Escape Claws

REVIEW: Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett

Summary


@Mink is a film buff on the East coast and @Alex is a film fanatic on the West coast. Ironically, @Alex lives in the same town as @Mink’s dad. @Alex encourages her to come to California and go to a film festival with him. Then they can meet face to face for the first time.

@Mink is Bailey. Bailey is actually moving to her dad’s in California, but she’s not quite ready to tell @Alex. She’s hoping she can puzzle out who he is and see if there’s any chemistry between them before telling him who she is. Bailey has gotten good at protecting herself after what happened four years ago.

Porter is NOT part of Bailey’s California plan, though! At first she thinks he is a complete jerk but with time she sees there’s more to him than she thought. Maybe she doesn’t have to protect herself from Porter. But with Porter in her life, where does @Alex fit?

Review


This was so fun!! Many laugh-out-loud moments between Bailey and Porter. The chemistry between them is terrific! I really enjoyed the story and watching things unfold between them. This was fantastic.

Since the story has been described as a take on You’ve Got Mail, I knew where things were headed, but I completely enjoyed the journey to get there. The setting is great – the California coast and boardwalk area as well as the “museum” where Bailey works. The movie quotes and references made me want to fire up Netflix and watch the older movies I’ve heard of but haven’t seen.

Bailey and Porter are the stars of the story, but the other characters – their families, Grace, Pangborn, Davy – are just as fascinating and just as important to the story. I loved them.

There’s some language and mature content so in my opinion this is best for older teens and young adults/adults. I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher, Simon Pulse, in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to Simon Pulse for the opportunity to read and review this book! This book releases on April 4, 2017.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥½

Escape Claws

REVIEW: Nothing to Prove by Jennie Allen

Summary


Do you ever feel like a mouse, running on a wheel, constantly moving but actually going no where? Do you ever feel like your life is an empty bottle of salad dressing or empty gallon of milk when you have a week to go until pay day? You’re trying to shake or squeeze out every last bit of energy or time or effort because it is all you have and you don’t know where you can scrounge up any more?

Maybe, rather than striving to do it all or being the go-to person or taking care of everyone else, God would rather we just “abide.” Maybe while we are running and pushing and climbing, Jesus is waiting nearby with everything we need, already there.

Jennie Allen, founder of If: Ministries shares her heart and her experience in discovering that Jesus is enough – all we ever need. She encourages readers to shift their thinking, recognizing that some of the stress and striving is less about God and more about themselves. She wants readers to live free of the things that weigh people down.

Review


This book has been the perfect fit for me in this season of life! I was underlining and highlighting and writing in the margins from cover to cover. As soon as I finished, I wanted to start all over again. I wanted to pull out all the key parts, Bible verses and activities and then spend time with them, little by little to apply them to my life in a way that would make an impact.

The author uses great metaphors to make her points. She uses several passages from the gospel of John, but tells them from the perspective of someone IN the story, adding some stirring details to the Biblical narrative. Jennie offers exercises to help readers take action on what they read. She stresses the extravagant love and abundance of God. She highlights God’s “streams of enoughness” like streams of connection, rest, risk and hope.

I can’t recommend this highly enough. There is going to be a Bible study book to go with this called Proven that will release in April. I did an online Facebook discussion with the author over three weeks which was great. I’m sure you can go to her page and watch the videos again. But I think going through each chapter, week by week with a small group, would be an even better way to really dig into the material!

Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

Escape Claws

REVIEW: Family Game Night and Other Catastrophes by Mary E. Lambert

Summary


The downward spiral kicks off when the pile of papers falls over and lands on Leslie’s head. It was inevitable. That particular pile had been growing for days but Annabelle was apparently the only one to notice the danger before it happened. All it took was her brother Chad slamming out the door for it to come tumbling down.

In so many ways, this was business as usual at Annabelle’s house. The piles. The dust. The rat. Annabelle’s mom is a hoarder. This is why Annabelle won’t let her friends come within 5 mines of the house. It’s why she keeps her own room spare and immaculate. Unfortunately, it’s also why her sister, Leslie, is having nightmares of drowning, why she collects articles about hoarders dying in their own clutter, and why her anxiety is so bad it makes her physically ill. It’s why Annabelle’s brother is rarely at home and why her dad hides in his books or his work.

