Category Archives: Reviews & Interviews

Book Review: Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl – by Anne Frank

Anne Frank - The Diary of a Young GirlBook: Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl
Author: Anne Frank
Publisher: Listening Library (Audio) 
Date: May 25, 2010)
Genre: Memoir; historical non-fiction
Pages: audio
Price: prices vary according to what format you want
My Rating: raw, real, tragic

I  “read” this book through and enjoyed listening to Selma Blair’s reading of it. Her voice and tone made it believable as that of a young girl.

Anne Frank was a writer, not officially, but a very good one who knew how to express herself well through the written word. Anne shared everything that was going through her teenage mind, all her worries, hopes, frustrations, desires,  fears, imaginings. She was a young girl struggling with her emotions in an abnormal way of living, while trying to be brave and making plans for her uncertain future. Anne’s relating of all she and the seven others in hiding with her had to deal with to survive for over two years in a small space was well recorded in what was, at first, to be a private diary. Of course, it would quickly become a stressful situation for them with many different personalities trying to share together. It was a horrible time for them, never sure they were going to be safe until the end of the war or if they would be found out. Unfortunately, it was the latter.

Imagine living in a few rooms with seven other people, both male and female, and not having a toilet that always worked, not being able to flush or run water or play music after a certain time each day because of the fear of being heard. Imagine outgrowing the clothes you were able to bring with you, or them wearing out, and having to make do because you can’t possibly go out to buy more. Imagine the few people knowing where you are risking their own lives to help you survive. Imagine being able to peek outside but never go out, and living in an attic space in the heat of summer without air conditioning. Imagine your food supply running out or rotting – and eating what you can of it anyway – or there being so little left you have hardly enough for everyone until more can be sneaked to you. Imagine being afraid and suspicious every time you hear a sudden loud noise; hearing bombers flying over; afraid the burglars who, at night are breaking into seemingly empty buildings, will discover you by accident. Imagine … life during a war, having to hide from almost everyone, including friends.

In her diary, Anne Frank expressed her thoughts regarding everything from her annoyances over petty things, to her hatred of her mother, to her sexuality –  graphic descriptions included. That last point makes this unabridged version not as much one for young readers unless approved by parents.

Anne’s diary ended abruptly, as – with no warning – her short life again changed drastically. If you want to know what it was like for Jews (and others) having to be in hiding during World War II, this book gives much detail of life from the inside of that.

You can find Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl on my BUY THE BOOK! page.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  :)


Book Review: You Are Here: Around the World in 92 Minutes – by Chris Hadfield

You Are Here
Book: You Are Here: Around the World 
in 92 Minutes: Photos from the 
International Space Station
Author: Chris Hadfield
Publisher: Random House Canada
Date: October 14, 2014
Genre: Arts and Photography
Pages: 208
Price: Hardcover: US $26; CDN $29.95;
       Kindle: US $13.35; CDN $15.99
My Rating: Sensational, stirring, amazing photography!

This is one of those books that easily qualifies as a coffee table book because you hate to hide it away on a book shelf. The photography in it is truly “out of this world.”

As you may recall, I am a fan of astronaut Chris Hadfield. He is among the very few famous people I greatly admire, so I was thrilled when my nephew gifted me his book, You Are Here: Around the World in 92 Minutes: Photos from the International Space Station. I love it! It is full of the magnificent photos Chris Hadfield took during his last mission – from December 2012 to May 2013 – on the International Space Station. His view of the world from way out there was captured in many amazing shots. Out of the approximately 45,000 photos he took, the ones in this book are some of his favourites, most never seen before.

The book is divided into chapters:

  • Africa
  • Europe
  • Asia
  • Oceania
  • North America
  • South America

Each section gives us a perspective only attained from space combined with Chris Hadfield‘s wonderful way of explaining what we’re seeing. At the end of the book is a photo location map. “Every photo’s page number is pinned to the corresponding location on a world map.”  (quoted from page 194) It is fun to go back and look at the photo that matches up with the number on the map.

You Are Here: Around the World in 92 Minutes: Photos from the International Space Station is such a beautiful book. It’s one I urge you to purchase, if only to get a better grasp of our mysterious and wondrous planet. You will be awed.

You can find You Are Here: Around the World in 92 Minutes: Photos from the International Space Station listed on my BUY THE BOOK! page.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!

Book Review: Audrey (Cow) – by Dan Bar-El

Audrey (Cow)Book: Audrey (Cow)
Author: Dan Bar-El
Illustrator: Tatjana Mai-Wyss
Publisher: Tundra Books
Date: November 11, 2014
Genre: children's fiction; 
action & adventure; animals 
Pages: 240
Price: hardcover $19.99 US, 
$21.99 CDN;
kindle $10.63 US, $11.99 CDN
My Rating: Entertaining, 
wonderfully uniquely told story 
of determination and friendship
in the face of challenges

I received this book from Library Thing in exchange for my honest review.

