The Lost Wonderland Diaries – Does It Live Up To the Genius of the Original?

The Lost Wonderland Diaries

By J. Scott Savage

Spoiler Alert!

 

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Summary

Something monstrous has been found in the magic world of Wonderland and it wants to get out.

Lewis Carroll created a curious and fantastical world in his classic book Alice in Wonderland, but he secretly recorded the true story of his actual travels to Wonderland in four journals which have been lost to the world…until now.

Celia and Tyrus discover the legendary Lost Diaries of Wonderland and fall into a portal that pulls them into the same fantasy world as the White Rabbit and the Mad Hatter. However, Wonderland has vastly changed. A darkness has settled over the land, and some creatures and characters that Tyrus remembers from the book have been transformed into angry monsters.

Celia and Tyrus make their way through this unpredictable and dangerous land, helped by familiar friends including the Cheshire Cat and a new character, Sylvan, a young rabbit. Together, they desperately work to solve puzzles and riddles, looking for a way out of Wonderland. But the danger increases when the Queen of Hearts begins hunting them. Believing the two young visitors hold the key to opening multiple portals to multiple worlds, she will stop at nothing to capture them.

It’s up to Celia and Tyrus to save Wonderland and the real world.  It’s a race against time before they are trapped in Wonderland forever. (Courtesy of goodreads.com)

Adult Point of View

I received this book from Net Galley in exchange for my honest review.

I couldn’t wait to read Savage’s newest middle-grade book because I LOVED The Mysteries of Cove series. He’s an author that always has me rooting for his characters.

Would The Lost Wonderland Diaries live up to both Savage’s reputation and the genius of the original? That might seem like a lot to ask of one man.

Here’s the skinny – I think Savage is brilliant. Not only does he play with the original scenes we all know, he adds to Wonderland with a twist and new storyline. As soon as I saw the tricky numbers and hungry crocodile, I knew I’d entered Wonderland. Some of my highlights without giving big spoilers include a white rabbit (I want to pet you), a mad tea party (definitely an elbows on the table affair), Cheshire (he can come live with me anytime – I’m sure we’d get along because he knows what it takes to be a good friend), the ball (books with dancing are awesome whether you keep your head or not) , the twisty twist at the end (oh, you clever, clever author – I’ll read more to see how you pull off the magic tricks again).

Outside of the fanciful plot, I loved the characters. Both Celia and Tyrus with their different interests and strengths are the perfect avatars to take us on this unique journey to save Wonderland. Don’t we all live a line between logic and imagination? These two ideas come into play throughout the story as the characters work through who they are and what Wonderland needs.

I’ve experienced some characteristics of dyslexia: mixing up words, sentence structure, and a couple of letters. Because of this mild experience, I really enjoyed Celia who is dyslexic and great at math (True confession: I am not great at math). I worked in an elementary school art program at the class level which included children who experience neurodiversity. They have so many strengths not seen in traditional learning environments and often excelled in art. This book is a celebration of our differences. I believe Celia is a character all children can cheer for and love.

Tyrus is equally delightful because of his love of books, acceptance of others, and enthusiasm. The two kids complement one another. He is excited to be in Wonderland and anxious to save it no matter the cost. Celia is hesitant and focused on logic, ready to get home. Books are built on great characters even more than clever ideas. As Celia and Tyrus work their way through Wonderland’s problems, they build a friendship of give and take. They value and respect one another. Can you imagine what the world would be like if we all learned these same lessons?

Savage handles the heart of the story with a deft hand. He lets the readers draw their own conclusions. I believe children will adore the adventure, and tuck the lessons away in their heart, not even knowing they learned while having fun.

I highly recommend this book, but only if you want a fun adventure.

How will you save Wonderland?

5 star

Michelle

If you loved The Lost Wonderland Mysteries, read J. Scott Savages other books!

You also might want to try Midsummer’s Mayhem by Rajani LaRocca, Story Thieves by James Riley, and Sherlock Academy by F. C. Shaw.

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The Ghost Collector – Do You Need a Middle-Grade Book About Death and Grieving?

The Ghost Collector
By Allison Mills

Spoiler Alert!

