Tuesday, December 28, 2010

An Amish Love -Review

I really cannot fathom why I got this book. I already know I am not a fan of Amish romance novels, so it was a bit of a silly idea for me to request this book from booksneeze. Whatever the silly reasoning, I got the book and so I had to read the three novellas within. Oh, what a chore. While I am sure, these three authors (B. Wiseman, K. Fuller, K. Long) are decent novelists in their own right, I was biased from the start because of my predisposition to dislike Amish romance novels. Thankfully, I was able to become passingly enthralled by the story line of some of the stories.

A Marriage of the Heart -Kelly Long
Kelly Long's novella was a romance about Abigail Kauffman and Joseph Lambert. Abigail Kauffman seems to be a naive girl who wants to escape her Amish town, and so tricks Joseph Lambert into a marriage with her right in the beginning of the story. We are left with the two in a loveless marriage where the reader is left wondering if everything will turn out all sunshine and roses. (Not to give any spoilers, but it's a romance novel, so I wasn't really wondering how the story would end. It's about like Disney, yeah?).

It was not until the climax of the story that I felt drawn in at all. I won't reveal anything, but I did find myself a little bit satisfied by the little injection of reality into the story that pushed it over the edge from being one-dimensional to something a bit more. I rather liked Joseph Lambert by the end of the story.

Overall, I imagine a woman who is a fan of Amish romance stories would have given this one a 3/5. Since I'm not a fan, I'm thinking a 1.5/5 or a 2/5.

Healing Hearts -Beth Wiseman
Healing Hearts is about the return of a husband, Naaman Lapp, who left his family for near on a year with no legitimate explanation, and now his wife, Levina, and his family must learn to accept his return. His wife has grown closer to God whilst he was gone and she has become a stronger woman, but forgiveness does not come easy to a husband of 31 years that left for nearly a year. Hurt goes deep with that sort of thing.

While I think this could have been a brilliant story, the fact that it is a novella completely ruins it for me. Even as an Amish story, I can tell I would have probably loved it just because it is an intriguing story idea. The major failing in this story is that I feel like I came in on the middle. The story starts with Naaman's return home, and the reader must go from there. This makes it hard to sympathize or empathize with any of the characters in the beginning, because they are all new to me. I have never experienced abandonment by a family member, so in order for me to feel emotional about it, I need to live it out through someone else's eyes. However, I cannot, because I only get the second half of the story.

However, the second half of the story given to me was full of enough character development to redeem the story from a possible 1 star rating. I found the struggle of trying to renew trust and the development between Naaman and Levina quaint, if a bit nauseating. The plot twist with Larry was annoying to me, since I'm not big on meddling (unless we're dealing with Emma, in which case meddling makes the story amazing). Personally, I would have liked the story if it started from before Naaman left and centered solely around Naaman and his son, Adam. Everything else was a bit distracting to me. I give it a 2.5/5

What the Heart Sees -Kathleen Fuller
Right away, we have a blind Amish girl. I feel as if I've read such a story before, back when I actually liked reading Amish romance. Something by Beverly Lewis, I believe. Ellie Chump also lost her sight in a car accident, except in this novel she was actually in a car and not a wagon, and it's not hysterical blindness. It's blindness caused by a head injury. Five years after the accident, an estranged Christopher Miller returns, and he and Ellie run into each other (not literally. figuratively). While Ellie seems to have healed from her accident 5 years past, Christopher is still in emotional pain. We are left wondering if Ellie can help heal Christopher's heartache whilst possibly falling in love at the same time.

I though this was a rather decent story. Cliche, yes, but then most romance novels are, so who am I to complain since I still enjoy reading them? There is a spiritual lesson of forgiveness to be learned in this story -now that I think of it, I think forgiveness is an element in all of the stories. I wonder if that was coincidental. The story was well-written, and I found myself intrigued despite the Amishness of it.

I think women who like Amish novels would have given this a 4/5 or 4.5/5. I give it a 3/5.


Funny thing I did not realize until I was halfway finished with the final novella in the book was that all three stories took place in the same community, and characters from each story was mentioned in the other two. On that note, it is important you read the three stories in the order they appear in the book, since you will stumble across spoilers if you don't read them in order.

(In case I was unclear in the beginning, I received this book from booksneeze.com)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Life Without Limits -review

I requested (and received) Life Without Limits by Nick Vujicic from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers for free because his story seemed like it might be a very inspiring and captivating read. It was indeed inspiring. I was not disappointed in that respect.

The story of Nick Vujicic is probably a well-known one. A man born without limbs, except for a small malformed foot. He overcame these limits (hence the title "Life without limits. I think "limits" was a play on the word "limbs." If so, I got a good chuckle out of the pun) in order to become an inspirational speaker. More than becoming an inspirational speaker, it seems Vujicic leads a very busy life. He has gone surfing before, he can swim. It's all rather amazing.

In his story, Nick Vujicic tells many short anecdotes from his life and follows up on these anecdotes with little inspirational blurps about how "If I can do this, then you can be happy/hopeful/successful/etc too." ... yeah, it sounds better in his own words. I really liked the way he would go from personal anecdote to inspirational paragraph. It helped to make his point. Instead of him just saying "You should be happy," he actually explained how despite his circumstances he found things to be happy for, and in a like manner we can find things to be happy for too.

Because his story is so amazing, and the messages he is trying to share with the world are so helpful and wonderful, I almost feel bad with the critique I am about to give. I am not critiquing his message, though. His message is quite good. My only issue with his book is that some of the inspirational messages he provided in the book sounded very cliche. I would have preferred he came up with an original way to make his point instead of using cliche phrases like "Anything is possible." However, he made up for such cliche phrases with amusing phrases like "So walk with me, the man with no arms and no legs, into a future filled with hope!"

