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Friday, August 31, 2012

How I Fared In The Review Copy Cleanup


My goal: 15 review books!

Okay, the Review Copy Cleanup is finally over (boo!) and I'm happy to say I made my goal! I'm shocked by the amount of books I read this month and that I was able to knock fifteen books off my review "pile".

I think this challenge was a great motivator for me. I started the month great and, even though I went through a slight reading pause (it was during the Bout of Books read-a-thon - ironic, huh?), I completed my goal!

Here are the REVIEW books I finished this month:


I finished one more book today (8/31), so I ended up reading 16 review books! Here is the book I finished:


I read a lot of great books and that probably helped with my reading - a few of them were REALLY hard to put down. :)

This Review Copy Cleanup was so much fun, that I plan on participating in some future ones as well.

I'd love to hear your thoughts about this. Feel free to leave a comment below. Thanks so much for stopping by! :)

By the way, I'll be posting my Monthly Reflections post tomorrow and the Weekend Wrap-up post Sunday.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Review: Story by Steven James

Story by Steven James
Revell / 2012

About the book:

Stories are an integral part of the human condition, the way we have passed on history and information and inspiration for millenia. Using the power of imagery and the drama of narrative, bestselling author and professional storyteller Steven James leads readers through a journey into the greatest story ever told. From creation to Christ's birth, from his first miracle to eternity and everything in between, readers will see familiar scenes from the Bible like they never have before. These stories, retold as only Steven James can, will wake readers spiritually, re-inspire their faith journey, and jolt them into action. 

Now repackaged, this well-received book is poised for renewed impact in the lives of believers.

My rating:
My thoughts:

Story by Steven James was an okay read. I didn't particularly care for a lot of things in the book - especially how many times it made it seem like God said something, that isn't in the Bible, so how are we to know if He actually said it? That is one of my pet-peeves with books, it is like putting words in God's mouth and that isn't right.

A few examples:
"Thanks," said Jesus. He took my hand and led me onto the dance floor. Everyone nodded and stepped to the side to let the young rabbi dance with the bride.
"I love weddings," he whispered to me.
And we began to dance. - Page 91

"Okay," said the Creator. "Then I'll tell a new story. One that includes a detour through an empty tomb." - Page 81 

Also, with that second quote, doesn't it make it seem like the Gospel was plan B? That God didn't know Adam and Eve were going to sin. When the fall and Jesus dying on the Cross and resurrecting from the dead was in God's plan from the beginning.

There were a few chapters in this book I really liked, but, while I did learn a few things from Story, overall there was just too much in this book that I didn't like/agree with - so I don't recommend this book. Steven James is still one of my favorite authors, though, just with fiction books instead.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book for my review. I was not required to give a positive review, only my honest opinion - which I've done. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.*

“Available August 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.”

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Review: Short-Straw Bride by Karen Witemeyer

Short-Straw Bride by Karen Witemeyer
About the book:

Four brothers. Four straws. One bride.

No one steps on Archer land. Not if they value their life. But when Meredith Hayes overhears a plot to burn the Archer brothers off their ranch, a long-standing debt compels her to take the risk.

Years of constant vigilance hardens a man. Yet when Travis Archer comes across a female trespasser with the same vivid blue eyes as the courageous young girl he once aided, he can't bring himself to send her away. And when an act of sacrifice leaves her injured and her reputation in shreds, gratitude and guilt prompt him to attempt to rescue her once again.

Despite the fact that Travis is no longer the gallant youth Meredith once dreamed about, she vows to stand by his side. But will love ever be hers? Or will Travis always see her as merely a short-straw bride?

My rating:

My thoughts:

After hearing so many great things about Karen Witemeyer's books (in particular, Short-Straw Bride), I've finally read one of her books and, let me just say, it was as good as people have said!

The prologue to Short-Straw Bride goes back to when Meredith and Travis first met - I found that great! It really gave context to the story and what had happened all those years ago.

Short-Straw Bride was such a sweet story and I found myself smiling and laughing throughout the book. It kind of reminded me of the books I've read by Mary Connealy - it had romance, a little humor, and some western-ness/cowboys, :)

A theme I saw throughout Short-Straw Bride was trust - whether trusting God, your husband, etc. - I loved that! It added a lot of meaning to the story.

The characters were great! I loved all of  the Archer brothers (Travis, Crockett, Jim, and Neill) as well as Meredith, and Cassandra. I'm super excited that there is going to be another "Archer" book - Stealing the Preacher - next year! It'll be great to be able to visit with these characters again.

A great book from a new-to-me author! I will now be keeping an eye out for Karen's other books. I definitely recommend Short-Straw Bride if you enjoy historical novels with some romance - this is a great one!

