie the Pooh and Anne of Green Gables. I think that when I was first allowed to enter my school’s library and to check out these books was the time when I knew I was doomed. I became obsessed. Since then, I grew to realize that most of the people around me would never share my obsession and unconditional love for books. I almost became resigned to my fate of being the nerdy, geeky person who never had anything else to talk about other than books.
Suddenly, lo’ and behold, I came upon a website where a person seemed to show the same signs of geeky-ness I had. I didn’t know then that it was a blog or that there were countless other blogs and people who loved books as much as I do. I believe that when this realization finally hit me, my emotions could only be compared to the ones I felt when entering the school library. I proceeded to be flabbergasted when I noticed that I also can have a blog like that, that I can actually read a book and then write about it and know that I no longer would be perceived as a weirdo, but a member of great community of people who share the passion for reading and who understand my need to use every spare moment on reading these extra pages of a book.
So there’s my story. I do not want to become disillusioned with my great blogging community because of a few bad eggs that apparently have blogs only to get copies of books from publishers. And I don’t think there is such a risk for me. There are many wonderful bloggers out there whom I consider my blogging friends, they are smart, funny and clearly as obsessed with books as I am.
And last but not least, a note for and on publishers. I appreciate them greatly, we have had great relationships. Because they deem my amateur reviews worthy, I get to receive copies of books they want me to review. I think it’s grand and still honestly beyond my expectations. In return for the kindness, I read and review the books they send me, I try to always mention some positive aspects of a book and if I cannot find any (which of course happens), I do communicate with a publisher and leave it up to them whether they still want my review up or not. And I do not think it’s selling out. I simply don’t write anything about a badly written book. I do post negative reviews but mostly of books that I bought. I do it because I want to be honest about my feelings. And most of my library (some 500 books) comprises books bought by me, only small percentage belongs to ARCs, so I do support authors because even if I do not like a certain book, I can only imagine how hard their job is.

Days of Remembrance - spotlight on Ben Sherwood and 'The Survivors Club'

This whole week I have been dedicating most of my posts to Days Of Remembrance which are in truth going on not for one day (April 21) but 7 days (April 19-26). There is a lot that I will probably miss around the blogosphere in terms of reviews on books that deal with Holocaust and WWII. However, there is one book that I am grateful for not missing. This book is The Survivors Club by Ben Sherwood. I have heard a lot of good things about it and can't wait to read it and review it on my blog. Why am I writing about the book in a post about Holocaust? Because the author writes about the survivors of this horrific time in our history and in my opinion survivors are to be talked about just as much as those who perished because they are witnesses and carriers of the message so that the world does not forget.

Before I post my review of The Survivors Club I would like you to take a closer look at Mr. Sherwood's article recently featured on The Huffington Post in honor of Days of Remembrance. It gives you a taste of Mr. Sherwood's writing as well as some interesting facts about Holocaust survivors and why and how they survived while others didn't.

The title of the article is Holocaust Remembrance Day: The Remarkable Strength (and Success) of the Survivors and I hope you'll enjoy it as I did.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

'Follow Me' by Joanna Scott

I admit, with a little bit of embarrassment, that I have never been a fan of contemporary American fiction. From the time I first read it in college, something didn’t quite appeal to me even though I knew that there were some grand authors in that genre and I tried to make myself like it. To no avail. Deciding to read Follow Me by Joanna Scott was my last attempt at finding appreciation for contemporary American writers. I don’t know whether it’s because I am older now and with age my tastes have become a little more refined, or because I have read enough books to know good fiction from bad fiction, an okay book from a spectacular one, but Follow Me has finally ignited my budding love for the genre.

Joanna Scott’s book gives us a story told mainly by Sally Bliss, a granddaughter of Sally Werner aka Mole aka Bliss. It is essentially a recounting of Sally Werner’s life, gathered from what she told her granddaughter and what Sally Bliss was also told by her father via recorded cassettes. In 1946 rural Pennsylvania, 16-year-old Sally Werner lets herself be taken for a ride on her cousin Daniel Werner’s motorcycle. The enthralling ride, followed by what Sally thought was innocent but exhilarating flirting and kissing, ends in Daniel raping (in my opinion) Sally. She then is left carrying his baby and with guilt imposed upon her by her family that she was the one who tricked Daniel and made him commit that sinful act. Sally proceeds to deliver a baby boy, to abandon him on the kitchen table in her parent’s house and to run away in pursuit of a new life. The fruits of that pursuit don’t always turn out what Sally might have wanted but her optimism for life and belief in destiny help her along the way to live an amazing, sometimes tragic, sometimes happy, but never mundane, life.

