Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Cinders and Sapphires by Leila Rasheed

Hyperion Book CH (January 22, 2013) pages

My Rating: 3.5/5 stars

My Thoughts:

I don't think you can hear about this book without hearing the whole "Gossip Girl Meets Downtown Abbey" comparison. While I haven't watched either show, the "Gossip Girl" part was almost enough to keep me away, but the "Downtown Abbey" part intrigued me enough to give it a chance. I generally adore books with the rich/poor theme. While I read a great deal of Christian historical fiction, I rarely venture into the secular YA historical world. This book was actually very similar, except with a *bit* more scandal than I typically encounter in Christian fiction, and of course, there wasn't the Christian aspect.

At first, I was a little overwhelmed. There are a great deal of characters introduced pretty quickly, and I was a little confused with some of them initially. I'd say the main characters are Lady Ada and Rose. We are let in on a secret between the two of them early in the story, but they remain in the dark. Lady Ada loses her virginity to a stranger(in the prologue)on her way home from India. She is left sorting through her feelings throughout the story as this boy re-enters her life upon arriving home. She soon meets her father's new wife, along her children, discovering that it's not possible to please everyone. Rose dreams of being a composer, but doesn't want to "put on airs". She is only a servant girl, after all. She soon becomes Lady Ada's ladies' maid, and enters a whole new world of living.

There's so much to like AND dislike about this book! Besides the huge amount of characters that are introduced in a small amount of time, there also the odd writing arrangement. I did read an e-ARC, so I don't know if it's different in the final copy, but one paragraph will be about one character and conversation. No warning, the next paragraph is a completely different conversation! I found myself confused often due to this, and did a good bit of re-reading in an attempt to figure out who I was reading about. I also found it a little slow at times.

I did enjoy the upstairs/downstairs storyline, though! It's always fun to get a good look at both sides. I hate to admit how long it took me to "get" the title. Despite my complaints above, I DO enjoy the author's writing style(for the most part), and I'm looking forward to seeing what she pens in the future.

Content: There is some mild profanity....Da** and Bas****. God's name is used in vain...Good G**, My G**, etc. There is a few homosexual characters that may bother some of you. As I mentioned earlier, one character does lose her virginity early on. There are no details! Despite some scandalous activities, everything is written pretty tastefully, in my opinion.

*I was provided an e-ARC through Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Fire Horse Girl by Kay Honeyman

Arthur A. Levine Books (January 1, 2013) 336 pages

My Rating: 4/5 stars

My Thoughts:

I'm not the best at reading descriptions before I pick up a book. I judged this one based on its cover, which isn't unusual for me, sadly! I thought it looked like a fun, contemporary story and decided to give it a shot. Plus, it's a goal of mine to read more "cultural" books, especially those with covers that haven't been "whitewashed". Apparently, those books have a harder time making it these days, so it's important to show some support!

This ended up not being a fun, contemporary story, but I still enjoyed it. "Enjoy" probably isn't the best word to describe my reading experience with this book, though. The Fire Horse Girl takes place in the 1920s. It details the journey of a Chinese family to America, paying close attention to Jade Moon...aka "The Fire horse Girl". It was amazing to see the mistreatment of the Chinese from both their fellow Chinese to Americans and other immigrants from different countries. They were treated like scum, to say the least. I appreciated the way the author handled the tough topics, like prostitution, "tongs"(Chinese mobs) and other general mistreatment. There were never great details, but I still got a good look at just how heartbreaking their situation was. She handled it in a way that I think this is a great book for even younger readers.

Jade Moon lives in a time and place where women are to be quiet and keep their eyes lowered. Since Jade Moon is a "Fire Horse" girl(the worst kind of girl there is, according to Chinese tradition), she finds these restrictions difficult. She prefers to let her opinions be known, and bad luck supposedly follows close on her heels. She's almost 17, which means she should have already been married, which is not something she wants considering her prospects. She's determined that if she can only get to America, her problems will be solved.

