Monday, November 20, 2017

October


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Description: For Emily Baxter, life is simple. Her world is made up completely of school, church, and the community in the small farming town she calls home. All that changes one fateful Sunday, when a new girl shows up at Pleasanton Baptist—a girl unlike anyone Emily has ever seen. A girl with long red hair, crystal green eyes, and style and posture like royalty.
A girl named October.
The months that follow are filled with magic—the magic of ordinary things, of finding pictures in the stars, of imagination and a new sense of beauty. But as time goes by, Emily begins to sense that her enchanting new friend may have secrets that could break the spell. Is October really all she seems to be?

I wasn’t going to read this novel. Oh, don’t get me wrong. Grace Pennington is one of my favorite authors. I'm always blown away by her skill and powerful storytelling. However, I knew this book was going to be sad and hard to read. I decided to pick it up, and my heart is indeed in a thousand little pieces, like the feeling you get at the end of Camelot: You wanted a different ending so much, and yet, your heart is aching with the beauty of the conclusion that is there.

Emily is a wonderful character. I loved her. She is sweet, hopeful, and a faithful friend. She reminds me a lot of my youngest sister. I love how excited Emily gets over a new girl, a girl who is so obviously different.

Jax was a major player in this book as well. He was sweet and the kind of cousin I think every girl wishes she had. He has his faults, but he has a great heart.

The parents, pastor, and Melissa all played supporting roles. Each of them had some flaws, but all of them also had some wonderful qualities. I loved how real they all felt.

From the beginning of the book, you are waiting for the shoe to drop. You know that there is more to October (or Tobi) then Emily is seeing. Even early on, there are glimpses that just don’t fit. As the book wears on, the tension mounts. I think for anyone who has been around people like October will see it coming.

I think the hardest thing about this book is to realize how necessary it is. So many young people are dealing with friends who have major challenges like October. A book like this can help younger readers cope with what they are going through. The issues discussed in this book are not easy (See spoiler at the end of my review), but they are real, and they do exist.

The writing was some of Pennington’s best yet. You can tell this story poured out of her very soul, not just her heart. Because of that, it will impact lives.

The ending left my heart broken, yet there was hope among the sharp shards of pain. This is not a happy, feel-good book. This is not a fluffy romance. This is a raw, emotional, and realistic look at some hard things.

I highly recommend this book to those who enjoy realistic stories, lyrical writing, and emotional tales.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Write Well



Description: Writing isn't all heart and art. It's structure and syntax, too.
Write Well will help you understand the structure of writing so you can get back to the art.
Hi there, I'm Rachelle Rea Cobb. and I have history with words. I've ever been known as a grammar geek with a knack for storytelling. Friends and family have come to me for years to polish their pages. For five years now, one of my favorite things to do is help others polish their pages until their words shine--and then they can sign their own publishing contracts. I have worked with traditional, self-published, and best-selling authors, as well as students, bloggers, and ESL writers. Entrusting your words to others can be excruciating, but I promise to treat them with the utmost care, never squashing your voice. Instead, my job is to unleash it from typos, fluff, and repetitiveness, etc.
And now I'd like to share my expertise with you.

As some of you are probably painfully aware, grammar is not my thing. It isn’t that I don’t care, but it seems that every time someone tries to explain the rules, I only become more confused. Seriously? How am I supposed to understand where those silly little commas go? The answer is to buy this little book.

This book was so, so, so helpful! I still have a long way to go before I really have a firm grasp of all the principles. However, I finally feel like I have a chance. This book is not huge and intimidating. It is not peppered with crude references that some grammar books have. It is a short guide to grammar from someone who loves it to those of us who need the help.

After reading the section on commas, I felt like I had a better understanding of how to use them than any of the grammar books I read for school. Like I said, I know I still have a long way to go in applying them. However, I plan to start having this book on hand as I edit.

The rest of the book was also helpful. No section is very large; in fact, you can read the whole book in about an hour. Yet, those short pages are packed with helpful information.

If you want to learn more about grammar and improve your writing, this book is a must-have. It isn’t expensive, so grab yourself a copy.

I highly recommend this book for writers, homeschool students, and anyone wanting to improve their grammar skills.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

The Graham Quartet and the Mysterious Strangers


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Description: In the midst of the cold, snowy woods, the Graham Quartet stumble across a mystery. It could mean danger, but that doesn’t stop Elsa, Matt, Tim and Selena as they try their best to help a stranger who needs them. But what can Siam, Hong Kong and Vanderbilt have to do with the local furniture factory? And why are so many strangers suddenly appearing and then disappearing in town? With the arrival of an elusive figure, things start moving, while a simple delivery trip may bring more than the Quartet bargained for. Will the four siblings be able to help their friend and their country?

