The Heart of a Vicar by Sarah M. Eden

The Heart of a Vicar by Sarah M Eden

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Book Review of The Heart of a Vicar by Sarah M. Eden

I have always thought that it would be fun to go back in time and spend at least a week in England during the early nineteenth century. At least from all the books I’ve read that have taken place during this time (which is a lot), it seems like such a nice time to live. Now, you’d need to go spend time with a more wealthy family, but nevertheless, I think it would be fun to see. I don’t want to stay there forever, just long enough to experience it for a minute. Regency books have always been one of my favorite to read, so I was excited to see Sarah M. Eden’s new book The Heart of a Vicar. The cover art is beautiful, and sets the perfect tone for the book.

Blurb:

“Young love is all too fleeting, as Harold Jonquil painfully discovered years ago when Sarah Sarvol, the niece of a neighboring landowner, captures his heart. After an idyllic few weeks in the throes of blossoming love, reality intervened. They could have no future. Following their disastrous parting, Harold attempted to push aside thoughts of love and regret, but Sarah has never left his heart. Now, years later, he has achieved his lifelong aspiration of becoming the local vicar. However, the role proves more difficult than he imagined. He feels hollow and uninspired—until the most important person in his past returns, challenging him as no one ever has.

When Sarah’s ailing uncle summons her back to the family estate in England, there is only one person from her past she is reluctant to see again: Harold Jonquil, the only man who has ever claimed her heart. But when she comes face-to-face with her former beau, she hardly recognizes the aloof and dull man before her. She is determined to help Harold rediscover the passion he once felt toward his chosen profession. Soon, despite their exasperation with each other, they cannot deny the stirring of feelings long buried—but is it too late for second chances?”

My Book Review:

I love being transported back in time to England in the early 1800s. In The Heart of a Vicar, Eden does a fantastic job describing the scenery, the large estates, and the people that live there. Her descriptions make you feel like you are there, a part of it all. I especially love the people in this book. Although there are a lot of them, they each get the attention they deserve. Each character is well developed and so life-like. Each has his or her own personality, traits, and quirks.

Sarah comes across as determined, happy, and loving. I love her independence and love of people. Her fun with the blacksmith is one of my favorite parts of the story. Scott isn’t focused on as much, but he plays a big part in bringing the story together. Harold may struggle at times, but I really liked his character. He wanted to do the right thing in the right way; he just needed a little help getting there. It was fun to watch his growth as the story progressed. I thought it was funny that his little quirk ended up playing such a big role in the story.

The Jonquil family seems like a family anyone would want to be a part of. They know how to have fun, and how to come together to help each other.  One of my favorite parts of this family is their focus on the children. In many other books about this time period, children are taken care of by governesses, and the parents don’t interact with them a lot. That is not the case in this book, and it is a feature I loved. Another feature I loved about the Jonquil family was how deeply they cared for each other and took care of one another.

The Heart of a Vicar is well written. I like the flow of it, and Eden’s writing style. It’s easy to read and understand, and easy to get sucked into. One of the reasons I love reading so much is because you get to live different lives, see different places, and experience things you’d otherwise never get to experience. I felt that in this book. Becoming a part of this neighborhood was so much fun.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book! It’s the perfect summer get-away. Although it’s not titled a “proper romance” like many of Eden’s previous books, it is one. It’s a sweet, romantic story that happens to be clean. You all know how much I appreciate that. The Heart of a Vicar by Sarah M. Eden will make a perfect addition to any proper romance, or romance, collection.

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Content Rating PG+Content Rating: PG+ (There isn’t any profanity, violence, or “intimacy” in this book. There is some brief kissing, and some abusive tendencies of one character.)

Age Recommendation: YA+

My Rating: 4/5

4 Star Review

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

 

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Similar Titles You May Be Interested In:

Longing for Home by Sarah M. Eden The Sheriffs of Savage Wells by Sarah M. Eden
 
 
 

Deep Conviction by Steven T. Collis

Cover Art of Deep Conviction by Steven T Collis

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Book Review of Deep Conviction by Steven T. Collis

I have to admit that on a normal, daily basis, I do not usually think about the freedom of religion. I definitely take it for granted. I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I go to church on Sunday and I read scripture and pray throughout the week. I take full advantage of religious freedom, but yet I never really think about it. It’s just something that’s always been there. I am ashamed to say that I haven’t ever really thought about what it has taken to secure that freedom throughout the years. I fully acknowledge how blessed we are in the United States to be able to enjoy that freedom. There are still places around the world that do not have the same privilege, and to them I am sorry. I promise that I will no longer take this freedom for granted. Deep Conviction by Steven T. Collis brings the importance of religious freedom into the light and recognizes some of the sacrifices that have been made in order to secure that right.

Blurb:

Deep Conviction features four ordinary Americans who put their reputations and livelihoods at risk as they fought to protect their first amendment right to live their personal beliefs. Though these individuals couldn’t be more different, they share a similar conviction and determination.

  • In the winter of 1813, in rural New York City, a Catholic priest faced prison after a grand jury subpoenaed him for refusing to divulge the identity of a criminal who admitted his guilt during the sacrament of confession.
  • In the summer of 1959, an atheist pushed his attempt to become a Maryland notary public all the way to the United States Supreme Court because the state required him to sign an oath that said he believed in God.
  • In 1989 a Klamath Indian man walked into the highest court of our nation supported by legions of members of the Native American Church to plead for the freedom to practice his beliefs after years of oppression.
  • And, finally, in 2017, a Christian baker in Denver had his beliefs and actions scrutinized by the Supreme Court after he refused service to a gay couple who wanted to purchase a custom wedding cake.

