Sunday, April 29, 2012

NOW READING: CATCHING FIRE ~ SUZANNE COLLINS


I am now reading Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, the sequel to The Hunger Games.

After winning the brutal Hunger Games, Katniss and Peeta return to their district, hoping for a peaceful future. But their victory has caused rebellion to break out ... and the Capitol has decided that someone must pay. As Katniss and Peeta are forced to visit the districts on the Capitol's Victory Tour, the stakes are higher than ever.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

TYNDALE BLOG NETWORK REVIEW: TRAUMA PLAN ~ CANDACE CALVERT


Trauma Plan by Candace Calvert

ER nurse Riley Hale has suffered an attack by an unknown assailant in the Hospital parking lot. The effects of her injury leave Riley with a weakened dominant arm and a numb dominant hand. As a result Riley has been taken off the ER team, but due to her influential family name the Hospital creates a permanent position of Hospital Chaplain to accommodate Riley. Riley is nevertheless determined to regain her strength and skills and return to the ER. It is, however, hard to regain her skills when the Hospital won’t let her use them – Riley is not allowed to work on patients.



Doctor Jack Travis is an adrenaline junkie with a passion for helping the disadvantaged. He runs a free clinic in a wealthy part of town, much to the dismay of the residents as homeless beggars, drug addicts and prostitutes are not an unusual sight in the neighbourhood, as they seek help at Jack’s clinic. Inundated with protest action and attempts to have the clinic shut down, Jack learns of Riley Hale – a wealthy, highly respected nurse with valuable family connections, desperate for a chance to work on patients. After getting off on the wrong foot he offers her a volunteer spot at his clinic, giving her the much needed patient treatment opportunities she desperately needs to hone her skills, hoping her involvement with the clinic will be good PR.



As Jack and Riley work together, she sees more than the aggressive maverick recklessly tempting fate at every turn – she sees a kind man with a good heart, a man she can believe in; Jack sees more than the broken victim – he sees a vulnerable but strong woman of faith who has a gift of helping people with her words even more than with her actions. As Jack and Riley find acceptance and comfort in each other’s arms, Riley’s overprotective family hires a private investigator to find out more about the new man in their daughter’s life.



When a horrific secret from Jack’s youth is dragged into the open it might not only mean the end of his relationship with Riley, but the end of his clinic as well. An agoraphobic patient of Riley’s carries a secret of her own – the secret that just might make everything right.



Trauma Plan (Grace Medical book 1) by Candace Calvert is a very enjoyable read. Her story centers around a theme of fear – fear of past events, fear of a repeat thereof, fear of incompetence, fear of failure, fear of the unknown, fear of life. Fear, if left to grow, can become a debilitating reality in our lives, and Trauma Plan does a beautiful job of bringing that point across. Calvert addresses the importance of not letting fear take over your life, of trusting the One who holds you in the palm of His hand. I love how the several threads of the story ultimately come together, and once you see the bigger picture you see that everything was connected all along. Trauma Plan concurs with my belief that there is no such thing as coincidence – God has a plan and He’s bringing everything together even though we cannot see or understand what it might be.



The characters in Trauma Plan are wonderfully believable. Every single character has his or her own cross to bear, and it is an absolute joy to go through their emotional journeys with them. Calvert took great care to fully develop every character throughout the novel, and their emotional struggles are some most Christians can relate to. I especially love Jack’s friend Bandy (acting as his spiritual guide), and his little dog Hobo. The only unresolved issue, for me, is the character of Kate who does not get any kind of closure. She is still running from her past, running from her fears and running from her reality, but I suspect her story will form the foundation of the next Grace Medical book.



Calvert’s own experience as an ER nurse lends her work a level of authenticity – when she goes into medical jargon and medical procedures you can tell she knows what she’s talking about. Any fans of contemporary Christian literature will enjoy this book, as will anyone with interest in the medical field. Calvert’s work has been described as “Grey’s Anatomy with heart”, and I can’t think of a better description myself.

Trauma plan is a lovely book with a beautiful message.



Product information:
Title: Trauma Plan
Author: Candace Calvert
Number of pages: 399
Publisher: Tyndale House
Year: 2012

ISBN-13: 9781414361116


Candace Calvert


Candace Calvert is a former ER nurse who believes that love, laughter, and faith are the best medicines. She got her inspiration for writing Trauma Plan from a debilitating injury she experienced herself! Though her books are about hope and faith, Candice only came to know God after the triple whammy that changed her life: “A painful and unexpected divorce, the Northern California floods of 1997, and an equestrian accident that left her with fractured ribs, a bleeding lung, broken back, neck fractures and a spinal cord injury" (much like Riley in the novel). She’ll tell you that God took drastic measures to get her attention. She is a wife, mother and proud grandmother living in Northern California.


