Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Goodnight Manger

Every once in awhile  I stumble across an author who becomes a "go-to" for our family bookshelves.
Most recently, we've fallen in love with the stunning pairing of Laura Sassi and Jane Chapman.
A few weeks ago, I had the joy of reviewing Goodnight Ark which has become a fast favourite in our home, so I was equally excited to have the chance to dive into their newest offering Goodnight Manger.

Goodnight Manger follows the story of Baby Jesus' first night on earth. All snuggled up in the manger it's time to sleep except . . . things are way too noisy. How is anybody supposed to sleep?

First of all, I love Jane Chapman's illustrations. She has a knack for finding a balance between friendly and appealing for children while still be inviting for the parents who get to read their children's books over and over again. I loved how warm and vibrant the images were, leaping off the pages in a way that complements the story perfectly. Chapman also showed some brave creativity by not conforming to norms when it comes for illustrations in a Christmas book. Her lively angels and appropriate ethnicities were a welcome change.

The story itself was exactly what I expected. Geared towards ages 4 through 8 younger siblings will be equally charmed by the fun, rhyming pattern through which the Christmas story is unfolding in a unique way. Much like their earlier Goodnight Ark, Goodnight Manger uses lots of action and movement in its words allowing parents to come up with their own actions to make story time as interactive as they choose (a valuable tool in our house as we work to overcome our son's speech delay and actions are currently our best tool!)

Christmas is one of my favourite times of year but I can easily see Goodnight Manger being requested no matter the month.

5 out of 5 stars
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Taming the To-Do List by Glynnis Whitwer

As a point of interest, I put off reading this book for a few days because of my to-do list.

When I did get the chance to start reading it (after the kids and husband were asleep) I found myself doing an awful lot of nodding, wincing, and whispering ouch. Some books just hit a little too close to home for comfort.

Whitwer's book on procrastination is interesting. As she points out throughout her book, time management is a highly covered topic in today's market. There are enough takes and opinions on time, procrastination, and efficiency to cause decision fatigue. For the most part, however, I found Whitwer to be a refreshing new insight.

What I loved.

I so appreciate Whitwer's ability to bring multiple causes and roots to the front of awareness in her book. Let's face it my procrastination can have a few causes (most notably perfectionism and choice fatigue/overload) and I appreciate Whitwer's ability to take different causes and give each their own voice. This felt like it would be particularly helpful for those who have never reflected on the reasons for their own procrastination and may require help for this inner reflection.

I also appreciated Whitwer's writing style. The book is definitely geared towards a female audience (although my husband enjoyed a few selections I chose to read aloud) and in that Whitwer has taken on an honest and almost conversational tone in her writings. Whitwer is honest with her own journey away from procrastination even admitting to having procrastinated on writing this very book. The made the book so much easier to connect with.

Things I liked less.

There were times that I felt the book was more repetitive than I would have liked. Some of these were Whitwer reintroducing or expanding upon a story or idea that had been introduced earlier in the book. This has always been a personal pet peeve however and would not detract from most readers.

In the end, I think this book would actually be a great option for a women's book group. I could see how with Whitwer's breakdown of chapters as well as the homework option at the end of each section this could easily transition into a group study allowing participants to hold each other accountable and share their tips as well as encourage others in their group.

4 out of 5 stars

I received this book for free in exchange for my honest opinion through Nuts About Books. The opinions expressed are entirely my own/

A Noble Masquerade - Kristi Ann Hunter

Lady Miranda has a few secrets.

First she's not naturally very lady-like. Although Miranda may be the daughter and sister to  Dukes, her lady-like skills have come through years of unending lessons from her mother.
Second, she deals with her less lady-like qualities by allowing them to run free in letters she has written from girlhood to her brother's school friend the Duke of Marshington, knowing she is safe from breaking any societal rules since each letter stays safely tucked away in her closet.
When her brothers strange new valet accidentally ensures one of Miranda's letters makes it's way to the long-lost Duke Miranda finds herself caught in an entirely new world.

I love the chance to find new-to-me authors and Kristi Ann Hunter is just one of those. I am fully confident that should I find another historical fiction by Hunter on a trip to the local bookstore it will quickly be coming home to my library!

I really did love this book and ended up reading it cover to cover in one sitting.
Hunter's characters were vibrant and personable. Miranda and her family, Ryland, Jess, Price, and Jeffreys were easy to bring to life in my head thanks to the personality and quirks unfolded by Hunter throughout her pages. I would easily and delightedly dive into a sequel that expanded upon this wonderful world. Miranda was easily my favourite character and I found myself laughing at her brother's protective streak and sympathizing with her as she traveled down the rocky road of figuring out who exactly Miranda was.

The pace of the book was also an unexpected surprise given my familiarity with the genre. Thanks to the espionage and the center of the action plot there was a quick pace with enough mystery to keep me hooked. Although I was able to guess where things were going Hunter managed to keep the climax a surprise (with some lovely humour and romance to balance things out) and the full nature of who was and wasn't involved did take a fair portion of the book to unravel thanks to Hunter's ability to balance action with romance and character building/growth.

