Monday, October 31, 2016

Shadow of the Storm

Shadow of the Storm
Connilyn Cossette

As she lives with the other Hebrews, as well as some non-Hebrews who joined them in their exodus from Egypt—at the base of Mt. Sinai, Shira has made herself content with following in her mother’s footsteps to become a weaver—even though she doesn’t particularly care for it or have an aptitude for it. However, when a chance comes for her to learn to be a midwife, she can’t get the idea out of her head, and when she helps her brother’s handsome friend Ayal deliver a newborn lamb, the idea that perhaps bringing new life into the world is what Yahweh created her for is enough to get her to defy her mother’s wishes and start training with Reva, the Levite midwife. She slowly starts to become more confident in her skills, despite the scorn she receives from Dvorah, the midwife trainee that Reva has paired her up with, and also starts to hope that, in spite of what she has long believed—that she will never marry or have a family—that she might have a future with Ayal. But then tragedy strikes and a heartbroken Shira retreats, going back to weaving and trying to avoid Ayal as much as she can. Meanwhile, Dvorah, who was widowed when the Levite men, following Mosheh’s orders, killed those who rebelled against Yahweh in a night of debauchery, needs to find a way to provide for her son, and she will do anything to escape her brother-in-law—and if it hurts Shira in the process, so much the better.
Wow. This is another incredible book from Connilyn Cossette. I loved it. There were times when it was painful to read—because I felt so connected to Shira that her pain was real to me. It was so hard to read about her past, about how her mother discouraged her from following her dream of becoming a midwife, of her pain, confusion, and guilt at a delivery gone terribly wrong and the fallout from it, etc. It was hard to read about her interactions with Dvorah; although the passages where she was the narrator allowed me to see WHY she did what she did—and how she’d come to be the bitter, cruel person she was—it was hard to see innocent, kind Shira take the brunt of Dvorah’s anger and pain. The fact that Shira and her feelings were so real to me is a testament to what a great writer Cossette is. As painful as Shira’s path was, I enjoyed being able to feel the beginnings of hope again, and then forgiveness, and love, along with her as she continued on her journey.
Although we didn’t get to see the story from Ayal’s point of view, I liked how he was a flawed character who made some pretty serious mistakes but also could experience forgiveness both from Shira and from Yahweh; the fact that he wasn’t the perfect man made him more believable and in some ways, more endearing, and of course I loved the message of forgiveness and becoming new through God’s grace and forgiveness. I also appreciated the way Cossette conveyed that message—it was fairly subtle but still powerful.
Besides the incredible character development, especially with Shira, Cossette does a terrific job of depicting the day-to-day life as the Hebrews camped at Mt. Sinai—from the preparations of the tabernacle, with required immense amounts of materials (like cloth that had to be dyed and woven), to the petty arguments and jealousies and larger disagreements between tribes and between the Hebrews and non-Hebrews and between family members—were also so well written. I’d never thought before about what daily life for these people would have been like, or about how the people might have struggled to get along with one another, so that was both eye-opening and totally believable. And the way Cossette wove those details into the story, without dragging down the plot, again shows her skills as a writer.
It’s hard to convey how well-written this book is. The plot is so absorbing and Shira’s journey is both painful and beautiful. The characters are so real, as is the setting, and the language also served to pull me into the story. Solid five-star book here.
Although this is the second book in a series, you don’t actually have to read the first one to be able to follow the story. (But you SHOULD read the first one because it’s a great book, too!)
I read a copy available through NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

5 stars.

From Cairo, With Love

From Cairo, With Love
By Nancy Campbell Allen

What a great standalone novella! Valentine is a great character; she was fresh and fun, and I enjoyed seeing her developing feelings for Max, as well as his for her. I also liked seeing their insecurities; although Max is a successful businessman, he thinks he's too rough around the edges for someone like Valentine, while she thinks a simple country girl would never be the sort of girl to interest someone as handsome and dashing as Max.

This is a clean romance and can be read quickly. With a great plot and engaging characters, there's really nothing not to like. 4.5 stars.

Move It, Miss MacIntosh!

Move It, Miss Macintosh!
By Peggy Janousky and Meghan Lands 

Miss Macintosh, the kindergarten teacher, does NOT want to go to school on the first day; she's just too nervous. But the principal and other teachers show up to give her the encouragement she needs...and when she finally makes it to school, she finds maybe her class will be fun after all.

This book was great! It's such a fun twist on the first-day-of-school-jitters to have the TEACHER be the nervous one. Kids will relate to how Miss Macintosh feels--but also get a kick out of the fact that it's the adult who is so worried.
Really cute illustrations, engaging text, and fantastic concept for a book.

I read a copy through NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

Five stars. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Hope for Christmas

Hope for Christmas
By Rachelle Christensen

Anika is trying desperately to make it through the Christmas season. She's got a seasonal job at Kenworth's department store, but even with the work, she's struggling to provide for herself and her four year old daughter Megan. With bills to pay, there isn't much money left for Christmas, but Anika is determined to find a way to make Christmas good for her daughter. When she bumps into Carlos Rodriguez, a handyman/carpenter doing some remodeling at Kenworth's, her first instinct is to avoid him. But Carlos is sweet and kind and persistent and seems to really care about her and her daughter, and soon Anika finds herself opening her heart a little.

Carlos is a terrific character; he's totally dreamy. I loved the fact that he's a blue-collar worker who finds practical ways to try to help Anika and Megan, not some rich guy who swoops in to save the day. That made the story both more realistic and more endearing for me than a story where the guy is loaded and it's easy for him to buy whatever the girl needs. I thought Anika and her fears and hesitations were well-developed. This is a great pick for a quick Christmas read. I received a free copy of the ebook from the author. All opinions are my own. 3.5 stars.


By Deborah Pearson

This picture book features animals alongside machines doing similar things--such as a cheetah and a car racing, a bird and a plane flying, etc. The illustrations are really cute. My favorite spread was the elephant at the end. My kids thought this was a cute book, too. I read a copy through NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Thing Lou Couldn't Do

The Thing Lou Couldn't Do
By Ashley Spires

Lou is brave and can do all sorts of things--but when her friends want to climb a tree to play, Lou isn't so sure about that and comes up with all sorts of excuses for not climbing the tree. Finally, though, she decides to give it a try. This was an awesome book! I loved the illustrations and the messages in it. I like how it breaks gender stereotypes (there are no princesses here--Lou plays pirates and might be a race car driver when she grows up, etc.) and shows Lou facing--but not conquering (yet)--her fear. This is a really, really cute book! I read a copy available through NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

5 stars

Monday, October 3, 2016

Different? Same

Different? Same
By Heather Tekavec and Pippa Curnick

On each spread, the book talks about differences in four animals (such as their color, their habitat, they way they move), but then shows a similarity, such as all having whiskers. It would be fun to read with kids and see if they could guess the similarity before you read it to them. The illustrations are nice; this would be a fun book for young readers. I read a copy available through NetGalley. All opinions are my own.