Book Review – Christmas in Evergreen: Tidings of Joy (Christmas In Evergreen #3) by Nancy Naigle

About the Book:

Christmas in Evergreen: Tidings of Joy: Based on a Hallmark Channel original movie

An unexpected encounter… An extraordinary discovery… Welcome back to the town of Evergreen.

Katie, an author struggling to write her second novel, heads to Evergreen, Vermont for a holiday retreat—only to get an assignment to write an article about the town. On the train, she meets Ben, a former big-city reporter who’s now a librarian in Evergreen.

Katie’s initially skeptical about Evergreen’s love of Christmas; the place seems too good to be true. Meanwhile, Ben’s wary of Katie’s intentions. He’s protective of his small town, and he knows all too well how cynical the media can be. Then a hunt for a fifty-year-old time capsule leads to a remarkable discovery. As Katie and Ben get caught up in the community’s past and present, they both begin to envision new possibilities for the future.

This feel-good Christmas romance includes a free Hallmark original recipe for Cranberry Crostini.

My Thoughts:

A simple and straightforward story, Christmas in Evergreen will ensure that the reader has a wonderful time and will fall in love! The story is set in the picturesque town of Evergreen with it’s inhabitants more like family than neighbours. The story follows Katie as she comes to the town on holiday while trying to work up the inspiration to write her second novel. As we follow her exploration of Evergreen, we meet so many people and also learn their stories. Each shop has a history and a whole lot of charm.

I enjoyed reading about the long lost time capsule which added some intrigue to the while story and while the focus was on Katie, we did learn more about the people and their lives. This did not divert from the plot and I enjoyed getting to know everyone!

As Katie discovers more and starts to fall in love, the author ensures that we also learn about traditions and working together. This is quick and joyous read, perfect for the holidays!

Book Review – My Name is Anton: A Novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde

About the Book:

My Name is Anton: A Novel

New York Times bestselling author Catherine Ryan Hyde returns with a hopeful novel of sacrifice, two lost souls, and enduring love.

It’s 1965, and life has taken a turn for eighteen-year-old Anton Addison-Rice. Nearly a year after his brother died in a tragic accident, Anton is still wounded—physically and emotionally. Alone for the holidays, he catches a glimpse of his neighbor Edith across the street one evening and realizes that she’s in danger.

Anton is determined to help Edith leave her abusive marriage. Frightened and fifteen years Anton’s senior, Edith is slow to trust. But when she needs a safe place to stay, she lets down her guard, and over the course of ten days an unlikely friendship grows. As Anton falls hopelessly and selflessly in love, Edith fears both her husband finding her and Anton getting hurt. She must disappear without telling anyone where she’s going—even Anton.

If keeping Edith safe means letting her go, Anton will say goodbye forever. Or so he believes. What would happen, though, if one day their paths should cross again?

My Thoughts:

Catherine Ryan Hyde’s books always have a theme and a message and they are delivered so beautifully, it is impossible to miss her books! I have read many books by her and I am left amazed every single time. Even though a lot of the themes focus on loss, life, unconditional love, memories, relationships, bonds and so many more, each book is different from the other.

My Name is Anton is the story of a seventeen year old boy named Anton, who is trying to figure out his identity as well as reconcile the death of his grandfather, his brother and the partial loss of his right hand. Anton is both physically and mentally wounded and in the midst of the emotional conflicts, he happens upon Edith. Edith is in an abusive marriage and after one incident is witnessed by Anton, by chance, he makes it his mission to help her get away!

This book is a romance novel, which in itself is a different book for the author. It talks of unconditional love that lets go, the kind of love where a person learns to be unselfish and sacrifice all for the safety and happiness of the other person. Anton let’s Edith go one time and as fate brings them back many years later, it remains to be seen whether such love endures and how it affects people.

I love the characters of Grand-uncle Gregor and Grandma Marion. They bring light into Anton’s life and support him when he needed it the most with compassion and understanding. The circumstances behind the death of Anton’s brother are extremely sad and the author touches upon Mental Health and discusses it in a very delicate manner. The fact that it is important to acknowledge and deal with is brought out in a subtle yet straight forward manner through the experiences of the characters.

Overall this story starts of a little slowly, first focusing on the growing friendship between Anton and Edith and later focusing on how Anton learns to cope with life, his disability and grows into a more confident individual all things considered. The reader is in for an emotional rollercoaster that will make you sad at times, empathize with the characters and finally laugh with them as they find the light and joy!

