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Book Review: The King’s Shadow

With civil war on the horizon and his brother dying, King Halavant must decide who to save first, his country or his family.

M.L. Farb, author of The King’s Trial, a Whitney Award nominee, has released The King’s Shadow (The King’s Trial Book Two). Don’t be surprised when you love it as much as I do.

My Thoughts on The King’s Shadow

As I’ve mentioned before, Amazon is riddled with poorly written fantasy. So much so, I am extremely careful when determining what fantasy books to accept for reviews. It would, then, make sense that becoming an award nominee in the fantasy category would not be a simple task. Yet, as I suspected, M.L. Farb managed the task. Don’t be surprised when The King’s Shadow shows up in the next Whitney Awards round. Just as wonderful as the first in the series, this book captures hearts.

The King’s Shadow continues the story of brothers Yoseph and Halavant. After traversing the King’s Trial and helping to save their people from Halavant’s evil mother, Yoseph remains with his brother. Together they work on a plan to equalize their people. But Yoseph is dying. In a last ditch effort to save him, Halavant travels to the land of the Carani in search of a cure for what ails his brother.

With old and new characters joining the story, readers follow the journeys of Yoseph, Katrin, Halavant, and Elise. Each battle their own demons as they strive to protect one another and their country. Fighting for all but themselves, they also learn to trust those around them and Yoseph’s god.

Filled with plenty more action, romance, and a story line that instills faith in God within its readers, The King’s Shadow has me hooked just as much as its predecessor. Expect mild war scenes, some PG-level violence, and mild kissing.

Official Blurb:

Two princes lead a war-broken people. One rules while the other serves in the shadows, haunted by encroaching death.

Halavant overthrew his queen mother to save his people from slavery, and now she seeks his life. Yosyph acts as the new king’s eyes and ears, but being invisible comes at great cost and his life is slipping away.

To save his closest friend, Halavant travels to the land of the skin-carving Carani, leaving Yosyph to rule a troubled people despite his ill health and the nobles on the verge of rebellion.

Unless Halavant can survive in the land of his enemies to find a cure and Yosyph can unite the frightened and starving people against a second war, both will die and their budding democracy will crumble under a new tyrant.

More Info

Purchase your copy of The King’s Shadow (The King’s Trial Book Two) on Amazon.

Follow M.L. Farb online
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The Worlds of M L Farb

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a blog review. All opinions are honest and my own.

Book Review: Frozen Secrets

When thirteen-year-old Max finally gets his chance to live on Jupiter’s moon, mysteries unfold in unexpected ways.

Myles Christensen has his hands in a lot of technology, an area some might consider an odd recipe for the makings of an author. As a design engineer and freelance product developer who teaches CAD at the university, he likely gets pieced in with those who live their lives surrounded by nothing but logic. However, each of these skills require creativity and finesse. Add game inventor to Christensen’s list of accomplishments, and author isn’t such a far stretch.

Christensen’s first novel Frozen Secrets is a middle grade, science fiction story that takes readers on an adventure to space and throws in an action-packed mystery in a way I didn’t expect.

My thoughts about Frozen Secrets

In Frozen Secrets, main character Max and his group of friends get tangled up in a mystery while on their way to Jupiter’s moon Europa. Before he knows what’s happening, someone tries to kill him… or a friend… or the pilot of the shuttle they are touring. Max thinks it’s because of something he saw, and he’s determined to learn the truth. What thirteen-year-old boy wouldn’t want to solve that mystery?

Though I’ve read some middle grade novels in the past, most of what I have read has bordered on the YA side of things. So, when I first started Frozen Secrets I wondered what I had gotten myself into. Too young my mind shouted at me. I had expected the book to fit within a higher reading level. Once I acclimated to the necessary he felt sentences, my interest in the story rose a surprising amount.

While reading, my eyes widened at times. My heart even raced. Such reactions were unexpected, considering my need to adjust to the reading level. But, instead of focusing on my other reading projects, I found myself intrigued with what would come next in Frozen Secrets.

