Source: complimentary review copy

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KidLit Review and Giveaway: The Storybook Knight

September 9, 2016 Book Review, reviews 2

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book nor the content of my review.

KidLit Review and Giveaway: The Storybook KnightThe Storybook Knight by Helen Docherty, Thomas Docherty
Published by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky on September 6th 2016
Genres: Children, Picture Books
Pages: 32
Source: complimentary review copy
AmazonIndieBound
Goodreads
five-stars

 

Little Leo is not the knight his parents expected. He enjoys nothing more than reading and being kind to all. His parents don’t believe a knight should be gentle, so when they read an ad about a dragon needing taming, off they send Leo to do them proud!

One morning, Leo’s parents said
they’d like to have a chat.
There was nothing wrong with reading,
but he couldn’t just do that!

Along the way, Leo encounters a griffin, a troll and a dragon. Rather than use the new sword and shield his parents gave him, Leo uses his head, his heart and the books he brought along for the trip.

A few of the lessons

  • Books are cool because you will know what a griffin is should you happen upon one!
  • You can be successful in a ‘fight’ with savvy smarts and knowledge without the use of swords and shields.
  • It’s ok if others are different, and I’m quieter and like to read. I’ve got equally great qualities, though I may be different from you.
  • The world could use more kindness and acceptance.

Final Thoughts

Truly a delightful picture book for both adults and children! My grandson, who is now in Kindergarten, and I have read this one quite a few times. Both of us love it! Me, for the lovely manner in which books and reading are featured, the numerous messages woven throughout the book, and the inclusion of the classic Billy Goat’s Gruff! My grandson loves this one for the rhyming that lends itself to some fantastic reading aloud. The bright colors of the pictures, along with the attention to detail, have kept us finding new features in the layouts! Honestly, The Storybook Knight gets 4 thumbs-up from this reading duo!

[Tweet “.#thestorybook is sure to become a children’s classic and an adult favorite!”]

Extra Credit

→Visit here to take Leo’s pledge and become a Storybook Knight. “Remember: A story is mightier than the sword.”

→We all know how children enjoy receiving happy mail, right? For your wee reader friends or family, mailing the book + the printable Activity Kit is a package little ones from ages 4 – 8 will be thrilled to receive.

AND/OR

→Most students are back in school now that September is well underway. And most of us adults have heard the plight of our tireless teachers, yes? A truly wonderful gift for your Kindergarten, 1st or 2nd grade teacher would be the book + the printable Educators Guide which aligns with the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts.

Author and Illustrator Links

Thomas Docherty: www.thomasdocherty.co.uk
Twitter: @TDIllustration

Helen Docherty: www.helendocherty.com
Twitter: @docherty_helen

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five-stars

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Book Review: The Innocents

August 29, 2016 Book Review, reviews 2

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book nor the content of my review.

Book Review: The InnocentsThe Innocents (Quinn Colson, #6) by Ace Atkins
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons on July 12th 2016
Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Southern
Pages: 367
Source: complimentary review copy
AmazonIndieBound
Goodreads
three-half-stars

 

In December of 2014 the horrific murder of 19-year old Jessica Chambers rocked the South, especially the small town of Panola, Mississippi. This murder stood out from its lack of witnesses and evidence. And most especially by the manner in which Jessica was murdered – covered in lighter fluid and set on fire. It wasn’t until February of this year that an arrest was made.

Inspired by the horrific murder of Jessica Chambers, The Innocents tells the story of 17-year old Millie Jones from the fictional town of Jericho, Mississippi. This was my first introduction to both Ace Atkins and his Quinn Colson series. It would have been helpful to read the first 5 books in the series before reading The Innocents, Book 6. There’s a lot of back story I missed by not having read the first five!

So, what did I think?

The Innocents had enough twists and turns, red herrings and colorful characters to keep me turning the pages as fast as I could. While I suspected the murderer early on {probably from watching too much Law & Order}, I had to read through to the end to find out the why, how and all the circumstances.

Ace Atkins has a way of fleshing out his characters. The ‘bad’ characters were not completely bad just as the good characters were not all good. Atkins ability to plop the reader down in the midst of a southern town with all its intricacies, politics and local characters added to the reading experience.

As I mentioned, this is my first Ace Atkins book so I’m not familiar with his series style. There were a few threads in The Innocents that did not get played out. One such sub-plot involving a Muslim clerk, I really expected some kind of resolution, but was left dangling.

For the series to be about Quinn Colson, Quinn Colson seemed to play more of a background role in this book. Granted he’s no longer the sheriff of fictional Jericho, but I thought he would be more of a central character. On the flip side, I thoroughly enjoyed the strong female sheriff and hope Lillie continues to play a primary role.

An enjoyable read satisfying that desire for a fast-paced mystery. If you like Greg Iles, especially his early mysteries, then I imagine you’ll be right at home reading Ace Atkins.