When Annabelle’s dad gets fed up and leaves early on a work trip and cuts off contact with the family, Leslie calls Grandma Nora. Now that someone else knows what’s happening, either Annabelle’s mom is going to get the help she needs, or everything Annabelle’s afraid of is going to become a reality.

Review


Such a great story and told so well! I loved Annabeth! She has some great observations about how things work in the world, even though at the same time she is too close to see her own situation objectively. I love the descriptions of how she has tried to handle her family in her own way. Annabelle also plays an interesting role in her family dynamics. I enjoyed watching that in process, too,

One of the messages of the book is that everyone has something going on. As a kid, you can grow up thinking either the dysfunctions in your family are completely normal, or you can think that your family is the only one that is “broken.” This story acknowledges that there are degrees – some families, like Annabelle’s, need outside professional help and other families are able to work things out on their own.

Annabelle’s friends are mostly supportive and compassionate in response to the things they learn about her family. And that allows her to focus on what her family needs.

This would be great for fans of books like The Seventh Wish, Still a Work in Progress, Finding Perfect and other stories of kids facing mental health issues, either in their own lives or in the lives of people they love.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Escape Claws

BOOK NEWS: March 28, 2017

There’s a HUGE number of books releasing this week. I see a Spring Break trip to the book store in my future! Here are some of the ones I am looking at:

Books for Kids


   

Dad and the Dinosaur – One of my favorite illustrators, Dan Santat, does the pictures for this book about a boy and his dad, and about being brave like a dinosaur. The illustrations alone would get me to pick this up, but the story sounds outstanding. I’ll be looking for this one for sure.
Happy Dreamer – Another of my favorite illustrators, Peter H. Reynolds, brings us a new book about dreaming and creativity
Percy, Dog of Destiny – This sounds like a cute story about a dog and his friends who spend a day at the park with their favorite toys.
Princess Cora and the Crocodile – An over-scheduled princess needs a day off so her fairy godmother sends her some help. This looks awesome!
We’re All Wonders – This picture book shares the message of Wonder – choose kind!
JoJo and the Big Mess – Fancy Nancy’s little sister gets her own Early Reader!
Ready, Set, Blast-Off – Book 15 in the Galaxy Zach series. Wow! I remember when this series first came out. I loved it! Fun stories about everyday things kids deal with, but set in exciting places like new planets! Awesome series for new readers.
Trophy Night – Little Rhino book 6. I’ve talked about this series before – perfect for new readers ready for early chapter books.
Unicorn Crossing – Book 5 in the hilarious Phoebe and her Unicorn graphic novel/comic series. I pre-ordered this months ago! I can’t wait to get this one. This is the kind of book that will never make it to a TBR pile because I will read it cover to cover as soon as I have it in my hands.

Books for Older Kids/Teens/Young Adults


                                    

