Sunday, December 6, 2020

Nine by Rachelle Dekker, A Review

 

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Book Description

Zoe Johnson spent most of her life living in the shadows, never drawing attention to herself, never investing in people or places. But when a wide-eyed, bedraggled teenager with no memory walks into the diner where Zoe works, everything changes. Now, against her better judgment, Zoe, who has been trying to outrun her own painful memories of the past, finds herself attempting to help a girl who doesn't seem to have any past at all. The girl knows only one thing: she must reach a woman in Corpus Christi, Texas, hundreds of miles away, before the government agents who are searching for her catch up to them.

Award-winning author Rachelle Dekker throws you into the middle of the action and keeps the pressure on in this page-turning story that, asks Are we who the world says we are--or can we change our story and be something more?

Review

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

I wasn't sure what to expect from this book; the title intrigued me and so I requested a copy to review.

The beginning was strong - lots of action and just enough mystery to grab my attention. Characters that were appealing and a basic premise of good vs. evil.

But about the middle, the story really slowed down and seemed to just be repeating the same problems or concerns. The characters became unreliable for me as they began to make decisions that were counter-productive to their goal.

Finally, the ending came out of nowhere, it seemed like. And the budding romance - makes absolutely ZERO sense.

There were elements to the story that make it clear Dekker knows how to craft a novel. But the character development and the rushed, confusing ending left me a little disappointed. The other major flaw I saw was that while this is published by a Christian publishing house, I don't see much faith elements to the story. Perhaps they were so subtle that I missed them.


I gave this book: 

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




Saturday, August 29, 2020

A Dazzle of Diamonds by Liz Johnson

 A Dazzle of Diamonds (Georgia Coast Romance #3)

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Book Description

Best friends Penelope and Tucker have faced their share of challenges. But finding a lost treasure in time to clear his family's name and win him an election may uncover something they never expected.

Review

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

Best Friends to Lovers is one of my favorite romance tropes and I really liked Johnson's approach to this classic setup. While Tucker and Penelope have been friends for decades, there was none of the years of secret feelings that one or both had for the other They were truly just best friends. Penelope had an ex-fiance that broke her heart, Tucker had self-esteem issues that needed to be worked through as their relationship moved from friendship to romance. I did like how quickly they realized that something was there and pursued it. The mystery tied to past generations added a fun element to the story. The ending - was a happy ending, even if it wasn't a typical happy ending - which I appreciate!
This is a cute, light-hearted, HEA guaranteed romance book!




I gave this book: 

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

Monday, August 24, 2020

You Can Read by Helaine Becker

You Can ReadYou Can Read by Helaine Becker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oh my word, I love this book!!
Working in early childhood, there is nothing quite like watching a child learn to read. Their excitement and the sparkle in their eyes is pretty hard to beat.
I could see this book being used at the beginning of the year as an introduction to the journey students will take to become readers.

Personally, I see myself throughout this book. I typically read while I'm in the middle of cooking dinner and always have a book with me. I love the message that reading can be done anywhere. Hoffman is a genius with the illustrations: each location has a perfectly paired book with subtle humor. As an example, on the spread that highlights reading in the kitchen, the book's title is Just Try a Bite.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

The Black Midnight by Kathleen Y'Barbo

 The Black Midnight

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Book Description

Two Series of Murders Seem Mysteriously Connected
Step into True Colors -- a series of Historical Stories of Romance and American Crime

Could a series of murders in London in 1889 be related to unsolved murders in Austin, Texas, 1884? Queen Victoria wants to know and asks her granddaughter—who left the queen’s good graces by going off to America to become a Pinkerton agent—to quietly look for any connection. The catch is the queen doesn’t want her to do it alone. Alice Anne must find her former Pinkerton agent partner—now an attorney in Austin—and enlist him in the hunt. As the pair get closer to finding their suspect, their lives become endangered, but they refuse to be intimidated. Can this case be solved?

