Without the love of books the richest man is poor, but endowed with this treasure the poorest man is rich. –Leon Gutterman

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Allon: Book 2-Insurrection

Allon: Book 2-Insurrection

by Shawn Lamb

Back in April I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing Allon. Recently the author, Shawn Lamb asked me if I was interested in the latest edition to the Allon series, Insurrection. How could I refuse?

Insurrection picks up four years after Book 1 ends. Ellis is king, Shannan is queen. An heir to the throne is on the way. Allon is at peace. But the Dark Way does not give up easily. Whisperings of conflict and discontent give way to danger.

Without giving the story away, I will say Allon is a wonderful novel that offers strong characters who give examples of honor, faith, devotion, heroism, gentle mercy and wisdom. These characters are at odds enemies exhibiting greed, pride, sin, and destruction. Ms. Lamb manages to combine action and adventure with a focus on faith and serving the Lord. I know my both my boys will enjoy this book and gain some good lessons along the way.

Allon: Book 2-Insurrection would be a great last minute Christmas gift for a young adult or an advanced young reader who loves fantasy and action. Or, since I am tardy in getting my review out if there are any young readers out there with a few holiday dollars they want to spend on a new book they would find an exciting read in this second book of the Allon series.

There is a website featuring a blog, an interactive map, photos and more that many will also enjoy.

My thanks to Ms. Lamb for the delightful read.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Blog Book Tour--It Had to Be You

by Janice Thompson

I have several complaints to lodge with Janice Thompson!

1) Reading her books make me want to dance! While I'm reading! I've wanted to boot scoot, do a courtly dance and now...NOW...I'm swingin'! It's hard to read when you're dancing. Seriously!!

2) Reading her books make me hungry!! I want pizza! I want Alfredo! I want Tiramisu!! These books are not good for a gal trying to lose more weight. You'd think with all the dancing I might shed a few pounds, but the food's just too good. I can smell Aunt Rosa's cooking coming off the pages.

3)And my biggest complaint...Is that It Had to Be You is the last installment in the Weddings by Bella series. (Insert a pout and a stomped foot here.) I was really not ready to be done. Sigh...

I fell for Bella Rossi's quirky Italian family a few books back. Specifically when I read Fools Rush In. The food was good, the conversation was loud, and my dearest Dean Martin was always singing in the background. Well...unless Frank Sinatra got in the way. And everyone loved the LORD.

When I read Swinging On a Star I almost hopped on a plane to Galveston to go visit Bella and her clan.

And Ms. Thompson's finale It Had to Be You just made me all the more sure that I had long-lost family somewhere down in Texas.

Bella may have been busy in the first two books, but is she in over her head this time? Aunt Rosa and Uncle Laz have buried the hatchet for good. They are getting married!! Family and friends are coming in for the wedding from as far as Italia! Everyone is thrilled for them. Or is there someone who could ruin this match made in culinary heaven? Will the bride and groom swing off into the sunset?

And what about D.J. Neeley? The hunky carpenter-deejay who swept Bella off her boots. Can he get Bella down their own aisle and into a happily-ever-after of their own?

The timing of this book was perfect for me. There were some life-lessons that almost all of the characters were in need of. I don't want to spoil anything, but I will say I needed to be reminded of what Bella had to learn.

The music in It Had to Be You will take you swinging down the aisle, across the dance floor and off into the sunset. There were many great songs to keep my toes tapping. But I will always associate the Rossi clan with Dean Martin's songs most of all. Here's a favorite:

Thank you, Janice Thompson for such a fun series. I enjoyed Weddings by Bella so much! Thank you Revel/Baker Publishing Group for the copy to review. Thank you Bella and the whole Rossi clan for such a good time.

It Had to Be You is vailable May 2010 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group

Friday, April 30, 2010

Blog Book Tour--Allon

Allon by Shawn Lamb

I am always looking for good books for my sons to read. There is a lot of fiction out there these days. There is a lot of "Christian" fiction out there. I cannot always say that the secular fiction is "good" and I cannot always say that the Christian fiction is "exciting." But when Glass Road Public Relations offered me a chance to read Allon by Shawn Lamb, I thought it would be worth taking a look.

I am so glad that I did.

Enter the world of Allon. Once a beautiful land, now a battle between good and evil rages on. The hope for Allon's future lies in a prophecy that a new king will come and defeat the powers of darkness that are at work dividing the people, causing pain and suffering. He will have a queen who will unite the people with the Guardians, the care takers of Allon who have been limited and bound for a long time.

There is a young man who the dark forces are trying to capture and destroy. There is a young woman who the Guardians are trying to protect. Are these these the promised heroes who will save Allon?