These stories were specifically chosen for the universality and for the broad principles they represent. Most importantly, the notion of religious freedom for all, truly cherished, allows justice and protection for everyone, religious or not.”

My Book Review:

I was a little hesitant to read this book because I thought reading about court cases might be a little boring. Let me tell you how wrong I was. Steven T. Collis has a gift with words. He took these old court cases and brought them to life. I was enthralled! I couldn’t put it down! The law is not my thing—I teach sixth grade—but Collis held me captivated. As he described the laws and the courtroom scenes, I felt like I was there. I could feel the tension in the room, and I think I held my breath as I waited to hear the final decisions. He has a gift for storytelling.

I loved the writing style of this book. Seriously. It’s easy to read and understand, it flows well, and it draws you in. I did have to go back and reread a few paragraphs because I’m not used to reading the technical language of law, but that was my own fault. Collis’ descriptions of the people, their histories, and their lives make you feel like you have known them for years. The way he describes the courtroom scenes allows you to see a glimpse into the past, and to feel like you were there to see it happen.

When the law burdens one faith group—including atheists or agnostics—over another, it is only a matter of time before the unfavored group gains power. Once it does, it will use the law for its own ends. This results in factions vying for government power and turning it into a spear they can use to promote only their beliefs. (p. 163)

If the government is permitted to attempt to influence religious beliefs and commitments, each religious faction must necessarily seek to conrol or at least influence the government so the faction’s members will be more benefitted than harmed. Even if government is permitted only to express views about religion, religious factions will seek to control or influence the government so that they can control or influence the religious views that it expresses. (p.155)

When religious liberty is truly valued, government may not punish anyone for their beliefs, no matter who happens to control the reins of power in that particular moment. (p. 165)

The importance of religious freedom cannot be downplayed or forgotten. It must be protected and fought for. Sacrifices must be made in order to keep government in check. I have never met the people in these stories, but their sacrifices and suffering have paved the way for all of us to keep our religious freedom. Whether you go to church every week or do not believe in God at all, freedom of religion protects us from one group persecuting another or forcing the other to believe something.

At first I was worried that this book would be boring or dry, but it is not. I truly could not put it down. It held me captivated for chapter after chapter. This principle is so important. I loved this book and highly recommend it!

Content Rating PG-13+Content Rating: PG-13+ (There isn’t any profanity or “intimacy” in this book, but there are some graphic descriptions. Mostly, I think younger readers will not understand, appreciate, or fully grasp the concept of this book.)

Age Recommendation: 16+

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/2EmLAFd

 

Similar Titles You May Be Interested In:

Slave Stealers by Timothy Ballard Women of the Blue and Gray by Marianne Monson
 
 
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Daisies and Devotion by Josi S. Kilpack

Daisies and Devotion by Josi S Kilpack Cover Art

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Book Review of Daisies and Devotion by Josi S. Kilpack

I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in the Mayfield Family Series, Promises and Primroses, so I was excited to read this second book. Daisies are one of my favorite types of flowers, and there are quite a few daisy plants in my yard. I’d take pictures of them for you all, but they aren’t blooming yet. Uncle Elliot managed to get Peter married off, so I was excited to see which family member this book would focus on, and how he would perceive the marriage campaign. Anyway, what a perfect way to merge two of my favorite things—books and flowers! Find out more in my book review of Daisies and Devotion by Josi S. Kilpack.

Blurb:

“Timothy Mayfield is ready to marry for love, but, since his personal finances are thinner than he’d like, he knows he’ll also need to find a wife with wealth. After receiving an unexpected inheritance, Timothy’s circumstances change, and he is free to pursue his ‘perfect woman’—one with blonde hair, blue eyes, a light laugh, arched eyebrows, elegant fingers, and a dazzling smile, among nearly twenty other characteristics.

Maryann Morrington doesn’t match anything on Timothy’s list—except for wealth. An heiress in her own right, she is tired of men pursuing her only for her money. But at nearly twenty-two years old, and not a particularly stunning beauty, she can’t be as picky as her friend Timothy is.

The two friends end up playing matchmaker for each other. Timothy will find a decent gentleman for Maryann, and Maryann will prove to Timothy that his ‘perfect woman’ doesn’t exist.

Until Miss Shaw comes to London.

Now, with Timothy’s heart captivated by the blonde, blue-eyed beauty, Maryann must decide if she should risk her heart and reveal her true feelings for her friend, or if she should settle for someone else. It’s an up-and-down game of ‘he loves me, he loves me not’ with both hearts and friendship on the line.”

My Book Review:

I love the setting in this book. London in 1822 is the perfect place for a romantic story. If I could travel back in time, this is a time period I would choose to go to. It would be so fun to wear the fancy dresses and go to the balls. Of course, I’d want to go back with money because I’m sure life was different if you didn’t have money for such fancy things. The carriage rides, the visiting, the new dresses, and the parties would be a lot of fun. However, it might also feel like you’re on show on the time, and I could see that being stressful. What if you don’t meet someone that season? To be twenty-two and not married (gasp!).

That is where Maryann is at this point in her life. She’s twenty-two and just now getting into her season. She has some unusual circumstances surrounding her past, and is now looking to marry. Her character is well written and developed. I like that she isn’t perfect. She doesn’t look, act, or sound perfect, and you can see her insecurities in her actions and thoughts. She has a personality that is easy to relate to, and she seems like she would be a fun friend.

Timothy’s character is also well written and developed. Even though he has a lot of “guy” expectations (the “perfect woman…”) he does have a likable personality. I do like his gentlemanly mannerisms and the fact that he thinks things through, except the “perfect woman” thing, of course. He thinks he knows what he wants and needs, but does he really?

