Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Quick Book Reviews: Inside Hudson Pickle and Bookishly Ever After

Inside Hudson Pickle by Yolanda Ridge
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Review

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

Hudson Pickle is a teenage boy struggling with growing up; he has a growth spurt that no only has him towering over his friends, it gets him cut from the hockey team, his favorite sport and the one thing that he thinks identifies him. He also has no idea who his father is and while it might not have been an issue in years past, it is becoming more and more important to him to know who he was and what he was like. His mom wants to protect him from the realities of life and Hudson feels like he is old enough to have his questions answered. He is not a little kid and resents being treated like one. (Despite the friction between Hudson and his mother, it does not create a rift between them that cannot be bridged). 
Ridge does a really good job of writing in the voice of a seventh grade boy who is trying to figure out who he is, friendships that change, his mom and girls. There is of course the bully that Hudson and his friend Trevor must deal with and I really like how Ridge shows the duo dealing with him and realizing that he is not someone to fear and how they stand up for themselves. 
The ending was pretty good: Hudson finds a new sport to love and has repaired his friendship with his best friend, and yet, it felt like there is more to Hudson's story. 

This is definitely a book that I would let my son read: drug use, bullying, lying are dealt with in the book but done in a way that one, doesn't glorify the activities and two, opens the door to discussions on these issues that teens today are facing. Talking about them through a fictional character is one of the best ways to broach the subject in a way that is safe and allows them to open up in a way that is less threatening than talking about real-life people they know. 

I gave this book: 

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


Bookishly Ever After (Ever After, #1)

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Review

It pains me to give this book one star; however, if I'm being honest, I just did not enjoy it. 

I was excited about this book: a bookworm who ends up falling for a friend - that is right up my alley.

And yet, Phoebe drove me absolutely bonkers. I didn't feel like she was a particularly strong heroine, despite her desire to be. 

I don't want to go too much into why I didn't like this book. I think much of it can be attributed to the fact that I am an adult mom and this is a YA book that you need to be a teenager to actually enjoy. Just don't think it is anywhere close to reality. It's a fairy tale.

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

I gave this book: 

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

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Anne of Green Gables: A Graphic Novel, A Review

Anne of Green Gables: A Graphic Novel
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Book Description

Schoolyard rivalries. Baking disasters. Puffed sleeves. Explore the violet vales and glorious green of Avonlea in this spirited adaptation.

The spirit of Anne is alive and well in Mariah Marsden's crisp adaptation, and it's a thrill to watch as the beloved orphan rushes headlong through Brenna Thummler's heavenly landscapes. Together Marsden and Thummler conjure all the magic and beauty of Green Gables. Like Anne herself, you won't want to leave.
 — Brian Selznick, author/illustrator of “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” and “The Marvels”


The magic of L.M. Montgomery’s treasured classic is reimagined in a whimsically-illustrated graphic novel adaptation perfect for newcomers and kindred spirits alike.

When Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert decide to adopt an orphan who can help manage their family farm, they have no idea what delightful trouble awaits them. With flame-red hair and an unstoppable imagination, 11-year-old Anne Shirley takes Green Gables by storm.

Anne’s misadventures bring a little romance to the lives of everyone she meets: her bosom friend, Diana Barry; the town gossip, Mrs. Lynde; and that infuriating tease, Gilbert Blythe. From triumphs and thrills to the depths of despair, Anne turns each everyday moment into something extraordinary.


Review

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

A thoroughly enjoyable adaptation of a beloved novel. Anne of Green Gables is such a beautifully written story and is so dear to my heart that I wanted to read this...but I was a little hesitant as well. (The new Netflix adaptation of Anne is not a favorite for me). I like my Anne with all her quirks and spunk to retain her positive outlook on life. It's one of her strengths.
Marsden did a fabulous job of pulling out the highlights of the book and reworking them into a graphic novel format while retaining some of the beautiful and lyrical language of L.M. Montgomery. It is Anne, and Marilla, and Matthew, and Diana, and Gil, and Josie, and Rachel Lynde that you find in the pages of the original novel. I know these characters and I know this story - that background definitely added to my enjoyment of the book. It's hard to say for sure how someone who hasn't read the novel would experience this, but I imagine that they would find a kindred spirit in Anne and want to read the series.
The only reason I didn't give that fifth star was the artwork. I think Thummler did a great job based on my limited exposure to this genre; it is certainly in keeping with the style of other graphic novels I've read. While the background or landscape scenes were lovely, I wished the scenes with the characters would have showcased more of the softness and elegance that I associate with Avonlea, PEI and the time period in general. The novel has a very idyllic feel to me and I didn't feel like all of the artwork captured that.* That is just my personal preference and I still enjoyed this very much!

