Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Favorite Reads of 2013!

Goodness gracious! Can you believe that 2013 is a couple hours away from being over? It's hard to believe that it is yet again time to enter a new year, and as so, we thought it'd be fun to have a 2013 review post sharing our favorite books that we read this past year. While it was extremely hard to narrow it down, as we both read so many wonderful books this year, we finally narrowed it down to what we have here, and hope you enjoy seeing our favorites. Please note that the books are not in any particular order as it's way to difficult to put a number to them all from first to least.
Bethany's Favorite Books Read In 2013
Total books read in 2013: 85
Madi's Favorite Books Read In 2013



Total books read in 2013: 132
What was your favorite(s) of 2013? Please do share them in a comment, as we love hearing for you! As we sign off this last blog post in 2013, we would like to wish you all a very blessed new year filled with blessings and joy!
~Bethany & Madi

Monday, December 30, 2013

The Reason For My Hope By Billy Graham Book Review

/ / The Reason For My Hope / /

{Review By Madi}
Book Title: The Reason For My Hope
Author: Billy Graham
Source: Booksneeze
Number Of Pages: 207
ISBN: 978-0-8499-4761-2
Publisher: W Publishing
Year Of Publication: 2013
Madi's Rating: Five Out Of Five Stars
/ / Book Description / /
From America's evangelistic elder statesman

Salvation is what we all long for, when we are lost or in danger or have made a mess of our lives. And salvation belongs to us, when we reach out for the only One who can rescue us--Jesus.

The saving message of the Gospel is the heartbeat of this preacher and evangelist. Millions around the world have heard Billy Graham proclaim this unchanging truth. He has never forgotten the transformation of his own life, when he first said yes to God's gift of salvation, and he has witnessed multitudes turn their hearts to the God of Hope.

"The Reason for My Hope: Salvation "presents the essence of that transformative message. It is biblical and timeless, and though simple and direct, it is far from easy. There are hard words, prophetic words, directed toward a culture that denies the reality of sin and distracts us from the veracity of Hell. But through its ominous warnings shines a light that cannot be extinguished--a beacon of hope that Jesus came "to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10).
/ / Madi's Book Review / /
 Billy Graham has had a huge part in my upbringing, so I'm always excited to read a book that he has written. I have read more books by this wonderful man than I can count (I even did a report on him in middle school), and I grew up listening to his sermons on television. He is such a wise person, and it has always been a dream of mine to meet him. My whole family gets excited when I get one of his books, because they know that they will all get the chance to read it as well. I always learn a lot about how to treat others and how to act in a way that best represents Christ best when I finish one of Graham's books, and this one was no different. This one, though, more than anything, was an explanatory book about the gift of salvation instead of a book demonstrating how to accomplish something. I mean, after all, there is nothing that we as people can do to accomplish salvation, we can only get that through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. This book is a great book to read as you wind down for the night or if you are stressed out and need something to occupy your mind while you calm down, because though it may not be fast paced, it gives a person a lot to consider. Another cool thing about this book is that I haven't seen it in paperback, so if you purchase it you are guaranteed to get a good quality binding that will last through a lot of page turning (if you ever decide to reread it or lend it out). I love my paperbacks, don't get me wrong, but it's super easy to bend the cover if you aren't careful or to wear out the spine after continued use. That's a perk of hardcopies, they are sturdy and durable. Of course, if you are into all that newfangled e-book reading (blegh!) than this is completely irrelevant to you. No matter what form you buy this book in, I encourage you to read it. I promise that you won't look at things the same in the aftermath.
~Madi For The Literary Maidens
 Note: I was provided with a free copy of this book from Thomas Nelson Publishers by the Booksneeze blogger program, but I was not paid to write this review and all thoughts expressed in this post are completely my own and unbiased. 

Friday, December 27, 2013

Wonderland Creek By Lynn Austin Book Review

/ / Wonderland Creek / /

/ / A Novel By Lynn Austin / /

{Review By Madi}
Title: Wonderland Creek
Author: Lynn Austin
Source: Review Book Provided By The Author
Number Of Pages: 391
ISBN: 978-0-7642-0498-2
Publisher: Bethany House
Year Of Publication: 2011
My Rating: Five Out Of Five Stars
/ / Book Description / /
Lynn Austin Will Delight Readers with Her Winsome Heroine

Alice Grace Ripley lives in a dream world, her nose stuck in a book. But the happily-ever-after life she's planned on suddenly falls apart when her boyfriend, Gordon, breaks up with her, accusing her of living in a world of fiction instead of the real world. Then to top it off, Alice loses her beloved job at the library because of cutbacks due to the Great Depression.