Christensen’s writing and the editing done on this book is impeccable. Usually, I find at least a few typos in review books. None–that’s how many I remember in Frozen Secrets. And while those things matter, especially when I’m reading as a reviewer, the true test is whether or not the story pulls me in. While Frozen Secrets took a bit of time for me, an adult, to fall into, I believe young readers will have no problem immediately entering the adventure Christensen has laid.

Squeaky clean. Parents will find no swearing. There is a mild murder mystery and some middle grade ‘crush’ romance. Christensen lists the reading level at 8-18, which I agree with, especially on the lower end. Narrowing it significantly, I believe most 8 to 10-year-olds will find it a fantastic read. Who can go wrong with a space adventure?

Official blurb

Thirteen-year-old Max Parker is a grounded Earthling with the soul of a space explorer. So when he learns his family is relocating to Jupiter’s moon, Europa, he readily agrees to stay out of mischief. But his promise is soon forgotten, and his snooping lands him on a shuttle doomed for a fiery disintegration.

Convinced someone sabotaged the craft to cover up the theft he witnessed, he digs into the incident. Why was this robbery worth attempted murder? Dodging a series of deadly accidents, he follows the clues to an abandoned outpost and discovers a secret that could blow the lid off a moon-wide conspiracy…

Can Max solve the mystery before his interplanetary escapade gets him killed?

Frozen Secrets kicks off the thrilling, teen science fiction series, Europa Academy. If you like fearless friends, high-orbit mysteries, and immersive worlds, then you’ll love Myles Christensen’s action-packed adventure.

more info

Purchase your copy of Frozen Secrets on Amazon

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I received a free  copy of this book in exchange for this review, which contains my honest opinions.

Book Review: Not In the Plans

Jackson and Emory learn a special lesson this Christmas. Sometimes it’s not the giving but the receiving that matters.

What’s Christmas without a new Christmas story filled with holiday giving and romance? Some may say nothing, but this year, I prefer how Jessica Marie Holt explores the other side of giving–that of receiving in Not in the Plans: A Christmas Novella.

My Thoughts on Not in the Plans

One of the beautiful attributes of Holt’s writing is her ability to tell more than a story. Each one of her books and short stories leaves you with a little bit to ponder. Which character are you like? Have you felt the sting of rebuke? The angst of loss? The pull from something unexpected?

Not in the Plans is more than a story about two lonely people coming together at the hands of a darling little boy. And he is darling. Inside its few pages comes a story about two people desiring to be loved for who they are, willing to give everything, but who are still learning to recognize love and receive it graciously.

How many times do we need help? I’m not talking about those days when we want help and a little cheering up. Though those days can certainly be applied with this concept. I’m talking about those times when we cannot function because our water heater blew up our house, and then the hotel provided to us afterward floods. I mean those times when our choices are losing nearly everything or accepting help.

Do you dig in your feet, like I do, and continue to on a path you deem the only acceptable way? When someone gives too much, do you thank them, or do you say ‘it’s too much’ and question the reason why they attempted such a grandiose gift?

But it’s more than that… Do we let a little bit of ourselves go in order to accept the differences of others? Isn’t that a part of receiving?

Not in the Plans still brings two beautiful and truly charming people together. And the pure love of a child leads the way, but when you read Not in the Plans this week, be sure to consider the act of receiving. It can be as important as the act of giving.

The official Blurb

Two neighbors, on a quiet street, in a cozy Southern town. Jackson is a once-jilted bachelor looking for a way to patch up his broken dreams. Emory is a struggling single mom determined to hold things together on her own.

When Emory’s little boy brings them together unexpectedly, they find a new source of hope in each other, just in time for Christmas.

But then Emory’s past threatens to derail her little family’s future, and her new relationship with Jackson. Will hope be enough to save them?

More Info:

Purchase your copy of Not in the Plans on Amazon

Follow Jessica Marie Holt on Facebook   &  Goodreads & Twitter

I received a copy of Not in the Plans for free in exchange for this review. All opinions are honest and my own.

Hope of a Shepherd

Kneeling at the tomb, Isaac tells the story of finding the Christ Child in the manager to his son.

Kneeling in the garden, I gazed at the tomb, which now lay open. All that I had seen as a boy flashed within my mind, reminding me of the knowledge God had given to me and the other shepherds. I turned to my son. “Now He has risen, the boy I once saw lying in a manager.”

