Friday, July 12, 2024

"Road Trip Rescue" by Becca Wierwille

What a lovely book!  I was utterly enchanted by this middle-grade book about a girl trying to find her missing dog.

Kimmy's dog Bo disappeared two years ago.  When she finds a photo in a magazine that looks just like him, she begs her parents to take her to see if that dog in the magazine really is Bo.  Her parents can't take time away from their dairy farm, but Kimmy's Aunt Skylar decides to take Kimmy on a road trip with a stop at the place where Bo might be living.  

The road trip gets longer and longer, with various stops and adventures along the way, and with extra people joining it along the way.  Kimmy does finally find the dog from the magazine.  I won't spoil the book by telling you whether the dog is Bo or not.

Kimmy was born with one full arm and hand, and one "little arm" that ends just below her elbow.  Over the course of the book, she learns that not all strangers stare, not all people who stare are being intentionally rude, and not everyone thinks that her "little arm" makes her a freak.  Most importantly, she learns the power of the forgiveness, and that you can forgive people whether or not they apologize to you.  

This is Christian fiction of the best kind, with characters who strive to live out their faith and act according to what the Bible teaches.  They read the Bible and they attend church, too.

I plan to have my elementary literature class at our homeschool co-op read this book this year.  It's so good!

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: G.  A good, wholesome, heartwarming story.

This has been my 18th book read from my TBR shelves for the 2024 Mount TBR Reading Challenge.

Monday, July 8, 2024

Cover Reveal and ARC Sign-Up for My Book "Prairie Tales"

It's finally time to share the cover for the sixth book in my Once Upon a Western series!  Prairie Tales: Volume One is a collection of ten short stories that are all related to the first five books in the series, whether as sequels or prequels to those books.

Here's the official synopsis:
Discover ten re-imaginings of fairy tales, folk tales, and even a Mother Goose rhyme in this heartwarming collection. Journey across the plains of Nebraska and Kansas and explore the mountains of Wyoming and Colorado with characters from the "Once Upon a Western" series—or meet them for the first time! Encounter a mattress filled with apples, a runaway basket of gingerbread, a house that looks like a shoe, a disappointing Christmas tree, and a Halloween prank gone wrong. Each short story brings a classic tale to life, offering fresh adventures and cozy charm in the Old West.
The ten short stories included are:
  • "None Too Particular" (The Princess and the Pea) 
  • "Let Down Your Hair" (Rapunzel) 
  • "I'll Do It Myself" (The Little Red Hen) 
  • "No Match for a Good Story" (Scheherazade) 
  • "Run, Run" (The Gingerbread Man) 
  • "Who Lived in a Shoe" (There Was an Old Woman) 
  • "The Ugly Evergreen" (The Ugly Duckling) 
  • "The Wind Makes a Poor Husband" (The Mouse's Marriage) 
  • "The Blizzard at Three Bears Lake" (Goldilocks and the Three Bears) 
  • "Gruff" (Three Billy Goats Gruff)

And now, it's time to reveal the cover!

I think this just might be the prettiest cover for this series yet!  And look how wonderful it looks with all the others:

If some of those short stories sound familiar to you, five of them have been previously available on their own as free e-books, and two of them have been free Christmas gifts to people who subscribe to my author newsletter.  If you're keeping up with my math here, that means that three of these short stories are totally new and have never been available before!  And none of them have been available in print before this. 

Only "Who Lived in a Shoe" and "Blizzard at Three Bears Lake" will continue to be offered as free e-books on their own.  All the rest will only be available in this collection from now on.

Prairie Tales: Volume One
 will release on August 6, 2024, which is less than a month away!  If you don't want to wait a whole month to read it, you can apply for an Advance Reader Copy (ARC) by filling out this form.  I will give out a limited number of ARCs, and they will be available on a first-come, first-served basis, so if you want one, you'd better sign up soon!  All ARCs will be e-books, not paperbacks.

The Kindle edition of Prairie Tales is available for pre-order right here already, and you can also mark it as want-to-read here on GoodReads.

