Posted in Adult Fiction, Book, Book Review, Reading

ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE by Anthony Doerr

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An absolutely beautifully written book!  Mr. Doerr can turn words, bringing the reader right into the story, describing the natural world along with the urban vistas, the action, and the characters like so few authors can or do.  The imagery is beautiful.  I felt as though I were right with Marie-Laure or Werner over and over again.  This is historical fictional, suspense/mystery, and literature at its finest.  It is a page-turner as well.  No wonder it won the Pulitzer Prize in 2015.

Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris.  He is the lock master of the Museum of Natural History.  Marie-Laure goes blind at the age of six.  Her patient father builds a model of their neighborhood–every house, every manhole, every intersection, so that she can memorize it with her fingers and then navigate the real streets as she walks with her cane.  In 1940, the Germans occupy Paris.  Marie-Laure and her father flee to Saint-Malo on the Brittany coast, where Marie-Laure’s Great Uncle Etienne lives in a very tall, narrow house by the sea wall.  Her father frantically builds a miniature neighborhood of Saint-Malo for Marie-Laure so that she can get around on her own.

Then there is Werner, an orphan German boy.  While in an orphanage, Werner finds a radio.  Werner and his little sister, Jutta, are very intrigued with this machine.  He tinkers with it, listens to the stations he can find and becomes a master at building and fixing radios, and is incredibly smart in math.  These talents lead him to an elite but harsh military academy, a piece of the Hitler Youth.   He becomes a highly specialized tracker of the Resistance. Werner travels into Russia, across Europe and into Saint-Malo, where his path converges with Marie-Laure’s.

The chapters are short, with few main characters.  Each chapter takes you to and from the various characters so while reading this fine book, it takes some time to lace it all together.  Mr. Doerr weaves a fabulous tale in this unique way.  There was much for me to learn about the French in World War II, as well as the Hitler Youth.  The reader is on the roads with the characters as they become intertwined.  The light we can see is the brutality and the love.  The light we may be unable to see is how many of these genuine characters, against all odds, do try to be good to one another through unconventional means.

And that is all I am going to say about the plot.  You won’t regret reading this fine book.

Awards:

Winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for fiction

2015 Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction

Winner of the Australian International Book Award

A #1 New York Times bestseller

A finalist for the 2014 National Book Award

2014 Book of the Year at Hudson Booksellers

#2 book of 2014 at Amazon.com

A LibraryReads Favorite of Favorites

Runner-up for 2015 the Dayton Literary Peace Prize

Named one of the ten best books of the year by the New York Times Book Review

A best book of 2014 at Powell’s Books, Barnes & Noble, NPR’s Fresh Air, San Francisco Chronicle, The WeekEntertainment Weekly, the Daily Beast, Slate.comChristian Science Monitor, the Washington Post, the Seattle Times, the Oregonian, the Guardian, and Kirkus

Author

Anthony Doerr was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio.  He graduated from Bowdoin College in Maine, 1995, majoring in history.  He then earned an MFA from Bowling Green State University in Ohio.

He is the author of the story collections The Shell Collector and Memory Wall, of the memoir Four Seasons in Rome: On Twins, Insomnia and the Biggest Funeral in the History of the World, and his first novel About Grace.  

Mr. Doerr lives in Boise, Idaho with his wife and twin sons.   He can be found @ http://www.anthonydoerr.com/  and on Facebook @ https://www.facebook.com/anthonydoerr

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Posted in Adult Fiction, Book, Book Review, Classic, Reading, Young Adult

UNCLE TOM’S CABIN by Harriet Beecher Stowe

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“The way of the wicked is as darkness; he knoweth not at what he stumbleth.”

Written in 1852, this book continues today as a classic novel about slavery, racism, hope and the Christian faith.  It was written to educate as well as to remind future generations.  It was a best-seller, selling 10,000 copies in the United States in its first week; 300,000 in the first year.  It also sold then, and still sells today, in the international market.  It has been on banned book lists since its publication.  Today, many school districts and/or states ban it due to language, racism, and/or Christianity.

Mrs. Stowe was from the Northeast United States.  The United States Congress passed the Compromise of 1850. It was intended to address the concerns of slave holding and free states, yet it helped galvanize the abolition movement.  Mrs. Stowe formed her stance on slavery because of this law.  Among the provisions of the Compromise of 1850 were the end of the slave trade, but not slavery, and the creation of a stricter Fugitive Slave Law. Helping runaways had been illegal since 1793, but the 1850 law required that everyone help catch fugitives.  This law erased any protection that a fugitive had had.  Anyone on the street could be picked up and accused of being a fugitive from slavery.  Thus free Blacks were often picked up and sent into slavery.

