Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Book Review: 'Grace of Gratitude Journal' by Deborah Perdue

✰✰✰✰½ How many times do we overlook the simplest things in life? If you are like me, all too often. By learning to stop and record the ordinary things in life, journaling can bring about feelings of contentment, a sense of personal well-being, gratitude, and appreciation. Before you know it, recognizing and writing down gratitudes will become a natural part of your daily life.

While there are many gratitude journals out there, this one is different from others. With a unique blend of Deborah Perdue's personal gratitudes and Tara Thelen's beautiful and bold watercolor illustrations, even beginning journalers will find ample inspiration. Let the spiritual practice of expressing gratitude bring feelings of peace and contentment into your life.

The Bottom Line: Whether you are new to journaling or have be keeping one for years, the beautiful illustrations will inspire you to commit to jotting down as many gratitudes per day as you notice. There is plenty of space to include several days on one page, especially if you write small like I do. All it takes is a few moments per day, and you, too, can discover the power of gratitude. This journal has broad appeal and would make a great gift for just about anyone including new graduates. Highly recommended for anyone interested in journaling. More pages to write on (or blank pages to include my own drawings and doodles) would be appreciated.

Details: Grace of Gratitude Journal by Deborah Perdue & illustrated by Tara Thelen. Hardcover published by Applegate Valley Publishing in 2015. 112 p. ISBN: 978-0-9827759-5-0 NOTE: I received a free copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This was made possible by the Early Reviewers program at LibraryThing.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Book Review: 'Hollow City' by Ransom Riggs

✰✰✰✰½ The most peculiar children you have ever met are back in the next installment of the series. As Jacob Portman struggles to understand and control his newfound peculiar ability, the group continues to London on a quest to restore Miss Peregrine to human form. With time running out, the group makes their way through the war-torn city in search of another time loop that will take them to the last free ymbryne. Only Miss Wren can help them save their beloved headmistress. Along the way the peculiar kids encounter other peculiars and fantastical beasts while trying to stay clear of hollowgasts and wights. The second adventure will leave you wanting more as Jacob comes face-to-face with the most difficult decision of his young life.

The Bottom Line: The second novel picks up exactly where the first novel left off. Once again the intriguing vintage photos and text work well together to provide the reader with a unique experience. This book is a fantastically dark page-turner. The peculiar children demonstrate teamwork, friendship, and loyalty. Enthusiastically recommended for teens and adults who enjoy books with supernatural and time travel twists. For the best reading experience, be sure to pick up and read Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children first.

Details: Hollow City: The Second Novel of Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. Paperback published by Quirk Books in 2015. 416 p. ISBN: 978-1-59474-735-9 NOTE: I received a free copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This was made possible by the Early Reviewers program at LibraryThing.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Book Review: 'The Pierced Heart' by Lynn Shepherd

✰✰✰✰ After an Austrian nobleman offers a sizable donation to the University of Oxford, private investigator, Charles Maddox, is sent on a quest to vet the mysterious benefactor. Maddox soon discovers that the Viennese countryside is steeped with superstitious tales about the baron and his castle. As the days go by, disturbing dreams and incidents haunt Maddox. After nearly dying, Maddox returns to London where a series of horrific murders have taken place. The deaths are rumored to be the work of a vampire, but Maddox suspects his nemesis, the baron. With another young woman missing, Maddox must race against time to find her before another innocent dies.

The Bottom Line: This is the third book in a series; each book pays homage to a literary classic. This dark installment plays off Bram Stoker's Dracula. Although I have not read the previous books, Shepherd includes plenty of back story so the reader does not feel lost.

This book got off to a slow, smoldering start as I adjusted to the writing style. The story jumps back and forth between different points of view and times. However, the book is full of mystery and intrigue. Shepherd has braided together the elements of superstition, science, and classic literature to create a gripping suspense that I couldn't put down. With the paranormal twist and Gothic mood, this book will appeal to fans of historical fiction. A word of caution though...this tale is not for squeamish readers.

Details: The Pierced Heart: A Novel by Lynn Shepherd. Hardcover published by Delacorte Press in 2014. 256 p. ISBN: 978-0-345-54543-5 NOTE: I received a free copy from Delacorte Press in exchange for an honest review. This was made possible via the Early Reviewers program at LibraryThing. 

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Book Review: 'The Easter Bunny That Overslept' by Priscilla & Otto Friedrich

✰✰✰ Children everywhere expect the Easter Bunny to deliver brightly painted eggs every year on Easter Sunday. But one year the Easter Bunny overslept. Upon waking he wondered what to do with all the colored eggs. As the months went by, the Easter Bunny tried delivering the eggs on Mother’s Day, the Fourth of July, and Halloween. None of the children were interested. The poor bunny was very discouraged by the time Christmas arrived. Fortunately, Santa always knows the best way to set things right again.

