Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Secret of Pembrooke Park

Abigail's family is facing ruin and it's all her fault.

With the Foster's in need of a dramatic life change following a bad investment it almost seems too good to be true when a distant relation offers them the use of an estate for 12 months at an affordable price. Until Abigail arrives and truths and rumours involving vanishing relatives, unsolved murders, and hidden treasure begin to swirl despite the best efforts of someone to keep Abigail in the dark.

The Secret of Pembrooke Park falls into one of my favourite genres thanks to its older British setting, however, to my surprise, it was the mystery that made this book a winner in my eyes. It takes a rare plot to keep me guessing these days and Klassen skillfully allows plot twists that surprised even me to appear throughout the book at, in retrospect, were the most interesting of points.

With the story's themes of romance and mystery dominating the pages I was hopeful for some strong characters to keep me interested, especially after only Abigail managed to catch my eye from the Foster family. Thankfully, a full cast of character at the estate including staff, the Chapman's, and neighbours down the road provide a colourful enough town to believe a mystery of this scale could actually occur in it's given setting. That said, it was truly Abigail that kept me turning the pages. Her intelligence and her character made her such an easy character to journey with through the story that it was easy to enter the world through her efforts and take part in Pembrooke.

I was also happy that the mystery never took second stage to the romances which came and went throughout the book. Although Abigail had two suitors by the end,  they relationships actually naturally evolved through the mystery and the events which were taking place. I won't give away which suitor Abigail chooses but I was definitely satisfied with the end result.

The Secret of Pembrooke Park  is a well crafted mystery that should appeal to a variety of readers thanks to it's involvement of different literary genres.

I give this book 5 out of 5 stars

I received this book from Bethany House Publishing in exchange for my honest review the opinions are my own

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Time Traveller by Joanne Harris

As a loyal Whovian I was excited for the chance to review a story based in Classic Who (doctors before Eccleston's 9th).

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Time Traveller takes place as the 3rd doctor is counting down until his next regeneration having been fatally poisoned. Recognizing his time is almost ended he attempts to find companion Sarah Jane when the TARDIS reroutes him to an idyllic town with a terrible secret driving it's everyday life.

The premise itself is quite Whovian in nature and it's always interesting to explore the mind of the doctor as he proceeds towards regeneration. However, given the twist ending, this book was simply too dark for me given where I am in life at the moment.

I enjoyed the build and pacing of the story, watching this doctor reason out what was happening in the little town. I also found it interesting as one more familiar with modern Who to see personality traits which have followed the Doctor throughout his regeneration.

Given the book's sensitive ending (and the inability to warn readers as it spoils the story) I would hesitantly recommend this story as it's ending may be more than some Whovian's were expecting.

I received this book in exchange for my honest open through NetGallery.

The Princess Spy by Melanie Dickerson

As a noble daughter and elder sister, it is Margaretha’s duty to marry well.
Surely it isn’t her fault that none of her suitors came close to being the husband she desires. Lord Claybrook seems her best option despite his high tastes and cold eyes, so why is her attention held fast by an injured, nameless boy who claims destruction for her family should she marry the foreign Lord?

I thoroughly loved The Princess Spy! It has adventure, plot twists, romance all wrapped up with an almost fairy tale vibe, providing an intriguing journey that I wish could have continued. Dickerson helps readers connect with her characters by providing them depth and life. Margaretha continually grows into her role as a young noble from the insecure and overtalkitive girl she was before the story’s events came to pass, growing through love as well as her faith both key elements within the story’s composition.

I was also surprised how unobtrusive the faith elements were woven into the story’s overall narrative. With Margaretha as well as Colin, the inclusion of their faith and reliance seemed believable and realistic for two young adults learning to stand outside their parents’ households.
I would highly recommend this book.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion through BookLook Bloggers. The opinions are my own.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Brickmaker's Bride

I received a copy of this book from Bethany House in exchange for my honest opinion, the opinions in this review are uninfluenced and my own.

Every once in awhile you get asked to read a book and, after a double check, you get excited because you recognize the author! Most of the books I review on here are complete surprises, unheard of authors, possibly different genres, and usually I'm pretty excited by the results.

Judith Miller, on the other hand, author of The Brickmaker's Bride has seen my bedside table since high school, and, although I've never found her books overly challenging, it's always like coming back and catching up with an old friend.

Brickmaker's Bride lands on some of Miller's strong point. It's set in West Virgina just after the civil war (historical fiction being, in my opinion, Miller's best). Laura, is a strong, likable female character learning to navigate a very male dominated society following the loss of her father and provider.
Ewan on the other hand is a recent immigrant easy to connect with as he struggles to bring one side of his family together while remaining above the ploys and ethics of the others.

I enjoyed the pacing of this book, Miller has always provided a good pacing and with Brickmaker's Bride it didn't just suit the story but helped give a feel to the setting of the story and the lives of the characters.

The tension within the plot was believable and most readers, myself included, could easily find people they have met who embody the different qualities, displayed by the main cast (although I could certainly do with some more of the liveliness found in the twins. Two of my favourite characters by far and perhaps a smidge underused)

Some readers may find the end wraps up rather neatly, as does much Christian fiction, however, I found Miller's  work refreshing in that not every character had their story-lines neatly wrapped up. There were still quirks, prejudices, and pain that was left unresolved while making sure the story had a complete ending.

All in all I felt this was one of the better reads I've had with Miller in recent years and recommend it to fans of this genre

4 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Thirteenth Tower

Oh fantasy.

Somehow, after a long week and a run of more serious reading material, there is something about fantasy that  feels like coming home. Seeing as I realize that fantasy and sci-fi often talk about serious issues as well I can understand the awkwardness of that mentality and yet I feel this ever time.

This week I had the opportunity to delve into Sara C.Snider's new book The Thirteenth Tower.

As an orphaned servant girl Emelyn has few prospects in life and hasn't planned much beyond the chores that would allow her to attend this year's festival in the village. However, when strangers overpower her village, leaving herself, a stranger apprentice, and two magisters unaffected Emelyn finds herself caught up in a delicate journey between forces that could lead to her destiny or her unraveling.

 I enjoyed Snider's offering. Emelyn was a character I could easily identify with and support in her journey to unravel the truth that was hidden all around her. Cobbe and her pig, though not as relatable were a great addition and showed the contrast in character styles that Snyder is able to infuse with life throughout her pages.

I also enjoyed Snider's use of the world's mythology in order to drive the story along. Although this, along with certain storytelling techniques, did allow for major plot points to be guessed fairly early in the story the character and charm won me over and continued to hold my interest.

I also enjoyed the villains in this story, the back story, the emotions and reasoning given to major decisions. However, I cannot think of a single way to explain more without giving away to much of the story so I'll content myself to leave it there ;)

My biggest disappointment was that the book feels like a solid set up for a series or, at the very least, opens it up for a good sequel to explore the events that followed the climax of this book. No sign of any second offering could I find online though. Hopefully this is something that can be rectified in the future though.

For fans of fantasy and classic fairy tales, Snider offers a wonderful new offering to this genre.

4 out of 5 stars.

I received this book from NetGallery in exchange for my honest opinion.

Update: For those who, like me, felt this story ended too quickly be sure to drop in at Snider's website  for some exciting news!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Answering your kids toughest questions.

I received this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

After some wild and wonderful mail adventures, I finally had the chance to sit down and read Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson recent offering Answering your kids' toughest questions. As a mom, I am acutely aware of the fact that, although I currently spend my days encouraging my son in basic life skills like talking, there will come a day in the near future where his questions may lead us into interesting spaces.

