Category Archives: Reviews & Interviews

Book Review: Emma Bean – by Jean Van Leeuwen

Emma Bean1Book: Emma Bean
Author: Jean Van Leeuwen
Illustrator: Juan Wijngaard
Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers
Date: September 6, 1993
Genre: picture book for ages 3 and up
Pages: 40
Price: can be found at a wide range of prices, from a few cents for used to phenomenal prices for new
My Rating: a book to love for its wonderful story and fabulous illustrations
 
 

The back story: I was studying, taking a course called Writing Children’s Literature. I had a long reading list of children’s books, so I began buying some from the bookstore and borrowing many from the library to read from that list. One day I made a trip to the bookstore and just wandered around lovingly looking at and touching the many, many books, when I came upon this particular one. Emma Bean by Jean Van Leeuwen was the most gorgeous hard cover book I had seen that day … and maybe ever up to then. I stood in a quiet aisle of that bookstore and read the story. Oh my goodness! It so touched my heart it was all I could do to keep from crying right there. In fact, I think I did sniffle a little. Not prepared to buy anything that day I reluctantly put the book back, but a few days later I went to the little shop with a specific purchase in mind and left with my own copy of Emma Bean.

Look at the words of the opening page:  Once there was a rabbit and she had a    girl. The girl’s name was Molly. The rabbit was Emma Bean.

How sweet and inviting is that beginning? This is the most adorable story. Emma Bean was made to be a cuddly toy bunny for a baby, and as the little girl grew Emma Bean got to have lots of experiences – from taste-testing to ‘flying’ (not always the best fun) to going to school.

The illustrations by Juan Wijngaard are fabulous. Rich, colourful, realistic, they help to make the story delightful and memorable.

Emma Bean2

 

 

 

This is the back cover.

If Emma Bean by Jean Van Leeuwen had been available for me to read as a little girl, for sure it would have been one of my most cherished. Even though it was published two decades ago, I highly recommend this book for a child you care about, or for your own bookshelf – like I did. :)

You can find Emma Bean listed on my BUY THE BOOK! page.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings! :)

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Book Review: The Michael Letters: Heaven’s Answer to Screwtape – by Jim Peschke

The Michael Letters, Heaven's Answer to ScrewtapeBook: The Michael Letters: Heaven’s answer to Screwtape
Author: Jim Peschke
Publisher:  Jim Peschke
Date: 2010
Genre: religious fiction
Pages: 142
Price: Kindle under $5; paper under $10
My rating: good attempt at a follow-up to C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters

 

In order for you to make sense of the intent of this book – The Michael Letters: Heaven’s answer to Screwtape – you may first have to read C.S.Lewis’ famous classic The Screwtape Letters. Even having read Lewis’ book I found this one a little hard to ‘get’.

Jim Peschke‘s writing is good – the archangel is writing to a guardian angel whose main focus is on a man who is struggling with his faith. All through the book other people in this man’s life are mentioned, sometimes pulling the focus off the main character, but making connections to his life.

The angels address his conflicts with his mother, his interest in a lady friend – even talking about her being overweight, his problems at work, and his worries about being a charitable person.

There were a few places in what the angels were believing where the author did not line up with Scripture. This may be a matter of interpretation, but if I may give an example: “The Son came to wonder if he could die for mankind’s sin.” This is not quite accurate; Jesus never doubted His mission and godship, although as man he was not welcoming the suffering He knew was coming.

The Michael Letters is an entertaining read, not C.S.Lewis standard but the author claimed to not pretend to write the same as Lewis. He does give a modern reply by angels to what the devil and helper were saying in The Screwtape Letters.

You can find The Michael Letters: Heaven’s answer to Screwtape listed on my BUY THE BOOK! page.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  :)

Book Review: Heaven’s PREY – by Janet Sketchley

Heaven's PreyBook: Heaven’s PREY: A Redemption’s Edge novel
Author: Janet Sketchley
Publisher: Choose NOW Publishing
Date: November 1, 2013
Genre: suspense; regional fiction
Pages: 322
Price: Paperback under $16; Kindle under $4
My rating: hard to read but harder to put down
 

I received a copy of Heaven’s Prey from the author for my honest review.

This was a novel hard for me to read but also hard to put out of mind. I had to know how it ended, and not only in order to write a review.

In Heaven’s Prey by Janet Sketchley we meet Ruth, the main female character who is still mourning the loss of her niece, a young woman who had been brutally attacked and murdered. We meet Tony, Ruth’s husband who refuses to accept the God to Whom his wife prays … for the killer! In a dramatic turn of events we meet the killer, Harry, who had escaped from prison and was not on the west coast of Canada where everyone was looking for him, but in Nova Scotia – on Canada’s east coast.

Mild spoiler alert: On her way home from a prayer meeting Ruth makes a stop at a convenience store. That’s when things get dramatic. In an odd turn of events Harry is there and kidnaps Ruth, not knowing her connection to his last victim (her niece) before he was caught. This traumatic event leads to dramatic change in the lives of Ruth, Tony and Harry.

