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review 2018-03-06 14:58
The Space Between Words by Michele Phoenix
The Space Between Words - Michele Phoenix

When Jessica regains consciousness in a French hospital on the day after the Paris attacks, all she can think of is fleeing the site of the horror she survived. But Patrick, the steadfast friend who hasn’t left her side, urges her to reconsider her decision. Worn down by his insistence, she reluctantly agrees to follow through with the trip they’d planned before the tragedy. During a stop at a country flea market, Jessica finds a faded document concealed in an antique. As new friends help her to translate the archaic French, they uncover the story of Adeline Baillard, a young woman who lived centuries before—her faith condemned, her life endangered, her community decimated by the Huguenot persecution. 

Determined to learn the Baillard family’s fate, Jessica retraces their flight from France to England, spurred on by a need she doesn’t understand. Could this stranger who lived three hundred years before hold the key to Jessica’s survival?




American tourist Jessica is recovering in a Paris hospital in November of 2015, the day after the Paris attacks.


"Did a lot of people die?" I asked. I had to know.


The nurse nodded, and I saw tears in her eyes too. "Many," she said. Then she took a deep breath and added, "But many survived." She patted my hand where it still gripped her wrist. "I know you are americaine, but you are French now too."



Trying to heal from the injuries she sustained as an attendee of the death metal concert, Jessica is encouraged by friend Patrick to return to their apartment in town to continue her recovery. As time passes and she begins to show signs of physical strength returning, she feels compelled to return to the States, but Patrick thinks it would be good for her, mentally, to go on with their trip as planned. He stays insistent through her many refusals until he eventually wears her down and she agrees to his idea. 


There was a muddiness to mature adult friendships -- the expectation that they would lead to something more. That they should. And after that night, with our relationship more clearly defined, we'd moved forward more freely, autonomous and intertwined, an unusual duo bound by similar passions and complementary interests. Patrick and I knew what connected us was rare. It didn't matter anymore how others wanted to define it. 


One stop on their journey takes them to a little out of the way antiques shop where Jessica comes across what turns out to be an old sewing box, a box she later discovers dates back to the 17th century. Inside a hidden compartment, Jessica finds the journal of one Adeline Baillard, whose writings explain her fight to escape the Huguenot Persecution. Their crime: being Protestant in a Catholic nation.


There are only a few scant entries to Adeline's journal, giving the impression that she was hurriedly writing an account of her experiences in secret during the time of the persecution. A driving need to know how Adeline's story ended gives Jessica something to focus on other than her PTSD induced nightmares / hallucinations. The process of going on a hunt for the truth also gradually brings Adeline around to a modicum of healing in regards to her own traumatic experiences & memories. 


I'll just get this upfront right now -- this will likely be a tough read for PTSD sufferers. Chapter 17 is especially intense. Being a sufferer myself, I can tell you a number of passages in this book had my nerves on edge or me suddenly in a puddle of tears reading of Jessica's (fictional) account of the attacks. Also, imagining the fear someone in Adeline's position had to live with on a daily basis... this novel was one whopping emotional drain! But in a good way! 


"I want to believe that there's a force for good in this world and that the force won't let the bad have the final word. It doesn't explain or undo the darkness, but... I think somehow it covers it with light." 


~~ Grant


Note for sensitive readers: Within the excerpts of Adeline's journal, there are some brief scenes of brutality depicted, as Adeline writes of the torture endured by those who refused to convert to Catholicism. There are also some gruesome scenes illustrated during Jessica's descriptions of the shootings that occurred at the concert venue. 


Some of my favorite bits: 1) OMG, I ADORED Nelly, the tour guide at Canterbury Cathedral! Her wit and grandmotherly sweetness!  Also neat that in her author notes at the end, Michelle Phoenix reveals that the details of the adventure to the church that Jessica and Grant go on is based on a trip Phoenix herself took to the same church. 2) I found myself moved by little Connor and his visions of "shiny ninjas" (you'll understand this once you read the book).


The one knock I would give this story is the "common misconception" conversation about Grant and Mona. Just found it annoying that all these little things going on between them gave the impression that they were a couple and then they casually explain they're brother and sister, but people often get it confused. Well, dang. Introduce yourself as siblings at the start and we won't have a bunch of confused readers later! But Iater on I kinda saw why Phoenix might have written it this way... we need the brother available for confused feelings / possible romantic tension between him and Jessica! But still, annoying. 


