Category Archives: Reviews & Interviews

Book Review: Whose Hands are These? a Community Helper Guessing Book – by Miranda Paul

 

 

 





Book: Whose Hands are These? a Community Helper Guessing Book 
Author: Miranda Paul
Illustrator: Luciana Navarro Powell
Publisher: Millbrook Press
Date: March 1, 2016
Genre: picture book; age 4-9; gr 1-2
Pages: 32
Price: $19.99
My rating: a creative early introduction to careers

Whose Hands are These? is a guessing book written by Miranda Paul. Geared to the younger set of readers, it introduces several careers for them to consider.

As Miranda uses excellent rhyme to tell about each community helper, she lays out clues to describe them, and then allows the reader to guess who she means. The page turn reveals the answer.

The beautiful illustrations in Whose Hands are These? a Community Guessing Book were created by illustrator Luciana Powell. On each page she has perfectly captured the story.

In the back of the book are four pages on which is a description of each community helper mentioned in the story. Beside each paragraph is a lovely illustration. Farmers, cooks, police, scientists, potters, news reporters, mechanics, architects, referees, physicians, teachers. Miranda Paul ends by saying, “Dream big!”

Whose Hands are These? a Community Guessing Book is a beautiful picture book for young children – and older people, too. It’s full of description presented in a fun way with gorgeous illustrations. Very enjoyable.

You can find Whose Hands are These? a Community Guessing Bookwritten by Miranda Paul and illustrated by Luciana Navarro Powell – on my BUY THE BOOK page. I also post my reviews on Goodreads, and when available on Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, and Chapters.Indigo.

Your comments are greatly appreciated by authors, illustrators, and this blogger.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  🙂 

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Books reviews and a giveaway soon to end

Soon your chance to win a suspense novel by Janet Sketchley will pass. Did you put your name into the draw?

These are the books you have the chance to win, well … one of them, anyway. Your choice if your name is drawn.

You can read my review HERE.

 

 

You can read my review HERE.

 

 

You can read my review HERE.

 

 

 

Then you can enter the draw HERE.  Remember to tell us which of her books you would like to receive.

The draw will be on Thursday, November 30 at 9 PM EST when I will choose one name from among the comments. Each person gets one chance. That’s just two days away!  

Janet has the ability, it seems, to pull you right into the story and you want to know what’s going to happen next. Even if you think this is not the genre you would enjoy you might be surprised, or if you are sure it’s not for you I bet you know someone who would love it. Soooo … you can send them over so they can enter the draw.   🙂    Okay, enough persuasion.

On another topic, it snowed this morning. This isn’t the first snow this season but a lot of it stayed on the ground this time. Roads were very slippery this morning, as they always are with the first snows. I can’t deny it any longer. Winter is extending her long cold fingers to make me shiver, just a reminder that winter is coming and in a month it’s officially that season.  Well, on the cheery side of things … spring is only four months away! 

 

 

Are you ready for winter?

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  🙂

 

Interview with Janet Sketchley & a book giveaway!

Today I’m delighted to introduce to you Janet Sketchley, author of the Redemption’s Edge Christian suspense series and the devotional collection, A Year of Tenacity. She’s an Atlantic Canadian writer who loves Jesus and her family, and enjoys reading, worship music, and tea. You can find Janet online at janetsketchley.ca.

Welcome to my interview corner, Janet. Thank you for taking the time to do this. Please tell us a little about yourself.

Well, I don’t think I’m very interesting… that’s why I write about my imaginary friends. I like my life, though, and wouldn’t trade it: I’m blessed with a wonderful husband and three adult sons, I get to live in Nova Scotia, and I love the beauty of nature, especially rivers and the ocean.

I fully understand your love of Nova Scotia’s beauty and the ocean never far from us here.  🙂 When did you first know you wanted to be a writer? Who or what inspired you?

I have memories from childhood of writing some spectacularly bad stories, or at least the openings of stories. My earliest inspiration probably came from the Anne of Green Gables and Black Stallion books.

As a writer, do you do much reading? Who were/are your favourite authors or books or genres?

I read way too much! I’ve gone through phases of different genres, and now I read fairly widely but most enjoy clean or Christian mysteries, science fiction, and fantasy.

Have you ever felt like giving up? When did you finally believe in yourself so you can say “I am a writer”?

