Friday, May 25, 2012

Always the Wedding Planner, Never the Bride, by Sandra D. Bricker

Overview (from Goodreads): Sherilyn Caine has left Chicago behind to marry Andrew Drummond IV, an Atlanta native with a family name that tops all the social registers. Landing the job as The Tanglewood’s wedding planner is a piece of cake for someone with a Type A personality; she’s the perfect fit for a wedding destination hotel known for its attention to even the tiniest details.
But when everything else is going along swimmingly, why are her own wedding plans drowning right before her eyes? One way or the other, Sherilyn is determined to make this wedding work—until the latest development threatens to call the whole thing off. Is it possible that Sherilyn is allergic to her fiance?

Review: Not as predictable as I expected: the characters' journeys had some very nice twists and turns and, although the ending is pretty much same old, same old, it was still cute and romantic. There are some pretty ridiculous things (Sherilyn possibly allergic to her fiance... seriously?), but it is well written. The author does a great job of being funny without overdoing it, which I think is a great skill.

As a Christian novel, with Christian main characters, it was strange how their faith was not mention in the first half of the book and then in the second half it was constantly brought forward. I mean, at first I doubted they were a Christian couple and thought the Christian part would come from Emma and Jackson (the friends). I am not saying that faith should have been front and center in this story; what I expect is consistency.

Other things I didn't like: the irritating movie star, which I'm guessing will reappear in the next installment of the series, otherwise why would the author give him a large (and mostly superfluous) part here? It would have been better without him, or at least with less of him. Also, aunt Sophie. I'm a little torn here because I find her endearing, but her part almost read like a filler to state the obvious —that Sherilyn is part of their family, which I think we were told every other page.

All in all, mostly enjoyable and quite funny in parts. I laughed and I shed a few emotional tears; yeah, I'm a crier. It was great, after reading the first in the series (Always the baker, never the bride), to see Emma and Jackson again, together in a stable and very nice relationship, as well as seeing less and less of Jackson's sisters, a huge plus for me. Also nice, seeing Fee and watching her get swept off her feet. And let me not forget the wonderful descriptions of food and desserts... Oh, to be invited to one of those food tastings!

This is the second book in the series, and can very well be read apart from the first. However, as with any series, true enjoyment usually comes from reading them all and in order.

3 1/2 stars out of 5

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Murder on the Rocks, by Karen MacInerney

Overview (from Goodreads): Natalie Barnes buys the Gray Whale Inn, a bed and breakfast in Maine, and publicly opposes Bernard Katz's proposed resort development, which threatens a colony of black-chinned terns, and when Katz is found dead, Natalie must find the true killer in order to clear her own name.

Quick Review: Well, it wasn't bad, but it wasn't great. Although well paced, the author goes into unnecessary details, sort of like "I grabbed the milk from the refrigerator and closed the door with my left foot", all the time. It's not the milk part, but the left foot part that bothered me, as if she was writing a detailed movie script rather than a novel. The characters were ok but Natalie's love interest was meh. I guess he will be developed more as the series progresses, but he was so uninteresting that you wonder what she sees in him and doubt he's worth sticking with the series to find out. Natalie, on the other hand, is more interesting. However, she does some pretty dumb stuff trying to figure out who the killer is, which was disappointing.

The mystery is amusing at first but too easy to figure out. Even if you're not trying to guess it, you will instantly know who the killer is and part of the reason behind the murder. So it was somewhat entertaining but mostly forgettable.

2 1/2 stars

Friday, May 18, 2012

A Woman's Wisdom: How the Book of Proverbs Speaks to Everything, by Lydia Brownback

Overview (from NetGalley): Advice books are no short-lived trend, even though much of the advice parading as “wisdom” proves shallow in the long run. What we need is biblical wisdom, and even more than that we need hearts set on the One who governs all our practicalities. The book of Proverbs unlocks the key to both, helping us to face very real challenges such as:
  • handling our material resources wisely
  • keeping ourselves sexually pure
  • practicing biblical femininity in a world that scorns us for it
  • sustaining God-glorifying marriages
  • elevating biblical priorities ahead of day-to-day pressures
Unpacking the timeless counsel in the book of Proverbs, A Woman’s Wisdom teaches us to know the very Author of wisdom and to apply his relevant, how-to riches.

