Havah: The Story of Eve

Havah: The Story of Eve by Tosca Lee
Publisher: B&H Publishing Group
Number of pages: 354
My copy: paperback, ordered from Amazon

A single decision has the power to unravel mankind.

Created, not born.

The world’s first woman, without flaw, until one fateful choice. Now all humanity must pay for the mistake.

From paradise to exile, from immortality to the death of Adam, experience the dawn of mankind through the eyes of Eve — the woman first known as Havah.

* * *

I have had Tosca’s book on my TBR shelf since 2009, and I meant to read it soon after I finished reading her other novel, Demon: A Memoir. Somehow, this book got pushed farther and farther down Mt. TBR until I almost forgot about having it. It wasn’t until I was thinking of a good book to start 2011 with that I remembered having this one, so I dug it up from my books, and cracked the book open again come 1st of January.

Around October last year, some of my Goodreads friends started a year-long reading challenge to read the Bible in its entirety. I have tried reading the Bible from cover to cover back in college but I failed miserably when I got to Chronicles. When I heard of the challenge in the group, the challenge addict in me jumped in, choosing to read The Message translation of the Bible for easier reading. The thing with reading the Bible is it’s so easy to be disenchanted with the stories there, especially if you’ve heard the stories in it over and over, particularly in Genesis. What else there is to read about Adam and Eve anyway? They were created, they lived in God’s presence, then Eve got tempted and got Adam in with her. They were banished from the garden, they had kids, and then the world started with them. Not that interesting, right?

They say familiarity breeds contempt, and I guess that has happened to me in the case of Genesis. Tosca Lee breathes life into the story of creation, particularly with the first woman ever created in Havah.

I have seen paradise and ruin. I have known bliss and terror.

I have walked with God.

And I know that God made the hart the most fragile and resilient of organs, that a lifetime of joy and pain might be encased in one moral chamber.

So it starts. I fell in love with Tosca Lee’s writing with Demon, and I knew Havah is going to be just as beautifully written as the former, if not more. This retelling of Eve from the moment of her creation to their fall to their exile and her mortal life was told in Eve’s point of view, making the novel feel more personal compared to Demon.

I am not an expert in theology so I can’t say how accurate this was or if Tosca missed addressing something in this novel. However, I can say that reading Havah became more than just leisurely reading but almost a personal journey. Eve, christened as Havah by the adam because she “…will live, and all who live will come from [her], and [she] will give birth to hope.” (p. 102), spoke to my heart as she told her story. I guess it’s because she’s a woman, and I sympathized with her struggles and her woes. How I could I not? In a sense, I was also Havah — I sinned against God so many times that I know I am so far away from Him, but I crave for His presence just as Havah sought Him, too. It was that brokenness that got to me the most. I do not blame her for her act of disobedience and in the fall, because as she said quite eloquently, “If not for our transgression, we would not know redemption.” (p. 349) In a sense, Havah really embodied how it is to be a human in this broken world: a constant struggle to find God in our surroundings, in the people and in life, pressing on even if sometimes He seems empty and silent.

Since this was told in her point of view, this will seem like a female-biased novel, but I think (and hope!) that guys will still be able to find themselves in this novel, too. It’s hard to describe this novel in its entirety because there is so much beauty and pain and love in this book.

It took me a while to finish reading this, but I know I made the right choice in starting 2011 with this novel. This is still fiction, of course, and this does not replace the parts written in Genesis, but it definitely helped me understand that part of the Bible more. I had no doubt that this would be a good book after enjoying Tosca’s first novel, but Havah just totally blew my mind and heart away. And if you decide to pick this one up, I hope it does the same for you too. :)

How mighty, how great the One must be, I thought, to send the heavens careening, and yet hear the cry of a single heart. (p. 28)

Rating:

2011 Challenge Status:
1 of 20 in TwentyEleven Challenge (To YA or Not to YA)

Book trailer:

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You can also watch Tosca talk about Havah in this video.

