Thursday, May 31, 2012

Month in Review: May 2012

What did I do? 
  • Not much went on around here these past two weeks. Sorry :( My computer has been acting all dumb lately, so I had to take a break from blogging. I'm getting it fixed so I'll be posting more frequently in June.
  • If you haven't already, check out my how-to post on Backing up your posts.
Blogger Interviews...
I Read...
Swipe -  Evan Angler
Yep, that's it! LOL!

I Reviewed...(title,author,rating)
Evacuation (Future Savior Book 3) - Jennifer Hartz, 5
Crazy Dangerous - Andrew Klavan, 4

Awards Received....

From Melanie at Christian Bookshelf Reviews.

Giveaway Winners...
  • Dana, winner of Forgotten and Shattered by Melody Carlson
That's my Month in Review. How was your May?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Review: Crazy Dangerous by Andrew Klavan (Litfuse Tour)

Crazy Dangerous
by Andrew Klavan
Thomas Nelson (May 2012)
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Goodreads

"You probably want to hear about Jennifer and the demons and how I played chicken with a freight train and—oh yeah—the weird murder and how I found out about it—you're definitely going to want to hear about that. But first, I have to tell you about the stupidest thing I ever did . . ."

Sam Hopkins is bored with his status as a preacher's kid. So when a group of guys notorious for being in trouble offers him friendship, he accepts. Before long, he has several new skills—including hot-wiring cars.

At school, there's an eccentric loner named Jennifer. When Sam defends her from being bullied, she begins to seek him out as her only friend. Her ramblings often seem illogical . . . but then start to contain grains of truth. One leads Sam to discover that one of his new friends has been killed. And then she tells him, "I'm looking for the devil." Sam doesn't know what that means, but he knows it's a matter of life and death that he figure it out.

Everyone else thinks Jennifer is suffering from schizophrenia. But Sam is starting to wonder if there could be something prophetic in her words. Discovering the truth is going to be both crazy and dangerous.

Sam Hopkins is a preacher’s kid. All he wants is to fit in and break free from the expectations that come with the PK status. When he starts hanging out with the town thugs who spend their free time stealing cars, he realizes that these aren’t the kind of friends he wants. He knows what he needs to do, but isn’t sure how to do it. Do Right. Fear Nothing. These are the words that he keeps hearing over and over in his head. One day when his friends start picking on Jennifer, the weird girl at his school, he stands up to them even though it means he'll get beaten up.

Jennifer is tormented by voices in her head and has visions of terrible things happening. After Sam defended her, she now sees him as her magical friend. She begins telling him about the visions she’s had of tragedy striking their town. No one believes her and neither does Sam at first. But when the visions begin coming true, Sam is determined to do whatever it takes to stop the disasters from happening.

I'll start off with Sam. I liked his character a lot. He hated being pushed around and never backed down from a fight. You have to understand though, he wasn’t a tough guy at all so he was always the one getting beat up. And bad. It was so funny how he didn't know how to keep his mouth shut! The sarcastic remarks he'd throw at the bullies always made me laugh. But the reason why I liked him isn't because he fought a lot, it's because he always stood up to the bullies and did what was right. He had courage.

Jennifer was very weird. At first she creeped me out, but I eventually warmed up to her. In the beginning she’s in her room and she’s hearing voices telling her that they were the angels of death and that they would destroy everyone. It seems like it has to do with something paranormal, right? That's what I thought throughout most of the book, but when all was revealed in the end, it was such a surprise to find out where those voices were really coming from.

Crazy Dangerous was a fast-paced adventure with plenty of suspense to keep you flipping the pages. I actually liked it so much more than I thought I would. It was a bit creepy and scary at times, but I just couldn’t stop reading. The mystery was done so well and the unexpected plot twists really surprised me. When you start this novel there is no stopping. I didn't want to set it down because I felt like I'd miss something good. You should avoid reading this at night, though! I read it before going to bed and ended up getting scared =D. LOL!

{About the author}
Andrew Klavan was hailed by Stephen King as "the most original novelist of crime and suspense since Cornell Woolrich." He is the recipient of two Edgar Awards and the author of such bestsellers as True Crime and Don't Say a Word.

His books and screenplays have been turned into films directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Michael Douglas, Ed Burns, Michael Caine among others.

