Tuesday, May 22, 2018

DIY Mom Blog Book Review of Edelaine's Folly: Book One of the Idoramin Chronicles by Morigan Shaw

Cali is a resourceful, clever girl who lives a carefree farm life in Edelaine with her loving parents Bethal and Erwin. Everything changes when a yet unknown evil unexpectedly swoops in and leaves death and destruction in its wake.

Cali is understandably devastated, but she quickly finds there’s no time to dwell on her losses. She jumps into action and claims her destiny and the family legacy she never knew she had.

Edelaine’s Folly,Book One is a wonderful, action-packed adventure for youngsters as well as adults. I was initially drawn to this book because of the gorgeous, colorful cover and I’m glad I decided to download it. 

The book started ever so slightly slow and I wondered where the author was planning to take the story. However, I realized that this was her way of laying the groundwork for what was to come. I feel it was a clever way to fully introduce readers to the character of Cali and the land of Edelaine. 

As I’ve said many times before in my book reviews, I LOVE books that place female characters in strong, important roles and Edelaine’s Folly definitely does this. This series is an excellent way to encourage young girls to begin reading fantasy books. Although the main protagonist is female, I genuinely feel that boys will enjoy reading this book as well. There’s plenty of action, adventure and strong supporting male characters here too.

This is definitely a series worth getting into and I intend to continue reading on! 

5 of 5 Stars, Susan Barton, DIY Mom Blog

Monday, May 21, 2018

What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan DIY Mom Book Review and Thoughts

On a Sunday afternoon, photographer and single mother Rachel Jenner and her eight year old son Ben leave a wooded area of Bristol Park when Ben asks if he can run ahead. Rachel agrees and that’s the last time she sees Ben. A full-scale search is launched, with DI Jim Clemo as point man. 

When media hounds and a nasty blogger successfully turn public opinion against Rachel, the additional stress adds to the family’s mounting grief. The clock is ticking and as the days fall away, the chances of finding Ben alive sharply decline.

What She Knew is a clever suspense novel, filled with many twists, turns, red herrings and revelations. Long buried secrets are dragged out into the light and formerly trusted friends and family members soon find themselves suspects.

I found Ms. Macmillan’s writing to be engrossing, with several story layers to keep things moving at a brisk pace. The book is 560 pages long, but it goes fast. I was thoroughly immersed in the story from beginning to end and was surprised when I finished the book in little over a day.

I had definite mixed feelings about What She Knew. A few things irked me about this book, not to the point where I wanted to stop reading, yet enough for me to mention them in my review. The first thing was that there was much ado made about Rachel allowing eight year old Ben to “run ahead” of her in the park, but I found this to be a bit thin. It wasn’t as if Ben was a toddler and they were walking through Times Square. Rachel beat herself up repeatedly about that one decision and was made out to be a Bad Mother in the public eye because of it. It just didn’t ring true to me.

The second thing was the ridiculous manner in which DI Clemo confronted Rachel’s sister Nicky about their unusual childhood. Why was he holding Nicky accountable for this when Nicky herself was only nine when the event occurred? She was a child at the time and Clemo’s viciousness seemed way out of line to me.

Then, and I’ve noticed other readers mentioning this, why are all the female characters in books lately so darn dysfunctional? And why are female authors still writing about them in this manner? How about writing about some really strong, fully functioning women? They certainly exist, so authors PLEASE start including them in your books.

Lastly, the revelation of who the abductor was came out of left field. I honestly didn't think readers had the proper background regarding this particular character. I also had to wonder how this person managed to pull off the abduction so quickly and conveniently, given that the tree swing was still literally swinging when Rachel entered the clearing. The ending was a bit contrived in my opinion, yet still satisfactory as far as endings go all the same.

Despite what I considered plot flaws, I’d still recommend reading What She Knew to anyone who enjoys a suspenseful whodunit style of read.

3 of 5 Stars, Review by Susan Barton, DIY Mom Blog

Friday, May 18, 2018

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman DIY Mom's Book Review and Thoughts

Since I’ve recently discovered a fondness for the Harry Potter book series, I’ve made it a goal to search out other fantasy books. I’m not sure I’d call Neil Gaiman a true fantasy author per se, since his books really do seem to run the gamut as far as genre, but his books are definitely… let’s say.. out there. 

I’ve had The Graveyard Book in my Audible library for years. Yes, years, from when I still had an Audible account. I could just never seem to listen to the entire book (or any book) all the way to the end – through no fault of the book at all. I just don’t seem to be able to stay connected when listening to a book. My mind begins to wander and before I know it, I’ve missed several chapters of a book. 

From the little I was able to store in my ADD brain, The Graveyard Book was pretty interesting. So interesting that I decided to go out and purchase it at Half Price Books, only because I couldn’t find it at any of my local libraries. How dare they. So I plunked down 8.99 for a ten year old, less than perfect book because I was that determined to read it. For those interested to know my feelings on Half Price Books, I’m not impressed with their habit of paying consumers pennies on the dollar for their used books, but then selling said books at a premium.