Other reviews:
Emily is Smiling
My Only Vice
Christian Fiction Review

Miss Match

Miss Match by Erynn MangumMiss Match by Erynn Mangum
NavPress, 336 pages

Lauren Holbrook has found her life’s calling: matchmaking for the romantically challenged. And with the eclectic cast of characters in her world, there’s tons of potential to play “connect the friends.” Inspired by the recent success of matching her sister and new husband, Lauren sets out to introduce Nick, her carefree singles’ pastor, to Ruby, her neurotic coworker who plans every second of every day. What could possibly go wrong? Just about everything. When Lauren’s foolproof plan begins to unravel, she learns that a simple introduction between friends can bring about complicated results. And as she reconsiders her new role as Cupid (as well as her vow to stay single forever), will Lauren finally decide that God’s plan is always good enough?

I have seen Miss Match first on my friend’s bookshelf when she got back from her trip from the USA. I have been meaning to borrow it for the longest time but I always forget to ask about it when we see each other. Then when I got my Kindle, I have been eying the book in the store, thinking if it was worth the splurge. Come Christmas, I saw it went down to less than $2 and so I finally got it for myself. I started reading it soon after I finished the creeps-inducing read that is Choker.

Miss Match sounds and looks like everything there is to your typical chick lit. The pink cover with a girl and coffee cup is just the icing on the cake. Miss Match tells the story 23-year-old Laurie Holbrook who spends her free time making matches for her friends and family. Declaring herself to be single forever, she’s decided instead to match her friends, particularly Nick, their singles pastor and Ruby, her time-conscious Type-A co-worker. As Laurie works her “magic”, she makes new friends, learns a bit about how tricky relationships can be, and learns about God’s sovereignty along the way.

Wow, when I wrote it that way, it sounds like a book that I would pick up, read, enjoy all throughout and pick up life and faith lessons afterward. It sounds like a book that I would write a long thoughtful review of, pointing out the things I would like to remember as a mental note. When I put it that way, it sounds like something I would thoroughly enjoy and recommend to all my other girl friends.

But.

As much as I wished I could say I enjoyed Miss Match…it saddens me to say that I did not.

I’m not one to give up reading books easily, especially ones I paid for myself. Miss Match really proved to be a big challenge — a first for a Christian chick lit novel. I liked the premise of the story, and I was curious enough to see how the author would make Laurie and her matchmaking connect with God’s sovereignty. As a whole, I liked sort of romantic aspect and the relationships of the characters in the book. I liked most of the supporting characters, particularly Laurie’s sisters and her co-workers. But as much as I liked the others, I must say this: I really, really disliked Laurie.

It’s hard to like a book when you don’t like the heroine, especially if you spend 100% of the book inside their head. Laurie first seemed like a nice person, but after a few chapters, I was getting sick of her. She’s bratty, almost self-centered. Her initially witty quips became annoying soon after you get past the first few chapters. It makes me wonder sometimes if I said the same things when I was 23 and if I was that annoying, too. Her characterization felt horribly inconsistent, like she was spouting random facts about herself as a reaction to the things people are doing around her and it seemed so abrupt that I never really had a clear picture of who Laurie was as a person. The only thing I really knew about her in the story was her fondness addiction to chocolates and coffee. The amount of chocolate and coffee that Laurie consumed in this novel almost made me want to check out the top ten diet pills because I know I’d blow up like a balloon if I ate like her. I also find her lack of ambition particularly disturbing at her age, too. At 23, I was already somewhat going through some major career and life decisions, while she’s perfectly normal about her being where she was. She didn’t seem to act her age — she seemed more suitable as a high school student.

Okay, maybe her being annoying may be on purpose, but I found Laurie extremely manipulative, too, and it was probably the thing that had me shaking my head most while reading the novel. Sure, she was being a matchmaker, and true to form, she was being meddlesome. I kind of had a problem with the way her being meddlesome was justified by how she understood God’s sovereignty. Case in point (spoiler warning ahead):

My father once told me there comes a time in every woman’s life when she desperately desires to be married.

No offense, Dad, but I think you were wrong.

I think there’s more. Most women desire matrimony — but with the guys God has created for them. My job is to be still and wait, knowing He is God.

And occasionally pushing a couple together. Just now and then of course…

What does that verse in Colossians say? “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to god the Father through him.”

…Matchmaking is a deed, right? Thanks God.

I find that particular conclusion a little off-putting, especially since I found everything Laurie did in the book manipulative and self-serving. She pushed the two characters together and would not give up not because she trusted God completely, but because she couldn’t fail this match since she’s never been wrong about her matches. Does that spell God’s sovereignty? It doesn’t seem like it. The rest of the spiritual aspect in the book also felt like it was forced and shallow.