 

 

three-half-stars

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How to DIY MFA

July 12, 2016 Book Review, reviews 1

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book nor the content of my review.

How to DIY MFADIY MFA: Write with Focus, Read with Purpose, Build Your Community by Gabriela Pereira
Published by Writer's Digest Books on July 8th 2016
Genres: Non-Fiction
Pages: 294
Source: complimentary review copy, purchased
AmazonIndieBound
Goodreads
four-half-stars

 

In 7th grade Mrs. McNeary introduced me to Madeleine L’Engle. Although we were surly middle schoolers, Mrs. McNeary read A Wrinkle in Time to us every afternoon. By the time the third day rolled around I had already been to the school library to check out A Wrinkle in Time. By the fourth day, I had the book finished and had checked out A Wind in the Door, Book 2 in the Time Quintet Series. I remember thinking that if I could write like anyone, I wanted to tell stories just like Ms. L’Engle. I also wanted to be a pilot, Navy Seal, and marine biologist, but writer was always at the top of my list.

Fast forward to adulthood where I never quite made it to pilot school, the Navy didn’t want me, and marine biology was only a passing interest because of A Ring of Endless Light. . .my absolute favorite L’Engle novel. Somehow I fell into the non-profit world, children’s advocacy, and writing grant proposals. I didn’t consider myself a writer though. Most grant proposals are dry and technical – where’s the imagination in that?

While trying to find other readers to talk with about books I fell into book blogging. I thought that writing reviews and sharing my world was not real writing. Where’s the imagination in talking books? In order to be a real writer I would have to get my MFA. or so I thought.

Then I came across Gabriela Pereira’s site DIYMFA.com

All of the sudden I realized, wait, I am a writer. I may not be Pulitzer-Prize-worthy, but I’ve been a writer for years! Can you imagine the elation and relief I felt?

So when I read that the entire DIY MFA method was being published in a book I knew I had to get it. As much of a resource as the site has been, the book, I knew, would be chock-full of wisdom. I pre-ordered the book even though I had access to the advanced reader’s copy. After reading the first few chapters I quickly figured out that this book was going to be a much-used and much-loved writing resource, along with my copy of On Writing, Bird by Bird, and Writing Down the Bones.

[Tweet “From writer’s voice to writing workshops the book @DIYMFA is sure to be a favorite resource.”]

Gabriela lays out the foundation of writing in a methodical and easily-understood manner. The book is sectioned into the 3-part mission of DIY MFA: “write with focus, read with purpose, build your community.” From there the book is pared down into bite-sized chapters with clear actionable steps/homework. For example, in the Read with Purpose portion we learn to “Read Like a Writer,” and the four types of books a writer should utilize {also known as “the four C’s”}: “competitive titles, contextual books, contemporary books, and classics.”

Gabriela is a big fan of acronyms and tips which further helps to cement the tools learned. For example, the term ‘habits’ becomes:

H = Honor Your Reality

A = Add Constraints

B = Block Time and Batch Tasks

I = Iterate

T = Ten Percent Rule

S = Set the Mood

Gabriela is candid and practical throughout the book. There is no shortcut to becoming a good writer. Practicing is repeated over and over, or actually, what I came to term as Gabriela’s favorite word ~ “iterate, iterate, iterate.” That was my only issue with the book – why say iterate when practice works just as well?

If you have any desire to improve your writing, whether as a blogger or a long-time writer, pick up this book. It is sure to become your favorite writing resource – I know it is now mine!

Side Note: There’s countless worksheets and cheat sheets and even a private online resource for those who purchase the book. And while I would highly recommend purchasing the book, there are still plenty of free resources at DIYMFA.com

Gabriela also hosts a podcast with fantastic guests and resources! Learn more here.

Connect with Gabriela Website | Twitter | Facebook

What writing books/memoirs/resources have you read and/or use?

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four-half-stars

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Learning to Survive and Thrive with The Tumbling Turner Sisters

June 28, 2016 Book Review, Giveaway, reviews 6

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book nor the content of my review.

Learning to Survive and Thrive with The Tumbling Turner SistersThe Tumbling Turner Sisters by Juliette Fay
Published by Gallery Books on June 14th 2016
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Pages: 352
Source: complimentary review copy
AmazonIndieBound
Goodreads

 

What an incredibly researched historical novel! I felt completely immersed in the time period {1920s}! Vaudeville was at its height {kind of a prequel to tv show ‘America’s Got Talent’}.   When the novel opens we meet the Turners and learn how they’re  barely getting by. Dependent on Mr. Turner’s income, losing the source from a stupid mistake makes figuring out how to survive critical.

So what does the mom to four beautiful daughters do? She comes up with the idea to put her daughters on the stage as a vaudeville act in order to make enough money for the family to eat and pay rent. When the girls’ act becomes a hit their lives are forever changed.

What I loved

→The history and detail. Learning what vaudeville was {comedy, gymnastics, music, dancing} and wasn’t {burlesque} fascinated me and had me looking up old videos and photographs. There are even a few of the theaters that hosted vaudeville still open and operating today!