Due to the cover, I don't think it should come as a surprise that Jade Moon disguises herself as a boy at one point. Even though this part doesn't come until halfway or more through the story, I still don't feel like I'm giving any spoilers. Again, because of the cover. I will keep quiet about how and why, though. Girls who disguise themselves as boys(in order to survive...not simply for fun) are some of my favorite story plots! I really enjoyed this part of the book, and liked getting to see the relationships she was able to form during her time in disguise.

I'm also a fan of fairy tales, so I really enjoyed hearing some of the Chinese fairy tales that were included in the book. There was close attention paid to "The Weaver Girl" story. I'm assuming this story was a traditional Chinese story, as opposed to the author's imagination, but I still enjoyed it either way.

Overall, The Fire Horse Girl is a great peek into the world of Chinese immigrants during the 1920s, and I don't hesitate to recommend it, even for young readers.

Content: There's no profanity. There is some violence, but as I mentioned above, the author doesn't go into great detail. There's fighting, guns, mention of prostitution/brothels, poking/prodding/nudity during "check-ups" to get into America, etc.

*I was provided an e-ARC through Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Candle Bible for Kids: Toddler Edition by Juliet David

Candle Books; Toddler edition (November 1, 2012) 160 pages

My Thoughts:

The stories in Candle Bible for Kids Toddler Edition are VERY simplified. At times, they were too simplified for my tastes. Firefly is one(two in April). His attention span is not that great right now. He's having a hard time focusing very long at all while I read. So, in his case, this is a great pick for him(with maybe a few added details from me to some of the stories). For Grasshopper(delayed four), though, this is way too simple of a Bible storybook.

As I mentioned in a review earlier this week, I never realized how much time had passed by the time the wise men found Jesus. (Yes, I realize that is most likely common knowledge to most, but it was new to me) ;) I think most books portray Jesus still in the stables, though. This book actually portrays Jesus as an older child when the wise men come to him. I like that!

Each of the stories vary in page length. Some are much longer than others. For example, while some of them are only a few pages long, the first one on The Creation is 8 pages. I actually used that story in teaching Grasshopper about The Creation. The pictures were particularly great in it, and Grasshopper seemed to learn better with them. He even picked up a few new words, so we were pleased with that.

Overall, the pictures are very appealing to little ones(at least mine), but I do wish there was a bit more meat to the stories.

*I was provided a review copy through Kregel in exchange for my honest opinion.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

30 Days in the Land With Jesus by Charles Dyer

Moody Publishers (March 21, 2012) 256 pages

Description(from Amazon):

What encouragement we receive when the truth of the Bible meets us where we are--just imagine how much more eye-opening it is when we encounter the Bible where it was written! Thirty Days in the Land with Jesus, takes the reader on a spiritual journey through the Holy Word and the Holy Land, guided by renowned expert and author Dr. Charles Dyer. Complemented by vivid, full-color photography, each day draws new insight and inspiration from the ancient sites that framed the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ. Your understanding of the person, work, and words of Jesus Christ takes on an added dimension with this day by day exploration of the world in which He walked.

My Thoughts:

I apologize for just how late this review is! I had it in a stack of books months ago that needed to be reviewed. I thought that I had got them all, but when my boys knocked off that stack(shows how long it's been since I cleaned off my desk!), I had a moment of panic as I realized that I hadn't reviewed this one yet. Since, I've simply let time get away with me. Again, I'm sorry for my delay.

Thirty Days in the Land with Jesus: A Holy Land Devotional is a short devotional book that gives you a bit of background information about the different moments of Jesus' life through the Bible. I loved that it also points things out that might otherwise be looked over. For instance, I already knew that the Bible never says how many wise men there were that visited baby Jesus. It could have been 2 or 3 or even 5. We don't know.(For the record, I DO tend to lean toward there being 3. When teaching my little ones about the wise men, we do have to have a number when activities or displays are involved.) I also already knew that it wasn't immediate that the wise men showed up. There was some time in between Jesus' birth and the visit. One little factor that I've always overlooked, though, is the fact that Jesus and his family were in a *house" when the wise men came. They were no longer in the stables!