While I bought and read a Rebekah Morris book a while back, my sister Mikayla can’t stop talking about her. She keeps asking me when Morris is coming out with another book and wants all of them. I finally sat down and read some more of Morris’ works, and I can see why my sister is so crazy about it. Here are some of the reasons her books are so good.

They are not heavy on the romance. So many books these days are so heavy on the romance there is not much else to the plot. While I like romance as much as the next girl, it is nice to see books about other topics.
They are clean in every way. You never have to worry when you open up one of her books about what you might find.
They feel like old-fashioned books, giving you a nostalgic feeling.

The Graham Quartet and the Mysterious Strangers remind me of many of the childhood mystery books I read growing up. Yet this story has an element of faith, and parents the kids trust.

Homeschool families will especially appreciate the aspect of respect and interaction with the parents.
My one complaint about this book is that at times it felt historical (the 1950's) and at other times I wondered if maybe it were supposed to be a modern story. It might not be that important to most readers, but it was a bit distracting to me.

I loved how each of the kids had their own personality that was so well conveyed. Like in many families, they have an identity as a unit, but each is unique. Morris did a great job developing each of the kids’ personalities and sticking with it.

The mystery itself was kid friendly and interesting at the same time. Things were never boring in the story but also didn’t feel hyped and fake. There was very little violence in it as well. What little there was, the kids were shielded from, so you only get a vague impression of it. There is no murder, gore, or grossness.

I highly recommend this story for those who love clean mysteries, youth fiction, and nostalgic reads.

Friday, November 17, 2017

The Ankulen


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Description: Fifteen-year-old Jen can't remember her imagination. She knows she had one once, though, and honestly, she'd like it back. It's been eight years. One day she finds a young boy who claims to be one of her imaginary friends and that her imaginary world is being eaten by a hydra-like monster called the Polystoikhedron. He helps her find the Ankulen, a special bracelet that had given the ability to bring her imagination to life and together they embark on a quest to find friendship, healing, and perhaps even some family.

I wasn’t feeling good one day and looked on my Kindle. I can always count on Ardnek to give me something easy to read and full of imagination. However, this is my favorite book of hers yet. Very light, very fun, and very different.

The whole setting of this book is just plain cool: a girl inside her imagination, which has lots of different aspects to it. It reminded me a lot of my childhood imagination, except I was never as organized as Jen. The world, so carefully crafted, was just plain fun.

Jen was such a believable character, and her struggle to reclaim her imagination felt real. I liked how different she was from some of the other Ardnek leading ladies. She wasn’t as annoying as I found the main girl in the Quest books.

All the other characters just sparkled and were full of color (wink). The old woman was one of my favorites, even though she wasn’t really in the story much.

Other than nearly being lulled to sleep while the story was in the dream castle, the story kept me turning pages. It was so much fun. However, I was taken completely surprised by the powerful message toward the end. I was blinking rapidly at the skill, because the message had been there all the time, yet it surprised me. It was very well done.

I highly recommend this to those who like mild fantasies, imaginary worlds, and just want a lighthearted read.


Thursday, November 16, 2017

Suit and Suitability


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Description: The mystery surrounding their father’s criminal accusations is almost as hard to solve as the many puzzles springing on their hearts. 
Canton, Ohio, 1935. Ellen and Marion Dashiell’s world crumbles when their father is sent to prison. Forced to relocate to a small town, what is left of their family faces a new reality where survival overshadows dreams. Sensible Ellen, struggling to hold the family together, is parted from the man she’s just learning to love, while headstrong Marion fears she will never be the actress she aspires to be. When a dashing hero enters the scene, things only grow more complicated. But could a third man hold the key to the restoration and happiness of the Dashiell family?

I have a confession to make. I pushed my way through watching two different versions of Sense and Sensibility and did not enjoy either. Marianne drove me crazy with her over-dramatizing of everything and, while I loved Elinor, she couldn’t save the films for me. However, I knew I loved Bryant’s work, and so I wanted to give this book a try. I am so glad I did.

Bryant was able to make me feel as if I had been transported back to Canton in 1935, so vivid were the descriptions. The settings were wonderfully descriptive and captured the places and feelings of the time. I felt as if I was visiting the places as they were in 1935.

