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Valerie S. (VolunteerVal) - - Reviews

1 to 20 of 265 - Page:
The 5-Minute Visual Guide to the Bible: Time Lines, Photographs, Paintings, and Maps to Enhance Your Understanding of God's Word
Review Date: 7/12/2021


How do you best learn?
- reading printed words on paper/screen
- viewing charts, maps, photos, etc.
- listening to spoken words
- combination of the above

The 5-Minute Visual Guide to the Bible by Michael Wittmer is a great resource for people (like me) whose study is enhanced by viewing images along with reading words. The full-color guide is brimming with time lines, photos, paintings, and maps to supplement Biblical study, and the detailed index makes it easy to find the images on any topic.

I knew I'd appreciate this resource when I read these words in the intro regarding the inclusion of classical paintings: âOf course, nobody knows exactly how Bible characters looked, but they most certainly had darker skin, eyes, and hair than many European artist portrayed them with. Please enjoy such illustrations while recognizing the historical limitations.â

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review.


The Accidental Beauty Queen
The Accidental Beauty Queen
Author: Teri Wilson
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.
 6
Review Date: 5/20/2019


This is a fun read yet it had more substance than the title and cover may imply. This is the story about twin sisters; one is smart and bookish, the other is pretty and obsessed with scholarship competitions (AKA beauty pageants). Add an allergic reaction on the eve of a big event, an adorable dog, and a cute guy and you've got a perfect summer read.


After the Flood: A Novel
After the Flood: A Novel
Author: Kassandra Montag
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.6/5 Stars.
 7
Review Date: 9/5/2019


"From the water we came and to the water we will return, our lungs always hungering for air, but our hearts beating like waves."

After the Flood by Kassandra Montag is a powerful debut novel set in the future after a devastating flood covers the entire world, except the highest mountain peaks, in water. I don't usually read dystopian/scifi novels, but this is so much more. The author combines believable characters, exciting action, and beautiful writing to create a truly memorable and unique reading experience.

Main characters Myra and her young daughter Pearl struggle to survive in this post-flood world after experiencing many losses in their lives. Readers accompany them on a long and dangerous journey - what awaits them at their destination? Read this novel to find out.

Thank you to William Morrow Publishing for the free copy of this lovely book in exchange for an honest review.


Aftermath
Aftermath
Author: Terri Blackstock
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 3
Review Date: 5/25/2021


As an occasional reader of suspense/thriller novels, my favorite series in this genre is the If I Run trilogy written by Terri Blackstock. Smart heroine, non-stop action, books 1 and 2 end in cliffhangers that propel the reader directly into the next installment. I had those expectations when I began reading Aftermath, also by Terri Blackstock, and that likely did this novel a disservice.

This book begins with a bang (literally) - a huge explosion occurs at a presidential candidate's campaign rally, killing many and injuring more. Nearby, law enforcement swarms a vehicle and discovers boxes of explosives in its trunk. The big question is how these two events are connected.

I enjoyed this, just not as much as the If I Run series. The characters are interesting, the action is compelling ... but occurs on a more 'realistic' (slower) timeline, and the ending is satisfying. The storyline about Dustin and Jamie dominates the plot and is better written. The storyline featuring Taylor seems underdeveloped and left several questions unanswered.

Thank you to Thomas Nelson Publishers and JustRead Publicity Tours for the review copy; all thoughts are my own.


Alex + Ada Volume 1
Alex + Ada Volume 1
Author: Jonathan Luna, Sarah Vaughn
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 7/8/2019


In a future world, artificial intelligence (AI) is commonplace and robots of various levels of human appearance are part of daily life. Alex isn't interested in adding AI to his household until his grandmother gives him a android robot as a birthday gift. Volume 1 begins the exploration of how this gift impacts his life and those of his friends. This is primarily focused on interpersonal relationships rather than sci-fi and technology.


The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion
The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion
Author: Fannie Flagg
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.
 62
Review Date: 7/24/2015
Helpful Score: 3


From the first page, I knew I'd love this book, and I truly enjoyed every page. It's a perfect summer read - quirky characters, adventure, and some mystery. I especially enjoyed learning about the WASP (Women's Airforce Service Pilots) involvement in World War II and the references to Polish culture. I read this for book club and look forward to a lively discussion.


All Manner of Things
All Manner of Things
Author: Susie Finkbeiner
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 2
Review Date: 7/25/2019


This book immediately captivated me with its sense of time and place. Then I quickly fell in love with the characters. In it readers meet the Jacobsons, a fairly typical family living in the Midwest in 1967. Their daily lives are a product of their heritage, their extended family members, and their friends and neighbors in their small Michigan town. Then the Vietnam War and a new resident in town change everything. To say more would spoil the reading experience for others; you'll want to experience it all for yourselves.

I loved that letter-writing played a major role in advancing the plot and sharing inner thoughts and feelings. The author also skillfully incorporated many pop culture elements (music, movies, slang terms, etc.).

I'm still thinking about Annie and her family and am wishing them well in all manner of things.


