Paul, Big, and Small by David Glen Robb

Paul Big and Small by David Glen Robb

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Book Review of Paul, Big, and Small by David Glen Robb

I haven’t ever tried rock climbing. I’ve climbed over rocks while hiking, does that count? I’ve ridden over rocks while mountain biking. Does that count? I haven’t ever tried actual rock climbing. It scares me! I have rappelled, though. I went rappelling in high school with a leadership team I was on. We went to this army base near our home and they had a really tall wall that you could rappel down. We didn’t climb it; we climbed up a ladder, but that was scary enough. Then I got to rappel down an actual rock face a few years ago when I went with the youth in my church. It was fun, but scary. I admire people that rock climb because I think it takes a lot of courage and strength. I’ve never read a book about it either, so it was fun to read about Paul and how he uses rock climbing as a stress reliever. I really liked PAUL, BIG, and SMALL by David Glen Robb. I hope you enjoy my review!

Blurb:

“Paul Adams has always been short, but he’s an excellent rock climber. And his small size means he can hide from the bullies that prowl the halls of his high school.

Top on his list of “People to Avoid” are Conor, from his Language Arts class, Hunter, who hangs around the climbing gym, and Lily Small, who happens to be the tallest girl in school. But he might be able to be friends with a new kid from Hawaii who insists that everyone call him “Big.” He’s got a way of bringing everyone into his circle and finding the beauty in even the worst of situations.

When the three of them—Paul, Big, and Small—are assigned to the same group project, they form an unlikely friendship. And Paul realizes that maybe Lily isn’t so bad after all. He might even actually like her. And maybe even more than like her.

Paul and Lily team up for a rock-climbing competition, but when Lily is diagnosed with leukemia, Paul ends up with Conor on his team. And when Paul learns that Conor is dealing with bullies of his own—as well as some deep emotional pain—he realizes that the bullying in his school has got to stop.

Paul, Big, and Small is about the turbulent, emotional lives of young adults who are struggling with life’s challenges openly and sometimes in secret.”

My Book Review:

Wow. What a great story! Life in high school can be difficult, especially for anyone who is different in any way.  If you’re too tall, too short, weigh too much, too smart, not very smart, or have any other distinguishing differences, you could be the victim of bullying or harassment. Paul is a great kid. His distinguishing difference is his height. He’s on the too short side of things. I can definitely empathize with Paul on that one. Big is an amazing kid. He’s from Hawaii, and his distinguishing characteristic is that he’s very big. Lily Small seems big and scary at first, but she has a soft center. Her distinguishing characteristic is that she’s very tall and she’s black. Her parents adopted her from Africa.

These three high school students come together to work on a school project, and it turns into genuine friendship. I love all three of these characters. Seriously. Paul has no self confidence at school. He’s constantly picked on and bullied for his height. Big is the best. Wow! I love how he takes the time to stop and feel and hear the rain in a run-down, cement outside area at the school. I love the happiness he spreads. Lily comes across as big and scary—that is until you get to know her. It turns out that she, like Paul and Big, gets picked on. Her positive attitude and genuine love for people make her a fabulous friend and character.

All of the characters in this book are well written, well developed, realistic, and just jump off the page. Paul, Big, and Lily (her last name is Small) have to be some of my all-time favorite characters. That’s saying something. Big, especially. I love, love, love how he takes an impending conflict and turns it around by spreading love and happiness. The way he enjoys the little things like a dandelion growing out of a crack in the cement or an ant carrying a chip along the floor amazes me. I have a lot to learn from Big. He’s my favorite character in the book, and I want him to be my friend.

I love the way this book tackles tough issues. High school comes with a lot of issues, and this book deals with a lot of them in such an amazing way. You’ve got many different characters, and you get to see their different sides. You get to see little pieces of what makes them them. Why does this kid bully other kids? What makes this kid who he is? What experiences does she have that have made her who she is today? I always tell my kids to be nice to everyone because you never know what someone is going through or dealing with, and this book emphasizes this in an amazing way.

Mental illness, bullying, suicide, physical illness, and the death of a loved one are just a few of the tough issues tackled in this book. Although it does focus on these hard things, it also focuses on friendship, love, kindness, empathy, and seeing the good in people. I love how you get to see the other side of these rough characters—the “at home” side that you rarely get the chance to see. What causes this person to act the way he does? The book focuses on learning about people and their circumstances, and not just judging them for their actions. It focuses on loving them and being kind to them despite their negative actions or poor behavior.

I loved this book! It is needed today. So needed. It teaches kids that there are outs. If you don’t like rock climbing then you can run, bike, hike, walk, dance, sew, color, or whatever you enjoy. Find something that calms you down, helps you breathe, and puts you out in nature. Use this as an outlet for your stress, pain, anger, and heartache. Don’t take it out on others because that strategy doesn’t help anyone. Hurting others doesn’t heal you. Learn to be the good! Learn to be the ray of sunshine in someone else’s life. Serve others. Help others. Put your own trials aside and help a friend (or an enemy). This is what brings happiness and helps heal your own pain.

I could go on and on. I love this book so much! I love the characters and the lessons the story teaches. I’m turning it over to my kids and making them read it! I may even read it to my sixth graders (I teach math and science so I don’t usually read to them). Every home and classroom should have this book available to read. This story is poignant, relevant, important, and so needed today!