Admittedly, Follow Me is a little slow at the beginning and somewhat difficult to get into, but I implore you to keep reading because it gets better and better with each page. The style of Ms. Scott’s writing is very distinct and present from the first page. Her use of verbs creating stand-alone sentences makes it seem that it is a dream we’re reading about, an urgent dream, sometimes a nightmare, from which Sally Werner wants to run away. It’s also like Tuskee River flowing north and outlining Sally’s journey through life. This writing is very intriguing and it kept me wanting to read more until I became absorbed by the book and couldn’t stop even if I wanted to, which I didn’t. The story of Sally’s life, her actions driven by the need to run away from town to town, her belief that she would always be haunted by leaving her son behind, are intoxicating. Without knowing when or how, I was pulled into the whirl of that river Sally had become and even when I wasn’t reading the book, it was constantly in my thoughts. Follow Me is so many things that one could really write a whole essay on it. Not only is it a saga spanning three generations, but also a tragic love story, a depiction of how much our lives are run by chances we’re not aware of and a tribute to the finest American storytelling of which I had been so unappreciative before Scott’s book landed in my hands. I do not like the term “modern classic”, but Follow Me might very well become one.

Special Thanks to Miriam P. from Hachette Book Group for sending me a copy of this book.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Days of Remembrance - spotlight on blogs.

"Remembrance obligates us not only to memorialize those who were killed in the Holocaust but also to reflect on what could have been done to save them. An engaged citizenry that embraces the power of the individual to make a difference is the frontline defense for strong, just societies. What we do—or choose not to do—matters." United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Today is another day in a series of Days of Remembrance commemorating Holocaust and organized by United Holocaust Memorial Museum. In this post I would like to spotlight some of my and other bloggers' posts that either mention this event or talk about books about the Nazi atrocitites.

1. My review of A Lucky Child by Thomas Buergenthal - a memoir of a boy who survived a Jewish ghetto, Auschwitz and two other camps and lives to tell his story.

2. Several months ago I also wrote a post with quotes from Medallions by Zofia Nalkowska, a Polish writer and journalist who put together stories of people who lived through the genocide and WWII.

3. Softrdrink from Fizzy Thoughts wrote a post in which you can find out interesting facts about the origin of a word 'genocide' as well as read her review of The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak.

4. Amy from My Friend Amy also wrote a piece mentioning Days of Remembrance and relevantly writing about The Secret Holocaust Diaries by Nonna Bannister. The Questions and Answers part is great, make sure you check it out.

5. Devourer of Books also has a great review of A Lucky Child and RAnn from This That and the Other Thing reviews A Lucky Child and gives aways 5 copies of this book. Make sure you hurry up because it ends on April 24th.

6. Anna from Diary of an Eccentric and Serena from Savvy Verse & Wit have a separate blog set up for War Through Generations where they host WWII reading challenge. There are a lot of links to awesome reviews on WWII there.

Okay, that's it from me for now. And all I ask you, dear reader is: Please, Remember.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

'A Lucky Child' by Thomas Buergenthal

Today is another Day of Remembrance and, as I mentioned in my previous post, I am writing here about a book that is just perfect for the remembering of Holocaust. First however, I would like to say a little bit on my experiences with the Nazi concentration camps and the horrifying legacy left by WWII. Having been born and raised in Poland I had been educated on the horrors of the extermination of the Jewish people quite thoroughly I thought. But it was all textbook knowledge that for a child in school had no other meaning apart from that of just another thing to study. It all changed with my first visit to Auschwitz as a high school student. When I finally had a chance to go through the barracks, to look at the gas chamber and the crematorium, when I could look at the chimney and imagine the smoke drifting upwards with the souls of all these innocent people, that’s when the cruel reality of the suffering hit me. That’s the reason why I believe that simply learning the dry facts at school is not enough to really try and understand the nightmare of genocide. This is also the reason why I think that books like A Lucky Child by Thomas Buergenthal are relevant today and should always remain as such.

