Saturday, March 28, 2009

Tea & Read: New rating system

At the beginning of this year, I began a practice that I picked from Cec Murphy: read one book a week. I haven't met that goal every week (some books took longer than a week) but I've been really close to keeping up with my goal. I've been posting my reviews for the books I've read this blog pretty regularly, enough for me to see a pattern forming.

There are some books that I've read in the past three months that I've finished in 24 hours. They have been exceptional reads and needing a rating of their own. So I will be going back and updating my previously rated books to add the Twenty-four Hours of Bliss rating. All of them will be fiction since it takes me a while to finish non-fiction (been reading Flannery by Brad Gooch for three weeks now. Not past the third chapter). I'll have to create a rating for non-fiction later.

Tea & Read: The Inheritance

Title: The Inheritance

Author: Tamara Alexander

Rating: Twenty-four hours of Bliss (NEW!)

Every woman needs a good cowboy story. My friend Linda and I have a reoccurring conversation about cowboys. I love cowboy stories (and movies, especially Wyatt Earp, War Wagon, Big Jake, El Dorado, Tombstone, The Sons of Katie Elder, McLintock, The Outlaw of Josie Wales, Dances with Wolves, The Magnificent Seven and of course, Blazing Saddles.) I love the way cowboys honored women and there were just some things you didn't say and do around a lady. Boy I wish those days were back...

Anyways, Linda is a history buff, so she loved all things remotely historical. I, on the other hand, have to take my historical stories in small doses. But I can tell you I was long overdue for a cowboy story and Tamara Alexander delivered.

The story is about McKenna Ashford, a young woman who's had a very hard life. She is the sole caretaker of her little brother, Robert, who I'd like to take out into the barn and give him a good dose of tough love. The Ashford siblings are on the run from their past, only to run right back into trouble in their future. Enter Wyatt Caradon, a US Marshall. I must admit, I screamed when I saw his name was Wyatt. A cowboy named Wyatt. How hot is that!

This is a great book. I blazed through it in 24 hours. There are strong themes of redemption, tough love and justice. But it has a cowboy named Wyatt in it. Ok, a U.S. Marshall named Wyatt. Nuff said.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Tea & Read: The Hole in the Gospel

Title: The Hole in the Gospel
Author: Richard Stearns
Rating: Spend the Day Sleepy (or Crying)
I am a avid reader. I have been all my life. Out of all the books I've read, this book ranks second to the Bible in how it impacted me. This book changed my life.
Richard Stearns is the president of World Vision, an organization dedicated to reach out to help the hurting and broken all over the world. He tell a heart wrenching tale of those in need of the Gospel in action, not just in words.
This book was particularly challenging for me because I've never been a big fan of missions. Meaning, I would help if it didn't inconvenience me, but I wasn't willing to make a big sacrifice for those hurting. This book showed me that I was only living half of the Gospel.
Stearns presents a very balanced approach to Christian social activism. He rebukes and takes away all excuses anyone would have not to get involved. He shares the problems of poverty, injustice and sickness he's seen as president of World Vision. He shares some harsh but true realities about the American church, ones I wasn't comfortable with being identified with.
Most of all, this book has given me focus on what it means to love your neighbor as yourself. It's given purpose to my life. Since I've read this book, I've committed to write for water. When I get a publishing contract, I'm pledge to do everything in my power to bring clean drinking water to someone in need. Of course I have other things I plan to do until I get a publishing contract, like reaching out to single mothers, but I feel like I've had the scales fall from my eyes.
This book is a must read for everyone who feels like, despite their religious activities, there is something missing in their quest to become like Jesus. The answer is right between the pages of this book. There is probably a hole in your gospel.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Clearance Charms: Fiesta Moon

Title: Fiesta Moon
Author: Linda Windsor

This is the first and a very fitting addition to my Clearance Charms. I bought this book on a whim at Family Christian Bookstore. I'd gone with my little brother just to keep him company. Unfortunately, I have a horrible disorder that prevents me from leaving a bookstore without buying a book. So I grabbed Fiesta Moon at the last minute and bought it.

Corinne is looking for her birth mother and her search has led her to a Mexican town. When the trail turns cold, she decides to stay and run an orphanage. The orphanage is falling apart and needs a makeover. Enters Mark Madison, a spoiled entitled engineer sentenced to the small town after another DUI. Both Mark and Corinne are strong personalities and it doesn't take long for the fireworks start.

This book is absolutely hilarious. It is a humorous look at cross-culture relations and how easy for misunderstands to abound. I love the way the author handles the bilingual interactions in the book. Muy Bueno! To top if off, it's a good ole fashion romance.

I am looking forward to reading more of Linda Windsor.

