Sunday, January 30, 2011

Monday Memes

I haven't done Mailbox Monday in a while because my snail mail box hasn't been all that full. I've become a NetGalley reader and and a Kindle owner, so my new books are coming via the web rather than via snail mail. As I mentioned in this post about NetGalley, I like not feeling the least bit obligated to finish or review a galley, and I love the variety available. Here is what I got this week:
A Wife for a Westmoreland (Harlequin Desire)People of the Book (Extreme Devotion)Already HomePlum Gorgeous: Recipes and Memories from the OrchardCucina Povera: Tuscan Peasant CookingHarvest MoonA Time to Heal - Quilts of Lancaster County Series #2The Welcome Home Garden Club: A Twilight, Texas Novel   I've already read and reviewed Harvest Moon and I've flipped through the cookbooks.  Anything there catch your eye?

I also subscribe to a blog that alerts me to Kindle freebies (just in case I don't have enough to read).  This week I grabbed three of them:A Child al Confino: The True Story of a Jewish Boy and His Mother in Mussolini's ItalySunriseGoodness Gracious Green

I have't completely given up on snail mail.  These came this week, for review:
The Bridge of Peace (Ada's House, Book 2)Lady in the Mist: A Novel (The Midwives)Unplanned: The Dramatic True Story of a Former Planned Parenthood Leader's Eye-Opening Journey across the Life Line

Check out Mailbox Monday, hosted this month by Rose City Reader to see what other book bloggers got this week.

So, with that haul, how do I answer the question:  It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

Well, this week I have posted these reviews:

I loved this memoir by a young woman who literally crossed the street.  After witnessing an ultra-sound guided abortion, this director of a Planned Parenthood center crossed the street both literally and figuratively, to the pro-life center nearby.  Great read about how people can change.  My review.

Medical Error (Prescription for Trouble Series #2) Medical thriller combining a medical mystery and identity theft.  My review.
Fatal Judgment (Guardians of Justice, Book 1) Christian romantic suspense.  Not really believable, but a fun read.  My review.
Softly and Tenderly (A Songbird Novel) A woman, her mother and her mother-in-law.  All in pain.  All seeking love.  My Review.

Harvest Moon Another Virgin River romance; one of the better in the series. My review

Visit Book Journey to see what folks are reading this week

Review: Softly and Tenderly

Softly and Tenderly (A Songbird Novel)

About the Book:
Happily married and owner of two successful boutiques, Jade longs to begin a family with her husband, Max. But when she discovers that Max has an illegitimate son – who he wants her to help raise – Jade’s life is turned upside down.

She flees to her childhood home, a rambling Iowa farmhouse, with enough room to breathe. There – while her mother’s health grows fragile, and the tug of her first love grows stronger – Jade begins to question everything she thought she knew about family, love, and motherhood. In the wide-open landscape, Jade begins to see a future that doesn’t rest on the power of her past, but in the goodness of God's tender mercies.

My Comments:  
If you are looking for a fluffy feel-good read, look elsewhere.  This is a book about secrets, about pain, about infidelity, about death.  Yes, there is hope but just as in real life, these characters have to get through the nitty-gritty.  They have to forgive--and accept forgiveness, and sometimes its hard to figure which is harder.  There are times when we all want to run away from life, but life has a way of catching up to us.  Sara Evans and Rachel Hauck have written a wonderful tale of healing and growth, but certainly no book about perfection.  Grade B+

Thanks to Thomas Nelson Publishers for providing a review copy via NetGalley.  Their product page is here.

Harvest Moon

Harvest Moon

Those of you who are regular readers know that I made my way through Robyn Carr's Virgin River series last summer, and that I've recently reviewed Promise Canyon and Wildman Creek, two books that came out this month.  Harvest Moon will be released February 22 and in some ways is a follow-up to Wildman Creek.

About the Book:

Rising sous-chef Kelly Matlock's sudden collapse at work is a wake-up call. Disillusioned and burned out, she's retreated to her sister Jillian's house in Virgin River to rest and reevaluate.