Content Rating PG-13Content Rating: PG-13 (There isn’t any profanity or “intimacy.” There is some minor violence involving bullying, and it deals with some tough topics like mental illness. A character does die by suicide. )

Recommendation: YA+

My Rating: 4.5/5

4.5 Star Rating

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here: https://amzn.to/334UmC0

 

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mustaches for maddie A Monster Like Me by Wendy S. Swore  Wonder by R.J. Palacio
 
 

The Candy Cane Caper by Josi S. Kilpack

The Candy Cane Caper by Josi S Kilpack

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Book Review of The Candy Cane Caper by Josi S. Kilpack

Yay! I am so excited that Sadie is back! I’ve fully enjoyed reading Josi Kilpack’s proper romances, but it’s a fun change of pace to get back to Sadie and her mystery-solving skills. Christmas, though? Uhhh…not quite ready for that. I guess I should get ready though, since it’s supposed to snow tonight (ugh…).  I have read a few of Josi Kilpack’s culinary mysteries and have enjoyed them, so when I had the chance to review The Candy Cane Caper I jumped on it. I’m so glad I did.

Blurb:

“This Christmas, Sadie Hoffmiller Cunningham is making a list and checking it twice. For the first time since she and Pete married five years ago, their combined families are gathering for the holidays in Fort Collins, Colorado, for a party that would make Santa and Mrs. Claus proud. She just has to bake the famous Cunningham Candy Cane Cake, make sure the looming snowstorm doesn’t derail everyone’s travel plans, and oh, yes, solve one teensy-tiny mystery before the big day.

At ninety-four and nearly blind, Mary, Sadie’s friend and neighbor, knows this will be her last Christmas. When Sadie learns that someone has stolen antique Christmas ornaments from Mary’s tree, she vows to find the thief, no matter what. The ornaments had been appraised at more than $40,000, but they were worth even more to Mary, who had intended to bequeath them to her great-granddaughter, Joy, as a final gift.

With Pete in Arizona wrapping up a case of his own, it’s up to Sadie to question the residents of Nicholas House, where Mary lives, and deduce who had the means and the motive to steal heirloom ornaments during what should be the most wonderful time of the year. When stories of other thefts surface, Sadie feels like she’s creating a “naughty” list that could rival Santa’s. Identifying the thief, recovering the ornaments, and restoring them to Mary’s tree in time will take a Christmas miracle—and maybe a few extra-special cookies.”

My Book Review:

Someday I want to be more like Sadie. I want to bake delicious cookies and desserts for people, be a little more brave and bold, and serve others like she does. Sadie is a fun character. She has a good, strong voice, and is a tough cookie. Yep, I totally just made that pun. Haha! She’s a little tough on the outside, but she has a very soft center. I love how much she cares about other people. She may not choose the best ways to show it sometimes (you need to read the part about her in the auto parts store—cringe worthy for sure), but she definitely cares.

Sadie is well developed, well written, and realistic. She’s a little cheesy sometimes, but then she breaks into something and makes up for it. Some of her choices are a little iffy at times, but it’s all in the name of solving the mystery. I loved learning about Joy and her story, and Mary is such a sweetheart. I hadn’t ever heard of any of the fancy ornaments Mary had, so I had to look some of them up. Wow. They put my ornaments to shame.

The story line is a little predictable, but I enjoyed the journey. I enjoyed watching Sadie make a fool of herself at the mall, and I enjoyed reading all about the relationship she has with Mary. One thing you know will be good in a Josi Kilpack culinary mystery are the recipes. There are some great ones for sure. I can’t wait to try the Candy Cane Cake. It sounds so good!

If you’re looking for a fun, entertaining holiday (or not) read, look no further. The Candy Cane Caper by Josi S. Kilpack will make you laugh, cry, cringe, and feel hungry for sweets all in one tidy package. The ending is super cute; it’s a little cheesy, but I liked it. If you’ve like her previous mysteries, you need to read The Candy Cane Caper by Josi S. Kilpack!

Candy Cane Blog Tour Image

Content Rating PG+Content Rating: PG+ (There isn’t any profanity, violence, or “intimacy” in this book. There might be a few teeny tiny laws broken, though.)

Age Recommendation: YA and up

My Rating: 3.5/5

3.5 Star Rating

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

 

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here: https://amzn.to/2qUWcYd

 

Similar Titles You May Be Interested In:

Lemon Tart by Josi S. Kilpack Daisies and Devotion by Josi S Kilpack Cover Art Promises and Primroses by Josi Kilpack
 

Glass Slippers, Ever After, and Me by Julie Wright

Glass Slippers Ever After and Me by Julie Wright

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Book Review of Glass Slippers, Ever After, and Me by Julie Wright

Glass Slippers Blog Tour Image UpdatedI have read a few of Julie Wright’s proper romances, and they’re so fun. When I heard she had written a new one, I had to get my hands on it! I couldn’t wait to read it. Thankfully, I get to review Glass Slippers, Ever After, and Me—that’s even better than just reading it. I love the cover art on this book! The colors are so fun, and when you add the rose petals and the fancy shmancy heels, it looks like a fairy tale waiting to happen. The title is super cute too!

Blurb:

Can the fairy tale bring Charlotte the happiness she’s looking for, or was he always there to begin with?

A modern, reimagined Cinderella story.

