Broken Veil – Will the Worlds Heal?

Broken Veil

the Harbinger series

By Jeff Wheeler

Spoiler Alert!

 

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Summary

Wall Street Journal bestselling author Jeff Wheeler’s epic Harbinger series comes to a breathtaking conclusion as two women are swept into a battle that could destroy two worlds.

Rescued from a world of poverty, Cettie Pratt has avoided a bleak destiny—until now. Deceived and manipulated, she has been groomed for the ultimate betrayal: to destroy her best friend and stop peace from uniting two war-torn worlds. Her path leads her to a mysterious underworld where appearances can be deceiving.

Sera Fitzempress knows the value she has to her enemies. As heir to the empire, she must keep her foes at bay and prevent them from unleashing a being of unspeakable evil upon the world while fighting a brutal war. But her enemies are more cunning than Sera expects, and the key to their plans is none other than her best friend.

Neither woman knows what to believe. Neither one knows if she can trust the other. Both Cettie and Sera have made decisions that have irrevocably changed them. But the decisions they have yet to make will determine the fate of their world…  (Courtesy of goodreads.com)

Adult Point of View

In PRISM CLOUD, the world is a mess and there appears to be no hope for our friends Cettie and Sera. How can they even be friends after the betrayal? They’re not even on the brink of war, but in the middle of it. Time, space, and ideals separate them. The world may even be destroyed.

Once I finally had the book in my hands, and before I opened it, I took a deep breath and asked myself: Who is going to die? Am I going to cry through the whole book? Will any of the love interests work out?

These are legitimate questions because we all know, Wheeler loves to throw in twists and turns. In the interest of not spoiling things, I will not answer the questions I posed but will say I was frequently surprised.

I’m going to divert from talking about BROKEN VEIL for a moment to talk about themes in great literature (but if you’ll hang with me, I promise there is a connection).

Two of my favorite books are LES MISERABLES by Victor Hugo and THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO by Alexander Dumas. Some of the themes found in these books are revenge, betrayal, redemption, and forgiveness. These are strong and powerful emotions. If an author sets out to write a story and says my book will be about betrayal, I think this fictitious author would fail because it isn’t that simple. For strong themes to work, they have to be woven through the text in a way that is genuine and believable for the reader to become vested. Hugo’s and Dumas’ books are as much a fantasy to me as the world built by Jeff Wheeler, because I didn’t live through those time periods. (I actually see just about every book as being a fantasy: romance? Totally a fantasy – people never act like they do in those books.)

Getting back on track, all of Wheeler’s series do two things. First, they draw me into a believable world and tell an interesting story. Second, because I believe the world, every moment of revenge, betrayal, redemption, and forgiveness hits me to my core. Yes, sometimes, I cry and laugh through these books. This is why I read.

Once I finished the Harbinger Series, I felt satisfied. Now, satisfaction may seem like an only okay response but that isn’t what I’m trying to say. Some books I hate by the end, others I roll my eyes because I can’t believe in the world anymore because of literary decisions. But to say I am satisfied means so much more; it means that I still believe in the world, that I’ve gone through the journey with the characters, and that I am at peace with both the good and bad in the book. I’ve heard it said that the ending of a story should be ‘surprisingly inevitable’. If that was Wheeler’s goal, he succeeded.

Wheeler is a master storyteller. I hoped that both Cettie and Sera would come into their own power, believe in themselves, and ultimately make choices from their core selves instead of external factors. I hoped for peace in the two kingdoms. And I hoped for love to be fulfilled. But love can take so many turns. Love for country, love for the masses who suffer, family love, and romantic love. I honestly hoped for all of these to be fulfilled.

I know this review says very little about the BROKEN VEIL but that is because I want you to read it and go on the journey yourself. Doesn’t the idea of living revenge, betrayal, redemption, and forgiveness make you want to run out and read this right now?

Here are a couple of quotes to whet your appetite:

“She should just toss the book into a fire and burn it. Adam must hate her now.” p. 16

“She’d had a year to scheme.” p. 70

“She grabbed at the handle, trying to twist it, but she was too late.” p. 123

“They had traded darkness for daylight.” p. 143

“She now had access to memories that weren’t her own.” p.220

“It was treason. But perhaps, in his mind, he’d justified it.” p. 254

“No one was coming. She was alone.” p. 270

“The worth of a soul is its capacity to become something greater.” p. 294

“And you never will.” p. 347

 

I highly recommend this book, series, and author. I hope you step into a new world and discover more about yourself.