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SUMMARY:

Ghosts aren’t meant to stick around forever…

Shelly and her grandmother catch ghosts. In their hair.

Just like all the women in their family, they can see souls who haven’t transitioned yet; it’s their job to help the ghosts along their journey. When Shelly’s mom dies suddenly, Shelly’s relationship to ghosts—and death—changes. Instead of helping spirits move on, Shelly starts hoarding them. But no matter how many ghost cats, dogs, or people she hides in her room, Shelly can’t ignore the one ghost that’s missing. Why hasn’t her mom’s ghost come home yet?

Rooted in a Cree worldview and inspired by stories about the author’s great-grandmother’s life, The Ghost Collector delves into questions of grief and loss, and introduces an exciting new voice in tween fiction that will appeal to fans of Kate DiCamillo’s Louisiana’s Way Home and Patrick Ness’s A Monster Calls. (Courtesty of goodreads.com)

REVIEW:

This is such a different ghost story! The author’s great-grandmother told her stories which led to this tale – and I’m glad she did.

The Ghost Collector is not a haunting tale in the sense of giving you chills, but a tale of how our lives might be haunted. Haunted with grieving.

Shelly has inherited her family’s ability to catch ghosts in her hair and to help them along. She can catch the ghosts of animals as well as people. When her mother dies, it’s only natural that Shelly would expect to have time with her mom’s ghost. How do we grasp onto things to help us remember our loved ones? I’ve known of people who keep their parents’ treasures, or photos, or stories. If you could keep the ghost of a loved one near would you? What happens when we can’t have what we want – our loved one to stay? Shelly goes through this process of grieving and spins the reader into her hair for the ride.

Kids need sad books. It helps them process the hard things in their lives.

If a middle-grade book has anything that might make some parent wary, I feel like I need to mention it. There is a very passing reference to a lesbian couple. The book talks about Hannah’s wife in passing while the characters are on a ghost job.

There is no violence, sexual content, or swearing.

I recommend this book and author.

4 star

Michelle

If you enjoyed The Ghost Collector, try reading Where the Watermelons Grow by Cindy Baldwin and Resistance, Rescue, and Words on Fire by Jennifer A. Nielsen.

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Escaping Dreamland – How Much Does the Past Write the Future?

Escaping Dreamland

By Charlie Lovett
Spoiler Alert!

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Summary:

Robert Parrish’s childhood obsession with series books like the Hardy Boys and Tom Swift inspired him to become an author. Just as his debut novel becomes a bestseller, his relationship with his girlfriend, Rebecca, begins to fall apart. Robert realizes he must confront his secret demons by fulfilling a youthful promise to solve a mystery surrounding his favorite series—the Tremendous Trio.

Guided by twelve tattered books and an unidentified but tantalizing fragment of a story, Robert journeys into the history of the books that changed his life, hoping they can help him once again. His odyssey takes him to 1906 Manhattan, a time of steamboats, boot blacks, and Fifth Avenue mansions, but every discovery he makes only leads to more questions.

Robert’s quest intertwines with the stories of three young people trying to define their places in the world at the dawn of a new and exciting century. Magda, Gene, and Tom not only write the children’s books that Robert will one day love, together they explore the vibrant city on their doorstep, from the Polo Grounds to Coney Island’s Dreamland, drawing the reader into the Gilded Age as their own friendships deepen.

The connections between the authors, their creations, and Robert’s redemptive journey make for a beautifully crafted novel that is an ode to the children’s series books of our past, to New York City, and above all, to the power of love and friendship. (Courtesy of Amazon)

Review:

I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. It is available September 22, 2020.

One of the things I love about a Charlie Lovett novel is the interplay between the past and the present. Doesn’t our past always play in our future?

In Escaping Dreamland, there are four protagonists, each badgered by their past. It takes a little while to have the storylines come together because each character is fleshed out by themselves prior to joining the others. Three of the characters are from the early 1900s. Magda Hertzenbergers is haunted by the loss of her family and has shed her German name and background, trying to become an American girl. Thomas De Peyster shuns his place in elite American society, much to the horror of his match-making mama, to become a journalist. Eugene Pinkney delves into studying science, hiding his attraction to men, and courting danger. These characters come together, building a friendship that is natural and healing, but they also cause each other extreme pain.