American Housewife: Stories
American Housewife: Stories
Author: Helen Ellis
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.
 6
Review Date: 3/30/2017


I thoroughly enjoyed this short collection of snarky short stories. They range in length from 2 pages to 40 pages. I liked the author's dry sense of humor, but it's probably not for everyone. At least one story (The Fitter) had me laughing one minute and crying the next. If you like the front cover, you'll likely enjoy the stories within.


An American Marriage: A Novel
An American Marriage: A Novel
Author: Tayari Jones
Book Type: Audio CD
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 3
Review Date: 7/8/2021


I'm grateful I read An American Marriage by Tayari Jones with my book club because we had a dynamic discussion about it.

Published in early 2018, the novel is (sadly) incredibly relevant today as one of its themes is the wrongful conviction and incarceration of an innocent Black man.

The premise: Just 18 months after his marriage to Celestial, Roy is sentenced to a 12-year prison term for a crime he didn't commit. This is very hard on their relationship, and when Roy is released he's devastated by the changes in Celestial's life.

This is an outstanding novel with beautiful writing and so much loss and heartache. The characters are complex, and not all are likeable. As a fan of epistolary novels, I was pleasantly surprised that a considerable portion of the story is told through the letters Celestial and Roy exchange in the early days of his sentence.

The audiobook is excellent with Sean Crisden and Elsa Davis providing the narration. Their performances enhanced the many big feelings in this character-driven novel.


American Omens: The Coming Fight for Faith: A Novel
American Omens: The Coming Fight for Faith: A Novel
Author: Travis Thrasher
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 2
Review Date: 5/13/2019


The year is 2038 and all expressions of Christianity are forbidden by the government. All forms of communication are conveyed through a personal SYNAPSYS system, Los Angeles is in ruins and another city is the center of pop culture in the United States. The most popular means of transportation is autovehs - self-driving cars. This was an interesting glimpse into an imagined future that wasn't dystopian; all major systems of communication, transportation, medicine, food production, etc. are operating.

The novel follows three main characters: a young single rising-star computer programmer who works for the leading tech conglomerate, a middle-aged man with a wife and children who had to close his passion-project bookstore due to the types of items he sold, and a rogue FBI agent who is tasked with eliminating the leader of the underground Christian movement.

Throughout this fast-paced thriller, I was continually worried the storyline would swing to the far right evangelical viewpoint, but the author did a good job of maintaining a moderate position on the systemized persecution Christians face in this version of the future. All in all, this novel gave me a great deal of food for thought.


America's First Daughter
America's First Daughter
Author: Stephanie Dray, Laura Kamoie
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 39
Review Date: 10/30/2019


Don't be intimidated by the length of this book - it reads faster than you'd imagine because the story is so compelling. This historical fiction novel uses excerpts from actual letters to and from Thomas Jefferson to examine an important chapter in American history through the lens of Jefferson's eldest daughter Margaret (nicknamed Patsy).

Any novel with more than one author intrigues me, and this title was executed seamlessly. The authors immersed themselves in thousands of pieces of Jefferson correspondence and then used historical facts and their imaginations to piece together a fascinating backstory surrounding the events of Thomas Jefferson and his family. Yes - it includes storylines about Sally Hennings and her children. At times, the story feels a bit like a romance novel, but Margaret's life was filled with love, loss, and other tragedies so it was likely quite dramatic.

I read this for book club and look forward to a fascinating discussion. I also look forward to reading other novels for which these authors have collaborated.


Anne of Green Gables: The Graphic Novel
Anne of Green Gables: The Graphic Novel
Author: Mariah Marsden
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 3/17/2021


Listening to an audiobook of a graphic novel while following along in a print copy was a wonderfully unique reading experience! The beloved classic Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery was adapted as a graphic novel by Mariah Marsden and illustrated by Brenna Thummler. The art is truly beautiful; I haven't read the original novel so I can't speak to the integrity of the adaptation.

The 2-hour audiobook is narrated by Sharon Alexander, Alan Carlson, and Rachel Jacobs. Their voices are perfect and the ambient sounds pulled me deeply into the story.


The Arrangement
The Arrangement
Author: Kiersten Modglin
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 2
Review Date: 7/1/2021


In these days of big marketing budgets and elaborate social media campaigns, it's delightful to discover an outstanding author through word of mouth, which is how I learned about author Kiersten Modglin. A fellow reader posted a glowing review of The Missing by Modglin on Bookstagram and I noted the author's name. When I saw The Arrangement available on Netgalley, I was excited to be approved for the audiobook.

The premise: Ainsley and Peter have been married for several years, both have demanding jobs, and they have three children. In a desperate attempt to save their floundering marriage, they agree to an arrangement where each will discretely 'date' another person once each week. What could go wrong?? Of course, nothing goes according to plan, and I was continually shocked by the twists and turns this plot takes, all the way to the very last sentence of this 240-page novel.