I'll be offering some book launch goodies, and taking this book on a virtual book tour during its launch week, so keep an eye out for news about those!

Oh, and yes... the title includes the words "volume one."  I fully expect to keep writing books and short stories in this series, which means there will be another volume of Once Upon a Western short stories one day!  I currently have plans for the next three books, and ideas for a couple more short stories...

Saturday, July 6, 2024

"Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves" by P. G. Wodehouse (audiobook read by Jonathan Cecil)

I happened upon the audiobook version of Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse at a used book store this spring.  When I saw it was read by Jonathan Cecil, I snapped it up because I was pretty sure this would be a fun book for our family vacation.  My kids know who Jonathan Cecil is because he played Captain Hastings in several Poirot mysteries opposite Peter Ustinov, and we are definite fans of that particular iteration of Poirot.

Anyway, we had a jolly time listening to this book over a couple of days on our drive home last week!  We got a lot of laughs out of it, and we've acquired a few new favorite things to quote to each other (especially, "In that case, I shall now eat a ham sandwich!").

In this book, Bertie Wooster tries very hard not to get invited to a big manor house, not to get tangled up in his friends' problems, and not to get rid of the jaunty blue alpine hat with a pink feather that he loves and Jeeves hates.  As you can expect, he fails on all three counts, with hilarious and delightful results.  

I find it very heartening that Wodehouse published this book when he was 82.  And published two more Jeeves books after it!  Makes me hope I could have another 40ish years of writing ahead of me yet.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG for a smattering of mild cussing here and there.

This is my 25th book read and reviewed for my fourth Classics Club list and my 17th from my TBR shelves for the 2024 Mount TBR Reading Challenge.  I'm counting it for the latter because, although I bought the audiobook this year, the paperback has been on my TBR shelves since 2023.

Monday, July 1, 2024

"Steal the Morrow" by Jenelle Leanne Schmidt

Another excellent book in the Classic Retold series!  In fact, please don't throw things at me for this, but I actually liked Steal the Morrow better than the book it's retelling, Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens.  :-o  I know, I know, but hear me out.

Steal the Morrow has its orphan, Olifur, fall in with a Robin Hood-esque band of boys living in the forest, led by a kind man named Fritjof who teaches them how to survive and thrive.  Unlike Robin Hood, and unlike Fagin in the original book, these folks don't steal.  They work.

Eventually, Olifur goes to a big city to find a doctor to help Fritjof, who has weak lungs and gets sick a lot.  There, he gets an unpleasant and dangerous job, reminiscent of a work house, to pay the doctor.  He encounters this book's versions of the Artful Dodger, Nancy, and Bill Sikes.  Moral quandries ensue, which Olifer eventually finds his way through, and the ending is WAY happier than the ending of Oliver Twist.  

So, yeah -- happier ending, less misery, far nicer characters, and a Robin Hood aspect make me like Steal the Morrow a lot more than Oliver Twist.  I'm not saying it's a better book, I'm just saying I personally like and enjoy it more.

Particularly Good Bits:

Perhaps that was part of growing up, he thought.  Perhaps there would always be small pieces of his heart missing, scattered from town to town, staying with the people he cared about most (p. 181).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG for violent loss of parents, scenes of children in peril/danger, and violence toward women and children.  No smut or bad language, and the violence is not described in a gory way.

This is my 16th book read from my TBR shelves for the 2024 Mount TBR Reading Challenge.

Saturday, June 22, 2024

"Murder at the Merton Library" by Andrea Penrose

The only real downside to this book is that, now that I've finished it, I have to wait until September for another Wrexford and Sloane book!  I absolutely love this series and am slowly collecting them up because I know I will want to read them all again.

In this one, the Earl of Wrexford's late brother's best friend is murdered, and Wrex vows to bring the killer to justice.  Meanwhile, a scientific laboratory burns down in what appears to be arson, and Charlotte is drawn into the search for possible motives and perpetrators.  Of course, the two crimes end up being linked, and it takes the combined talents of their entire found family to figure everything out.  