 

5 out of 5 stars

5 star

  • Michelle

 

If you love Jeff Wheeler, check out Patrick W. Carr – I love his characters too. If you need the best laugh in a month, try reading E.M. Foner – his Union Station books are one of my favorites.

I also love Robin McKinley, Jennifer A. Nielsen, Erin Summerhill, Erin Morgenstern (I keep hoping she’ll have another book out soon.), Meghan Whalen Turner, J. Scott Savage, and so many more.

If you can’t find anything to read, send me a message, and I’ll help you find a book. The world is full of adventure, and we all deserve to live it.

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Love Like Sky – Will Love Be Enough?

Love Like Sky

By Leslie C. Youngblood

Spoiler Alert!

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Summary

“Love ain’t like that.”
“How is it then?” Peaches asked, turning on her stomach to face me.
“It’s like sky. If you keep driving and driving, gas will run out, right?”
“That’s why we gotta go to the gas station.”
“Yep. But have you ever seen the sky run out? No matter how far we go?”
“No, when we look up, there it is.”
“Well that’s the kind of love Daddy and Mama got for us, Peaches–love like sky.”
“It never ends?”
“Never.”

G-baby and her younger sister, Peaches, are still getting used to their “blended-up” family. They live with Mama and Frank out in the suburbs, and they haven’t seen their real daddy much since he married Millicent. G-baby misses her best friend back in Atlanta, and is crushed that her glamorous new stepsister, Tangie, wants nothing to do with her.

G-baby is so preoccupied with earning Tangie’s approval that she isn’t there for her own little sister when she needs her most. Peaches gets sick-really sick. Suddenly, Mama and Daddy are arguing like they did before the divorce, and even the doctors at the hospital don’t know how to help Peaches get better.

It’s up to G-baby to put things right. She knows Peaches can be strong again if she can only see that their family’s love for her really is like sky.  (Courtesy of goodreads.com)

Adult Point of View

I love the title of this book and the cover art for Love Like Sky is beautiful. The tag line reads: Families change. Love Grows.

When the description tells me upfront a young child will be sick, I can pretty much guess it will be a tear jerker. And it was.

I love the deep POV revealing the complicated feelings G-baby is wading through. The need to be accepted and the overwhelming responsibility for a younger sister are both aptly captured. She is also teetering on the world of adults, and recognizes they speak in a subtext she doesn’t always understand – she doesn’t want to be a baby or a little little girl, anymore but still needs the assurance from the adults in her life. Her decision-making ability is spot on. I remember being in high school and having an unrealistic plan as a back-up if my mother died. G-baby’s plan to offer herself for a transfusion is exactly the kind of thinking I would expect from a child. A clean simple answer to make everything better immediately.

Another key relationship is with her best friend. They are sassy and rude to each other at times, but when push comes to shove they have each others’ backs. I can’t say if that is realistic for some friendships or not. It hasn’t been for mine. But their secrets and wanting to be important to each other is very realistic.

I loved the passive aggressive thought Georgie (G-baby) has whenever she calls Millicent – Millipede. That sounds exactly like the kind of thing a kid would do. It also made her interactions with her step-mother more realistic. Why should she be happy that a new woman has monopolized her father’s time? From Georgie’s point of view, Millicent is the enemy and forcing her to be kind, though admirable and the reaction of adults in a blended family, isn’t really going to help her come to love a step-mother. That is going to take a lot of time and building trust. I also liked how Georgie wanted to hug her step-father but was hesitant, not quite knowing how the puzzle pieces fit together in her life. Tangie’s reaction also made complete sense to me as she rejected her new younger step-sisters. That poor girl had a lot on her plate.

The thing that surprised me in the book was Marshall – the young, angry, protester boyfriend of Tangie. From the book description, I had no idea that this element would be present. And that may be because of where I live. When I’ve traveled through Georgia, driving through small towns and Atlanta, I had a positive experience, but I am not African American and have no way of knowing how that may have changed my impression. I’ve never been involved in a protest and even though there are some protests that occur in our state capital it’s not something I instantly associate with being in college, so it was a new perspective. I’m not saying it shouldn’t be in the book, because it makes sense, I’m only saying I was surprised and a saddened that injustice is still such a problem in our society.

One of the poignant moments about race occurs when G-baby recounted her daddy being pulled over by the police. She noted how he told them to be good in the backseat, kept both hands visible on the steering wheel the whole time even though he normally drove with one. It was so subtle that it showed me how the adult is thinking and what the child is not understanding. I loved how Georgie is innocent and not jaded my society.