I like the banter between Timothy and Maryann. It’s hilarious that she helps him with his fashion. He’s not so careful with his observations of her, but the two of them provide for some good entertainment when they’re together. Of course you also throw in a few other characters like Deborah and Lucas, Miss Shaw, and Colonel Berkins, and you get just the right amount of tension and questioning.

This book is well written. The character development is very good. I like it when you see the characters’ growth as the story progresses. The book flows well, is easy to read and understand, and has just the right amount of humor, romance, and story line. I like the descriptions of the events and activities, the dresses, the punch, and the setting. Ms. Kilpack does a great job of making you feel like you are there, in London, enjoying the dancing like everyone else. It’s also easy to feel right alongside the characters.

I enjoyed this book and think it is a great addition to the Mayfield Family Series. I can’t wait to see if there’ll be more Mayfield stories up and coming.

Content Rating PG+Content Rating: PG+ (There isn’t any profanity, violence, or “intimacy.” There’s some brief kissing, and some descriptions of the smell of cigars and cigar smoke.)

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/30iPzfl

 

Similar Titles You May Be Interested In:

Promises and Primroses by Josi Kilpack The Lady of the Lakes by Josi S. Kilpack Forever and Forever by Josi S. Kilpack
 

A Song for the Stars by Ilima Todd

A Song for the Stars by Ilima Todd

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Book Review of A Song for the Stars by Ilima Todd

I’ve read and reviewed many proper romances over the last few years. It’s been so fun to get to know the characters and the styles of the different authors. Nancy Campbell Allen writes fun steampunk novels. Josi S. Kilpack writes fictional love stories about historical people. Sarah M. Eden writes of women living far from home who find love. Julianne Donaldson is a master story teller. Becca Wilhite and Julie Wright have more modern takes on the proper romance. Each author has her own individual style, and I have truly loved being able to read and review these books. A Song for the Stars by Ilima Todd is a little different from the other proper romances I’ve read. Maile, the main character, is a tough cookie! She knows who she is, what she stands for, and she’s not afraid to do what she needs to do to get it. Find out what makes this book stand out in my book review of A Song for the Stars by Ilima Todd.

Blurb:

“As the second daughter of a royal chief, Maile will be permitted to marry for love. Her fiancé is the best navigator in Hawai’i, and he taught her everything he knows—how to feel the ocean, observe the winds, read the stars, and how to love.

But when sailors from a strange place called England arrive on her island, a misunderstanding ends in battle, and Maile is suddenly widowed before she is wed.

Finding herself in the middle of the battle and fearing for her life, Maile takes John Harbottle, the wounded man who killed her fiancé, prisoner, and though originally intending to let him die, she reluctantly heals him. And in the process, she discovers the man she thought was her enemy might be her ally instead.

John has been Captain James Cook’s translator for three voyages across the Pacific. He is kind and clearly fascinated with her homeland and her people—and with Maile herself. But guilt continues to drive a wedge between them: John’s guilt over the death he caused, and Maile’s guilt over the truth about what triggered the deadly battle—a secret she’s kept hidden from everyone on the island.

When Maile is tasked with teaching John how to navigate using the stars so he can sail back to England, they must also navigate the challenges of being from very different cultures. In doing so, they might also find the peace that comes when two hearts become one.”

My Book Review:

I love Maile’s strong, determined character. She has her moments of doubt and weakness, for sure, but she never gives up. Her dedication to her family, especially her father, shows a lot about her values. I love the brief moments you get to see the relationship she has with her sister. It’s not just family, though. She also has a strong loyalty for her people and traditions. Maile is well developed, realistic, and a likable and relatable character.

John has a bit more mystery surrounding him because he’s the so-called enemy. Although his personality is not as obviously strong, you can tell that he has inner strength. He also has loyalty to his people and his captain. You get to hear his thoughts through his journal entries, which I liked. The story carries through Maile, but many insights and perceptions are told through John.

As I stated previously, the story is told through both John and Maile’s points of view. John’s story is told through his journal entries, while Maile narrates the story. Even with the two points of view, the story flows seamlessly. This book is well written. I like Ms. Todd’s writing style because it draws you into the story. You feel like you’re there, in Hawaii, with Maile. You feel her frustration, anger, grief, sadness, loyalty, love, pain, and peace. I love her descriptions of the island, the flowers, the people, and the traditions. I’m not much of a singer, but I loved the descriptions of the songs and chants the Hawaiian people have for navigating, mourning, and history.

I think it’s so fun for the author that this story is based on events that happened to her relatives. In order to make the story more understandable and readable, she changed a few minor details, but the people were real. What a great experience for her to be able to tell her ancestor’s story. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and definitely recommend it.

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Content Rating PG-13Content Rating: PG-13 (There isn’t any profanity or “intimacy,” but there is some violence. There’s fighting and some well-known characters die.)

Age Recommendation: YA (13-18) and 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/2X8V8KK

 

Similar Titles You May Be Interested In:

Promises and Primroses by Josi Kilpack my fair gentleman Longing for Home by Sarah M. Eden
 
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Wizard For Hire: Apprentice Needed by Obert Skye

Wizard for Hire Apprentice Needed by Obert Skye

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Book Review of Wizard for Hire: Apprentice Needed (Book #2) by Obert Skye

After the cliffhanger ending of Book #1, my house has been waiting and waiting for Book #2. Where did Rin go? Is he ok? Is he ever going to come back? What about Ozzy and Sigi? Are they ok? There are so many unanswered questions from the first book that need to be answered! One of the biggest questions is if Rin is really a wizard or not. I mean, the scene in New Mexico makes you think one way, but you thought the other way the whole rest of the book. Will Book #2 give us the answers we crave? Or will it too end in a cliffhanger? I’m not going to give anything away, but you might find out some of those answers. Maybe? Haha. Just read it already! Or, check out my book review of A Wizard for Hire: Apprentice Needed by Obert Skye.

