Tag Archives: book review

Book Marks: Instant Happy Journal – Book Review by Carrie Kurtz

Instant Happy JournalInstant Happy Journal by Karen Salmansohn

I love journals! I love happy things! I love the cover of this journal!  I just love this!!! Ok, now that I’ve gotten control of myself, I’ll explain why I love this so much.

Goodreads Summary

This colorful diary inspires journalers to apply happiness guru Karen Salmansohn’s Instant Happy principles to their everyday lives, with 365 prompts to encourage a year of gratitude.

On the heels of Karen Salmansohn’s wildly popular gift book Instant Happy comes this happiness journal, with daily prompts to help you think about and apply happiness wisdom to your own life. Each page features a specific intention, inspiring quote, surprising scientific fact, or thought-provoking question to ponder.

When you approach your day with Salmansohn’s “happiness prompters” in mind, you amp up your ability to notice (and create!) many more joyous moments in your day. But that’s just half of what it takes to live a supremely happy life.

This journal teaches the top two habits of happy people: to naturally set their intention to enjoy a happy day, then end the day reflecting on what made them happy. When you end your day writing about what went right, you further strengthen your happiness mindset. With fill-in dates so that you can write and reflect at your own pace, this little journal features a graphic design and fresh attitude perfect for today’s modern happiness-seeker. 

My Thoughts

If you read the beginning of this post (which I’m assuming you did or you wouldn’t be at this part), you already know how I feel about this journal.  I am so excited that I was given the opportunity to review it! I absolutely love journals so you can probably just imagine how excited I was when this was delivered to my house!

This Journal isn’t just a blank, write whatever you did that day type of journal.  It has little prompts at the beginning of every page encouraging you to focus on happy things.  Such a wonderful idea!  Especially in the “post all of your troubles and drama on social media” days we live in!  Sometimes people just need a boost of positivity and this journal helps you find the good in each day and situation!  I love it!

I decided to give this copy to my daughter and I’m planning on buying one for my niece and one for myself. If you like keeping a journal, or you know someone who does, then I definitely recommend picking up a copy of this journal.

There are so many prompts that I loved but here are two that I thought I’d share:

Love yourself for who you are now. Believe in who you have the power to become.”

“Be a kind person. Yes, even to jerks. Let them be jerks. You be a kind person.” 

*Note: I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Carrie Kurtz

 

Carrie Kurtz is a full-time mom and wife who can’t help but make time to explore new worlds in between carpooling and laundry loads. She’s trying to encourage a similar obsession with reading in her two children, and she’s grateful her husband supports her habit. She can be found at Carrie K’s Book Reviews.

Book Marks: The Bones Will Speak – Book Review by Carrie Kurtz

Cover image of the novel, The Bones Will SpeakThe Bones Will Speak by Carrie Stuart Parks

Goodreads Summary

Forensic artist Gwen Marcey has become the target of a serial killer who believes he’s been appointed God’s executioner.

In Copper Creek, Montana, Gwen Marcey is struggling to put together her life after cancer and divorce. When her dog retrieves a skull of a murder victim and leads her to the victim’s grave, Gwen uses her forensic art ability to identify a serial killer. She is horrified to discover all the victims look like her fourteen-year-old daughter.

The murderer is a “lone wolf,” a member of the terrorist group Phineas Priesthood – and he has a score to settle with Gwen. Unraveling the tangled Christian Identity movement, where race -not grace – provides salvation, Gwen is in a frantic rush against time. She must use all her skills to uncover the killer before he can carry out his threat to destroy her and everyone she loves.

My Thoughts on the Book

If you like watching Criminal Minds then you’ll probably love this book!  Seriously, it was like watching an episode of Criminal Minds, CSI, or something like that, except without any bad language or inappropriateness.

This is actually book 2, which I didn’t realize until after I started this book, but it didn’t seem to make a difference. It could have been a stand-alone and be equally as good.  I had a little trouble getting into the book at first, although I think it was just me and my overwhelmed mind at the time, but after the first few chapters I was hooked.

