Monday, September 1, 2014

A Path Toward Home by Heather R. Lorenz

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Christian
Source:  I received a copy from the author to help facilitate my review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

From Goodreads:
As a little girl growing up in post-World War II America, Constance loved her mother's vivid bedtime stories of a motherless prince. When Constance was six, that life ended; she spent the rest of her childhood with her uncle and aunt in Canada.
At 17, bored and lonely after her best friend moved away, Constance smacks her head, wakes up in the country of Avonea, meets the prince of her mother’s childhood stories, and discovers that her mother had made the same mystical journey. Is this world of fantasy and magic real or just a dream?
Dream or real,Constance just wants to go home because she knows her uncle will be frantic with worry for her. Prince Drinian and his advisor Woodphere agree to help her, and Constance finds herself living an adventure story as the three journey through dangerous country peopled with enemies of the future king.


A Path Toward Home is the first book in The Annals of Avonea, an adventure series inspired by The Chronicles of Narnia and written by high school student Heather Lorenz.  “… the plot of this book is very exciting, with twists and turns that keep you reading. The ending was unexpected and satisfying. I really enjoyed it and I would recommend it to anyone!” says one reviewer. Suitable as an ebook for juveniles and adults from new to golden, this modern classic will appeal to fans of adventure, mystery, romance, time travel, science fiction, fantasy, and faith-based fiction.

My Thoughts:
To say I loved this book is an understatement.  I am impressed with the ability this young writer has to create two worlds that are so realistic. Her ability to pull the reader into the life of Constance, who has faced such hardship is truly an art.  From the minute I began to read about the hardships Constance had to face and her reaction to them I knew I was hooked.  This is not one of those books where you are lead to believe that the main character has bad things happen and then breaks into song singing "the sun will come out tomorrow." I could feel her pain and anguish with each new trial thrown her way.  I loved the way Constance and Prince Drinian butted heads from the very beginning.  I was rooting for them all the way through, hoping there would be a relationship.  I felt so bad for Woodphere knowing how he had felt for Constance's mother. 

When Constance tries to make friends with a young girl who in in love with the Prince and finds a jealous girl instead she is heartbroken.  She feels she has to do something to make things right and learns that sometimes things are out of your hands.  I think the thing I enjoyed the most was the way God was woven into the plot. This is not an in your face, preach at you type of book.  You are subtly shown their faith.  It comes through in the way Prince Drinian tries to help his people and even his enemies. I loved the story of how they received the first Bible on their planet.  That was something else that was different from most time travel books.  The character is not transported back in time so much, but to another planet.  I agree with the blurb that at times I felt like the story had a Chronicles of Narnia feel.  To me this young lady has great talent and definitely understood the writing style of C.S. Lewis. However, I honestly loved this one more and that is saying a lot since I am such a fan of the Chronicles of Narnia.  This is only the first book so I am hoping she writes quickly, since this one just came out August 2.  I will be waiting enthusiastically for the second book.  I need to know if Constance and Prince Drinian will meet again.



About the Author:
Heather Lorenz is the author of A Path Toward Home, the first book in The Annals of Avonea series. She is the third of three daughters, and is currently a high school student living in rural Ohio with her parents and her favorite cat, Chuzzy. Heather loves reading, traveling and making new friends.


Saturday, August 30, 2014

My Cat Does My Homework and Other Poems for Children - Isabella Johnson


What happens when a first grader writes poetry?  You get something fantabulous like this.

Blurb:
This collection of twelve poems, written by a young child, will delight readers ages 1-­9 and at the same time, show them that you do not have to be an adult to write poetry! Whether you are teaching children about poetry or simply enjoy reading poems to a child, this book is for you.

My Thoughts:
I first learned about this book from Isabella. She is my student and just nonchalantly mentioned that she had a book published. It seems her parents published her book of poetry when she was in first grade. She is in sixth grade now. I am pleased to say that a lot of her poems are great examples of metaphors. What a great resource/example to use for teaching the use of figurative language, especially in poetry.  Her topics range from bugs, to cats and everything between.  I have to say that I absolutely can not wait to see her writing this year.  I truly see great things coming from this young lady who is so passionate about her writing.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Eyes of the Enemy – Kelly Hess

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Source: I received a copy from the author/publisher to help facilitate my review.  I received not compensation. The review is my opinion alone.

Blurb:
When a rogue band of the dreaded Sorak attacks his village, twelve-year-old Beynn Firehand escapes into the darkness of BlackMyst Forest to find help. During his quest, Beynn discovers his own powerful magic abilities. 

The price of his newfound powers, however, may be higher than he ever imagined.