So, back to The Graveyard Book. It’s a story about a baby who narrowly escapes being slaughtered by a mysterious man named Jack. His parents and older sister aren’t so lucky. The baby manages to climb quietly out of his crib and toddle his way to the local graveyard, where Mr. and Mrs. Owens, two of the graveyard's inhabitants, discover him. They decide to “adopt” the boy and name him Nobody, Bod for short. Silas is tasked with Bod’s guardianship because he can come and go from the graveyard, since he’s neither dead nor alive (can you guess what Silas is?). Bod grows up in the graveyard and becomes friends with the dead, is given Freedom of the Cemetery, learns how to Fade, pals around with a witch, and has a brief but unsuccessful stint at school.

Illustrations by Dave McKeon

The Graveyard Book was interesting enough to keep me reading. It’s not long and contains some spooky looking loose sketches that I found fit the book nicely. I had my doubts about the slaughtering-the-family business at the beginning. This is a children’s book after all and I wondered if that might be a bit intense for some youngsters. It certainly isn’t told in a graphic manner and doesn’t go on for too long, but the entire book is fairly dark in subject matter. Just something for parents to be aware of I suppose.

Gaiman gives a nod to Rudyard Kipling at the end of the book and many readers might recognize The Graveyard Book's similarities to Kipling’s Jungle Book. Retellings are always popular and Gaiman has definitely taken the idea and uniquely spun it.

Source: Amazon.com

Gaiman seems to be one of those writers who bounce around when it comes to genres. After reading The Graveyard Book I decided to begin reading American Gods, which is definitely NOT a children’s book. I couldn’t get past the second chapter. I knew early on that the book just wasn’t for me.

I would, however, recommend reading The Graveyard Book and can give it a solid five stars. It’s short and entertaining enough to keep kids and adults interested.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor Oliphant is thirty and lives a regimented and simple, single and solitary life. Every day is the same as the day before for Eleanor and she prefers it that way. She doesn’t socialize at work or outside and spends the weekends listening to radio programs or reading books whose covers have caught her attention at the library, regardless of their subject matter. The only other person she speaks regularly to is her abusive Mummy.

When Eleanor’s computer goes on the fritz, she’s forced to contact Raymond, the firm’s new IT employee, who insists on being chatty and walking her to the bus stop. Unfortunately, elderly Sammy has taken a tumble on the street. Raymond quickly rushes to his aid and convinces reluctant Eleanor to help as well. Despite her need to remain anonymous, Eleanor slowly finds herself drawn to Raymond and his mother, and to Sammy and his large family.

It’s rare that I can zip through a book in a day, but when I do, I know it’s because I’m absolutely in love with it. While there’s some undeniably depressing and tragic subject matter in Eleanor Oliphant, there are many, MANY truly delightful breaks of sunshine and happiness.

I adored Gail Honeyman’s writing. Deadpan, dry, yet highly intelligent humor, to me, is hilarious and there is definitely tons of it here. It’s not often that I literally laugh aloud while reading a book (especially in public) but I did several times while reading this one. Ms. Honeyman’s sense of humor is classic.

The characters are wonderfully genuine and realistically flawed. My heart ached for Eleanor. I know what it’s like to endure abuse and how it can destroy your spirit. Yet I also know that you can’t let that pain consume you, and that it’s okay to trust people again. 

This is touching, quirky and spectacularly splendid reading! I absolutely cannot say enough good things about Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine and I can’t wait for the movie to come out.

5 of 5 Stars, Review by Susan Barton

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Dark is Rising Children’s Fantasy Book Series by Susan Cooper - Mixed Feelings and Reviews

Since becoming immersed in the wonderful world of Harry Potter I’ve found myself searching for similar books to read. Someone mentioned Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series on a Harry Potter Goodreads thread so I decided to try them. I found that I had mixed feelings about the series and wanted to share them with readers.

Naturally, I began with Book One, Over Sea, Under Stone, which is the tale of Simon, Jane and Barney Drew, three siblings on holiday in historic Cornwall with their parents and mysterious Great Uncle Merry. The children discover an ancient map they eventually come to believe leads to a long lost grail, which is said to be one of the keys to fighting the powers of the Dark. The children embark on a perilous journey to save humanity from evil.

I had so much trouble getting into this book that I stopped after seventy-five or so pages. It was slow moving and uninteresting to the point that I thought I was done completely with the series. When I posted my disappointment with the book on Instagram, I was told by a fellow Bookstagrammer that she too had had trouble with Book One, but she advised that I not give up on the series. She suggested I begin again with Book Two, The Dark is Rising, which she assured me was far better. I did and she was right.

