Monday, May 25, 2020

Eight Princesses and a Magic Mirror by Natasha Farrant, A Review

Eight Princesses and a Magic Mirror
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Book Description

“Mirror, mirror on the wall . . . what makes a princess excellent?” When an enchantress flings her magic mirror into our universe, its reflection reveals princesses who refuse to be just pretty, polite, and obedient. These are girls determined to do the rescuing themselves. Princess Leila of the desert protects her people from the king with the black-and-gold banner; Princess Tica takes a crocodile for a pet; Princess Ellen explores the high seas; Princess Abayome puts empathy and kindness above being royal; and in a tower block, Princess saves her community’s beloved garden from the hands of urban developers.

Connecting these stories is the magic mirror, which reveals itself when each girl needs it most, illuminating how a princess’s power comes not from her title or beauty, but from her own inner strength. These beautifully imagined stories, complemented by vibrant and inviting artwork, offer the pleasure and familiarity of traditional tales with refreshingly modern themes.

Review

I received a dARC copy of this book from the publisher. Here is my honest review.

I did not finish the book entirely before my copy expired in Adobe Digital Reader but I did read three of the stories. I was first captivated by the beautiful illustrations in this book. They gave it a very Middle Ages, illustrated manuscript feel with a modern execution. They are definitely what makes this book special and perfect as a gift for a young girl.
I also appreciated that the book wove many elements of fairy tales throughout the stories. The three stories I read were very unique from each other but were all connected through the magic mirror. I think the stories not only have the adventure of a fairy tale but the moral character lessons as well that is important to the original genre.




I gave this book: 
Based on the 3 that I stories that I read and if the rest of the book holds true to the beginning, it would be a 5 star read for me.

★ = I did not like it     ★ = It was okay     ★ = I liked it    ★ = I really liked it     ★ = I loved it

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Hello, Summer by Mary Kay Andrews, A Review

Hello, Summer by [Mary Kay Andrews]

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Book Description

New York Times bestselling author and Queen of the Beach Reads Mary Kay Andrews delivers her next blockbuster, Hello Summer.

It’s a new season...

Conley Hawkins left her family’s small town newspaper, The Silver Bay Beacon, in the rearview mirror years ago. Now a star reporter for a big-city paper, Conley is exactly where she wants to be and is about to take a fancy new position in Washington, D.C. Or so she thinks.

For small town scandals...

When the new job goes up in smoke, Conley finds herself right back where she started, working for her sister, who is trying to keep The Silver Bay Beacon afloat—and she doesn’t exactly have warm feelings for Conley. Soon she is given the unenviable task of overseeing the local gossip column, “Hello, Summer.”

And big-time secrets.

Then Conley witnesses an accident that ends in the death of a local congressman—a beloved war hero with a shady past. The more she digs into the story, the more dangerous it gets. As an old heartbreaker causes trouble and a new flame ignites, it soon looks like their sleepy beach town is the most scandalous hotspot of the summer.

Review

I received an dARC copy of this book from the publisher. Here is my honest review.

There is a reason Andrews novels consistently top the best seller list: she is a phenomenal story teller.  While I think her characters lean towards cliche rather than deep development, the story is full of twists and turns. This story not only has the main mystery (or is it) to be solved, but two other sinister plots develop alongside Conley's attempt to get answers. I'm not sure how they actually tied in to the story and helped the plot along to be honest. As a masterful twist, I'm left wondering if the truth about the congressman's death was actually revealed. I still have questions about events in the book - I'm not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing. 

All that being said, this is an engaging story with a bit of mystery and a bit of family dynamics and a bit of romance. 





I gave this book: 

★ = I did not like it     ★ = It was okay     ★ = I liked it    ★ = I really liked it     ★ = I loved it

Thursday, May 7, 2020

The Super Miraculous Journey of Freddie Yates by Jenny Pearson, A Review

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Book Description

Facts are everything to eleven-year-old Freddie Yates: once you know a fact it’s yours to keep. After his grandmother dies and Freddie discovers his biological father might be alive and well in Wales, he decides to follow the facts. Together with his best friends Ben and Charlie, he sneaks off on the adventure of a lifetime (or at least, the summer holidays) to track down Freddie’s father.