Review: This is so much more than a book: it's an in-depth look at the book of Proverbs and the Bible in general on the matter of wisdom; it's a Bible study for you, your Bible group, the women's group in your church that will help you grow in your understanding of who you are and who you should grow to be in the Lord. This is a great tool for any church and any individual seeking to be more Christlike. It's a look at wisdom as a result of someone who fears and trusts in God and believes in Jesus as her savior, and lives her life accordingly.

It is extremely well written. The author goes right to the point (which is a big thing for me), very straightforward, using simple terms; very wise and precise. It will lead you to take a good look at yourself, at who you think you are and who you really are, and it will guide you along the way in your path to wisdom and growing in the knowledge of God. It also explores the many blessings of living wisely, as beautifully stated in Proverbs 31. The author does a great job of explaining how you can really be a virtuous woman, what it means to be one. But I want to be very clear: this is not a step by step guide on becoming wise. It is a book on biblical wisdom, which starts with knowing, loving, trusting and fearing God and continues on with our growing in His knowledge. Wisdom is God-given but we also have to work at it.

Excellent book that I will be reading again. I highly recommend it.

5 out of 5 stars.

*I received a copy of this book from Crossway through NetGalley in exchange of an honest review.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Amish Bride, by Mindy Starns Clark, Leslie Gould

Overview (from NetGalley): Ella Bayer and Ezra Gundy are in love and hope to marry someday, but she is a young Mennonite woman while he is an Amish man. Though both Plain, one of them will have to forsake what they believe to embrace another way of life.
Hoping some distance will cool the relationship, Ezra’s family sends him to work at an Amish dairy farm in Indiana. But Ella disregards what her family wants and follows Ezra. In short order she finds a place to live, a job in a bakery, and an unexpected but budding friendship with a handsome Amish farmhand, Luke. When a family tragedy forces Ella back to Pennsylvania, she must face all she’s been running away from. And once she has made peace with those around her, she has an important decision to make: Whose Amish bride will she become—Ezra’s or Luke’s?

Review:This was a very interesting read. However, although the romance is what first attracted me to this novel, it is not what kept my interest. As the story opens, Ella's grandmother gives her a book, sort of a diary, that Ella's great-grandmother wrote since she was a child, right up until a few days before she died. Some parts of this diary are written in code, and Ella's grandmother is desperate to know what her mother wrote and asks Ella to decipher the code for her, since she has not been able to do so after many years of trying. Now, that got my attention. Not only because of the secrets that were obviously hidden in the diary, but because I wanted to know why Ella's grandmother needed to know what was written there. It is very clear since the beginning that it's not just curiosity: her peace of mind depends on it. I loved that; it intrigued me.

The story is well written; I loved learning more about the differences and similarities between Amish and Mennonites, and how they played out in Ella's and Ezra's romance as well as in the whole family dynamic. But the story is too long. Ella is a nice character but, although she is 17 going on 18 years old, most of the time her voice "sounds" much more older, more mature. What I mean is that it seems as if she was not written with an 18 year old in mind. I've seen this many times but in reverse: an older character that sounds like a teenager. I'm not saying that Ella acted like a mature adult. I'm saying she sounded like one: the choice of words, the phrasing.

I had mixed feelings about the romance (not in a bad way). Sometimes I loved Ezra. Other times, it amazed me how Ella could be in love with him. Luke, on the other hand, was so sweet and quiet that I sometimes wanted to shout "Speak up!" I really wanted Ella to pick one specific boy, but, strangely, I never stopped rooting for the other. Quite interesting. Both love interests were very well written, as well as Ella's mother, grandmother and brother.

It's a sweet story of love, forgiveness, faith and trusting God to lead us to what's best for us. It is the third book of a series, so there are many characters and a long family history behind it. It can stand alone, but read as a series should give the reader a better understanding of the family.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

*I received a copy of this book from Harvest House Publishers through NetGalley in exchange of an honest review.