“Abba,” my son’s curious gaze fell upon me. “You really saw Him as a babe?”

The winds swept past our feet that night, the cool breeze causing us to build small fires. Like most nights, I stared into the flames, the warm amber tinted with reds and blues. Drawing upwards, they danced with the air currents, the dry wood popping beneath them.

“Isaac, she peeks at you again.” My father tapped my foot with his staff. “You should say hello.”

Though I refused to shift my eyes to the pretty daughter of my father’s partner, Benjamin, I couldn’t help the small upward curve of my lips. Attention from such a pretty and smart girl would make any boy’s ears tingle with excitement.

I winked at my son, who plucked a flower from the ground. Nearing the age I had been then, he too, had a young maiden who peered at him with longing in her eyes.

“Abba, the story. Speak of Liza another day.”

“But such a pretty young thing, humor me, my son. Your mother once made me pluck flowers from the ground.” I chuckled and clasped his shoulder with my hand, squeezing lightly.

I prodded the coals, forming a place for our pot to warm the evening stew. Then a warm sensation from somewhere other than the fire entered my heart. Light brighter than the flames soon surrounded us. The sheep, though usually suspicious of change in the environment, remained still. My father stood beside me. I had never seen such brightness at night, and I shielded my eyes as I searched for the source. When my gaze discovered a man dressed in white floating above the ground, I joined my father and the shepherds of the field and we stumbled backward, frightened, until the being spoke.

“Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.”

The warm sensation, which had entered my heart earlier, pushed outward, and I felt none of the coolness of the breeze, nor did fear remain within me.

The incredulous look in my son’s eye reminded me of myself before the experience that night. It reminded me of some of the looks strangers gave me when I told them my story, too.

“Son, we kneel at the edge of the tomb for one who is no longer there. Do you question my words?”

“A man floating above the ground? Was it a dream?”

“No, not a dream. An angel of the Lord.”

He raised his hands outward and said, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”

“Where?” my father questioned.

“How will we know Him?” Benjamin asked.

“And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”

The angel who had spoken dropped his arms as hundreds more joined him.
Each heavenly host sang an anthem. The notes are a soft memory, but the words remain fully ingrained in my mind. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

“Christ the Lord, my son. We had heard the stories—read from Isaiah in the synagogues, but dare we believe? Dare we hope? The Saviour of the world. How much could He do for us? Some believed He would save us from bondage as Moses once had. But my father taught He would save us from something far greater.”

“Our sins?”

I nodded. “Our sins. Temporal and spiritual death.” I studied his eyes hoping to see understanding. “Without Jesus, we would be lost to everlasting darkness. Only He could pave our way to God. With His birth came hope.”

“So what did you do?”

None of us would wait to find the Christ Child. Gathering together, the men decided to trust the flocks to the dogs. If the Son of God was born, then certainly, the Father would watch over our flocks as we went to worship at His Child’s feet.

With haste, both man and woman, boy and girl left the fields, rushing into the town of Bethlehem. Inn after inn, we searched the stables. Families, there to be counted for the tax, crowded into each dwelling, but the stables held no Christ Child.

Forlorn, I looked toward the sky. A star shone toward the earth, brighter than any I’d seen before. Following its gleaming light, I took a step forward. Then another. In our search, we’d missed perhaps the most humble dwelling of them all, a small inn, hidden in the shadows of the rock.

I heard my father’s footsteps first, then the rest as they trailed behind me. Entering the inn, I asked the question we had asked so many times before.

“Does a new child wrapped in swaddling clothes reside in your stable?”
The owner peered at me, his eyes widening in wonder as he nodded and showed us the way.

“My son, the dreary stable, carved out of rock held sheep, donkeys, cattle, and all that one usually finds in such places. As you might imagine, it was no place for a babe. But He lay there, in a stone manager, with nothing but loose linen, swaddling clothes, to keep him warm.”

“How did you know it was the Christ, Abba?”

We immediately fell to our knees as the mother and her husband welcomed us into the single corner of the stable. The Babe’s eyes fluttered opened and He studied us as we gazed at Him. The animals made no sound. And the warmth I had experienced as the angel spoke reentered my heart, telling me we had found the Christ Child. The one who would save us.

