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Children's Lit Middle Grade Reads Weekly Reviews

Maurice and His Dictionary- Picture Book Review

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Title: Maurice and His Dictionary: A True Story
Author: Cary Fagan
Publisher: Owlkid Books
Publishing Date: October 15, 2020
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Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with an E-Arc of this book.

Maurice and His Dictionary is a wonderful true story of a boy who worked around so many roadblocks to get his education. Maurice fled Europe during WWII and ended up in an internment camp where he couldn’t finish high school. He managed to get tutors from all over the camp and studied to get into a local school and take a test to finally get his diploma. He then pursued University in Canada at the age of 16.

I really liked the perseverance of Maurice and his family as well as the fact that this was a true story. I do wish the ending was a little more resolved so that it was just a bit longer and we could find out what happened to Maurice in the later years of his life. The author’s note provides a little of this and the real history behind this story, but it still doesn’t feel totally wrapped up like it should.

Would recommend to lovers of history, fans of graphic novels and students in grades 3-6.

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YA Reviews

Bones of a Saint Book Review

Bones of a Saint is raw, emotional, and a much needed diverse read. This story is told in two different ways – once through the eyes of RJ in present terms, and once as stories told by RJ of his past to an old man he is suppose to rob for a violent gang.

RJ grows up in a very religious community in the past (1970s) and is dirt poor. He has several siblings, and they all have different, deadbeat dads. He tells his story through reminiscing of his Catholic roots as he tries to escape the clutches of the gang that has had his trailer park under their thumb for generations – but this generation will be the last if RJ has anything to do with it.

I recommend this to anyone who enjoys the twists and turns of a thriller, without being terrified, for YA readers wanting a different format, and to anyone who was raised Catholic who can appreciate the many religious references throughout this novel.

Add it on GoodReads / PreOrder on Amazon

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Lone Star Book Blog Tour Posts Weekly Reviews

The Rainwater Secret – Review

THE RAINWATER SECRET
by
Monica Shaw
Genre: Historical Fiction / Medical Missionaries
Publisher: Self-Published
Date of Publication: March 31, 2017
Number of Pages: 354

Scroll down for the giveaway!
 

The Rainwater Secret is a deeply moving, historical fiction novel about a woman who travels

to Africa to teach the leper children who were banished from their villages. Single and feeling there is nothing left for her in small-town England, Anna embarks on an adventure as a volunteer teacher with the Medical Missionaries of Mary. Life as Anna has known it is forever changed as she learns the culture that would banish its sick, disfigured, and crippled to the bush. Babies are left to die on roadsides, children are chased away to live by whatever means they can find. The aged are abandoned.

Anna’s daily life is an adventure as she travels from one village to another across a hostile land with few passable roads, rickety bridges threatening to fall apart and casting occupants on the jagged rocks far below, and weather that turns a calm river into a roiling death trap. In spite of the trials, Anna also manages to find love and family in this godforsaken land.

 
Follow this adventure through disease, weather, strife, death, and determination to turn a few acres of land into a loving home for the outcast lepers of Nigeria.

 
Monica Shaw is a native of Dallas, Texas where she has been a successful entrepreneur. She attended St. Thomas Aquinas, graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School, and earned her Geology / Petroleum Engineering degree from UT Austin. Her debut novel, The Rainwater Secret, started off as a personal research project looking into the life of her great aunt who became a missionary teacher. Monica is married with 3 children.

 ║Website ║ Facebook LinkedIn Twitter  
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The Rainwater Secret is a powerful historical fiction novel that reminds us that the world is bigger than ourselves and that we as a humanity need to take care of one another. This story centers around Anna, a young woman in pursuit of a life purpose following World War II. When her beau marries another woman and her mother passes, Anna is left with only her best friend. She is inspired by a young visiting priest’s sermon about taking care of the lepers in Africa. Following her instinct she applies for a position in the leper colony as a teacher. She knows she can bring experience to the people in Africa and teach them to take care of themselves and each other.

Though fictional, Anna is based on the author’s aunt, and is an inspiring and relatable character. The author uses vivid imagery to bring you, the reader, with Anna on her journey through the ups and downs of her life in the African Savannah amongst the wild creatures, the people, and the living conditions. Anna experiences so much loss and heartache that you really become compassionate with how resilient her character is and you end up rooting for her and all her comrades in the leper community.

This book left me wishing for more and I cannot wait to see if this author puts out any other novels. I highly recommend this to fans of historical fiction and those that feel a need to help out their world community. I gave this book a solid 5 out of 5 stars.

 

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YA Reviews

The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys Review

As soon as I picked up this book from this year’s TLA conference I knew I had to read it immediately. I am a huge fan of Sepetys novels. She writes so thoughtfully and you can tell how much research goes into each of her historical fiction novels.