Freddie doesn’t expect any miracles—they’re not real, after all. But when the three unwittingly set off a chain of inexplicable events via an onion-eating competition, a couple of superhero costumes, and some very angry antique thieves, Freddie discovers that some things can’t always be explained—and sometimes what you’re looking for has been with you the whole time.


Propulsive and hilarious, The Super Miraculous Journey of Freddie Yates is a heartwarming story about the true meaning of family.

Review

I received an eARC copy of this book from the publisher. Here is my honest review.

This is a tough book to review. As an adult, I enjoy middle grade fiction and overall, I liked this book. It did take some work to convince myself that these eleven year old boys could set off on an adventure of this magnitude. From an adult perspective, it's unbelievable. 
But this book isn't written for adults, it's written for kids, and if I review this book from the angle that it is for middle grade readers, it is much better. I do think older elementary readers would enjoy this book. They want to be taken seriously and the logistics of the adventure would not be an element that would throw them off. The wacky events are appealing and full of fun.
There were two things that I especially liked in this book: the friendship between the boys and the message about family.  In closing, The Super Miraculous Journey of Freddie Yates is a book that will leave you feeling good at the end.


I gave this book: 

★ = I did not like it     ★ = It was okay     ★ = I liked it    ★ = I really liked it     ★ = I loved it

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Silent Shadows by Natalie Walters, A Review

Silent Shadows (Harbored Secrets #3)


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Book Description

Pecca Gallegos moved to the tiny town of Walton, Georgia, to protect her son and escape the dangerous lifestyle that once defined her. When a series of strange circumstances evolve into threats, Pecca finds herself confiding in an unlikely ally--her stubborn patient.

Army veteran Colton Crawford is desperate to recover from the undiagnosed disorder that is ruining his life, and his instincts are on high alert when threats against his nurse and her son force him to take action. But Colton's involvement only ramps up the danger when he uncovers a family secret revealing that whoever is after Pecca is closer--and more deadly--than they realized.

With this suspenseful new story, Natalie Walters welcomes you once more to Walton, Georgia, where everyone knows your name--but no one knows your secret.

Review

I received an ARC copy of this book from the publisher. Here is my honest review.

Silent Shadows was an interesting read, it is heavy on the suspense, light on the romance. I found the story engaging enough to keep reading to find out who was threatening Pecca but not exciting enough that I couldn't put it down. In fact, I was reading another mystery/thriller at the same time and that was the story I kept wanting to go to. If I had not already been reading the other book, my engagement with Silent Shadows  might have been more. Spoiler: highlight to read. Of the three main characters - Pecca, Colton and Juan Pablo - I found the villain, Juan Pablo to be more interesting. Pecca and Colton both have issues that are genuine, but Walters developed their characters in a very shallow manner. I thought Juan Pablo was more interesting as a character: who was he exactly, what was his motivation? I was quite disappointed that he ended up being a bad guy and not a bad guy who was trying to set up the real bad guy and would redeem himself. 
Overall, I found the plot to be predictable, which is not necessarily a bad thing. My one issue with this book is the insta-romance between Pecca and Colton. They are both nice people and would have been an interesting love story if that has been the focus rather than a major portion of the book being devoted to the danger facing Pecca. 





I gave this book: 

★ = I did not like it     ★ = It was okay     ★ = I liked it    ★ = I really liked it     ★ = I loved it

Sunday, March 22, 2020

The Blue Cloak, a review

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Book Description

Fiction Based on Strange, But True, History
 
True, riveting stories of American criminal activity are explored through unique stories of historical romantic suspense. Collect them all and be inspired by the hope that always finds its way even in the darkest of times.
 