The audiobook is skillfully narrated by Sarah Mollo-Christenen and George Newbern as the voices of Ainsley and Peter. I first heard George Newbern when he narrated We Begin At The End and I strongly identify him with that fabulous novel, so it was an adjustment to hear him read this very different type of book.

I'll definitely be reading more of Ms. Modglin's novels. Thank you to Dreamscape Media and NetGalley for the ALC; all thoughts are my own.


The Art of Deception (Daughter of Sherlock Holmes, Bk 4)
The Art of Deception (Daughter of Sherlock Holmes, Bk 4)
Author: Leonard Goldberg
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.4/5 Stars.
 4
Review Date: 7/22/2020


The Art of Deception is book 4 in the Daughter of Sherlock Holmes Mystery series. Valuable paintings are being slashed - who is committing these acts of vandalism and what is their motive? This is the first book in the series I've read, and the author skillfully provided the context necessary for me to settle into 1916 London.

I'd describe the writing style as brisk which was well suited for the novel's setting and which I enjoyed once I adjusted from my immediately prior read that was full of rich descriptions and many emotions. I am curious about the author's choice to have Joanna Watson as the main character but to write the book from her husband's perspective.

The plot includes numerous mentions of famous classic artists and paintings, and I found it helpful to Google these references as I read. The plot also spoils several classic mysteries so don't read this if you don't want to know the solutions. This mystery also includes someone with cholera, and the precautions for the caregivers were eerily similar to some we have in this time of coronavirus.

I enjoyed this historical mystery, and I might seek out other books in the series. Thank you to the publisher for this ARC I won in a Goodreads giveaway; all thoughts are my own.


As Bright as Heaven
As Bright as Heaven
Author: Susan Meissner
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.
 24
Review Date: 10/13/2020
Helpful Score: 1


As Bright As Heaven by Susan Meissner explores the 1918 Spanish Influenza pandemic through one Philadelphia neighborhood, focusing on the Bright family who operate a funeral home.

While many readers are seeking an escape from current reality, it felt right for me to lean into it, and now was the perfect time for me to read this exceptional historical fiction novel. Yes, some chapters closely mirrored current events, but it was oddly comforting to see characters on the page experience what we're going through.

I especially appreciated that two-thirds of the novel focuses on life after the pandemic. It was a powerful reminder that life will continue after COVID-19. It may be quite different than pre-Coronavirus, but there will be a future.


Assassination Vacation (Audio CD) (Abridged)
Assassination Vacation (Audio CD) (Abridged)
Author: Sarah Vowell
Book Type: Audio CD
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.
 10
Review Date: 9/2/2010


I tried to like this book but just couldn't get past Disc 2. The author is the narrator, and her voice is whiny and very nasal. Too much history for my taste. Thank goodness I checked this out from the library.


The Baker Street Translation (Baker Street Letters, Bk 3)
The Baker Street Translation (Baker Street Letters, Bk 3)
Author: Michael Robertson
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 2.8/5 Stars.
 4
Review Date: 9/11/2015


This novel is fast-paced, similar to an episode of a "Castle-esque" TV show. Even though it's been some time since I read book 2 in this series, I quickly slipped back into the characters and story. Laura clarifies her romantic interests, and the stage is set for the next installment of the story.


The Ballad of Ami Miles
The Ballad of Ami Miles
Author: Kristy Dallas Alley
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 12/1/2020


This novel has a fascinating premise: it's 2120 and the US is very different from current times. After âThe Breakâ there's no electricity, mass communications, state borders, government, retail, etc. And most females no longer have the ability of bear children.

16-year-old Ami Miles was raised in an isolated family compound by her extremely conservative grandparents and a host of aunts and uncles. All is well until one day a stranger arrives who pays close - and unwanted - attention to Ami. With help from her uncle's sister, Ami leaves the only place she's ever known on a quest to find her long-lost mother ... and a mate of her choosing. Along the way, she discovers that life is very different than she was raised to believe.

This is another book that fits into my niche of religion/beliefs explored in a general market novel. Watching Ami's world - and mind - expand was so interesting. But the ending seemed rushed and incomplete. I wanted more chapters, or a second book, to expand the next part of the story.


Band of Sisters
Band of Sisters
Author: Lauren Willig
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 5
Review Date: 3/22/2021


Band of Sisters is outstanding and perfect to read in March for Women's History Month. It shares the exploits of 18 women, all Smith College alumna, who left their relatively comfortable lives to voluntarily serve civilians in war-town rural France during WWI.

The novel held my attention because I was never sure what the Smith College Relief Unit would experience next. This is especially impressive as the plot is based on actual events documented in the letters members sent home to their families.

A fabulous reader's guide is available on the author's website; it contains spoilers so time your reading accordingly.


Beartown (Beartown, Bk 1) (Audio CD) (Unabridged)
Review Date: 7/26/2017
Helpful Score: 1


This is a powerful story about hockey and small town life and human nature and love. I'll be thinking about it for quite some time. My only regret for listening to the audio was I couldn't reread some of the beautifully written passages in this novel.


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