The Fountains of Silence

Title: The Fountains of Silence
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Publishing Date: October 22, 2019
Publishing Company: Philomel Books
Add It: Goodreads
Order It: Amazon

Synopsis

The Fountains of Silence takes place in Madrid, Spain in 1957. In the aftermath of World War II, most European countries are no longer under dictatorship, but Spain is still at the mercy of their ruthless Catholic dictator Francisco Franco. Most of the Red Republicans from the war have been arrested, sentenced to death, or worked in labor camps to death. Their children and relatives are still suffering under Franco’s rule and things aren’t as they seem.

Daniel is recently 18. His dad is an oil tycoon in Texas and expects Daniel to follow suit with a petroleum degree from Texas A&M. Daniel loves photography and wants more than anything to travel the world and photograph the truth. He is applying for a prestigious scholarship to his dream photography program, much to the chagrin of his father who does not believe photography is the right career path for Daniel. Daniel’s mother is a native Spaniard so for Daniel’s last summer between high school and college Daniel’s mother takes them to the new Hilton hotel in Madrid.

The maid assigned to Daniel’s family is Ana who is around Daniel’s age. She is mysterious and beautiful. She is also the daughter of a Republican and lives in extreme poverty with her older sister, a seamstress, and her husband and their daughter as well as her brother who is a gravedigger by day and aspiring bull fighter promoter by night.

Review

This story is told in many alternating points of view which helps us get a good grasp on the mysterious backstory of both Ana and Daniel and their extremely different families. Though Ana and Daniel are the main characters we do get POV from many of their family members and friends in addition to their chapters. Sepetys also gives us snippets of documentation of the history of Spain during this time to help support the historical part of this novel.

Ana and Daniel were both very relateable characters. I was very excited about Daniel’s character in the beginning because he is from a Texas oil family (much like I am) and is suppose to be attending Texas A&M (my alma mater). He also loves photography which is one of my hobbies. I love the way the author would describe his photographs. Even though you couldn’t see them in the book her imagery made you be able to picture what his photographs must look like. Ana is also very relateable even though the majority of the readers of this book probably won’t be living like Ana. She is empathetic, hardworking, smart, courageous, and a typical teen who falls head over heels in love for the wrong boy.

There is so much mystery in the plot of this book sometimes you feel like you have no idea what is going on, but the author does a good job at giving you pieces of the answer to the mystery one at a time. I was on the edge of my seat trying to figure out the final twist in this book until the moment it was revealed. Even though the main twist is heart wrenching, there are also many smaller plot mysteries happening in this book that make you unable to put down this book despite the length.

I 1000% think everyone needs to pick up this book. I will not reveal the historical terror that this book is based upon because it will most likely give away the ending, but this is a piece of history I knew nothing about and don’t think many people do, because even though this happened in the 1950s the documentation of the horrible events in this book did not come about until the 2010s. You need to read this! Seriously, I gave this 5 stars.

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Lone Star Book Blog Tour Posts

The Stamp of Heaven Tour – LSBBT Tour

 

THE STAMP OF HEAVEN
by
JULIA ROBB
  Genre: Historical Fiction / Civil War
Publisher: self-published
Date of Publication: February 19, 2019
Number of Pages: 196
Scroll down for Giveaway!
  

The Union Army wants former Confederate Army general Beau Kerry for alleged war crimes, but he’s hiding out where the Yankees least expect to find him: in the United States Cavalry. Beau is fighting Apaches out West and praying nobody recognizes his famous face.But Lieutenant Kerry’s luck changes when he runs into Sergeant Ike Jefferson and says, “The last time I saw you, I had you bent over a barrel and I was whipping you.” Ike is not only Beau’s best friend (or worst enemy, depending on the day), he’s Beau’s former slave — and Ike knows there’s a $5000 price on Beau’s head.

Caroline Dietrich has vengeance on her mind. Married to Colonel Wesley Dietrich, the Union fort commander, Caroline believes the best path to getting revenge against the Yankees, her husband included, is seducing her husband’s officers. Especially Beau.

From the killing fields of the Civil War, to the savagery of the Indian wars, the characters are also battling each other and searching for what it means to be human.

5-STAR PRAISE FOR THE STAMP OF HEAVEN:
“Her characters are vivid, relatable, and endearing. She brings to life the rigors of frontier duty, the harsh beauty of west Texas, and the complexity of war and reconciliation. A must read!” 
“Julia Robb creates a masterful tale of friendship, loyalty, cowardice, deceit, and redemption in this fascinating story set in the aftermath of the War Between the States…Not a simple western yarn, this novel will keep you thinking and asking the Big Questions long after you finish reading it.”

