The Book Review Directory

badge-the-book-review-directoryIn 2015 I joined The Book Review Directory and have since had a steady stream of requests from international authors wanting me to read and review books.

The reviews are now shown below in the year date I read and reviewed them.

If you would like me to read and review your book please contact me on

I do ask for a PDF and if agreeable a small $5 to $10 feed AUD to help prioritise my reading. I do not always charge to review, however, in this crazy 2020 world, it does help. I would send a PayPal invoice, put your book on my immediate reading list, and once reviewed send you the review to approve then post it on Goodreads and my blog and other social media. I understand The Book Review Directory not want authors on their list to charge for reviews, however I appreciate their continued support.

I enjoy reading children, young adults fantasy, science fiction books, children’s and picture books. 

2015 – Unknown Sender by Ryan Lanz

unknown sender coverJessica was swatting for her next exam and she was feeling the pressure.

Her dorm roommate Aubrey, a pretty blonde who barely studied but still passed with A’s and B’s, was getting ready for a party. Her boyfriend Ricky was having the party at his rental house and had invited a friend Chad to be Jessica’s blind date.

After Kevin had disappeared when Jessica had mentioned marriage, she wasn’t sure if she really wanted to meet anyone.

While Aubrey was in the shower Jessica got a weird text from an unknown sender.

[Do you lock your doors at night?]

That was the first of several texts that began to unsettle Jessica. They weren’t coming from Aubrey’s phone, she checked. Besides, Aubrey was in the shower.

They were ready for the party and heading to the car. Jessica knew she would end up being the designated driver as she hardly drank while Aubrey could keep up with the best of them.

Ricky’s rental was luxurious. He pointed out the features of the main bedroom, a fireplace, a balcony and a hot tub. Although embarrassed and objecting to going in the hot tub with strangers, in a borrowed unflattering bikini, Jessica sat there with Aubrey, Ricky and Chad. After an awkward few minutes, while Aubrey had gone to the toilet when she returned, Jessica got out to check her phone.

[Are you having fun?]

[You talk as if you know me.] Jessica messaged.

[How do you know I don’t? Things aren’t always as they seem. You look nice tonight. Purple is a lovely colour on you.]

The unknown sender knew where she was, who she was with, and what she was wearing.Ryan Lanz bio pic

Ricky had left the hot tub so Jessica decided to confront him, sure that it must be him because of the crazy way he looked at her. People were standing around chatting when she shoved Ricky and began shouting. Aubrey came out to see what was happening. They left the party because she was so upset. Jessica explained about the texts in the car on the way home.

The texts kept coming.

[It’s too bad you had to leave early. Were you not having a good time?]

[No, I wasn’t. Not with you harassing me like this.] Jessica replied.

Now at this point as a reader and reviewer, I expected the story to be along the lines of cyberbullying. I’ve read several coming of age stories on this theme. As a mother and Grandmother, I find cyberstalking and bullying pretty confronting.

However, this is a novelette and as Ryan did tell me a horror. So this is where the story took a twisting turn.

Aubrey suggested she and Jessica go away for the weekend to a lake house out of mobile range. So that Jessica could get away from her unknown sender, but could she?

I’ve been a judge of several short story competitions and one thing I look for is a twist that leaves a mark, a lingering memory or haunting thought that makes the story unique. This story does have that twist. Well done Ryan. The cover gives the reader a clue to the tale of Jessica in water, lake water, where she can really be herself.


SOL of the COLISEUM review by Jill Smith

sol-of-the-coliseum-coverAuthors: Adam Gaylord and Jon Guerdrum


This book is set in an alternative universe with some very familiar feeling old Roman style cities and culture filled with both good and evil.

