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Friday, August 7

Until I Fall Away (Gin Blossoms)

I love sitting outside in the crisp autumn air with a new book in my hands!  Here are some fabulous new books for you to explore this fall!  I'm going to kick off the list with my favorite from the batch!  ....and remember, I don't mince words.  If I like it, I'll tell you.  And if I don't, I'll be forward, too.  But just because something wasn't my cup of tea doesn't mean that you might not like it!

Fiction

Secrets She Kept - Cathy Gohlke
All her life, Hannah Sterling longed for a close relationship with her estranged mother. Following Lieselotte’s death, Hannah determines to unlock the secrets of her mother’s mysterious past and is shocked to discover a grandfather living in Germany.  Thirty years earlier, Lieselotte’s father is quickly ascending the ranks of the Nazi party, and a proper marriage for his daughter could help advance his career. Lieselotte is in love—but her beloved Lukas is far from an ideal match, as he secretly works against the Reich. Yet Lieselotte never imagined how far her father would go to ensure her cooperation.  Both Hannah’s and Lieselotte’s stories unfold as Hannah travels to Germany to meet her grandfather, who is hiding wartimes secrets of his own. Longing for connection, yet shaken by all she uncovers, Hannah must decide if she can atone for her family’s tragic past and how their legacy will shape her future.

Thoughts :
Loved it, loved it, loved it!  The book switches back and forth between generations, which can be a little confusing at times, but it becomes easier as each of the characters' 'voices' appears.  There are many twists and turns along the dark journey through WWII, as well as sinister leftovers in post-war Germany.  It's a fresh perspective on an old subject, as we visit Germany in the thirty years post-war.  One of the characters scared the bejeezus out of me....he'll make you look over your shoulder for days.

Until We Meet Again - Renee Collins
The Time Traveler's Wife for Teens!!
Country clubs and garden parties. The last thing Cassandra wants is to spend the summer before her senior year marooned in a snooty Massachusetts shore town. Cass craves drama and adventure, which is hard when she just feels stuck.  But when a dreamy stranger shows up on her family’s private beach, claiming that it is his property—and that the year is 1925—Cass is swept into a mystery a hundred years in the making. As she searches for answers in the present, Cass discovers a truth that thrusts Lawrence’s life into jeopardy. It won’t matter which century he is from if he won’t live to see tomorrow.

Thoughts :
Although it took a couple of chapters to get into this book, I'm really glad that I stuck it out.  Once the ball gets rolling, it's a journey of highs and lows spanning a century.  If you're a teen, you'll relate perfectly to the main characters.  If you're older, there are times that you'll feel seventeen again, experiencing the intense emotional dramas as they unfold.  And you won't see the very end coming...not by a mile.

Noah’s Voyage tells the story of a brave and faithful hero of the Old Testament. Written in the I Can Read level two standards, with age-appropriate vocabulary and concepts, young readers read about Noah, a simple man with great faith and trust in God. When God asks Noah to follow his directions, build an ark, and put two of every animal on it, Noah and his family do what they are asked, knowing God would not steer them wrong.

Thoughts :
My little one loved reading this book with me! We have read it several times before bed and have also brought it to church as one of our “sunday quiet books” to read.
The words are big enough for smaller readers with pictures on every page, which kept my son's interest. I am so glad that they make reader books from the scriptures! It makes it easier for children to read Bible stories, and for them to understand at their level.

In The Crimson Path of Honor, bestselling author of The Indian Path Series, M.B. Tosi, has penned a historical novel filled to the brim with high emotion, irresistible wit and authentic realism. In this, the third book in her beloved series, the Civil War is over, and a violent period known as the Indian Wars is erupting. Ignoring the danger, a feisty young woman from Boston rebels against her tyrannical father’s plans to marry her off to a family friend and seizes an opportunity to go west to teach. On the way to the Oregon Territory, her stagecoach is attacked, and she is captured by a marauding band of Lakota (Sioux) Indians who call the Rocky Mountains home. Accepting her perilous situation, the young woman courageously confronts the daily hardships inherent in early Native American life, but will her growing feelings for her captors begin to outweigh her allegiance to her past life?
This book has some violence relating to the Indian Wars in the 1860s.