The Bones Will Speak is the first book that I have read by Carrie Stuart Parks.  I enjoyed her writing style, and the fact that she is actually a forensic artist shows.  Her knowledge of it makes the book even more believable.  I really hope Carrie Stuart Parks writes another book and continues the series.  I will definitely pick it up if she does and I highly recommend reading The Bones Will Speak!

*Note: I received a copy of this book from BookLookBloggers.com in exchange for my honest review.

Carrie Kurtz

 

Carrie Kurtz is a full-time mom and wife who can’t help but make time to explore new worlds in between carpooling and laundry loads. She’s trying to encourage a similar obsession with reading in her two children, and she’s grateful her husband supports her habit. She can be found at Carrie K’s Book Reviews

Book Marks: The Pilgrim by Davis Bunn

The Pilgrim book coverWhen I read that The Pilgrim was the story of Constantine’s mother, Helena, I was eager to read it. As I got to know Anthony and Cratus and some of the other characters, I enjoyed it even more. Add in a perilous journey through enemy territory being chased by a massive brute who is eager to kill – I’m in!

As always, Bunn’s book is well-written and draws you in from the beginning. But for all the action and adventure in the stories in the Bible, I rarely feel like I’m sitting on the edge of my seat biting my fingernails with historical Biblical fiction, so I don’t read a lot of it. Since this story isn’t actually from the Bible, I’d hoped it would be closer to the nail-biting end of the reading spectrum. (I figure some Biblical fiction is somewhat sanitized so as not to offend.) But there was only one (really good!) scene when I wondered who would live or die.

The other scenes where I expected more action and anxiety faded off into nothing bad happening to our protagonists. Not just that the enemy didn’t attack, but also without any clear indication that the people believed God intervened, that it was faith that made the difference. Why didn’t the enemy attack? Why did they think the enemy didn’t attack? If I was supposed to see their faith growing as they prayed for deliverance and were delivered, it was too subtle for me to gather from the text. Instead, I felt like I didn’t know what was going on, like I was missing something. (Yes, I saw their faith growing over the course of the book, but it didn’t seem to be very linked to being saved over and over.)

And the book ended like that for me – like I was missing something. I expected the vicarious thrill of victory over the enemy and the joyful glow of feeling God had delivered them as promised. I expected to hear even the briefest mention of how Helena and Anthony and Cratus saw a change in their lives. But instead, the end gave me an arm’s length description of how Helena’s work changed a nation.

That’s great, but that’s the history side. I wanted the more personal side of how Helena was changed, but I never got close enough to her. Almost like a friend who never really lets you in, and eventually you give up and realize this person will never be the close kind of friend. That’s pretty much the exact opposite of what I look for in fiction, so that’s the disappointing part of the story for me.

If you already like this genre of fiction and/or if you like Bunn’s other books, you’ll like this one. But for me…well, I felt like I tried to make a new friend and ended up knowing her as little in the end as I did in the beginning.

[I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.]

3 1/2 stars

Book Marks: The Little Paris Bookshop – Book Review by Carrie Kurtz

Little Paris Bookshop coverThe Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

Summary From Goodreads

“There are books that are suitable for a million people, others for only a hundred. There are even remedies—I mean books—that were written for one person only…A book is both medic and medicine at once. It makes a diagnosis as well as offering therapy. Putting the right novels to the appropriate ailments: that’s how I sell books.”

Monsieur Perdu calls himself a literary apothecary. From his floating bookstore in a barge on the Seine, he prescribes novels for the hardships of life. Using his intuitive feel for the exact book a reader needs, Perdu mends broken hearts and souls. The only person he can’t seem to heal through literature is himself; he’s still haunted by heartbreak after his great love disappeared. She left him with only a letter, which he has never opened.

After Perdu is finally tempted to read the letter, he hauls anchor and departs on a mission to the south of France, hoping to make peace with his loss and discover the end of the story. Joined by a bestselling but blocked author and a lovelorn Italian chef, Perdu travels along the country’s rivers, dispensing his wisdom and his books, showing that the literary world can take the human soul on a journey to heal itself.