They say it’s based on Jane Austen’s Emma, but since I haven’t read it yet, I can’t say how accurate it is. However, I’d like to believe that Emma wasn’t a Mary Sue, unlike how I found Laurie Holbrook. Nothing sucks the fun out of reading than being in a Mary Sue’s head. So…meh. It’s been five days since I finished reading this book, and I still can’t shake the annoyance I felt over this character. There are two more books in the Laurie Holbrook series and they say it gets better, but I think I’m going to pass for now. Maybe if I read this book before I’ve read some good chick lit with strong, non-Mary Sue characters, I would have liked it more since I didn’t really know better then. Or maybe, if I read this one when I was younger, I would have enjoyed it more. But right now, I just think Miss Match is disappointing.

Rating:

My copy: ebook from Amazon Kindle store

Cover and blurb: Goodreads

Other reviews:
RadiantLit
Coral Rose

Dining with Joy

Dining with Joy by Rachel Hauck
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Number of pages: 320
My copy: Kindle edition

Joy Ballard has a secret: she’s a cooking show host who can’t really cook.

When her South Carolina-based cooking show, Dining With Joy, is picked up by a major network, Joy Ballard’s world heats up like a lowcountry boil.

Joy needs help. Then she meets chef Luke Davis who moved to Beaufort after losing his Manhattan restaurant. A cook at the Frogmore Cafe, he’s paying debts and longing to regain his reputation in the elite foodie world.

Luke and Joy mix like oil and water…until Joy is exposed on national television. With her career and his reputation both under fire, they’ll have to work together to fix the mess. Is it possible that they can learn to feast on God’s love and dine with joy?

* * *

I had a realization when I was reading this book: I like foodie books. I don’t mean books about food like cookbooks or anything that talks about food. I mean fiction with food as one of its major elements. I’ve read two in the past year (The Crepe Makers’ Bond and Always the Baker, Never the Bride) and although I was pretty lukewarm about them, I enjoyed the cooking aspect of both books and how food played a part in the story.

Dining with Joy by Rachel Hauck is no different. I enjoyed reading her two other Lowcountry romances, Sweet Caroline and Love Starts with Elle, so I was thrilled to find out that she wrote another one that was set in Beaufort. I was excited to find out Joy’s story, and see the old characters in the previous novels pop up every now and then in the book.

Joy is a paradox: she’s a cooking show host who can’t cook. It’s a weird thing, but she’s pulled it off for three seasons, ever since she’s taken over her dad’s show after he passed away. The combination of good editing, a supportive staff in on her secret and lots of humor and entertainment from Joy that she has survived for three seasons, but after her producer sold off the show to a bigger network, things are bound to change. Then Joy meets Luke Redmond, the new assistant chef at the Frogmore Cafe, who becomes her co-host, and she sees him as a way out. But as she prepares for the fourth season of Dining with Joy and she gets closer to Luke, Joy digs a deeper and deeper hole for herself and it seems like it would take a miracle — or at least, something divine to get her out of it.

Dining with Joy carries the same sweetness and charm that the first two Lowcountry romances did. I love reading about Beaufort and their little idiosyncrasies. I love the seemingly relaxed nature that everyone has, how everyone’s about sweet tea, or food, or Bubba’s biscuits from the Frogmore Cafe. I love how close-knit the community seems, and it reminds me a bit of our own neighborhood, particularly our street. It’s one of those settings that you wouldn’t mind visiting over and over again, not because it is really that interesting but because it’s very peaceful.

Joy is definitely a different character from her friends Caroline and Elle. Whereas Caroline seems soft-spoken and Elle is gentle, Joy is feisty and stubborn, borne out of a seemingly absent father. Joy is strong and independent, which is needed especially since she’s works in the show business. However, her pride became her weakness especially when she decided to work things out on her own, particularly with her secret and her growing affections to Luke Redmond. Luke, on the other hand, carried almost the same characteristics as the other heroes in the other books, Mitch and Heath. In a way, he almost seems too perfect, but I liked how the author still gave him some flaws.

Out of all three books, this seemed like the book that had less “God” moments, but I think it also contained the best nugget of God-wisdom of all: God is good and God is love. I do wish that message was given more focus. Dining with Joy felt like it had too many things going on at once that some of them ran together too much and it didn’t give as big as an impact as it should have. At times the story seemed too slow, although things did wrap up nicely in the end.