She was angry, believing her country was now requiring her to comply with a system that she believed was unjust and immoral.  While she and her husband, Calvin Stowe, were living in Maine, she disobeyed the law by hiding runaways.  Mrs. Stowe lived in Connecticut, Ohio, and Maine, yet she knew slavery through several avenues.  While in Ohio, she and her husband were a part of the Underground Railroad.  Her brother met a plantation owner who was cruel and evil as the book’s Simon Legree.  She traveled to Kentucky where she visited plantations with slaves.  She felt the message of slavery needed to be espoused clearly and loudly. She shared her frustrations and feelings of powerlessness with her family.  It was then that her sister-in-law suggested she do more: “…if I could use a pen as you can, Hatty, I would write something that would make this whole nation feel what an accursed thing slavery is.”  This letter touched Mrs. Stowe to the heart.  She was determined to write “if [she] lived.”

The story follows two lines.  One is Tom who chooses to stay with his family rather than run away once he finds that he is to be sold to pay debts of the plantation owner.  He hoped that his family would be able to stay together if he did not run.  The second is Eliza who finds that her young son, Harry, is also to be sold for these debts.  Eliza chooses to run away with Harry.

We follow Eliza and Harry as they wind their way on escape routes, running just ahead of slave hunters, being protected by Quakers missionaries along the way to arrive safely in Canada.  We also follow Tom from plantation owners who treat their slaves gently and kindly to being sold to a harsh slave trader who then sells Tom to other plantation owners.  The final one is the cruel and violent Simon Legree.

Slavery and the slave trade separated families, husbands from wives, mothers from children.  Punishments, fierce and gruesome, showed that slaves were treated as less than human.  Freedom came for some; others received promises of freedom, but when the master died suddenly or he racked up a lot of debt, those slaves were sold “down the river.”

There are moments in the story filled with hope and love, people desiring to help others.  There are times filled with cruelty and fear, people filled with hatred.  Uncle Tom’s Cabin is fiction yet is based on a conglomerate portrait of slaves, owners, families, and abolitionists.  It has the genuine mixture of story/subject, characters, settings, and emotions to make it a classic and a bestseller.  It is an excellent story, although so hard and harsh at times, yet carried along with hope and love.

Author

Harriet Beecher was born June 14, 1811 in Litchfield, CT to the Rev. Lyman Beecher (1775-1863) and Roxanna Foote Beecher (1775- 1816); the sixth of 11 children.  The Beechers expected their children to make a difference in the world, and they truly did:

  • All seven sons became ministers (the most effective way to influence society in that period)
  • Oldest daughter, Catharine pioneered education for women
  • Youngest daughter, Isabella was a founder of the National Women’s Suffrage Association
  • Harriet believed her purpose in life was to write. Her most famous work exposed the truth about the greatest social injustice of her day – human slavery

Stowe began her formal education at Sarah Pierce’s academy, one of the earliest to encourage girls to study academic subjects and not simply ornamental arts.  In 1824, she became a student and then a teacher at Hartford Female Seminary, which was founded by her sister Catharine.

In 1851, The National Era’s publisher contracted with Stowe for a story that would “paint a word picture of slavery” and that would run in installments.  Uncle Tom’s Cabin or Life Among the Lowly turned out to be more than 40 installments before it was published into a book.

In all, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s writing career spanned 51 years, during which time she published 30 books and countless short stories, poems, articles, and hymns.

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This has been a book I have wanted to read for years and years.  I finally decided it would fit into my library of Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson and Slavery by Another Name by Douglas A. Blackmon, two excellent non-fiction books.

 

 

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Book Information

ISBN-13: 9781593081218
Publisher:  Barnes & Noble
Publication date: 02/01/2005
Series:  Barnes & Noble Classics Series
Pages: 496
Product dimensions: 7.96(w) x 5.30(h) x 1.32(d)
Posted in Adult Fiction, Book, Book Review, Christianity, Reading

A SPARROW IN TEREZIN by Kristy Cambron

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A Hidden Masterpiece Novel #2

  • Two love stories intertwined throughout the book
  • Two love stories connected by a child, grown to be elderly
  • Two love stories of two distinct time periods: one in the now, the second in World War II
  • Two love stories seeking honest relationships where two people can be themselves
  • Two love stories where the couples call upon God for their strength in the midst of seemingly insurmountable odds, tremendous suffering

Sera James (from The Butterfly and the Violin) is opening a new art gallery in California, moving everything from New York.  She is preparing to marry William Hanover at about the same time.  Everything looks like the start of a fairy-tale life for them.

BUT…William is accused of a crime he did not commit, is arrested barely before the wedding ceremony is completed.  From here, one side of this story centers around this new marriage, the fight for innocence and battling accusations that wound, struggling to hold onto hope in a future with William, and the discovery of the other side of this intertwined story.

The other side begins in 1939 when Kája Makovsky, living in Prague with her family, is forced to flee as the city is coming under the occupation by Nazi Germany.  Kája must leave behind her half-Jewish family.  In 1942, as a reporter for The Daily Telegraph in London, Kája feels the terror of this war because the “London Blitz” has arrived over England.  Through her job, she learns that Jews are being exterminated by the thousands on the European continent.  Kája feels she has no choice but to return to Prague, risking her life to smuggle her family to freedom and peace.