His mother was Mary, who named the child Immanuel—God is with us—Jesus. We had read Isaiah, and we knew the rumors of a Joseph who had wed an expectant woman claiming to have known no man. We could not deny what we had seen and heard in the fields. The prophesies were true. Before us, lay the child prophets had proclaimed would come.

There, in that stable, I knelt next to the same pretty, young girl my father had teased me about and gave her little thought. I only wondered at the child foretold to carry the weight of the world on His shoulders. None of us really grasped what that meant, but we knew it meant something beyond anyone’s understanding—except God’s.

As we left the stable, my heart still soared. I couldn’t stop myself from telling everyone what had happened. Those who knew me well, they listened and wondered. We watched together as the child grew. He grew as most any other child—first babbling, then forming sentences. But once taught a rule, He never, ever broke it. As perfect as I thought I was, I soon learned differently.

I chuckled as my son smirked at the thought of my perfection. We both knew better.

“I think Eema plays a part in your perfect, Abba.”

“Perhaps.” I grinned wryly.

The stick I used to draw in the soil stilled, and I dropped it. Grasping my son’s hands I held them tightly. “All these years, your mother and I have watched Jesus and have seen proof of what the angel told us while in the fields. His works. The healings He performed. You witnessed five loaves of bread and two fishes feed a multitude of five-thousand people at His hand. We all listened to His words of peace and love.

“Now we kneel where His body was laid, and it is gone. Peter said He has risen.” I paused searching my son’s eyes, looking for the spark I knew he held within. “The faith and hope your mother and I discovered that night as we knelt next to a stone manager in a rock stable… I cannot question it. I’ve seen so much more. You asked if I saw Him. I did. Son, I did, and so did your mother.”

My son’s hands tightened their grip on mine. “The hope you had at His birth is fulfilled. Now we celebrate His life.”

Grayson’s Christmas Cookies

Grayson can’t wait to eat his warm chocolate chip cookies, but his mom’s and sister’s sadness make doing so difficult.

Sturdy legs pumped underneath Grayson as he rushed home from school. Swerving around the other laughing children, he ran harder. Nothing could keep him from getting home first. If he didn’t beat his sister home, Mom would make him share his treat, and warm chocolate chip cookies were his favorite.

The scrumptious treat cradled carefully in his backpack were the last two remaining cookies from his class Christmas party. Missy’s mom brought them in hot and wrapped in foil. Maybe if they were cold, he’d share, but no way would he share warm cookies. Not even with Mom, and she was his favorite person in the whole world.

Cutting through his yard and bounding down the path through the hedge that lined the walkway to the front door, he threw the door open. It thudded against the wall, but he barely noticed, leaving it open. He stopped. Mom slumped in a chair, leaning against the dining room table with her hand covering her face.

“Mom?”

“Hi, honey. How was school? Did you enjoy your Christmas party?”

Mom’s voice sounded weird. Her eyes, which normal sparkled, dulled, accenting the reddened skin around them. Grayson closed the door.

“Yeah. Missy’s mom brought hot chocolate chip cookies!”

“That’s wonderful.”

His hands landed on the top of the table. Why wasn’t mom smiling? Mom’s were supposed to smile. The aroma of the cookies in his backpack caught up to him. Warm chocolate chips dotted each one. They were baked to perfection—a chewy middle and crisped edges. It almost seemed to touch his tongue. He paused, then reached up and patted Mom’s shoulder. “Why are you sad?”

“Oh, it’s nothing you need to worry about.” She gathered the half-empty mug in front of her and made her way to the kitchen.

Grayson watched as she placed the mug in the sink. She lifted her hand and wiped at her face. Every minute he waited to eat the cookies they cooled down. Waiting much longer and the chocolate would harden. He glanced back at Mom. “But you’re crying.”

“It’s just been a hard day. I’m okay, sweetheart, you go play.”

Hard days made Grayson cry too. The last hard day he had, Dad took away his Mega Nerf Blaster because he kept shooting his sister. But he only shot her like that because she took the TV remote. He cried a lot that day.