Blurb:

“Ozzy Toffy’s adventure, which began in Wizard for Hire, continues when one dark and windy night, he gets out of bed, jumps out his window, and walks straight into the ocean. More than ever, Ozzy could really use the services of Rin, the wizard he hired to help find his parents—but Rin is missing, despite Ozzy’s continual attempts to contact him. And Clark, the mechanical bird his father left him, is as peculiar and vain as ever. When a mysterious package arrives, Ozzy and his good friend Sigi are sure that the plane ticket and thumb drive in it are from Rin. Trying to get Clark through security at the airport proves complicated—as most things are with Clark. But when they arrive in New York, they discover that there’s even more adventure in store for them.

Will Rin return and save the day? Can Sigi find a way to trust her delinquent father? Will someone please appreciate Clark the way he’d like to be appreciated? For once?

Wizard for Hire: Apprentice Needed is a story filled with humor and excitement that shows us the magic in everyday things.”

My Book Review:

Book #1 sure ended with a bang, right? Wow—can you say cliffhanger? At my house we have been waiting and waiting for Book #2 to come out so we could see what happens. It’s spring break here, thank goodness, and so I had the time to sit down and read. This book is just as crazy as the first one! Things are happening and neither Ozzy nor Sigi understand what that means. Then one day they receive a package, and it sets off a series of events that they will never forget. Buckle those seat belts and get ready for an adventure!

I like the writing style of this book. It’s fast-paced, full of action, and full of mystery. Yep, you’re still wondering! Even after the events in New Mexico, you’re still wondering if Rin is really a wizard or not. Is he? Hmmm…no. Well…yes, I think he is. Ummm…no. No way. Haha! That’s a good way to keep your readers reading…make them go crazy wondering. And then to make it worse, Ozzy starts doing some crazy and dangerous things—unconsciously!

Obert Skye has a fun, witty writing style. He really likes to use figurative language! This is the first paragraph of chapter one:

The day had departed, dashing off like a frightened child as the first slender fingers of dusk gripped the sky. In its absence, darkness arrived at 1221 Ocean View Drive. Like a large visitor whom nobody had invited, the inkiness came early and in force, its arms filled with fatigue and exhaustion. It sat down on everything and moaned like an old man with tired legs and no intention of getting back up anytime soon.

English teachers unite! In one paragraph you have personification and several similes. Not every paragraph is like this, but many of them are, and I love it. I don’t think enough authors take the time to craft the language of their books. It’s refreshing.

The characters are well developed and realistic. Ozzy, Sigi, and Clark are all great characters. As a reader, you feel like you’re one of them. You feel like you’re there with them and experiencing things with them. Rin is hilarious, and I love all his words of wisdom. My favorite is when Ozzy and Sigi are trying to leave meaningful messages on his phone. I’m going to start doing this, I think. You may only leave a message if you leave an inspirational quote with it. My kids (and husband) would get so irritated!

This book answers a few questions, but adds about 100 more! AHHHHH! Yep, there better be a book three! And pronto. ‘Cuz it’s another cliffhanger ending ladies and gents. Of course, the cover art is amazing! The fabulous Brandon Dorman has done it again! You’ll want to read the book just because it has such a fantastic cover! If you want action, suspense, mystery, wizardry—or not wizardry, cool mechanical birds, mind control, car chases, or night-time sailing expeditions, this book is for you! Hang on, though, it’s quite the ride!

Content Rating PG+Content Rating: PG+ (I’m adding the + to this book because even though there isn’t any profanity, he sometimes uses words that are very close to profane words as a substitute. He also says things like, “This guy cursed up a storm.” I thank him for not using the actual words, but the reader does know that cursing was involved. There isn’t any “intimacy,” but there is some violence. Ozzy, Sigi, and Rin fight off some bad guys, and there is a kidnapping.)

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

My Rating: 4/5

4 Star Review

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here: https://amzn.to/2FSMGK6

 

Similar Titles You May Be Interested In:

Wizard for Hire by Obert Skye The Inventor's Secret by Chad Morris Janitors (Book #1) by Tyler Whitesides
 
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The Five Legends by the ANASAZI Foundation

The Five Legends by the ANASAZI Foundation

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Book Review of The Five Legends by the ANASAZI Foundation

When the publicist asked if I would review this book I said, “Yes!” because it has a good title. I don’t usually read the blurbs about books, so when I picked it up I totally thought it was going to be MG or YA fantasy. Hahaha! Ummmm…no. This book is not fantasy at all. It’s fiction, but it’s an allegory written about two brothers whose hearts have turned against each other. These brothers happen to be people that lived long ago. The Anasazi. It’s not very long, but it packs a big punch! There’s a lot of wisdom and knowledge squeezed into a few pages. There are many lessons to be gleaned from this story. Find out more in my book review of The Five Legends by the ANASAZI Foundation.

Blurb:

“Drawing on thirty years of helping families in crisis, this profound fable by the ANASAZI Foundation illustrates the anguish of conflict and shows how we can end war within ourselves, within families, and even between nations.

The Five Legends is the story of two estranged brothers, leaders of their people, who find themselves on an unexpected journey marked by struggle as they fall into a formidable canyon. Trapped and injured, the two brothers are rescued by an old man—‘the last of a people’—who agrees to guide them out of the canyon, but only if they agree to listen to the Five Legends of peace. The brothers learn that to heal any conflict we must first look within ourselves. At its core, ‘War does not begin or end with armies and leaders. In truth, war begins and ends within each of us—within our hearts.”