I was hooked from the first page, it really got me in. I worried about Sol and wanted him to win even though the battles in the Coliseum were brutal. The promoters controlled his life and he was destined to die inside the place that he’d only known as his home. The evil in the mercenary Linsk was almost stomach churning. The ending was a gruelling and unexpected escape. I liked that Sol discovered he could hope and find friendship in the awful place. Moreover that he could be a crowd pleaser and incite the crowd to rebel against the oppressive rule of the Empire. I’m sure this will be the start of a series I look forward to reading.adam-gaylord-bio-pic

The book blurb on Goodreads reads:

Deep in the bowels of the Coliseum of the mighty Astrolian Empire, the orphan, Sol, is raised by a makeshift family of guards and fellow slaves to become the most famed Gladiator in all the land. Alongside K’nal, his giant Frorian fighting partner, Sol must battle cunning warriors and fantastic beasts to delight the crowd and stay alive. But when an oppressed populace transforms Sol into a revolutionary folk hero, the Empire sends its most ruthless assassin to put an end to the uprising. Sol’s only chance is to do what no slave has ever done: escape from the Coliseum and the only home he’s ever known.

SOFT ON THE DEVIL by Robert Lampros

Review by Jill Smith©Dec16

soft-on-the-devil-coverIan Phillips is an ordinary kind of guy, at twenty-four he works in the local Earth Way grocery store. He is very keen on promoting good quality merchandise. He works hard and gets a promotion. Things are looking up when he meets Amy and a relationship blooms.

All this is a backdrop to his deep faith, reading the bible daily, and trying to figure out what happened to Cindy Myran, a woman who lived in his apartment block who disappeared. Everyone thinks she’s was dead. Ian wasn’t so sure. She turns up at his place, afraid of being followed and asking for help to get to Bradson City. She was supposed to be dead already. Was this his robert-lamproshallucination? He had to find out more.

This is an unusual tale, all in the first person. I find it difficult to write in the first person. There is always something I want the reader to see what’s in the next person’s point of view. Robert Lampros has pulled this off admirably. I have to say I expected a different outcome but the ending was fitting.

Goodreads bio:

Robert Lampros is an author of Christian poetry, essays, and fiction who lives in St. Louis. He earned a Bachelor’s in English Literature from Washington University in St. Louis. His books include Fits of Tranquility, Afternoon, Last Year’s Resolution, and Undivided Lines.

2017 –

The Gift-Knight’s Quest by Dylan Madeley

Reviewed by Jill Smith

the-gift-knights-quest-coverThe summary of the book gives a clearer picture of the overall story than this reader could gain. I had trouble getting into it.

I found Derek who became the Gift-Knight a restless wanderer and couldn’t like his attitude of indifference to his father and ingrained history of the Free Plains. It all started to make sense over halfway through the book. Chandra, the illegitimate daughter of King Jonnecht the ruler of Kensrik, lived a solitary and unloved life. That is until her spiteful stepmother committed suicide and her father joined his wife in death because of an ancient precedent. This left Kensirk in turmoil.

I’m happy to say I did like Chandra and her loyal followers, Captain Jan and the seamstress Ophelia.

I did find the political manoeuvres by firstly King Jonnecht himself, his barbed tongue dylan-madeley-bio-picwife, and then the former Kings advisers who became Chandra’s enemies plots and schemes left me feeling the world Dylan Madeley had created was a cold one, filled with characters who were full of duplicity. Then, of course, that could be said of the political world we live in today.

The ending came without fanfare. There was a hint of further instalments in the tale. I have hopes that Derek will show more of his true metal in the next book.

There's a Stinky Goblin coverBook Review

By Jill Smith©April 2017

Title: There’s a STINKY GOBIN in the shed

Author: Andrea Kaczmarek

Illustrator: Eva Kunzel

This is a quirky children’s book and I loved the whole concept.

Twin boys Jerry and Jacob are twins, but they don’t look the same. Jerry has curly hair and Jacob has spiky hair. They are different in nature too. Their Gran looks after them a lot because mum is away often. Gran has a shed and they decide it would be the perfect place to have a secret den. Gran is happy for them to use it as long as they clean it up. They set to work and Gran rewards them with a trip to the shops to buy sleeping bags and things including a hammock to make it comfortable. They decide that now they’ve got it set up a walk in the park behind Gran’s house in the middle of the night would be a great adventure. That’s when they meet Hob the smelly green goblin who is hungry all Andrea Kaczmarek profile picthe time, chases things and generally makes a nuisance of himself. They have to get him back to his home. When they finally help the bad mannered and messy guest back home, they think everything has returned to normal, however, they have another surprise coming.

