Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: nature-themed
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
review 2019-08-23 09:14
Glory Road by Lauren K. Denton
Glory Road - Lauren K. Denton

In one summer, everything will change. But for these three strong Southern women, the roots they’ve planted on Glory Road will give life to the adventures waiting just around the curve. Nearly a decade after her husband’s affair drove her back home to South Alabama, Jessie McBride has the stable life she wants—operating her garden shop, Twig, next door to her house on Glory Road, and keeping up with her teenage daughter and spunky mother. But the unexpected arrival of two men makes Jessie question whether she’s really happy with the status quo. When handsome, wealthy businessman Sumner Tate asks her to arrange flowers for his daughter’s lavish wedding, Jessie finds herself drawn to his continued attention. Then Ben Bradley, her lingering what-could-have-been from high school, moves back to the red dirt road, and she feels her heart pulled in directions she never expected. Meanwhile, Jessie’s fourteen-year-old daughter, Evan, is approaching the start of high school and navigating a new world of emotions—particularly as they relate to the cute new guy who’s moved in just down the road. At the same time, Jessie’s mother, Gus, is suffering increasingly frequent memory lapses and faces a frightening, uncertain future. The only thing certain is change—even in a place as steady as Perry, Alabama, on a street as old as Glory Road.






For the past decade, Jessie McBride has been operating Twig, a garden shop next to her home on Glory Road in the small town of Perry, South Alabama. Having moved back to her hometown to rebuild her life after a failed marriage, all these years later Jessie suddenly finds herself juggling two potential love matches: Ben Bradley, that "one that got away" love from high school, who also recently moved back to town, and suave, successful, and wildly rich golf course engineer Sumner Tate... who stumbles into Jessie's shop when his grumbly belly directs him towards the sign advertising "free pie with purchase" at her shop. Impressed with her horticulture skills, Sumner wants to hire Jessie to do the flower arrangements for his daughter's upcoming nuptials.


While Jessie works out which way to take her heart, her daughter, Evan, is not only stepping into her first year of high school but also feeling her way through her first teenage crush... which just happens to be directed at Ben Bradley's son, just a few years older than Evan. Also in the mix is Jessie's mother, Gus (Augusta), who is sensing that she might be starting the early stages of dementia that previously took her own mother and grandmother. With all of these ladies, it's anyone's guess what the future will hold! 


This is a slow-burn style story, so if you're one for wild action and fast plot, you may need to sit this one out. Presented in chapters with rotating POVs between Jessie, Evan, and Gus, Glory Road is all about relationships --- whether it be the familial, friendship, or romantic-based variety --- all wrapped up in the cozy Southern setting of summer thunderstorms, porch swings, peach cobbler, and long night talks outside. Author Lauren Denton also makes the cute choice to start each chapter with a little snippet from various gardening manuals. The gardening tips are presented in a philosophical way, meant to subtly foreshadow the events of that chapter. Just out of curiosity, I looked up some of the titles to see if they were from actual manuals, but having no hits on those titles, I can only assume the manual excerpts were purely a figment of Denton's imagination --- I'm impressed! The tone sounded legit! 






The story itself sometimes went on a little long for me. It often felt like I was reading the same conversations multiple times over, just worded differently. 


The romance elements were also a little flat. I didn't find myself all that invested in the outcome of Jessie's love life either way. Sweet guys in general, but it was pretty clear where this story was headed from the very beginning, so the journey in that regard almost felt pointless. And Sumner got on my nerves a little bit. Sure, he was outwardly charming, but I didn't love how he seemed to like to lowkey flex his wealth around Jessie. The way he spoke to her also felt a little like he saw her as a novelty in a way, almost like he was getting a kick out of "slumming" it with someone beneath his tax bracket. That said, I loved seeing the growing relationship between Harvis and Gus --- now THAT got my heartstrings!



"I think you marry the one who, when everything else is stripped away --- money, job, arguments, disagreements, --- he's still the one you'd want to sit on the porch and .... just... do nothing. Or do anything. Pick the one who matters more than all the stuff of life."


Be ready to be at least a little frustrated with the story, as it ends up being one of those ones where a good majority of the problems could have been easily avoided if the main characters would've just been brave enough to say what they mean early on, and be clear about what they want. On one hand, it's a lesson in how fear can sometimes paralyze a person in the midst of their life path... but in the case of Jessie and Ben, they both end up having children with other people, and while the relationships don't work out, they both admit the choices they made were worth it to end up with their children. So, in a way, the story poses the question, is it really a life mistake just because the end result got messy, or merely an instance of unintentionally taking the long way 'round to where you were meant to be anyway?


