Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Top 9 Most Life Changing Books of 2009 w/Giveaway!

The Top 9 Most Life Changing Books of 2009
(according to Janna)

One of my favorite categories each year is Most Life Changing... these are the books that after reading them (and as you read them) they are changing the way you think and even the way you act. These are books that I strongly recommend you get a hold of and read if you want to see your life change. Anytime you see purple writing it is part of my original review that I posted because I didn't think I could phrase it any better today than I did then. I still encourage you to click the link to read the whole original review. I would like to point out that "Havah" by Tosca Lee was actually on this list until I realized that because of when I read it last year (right at the end of December) I actually included it in The Most Life Changing of 2008 list... so I decided to give a different book a chance this year, but I wanted to remind you all of how great "Havah" is and it actually released in January of 2009 - I just got a sneak peek :-) So click on the link to read about the book and my interview with Tosca Lee.

#1 in 2009 is - Shame Lifter by Marilyn Hontz...
So out of the 250+ books that I read in 2009, what book earns the top spot in Most Life Changing... Shame Lifter by Marilyn Hontz! For anyone that wants to make a change in their life and move past the ruts and roads that they are stuck in, this is the book to help you do that. Marilyn is transparent in this book, opening up to the reader about her own life and struggles with shame and how God showed her to deal with it, be healed from it and move on into the amazing things He had planned for her. Truly a book that will change your life if you let it! Read my full review here and then read this amazing book!

#2 in 2009 is - Wrestling Prayer by Eric & Leslie Ludy...
Talk about a life changing book. Does your prayer life need a shake up? Maybe an earthquake? Eric and Leslie have written an amazing book sharing many of the things that they have learned over the years as they have grown closer to God. How they have gone from the nice little "thank you Lord" prayers and "please help so and so" petitions to roll in the mud and wrestle in the heavenly, earth changing prayers. The subtitle of this book is "A Passionate Communion with God" and that is just what it will show you. When you are ready to be serious about rending the heavenly places open with your prayers then read this book. Read more about the Ludys and their books here.

#3 in 2009 is - Never The Bride by Cheryl McKay & Rene Gutteridge...
Here is a book that accomplishes the almost impossible. It is a totally entertaining and funny fiction book with great characters and hilarious scenarios that will keep you flipping pages as you follow the storyline, but will change your life (if you let it) with the wisdom between the pages. Cheryl and Rene manage to take the knowledge that Eric and Leslie Ludy share in their books about love and life (some of my all time favorite non-fiction writers) and package it in such a way that anyone can easily understand and enjoy. Jessie is a heroine everyone will love and cheer for as she tries to find love. But the stranger that keeps entering her life... well, what to do? Is his advice solid and reliable? Can she really trust him with her future? It sure is fun to find out. And if you apply it to yourself, it will shape how you think about your own future. Read my full review here and then enjoy this book for yourself.

#4 in 2009 is - So Long Status Quo by Susy Flory...
Inspirational, moving and so educational, but more than that this book will show you how you can make a difference around you. It starts with a little peek into Susy's personal life that reveals some area of her life that she is lacking in or needs work on (an overflow of material items or lack of sympathy for the children of the world) and then she delves into the biography of a woman that made an impact in that particular area. Following the biography she then figures out a way to make that relevant to her life and somehow implements it. She rounds out the chapter with some ideas for how you can do something in that area of your life. With biographies of women like Eleanor Roosevelt and Rosie the Riveter this book will inspire you to make a change. Read my full review here and then buy extra copies for the girls and women in your life that you know can make a difference.

#5 in 2009 is - Messages to Myself by Dr. Helen McIntosh...
This is an example of a book whose title does not fully express what it is about. I honestly thought this would be a book about how important positive thinking is in your thought life and how negative thinking is the root of most of the bad things in our lives. While all that is true, I was so wrong about this book. This book is a God Encounter in book form. So what does that mean? Well, about every 6 weeks at our church we have a special weekend where we help people walk through steps and stages so that God can bring freedom to their life and they can grow closer to God through knowledge of His truth. It's an amazing process that includes sessions on "What's Your Name?", "God Still Speaks", "Forgiveness", "Wounds of the Past", "Breaking Down Strongholds" (lovingly referred to as "the yellow sheet" because of the color paper it is printed on) and so on... I was astounded as I started reading to realize that Helen McIntosh goes through many of these same stages and even has a section at the end of each chapter called Making It Personal that helps you start applying the process immediately in your own life. On amazing book that will change your life if you let it! Read my full review here.

