Reviews, Etc.

Sacred Slow

REVIEW: The Sacred Slow by Alicia Britt Chole

“A holy departure from fast faith.” That is the sub-title for The Sacred Slow, new from Thomas Nelson Publishers.

“Fast faith” is defined on page 4 as “a restless spirituality that often craves what is new and what is next in the recycled hope that the latest ‘it’ can satisfy an ache that can only be described as timeless.” The material is broken into 12 sections, and the content within each can be completed in a week. Readers who really want to embrace the “sacred slow” could work through one experience a week, stretching the content through one full year, really digging deeply into each experience.

Every experience has a reading and a “guided response.” The reader can decide to complete a guided response that is internal (thought-based) or external (an exercise or action step to complete). Obviously, you can also do both, especially if you are working through one per week. The author suggests just choosing one based on your time and opportunities. Exercises sometimes build on what was completed on an earlier step. For example, the first several exercises walk the reader through the completion of a “Life Scroll,” a worksheet included in the book.

The book includes a facilitator’s guide, a blank Life Scroll, and some personal inventory pages. The exercises are intended to be done prayerfully, listening for God’s input throughout the process. If you walk through these steps in your own mind and power, you will miss the point.

This would make a great study for an individual or for a group. I love the idea of one exercise per week to really take the material in slowly and dig deeply into what God would say to you through each one. With a new year almost here, this would be an fantastic resource to add to your quiet time in 2018.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson Publishers and the folks at Handlebar for a review copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Walking With Miss Millie

REVIEW: Walking with Miss Millie by Tamara Bundy

Summary


Alice does not want to be in Rainbow, Georgia. She wants to go home to Columbus, Ohio. How will her dad, who “hates” Rainbow, ever come back to them if they aren’t there?

But Alice’s grandmother is having memory issues. She needs help, so Alice and her mom and brother are in Rainbow for the foreseeable future.

Georgia in June, 1968, means hot and humid weather, “party” phone lines and racial tension. When Alice accidentally eavesdrops on her grandmother’s neighbor, Miss Millie, on the party line, she has to go apologize. That leads to daily walks with Miss Millie and her dog, Clarence. What starts as a burden becomes something Alice looks forward to as she gets to know their elderly African-American neighbor. And their talks help Alice learn some things about herself along the way.

Review


This story was perfection. The heart was present from page one. Alice is an earnest, thoughtful character. Like any good 10-year-old, she jumps to conclusions about folks at times, but she’s also teachable and honest. Miss Millie is wise. And the author does a terrific job of “showing” rather than telling how Miss Millie feels and what she thinks but doesn’t say. The entire cast of characters is fantastic, and I quickly fell in love with them.

The story centers on Alice and the move to Rainbow as well as what that move means to her relationship with her absent father. But it’s also about the evolution of race relations from the late 1800s to 1968. It’s about family and loss and faith. I cried several times in the story as the emotional pieces are pitched perfectly for the characters. I can’t recommend this highly enough!

Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

Escape Claws

Book Shopping Suggestions – The 2017 Holiday Hint List Is Here!

Thanksgiving is only a few days away, and Christmas is not far behind!

As you can imagine, I love giving books as gifts. Last year I pulled together a “Holiday Hint List” to help my readers find great books to give as gifts. You can look at it here.

I’ve created an all new list for 2017, too!  There are things on this list for everyone – board books and picture books for the little kids, middle grade and YA books for the older kids and teen, and some recommendations (both fiction, and non-fiction) for adults. Hopefully you will find some great gift ideas for the folks on your holiday gift list!

You can take look at the new list here: 2017 Neverending TBR Holiday Shopping Hint List rev

Please let me know if you have any questions! I love to help people find the perfect book.

Magic Misfits

BOOK NEWS: November 21, 2017

Thanksgiving week is here. I have so much to be thankful for – including you, my faithful readers. I hope The Neverending TBR has helped you find great books for yourself and for your family and friends.

If you are looking for book recommendations for your holiday shopping, come back this afternoon to see my 2017 Holiday Hint List. Lots of terrific books on the list this year.

It’s a small release week, so I’ll just display them in one grouping. Here are some of the new books coming out this week, just in time for the long weekend.

Books for Everyone!