In the end, love was enough to work through the bumps in their new blended family. It may not be an entirely realistic ending but an appropriate one for middle grade. I think this story is great for kids about 10-12 years old.

I gave this story 4 stars. I loved it.
I will be surprised if this story doesn’t win an award.

4 out of 5 stars

4 star

Michelle

If you liked Love Like Sky try Maniac McGee by Jerry Spinelli, Schooled by Gordon Korman, When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, and Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos.

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Gem & Dixie : When Friends and Sisters Part

Gem & Dixie

By Sara Zarr

Spoiler Alert!

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Summary

Gem has never known what it is to have security. She’s never known an adult she can truly rely on. But the one constant in her life has been Dixie. Gem grew up taking care of her sister when no one else could: not their mother, whose issues make it hard for her to keep food on the table, and definitely not their father, whose intermittent presence is the only thing worse than his frequent absence. Even as Gem and Dixie have grown apart, they’ve always had each other.

When their dad returns home for the first time in years and tries to insert himself back into their lives, Gem finds herself with an unexpected opportunity: three days with Dixie—on their own in Seattle and beyond. But this short trip soon becomes something more, as Gem discovers that that to save herself, she may have to sever the one bond she’s tried so hard to keep.  (Courtesy of goodreads.com)

Adult Point of View

As the oldest sibling, I related to Gem. The feeling of responsibility of caring for my brother was part of what made me who I am. Unlike Gem, I had a loving and supportive family.

When I read a book like this, I have a meter going off in my head about how realistic everything is panning out. Gem’s inability to share what’s going on in her life, her withdrawal, and yearning for something more all ring true to me. Dixie is coping with the neglect in a different, but equally realistic way. She plays on her sexuality and social skills to get what she needs – even when that means throwing her sister under the proverbial bus.

I’d read some reviews about how some couch critiques think the ending fell apart and the money in the backpack was a useless plot deviation.

I disagree.

Was the road trip a little frantic? Yes! Because it showed them in a new environment and they didn’t know how to act or what to do. Taking them out of their home gave them an opportunity to imagine something different. Each sister took something different away from the experience. Gem could no longer live the fantasy (which was the belief someone would take care of them or the fantasy of living the posh life in the hotel or island). Dixie decided she needed to believe the fantasy that her parents would change.

What do people who grow up in poverty believe? That money will solve all their problems.
What else could money be a symbol for in their lives? Love. Money could be love lost, or a finite amount of love, or even disposable (thinking of Dixie and how she reacted). Could the money as easily represent people? They’d never had people to care for them and even this money couldn’t care for them. Even a hotel clerk would have stolen the money from them if given the opportunity – which is even worse than neglect to take advantage of someone.
Could the money represent lies? Gem had told herself that they could have a different life with money, but the money would slip through her fingers as easily as her father told a lie. Money seemed like the answer to her problems, but actually caring people, an education, and a job did more for her than a hand-out could have done.

One of the most tender moments in the book, for me, was when the school counselor tells Gem that he’s sorry he failed her.

“But…what does it take to be in danger?” I asked again, through even more tears. “What does that even mean? Are things not bad enough Should things be worse for me before…before I can make them better?”
I felt his hand on my arm, leading me back toward the chair. “No. No, they shouldn’t.” I sat down and he stood beside me keeping his hand gently on my arm. “I’m sorry, Gem. I think I failed you.” (P. 260-261)

This book was a tear jerker. It is for a YA audience. Drugs, alcohol, allusions to sex, and swearing are all present – but in a very realistic, non-glorified way. In the end, this is a story about finding your way through life. The sisters may part, but this is only the beginning of their story. I like to believe that Dixie will find her way too.

5 out of 5 stars

5 star

  • Michelle

 

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The Marvelous Adventures of Gwendolyn Gray – What Would You Do If You Had An Imagination That Made Wishes Real?

The Marvelous Adventures of Gwendolyn Gray

By B. A. Williamson

Spoiler Alert!

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Summary

Gwendolyn Gray faces an overwhelming battle every day: keeping her imagination under control. It’s a struggle for a dreamer like Gwendolyn, in a city of identical gray skyscrapers, clouds that never clear, and grown-ups who never understand.

But when her daydreams come alive and run amok in The City, the struggle to control them becomes as real as the furry creatures infesting her bedroom. Worse yet, she’s drawn the attention of the Faceless Gentlemen, who want to preserve order in The City by erasing Gwendolyn and her troublesome creations.