When aspiring author Charlotte Kingsley finally gets published, she thinks all her dreams have come true. But the trouble begins when her publicity firm reinvents her quirky online presence into a perfectly curated dream life. Gone are the days of sweatpant posts and ice cream binges with her best friend, Anders, replaced instead with beautiful clothes, orchestrated selfies, and no boyfriend. Only, that carefully curated fairy tale life is ruining her self-esteem and making her feel like a fraud.

When a bestselling author takes Charlotte under her wing—almost like a fairy godmother—she helps Charlotte see the beautiful person she already is and the worth of being authentic. But is it too late to save her relationship with Anders? The clock is quickly ticking towards midnight, and Charlotte must decide between her fairy tale life and the man she loves, before he’s gone forever.

My Book Review:

I loved this book! One of the things Julie Wright does very well is giving characters a voice. Charlotte’s voice in this story definitely makes the book. I love her spunk and her realness. One of my favorite scenes happens at the beginning when Charlotte feels quite upset and eats a couple cartons of ice cream. Yep! She’s my kind of gal! Ice cream is for sure a great go-to comfort food when you’re down.  I love Charlotte’s enthusiasm toward her writing, and especially her reaction to rejection letters. Haha! Her reaction to meeting her favorite author also makes for a fun scene. She makes such a great character.

I like that Charlotte is a strong character. She has her flaws, for sure, but she’s so well developed, real, and relatable. I could definitely see myself hanging out, watching movies, and eating ice cream with my bestie Charlotte. Anders also makes a great character. He’s such a nice guy with a big heart. He, too, is well developed, real, and relatable. I love his romantic flair. Don’t tell my husband, but he could use a few lessons on romance from Anders. Of course, we’ve been married for 21 years and they’re just beginning to date—it’s only a little different.

The story line in this book is so fun. A writer (Julie Wright) writes about a young, struggling writer (Charlotte Kingsley). I love the concept. I wonder if any of the experiences Charlotte had mirror experiences that Julie Wright had when she first started her writing career. That would be a fun question to ask her, for sure.

I didn’t love the characters of Charlotte’s mom and step-dad, or the way they treated her and her sister. They’re not as likable or relatable as Charlotte, Anders, and Kat are. They do, however, add contrast to the story. They give the reader context and background information about Charlotte and Kat, and you can see why the girls are the way they are in some ways. Charlotte’s team of editor, publicist, and social media people also add another dimension to the story. You want to like and hate them at the same time.

I felt bad for Charlotte because she wanted success so badly that she was willing to give up some of herself in order to do it. It’s a hard lesson to learn, for sure. As an outsider, I wanted to scream at Charlotte a few times. I could see where it was all heading, and it didn’t look pretty. It’s one of those things that I’d rather learn as the reader rather than the participator, for sure!

I really enjoyed this book! If you like proper romances, fun love stories, fairy tales, or any of Julie Wright’s other books, you will love Glass Slippers, Ever After, and Me.

Glass Slippers Blog Tour Image

Content Rating PG+Content Rating: PG+ (There isn’t any profanity, violence, or “intimacy,” except some brief kissing.)

Age Recommendation: YA and up

My Rating: 4/5

4 Star Review

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here: https://amzn.to/2IV5ol8

Similar Titles You May Be Interested In:

Lies Jane Austen Told Me by Julie Wright Lies, Love, and Breakfast at Tiffany's by Julie Wright Check Me Out by Becca Wilhite
 
 

Smarter Than a Monster by Brandon Mull

Smarter Than a Monster by Brandon Mull

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Book Review of Smarter Than a Monster: A Survival Guide by Brandon Mull

Wow! Brandon Mull is on a roll! I just read and reviewed the third Dragonwatch book, and now he has a new children’s book out! Does he ever sleep? A children’s picture book is a new chapter (pun totally intended…haha!) for Brandon Mull, and I am excited to be a part of the blog tour for it. My kids and I have been reading and loving his books for many years, and it’s fun to see him grow as an author. I was surprised that Brandon Dorman didn’t illustrate this book, but Mike Walton did a great job. Don’t let those monsters outsmart you—read Smarter Than a Monster: A Survival Guide by Brandon Mull.

Blurb:

“No monster wants you to read this book. The more you know about monsters, the more you will know how to defeat them.

Little kids have big fears, which they often imagine to be scary creatures, like monsters. But this book helps explain how knowing “Monster Facts” can help kids outwit them.

Want to avoid monsters? Fact: Monsters love dirt and grime, so when faced with two kids, the monster will choose the dirty one every time.

And if toys and clothes are all over the floor, you may get ambushed by a mess-loving monster.

Survival Tip: Take baths and keep your room clean. Smarter Than a Monster will arm young readers with practical advice in this innovative and imaginative parenting tool that teaches common sense and positive and healthy habits.”

 

My Book Review:

Have I ever told you how much I love children’s books? Probably. I say it all the time. I.Love.Children’s.Books.So.Much! Picture books bring out the reader’s imagination and creativity like nothing else does! They’re magical. Seriously. Children’s books can strengthen connections between parents and children, teachers and students, and anyone else who reads them. They bring our imaginations to life. One of my favorite parts of children’s books is the lessons learned and the morals taught.