*I received a complimentary copy of this book for my review. I was not required to give a positive review, only my honest opinion - which I've done. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.*

Here is an excerpt!
Short-Straw Bride

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Interview & Giveaway! Jennifer Hartz ~ Author of The Future Savior Series!

Welcome to Christian Bookshelf Reviews, Jennifer!! Will you tell us a little about yourself?

Hey Melanie!  Thanks so much for having me on your blog!  Gosh, some stuff about me… but I'm boring!  That's why I write fantasy stories… gotta spice up my normal life!  LOL!  Seriously though, I'm a wife and a mommy of a wonderful little boy.  Up until just last month I was working as a teacher, but I've decided to stay home with my son and work on my writing… and praying God will provide!

I love Jesus so much because He knows that I am not perfect and I mess up a whole lot!  That's why He came, for all us lovely mess ups!  I also love Speculative fiction (fantasy, sci-fi, paranormal… anything a little weird) and if you can get me a really great Speculative/Christian/Romance, well I'm one happy camper!

What is Conception about?

Conception is the first book in a five book series called The Future Savior Series.  The entire series has been pretty much planned out since the beginning so to take Conception aside and talk about it by itself is pretty difficult since it's only 1/5 of the entire story.  Plus it's REALLY hard to talk about Future Savior without giving spoilers!  But here's a basic breakdown:

A young woman, Christina, is mysteriously transported from her normal life to a fantasy world called Meric.  There she discovers she has an amazing destiny... she's the prophesied Savior of Meric!  She learns that she has unbelievable powers including visions and telekinesis.  She also discovers that she has a shape-shifting Watcher (body guard) named Shaw who has been protecting her since before she was born.  Plus, Shaw just so happens to be the most breath-taking, handsome, yummy man ever!

Christina sets forth on an amazing adventure that has her battling unbelievable creatures, discovering her amazing powers, uncovering fantastic mysteries, and falling in love.  All the while, Christina's adventure, and the adventures of her friends, mirror Biblical stories.  So not only will you be enthralled in Christina's story, you'll be grabbing your Bible to see how the stories mirror the actual Biblical events.

I definitely saw some mirroring of Biblical events in Conception! What is something the average reader wouldn't know about you? 

I have three tattoos!  Yep, it was a pretty crazy life before I met Jesus.  I could tell you some stories… maybe I'll just write the stories!!!

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

Well, I have always loved fantastical stories.  I use to write and make up stories all the time when I was a little kid.  The first one I can remember was about faeries who had their magic wands stolen by evil trolls!  Unfortunately, life takes us on strange trips sometimes and I ended up moving away from writing, but, thankfully, the writing bug found me again.  Sometimes I wonder where I would be if I never stopped writing… but I am so happy to be doing it now!

Future Savior Book One: Conception was the first novel I ever wrote.  I can't believe how people are responding to it!  The Future Savior Series has actual REAL fans!  How cool is that?!?!  These fans really keep me going when I wonder, "Why in the world am I wasting my time writing?"  I'm so thankful for my fans!

How many books have you written/published and do you have a favorite?

I currently have three books published.  They are the first three books in The Future Savior Series (Conception, Resurrection and Evacuation) I am working on Future Savior Book Four: Desecration right now, which will be released on December 1st.  I also just signed a contract for another four book series called Heroes of the Horde.

I think The Future Savior Series will always be very high on my favorite list because I wrote a story I would LOVE.  I took every element from every story I have ever enjoyed and crammed it into one crazy series… I'm just glad other people like it too!  Out of the first three I'd have to say Conception would be my favorite… only because it was the first and it got the ball rolling.  However, Desecration (book 4) is nipping close at its heels.  I'm having sooo much fun writing Desecration!

What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

I obsessively bite my nails when I write.  I have no idea why… but I guess it's better than eating a bunch of junk food!

Where do you like to write?

Cross-legged on my couch, my laptop on my lap, and a Speculative movie on in the background.  Recent movie picks have included: Thor ***Chris Hemsworth, sigh***, Captain America, The Neverending Story, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, Star Trek ***Chris Hemsworth again***, and Immortals ***Kellan Lutz MAJOR sigh***

What is the best and/or worst part about being a writer? 

The absolute best part for me so far is having fans!  I am so excited The Future Savior Series has actual fans I can't even begin to tell you how cool I think it is!  There are people out there who are genuinely stoked for the next book to be released!

The hardest part is self-doubt and discouragement.  I've never really had a problem with writer's block or lack of ideas… I've got so many book ideas I'll be writing FORVER!  But sometimes I lack self-confidence and I worry no one will enjoy my books.  That's why when The Future Savior Series started getting fans it meant the world to me!  It made me realize that I wasn't crazy and should keep writing.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?

