Friday, May 29, 2015

Romance Review: Love's Rescue by Christine Johnson

Christine Johnson creates enjoyable characters and strong character and plot development in the first of her "Keys of Promise" series, "Love's Rescue." The story involves ships in a tropical setting, it's a historical story, and the leading lady is named Elizabeth, so I couldn't help but think of Pirates of the Carribean as I read. Still, playing the score for those movies in my mind as I read only added to the excitement.

The secrets revealed are expected, but serve their purpose, and Johnson uses her Romeo and Juliet plot to deal with patience, painful sins, slavery and more. Starting the story with our characters already in love, however, left little room for Elizabeth's chemistry with Rourke, the ship Wrecker she loves whom her family has forbidden. The solution to their troubles is a bit obvious (why didn't it come sooner?). Also, Johnson uses a lot of confusing jargon in her first chapter.

The suspense is there, however, and the action starts immediately, from the first page. Once I started, I could not put the book down.

*Disclaimer: I received this book for free in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Review: John Shaw's Guide to Digital Nature Photography

John Shaw's Guide to Digital Nature Photography has a lot of information for very beginning photographers - details on aperture, ISO, etc - and a lot of information for advanced photographers - i.e. for those with a lot of money to spend or with big brains for mathematics. However, as someone who has a basic knowledge of how a DSLR camera works, I took very little away from this book. The small bits of advice on the digital part of photography were not very explanatory and would really need a book of their own. The remainder of the book was too advanced for me. I had a very difficult time following Shaw's advice. He uses a lot of jargon and his explanations would likely make more sense with video or in-person examples (which could have been an option in this day in age - there's a little thing known as a QR Code). I did manage to read the entirety of the book, but, again, I took very little away and left with more questions than answers. I did appreciate Shaw's detailed captions for his photos that gave all the camera settings. But the book's organization was not effective and, again, the book was difficult to understand. I would have liked to have seen more advice for those of us without a big budget.

*Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Romance Review: Once Upon A Summertime by Melody Carlson

Melody Carlson writes a book with relatable characters and an exciting setting for "Once Upon A Summertime." Anna's search for a job and subsequent work to keep the job makes sense within the context of the current U.S. economy. By chance, she becomes the housekeeping manager for a new hotel in New York City. A company policy forces her to play safe when she hits it off with another manager, who grew up in the same town as her. They spend a few days sight seeing together, and by the end of the book (a few weeks later) they're ready for marriage. Surely there are better solutions than this. It's a quick and easy read, thoroughly enjoyable, but without much depth or character development. And Anna does not even meet the leading man until 100 pages in. But "Summertime" makes a nice read for those looking for light fairy tale romance.

*Disclaimer: I received this book for free in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Reference Book Review: The A to Z Guide to Bible Signs & Symbols

I'm not entirely sure why Neil Wilson and Nancy Ryken Taylor chose certain "signs" or "symbols" to include in their reference book, "The A to Z Guide to Bible Signs & Symbols." But I'll admit, they picked up on some things I wouldn't normally think about as having a consistent presence throughout the Bible. The information presented in the book is very concise - there isn't much room to go into depth. However, I did find a few interesting facts as I browsed, and I greatly appreciated the use of relevant verses and book excerpts in each section (each sign or symbol gets two pages with colorful photos and small print). Topics range from colors and cities to numbers and food.

*Disclaimer: I received this book for free in exchange for my honest review.

Nonfiction Review: Sex Matters by Jonathan Mckee

"Sex Matters" by Jonathan Mckee is a quick and easy read ... for teenagers. College students and adults will likely find Mckee's story examples and Biblical points basic and without much depth. The book's back cover poses it as a book meant to answer deep questions. In a sense, Mckee does that. However, the entire book is written to youth. You have to admire Mckee for setting out to give "no exceptions, no loop holes" answers and to present the Biblical definition and purpose of sex (i.e. that it is supposed to be enjoyed within marriage). While there were some interesting facts about diseases and studies on sex outside versus sex inside marriage, there was very little to take away from this short book. It may discuss issues relevant to high school students with sex on the mind, but it does not truly address any political issue surrounding sex or real-life, every-day dilemma regarding sex. And as one who has struggled with her self image but never had a boy friend (i.e. curious because of a desire for love and friendship missing in my life), I can say there is at least one youth demographic that Mckee completely skips over.

*Disclaimer: I received this book for free in exchange for my honest review

Romance Review: In Firefly Valley

While I did not enjoy Amanda Cabot's "In Firefly Valley" as much as I loved the first book in this series (Texas Crossroads), I found the character development fairly realistic. The romance follows Marisa, who has dealt with anger since her alcoholic father left her and her mother when she was a child. Now an adult newly hired to manage the small-town Rainbow Resort, she meets Blake. They have immediate chemistry, which usually gets on my nerves in a romance. However, as they spend time together. their relationship becomes more believable.

When Marisa finds out Blake writes novels about a man who drinks, she feels betrayed by the newly discovered secret. Given her background, Marisa's reaction is understandable. She worries Blake will be his character and become a drinker. But that Blake (spoiler alert) caves to her worries and decides to write a new series of books with a better role model bugs me. I would have rather seen him turn his character into a flawed human who finds redemption. Still, Marisa's own redemption and a nice side romance between characters Lauren and Drew made for a good read. Ultimately, I have to give Cabot credit for reading so well into her characters and creating very real, very deep situations for them to deal with.

*Disclaimer: I received this book for free in exchange for my honest review.

Christian Nonfiction Review: The Bible in Pop Culture

"The Bible in Pop Culture" is the second book of its kind I've come across - the other being a devotions book on superheroes and such. The comparisons found in these books intrigue me because I have been thinking along the same lines in the world of Broadway theatre and Opera. Kevin Harvey gives plenty of comparisons and examples throughout his book, from music to movies. Some of his examples are not exactly what I would have picked, and his explanations do not always go past the light side. Also, Harvey uses a version of the Bible that I don't normally approve of (one of those interpretations that insists it's a translation). And Harvey alluded to Rick Warren and other figures in a positive light (if you haven't guessed, I believe such leaders are off base in their teachings). Still, "The Bible in Pop Culture" was a fairly enjoyable read. I especially liked Harvey's side bars, which included bits of humor and specific Bible verses found in specific pop culture items. Most of all, I truly appreciate Harvey's point that we cannot find perfection beyond the Bible, but that does not have to mean we cannot find meaning and truth in our entertainment.

*I received this book in exchange for my honest review.