"Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read."--Groucho Marx

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Cooking the Books: A Sloane Templeton Mystery by Bonnie Calhoun

Calhoun, B. S. (2012). Cooking the books: A Sloane Templeton mystery.
     Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.
Abingdon Press

Crazy, Fun Mystery

Sloane Templeton’s life is turned upside-down with the death of her mother, the inheritance of her mother's bookstore right after her divorce, followed by her boyfriend abusing her. That should be enough for anybody, but when you throw in a crazy want to-be Chef aunt that wants Sloane to be her taster and over diligent real estate agents attempting to force her to sell her property, you get total bedlam. Sloane does not know if she should be avoiding her ex-boyfriend, her aunt, or the real estate agents while dealing with geriatric gunslingers and crazy customers. Cooking the books is full of twists and turns until the very end.

The cast of Cooking the Books is hilarious and full of quirks that make the story fun to read in keep the pace rapid, while the twists in the plot keep the reader guessing until the end. Great fun and many laughs, the story is profanity free and highly enjoyable. I would recommend it for readers looking for light, fun mysteries with enough puzzles to keep it interesting.

Received Galley from NetGalley. com

Her Restless Heart by Barbara Cameron

Cameron, B. (2012). Her restless heart: Stitches in time book 1. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.
Abingdon Press

Good Amish Love Story

The single child in an Amish family with, Mary Katherine moved into town to live with her grandmother and work at her shop  to get away from her domineering father. Jacob a local Amish man wants to court Mary Katherine, but she has some problems to work out, so Jacob agrees to be friends. Then, Daniel, another Amish man from Florida, turns up. Mary Katherine has to choose whether to join the church or not, but problems come up at the store, then when her mother has a heart attack, Mary Katherine has to move back home. Mary Katherine has to find her way through her problems, making choices that will affect the rest of her life.

This is a great Amish love story, not too sweet, with enough twists to keep it interesting.  It is always interesting to read about the Amish way of life, and this is an interesting example of some of the difficulties they face. the characters have enough depth to keep the story interesting, and the troubles ring true.

Received Galley from NetGalley.com

Hiding in Plain Sight by Amy Wallace

Wallace, A. (2012). Hiding in plain sight. Eugene, OR: Harvest House.
Harvest House Publishers

Beautiful, Engaging Story

After her brother's violent death, Ashley Walters became a police officer, so that others would not suffer the same fate. Now ten years later, Ashley moved to Moneptezuma to escape the crushing control of her parents. Montezuma is in the midst of a revitalization effort that threatens to leave the local Menenite community at odds with the rest of the community. When accidents begin to happen, Ashley doesn't know if Brad, a young Menenite boy is to blame or someone else. Patrick, Brad’s counselor meets Ashley and wonders if she is worth the risk of opening his heart. The forgiveness Ashley discovers that is a daily part of the Menenite life, shows Ashley that she tried to control her own life instead of giving control to God. As she learns to forgive, she learns to love and open herself to others.

Amy Wallace does a beautiful job weaving an interesting story, a beautiful setting, and well developed characters with a lesson on control and forgiveness. The strongly Christian theme touched my heart as well as entertained me. I would recommend this story to Christians of any age.

Received Galley from NetGalley.

Almost Amish: One Woman's Quest for a Slower, Simpler, More Sustainable Life.

Sleeth, N. (2012). Almost Amish: One woman’s quest for a slower, simpler, more sustainable life. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale.
Tyndale House Publishers

Solid Guidelines for a Simpler Lifestyle

Almost Amish is Nancy Sleeth's guideline for living a simpler lifestyle using the Amish lifestyle as the basis for choices. She relies on the Amish lifestyle for a variety of reasons including living closer to God, living healthier and happier, and making a smaller footprint on the earth. The first part of the book recommends choosing to move away from 24/7 pervasive technologies so that we can listen to our Creator, as well as lessen the stress in our everyday lives. Sleuth notes the many ways that Amish benefit from their chosen lifestyle that when emulated can benefit ours, too. Sleuth is not suggesting that all Christians should be Amish, just that by making choices to live more simply in a manner similar they would benefit.

The book has some very intestine suggestions, many that make great sense. The American way of bigger is always better sometimes works against us. Good book for those looking for ways to simplify their lifestyle.

Received Galley from NetGalley.com

13 Hangmen by Art Corriveau

Corriveau, A. (2012). 13 Hangmen. New York, NY: Amulet Books.           

Great Fun, Interesting Premise

In 13 Hangman, Tony is approaching his thirteenth birthday when his parents receive the news that Tony inherited his uncle's house in Boston. Though Zio Anthony visited the family at Thanksgiving, they have never been close, but the will stipulates that the family must to move to Boston and Tony has to live in the attic bedroom. Since Tonys twin brother drive him crazy, he is thrilled with the promise of his own room. However, when they arrive, immidiately problems pop up beginning with the next-door 

neighbor accusing Tony's dad, Michael, of murdering Zio Anthony. When long dead thirteen year olds begin showing up in Tony's bedroom, it only takes him a little while to to begin putting the mystery together, and save his family. 

This book is well thought out, amazingly linked to history, and just great fun to read.  The main character is a chunky nerd constantly on the receiving end of his brothers' ridicule. Like many kids today, he lives more in the virtual word, than the real world, but the move pushes him to make decisions and choices that he wouldn't have otherwise made, giving him power that all preteens yearn for and can relate to.  The connections to history add depth for the history buff and might hook some others. This is an excellent addition to the middle school crowd that doesn't include vampires or witches.  It could even be used as part of a lesson to research the fiction/non-fiction elements of the story. 

