ARC REVIEW, Penguin Random House, THE NIGHT GARDEN, by Polly Horvath

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It is World War II, and Franny and her parents, Sina and Old Tom, enjoy a quiet life on a farm on Vancouver Island. Franny writes, Sina sculpts, and Old Tom tends to their many gardens–including the ancient, mysterious night garden. Their peaceful life is interrupted when their neighbor, Crying Alice, begs Sina to watch her children while she goes to visit her husband at the military base because she suspects he’s up to no good. Soon after the children move in, letters arrive from their father that suggest he’s about to do something to change their lives; and appearances from a stubborn young cook, UFOs, hermits, and ghosts only make life stranger. Can the forbidden night garden that supposedly grants everyone one wish help them all out of trouble? And if so, at what cost?

BOOK REVIEW:

What a ride! I found this book exhilarating and the characters rich and wholesome.  The author’s voice is reminiscent of Harper Lee’s in “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

The use of language significant to the World War II era was an excellent touch. I felt like I was right there with Franny, the storyteller, seeing everything and hearing everything she was. Love the cover! It’s an easy read for middle grade right up to adults! I enjoyed it and know that other adults would too.

I gave this book:

4_stars_gold1

The ABC Animal Picnic, by Janina Rossiter

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Amazon bestselling author Janina Rossiter loves three things: design, France and her little family.

She studied communication & illustration design at university, and has lived in Germany (her home country), England (where she met her husband), and now France (where she vows to stay). After graduating with a degree from university she worked as a packaging designer for a few years before setting off on her own and expanding into freelance design. She enjoys the creative energy of Paris, where she lives with her English husband and her two daughters.

With the arrival of her first daughter, Janina’s love for painting and drawing found a new lease on life and, before long, she combined her passion for illustration with the wonderfully inspiring world of children.

BOOK REVIEW:

My firm belief about picture books is that if the illustrations are crap, then the book is crap.  When I happened across this particular picture book by Janina Rossiter, I was hopeful to find a real treasure. Well, I didn’t.

I found a brilliant masterpiece! The illustrations are incredible, and wonderfully set to a great theme, simple wording, and an excellent layout. I couldn’t be more pleased with this book. Rossiter is a talented artist that creates entertaining and memorable characters for tiny readers to enjoy over and over again. (Even big readers too!)

I smiled the whole time I flipped through the book. Well done!

I give this book a well-earned:

5-Star-Logo-2

ARC Review, THE PAINTING, by Charis Cotter – Publisher: Tundra Books

A haunting, beautiful middle-grade novel about fractured relationships, loss, ghosts, friendship and art.

Annie and her mother don’t see eye to eye. When Annie finds a painting of a lonely lighthouse in their home, she is immediately drawn to it–and her mother wishes it would stay banished in the attic. To her, art has no interest, but Annie loves drawing and painting.

When Annie’s mother slips into a coma following a car accident, strange things begin to happen to Annie. She finds herself falling into the painting and meeting Claire, a girl her own age living at the lighthouse. Claire’s mother Maisie is the artist behind the painting, and like Annie, Claire’s relationship with her mother is fraught. Annie thinks she can help them find their way back to each other, and in so doing, help mend her relationship with her own mother.

But who IS Claire? Why can Annie travel through the painting? And can Annie help her mother wake up from her coma?

The Painting is a touching, evocative story with a hint of mystery and suspense to keep readers hooked.

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Background:

Tundra Books asked that I give this new book scheduled out for the 19th of September of this year, a review. This is a excellent, well-paced Tweens Novel for ages 9 through 12, set in Canada, in the supernatural, paranormal genre of roughly 271 pages.

