Thursday, August 27, 2015

Daughter of Jerusalem by Joan Wolf - Review

Title: Daughter of Jerusalem (Biblical Fiction)
Author: Joan Wolf
Genre: Adult Inspirational Historical Fiction
Length: 320 pages
Publisher: Worthy Publishing
Release Date: April 16, 2013
Source: First Reads

She was a widow, a businesswoman, an adulteress.

In her lifetime, she knew murder, prejudice, and faith. She transformed from a Jewish girl longing for family to one of the closest friends of Jesus of Nazareth—the Son of God.


In this fictionalized story of one of the Bible's most compelling women, New York Times best-selling author Joan Wolf beautifully recreates the history, romance, and tradition of Mary's world. Daughter of Jerusalem follows Mary's life from her first love through her loveless marriage, to the moment she heard of a miracle worker in her own town—and ultimately to the moment she saw Him risen from the dead.

As this inspiring chronicle reminds us, Mary was the first to witness history's greatest moment. She was a woman who sought forgiveness for her sins, and a follower of God who yearned for a deeper faith. She was Jesus' beloved disciple. Read Mary Magdalene's story and find yourself in this remarkable woman's journey to discover the Kingdom of God.

Daughter of Jerusalem really surprised me. Mary Magdalene's life was fascinating. I knew a little about her from church when I was a kid, but Joan Wolf really brought her to life. Her first love, heartbreak and look at what life was really like will hit you hard. Watching as she fell from her beliefs and then struggled to find her place once she found them again was quite inspiring.

Her relationship with Jesus was interesting for me. Having never pictured him as a person you can just walk up to and have a discussion with, the talks they had were incredibly well written and brought both characters to life in a whole new dimension.

I hesitate to call this a Christian book - because there is no preaching or being hit over the head with faith. It is just the story of a woman trying to find her way, and the amazing things she was able to do once she had. Absolutely beautiful.

*This book was received in exchange for an honest review*

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The No-So Itty-Bitty Spiders by Amy Marie Stadelmann - Review

Title: The Not-So Itty-Bitty Spiders (Olive & Beatrix #1)
Author: Amy Marie Stadelmann
Genre: Children's Fantasy
Length: 80 pages
Publisher: Scholastic
Release Date: August 25, 2015
Source: Amazon Vine Program

Meet twin sisters Olive and Beatrix! One is a witch. One is totally not-a-witch.

This series is part of Scholastic's early chapter book line called Branches, which is aimed at newly independent readers. With easy-to-read text, high-interest content, fast-paced plots, and illustrations on every page, these books will boost reading confidence and stamina. Branches books help readers grow!

Twin sisters Olive and Beatrix don't often get along. Olive is "ordinary" and loves science. But Beatrix is a witch! She has a brain full of tricks, and she uses her magic powers to play pranks on Olive and her best friend, Eddie. In this first book, Beatrix ruins Olive and Eddie's latest science project. So Olive and Eddie play a prank on Bea. They rig up a bucket of spiders over her bedroom door. But when the spiders crawl into one of Bea's magic potions...WHAM! Giant spiders are on the loose! These sisters will have to work together to shrink the not-so itty-bitty spiders down to size!

This was a fun mix of magic and science - sort of. The magic really takes over and I wish there had been a little more emphasis on how the science knowlege was able to solve the problems. I'm all for some fun magic in a book, but this one needed just a tad more balance between the two.

That being said, it was the book my son took to bed with him every night for a couple weeks. He loves the pictures and the addition of the giant spiders makes this story appealing to little boys even though it has little girl main characters.

As a parent, I so enjoyed the pet pig. He was just a little sarcastic and it made everything a little more fun to read as an adult.

*This book was received in exchange for an honest review*

Goodreads - Amazon - B&N

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Sparkling Jewel by D.L. Green - Review

Title: Sparkling Jewel (Silver Pony Ranch #1)
Author: D.L. Green   Illustrator: Emily Wallis
Genre: Children's Contemporary
Length: 96 pages
Release Date: August 25, 2015
Source: Amazon Vine Program

Silver Pony Ranch is full of ponies, puppies, and adventure!

This series is part of Scholastic's early chapter book line called Branches, which is aimed at newly independent readers. With easy-to-read text, high-interest content, fast-paced plots, and illustrations on every page, these books will boost reading confidence and stamina. Branches books help readers grow!

Tori is super-excited to spend the summer at Gran's ranch--where there are lots of beautiful ponies! But she is NOT excited to share a room with her younger sister, Miranda. Miranda likes everything pink, and she loves puppies. Tori does not like pink, and she loves ponies. Tori soon falls in love with a rowdy pony named Jewel and she wants to ride her. But Gran says that Jewel is TOO rowdy. Will Tori and Jewel ever get to ride together? And when one of the ranch's puppies goes missing, can Miranda and Tori find the puppy and bring him back home?