My Thoughts:
This book has great characters and a great setting.  The world building is not over done in this book. The main character Beynn Firehand is the twelve-year-old who has set out to save his village.  The story is not over the top which is what will draw most of my middle school fantasy readers into the story.
The story is not just one magic spell after another. There is so much to like about this book.  For me I believe the fact that I would just get myself to believing something was going to happen a certain way and then the author threw in a twist.  I happen to love stories that have more twists than a rollercoaster.
It is this unpredictability that keeps me reading. Beynn develops his powers slowly so it isn’t like the author decided, hey I think I give him powers and just let the character loose with them. I loved his best friend Fritz. It was obvious that he didn’t understand what was happening to his friend Beynn. He also demonstrated what a true friend was. I loved the ending.  If you want to know what I am talking about then you most definitely need to read this book.


You can learn more about the author here.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Shabbat Monsters - Jennifer Tzivia MacLeod


Genre:  Children's Picture Book
Source:  I received a digital copy from the author in exchange for my honest review.

The illustrations in the book will appeal to children everywhere.  For me a Christian, who knew little about Jewish customs and religious beliefs it was an opportunity to learn more.  Shabbat is a celebration of the Sabbath.  It is a holy time.  In the book four little monsters are all enjoying this day, when a fifth monster asks to join them.  They refuse and ignore him.  He reminds them what Shabbat is truly about.  They reflect on this and decide to allow him to join them. This is a great way to teach children about other religious beliefs.


About the Author
Jennifer Tzivia MacLeod is a proud mother of four (two big and two little) who lives in northern Israel. A freelance writer for magazines and newspapers, she also loves writing stories for her kids and their friends.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Charlie Glass's Slippers: A Very Modern Fairy Tale - Holly McQueen


Charlie Glas'ss Slippers
Genre: Adult, Contemporary
Source: I received a review copy in exchange for my honest review.


Book Blurb
When Charlie’s beloved father, iconic shoe designer Elroy Glass, dies after a long illness, everyone expects that he’ll leave his business to his glamorous wife and eldest daughters. After all, they’ve been running the company for years. But Elroy surprises everyone from beyond the grave: at the will reading, it’s announced that his fashion empire has been left to Charlie, his youngest—and plumpest—daughter.

Before she can run the company, Charlie decides she needs to make a few changes in her life. After several weeks at a California boot camp, she returns to London a new woman: thinner, blonder, and ready to revitalize the Elroy Glass brand. But as she’ll soon discover, a good esthetician and a killer pair of stilettos can only go so far, and there’s more to reinvention—and running a fashion empire—than meets the eye.

 

My Thoughts
Holly McQueen has taken one of my favorite fairy tales and created a wonderful modern day story.  Let me tell you some of the things that made this really stand out in my mind.  First we have Charlie which is short for Charlotte.  She is the plump member of the family.  She gets walked on by her sisters.  She is a peacemaker. She is not exactly a fashionista.  Her sister Gaby is all show and about as snooty and uppity as they come.  Robyn tries to put on airs. She definitely has some problems. She’s just come back from getting help from having a break down.

Charlie has a small dinner and ends up trying to keep peace the entire time. When two of the guests, one of whom was not originally invited complain they can’t eat the food and order food in, she takes it in stride.  She is definitely someone who needs to stand up to others. I love that she considers her step-mother the “Ice Queen”, “High Priestess of Mordor”, She Who Must Not Be Named.”  It gives us an idea of what she thinks of the woman. Something else unique about this story is the way she became Charlie’s step-mother.  Charlie’s father was married to Gabby and Robyn’s mother.  They got a divorce and later he married Charlie’s mom and they had her.  Charlie’s mom died when she was run over and Charlie went to live with her Step-family. She was always considered lowly because her mother was a domestic and not high society like her step-mother. Charlie’s step mom is so verbally abusive to her. In front of other people she tries to put on a good act.  I believe that is one reason I really could not stand her.  I took great pleasure in learning Charlie’s dad had left 51% of the shares to her because she had given up her own life to take care of him, while the other members of his family only took from him.

Revenge might not be what Charlie set out to get when she takes a leave and comes back with a new look and a new idea for moving the business forward. That is exactly what she gets. 

I loved the book.  The characters were so well developed that you could not help loving some and really despising others.  I really look forward to reading anything else this author puts out.  I would highly recommend this book with a lot of quirky twists.  It is one you have to sit and read cover to cover.

