Blessed Among Us

BlessedAmongUs.jpgBlessed Among Us is a collection of short biographies (3 paragraphs at most) of individuals who, through their lives, exemplified virtues such as service to others, humility, courage, compassion, etc. Written by Robert Eslberg for the Give Us This Day monthly publication, they were eventually compiled into a book.

This book covers people from all walks of life. While this book predominantly focuses on the lives of Catholic Saints and Catholic individuals, it does not limit the biographies to solely Catholics, featuring biographies of individuals like Martin Luther King Jr., Anne Frank, Fred Rogers, and Mohandas Gandhi to name a few. The purpose of this book is not to promote one denomination as superior, but to show how individual lives can change the world simply by making selfless choices.

Often times, when I read stories about people from history, religious or not, I do not feel as if I can relate to them. Their deeds are far beyond anything I believe I am capable of or their experiences are not comparable to my life. I find it discouraging – how can I ever hope to make a difference when I’m not special or talented or gifted?

This is one of the reasons why I enjoy Blessed Among Us so much. While some of the individuals featured are naturally gifted, extremely brave or devout, or make some extraordinary discovery, many of those featured are simply “normal” (at least by my standards). They didn’t discover a cure or save somebody’s life; they just lived – lived a life doing what they could with what they had to make the world a better place.

Secrets of the Bloody Tower

GhostersSecrets of the Bloody Tower is the third book in the Ghosters series written by Diana Corbitt. This book finds Kerry, Theresa, and Joey in Kerry’s home country of England. What are they doing there? Visiting Kerry’s family of course! And ghost hunting!

While Theresa and Joey’s dad goes on a two-week book tour in England, Theresa and Joey are invited to stay with Kerry at her grandmother’s house. Unfortunately, an illness puts Kerry’s grandmother in the hospital, so the three kids are left to explore England alone. During their tour of the Tower of London, they meet the ghosts of two young boys who implore the trio to find their bones and give them a proper burial. Thus, Theresa, Joey, and Kerry traverse the streets of London in search of the missing bones, meeting many other ghosts and making important ghost hunting discoveries along the way.

My favorite character in this book is still Joey. I like how he is treated as a valuable member of the team despite having Asperger’s. I know I’ve said it before, but so often characters with special needs are relegated to the background, or their importance isn’t realized by other characters until the conclusion of the story. One thing I really like about Joey is his perseverance and courage. He knows certain things are difficult for him like making eye contact or being touched, but instead of avoiding those things, he works hard to push through the uncomfortable feelings he experiences when making eye contact or being touched.

While Joey is my favorite character, I still like the other characters as well. I find Theresa and Kerry to be respectful of the adults in their life and considerate of those around them. They eagerly pitch in and help Kerry’s aunt, who checks in on them periodically while Kerry’s grandmother is in the hospital. Like all children, Kerry, Theresa, and Joey aren’t perfect, but overall, they are good kids.

It may sound weird to talk about the behavior of the characters especially when it is not central to the story, but these little traits – being considerate, respectful, responsible, courageous, and imperfect – are what make these children a positive role model for young readers.

As with Ms. Corbitt’s other books, Secrets of the Bloody Tower is well written and interspersed with humor, mostly in Joey’s attempts to use common idioms. Some parents may want to know that this book delves a bit more into the spirit world with the trio attempting to hold a séance and visiting a Wican store to purchase an ovilus. It is by no means dark like the Harry Potter books, but some parents might not be comfortable with those references.

Overall, this is another solid book by Ms. Corbitt that is sure to be enjoyed by children (or adults) who enjoy ghost stories or a good scare.

*I was provided with Ghosters free of charge in exchange for my review of it. I received no monetary compensation, only the privilege and enjoyment that comes with reading a well-written story.

The Beginning, Book 1, Part 1

The Beginning BOok One.jpg

The Beginning, Book 1, Part 1 of the McKinnon Legends, by Ranay James tells the story of a duchess named Morgan Pembridge who escapes her abusive uncle. Disguised as a boy, she encounters a night named Nick McKinnon, and together they flee her uncle.

It is hard to give much more of a synopsis without giving away the plot, but I’m sure if I tell you that this feels more like a romance story than a time-travel story (which is what it claims to be), you can figure it out.

Honestly, I think this is one of the hardest reviews I’ve written. It’s very easy to write reviews when you obviously love something or obviously hate it. This book was sort of in the middle. The story was not strong, but was promising. I didn’t want to put it down . . . until the last 1.5 hours (I listened to the audio book). In that last 1.5 hours, I found myself rolling my eyes and saying “Oh, come on! We are really going to do this again?!” (Imagine a tone of sarcasm and exasperation as you read that sentence.)

It is hard to justify why I believe events in the story were unrealistic and drawn out without actually giving away spoilers. So, you will either have to trust me, or read the book yourself. 🙂

If you want a very thorough review, you can check out Hayat’s review on Goodreads. Please note, that my review is only of Part 1. Apparently, parts 1 & 2 were published as separate books but have since been combined into one book. Hayat’s review is of part 1 and 2.

Also, I will say this book is probably PG-15 for some sexual references. Not enough to warrant my “sensitive reader alert” but enough to caution parents about letting their teens read it. 

P.S. And no, if you are wondering, I will not continue to read this series.

The Corundum Conundrum by J. Kevin Earp

Screen Shot 2019-10-12 at 10.58.16 PMAnother solid book by J. Kevin Earp! In fact, the ending of this one even surprised me. As I cannot say much without giving away spoilers, I will just have to leave it at that.

I will note that characters with minor roles in the first book are given larger roles in this one, playing with the idea of mercy, forgiveness, and healing after trauma.

P.S. For those of you who enjoy clean books written for adults, you might consider giving it a try.

*I am related to the author and was provided with a copy of The Corundum Conundrum (Marcus Lear Mysteries Book 2) free of charge in exchange for my review. I received no monetary compensation.

Plague of Shadows by Michael Wisehart

PlagueofShadowsHow long do I have to wait for the next one?

I can say with certainty that I enjoyed this book far more than the first one, probably because there is significantly less torture. (The torture in the first book made me squeamish.)

In the last book, my favorite storylines were ones involving Ty and the Weilder Council, but in this book, I really enjoyed Ferrin, Rae, and Ayrion’s storylines.

I will say from a reader’s standpoint, the book could have benefited from a synopsis of the first book, The White Tower, along with a character list and short bio of each. It has been a long time since the first book was released (approx. 3 years), and I’d forgotten some major plot details and supporting characters, some of whom have a larger role in this book. After reading 12 chapters of Plague of Shadows, I decided to re-listen to the first book to refresh my memory. Once I did that, I was able to truly enjoy Plaque of Shadows.

In conclusion, this series is still in my top-10 list and is definitely worth reading. (I’m even thinking about buying the audio version. Tim Gerard Reynolds is an AMAZING narrator!) But, if you have not read The White Tower recently, you will want to do so before starting this book (unless you are one of the lucky few with a photographic memory).

I received an advance copy of “Plaque of Shadows” by Michael Wisehart in exchange for a review.