Thursday, December 14, 2017

Lady Osbaldestone’s Christmas Goose by Stephanie Laurens

Title: Lady Osbaldestone’s Christmas Goose
Author: Stephanie Laurens
Read by: Helen Lloyd
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Length: Approximately 7 hours
Source: Blackstone Audio Digital Review Copy as a part of the Audiobook Jukebox Review– Thank-you!  I read this along in a print copy of the book that was a Christmas gift from my best friend Jenn.

Lady Therese Osbaldestone is a widow who is trying to find her way in the world.  Settling in Little Moseley in Hampshire at an estate left to her by her Aunt, Lady Osbaldestone sets to work getting reacquainted with the community and also caring for her three young grandchildren who are visiting while their parents are ill.  As it nears Christmas, Lady Osbaldestone and the three children are soon embroiled in mystery as the flock of geese the village is looking forward to eating for Christmas dinner has gone missing. 

As they search the village, the family also finds themselves helping to bring a wounded veteran of the Napoleon wars, Lord Christian Longfellow, back out into village life and hopefully into romance with his neighbor, Miss Eugenia Fitzgibbon.  Will love be found as well as the “blasted” geese?

I really, really loved this novel.  I am a great fan of Christmas regency romance and I found this to be a delightful story.  The village of Little Mosely was charming and delightful and I love the characters that inhabited the village.  I also loved how the grandchildren were entranced with not only finding the geese, but also helping their grandmother to play matchmaker.  There was a nail biting incidence of suspense toward the end of the book, but I overall enjoyed that it had a little mystery, a little romance, but no violence and the romance was clean with only a kiss.

I listened to the audiobook while also reading along with the actual novel which was fun to do.  I thought Helen Lloyd was an excellent narrator and it was a very enjoyable book to listen to as an audio.  She did great with the characters and pacing of the story.

This is a first book in a planned series and I can’t wait to read the rest of the series!

Overall, Lady Osbaldestone’s Christmas Goose is a delightful Christmas mystery and romance novel.  I highly recommend it!

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C O’Brien

I had heard of Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, but somehow got through my childhood without ever having read it.  My 11 –year and 9-year old sons were reading it for their youth book club this last month. I read it with 9-year old Daniel in the evenings using the flip-flop technique.  I would read a page and then he would read one.
Mrs. Frisby is a widowed mouse with four young children living in a field.  Her youngest son, Timothy is very ill and unfortunately it is time to move to summer quarters before Farmer Fitzgibbon starts to plow his fields.  Mrs. Frisby seeks help amongst her neighbors and is told by a wise owl to get help from the Rats.  When Mrs. Frisby meets the rats, she discovers far more about them and her late husband than she had ever imagined. Will they be able to save Timothy before the plow comes?
Daniel and I both greatly enjoyed the story as did Kile as well.  We had to have a discussion about it after we all finished.  I fell asleep one night and couldn’t read further so Daniel took the book and finished it himself that night, I had to catch up the next day to see how it ended!  It was a great heroic tale of Mrs. Frisby and her love for her children, but the entire rats sequence was very intriguing. 

Daniel loved finding out where they came from, but was a bit stressed out about the more suspenseful parts of the novel.  We still want to know who the mysterious two rats were in the end!  I really liked the ambiguous ending and the questions of ethics and morality that permeated the story.

Overall, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH is a wonderful fantasy novel that will delight readers of all ages.

Book Source:  The Kewaunee Pubic Library

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Moonlight Over Manhattan by Sarah Morgan Review and GIVEAWAY! (TLC Book Tour)

Searching for a delightful Christmas romance that will sweep you off your feet?  Moonlight Over Manhattan is the book for you.

Harriet Knight runs a successful dog walking business with her twin sister Fliss.  Now that her sister has met the love of her life and moved out, Harriet is trying to find a way to challenge herself to get out more to overcome her shyness and stutter.  Sometimes going out more on blind dates can lead to awkward moments like hurting your ankle after jumping out a bathroom window to escape your date.
In the ER Harriet met a handsome doctor named Ethan.  Caught up in his work, Ethan has a problem letting go and living life.  After his niece had an accident, his sister rushed cross country to be with her and left her dog Madi with Ethan to care for.  Her dog walker stopped by to care for her . . . and Harriet and Ethan meet again.  Will these two opposites find a way to be together?  Can they let go of the past to forge a positive path forward in the world?  And more importantly, will Ethan learn to love a dog that destroys his apartment?