I love hanging out with my family and my church family.  Of course, I also enjoy reading Speculative stories or watching a good movie.

Is there a place you’d like to visit, but haven’t yet?

I would LOVE to go to Ireland someday.  It's been a dream of mine for a long time.  I doubt I'll ever have the money to go, but you never know… maybe someday!

Do you have a favorite song and/or movie?

I've got a lot of favorite songs.  It might be easier to give you my favorite bands.  I grew up in the nineties so I'm a total grunge rocker… U2, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden and the Counting Crows are some of my favorites.  But I'm also really into Christian Alternative music.  My absolute favorite right now is Manic Drive.  I LOVE those guys!  My current jam out song is Walls by Manic Drive.  If you haven't heard it go listen… it's so good!

As for movies, I'm a speculative freak. Of course very high on the list are Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings.  Recently I really liked seeing The Hunger Games and The Avengers, but I think my all time favorite move is The Goonies.

Besides the Bible, what is one of your favorite books?

Ah, great question!  Here's the list:  The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Hunger Games Trilogy, The River of Time Series, The Harry Potter Series, Where the Red Fern Grows, and The Stand by Stephen King.

What is your favorite dessert?

I'm not a huge sweets fan, I'm more of a salty snack person, but I'd be hard pressed to say "no" to a Peanut Buster Parfait from Dairy Queen.

Do you have a favorite Bible verse? 

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope for a future." ~Jeremiah 29:11

A few this-or-that questions:

Snowstorms or Thunderstorms?

Snowstorms ~ My house was struck by lightning and burned down when I was 13… not so fond of thunderstorms after that!

Tea or Coffee?

Coffee ~ Coffee and my Bible first thing in the morning are the best things ever!

Movie Theater or DVD?

Movie Theater ~ I just love seeing a movie on the big screen… it still feels kind of magical.

Early-bird or Night-owl?

Early-bird ~ I have a four-year-old who wakes up at 5:30… I don't have a choice!

Cats or Dogs?

Cats ~ I love my fuzzy little friends!

I love cats, too! Are you currently working on any new novels? If so, could you give us a hint?

Oh!  Would you like a tiny little sneak peak at Future Savior Four: Desecration?  These are the very first lines in the Prologue from Desecration.  Please remember that this excerpt is unedited and may vary upon publication:

Beliza's eyes filled with tears as Drexton cupped her chin with his hand.  How could they survive this? He stared lovingly at her face and she gazed back at him, wondering why he sent Markella out of earshot when he pressed his lips firmly to hers, catching her completely off guard. 
"I've loved you since the first moment I saw you," Drexton said.  Then, quick as a flash, he was on his feet heading for the rock staircase, at the bottom of which waited an entire legion of their enemy's troops.
"Drexton!" Beliza called after him in a hushed voice, but he didn't stop.  He didn't even look back.  Beliza's fingertips gently touched her soft lips.  She could still feel the lingering heat Drexton's kiss had left.   A wave of dread washed over her.  She realized Drexton must be assuming their imminent demise; otherwise he would have never kissed her. He was overly forward with his advances toward her, but deep down he was such a gentleman he would never have kissed her without permission.
"What in the world is he thinking?" Markella, the teenage Mortif warrior, asked coming up beside Beliza.  The two of them hid behind a few boulders near the edge of the cliff at the bottom of which housed Leticia's fortress, Castel Terlach.
"I have no idea," Beliza replied, dread clinging to her voice.  They watched as Drexton came to a screeching halt several steps down the massive staircase leading to the front of the castle.
"Howdy, folks! Nice night, wouldn't ya say!" Drexton yelled down to the troops below.
"He's crazy," Markella scoffed.
Beliza's eyes widened with shock as she looked at Drexton on the stairs.  She couldn't help but agree with Markella.  Drexton was crazy, she knew this from his relentless pursuit of her, but it seemed now his craziness was about to get him killed.
The troops scrambled, several began to climb the stairs.  They even pulled along one of the horrifying creatures with them.  These beasts looked like crocodiles only they were huge.  Easily eighteen feet long from nose tip to tail. The creature was so big it barely fit on the narrow stone steps.
"You can't catch me!" Drexton actually stuck his tongue out at them, and ran away back up the steps.
"Never mind, he's not crazy.  He's suicidal!" Markella jumped to her feet and pulled out her two swords from their sheaths.  

Oh! Great excerpt! Thanks so much for being here! Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers and where can we find you on the web? 

Hey, thanks for having me!!!  I do have some very exciting news… The Future Savior Series is going to PRINT!  I’m so stoked!  The entire series will be in print by the end of 2013 and Book One: Conception will be available in print sometime this October.  Yay!