For interested book groups, this paperback edition does include a discussion question guide at the back. 



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. 







*A feature on Glory Road in Deep South magazine



Like Reblog Comment
review 2019-07-06 15:00
Ripple by Mandy Hubbard
Ripple - Mandy Hubbard

A siren must choose between the curse that defines her and a chance at love. Lexi is cursed. Following in the footsteps of every woman on her mother's side of the family, she's a siren whose song lures unsuspecting victims to their watery deaths. Each day she goes to school like a normal teenager, and each night she must swim to stay alive. Lexi wants desperately to be a normal girl, but she cuts herself off, becoming an ice queen to keep from hurting the people she cares about. Then she finds herself caught between a new boy at school who may have the power to melt her icy exterior and a handsome water spirit who says he can break Lexi's curse if she gives up everything else. Lexi is faced with the hardest decision of her life. Will she learn that love finds a way to overcome even the strongest of curses? Ripple is a sea-ravaged tale of melancholy beauty, and the choices one girl makes between land and waves, love and freedom, her future--and her heart.






Lexi seems like your average teen, aside from one major difference: at night she transforms into a sea siren trapped by one seriously awful curse --- either she must lure men to their deaths or be left in unbearable pain herself. Not wanting to be the cause of anyone's death, Lexi isolates herself from the rest of the world as much as possible. Each night she swims in a hidden lake instead of the ocean. If she doesn't swim every day, she becomes feverish, experiences muscle cramps / a knotted up stomach, or the sensation of shards of glass in her skin.


A lonely life, but she's making it work... until the day she meets Cole, the best friend of the last guy she let herself love...and accidentally kill.There's also Erik, a new student at Lexi's high school who acts as if he knows her secret. Oh, and then there's Sienna, Lexi's once best friend and sister of Steven (that last love of Lexi's... bit of crimp in a friendship, I imagine) who turns out to be a pretty terrible person no one in their right mind would want to continue a friendship with. 


I was really digging the first 3/4ths of this story! The writing isn't always top notch (there was one line that read "there's so many holes in my plan it's like I wrote it down on Swiss cheese" that got an eyeroll out of me) but the plot is fun. It's a YA novel, so some level of teen angst can be expected, but for the most part the characters were decently developed enough to keep me invested. That last 1/4 though... there was a distinct shift. The interactions between Lexi, Cole and Erik start veering into over-the-top melodrama.


I liked the siren theme, just wished it would have been referenced more, a little more sea legend vibe worked in. It is there, but the bulk of this leans on just average teen romance / drama / backstabbing. As long as you don't go in expecting too much, it's a perfectly entertaining beach read! 


"Anyone can see you have a wall bigger than the one in China. You're just kind of ... unapproachable. It's not like someone can catch your eye and smile if you're constantly looking down at the ground. And it felt like to talk to you directly was to risk going down in flames."


I blink. I guess I never realized just how effective I've been at keeping people at arm's length. 


He turns to look at me, and with how close we're sitting, our noses are just inches apart. His voice lowers. "But I guess you're worth the risk." He leans in slowly, and I close my eyes. 


Once finished, I had this feeling like maybe the book as a whole suffered from being a little too short? Or perhaps that was intentional? There were parts of the plot I would've liked to have seen developed a little further, but on the other hand, having that sensation of not knowing more about the characters (their history and such) in a way does work with where Hubbard decides to drop the closing curtain. 




Like Reblog Comment
review 2019-06-28 10:59
Aleutian Sparrow by Karen Hesse
Aleutian Sparrow - Karen Hesse

In June 1942, seven months after attacking Pearl Harbor, the Japanese navy invaded Alaska's Aleutian Islands. For nine thousand years the Aleut people had lived and thrived on these treeless, windswept lands. Within days of the first attack, the entire native population living west of Unimak Island was gathered up and evacuated to relocation centers in the dense forests of Alaska's Southeast. With resilience, compassion, and humor, the Aleuts responded to the sorrows of upheaval and dislocation. This is the story of Vera, a young Aleut caught up in the turmoil of war. It chronicles her struggles to survive and to keep community and heritage intact despite harsh conditions in an alien environment.




Aleutian Sparrow is another verse novel from Karen Hesse, similar in style to her Dust Bowl story, Out of the Dust. Starting in June of 1942, just months after the Pearl Harbor attack, Aleutian Sparrow tells the story of how within days of that attack, all the Aleut people were evacuated from their villages and moved to relocation centers, the government fearful of fishing contract disagreements between the Aleut and the Japanese. They are assured the move is only temporary, but detainment carries on into 1945. The story follows this tribe of people as they are repeatedly moved more and more inland, far from the rocky, windswept coastline they call home. 



