Thursday, September 30, 2010

Book Review: A Memory Between Us by Sarah Sundin (and a GIVEAWAY!)

(Scroll down to the bottom of this post to see how you can enter to win a great prize package from Sarah Sundin!)

A Memory Between Us is the second book in the Wings of Glory series by Sarah Sundin. And this one was just as good as the first. Once again, I enjoyed reading a story set during WWII. The characters were likeable and the drama exciting.

Memory Between Us, A: A Novel (Wings of Glory)In A Memory Between Us , Major Jack Novak, Army Air Corps pilot, meets Ruth Doherty, a nurse at the hospital where Jack has gone after a plane crash. Although Jack falls in love with Ruth, there are things from her past that she cannot let go of and she refuses his offers of companionship. As the war heats up, Jack and Ruth find themselves needing one another in ways they never dreamed. But the past continues to interfere. What will it take to bring the two together? 

As I said in my review of A Distant Melody, the only thing I didn't like about this book was the technical language used throughout in describing Jack's missions. But I just skimmed those parts and read on. I think if those parts were shortened somehow, it could have made a better book, but that's just my opinion. It's the only reason I didn't give the book a 5.

My favorite part was when Ruth was facing danger from one of the other characters who threatened her. What happened? You'll just have to read it to find out (pp. 390-391, if you already have a copy)!

I'm looking forward to the third book. This is a writer to watch for in Christian fiction.

I give A Memory Between Us 4 1/2 out of 5 stars.

Sarah Sundin is an on-call hospital pharmacist and holds a BS in chemistry from UCLA and a doctorate in pharmacy from UC San Francisco. Her great-uncle flew with the US Eighth Air Force in England during WWII. Sarah lives in California with her husband and three children.

(I received this book from Revell Books for review purposes. I received no monetary compensation for this review. All opinions expressed are completely my own.)

To celebrate the release of this new book, Sarah is giving away a Movies and Memories prize package! For the rules of this giveaway and your chance to win, go to this page that has all the details. Enter today, because this giveaway ends on October 17th!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

WWW Wednesdays

WWW Wednesdays is a meme from Should Be Reading, where we answer three questions: What are you currently reading? What did you recently finish reading? and What do you think you'll read next? If you want to participate, answer the three questions, then put your link on the Should Be Reading Blog in the comment section. Happy reading!

House on Malcolm Street, The: A Novel     Heart of Lies: A Novel     Exposure: A Novel

What I am currently reading: The House on Malcolm Street by Leisha Kelly- I like the feel of this book so far. It is the story of a young widow and her 6-year-old daughter who go to live with the late husband's aunt in another state. They meet Josiah, a relative of the husband and aunt (I don't know yet how they are related), who is a widower. And there is also a kind, male neighbor who is Jewish. The setting is small town life in 1920. I will be reviewing this one next week.

What I recently finished reading: Heart of Lies by M.L. Malcolm - I got this one from the author. It was okay, but I think I would give it a 3 out of 5. I posted a guest post from Mrs. Malcolm on Monday.

What I'll probably read next: Exposure by Brandilyn Collins - I have liked Mrs. Collins' books over the years, practically inhaling the four books in the Kanner Lake Series. She has a way with words and the ability to put you on the edge of your seat when reading. I've had this one next to my bed for weeks, drooling over it and dying to get into it. I know I won't be disappointed.

That's it for this week. Tell me: what are you reading or have been reading or about to read? Let me know!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Heart of Lies by M.L. Malcolm (guest post and GIVEAWAY!)

I'm pleased to welcome M.J. Malcolm, author of Heart of Lies, to my blog today. She will be telling us a little about her family's history, which is what inspired her to write her debut novel. Also, she has graciously offered to give a copy of her book to one of you! Look at the end of the post to see how you can have a chance to win this book.

Heart of Lies: A NovelInspired by the author’s family history, M.L. Malcolm’s first novel, Heart of Lies, tells the story of Leo Hoffman, a dashing young Hungarian with a gift for languages whose life is destroyed by WWI. When his attempt to rebuild it inadvertently embroils him in an international counterfeiting scheme, Leo escapes to with his lover to the decadent city of Shanghai, only to discover that the shadowy gangsters who control the city will not let him outrun his past.

