Thursday, January 31, 2013

Book Review: Avra's God by Ann Lee Miller

Happy New Year! We hope you all have a happy, blessed 2013 that's full of lots of enthralling reading :)

We're officially back from our summer holiday break - a very hot break, at least for me. Thankfully the weather has cooled off at the moment, but summer's still got a whole month ahead.

I'll continue to post on Thursdays this year, and Jess on Tuesdays. The difference will be that our book reviews will go up on these days too, instead of on their own on Wednesdays.

And now, here is my first official review of 2013 ....


Avra's God by Ann Lee Miller
1st December 2012

In the tradition of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, four friends navigate college and the drama churned up by their Florida beach band to cement friendship and more. Avra wants love, but drummer Cisco—self-medicating from his parents’ divorce with sex and intoxicants—is a poor choice. Cisco hungers for fresh-baked cookies and the scent of family he finds at Avra’s. Kallie shares her classically trained singing voice only with lead vocalist Jesse and fights to keep her heart safe. Jesse feeds on fame and hides more than insecurity beneath his guitar. The friends surf ego, betrayal, and ambition and head for wipe-out. But somehow, when they’re not looking, Avra’s God changes them all.

Avra's God is Ann Lee Miller's third book release and if you've read her first two books, you'll enjoy the glimpses of some of the characters from them.

Avra's is a story that many women - young and old - can relate to.  Falling for that bad boy, and wrestling between what you know is right and the runaway emotions that you feel.  By clinging to her trust in God, Avra's faith impacts her friends and sets up a catalyst for change and healing.

Cisco, Kallie and Jesse have a boat load of issues between them.  They all have a varying knowledge and experience of God, and each must come to Him in their own way. Most readers would find they identify with one or more of the character's issues.

I'm a big fan of Ann's novels.  Somehow she completely understands the lives and minds of early twenty-somethings and brings them to life with such clarity.  My skin was crawling with some of the things her male characters said - it was so accurate and typical of boys in that age group, I was instantly transported back to a similar period in my life.

This is such an exciting age group to read about, and Ann captures the emotions and drama so well that it's easy to completely lose yourself in the story. The characters' journey towards God is natural, touching and refreshing.

In terms of degree of "edginess", Avra's God sits between the sweetness of Kicking Eternity and the drama of The Art of My Life.  If you haven't read Ann's books before, I'd recommend starting here - or Kicking Eternity.

Another great book by Ann :)

(If you'd like to try Ann's books, you can request a free ecopy of Kicking Eternity at Ann's website or download it on Amazon Kindle for free.)


Helen's favourite genre is historical fiction with a strong romantic element.  She also enjoys contemporary romance, chick-lit and YA.  She's not caught up in the spell of fantasy fiction, despite The Faraway Tree series being a strong influence in her childhood.

Helen is currently working on her first book, a Christian young adult novel set between two opposite but equally fascinating places in Australia.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Book Review: Firefly Island by Lisa Wingate

Firefly Island by Lisa Wingate
Bethany House Publishers, 1 February 2013

SOMETIMES LOVE TAKES YOU ON AN ADVENTURE COMPLETELY OFF THE MAP

Mallory Hale's life quickly veers off course when she falls hopelessly in love. After a whirlwind romance, Mallory finds herself leaving the bustle and action of Capitol Hill for the remote town of Moses Lake, Texas--with husband, stepson, and a U-Haul in tow.

A sweet, mishap-filled journey into marriage, motherhood, and ranch living ensues, and Mallory is filled with both the wonderment of love and the insecurities of change. But what she can't shake is the unease she feels around her husband's new boss, Jack West. Jack's presence--and his mysterious past--set her on edge, and when hints of a scandal emerge, Mallory finds herself seeking answers . . . and comes to realize that the middle-of-nowhere home she wasn't sure she wanted is the very place she'll risk everything to save. 


I have really loved all the covers of Lisa Wingate's Moses Lake Series and this one is no exception. Beautiful cover, with an intriguing storyline to match. I was happily swept back to Moses Lake, trailing after Mallory, her new family and the U-Haul. I became equally suspicious of Jack West, Daniel's new boss. As intrigue swirls around Mallory and her family, as some people seem to be more than who they say they are, the questions Mallory has about herself grow deeper. As she learns about herself away from the safe, upper class neighborhood of Washington DC, she discovers how she judges others and herself, and how she can step outside of her comfort zone and grow into a woman who is capable of loving others and herself well for who they are not who they seem to be. This book made me think of how happy I am in my own comfort zone and maybe God is prodding me to step out and change things up a bit.

My only real problem with this book was at the end. It felt rushed and the climax never seemed to quite happen and it left me feeling a little empty. I needed a little more from the end of this book and didn't get it. Having said that, since book reviews are very personal, others may not feel that way. Besides my disappointment at the end of the book, I still loved going back to Moses Lake!

Thank you to NetGalley for a copy of this novel for review.  I was in no way obliged to give a positive review.


Jess' favourite genre is contemporary women's fiction and contemporary romance fiction. She also enjoys historical fiction with a focus on romance. She loves books set in country towns or farms with a cowboy featured in either historical or contemporary settings.