*Not related to this review, but the blurb mentions that Thummler is working on her own graphic novel, which I would pick and read.
I gave this book: 

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

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Wish Me Home by Kay Bratt, A Review

Wish Me Home
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Book Description

In her first work of contemporary women’s fiction, bestselling author Kay Bratt draws on her own life experiences to create a raw, yet inescapably warm, novel about friendship and a wary heart’s unexpected capacity to love.
A hungry, stray dog is the last thing Cara Butter needs. Stranded in Georgia with only her backpack and a few dwindling dollars, she already has too much baggage. Like her twin sister, Hana, who has broken Cara’s heart one too many times. After a lifetime of family troubles, and bouncing from one foster home to another, Cara decides to leave it all behind and strike out alone—on foot.
Cara sets off to Florida to see the home of her literary hero, Ernest Hemingway, accompanied only by Hemi, the stray dog who proves to be the perfect travel companion. But the harrowing trip takes unexpected turns as strangers become friends who make her question everything, and Cara finds that as the journey unfolds, so does her life—in ways she could never imagine.
Review


This is one of those books that is going to stay with me for a long time. It was a suggestion from my Kindle Unlimited yet is a book that I would absolutely read again and would like to add to my actual book collection.
The book opens and you know Cara is on the run, but you don't know why...and I loved how Bratt would give small glimpses every once in awhile about what might be driving Cara down the road, but it isn't until close the end that you discover what was the catalyst for her running. She quickly meets Hemi, a stray dog who seems to know that he definitely needs her and she needs him despite her early resistance. The connection between woman and dog is so immediate and deep, I felt I wanted to just reach into the pages and snatch them both up to safety. Another element that I loved were the people that Cara met on her journey. Along the way, Cara meets amazing people who show her kindness and generosity; not only is Cara feeling like humanity is not all bad, as a reader, I was also encouraged that so many people would be willing to overlook the outward appearance and sacrifice their time and resources to help her and Hemi. At each point, I thought: here will be home for her, only to see her continue on. Her persistence to reach her destination is what makes her such a strong and likeable character. And then the last part of the book explores Cara being willing to stop and look at the possibility of making a home. I don't want to give anything away but I thought Bratt did an excellent job exploring her hesitation and then her desire to trust and open up and to finally decide to face the past but not be pulled back into the past.
To sum it up: I loved Cara. I loved Hemi. I loved the secondary characters that had such depth and warmth and love despite only being a very small portion of the book. I loved Bratt's writing - it was beautiful and poignant and funny and heart-wrenching and insightful.  I can't recommend enough that you read this book.

I gave this book: 

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

Friday, August 25, 2017

Sam Callahan Series, A Review

The Tracker (Sam Callahan #1)     Shadow Shepherd (Sam Callahan #2)
Sam Callahan Series
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Book Description

The Tracker (Sam Callahan #1)  Trust no one. Sam Callahan learned this lesson from a childhood spent in abusive foster care, on the streets, and locked in juvie. With the past behind him and his future staked on law school, he is moonlighting as a political tracker, paid to hide in crowds and shadow candidates, recording their missteps for use by their opponents. One night, after an anonymous text tip, Sam witnesses a congressional candidate and a mysterious blonde in a motel indiscretion that ends in murder, recording it all on his phone.

Now Sam is a target. Set up to take the fall and pursued by both assassins and the FBI, he is forced to go on the run. Using the street skills forged during his troubled youth—as well as his heightened mental abilities—Sam goes underground until he can uncover who is behind the conspiracy and how far up it goes. A taut thriller with an unforgettable young hero, The Tracker is a heart-stopping debut from an exciting new voice.

Shadow Shepherd (Sam Callahan #2)  As a former political tracker with a brand-new law degree, Sam Callahan has turned his life around, leaving behind a childhood ravaged by abuse and a fatally dangerous job shadowing political candidates. Now a lawyer, Sam hopes for a risk-free future, but harm’s way has a much longer reach than he could ever expect.
His very first legal client is gunned down in a Mexico City hotel, and Sam barely dodges a bullet himself. Suddenly on everyone’s most-wanted list—brutal hit men, hostile cops, relentless FBI agents, and even an infamous assassin—he doesn’t have the luxury of finding out why.
When Sam’s girlfriend is dragged into the fray by a kidnapper, Sam would do anything to save her life. The catch? He’s got only twenty-four hours to do it…but any number of ways to die.