Internationally bestselling and filled with warmth and adventure, The Little Paris Bookshop is a love letter to books, meant for anyone who believes in the power of stories to shape people’s lives.

My thoughts on the book

It took me absolutely forever to read this book.  I can’t remember the last time I took this long on one book.  I just couldn’t seem to get into it!  There were so many 5 star reviews so I was surprised that I just couldn’t get with it.  I’m really disappointed…I so wanted to love this book.

The description of this book is absolutely lovely.  The owner of the bookshop “prescribes” books like a doctor prescribes medicine.  As a book lover, I was so enchanted by the very thought.  When the book arrived at my house I was like a kid at Christmas.

The beginning of the book seemed wonderful and I thought that I would be in heaven but then the more I read, the more uninterested I became.  I couldn’t connect with any of the characters, the storyline about the books “healing” people had already faded away, and I found myself becoming bored and kind of annoyed.  It no longer felt like the book that I had read so much about.  So disappointing.

I kept on reading, even though I really wanted to quit this book.  I rarely quit a book before finishing, but man…I really wanted to!  I actually started counting down the pages just wanting to be done with it.  Once again, so disappointing.

I’m not saying that this was a horrible book.  It just wasn’t a good fit for me.  Obviously, with all of the 4 and 5 star reviews, some find this book to be wonderful.  I just couldn’t connect with it.  And that really makes me so sad!  I desperately wanted to love this book.

*Note: I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.

Carrie Kurtz

 

Carrie Kurtz is a full-time mom and wife who can’t help but make time to explore new worlds in between carpooling and laundry loads. She’s trying to encourage a similar obsession with reading in her two children, and she’s grateful her husband supports her habit. She can be found at Carrie K’s Book Reviews

BOOK MARKS: New Release Today – TRIAL RUN by Thomas Locke

Trial-Run-Thomas-LockeI’m thrilled to be part of the street team for Davis Bunn, who also writes speculative fiction as Thomas Locke. Today, his new book TRIAL RUN is out! Here is the teaser:

Where does perception end and reality begin?

Can your mind actually cause something to happen in the “real” world?

What happens when we throw out our conception of the limits of space and time?

When science, government, and big business clash, who will ultimately have control of our information, our privacy, and even our very thoughts?

One thing remains clear:

What you don’t know can kill you.

Personally, I think the book is far more interesting than the above promo copy makes it sound. 🙂 It’s all of the above plus some really interesting characters who make you want to know what in the heck they’re doing and why! You can read a free sample of Trial Run here. There is even a video trailer for the book! And here is the review I wrote on Amazon:

I was hooked on the concept as soon as I read the short story prequel, Double Edge. I’m a complete neuroscience nerd and love the fringe science intertwined with known science in this story. The characters are all different and compelling, and you really get into why everyone is doing what they’re doing. Maybe the bad guys are a little too “bad-guy-like” but the other two groups of people make up for it.

By the last page of chapter 32 (almost halfway through the book), I was gasping at what I thought was happening! New and different and really exciting concepts!

The reason I gave it four stars instead of five was that it seemed to me – just my opinion – that the excitement kind of leveled off. It kept getting more intense till about three-quarters through, and then seemed to be the same level of excitement to the end. It was good but… I like it better when it just keeps getting worse until the last few pages, and you can’t stand not knowing what’s going to happen. Also, there were some things brought up in the story that were SUPER INTERESTING and you didn’t get a good explanation, just an okay explanation, like you would find out more in the next book. I know it’s a series, but I like a book to feel finished to me, and I felt there were a few things left out.

All that to say, I LOVE this kind of psychological thriller! And I definitely want to read the next book! I’ve got to know what happens next! Haha!! I hope you like it, too. 🙂

Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell in exchange for my honest review.DoubleEdgeQuoteGraphic_02-700x366

Double Edge is a free short story prequel, so you should definitely check it out. They also wrote better promo copy for it.  🙂

Discover how it all began in this explosive prequel to Trial Run

There isn’t much that can throw Charlie Hazard off balance. But the mystery woman with the striking eyes and the intense request to follow her—now—just might accomplish it.

