Review of Open, Shut, by Nonnie Jules

Happy Friday! It’s the last weekday of Spring Break (changed from March by the government), due to COVID. As we deal with a third wave, staying home and writing has become more of a priority than ever.

Today I’m reviewing, Open, Shut, A Short Story, by Nonnie Jules. She is the President and Founder of Rave Reviews Book Club.

What Amazon says:

Darcy Lynn has a few problems: her sister, Lola, killed by a drunk driver, leaves her with an eerie message right before her death; her parents are atheists; her father drinks a little too much, and her brother, Bud, is just annoying. But, her most pressing issue is that things are mysteriously opening and closing around her and she hasn’t a clue as to why…or how.

My Turn:

This story is told from the POV of Darcy Lynn after her sister, Lola, was killed. Too young to remember the horrific details of her sister’s death, years later, Darcy seeks answers from Lola’s diary. What she finds is staggering. Her parents, sworn not to divulge a terrible secret to her younger siblings, by Lola herself, had never revealed the whole truth.

But has Lola really left? Soon after her sister’s death, Darcy Lynn experiences strange phenomena that cannot be explained by science, or her atheist parents. Darcy Lynn begins to question her own beliefs and comes to understand that the visible may not be all there is. Open, Shut is an invitation to consider this possibility.  

Nonnie does a great job in the creation of realistic and ordinary characters, who encounter the extraordinary. There is plenty of growth in all of them, a key ingredient for a great story.

The central message was that good things can come from tragedy. The story flows evenly and logically to towards that end. As a man of faith, I really enjoyed this book. I highly recommend it to anyone who has experienced great loss and for those who struggle with the ‘big picture.’ I’m giving this one, FOUR STARS!

Meet Nonnie Jules and connect with her:

Website Amazon.com Twitter Blog

Review of Born In A Treacherous Time (Book 1 Of 3), by Jacqui Murray

Well, it’s Valentines’ Day weekend, and also one of the coldest months of the year up here, in Canada. It’s as though Mother Nature is either thumbing her nose, enacting vengeance for a serious jilting, or attempting to fire the flames of romance by freezing the body.

If you ask two, ten, a dozen, or hundreds of Canucks, you’ll get as many opinions, or maybe a shrug, followed by, “Dunno,’ sorry.”    

The story for todays’ review takes place where breath doesn’t freeze scarves rigid, nor are toques a staple, even in winter. We’re traveling to pre-historic Africa.

What Amazon says:

Born in the harsh world of East Africa 1.8 million years ago, where hunger, death, and predation are a normal part of daily life, Lucy and her band of early humans struggle to survive. It is a time in history when they are relentlessly annihilated by predators, nature, their own people, and the next iteration of man. To make it worse, Lucy’s band hates her. She is their leader’s new mate and they don’t understand her odd actions, don’t like her strange looks, and don’t trust her past. To survive, she cobbles together an unusual alliance with an orphaned child, a beleaguered protodog who’s lost his pack, and a man who was supposed to be dead.

My Turn:

Jacqui does a great job of instilling a vivid picture of what most certainly was the red in tooth and claw existence, quite literally, of early humans.

The first in a trilogy, a solid foundation is built for the next two books in this series. There is plenty of action, yet I found there were parts that grew too repetitive, and perhaps could have been left out.

I must be honest about the fact some of my personal beliefs about the ‘coming into existence’ of humanity are in conflict with certain views expressed. I’ll not argue them here, nor anywhere, as they are mine. No amount of debate will sway me, nor will I convince those who disagree. I think it’s best to agree to disagree and leave it at that.

Overall, the information presented in this book has been well-researched and conforms to the mainstream view. The main characters are well constructed and there is growth based on experience.

 I believe this novel achieves what it sets out to do. As part of a trilogy, the entire series will need to be taken into account. As of this moment, I’ll give it Four Stars.  