Based on real events beginning in 1797 — Rachel Taylor lives a rather mundane existence at the way station her family runs along the Wilderness Road in Tennessee. She attends her friend’s wedding only to watch it dissolve in horror has the groom, Wiley Harpe, and his cousin become murderers on the run, who drag their families along. Declaring a “war on all humanity,” the Harpes won’t be stopped, and Ben Langford is on their trail to see if his own cousin was one of their latest victims. How many will die before peace can return to the frontier?

Review

I received an eARC copy of this book from the publisher. Here is my honest review.

My local book club read The Gray Chamber last month which introduced me to this series. I like the idea of historical fiction set around mysteries or injustices of the past. When I saw The Blue Cloak centered around (the first) serial killers, I knew I needed to read it, although I wasn't sure if it would deliver the same tense suspense in a book set during modern times. Evil has always existed and though the time period lacks our modern conveniences, evil still existed in cruel and unthinkable ways.
It can be hard to write historical fiction that feels as if it is a true account (or as true as can reasonably be expected with limited primary sources to pull from) and McNear has done that. She includes all the key historical players while telling the story from the viewpoint of two fictional characters. She also manages to weave faith and God's grace in multiple storylines.

I will definitely look for more books in this series as well as read more from McNear.




I gave this book: 

★ = I did not like it     ★ = It was okay     ★ = I liked it    ★ = I really liked it     ★ = I loved it

Friday, March 6, 2020

My Long List of Impossible Things by Michelle Barker, A Review

My Long List of Impossible Things
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Book Description

A brilliant historical YA that asks: how do you choose between survival and doing the right thing?

The arrival of the Soviet army in Germany at the end of World War II sends sixteen-year-old Katja and her family into turmoil. The fighting has stopped, but German society is in collapse, resulting in tremendous hardship. With their father gone and few resources available to them, Katja and her sister are forced to flee their home, reassured by their mother that if they can just reach a distant friend in a town far away, things will get better. But their harrowing journey brings danger and violence, and Katja needs to summon all her strength to build a new life, just as she’s questioning everything she thought she knew about her country.

Katja’s bravery and defiance help her deal with the emotional and societal upheaval. But how can she stay true to herself and protect the people she loves when each decision has such far-reaching consequences?

Acclaimed writer Michelle Barker’s second novel explores the chaos and destruction of the Second World War from a perspective rarely examined in YA fiction—the implications of the Soviet occupation on a German population grappling with the horrors of Nazism and its aftermath.

Review

I received an eARC copy of this book from the publisher. Here is my honest review.

My Long List of Impossible Things offers a unique perspective in the World War II historical fiction genre. Our heroine, Katja, is older, a teenager, rather than an adult or a child/tween. While her family wasn't pro-Nazi, they were complacent in the sense that they did their best to stay out of the fray. The story begins after the Germans have been defeated and the Soviets are sweeping through, pillaging and seeking revenge as they restore order. Even though the war is over, Katja, along with her mother and sister, are forced to flee their home. They set off for a distant "relative"; they encounter hardship on the journey and the girls are forced to continue without their mother. They must rely on subterfuge to reach safety. Once arriving at their destination, they shroud themselves in half-truths in order to gain refuge. 

In the vein of The Tatooist of Auschwitz, this book tackles the question: What would you do to survive? Some will view Katja and her sister's actions with distaste while others will see the practicality in using whatever advantage one has. Every character in this book has flaws that shape their actions. Each of them have secrets and seem to approach their relationships with an attitude of what's in it for me? Which is interesting because I tend to think this attitude has only begun to exist since the 1980s. 

Katja is a pianist, who had much promise and big dreams. Barker effectively wove music through the story. I found myself pulling up the pieces she mentioned to play in the background. Katja keeps a running mental list of random, significant and insignificant things in her world. This was the other element that I enjoyed most in the book. 