In the present, Robert Parrish is facing a terrible case of imposter syndrome on the brink of losing the woman he loves. His past binds him in fear. To win her back, and make peace with himself, he delves into his past to understand himself before he will be worthy of her love. He peels back the layers on his family relationships and guilt as he discovers the origins of the authors of his favorite childhood series.

I recommend this book – especially if you have a desire to know more about the 20th Century and New York.

The sex scenes are not overly graphic.

4 1:2 star

Michelle

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The First Five-Dozen Tales of Razia Shah: and Other Stories – Looking For Something New? This is it!

The First Five-Dozen Tales of Razia Shah: and Other Stories

By James Goldberg

Spoiler Alert!

 

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Razia Shah—a promising, bright, suicidally-depressed seventeen-year-old living in New Delhi—has to tell herself a new story each day to convince herself to keep living until the next. Amir Mousa, a Palestinian shopkeeper in North Carolina, finds his thoughts jolting back to his lost village after he wins the lottery. Soon Punjabi, Congolese, and Mexican immigrants’ stories are told following the structure of the Jewish liturgical calendar, the folk hero of a forgotten people embarks on a quest to gather stories like grain against a famine, the leader of a merchant household in an alternate Indian Ocean trading culture is forced to confront his failure to keep a covenant with his slaves, and a hospital patient begins hallucinating the life history of his Indian-American anesthesiologist’s father. The novella and five short stories that make up The First Five-Dozen Tales of Razia Shah and Other Stories combine fantastical imagery and lyrical language to meditate on the pressures human beings face in an era of migration and rapid social change—and the power of storytelling in the face of those pressures. (Courtesy of goodreads.com)

Adult Point of View

I heard James Goldberg speak and a conference, and he was a fascinating speaker with a broad background and different ways of looking at a story. With that in mind, I had to see what kind of thing he would choose to write.

It’s important to know what he says about himself to appreciate this book. Part of his bio reads: James Goldberg’s family is Jewish on one side, Sikh on the other, and Mormon in the middle. Are you intrigued yet? You should be. Read on.

The first half of this book is a collection of tales devised by Razia Shah, and they tend to interconnect, sometimes loosely and sometimes chronologically. I chose to interpret them as allegorical tales (something I rarely like, but in this case, I loved). The messages are open for personal interpretation. At times, they include morals at the end like a children’s fairytale.

One of the “morals of the story” had me laughing aloud.
“A true hero will go to great lengths to keep from being remembered.”
Isn’t that delightful and unexpected?

Here are some of my take-aways of the messages:

You have to experience things for yourself.

Howlers always howl or complainers always complain.

The woman threw away the cause of the sin, not the person/sinner.

If the way is easy, it is hard to turn away even if it is bad for us.

Do we learn from past mistakes?

Our actions determine our character, who we are.

Hope is the carrot that drives us forward.

When we’re in the middle of a mess, it’s hard to see the lesson.

Here is another lovely quote describing angels found at Loc 1867, near the end of the short stories.
“You know, angels really aren’t that difficult to believe in if you see them as the dead, now glorified and doing the will of God.”

The only way you will come to love and appreciate this book is by picking it up and reading it. There is nothing else I know of that compares.

The other short stories are equally interesting. One of them had me thinking about how circular our lives become. It’s interesting to see the world from a different perspective. Goldberg is a master at drawing the reader into an unfamiliar place and helping the reader see those people through their own eyes.

I highly recommend reading this story. We need more thoughtful stories, more things that slow us down to see the world differently, and more stories that bring delight.

5 out of 5 stars

5 star

Michelle

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The Law of Moses – Is it a Romance, a Tragedy, or a Mystery? Paranormal?

The Law of Moses

By Amy Harmon

Spoiler Alert!

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Summary

If I tell you right up front, right in the beginning that I lost him, it will be easier for you to bear. You will know it’s coming, and it will hurt. But you’ll be able to prepare.