Charis Cotter

CHARIS COTTER grew up beside a cemetery and has been living with ghosts ever since. She studied English in university and went to drama school in London, England. Her spooky, suspenseful novel, The Swallow: A Ghost Story, was nominated for many awards and received countless honors. Her picture book, The Ferryland Visitor: A mysterious tale, is based on a true ghost story experienced by Newfoundland artist Gerald L. Squires and his family when they lived at an abandoned lighthouse in the 1970s. Charis has worked extensively in schools and libraries from coast to coast, using drama and storytelling to bring her books to life. Her performances of Newfoundland ghost stories have thrilled audiences of all ages, from Florida to Vancouver Island. She lives at the end of a road beside the ocean, in one of the most haunted parts of Newfoundland.

Once I learned this novel was going to be set in Newfoundland, I was incredibly excited to read on, since I have extensive family history ebbing from there.  Imagine my surprise and wonder when I discovered the family name Piercey, when I was reading. This is my mother’s family name. Talk about spooky! lol

Anyway, this is a story of two families that are uniquely tied to one another through two girls, Claire and Annie. The author’s voice is wonderful throughout the story and very compelling. I finished this book in one sitting and loved every moment of it. The POV (point of view) jumped between these two girls and at first, I was a bit lost, but once I caught on, I actually enjoyed reading from their individual perspectives. It gave the story an in-depth insight from two different angles that tied the story together nicely. A great read about family love, understanding and forgiveness passed down through the generations.

The character developments were ideal, smooth in their transactions and done expertly with an even flow that keeps you enjoying them and wanting more. The setting in an old lighthouse adds just the right mysterious touch to the tone. The inner struggles of these two girls with their respective mothers is incredibly bang on and well written. This story will appeal to both young adults and adults alike.

I truly enjoyed this book and highly recommend it to anyone interested in this style of writing. The book is due out September 19, 2017, through Tundra Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

This author offers another book: “The Swallow, A Ghost Story,” if you enjoy “The Painting” check out “The Swallow, A Ghost Story.”

I give this ARC:

4_5_StarRating

Beginner Reader, BACK TO SCHOOL, by Ella May Woodman

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When asked to review this book, I was very excited. As a children’s book author as well as an adult book author, I love to see the work of fellow authors in this genre. It’s nice to share the love of writing for children with someone who “gets” me, lol.

The cover presented a fun reader for students going back to school. Once I started reading it, however, the beginning portion of the book was addressed to parents,  and caregivers. So I thought the Reader was for parents to understand what to expect for their children once they started school. I thought what a good idea.

Suddenly, the reader opened into a story directed to kids done in rhyme about going back to school. I thought this was a good story, but why was it included in the reader directed to parents and caregivers…

The story was followed by a list of word opposites to match up. For a reader for children, this is a great thing to accompany a beginner reader. However, it’s suddenly switched to  Dolch and Fry Lists which I’m certain beginner readers will not be interested in or understand. So this made me rethink the reader was meant to be aimed at Parents and Caregivers, but in actuality, it was more directed to teachers.

The lists proceed to reference words that are in the story done in rhyme that are associated with grades one through three according to the Dolch list. When addressing the included Fry list, there’s an in-depth discussion of words included in the Fry list inclusive of grades 3-9. This is suppose to be a Beginner Reader for ages 5, 6, and 7?

There is no way this book is now being addressed to parents and caregivers but now academics, and most certainly not children at a beginner reading level. I’m confused.  In the Parent, Teacher and Caregiver Resource Guide section, the author begins by describing how they can help to make the reader useful to their children.  She then proceeds to explain how a student may stumble over the words “the” or “you”… When I read the story at the beginning of the reader, it held words like: laughter, everyone, favorite, science, nervous… I would think “the” and “you” is the least of their worries.

I must question the age level and grade level of this particular reader. Although an interesting concept, is it really a Beginner level reader?  I also wonder at the full understanding of the Dolch and Fry list and whether this information would be included in a Beginner Reader for children.  Reference materials and guides usually are not something provided to children, and most certainly helpful, but not for the young audience comprised of Beginner Readers.  Perhaps, this information is sectioned off better in the printed version of the reader and clearly titled and laid out away from the actual story for the beginner reader.  The story in itself is clever and would make a small separate source of inspiration and entertainment for back to school kids and with the tweaking of certain words, a great beginner reader or early reader depending on the words chosen and grade defined it aims at.