Goldenlocks and the Three Pirates – Goldilocks with Pirates – what else do you need to know?! If I was still teaching, I would definitely be adding this one to my Fractured Fairy Tale unit.
My Lazy Cat – A little girl who is ALWAYS on the move decides to take a page from her cat’s book and have a do-nothing, lazy day. Sounds adorable! Looking forward to reading this one.
Zoey and Sassafras Caterflies and Ice – Book 4 in the Zoey and Sassafras early chapter book fantasy series about a scientifically-minded girl and her pet cat. These look adorable! Terrific for kids branching out into short chapter books.
Cookie Cutters & Sled Runners – Two girls, prepared to turn their middle school project into a cook book, run into trouble when they are paired with other people instead of with each other. This will be especially hard on Ana as her new partner doesn’t understand her “quirks” like her best friend does. This sounds like a terrific middle grade read!
The Magic Misfits – Actor Neil Patrick Harris tries his hand at writing for kids with this middle grade series debut. A group of young illusionists and magicians take on a criminal group of carnies. This is at the top of my list for this week! Early reviews have been very positive. I can’t wait to read this one!
My Life Is a Joke – The latest middle grade novel from James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein (Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library). When Jacky takes on extra responsibilities for home, she wonders where she could find the time for her love: performing in front of a crowd.
Pixar: A Pop-Up Celebration – This small but intricate book celebrates the magic of Pixar movies.
Not Now, Not Ever – This new book for teens and young adults centers on a girl who sneaks off to genius camp for a chance to win a scholarship to the one school she wants to go to. I LOVED this one and reviewed it last week. You can check that review out here.
Faith Journaling for the Inspired Artist – This Bible Art Journaling book is by Stephanie Ackerman, an artist I have followed for years. I have been reading about this for ages as she has compiled it; I can’t wait to see it in person.

Not Now Not Ever

REVIEW: Not Now, Not Ever by Lily Anderson

Summary


Elliot Lawrence Gabaroche is expected to go to either the Air Force Academy (like the Lawrence part of the family) or go into Law like her dad (which means attending a summer mock trial camp).

But “Ever” Lawrence has been accepted to Camp Onward, a camp for genius students where she hopes to win a scholarship to Rayevich College so she can join their science fiction literature program.

While everyone thinks Ellie is doing what THEY want her to do, she hops a train to Oregon as Ever to pursue her own plans for the future.

Ever doesn’t count on her annoying cousin, Isaiah, showing up at the same camp. They have to pretend to be twins so no one at the camp catches on to their secrets – her real name, his real age, and the fact that neither set of parents knows where they are. If their parents find out, both kids will lose their chance at the scholarship and setting their own course for the future. Ever also doesn’t count on meeting a great guy, making terrific friends, or stumbling into a mystery.

Review


This was excellent! The voice was outstanding. Ever is smart and sharp and so funny. I was truly sad when the book ended and there was no more Ever.

This is the second book published by the author, Lily Anderson, and I have loved both of them. The writing is fantastic. Lots of great voice and terrific humor. Anderson is an author I will put on a “must buy” list because I really enjoy her style.

The cast of characters is quirky and fun. The interplay between the kids on Ever’s team was a hoot. There were lots of great geeky moments. I kept reading passages aloud to my family because I was enjoying the book so much. The scene where the team gets together for the first time, and the counselors give them a taste of what is to come, is one of my favorites.

I loved Ever’s quest for her own path while feeling pressure and expectations from her whole family. The camp scholarship contest was a great plot – it brought interesting characters together and threw in some nice twists and a little mystery. Everything clicked perfectly for me in this book. (Some language)

Many, many thanks to Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press/Wednesday Books for an electronic review copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. Reading this book was a delight!

Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

Much Ado About Murder

REVIEW: Much Ado About Murder by Elizabeth J. Duncan

Summary


Charlotte Fairfax is the costume designer for the Catskills Shakespeare Theater Company. As the company prepares to stage Much Ado About Nothing, many things at the resort/theater are shaking things up.

Their star, Audrey Ashley, has arrived from England with her sister/manager in tow. The director, who left town for personal reasons, decides suddenly not to return. The theater board tries to hire Wade Radcliffe, a local director, to replace him. But Miss Ashley, as the star, has veto power. She instead calls in Edmund Albright. In a surprise for everyone, including Audrey, Albright decides to modify the play to take place in the era of the Civil War. Budgets, sets, costumes, and his star’s disapproval, will not dissuade him.

As if the staffing changes and debates over the timing and setting for the play hadn’t slowed things down already, the death of a key player threatens to derail the whole thing permanently. Charlotte is determined to find the truth and save the play.

Review


This is the third book in the Shakespeare in the Catskills mystery series, and my first introduction to these characters.

This series is written in third person which was a shift for me from many of the cozies I read. You wouldn’t think it would make much of a difference but for some reason it did. The transitions from Charlotte’s scenes to others when she wasn’t there were jarring. I didn’t feel connected to her as a main character. There was a distance for the entire story that didn’t click for me. There were times early on when I was still finding the rhythm of the story where it felt like I was reading non-fiction because of the distance and formality in some of the writing. I prefer my cozies to be much warmer, and, well, cozier.