I really enjoyed this novel.  It was a nice Christmas romance that is perfect for this time of year.  I loved that the story had dogs in it as I am an animal lover myself.  I also loved the setting – New York City at Christmas time with a sojourn up to Vermont.  The descriptions in the book were beautiful. I really enjoyed the characters of Harriet and Ethan and how they both grow and develop in this book.

Moonlight Over Manhattan is the sixth novel in the From Manhattan with Love series.  I have not read the other books in the series and didn’t feel like I was missing any important parts of the story.  This novel holds up well as its own complete story.  It did spike my interest in the other books in the series as I enjoyed reading it so much!

My favorite quotes:

“Harriet had never felt that way, but she did often wonder how on earth you were supposed to meet someone you’d like to spend the rest of your life with.”

“’I never believed in love at first sight until now.  It’s magical,’ she breathed, ‘Like something from a Christmas fairy tale.’  The words caught in her throat.  This was Christmas as she’d imagined it should be when she was a child and trying to escape the reality of her own.”

“Anything that involves people is complicated.  That doesn’t mean we should walk away.”

“If you’d stayed I probably would have carried on taking the easy road.  The one with no obstacles.  But a road without obstacles is a parking lot and I don’t want to live my life in a parking lot.”

Overall, Moonlight over Manhattan is a very enjoyable romance with a great setting, characters, and story.  It’s a perfect read for the Christmas season.

Book Source:  E-book Review Copy as Part of the TLC Book Tour.  Thank-you!  For more stops on the tour visit this link.

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Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Star Trek Discovery: Desperate Hours by David Mack

Title: Star Trek Discovery: Desperate Hours
Author: David Mack
Read by:  Susan Eisenberg
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Length: Approximately 9 hour and 59 minutes
Source: Simon & Schuster Audio Digital Review Copy – Thank-you!

As a lifelong Star Trek fan, I am happy that there is a new TV series.  I’ve started watching it with the family and I like it so far (we are a few episodes in).  I was excited to review Star Trek Discovery – a novel set one year before the beginning of the new series. It gives some good character background on the crew of the Shenzhou and the main character, first officer Michael Burnum.

In Star Trek Discovery: Desperate Hours the Shenzhou with newly minted first officer Michael Burnum is sent to a colony world after a mysterious alien craft attacks.  The craft was disturbed during routine drilling and may have been under the sea for millions of years.  Arriving at the planet, the Shenzhou is faced with the hard choice of being able to destroy the alien craft, but also destroying the colony.  They are further pushed into that hard place when the Enterprise shows up helmed by Captain Christopher Pike to make sure the Shenzhou destroys the alien craft at all costs.  Will the Shenzhou and her crew be able to figure out how to disable the craft while also saving the inhabitants of the planet?

The story was interesting in Star Trek Discovery: Desperate Hours, but what I really liked was the character development.  In particular I liked Michael Burnum and Saru’s relationship and how it developed as well as both of their relationships to Captain Philippa Georgiou.  It helped to make the first episodes of the show even more relatable.  I also loved how the Enterprise with Captain Christopher Pike and Science Officer Spock enter the story and became main characters.  What a nice call back to original series fans! Spock and Burnum’s relationship is interesting and I hope to learn more about it.

I’ll admit that I did think the story was a bit slow in the middle when Burnum and Spock were on an endless quest to figure out the alien craft’s maze.  I felt like that section went on way too long.  I’m also still confused in this book as well as the show on the fact that the Shenzhou seems much more technologically advanced then the newer Enterprise.  There was a brief description in the book trying to justify why the Enterprise doesn’t have a ready room, but it rang false to me.

Susan Eisenberg was an able narrator and I really enjoyed listened to this on my daily commute.

Overall, Star Trek Discovery:  Desperate Hours is a great way to learn more about the characters of the new show and opens up some interesting ideas about Burnum and Spock’s relationship that I would love to see played out on screen.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan

Are you looking for a novel that makes you feel the Christmas spirit and is loaded with lots of tasty treats, but also has a hidden depth?  Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery is the book for you.