This book doesn’t disappoint in that area! It’s full of tasty lesson tidbits and learning. The good part is that the story is so fun that the kids don’t even realize they’re learning lessons! They’ll do it all just to outsmart and avoid those pesky monsters. Yep! This book is all about how to avoid meeting any creepy creature. For example, hiding in kids’ bedrooms would be much too obvious. Monsters don’t want to be found, so they hide under the parents’ bed. Smart, right? So staying in your own bed is much, much safer.

Monsters like dirt, so if you take a bath the monsters will leave you alone. Who knew? Having lived in Fablehaven’s creature sanctuaries for so long, Brandon Mull must know a lot about these creatures. This book is full of smart tips to avoid meeting them, and I think the kids will love it! Parents too! Brushed teeth, clean rooms, and clean children are a few byproducts of this book, so parents will for sure want to spread this important information as far as possible!

As I stated previously, I kind of thought Brandon Dorman would illustrate this book, but an illustrator named Mike Walton did it, and he did a great job. The illustrations are bright, colorful, and very well done. The monsters are not too scary but not too cute, and are unique and creative. The combination of fun story and great pictures will make this book a cherished one in any classroom or home. I’m so glad Brandon Mull gets to bring another fun story to life, and in the process teach kids how to be Smarter Than a Monster! I think the parents will learn a few things as well, so this is a win-win for everyone! This is such a fun book, and I highly recommend it!

Smarter Monster Blog Tour Image

Content Rating GContent Rating: G (Clean!)

Age Recommendation: Everyone

My Rating: 4.5/5

4.5 Star Rating

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

 

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here: https://amzn.to/33fTavt

 

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fablehaven book #1 by Brandon Mull A Monster Like Me by Wendy S. Swore The Nantucket Sea Monster by Darcy Pattison
 
 

Master of the Phantom Isle (Book #3) by Brandon Mull

Dragonwatch: Master of the Phantom Isle (Book #3) by Brandon Mull

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Book Review of Dragonwatch: Master of the Phantom Isle (Book #3) by Brandon Mull

For months now, my kids have been counting down the days until the release of Dragonwatch: Master of the Phantom Isle. I’m not joking. It’s serious business at our house! And I may or may not need to draw a name to decide who gets to read it after me because there may or may not have been a big argument about it. Yeah, let’s just say the kiddos are super excited about this book. I am too! This is such a fun series. I’m glad Brandon Mull decided to keep going with the Fablehaven story because it definitely wasn’t finished. This book, though, has me worried! What about Seth? Is he ok? Does he remember anything? I’m super excited to share my book review of Dragonwatch: Master of the Phantom Isle (book #3) with you! Enjoy!

Blurb:

 “Cursed by the Key of Forgetting, Seth has lost all memory of his past—his relationships, his experiences, and who he really is. For now he will align with his new mentor, Ronodin, the dark unicorn, who takes him to the Phantom Isle, the secret gateway to the Under Realm. Though Seth is not formally a prisoner, Ronodin wants to use him and his shadow charmer powers for his own dark ends.

Kendra is frantic to find her missing brother, but the quest will take her and her companions, including Warren, Tanu, and Vanessa, far from Wyrmroost to Crescent Lagoon—a recently fallen dragon sanctuary made up of many islands and underwater domains. Its caretaker has regained a foothold on one of the islands. If Kendra and her friends can save that sanctuary, they might uncover the answers they need to rescue Seth.

With each sanctuary the dragons overthrow, Celebrant, the Dragon King, comes closer to the dawn of a new Age of Dragons. With the forces of darkness on the march, can Kendra and her allies gather enough power to win the epic dragon war?”

My Book Review:

The first part of the book is torture to read! Seth, the mighty Seth, can’t remember anything. Ahhhhhh! Let’s just say that he doesn’t make very good choices. Seriously. Torture. I just wanted to scream through the book to remind him who he is. It’s a different experience to take a character you think you know really well, and have him show up completely different. It’s not his fault, of course, but still. It makes you want to cry.

I love that some of my favorite characters make appearances in this book, along with a couple new favorites. And some NOT so favorite. Boo to Ronodin. The characters in this series are some of my favorites: Vanessa, Tanu, Warren, Kendra, Seth, Bracken, and Newel and Doren are the best. I’ve come to like Knox, Tess, and Calvin too. The characters make the series. They really do. It’s so fun to watch them work together, problem solve, and help each other. I love Kendra’s fighting spirit. Although she comes a little close in this book, she never gives up. I love that she cares so much for Seth that she never stops asking about him and fighting for him. She never doubts him. I think we can all learn a lot about how to treat each other from Kendra.

This book is intense! Dragons, betrayal, sanctuaries falling, characters dying, barrels and canoes, sacrifices, giant pearls, friends, enemies, everblooming flowers, and so much more! Does Seth figure out who he really is? Do Kendra and Seth get control of Wyrmroost? Does everyone work together to get the dragon sanctuaries back? Do they all stay safe? So many questions! Must.Read.This.Book! If you like Fablehaven and the first two Dragonwatch books, you need to read Master of the Phantom Isle!

Content Rating PG+Content Rating: PG+ (There isn’t any profanity or “intimacy” in this book. There is some violence because they’re fighting a war against dragons. Characters die.)

