Book Review | The Birds at My Table by Darryl Jones

the birds at my table

Book Description:

Darryl Jones is fascinated by bird feeders. Not the containers supplying food to our winged friends, but the people who fill the containers.

Why do people do this? Jones asks in The Birds at My Table. Does the food even benefit the birds? What are the unintended consequences of providing additional food to our winged friends?

Jones takes us on a wild flight through the history of bird feeding. He pinpoints the highs and lows of the practice. And he ponders this odd but seriously popular form of interaction between humans and wild animals. Most important, he points out that we know very little about the impact of feeding birds despite millions of people doing it every day.

Unerringly, Jones digs at the deeper issues and questions, and he raises our awareness of the things we don’t yet know and why we really should. Using the latest scientific findings, The Birds at My Table takes a global swoop from 30,000 feet down to the backyard bird feeder and pushes our understanding of the many aspects of bird feeding back up to new heights.

Known as “Snow White” on my street by my loving neighbors, I had to read this book, to see if there was a rhyme or reason for my bird loving behavior.  I also wanted to see why others feed birds and whether or not we are hurting or helping the environment.

What a comprehensive and easy-to-read assessment of those of us who love to feed birds.  Darryl Jones does a wonderful job of researching and digging deeply to explain different methods of feeding, times of year, species, and outcomes.  And though I am an avid bird watcher and environment “intervener”, I know I need to know the truth about what I’m doing.

I was not disappointed in his writing, as he explained much, however I was saddened to hear that we can affect animals by our intervention and timeliness.  As a Christian, I believe that all creatures are created by our living God who designed them with instinct and intelligence needed for survival and procreation.  And I’m enamored with knowing more about them because of this love for my Heavenly Father.  I want to catch the Design in action, and may times I do!

I appreciated the intelligence of Darryl and his travels.  He interviewed many people from many different countries, used real time data for his findings and shared the truth of how these birds interact and live among us.  If you are a bird watcher like myself and want to know more about them, you simply have to grab this book.  It’s fascinating!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Cornell University Publishing.  I was not required to write a positive review.  The opinions expressed are my own.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 (http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html): “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review | Behind a Closed Door by Adele O’Neill

behind a closed door

Book Description:

What if everything in your life was a lie?

An emotionally tense story of love, loyalty, betrayal and revenge. Perfect for the fans of Louise Jenson.

DUBLIN – For the past two years Jill Ryan has tried to keep her darkest secrets deeply buried and remain relatively anonymous. Haunted by her tragic past and struggling to keep her life together, Jill soon realizes that the last person she can trust is herself.

KILKENNY – Only Heather Martin knows the lengths her husband will go to teach her a lesson and Heather has had enough. Faced with the impossible choice of saving herself or staying to care for her ailing father, Heather has a choice to make. But does she have what it takes to survive? When Detectives Louise Kennedy in Dublin and Tony Kelly in Kilkenny begin to investigate, their dark discoveries collide unravelling a complex web of secrets that stretch far and wide.

The title itself was what drew me in.  Who of us doesn’t like to know what really goes on behind a closed door?  We may think we know things about certain people, but this book revealed that is not always the case.

This book was crazy!  And I mean that in a good, couldn’t-put-down, suspenseful way!  This is the first book I have read by Adele O’Neill. It really grabbed me within the first chapter, and within a few minutes, I was almost in tears (this book has graphic, descriptive scenes of physical and emotional abuse), but knew there was a heroine that I wanted to see to the end!

There are two locations, and two time periods, so the book does jump back and forth between them.  However, the writing is done very well to keep you on track as you’re following along.  The characters were extremely believable, and realistic.  Heather’s husband, Mike, is consistently the resident jerk, wearing the proverbial mask and acting like all is well, meanwhile, the battered wife, Heather’s  behavior fits the mold for what you’d expect from someone in that type of environment.

I enjoyed the plot, the way that things lined up, the dramatic moments of fury and failure, but also the successes along the way, and the slow reveals.  I didn’t feel that the ending was super climactic, I just felt like it tied up all of the loose ends nicely, and as a reader of this type of genre, I could see the link ahead of time, but that doesn’t mean the ride wasn’t worth it.  I would read another book by this author, and have already downloaded Brothers and Sisters.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Aria Fiction.  I was not required to write a positive review.  The opinions expressed are my own.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 (http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html): “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

Book Review | How You Can Be Sure You Will Spend Eternity with God by Erwin Lutzer

eternity with God

From the Back Cover:

“Be wrong about social security, be wrong about baseball, be wrong about your career choice, but don’t be wrong about where you will spend eternity.”

