Tuesday, April 24, 2018

The Orphan Band of Springdale

The Orphan Band of Springdale by Anne Nesbet

Gusta's father is a labor organizer who was born in Germany, and as WWII sweeps across Europe, Americans are increasingly tense--and Gusta's father becomes a wanted man. When he has to flee, Gusta is sent to stay with her maternal grandmother in Maine, while her mother stays behind in New York to keep her job. Gramma Hoopes runs an orphanage, and while Gusta quickly comes to like everyone at the home, things don't go as smoothly at school, where her extreme nearsightedness and her German heritage raise the hackles of some. Gusta finds comfort in playing her French horn, her only memento from her father, but when she's given the chance to sell it and pay for a surgery to help her injured Uncle Charlie, Gusta wonders if she can let go of something she loves so dearly to help her family.

Dang! This book is FANTASTIC! For starters, how can you not love a book that gives you such awesome phrases as "the general effect being that of a short, human-shaped icicle"? The writing is terrific and fresh, not the same old cliched phrases. Gusta just stole my heart--she's such a serious girl, so concerned about others, and I just adored her as the narrator. She's so interesting, with her survivalist attitude (she has gotten by without needed glasses for years, and she doesn't even mind because she doesn't want to cost anyone money), her willingness to speak up for and help other (even people she doesn't necessarily like), and her wisdom (she's very aware of the labor movement, for example). She's just this brave, good, kind little person. Secondary characters are great as well--we don't get a whole lot of depth with them, but the glimpses we do get are just terrific. (I love Georges!) The details are so interesting and make the book so real--like a patriotic health contest being run in the school. It really takes you back to 1941 and what life was like. There are terrific themes and topics to discuss, such as the labor movement, loyalty, "alien" foreigners and what it means to patriotic, family relationships, etc. There's a lot of depth here, but it's not overly weighty. I was really surprised when I found out the book is 448 pages (I read the Kindle version), because it flew by for me.
This is an easy 5 stars from me.

 I read a copy from the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

A Highlander's Hidden Heart (Blog Tour)

A Highlander's Hidden Heart (A Timeless Romance Single)
Written by Julie Coulter Bellon
Published by Mirror Street Press

Despite being the daughter of a duke, shy Elizabeth Barrington becomes a target for the cruel whisperings of the ton. She would rather stay at home with her sketchbook indefinitely than give them more to gossip about, but when a dashing new earl arrives, everything changes. His Scottish brogue and easy acceptance draw her in and she finds herself falling in love. Before she can act on her feelings, however, her father promises her to a man who hides his cruel behavior behind a mask of civility. With her future at stake, Elizabeth must make a choice—do her duty or choose a love that could cost her everything.
Alec Ramsay never expected to inherit an earldom or settle in England, but he leaves behind his life in the Scottish Highlands and comes to London. After meeting his new neighbor, the beautiful and soft-spoken Lady Elizabeth, Alec can’t wait to further their acquaintance. It doesn’t take long in her company, however, for Alec to see he’s in danger of losing his heart. But when long-held prejudices rear their ugly head, Alec is caught between doing what is right and his new role as an English gentleman. Has he finally found the love he’s waited his whole life for, only to lose her in the web of unfair judgments and proper English traditions?

My thoughts:
I was hooked on this novella from the beginning. I loved Alec and Elizabeth--they were both great characters. Alec is willing to push against the rules of polite society to defend and care for Elizabeth, making him such a dreamy leading man (and hey, let's be honest...the half-Scottish thing is awesome). I really enjoyed seeing Elizabeth be cherished by someone and coming to find her own voice. I also loved seeing the unfolding of their romance and the resolution of their of dilemma. Elizabeth's parents were kind of flat and I wish they'd been a little more developed, but all in all, I really enjoyed this story and can't wait to read the companion novella!

4.5 stars!

I received a copy of the novella from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Connect with Julie!
Website: http://www.juliebellon.com
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/juliebellon
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/457898.Julie_Coulter_Bellon
Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/Julie-Coulter-Bellon/e/B001JP3EMG/ 
Amazon buy link: http://a.co/1R3Dr0X

Tour Schedule:
 April 23rd: Katie’s Clean Book Collection / Heidi Reads
April 24th - LDS and Lovin’ It / The Bibliophile Files
April 25th - LDS Writer Mom / My Book a Day / Singing Librarian Books / Getting Your Read On April 26th - Peggy Urry / Min Reads and Reviews (spotlight)
 April 27th - Among the Reads / Joy in the Moments / Literary Time Out / Wishful Endings 

Enter to win a copy!
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Saturday, April 21, 2018

Miss Wilton's Waltz

Miss Wilton's Waltz by Josi Kilpack

After spending her life as the "shy" daughter with only her musical talent to make her stand out in any way in her large family, Lenora Wilton reached her breaking point with a broken engagement. Heading to Bath to stay with her Aunt Gwen in order to soothe her wounds, she began to find herself. Now she has begun to establish a life in Bath--she's learning to come out of her shell and not retreat from social interactions, and she is enjoying her position as a music teacher at a girls' school.
Things get a lot more complicated for her, however, when Catherine Manch arrives at the school. The obstinate twelve-year-old appears not to like school in general and Lenora in particular. However, her uncle Aiden Asher, armed with a bit of information Lenora needs kept secret, leaves Lenora little choice but to help his niece succeed. As Lenora does her best to help Catherine, she finds herself growing closer to Aiden and starts to dream of possibilities to come--until she finds out that Aiden neglected to tell her a significant detail about himself, one that threatens to break Lenora all over again.