With the help of two explorers from another world, Gwendolyn escapes and finds herself in a land of clockwork inventions and colorful creations. Now Gwendolyn must harness her powers and, with a gang of airship pirates, stop the Faceless Gentlemen from destroying the new world she loves and the home that never wanted her—before every world becomes gray and dull. (Courtesy of goodreads.com)

Adult Point of View

I had plenty of children with big imaginations. Sometimes, their dreams made more sense to them than reality. But what if we were wrong and it was the dreamers who created the world around us? What if evil men wanted to stop all imagination? This book might be more fact than fiction.

In The Marvelous Adventures of Gwendolyn Gray – Gwendolyn is my next female protagonist full of pluck. She’s horrified when she imagines a child with rabbit ears, who is then made to disappear. And not just disappear, but the girl’s former friends don’t remember she ever existed. This event sends Gwendolyn off on her adventure because the same evil people who can make children disappear now want her.  As she continues, she finds there is a bigger problem – the Faceless Gentlemen and their boss (the Collector) want all imagination to disappear from all the different worlds. She aligns herself with other amazing children and a pirate.

The plot is full of action and wonder, two of the things young readers crave. The children are also the heroes – another reason young readers will connect with this story. There is an ongoing sense of danger and that it is very important for Gwendolyn to succeed. If she hadn’t lost her special jewel in a jump it would have made things easier, but a lot less fun.

The world building is full of color and fanciful ideas. There is a touch of steampunk in the devices which I particularly enjoyed. The world feels like a place the reader would love to explore in for a year.

There are romantic overtones, but I didn’t think went over the top. Sparrow and Starling are the children who save Gwendolyn and end up on the adventure to save the world – and imagination. The pirate and Starling make googly eyes at each other, and Gwendolyn and Sparrow take notice of each other.

This is another middle-grade story with an omniscient author, much like Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi. It is an effective device to give young readers further insight and include them more deeply in the story as it unfolds. The chummy comments and asides are often quite humorous.

Here’s the big question – do you find out the identity of the Collector (the boss of the Faceless Gentlemen)? Well, if you did there probably wouldn’t be another book needed. In this case, we are left with unanswered questions, after a twist, and so another book will hopefully be on its way to anxious readers.

If I could make wishes come true, I’d join Gwendolyn on her adventure.

5 out of 5 stars

5 star

  • Michelle

 

If you love The Marvelous Adventures of Gwendolyn Gray try Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi and Iron Hearted Violet by Kelly Barnhill.

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Furthermore – Will You Want More?

Furthermore

By Tahereh Mafi

Spoiler Alert!

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Summary

Alice Alexis Queensmeadow 12 rates three things most important: Mother, who wouldn’t miss her; magic and color, which seem to elude her; and Father, who always loved her. Father disappeared from Ferenwood with only a ruler, almost three years ago. But she will have to travel through the mythical, dangerous land of Furthermore, where down can be up, paper is alive, and left can be both right and very, very wrong. Her only companion is Oliver whose own magic is based in lies and deceit. Alice must first find herself—and hold fast to the magic of love in the face of loss.
(Courtesy of
goodreads.com)

Adult Point of View

If you listen to writers talk they discuss an element in a story called ‘voice’. I think ‘voice’ is a little hard to explain, but to me, it’s who the character really is jumping off the page. In this case, Alice, the main character, in Furthermore is a precocious 12-year-old girl but she doesn’t passively tell others what to do – she is out dancing, searching, screaming, barely putting on her clothes, and wishing for more than she’s been allotted. Alice (reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland) has fabulous ‘voice’.

The second ‘voice’ in this book that takes center stage is the omniscient author. This voice gives us little asides like ‘dear friend’, or ‘I didn’t want to tell you’, or ‘Oliver Says I’m Terrible At Chapter Headings’. It’s been used in a charming way and not over-done, so I was very pleased.

Oliver is a pickle of a boy: he lies, he manipulates others, did I mention he lies? So, why do we like him? He’s insecure and actually wants to do good. In Alice, he finds the friend that he needed.

The world building is colorful, rich, daring, and nutters. From a ruler that measures the time you’re allowed to have while traveling, to origami foxes that might accidentally have your arm turn to paper and get ripped off, to houses made of large eggs (we no idea how large the creature is that laid them), you are bound to be entertained. There were moments that felt reminiscent of The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. Furthermore is strange and wonderful.

