Sunday, April 4, 2021

Mary Seacole: Bound for the Battlefield

Author Susan Goldman Rubin does a wonderful job introducing Mary Seacole to young readers. Ms. Seacole was not someone I had heard of before. Her story was inspirational as well as disheartening when learning of the prejudice she experienced.

Growing up in Jamaica, Mary had dreamed of visiting England and spent a couple years there. Upon returning home, Mary helped her mother care for patients with yellow fever. One of the patients she attended kept proposing marriage and they eventually wed. But her husband's health was poor and Mary was soon a widow.  After her mother also died, she took over her mother's duties.

Mary then helped during cholera outbreaks. Upon visiting her brother in Panama, Mary's nursing skills were once again put to use. She worked tirelessly fighting cholera, another round of yellow fever back home, and then sought to apply her skills to helping the wounded in the Crimean War.  She soon discovered that racial prejudice kept her from nursing positions. So finding a business partner, Mary opened her own convalescent home to care for the sick.

Affectionataly known as Aunty Seacole by some and Mother Seacole by others, Mary helped everyone she could (in spite of much snubbing by others). She and her business partner built a new building and served nourishing meals to all (whether they could pay or not). This amazing woman continued nursing until she was seventy-six years old.

Illustrator Richie Pope, helps bring Mary's contributions to life and children will get a sense of the challenges and difficulties that Mary faced throughout her life. I highly recommend this book!

Disclaimer: I received a free digital copy of Mary Seacole: Bound for the Battlefield from NetGalley for the purpose of review. No other compensation was received. 

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Jane Austen Investigates: The Abbey Mystery by Julia Golding


I have been a mystery fan for as long as I can remember. My earliest memories are of reading Encyclopedia Brown and The Boxcar Children. In my teens I moved on to young adult mysteries by Phyllis Whitney as well as some Sherlock Holmes.  Children often have difficulty finding things to read after graduating from Encyclopedia Brown or The Boxcar Children, but thankfully, Julia Golding is helping to bridge that gap (and also raising interest in the author Jane Austen--double kudos for that!). I was thrilled that I could preview her first title, The Abbey Mystery, in her new series, "Jane Austen Investigates."

I knew I would love the book because: 
  1. It is set in England
  2. It features a young Jane Austen
  3. It was written by Julia Golding (check out my review of her book  The Tigers in the Tower
Mysteries are a wonderful tool for helping children begin to make observations and pay attention to detail as they read. Readers become detectives themselves as they seek to read between the lines and notice any irregularities in the story that might hint at the solution. Therefore, mysteries can play a large part in helping sharpen critical thinking skills. 

In The Abbey Mystery, a young Jane Austen has been sent as a substitute companion to an aunt (due to her sister's untimely injury). Sitting idly by and pursuing lady-like endeavors is not exactly Jane's cup of tea. Thankfully there are young servants with whom she can befriend while there (very carefully, so as not to get them into trouble with their employer).  Being a precocious adolescent, Jane is fueled by her spunk and curiosity to investigate the disappearance of two of her uncle's prized horses. When a man is falsely accused of the theft, Jane feels she has no choice but to discover the criminal on her own (with some help from her new friends).

Readers of middle grade all the way through adult will enjoy the glimpse into what Jane Austen's childhood may have been like (she's not exactly here to contradict).  While Jane was definitely more of the "poor relation," I loved that she befriended those who were beneath her. And she did not shrink back from exposing evil even at great risk to herself.  Young Jane Austen is a heroine I hope to meet again in future books from Julia Golding!

Book's release date is April 23, 2021 but you can pre-order a copy today! (affiliate link).

Disclaimer: I received a free digital copy of Jane Austen Investigates: The Abbey Mystery from NetGalley for the purpose of review. No other compensation was received.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Roots of Wood and Stone by Amanda Wen


There are times when the world in all its chaos (such as freaky ice storms in Texas or a world-wide pandemic), demands a place of peace and calm. And Amanda Wen's book, Roots of Wood and Stone is a book that offers such a place. 