Janet Sketchley is a strong writer. Heaven’s Prey is well-structured, dramatic, hard to read in places because of content, and keeps the reader interested in knowing if/how Ruth will survive, and what will happen to Harry.

Although this novel is a story of redemption and forgiveness it is definitely not a book for young readers. If you enjoy a good suspense with no foul language, scenes that are on the edge but not graphic, drama that rises and falls and increases again, then this is the book for you.

Heaven’s PREY by Janet Sketchley was a finalist in the 2014 Word Awards in the suspense category.

You can find Heaven’s PREY listed on my BUY THE BOOK! page.

 Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  :)

 

Book Review: Balanced: Finding Center as a Work-at-Home Mom – by Tricia Goyer

BalancedBook: Balanced: Finding Center as a Work-at-Home Mom
Author: Tricia Goyer
Publisher: GoyerInk
Date: December 17, 2013
Genre: women’s non-fiction, family living
Pages: 106
Price: Kindle, $4.97
My Rating: a must-read for all work-at-home moms who feel guilty because they can’t do it all
 
 

If you are a mother with still-at-home children to care for, if you are trying to work at home while caring for your children (this doesn’t mean that caring for your children is not work), if you are super-stressed with trying to do it all and maintain your sanity — this book is for you! Or if you know someone who falls into that category, perhaps even a work-at-home dad, this book should be in her/his hands.

Author Tricia Goyer is a prolific writer having many books to her credit. She doesn’t hide the fact that she lives by her faith in God, and that her writing talent is a gift from Him. If you are worried about “religious” content, don’t be. In a non-preachy way she shares about how to make change happen in your life to help you find balance as you try to handle both children and career.

The following is a list of the eleven chapters in which she shares practical and sound advice, ideas, and suggestions in a conversational, non-clinical manner.

  1. My Story of Finding Balance {And Some Practical Starter Ideas}
  2. How Your Work Benefits from You Being at Home
  3. How My Kids Benefit from My Work-at-Home-Ness
  4. What Does God Have In Mind When He Selects and Shapes a Person?
  5. Working and Serving from Your Core
  6. Becoming the Architect of Your Own Schedule
  7. Successful {Not Stressful} Family Living
  8. I Can’t Tell You How Many Times a Week I’m Asked, “How Do You Do It All?”
  9. Being a Mom and Following Your God-Given Dreams … I Give You Permission
  10. The Freedom of Knowing Yourself
  11. Balance Isn’t the Ultimate Goal – Knowing God Is

Since I seem to like quotes, a few things Tricia Goyer said stood out to me, such as:

  • “Dreams don’t happen if they stay dreams; you have to do something about them.”
  • “When we do the work He’s called us to do, we can trust the outcome to Him.”
  • “I want to live the type of life I can write about.”

I also liked these quotes she mentioned by other people:

  • “I am here to serve; not to show off. I am here to inspire; not to impress. I am here to make a difference; not to make a name.” – mantra of author and speaker Sam Horn when she gets up to speak
  • “When you want what God wants for the reasons God wants it you’re unstoppable … for the glory of God.” – Steven Furtick, pastor at Elevation Church
  • “There are two great days in our lives. The day we were born, and the day we discovered why.” – William Barclay

From my personal position, I found this book is not only for work-at-home moms, but for anyone with legitimate demands on their time and attention as they try to ‘work at home.’ Balanced: Finding Center as a Work-at-Home Mom is worth the short time required to read it, and may help you discover things you didn’t know about yourself.

You can find Balanced: Finding Center as a Work-at-Home Mom listed on my BUY THE BOOK! page.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  :)

Book Review: Devil’s Hump – by Syr Ruus

Devil's Hump
Book: Devil’s Hump
Author: Syr Ruus
Publisher: etc. Press Ltd., Canada
Date: August 2013
Genre: regional fiction
Pages: 148
Price: $20.00
My rating: an amazing tale to satisfy the mind

 

I purchased this book from the author, and what a treat. Syr Ruus has written an amazing tale to satisfy the mind. She believes “one shouldn’t take the time to write what is already on the bookshelf” and – since this approach does not work for everyone – I admire her for daring to be different and succeeding at it. Her writing is compelling. Devil’s Hump is not like any novel I have ever read, which is certainly not a bad thing. It was intriguing and kept me curious and reading.

The story around Devil’s Hump begins in the early 1920’s on a fictional island off Nova Scotia, Canada. (FYI: there are hundreds of small islands off Nova Scotia’s coast so it could be similar to several of them.)

Devil’s Hump is written in five sections, each addressing a pivotal character in the story. Although separated it’s not disjointed because each part relates back to, and interconnects with, the main story in a very interesting way. The reader gets to know each character and to appreciate how they individually saw and understood the events that happened. When reaching the ending to this marvellous story, the reader may wonder ‘what if?’ while at the same time being satisfied with how it wraps up.

