goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: Penny Wise (Windy City Neighbors #3)
Author: Neta and Dave Jackson
Genre: Christian fiction
Rating: 3/5
# pages: 313
Date read: October, 2015

The Jaspers, busy with demanding jobs, busy with church, busy volunteering, parents of three active teenagers, juggling sometimes crazy schedules. All good things. Until all those "good things" feed into a series of crises that affects the whole family. Something's gotta change!


I think it's time for me to take a break from Neta Jackson. As much as I wanted to love this book, it just wasn't very good (compared to her usual standards, that is). First of all, it took AGES to get started. Secondly, I got increasingly frustrated by the main characters continuing to make bad decisions. Thirdly, Neta Jackson painted her clues with a far too heavy brush almost from the very start. And fourthly - and most importantly, as I could forgive this other sins otherwise - it just lacked the poignancy and spirituality (for want of better word) that I've come to love and expect from Neta Jackson's books.

I'll probably still read the last two books in this series eventually, but I think I'll return to some of her older books first, to get my head back on straight.
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: Derailed (Windy City Neighbors #2)
Author: Dave Jackson, Neta Jackson
Genre: Christian fiction
Rating: 3/5
# pages: 320
Date read: August, 2015

Forced to give up his hard-earned retirement, Harry Bentley goes back to work as a detective. Receiving a bizarre undercover assignment that sends him across the country by train. Things suddenly go awry when it appears one of his new neighbors may be part of a smuggling ring and suspicion rises about his own son’s involvement in a major drug cartel.


As far as I can deduce, Neta and Dave Jackson took turns being the main writer vs. co-editor of this series, so Neta wrote (most of) the first one, Dave wrote (most of) the second one, etc. Unfortunately, while still being an able writer, Dave just doesn't have the same talent as Neta does, and it shows. The plot is decent enough, and I love the characters enough that I had problems putting the book down, but the writing is a lot more clumbsy, there's a lot more telling and less showing, and it just doesn't come across as effortless as Neta Jackson's books do. Nor did it come across with as strong and moving Christian message. This was a decent Christian book, but it didn't move me remotely as much as the earlier books did.

The book covers the same time period as "Grounded" which was a bit of a disappointment, as I was eager to see what happened next! But on the other hand, I did enjoy getting to see Harry and Corey together :)

The only thing I really, really, really didn't like was the epilogue. That knocked off an entire star by itself. It was sickeningly saccharine and tacky... I can't believe the Jacksons would stoop to that level.
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: Grounded (Windy City Neighbors #1)
Author: Neta Jackson & Dave Jackson
Genre: Christian fiction
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 320
Date read: August 2015

Grace's fiance bothered by her outspoken stance on purity and her near-constant travel, has broken off their relationship. Exhausted and unwilling to continue her current tour, she books a flight home. Traumatic events result in a paralyzing fear of flying. Stuck at home due to a major snowstorm, Grace begins, for the first time, to connect with the residents of Beecham Street. Will she recover her faith and overcome her fears, or will she give up her career?


Slow to get moving, and at about 110 pages I found myself thinking "Hmmm... this is a decent enough book, but it's a far cry from what I've generally come to expect from Neta Jackson!"

50 pages later, I was totally caught up in the writing and couldn't bear to put the book down. So yeah - though it takes awhile to get off the runway, I'd say she delivers, and I ended up absolutely loving the book and grew really fond of both Grace and Sam. For awhile there I was a tad worried about where Neta was going with the ending, but I should have known better than to doubt her :) I still think it ended just a couple of chapters sooner than I would have liked, but since it's the first book in a series, she may yet follow up on Grace in the later books.
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: Come to the Table (SouledOut Sisters #2)
Author: Neta Jackson
Genre: Christian fiction
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 388
Date read: July, 2013

Kat may be new in her faith, but she's embraced the more radical implications of Christianity with reckless abandon. She invited Rochelle--a homeless mother--and her son to move in the apartment she shares with two other housemates. And she's finally found a practical way to channel her passion for healthy eating by starting a food pantry at the church.

Her feelings for Nick are getting harder to ignore. The fact that he's the interning pastor at SouledOut Community Church and one of her housemates makes it complicated enough. But with Rochelle showing interest in Nick as a father-figure for her son, their apartment is feeling way too small.