#6 in 2009 is - Embrace The Struggle by Zig Ziglar & Julie Ziglar Norman...
Do you think you have trials in your life? Tribulations? Struggles? How do you handle them? What is your approach, your perspective on these obstacles in your life.
On page 81 there are a couple of sentences that sum up for me the idea behind this book.
1st - I encourage you to look beyond the obvious for the way God has used the things you've struggled with to glorify Him.
2nd - May you also understand that the dark place has not been because of abandonment or indifference, but simply the shadow of His wings.
To find out more about this incredible book, read my review here and then enter to win a copy of this book!

#7 in 2009 is - Already Gone by Ken Ham & Britt Beemer...
This book is a compilation of lots of data, interviews and statistics (though it actually makes for really fascinating reading) that shows us why our churches are growing older and older because the high school and college age young people that may still be in the pews are mentally already gone. If you are concerned for your own children or grandchildren and want to keep a legacy of faith in your family then this is a book you need to read. Check out my review here and then have an eye opening experience by reading this book for yourself.

#8 in 2009 is - Wisdom Hunter by Randall Arthur...
This book is actually a re-release that is probably long overdue. Randall Arthur has penned a fictional account of Pastor Jason Faircloth that shows what it really means to have a Damascus Road life changing experience that makes you a different person. In Jason's case, tragedy strikes in a huge way and he gives up his life as he knows it to go on a mission to find someone. God uses that mission to grab him and change his world. This is a journey you want to go on with Jason. Read my review of this book here and then read the book.

#9 in 2009 is - This Side of Heaven by Karen Kingsbury...
This is a story that touched me deeply. You don't find out until you read the footnotes at the end of the book (that is if you are like me and actually read all the footnotes) that this is based on Karen's own brother. This Side of Heaven makes you rethink what you know (or think you know) about the people around you. A sweet, heart breaking story of a man that is a tow truck driver, living far below his potential in life - or so his parents and sister think. Can his family truly know him? You should really read my review of this amazing book by clicking the link and then be sure to read this incredible book.

I have a copy of "Embrace the Struggle" by Zig Ziglar to give away. So leave a comment telling me what book looks like it would impact your life the most right now (and be sure to leave your email address if you actually want a chance to win!) and I will enter you in that drawing! Good luck and please check out all these amazing books for yourself :-)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

"Becca By The Book" Book Review

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Becca By The Book

Zondervan (January 1, 2010)


Laura Jensen Walker


Laura Jensen Walker is an award-winning writer, popular speaker, and breast-cancer survivor who loves to touch readers and audiences with the healing power of laughter.

Born in Racine, Wisconsin (home of Western Printing and Johnson’s Wax—maker of your favorite floor care products) Laura moved to Phoenix, Arizona when she was in high school. But not being a fan of blazing heat and knowing that Uncle Sam was looking for a few good women, she enlisted in the United States Air Force shortly after graduation and spent the next five years flying a typewriter through Europe.

Her lifelong dream of writing fiction came true in Spring 2005 with the release of her first chick lit novel, Dreaming in Black & White which won the Contemporary Fiction Book of the Year from American Christian Fiction Writers. Her sophomore novel, Dreaming in Technicolor was published in Fall 2005.

Laura’s third novel, Reconstructing Natalie, chosen as the Women of Faith Novel of the Year for 2006, is the funny and poignant story of a young, single woman who gets breast cancer and how her life is reconstructed as a result. This book was born out of Laura’s cancer speaking engagements where she started meeting younger and younger women stricken with this disease—some whose husbands had left them, and others who wondered what breast cancer would do to their dating life. She wanted to write a novel that would give voice to those women. Something real. And honest. And funny.

Because although cancer isn’t funny, humor is healing.

To learn more about Laura’s latest novels, please check out her Books page.

A popular speaker and teacher at writing conferences, Laura has also been a guest on hundreds of radio and TV shows around the country including the ABC Weekend News, The 700 Club, and The Jay Thomas Morning Show.

She lives in Northern California with her Renaissance-man husband Michael, and Gracie, their piano playing dog.


Sales clerk, barista, telemarketer, sign waver...

At twenty-five, free-spirited Becca Daniels is still trying to figure out what she wants to be when she grows up. What Becca doesn’t want to be is bored. She craves the rush of a new experience, whether it’s an extreme sport, a shocking hair color, or a new guy. That’s why she quit her bookstore job, used her last bit of credit to go skydiving, and broke her leg.

And that’s why, grounded and grumpy, Becca bristles when teased by friends for being commitment-phobic. In response, Becca issues an outrageous wager—that she can sustain a three-month or twenty-five date relationship with the next guy who asks her out. When the guy turns out to be “churchy” Ben—definitely not Becca’s type—she gamely embarks on a hilarious series of dates that plunge her purple-haired, free-speaking, commitment-phobic self into the alien world of church potlucks and prayer meetings.