Army Brats – Three “army brats” living on a base for the first time deal with a bully and a mystery. With all the amazing books on this list that I know I want, this one is at the top of the list. I have adored the other things I have read by this author – The Angel Tree and Clementine for Christmas – and I can’t wait to read this one!
Braced – A girl’s worsening scoliosis pushes her into a back brace – and into re-evaluating how she thinks about herself. I have a kiddo very dear to me who has walked this road. I’m eager to read this story and see if it lines up with her experiences.
Cilla Lee-Jenkins: Future Author Extraordinaire – A girl is determined to become a best-selling author before her baby sister is born and steals her thunder. I am a sucker for any story about a kid and writing; this one sounds like a lot of fun!
Defender of the Realm – A reluctant prince and an ordinary girl join forces to battle monsters and conspiracies to defend Great Britain. Sign me up for this one!
Disney at Last – First there was the Kingdom Keepers series. Then there was The Return. This is the third and final book of The Return series. Disney fans should definitely check this out!
The Gauntlet – Three kids get trapped in a mechanical board game. That plot sells itself!
Jake the Fake Keeps It Real – A kid with no discernible creative talent fakes his way into a gifted and talented program for musicians and artists. This sounds like a hoot!
The Princess and the Page – A princess with a gift for writing uses a magical pen with surprising results. This hits all the right spots for me. This is on my list for sure.
Reformed – Ian is wrongfully sent to bully reform school. He and his friends are going to have to work together if they want to make it back to middle school. This sounds like a fun, prankish story along the lines of The Terrible Two with higher stakes. I’m looking forward to reading this one.
Who Let the Gods Out? – Elliot tries to help Virgo (yeah, the constellation) track down the Olympians to fight Thanatos.  This twist on Greek mythology sounds so fun!
You’re Bacon Me Crazy – Tess and frustrating, arrogant (and cute) Asher have to work together to save her family’s food truck
Just Another Girl – Hope wants what Parker has – mainly the boyfriend of Hope’s dreams. Hope assumes that Parker is perfect and has everything together, so she watches her every move to try to achieve what Parker has. But Parker has a secret and it’s hard to keep a secret when someone is watching so closely. This sounds fascinating.
Just Fly Away – Hotly anticipated YA mystery from actor Andrew McCarthy.

Books for Adults


London Calling – Book 2 in the Mirabelle Bevan Mystery series. Look at that cover! I may have to read this series just to see what’s up with that beautiful cover.
Mother’s Day, Muffins and Murder – Book 10 in the Ellie Avery Mystery series
Plain Missing – Book 4 in this Amish mystery series
Tightening the Threads – Book 5 in the Mainely Needlepoint Mystery series
When the Grits Hit the Fan – Book 3 in the Country Store Mystery series
Star Trek Section 31: Control – Section 31 is the shadow covert ops group of the Star Trek Universe. The Section 31 story line has always been a favorite of mine and I’m looking forward to reading this one, too!
Alive in Him: How Being Embraced by the Love of Christ Changes Everything (March 31) – This look at the book of Ephesians looks terrific! I think I will be adding this to my Bible study list for this year.
The Cubs Way – My grandparents guaranteed that this Wisconsin girl would grow up to be a Cubs fan. And 2016 was a fantastic year to be a Cubs fan. This book looks at the rebuilding that led to the Cubs World Series win in 2016.
Let There Be Science (April 1) – Science and faith! I am SO looking forward to reading this! One of my personal reading challenges for 2017 is to read some books that examine science through the lens of faith and vice versa. I hope this is as amazing as it sounds.

 

Which book releasing this week is going on your TBR list?!

Escape Claws

REVIEW: Frogkisser! by Garth Nix

Summary


Princess Anya and her sister lost their mother once upon a time. Their father remarried, and their step-mother was not evil, but she was prone to getting lost in her work. Then the king died. The girls’ stepmother remarried. And their “stepstepfather” was an evil sorcerer, consumed with growing more powerful and taking over the kingdom. And he has a habit of turning potential suitors into frogs!

Princess Anya promises her sister that she will find the latest prince-turned-frog. This leads her on an epic quest to brew a lip balm potion to restore her stepstepfather’s victims. Along the way she’ll meet robbers who steal from the rich and give to the poor, a Good Wizard, seven dwarves and an old wizard called Snow White, and a group of witches. She’ll also be challenged to put the former days of law and order back in place. But Anya can only do that if she can defeat her stepstepfather once and for all.

Review


I liked this! Princess Anya is smart, compassionate and dedicated to her quest and to keeping her word. The typical fairy tale pieces are given a creative twist – like magic carpets that roll their riders inside to fly or Snow White being an old, male wizard with a long white beard.

The quest was long. Anya picked up several companions on the journey. And she promised to help lots of folks. She had to secure a lot of potion ingredients. And at the same time, she had to avoid her stepstepfather and protect herself from those who would try to deceive or betray her.

