Friday, June 29, 2012

Review: Starring Me by Krista McGee

Book Cover and Synopsis:
Kara McKormick is told she's auditioning to star in a new teen variety show. But it's what she isn't told that could change her life.

The feisty New Yorker moves to sunny Orlando to participate in a month-long audition, where she'll live with nine other contestants and an eccentric housemother. Kara knows that the show already has a big-time celebrity lined up for the co-host, but she doesn't know who it is.

Chad Beacon quickly rose to fame after winning America's Next Star, but he doesn't want his entire career to be about singing. There is so much more he wants to do-like act. The new variety show sounds like the perfect next step for him, but his parents want him to have a co-star who shares his faith since they'll be spending so much time together.

Acting is high on Kara's priority list. But a relationship with God? Not so much. In fact, she's tried to stay away from anything religious. But God is after Kara's heart and He's put people in her life who are showing her there's far more to Christianity than rules and judgment.

Just when it seems that Kara's going to have to give up her acting dream, God reveals that she may have a starring role after all-in a story so big only He could write it.

My Thoughts:
I always get a huge kick out of novels that involve showbiz or celebrities, and what do you know, this one has both! Starring Me is a fun and lighthearted story that shows what it's like for a spunky teen girl trying to break into showbiz; and on the flip side, it also shows the difficulty that celebrity status can bring.

Kara is extremely lively; at her age of 17 she can be a bit over-the-top at times, but her enthusiasm brings a ton of life to the story. She's genuinely nice and isn't vicious or mean-spirited in her quest to win the part of TV co-host - unlike the other girls vying for the part! It's really cool to see all the events that happened in the past that brought Kara to her current situation; all her Christian friends keep telling her that God is pursuing her, and although she's curious, Kara's just not sure what to think about the whole faith issue yet.

Chad is a decent guy, and he hasn't let his pop-star fame go to his fact, his fame has gotten to be too much, and he's looking to scale back from pop-star to a simple TV host. At 17 he's still obedient to his parents' wishes, even if he's not sure they're entirely right. His parents are older and at times seemed a bit stiff to me, but I think this stems from their overprotective attitude. They are insistent that Chad's new TV co-star be a Christian girl of their choosing, nothing else is an option. I kind of doubt a network would let a teenage actor and his parents have so much control, however for the sake of the story it was a unique twist and brought the pieces and situations together in a fun way.

Starring Me is somewhat of a sequel to Krista McGee's previous book First Date, although it's able to stand alone as well. I happened to read Starring Me first, and while I didn't have any trouble jumping into the story, it was obvious the first book would've contained the back-story for several characters. (Be aware that Starring Me ends up giving away much of the plot for First Date, so if you have any interest in First Date at all, I would definitely recommend reading it first.)

My Rating: 4 stars
Thanks to the publisher (Thomas Nelson) for providing me with an e-arc via NetGalley for review.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Review: Spare Change by Aubrey Mace

Book Cover and Synopsis:
Twenty-three and single, Riley thinks resolutions should be fun, not hard. Just before midnight, she vows to make the easiest resolution ever: save her pennies and at the end of the year, buy something nice for herself. Easy! ...Or is it?

Working at a cancer treatment center can change one's perspective, and before long Riley decides to donate her extra money to cancer research rather than reward herself. At first her resolution is her own secret, but all too soon the nurses figure out her plan, and then things really begin to get out of hand!

As people through the hospital, and then the town, begin to get involved, Riley finds herself the head of a fund-raising campaign. She also finds herself face-to-face with Paul, the grouchy but cute bank teller. But can she overcome the memory of a failed relationship - and can he do the same? And who is the secret admirer who keeps leaving pennies and notes for her to find?

My Thoughts:
Spare Change is a cute story with a likeable heroine, Riley. The story is told entirely from Riley's point of view, which gets you inside her head to see her thoughts and ideas, many of which are rather amusing. Her "voice" is entertaining and very easy to read.

I liked how most of the story centered around doing something to help others. Collecting pennies may not seem like much, but when lots of people get involved it's surprising how much a few pennies can add up to. Of course Riley's personal life is also a big part of the story, but I just really appreciated the selfless attitude that the entire penny idea conveyed.

At 200 pages, Spare Change is a fairly quick read. It's light and fun, and while I'm not sure it will stick with me extremely long, I did enjoy the story. This is a book that I feel would make a great Hallmark movie, it has all the right ingredients! Anyway, if you're looking for something fun and light, this would be a good choice!