Audrey (Cow), by Canadian award-winning children’s author Dan Bar-El, is an entertaining children’s book that adults will want an excuse to read.

The first things you will notice about this book is its size, hard cover, and great illustrations. It’s built like a novel with large print, the illustrations by Tatyana Mai-Wyss are delightful  – in colour on the jacket, black and white throughout the book – and its first recommendation is by Doris the deer.  Yes, a deer.

Audrey (Cow).3Interested?  It is an unusual approach and carries the story all the way through.

It seems in real life there was a cow in Ohio that escaped the slaughterhouse in Ohio in 2002. Her experience inspired Dan Bar-El to write the story of Audrey (Cow).

Audrey enjoyed her life on the farm with her mother and many animal friends. The one thing she dreaded was the big truck that would arrive every so often onto which would be loaded a few select cows. They would never return. Everyone knew what happened. Her own mother was taken that way. Audrey was determined to not end up the same way when she was grown and set about to devise a plan of escape, enlisting the help of her animal friends.

Audrey (Cow) is an amusing story told from the viewpoints of the animal characters through interviews. Each has its own individual personality, opinion, and contribution to the escapade. There even are humans unwittingly used to help.

Audrey (Cow) reads like a mild thriller and is a great adventure story. It’s a safe read for children, holds one’s attention, and gives the reader a sense of satisfaction. 

As I said, Audrey (Cow) is an entertaining children’s book that adults will want an excuse to read. No children to read it to? Never mind the excuse; read it anyway!

You can find Audrey (Cow) on my BUY THE BOOK! page.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  :)

Book Review: Not Marked: Finding Hope & Healing After Sexual Abuse – by Mary DeMuth

Not MarkedBook: Not Marked: Finding Hope & 
Healing After Sexual Abuse
Author: Mary DeMuth
Publisher: Uncaged Publishing 
Date: November 25, 2013
Genre: adult, Christian resource, 
Pages: 251
Price: $14.95 Audible; $8.05 Kindle; $10.98 Paperback
My Rating: a raw, honest testimony of personal struggle, 
faith & healing

I received this book in audible  format from the author in exchange for my honest review.

If you, or someone you know, has ever suffered abuse – especially sexual abuse – Not Marked: Finding Hope & Healing After Sexual Abuse should be next on your/their TBR (to be read) list. 

Mary DeMuth tells all in this book. She suffered horrible abuse, including repeated sexual abuse, as a young girl. In this book she bravely tells her story, not for sympathy, not to glamourize anything, not to shock anyone, but to show God’s strength in her weakness and to encourage others that there IS healing after the incurred shame placed on one’s well-being.

Mary DeMuth and her husband, Patrick, narrated the audible version, each telling her story from their standpoint. Patrick met and married Mary long after it all happened, but he learned the hard and emotionally painful way how the abuse left her wounded, distrustful, and shamed. He watched her struggle to find a place of peace and healing for her life. He learned he had to find a way to gently support and encourage her in a  loving way however he could, thereby growing in understanding and compassion himself.

This is a story of survival, a story of hope and healing, a story of learning to trust in the letting go.

If you like to be read to, I encourage you to purchase the audible version of Mary DeMuth‘s Not Marked: Finding Hope & Healing After Sexual Abuse because this book is well worth the listen. You may find it difficult to hear some parts (as I did) because of Mary’s vulnerability and honesty, but if you stay with it you will be glad you did.

NOTE: This book is not for young readers, but parents can use segments of it to warn and advise their children. It can be an opportunity to teach compassion for the many children who have a dark secret of shame, or to encourage one’s children to ask questions when they are unsure about something. 

You can find Not Marked: Finding Hope & Healing After Sexual Abuse on my BUY THE BOOK! page.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  :)

Book Review: I Am Because You Are – by Jacob Lief with Andrea Thompson

Book: I Am Because You Are: how the 
spirit of Ubuntu inspired an 
unlikely friendship and transformed 
a community 
Author: Jacob Lief with Andrea 
Thompson (foreword by Desmond Tutu)
Publisher: Rodale Books
Date: May 12, 2015
Genre: nonfiction; memoir 
Pages: 240; hardcover
Price: $24.99
My rating: an inspiring motivating 
true story

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

If you ever wanted to go to Africa to help the people there, or to work in an organization that contributes, or to commit to financial or prayer support, you will enjoy this book. If you simply enjoy a good true story, give this one your time.

I Am Because You Are is the story of Jacob Lief, who, as a young student, went to Africa during his summer break from university. It was a few years after the end of the apartheid about twenty years ago and the country was still unsettled. However, Jacob had fallen in love with the country during an earlier trip there, and before he returned to the United States this time he’d decided on the purpose for his life. He passionately wanted to make a difference in the lives of the people of Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Once back in the US, his acquaintances expected him to eventually get over the idea, but it had rooted itself in his soul and, instead, he became solidly determined. In his mind, there was no other choice for him.

