This was cute! I had a shallow first impression of Shay but I liked how she grew in the story. Timothy was fun to read, too, and he kept on surprisingThis was cute! I had a shallow first impression of Shay but I liked how she grew in the story. Timothy was fun to read, too, and he kept on surprising me. I liked how this was quick, although I wished it was longer so we could see more of Shay and Timothy's characters shine through rather than explained through dialogue. I liked how faith was incorporated in a way that it's not very preachy, and there was a lot of turning-faith-into-action sort of thing. I'm not the biggest fan of the title, though. It's accurate being the character applied for marriage, but the "App" part makes me think of online dating. Haha. Plus points for the Manila setting, and I think there were a lot of things that the author captured really well in the city - the traffic and the humidity, for example. And I liked all the Filipino characters, too (I mean, a guard named Bayani? Awesome). Overall, a fun, clean, and fast romantic read that brings you in the middle of Manila's chaotic glory. :P ...more
I heard of Champions by Karren Renz Sena from a fellow book blogger who was tweeting about the book when she was reading it. I notedAlso posted here.
I heard of Champions by Karren Renz Sena from a fellow book blogger who was tweeting about the book when she was reading it. I noted it, seeing as it was published by Shepherd's Voice Publications, a local Catholic publishing house that I used to write for, and it was fiction - something new from them. It took me until after Christmas to get myself a copy, and I decided to read it while I was in the jeepney on the way home, and then I couldn't stop.
Champions is a story of seven men and women who were put together in a team to help retrieve the Sword of Sargatanas, a powerful weapon that is locked up in Cielterra, the stronghold of Cielos, the city closest to Heaven. This sword, when used on the day that the planets aligned, has the capacity to tear open the boundaries between dimensions, and when used on Gate Pandora, will unleash demons and monsters from Hell. These seven men and women - called Champions - are the only hope for this to be stopped, and to retrieve the Sword. One of these Champions is a Human called Gabriel, kidnapped from his life in Earth and brought to a battle that he didn't ask for, but even so, he felt that he somehow belonged. Perhaps this was the link to his past that he has been looking for all along?
Champions was fun. This is your good old fantasy novel with Christian references that is so well-written that I think anyone who just likes fantasy and action will just really sink their teeth into this. Though there were times when it felt like there were too many switches in the POVs as I was placed in the heads of almost all the characters, it was still quite fun, and I think the author did that to lay the foundation for the series. It gave me a bit of insight in every character, but I hope the next books in the series will focus on say, one or two instead of all of them so I'll be able to understand what makes these characters tick. If I were to pick a favorite, I really like the human Gabriel, followed by Solenn who seemed all fire at first but had a big heart inside of her. I would also love to learn more about Matteo, as I always felt affectionate to any group's tech guy. Oh, and I loved the judges - Samson, Gideon, and Deborah. Their banter was so fun. :D
As I said, the world building here was good, and I really liked the idea of how Eden was set to be the most protected place, and how Cielos being the city closest to Heaven, is the one in charge of its protection. This book makes the Bible seem more alive, and I love how the names used here were from the Bible - Samson, Gideon, Deborah, Memorare, Ark of the Covenant, Passover, etc etc. The names don't feel out of place, and even the things that they do - rallying aka worship, prayer and meditation - felt like they just fit right into the story, and not a bit preachy.
I wanted more at the end, especially after the revelations about some characters. I am really glad this is a series, so the next question is: when will the next book be out? Please let it be soon! ...more
The thing about Ashley Stockingdale is I can't believe all the things that happen to her simply because she's who she is. Crazy, but fun. I enjoyed reThe thing about Ashley Stockingdale is I can't believe all the things that happen to her simply because she's who she is. Crazy, but fun. I enjoyed reading this one. (I still don't like Seth. Or Arin. Also could use more of Kevin - Haha I just remembered how much I crushed on him after reading book 2. :D) It was fun reading about the old Silicon Valley gang again. Now how do I find time so I can reread the first three books?...more
I was trying to think of ways to review this book, because 33 Days to Morning Glory didn't feel like the regular book I would review. FoMarch 25, 2014
I was trying to think of ways to review this book, because 33 Days to Morning Glory didn't feel like the regular book I would review. For one thing, I never thought I'd actually do this until a friend told me about this retreat. Another is that how can I find the words to explain how reading this in the past 33 days have changed me, helped me get to know Mary and her role in my life through St. Louis de Montfort, St. Maximilian Kolbe, Blessed Mother Teresa, and Blessed John Paul II?
Let me say this instead, because this is the only thing I could think of now: there were miracles, big and small in the past 33 days that I could only attribute to the fact that I knew Mary was praying with me. There were crosses that were made sweeter, and I know that if I had encountered them on my own, it would have crushed me. But having Mama Mary by my side made it different, easier, even. She held my hand and stood by me as we looked at Jesus at the Cross, and taught me how to accept His love and to love Him back. Who else could teach us how to love Jesus with our human heart other than Mary, his mother? I don't know why it took me this long, but I'm glad I got here now.
I woke up excited this morning, because I remembered that it was 25th of March. Today is the Solemnity of the Annunciation, where we remember how Mary said the most beautiful "Yes" to the Lord, and through the Holy Spirit, she conceived Jesus. Today, like her, I also say yes to God -- I consecrate myself to Jesus through Mary. :)
Mary, help me to love with your most Immaculate Heart. Immaculate Heart of Mary, keep me in your most pure heart, so that I may please Jesus through you, in you, and with you....more
If it were any other time, any other season, I probably wouldn't have picked this up from the Kindle store. I wouldn't have looked at this twice, becaIf it were any other time, any other season, I probably wouldn't have picked this up from the Kindle store. I wouldn't have looked at this twice, because I don't think it's for me, or I would be interested. When was the last time I read a non-fiction, self-help book like this? I can't remember. But I know for sure that if it were any other time early this year, or if it were any other season in my life, I wouldn't have decided to get Bittersweetby Shauna Niequist and read it immediately after it loaded on Hannah the Kindle.