Tyndale House Publishers kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for review.  I did not receive any monetary compensation for this review, neither did this review lead to any personal gain, other than the joy of being part of the Tyndale Blog Network.

Monday, April 23, 2012

NOW READING: TRAUMA PLAN ~ CANDACE CALVERT

I am now reading my next book to review for the Tyndale Blog Network, Trauma Plan by Candace Calvert.


Sidelined by injuries from a vicious assault, nurse chaplain Riley Hale is determined to return to ER duties. But how can she show she’s competent when the hospital won’t let her attempt even simple tasks? Determined to prove herself, Riley volunteers at a controversial urban free clinic despite her fears about the maverick doctor in charge.

Dr. Jack Travis defends his clinic like he’s commander of the Alamo. He’ll fight the community’s efforts to shut its doors, even if he must use Riley Hale’s influential family name to make it happen.

As Riley strives to regain her skills, Jack finds that she shares his compassion - and stirs his lonely heart. Riley senses that beneath Jack’s rough exterior is a man she can believe in. But when clinic protests escalate and questions surface about his past, Jack goes into battle mode, and Riley wonders if it’s dangerous to trust him with her heart ~ Candace Calvert website.

Friday, April 20, 2012

REVIEW: THE LUCKY ONE ~ NICHOLAS SPARKS

It was with skepticism that I decided to give Nicholas Sparks another try. The guy usually makes me cry and leaves me angry with him for quite a while, which is why I’ve been successfully avoiding his books for a few years now.

A few weeks ago the television channels started airing the trailer for The Lucky One, the movie adaptation of Nicholas Sparks’ novel. The storyline immediately grabbed my attention, and after seeing the trailer about three times I decided to read the book.


Logan Tibault is a US Marine serving in Iraq when he picks up a picture of a beautiful blonde woman, with the words “Keep safe” written on the back. At first he pins the photo to the notice board where the Marine who it belongs to can reclaim it. However, nobody claims it, and driven by a compulsion he can’t explain, Logan takes the picture back. That night, with the picture in his pocket, his luck turns. At first Logan simply wins a lot of money from other Marines at poker, but soon it appears the picture is a lucky charm in every sense of the word when Logan inexplicably survives attack, after attack, after attack. After his third tour of duty, Logan is driven to find the woman in the picture. She saved his life. He owed her…

Elizabeth Green is a lonely young divorcee, living in a small town with her Grandmother and her son, Ben. Elizabeth’s dating life is non-existent, leaving her vulnerable as she ponders why the men she dates all eventually simply stop contacting her without any explanation. To complicate her life even further, Elizabeth shares custody of Ben with his father, Sheriff Keith Clayton – an immature, womanizing bully who abuses his power.  Keith’s family is the most prominent family in Hampton, which also includes a Judge of the Court, and Beth knows that rattling the cage in any way could cause her to lose Ben to the Claytons for good. For this reason Elizabeth is forced to toe the line in all respects for fear Keith might sue for full custody of Ben.

Elizabeth helps Nana run a dog kennel and training centre, and when Logan finally finds Elizabeth at the kennel with a “Help Wanted” sign in the window, Logan has the opportunity to become a part of Elizabeth’s life. He knows it’s his destiny to find her, though he doesn’t know why yet. He takes the job at the kennel, getting to know Elizabeth, Nana and Ben, with the ever present picture of Elizabeth in his back pocket.

When Elizabeth and Logan fall in love, Keith couldn’t be more unhappy with the situation. Apart from the fact that Logan might posses evidence that could cause Keith’s Grandfather to disown him, Keith always saw Elizabeth as his toy, and even though he’s found other toys to play with, it doesn’t mean he wants anybody else to play with his old toys. This was a creepy analogy used in the book, and it effectively captures how perverted Keith Clayton is. Can Logan and Elizabeth’s fragile new relationship survive the wrath of Keith Clayton, and the massive secret that Logan is keeping from her?

The Lucky One is a beautiful love story! Logan and Elizabeth’s romance is very realistically portrayed from Logan’s fascination with Elizabeth, Elizabeth’s initial distrust of Logan, gradually getting to know each other, Logan’s budding relationship with Ben and ultimately discovering that they’ve come to love each other. The humour in the novel is also quite witty. I found myself laughing out loud several times, first with some of Nana’s sayings (which never make any sense), and especially with Logan and Elizabeth’s first date at “Shagging for Crabs”. It sounds dirty, but it’s really not! The whole experience is based on double entendres, which gets to be very funny. This is one of my favourite scenes in the book and I sincerely hope it’s made its way into the movie version.