The story dragged at times. There was just so much tied into the quest. I started to wonder if the quest would span over multiple books, but the story arc was resolved by the end. The world is interesting enough and the cast large enough for a sequel, but this story will stand alone. If you are – or you know – a fan of re-imagined fairy tales, have them give this one a try.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Escape Claws

REVIEW: Zero Day by David Baldacci

Summary


John Puller is Army CID – Criminal Investigative Division (Like NCIS, except with the Army). He’s sent to West Virginia to work with local law enforcement on the murder of an army colonel. Sure, it’s weird that he’s going in without a team. And sure, it’s weird that he’s the investigator going when there are other units closer in jurisdiction. But Puller is an exceptional soldier. He follows orders.

But it’s not just the colonel dead. It’s his whole family. And the crime scene is kind of… off. Then more bodies start dropping. Puller just can’t get a handle on what’s really going on in this town and with this case. And as he keeps digging, he becomes a target.

Review


This is not my usual cozy mystery! I don’t generally read thrillers, but my husband was reading book three in the series, The Escape, and enjoying it immensely, so I decided to give book one a try.

While this is not my usual style, I really enjoyed it. The characters were fantastic. I love Puller’s subtle sense of humor and sarcasm. His partner on this case is a great, nuanced character. I really liked the glimpses into her personal life and family which enhanced the story rather than distracting from it. Puller’s family is intriguing. I’m looking forward to reading more of this series and seeing more of this family dynamic.

The mystery was outstanding. Four hundred-plus pages in, and I had no idea what was going on. But I was frantically flipping pages trying to piece it together. Terrific wrap up! The technical pieces were over my head but didn’t keep me from thoroughly enjoying the story. (Some language)

Rating:♥♥♥♥½

Escape Claws

REVIEW: Ballet Cat: What’s Your Favorite Favorite? by Bob Shea

Summary


Ballet Cat and her cousin, Goat, want to do a show for their grandmother. Each one is sure his or her special thing will be Grandma’s favorite. Goat is doing magic and Ballet Cat will of course do ballet. Which will Grandma say is her “favorite favorite?”

Review


Delightful! This is the third book about Ballet Cat. The first one was outstanding, but I didn’t click with the second one, so I was hesitant to try this one. But I am so glad I did! The subtle humor in this book (as with the first one) reminds me of some of the humor of the Piggie and Gerald books by Mo Willems. These might be a little more sarcastic, though (thus, my love for them!).

The set up is typical for parents or grandparents with more than one child – pick a favorite. Grandma does a fabulous job of creatively deflecting the question in the end. This would be great both for reading aloud to a child and also for children learning to read. Ballet Cat is a great character and I can’t wait to see what happens next!

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Escape Claws

BOOK NEWS: March 21, 2017

Plenty of great books releasing this week! Here are some of the ones I am looking at:

Books for Kids


All Birds Have Anxiety – Look at that face!! I have to read this book just because of that face! Using birds, the author explains living with anxiety to kids. I can’t wait to read this one. Not just because of the cover, but I am curious how the author does with making mental health and anxiety accessible to kids. Mental health issues are big in children’s literature lately, which I think is a great trend!
I Am (Not) Scared – Third book in this series after You Are (Not) Small and That’s (Not) Mine, this time the two friends go to an amusement park and think about what might be scarier than the roller coaster.
John Ronald’s Dragons: The Story of J. R. R. Tolkein – A picture book biography of Lord of the Rings author, J. R. R. Tolkien
We Are the Dinosaurs – A picture book version of Laurie Berkner’s song by the same name. I’m not familiar with this song, but the illustrations I have seen from the book are darling! I would definitely keep this in mind for any dinosaur fans you know!
Almost an Outlaw – Teddy Mars book 3  (final book in the series) about a boy who has to break a few rules to take care of some of his neighbors.