I’ve quit a few times ** God always nudges me back to it, and when I’m not writing, there’s a part of me that’s miserable. I think the turning point for me was realizing that I need to write, whether I’m published or not. The freedom to embrace the gift and do what makes me feel alive without needing to show proof of “success” was crucial.

I appreciate what you said as I’m still sorting out how it all fits together for me. Do you have a favourite motto or quote or Bible verse that you try to live by and that helps to keep you going?

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV) says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” That’s my life verse (and it’ll take a lifetime to fully apply it!).

Agreed! What support groups do you have in place that help keep you inspired?

I’m part of a local writers’ group who meet face to face for encouragement and critiquing, plus I’m connected to writers across Canada through The Word Guild and InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship. I’m also a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, despite being Canadian. Interacting with other writers encourages me, and I learn from those with more experience.

Great reminder. What do you remember about the very first time you were published? How did that come about?

I don’t remember much about my very first time in print, with a short article, but I was always excited to receive a printed copy of my submission. Publication of my first novel was a very surreal feeling. After so many rejections, I didn’t know what to do with a “yes.” It was a thrill to receive a box of my books and to actually be able to hold a copy of what had been a dream for so long.

How exciting! What have you had published thus far, and of those what have you most enjoyed writing?

My Redemption’s Edge series is three novels plus a bonus feature book. Each of the novels had parts I enjoyed – those moments when inspiration flows and I type as fast as I can to keep up. Also, this year I released a non-fiction book, A Year of Tenacity: 365 Daily Devotions

Bravo! I like having a daily inspirational reading, so my copy of Tenacity will be arriving soon from Amazon. What process do you go through when writing and perfecting your work?

This is still evolving. I’m becoming more of a plotter, more aware of the underlying structure of fiction and how best to build on it. Not that writing should ever be mechanical, but the better foundation I can lay in the planning and early draft, the stronger the final work will be, and the simpler the rewrites. For me, there will always be rewrites…

What method do you use to keep track of your writing ideas?

I’m a big fan of Microsoft’s OneNote software. It’s like a virtual binder, and it lets me keep track of ideas, links, images… everything that inspires me.

Sounds very convenient. What inspired you to write the Redemption’s Edge novels?

Essentially, I started writing book one, Heaven’s Prey, because it wouldn’t leave me alone and I wanted to get it out of my head. The following books in the series grew from seeds of ideas that stuck with me over the years.

How long did it take you to write each of the three books, approximately? Did you have to do much research for any of them?

From my earliest notes to the actual publication of Heaven’s Prey was almost 20 years. A lot of that was rewriting again and again, plus writing a few drafts of book two, Secrets and Lies. Book three, Without Proof, took about a year, and I would like to have had longer with it. I’m not fast at this. Each one took some research, most of which I was able to do online. Sometimes that had me wondering if I’d trigger some government agency to come check on me! I’d been a Formula One racing fan for years, so I’d already absorbed most of the racing information I needed for Heaven’s Prey.

Wow! Twenty years! It certainly paid off as Heaven’s Prey is a gripping story. I’m glad you still have your freedom after Without Proof. 😉 Did you find any of the stories difficult to write, or more so than the others? If so, how did you stick with it and why?

Heaven’s Prey was definitely the hardest. As I said, this one came to me, I didn’t go looking for it. One of the challenges in each rewrite was to deepen the hard places where I wanted to stay on the surface. I had to be true to the characters and their story without traumatizing the reader. It’s still too much for the most sensitive, although other readers tell me it’s not as dark as I say it is. This sounds crazy, but I stuck with it for the characters. I said as long as I could learn how to make their story better, I’d do it for them. That’s why I kept going back to the story even after taking a break to write the next one. If writing a novel is a form of birth, this one definitely had the longest gestation.

I find it amazing how characters we write seem to take on a life of their own and have to be heard. Heaven’s Prey is the hardest one of the three to read, but it’s worth staying with until the end. How did you go about finding a publisher? an editor? and do you have an agent?

I’ve attended the Write Canada conference for many years, and connected with my agent there. I received a couple of invitations to submit my manuscripts that way, too, although the timing (and quality!) wasn’t right. My agent and I had pretty much lost hope when I heard about a new start-up publisher in the US. I submitted my proposal with my agent’s approval, and was shocked to be accepted. The second shock was working through the editorial process and discovering how much work still needed to be done. The third was my publisher closing its fiction line, and my taking the plunge into indie publishing.

