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review 2017-01-31 20:31
Time Is A River by Mary Alice Monroe
Time Is a River - Mary Alice Monroe

Recovering from breast cancer and reeling from her husband's infidelity, Mia Landan flees her Charleston home to heal in the mountains near Asheville, North Carolina. She seeks refuge in a neglected fishing cabin belonging to her fly-fishing instructor, Belle Carson. Belle recently inherited the cabin, which once belonged to a grandmother she never knew -- the legendary fly fisher and journalist of the 1920s, Kate Watkins, whose life fell into ruins after she was accused of murdering her lover. Her fortune lost in the stock market crash and her reputation destroyed, Kate slipped into seclusion in the remote cabin. After her death the fishing cabin remained locked and abandoned for decades. Little does Belle know that by opening the cabin doors to Mia for a summer's sanctuary, she will open again the scandal that plagued Belle's family for generations. From her first step inside the dusty cabin, Mia is fascinated by the traces of Kate's mysterious story left behind in the eccentric furnishings of the cabin. And though Belle, ashamed of the tabloid scandal that tortured her mother, warns Mia not to stir the mud, Mia is compelled to find out more about Kate...especially when she discovers Kate's journal. The inspiring words of the remarkable woman echo across the years. Mia has been learning to fly-fish, and Kate's wise words comparing life to a river resonate deeply. She begins a quest to uncover the truth behind the lies. As she searches newspaper archives and listens to the colorful memories of the local small-town residents, the story of a proud, fiercely independent woman emerges. Mia feels a strange kinship with the woman who, like her, suffered fears, betrayal, the death of loved ones, and a fall from grace -- yet found strength, compassion and, ultimately, forgiveness in her isolation. A story timeless in its appeal emerges, with a power that reopens old wounds, but also brings a transforming healing for Mia, for Kate's descendants, and for all those in Mia's new community.

Amazon.com

 

 

Mia Landan, recovering from breast cancer treatments and an unfaithful husband, decides to retreat to the mountains of WNC, specifically Asheville area. There she takes up residence in a cabin owned by her fly-fishing instructor and friend, Belle. Belle lets her live there rent free for the summer under the one condition that she doesn't go digging into the family story behind the cabin (a scandal involving Belle's grandmother). But we need a novel length story here so of course Belle goes digging. She uncovers the tale of Belle's grandmother, Kate Watkins, a 1920s journalist and fly-fishing enthusiast herself who got involved with a married man and was then implicated in his mysterious disappearance.

 

I've lived in & around the Asheville area since 2002 and actually found a copy of this book in a local thrift shop. Always curious of books that involve my city, I immediately took this one home, figuring that the historical fiction element would also greatly appeal to me. Unfortunately this one didn't quite gel with me as I'd hoped.

 

As far as the environment itself, I thoroughly enjoyed that bit. Monroe definitely does justice to the area, offering rich descriptions of the nature around here... though at times I think she painted it a little more rustic than it actually is these days. Some passages had it sounding like Belle was leaving Mia in the wilds of Alaska or something when much of Asheville now is hardly THAT remote lol. I did like Mia in the early parts of the book but some of her decisions later on in the story chipped away at that, so by the end I was just left more with "She's alright, I guess..."

 

What really fell short was the plot. I was hoping for a truly immersive mystery around the story of Kate Watkins, especially for the time period she was living in.... who doesn't want to imagine their town back in the Roarin' Twenties?! But there wasn't too much in the way of that. The "mystery" was pretty straight forward and, to me, unfolded at a slow, bland pace.

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review 2017-01-16 06:24
Siren's Song (Siren Trilogy - #3) by Mary Weber
Siren's Song (The Storm Siren Trilogy) - Mary Weber

After a fierce battle with Draewulf, Nym barely escaped with her life. Now, fleeing the scorched landscape of Tulla, her storm-summoning abilities are returning; only . . . the dark power is still inside her. Broken and bloodied, Nym needs time to recover, but when the full scope of the shapeshifter’s horrific plot is revealed, the strong-willed Elemental must race across the Hidden Lands and warn the other kingdoms before Draewulf’s final attack. From the crystalline palaces of Cashlin to the legendary Valley of Origin, Nym scrambles to gather an army. But even if she can, will she be able to uncover the secret to defeating Draewulf that has eluded her people for generations? With a legion of monsters approaching, and the Hidden Lands standing on the brink of destruction, the stage is set for a battle that will decide the fate of the world. This time, will the Siren’s Song have the power to save it?