Fleeing small-town gossip, Alice heads to the mountains of eastern Kentucky to deliver five boxes of donated books to a library in the tiny coal-mining village of Acorn. Dropped off by her relatives, Alice volunteers to stay for two weeks to help the librarian, Leslie McDougal.

But the librarian turns out to be far different than she anticipated--not to mention the four lady librarians who travel to the remote homes to deliver the much-desired books. When Alice is trapped in Acorn against her will, she soon finds that real-life adventure and mystery--and especially romance--are far better than her humble dreams could have imagined.
/ / Book Review / /
I love this book. I'm so grateful to have it on my personal bookshelf so that I can go back and re-read it as often as I like. One of the best things about this novel is the wonderfully created characters, so I have made a list of a few of the main characters that appear throughout the story and their personality traits.
Alice Grace Ripley-
Alice is a ministers daughter that always has her nose in a book. Her family and friends are completely convinced that she lives in a non-existent dreamland, and they are right. Her imagination is keen, and her spunk knows no bounds (except Miss Lillie, but we'll get to that later). Alice is a librarian in her hometown that she considers small, until she gets laid off due to the depression. Little did she know that by making a trip to Kentucky to deliver donated books to the rural town's library that she would discover what a small town really was like. She also never thought of herself as a high-maintenance city slicker, but to the mountain people of Kentucky, that's exactly what she is. Is it too much to ask for indoor plumbing?
Leslie "Mack" Larkin-
Mack was saddled with a woman's name at birth, but he hates it and goes by the nickname, "Mack". I don't know where the name came from, but it suits him. At first, Mack came across as an uncivilized grump, but when I dove further into the story, I came to the realization that he was actually a very intelligent and educated man. He was working on a book that got him into some trouble with the townsfolk, so he faked his own death to secure safety for himself and those close to him. He sure was glad that new little librarian came to take over his post at the library and help him see his plan to fruition.
Miss Lillie-
Miss Lillie has got to be my favorite character. Her personality reminds me of some of my family in Mississippi. Miss Lillie is a black 100 year old former slave woman that raised Mack. This feisty old woman has enough spunk for the whole state of Kentucky, and she isn't afraid to use it. She is quick to love, has impeccable judgment in people, and will do just about anything for someone that she loves. As a young girl she learned the art of medicine, and being the town healer has afforded her certain privileges. She knows secrets about the people of her small town that no one else does. She could blackmail the entire town into submission if she wanted to, but of course she's too nice for all that. She thinks that she frightens the new little sprite of a girl that has been helping her out since Mack "passed on", which is good. She needs her help, and she intends to keep it. She rather likes her though.
These characters made me fall in love with this story, and I haven't been so emotionally exhausted after reading a novel in a while. This isn't the first Lynn Austin book that I have read, and I hope that it  won't be the last. I love reading anything by Lynn Austin, and I'm always glad to be able to get my hands on one of her novels. Her writing style leaves readers wanting more, and whenever I finish one of her books I always feel like I have lost a dear friend. The plot for Wonderland Creek was very original and well written. Like any good story, it contained romance, action, danger, adventure, murder, undercover plans to right past wrongs, and just about anything else that you can think of. I loved how this book managed to entertain without being the least bit inappropriate, which can be hard to find nowadays. Of course, Bethany House Publishers has always been one of my favorite publishers to purchase books from for that very reason. Chances are that if Bethany House published it you'll have no problem with the whole "to read, or to shelve?" thing like you would with other publishers. Bethany House is a Christian publisher, and if I were to write a book that is where I would turn to. Anyways, I can't recommend this book enough to anyone. Please, stop what you're doing and go pick up a Lynn Austin title, preferably this one.
~Madi For The Literary Maidens

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Dawn Of Christmas By Cindy Woodsmall Book Review

/ / The Dawn Of Christmas / /

{Review By Madi}
Title: The Dawn Of Christmas
Author: Cindy Woodsmall
Source: Blogging For Books
Number Of Pages: 170
ISBN: 978-0-307-73213-2
Publisher: WaterBrook Press
Year Of Publication: 2012
My Rating: Four Out Of Five Stars
/ / Book Description / /
This Christmas, experience learning to trust alongside the Plain folk of Apple Ridge, Pennsylvania in this heart-warming tale of second chances.