The mystery is solid from the start. There’s lots of time to get used to the different characters and their personalities and build tension over the play before the murder takes place. I was completely off base about the murderer, but the clues were there all along. Once I got into the story I was happy to read until the conclusion.

I missed the warmth and connection I feel with my favorite mysteries. I might read more of this series, if there was a story line that intrigued me. But the writing would take some getting used to for me. Other readers will not be bothered by the writing and will love this solid mystery.

Thanks to Netgalley and Crooked Lane Books for the electronic review copy offered in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: ♥♥♥

Apartment 1986

REVIEW: Apartment 1986 by Lisa Papademetriou

Summary


Callie’s in something of a new stage of life. Her dad recently got a new job, and the family moved to NYC. Her mom’s given up her social work job to start a soap business. Callie has changed schools and is trying to find her way with a new crowd.

When Callie’s dad loses his new job, everything starts to shift again. Callie feels the need to keep up with her friends which right now means $250 for a concert ticket. But her parents are tense, and this is NOT the time to ask for that kind of money. But the money is only one issue at school. She’s also having issues with her history teacher. And if she gets one more tardy, the school will call her parents.

When Callie oversleeps one day, she decides to skip school all together (text in an excuse, avoid another tardy) and spend the day at a museum. It’s educational! She’ll go back tomorrow. But one day becomes two and then becomes a pattern. The time away from school temporarily postpones her issues there, and gives her time for a new friend, time to reconsider an old friendship, and time to gain new insights into her family. But problems rarely disappear when you avoid them.

Review


This was delightful! I loved Callie. She’s smart and earnest and a little quirky. Her friendship with Cassius is great. While she doesn’t share much with him about the things swirling in her life, he’s a sounding board for her – a safe place to think.

I loved Callie’s family, too. The family side of Callie’s story – the relationships, the things she learns about her family – was my favorite part. I discovered great layers to the characters as the story went on. I found the sections where the family talks about Callie’s uncle were really well-done.

In some ways, as I was reading, I felt the story meandered in several different directions. There’s the family stuff and the money stuff and the new vs. old friends stuff and then the Callie-centric stuff. It all holds together, though, with Callie at the center of it all, figuring out life one step at a time. Loved it!

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

End Game

BOOK NEWS: November 14, 2017

Thanksgiving is so close that I can almost taste the apple pie. Here are some new books to get you through until it’s Turkey Day!

Books for Kids


Here We Are: Notes for Living On Planet Earth – A guide to life on Earth for kids and families from the author of The Day the Crayons Quit. I am looking forward to reading this one!
Bad Guy Is a Two-Word Word – Book 2 in the Recess Warriors graphic novel series for younger and mid-elementary readers. This may also appeal to middle grade readers.  A villain has released vampires werewolves and other creatures to take over recess. This series looks like so much fun!
Galaxy Zack Cosmic Black Out – Book 16 in the awesome Galaxy Zack science fiction series for readers ready for chapter books. I have loved this series since book one, and it was always very popular with my students.
Piper Morgan Plans a Party – Book 5 in the Piper Morgan series. This time, Piper is trying to help her mom plan a party for an ungrateful, spoiled little girl. This series looks fantastic.

Books for Older Kids/Teens/Young Adults


Dolls of War – Book 3 in the Friendship Dolls series based on a true story about 12,000 dolls sent from the US to Japan in the 1920s in the hope of preventing a future war and 58 dolls sent back to the US from Japan. This series has always caught my eye in the book store, and it is on my TBR list. This new book is about the impact of the 1926 Friendship Doll exchange when the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor during 1941.
Penelope March Is Melting – A bookish outcast and her younger brother are drawn into a mystery about their chilly home, Glacier Cove. I’m eager to check this one out.
Percy Jackson and the Singer of Apollo (e-book novella) – Percy Jackson and his pal Grover are on the hunt for a missing automaton loose in New York. I have already pre-ordered this.
The Road to Ever After – An orphan and a stray dog connect at Christmas and get pulled into an adventure with an elderly woman they meet at a mysterious museum. This is at the top of my wish list for the week!
Good and Gone – A road trip to find a missing rock star helps a trio of teens re-examine recent events in their lives.  This is from an author I already have on my TBR list; I’m curious to check out this new book for teens/young adults.