Ms. Lamb wrote Allon for her daughter, Briana, who wanted a fantasy story. She uses metaphor and allegory quite liberally and with a wonderful result. The layers aren't too deep for a young reader to comprehend. Allon is a reminiscent blend of King Arthur, Narnia, Lord of the Rings and Bible history. But at the same time it is a new story, thoroughly enjoyable--a good read for both boys and girls.

Read an excerpt of the book here.

Thank you to Glass Road Public Relations for offering me the opportunity to receive and read Allon. I enjoyed the journey!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Blog Book Tour--How Do You Tuck in a Superhero?

How Do You Tuck in a Superhero? by Rachel Balducci

My son stole my copy of this book!

I had to hunt him down to get it back. It wasn't too hard to find him. All I had to do was follow the laughter. He snitched this a couple times from me and I found him either hiding behind a closed door or up on the top bunk under a mass of covers in hopes that I wouldn't want this back. Fat chance.

What book is so funny that it has a 46 year old woman and a 12 year old boy in a tug-of-war over it? Well...a book about boys. Five boys to be precise. Rachel Balducci of Testosterhome fame published this book chronicling the adventures of a mom of five. Five boys.

Now I only have two, and two with some unusual pursuits, it is true. But How Do You Tuck in a Superhero speaks to moms of sons, be it a single son to a tribe of ten. From discussing food--there is never enough, to discussing attire--there is rarely agreement between parent and child, to things you never thought you'd hear yourself say; Rachel's been there, done that and has a few t-shirts as souvenirs.

I love Rachel's matter-of-fact, conversational tone. She tells the tales, much like my friends and I swap "Can you believe______" stories of our children. I'd love for her to be my neighbor. I might send my boys down there for a bit...she might not notice!

This is a laugh-out-loud book that you might want to hide from your family if you want a chance to read it. Also checkout the blog that inspired it all. And recently the Testosterhome family welcomed a new addition--number 6!! to the family. And what do you know?? They need to get some pink paint!

As always, I am appreciative to Revell/Baker Publishing Group for the chance to read and review, yet another great book. How Do You Tuck in a Superhero? is available April 2010 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Blog Book Tour--In Harm's Way

In Harm's Way by Irene Hannon

Last fall I had a chance to review An Eye for an Eye, the second book in Irene Hannon's romantic suspense Heroes of Quantico series and enjoyed it immensely. So when Revell/Baker Publishing offered the chance to review the third book in the series--In Harm's Way, how could I pass it up?

Once again Irene Hannon creates characters that made me care and drew me into the story quickly. Rachel Sutton, a music teacher, a child of the foster care system is lead, inexplicably, to a Raggedy Ann doll stuck in a pile of ice in a parking lot. Touching the doll evokes fear and terror from Rachel, emotions so deep that she cannot just toss the doll aside. She ends up taking Raggedy Ann to the FBI and risks looking like a fool or worse.

Fortunately she ends up in the office of Agent Nick Bradley. Nick, who also grew up an orphan, just can't seem to write Rachel off as crazy or worse. Is the child who the doll belongs to in danger? Why can't he do what his co-workers say and toss the doll in the trash and forget about Rachel? The story is fast-paced with several unexpected twists and turns that kept me up late turning the pages so I could finish.

I appreciate that once again Ms. Hannon intertwines faith in the LORD into her story. She allows her characters to be human and have real doubts and questions. Both Nick and Rachel have very different faith journeys.

Read an excerpt of the book here.

A hearty, "Thank you!" to Revell/Baker Publishing for furnishing me with a copy of this book for review. In Harm's Way is available April 2010 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Speak--A Book & Movie Review

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

"When people don't express themselves, they die one piece at a time."
— Laurie Halse Anderson (Speak)

On one of those random strokes of chance I ran across a trailer for Speak (2004) and it caught my attention. I dug a little and sure enough there was a book written first. I always hate to see a movie before I read the book because, as a rule the movies never get the story right and I end up with a visual in my head that affects my reading of the story. So I hit the library website and ordered the novel, Laurie Halse Anderson's first.

I read it in two sittings.

(I could have read it in one, but you see, there are these short people, they keep calling me, "Mom" and demanding food and attention...I digress...)

Freshman, Melinda Sordino, narrates her way through Merryweather High as a social outcast. High school is bad enough to try to navigate, but Melinda is taunted by those who were her closest friends in eighth grade. She is haunted by the party she attended with those former friends just a few months prior. A party that was ended because she called the cops.

"It's easier not to say anything. Shut your trap, button your lip, can it. All that crap you hear on TV about communication and expressing feelings is a lie. Nobody really wants to hear what you have to say. "
— Laurie Halse Anderson (Speak)

Talking become more and more difficult to the point where Melinda shuts down and doesn't speak at all. Her once above average grades nosedive and her attendance becomes erratic.