About the Author:
Holly McQueen is the author of four novels—The Glamorous (Double) Life of Isabel Bookbinder, Fabulously Fashionable, Confetti Confidential, and There Goes the Bride. She lives in London with her husband.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

The Repurposed and Upcycled Life - Michelle Rayburn

The Repurposed and Upcycled Life Blog Tour
 
 
 
About the Book

Life is frustrating sometimes. It can be hard and ugly. Hurt, frustration and regret can make everything seem hopeless. But, God has a plan for everything in our lives. He offers unconditional love and grace, despite our imperfections. He offers hope where we see only despair. 

Discover the repurposed and upcycled life. This is a life where no experience is wasted. Like the best trash-to-treasure decorating project, it's alife where God repurposes our juky experiences. It's where he upcycles---turns hopeless situations into something so much better than we ever imagined---when we let him work with the trash. When we surrender to his leading, god demonstrates his creativity in revealing how our greatest disappointments, mistakes, and painful experiences can be priceless treasures.


Through humor and stories, Michelle Rayburn addresses how to unpack emotional baggage and let go of the past. Readers will learn how to confront perfectionism and negative attitudes, change perspective on circumstances, and let go of regret and shame. It's an opportunity to learn how to build positive healthy relationships, and dream big and live with purpose. Through inspiration from God's Word and examples from everyday life, readers will discover the joy–filled, hope–rich way of viewing their past, present, and future.



 


My Thoughts
The title of this came at just the right time.  We were going through things in our house to see what we could get rid of and what we could recycle or repurpose.  This book does the same thing with events in our life.  The whole gist of this is that when you look at your life and things you are holding onto you need to  ask yourself if you need to continue to hold on to it. Is it important? Chances are it is not. Can you use it to change things in your life to improve things?  I have always seen myself as a fairly positive person.  However, there are areas in my life that when I bring them back up, turn into something very negative.  I had to ask myself if it was doing good or harm in my life?  I had to give myself permission to let go of it.  It definitely was not something God wanted me to hold on to.  It is like holding on to a grudge.   God has so much more for us.  This book is full of ways to help you do just that.  If there is one book you need to read this year it is this book.  I will recommend it to all of my readers and my family and friends.


ABOUT MICHELLE
Michelle wants to help you connect the dots between faith, creativity, and everyday life and discover the joy of finding God in the most unexpected places. Years ago, she left her career as a registered nurse to raise her family, and along the way, she discovered her true passion for writing, speaking, and singing.

Michelle has written more than 100 articles for publication, and this is her debut book. Her writing has also appeared in Christian Communicator, Focus on the Family, Chicken Soup for the Soul, Vista, Queen of the Castle Magazine, and more. She has also written several Bible studies for ChristianBibleStudies.com, and does freelance editing and copy writing.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Spark: Kindled Book One by Ginger Lee Malacko

 
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade
Source: I received a review copy from the author to facilitate this review. The opinions are my own.

From Goodreads:
Nathan Christopher Coville has always been certain of two things: that he is the most popular kid to have ever lived in the town of Temple Hills, and that he deserves to be. But that was before he was plunged head first into a gorge. Now that he’s freshly dead, Nathan isn’t certain of anything except that the afterlife isn’t so heavenly. Instead of waking amidst trumpets and sunlit clouds, Nathan finds himself deep underground, in the middle of an invisible world of guardian angels. With an impossible mission, a head angel with an unnerving secret, and a host of demons who want nothing more than to destroy him, fame and glory seem forever just out of Nathan’s reach. And to top it all, he is somehow thrown in with the most notorious misfits of the guardian training center. It’s a far cry from his easy mortal life, and Nathan finds himself homesick for his friends, his family, and his fan club. But the greatest challenge of all comes when Nathan accidentally discovers a dastardly demon plot to take over his hometown. And since the angel authorities refuse to believe that a demon army is secretly amassing under their noses, the fate of thousands of people is suddenly resting on Nathan’s inexperienced shoulders.

My Thoughts:
I like the main character Nathan from the very beginning.  I thought he was kind of stuck on himself.  However, I deal with kids like that all the time as a teacher. I could overlook that character trait.  I saw how much he really cared about his brother Sam.  I knew there was something special about Nathan when he described the stranger on the baseball field before he had ever reached it.  It was obvious he has some gift that allowed him to tell that things were not right. Shade was definitely a demon and  Nathan was aware that there was a major problem with Shade. Nathan loses his life after saving the life of his friends and his younger brother who refused to listen to Nathan. He had told them not to listen to Shade. So the story starts out in a depressive way, but it sure keeps the ball rolling all the way through.  Sam was a hero in life, and now it seems he must become a hero in death.  I would definitely recommend this book.  It only took me two sittings to read this book.  If I had not had other things I had to do I could have read it in one sitting.  Definitely need this for my students at school.  I think they will really enjoy this.
I received a copy from the author to help facilitate this review.  I received no compensation. The opinions expressed here are my own.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Fractured Dream Review and Giveaway

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Fractured Dream by KM Randall
Published by: Booktrope
Published On: June 21, 2014
Genre: Fantasy
9781620153659
Blurb:
Have you ever wondered where fairytales go once they're created?