A Lucky Child is a little different from other books on Holocaust because it is a memoir of a person, who as a child survived not only Auschwitz, but the ghetto that, like all Jewish ghettos, was liquidated, and two other labor camps. The miracle in it all is, only a handful of children came out of Auschwitz alive. Most of them had been murdered and burnt before they even got a chance to enter the camp, or were sent to Treblinka straight form ghettos where the same fate awaited. The author of this memoir is Thomas Buergenthal, an International Court of Justice judge, who devoted his life to making sure that what had happened in WWII, doesn’t happen again. Mr. Buergenthal arrived at Auschwitz when he was ten and was abruptly and cruelly separated from his mother but thankfully was still together with his father. He went through the life in the camp and through the rest of the war trying his best to live, to survive and to finally get reconnected with his parents. He was a truly lucky child because while all the other children he managed to become friends with were killed, he always escaped that same, gruesome fate. Mr. Buergenthal, Tommy, was also miraculously reunited with his mother just when he started losing the hope that either of his parents survived Auschwitz.

Thomas Buergenthal essentially wrote a book of hope, resilience and a child’s spirit that could never get extinguished. I absolutely loved it. It’s a work of a great mind and heart and because it was written straight from the heart it takes on a deeply moving meaning. The prose is beautifully simple and almost dainty, which spoke to me clearer than any convoluted, rich in hyperboles and metaphors pieces ever could. And in this simplicity, the true questions shine through. Who does truly survive: the one who refuses to compromise their morality, dignity and soul, or the one who gives that up to preserve or prolong their life no matter what? How insane did the people who served up such a fate to the millions of innocents had to be? These and many other deep issues are what Buergenthal thinks about and also gives a reader the freedom to answer them individually. One aspect of the book that I particularly loved were the photographs of Thomas and his family. I thought it was wonderful to look at all these people, his mother, his father and many others, and be able to put a face to them, to their great spirit and personalities. And just like my experience in Auschwitz, these photographs make it more real, make you look at them and know that this is all true, that it isn’t a dry historical fact only but many personal tragedies that can never be forgotten.


Special Thanks to Anna B. from Hachette Book Group for sending me a copy of this book.

Monday, April 20, 2009

It's Monday and it's time for...Borrowed Words

From April 19 to April 29 we are celebrating Days of Remembrance, established by United States Congress in commemoration of Holocaust so we never forget. This year's theme is Never Again: What You Do Matters. I will be posting a few more pieces relating to the Holocaust over the week but I think it's fitting to start with giving you words borrowed from Tadeusz Borowski, a famous and Polish writer and a concentration camp survivor:

"There can be no beauty if it is paid for by human injustice, nor truth that passes over injustice in silence, nor moral virtue that condones it."

from This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen

Friday, April 17, 2009

'Finding Grace' by Donna VanLiere

I think that a lot of times people go through life without stopping to wonder where they are going, what their purpose on Earth is or whether there is any purpose at all. There are also those who do know that there is a deeper meaning to life but it’s out of their grasp and they catch themselves chasing that meaning. And then there are people like Donna VanLiere, who found the meaning, is living out the plan and through her experiences shows others how to find grace.

Finding Grace is Donna’s memoir of sorts, her portrayal of journey through life with many stumbling blocks on its way. Donna VanLiere, who is mostly known for her bestselling Christmas Hope series (at least she is to me), starts off her book with her childhood and dreams she had about her future adult life. They would perhaps have been normal had they not been broken in one abrupt and terrifying moment. That episode changed a girl with a head full of dreams into a prematurely grown-up woman, confused and disillusioned about her belief in God, in his Grace and her own worth. As time progresses, Donna’s life seems to be a self-fulfilled prophecy of despair, of hopelessness and of doubt. However, Ms. VanLiere is not one to give up and she struggles to find out what God’s plan for her is, as she never really surrendered the hope that there had to be more to life than what she got. And as she searches for the spiritual truth and fights the hardships, she slowly realizes that God has been giving her His Grace freely, without waiting for Donna to earn it and all she had to do is receive it.

