While some of the books I review on my site are furnished by the publishers, authors, or publicists for the purpose of review all of my reviews are truthful, honest, and my sincere opinion.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Review: Dear John by Nicholas Sparks

My Aunt gave me this one to read. She gave me a huge box of books and this one jumped out at me first!

About the Book

An angry rebel, John dropped out of school and enlisted in the Army, not knowing what else to do with his life--until he meets the girl of his dreams, Savannah. Their mutual attraction quickly grows into the kind of love that leaves Savannah waiting for John to finish his tour of duty, and John wanting to settle down with the woman who captured his heart. But 9/11 changes everything. John feels it is his duty to re-enlist. And sadly, the long separation finds Savannah falling in love with someone else. "Dear John," the letter read...and with those two words, a heart was broken and two lives were changed forever. Returning home, John must come to grips with the fact that Savannah, now married, is still his true love--and face the hardest decision of his life.

For more information about Dear John please visit Nicholas Sparks' website, "Like" him on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter.

As always you can purchase a copy of Dear John from my Amazon Store.

My Review

I find it hard to review this one. I liked the book, and I cried while reading. So there was an emotional attachment, but it just wasn't an unforgettable book for me. It was kind of like fodder - just there to pass the time. I hate to say that about it, because I did enjoy it. I just missed something with this one. I haven't seen the movie yet, so I didn't have a disconnect because it didn't follow the movie or vice versa. Maybe as time passes I'll be able to figure it out. But on with the review...

I really liked Savannah. John was an ok character but I just got the "dumb jock" sterotype stuck in my head and couldn't get past that with him. I don't know they the jock thing stuck, since he was in the Army, but that's what stuck. Even when he was being a sweetheart I didn't see it as being realistic. Savannah was so caring and had such a big heart, but she also knew she had to take care of her heart and wouldn't let herself get hurt. I could see her falling in love with John, but I also could see that it would be short lived. They were two different people and he didn't really suit her.

I would have liked to have had more about John's father, as I think he was the "sweetheart" influence on John. Maybe if he'd been a little bit more developed and a bigger part of the story then I wouldn't have had the negative view of John and his ability to be a anything but cool hearted. Through the whole book I just felt like John's emotions were a bit distant, I know he didn't want to "show" his emotions but everyone has emotions whether they like it or not. So I would have liked to see more of John's dad and John's emotions.

I was also kind of disappointed at the end. There was a big build up and no real resolution. I am going to watch the movie. I've heard it's pretty different from the book and that it's one of the few movies that is better than the book.

I will read more of Sparks' novels because I do like a good love story. Other's of his that I've read were really good. So I think maybe this one was just a fluke!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Review: The Sara Chronicles: Book 4: Chaos, Confusion, and Changing of the Guard by L. Hughes

Thanks to Reader Spoils and the author L. Hughes for letting me review this one.

About the Book

Life Will Never Be the Same in the Land of the Keepers...

As the nefarious Braccus consolidates his armies of evil, the forces of good are in disarray. Unity among the safeguarding Keepers and the ones they are sworn to protect is elusive, and each of the critical groups of three is struggling to find each other-and stay alive. That's just the way Braccus likes it. With unparalleled strategic skill, he's managed to make evil the dominant power in the worlds. Bizarre races of the horrifying creatures he controls are wreaking havoc on the innocent villagers, killing them for sport or turning them into Braccus's slaves. Good has been relegated to the shadows. What's more, change is afoot among the Keepers and their students that could directly impact the livelihood of everyone in the worlds-change the Keepers are powerless to prevent. Meanwhile, Sara, James and Thomas are facing their greatest challenges yet. For one of them, it will mean actually merging with the evil scourge; for another, a hideous prophecy foretells certain doom. But all of them must race against time if there's any hope for saving the innocents of the worlds from Braccus's eternal rule. Can they accomplish their tasks before it is too late? Offering plenty of the excitement and intrigue for which the series is known, this fourth entry in The Sara Chronicles won't disappoint.

Check out my reviews for Book 2 and Book 3 of this series.

For more information about the Sara Chronicles please visit L. Hughes' website.

As always you can purchase a copy of The Sara Chronicles Book 4: Chaos, Confusion, and Changing of the Guard from my Amazon Store.

My Review

When I first started this series I didn't realize how drawn to these characters I would become. I started at Book 2 when Sara, Thomas, and James are searching for the other groups of three children who will help put and end to Braccus' evil. I was kind of so-so with Book 2. Book 3 I was so attached to the characters already that it was like picking up with some old friends. By the time I started Book 4 I couldn't wait to figure out what was going to happen next. I don't normally read series. I might pick one up along the way, but I very rarely read more than one in a series. So it was kind of weird for me to follow these characters for so long. But because I've been following them I'm so drawn to them. I hope there's going to be a Book 5 because I can't imagine that my Journey with Sara and the Keepers is over!