"My mother-in-law was born in Germany. Over the years I collected many riveting anecdotes about how various members of her family had managed to escape the Nazis. One of them made it to Shanghai, a city whose history had fascinated me ever since I visited it as a tourist back in 1988. This incredible family history provided the makings of a great book, but I didn’t really want to write a WWII story, so I looked for a way to explore those experiences in a meaningful way within a different historical context.

My husband’s grandfather was born in Budapest in 1901, so that’s where I began my research. I discovered that when World War I ended, with Hungary on the losing side, the country fell into complete economic and social chaos. Soviet Russia capitalized on the mess by helping to set up a communist government led by a Hungarian of Jewish heritage. This regime used extreme violence to counter any resistance to its “reforms,” and the whole disaster ended with a Romanian invasion. The Hungarian war hero Admiral Nicholas Horthy finally seized control, but some of his followers sought vengeance for the “red terror” as well as the empire’s demise, so they began slaughtering communists, Jews (communist or not) and others deemed “intellectuals.” During this “white terror” they killed an estimated 5,000 people.

The events in Hungary after World War I struck me as a tragic precursor to the Holocaust, so I chose that period as the starting point for Heart of Lies. Then I looked for an actual historical event that I could incorporate as the reason for my main character, Leo Hoffman, to have to flee to Shanghai. I came across a Hungarian counterfeiting scandal that had international ramifications; it was the perfect catalyst for Leo’s escape, and the timing enabled me to move the action to Shanghai and write about that amazing place during its “golden age.”

In the 1840′s, the crumbling Manchu (Qing) Dynasty signed treaties with several European countries, including England, France, and America, opening up the walled city of Shanghai to foreign trade. On the heels of these agreements came “territoriality” privileges, which meant that citizens of the treaty countries, while in Shanghai, did not live under the jurisdiction of China. They were governed by the laws of their own countries, and the regulations set down by the Shanghai Municipal Council. “One missionary said, “If God lets Shanghai survive, then He owes an apology to Sodom and Gomorrah.”

Within a few years Shanghai became an unofficial country within a country. From the 1840′s, until just before World War II, it was the only place in the civilized world where you could enter without a passport or a visa, and just set up shop. Whether your business was legitimate or completely criminal did not matter. Opium smugglers mingled easily with bankers and industrialists. Chinese peasants froze to death on streets where Europeans threw sable covers on their cars to keep the interior from getting too cold. Although much of this changed when the Japanese invaded in 1937 over 20,000 European Jews managed to survive the Holocaust by making their way to Shanghai before and during World War II.

In fact Liu Tue-sheng, Leo’s nemesis, is based on the very real gangster Du Yue-sheng. He was an important member of the Green Gang, a notorious Shanghai Triad that functioned like the Mafia, only worse. The compromises that Leo makes to try and protect his family end up getting him into trouble with Liu, and force him to make some very difficult choices when he wants to get his family out of Shanghai on the eve of the Japanese invasion."

Although born in New York, M.L. Malcolm spent most of her childhood in Florida. Her education gradually brought her back north, as she earned degrees from Emory University and Harvard Law School. However, after practicing law for three years, M.L. determined that "she and the law were not meant for each other," and she is now a self-described "recovering attorney."

M.L. has won several awards for her fiction, including special recognition in the prestigious Lorian Hemingway International Short Story Competition, and a silver medal from ForeWord Magazine for Best Historical Fiction Book of the Year 2009. She has also amassed an impressive hat collection (and yes, she does wear them). Her novel, Heart of Lies, was published in June of 2010 by Harper Collins; the sequel, Heart of Deception, will be released in April.

Now, for the GIVEAWAY!
For your chance to win a copy of Heart of Lies, leave a comment and tell me: Have you ever been to Shanghai? If so, what did you think of it? If not, do you think you would ever like to visit that city?
Don't forget to leave your email address in your comment. This giveaway will end at midnight EST on October 3, 2010. I will contact the winner on October 4, 2010 and that person will have 48 hours to reply with their address in order to receive the book.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Books Recommended By Others

Everywhere I go, whether it is work, or church, or just out running errands, I look to see what other people are reading. I often look at the book cover when I see someone reading and I will ask them to tell me if it is a good book. At the library where I work, I ask the patrons or my coworkers: "What have you been reading?" or "Have you read any good books lately?" I get some good responses and sometimes, an excellent recommendation for a book that I wind up reading just because someone told me about it.