Polly is trying to keep up with the demands of the Christmas season with her bakery on the island of Mount Polbearne off of Cornwall.  She lives in a lighthouse with her honey keeping American boyfriend Huckle.  Huckle is ready to settle down and plan their wedding, but Polly can never seem to find the time.  Polly gets into a pickle when she agrees with her best friend Kerensa to keep a big secret from Huckle and also when she finds out a secret from her past.  With so many secrets in the mix, will Polly and Huckle be able to find their happy ending?

Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery is the third novel in the series after Little Beach Street Bakery and Summer at Little Beach Street Bakery. I love the entire series and definitely recommend reading the first two books before picking this book up.

Things I love about this book and the series . . .

I love Polly.  She is a plucky heroine who always finds the positive even with dealing with a bad lot in life.  She starts the series at the end of a relationship and with no job, but is able to find a new beginning in Mount Polbearne.  She’s always trying to help others, even if it means giving up her Christmas to bake to earn money to save the Puffin Sanctuary.

I love Mount Polbearne.  It’s a beautiful island off the coast of Cornwall that is only accessible by a causeway when the tide is low.  It’s a small town where everybody knows everybody, which can be good and bad for Polly.

I love all of the characters.  Neil is Polly’s pet puffin and he’s a hoot.  I love Huckle – he’s a laid back guy who is perfect for Polly.  Their friends Reuben and Kerensa are fabulously rich, but are loyal through thick and think with problems of their own.  And there are so many side characters in the village that I feel like I know them all.

I really loved how in this novel, it’s a fun story for the holidays, but it also has deeper undertones about the damage that keeping secrets can do on many different levels.  I also loved the power of forgiveness that Polly shows in her life.  I can’t say more without ruining the story, but I loved learning more about Polly’s back story.

My favorite quotes:

“That’s when friends need you more than ever.  When something awful happens.  And here’s the crucial thing:  even if the awful thing that’s happened is your fault.  Especially when it’s your own fault.  Do you see?”

“As far as Doreen was concerned, it was inexplicable; living in a lighthouse was a ridiculous idea, and all in all, given how much she had sacrificed to raise Polly all by herself, the fact that she would throw it all away on some cakes, an American without a proper job and a bird was some source of sadness.”

“But if life teaches us anything, it’s that what we assume someone should know about us – even someone we really, really, love; especially someone we really, really love – can be completely misunderstood or overlooked, or that the silence we think contains so much is imply unobserved.”

“Because the thing was, she guessed, you always thought you had time – time to fix the relationships that had broken down; to do all the things you thought you’d get round to; to finish everything, tie it up with a neat bow and that was it.  But life wasn’t like that at all.  Things festered for years.  Things that ought to be go over never were.  Bitterness became a defining characteristic of people’s lives.”

Overall, Christmas at the Little Beach Street Bakery was a delightful novel that I couldn’t put down.  It has an unbeatable mix of wonderful characters, a fantastic setting, baked goods, and a great storyline of what it means to love, be a family, and forgive.  I highly recommend it.

Book Source:  William Morrow in exchange for an honest review. Thank-you!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay (TLC Book Tour)

Looking for an escape from the ordinary into the extraordinary world of Jane Austen?   The Austen Escape may just be the novel that you are looking for. Personally, I felt like The Austen Escape was a book written just for me and was a relaxing read during this hectic time of year.  Mary Davies is an electrical engineer that enjoys her job, but seems to not have any time for any changes in her steady dependable life or anything other than her job.  She has an eye on Nathan, a consultant who is working on helping the firm grow and restructure, but she can’t work up the courage to make a move.

After her best friend Isabel and her father talk with her, she decides to make a change in her life, and goes with Isabel on a trip to Bath, England to an estate and emersion into the world of Austen.  While in Bath, Mary learns more about herself, her best friend, and about how she can change her “character.”  Will Mary find love and will she be able to find the strength to pursue her passions and stick up for herself?

I loved the growth of the character of Mary throughout the novel.  I loved her story, her love story, and the story of her friendship with Isabel. Isabel is a frenemy if there ever is one and I loved how Isabel grew throughout the story as well as the layers of her were gradually peeled back.  I found myself wanting to stay at the estate. It sounded gorgeous and well run.  The characters staying at the estate and also running it were interesting people in the story as well.  How fun it would be to be able to pick an Austen character and inhabit the role.  I would just love to visit Bath.