One of my favourite character’s is Logan’s dog, Zeus! Not many authors can subtly yet effectively make an animal a very real presence and a primary character in a story. Zeus is awesome. Nicholas Sparks has a lovely way of writing romance. Honest, simple and realistic. I had high expectations for The Lucky One, and it didn’t let me down.

The Lucky One releases in American theatres today. My fellow South Africans, it hits our screens on 25 May 2012.


Nicholas, you and I are on speaking terms again, my friend…


Product information:
Title: The Lucky One
Author: Nicholas Sparks
Number of pages: 352
Publisher: Penguin SA
Year: 2009
ISBN: 9780751539240

ANOTHER OF MY REVIEWS HAS BEEN ADDED TO AUTHOR DEEANNE GIST'S WEBSITE!

Deeanne Gist has added my review of Maid to Match to her website!


Thursday, April 19, 2012

THE HUNGER GAMES

This weekend The Hunger Games movie finally hit South African theatres! The movie is, of course, based on the novel of the same name by Suzanne Collins. Having heard only great things about the adaptation I had high expectations for the film version, and I was not disappointed!




The Hunger Games is set in a post-apocalyptic world in the country of Panem. The wealthy metropolis known as the Capitol has full control over all twelve of the poorer Districts which surround it. As punishment for a previous rebellion wherein District Thirteen was completely destroyed, the Capitol annually hosts the Hunger Games, an event where each of the twelve Districts must provide one young man and one young woman between the ages of 12 and 18, called Tributes, to participate in a televised fight to the death in a vast outdoor arena controlled by the Capitol. Over several weeks the 24 Tributes must fight to the death while trying to survive in the outdoor arena filled with traps, poisonous creatures and plants, and some artificial disasters created by the Gamemakers for the audience’s entertainment. The last Tribute standing wins a life of wealth back home, and a precious supply of food and delicacies for his or her District. A lottery draw determines the names of the Tributes who must participate, and in the girls category District Twelve draws the name of 12 year old Primrose Everdeen. Mortified by the thought of Prim being subjected to the horrors of the Games, her 16 year old sister Katniss Everdeen steps up and volunteers to take her place. In the boys category District Twelve draws the name of Peeta Mellark, the baker’s son who once saved Katniss and her family from starvation. In the arena Katniss and Peeta will not only have to fight each other, but 22 others including Career Tributes – Tributes illegally trained to participate in the Games from a young age.

I thoroughly enjoyed every single one of the 142 minutes. Director Gary Ross did a fantastic job on the movie, and though there are several notable changes from the novel, none have major influences on the storyline as a whole.



Changes include little things like who gives Katniss the Mockingjay pin. In the movie it is one of the black marketers in the Hob, in the book it is Madge Undersee. What the movie furthermore fails to mention is the significance of the Mockingjay pin – the Mockingjay is a hybrid, a mix between a Mockingbird and a Jabberjay. The Capitol bred the Jabberjays to spy on the rebels during the Dark Days, to report any talk of rebellion to the Capital. Jabberjays could memorise and repeat entire conversations. The people soon discovered this and then used the Jabberjays to feed the Capitol false information, making a mockery of the Capitol. Jabberjays were then secluded to die, but unbeknownst to the Capitol the Jabberjays had bred with Mockingbirds, resulting in the Mockingjay, which turned into a symbol of rebellion. In the book Cinna gets permission for Katniss to wear her District’s symbol during the Games; in the movie he secretly pins it on her jacket without the Capitol’s knowledge.


Cinna shows Katniss her Mockingjay pin, pinned to her jacket


A big change to the movie is the whole scene surrounding Peeta’s medicine. In the book Peeta makes Katniss promise him that she won’t go to the Cornucopia for the medicine he needs. She promises, but Haymitch sends her a potion to knock him out. She drugs him to go to sleep, and he’s furious with her over it later on. Also, the severity of Katniss’ head-wound courtesy of Clove is downplayed in the movie – it’s just a little nick. In the book Katniss bleeds so badly that she passes out right after giving Peeta the medicine he needs. It is then Peeta’s turn to take care of Katniss. This scene was completely omitted from the film, to my disappointment. Katniss and Peeta’s bonding in the cave is a great part of the book, and it didn’t fully develop in the movie. I loved their good-natured mockery of Haymitch, and the romantic that I am, I loved the scene where Katniss tells Peeta “You don’t have much competition anywhere” (even though she is playing to the audience). Great scenes not included in the movie.