Age Recommendation: Middle-Graders (4th-6th and up)

My Rating: 4/5

4 Star Review

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

 

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here: https://amzn.to/2ohJ91u

 

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The Lady and the Highwayman by Sarah M. Eden

The Lady and the Highwayman by Sarah M. Eden

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Book Review of The Lady and the Highwayman by Sarah M. Eden

I love it when a book takes you somewhere you’ve never been, and never knew you wanted to! You don’t know what you don’t know, right? I had never heard of Penny Dreadfuls until I read this book. In case you don’t know what they are (because I didn’t), they were sensationalized stories printed on cheap paper in the United Kingdom in the nineteenth century. The story would be sold in parts, with each part costing one penny. These stories were quite popular with the young men of the time. When I say sensationalized, I mean that they were more fantastical, involving characters like ghosts and vampires. Who knew, right? Now you know! These Penny Dreadfuls play a major part in The Lady and the Highwayman by Sarah M. Eden.

Blurb:

“Elizabeth Black is the headmistress of a girls’ school and a well-respected author of ‘silver-fork’ novels. But by night, she writes the Penny Dreadfuls that are all the rage among the working-class men under the pseudonym, Charles King.

Fletcher Walker began life as a street urchin, but is now the most successful author in the Penny Dreadful market, that is until Charles King. Determined to find the elusive Mr. King, Fletcher approaches Miss Black. Elizabeth agrees to help if only to insure her secret identity is never discovered.

What neither author anticipated was the instant attraction. It’s upper-class against working-class, author against author, where readers, reputations, and romance are all on the line.

  • A historical romance set in London, England in the 1830s. This Victorian time period was well-known for its gothic romances and ‘Penny Dreadfuls’—cheap sensational fiction read by young, working-class men. The Guardian described them as ‘Britain’s first taste of mass-produced pop culture for the young.’ With more than a million sold each week, they contributed to the growing fear of crime in mid-Victorian Britain.
  • Though Penny Dreadfuls were known for their tales of crimes, exploits, and supernatural beasts, the Highwayman heroes were popular for the story’s romantic elements.
  • The story drew its inspiration from the real-life Victorian author Elizabeth Caroline Grey, a high-class lady, who, it was rumored, wrote both ‘silver-fork’ novels and Penny Dreadfuls.”

My Book Review:

This book is so fun! I didn’t know anything about Penny Dreadfuls when I began reading, and now I feel like an expert. I completely got sucked into the story, the life, and the time period. The characters, especially, draw you into their lives. Each character is well written, developed, and so unique. Fletcher—oh Fletcher. He just might make you swoon if you’re not careful! And I love Elizabeth’s complexity. Her secret life makes you want to, well…find a cool secret life! Nothing too crazy. Does book blogging count as a secret life when you’re a sixth grade teacher? Probably not. It’s not cool enough. I’ll need to think about it for awhile.

The uniqueness of the story draws you in. All the members of the “Dread Penny Society,” and their cause, remind me a lot of today’s Tim Ballard and Operation Underground Railroad. It’s hard to think of a better cause to support! I loved watching their operations take place, and knowing the lives they saved. The only thing that was a bit off for me was that I kept wanting to read “Dead Poets Society” instead of “Dread Penny Society.” The former is one of my all-time favorite movies. That’s just me, though.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book! The characters come to life on the pages, and they draw you into their lives and stories. There’s a lot of wit, which I love. I like the relationship between Elizabeth and Fletcher, and I like how the “Penny Dreadfuls” stories play into the plot. There are also some great causes highlighted like education and help for the poor and needy. Of course I love the tension and the romance as well!  

Content Rating PG+Content Rating: PG+ (Some minor violence and kissing)

Age Recommendation: Young Adult

My Rating: 4/5

4 Star Review

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

 

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here: https://amzn.to/31G3wnY

 

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Ashes on the Moor by Sarah M. Eden Longing for Home by Sarah M. Eden
 
 
 

Review of The Lady in the Coppergate Tower

The Lady in the Coppergate Tower by Nancy Campbell Allen

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Book Review of The Lady in the Coppergate Tower by Nancy Campbell Allen

You know me; I love a good fairy tell retelling. I love how authors are able to take a familiar story and rethink it, looking at it from different angles perspectives. Looking at the characters in a unique way, and trying to find a story within a story are also something I enjoy about retellings. When I saw that Nancy Campbell Allen had done a re-telling of Rapunzel I was super excited. Having it steampunk made it all the more fun! I love this little world she is creating surrounding Blackwell Manor and its residents and friends, so I couldn’t wait to read it. I hope you enjoy my review of The Lady in the Coppergate Tower by Nancy Campbell Allen.

Blurb:

“Hazel Hughes believes there is nothing remarkable about her, not even her strange ability to heal the sick and injured. Her employer, Doctor Sam MacInnes recognizes her special talent, but because of the difference in their social status, he can’t tell her how much he admires her. When a mysterious count arrives in London and reveals to Hazel the existence of a twin sister, she agrees to accompany him to the wilds of Romania, where she learns that her healing skills are needed to save her twin’s life. Worried for her safety, Sam insists on accompanying her.

Faced with dark magic, malfunctioning automatons, and dangerous magical artifacts, Hazel and Sam learn to rely on each other as they untangle a dangerous and dark web of mystery surrounding the mysterious count, and search for a way to free Hazel’s sister from the cursed walls of a Coppergate Tower before time runs out on all of them.”