This was a cute story, but I had some problems with it being inconsistent with the illustrations. The dog is referred to as a collie, but looks nothing like one. It looks more like Benji in my opinion. Every time the dog is mentioned, which was fairly often, this bothered me more and more. 

I did enjoy the story about Tori and Jewel though. Tori is in love with the pony, but has to earn the privilege of riding the feisty pony. Tori and her sister have a few incidents while at Gran's ranch, but they do their best to pitch in and help out. A cute story, but it needed just a little more work.

*This book was received in exchange for an honest review*

Monday, August 24, 2015

Great Reef Games by Kristin Earhart - Review

Title: Great Reef Games (Race the Wild #2)
Author: Kristin Earhart
Genre: Children's Adventure
Length: 144 page
Publisher: Scholastic Paperbacks
Release Date: April 28, 2015
Source: Self-Purchased
Rating: 3 Stars

Sage is used to being the fastest runner, the quickest climber, and the strongest swimmer around. And she's also used to taking charge. But when the second race course has the red team diving underwater to explore the Great Barrier Reef, it's trusting her teammates that matters most.

It's sink or swim time....

Each chapter in this action-packed adventure series is bursting with totally true facts about wild and wonderful creatures, dangerous habitats, maps, and more!

This was a fun adventure, but it seemed to stall a little bit a few times. In this episode of Race the Wild, Sage is struggling with some issues that I'm not sure if most children would understand. However, for those dealing with a ill or injured family member, this would be a great book to explore some of those emotions. Sage is distracted and a few times misses important things that could cost her team the lead. Having been the strong leader in the past, she is scared to open up and show weakness.

In the same fashion as the previous Race the Wild, we do get to see and explore a fun new ecosystem. I'm really loving the animal facts and even I learned a few interesting things myself. Kids will love these facts which are presented as fast little "commercials" from the regular story.

A fun ecosystem to explore and some great moments of discovery make this a really great story. I just worry that Sage's issues may not ring with everyone in the target audience.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Secret of the Water Dragon by Tracey West - Review

Title: Secret of the Water Dragon (Dragon Masters #2)
Author: Tracey West
Genre: Children's Fantasy
Length: 96 pages
Release Date: February 25, 2015
Source: Self-Purchased

Drake and the rest of the Dragon Masters are back for another adventure!

This series is part of Scholastic's early chapter book line called Branches, which is aimed at newly independent readers. With easy-to-read text, high-interest content, fast-paced plots, and illustrations on every page, these books will boost reading confidence and stamina. Branches books help readers grow!

In this third book in the series, someone is trying to steal the Dragon Stone. Drake soon discovers that the thief is his friend and fellow Dragon Master, Bo! Could the dark wizard somehow be behind this? The Dragon Masters must find a way to protect the Dragon Stone--and keep Bo's family out of danger. Will the secret to solving their problems lie with Bo's dragon, Shu? Drake is about to find out!

This series is one of my son's favorites. The dragons are all so unique and somewhat mirror their dragon master's personalities. They all work together very well and in each story they have a new adventure featuring a different dragon. In book three we get to learn more about Shu the water dragon and find out what type of unique power he has.

The book is very engaging - even as a parent I was drawn into the story. There are just enough pictures for younger readers while still keeping a detailed plot line. I have really enjoyed learning about all the dragons. Up next is the fire dragon and I bet it will be very exciting.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Remember Mia by Alexandra Burt - Review

Title: Remember Mia
Author: Alexandra Burt
Genre: Adult Mystery, Thriller
Length: 352 pages
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: July 7, 2015
Rating: 5
Source: Amazon Vine Program

Like Girl on the Train and Gone GirlRemember Mia is a riveting psychological suspense, exploring what happens when a young mother’s worst nightmare becomes devastatingly real…

First I remember the darkness.
Then I remember the blood.
I don’t know where my daughter is.

Estelle Paradise wakes up in a hospital after being found near dead at the bottom of a ravine with a fragmented memory and a vague sense of loss. Then a terrifying reality sets in: her daughter is missing.

Days earlier, Estelle discovered her baby’s crib empty in their Brooklyn apartment. There was no sign of a break-in, but all traces of seven-month-old Mia had disappeared. Her diapers, her clothes, her bottles—all gone. 

Frustrated and unable to explain her daughter’s disappearance, Estelle begins a desperate search. But when the lack of evidence casts doubt on her story, Estelle becomes the number one suspect in the eyes of the police and the media.

As hope of reuniting with Mia becomes all she has left, Estelle will do anything to find answers: What has she done to her baby? And what has someone else done to her?

This is one of the best books I've read all year. It's probably the best mystery/thriller I've read ever. It grips you from page one and takes you for a ride that you will never forget. I went from being suspicious of Estelle, to feeling pity for Estelle, to being convinced she was a murderer, and back through it all over again. 