This is a chapter book for middle readers with great illustrations throughout the book by Eva Kunzel. I think Andrea has hit her target audience mark perfectly.

Writing, as I do for children, as part of The Ten Penners, it’s good to read other authors stories for inspiration. I read this as a request by Andrea Kaczmarek through The Book Review Directory, so it is unusual in that it is not an Australian author or book. I’ve now started following Andrea on Goodreads.

Quest Chasers – The Deadly Cavern by Grace LockhavenThomas LockhavenDavid Aretha  

Goodreads review by Jill Smith July 2017

This book starts with a simple fantastic story well told by a student in front of his class.

Quest Chasers -The Deadly Cavern cover

Drew Morris has his audience is spellbound as he describes his life and death struggle, until, the class laugh and dismiss the whole story as fantasy. Only two of members of the class believe the tale could be based in fact.

Eevie and Tommy are inseparable best friends who tell Drew they believe his story. They decide to get proof that the knarled and creepy tree in the local park could really be killing people. They don’t plan on being trapped in a cavern facing menacing obstacles. The dangers they meet are simply horrendous but their devotion to each other overcomes the odds.

The ending is perfect in that their escape should mean an end to the ordeal, but, is it? Clearly, this is the first book in series. This is another surprising book that I wouldn’t normally read but for The Book Review Directory review requests.

This is a well-written polished book. I enjoyed it very much.

2018 – Tummy Rumble Quake


The Goodreads:

Lily and Niko Rabbit’s childcare class learns about the Great ShakeOut™ and about earthquakes. They learn what causes earthquakes and how an earthquake feels like shaking and sounds like a really loud tummy rumble. They practice the three safety steps – drop, cover, and hold on. At the end of the day, they know how to be safe during an earthquake.

My brief Goodreads review:

This is an instructional book for children.

Lily and Niko’s childcare learn what to do in an earthquake. The illustrations are colourful and the characters are animals, rabbits, racoons, foxes and the teacher Ciena is an owl. Children will be engaged when this is read to them by an adult. The message is a serious one and the different scenarios are clearly explained.

Childcare facilities would benefit from reading this to children, particularly if they are in an earthquake-prone area.

Rarity from the Hollow coverBook Review by Jill Smith©Jan18

Title: Rarity from the Hollow

Author: Robert Eggleton

Publisher: Dog Horn Publishing

Lacy Dawn and her best friend Faith play in the cardboard box that had contained her grandmothers’ fridge when it arrived. Her best friend DotCom is making her smart and she’s helping Faith get good grades. They live in a farming backwater in America called the Hollow.

All Lacy Dawn wants is for DotCom to fix her family.

Her father Dwayne is a Gulf War Vet with PTSD which has reduced him to a wreck of a man. He has a name for each of his Switches (whips) and enjoys releasing all his pent-up distress beating up his wife Jenny and Lacy Dawn. Jenny has rotten teeth. They live off the Welfare system because Dwayne doesn’t work the farm much. He spends most of his time trying to fix his wreck of a truck. After switching his wife and daughter he goes to bed crying. His mate Tom down the road supplies his marijuana.Robert Eggelton bio pic

Lacy Dawn talks to the trees and to Faith who is dead now as her father switched her to death with her mum sitting nearby watching.

At this point, I thought the Rarity from the Hollow was Lacy Dawn talking to ghosts. But this book is full of constant surprises. It’s unpredictability it the catalyst for continuing to read. There is a lot of dark humour in this book.

DotCom lives in a cave in a spaceship and he needs to educate Lacy Dawn so that she can fulfil her destiny and save the universe. He helps Lacy Dawn with plug-in lessons and DotCom corrects Dwayne enough to help him stop being so angry. He also takes Jenny and Lacy to his home planet which is a huge shopping mall. Jenny gets new teeth. The Manager of the Mall is the most powerful being in the Universe and DotCom’s boss.

Lacy Dawn gets a team around her to shop and get the best sale prices so they can save the Universe.