My Book Review:

I seriously love this little steampunk Victorian society that Nancy Campbell Allen has created. It’s so fun and imaginative! I love that you can take such a prim and proper time period and add robots (automatons), transcribers (pagers), submarines, and so much more! It’s also fun to see characters from past books make appearances; it kind of brings it all together.

I liked the cover art of the book before I started reading it, but once I had gotten to know the characters inside the book, the characters on the cover didn’t work for me. I know it’s picky, but I didn’t think they looked anything like the characters in my head. Haha! It’s not that big of a deal, though.

The story line is unique and fun. I thought the fancy, important count coming to get Hazel was a bit creepy, and don’t think I would have gone with him if it’d been me. Hazel’s intentions to save her sister were genuine, though, and that would be a compelling reason to go with him. I thought a few parts were a bit predictable, but a lot of it surprised me. It had enough twists and turns to keep me reading. I had to know more about the sister! What was happening to her? What could Hazel do to save her?

Nancy Campbell Allen does a great job of describing and developing characters. Each character has his or her own characteristics, voice, and personality. I especially liked Sam and Hazel. They have differing viewpoints of the situation at hand, and each of them handles it in a unique way. I liked seeing their strengths and weaknesses throughout the book. As the book progresses, you get to see growth and development in both Hazel and Sam. I enjoyed watching them evolve and change.

Another thing Nancy Campbell Allen does well is describe this world she has created. I love the descriptions of all the high-techie Victorian era stuff! Because it predates our current technology, things are named differently (I gave some examples above), and I enjoy her depictions of them. I enjoy reading her writing because it’s easy to read and understand, it’s entertaining, and it all flows well. It’s clever, too, which makes it more fun to read.

I enjoyed The Lady in the Coppergate Tower. I liked the beginning and middle a lot more than I liked the ending, though. I didn’t like the ending. Most of the story leads up to the ending, and It felt like it took a long time to get there. Then, once I got there, the ending felt a bit rushed to me. It also felt a little too unrealistic, and I still had some questions that didn’t get answered. The other thing I didn’t love about the ending was that it felt a little too much like a copy-cat of something else. I don’t want to spoil anything so I won’t go into more detail than that, but I felt like I’d already seen the ending. Overall, though, it was a fun book. I liked it.

Blog Tour The Lady in the Coppergate Tower

Content Rating PG-13+Content Rating: PG-13 (There isn’t any profanity or “intimacy” in this book, except for kissing. There is some violence, though. A couple characters are attacked, and another character is abused. A couple characters die.)

Age Recommendation: YA+

My Rating: 3.5/5

3.5 Star Rating

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here: https://amzn.to/334zivR 

 

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Beauty and Clockwork Beast by Nancy Campbell Allen Kiss of the Spindle by Nancy Campbell Allen my fair gentleman
 
 
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The Orphan’s Song by Lauren Kate

The Orphan's Song by Lauren Kate

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Book Review of The Orphan's Song by Lauren Kate

I’ve never been to Venice, but now that I’ve read this book, I seriously need to go. While I was reading, coincidentally, my friend was in Venice. She posted a lot of pictures from her amazing trip, and I definitely felt a little social media jealousy. What a beautiful city! I can only imagine what it had been like in the 1700s. We probably romanticize it more than it was, but since we weren’t there, why not? I did not know anything about the Ospedale degli Incurabili—a hospital and orphanage for children, and so it was fun to delve into that world. I find it so interesting that they taught the children there to love, appreciate, and excel at music, and it also provided funding for the hospital and orphanage. The Orphan’s Song by Lauren Kate is a masterfully written story, and I loved it!

Blurb:

“As befitting a book set in eighteenth century Venice, Italy, the novel spins a riveting tale of secrets kept and secrets revealed and the far-reaching consequences of both. Based on a gripping chapter in Venice’s remarkable history, The Orphan’s Song brilliantly recreates both the glamour and seedy underbelly of a city at its zenith.

Known as ‘the city of masks,’ Venice, circa 1736, is notorious for its excesses and its reputation as the place where lovers and revelers don Carnevale disguises to move secretly within society. On most days the city’s sick and orphans are the only bare faces wandering the city. Yearning to join the masked revelers are two foundlings raised within the walls of the Hospital of the Incurables, a famous house of worship that serves as both hospital and orphanage. Over centuries, its massive stone complex (still standing today) has been reinvented as a conservatory for the best singers and musicians on the continent, an ingenious plan that brings acclaim to the church and its coffers.

Among the talented foundlings are Violetta and Mino, lonely teens with big dreams who meet for the first time on an off-limits rooftop. Violinist Mino is a self-taught luthier with aspirations that reach far beyond his humble beginnings. Violetta, a gifted soprano who, despite her desire to rise to soloist in the church’s renowned choir, yearns to break free of the Incurables’ walls and embrace the unknown on the outside. Their tentative private duet—first musical, then romantic—is strictly forbidden, and the risks they take launch them on separate journeys that radically transform their lives.

Mino is determined to find the mother who abandoned him as a toddler, while Violetta steadfastly avoids entanglements and motherhood in her quest for stardom as a legendary soprano with a secret nighttime life. But both will find themselves tossed by society’s cruel unpredictability as they navigate the world and its endless seductions. Despite their separations and painful discoveries, they’ll discover that fate has more in store for them than they could ever have imagined for themselves. With its stunning plot twists and sophisticated sense of history, The Orphan’s Song blends the author’s signature fast-paced storytelling with an enchanting love story for the ages.”  

