How I love summer!

I am currently enjoying summer. As I slave away all year grading poorly written essays by 12 year olds, I feel entitled to relaxing all I want and doing whatever I want (I do what I want!). So, what do I like to do most during the summer?

READ!

And the best part about this is that I get a lot of free books. It’s a great perk of being a book reviewer. Way to go, publishing companies. I am oh so thankful. With that said, I’ve read a lot recently. I’m getting into the whole e-book thing and have not hated reading a few ARCs on our iPad. Not a bad gig.

Anyway, with all of that said, I have lots of reviews to write. Which means I need to actually do that instead of just writing aimlessly since I can’t sleep.

Maybe tomorrow?

Great book! (The Lightkeeper’s Ball – Colleen Coble)

>I first fell in love with the cover of Colleen Coble’s newest novel The Lightkeeper’s Ball. From there, it only got better!

Olivia Stewart’s sister is killed under mysterious circumstances while out west. Olivia has to get to the bottom of it and along the way gets to know the suspected murderer. With lots of twists and turns, this book kept me on my toes and guessing the whole time. I was sure I had it figured out toward the end (and I was close :)) but I was surprised when the truth was revealed.

It took me a few chapters to get into the story, but I really enjoyed this novel. Coble is a great writer: I enjoyed her descriptions and her character development. I have not read either of the two other books in the series, but The Lightkeeper’s Ball was a good stand alone novel. I could tell that there were references to the other two books but the story wasn’t lost on me due to that. Overall, an interesting read!
Thanks, Thomas Nelson, for a review copy. The opinions above are my honest opinions.

Interesting historical fiction (Journey to Riverbend – Henry McLaughlin)

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I have to admit that I was a little skeptical about Henry McLaughlin’s Journey to Riverbend. My skepticism mostly came from the cheesy cover. I even got made fun of by my sweet cousin while on the plane to Hawaii.
“You are reading that book? From the cover, I thought that was a book that Grandma brought with her.”
I agreed with her that it was a dumb cover, and that I was a little hesitant to read it. The description on the back cover and the pictures on the front cover made me feel like I was being set up to read a cheesy Christian romance.
Oh, was I wrong! This book had everything I was (secretly) hoping for: adventure, intrigue, (some) romance, growth, mystery, suspense. Michael and Rachel are both portrayed as beautiful examples of redemption, and their story carries all of the subplots throughout this lengthy novel. I was sad when it ended.
While some of the bad guys seemed all bad, with no redeemable qualities, McLaughlin carefully wove humanity through all of his characters. It was an engaging and captivating read and I appreciated the redemption emphasized.
A great debut novel; I look forward to reading more of McLaughlin’s work as he continues his writing career.
I was given this book (thank you!) by Tyndale and have expressed my honest opinions in this review.

Hilarious! (Save the Date – Jenny B. Jones)

>The last book I read by Jenny B. Jones (Just Between You and Me) had me, like my ten year old self, huddling with a flashlight and hoping no one would notice. And while this time it was an iPad and I was hoping my husband wouldn’t notice, it felt the same to be so engrossed in a good book that I couldn’t put it down. Reading Save the Date felt the same. I could NOT put it down.

Lucy needs money. Alex has money. Alex needs popularity for his election, and Lucy seems to provide it when she’s near him. Let the mayhem begin. While I was a little put off by Clare and her continued presence, by the end of the book I was rooting for her and her hilarious companion.
Funny, heartwarming, and engaging…everything I hope for in Christian chick lit. I laughed aloud more times than I can remember and, at the end of it all, I really appreciated the deeper themes of trusting and abiding. Way to go, Jenny B. Jones. And, most impressive, she is a teacher! AMAZING! I can barely manage sleeping and eating, not to mention just thinking about thinking about maybe writing a chapter or a sentence. Or thinking about writing a blog post/book review for this book that I loved reading OVER two weeks ago. 🙂
Thank you to Thomas Nelson BookSneeze for providing a complimentary review copy of Save the Date by Jenny B. Jones. I really enjoyed it and, although I was not asked to write a good review, I can’t say enough about how much I loved this book.