Thoughts :
Ms. Tosi is undoubtedly a greater expert on Native American culture than I, however, I found myself utterly unable to believe the characters that she presented. I suppose I always put myself in the shoes of the protagonist and as Luci Garling was dragged away by a savage man in war paint and carrying fresh scalps, I imagined both terror and anger; I imagined fighting for my life and taking any chance to escape. I think I would have been telling myself it would be better to go the way of my traveling companions whose scalps this man now carried than to be dragged into his village as a captive.  As the story progresses, however, you see Luci (later referred to as "Morning Star") begin to grow, and there is a strength in her that can be considered admirable. The way she goes through so much grief , yet repeatedly bounces back, shows that she is not a weak heroine. She isn't perfect, but you can see effort on her part to walk a path of honor (though, she doesn't always choose the right path). The story starts out with a girl, but by the last of the book she can be described as a woman. The author also writes with such descriptive flourish that she was able to transport me to where I could see the Indian village.

I Hope You Dance - Robin Lee Hatcher
Grant Nichols is a genius in the kitchen and a klutz on the dance floor. But his friend’s wedding is shaping up to be a shindig the likes of which Kings Meadow has never seen—including dancing. Lots of dancing. Then he learns that a local dance teacher, Skye Foster, is offering dance lessons for the wedding party. The first lesson is free, so what does he have to lose?  A former rodeo queen, Skye Foster teaches children ballet and tap during the day, but with the popularity of ballroom dancing and her own love of Country Swing, she’s been teaching adults in the evenings.  Grant and Skye are no match on paper. But when they step onto the dance floor, they create a melody all their own.

Thoughts :
I love clean romance books, the ones that are actually romantic. So no, I never caught on to Fifty Shades or Twilight, but preferred the novels that are not quite romance books but have more substance to them. I Hope You Dance–well, it is certainly the former, as it is a very clean romance (being a Christian novel), but the latter? Not so much. I Hope You Dance is just about Skye and Grant and how they fell in love. Their romance “blossomed” in just a matter of days (I believe the book said they met for a few weeks… but it was only days after the first kiss that Grant proposed…). I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at multiple scenes in the book. It wasn’t just the fact that the entire plot was clich├ęd, but there was a lack of something else.  There was no backstory, no history for any character besides the obvious familial background. I didn’t feel connected at all to the characters, I couldn’t root for them, and honestly, I found the pair to be even a bit ridiculous.  If you're wanting a quick, fun read without substance....this book is the way to go!

Drawing Fire - Janice Cantore
One case from her past defines homicide detective Abby Hart.
With a possible serial killer stalking elderly women in Long Beach, California, Abby’s best lead is Luke Murphy, an irritating private investigator who saw a suspect flee the scene of the latest homicide. When Abby discovers that the most recent victim is related to the governor, she’s anxious to talk to him about a cold case that’s personal to her―one Luke is interested in as well.  As she learns more about the restaurant fire that took her parents’ lives years ago, Abby discovers why Luke is so invested in finding the ones responsible. The more they uncover, though, the more questions they have. Can Abby find peace without having all the answers?

Thoughts :
In the same vein as The Mentalist, we're running through CA chasing bad guys, only to find..........nope, not going to spoil it! ;) The book is well-written, action-packed, and clean. Mrs Cantore is knowledgeable and entertaining, while keeping you up until 3am wanting to know what happens next. It is the first in a series, so look for more mystery and adventure from this author!

Second Street Station - Lawrence Levy
Mary Handley is a not your typical late-nineteenth century lady. She's fiery, clever, daring—and she’s not about to conform to the gender norms of the day. Not long after being fired from her job at the hat factory for insubordinate behavior, Mary finds herself at the murder scene of Charles Goodrich, the brother of a prominent alderman and former bookkeeper of Thomas Edison. When Mary proves her acumen as a sleuth, she is hired by the Brooklyn police department—as the city’s first female policewoman—to solve the crime. The top brass of the department expect her to fail, but Mary has other plans. As she delves into the mystery, she finds herself questioning the likes of J. P. Morgan, Thomas Edison, and Nikola Tesla. Mary soon discovers the key to solving the case goes well beyond finding a murderer and depends on her ability to unearth the machinations of the city’s most prominent and respected public figures, men who will go to great lengths to protect their secrets.