I highly recommend this book just as I do with all of the books by the author!

Note: I was approved a copy of the book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest opinion.

Book Review: The Lost Village by Daniela Sacerdoti

About the Book:

The Lost Village

1945: Two sisters give birth to two little girls on the same night, huddled under blankets, deep in the black woods that surround their village. They hold their babies close as footsteps approach. If they make even the slightest sound, the German soldiers will find them…

2006: Luce Nardini clutches a plane ticket to Italy in her trembling hands. Since her only child left home, and with her estranged husband more distant than ever, she’s been overwhelmed with loneliness. She never knew her father, or the reason why her mother cut all contact with her family in the little village of Bosconero. Lost and unravelling fast, uncovering her roots feels like Luce’s last and only hope.

As Luce searches the maze of cobbled streets, a house with a faded blue door draped in perfect white roses stops her in her tracks. Inside is the grandmother she never knew, who – with a longing look at an ornate wooden box on her nightstand – begins to tell the heart-wrenching story of a little village ravaged by war, and why Luce’s mother fled home and swore never to return.

Surrounded by new friends and faded frescoes of saints, Luce is just starting to feel like she belongs when the unthinkable happens: an earth-shattering disaster that shakes the little village of Bosconero to its core. Could it be that the secrets of Luce’s past have been buried forever?

Frightened, hopeless and feeling more alone than ever before, will the surprise arrival of the husband she thought she’d lost help sew Luce’s family back together, or tear it apart for good? One thing is certain: she must find the little wooden box amongst the rubble of the village and return it to her grandmother. But nothing will have prepared Luce for the devastating betrayal she finds inside…

An unputdownable historical romance about the secrets we keep to protect the ones we love by the author of million-copy Amazon No 1. bestseller, Watch Over Me. Perfect for anyone who loves Fiona Valpy, Lily Graham or The Letter by Kathryn Hughes.

My Thoughts:

I received a copy of the book via NetGalley and am truly happy that I found it!

The Lost Village by Daniela Sacerdoti is a brilliant tale of love, loss, betrayal and the effect of secrets. Set in today’s world, we meet Luce Nardini who travels to Italy to find out more about her mother’s side of the family. Her mother refused to talk about her family and hints at secrets buried deep.

The author weaves a classic tale that is unputdownlable and gripping until the very end. Modern day is interspersed with the narration of times past. Luce’s grandmother talks of her life during WWII and the impact it had on their lives, on Italy and the people. She talks of finding love, marriage, children, her love and hate for her sister Nora and more. As secrets once buried come to the surface, Luce has the choice to stop or hear it all as she tries to find her place and bring her family together.

Dealing with her own problems, Luce seeks to immerse herself in finding out the truth behind her family and as the story unravels, the reader feels all the emotions along with the various characters. I loved reading about Luce’s cousin and her fiancé, Luce’s relationship with her son and the bonds she forms with the people she meets in Italy.

This story is mind-blowing and so well-written that all incidents that happen seem to be happening to the reader as well. There is not one moment when you will feel like stopping as the story flows seamlessly merging past with present and so on.

I truly loved this book and recommend this to all fans of historical fiction. This story is not just about the war, it is about the people who experienced it and the things they did to survive. But, secrets have a way of coming out in the end and the impacts are tremendous as can be seen from this book.

Book Review: Midnight Train to Prague by Carol Windley

About the Book:

Midnight Train to Prague

An unforgettable tale of what we owe to those we love, and those we have left behind

In 1927, as Natalia Faber travels from Berlin to Prague with her mother, their train is delayed in Saxon Switzerland. In the brief time the train is idle, Natalia learns the truth about her father and meets a remarkable woman named Dr. Magdalena Schaefferová, whose family will become a significant part of her future.

Shaken by these events, Natalia arrives at a spa on the shore of Lake Hevíz in Hungary. Here, she meets the journalist and writer Miklós Count Andorján. In time, they will marry, and Natalia will devote herself to life on a rural estate in Hungary.

When war breaks out in Europe, Natalia loses contact with Miklós. She believes they are to meet in Prague, a city under Nazi occupation. She sets up shop as a fortune teller with a pack of Tarot cards. In this guise, she meets Magdalena Schaefferová’s young daughter, Anna. Accused by the Nazis of spying, Natalia is sent to a concentration camp. In April 1945, Natalia and Anna are reunited, and with courage and determination, find the strength to begin again in a changed world.