Someone found him in a laundry basket at the Quick Wash, wrapped in a towel, a few hours old and close to death. They called him Baby Moses when they shared his story on the ten o’clock news – the little baby left in a basket at a dingy Laundromat, born to a crack addict and expected to have all sorts of problems. I imagined the crack baby, Moses, having a giant crack that ran down his body, like he’d been broken at birth. I knew that wasn’t what the term meant, but the image stuck in my mind. Maybe the fact that he was broken drew me to him from the start.

It all happened before I was born, and by the time I met Moses and my mom told me all about him, the story was old news and nobody wanted anything to do with him. People love babies, even sick babies. Even crack babies. But babies grow up to be kids, and kids grow up to be teenagers. Nobody wants a messed up teenager.

And Moses was messed up. Moses was a law unto himself. But he was also strange and exotic and beautiful. To be with him would change my life in ways I could never have imagined. Maybe I should have stayed away. Maybe I should have listened. My mother warned me. Even Moses warned me. But I didn’t stay away.

And so begins a story of pain and promise, of heartache and healing, of life and death. A story of before and after, of new beginnings and never-endings. But most of all…a love story. (Courtesy of goodreads.com)

Adult Point of View

I did not know what to expect when I picked up this book by Amy Harmon who is a Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and New York Times Bestselling author. I know one thing, this wasn’t what I expected.

The book is separated into two sections. After the first section, I was left with the feeling that this isn’t a romance, but I sure am ready to read more of this contemporary novel. Somewhere in the second half, I was crying, just like the character warned me from the beginning, and by the end I said, what a couple of unexpected twists.

So, the answer is, yes – this is a romance, a tragedy, and a mystery depending on the chapter. And even with a paranormal slant.

I would recommend this book because it is gripping. Harmon leads the reader along the path, dishing out enough information, but not too much. (A very hard thing to do.) Her characters are real with problems, weaknesses, warts, and good too. I think you’d be rooting for Georgia and trying to understand Moses, but you’d like both of them and ache for good to come to them.

As a true confession, I usually predict the endings of books. The Law of Moses had one big twist I didn’t expect (and I’m not telling what it was – you’ll have to read it). And there was another smaller twist that was a surprise. I did guess who was responsible for the crimes, but that’s because it was the character I would have been guilty if I’d had the pleasure of writing this novel. Harmon is brilliant to pull off the twists. (Don’t you want to figure them out so you can tell me how smart you are?)

I’ve seen people asking if it’s a clean read or not. It’s not graphic though there is some language, any sex is not explained in a play by play sequence. (I wasn’t offended anyhow.) Harmon is also a lyrical writer, bringing beauty to the worst situations. This was the first book of hers I’ve read, but I will read more. She’s that amazing.

I don’t know if the biracial relationship written by a white author will bother anyone. Because she handled everything so well: showing the prejudice of some characters, it felt genuine to me. There were so many relationships developed beside the one romance. You’ll have to judge for yourself.

5 out of 5 stars

5 star

Michelle

If you liked The Law of Moses try The Lost Book of the Grail by Charlie Lovett, Crossings By Alex Landragin, and lots of books by Susanna Kearsley.

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The Rose and the Thorn – Is This Fairytale Going to Make You Swoon?

The Rose and the Thorn
By Katherine MacDonald

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SUMMARY:

A gripping and mesmerising retelling of a classic story, filled with romance, mystery and intrigue.

There is a pale, penetrating loneliness etched into the walls of this forgotten place. A kind of loneliness made living… is this what it feels like to be a ghost, alone in some kind of half world?

Taking shelter from a storm, Rose accidentally strays into a deserted fairy realm and finds herself trapped there with only a mysterious talking beast for company. Although initially reluctant to befriend her strange companion, Rose quickly finds herself growing closer to him. She names him Thorn, and as the castle blossoms into a place of beauty, so too does their friendship. But something else lurks within the walls, a dark force that will stop at nothing to be free once more…

If Rose is to survive and lift the curse placed upon the castle, she will have to face her fears and conquer the nightmares that have haunted her since childhood, as well as confront the terrifying creature that stalks the shadows in the night.