How You Can Be Sure You Will Spend Eternity with God—it’s a big promise, but this short book delivers. It answers a host of questions, such as:

  • Will good deeds help me get into heaven?
  • Who goes to heaven and who doesn’t?
  • What role do I have in my own salvation?
  • Can I lose my salvation if I commit a serious sin?
  • Is it wrong to doubt my salvation, and what should I do if I doubt?

Dr. Lutzer takes many scriptural teachings and siphons them into clear, cohesive truths. The result is a concise, accessible book about how to be saved and be sure you are saved. It is straight gospel—applicable to the skeptic, newly saved, and long-time believer alike.”

Do you know with absolute certainty where you are headed when your physical life on Earth is over?  There are many temporary things in life we can afford to be uncertain about, but this is one question that needs to be answered by every living person, who will one day stand before the King of Kings, and the Lord of Lords.

If you’ve ever heard a sermon by Dr. Erwin Lutzer, the senior pastor of The Moody Church in Chicago, then you know he is very blunt and direct, however he is Scriptural and truthful.  I’ve been listening to him for years, and have read several of his books.  I have absolute respect for him as a pastor, and fellow Christian brother.

This book was a fast read, and one that gave me a lot of things to think about.  As a practicing Christian for almost twelve years, I have been asking the Lord many things about my future, salvation, who is in and who is out, how do we know for sure, and where do I stand?  And because of a desire to know the truth, I have been digging deeper into the truths of the Holy Bible, and chose to do a book review for Moody Publishers.  When I saw that it was from Dr. Lutzer, I jumped at the chance.

If you are seeking confirmation of your eternal future, this book is for you.  And if I can shut some doors on false teaching for you, let me start by sharing this truth from page 18,

“Recently I was discussing the credentials of Christ with a woman who said, ‘I believe that there are many paths to God.  People can come in their own way.’ I told her I wished that were true, but I was confronted with a choice- do I believe her well-intentioned opinion, or do I believe in what Christ Himself had to say?

…Christ insisted that there was a narrow road that led to eternal life, but in contrast, there was a broad road that led to spiritual death.  Clearly there are separate gates, therefore two roads and two very different destinations.”  This can be found in Matthew 7:13-14.

Dr. Lutzer explains three different approaches to eternity: The Ladder Climbers, The Religious Types, and The Mystics.  To get a better understanding of these, please pick up a copy of this book today to see how these three groups are misguided in their attempts to reach Heaven.  You may feel an immediate offense, but I can assure you, that he makes his case airtight against these methods.

Now if you are like me, you may have tried earning your salvation, using religion, and even questioning other methods that didn’t involve sitting in a church pew.  But the truth is that salvation is not secure in any of these routes.  The grace of God is sufficient for anyone who realizes their humanity and their helpless condition.  Because Jesus died on the cross and rose again, He not only fulfilled years of prophecy to be the ONE and ONLY MESSIAH, He made the way for us to be in relationship with His Father, GOD, and we can therefore declare our salvation in Him alone.

“God has entered the cemetery.”

Did you know that before your life with Christ, you were considered “dead in sin”?  Ephesians 2:1 declares us to be.  And the wonderful truth is that when we turn to Jesus, we can become ALIVE in Christ.  Be reassured by Romans 6:11.

I loved this book, and will keep it on hand for family, friends and even myself, if I should end up on the spiritual treadmill inadvertently.  Knowing for sure that I will be with my Lord is the only thing that matters on Earth for me.  And the other thing that I’ve been tasked with is to make sure that others know how as well.

“…when you come to Christ, you do not come to give, you come to receive.  You do not come to try your best, you come to trust.  You do not come to be helped, but to be rescued. You do not come to be made better (although that does happen), you come to be made alive!” – Dr. Lutzer

Do you know Him?  https://needhim.org

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Moody Publishers.  I was not required to write a positive review.  The opinions expressed are my own.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 (http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html): “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

 

Book Review | The Girl Who Lived by Christopher Greyson

the girl who lived

Official Description: Ten years ago, four people were brutally murdered.

One girl lived.

No one believes her story.
The police think she’s crazy.
Her therapist thinks she’s suicidal.
Everyone else thinks she’s a dangerous drunk.
They’re all right—but did she see the killer?

As the anniversary of the murders approaches, Faith Winters is released from the psychiatric hospital and yanked back to the last spot on earth she wants to be—her hometown where the slayings took place. Wracked by the lingering echoes of survivor’s guilt, Faith spirals into a black hole of alcoholism and wanton self-destruction. Finding no solace at the bottom of a bottle, Faith decides to track down her sister’s killer—and then discovers that she’s the one being hunted.