Here's where you can find me on the web:

Website:  http://jenniferhartz.com
Twitter:  @JenniferLHartz
The Future Savior Series on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/TheFutureSaviorSeries
Me on Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/jennifer.hartz.71
My Speculative Book Review Blog: http://read4areadreviews.blogspot.com/

Book Giveaway!!

Enter to win one of TWO eBook copies of Future Savior Book One: Conception! Winner can choose either a Kindle or PDF format.

Open Internationally!

Enter via the Rafflecopter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, August 27, 2012

Review: Enemies of the Cross by Greg Mitchell

Enemies of the Cross by Greg Mitchell
Series: The Coming Evil Trilogy - Book Two
Realms Publishing / 2012

About the book:

Everyone must choose a side. 

In the aftermath of Dras Weldon’s stand against the Strange Man, Dras’s older brother, Jeff, discovers that the demon’s arrival in Greensboro did not come as a surprise to everyone. 

Consumed by guilt, Jeff embarks on a crusade to expose the town’s secrets. As he works to unravel the treachery that exists among the people he once trusted, his thirst for vengeance leads him down a dangerous path as his moral lines begin to blur and his obsession pushes away those closest to him. 

Meanwhile, the Strange Man grows closer to claiming Rosalyn for his own evil designs. The Dark Hour is coming to this small town, and the battle lines have been drawn. In the end, lives will be lost, relationships tested, and perceptions altered, as everyone must take a stand and choose how they will face the coming evil. 

Enemies of the Cross is the second act of a trilogy that depicts a world where monsters are real and simple men and women must overcome their doubts and fears in order to stand against the unspeakable creatures of the night. 

My rating:

My thoughts:

After reading The Strange Man earlier this year, and its shocking ending, I was looking forward to Enemies of the Cross and surprised by some of the things/twists in it.

Greensboro is a creepy town and while I didn't find myself scared that often, there were a few times (especially when by a window) that I found myself somewhat creeped out (imagining if I were to all of the sudden start hearing some tapping on the glass).

While the first book in The Coming Evil trilogy dealt more with Dras Weldon, Enemies of the Cross centers more around his brother, Jeff. I found it really interesting to get to know the characters and more of what has been happening in the town.

There were a couple of things I didn't personally care for - one being how Jeff heard God talking to him in his head (page 285).

Enemies of the Cross dealt a lot with the spiritual realm (i.e. demons, angels), which I found interesting and, at times, bizarre (in a good way).

Overall, Enemies of the Cross was a good semi-suspenseful read that I liked. If you enjoy creepy and/or books dealing with demons/spiritual warfare, I think you might like this book as well... although you might want to read book one first because this book picks up right where The Strange Man left off. I'm looking forward to book three, to see how this trilogy concludes. :)

*I received a complimentary copy of this book for my review. I was not required to give a positive review, only my honest opinion - which I've done. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.*

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Weekend Wrap-up 8/24-8/26 - Giveaway Winners - Bout of Books Final

Weekend Wrap-up is where I share what I read this past week, am currently reading, and hope to read this coming week, and (when applicable) the current giveaways/giveaway winners. Occasionally I'll post some other stuff as well.

Feel free to join along and post your own Weekend Wrap-up on your blog/site (if you do, please leave the link in a comment so I can stop by) or, in a comment, share what you've accomplished (reading-wise) this past week. :)

 What I've read this week:

All of these books were really good! I'll be posting my thoughts on Rearview once I've read the entire 7 Hours series. :)

What I'm currently reading:

I'm mainly reading the two books above, but Corridor (which I'm rereading) I'm also reading whenever I have time. :)

Corridor (A MythWorks Novel)

 What I hope to read next week:
I know that is a lot, but I want to finish August strong.... so I'm hoping to read at three of those books! :)

Reviews posted this week:

Enter to win A Necessary Deception by Laurie Alice Eakes! Open Internationally! Here is the link to enter.

Enter to win Glamorous Illusions by Lisa T. Bergren! US and Canada! Here is the link to enter.

Enter to win a copy of Short-Straw Bride by Karen Witemeyer! US only. Here is the link to enter.

Enter to win an eBook copy of High Desert Haven by Lynnette Bonner! Open Internationally! Here is the link to enter.

Giveaway winners:

The winner was...


The winner was...


The winner was...

apple blossom!

Bout of Books Read-a-Thon

The Bout of Books read-a-thon ended last Sunday and I only ended up reading around 770 pages. I didn't complete my goal (2,000 pages), but I did end up reading 3 books! :)

I started feeling sick the last few days of the read-a-thon, so I wasn't able to read as much as I'd have liked to. Oh well, hoping to do better next time! :)

There you have it, that is what I accomplished (reading-wise) this week. What about you?
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