I completely understand that the author wants to provide an excellent story for children and guidance for the accompanying adult to refer to. I just am not sure the lists were necessary if that accompanying adult is to be a parent/caregiver. If a teacher, then they would already know this information and could find the “lists” insulting? I think a separation of material with a more definitive and distinct format is needed.  Clarification as to whom the reader is for is also needed done by including and excluding only the information to fill that clarification. The illustrations are for a younger audience.

The concept is interesting. I think there’s great potential for success with this idea. It just requires tweaking.  As it stands, I give this book:

3-stars

 

PROCRASTINATION, Stop Procrastinating and Laziness With The Habit of Discipline, by Jonathan Green

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Overview:

Do you want to get a step ahead, and not just spend your life stuck behind? Do you want to conquer procrastination – forever?

Are you struggling to get your projects done on time? Or are you tired of being the ‘one big move’ from changing your life?

Writers, entrepreneurs and business owners – you need to read PROCRASTINATION – as soon as possible! In this book, you’ll learn how to use the power of habit to unlock unstoppable motivation, and banish the desire to “just work on this later” FOREVER.
You cannot underestimate the power of motivation.

Learn how to diagnose the different causes of procrastination and excise them from your life today.  You can discover that you have more time now than you ever thought possible and finally enjoy the breathing room and sense of satisfaction that comes from finishing your tasks ahead of schedule.

Packed with wisdom you can put to use right away, you’ll learn how to become the worker you always knew you were.

MY BOOK REVIEW:

A self-published book with interesting suggestions, strategies and plans to fight procrastination.

A few grammar issues but other than that, a truly interesting take on how to stop procrastinating with daily work, projects and personal goals. I found it a quick read with a nicely laid out plan of attack against putting off today what can be done tomorrow procrastinators.

If you struggle daily with being unable to finish projects you’ve started, or, are known to put aside those jobs that are more involved and time-consuming for lessor important things to do; and, if this is a constant mode for your work ethics… then this book may give you some helpful insights on how to avoid these traps and learn to be more productive in both work and personal lifestyles.

Although informative, I found some of the information repetitive to others I’ve read. It would be nice to get a more in-depth insight to some areas described, and perhaps, have those insights applied to the author’s personal transgressions that showed more positive results by using the techniques described in the book. I acknowledge that the author does do this somewhat, but people struggling may want to see more they can relate to. Overall, it’s a good read for struggling procrastinators.

I give this read:

3-stars

The Weird Menace Adventures of O’Ryan and His Ostrich, By James Hold

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Outline:

Everyone knows the joke about the man who asked a genie for a tall beautiful chick with long legs and large eyes…and the genie gave him an ostrich. But then what happened? Here are eight tales about O’Ryan, the man with the ostrich, and his quest to track down the genie and have him turn her into a human being. Along the way they encounter ghost, spirits, mad scientists, scheming murderers, thieves, artists, and poets. Weird menace with a touch of humor. Read along and learn about a steadfast and true love that stands up to all challenges. Read the weird menace adventures of O’Ryan and his ostrich.

 

MY BOOK REVIEW:

I love stories like these! Quirky, well-conceived, nicely written, hilarious, and smoothly plotted. I found myself smiling endlessly at the author’s idea. What makes this particular writing stand out above the others I’ve read, is it’s originality, character development and ability to hold the reader through a bunch of harrowing adventures that really shouldn’t involve an ostrich but does.

I found O’Ryan’s character eccentric, odd and funny,  and the ostrich heart-warming considering she’s just a chick with long legs! The trouble these two get in to while searching for an ever elusive genie is astounding yet very entertaining! The shocking part about this story is the hardly noticed character arc of Julie (I’ll let you buy and read this story to find out who she is) until it hits you between the eyes!  Such charming and fun-loving characters.