We watch the mystery unfold as Estelle slowly begins to remember what happened to her daughter. This is not one you will be able to solve on your own. You don't have all the information, just like Estelle doesn't have all the memories. So I was very excited every time she had even a small break through and I found out a little bit more about what happened to Mia.

This isn't just a psychological book. There are some serious more physical moments that we re-live with Estelle as she remember them. My heart races, I wanted to cry, I wanted to scream, I wanted to give her a hug and tell her to keep fighting and not give up.

It's been a very long time since I was so emotionally involved in a story. You do not want to miss one!!!

*This book was received in exchange for an honest review*

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Storm and Steel by Jon Sprunk - Review

Title: Storm and Steel (The Book of the Black Earth #2)
Author: Jon Sprunk
Genre: Adult Fantasy
Length: 479 pages
Release Date: June 2, 2015
Source: Amazon Vine Program

An empire at war. Three fates intertwined.

The Magician. Horace has destroyed the Temple of the Sun, but now he finds his slave chains have been replaced by bonds of honor, duty, and love. Caught between two women and two cultures, he must contend with deadly forces from the unseen world.

The Rebel. Jirom has thrown in his lot with the slave uprising, but his road to freedom becomes ever more dangerous as the rebels expand their campaign against the empire. Even worse, he feels his connection with Emanon slipping away with every blow they strike in the name of freedom.

The Spy. Alyra has severed her ties to the underground network that brought her to Akeshia, but she continues the mission on her own. Yet, with Horace’s connection to the queen and the rebellion’s escalation of violence, she finds herself treading a knife’s edge between love and duty.

Dark conspiracies bubble to the surface as war and zealotry spread across the empire. Old alliances are shattered, new vendettas are born, and all peoples—citizen and slave alike—must endure the ravages of storm and steel.

You must read book one of this series or you will be totally lost. The book picks up shortly after book one ends with Horace, Alyra, and Jirom somehow ending up on all different sides of the politics. Horace finds his loyalties split and his lack of confidence is beginning to effect his Zoana and his ability to use it. I expected a little bit more out of Horace. Throughout much of the story he is just confused and ineffective.

The slave rebellion, led by Jirom and Emanon, is finally gaining ground. But they know that eventually they will have to face their friend Horace. No one is sure how this will end up, but other political powers are set on doing anything and sacrificing anyone to put the revolt down.

Alyra is another character that seemed confused throughout the story. I loved her dedication and how set in her beliefs she was in book one, but she's changed a lot. She rides the fence a lot more often now, while somehow still seeming to be set in her ways. Towards the end I got a glimpse of the book one Alyra coming back and I really hope that carries over into book three.

Once again, Jon Sprunk has given us a very epic tale. We have magic, strange creatures, politics, and empires are competing against each other. Loyalties are not always clear, and you can never be too sure who you friends are. There are epic battles that can destroy cities, and as an empire rises and falls again, I never really knew where it was going to take me next.

*This book was received in exchange for an honest review*

Monday, August 10, 2015

Mine to Spell by Janeal Falor - Review

Title: Mine to Spell (Mine #2)
Author: Janeal Falor
Genre: Young Adult/New Adult Fantasy
Length: 338 pages
Release Date: May 5, 2015
Source: Self-Purchased

Cynthia has always hidden from her father’s hexes behind her older sister. When her family gains independence unheard of for women, she’s relieved that her days of harsh punishments are over. But as her seventeenth birthday approaches—the typical age to be sold to a new master—death threats endanger her sisters. She now faces two options: run or meet society’s expectations.

For once, Cynthia isn’t going to let her older sister shield her from the problem. She’s going to prove to herself, her sisters, and society that her family isn’t a threat to their traditions. She willingly chooses to be purchased by a new master. A bold step that takes her somewhere she never thought she would go and to a man she might possibly fall in love with. With his help, she may just find a way to save her sisters while discovering how to stand up for herself. If she lives long enough.

Mine to Spell is book two in the Mine series set in Chardonia - a country whose women are slaves and must obey every whim of their warlock masters. I briefly met Cynthia in the first book, she is Serena's younger sister and next in line to be sold. Seeming to accept her fate, she launches herself into the process only to find herself becoming a victim to one of the warlock's darkest secrets.

Using a secret of her own, she manages to gain her freedom - and lands herself in another mess. Cynthia seems to be great at finding herself in a mess. But she's determined to prove she can find her own way out.

Most of the story revolves around the quickly disintegrating situation for women in Chardonia and Cynthia's fight to prove they are just as good as the warlocks. But along the way she does find a bit of romance. It's not the main part of the story, but an important element as Cythina grows and develops her secret - I really want to tell you all what it is, but that would completely ruin the big reveal in the book.

I'm excited to see what happens next to the women of Chardonia. I saw that book three, Mine to Fear, is coming out this month, and I think it will going into my cart as soon as I see it in paperback. While each individual story may not have a 5 star rating, this world Janeal Falor has created is addictive.