Monday, March 30, 2015

Book review and GIVEAWAY! "Whatever Wanda!" by Christy Ziglar

**The winner is April!  Congrats!! Thanks for stopping by : ).**

Does your child ever have a bad attitude?  Mine definitely struggle with this issue and as parents, my husband and I are always trying to find ways to help them make an attitude adjustment.  In "Whatever Wanda!", Wanda is in need of a serious attitude adjustment.  She doesn't want to accompany her family to the Rubber Duck Days Festival, and once there, she won't participate in any of the events or join in with her friends.  Soon Wanda receives some helpful advice and learns that: "Sometimes you have to believe something will be great before it actually is.  Being positive is a choice that makes everything better, not to mention, a whole lot more fun!"

I read this with my six year old son and at first he was hesitant to read it with me.  It was a "girl story."  But when we got started, he was drawn in.  Wanda is a dealing with issues that we've dealt with: she doesn't want to wear the outfit her mom picked out, she doesn't want to go on the family outing, she doesn't want to play with her friends, etc.  These are all things my son could relate to.  This book has such a great message about choosing to have a good attitude even when you don't want to.  (I think I needed that message today, too! : )).  My son ended up enjoying the book, as he has the previous two children's books by Christy Ziglar.  I would definitely recommend it!

About the author: Christy Ziglar, financial planner, mother of twins, and niece of legendary motivator and the world's original optimist, Zig Ziglar, is bringing the same timeless wisdom and ageless advice to an entirely new, younger audience through her Shine Bright Kids picture book series.  Christy, her husband, and their twins live in Atlanta, Georgia.

If you'd like to have a copy of this hardback children's book in your home, I will be giving away ONE copy! Just stop by and comment on this blog post or the facebook link to be in the drawing!  I will be drawing a name on Friday, April 3rd.

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.
 Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

God bless!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Reviewer's Bookshelf: How To Catch A Prince by Rachel Hauck

Book summary (from Amazon): Behind him, beside him, before him, the synchronized cathedral bells began to ring out.

One, two, three . . .

Then she said it first. The words his heart burst to share. I love you, Stephen. You are my true prince.

An American heiress and a crown prince seem destined to be together. Will the devastation of war keep them apart forever?

American heiress Corina Del Rey caught her prince once. But the tragedy of war kept her too long in a fog of grief. Now she’s shifting her life forward, reigniting her career as a journalist. Still, nothing can relieve her of the secret and the love she carries in her soul.

Prince Stephen of Brighton is one of the world’s most eligible bachelors and a star rugby player, trying to make sense of his life. His days in Afghanistan with the Royal Air Command will mark him forever. And he can’t shake their dark shadow.

But when his brother, King Nathaniel, confronts him with a document the prince thought long buried and forgotten, Stephen is forced to face the pain of his past and the love he left behind.

With a little heavenly help, Prince Stephen and Corina embark on a journey of truth. But when the secrets are revealed, can they overcome, move forward, and find love again? 

My thoughts: There are so many great things about this story.  My favorite is the overall theme that is carried throughout the book: love well.  Such a great message, not only in romantic relationships but also in friendships, relationships with family and other loved ones.  In this novel, Corina wants to love Stephen well, even though he has broken her heart and is hurting after his traumatic experience in the war.  She also wants to love her parents well, as they are distant and consumed with grief over the loss of Corina's brother.  Loving them well brings about healing not only for Corina, but also her loved ones.  

I also loved the chemistry between Corina and Stephen.  Although Stephen resists the strong feelings he has for her, it is obvious how much he cares.  Corina humbles herself in order to love Stephen well.  She fights the desire to brush him off and stay angry at him.  Their inner struggles create some great moments of tension between the two of them.  

Although Stephen and Corina are both wealthy and famous, they weren't above facing the situations that occur with everyday people.  That's another aspect I enjoyed...the humanization of two people who could've been portrayed as above all of these struggles because of their social status.  It is a good reminder that no matter how a person may look in the media or tv, they are still people who deal with real issues.

The only aspect of this novel that was hard for me to connect with was the "heavenly help" aspect.  I've read other novels of Hauck's in which the characters get a supernatural nudge, but in this novel it was almost too hard for me to accept.  For example, Corina's hotel reservations were missing.  That I can accept happening...spiritual intervention but in a practical way.  But then she ends up at a hotel that only a few people can see (most people only see an empty alleyway) and that only has one room...for her.  Several other aspects and the people she comes in contact with concerning her stay at this hotel were more like a spiritual fantasy.  Going from real life issues like grief, PTSD, bitterness, heartache...and this fantasy-like supernatural happening....made it challenging for me to stay connected with the story. 