I found myself wanting to read on, despite the ebook format (not my favorite–bad eyes), and wanting to know what, crazily conceived antic they were going to land themselves into next! A fantastic read, buy the book and get ready for a whirlwind adventure of a man and his ostrich!

I give this book:

4_stars_gold1

RIPPER, by Stefan Petrucha

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Back Cover Material:

There is a killer loose in New York City, and Carver Young is the only one who sees the startling connection between the recent string of murders and the most famous serial killer in history: Jack The Ripper. Time is winding down until the killer claims another victim; but Carver soon sees that, to the Ripper, this is all a game that he may be destined to lose.

MY REVIEW:

What a fantastic book! This is a middle grade, fantasy thriller. I’m sure you can tell by the title that Jack the Ripper plays a significant part in the overall theme.  The cover is beautiful and is 416 pages long, with some back matter from the author that is really interesting too.

The Protagonist is a fourteen year orphan named, Carver Young. He and two others at an orphanage, find out that they are too old to remain under the care of the orphanage manager, and must find other accommodations. So to help out, the head of the orphanage has an adoption night where adults come in to meet children and possibly adopt one.  The three main characters find homes, each unusual and unique, with the Protagonist finding his in the strangest way.

There’s an element of detective work, references to Sherlock Holmes and tie-ins to puzzle solving. A distinctive separation of society classes is shown throughout the plot.

The story itself takes place in the late 1800s in New York City during the time following the Ripper murders in London, the immigration swell through Ellis Isle, and towards the end of horse and carriage modes of transportation.  The Industrial Revolution was around the corner.

This story presents a very interesting twist to a well known plot. Carver’s past is unknown when the story begins until he breaks into the orphanage offices to discover whatever he can that may or may not be contained in his file locked away.

His friend Delia, and his nemesis, Finn offer excellent secondary character support for the Protagonist. Both relationships between the secondary characters and the Protagonist develop nicely throughout the story to a heart-warming finish. I like all the characters presented and think each character arc is driven carefully forward at the right speed to an excellent conclusion. The Protagonist is realistic and developed with a multi-layered personality shown expertly during any interaction he has with others throughout the story. He begins as a boy, then finishes as a young man, street-wise, clever and very resourceful.

The only mistake I saw was at the end (spoiler) when the author must have felt fourteen year olds couldn’t run the New Pinkerton Agency. In my opinion, he should have written them doing just that. What a great series that would make, especially with the addition of Delia and Finn’s characters helping him.

The Antagonist was cleverly woven into the story and did not fail to achieve the surprise ending that the author obviously hoped for. I was very impressed with this story. Kudos to Stefan Petrucha for successfully drawing me into the world of Carver Young!

I give this book:

4_stars_gold1

 

The History of British and American Author-Publishers, by Anna Faktorovich

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A Non-Fiction Work: ebook format, I was asked to review. I will not give a review in the structure of a book report, but I will make the following points:

An insightful study that outlines the beginning of the publishing world centering around four large publishing houses: HarperCollins, MacMillan, Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster; and, authors affected by their controlling actions to corner the market with publication.  From early on, during the Harper days, authors such as Edgar Allen Poe, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, and others,  who struggled against the rules of writing imposed by Harper, attempted to self-published when and where they could, only to meet with ridicule and “black-balling.”

This continued belief that publishers were the ones to decide what and when a book should be published continued through the reign of the other large conglomerate publishing houses that followed, and in some retrospect, carries on even today.  Although their actions are not as outright and harsh, large publishing houses today have a huge amount of control over publications. This includes trends, fads, choice of authors, and what independent publishers, small presses and authors want to publish, promote, market and sell.