This is probably the best “foodie” novel I’ve read so far this year, but compared to the two other Lowcountry Romances, I liked the other two better than this one. Nevertheless, Rachel Hauck did a great job with Dining with Joy, and I cannot wait to try to recipes at the end of the book. :) Banana bread, anyone?

Rating:

My copy: ebook from Amazon Kindle store

Cover and blurb: Goodreads

You may also want to read:
Review of Sweet Caroline
Review of Love Starts with Elle

Other reviews:
Along the Way
Cleverly Changing
Peeking Between the Pages
Widsith
Kate Blackham Editorial Services

Formula for Danger

Formula for Danger by Camy TangFormula for Danger by Camy Tang
Publisher: Harlequin
Number of pages: 288
My copy: ebook from Amazon Kindle Store

Someone wants dermatologist Rachel Grant’s latest research, and they’ll do anything to get it. Including trashing the plants needed for her breakthrough scar-reducing cream–and trying to run Rachel down. Desperate for help, she turns to Edward Villa, the only man she trusts. But the greenhouse owner knows too much about Rachel’s research, and now he’s a target, too. Break-ins, muggings, murder…the would-be thief is getting desperate–and getting closer. Edward vows to protect Rachel at all costs. Yet with time ticking away, Edward knows they have to uncover the madman shadowing Rachel before their chance for a future is destroyed.

* * *

I’ve been reading a lot of fantasy and dystopia lately so I decided to take a bit of a break and go for a light and fluffy book just to cleanse the palate. I recently got Camy Tang‘s Formula for Danger through my Kindle, and I missed reading Camy’s work, so I thought this would be a perfect in-between book.

Well, I think I may have chosen the wrong book! I’m not saying that because it’s a bad book, but because Formula for Danger is anything but fluffy. Of course, I should have picked up from the title already, but who knew this book would be such a non-stop suspense ride all the way to the end?

Formula for Danger wastes no time with the action as I was dropped immediately in the middle of it right from the start. Rachel Grant, the protagonist, is assaulted just as she goes out of her lab at the family owned Joy Luck Spa. From here bad luck just seemed to follow Rachel, but this luck is not coincidental but planned as someone really wants her dead! Every chapter in Formula for Danger is brimming with suspense and action, and I found myself getting breathless as every threat comes to Rachel’s (and the love interest, Edward’s) life.

It was easy to immerse myself into the Grants’ world again as I’m already familiar with it after reading Deadly Intent, the story of Rachel’s sister, Naomi. This isn’t really a sequel, so you don’t have to read the first book before reading this, although I feel like it may be helpful. Formula for Danger brings in the action quick that there is no time to really get to know and appreciate Rachel’s family with all that’s happening in the novel. Perhaps it was just me, since I haven’t read books in this genre for a while, so I felt like I would be a bit frustrated with reading this and diving right into the action without pausing long enough to know about the surroundings.

The threat in Rachel’s life felt very real, and the suspense in finding out who the culprit was drawn out for so long that I found myself wondering the same thing that the main characters did: when will it end? However, I wasn’t really that surprised when the reveal was made and I’m not sure if it’s because I figured it out beforehand or because it’s really just not that surprising. Compared to Deadly Intent, there seemed to be less red herrings thrown here, so the mystery seemed a bit linear, and the chase to save Rachel’s life took a higher precedence compared to finding out who was behind everything.

I liked the romantic and Christian aspect of the novel, though, more than the suspense. I liked that Camy focused on how Rachel learned that God is in control of everything even in the chaos. I also liked it a lot that Camy gave Edward, the love interest somewhat of a superhero complex and how he was humbled in the end. This is a Christian novel, so expect prayers from the characters and phrases such as “Praise God” and such. I don’t think it’s preachy, but if you’re not used to reading characters do this, well, I’ll leave it up to you if you’d pick it up. Personally, I’d still push this book to others, because the message is good, and well, because I’m a Christian. :D

As a whole, Formula for Danger is a quick and suspenseful read, with a strong Christian foundation. If you would ask me, though, I still liked Deadly Intent better, but it may be because I could relate more to Naomi than Rachel. Nevertheless, this is a good addition to my Camy Tang collection, and I can’t wait to read what she writes next. :)

Rating:

Have your cake and eat it too

Always the Baker Never the Bride by Sandra D. Bricker
Emma Rae Creation # 1

Publisher: Abingdon Press
Number of pages: 288 pages
My copy: ebook ARC from Netgalley

They say you can’t have your cake and eat it too. But who would want a cake they couldn’t eat?