In the movie, the mutations attacking Peeta, Katniss and Kato are just vicious attack dogs, if you will. In the book the mutations are formed from the DNA from the 21 dead tributes. I have to admit that the book version was more disturbing – bringing back vengeful former tributes with claws and fangs. I was slightly more afraid for Katniss and Peeta in the book.

Additions to the film version that I especially enjoyed was the behind the scenes look at how the Gamemakers run the Games – especially how they manipulate it.

Katniss running from fireballs


The moment when you see the screen with the trackers, realizing that they’d used the fireballs to chase Katniss right onto the path of the Careers, you realize again that it’s all just a big game to them.


The Careers find Katniss


I also love how the movie shows District 11’s rebellion upon little Rue’s death.

Haymitch Abernathy’s drunkenness is toned done in the movie – a good call all round. I had no desire to see him embarrass District 12 by drunkenly falling off stage at the reaping, punching Peeta, or throwing up. You still understand that he’s a cynical alcoholic, so I don’t mind that those scenes were removed. Furthermore, we get to see how he campaigns for his tributes, convincing the sponsors to send them aid.

I was very excited to see how the movie portrayed Katniss and Peeta on fire for the Opening Ceremony, and Katniss’ jeweled dress for the interviews. I expected them to change it, somehow, but they didn’t, and it looked great!

The three finger salute made me very emotional every time. As with the Mockingjay pin, the movie didn’t mention the significance of the three finger salute. It is a gesture rarely used, meaning thanks, admiration and good-bye to a loved one. It is an honour to receive a three finger salute. First, District 12 gives Katniss the three finger salute after she volunteers in the reaping to save Prim, then Katniss gives District 11 the three finger salute after they send her the bread meant for Rue, and District 11 salutes her right back.

I like how the film version showed that Seneca Crane was locked in a room, forced to eat nightlock as punishment for failing to contain Katniss, resulting in her and Peeta one upping the Capitol in front of the entire Panem. I’m not saying he deserved it, I’m saying it effectively shows just how cold and calculating President Snow is, and that Katniss and Peeta are in danger, despite winning.


Katniss and Peeta


What I didn’t like about the movie, for one, is that Katniss and Rue’s alliance was much more tangible in the book. Their time together in the movie seemed just too short, and their friendship wasn’t really portrayed as deeply as it is in the book. What the movie also fails to mention is that Rue reminded Katniss of Prim, and that she thought of Rue as her little sister. Katniss was invested in keeping Rue safe as best she could, but it didn’t fully come across in the movie.


Katniss and Rue


Also, in the book, when the Gamemakers announce that the rules have changed and a team consisting of both tributes from the same District can win the Games, Katniss yells out Peeta’s name in a moment of uncontrolled excitement. As these moments are rare for Katniss, it was a nice moment. In the movie version, however, she simply whispers “Peeta”. Not as intense.

Lastly, the ending. In the book, Peeta’s leg is amputated and he realizes that Katniss played him. You see, in the book Katniss realizes that Haymitch only sends aid when she plays into the star-crossed-lovers-theme. She does this several times – granted, to save both herself and Peeta, but still, she’s laying it on thick. At the ending of the book, Peeta is a broken, wounded guy who realizes that the girl he loves doesn’t love him back, she was just acting. The movie gives the impression that Katniss wasn’t acting as much, and the Peeta is all healthy and doesn’t feel betrayed at all. The book ending is much more tense, and builds the suspense for the next installment.


President Snow reluctantly crowning Katniss and Peeta as Victors


I have to say that the casting for this film was spot on, and I especially loved Lenny Kravitz as Cinna and Woody Harrerlson as Haymitch. The setting of the movie was also brilliantly done. Panem was portrayed exactly as I had imagined, as was the arena.

Having read the book, knowing what to expect, it was still quite disturbing watching these kids kill each other.  The whole notion of Panem, and the Games, does cause one to think about the planned New World Order.  The Vigilant Citizen did a really interesting article on the possible connection.  You can check it out here.

The first draft of the script for Catching Fire, the second installment of the Hunger Games Trilogy, has already been completed. Sadly, Director Gary Ross has already confirmed that he will not be directing Catching Fire. Directors currently on the shortlist to take over the helm, are David Cronenberg (Top Gun), Alfonso Cuaron (Harry Potter and the prisoner of Azkaban), Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Babel), Bennet Miller (Moneyball) and Francis Lawrence (I am legend). Catching Fire is set to be released 22 November 2013.


The Hunger Games DVD release date is said to be earmarked for August 2012.