The Dark is Rising (which I couldn’t quite understand why Book Two is the namesake of the entire series…In my mind this would have been better suited for the title of Book One) centers around young Will Stanton, who on his eleventh birthday becomes aware that he is the last of the Old Ones – immortal protectors of Good against Dark. With the help and guidance of the original Old One, Merriman Lyon, Will must collect all six of the Circle of Signs – Wood, Bronze, Iron, Fire, Water and Stone – which must be joined together to help him fight the powers of the Dark.

Book Two was incredibly entertaining and compelling – far better than Book One and I’m happy that I listened to the advice of my fellow book lover. I enjoyed the characters, plot and non-stop action in this one. The relationship between Will and Merriman was wonderful. I was so encouraged to keep reading that I went on to Book Three.

Book Three, Greenwitch, brings the characters from Book One and Book Two together. It’s much shorter than the first two installments and I didn’t enjoy it as much as I enjoyed Book Two. Here’s the thing with these books, and I’ve noticed this popping up in reviews – adults seem to enjoy this series, but children aren’t nearly as impressed. Susan Cooper began writing the series in the 1960s and the dialogue and subject matter is definitely dated. I wondered if this could be part of the reason today’s children are finding the series slow and boring (as indicated by some of the “kid” reviews I’ve read). I can only speculate on this of course. 

Ultimately, I would definitely recommend reading the second book in the series – The Dark is Rising. It's the book that the movie The Seeker was based upon. I feel this particular book is written in a way that it can stand alone and you don’t necessarily have to read any of the others. But, of course, if you do enjoy this one as much as I did then reading the other books in the series is a definite option.

Have you read this series? What did you think? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

First Impressions by Debra White Smith Book Review

First Impressions is described as a “Contemporary Retelling of Pride and Prejudice” – A Jane Austen classic. In this version, lawyer Eddi Boswick joins a local theater production of Pride and Prejudice because she’s bored with her life outside of work in small town London, Texas. She’s given the leading role, opposite the town’s most popular, yet pompous bachelor Dave Davidson. Off to a rocky start during an initial stormy (literally) meeting, the two would-be actors skirt around the heart of the matter – their genuine attraction for one another.

I love Jane Austen. I love Pride and Prejudice. I also love most retellings of Austen’s classic novels. This one? Not so much. I found it wordy, cheesy and difficult to get into. I struggled to connect with any of the characters and was not at all a fan of the author’s overly descriptive writing. It was highly predictable, which isn’t necessarily a deal breaker for me – especially when it comes to romance novels.

I’m confused about the duplicate editions of this book. I noticed there is an earlier version of this book – same title and author – that was released in 2004. Nothing about this version says it’s an updated, revised or re-edited edition. I can only assume it’s the same book, released by two different publishers.

There is a clear Christian, faith-based message within this book, which I don’t have a problem with, but some people might. Particularly since there’s no mention of this anywhere in the book description.

I really wanted to like this book, but I honestly could not. Other readers might appreciate it more than I did, but I just didn’t enjoy it. I received a complimentary copy from Bethany House Publishers.

2 of 5 Stars

Friday, May 4, 2018

The Magic of Harry Potter and How I’ve Come to Love the Book Series

I admit that I’m extremely late getting to the Harry Potter Party, but I recently began reading the book series. When Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone came out I was a busy single mom of three young children with a ton of responsibilities and reading just never seemed to fit into the schedule. When the movie was released, I took my youngest son to see it and I was in total awe. Sure, it was long, particularly for children, but it was truly magical.

Now that I have more time to read for my own enjoyment I find myself happily gravitating to children’s books and the Harry Potter series was a natural choice. I decided to read the series, in order of course, and have completed the first two books – the aforementioned Sorcerer’s Stone and The Chamber of Secrets.

Regarding Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone, at first I wasn’t all that impressed with J K Rowling’s writing – that is, the mechanics of her writing. What I do think is she’s an amazing world-builder and that’s what makes this series so phenomenal. Readers become completely engrossed in the magical world of Hogwarts, Magic and Muggles. Sure, there are some glaring plot holes that adult readers might find glaringly obvious, but when we remember that this is a children’s book series these things are easily forgivable. And the author's writing improves tremendously as the series progresses.

There’s no denying that J K Rowling’s success with the Harry Potter series has probably far surpassed anything anyone could have ever imagined. It’s not often that a book is turned into a movie, but an entire book series being spun into a movie series is quite an awesome feat. And let’s not forget that the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios continues to break visitor records year after magical year. A clear indication that there's no short supply of Potterheads in the world. Affection for the series shows no signs of waning anytime soon.

Would I recommend reading the series? Absolutely! The books are fun, fast-paced, non-wordy, and spectacularly glorious. Readers can quickly find themselves immersed in the tales of Harry, Ron, Hermione and the rest of J K Rowling’s characters. If you read for the sheer pleasure of it, then I encourage you to begin the series. If you read the Harry Potter books as a child, I encourage you to revisit as an adult. You’ll be seeing things through an entirely different perspective.