I'd definitely recommend this one over Phoenix's Of Stillness And Storm. I found the plot here much more complex, entertaining and emotionally moving. I'm strongly anticipating her future works! 


Enduring with courage, resisting with wisdom, persisting in faith... 


FTC Disclaimer: TNZ Fiction Guild kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own. 

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review 2018-03-05 14:56
Phoebe's Light (Nantucket Legacy #1) by Suzanne Woods Fisher
Phoebe's Light (Nantucket Legacy) - Suzanne Woods Fisher

Phoebe Starbuck has always adjusted her sails and rudder to the whims of her father. Now, for the first time, she's doing what she wants to do: marrying Captain Phineas Foulger and sailing far away from Nantucket. As she leaves on her grand adventure, her father gives her two gifts, both of which Phoebe sees little need for. The first is an old sheepskin journal from Great Mary, her highly revered great-grandmother. The other is a "minder" on the whaling ship in the form of cooper Matthew Macy, a man whom she loathes. Soon Phoebe discovers that life at sea is no easier than life on land. Lonely, seasick, and disillusioned, she turns the pages of Great Mary's journal and finds herself drawn into the life of this noble woman. To Phoebe's shock, her great-grandmother has left a secret behind that carries repercussions for everyone aboard the ship, especially her husband the captain and her shadow the cooper. This story within a story catapults Phoebe into seeing her life in an entirely new way--just in time. 





Phoebe Starbuck has only just turned eighteen years old and already feels as if she's spent a lifetime caring for her widower father, Barnabus, on the island of Nantucket, MA. No matter how many major financial setbacks he succumbs to, 'ol Barnabus remains ever optimistic about the future. Sadly, optimism alone doesn't pay the bills, so Phoebe has to continually figure out ways to make the meager Starbuck money stretch. Due to too many of Barnabus's failed business ventures, the Starbucks are nearly bankrupt. Resources being limited from the start, the family is now at the point where some miracle boon in fortune must appear or Phoebe and her father will be deemed "Town Poor" and likely homeless shortly thereafter. 


Seeing the whaling ship Fortuna come into port, Phoebe (feeling emboldened by her newly minted "adult" status) puts herself together in the most appealing way she can, being a respectable & modest Quaker woman, and approaches the ship's captain, Phineas Foulger, at the docks. Though much older (in his mid 40s), by author Suzanne Fisher's description of him, the reader gets the impression that Phineas's physical appeal has held up well over the years. The last time he last spoke with Phoebe, she was just a mere girl, but now she wants him to see her as potential wife material. Within mere weeks, using only a comely blend of charm, beauty and innocence, Phoebe wins the interest of Capt. Foulger and soon has the MRS title she so strongly sought. As a wedding gift, Barnabus gives Phoebe the journal of her great-grandmother, Mary, telling her that there's said to be great life wisdom in its pages. But why is Captain Foulger SO insistent on knowing the journal's contents?


Though he was initially against the idea, Phoebe convinces her new husband to allow her to accompany him on his next voyage. Also joining the journey is 21 year old Matthew Mitchell, Nantucket's town cooper (barrel maker) and former suitor of Phoebe. Matthew gets a two-fold request to board the Fortuna, one from Barnabas to keep an eye on Phoebe as he does not trust Capt. Foulger -- and Barnabas can see that despite the history between them, Matthew still cares very deeply for Phoebe --- and one from the captain himself to serve as the ship's cooper. But as the reader soon discovers, nothing aboard this ship is as it might first appear. 


Expecting the adventure of a lifetime, the new Mrs. Foulger instead finds herself smacked with weeks of sweating out mal de mer (chronic sea sickness). She cannot hold down food, she struggles to be attentive to her new husband, most days she can barely stand for more than a few moments. Before long, the captain seems more annoyed than enamored with his young missus... not just distant, but almost surly. He grows outright neglectful of her, leaving her care primarily to Matthew and the cabin boy, Silo. Suffice it to say, she quickly regrets her earlier insistence on coming along on this voyage! The crew of the Fortuna meanwhile battles epic squalls, ship fires, and constant crew fights, blaming it all on the bad luck superstition of having a woman on board. 


