Five Miles South Of Peculiar

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Title: Five Miles South Of Peculiar
Author: Angela Hunt
Publisher: Howard Books
Published: June 5, 2012
Pages: 374

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Darlene Caldwell has spent a lifetime tending to Sycamores, the estate her family has been caring for for almost fifty years. Located five miles south of a tiny town called Peculiar, Darlene has found and married her husband as well as raised a family all on the spacious home that her grandfather left behind. And until her limelight stealing twin unexpectedly returns, she was the queen that reigned over her kingdom, Sycamores.

Carlene Caldwell’s life is thrown into disarray when an unsuccessful throat surgery has ruined her voice and her musical career as a Broadway performer. When she is invited back to Sycamores to celebrate her and her sister’s birthday she decides to take a break from big city life and regroup. Although her Broadway career is over, she believes she can use her knowledge and experience to fashion a new life in Peculiar, her childhood town she left behind. If only her sister seemed to want her here.

Magnolia Caldwell, called Nolie, is haunted by a tragic romance that ended long ago. The youngest of the Caldwell sisters, she’s never wanted to live anywhere but Sycamores. She spends her days tending to her gardens and dogs as well as making aprons for the whole town. When a man haunted by his own tragedy comes to Sycamores looking for work and somewhere to lick his wounds, Nolie is starting to see what she missed all those years ago. She now has to make a choice, deny her heart or cut the apron strings that tie her to a dear and familiar place.

Will Darlene and Carlene be able to bridge the gap that separated how close they used to be? Will Carlene end up staying in Peculiar or will he end up going back to the city that never sleeps? Will Nolie be able to embrace the future instead of holding onto the past?
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This author is very talented at what she does. She is incredible at family drama and conflict and makes the story completely realistic in the problems that face and trouble sisters as they grow up. Her take on sibling rivalry is also accurate, though extreme. With a sister of my own I read this book and just hoped that what tore apart Darlene and Carlene’s relationship wouldn’t happen to me and my sister. The author, despite not having this happen to her, was fantastic in her portrayal of sibling rivalry.

The author’s take on Nolie’s life might be a bit extreme and unrealistic in my opinion, however, I’ve never had a fianc├ę go off and elope with a different woman the night before our wedding and just skip town without saying a word to me. So, maybe the author’s portrayal is accurate just an extreme version of it. I do love Nolie’s character, though, her love for her family and her pets is overflowing and the love she puts into each handcrafted apron makes me jealous that she’s a fictional character and I will never be able to own a custom designed apron.

The romance isn’t a huge part of the book, but it’s a sweet one. The changes that occur to both Nolie and Erik is unbelievable, in a good way. It shows that love is sometimes that kick in the pants you need to get out of the rut you’re in. There isn’t a whole lot in the sense of affection in this book, at least until the very end. This romance is unique however and special in it’s own way.

Like I said before this author knows drama. The animosity between the twins is so palpable that it could be cut with a knife. The author was fantastic with it, though, because she correctly portrayed the jealousy and hurt that occurs when one sister is more talented than the other. Also, it’s easy to hold a grudge about things when you’re not close and never talk about it and the author shows that properly. My favorite part about this drama is that it’s not something completely insurmountable and unforgivable and the whole time you root for the sisters to finally vent all their frustrations and misgivings and move on.

Though this book is perfectly written and realistic, it’s not something that I normally pick or read. Though, this is the best one I’ve read of this genre, I still am not a huge fan of this type of book. This book probably isn’t the best book for someone who’s never anything by this author, aka me, but I will read more by this author because of the talent that was prevalent throughout the book.

Overall, a greatly written book just not my type of book. This book is perfect for someone who loves family dramas and probably older readers. I give this book a three out of five.

*I received this book from publisher in exchange for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.*

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The Director’s Cut

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Title: The Director’s Cut
Author: Janice Thompson
Series: Backstage Pass
Publisher: Revell
Pages: 304
Published: June 1, 2012

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Tia Morales is the director of a popular television sitcom, Stars Collide, and is used to being in charge. Her life on set is carefully ordered and calculated. At least most of the time. If only she could get the people in her life to behave as well as her stars do. Her life seems like a roller coaster and constant allergies, renovations, and drama make it harder to keep her life inside the studio the way she likes it, professional and tidy.

As she develops feelings for the cute cameraman, Jason Harris, the man she’s been butting heads with since she started her job at the sitcom, her life seems to spiral out of control and she feels totally out of her element. Not only is her life a mess, but so is her love life! Now she’s left wondering what happened to her perfectly ordered world and how she’s going to get it back.

Navigating life seems to be a little difficult for her, until Jason shows her how to relax and enjoy life. Not to mention let go of everything she can’t change. He seems like he genuinely wants to get to know her and have a relationship with her, but she’s uncertain whether he’ll feel that way after he gets to know some of the information she doesn’t like to talk about.