Oh, I guess it helped that the ebook was on sale when I saw it, so I bought it. But still, I wouldn't have gotten it and enjoyed it as much as I did if it were any other time of my life.
Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace and Learning the Hard Way by Shauna Niequist is about so many things, but mostly, about how life is bittersweet. How life isn't always happy or sweet but we shouldn't let the bitterness of it get to us. There is such a thing as bittersweet, and it's the kind of life that we should appreciate, especially because all the learning and the changes and (most importantly) grace is seen in the bittersweet parts of life. This is a collection of essays and realizations about her life, and what she learned from them -- from her fights with her husband to moving to a new place, from meeting new friends, having parties and serving them food and these friends moving away. From her problems getting pregnant again to broken hearts, family members dying and babies being born. The book is an honest collection of stories that the reader will definitely relate to at some point, and drives the point that life is really bittersweet.
Like I said, if I read this at any other time, I don't think it would have made as much of a big impact as it did now. Bittersweetkept me company during the hard days, and spoke to me over and over and over again about grace and God's faithfulness. I couldn't relate to some of the stories Niequist wrote because I don't have a family, and I haven't moved away yet, but the lessons she talked about were universal, and somehow I felt like she really knew what heartache is, and she can relate to me. Her words served like a balm to my soul, and some passages made me cry several times because it felt like they were exactly what I needed to read.
In a way, it seemed like a promise, too -- that whatever you're going through, whatever your situation is, God knows it, and He will take you through it. It's not easy, but you have a choice to view your situation as bittersweet. And from her words, it seemed like she's healed and moved on from the hard parts of her life and if she can do it, then you definitely can, too. I needed that, and as I read the book more, I realize that maybe it was meant for me to see this book on Amazon, and to see it on sale so I can buy it.
Granted, some of the stories were a little repetitive, like stories at the end had some similarities to the stories at the start, but by the time I got to that, I was far too in love with what I've read for me to really nitpick about it. Despite that repetitiveness, though, the stories in Bittersweetwere honest and heartfelt and real, and it made me feel that I had a friend in Shauna Niequist, even if this is the first book of hers I've read.
I wonder now how I would've reacted to this if I read this on any other time, at any other season. I know I'm being repetitive on this review with that, but I can't help but wonder. Would I even read this at all? If I did, though, I don't think I would've loved it as much as I did now. But whatever -- I'm just really, really glad that this book got to me at the right time. If you're in a tough time, if you're experiencing bitter moments, I definitely recommend this book. Bittersweetmay not make your life better in a snap, but I hope it helps you heal, just like a good book ought to do. :)
My prayer for you is not that you live a life that's only sweet and never bitter, but that even in the bitterest of moments, you will find the comfort of Christ, deep and enduring, powerful beyond all imagination.
Repetitive at some point, but I loved every story in it. So honest and heartfelt and real. :) ...more
Daphne Sweeten is a professional nose -- by that, we mean she's a chemist who is trained to be a perfume creator. WhenOriginal post from One More Page
Daphne Sweeten is a professional nose -- by that, we mean she's a chemist who is trained to be a perfume creator. When she gets stood up on her wedding day, though, her sense of smell disappears. Trying to piece her life back together, she works for a small company in Ohio, hoping to get her sense of smell back and fly back to Paris, which she gave up for the supposed love of her life. But her new job requires her nose, too, and her new boss, Jesse, doesn't seem to notice that she cannot smell anything. They're not creating perfume anyway -- she can definitely do this, right?
I've always considered Kristin Billerbeck books as a comfort read ever since I read and liked her Ashley Stockingdale series years ago. It's been years since I last read a Billerbeck book, but even so, it was easy enough for me to get immersed in the book. There's a certain familiarity in the way she writes, in her characters and her stories that makes her books easy reading, hence the comfort read label. :)
The Scent of Rain has that Billerbeck formula -- a girl who has some sort of romantic fiasco, a guy who's all bad news for her and a guy who's obviously good for her. Then there's the supporting cast: the best friend, the family (who, more often than not, cares for the main character in a really strange way), and the church group who will help her get back on track. And there's the villain, who we all hate, but we will eventually understand, because of something that will happen. This book has all the common ingredients in a nice and clean chick lit novel, with the bonus factor of the main character's job, a perfume specialist. I really liked the scent aspect of the book, and it gave me a whole new perspective with how to scents work with our senses. And I agree -- scents can bring memories! I remember holding on to a perfume bottle for so long because it reminded me of this particular memorable event in my life. :)
It's a very enjoyable read, and I found myself rooting for Daphne and wishing that Jesse would finally make that step to move their relationship forward. I liked the set-up, though, and their relationship seemed very organic despite the short time they spent. There was just the right swoon, too, but not too much that it's too cheesy. It was fun, but not mindless and it's clean but not too prudish.
I think my only complaint is that certain event in the end that brought about the big changes -- it felt a little too convenient despite it being a bit surprising, bordering on being a deus ex machina. But other than that, I really enjoyed reading The Scent of Rain. It's not super duper amazing, but it's good, and it makes me want to start looking for my own personal scent.
Reading this book ma makes me want to revisit the Ashley Stockingdale series to see if I still like it as much as I did on my first (and second) reads. Hmm....more
Ever since Tosca announced that she was writing this book in 2010, I have been eagerly waiting for this to come out. IOriginal post from One More Page
Ever since Tosca announced that she was writing this book in 2010, I have been eagerly waiting for this to come out. I loved her first two books, Demon and Havah: The Story of Eve, and a novel about Judas Iscariot is something that I know only Tosca can write with the same heart-wrenching clarity and sensitivity that she did in her first two books. When it came up available in Netgalley, I immediately got it and saved it in my Kindle. Of course, it took me ages to finally start it, until I decided that it would be my Holy Week read.
Judas Iscariot. The traitor. The betrayer. It's so easy to hate him, and blame him, because if he didn't sell Jesus for 30 silver coins, then maybe Jesus wouldn't have died. It was simple, right? But have we ever wondered that even if Judas hadn't done what he did, would Jesus still have died? After all, it was salvation history, and it was God the Father's will for the Son of Man. Would someone else have betrayed him? And we always associate Judas with something evil, but if he was evil, why would he even be a part of Jesus' closest circle? Why would Jesus even call Judas friend?
Iscariot doesn't attempt to answer this, but instead presents what we know of Jesus' time in an even more clarity. Tosca brings us to the heart of that time -- the social and political unrest of the Jews against the Romans, the religious customs of the Jewish and how important it is to them, and how the Pharisees just seem to be everywhere. And then there's Jesus, who shocks everyone and speaks of a radical faith, heals people, drives out demons and resurrects the dead. We see all this in the eyes of Judas bar Simon, who came from a tumultuous childhood and is desperately wishing for a messiah. When his paths cross with Jesus the Nazarene of questionable birth and he follows him together with eleven other men, he wonders if he is the one. He wonders, and dares to hope, torn between love for his master and wanting a specific vision for the people. In Iscariot, we see Jesus through human eyes -- through doubting, human eyes and a heart that is so scared to hope -- and it brings the readers this question: if I were Judas at that time, would I have done the same thing if I thought it was the right thing?
What an unsettling novel. It's kind of hard to explain what effect this novel had on me. It reminds me of the Gospel during the Palm Sunday mass -- you know, the one where the priest is Jesus and the mass goers are the people and we all had speaking parts in the Gospel? My heart clenched like crazy when I had to say, "Crucify him!" The second time I had to say it, my eyes burned with tears, because I knew that at several points in my life, I had crucified Christ because of my sins. And I keep on doing it whenever I fail to be loving, when I fall into sin. In Iscariot,we see Judas and the apostles in all their humanity, and how they tried to follow Jesus even if they do not understand him. Tosca weaves a story of how everything must have been like for Judas as he fights against himself in hoping that this charismatic Nazarene could be the savior of all -- and how he tries to act as a good friend when he realizes that maybe his master may not be what he expected him to be. Tosca's writing was rich and colorful, and it puts all those miracles and stories in the Gospels in a more concrete way, so much that it felt like I was also there. Here's a favorite part, when Jesus calmed the storm:
In a flash of lightning, I saw the sandaled feet of Jesus, flagging against the floor of the boat, loosely in the water, like the body of a dead man, floating. Had he drowned, then, there beneath the stern? Had he departed from us silently, without even a word of farewell? Soon we would all be fortunate to float like that on any water here.
I told myself to let go, to lunge forward and seize him by the legs. Then the boat jinked sideways, throwing us all backward. For a horrifying instant, I thought we would capsize. I opened my mouth to cry out to him, only to be slapped in the face with a crashing wave that slapped my ears and sent my head ringing.
It was John who fell down over us, grabbing me by the arm when I nearly fell over the side. "Master! Save us!"
It was a horrid sound, that scream. I would remember it for the rest of my life.
I covered my face, trying to shield my eyes. Against the dark, I saw him, the pale of his tunic in the sluicing blackness, rising up. In my deafness, I heard him when I should not have against the screeching gale:
The words had not been shouted to the furious wind or issued to the sky, but spoken as through directly to my heart.
I'm not very good with history or theology, so I can't speak if this book is super accurate, but for a piece of historical "fiction", this definitely made me think. It made me feel sympathetic at the least, and it made me see Jesus in a different light. It made me see my Savior's passion and death in a different perspective. It made me see my own humanity, and the depth of Jesus' love even for those who He knew would betray Him.
And aren't we all that, anyway? Haven't be betrayed him at some point in our life? And won't we betray him in the future, because we are human and we are weak? And Jesus knows that...still, He loves us without a doubt.
I finished reading Iscariot before 3:00pm on Good Friday, and I was a little overwhelmed with the time and how it ended. I knew how it would end, and yet...it left me somber. It left me sad. Would there have been redemption for Judas, if he had just waited? Could he have become someone like Peter, who denied Jesus but accepted mercy which led him to become the great church leader that he is? If he had just waited until Sunday, would he have believed that Jesus was indeed the person he had been waiting for his entire life?
We would never know.
I admit that I may be just a little biased because I love everything that Tosca has written, but if you would read any of her work, I think Iscariot: A Novel of Judasis the best place to start. It's not the easiest thing to read, but it's one that will leave you longing for your Savior....more
I had no idea who Lino Rulli was until I heard him on Lifeteen's Holy Week podcast, which was actually his show with Mark Hart the Bible Geek as guest. I listen to a few Catholic podcasts, but I have never heard of him until then, so I admit that I wasn't really sure what to expect when I started listening to the episode that Good Friday. But a few minutes in, I was already charmed by this funny Catholic guy, which led me to downloading other episodes of The Catholic Guy Show from iTunes. He plugged his book, Sinner, several times in the other episodes, but I wasn't really sure if I want to buy it because I'm picky with books like that. A few more laugh out loud episodes, however (he and his co-host Fr. Rob kept me awake during my night shift work days!), I knew I wanted his book. Then came my friend Monique, bearing good news and new books, and she sent me the ebook version of Sinner as a gift.
That is divine providence, IMHO.
But I digress. I wasn't planning to read this too soon, but when I loaded the book on my Kindle, I found myself starting the book. And reading. Two days later, I am done.
What just happened there, oy?
Sinner by Lino Rulli is exactly what the subtitle says it is: The Catholic Guy's Funny, Feeble Attempts to be a Faithful Catholic. This book had me from the introduction, particularly this line:
I want to be more faithful, but I'm scared. Scared that I'll try and fail. And in some ways, even more scared that I'll succeed.
Lino Rulli is not a reformed Catholic. He's not one who had a bad past and found the light and then turned and had a holy life afterwards. Sinner is not that kind of book where the author talks about the dark days and then the conversion and the days in the light. Sinner is about a guy who was born and raised Catholic, and still had doubts and mishaps while knowing God. It's basically the story of every human who's a part of the Catholic church and is trying (but often failing) to live the way God called them to be.
I can't remember laughing so much while I was reading a book, and a non-fiction Catholic book at that. Lino is as witty and funny on paper as he is on radio/podcast, and I can imagine him really saying these stories on his show. These are confessions that I think some traditional and strictly religious Catholics would shake their heads at, but would touch the hearts of the everyday struggling Catholic and make them smile and be comforted that they aren't alone in their struggles and their journey. Lino's stories range from his dad being an organ grinder to meeting the Pope, to confession (several times), to his mother and his single life woes. I'd like to believe that there's something for every Catholic in this book, but I will let you be the judge of that (which is my not-so-subtle way of saying, Guys, you should really read this book!).
The only thing I wanted after I finished reading this was that there was more, because I really and truly enjoyed this one. Oh, and possibly a story about Fr. Rob. :P This book reminds me of Flashbang by Mark Steele, but possibly a bit better, because hey, it's Catholic! And it's not often I read books about the faith I grew up in. There's nothing like feeling a sense of community while reading about confession (and how hard it is to do) or confirmation or (Blessed) Pope John Paul II in one book. If you're ever the one who tried reading Catholic books but got bored or felt that you can't relate, then I suggest you try this book. It's funny, refreshing, borderline irreverent but definitely easy to relate to, because when it all comes down to it, we are all sinners, period.
Sinner by Lino Rulli may just be one of the most honest books I've read this year, and I think based on this honesty alone, it deserves all the stars I can give. And a spot on my favorites shelf. :)
I wanted to be as honest as possible about my faith, my doubts, and my sins. To let people see my pride, my jealousy, my wrath, my lust. But also see someone who's still trying to fight the good fight of faith. (p.141)
It's been a while since I read a Camy book, and honestly, I didn't even know she had another book in the Grant sisters'Original post at One More Page
It's been a while since I read a Camy book, and honestly, I didn't even know she had another book in the Grant sisters' stories. It wasn't until after I finished reading Protection for Hire that I found out, and I immediately got the book for my Kindle.
In the third installment of Camy Tang's Love Inspired series, Stalker in the Shadows, we meet the third Grant sister, Monica, a nurse with a heart for social work. She plans to open a free children's clinic in their town, and she knows it wouldn't be easy but it shouldn't bethat hard either. Until she starts receiving threatening letters and "gifts" from someone who tells her that if she doesn't stop her plans, she would end up dead too. Scared out of her wits, Monica seeks help from Shaun O'Neill, who believes that the same person threatening Monica was the one who caused his sister's death. As the threats come and the stakes get higher, Monica wonders if maybe she should quit, while Shaun is constantly haunted by the thought of failing to protect Monica the way he felt he failed to protect his sister.
I haven't read a lot of suspense or mystery novels lately so it took me a while to get inside Camy's world in Stalker in the Shadows. I liked Monica right from the start, maybe even more than how I liked Rachel or Naomi. She was a level-headed and determined character, always putting someone else first before herself -- her father, her investors, and even the children who will benefit with the clinic. I also liked her dynamics with Shaun, and I liked how Camy wrote him as a "heart-guarding man". It's not often we find heroes like that in fiction. :) There wasn't much surprises in the romance (except, as always, for the first kiss!), but it wasn't too predictable, either.
This book is probably the least preachy of all - and by that, I mean that the Christian aspect was shown more instead of being told. There were some God talk, of course...I don't know how exactly to describe it, but it felt more natural when Monica realized things and Shaun realized things and they felt God more in their own realizations and with the things that happened to them. The climax felt a little bit too CSI-esque, but it was exciting enough for me to really fear for the main characters.
The mystery was pretty...well, mysterious, for the lack of better terms. I had several hunches about the culprit, and even one hunch that I was so sure was correct...and it wasn't. Oh well. But that makes for a good mystery, don't you think? Overall, Stalker in the Shadowsis a very good installment to the Grant sisters' stories, and I was glad at where Monica (and Shaun) ended up. :)...more
In a town called Smitten, their main source of income is their lumber mill. With the lumber mill comes the men, who's usOriginal post at One More Page
In a town called Smitten, their main source of income is their lumber mill. With the lumber mill comes the men, who's used to providing for their families, content with the life of being men despite the fact that their town had a very...well, feminine name. What happens then, when the town's only source of income closes? The women come to the rescue, of course. Taking advantage of the town's name, a group of friends planned to turn their town into a romantic tourist spot. Armed with lots of ideas and a whole lot of faith, Natalie, Julia, Shelby and Reese work with the rest of the town to and pray that their ideas would take off and put Smitten on the map -- and maybe, along the way, they would find someone to be smitten too as well.
I love short stories and anthologies for the simple fact that they're so easy to read and digest. I got Smitten from Netgalley because of that, followed by the fact that one of the authors in this book, Kristin BIllerbeck, is a favorite. I was in the mood for a cozy romance last month (being February and all) while I was in the middle of some (sort of gross) zombie books, so I picked up Smitten ready to be, well, smitten. Interestingly, the authors of this book are all friends with each other in real life, and they even had a note at the start of the book to share their story of their friendship. Like I said, the only author I have read there is Kristin Billerbeck, so I was looking forward to reading what she wrote there, and I was also curious with how the other authors write. Maybe this would convince me to get some of their books too.
The best thing about this book IMHO is the setting. The town of Smitten came alive to me from the first page, and I was rooting for the girls' ideas to come to fruition in the town. Smitten seemed like such a picturesque town that needed some feminine touch, and I looked forward to reading how the town improved towards the romantic direction in each story. It may seem a little too much of a perfect town at some point, and maybe if I thought of it a little further as a too nice town it would be a bit creepy. But I want to be there, and I want to spend some time in their town even if I wasn't a part of a couple.
The stories were pretty entertaining, too, although I can't say I liked all of them. This is a collection of stories but I realized that it's not really an anthology because the stories are all connected to each other and you can't read the next without reading the one that precedes that because you'd get spoiled. Think of it as a series of spin-offs in a book. The thing with short romance stories, though, is they don't have as much time to develop the romantic relationship from the ground up. By this, I mean, the stories can't really start from the two characters getting to know each other for the first time and then their relationship developing from something because it would need a longer length to make the relationship feel more realistic to avoid the risk of it being another insta-love story. Unless of course that is the real intention. But anyway, with this in mind, the love stories in Smitten were all about the girls and their old time friends or old acquaintances in the town that they never really paid attention to, or have pined for but has been unrequited for some time until this. To be perfectly honest I had a hard time adjusting to that because I was used to reading full-length novels with the romance starting from the very start. The idea of old-time friends suddenly turning into lovers took some time getting used to (You know this just shows how I think of the friend zone, LOL. But let's not talk about that here). But once I got used to it, I got all the nice tingles when the stories developed.
But as nice it was for the romantic relationships to start from friendships in Smitten, I felt that the shortness of the stories kind of hindered the book from delivering a bigger "oomph". For some stories, I was just getting used to the two characters dancing around each other and (wholesomely) flirting when suddenly, they're on their first date or someone's confessing their love or someone is stealing a kiss from someone. Before I got used to that, the couples are fighting, or having an argument or dealing with old issues. The only story that didn't feel too abrupt at some point was the last (my favorite among the four), and it even had some kind of foreshadowing from the previous story, which made it exciting for me because it felt like a spin-off (and you know how I love spin-offs). I'm sure the word count limit is an important factor and it's one of the things that made the stories so and we can't really do anything about it as a reader. I just really wish that the stories were just a little bit longer.
Despite those nitpicks, Smitten is still a pretty good book. It was exactly what I expected it to be: a nice and cozy, fluffy, romantic read. Granted, there could have been more swoony moments, but overall, it's a nice (and clean!) book about romance and faith. My favorite story is Reese's, but like I said up there, don't skip the stories! Reading the first three makes Reese's story the most satisfying of them all. :)...more
If you're still not sure if you want to splurge on Forbidden by Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee, the authors have released a shortFull post at One More Page
If you're still not sure if you want to splurge on Forbidden by Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee, the authors have released a short story prequel to it, entitled The Keeper, available for free as an ebook. In this short story, a man named Talus meets two hermit monk brothers who he chooses to share the terrible secret that he has been carrying, to recruit them in helping protect the knowledge that will save humanity. This short story is a very quick read, and if you've read Forbidden before reading this, there's really nothing much to surprise you here. However, I think that it gives those who have yet to read the first Book of Mortals a chance to taste Dekker's world building and Lee's characters. I have a feeling that reading The Keeper will make you want to know more about what this secret is and if Talus ever succeeded with his mission. Also, if you have read the Circle series (Black, Red, White, Green), you will spot a very familiar name in this short story that will probably make you say, "I knew it!" Then the story of Forbidden suddenly makes more sense. :)
The Keeper is short and it's free, and you'll hardly notice the time you'll spend reading this. There's really nothing to lose, so there's no excuse not to get this. :)...more
When I was younger, I used to write stories about a group of friends who lived in Ireland. It was just a random countryOriginal post at One More Page
When I was younger, I used to write stories about a group of friends who lived in Ireland. It was just a random country I picked out in the world atlas, and I thought I liked the sound of Ireland as a setting. Of course, I really knew nothing of the country then, and it wasn't until later on that I read and watched some stuff about Ireland on TV that I realized none of what I wrote was even the least bit realistic. But my recent trip to Europe got me to meet a YFC mission volunteer from Ireland, and meeting him reminded me of those days when I'd write those stories.
That's what made me pick up There You'll Find Me by Jenny B. Jones from my trip readings. Here we meet Finley Sinclair, Save the Date's Alex Sinclair's younger sister. After they had confirmed that Will, Finley's other brother, had died in an terrorist attack in a mission trip, she was devastated. Her life spun out of control as she tried to cope with her loss. After a year of therapy, she proved herself stable enough to go on an exchange student program to Abbeyglen, Ireland, one of the places that Will had gone to. Finley hopes to find herself and get answers from God who had seemed distant from her ever since she lost Will. But a movie star, the school's queen bee, a cranky and sick old lady puts a wrench on Finley's plans. As the pressure all around her builds, Finley starts dealing with things in the only way she knows how, even if it meant harming herself in the process. Can Finley find a way to get it right with God?
I liked Jenny B. Jones' other novel, Save the Date, a lot, so I was thrilled to find out that There You'll Find Me was a spin-off novel to that. I always like seeing how other characters I liked from a previous novel were doing in another novel that is not a sequel. There You'll Find Me is more YA this time around. Finley is such a strong-minded character, sometimes a bit stubborn, but we can also see that she has a big heart, especially with her friendship with her host sister, Erin and her concern for Cathleen Sweeney, the old woman she was assigned to visit for class. I liked Finley's voice, and I could definitely feel and relate with her need to control things. I liked that she wasn't portrayed as too depressed or too angry -- just very lost. And it made me want to wrap her up in a big, big hug, and tell her that God has not forgotten her.
And speaking of God. The spiritual aspect of this book is not preachy, and I think Jenny B. Jones excels at that. Well, compared to Save the Date, there were more mentions of God, but Finley was in a spiritual journey, so what do you expect? I liked the Finley's power verse, too, and I admit to shedding some tears at the moment when Finley found what she was looking for. The actual Irish journey was a treat to read, too, and I wished I was actually in Ireland to see the things that Finley was seeing. I wanted to spend a night at a pub enjoying good food, music and company. I want to look at the Celtic crosses that Finley was also looking for. Ireland sounds like a beautiful, beautiful place from the way it was described, and I have already written that place in my bucket list after I was done reading this. :D
There just seemed to be a little too many issues that Finley was trying to get over with in the book: grief, control issues, school stuff, Cathleen Sweeney, a possible eating disorder. Add romance to that and I'm surprised that Finley took that long before she had a melt down. I assume that it portrays real life, but it was just kind of hard to follow and it made the resolutions a little too quickly wrapped up.
And speaking of the romance. Unfortunately, I don't think there wasn't anything exciting about the romance, even if it was kind of sweet. I hope I'm not being cynical. I liked Beckett and I thought he was a nice guy, but I felt that the movie star + normal girl pairing has been done a few too many times. Plus points, though, on the development of their friendship to romance, which was fun to read.
There You'll Find Me is a good follow up from Jenny B. Jones. A little bit paler in comparison to Save the Date, but nonetheless a good one. If you're looking for a clean contemporary novel that will tickle your romantic and traveling fancies, then I think you'll like this one. :)
I've been a fan of Camy Tang ever since I heard about her and read the first book in her Sushi series, Sushi For One?. IOriginal post at One More Page
I've been a fan of Camy Tang ever since I heard about her and read the first book in her Sushi series, Sushi For One?. I liked that she wrote chick lit with an Asian flavor, and while I'm not Chinese/Japanese like her heroines are, I find that I could relate to the family and growing up woes that the four cousins experienced. And they're Christian, too, so the stories resonate with my faith.
Unfortunately, Camy's contract for the Sushi series only covers 3 books, so only Lex's, Trish's and Venus' stories came out in full-length novels. Fortunately, Camy announced a few years back that she would be releasing a novella about Jennifer, the fourth cousin. Imagine my delight when she sent her street team a free copy. :)
Jennifer Lim is the nicest among the cousins, so nice that she knows she can be a doormat sometimes. When she finally graduated from her culinary degree, she finds herself pressured with having to fulfill some family "duties" that her aunts had pressed upon her. After a particularly bad party with an encounter with her ex, Jenn finally stands up for herself and starts a catering company. This starts her adventure that brings Jenn into learning that it takes a lot of courage to follow your dreams and even more to leave those dreams and trust that God will make things happen.
It felt nice reuniting with Camy's characters again. I love the bond that Lex, Trish, Venus and Jenn had, and how they would always be there for one another no matter what. I also loved and hated their family. I don't know how Chinese/Japanese families really are, but their Aunty Aikiko really grated my nerves. How can a relative be so manipulating and conniving and just...annoying? Ugh. It almost felt a bit unreal with that aspect, but who knew, right? Maybe people like that do exist.
I like how things came into somewhat of a full circle in this novella. While this could be read as a standalone, like the first three, but I think reading all of them would provide a fuller experience with the story. I always find back stories interesting, so knowing what happened to who in previous books while reading this one helped a lot in appreciating the events in this more. I especially liked how one of their cousins seemed to be friendlier to them now, and how their grandmother played a surprising role too.
The only thing I probably did not like in Weddings and Wasabi was how short it was! I missed the build up in the old novels, especially in the romantic sense, so I was a little detached from the romance here unlike in the others. It did provide for a good, quick and light read, but I was definitely hungry for more. :)...more
I've had this book for a while now (thanks to The Ironic Catholic for the review copy!), and I meant to read it while plane hopping in Europe but other books won me over. I was at the salon two weeks ago, just finished with a women's fiction novel and I couldn't really jump into another one just yet, so I decided to choose a slim ebook to cleanse the reading palate before going back to the other book I had in progress.
It turned out to be a very good choice, too. I love The Ironic Catholic's style -- poking fun at the little quirks of the Catholic faith but never disrespectful and still allowing people to learn a little more about the faith than a regular, Sunday mass-going Catholic knows. The news format of the book makes it easy to digest, and sometimes I have to remind myself that it's fiction because some of them felt like odd stories you read every now online. My favorite story? The World Old Day celebration, which is the senior citizens' version of World Youth Day. It not only made me laugh, but it brought fond memories of my own experience in WYD.
I just really wish this book was a little bit longer, but then the volume number in the title probably means there will be a volume two...right? ...more
I read and enjoyed Sandra D. Bricker's other book, Always the Baker, Never the Bride last year, and I honestly had no idea that this was a part of a series. So when I saw the galley for this book on Netgalley, I was pleasantly surprised. The first book wasn't a favorite, but I liked it enough for me to get the sequel and read it in between pages of a ghost story I was also currently reading.
In Always the Wedding Planner, Never the Bride (which will be known as AWPNTB from now on -- what a long title), we meet an old friend of the heroine from the first book, Sherilyn Caine. She's a wedding planner and she fits right in the Tanglewood Hotel's wedding planning staff. Sherilyn is also moving back home to get married with her fiance, Andrew Drummond IV, who she has met only a few months ago. Their engagement was short, sure, but they love each other -- that should be enough right? But why is it that none of their wedding plans are pushing through?
AWPNTB is a fun read, especially since there are all those familiar characters that I liked last year. There was also the Southern charm that most Christian chick lit has, and it made me want to really see if Atlanta was as nice as it was written in these books. The book stays true to its wedding themes, too, and I liked the little wedding checklists written in between the chapters, as well as recipes that Emma the baker plays with.
This had more marriage and wedding stuff compared to the first book, so to be totally honest, I wasn't able to relate. Oh sure, I know a lot about weddings, given that my brother got married just last year and that he works as a wedding videographer, so I get regular doses of wedding magic. But being someone who has no plans of settling down anytime soon, I really couldn't relate to the things that Sherilyn worried about. I felt bad for her, yes, but that was just it. I can't really empathize -- not yet, anyway.
Okay, maybe I feel that way because Sherilyn and Andy seemed to be products of "insta-love", and I'm not really much of a fan of that. They knew each other for less than a year and then they're getting married -- how about that? But the good thing is, the issues about this quick engagement were tackled really well. The doubts, the quirks and the little issues that came up were addressed well, and even I was surprised with the last thing that ultimately gave Sherilyn and Andy reason to think about their relationship. I also liked how Sherilyn came into her final realization. It's sweet and I guess, true. Not that I would know now, of course, but I'd like to believe that it is. :)
Always the Wedding Planner, Never the Bride is a nice installment to the Emma Rae Creation series, even if it I wasn't able to relate to it that much. I dare say I will still pick up the next book, Always the Designer, Never the Bride. I wonder what crazy love-related and wedding antics the main characters will get into then?...more
My supply of Christian fiction has sort of run low ever since I started reading more YA books, so new books from my favoriteFull post at One More Page
My supply of Christian fiction has sort of run low ever since I started reading more YA books, so new books from my favorite Christian authors are always exciting and squee-worthy. One of the dream team-ups I had ever since last year when the news went out was Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee, and I have waited with anticipation over this book, Forbidden. Imagine my excitement when I saw that the book was available in Netgalley.
In the year 2005, geneticists discovered that there is a certain gene in our DNA that controlled the emotion of fear, further leading to the discovery of other genes that control other kinds of emotions. After a war that devastated the world, humanity vowed to destroy everything that led to that war, particularly the emotions that come with it -- love, joy, passion, anger, hatred, sorrow. Out of all emotions, only fear was allowed to survive. And because of this, peace reigned.
480 years later, we meet Rom Sebastian, a simple, ordinary man who sings songs for the dead. On his way home from a funeral, he meets an old man who tells him of an Order called Keepers and leaves a vial of blood wrapped in a vellum with strange symbols. Citadel Guards caught up with them and to Rom's horror, they killed the man. Soon Rom is on the run from the guards with his childhood friend Avra, confused and scared to why they were running away. When he decides to drink some of the blood in the vial he carried, long-forgotten emotion surface within him together with the fear that he has been so used to feeling: sorrow. Anger. Passion. And most of all, love.
Early into the first pages of Forbidden, I couldn't help but compare this book with Delirium by Lauren Oliver. Both books have the same premise and almost the same environment. But where Delirium lacks, Forbidden totally makes up. The world building in this book is solid, so real, and contains the signature Dekker that I have known and loved. I found that the world building here makes the idea of a world operated by fear because of genetic means more plausible as compared to that where "love is illegal and I'd have to cut a vague area under your ear to get that love out". This book had touches of Dekker's Circle series, with the countries and royalties and guards and the people. The composition of the world contains both ancient and modern elements that somehow mesh together really well -- from advanced alchemy to the hierarchy order of the Brahmin. This somehow gives the readers a clue that while it is set in the future, it doesn't mean that it is actually advanced. Maybe the truth is, the world is going backwards because of the fear that the people were kept in.
Add to the world building, we have the fleshed out characters, which I think is Tosca Lee's expertise. I liked how different and conflicted the characters were -- Rom with his good heart, Avra's loyalty, Neah's hesitation, Triphon's bravery. Feyn's wisdom, Sarric's greed, Jonathan's innocence. These all seem like typical character traits, and I have to admit that some of the characters' actions were predictable, but I think they were able to give life to them. People may be a bit turned off with the jubilant exaltation of emotions that some characters did in the book, but I thought it was forgivable as they've never experienced emotion like that before. Taking the reactions of the characters in this context, it wouldn't seem exaggerated but just right. These characters were also involved in the right amount of action that it made me cringe and be surprised a couple of times. There was a particular part in the book that got me shaking my fist, but knowing I was in the hands of good writers, I know well enough to trust them.
Forbidden is very, very good. So what's keeping me from giving it five stars? Well, it may be just me, but I cannot shake off the similarity of this with the Circle series. Also, this book feels just a tad like a prequel rather than the real first book. While there is action, I felt the climax and the ending was just a little anticlimactic. Perhaps I was expecting more...erm, bloodshed there? Not that there wasn't enough bloodshed earlier, but I just thought there would be more there. However, that may be just because Dekker and Lee are preparing us for the next book in the trilogy. And the ending really did leave a lot of loose ends that I'm sure will be picked up and played with in the next book.
I will finish this review with a quote from the book that pretty much sums up the message of this book:
This is the mystery of it. Life is lived on the ragged edge of the cliff. Fall off and you might die, but run from it and you are already dead!
Forbidden by Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee is now out in paperback and hardbound in all stores. In the Philippines, I saw some trade paperback copies of it in Fully Booked. Must. Get. Finished. Copy!...more
What do you get when you cross the niece of the head of the Japanese mafia with a Southern belle in need of protection aOriginal post at One More Page
What do you get when you cross the niece of the head of the Japanese mafia with a Southern belle in need of protection and a straight-edge lawyer who hates the said mafia? Tessa Lancaster is the niece of Teruo Ota, the head of the San Francisco yakuza. Left by her dad when she was young and living with a difficult relationship with her mom and sister, she becomes some sort of mercenary to her uncle's mafia, working as an enforcer for her mafia cousins. She was doing fine just like that until she decided to take the fall for her cousin Fred's careless murder of his girlfriend, landing her in prison. Seven years later, Tessa is out, and she's turning over a new leaf, after meeting Christ in prison. But her reputation precedes her that everyone's still afraid of her, making it hard for her to live a normal life. Until she meets Elizabeth St. Amant with her three-year-old son on the run from her husband who's trying to kill her. Elizabeth hires Tessa to be her bodyguard, which would be a fine job if not for Elizabeth's lawyer, Charles Britton. Unbeknownst to Tessa, Charles was the reason why Tessa served extra years in prison, and Charles does not trust her...but he can't deny the attraction that he feels for her. Throw in Tessa's Uncle wanting her to work for him again, her mom, her sister and her new found faith, and...well, God only knows what could happen.