I finished this book with the huge hook at the end. It’s not really finished the tale, but this part of the adventure has been completed. I think once you’ve started this madcap journey you’ll want to continue. So watch out for the next book.

Robert Eggleton has written a dark comedy sci-fi fantasy, and I’ve no idea how he could market this. I like unique and this is definitely that. Thanks to Robert’s persistence my file of many review requests from The Book Review Directory had his request three or four times over a couple of years. I’m glad I decided to read it.

This is another of the backlog of book review requests from The Book Review Directory. I’m so glad I had the opportunity to read this book. I do hope Nicholas feels my review is worth the wait. March 2018

Pale Highway coverGabriel Schist wakes up not knowing who he is, or where he is, or why he’s almost naked. He’s afraid and he sees the fear in the eyes of those around him, but he has a brilliant mind, so he uses a technique to help him remember. A sequence of numbers and photos on the wall of all the people he needs to remember, his daughter and the staff.

He finds little solace in the smoking area as it gives him the sound and smell of the sea that he cannot touch. He’s not allowed to go out, even escorted, to the seaside. His daughter visits infrequently and he really does try to concentrate on what she’s saying when she comes.

Beneath the photos on the wall of his room, he has his Nobel Prize for creating the AIDS nicholas conley bio picvirus vaccine. Everyone else at Bright New Day Nursing Centre takes the vaccine, everyone except him. Now his best work is behind him, or is it? The Black Virus has struck the nursing home and many of the patients are being struck down by this terrible disease. He has to find a cure.

His mind may be playing tricks on him but Gabriel comes to listen to the advice of the bugs and his chess-playing friend Vincent. Are they real or not? The leader of the tiny creatures is man-sized Michael who takes him outside to find a clue to the Black Virus. For a brief walk on his crippled legs, he stumbles along after the huge creature. He’s outside, he could be free. He touches the saltwater and savours seeing touching the waves and the sunrise. He has a lab in his room that he’s been given as the Black Virus has become a worldwide epidemic and he’s the only one who realizes what the illness is.

At the beginning of this book, I thought it would be sad. It focuses is on Alzheimer’s disease and how it affects people. The story does expose the feeling of helplessness this illness causes but completes an amazing journey to leave the reader feeling hopeful that the patients can be treated with respect as human beings.

Great cover, great book. I gave it 5 stars on Goodreads.

This is another book I’ve read from The Book Review Directory authors requests. Again I’ve enjoyed reading this YA’s stylebook. March 2018.

At Chalk House the alarm sounds, they have a new arrival. Doctor Nicholas Rose goes to help ease a young girl through Heartsease and into her new life beyond death. She can just remember her name is Clemmie, everything else is confusing. She has temporary amnesia.

Clemmie's War coverShe looks at the man with long hair and the woman with him he calls Aunt Eliza. She is scared. How did she die? The answer to that question is something the doctor hopes to discover.

The twist is that Clemmie’s arrival heralds a change in the history of the alternate dimension she’s arrived in. Doctor Rose explains that he runs a home for dead children. Most of the children at Chalk House had been murdered. They discover that to return their world to its original history they need to find out exactly what happened to Clemmie and if possible prevent it from happening.Rosie Boys logo

Clemmie discovers that Chalk House is full of technology she has never seen in the world she came from. She finds it hard to accept others guiding her life, her new friends are kind and that’s something she doesn’t remember having in her past life. The home is a loving and caring environment for the children and staff alike.

Although, this book is quite long for middle readers, at 468 pages, the unique way Rosie introduces concepts of alternate dimensions, time travel, and the family-friendly environment make the tale a delight.


Book Review by Jill Smith©Jan19far-away-and-further-back-patrick-burns-cover

Title: Far Away and Further Back 

Author: Patrick Burns

This is a collection of anecdotal short stories about one man’s working life and journey around many countries.

patrick burns current pic

His life in business as Human Resources rep for a large company would seem innocuous at first, but, as in all aspects of living, the people around him and the journey he takes to become the person he is in each point in time, is the story.