Will Tia ever learn to let go or will she cling so tightly to order and control that she pushes everyone she loves away? Will Jason still want to pursue her once he knows he past or will run for the hills? Will Tia finally get her life back in order or will she learn to roll with the punches known as life?
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This book is a different one. I’ve never read a book where the main character was a director before and it was a new and different experience that I enjoyed. I was able to learn something new about the Hollywood lifestyle and the entertainment business. It brought a bunch of new insight to how a Hollywood sitcom is made. It was neat to learn what it takes how it works to make a funny comedy. It truly brought the Writer’s past as a director out.

The romance wasn’t an overtly strong one, in fact it was a typical Christian genre romance. A few kisses are spattered throughout the book and a few tender moments are threw in for good measure, but from my point of view left much to be desired. However, the romance was blended perfectly into the storyline and it didn’t seem clunky at all showing the author’s skill at storytelling.

Descriptions weren’t really throughout the book, a factor I missed more than I thought I would. It failed to meet my needs to be visually stimulated just by her words. However, what she did describe was done well and created a perfect mental image to hold onto. The author’s book was filled with missed opportunities to describe the Hollywood area and the characters house, etc. Leaving me disappointed in the mix.

However, one of the high spots to this book was the author’s insight to the film and television industry and how much you’re able to learn about it. It solidifies just what exactly has to go into creating one of your favorite television shows or your favorite movie. It was wonderful and almost makes up for the lack of proper description. Almost. I give the author huge props for this part of the book.

Though this book was entertaining and a quick read. I wouldn’t say this was on my favorite list or that this was a good book to read again, but I would say that this is the perfect book for a weekend at home or a long plane flight. This is one of those books that you keep but never really read again.

Overall, this book was a quick enjoyable read, but not one for the keeper shelf. I recommend this for younger readers or for people interested in learning about the entertainment industry. I give this book a three out of five.

*I received this complimentary copy of this book from Revell in exchange for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.*

If your interested to hear more about the entertainment industry, join Janice Thompson as she blogs about her experiences as a director here: http://janiceathompson.com/blog/category/blog

Mary Magdalene

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Title: Mary Magdalene
Author: Diana Wallis Taylor
Publisher: Revell
Published: June 1, 2012
Pages: 304

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Long maligned as a prostitute or a woman of questionable reputation, Mary Magdalene’s story seems lost in the sands of time. Now a story of this enigmatic woman comes alive in a whole new way.

After one night dashes her hope of a future filled with learning, family, and young love, she tries to just make it day to day. Every day the nightmares, waking visions, and seizures get worse until she doesn’t even remember what her dreams for the future were. Her world seems like it will never seem right again. Now all she wants is for her terrors to finally stop so she can be a normal girl again.

Her seizures have ruined everything her reputation, marriage proposals, her life. Her nickname “Mad Mary” is filtered throughout the city and potential husbands run when she seizes. Except one. One says he’s willing to marry her despite it all, that they’ll work it out together, but she’s doubtful he knows what he’s getting into or that he’ll stay with her when he really sees what can happen.

Will he stay with her or will he put her away and take a new wife? Will her tormentors finally leave her or will she be called “Mad Mary” forever? Who will bring her peace from her torment if HaShem hasn’t? What will she do if and when she’s healed?
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This book was nothing like I expected. The author was imaginative and descriptive in her creation of this story. She took Mary Magdalene from a missing puzzle piece to a complete picture. Though, I don’t know how much of her story is accurate, I can definitely say that this is the way I could see her life going, and though I would have liked to tweak a few parts to the story, I give this author credit for creating such a realistic story.

Though, I’ve never read a book by this author that will change very quickly. This author loves Bible stories as much, if not more, than I do. Her passion for her work shows in every page of this book. Her knowledge of the timeline is obvious and well established and transports the reader to the time of Jesus Christ’s ministry.

Romance isn’t an integral part of the story, despite it’s advertisement of otherwise, but what little the romance is in it relaxes the story a little and lets the reader forget, even for just a few pages, of the ailments crippling Mary. Though the lack of romance was a little disappointing, I wouldn’t say by any means that it made or broke the story.

One of my favorite parts about this book was the vividness of it all. The ailments plaguing Mary an the emotions of her and her family during that time are described in vivid detail as well as the environment and the ministry of Jesus. The author stuck to the story until the very end and vividly described it all along the way. Her descriptions are the thing that really made this book.

The story was strong and well planned leading the reader through a story that some know well, others not at all. I believe that no matter you opinion of Mary Magdalene, whether you believe that she was just a normal girl with seven demons or a prostitute, I believe you can enjoy this story. Her storytelling is impeccable and expands the little that was known about Mary Magdalene. I absolutely can’t wait to read more by this author.