Review

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

I have read several books in this series and thoroughly enjoyed them. This book explores a series of unsolved murders in both Austin and London during the late 1800s. The Jack the Ripper cases are well known; as a native Texan, I was not aware of the slew of murders in Austin that many believe are connected to the Ripper cases. I read almost half the book the first night - mainly because I was trying to figure out if the main characters were completely fictitious. In past books, they are yet the details around the crime are well researched and key players from history appear in the story. In this book, there's just a few things that are hard to believe. First, Annie, the heroine, is written as a great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria. She either needs to truly be a granddaughter of the queen or should have been a much more distant relative. The other detail that really bothered me was the ending where Annie and her sister both seek to marry men outside of their social and economic circle and that it is easily allowed. I just don't buy it - not for the time in history. I believe women wanted more, but I don't believe that would be a choice women would be able to take, and certainly not royal women.
I really enjoyed the segment of the book that focused on the Austin murders; this series does such a good job of shedding light on historical crimes that would have been headlines in their time but that have also been forgotten. I wish there had been a little more time spent in London on the Ripper cases, but that's not the point of the story and of course, the killer has not been found. For such a complicated and well-known set of crimes, I like the way Y'Barbo handled the story.

This series is terrific for readers who love mystery and/or historical romance.


I gave this book: 

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

The Thing Lou Couldn't Do by Ashley Spires

The Thing Lou Couldn't DoThe Thing Lou Couldn't Do by Ashley Spires


Ashley Spires wrote/illustrated one of my all-time favorite picture books so I knew I wanted to check this one out as well. Young children often say they "can't do it". Spires book looks at Lou and her diverse group of friends to explore this topic. It starts with the many things Lou and her friends can do but transitions quickly to a problem that leaves Lou feeling unconfident and left out. It is typical of young children to encounter disagreements - both slight and great - as they organize their play. When the group consensus is to play pirates in the tree, Lou has a choice to make. She comes up with all sorts of reasons why she can't before acknowledging that she doesn't know how to climb a tree. Educators know how important it is that our students learn to tackle problems by looking for solutions and Lou models this as she brainstorms ways to get up in the tree.
As an educator, we focus quite a bit on how to build a growth mindset in our students. This book is an excellent addition to the classroom to help illustrate many of these concepts.

I received a dARC from the publisher via Netgalley*. Here is my honest review.
*expired. reviewed library book

I gave this book: 

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

Monday, August 17, 2020

Max the Brave by Ed Vere

Max the BraveMax the Brave by Ed Vere
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I requested this book on Netgalley years ago. Years. I've read it several times at our preschool over the years. Kids love it because they know more than Max as he tries to learn what a mouse is so he can chase it. As an educator, I love it because it is a great way to talk about being brave! In my opinion, a good picture uses rich vocabulary. All the animals Max encounters have seen the mouse and they use a wide variety of words to explain the mouse's movement: scurry, dash, skitter and more.
Illustrations are easily my favorite part of picture books - and Vere's use of bold colors and then simple, black, shadow-style renderings for the characters is appealing. There is not a lot of detail in the artwork, and yet there is a great deal of movement on each page.

I received a dARC from the publisher via Netgalley.* Here is my honest review.
*expired. reviewed copy from school 

I gave this book: 

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

Sunday, August 16, 2020

The Way Home in the Night by Akiko Miyakoshi, A Review

The Way Home in the Night by Akiko Miyakoshi

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Book Description

A mother rabbit and her young bunny are on their way home in the dark night. "My mother carries me through the quiet streets," the bunny explains. "Most of our neighbors are already home." The bunny can see their lights in the windows, and hear and smell what they might be doing: talking on the phone, pulling a pie out of the oven, having a party, saying goodbye. When they reach home, the father rabbit tucks the bunny into bed. But the bunny continues to wonder about the neighbors' activities. "Are the party guests saying goodnight? Is the person on the phone getting ready for bed?" And what of the footsteps that can be heard in the street as the bunny falls asleep? "Will she take the last train home?"

This beautiful picture book captures the magical wonder a child feels at being outside in the night. Award-winning author and illustrator Akiko Miyakoshi's softly focused black-and-white illustrations with just a touch of neutral color have a dreamlike quality, just right for nodding off to sleep with. The book is intriguing in that it contains twice-told stories, once as they are observed and second as the bunny imagines them. This offers a perfect prompt for young children to create extensions of other stories they have read or heard. A deeper reading could encourage critical thinking by comparing the different pastimes of the neighbors or, ultimately, what it means to be home.
 

Review

It would be easy to dismiss this book because of the text simplicity and the dark illustrations. And what a loss that would be. The illustrations of a picture book are an important component; Miyakoshi conveys the quietness and isolation of the night through the pencil and charcoal illustrations. 

As an educator, I see two great uses for this book in the classroom. First, it is an excellent example to use in teaching the concept of value and shading in art as well as leading to discussions about how drawings, a two-dimensional object, can convey emotion and setting.  This book would also be an excellent addition to any study on community.

