Monday, March 19, 2018

Book Review: Queen Mary's Daughter

Do you know your history? Do you know your Scottish and English history, to be exact? In a story that starts in 2016, and jumps back in time to 1567, the reader is taken along with Mary Elizabeth Stuart as she discovers her heritage, meets her true mother, has to make decisions that could change the course of history… and finds out why her grandmother insisted she make a trip from Toronto to Kinross, a tiny little Scottish village, to understand her role in life, both here and back in the sixteenth century. Open Queen Mary’s Daughter by author Emily-Jane Hills Orford for more!

What a story! I absolutely loved it from start to finish. For fans of historical novels, historical romances, modern romances, time travel, alternative history, and a bit of mystery thrown in, the book has a lot to offer a variety of readers. Time travel has never really been explained (except by writers) and is not an exact science (as scientists would be the first to declare), but in this story that spans centuries, the author’s concepts work very well, and readers are never in the dark. The ramifications of time travel, the effects of the past on the future and vice versa are also explored. The characters are well defined, and their actions and ambitions make sense. For anyone who takes an interest in the Brexit question, and Scotland’s determination to break away from Britain, regain independence, and remain in the EU, this is a theme that has ramifications stretching back into history. I enjoyed how a modern theme had its roots in the past. Very cleverly done by the author.

I have Scottish heritage and I really appreciated the descriptions of the settings, and I’d love to visit Mrs D’s B&B as well. Mary Elizabeth is a likable heroine with a huge burden placed upon her shoulders. Historical facts are woven into the narrative very naturally, informing the reader without overwhelming them. History buffs will love the detail. Bigger themes than just love and romance, time travel, and historical references abound; what if the fate of your society, your country, rests upon you giving up your own desires and decisions to fulfil a role thrust upon you?

I enjoyed this story so much. The author has the ability to make the reader time travel with the characters. In fact, I found myself asking the same questions that Mary Elizbeth asked. “So many questions; so few answers.” Sometimes British history can be confusing, with similar names, kings, queens, marriages, alliances, treachery and more. With extensive and meticulous in-depth research and consummate skill, author Emily-Jane Hills Orford makes this all read very easily, and one is never in any doubt as to who is who in the grand picture. There is a wonderful twist at the end of the tale that should delight fans of conspiracy theories as well. A most enjoyable book!

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Book Review: Lucy's First Christmas

Lucy’s First Christmas is the third book in the Lucy Tales series, written by Rolynda Tassan and illustrated by Ruby Wheeler. Lucy is a rescue cat who now lives with a lovely family, comprising Mom, Dad, youngster Ben and other animals, Sissy, Addy, and Pippin. Something’s up in the household with Mom baking cookies, Dad fixing the lights for the Christmas tree, and Ben outside building a snowman. All this unusual activity puzzles Lucy. The other animals tell Lucy that since the next day is Christmas Day, Santa will be visiting that night to drop off presents for everyone. Everyone is busy with activities, getting ready for the holiday, and Lucy wants to help. But a little kitten can’t exactly help to wrap the presents and untangle the Christmas lights, and outside in the snow Lucy manages to fall into a snowdrift. What can Lucy do to help everyone get ready for the festivities? One thing Lucy does very well is snuggle, and that’s how she found a way to help everyone by tucking them into bed on Christmas Eve.

This is an adorable story with a deeper meaning for families, their animals, and the love and warmth of the Christmas spirit. The book is dedicated to the shelter and rescue volunteers who embrace those animals waiting for their forever families. Lucy finds love and warmth in a family that cares for her. The Christmas theme, with giving and caring for others, is one that youngsters will appreciate as well. The idea of the family preparing for a holiday together, everyone doing the tasks that they do best, spending time together as a family by reading a Christmas story aloud in front of the tree, giving gifts and making sure that everyone feels as if they are a special part of the celebrations will enchant young and older readers alike. The illustrations are delightful, simple, and colourful, and convey the ideas expressed in the text. Each panel is very clear, and this is a good opportunity for young readers who are reading with a parent or caregiver to discuss the picture in depth. This lovely, charming story is the perfect read for Christmas or any time of year and is sure to bring joy to young readers for many more years to come.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Book Review: Boudin's First Christmas

Boudin's First Christmas is the first story in Boudin's Grand Adventures, and is written and creatively illustrated by Leah Morris, or “Mama Leah.” This is a simple and delightful children’s picture book story of a grandmother now left alone after a long and happy marriage to her husband of sixty years. Together they had made the bayou their home and had enjoyed life there and exploring what the swamp had to offer. But the old lady is lonely and longs for a companion to share her days. Maybe a dog? A dog could keep her company as she went on walks. So, in anticipation of her wish being granted, the old lady set out a comfy chair for Father Christmas, cookies, and a cool glass of milk. She also placed a candle in the window to light his way. As the sun rose on Christmas Day, what a wonderful, loving surprise awaited her! The old lady named her adorable new companion Boudin, which is the name of a sausage of meat and rice really enjoyed by the Cajun French. Boudin’s adventures have just begun.

First, the wonderful images make this story an enchanting work of art. The pictures are hand drawn and painted, and then stitched onto paper with a green thread. This gives a cosy, home-grown feel to the whole story, drawing young (and any age) readers into a story literally created by the author. I loved the delicate detail of the images, the vibrant colours, the way the edges of the pictures spill over the paper edge, giving a three-dimensional perspective. This is the kind of picture book that children will want to read or have read to them again and again, as they pore over each page and find new details with each retelling. The book itself has a ‘classic’ feel that just invites youngsters to turn those pages themselves.

The story has so much to offer readers: themes of love and devotion in a relationship, remembering a loved one who has passed on, the idea of companionship, caring for and loving a four-footed companion, having faith that a wish will come true, and acting on that faith. I just loved everything about this touching and beautifully illustrated tale. I have no doubt that readers, young and older, will be eager to find out more about Boudin’s next adventure. Although this is a Christmas story, it’s a delightful read for any time of the year!

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Book Review: Jack and the Case of the Missing Sandwich

Jack and the Case of the Missing Sandwich (A Jack and Sweetie Mystery Book 1) by Dawn Romeo has Jack, a Basset Hound, on a very special case … the case of the missing peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Everyone knows how delicious a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is, but Jack would never take anything that belonged to someone else, and especially not food. Mr. Johnson had left his sandwich outside on his deck, gone back in to fetch a drink, and had come out again to discover the sandwich gone and a dog he thought was Jack walking down the driveway. When Sally, Jack’s owner, hears Mr. Johnson’s accusation she is naturally very disturbed, as is Jack. Sally springs to Jack’s defence, but Mr. Johnson is adamant that Jack is the culprit. This is a case that must be investigated and it’s going to take all Jack’s sleuthing skills to discover the clues leading to the real thief. Will Jack solve the crime and clear his name? Is it possible there’s another dog in the neighbourhood who looks like Jack?

What a charming story and a lovely little mystery that will get young readers guessing as to what really happened and who took the sandwich. Jack uses his detecting abilities to make an interesting discovery, and it’s one that leads to a surprising conclusion. There are some very good life lessons here for youngsters such as honesty being the best policy, not jumping to conclusions, staying calm if falsely accused, and not judging someone by appearances. Other themes include forgiveness and saying sorry, and owning up if one has done something wrong. Delightful illustrations by Jolie Hamm will keep young readers interested while being read to by a parent of caregiver. You don’t have to be a Basset Hound owner to totally love Jack, and young readers can look forward to more adventures and detective mysteries since this is book one in the series.