It's ridiculous how long time this book has been standing on my shelves. I LOVE Neta Jackson's books, so anybody would expect me to pick them up right away! But come to think of it, that's actually probably the problem... I have such high expectations of them, that I'm afraid they can't live up to them.

But I finally manned up and picked up the book yesterday... and of course I ended up reading it in no time flat, just like the rest of her books :) True, it doesn't quite live up to the level set by the Yada Yada series, but then none of her later books have, so I wasn't really expecting it to. I wasn't too fond of Kat in the beginning of the book, but she grew on me, as she grew in her walk as a Christian. And as always, it made me long for a church like the SouledOut church.

I wonder if this is the last in the series though? It did seem rather "wrapped up"...
goodreads: (Default)
Title: Fifty Shades of Grey
Author: E.L. James
Genre: Horror... at least, it's a horror how bad this was!
Rating: 0.5/5
# pages: 514
Date read: July 2012

This is not my typical review... just a warning... Bad books tend to make me verbose.

I'd actually pretty much managed to miss most of the controversy surrounding 50SoG when I first picked it up (because I've been living under a rock apparently) but a friend recommended it to me and as I generally like the same books as this friend, I thought I would give it a shot... Now I wonder what I ever did to her to deserve this...

Let me make it clear - I do not, as a rule, mind books that were originally fanfics. Some fanfic takes place in alternative universes, and work perfectly well as books in their own right. Some of these have fantastic writing, and deserve to be published as original fiction.

This is not one of those books.

This book is quite possibly the worst book I have EVER read. It even surpasses The Christmas Wish by Karen Farrell Jaworski, something I would never have thought possible. In fact, the only reason I finished it was so that I could get to write this scathing review since some of you have said I'm too nice in my reviews and never pick books apart. Don't say I don't make any sacrifices for you ;-)

To those of you who have been living together with me under that rock, 50SoG is a very, very poorly disguised Twilight fanfic which takes all the worst aspects of Twilight as seen by Twilight-haters, magnify them beyond recognition, and put them back together in this alleged "homeage" to Twilight. Yes, that's right. An avowed Twilight fan has done more damage to the reputation of the series than all the arguments from all the rabid haters I've ever read. I never found Edward and Bella's relationship abusive in any way, and I hate the way it's being sullied by this comparison to Christian and Ana. *shudder*.

Seriously, I'm reading this book so you won't have to. Do yourself a favour and trust me on this. You do NOT want to read this book. Don't let my sacrifice have been in vain. I can't BELIEVE this drivel is being made into a movie!

Ana is ridiculously naive and "innocent" to the point of being completely unbelievable. She's a 21-year-old with the sexual maturity of a young 12-year-old, and has managed to complete college without owning or even having access to a computer, and without having an email address!!! Yes, you read that right. And this is a contemporary book we're talking about, so we're talking the 21st century... Not the early 1990s. Okay, I know I was an early adapter, but I've had my own email address since I was 13 and stopped sharing Dad's...

Oh, but despite not having a computer, she does have an iPod... make of that what you will...

Ana hates everything and everybody - up to and including her roommate and presumably best friend, and of course herself. She's got a wet noodle for a spine, yet claims that she'd "never do anything she didn't want to"... Except that's basically her trademark throughout this book. Ah, but "thing she doesn't want to do" becomes "thing she wants to do" when Christian offers sex... Or even just sexy talk... as a reward. She knows Christian uses sex as a weapon... yet she still agrees.

Christian is abusive in the worst way. He's a master manipulator and manages to make Ana second guess herself by being cool and stand-off'ish when she voices her pefectly reasonable doubts and apprehensions. But of course this is HER fault and not his, because he's so worldly and experienced, and she hasn't even ever held hands with anybody. He's seriously bad news, and if this turns out to be one of those books where "a bad boy just needs love to be reformed" I think I may just scream. I'm not even sure I'm old enough to be reading this, and there is no WAY I'd allow any teenage daughter of mine to be reading it. Not even so much because of the sex (which is actually fairly tame - at least compared to what I had expected), but because I do NOT want her to think that neither Ana nor Christian's behaviour is in any way, shape or form acceptable or healthy.