My Book Review:

When I agreed to review this book I had never heard of the ANASAZI Foundation. It sounds like an amazing program. The ANASAZI Foundation is a nonprofit 501(c)(3)that is based in Arizona. It’s a “wilderness therapy program for young adults and youth at risk [and has been] recognized internationally for its caring and nonpunitive approach to helping youth overcome challenges and see their seeds of greatness.” This program “gives young people an opportunity, through a primitive living experience and a philosophy that invites healing at the hands of nature, to effect a change of heart—a change in one’s whole way of walking the world…[It gives youth] a place free from distractions, where one can learn, ponder, and build” If you’d like to learn more about the ANASAZI Foundation, you may find more information at: www.anasazi.org.

Now onto the story. Picture two teenage or early-twenties young men. Brothers. They are the sons of their people’s leader, and they do not get along. They argue and disagree with each other. When their father passes away the disagreements come to a head and the two brothers go different ways. Each leads his people, and each blames his brother for the rift, heartache, and all his problems. Many years pass, and with each passing year their hatred of each other increases. Then something happens that brings them together for the first time in many years. An accident follows, and they embark on a journey to mend their divided hearts.

This book is very well written. It flows well, is easy to read and understand, and I really like the writing style. Somehow it makes you feel calm and peaceful even when it’s discussing war and fighting. I loved reading about the Five Legends of peace. This book is broken up into different sections, and I didn’t find it off-putting or difficult to read. The character development is very well done. You feel like you are feeling the emotions of the characters.

My favorite thing about this allegory is all the lessons that it packs into its slim 96 pages. Wow! You’ve got forgiveness and repentance. You have looking inside yourself first before placing the blame on someone else. There’s also the importance of family and living a life of WE. I love that one! We can’t do much by ourselves, but when WE work together, we can do amazing things. You also have the importance of seeing each other as people. Real people—with feelings, dreams, hopes, strengths and weaknesses—people who are doing their best. We need to look at the positives and the good in people before we focus on everything that is wrong.

I think the journey the brothers take is significant also. Being together and doing things together on this journey through life is what bonds us together. Also, life is a journey. Sometimes bad things happen, and sometimes good things happen along the way. There may be times where we get lost or lose our possessions. There may be times along the way where we feel like we can’t go on or we lose hope. What’s important is the connections in our lives—our connections to other people. It’s living a life of WE instead of me. It’s the importance of looking outside ourselves and seeing other people. Really seeing them.

I liked this book a lot. I loved watching the characters grow and develop along the way, and I loved all the symbolism and lessons. This book teaches some very important lessons that are needed in today’s world. I highly recommend this book. I think it would make a great family or school read-aloud too!

Content Rating PGContent Rating: PG (There isn’t any profanity or “intimacy” in this book. There isn’t any violence either.)

Age Recommendation: YA (13-18) and Adult (Younger children could read it, but they will not grasp the symbolism or lessons taught.)

My Rating: 4/5

4 Star Review

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Review of Atomic Habits by James Clear

Atomic Habits by James Clear

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Book Review of Atomic Habits by James Clear

I swear, everywhere I turned, James Clear was there talking about his book. I heard him on several podcasts, heard other people talking about it, and then I kept seeing his book everywhere. Well, it worked. All that promotion definitely caught my attention. I reserved Atomic Habits at the library and then waited. After a brief wait, I checked the book out and brought it home. I was super excited to read it. Then life happened—school, kids, house, other books—and I kind of forgot I had the book. That was, until I got an email saying it was due back to the library. Oops! I hadn’t even started it yet. Guess what I did? I started the book. Yep, I didn’t take it back. That was a couple of weeks ago, and I just finished the book. Ummm…yeah, I’m going to have quite the fine, but I had to finish! If you haven’t heard anything about this book, check out my book review of Atomic Habits by James Clear.

Blurb:

“No matter your goals, Atomic Habits offers a proven framework for getting 1% better every day. James Clear, one of the world’s leading experts on habit formation, reveals practical strategies that will teach you exactly how to master the tiny behaviors that lead to remarkable results.

If you’re having trouble changing your habits, the problem isn’t you. The problem is your system. Bad habits repeat themselves not because you don’t want to change but because you have the wrong system for change. You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems. In Atomic Habits, you’ll get a plan that can take you to new heights.

Clear is known for his ability to distill complex topics into simple behaviors that can be readily applied to daily life and work. Here, he draws on ideas from biology, psychology, and neuroscience to create an easy-to-understand guide for making good habits inevitable and bad habits impossible. Along the way, readers will be inspired and entertained with true stories from Olympic god medalists, award-winning artists, business leaders, life-saving physicians, and star comedians who have used the science of small habits to vault to the top of their fields.

Atomic Habits will reshape the way you think about progress and give you the tools and techniques you need to transform your habits—whether you are an athlete looking to win a championship, a leader hoping to optimize an organization, or an individual who wishes to quit smoking, lose weight, reduce stress, and achieve success that lasts.”

My Book Review:

I know you’re asking…was it worth the big fine at the library? In a word, yes! I have never thought about habits in this way. It is clearly a new way of thinking, and it takes a bit of a shift in perspective. However, once that shift is made, I think it will be difficult to go back to the old way of thinking. Clear makes it seem so easy!

This book is very well written. His writing is clear and to the point. His writing style is easy to read and understand. The book has a great progression from small to big-picture, and each chapter is well thought-out and full of ideas. I like the chapter summaries at the end of each chapter that give the reader quick bullet points to remember what was taught. There are also diagrams throughout each chapter that do a great job of illustrating his points.

I love the examples that Clear uses to show and explain his thoughts and ideas. He uses Olympic athletes, professional sports coaches, and important business people’s routines and processes to show how it all works, and it makes it seem so simple! He’s not naïve, though. Clear knows that it’s harder than it seems, so he does a good job explaining how easy it is to fall off the habit-train. What’s great is that he gives you ideas on how to make it easier to start, follow, and continue habits.