This irrepressible Getaway Girl will have you cheering her on as she “suffers” through her dates, gains perspective on her life’s purpose, and ultimately begins her greatest adventure of all.

If you'd like to read the first chapter of Becca By The Book, go HERE

This is book #3 in the Getaway Girls series about a group of gals that all join the same book club. Most of them are Christians and we get up close and personal with Chloe (#1 Daring Chloe) and Paige (#2 Turning the Paige) and I was especially fond of these two since they are the names of my two younger daughters. In this book we get to know Becca and it gets really interesting! She is one of the only non-Christians in the book club and it is fun seeing Christianity through her eyes in this book. The girls even start a "Getaway Girls Guide to Christianese" for Becca when she starts dating a guy on a bet that turns out to be a Christian. At the beginning of the book Becca breaks her ankle skydiving and that changes what she can do and who she has to rely on through the course of the book. It was neat seeing the rest of the girls step in and just love her (be Jesus with skin on) like it was no big deal.

Becca starts dating Ben, a guy she meets at the bookstore she works at, because she made a bet with the other girls that she could date the same person for 3 months or 25 dates - whichever came first. Ben knows about it and decides to help her win the bet, thus begins a 25 date marathon to the finish. The only thing is that Becca ends up at more church, Christian, single events than she ever thought possible and it stirs up all kinds of questions.

I really enjoyed this book and the fresh perspective on a non-Christian's view of Christianity. The only downer for me was one comment that Ben makes about homeschoolers that I found very incorrectly stereotypical. But if I can look past that then I have to say I love this whole series!

"Thicker Than Blood" Book Review Blog Tours Presents:

Thicker than Blood
by C.J. Darlington
Published by Tyndale House

Winner of the
2008 Christian Writers Guild Operation First Novel Contest!

Christy Williams finally has her life on track. She’s putting her past behind her and working hard to build a career as an antiquarian book buyer. But things begin to unravel when a stolen Hemingway first edition is found in her possession, framing her for a crime she didn’t commit. With no one to turn to, she yearns for her estranged younger sister, May, whom she abandoned after their parents’ untimely deaths. Soon, Christy’s fleeing from her shattered dreams, her ex-boyfriend, and God. Could May’s Triple Cross Ranch be the safe haven she’s searching for? Will the sisters realize that each possesses what the other desperately needs before it’s too late?

This is a debut novel C.J. Darlington, but you would never know it as you read it. I was blown away by how excellent everything about this book was. The characters are deep and mysterious as their pasts unravel before us, the plot lines are intense and diverse and the editing is wonderful along with the beautiful cover and packaging by Tyndale. This book was an award winning book before it ever got published (that is actually HOW it got published) and it totally deserves it!

I was pulled into this story about sisters Christy and May who haven't seen or spoken to each other in 15 years. A perfect example of how the same tragedy happened to both of them and how their choices to handle it differently changed the course of their lives. In a way, it is similar to the prodigal son, but in a beautiful, touching story. I really identified with both sisters and yearned for them to be reunited, of course there are obstacles in the way - namely Christy - and many of the choices she made keep getting in the way. Her life is in danger and she finally seeks May out. A fantastic story of love, forgiveness and consequences. I sincerely hope that this is just the first we are seeing of C.J. Darlington!

With careful attention to detail, emotion, and scene-setting, C.J. Darlington scores with her debut effort. Here is a special writer you won’t want to miss.
--Jerry B. Jenkins, New York Times best selling author

If you love a good read filled with adventure and ultimately redemption, I encourage you to brew the tea, settle into your favorite chair and pick up the page turner that is C.J. Darlington’s imaginative new novel of a modern day sisterhood that triumphs over separation and the raw challenges of life to find the real endurance of both family ties and God’s amazing grace.
--Rebecca St. James, Grammy award winning Christian singer and bestselling author

With Thicker than Blood, C.J. Darlington proves she's a novelist for the long-haul, a strong new voice in Christian fiction. This book speaks to the heart, from the heart, about the heart. Readers will not soon forget it.
--Sibella Giorello, Christy award-winning author of The Rivers Run Dry & The Clouds Roll Away

Watch the book trailer:

About the Author:
C. J. began writing the story that would become Thicker than Blood (her first novel) when she was a fifteen-year-old homeschool student. She has been in the antiquarian bookselling business for over a decade, scouting for stores similar to the one described in the novel before cofounding her own online bookstore. Thicker than Blood was the winner of the 2008 Christian Writers Guild Operation First Novel.