Survival and hope tie Sera and Kája together.  Their faith holds them up as they do their best to protect those they love and all they hold dear.  Their own lives fall into the background when far more is at stake as they each risk everything for those they care about most.  A survivor of the Holocaust (a third person) shares her story of hope from this deep, dark period of history with Sera, binding Sera and Kája across time.
It is a wonderful story.  It can be read without having read the first, but I believe it would be better to have read The Butterfly and the Violin.  I find that reading true stories of the Holocaust gives me an actual perspective of how people survived and how they aided others.  I have read Corrie ten Boom’s story as she and her family aided the Jews in Holland.  She was taken to a concentration camp and survived, although her sister did not.  Her real life is all about Jesus.  He was on her lips until God brought her home many years later.  I also like historical fiction of many eras, but like to read these Holocaust novels by Kristy Cambron for she brings faith front and center, making God so very important in the midst of this hell on earth.  I highly recommend these two books.

Awards:

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Best of 2015 List (Genre Fiction) —Library Journal Reviews 

Book of the Month Pick, Christian Fiction (Feb. 2015)  —Library Journal (starred review)

Received a nomination for RT Reviewers’ Choice Awards Best Inspirational Book of 2015

Geen musje zal Vallen (Dutch translation) —Kok Publishers

 

Author

Kristy Cambron holds a degree in Art History from Indiana University.  She worked in instructional design, corporate training and communications for a Fortune-100 Corporation.  Kristy is a Speaker and Design Manager at The GROVE storytelling ministry.

Her debut novel, The Butterfly and the Violin, was named to Library Journal Reviews and RT Reviewers’ Choice Awards Best of 2014 lists, and received a 2015 INSPY Awards nomination for best debut novel.  A Sparrow in Terezin is her second novel and, as you can see from the awards listed above, it has received wide acclaim.  Kristy’s third historical novel, The Ringmaster’s Wife, was named to Publishers Weekly Spring 2016 Religion & Spirituality TOP 10 and will release in June, 2016.

Kristy is not shy about things that are important to her:  “Jesus Christ is everything.”

Kristy  lives in Indiana with her husband and three sons.  She can be found @ https://kristycambron.com/  and https://kristycambron.com/books/a-sparrow-in-terezin/ and on Facebook @ https://www.facebook.com/KCambronAuthor and @ https://twitter.com/KCambronAuthor

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Book Information

ISBN-13:9781401690618
Publisher:  Thomas Nelson, Inc.
Publication date: 04/07/2015
Series:  Hidden Masterpiece Series, #2  
Pages: 368
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)
Posted in Adult Fiction, Adult Nonfiction, Book, Book Review, Children's, Classic, Middle Readers, Picture Book, Poetry, Reading, Young Adult

POEMS TO LEARN BY HEART by Caroline Kennedy

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This is a collection of almost 200 poems, a companion to “A Family of Poems,” Caroline Kennedy’s New York Times #1 Bestseller from 2005.  This beautiful volume is filled with poetry of all sorts: about one’s self, family, friendship, and love.  There are poems about sports and games, about school.  Nonsensical poetry, poems about fairies, ogres, and witches are included too.  There are deeply touching poems about war, poetry about nature, Bible verses, and so much more are scattered together and throughout this fine book.

“Poets distill life’s lessons into the fewest possible words.  But those tiny packages of thought contain worlds of images and experiences and feelings.”  Caroline Kennedy

Caroline Kennedy writes about the importance of memorization of poetry in her introduction.  “If our circumstances change and things seem to be falling apart, we can recall a poem that reassures us. If we find ourselves in unfamiliar or frightening surroundings, a poem can remind us that others have journeyed far and returned safely home.  If we learn poems by heart, we will always have their wisdom to draw on, and we gain understanding that no one can take away.”

As a Bible verse is memorized and tucked into my heart, even if only in part, it will be there when I need it the most.  Poetry can be a similar strength in a weaker time.

This anthology has works of art by well known poets from the past such as Robert Louis Stevenson, Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning.  They remind me of poetry I once read, maybe even memorized for a class.  Geoffrey Chaucer’s General Prologue to The Canterbury Tales is even etched into this book. (I read the whole of The Canterbury Tales when I was in high school from the Old English translation, no less, each night for homework, translating it into “readable” English for Senior English class/Mrs. Lee!  I recall the assignment well.  I did not tuck any of that away for those weaker moments, I am afraid!)  Paul Revere’s Ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, along with Ogden Nash, Carl Sandburg, and many others remind parents of poems they may have memorized or read.

Poetry by A.A. Milne, Nikki Giovanni, Shel Silverstein, Jane Yolen, and Jack Prelutsky represents some of the newer poets yet each stands tall among those of years gone by.

Caroline Kennedy worked regularly with the DreamYard Preparatory School in the Bronx who authored a lengthy poem (or more) in this book as well.  These young people are the DreamYard Slam Team.  She dedicates the book to them and their futures.

The watercolor paintings of Jon J. Muth are gentle and excellent for each and every page, each and every poem.  As one example, on page 35, the Bible verse, Micah 6:8, is written upon an array of blues suggesting the heavenly realm spread over the double-page:

He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the LORD require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?

Yes, Bible verses can also poetry.

