Posted in Book Reviews

Highlight: When Christmas Comes Again by Beth Seidel Levine

And the 12 Days of Christmas Books tour continues! We are halfway through this fun Literature Approved event and I’m so, so excited to share my second (and last) review for the tour. The Christmas book I chose to review this time is When Christmas Comes Again, one of my favorite books from one of my favorite middle grade series–Dear America.

I love this book for many reasons…but before I start ranting and get ahead of myself, you can find out for yourself below!

This book is part of the Dear America series, a middle grade historical fiction series near and dear to my heart. I hope to review many Dear Americas in the future, but I’m excited that my first one happens to be one of my all-time favorites!

When Christmas Comes Again by Beth Seidel Levine is one of the few (if not the only) Dear America about a seventeen-year-old girl. Most of the Dear America heroines are between twelve and fourteen years old, so you can imagine my excitement when I was finally the exact same age as the main character. Therefore, Simone’s questions about her future and her meaning in life are very relatable as I asked myself similar questions at that age. Also, Simone’s family is French and as I am French-Canadian, I loved the bits of French language and references throughout the diary.

Click here to finish reading my review! And when you’re finished, check out the other Christmas books Rayleigh has reviewed this week of various genres. These posts are a fun ride you want to be on!

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Posted in For Fellow Writers, Words Upon Words

The Book Tag

I read Ashley’s post of this really cool Book Tag on Inklings Press a while ago and I just had to do it myself!

Rules
You must be honest.
You must answer all the questions.
You must tag at least 4 people.

1. What book has been on your shelf the longest?

Either the Little House on the Prairie series or the American Girl Samantha books. Both of which Mom read to me when I was young. Very fond memories of listening to each!

2. What is your current read, your last read, and the book you’ll read next?

Current read: Cascade by Lisa T. Bergren. Second in the River of Time series. It’s a very easy read–I read the first half in about two days (which is fast for me 😉 ). I enjoy her descriptions of Italy and the concept of two modern-day girls transported to the 1300s and accidentally falling in love is really fun. But, even though Gabi’s thoughts are hilarious, the main characters are overall pretty flat. It has potential to be more than just a teenage-angst-romance…but it isn’t, really. That said, I’ll probably finish the series as I’m intrigued to see how Gabi and Marcello can stay together seeing as they belong in, you know, two different time periods and everything. 😉

Last read: Belgravia by Julian Fellowes. I was intrigued to read a novel by the writer and creator of Downton Abbey (one of my favorite TV shows) and I was not disappointed! Told in the style and vocabulary of Jane Austen, but with Fellowes’ own unique characters and plot twists. Although there were perhaps a few too many POVS, I loved how deeply we dived into the characters’ flaws and attributes. In Downton Abbey and Belgravia, Fellowes reminds us that past or present, people are motivated by the same emotions: “ambition, envy, rage, greed, kindness, selflessness and, above all, love”.

Next read: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling. I’m more than halfway through reading the Harry Potter series for the first time. It’s very different than I always thought it was, but overall, I’m enjoying it so far!

Continue reading “The Book Tag”

Posted in Book Reviews

Second Five Books of 2016

Even for me life had its gleams of sunshine.

-Jane Eyre

You can find books 1-5 of 2016 here!

*SPOILER!* I may include some of the book’s plot/content in my reviews for them, so if you haven’t read one or more of these yet and want to read it without spoilers, then you can just skip down. *

6. A Line in the Sand by Sherry Garland – Another Dear America. 🙂 You would think that I’ve read all of them, but nope, there are still plenty more I need to check off my list. This one was about the fight at the Alamo. I loved the look into Texan history and the presence of danger the author gave us of the Mexicans marching forward. Not one of my favorite Dear Americas, but certainly a unique one.

Continue reading “Second Five Books of 2016”

Posted in Book Reviews

FINAL Five Books of 2015

Before January of 2017 comes to a close, I really wanted to finish putting this last blog post together for my 2015 books. Hopefully I will be more on top of things this year for the list of 2016 books I read. 😉 Let’s get straight to it!

As always, if you missed out on my previous 2015 books posts, you can find books 1-5 here, 6-10 here, 11-15 here, 16-20 here and 20-25 here!