A passionate retelling of a classic tale, fairy tale fantasy meets Gothic. Will have you sobbing and laughing, and truly believing in the power of true love. (Courtesty of goodreads.com)

REVIEW:

When I want comfort food, I eat Indian naan (aloo paratha) and when I want a comfort read, I turn to retold fairytales. Beauty and the Beast is a staple in these fairytales.

I’m always nervous but hopeful when I start a new book. In this version, The Rose and the Thorn, there are so many things to love. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but I do have a favorite part. I loved how the author built a new backstory and premise for this beloved tale. That’s a hard thing to pull off.

Rose is a fleshed-out character: bold but hides her feelings (even from herself), she loves books, and is compassionate, loyal, and brave. Does it sound like a cliche? I promise it actually isn’t. Why is she complex? It’s her backstory with her mother that gives her depth. I’m convinced it’s always the backstory that makes or breaks a character. This isn’t giving away any big spoilers – I loved how Rose worked at personalizing her room. Isn’t that fun in a magic castle? She rummaged around to fix things up her way.

Thorn (formerly known as Beast from other versions) is also fleshed-out. I didn’t connect with him at first because he came off as simpering to me. Once we got in the stride of the story, I really liked him. He wasn’t a bumbling oaf but deeply conflicted. (Also because of his backstory.) What I’d taken as simpering was actually his emotional wounds coming out. This revelation changed my feelings as well as his emotional progress. I didn’t recognize this at first because the story is told in the first-person point of view by Rose, and she certainly wouldn’t know his backstory.

The backstory also provides the twists in this version. The magic system makes sense and isn’t arbitrary. There’s deep conflict, both personal and situational. It’s one of those books you’re going to have to read to really get it. One more plug for this book is that it shows how we mistreat others due to misconceptions, and I thought it was a timely theme.

As a warning for parents, there is a love scene, but it’s more the turn out the lights without full details being disclosed. For this reason, I’ve marked it as an adult book rather than a YA. In the end, I would say this is a swoon-worthy tale.

I recommend this book and author.

4 star

Michelle

If you enjoyed The Rose and the Thorn, try reading Robin McKinley’s versions: Beauty and Rose Daughter. For other fairytale stories try The Sisters of the Winter Wood by  Rena Rossner, The Mermaid’s Sister by Carrie Anne Noble, Cinder by Marissa Meyer, The Will and the Wild by Charlie Holmberg, and Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier.

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Crossings – What Would You Do If You Crossed Time? Find Love?

Crossings

By Alex Landragin

Spoiler Alert!

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Summary

Crossings is an unforgettable and explosive genre-bending debut–a novel in three parts, designed to be read in two different directions, spanning a hundred and fifty years and seven lifetimes.

On the brink of the Nazi occupation of Paris, a German-Jewish bookbinder stumbles across a manuscript called Crossings. It has three narratives, each as unlikely as the next. And the narratives can be read one of two ways: either straight through or according to an alternate chapter sequence. The first story in Crossings is a never-before-seen ghost story by the poet Charles Baudelaire, penned for an illiterate girl. Next is a noir romance about an exiled man, modeled on Walter Benjamin, whose recurring nightmares are cured when he falls in love with a storyteller who draws him into a dangerous intrigue of rare manuscripts, police corruption, and literary societies. Finally, there are the fantastical memoirs of a woman-turned-monarch whose singular life has spanned seven generations. With each new chapter, the stunning connections between these seemingly disparate people grow clearer and more extraordinary. Crossings is an unforgettable adventure full of love, longing and empathy. (Courtesy of goodreads.com)

Adult Point of View

I received a copy of Crossings from NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

I would classify Crossings as a concept book. The concept is how you choose to read – straight through or in a mixed-up order as suggested by the woman who owned the manuscript.

My intention was to read it in the artsy order and see how it went. The “suggested” order was a little confusing – especially since the narration is first-person. I would have finished it in this way, but my Kindle suddenly went into a loop when I tried to choose the new place. After that blip, I finished reading it in order, skipping any chapters I’d already read. Then after I hit the end, I went back and started from the beginning and read straight through for a little bit. After examining the chapter titles, I realized I had read the entire novel in, yet again, a different order. Whew! I don’t even know if you care about all of that, but since I received this as an ARC, I feel like I have to disclose my experience. I bet the blip I hit was solved.