I treasured Finding Grace from the first page to the last, mainly because I felt it carried a personal message to me. I would read Donna’s indignant and angry thoughts about and towards God, and think that she must have had some psychic powers because those were my exact thoughts. Her struggle seemed like my struggle and in the end it gave me tremendous hope that she found the Grace and that we all can because it is waiting for us. Personal feelings aside, Finding Grace is written beautifully and flawlessly. The author’s love for writing and conviction that that is exactly what she should be doing reflect on every page. It made me cry most unexpectedly and laugh when I didn’t think I could. Yes, Finding Grace is not a tear-jerker only, there is plenty of humor which, creates just the right balance required to leave a reader with a feeling of something heavy being lifted off the shoulders and a ray of hope that maybe we are also ready to find and receive the Grace shining through the harsh and grey days of our existence.

Special Thanks for Julie H. from FSB Associates for sending me a copy of this book.
You also should check out this YouTube video Donna put together as an intro to the book.
Last but not least, visit Donna's website for more info.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

'Afraid' by Jack Kilborn

I have to be honest and admit that I am a ‘scaredy cat’. I never watch horror movies, I do not like darkness, it makes me borderline paranoid and therefore I always sleep with a light on. With that said, I absolutely love horror books! Talk about the case in contradictions. I can’t explain it, but then again, things I read about in horror books are inexplicable as well so I guess we go together :D. Unfortunately, because I have read tons of horror books, there are not very many of them that can truly scare me or shock me out of my socks. That is, until I read Afraid by Jack Kilborn. This guy definitely has what it takes to write a great horror novel: a deliciously twisted imagination.

Safe Haven, Wisconsin is a secluded place with one road in and out. The residents all know one another because there are so few of them. All and all, it is a peaceful town. One night and one helicopter crash changes the serenity of the town and its residents forever. A powerfully evil force is unleashed upon Safe Haven and it is bent on annihilating the whole town. But before that happens, the residents will face the fate much, much worse than death and they will be begging to be killed instead.

Jack Kilborn certainly knows how to deliver the thrills of your life. Things started happening from the first page of the book. I was sucker-punched and didn’t get the chance to draw a breath until the book was over. Just when I thought that there couldn’t possibly be any more ideas turned into a horrifying read, Afraid came along and I was proved wrong. Mr. Kilborn is a very talented writer who created a horror/thriller that will certainly give many sleepless nights to many a reader. The idea is very original, at least to me, and probably the scariest part is that all the time reading Afraid I couldn’t help thinking that this might very well happen one day. There are no ghosts, ghouls or bogey monsters here, only people. But these “people” and what they can do will get into your head and make you want to stop and wonder whether or not at some point we will have to witness evil in its purest and most terrifying form, and how much trust exactly should people put into science and what it can do. Jack Kilborn might have written one heck of a scary book but his nightmare may one day become a reality and then people should be very Afraid.

Special Thanks to Miriam P. from Hachette Book Group for sending me a copy of this book.
If you want to know more about Afraid go to Jack Kilborn's official website.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

'The Reincarnationist' by M.J. Rose

Do most people learn from their mistakes and I am one of the few that fall for the “oh, so fantastic” blurbs printed on the covers of books time and again? Or do we all stubbornly buy books just because other writers supply the words of praise? One thing is certain: when I read blurbs such as “M.J. Rose delivers a tale that goes beyond chills and thrills” or “One of the most original and exciting novels I’ve read in a long time, with a premise so delicious I’m sick with envy I didn’t think of it myself”, I question literary skills of authors who wrote them. The Reincarnationist by M.J. Rose does go beyond “chills and thrills” straight into boring and disappointing, and its premise might be “delicious” but if it’s one of the most original and exciting novels the author read, then he must reading some really awful books.

The thought behind The Reincarnationist is, admittedly, original. Josh Ryder, who is a photojournalist, falls a victim to a bomb attack while working on an assignment. He barely escapes death but he also starts experiencing déjà vu’s and flashbacks to ancient times where apparently he is a pagan priest in love with a Vestal Virgin. The flashbacks intensify when he visits a newly discovered tomb in Rome. They become really violent and Josh, in his desperation to find answers, turns to a research facility that deals with past-life experiences and reincarnation. So far so good but then it really gets unnecessarily complicated, with many other people starting to experience the same sort of flashbacks and Josh, having apparently not one past-life but two.