Puttering in Jill's garden and cooking with her heirloom vegetables is wonderful, but Virgin River is a far cry from San Francisco. Kelly's starting to feel a little too unmotivated…until she meets Lief Holbrook. The handsome widower looks more like a lumberjack than a sophisticated screenwriter—a combination Kelly finds irresistible. But less appealing is Lief's rebellious stepdaughter, Courtney. She's the reason they moved from L.A., but Courtney's finding plenty of trouble even in Virgin River.

Kelly's never fallen for a guy with such serious baggage, but some things are worth fighting for. Besides, a bratty teenager can't be any worse than a histrionic chef…right?

My Comments:

If you've read my reviews of these books, you'll know that I have found them to be a mixed bag.  Some are very much like the other--only the names change.  Others seem to have so many useless characters.  Others are really good stories that, while heavy on the romance, manage to incorporate other sub-plots so as to make the books more than just romances.   I think Harvest Moon is a winner.  While the relationship between Kelly and Lief is always there, so is Courtney, his (step) daughter.  We watch her grow from a young woman who is mad at the world and who knows (or at least thinks she knows) that no one loves her to a young woman of whom any parent could be proud.  

I also liked Kelly.  She's a woman who has dedicated her life to a job that pretty much precluded a normal social life and, when it fell apart on her, realized she didn't want to go back to that lifestyle.  She was attracted to Lief, and liked him, but was able to be realistic, and to stand up for what she needed in a relationship.  

If you like the Virgin River books, I think you'll like this one.  If you hate them, its probably not different enough from the others to give you  a different view.  It's mass-market romance with out-of-wedlock intimate scenes.  They aren't the most graphic I've seen, but they aren't G rated either.

I'd like to thank the publisher for making a galley available via NetGalleys.  Grade:  B+

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival

I'd like to welcome everyone to Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival.  We are a group of Catholic bloggers who gather weekly to share our best posts with each other.  To particpate, go to your blog and create an entry titled Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival.  In it, highlight one or more of your posts from the past week that you believe would be of interest to Catholic bloggers---whether they are posts reflecting on spiritual matters or posts about antics of Catholic kids, or anything in between.  Come back here and enter the URL of that post into Mr. Linky.  Finally, go visit other participants, and leave comments!  If you want a weekly reminder to post, join our yahoogroup.

Wow, last week was our biggest week yet.  I enjoyed seeing all the new blogs and the old friends.  We are a diverse lot, and I've really enjoyed getting to know folks through this group.  My post this week that everyone HAS to read is my review of unPlanned.  Wonderful book, highly recommended, and a great follow-up to whatever you did to recognize the Roe v. Wade anniversary.

What else did I write about this week?  Well, I told folks about my new favorite source of review copies, NetGalley.    I read Medical Error, a medical thriller.  Fatal Judgment is classified as a romantic thriller.  The Color of Atmosphere is about how a woman became a pediatrician, and why she chooses not to be one any more.

Thanks for stopping by, and for participating!  Have a great week.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Catholic Company Book Review: unPlanned by Abby Johnson

If I was known for brevity in book reviews, my review to this book would be only one word long:  Wow!  However, I'm not known for brevity, so I'll say more. 

About the book:
Abby Johnson quit her job in October 2009. That simple act became a national news story because Abby was the director of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Texas who, after participating in her first actual abortion procedure, walked across the road to join the Coalition for Life. 

Unplanned is a heart-stopping personal drama of life-and-death encounters, a courtroom battle, and spiritual transformation that speaks hope and compassion into the political controversy that surrounds this issue. Telling Abby's story from both sides of the abortion clinic property line, this book is a must-read for anyone who cares about the life versus rights debate and helping women who face crisis pregnancies.

My Comments:  
This was a treadmill book--one I would only let myself read while walking on the treadmill.  I walked for an hour and half last night and thirty-five minutes tonight, and I would have stayed longer if necessary to finish this book.  Abby's story is powerful.  She wasn't a horrible person bent on the destruction of life when she started  as a volunteer at Planned Parenthood--she was a young woman who wanted to help women in need.  She was converted not by gory pictures or verbal abuse but by the quiet loving prayerful presence of those who opposed what she did but loved her. 

One thing I found interesting is that while Abby worked at Planned Parenthood, and, one would assume, had access to any birth control methods or materials she could have wanted/needed, she had two unplanned pregnancies--so much for the idea that all we need to do to prevent unwanted pregnancies is to teach more people about contraception and make contraceptives more readily available.  