Good for you for your determination and passion! Please tell us, what honours your books have received thus far.

I’m pleased that each of the novels has been short-listed for The Word Awards in the suspense category. They didn’t win, but being a finalist is an affirmation in its own right.

Congratulations for the recognition. How do you consistently write? Do you have writing goals .. daily? weekly? monthly? long-range?

This past year, I’ve been terrible at this. I do have writing goals, but have not been meeting them. Consistent, daily writing time with a solid, three-hour chunk of focus is what I need to regain.

What other interests do you have for a change from writing?

I’ve already confessed that I read too much. A special, relaxing treat is to spend time cross-stitching or knitting, often with my favourite music playing. Less relaxing but important to my health is exercise. I run twice a week, and join my husband for a couple of gym classes as well. This is not my idea of fun, but writing is sedentary and I was developing some aches and creaks.

Oh, do I hear ya regarding those aches and creaks! I get so involved in what I’m doing I forget to get up and walk around, and then I pay for it. Do you have other projects in the works? If so, can you give our readers any hints?

Fiction-wise, I’m working on a new series, the Green Dory Inn Mysteries set just outside of Lunenburg, NS. It starts with a novella that will release in the new year, followed by a full-length novel I’m writing now.

Sounds interesting! Is being a writer/author all you had hoped or thought it would be?

It’s different than I imagined when I started writing seriously as an adult, but by the time my novels were published, I’d spent enough time around more advanced writers to know they’re still human like the rest of us. It’s not glamorous or exciting, it’s long hours slogging to craft the best story we can, while balancing life’s regular responsibilities. It’s definitely not making me rich. But those moments when I hear from a reader that something has made a difference in her life? Those are priceless.

The balancing act is its own challenge, I think. Do you have any advice for hopefuls?

Involve yourself in a writers’ group with people farther ahead of you on the journey. That can be in person, but it can also be online. Listen to them and learn what to expect. Keep writing, every day if possible. Little bits add up. Give yourself permission to enjoy the process, because it’s a long one. Strive for excellence, but don’t let that paralyze you. If you can, attend a conference. It’s amazing the difference to your mindset, just being around other writers and learning with them. And like any other dream, don’t let it own you. You are more than this one aspect of who you want to be. Don’t miss the rest of life while working toward the dream.

What excellent advice, Janet, and helpful to me. Thank you! This has been a wonderful interview; I’m impressed with your … tenacity.

I’ve enjoyed all the books in your Redemption’s Edge series, and now we get to the fun stuff … the offer of one of your books to one of our readers! 

 

 

 

Readers, and writers who read 🙂 – check out my reviews of the above three books by Janet:  Heaven’s Prey   Secrets & Lies    Without Proof

Janet is giving you the chance to win one of her novels depicted above — winner’s choice. One person will win a print copy if you are within Canada or continental US, or an ebook if you are elsewhere in the world. How cool is that!

If you’d like a chance to win one of the three suspense novels shown above, simply leave a comment about anything that stood out to you in the interview, and also say which book would be your choice should you be the fortunate winner. Using random name picker I’ll be selecting one name at 9:00 PM EST on November 30, so you have a little over a week as of this posting. If your name is chosen you’ll receive an email in which I’ll ask for your information so a book can be sent to you.

And PLEASE … PASS THE WORD ALONG!

Janet’s writing is professional and enjoyable to read. You can go to Amazon (.com or .ca) to find all her books mentioned in this interview. Just type “Janet Sketchley” into their search bar to see them all.

Remember, you only have until November 30 to enter the draw, and please send your friends this way.  🙂 

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  🙂 

Book Review: Secrets & Lies – by Janet Sketchley

 

 

 

 

 

Book: Secret & Lies: a Redemption's Edge novel, book 2
Author: Janet Sketchley
Publisher: Janet Sketchley
Date: October 23, 2014
Genre: Christian suspense, fiction 
Pages: 320
Price: $13.99
My rating: a suspense-filled story of redemption and trust

 

Today being my birthday, I think a review of an adult book is a good idea, along with upcoming news for you. 🙂

This novel, Secrets & Lies, is book 2 in the Redemption’s Edge series by Canadian author Janet Sketchley.