Quick, relaxing read (Love, Charleston – Beth Webb Hart)

>I was amazed at how much I enjoyed Love, Charleston by Beth Webb Hart. At first, it was frustrating, mostly due to my own ridiculousness and silly assumptions…I just assumed that this book was historical fiction, and let’s be honest, a lot of Charleston fiction is historical. Plus the cover just made me assume! (A reading strategy I discourage my students against but fell prey to, oops.) Anyway, I reread the first chapter after seeing mention of the Super Bowl and thinking, “wait, when was the first Super Bowl?” Oops, my bad. I ended up having to reread most of the first three or four chapters and memorizing the back cover so I could figure out who everyone was in relation to each other.

Besides my struggles at the beginning, I came to really appreciate this book for its slow action and relatable characters. I empathized with Della, a character who feels trapped by financial worries, but found peace in her resolution. I was angry with the characters who seemed to be throwing their lives away, and not altogether pleased with the story’s ending as it seemed somewhat rushed; some characters seemed to be left with loose ends.
Overall, it was a pleasant read and I enjoyed the story. Thanks to booksneeze.com for the review copy. My review was honest and true to my own opinion. I appreciate the good books you publish!

relief

i am now done with one sixth of my masters program. whew. i cannot believe how agonizingly long the last five school days have been (and the weekend in between when i had to do all of the work!), but i am so thankful that it’s over.


i went to the library today and got six books that i’d put on hold (i love the library!) and finished one already as i relaxed in bed until 10:30 this morning. this is the life! summer is here and life is good.

Cheesy, but good historical fiction (Love on a Dime – Cara Lynn James)

>What a good pick for my first book of the summer! I just finished reading Love on a Dime by new author, Cara Lynn James. The last day of school, while amazing, is always a long day and requires extra patience. While most definitely given that supernaturally, it also came from the excitement that I had a new book waiting for me when I got home. I was not disappointed!


Lilly, author of (horror!) dime novels, is torn between her allegiance to her family, her long lost love, and her “obligations” to society. I enjoyed the realistic emotions Lilly felt and the ways she interacted with the people around her; I felt it was true to life when so many novels lose that reality. I did not like the portrayal of Lilly’s sister-in-law, Irene, or what felt like a sudden shift in Irene’s character. I was also shocked by the number of typos I found, come on, Thomas Nelson! Overall, this was an enjoyable, quick read — nothing too heavy or thought-provoking, but a fun story to get lost in for a few hours.

This book was provided to me free of charge in exchange for a review. These views are my own. Thomas Nelson, thank you for the book!

summer is HERE!!!

>what a beautiful day the last day of school always is. it was, quite literally, the most beautiful day i’ve seen in a long time. the sun rose and i was already awake as it crested the hill by our house. with a joyful heart, i hopped in the shower, threw on a dress (last day of school rejoicing attire), and sped on over to the high school i teach (taught) at to give fifty freshmen (now sophomores) a final exam on Romeo & Juliet. as they took their test, i frantically graded a few last essays that some (very late) students turned in. and now, at 3pm, i am DONE! i’ve turned in my keys at both of my schools, i’m praying that i’ll be at just one school next year, and i’m ready for summer! in honor of the impending summer, i spent both last night and the night before reading books instead of grading essays. i stopped by the library yesterday and got six books (i only let myself get two normally). i’m pretty excited!

“the list”

I’ve just gone through my bookshelves and compiled my “I’ve Read in 2010” list. I smiled as I wrote certain titles down, remembering their influence/impact on my thoughts. As sad as this is for an English teacher, I’m not much of a discriminating reader. I can edit and comment on students’ papers like it’s nobody’s business and I always find and fix typos in books, but once I get into a story, I am sucked into the world of the characters. It doesn’t really matter to me if it’s poorly written or not, I just love a good story. I see the value and the beauty in good literature, but for the most part, cheesy Christian fiction gets me every time.