For more about Andrew and his books for young adults, visit him at the Adventure Page on Facebook.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Back up your posts

Hey guys! I've been wanting to do this post for a while now but wasn't sure if anyone would actually find it helpful. If you end up learning something new and useful it would be awesome if you left a comment letting me know! Thanks =D

I've come across a few bloggers this past year who have somehow lost all their posts. I honestly don't know how that happens and thank God I haven't had that experience. I can't even imagine what that must feel like! Months, even years worth of hard work gone just like that. That would be horrible! The good news is that you can back up your blog (posts and comments) onto your computer to make sure you're prepared for something like that. Do you know how to do that? If you have a Blogger blog, I'll show you how in 3 easy steps :)

Step 1: From your Dashboard go to Settings | Other

Step 2: You'll see "Blog Tools" at the top. Click "Export Blog"

Step 3: Now download and save!

Your blog is now saved in a Blogger export file (.xml) on your computer for safe keeping. I like to do this every month or two since new posts are always being created. And if you ever do end up losing your posts or accidentally deleting them(I hope this never happens to you!), you'll be so happy you have backup!

To import that Blogger export file onto your blog, go to Settings | Options, from the "Blog Tools" section click "Import Blog" and upload your file. All of your posts will remain unpublished until you manually publish them. If you want them all to publish automatically after being imported, make sure the box next to automatically publish imported posts is checked before you click Import Blog. And that's all there is to it :)

Again, I hope you found this at least a teensy bit helpful! If you have any questions, let me know and I'll answer the best I can.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Review: Evacuation by Jennifer Hartz

Evacuation (Future Savior Book Three)
by Jennifer Hartz
Desert Breeze Publishing (March 2012)
Source: Bought
Amazon | Goodreads

Faith… it seems to be revolving around everything I do and it is a hard lesson to learn. I have to have faith that I can save my brother. I have to have faith that my friends scattered all over Meric will survive. I have to have faith that all of Shaw's secrets are coming to an end. I even have to have faith in my own abilities.

The evil tyrant Leticia has sent out her dark priest Neamiah to persuade the people of Meric that she is god. The people must take her mark or die. My greatest test of faith lies ahead… I have to prove to the people of Meric that Leticia's claim to lordship is false and that the Creator is the real God.

In this latest installment of the Future Savior series, Christina has a lot, and I mean a lot, to deal with. After a shocking secret about Shaw was revealed in Resurrection, she's now having trouble trusting him and can't help but wonder what else he could be keeping from her. She’s also trying to figure out a way to save her brother and get him to be on her side against the very powerful Leticia.

As if Leticia couldn’t get any more evil, she is now forcing the people of Meric to wear her mark or face death. Christina has her work cut out for her as she sets out to find as many people who are willing to fight with her against Leticia’s armies that are quickly spreading all over Meric.

If you read my blog at all or follow my tweets then you probably know what a huge fan I am of the FS series. I was super excited about the release of Evacuation in March, and I’m very pleased to say that the long wait was worth it! If you haven't started reading this series yet, I suggest you start now. :)

It was so great to get back to these characters and continue on this journey with them. With the shocking cliff-hanger in Book 2 that left me completely speechless, I couldn't wait to see how, or if, Christina would get past these trust issues she now had with Shaw. I was biting my nails hoping it wasn't over for them. It was a bit of a surprise when we got to see a more vulnerable side to him. It took a while to get to this point but it was awesome when he finally let Christina in!

Like I've said about Jennifer's writing before, it's hard not to get lost in this fantastical world she's created. She writes with such vivid detail of everything that surrounds Christina and her friends. From the beautiful land they’re traveling through, to the different creatures that are either trying to kill them or are fighting with them. It’s a place that is very hard to leave when the story is over.

There is so much to love about this book. I was laughing out loud one minute and then trying not to cry the next. I honestly have nothing else to say other than I loved it. The sigh-inducing romance, surprising twists you don't see coming, and all the action these characters find themselves in the middle of will have you at the edge of your seat wanting more! I don't know how I'm gonna wait until December for the release of Book Four, Desecration!

Because there’s a lot more romance and a few passionate kissing scenes, I wouldn't recommend this to younger readers.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

From my shelf to yours

I have a lot of books on my shelf that are in need of new homes. I've already read them and have no use for them anymore. This does not mean they weren't great reads. It's just that I'd much rather share them with other book lovers than watch them sit on my shelf collecting dust. Books are meant to be read!

I want to give my readers a chance to win some of my old books and that's why I host From my shelf to yours giveaways every couple of weeks. They last a week from the day they're posted and one person will win the book of their choice.

Giveaway open to US only. To enter, fill out the rafflecopter below. This idea was inspired by Nearly New Books For You hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer.

*Note: I'm changing the way I do these giveaways. Instead of just giving you three books to choose from, I will post a list of all the books available and one person will win the book of their choice. All books are in like new condition. If there is something wrong with any, I will make a little note next to the title.