I didn’t obtain the three books in order of publication so didn’t review them in order, but if you want to read my reviews in order you can find book 1, Heaven’s Prey HERE, and book 3, Without Proof HERE.

Even though Secrets & Lies is book 2 of the series, the author gives enough details so that if readers have not read book 1 they aren’t feeling adrift not knowing how the characters connect. Janet Sketchley did an excellent job of writing a novel that sits comfortably in the middle of the trio, and that can also stand alone.

After her teenage son dies from a drug overdose and her husband leaves, Carol and her other son move from Calgary in western Canada to start a new life farther east in Toronto. Her brother is in prison for murder and she wants to have nothing to do with him. Thinking she has found a safe place for herself and her son, Carol is shaken when a detective arrives at her apartment to give her a warning from her brother. When she receives a threatening phone call, someone who believes she knows where her brother hid stolen money, she turns to the friendship she has with a late night radio deejay.

There are drug lords, concerned neighbours, a break-in, a love interest, a friend with his own dark secret, her son’s Christian girlfriend, and more – all complicating Carol’s life. She is sure she can’t ask God for help.

Secrets & Lies is well plotted, planned and presented.  Janet Sketchley is a skilled author who weaves situations of drama, romance, and suspense into a believable story. Although it has a Christian thread running through it, it is not religiously heavy-handed at all.

Watch next week for my interview with Janet and your chance to win a copy of one of her Redemption’s Edge novels!

You can find Secrets & Lies: a Redemption’s Edge novelwritten by Janet Sketchley – on my BUY THE BOOK page. I also post my reviews on Goodreads, and when available on Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, and Chapters.Indigo.

Your comments are greatly appreciated by featured authors and illustrators, and this blogger.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  🙂

Book Review: Kindergarten ROCKS! – by Katie Davis

 

 

 

 


Title: Kindergarten ROCKS!
Author/Illustrator: Katie Davis
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Date: June 1, 2008
Genre: picture book; age 4-7; Preschool - 3
Pages: 32
Price: hardcover: $16-$23; paperback: $8 - $10.40
My rating: enjoyable, entertaining, encouraging for children

Kindergarten ROCKS! by Katie Davis addresses the fear of many children setting off on that first day of school – the anxiety, the worry, the imagined worst-case-scenarios. Dexter has them all.

Dexter is a little boy soon to start kindergarten. Dexter knows all about kindergarten because his older sister Jessica, who is going into grade 3, told him about it. Even so, he’s nervous about it, or rather … his toy blue dog Rufus is worried about it. Jessica encourages her brother not to worry because – kindergarten rocks! Dexter keeps trying to convince himself it’ll be fine, but he takes Rufus along for moral support.

The colourful illustrations – created by the author illustrator, Katie Davis – contribute to the humour of the story. Example: “When we finally got to school, I couldn’t wait to see my classroom.” The illustrations belie what Dexter is saying because in that scene Jessica is pulling Dexter who is strongly resisting.

Much to Dexter’s relief, he discovers he has a friend from pre-school in his class and he soon forgets to be anxious. There are so many fun things to do that Dexter even forgets where he left Rufus. Then he’s worried for a totally other reason and a search ensues.

Told mostly by Dexter himself, Kindergarten ROCKS! is a story young readers and pre-readers will really enjoy. The illustrations fit well with the words to add to the humour and show the child’s angst which is quickly resolved. The images are bright, bold, uncomplicated, and look as if they were created through the use of Crayola crayons which are depicted on one page. And who doesn’t love using Crayolas?

Kindergarten ROCKS! written and illustrated by Katie Davis is a must read book for young children and the adults who read to them. It’s fun, bright, and reassuring.

You can find Kindergarten ROCKS!written and illustrated by Katie Davison my BUY THE BOOK page. I also post my reviews on Goodreads, and when available on Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, and Chapters.Indigo.

Your comments are greatly appreciated by authors, illustrators, and this blogger.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  🙂 

Book Review: Love, Triangle – by Marcie Colleen

 

 

 

 

 

Title: Love, Triangle
Author: Marcie Colleen
Illustrator: Bob Shea
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Date: October 3, 2017
Genre: children's picture book; age 4-8 
Pages: 32
Price: $21.99
My rating: delightfully fun & educational at the same time

Love, Triangle by Marcie Colleen makes geometry fun – and it’s not even a math book! Or is it – in disguise?