 I really enjoyed this book! It's full of engaging, well-developed characters; I really liked seeing Lenora blossom and try to face things she might have run from in the past. Aiden had such a good heart and makes an excellent leading man. Catherine is a brat, but Kilpack has done a great job showing WHY and how she is calling out for help that even she is lovable. The writing is excellent and made the characters feel very real, with realistic struggles and emotions.

This is a follow-up to The Vicar's Daughter, which I enjoyed but not nearly as much as this one. (You don't have to read the first one to understand this one, but it is a good book, too!)

I read a copy from the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

5 stars.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Falling for You

Falling for You by Becky Wade

Corbin Stewart, who was an NFL star until a shoulder injury ruined his career, has moved to Washington to be near family and to heal his shoulder. He isn't planning on running to his ex, Willow Bradford, but she's running her parents' inn while taking a break from her modeling career. When Corbin's niece Charlotte insists that she has a secret she can only tell Willow, Corbin reluctantly reaches out to the woman who broke his heart. Willow doesn't want anything to do with Corbin--he shattered her world years ago and she is determined not to let him close again. But they work with Charlotte to find Charlotte's long-missing great-aunt, Willow must face the past and decide if there's any chance for them in the future.

I loved the layers and depth of this story--it's so much more than just a romance. There are important (but not preachy) messages about forgiving others and oneself as well as receiving forgiveness from God. I love the fact that the characters flawed people who are trying to do their best, not all "perfect" Christians. The characters are realistic--both Willow and Corbin have solid, deep reasons for who they are, their fears and shortcoming, and the choices they've made. The story about Charlotte's aunt and Corbin, Willow, and Charlotte's efforts to figure out what happened to her was interesting and unexpected--it was a fresh plot line for a Christian novel. There are so many things to like about this book! While this is part of a series, the book don't have to be read in order. (I actually have read the prequel novella but haven't read the first book yet.)

This is one of my top picks for 2018. 5 stars!

I read a copy from the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Together Forever

Together Forever by Jody Hedlund

Marianne Neumann started working with the Children's Aid Society in order to try to find her sister Sophie, who has she believes might have been placed with a family somewhere. On her first trip taking orphans west to try to find homes for them, she is paired with Andrew Brady, who is handsome, charming, and wonderful with the children. Marianne is hoping to find Sophie as well as Reinhold, the man Marianne has long hoped to marry. She's certainly not planning on falling for Drew. Drew likes to flirt but he knows better than to get involved with a woman--last time he did, things didn't work out well at all. But Marianne's sweet heart and tenderness with the children, combined with her spunkiness, make her entirely too hard to resist.

I loved this book! Drew was dashing and charming, but also caring--and hurting. Sophie was gentle and thought she wasn't strong, but I loved seeing her come to understand what courage really is and to find ways to solve problems. I loved the romance and the banter between Drew and Sophie, but this book is so much more than just a romance. There were terrific themes of forgiving one's self for mistakes and sins and moving forward with life. Following along with an orphan train as Marianne and Drew try to find good situations for the orphans was enlightening and heartbreaking and hopeful all at the same time. This is emotionally gripping and the writing is terrific. I loved this book, as well as the previous book in the series. I cannot wait for the next book!

I read a copy from the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

5 stars!

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Giggly Guide

The Giggly Guide: How to Behave at School by Phillipe Jalbert
& The Giggly Guide: How to Behave by Phillipe Jalbert

Each spread in these book contains a bright, colorful page with a rule for good behavior accompanied by a colorful, giggle-inducing illustration that shows what happens when you DON'T use good manners.
How to Behave at School covers things like  properly using supplies and respecting property, how to behave at lunch, and bathroom etiquette, while How to Behave covers things like basic manners (cover your mouth when you sneeze, don't pick your nose), safety (not playing with matches or knives), interacting with others (ask before you borrow something), and more. These books lived up to their titles--my kids were very giggly as we read them. This is a fun way to remind kids about good manners, allowing you to get across the message without making it feel like a lecture.

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

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Wake Up, Baby Bear!