The memoir is not in chronological order but that enhances the jigsaw frame as each story contributes to the whole picture of who Patrick Burns is and how he faces each stage of life. From being a small boy at a birthday party and being charmed by the host, to enduring family visits with his grandparents who are literally from another age. Having unpleasant interviews in China with a zealous Police Inspector, with a definite, will I get out of here feel. Then the recollections of his early ex-pat days when he moved from England to live in America.

His stories are enchanting and I’m sure he relates his adventures with gusto to those he speaks to. This book is just like a conversation, and one I’m glad I had the opportunity to read.

Carrie's flight coverBook Review by Jill Smith©May19lois wickstrom better bio pic

Title: Carrie’s Flight

Author: Lois Wickstrom

Illustrator: Francie Mion


Being a Grandmother, I could relate to this book, that I truly love. If I downsized and moved, I would love to leave behind boxes of treasures for my granddaughter to touch so she could feel close to me. It would be magical to be able to leave feathers that she could put on and fly to me. These are the dreams we all share that make this book emotive and its beautiful illustrations by Francie Mion, so delightful. I also enjoyed the educational aspect at the end of the book about Starlings. I’m certain that many youngsters are taken to the sky, wearing imagination wings, when they read this book.

Chicken Little Investigates coverBook Review by Jill Smith©May19francie mion bio pic

Title: Chicken Little Investigates

Author: Lois Wickstrom

Illustrator: Francie Mion


A twist on a tale, this book using the same characters in Chicken Little. This time the little chicken investigates and comes up with a name for the discovery of something dropping to the ground. Henny Penny, Ducky Lucky, Goosey Loosey and Turkey Lurkey came up with different names. They all outsmarted Foxy Woxy, who’d lured them into his den. Then they all went to the King to name their discovery. He was wise and did his own experiment and came up with his own name. This is a cute book with lovely illustrations by Francie Mion. I think this is a great modern take on ‘the sky is falling’ original classic, and one young children are sure to enjoy.

Dinopotamus goes to school coverBook Review by Jill Smith©May19

Title: Dinopotamus Goes to School

Author/Illustrator: Lois Wickstrom


This is another cute book by Lois Wickstrom who is also a talented artist.

I can see children enjoying a book about a dinosaur coming to school. The images of the children simply accepting a big red Dinopotamus coming through their schoolroom window and joining in their lessons. The teacher and the other students showing him how to adapt because he couldn’t speak charming. They didn’t want him to be upset when he couldn’t join in. This is a reflection on how youngsters act when meeting something or someone different, they adapt. I liked it.


Sam’s Theory by Sarah Mendivel reviewed by Jill Smith

Sam's Theory COVERSam is running for her life. Crashing through trees and at the point of exhaustion, she comes across a treehouse. Once inside her host, an older woman called Theory allows her to recuperate. Sam is a shattered person inside and out, barely coping with the abusive situation she’s come from. The treehouse becomes her sanctuary. She recovers slowly physically as Theory encourages her to open up emotionally to face her trauma and find a way to face the horror of her upbringing.

The journey is a difficult one. Sam is constantly worried about her abuser finding her to finish the job. She’s also terrified for her sister Nova, she left behind. She’d made a friend in Doger, in her past life. He was as close as a friend could be, and he’s is coming to the mountains where they have arranged to meet. The questions Theory asks start Sam on a journey of self-discovery to find a strength that she didn’t realise she had. Not only does Sam recover but she goes on to be a leader and a healer.

This is an amazing book, full of thought-provoking optimism and life-changing ideas. At first, I couldn’t see how anyone living in such frightening circumstances would be able to survive. I know people do although I couldn’t imagine how. This book takes the reader through the counselling sessions Sam has with Theory. This book shows ways to recover and move forward. Such powerful stuff.Mendivel profile pic

Sarah Mendivel’s background with a master’s level behavioural health interventionist and researcher provides the knowledge of real-life lessons given to abused children. She has devoted her life’s work to advocate for children and teens with trauma backgrounds. Sarah was the founder of the child life publication, Light Spinner Quarterly. She enjoys hiking and motivational speaking and currently resides in the Pacific Northwest. Sam’s Theory is her debut novel.