 Also, while the book does end in a way that is not unexpected for the genre. I was pleasantly surprised to see a Christian fiction wrestling with the idea of singleness for women. Miranda's honest pain at being unmarried during her sister's first season. her back and forth with the idea of being single, and her willingness to start accepted her worth as a single woman was a definite change from what I usually see in Christian fiction and I loved it (although I also really loved the ending and was rooting for it since the halfway mark in the book)

Overall, I give this book 5 out of 5 stars

I received this book for free in exchange for my honest opinion through Nuts About Books. The opinions expressed are entirely my own/

Monday, September 14, 2015

Lumiere by Jacqueline E. Garlick

Eyelet's world changed the night of the Great Illumination.

Not only did she lose one of the two people she could trust not to betray her but, following the great flash, her world was plunged into a seemingly eternal twilight.

Now, years later, Eyelet's world changed again as her mother is sentenced to die for a crime of which she is innocent while Eyelet finds herself convicted for the crime of being her daughter. On the run with dangers inside and out, will Eyelet find the safety she seeks?

Actually I'm not sure on that last one because - Trilogy alert! On a side note, am I the only one who finds discovering recently published trilogies bittersweet? Sweet as you get the joy of devouring a book without spoilers and bitter because answers are in yet to be found books 2 and 3 (okay, okay I may be a bit impatient).

Lumiere  is book 1 of 3 in The Illumination Paradox series, written by Jacqueline E. Garlick. Focusing on the characters of Eyelet and Urlick the mysterious man Eyelet meets while escaping from the upper class Brethren.

What I liked:

I found myself increasingly drawn to Garlick's characters - especially as the supporting cast allowed readers access to different facets of Eyelet and Urlick.

Urlick's initially offsetting manner was tempered by Iris who quickly became a personal favourite once she revealed her surprisingly feisty and loyal personality where as C.L and Pan helped soften Eyelet and give her depth where it was needed. Actually, upon reflection I think Pan was a brilliant addition to the cast and I'm excited to see how she plays into the next two books (since I hate spoilers and Pan has a doozy that's all I'll say).

The world was also fascinating in its potential. The ranked society has always proven a fabulous playground for my imagination and the contrast between the Brethren, the Gears and the follies not to mention the secretive Limpidious. Garlick did a great job setting up the later two areas to be potentially important plot points that I would love to see revealed.

I think that's one thing I appreciated the most in this book. Garlick has hinted and wonderfully teased out clues for which features will be important later in the series. Where some trilogies I've read feel barely connected, Lumiere feels almost sadly incomplete at times as characters and mysterious are (hopefully) temporarily discarded until the characters catch up to wear the reader's knowledge has allowed them to go.

Things I didn't like:

I was sad not to see more of Sebastian. He seemed like a great little character and had a lot of potential as an ally for Eyelet in an area where she has few. I would easily revise Sebastian to a plus if he reappears later :)

My only other question with the book was the turned. Now, admittedly Lumiere does not allow us to go beyond the characters understanding of the vapours. However, the criminally while the criminals were a suitably creepy foe and the Brigsman were a natural foe from the Brethren. The Turned just didn't hit me in the same way. They seemed almost too fantastical for their preferred method of dealing with their prey.

In the end, I found Lumiere to be a solid introduction to Garlick's world and will be interested to see how this story unfolds

4 out of 5 stars

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

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Thank you Lord for Everything by P.J. Lyons

It's hard to believe Thanksgiving is only a month away.

Thanksgiving is one of those weird little holidays for us that is usually pretty laid back and ends up looking a lot like our regular extended family dinners.However, the central theme of thankfulness is one I certainly appreciate as well as the opportunity to help ingrain a spirit of thankfulness in my kids.

I'm grateful that Zondervan has a wide selection of books on thankfulness that tie in beautifully to this upcoming season and their newest offering from P.J Lyons and Tim Warnes is no exception.

Thank You Lord for Everything follows a young bear throughout his day - from waking up in the morning, to having breakfast, and going out to play with his friends.

I really enjoyed Lyons style in writing this book (and the more I become re-introduced to children's literature the more I'm convinced that good kid's book have their own styles, rhythms, and compositions to separate the good from the bad.) Every page, no matter what topic is being discussed though always presented with a fun rhyme and rhythm, ends with the phrase "Thank you Lord for everything",  The repetition is brilliant for helping little ones remember and definitely fits in with my son's developmental level (we're repeating all sorts of things these days).

The sentences are short - fitting in with an average toddler's attention span and because readers get to follow our main bear throughout his day the story also helps to emphasize just what it means to be thankful in everything.

The illustrations by Warnes are warm and compliment the story  beautifully, giving life and movement to the story. I especially enjoy how the colours are bright and cheerful without being "in your face" as the wrong bedtime story in our house can liven up a certain toddler rather than help him prepare for bed.

Overall I'd give this story 4.5/5 stars.

 Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”