Monday, April 16, 2012

TYNDALE BLOG NETWORK REVIEW: THE LAST PLEA BARGAIN ~ RANDY SINGER

Plea bargains – deals cut by Prosecutors in 90 percent of their cases that usually allow the Defendants to serve less jail time in exchange for a guilty plea. Some people find the notion of plea bargaining a disgrace to justice, but what few realize is that without plea bargains the legal system would shut down - There is simply not enough manpower to accommodate trial by jury for every single Defendant. So, what would happen if Defendants suddenly refused to cut deals? What would happen if those few who went against the majority were murdered because they plea bargained? What would happen to the legal system if all Defendants then decide to take their chances, and insist on trial by jury? This is the foundation on which Randy Singer builds his latest legal thriller, The Last Plea Bargain.

The Last Plea Bargain

Caleb Tate, one of Atlanta’s most notorious criminal Defense Attorneys is suspected of killing his trophy wife.  Jamie Brock, Assistant District Attorney of Milton County is determined to prove his guilt, prejudiced by a personal connection - Caleb Tate once defended Antoine Marshall, the man convicted of killing Jamie’s mother. Mace James, a Defense Attorney once framed for a crime, is determined to prove that Antoine, too, was framed. Throw these storylines together and you’re sure to have an interesting, multi-layered read on your hands.

Apart from the pressures of her job, Jamie faces several emotional challenges throughout the novel. While dealing with hate and bitterness over her mother’s murder, Jamie must bear the repeated attempts of Mace James to prevent the execution of her mother’s killer. Jamie is furthermore tasked with prosecuting the man who previously defended her mother’s killer. Determined to the point of obsession, Jamie falls into a spell of insomnia and depression. During her investigation, Jamie is confronted with evidence questioning her father’s character and integrity. When it is suspected that evidence has been corrupted, Jamie is also unsure whether or not she can trust the Detective assigned to work the Tate case with her. Amidst all of Jamie's personal turmoil, the Milton County justice system threatens to crumble when Defendants suddenly refuse to cut deals. At first Jamie isn't too concerned - she is, after all, the one Prosecutor who always refuses to cut deals herself. But it soon becomes clear that the justice system cannot accommodate trial by jury for every single Defendant, and the backlog soon throws the Courts into disarray. Things only get more complicated when the few Defendants who do plea bargain end up dead only hours after their release. Uncertainty clouding every decision Jamie must make, the reader is swept along an emotional journey as Jamie fights for justice, peace and ultimately her life.



What I like about Singer’s writing is that he explores both sides of an issue; it gives the reader a lot to think about. The Last Plea Bargain questions the death penalty and confronts the reader with the moral issues surrounding it. Singer presents both sides of the coin, and I found myself pondering my own beliefs about the death penalty. I love when a book challenges me to look inside myself and ask some tough questions – this is exactly what The Last Plea Bargain does. Singer himself remains neutral on the issue, giving the reader enough information to decide for themselves. Not many authors can effectively do this.



Any lovers of courtroom drama will love this book. Singer explores every angle of the job of a prosecutor, and along with the process of building a case the reader gets to be in the courtroom for the most part of this case – from jury selection and opening statements, to witness statements and cross examination. The courtroom scenes are brilliantly written, very believable and realistic. Singer’s own experience in the courtroom gives his writing an edge few other legal drama authors can boast of.



Singer didn’t pull the rug out from under me once, but twice! The ending was quite spectacular and revealed truths that I quite simply did not see coming. One thing this book is not, is predictable. The Last Plea Bargain was my first Randy Singer read, but it will most definitely not be my last.


Product information:
Title: The Last Plea Bargain
Author: Randy Singer
Number of pages: 432
Publisher: Tyndale House
Year: 2012
ISBN-10: 1414333218
ISBN-13: 978-1414333212 


Randy Singer



Randy Singer is a man of many talents. He is a veteran trial attorney who runs his own practice, has been named on of the “Legal Elite” litigation attorneys by Virginia Business Magazine (and also teaches classes in advocacy and civil litigation), a teaching pastor and critically acclaimed, award winning author of legal thrillers! According to Randy's website “When he grows up, he will decide what he really wants to do”. Furthermore, he is a husband to his wife of 34 years, and father to their 2 children.





Tyndale House Publishers kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for my review. I did not receive any monetary compensation for this review, neither did this review lead to any personal gain other than the joy of being part of the Tyndale Blog Network.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

NOW READING: THE LUCKY ONE ~ NICHOLAS SPARKS

When Nicholas Sparks releases a new book two things are certain: 1) You are going to cry when you read it, and 2) it will, at some point, be turned into a feature film.