Marcie Colleen introduces geometry to young readers through her lively characters – Circle, Square, and Triangle. Circle and Square had been friends “ever since they were a dot and a speck.” (Isn’t that a great line?) They were practically inseparable, the best of friends, and appreciated one another for their differences.

Circle and Square’s friendship took on an uncomfortable dimension when Triangle came along. They both wanted Triangle as their own friend and soon their friendship is in danger of collapse. In fighting over Triangle they cause a new problem for Triangle when he attempts to find a way to patch up the friendship between Circle and Square – which is illustrated with humour and play on words.

Marcie Colleen‘s use of language in Love, Triangle is easy and clever. The illustrations by Bob Shea are “spot-on”, amusing and visual of the geometric situations created through the text. His illustrations show geometric shapes for children to discover, and, combined with the text, makes this a wonderful book for classrooms. In fact, because of the benefits (simple geometry, word play, friendship, cooperation, and more) found in this book, Marcie is offering a free cross-curricular guide for teachers HERE.

Children and students are sure to love Love, Triangle by Marcie Colleen.

You can find Love, Triangle – written by Marcie Colleen and illustrated by Bob Shea – on my BUY THE BOOK page. I also post my reviews on Goodreads, and when available on Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, and Chapters.Indigo.

Your comments are greatly appreciated by authors, illustrators, and this blogger.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  🙂

Book Review: Saving Thunder the Great: the true story – by Leanne Shirtliffe

 

 

 

 


Title: Saving Thunder the Great: the true story of a gerbil's 
rescue from the Fort McMurray wildfire
Author: Leanne Shirtliffe
Illustrator: Georgia Graham
Publisher: Boulder Publications
Date: November 2, 2016
Genre: nonfiction picture book; ages 4-8
Pages: 32, hardcover
Price: $21.95
My rating: A child-friendly telling of a traumatic true event 

Saving Thunder the Great: a true story of a gerbil’s rescue from the Fort McMurray wildfire, written by Leanne Shirtliffe is a story children will enjoy reading.

It was May 1, 2016, when a fire started outside the northern city of Fort McMurray in Alberta, Canada.

Jackson was visiting his grandparents in Newfoundland, the farthest eastern province of Canada, and had left his pet gerbil – Thunder the Great – in the care of his mother in Fort McMurray. His mother, Julie, was a young woman working nightshifts, trying to support herself and her son.

On the afternoon of May 3 Julie was wakened by a friend urgently telling her they had to get out of there, the wildfire was spreading so that all 88,000 residents of Fort McMurray had to be evacuated immediately. The fire was moving so quickly she had time only to throw some clothes into a suitcase, grab the gerbil in his cage, and head her car – low on gas – out of the city.

It was a terrifying experience. Along the way Julie stopped to pick up a few people who were walking in the choking smoke and let them out where they needed to go. Julie is the person who took a photo of a woman, Karley, riding her horse and leading her two others to get them out safely. That photo went “viral.” Georgia Graham‘s illustrations makes the reader feel the urgency.

The Fort McMurray wildfires were very dangerous and destructive. Author Leanne Shirtliffe, talked with Julie several times to get her personal story of the events, and through Saving Thunder the Great: the true story of a gerbil’s rescue from the Fort McMurray wildfire, her story is told on a level suitable for children to read while not ignoring the real-life drama. 

Although the beautiful illustrations by Georgia Graham show how close the fire was to the thousands of people escaping to save their lives, they do not make this book too scary for young readers. Her work is impressive and realistic.

In the back of the book you’ll find two pages of Author’s Notes about Fort McMurray and Julie, who is referred to as Mama through the story. Also, in case you read the publisher’s information on the last page and wonder about it … when I inquired about Saving Thunder the Great: the true story of a gerbil’s rescue from the Fort McMurray wildfire being listed as a fiction I was informed by the publisher “The book is non-fiction; the cataloguing citation is an error.”

You can find Saving Thunder the Great: the true story of a gerbil’s rescue from the Fort McMurray wildfire by Leanne Shirtliffe on my BUY THE BOOK page. I also post my reviews on Goodreads, and when available on Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, and Chapters.Indigo.

Your comments are greatly appreciated by authors, illustrators, and this blogger.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  🙂