But like I said before, there were so many aspects of this novel I enjoyed and by the end the theme of "love well" was what stuck with me.

Happy reading!

*I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher via NetGalley for an unbiased review, which I gave*

Monday, March 16, 2015

Reviewer's Bookshelf: Dauntless by Dina L. Sleiman

Book Summary (from Goodreads)Though once a baron's daughter, Lady Merry Ellison is willing to go to any lengths to protect the orphaned children of her former village. Dubbed "The Ghosts of Farthingale Forest," her band of followers soon become enemies of the throne when they hijack ill-gotten gold meant for the king. 

Timothy Grey, ninth child of the Baron of Greyham, longs to perform some feat so legendary that he will rise from obscurity and earn a title of his own. When the Ghosts of Farthingale Forest are spotted in Wyndeshire, where he serves as assistant to the local earl, he might have found his chance. But when he comes face-to-face with the leader of the thieves, will he choose fame or love?

My Thoughts....
Imagine Robin Hood....but instead of a man leading his merry men, you have Merry Ellison, a young woman who takes it upon herself to lead a group of other young people in order to survive.  But Merry is not the soft, sweet type.  Due to the hardships she's faced in her life, she's become tough, steeling herself against emotions that could cause harm to herself or her new found family.  She works hard to provide, train, and protect them.  When she sees Timothy Grey, however, a little crack begins to form in hard shell she's built around her heart.  

I really enjoyed this reverse take on the tale of Robin Hood.  Merry was a character that I wanted to root for.  Her soft spot was for the young children and "men" she protected and trained.  There was more than one occasion she was willing to give her life for them.  Her unwavering devotion to her new family was inspiring and provided the soft moments in the story that helped balance out the action that took place.

When Merry sees Timothy Grey for the first time in many years, she has mixed emotions.  Love, sadness, suspicion...all of which are legitimate emotions that play out throughout the story.  Timothy wants to build himself up, make a way for himself as he is the youngest of nine children.  But he's willing to compromise his convictions to do so, which also compromises Merry and the orphaned children she cares for.  This is where the internal and external conflict come in.  Merry feels she has to choose between the strong feelings in her heart that she has for Timothy and the children she is committed to care for.  Timothy must also choose between his heart and his desire to rise to a position of authority and respect. 

This novel had all the elements of a good story.  It had devotion, true love, action, danger and angst as Merry and Timothy must make some difficult decisions about their future and are pursued by evil.  There was even a strong supernatural element as God intervened when all seemed hopeless.  The romantic aspect was mild and sweet, but with another man also in pursuit of Merry it became even more interesting.  

"Dauntless" was a good read.  I will say that with the title, and the recent popularity of the "Divergent" series, it was hard not to compare the intensity of the action in that novel to this one.  I would say that this novel doesn't have the intense amount of action that I expected with the title, but I really enjoyed the way that Merry trained herself, and her men, to defend themselves mentally and physically.  If you love medieval fiction, you'll enjoy this first book in Dina Sleiman's Valiant Hearts series.

**I was given a free copy of this novel from the publisher, Bethany House, for an unbiased review.**

Monday, March 9, 2015

"Easter Stories: Classic Tales for the Holy Season" review and GIVEAWAY!

**And the winner of this book is: Brenda Bryant Morrow!  Thanks for commenting!**
About the book...
Everyone who believes Easter is about more than Easter egg hunts will be grateful for this new anthology of short stories that illumine the true meaning of the season. Selected for their spiritual value and literary quality, these classic tales capture the spirit of Holy Week and Easter in a way that will captivate readers of all ages. Parents and grandparents will find that children love to hear these stories read aloud, year after year.

Easter Stories includes time-honored favorites from world-famous storytellers such as C.S. Lewis, Leo Tolstoy, Selma Lagerlof, Oscar Wilde, Elizabeth Goudge, Maxim Gorky, Ruth Sawyer, Anton Chekhov, and Walter Wangerin – as well as many you’ve never heard before. Illustrated with original woodcuts.

My thoughts....
My initial impression of this book was that it was geared more towards older children and adults than younger children.  I wasn't sure if the style of the stories would appeal to the present generation.  As I continued to read, I was drawn in to these classic tales by famous authors throughout history.  This is a book that offers classic literature excerpts that we want our young generation to be exposed to, and with some explanation, all ages can enjoy.  