When Sloane, curator of the Sedgwick County Museum of History, meets Garrett as he tries to drop off a box of discarded things from his grandmother's home, little did she know how her world would change.  Rushing off with the promise that he would pick up the box if nothing was of interest, she reluctantly began exploring its contents. Something at the bottom of a satchel caught her eye and when she opened the cover and saw "July 29, 1861" she was immediately swept into the life of Annabelle Collins, age 9. 

Sloane works alongside Garrett and his sister as they prepare their grandmother, Rosie 's home to put on the market.  In that process, a few more historical treasures surface. As Sloane and Garrett learn more about Annabelle and begin to research her genealogy, they also learn more about her connection to Kansas and Rosie's home.

Readers will enjoy the dual story-line: one detailing Annabelle's life through the pages of her diaries, and the other focusing on the story of Sloane's life and her growing friendship with Garrett. As she seeks to solve the mysteries of Annabelle's life, Sloane finds the courage to explore some things in her own past.  Roots of Wood and Stone perfectly blends mystery, romance, and historical treasure hunt.

The historical characters in the book were inspired by three of the author's ancestors. Make sure to read the Author's Notes to learn more about them. I highly recommend Wen's debut book!

Disclaimer: I received a copy of Roots of Wood and Stone from Kregel Publications for the purpose of review. No other compensation was received.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Meet Me By the Sea by Taltal Levi


Readers will need to suspend a bit of reality with this book as the young heroine in the story heads off on her own and stays outside overnight. As a parent, I had a hard time wondering how in the world a child can be gone for that long--but perhaps that carries home the point that her parents are way too focused on the wrong things. 

How appropriate for today's average parent--so distracted by work, phones, social media, etc. that they barely interact with their children. I applaud the child for knowing that nature has a calming, healing property and can be a beautiful source of peace and belonging.  

This book would be an excellent tool to help parents interact more with their child. The book has a slow, measured pace and children will enjoy exploring each lovely page. The uncomplicated pictures and the muted colors offer a nice contrast to the often overstimulation of life. I love that in these pages, a child can be drawn into the wonders of nature, and hopefully parents can learn to appreciate the benefits of slowing down.

Disclaimer: I received a free digital copy of Meet Me By the Sea from NetGalley for the purpose of review. No other compensation was received.

Things We Didn't Say by Amy Lynn Green


What would your correspondence reveal about you? Could someone piece together the essence of your day-to-day life, thoughts, and motives from the things you sent by letter?  And what might the things you left out also reveal about you?

Johanna has plans for her life and dreams of traveling overseas. Nowhere in those dreams was the prospect of returning to her Minnesota hometown. But with some external pressure, she finds herself taking the position of translator at a POW camp.  Her job of censoring letters is far from glamorous and her outspoken views get her into trouble on more than one occasion. Part of the mystery of the book for the reader is constructing her life and relationships with prisoners, family, and childhood friends from her letters alone. 

The book offers a fascinating view of the war from the perspective of German prisoners as well as through journalistic eyes when Johanna tangles with the local editor a time or two. Johanna has spunk and determination and manages to raise morale by helping to advocate for the prisoners at the camp.

Kindness can sometimes be misinterpreted and Johanna finds herself in a situation where her own words may be used against her. The backdrop of war adds to the angst of a young woman trying to figure out where she belongs in the world and what dreams are worth fighting for.

Disclaimer: I received a free digital copy of Things We Didn't Say from NetGalley for the purpose of review. No other compensation was received.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Adorning the Dark: Thoughts on Community, Calling, and the Mystery of Making


Andrew Peterson could have not have known at the time of his book's release (October 2019) how timely his thoughts would be for the year 2020.  If ever the world has known a time of darkness (spiritual, medical, and emotional), it is during the months that have been overshadowed by Covid. 

Adorning the Dark is part memoir, part inspiration, part tool kit for creatives. Readers will get a glimpse of the ways that God has used the author to bring light through his music, poetry and writing. The highs and lows, light and darkness in his own life's journey will encourage readers to not despair in the dark but to find ways to light a candle. Often times, light is made more beautiful by its contrast to dark. There is something magical about a candle's warmth and the intimacy of it's small circle of illumination. And even a small light can help dispel fear and uncertainty.