I also loved that Mary is an engineer.  You don’t often see engineers depicted in fiction, let alone a female engineer.  That Mary is a female engineer who loves Austen is just perfect to me – an engineer who loves Austen. 

I also loved that Nathan just happens to have learned all about Austen and appreciates her novels from college.  I think this is every woman’s dream.

My favorite quotes:

“Mary Crawford – think of Mary this way:  split the bright and brilliant Elizabeth Bennet in half give all of her wisdom to Fanny Price (Mansfield Park) and all of her sparkle to Mary.  Mary enters her story as she leaves it, and causes great disruption in the middle.”  I loved the description of the Austen characters at the start of this novel and thought this was a perfect description of Mary.

“The world stilled.  It wasn’t the first time I wondered how one voice, one presence, could quicken the air and simultaneously stop all motion.”  - What a way to describe the person you have a crush on!

“She wrote with such precision that a single phrase evoked an emotional response. “ – What a impeccable way to describe Austen’s writing.

“We didn’t have enough space in our friendship for our adult selves, much less  if we were stuck in a  room together.”  - What a great way to describe childhood friends grown up.

“We shall walk.  When there are serious matters to discuss.  Austen women walk.  And it has the side benefit of keeping our figures so light and pleasing.”  - Ha, so true!

Overall, The Austen Escape is a delightful romantic novel that will be sure to please any lover of Austen or anyone looking for a novel about friendship and relationships.  A great benefit is that features a strong engineer heroine.  Katherine Reay has some other very interesting looking Austen inspired fiction that I need to check out!

Book Source:  Review Copy as part of the TLC Book Tour.  Thanks!

For more stops on the tour, check out this link.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Girl in Snow by Danya Kukafka

Title: Girl in Snow
Author: Danya Kukafka
Read by: Kirby Heyborne, Jacques Roy, and Candace Thaxton
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Length: Approximately 9 hour and 13 minutes
Source: Simon & Schuster Audio Digital Review Copy – Thank-you!

High school “it” girl Lucinda is found with a broken neck next to the elementary school carousel in a small town in Colorado.  Who would have murdered Lucinda and why?  This story is told through the perspectives of three very different people.  But like all small towns, their story arcs are connected in more ways than they could have imagined.

Cameron Whitley is very socially awkward.  A quiet soul who loves art, he also loves to play “statue nights” and walk around the neighborhood hiding as a “statue” and watching families through their windows, in particular, he loves to watch the beautiful Lucinda. Was he Lucinda’s stalker or a misunderstood youth?  Cameron’s father was a cop who went bad and left town years ago, but the town has not forgotten.

Russ Fletcher is a cop and former partner of Cameron’s father.  He is investigating the death of Lucinda and finds himself entrenched in the story with his brother-in-law Ivan, the school night time janitor a suspect, as well as his former partner’s son, whom he promised to protect.  Will he be able to find the true killer as well as the truth about himself?

Jade Dixon-Burns was once Lucinda’s friend, but now considers herself her enemy.  Lucinda not only stole her baby sitting job, but also the boy she loved.  With backyards that abut, Jade has noticed happenings around Lucinda that play into the greater narrative.  Is Jade a killer or another misunderstood youth?

I liked the three interconnected narratives and different perspectives.  I really liked Jade’s sass and how she told things from the point of view of what she should have said and what really happened.  I loved that the audiobook had three different narrators to tell the three point of views. 

The story moved pretty slow for me and was more of a young adult novel than a true thriller.  I didn’t feel connected to Lucinda at all and didn’t care about her death as much as I should have.  There was some major plot turns later in the book that didn’t feel true with the narrative that lead up to that point.  SPOILER ALERT (Russ and Cameron’s dad and their pinky love.  What????) SPOILER END  I had listened to the audiobook of Everything You Want Me to Be by Mindy Mejia earlier this year and it was a much superior book . . . I think part of my problem was I kept comparing that book to this with the similar subject, high school girl murdered in a small town.  I figured out the murderer in Girl in the Snow pretty early on in the game, although I did doubt myself a couple of times.

Overall, Girl in Snow is an interesting story of murder in a small town, with a very well written story of a teenage problems and angst.  I want Jade Dixon-Burns to have her own spin off.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Sugarplum Way by Debbie Mason (TLC Book Tour)

Looking for a bit of romance as you head into the Christmas season?  Sugarplum Way may be the book for you.