The greatest strength of Thompson and Fitzpatrick's work is that it challenges readers to think and question how they would approach certain topics with their children when approached. I'm a huge fan of materials that seek to engage parents and foster an atmosphere of learning and openness after seeing far too many situations where adults try to "fake-it-til-we make-it" or flat out avoid the questions being asked, regardless of their severity or importance.

My issue was that much of the book felt as though the reader was being pulled into extremes. Some of the examples, including what seems to be a fairly infamous one in reviews regarding snapping one's fingers and sin, border or march into extremes and could easily be seen as justification for legalism and Pharisaical teachings.
On the other hand, many of their explanations regarding at the end of each chapter regarding the separate age ranges (dividing into really nice categories)  felt very pat and simplistic. In all fairness this may be my own education influencing my perceptions. I love being challenged in my thinking and spent most of my college and seminary years discussing ideas and concepts including ones covered in this book at great length. However, I felt that the answers outlined were more likely to result in rolled eyes or misunderstanding than the open communication the authors desired, perhaps due to the lack of focus concerning living out and modelling the gospel and creating an atmosphere of learning and growth from childhood?

Overall, I think the authors did try and provide what they set out to do within a very specific and controlled audience. The effect just fell flat for me personally.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Mama Koko and the Hundred Gunmen

Sometimes all it takes is a person, a story, a word to make a difference. With one connection a story goes from being facts to becoming personal, touching those who hear it and generally it takes a powerful story or a gifted storyteller for that connection to come through. In Mama Koko and the Hundred Gunmen by Lisa Shannon readers are gifted with both.

Lisa Shannon has long been known for her activism and her work among the Congolese people. Before the frenzy and fallout of Kony 2012 and afterwards when interest faded Shannon has continued to hold a place in her heart for the people who live the reality of a life unfathomable to many in North America. In Mama Koko Shannon takes the easiest and yet most painful route to further this need - she shares stories.

Mama Koko is not a book for the feint of heart and, in fact, it's a story that will probably pain your heart or at least open it to the realities of life in an often overlooked part of the world. Shannon starts with stories of friendship, memories of a time in Africa most stereotypes don't often unearth due to convenience before delving into stories of loss, pain, and sadness that are often overlooked for the same reason.

Shannon doesn't hold back as she recounts the stories of Heritier, Roger, Antoinette, and so many more tied together through Francisca and Koko. Young, old, living, dead, and those caught in between each are represented in these pages, each are given a chance to be heard.

This is not a feel good book but it is a book worth reading if you are willing to learn and take this book beyond it's pages: grow in awareness, find an appropriate and certified venue through which to offer the recommended aid.

I received this book through NetGallery as an advanced copy (release date is February 3, 2015) and the opinions are my own.

Mama Koko is a book that will stay with me for a long time and occasionally brought me to tears as I was able to see a glimpse into this conflict with new eyes.

5 out of 5 stars

The Galaxy Game

The Galaxy Game by Karen Lord has all the makings of a good read for me: the potential for character development, sci-fi, interesting tech, and mysterious dealing.This is why I'm still confused as to how one book could travel so far off course.

I'll be honest, I almost gave up on this book a number of times. 

The Galaxy Game was very hard for me to follow, in fact, I haven't included a summary of the book because after reading it, I'm still not sure what the point of the novel was. It struck me as more a collection of half plots than a fully realized, coherent story.This greatly weakened the story for me as well as increased my confusion and sadness with the book.

Transitions between characters were hasty and often did not provide any context or warning for the shift. This required constant re-reading so that I could grasp whose point of view I was now supposed to be following.  

The characters themselves had great potential but never reached it. 
Rafi could have been a solid main character but none of the solid leads for character development were ever built upon. Though his family might have been a great source of emotional growth and development it was only introduced, ignored, and then "resolved" chapters later with a passing comment. In fact, none of Rafi's growth seemed to involve him or his actions.
The same goes for characters like Serendipity who sole purpose in the beginning seems to have been to bring forward a "familiar" pilot later in the plot. That kind of writing needs to be executed flawlessly not to feel lazy, unfortunately I can't say that happened here.

Perhaps I was just tired, perhaps I'm the wrong audience and maybe someone else will love this book, however The Galaxy Game is not a book I will be picking up again.

1.5/5 stars

I received this book through NetGallery in exchange for my honest opinion.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

A Bride in Store

Eliza Cantrell was done with emotional reasoning.

It had cost her far too much, her livelihood, her inheritance, her heart, and her dreams of running a business.

So, when Eliza receives a business offer of marriage and a store, the smart decision seemed to lay before her. However, Eliza wasn't counting on her intended's business partner, shady alliances, or the gentle call of her faith pulling at her healing heart.

This was my fist foray into a Melissa Jagears novel, and overall I really enjoyed the ride. There's always been something about period stories that feels like coming home and with Ms. Jagears characters such as Eliza, Mrs. Lightfoot, Will, and the Stantons A Bride in Store felt like reuniting with friends you've yet to meet.

I enjoyed walking alongside the characters as each fleshed out the realities of life. Mrs. Lightfoots isolation, Will's seeming loss of his dream, Eliza's journey to find her direction. Each seemed real and honest in their own way as well as completely believable scenerios for someone to encounter. I'm not a fan of unlikely scenarios in a realistic setting and Ms. Jagears doesn't disappoint.

I was also intrigued at the books attempt to bring light to epidermolysis bullosa. Though lightly touched upon, the fact that the author used her platform to bring light to an often overlooked and potentially devastating condition was an encouragement to myself fighting my own rare condition. The world needs more authors who are willing to bring awareness to matters without voices.

My one misgiving with A Bride in Store comes from the internal monologues, particularly surrounding Eliza and Will. Though Eliza spends most of the novel attempting to be seen for her intelligence, business sense, and forthrightness, it is often noted how plain, dowdy, and unattractive Eliza is due mostly, it would seem from later chapters, to her fashion choices. This mentality, especially given the lovely young woman on the front cover, seemed unnecessary and reinforcing of many negative stereotypes young woman wrestle with each day. The fact that many of the reflections came from Will who claimed to be infatuated with Eliza despite her unattractiveness rubbed even more harshly.

I enjoyed A Bride in Store.  I stayed up late reading to see how the plot resolved, I enjoyed the characters, the setting, and the faith elements that felt so natural in a genre where they often feel forced. However, the issues of body image and attractiveness relegate this book to a 4 out of 5 stars.

I received this book from Bethany House in exchange for my honest opinion.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Finding Rebecca by Eoin Dempsey

4 out of 5 stars

I received this book through NetGallery in exchange for my honest opinion, the thoughts reflected are my own.

I didn't enjoy this book but I give it 4 stars. That bears an explanation just like this book deserves a chance.

I have long found myself digging into novels based upon WWII and the people who lived during that time. Books that return voices to those who have lost them have always attracted me and there is no shortage of those in historical fiction.

Most novels I've read based upon this era catch me, make me think, and tell a story whether accurate or more creatively incline. Finding Rebecca, on the other hand, is a story that can haunt.

Centering around the story of Christopher - born to a German father and British mother who was raised on the isle of Jersey. Finding Rebecca starts (after a particular difficult to read introduction) by introducing us to a tried and true classic- a romance. Boy meets girl on his first day in a new place. Girl needs rescuing. Boy and girl fall in love, life separates them, life reunites them and love wins out.

Except this love is on the eve of WWII and Rebecca is Jewish, and love only wins until Rebecca receives her deportation papers to Germany.

Here's where the book gets haunting.