I mean... just check out this quote: "I am so not backing down on this. No one is going to dictate to me what I heat. How I f*ck, yes, but eat... no, no way.
Does anybody else see how absolutely and completely FUBAR this is? And that's just one example. I can provide more:
... As Ana considers whether or not she wants to sign the contract, she's upset by the lack of relationship. Then that night she has a sex dream about Christian, and suddenly it's all honkey-dorey.
... Stalking is bad... unless it results in the person being stalked getting good childed champagne, then it's A-OK.

Seriously, Christian is MESSED UP! He's a creepy, manipulative, abusive (mentally and physically both) stalker! And he is the Prince CHarming we're supposed to sigh after? That is the scariest, most harmful, most messed up thing I've ever seen an author do. She's actually presenting herself as a spokesperson for abusive relationships. Yeah, that'll help people get out of them sooner.

Oh, and if you have any qualms at all about reading erotica, stay far, far, FAR away from this book! I don't mind erotica when sex futhers the plot, but when the plot is just an excuse for sex, I'd just rather not. Parts of this made me feel like bleaching my eyes.

This is one time where I'm happy to say that I read an illegally downloaded copy of this book. I would have hated for EJ to get any kind of monitary benefit out of my reading this drivel. Even getting it out of the library would have been too good for it. I'm appalled that Stephanie Meyer didn't get out all her laywers to go after her.

I will admit it wasn't all bad - I'm not enough of a masochist to suffer through 514 pages with out some sort of pay-off. There are some sweet moments between Ana and Christian - especially later on in the book where the sex started being less gratuitous and they actually started TALKING! Character development - who'd have thought it was actually necessary! Those scenes were few and far between unfortunately. And of COURSE the book ended with a cliff-hanger of the worst sort, so now I'm even more annoyed with the book, because I want to know what happens next, but am not sure I can stomach another 500+ pages of this crap...
goodreads: (Default)
Title: Stand By Me
Author: Neta Jackson
Genre: Christian fiction
Rating: 5/5
# pages: 383
Date read: April, 2012

Avis Douglass and her husband, Peter, have dreamed of a two-year mission to South Africa. But when the economy crashes, they're suddenly faced with the real possibility of bankruptcy. When one of the co-pastors of SouledOut Community Church passes away suddenly, Avis and Peter are asked to step in and assist with the leadership of the church in the interim.

The Lord knew what He was doing when He put Neta Jackson's book in my line of sight. I've been putting off reading this most recent instalment about the "SouledOut Sisters", because I worried that it wouldn't live up to my expectations. It did, and my soul lapped it up like a parched plant does water. Writing a proper review is pretty much impossible, as reading one of Neta Jackson's books usually turns out to basically be one long worship session and thus not relevant for a literary review. Suffice to say that as usual she made me look up and take stock. I'd love the kind of fellowship these girls have at church and at the Yada Yada prayer group.

I'm very interested in seeing where Neta Jackson takes Kat, Nick and Bree in this spin-off series.
goodreads: (Default)
Title: Who Is My Shelter?
Author: Neta Jackson
Genre: Christian fiction
Rating: 5/5
# pages: 409
Date read: March, 2011

The tables have turned and Gabby's estranged husband--who threw her out when she didn't live up to his image of a "corporate wife"--needs her in a way neither ever expected. He's begging for reconciliation,
but Gabby has moved on, finding purpose and a future in the House of Hope. Not only has she found shelter for herself and her sons there,
but she's able to help provide shelter for homeless moms and their kids.

And yet... there's a hole in her life. Is God leading Gabby down a new path and giving her something--and someone--new? Or is He redeeming what she thought was gone forever?

Who Is My Shelter is the last book in the House of Hope series. I'm sorry to have reached the end. I want to know more about the Manna House, the House of Hope and especially about the Yada Yada Prayer Group. I wonder if Neta Jackson has something more in store for us, or if she feels ready to write something else now.*

All the various threads from the earlier books are wrapped up nicely in this one. Not necessarily tied down fast, but working in the right direction, and I actually appreciated that everything had a happy ending here and now, but just hinted at one in the future - it seemed more realistic that way.