I was sorely disappointed by this book. Because the premise appealed to me a lot, I thought I was up for quite a good ride. But it wasn’t meant to be. Up until about 2/3 of the book I kept waiting for the real action to start happening, around midway through I figured out who the mysterious villain was and the ending was completely anti-climactic. Sure, there was a lot of running around, plenty of different characters but they were not exciting at all, actually they fell rather flat. The worst part was the ending. Not only was there no big surprise as to who stood behind the killings and the theft, but also it had the wait-for-the-next-installment, to-be-continued ending. If there is a thing I hate about books, it is this type of ending. If a writer is good, a reader doesn’t need to be tricked into buying another book of theirs. If on the other hand, an author feels insecure about their book to be a stand-alone one or simply knows it needs trickery to encourage further sales then I simply say, “Thank you very much but I think I’ll pass”.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

'Elijah's Coin' by Steve O'Brien

My life, just like, I suspect, everybody else’s, has been filled with many hardships. Some of them resolved and others still lingering. Because of those unresolved misfortunes, I need a lot of encouragement and support to keep going and trying to do the next right thing. Books I read provide me with a certain acceptance and a feeling that not all is lost, and, most importantly, with solutions. Elijah’s Coin by Steve O’Brien turned out to be one such book.

The novel is about a college-age boy, Tom who seems to have lost all hope for a meaningful life the day his mom was murdered. He is now preparing to live a life of a criminal as a way of rebellion and empty showing off that he will become a thief because he can. This kind of thinking takes a 180° turn when Tom meets Elijah King, a night watchman in a sporting goods store Tom planned to rob. Elijah gives Tom a mysterious coin and with that coin and a lesson on meaningful living, he sets Tom off on a journey that will change his life. And Tom’s life changes in ways he never thought possible.

Elijah’s Coin is a short book with a simple message: “Give to Get”. But as I have personally experienced, sometimes complicated people need simple messages. Mr. O’Brien’s style is very convincing and adds a thrill to the story, which makes it that much more interesting. There are a lot of life lessons to be taught but it takes a skilled writer to show us, students the right way to learn them. And I think that Steve O’Brien accomplished this task. Will the book transform its readers? I think that it has that capability but only if the readers are willing to be transformed. As they say, “where there’s a will, there’s a way”, and Elijah’s Coin might just show some people the way. One thing is certain: the book has a lot of spiritual depth and core messages contained within it are meaningful and important. I would definitely recommend this book, whether your life is just peachy at the moment or an absolute hell. It may open your eyes to something that was right in front of you all the time but you simply refused to see it.

Special Thanks to Paula K. from AME, Inc for providing me a copy of this book.

Monday, April 13, 2009

It's Monday and it's time for...Borrowed Words

Because April is National Poetry Month, I have to include a poem in my weekly quotes. I usually am not very fond of poetry and prefer prose but somehow poems written for kids appeal to me quite often. In their simplicity they are clever and funny and the messages they convey stay with me for a long time. Today I give you words borrowed from Shel Silverstein:

All The Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas

Layin' In The Sun,

Talkin' 'Bout The Things

They Woulda-Coulda-Shoulda Done...

But All Those Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas

All Ran Away

And Hid From One Little Did.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

He Is Risen! Rejoice in new life! Happy Easter!

"On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground but the men said to them, 'Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; He has risen!' "
Luke 23-24

Saturday, April 11, 2009

It's a happy day!

I have been honored by wonderful bloggers with not one but two awards. It makes me feel fantastic! You get up one day, you are feeling so so, maybe even a little down, you sit at the computer and "Hey! What is this? Oh, goodness gracious, people like me, they gave me awards!" and that's how you are no longer feeling bad but excited instead. At least that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

First on the list is the wonderful Sisterhood Award which two wonderful ladies decided I deserved to have, Myza from Books And So Many More Books and Evy from Evy's Harlequin Presents. If there is a blogger out there who has not visited these two, you really have to do it because they are two lovely blogs.

