You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘My Favorites’ category.

Title: The Liberation                                                        3D_BOOK-2-614x1024[1]

Author: Marissa Shrock

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Cover Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

If you haven’t read Marissa Shrock yet, you are missing out.

I originally fell in love with Shrock’s writing when I read what was her debut novel in this series, The First Principle. (You can read the review here.)

I loved that book and didn’t think it could get any better… annnnd then I read this one. 😉

The Liberation picks up where The First Principle left off:

In a corrupt, dystopian society, Vivica Wilkins has joined the rebel forces and must either keep her identity a secret, or risk being executed. With the clock ticking, will she and the other Emancipation Warriors be able to rescue those they love before it’s too late, or will their quest for liberation cost them more than anyone ever bargained for?

This book. Lemme tell ya.

First of all, you won’t be able to stop reading. Second, Shrock’s crazy talented imagination will creep you the heck out with how realistic she created this society to be. And third, her characters are so endearing and well-developed, you’ll cheer for them ’till the very end.

In a style similar to The Hunger Games, you’ll be hooked from the beginning and want to know more. It’s not very often anymore I have to stay up late to finish a book, and The Liberation kept me up until 2:00 in the morning to find out what would happen next.

If you like fast-paced, creative thrillers with faith interwoven throughout, then I definitely recommend this book!

Me, I’m gonna catch up on some sleep before the third and final book comes out! 😉

Let’s Talk Book: When’s the last time a book kept you awake long into the night?!

 

 

 

 

 

The First Principle, ShrockTitle: The First Principle 

Author: Marissa Shrock

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Cover rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Considering The First Principle is marketed for a YA audience, I was a little worried at first about whether or not I would like it. YA writing is often simplistic and condescending in a way that grates on my nerves like nothing else can. But the premise was intriguing, so I opened that first page hoping to find something different, and I am thrilled to say debut author Marissa Shrock did not disappoint.

The First Principle is set in a futuristic society where 15-year-old Vivica Wilkins finds herself in a dire predicament: abort the baby she suddenly finds herself pregnant with in obedience to the country’s underage Termination Law, or go against everything she’s ever been taught or believed as the governor’s daughter. Will she choose the way of her heart? The way of the underground Christian rebels? Or the way of her mother? Either way, the choice she makes will affect her for the rest of her life. The question is–is she ready to pay the price?

I appreciated this book on many levels. As a reader and as someone who has been disappointed in YA novels before, I found The First Principle to be refreshingly realistic and non-condescending. Never does Shrock take advantage of her reader’s intelligence. Vivica is a strong teenage character who cares about more than just what she’s going to wear and who’s-dating-who. The adults in her life are shown respect, but ultimately she’s the leader of her own life, and I applaud Shrock for respecting her audience and hopefully empowering young adults through this book.

As a writer, I found the book to be full of non-stop action and I finished it within two days. The futuristic world Vivica lived in was 100% believable, and all viewpoints were represented. The book doesn’t preach. Instead, it focuses on a question that brings a fresh perspective on the pro-life vs. pro-choice debate: not what if abortion was outlawed, but what if abortion was required by law? She lets Vivica face the question and then lets this play out naturally in a fictional setting that is at once intriguing and thought-provoking. For that reason, I’d recommend this book to people on both sides of the argument as a conversation starter.

And finally as an adoptee, I appreciated this book for another reason entirely. Suffice it to say that the story has impact and touched me enough to bring me to tears in a few places.

Overall, I would not hesitate to recommend this book to both YA and adult readers alike. The First Principle has built-in appeal no matter the age. Shrock is a much-needed voice in today’s world and in this genre, and I cannot wait to see more from her in the future.

(I received this book for free from the author and Kregel Publications in exchange for my honest review.)

I Like GivingTitle: I Like Giving: The Transforming Power of a Generous Life  

Author: Brad Formsma

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The title of this book originally caught my eye, because I do like giving! I’d recently been despairing because I realized that all the self-help books out there, while definitely useful and good, were just that–focused on self. They were all about helping you in your marriage or how to get over your past or how you could be a better cook. Please don’t get me wrong, those are all great things, and working to better ourselves by sheer default also happens to better the lives of those around us, too.