This is another fine collection from Caroline Kennedy.  She is an advocate for poetry as she was brought up with it in her family.  They shared poetry at gatherings of the whole Kennedy clan as well as amongst their own smaller family.  Caroline said her mother, Jacqueline Kennedy, loved poetry and encouraged her children to engage with it, to memorize it.  Rose Kennedy, Caroline’s grandmother, was another encourager along this creative avenue.

Reading Level: Preschool and up

Author

Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg is a lawyer, author, education advocate, and lifelong supporter of the arts.  Ms. Kennedy attended Sotheby’s Institute of Art in London, England from 1975-1976. She earned a B.A. in Fine Arts from Radcliffe College at Harvard University in 1980. Ms. Kennedy received her J.D. from Columbia University Law School in 1988.  She is the Ambassador to Japan from the United States of America.

She is the daughter of President John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis , sister to John Kennedy.

She has written many books and articles, subjects ranging from legal issues, family and children, the Kennedy family, and poetry.

Illustrator

Jon J Muth is an American artist, born and grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio.  He loved to draw as a boy, and he also painted. His mother was an art teacher and took him to museums all over the US.  He studied stone sculpture in Japan; paintings, prints and drawings in Austria, Germany, and England.  Most of his education as an artist came from an informal apprenticeship with fine artists.

“My work in children’s books really grew out of a desire to explore what I was feeling as a new father,” says Muth. “I was working in comics and that is a natural forum for expressions of angst and questioning one’s place in the universe. When the children came it became important to say other things about the world. With the birth of my children, there was a kind of seismic shift in where my work seemed appropriate.”

Jon Muth has illustrated (and written some) picture books of high acclaim.  They are beloved around the world.

Muth lives in upstate New York with his wife and four children. Jon can be found @ jonmuth.com or on Pinterest or @ RMichelsonGalleries  or  http://www.rmichelson.com/illustration/jon-j-muth/poems-to-learn-by-heart/  for many paintings from this book.

Book Information

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Disney-Hyperion; First Edition edition (March 26, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1423108051
  • ISBN-13: 978-1423108054
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 0.8 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds

 

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Posted in Adult Fiction, Book, Book Review, Reading

THE GIRL FROM THE TRAIN by Irma Joubert

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Set during and after World War II, Gretl Schmidt, six years old, is the daughter of a German soldier with a Jewish grandmother.  This Jewish relation drives her and family, firstly, to the ghetto, then aboard a train headed to Auschwitz, with her mother, grandmother, and sister.  Gretl and her sister are pushed between the bars by her mother and grandmother to escape certain death.

At the same time, Jakób Kowalski, a Polish resistance fighter (against both the German and the Russian forces), is placing a bomb on the tracks to blow up a scheduled German troop transport.  But an unscheduled train, headed for Auschwitz, comes through first, and is blown up by the bomb.  All on board are killed.  Gretl and her sister have escaped.

Gretl is taken into Jakób’s family’s crowded home.  Jakób is a young man at this time.  For three years, he and Gretl form a bond.  Many secrets must be hidden from Jakób’s Catholic family.  Gretl cannot stay with him though.  Jakób places Gretl in a German orphanage where German war orphans are promised bright futures with adoptive Protestant families in South Africa.  Once again, Gretl’s secrets must be kept, this time all alone—Jewish roots, Catholic education in Poland, and communist Poland.

Separated by years, continents, religion, language, even politics, it seems unlikely that Jakób and Gretl will ever see each other again. Yet, the human spirit and the human bond can overcome many hard circumstances.

Author

Irma Joubert:  International bestselling author Irma Joubert was a history teacher for 35 years before she began writing. She’s the author of eight novels and is often on the bestseller lists in The Netherlands as well as her native South Africa. She is the winner of the 2010 ATKV Prize for Romance Novels.   She can be found on Facebook @ irmajoubertpage

My Honest Opinion

I loved so much of this story–the roots into just one segment of World War II, the hardships of the Jewish people, and the strength of the human spirit as they fight to survive alone, fighting to suppress enemies which dare to overtake them, and fighting to survive together.  The story is filled with the beauty of relationships between young, old, and all ages in between. Families share the willingness to love beyond the circumstances, through trial and tribulation, through war and famine, through fear and secrecy.  There are moments of sadness, survival, strength, and of pure joy, and unequivocal love.  

Biblical truths weave their way clearly and profoundly throughout the book.  I was glad and thankful to find each nugget as I read “The Girl From the Train.” 

I love historical fiction.  This book had a piece of history which I was unfamiliar with–the emigration of German war orphans to South Africa…Pretoria to be exact.  It was a small group of 83 which went there in 1948.  What this book lacked for me was more depth into the history of this event.  Plus I would have liked a bit more history of the times in South Africa:  What exactly was the “Catholic Threat” to the people in South Africa?  Were the South African British just as closed to the Jewish, Catholics, and Polish as the Dutch/Afrikaaners?  I would have liked more historical depth so that I did not have to look it up on the internet to find those extra details which I enjoy in a strong historical novel.