My Rating: 4 stars

Please note that Spare Change is not a Christian novel, however it was written by an LDS author and the story content is quite clean. (I only remember one innuendo and one mild instance of language, cr*p.) It's mentioned that Riley goes to church, but her beliefs and faith are not explored.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Review: The Cubicle Next Door by Siri Mitchell

Book Cover and Synopsis:
What if God has more planned for your life than you do?
Jackie Harrison is a civilian who loves her job at the U.S. Air Force Academy. That is, until she is forced to divide her office into cubicles and share the space with a new history instructor, Lt. Col. Joseph Gallagher. A charmer in a flight suit, Joe wants to explore both Colorado and a growing relationship with his new cubicle mate. The office was bad enough, but Jackie’s beside herself when Joe shows up in her home and church, even turning her grandmother’s weekly bridge game into poker night! 

Jackie goes online to vent, but she eventually finds herself admitting her conflicted feelings about this office neighbor who drives her crazy and makes her heart flutter. But when her blog—The Cubicle Next Door—is featured on TV, everyone begins to read it, including Joe. Will he figure out the anonymous confessions and frustrations are written about him? And how will Jackie ever express her heart offline? 

My Thoughts:
Jackie has vowed to never get married or fall in love, so desperate is her fear of repeating her mother's mistakes. At 31 Jackie has never had a boyfriend, never dated, never been kissed. She lives a secluded life... or at least she used to, but ever since Joe entered the picture she finds herself constantly getting sucked into his plans and outings, simply because she doesn't have a valid reason to say "no".

I loved how Joe came into Jackie's life and sort of acted like they were already in the middle of a friendship; from day one he was dragging her out to lunch and asking favors like they were old pals. He constantly involves Jackie in situations that pull her out of her comfort zone, things that she would normally avoid at all costs... but despite her reservations and much to her surprise, she always ends up enjoying herself. (Example: when Joe signs her up to play a dead woman in a casket race!)

Jackie is on the serious side and isn't afraid to make her many opinions known, but Joe isn't intimidated and banters right back with her on all sorts of amusing and crazy topics. Her anonymous online blog adds a unique twist to things, and helps to show a different and softer side than the all-serious attitude she displays to the world. When Joe becomes a fan of the blog and starts talking to Jackie daily about it, speculating on the "anonymous" blogger's identity and actions, well, I just couldn't help but be amused! Such fun!

Siri Mitchell has a style in her contemporary books that I just love, it never gets old. Honestly, I just had a blast with this book, and I'm sad to have reached the end, but it was great while it lasted. :) I definitely recommend picking up The Cubicle Next Door, and while you're at it, do yourself a favor and check out Siri Mitchell's Kissing Adrien and Moon Over Tokyo as well. They're all keepers! 

My Rating: 5 stars

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Review: Ever by Gail Carson Levine

Here's a review I recently dug up from my "archives"... I posted it on amazon in 2009, way back before I started this blog. This summer I'm hoping to do some reviews for YA novels along with my normal Christian Fiction reviews, so I thought it would be appropriate to go ahead and post this, even though it's a couple years old. 

Book Cover and Synopsis:
Falling in love is easy . . .

. . . for Kezi, a beautiful mortal, dancer, and rug weaver, and for Olus, Akkan god of the winds. Their love brings Kezi the strength to fight her fate, and it gives Olus the strength to confront his fears. Together—and apart—they encounter spiders with webs of iron, the cruel lord of the land of the dead, the mysterious god of destiny, and the tests of the Akkan gods. If they succeed, they will be together; but if they fail, Olus will have to endure the ultimate loss, and Kezi will have to make the supreme sacrifice. 

My Thoughts:
The storyline in a nutshell: Because of an oath her father makes, Kezi is to die as a sacrifice. Olus (the god of the winds) has watched Kezi from afar and has come to care about her. When Olus learns of Kezi's ill fate he comes up with a plan to make Kezi immortal as he is, so they can be together for eternity.

It was an interesting and quick read, I finished it in three days. There is some of that trademark Gail Carson Levine charm, yet it's nowhere near as charming as Ella Enchanted or The Two Princesses of Bamarre. The idea of there being many gods isn't really my cup of tea, and I was uncomfortable with the idea of Admat who is supposed to be the all-knowing ever-present god...yet he is quick to anger, slow to forgive, uncaring and completely impersonal.....and his existence is heavily questioned. Kezi's people are ruled by omens and the fear of upsetting Admat; they look for flares in alter flames as signs of whether or not their prayers will be answered, and then interpret the 'signs' however they see fit. (Keep in mind this "Admat" is completely unlike the God of the Bible, yet there are one or two similarities that make you wonder about the message this book is sending.... All of this left me with a vague impression of a possible "hidden agenda" and the notion that it might be trying to lead people astray.)

Aside from that I did find Ever to be a mildly entertaining read, although I think it's a rather forgettable story. My mind didn't wander, yet I wasn't completely enthralled either. For fans of Gail Carson Levine, I'd say go for it, as you'll most likely enjoy this, just not as much as her other books. For anyone else, I'd recommend that you enter the world of Gail Carson Levine by reading Ella Enchanted or The Two Princesses of Bamarre first. 

My Rating: 3 stars