Syr Ruus wrote a very interesting and well-constructed novel. Although it is not always advisable to try to write the way people speak because it can get hard to follow, Syr Ruus did this and effectively mastered it, adding so much depth and realism to the story. The dialect helps to shape the characters and brings the reader right into the old General Store to eavesdrop and nod along with the locals eager for the latest gossip and opinion-sharing.

You see, there was a series of dramatic events that occurred – a diphtheria epidemic, deaths, dramatic life-altering decisions, mystery surrounding one particular secluded family, a newcomer, a discovery. No one knows all the details of how it played out, except one person thinks he knows. Most of it. Only the reader is permitted the luxury of that knowledge. It is well worth the read to that end.

Devil’s Hump is sold in a very few Nova Scotia shops and not on the Internet, but it can easily be ordered directly from the author. Please write to her at: syr(at)eastlink(dot)ca

For anyone local who has the chance to attend a book reading, Syr Ruus is reading from her novel, Devil’s Hump, on Tuesday, August 19 at the LaHave Islands Museum Hall on Bells Island (as the novel was inspired by the LaHave Islands) from 3-5 p.m.

If you would like to contact or connect with Syr Ruus through Facebook, she has two locations: Her personal Facebook page is HERE where she uses her full name of Sirje Ruus, and her Author Facebook page is HERE

You can find Devil’s Hump listed on my BUY THE BOOK! page.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  :)

 

Book Review: How to draw Forest Fairies (Step By Step Practical Guide For Beginners) – by Amit Offir

How to Draw the Forest FairiesBook: How to draw Forest Fairies (Step By Step Practical Guide For Beginners)
Author: Amit Offir
Publisher: troubadour
Date: February 22, 2013
Genre: art (beginners), for any age
Pages: 16
Price: Kindle, under $1
My rating: so easy and rewarding!
 
 

I picked up a Kindle copy of How to draw Forest Fairies when it was offered for free, just to see if I could actually draw such complicated-looking images. I was both amazed and delighted with how simple Amit Offir made it. He uses a technique he developed, which he calls “Drawing Easily.”

Amit Offir starts us off with simple lines, adding to it through very easy-to-follow directions. He doesn’t use words to instruct, just pictures. Each page shows how to add to what you have already drawn. The end result is both fun and rewarding.

Not only does Amit Offir teach how to draw fairies in his book by that name, he includes a frog, a spider and its web, a fancy toadstool, and more. It was surprisingly easy to follow his instructions and have an end result that almost exactly matches his!

Renowned artist and illustrator, Amit Offir, offers How to draw Forest Fairies and many other “practical guides” to drawing. Check out this book, especially if you’ve always wanted to draw but thought you never could. He has a whole series of books as simple and fun as this one.

You can learn to draw; you’ll be amazed!

You can find How to draw Forest Fairies listed on my BUY THE BOOK! page.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  :)

Book Review: Audie the Angel and the Aging Plague (The Angel Archives, vol 2) – by Erika Kathryn

The Angel Archives, book 2Book: Audie the Angel and the Aging Plague (The Angel Archives, vol 2)
Author: Erika Kathryn
Publisher: Erika Kathryn
Date: 2013
Genre: MG chapter book, fantasy, adventure
Pages: 186
Price: paper, $9.89; Kindle $6.57
My rating: an ongoing adventure young readers will enjoy
 

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

In Audie the Angel and the Aging Plague, Erika Kathryn continues the story she started in volume one of The Angel Archives. (You can read my review here.) Having just read book one, I had no trouble following the characters, but for someone starting with book two it may be confusing as to who they are. The plot is good but I did wonder if, in places, it is more for an older or advanced reading audience.

As an adult reader who notices typos, wording, and grammar glitches there were things that disturbed me. The story is basically a good one, and the author has an amazing imagination, but she needs better editing to correct grammar and spelling mistakes and a good dictionary and thesaurus to improve her use of words with meanings she intends. 

In this volume of The Angel Archives, Audie (the angel) and Cave (her human friend) join forces with the angel army to save humans from the infection of an aging plague. Once the infected human ages to the point of death they become … something else quite awful.  I will give you the link to my young friend’s review at This Kid Reviews Books so you can get an idea of the story from a member of the intended reading group, but with slight spoilers. 

Again there is action, drama, all manner of interesting creatures, and characters who make the reader care about them. When the story comes to its close a list of questions challenges the reader.

Erika Kathryn ended Audie the Angel and the Aging Plague with a bit of a cliffhanger, the same way she ended volume one, so you know there is another book in process to continue the drama. Young readers will look forward to finding out what happens to Audie and her friends as the adventure progresses.

You can find Audie the Angel and the Aging Plague (The Angel Archives, vol 2) listed on my BUY THE BOOK! page.

Thank you for reading, and … Creative Musings!  :)