I should mention some reviewers have complained about grammatical issues but for once I was so lost in the story I couldn't see them. Because Christopher goes to find Rebecca in Auschwitz as an SS guard and finds himself confronted with an evil that he can't bear.

This book was haunting to me as I've rarely read a novel from this prospective where the protagonist actually wrestles like Christopher wrestles. His horror in the beginning, his fight to remain connected when it is easier to conform, his relationship with Anka and the women of Canada. Each of these points served to help readers draw into the story and, perhaps, for those of us with imagination place ourselves in Christopher's role, wondering if we too would have acted as he did.

I did have issues with the ending which I'll refrain from going into as they contain massive spoilers and I refuse to give you the easy way out ;)

However, I highly recommend those who are interested in this era to give this book a chance. I can't say you'll love Finding Rebecca and I'm not sure you're supposed to but it is a book that will stay with you.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Preparing for Adoption - Julia Davis

As my husband can well attest, I have a growing passion when it comes to the topic of adoption.
Realistically, our family is nowhere near taking a step like this, too many logistics not in place, however, it is an open topic for discussion which means I love getting the opportunity to sink my teeth into the findings of those who have come before.

Enter Julia Davis.

I was curious how well a book based on adoption in the UK would translate into what I know of the Canadian system. While there were areas I know are different I was thoroughly pleased to see the universality of Davis' presentation.

Directed towards adopters rather than professionals within the system, Davis presents a step by step mental/emotional and physical preparation for members of the family from start to welcome home of the adoption process.

I was quite impressed to see Davis' inclusion of attachment theory, including her examples and working out of how different childhood experiences such as trauma and neglect could impact attachment and stress management even well after a safe and stable home environment has been introduced.

From the research I've done this honest and open dialogue regarding some of the common issues which adoptive families could face as well as methods to help introduce new and healthier patterns is still an underrepresented area of adoptive family care. Her willingness to open up and express this real need is a refreshing way to begin dialogue and inform families who are struggling or may struggle that they are not alone.

My one concern with Davis' book is that some of the research may, in fact, be somewhat heavy for families in the midst of their adoption journey if they do not have a scholastic background that would allow them some familiarity with attachment theory/trauma/counselling (something my counselling background readily provided). Aside from that, I could see Ms. Davis' book being a welcome part of many adoptive families journies providing welcome guideposts on a unfamiliar path.

I received this book through NetGallery in exchange for my honest opinion. The opinions stated here are my own.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Doctor Who - The Crawling Terror

Mysteries from WWII, giant insects, alien consciousness, and small towns in the English country side.

Sounds like an episode of Doctor Who to me.

Actually, The Crawling Terror by Mike Tucker will almost never be made into an actual episode because the CGI cost would be too high, however, with a good imagination Tucker's book is the next best thing or perhaps even better for book loving Whovians.

I was highly impressed with Tucker's offering.
First because he did such a beautiful job of structuring his plot and characters.
I mean, this was the first of the three Whovian novels I was given that actually describes the Doctor's new face. Furthermore, not content to leave his readers there, Tucker explores the changing nature of Clara and the Doctor's relationship now that 11 is gone. The delight Tucker seemed to take writing nuances into his story whether they were character traits, sarcastic quips, or plot points worthy of an episode made me feel that someone who respects Who was behind the novel (I have no idea and should probably go look up Tucker's background).

Secondly, Tucker presented an amazing story because, although I love stories set in England and especially ones that bring in WWII, I am equally against stories that future giant, mutant insects that take over towns. Somehow, despite my own crawling terror up and down my back (I really hate bugs) I was riveted throughout the story. It takes an excellent story to override my distaste for bugs and keep me wanting more so for that I salute you Tucker.

As far as the bones of this story go, I acknowledge my copy may end up slightly different after final edits but the flow, structure and pacing all felt comfortable. For those familiar with the show the surprises were in content not in jarring literary techniques. I think this contributed to my enjoyment of the book as Doctor Who, even in its most uncomfortable always seems to follow the same flow and core rules, it feels like a friend and that's how this book read.

4.5 out of 5 stars.

I received this book from NetGallery in exchange for my honest review. The opinions are my own.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Doctor Who - Silhouette

After reading my first novel featuring the newly regenerated 12th doctor, I picked up Silhouette by Justin Richards with cautious excitement.

The blurb sounded intriguing: murders behind closed doors, favourite characters back for a visit, and a curious carnival at the center but as I've found with books before descriptions can be deceiving.

Luckily for me, the only deceiving part of this book was the villain, just the way a good Doctor Who novel should feel in my opinion.

Silhouette started off a little rough, with the structure and pacing feeling a little foreign. However, by the middle of the first chapter I was back in Victorian England  exploring the Carnival of Curiosities and watching a mystery worthy of an episode unfolding before my eyes.

I loved Richards portrayal of the established characters he worked with: Clara was perfectly represented, Straax made me smile in all the right places (Straax has long been a favourite of mine), and Jenny and Vastra both presented themselves true to form. Unlike my first venture into Whovian novels, Richards made me care about the newest regeneration (more than I already was) and allowed the new doctor to begin to form and take on his personality.

The story itself was brilliantly constructed. I felt some of the final revelation could have used a bit steadier pacing but everything unfolded true to the story that Richards had unfolded. Mysteries have to be careful so that their surprise ending still fit the flow and temperament of what came before and in Silhouette the justice served is wonderfully written.

The characters unique to this story, particularly Silhouette and Affinity also showed more depth than I thought capable given the constraints of a short novel. These are two characters I could easily see a Doctor running into in the future.

I realize for some that novels within a television genre are a chance to explore outside the confines of broadcasts rules, this is also why fanfiction has risen to such popularity. However, I've always loved stories that feel like they belong, that feel months later when I reflect back like they could have or should have been an episode I'm having trouble remembering the visual details of, this is what Richards delivers. I loved this intro to 12 and look forward to what Justin Richards brings to the Whoniverse in the future

4.5 out of 5 stars

I received a e-copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. The views are my own.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Doctor Who - The Blood Cell

Doo Wee Oooh . . . I'm so excited!!

For those who are new to my blog, I'm a complete nerd and love every minute of my nerdiness (with the slight exception of the pain of long hiatus . . . I'm looking at you Sherlock).

For those familiar with the world of sci-fi and fantasy, particularly that of the British persuasion, it is old news that in just under 2 weeks a new doctor shall be revealed to the world or, at least the rest of him will be revealed. Technically, we've already been introduced to his kidneys.

For the uninitiated, Doctor Who is a long standing British show featuring the Doctor, a timelord from the planet Gallifrey who spends an exorbitant amount of time in the London and Cardiff areas for an alien who can go anywhere in any time.

That said, I love the show.
I love the whimsy and fantasy. I love the sarcasm and wit. I love the way it makes me think, makes me care, and get my brain moving.I even love the way it makes me cry though i'm equally fond of the laughter it brings ( I dare you to go watch Vincent and the Doctor and not cry, go on give it a try worst case scenario you still get to see an episode of Who).

So, as any fan who is eagerly awaiting the season premiere of Peter Capaldi's twelfth doctor, I was ecstatic to be offered the chance to review three brand new Doctor Who novels featuring 12 and Clara.

This also means three reviews for you. Aren't you excited now?

The first book up for review is The Blood Cell by James Goss.

The fact that their prison was inescapable was a point of pride for the governor, now if only he could just get prisoner 428 to stay put.

The premise of The Blood Cell was fascinating. Take one impenetrable prison set on an asteroid. Add disappearing prisoners, a prison head that has a mysterious past, and a prison that is slowly turning against itself before adding a dash of the Doctor in all his new snarky, edgy glory with a healthy dose of pop culture references for good measure.