Amazon.com

 

 

 

**** WARNING: DISCUSSING BK 3 OF A TRILOGY... SPOILERS AHEAD *********

 

 

 

So here we are in the third installment of Mary Weber’s Storm Siren Trilogy and our protagonist Nym is still trying to defeat that evil Draewulf. Siren’s Song picks up pretty much right where Siren’s Fury left off. Nym is en route to rescue the captured Princess Rasha. Nym and her posse try to warn Rasha’s mother, Queen Laiha, of the dangers headed her way but the meeting doesn’t go as well as hoped. 

 

If you’ve worked your way through the first two books, you might remember Nym losing her Elemental powers. To compensate, she made a visit to a witch and picked up some powers more dark in nature. It proved to be a decent quick fix to get her Eogan back but now she has to figure out how to keep those dark powers from overtaking the good, light part of her soul. It was always funny to see how the bouts of foul weather would give away Nym’s rough mood days. X-D

 

“Never destroy what simply needs taming, Nymia. Mercy grows hearts more than bitterness.”

 

And how did I not pick up til now that Eogan is only 22?! Seemed so much older! And the “Skinny Love” reference... did Mary Weber slip in a Bon Iver reference in there?! :-)

 

Much of the same drama you’ve seen from earlier in the series continues here, only with the ramped up intensity that you’d expect of a series closer book. Some of my interest in the plot waned here and there whenever the battle scenes declined -- there are some wonderfully LARPy battles near the end! -- and talk of court politics increased. A little intrigue here and there I’m all for but some of it went on a little long. I do really enjoy this cast of characters though, so the humorous banter often pulled me through the drier parts. I also liked the tension that was built around the character Myles as his powers grew. It was fun to keep guessing if he would turn good or bad in the end. There’s also the adorable little boy Kel who brings some sweet levity to otherwise intense scenes. 

 

I remember noticing that Weber got a little heavy-handed with the fake swearing in the second book -- this book is put out by a Christian publishing house so when characters needed to swear, she had them using made up curses like “litches”, “hulls”, “bolcrane” (bolcrane doubles, also the name of a feared, deadly lizard-like creature within the Storm Siren world). Though the presence of that pseudo-swearing felt rather ever-present in Siren’s Fury, here in the third book it seems to fall off to nearly non-existent. 

I would’ve loved to see a few more scenes within the Valley Of Origin, but otherwise I thought this was a strong finish to this whirlwind nature-inspired fantasy series. Definitely an improvement from the somewhat lackluster plot of Siren’s Fury. This closing book features a strong ending with one pretty epic final battle. Those scenes in the final pages are seriously LOL adorable! 

 

YA fans, check out the shout-out to author Jay Asher (Thirteen Reasons Why) in the acknowledgements! It was neat to learn that he helped write the few chapters written from Eogan’s POV. 

 

POTENTIAL TRIGGER WARNING: Because Nym using cutting as a way to process her internal pain throughout part of this series, author Mary Weber recommends that readers who might be triggered visit the website To Write Love On Her Arms (twloha.com) for information and help. 

 

FTC Disclaimer: TNZ Fiction Guild kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book & requested that I check it out and share my thoughts. The opinions above are entirely my own. 

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-01-05 14:31
Siren's Fury (Siren Trilogy - #2) by Mary Weber
Siren's Fury (The Storm Siren Trilogy) - Mary Weber

Nym risked her life to save Faelen, her homeland, from a losing war, only to discover that the shapeshifter Draewulf has stolen everything she holds dear. But when the repulsive monster robs Nym of her storm-summoning abilities as well, the beautiful Elemental realizes her war is only just beginning. Now powerless to control the elements that once emboldened her, Nym stows away on an airship traveling to the metallic kingdom of Bron. She must stop Draewulf. But the horrors he’s brought to life and the secrets of Bron are more than Nym bargained for. Then the disturbing Lord Myles tempts her with new powers that could destroy the monster, and Nym must decide whether she can compromise in the name of good even if it costs her very soul. As she navigates the stark industrial cityscape of Bron, Nym is faced with an impossible choice: change the future with one slice of a blade . . . or sacrifice the entire kingdom for the one thing her heart just can’t let go.