So once again I acknowledge that I was right to give the series a second chance after being so very disappointed by the first book - the remaining three more than made up for it. And as always Yada Yada works as a breath of fresh air for my faith and my prayer life.

* Just read this on her webpage:
And now ... what's next??? I'm working on a new novel, reviving one of my characters from the original Yada Yada series, introducing some new (annoying) people, and stirring the pot in what I'm calling "SouledOut Sisters." -Neta
Fantastic! :)
goodreads: (Default)
Title: Knit the Season
Author: Kate Jacobs
Genre: Chick-lit
Rating: 3.5/5
# pages: 260
Date read: December, 2010

Not only are the holidays are just around the corner, the women who knit at Manhattan's Walker & Daughter have an extra reason to celebrate: there's a wedding planned for New Year's Day. In the meantime, college-age Dakota Walker is working to finish a sweater her mother started before Dakota was born. As she takes on her mother's pattern, she learns from her family and friends that there was much more history in these stitches than she had anticipated, and that to build on her mother's legacy, Dakota must allow herself to become the woman she truly desires to be.

Definitely the weakest of the lot, but it's a sweet Christmas story (starting just before Thanksgiving and ending just after New Years Eve) and a quick read, so perfect for a lazy Christmas Day morning.

It's linked quite closely to "Knit Two" and ties up a lot of the loose ends from that book. Some elements were a tad too good to be true, but "it's Christmas", and I can completely understand wanting an extra doze of 'feel good' for that.

"Knit the Season" is mostly about Anita, Peri, Catherine and Dakota, with the rest of the Knitting Club being pretty much just periphery characters. I've always liked those four best anyway, but I did feel the lack of the other characters was a bit too glaringly obvious, but it's also bar far the shortest of the lot, so I guess there just wasn't any room for more plot.

And it did leave me feeling very Christmasy, which is always the main point of a Christmas read :)
goodreads: (Default)
Title: Knit Two
Author: Kate Jacobs
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 235
Date read: August, 2010

At the Manhattan knitting store founded by Georgia Walker, the members of the Friday Night Knitting Club - including Georgia's daughter Dakota, now a college freshman - continue to rely on each other for help, even as they struggle with new challenges: for Catherine, finding love after divorce; for Darwin, the hope for a family; for Lucie, being both a single mom and a caregiver for her elderly mother; and for seventy something Anita, a proposal of marriage from her sweetheart, Marty, that provokes the objections of her grown children. As the club's projects - an afghan, baby booties, a wedding coat - are pieced together, so is their understanding of the patterns underlying the stresses and joys of being a mother, wife, daughter, and friend. Because it isn't the difficulty of the garment that makes you a great knitter: it's the care and attention you bring to the craft - as well as how you adapt to surprises.

Not quite as good as "Friday Night Knitting Club", but then sequels seldom are. And it's still a very enjoyable and comforting read. As usual it made me want to knit, so I guess I'll have to go out and replenish my stash after all ;) But to me, its true merit is in the descriptions of the friendships between the women of the knitting club. From Saving Graces to The Sweetgum Knit Lit Society that aspect never ceases to appeal to me.
goodreads: (Default)
Title: The Year of Living Biblically
Author: A.J. Jacobs
Genre: Non-fiction, memoir
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 332
Date read: August, 2010

Raised in a secular family but increasingly interested in the relevance of faith in our modern world, A.J. Jacobs decides to dive in headfirst and attempt to obey the Bible as literally as possible for one full year. He vows to follow the Ten Commandments. To be fruitful and multiply. To love his neighbor. But also to obey the hundreds of less publicized rules: to avoid wearing clothes made of mixed fibers; to play a ten-string harp; to stone adulterers.

The resulting spiritual journey is at once funny and profound, reverent and irreverent, personal and universal and will make you see history's most influential book with new eyes

As a Christian who believes in a mostly* literal interpretation of the Bible, I found this memoir absolutely fascinating! First of all, it was interesting to see the Bible through a non-religious Jew POV. And secondly it was fascinating to see anybody attempt to follow all the laws of both the Old and the New Testament.