I think this could have been a good episode in the hands of the right director, however, I had trouble following this novel as a book.

Although The Blood Cell was a Doctor Who novel, the Governor was the main character and through whom readers were allowed entrance into the story. This left the plot feeling jumbled at times as past events tumbled out all wibbly wobbly, and scenes jarred from too descriptive to too much conversation. This narrative really called for the visual back up.

The other drawback with this novel is that with a little tweaking, the novel could have easily become any sci-fi, with the exception of a small handful of scenes, nothing felt distinctly Whovian.

Now, on to the good.

I realize some fans are up in arms about Clara as a companion but, I have become rather fond of the Impossible Girl and this novel only increased my delight. Clara's petitions and picketing were the perfect counter to the Doctor's brooding and, perhaps depression. I laughed out loud at her interactions with the Governor and loved the perfectness of their order.

Also, as I mentioned earlier, I do think this could have been an interesting episode, so for readers who have a good background when it comes to all things Whovian and creating mental landscapes they may be able to fill in the gaps a little better than a mama who's little one is overachieving in the teething department.

3 out of 5 stars

I received this book through Netgallery in exchange for my honest opinion

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Child of Mine

I have a confession to make. Though I've been given many recommendations, hints, and outright directives I have never read a Christian Amish romance.

There, I've said it.

I just couldn't help it. I've always loved historical novels but ones with adventure and intrigue. Somehow, in my mind, Amish novels just didn't fit my criteria of a good read. Even if it was only the subplot.

Then I was given the opportunity to read Child of Mine by David & Beverly Lewis.

Kelly Maines loves her daughter, if only she knew where the girl was. . .
For years, Kelly has tirelessly sought her stolen daughter, neglecting her health and relationships in search of her missing child.
Since his brother's death Jack Livingston has been raising his adopted niece with the help of their loyal Amish nanny Laura Mast.
As one clue leads to another will Kelly find her beloved child or loose what little she has left?

I admit as an adoption advocate the idea of a mother searching for her stolen daughter was heart wrenching and drew me in almost instantly.
Kelly Maines was a character that connected with this Mama's heart and I couldn't help but root for her as she fought between achieving her dreams, healing, or finding peace with both. She was a real character to me not an overly clean Christian version of a hurting woman but a hurting woman looking for peace.

Likewise, Jack made me laugh, the confusion he faced re-entering the dating scene while dealing with an aging Nattie was balanced beautifully with his tangible love for a little girl who changed his life.

The Lewis' are good at spinning a plot.
The slow revealing of each character's story, the events that made them into the people they had become were beautifully woven together with each narrative flowing into the next. I felt it was a great illustration of just how easily lives can be intertwined without us realizing the destination. This is a great novel for readers who like their books to be a journey rather than something to be consumed.

This talent at spinning out their plot helps give the Lewis' characters depth and humanity. I would go as far as saying that it would be difficult for the target audience to not find at least one character with whom their resonate.

That said, at times, I'll admit, I was a bit frustrated by the over-description which occurred, particularly in the book's earlier chapters. Initial character description felt a little forced with details being added for the sake of adding details.

The positive side of this, if it wasn't for writing up a review, I would have easily forgot the awkwardness of these initial introductions with complete outfit descriptions thanks to the overwhelming charm and heart which followed.

I would highly recommend this book to any readers looking for a good solid novel with a lot of heart and none of the smut that so often ruins a good simple romance.

4.5 starts out of 5

I received this book from Bethany House Publishing in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Saving Amelie

Ever since I was a child I have been fascinated by stories about people, stories of loss and hope, stories of overcoming adversity. Not many people were overly surprised when I discovered the world of fiction based upon those who lived through the world wars, especially those who survived with disabilities.

Over the years I have read many novels from well known to well written to those best left upon the shelf, either way it was no surprise that eventually I'd find my way to Saving Amelie by Cathy Gohlke.

Saving Amelie is a recent novel from Tyndale publishing following the character of Rachel Kramer, a young woman on the cusp of finally chasing down her dreams, providing she accompany her scientist father back to Germany for one last visit to the Institute she has visited since childhood. During her visit Rachel discovers the life she has always known may not be one based upon the truth and she must choose which path she intends to follow.

I really liked this book, as in stay up late, can't put it down, have to find out what happens to the characters kind of like. Although I've read a lot of material based on WWII, it is rare for me to find a novel I can appreciate where one main characters been disabled, even though this group were also highly persecuted along with many others during that era. In fact, the beliefs of genetic superiority and racial superiority's effect on the disabled population in Nazi occupied territory is the main group which bears exploration within Gohlke's tale, both through the eyes of young Amelie as well as through the wrestlings of the prejudiced Rachel who is learning to form her own beliefs for the first time in her life.

As a disabled individual, it was refreshing to see a novel which willingly addresses this portion of history while still maintaining awareness of other events, despite the deceptively peaceful locale of the story's main plot. Given that Saving Amelie is published by Tyndale, I was concerned that there would be some glossing over of the more serious nature of the events being shared yet was surprised to find Gohlke willing to address equally serious topics such as murder and sterilization as the story warranted, though the book did maintain its overall hopeful mood.

Each of the main characters: Rachel, Lea, Oma, Amelie, Jason, Fredierich, and Rivka were each given their own plot line that realistically interacted with and stood apart from the others while highlighting the different struggles that occurred during the war, each representing their own group and giving insight through the characters struggle.

Personally, I would easily recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys WWII fiction, Christian fiction, or modern historical romance. 4.5 stars out of 5

Monday, April 28, 2014

Caught in the middle

Mrs. Anne Tillerton only wanted to get away, live her life in peaceful safety away from uncaring  eyes that saw what they want and a dead husband whose life haunted almost as much as his death.

I have a confession to make.

I didn’t want to like Caught in the Middle by Regina Jennings.

Anne’s character made me bristle, but hear me out. It wasn’t her rough around the edges, speak her mind attitude. Like Nicholas, it made Anne that much more endearing when she allowed her true self to be shown in quieter moments with Sammy.
It felt uncomfortable reading a woman who’s life seemed to be a collection of clich├ęs.

Nicholas also made me bristle. In the beginning he really came across a profit based, image driven man. When Anne confronted him on his faith being self-serving I almost wanted to cheer.
Here is the thing though, Jennings doesn’t leave her characters stuck in their flaws, she allows them to grow, change, and flourish through their experiences and faith bringing readers on a much more satisfactory journey than the first chapters ever could have hinted at. I’ll admit, I ever cried during the story’s climactic moments.

Jennings uses her characters both to lead readers on a journey with her characters – Anne as she learns to heal, forgive, and love as well as Lovelace as he learns to see the world and his priorities. However, she simultaneously uses those same characters to ask hard question about faith to her readers and the cost of love.

As a word of warning, I didn’t realize when I began this book that Caught in the Middle actually exists either in a series or as part of a world within Jennings collection of writings. As Anne slowly lets Nicolas (and the reader) into her abusive and broken past (which was actually quite well written for a Christian novel from a counselling perspective while remaining non-triggering), there are strong hints of the plots in both Sixty Acres and a Bride as well as Love in the Balance.  I truly believe this can be viewed as a read alone novel but for readers who enjoy the whole picture or just fall in love with Jennings style, those would be good books to keep in mind.