Nicholas Sparks writes beautiful, believable love stories. The thing is, though, where I love traditional, happily-ever-after endings, Nicholas seems to be a fan of bitter-sweet endings. For this reason I have avoided Nicholas Sparks novels for a while now; The guy, while brilliant, never quite gives me the ending I had hoped for.

I am now reading The Lucky One, my first Nicholas Sparks novel in a few years, and I have to admit it was the movie trailer which convinced me.  You might recall this was one of the 20 books to read before they're adapted into 2012 movies



When U.S. Marine Logan Thibault finds a photograph of a smiling young woman half-buried in the dirt during his third tour of duty in Iraq, his first instinct is to toss it aside. Instead, he brings it back to the base for someone to claim, but when no one does, he finds himself always carrying the photo in his pocket. Soon Thibault experiences a sudden streak of luck—winning poker games and even surviving deadly combat that kills two of his closest buddies. Only his best friend, Victor, seems to have an explanation for his good fortune: the photograph—his lucky charm.
 
Back home in Colorado, Thibault can’t seem to get the photo—and the woman in it—out of his mind. Believing that she somehow holds the key to his destiny, he sets out on a journey across the country to find her, never expecting the strong but vulnerable woman he encounters in Hampton, North Carolina—Elizabeth, a divorced mother with a young son—to be the girl he’s been waiting his whole life to meet. Caught off guard by the attraction he feels, Thibault keeps the story of the photo, and his luck, a secret. As he and Elizabeth embark upon a passionate and all-consuming love affair, the secret he is keeping will soon threaten to tear them apart—destroying not only their love, but also their lives.

Filled with tender romance and terrific suspense, The Lucky One is Nicholas Sparks at his best—an unforgettable story about the surprising paths our lives often take and the power of fate to guide us to true and everlasting love ~ Nicholas Sparks' website.


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

REVIEW: MAID TO MATCH ~ DEEANNE GIST


Tilly Reese was raised to become a Lady’s Maid – the highest position a woman could reach professionally, other than Housekeeper. Tilly's mother spent many years and many resources training her to one day be able to be chosen as Lady’s Maid for some wealthy lady. The position would secure a life of comfort, travel and a significant salary increase, meaning Tilly would be able to help provide for her family. When Tilly is placed on a shortlist to become Lady’s Maid for the wealthy Mrs Vanderbilt, her mother is ecstatic even though becoming a Lady’s Maid would mean giving up the possibility of marriage and motherhood. For 18 year old Tilly this is a sacrifice she is willing to make… until she meets Mack Danver.



Mack Danver is a mountain man forced to place his younger siblings with foster families when he can no longer financially afford to raise them himself. His only sister, however, is sent to an orphanage in North Carolina instead of a foster family. When Mack suspects the children at the orphanage are being abused, he needs to raise funds quickly in order to get Ora Lou out of the orphanage and set her up on her own. His twin brother is also employed at the Biltmore Estate, as footman. When Mrs Vanderbilt realizes that the handsome Earl Danver has a handsome twin brother, she jumps at the chance to offer him a position at the estate - not superficial at all, but handsome twins in one’s service is quite the coupe de grace for the wealthy.



A position at the Biltmore Estate comes with a very attractive salary, and eager to get Ora Lou out of the orphanage Mack accepts the offer intending to leave the estate and head back to his beloved mountains as soon as he can. Then he meets Tilly Reese. Mack and Tilly are instantly drawn to one another. While Mack makes no secret of his intentions, Tilly fights their attraction every step of the way. She knows she can’t be distracted by a man so close to accomplishing her goal of becoming a Lady’s Maid. Tilly even goes out of her way to avoid Mack, but then she is enlisted to tame his wild ways and coach him in proper servant etiquette. Forced to spend time together, and then jointly discovering a hideous scandal at the town orphanage, Tilly and Mack’s romance blooms in spite of Tilly’s efforts to keep him at arm’s length.



When his goal is within reach and Mack’s time at Biltmore Estate draws to a close, with the realization of Tilly’s lifelong dream close enough to touch, her mother’s dreams resting heavily on her shoulders, can Mack and Tilly find a way to be together, or will the realities of life push them apart?




Maid to Match is another gem in the Deeanne Gist collection. I was hooked in the first chapter, and kept reading faster and faster to discover what happens next, and to reach the point where Tilly finally stops fighting her feelings for Mack. The tension in their relationship was perfectly paced and beautifully done.