My Thoughts:

I found this book on NetGalley and am grateful to have been approved a copy. I know that my review is quite late considering that the book was released in April, but then again, better late than never.

Starting with the title, the book intrigued me and I was curious to know what happens. The synopsis also added to growing interest I had in the book. Set in the times before, during and after the WWII, the story follows Natalia as she first travels with her mother to Prague and then later as she navigates life under the Nazi rule. The first half of the story focuses on her, her family and the people they meet on the way including Miklós. The second half of the story introduces us to Anna, the daughter of Magdalena Schaefferová, a doctor whom Natalia had very briefly met many years ago. As the story progresses, their stories intertwine and diverge based on the situations they end up in.

The historical aspect of the story is spot on and I enjoyed reading about how Europe changed. The author also touches upon the horrors during WWII, families being torn apart and the loss that people dealt with. This was quite sad but very well portrayed. At some points the story became confusing for me as it jumped from location to location and character to character.

Also, I read this in many reviews and I agree that it was odd how most of the dialogues were maintained in passive voice. Though it did not bother me as much, it was a new style of writing which I had not encountered much before. In retrospect, I feel that this worked for the way the book was written and still conveyed the points across. I was also not able to correlate the title of the book with the story completely as the focus was on the lives of the people and their experiences during the war.

The characters went through a lot in this story dealing with love, loss, friendship, empathy and so many other things. The author does a good job in pulling the reader into the narrative. This book is a good read for the historical depictions with a focus on Eastern Europe and the enduring nature of the characters in the book!

Book Review: Rescuing Lord Inglewood (Inglewood #1) by Sally Britton

About the Book:

Rescuing Lord Inglewood (Inglewood #1)

All he wants is someone he can trust. All she wants is to belong. But when compromising circumstances force them together, do they have a chance at finding love?

Silas Riley, Earl of Inglewood, is known among his peers in Parliament as the man made of stone. As a wealthy peer, there are few he trusts with his friendship. He guards his heart and his honor with vigilance, and when an accident nearly takes his life, he’s faced with a situation which threatens his standing in society.

Growing up in the shadow of her older brother, Esther Fox’s acceptance in his circle has been indifferent at best. So when she ends up in a compromising situation as she saves the life of her brother’s dearest friend, the Earl of Inglewood, she is forced to marry him to save her own reputation. Once again, she finds herself accepted only because of the situation, and not because she is truly wanted.

Neither are prepared for a loss which further complicates their new relationship. With such a difficult beginning, can they ever hope to understand one another, let alone find love?

My Thoughts:

A pleasant read, Rescuing Lord Inglewood follows Esther Fox as she navigates high society in the absence of her older brother and is forced to marry his best friend, the Earl of Inglewood to preserve her reputation. What ensues is a series of events that could either bring the two together or force them further apart.

In the wake of loss and devastation, Esther has to find her way back to herself and hopefully find love in the process with a whole lot of understanding. She has to work hard to crack through the façade that Silas riley portrays in the hopes of forging a better relationship.

I enjoyed watching the characters grow and find their place in the lives of others. The author has done a great job with the plot and the characters. The story is well-written and a quick and enjoyable read! This is a must read for fans of romance.

 

Book Review: Summer of L.U.C.K. by Laura Segal Stegman

I was provided with a copy of the book by the author in exchange for an honest review. Read on to know more about the books and my thoughts.

Summer of L.U.C.K.

 

Summer of L.U.C.K., a magical middle grade fantasy novel for ages 8 to 12 by Laura Segal Stegman, was released by INtense Publications on September 15, 2020, and will be followed by a sequel in 2021. Stegman is a Los Angeles-based arts publicist and author. Summer of L.U.C.K. is her debut, and it is available wherever books are sold.

THE STORY

Summer of L.U.C.K. is about three kids finding their way to self-acceptance with the help of a ghost who haunts a magical carnival.

View Book Trailer on YouTube HERE

Stuttering Darby is never perfect enough for her mother. Justin’s been silent since his dad died. Naz is struggling to learn English. But after they meet at summer camp, mysterious calliope music from an abandoned warehouse grants them power to communicate without words. When they sneak inside, the dark, empty space bursts into a magical carnival. They’re greeted by the ghost of Leroy Usher, who asks for their help convincing his family to restore the carnival to its former glory. In return, he promises to teach the kids how to find their voices.