She is currently writing her first novel, a contemporary women's fiction/romance set in a small country town.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Book Review: A Heart Beat Away by Harry Kraus

A Heartbeat Away by Harry Kraus 

David C. Cook, September 1, 2012

When a brilliant surgeon undergoes a heart transplant, her life transforms as she begins experiencing memories of a murder she never witnessed.

The residents worship her. Nurses step out of her way. Her colleagues respect and sometimes even fear her. But surgeon Tori Taylor never expected to end up on this side of the operating table.

Now she has a new heart. This life that was formerly controlled and predictable is now chaotic. Dr. Taylor had famously protected herself from love or commitment, but her walls are beginning to crumble.

And strangest of all, memories surface that will take her on a journey out of the operating room and into a murder investigation.

Where there once was a heart of stone, there is a heart of flesh. And there is no going back.

First book I've read by this author and I loved it! As you all know I'm deep into Suspense Fiction right now and this book grabbed my attention from the cover right through till the end of the blurb. It fits beautifully with my romance, suspense, action requirements.

This book is filled with a great mystery, with numerous twists and turns and a thrilling climax. The book kept me on edge of my seat for the entire plot -wondering how all the pieces would fit together. The ideas of cellular memory is really fascinating stuff and it worked really well to help bring the transformation of Tori from her heartless beginnings to a woman of emotion, with an ability to love herself and those around her.

I found some of the medical scenes were quite graphic for me - I'm squeamish at the best of times so it doesn't take much for me to get queasy - I had to speed read through those bits.

This book got  me thinking about how memories are so important to our lives and unlocking why we are the way we are. We don't realize how important memories are to our overall sense of self. When we block out memories from our past we are inadvertently shutting a part of ourselves down. The book explores this idea through Tori receiving a new heart and how this changes her.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and am looking forward to reading more from this author.

Thank you to NetGalley for a copy of this novel for review.  I was in no way obliged to give a positive review.


Jess' favourite genre is contemporary women's fiction and contemporary romance fiction. She also enjoys historical fiction with a focus on romance. She loves books set in country towns or farms with a cowboy featured in either historical or contemporary settings.

She is currently writing her first novel, a contemporary women's fiction/romance set in a small country town.

Helen's 2012 Favourite Reads by "New" Authors

I know I'm a bit late off the mark, as most blogs have already done their favourite reads for 2012.  But nonetheless, I'm here to present to you now my 5 favourite reads of 2012.

I have narrowed this list down to authors who I had not previously read before 2012.  So whilst I say these are "new" authors, it's because they are new to me. I've included a variety of genre's in this list.

In no particular order ...

The Art of my Life by Ann Lee Miller

My Review

This is classified as New Adult, because it features characters in their early 20s who are finding their feet as adults.

The Art of my Life is the follow up to Ann's debut novel, Kicking Eternity.  In truth, I had a hard time picking which of her novels was going to make my top 5, they are both that good.  Her stories are utterly engaging and her characters so authentic that in reading them I felt like I was in my 20s all over again.

I decided on The Art of my Life as it was the edgier, more dramatic of the two.  If you haven't read Ann Lee Miller's books before, then I highly recommend you do so! 

(If you'd like to try Ann's books, you can request a free ecopy of Kicking Eternity at Ann's website or download it on Amazon Kindle for free.)


The Mother Road by Jennifer AlLee

My Review

I don't read a lot of women's fiction, but when I saw this one, I was intrigued.  And in reading it, I wasn't disappointed. I found this book engaging and refreshing, with a sweet and satisfying ending.








 



Mary's Blessing by Lena Nelson Dooley

My Review

Mary's Blessing is the second book of the three book McKenna's Daughters Series.  I read both this book, and the first one, Maggie's Journey in 2012, but Mary's Blessing was my favourite of the two.  This book is a sweet romance, set amidst tough living.

As a whole, the series is very enjoyable and I can't wait to read the third book - which I will be doing very very soon :)

  







 Veil of Pearls by MaryLu Tyndall

My Review

Veil of Pearls is a highly entertaining and dramatic read. It's full of vibrant characters - both likeable and detestable.  It stole my breath on more than one occasion.  I'm looking forward to reading more from MaryLu Tyndall.










 


Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

This is the only book in this list that was not published in 2012, and  is not Christian fiction. Therefore I feel I must mention that this book includes some swearing, alcohol and off the page references to sex and drug use.  But it's not gratuitous by any means.

I really really loved this young adult novel.  I got lost with Anna in Paris, and caught up with all those intense and changing feelings of teen life. I didn't write a review up on this blog because it isn't a Christian novel, but I couldn't write my favourite reads list for 2012 without its inclusion.







 

Helen's favourite genre is historical fiction with a strong romantic element.  She also enjoys contemporary romance, chick-lit and YA.  She's not caught up in the spell of fantasy fiction, despite The Faraway Tree series being a strong influence in her childhood.

Helen is currently working on her first book, a Christian young adult novel set between two opposite but equally fascinating places in Australia.

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