Amazon.com

 

 

 

 

*** Warning: We're discussing Book 2 of a series here, so heads up there's likely to be some spoilers below

 

 

Going into Siren's Fury, we find that Nym has lost much of her Elemental powers just as she was beginning to make them work in her favor. Now the people of Faelen are counting on her to defeat the evil Draewolf that caused so much trouble in the first book, but she's not sure how she's supposed to pull that off without her powers to guide her. Still, she doesn't want to cause any further fear or unrest, so she's choosing to hide the fact that her powers are gone until she can figure out how to either get them back or defeat Draewolf without them. Her search for answers will take her down one seriously dark path of choices.

Though Nym put a significant dent in Draewolf's army at the close of Book 1, he's now hard at work building his forces back up, all while having commandeered the body of Eogan (in the form of possession).

 

(spoiler show)

 

Even though her newly learned battlefield strategies went a long way to bring the war to a close, the Five Kingdoms are still struggling to maintain peace when it comes to border and trade agreements. Though Nym has been freed from the bonds of slavery, she is still being used as a pawn in a power struggle between the kingdoms of Bron and Faelen. Bron suffered a great loss in the last battle and now the people of Bron have built up quite a bit of bitterness against Nym. 

 

Nym's sort-of adversary, Myles, returns in this second installment. Here he offers her a way to save Eogan but Nym's friend, the Luminescent Rasha, warns that it's probably best if Nym doesn't trust him too far. Sure he has moments of being personable, but he also still puts off that air of maybe having ulterior motives to any gift or offer of help. But has Nym proven herself to be stellar at following directions or heeding warnings so far? Nah, not so much. 

 

Siren's Fury was something of a letdown after how much I became invested in Storm Siren. Not that it was terrible. Not at all. I'm still having fun with the series to be sure, something just fell flat here. If I'm being completely honest, a lot of the time I found myself just waiting for Eogan to get some scene time again! 

 

Nym's powers didn't seem as well-described -- it was tough for me to get a clear picture of what all happened with the "vortex" -- the plot felt less intense, just a lot of cold stares and threats thrown around. There was this sense of a lot of build up for virtually nothing happening (when compared to the first book)... other than a lot of sneaking around on airships and then getting caught. Multiple times. Seriously, why was everyone so bad at sneaking around in this book?

 

Characters are talking about how terrifying Lady Isobel (Draewolf's daughter) is but honestly I found Lady Adora from the first book way more chillingly evil than Isobel ever was. Isobel just sounded like a bratty kid trying to sound scary but never getting much steam beyond "Just wait til my dad gets here!". But I was caught off guard by her blip of a moment where she let down her guard and was what? Almost helpful to Nym?!

 

Weber continues to weave inspirational / motivational themes into her fantasy, which I love. Through her characters readers are delivered the message to not let their inner demons control them; no matter how dire the situation, there is always a choice to turn away from or fight against the darkness. Weber's characters also learn to fight evil with compassion and empathy... a lesson all the world could currently benefit from! 

 

Check out the acknowledgements page of this book and you'll spot some familiar names: Jay Asher, CJ Redwine, Marissa Meyer, Colleen Coble.

 

Have to say though, Mary Weber... not sure this arachnophobe can entirely forgive you for those two SUPER creepy spider scenes! Yes, I get that the spider was the symbol for the center of dark power but dang, you described those creepy crawlies TOO well! Blech. 

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review 2016-12-14 14:05
Jingle Bells, illustrated by Kathleen O'Malley
Jingle Bells - Kathleen O'Malley

This is a little holiday book, designed & manufactured with the idea of gifting I imagine, that I came across just recently.