I really enjoyed A.J. Jacobs' writing style, and was releaved to see how respectful his approach was. He actually ended up teaching me a thing or two about how to follow the Bible as well.

I've wanted to read this book for ages and was very gratified to see that it completely lived up to my expectations.


* There are some passages that are obviously meant to be taken figuratively - when Jesus calls the disciples "salt of the earth", He didn't actually mean they were made of NaCl ;)
goodreads: (Default)
Title: Who Do I Lean On?
Author: Neta Jackson
Genre: Christian fiction
Rating: 5/5
# pages: 358
Date read: June, 2010

Gabby expects a fight from her husband over custody of their boys, but she is taken aback when he leans on her for a loan to cover his gambling debts. When she turns him down, Philip makes a desperate move that puts Gabby, her friends at the shelter, and even the House of Hope at risk.

Neta Jackson never fails to inspire me through her books, and thankfully this third book in the House of Hope series was no exception. Though I did still occasionally want to shake Gabby for her bad choices, she had come far enough to realize her mistakes herself, before they got her in too much trouble.

Phillip was at his most likeable here, and I was grateful for this glimpse into the person he used to be - until now it had been difficult to understand why Gabby ever married him in the first place. Here we got to see behind his ambition to the person he could be.

I did think the Lee story line was much too easily resolved though. It seemed a bit too convenient - I would have liked to see Gabby come to a decision by herself, rather than being forced into it by an ultimatum.

But as always Neta Jackson delivered an AMAZING story that made me ache to be part of that kind of Christian fellowship myself.

I read the book in one sitting, and stayed up until 2am to finish it. Unfortunately the next (and last) book in the series won't be out until March 2011.
goodreads: (Default)
Title: Harry Bentley's Second Chance
Author: Dave Jackson
Genre: Christian fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
# pages: 336
Date read: January, 2010

Retired Chicago cop, Harry Bentley, was lying low. He'd blown the whistle on a gang of rogue cops and was awaiting the day when Internal Affairs would call him to testify and help put their leader, Lieutenant Matty Fagan, behind bars. His cover was working as a doorman in a luxury highrise on Chicago's lakefront. Then Gabby Fairbanks and her husband moved into the building's penthouse. She brought home a bag lady, got a job at the Manna House Women's Shelter, found her life falling apart, and managed to entangle Harry in the whole affair.

But there was an upside. Through Gabby, Harry meets the Yada Yada brothers and the classy Estelle Williams and envisions a second chance at romance. The Yada Yada brothers provide a new circle of friends to replace his old CPD cohorts. But when Harry discovers he has a grandson he didn't know about, will he find the faith to take on the boy as a "second chance" to be the father he'd failed to be to his own son-even when the boy creates new dangers in Harry's fight against corruption, and may derail his "second chance" at love?

An enjoyable book that unfortunately suffered from being compared to its compagnion novel.

Harry Bentley's Second Chance is a well-written Christian novel. If I'd read it as a stand-alone, I'd have enjoyed it greatly. It's an interesting story with believable characters and a sweet love story.

Unfortunately it just doesn't measure up to its companion novel ("Where Do I Go?" by Neta Jackson) in poignancy, and therefore unfairly falls flat, where it'd have been enjoyed more in its own right. If you haven't read either, I recommend reading this one first in order to do it justice.
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Title: Who Do I Talk To?
Author: Neta Jackson
Genre: Christian fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
# pages: 393
Date read: October, 2009

Gabby Fairbanks's husband locks her out and disappears with her sons, leaving her homeless and stunned. With her frail mother and a mutt named Dandy, Gabby must take refuge at the women's shelter where she works, trying to salvage the shattered pieces of her life. There, her new friends-including Lucy the bag lady and sisters from the Yada Yada Prayer Group-prop her up.

But a midnight intruder brings unwanted media attention to the shelter and threatens to undermine Gabby's chances of getting her sons back. Still hoping to put her family together again, Gabby puzzles over what to do with the warm attentions of a sympathetic lawyer who rebuilds her confidence and soothes her wounded spirit.