You can find more reviews @ Girl on the Train Reviews @ BookLook Bloggers

and the book listed @ Thomas Nelson

Thank you to Thomas Nelson, a registered trademark of HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc., for this complimentary e-copy of “The Girl From The Train” by Irma Joubert through the BookLook Bloggers program. I was not required to write a favorable review, but only to read this book in its entirety in exchange for an honest review.  The opinions I have expressed are my own.

I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

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Book Information:

ISBN-13: 9780529102379

Publisher:  Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Publication date: 11/03/2015

Pages: 384

Product dimensions: 5.80(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.10(d)

Language:  English

Posted in Adult Fiction, Book, Book Review, Christianity, Reading

THE BUTTERFLY AND THE VIOLIN by Kristy Cambron

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A debut novel…historical fiction, the first in the series — “A Hidden Masterpiece Novel.”  A fine novel woven on today’s Manhattan, New York, warp threads, interwoven with Austrian Nazi WWII weft threads.   It is lovely with each chapter’s focus back and forth from one era to the other, tying each strand together as the weaving is being formed in words.

The story centers around a painting that Sera James, a Manhattan art dealer, saw when she was a girl.  It was a portrait of a young violinist with beautiful blue eyes.  Tied into the Manhattan, New York, chapters is William Hanover, the grandson of a wealthy California real estate mogul who has a connection to this painting.

Adele Von Bron is the daughter of a high-ranking member of the Third Reich who is a talented violinist in Austria, extremely well-loved by the Austrian aristocracy.  She is invited to play with the Vienna Philharmonic where she meets Vladimir, the son of a merchant who also plays in the orchestra.  He is below the status that Adele’s parents desire for her, yet they spend time together as often as they are able.  As Hitler’s destructive progress engulfs Austria, Adele and Vladimir begin smuggling Jews from Austria, risking lives, leading to horrific changes for both.

Sera is thorough and diligent as she unravels the intricacies of Adele’s life and the background of the painting which is at the very center of this story.

Ms. Cambron interlaces these two stories beautifully.  Love, faith, courage, music, and art dance together, and alongside, some of the history of 1938 when Adolf Hitler advances on Austria is intertwined.  I enjoy historical fiction, and it seems that history of the Holocaust has taken up residence in some of my reading of late.   This is one novel, a debut novel yet, that I am so thankful I did not miss.

Awards:

RT Nominee* Named to Best in Christian Fiction, 2014 –  Library Journal Reviews

* Nominee, Inspirational Novel of 2014  —  RT Book Reviews Reviewers’ Choice Awards

*Nominee, Best Debut Novel –  2015 INSPY Awards

Author

Kristy Cambron “fancies life as a vintage-inspired storyteller.”

“Kristy is a Speaker and Art/Design Manager at The GROVE, and holds a degree in Art History from Indiana University. She lives in Indiana with her husband and three sons….”  She can be found @ http://kristycambron.com/

“Her second novel, A SPARROW IN TEREZIN, was named to Library Journal Reviews Best of 2015 list, and received a nomination for RT Reviewers’ Choice Awards Best Inspirational Book of 2015. Kristy’s third historical novel, THE RINGMASTER’S WIFE, will release from HarperCollins Christian Publishing in June, 2016.”

“The last and most important thing?  Everyone has a story– you can read Our Story here. In ours, we’ve found one truth: Jesus Christ is faithful. I’d love to tell you about Him sometime. <><”  (from her websites)

 

Book Information

ISBN-13:  9781401690595

Publisher:  Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Publication date:  07/15/2014

Series:  The Hidden Masterpiece Series, #1

Pages:336

Product dimensions:5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)

 

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linking up with:  Teach Mentor Texts, Unleashing Readers, The Book Date, Literacy Musing Mondays, What to Read Wednesday, A Little R & R Wednesdays, Kid Lit Blog Hop, Booknificent ThursdaysLiterary Friday, Semicolon Saturday, Reading List/Cozy Reading SpotBook Review Blog Hop

Posted in Adult Fiction, Book, Book Review, Children's, Picture Book, Poetry, Reading

LIBRARIAN’S NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS by David Davis

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What a hoot!  This rendition of Clement C. Moore’s classic “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” is so original, dedicated “For all the overworked underpaid librarians.”  And it is a perfect fit!

A read for children?  Probably not!  But…it is for adults, especially for librarians, library staff, literary buffs, readers who still use public libraries!  Filled with library terms, this poem is a work along the lines of Mr. Davis’ other “Night Before Christmas” series (Nurse’s, Lawyer’s, Cowboy’s, etc.).  He weaves interlibrary loans, “Hawthorne, Jane Austen, Steinbeck, and Millay,” book carts, Newbery, Caldecott, New York bestseller, “Dewey and his decimal system,” overdue fines…and more…in and throughout the poetic lines!  Thus, you can see why adults would appreciate this whimsical book far more than a child who would be anticipating the original “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.”

As we turn to the first page, we see a librarian with a tired, sad face shelving books on Christmas Eve.  There are children still in the library reading, totally enchanted by their books.