How can one woman uncover the truth when everyone’s a suspect—including herself?

From the mind of Wall Street Journal bestselling author Christopher Greyson comes a story with twists and turns that take the reader on a journey of light and dark, good and evil, to the edge of madness. The Girl Who Lived should come with a warning label: Once you start reading, you won’t be able to stop. Not since Girl on the Train and Gone Girl has a psychological thriller kept readers so addicted—and guessing right until the last page.

GracieLynn Review:

I have read Christopher Greyson’s books before and I have to say that this book meets my expectations for him.  He’s great at character development; leaving out certain details until just the right time, and slowly building their profile with consistency.  This book was no different.

Our story started out with the main character, Faith Winters, in a psych ward.  On her birthday, she had witnessed her father, her sister and a friend murdered at her home cabin.  And not being able to cope with that at such a young age, she ended up needing mental health care.  Her hometown seems to think she should still be there.  With a personal alcohol addiction as her coping mechanism, a mother who used her story of being a witness as a catalyst for her writing career and lack of trust from those who know her best, Faith doesn’t have much to look forward to upon her release.  But she gets released and begins her new life on the outside.  Her goal to find the murderer (and prove that her father didn’t commit murder/suicide) is still number one in her mind, and she will go to whatever lengths necessary to find him.

As the story is told from her point of view, we get a look into Faith’s past.  She has an ax to grind and a negative attitude toward pretty much everyone she meets.  She comes across thoroughly as a jaded young woman, and I understood her snide comments, but over time as a reader, I was getting annoyed.

A few times in the story, she swears she sees the person who killed her father, but no one seems to be taking her seriously.  And I began to feel sorry for her, because as someone who has struggled with alcohol in the past, I realize the loss of trust people have in you, and how you just want to be taken seriously, especially when you’re in the right.  As the story progresses, you begin to wonder about the people in her life: the counselor, her sponsor, her “friends” at meetings, etc.  Almost everyone seems to be involved in some way, and she begins to question herself.  For that reason, I loved the suspense in this story, but I’m going to be completely honest: The ending was disappointing.  And because I can’t reveal who it is, I have to admit that I just don’t know if the person responsible would actually be capable of doing it.  I did see some signs throughout the book that made me suspect this person, but when it was actually revealed, I wondered what psychosis one would have to be under to commit such atrocities.

But I love the absolute ending where Faith gets her justice, and is able to move on, to actually LIVE.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through NetGalley and Greyson Media Associates. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and I appreciate the opportunity to receive an advanced reader copy to do so. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

Book Review | Need to Know by Karen Cleveland

need to know

A classy spy novel with intrigue, doubt, and fierce loyalties.  This debut novel by former CIA analyst, Karen Cleveland, grips and doesn’t let go.  The main character, Vivian, tracks Russian sleeper agents for her career, and at the end of chapter one, realizes they are much closer to home than she thinks!  Hacking into a recovered laptop from a known Russian source, she uncovers five covert agents who are sleepers and she is about to expose them.  But what must she do when one of them is related to her?  The book immediately gets the reader thinking ethically and to what extent we might bend the rules.

By chapter six, she makes a decision that affects everyone in her family, her four children and husband included, and the story takes off.  Can she protect her family from those who really wish harm, or is she trapped?  And will she be able to move on when lies are built on lies?

If you love spy stories, or possible real life fiction, this book is for you.  I will admit at some points, I struggled with some of Vivian’s decisions, but her motherly ways influence her in ways I might not have chosen. However, the end is satisfying, and some of the conversations throughout the book aren’t predictable, but flow as if characters are actually having a conversation, which is rather refreshing.  For a debut novel, I would definitely read more by this author.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Random House Publishing through NetGalley.  I was not required to write a positive review.  The opinions expressed are my own.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 (http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html): “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Movie Update: http://deadline.com/2017/02/charlize-theron-need-to-know-cia-spy-novel-universal-pictures-karen-cleveland-1201924366/

 

Book Review | The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian

the flight attendant

Cassie is a flight attendant who is known for her partying and drinking. So after an evening indulging in what she does best, she wakes up next to a man she met the night before, a hedge fund manager who is now dead.  Her blackouts are getting worse, but could she really have anything to do with this?  Surely she would know if she killed someone, right?  And as she leaves the hotel room, she makes a choice to run, and find a way to prove her innocence to the Dubai police and to the American investigators with the FBI.  But even her own flight crew is questioning who she really is.

