Gina’s Review: Balm by Dolen Perkinds-Valdez

Balm

Balm
written by Dolen Perkins-Valdez
published by Amistad Press, 2015

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iBooksBook Depository, Goodreads

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange  for an honest review.

Did I enjoy this book: 
This was definitely not one of my favorite books. I don’t know if the author was trying to make the characters unlikeable, but I didn’t like any of them. I thought the story started promising but in the end was too depressing and fell flat. I was bored and ended up just skimming to try and finish it. I had high hopes for this book, but it didn’t leave me feeling much of anything.

everyfree2.5

 

Would I recommend it: Not particularly.

ginasig

About the book – from Goodreads: The Civil War has ended, and Madge, Sadie, and Hemp have each come to Chicago in search of a new life.

Born with magical hands, Madge has the power to discern others’ suffering, but she cannot heal her own damaged heart. To mend herself and help those in need, she must return to Tennessee to face the women healers who rejected her as a child.

Sadie can commune with the dead, but until she makes peace with her father, she, too, cannot fully engage her gift.

Searching for his missing family, Hemp arrives in this northern city that shimmers with possibility. But redemption cannot be possible until he is reunited with those taken from him.

In the bitter aftermath of a terrible, bloody war, as a divided nation tries to come together once again, Madge, Sadie, and Hemp will be caught up in a desperate, unexpected battle for survival in a community desperate to lay the pain of the past to rest.

Beautiful in its historical atmosphere and emotional depth, Balm is a stirring novel of love, loss, hope, and reconciliation set during one of the most critical periods in American history.

 

 

 

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Story Time with Sara: The Yummy Adventures of Celia & Cedric #1: Amazing Apples by Erin Kurt and Laara Exsnar

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The Yummy Adventures of Celia and Cedric: Amazing Apples! (#1)The Yummy Adventures of Celia & Cedric #1: Amazing Apples
written by Erin Kurt and Laara Exsnar
published: 2015

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, AmazonBook Depository, Goodreads

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange  for an honest review.

Did I enjoy this book: 
This book was not my favorite. There’s a lot of character introduction and background information given, but it sort of overshadowed the story itself. Also, I am the first to admit that I LOVE children’s stories that sneak learning into the story, but here there was no sneaking. In fact, there was no real story. There was no conflict or drama at all. It felt like a flimsy construct created for the sole purpose of delivering random science and health facts about apples. My favorite is how they were sitting at the dinner table and one child comments, “Did you know that apples have boron in them, which helps keep your bones strong?” Followed by, “Mom, can you remind us why Vitamin C is good for us?” I know my kids can totally relate to dialog like this . . . <eye roll> Further, the cover states that this is a “Read and Bake” series, so I was expecting there to be a recipe for the Apple Cake Celia and her Mom baked. I did not find it. It actually sounded yummy and I was interested in baking it with my kid . . . perhaps it was just missing from the file I was sent for this review. I think there may have been a formatting problem because there were no illustrations either.

everyfree2.5

Would I recommend it: Uh, as of right now I would say not really. I want to read some of the other books in the series and see how the characters and the stories pan out. I think the premise is a really cool idea, so I would be willing to give the series another shot, but I was really not a fan of this particular book.

sarasig

About the book – from Goodreads: Celia is bored. And with everyone in her family busy she doesn’t know what to do…until her dad gives her a task that leads to her best day ever; the day she meets Cedric and their yummy adventures begin!

 

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Guest Review: The Last Original Wife by Dorothea Benton Frank

The Last Original Wife

The Last Original Wife 
written by Dorothea Benton Frank
published by William Morrow, 2013

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iBooks, Book Depository, Goodreads

Did I enjoy this book: 
Looking for a good, undemanding, beachy read? Dorothea Benton Frank’s The Last Original Wife is a great choice. A southern tale of marriage gone stale and a woman’s search for her roots, The Last Original Wife entertained me without making me dig. I enjoyed it.

Leslie is the last of her friends to be married to her first husband, Wesley—oh, yes: Leslie and Wesley: how’s that for cute? But some neglect on Wesley’s part segues into betrayal by omission: Leslie discovers her husband has neglected to mention the 22 million he squirreled away in their joint bank account.

How come I never have that kind of problem? 

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Would I recommend it: If you like a good vicarious tale of come-uppence with a dash of gentle romance, you’ll enjoy The Last Original Wife.  It is a non-taxing, feel-good summer read.