I very much enjoy how Penrose works so many real-life scientific discoveries and inventions into this series.  It's set during the Industrial Revolution, and the emphasis on science really sets this series apart from other Regency-era books I've read.

Particularly Good Bits:

"It is a curse of human nature that we are inclined to believe things that we wish to be true.  Evildoers have exploited that weakness since the Garden of Eden" (p. 220).

"Vengeance doesn't soothe the soul" (p. 240).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG-13 for violence, including showing a murder on-page, a smattering of cuss words, and mention of an attempt at rape (in the past, not shown, and neither victim nor perpetrator are regular characters).

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

The Cover Reveal for My Book "A Noble Companion"

As you may have heard, I will be releasing an Ugly Duckling retelling called A Noble Companion this fall as part of the Cornerstone Series from Beyond the Bookery. I am revealing its gorgeous cover at last!

A Noble Companion releases on November 12, and you can already pre-order the Kindle version on Amazon.

The books in this series are all non-magical fantasy, which means the authors will include fantasy elements such as creatures (such as dragons, centaurs, unicorns, mermaids) or settings, but there will be no magic-users, such as witches or wizards or sorcerers.

Is this a major step out into the unknown for me as a writer?  In some ways, yes.  I tried writing a fantasy novel in my teens and gave it up because the worldbuilding was driving me crazy.  I've never tried to write anything fantasy-ish again... until now.  

But, because I'm me, A Noble Companion has an American West flavor -- I've created a world based on Spanish California in the early 1800s (think of Zorro), but with talking animals and dragons.  

I have an inspiration board for this book on Pinterest -- you can check that out here!

Anyway!  I love my cover, and I'm having a great time writing this book.  If you'd like to see covers for more of the series, we are releasing four at a time every Monday for the whole month of June -- you can find the first eight here in my Instagram feed!

If you think A Noble Companion sounds like a fun read, you can mark it as "want to read" here on Goodreads.

Monday, June 10, 2024

"Break the Beast" by Allison Tebo

This book blew me away.  It's got a vibe like Till We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis, but mixed with wonderful wordsmithing ala Caraval by Stephanie Garber, and with a hero who could stand beside any of the great men in The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien.

And if that sounds hyperbolic, I assure you it is not.  This is going to be one of my top books for the year.

Break the Beast is a retelling of the ancient epic Beowulf, but with a wonderful twist.  Instead of killing the monster Grendel, Beowulf saves her from being a monster.  In this book, Grendel was once a human girl, and when Beowulf offers her a chance to turn from worshiping the Dragon Below and instead worship the Almighty, he's also offering her a chance to reclaim her humanity.

I don't want to spoil the story too much, but this is simultaneously an epic quest to defeat monsters and a very personal story of the power of faith and friendship.  It's an allegory like Till We Have Faces, but it's also an emotion-charged fantasy adventure like The Lord of the Rings.

I also loved that, like Balefire by Deborah Koren, this book centers on a platonic friendship between a man and a woman.  I love books like that where romance doesn't need to be part of the plot just because the two main characters are a guy and a girl.  If this is a new trend, I applaud it!

I had to read this book in little bites most of the time because I needed to savor the exquisite writing and storytelling.  I've enjoyed Allison Tebo's writing for years now, but this is far above everything she's written before.  It is magnificent.  Though there is a little flavor of decision-based theology here and there that I do not personally agree with, just fyi.

Particularly Good Bits:

"You and I both know that when we do not allow the Almighty to erect the walls of his truth around our thoughts, our minds devour us, and then, fools that we are, we blame the Almighty for our pain, and we choose to live in the chaos, instead of seeking freedom in Him (p. 20-21).

As the hours pass, he tries several times to speak to me, but each time, the words fall to the ground with the rain, leaving puddles of awkward silence behind (p. 172).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG-13 for mildly gory violence and one instance of someone insinuating a woman has seduced a man (she hasn't).

This is the 15th book I've read from my TBR shelves for the 2024 Mount TBR Reading Challenge.