All in all i give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

I received this book for free from Bethany Publishing in exchange for my honest opinion

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Tide and Tempest

For Tillie McGrath life's plan was simple. Move to America and build a life with her beloved and unborn child. Life rarely goes according to plan, however, and Tillie finds herself burying the past and moving forward thanks to her friends at the boarding house. What Tillie doesn't realize that the past can fight back when you least expect it.

Tide and Tempest by Elizabeth Ludwig is the third book in her Edge of Freedom series and I was thrilled to continue on with the stories of the boarding house's next member after falling in love with the intertwined tales of Ana, Cara, and Eoghan in the early stories.

I really appreciate how carefully Ludig works to build her worlds and keep her characters intersecting through natural story points which flow out of the overarching plot and am amazed when seemingly coincidental encounters from earlier tales turn out to be major plot drivers an entire novel later! To have this level of foresight (or the ability to tie back) definitely increased my enjoyment of the plot and Ludwig's storytelling capabilities.

In the second novel, readers are briefly introduced to Tillie McGrath, Tide and Tempest's heroine, a sad woman in the midst of rebuilding her life after loosing her fiance and delivering their stillborn child. As a result my interest was already piqued when I opened up book number 3 found Tillie's journey to and from the boarding house to be our next focus.

When I first started Ludwig's series Tillie was the one woman I wished I could find out more about, the grieving woman, the quiet woman, and Ludwig does not disappoint. While staying true to the overarching plot with the Fenian's and The Celt, Ludwig still crafts a beautiful story of mercy, forgiveness, and love for young Tillie.
I found, in a lot of ways, Tillie has been the character over the series to show the most growth and wonder if this is a reflection of Ludwig's on growth over the series as an author?
Tide and Tempest does have a more complete feel than it's predecessors, possibly due to story line completions, but their was an equal though more subtle maturation in the writing itself which adds to the ease of reading.

Overall,  as much as I loved Ludwig's early work, Tide and Tempest has become a new favourite and I'd highly recommend it to fans of the genre.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Tabula Rasa

I love books.

I love stories. I love a well written character that draws you in. I love the learning and transportation that takes place.

As such, I'm fairly picky when it comes to my books, even more so when Hollywood decides to tread on much loved friends.

This is why it was so odd to read a book and have my second thought be "This would make an amazing movie (if done right)"

Tabula Rasa by Kristen Lippert-Martin truly is an edge of your seat thriller and I loved every minute of it.

The character of Sarah definitely fits the criteria for drawing in readers. I love that Lippert-Martin allows for readers to discover the world and Sarah as she reclaims her own identity and begins making her own decisions. Her lack of knowing helps heighten the mystery but also allows her to be a sympathetic character. Although readers are unsure who is friend or foe you can't help but want things to work out for this young girl.

Thomas was a little cliche when it comes to nerd based characters and yet it also made him a suitable counterbalance for Sarah midst the horrors she was encountering in the hospital and  takeover. Although not a wholly innocent character his innocent brought a more human touch to the story.

Oh, and the hospital. I don't generally read many books that are set in a single building. I find it difficult for an author to hold my focus when the setting never really changes (okay there's also the yurt scenes but that's not a huge change.) Instead Tabula Rasa offers up the setting as another primary character. One who is neutral and ever present, intriguing and threatening in it's own way.

Finally, I really enjoyed Lippert-Martin's ability to craft a story. Confession time, once again, this isn't a story to read while falling asleep (or if you hope to fall asleep during insomnia). Tabula Rasa is a fast paced, seat of your pants, adventure novel with twists and turns I don't think I would have seen even if I was trying to finish it at 3am.  Lippert-Martin keeps her story on task and to the point when it comes to remaining true to Sarah's quest for identity and being true to herself well still providing little moments that help propel the characters forward as individuals rather than plot points.

I received this book in exchange for my honest opinion from NetGallery. The views expressed are my own.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Living with Hypermobility Syndrome

It's ironic that I'm posting this review so late.
Due to my lousy proprioception I may have misjudged my proximity to a bookshelf and ended up with a concussion. This meant no reading or writing for a couple weeks as either activity seemed to trigger a massive migraine.

What a joy, not.
What is a joy is Isobel Knight's book Living with Hypermobility Syndrome.
As someone who is officially diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos (either the same or a close related condition depending on which medical professional you ask) I was curious to uncover the opinions and research of someone who has walked the journey of complex, chronic illness longer than myself.
I was not disappointed. 
I truly wish every single one of my medical professionals I interact with would read this book in the hopes they could gain even a percentage of the empathy and knowledge stored within the pages. This book really is a must read for any who struggle with a condition that is marked with hypermobility as one of its defining features.
Why is this book so good?
First of all, it's organized for easy reference. Thank you! A book that's easy to navigate will simply be used more often and thanks to Knight's clear categories and logical ordering this book is a breeze to sort through.
Second of all, this book takes first hand experience into account. When facing hypermobility whether HMS, EDS, or something else, being understood as a person, as a patient, and as a reliable source of information is so rare. The way Knight weaves personal experience, both her own and others she has encountered, enriches and deepens the conversation laid forth.
Thirdly, Knight doesn't shy away from important topics such as mental health and feminine issues. 
Living with Hypermobility Syndrome is a valuable resource for patient, professionals, and loved ones of those living with one of these conditions.
5 out of 5 stars

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Here and Now

I was provided with this book through NetGallery in exchange for my honest review. The opinions are my own.

Your world is dying.
Imagine living in a world where death by plague is the most common ending of any story, regardless of age, gender, or status. Imagine a world filled with isolation, screens, chemicals, and the fear of a droning buzz that could signal your end. Now, imagine the only way out was to back.

The Here and Now by Ann Brashares is a far different read than what fans acquainted with her Sisterhood books may have come to expect by Brashares.

The premise is intriguing, due in part to the possibility. A world devastated by plague, environmental change, and crumbling infrastructure. A world where children die and bodies are left lest the grief stricken become the next to be grieved. The only plan for salvation? Travelling into the past to establish new lives and maybe change the future.

Main character Prenna was a great character and one I enjoyed watching come to life. While this book has a blend of mystery and adventure, the core of the story, in my opinion, is Prenna's coming of age.  Brashares did an excellent job bringing Prenna from scared refugee to an emerging, confidant young woman. It was the little touches that made this character exude her depth. While some may find the trip to the beach as lazy given the timeline, the touches such as the mosquito, the slow building of trust, the breaking out, were all necessary to move the story along in it's often fast paced sweetness.

That said there were a few things that left me saddened as I turned the last page.
(Warning - here be spoilers sweetie)


I actually know some unique people so his character does not seem as over the top as some people say, with a mind like his and the people he had encountered, his skill set was not surprising. If Brashares hadn't put the time into his character, building up his backstory the physics, the early genius, the ability to spot little details, his networking, most of his skills just naturally flow out of a well developed character.
Now that I've got that out of the way, I was disappointed with how Ethan and Prenna ended up. To have their future ripped away (seemingly) at the very end felt a bit like being robbed.

If I'm honest, the whole ending felt a little short all though I'm torn. If the author's intent was to tell the story of the exodus back through time, she accomplished that fully. The story accomplished it's set goal. However, the characters that were created as the connection point for readers were left hanging with tantalizing heartbreak and promise all rolled into one. I'm still rooting for Ethan/ Prenna, Katherine, and Molly.

Now, mind you, if this book does get a sequel all this could be resolved and I'd be a happy reviewer (hint, hint Brashares)

All in all, I found The Here and Now to be a fun and engaging read which I devoured in an afternoon. I would give this book a 4 out of 5 though due to my reservations about the ending

Thursday, March 13, 2014

For Such a Time

I'm a sucker for historical novels, especially one's centered around the events of World War II. Even in grade school I would exasperate my teachers during lessons wanting to know about the effects of events on people, society, and culture.

