Year of the Bookwormz: 2011

52 weeks. 2 friends. 1 challenge.

Book W: Fabookulous March 31, 2011

Who Is My Shelter? by Neta Jackson

Book description:

When she was thrown out of the penthouse she shared with her husband and their sons, Gabby didn’t know if she’d ever find a soft place to land. But after seeking refuge at the shelter where she works, extraordinary things happen as she is reintroduced to God.

From the ashes of her marriage comes the House of Hope–a safe haven for homeless moms and their children.

But now those ashes of her destroyed marriage are being stirred again. When her long-gone husband’s life hits rock bottom, he reappears and asks for one more chance. And Gabby faces what feels like an impossible choice. Take him back. Or keep moving forward without him. Toward someone new who hasn’t betrayed her.

Is God redeeming what Gabby thought was gone forever? Or is He leading her down a different path and giving her something–and someone– new?

 The fourth, and final, book in the House of Hope series by Neta Jackson, Who Is My Shelter? will leave readers satisfied and fulfilled for having come along this journey with Gabby. The series opens with Gabby being kicked out of her penthouse apartment and with nowhere to go. As she begins to find herself and rediscover God, she starts to find fulfillment on her own. She realizes she is a strong woman and she rebuilds a life for herself that takes her places she couldn’t have imagined. Life has a way of working like that, doesn’t it?

(Last year I reviewed the 3rd book, Who Do I Lean On? as part of the 52 book challenge…check out the review for more)

When the tables turn completely and Phillip finds himself in trouble, in need, and searching to find his own way, he comes to Gabby. The readers will appreciate a softer side to Phillip as it was easy not to like him early on. But once he reaches out to better himself as a man, a husband, and a father, it’s endearing to see how God can work all things together for the good of those who love Him.

Without giving too much away, I will say the prologue introduces a rather predictable side story, but that’s ok, it’s still fun to watch it unfold. I’ll miss the women of the House of Hope and Manna House; I’ve spent a couple of years now waiting to see what was happening with them. But all in all, I enjoyed this series and I would recommend it for those who enjoy Christian fiction or just a good story.

It’s been a busy year for me so far so hopefully I’ll get back on the bandwagon here with the A-Z challenge! Thanks for following us into 2011…many more reviews coming soon!

5/5 stars.

Fabookulous

 

Book #50: Fabookulous December 26, 2010

Engaging Father Christmas by Robin Jones Gunn

*Spoiler alert* This review will give away parts of Finding Father Christmas by Robin Jones Gunn. If you haven’t already read that one, check out my review before reading further 🙂

Book description:

Miranda Carson can’t wait to return to England for Christmas and to be with her boyfriend, Ian. She has spent a lifetime yearning for a place to call home, and she’s sure Carlton Heath will be it, especially when a hinted-at engagement ring slips into the conversation.
But Miranda’s high hopes for a jolly Christmas with the small circle of people she has come to love are toppled when Ian’s father is hospitalized and the matriarch of the Whitcombe family withholds her blessing from Miranda. Questions run rampant in Miranda’s mind about whether she really belongs in this cheery corner of the world. Then, when her true identity threatens all her relationships in unanticipated ways, Miranda is certain all is lost.
And yet . . . maybe Father Christmas has special gifts in store for her after all.

Talk about perfect timing for a book! I finished this one the day after Christmas and it was such a cute and cozy little read during the holiday. The sequel to Finding Father Christmas, Engaging Father Christmas continues with Miranda’s journey as she heads back to Carlton Heath one year after her discovery of a family she never knew. Now happily involved with a special someone, Miranda feels sentimental as she travels back to the tiny town that welcomed her with open arms the first time she visited, which was the previous Christmas.

While very predictable (at a short 155 pages it doesn’t take a seasoned reader to know what’s coming), Gunn is still an excellent story teller. She’ll keep you engaged and make you feel right at home as you get to know the characters a bit more than last time. The reader will recognize several scenarios that were in the first novel (the Tea Cosy, the Christmas play, and the Whitcombe manor) that make you wish for variety.

But this is still a cozy (guess that’s the best word I keep coming up with!) little novel about the Christmas spirit, warm and friendly people, and the need all of us have for love in our lives. I recommend picking up a copy before the end of the year to appreciate the timing of the story!

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night 🙂

3.5 out of 5 stars

Fabookulous

 

Book #43: Fabookulous November 24, 2010

The Christmas Bus by Melody Carlson

Book description:

It’s only two weeks before Christmas, and Edith Ryan is disappointed to learn that none of her children are coming home for the holidays. Her large house, which doubles as The Shepherd’s Inn the rest of the year, will feel so empty without them. And it’s too late to open the inn for Christmas reservations-surely everyone else has their plans made by now. In a town where Christmas is a way of life all year long, going through the holidays alone is just about enough to bring her to tears.

Suddently Edith knows what she has to do- she’ll invite strangers to book those rooms usually reserved for family during the week of Christmas. When the guest list shapes up to include a cantankerous old woman and a mysterious young couple with a broken-down hippie bus and a baby on the way, Edith wonders if she made the right choice. Will it blow up in her face? Or could she be entertaining angels unaware?