C. J. co-founded the Christian entertainment Web site with her sister, Tracy, and has been actively promoting Christian fiction through book reviews and author interviews. She makes her home in Pennsylvania with her family and their menagerie of dogs and cats. Visit her website for more info.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

"A Lady Like Sarah" Book Review

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing

A Lady Like Sarah
Thomas Nelson; Original edition (December 22, 2009)
Margaret Brownley

From the first moment I saw this book, the cover and the title just grabbed me and I couldn't wait to read it... the only problem was that I saw it 3 months before it was released so I have had to wait awhile, but this book was worth the wait!

Here we have an original plot with some really fun characters and there are enough twists and turns to keep you interested throughout the entire book and I never felt like it got routine at all. Sarah is a Prescott. Prescotts rob stagecoaches, but they never hurt people. Except that a passenger was killed in a robbery and Sarah is now going to hang for it. A Marshall is taking her back to Texas and on the way they get ambushed, the Marshall is shot and that is how Reverend Justin finds them. He makes a promise to the Marshall to see Sarah returned before he knows that she is supposed to hang. On the way they encounter Indians, a baby, some miracles, Sarah's brothers, more Marshalls, a cattle stampede and love. What I loved about this book is that even though Justin is a Reverend there is real passion between him and Sarah and it shows the whole book.

Well written, entertaining and just fun to read. A Women of Faith fiction pick, it is deserving of that label.


Thrills, mystery, suspense, romance: Margaret penned it all. Nothing wrong with this, except Margaret happened to be writing for the church newsletter. After making the church picnic read like a Grisham novel, her former pastor took her aside and said, "Maybe God's calling you to write fiction."

It turns out God was and Margaret did. She now has more than 20 novels to her credit. In addition, she's written many Christian articles and a non-fiction book. Still, it took a lot of prodding from God before Margaret tried her hand at writing inspirational fiction which led to her Rocky Creek series. "I love writing about characters at different stages of faith," she says of the new direction her writing career has taken, "and I'm here to stay."

Happily married to her real-life hero, Margaret and her husband live in Southern California.


Sarah Prescott has never known a respectable life; just a hardscrabble childhood and brothers who taught her to shoot straight.

Justin Wells left Boston in disgrace, heading out alone on the dusty trail to Texas. But when the once-respected clergyman encounters a feisty redhead in handcuffs with a dying US Marshall at her side, their journey takes a dramatic turn.

His high society expectations and Sarah's outlaw habits clash from the start. With a price on her head and a sweet orphan in tow, Justin and Sarah make the difficult journey toward Rocky Creek. There justice will be meted out hopefully with a portion of grace.

If you would like to read the first chapter of A Lady Like Sarah, go HERE

Watch the Book Trailer:

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

"Energy: Its Forms, Changes & Functions" Elementary Science Series Review

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card authors are:

and the book set of
Energy: Its Forms, Changes & Functions

The Main Book

The Student Journal

and The Teacher's Guide

New Leaf Publishing Group/Master Books (September 30, 2009)

***Special thanks to Robert Parrish of New Leaf Publishing Group for sending me a review copy.***

This is installment #3 in the elementary science series I have had the honor of reviewing. This one is Elementary Physics - Energy - Its Forms, Changes, & Functions and it blows my mind that it can be this easy to teach Physics to elementary students! This installment includes the teacher's guide and student's journal along with the main book. I just love the whole set up of this series. The student journal is perfect for kids like my two older girls who love the feeling of accomplishment from filling in the charts, following procedures and filling in the answers to the questions. Of course the same journal would be considered torture for my two older boys. The main book is so colorful with great pictures and eye catching pages that make my kids want to read it and the lessons are taught in such a fun way that even I wanted to see how the lesson would end. If you are looking for a fresh perspective on science for your elementary students, I can not recommend this series highly enough.


Tom DeRosa left seminary and the church thinking he was throwing away his faith, but in reality he found a new religion: evolution. In 1978, Tom accepted Jesus Christ as Lord of his life. Soon after he studied biblical creation at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church and came to the conclusion that a lack of knowledge of the biblical account of creation is greatly responsible for keeping many people from Christ. His commitment to breaking down those barriers is what led Tom to form Creation Studies Institute in 1988.

Carolyn Reeves, Ph.D. and her husband make their home in Oxford, Mississippi where they are active members of North Oxford Baptist Church. Carolyn retired after a 30-year career as a science teacher, finished a doctoral degree in science education, and began a new venture as a writer and an educational consultant.