 

I see no actual author's credit given anywhere in the book, only that it is published through Publications International, Ltd / PI Kids and the illustrations are done by Kathleen O'Malley. A website is provided, for anyone interested in looking up more of this company's catalog: pilbooks.com

 

Inspired by the classic Christmas song, this book features a quick little story for young readers that tells of a brother and sister who plan a holiday surprise for their family. Thinking they will both have to work at their respective jobs on Christmas Day, Andrew ( a clerk at a general store) and his sister Arabella (a schoolteacher) are informed that they, in fact, do have the day off. This allows the siblings to give their mother the best Christmas gift of all, time with the family all together!

 

Andrew's boss at the store, Mr. Ward, offers Andrew the use of his horse Nelly drive out to the family dairy farm. Andrew picks up his sister at the boarding house in town where she lives and off they go on a snowy sleigh ride through the woods, anticipating their mother's fresh cinnamon rolls they know she'll be baking and the look of surprise and joy on her face when she gets to see them! 

 

Within the story, Andrew whistles the "Jingle Bells" tune as Arabella talks excitedly, and the very last page features a full lyrics sheet to the classic song. The story itself is cutesy and heart-warming and the illustrations give it that little something extra to make this a sweet, cozy read for the littlest readers in your life. :-)

 

Happy Holidays! 

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review 2016-12-13 14:58
God's Gift (Sea Kids #5) by Lee Ann Mancini
God's Gift (Hardcover) - Lee Ann Mancini

In God's Gift, Christian and his sister Mary believe they get more presents at Christmas. However, Jacob and Jeremiah believe they get more presents on Hanukkah. The children learn that Christmas and Hanukkah are about celebrating the gift God has given to His children. It's not about how many presents are under the tree at Christmas or the eight days of presents for Hanukkah. It's about God's provision for those He loves. God gives the gift of the Messiah to the Christians and the gift of Light to the Jews. The true gift from God is learned in this colorful holiday story!

Amazon.com

 

 

 

 

 

Sea turtles Christian and his sister Mary are at the "coralhood" (because it's underwater, instead of neighborhood) playground with their starfish friends Jacob and his brother Jeremiah. They start out having an animated conversation about their anticipation for their respective upcoming holiday festivities -- Christian and Mary are from a Christian home while Jacob and Jeremiah are Jewish -- but the conversation quickly turns heated. Before long, all the kids are arguing about who has the better celebration and who gets more presents each year.

 

 

 

 

The fight is broken up and all the kids go home that night to vent to their parents about what was said by the other children. Shocked that their children could be so off the mark on understanding the true meaning of the holiday season, all the parents are inspired to bring the kids together for a lesson in the real "reason for the season". Jacob and Jeremiah's parents invite Christian and Mary to their Hanukkah celebrations to hear the stories behind the reason for the menorah, prayers and ceremonies. Likewise, Christian and Mary's folks invite Jacob and Jeremiah over to hear the Nativity story and observe the tree decorating tradition. Through observing the religious traditions of their friends, the sea turtles and the starfish all learn that it's not about the presents at all! Presents are nice, but they're just meant to be symbolic. The true purpose is remembering to honor each person with love, generosity, compassion and charity. 

 

Once again, author Lee Ann Mancini nails it with her now trademark technique of using a charming underwater world of relatable young characters to teach timeless lessons in morals and values that will surely set little readers on the right path toward growing up to be beautiful, stand-up people of admirable character. In this timely holiday addition, Mancini reminds readers to remember not to be all-consumed with counting presents but to instead take time to humbly acknowledge, appreciate and honor the family, friends and blessings already around you on a daily basis. The fact that this story, right from page 1, offers inclusive illustrations and storyline featuring both Christian crosses / Christmas trees and Jewish Star Of David / dreidel /  yarmulke (or kippah) references makes this a wonderful gift idea for those who observe either Christmas OR Hannukah! 

 

 

 

Readers who have been following this series from the start will get a kick out of seeing past featured Sea Kids -- such as Freddy Octopus from Fast Freddy and Melissa Blowfish from What A Bragger! -- in the background of a few of the illustrations. Also look for the artwork by the front door of Jacob's house and you'll see it's the cover art from I'm Not Afraid! (Sea Kids #3)

 

FTC Disclaimer: BookCrash.com & GLM Publishing kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book with a request that I might check it out and share my thoughts. The opinions above are entirely my own. 

 

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