As Darby, Justin, and Naz are swept off on a series of midnight adventures via Mr. Usher’s carnival rides, they discover they’re capable of more than they ever imagined. With each challenge, their confidence in communicating – and in themselves – grows. Meanwhile, they scheme to persuade the Usher family to revive the carnival. But when Darby’s bunkmates trick her into starring in the camp talent show, her budding confidence falters. Can she risk being less than perfect by performing in the show and speaking up to Mr. Usher’s resistant son? If not, she’ll put the carnival in danger and sabotage her most important quest: to believe in herself, stutter and all.

CONTACT:

INtense Publications
Laura Segal Stegman
Twitter: @LauraStegman
Instagram: @laura_stegman
Facebook: LauraSegalStegmanAuthor

My Thoughts:

Summer of L.U.C.K. is a wonderful story that focuses on three children and their problems. Darby speaks with a stutter and has a low self-esteem. Naz moves to America from Morocco and is trying to learn to speak English and mingle with children his age while dealing with missing his father. Justin is dealing with the loss of his father and his inability to voice his feelings or talk about his situation.

The three of them meet at summer camp, brought together by mysterious music that only the three of them seem to hear. On investigating, they end up at the adjoining property which used to be a carnival. The author brings to us a mix of magic and delight in this book as the children meet with the ghost of Mr. Leroy Usher, the owner of the carnival. Spurred into trying to save him and reunite him with his wife, the children are forced to confront their problems and try to come out of them, try to move forward and grow.

This is a story with a strong message which is woven very well into the story. The focus is on self-discovery and healing as well as forging friendships and creating bonds. A story of learning, the author brings to us a delightful set of characters who overcome their fears and inhibitions to help a whole lot of people including themselves! The story also pushes the reader to imagine a world of magic and all possibilities as anything can happen if you just believe.

This book is a great read not just for children, but for adults too! I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and I hope everyone else does too!

Book Review: Aunt Ivy’s Cottage by Kristin Harper

About the Book:

Clearing out the attic, Zoey opens the carved trunk and smiles as she picks up the small, leather-bound diary hiding inside. Curious, she leafs through the pages, and realises this will change everything…

All Zoey’s happiest childhood memories are of her great-aunt Ivy’s rickety cottage on Dune Island, snuggling up with hot chocolate and hearing Ivy’s stories about being married to a sea captain. Now, heartbroken from a breakup, Zoey escapes back to the island, but is shocked to find her elderly aunt’s spark fading. Worse, her cousin—next in line to inherit the house—is pushing Ivy to move into a nursing home.

With the family clashing over what’s best for Ivy, Zoey is surprised when Nick, a local carpenter and Ivy’s neighbor, takes her side. As Zoey finds comfort in his sea-blue eyes and warm laugh, the two grow close. Together, they make a discovery in the attic that links the family to the mysterious and reclusive local lighthouse keeper…

Now Zoey has a heartbreaking choice to make. Nick’s urging her to share the discovery, which could keep Ivy in the house she’s loved her whole life… but when Zoey learns that Nick and her cousin go way back, she questions if the man she‘s starting to have feelings for really has Ivy’s best interests at heart. Will dredging up this old secret destroy the peace and happiness of Ivy’s final years—and tear this family apart for good?

A stunning and emotional read about old secrets, new love and never forgetting the importance of family. Perfect for fans of Mary Ellen Taylor, Robyn Carr and Mary Alice Monroe.

About the author:
Ever since she was a young girl, there were few things Kristin Harper liked more than creative writing and spending time on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, with her family. Eventually (after a succession of jobs that bored her to tears), she found a way to combine those two passions by becoming a women’s fiction author whose stories occur in oceanside settings. While Kristin doesn’t live on the Cape year-round, she escapes to the beach whenever she can.

 

My Thoughts:

I would like to thank the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with a free ARC of the book in exchange for my honest review. Having read Summer at Hope Haven, I was immediately interested in reading this upcoming novel by the author.

This book is another simple beach read that can be read in one sitting, but will tug at the heart-strings much more than the previous book did. This story explores the concepts loss and the importance of family and support. Once again at Dune Island, we visit Aunt Ivy’s cottage, a place that holds so many memories across generations. We meet Zoey, who comes to stay with her great-aunt Ivy and to take care of her while everyone is dealing with the grief of losing great-aunt Sylvia. Ivy’s character is interesting, but we only ever see her lost in the past and repeating stories of times long gone.