 

~ Pam, guest reviewer & EFC Short Story Contest Winner ~

 

About the book – from Book Depository: Experience the sultry Southern atmosphere of Atlanta and the magic of the Carolina Lowcountry in this funny and poignant tale of one audacious woman’s quest to find the love she deserves. Leslie Anne Greene Carter is The Last Original Wife among her husband Wesley’s wildly successful Atlanta social set. But if losing her friends to tanned and toned young Barbie brides isn’t painful enough, a series of setbacks shake Les’s world and push her to the edge. She’s had enough of playing the good wife to a husband who thinks he’s doing her a favor by keeping her around. She’s going to take some time for herself–in the familiar comforts and stunning beauty of Charleston, her beloved hometown. And she’s going to reclaim the carefree girl who spent lazy summers with her first love on Sullivans Island. Daring to listen to her inner voice, she will realize what she wants . . . and find the life of which she’s always dreamed.The Last Original Wife is an intoxicating tale of family, friendship, self-discovery, and love that is as salty as a Lowcountry breeze and as invigorating as a dip in Carolina waters on a sizzling summer day.

 

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Melissa’s Review: The End of Violet and Abby by Scott Silver

The End of Violet and Abby

The End of Violet and Abby 
written by Scott Silver
published by Createspace, 2014

find it here: (affiliate links) Amazon, Goodreads

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange  for an honest review.

Did I enjoy this book: 
I devoured it. I may have served raisins and string cheese for dinner so I didn’t have to stop reading to cook (my husband wasn’t as excited as my three-year-old). It’s fun and funny with a little bit of romance and a little bit of gore: the perfect rainy Saturday read.

I’ve only got one issue: I hate it when writers change the names of pop culture shows (actors/books/etc.) and use them as plot devices. Dude. First of all, I know you’re talking about Buffy, and second of all—your book would be better without it! You don’t need to fall back on someone else’s cool ideas. Yours are just as cool. Honestly, I’d cut out all the thinly veiled references to the shows you know your audience is watching. You don’t need them.

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Would I recommend it: Absolutely. And if for some reason you feel the need to watch something Joss Whedon worked on when you’re done, well. . . you’re not alone. =)

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About the book – from Goodreads: 
Violet and Abby pledged to stay best friends forever, a vow put to the ultimate test when Violet dies in a tragic accident—and comes back. Now boys are turning up dead, attacked by a creature both alien, and terrifyingly familiar and Abby is beginning to suspect that her best friend may have returned…different. Funny and heartbreaking, ‘The End of Violet and Abby’ combines the sharp observations of Mean Girls with the sarcastic wit of Buffy the Vampire Slayer to tell the story of two young women struggling to save their friendship—and each other—from an ancient evil that threatens everything they love.

 

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Guest Review: Burnt Mountain by Anne Rivers Siddons

Burnt Mountain

Burnt Mountain 
written by Anne Rivers Siddons
published by Grand Central Publishing, 2010

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iBooksBook Depository, Goodreads

Did I enjoy this book: 
Vile, unbelievable betrayal. Redemption . . . by a long circuitous, hard-won route. Throw in some intriguing, deceiving characters, a sea-soaked southern setting, and, oh yes, I enjoyed Anne Rivers Siddons’ Burnt Mountain. It’s a great beachy read!

This book entwines the reader in the culture of the Lowcountry, in languorous, humid days, in selective elite girls’ schools, in the world of summer camps.  Thayer, the main character, is both victim and actor, preyed upon and making choices that set a dizzy tale spinning.  There’s attraction here, and decency; there’s insufferable prejudice, elitism, and misuse of sexual power. There’s exploration of wonderful and horrendous family relationships. There is lust and there is romance.

There’s a belief that the right-hearted will finally win true.

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Would I recommend it: It’s the ideal summer read — satisfying, not too terribly demanding, but compelling. If that’s your idea of an August ‘good read,’ I strongly recommend Burnt Mountain!

~ Pam, guest reviewer & EFC Short Story Contest Winner ~

 

About the book – from Goodreads: From one of our most acclaimed writers comes this dramatic tale of a well-born Southern woman whose life is forever changed by the betrayal of her mother and by the man she loves

Growing up, the only place tomboy Thayer Wentworth felt at home was at her summer camp – Camp Sherwood Forest in the North Carolina Mountains. It was there that she came alive and where she met Nick Abrams, her first love…and first heartbreak.

Years later, Thayer marries Aengus, an Irish professor, and they move into her deceased grandmother’s house in Atlanta, only miles from Camp Edgewood on Burnt Mountain where her father died years ago in a car accident. There, Aengus and Thayer lead quiet and happy lives until Aengus is invited up to the camp to tell old Irish tales to the campers. As Aengus spends less time at home and becomes more distant, Thayer must confront dark secrets-about her mother, her first love, and, most devastating of all, her husband.

 

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Gina’s Review: The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman

The Light Between Oceans

The Light Between Oceans 
written by M. L. Stedman
published by Scribner, 2012

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble (Nook) (print), Amazon, iBooksBook Depository, Goodreads

Did I enjoy this book: Yes.