‘Twas a cold Yuletide evening, and I wandered the stacks,

Shelving multiple titles that the patrons brought back.

We toiled overtime at our library here,

‘Cause the powers that be cut our staffing this year. 

They spent pork-barrel money like a tidal-wave seas,

But no funds trickled down far enough to reach me.

….

And thus we begin!

But Santa comes flying in from atop the trees in his red bookmobile, rocket a-flare and an helicopter blade a-spinning.  Upon landing, the doors open wide while elves jump out with stacks of books in their hands.  The library is ‘the little one’ who receives the gifts this year…books in all genres, decorations for Christmas, a new carpet, pictures for the walls, and even a story time to the real children by Santa Claus.

The wording is so clever and fitting of the financial times for most library systems in the country…

“For the book-budget cutters, Old Claus had no plan,

‘Cause if they could read, they just read Ayn Rand.”

The artwork is filled with exceptional detail, including the twinkling eyes, splendidly expressed on Santa.  There are tiny stories told between the lines in artful manner (or as PBS’ series is titled–“Between the Lions”...you know…those two lions on either side of the gate as you walk in the library?  TeeHee!  I just got my own double entendre!).  Jim Harris, the illustrator, does a masterful job at bringing the poem to visual life through his colorful and lighthearted characters as well as the library’s decor.  Take your time in the reading because you will want to really look at the illustrations.

Reading Level:  5 – 8 Years, but really for the adult reading audience and librarians!

Author
David Davis grew up in San Antonio, Texas.  He writes Travels with Grandpaw, his graphic art stories about old time Texas, now featured on his website.

He authored Jazz Cats and Ten Redneck Babies, both of which were named to the Children’s Choice Top 100 List.  Jazz Cats was also a finalist for the Texas Golden Spur Award.

Mr. Davis has published pen-and-ink artwork, cartoons, poems, humor, and short stories in various magazines and newspapers.

He’s been a featured author at the Texas Library Association Convention and the Texas Book Festival.  He lives in Forth Worth, Texas.

More information about him and the books he writes can be found @http://davidrdavis.com/


Illustrator

Jim Harris was born in 1955 in North Carolina, now residing in Upper Moutere, New Zealand.  He has illustrated and written children’s books, with more than three million copies in print. His books are best known for their detailed and humorous depictions of animal and human characters.

Jim Harris’s delightful artwork has brought smiles to the pages of original books and classic retellings, such as The Tortoise and the Hare, Rapunzel, and The Three Little Pigs. 

He uses watercolor, oil, acrylic and gouache paintings and pencil drawings.

Many of Mr. Harris’ books have won awards too numerous to list in this space.

This website is filled with Mr. Harris’ art  —  http://jimharrisillustrator.com/index.html

The publisher of this book has information about Mr. Harris @ http://www.pelicanpub.com/proddetail.php?prod=9781589803367#.Vm5I03vxtFA

Book Information:
ISBN-13: 9781589803367
Publisher:  Pelican Publishing Company, Incorporated
Publication date: 02/28/2007
Series: Night Before Christmas Series
Pages: 32
Product dimensions: 8.70(w) x 11.00(h) x 0.40(d)

 

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Posted in Adult Fiction, Book, Book Review, Reading

THE MAPMAKER’S CHILDREN by Sarah McCoy

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from Page 91:  “Her father had proven to them all when a beating heart stopped, there was no black or white, only blood-red.”

John Brown, the white abolitionist who led the raid on the federal armory at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia), is the father of one of the main characters in this book.  John Brown was hung on December 2, 1859, as the raid was a failure and his actions and beliefs were a threat to the pro-slavery South.  This book is an historic novel based on the Brown family and one of his many children, Sarah Brown, a talented artist.

Two tales intertwine, one chapter at a time.  One is set in the 1850-1860s.  The next chapter is set in the current day.  The chapters see-saw between these two periods, between two women, set over 150 years apart.

John Brown harbors runaway slaves in their Plattsburg, New York home as the slaves are heading towards Canada.  Sarah has had a devastating diagnosis that leaves her unable to have children.  In those days, that probably also meant that she would never marry.  She wanted to have a life with meaning despite this huge disappointment.  Sarah Brown was an artist and, at an early age, she discovered her father hiding slaves from plantations in their home.  Her father knew she could draw.  In order to communicate to ones who could not read or who could not decipher directions, Sarah was able to use her talent to serve the Underground Railroad, first through the help of her father.  With the hanging death of her father in 1859, Sarah took her heart’s desire to aid the runaway slaves and the Underground Railroad as her own.  By drawing and painting maps, Sarah Brown helped the slaves to understand where the safe stations were on the UGRR and how to get there.

Eden and Jack move into a house once used by the Underground Railroad.  As the history of the house gradually becomes evident, the lives of Eden and Sarah become interwoven like warp and woof by commonalities, i.e., children (inability to conceive/not having any), desire to be a part of something larger than themselves, loss, disappointments, and love.