The Main Book Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 88 pages
Publisher: Master Books (September 30, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0890515700
ISBN-13: 978-0890515709

The Student Journal Product Details:

List Price: $4.99
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 48 pages
Publisher: Master Books; Student edition (June 30, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0890515719
ISBN-13: 978-0890515716

The Teacher's Guide Product Details:

List Price: $4.99
Paperback: 48 pages
Publisher: Master Books; Tch edition (September 30, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0890515727
ISBN-13: 978-0890515723


Investigation #1: Where Exactly Does Energy Go?

Think about this. Ella understands that light is a form of energy, but she is having trouble with the idea that light energy cannot be created or destroyed.

“Look,” she told her aunt, who is a science teacher. “When I flip the switch and turn off the lights, I cause all the lights in the room to go away.” She demonstrated and made the room very dark.

“Now look what happens when I turn the light switch back on. The room fills with light again. Didn’t I just create and destroy the light in the room?” she asked.

“No, you certainly did not,” her aunt said. “All you did was demonstrate how energy can change from one form into another.”

Let’s look at some examples of how energy changes from one form to another in this lesson.

German-born Albert Einstein was awarded the 1921 Nobel Price in Physics. His studies of light transformation helped to base his discovery of the photoelectric effect.

The Investigative Problems:

What are examples of energy?
Can one form of energy change into another form of energy?

Gather These Things:

1.5-vold dry cell
5-inch pieces of electric wire
Small wooden boards
Assorted rubber bands (different thicknesses, but same length)
1.5-volt light bulb
Sturdy shoe box

Procedure & Observations

Electric energy ito light and head energy: Take a 1-5-volt dry cell, a five-inch wire, and a light bulb. Test different combinations until you get the light bulb to come on. Show your teacher when you are successful. Make a drawing to show how you connected everything.

Feel the light bulb. Can you tell if it has gotten any warmer? (Note: This is a small amount of head and it may not be easy to detect.)

Mechanical energy to heat energy: Rub a piece of sandpaper quickly over a board several times. Feel the sandpaper and the board. What kind of energy is produced?

Mechanical energy to sound energy: Remove the cover from a sturdy box and cut three groves on opposite edges of the box. Now choose three rubber bands of equal length, but each with a different thickness. Stretch the rubber bands around the box, fitting each into one of the grooves. Pluck each rubber band. Observe that it is vibrating. Listen for a sound. Repeat for each rubber band. Compare the pitch made by the different rubber bands. Record your observations.

The Science Stuff

Energy is what enables matter to move or to change. Energy is found in many different forms, such as heat, light, electricity, mechanical (the energy in moving things), sound, nuclear, and chemical. One form of energy can be changed into another form of energy. Still, the total amount of energy never changes. This means that energy cannot be created or destroyed. These ideas are expressed in one of the most important laws in all of science – the law of conservation of energy.

These activities illustrate some of the main forms of energy. Each activity shows one form of energy being changed into another form of energy. Electrical energy changed into light and heat, mechanical energy changed into heat, and mechanical energy changed into sound.

In the first activity, when the equipment was wired together correctly, an electric circuit was completed. An electric current then moved through the dry cell, wires, and light bulb. As the electric current moved through the light bulb, electric energy changed into light energy and heat energy.

This activity illustrates another important concept about energy. It shows that energy can be transferred from one place to another. Much of the earth’s energy is transferred from the sun to the earth.

Remember the conversation between Ella and her aunt? When Ella flipped the light switch, the electric current began to move through the wires and the light bulb. Inside the light bulb, electric energy changed into light and heat energy, which is the same thing that happened in your activity with electricity. When she turned the lights off, the objects in the room absorbed the heat and light energy. (This is a small amount of energy, and you probably couldn’t detect it without some sophisticated equipment.)

When you rubbed a board with sandpaper, your motion produced mechanical energy. This motion produced friction between the sandpaper and the wood, causing the molecules to move faster. As a result, both the sandpaper and the wood became hotter. Thus, the mechanical energy of the moving sandpaper changed into heat energy.

You were also the source of motion when you plucked the tight rubber bands, causing them to vibrate. Sound is produced when a force causes something to vibrate and produce sound waves. Sound energy is carried in waves.

Making Connections

Another way in which mechanical energy can produce sound waves is by tapping on a table. Tapping on the table causes the table to vibrate in the same way plucking on the rubber bands caused them to vibrate. Sound waves actually travel faster through the table than through the air. You can put your ear next to the table and hear the tapping sounds clearly. You can also raise your head and hear the sounds as the sound waves pass through the table and then through the air.

When electrical energy passes through a light bulb, it is changed into light energy and heat energy. Even though the heat energy is unwanted, it is still part of the electric bill. Engineers try to design light bulbs that increase the amount of light and decrease the amount of heat produced. Some progress has been made, but light bulbs continue to produce unwanted heat.