Wayward Son by Tom Pollack
Not in the Heart by Chris Fabry
A Darkly Hidden Truth by Donna Fletcher Crow
The Sound of Red Returning by Sue Duffy
Angry by Laura L. Smith
Goodbye Hollywood Nobody by Lisa Samson (A tear on the side of the book that happened during shipping)
A Dime a Dozen by Mindy Starns Clark
Don't Kiss Him Goodbye by Sandra Byrd
Unhallowed Ground by Mel Starr
Love on a Dime by Cara Lynn James (slightly nicked at spine edges)
One Lane Bridge by Don Reid
By the Light of the Silvery Moon by Tricia Goyer
Forgotten by Melody Carlson
Shattered by Melody Carlson
Cherished by Kim Cash Tate (nicked at spine edges)
Sunrise on the Battery by Beth Webb Hart
In the Mailbox by Marybeth Walen

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Blogger Interview ~ My Thoughts and Book Reviews

Getting to know the blogger behind the reviews!

Hey everyone! I'm so excited to be starting this feature again after that little break I took last month. I won't be doing that again for another few months..hopefully! Another reason I'm really excited is because today I'm interviewing Kara from My Thoughts and Book Reviews! Enjoy :)

Thanks for being here with us today, Kara! Can you tell us a bit about your blog?
Thanks for this interview Crystal, I’d be happy to! It’s a way for me to express myself, talk about my love for books, help authors and publishers to publicize their latest works, connect with other bloggers/book lovers, and share what I’m going through in my walk with Christ. I’m open minded about books, but I do have certain standards and I consider it a responsibility and a privilege to stick with those standards. I never realized the purpose and enjoyment I would get from telling others what a book meant to me and that it would make such a difference in the blogging community. I have fun on my blog, but I also keep it real for my readers.

How long have you been blogging?
I started a blog about attempting to lose weight two summers ago. That one didn’t go anywhere and I erased it recently. I started book blogging August 2011, so it’s been about 8 months. I never realized my book blog would reach this point. I’m both amazed by it and developing new goals with it. I’m VERY excited about the growth God has both in me and in my blog.

What got you started in blogging your book reviews?
Wow, good question :) A family friend sat down with me a while ago and suggested I started blogging as a way for me to write. I didn’t know what she was talking about; I knew nothing about blogging and forgot about the conversation. Then I saw the movie Julie & Julia and was inspired by Julie’s blogging with Julia Child’s recipes. It looked fun. I graduated from college last May with a Bachelor’s Degree in English and couldn’t get a job teaching as I had planned. I remembered my friend’s suggestion about blogging and started looking up information. I found Goodreads, Booksneeze, Tyndale, Blogging for Books, and netgalley online. When I saw amazon reviews stating that people got the books for free and these other websites, I got to work. The hardest thing for me was thinking of a title for the blog. That’s how My Thoughts and Book Reviews got started!

What genre is your favorite and why?
I love Christian fiction, but there are so many good books out there that are not in this genre. I also love YA (young adult) and general fiction. I fell in love with YA books after reading the Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld. Christian fiction is safe for the most part because there’s nothing inappropriate within those books. Some are extremely violent depending on the author and type of story, but they are reliable for not having profanity, gore, or sexual content. I have been disappointed by Christian fiction in the past, but overall the faith and stories in that genre speak to my heart the most. YA has several great books about teens and a younger audience overcoming realistic obstacles, but still providing a good story. I also enjoy some romance novels. Christian fiction and YA books are the books I review most on my blog.

I've been wanting to read the Uglies series for the longest time! What are your favorite books of all time?
*smile* Love this question! The Chronicles of Narnia, The Face by Angela Hunt, Mine is the Night by Liz Curtis Higgs, Uglies, Miss Match series by Erynn Mangum, The Guy I’m Not Dating by Trish Perry (the main character is named Kara-one of many things I love about that book).

Who are your 3 favorite authors? 
Only 3?? Okay, let’s see. Angela Hunt, MaryLu Tyndall, and Frank Peretti. There are many more, but I’ll keep it there.

If you had to pick one, what’s the best book you’ve read in the past year?
Oh boy, you had to ask that :) I would go with The Merchant’s Daughter by Melanie Dickerson. It was one of the first reviews I did for my blog and it really touched me.

If you had the chance to invite some book characters over for dinner, who would you choose?
This will be fun!! *Edmund from The Chronicles of Narnia *Emma from Jane Austen’s Emma *Tally from Uglies *Chloe from The Left Behind series *Legolas from The Lord of the Rings *Lauren from Miss Match by Erynn Mangum *Laura from J. S. Bailey’s The Land Beyond the Portal *Sarah Sims from Angela Hunt’s The face (I’d want to know what happened after the story, she got married and moved on) *Marshall Hogan from This Present Darkness; I’d want to know how things are going between him and his daughter. Wow, I should write a story about that :)

Now that would be an interesting dinner =D Great choices! Is there a particular movie or TV series that you preferred over the book version? 
Another great question!! A big time yes to that one! I preferred these movies over the book versions: The Green Mile, The Lord of the Rings, Pride and Prejudice, Tuck Everlasting, Little Women, Bridge to Terabithia.