The story was fast-paced and I loved the descriptions of where she would stay during her fights. I liked the book, as I do enjoy flight travel, and the author does give real life examples of what it’s like to be a flight attendant.  Cassie gets to continue working, even during the investigation, so it was interesting to learn the patterns of flying, staying in hotels, finding things to do before flying back to base, all of that.

I also enjoyed the perspective shifts from Cassie to another woman whom Cassie met the night the murder happened.  The main character is believable, yet I will admit a few times that I didn’t agree with her decisions, and was beginning to lose hope.  She has a history of alcoholism attributed to her relationship with her father, and it’s almost annoying how much she thinks about drinking.  However, the ending did tie things up nicely and has a nice touch.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Doubleday through NetGalley.  I was not required to write a positive review.  The opinions expressed are my own.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 (http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html): “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

And since this book was just released on March 13, 2018, I’m including a review from USA Today written today.  Add it to your weekend list!

https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/books/2018/03/24/weekend-picks-book-lovers-flight-attendant-chris-bohjalian-anna-quindlen/443758002/

Book Review | The Good Sister by Jess Ryder

the good sister

Official Book Description:

“Two sisters. One secret… A lie that could destroy them both.

When her father dies, Josie is devastated to uncover he led a secret life: another house, another family and a half-sister called Valentina.

Both with red hair and icy blue eyes, Josie and Valentina could be mistaken for twins. But the similarities end there…

Josie – Sweet, reserved, jealous, thief.
Valentina – Care-free, confident, dangerous, liar.

Two sisters. One survivor.

A nail-bitingly tense and unputdownable read that will keep you turning pages into the night. Perfect for fans of Gone GirlThe Girl on the Train and Sister Sister.”

I’m not sure about “gripped”, but this book definitely took me down roads I wasn’t ready to go down.  The story opened up with a man named Jerry, dying in a motorcycle accident, after refusing to respond to text messages that seem to be incriminating him in some way.  As a result, his wife Helen and her daughter Josie are alerted to his death and they start the process of grief and moving on.  Josie’s father, Jerry, was a Viking who passed down to her his heritage and philosophy, and it is evident in her appearance and way of thinking.

When Jerry passes, Josie goes to his second residence to clean it up and get it ready to sell.  It’s there that she begins to realize who her father really was.  There is a sister named Valentina who is five days older than she, and another mother she’s never met, and all of a sudden, her father’s time spent away from home begins to take shape.  The betrayal, questions and heartache are all left wanting, as Jerry isn’t there to fill in the blanks.

As the half sisters begin to spend more time with each other, they begin to learn about each other and it’s hard not to compare how one of them was given much, while the other had to struggle through life.  The built up animosity begins to show, and sadly, the lines begin to blur between what is acceptable and what isn’t.

Sidenote: At the beginning of each chapter is a “truth” about Viking morals and values, and it prefaces what is about to happen.  These are very contradictory to a healthy functioning family, and seems to give Jerry a pass at not being the best father.

The story shifts each chapter between Josie and Valentina, and even toward the end, it’s hard to tell which is which, so that may be a bit confusing, but it does eventually line up.  And although I enjoyed the suspense of the mothers finding out, the details learned by the sisters, and the antics they go through, I couldn’t help but find myself yelling at one of the sisters in many of the situations, because she seems to allow herself to be led down paths she knows aren’t safe.  What truly is the intention of the “bad” sister?  And which sister is which?  The ending is bizarre, but leaves lingering questions.  However, I read it in less than a week, so maybe it did grip me.

Nature of book warning: graphic sex scene and memories of a rape

Blogger note: I read 50% of this book, and listened to the other half through Amazon Audible.  I loved the narrator, Annette Chown, as she read from Josie’s and Valentina’s perspectives.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Bookouture and NetGalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and I appreciate the opportunity to receive an advanced reader copy to do so. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

Book Review | After He Killed Me by Natalie Barelli

after he killed me

So Emma Fern is back, in the second of two books in this series.  Without giving away spoilers, since I truly am going to suggest that you read the first book, Until I Met Her, this book picks up right after the ending from that book.  Emma is a published author, Poulton Prize winner and she and Jim are happy and moving on after some of the incidents from book one.

Yet within the first three chapters, Emma is struck by a car and things begin to move into motion.  She and Jim seem to have weathered some pretty intense moments in their marriage, and the accident is another one that pulls them together.  Or does it?