Thoughts :
I am a Maisie Dobbs fan - the series has roped me in, and even if I sometimes think it has gone off the rails a little bit, I still reach for the next book in the series. But the Mary Handley books will not be the same. While I enjoyed the story to a degree, I mostly just finished it because I felt like I should.  Despite having a list of amazing figures in history like Tesla, Thomas Edison, Goodrich, Earhart, and more, this novel was pretty bad. The characters are flat, two dimensional caricatures rather than real people. For the most part the book was rather boring and unbelievable. So much could have been done to make this into a great book. All the elements are there, but the author failed miserably in creating characters I could care about...I can't believe there is a second book coming from this author. I doubt I will check it out.


On a Ring and a Prayer - Sandra D. Bricker
Twelve years of marriage, 4,000 square feet of dream house,
and a handsome husband. Jessie Stanton has it all... until one fateful afternoon when she notices her BMW bouncing by the window behind a tow truck. Her husband has gone, and he's taken it all. The whirling tornado that cuts down the life she's built drops Jessie onto the sandy beach of Malibu with a thud, penniless and alone. When all she's left with are the designer labels in her closet and the dreamy Neil Lane rock on her finger, Jessie tries to make ends meet by pawning her prized ring to fund a new business venture: a small shop where her designer duds and shimmering accessories are temporarily leased out to Southern California women with champagne tastes but root beer realities. As Jessie tries to rebuild, she realizes she can't move on, not without answers. Reluctantly, Jessie turns to beach bum/private investigator Danny Callahan for help. But is she staking her future success and happiness...on a ring and a prayer?

Thoughts :
At the beginning of the book, Jessie's husband has left her with absolutely nothing in Malibu. She owns the clothes on her back and the jewelry she wears, and these are the only resources she has to create a new life for herself. With the help of her friend, Piper, and her new PI, Danny, she deftly navigates the surprises that continue to pop up and create havoc.
Each chapter ends with a flashback from Jessie's Grampy, and gives us insight into her past. Grampy is always praying for Jessie's life to be better, and these flashbacks help to preview where she's headed.
The dialogue is realistic and hilarious. Danny, the PI, shares many characteristics with Jessie's beloved Grampy, especially his faith. ...and the end of the book throws a fantastic curve ball!
This is the first in a trilogy of Jessie Stanton novels, and you'll be pre-ordering book two as soon as you finish this one! 

Non-Fiction

Most families are riding the wave of high-tech gadgets, rarely considering its negative consequences: increased stress, “connected isolation,” loneliness, bad habits and behaviors, and dangerous addictions. Managing Your Family's High-Tech Habits helps you sort through the promise and the pitfalls of virtual living, showing you how to navigate social media choices and set healthy boundaries. Various chapters address hot-button issues: why boys get hooked on video games; why our daughters practically “live” on their cell phones; what to do when families are caught in the dark side of the web.

Thoughts :
Not a lot of new information here, but a great reminder that as parents we are ultimately responsible for teaching our children how to grow up in a world that we are just learning to navigate ourselves.  There are many good suggestions in here....however, I was quite put off by the very last chapter, which seems more like a sales gimmick than anything else.  The book would have been just fine without that chapter.  Probably better.

Words that Heal - Michael Ross
Our words can be so cruel. Used wrongly, they can discourage people, cut open the heart and destroy someone's self-confidence—even ignite a fire and drive crowds to violence. And once they're spoken, they can never be recalled. Words enter our ears and burrow themselves deep into our hearts … often never to be forgotten. It's little wonder that the Bible instructs us to control our tongues. Inspired by James 3:1-12, and filled with 40 engaging stories and dozens of relevant Scriptures, this book encourages you to use your speech positively—speaking kindness, sharing words that heal, expressing love, and praising God.

Thoughts :
While the first two chapters weren't really applicable to my life (my job is at home and -GASP- I don't attend a church), the last two were very good.  The book has great suggestions, with scripture to back them up, for taking the lemons in your life and making lemonade.....and then serving up the sweetness to others.  I think that many people forget that Jesus got down in the mud...he didn't just preach from the hilltop.  This book is about living a Godly life, rather than just pretending on Sunday morning.

I was given complimentary copies of these books from NetGalley, Blogging for Books, and Book Look Bloggers in exchange for honest reviews.Challenge Participant