That's what I want this blog to be for you: a place where you can come and get good suggestions for books that you might otherwise not hear about. I want you to feel free to share your recommendations as well.

Recently, I had a giveaway on this blog as a part of Blogmania. I asked the commenters to tell me what was their favorite book of 2010. I have compiled the results and want to share them with you.

Since the list is really long, I made a separate page for it. So, if you are interested, just click on the tab on the top of the blog that says "Books Recommended by Others".

Remember, this is a list from people who have come to my blog, not a list I have written myself. So, there is quite an eclectic mix of titles on the list. I DO NOT recommend them all to you. However, since I understand that we all have different tastes in reading material, I thought we would all benefit from this list.

Here are the ones I will probably be adding to my TBR:

Firefly Lane - Kristen Hannah
Fireworks Over Toccoa - Jeffrey Stepakoff
The Island - Ellen Hilderbrand
The Last Child - John Hart
A Maze of Grace - Trish Ryan
The Red Tent - Anita Diamant
Room - Emma Donoghue
Sarah’s Garden: A Patch of Heaven - Kelly Long
Shanghai Girls - Lisa See
She Walks in Beauty - Siri Mitchell
She’s Gone Country - Jane Porter
The Silent Governess - Julie Klassen

Think of a Number - John Verdon
The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag - Alan Bradley
Winter Garden - Kristen Hannah

Are there any of these you have read that you didn't like? Tell me, please!

What do you think? Have you read any of the books on the list (I have read 18 of them)? If so, which ones did you like? Leave a comment!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Book Review: A Hope Undaunted by Julie Lessman (and a CONTEST - WIN A KINDLE!)

(Scroll down to the bottom of this post to see how you can have a chance to win a free KINDLE!)

I haven't read very many books set in the 1920's. I tend to gravitate toward books set in the Civil War, World War II, or present day. So it was a different experience for me to read A Hope Undaunted, which is set in 1929-1931. As I was reading, I began to understand the challenges Christians faced in this period of time in our history. This was a time when society's ideas of morality changed and our culture experienced a shift in men/women relationships. Women struggled with their roles while the men continued to be challenged with shifts in the economy. Add to all this the impending war, and one can see how trying these times were.

Hope Undaunted, A: A Novel (Winds of Change)Julie Lessman illustrates all of these difficulties well in her new book. The characters, although Christian, are far from perfect (which is the opposite of what many other authors try to make us believe). But they do demonstrate the grace of God in how they deal with their trials. I think we can learn a lot from these fictional people, whether it be the men who have pasts that were far from pure, the pregnant woman who wrestles with the fact that her husband works with one of his former lovers, or the couple who disagrees over whether the wife should be working out of the home. And the main characters, Katie and Luke, who are facing their own idols of pride, lust, and greed, to mention only a few.

There are some parts of the novel that became a little steamy, or "edgy", as some would say. There are some readers who would not like this, and, I must admit, these places in the book made me a little nervous. But I know we all have our limits. Here is an example of one from the book:

"In a catch of her breath, he took her mouth by force, his late-day beard rough against her skin. A faint moan escaped her lips and all resistance fled, burned away by the heat of his touch, leaving her weak and wanting. His mouth roamed at will, no longer gentle as he devoured her, ravenous against the smooth curve of her throat, the soft flesh of her ear. With a gutteral groan, he jerked her close with powerful arms, consuming her mouth with a kiss surely driven by the sheer will to ravage."

So, take that for what it's worth, and decide for yourself whether you might like this book. As a whole, I enjoyed it. It needs to be read slowly in order to keep up with all the many characters. Also, at a whopping 505 pages, it is not a short read, but, I think, worth it.

I give A Hope Undaunted 4 out of 5 stars.

Available September 2010 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

A Passion Most Pure (Daughters of Boston, Book 1) A Passion Redeemed (The Daughters of Boston, Book 2) (Bk. 2) A Passion Denied (The Daughters of Boston, Book 3)

Now, for the KINDLE CONTEST!