After the accident, Emma has some repercussions and as a result, her instinct seems to be a little off.  This time around, Emma needs to write another book, and she coincidentally runs into a ghostwriter who offers help.  Things begin to slowly unfold and Emma’s new reality is revealed.  Prepare for the fast-pace and “what in the world is really happening” moments that are reminiscent of book one.  I laughed out loud a few times, just because Emma always seems to have a plan, and one that involves so many crazy pieces fitting together.

This book made me wish there was a book three, simply because the ending is almost unbelievable.  There’s no way it can just end there.  Do you want to go on the wild ride that is Emma Fern?  Grab a copy, snuggle up by a fire, and maybe grab a bottle of Scotch in honor of Beatrice Johnson Greene.  You’re definitely going to need it!

Book Review | Until I Met Her by Natalie Barelli

 

until i met her

Until I Met Her begins with the funeral of an author- Emma Fern’s best friend and mentor.  There is a private admission from Emma that she in fact, killed Beatrice.  And so the book opens to reveal a mousy character who owns a vintage shop, is married to a successful businessman with a mundane life.  But Emma Fern is nothing if she isn’t incredibly unpredictable.

Her entire world changes when Beatrice Johnson Greene entered her store.  She can’t help but fall all over herself, complimenting her and winning her affection.  The two quickly move from strangers to best friends, and within a short amount of time, trust begins to build between them.  Emma begins to disregard the store, preferring to run off with Beatrice to drunken lunches, and shopping with the rich and famous.

Beatrice confides to Emma that she has written a book that is outside of her genre, and since a previous book of hers had bombed in the past, she was wondering if Emma could be the “author” for a novel she’d already written- take the credit, and be the face of this new book.  At first, Emma is shocked and refuses to do it, but then her dream of being a writer is ignited, and she agrees.

Emma’s lust for fame, and a desire to remain friends with successful, untouchable Beatrice turns to greed as little by little Emma makes subtle changes to the manuscript and takes full possession of the book.  And with no set contract in place, it’s hers, right?

A sidebar to consider in the novel is Emma’s relationship with her husband Jim.  It is incredibly awkward, as she sees no wrong in him at all, and his lack of interest in anything she says/does.  But because of his success, she admires and fawns all over him, even though he’s constantly dismissive of her.  She seems to have a very skewed view of how well her own marriage is going.  Pleasing Jim has always been her main concern, until the book…

Is Beatrice encouraged and thrilled for her best friend to have fame as well?  Or is it truly a passive aggressive friendship that is doomed?  You’ll have to read for yourself.

This was a quick read, one with unpredictable twists and turns, and moments of “what the what!?!!”  I loved the characters, with the exception of Jim, who is so noticeably arrogant, that it makes me wonder what Emma really sees in him.  And even though Emma is nothing like she seems in the beginning, I found that I liked her crazy thinking as she progresses through the story.  She’s feminine, overthinks as many of us do, and a little immature, so I found her to be believable.

I loved Natalie Barelli’s first book in the Emma Fern series, that I’m currently reading the second book, After He Killed Me.  Stay tuned for that review!!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer Publishers.  I was not required to write a positive review.  The opinions expressed are my own.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 (http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html): “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review | The Watson Girl by Leslie Wolfe

the watson girl

This was an interesting thriller!  The second in this series, Special Agent Tess Winnett is seen again (previously in “Dawn Girl”), and this time, she is returning early to work, to interview the “Family Man”, a death row inmate who is slated for execution.

The book, however, does not open with Tess as the main character, it focuses on the killer from fifteen years earlier, on the night of a murder, and after taking out an entire family, realizes he missed one member who is still alive!  Laura Watson is indeed now a young woman in a relationship with her boyfriend, unaware that the killer on death row, may not be the man who murdered her family.  Could there be a copycat?  If so, who, and why?

Tess and her team investigate, interrogate and keep pressing until they get the answers she feels from the beginning of the book.  And switching perspectives between the killer who has a field day “feasting” and taking women’s lives, to Laura who is afraid to undergo regression therapy to see if she can remember anything, to Tess who is convinced of Laura’s imminent danger, this book keeps moving like a runaway train.

You’ll begin to theorize certain people as the book progresses, only to eliminate them as one by one, people are revealed to be not whom they appeared to be.  The book ends with a shocking reveal that threw me for a loop!  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!  And now, onto book three with Tess Winnett, “Glimpse of Death”.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Italics Publishing and Leslie Wolfe. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and I appreciate the opportunity to receive an advanced reader copy to do so. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”