Neta Jackson redeemed herself in this second book in the House of Hope series. I had been extremely disappointed by Where Do I Go?, because it ended on such a depressing note, and had seemed pretty pointless - using the entire book to get the main character down as low as she could get.

In Who Do I Talk To? it becomes apparent why Neta Jackson did this. I still think it's an extremely risky venture to write the first book in a series like that. If I hadn't already been introduced to her writing through the Yada Yada series, I think I would have given up on her then and there. As it was, it was with some reluctance I picked up the second book, and for once, I didn't start reading it immediately.

But thankfully the atmosphere was completely different. Still not as upbeat as in the Yada Yada series, but taking the topic into consideration, that would have been completely inappropriate. However, it was a lot more positive, and I ended up laughing and crying together with Gabby.

The characters were better fleshed out (especially Gabby's father-in-law) and I enjoyed getting to know them better, and seeing them interact with Gabby and her mother. And I LOVED the ending.

Still nowhere as inspirational as the Yada Yada series, Neta Jackson has "won me back", and I'll definitely be purchasing Who Do I Lean On? once it comes out... which unfortunately won't be until June 2010.
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: The Friday Night Knitting Club
Author: Kate Jacobs
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
# pages: 418
Date read: July 2009, April 2014

Walker and Daughter is Georgia Walker''s little yarn shop, tucked into a quiet storefront on Manhattan's Upper West Side. The Friday Night Knitting Club was started by some of Georgia's regulars, who gather once a week to work on their latest projects and to chat-and occasionally clash-over their stories of love, life, and everything in between.

Georgia has her hands full, juggling the demands of running the store and raising her spunky teen daughter, Dakota, by herself. Thank goodness for Anita, her mentor and dear friend, and the rest of the members of the knitting club-who are just as varied as the skeins of yarn in the shop's bins. There's Peri, a pre-law student turned handbag designer; Darwin, a somewhat aloof feminist grad student; and Lucie, a petite, quiet woman who''s harboring some secrets of her own.

However, unexpected changes soon throw these women's lives into disarray, and the shop's comfortable world gets shaken up like a snow globe. "James," Georgia's ex, decides that he wants to play a larger role in Dakota's life - and possibly Georgia's as well. Cat, a former friend from high school, returns to New York as a rich Park Avenue wife and uneasily renews her old bond with Georgia. Meanwhile, Anita must confront her growing (and reciprocated) feelings for Marty, the kind neighborhood deli owner.

And when the unthinkable happens, they realize what they've created: not just a knitting club, but a sisterhood.

I really liked this book. It was cozy, optimistic and generally the perfect chick-lit. To my surprise it even made me want to knit(!) - something I've always reckoned I didn't have the patience for at all.

I enjoyed getting to know the characters, and the relationships between them. Especially Georgia's Gran was just terrific.

It's not a book where a lot of things happen, but a book where you get to know and love a bunch of people and get a look into their every day life. I did feel Kate Jacobs skipped quickly over things occasionally, and the ending knocked me for six, but in general an excellent book.
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: Where Do I Go?
Author: Neta Jackson
Genre: Christian fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
# pages: 370 pages
Date read: May 2009, July 2015

Gabrielle Fairbanks has nearly lost touch with the carefree, spirited young woman she was when she married her husband fifteen years ago. But when the couple moves to Chicago to accommodate Philip's business ambitions, Gabby finds the chance to make herself useful.

It's there she meets the women of Manna House Women's Shelter; they need a Program Director-and she has a degree in social work. She's in her element, feeling God's call on her life at last, even though Philip doesn't like the changes he sees in her. But things get rough when Philip gives Gabby an ultimatum: quit her job at the shelter or risk divorce and losing custody of their sons.

Gabby must take refuge, as in the song they sing at Sunday night worship: "Where do I go when there's no one else to turn to?... I go to the Rock I know that's able, I go to the Rock."

This is my second attempt at reviewing this book, because I don't think I did it justice the first time around.

At a first glance the book was a huge disappointment. I'd come to it expecting warmth and comfort, I left it crying of frustration and hopelessness. Any book powerful enough to do that to me deserves more than the original three stars I have it - for writing, even if it doesn't for plot.