I don’t watch TV. It’s partially because we don’t have cable, but I think it’s mostly because I find my relaxation in fiction. Don’t get me wrong, we love hulu and the one show we watch (Glee…April 13th can’t come soon enough), but while Eric enjoys watching movies, I enjoy sitting next to him on our comfy free craigslist couch and reading a book.
Teaching can be overwhelming. There are always stressors; it’s usually kids but often the politics and drama too. However, the last three weeks have been (and the next six months will be) really stressful at work. The last two years I’ve mostly let the budget crisis and pink slipping process roll off my back, but for some reason the last week all of the drama and fighting and stress really just got to me. I worried about whether or not I would have a job next year and I let my fears, worries, and doubts rule over me.
Because of this, I read ten books during the last week and a half. Most of them were enjoyed in the bathtub. Instead of numbing my mind with trash TV, I devoured fictional characters and their worries and fears. I guess it’s times like these when I think I’m brainless for reading cheesy Christian fiction, I realize one important truth. The cheesy Christian fiction is not just fluff, it is instrumental in my life and my faith journey.
I read this evening about Caroline Fletcher, a woman caught between her love for a man, her fears, and her knowledge of the God’s truth for her. The Civil War is raging right outside their door, but Eli reminds her to lean on Jesus and not fear.
As I sit in my safe, comfortable, and warm home fretting about not having a job next year, I am letting my fears win. Hearing the truth from Caroline and Eli reminds me to give up my burden and trust in the truth. It doesn’t mean I’ll have a job next year, but it does mean that God is replacing the fears, lies, and worries with truth. It doesn’t mean the book was Pulitzer Prize material, but it does mean that God does, has, and will continue to speak to me through fiction that reveals his heart.

the joys of christmas break

What a joy it was to have two weeks off. Besides traveling a bit, reading fifty unfortunate freshmen essays (they haven’t quite figured out the difference between analysis and an extended summary…it’s the goal by the end of the year!), exhausting myself on the Wii Fit, and planning the next month for my two classes, I GOT TO READ!!! It was amazing to just curl up in bed or on the couch, or even just stand in the kitchen and get lost in a book. There were two things that struck me profoundly while reading the two books that I got via amazon.com 2 months ago (!). The first book, Piece de Resistance, by Sandra Byrd, was good and satisfied my longing to know what happened with Lexi and her lovely life. However, the second, Love Starts with Elle, by Rachel Hauck, just really struck me in two ways.

Elle wakes up at 7am daily to pray with an elderly lady and she learns to listen to God. I want to listen to and actually hear God. I never spend time just still before him and I so miss that and long for it. Would waking up thirty minutes early actually kill me? Probably, for the first two weeks or so. But is an extra half hour of sleep more important to me than growing with my God? Somedays, I may let myself be deceived and think so, but deep down, I know that with self-discipline, I can do it. I want to. Thanks, to both God and Rachel Hauck, for planting this desire within me again.

The second thing that struck me was Elle’s love for painting. She was scared of the critics and didn’t have the time. I know that I am “busy” in that I always have something else to do for school. I can always get more ready for the upcoming weeks, I can always grade a couple more papers, I can always email parents. There’s always something else. But, I don’t want to let my job consume me. I want to do a good job, but always doing more and more is not more important than my sanity. I want to pursue my love for writing like Elle pursues her love for painting. I think though, that with that, comes time to just let my mind relax. I need that. And I think by letting myself not become overworked that I don’t have time to read and write is dangerous for me. I know that I can better manage my time and even get my reading and writing time “out of the way” before my husband gets home from work.
So those, I guess I could say, are my New Years’ resolutions. My time is limited, but I want to actively choose what is important to me…God, and in many ways, seeing God in fiction while reading and writing.
Whew. It’s nice to have all this out! It’s time to hop in bed with The Will of Wisteria by Denise Hildreth…an oldie but a goodie. Good night 🙂