Would you like to win a Kindle from Julie Lessman? Of course you would! Then head on over to Julie's website and enter. The winner receives:

* A brand new KINDLE, with Wi-Fi

* A Hope Undaunted by Julie Lessman
This prize pack is valued at over $150.00! So go over there today and enter to win!

(I received this book from Revell Books for review purposes. I received no monetary compensation for this review. All opinions expressed are completely my own.) 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

WWW Wednesdays

WWW Wednesdays is a meme from Should Be Reading, where we answer three questions: What are you currently reading? What did you recently finish reading? and What do you think you'll read next? If you want to participate, answer the three questions, then put your link on the Should Be Reading Blog in the comment section. Happy reading!

Memory Between Us, A: A Novel (Wings of Glory)What I am currently reading: A Memory Between Us by Sarah Sundin - This is the second book in the Wings of Glory series by Sarah Sundin. I wrote a review on the first one, A Distant Melody, and I am enjoying this one as well. It's better than most "Christian novels" that are out today. I will be reviewing it during the week of September 26 - October 2 here on this blog.

Immanuel's VeinsWhat I recently finished reading: Immanuel's Veins by Ted Dekker - I think this one is one of Ted's best. The story is set in 1772 in Moldavia. It is quite different than any of the other books that Ted has written. The allegory of the Gospel is well written. I would love to see more books like this one.

I will try to get a review out of Immanuel's Veins soon.

Safe HavenWhat I'll probably read next: Safe Haven by Nicolas Sparks - I have heard that this book by Sparks is somewhat like his others, except that it is also a thriller, so it seems he is going in a different direction as well. I am looking forward to reading his newest novel.

Please let me know what you are reading, too. I'd like to see what I may be missing out there. Leave a comment!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Blogmania Winner!

I have selected a winner for BLOGMANIA! Her name is Cindi and here is what she said:

Hi! You are sponsoring a wonderful prize package of books giveaway...

My favorite book of 2010 thus far is All Unquiet Things by Anna Jarzab. 2010.

Many thanks, Cindi

Congratulations, Cindi! And thanks to everyone else who entered! I hope you will come back and visit again.


Also, I just wanted to let all of you know that I will be posting a list soon of all the books that the Blogmania commenters have enjoyed so far in 2010. So, get out your TBR lists (or start one if you haven't already) and be ready to add some great titles to it!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Book Review: Making Waves by Lorna Seilstad

I love going to the beach, especially when the sky is a little cloudy and the temperature is in the low to mid 90's. An ideal afternoon for me would be on the beach with my family, soaking up the sun with a nice, cool drink beside me and a book in my hand!

I am from Texas, and Galveston Beach was the place where I first had a "taste" of the ocean. I remember walking along the shore, looking for seashells and watching the seagulls soaring overhead. I have also experienced the beach at Destin, Florida. I think it was one of the best vacations I have ever had! I have great memories of the few times I have been to the beach. 

I remembered those times as I read Making Waves. I felt the breeze in my face and heard the waves hitting the shore as the characters made their way across the sand. Transported to another time and place, I wanted to join them in their sailboat rides and sleep in the tents that sat along the path not far from the water.

The year 1895 saw women struggling to find their place in this world. Many of them, like Marguerite, the book's main character, wanted to do things that others thought improper for females to be doing. While other girls were content with cooking, cleaning, taking care of babies and needlework, Marguerite longed for a more adventurous life. And this is what got her into trouble.

Making Waves: A Novel (Lake Manawa Summers)When Marguerite and her family spend a summer at Lake Manawa, Iowa, she meets a man who introduces her to sailing and a whole new world of freedom and adventure. Suddenly, her world is expanded and she longs to escape the narrow confines of the life her parents have crafted for her. However, she soon finds herself having to make a hard choice: marry a man she doesn't love to save her family's fortune, or follow her heart and, for the first time, live the life she has always dreamed about?

From parasols to pantaloons, this story is a fun ride through the late 19th century. The descriptive language and enjoyable plot carries the reader through to a satisfying, though quite predictable, end. A light, clean read and somewhat impressive debut novel. This is the first of a series that is sure to be a success.     

I give Making Waves 4 out of 5 stars.

Available September 2010 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

(I received this book from Revell Books for review purposes. I received no monetary compensation for this review. All opinions expressed are completely my own.)