I feel so ready to start some habits! I’m pumped, and I’m also ready for the long-haul. This truly is a remarkable book. It’s filled with a new way of thinking about habits, and a simple shift in perspective that will allow people of all shapes, sizes, backgrounds, and abilities to improve their lives. This book aims to make people the best they can be, and I’m excited to get started!

Content Rating PG+Content Rating: PG+ (There’s no profanity, “intimacy,” or violence in this book.)

Age Recommendation: YA (13-18+) and Adult

My Rating: 4/5

4 Star Review

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

Similar Titles You May Be Interested In:

the seven habits of highly effective families by stephen r covey The Compliment Quotient by Monica Strobel does change have to be so hard
 
 

Waiting For Fitz by Spencer Hyde

Waiting For Fitz by Spencer Hyde

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Book Review of Waiting For Fitz by Spencer Hyde

Mental health is a difficult topic to discuss. It’s rough sometimes. It is also a topic that is very close to my heart. I have a child who suffers from debilitating anxiety, panic attacks, and depression. This child missed months of school and was so sick that he had to be hospitalized. Twice. We thought he may need to be put in a mental ward, but, thankfully, he never had to. That was almost two years ago, and although it’s gotten a lot better, anxiety is something he deals with daily. We’re still living minute to minute with him. The more people I tell his story to, the more people tell me that their child deals with something similar. We need to talk about this. We need to bring this issue to the forefront because it is way more common than we think it is. Let’s end the stigma. Fiction is a great way to start this process, and I applaud Spencer for tackling this tough issue. Learn more about his book in my book review of Waiting For Fitz by Spencer Hyde.

Blurb:

“Addie loves nothing more than curling up on the couch with her dog, Duck, and watching The Great British Baking Show with her mom. It’s one of the few things that can help her relax when her OCD kicks into overdrive. She counts everything. All the time. She can’t stop. Rituals and rhythms. It’s exhausting.

When Fitz was diagnosed with schizophrenia, he named the voices in his head after famous country singers. The adolescent psychiatric ward at Seattle Regional Hospital isn’t exactly the ideal place to meet your soul mate, but when Addie meets Fitz, they immediately connect over their shared love of words, appreciate each other’s quick wit, and wish they could both make more sense of their lives.

Fitz is haunted by the voices in his head and often doesn’t know what is real. But he feels if he can convince Addie to help him escape the psych ward and get to San Jan Island, everything will be okay. If not, he risks falling into a downward spiral that may keep him in the hospital indefinitely.

Waiting For Fitz is a story about life and love, forgiveness and courage, and learning what is truly worth waiting for.”

My Book Review:

I loved this book! The wit, humor, and word play Spencer Hyde uses make the book, for sure. Let’s talk about the wittiness of this book. It’s clever, well-timed and well-placed, and it makes for some great banter between Addie and Fitz. Fitz’ shirts are great, and I love that Addie and Fitz are about equal in their wittiness so they have some fun conversations. The humor goes along with the wit. I am a word lover, so I love the words and language in this book. Both Fitz and Addie are very intelligent, and I love how they use words in their conversations. Oftentimes we think of wit and word play as strategies to convey humor or happiness. It’s light and airy, right? Well, somehow Spencer Hyde is able to use both wit and humor during difficult and hard conversations as well. He is quite a gifted writer.

I’ve talked a bit about Addie and Fitz. They are definitely the main characters in the book, and they are great characters. Each of them is well thought-out, well developed, and unique. Even though they both like to be witty, they do it in a way that matches their own personality. I loved learning about each character’s history, strengths, weaknesses, and struggles. OCD and schizophrenia are very different diagnoses, and even though I don’t have either one of them, I thought they were portrayed well.

The other patients in the ward are also developed well. Leah, Wolf, Didi, and Junior each have their own reasons for being in the mental ward, and you really feel for each of them. Yes, there is humor around them and some of their conditions, but at the same time, you know how much they struggle. You know they don’t want to be there. You want them to get help and hopefully be able to graduate out of the ward. The use of humor around some of their difficulties makes you laugh, but it also serves as a way to highlight that condition and how hard it must be to live with that mental illness.

This story pulls at your heartstrings. As the reader you want to be able to jump in and help those kids. You want them to feel loved and to be able to find a way to cope with their conditions so they can return to the outside world. I’m so thankful to the people that work in mental health. There are not enough of them. When my son was struggling the most, I called pretty much every psychologist within a 50 mile radius of my house. The shortest wait I could find was three months. Yep, all of them were either booked out three months, didn’t see children, or didn’t take our insurance. We need more good, smart, and kind people to work in mental health.

I loved this quote by the author:

Addie’s OCD is a reflection of my experience translated through a fictional character…In Waiting For Fitz, I have taken my personal experiences and fictionalized them. I have created this made-up world and tried to fill it with real-world significance, and meaning, with truth. I believe that is the aim of all fiction: we strive to put words into a rhythm and order that will reveal something redemptive about what it means to be human. It is a lesson in empathy; it is practice in how to live.