Mark, Zoey’s cousin, is at odds with everyone and has a different view on how Ivy should be taken care of causing the cousins to be on opposite ends. Throw into the mix memories of Zoey’s sister who passed away due to illness and her niece, the only remaining part of her sister and we are in for an emotion filled ride. It is wonderful to read about the bond between Zoey and her niece, how they help each other heal.

However, the story line does not completely flow the way the synopsis suggests which is a little disappointing. The focus in the story is more on remodeling Aunt Ivy’s house and taking care of her. There is an element of mystery as Mark’s claim to inherit the cottage is under question. Even though this is suggested to be of importance, it takes a backseat as the story progresses until the end. There is also a budding romantic angle between Zoey and the carpenter that is pushed to the background and develops slowly not being the central focus of the story. The story does slow down in between, but there are many parts that are very enjoyable, including the references to the characters from the author’s previous book.

Overall this is a pleasant read albeit sad at times and is worth picking up for all fans of Romance out there!

 

Blog-tour stops and dates:

In Conversation with Ronald Crouch

I have the pleasure of hosting author Ronald Crouch on the blog. I recently read his first book, a middle grade adventure book titled Beyond Belief: The Adventure Begins.

The book truly is the beginning of an adventure for people of all ages and has an educational aspect to it.

Read on to know more about Ron and his experiences with writing this book.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I am a child psychologist, married 22 years, and I am the father of a little critical thinker who constantly fact-checks me and asks for evidence. That’s both wonderful and a lot of work. He keeps me on my toes. We are Americans but we live in Germany, where I work at a hospital. We live in a tiny little village on the edge of the black forest, which can be pretty spooky. We bought an old church and we are rehabbing it into a house, which can also be pretty spooky. It is a good thing that we like spooky.

What prompted you to start writing?

For my son’s tenth birthday I looked for a fun adventure story that had the themes he loved and which we often talked about in our family. Themes like critical thinking, cognitive biases, psychology, and being skeptical. It is something we have really emphasized for our son because the world seems to have transitioned from an information age into a misinformation age, and as parents we felt we have to prepare our kid for that. But when I looked for middle reader books with these themes there wasn’t anything that I could find that really dug into these topics and talked about them directly in the context of a fun story. I had a good idea of what an age-appropriate adventure story with those themes would be like. So I thought it would be fun to write one. I always wanted to write for kids, and so this was the perfect excuse to pursue that dream while meeting what I think is an important need.

How did the book “Beyond Belief: The Adventure Begins” happen?

Because the book was originally a birthday gift for my son, I thought about what would be fun for him to read; what would make him excited. I remembered that before moving to Germany, when we lived in Washington, one of our favorite things to do was take what we called “critical thinking field trips.” We had this book, Weird Washington, and he would look up places where strange things were happening, choose a place, and then we would go on a road trip to investigate it. He absolutely loved it. For example, we visited a place called “gravity hill” just outside Prosser, Washington. It is one of those hills where cars are supposed to run uphill. And you know what? It worked! It really seemed like the car was rolling up the hill. But he figured out that the hill was very slight and that the wind was blowing strongly up the hill. We tested his idea by opening the car doors and using them like sails. If it was the wind, we thought, then the car would roll faster with the doors open. And it turned out it did. Afterward, we had lunch in Prosser and he told the story of that adventure to folks at the pizza parlor with so much excitement and pride. I kept thinking of that excitement and pride when I was coming up with the scenes and places in the book. I wanted the main character to feel that, and hopefully, the reader might catch a little of that too. 

Why did you choose to write middle-grade fiction?

I primarily work with children ages 6 to 13. I really enjoy the way their imaginations work and the things that fascinate that age group. Thanks to my work I also have a good sense of what they wish for and what developmental conflicts they have. So writing for that age group felt like a natural choice for me.

What is the ideal target age group for this book?

I think that most children from 8 to 12 will enjoy this book. But it isn’t too scary, so precocious young readers can enjoy it too. But to be totally honest, my ideal target group is actually adults! That is because I really want parents to read this book to their children so that they can have conversations about critical thinking, cognitive biases, and deeper things like how we know what is true. So sprinkled throughout the book are scenes and characters that I hope adults will love and find funny.