Sadie enjoys her freedom away from home and her mission trips to Peru, but after four years, her Old Order Amish family insists it’s time to come home and settle down. Levi, a bachelor who distrusts women after a family heartbreak, also has no desire for romance. To keep their families from meddling in their lives, Sadie and Levi devise a plan—but soon discover that the walls around their hearts are breaking down. Can they let go of their prejudices, learn to trust each other, and embrace a future together?
/ / Book Review / /
 This isn't the first book of Cindy Woodsmall's that I have read, in fact, I have read several. I will admit that I haven't been a huge fan of hers, and I usually wouldn't recommend any of her books, but for some reason I keep reading them. It's kind of like McDonald's, it taste horrible, but you eat it all the time anyway. Most of the time I dislike her books simply because the plot is boring and predictable, and because her novels lack that feeling of authenticity, but I must admit that I am impressed with The Dawn Of Christmas. I wasn't sure I would ever read a Cindy Woodsmall book that I ended up being glad that I read, but I did. This little novella captured my attention and kept it there until before I knew it I had completed it in a single sitting (which wasn't hard, considering it's only 170 pages long). I'm sucker for a good romantic novella, and this was just the ticket. I don't get the title though. Only the very last chapter had anything to do with Christmas, and there was little to no mention of the holiday throughout the rest of the book. I went into this book expecting a story full of Christmas cheer and holiday spirit, and that's not what I got out of it. I don't mind though. Overall, it was still a very enjoyable book to read and it gave me hope for this author yet. I think the reason that I kept going back to Cindy's books is that I saw the potential there, but it never really came to light for me until I read this. She still isn't one of my "Must-Read" authors, but from now on I won't balk at a recommendation to one of her books. The characters were wonderfully created and artfully portrayed, and it took no time at all for me to get caught up in what was happening in their lives. My favorite character was Sadie. Most Amish women are very solemn, obedient and quiet. Sadie is a spitfire. It's nice to see an Amish character with personality, even if it is a bit unrealistic. I hope that this author continues to surprise me in the future, because I quite enjoyed this novella and hope to see more like it.
 ~Madi For The Literary Maidens

Monday, December 23, 2013

Cloak of the Light By Chuck Black Book Review

18112194// Cloak of the Light//

Wars of the Realm Series // Book #1

By Chuck Black

{Review By Bethany}
Number of Pages: 320
ISBN: 1601425023
Publisher: Multnomah Books
Publication Date: March 18th 2014
Bethany's Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
// Book Synopsis //
{Taken from the back cover}
"What if...there was a world beyond our vision, a world just fingertips beyond our reach? What if...our world wasn't beyond their influence?
Tragedy and heartache seem to be waiting for Drew Carter at every turn, but college offers him a chance to start over-until an accident during a physics experiment leaves him blind and his genius friend, Benjamin Berg, missing.
As his sight miraculously returns, Drew discovers that the accident has heightened his neuron activity, giving him skills and sight beyond any normal man. When he begins to observe fierce invaders that no one else can see, he questions his own sanity, and so do others. But is he insane or do the invaders truly exist?
With help from Sydney Carlyle, a mysterious and elusive girl who offers encouragement through her faith, Drew searches for answers and for his missing friend, Ben, who seems to hold the key to unlocking this mystery. As the dark invaders close in, will he find the truth in time?"
// Bethany's Book Review //
To be honest, when I requested this book I was not sure I'd love it, much less like it. I'll also admit that the only reason I even thought to request it was because I'd read the author's Kingdom series previously and loved them; but it was only the author that drew my attention-not the book synopsis. In fact from the book's description, it looked like a book I wouldn't read since I don't often venture into the world of science fiction, mainly because it's so unrealistic and often a  bit too eerie for my taste. However, I did know that based on how much I loved the Kingdom series, then if this book was anything like the series was then I'd love it-and I did! Although I encountered a lot of doubts when requesting this book and considered it to be a gamble between whether or not I'd like it, I am so glad that I decided to read it, because it ended up being one of my favorite books that I read in 2013!
This book is the first in a new series by Chuck Black that delves into spiritual warfare and the very real battle between good and evil. I liked how he balanced the truths of Scripture concerning spiritual battles between angels and demons with the fictional story of Drew and his friends, as well as how he gave details Scriptural references in the back of the book, explaining what truly is based on Scripture, and what was purely fictional. I think that the story line was very well thought out, and flowed very well keeping you engaged in the story at all times. The story was so engaging that I was able to breeze through it in two days since the story is written in a way that makes you want to keep reading and not stop until you are finished with the book-which is about what happened to me. :) I loved the way that the spiritual truths and the fictionalized parts were combined, and found the story to not only be a true adventure, unique and unlike any other I've read, but also encouraging and really opened my eyes to the truths of how real good and evil is. Often times in life since we don't see the battles between good and evil like Drew was able to, we get desensitized to it and don't truly comprehend that Satan wants our hearts, but this book really brings these things to light, (no pun intended!) and makes you really start to think!
Overall I absolutely loved this book! It was written in a very easy to comprehend way and is a real treat combining an exciting story with an inspirational, eye-opening plot. I'd highly recommend this book to anyone who loved Chuck Black's other books, or to those who enjoy reading inspirational stories that open your eyes to biblical truths.
DISCLAIMER :: I received a free Advance Reading Copy of Cloak of the Light from the publisher, for the sole purpose of this review. I was not paid in any way to review this book, and all thoughts expressed in my review are completely my own, honest and unbiased.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Stones for Bread By Christa Parrish Book Review