Just ask Emma Rae Travis about that. She’s a baker of confections who is diabetic and can’t enjoy them. When Emma meets Jackson Drake, the escapee from Corporate America who is starting a wedding destination hotel to fulfill a dream that belonged to someone else, this twosome and their crazy family ties bring new meaning to the term “family circus.” The Atlanta social scene will never be the same!

* * *

It’s kind of funny that the next NetGalley ARC I read is another book that has recipes and other cooking tips in them, but this time, the characters are way older than Ariel, M and Nicki from The Crepemakers’ Bond were. I guess it’s fate, or maybe even divine, as far as books go, because reading them almost consecutively gives me an idea on how different YA/MG chick lit is to adult chick lit.

You know another funny thing? There seemed to be a lot of Christian chick lit that is set in the South. Atlanta, specifically. Maybe it’s because there are more writers from that area? Or is it because it’s just a charming place to set a story in, because in this book, I am charmed. :)

Emma Rae Travis is an award-winning contradiction — she’s the best baker in town, but she’s also diabetic, so she isn’t allowed to eat more than three bites of her baked confections. But the real point of the story isn’t her diabetes, but her baked goods and how it helped her meet Jackson Drake, owner of the new Tanglewood Hotel. Pretty soon, Emma is a part of the hotel staff and with Jackson’s crazy and efficient sisters, her semi-goth best friend Fiona and her separated parents…well, it’s a circus, alright.

I love myself a good chick lit, obviously, as it’s the genre I really started loving in the first place. I found that I hardly get to read much chick lit though, because there doesn’t seem to be many quality chick lit out there. It’s easy for chick lit to be stereotyped because it seems like there’s only one story line for all books like that. I beg to differ, though, because there’s a plethora of stories that can be written under that genre. You don’t need a fashionista girl with a gay best friend living in a busy city working as a writer promoting weight loss pills and looking for Mr. Right for a book to be chick lit!

This is why I liked Always the Baker, Never the Bride because it doesn’t fall under the usual chick lit stereotype. Sure, the leading man is handsome, and sure there’s a crazy family, but I liked that Emma is her own person, and she’s not a fashion slave. Emma is a bright and strong protagonist, one that I can’t help but get attached to as I read the book. The best thing I loved about Emma? She’s a baker! I bake, too, so that is definitely something I can relate to, but I am sure I won’t be as good as her because my cakes tend to fall apart before I can even get them out of the oven. :P

The Christian aspect of this novel is well written, too, and I liked how it wasn’t preachy. Prayer was subtly incorporated, and Jackson’s grief and fears were real for a guy his age and with his experience. Emma’s religious conflict, though, felt a bit blurry. By blurry, I wasn’t sure why she was having the conflict in the first place — maybe I missed it in the first few pages? I wasn’t sure if it was because she didn’t grow up in that environment or she lost it along the way, so her religious transformation didn’t leave a mark in me as much as I wanted it to. I do like the romantic dynamics explained in this novel, though, especially the concept of After Care. Ever wondered why some guys act so sweet and do something special and then disappear afterwards (and it drives us crazy that we over think so much)? That is after care. :P I’d leave you to read the book to understand what it is, but if you’re really curious, I may just explain it off the review. :P

This is a cute and fluffy read, and the romance was nice and well-developed, too. However, I felt a bit underwhelmed by the end. I was waiting for a big “oomph”, a big conflict that would wreak havoc with Emma and Jackson and everything they worked for, but I felt like it never came. I also felt that Emma’s diabetes wasn’t properly spotlighted, but maybe that wasn’t really the point of the story, so I could let that go. I just didn’t find the game-changing (and sometimes tears-inducing) climax that I found in the other Christian chick lit books I read this year in this one, so that part just kind of made this just okay. It wasn’t bad, I wasn’t disappointed, but I felt that it needed a bit more to make it more memorable.

Always the Baker, Never the Bride is already out paperback. Thanks to Netgalley for the ebook ARC!

Rating: