From Promising to Published by Melanie Faith is a good starter guide for the author who has yet to dip a toe in the publishing pool filled with crocodFrom Promising to Published by Melanie Faith is a good starter guide for the author who has yet to dip a toe in the publishing pool filled with crocodiles, piranhas, and all manner of nasty creatures with big sharp teeth. For the novice author, still wide-eyed and dazed by the whole creative process, coming down to earth and addressing the practicalities of getting one’s act together and impressing the people who can make one’s book happen may fill one with trepidation. What is an author bio and what should you put in it? How much personal detail should you include or leave out? What is a target audience and how do you find them? How do you go about getting published, writing the fateful cover letter that might make someone important sit up or bin it? Melanie starts at the beginning of her own journey, using samples and examples of her own experiences to outline for the beginner author which paving stones in the path to avoid.
Melanie’s goal is to demystify the mystifying process of publishing and she succeeds in this by giving a step by step, logical sequence of milestones and how to accomplish each goal. The chapters are coherently arranged for easy navigation. The author also advises that not every tip will apply to every reader, and they should feel free to pick up on the ones that most suit their situation. One piece of advice I liked was this: say you are a writer/author right from the start, not an imposter, and cling to that knowledge. From the author bio to the query letter to the author website (what NOT to include), target audience, publishing options, and beyond, Melanie encourages her readers to have fun on the writing journey. At the end of each section are easy exercises that get readers into the swing of things, showing and not just telling you what and how to do something.
Melanie’s style is chatty, friendly, and down to earth, much like a friend having a coffee with you and giving you some valuable tips on how to proceed. She also tackles the highs and the lows of the writing/publishing process, such as dealing with rejection. She outlines and enhances the positives, always mindful that there are negatives and many would-be authors fall at the first hurdle. Dip into this book and make up your mind that you will sail over the first hurdle and every single one that comes after. ...more
If you like suspenseful mysteries with a feisty female sleuth, a historical setting of yesteryear, and lots of intrigue along with a murder, pick up aIf you like suspenseful mysteries with a feisty female sleuth, a historical setting of yesteryear, and lots of intrigue along with a murder, pick up a copy of The Body in Bounty Bay: A Katie Porter Mystery by K.T. McGivens. This is the thirteenth book in the series and promises a suspenseful and baffling murder mystery. Katie Porter (a reporter at the Fairfield Gazette) and her handsome fiancé Jim Fielding join their friends, a married couple, Robert and Ruth Reed, for a vacation in the charming little town of Bounty. But as with most quaint towns of that nature, there is a dark side that reveals itself in a murder. Mystery seems to dog Katie’s heels, but then she is so very good at solving them that it appears to be quite natural.
There is a large cast, but the author handles them adeptly, so the threads never get tangled. Each person has their part to play in this gripping murder mystery and there is a delicious sense of racing against time before the killer strikes again. I am usually good at spotting the murderer in movies and books, but this one stumped me. I was truly shocked at the final reveal, after a few people could have been pegged for the murderer and one had even been arrested. The plot is intricate without being convoluted as it twists and turns and detailed with being bogged down in minutiae. K.T. cleverly weaves a lot of back stories into the plot so naturally in the dialogue and the choices the characters make. Red herrings abound and this is a fun aspect.
This is set in an era (post-war) when there were no laptops, mobile phones, apps, and the like. I liked this attention to detail and discovering how crimes were solved and reporters did their jobs in what to many people are ‘the olden days.’ To me it is very much that people used (in Hercule Poirot’s words) their ‘little grey cells’ more than they do today. Katie’s skills include observation and deduction. It's not all about death and gory theories though. I enjoyed the inclusion of social issues and how the kind-hearted Land Girls reach out, despite potential threats, to those less fortunate. Their reward is utterly delightful, and I also did not see that one coming as well! The social mores of the era are observed so don’t scratch your head and wonder why Katie and Jim are not sharing a hotel room.
In the interests of full disclosure, I was ecstatic to have a character based on myself. I won’t spoil it for readers but, yes, I am in there and I am both flattered and honoured to have been granted this privilege. K.T. McGivens has an eye for character quirks and although this was a tad scary, not knowing what she would pick up from my Twitter timeline, I was very happy. Yes, I would jump into a river to save a dog in the middle of the night! Although this is book thirteen in the series, you won’t be lost. I had not read any previous books and found enough detail to fill me in on Katie and her background. So, if you are in the mood for a clever murder mystery set in an era when things moved at a more leisurely pace, and you fancy your own deductive powers alongside Katie Porter’s, The Body in Bounty Bay is the book for you! Like me, you may decide to start at the very beginning of the series and solve mysteries with this intrepid and intelligent sleuth! ...more
I’m a huge fan of anything to do with Atlantis. Just say the word and I’m there. Having read the start of Rosa’s adventures in Sons of the Sphinx, I wI’m a huge fan of anything to do with Atlantis. Just say the word and I’m there. Having read the start of Rosa’s adventures in Sons of the Sphinx, I was also keen to see where her gift had taken her. I was not disappointed. Author Cheryl Carpinello sets the scene right away with a mysterious, yet familiar stranger who appears to tell Rosa she is needed again. This is a special and possibly perilous mission that just happens to coincide with Rosa and her cousin Jerome’s visit to a small, out of the way (can you even find it on the map?) island called Kalymnos in the Mediterranean, near Greece. From the moment they arrive and their mission is revealed – to find the first of the Five Feathers of the Phoenix – danger and a deadly enemy stalk them. I won’t give too much away but suffice to say there is enough action, adventure, intrigue, mystery, history, mythology, and legends to please young (and young at heart readers) who find the ancient world and its stories fascinating. The story arc is complete but refers to the next adventure in store. After all, there are five feathers so one down, four more to go!
Cheryl Carpinello does not dumb down the writing for middle grade and young adult readers, and parents (who might also enjoy dipping into the book) will appreciate a high level of complexity and vocabulary to keep readers on their toes and learning new words as they embark on this adventure with Rosa and Jerome. There is enough new information to delight readers who already enjoy history and mythology and to encourage readers new to the series to read further. The author refers to Rosa’s previous adventure a few times so, to put everything into context, I’d recommend reading Sons of the Sphinx as well to catch up on Rosa’s gift. The book includes end notes on mythology, Atlantis, biblical lore, and the actual islands of Kalymnos and Telendos mentioned. This book would be a great addition to any history class to encourage young readers to enjoy reading more about the past and learning from it.
For the Soul by Barbara Daniels Dena truly is a compilation of stories, musings, memories, anecdotes, and snippets for the soul. It is meant to be dipFor the Soul by Barbara Daniels Dena truly is a compilation of stories, musings, memories, anecdotes, and snippets for the soul. It is meant to be dipped into as and when a reader has time or just needs a break from the hurly-burly of daily life or needs their faith in humanity restored. Some stories are a mishmash of a couple of events, some are based on real events, others are fiction. There are a number of hilarious episodes based on the author’s real experiences as a teacher as well. Here you will find a hippo in a tutu, determined to make a little girl smile, a leprechaun who was, well, a leprechaun, a turtle that wanted to be a dog, several Christmas stories (that brought tears to my eyes), animal stories based on real animals, and much, much more.
Barbara Daniels Dena writes in a comfortable, down-to-earth style, and many times, while reading, I felt as if she was sitting next to me actually telling me the story herself. There are a number of anecdotes about family that readers will relate to; I certainly did. The stories focus on humanity, even the ‘humanity’ of animals, positive traits, and social issues that we all can comprehend. For me the themes of kindness, life’s wisdom, and giving of oneself stood out. This was especially evident in the fact that many stories are based on reality, real people or events. There is a timeline as well because the stories have dates.
There is no particular order and a reader who has a few minutes to spare can just dip in and out. but beware; once you start reading you might find yourself quite caught up in more than one tale. I read the first half in one go, thinking I’d just read one or two stories. When I dived in to tackle the second half, a few days later, I was surprised to come to the end of the book. This is a delightful and charming collection with something for everyone, no matter what your preferred reading genre is. Highly recommended. ...more
When Ronin’s parents go on what is possibly a well-deserved cruise, Uncle Max comes to stay to take care of Ronin, their son. Uncle Max is a pretty coWhen Ronin’s parents go on what is possibly a well-deserved cruise, Uncle Max comes to stay to take care of Ronin, their son. Uncle Max is a pretty cool guy who gets ideas across without nagging or sounding boring. Ronin doesn’t like cleaning his room, putting his things away, eating dinner when he is told to, taking a bath when he doesn’t feel like it, and lots of other annoying stuff. Ronin can’t wait to grow up so people would stop telling him what to do. Ronin decides he is going to become a ninja, but he has no idea what is involved. Uncle Max does, though, and he very cleverly teaches Ronin what a ninja needs to understand and weaves some significant life lessons into the story. This has an incredible impact on Ronin and suddenly everything falls into place.
What a great way to teach kids the basics of life such as responsibility, determination, respect, and maturity using a concept that kids will relate to and enjoy. Ninjas need to know how to conduct themselves properly if they want to be a true ninja. The best way to get a kid to do something is help him want to do it because he enjoys it. Ronin finds that with the ninja concepts firmly in his mind, he cleans his room, does his homework, and makes decisions for the better.
Author Chris Roy understands kids. He presents Ronin Cleans His Room Like a Ninja in short, quick sentences, much like ninja moves I guess, and there is no preaching or pontificating about the right thing to do. The message is cleverly woven into Ronin’s aim to become the best ninja. The book works very well visually with illustrations by artist Lucas Romão. I also liked the page layout with one side being images of Ronin’s eloquent expressions/actions and Uncle Max and the other being the text laid over various images of Ronin’s room. The colour palette will appeal to boys as well with vibrant shades of blue.
Parents will be delighted to purchase this book for their child who maybe has issues cleaning their room or generally tidying up. Kids will admire Ronin’s aim and hopefully come to realise that “Cleaning like a ninja is fun!” But it’s not just about cleaning up. The book cleverly highlights the important foundation stones of life and how one grows up to be a good, responsible person, and where one learns these lessons. Great fun for all young readers and highly recommended. You can find Chris on Twitter @ChrisRoyCrime. ...more
Ethan Murphy and the Race for the Incan Crown is the second book in the Ethan Murphy series. With his first adventure under his belt, thirteen-year-olEthan Murphy and the Race for the Incan Crown is the second book in the Ethan Murphy series. With his first adventure under his belt, thirteen-year-old Ethan Murphy is now a fully-fledged member of ROM: The Riddle of Macrocosm Agency. Managed by Ethan’s grandpa, the agency dates back quite a while and is in the business of locating and researching ancient artifacts and treasures. Four years ago, Ethan’s dad, Logan, was abducted while on a mission for the agency. Ethan now occupies his dad’s office. He met his two friends, Grace and Steve, while on his first mission, and they make a formidable team. However, he has not yet told his mom he’s an agent now because he knows what her reaction will be. Mysteriously, the office Ethan occupies is vandalized and valuable documentation is stolen. Who did this? Does this have something to do with what Ethan’s dad was working on prior to his abduction? How could the person get into the office … unless there is a mole in ROM? When a blackmail letter arrives, how will Ethan and everyone at ROM deal with the situation?
Kids who love puzzles, riddles, and mysteries will welcome the return of Ethan and his team. Author Anita Mishra has cleverly included a ‘catch-up’ prologue for kids who are starting with this book so readers will be up to speed with how Ethan got to where he is now. Ethan faces a new, tough assignment: to locate the traditional crown of the Inca people before the baddies get to it. Their destination is Peru! But it’s a dangerous assignment and people have been injured in the past when looking for the crown. The nail-biting suspense and mystery start right away with the theft of the vital information and continue as Ethan and his team are followed by men in black. Of course, puzzles and clues are a necessary part of this adventure and readers with a flair for cryptic puzzles, codes, and word games will love working these out with Ethan. The suspense builds as the hunt begins and the young reader wonders who will get to the crown first.
There is no shortage of mystery, intrigue, subterfuge, non-stop action, danger, and adventure as the kids are thrust into a new and threatening environment. Who is a friend and who is a foe? Teamwork, courage, trust, and self-belief, as well as family love and values and being honest are themes that the author subtly includes. This is a rollercoaster adventure with twists and turns that kids will love! Bonus: at the end of the story the author includes a cipher for keen readers to solve and earn a ROM Agency badge!...more
As the final book in the trilogy, Guinevere: The Legend wraps up the story of Guinevere, her friendship with Cedwyn, and the various adventures they As the final book in the trilogy, Guinevere: The Legend wraps up the story of Guinevere, her friendship with Cedwyn, and the various adventures they embark upon. This story picks up where the second left off: the abduction of the little ’uns by the renegades who have nefarious aims against Arthur. Cedwyn managed to go after the abducted children and has placed himself in grave danger. Guinevere in her usual impetuous manner wants to go after Cedwyn. Merlyn and Arthur (to whom Guinevere is now engaged) make up a small party of trustworthy knights who will cross to Gaul in search of the youngsters.
Cheryl Carpinello steeps middle grade readers in the era and the lore of Arthuriana. Small but telling details of the clothing, food, lifestyle, and mores included teach young readers as they enjoy this nail-biting adventure. And nail-biting it is too! The chapters are short, to keep a young reader’s attention, and the points of view switch with each one so that the reader is constantly engaged in the narrative. Will the renegades succeed? Will Arthur and Merlyn manage to rescue the kids and Cedwyn? Themes of loyalty, friendship, strength, courage under fire, standing up against bullies, doing the right thing and more help point the young audience’s moral compass north. There is a bittersweetness to the closing moments as Cedwyn and Guinevere realize that they are growing up and life is taking them in their appointed directions. Excellent questions at the end give parents and educators lots of material for starting discussions with young readers. Lovely black and white illustrations and a map enhance this book.
To get the best of this wonderful historically accurate series, I would advise reading from the first book. ...more
Ethan Murphy is just an average boy living an average life… or so he thought. The only thing marring it is the fact that his dad broke a promise. FourEthan Murphy is just an average boy living an average life… or so he thought. The only thing marring it is the fact that his dad broke a promise. Four years earlier, he promised to come back from one of his expeditions and never did. On Ethan’s thirteenth birthday he receives a gift from his grandfather, a very strange gift of some of his father’s belongings and an invitation to visit his grandfather’s house. That visit changes everything for Ethan who discovers that his archaeologist father was far more than that, his Aunt Matilda has been kidnapped, and that his family is involved in a secret organization! Moreover, his dad went missing while searching for a fabulous emerald, the Minal, supposedly belonging to Cleopatra. From an ordinary boy Ethan is turned into an extraordinary young investigator, relying on his wits, his skill in solving puzzles and acrostics, and his love for his family. With two new agents helping Ethan, this team of young agents must survive encounters with the bad guys, work out some very cryptic clues left by Ethan’s father, rescue Aunt Matilda, and retrieve the Minal before it falls into the wrong hands. When Ethan must finally go it alone, can he do it? Who can he trust? Who is a friend and who is a foe? Can he save his aunt and his new friends?
What a rollicking adventure! This story is full of action, many surprising twists and turns, nail-biting suspense, danger, history, mystery, and intrigue. The journey takes them to Egypt, and into a completely different geographical location, one they have never experienced before. Author Anita Mishra perfectly captures the mindset of this reluctant young hero and his compadres and the dialogues reflect teen concerns. Readers who are explorers at heart, who love mysteries, riddles and clues, and enjoy deciphering codes will devour this book. The puzzles are cryptic indeed, the clues are confusing at times, and time is running out! The dangers come thick and fast and Ethan must get to the bottom of the mystery because lives are at stake. Themes include loyalty, family, trust, betrayal and disillusionment, as well as courage, perseverance and hope, and not forgetting staying alive. I also really enjoyed the fact that there are no electronic communication devices (you never know who can hack in) so Ethan and his friends must work things out the old-fashioned way, using their minds. Egypt is a fascinating place and for the young reader interested in geography, new cultures, and faraway places, this is the perfect story to whisk them off to an ambiance of mystery and mayhem....more
The tenth adventure in the Shadows of the Past series, The Shadow of the Witchfinder finds Max, the talking Tonkinese cat, and the Lancelot twins JemiThe tenth adventure in the Shadows of the Past series, The Shadow of the Witchfinder finds Max, the talking Tonkinese cat, and the Lancelot twins Jemima and Joe with best friend Charlie transported back to the 17th century, a terrible time in English history dominated by a man with murderous intent: Matthew Hopkins aka The Witchfinder General! Hopkins’s mission is to eradicate all women suspected of being witches by burning them at the stake. Alas, many innocent women perished in his reign of terror. It is up to Max and his team to save Goodwife Clowes’ sister, imprisoned by Hopkins, along with several other women, awaiting what can only be called a sham trial before being consigned to the flames. Having returned through a time vortex at an uncomfortably dizzying speed, Max has the details. Now it’s up to the team to use their magic book to take them back into the pages of history. But first they need to read up all they can on the sinister Matthew Hopkins. Max isn’t all that keen on returning to Mistley Thorn, but innocent people’s lives are at stake. Plus, Charlie and Jemima have put together a kit including all kinds of potentially useful things. Max was annoyed that the list did not include a few sachets of yummy cat food, which he would most certainly label as an ‘essential item.’
Using the book, Jemima’s necklace, and the poem as before, the trio plus Max find themselves whisked off to Mistley Thorn, and what a cold, misty scary place it is too! Magic and mayhem start right away because Goody Clowes might be more than just an innocent old lady who likes to sweep the place clean with her broom. Remembering his last encounter in Mistley Thorn, Max is definitely not up to any incredible feats of bravery that might be required. This is the first time that the kids have taken modern day items back into history and these spark off a chain of suspenseful and at times hilarious reactions as they try to rescue the imprisoned women. Harry Potter fans will just love the references and the reactions of the villagers to scenes of ‘wizardry,’ although not everything goes according to plan… The author has created some very clever plot twists around this angle. If Max thought he was going to wriggle out of confrontations, he is wrong as Goody Clowes announces he must do battle with the Witchfinder himself. Why is it always me, he wonders…. He didn’t want to be a hero, just an ordinary cat. Alas, Max has had greatness thrust upon him and there’s no escaping destiny. Can he turn the tables on the Witchfinder and make sure Hopkins gets his just deserts?
Once again Wendy Leighton-Porter incudes excellent extras at the end of the story for young readers interested in Max’s genealogy, which is truly magical, and details of the Witchfinder’s rule of fear and his untimely end. The author does not gloss over the sad fate of the many women who were accused of witchcraft when, in fact, many were just skilled in herb lore and basic healing. Halloween and its origins are also explained, and this gives a good overview for readers who did not know the story behind the celebration. The author includes details of the next adventures so fans of the series (myself included) can get ready for more reading pleasure! ...more
The Eye of Ra by Ben Gartner is a middle grade adventure fantasy featuring time travel, action, suspense, intrigue, and lots of Egyptology for young eThe Eye of Ra by Ben Gartner is a middle grade adventure fantasy featuring time travel, action, suspense, intrigue, and lots of Egyptology for young explorers. John and Sarah Tidewell are about to embark upon a new life adventure, a move from Colorado to Maryland because their dad has a job transfer. John is despondent at the thought of leaving his best friend behind. He doesn’t want to go. His sister Sarah, on the other hand, is happy to say goodbye to sixth grade and embrace their new life which promises to be so much fun. John reluctantly agree to go on a last family hike, just him, Sarah, and their parents. When he and Sarah discover what looks like a cave, everything changes, and they end up in ancient Egypt. How will they survive? How will they get back to their own time? Can they even get back to their own time? Are their parents going crazy worrying about them?
Middle grade readers will love the idea of going back in time to another era but, as the story unfolds, will realize it isn’t as easy as it sounds. John and Sarah must think on their feet to fit in and come up with plausible stories as to why they are there, where they actually live, why they are dressed in strange clothing. I really enjoyed the interaction between the young characters especially Zachariah, the son of Imhotep (yep, that Imhotep). There is a lot of fun word play and explanations that make perfect sense to the reader, as well as adding humor. But apart from the need to find a way back home, the siblings are plunged into Zack’s problems and a mystery surrounding vandalism at the Great Pyramid (yep, that great Pyramid), which could prevent the project being finished.
I like the amount of educational material woven into the story as the kids learn more about their surroundings. The dialogue is good and age appropriate. John comes across as a bit scared and whiny but perfectly natural given that someone has to be the voice of caution and reason with an older sister who has flung caution to the wind. Sarah is just loving their adventure and has settled right in. Themes include family bonds, working together as a team, understanding each other, and appreciating home and family. I won’t spoil it for other readers but suffice to say there are enough intriguing plot twists, brushes with danger, suspense and mystery to keep youngsters turning those pages. The final turn in the chain of events might make readers think twice about looking for a time travel portal in any local cave. However, the story doesn’t end there, and it looks as if more adventures are brewing! ...more
I'm not the only reader who gave this book a one star. I am a big fan of all things to do with ancient and/or biblical history. I was intrigued by theI'm not the only reader who gave this book a one star. I am a big fan of all things to do with ancient and/or biblical history. I was intrigued by the author's personal story and how he was inspired by a cathedral in France. The story started off rather a la Dan Brown - mystery/history/ancient secret - but no matter. Who would not be intrigued by the idea of a monk climbing a mountain to avoid something, then flinging himself off? The plot was exciting until about halfway when it started to collapse upon itself, possibly also due to the over writing which became tiring for the reader. I could not quite accept the idea of a secret Vatican style church in the mountain (Ruin). Nor the idea of monks working in semi darkness - the darker it got, the more I struggled with the concept. The idea of a great secret and waiting for 'the one' was exciting until it became too strung out and too silly. The number of characters increased, as did the people trying to kill them, plus the body count rose. In fact, the monk's sister seemed to be a thick as a plank in her efforts to find out about her brother and evade death - neither done very well.
The final insult was the great reveal, which I won't spoil for readers here, but suffice to say I have never read such rubbish in my entire life. Utterly preposterous is being kind. The actual writing also seemed to disintegrate on the page with very weird words in no language known to humankind, it seems, straggling down the end of the last chapter. I actually felt insulted as a reader that the author/publisher expected us to suck up this drivel. The sad heroine, now bearing a huge burden on her shoulders, is earmarked to continue this fiasco. Big inspiration (?) from Dan Brown I suspect regarding the 'feminine mystique.' I hate to give any author a poor review but make the story believable. (Hint: Eve could not have lived for over 6000 years. She died after Adam, at around 930 plus years old)....more
I thought it was just me but a quick look at other reviews shows my opinion is not wrong. Something in the water? Well, it isn't a good book, that's fI thought it was just me but a quick look at other reviews shows my opinion is not wrong. Something in the water? Well, it isn't a good book, that's for sure. Why? First it is written in first person present tense which has to be the most uncomfortable blinkered reading experience for anyone. I wish writers would stop trying to be trendy and drop this tactic. No one likes it, except the YA crowd. It is like walking on tiptoe for hours. It is also extremely limiting in knowing what is going on. This POV is then exacerbated by the main character who must be the most shallow, vacuous, narcissistic creature imaginable. Her skewed and unreliable rendition of events is confusing to say the least. The book is touted as a thriller, but it takes 85 pages before the big event happens. Jaw-dropping? Only if you are yawning.
The story starts with a bang and I decided to forgive the tense and POV, but then digging a grave (very exciting) was lost in the grasshopper mind of the main character who embarked on an interminable internal monologue about how deep, how high, how long, how wide, how muddy etc. This is her approach to every situation with leaps off at tangents that make the reader so tired, it feels like being in a washing machine on spin cycle as one desperately tried to join the threads of this ratty old carpet of a story. All the main character does is lurch from one 'gasp' moment to the next and boy is she naïve! There are loads of much better authors out there. A chick lit murder mystery mishap!...more
Before I wrote my review I checked others to see if it was just me. No, it wasn't. Although I have never read any others of this author's previous novBefore I wrote my review I checked others to see if it was just me. No, it wasn't. Although I have never read any others of this author's previous novels, Dark Sacred Night has put me off. The character of Bosch was flat and dull, Ballard was okay but I couldn't see her purpose if only to introduce her to rev up a tired old cop story theme. The dialogue was mundane and the author simply told the reader everything, leaving out the great parts where we could have seen what Bosh experienced - case in point the kidnapping. We get told he has been taken and then boom, suddenly rescued. I had no idea of Bosch before I started this novel and the whole story told me little more. This book is over 500 pages and had it been trimmed down and the excess detail of opening filing cabinets and sharpening pencils etc left out, it could have been a taut thriller. It was just boring and Ballard's side cases were distractions. I can see the author has copied James Patterson with short chapters and very flat characters. I won't read another book in this stable....more
I, Claudia: A Novel of the Ancient World by Lin Wilder is the story of Claudia Procula and Lucius Pontius Pilate. A Tribune at 28, after success in baI, Claudia: A Novel of the Ancient World by Lin Wilder is the story of Claudia Procula and Lucius Pontius Pilate. A Tribune at 28, after success in battle in Germania, Lucius Pontius Pilate was appointed Prelate of Judea, to rule over the Jews. They were considered to be a fractious, unruly people that answered only to a god who’d given them very specific rules of behaviour, diet and morality. A troublesome bunch, they fought among themselves in various factions, united only against a common enemy: Rome. Judea was a powder keg of trouble and the least spark could set it off. Not only that, a troublemaker called the Baptizer was turning people’s minds and a prophet called Jesus of Nazareth was drawing crowds with his talk of spiritual matters. This is the background for a wonderful love story between Claudia Procula, intelligent and well-educated daughter of the last of the Oracles of Pythia, and Lucius Pontius Pilate, a Roman soldier and hero.
History has defined the real Lucius Pontius Pilate as being the man who allowed Jesus to be crucified. However, the truth of the matter is that the situation was alarmingly more complex and volatile. Caught between the rock of the Sanhedrin and the hard place of Rome’s authority, Pilate was unable to deal with the festering political and religious issues of the time. Compromise was the only answer. And was that compromise somehow all part of God’s grand plan, even if it entailed the sacrifice of His only son? Such interesting questions are raised here that will intrigue both Christian readers and those of other faiths. Reading this story brings to life a tale well known to many Bible students.
The author cleverly incorporates enough ancient historical detail into the narrative to inform the reader while maintaining the flow of the story. The dramatic unfolding of events is told in short alternating chapters between Claudia and Lucius, and in this way, her maturing and the development of her powers as an oracle, and both of them falling in love with each other come across beautifully. Their emotional love story is set against the backdrop of a tumultuous chain of events which we see as both Claudia and Lucius are affected by the man people called the Messiah. Quotes from Cicero, Seneca, Plato, Socrates and other renowned writers and thinkers of the ancient world add extra food for thought and give insight into the mindset of the characters.
The pace is measured and in line with historical events. The region and the era saw its fair share of political turbulence and I liked how the author conveyed this throughout the narrative. The descriptions also evoke vivid imagery of the past, the setting, and social customs and behavior. This is a well-written and researched story that will satisfy fans of historical fiction as well as romance. The story itself encompasses themes and ideas which go far deeper than a review can adequately portray. Being a fan of ancient and biblical history, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The author includes an afterword and a bibliography, both of which I found enlightening and useful. ...more
Before Long: Sheer Romance of Finding a Home by Auralee Arkinsly relates the house hunting endeavours by a couple, Ernst and Esme, who find their perfBefore Long: Sheer Romance of Finding a Home by Auralee Arkinsly relates the house hunting endeavours by a couple, Ernst and Esme, who find their perfect home with all the characteristics that they have dreamed of (a house with an orchard in the country) only to find their dream becomes a nightmare. Undeterred, they move and find a place in the city, but the gritty reality of city life is off-putting. Again, undeterred, they move… and so the story unfolds with each dream home and location turning into disaster, expenses, and disillusionment… Orchards unfortunately do attract fruit flies and roosters think it is their duty to wake the world up at 4 a.m. Will they ever find their perfect dream home? Does a perfect dream home even exist in the real world?
What an absolutely hilarious and charming story. I loved the format of photos of the various houses and settings and captions. Like many readers, I have bought and sold and moved a few times. I nodded and shook my head reading about the couple’s antics, new decisions, bad decisions, hopes and dreams so easily destroyed. The bills and repairs, the things you only find out after living in a place for a while are so true to life. No one tells you about the winters, the bad parts, the potential problems, and even the neighbourhoods themselves that can seem picture perfect at the start.
The beauty of this deceptively simple book is that at the end of their litany of disastrous choices, Ernst and Esme had learned significant lessons about the kind of home that would be right for them, what they needed (such as a stable internet), the kind of ‘tribe’ they would like to socialize with, how to integrate a balance of work and play, and how to budget for those inevitable home ownership expenses. Plus, they learned – as one hopes readers will – that having dreams is great, but not dreams that only exist in movies. They also learned that although the perfect dream home might not exist, with a bit of creative thinking, they could make a ‘nearly there’ home into something that suited them perfectly! Some lovely and relevant lessons for readers who might just be house hunting right now. ...more
Finding Myself In Borneo is a colorful memoir with a difference! The book is described as author Neill McKee's honest and buoyant chronicle of a youngFinding Myself In Borneo is a colorful memoir with a difference! The book is described as author Neill McKee's honest and buoyant chronicle of a young Canadian man's adventures during 1968-70, while teaching secondary school as a CUSO (Canadian University Service Overseas) volunteer in Sabah, Malaysia (North Borneo). But it is much more than that for any reader. Neill relates with detailed, vivid descriptions his ups and down with the various cultural, social, and political markers of the era that readers will recognize.
However, for me, this is less a memoir and more of an immersive adventure for the reader who might be interested in memoirs but is also bitten by the travel bug and the desire to explore foreign climes and cultures. Neill has a descriptive style of writing that is quite wonderful. He is able to insert into the narrative an enormous amount of information about the country, the climate, the cuisine, the culture, and the mindset of the people without overwhelming the reader. The writing could be described as cinematic as I certainly found myself absorbed in the narrative and was able to visualize the colorful details especially with the inclusion of photos in the text.
Neill is totally honest about his experiences, ranging from learning to teach in a totally foreign environment to learning about life in general and indeed learning about love in particular. His interpretations of the people and religion, politics and culture come from a positive and open mind, and a willingness to embrace a new ethos. The years of his stay in the region were punctuated with disruption and danger at times, clashes between various groups and political rumblings. This was the dark side of the seemingly paradisiac environment in which he felt he’d initially arrived. Interestingly, his time in Borneo sparked his enthusiasm for movie making and an adventure taken as a young man resulted in a career and a life of travel and exploration.
One of the most charming features of this book was the discovery that North Borneo is, indeed, J.R.R. Tolkien's famed Middle-Earth of The Lord of the Rings! He and his American Peace Corps buddy, Peter Ragan, established the North Borneo Frodo Society, an organization Tolkien joined. What an honor! Interestingly, Neill was able to match up various elements of the story with the landscape, including the discovery of Mount Doom! A history of the NBFS is found at the end of the book. I liked the references at the close of the book for readers interested in learning more about the region and its history. There is also a detailed bibliography. A brief history of North Borneo as an end note puts the location into historical and political context. A glossary of Malay words and expressions is also included. ...more
The Walk of the Wandering Man by Ric Szabo is an epic story of humanity that starts 5000 years ago in the harsh environment of Central Europe. The stoThe Walk of the Wandering Man by Ric Szabo is an epic story of humanity that starts 5000 years ago in the harsh environment of Central Europe. The story begins with the intertwining of the fates of a young boy called Konli, and a young man, Vratu, a Mesolithic hunter, brought together by tragedy. When Vratu is sent on his rite of passage, to walk with the Earth Spirit, he has no idea what the gods have in store for him, and how his quest will bring him manhood, pain, suffering, joy, and ultimately love. He knows treachery and killing, finds his conscience and learns compassion, and discovers a moral certainty to do what is right. Who is the mysterious boy with the strange tattoo, and the intriguing necklace? Why has Vratu been chosen to protect him?
Fans of Jean Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear series will absolutely love this book. The plot is complex in that it encompasses the lives and deeds of a number of characters and their clans. The reader embarks on a journey with Vratu that informs as it entertains. The age of the hunter-gatherer was ending as the farmers began to assert their right to land. Clashes and killings, and some degree of xenophobia were inevitable as the fight over resources raged. Alliances are formed, then broken, then remade in an intricate story line. The reader who enjoys prehistory and its detail will be impressed, as I was, at the meticulous research done to bring the epoch to life. The author writes in a lyrical style that is appropriate for the genre, slightly archaic but most pleasing to read. A modern author voice would not have worked, and Szabo gets it just right.
I enjoyed the descriptions which are vivid and immersive; indeed, readers find themselves thrust right into the action, be it fighting to survive the elements or in the midst of battle. The story takes the reader back in time most amazingly. One wonders how early man managed to survive, how they learned to create tools, to make clothing, shelter, medicines, all the things that the modern reader wouldn’t give a second thought. Social constructs and mores, traditions, customs, and laws are explained by seamlessly integrating them into the plot. The themes of spirituality and worship, and the place of nature in emerging society’s ethos are clear. The story unfolds at a leisurely pace, although the prologue starts with action and mystery, and death. This is an epic adventure and one that belongs not only to Vratu, but to the communities he encounters and the people he calls his friends and companions. A thought-provoking, instructive, and extremely enjoyable read. ...more
Could one man tip the balance of world power to set off the final wars? It’s possible. Bastien Lyons, once an orphan in New Paris on Earth, finds himsCould one man tip the balance of world power to set off the final wars? It’s possible. Bastien Lyons, once an orphan in New Paris on Earth, finds himself back in his old stomping ground as he escapes the colony on Mars, Port Sydney, where he was accused of a heinous crime. Everyone seems to be after him because there’s a bounty on his head. After World War 3, Earth is uninhabitable on the surface, and not much remains anyway. Earth has the colony of New Paris; the Moon has Nippon One; and Mars has Port Sydney. New Paris is the sewer-like habitat of the remnants of humanity, ruled over by self-styled Queen Marie, part cyborg, and the rest of her a drug-riddled, narcissistic egomaniac. But although he’s being hunted, New Paris is Bastien’s best place of refuge since he knows it so well. But if only he wasn’t so conspicuous with those yellow irises as well as being hunted by a seven-foot robot…
This is a short read and serves as a prelude for undoubtedly a much longer exposition by the author in the subsequent books of this trilogy. I really enjoyed it! The Final Wars Begin by S.A. is well written, with touches of unexpected humour. The author’s ability to describe the fetid, stinking atmosphere of New Paris, then contrast that with the sterility of Port Sydney makes for an excellent visual, almost cinematic unfolding of events. The main characters are developed into real people, although Bastien is by far the most realistic and charismatic. Interestingly, I found the bounty hunter robot Cube to be very appealing, with his penchant for the piano piece Fur Elise.
I enjoyed the various themes and questions raised in this story: does the butterfly effect exist, and could artificial intelligence become so self-aware that it takes over humanity? The chapters move from one character’s perspective to another, which gives the reader a very detailed look at the back history of the war, the colonies, and past events, as well as clarifying just what everyone wants to get in the end – all this without the proverbial info dump. The story starts with a bang, and the pace continues at the same speed. The end is a cliff-hanger but surprisingly, it works, and one closes the book not feeling dissatisfied but eager to get the next instalment. This is the kind of story that sci fi and dystopian fans will love. A hero with standards and a conscience, a believable dystopian world, a complex plot driven by the main players’ needs and greed, and the promise of more action and adventure. ...more
Before I began reading You Started WHAT After 60? Highpointing Across America by Jane T. Bertrand, I had never heard of highpointing. Not to be confusBefore I began reading You Started WHAT After 60? Highpointing Across America by Jane T. Bertrand, I had never heard of highpointing. Not to be confused with mountaineering, highpointing (so says Wikipedia) is the sport of ascending to the point with the highest elevation within a given area (the “highpoint”). Examples include: climbing the highest point of each U.S. state; reaching the highest point of each county within a specific state; and ascending the highest mountain on each continent (the “Seven Summits”). To many armchair travelers or couch potatoes who consider themselves fit, why would anyone want to climb the highest point of each U.S. state? The author herself states she hadn’t slept in a tent or on the ground for 40 years! It seems the author’s family has a grueling tradition of doing something extraordinary on a special birthday.
The year Jane turned 60 was the year she decided to meet the highpointing challenge she had set herself, after considerations of health, and available options should she be unable to meet her first location goal. Planning, organizing, and reading on the topic were just a few of the preparations. Plus, Jane admits to two major weaknesses: lack of technological know-how and poor navigational skills (I know the feeling!). Once the challenge had begun, Jane then decided she had to make up for lost time…
Jane lays out the challenges in a chronological order with the number of the highpoint, location, date, and level of difficulty. Her highpointing adventure was not without health issues (a gammy knee and bunions) and Jane had to work around those. This could all make for dry reading, but Jane has a lovely conversational style, chatty and down to earth, and she mixes in details of family, friends, life events, and activities that took place around the highpointing expeditions. By the time one reaches the end of the book, Jane has become as familiar as a longtime friend and the reader feels part of the family. Photos interspersed in the text also put names to faces and make the book reader-friendly.
While some of the highpoints read like the proverbial pleasant walk in the park, others make the mind boggle, especially if you’re an armchair traveler or a couch potato (as mentioned above). This activity is not for the faint-hearted (bear spray?). When the author says she had to “get serious” about highpointing (which requires reaching the absolute, definitive highpoint, not just “getting close”), one can sense the adrenalin and, perhaps, the obsession kicking in. Jane’s sister Liz happens to be an avid journaler and these details came in very hand when Jane decided to start putting her experiences down on paper.
Jane includes references to other books on highpointing which could be useful to anyone considering taking up this challenge. Each highpoint experience is described in detail and this gives the reader an extraordinary view of the many beautiful places in the U.S., places that many of us would have neither the time nor energy to experience. I am not an avid hiker, mountaineer, or any kind of adrenalin junkie. I don’t think I’d have Jane’s stamina, courage, or confidence to embark upon what could sometimes be incredibly dangerous ventures, should the weather turn bad, for example. However, Jane’s exceptionally detailed, informative, and highly entertaining account is inspiring for many. It can be done. A ‘life experience’ must-read for anyone planning to do something very special as an adventure, and you don’t have to wait for a special occasion or be 60 to do it. Jane’s final reflections on the home stretch are interesting, honest, and illuminating. Read this book, even if you have no intention of climbing anything except the nearest gentle slope. ...more
For the rest of the world, the Vietnam war is over. For the soldiers who fought in it, no matter what their role, it will never be over. Silent SpringFor the rest of the world, the Vietnam war is over. For the soldiers who fought in it, no matter what their role, it will never be over. Silent Spring: Deadly Autumn of the Vietnam War is described by author and Vietnam veteran Patrick Hogan as “part memoir, part exposé, and part call to action against the bureaucratic and legislative negligence and indifference that has violated, and continues to violate, the trust of veterans and US citizens as a whole.” Succinct and well put, this is the perfect description of a horrific cover-up, one of the greatest crimes against humanity of the 20th century, and one that, had it happened today, would have been labelled genocide. The author served two years, nine months and 22 days in Vietnam and that was enough to poison his body to the extent that he ended up with a laundry list of ailments. This only manifested 43 years after his service ended, but confirmed Patrick’s conviction that his time in Vietnam and his unbelievable laundry list of illnesses were linked. After all, on many occasions, among the reasons cited by medical experts for his problems were the two chilling words “environmental agents.”
And thus began his exhaustive and minutely detailed investigation into the witches’ brew of potentially lethal tactical pesticides which he is sure contributed to the decline in his health and that of many other veterans. Sidelined and pushed from pillar to post, Patrick came up against the stone-walling tactics of the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) and the US government, both of which deny the effects of the toxic chemicals Vietnam veterans were exposed to during the war. The reasonable person wonders why the government and chemical companies did not set about covering medical bills and compensating these men. The answer is simple. Money and greed. The refusal of the DVA and the US administration to accept responsibility is to protect them from international liability and accusations of use of chemical warfare/weapons (which is the case) and to avoid the massive payouts they would be forced to make. This is a shameful indictment of the political administration of the time and the current one, when reparations could, but won’t be made.
I had a vague idea of the Vietnam War when I picked up this book, and of course I had heard of the infamous Agent Orange, a horrifying herbicide and defoliant chemical used to destroy jungle cover for the enemy and any food supplies they might locate there. The US government destroyed millions of acres of South Vietnam jungles. It was an environmental catastrophe beyond any natural disaster ever known. I had never heard of Agent White and the numerous other toxic and deadly concoctions, a chemical poisonous soup, used as pesticides. Vietnam is home to myriad insects, bugs, and critters all carrying their own types of bites, stings and diseases. They had to be exterminated. The problem was that daily exposure to these poisons inevitably altered the molecular structure of the cells of people exposed, but took years, even decades to manifest. This gave the government and the DVA enough wiggle room to claim inconclusive evidence and the fudge the facts and manipulate the statistics.
Despite the horrifying details and chilling statistics contained in this memoir, the author has no moments of self-pity. He includes very detailed research, scientific, chemical and medical information, but all in a very readable, user-friendly style. I felt as if I were sitting with the author and chatting over coffee. He manages to intersperse fact and figures with events in a way that makes it easy to absorb the statistics and the information which is so relevant to his story. Photographs are an added bonus to help the reader visualize the location and the living conditions of the men who served in Vietnam. The facts are thoroughly researched with bibliographic and reference end notes to give credibility to Patrick Hogan’s story, one of tragedy shared by many, many other soldiers who gave their lives in a war that should never have been fought. Very impressive and highly recommended. ...more
Based on the true story of Israel’s annual crane migration, in All Eyes on Alexandra, young Alexandra Crane is terrible at following her family in th Based on the true story of Israel’s annual crane migration, in All Eyes on Alexandra, young Alexandra Crane is terrible at following her family in their flying Vee. She can’t help it that the world is so full of interesting distracting sights! When it's time for the Cranes to migrate to Israel's Hula Valley for the winter, Alexandra is excited, but her family is worried. Will Alexandra stay with the group, and what happens if a dangerous situation should arise? Might Alexandra—and the rest of the flock—discover that a bad follower can sometimes make a great leader?
What a beautiful story and stunningly illustrated in full page, full colour images by Chiara Pasqualotto. The story takes young readers on an adventure with Alexandra, who may be a bit of a dreamer and a wanderer, but “She’s not afraid to try new routes. She’s got a sharp eye for danger. And she never gives up until she finds the best way.” I like the way author Anna Levine gives the birds their own personalities and familial roles. Alexandra is different and just a bit unique and grandfather Saba recognises this. Alexandra might get distracted with all the interesting things to see in nature, but that doesn’t stop her innate instinct for leadership and navigation.
I think young readers, and adults reading to them will be fascinated to learn more about Israel’s bird migration, and the more than five hundred million birds of different species that fly over Israel to and from Africa, Asia and Europe twice a year. The vivid and detailed images take young readers and adults through a variety of magnificent landscapes, which may stimulate readers to do some research on their own and learn more about annual bird migration and the countries they traverse. This is a wonderful story for young readers to explore and I’d recommend it be stocked in home and school libraries. There are plenty of points for story discussion as well, giving youngsters much food for thought. ...more
The Trojan War is one of the earliest wars recorded in the history of human combat. The Iliad and the Odyssey are among the oldest extant works of wesThe Trojan War is one of the earliest wars recorded in the history of human combat. The Iliad and the Odyssey are among the oldest extant works of western literature, written by the blind poet Homer in the eighth century. The Trojan War concerns the Achaeans of ancient Greece and the inhabitants of Ilios, the Trojans. But the story begins before that, at the wedding of the sea nymph goddess Thetis and the mortal but mighty king of the Myrmidons, Peleus. The seeds of this tragic and interminable war were sown when Eris, the goddess of strife, was not invited but arrived anyway, tossing into the company a golden apple inscribed with the words ‘to the most fair.’ Paris, the long-lost son of the Trojan King Priam, is asked to choose between the goddesses Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite. Lured by her promise of bestowing upon him the most beautiful woman in the world, Helen of Troy, Paris chooses Aphrodite… Unfortunately, Helen is married to Menelaus, king of Sparta. And thus, the epic war begins, brought to life by the words of the poet Homer, and forever cemented in the minds of succeeding generations.
Greek mythology and the various heroes, gods, and demi gods have a solid place in modern popular culture, given the many novels and movies devoted to various mythological themes. Names like Zeus, Poseidon, Achilles, Hector, Paris, Helen, Menelaus and Agamemnon are not unfamiliar, especially the mighty Achilles, hero of the Greek forces. Achilles being the son of a goddess, Thetis, and a mighty mortal, Peleus, meant he was already special. Added to this was his legendary prowess as a warrior. When Achilles loses his armor during battle to Hector, the son of King Priam, his mother pleads with Hephaistos, the lame god, to fashion her son an incredible shield. Thetis, knowing that Achilles’ death would follow upon that of Hector, still had the shield made, bowing, one imagines, to the inevitability of the cycle of life. Hephaistos makes the shield, and the details are minutely described by Homer. These details bring us to the reconstruction of this magnificent piece of armor by Kathleen Vail, who documented this artistic project in her book, Reconstructing the Shield of Achilles.
A lifetime student of Homer’s ancient Greece, Vail has created a 'physical, artistically relevant, life-size reconstruction of the divine shield of Achilles based literally and solely on Homer’s specifications in Book 18 of the Iliad.' This is no easy feat because although many now discovered and similarly crafted and decorated Mycenaean artifacts – swords, daggers, vases, and more - prove the potential existence of this shield, Vail was working from the details in Homer’s poem and existing archaeological discoveries. The shield is described as having an awe-inspiring effect on Achilles’ enemies, notwithstanding his mighty prowess and physical attributes. However, for me, the importance of the shield is what the poet conveys in the descriptions and which Vail recreates for the reader with images of the actual reconstructed shield and the corresponding artifacts which provided the inspiration for the images.
Vail takes each section and describes it in detail, as well as the significance in Greek society at the time, starting with the centre piece, creation, and radiating outward in circles depicting levels of Greek society – civil, judicial, military, entertainment, daily and pastoral activities. Ultimately the shield depicts both earthly and heavenly cycles of life. The shield is a microcosm of civilization, depicting the values and ideals of the ancient world, and the eternal cycle of birth, death, renewal. If the shield ever existed, where could it possibly be now? Thetis held funeral games in honour of her son Achilles, offering his armor as the prize to the ‘best of the Achaeans.’ Odysseus won the armor but given his many wanderings and shipwrecks before finally reaching home and his beloved wife, Penelope, who knows what happened to the shield? Perhaps only the gods know?
Kathleen Vail offers both the interested amateur and the dedicated scholar a minutely detailed and incredibly well researched literary work, complete with meticulously referenced and labelled images and many bibliographic references. The reconstruction of the shield is, to me, more than a labor of love. There is far more to the story of Achilles, the flawed and magnificent warrior, than the war. The psychological depths, the drama, the tragic emotions, actions, and motivations of the characters, both human and divine, the merging of heavenly and earthly activities, and many grander symbolic themes make the Iliad more than just a poem. The reconstruction of the shield proves this. ...more
Self Love: A British Tale of Woe and Wit by T.L. Clark is the story of thirty-something, aspiring entrepreneur (her own florist business), attractive Self Love: A British Tale of Woe and Wit by T.L. Clark is the story of thirty-something, aspiring entrepreneur (her own florist business), attractive but overweight Molly. Our heroine is plagued by what seems to be a malevolent fate. Her weight has become an obsession, her self-doubts are fuelled by the voice in her head that sounds very much like her mother, her boyfriend – Nigel the wanker - has dumped her, and she seems to be spiralling downward in a cycle of binge eating and despair. What’s it going to take for Molly to turn her life around, regain her confidence, and realize that loving yourself must come before anyone else can love you?
Full of charm, realism and British humor, Self Love will resonate with most, possibly all readers. I defy anyone who reads this story not to have experienced at least one of Molly’s issues, be it being dumped by the boyfriend before a client’s wedding, despairing of one’s weight, lying awake at night with the worries of a fledgling business, discovering health issues, undergoing the humiliations of online dating, trying yet another diet… the scenarios are myriad and real. There are funny moments and bitter-sweet moments. The reader hopes that Molly does discover the value of true friendship, real love, a relationship with her mother and, mostly importantly, a relationship with herself just as she is, and embraces who she is.
The story is simple, as most life stories are, without complex plot twists and turns, but that very simplicity is part of the appeal of this tale of woe. Molly is hilarious in dealing with her dramatic events, and her inner monologue/stream of consciousness narration ensures the reader is with her all the way. Molly is very real and relatable and the secondary characters, while not so fleshed out, are still very credible. Her parents, especially her mother, are hilarious. The dialogues are natural, and this makes the events believable. The story flows well and events transpire smoothly. I enjoyed Molly’s story and rooted for her all the way. Most readers will nod their heads in a ‘been there, done that’ way while turning the pages. A delightful, witty, and hilarious escapade through life with an unlikely but tenacious heroine. ...more
The Extraordinary Tales of Melody Magic: The Mystic Video Game by Alex Woburn is the third book in this series, filled with color, magic, action, dangThe Extraordinary Tales of Melody Magic: The Mystic Video Game by Alex Woburn is the third book in this series, filled with color, magic, action, danger, ghastly monsters, fun and whimsical creatures, and lots of adventure. Melody and her mom, Violet, find themselves homeless after their house was burned down. While Melody stays with her friend Max, Violet gets a job helping to clean up a charming cabin in the woods and is able to live there while doing so. The owner, Saxon, and his son, Charlie, just disappeared many years ago, and Dante, Saxon’s brother, has finally decided to tidy things up and put the cabin on the market. Melody and her friends decide to help Violet, but while cleaning up they discover a very old video game console … and are invited into the World of Whimsy by Ollie, the singing octopus. The kids need to help save the World of Whimsy from great evil. Will they survive the terrible dangers contained within the game? Are they ready for the incredible surprises waiting there?
Since this is the third book, young readers might like to pick up the first two books to acquaint themselves with Melody’s story and how she got her powers. However, since Alex Woburn drip-feeds backstory into the rollicking adventure as it unfolds, there is enough detail to keep readers apprised. The story is a non-stop, helter-skelter ride that whisks young readers headlong into a world of magic and mayhem. The author has an incredible imagination and kids will just love the amazing creatures – both the frightening and then fun ones - he has created. Ollie the singing octopus is just adorable. There are numerous life lessons and messages interwoven into the action and the encounters Melody and her friends have with the real world and the magical one. Teamwork, accepting others for who they are, being kind to others, believing in yourself, looking for answers from within, caring for the environment, and many more.
The author sets the scenes in the real world very well, with Melody’s school and social life nicely outlined. Young readers will relate to the teachers and the mean girl scenario. The entry into the magical World of Whimsy is done in a way that reminded me of the movie Jumanji, where the kids get to choose various powers. These powers are suited to their personalities. The question of would anyone really want superpowers in their daily life is addressed in an interesting way at the end. The story wraps up nicely with, of course, a new adventure looming as Violet takes a job helping the owner of a creepy old mansion turn it into a lovely hotel… A wonderful tale for young readers who love adventure and action stories with a difference!...more
The Fox and the Train by Alice Gent is hard to define by genre. Part fable, part folk story, part allegory, part fairy tale. From the first page, the The Fox and the Train by Alice Gent is hard to define by genre. Part fable, part folk story, part allegory, part fairy tale. From the first page, the reader is invited into a world of magic and the seemingly impossible. “For we have some flax golden tales to spin…” From that moment I knew I would love this tale of the fox and the train. The story is set some time in the last century, and there is a war and hardship. Thirteen-year-old Anna has lost her father, but he was “lost” from the time of the previous “Old War” anyway. With the help of her grandmother, Anna cares for her mother, whose memories have been stolen by “the black foxes.” Her brother Anderson is away fighting on the front, and her other brother, Michael, works on the mine. Bad news comes of the cave-in at the mine. When the train and the tracks are damaged by a treefall, someone must go on foot to help the miners. Anna decides to go with her friend, Benny, who is clever and strange and not like other people. However, to get to the mines, their journey takes them into the magic, danger, and darkness of the woods, the home of the Spirit King.
The descriptions are detailed, intense, and lyrical, giving an immediacy that draws the reader right into Anna’s experiences. The first part of the book is quite realistic with hints of magicality and the pace is slow as the author sets the scene of Anna’s life and the events leading up to the tragedy of the mine collapse and the damage to the train tracks. The second half dramatically speeds up the chain of events as it plunges the reader and Benny and Anna into a world that isn’t quite real. One wonders if Anna’s visions of the Spirit King, in the form of a fox, are perhaps hallucinations from the cold and hunger. The pace becomes quite frantic as the two teens must combat fatigue, cold, hunger, the environment, and enemy soldiers. The story itself is fascinating as the reader is taken along with Anna in her quest, both internal and external, and in her being able to overcome the tests presented to her. I found myself completely absorbed in the unfolding of events and I loved the appearance of the Spirit King.