Wake Up, Baby Bear!
Written by Lynn Plourde
Illustrated by Tori Weidner

Although it's time to wake from hibernating, Baby Bear's family and friends just can't get the tired bear to wake up. It takes a mother robin with a few well=placed pecks to get this bear awake.

This is a cute companion book to "Baby Bear's Not Hibernating." The pictures are soft and beautiful and the story is cute. Highly recommend this one for families and libraries.

I read a copy from the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

4.5 stars.

How to Spot a Sasquatch

How to Spot a Sasquatch
Written by J. Torres
Illustrated by Aurelie Grand

Jay is determined to find a Sasquatch on his camping trip even though his fellow campers and leader tell him there's no such thing. While the others may be skeptical, Jay is certain someone is out there. Sass the Sasquatch and her friends keep their eye on the campers, pilfering their snacks and playing tricks. But when Jay falls into the river, Sass can't just stand back and watch anymore.

This is a fun story about friendship. Kids will enjoy the camping adventure, Jay's determination, and Sass's playfulness. This is a good graphic novel for children who are just getting started with graphic novels--not too long or too wordy.

I read a copy from the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

3.5 stars.

Red Sky at Night

Red Sky at Night by Elly MacKay

This beautifully illustrated picture book shares weather sayings, such as "Red sky at night, sailor's delight." Each page features one saying with an accompanying illustration, with brief explanations about each saying at the end of the book. The pictures are gorgeous, which makes the book appealing. The subject matter--the weather sayings--might appeal to fewer people. A lot of the sayings seem to certain around water, so it might be most appealing to those who leave near water or have an interest in the sea. While the book might not have universal appeal, it definitely makes me want to see more of Elly MacKay's work. I read a copy from the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions are my own. 4 stars.

My Teacher's Not Here!

My Teacher's Not Here!
Written by Lana Button
Illustrated by Christine Battuz

When Kitty arrives at school, she knows immediately something is wrong--her beloved teacher isn't there to great her. Kitty doesn't know how she'll make it through the day without her teacher, who knows how to do everything just right. How can Kitty make it through the day without Miss Seabrooke?

This is a terrific book! It perfectly captures the anxieties a child might have the first time she has a substitute teacher, while also showing how the child can cope. The rhyming text and adorable illustrations, featuring an animal cast that kids will love, make this an excellent choice for preparing kids for a potentially uncomfortable situation but also just make for a fun read for kids who might have already dealt with a substitute teacher. Very well done.

I read a copy from the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

4.5 stars.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Weaver's Daughter

The Weaver's Daughter by Sarah E. Ladd

The Dearbornes are weavers; the Stocktons are mill owners. Competing in the textile industry, differing philosophies and strong feelings have left the families enemies. When Henry Stockon returns from war, he finds himself different; he still wants to run his family's business to the best of his capabilities, but he also finds himself at odds with some of his grandfather's sentiments Kate Dearborne has worked her whole life to learn about weaving, trying to please her father, and her loyalty lies with him. But as Henry shows himself to be different than her grandfather, and her father shows himself to be more prideful and stubborn than she realized, Kate starts to question where her loyalty truly lies.

This book started a little slowly for me, likely because I know nothing about the textile business and the competition between weavers and mill owners, but it quickly picked up. Kate's struggle to be loyal to a father who never quite manages to see her value while at the same time being drawn to Henry and his willingness to listen to her views was such a compelling plot line and made her such a great character. Henry, hurting from the war and his actions in it, is in a position to open to learning more about others, a position perhaps he wouldn't have been in without the war, which was a beautifully subtle message about how God can make horrible things work for our good. The historical setting was so interesting--the textile aspect that at first seemed a little dull to me became really fascinating as Henry and Kate shared their views and showed how there weren't any easy answers to figure out what would most benefit their village. There were intriguing supporting characters as well; I really liked Kate's brother Charles especially. Well written and really appealing.

 I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

4.5 stars!

Monday, April 2, 2018

Rocket Men

Rocket Men by Robert Kurson

In August 1868, NASA, intent on getting ahead of Russia in the space race and hoping to overcome demoralizing rocket failures, made the dramatic decision to push to send men to orbit the moon in December--giving them way less preparation time than usual. Engineers, astronauts, and everyone at NASA worked together to get astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders prepared for whatever would come on their unprecedented mission.

This narrative nonfiction is superb. Robert Kurson does a great job taking readers into 1968--to see the unrest in the United States, with protests of the Vietnam War, the assassinations of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., and more. It was really interesting to see how this mission brought people together and brought a good ending to an otherwise rough year. It was also really interesting to see the different personalities of the three astronauts as well as their wives and families. It's jammed with interesting information--mind-blowing numbers (like the weight of the rocket!), the realities of space life (like what happens when one crew member gets diarrhea!), and what Walter Cronkite announced on TV during their orbit. It really takes the reader back in time, and it's an engaging and informative read. Really fantastic piece of nonfiction.

I read a copy of the book via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.