But what I was craving and felt like the Christian market was missing was a book simply focused on loving others– what we could do for them, and ideas on how to do it.

I Like Giving was the answer to that craving!

This book is filled with practical ideas, inspirational stories, and all the benefits of giving packaged in a fun, colorful book that made it easy enough to read in a day. It’s a very simple read (don’t expect fancy vocabulary or complex theological discourse), but that’s part of the appeal of the entire thing.

Anybody can read this book, and anybody can give! There’s no rule book for giving. You don’t have to be a preacher. You don’t have to have a certain degree. You don’t even have to have a big checkbook. It’s all about the heart and the honor of God being able to use you to make a difference in somebody else’s life–whether it’s as simple as giving of your time, or as big as writing a check with a lot of zeroes. Each of them are giving. And each are a beautiful thing because of the people they touch.

This book and what it talks about is something that’s very close to my heart, and it challenged me to take my giving to the next level. You can never love or give too much. You’ve heard it said: “You can’t out-give God,” and it’s true. He fills our cups to overflowing so that we can share out of the overflow, and how much joy it brings to do so! It’s one of the greatest privileges I know to be able to share God’s love and grace with others. Not because of anything I’ve done or am, but because of what He’s done and Is. Not for my name, but for His.

While I Like Giving challenged me to give more, it did it in a way that was very non-condemning. I didn’t feel guilty after reading; just inspired and encouraged by the true stories of people who gave or were given to and had their lives changed forever.

If you’re craving a book that’s radical, that might just leave you changed when you turn that last page, and, at the end of the day isn’t even really about you, then I Like Giving is your book!

(I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.) 

In the spirit of I Like Giving, I will be giving away one free copy of this book to a U.S. resident! The giveaway will be open for one week starting today, August 27th, and ending on next Wednesday, September 3rd. The winner will be chosen through random.org and notified via e-mail. The winner will have until midnight Friday night (Sept. 5th) to claim their prize, or it will be given to the runner-up. 

To ENTER leave a comment with your e-mail answering one of these questions: 1) Tell us about a time someone gave to you when you needed it or least expected it. What did it mean to you? or 2) Tell us about a time you gave to someone else. How did it change you?

To find out more about the “I Like Giving” organization/movement and to see more of their stories and videos, visit them here: http://www.ilikegiving.com.

 

 

 

 

 

Full Steam Ahead, WitemeyerTitle: Full Steam Ahead

Author: Karen Witemeyer

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I usually love Karen Witemeyer’s novels, and Full Steam Ahead was no exception! There is just something so down-home and American about Witemeyer’s books. Like tucking into a thick quilt on a cold night, or dipping into a steamy apple pie fresh from the oven. They’re simple, sweet, and completely satisfying.

Full Steam Ahead focuses on two main characters: Darius Thornton, who’s hiding his past–and Nicole Renard–who’s hiding a knife.

Nicole Renard just wants to carry on her family’s legacy and find an heir for her ailing father. Striving to be the son her father always wanted, she’ll do anything to continue his legacy and protect the family heirloom, the Lafitte Dagger. Even if that means marrying to do it.

Darius Thornton, on the other hand, has left his family behind to work on perfecting boilers to reduce the risk of steamboat accidents. But now he’s nothing more than an obsessed scientist focused only on blowing things up. It’ll take a miracle–or one very pretty lady–to get his attention.

Basically, I loved this book, and this review may start sounding more like a cheesy fan letter than it does a critique. But when there’s humor, romance, action, and a moral to the story, what’s not to love? It was one of the first books in a while that I just couldn’t put down, and it had me laughing and/or sappily sighing pretty much every other page.

The whole harried professor thing is hard to beat as far as humor goes, then you get Witemeyer’s talent for creating sweet romances and the most down-to-earth characters you’ll ever find, add a pirate dagger for a dash of danger, throw in some very realistic spiritual journeys, and how can you not like this book?

True, she does lean very heavy on the romance. It can get a little sappy in parts. So if romance isn’t something you enjoy reading, you’ll probably want to stay away from this one. But other than that, I can’t think of anyone else I wouldn’t recommend this book to.