There are several aspects of this book that are appealing.  The range of short stories allows you to pick and choose what type of story or author you're interested in.  While these stories may not directly reference the death and resurrection of Jesus, they do portray the meaning behind the season of Easter.  Most of these stories are only a few pages, allowing you to experience many different authors and styles of writing all in one book.

One of my favorite stories is an excerpt from the novel Ben-Hur, by Lew Wallace, entitled "The Way to the Cross." I love the movie that is based on the novel and enjoyed reading the thoughts and feelings of the main character as he see Jesus being taken away and crucified.  Ben-Hur is a work of fiction, but it does include dialogue found in the Bible.

Overall, this is a great resource of classic excerpts of fiction that your family will enjoy during the upcoming Easter season and beyond.

Click here to see the book's Table of Contents.  Here is one of the comments found on this page:

All of the stories in this collection share the rich Christian imagery of life through death. In a world that co-opts Easter for stories of the Easter Bunny and painted eggs, Easter Stories contains the best collection of stories for Lent and Easter imagery that I've ever read.… Easter Stories is a book for families, to read and share year after year. It a real treasure for Christians.
*Connect with Plough Publishing's..
Does this sound like a book you'd like to have in your home this Easter season?  YOU CAN!!  I'm having a GIVEAWAY!  If you comment on this blog post or on the Facebook link your name will be put into a drawing for a free copy of this book!  I will draw a winner on Monday, March 16th (which also happens to be my baby's birthday!).  
God bless!
Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.
 Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Reviewer's Bookshelf: Sabotaged by Dani Pettrey

Book Summary (from Amazon):
Growing up, goody-two-shoes Kirra Jacobs and troublemaker Reef McKenna were always at odds. Now, working together as search-and-rescue for Alaska's arduous Iditarod race, a growing attraction seems to be forcing aside old arguments. Then Reef catches Kirra sneaking from camp in the middle of the night. 

Kirra's uncle, a musher in the race, has disappeared. Kirra and Reef quickly track the man, but what they discover is harrowing: Frank's daughter has been kidnapped. Kirra and Reef, along with the entire McKenna family, are thrown into a race to stop a shadowy villain who is not only threatening a girl's life--but appears willing to unleash one of the largest disasters Alaska has ever seen. 

My thoughts...
Sabotaged is Dani Pettrey's fifth book in her series entitled, "Alaskan Courage".  To truly appreciate this novel, my opinion is that reading the previous novels in this series would help you to better understand the characters and the family background.  However, I have read some of the other books in this series out of order and I was able to enjoy the plot and pick up on a lot of the family background on my own.  Either way, you don't want to miss out on reading this series finale!

This novel is the perfect blend of suspense, action, drama, and romance.  While there were a few times when I kind of rolled my eyes when some of the characters were exchanging heartfelt words with one another, overall it honestly didn't bother me.  Because in a story that filled with so much non-stop action, you need a little lightheartedness before you dive into another intense segment of the book.  If the romantic side of the novel and the plot/action were both super intense it would be easy to burn out on reading it. Pettrey did a good job and maintaining a good balance of both.

You also have several story lines and a few side moments with some of the other McKennas and their significant others.  The main plot, which is about Frank and his daughter, Meg, was very engaging and intense.  The evil doers behind the kidnapping were not revealed early on, so I was journeying along with Reef and Kirra as they were following leads and trying to find Meg.  Through this, I learned about a tragic event in Kirra's history, which had a huge impact on how she interacted with others, particularly Reef.  This ran more along the lines of emotional intensity, so it brought out a different side of the main characters.  The pace of the novel was steady and engaging...which made it a definite page-turner. The reader is able to follow the characters, once again, to several locations, by plane, snow mobile, skiis, and even a dog sled.  I felt like I was getting a good glimpse of what the Iditarod was like for those in the race and the rescue workers.  Even a false lead that led Kirra and Reef off the trail for a while was an effective way to have Kirra and Reef build trust in their relationship and encourage their budding romance.

Overall, I thought this novel was a very well written piece of fiction!  It had so many great action segments, believable characters that you either want to root for, see brought to justice, or just played a necessary role in the story, and it brought closure to the lives of those in the McKenna family and their loved ones.  I would highly recommend it...along with Pettrey's previous novels.  

Happy Reading!
*I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher, Bethany House, in order to give an unbiased review.*