Faktorovich, through the use of factual research has pointed out that these four large publishing houses have set the trends of publishing to this day, and that the means of establishing what is now a considerable and legal business practice wasn’t necessarily acquired through honesty and equanimity of past business actions.  These publishing houses today basically set the parameters of what is acceptable publications, although through time, tempered to a less confining structure. What happened to Rembrandt was insane and should never have happened and wouldn’t today.

It was interesting to read about the struggles of past authors noting, that in the self-publishing world, things really haven’t changed that much. With the exception of the control larger publishing houses hold over the smaller ones, everything about publishing for independent authors has continued to be an unfortunate struggle. The idea that one voice, the only voice according to some, is the only one that matters in the publishing world,  is stifling. After all this time, if would be far more pleasing to see that publishing had progressed through trial and error towards a more “freedom of speech” idealization, but after reading this book, it really hasn’t.

Sure, there have been minor leaps and bounds made, tone has softened to being less harsh when judging the content of a book by an independent author, however, the struggle for recognition as being a sound voice worthy of being in print even if independently published, is still an ongoing battle between publishing giants, small presses, and independent publishers. The corner on a market not available to independent publishers, still exists because of connections and costs.  Even Amazon has joined the ranks of the conglomerates.

The artwork for the cover is lovely and perfect for the work involved. I thought the beginning a bit slow, perhaps too academic, but the pace picked up quickly and I was hooked. I find history so fascinating and know others will enjoy the information contained in this book who also share the same love. I don’t want to give spoilers, but there was a moment in the book I didn’t quite grasp regarding a tangent about Michael Jackson… but you tell me.

I would classify this book as interesting and thought provoking, informative and noteworthy. It is well-researched and an important read to anyone involved or interested in the publishing world. Overall, I recommend this book.

I give this book:

3-5_StarRating-3

Princess Matilda, by Eva Montanari, Book Review

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Clever, whimsical illustrations accompany this charming tale of a little girl named Matilda with a big imagination. She’s a beautiful princess, an angry witch, a free butterfly, a jungle dweller, and a clown all in one! Beginning readers will love this story and identify with Matilda’s make-believe worlds, and adults will enjoy reading alone. Ideal for children ages 3-8

BOOK REVIEW:

This picture book caught my eye because of the illustrations which were done by the author, Eva Montanari. They are top notch and professionally accomplished. The cover is adorable showing a little princess kissing a frog.

I can’t say enough about the illustrations, an important factor when comprising a picture book. However, the story was jarring in some points especially, on the page where she writes:

“And I have lots of servants,

who do everything I say.

Or rather, they’re supposed to.

But sometimes they don’t.

And instead they give

me orders!”

The use of these sentences together seemed too old, or not written as though a child’s thought… I stumbled over this part when reading to my daughter. Otherwise, I believe any child would enjoy such a book. This book if read by a parent will be fine, but if read by a child, they could also stumble over the same part–not that I’m comparing myself to a child… okay, maybe a bit… lol

Regardless, I loved this book and highly recommend it. Let me know what you all think, if you’ve purchased or read this book too.

I give it:

3-stars

 

Mostly for the illustrations.

I’m giving a copy of this picture book away for free. The shipping on it will be $4.00US. I’ll bill you through PayPal for the shipping. Once paid, the book and some goodies are yours. Just email me your interest: awritersconnection@msn.com.  This notice will remain posted until someone claims the book. Please note, it is a used, thrift store book, but in really good condition.

Feel free to leave any comments below.

 

The Book of Life, Deborah Harkness, All Souls Trilogy

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Back Cover Blurb:

After traveling through time in Shadow of Night, the second book in Deborah Harkness’ enchanting series, historian and witch Diana Bishop and vampire scientist Matthew Clairmont return to the present to face new crises and old enemies. At Matthew’s ancestral home at Sept-Tours, they reunite with the cast of characters from A Discovery of Witches—with one significant exception. But the real threat to their future has yet to be revealed, and when it is, the search for Ashmole 782 and its missing pages takes on even more urgency. In the trilogy’s final volume, Harkness deepens her themes of power and passion, family and caring, past deeds and their present consequences. In ancestral homes and university laboratories, using ancient knowledge and modern science, from the hills of the Auvergne to the palaces of Venice and beyond, the couple at last learn what the witches discovered so many centuries ago.