So, if that wasn't enough, I got another super award. This time it is the Splash Award. I have seen it on other blogs and I think it is absolutely magical and belongs in a fearie world. And the two bloggers this award came my way from are nothing short of worldly fairies themselves, Melissa from Melissa's Bookshelf and DeSeRt RoSe from DeSeRt RoSe BoOkLoGuE. Thank you ladies. Your blogs are positively bewitching.
What can I say, it is a happy day indeed!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

'BoneMan's Daughters' by Ted Dekker

When I find out that one of my most favorite authors comes out with a new book I am both very excited and anxious. That was the case with BoneMan’s Daughters by Ted Dekker. Among the contemporary thriller writers he holds the top spot and I truly couldn’t wait to read this book. But I also had some second thoughts, a reader angst I would call it. I expect from Mr. Dekker always the best and before I started BoneMan’s Daughters I had thought about what was going to happen if it was not as good as his previous ones, if somehow it would leave me disappointed or not quite sated. Well, having read it I now can tell that my worry was, as usual, for naught.

The story starts with Ryan Evans, naval captain being kidnapped and held hostage after one of the intelligence missions near Fallujah went awry. The hell he’s put through left him mentally damaged, with a severe case of post traumatic stress disorder. But it also gave him a renewed sense of love for his sixteen-year-old daughter, Bethany whom he pretty much abandoned and neglected long time ago for the sake of his job and his country. He comes home, ready to do what it takes to repair the damage and hurt he caused his beloved daughter. He has no idea how much really he will have to do to get Bethany to love her father back. BoneMan, a serial killer who murdered six girls in search for that one perfect daughter, is on the prowl again and Bethany is the daughter he was looking for all this time. He kidnaps Ryan’s daughter and gives Ryan seven days to get her back. Now Ryan has to go after BoneMan on his own because the FBI and DA think he’s the killer.

From the first pages I was taken for a spin ride. Ted Dekker’s talent for writing a meaningful thriller really shines through. I write meaningful because he not only plots an awesome suspense, but also manages to make me think through the difference between good and evil, the ends people will go to and means they will and will not use to get what they want in their desperation. The questions put forth in BoneMan’s Daughters are many: How much is one life worth?, Who decides which people die and which live?, How far can a person go to retrieve love they sacrificed long time ago?, and Mr. Dekker knows how to make you think and analyze them all while being caught up in the whirl of events that do not stop happening until the end.

BoneMan’s Daughters was honestly a book I could not put down. It is over 400 pages long and I read it within one day and a little bit of night. Probably the best part was that just when I thought I knew exactly what was going to happen, it of course didn’t. It usually wasn’t anywhere near what I thought would end up happening. I finally gave up guessing and let the book do its amazing job. And that it did to the last page.


Special Thanks to Miriam P. from Hachette Book Group for providing me a copy of this book.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Scene of the Blog guest appearance

I am so, so excited to let you know that tomorow, Wednesday, April 8th, my blog/office/working space will be featured on Cathy's blog Kittling:Books. She has a wonderful feature, Scene of the Blog which appears every Wednesday with photos and short descriptions of other bloggers' working spaces. As soon as I got contacted by Cathy if I wanted to partake in this project I agreed right away. How can you not?! It's a fantastic idea! Thank you Cathy!

'The Traitor's Wife' by Susan Higginbotham

As a long-time fan of historical fiction, I consider myself a person who knows quite a few things of what makes a good historical novel and what doesn’t. In recent years, readers have been given many opportunities to bask in enjoyments of historical fiction as well as many not so pleasant opportunities to be caught in reading books that besides being set in some moment of history, had nothing to do with history or with good fiction. Susan Higginbotham’s The Traitor’s Wife with no doubt belongs to the first category and it will be enjoyed by many.

The Traitor’s Wife tells the story of Eleanor, a niece of the infamous King Edward II. King Edward is mainly infamous, or famous, for his supposed homosexuality. Eleanor is married to Hugh le Despenser at a very young age, but she falls in love with him immediately and irrevocably. The book tells how Eleanor grows up to be one of the wealthiest people in England, a devoted and loving wife adored by her husband as well as her uncle, King Edward and many other people close to her. It also tells how her family comes to be the most despised family in the kingdom as her husband Hugh is suspected of having an affair with the king and as he quite blatantly strives for more and more power, more and more wealth and ill-advises King Edward every step of the way. But The Traitor’s Wife is not so simple a novel as to focus on these three characters only. There is Queen Isabella, Edward II’s wife to consider. She becomes one of the most evil characters as she plots to have her feelings of hatred towards the Despenser family realized into action, there is Roger Mortimer, queen’s lover and a man responsible for much suffering and many cruelties, and countless characters who struggle with loyalty, treason, love and life in 14th century England.