My Book Review:

I loved this book! Wow. Just wow. The characters, descriptions, feelings, and emotions transform this book into an intimate view of a very personal story. You become a part of Mino and Violetta’s story. You’re there to witness the highs, lows, and everything in between. You laugh and cry with them. You feel their love and their hate. In return, their story becomes a part of yours.

The Orphan’s Song is very well written. The writing sucks you in from the very beginning. I loved the descriptions of the Venetians with their masks, beautiful clothing, and fancy parties. It’s not hard to see why Mino and Violetta wished for more. From their rooftop they could see so much, and they couldn’t have any of it. As the reader, you feel their loss and their want. The way Kate writes the scene of the mother abandoning her child makes it so real and raw and personal.

Violetta, Mino, and the many other characters just come to life on the page. It may be a platitude, but it is so true, in this book. Seriously. Each character is well developed, realistic, unique, and has his or her own personality. The characters switch off narrating the chapters, and I never had to think about who was talking.

One of my favorite things about this book are the feelings portrayed. The writing is so superb that you feel the emotions of the story. I also loved the complexity of the plot and the characters. I was definitely surprised by some of the events and some of the decisions the characters made. The story flowed well, and I loved it. I could not put this book down.  

Content Rating RContent Rating: R (Profanity, including at least one “f” word. “Intimacy,” including scenes and innuendos. Violence including murder and domestic violence.)

Recommendation: Adult

My Rating: 4/5

4 Star Review

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

 

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here: https://amzn.to/2Jnt8zi

 

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How Not To Die Alone by Richard Roper

How Not to Die Alone by Richard Roper

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Book Review of How Not to Die Alone by Richard Roper

No one wants to die alone, right? That seems to be something everyone can agree on. Just thinking about it brings panic and sadness, and you never want to hear of anyone else going through it either. So how do you prevent that from happening? It’s all about connections. Connections with other people bring us joy, love, sorrow, happiness, safety, pain, frustration, peace, and so many more. The difficult thing is that in order to make a connection you need to put yourself out there and be vulnerable, and that’s scary. Once you’re out there, there’s a chance you will get hurt, and that’s scary too. In How Not to Die Alone by Richard Roper, Andrew sees this dilemma and is paralyzed by it. What about you? How far would you go to not die alone?

Blurb:

“No one wants to die without having really lived.

Andrew’s been feeling stuck.

For years he’s worked a thankless public health job, searching for the next of kin of those who die alone. Luckily, he goes home to a loving family every night. At least, that’s what his co-workers believe.

Then he meets Peggy.

A misunderstanding has left Andrew trapped in his own white lie and his lonely apartment. When new employee Peggy breezes into the office like a breath of fresh air, she makes Andrew feel truly alive for the first time in decades.

Could there be more to life than this?

But telling Peggy the truth could mean losing everything. For twenty years, Andrew has worked to keep his heart safe, forgetting one important thing: how to live. Maybe it’s time for him to start.”

My Book Review:

Have you ever told a little lie? Has that lie ever exploded into something out of control? Well, that is what Andrew deals with in this book. He told a lie his first few minutes at a new job, and several years later he still has to perpetuate that falsehood. It takes on a life of its own, and immobilizes him. So he’s alone. But he’s not. Strange how that works.

The writing style of this book hooked me from the beginning. It’s witty yet somber, crass yet sensitive, all-out yet half-hidden, truthful yet full of lies, alone yet together, bursting with love yet loveless, alive yet dead, and the end yet the beginning. As you can tell, contradictions abound in this book. It’s quite the feat to put all of that into one cohesive story, yet Roper skillfully pieces it together.

Truthfully, Andrew’s job sounds terrible. There’s no way I could ever do what he does. I’m glad he’s there to do it, but I’ll take a classroom full of sixth graders over his job any day. When people die, if they don’t have friends or loved ones to find them, they could be dead for months without anyone noticing. Sad, right? After the authorities are called, Andrew goes into the home to search for clues about lost loved ones, or anyone that might have known the person. He’s looking for help paying for the funeral, and for someone to come mourn at the funeral.

Not fun, right? Yeah. Honestly, it’s something I’d never thought or heard of until I read this book. The story takes place in London, and I did a little research to see what they do in the United States. I found this article. It pertains to New York; I couldn’t find anything about where I live. It sounds like it’s about the same.

I love the uniqueness of this book. I’ve never read anything like it. The characters are very well developed, realistic, and they all have their own personalities. Andrew makes such an interesting main character. Even after a whole book it’s difficult to read him or guess what he’ll do next. There’s a bit of a mystery surrounding an event in his past, and it definitely has an impact on his current day. There are a few times that he does cringy things. Seriously cringy things. And it makes you want to scream.

I like Peggy a lot; especially how she handles everything that goes on. Andrew’s boss and colleagues are quite the bunch. I vacillated between annoyance and disgust with them. His sister Sally is something of a mystery. That’s one thing I would have liked more info on, but instead Roper leaves it to the reader to decide what really happens there. Sally’s husband is a jerk. I’ll leave it at that.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. It’s quirky, unique, and packs a big punch. I love the dynamics and relationships between the characters. I also love watching Andrew grow and develop along the way. How Not to Die Alone is very well written. The story flows well, the plot is interesting, and there are some great vocabulary words. I love the connection between the title, Andrew’s job, and Andrew’s personal circumstance–it’s very clever. The cover art definitely grabs your attention.