Sarah has waited patiently for me to do this review. I certainly feel this book is one that leaves a message with the reader. People can recover from trauma’s inflicted by others.

In this Coronavirus world, we all need to focus on the positives. We live on an amazing planet, the place we’re in is unique and precious. We can get through this. – Jill


T C Bartlett picture books are amazing…

MusicTimeTCBARTLETT2018 COVERBook Review by Jill Smith©May2020Tom-Bench-TC Bartlett About web page

Title: It’s Music Time

Author/Illustrator: T.C. Bartlett

This story is told through the intricately crafted illustrations and minimal words.

‘Now don’t dillydally in the woods, young man, or you’ll be late for your music lesson.’

The boy is laden with a drum that is as big as he is. The illustrations are monotone grey he’s walking away from Cooke Home along a path. He looks up at the signpost. To Music Lessons one way and the Woods the other. He stands and ponders which way to go. You guessed it! Climbing and swinging in the trees is fun until something dramatic changes. There are sounds coming towards him and the grey colours are infused with colours. He catches the sounds and colours. Animals are singing! He gets his drum to join in. Then a lion comes along, and his loud note carries the boy away. The lion saves the boy from falling over a cliff. They all dance and sing until they reach the edge of the forest where the world goes grey again. Mr Sticks is not happy the boy arrives at his music lesson late.

I loved these illustrations and the delightful tale of a boy letting his imagination take flight.

We’d all live in a grey world without the joy of music and imagination.

Book Review by Jill Smith©May20

Title: A Dog named Zero and the Apple with no name

Author/Illustrator: T.C. Bartlett

This is a delightful counting book with a twist.

Zero has friends he can count on.

Zero slowly gets closer and closer to the apple with no name.

Once they finally reach it, a Bee named Charlie,

(who was cross with the Scottish Bear named Nine)

for taking honey without permission, arrives.

The bear gets stung on the bee-hind and calamity follows.

The illustrations are as joyous as the story.

I’m sure adults reading this book to their children will laugh at the antics of Zero and his friends.


Book Review by Jill Smith©May20

Title: You Can’t Tickle Me

Author/Illustrator: T.C. Bartlett

There is a Tickle Monster in my house.

My mother doesn’t believe it. My father doesn’t, either.

The boy is searching the house for the tickle monster. He can’t find him anywhere. He hunts high and low. He knows he’s there. When he turns off the light the Tickle Monster taps on the window. He’s not afraid.

Each page is a scene of a room, the lounge, the boy’s bedroom, the dining room, complete with parts of the Tickle Monster peeking out. The boy is not impressed by the monster showing off. I loved that the boy introduces the monster to his parents at the end of the book.

This is a delightful story with detailed illustrations. T.C. Bartlett draws on memories of his childhood toys and he gives a rundown of the toys on each page that he played with.

I can see parents reading the story asking the child ‘where’s the…’ to search the drawings to find that toy. It’s a magical journey for children and fun for the adults sharing the story.

For more about this amazing artist, author and child educator go to his website.

Over The Edge Studios – Picture Book Properties by T. C. Bartlett

Book Review by Jill Smith©Jun20

Title: Earth Angel

Author: Chris H Stevenson

Publisher: Winged Publications

Daryl is a beautiful woman, with an elfin face, in love with a cop. Detective Dean Fowler is a good man who becomes obsessed with his cases. Daryl has been wanting to get married, but it’s been delayed by Dean’s cases.

The current case was driving Dean to the edge of a mental break down. Daryl is having a hard time bringing him back. The Tooth Fairy cases in Riverside County are gruesome and growing in number. There seems to be no connection to the teenage girls’ slaughter other than their deaths. The mystery of how the perpetrator gains access to the girls’ rooms and kills them mercilessly, taking a tooth as a trophy, has stumped the Riverside Police department.

When an attempt to bring some levity to their lives turns into an assault on them both, Daryl and Dean are gravely injured and left to recover from physical and mental scars. Daryl must have an eye transplant which leads to a change in her outlook on life.