New Feature: Clearance Charms

I shop on the clearance rack at the bookstore. I know most author's think it's sad to end up there, but it's a wonderful place for me as a reader in a cash strapped economy.

I'm not saying that all books on the clearance are bad, but many of them are. But in my frequenting the clearance rack, I find a book that I thought was too good to be there. This gems have not only been wonderful reads, but they have introduced me to writers I never knew existed. I've created a new section of my blog that will review my clearance charms.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Tea & Read: A Constant Heart

Title: A Constant Heart

Author: Siri Mitchell

Rating: Spend the Day Sleepy

My little brother saw me reading this book one day when he came to visit. The next day he called me and said "I know you finished that book by now. You were reading it pretty hard." I hadn't finished it at that point, but it only took me 48 hours to read it. My little brother doesn't know who Siri Mitchell is, but if he did, he'd understand that her books are so good that you scarf them down. The longest it took me to read any of Siri's books was three days, Moon Over Tokyo and that's only because I didn't have the time to devote to reading it.
I found out about a Constant Heart from Siri's website ( I normally don't like historicals, but Siri handled historicals very well Château of Echoes. A Constant Heart didn't disappoint.

A Constant Heart presented the dark side of Queen Elizabeth's reign, that seems to be overlooked when people write about this time period. I appreciated the portrait Mitchell painted of what it was like to be a courtier.

The character were gripping and most wives will identify with Marget desire to be a good wife and competing with other things for their husband's attention. As a military wife, I could relate to Marget's frustration with Lyntham's dedication to Elizabeth. No, he wasn't as obligated as my husband is, but I could relate to the priority Marget felt the Queen had.

My favorite part: The Love Salad. And Mitchell gets kudos for incorporating historically accurate info and not just making it up.

Even though I loved the book, the ending was a little anticlimactic. For all the hardships Marget suffered by the hands of others in the book, I didn't feel like the retribution fit the crime. But that was just a minor issues, especially if this is book one of a series (which I don't think it is, but a girl can wish.)

Tea & Read: Kiss

Title: Kiss
Author(s): Ted Dekker and Erin Healy
Rating: One Cup of Tea

Even though I didn't give this book the highest rating, this rating is meaningful coming from me. I've been mad at Ted Dekker since House. I own Skin, Showdown and Sinner, but I was afraid to read them. I was afraid that they would exacerbate my love-hate relationship with Ted.

I loved Blink (or Blink of an Eye as it's called now) and I liked Three, although it left me with some questions (I guess crazy people need love too, but I wouldn't have be trying to see Kevin again.) But House and the Black, Red and White trillogy left me scratching my head.

I gave Kiss a chance for two reasons. First, it was at the library. When you are mad at an author, you're a little reluctant to buy another book from them. My second reason was Erin Healy. No, I didn't know who she was, but I was hoping she could remedy some of the issues I have with Ted Dekker's writing.

Kiss turned out to be better than I expected. One complaint I have with Ted Dekker is some of his writing can be very cerebral. Meaning, sometimes I get confused about what's actually happening in a scene (or in a whole book in the case of House). But the collaboration paid off. The books is Ted Dekker with a woman's touch.

The story is gripping enough. A woman who's lost six months of her memory. The suspense is good and the characters are credible, even though I thought her relationship with her father was a bit extreme for the ending. Don't worry. I won't spoil it.

My favorite scene was when Shauna runs into someone from her past. She's attracted to him, but she doesn't remember why. The romantic tension is really high.

Since I'm not so mad at Ted Dekker anymore, maybe I'll go ahead and read Skin, Showdown and Sinner now.

Tea & Read: By Reason of Insanity

Title: By Reason of Insanity
Author: Randy Singer
Rating: Spend the Day Sleepy

Ok, I'm slow. I kept seeing this book in my local Family Christian and something about it kept drawing me to it. I put it on my list of books to buy and one day while I was in the library, it was sitting on the shelf. So I checked it out.

So why do I say I'm slow? I read the whole book, which I loved before I realized that Randy Singer wrote another book I own and loved: The Cross Examination of Oliver Finney. My husband and I both loved that book and have reommended it to several people we know.

Anyways, By Reason of Insanity definitely gets a spend the day sleepy. Well written as usual, but the subject matter was very gritty. I'm in the process of broadening my subject matter reading, but still I wouldn't have dreamed that I would enjoy a book about jail so much.

Also, as in Cross Examination, the inspirational elements flow in the plot. And the plot delivers all the twists and turns you'd expect from a good legal thriller. Also, the theme of the book, justice, wasn't covered with kid gloves. It showed that justice isn't automatic, even though it should be. And it showed how things can go very bad in our legal system.

This was a great book. Maybe next time I'll remember that I love Randy Singer.