MY BOOK REVIEW:

Whew!

I’ve completed this trilogy feeling a little perplexed. I had the opportunity to read other reviews and was greatly surprised at the negative thoughts of others. This series is definitely for the well read, especially with the historical aspects woven throughout it.

I also read a lot of complaints about all the characters coming and going throughout the series. It’s pretty hard to have an army and a coven with only a few characters. Come on people, keep up. There were many areas in the books that left unfinished business and loose plot ends, but who knows, maybe we’ll revisit some of them in future books.

I make it a point to never start a book until the entire series is finished.  What many may not know is that there was a discussion for a movie series about this trilogy and although nothing materialized yet, delays were incurred for the last book. When I start a series, I like to breeze through all the books once I start reading and have been known to do this even for a ten or twelve book series. I compare the flow, voice and plot from beginning to end of the all the books combined and this gives me a better appreciation for the story-line, character development and changes in setting than if I had to wait for the ‘next’ book out in the series which we all know can be up to a year or more. I wish all readers would do this.

As an author, the work involved when writing a series is unbelievable and a strict eye for detail is needed. If an author is going to take on a series, they need to be fully prepared when introducing twists to plots and new characters, to follow up with a satisfactory conclusion. I don’t believe Ms. Harkness was completely successful with this. However, she did leave matters in such a way as to leave the reader wondering if there will be more books out.

I completely get the Book of Life. I think it’s gruesome and horrific how the book was made but typically realistic considering the era its compilation took place. There wasn’t really anymore explanation as to how (spoiler) the book’s writing ended up in Diana, no more than an explanation was needed why her threads of magic ended up inside her. If you understood the thread relocation, then you should understand the writing’s from the Book of Life ending up where they had. If you don’t, then re-read it. Ms. Harkness is only truly guilty of writing as an academic which explains her often use of complicated theories and science to explain something somewhat minor. The only thing I found a bit weak was her use of DNA knowledge in the way she had to explain the existence of witches, vampires and daemons.  I did find it interesting how she ties in what she did use and how she used it by saying they were all human, just different. The irony of this statement didn’t go unobserved by this reader.

The only other aspect that fell flat with me, yup, it was Matthew.. again! UGH Although, I have to admit, I hated him the least in the third book. I understand how Harkness attempted to show  character arcs for both Diana and Matthew, ones that would show growth by the end of the third book; and, she did accomplish this feat. Diana started off wimpy and became strong, Matthew started off arrogant, and soooo many other things and he became more understanding and respectful by the end of the books. Ugh! I had actually thought she was going to kill off Matthew and leave Diana with Gallowglass, now there would have been a twist for you <wink>, <wink>… but in the end, I was able to tolerate Matthew… somewhat.

I like how Diana had grown by the end of the trilogy. She was indeed a great witch. I think her character would have benefited better from a stronger supporting secondary character, not so much a chauvinistic one. But in the end, she had become a well rounded witch, mother and academic.  In effect, she became what women today are always struggling with, personal issues, being a wife and a mom and trying to hold down a career… some would say that’s being a superwoman and stereotypically, what this male dominated world tends to think women should be.

I think it was clever to try and combine the real world with make believe, but in truth, there really isn’t any place in the ‘human’ world for witches, vampires and daemons, not because they shouldn’t be, but simply because our world wouldn’t make them realistic enough to believe in and endure. History gives evidence to this fact through folklore, legends and fables. Kudos to Ms. Harkness for making a grand effort in contradicting this belief. I was almost won over… almost.

I give this book:

4_5_StarRating