Matthew 2:11(NKJV)

"And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary his mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh."

Isn't it always exciting when you are taught or discover some little detail of the Bible that you've never noticed before?! :D There's lots of little information throughout the book that you might not have noticed or known before.

When I first got the devotional, I flipped through, and I have to admit that I was a little disappointed in the pictures. They were a little plainer than I was hoping for. As I read, though, I gained a better appreciation for them. They fit in with the devotionals and they gave me a better picture of what items or places looked like.

Overall, while it's relatively short, it is packed with lots of information, and I enjoyed it.

*Thanks to the publisher for my review copy in exchange for my honest opinion!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Spiritual Simplicity: Doing Less, Loving More by Chip Ingram

Howard Books (January 8, 2013) 194 pages

My Rating: 4/4 stars

My Thoughts:

While I don't have a new resolution this year for simplicity, I am continuing on that journey from last year. When I saw Spiritual Simplicity, I targeted in on the word "simplicity" and decided it could help with that goal. When I first stared reading it, I was afraid I'd made a mistake. I NEED to do more spiritually! I've allowed my little ones to give me an excuse for too long, and I freely admit that I need to reach out to others and to God more. I was afraid I wouldn't get anything out of it at this point in my life. Thankfully, since this was a review book, I kept reading.

Spiritual Simplicity is a book about LOVE. Each chapter revolves around different types of love. Each chapter also starts out describing how a song title fits in with that particular chapter. For example, Elvis Presley's "Love Me Tender" and The Beatles' "All You Need is Love". If you're like me(very conservative), knowing that doesn't exactly make you want to run grab a copy. It was a cute addition, though.

Despite my worries that I wouldn't get anything out of this reading, I did. There was a great deal of issues addressed I needed to hear about.

"Until we really understand that we're purposefully unique-fearfully and wonderfully made-we'll have a tendency to compare ourselves with others. And the results of comparing are never good. It always leads to carnality. The moment we compare our own gifts or positions with someone else, sinful thoughts are produced: our singleness in light of their marriage, our income in light of theirs, our usefulness in God's kingdom in light of their fruitfulness. Either we see ourselves as inferior, in which case we become envious, or we see ourselves as superior, in which case we become arrogant." (page 59)

"So when we have a deep need and other believers step up to meet that need, we aren't just experiencing their generosity; we're experiencing God's tangible touch through them. When we're in pain and another Christian comes alongside us to encourage and comfort, we aren't just benefiting from their compassion; we're encountering God's compassion through them. We are commanded to meet each other's needs, bear each others burdens, speak words of encouragement and kindness to each other, and build each other up." (page 148)

Overall, this was a beneficial read for me. It taught me to cut out those things that don't involve love, and focus more on the "love" activities.

*I was provided a review copy through Howard books in exchange for my honest opinion.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Poison by Bridget Zinn

Hyperion Book CH (March 12, 2013) 288 pages

My Rating: 4/5 stars

My Thoughts:

Kyra is a master with potions, even extremely lethal ones. She's on the run after attempting to kill the princess, who was also her friend, with a poisoned needle. She's still trying to digest her one and only "miss", but she's determined to find the princess in order to hit her target this time. Her former friends and ex-fiancee are now her enemies as they attempt to capture her. While crossing a river with a pig on her head, she meets a new friend. Fred is a goofy, yet handsome boy, and Kyra struggles to keep him out of her thoughts, and maybe even her heart. Throw in a few goblins and witches, and the adventure really begins.

It was fun to see little mysteries unraveling as the story progressed. Lots of secrets hide in the pages of Poison, and I loved being surprised as I learned what they were. Poison is a fairy tale at its sweetest. The precious little pig, named Rosie, was probably my favorite part of the story! You did notice the little pig peeking out of the ferns on the cover, didn't you?! She almost makes me want a little piglet of my own. Almost! ;)

Kyra is a tomboyish young lady, who would rather wear black than anything else. I found myself liking her immediately, despite the fact that she was on the run from an attempted murder. As the story unfolded, I liked her more and more. She has many layers that start showing as the story progresses. And, Fred! The author did such an amazing job of creating a handsome, appealing young man, despite his very goofy tendencies. He was a sweetheart, to say the least!