*SPOILER!* I may include some of the book’s plot/content in my reviews for them, so if you haven’t read one or more of these yet and want to read it without spoilers, then you can just skip down. *

26. The Prisoner’s Dilemma by Trenton Lee Stewart – This is the third installment in the Mysterious Benedict Society series. This one was definitely an improvement on the second, but nothing can ever beat the epic feels of the first. We listened to this book on audio during on of our road trips. Enjoyable, but I honestly don’t remember a lot of it compared to the first book–of which I remember almost every detail. Needless to say, I could learn a lot from Trenton Lee Stewart’s vocabulary and sentence structuring for my own writing.

27. * The Varken by Erin Phillips – I look forward to giving this one an official review on Amazon when it is published–which will hopefully happen later this spring! I read through it to give Erin some feedback when she was in the editing stages. This is a sequel to Erin’s self-published debut novel The Keeper. While I think The Keeper will always hold a special place in my heart since it was my first work of Erin’s to read, I think this book is definitely just as good. The characters have interesting back stories and development, there is a mystery to be solved, new things to discover and a lot of action and intrigue. I couldn’t stop reading.

28. Wednesdays at the Tower by Jessica Day George – We listened to this one in the car on audio. I’ve listened to the first three books in the series and have yet to listen to the most recent addition. This is the second book in the series, but I will admit that I don’t remember exactly what happened. I’m afraid I get the last two mixed up. I believe it had to do with each royal family member wanting their own gryphon to raise and fighting with the youngest child about it. It’s a fun series with mysteries, suspense, a little romance and the loyalty of siblings growing up in the strangest castle you’ll ever come across.

29. A Time for Courage by Kathryn Lasky – I know you were waiting for me to mention either a Dear America or Dear Canada. 😉 Well, here it is. This book is part of the Dear America series and while I picked it up at the library because it takes place during World War I (my favorite time period), it’s mostly about the Suffragette Movement, which the main character’s mother is deeply involved in. While generally enjoyable and interesting, there was a lot about this book that frustrated me. To be frank, I’m not a feminist in any way, shape or form. In fact, feminism is one of my biggest pet peeves. So you can probably imagine how I felt reading this book. Without going into too much detail, there were two main things that bothered me about this book. One, Kathleen’s mother and friends were protesting against President Woodrow Wilson, claiming that instead of paying attention to the war going on in Europe, he should instead spend time giving women the right to vote. I tried not to think too harshly of them, for I know that they had no idea what was really going on in Europe, but it was hard. In the end, the women were complaining about something that was so unimportant in light of the fact of all the men and women sacrificing their lives overseas to protect their countries. Don’t get me wrong. Having the right to vote as a woman is great and all, but there’s a time and place for protesting for it. Two, the most important point, is that by the time we reach the end of the book, Kathleen’s mother has completely forsaken her family. Literally. She is never home because she is always out protesting. Kathleen is left alone at home every afternoon. She has to do her homework by herself, she eats supper by herself or with her equally deserted and lonely father. And if she wants advice or encouragement from a woman, her mother is not there to give it. When her mother is home, she’s cranky or too tired to take care of her household. Every day, Kathleen is filled with worry that her mother won’t return home someday, perhaps being trampled by the crowds. The book ends where she really doesn’t come home one day: her mother is put in jail for protesting. Kathleen, only thirteen or fourteen year old, is now left to manage the household and finish raising herself. In the end, Kathleen’s mother put her personal desire to vote over her daughter. It just didn’t seem right.

30. * The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien – Ah. Now this is a book I enjoyed from cover to cover. It was slow going, but every time I picked it up to read another chapter, I was impressed. Unfortunately, I’ve had The Two Towers on my list all year, but still have yet to read it. I’m determined to read it and The Return of the King this year. They are some of my favorite movies of all time. In reading The Fellowship of the Ring, I received a lot more information and detail than the movie is able to provide. Since I already had the basic idea of the story in my head, whenever I came across something in the book that hadn’t been put in the movie, it was like discovering a bit of treasure. Tolkien is probably one of the most brilliant writers of all time. Not only are his characters three dimensional and his plot tight and alluring, his writing is flawless. There is a certain charm to The Lord of the Rings series that no other series can ever have. Every sentence flows smoothly to the next and the next. And I especially loved in reading this book the lack of adjectives and adverbs when someone is speaking. I tend to use a lot of those to help my readers understand what tone my character is currently using or what facial expression they’re making. Tolkien doesn’t need any of that because his characters speak so distinctly from the essence of their inner being that I know exactly how Sam or Gandalf is saying something. I can even tell who’s speaking before he tells me. If I could only write a story even half as inspiring as he, I would be content.

* Books that I highly recommend have a * next to them

Posted in Book Reviews

Fifth Five Books of 2015

Hello, readers!