CLICK TO ORDER ON AMAZON

 
Julia Robb is a former journalist who writes novels set in Texas. She’s written Saint of the Burning Heart, Scalp Mountain, Del Norte, The Captive Boy, and The Stamp of Heaven. 
 
Julia grew up on the lower Great Plains of Texas and lived in every corner of the Lone Star State, from the Rio Grande to the East Texas swamps. 

——————————————–

author interview

Interview with Julia Robb

 

How does your book relate to your life path?

I believe in redemption: that most humans do wrong things, and we are called on to change and make amends. Some people do and some don’t, but it’s something we need to do for growth alone, if for no other reason. Why some people are able to self-realize and change, and others cannot, is a mystery.

Sometimes we just need to admit what we have done and forgive ourselves.

I refuse to write a book where my characters are not touched by that kind of grace.

Also, in fiction, characters who do not change are boring — as they are in real life.

In The Stamp of Heaven, my protagonist, Beau, has done things he regrets (which hurt him as much as anyone else), and things he felt he had to do for other people.  Beau burned down his parents’ plantation home, he had slaves, he murdered two men (for good reasons, but, oh well). Beau needs to come to terms with these things before he can go on in life. And he does.

 

Why are your lead characters always male?

Because I like men and find then more straightforward than women, because men can engage in physical violence when women can’t (on a sustained basis), and because I find them easier to understand than women. I like women, but they are more complicated then men.

What literary character is most like you?

I can honestly say I have never read a book which contained a character I felt was remotely like me. I can tell you a recent book I really enjoyed. Readers, I loved Enemy Women, by Paulette Jiles. The time is the Civil War and the lead character is a Missouri mountain girl who is taken to a prison to be interrogated by a Union officer, who falls in love with her. This is not a romance novel but is about a man and woman falling for each other in a difficult time and place. It is also about the war, the hardest experience Americans have ever lived through.

What did you enjoy most about writing The Stamp of Heaven?

I enjoyed the psychiatrist questioning Caroline about her life and the lies Caroline told him. I enjoyed some of my characters’ supernatural experiences, the time Beau thought he had found his half-brother after a many-years search, and the time a spirit haunted Colonel Dietrich.  Supernatural experiences are the most interesting things in life.

 

Have you ever had a supernatural experience?

Absolutely. Which one should I tell you? How about the ghost who haunted my house in Frederick, Maryland? The spirit, I think male, who paced the floor at the foot of my bed at night, scaring me to death. One morning, it came down to the kitchen and breathed into my face as I was trying to eat my cereal; then it disappeared. One night soon after, though, he didn’t pace at the foot of my bed, and I never heard him again.

GIVEAWAY!  GIVEAWAY! GIVEAWAY!
1st Prize: Signed Copy of The Stamp of Heaven + $5 Cash
2nd Prize: Signed Copy or eBook Copy of The Stamp of Heaven
April 3-13, 2019
(U.S. Only)

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To Be Read

TBR Thursday – The White Queen

This post was inspired by the blog of Kimberly Faye and I am aiming to share more books on my TBR in an attempt to get them moved up further on my read list. I really need to stop checking out library books and just read what I have. I did that website thing where you type in how many books are on your TBR and how long it will take to read them if you only read those and don’t add any more and I’m sitting at about 7 years. YIKES. So let’s see… today I will share this …

The White Queen by Philippa Gregory

Series: The Plantagenet and Tudor Novels #2, The Cousin’s War #2
Genres: Historical Fiction, Adult Fiction, Historical Romance
Publication Date: August 18, 2009
Publisher: Atria Books
Add It: Goodreads
Buy It: Amazon

Days on TBR: 2745 Days

Synopsis From Goodreads

Brother turns on brother to win the ultimate prize, the throne of England, in this dazzling account of the wars of the Plantagenets. They are the claimants and kings who ruled England before the Tudors, and now Philippa Gregory brings them to life through the dramatic and intimate stories of the secret players: the indomitable women, starting with Elizabeth Woodville, the White Queen.

The White Queen tells the story of a woman of extraordinary beauty and ambition who, catching the eye of the newly crowned boy king, marries him in secret and ascends to royalty. While Elizabeth rises to the demands of her exalted position and fights for the success of her family, her two sons become central figures in a mystery that has confounded historians for centuries: the missing princes in the Tower of London whose fate is still unknown. From her uniquely qualified perspective, Philippa Gregory explores this most famous unsolved mystery of English history, informed by impeccable research and framed by her inimitable storytelling skills.

With The White Queen, Philippa Gregory brings the artistry and intellect of a master writer and storyteller to a new era in history and begins what is sure to be another bestselling classic series from this beloved author.

This book has been on my TBR since 2011… YIKES! Share a book below in the comments that is on your TBR shelf.