17657648 // Stones for Bread //

By Christa Parrish

{Review By Bethany}

Title: Stones for Bread
Author: Christa Parrish
Number of Pages: 326
ISBN: 1401689019
Publisher: Thomas Nelson Publishers
Publication Date: November 5th, 2013
Bethany's Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
// Book Synopsis //

 "What do you do when the gift you thought was bread turns out to be stones?

Liesl McNamara’s Wild Rise is not only a popular bake house and cafĂ© in Vermont, it’s an extension of herself. Liesl is an artisan bread maker, like her mother and grandmother before her. Even though she lost her mother to suicide when she was eleven, she keeps this maternal bond alive as she bakes.

Liesl prides herself on living an uncomplicated, unattached life. But that changes when Seamus walks through the door of Wild Rise, lugging the large bags of whole wheat flour from the local food co-op. He and his daughter Cecelia have recently moved to the country seeking simplicity. Despite her best effort, Liesl becomes attracted to this teddy bear of a man who laughs easily and eats strange sandwich concoctions—on her bread, much to her dismay.

Her simple life is further complicated when a popular cooking show features her bakery. The publicity increases her business and brings several offers from larger businesses, all of which she turns down. But it also brings a completely unexpected phone call, one from a woman claiming to be her half-sister.

Liesl’s sense of identity dissolves as everything about her relationship with her mother—and the bread that held them together—comes into question. Has she been given stones rather than bread? And how can she ever take these crumbs and make them whole again?"
// Bethany's Book Review //

Stones for Bread was the first book by Christa Parrish that I've read, so going into it, I wasn't sure what the writing style would be like, or if I'd like it. However  being that it was about a baker, I thought I'd enjoy reading it as I love to bake, though I must confess I bake much simpler recipes than main character, Liesl does in the book. But it did remind me that baking really is an art, which I'd never really actually thought about before, and it can be such a calming activity, as we see in the story.
Though Stone for Bread wasn't a favorite, I certainly did enjoy reading it and found it to be a very unique book, and unlike any other I've read - both in writing style and story line. Christa Parrish certainly has her own unique writing style, and it was the first time to read a book with such a emotional writing style and story line. It added a nice touch to the story and was very unique and interesting to be able to read-one I won't forget soon as the characters stay with me even after reading the last word of the story.
One thing I loved about this book was all the various artisan bread recipes that were included in the story, when Liesl would bake them. I thought that was really cool and that it would be so fun to bake the breads that Liesl did in the book.
While I did enjoy this book, there were a few tiny details that I found to be a bit of a downer for me. One is that in the story, two or three times a character would be about to say a "word" and the author would cut them off a couple letters before the word was completely spelled,  and while the words weren't completed, you have enough to get the idea of the word, and it was just something I'd have preferred to be left out. While the words weren't inappropriate by any means, and definitely moderate, I just prefer not to have them pop up in a story. Like I said, they weren't terribly bad words, just ones I don't want cluttering my mind with, however it was by no means a reason to put the book down.
Another downer for me was how the whole story is spent with the main character not knowing Christ or having a personal relationship with Christ. Sadly, while this book is considered a Christian novel, there wasn't much Christian influence, since the character doesn't become a Christian until the very end of the book. One way this was obvious to me was how big bread was to Liesl. When I started this book I had the idea that this book would involve a lot of bread, but I didn't expect it to be literally about bread the whole time. Bread is so big to Liesl and a foundation for the story, it's her heritage, family and life since she owns a bakery that fills her days. When she is upset or troubled she makes bread as a way of releasing stress, and I found it often would take the place that Christ should have filled, since she took bread to that level of importance in her life. I felt like often times she would release her stress or find comfort in making bread instead of in Christ, and it was an opportunity for her to strengthen her faith in Christ (as it was growing throughout the story bit by bit) that was missed since she went to bread instead.
Despite these two downers, I did enjoy this book and found it to be a great story on redemption as the main character goes through a lot of different things in the story that make her a stronger person in the end. The writing style was so personal and emotional that you get attached to the characters, and I loved being able to connect with the characters and share their pain. While this book wasn't a favorite, I did enjoy it and would recommend it to anyone who loves to bake!
NOTE :: I received a free copy of this book for the purposes of reading it and writing a review on my blog. I was not paid in any way to write this review, and all thoughts and opinions expressed in my review are honest and unbiased.