Over all, I loved the message Nick Vujicic is trying to spread around the world. Personally, the book was slow-going for me since I'm not a fan of non-fiction, but I still thought it was good. It was hard for me to get into the story at first, since I'm not a huge non-fiction fan, but once I got into it, I was captivated -despite some of the cliche phrases. I'd recommend others read it.

[as an aside: a branch-off from this review can be found on this blog post where I talk about hope: Living With Hope]

Friday, September 17, 2010

Immanuel's Veins -review

Immanuel’s Veins is a fiction novel by Ted Dekker set in 18th century Russia. The novel follows the tail of a warrior, Toma Nicolescu, and a family of three women he is sent to protect. Once at the estate of the Cantemir family, Toma realizes he is not there to protect against a normal enemy, but against a danger he has never encountered before. It is a novel of jealousy and love.

As far as independent novels go, Immanuel’s Veins was decent enough. As a Dekker novel, I was disappointed. It did not hold his normal thriller/suspense style, which left me more disappointed than I would have been if I was simply reading the novel by an author used to writing in the romance genre. The message I garnered from the story was inspiring, but my personal bias outweighed the otherwise intriguing story. Personally, I would recommend this book for people who are not die-hard Dekker fans, but I would not recommend it for Dekker fans who are looking for a classic Dekker read.

*I acquired this book from the site booksneeze.com*

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Angel Song -review

Angel Song, by Sheila Walsh and Kathryn Cushman, is an inspirational romance novel about an agnostic, Anne Fletcher, based in South Carolina and New York. Anne Fletcher has returned to her hometown of Charleston to attend her little sister's graduation from college. Before the two ladies can attend the graduation, they are in a car wreck and Anne's little sister dies. Anne is left floundering in a community of Christians, encountered by a repeated song in her dreams, buffeted with a handsome neighbor, and a little boy that sees angels. Anne has to work through her sister's estate, and questioning her religious beliefs, while trying to keep her job back home.

Overall, I found the story rather interesting. While the main character is agnostic, the whole story was not obsessively centered around trying to get her to convert. It was subtle, and did not overwhelm the story. The overall message of the story succeeded at being inspirational, and the romance of the story did not drown out the rest of the plot. The little boy in the story was a particular treat to me. I really enjoyed his part in the story. The story was woven together well, and I would recommend others to read it if they enjoy inspirational romances.

*I acquired this book from the site booksneeze.com*

Monday, June 21, 2010

Friendship for Grown-ups

Lisa Whelchel’s novel Friendship for Grown-ups: What I Missed and Learned Along the Way is a short autobiographical sketch of Whelchel’s journey through friendship, and how she learned how to open up and allow people to become her friends. While the book reads like an autobiographical story, there are lessons to be gleaned through-out the book.

I found Whelchel’s formatting interesting. It’s hard for me to be drawn in by nonfiction as is, so I wasn’t really captivated by the book. The fact that I finished the book in under 6 months (since it usually takes me much longer than that to read a nonfiction novel) shows that the book was interesting enough. The lessons Whelchel learned about friendship that were conveyed throughout the book were helpful and Biblical. With each new truth Whelchel stumbled across, she always tied it into God. I appreciated that, instead of simply throwing out her idea of how things should be done, she did tie her life lessons into God. This is a book worth reading, whether you make friends easily or not.

*I acquired this book from the site booksneeze.com*

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Clouds Roll Away -review

The Clouds Roll Away is a mystery novel by Sibella Giorello based in Richmond, Virginia. The novel is about forensic geologist, Raleigh Harmon, who must work to solve burgeoning racial crimes focused on an African American rap artist. While trying to solve the mystery of who is committing the hate crimes, Raleigh must also deal with her temperamental mother, catty boss, rich and ever-present ex-boyfriend, and new tenant in her childhood home.

I found The Clouds Roll Away to be a slightly difficult read at first because there seemed to be a great deal of missing information, until I realized about halfway through the book that it was the third book in a series, so I was missing some important background information. In order to truly appreciate the book, it seems necessary that one invest in the first two books of the series to get the background information to make sense of the third book. This was a slight disappointment for me since I have not read the first two books.

Lack of knowledge aside, I did not find the novel to my liking as far as mystery novels go because it seemed like a novel where the first 300 hundred pages are mediocrity leading up to the short climax and conclusion in the last 20 pages. A climax toward the end of a novel is acceptable of course, but only as long as the rest of the story is interesting enough to be captivating. Instead I felt like I was trudging through the story just so I could finish it instead of leaving a book half-read.

*I acquired this book from the site booksneeze.com*

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Face of Betrayal -a review

Face of Betrayal by Lis Wiehl and April Henry is a story about three girl friends who work together to try to solve the mystery of a 17 year old girl who has gone missing. While working together to solve the mystery, each woman has to deal with their own real-life problems, and keep it together long enough to find the missing girl.

Face of Betrayal was an intriguing mystery that was not steeped in a fantastical plot that was unrealistic to life. Instead, the story allowed the three main characters to develop with each passing chapter as their personal struggles clashed with their struggle to find the missing girl. It was refreshing to read a story where the main characters were not perfect heroes that never had to deal with regular short-comings and trials of the everyday woman.

Also refreshing was the fact that as a book with a main character who was a Christian, the message of the novel was not dramatically Christian. Once again, the struggles the main character who was a Christian faced were regular struggles of a Christian that made her character relatable.

*I acquired this book from Thomas Nelson on the booksneeze site*