Books for Adults


 

Death in the Stacks – Book 8 in the Library Lovers mystery series – one of my favorite cozy series. In this book, the new library board president is killed and one of Lindsey’s friends is the prime suspect. I adore the characters in this series. I’m so looking forward to reading this one! You can read my review of book 7 here.
End Game – Book 5 in the Will Robie series. In this book, Robie’s handler, Blue Man, has gone missing. But when Robie goes to investigate, things are even more serious than just a missing operative. I really enjoyed the first book in this series. And my husband reads almost anything Baldacci writes. We are big fans and will certainly have this book in our home by the end of the year.
Star Trek Discovery: Official Collector’s Edition – A behind-the-scenes look at the new Star Trek series, available through CBS online.
Star Wars Captain Phasma – Graphic Novel collecting Journey to Star Wars The Last Jedi Captain Phasma issues 1-4. This is not a comic book line I have followed, but I am interested in check it out in advance of the new movie in December.
Art of Thor – We are HUGE fans of these “Art of” books at our house. It’s a great visual treat to celebrate a favorite movie. And Thor is a favorite for our family. These coffee-table books are lovely gift-quality items.
Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship and Purpose – Vice President Biden shares the story of the last Thanksgiving his family celebrated with his son, Beau, who had been diagnosed with a malignant tumor and the year that followed. It is a glimpse into one man’s life as Vice President of the United States and also as a father losing his son. This will be an emotional read, but I would like to read it, nonetheless.

Spoonful of Magic

REVIEW: A Spoonful of Magic by Irene Radford

Summary


Daphne “Daffy” Deschants celebrates her 13th wedding anniversary by calling out her husband, “G”(Gabriel), for sleeping around. She has pictures to prove it! And they came from G’s own work email. She’s starting to notice a new side of G. He only seems to care about their kids – and Daffy being around to care for them while his work takes him all around the world. And she thinks he’s used magic on her, too.

Daffy and her family live in Eugene, Oregon, home of a fairy festival and plenty of shops selling mystical and magical items. But Daffy hadn’t realized the extent of real magic in town, in her own house… and maybe even in herself.

Evil magic exists and G, as Sheriff of the Guild of Master Wizards, is hunting for one of the worst. But the evil seems to be circling ever closer to G’s family. How can he protect them when Daffy’s kicked him out of the house and doesn’t trust him?

Review


I have mixed feelings about this one. I generally love fantasy and magic stories like this one. And there were parts of this I really enjoyed. I liked Daffy and her kids. The pieces about the kids growing into their place in this magical world were great. At the same time, I did not like G at all. He was far too cavalier about his marriage and family to be likable in my opinion.

I also wanted a lot more world building. I felt like things were abruptly revealed, but also incompletely. Maybe that was because Daffy is the point of view character, and she is only just learning about this world herself. Point of view was interesting in this, too, as Daffy told her part of the story in first person while the other parts of the story that took place outside of her involvement were told in third person.

As urban fantasy goes, this was good (except for some of the world building as I mentioned). Personally, some of the magic pieces were dark for me, and I didn’t enjoy them. I also didn’t care for G’s ethics when it came to his marriage. Other readers might not be bothered by these things and may enjoy this story more than I did.

Thanks to Netgalley and DAW for an electronic review copy of this book offered in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: ♥♥♥

A Fatal Collection

REVIEW: A Fatal Collection by Mary Ellen Hughes

Summary


Callie Reed arrives at her Aunt Mel’s music box store in “Keepsake Cove” for a long overdue reunion. But before they have time to do much catching up, Mel is dead and Callie has inherited her aunt’s store and cottage.

Callie’s not convinced Mel’s death was an accident. While she tries to get settled into her new home and learn about her new business, she also tries to get to know the folks in town. Maybe she can figure out who might have wanted to hurt her aunt.

There are several odd things going on around town. The town treasurer seems to go on more expensive vacations and buy expensive “toys” than his business should be able to support. The guy doing odd jobs around town seems menacing. And Callie’s business “neighbor” is openly hostile and only seems interested in buying out the music box shop and being horrible. Callie has her hands full trying to determine what really happened to Aunt Mel.

Review


This is the first book in the new Keepsake Cove mystery series. The setting is fantastic. The little collectible stores are quaint and quirky. It makes for lots of interesting characters for the town and reasons for lots of people to come through as visitors for future stories.

I loved the main characters. Callie is great and the friends she made in this first book created a solid supporting cast. Her quirky part timer with “psychic” gifts and Tarot readings made for some interesting impacts on the plot. The characters were introduced at a comfortable pace so the reader could keep track of everyone. This is a town and a group of people I’d love to spend more time with.

The mystery was solid. I was able to figure out the solution before the end. I enjoyed working through the clues and possible suspects. While I enjoy mysteries with a little magic or fantasy thrown in, I am not a fan of Tarot and other things that could be considered “occultish.” So that might keep me from reading more in the series in the future. I would have enjoyed the book just as much without that piece in the story.

Thanks to the folks at Netgalley and Midnight Ink for an electronic review copy of this book offered in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