Read it, loved it, can’t wait for her next book!

(I received this book for free from Bethany House on NetGalley.com in exchange for my honest review.)

Let’s Talk Book: Who’s an author you’re pretty much guaranteed to love and never hesitate to read?

Born of Persuasion, DottaTitle: Born of Persuasion

Author: Jessica Dotta

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Strangely enough, I first heard of debut author Jessica Dotta through an ad on my Facebook feed. The ad claimed Dotta’s style to be similar to that of both Jane Austen and Jane Eyre, and being the Jane fan I am, I was cautiously optimistic about her upcoming release, Born of Persuasion. Cautiously optimistic because there are a lot of authors who claim to have styles similar to both the respective Janes in an effort to sell books.

But I decided to try her out, and I am so glad I did! Dotta was the first author in a long time whose style really did hearken back to Jane Eyre. (As far as I can tell without having actually read the book. I know! Completely unforgivable. But I have seen the movie and have the book at the top of my must-read list!) I read a lot in the Christian market, and the more you read, the more you begin to see a lot of the same thing over and over. Publishers find a formula that works and/or sells books (historical setting, girl meets guy, girl can’t have guy, they’re finally together, the end), and they tend to stick with it. I completely understand why, but it can get a bit boring and a little predictable after a while. So when I find a book that shakes things up a little, I get really excited!

Dotta’s novel does just that. Full of mystery, drama, and intrigue, it became the book I didn’t know I was looking for. Both Dotta’s style and plotline were completely unpredictable. For starters, forget just one suitor. The heroine in this book has to deal with two. And for once, I had no idea who she should pick! I felt just as confused as she was about which of them measured up to the title of hero. Add to that a twist I never saw coming and a rich historical setting, and Charlotte Bronte, we’re in business!

If I had to pick one thing I wasn’t fond of, it would be that she does have a couple of scenes that do edge closer to the “hot and heavy” line than was probably necessary.

But overall, Dotta made quick work of making me an avid fan, and I cannot wait to see more from her!

Here’s what Amazon has to say (and, BONUS: Born of Persuasion is FREE right now on Kindle! It would be terribly silly of you to miss that kind of opportunity):

“The year is 1838, and seventeen-year-old Julia Elliston’s position has never been more fragile. Orphaned and unmarried in a time when women are legal property of their fathers, husbands, and guardians, she finds herself at the mercy of an anonymous guardian who plans to establish her as a servant in far-off Scotland.

With two months to devise a better plan, Julia’s first choice to marry her childhood sweetheart is denied. But when a titled dowager offers to introduce Julia into society, a realm of possibilities opens. However, treachery and deception are as much a part of Victorian society as titles and decorum, and Julia quickly discovers her present is deeply entangled with her mother’s mysterious past. Before she knows what’s happening, Julia finds herself a pawn in a deadly game between two of the country’s most powerful men. With no laws to protect her, she must unravel the secrets on her own. But sometimes truth is elusive and knowledge is deadly.”

(I received this book for free from the publisher on Goodreads. All opinions are my own and are not paid for or solicited.)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Burning Sky, BentonTitle: Burning Sky

Author: Lori Benton

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This book had me at hello. I mean, just listen to this description: “Abducted by Mohawk Indians at fourteen and renamed Burning Sky, Willa Obenchain is driven to return to her family’s New York frontier homestead after many years building a life with the People. At the boundary of her father’s property, Willa discovers a wounded Scotsman lying in her path. Feeling obliged to nurse his injuries, the two quickly find much has changed during her twelve-year absence—her childhood home is in disrepair, her missing parents are rumored to be Tories, and the young Richard Waring she once admired is now grown into a man twisted by the horrors of war and claiming ownership of the Obenchain land.

When her Mohawk brother arrives and questions her place in the white world, the cultural divide blurs Willa’s vision. Can she follow Tames-His-Horse back to the People now that she is no longer Burning Sky? And what about Neil MacGregor, the kind and loyal botanist who does not fit into in her plan for a solitary life, yet is now helping her revive her farm? In the aftermath of the Revolutionary War, strong feelings against “savages” abound in the nearby village of Shiloh, leaving Willa’s safety unsure.