Sarah McCoy has done extensive research of the slave code quilts and the use of these on the UGRR, the Underground Railroad itself, the methods of hiding runaway slaves as they made their way north to Canada, the maps used to guide these slaves (drawn within a painting, even on the heads of dolls).  It is a well-crafted novel, filled with history (although the author admits in the Prologue that she took a writers’ privilege to change some things in order to fit her story).

All in all, it was a good story, well worth the reading.  And a satisfying read!

Author: 

Sarah McCoy was born in Fort Knox, Kentucky, the daughter of an Army officer from Oklahoma and a Puerto Rican elementary school teacher.  She moved often as military families do, but they were stationed in Virginia for fourteen years so Sarah calls Virginia home, and Puerto Rico, where her grandparents and extended family live, her home-home.

She “is the New York Times, USA Today, and international bestselling author of The Mapmaker’s Children; The Baker’s Daughter, a 2012 Goodreads Choice Award Best Historical Fiction nominee; the novella “The Branch of Hazel,” featured in the anthology Grand Central; and The Time It Snowed in Puerto Rico.

“Sarah’s work has been featured in Real Simple, The Millions, Your Health Monthly, Huffington Post and other publications. She has taught English writing at Old Dominion University and at the University of Texas at El Paso.”

Sarah lives with her husband, an Army physician in El Paso, Texas.  Her online presence can be found at http://sarahmccoy.com/

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2770941.Sarah_McCoy

 

Book Information:

ISBN-13: 9780385348904

Publisher: The Crown Publishing Group (a subsidiary of Random House)

Publication Date: 05/05/2015

Pages: 320

Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d

 

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Posted in Adult Fiction, Book, Book Review, Christianity, Reading

COME RAIN OR COME SHINE by Jan Karon

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A Mitford Novel

A great read!!  This is the thirteenth, and supposedly final, episode in the Mitford Series.  And, if so, what a great way to end this series…Dooley and Lace get married.  We have followed Dooley from his rough boyhood into the adopting arms of Father Tim and Cynthia.  Dooley brought youth and vigor, a troubled family history, as well as his troubled family into the story centered around Mitford.  He grew and matured, went to college to become a veterinarian (and did just that), has been around Lace for years as we watched their relationship develop, tumble, and then grow.

Father Tim is now a retired Episcopal priest in this small town in North Carolina.  We have seen him as he cared for his flock in Mitford, then followed him to other areas where a church was in need of a pastor for a period, and then on vacation to Ireland (well, not all vacation as he was led to some “sheep” needing prayer and love, some needing to be called to life with the Lord).

Cynthia is a children’s book author and illustrator whom Father Tim married many books ago.  He shares this town with her as they both minister to the flock.  Many other characters intertwine their ways into the lives of this family and become one very large delightful family that the reader (me) has delighted in and followed for thirteen novels.  I have loved them all and felt like I was part of this Mitford bunch.

The setting for this particular novel is the wedding of Dooley and Lace.  Preparation for a wedding, the relationships that revolve around it, and the actual wedding involve people that we know from Jan’s previous novels who step in and out and back in again.  There are even new people who grab heart strings as they come in and relate to those we have “known.”  Oh, there are some fun and crazy pieces that fill in a few empty spots in the Kavanagh puzzle.

God’s Truth is woven into the chapters through prayer, through sharing the Gospel, through lessons taught…some hard, all strong.  The Word of God in Jan’s books is a central point, standing tall and clear.  She has been consistent on this message throughout the series.  Every reader can glean a lot or a little of all that God wants to teach us.  This author has NOT been ashamed of the Gospel, that is for sure.  Amen to Jan for staying with God’s path.

Closure in some ways and new beginnings in others is what this thirteenth book is all about.  The way Jan Karon writes, allowing the reader to feel a part of this community also allows one to feel good about letting the world of these characters go on in the recesses of our minds without having to know an exact outcome for any exact situation!

My husband and I have read this whole series aloud to one another either as we drove along an open road or as we sat in the quiet of our living room.  It has been a fun way to enjoy all of these books, plus share this delightful community together.

The title comes from a song “Come Rain or Come Shine” (Harold Arlen composed the music and Johnny Mercer wrote the lyrics). The song was written for the musical St. Louis Woman, published in 1946.  It has been song by stars such as Barbra Streisand, Frank Sinatra, B. B. King/Eric Clapton, Billie Holiday, and many, many more.  The first stanza is:

I’m gonna love you like nobody’s loved you
Come rain or come shine
High as a mountain and deep as a river
Come rain or come shine

I think my Mama used to sing or hum this song!

Author

In 1937, Janice Meredith Wilson was born, and was raised on a farm near Lenoir, North Carolina. Jan knew at a very early age that she wanted to be a writer. She wrote her first novel when she was 10 years old, winning a short-story contest that same year.

At 18, Jan began working for an advertising agency in Charlotte, N.C. as a receptionist.  Jan went on to have a highly successful career in the field, winning awards for ad agencies from Charlotte to San Francisco.

