Book Review – The Selection

Since I now have the opportunity to read a lot more while working at the library, it’s becoming harder to find books that interest me. Listening to books is different from reading them. When listening you can’t go back to repeat things or make notes in margins, all of which I like to do when reading nonfiction. This limits my selection but it’s also forced me to select books that I wouldn’t have heard of or tried.

One of those books is The Selection by Kiera Cass. It’s a book meant for teen readers and it’s a cross between The Bachelor and The Hunger Games. In The Selection, girls across the kingdom may apply to be part of the selection, a televised competition to become the prince’s wife. Selection comes with class and financial benefits for the families of those chosen. The story follows America, who was born into class Five, which is made up of artists. Food and money are scare for her family of musicians but not as bad as it is for Aspen, the boy she loves. When Aspen spurns her advances on the basis of her well-being, she applies to be part of the selection and is chosen. Her motivation is to get over Aspen and to benefit her family which allows her to be genuine with Prince Maxon. The Prince finds her honesty refreshing and keeps her at the palace in spite of her ignorance of politics and etiquette.

The Selection is the first of a trilogy; the second book, The Elite, continues the story. The One, the final book in the trilogy, is scheduled to be released this week. For people like me who enjoy continuing our favorite stories through fan fiction, there are several add-on novellas to enjoy.

There were moments in this story where I was annoyed by the drama. Reading books geared toward teenagers bears this danger and I realize that. In general, I enjoyed the story and the situations the characters find themselves facing. It’s an easy read. For someone who tends to get overly involved in fictional characters and feels their pain, this story was ideal. I’m looking forward to the release of The One, although I will probably have to go back and re-read the first two. Good thing I have a vacation coming up!

These comments are my opinion only.

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Book Review – Boy Meets Girl

Confession: I hadn’t actually read a Meg Cabot book until this year. Sure, I knew about The Princess Diaries and had watched the movie, but hadn’t ventured to her other work. Until I was shelving some of her books at the library and noticed just how many there were! So I grabbed The Princess Diaries. Yes, it’s a kids book, but it was fluffy and funny. And not very much like the movie which made it different enough to surprise me. Finishing that book had me searching for other books by Meg Cabot and I came across the Boy series.

The Boy series is made up of three related but separate stories of employees at the New York Journal, all told through email or journal entries. I’ve read all three and enjoyed them all, but Boy Meets Girl was my favorite.

Kate Mackenzie is an HR rep at the New York Journal working for a difficult boss. When she terminates an employee on her supervisor’s demand, she finds herself being deposed in a wrongful termination suit. She’s shocked to find herself attracted to the company’s attorney, who is also the brother of her unlovable boss’s fiancé.

The various perspectives and humor in this book are hilarious! Best friends, work colleagues, and siblings all weigh in on the situation, on both sides of the attraction. The reader gets to know the boss and her fiancé’s point of view as well.

Having experienced working for a difficult supervisor in HR (although nowhere near as bad as Any Jenkins!) I loved Kate’s story. The exception humor just added to the enjoyment. It’s definitely a light and quick read, perfect for vacation.

Enjoy! And remember, my opinions are my own.

Book Review – Jesus + Nothing = Everything

Jesus + Nothing = Everything by Tullian Tchividjian is the latest book my mentor and I have been studying together. Don’t ask me how to say his name… I’m giving thanks right now that this is written and not spoken!

The title does a great job of summing up the entire point of the book: Jesus is everything. There is nothing we can add to what he has done and without him we have nothing.

Each chapter is dedicated to looking more deeply at a portion of this formula, backward and forward, diving into the concept of grace and what it means for us as Christians.

Not only does he offer scriptural support, but Tullian draws on several other Christian authors throughout the book and offers a list of twenty-six books about the gospel and grace to continue learning.

Maybe it was just my experience, but this book was hugely eye opening to what exactly grace means. Nowhere in my past was grace explained so clearly. Every chapter held a new punch, a reminder that it really isn’t about me. I tend to struggle with perfectionism, the need to dot every I and cross every T, to do things right. The comparison of law vs. grace and constant reminders that Christ did it all and I don’t have to were (and are!) freeing.

We read this book a chapter at a time, meeting every two weeks, so it has been hard to synthesize the entire book as a whole. I wouldn’t do anything differently because this book has made an impact in my life, but I do want to go back and read the entire book in its entirety. Also, a highlighter and pen was very helpful while reading!

I’m absolutely not an expert and this is only my opinion, but I think this could be a good book for people who are struggling with legalism or the concept of grace. While points are supported by scripture, it’s also not deeply theological, making it easy to understand for people who aren’t familiar with deep theological concepts.

Book Review – A Skeleton in God’s Closet

Have you ever read a great book, set it on the shelf for years, and then came back to it later only to be surprised again by the plot twists?

That’s what happened to me with A Skeleton in God’s Closet by Paul Maier. I read this book back in high school and loved it so much that I loaned it to a family member. It was recently returned to me (quite unexpectedly!) so what did I do? I read it!

In A Skeleton in God’s Closet, Dr. Jon Weber spends his sabbatical at an archaeological dig in Israel when he makes a surprising discovery: a skeleton in a tomb. But further investigation indicates that this skeleton might not be the person they originally thought. The impact could affect the world, causing Jon to question everything.

