Monday, July 24, 2017

You'll Think of Me by Robin Lee Hatcher, 2017

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In a small town in Idaho’s idyllic wine country where the past looms large, can two people realize their individual dreams for the future … together?

Abandoned once too often, Brooklyn Myers never intended to return to Thunder Creek, Idaho. Her hometown holds too many memories of heartache and rejection. But when her estranged husband Chad Hallston dies and leaves his family home and acreage to her and their ten-year-old daughter Alycia, it's an opportunity to change their lives for the better—a chance Brooklyn can't pass up, for Alycia's sake if not her own.

Derek Johnson, Chad's best friend since boyhood, isn't keen on the return of Brooklyn Myers to Thunder Creek. He still blames her for leading his friend astray. And now she has ruined his chance to buy the neighboring ten acres which would have allowed him to expand his organic farm. To add insult to injury, Chad's dying request was that Derek become the father to Alycia that Chad never was. How can he keep that promise without also spending time with the girl’s mother?

Brought together by unexpected circumstances, Derek and Brooklyn must both confront challenges to their dreams and expectations. He must overcome long held misconceptions about Brooklyn while she must learn to trust someone other than herself. And if they can do it, they just might discover that God has something better in mind than either of them ever imagined.

(320 pages)

First, let's just acknowledge that the premise of You'll Think of Me is slightly creepy. Brooklyn's husband dumped her penniless ten years ago when he found out she was pregnant, but he decided to track her down and leave her his family land to raise their daughter Alycia. He then proceeds to write to his childhood best friend Derek, whom he'd been promising to sell that same house and land to for years, and told him "yeah, I changed my mind. Also, I want you to be the father I never was to Alycia."

I'm sorry, but . . . what? It doesn't sound like Chad ever paid a penny of child support to Brooklyn in all this time–he owes her big-time! But instead of bequeathing her the money she really needs, he leaves her a dusty old fixer-upper and a bunch of land in a town she hates. Then he asks a friend of his to be Alycia's father, as though he has any parental claim to the girl (or any right to ask a stranger, without Brooklyn's consent, to take on such an intimate role with her daughter!). I feel like Derek never completely acknowledged how messed-up his old best friend's actions really were. Brooklyn does, which is good, but he just skirts around it and talks about "honoring Chad's last wishes" with Alycia.

Setting that aside, though, I did enjoy reading You'll Think of Me. Once in a while, it's nice to just read a fluffy romance book. This one reminded me of that old Sandra Bullock movie, Hope Floats, just with less questionable behavior and more religious lines. This is one of the first Christian romance books I read where I didn't feel like the portrayal of faith was so cheesy it was ridiculous, though, so that's good.

Basically, if you're looking for a fun, fluffy romance read then this fits the bill. It's nothing extraordinarily memorable, but it's entertaining and even meaningful and better than most of the books out there. Once you get past Chad's questionable role in Brooklyn's life, there's a lot of good to be discovered here–the characters are realistic and flawed, the situations are plausible enough, and the relationship that grows up between Derek and Brooklyn is sweet (though I never felt as emotionally invested in it as I'd have liked).

Have you read You'll Think of Me? If so, let us know what you thought of it in the comments section below!


Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Batgirl at Super Hero High by Lisa Yee, 2017

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Get your cape on with the DC Super Hero Girls the unprecedented new Super Hero universe especially for girls! Readers of all ages can fly high with the all-new adventures of Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Batgirl, and some of the world s most iconic female super heroes as high schoolers!
Batgirl has always hidden in the shadows but does she have what it takes to stand in the spotlight at Super Hero High? 


Barbara Gordon has always been an off-the-charts, just-forget-about-the-test super-genius and tech whiz, and then she gets the offer of a lifetime when Supergirl recognizes that Barbara s talents make her an ideal candidate for Super Hero High. Donning the cape and cowl, Barbara Gordon becomes Batgirl, ready to train at the most elite school on the planet, next to some of the most powerful teenagers in the galaxy. She s always had the heart of a hero . . . but now she ll have to prove that she can be one. Good thing she loves a challenge! 

Award-winning author Lisa Yee brings mystery, thrills, and laughs to this groundbreaking series that follows DC Comics most iconic female Super Heroes and Super-Villains. Move over Batman and Superman the DC Super Hero Girls are ready to save the day and have fun doing it!

(240 pages)

Oh, gosh.

