Category Archives: Review

Tales of the Not Forgotten: Review

Tales of the Not ForgottenTales of the Not Forgotten
by Beth Guckenberger
208 pages
Genre: Christian Nonfiction, Middle Grade
Release date: May 1st 2012

Synopsis:

Follow these real-life stories as they take you on a journey to faraway lands and unknown faces. Travel through their challenges and see the hand of the great Storyweaver writing endings you’d never imagine!

Joel dares to ask for what he can’t have. Seraphina sacrifices what she can’t afford to give. Ibrahim looks for an answer buried out of reach. Christiana, saved by a mission, searches for her own.

These are the tales of the ones the world doesn’t see . . . the tales of the not forgotten.

In this collection of four real-life stories written for preteens, a compelling storyteller paints a picture of God’s dynamic movement in four foreign cultures, inspiring children to trust that God is weaving a story in their lives as well.

This resource will shrink the macro picture down to approachable, individual stories of real children and teach about fundamental survival issues. The stories address some of the challenging questions that kids have and weave God’s promises to orphans into each one.

Review:

This book was assigned reading for one month of my course at KidMin academy, but I wanted to review it here because it was just such a great book. In fact I have only had it since April and already I’ve read it, my mother read it and my Grandmother read it twice.

It’s a very easy read and we all practically sat down and read it in one sitting. Besides that you’ll be sucked into the stories and WANT to finish them.

The stories are engaging, engrossing and well written. Although they tell of hardships and struggles they will just charm your socks off. I fell in love with Joel in the first story (also it got me kinda teary eyed.)  I was heartbroken for Seraphina. I was charmed by Ibrahim.  I was encouraged by Christiana.

These four stories are filled with such hope and faith and love that they are bound to both encourage and challenge you.

Bottom Line:

This book is part of the storyweavers series and I can understand why it’s called that. The stories are artfully crafted and a real treat to read. I highly recommend this book.

Goodreads / Amazon

Avery & Blake: Series Review

The Strangler VineThe Strangler Vine
by M.J. Carter
369 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Release date:  January 30th 2014

Synopsis:

Calcutta 1837. The East India Company rules India – or most of it; and its most notorious and celebrated son, Xavier Mountstuart, has gone missing.

William Avery, a down-at-heel junior officer in the Company’s army, is sent to find him, in the unlikely company of the enigmatic and uncouth Jeremiah Blake. A more mismatched duo couldn’t be imagined, but they must bury their differences as they are caught up in a search that turns up too many unanswered questions and seems bound to end in failure.

What was it that so captivated Mountstuart about the Thugs, the murderous sect of Kali-worshippers who strangle innocent travellers by the roadside? Who is Jeremiah Blake and can he be trusted? And why is the whole enterprise shrouded in such secrecy?

In the dark heart of Company India, Avery will have to fight for his very life, and in defence of a truth he will wish he had never learned.

Review:

I read a preview of this book on First to Read and then immediately put the book on hold at the library.

The Strangler Vine is a very good action-adventure story set in colonial British India. I basically sank into this book and lived with the characters for a couple of weeks. (Although glad I wasn’t in the heat and humidity of the jungle with them.)

You get a real feel for “Company India” and the politics that were at play, but not in a boring kind of way. It’s an adventure filled with mystery. As Avery looses his idealism and naivety, I really felt for him, for India, for the ideals and nationalism that thrust so many people into situations they were unprepared to handle. The corruption that was so obvious was also so expertly hidden, there were so many layers to peal back, the answers come late and come hard. I really enjoyed this book.

Goodreads / Amazon

The Infidel StainThe Infidel Stain
by M.J. Carter
357 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Release date: April 30th 2015

Synopsis:

It’s 1841, and three years after we left them at the close of The Strangler Vine, Blake and Avery are reunited in very different circumstances in London. There has been a series of dreadful murders in the slums of the printing district, which the police mysteriously refuse to investigate, and Blake and Avery must find the culprit before he kills again.

Review:

An atmospheric thriller. Once I finished The Strangler Vine and learned there was a second book I checked it out from the library right away.

Although, at first, I wasn’t sure I would like the change of settings from the wilds of India to the grimy back alley’s of London. However, having read the first book, the unease of Blake and Avery at returning to London mirrored my own. Somehow that just worked perfectly within the journey of the story.

You really do sink into these books and travel with the characters. While mystery is not my favorite genre, I’d pick up another Blake and Avery novel any day.

Goodreads / Amazon

The Devils FeastThe Devil’s Feast
by M.J. Carter
432 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Release date: March 28th 2017

Synopsis:

Investigative team Blake and Avery find themselves entangled in a case involving political conflicts, personal vendettas, and England s first celebrity chef.

London, 1842. Captain William Avery is persuaded to investigate a mysterious and horrible death at the Reform, London s newest and grandest gentleman s club a death the club is desperate to hush up. What he soon discovers is a web of rivalries and hatreds, both personal and political, simmering behind the club s handsome facade. At the center is its resident genius, Alexis Soyer, the Napoleon of food, a chef whose culinary brilliance is matched only by his talent for self-publicity.

But Avery is distracted, for where is his mentor and partner in crime Jeremiah Blake? And what if this first death is only a dress rehearsal for something far more sinister?”

Review:

Can the third book in a series be the one to have a sophomore slump?

Most of the disappoint is in the fact that this book spend an awful lot of time with Captain Avery stumbling along trying to solve the mystery without Blake. He’s not a bad character, but the point of have a pair like this is the interaction between the two of them. It’s like trying to enjoy Watson equally by himself when you just know that he is so much more interesting when paired with Sherlock. Avery without Blake just isn’t up to par.