Dig Deeper

Start with the energy being given off from a TV or a radio in your home. Try to figure out where this energy comes from. See how far back you can trace the energy changes. This gets a little complicated, so get ad good reference book to help you.

What is the difference between an electric motor and an electric generator? They basically contain the same parts and are built the same way. However, an electric motor changes electric energy into mechanical energy, and an electric generator changes mechanical energy into electric energy.

In 1905, Albert Einstein proposed a theory that altered the law of conservation of energy. He said that matter can be changed into energy, and energy can be changed into matter, but the total amount of matter and energy in the universe remains the same. How was Einstein’s theory shown to be true?

What Did You Learn?

Give two examples of how one form of energy can change into heat energy. Give another example of an energy change.
List two ways in which energy does work for us.
The following list contains examples of forces, properties of matter, and forms of energy. Underline all the examples of forms of energy: inertia, heat, density, buoyancy, electricity, lift, weight, chemical, push, and nuclear.
Define mechanical energy and give an example.
What kind of energy can be quickly provided by a battery?
What is the law of conservation of energy?
Give an example of when an unwanted form of energy is produced in a device.
What happens to a roomful of light on a dark night with the lights are turned off?
Was energy transferred from the batter to the light bulb when an electric circuit was completed?

Monday, January 18, 2010

"The Judas Ride" Book Review

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

The Judas Ride

Tate Publishing (December 8, 2009)


Peggy Sue Yarber

I hate writing negative reviews. I know the author spent epic time pouring out her heart and soul into this book that is her baby, I don't relish saying anything that will be devastating to her. But as a reviewer I owe it to my readers to tell the truth and point out the good and the bad or how can they trust me when I say something is really worth their time and money to read? This is one of the times that I have to seriously dissuade my readers from wasting time, money or brain cells on this book.

Starting out on a positive note... I like the cover of this book, and even the title. For a small publisher I was impressed by the presentation of the book. There is also a lot of good character development, quite a few central characters yet I still felt like I was really getting into their heads (almost more than I wanted to). Okay, that is about where the good ends.

Rarely do I read a "Christian" book that leaves me with the sense of wishing I could get my precious hours back that I spent reading it. That leaves me wishing I could take a shower and wash it away. This book did just that. I kept thinking that there would be some redeeming factors by the end that would make it all worthwhile - but no, instead there are tons of funerals (which was repeatedly spelled wrong by the way) whether by suicide, murder, fire or more suicide. Really? The pastor in the story is losing his faith by the end, for a long time I couldn't even figure out why it was called a Christian book. Then some of the characters started debating theology quite a bit - but that doesn't make it Christian. I look for God's redemption, His grace and mercy to shine through and bring hope... just because the baby born is named Mercy Grace does not mean God's grace and mercy have been exhibited to the reader.

This was the darkest, vilest book I've ever read. I understand that the author was going for "realism", "edginess" and "grit". But that doesn't mean you have to take every evil thing that has ever happened to someone and roll them all into one book (molestation, rape, murder, physical abuse, mental abuse, drug and alcohol addiction, premarital sex, unwanted pregnancy, abortion, and the list goes on...) This is supposed to represent the struggles of youth today, I may be naive but I don't know one single teen that is going through all those things.

I do know that no book is written for everyone and I am convinced that this book was not written for me... I just haven't figured out who it was written for. I have 2 copies of this book and I was going to give them away, but that is before I read it. I can not in good conscience pass them on to other readers.

The odd thing is that I read Peggy's book "Tare" and didn't think it was awful, it was kind of dark at the end, and didn't have the closure I was looking for but it wasn't anything like this book.


Peggy Sue Yarber, PhD in psychology, lives in central California with her husband, two daughters, six turtles and two dogs. She works in the field of education.

The Judas Ride was inspired by her current and previous students. She has seen and experienced and seen similarities between the students and Jesus’ traitor, Judas Iscariot. She has always been fascinated with Judas. Yarber went to a catholic school when she was young and Judas was always portrayed like a mysterious rebel.

She ventures to say, “I guess he was my James Dean of the Bible. But in a good way! In the way that…he did something so wrong so that the entire world could be saved. He had to betray Jesus in order for the rest of the story. I have always wondered what it would be like to not do that one bad thing that would lead to that one great thing. So I had the Vader character sort of run through the paces of Judas.”