And the plot was very unpleasant to read. Instead of starting with a person who was ill off and whose circumstances improved through the book, we're here presented with a person whose life at the outlook seems... if not great, then at least satisfactory, but whose circumstances deteriorate through the book, leaving her with the rug pulled out from underneath her at the last page.

It's the first few chapters of Job, before God stepped in.

What really annoyed me about the book was that this was where it ended. There was no resolution, no last-minute waving of a magic wand (which is good, I guess - I don't like last-minute wavings of magic wands in an otherwise realistic book). All there was was an incredibly open ending, and a woman whose life had suddenly hit rock bottom.

This is where my thoughts were at last night, and why I wrote the review I did.

Now that I've slept on it and thought about it some more, I've realized that my mistake was in assuming it was a self-contained novel. If instead I view it as an introduction or a prequel to the series, it changes from being frustrating an disappointing to being incredibly powerful and captivating. What I wrote yesterday (review saved here for reference) still stands, but my perspective has changed. It'll be interesting to see where Neta Jackson takes the series from here.

I guess I'll know come September.

Reread 2015: It was with some trepidation that I picked up this book for a reread - I remembered only too vividly how I'd felt on first reading it. Fortunately, knowing what was coming made it a lot easier to stomach, and the later books definitely make up for it. Still, I had to put it down from time to time, when I knew something unpleasant was coming up :-P But the end was not nearly as much of a shock to the system when I could go straight over to my shelves and pick up the next book.
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: Where Do I Go?
Author: Neta Jackson
Genre: Christian fiction
Rating: 3/5
# pages: 370 pages
Date read: May, 2009

Gabrielle Fairbanks has nearly lost touch with the carefree, spirited young woman she was when she married her husband fifteen years ago. But when the couple moves to Chicago to accommodate Philip's business ambitions, Gabby finds the chance to make herself useful.

It's there she meets the women of Manna House Women's Shelter; they need a Program Director-and she has a degree in social work. She's in her element, feeling God's call on her life at last, even though Philip doesn't like the changes he sees in her. But things get rough when Philip gives Gabby an ultimatum: quit her job at the shelter or risk divorce and losing custody of their sons.

Gabby must take refuge, as in the song they sing at Sunday night worship: "Where do I go when there's no one else to turn to?... I go to the Rock I know that's able, I go to the Rock."

I'd been eagerly awaiting this book ever since it came out in December, and finally got my hands on it today. I sat down and dived into it right away, hoping to find the same sense of "coming home" as the Yada Yada Prayer Group series had given me. Therefore it really pains me to only give it three stars, but it was just a very, very uncomfortable read.

Granted, it had its good points where it did resemble the YYPG series as much as I could have wished for (which is the only reason I still gave it as much as 3 stars), but mostly it left a bad taste in my mouth. Gabby's husband was SO incredibly unpleasant and seemed to have NO redeeming factors at all. I won't say he was so bad as to make him unbelievable though, and that was what made it so unpleasant to read - I could too easily imagine a person like that. It might have helped if I'd read the back blurb of the book - I might have felt more prepared - but I didn't, so I wasn't.

So though I did love reading about Gabby's life at the Manna home, the book itself wasn't the comfort read I'd expected and counted on it to be. Instead of leaving me with a content and happy feeling, it pulled the rug away under me at the very last minute and had me shedding tears of frustration and hopelessness rather than anything else.

Not what I had expected of a book by Neta Jackson, and therefore my immediate reaction was a HUGE disappointment.

After having thought about it for awhile though, I have realised that perhaps my mistake was in thinking these books would be as independent as the books in the YYPG series were, and that this should be viewed as a prequel - an introduction to the rest of the series, more than anything else. The age-old story of a person having to hit rock bottom before he/she is able and willing to listen to God's still small voice inside them. It doesn't fit exactly, because it did seem like Gabby had already started listening, but I had been thinking that she was leaning too much on her own understanding and not on God's.

I hope I was wrong in assuming it was meant as a self-contained novel and that the next book in the series will explain the ending of this one. I still believe Neta Jackson can turn this into something beautiful, but it depends very much on how she writes the sequel as that will "make it or break it" for me. It'll be published in September - guess I'll know then.

I so wanted to love it.