Following his mom to the living room, Grayson gazed at the Christmas tree lights. White lights reflected of shiny ornaments. His eyes fell to the nativity on the table next to it.

Sunday School usually meant an hour of sitting in a metal chair kicking his feet and being told to stop talking. But in the back of his mind, Grayson seemed to remember Sister Ross saying the baby Jesus suffered for everyone’s pain.

Grayson walked to the nativity and picked up the baby Jesus. “Mom, why doesn’t Jesus make you happy?”

After helping Grayson remove his backpack, she placed her hands on his shoulders. “He does. But he also lets us feel some sadness so we can know what happiness is.”

“Oh. Don’t you know what happiness is?”

“You make me happy.”

The front door rammed into the wall harder than it had when Grayson got home, interrupting their conversation.

“Mom, I hate school and boys!” Kayla stomped into the room, throwing her bag to the floor and herself onto the cushy chair.

He wouldn’t fight her for it today. He wasn’t getting himself beat up.

Mom’s shoulders dipped a bit lower. “I like some boys.”

She winked at Grayson, but her eyes still looked sad.

“I like school.” He did, but he was glad for the two-week break, too. Telling Kayla that seemed like a waste.

His sister rolled her teary eyes at him. “Go away. Mom, make him leave.”

“I don’t want to leave.” He picked up the remote and turned on the TV then stuck his tongue out at Kayla when Mom wasn’t looking.

Mom reached over and shut the TV off. “Grayson, can you take your backpack to your room and play in there for a little while?”

Cookies!

How had he forgotten so quickly? Lunging for his backpack, he ran to his room. The zipper screeched as he opened the bag, and the air filled with the aroma of freshly baked cookies. The outside of the foil warmed his fingertips, raising the corners of Grayson’s lips. Missy’s mom wrapped them real good. Cookies never stayed warm that long.

As he started to unwrap the delectable treat, he heard Kayla scream at her mom. “He said that in front of the whole class! That I’m dumb!”

Grayson frowned. A lot of times, Kayla made him angry, but she still took care of him, and she wasn’t dumb. She cooked all his favorite foods, and sometimes she helped him with his homework. Dumb people couldn’t do his homework—it was hard! He wondered when Jesus would take away Kayla’s pain. Mom probably still hurt too.

Unwrapping the cookies, he lifted the first one to his mouth, but couldn’t take a bite. Kayla and Mom like cookies too. If Jesus wasn’t going to help them be happy, maybe the cookies would.

He stared at the gooey desserts, each one perfectly round and perfectly golden. Soft in the middle, crispy on the edges, and the chocolate shined. All the other kids ate at the party, but he hadn’t.

Jacob had fallen at recess, and Grayson talked to him about the scratches he’d had after his own fall. After that, there wasn’t time to eat the cookies.

Chocolate chip cookies.

Giving away snickerdoodles or oatmeal raisin never hurt, but chocolate chip was his favorite.

The door creaked as he cracked it open to see where Mom and his sister were. Music from Kayla’s stereo filled the hall. She liked it loud. He knocked.

“Go away!”

He blew out his breath and inhaled courageously. “I have something for you.”

“What?”

“Open the door.”

She swung the door open. “What?”

Grayson offered Kayla the cookie.

“Where’d you get that?”

“School.”

She shifted on her feet before taking the treat. “Thanks.”

“You’re not dumb.”

Kayla rolled her eyes, but smiled. “Yeah, neither are you.”

The door closed and Grayson’s feet shuffled down the tiled hall to the kitchen, but Mom wasn’t there. Turning around, he headed back to her bedroom. Walking through the open door, he saw her leaning over one of her favorite blouses, which now had a large hole where a pocket had been.

“Mom?”

“What do you need Grayson?”

“Nothing, I just figured if Jesus won’t help you be happy, maybe this cookie will.”

Mom grinned and started crying again. “It certainly smells good.” She took the cookie and broke it in half, handing some back to Grayson. “You should have some too.”

“Thanks.”

Mom pulled him against her side. “Grayson, today you helped Jesus make me happy.”

“I did?” He scrunched up his nose and looked at Mom.