At 50, she left her career in advertising and moved to Blowing Rock, North Carolina, to pursue her dream of writing. “After struggling—and failing—to get a novel underway, Jan awoke one night with a mental image of an Episcopal priest walking down a village street. She grew curious and started writing about a character she named Father Tim Kavanagh. Soon, Jan was publishing weekly installments about Father Tim in her local newspaper, The Blowing Rocket, which saw its circulation double as a result. ‘The installment plan certainly worked for Mr. Dickens’, says Jan. The installments became Jan’s first Mitford novel, At Home in Mitford.” Many awards have been given to her many books.

Besides the Mitford Novels site, you can also find Jan @ https://www.facebook.com/JanKaronand https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/40552.Jan_Karon

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* from http://www.mitfordbooks.com/

 

linking up with:  Teach Mentor Texts, Unleashing Readers, The Book Date, Literacy Musing Mondays, What to Read WednesdayKid Lit Blog Hop, Booknificent Thursdays, The Book NookLiterary Friday, Semicolon Saturday, Reading List/Cozy Reading SpotBook Review Blog Hop

Posted in Adult Fiction, Adult Nonfiction, Book, Book Review, Classic, Reading

You Did It to Me – The Grapes of Wrath | Just Mercy

For I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed Me, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you visited Me, I was in prison and you came to Me.’  Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?  And when did we see You a stranger and welcome You, or naked and clothe You?  And when did we see You sick or in prison and visit You?’  And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these My brothers, you did it to Me.’   Matthew 25:35-40

MLKquoteI have just finished reading “The Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck, written in 1939.  Prior to that book, I read “Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson, written in 2014.  In this world today…my heart, my eyes, my ears see and sense injustice, inequality, desperation in trying to migrate or to escape across waters and harsh lands, living in war-torn countries, starvation, sex and slave trafficking, and this list goes on and on.  I also see the good and the great, but these books have focused my attention on these harder issues.

The first of these books wraps around the issues of migrant farm work back in the Dust Bowl period and the Depression.  The misuse of land, bank loans, and then corporations getting the land of small farmers, set these families off their land.   When they saw handbills advertising workers were needed in the rich, fertile valleys of California, far too many went out there without enough work for all.  Then corruption reared its ugly head all across the state in many forms.  The circumstances of it all broke the spirits of many of these people, yet many overcame as best they could to survive.

200px-JohnSteinbeck_TheGrapesOfWrathThe second book is about a lawyer who meets prisoners on death row.  These men come together when Bryan Stevenson goes to the South for a month-long class while attending Harvard Law School.  He meets men who have been locked up in solitary confinement for years upon years.  Eventually, the ones in the book are found to be innocent, yet never had the council necessary to have a fair trial.  People in authority used their powers unjustly to lock up innocent people to keep the guilty out of prison or to keep their own name from coming under ridicule when they did not arrest a guilty party.

9780812994520_p0_v3_s260x420Although one book is fiction, it is based on events over years and of many that actually did occur.  It is like a composite of the times.  The other is nonfiction.  My heart strings have been pulled immensely these weeks.  I am sad for the injustice that took place so long ago in many situations, and still takes place to this very day.

Jesus calls us to feed the hungry, to visit prisoners, to welcome a stranger.  When we look around, there seems so very much that needs to be done.  Overwhelming, indeed.  And we often sit still, doing nothing because we don’t know where to begin or it seems like too daunting of a task.  Bryan S. thought such thoughts, but he began with one prisoner.  Casy, in Steinbeck’s book, stood up for the downtrodden who were being underpaid, overworked, and betrayed because someone else was willing to do their job for less so the wealthy landowners hired the new ones for half the price and forced the others to take that same pay or get out.  Tom Joad, a main character, planned to take up that mantle after Casy was killed in trying.  Tom was willing to risk it all.

Risking is hard.  Yet…can we lift a hand to help another?  Can we offer a drink of water?  Can we feed the starving?  Can we bring Jesus to the hearts of the lost?  Will we?

Helping-Others-Quotes-No-one-is-useless-in-this-world-who-lightens-the-burdens-of-another.Father, I ask Your forgiveness for all of the open doors I have walked passed, missing the golden moments to offer help.  And thank You for giving me an opportunity to feed one from Cuba recently when he asked for money for food.  We were just outside a cafe so I invited him in and bought his lunch. He was most grateful.  You blessed me, LORD, for this man truly wanted a meal.  My cynicism creeps in when so many have a hand out with looks of drug and alcohol abuse.  My trust in their request is zero for I judge them and think I know what it is they really want.  Guide me to those who You want me to help.  I trust in You and You alone.  Then I will know.  Father, take me by the hand and teach me Your ways that I will see Jesus in these with a need.  I don’t want to get to Heaven and find out just how many, many times I have missed Him here on this earth.  I know I will have missed many, but I don’t want to add to that number now.  I lift this prayer to You in Your Son’s Name. Amen. 

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Martin Luther King, Jr. photo:  https://www.facebook.com/RevivalAmerica

Charles Dickens’ Quote:  http://www.verybestquotes.com

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Originally posted on “Being Woven” June 16, 2015.  It is less of a book review than it is a statement yet I want this to be on this book review site as both books were powerful books and ones to be read.