Overall, a fantastic story that sheds some light on who Mary Magdalene might’ve been. It’s perfect for someone who likes fiction Bible stories and/or someone who wants to read a story that is about the mysterious biblical woman. I give this book a solid four out of five.

*I received this complimentary copy of this book in exchange for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.*

Waiting For Sunrise

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Title: Waiting For Sunrise
Author: Eva Marie Everson
Series: Cedar Key
Publisher: Revell
Published: June 1, 2012
Pages: 400

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For years Patsy Milstrap has been plagued by her past. A past she had hoped to leave as just that, her past. As she tries to put up a brave front for her family, her wounds and scars from her childhood still sting. At her husband’s gentle insistence, they take a week long vacation Cedar Key, an idyllic island on Florida’s Gulf Coast. According to him, a week in paradise will do them both good.

Bobby Liddle has spent most of his life watching his mother and brother get beat and whipped by his father. He’s also spent years wondering why his mother sent away his big sister and where she was. As Bobby traverses a part of life known as being a teenager, he deals with his dysfunctional family and the fact that he loves his best friend, whose father won’t allow her to date.

After years of pain and sorrow for Bobby, he finds God and the slow healing process begins. Unfortunately, things for Patsy aren’t so smooth sailing, with resentment and hurt clouding her past, she can’t seem to find the healing she so desperately needs, driving her husband to some drastic measures. Hopefully, those measures will finally allow for her past to be her past.

What does her husband plan for her? Can his plans begin the healing process or push her farther into her pain and despair? Will Bobby and Patsy finally get some of their questions answered or will they spend their whole lives just wondering?
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This book isn’t normally a book that I would pick or read, so I wasn’t expecting to like this book very much. Thankfully, I surprised myself. This book surprised me with it’s in depth characters and story plot, as well as its tear jerking scenes throughout the story. And when I say tear jerking, I mean it. This book had me holding back tears for a good portion of the book, which- I should mention- never happens to me. In my opinion this puts this book into a whole new category and makes me definitely want to read more from this author.

Tears weren’t the only thing squeezed from my body. The book made me smile at the statements only kids can bring as well as the tender moments throughout the book. This book definitely sent me on a glorious emotional roller coaster that made me want to jump on for another ride. Never before have I loved the sensation of feeling every emotion the characters felt. Leaving an irreplaceable mark on my heart and mind.

The plot is a solid one that leads you through the lives of two kids and the choices that shaped their lives. The author has a gift for making realistic characters from that plot. This author’s plot and characters have made me believe that a book can truly make you feel as the characters feel. I never thought it was possible before. If this is how this author writes sign me up for every one of her books.

The romance, what little of it there was, was sweet and quick. I liked the uniqueness of the romances and one of the father’s rules for the relationship. They were hard to follow but I loved the way it was kind of a test too. If they messed up, they weren’t right for each other. The romances also fit into the generations that they took place. The romances weren’t a huge part of the story so it wasn’t too important for it to be anything but sweet romances.

The best part of this book, believe it or not, isn’t the romance or the drama, it’s what comes after the romance and during the drama, a marriage stronger than ever before. This book shows heavily what true love looks like. It shows what a marriage through sickness and through health looks like, something I’m not used to and sorely missed seeing. It gave me hope that a marriage can survive everything with a love and passion for each other and, more importantly, God. Despite the ending, which I won’t tell you, I was smiling at the end because of the rightness of it. I can’t believe how much I loved this book.

I have no problems with this book. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves a drama and an extremely emotional and well written book. I can’t give this book anything but a five out of five.

I received this complimentary copy of this book specifically for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

The Best Friend

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Title: The Best Friend
Author: Melody Carlson
Series: Life at Kingston High
Publisher: Revell
Pages: 224
Released: June 1, 2012

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Lishia Vance went from having friends to totally abandoned. There’s no explanation, just complete and utter social isolation. All after that new girl Chelsea cam to town. The worst part, even her best friend Janelle isn’t giving her the time of day. Lishia is now completely lost and lonely. She is baffled that she now has to find a new friend to hang out with.

When she reconnects with Riley Atkins, it seems like she may have a new best friend, but after all her ex-friends were put through by Riley she wonder if Riley is really as good of a friend as she seems. Her desperation for a friend and to possibly make the cheer squad again have her completely ignoring her conscience and her faith. Not to mention making her do things she wouldn’t normally to stay on her “best friend’s” good side.

After her antics make her in too deep to get out unscathed she has to make the hardest decision of her life. Lose her only friend and do the right thing, or continue down the path she’s on and potentially lose her soul. With Riley pushing her and pushing her she can only last so long before her conscience leads her, but she’s scared of what will happen to her if she tells.