That said, I usually lean towards historical fiction based upon true events.

For Such a Time by Kate Breslin does not follow historical events (though drawing upon real places), a fact the author freely admits, but still remains a gem to read.

Paralleling the Biblical narrative of Esther, For Such a Time centers upon  Hadassah and Aric, a traumatized half Jewess and a wounded Nazi kommandant thrown together near the war's end on a road which could save the lives of hundreds including, if they are very lucky, their own.

Personally, I wan't sure how I would receive the book.
I have read other accounts of Terezin or Theresienstadt, and what occurred there (Wildflowers of Terezin being a favourite). Knowing how the story of Esther ended, I wasn't sure how Breslin could maintain the gravity of the town's history.

Happily, although Breslin did stay closer to the Esther narrative, including the adventure, battle, and love carried within the final half, she still produced a riviting novel which will easily hold the attention of most followers of her genre.

Hadassah or Stella is a likable character who is well written. Breslin writes her recovery from trauma with more honesty than I usually see within Christian fiction and gives real depth to the character's struggle as she seeks to choose between safe decisions and following God's call.

Aric was also a surprising character as I was unsure how the Kommandant could be made to fit within an Esther parallel. Here too was a pleasant surprise as Breslin lays out Aric's honest struggle as an ordinary man in extraordinary circumstances.

As mentioned earlier this novel does stick more closely to the Esther narrative which means some readers may be unhappy with the happy, tidy ending For Such a Time provides. I just made sure to read it on one of those days where a happy ending was necessary for my own peace of mind. If you're the type of reader who can't overlook historical inaccuracy for good adventure, a bit of romance, some delightful (though mild) suspense, and a chance for the good guys to triumph this book probably isn't for you. Otherwise, dig in.

I received this book from Bethany through NetGallery in exchange for my honest opinion.

4 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Reading Joss Whedon

I loved being the "interesting" student.

I took great pleasure in seeing teachers rewrite their syllabus for following classes due to an "out-of-the-box" paper I had handed in or watching them smile as they realized I had incorporate an acceptable but unconventional topic.

I just couldn't help myself. I loved being challenged and I loved getting a chance to incorporate my passions into my mountains of homework.

Every once in awhile, if I was very lucky, I could even incorporate my love of sci-fi and fantasy, a particularly difficult endeavor given I went to Bible College.

Even now in my post school days I still love when I am given the chance to merge my love of academics and sci-fi/fantasy. Which is why Reading Joss Whedon completing called forth that squealing fangirl within (though quietly so as not to wake baby) before I settled into read.

Reading Joss Whedon is a collection of scholarly essays exploring the different themes and connections within the larger body of Whedon's work.  This particular collection focused most heavily on the Buffy verse and Dollhouse era, most likely due to the vast wealth of ethical and feminist topics exemplified within them as well as their strong echoing of ancient mythos. However, other classics including The Avengers, Dr. Horrible, and my personal favourite Firefly are also brought about in varying levels of details.

All things considered, this collection would make an excellent text book for a media class within a formal setting (no academic gymnastics required to make this topic fit), with each essay providing a wealth of discussion and research material from which to launch classroom dialogue.

The structure of the text also makes it easy for readers to pick and choose which topics are of most importance for their reflection, with subjects being categorized by series or overarching theme for easier readability and reflection.

This book would not classify for many as an easy read but that doesn't necessarily make it the wrong one. This collection challenges readers to choose to partake of their media in less passive ways, exploring and examining the intent and messages being portrayed regardless of how the show is perceived. A lesson well worth taking into every day with our media saturated culture.

4.5 stars out of 5

I received this book through NetGallery in exchange for my honest opinion.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

That Heart Dropping Moment

Plans, such simple things that, in an instant, can show you where your priorities lay.

I had originally planned to blog this week. A post about parenting and Peanut, another post about a great new book exploring the academic themes of Joss Whedon's work.

Then Peanut stopped eating. . . and drinking . . . and my heart dropped.

Instead of night filled with baby giggles and kitten snuggles, Hubby and I spent a night filled with ER smells, beeps, and urgency. We learned how difficult blood draws and IV's are to get on babies who haven't ate or drank in 29 hours. We also learned about admissions, pediatric wards, ambulance transfers, and surgeons.

In the midst of our four day adventure, I learned how many times a heart can drop on one adventure

- as you watch your baby cry for food that won't stay down
- as you listen to the doctor say "I don't know"
- as you find out you're being transferred to another hospital while your husband drives behind in a snowstorn
- as you hear the words "surgery" even if it is a routine hernia repair (it's never routine when it's your baby)
- as you stand alone in a hallway watching them wheel your crying child into the OR
- as you walk back to his empty room to wait for word

Apparently, hearts can drop a lot.

I am so grateful that medicine has advanced to the point where, less than a week later, our Peanut is home, in his bed, and recovering.

Blogging will wait for a few more days because this Mama's heart can't wait another minute.

Friday, February 28, 2014

The Johnstown Girls

This book was provided through NetGallery in exchange for my honest opinion.

Ellen has spent almost a century restlessly seeking a lost life of possibilities. Nina wishes her life would stop wandering in so many different directions.

The Johnstown Girls follows the lives of three women, all born in Johnstown: Ellen, Anna, and Nina. Nina is a young journalist looking for a foundation on which to build her life, the right job (not simply a bit journalist), the right guy( her coworker who can't quite leave his wife or the heroic firefighter she met on the job), and the right place to call her own. For Ellen and Anna, the story is reflective, remembering a lifetime amid a world of rapid changes and devastating losses as forgotten memories start to resurface.

First off, the premise of The Johnstown Girls is a solid one.
The concept of a young survivor from a well-known tragedy, like the Johnstown flood, who holds on to the belief that her twin also survived and was brought up without knowledge of her original family is naturally intriguing and one I was particularly interested in given my experience in counselling and psychology. The usage of the centenarian's life to explore the changes in Johnstown and the Pennsylvania area over the years was also intelligent as Ellen came to life in the role of kindly grandmother. Ellen was a delightful character with her wit and lively portrayal and the highlight of what should have been a wonderful read blending history and fiction.

Sadly, the story fell flat for me.

I believe the reason this story failed to keep me interested (and, indeed, I almost gave up on the book a number of times) is a combination of factors.

The first issue I had with this novel was its structure. When balancing between past/present as well as numerous characters: Nina, Ben, Anna, Ellen, Rose, Julia, etc. . . There needs to be clear transitions from one character to the next. These were not present in the novel making the story hard to follow and lessening the impact of the overall text.

The second issue I had were the characters of Nina and Ben. I truly could not enjoy these characters and their relationship seemed more plot convenience and an attempt to be edgy/relevant than a true driving force to the story. While Nina made great strides in the final chapter, it was still not enough to redeem the character and make me feel for her. If anything, I felt like speeding up and rolling my eyes when I realized that another Ben and Nina section had arrived.
The early intimate scene between the characters felt out of place in the story and more like a cry for attention in an attempt to make a serious story "appear" adult.

Historical fiction is a genre that reignited my passion for reading, however, Kathleen George's The Johnstown Girls, won't be a novel I'll be picking up again.

2 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Stepping into Toddlerhood

The sun almost feels deceptive today as it radiates warmth throughout our living room. I know it isn't really warm out but, for now, Sherlock the kitty and I will enjoy the illusion that this never-ending polar vortex has kindly removed itself from the province.