Received Galley from NetGalley.com

Barefoot Season by Susan Mallery

Mallery, S. (2012). Barefoot season: A Blackberry island novel. Buffalo, NY:

Mallery’s Best Yet, by Far

 Susan Mallery
Michelle Sanderson returns to her post army service life of running her family owned inn. The Inn is now hers only, but there are a massive number of problems. The problems include a bullet wound that caused a partial hip replacement, the recent death of her mother, and the current manager of the inn, Carly Williams. Carly and her daughter now live in the owner's suite at the Inn where Michelle grew up, and where Carly discovered Michelle in bed with her fiancĂ© two days before Carly’s wedding. Michelle has to recover from her wound and PTSD, while Carly has to learn to deal with Michelle, her daughter, and a mother that ran off and left her alone with an alcoholic father.

I loved this book. The characters are so alive, and the situations believable since the fallout of the actions of selfish people affect those around them in a myriad of ways. The story pulls at the reader as Michelle and Carly struggle to work out the repercussions of the actions of their parents, along with Michelle's difficulty in transitioning back to civilian life.  I would definitely rate this a top read for the year in contemporary women's novels and recommend it for anyone looking for more depth in a novel without a huge side of depression.

Received Galley from NetGalley.com

I enjoyed this novel so much that I gobbled up several other Susan Mallery novels.  She has written several romance novels that are good romance novels, but not up to the quality of Barefoot Season, including her Fool’s Gold series and Hot on Her Heels. However, the only one that comes close to the quality of Barefoot Season is Already Home. I listened to the audio version of Already Home, and while I enjoyed it more than the Fool’s Gold series, it still is not as good as Barefoot Season.

Into the Free: A Novel by Julie Cantrell

Cantrell, J. (2012). Into the free: A novel. Colorado Springs, CO:
        David C. Cook.

Highly Rewarding Read

Into the Free: A Novel leaps into the life of Millicent Reynolds, a young Mississippi girl at the end of the Depression. Milli’s father, Jack, is a violent, alcoholic, rodeo man whose wife has turned to morphine to survive the abuse. Milli and her mother live in old slave quarters on a plantation, surviving on Jack’s winnings and the money they earn from doing laundry for the wealthy in town, Milli and her mother eek out an existence. Milli befriends a group of gypsies, intending to leave with them, but stops when her father almost beats her mother to death.

David C Cook
The perverse air of melancholia that permeates Milli’s life makes the this novel difficult to begin, but hooks the reader with Milli’s desire to pull herself out of the abusive circle. As Milli turns to people for help, Milli learns to see through facades to discover true meaning of Christianity and love, where money and appearance are not important. Intense book, not for the faint hearted, but a highly rewarding read.

Received Galley from NetGalley.com

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Illusion: A Novel, by Frank Peretti

Peretti, F. (2012). Illusion: A novel. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.

Another Excellent Book from Peretti

A fiery care wreck causes the death of Mandy the female member of the magic team of Dane and Mandy, leaving Dane alone for the first time in 40 years.  Eloise awakes on a fairground under a tree with memories of the 70s.  After escaping from a mental ward, Eloise moves to Idaho where she meets Dane, who then hones her magician skills and starts her on the road to stardom.  Eloise learns to manipulate time and space, rapidly increasing her magician skills.  Dane and Eloise begin to notice idiosyncrasies in the information they receive from others, starting them both on a collision course with the truth and a rash group of scientists who are attempting to manipulate time.

After a slow, disjointed start, I could not put Illusion down. As usual, peretti tells a story through a mist that delays the reader piecing the puzzle together until the very end, leaving the reader wanting to read the book again just to see if clues were missed the first time through.  The book has an eerie sense of doom hanging over the characters as they attempt to put their lives back together and the reader does not know who is good or bad.  It takes a while for the plot line to congeal, but it is definitely a great read.  The major characters rely on their faith to uphold them through their trials, but the story itself questions how scientists attempt to play God themselves.  This book is highly enjoyable for those who enjoy less extreme science fiction with lots of technical elements thrown in.  Overall, another excellent book from Peretti.

Received Galley from NetGalley.com

Friday, March 2, 2012

Spotty, Stripy, Swirly, by Jane Brocket

Brocket, J. (2012). Spotty, stripy, swirly. Minneapolis, MN: Lerner.

Great for Lessons on Patterns

Spotty, Stripy Swirly is an excellent current resource for early elementary lessons on patterns. The pictures are clear, vibrant, and easily recognizable items visible in everyday life. It is an excellent attention grabber and starting place for the lesson, then classes could walk around identifying similar patterns, then making their own.  Definitely a must buy for my early elementary library.

Received Galley from NetGalley.com

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Against the Night, by Kat Martin

I do love to read almost anything, hence the name Eclectic Reading. I've been getting my ARCs from Netgalley, and having such a great time.  Be sure to let me know if you've dropped by to check out some of my reviews. This is a review of a quickie romance novel. 

Martin, K. (2012). Against the night. Retrieved from http://www.harlequin.com/

When Amy Brewer's sister goes missing, Amy moves to LA to see if she can follow her trail beginning at the Kitty Kat Club where Rachael used to work.  While Amy is pole dancing, she can feel the Johnnie Riggs’ eyes focused on her.  Amy discovers that Johnny is a private detective, and conveniences Johnny to agree to help Amy find her sister.  Johnnie uses all his Army Ranger knowledge, along his friends Special Forces friends to track Amy’s sister Rachael.  Sparks fly throughout the story to make it heavy on the romance with a fairly predictable story.

This is an average romantic suspense.  The characters are fun and interesting, and the story moves quickly.  Though not particularly memorable, Against the Night is easy and diverting.  It is the fifth book in Martin's Against series.

Received Galley from NetGalley.com