In I Am Because You Are, Jacob tells an intriguing, moving story of life in South Africa, how he was received as a young white man and why he started the organization known as Ubuntu Education Fund. Ubuntu means “I exist because you exist.” He tells about the challenges, the mistakes, the successes, the pitfalls, the disappointments and the celebrations. He introduces the reader to many of the people he worked with in Port Elizabeth – associates and students. We get to follow the lives of a few of the students, one family in particular, to witness the effectiveness and limitations of Ubuntu.

Jacob admits he made mistakes early on and that he was quick to correct what he could so that the organization he co-founded could continue and grow, evolving into the highly regarded service it is today.

Jacob became well acquainted with Desmond Tutu (who wrote the foreword for I Am Because You Are), the now former President Bill Clinton, and prominent heads of influential companies that donated funding.

In 2010, Jacob Lief was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. In 2012, he was selected as a member of the Clinton Global Initiative advisory board. He lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife and sons, and in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. I Am Because You Are was written with author Andrea Thompson.

I Am Because You Are: how the spirit of Ubuntu inspired an unlikely friendship and transformed a community is an inspiring book.  It may even motivate you to follow your passion, whatever that may be.

You can find I Am Because You Are listed on my BUY THE BOOK! page.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  :)

Book Review: Rainbows in the Dark – by Jan Coates

Rainbows in the DarkBook: Rainbows in the Dark
Author: Jan Coates
Illustrator: Alice Priestley
Publisher: Second Story Press
Date: January 1, 1999
Genre: Picture book ; ages 5-8
Pages: 24
Price: $14.95
My Rating: A touching, inspiring story to thrill all ages

I was delighted to find an author-signed copy of Rainbows in the Dark in a local independent bookstore. Look at the cover, isn’t it beautiful? This is a book I’d heard about but not yet seen, so I was happy to get my hands on it. Having read and reviewed (October 22’11) A Hare in the Elephant’s Trunk by Canadian author Jan Coates, and interviewed her (October 28’11,) I was eager to read this picture book.


This is a wonderful story about the new and different experience of a little girl out shopping with her mother. Abby did not want to shop in the secondhand clothing store and was sullen and bored waiting for her mother – until a woman came in with a dog. Abby told the lady no dogs were allowed in there, and then learned Charlie was a working dog – and the lady, Joanna, was blind.

Joanna enlisted Abby’s help finding things for a special event. In that way Abby observed what it is like to be unable to see. In appreciation for her help, Joanna gave Abby two tickets for a special event. When Abby and her mother attended, what a surprise awaited them! In fact, for Abby there were two surprises – one being a wish come true.  

Rainbows in the Dark is a lovely read, one that will bring awareness to children – and grown-ups, too – of what it is like to be visually impaired. Canadian illustrator Alice Priestley complemented Jan Coates‘ story perfectly, as I hope you will get a chance to see for yourself.  

You can find Rainbows in the Dark listed on my BUY THE BOOK! page.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  :)

Book Review: The Story of Gar – by Syr Ruus

The Story of Gar
Book: The Story of Gar
Author: Syr Ruus
Publisher: etc. Press Ltd., 
Date: 2014
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 166
Price: $20.00
My Rating: A fascinating story 
that's different and sweetly 



I was delighted to be gifted a copy of The Story of Gar by Syr Ruus. Having read both of her first two novels – Lovesongs of Emmanuel Taggart  and  Devil’s Hump – which I have also reviewed here, I was eager to find out what marvellous tale the author had written this time. I was not disappointed. 

The Story of Gar is about a young mother looking for a new home for herself and her three small children, a man who is alone and likes it that way, a family of crows also uprooted from their home. We are given the interesting view of life seen mostly from the perspective of one young crow in particular. At first notion it may seem a curious plot, however, you really should read this book! Syr Ruus has woven a story that pulls the reader in, holds one’s attention, and thrills with her storytelling.

This book is really about relationships and interactions – people with people, people with nature. The young family is needing a new life, and the man  who helps them finds his life changing – for the better – because of them. His gift to them brings a whole new dimension to everyone’s life.

The Story of Gar is a novel that a young person would enjoy. There are a couple of tastefully handled places more for mature readers, small sections that can easily be skipped over and not ruin the story should a parent/guardian prefer the younger reader not read them.

A portion of this novel was awarded the Joyce Barkhouse Award by the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia.

The Story of Gar was shortlisted in the Ken Klonsky Novella Contest (Quattro Books, Toronto.)

If you want to read this book it can be obtained directly from the author. Please write to her at: syr(at)eastlink(dot)ca 

You can find The Story of Gar listed on my BUY THE BOOK! page.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  :)