After taking time away from the pure stories of Shannara to write the stories of how Shannara was created out of the ashes of our own time, Brooks ret...moreAfter taking time away from the pure stories of Shannara to write the stories of how Shannara was created out of the ashes of our own time, Brooks returns to the world of magic. Conflict is again building between the Federation, the Elves, and the dwindling Druid order. Magic and science are at odds and the atmosphere is tense. As Aphenglow Elessedil searches the Eleven histories, she comes upon the diary of a young girl. This diary could change everything about the way the past is viewed and it certainly shapes the future path for Aphenglow and others. A new quest is undertaken to locate the missing Elfstones and shift the balance of power in the Four Lands.
Wards of Faerie is the first book in the latest trilogy from Terry Brooks. While the characters are new, long time readers will recognize the family names as each main character is descended from important characters in past Shannara books. This connection is important because it indicates to the reader exactly how that character may be important to the story. Brooks is able to pass along gifts and characteristics without having to do in depth character building in each book.
The essential quest format of the book is familiar as well. Brooks introduces the main players, gives them a choice about undertaking a journey, and off they go into danger. Although it might seem that knowing the plot outline ahead of time would render each book too similar to the last, Brooks keeps the reader's attention through the personalities of the characters and the details of the world and action.
My only complaint about this book is that it felt incomplete. It seemed as if the quest had truly just begun when I reached the end of the book. I am very glad that this trilogy will be released in rapid fire fashion with the books coming out every six months so I won't have to wait too long for the next portion of the story. This release schedule also means that I don't have to wait almost a year for the paperback version to come out.
As a longtime fan of Shannara, I am glad to see Brooks adding more stories to the most current timeline again. The jump from the Shannara pre-history (Word & Void series, Genesis of Shannara series, and Legends of Shannara series) was a bit jarring and I had to take some time to reorient myself in the timeline. Overall though I think Wards of Faerie will be a hit with Shannara fans.
Into the Tapestry is the story of three children who discover a portal to another world in a tapestry. Grace, who was forced to move to England to li...more Into the Tapestry is the story of three children who discover a portal to another world in a tapestry. Grace, who was forced to move to England to live with her aunt after her parents' death, her cousin, Brian, and Wes, another orphan, must navigate their way in this new land and attempt to discover the secrets held in its history even as others in the realm attempt to manipulate them.
When I read the description of Into the Tapestry, I was a bit leery because it sounded an awful lot like The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis. I was willing to give it a try however because I'd read Sword Quest by Sabrina Vasta and enjoyed it. As I began reading, I was afraid that my fears had a solid foundation with the orphan, Grace, being sent away to relatives and knowing that the children would be entering another world via a portal in an ordinary object. I am glad that I continued reading though because the story takes time to establish firm relationships in this world and a different track once the children enter the Nation of Imagi.
As the children discover more information about the former queen and the charges of treason against her, they learn secrets that bond them more strongly to each other and to the realm itself. The quest for information takes place both in our world and in Imagi and events cross boundaries to reshape relationships.
There were a few aspects of the book that felt a bit forced or choppy but to identify them specifically would provide spoilers to the main plot line. Overall, I feel this is a solid story and could provide topics for interesting discussions with middle grade readers.(less)
Jana Bibi's Excellent Fortunes is the first in a series about a Scottish lady living in India in the 1960s. Janet Laird, aka Jana Bibi, is a Scot by n...moreJana Bibi's Excellent Fortunes is the first in a series about a Scottish lady living in India in the 1960s. Janet Laird, aka Jana Bibi, is a Scot by nationality but grew up in India and has Indian citizenship. She inherits a property from her grandfather and moves to a charming Indian village despite the protestations of her son, Jack, who lives in Scotland and wants her to move there. Jana, her housekeeper, Mary, and the parrot, Mr. Ganguly, soon discover that the town is in danger of being destroyed in favor of a dam built by the government. Can they work together with their neighbors to put the town of Hamara Nagar on the map as a tourist destination to prevent its demise?
Betsy Woodman draws upon her unique childhood experience growing up in India for her debut novel. She has introduced the reader to an interesting cast of characters and painted the scene for future stories set in Hamara Nagar. It takes a bit for the story in Jana Bibi's Excellent Fortunes to really start moving and I was beginning to wonder when the fortune telling part would actually come into play. Once the characters are introduced, however, and their roles are fairly firmly established the actual plot line of the book does begin to move.
I found that Betsy Woodman's writing reminded me of Alexander McCall Smith both in the way that their stories are set in foreign lands and also the pace of their novels. Both authors include many local phrases and foreign words while including so many details about the setting and time period that you are really transported to that place. I always preferred McCall Smith's books on audio so I could hear the unfamiliar words being pronounced. I think Jana Bibi's Excellent Fortunes would be a fantastic audiobook as well, with the right narrator.
Overall, I found Jana Bibi and the rest of the characters to be charming. This was a nice, light summer read that was easy to pick up and put down as time allowed. I'm looking forward to more stories about these characters in Hamara Nagar and wonder what their futures hold.(less)
The rotation of the Earth has slowed changing the length of the days. At first it is a few additional minutes, then hours, then the days are so long t...moreThe rotation of the Earth has slowed changing the length of the days. At first it is a few additional minutes, then hours, then the days are so long that it seems the night will never come. Twelve year old Julia, and the rest of the world population, must learn to adapt to their rapidly changing environment. Should the hours of daylight and darkness dictate their lifestyle or should people ignore the changing natural rhythms and stick strictly to "clock time"? The change affects the food supply, the gravity, the animals, and the tides. Julia must navigate the perilous changes of her initial teen years against this backdrop of global changes.
If you are looking for a breezy summer read, The Age of Miracles is not that book. It is wonderful and intense and sad and thoughtful but there is nothing light about it. Entering the teen years is difficult enough when the rest of the world is stable. Julia faces these normal teenage growing pains amidst the complete chaos of a global environmental change. Friendships change as families move away and the teens drift in different directions. Julia changes as she begins to worry more like her mother. She discovers the attraction of boys and the secrets of adults. As she remembers the events of these years, she ponders if things would have been the same without the slowing of the Earth.
If you read this book looking for a reason for the slowing of the Earth's rotation you will be disappointed. The Age of Miracles does not offer a scientific explanation, although a few thoughts are given here and there. It is also not a book reflecting on how we are damaging the Earth and impacting the natural order of the environment, although this is touched upon. The Age of Miracles is primarily about people and relationships and the ability of the human spirit to survive unthinkable changes in our world. It examines how people react so differently to the same set of circumstances and how uncertainty can both pull people together and tear people apart.
The Age of Miracles: A Novel is a short but emotionally intense novel that will make you think about the relationships in your life and how you might react to an uncertain future.
Overseas is the story of Kate and Julian from France in 1916 to New York in 2007. How is such a romance possible? Well, there is time travel involved....moreOverseas is the story of Kate and Julian from France in 1916 to New York in 2007. How is such a romance possible? Well, there is time travel involved. I'm not usually a romance reader unless it sneaks in to some of my urban fantasy or paranormal fiction so it was the time travel aspect of the story that initially drew me to Overseas. What kept me reading, however, was the characters. Kate is a fantastically modern woman with a strong independent streak and a temper that flares quickly when she feels coddled. Julian is a traditional British gentleman with impeccable manners and a protective nature. Together they are a dynamic pair, drawn to each other more strongly that either can understand. Their connection may be inevitable but that doesn't mean they don't have the usual relationship problems along the way. They also face a larger threat to their happiness, although neither realizes the source.
I loved how the modern story of Kate and Julian was initially established by alternating the modern chapters with flashback chapters to France in 1916. This was a great set up to the story because it made it clear that the Kate of the past knows more than she shares initially and the same for the modern Julian. I felt a bit disoriented at first but I think that is because I wanted to rush the revealing of all the information instead of letting the story unfold naturally until everything comes together. Once I settled into the story, letting it unfold at the pace it was meant to, I was able to fall into the world of Kate and Julian and enjoy the development of their relationship.
As I neared the end of the book, I began to fear that the mystery of how the time travel happened wouldn't be revealed and I would just have to believe it to be possible. I think that would have ruined the ending a bit for me. Without giving anything I away I will say that I was thankful this was not the case and the time travel was explained to a degree. The ending chapters once again tie the modern story to the past in a way that brings everything full circle and wraps up all the lingering questions.
Overseas is the first novel from Beatriz Williams and I'm sure it won't be the last. The writing is excellent with great descriptions, well-developed characters, and a fantastic storyline. With the new baby, it has been taking me a lot longer to read books this year than usual but I was enjoying Overseas so much that I made more time to read and finished it faster than I've finished much shorter books. This really tells you how much Williams captured my attention and drew me into Kate and Julian's world.
Death by Chocolate is full steam ahead from the very first pages. It amazed me how quickly Ruby piled up a body count using her baked goods to tempt p...moreDeath by Chocolate is full steam ahead from the very first pages. It amazed me how quickly Ruby piled up a body count using her baked goods to tempt people. Of course she never intentionally killed anyone but she never stopped adding special ingredients to her recipes either. I love how in the beginning she comes across as a housewife who has simply had enough but as the book continues her history reveals her to be much more cunning than she first appears. The same is true for her friend Charlotte in an even more dramatic fashion. The exploits of the two friends are strangely funny considering the circumstances as they react in extreme ways to small events and generate even larger problems as they try to cover up previous mistakes.
The supporting characters in Death by Chocolate are great too. My favorite is Ruby's therapist, Dr. Kessler. I love how he becomes more and more concerned about Ruby's behavior considering their past history yet he is unable to substantiate his suspicions enough to go to the authorities. Emma Eaken, the reporter, is another fun character as she tries to connect seemingly random deaths to create a big story and boost her career. One character that I didn't really care for was Michael, Ruby's son. I didn't really understand his approach to introducing his fiance to Ruby with the knowledge of what happened the last time he brought a major change into her life. It seemed he would have been a bit more apprehensive or sensitive to the situation considering Ruby's fragile mental state.
Overall, Death By Chocolate is a really fun book with crazy characters and a fast moving plot. The only thing that was missing was the recipe for Ruby's famous chocolate zucchini muffins.(less)
Loral Langemeier is best known as a financial expert. She created her own multimillion-dollar company, Live Out Loud, Inc, and teaches others to creat...moreLoral Langemeier is best known as a financial expert. She created her own multimillion-dollar company, Live Out Loud, Inc, and teaches others to create wealth through her books and workshops. In Yes! Energy: The Equation to Do Less, Make More , Langemeier focuses on the process of creating the energy and forward movement that allows her to accomplish so much without working harder or longer. She formats this process as an actual mathematical looking equation though there is actually no math involved. Langemeier admits that she and her friend used to call this energy "the gift" when they noticed people who just seemed to have the confidence to move forward with ease into any project. Now she claims that everyone can develop this "gift" which is simply a new way of generating energy and moving into a new conversation.
While the book says this Yes! Energy can be applied to all areas of life in order to Do Less and Have More, Langemeier's examples do tend to focus on wealth and business examples because that is her area of expertise. She frequently references being the CEO of your own life which does sound pretty appealing. At least I think it will sound appealing to most people until they realize it means actually taking total responsibility for their lives and their decisions instead of being able to make excuses and place blame for their circumstances on other people and events. Being the CEO of one's own life means having the drive to go after what you truly want in life instead of just being along for the ride. Langemeier gives you the choice to play big or play small with your life but she clearly believes big is the way to go if you want to have what you want out of life and enjoy the process of getting it.
Langemeier's energy equation results in Extreme Optimism and Energy which spills into all areas of life. Her process includes changing the conversation, faith, certainty, confidence, dreams, gifts, team, and sequencing. The book goes through the energy equation step by step with sections focusing on each of the aspects of the equation. The book is well organized and breaks down the equation into easily digestible sections. Langemeier provides specific examples in each section of how she has applied this aspect of the equation to her own life or instances when she didn't follow through and things got off track. I love that she included these 'negative' examples as well because it shows that there are road blocks along the way and that even someone using this process who seems to have it all together does hit snags along the way. The trick, as Langemeier shows, is to adjust and keep moving forward instead of letting these bumps derail the entire project.
The book is well formatted with good use of bold headers, text boxes, and lists. Each section ends with some thought exercises to help the reader process the information and see how it is relevant to their own life. Langemeier also provides ideas for next steps to take to move forward in creating forward movement in life.
Overall, Yes! Energy is an interesting look at how we can change our thinking and make better use of our skills to make a better life but I don't know that it is realistic to say that everyone can use this process to create a wealth building business. I think that takes an initial effort and drive that many people simply aren't willing to expend and many people would rather make excuses than be fully responsible for their own lives.(less)
I really enjoyed Temp: An Accidental Fairytale. It is a fun book with interesting characters. Although her world is vastly different than ours, Bee is...moreI really enjoyed Temp: An Accidental Fairytale. It is a fun book with interesting characters. Although her world is vastly different than ours, Bee is like so many of us feeling stuck in the ordinary and not knowing how to go after her dreams. I could relate to Bee instantly with her lack of self-confidence and her willingness to do her job to the best of her abilities despite the difficult circumstances in which she worked. This made the story all the more interesting as we see her transform from an extremely cautions person to one who finally begins to trust herself and make decisions based more on instinct. Each of Bee's companions also has an interesting story from Angus, the man trapped in animal form until he finds what he seeks, to Saul, a member of a nearly extinct race called the Brock, to Ninwicket the gnome.