Julia Landon lives in the small town of Harmony Harbor.  Besides running a bookstore, she is also secretly a romance novelist.  It just so happens that the hero of her novels seems to be a lot like the real life Aidan Gallagher.  He is a dark and brooding cop that has newly arrived back in Harmony Harbor.  Divorced and trying to figure out how to be a good dad, Aidan is also still secretly depressed about the death of his mother and young sister in a car accident years before.  Back in his home town, Aidan is also suspicious of Julia.  Why does she like Christmas so much and why is she always around his family trying to find them their happily ever after?  Julia does not want Aidan to find out her secret, but she can’t deny the attraction she has for him.

I enjoyed the story. I found Aidan to be mysterious and I did want to find out the truth behind Julia’s secret.  I had not read the previous three books in the series.  This mostly did not affect me, but maybe the secret was out in the other books?    For me it was an interesting build up to the revelation and fall out that then occurred.  I felt the book had just the right mix of humor, Christmas, and light romance.

I really liked the characters. I liked that there was an entire town involved and I loved Julia’s spunk and Christmas cheer.  Aidan was appropriately dark and brooding, with a sensitive side underneath.  I would have loved to learn more about Julia’s romance novel – I really wanted to read an excerpt!

This quote made me laugh out loud when I was reading this novel:

“A lie by any other name is still a lie.”  “How about an alternative fact??

Overall, Sugarplum Way is an enjoyable Christmas novel that will be sure to delight you with its charm this Christmas season! 

Book Source:  Review Copy for being a part of the TLC Book Tour. Thank-you!

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Caroline by Sarah Miller

“Ma.”  A loving presence in her daughters’ lives, but also a pillar of strength, Ma typified the pioneer experience in the Little House books.  In Caroline, Ma or Caroline Quiner Ingalls, finally gets the story told from her point of view.

Caroline is basically a retelling of Little House on the Prairie from Ma’s point of view.  It encompasses all of the same events, with a few adjustments to adhere more to the historical record.

The story starts in February 1870 when Caroline, Charles, and their daughters, Laura and Mary set off “west” (really more south) to the frontier of Kansas.  Charles is intrigued by the idea of the bountiful prairie land, but Caroline is pregnant and unsettled to think about being so far away from family.  The novel goes through the hardships of the journey and the building of a new place in Kansas.  Caroline has to make do with what she can while she also longs for the safety and familiarity left behind in Wisconsin.  Luckily the Ingalls family makes new friends in Kansas.

It was interesting seeing Little House through adult eyes.  Most the major events play out the same, although Ma has more fears and reservations in her thoughts than Laura would have pointed out in her children’s point of view.  I like how items were updated such as Jack the dog getting purchased along with the horses (I just learned this fact this summer in South Dakota!), Ma having baby Carrie in Kansas instead of Carrie traveling with, and most importantly updating why the Ingalls family had to leave “their” land.  In Little House on the Prairie the government forces them off, in Caroline, it was because they had settled actually on Native American land that was not open for settlement.  In Caroline they leave as the person who bought their home in Wisconsin defaulted on the mortgage, which is what really happened.  Mr. Edwards has never been proven to be real (probably a combination of real people), but I was glad he was kept in Caroline.  He is one of my favorite characters, in particular when he saves Christmas.

Truthfully, I enjoyed the novel, but it took me a really long time to read it and get into it.  It moved really slowly to me.  I think it’s because it really just sticks to the story from Little House on the Prairie, which I had recently read with my daughter, but it’s missing the magic of the original children’s tale.  Caroline always seemed stressed out – but I guess who wouldn’t be living on the prairie?  I was hoping for more of an original tale – for example more of a story of Caroline’s youth or meeting of Pa.  There were glimpses in this novel.  There were also scenes of romance between Pa and Ma, which both disturbed me and also gave in to my curiosity.  I’ve always wondered about relations in a one room cabin.  Ha!!!  Caroline is still racist towards Native Americans in this book and there is really a good description of why.  I would have liked more of that as the racism always makes me cringe.

I’m a little sad as I highlighted my favorite quotes in the e-book, but my kindle is not showing them.  I apologize for not having them in this review.  The only quote showing up is this:

“’It’s too much,’ she told him, as she always did.  His face told her it wasn’t nearly enough, as it always did.”  - I loved the love between Caroline and Charles.  Charles is more the dreamer always looking on the bright side, while Caroline is the more practical spouse.