The big take home from this story is to be honest. Be honest with others and with yourself. All.the.time. Another take-away is the importance of connections.

“Connection is the antidote to depression”

               –David Kozlowski

It’s hard to make connections because you need to put yourself out there and be vulnerable. That’s never a comfortable thing to do, and it takes a lot of practice, but it’s so worth it. True connections with good people make life so much more enjoyable. And who knows? It could save your life one day.  

Content Rating RContent Rating: R (Profanity, including multiple “f” words. “Intimacy,” including scenes and innuendos. Domestic violence, and the death of a couple of characters.)

Age Recommendation: Adult

My Rating: 3.5/5   (I lowered my rating from a 4 because of language.)

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here: https://amzn.to/2X7lJMM

 

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A Tangled Mercy by Joy Jordan-Lake The Other Side of the Bridge by Camron Wright The Evolution of Thomas Hall by Kieth Merrill
 
Featured Image Credit: Goodreads.com 
 

When the Storm Ends by Rebecca L. Marsh

When the Storm Ends by Rebecca L. Marsh

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Book Review of When the Storm Ends by Rebecca L. Marsh

Thankfully, I grew up in a loving home. I married a kind and loving man. I’ve never been in an abusive relationship. I know people who have been, and my heart breaks for them. This book speaks to those people. There are some very difficult things discussed in this book. It’s good for people like me to see how difficult those situations are. This allows me to be more aware and to be more compassionate. It’s also good for those who are in the situation to read, so they know that there is hope and a way out. When the Storm Ends by Rebecca L. Marsh delves into the topic of domestic violence, child abuse, and the foster care system. Those topics can be a bit heavy, so thankfully, Ms. Marsh evens it out with a touch of healing and hope.

Blurb:

“Beth thought her violent childhood was something she left in the past—until she met Erin. Now the abuse of her step-father has returned in terrifying nightmares.

Beth became a child psychologist so she could help children who are broken and hurting, but Erin, the fifteen-year-old who killed her father, is different. If Beth can’t reach her and find out why she did it, Erin will spend the rest of her childhood behind bars. To most people, it looks simple—Erin is either crazy or evil, but when Beth looks into Erin’s haunted eyes, she’s sure that something terrible was done to this girl. Erin, however, isn’t talking.

Beth believes Erin might open up to someone with whom she feels a kinship. Of course, Beth knows she shouldn’t share her own past with a patient, but the clock is ticking toward Erin’s trial, and Beth is out of options.

Little does Beth know that taking this terrifying leap will not only reveal the truth about Erin, but will rip Beth’s past wide open as well—and a connection between them that will shake Beth to the core.”

My Book Review:

I’m not good with violence. Any kind of violence.  You know all those movies and tv shows that everyone loves because of the action and things blowing up? The good guys usually win, but lots of people die in the process? Yeah, well, my husband laughs at me (now you can too) because I close my eyes through most of the movie. I don’t like watching violence. I don’t like watching people get hurt, and I really don’t like watching people die. So, I close my eyes.

Unfortunately, when you’re reading a book, you can’t close your eyes. It doesn’t really work that way, does it? There’s not a good way to escape from what happens on the page. Therefore, I just have to read, and maybe skim, the best I can. When the Storm Ends by Rebecca L. Marsh has a few scenes that I wish I could have closed my eyes through. I found them very difficult to read. Reading scenes that describe children (and women) being physically abused is tough to do.

I understand the purpose of those events in the story. They are there to give history and to show where the character is coming from. I realize they also show the evilness of a character. For me, personally, I don’t like to read them. It took me awhile to read because it’s a quite depressing in some parts. Therefore, I did lower my rating a bit because of this content. Not everyone will feel the same way.

Looking past the difficult content, this book is well written. The characters are well developed, realistic, and unique. Each one has his or her own personality and traits. You definitely feel Beth’s emotions, as an adult and as a child. I liked Beth’s character. She was strong, yet still vulnerable. I also liked her brother Jack’s character. He was tender and loving even after having been through some rough things.

Although most of the other characters are secondary, I came to love some of them, or hate some of them, just as much as Beth and Jack did. I didn’t always understand them or where they were coming from, but that’s why I love reading—it always helps you look at situations from different vantage points.

Ms. Marsh’s writing style flows well, grabs your attention, and is easy to read and understand. She brings up many hard issues in this book. Even though it’s tough to read, it’s always good to see things differently, and maybe to understand things a little more. Some of the topics brought up are physical and emotional abuse, murder, death, loyalty, foster care, domestic violence, love, family, hope, healing, therapy, and overcoming hardship. It’s a lot to take in, but it does speak to hope and healing, even after going through hard times.

Overall, I’m glad I read this book. If I hadn’t been reviewing it I may not have finished, but the story is compelling and I did want to know what happened. I cared for Beth and Jack, and wanted to see their story through.  

Content Rating RRating: R (Profanity, including at least one “f” word. Physical and emotional abuse, domestic violence, murder, attempted rape, and the death of at least one character.)

Recommendation: Adult

My Rating: 3.5/5

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

 

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here: https://amzn.to/2ZFtOoZ

 

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