There is much more going on, and Daryl and her best friend Abby Fry, share a secret and explore the ramifications of Daryl’s second sight. Will this be a help or a hindrance? Will anyone believe Daryl is seeing spirits? It also changes the way Dean and Daryl view the crimes.

This romantic suspense thriller is a great page-turner. I thought of it as a crime/murder mystery with a supernatural twist.

Book Review by Jill Smith©Aug20

Title: The Drums of Dundurn

Author: Kelly Evans

Publisher: Eska Publishing 2020

This is an engrossing read for young adults. It’s full of history, ghosts, and how to get rid of them.

Minnie MacNab hears the drums, but no one else in her family believes her. Only her friend William, the son of the gardener, believes her. She is the Sir Allan MacNabs youngest daughter and is not supposed to be friends with the staff.

When she starts having dreams at night where she meets a boy about her own age, dressed in skins, with long balck hair braided down his back. She discoveres the boy is a First Nations aboriginal called Miigwaans. When he gives her a feather that comes back to her own room when she wakes up, she knows something strange is happening.
The dreams become nightmares when she sees, hears and smells a soldier, who she sees attack Miigwaans in her dream. Terrified when the soldier strikes out at her and cuts her hand, she doesn’t know what to do. Not until Miigwaans explains to her what she must do to rid her and her family of the dangerous ghost.

Kelly bases the story in a real place and time for the MacNab family. The story is set in 1843 at Dundurn Castle built in Hamilton, Ontario by Sir Allan MacNab, based on ancestral castles in Scotland. Minnie is named after her mother Mary, and her sister Sophia is two years older. Their teacher Mr Thompson lived on the grounds in a cottage Sir Allan provided. Their Aunt lived with them and helped rear them as their mother was unwell. Mrs MacNab later died of consumption (Tuberculosis) when Minnie was twelve.

I enjoyed this page-turning tale and expect children will too. Thanks, Kelly for the opportunity to read and review this book.

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Book Review by Jill Smith©Oct20

Title: Celibate

Author: Maria Giura

Publisher: Apprentice House Press

Maria Giura felt her calling as young as eight. She believed God was calling her to be a nun and that she was supposed to marry Him.

Eighteen years later, she meets thirty-year-old Catholic priest Father Infanzi. Her life for the next ten years is ironically entwined in his as she takes the necessary steps to leave her comfortable working life and pursue her calling. She wants to believe that she and Father Infanzi can be each other’s celibate significant other, but as time goes on, they fail miserably at this.

Celibate is a reflection on the emotional turmoil this relationship caused the author and how it contradicted and collided with, her deep faith and her resolve to become a more spiritual person.

Like me, I think readers will be relieved by the story’s ending, by the satisfaction Giura gains by becoming a writer, making her life whole, and living her life with more of God’s influence. Even though I’m not as deeply religious as Giura, I enjoyed this memoir and could identify with her emotional struggles. I think many other readers will too.

Book Review by Jill Smith©Oct20 Title: Climb

Author: Andrea Cannon Publisher: Brushy Creek Books

I love the cover of this book and what’s inside is pretty great too.

It’s the last week of the school year, Abby has been depressed and upset since her mother died. When she finds a letter from her mother on the bench, she can hardly believe it. The letter tells her that she’s going to Summer Camp called Camp Soaring Eagle and that she arranged it with her father, she can’t say no. Abby doesn’t want to go and she doesn’t want to leave her friend Olivia behind. She has a meltdown, her father says, to someone on the phone. Who would he say that to?

When his dad introduces Diana, a friend he’d met and grief counselling, Abby is not impressed. She trips Diana up accidentally and she strains her ankle. Abby says she’ll go to Summer Camp so she can get away from her dad and his new girlfriend. How bad can it be at Camp?

The pressure to make friends, to climb trees and put up with a teasing jerk of a boy, doesn’t make it start out well. She only has to stay two weeks, but if she wants to she can stay till the end of summer. Will she learn to be courageous and climb trees like her mum did when she was at Camp Soaring Eagle?