→The quotes at the beginning of each chapter from famous vaudeville players. “There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.” ~Will Rogers, actor, singer, comedian, and social commentator

→How the characters and theaters came to life through the descriptive passages “Even from inside the suitcase, I sensed the audience’s anticipation. They cheered for Nell’s cartwheels, but the volume rose when Gert entered with her handsprings. By the time I rolled out onto the proscenium, the audience was like a pack of hungry dogs, ready to devour any scraps of entertainment we threw them. Gert’s arm jiggles sent them into paroxysms, and the human rolling ball, with skirts flapping up as they spun, caused a wild round of boot stomping.”

→The humor! The dialogue between the four sisters was seamless and filled with funny moments!

→The breadth of topics approached from poverty and mental illness to racism and women’s rights, The Tumbling Turner Sisters touches on it all with skill and grace.

[Tweet “Learning how to survive and thrive in The Tumbling Turner Sisters”]

and the Not So Much

I would be remiss if I neglected to share a couple of things that frustrated me in reading this novel. For example ~

The mother. Granted her character was supposed to be a strong Italian woman, but she was a bit over the top for me. At times I wondered why she even had children. Her actions were so non-mothering! AND she took henpecking her husband to an entirely new level. Did women really act that way?

While not that big of a deal, I did have to flip back to the beginning of the chapters several times to see who was narrating. While normally I love multiple points of view in books, in The Tumbling Turner Sisters it was somewhat difficult to tell the sisters apart. Narrated from Winnie and Gert’s pov, the sisters’ characters were too similar to distinguish at times.

Caution. Some aspects were difficult to read though true to the time period. There is one passage in particular that uses cringe-worthy terminology. I appreciate that the author approached sensitive subjects head on but do want to warn you sections may make you uncomfortable.

Recommended for

Readers who loved Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. Goodreads also recommends Christina Baker Kline, author of Orphan Train, but I think Juliette Fay’s novel is closer to a Karen White novel such as On Folly Beach. The laugh-out-loud humor and fleshed out characters are comparable.

Juliette Fay: Website :: Facebook :: Twitter

With many thanks to Wunderkind PR and Gallery Books, I’ve got a copy of The Tumbling Turner Sisters to give away! Ends Monday, July 4th at 11:59 pm. U.S. entries only please.

[promosimple id=”9dda”]

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Thoughts on Before the Fall

June 17, 2016 Book Review, reviews 7

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book nor the content of my review.

Thoughts on Before the FallBefore the Fall by Noah Hawley
Published by Grand Central Publishing on May 31st 2016
Genres: Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 400
Source: complimentary review copy
AmazonIndieBound
Goodreads
four-stars

 

Before the Fall has been packaged as the summer blockbuster and I can certainly see why. A private plane slips off the radar only 16 minutes into its flight between Martha’s Vineyard and New York. Eleven people are on board but only two survive: a painter, Scott Burroughs and JJ, the 4 year old son of David Bateman, creator of the number one 24-hour news station {pretty much patterned after Fox News}.

The story begins with the crash along with Scott’s miraculous survival and rescue of JJ. Told in alternate chapters we get a behind the scenes look at the lives of those who were on board the fatal crash. We also get to see the aftermath with the news media and various government agencies involved in the investigation. It’s both fascinating and terrifying. What the news media {especially David Bateman’s own company} does to Scott and anyone surrounding him is a testament to culture today. Even how the various government entities choose to handle the investigation is scary – most are compassionate and matter-of-fact but the few that are not….woe to those in the warpath.

This author is brilliant in portraying ‘real’ people. His characters are so involved and believable. The characters’  actions leading up to the plane crash go far beyond stereotypes. Part of the joy in reading Before the Fall was for that very reason – Noah Hawley created totally believable characters with a back story, emotional depth and unique traits.

There are two issues I had with the book that kept me from giving it a solid 5 stars. The first being when we are seeing Rachel’s ‘before the crash’ chapter. Rachel is the 10 year old daughter of David Bateman and Maggie. Precocious, brilliant and a sweetheart, but her chapter drifted more into her mom’s thoughts rather than Rachel’s. Perhaps I misread the chapter, but it just didn’t quite sit well with me.

The other issue was in the last few pages. Survivor Scott is giving an interview and some of the things he says doesn’t make sense to me. It’s impossible to be more specific without going into spoilers.

[Tweet “Believable characters + a look at society’s obsession with news makes this the summer book to read”]

After reading Before the Fall and seeing what a brilliant storyteller Noah Hawley is, I plan to read the rest of his previous novels. And maybe even turn the television on to watch some Fargo! Read it. Before the Fall is so worth the hype!

Before the Fall is a She Reads Summer Selection. To see what other members are saying visit She Reads here.

Many thanks to She Reads and Grand Central Publishing for providing a free copy to review. All opinions are my own.

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four-stars

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