I agree completely. What a great way to discuss complex topics. Fiction allows you to see a more complete picture of the characters’ lives, of their personalities, wants, dreams, strengths, weaknesses, and trials. Fiction allows you to see a different side of the story, and to feel many of the characters’ emotions. Just as Wonder highlights physical attributes, Waiting For Fitz highlights mental illness and the need for more compassion, empathy, knowledge, and acceptance.

fitz blog tour 1

Content Rating PG-13Content Rating: PG-13 (There isn’t any profanity or “intimacy” in this book; there is one scene that is a bit violent. However, this book is full of themes that are inappropriate for MG or younger readers. )

Age Recommendation: YA (13-18) and Adult

My Rating: 4/5

4 Star Review

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

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here: https://amzn.to/2Fbif1j

 

Similar Titles You May Be Interested In:

mustaches for maddie Squint by Chad Morris and Shelly Brown A Monster Like Me by Wendy S. Swore
 
 
Featured Image Credit: Goodreads.com
 

Seven at Sea by Erik and Emily Orton

Seven at Sea by Erik and Emily Orton

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Book Review of Seven at Sea by Erik and Emily Orton

Wow! What an adventure! I grew up boating—on lakes. I love it so much. I’m a pretty good slalom skier, and I love the feel of the wind as you cruise on top of the water. However, when the weather turns nasty, I want to be as far away from the water as possible. The big waves scare me. A lot. It scares me so much that I won’t even go on the cruise my husband wants to go on. You know, the one on the really big, fancy boat. There is absolutely no way you’d get me in a 38 ft. catamaran that I’d have to sail. Through the Caribbean. With my four kids. And the Ortons have five kids. They are brave and adventurous! I admire their sense of family, and am kind of jealous of some of the lessons they learned together, but I think I’d rather learn some of those lessons on land. Learn more about their book, and their adventure, in my book review of Seven at Sea by Erik and Emily Orton.

Blurb:

“Working the night shift as a temp in a high-rise cubicle, Erik Orton knew something had to change. He felt the responsibility of providing for his wife and their five children—the youngest with Down syndrome—but craved a life that offered more than just surviving.

Watching the sailboats on the Hudson River during his sunset dinner breaks, Erik dared to dream. What would it be like to leave the hustle of the city and instead spend a year on a sailboat, somewhere beautiful, as a family? Despite having no sailing experience, his wife Emily’s phobia of deep water, and already stretching every dollar to pay rent and buy groceries, the family of seven turned their excuses into reasons and their fears into motivation. Sure, they would miss their friends, they could go broke, they could get injured or die. Worst of all, they could humiliate themselves by trying something audacious and failing. But the little time they still had together as a family, before their oldest daughter left for college, was drifting away. The Ortons cast off the life they knew to begin an uncertain journey of 5,000 miles between New York City and the Caribbean, ultimately arriving at a new place within themselves.

A portrait of a captivating and resilient family and a celebration of the courage it takes to head for something over the horizon, this is a deeply compelling story—told alternately by Erik and Emily—for all those who dream of leaving routine in their wake.”

My Book Review:

I just have to say that they are way braver than I am! There is no way my husband could ever talk me into doing something like this. I’m way too scared of the ocean. I don’t mind playing in the waves if the water is warm, but I’m scared of going on a cruise on a big, fancy boat. Yeah, no way. However, I do greatly admire them. I have a 17 year-old who will be a senior next year, and I would love to do something like this, but on land. I’d love to have my family all to myself for just a little while.

This book is well written. I liked the writing styles of both Erik and Emily. Sometimes I had to look back to see which one of them had written that chapter, but it was usually obvious by their writing. As a woman, I thought it was interesting to read Erik’s point of view. It’s not often we women get to delve into a man’s brain like that. I definitely related more to Emily, but it’s always great to hear the other point of view. Each of their chapters were well thought-out and full of emotion.

I found it interesting that you could feel the tension between them in some of the chapters. It wasn’t always easy. They made sure the reader knew that it was a hard journey. Living in a little boat like that with seven people for that long would be very difficult, and I appreciated their honesty. I know how frustrated I get sometimes when we’re camping for a week. Haha! Living on a boat would be so hard. I think they all had to learn how to read each other and give space, if needed. They also had to learn how to individually handle their personal struggles so they didn’t turn into a complete meltdown.

I loved learning about their journey! The strength and growth of the children was amazing to see. What an amazing memory and story they’ll always have to tell. I’d love to read about this journey from their perspectives as well. Some of the lessons they learned will be invaluable in their lives.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Although I’d never want to do it on the ocean, I may need to make time for a similar land journey. Maybe travel across the country, or something. I highly recommend this book. It’s fun to read about people reaching and fulfilling their dreams. It allows you, as the reader, to dream and plan too.  

Content Rating PG-13Content Rating: PG-13 (There isn’t any violence in this book, and there are only one or two swear words. However, there are two occasions where they mention that they, “Make love.” There aren’t any details or descriptions–that’s all it says.)

Age Recommendation: Young Adult (14+) and Adult

My Rating: 4/5

4 Star Review

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

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here: https://amzn.to/2Ux1D9p

 

Similar Titles You May Be Interested In:

  The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown
 
 
Featured Image Credit: Goodreads.com
 

A Monster Like Me by Wendy S. Swore

A Monster Like Me by Wendy S. Swore

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Book Review of A Monster Like Me by Wendy S. Swore

Have you ever thought of yourself as something unlovable or scary? It starts as a small idea and then festers into something uncontrollable and real. I think everyone has short moments where they may think that of themselves. Sophie thinks this of herself constantly. She’s convinced she’s a monster, which breaks my heart. No one should think that, especially a child. She got the idea from her favorite book—The Big Book of Monsters that she always keeps with her. Yes, it’s big and heavy, but that doesn’t stop her from carrying it everywhere. It’s how she determines which monsters or creatures are living around her—so she can protect herself. Find out more in my book review of A Monster Like Me by Wendy S. Swore.