It's been eight years since Story Sparks last had a dream. Now they're back, tormenting her as nightmares she can't remember upon waking. The black waters of Lake Sandeen, where her Uncle Peter disappeared decades before, may hold the secret to Story's hidden memories, or a truth she'd rather not know. On a bright summer afternoon, Story and her two best friends, Elliott and Adam, take a hike to the lake, where they dive into the cool water and never reemerge. What they find is beyond anything they've ever imagined could be possible, a world where dangers lurk in the form of Big Bad Wolves, living Nightmares and meddlesome witches and gods.

Now Story must remember who she really is and somehow stop two worlds from ultimate annihilation, all while trying not to be too
distracted by the inexplicable pull she feels toward a certain dark-eyed traveler who seems to have secrets of his own. The fates of the worlds are counting on her.

My Thoughts:
If you love dark fairy tales, mysteries, and fantasies then this is the book for you. There is something for everyone in this book. The author did a great job of world building.  For those who like romance in their stories the author has even covered that base.  I am not a big fan of romances.  However, the romance in this book is not over the top.  I especially loved the idea of the character, appropriately named Story.  She is not only a hero in the world of Tressla, but also in her earthly world. Story is one of those characters I had trouble liking in the beginning of the book.  As the story progresses we see lots of growth in the character.  This made her more likable further into the book.  This is a really great book that I know young adults and adults will both like.
About the Author KM Randall As a girl, K.M. always wished she’d suddenly come into magical powers or cross over into a Faerie circle. Although that has yet to happen, she instead lives vicariously through the characters she creates in writing fantasy and delving into the paranormal. When K.M. is not busy writing her next novel, she is the editor-in-chief of a blog covering the media industry, as well as an editor with Booktrope Publishing. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Syracuse University and a bachelor’s degree in English-Lit from Nazareth College of Rochester. K.M. lives in Upstate New York’s Finger Lakes region with her husband and her extremely energetic little boy. Fractured Dream is her first novel.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Twisted Reflections by Shay West



Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Fantasy

Source:  I received a copy to help facilitate this review. The opinions expressed are strictly mine.


Back Blurb:

Alexis Davenport is learning to come to grips with her ability to travel through time, but she still hasn’t been able to stop the evil Drifter and his Master from trying to alter the past.

When she travels back to ancient Egypt, Alex gets a most unexpected surprise; she meets someone who can help her figure out how to use her powers, another Traveler like herself.

But can Alex learn how to control her gift before Drifter finds a way to stop her from meddling in his Master’s plans?


My Thoughts:

First let me say I thought the cover of the first book was gorgeous.  The second one is equally gorgeous.

In this sequel to Dangerous Reflections” which I posted a review on here, we find Alexis Davenport’s life is beginning to look up.  In the first book she and her mother had to move into her aunt’s guest house because her father deserted them and cleaned out the bank account while he was at it.  She has survived her first year of high school and being bullied.  She has a gorgeous boyfriend named Drake and her mom is actually letting her date, in a way. She’s not allowed to go to dances, she’s not allowed to get her learners permit, and she is spending a lot of time working for her aunt.  Her social life is beginning to go down the tubes. Worse than all of that is the Drifter is trying even harder to kill her. In this book Alexis meets someone like her and finds a way to travel to Scotland so that she can meet this boy and his master.  She’s after some answers since she has learned that she has no master.  Who is the Drifter and just what is his or his master’s ultimate goal?  I was really surprised by a couple of things that occurred in the book.  I was shocked by the way it ended. I flipped the page and realized there was no more.  Talk about a cliff hanger.  It was tied up neatly enough; there were just several questions I wanted answered. 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Summer Extravaganza Day 3

This is the final day of massive picture book reviews.  I believe I have most of them caught up.  The rest I will just sprinkle throughout my reviews.

 
 
Baffin’s Desire for Fire – Josephine Young
Baffin is a dragonasaurus who can’t breathe fire from his snout. He visits the firebird who lives on top of fire mountain. Read and find out if Baffin gets fire. This is a cute book about a young dragon who feels different because he is told he is different.  He wants to grow up too fast.  He learns a valuable lesson while up on the mountain.