All I want to say is ‘Wow!’. But that wouldn’t be enough, so I’ll elaborate. I absolutely devoured the book. Ms. Higginbotham wrote a breathtaking epic of a novel, in my opinion. The characters are very complex, so much so that till the very end I wasn’t sure if I had ‘black and white’ sort of feelings towards any of them. The issue of King Edward’s homosexuality and his intimate relations with Piers Gaveston, considered to be his first lover, and Hugh le Despenser, his second and last lover were handled gracefully but with many shocking moments as well. There was nothing off-putting about it and I was glad. Susan’s writing is flawless, the book being a little over 500 pages, never had a boring moment in it and Ms. Higginbotham's passion for history is quite contagious. Many times during reading the book, I had to stop myself from delving into my own little research of those times, in fears that I might find out something that would ruin the book’s plot. My beloved character was of course Eleanor, who grew and matured as the story progressed, and whose love and loyalty to her husband brought tears to my eyes many times, and trust me, I am not prone to crying fits. Anyway, Susan Higginbotham is a wonderful writer, quite frankly right up there with Margaret George, if you ask me, and The Traitor’s Wife is the historical novel to be read and treasured by scores of readers.

Special Thanks to Paul S. from Sourcebooks for supplying me with a copy of this book.

Visit these blogs for more reviews of The Traitor's Wife :

Monday, April 6, 2009

It's Monday and it's time for...Borrowed Words

Sometimes, in order to feel better emotionally and spiritually we need humor. I have always thought that if I can still laugh, it's not that bad. That's why for today's installment I decided to post humorous words, so we can all start this week with a smile on our faces. I give you words borrowed from Miss Piggy:

"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

and it may be necessary from time to time

to give a stupid or misinformed beholder

a black eye."

Sunday, April 5, 2009

March Reads

I amazed myself in the month of March. I managed to read 14 books! I don’t know how I did it, but something tells me that having problems with work (or the lack thereof) might have something to do with it. Anyway, here’s the list and I’m already looking forward to April reads.

1. Wizard by Trade by Jim Butcher (I really, really like Harry Dresden series, it’s funny and it’s all wizards, vampires and the likes).

2. Suitable Vengeance by Elizabeth George (awesome mystery, awesome writer, she is really one of the best).

3. The Day After Tomorrow by Sandee Sgarlata (it was okay, could benefit from a few plot improvements).

4. Jane Austen Ruined My Life by Beth Patillo (I wasn’t happy with this one at all).

5. Lady Anne and the Howl in the Dark by Donna Lea Simpson (now, that was a really good historical romance/mystery)

6. The Traitor’s Wife by Susan Higginbotham (my review is coming up on April 7th, but for now I say it was a superb historical novel).

7. Passion Unleashed by Larissa Ione (very hot paranormal romance, must say that, surprisingly, I enjoyed it more than I thought I would).

8. The Red Siren by M.L. Tyndall (I was put off by this book as soon as I realized that the heroine had absolutely nothing to do with the lady on the cover, I guess I ‘judged a book by its cover’, even though it was an okay historical/Christian romance).

9. For Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn (I disliked the seemingly preferential treatment of men and an overall assumption that women should just forgive them all their shortcomings, no matter what they are).

10. For Men Only by Shaunti Feldhahn and Jeff Feldhahn (I had to read this one to see if women got the same preferential treatment in this book, just to even it all out, but I was sadly disappointed. I hated the condescending and, at times even patronizing tone. And apparently, even after having been studied deeply, we should still be more forgiving towards men than men towards us, go figure!).

11. The Plague by Albert Camus (what can I say, it’s a classic!).

12. Stakes & Stilettos by Michelle Rowen (really enjoyed this vampire, funny and light romance).

13. The Reincarnationist by M.J. Rose (my review will be posted shortly but all I have to say now is that I was sorely disappointed by this “action” thriller).

14. Left Behind by Tim LaHaye & Jerry Jenkins (okay, it is a heavy Christian thriller, but I love the series and I know I will read it all before the year ends).


1. The Life and Times of Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson (this guy is a word wizard, he is absolutely fantastic and I already put all of his other books on my reading list).

2. The Darkest Fire: Lords of the Underworld Prequel by Gena Showalter (it was a short prequel but it was enough to make me want to read the rest of her books).