The collective experiences of the Aleut people are centralized in the character of young Vera. Vera is mixed race --- her mother Aleut, her father Caucasian, but the father never returned from sea one day so over the course of her childhood, the "raising" of Vera has had her circulating around various family members. Vera has spent much of the year of 1945 living in Unalaska Village, working as a home aide to elderly couple Alexie and Fekla Golodoff. Once summer comes around, Vera takes off to spend time in her hometown of Kashega, hanging out with best friends Pari (also mixed race) and Alfred.


Japan carried out an air attack on Unalaska Island in June 1942 because they were interested in gaining control of the North Pacific, but they ultimately found the Alaskan climate too challenging. Still, the Aleut people continued to be moved around... Vera and her family sent along with the rest of the community to these various detainment camps. The Aleut, a proud people with rich traditions, now found themselves crammed into canvas tents on rainy terrain, forced to live off bread and fish scraps. The drastic changes in environment, along with poor sanitation, soon led to rampant sickness throughout the tribe, many being plagued with skin boils and lung infections, among other ailments. But for the longest time, the government offered the sick no medical assistance. NONE. After much pleading, when a doctor finally does arrive, he takes in the scene, brushes it off with a "they're not sick, they're just adjusting." and goes back home! 



Some of the elders take to telling ancient legends to keep morale up. Vera takes it upon herself to get a job at the hospital in Ketchikan, but even with her connections it is still a slow process getting medical aid back to the camps. Eventually, a news story is done about the poor treatment of the Aleut people. Shortly after, the camps are quick to see donations from newspaper readers who wish to help. 


I'm sad to say this is not a part of history I was ever taught in school, so I'm happy to be informed of it now. Tragic as the truth is, Vera's story is a moving one and, if you think about it, still plenty relevant, what with all the discussion back and forth about immigration issues and poorly equipped / run border detainment facilities. It's not an easy read in subject matter, but there is ease in the verse format Hesse does so well. Her way of weaving together sparse but also evocative imagery with so few words is quite the treat for readers of all ages, those new to poetry form or even longtime fans. Prepare to dip into lines such as "the old ways steeped like tea in a cup of hours" or "laughter crackled on winter nights like sugar frosting". Then there's the ones to make you stop and think: "We never thought who we were was so dependent on where we were."


Author Sharon Creech gets a shout out in Hesse's acknowledgements page for "patient and wise council".

Like Reblog Comment
review 2019-06-21 23:45
Albert of Adelaide by Howard L. Anderson
Albert of Adelaide - Howard L. Anderson

Having escaped from Australia's Adelaide Zoo, an orphaned platypus named Albert embarks on a journey through the outback in search of "Old Australia," a rumored land of liberty, promise, and peace. What he will find there, however, away from the safe confinement of his enclosure for the first time since his earliest memories, proves to be a good deal more than he anticipated. Alone in the outback, with an empty soft drink bottle as his sole possession, Albert stumbles upon pyromaniacal wombat Jack, and together they spend a night drinking and gambling in Ponsby Station, a rough-and-tumble mining town. Accused of burning down the local mercantile, the duo flees into menacing dingo territory and quickly go their separate ways-Albert to pursue his destiny in the wastelands, Jack to reconcile his past. Encountering a motley assortment of characters along the way-a pair of invariably drunk bandicoots, a militia of kangaroos, hordes of the mercurial dingoes, and a former prize-fighting Tasmanian devil-our unlikely hero will discover a strength and skill for survival he never suspected he possessed. Told with equal parts wit and compassion, ALBERT OF ADELAIDE shows how it is often the unexpected route, and the most improbable companions, that lead us on the path to who we really are.





In this anthropomorphic work --- Howard Anderson's debut novel --- we meet Albert, an orphaned duck-billed platypus living in Australia's Adelaide Zoo. One day Albert makes the bold decision to escape the zoo, starting an adventure that will take him across the Outback in search of Old Australia, a fabled place rumored to be a land of liberty, promise, and peace.


On his travels, the only property to Albert's name is an empty soda bottle. Before long, he meets Jack, a pyromaniac wombat with a handlebar moustache & drover's coat. They join up, traveling together to (on Jack's suggestion) Ponsby Station, a rough mining town filled with crews of bandicoots and wallabies.  After a long night of drinking, Jack ends up getting Albert into quite a bit of trouble. What starts as an innocent trek for Albert quickly progresses into more of a life on the run.


Right from the start, this novel brings on the social commentary, in regards to humans and their irresponsible behavior towards the planet. There's also something of the immigrant experience story, what with each character having their own various reasons for traveling / moving in hopes for a better life, things they're looking to escape... but Anderson brings a twist to that theme. Anderson also touches upon the topic of racism. In one notable scene, platypus Albert approaches a business only to find a sign that says "We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone who isn't a marsupial."