“Yup. Most of the time, Jesus makes us happy through the actions of others.”

“He does?”

“He does. Not every miracle comes with lightning flashes. Most come in everyday ways.”

Grayson grinned. “Like sharing my cookie?”

Mom gathered Grayson into her arms and planted a kiss on top of his head. “Like sharing your cookie.”

Book Review: Accidentally Yours

When grannies June and Ellie open their clandestine match-making business, nothing can prepare them for their first client.

While some people think grannies have turned in all their flavor in lieu of dust and mustiness, it’s hard to argue with Granny June’s sweet pie and salty attitude in the Granny Pact Books. And Jessica Marie Holt knew it when she wrote Accidentally Yours, the second book of the collection. Musty or not, June and Ellie still manage to poke their heads around and find plenty of trouble you’re sure to get caught up in too.

My Thoughts on Accidentally Yours

There’s nothing more fun than watching grannies get involved in their family and friends’ relationships. If you’ve ready Reluctantly Yours, then you know June and Ellie have a knack when it comes to matchmaking. So there shouldn’t be much question as to whether or not their new business, the Match Mavens, can take off. You also know they’ll do just about anything to make sure the right match is made.

This time Maddie is the subject of their affection-making collusion. But Maddie’s mom, who hires them, has clear desires for her daughter: stability and success–anything but some creative working a low-paying, dead-end job. As you can guess, mavens set the fireworks off, and not all of them are romantic.

Accidentally Yours grabs everyone’s attention, keeping characters and readers on their toes. Holt adds one or two more grannies to the mix. Each one with their own flavor of craftiness, and I don’t mean hot glue and Popsicle sticks.

The book is filled with humor, cats, fun, and love–best of all the grannies. No one can go wrong with this sweet romance.

The official blurb

“Love, By Any Means Necessary. “

That’s the new motto of old friends Ellie and June.

Fresh off the success of their first matchmaking endeavor, these two feisty grannies are ready to take their skills to the next level. They’ll do whatever it takes to help Maddie–their next target–find true love, including hijinks, shenanigans, and good old-fashioned subterfuge. Unfortunately, Maddie’s meddling mom makes their task more problematic than they imagined, and they soon find themselves in over their heads. Can they engineer the right outcome? Or, will their schemes all come to nothing this time around?

More info

Purchase Accidentally Yours on Amazon

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New Release: I NOT David

I NOT David is now live on Amazon.

I NOT David News

Release day is finally here, and I could not be more excited! I NOT David: Finding Me Book One has everything I always want in a book. I hope you feel the same.

If you don’t know, my seventeen-year-old son has autism, and I used him as my muse for this series; however, he and Joey are not identical. Joey struggles more with eye contact and allows Kat to sleep more (and she doesn’t sleep much). Still, you can count on I NOT David to be strikingly realistic when it comes to the day-to-day with autism.

I NOT Buddy: Finding Me Book Two is already in the beta-testing stage, and it is doing very well. Yay! Until it comes out, don’t forget to download I Daddy for free straight from the website. The Finding Me interlude is best read after I NOT David. You can handle the $.99. It’s like buy one get one free, but better because it’s full-length novels!

I NOT David Official Blurb

When three-year-old Joey is diagnosed with autism, Kat’s heart sinks. With a single phone number and a few suggested therapies, she and her husband Derek are left to wade through the unknown abyss of ASD. Derek assures Kat their son will grow out of it, but she has done enough research. That never happens. Still, Joey can improve, and Kat vows to make his life better any way she can.

Jumping feet first into the depths of therapies and developmental preschool, Kat gives it her all. Everything should get easier. But Derek still can’t handle Joey’s meltdowns, and now he only wants to spend time with her. What happens if his attitude doesn’t change?

As Kat’s world continues to crumble around her, she finds something in herself that she didn’t know was missing.

I Not David: Finding Me Book One is a character-driven, women’s fiction novel that evokes emotion as it twists and turns through silly smiles and torturous tantrums, love and loneliness, and everything in between.

Christmas is coming

Did you know Amazon allows you to give ebooks as gifts? You can, if you follow these instructions. But if you prefer the smell and feel of paper in your recipient’s hand (or your own), don’t worry. I NOT David will be available in paperback on November 26, 2019.