I started out thinking I would hate it. This book is not fluffy kittens and rainbows; I had a good ugly cry. Any couple that has suffered from infertility and loss of a child, or anyone with a heart, will get emotional reading this book. I sat in bed questioning my parenting and myself. Would I do the same things? Is it wrong? Is it right? Ultimately what I got out of this novel is that love drives us to do all sorts of things. Loss can cause us to feel pain like we have never felt and drive us to live a life we never thought possible.

 

GOLDEN LINES

“When it comes to their kids, parents are all just instinct and hope. And fear.”

 

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Would I recommend it: Yes, I would.

ginasig

About the book – from Goodreads: After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season and shore leaves are granted every other year at best, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby.

Tom, whose records as a lighthouse keeper are meticulous and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel has taken the tiny baby to her breast. Against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them.

M. L. Stedman’s mesmerizing, beautifully written novel seduces us into accommodating Isabel’s decision to keep this “gift from God.” And we are swept into a story about extraordinarily compelling characters seeking to find their North Star in a world where there is no right answer, where justice for one person is another’s tragic loss.

The Light Between Oceans is exquisite and unforgettable, a deeply moving novel.

 

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Story Time with Sara: Soccer Beat by Sandra Gilbert Brug

storytime

Soccer BeatSoccer Beat
written by Sandra Gilbert Brug
published by Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2012

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, AmazonBook Depository, Goodreads

Did I enjoy this book: 
This is a really fun read! I was completely entertained by it, as was my little reader. My whole family enjoyed watching as the various wild animals found themselves in silly positions while playing soccer. I personally enjoyed the verse. The rhyming is appropriate and not at all cutesy-rhymey-rhymey like some children’s books can be. I was also impressed that the wild animals are not all the standard lions, tigers, and bears fare. As a matter of fact, the silly yet still realistic illustrations led to a couple of discussions about what the tapir is and why it looks like he has a super short elephant trunk! My three-year-old appreciated that all the animals were named in the back of the book so we could Google them to find “real life” pictures!

everyfree4

Would I recommend it: I sure would! It’s a quick, fun little read and I certainly wouldn’t mind reading it over and over (which I have . . .)!

 

sarasig

About the book – from Goodreads: On the green two teams are prancing.
Rockets leaping — Cheetahs chancing — Who will win this whirling, twirling, rolling, bouncing soccer game?

 

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Melissa’s Review: Are You Fully Charged? by Tom Rath

Are You Fully Charged?: The 3 Keys to Energizing Your Work and Life

Are You Fully Charged? 
written by Tom Rath
published by Silicon Guild, 2015

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, AmazonBook Depository, Goodreads

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange  for an honest review.

Did I enjoy this book: 
I’m not really a self-help book sort of a gal, but I needed something to read in the tub last night and this seemed like just the sort of light fare I was looking for. There’s nothing earth-shattering in this book (and though I don’t read many self-help books I’ll go ahead and argue there probably isn’t much in them either), but I’ll admit I enjoyed it. It’s always nice to take a moment and review my motivations and goals, and I’ll be darned if Rath didn’t say the same thing my therapist has mentioned to me a few (ahem, zillion) times. Focus on others. Pay attention to the little things. Stay (or get, or be) healthy. Rath’s published a book full of simple, common sense advice and done it in an easy to digest, upbeat way. It’s not getting a place of honor on my bookshelf, but I’m glad I stepped out of my genre comfort zone to give this book a whirl.

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Would I recommend it: If you need a quick little reminder that you are, in fact, in charge of your own life, go for it.

melissasig

About the book – from Goodreads: 
Tom Rath, author of six influential bestsellers, reveals the three keys that matter most for our daily health and well-being, as well as our engagement in our work. Drawing on the latest and most practical research from health, psychology, and economics, this book focuses on changes we can make to create better days for ourselves and others. Are You Fully Charged? will challenge you to stop pursuing happiness and start creating meaning instead, lead you to rethink your daily interactions with the people who matter most, and show you how to put your own health first in order to be your best every day.

 

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Story Time with Sara: Wherever You Are My Love Will Find You by Nancy Tillman

storytime

Wherever You Are My Love Will Find YouWherever You Are My Love Will Find You
written by Nancy Tillman
published by Feiwel & Friends, 2010

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, AmazonBook Depository, Goodreads

Did I enjoy this book:
I adore this book. It was a baby gift for our first child from some dear friends, so we cherished it from the first read. I have to admit I feel like this book was written for the moms and not for children. In fact, I wonder if Nancy Tillman was in the throes of postpartum hormones (you know . . . the ones that cause you to burst into tears at the sight of breakfast cereal commercials . . .) when she wrote this, because dear lord did it just YANK my heart strings as a new mom. For the first six months of my baby’s life I could not read this sweet little book without tearing up. It was like every single stanza was speaking the truth out of my heart about how much I love my little guys and how my love will always be with them “Wherever They Are.” (Alright, even I just threw up in my mouth a little after writing that. Sorry, guys.)