Ellen and Marion were perfect. They captured not only the original characters but also the spirit of the time. Ellen captured the seriousness of the times and the properness of times past. Marion captured the dreams for a better future and the effects of the 20’s. I loved the plot twist that their father was alive and accused of a crime. It added an interesting dynamic to the story and to the two sisters.

The faith element in this story was wonderful. It wasn’t forced, overdone, or neglected. Each character, like in life, has a different struggle. The story gives a gentle message of faith that is woven almost imperceptibly into the story at times, yet when it comes to an end, you can see how it has been there the whole time.

As with Bryant’s other books, you won’t find any objectionable content in this story. Even the romance is in keeping with Jane Austen’s gentle, non-physical standards. It is rare to find a book that deals with real issues so well yet so clean.

I highly recommend this to those who love historical fiction, Jane Austen, and clean fiction.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Sufficient Grace


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Description: Four years have passed since tragedy broke Grace’s family apart, tarnished the family name, and sent her into hiding at finishing school. Now with a new last name and a few years between her and the accident; Grace wonders if she will be able to escape the heavy shadow of the past that smothers her with guilt and a desire to escape life. 
Grace carefully guards her heart from others to prevent them from discovering her past. However, when Mitch, a deputy, comes into her life, he seems bent on destroying Grace’s armor. Can Grace really trust someone with the secrets that haunt her, or will they destroy her once again?

While I have loved both Annabeth’s War and The Captive of Raven Castle, I have to admit that this is by far my favorite Greyson book so far.

Moving away from the realm of fantasy, Greyson takes us to the old west. Her story drops us in the middle of the action of girls that have been kidnapped from a stagecoach, and the story just is amazing from there.

My heart immediately felt connected with Grace’s. So many of the emotions that she experienced are ones that I have felt myself. She was so wounded, yet also strong. She was someone you wanted to hug and respected at the same time. Throughout so much of the story, you wonder why Grace is choosing to do some of the things she is doing, yet also not confused, if that makes sense.

Mitch was an amazing character, too. He reminded me of Ransom in Annabeth’s war, yet he was different. Mitch’s unconditional love and how he truly cares for Grace was so sweet. So much of the story focuses on their friendship. Yes, there is a hint of romance, but more on friendship.

You can always count on Greyson for solid faith messages, and this was no exception. This book held the themes of telling the truth, redemption, and allowing others to be there for you. Yet, more than any other story she has written, I feel the message within this book will minister to the heart of those who read it.

I never wanted to put the book down. That is probably the reason I didn’t and read it all in one day. It kept me flipping pages wanting to find out what happened next. When it was finished, I wished that it wasn’t over.

I highly recommend this to those who love western stories, light romance, and a whole lot of action.


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Sound of Emeralds


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Description: What once was blazing hatred has turned to lasting love, but could the union of a wild heart with that of a lady ever result in more than heartache?
With the help of an old friend with uncertain loyalties, Dirk inches ever closer to clearing his name. Gwyneth throws her faith into good tidings and the promise of a future as a family. But an old evil comes to call, just as tragedy rips apart a fledgling truce. Enemies from the past and grief for the future threaten to tear asunder what God had brought together…
As the date of Dirk’s trial approaches, his fate and his family hang in the balance. Will he be proven innocent of Gwyneth’s parents’ murders—or separated from her forever? How much pain does it take to erode a love steadfast?

Wow! What a powerful conclusion to the series. I just sat staring off into space for a few minutes after finishing, soaking in what I had just read.

This story held a lot more kissing and such than the last two books, but that isn’t surprising or disturbing, as Gwyn and Dirk are now married. Their love was sweet and deep, which I loved. Besides, it isn’t every author that goes beyond the wedding day. I cheered when I found out that Rachelle took this story farther than most authors would have.

Dirk and Gwyn’s marriage is far from perfect. In fact, most of the story is spent with a wide gulf between them. I think that perhaps they struggled more in this book than they ever did in the first book. Dirk and Gwyn both make some big mistakes in how they cope with a tragedy, and I loved that. This book dealt with a lot of raw pain in a way that was realistic and God-honoring. So many authors miss this sweet spot, and Rachelle Rea Cobb nailed it!

The hardest thing about a series that I love is saying goodbye. While this book was an emotional roller-coaster, the ending was beautiful and satisfying. While I would love to read more about Dirk and Gwyn, the story must come to an end sometime.

This whole series was a delight. I highly recommend it to those who love historical fiction, romance, and dealing with emotional issues in a godly way.