I honestly don't know how to review this book. For one thing, it's an audio book; I'd literally never listened to an entire book on audio before Batgirl at Super Hero High, so my library of comparisons is completely blank. I have no idea if this was a good or a bad narrator, whether the packaging was appropriate, nothing. So I guess I'll just talk a little bit about what I noticed and then discuss the story some.

Packaging first, I guess. It comes in a rectangular cardboard box which holds a plastic thing that takes up about half of the box's width, and then a white cardboard fold-out thing that holds the four CDs that contain the actual audio. The entire audiobook takes 4.5 hours to listen through from beginning to end, which was very convenient for me–I listened to the entire thing over the course of two days while I did hands-on jobs like cleaning my room and walking the dog! I really liked the narrator, a rather perky young woman, and listening to her speak was almost like watching a movie. Once or twice I couldn't tell which character was supposed to be speaking, because there are so many she had a hard time giving them all distinct voices, but that was a very minor issue.

As for the story, well, what do you expect from a story set at "Super Hero High?" It's ridiculously hokey and unrealistic–Batgirl's ability to reprogram complex objects in mere seconds is a particularly egregious example of this–but it's so fun and exciting that you can't help but engage in some major suspension of disbelief. It is a superhero story, after all, so logic (and science!) work a little bit different there. I was never a huge superhero reader when I was younger, mainly I think because I just wasn't exposed, but Batgirl at Super Hero High shows me the sort of ridiculous fun my young imagination was missing out on for all those years. If you or a kid you know is looking for a superhero book, then this one might be just right!


Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Outlaw Christian by Jacqueline A. Bussie, 2016

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Jacqueline Bussie knows that too many Christians live according to unspoken "laws" that govern the Christian life: #1: Never get angry at God; #2: Never doubt; #3: Never question; #4: Never tell your real story; #5: Always speak in cliches about evil and suffering; and #6: Always believe hope comes easy for those who truly love God.

Living according to these rules is killing real Christian life;
Outlaw Christian proposes a rebellious, life-giving, authentic alternative. Through captivating stories and with disarming honesty, Bussie gives concrete, practical strategies to help readers cultivate hope, seek joy, practice accompaniment, compost their pain, and rediscover the spiritual practice of lament. Tackling difficult questions without political divisiveness, Bussie speaks to both progressive and conservative Christians in ways that unite rather than divide. And in doing so, she provides a new way to handle the most difficult and troubling questions of life in a broken world that God will never abandon.
(288 pages)

I moved eight times over the course of my childhood, which means I've attended nine churches (plus visiting dozens more). We've found several good permanent churches over the years, but they've been in a variety of denominations. Over the past 18 years, I have been a part of Presbyterian, Church of Christ, and even non-denominational churches. There are even more denominations, I'm sure, that I simply can't remember at the moment.

I say all this simply to point out that my family has never stuck to a specific set of "laws" tied to a certain sect of the church. We're definitely not revolutionaries, and most of my parents' (and my) beliefs likely fall most closely in the "moderate" area of the political/religious scale, but I was raised to pursue my own ideas about God and religion rather than to parrot the dogma of any one specific church. For a long time, though, we faced limited church options and wound up attending a rather strange conservative church. Looking back now, I realize that I gained a bitterness and disrespect for the church from my time there because I was constantly in interaction with people who had their own set of rules about what it took to be a "good Christian" that didn't match my own. Now that we've been away from that church for almost two years, that outlook is fading–largely thanks to books like Outlaw Christian that introduce me to other people who share some of my criticisms of church culture but still participate in it and pursue a meaningful relationship with God.

Reading Outlaw Christian, I get the vibe that Bussie is someone I would legitimately like if I ever met her in person. She's thoughtful about her faith and honest about her struggles, patient with those who disagree with her, and open-minded/nonjudgmental while still confident in her own beliefs. She tackles the hardcore issues like death, grief, hardship and abuse, arguing that we should feel comfortable bringing our anger and doubts to God instead of letting them fester while we do our best to feign perfection. I really like her arguments against the misconception that a Christian has to be happy all the time.

Just a note, her points are great and sort of organized by topic by the different chapters, but they meander a little bit. I didn't mind, but others who are a little more finicky than I might. Also, I really want to take Bussie's college class on religion now. Any chance you'll be heading to St. Andrews, Scotland any time soon, Dr. Bussie?!




Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.