While the events that take place in Temp: An Accidental Fairytale are certainly not ordinary events, especially for Bee, she handles everything very calmly and goes on her adventure as if it is just another day. While she does puzzle and question and wonder at everything that is happening, she also accepts it in a way that shows that this is exactly what she is meant to be doing. The writing emphasizes this state of mind as it is straightforward and factual while at the same time conveying extraordinary events with wonderful descriptions.
I wish I had been able to read the book in longer stretches to get a better feel for the overall flow. Instead, with two young children to take care of, I had to snatch a few minutes of reading time whenever I could get it. This often meant I was unable to even complete a chapter at a time and that it would be half a day or more before I could get back to reading. So while it is difficult for me to comment on the book as a whole, I did notice that the sections of Bee's journal that were inserted between chapters did take me out of the flow of the main narrative when I was able to spend more time with the book. I enjoyed how the journal entries provided more historical background on the Collision and also into the framework for Bee's understanding of her world but I think, at half a page or less, they were more of a distraction for me.
Overall, Temp: An Accidental Fairytale is a enjoyable and different story. I'm curious to know if we will hear more about Bee and Angus in the future as the ending leaves open the possibility that they will have more adventures.(less)
The Way envisions a new beginning for Christianity through the portrayal of Jesus as a woman. Anna's masculine appearance as a child causes her no end...moreThe Way envisions a new beginning for Christianity through the portrayal of Jesus as a woman. Anna's masculine appearance as a child causes her no end of hurt as the other children make fun of her and her father despairs that he has no son. The loss of an infant son and then the death of his wife lead Anna's father to disguise her as a boy and sell her to shepherds so he will be rid of her. For Anna this is the beginning of an unimaginable journey as she must first hide her femaleness and then learn to embrace it when she reaches what she thinks is her final destination. Her time as a shepherd and her time among the Sisters learning The Way prepare her for a larger role in the spiritual conflict taking place outside the caves she thinks of as home.
Sometimes you are looking for a book that will just take you away from your life. A book that lets your imagination run wild and entertains or relaxes you. The Way is not one of those books. The Way challenges you to think beyond what you have learned of Christianity. To expand your vision beyond yourself and your family and to remember how all things in the world are connected. Wolf takes some of the traditional Bible stories of Jesus and gives them new life as she shares them in a different context. The Way does not diminish Christianity but instead adds another layer of thought that expands it to include both Mother and Father in nourishing roles for all people.
Wolf writes in a straightforward manner that is both stark and beautiful at the same time. She matches her writing to each scene with scenes of the desert and scenes of the caves flowing just a bit differently. This enhances the reading experience as I was able to get a great sense of what Anna was feeling and experiencing through the changes in the writing. The shifts in name from Anna to Jesus and back again were so complete that it was possible in sections of the story to forget that the character is actually female. Anna must completely abandon herself into her male role and Wolf writes this absolutely convincingly and with total conviction.
It is incredibly important to remember when reading The Way that it is a work of fiction. While Wolf did research lesser known aspects of Christianity for background, this is her story and her vision. I think Wolf took a great risk in writing a story that could be so controversial for her first novel but she pulls it off wonderfully. I can see The Way being discussed in college religion courses with the potential for strong opinions on all sides of a debate. The Way does not allow you to read with complacency but forces you to think beyond the traditional Bible stories you may have learned as a child.(less)
This is the first Sherlock Holmes book that I have read and I wasn't sure what to expect. My only knowledge of Sherlock Holmes up to this point had co...moreThis is the first Sherlock Holmes book that I have read and I wasn't sure what to expect. My only knowledge of Sherlock Holmes up to this point had come from references in other media and seeing the recent movies.
I enjoyed all of these stories although I found it difficult to give the book the attention it needed at times. I found it necessary to concentrate fully on the language Doyle uses and the details of each case as presented by Holmes.
One thing that I did not care for was the way Watson is not present for the action in many of the cases. This means that Holmes must relate the events and details of each case back to Watson so he can record it. The result feels like a telling of the action rather than showing it and the cases become simply a catalog of the details as observed by Holmes.
I did find it interesting that Holmes and Watson embarked on adventures when it was unclear if a crime had even been committed. There were also several times when the offender was not directly caught by Holmes even when he did figure out the sequence of events or when Holmes and Watson let the criminal go when the evidence of guilt was absolute. These slight twists on some of the stories keep the book interesting as the only certain event was that Holmes would catalog the details and determine the course of events. His overall reaction to each case was unique based on the specifics.(less)