Overall, I greatly enjoyed my time in this adventure. I think it's a perfect fairy tale for both the young and old!

Content: Da** was used a couple of times, and I think I recall he** being used once. (I did read an e-ARC, so those words may or may not have ended up in the final copy). Violence was extremely mild. The author was very creative in assuring that nobody actually died in any of the fights. Very sweet, mild kissing is as far as anything goes in that nature.

*I was provided an e-ARC from Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Reading Challenges for 2013: Part 2

Classic Double Challenge 2013 @ One Librarian's Book Reviews

Fairy tales/re-tellings are pretty much my favorite types of books, so I want to do better at reading the originals. I DO hope to actually get in a few actual Classic book sets to compare, too! NOT counting the fairy tale sets, I'm going for "Medium"(read 4 books-2 sets). I have serious hope that this year will be the one I finally read a Jane Austen book, and it will be pretty easy to find a re-telling I find interesting for her books.

Melissa has a couple of AMAZING lists put together full of classic books with re-tellings of some sort.

The Classic List

The Fairy Tale List

I've also mentioned how much I love Surlalune Fairy Tales. They have "original"(I've learned there's apparently lots of various original versions) fairy tales with annotations and all the re-tellings for that particular story.

Contentment Reading Challenge @ Seasons of Humility

There are several books on my shelf that I want/need to re-read. I'm going to go for "Floating" and attempt to re-read at least 5 books on my shelves. I participated in this challenge in 2011 and did so awful that I didn't participate last year. I have better hopes this time around!

Among them:

Entwined by Heather Dixon- I recently got to add a beautiful hardcover of this book to my shelves, and I can't wait to re-read it.
East by Edith Pattou
She's Got Issues by Nicole Unice
At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon
and many, many more that I've read and loved!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Reading Challenges for 2013: Part 1

L. M. Montgomery Reading Challenge

Lucy Maud Montgomery Challenge @ Reading to Know

This one is actually already going on, so make sure you check out all the fun posts this month over there!

I haven't decided what I'm going to read just yet. I really want to read The Blue Castle, but it's not free on Kindle right now(already spoiled aren't I?)

I'll probably go for reading either The Golden Road or The Story Girl(maybe both). As much as I loved finally reading about Anne last year, I already (halfway) know what happens in the first 3/4(?) books and I want to read something that is a complete surprise for me this time around.

Reading to Know - Book Club

Reading to Know Bookclub 2013

I "participated" last year and did quite horrible, but there's several on here I'd like to give a try this time around.

Here's the line-up this year(taken from Carrie's post):

January - (Children's) Any title of your choosing by L.M. Montgomery in conjunction with the L.M. Montgomery Reading Challenge which is also hosted at Reading to Know.

February - (Adult) The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Selected by Shonya at Learning How Much I Don't Know.

March - (Children's) Any title of your choosing by Maud Hart Lovelace. Selected by Annette at This Simple Home.

April - (Adult) No Name, by Wilkie Collins. Selected by Tim at Diary of an Autodidact.

May - (Children's) Island of the Blue Dolphins, by Scott O'Dell. Selected by Amy at Hope is the Word.

June - (Adult) Through Gates of Splendor, by Elizabeth Elliot (missionary classic). Selected by Barbara at Stray Thoughts.

July - (Children's) The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame, by Stephanie at Simple Things.

August - (Adult) - Daniel Deronda, by George Eliot, by Heather at Do Not Let This Universe Forget You.

September - (Children's) The Jungle Book, by Rudyard Kipling. Selected by Sky at Circus Caravan of My Thoughts on Things.

October - (Adult) The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde. Selected by Rebekah at Bekahcubed.

November - (Children's) Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott. Selected by Cassandra at Adventist Homemaker.

December - (Adult) A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens. Selected by Jonathan (Carrie's husband).