Willa is a woman caught between two worlds. As tensions rise, challenging her shielded heart, the woman called Burning Sky must find a new courage–the courage to again risk embracing the blessings the Almighty wants to bestow. Is she brave enough to love again?”

If we’re making a list of things Lizzie loves, Burning Sky has quite a few of them!

Strong female character? Check.
Scotsman? Check.
Great time period and awesome Historical setting? Check.
Betrayal, tragedy, and a chance to overcome both in one breathtaking fictional treatise on hope? Check.

I really connected to the character of Willa wondering where she belongs in the world, and I cared about her from the very beginning. It was just one of those stories and one of those characters that will always stick with you. I was pulling for Willa from the very first page, just as heartbroken as she was over the loss of her family, and, even more than that, her identity. There’s only a few books in life where you can look back and say, “I almost felt as if the characters in that book were real. I’ve walked that road. I’ve fought that fight. I’ve felt those tears,” and Burning Sky was one of those books for me. I’ve walked away from plenty of books saying, “Well, that was a good read. Fun and fictional, but good.” And then there are those that are real and relational. It’s a tricky thing to accomplish, which is why I applaud Benton all the more.

Like Born of Persuasion, Benton’s debut novel was refreshingly different. Again, two suitors. (In a way, three, but I’ll let you discover that on your own!) And just as confusing about whom she should choose.

So, to sum things up, you should go buy this book. No, really. Go buy it. Now. 😉

Until next time!

(I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah in exchange for my honest review.)

Let’s Talk Book: What is it you look for in a debut author? What would make you pick up their next book? Who are some debut authors that you’d recommend?

Gone to Ground, CollinsTitle: Gone to Ground

Author: Brandilyn Collins

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

In the small town of Amaryllis, Mississippi, everyone knows everyone and most don’t even bother locking their doors. That is, until the murders start happening.

In the past three years five unsolved murders have occurred within the town. All the victims were women, and all were killed in similar fashion in their own homes. And just two nights ago, there was a sixth.

As panic floods Amaryllis, three women are certain they know who the killer is and will stop at nothing until he’s caught. The only problem? They each suspect a different man.

Who is right?

Who is wrong?

And who is dead?

Brandilyn Collins has become one of my favorite authors, and Gone to Ground is a fantastic example of why I love her writing so much. At this point I’ve read four novels by her, and I can pretty much guarantee that if you pick up anything of hers you’ll be hanging onto the edge of your seat until the story finishes. Her books are fast-paced and almost impossible to put down, and Gone to Ground is no exception.

Not only was I completely immersed in the story, but I could not figure out who-dun-it. I enjoy books that make you think and keep you involved in the mystery, and with this particular novel I was guessing until the very end.

Throughout the book Collins’ uses the viewpoints of three different women who are certain they know who the killer is. I’d read one viewpoint and was certain I knew, too. But then the other woman would get a chance to tell her story and show her evidence, and I was certain she was right. And so it went the entire book.

Collins is a master at both suspense and cleverly woven twists, and Gone to Ground had a twist I never saw coming.

The characters in this book were even more well-rounded and defined than I’d seen before in any of the other books I’ve read by Collins, and their voices were so uniquely crafted that I think you would know who was speaking even without the chapter headings at the top. I also really appreciated the fact that Collins went a little deeper than she normally does with her characters’ faith.

Because of the perfect balance Collins struck between an excellent plot and characters you felt as if you’d known all your life, Gone to Ground may be my favorite of hers yet.

So if you haven’t guessed already, I’m highly recommending you check out this book!

Let’s Talk Book: What’s your favorite surprise ending or twist you never saw coming? Just this once, I’ll even let you use a twist from a movie if you want. But just this once! 😉

P.S. You can leave a comment by clicking on “Leave a comment” up at the very top of this post. It’s small and a little hard to find, but just keep looking to the right after all the tags at the top, and you’ll find it there!

SovereignTitle: Sovereign (Book #3 in “The Books of Mortals” series)

Author: Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

In this grand finale of a stunning series, Dekker and Lee team up once again to bring readers on an epic journey they won’t soon forget.