Though there is something of a childlike vibe to the story --- touches of Wind in the Willows, maybe even a little Watership Down --- READERS, TAKE NOTE: THIS IS NOT A CHILDREN'S NOVEL. It has very definite adult themes as far as the levels of alcoholism, crime, violence, depression, etc. There are scenes of animals cutting the throats of their foes, these moments informing Albert that this land he finds himself in is no fairytale, one WILL die out here if not careful! 


Though Jack is not always the most likeable character in his actions, you can count on him to bring the comic relief in the heavier scenes. Take the early meeting between Jack & Albert, for instance: Albert has been traveling long and hard, he's out of food and water, scared of his surroundings, bumps into Jack who asks, "What brings you out this way?" Albert replies, "Adelaide" to which Jack answers back, "Mmmm... always a woman." 


There's also a cake joke in here where ... well, I couldn't help it, it made me think of the ongoing cake joke that runs through the videogame Portal.


While on the surface, I would say this story would be a good recommendation for lovers of Westerns, I would argue that it could, at least on some level, also be interpreted as allegorical, a parable for the need to earnestly pursue one's dreams in a world suffocating under the weight of sheep mentality.  The happiest moments come when Albert finds the confidence to shake off societal expectations and embrace who / what he is on the most basic, organic level. He learns to stop getting caught up in the why or why not of a scenario and just embrace the experience itself, as is. 


All the characters are fun, but what really kept me reading was wanting to know more about this mysterious Muldoon character. Throughout the novel, he seems this terribly important and powerful figure, but is only spoken of in the vaguest terms. 

Like Reblog Comment
review 2019-06-09 10:30
Night of the Twisters by Ivy Ruckman
Night of the Twisters - Ivy Ruckman

When a tornado watch is issued one Tuesday evening in June, twelve-year-old Dan Hatch and his best friend, Arthur, don't think much of it. After all, tornado warnings are a way of life during the summer in Grand Island, Nebraska. But soon enough, the wind begins to howl, and the lights and telephone stop working. Then the emergency siren starts to wail. Dan, his baby brother, and Arthur have only seconds to get to the basement before the monstrous twister is on top of them. Little do they know that even if they do survive the storm, their ordeal will have only just begun..





When a tornado warning goes into effect for the small town of Grand Island, Nebraska, twelve year old Dan Hatch and his best friend, Arthur, don't take it all that seriously... at least, not at first. They figure tornado warnings are not uncommon for the area and usually little to nothing scary comes of it, so all they'd have to do is plunk down to a movie and calmly wait it all out. Little did they know, this particular night would be one for the record books. In just a matter of hours, the citizens of Grand Island find themselves center stage in one scary story of survival against the elements.


The story opens retrospectively, with Dan recounting the events of that traumatic day that ended up killing four people and injuring nearly 140 more in the span of just three hours. Looking back, Dan remembers all the little things can could now be viewed as precursors to the coming disaster: the day turning nearly pitch black early on in the afternoon, phone lines beginning to malfunction, lights flickering. Arthur and Dan are hanging out at Dan's house, being typical young boys enjoying time away from school, when they are both soon separated from their families. With Dan's parents away checking on neighbors and other nearby family members, Dan and Arthur are left alone in the house with Dan's baby brother, Ryan. Once Dan realizes the storm is undeniably headed their way, he grabs his brother and everyone heads to the basement bathroom to huddle in the shower, hoping they survive the tornado passing over the house. 


The boys survive, climb out of the house rubble to discover virtually the entire town has been leveled and they have no clue where any of the rest of their family members may be. They head out walking, hoping to run into someone. Before long, they run into Arthur's sister, Stacey. With one more in their group, the kids set out to try to locate their parents.


Set during the Carter administration era, this middle grade novel offers a steady amount of action for young readers, as well as plenty of heart. With the trauma of natural disaster now in their memory banks, these kids get a tough lesson in what really has true, deep, non-monetary value in life. The plot itself also provides a minimal, entry-level education on what hardships one can possibly expect after surviving a natural disaster.


I figured then that nothing else mattered. You can do without all kinds of things --- your house, your bike, your room, a whole city of people --- if you have the ones you love.


This story sounded vaguely familiar once I started reading it. A quick internet search reminded me that this had been given a film adaptation (by the same name) in the 90s and the story itself was loosely inspired by an actual event, also dubbed Night of the Twisters, when seven tornados actually did touch down in the town of Grand Island, Nebraska one night in the 1980s.

More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?