Links you need

Purchase I NOT David on Amazon
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Book Review: Evan the Horrible

Would you put a ring on that rolls out from behind a solid brick wall? Evan does. Now he’s wreaking havoc as he works to save the school in Evan the Horrible.

Kimberly King has another fantastic Forest Hills High book to go along with the Magical Troubles books. And if you liked Evan in The Trouble with Prince Charming you are in for a treat. He’s back in all his annoying glory. This time he’s given all the power he needs in Evan the Horrible.

My Thoughts about Evan the Horrible

King does a lot of things right in her books. Each book includes humor that both middler graders and parents can enjoy. They include dilemmas teens face in fun and appropriate ways. And each one comes with a lesson kids don’t focus on and parents love. In Evan the Horrible that lesson is easily described by the idiom don’t judge a book by its cover. As a secondary lesson, King throws in mind over matter.

In Evan the Horrible, the main character, Jazzy Allen, has distanced herself from the rest of the school. After the loss of her father and consequently her best friend, she drastically changes her outer appearance to avoid becoming close to anyone.

The problem is Evan doesn’t leave anyone alone. As the school trouble maker, he pulls Jazzy into all kinds of crazy incidences that leave her worried about the one thing she cares about: her scholarship. It doesn’t help that he’s suddenly accessed magic that grants all his wishes.

If you’ve read my other reviews, you know I love King’s books, especially her sense of humor. It’s quirky, fun, and clean. We’re talking about food fights, explosions, and paralytic… we’ll I’ll leave that one for you to discover. But when you’re wondering what books your middle grader might enjoy reading next, start with King and don’t forget Evan the Horrible.

The Official Blurb

First, the janitor’s foot was inside the brick wall. Then there was the mysterious ring. But the strangest of all? That was yet to come.

Jazzy Allen’s already complicated life suddenly gets messier when class clown Evan Rice gets both of them sent to the principal’s office. Fearing she’ll lose her scholarship, Jazzy is determined to avoid him at all costs. But when Evan gets hold of a wish-granting ring, he pulls her into his mischievous mayhem while the school becomes his playground.

His magical pranks seem harmless enough, but behind mud-slinging cheerleaders and a food fight of epic proportions, something sinister lays waiting. With their school on the brink of destruction, Jazzy must learn to work together with the most infuriating guy in Forest Hills High before the power behind the ring destroys them…and everything else.

More info

Purchase Evan the Horrible for Kindle or in print on Amazon, or read it on Kindle Unlimited.

Follow Kimberly King on Facebook

I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own. 

Book Review: Love Is a Wistful Song

Aryen has her life planned: attend the most prestigious conservatory, then marry the man of her dreams. But Grandfather has other plans in Love Is a Wistful Song.

Ava S. Quill calls herself an aspiring author, claiming there is always plenty more to learn. If that’s the case, and it usually is, I can’t wait to read her ‘professional works,’ because her most recent book, Love Is a Wistful Song, captured my heart the same way How to Train Your Dragon’s and Band of Brother’s soundtracks sent blissful shivers up my spine.

My thoughts:

Before meeting my husband, music was my life. My parents loved me a lot. I know because they rarely asked me to stop singing or playing the piano as I worked on whatever I’d chosen for that day. They also rarely complained when I sang as we walked in public places or on the boat or in the tent or on a peaceful trail.

I had all kinds of little things I did to take care of my voice. For instance, I didn’t eat or drink dairy before a performance so I wouldn’t coat my throat. I also refused to make certain noises in order to avoid voice nodules, something I really wasn’t in any danger of getting in the first place.

It wasn’t that I wanted to be famous. Not at all. To this day, I love the feel of the keys under my fingers and the delight I get from singing. And in case you are wondering, yes, I still sing under my breath as I walk through public places, and I am not bothered by it in the least. My kids, on the other hand, are.

in Love Is a Wistful Song, none of Aryen’s family is embarrassed by her skill on the violin. After all, she takes an old, inexpensive violin and makes it sing in a way most people can’t make the most precious of instruments trill. In fact, even though most girls in their family get married by eighteen, often through arranged marriages, they support her dream of attending the most prestigious conservatory.