I really enjoyed the author’s note at the end discussing the real history and why she made the changes to the story that she did.

Overall, Caroline was an interesting take on the Little House on the Prairie story from Ma’s point of view.  I would recommend it to someone who hasn’t read Little House on the Prairie recently so that you have more of a surprise while reading it.

Book Source:  Review Copy from William Morrow – Thanks!!

Friday, October 27, 2017

Midnight Confessions by Stephen Colbert

Title: Midnight Confessions
Author: Stephen Colbert
Read by: Stephen Colbert
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Length: Approximately 35 minutes
Source: Simon & Schuster Audio Digital Review Copy – Thank-you!

I am a long time Stephen Colbert fan and I am also Catholic – is this the perfect book for me? 

If you have never heard the midnight confessions bit on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, he “confesses” to things that are not actually sins, but that he may regret.  They are quick and funny bits of humor.  Organ music plays in the background, which sets the mood perfectly.  Colbert has been plugging the book on this show in a humorous way and I was happy to be able to review it.

I’ll admit that on the show, I find the Midnight Confessions bit to be uneven.  There are some funny lines, but others fall flat.  Luckily in this audiobook, only the best lines are selected and it is a hilarious composite.  The lines are actually just bits from the show so if you are looking for something new, you will be disappointed.

Stephen Colbert narrates the book which includes a new forward that goes with the book and then selected confessions from the actual show.  I love Colbert’s voice and could listen to it all day.  It made the book for me.  The audiobook is very short – only 35 minutes!

Some of my favorite “confessions:”

“I have violent thoughts when people use the terms sci-fi and fantasy interchangeably.’Oh, I love science fiction. I just read Lord of the Rings.’ I will end you.”

“I have impure thoughts about the Land O'Lakes Butter Lady. But mostly about the butter.”

“I wouldn't hurt a fly. But when it comes to mosquitoes, I am one sick some of a bitch.”

“One of the wise men in my Nativity scene broke, and instead of buying a new one, I replaced him with Lego Batman.”

Overall, this is a quick and fun audiobook that will make you laugh on your daily commute.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Innocent Dead: A Witch Cozy Mystery by Jill Nojack (The Maid, Mother, and Crone Paranormal Mystery Series – Book 1)

Title: The Innocent Dead:  A Witch Cozy Mystery
Author: Jill Nojack
Read by: Brian Callanan
Publisher: Indieheart Press
Length: Approximately 12 hours and 8 minutes
Source: Review Copy from Author Jill Nojack – Thank-you!

Natalie loved William in their youth with all of her heart until he disappeared one day, accused of being a serial murderer.  His ghost has haunted her for fifty years since, but she can never prove his innocence, nor rid him of his ghostly ugly sweater.  In the small town of Giles, Massachusetts, there are many witches and warlocks still around trying to live normal lives.  When the murders start to happen again, can Natalie prove that William was innocent after all while also stopping the murderer?

I enjoyed this paranormal mystery and it was a perfect read leading up to Halloween.  I loved the setting of the spooky small town located close to Salem, Massachusetts.  I also loved the vividly written characters.  While I loved the main love story of Natalie and William, there are also newlyweds Cassie and Tom (who was once a cat), and partners Gillian and Robert to provide an interesting love story as well.  Natalie, Cassie, and Gillian are the Maid, Mother, and Crone of the series.  They work together to solve the mystery along with a great cast of interesting side characters in town.  The mystery was great – it kept me guessing all of the way until the end!

I really enjoyed narrator Brian Callanan.  He had fantastic and unique voices for each of the characters.  It kept me intrigued with the story and looking forward to my daily commute.  I love when a narrator adds to the story in such a way and really gets into it.

The only part I didn’t enjoy about this book is that it is the first in a series, but I felt a bit lost when I first got into it as there seemed to be a fair share of back story that I didn’t know anything about.  I found out at the end that there was a series about Tom and Cassie before this series . .  . I think I need to listen to that series now!