Redemption and reality are the two distinguishing features about Yarber’s writing. Not all teens find redemption in The Judas Ride. Yarber considered trying to show the negative outcomes as much as the positive. She wasn’t thinking in terms of positive and negative but she did try to balance the two sides. Yarber says she often sees people daily that , “…have even more screwed up lives than these characters.” Yarber admits sometimes there is not an ending to the madness unless someone dies and then even after the death the ripples still linger. She has written another novel TARE and a children’s book Rocketships to Heaven and the SOS Fuel Station. She loves to run, read, shoot guns and watch her daughters play soccer.


An unwed (and unwanted) teen pregnancy with two possible fathers. Abusive relationships. Drug and alcohol addiction. Rape and molestation. The struggle to understand grace, forgiveness, and free will versus predestination. The Judas Ride hits the road running in the opening pages, where Sonia and Xavier argue explosively about whether Sonia should have their unborn child and about who the father is: Xavier, a struggling Christian, or Vader, an abusive and abused drug dealer. As the pages turn, readers continue to meet a hodgepodge of troubled teens and eclectic characters, including Pastor Manny, a quirky immigrant pastor infatuated with John Wayne. Pastor Manny desires to help the tortured souls in his community but finds that it takes more than unconditional love to reach them. Secrets literally kill in The Judas Ride, an edgy, in-your-your face Christian novel that boldly explores the struggles of modern-day young people.

If you would like to read the first chapter of The Judas Ride, go HERE

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Top 9 Young Adult Books of 2009

The Top 9 Young Adult Books of 2009
(According to Janna)

I am thrilled to report that more and more great YA books keep coming out and that just excites me since I have 6 children and I want quality, excellent books available for them when they are reading age! Some of these books are in a series and the previous books may have shown up in lists before, but there are also new books that I just got exposed to this year - great stuff - check out all 9 on the list. And then check for the giveaways at the bottom...

#1 in 2009 - So Not Happening & I'm So Sure by Jenny B. Jones...
Well, well, well! The Charmed Life Series has beaten out all the other YA books and series' for the coveted #1 spot in the Top 9 YA Books of 2009! And it is well deserved. Jenny has come up with a wonderful heroine put in the most unusual of situations and filled to the brim with Jenny's most unique and hilarious humor. It is a win/win combination that makes these books gems!

What do you get when you take Paris Hilton, marry her mom to a small town Oklahoma farmer with a secret regarding spandex, one step brother that is a brilliant, 6 year old, wannabe super hero and another step brother who drives a hearse to school. Mix in some mysterious deaths, some friend issues and the downside of blogging and what do you have? You have Bella Kirkwood, Jenny B. Jones' newest heroine and you have a hit!

I can't say enough good things about this series and recommend it to anyone, teen or adult that loves a good laugh, a great story, hilarious characters and unlikely events - PERFECTION! And now we have "So Over My Head" to look forward to in April!

#2 in 2009 - Gatekeepers, Timescape & Whirlwind by Robert Liparulo...
Books #3, #4 and #5 in Robert's Young Adult series continue to blow my mind. A family living in a house where there is a secret 3rd level that has portals to different times and places... where good and bad can happen. Xander and his brother David are trying to save their mom who got kidnapped by someone from long ago and took her back with him. Their dad and younger sister are determined to help but can they save Mom without losing their own lives? And what about Taksidian, who is out to get them because he wants the house and all the secrets it holds? Everything is getting more and more dangerous - and now I have to wait until March for "Frenzy" to come out!

#3 in 2009 - Be Strong & Curvaceous, Who Made You A Princess & Tidings of Great Boys by Shelley Adina...
Books #3, #4 and #5 in this series made my list because they are fantastic additions to this great series by Shelley. Following the lives of 5 girls that become friends at a private school. Each book is from the perspective of a different girl and here we get to see through the eyes of Carly, then Shani, then Lady Mac. I loved getting to know these girls and their escapades. I actually just finished reviewing the #6 book in this series and it wrapped everything up beautifully. I am actually having a huge giveaway right now on that review and I will link it to this because I want everyone to have a chance to win this great series!

#4 in 2009 - A Little Help From My Friends by Anne Dayton & May Vanderbilt...
Surprise, surprise - this is actually book #3 in this series, and somehow I missed it up until this point, definitely my loss! What a great series about 4 girls that meet in detention as freshmen in high school and the teacher has them each write a paper telling about an important event in their lives. Each of the 4 shares an instance where they were saved when they could have died and the teacher dubbed them "The Miracle Girls". After that these 4 girls from different backgrounds and situations became unlikely friends. Each book is told from the eyes of one of the girls and each one is a different year of high school. This book deals with Zoe and her junior year - along with some help from Christine, Riley and Ana. Wonderful series!!!