Phoebe's Light is the first in what looks to be at least a trilogy from Suzanne Woods Fisher, who is primarily known for her nonfiction and fiction Amish-themed books. Between our main character's story and that of her great-grandmother Mary, the novel spans both the 17th and 18th centuries. Props to whomever came up with the idea to print Mary's journal entries in slightly faded ink... brings in a nice realistic touch for the reader, since the fadedness of the journal is something Phoebe mentions repeatedly struggling with as she makes her way through the pages. 


My stance on Phoebe weeble-wobbled throughout the story's progress. In the beginning she seemed sweet and good-hearted, but it can be frustrating reading a character so stubbornly set on getting her way that you just have to watch her set herself up for failure... maybe it's tough because we don't like to see ourselves quite so much, eh? But there were other sides to Phoebe's strong will that were quite admirable. Oooh, I got goosebumps and cheered when she stills the captain in his tracks with her quiet, edged "I asked you a question." Go, girl! 


Also might just be me on this one, but I got a giggle out of Fisher's approach to the topic of sex (or almost sex) in this Christian fiction work. Every time the old captain tried to corner Phoebe for her "marital duties", someone conveniently shows up with a "Captain, you're needed at the helm." There's even one point where Phoebe herself prays for a distraction, gets it moments later when yet again her husband is called away, and the next line reads, "She had never known the Lord to work with such haste." Oh man, loved it! 


Though not absolutely perfect in execution, Fisher crafts one highly immersive tale of historical fiction! I found myself craving just a bit more action and moments of tension between the various protagonists and antagonists, but even so was quite satisfied with the rich detail in character personality traits and living environments. Whether Phoebe was on land or at sea, every bit of her world was virtually tactile to me as the reader, a credit to Fisher's finely honed writing skills. Also a nice feature: if you are a reader new to historical fiction, Fisher includes a handy pages-long 18th century terminology glossary at the front of the book you can refer to for those dated terms. 


I close this book having really become attached to this family and I eagerly anticipate the next installment to see what happens with the next generation! 


FTC Disclaimer: Revell Books (Baker Publishing Group) kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own.

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review 2018-03-02 11:20
The Girl Who Would Speak For The Dead by Paul Elwork
The Girl Who Would Speak for the Dead - Paul Elwork

Emily Stewart is the girl who claims to stand between the living and the dead. During the quiet summer of 1925, she and her brother, Michael, are thirteen-year-old twins-privileged, precocious, wandering aimlessly around their family's estate. One day, Emily discovers that she can secretly crack her ankle in such a way that a sound appears to burst through the stillness of midair. Emily and Michael gather the neighborhood children to fool them with these "spirit knockings."  Soon, however, this game of contacting the dead creeps into a world of adults still reeling from World War I. When the twins find themselves dabbling in the uncertain territory of human grief and family secrets, everything spins wildly out of control.





Loosely inspired by the true story of the Fox sisters (whose actions kickstarted the 19th century Spiritualism Movement), author Paul Elwork mixes things up a bit by telling a similar story but from a brother / sister perspective. At the novel's start, in the year 1925, Emily and Michael are thirteen year old twins living on the family's East Coast estate of Ravenwood. After losing their father in World War 1, the children are often left to find their own ways to keep themselves occupied throughout a day. 


"Your father," her mother said, "was always interested in the things beneath things."


Emily nodded at this. "Isn't everyone?"


"Not as much as you might think."


Michael is described as a bookish loner who "before his 10th birthday had discovered that he could not tolerate most people well," while sister Emily is creative, curious, and inventive. Emily becomes captivated by the family story of Great Aunt Regina, who died in the late 1800s (only 16 years old) when she had a fall near the estate's riverbank. She's now said to haunt Ravenwood. Around this time of Emily's budding interest in the paranormal, she also discovers a trick where she can make her ankle crack on command. This becomes the basis for Emily and Michael's "spirit knocking" gatherings, initially held just the neighborhood kids but quickly catches on with the local adults as well. 


Michael becomes the team's hype man, crafting ghost stories inspired by all his reading. When they get into doing readings for the towsfolk, the twins claim to use the ghost of Great Aunt Regina as their spirit guide. Once adults mourning loved ones lost to WW1 start seeking out the twins for solace, what starts as a game soon turns to something quite a bit more serious. 


Sherlock Holmes creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who became quite a prominent follower of Spiritualism, gets a brief mention in this book. In regards to the paranormal theme, there is nothing particularly spooky or scary here, which is largely why my reading experience was ultimately somewhat disappointing. While there is a definite poetic flair to Elwork's writing style, the overall tone just had steady note of sadness throughout the whole plot. 