Hiding beneath the city, Rom and his small group of 36 Sovereigns are desperate to survive. The world has been split into four basic factions: the Sovereigns, the Immortals, Corpses, and Dark Bloods. With enemies on all sides, Rom and the rest of the Sovereigns will have to figure out how to bring life to a dying world before time runs out.

Do you remember when movie trilogies such as “Harry Potter,” “Lord of the Rings,” and “Pirates of the Caribbean” were the newest and biggest things? Trilogies hadn’t often been done before, and movie-goers both rejoiced and despaired when each movie left them on a cliffhanger. But since they had to know what would happen, they ran to the theaters in droves only to patiently wait in line for hours.

“The Book of Mortals” trilogy reminds me of that feeling. Each book takes you on an epic journey that leaves you breathless and on a cliffhanger, desperate to know what happens next. You have no other choice than to buy the next book. The classic clashes between good and evil together with heroes and heroines you can cheer for all combine for a unique edge-of-your-seat thriller.

However, none of the books in the series are stand-alones. You’ll have to read from the beginning if you want to understand the full scope of the story. Even waiting a full year as I did from the second book in the series to the third, I got a little lost. But each book is well-worth the time and money you might spend on them. The books can be a little dark and graphic (think more “Lord of the Rings” than “Chronicles of Narnia”), so if those kinds of reads bother you, I’d recommend skipping this particular series.

But if you like thrillers, Dystopian fiction, or stories filled with rich allegorical meaning, then don’t miss out on Dekker and Lee’s newest collaboration.

Let’s Talk Book: Which do you prefer? Stand-alone novels, or series?

P.S. You can leave a comment by clicking on “Leave a comment” up at the very top of this post. It’s small and a little hard to find, but just keep looking to the right after all the tags at the top, and you’ll find it there! 🙂

When God IntervenesTitle: When God Intervenes: An Extraordinary Story of Faith, Hope, and the Power of Prayer

Author: Dabney Hedegard

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

It’s not very often I use the term “inspiring” or “an inspiration” but When God Intervenes and Dabney Hedegard are just that.

When author Dabney was only six weeks pregnant, doctors found a football-sized tumor in her chest which sparked a ten-year battle with her health that included four near-death experiences.

If you don’t believe in God or are struggling with your faith right now, I dare you to read this book. I promise it will change you. I have never been so touched by a book as I have this one, and I finished it praising God and with tears in my eyes.

The miraculous events and the faithfulness of God in keeping His promises to Dabney’s family not only encouraged me and stretched my own faith, but left me in awe. Her entire story is a testament to God’s love and power, and I couldn’t more highly recommend it! If you have money enough to buy one book this entire year, use it to buy this one. That’s how good it is.

I picked up When God Intervenes thinking I’d read a few chapters and re-visit it later when I had time. I didn’t put it down until I finished it at 3:00 the next morning.

The writing is smooth, the story is riveting, and the overall message is a life-changing one. Dabney’s openness and honesty about what she was going through was so refreshing, and I was surprised to even find a little bit of humor when the book dealt with such a serious topic.

The one and only itty-bitty complaint I have has to do with the format of the book. Because you become so attached to Dabney and her family as you read, I wish they would have had a section in the middle with some photos of them. The book was so personal, I missed seeing who I was reading about. There was only one photo of the author and her family, and it was on the back of the book. And because Dabney’s story spans ten years, there was a lot of scene-hopping which was a little hard to follow at times. Although the scene/year changes were always marked, I wish they would have organized it a little more into sections, such as: “Years Before the Cancer,” “During the Cancer,” and “After the Cancer.” Something like that.

However, those two little things weren’t enough to distract me or keep me from enjoying the book as a whole.

So. I’ll summarize: BUY THIS BOOK.

(I received this book for free in exchange for my honest review.)

Let’s Talk Book: I actually had the privilege of meeting this author when I went to a writing conference where she was trying to get this book published. Meeting her, I had no idea she’d been through so much.

In life, we are each a bundle of stories. I have found the old adage “Don’t judge a book by its cover” rings true when it comes to people.

What about you? Have you ever met someone whose story surprised you?