Overall, The Innocent Dead was very enjoyable cozy mystery audiobook with great characters and setting.  It’s the perfect audiobook for this time of year. I want to know how Natalie and William’s love story ends.  I need to listen to the next book in the series!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor

Are fairies real?  Two cousins in 1917 England took pictures of fairies that astounded the world.  In a world that has just seen the greatest war known to mankind, the story of these fairies gave the world hope and something positive to dream about.  The girls took the pictures for themselves, but when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle learns of them, he publishes the story and the pictures and makes the Cottingley Fairies and the girls, Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright, famous.  Were the fairies real?

In the present day, Olivia Kavanagh has suffered a devastating loss at the death of her Grandfather at the same time she has found out a shocking medical prognosis about herself.  Unable to face her fiancé, Olivia works at reviving her grandfather’s bookshop she has inherited in Ireland while also taking care of her grandmother who has dementia.  She stumbles across a family heirloom which is Frances Griffith’s personal story and is entranced.  Can Olivia face her own demons and start a new life for herself?

I loved how these two stories were entwined perfectly.  Each story was an escape for me during this busy time of year and I love reading about them.  Gaynor had them perfectly set in two picturesque villages in both the past and the present.  I felt like I wanted to visit them both as well as meet all of the unique and vividly portrayed characters.

I also LOVED the extras at the end of the novel which includes the fairy pictures.  I found myself constantly flipping to look at them through the story.  Gaynor wrote a great background on the Fairies and I loved the essay by Frances’s daughter as well.  I had heard of the Cottingley Fairies at some point in the past, but I didn’t know that much about them.  I really enjoyed reading this story and leaning so much more about them.

Favorite Quotes:

“Fairies will not be rushed.  I know this now; I know I must be patient.”

“But like the soft breath of wind that brushes against my skin, the things we feel cannot always be seen.”

“With my arms wrapped around Rosebud, I dreamed of heather-topped hills and sleepy valleys and a pretty woodland stream where dragonflies danced across the water as I sat down among the ferns and the meadowsweet, waiting for the summer to find me.”

“Books were Olivia’s salvation once upon a time.”

“St. Bridget’s nursing home smelled of old chrysanthemums and loss.”

“Sometimes its betters to talk about the difficult things.  Ignoring them doesn’t make them go away, sure it doesn’t?”

“Oh, sweetheart.  Some wishes are just too big, even for fairies.”

Overall, The Cottingley Secret is an entrancing story of two fascinating heroines from two different time periods with intersecting stories.  It was a great escape read and I highly recommend it!

Book Source:  Review Copy from William Morrow.  Thank-you!

Monday, October 23, 2017

The Little Prince Written and Illustrated by Antoine de Saint Exupery

It seems like I see The Little Prince on the majority of lists of the best books that everyone should have read. I sadly never read this as a child.  I was looking through my bookcase of kids’ books this summer and saw that we this book as part of a great deal through the Scholastic Book Order for something like ten books for ten dollars.  I gave my son Daniel a few books to choose from for us to read together and after reading the first page, he picked The Little Prince.  We actually read this book last month, but I’ve been a bit behind on my blog with student advising and mid-terms so I’m just getting to the review now. 

What entranced nine year old Daniel about this book, was the story told by the narrator in the first few pages about how to draw a boa constrictor after reading True Stories from Nature.  The story was accompanied by drawings and Daniel and I both thought it was hilarious how he chose to draw the snake and how the adults didn’t understand.  I think this was a metaphor for the rest of the novel and about life – sometimes we miss the obvious beauty in the world around us.

The Little Prince lives on a planet all by himself with three volcanoes, two active and one extinct.  He also has one beautiful flower.  He loved the flower and she loved him, but one day he decides to leave on interplanetary travels where he discovers many things before traveling to earth.

Daniel thought the Little Prince was very interesting and he really liked the pictures that went with the story.  I thought the book had beautiful language and some excellent quotes, but I’ll admit that Daniel seemed to love it more and understand it more than I did.  I kept feeling like there was a deeper meaning to the story that I just wasn’t understanding just like with the start of the story with the adults not understanding the child and the boa constrictor. Was this the engineer in me trying to read too much into it or the engineer in me looking for the hard facts and missing the philosophy?

My favorite quotes:

“But certainly, for us who understand life, figures are a matter of indifference.”

“It is much more difficult to judge oneself than to judge others.”

“But there is no shop anywhere where you can find friendship, and so men have no friends anymore.”

“It is only with the heart one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

“But the eyes are blind.  One must look with the heart. ..”