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review 2018-02-26 06:27
The Facts Speak For Themselves by Brock Cole
The Facts Speak for Themselves - Brock Cole

This is the story of how thirteen year old Linda came to be involved in the murder of one man and the suicide of another. The police and her social worker think they know the answer, but they've got it wrong. Here Linda tells her own story. She sees her world and what has happened to her with compelling clarity. Her voice is direct, cool, and ruthlessly honest. She'll persuade you that she is neither victim nor fool  -- that the facts speak for themselves. 

~ from inside dust jacket (hardcover edition)






POTENTIAL TRIGGER WARNING: This story involves themes of sexual abuse, pedophilia and suicide. 



Thirteen year old Linda is brought in on suspicion involvement with the deaths of two men, (one a murder, one a suicide). The story is told from Linda's perspective -- via conversations with police detectives and social workers -- but her version of events and the tone it is presented in set her up as a possibly unreliable narrator. 


If you're a fan of the tv program The First 48, this story has a somewhat similar feel to that. In a nutshell, Linda witnesses a scuffle between Jack Green, a co-worker of Linda's mother, and Frank Perry. Just hours later, both are dead. At first, Linda gives the impression that she is merely an innocent witness to the events, but how does she explain arriving at the police station with blood all over her clothes and under her fingernails?


Linda's personality proves to be a blend of complexity, oddness and a certain degree of unlikeablity. Even though she throws out some weird thoughts here and there, it's hard not to feel for Linda. She grows up in a home where her mother has a rotating door of boyfriends and baby-daddies (Linda's father having died when she was a baby), the house full of kids her mother largely neglects. Linda takes up the care of her younger brothers but later struggles with depression after suffering sexual abuse at the hands of her mom's boyfriend of the moment. 


A small ray of hope gets infused into this bleak story when, by some strange stroke of luck, Linda's mother actually gets involved with a decent guy! A bit older than the mother's usual picks, but he proves to be a solid father-figure type in Linda's life, at least compared to what she's previously had to pick from! From this man, Linda gets lessons in money, specifically stocks & investments -- knowledge that will prove most useful in her future. But is her time with him as innocent as it first seems?


The setup of this novel, as far as the short chapters and conversation style make for a quick read. That, and the whole thing is under 200 pages. Brock Cole's writing style is engaging enough to keep one reading... I was just hoping for MORE. The plot description had potential but something about it as a whole fell a bit flat for me. There also wasn't enough meat to the writing to create much of a take-away factor for me in the end, as far as a moral message, thought-provoking social commentary, etc. NOTE: if you are a sensitive reader, this story deals with dark themes and some of the language does get rather sexually graphic. Also maybe worth noting for some readers: Cole chose not to use quotations marks. That's right, quotation marks: NONE. Something to be aware of if that is a personal peeve for you as a reader. 

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review 2018-02-17 22:54
The Big Book of AutoCorrect Fails by Tim Dedopulos
The Big Book of Autocorrect Fails: Hundreds of Hilarious Howlers! - Tim Dedopulos

In theory, autocorrect is a genius feature that saves you from embarrassing errors. In reality, it seems to have a mind of its own, turning your innocent messages into inadvertently scandalous texts that could appall hardened war criminals and make veteran hookers blush. Fortunately, one person's humiliation is another's hilarity, and this big book gathers the very best (or worst, depending on your point of view) failed fixes, presenting them in the popular "bubble" conversation format that captures the progressive confusion, distress, and comedy as the autocorrect goes rogue.




Pretty much exactly what you'd guess from the title, just a hilarious gathering of autocorrect fails. Consider yourself warned though, the good majority of these are pretty dirty (sexually) or off-color/ definitely not PC in tone! That said, I honestly LOL'd on nearly every page. The curator of this collection gives his readers a tip to consider when crafting future texts: "For goodness' sake, be especially careful when using the words duck, aunt, election and tentacles."


* "butthurt potatoes"
* "5 inch Nazis"
* "should grab a bear sometime"
* "flapping horse ship"


Some pages here and there were just okay but honestly I appreciated that because it gave me a "breather" break between the funniest bits! Don't expect things to get too deep or literary, just enjoy it for what it is and allow yourself to laugh-cry for a bit :-)


American readers, be aware that this is published by a UK publisher, so there are moments of British slang here and there. The one that threw me personally was "spanners" but apparently that means "wrench"?

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