I cut class, you cut class, he, she, it cuts class. We cut class, they cut class. We all cut class. I cannot say this in Spanish because I did not go to Spanish today. Gracias a dios. Hasta luego."
— Laurie Halse Anderson (Speak)

The only class she doesn't ditch on a regular basis is art, where the unique Mr. Freeman rails against "the system." Mr. Freeman offers art as "the only class that will teach you how to survive." Each student is assigned a subject for the whole year to explore. Melinda's subject is "Tree."

Melinda's parents are so involved in trying to keep themselves moving forward that they fail to notice Melinda's slow withdrawal until grade cards arrive. They make clumsy attempts to reach her, but it is not enough.

Anderson captures the tone I remember from high school, she paints the picture of clans and cliques and examines the difficulty of navigating the jungle of the high school halls. The tone is ironic, sad and entirely quotable.


1. We are here to help you.
2. You will have time to get to your class before the bell rings.
3. The dress code will be enforced.
4. No smoking is allowed on school grounds.
5. Our football team will win the championship this year.
6. We expect more of you here.
7. Guidance counselors are always available to listen.
8. Your schedule was created with you in mind.
9. Your locker combination is private.
10. These will be the years you look back on fondly.


1. You will use algebra in your adult lives.
2. Driving to school is a privilege that can be taken away.
3. Students must stay on campus during lunch.
4. The new text books will arrive any day now.
5. Colleges care more about you than your SAT scores.
6. We are enforcing the dress code.
7. We will figure out how to turn off the heat soon.
8. Our bus drivers are highly trained professionals.
9. There is nothing wrong with summer school.
10. We want to hear what you have to say."
— Laurie Halse Anderson (Speak)

Once done with the book, I had my husband put Speak in the Netflix queue, wondering just how well a movie could capture this poignant book. I was pleased that not only did the movie follow the story line quite well, screenwriter, Jessica Sharzer was brave enough to take much of the dialog directly out of Anderson's book and put it precisely in the movie in exactly the places it belonged. There were a few scenes from the book that were left out of the movie, but I would not be able to tell you how they could have been added without being awkward to film. Only a few situations were marginally changed and I think they were done well.

Melinda is played by Kristen Stewart (yes, of Forks fame--but don't let that predispose you to this movie) who was fourteen at the time the movie was filmed. She did an amazing job, she was at once fragile and damaged, and yet displayed the strength of the symbolic tree assigned in the art class.

Mr. Freeman, the quirky art teacher is played by Steve Zahn. Initially, he didn't fit my image of Mr. Freeman, but did a fabulous job of capturing the spirit of the teacher in the story.

Elizabeth Perkins and D.B. Sweeney are Melinda's clueless parents. They portrayed the parents Anderson portrays in the book really well.

The movie was aptly rated PG-13 (see IMDb Parents' Guide). I found the book in the Young Adult section of the library. Both book and movie deal with the subject of rape and the aftermath of a teenager who did not seek help immediately after the attack. Obviously this is an emotional and traumatic subject and not appropriate for everyone. Parents should read this book before handing it to their children and talk to them about it.

Both book and movie were well done and I highly recommend them.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Blog Book Tour--Swinging on a Star

Swinging on a Star by Janice Thompson

Ever since I finished Fools Rush In by Ms. Thompson, I've been waiting to go back to Parma Johns to dine on themed pizza, listen to Mambo Italiano and catch up with Bella Rossi and her cowboy knight in shining armor, D.J. Neeley. I felt so at home and had so much fun with Italian wedding coordinator, Bella and her carpenter cum deejay, D.J. that I wanted to find out more about their opposites-attract relationship.

When I got a chance to review Swinging on a Star I didn't realize that D.J. would have a few more knights, also in shining armor, to contend with. Bella is working on a new themed wedding, even bigger than the last hoedown she engineered. The bride and groom to be want a med
ieval wedding complete with a castle, a moat, madrigal music and horse-drawn carriages.

Ms. Thompson fills her book with complications for a renaissance wedding from the very first chapter. Bella's life seems like it cannot get more complicated--oh, but it does!! With wayward actors, Food Network filming her aunt, complicated relationships, a night in jail (really!) and much hilarity, Swinging on a Star kept me turning the page, "Just one more!" until the wee hours of the night. I just had to finish.

The soundtrack to this guaranteed-to-make-you-smile novel is, once again, my favorite Dean Martin. Oh, and she lets Ole Blue Eyes, Frank Sinatra sing a few too.

Swinging on A Star is available January 2010 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. And if you enjoy it as much as I do, be on the lookout for It Had to Be You, Janice Thompson's third installment of herWeddings by Bella series. I can't wait!!

Until then I will just have to listen to Dean Martin and dream!

Many thanks to Revell/Baker Publishing from whom I received Swinging on a Star.