I recently finished reading book 15 of the 40 I want to read this year. I don’t have much left of summer to catch up, so I might have to adjust my goal back down to 30 again. Only time will tell!

Here are books 21-25 that I read from July to September in 2015. To read about the other books I read in 2015, you can check out books 1-5 here, 6-10 here, 11-15 here and 16-20 here. After this one, there will be only ONE more blog post left before I’ve told you about all the books I read in 2015! Then I will be able to start telling you about what I read in 2016. 🙂

*SPOILER!* I may include some of the book’s plot/content in my reviews for them, so if you haven’t read one or more of these yet and want to read it without spoilers, then you can just skip down. *

21. The Great Railroad Race by Kristiana Gregory – Part of the Dear America series, this book took place during the 1860s when the government hired workers to join both sides of the railroad to make one long railroad running across the United States. This was an educating and entertaining story with a twist I’ve never seen done before. I’m not saying that plot twists don’t usually surprise me, because most of the time they do, but this was a different kind of twist that changed the dynamic of the main character’s relationship with someone else. Overall, a very fun read.

22. * When Christmas Comes Again by Beth Seidel Levine – This book along with Willow Run was one of my favorite books that I read last year, so it really deserves two stars next to it! World War 1 is my favorite time period, so I always love any book I can get my hands on  that takes place during that time in history. This book is also part of the Dear America series and I absolutely loved every minute of it. I cared more for these characters than I had for any character in a Dear America book for a while. It was also different than your typical Dear America novel because the main character was 17 instead of the typical 12-14 age range. Being older myself, it was a nice change. I liked–no, loved!–this book so much, I wrote a review for it on Amazon. You can read it below:

I Will Read This One Again and Again

I am very fascinated with all things World War 1 right now and am hoping to write a novel of my own in this time period someday. Recently, I decided to find all Dear America books on this subject and read them for fun and for inspiration. This book did not disappoint in the least! I learned so many new things about World War 1 and what life was like in New England during the war. I learned about “hello girls” and how they played a major part in the victories on the Western Front. Simone Spencer was a delightful character who grew and learned at the same rate as me. Because I am French-Canadian myself, I loved all the French aspects thrown into this story.
Thank you, Mrs. Levine, for giving us this beautiful peek into the past!

23. A Country of Our Own by Karleen Bradford – This is a Dear Canada I bought for myself while visiting Montreal last summer and was the first brand new book in the series I had bought in Canada instead of getting used on Amazon. It’s about how Canada became an independent country from Great Britain (though still a British Commonwealth) in 1867. It was an interesting and fun read as well, giving a peek into what it was like when Ottawa became the country’s capital instead of the expected Montreal or Quebec City.

24. * Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington – We read this one for school with Mom. It’s an autobiography of Booker T. Washington’s life. When we started, we thought for some reason we were reading about George Washington Carver, the peanut guy, so we kept waiting for Booker T. Washington to talk about peanuts. 😉 Well, let’s just say he never talked about peanuts. But he did talk about slavery. Not only was Booker T. Washington freed after the end of the Civil War, but he went back home after going to college and educated the children from his hometown. He taught black people all over the United States throughout his life that just because they were now freed from slavery, didn’t mean they could right away have all the privileges the white people had. They first needed to educate themselves as they should have been years before in order to reach their full potential and gain respect. A quote from the book that accurately portrays the story’s theme is below:

“It is important and right that all privileges of the law be ours, but it is vastly more important that we be prepared for the exercise of those privileges.” -Booker T. Washington

I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants an African American’s perspective of what life was like after the Civil War and what his people need to do to mend the warped view white people had of black people in America.

25. Gingersnap by Patricia Reilly Giff – Another of Patricia Reilly Giff’s books that takes place in World War II. I didn’t enjoy this one as much as Lily’s Crossing and Willow Run, so I didn’t write a review for it on Amazon. Though there wasn’t much to the story line, I always enjoy a good historical. There was a little bit of the ghost element, which was okay, but maybe could have played a bigger part in the plot itself. One of my main problems with it was that it ended too fast. I know I have a problem in terms of over describing in my books, but the last two or three chapters, the part of the book we’d been waiting 200 pages for, happened perfectly, but way too fast. I wanted to delve more into her thought process, her emotions as one event happened after the other, but the pacing was so fast, we didn’t have enough time to analyze each situation. So, that was too bad.

 

* Books that I highly recommend have a * next to them