Grade:  A+

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Unplanned. They are also a great source for serenity prayer and baptism gifts.

Note: According to this blog, Abby and her husband are in the process of converting to Catholicism.  

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Have I Told You That I LOVE NetGalley?

NetGalley is fast becoming one of my favorite websites.  Barbour, a publisher for which I've done many reviews over the years, invited me to join over a year ago.  I clicked the buttons, joined and quickly decided that it wasn't for me--the galleys they offered were mainly those to which I already had access, and besides, they were mainly e-editions and I didn't relish the thought of reading books on my computer.

What's changed?  Well, for one thing, I got a Kindle for Christmas.  For another, their catalog is much larger that it was when I first joined, and it is getting bigger by the day.  Books are added and subtracted daily, but the available book count has hovered right around 800 since I became active on the site last month.  While heavy on the romance and Christian fiction, you can find cookbooks, business books, arts and crafts books, mysteries, thrillers and even literary fiction from university presses.  The romance novels range from those by Debbie Macomber and Susan Wiggs to paranormal romances about which I have no desire to learn more, from chaste Christian books to erotica.

One of the main things I like about NetGalley is that bloggers are under no obligation to review the books they get.  I know the reason they are being made available is because the publishers hope for (positive) reviews, and my guess is that if I don't crank out a reasonable number of reviews of a publisher's books after requesting them, I may find myself not being granted access to that publisher's books (publishers can either set you to auto-approved, or they have to grant approval for each galley you request--but at this point the vast majority of my requests have been granted).  However, when a publisher mails me a printed book, I know there are production and mailing costs involved.  Often the books come to me as part of a book tour, obligating me to publish a review or certain copy within a certain time frame.  In short, I feel obligated to spend at least some time trying to like the book, and I have to write something about it.  While I won't give a good review to a book I don't like, I have ended up spending more time than I want on books I'd rather not finish.  With NetGalley books, if they don't quickly catch my interest, they are dropped with nothing more than a thank-you to the publisher.

NetGalley isn't perfect.  As I noted, I have a Kindle, and I know Amazon would rather have me reading their books than getting them elsewhere, so I can't completely blame this on NetGalley, but NetGalley and Kindle don't always play nicely together.  A couple of weeks ago I got an email stating that NetGalley's "Send to Kindle" buttons were being disabled temporarily; that there was some technical issue.  Since that time however, the majority of books I've requested have had that option and they've come to my Kindle without a problem.  However, the Kindle versions aren't real Kindle files, they are PDFs which will sometimes give some odd effects if the book has chapter titles, or the first letter of a chapter in big type or things like that.  Justification is sometimes off too.  I've requested a couple of galleys that had a lot of pictures and I wasn't at all happy with the way they displayed.  Still, NetGalley's strengths far outweigh its weaknesses and if you are a book blogger, librarian or other "professional reader" you are missing a lot if you aren't a member.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Medical Error: Book Review

Medical Error (Prescription for Trouble Series #2)

About the Book:

Dr. Anna McIntyre's life was going along just fine until someone else started living it. Her patient died because of an identity mix-up, her medical career is in jeopardy because of forged prescriptions, and her credit is in ruins. She thought things couldn t get worse, but that was before she opened the envelope and saw a positive HIV test with her name on it. Her allies are two men who are also competing for her affection. Dr. Nick Valentine is a cynic who carries a load of guilt. Attorney Ross Donovan is a recovering alcoholic. The deeper Anna digs to discover who's behind the identity thefts, the higher the stakes. Finally, when her life is on the line, Anna finds that her determination to clear her name might have been a prescription for trouble.

My Thoughts:

This medical who dunnit kept me pounding the treadmill the last few days.  Mabry can spin a suspenseful story with a little romance added.  The story weaves together a medical mystery and a case of identity theft, and a woman who hasn't had romance in her life in a long time now has two men interested in her.  Definitely a good read.  

The book is classified as Christian fiction, and in this case it means the main character goes to church and wonders why God put her in this situation.  It also means that a friend of hers decides to go back to church.  The religious aspects are not important to the plot and unless you hate religion in books, they shouldn't bother you in this one.  

Grade: B+

I received this book from a friend.

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