Knowing little more than her beautiful name, Charlie leaves his post as a guard at the Satellite Beach community center for what he thinks is just another risk-containment job.

But Gabriella, an experimental psychologist, has far more in store for him than protection duty—if the two of them survive the test.

Leave behind your perceptions of what is possible and race into the unknown corridors of human consciousness in this breakneck prequel to Thomas Locke’s Trial Run. Click here http://tlocke.com/fault-lines/ to download “Double Edge,” free from your favorite online bookseller.

And if you’re interested, this is my review of Double Edge:

I just finished this psychological neuroscience thriller and I can’t wait to read more! Thank goodness this short story is just the prequel to Thomas Locke’s new book, Trial Run, which is waiting on my bedside table. (Is it bedtime yet? Please say yes so I can go read it!)

I am a complete nerd when it comes to brain science and this story has got me reading as fast as I can. The characters are diverse and interesting and are leaving me with a dozen questions I hope are answered in Trial Run. If you are at all interested in what might happen the more we learn about how to manipulate the brain, you’ve got to try this short story! I think you’re gonna love it!

As you can see, I really enjoyed both stories. Try them out!  😀

Davis-Bunn-2015

 

Thomas Locke is an award-winning novelist with total worldwide sales of seven million copies.

His work has been published in twenty languages, and critical acclaim includes four Christy Awards for excellence in fiction and his 2014 induction into the Christy Hall of Fame.

Thomas divides his time between Florida and England, where he serves as Writer In Residence at Regent’s Park College at The University of Oxford. Visit Thomas at http://tlocke.com.

 

Book Marks: Go Away Home – Book Review by Carrie Kurtz

Go Away Home coverGo Away Home by Carol Bodensteiner

Summary from Goodreads

Liddie Treadway grew up on a family farm in Iowa where options for her future were marriage or teaching. Encouraged by suffragette rhetoric and her maiden aunt, Liddie is determined to avoid both and pursue a career.  Her goal is within her grasp when her older sister’s abrupt departure threatens to keep her on the farm forever.

Once she is able to experience the world she’s dreamed of, Liddie is enthralled with her independence, a new-found passion for photography, and the man who teaches her.  Yet, the family, friends, and life of her youth tug at her heart, and she must face the reality that life is not as simple, or the choices clear-cut, as she once imagined.

Go Away Home is a captivating coming-of-age novel that explores the enduring themes of family, friendship, and love, as well as death and grief.  This novel will resonate with anyone who’s confronted the conflict between dreams and reality and come to recognize that getting what you want can be a two-edged sword.

My thoughts on the book

I really enjoyed this book!  There were times that I laughed and felt butterflies in my stomach right along with Liddie.  Then there were times when I couldn’t believe what I was reading and I couldn’t stop crying as if I actually knew the people I was reading about!  Go Away Home was such a wonderful, beautifully written novel.  I couldn’t put it down!

In all honesty, Go Away Home could have been split up into at least three books and made into a series.  And, yes, I would have read all of them!  There is so much I want to say about this book but I am having trouble finding the words without giving spoilers.

Liddie Treadway is such a good character.  During her life, she makes a few poor decisions and some wonderful, smart decisions.  She goes through major hard times and still remains the strong person that you grow to love while reading this book.  Carol Bodensteiner created a lovely character in Liddie Treadway.  I recommend reading Go Away Home to anyone who enjoys reading historical novels.