When she’s ripped away from the man she privately dreams about, her music turns upside down. Being promised to his cousin twists her strings into knots until they snap.

Saying Love Is a Wistful Song kept my attention would be a bit of an understatement. I found myself wanting extra time to read and stealing it from those precious hours of sleep that I beg for every night.

The story takes the hearts of two people and wraps their melodies together as their world tries to rip them apart. The well-rounded characters made me happy and angry. I found myself with flared nostrils as anger flitted through my veins several times. That is not something I’ve experienced in a long time. The editing, grammar, storyline, and excellent writing took this indie book to a professional level every indie author should reach before publishing.

Some books we treasure because they are entertaining reads that we can finish on the beach without worry of the underlying melodies. Other literary treasures require us to make it through the heavy ballad before we can appreciate the harmonies, while only a few treasures, like Love Is a Wistful Song, entwine melody and counter-melody with harmonies to create a beautiful concerto we want to listen to again and again.

Clean, beautiful, and thought-provoking. I absolutely recommend Love Is a Wistful Song.

The Official Blurb:

Music-obsessed Aryen dreams of attending a prestigious conservatory and, sometimes, about her childhood friend Ryan. But when her dream to study with the masters comes true, it demands a high price—Aryen must agree to an arranged marriage with Ryan’s popular cousin Blaine. When she protests the arrangement, her grandfather threatens to destroy Ryan’s already challenging prospects, forcing Aryen to choose whether to pursue her feelings and sacrifice her lifelong dream or give up Ryan in order to protect him.

More Info:

Purchase your copy of Love Is a Wistful Song on Amazon

Visit Ava S. Quill at www.inkedkeyboard.com
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We Do Remember, and We Can Never Forget

I won’t forget the heroes, the fallen, or how Americans came together in unity—a unity we must find again and strive to keep.

Each year, I think about that September morning when I climbed out of bed, turned on the TV, and realized American lives had changed forever.

I called my husband in the other room about a plane crashing into the Pentagon. Seconds later, tears rose in my eyes as we discovered the truth. Terrorists.

I’d grown up hearing the word in movies. In school, toward the end of the Cold War, teachers talked about protecting freedoms. I watched the wall come down while sitting in my freshman typing class.

But this attack, driven by hate, was different. It was on our soil. And, unlike Pearl Harbor, individuals, not an invading nation, carried it out.

As thousands of people died, everyday men and women became heroes. The skies quieted to an eerie silence, while we cried and mourned with our neighbors and communities. We prayed. For months, flags waved from houses and businesses, symbols of love for those who died and for our country. Americans were unified.

We became stronger as we put aside our political and religious discord, exchanging it for unity with our fellow Americans. No one concerned themselves with black or white, Christian or atheist. We were unified as we vowed to never forget.  

For me, it was more than remembering the heroes that rushed into collapsing buildings or brought down a plane before it reached its intended target. I determined to remember the grief I shared with strangers in the supermarket, and the solace we found in each other’s eyes and words, to remember the thousands of memorial services offered throughout the nation so no one had to grieve alone. I determined to value unity.

Today, I am reminded of a story of a king and his usurper whose kingdom was divided by discordant citizens who couldn’t agree. “We must worship the sun,” one would say.

No, the earth gives to us more bounteously,” argued the other.

As swords slashed at each other, the king and his usurper climbed a tower. With a blade at his throat, the king cried out, “Stop, we are under attack!”

The usurper turns to find a neighboring nation taking advantage of their kingdom’s division. Running from the tower together, yet separately, they turn toward their shared enemy. The clashing swords of the citizens, exhausted from battling each other, failed.

But when?

Did they fail during the invasion, or did they fail by refusing to find common ground in the first place?

For the past eighteen years, I’ve considered 9-11. I won’t forget. I won’t forget the heroes, the fallen, or how Americans came together in unity—a unity we must find again and strive to keep. Our discord and division deepen with each passing year. But those heroes became heroes by setting aside their differences.  

The word unity often appears in 9-11 messages. We do remember, and we can never forget. But what will we do with that memory?