#5 in 2009 - All That Glitters / Truth or Dare by Nicole O'Dell...
Does anyone remember those books, "Choose Your Own Adventure"? You know, you'd read a little story and then there would be a point where you would make a choice... do you go through the forest or take the boat down the river, and the choices you make impact the outcome of the book? I loved those books when I was younger but they don't make them anymore... until now that is!
Now Nicole O'Dell has come along with something even better for my daughters! She is developing this series of books called "Scenarios" where she has a wonderful storyline in each book with great characters and then about 9 chapters into the book the main character is presented with a dilemma and they have to make a choice. You are then instructed to make your choice and then turn to the corresponding page. You then read the next three chapters where the consequences are played out accordingly. Then there are 3 more chapters with the alternate ending. It is such a great start to a new series and my 13 year old loved them! More are coming out this Spring.

#6 in 2009 - It's NOT About Him by Michelle Sutton...
Can we say "Book #2"? Of course! It's NOT About Him is the follow-up to Michelle's breakout novel "It's NOT About Me". Many of the same characters are in it but we focus on Jeff and Susie this time. Susie is pregnant and trying to decide about adoption. She is pretty sure that is what she wants to do, but Jeff is her good friend and he is adopted himself and is trying to convince her to marry him and keep the baby. What is best for Susie? What is best for the baby? Do Susie and Jeff really love each other? Michelle's writing isn't called Edgy Inspiration for nothing... her writing is not for young teens but it is important for teens that are exposed to the kind of issues she deals with (drinking, pre-marital sex, relationships, etc...). Well written and great for high schoolers and college age.

#7 in 2009 - Sir Bentley and Holbrook Court by Chuck Black...
Here again we have a book #2 that is just the start of a phenomenal series that will impact families for a long time to come. Sir Kendrick & the Castle of Bel Lione was just the beginning and Sir Bentley comes along and makes a striking 2nd book. Now Sir Dalton and the Shadow Heart and Lady Carliss and the Waters of Moorue are books #3 and #4 in the series (Lady Carliss releases in March) and I'll be ordering those myself now. And if you haven't read Chuck's Kingdom Series then you need to add those to your wish list as well.

#8 in 2009 - Ryann Watters and the Shield of Faith by Eric Reinhold...
This is book #2 in the series and Eric is off to a great start with these books that will delight boys maybe even more than girls (but girls will love them too!). Ryann is a 12 year old boy who loves hanging out with his best friends Terrell and Liddy. One day he has a visit from Gabriel which leads him on an adventure to a world called Aeliana where the animals talk and humans are few. It has a very Narnia-esque feel and is captivating. The beauty of this book to me is the way Eric shows spiritual warfare in such a way that it is easy for kids to understand. Searching the scriptures for answers, praying for wisdom, leaning not unto his own understanding... these are the ways Ryann finds answers on his quest against darkness. It starts with book #1 Ryann Watters and the King's Sword and this is only book #2. I can't wait to see what Eric has in store for his readers next!

#9 in 2009 - Spring of Candy Apples by Debbie Viguie...
This is the final book in a wonderful series for teen girls. Not only did I love this series, but my 13 year old daughter loved it so much she has had 4 of her friends read it as well. A wonderful girl named Candace goes through all 4 seasons (the Sweet Seasons series) starting with The Summer of Cotton Candy, The Fall of Candy Corn, The Winter of Candy Cane and ending with The Spring of Candy Apple. In each book she has a seasonal job at an amusement park where she lives and she has to learn how to blend her family, friends and faith with her new job and all the characters she meets at work. It is just a fun series that follows Candace through a year of her life and this final installment wraps things up beautifully. I'm just sad that there won't be anymore!

So there we have it! All 9 winners in the YA category! I strongly encourage you to add these books to your wish lists and to-be-read lists if you have not already had the pleasure of reading them! To start some of you off I have some great giveaways though...

I have to offer -

"It's NOT About Me" by Michelle Sutton from the #6 winners spot! It's book #1 so you can start the series off if you haven't already.

"Timescape" by Robert Liparulo from the #2 winners spot! This is book #4 and you definitely want to read them in order so if you don't have them already and you win, you will have to get the first 3 before you dive into this one - trust me!

Shelley Adina's publisher (#3 winners spot) has graciously offered to giveaway 3 copies of her newest release, #6 "The Chic Shall Inherit The Earth" alone with an entire set of all 6 books to one lucky winner! Isn't that amazing!!! Go to my review of "The Chic Shall Inherit The Earth" and post a comment there to be entered for those 4 chances to win.

Leave a comment on this post telling me which of these books you have read or what might've caught your eye and be sure to have your email address on there too and you will be entered for Timescape and It's Not About Me. Good luck! The drawings for all 6 chances to win will be January 31st!