The historical parts of the book are fantastic though! I found myself wondering if the author had also read “Sorting the Beef from the Bull: The Science of Food Fraud Forensics.” So much of what was going on with the science in the book related to the themes in Sorting the Beef from the Bull. Of course I’m always interested in historic fiction that focuses on emerging science.

Also this is one mystery book that had me guessing for a really long time. There were simply too many scoundrels to choose from. Too many who had motive and lacked morals.

I also wish we got to see more of London in this book. The setting is pretty narrow and the books spends the majority of it’s time at the reform. And maybe that’s just nit-picky.

I’m not normally a fan of serial mysteries, and maybe this is why. Maybe after a couple of books I’m just not as interested any more, maybe the shine wears off, maybe I get nit-picky. Maybe.

Goodreads / Amazon

Bottom Line:

I really loved the first Avery and Blake novel The Strangler Vine (esp the setting in India.) The second book, The Infidel Stain, was also pretty good, pretty atmospheric. While still being enjoyable the third book didn’t live up to what I had come to expect after reading the first two.

Review: The Incredible Secrets of Hadley Hill

The Incredible Secrets of Hadley HillThe Incredible Secrets of Hadley Hill
by Tai Stith
272 pages
Genre: Coming of Age, Teen and Young Adult
Publisher: Owl Room Press
Release date: Oct 11, 2017

Book Reviews - Liked ItLiked It

Synopsis:

Content Rating: PG. No profanity or nudity, but some scenes of abuse and some scenes of intense danger.

Fifteen year-old Aribelle Cartwright is uprooted from her native San Francisco when her father gets a job in a different state. Instead of majestic skyscrapers and the urban bustle of the city, Ari has to adjust to the solitude of a rural town.

Right away, Ari notices something is curiously different about the hill her historic home resides on. Complicating matters is the aloof boy next door, Dane, who is nearly as mysterious as Hadley Hill itself. Will Ari be able to break through Dane’s cautious demeanor to discover the incredible secrets of Hadley Hill?

Review:

  • The author is a personal friend of mine and gave me a copy of her book.

The Incredible Secrets of Hadley Hill is a coming of age story mixed with a cozy mystery. When 15 year old Ari moves from San Francisco to a small rural town she has a lot of adjustments to make. Having a whole summer to settle in before her mother and sister arrived she decides to restore the dilapidated old garden at their new home. Soon she meets her mysterious neighbor Dane and begins a new project, helping Dane discover his family heritage and the history of the old house on Hadley Hill.

After such an incredible summer together Ari doesn’t understand the coolness and distance Dane develops when they return to school. To make matters worse, Ari become the target of a mean girl who will go to any length to separate the two.

Hadley Hill deals with some major issues of abandonment, abuse, and bullying and manages to handle them in a realistic and hope filled way.

Ari’s parents are portrayed as supportive and concerned, which is great to see in a YA book.

The book is quietly atmospheric and the descriptions of the house, garden and hill are wonderful. Uncovering the long ago secrets of the hill is a wonderful adventure for the reader. The pace is a little slower than most of what I read, but I think it’s fits within normal for cozy mysteries.

A major plot hole during the first half of the book constantly brought me out of the story. Why is it that a modern 15 year old girl didn’t have a cell phone or access to the internet at home? It drove me crazy. Especially since they were in a new town and she was allowed to bicycle around by herself and often left alone for large chunks of the day. I just can’t imagine a parent today letting their teenage daughter do these things without a phone.

Bottom Line:

It’s a good debut book and an enjoyable read, but the pacing and plot hole mentioned above kept me from really loving it.

Goodreads / Amazon

 

Review: The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly

By Stephanie Oakes
Pages: 400
Date Finished: 8/30/17

LoBook Reviews - Loved Itved It

Synopsis:

The Kevinian cult has taken everything from seventeen-year-old Minnow: twelve years of her life, her family, her ability to trust.

And when she rebelled, they took away her hands, too.

Now their Prophet has been murdered and their camp set aflame, and it’s clear that Minnow knows something—but she’s not talking. As she languishes in juvenile detention, she struggles to un-learn everything she has been taught to believe, adjusting to a life behind bars and recounting the events that led up to her incarceration. But when an FBI detective approaches her about making a deal, Minnow sees she can have the freedom she always dreamed of—if she’s willing to part with the terrible secrets of her past.

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly is a hard-hitting and hopeful story about the dangers of blind faith—and the power of having faith in oneself.

Review:

I made the mistake of reading a free sample of this book. After devouring the first few chapters I had to buy the book so I could keep reading. This book hooks you and then doesn’t let go.

Minnow is a character of contradictions, a survivor who has gone through hell and yet she’s innocent and completely  ignorant of worldly things.  As the story of Minnow unfolds it’s layers, told mostly through flashbacks, I was at times intrigued, horrified, mesmerized and disturbed. Minnow is a puzzle, what happened to her is a puzzle, but why it happened is pretty clear. The mad cult leader, it all comes back to him.

Like her narrative, Minnows mind is twisted. You can’t trust her, but you can’t help but want to trust her. You want her to tell her tale, to share with you the TRUTH behind it all, but you don’t know who Minnow can trust (including herself) and you really don’t want her story ending up in the wrong hands or worse being used against her.

It’s so hard to describe the book without giving away spoilers! (So I’m going to stop here.)

The one thing I’m going to be nit-picky about is the cover. For a book that starts off telling us it’s about a girl who had her hands cut off, it’s pretty weird to see those hands on the cover. It just doesn’t fit the story or the mood of the book.

Bottom Line:

Wow! Wow! Wow! Even for someone like myself who doesn’t usually love psychological thrillers this was a great read. Highly recommended!

Amazon / Goodreads