Monday, August 29, 2016

Maybe a Fox by Kathi Appelt and Alison McGhee

Title: Maybe a Fox
Author: Kathi Appelt and Alison McGhee
Read by: Alison McGhee
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Length: Approximately 3 hours and 54 minutes
Source: Simon & Schuster Audio Digital Review Copy – Thank-you!

This short, but powerful middle reader book is the story of a girl who has lost both her mother and sister and a shadow fox cub that is both animal and spirit.  This book had me in tears at the end with a beautiful ending that brought all of the storylines together.  Where do we go when we die?  How do people handle death and understanding what has happened when loved ones pass away?

Sylvie who is twelve years old and Jules who is eleven years old are two very close sisters, although they sometimes get on each other’s nerves.  Jules is a budding geologist who likes to collect rocks and classify them while Sylvie is a runner who is always trying to increase her speed.  Their mother passed away when they were little and Jules is saddened that she doesn’t remember her.  One day while getting ready for school, Sylvie runs ahead to go down to the forbidden river before the bus arrives . . . and never comes back. 

At the same time, Senna, a fox cub is born.  Senna lives in a burrow under the earth with her mother and loves to play with her brother cub as they grow older.  Senna finds herself attracted to a sad girl in the woods, Jules, and has strange memories of a different life.

These two stories alternate between chapters with Jules telling the story one chapter and then Senna the next.  Part of the story is also about Jules and Sylvie’s friend Sam and his brother Elk.  Elk has returned from fighting in the military in Afghanistan without his best friend Zeke who died overseas.  He is often alone in the woods trying to come to terms with Zeke’s loss.

Co-Author Alison McGhee is the narrator for this audiobook and she does a superb job with a nice soothing voice.  This book was very emotional for me.  It is geared toward middle school kids and I’m sure would also be an emotional read for them as well.  I cried while listening to it on my drive home, and also at home trying to recount the tale to my husband.  The last part of the book wove together Senna and Jules narrative seamlessly and was a beautiful story.  I am better for having listened to it.

Overall Maybe a Fox is an emotional tale of a girl who has lost her sister and is trying to navigate a world without her and a shadow fox who is wise beyond her years.  This is an excellent novel.

Why book brings you to tears when you read or listen to it?

Tricky Twenty-Two by Janet Evanovich

Title: Tricky Twenty-Two
Author: Janet Evanovich
Read by: Lorelei King
Publisher: Penguin Random House Audio
Length: Approximately 6 Hours (5 discs)
Source: Kewaunee Public Library – Thanks!

The start of a new semester is always stressful.  I therefore was looking for a funny book to listen to on my daily commute and I instantly thought of the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich.  Although the storyline has disappointed me in recent years, I am ALWAYS entertained by the narration of the audiobook novels by Lorelei King.  I think she is hands down, the best audiobook narrator in the business.  I also always hold out hope that the Stephanie Plum series will show some growth and I was pleasantly surprised by this book!

Stephanie Plum is a bounty hunter working for her cousin Vinnie with her always hilarious side-kick Lula in Trenton, New Jersey.  She is dating cop Joe Morelli, but always find herself tempted by man of mystery security expert, Ranger.  In Tricky Twenty-Two, Stephanie has many people she’s trying to track down for bounties, but her major hunt is for Ken Globovic.  He is the leader of the Zeta fraternity at the local Kiltman College.  He has been accused of assaulting the Dean of Students.  The Zeta fraternity is a living personification of Animal House, but Stephanie soon learns that there may be more to Globovic’s story than meets the eye.  Why is he being framed?  What is really going on at the Zeta house?

Tricky Twenty-Two was laugh out loud funny.  I enjoyed listening to it on my daily commute.  I also really enjoyed that there seemed to finally be some forward movement to Stephanie’s story.  She still destroys cars, loves to eat, and has relationship troubles, but there was progress on many things that have annoyed me the past several books.  For starters, Stephanie actually rescues herself for once!  I was very happy on that front that after all of these years as a bounty hunter, Stephanie is finally starting to gain some skills.  On the relationship front, Morelli and Stephanie are on the rocks through most of the book, but he finally proposes at the end of the book. Will Stephanie say yes?  We are left with a cliffhanger to find out. I am ready for love triangle to end and Stephanie to make forward growth on the relationship front.  My last favorite forward movement in this novel was that Stephanie’s Mom finally left her house, went out to eat with Stephanie, Lula, and Grandma, and found herself a part of the action.  I was cheering her on!

The last several books in the series have made me wonder why I keep listening, but this book is keeping me hooked into this series for the foreseeable future.  It is just a funny, fun book and the characters are starting to have some growth which is great.  There is vulgar humor, so make sure you don’t listen when children are nearby.

Overall Tricky Twenty-Two was a great new addition to the Stephanie Plum series and it really makes me want to listen to the 23rd addition!

Do you have a series that you love that sometimes you have a hard time staying with?

What is your favorite funny novel?

Are you a fan of Stephanie Plum?  Why or Why not?

Winner of Inkspirations: Fruit of the Spirit by Lorrie Bennett!

The lucky winner of Christian coloring book Inspirations:  Fruit of the Spirit by Lorrie Bennett is Suko of Suko's Notebook.  She was chosen using the power of and was notified via email.  Suko has one week to respond with her mailing address before a new winner will be drawn.  Congrats to Suko!