I really liked this one. I was ready for the battles to begin right from the word go. I love the ways that the keepers and the children all use their powers. It's so different. When they are faced with an enemy the way they use their powers to overcome is interesting. Hughes thinks of new things for each battle - so it's not just the same thing over and over again. And the fact that all the children are getting more powerful means that they are discovering new abilities that they didn't know they had.

While Sara is still the main focus of Book 4 the other children play such a vital role in this book. The second group of three is sent to look for the third group of three and they have to make it through the worlds by themselves. This really allowed the other characters to develop more. I like that there are new characters added with each book, and that each of these new characters is a piece of the overall puzzle. I'm sure that without the addition of the new characters the books would still be good. But adding these new characters and watching them blossom into their new powers really added to the story.

There's so much going on in Book 4 that there wasn't really any "down" time. The book would switch from one group to the next and each time the group that we're following is at a major point of their journey. It makes for a great page turner!

In this book the use of portals to move between Iam's worlds is a more prevalent factor in how the battles and challenges turn out. While the portals were introduced in the earlier books they really come into play in this book. Every time they find a portal and move through it I was so eager to find out what kind of world Hughes was going to throw me into. Her ability to create so many different worlds and to describe them so that they all seem so real is amazing. I envy her imagination. To be able to create all these different worlds, all these different creatures, and be able to come up with new ways for the characters to use their powers is fantastic.

I have to say that as I've progressed through these three books I've noticed a progression in how Hughes writes. The specifics of her writing are the same and she's telling the same story, but something has changed slightly in the writing with each new book. I can't put a finger on it, but there has been a slight change.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Review: Moonlight in Odessa by Janet Skeslien Charles

I won a copy of this book on a giveaway from Library Thing.

About the Book

In Odessa, Ukraine, Daria, a whip-smart engineer, spends her days underemployed as a secretary—a job she was lucky to get in this rotten economy. She spends her evenings moonlighting as an interpreter at an agency that matches lonely American men with beautiful-but-broke Ukrainian women. She spends her nights wondering if there is more. When an American client offers marriage and a one-way ticket out of poverty, Daria jumps at the chance. She soon learns there's a reason that her husband couldn't find a wife in America, and that the grass isn't always greener on the other side of the world. The perfect book for anyone who's ever been stuck in a dead-end job or relationship, Moonlight in Odessa is an exploration of language, culture, and the difficult choices we make in the pursuit of love and stability.

For more information about Moonlight in Odessa you can visit Janet Skeslien Charles' website or follow her on Twitter.

As always you can purchase a copy of Moonlight in Odessa from my Amazon Store.

My Review

This one took a little while to get going. Setting up the story took quite a bit. But once the story got going I really did enjoy it. There's a lot of personality points that need to be made about Daria. I think had the story just jumped in it wouldn't have been nearly as good. I felt like the building was very necessary to the rest of the story.

I like Daria and her Boba. Daria's a very strong woman. She knows how to get what she wants in her beautiful city of Odessa. The means she takes don't always seem to make sense, but it's mentioned a few times that that's how it's done with Odesseans. In Odessa Daria is well-past the appropriate age to marry, but she's not "normal" and has put her life before the life everyone else expects her to lead. Her main focus is her Boba and making sure that she can take care of Boba, her grandmother, the way Boba has taken care of her. There's a very strong bond between the two of them.

When Daria & Boba's dreams finally come true, and Daria's approached by an American willing to move her to America with him she seems a bit torn. It's what she always wanted and yet she doesn't want to desert her Boba. But Boba pushes her out the door and Daria's on her way to America. The story is pretty good till this point, but once Daria reaches America is when the emotional ties really pulled me into this one.

Janet Skeslien Charles has a great ability to explain people so that you feel as if you know them personally. I felt as if I've known Daria, Boba, and the whole lot of characters all my life. I understood how they think and was able to predict how they'd act as easily as I can my own family. It was amazing to be that drawn into a book.

While this was a good piece of fiction I think the story is more of a look at how people interact, how cultures can clash and mesh, and how people can persevere even if they aren't given what they thought they were getting. It's about struggle, and the fact that we always have a way out.

I would have given this one 5 stars but it did take a while to really get into the story. While I see the need for the build up of the back ground on the characters it was a bit daunting. By the time the book started to get good I'd almost given up on it. Although I'm glad I didn't!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Review: The Shack by William P. Young

I'm not sure where I got this one from, but some how it has shown up in my book collection.

About the Book

Mackenzie Allen Philips' youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Four years later in the midst of his Great Sadness, Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack for a weekend. Against his better judgment he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare. What he finds there will change Mack's world forever.