We're in a rare space today for a (relatively) new Mama. The house is mostly clean, diapers are in the wash, and little dude is enjoying his afternoon nap . . . in his crib! Yes, our little Peanut is truly growing up and now spends his afternoon dreaming up adventures in his own bed. I'm honestly not sure whether this should make me happy (cleaner house, free time, more space for reading, reviewing and blogging) or sad that my little is not so little anymore.

It's a delicate balance moving into toddlerhood. This little life that has been so reliant on Mama and Daddy for so many months is now spreading their wings, learning and growing at an astonishing pace as they take in their world and claim their own space. I have to wonder though are the toddler years not also a chance for Mama's to experience a similar growth spurt?

It would appear that as my son starts exploring his world, I'm relearning how to embrace mine.
I can write again, I can do chores, embrace time working on my marriage, establishing community connections without my infant attached to me (quite literally - babywearing for the win). For this introverted Mama it's like relearning social convention all over again.
I have found there is a measure of grace and acceptance for new mama's, a safety net, when I make awkward connections or quirky references. I'll miss that as I relearn how to embark on my own.

At the same time, it's exhilarating watching Peanut take his first wobbly steps into the boy he is becoming, the boy I pray he'll be. To see him develop his passions, his interests. To see the wonder in his eyes as he sees the mysteries that adult realities crowd out and make dim.

So, while this Mama's heart is sad over the things that are no more. I look forward to this new chapter - to naps and runs, to songs and giggles, to wonders, amazement, learning and love. Now, where did I leave that book?

Monday, February 17, 2014

Avatar the Last Airbender The Rift - Part 1

If you've been following this blog for any length of time you may have begun to notice a trend. Book Reviews!

Now, I'll be honest with you. I meant to have, at least,  slightly more balanced content when I restarted blogging.
However, this winter's really kicked our family in the butt.
The last month has been filled with doctor's appointments, teething, and illness in the middle of a polar vortex that's meant it's rarely safe enough to venture out.
Not exactly the kind of things I want to write about, or remember.

Books have always been a great source of entertainment and stress relief for me though and with all these amazing titles crossing my path. Given the winter we've been having curling up with a good book and a cuppa just seems like the logical thing to do once Peanut goes down.
As a good blogger, I'd be remiss in my blogging duties if I didn't share what I found and, oh boy, have  I found a good one this time.

Some of you may recall I'm a geek.
Card-carrying geek to be honest.
I've done the convention thing. I game with my hubby. I have fandoms (and write fanfiction). I love quite a bit about the geek culture and the different stories that give it life. One of the gems I've encountered on my geeky journey is a series called Avatar.

Now, for the uninitiated, I'm not talking the blockbuster movie with the big blue creatures.
Actually, i'm not referring to any movie . . . let's forget the Airbender movie happened, agreed?
Avatar the Last Airbender and it's sequel The Legend of Korra just consist of some great television.

The basic premise follows the idea that some people are born with the ability to control one of the four elements: air, water, earth, and fire. Into each generation is born, a leader or hero, who can control all four elements - the Avatar. In the case of the series, we follow Aang - the Last Airbender and his successor Korra a waterbender the latest to take up the mantle.
 So what does all that have to do with book reviews?

Guess what book crossed my desk!

Alright, I suppose my title may have lessened the mystery a little :) but I actually squealed with delight when this title crossed my inbox! More adventures with Aang and friends, how did I not know about this??

In The Rift - Part 1 (this is a serial for those of you who like the entire story at once), readers rejoin Aang and the gang following the events in the television show (nope, not telling you what events, it's honestly a fun show, go watch some it's worth it).
Aang is working hard to unify the nations and rebuild the fallen Air temples.
What better way to teach the newest acolytes about Air traditions than to revive Yangchen's festival complete with traditional music and food (vegetarian of course much to poor Sokka's disappointment)? Unfortunately, time has changed many things and Aang must determine what the past is attempting to teach in a rapidly changing present.

Basic thoughts?

I loved this book and will eagerly be awaiting part 2!
For new fans, this is an easy read and doesn't require having watched the entire series, though a few episodes wouldn't be amiss.
For older fans like myself, it's like coming home. The book reads as an unaired episode, drawing on much of the humour and personal interactions fans came to love (I was so excited to see Uncle Iroh back with his tea). The characters fell quickly into believable rhythms and old tensions in order to bring it's audience to a yet unfinished lesson.

That said, I will confess I may be a little biased.
This book offers a lot of Aang and Toph with a quick cameo from Uncle Iroh which are my three favourite characters in the series.
Fans of Katara, Sokku, and Zuko may feel a little less love, although I'm not convinced Sokka and Katara won't  feature more strongly in later sections.

All in all this was a great continuation of a well crafted universe and fans of the avatar series new or old should definitely check out this latest offering from Dark Horse Books

I was given a chance to read this book for free from Dark Horse in exchange for my honest review, the opinions are my own.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Praying For Boys

A copy of this book was provided by Bethany House in exchange for my honest review, the opinions are my own.

Have you ever read a book where you can't help but find yourself nodding along to in agreement?
What about a book that instantly brings  to mind the names of multiple people who could benefit from reading it too?
Have you ever read a book and been amazed by both the simplicity of the text's message while amazed at the difficulty of its execution and the profound potential of the difference it could make?

Welcome to Praying For Boys by Brooke McGlothlin.

As a Bible College grad I can be extremely picky when it comes to any faith based book, especially in regards to children and youth. This may have something to do with almost a decade of post secondary education in related fields (youth and counselling) and with professors who encouraged questioning, critiquing, and excellence.

Brooke certainly provides the excellence.

One of the first things I noticed (with grateful relief) was Brooke's layout. Although my son is little and not yet mobile, he still requires time and energy (lots and lots of energy). Recognizing this endearing quality of boys, Brooke has structured her book to be enjoyed in large or small sections, in quick reference or at length in a group setting. I love this versatility! When I had time, I sat and read larger chunks (occasionally sharing insights with my dear hubby) and when I didn't it was simple enough to pick up a chapter and have a few minute break and recharge.

The second thing I noticed about Brooke's work was how it resonated with my new Mama heart and gave expression to the struggles I was having. Raising a boy in today's world is hard and, if I'm honest, I always thought raising girls was more in line with my personality (God has a sense of humour but I do love my little boy fiercely). Brooke's open, honest communication made the book feel more like a friend walking alongside. At many points her reminders that we cannot change our sons hearts and that she didn't have all the answers, helped her authenticity and were easily read as encouragement for one just starting out on the path of motherhood.

Finally, I love how Brooke continually takes her readers and turns them back to scripture. This is the central theme of her heart for Mama's and it resonates loud and clear. I haven't actually had the chance to really try this yet (although I've tried a little, after all who hasn't had those weeks where teething, viral infections, birthdays, and daddy starting a thesis haven't coincided, right? We've all been there ;) I'm intrigued to see how this will go (evidenced by my Heavily bookmarked book)

Praying for boys is one of those practical books that is good for any Mama, regardless of how old their sons or grandsons may be.

5 out of 5 stars

The Tyrant's Daughter

This book was given to me free of charge in exchange for my honest opinion. The opinions expressed are my own.

Over the past decade it hasn't been difficult to find news regarding the Middle East. Every news station has their opinion, every paper has an angle, every webcast has the latest tales to share in the quest for readers.
What is rarely considered is the lives of those being affected,especially for those caught on the sides we may villianize in broad strokes.
This is what makes Carleson's book so compelling and why I found myself up in the wee hours unable to put it down. 