Books for Older Kids/Teens/Young Adults


Big and Little Questions (According to Wren Jo Byrd) – A shy girl tries to keep secret the fact that her parents separated over the summer. This kind of story is a staple of middle grade fiction and I imagine I will love it!
Miss Ellicott’s School for the Magically Minded – In this new fantasy, a city’s sorceresses go missing, leaving the kids at Miss Ellicott’s school to save their kingdom. This sounds like a book I will love!
The Princess and the Pearl – Book 6 in the delightful Wide-Awake Princess series. I have loved the books in this series – perfect for a lover of fractured fairy tales, like me! In this book, Annie has to get a cure from a sea witch to save her family.
The Hidden Memory of Objects – A girl who can see memories from her brother’s belongings searches for answers about his death. This sounds like a fascinating YA mystery!

Books for Adults


The Collapsing Empire – The latest book from science fiction great, John Scalzi. This story of a universe where humans have ventured into space and left Earth behind as an interstellar empire forms sounds awesome!
Girl in Disguise – A female private detective fights to make her way in Chicago in 1856. Inspired by a true story.
If I’m Found – Suspenseful sequel to If I Run about a woman running from arrest for a crime she didn’t commit.
The Lucky Few – A family’s journey, following God through adoption of special needs children. This sounds inspiring!

 

Which book releasing this week is going on your TBR list?!

Escape Claws

REVIEW: A List of Cages by Robin Roe

Summary


The first time Adam met Julian, he was in 5th grade and Julian was in 2nd. They were reading buddies. The second time, Julian became Adam’s foster brother. Julian’s parents had been killed in an accident. Adam and his mother took him in. And they loved him, evident by the pictures of him still on the mantle after all these years.

Adam is assigned to Julian once again his senior year. Julian, now living with an uncle, keeps skipping appointments with the school counselor. As her aide, Adam is sent to track Julian down.

Each time that Adam comes into Julian’s life, he makes such a difference. As kids, he introduced Julian to the books Julian loves even now, books he reads over and over despite his struggles with dyslexia. In foster care, Adam and his mother gave Julian a safe place to start healing after a tremendous loss. But this time, Julian is going to need Adam more than either of them can imagine.

Review


Oh, this book…. I almost can’t put words to this. Julian breaks my heart. Even his walk shows how much he wants to disappear and not be noticed. No one at the school seems to want to be bothered with him. Adam is the opposite. Everyone loves him! Everyone knows him! He just naturally knows how to relate to people. He sees everyone – just when Julian needs to be seen.

There are parts of this story that are so fun – especially Adam and his friends (I love Charlie!!). But there are also these tender moments where the same boisterous group of seniors show up for Julian, this random freshman to most of them, in amazing ways.

Then there are ugly-crying moments in this, too. There are dark moments – powerful moments – that are even more powerful because of the relationship that has been growing between Adam and Julian through the story. Wow, this was just fantastic.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

For me this is definitely a book for older teens/YA due to mature content (predominantly violence/abuse) and language.

Escape Claws

REVIEW: Self to Lose, Self to Find by Marilyn Vancil

Summary


Like the book The Road Back to You that I reviewed here, this book is about the personality system, the Enneagram.

In this book, the author explores in detail the idea of an Authentic Self vs. an Adapted Self. The Authentic Self is the person God created you to be. The Adapted Self is who you have become over time as you have made choices and reacted to circumstances in ways designed to protect yourself.

The Enneagram then, shows you both sides of your type – the ways your type reflects who God made you to be as well as the ways it has been twisted in misguided ways.

The book includes this introductory material, descriptions of the nine types, descriptions of variations and nuances in the types, and a system to help readers recognize Adapted behaviors and reactions in order to get in touch with Authentic patterns instead.

Review


I really enjoyed the tone of this book. It’s not as funny as I found parts of The Road Back to You to be. But it’s easy to understand.

The metaphor the author uses for the Adapted and Authentic selves is well-described. This information really clicked for me. I enjoyed the type descriptions, too – different enough from The Road Back to You to be an enhancement. I am glad I read both.

I liked the author’s OWN UP system of recognizing and releasing Adapted behavior. The Road Back to You work book has a system that serves a similar purpose, but I liked this one better. The author used a personal example and her journal entries of her process to explain it. Those descriptions were helpful to me imagining how to apply the system in my life.

This is a great second resource for me as I try to learn more about the Enneagram

Rating: ♥♥♥♥