The complications Tilly and Mack face are believable, and even though you as reader believe that Tilly and Mack will eventually find their happily ever after, the obstacles they face are so real that you can’t help but fear that life might get in the way. A suspenseful romance is always fun to read, because the moments of happiness and joy are that much more precious.



Deeanne Gist is quite simply a master of romance. Her books are all lovely, sweet, funny, feel-good, grab-you-by-the-heart-reads. Her characters are real, deep, emotionally driven and her plot lines are flawlessly built on foundations of faith. What’s not to love? Maid to Match is a must read for all romantics and history lovers alike!



Product information:
Title: Maid To Match
Author: Deeanne Gist
Number of pages: 368
Publisher: Bethany House
Year: 2010
ISBN-10: 0764208063 



One of the reasons I was able to enjoy a story about servants, is that I adored the Vanderbilts, the Master and Mistress of the Biltmore Estate. They are such kind and loving characters, and treat their staff with respect. You can imagine my joy at discovering in the author’s note that George and Edith Vanderbilt truly existed! As did their gorgeous estate in Asheville, North Carolina! This Estate is still in the Vanderbilt family, and is still the largest, privately owned home in America.


Biltmore Estate
 




What a breathtakingly beautiful Estate! Can you imagine living there?! What made the Vanderbilts so extraordinary is the fact that when George Vanderbilt built his estate, he took extra care to also prepare lovely servant quarters, unheard of at the time! The Vanderbilt’s servants had windows, electricity, central heating and running water. He also bought brand new furniture for his servants. George and Edith were truly ahead of their time in their treatment of their servants, and in Maid to Match one gets a glimpse of their extraordinary lives.

George & Edith Vanderbilt 1912














I love when the lines of fact and fiction meet, and no author does it better than Deeanne Gist.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

THE BEST-SELLING AND MOST READ BOOK OF ALL TIME

My favourite Holiday, the Easter celebration, is here, so herewith my official Happy Easter to my readers and fellow bloggers!

In the excitement of days off from work and colourful Easter eggs everywhere you look, some people find it easy to forget what Easter is truly about. In short:

Jesus Christ came to earth, took all of our transgressions on His own shoulders and died, in our place, for our sins. Jesus paid the price for every wrong committed. He redeemed us, saved us, and gave us the greatest gift ever: The promise of everlasting life, in Heaven, with Him. All you have to do is to accept and acknowledge Christ as your saviour. Easy as that :)

So, in the spirit of Easter, let’s talk a little about the Greatest Book ever; the bestselling and most read book in history, which also happens to be the first book ever printed – that’s saying something isn’t it?! I must say, though, I never feel comfortable talking about The Holy Bible as a book, because it’s not just a book - It’s so much more than that. It is the word of God, passed down us tiny, tiny humans. How amazing is that?!

The Holy Bible was written by over 40 different authors, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It was written over a period of approximately 1500 years from around 1450 B.C. (the time of Moses) to approximately 100 A.D. (following the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ). The first translation of the Bible into English was made in 1382 A.D., by John Wycliffe. The Bible was first printed in 1454 A.D. by Johannes Gutenberg who invented the "type mold" for the printing press. It was the first book ever printed, known today as the Gutenberg Bible (see my post on Gutenberg and the printing press).

The Gutenberg Bible, on display in the New York Library


The Bible spans the entire existence of Earth, from the creation account in Genesis to the end-time visions of Revelation. The Bible contains 66 books of which 39 are in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament. The terms Old Testament and New Testament originated with the prophet Jeremiah when he said that God would “make a new covenant with the house of Israel.” Testament means “covenant,” and the long-awaited Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, made a new covenant with God’s people. The books of the New Testament provide the fulfillment of the promises made throughout the Old Testament books.

Now, check this out: The shortest chapter in the Bible is Psalm 117. The longest chapter in the Bible is Psalm 119. The centre of the Bible is Psalm 118. There are 594 chapters before Psalm 118 and 594 chapters after Psalm 118, which add up to 1188. The centre verse of the Bible is Psalm 118:8! So what does the centre verse of the Bible say? "It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man." Pretty significant, I think.

Happy Easter, friends, and remember to give thanks for the greatest gift you have ever received, and ever will receive – REDEMPTION!


 


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

HUNGER GAMES HUMOUR

I came across this, and just had to share it.  I suppose you might have to have a certain kind of humour to appreciate this, but I, for one, thought it was hilarious.  If you've read (or seen) The Hunger Games, you'll know this exact scene.  This spoof is obviously written to Adele's song Set Fire To The Rain

All credit goes to the very creative mind responsible for writing this (It wasn't me).