I am not very fond of present tense in a story but somehow this works in The Fox and the Train. There is a lot of telling as the author sets the scene, which I find did slow things down a bit, and perhaps it would have been better for the reader to work out the meaning behind the apparitions of the Spirit King. However, the author has delved into many themes that will resonate with readers and perhaps the most important message to take from this story is the power of love, and how courage comes from the most surprising places. ...more
Although many people are probably unaware of this fact, by 1991 and for several reasons the Soviet Union had run out of grain. Faced with the threat oAlthough many people are probably unaware of this fact, by 1991 and for several reasons the Soviet Union had run out of grain. Faced with the threat of a starving population and mayhem, Gorbachev signed a deal with the USA, committing them to purchasing 8 million tons of grain over the next five years. World powers were then, and even more now, so finely balanced that the collapse of any country was not desirable. This one would send millions of starving Russian refugees fleeing to other countries. But the Soviets have more than just a food problem. Inflation rises, rumblings of dissent sound from within the ranks of the powers that be, and Gorbachev faces a coup. This is the perfect moment for Iran to illicitly obtain nuclear weapons. Seasoned Captain Josh Haman is sent by the US government to be their eyes and ears on the ground, and to submit accurate intel on the situation. But his impersonal attitude ends when he meets a KGB general who promises to give him the names and addresses of the man who ordered the killing of his first wife and her parents. Josh is torn between his military goals and the personal desire to exact revenge. Plus, he meets a former flame from the past! Adding to that is a radicalized mole in the FBI and a bomb threat in New York…
Besides being a political thriller to satisfy even the most exacting of fans, Moscow Airlift by Marc Liebman is fascinating reading on world affairs. Although the title is Moscow Airlift, and the operation is named Operation Deny Famine, the action starts in 1971, in war-torn Laos. It moves over the years between Russia, France, the USA, Iran, Israel, Lebanon, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. The narrative is detailed, perhaps overly so for fans who like to race through the action, but is perfect for those readers who enjoy savoring facts and minutiae. The author’s style is somewhat reminiscent of Frederick Forsyth, John le Carré and Terry Hayes. I am a huge fan of Hayes’ and Forsythe’s work and I appreciated this element of Marc Liebman’s tale.
The action starts at a time and place and involving characters that seem unrelated to the main actor and his mission. But be patient. Liebman weaves an intricate web of espionage and treachery, covert action and duplicity. All the threads, sub plots, and seemingly disparate characters are drawn together inexorably. The narrative is detailed, informative and succinct, yet the story flows without dragging. Liebman keeps the reader intrigued and reading on by changing the various scenarios quickly and this creates tension and interest. The author’s extensive military experience shows through in the story and plot.
There are too many characters to bond deeply with each of them, but Josh is the most well developed and necessarily so as he is the pivot around which the action turns. Danielle is also a character that readers will care about. The others are well drawn within their roles. Despite being a complex story with much to keep track of, Moscow Airlift was a surprisingly easy read. The historical background on Moscow Airlift, found at the end of the book, is well worth reading in advance. I enjoy political thrillers and especially when facts are woven carefully into a thrilling plot, which is the case here. For fans of the genre, this is an excellent reading choice....more
The Language Thieves is a young adult fantasy by Marc Remus. Sixteen-year-old Daniel is none too happy about his father’s decision to move the family The Language Thieves is a young adult fantasy by Marc Remus. Sixteen-year-old Daniel is none too happy about his father’s decision to move the family from Arizona to a remote Scottish island, of all places. His mother was stricken by a mysterious illness that has rendered her incapable of communication. Daniel speaks English and Irish Gaelic although he isn’t too keen on overtly displaying his Irish roots. Once on the island, he meets two new friends, Jenny and Connor, who are as suspicious as he is about a strange, elusive tribe that inhabits a part of the island: the Cerebrals, with their own unique culture, obsession with language, and their worship of the brain. The Cerebrals keep themselves apart from the rest of the population, and don’t want their kids to have anything to do with the locals. A bit difficult when Daniel finds himself falling for the cute Emily, who just happens to be a Cerebral. What is the mystery behind the Cerebrals, and do they have anything to do with Daniel’s mom’s affliction? How can they possibly be dangerous?
This is a young adult fantasy that is quite different from the norm. The plot dives back into ancient history and draws together some very intriguing theories. Young adult fans of Atlantis and ancient civilizations will devour this story. The plot is full of twists and turns and although I am not usually surprised, this book made me sit up. The action starts right away, aboard the ferry en route the island, when a young teen is attacked by strange men. The pace is steady and escalates as the youngsters team up to resolve the mystery behind the Cerebrals, their mission, and how it will affect the whole world.
Daniel is the most well developed of the trio, but Jenny is a solid sidekick gifted with IT skills and Connor is close behind as the loyal friend willing to follow first and ask questions later. The teens sound and behave mostly as one would expect teens to do and this adds realism to the plot. The romance between Daniel and Emily is sweet but underplayed so that it does not overshadow the main plot. The intrigue and mystery behind what the kids discover will certainly have young readers doing their own investigations into history, culture, and the value and place of ancient languages in society. I liked this thought-provoking angle – just how many ancient languages are still spoken today, and how many have been lost in the last century? The descriptions of the Cerebrals and their culture, dress and architecture are unique and showcase the author’s incredible imagination. A great cover and good layout and editing add to one’s reading pleasure. Themes of friendship, loyalty, teamwork and family abound. This is an intriguing fantasy by Remus and perfect for the young adult market. ...more
Do you know your history? Do you know your Scottish and English history, to be exact? In a story that starts in 2016, and jumps back in time to 1567, Do you know your history? Do you know your Scottish and English history, to be exact? In a story that starts in 2016, and jumps back in time to 1567, the reader is taken along with Mary Elizabeth Stuart as she discovers her heritage, meets her true mother, has to make decisions that could change the course of history… and finds out why her grandmother insisted she make a trip from Toronto to Kinross, a tiny little Scottish village, to understand her role in life, both here and back in the sixteenth century. Open Queen Mary’s Daughter by author Emily-Jane Hills Orford for more!
What a story! I absolutely loved it from start to finish. For fans of historical novels, historical romances, modern romances, time travel, alternative history, and a bit of mystery thrown in, the book has a lot to offer a variety of readers. Time travel has never really been explained (except by writers) and is not an exact science (as scientists would be the first to declare), but in this story that spans centuries, the author’s concepts work very well, and readers are never in the dark. The ramifications of time travel, the effects of the past on the future and vice versa are also explored. The characters are well defined, and their actions and ambitions make sense. For anyone who takes an interest in the Brexit question, and Scotland’s determination to break away from Britain, regain independence, and remain in the EU, this is a theme that has ramifications stretching back into history. I enjoyed how a modern theme had its roots in the past. Very cleverly done by the author.
I have Scottish heritage and I really appreciated the descriptions of the settings, and I’d love to visit Mrs D’s B&B as well. Mary Elizabeth is a likable heroine with a huge burden placed upon her shoulders. Historical facts are woven into the narrative very naturally, informing the reader without overwhelming them. History buffs will love the detail. Bigger themes than just love and romance, time travel, and historical references abound; what if the fate of your society, your country, rests upon you giving up your own desires and decisions to fulfil a role thrust upon you?
I enjoyed this story so much. The author has the ability to make the reader time travel with the characters. In fact, I found myself asking the same questions that Mary Elizbeth asked. “So many questions; so few answers.” Sometimes British history can be confusing, with similar names, kings, queens, marriages, alliances, treachery and more. With extensive and meticulous in-depth research and consummate skill, author Emily-Jane Hills Orford makes this all read very easily, and one is never in any doubt as to who is who in the grand picture. There is a wonderful twist at the end of the tale that should delight fans of conspiracy theories as well. A most enjoyable book! ...more