Thank-you to all who entered the giveaway!  Thank-you to author Lorrie Bennett and TLC Book Tours for allowing me to host this giveaway.  Interested in this coloring book?  Make sure to check out my review.

Sad you didn't win?  I will be posting a giveaway for a great novel on September 9th.  Make sure to stop by to check it out!

Winner of The Valley by Helen Bryan!

The lucky winner of The Valley by Helen Bryan is bn100 who left a comment on the review blog on August 19th.  Congrats to bn100!  Bn100 has been notified via email and has one week to respond to me with their mailing address so the book can be sent to them.  Bn100 was chosen using the power of

Thank-you to all who entered, author Helen Bryan, and TLC book Tours for allowing me to host the giveaway.

I will have a new giveaway posted on September 9th for another excellent novel.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Top 10 Pioneer Books

Pioneers – those hardy souls who left behind family and all that was known to them to explore unknown reaches and try for a chance at a better life.  I have been intrigued by pioneers and explorers since I was a child.  The following are my top pioneer picks in no particular order.

  1. The Oregon Trail by Rinker Buck – Two modern day brothers decide to travel the Oregon Trail with an old fashioned schooner and team. This was a hilarious road trip tales as well as including a great history on the original pioneers who took the Oregon Trail.  I loved it!
  2. Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon – The first three books of the Outlander series are about Scotland and its history; book four changes to the frontier life as the Frasiers’ settle in the United States in the 18th century.  Jamie and Claire arrive in the United States via shipwreck.  Jamie eventually decides to start a settlement, Frasier’s Ridge in North Carolina.  Building a cabin, settlement, and the hardships of making it all work are all described in vivid detail.  I especially love how Claire uses her 20th century doctor knowledge to become a skilled 18th century healer.  Overall, this is the story of Jamie and Claire carving out a life on the frontier.
  3. Into the Wilderness by Sara Donati – Into the Wilderness is a continuation of Last of the Mohicans by James Fennimore Cooper.  It is the story of Nathaniel Bonner (Hawkeye and Cora’s son) and Elizabeth Middleton, a 29-year old English spinster who has moved to a remove New York mountain village to join her family in 1792.  Will her refined English ways be able to handle the trials of living on the frontier?
  4.  Little House on the Prairie Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder – Lyrical series that explores the
    many moves and lives of the Ingalls family from Wisconsin to Kansas to Minnesota to South Dakota.  The Little House Series is descriptive and wonderfully told from a child’s point of view.  It describes the lives of pioneers in great detail thinking that kids won’t know what is meant otherwise.  This is perfect for us that are so far removed from the time to teach us how pioneers lived and did their tasks.  The love of the Ingalls family helps them through trials and tribulations.  They lived during changing times and Wilder was able to immortalize family, friends, and a way of life.
  5. Pioneer Girl by Laura Ingalls Wilder – Pioneer Girl was Laura’s original book written for adults that eventually was turned into the Little House series for children (and her daughter Rose’s books for adults).  This publication has pictures, maps, and notes that meticulously detail the real journey of the Ingalls and answered many burning questions I’ve had since childhood.  This is a grittier tale than the Little House series.
  6. Free Land by Rose Wilder Lane – As I discovered in Pioneer Girl, Rose Wilder Lane helped her mother by editing her original adult novel, Pioneer Girl, and then helped her edit them to children’s books.  Lane then used the stories to write her own adult novels.  Rose Wilder Lane was a very famous author in her day, but has been eclipsed in modern times by her mother.  Lane’s pioneer books are worth a read, especially for lovers of pioneer tales.  Mary and David Beaton are newlyweds that travel to the Dakota Territory to homestead 300 acres.  Isolation, blizzards, and cyclones are just some of the trials they face.  Their story is very similar to the real life stories of Almanzo and Laura Wilder and Charles and Caroline Ingalls.
  7. Young Pioneers by Rose Wilder Lane – This novel was originally published as Let the Hurricane Roar.  It tells the story of David and Molly.  They are newly married and just 18 and 16 when they head west with the blessing of their families.  They have a rough time in the newly settled west when a grasshopper plague hits.  You can think of this book as an adult version of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s On the Bank of Plum Creek.
  8. My Antonia by Willa Cather – Willa Cather perfecting captured the pioneering spirit in two of her most famous works, My Antonia and O Pioneers.  In My Antonia, Jim Burden is raised by his pioneering grandparents in Nebraska.  His nearest neighbors are the Bohemian Shimerda family and their daughter, Antonia.  Antonia and Jim have many adventures together and experience the trials and joys of the pioneer life.
  9.  O Pioneers by Willa Cather - O Pioneers is the story of Alexandra Bergson.  She is strong woman who takes over the family farm after her father’s death and makes it a success in Nebraska during pioneer times.
  10. A Lantern in Her Hand by Bess Streeter Aldrich – A Lantern in Her Hand is the story of a mother, Abbie McKenzie Deal.  As a young woman, Abbie dreams of a singing career, but instead marries a neighbor boy and Civil War vet, Will Deal.  Newly married Will and Abbie Deal move to Nebraska to start a family.  It’s a hard life starting a new farm and family while living in a soddie.  Abbie lives live sacrificing all for the sake of her children.  All of Abbie’s life is packed in this one novel, but I love her reflections as an old lady on her life and decisions.

What is your favorite pioneer book?  What elements of a pioneer’s tale draws you to the story?

For a travelogue of my visit to two pioneering sites – the settings for Little House in the Big Woods and On the Banks of Plum Creek, check out this post.