During the Christmas season my mom reads a lot of Christmas themed books. She just loves a good Christmas story. Years ago she bought The Christmas Bus and thought of my paternal grandmother, who drove a school bus. After passing it around the family, it’s been sitting on my desk for a while waiting for me to get to it. And I’m glad I finally did; it is such a cozy little read!

This is a quick read, but it’s a great kick off to the holiday season! With Thanksgiving tomorrow, Christmas is just around the corner and it’s that time of year to watch Christmas movies and read the stories and just smile and be thankful. The Christmas Bus offers valuable lessons about how we treat others during the frenzied holiday season. Things aren’t always what they seem, and while a predictable story, this was still a good book. Simple and to the point, the reader doesn’t feel overwhelmed with the details of several side stories.

When the bus rolls into town, folks in the small town setting get riled up about it’s taking up space in the streets. Lonely widows, young couples, new moms, and a crotchety older woman are among the strangers that Edith invites to the inn for Christmas. Grab a cup of hot cocoa, a fuzzy blanket, and read this short novel as we begin to prepare for the most wonderful time of year!

4/5 stars

Fabookulous

 

Book #27: Fabookulous August 8, 2010

Who Do I Lean On? by Neta Jackson
Book #3: Yada Yada House of Hope Series

Book description: Just months after her husband threw her out of their penthouse and sent their two sons away, Gabrielle Fairbanks is finally getting back on her feet. She has a job she loves at the homeless shelter, an apartment for her and the boys, caring friends, and even a new love interest. Best of all, an unexpected windfall has given her a brand-new dream- a House of Hope for homeless mothers and their children.

Piece by piece, Gabby’s new life is coming together- but the old one keeps dragging her back. First her husband Philip hints at a reconciliation…then hits her up for a loan to pay his gambling debts. And when Gabby tells him no, he makes a desperate move that puts them all in harm’s way. How can she even think of embarking on a new venture when so much is up in the air?

Gabby is realizing that she needs something far greater than her own strength or even that of her friends. That to move forward, she must first lean on the only One who knows what the future holds.

Having anxiously awaited this third installment in Neta Jackson’s House of Hope series, I couldn’t wait to see what happened with Gabby and her boys. Who Do I Lean On? did not disappoint at all! In fact, this was my favorite book in the series yet! Last year I read the first two books, Where Do I Go? and Who Do I Talk To? of Neta Jackson’s new series. Jackson is also the best-selling author of the Yada Yada Prayer Group series, which I hope to get through someday too (so many books, so little time…)

What was refreshing about these books is that they are set in Chicago. Seems simple, but I had discovered these books after reading Jennifer Weiner and Emily Giffin (both of whom I love!) but most of their novels are set in New York City. After a while, the same city gets bored and a reader wants to read about a new location! So I very much welcomed the Chicago scenes. (And as it would be, I’ll be traveling to Chicago for the first time- albeit for business- in just two weeks!)

I loved reading where Gabby is now after learning how to piece her life back together. I feel this book moved at a perfect pace, introducing new situations and scenarios and keeping the reader’s interest the entire time. Gabby’s faith is definitely stronger in this novel, as she learns to trust God more with her life and decisions. Funny how the tables turn when Philip asks her for a loan. It’s obvious how Gabby has grown as a woman and Christian based on how she handles that situation. Looking back, she was really all over the place in the first novel (who wouldn’t be, given the plot line) but she is absolutely more together in Who Do I Lean On? and it’s easy to root for her.

Jackson wraps this one up nicely as she prepares readers for the finale, Who Is My Shelter?, coming March 2011. While it’s exciting to see how it will end, it will be sad to say goodbye. This is the first “series” of books I’ve read, and with the exception of Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers, my first experience with Christian fiction novels. Neta Jackson develops her characters in a way that makes you feel comfortable from the very first page. I would love to see this series turned into a movie because I can just picture the Manna House and the new Shepherds Fold recreational room! It’s been a fun journey with these characters.

Gabby is much more “likable” this time around as she is finding her independence and holding her head high. This one can definitely make you think. When the rug is completely pulled out from under you, it’s important to turn to the One that knows everything about you (Psalm 139) and knows what the future holds. This series is a fantastic reminder of those things, and I really have enjoyed the fictional stories with the Christian theme. Jackson is an engaging, inspiring, and creative author who keeps readers coming back for more. (No wonder the Yada Yada Prayer Group series is on book #7!) 🙂 While it might be anti-climactic to read that series now (some characters from that series make appearances in the House of Hope series), I still want to read them. And the good part is I won’t have to wait several months for the next one!

If you like Christian fiction, I’d recommend this book. And even if you don’t like Christian fiction, but like an inspiring read with characters that will feel like your extended family, I recommend the House of Hope series. And if you read the first three books before March, we can all read the finale together! 🙂 Happy reading all!

5/5 stars!

Fabookulous