I love the detail included in this story. Granted, I’m not an archaeologist so I have no idea what exactly happens on a dig or how they date their discoveries, but the testing and procedure followed in the story are fascinating. The depth of knowledge and expertise necessary is impressive. Dr. Weber’s dedication to finding the truth is admirable, even if he knows it will impact the world.

This book was originally published in 1993, so the technology is behind the times, but the story stands. Many stories these days are predictable, with twists that you can see coming. I love a plot that shocks me with unexpected twists and this story provides them. The ending is one I never saw coming. It’s hard to write this review without giving it away, but it is worth the read! At least in my opinion.

Written well before The Da Vinci Code, A Skeleton in God’s Closet explores similar issues.

Book Review – Kisses from Katie

Kisses from Katie was the first book I listened to as I started my job as a shelver. What an intense way to start!

This book – essentially a biography – tells the story of Katie Davis, a high schooler from Tennessee who goes to Uganda on a missions trip and feels God calling her there. She serves as a teacher; starts Amazima, a non-profit to pay for students to go to school; feeds children; adopts them; loves them; and feels the intense call to live out her life as a mother to many little girls, showing them God’s love. All before the age of 21.

The book is based on many of Katie’s personal diary entries, giving it an intensely personal feeling. God’s call on her life and her reactions come through in such an emotional way, I was fighting tears standing in the stacks while listening. Her willingness to give up everything familiar, every comfort, to do God’s will and to love his children is incredible. You can feel his love and provision, the intense love and desire Katie has for her Lord. It’s moving and it’s challenging. So much of what she says may not have been meant this way, but it is a challenge to my overly comfortable way of life. It’s something that has stuck with me and months later, I’m still mulling over the truths exemplified in Katie’s life.

Hearing these stories told vocally may have made a difference in my emotional response; I don’t know if I would have reacted the same way to reading them, but something tells me I would have. It feels somewhat wrong to call this a book review because Kisses from Katie seems like so much more than a book to me. It taught me so many things, softened my heart to God’s will for my life, more than nearly anything else I’ve read.

What a powerful testament of how our lives can reach others – around us and far away from us – when we truly submit to his will.

Book Review – To Win Her Heart

It’s been a while since I’ve written up a book review, partly because I wasn’t reading and more recently because I just haven’t had the time. My reading these days isn’t really “reading” per se, it’s listening to audio books while I’m working my second job as a shelver at a local library. By listening to audio books I’ve actually been able to read a lot more books than I normally would!

I can’t recall why I downloaded this book. Probably because it was a Christian fiction book that was available when quickly looked through the library’s catalog before leaving for the library. I’d never read any of Karen Witemeyer’s books before so I didn’t know what to expect.

To Win Her Heart tells the story of Levi Grant, an ex-convict and former prize fighter who is starting his life over after serving a sentence for manslaughter. He comes to Spencer, Texas intent on starting over and meets Eden Spencer, daughter of the town’s founder and proprietress of the local library. The two start a relationship over a shared love of literature but Levi’s past keeps throwing challenges at them.

I enjoyed the banter between these two, although at times I was so annoyed with Eden I wanted to stop listening. Fortunately, I was in the middle of a shift with nothing else to listen to so I kept going. After letting her fear rule her for a few days, she does come to her sense swiftly.

Levi’s commitment to his vow not to fight nearly gets him killed, and his absolute commitment to God is admirable. God’s grace and redemption is woven beautifully into the story, with the main characters and supporting characters.

Overall, this was a great story with several humorous moments.  Fortunately Karen Witemeyer has several other books, so I’m going to find those for my next few shifts!

Keep in mind, all opinions are my own. And yours are yours, so if you’ve read a book I review, let me know your thoughts!

Book Review – The Maid of Fairbourne Hall

It’s sometimes hard to find good ebooks available to borrow from the local library. The waiting list is usually long and so many of them aren’t books I would be interested in reading. Harlequin romances are not for me.

So I happy to find this book available to borrow immediately while browing through the library’s listings. I’ve read Julie Klassen’s The Lady of Milkweed Manor and while it wasn’t my favorite, it was a good read.

The Maid of Fairbourne Hall tells the story of Margaret Macy, a London lady who finds herself running from her home after overhearing her stepfather giving his nephew what is essentially permission to rape her. In an effort to support herself, she finds a place as a housemaid in the home of Nathaniel Upchurch, a suitor she once rejected. Eventually she returns home but not before realizing she may have made a mistake in her judgment of Nathaniel.

Margaret’s development in this story is superb. She starts off as a spoiled little chit – I have to admit, I did NOT like her at the beginning of the story! – but develops into someone very likeable and kind. Nathaniel’s character is also deep and his faith permeates his life. They are two very likeable characters.

The glimpses into 18th century servitude are very interesting. I don’t think I’ve read a historical romance with such a detailed look at how and why things were done. The author starts each chapter with a quotation from a different reference book, such as Below Stairs by Giles Waterfield, which speaks to something that happens in the chapter.

I was very sad to see this book end. My roommate made a comment that really resonated with me: “That’s the problem with ebooks. You don’t see the end coming.” And it’s so true. When you read a paper book, you know you only have a few pages left and you expect the ending. When I read an ebook, I don’t often check to see how many pages I have left. I was extremely disappointed to see this one end – I would have loved to know a little more about what happens next.

All in all, a very good read. Nathanial is a very God-fearing character and lives his life as such. The rest are certainly true to the period. I would highly recommend this book. Should you choose to read it, I would love to hear your thoughts!

Again, all opinions are my own.