Peterson explores the importance of community, the gift of a calling (God does have a marvelous calling for each one of us), and what he dubs the "mystery" of making. It's rather humbling to realize that God gives humans the privilege of creating beauty in many forms. For Peterson, his making is through word and music. But others may find that their "making" takes the form of photography, painting, gardening, cooking, or some vocational pursuit. What I loved was the idea that our making can be a form of worship to the Lord--the gifts we bring to Him in gratitude for all that He has done for us and through us.

At a time in history when discouragement is prevalent and uncertainty is all too familiar, I recommend grabbing a copy of Adorning the Dark and contemplating the ways God can use these days of social distance and cancelled events to breathe new life into our souls and minds. Inspiration for ways that we can seek the Lord with renewed fervor, to worship Him with greater abandon and to share His light with greater determination. 

Disclaimer: I received a free digital copy of Adorning the Dark through NetGalley for the purpose of review. No other compensation was received.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Joy to the World: A Regency Christmas Collection

When November rolls around, I start getting a hankering for reading Christmas novels.  I love seeing  a variety of authors crank out a sweet holiday tale that offers comfort and a bit of escape during an often stressful time of year.  With covid casting a shadow over this year's holiday gatherings, readers may need some extra solace now more than ever before.  In Joy to the World readers will travel back in time and experience Christmas Regency style.  Here's a taste of what the three novellas offer.

Novella #1: "Heaven and Nature Sing" by Carolyn Miller

Edith and George, once romantically linked are awkwardly thrown together over the holidays.  Edith is still in mourning from a family member's death and George never fully understood why Edith broke things off.  Seeing one another challenges Edith's resolve to forget him and Georde's ability to move on with his life.  Although she regrets her decision, will Edith let her pride keep her from a happily ever after?  Will the pressure of their hostess influence thair future?  I had a bit of a struggle staying with this story (only because indecisive people who are always seconding guessing things kind of drive me crazy), but on cold winter day, it still offers a nice distraction from a mile long to do list!

Novella #2: "Far as the Curse is Found" by Amanda Barratt
When a disfigured stranger protects Jenny from what could have been a brutal assualt, she is relieved to make it safely home to her baby.  But when she later falls ill and subsequently loses her only source of income, she doesn't know how she can go on. The mysterious stranger comes to her rescue yet again and prevents her from making a decision she may well regret. Offering her employment at his estate seems like Providence, but what does she really know about her empoyer? I felt the book had some "Beauty and the Beast" and "My Fair Lady" vibes. A touching look at what happens when two lonely and broken people learn to trust one another.  Yes, it was a bit predictable but it was a sweet story that offered a valuable morale that it's more important to judge a person's heart than their appearance.  This was a story I wish had been longer!

Novella #3: "Wonders of His Love" by Erica Vetsch
Cilla is a recent widow continuing to live on the estate of her mother-in-law--the commanding matriarch of the family. Always a quiet young woman, widowhood has made her even quieter. The services of a painter have been procured to paint the portraits of the Duke (the younger brother to Cilla's deceased husband) and his wife the Duchess.  Hamish Sinclair waltzed in from Scotland adding a splash of color and energy to the estate, making this holiday particularly memorable.  As her mother-in-law tries to arrange a second marriage for Cilla,  readers will delight in seeing Cilla transform from a subservient daughter-in-law into a woman who can think for herself.  (
I'm not sure someone in her time period and station would have had the same freedom, but readers will most likeley forgive those liberties.)

Joy to the World offers three Regency romances that are clean and wholesome. Yes, readers will most likely guess the endings, but the setting and descriptions will draw the reader into the story and provide a few hours of cheer this holiday season--something we all could use!

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of Joy to the World from Kregel Publishing for the purpose of review. No other compensation was received.

Mary Seacole: Bound for the Battlefield

Author Susan Goldman Rubin does a wonderful job introducing Mary Seacole to young readers. Ms. Seacole was not someone I had heard of before...