Review

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

Kindle Unlimited suggested The Tracker as a book I might enjoy - and I did.  I thought Sam was a likeable character: he's a modern-day Horatio Alger hero who has faced hardship and poverty but was fighting for a life other than what he had. From the beginning, the plot grabs you with who, what, why? On just the aspect of the political/lawyer thriller, the plot is good and has some unseen twists and turns. On top of that, Zunker does quite a bit of character building with flashbacks to Sam's childhood and youth. While this book isn't marketed as a faith-based book there are elements of Christianity in the story that I also enjoyed; Zunker added this element in a genuine, raw, grace-filled way instead of as extra fluff or sugary sweetness. I knew that there was the potential for the book to launch a series and that I wanted to see how faith would continue to impact Sam as he grew into adulthood.
When I saw the sequel, Shadow Shepherd, appear on NetGalley, I quickly requested it and was happy to not have to wait any longer to catch up with Sam. With this book, Zunker switches from first person to third person. I tend to enjoy first person less but it didn't drive me crazy like many do. It definitely worked in the first book to show how quickly Sam was having to act and react as the story unfolded. The move to third person added more detail and depth as the story unfolded. It was a nice shift but it does give a slightly different experience as a reader: instead of knowing just a little, you have a broader view. All that to say, I enjoyed the second book as well. The mystery of this book felt a little more disconnected and then suddenly it was the end. I felt a little cheated by the resolution, although I do understand that it's not so much an ending as a pause to transition to the next book. What I really loved about Shadow Shepherd was seeing Sam working as a lawyer and how his relationships with the people in his life are growing/changing/ending. I can't wait to know what's next for Sam and how he is going to continue to grow and face the challenges that are sure to come.

I gave The Tracker
I gave Shadow Shepherd

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

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Art of Hiding by Amanda Prowse, A Review

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Book Description

What would you do if you learned that the life you lived was a lie?
Nina McCarrick lives the perfect life, until her husband, Finn, is killed in a car accident and everything Nina thought she could rely on unravels.
Alone, bereft and faced with a mountain of debt, Nina quickly loses her life of luxury and she begins to question whether she ever really knew the man she married. Forced to move out of her family home, Nina returns to the rundown Southampton council estate—and the sister—she thought she had left far behind.
But Nina can’t let herself be overwhelmed—her boys need her. To save them, and herself, she will have to do what her husband discouraged for so long: pursue a career of her own. Torn between the life she thought she knew and the reality she now faces, Nina finally must learn what it means to take control of her life.
Bestselling author Amanda Prowse once again plumbs the depths of human experience in this stirring and empowering tale of one woman’s loss and love.
Review

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

There is something so real and raw and authentic about the characters in Prowse's work. This is the second of her books I've read this year. She went on my favorite author list after completing The Idea of You earlier this spring; her spot is cemented after reading this book.

Nina loses her husband unexpectedly due to a car crash and before she can fully comprehend that he isn't coming home, she learns that not only is the stronghold of their family unit gone, they entire life system is gone and she must figure out how to survive.  With two sons, she can't hide in bed as she desires - instead, Nina digs deep and finds a source of strength and aptitude to take each day and fight to provide stability and security for her sons, Conner and Declan as they each seek to find a new normal while grieving in their own individual ways.

Nina loves flowers and there is one scene where her teenage son left a mason jar of dandelions on the counter for her to cheer her up one evening. Everything leading up to that moment was so intense - I could not help crying as I read that (it even makes me teary eyed now).

I love how the book begins with Nina's insecurity and anxieties and ends with her so strong and determined and a real sense of knowing what she is capable of.

I highly recommend this book. It is on my Best of 2017 list.

I would like to thank NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for allowing me to review an eARC of this book.

I gave this book: 

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


Want to Know More?
You can visit Amanda Prowse's youTube channel where she has several videos posted a few years ago that talk about a past release as well as one on her writing habits.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

12 Days at Bleakly Manor, A Review

12 Days at Bleakly Manor (Once Upon a Dickens Christmas #1)
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Book Description

When CLARA CHAPMAN receives an intriguing invitation to spend Christmas at an English manor home, she is hesitant yet compelled to attend—for if she remains the duration of the twelve-day celebration, she is promised a sum of one thousand pounds. That’s enough money to bring her brother back from America and reinstate their stolen family fortune. But is she walking into danger? It appears so, especially when she comes face to face with one of the other guests—her former fiancĂ©, BENJAMIN LANE.

Imprisoned unjustly, Ben wants revenge on whoever stole his honor. When he’s given the chance to gain his freedom, he jumps at it—and is faced with the anger of the woman he stood up at the altar.

Brought together under mysterious circumstances for the Twelve Days of Christmas, Clara and Ben discover that what they've been striving for isn't what ultimately matters. What matters most is what Christmas is all about . . . love.

Review

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

I'm a sucker for a second-chance love story. This book follows Clara and Ben as they battle to overcome past hurts and bitterness. Several times, Clara asks: "Why God, why?" for various hardships and disappointments that she must face. This resonated with me since I think it's something we can all identify with in one way or another. Early on in the reading, as characters are introduced and the plot progresses, it felt like a cross between Clue (the boardgame) and And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. I felt sure that the master of Bleakly Manor would appear, but alas, Griep only gave a slight tease as to who he was.  Overall I enjoyed this story very much; I love sweet Christmas romance stories and this one with a mix of intrigue was refreshing.