In conclusion, I believe you will want more of Furthermore and even more.

5 out of 5 stars

5 star

  • Michelle

 

If you love Furthermore try The Marvelous Adventures of Gwendolyn Gray by B. A. Williamson and Iron Hearted Violet by Kelly Barnhill.

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Creepy Carrots! – When Vegetables Rise

Creepy Carrots!

By Aaron Reynolds

Illustrations by Peter Brown

Spoiler Alert!

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Summary

The Twilight Zone comes to the carrot patch in this clever picture book parable about a rabbit who fears his favorite treats are out to get him. Jasper Rabbit loves carrots—especially Crackenhopper Field carrots.

He eats them on the way to school.

He eats them going to Little League.

He eats them walking home.

Until the day the carrots start following him…or are they? (Courtesy of goodreads.com)

Adult Point of View

How does an author write a “scary” book for young kids? From Creepy Carrots! I’ve developed a formula: take something familiar, possibly boring or repulsive, and have it pop up everywhere.

In this story, the illustrations are key to convey the antagonism of the carrots and the fear Jasper Rabbit faces. Will your kids want to eat carrots after this book? I know mine would just to show they aren’t’ afraid of the root. I absolutely loved how every illustration reveals the carrot sighting was another set of objects in Jasper’s life. Of course, the carrots after a different version.

I highly recommend this story!

5 out of 5 stars

5 star

  • Michelle
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Story Thieves – Is Fiction Really Stranger Than True Life?

Story Thieves

By James Riley

Spoiler Alert!

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Summary

Life is boring when you live in the real world, instead of starring in your own book series. Owen knows that better than anyone, what with the real world’s homework and chores.

But everything changes the day Owen sees the impossible happen—his classmate Bethany climb out of a book in the library. It turns out Bethany’s half-fictional and has been searching every book she can find for her missing father, a fictional character.

Bethany can’t let anyone else learn her secret, so Owen makes her a deal: All she has to do is take him into a book in Owen’s favorite Kiel Gnomenfoot series, and he’ll never say a word. Besides, visiting the book might help Bethany find her father…

…Or it might just destroy the Kiel Gnomenfoot series, reveal Bethany’s secret to the entire world, and force Owen to live out Kiel Gnomenfoot’s final (very final) adventure.(Courtesy of goodreads.com)

Adult Point of View

I read Half Upon A Time fairly recently with my youngest son. It was such a fun quirky tale, I had to read another story by the same author.

Story Thieves has elements I love to see in middle-grade fiction. It is fun, has over-the-top characters, crazy inexplicable situations, and a quick pace.

Who wouldn’t want to jump into stories? Especially when life is humdrum. After reading about Bethany getting to eat some of the chocolate from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory when the Oompa Loompas weren’t looking, I had to go find my secret stash of chocolate to console myself that I couldn’t jump into books. Owen had a better solution – possibly blackmail – or at least the power of persuasion to get inside a book.

Owen specifically LIES and wants to get into his favorite book to save his favorite character, which he does with disastrous results.

The fictional character, within the already fictional world, Kiel is hilarious. He is always winking and saying pithy things that don’t really mean anything but to him they change the world. Eventually, even Bethany find him fun and charming. The Magister is the opposite side of fun because we love to hate him. The clear cut lines of good and evil in this book work really well for the campy humor. Until…the line is blurred. The Magister has a heart to heart with Merlin and Bethany and then all the stops are out. What will he really do?

Chasing. If I described the pacing it would be chasing. They are chasing in and out of books, leaping and hiding. Bad guys chase them. They chase away the bad guys. Yep. Chasing covers the fast-paced action. When travel by book is made possible, count me in. And what would happen if you could have superpowers written into you? WEll, to find out more you will have to read the story.

To end this review, I am going to tell you a secret. One of my favorite parts is when Bethany explains to the Magister why we read books. She tells him it isn’t because we want a cheap thrill (she may have said that a little differently) but because we want to be with them, the characters in their world. We read because we want to experience another life. I thought it was a poignant moment amongst all the craziness of the fun story. Will kids get it? Maybe not, but that’s okay because they’ve enjoyed the world they stepped into with Story Thieves.

By the end, Owen thought he was ready for boring, normal day living – after all surely, true life isn’t as strange as fiction. But…

5 out of 5 stars

5 star

  • Michelle

 

If you love Story Thieves try Jessica Day George’s Dragon Slippers, another one of my all-time favorites.

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