*Note: I received a copy of this book from Lake Union Publishing through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Carrie Kurtz

 

Carrie Kurtz is a full-time mom and wife who can’t help but make time to explore new worlds in between carpooling and laundry loads. She’s trying to encourage a similar obsession with reading in her two children, and she’s grateful her husband supports her habit. She can be found at Carrie K’s Book Reviews

Book Marks: A New Monthly Book Review Column

Hi friends! I’m excited to introduce you to my new friend, Carrie Kurtz! We met when my romantic comedy, Little Miss Lovesick, was free for five days in May. Carrie downloaded it, liked it, and reviewed it on her blog. Not only did she say wonderful things about the book – which of course made me like her immediately! – but I just loved the way she reviews books. I read several book reviews on her blog and then asked her if she’d like to be a regular guest here. And she said yes! Yay!

Juliette and the Monday ManDatesLet’s get to know Carrie a little better, and then get on to her first book review here, Juliette and the Monday ManDates. Carrie, why don’t you tell us a little about yourself.

CK: My name is Carrie Kurtz and I’m 35 years old. I grew up in Ohio where I married my high school sweetheart and had two children. A few years ago I received a degree in Psychology while we were also in the process of moving. We now live in Tennessee and I’m definitely enjoying the weather much better!

KB: Haha! I understand about the weather. I’m originally from Michigan! (And I married my college sweetheart. 😉 ) So how did you become a book reviewer?

CK: I have been a book lover since I was a very little girl. I remember when I was probably just five years old and my father went to an auction and brought home several boxes of books. It was like opening a treasure box to me! Since I love to read, my husband bought a book/journal called Books I’ve Read for me several years ago. So, I started writing about all of the books I’ve read and I actually have had to purchase several more journals since I keep filling them all up. After a while, I just figured I would go ahead and start a blog and write reviews too!

KB: Awesome! I tried keeping a book journal when I lived in Sydney, but I had more time for reading then than I do now, and I kept finding myself several books behind in my journal so I quit. Like you, I find it easier to say whatever I want to say on my blog. 🙂  Welcome, Carrie! Let’s get on with your first book review!

Juliette and the Monday ManDates (Gustafson Girls #1) by Becky Doughty

Summary from Goodreads:
Juliette Gustafson is heart-broken after waiting nearly ten years for a proposal from her boyfriend that never came. Determining she isn’t “getting over Mike” quickly enough, her three younger sisters come up with The Monday ManDates; an intervention plan requiring Juliette to endure what turns out to be a series of remarkably disastrous blind dates. Between TheraPaul, Frisky Frank, TAZ the rock star, and the stoic Tim Larsen, the Monday ManDates are doomed from the start. Then there’s Victor Jarrett, the police officer with an affinity for pulling Juliette over when she’s at her very worst. But no one is more surprised than Juliette when she meets the one man who can right the wrongs in her past and change her future, if she will only let herself fall in love with him.

My thoughts on the book:
When I first found this book, it was labeled as women’s fiction or chick lit but I think I would label it more as Christian fiction, which is fine with me!  I enjoyed it and will recommend it to others, including my daughter.  It was a nice read; entertaining, funny, yet serious at times, leaving you with a message of love and forgiveness.  While reading this book there were times when I laughed, times when I got a little teary eyed, and times when I just had to sit and soak up the words.  There were sections of the book that were written so beautifully, like poetry, that touched my heart. The author used some metaphors that I had never heard before but they made so much sense to me and really spoke into different parts of my life.  I found myself even more thankful for my family and my relationship with God.

Juliette and the Monday ManDates is the first in a new four-book series (Gustafson Girls) by Becky Doughty.  This is also the only book by Becky Doughty that I have read so far.  I am curious about what the next books will be about so I will be looking for them.  I am pretty sure that the next book became available May 1st of this year.

All in all, I’m glad that I found this book.  It had a good mix of humor, seriousness, family love and frustrations, friendship, and clean romance.  There were a few things in the storyline that I would have liked to know more about.  For example, character backgrounds and different situations that were left open making me want to know what happens.  But hopefully they will all be told in the other books in this series.

Some of my favorite Juliette and the Monday ManDates quotes
“I need a dog,” she said. “One that will love me unconditionally. And eat my cold left- overs.”

“Let the words of our mouths be necessary, kind, and true. Let the secrets we share be kept safe amongst us few. Let the decisions that we make be brave, noble, and wise Oogie- boogie- doggy- loogie Wiggly- jiggly- fries! G- FOURce unite!”