Why choose to write about paranormal investigation?

A paranormal investigation is a perfect thing for middle-grade readers because they have one foot in the world of a child and one foot in the world of an adolescent. For them, ghosts and scary things might still be real, but reality is coming into focus with each passing day. Part of the developmental task for this age group is to make that transition from the spooky world of magical thinking into a world that is grounded in reality. It is a hard transition to make. A big part of it is investigating, asking questions, testing assumptions, and finding how the world really works. So a paranormal investigation team seemed like a natural choice. Plus, I thought it was a lot of fun to write about.

How important do you think it is for children to start to relate to and understand psychology?

It is so much more important than most people understand. Psychology is all about knowing why we feel, think, and act the way that we do. If you listen to the kinds of questions that kids ask their parents and teachers, many of them are about exactly these things. The nice thing about psychology is that it actually has some answers to these questions that make sense and are rooted in science. If you give those to your kids then they can better understand themselves and others. 

How old would you say the main character is?

I purposely left that vague in the book so that kids could make the character the age that want him to be. I know that most young readers like to follow the adventures of a kid who is slightly older than themselves. But in my mind, he is ten because that is the age of my son and that is who that character really is to me.

How much research went into the writing of this book?

Most of the research went into studying the places and scenes where the book takes place. For example, there is a scene that takes place at the McMinnville UFO festival in Oregon. This is a festival that takes place once a year. Even though I have been to McMinnville, I have not been to the festival. So for my research, I got to watch hours of hijinks from the festival online. It was actually a lot of fun.

How easy or difficult was it to write this book and create the characters for it?

I found that it was surprisingly easy, and I think that is because these characters are all people that I know already, and they are either close family or famous people who inspire me. For instance, I based the character of Uncle Freeman on James “The Amazing” Randi, who sadly just passed away. I have read so much about him, watched hours of his magic acts and TED talks, and so when I wrote that character it was simple to do. Uncle Freeman was already a character in my life, so to speak. 

How much does your day to day life inspire your characters?

It has a big effect on my characters. The things that I hear my son say, the kinds of questions children ask in my work, the research I read on psychology for my job each day, all these things come together to make my characters come to life. 

How much time do you spend on your writing on average per day?

It varies considerably. I find that if I don’t write for at least half an hour a day then I begin to lose momentum in my writing and it starts to get hard to get back into the story when I return to it. But when I’m in the thick of writing I can spend five or six hours at a time really digging in. As a parent that is hard to do, and it means a lot of negotiating with my wife. Luckily, after 22 years of marriage, I have a lot of support from her.

What do you like best about writing a story?

This is the first book I’ve written, and what I have discovered is that, although writing is work and you have to discipline yourself to do it, I actually have a lot of fun coming up with the twists and turns in the story. That sense of fun is the thing I enjoyed the most and it is one of the things I look for now when I’m writing. I’m almost finished with the next book in the series and I used that emotional sense of whether I’m having fun writing it as a kind of north star guiding my process.

What kind of impact do your stories have on you?

This story brought me a lot of joy because it connected me to a lot of new people. Since publishing it I have heard from children that have read it that they love the book and can’t wait for the next one. One parent reached out and said that her son couldn’t stop talking about the book. Another said that her teenage son had “his mind blown” by how fun psychology could be. I laughed a lot at that one. I had a teacher in the states contact me because she wanted the children in her class to read the book and talk about its themes. We are trying to set up an online book reading for them, which I’m really excited about. I didn’t know how much those connections would mean to me, but I have really cherished them. For the next book in the series, I’ve reached out to these young fans and offered them a look at the next book. I’ve even had some of them become early readers, giving me their feedback. I think the value of that connection, and that chance it gives me to foster confidence and a love of reading in children, has been the most important thing for me. 

What do you do when you aren’t writing?

I am working on turning a former church into a proper home. That is a big job. When I’m not writing I’m often fixing old doors, building bookshelves, installing plumbing, or trying to get fifty-year-old lights to work. I also do a lot of hiking around the black forest, and I have a feeling that at least one book in this series is going to happen there.

Finally, what message do you want to share with us readers?

My message to readers, especially parents reading to their children, is don’t stop the conversation when you reach the end of the book. Use it as a springboard to learn more about critical thinking, psychology, and science. I know that children are naturally hungry to learn more about these things if they learn them through a story or with a parent. Keep the discussion going. That is really important because there is no sign that the misinformation out there is going to let up anytime soon. This book can be a chance to start the process of protecting your kids from it by teaching them to stay skeptical and think critically. And that is my final message: stay skeptical and think critically!