I received a dArC from the publisher via Netgalley*. This is my honest review.
*expired: library edition reviewed


I gave this book: 

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

Friday, August 14, 2020

What Really Matters: Faith, Hope, Love: 365 Daily Devotions from Our Daily Bread - A Review

 What Really Matters: Faith, Hope, Love: 365 Daily Devotions from Our Daily Bread

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Book Description

What Really Matters invites you to discover what the Bible says about faith, hope, and love—and why these vital concepts are significant to your relationships with God and others. This 365-day devotional collection includes a combination of Scripture, engaging stories, and compelling quotes to encourage you in your daily walk with the Lord.
 
You’ll find life-changing truths in this treasury of wisdom from the writers of Our Daily Bread—truths that will encourage you to . . .
  •  put your trust in the Sovereign Lord.
  • increase your passion for God.
  • share His amazing love with others.
Discover how you you can move forward in life with confident hope, as you grow in your understanding of what really matters to God.

Review

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

What Really Matters is a terrific devotional book. As a long-time Christian I found it beneficial in keeping my faith firmly rooted. I think it would also be great for a new Christian as they read over and over about the truth's of God's love for us.
One aspect I really appreciated was each day prompted you to read a passage of scripture first. God's word is truth and the inclusion to read it I feel makes this a strong devotional to help one know God deeper rather than just be encouraged. 
I received a dARC from the publisher via Netgalley. While that version is fine, I wanted a physical copy to mark and jot thoughts and prayers down in so ordered one for the remainder of the year.


I gave this book: 

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

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

The Last Charm by Ella Albright, A Review

The Last Charm

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Book Description

A moving and heartwarming love story perfect for fans of Me Before You and One Day in December…

Leila’s charm bracelet tells a story of love, a story of loss, a story of hope. This is the story of her … and the story of Jake.

When Leila Jones loses her precious charm bracelet and a stranger finds it, she has to tell the story of how she got the charms to prove she’s the owner. Each and every one is a precious memory of her life with Jake.

So Leila starts at the beginning, recounting the charms and experiences that have led her to the present. A present she never could have expected when she met Jake nearly twenty years ago…

Review

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

I remember when my mother gave me her charm bracelet as a teenager. It is a piece that I treasure. Every bracelet is unique and I am always fascinated to hear the reasons why a particular charm adorns a bracelet. Due to this fascination, I was pulled in right away by the title The Last Charm and eagerly requested a copy for review.

The cover is simple but gave me a simple, comtemporary, rom-com vibe. I expected to like it.

This book is so much more. It's simple in that it explores the life of Leila and the major events that have shaped her. And while there are funny moments, this is no light-hearted rom-com. It is a delve into the big and small things that shape our choices and our character. It examines relationship and the impact it has on our lives. It is full of devotion, selfishness, love and hope.
I didn't like this book - I LOVED this book.

I don't want to give away any of the story - it was such an enjoyable read - even the hard parts were handled so beautifully - I kept waiting to see what the next charm was going to be.

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

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O'Neill - A Review

The Tea Dragon Society (Tea Dragon, #1)

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Book Description

After discovering a lost tea dragon in the marketplace, Greta learns about the dying art form of tea dragon care-taking from the kind tea shop owners, Hesekiel and Erik. As she befriends them and their shy ward, Minette, Greta sees how the craft enriches their lives—and eventually her own.

Review

I received a dARC copy of this book from the publisher. (But it expired before I read it so I checked a copy out from my library.)  Here is my honest review.

This graphic novel is absolutely enchanting!  I typically think of graphic novels as a format that deals weightier subjects and is more adventure focused. I also tend to think of them for older readers.  I requested this on Netgalley because I wanted to read more graphic novels (but didn't want a horror subject) and because it seemed geared to younger readers.  This graphic novel by Katie O'Neill proves that this format works for all kinds of stories. 

The two main characters are Greta and Minette, young girls who want to make a difference in their world. They become friends as they learn about caring for tea dragons while also learning the importance of friendship, reliability, community and traditions. It's a simple story, told simply and yet conveys such richness and depth. The artistic style is beautiful and evokes a serene feeling. And of course, the magic and whimsy of tea dragons is just delightful.  And what a treat to reach the end of the book, fully satisfied, and find bonus pages at the end about the history of tea dragons and how to care for them.  O'Neill also does a great job including characters in her books that display disabilities - so helpful for young children to see and be able to discuss. 

I'm enchanted!!!

So enchanted I picked up the next book in the series and have asked my library to order the third.  


I gave this book: 

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