The Bottom Line: This classic children’s book has been enjoyed and shared by several generations since it was first published in 1957. As the Easter Bunny tries again and again to deliver the eggs, children will learn the importance of never giving up. It’s also a great story for kids who tend to oversleep. The charming, retro illustrations will interest kids and adults alike. Recommended for kids in grades K – 3.

Details: The Easter Bunny That Overslept written by Priscilla and Otto Friedrich & illustrated by Adrienne Adams. Hardcover picture book published by Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books in 1983. 33 p. ISBN: 0-688-01540-9

Friday, April 3, 2015

Book Review: 'The Matzah Man' by Naomi Howland

✰✰✰✰½ In preparation for the seder, a local baker is making Passover matzah. He uses the last scraps of matzah dough to form a little man and pops him in the oven to bake. When the baker opens the oven door, the crispy Matzah Man jumps out and runs away. Taunting people and animals along the way, the Matzah Man narrowly escapes becoming part of the Passover meal. He outwits them all until he meets young Mendel Fox. The Matzah Man is in for a big surprise when clever Mendel offers to help him hide from his pursuers.

The Bottom Line: This humorous and festive tale is a rollicking adaptation of The Gingerbread Boy. This adventure is just plain fun to read with Howland’s use of repetition, rhythm, and rhyme. Additionally, Howland’s cheerful and bright illustrations in gouache and cut-paper collage with colored pencil will appeal to readers of all ages. Check this one out for kids in grades 1 – 3. Includes a “Passover Glossary” at the end.

Details: The Matzah Man: A Passover Story written & illustrated by Naomi Howland. Hardcover picture book published by Clarion Books in 2002. 32 p. ISBN: 0-618-11750-4

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Book Review: 'April Fool! Watch Out at School!' by Diane deGroat

✰✰✰✰½ Gilbert has plenty of pranks planned for April Fools’ Day. Unfortunately Gilbert is the one falling for everyone else’s tricks. Even his mother manages to play a joke on him, but the worst tricks come from Lewis the bully. Gilbert has just one trick left. Will it be enough to save the worst April Fools’ Day ever? Read the story to see who gets the last laugh. 

The Bottom Line: This charming and clever book in the series is for anyone who has ever been tricked on April Fools’ Day. Gilbert is a sweet character and a good sport who proves that good guys don’t always finish last. Diane deGroat’s colorful illustrations will make you look twice for the April Fools’ Day surprises they contain. (Answers are included.) Highly recommended for kids in grades K – 2. Great for story time too. 

Details: April Fool! Watch Out at School! (Gilbert and Friends) written & illustrated by Diane deGroat. Hardcover picture book published by HarperCollins Publishers in 2009. 32 p. ISBN: 978-0-06-143043-5   

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Book Review: 'The Abbot's Agreement' by Mel Starr

✰✰✰✰✰ Things are not as they should be at tranquil Eynsham Abbey. On his way to Oxford, Hugh de Singleton, surgeon, happens upon the mutilated body of a young Benedictine novice. At the nearby abbey, Hugh learns of a lad who has been missing for four days. Upon further examination of the body, Hugh discovers 'twas not the plague that did him in, but murder. To Hugh's dismay, the abbot commissions him to uncover the culprit in exchange for a Bible. Although the abbot only asks for his best effort, Hugh soon questions his decision to accept. The investigation takes several complicated twists and turns as Hugh seeks a killer and uncovers a sinister secret hidden within Eynsham Abbey.

The Bottom Line: The Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton, surgeon are one of my favorite mystery series. In the 7th installment, Hugh's character continues to evolve as both his family and his responsibilities grow. Like the previous books, this is written in the first person in the form of a journal. This quick read touches on darker topics than previous books, and author Mel Starr includes plenty of red herrings to keep readers guessing. My only complaint is that this installment is too short; I'm already looking forward to the next one. Readers of medieval mysteries and Christian fiction will want to give this series a try. Those new to the series will find ample backstory included without having to read the books in order. A glossary of medieval terms and maps are included.

Details: The Abbot's Agreement (The Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton, surgeon) by Mel Starr. Paperback published by Lion Fiction in 2014. 256 p. ISBN: 978-1-78264-109-4 NOTE: I received a free copy from Kregel Publications in exchange for an honest review. This was made possible via the Early Reviewers program at LibraryThing.