Carleson introduces readers to 15 year old Laila, a young woman who's world has literally exploded. Following the death of her father, her surviving family consisting of 6 year old brother and mother are whisked away to the relative safety of the US, but not everything is as it seems.

Instead of the relative peace Laila hoped for as an exiled family, Laila finds herself confronted with the world's image of her father's reign, and their truth is a far different person than the man she remembers as her old life steadily invades the new.

At first glance, The Tyrant's Daughter is not the sort of book I would normally pick up off the shelf. I like stories, characters, interweaving narratives. I don't like politics. I am so happy this book landed in my inbox though because although politics, world events, and government intrigue have their say. At its heart, this novel is about a young girl trying to make sense of her rapidly shifting world and the relationships she builds and navigates during a time of painful and chaotic transition.

Laila's character is beautifully written and rightly remains the center star of her story. The contrast of her old life represented by her mother and Amir vs. the newness of her American life summed up in Emmy and Ian provide a healthy tension while Bastien counterbalances with his youthful innocence, in many ways representing the girl Laila would have been herself.

I think the most haunting strength of this novel is Carleson's ability to take the families of the those leaders we see on the television and make them human. To read Laila's story, though fictional, is to put a human face on a conflict we too often view as a disconnected narrative of it's own through our screens and media. Carleson humanizes, on both sides,the conflicts which have shaped the world stage in this century. 

Final rating, 4.5 stars out of 5

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Kindar's Cure

Kindar's Cure by Michelle Hauck. This book was provided free of charge in exchange for my honest review

Kindar is a princess without a lot of luck. The second of three sisters and born cursed with the affliction chokelung (a disease which usually kills in infancy), Kindar exists as an afterthought, a burden. Kindar's life takes a drastic turn following her eldest sister's marriage as life long truths come into question and motives become a swirling storm in which Kindar must find her footing or drown.

I tried so hard to like this book.


Even now as I reflect back upon the components of the story, I am perplexed why I struggled with this novel and why it took three times longer than it should have to read through.

Kindar is a likable enough character who shows all the necessary growth required of a fantasy heroine but her mindset and the way her disability was handled felt uncomfortable for me as a reader with a disability.

The plot with ancient omen's and a daring quest should hold the attention and, I know for many it would yet, I found the omen to feel, almost distracting at times, as though it were tacked on.

The male characters were equally disappointing.
The premise of Mal confused me greatly. Kindar's personality didn't not warrant, even in her initial desperation for the man's guidance, her continued tolerance of his presence as the story progressed.
Camden, though a secondary character still one of importance, felt like  yet another afterthought as his story intersected with Kindar's. Even Henry, the amore felt too one dimensional(one directional ?) after reading of the female characters.

I think Kindar's Cure has a strong potential audience as it does have so many strong qualities, unfortunately I'm not that audience.

2.5 stars

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Mark of the Dragonfly

I received this book in exchange for my honest opinion from NetGallery, the opinions are my own.

Nervously optimistic is an odd way to start any book and yet that is the best way to describe my feelings as I dove into Jaleigh Johnson's The Mark of the Dragonfly.

Johnson's novel follows a young, orphaned scrapper named Piper who's fighting to survive on the edge of the meteor field. One day, Piper learns that meteors may not be the most dangerous thing in her hometown as a mysterious girl lands at her feet bringing foreign kings, dangerous hunters, and a whirlwind of adventure to her door that she never dreamed was possible.

Initially Thoughts . . .

I really enjoyed the concept of the meteor fields and object falling through from other realms/worlds/dimensions. It was hard not to smile as I recognized the foreign items Piper encountered. However, it was hard, perhaps due to being above the intended age bracket or because of my own expectations in this genre to swallow the whole premise.

Johnson's world shows incredible promise, the races are interesting as is the technology in what I best felt was an almost weird blend of dystopian/steampunk, sci-fi. Major plot drivers such as the 401's presence, Piper's gutsy attitude, and Anna's incredible blend of intelligence and naivete drove the story at a focused pace that kept me going once I connected to the story.

My own issue were the story lines that didn't get completed. Gee's backstory seemed an anomaly in comparison to what we were told about what his family life should have been. The meteors, while incredibly fun and, in my thoughts, a fun plot point were never fully explained and therefore never lived up to their full potential (though could make an enjoyable sequel). Even the ending, though hitting many major story arches, felt a tad too rushed and fell somewhat flat compared to the build up of the other chapters.

That said the relationships of the 401 family, Anna and Piper's developing relationship, Anna in general - side note Anna well, at first, the most annoying character I could imagine, quickly became my absolute favourite in the entire book. She reminded me a little of a more innocent less combat ready River Tam from Firefly who, if you aren't familiar with just go find Joss Whedon's Firefly and remedy that, it's a sci-fi must :)
It's the mark of a good author, in my opinion, who can take an aggravating character and make them beloved.

The relationships are what make the story along with the growth of the two central girls as they journey towards maturity. I believe the majority of my issues probably would not be an issue to the intended audience and even still this remains a highly enjoyable read.
4 out 5 stars

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy

How is it already the 7th of January!

I honestly had every intention of getting this post up earlier but who would have guessed the holidays would be a little more involved and a lot more crazy when you through a baby into the mix.

In hindsight, I probably should have been able to figure that out.

Add to that my last few free nights have been exploring and sharing the wondrous new Doctor (you don't get terribly many nights free for writing with a little one either) and  . . .voila, it's January.

Oh well, better forward than behind at this point.

I am sad it took me so long to write about Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee for the sole reason of it being such an enjoyable read. I've really been lucky of late in the books I've been getting to read and this one was no exception.

As usual, I was offered this book for free in exchange for me honest review and opinion of the novel.

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy, centers upon a young girl named Ophelia who's family is coping with the loss of their mother/wife through various means.

Ophelia's father has become obsessed with his work at a new museum with a mysterious overseer.

Ophelia's sister has become lost in the world of teenage ambitions, beauty, and growing up.

Poor Ophelia though finds herself stuck with a marvelous boy who keeps requesting ridiculous things that stretch her familiar and comforting logic to the brink and yet she can't seem to leave the boy alone.

My first impression of Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy was to harken back to another series I had began by the name of Lemony Snickett. Both books shared that somewhat darker flavour for a children's novel and yet held a sense of interest and well crafted plot that kept me going (even though I'm a few years past the target audience;) )

It was the rarity of this book though that made it so engrossing.

I was surprised (from a counselling background) how believable the characters expressions of grief were concerning the loss of the mother. As traditional children's novels tend to shy away from complex issues, I was impressed at the discussion which could be drawn from the text regarding grief if parents wished to use the book as a launching point for such a discussion.

I was also highly impressed with the author's use of names within the book. The Marvelous Boy is referred to as such  because his name has been taken from him - an interesting plot point and I'd rather not share any spoilers. I was concerned as this was revealed that it would make the character harder to connect with, especially with my personal interest in names. Somehow this boy still managed to wiggle into my heart (maybe due to me reading it with my own little boy on my lap) and send a not so subtle message on the power of names.

My one point of concern with the book is for readers like myself who would prefer to read a little more, rather than have a storyline left to the imagination. Although some characters were wrapped up nicely and even left in such a way that there could, potentially,  be a plausible sequel to this book, I just could not get into the one main character's resolution. When you read the book yourself ;) it's pretty obvious who. I understand that it's very stylistic and much more common to leave some endings more vague, but after so much build up between the boy, Ophelia, and the family . . . it just felt a little hollow. Not so frustrating I would not recommend the book but still frustrating enough for this completionist to mention :)

Overall, I found this to be a good read and a relaxing break from this year's festivities, and would easily give it 4/5 stars