Romping through time highlights man’s inhumanity to man in the lens of the two characters crossing into other people for generations. The book doesn’t make a direct commentary on the atrocities, but they’re always there from broad sweeping problems like slavery and the Nazi regime hunting down Jews to the small pains we inflict on individuals. Love is another theme carried through the book. Even when the reasons for actions become murky, love was the original force. I contemplated how love might change us as well as how love might drive our actions.

I enjoyed Crossings for its clever concept and also for the writing and broad view. If I had my druthers (do people say druthers anymore?), I would have liked a little more emotional resonance in the situations. How heartbroken was he when the woman he loved pushed him away? How did she feel when her true love didn’t recognize her? Did each life they live leave scars that affected their actions as a new person? I’m not saying it was a list of facts, only that I wanted a little more emotion.

My favorite moments in the book were when Madeline and the “admirer of Baudelaire” interact. I feel like this section is the glue that makes the other storylines pull together into a cohesive whole. I also felt the most emotion from this storyteller.

Crossings is an excellent debut novel and I highly recommend it – I believe it will appeal to people who love historical fiction as well as fantasy. The twists and turns will keep your wits sharp.

4 out of 5 stars

4 star

Michelle

If you liked Crossings try The Lost Book of the Grail by Charlie Lovett, The Great Passage by Shion Miura, and The Gray House by Mariam Petrosyan.

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The Buried World – How Will Bingmei Defy the Evil Emperor?

The Buried World

The Grave Kingdom Series

By Jeff Wheeler

Spoiler Alert!

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Summary

The young warrior Bingmei pits her courage, combat skills, and very life against a brutal tyrant’s dark magic in the follow-up to Wall Street Journal bestselling author Jeff Wheeler’s The Killing Fog.

The orphaned Bingmei didn’t choose to be a hero. She has no wish to cross the Death Wall to save the world. But she has awakened Echion, emperor of the Grave Kingdom and Dragon of Night, and it is her destiny to defy him. From his imperial city of ancient sorcery and immortal darkness, Echion conspires to fulfill his own destiny: vanquish Bingmei, revive his queen, and rule together for another eon unchallenged.

Traversing a labyrinth of caves and mountains, Bingmei and her band of allies prepare their defense against a fateful war they cannot win. But when they are overcome by Echion’s terrible power, Bingmei is left vulnerable to a ruthless assassin…one with orders to capture, not kill.

Before he destroys her, Echion craves something more than Bingmei’s soul. Only she has the power to resurrect Echion’s ancient queen, Xisi, whose evil is matched only by his own. Once reunited, their dark shadow will fall like a shroud over the realms. To be a savior, Bingmei must first survive what she has unleashed, and to survive she must begin to understand the seeds of power she’s never learned to control.

(Courtesy of goodreads.com)

Adult Point of View

The Buried World picks up right after the first book. Bingmei continues to struggle with the demands others put on her to sacrifice herself. Echion is ever vigilant over the kingdom, squashing insurrection and the nobility, promoting those who will enforce the martial laws, and constantly chasing Bingmei. His rule cannot be complete without his dragon queen.

Bingmei continues in her moral struggles. These are some of my favorite scenes as she grows into the person she becomes by the end of the book. She is driven and relentless in wanting to do right. She has to know who she is to know how to best help others and defy Emperor Echion. Sometimes, her choices seem like they’ll make everything worse – and they do, but she has to trust herself and take action.

If I were to hypothesize on a moral lesson from this series, I would take the themes of forgiveness and knowing who you are. In that way, The Buried World is a coming of age story at its heart – and we all need a little forgiveness.

By the midpoint in the novel, hang-on to your seat for the rest of the ride. The tension ramps up even more in this adventure series. Friends are discovered, betrayals hit forgiveness is found, love is a driving force, evil is overwhelming, the odds are stacked against our hero. Is death really the only answer?

If you enjoy fantasy novels with interesting worlds, you won’t want to miss The Immortal Words. Even though this one ends on a cliffhanger – which I liked since it’s full of intriguing possibilities – the next in the series, The Immortal Words is scheduled to come out on September 22, 2020.