 

 
Boo & Doo and the Crazy Clouds – Michael Yu

Boo and Doo live in the town of Oobaoo. Their houses are made of sugar. Every time it rains they lose their homes. One day an angry rain cloud came in and destroyed their homes. The town meets in a cave to figure out a way to stop the angry cloud. Boo and Doo step forward with a plan.  The question is, will it work?  Read this wonderful and brightly colored book to find out how they save their town.

 

 
 
 
 
The Bath Time Book – Michael Yu
It was bedtime and Alfie wanted to continue playing. As he prepares to take his bath his imagination is turned to high. This is a wonderful book to read to your child before bed time after they have taken their bath.

 

 
 
Emma Learns to Sprout – Shir Guez
This is a cute book about Emma and her mother who teachers her all about sprouting. I’m ashamed to say, growing up on a farm I was clueless about sprouting. I had never even heard of sprouting. The story explains the process so that it is simple yet fun. The best part is that the whole process encourages children to eat what they sprout, which is healthy for them.

 

The Honk of Zagonk – Pat Hatt
This cute story is about dragons gathering for the dragon games where they will learn what kind of flame they will get.  Zagonk waits patiently. When his turn comes all that comes out is a honking sound.  Of course all of the other dragons laugh at him.  He flies off ashamed of himself.  Trouble visits the other dragons.  It will be up to Zagonk to use his gift to help them all.  This is a fun read about using the talents you are given.

 

If You Were Me and Lived in Portugal – Carole P. Roman
This is a book that follows along I the same way the author’s other books do. In Portugal you learn the capital, what your parents are called, popular boy and girl names. The author always talks about where you would go on vacations and what you would see. My favorite part is learning about some of the foods you would eat. These are great books for getting children interested in learning about other countries.

 

 
 
 
 
Animal Friends: Floating Orange Cubes – Rob Towner
This is the story about a cicada and other creatures who accidently get on the bad side of a group of birds. By trying to get revenge on each other, something catastrophic happens. There is only one way to fix this situation.  It will require a sacrifice.  Read to find out what must be sacrificed and if it is enough to bring everyone together.

 

 

 

 

 
Matzo Frogs – Sally Rosenthal
This is a wonderful story of helping your neighbor.  A woman prepares some matzo soup for company that will be joining her later in the evening. She ends up spilling it.  She has promised to help a neighbor with something else and knows she won’t have time to remake the soup.  She leaves disheartened.  Imagine her surprise when she returns and finds new batch of soup made. Who could have done such a special thing for her and her company.  This was a fun book to read and can be enjoyed by young and old alike, whether you are Jew or Gentile. The illustrations are absolutely gorgeous

 

 
 
The Little Seed – Martha Wolfe
A little seed drops from heaven and begins to grow. It grows strong and beautiful. Many things are made from the plant. One day the government comes in and destroys the plants.  Then it rains and more of the plant has grown.  Man can’t stop what God has started for a purpose. This is a great book teaching how plants start and mature.

 

 

Stars in the Pool and Other Stories – D. R. Tara
This book was filled with real short stories that had morals or lessons at the end of each one.  It starts off with a story of three brothers. Ned is the oldest and works hard. Ted and Zed are lazy and play all day.  One day Ned decides to go out into the world to seek his fortune so that he can bring it back and share it with his brothers.  Ted decides to do this as he has never been a help.  He finds an old woman and asks her for shelter.  She gives him a task to do and he decides it is impossible so he goes home.  Ned goes out and meets the same old lady.  He is given the same task as the other brother.  Ned sets to work to fulfill the task.  This story teaches we must use our hands if we want to reach our dreams and goals, we can’t sit around and wait for things to happen.  A second story tells of a man who has great riches.  He hears some robbers in his garden and tells his wife to listen to him and to answer yes to what he says.  Speaking loudly he tells his wife that it was a good thing that he hid all of their riches at the bottom of the well where no one would be able to get to them.  The robbers empty the well trying to get to the riches.  In the process they have watered the crops of the owner and find themselves arrested. The moral of the story is not to believe everything you hear.  The rest of the book is filled with similar stories. It was very enjoyable.

 

 
 
Billy’s Most Peculiar Hike – Sophia Aguilera
Billy is a young boy who loves to be outdoors. On this particular day of hiking he decides to walk a trail up a mountain. Along the way he sees many strange creatures. The book is written in rhyming form Much like Dr. Seuss the illustrator has used a limited color palette which actually enhances the story. This was a fun book to read. This would be great for a pre-writing book where you have students create their own blended creatures.

 

 
 
If I Were a Robot – Scott Gordon
A young boy describes what his life would be like if he was a robot. He has quite an imagination. This is a fun way to teach kids about using their imaginations.