I gave this book: 

★ = I did not like it     ★ = It was okay     ★ = I liked it    ★ = I really liked it     ★ = I loved it

Friday, February 28, 2020

On That Easter Morning, A Review

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Book Description

Rediscover the wonder of the first Easter morning...

Alison Jay has illustrated many books for children, and her beautiful paintings are instantly recognizable. In this book see the death and resurrection story of Jesus interpreted in her own unique style, using vignettes, borders and full page art to accompany a sincere retelling of the Easter story.

There are many intriguing people, animals and landscapes to look at along the way, bursting with new details to find with a young child, as you share the story of that special morning.

Review

I received an eARC copy of this book from the publisher. Here is my honest review.

This picture book does an incredible job telling the story of Jesus' death and resurrection. I appreciate that the Pasquali stayed true to the biblical text when writing this account for children. She is able to take biblical text, which is broken up into different "scenes" and weave them together into a story that flows well together. This is helpful for young children as they learn about the time leading up to Jesus' death and His subsequent resurrection. I believe it will capture their interest and keep them engaged in a much richer than if they were simply read the text from the Bible. 
I also liked how the author took phrases from the Bible that might be hard for young children to understand and phrased them in a way that will help them comprehend the story. For example, the Biblical text says the soldiers cast lots to see who would keep Jesus' clothes. Pasquali's account says the soldiers "played a game", which is a concept that young children will understand. 

As an early childhood educator, my one caution about this book is the length of the text. For young children, there is a lot of text. My initial reaction was hesitancy to purchase this book for our school. I am reminded however of how much our students love Bible time and are often at their stillest when listening to Bible stories. The power of God's word, coupled with lovely illustrations, I think actually makes this a book that would be enjoyed by children of all ages.


As an early childhood educator, my one caution about this book is the length of the text. For young children, there is a lot of text. My initial reaction was hesitancy to purchase this book for our school. I am reminded however of how much our students love Bible time and are often at their stillest when listening to Bible stories. The power of God's word, coupled with lovely illustrations, I think actually makes this a book that would be enjoyed by children of all ages.

I gave this book: 

★ = I did not like it     ★ = It was okay     ★ = I liked it    ★ = I really liked it     ★ = I loved it

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Bitter Falls by Rachel Caine

Bitter Falls by Rachel Caine
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Book Description

In spite of a harrowing past still haunting her, Gwen Proctor is trying to move forward. Until a new assignment gives her purpose: the cold-case disappearance of a young man in Tennessee. Three years missing, no clues. Just Ruth Landry, a tortured mother in limbo. Gwen understands what it’s like to worry about your children.

Gwen’s investigation unearths new suspects…and victims. As she follows each sinister lead, the implications of the mystery grow more disturbing. Because the closer Gwen gets, the closer she is to a threat that looms back home.

In a town that’s closed its ranks against Gwen; her partner, Sam; and her kids, there’s no bolder enemy than the Belldene family—paramilitary, criminal, powerful, and vengeful. As personal vendettas collide with Gwen’s investigation, she’s prepared to fight both battles. But is she prepared for the toll it could take on everyone she loves?

Review

I received an eARC copy of this book from the publisher. Here is my honest review.

After the third book in the Stillhouse Lake series, which I enjoyed, I wondered if Caine would be able to continue the drama and danger that made the books so captivating now that the protagonist of the series was dead. Within the first sentence, it is clear that while Gwen no longer battles Melvin Royal, she will cross paths with another who is equally evil.

As in previous books, the Proctor family is flawed. Despite the trauma they have endured over recent years, they remain loyal to each and guided by a strong moral compass.

One of the reasons I enjoy this series is due to Caine's ability to pull you into the story in such a way that you feel as if you are actually the character, rather than an observer.

I finished this book just like I ended the others, satisfied that evil was at rest for moment, and anxious for the next part in story. (Write fast Rachel!)

*Note: This series must be read in order. If you haven't read the first book yet, go, right now, and pick up Stillhouse Lake. You're welcome.