Blurb:

“Being the new kid at school is hard, but Sophie has a secret weapon: her vivid imagination and her oversized, trusted Big Book of Monsters—an encyclopedia of myths and legends from all over the world. The pictures and descriptions of the creatures in her book help her know which kids to watch out for—clearly the bullies are trolls and goblins—as well as how to avoid them. Though not everyone is hiding a monster inside; the nice next-door neighbor is probably a good witch, and Sophie’s new best friend is obviously a good fairy.

Sophie is convinced she is a monster because of the ‘monster mark’ on her face. At least that’s what she calls it. The doctors call it a blood tumor, and it covers almost half of her face. Sophie can feel it pulsing with every beat of her heart. And if she’s a monster on the outside, then she must be a monster on the inside, too. She knows that it’s only a matter of time before the other kids, the doctors, and even her mom figure it out.

The Big Book of Monsters gives Sophie the idea that there might be a cure for her monster mark, but in order to make the magic work, she’ll need to create a special necklace made from ordinary items—a feather, a shell, and a crystal—that Sophie believes are talismans. Once she’s collected all the needed ingredients, she’ll only have one chance to make a very special wish. If Sophie can’t break the curse and become human again, her mom is probably going to leave—just like her Dad did. Because who would want to live with a real monster?”

My Book Review:

As a mom and a teacher, it breaks my heart to think of this darling girl thinking something so terrible of herself. She has a blood tumor on her face, and it’s big. You can see why she’d think of herself as an ugly monster. The problem is, she can’t figure out which kind. She’s read her book dozens of times, and she can figure out what everyone else is, but she can’t find a description that matches her monster-type. She must be one, though, because she’s ugly, and it would explain why her dad left her. Once again, it makes me so sad that she thinks of herself in this way.

This book is so well written. Sophie’s voice in the story is sweet, real, and protective of her secret. Her thought process is realistic and child-like, and it draws you into the story. The descriptions of the monsters are witty and clever. I love how quick Sophie’s mind worked to match a person to a monster. It works because we all tend to judge people by their appearance and actions (whether or not those judgments are accurate is a different story), Sophie just goes a step further and puts a monster description with it.

The character development in this book is fantastic. You feel like you know each of the characters personally, and they come to life on the page. Sophie is well developed, likable, imaginative, and spunky. Sometimes I cringe with her because she has a bit of temper sometimes. Autumn is so sweet and fun. Just like a fairy. Mrs. Barrett reminds me of my grandma and Sophie’s mom is realistic, has her flaws, and has her strengths. I think she’s really good for Sophie. I do feel bad that Sophie feels like she can’t tell her mom everything she’s feeling.

This is such a clever story. The way Sophie’s imagination puts everything together is so imaginative and unique. It’s like living in a whole imaginary world. Having four kids myself, I can see that she’s using it as a coping mechanism to help her deal with her reality. And, she’s using it as a way to hide. It’s a good lesson to learn, though. There are quite a few great lessons and values in this book: friendship, the importance of relationships, learning that everyone has trials to overcome, not being judgmental, and the importance of talking about your problems.

A Monster Like Me reminds me of Wonder. It’s important for children and adults to read stories like these because it tends to put things in perspective. Learning lessons from a book Is a lot easier and less painful than learning them in real life. I loved this book and think the middle-graders and YA will also love it! If you liked Wonder or Mustaches for Maddie then you will enjoy this book. I highly recommend A Monster Like Me by Wendy S. Swore. This book would also make a great read-aloud.

Author’s Note

Sophie’s story is dear to my heart because I know how it feels to be bullied because I looked different from everyone else. When I was a child, I had a hemangioma on my forehead that stuck out so far my bangs couldn’t cover it, no matter how hard my mother tried. Because the tumor was made up of blood vessels, I could feel my heart beating inside it when I was playing hard or really upset.

The incident at the grocery store where the hydra lady says, “Hey, look kids! That girl doesn’t need a Halloween costume. She’s already got one!” is an exact quote of what a woman once said to my mother and me. Another woman told a classroom full of kids that I had the mark of the devil. Kids asked if it was a goose bump, or hamburger, or if my brains had leaked out. My dad had to chase away some bullies who had followed me home, called me names, and pushed me into the street. Sometimes, after a bad day of bullying, I wished I could just rip the mark off my face and be like everyone else—but it was a part of me, and wishing didn’t change that.

My parents decided to take an active role in educating the people around me so they would know what a hemangioma was and understand that it wasn’t icky, or gross, or contagious. Whenever we moved to a new place, my dad would go with me to the elementary school and talk to the kids about my mark and let them ask questions. After those talks, kids befriended me and noticed when bullies came around. Like Autumn, my school friends would speak up when they saw someone being mean to me, and sometimes they would stand between me and the bullies until they left me alone. I didn’t let the bullies stop me from doing what I wanted to do. I climbed trees, went swimming, wrote poetry, brought my tarantula and snakes to show-and-tell, and played in the tide pools.

This is my message to anyone who experiences bullying: Don’t let the bullies define you! I’ve been there, I know it hurts to be teased, but don’t let it stop you from doing what you want. Find something you enjoy—a hobby, talent, or challenge—and practice that skill. Know that someone out there, maybe even someone in your same school, needs a friend as much as you do. Be that friend. Stand up for each other. And know that you are not alone.

You can always find me at WendySwore.com, and I would love to hear your stories and what you thought of the book.

MLM blog tour Image

Content Rating PGContent Rating: PG (It’s clean! There’s no profanity or “intimacy.” There is some bullying and there are a few blown tempers with unkind words.)

Age Recommendation: Middle-graders (4th-6th) and YA (13-18)

My Rating: 4.5/5

4.5 Star Rating

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

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here: https://amzn.to/2EO91Ik

 

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mustaches for maddie Squint by Chad Morris and Shelly Brown Wonder by R.J. Palacio
 
 
Featured Image Photo Credit: Goodreads.com