Monday, April 2, 2012

THE MOVIE; THE VOW


I first saw the trailer for The Vow in December 2011, and I literally could not wait for the movie to be released.  Last night I finally sat down to watch it with great expectations, and to my surprise, and my dismay, this movie was the biggest let down in a very long time.






The Vow is inspired by true events, and is based on the book of the same name by Kim and Krickitt Carpenter, which you might recall I mentioned in my post on 20 books to read before they’re adapted into 2012 movies.  It is important to note that the filmmakers took some liberties with the story, and as Hollywood quite often does, the story has been altered for the big screen.

The movie starts off with a happily married, obviously in love Paige and Leo heading home on a cold winter’s eve. At a stop Paige unfastens her seatbelt to lean over and kiss Leo, unaware that a truck is coming up behind them, unable to stop. The truck slams into Paige and Leo’s car, flinging Paige out of the windshield (this scene, it must be said, was very well done). Leo walks away with no major injuries, but Paige wakes up in the hospital days later with no recollection of having a husband. Paige’s memory of the last five years of her life has been wiped away. She wakes up to find that not only is she married to a man she can’t remember, she has completely broken ties with her wealthy family and friends, moved to the city and dropped out of law school to become an artist.



The story follows a very sweet Leo as he tries his best to help Paige regain her memory. When he ultimately starts worrying that she might never regain her memory, he sets about making her fall in love with him all over again.


Leo takes her to "their places" and even sweetly recreates their first date.  He puts his whole being into making her love him. Problem is, where her mind is at Paige is still in love with and engaged to her former love, Jeremy. Paige rejects poor Leo at every turn, flirts with her ex and embraces the family she has refused to speak to for five years at Leo’s expense. She immediately steps back into her old life without much interest in rediscovering the new.



You would think this story about a man who painstakingly woos his wife would be a joy to watch. The truth is, I literally only enjoyed about the first fifteen minutes of the movie. I loved the artsy, fun Paige we meet at the beginning of the movie, falling in love with Leo. Sadly, in 75% of the movie we have to deal with the snooty rich girl Paige who treats Leo like dirt. She actually does her absolute best to ignore him. My main issue with this story is that Paige never gives Leo a chance. She doesn’t want to remember her life with him, she doesn’t even attempt to get to know him. She does go on one date with him, but to me that was more to placate him than anything else.



Don't get me wrong, I have perfect understanding for what she must have felt waking up to discover a new life that she can’t imagine being real. She’s come to be a carefree artist, married to a struggling music producer instead of the rich lawyer she remembers loving, and not on speaking terms with the family she loves. She comes home to a strange apartment in the city to a house full of strangers claiming to be her friends. Overwhelming is not the word. I get it. But Paige handles the whole situation very poorly. She never, not once gives her husband a chance. She walks away, even seeing the video of their wedding, hearing the beautiful vows they made to each other. Instead of giving her marriage a chance, Paige moves back in with her family, cancels the commission she was working on, and goes back to law school. She divorces the man who loves her so dearly.



It takes her a few months but Paige does eventually discover her reason for leaving her family (which none of them bothered to tell her about), she realizes that she hates law school and drops out again, she moves to an apartment in the city and goes back to being an artist. When she’s ready, she finds Leo and they start dating again.



I guess if you look at the silver lining, it’s really sweet that Paige and Leo fall in love twice. I even suppose it’s understandable that she had to rediscover herself on her own terms. But truthfully I am disappointed that Leo took her back! And this from me, the biggest romantic you will ever come across. I just don't like the person Paige turned into, I certainly don't like the way she treats Leo and I absolutely resent that she doesn't even give him a chance. She just walks away. And when she's ready, on her terms, she walks back into his life. My heart was breaking for Leo throughout the film, and I resented Paige’s treatment of him. I wasn’t emotionally invested in her side of the story at all.



Having said that, I would love to read the book!  In an article by Fox News, the real-life couple reveals their disappointment that the movie version stripped the couple of their Christianity, when in actual fact it was “the couple’s religious belief in the unbreakable vow of marriage that [kept] them together”.  In real life they did not get a divorce, and the book draws heavily on the couple’s Christian beliefs and the power of God to heal and shepherd a marriage through difficult times.  Although she has not regained her memory, Kim and Krickitt are still happily married, and have two children.


Kim and Krickitt Carpenter


“For their part, the Carpenters were just happy to see their inspirational story translated onto the big screen. They hope that the audience seeking the spiritual side of their story will turn to a re-released edition of their book”.  Kim, Krickitt, I, for one, most definitely will.

Follow by Email

Followers

Twitter

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...