In a world where religion seems to grow increasingly irrelevant The Shack wrestles with the timeless question, "Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain?" The answers Mack gets will astound you and perhaps transform you as much as it did him. You'll want everyone you know to read this book!

For more information about The Shack you can visit William P. Young's website, "Like" him on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter.

As always you can purchase a copy of The Shack from my Amazon Store.

My Review

I have given this book 5 stars - but if I could I would give it 100! It was truly an amazing book! It was a look at religion in a way that I've never experienced before. It didn't necessarily change my views on religion, as some of the "points" that are made are in line with my beliefs, but it did put into words things I've been struggling to.

The story starts with Mackenzie's daughter being kidnapped. As Mackenzie tries to deal with it and "move on" as he thinks the rest of his family has done he is delivered a note, and given his desire to find out what happened to his daughter he takes off to discover a new clue. I feel bad for Mackenzie. He feels guilty for allowing his daughter to be kidnapped, has all but lost the rest of his family in his desire to find out what happened, and his faith in anything is gone. As he is on his journey for his daughter he comes across three people who try to help him restore his faith. It's so emotional - I cried almost through the entire book! 

It's not an easy read by any means. At the very least it will make you think. It could very well go against everything you believe. The trials that Mackenzie has to go through to get what he's searching for are so amazing. They really put things into a perspective that I've never even thought about before.

I want to tell you about my favorite scene of the book. I don't normally do this, but this book was so great that I can't not share it. I'd love to just tell you about everything, but you should read it for yourself1  At one point in the story Makenzie is taken to a dark cave and he's asked to judge people. He's reluctant to do it, and the wisdom that is gifted to him really made me think. It's such a powerful scene - and the reward that Mackenzie gets from "learning" this lesson is so great that just thinking about it brings tears to my eyes and gives me goose bumps.

There are a few things in the book that I am surprised didn't cause a huge stir. I felt that the book kind of defies the "normal" view of how a person should experience religion. But I think it's a must-read!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Review: Not This Time by Vicki Hinze

Thanks to Blogging for Books for letting me review this one! If you could do me a favor and visit my review on the Blogging for Books site and vote for me I would appreciate it! 

About the Book

Small town scandal. International terrorist attack. Who among them is the traitor?

Sara and Beth have built a multi-million dollar business together, but their once solid friendship is now strained. Beth is leery of Sara’s husband, and when he is kidnapped, authorities consider Beth their prime suspect.

Then, their small town of Seagrove Village is rocked by an act of terrorism, and Beth doesn’t know who to trust. Someone she knows is linked to the attack, but who? Is there a connection to Crossroads Crisis Center? In the midst of the confusion and fear, Beth finds herself attracted to a man from her past. She knows she shouldn’t fall in love with him, but she can’t resist or even explain their bond. As her world unravels around her, she wonders, is it possible to be beyond redemption?

For more information about Not This Time you can visit Vicki Hinze's website, or "Like" her on Facebook.

Purchase a copy of Not This Time from my Amazon store.

My Review

I loved this book. There was so much going on that the story just flew by. There was drama, suspense, mystery, romance, it had so much too it.

The characters were pretty good. Sara reminded me of myself a bit. She was so loyal to her friend Beth that she would have done anything to protect her. She didn't have the best idea, but she was doing what she thought she had to do to keep those around her safe. I wish she reminded me of myself because she was rich - but we can all dream right? Beth was also loyal, but seemed to have a much stronger support group around her. She was able to deal with things, but also checked with her friends to get their advice on what she should do. The two seemed to have the kind of friendship that everyone wants. Even with Beth's doubts about Sara's husband Beth is able to keep their friendship strong without pushing Sara away by voicing her displeasure with Sara's husband. I don't know that I would have been able to keep my mouth shut that long, but somehow Beth does it. She lets her need to be Sara's friend over ride her despise for Robert.

The story is the second in a series, and I didn't get to read the first one. However, this was so well written that all of the back story was filled in and I didn't feel like the author was just throwing information at me. Everything had a reason, and as the need for a particular fact arose Hinze wove it into the story beautifully. I still would like to read the fist one, but I don't feel like I was "missing" anything from the first book.

It's a pretty quick read. The mystery of Nina and who in the small circle of characters is part of Nina was exciting to try and figure out. Just when you think you've got it all figured out there's another clue that kind of throws everything off. It doesn't take a complete turn, but it give the story a bit of a jog. Just enough to keep it exciting without being frustrating! There's a few things that I didn't see coming but they were by no means so far out of the park that they didn't fit the story. I was masterfully put together!

My favorite thing about this book is that although there was quite a bit going on it wasn't a confusing story. I didn't have to re-read any of it and it didn't take much to keep myself on track. I was able to keep up with everything - which can sometimes be a problem in a book that has so much going on!