I gave this book: 

★ = I did not like it     ★ = It was okay     ★ = I liked it    ★ = I really liked it     ★ = I loved it

Saturday, January 4, 2020

The Words Between Us by Erin Bartels

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Book Description

Robin Windsor has spent most of her life under an assumed name, running from her family's ignominious past. She thought she'd finally found sanctuary in her rather unremarkable used bookstore just up the street from the marina in River City, Michigan. But the store is struggling and the past is hot on her heels.

When she receives an eerily familiar book in the mail on the morning of her father's scheduled execution, Robin is thrown back to the long-lost summer she met Peter Flynt, the perfect boy who ruined everything. That book--a first edition Catcher in the Rye--is soon followed by the other books she shared with Peter nearly twenty years ago, with one arriving in the mail each day. But why would Peter be making contact after all these years? And why does she have a sinking feeling that she's about to be exposed all over again?

With evocative prose that recalls the classic novels we love, Erin Bartels pens a story that shows that words--the ones we say, the ones we read, and the ones we write--have more power than we imagine.

Review

I received an eARC copy of this book from the publisher. Here is my honest review.
This book was so much more than I expected. I saw books on the cover and thought, "Oh, I want to read that!", expecting it to take place in a bookstore and be a nice read.

It's so much more than that. Yes, there is a bookstore: that's all I was right about. Here are the elements I was not expecting out of a (what I thought would be) a fluffy read: a dying bookstore, a dual timeline, a grandmother that doesn't know what nurture is, convict parents. Oh, and let's not forget the crazy parrot.

That list is an odd mix - but trust me - they combine into a compelling story.  At times it seems hard to believe, and yet, we see it in real life all the time. To see Robin grow and finally face the truth about her parents and their crimes is gripping.  This isn't a thriller but it definitely had some plot twists that would rival the best of that genre.  Subtly woven throughout the story is the theme of forgiveness in addition to facing your demons and taking risks.

*Note: after reading this book, I flipped to the back cover and realized that I had read another Erin Bartels' book earlier in the year that also landed on my "best of" list for the year.  This author is now on my radar and I look forward to reading more of her work. 




I gave this book: 

★ = I did not like it     ★ = It was okay     ★ = I liked it    ★ = I really liked it     ★ = I loved it

Friday, January 3, 2020

The Glittering Hour by Iona Grey

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Book Description

Selina Lennox is a Bright Young Thing. Her life is a whirl of parties and drinking, pursued by the press and staying on just the right side of scandal, all while running from the life her parents would choose for her.
Lawrence Weston is a penniless painter who stumbles into Selina's orbit one night and can never let her go even while knowing someone of her stature could never end up with someone of his. Except Selina falls hard for Lawrence, envisioning a life of true happiness. But when tragedy strikes, Selina finds herself choosing what's safe over what's right.
Spanning two decades and a seismic shift in British history as World War II approaches, Iona Grey's The Glittering Hour is an epic novel of passion, heartache and loss.

Review

I received an eARC copy of this book from the publisher. Here is my honest review.

I remembered the first Iona Grey book I read and how much it impacted me so I did not hesitate to say yes to reading her latest.  Grey is a fabulous writer, able to capture human emotion accurately in the written word.  Read this book. It is likely that you will cry (I was sobbing at the end) but you will be better for it, for glimpsing a love and devotion that spans time and distance. 

Reviews for books that I loved at this level are difficult to write. I don't want to spoil anything and yet want to gush with all the details. One of the reasons I enjoyed this book is the language - Grey writes beautifully, which rich, enchanting words. It is so easy to picture the setting of each scene. This book features a dual timeline, which is also handled very well. 

If you enjoy Downton Abbey, this is a book that fits in with that era in history. 

I eagerly await Grey's next book - she has cemented herself on my auto-buy author list. 




I gave this book: 

★ = I did not like it     ★ = It was okay     ★ = I liked it    ★ = I really liked it     ★ = I loved it