I'm not just saying this because Camy is one of my favorite authors, but really, Protection for Hire was such a fun book. This book is reminiscent of her Sushi series with all the wackiness and hijinks that the characters get into. But because Tessa had such a shady past and a heavy responsibility on her shoulders, there were more risks involved for Tessa. Tessa reminds me a bit of Venus, my favorite Sushi sister, but a bit more vulnerable especially since she's been trying to live her faith. Her vulnerability is what made Tessa so endearing, and I rooted for her from the start up to the end.
The other characters surrounding Tessa were a hoot, too. Camy's characters are one of my favorite things to read in her novels. They always feel so real, and I felt like I could easily be friends with them. In Protection for Hire, I loved Charles' family, especially his mom and his brother! Such a darling family, and I don't care if Charles' mom cooks all the random food. Plus, she was a breath of fresh air from Tessa's annoying (yet, well meaning...most of the time, anyway) mother. As always, there's the heroine's crazy family, which seemed to be a staple in Camy's stories. I thought Tessa's immediate family would be similar to the Sushi sisters' clans, but I was glad that it turned out to be different, and dare I say, more entertaining to read. The Japanese mafia aspect was very interesting too. It was the first time I've read about the yakuza, and while it wasn't really discussed in detail here, I liked the overall mafia/The Godfather-like feel that the story had.
Now, I wouldn't have liked this so much if the plot wasn't as good as the characters. There's lots of action, funny moments and yes, romance, in Protection for Hire, enough to keep me glued to the pages. There were moments of shock, too -- the good kind, the one that made me sigh and smile with delight when it happened. :) There was enough suspense in the story to have me guessing about what exactly were they up against. It almost came to a point where I was a bit overwhelmed with all the plot twists but in the end, I think it still paid off well. The wrap up at the end felt just a teensy bit rushed for me, but I guess it was still in character given Tessa's family.
Protection for Hire is a fun, action-packed and romantic book that will definitely satisfy those who crave for that kind of stuff. If you're wary of the faith aspect of the novel (being that it is a Christian novel), don't worry -- it's never preachy or in-your-face. If you've ever been one who has tried to move on and make up from past mistakes and yet still find yourself under a microscope and slapped with your mistakes on the face over and over again, then you will be able to relate to Tessa. Throw in the a cast of hilarious, gripping plot and good writing, and...well, you have yourself a really awesome book. :)...more
I wasn't sure what to expect with Save the Date by Jenny B. Jones because if I were to judge this book by its cover, iOriginal post at One More Page
I wasn't sure what to expect with Save the Date by Jenny B. Jones because if I were to judge this book by its cover, it didn't give me the chick lit vibe. It gave me a romance novel vibe, sure, but not really chick lit. Am I the only one getting that? I want chick lit, but I'm not entirely sure if I wanted a romance novel -- if you get what I mean. Nevertheless, I requested this from NetGalley because the blurb seemed interesting despite its familiarity, and I heard good stuff about the author on Twitter.
Maybe it's the leftover February air that made me start reading this, and once I started reading, I couldn't stop. Save the Date starts with Lucy Wiltshire dancing around her kitchen, preparing a meal for her boyfriend Matt, expecting a proposal coming very soon. However, she was crushed when Matt says he's choosing his job over her, and he had to move away, just as when Lucy can't leave her hometown because she was about to open her foster home for adolescent girls, Saving Grace.
Fast forward two years later, Lucy seems to be doing well, until life decided to throw her a curve ball: she loses funding for her foster home and she needs money, quick. Enter old schoolmate and rich boy Alex Sinclair who was running for Congress. A chance encounter between the two gave Alex a good image for the election, so he proposes to Lucy: they would pretend to be a couple and get engaged to boost Alex's image, and Lucy gets paid to be his fake fiancee, enough to fund Saving Grace for years to come. Left with no choice, Lucy says yes, praying that she wasn't making a mistake. As they play along with the lie, demons from the past surface and they find out that God's plans are higher than our plans and He can work His purpose even in our flimsy human plans.
I was pleasantly surprised by this book. This had the same vibe as A Billion Reasons Why but it has less of the Southern drawl and more of real and sympathetic characters. I liked Lucy from the start -- she's a darling, but she was far from a weakling. She's been toughened up by the hardships she experienced in her life and even if she suffers from a big inferiority complex, her heart is always in the right place. I admire her passion for the girls she's caring for and her fierce loyalty to what she believes in, even if sometimes it comes off as stubbornness. While I'm not much taken by Alex's described good looks and his charisma, I thought he was good for Lucy. He is far from perfect which I really appreciated, and I'm sure his faults and his growth in the story is something that other people have experienced. I liked how their relationship developed and how they saw each other in a better light despite the lie that they have built for their image. I lost count at how many times I sighed and wished that they'd realize that they were perfect for each other, and that one of them would make a move that would break the the pretend relationship they have so they could move into something real. Their banter was refreshing and witty, none of the gooey, over the top exchanges that didn't feel natural. I liked that even if it seemed like an outrageous story, everything in the story still felt real, like it could happen to anyone.
This modern-day Cinderella/The Princess Diaries-like story by Jenny B. Jones is definitely worth the read. I can't relate 100% with everything, but Save the Date shares important lessons on love, compassion, forgiveness and allowing God to work in our lives, and I think those concepts are pretty universal, anyway. While there's nothing really new in the premise, the characters, their voices and the author's humor shines through in the story, making this a very, very good read. :) I look forward to reading more of Jenny B. Jones' books....more