Will she end up doing the right thing or will she be too scared to tell all? If she does tell what will Riley do, leave her alone or enact revenge? Not mention how will her friends and family feel about her if she tells? Why does high school have to be so complicated?
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I’m a huge fan of Melody Carlson, have been since I started reading in the young adult genre, and again she didn’t disappoint my expectation of a realistic teen book that makes a teen think. I found this book to actually be better than the first in this series as far as making a girl think or convicting her. I loved it!

Melody Carlson is known for her incredible view into the teen brain and she does a fantastic job, even after all these years. The thing that I love most about her books is that she brings current teen interests into her books as well as spiritual learning that is subtle enough to make anyone enjoy it, but “out there” enough for someone to know what they’re learning. I also love how she give each book a theme, this one happened to be confession.

The conflict Lishia feels throughout the book is something pretty much anyone who’s gone to school ever has experienced in varying degrees. Because of that, It made the story even more realistic and believable. It makes you feel for the character and it drags you along for all the drama- not that you’re complaining. This book is added to the long line of proof that shows that this author can think just like a teen. It constantly amazes me.

Unlike a lot of her books- or at least the ones I’ve read- there’s no real romance in this one. There a small section of dating but it’s insignificant to the story and is only there for about two small chapters. It was a refreshing change to have a teen book with no real relationship between the lead and someone else. It showed a whole new side of teen dating. That it doesn’t need to happen. It was nice to see a teen book that didn’t put too much stock in it.

This book hasn’t stopped my love of Melody Carlson’s books, in fact, I think it increased it. In my mind, she’s the queen of teen fiction and, until someone can dethrone her, she’ll always be my favorite and set the bar for all other young adult novels out there. Not to mention she’s doing this to help guide girls in their faith. What’s better than that? Do guys have an author like this? If not they need one. I hope someday I can sit here and be reviewing an incredible teen fiction author for guys. If anyone knows of one, if they’re out there, please let me know. Who knows I might just get a peek at how guys think.

Overall, another incredible book from this well known teen author. I highly recommend this for any teen of high school age. I also recommend any of her young adult novels. They’re just that amazing. I give this book a four out of five.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Flame Of Resistance

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Title: Flame of Resistance
Author: Tracy Groot
Publisher: Tyndale House
Released: May 18, 2012
Pages: 416

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Brigitte Durand has had much stolen from her by the Nazi occupation. She lost her family and her freedom. She even lost her hope for a future when she had to turn her home into a Germans-only brothel to survive. All she has to cling to is her patriotism, and she does that by sneaking food to the French Resistance and the downed airmen they’re hiding nearby.

When Tom Jaeger’s plane is shot down by Normandy, he’s picked up by the Resistance. The Resistance convinces him to become a linchpin in their plan to leverage Brigitte’s sympathy. Because he looks do much like a German, they dress him up as a German officer so he can smuggle out critical intel she acquires from other soldiers about the nearby bridge, whose capture and defense is crucial to Allied forces.

As D-Day looms, everybody knows the invasion is imminent. But so is treachery. Loyalties become betrayed and the life of one American pilot jeopardizes everything involving the Resistance. He becomes more important than the mission to a man who cannot bear to lose another agent, and to a woman who finally has hope for a future, for a future where she isn’t a prostitute, who finally realizes her courage could change the course of history.

Will Brigitte and Tom be able to be able to be together or will the war tear them apart? Will Tom survive the war or will what he’s doing come back and bite him? Will the Resistance make it through the war or will it crumble, from one mistake, before D-Day?
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One of my favorite eras to read is WWII. So far, I’ve never been disappointed with one and this book doesn’t change that at all. In fact, this book raises the bar of quality. This book was exactly what I wanted in a World War era book, I just didn’t know it. The author truly has a gift for writing and for keeping a reader hooked by her story. I just hope that this author revisits this era and let’s me enjoy her storytelling once again.

The book focuses more on the history and the acts of the Resistance than the romance of Brigitte and Tom. Which I loved. Normally a romance like the one that this author crafted, wouldn’t normally make much sense, but due to the circumstances the characters went through, a few talks and a kiss seem like it’s enough for romance to bloom. It’s hard to describe just how much this author succeeded at creating this book.

The drama and suspense that is mixed into this book really drew me in from the first page and the author did a fantastic job of making this book a realistic and enjoyable one. The fact that this book was so well written made me definitely want to read more by this author. I can’t wait to see what she does with contemporary novel.

This book is one of the best books I’ve ever read. I certainly didn’t expect that from this book. I had a feeling it was going to be good I just didn’t know how good it was going to be. Tracy Groot took this genre to a whole new level. I can’t wait to see if this author or other authors will top this. This book reestablished my hope in truly fantastic books and truly fantastic authors.

Overall, I loved this book. It was one of the best books ever. I recommend this for any history buff or anyone who loves the WWII era. I give this book a five out of five.

I received this complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.