What are you reading at the moment? How do you like it so far? 
I just finished Graceling by Kristin Cashore and it really spoke to me. I didn’t finish the book, but I posted my comments on it and was really surprised by how much the story affected me. My next review will be on Rocky Mountain Oasis by Lynnette Bonner so I’ll be starting that shortly.

Have you read a book that you would like to rewrite the ending of?
I’m sure there are, let’s see…. *pondering*
The Bridge to Terabithia-would make it a happier ending
Tuck Everlasting-happier ending

Favorite book character?
Edmund from The Chronicles of Narnia and Tally from Uglies.
Edmund was such a terrible/mean/bitter person in LWW and such a good example of what happens to us when sin invades our hearts. He found redemption by the end and in Prince Caspian he was the character I respected most.

Tally is another character that found strength and overcame impossible obstacles due to hope and faith. She ends up changing the entire system because she’s the first to question what really happens with boldness and assertiveness. Throughout the story, she has no idea how brave she is and I loved her journey.

How many books do you read in a month-roughly?
I take notes on every review so I probably review about 3-4 books a month. For pleasure I try to squeeze in another 2-3 books. So it’s about 6-7 books a month.

Which do you prefer, Ebook or Print?
That’s easy, Print please! It’s much more convenient for me to read print books and I love finding space for them in my room. They’re my treasures!

Me too! What do you like to do when you’re not blogging?
I enjoy playing praise and worship songs, playing video games on my laptop, watching movies with my parents, spending time with my family, going to church, getting coffee, and doing housework. I’m now spending more time with God as I seriously balance my time to include writing my own books. I also spend a lot of time looking at and participating on other blogs, praying for bloggers and writers when these needs come up, and I help edit/proofread documents for my family and friends.

What advice would you give new book bloggers? 
Wow, that’s a good question. I would say be patient and diligent about your blogging efforts. Find the style you’re most comfortable with and be consistent with it. Some people like to schedule their posts during the week, I haven’t done that and I’m more comfortable being flexible. Join other blogs to get ideas, meet bloggers with the same tastes as yourself, and be yourself when posting book reviews. I joined and that’s how people starting following my blog.

Another suggestion that I recommend to all book bloggers: when you’ve reviewed a book you really enjoyed, email that review to the author and let them know what a treat it was to review their book. You can find many authors by looking up their websites. They appreciate the feedback. Also, please show your name and some way for readers/authors to contact you. That’s really helpful when people look at your blog and don’t want to leave a comment for everyone to see.

I’ve seen from many bloggers that there is guilt when doing a review when they’re not enjoying a book, sometimes they are unable to finish the book (the plot is too slow, they don’t connect with the characters, the writing doesn’t flow, or the content is offensive). I recommend always being honest, but at the same time being respectful about the writer. I like to edify each author whether I liked their work or not, but I try to give my honest opinion as to why I didn’t enjoy that book. I have learned to stop reading after 100 pages when I’m not enjoying the book so I’ve learned enough about the story to give my comments. Some bloggers/writers have expressed they stop after 50 pages if the story doesn’t wow them.

Lastly, and this is all something I’ve learned while blogging, don’t get overwhelmed with review deadlines. I have been stressed knowing that I requested books and the time is ticking with each read to have the review ready at a certain time. That takes the fun and enjoyment right out of the book. Be respectful of deadlines when you commit to reviewing a book, but have fun with it!

Great advice! And I've been in the position a few times where review deadlines got pretty overwhelming, too. It really does take the fun out of it. If there's something you’d want your readers to take away from reading your blog, what would it be?
I pray that my readers would see that I love God, I love my family, I love books, and I love blessing people. I love learning and sharing how God blesses me in my walk with Him. I enjoy encouraging others, praying for others, and supporting my blogging friends. I love working with books, but I’m also interested in connecting with other bloggers and writers as well as doing reviews. I bless God for those who follow my blog and read about my journey. If I’ve touched one person, if I’ve helped somebody in making a choice about what to read, if I’ve encouraged someone or shown them something about God they didn’t already realize, or if I’ve listed a giveaway that helped someone win something then I’m truly grateful and utterly humbled. Thanks for this interview, Crystal, that was great!
 * * *
Let me tell you, each visit to your blog always leaves me feeling encouraged and inspired. You're doing a wonderful job! Thanks for the interview, Kara! 

Find Kara
Her Blog | Goodreads
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