Book Review – Beyond Belief: The Adventure Begins by Ron Crouch

About the Book:

 

Kenai’s parents taught him critical thinking skills before they disappeared. That was handy, because now he needs them.

He needs them right now because he is having a very strange night. He’s being chased by Men In Black. Weird. He is lost in a pitch black museum after hours. Definitely unusual. And, he doesn’t know it yet, but he will soon find himself breaking into a hidden safe in a haunted hotel. Not your normal evening. And the strangest things are yet to come. But that is the kind of thing that happens when you are the youngest ever investigator for “Beyond Belief,” the world’s premier debunker of the paranormal. Together with his Uncle Freeman and a very special drone named Tinkerbell, Kenai chases after werewolves, hunts ghosts, tracks sasquatch, and busts scammers at their game. But he is about to set out on his greatest adventure yet: finding his parents!

 

My Thoughts:

I was provided with a copy of the book by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Beyond Belief: The Adventure Begins is the first in the series and also the first book written by author Ron Crouch. The book is mainly for children in middle school, introducing them to an adventure filled ride! Through this story, the author stresses on the concepts of critical thinking and the importance of asking questions. Inquisitiveness is not always a bad thing.

The story follows Kenai, as he travels with his uncle while looking for his missing parents. Throughout his journey we are introduced to different kinds of people and places. There is an element of paranormal activity and this contributes to the mystery around.

The story is written in a simple manner and is easy to understand. Another aspect of the book that I enjoyed was the focus on psychology and a child’s perspective of the same. I also understand that it is important for children to have some idea about psychology and to learn to ask questions. It is not always right to just accept things as they are told to us. Consequently, I think this book is also a good fit for adults as it gives a perspective on guiding children towards critical thinking and similar concepts.

This is a fun filed adventure which has all the elements of a wonderful story as well as a strong message!

Book Review: Winter of the Wolf by Martha Hunt Handler

I received a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

About the Book:

Winter of the Wolf by Martha Hunt Handler

A tragic mystery blending sleuthing and spirituality

​An exploration in grief, suicide, spiritualism, and Inuit culture, Winter of the Wolf follows Bean, an empathic and spiritually evolved fifteen-year-old, who is determined to unravel the mystery of her brother Sam’s death. Though all evidence points to a suicide, her heart and intuition compel her to dig deeper. With help from her friend Julie, they retrace Sam’s steps, delve into his Inuit beliefs, and reconnect with their spiritual beliefs to uncover clues beyond material understanding.

Both tragic and heartwarming, this twisting novel draws you into Bean’s world as she struggles with grief, navigates high school dramas, and learns to open her heart in order to see the true nature of the people around her. Winter of the Wolf is about seeking the truth—no matter how painful—in order to see the full picture.

In this novel, environmentalist and award-winning author, Martha Handler, brings together two important pieces of her life—the death of her best friend’s son and her work as president of the Wolf Conservation Center—to tell an empathetic and powerful story with undeniable messages.

My Thoughts:

This book follows the life of Bean (yes, this is a very unusual name for a person and I was surprised with it. I thought it was a nickname.) as she navigates life post her brother’s death. We are given glimpses into the lives of the family members before Sam’s death and of course how they each cope after it. Being closer in age, Bean was very close to Sam, closer than she was to her two older brothers. Sam’s death somehow brings the family together with each person re-discovering and establishing bonds with each other.

Of course, there is some mystery surrounding the death and Bean, troubled as she is by all this, makes it a point to find out the truth . Bean believe that her brother did not commit suicide and if he did, they should have been able to see the signs. The story is quite tragic, filled with lots of grief and some moments of understanding and even happiness. In this myriad of emotions, the author seeks to bring about an awareness of different belief systems, people’s ideas and ideologies. This is an interesting aspect of the plot and was quite an eye opener.

I was a little put off by Bean’s attitude at times, but in retrospect, it was probably a reflection of her grief and coping mechanisms. The story is well-written though a little confusing at times, but it is definitely worth a read! I enjoyed the references to animals and how the author weaves the story around people’s belief systems without sounding like she is preaching. This book is well worth the read especially to admire the bonds of friendship and family that forms the backbone of the plot.