The illustrations are beautiful and magical and fit perfectly with the image of a young mother dreaming about the games her sleeping infant will play when he grows up. They are not, however, very stimulating for small children. Nor are the words. In fact, once my child got old enough to care what I was reading to him this book quickly fell to the bottom his “to read” pile. I don’t care though; I still love it. Re-reading it now, I am reminded of snuggling a soft (not so) little baby in the dimly lit nursery reading bedtime stories and kissing his sweet little head, and that is what this book is for me. So I suppose that is what I love the most about it.
GOLDEN LINE
“If you are still my small babe or you’re all the way grown, my promise to you is you’re never alone.”

 

everyfree4.5

Would I recommend it: I sure would, and I would recommend this as the board book (like we have) rather than the hardback version that I’ve seen (mostly because the hardback version is large and unwieldy while the board book is compact and perfectly sized for reading with a small child snuggled into your lap in a rocking chair). I think this book would make a GREAT gift either for a baby shower or new baby gift. It would also be a good gift for an adult child who is moving away or moving on to a new phase of life. Sometimes just being reminded of how much you are loved and that distance is no challenge for it can really make all the difference in the world! Now, please excuse me while I go spy on my peaceful, quiet sleeping children and kiss their little heads because, dear god, they grow up so fast . . . sniff . . .

sarasig

About the book – from Goodreads:

. . . I wanted you more than you’ll ever know,

so I sent love to follow wherever you go. . . .

Love is the greatest gift we have to give our children. It’s the one thing they can carry with them each and every day.

If love could take shape it might look something like these heartfelt words and images from the inimitable Nancy Tillman. Here is a book to share with your loved ones, no matter how near or far, young or old, they are.

 

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Melissa’s Review: The Universes Inside the Lighthouse by Pam Stucky

The Universes Inside the Lighthouse

The Universes Inside the Lighthouse 
written by Pam Stucky
published by Wishing Rock Press, 2014

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, AmazonGoodreads

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange  for an honest review.

Did I enjoy this book: 
The Universes Inside the Lighthouse reminds me of a Madeline L’Engle book, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s a neat little story, and though the science is a bit wibbly-wobbly, I’m sure young readers won’t mind much. I’m not sure I’d give this a Young Adult label—although the characters are identified as 17- to 18-year-olds, I’d argue they’re written closer to the 12–13 year range. They’re lovely and sweet, but immature. While I’d imagine a 5th grader’s first thoughts about a cute boy might involve planning an arctic honeymoon, I seriously doubt a 17-year-old young woman’s would be quite so G-rated.

I’m hoping the next installments of the series involve some more in-depth characterization to go along with the time-and-universe travel, and I’d love to read them!

everyfree4

Would I recommend it: Madeline L’Engle fans will enjoy this book; pick it up today!

melissasig

About the book – from Goodreads:

Two teenagers on a summer vacation on an unassuming island …
A mysterious girl who appears in photographs taken decades apart …
A science lab set up in a place that exists both nowhere and everywhere …
A storage closet that is far more than it seems …
A parallel Earth, exactly like our own …
A universe made up entirely of ghosts …
An entity that is taking over innocent lives and infiltrating the universes …

Adventure, mystery, travel through space and time to find a man who seeks to rip the universes apart. Reminiscent of A Wrinkle in Time with just a dash of Doctor Who

and it all begins … inside the lighthouse.

“Aliens, infinite universes, ghosts AND time travel … a winning literary combination if ever there was one.” — Just One More Chapter reviews

Seventeen-year-old Emma and her twin brother Charlie think they’re in for a boring summer vacation. That is, until Emma notices something unusual in the lighthouse lobby. Unraveling this mystery proves to be just the beginning of an adventure that will take Emma, Charlie, and their unlikely new friends to distant planets, throughout the multiverse, and to a place where everything is possible … and will ultimately lead Emma to discover the unfathomable powers that reside within her own mind.

“Reminded me of Christopher Pike’s wonderful series Spooksville (one of my all time favourites growing up) …. The plot was full of twists and turns … it was suspenseful and exciting, a perfect children’s adventure story and a compelling read. I would recommend this to anyone with teenagers that enjoy adventure stories of any kind, and I can’t wait for the second in the series.” — Alison, Chapter One Reviews

“I never grew tired of seeing what [the author] might come up with next…. What would it be like to visit other planets? As someone who has often wondered about this, I was intrigued by all of the places that these characters see. Earth is unique in many different ways. It was nice to see this subtly acknowledged before the author went on to show the amazing range of possibilities.I would have liked to visit (almost) all of them.” — Astilbe, Long and Short Reviews”

 

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