5 out of 5 stars

5 star

  • Michelle

Jeff Wheeler also mentioned he has a whole new series coming out soon, so keep your eyes open.

If you loved The Killing Fog, try The Darkwater Sage by Patrick W. Carr, Incarceron by Catherine Fisher, and the Korean fantasy, Prophecy by Ellen Oh.

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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The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother – How Do We Relate to His Story Today?

The Color of Water
A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother

By James McBride

Spoiler Alert!

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Summary

Touches readers of all colors as a vivid portrait of growing up, a haunting meditation on race and identity, and a lyrical valentine to a mother from her son.

Who is Ruth McBride Jordan? A self-declared “light-skinned” woman evasive about her ethnicity, yet steadfast in her love for her twelve black children. James McBride, journalist, musician and son, explores his mother’s past, as well as his own upbringing and heritage, in a poignant and powerful debut, The Color Of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother.

The son of a black minister and a woman who would not admit she was white, James McBride grew up in “orchestrated chaos” with his eleven siblings in the poor, all-black projects of Red Hook, Brooklyn. “Mommy,” a fiercely protective woman with “dark eyes full of pep and fire,” herded her brood to Manhattan’s free cultural events, sent them off on buses to the best (and mainly Jewish) schools, demanded good grades and commanded respect. As a young man, McBride saw his mother as a source of embarrassment, worry, and confusion–and reached thirty before he began to discover the truth about her early life and long-buried pain.

In The Color of Water, McBride retraces his mother’s footsteps and, through her searing and spirited voice, recreates her remarkable story. The daughter of a failed itinerant Orthodox rabbi, she was born Rachel Shilsky (actually Ruchel Dwara Zylska) in Poland on April 1, 1921. Fleeing pogroms, her family emigrated to America and ultimately settled in Suffolk, Virginia, a small town where anti-Semitism and racial tensions ran high. With candor and immediacy, Ruth describes her parents’ loveless marriage; her fragile, handicapped mother; her cruel, sexually-abusive father; and the rest of the family and life she abandoned.

At seventeen, after fleeing Virginia and settling in New York City, Ruth married a black minister and founded the all-black New Brown Memorial Baptist Church in her Red Hook living room. “God is the color of water,” Ruth McBride taught her children, firmly convinced that life’s blessings and life’s values transcend race. Twice widowed, and continually confronting overwhelming adversity and racism, Ruth’s determination, drive and discipline saw her dozen children through college–and most through graduate school. At age 65, she herself received a degree in social work from Temple University.

Interspersed throughout his mother’s compelling narrative, McBride shares candid recollections of his own experiences as a mixed-race child of poverty, his flirtations with drugs and violence, and his eventual self-realization and professional success. The Color of Water touches readers of all colors as a vivid portrait of growing up, a haunting meditation on race and identity, and a lyrical valentine to a mother from her son. (Courtesy of goodreads.com)

Adult Point of View

I’m appalled with ongoing racism and the only hope I see for change is parents teaching their children to love others. I don’t understand racism. We all have hopes and fears, justice and injustice, happiness and unhappiness. This is the human condition. Some will way this is too general, but I also see vividly how some races have suffered by far worse than mine. Finding justice doesn’t seem possible when you’re fighting against a system that judges you by the color of your skin. Who should judge that one person’s life is not worth as much as another? At the root, I see racism as a way for one individual to try to lift themselves by pushing another lower. It makes as much sense as drinking the ocean.

One of my good friends loaned me her copy of The Color of Water. My family is a combination of different races, and I was interested in McBride’s experience.

By combining his own narrative with sections from his mother’s history, I drew a broader picture of the bubbling pot that created his life. This was a pot he couldn’t see or understand until he wrote this book and learned more about his mother. She pushed her children to become educated. I understand the correlation of education and success – my own family has imprinted this message upon me, and I’ve done the same to my children. How many of society’s ills would be eliminated with a good education?

I believe the author came to understand himself better by writing this story. His mother was haunted by the demons from her childhood. The hardships she endured as a young wife and mother living in poverty didn’t compare to the damage from her youth. She always felt more comfortable in a poor black community even though she was a white immigrant Jew. She was too young to remember immigrating to the United States, but it was a fundamental piece of her family dynamic.