Overall, The Little Prince was a beautiful and very unique book that my son and I enjoyed reading together and discussing . . . although I feel like I was missing something profound.

What are your thoughts?  Did you love the Little Prince?  What was your favorite thing about the story?  What am I missing?  Why do you think this book is a classic?

Book Source: Purchased from a Scholastic Book Order

It’s Halloween, I’m Turning Green by Dan Gutman

I really love Holiday books.  We have bins of books for different holidays that we bring up through the year to spice up the kids’ selection of books.  Sadly we have a lot of middle reader Halloween books that the boys picked out . . . but they won’t read them as they look “too scary.”  I think I may end up reading them on my own one of these days!!

Daniel (my 9-year old) was VERY happy to see It’s Halloween, I’m Turning Green by Dan Gutman in our collection.  Daniel is a huge Dan Gutman fan.  He loves Gutman’s humor, especially in The Genius Files series.  He read the first one as part of our local library’s youth book club and we listened to the second book in The Genius Files this summer on our family trips and were very entertained.

It’s Halloween, I’m Turning Green involves the shenanigans of AJ and his friends as they go trick-o-treating.  Tragedy strikes when there candy is stolen by a Halloween monster.  Who is the Halloween monster and how can they stop him?  This book is part of the My Weird School series and is a special book in the series – but it can be read as a stand-alone novel.

Daniel enjoyed the humor of the story, the pictures by Jim Paillot, and that it was an easy read for him.  He also loved the Halloween facts at the end of the book as well as the activities.  He really liked looking at the two pictures to find the differences between them.

Overall, It’s Halloween, I’m Turning Green is a fun Halloween book for grade school readers who are looking for something humorous and not overtly scary.

Book Source:  This was purchased in the past from a Scholastic Book Order 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The History of Bees by Maja Lunde

Title: The History of Bees
Author: Maja Lunde
Read by: Joy Osmanski, Steve West, Gibson Frazier
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Length: Approximately 12 hours and 8 minutes
Source: Simon & Schuster Audio Digital Review Copy – Thank-you!

What would happen to a world without bees?  The History of Bees explores this dystopian future where the world has collapsed after all of the bees and other pollinators died. There is no longer enough food to supply the world.  Economies and countries collapsed as mass starvation sets in.  Is there hope for the future?  Three parallel tales set in the past, the near present and the future reflect on the problem.

In England in 1852, William is obsessed with the study of bees and of building the perfect hive.  He suffered a personal bout of depression, but after a remark from his son inspired his passion he worked with his brilliant daughter Charlotte on his bee studies.  Are his daughters really as worthless as he believes?  Can he find a way to prove to himself and his mentor that he is worthy?

In the United States in 2007 George works a family farm and has a contentious relationship with his son.  His son is off at college and instead of studying agricultural to come back and work on the farm, he has chosen English as his major.  After the bees on his farm suffer colony collapse, George tries to figure out how to move forward with his farm and also how to have a relationship with his son.

In China in 2098, Tao works as a hand pollinator in a monotonous job. While the rest of the world has suffered greatly, China has hung on with the resilience of its people.  After Tao’s son suffers a mysterious collapse. She explores dystopian China to try to find him.  Will she find her son and what happened to him?

The audiobook of the History of Bees was excellent.  I loved that there were three distinctly different narrators, one for each storyline.  I also loved how their voices also matched the personalities for the individuals from a haughty British gentleman, to an American farmer, to a resilient woman in the future.  It was an engaging story that kept me riveted on my daily commute.  It also did a great job of tying the three story lines up at the end and coming up with a great and believable conclusion.

We talk about bees and colony collapse in the environmental science class I teach.  I thought this was a thought provoking literary fiction novel on it. What will happen to the world if we continue to ignore this problem?  I thought it was interesting as well at the placement of the action from England when it was a super power to the US when it was a super power to a future China which may be one of the only countries left.  I was also saddened the US collapsed as the regular citizens wouldn’t do the field work to pollinate the crops . . . although I could see the happening.  I still believe there are enough hard workers though that faced with starvation we could get it done, or so I hope.

I also loved the relationships between the parents and their children.  What will a parent do when expectations are not met?  Is their love conditional?  How long will it take William to realize his son his worthless, but he has at least one excellent daughter?

Overall, The History of Bees was a through provoking and intriguing novel.  I highly recommend it.