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Title: By the Time You Read This
Author: Lola Jaye
Genre: Chick-lit
Rating: 7/10
# pages: 321
Date read: February 2009

Summary: When Lois Bates is handed the manual, she can barely bring herself to read it as the pain of losing her dad is still so raw. Yet soon his advice is guiding her through every stange of her life - from first love and relationships to her career.

The manual can never be a substitute for having her dad back, but through his words Lois learns to start living again, and discoveres that happiness is waiting around the corner...

Review: Chick-lit, fluff and sentimental fluff at that. By the Time You Read This is one of those easily read books that you can devour in one sitting, but that doesn't really leave any mark on you. It was enjoyable, but not a book that moved me in any way. One of those books that you read... and then pass on. If you need something light for a lazy afternoon, by all means pick it up, but don't go out of your way to get your hands on it.

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Title: The Yada Yada Prayer Group Gets Decked Out
Author: Neta Jackson
Genre: Christian fiction
Rating: 5/5
# pages: 215
Date read: October 2008, July 2009, July 2012

Summary: Turkey dinners, tree trimming, and decking the halls - it's that time of year again! And I, Jodi Baxter, can't wait to celebrate. My kids are coming home for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and then all of us Yadas are getting decked out for a big New Year's party.

But God's idea of "decked out" might just change the nature of our party plans. A perplexing encounter with a former student, a crime that literally knocks me off my feet, a hurry-up wedding, and a child who will forever change our family... it's times like these that I really need my prayers sisters.

This holiday season, we Yada Yadas are learning that no one can out-celebrate God. So let's get this party started!

Review: Taking place two years after book 6, everybody has grown up some in this book. I missed reading as much about Amanda, but on the other hand loved the Josh plot-line! I'm going to miss these characters.

A truly wonderful series, that's touched my heart.

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Title: The Yada Yada Prayer Group Gets Rolling
Author: Neta Jackson
Genre: Christian fiction
Rating: 10/10
# pages: 395
Date read: October 2008, July 2009, July 2012

Summary: A devastating fire wakes up the Yadas to a new reality: God is on the move.

What I'd like to know is, why does God keep rearranging my comfort zone? It could have something to do with my Yada Yada prayer sisters, who aren't afraid to get in each other's faces and tend to expect big things from God.

But to move forward, sometimes we have to let go of what's behind. In spite of the loss of two dear friends. In spite of the breakup of a teenage love. In spite of the curse of HIV. In spite of prison time hanging over the head of a beloved child. In spite of fire consuming the hopes of those who have nothing.

Yet out of the ashes, God is doing a new thing! It's time for the Yadas to press on, pray on, and get rolling!

Review: Wow... that was some ride. I'm still wiping the tears off my face from the last few chapters. Good tears though. It wasn't sad, just incredibly moving.

I'm sad there are only 7 books in this series, because they are just incredible. I pray I can learn to pray like Jodi and her Yada Yada sisters... and I wouldn't mind hearing that still small voice as clearly either.

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Title: The Yada Yada Prayer Group Gets Caught
Author: Neta Jackson
Genre: Christian fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
# pages: 401
Date read: October 2008, June 2009, July 2012

Summary: For the Yada prayer sisters, gettin' caught up in troubles isn't the problem; it's how to get free.

Ruth and Ben are caught up in an unplanned pregnancy-in their fifties! Chanda is deluded by the glitter of her lottery dream come true. Florida wants to move her family, hoping to leave trouble behind, but it looks like it may catch up with her anyway. Avis is torn between honoring her new husband and helping her abused adult daughter, who keeps running home to Mama.

If there's an upside, it's that all this trouble reveals the subtle lies the Yadas believe about God, themselves, each other, and life.

Review: Two Yada Yada books read in as many days. Somehow this does not surprise me one bit. I think "Gets Caught" is the weakest of the 5 I've read so far, but that just means it's a little less fantastic than the others. I still loved it, and know I'll be spending the next several days 'trapped' in the atmosphere and wanting to get hold of the last two books.

Neta Jackson makes me feel like I know these people, and that I'm right there next to them. Can't wait to see what happens with Edesa and Josh, and I hope the lessons Jodie learns will stick with me too.

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