“God wanted her to call Him Husband? The words were like a balm to her soul.”

“In a sunset’s glory, in the awakening of dawn, when I see Your handiwork displayed across the sky. I am amazed, I am in awe. I am in wonder of who You are, that You would love one such as I.”

“But his thoughts defied his words, and his heart kept whispering her name.”

“Her chest was so tight it almost hurt to breathe, but it was a wonderful pain, and she sighed, reveling in her suffering.”

“Every time I see her she’s either crying uncontrollably, laughing like a lunatic, or hissing like an alley cat!”

“But tonight, instead of more turmoil, the sight of her was like a cool drink of water to his thirsty heart.”

“Her cheek rested against his chest and she listened to the pounding of his heart, the sound of his love for her.”

“Forgiveness. It was like pulling slivers of steel from under the skin.”

Carrie Kurtz

I hope you enjoyed Carrie’s first book review here! She’ll be back the second Tuesday of each month. To read more of her book reviews, visit her blog at http://carrieksbookreviews.blogspot.com.

Book Marks: The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

Power of HabitMy friend Lauraine picked up The Power of Habit a couple weeks ago and liked it so much, she bought me and our friend Kathleen a copy before she’d even finished reading it. I started the prologue right away because I was curious – and procrastinating.

Before I got to the end of the prologue, I was hooked! This book is fascinating! By the time I was a third of the way through, I already understood both how habits worked and how to change them. Yay!

If you’re at all interested in habits, what happens in your head when you have a routine, and the neuroscience behind it all, you will love this book. And there is more information, including fun and easy to follow videos, on his web site.

At the very least, you’ll have a simple plan for adding or changing your habits. And changing for the better is worth it!

5 stars, Loved It

Book Marks: To Ruin the Duke by Debra Mullins

ruinthedukeOne of my favorite subgenres of romance is Regency romance. It’s almost always funny in one way or another, and that’s probably one of the reasons I love it so much. I was reading my friend Deb’s blog this month – such a fun blog! – and won a book when my comment was randomly chosen one day.

To Ruin the Duke is a smart bit of fun reading. The heroine, Miranda, is loyal and determined and smart, which makes her eminently likable. The hero, the Duke, is a strong hero without being one of those guys who you’re pretty sure you wouldn’t like in the real world. (You know the type, order everyone around, assume they’re always right. I don’t like that type, and this Duke isn’t that type. Yay!)

There’s even a baby involved, which usually makes me yawn or gag, but the baby had just the right amount of scene time so that we didn’t have to swim through melodrama. 🙂 The story was well-plotted, with characters doing unexpected things at just the right time. I have no idea if this is a series, but all the Duke’s friends are single, so it might be.

If you like Regency romances with sparkle and wit, you’ll like this book!

4 stars, Really Liked It

Book Marks: Welcome to Last Chance by Cathleen Armstrong

51qGDqwiV6L._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-67,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_My friend Cathy wrote this book, Welcome to Last Chance, and I was excited to be able to read it not long after it came out.

This book totally sucked me in at the beginning. It’s well-written and engaging, and I needed to know what happened next. Here’s the catch: I keep forgetting that I never really end up liking women’s fiction books. There is never enough action and adventure for me. Every time some little shadow is mentioned, I’m waiting eagerly for something awful to jump out of the shadow! LOL!

But this book is good. The characters are all interesting and believable and – even though it’s Christian fiction – they all have their little (or big) faults that make them feel like real people you know. And that is the strength of women’s fiction – to draw you into relationships with characters who are like people you know, and to make you care about what happens to them. This book does that very well! I really liked that part of it.

If I weren’t waiting for an explosion or a gun battle or some other ridiculous, wonderful piece of action/thriller type of thing to happen, I’d easily give this book 4 stars.  🙂 If you like women’s fiction already, I think you’ll really like this book. (I REALLY wanted to eat at the diner! All the food sounded so good! LOL!)