I gave this book: 

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

Want to Know More?

I haven't read any of Griep's work previously but will be checking out her other work after reading the 12 Days at Bleakly Manor. 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Writing Desk by Rachel Hauck

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Book Description

Tenley Roth’s first book was a literary and commercial success. Now that her second book is due, she’s locked in fear. Can she repeat her earlier success or is she a fraud who merely found a bit of luck?

With pressure mounting from her publisher, Tenley is weighted with writer’s block. But when her estranged mother calls asking Tenley to help her through chemotherapy, she packs up for Florida where she meets handsome furniture designer Jonas Sullivan and discovers the story her heart’s been missing.

Born during the Gilded Age, Birdie Shehorn is the daughter of the old money Knickerbockers. Yet her life is not her own. Under the strict control of her mother, her every move is decided ahead of time, even whom she’ll marry. But Birdie has dreams of her own. She wants to tell stories, write novels, make an impact on the world. When she discovers her mother has literally destroyed her dreams, she must choose between submission and security or forging a brand new way all on her own.

Tenley and Birdie are from two very different worlds. Yet when Tenley discovers Birdie’s manuscript, their lives intersect. Birdie’s words help Tenley find a way home. Tenley brings Birdie’s writing to the world.

Can two women separated by time help fulfill each other’s destiny?

Review

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

Rachel Hauck is one of my favorite authors and her newest book did not disappoint. The Writing Desk follows modern day Tenley Roth as well as Gilded Age heiress Birdie Shehorn. While the book jumps between their points-of-view, it wasn't difficult to keep track of the time period or their perspective. There was a third character's  (Eli, Birdie's love interest) point of view thrown in but not as consistently; while this didn't make it hard to follow along, it did seem slightly random. 
Tenley comes from a line of authors who have achieved great critical and commercial success. She has one best seller and is facing a looming deadline for her second book with a severe case of writer's block, which is fueled by her lack of confidence in her abilities and ultimately, her purpose in life. Birdie is a privileged young lady of means whose father sent her to Wellesley but upon her graduation is expected to make a good marriage match based on money and social power. She has submitted a novel to a publisher who declined her manuscript which has gone missing. As the story progresses, we learn that Birdie continues to write yet never receives recognition for her work. In addition to this, both women have strained relationships with their mothers; and both must determine the importance of love in a marriage. Hauck did an incredible job exploring these issues. As always, her books have an element of faith and Birdie and Tenley both come to know Jesus in a more personal and real way. Sometimes this can feel very forced in a book. Hauck weaves the women's relationship with God and their growing faith into the storyline in a natural way.  
I loved The Writing Desk! The parallels between Tenley and Birdie are so strong despite the fact that their story is not exactly the same.  While I was given the opportunity to review this book by the publisher, I intend to add this to my permanent collection. 

I gave this book: 

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


Want to Know More?
Visit Rachel's website for more information on her books or follow her on Instagram where she posts many inspirational quotes.

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I first discovered Rachel Hauck with Once Upon a Prince which is the first book in The Royal Wedding Series. Read this book too - and then the rest of the series. The heroines are spunky and strong and the heroes are true throwback gentlemen. 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Argyle Fox, A Review

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Book Description


Argyle Fox, with his signature style, wants to play outside on a springtime day, but the wind is wreaking havoc with his fun and games. As soon as he builds a card tower, climbs into a giant spider web, or takes up his pirate sword, here comes the wind: Woosh!

Mama Fox tells grumpy Argyle that if he thinks long enough, he will come up with something to do. Following his mother’s suggestion and inspired by her knitting, he works all the pieces of his day together and creates the perfect solution.

The story of Argyle teaches that failure is often a path to success and celebrates perseverance, creative thinking, and an old-fashioned springtime activity.

Review

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

What an absolutely delightful book! Argyle Fox longs to play outside and has so many great ideas: building a card tower, scary spider and web, pirate and soccer. The wind disrupts each of his activities and his frustration becomes evident. Like most young children, he eventually gives in to pouting and sitting. His mother encourages him to think through the problem and come up with an activity that he can do in the wind. Eventually, Argyle comes up with the perfect solution!
This book has beautiful illustrations done in gouache paint that are only part of why I love this book. There are so many details to draw in the reader and young children will see details in each page. 
A big focus in education right now is fostering a growth mindset; problem solving is a big part of that movement and in this book, we see Argyle Fox face discouragement but then working through a problem until he finds a solution. This book will be wonderful with young readers to plant the seeds of overcoming problems and with older readers who can make even more text-to-self connections and open dialogue on problem-solving. 
I gave this book: 

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


Want to Know More?
You can visit Marie Letourneau's website to find more information about Argyle Fox and other books she has written and/or illustrated.