Why was this story on the New York Times bestselling list for two years? Essentially, it’s a coming of age story. We all have to figure out who we are. But if you come from two racial identities, it must be even harder. (Since I am not black, I have to make the distinction of “must be” because it isn’t my experience.) This book is loved by more people than those who reflect a multi-racial background. Would people who are prejudiced benefit from this story? I’m afraid not. People have to want to change.

I feel like our country needs to change for the better. The divide seems to be growing. From this book, I believe that James McBride would want to see us coming together instead of increasing the divide. He describes his extended family as a rainbow. Should color be the factor, deciding who we will like or associate with? It sounds foolish to me to write such a question, but I must because society is still labeling and judging others based on the color of one’s skin.

For my followers, I will warn you there is a fair amount of drug use and sexual triggers – though not graphically detailed. I recommend this book.

4.5 out of 5 star

4 1:2 star

  • Michelle

 

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The Splendor Falls – Do You Love Intrigue?

The Splendor Falls

By Susanna Kearsley

Spoiler Alert!

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Summary

1205 – the town of Chinon is beseiged by enemies of King John, and his young Queen calls upon a trusted servant to conceal her treasured jewels.

Emily Braden is intrigued by the medieval story of Queen Isabelle, and cannot resist when her cousin Harry, a historian, suggests a trip to the white-walled town of Chinon, nestling in France’s Loire Valley. But when Harry vanishes and Emily begins to search for him, she stumbles across another intriguing mystery — a second Isabelle, a chambermaid during the Second World War, who had her own tragedy, and her own treasure to hide.

As Emily explores the ancient town of labyrinthine tunnels, old enmities, and new loves, she finds herself drawn ever closer to the mysterious Isabelles and their long-kept secrets. (Courtesy of goodreads.com)

Adult Point of View

I mostly read children’s fiction to know what is going on in my children’s lives with books. The other books I read are bestsellers and fantasy debut authors, with the intent of drawing out their secrets for success. While listening to a podcast (Writing Excuses), I heard about The Splendour Falls by Susanna Kearsley and grabbed it from the library. It was originally published in 1995. She also has secrets for successful writing.

I opened the pages of this delicious book without even knowing the genre. It opens with a scene from the 1200s and flips to a modernish (no cell phones, which is why I added the -ish) era.

Kearsey is a genius, drawing characters and gently leading the reader on the path she desires. I loved Emily, was bemused by Harry, enchanted with Lucie, uneasy around Niel and the gypsy, and half in love with Paul because of his tender nature.

I had four main questions:

  1. How would the thread with Isabel, King John’s young bride from the 1200s, fit in with the story? She was in so little, and yet, her story was a thread through the tale.
  2. Who would Emily fall in love with? I was as confused as she was. Who should she trust? Or should she shun all of them?
  3. Was Harry alive? Right as I was getting anxious about him not showing up, Emily became worried about her cousin and started searching for him. Was this an accident, or has Kearsley led me on this path of concern as well at that precise moment? I honestly don’t know the answer, but it happens about fifty percent through the novel, right when we needed something to propel us forward.
  4. Who was the murderer? Followed with, and who was murdered? Was there an accidental death? Did I need to worry about Harry? I didn’t know!

I’ll end with saying, I had completely worked out the question to number four. I KNEW who did it, and then I changed my mind and KNEW again. Then I thought, was my first guess right? Oh, dear! Was I wrong three times in a row? How was Kearsley doing this to me? Was it yet another character? So many seem to have tenuous threads leading to them. What is there to do but keep reading?

And so I read, and read, with my heart palpitating with the climax, and happy to wind up the threads to the last word.

What a satisfying novel!

This is what I learned from reading this novel.

  1. I should read more of Kearsley’s books.
  2. Drawing the characters in such a way to have us walk the path with the mc is one great way to write a book.

I definitely recommend this book! It’s on my list of favorites.

5 out of 5 stars

5 star

  • Michelle

If you loved The Splendour Falls, try The Lost Book of the Grail by Charlie Lovett, The Sherlockian by Graham Moore, and Still Waters by Viveca Sten.

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