Book Review by Jill Smith©Oct20

Title: The Nefarious Necklace, Gaby’s Ghosts Book One

Author: K A Evans

Publisher: Eska Publishing 2020

K A Evans

Gaby and her best friend Jacob are excited about going on a school trip to the museum. He’s quick to remind her that the chocolate chip cookies in the museum café aren’t good for her as she’s type one diabetic. Her insulin pump is a constant reminder. Besides, the totem poles and Chinese statues, they both enjoy going to the museum because of the mummies.

Gaby’s dad is an archaeologist, and she wants to do the same when she gets older. Her uncle works at the museum, so she has fun talking to him about relics too. Her mum is a nurse and often works nights, so she has meals with her uncle and partner. Gaby must be careful not to say the wrong thing about missing her dad, he’s still alive and can call, Jacob misses his dad too but he’s not alive.

At the museum, the class are provided with gloves because they are given the chance to see some treasures firsthand. To hold the ancient artefacts is a real treat even if their teacher Mrs Kerr was giving them a sheet of questions about each object afterwards. After getting to see statues and some jewellery they came to a necklace that Gaby thought was the most beautiful thing she’d ever seen. The tour guide told them it was from ancient Egypt and was over 2000 years old. Jacob didn’t want to hold it the necklace, but when Gaby touched it something strange happened.

Gaby was in a temple. The museum disappeared. She could hear a tune and saw a young girl playing the instrument. She watched fascinated by the scene around her. When she heard a shout across the courtyard she turned around and she was back at the museum education center. Because Gaby fainted her uncle was called to take her home.

That’s when Gaby finds out she has an ability. She can feel and see the people that wore or owned that artefact in ancient times. Gaby knows she needs to find out more. Jacob laughed at her when she told him about her visions. That had hurt. She needed to prove that it was real, that this girl in ancient Egypt had reached out to her for help. Her uncle Eddie and partner Stephen were willing to help, but they didn’t tell her mother.

I love the way Kelly Evans writes lively realistic school scenes, and family living daily lives. This book is the first of a series I’m looking forward to reading. The characters are warm and real, and the family dynamics, friendships, and school bully, all make an intricate woven tapestry that is the backdrop to the series.

Posted on 14/11/2020by jillsmith

Book Review by Jill Smith

Title: Xenia Navarro and the Magic Ants

Authors: Milagros Darling and Lois Wickstrom

Publisher: Dreaming Big Publications

Xenia Navarro and her brother Lucas live with their mother who is a wonderful cook. Even the town Mayor wants her to cook for him. But the family live under a constant threat, her mother and father were never married and although they were born in America and are citizens, their mother isn’t. Xenia must be good at school, but not too good to win awards and get noticed.

In her back yard was a strange rock and ant nests. As a curious child she enjoys watching the ants. She doesn’t like her neighbour Mr Truck who yells at her a lot. One day her mother isn’t at home when she returns after school. She’d been taken away and locked up and was likely to be deported. Now she and her brother must go and live with her aunt Tia Sofia and uncle and their daughter Celeste.

Xenia had told her science teacher about the ants and had decided to make them her science project. How could she do a science project on the ants if she didn’t live in her own home? How would it help get her mother released? What was the mean neighbour Mr Truck doing trying to get the rock from their yard? Who was the strange little man she called Mr Deetkatoo? Why did he want her to make sopapillas her mother makes? Was he a magic man who arrived with the ants?

Tia Sofia didn’t want Xenia to call a lawyer to help with getting her mother freed. She was afraid of being deported herself, they were illegal as well. Even though Xenia and Lucas were born in America that didn’t help her mother. Mrs Miller from the thrift shop helped get them to the lawyer. He couldn’t help much and that made Xenia cry. Mr Deetkatoo did some snooping to help them.

Xenia cried again after the court case and her mother was sent back to Mexico. Mr Deetkatoo had a plan to woo their mother and marry her to allow her to come to America. The problem was that Mr Deetkatoo wasn’t legal either. How would everything turn out right?

This is an entertaining read and one that exposes the terrible circumstances many Mexican Americans face. The helplessness and frustration associated with the constant threat of living under the cloud of deportation is vividly portrayed.

Thanks Lois for offering me the opportunity to read and review this book. – Jill