Meet Jacqui:

Bio

Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-18 technology for 30 years both in a traditional classroom and online. She is the editor of a K-12 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum, and author of over a hundred books to integrate technology into education. She is adjunct professor on tech ed topics for the University of California San Diego, Colorado State University, and others. She is a Master Teacher, an Amazon Vine Voice, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics.  She is the author of the tech thrillers, To Hunt a Sub and Twenty-four Days as well as the prehistoric fiction, Man vs. Nature.

She’s best known as Ask a Tech Teacher, curator of the popular blog used by teachers, administrators and homeschoolers around the world. It is the go-to resource for advice, pedagogy, tips and tricks, freebies, help, reviews, and classroom materials in tech ed. She has been quoted in national newspapers such as the Washington Post and appeared in local education-oriented radio programs such as BAM Radio and CoolCat Teacher. Her blog has received many awards from organizations such as Common Sense Media and Ed Anywhere.

Jacqui is the voice behind Structured Learning webinars, providing training to teachers and administrators on tech ed topics like flipped classrooms, digital citizenship, Common Core Standards and tech, how to organize the classroom for tech, and age-appropriate tech to support curriculum and standards.

Her teaching philosophy can be summed up in two words: critical thinking. Start with organic conversations. Make technology authentic and encourage students to take responsibility for their own learning. Instruction is self-paced, differentiated and responsive to student needs. Lessons include Essential Questions, Big Ideas and self-reflection.

Jacqui works with teachers and school districts to integrate technology into their school curriculum and standards, running seminars on using tech tools in the classroom, introducing educators to popular ideas like the flipped classroom, differentiation, setting up the digital classroom, using tech in Common Core and more. She also writes articles and white papers for Districts to be shared on blogs, newsletters, and parent information guides.

Jacqui Murray has a BA in Economics, a BA in Russian, an MBA, and a California teaching credential. Before teaching, she worked in the business world for twenty years. She has a daughter who attended the United States Naval Academy and now serves as an Officer in the Navy doing cybersecurity, and a son who attended UC Irvine and serves as an Army SGT in the Signal Corps. She also has a brilliant Labrador Retriever named Casey—what a character. She spends most of her time teaching, reading, geeking, and writing.

Connect with her and purchase your copy:

My Amazon author page

My Goodreads author page

My LinkedIn profile

My Ask a Tech Teacher Twitter page

My Writer Twitter Page

askatechteacher@gmail.com

Review of Victoria’s War, by Catherine A. Hamilton

Well, the sun has sunk its fiery head below the horizon to close a wintry Sunday. The weekend is almost history, but I want to spin the time dial back into this past weekend, for a moment.

i want to talk about an excellent book I had the opportunity to read these last few days. As you’ve “guessed” from the title, the book in question is Victoria’s War, by Catherine A. Hamilton.

Here’s what Amazon says:

In Victoria’s War, Hamilton gives voice to the courageous Polish women who were kidnapped into the real-life Nazi slave labor operation during WWII. Inspired by true stories, this lost chapter of history won’t soon be forgotten.POLAND, 1939: Nineteen-year-old Victoria Darski is eager to move away to college: her bags are packed and her train ticket is in hand. But instead of boarding a train to the University of Warsaw, she finds her world turned upside down when World War II breaks out. Victoria’s father is sent to a raging battlefront, and the Darski women face the cruelty of the invaders alone. After the unthinkable happens, Victoria is ordered to work in a Nazi sewing factory. When she decides to go to a resistance meeting with her best friend, Sylvia, they are captured by human traffickers targeting Polish teenagers. Sylvia is singled out and sent to work in brothels, and Victoria is transported in a cattle car to Berlin, where she is auctioned off as a slave.GERMANY, 1941: Twenty-year-old Etta Tod is at Mercy Hospital, where she’s about to undergo involuntary sterilization because of the Fuhrer’s mandate to eliminate hereditary deafness. Etta, an artist, silently critiques the propaganda poster on the waiting room wall while her mother tries to convince her she should be glad to get rid of her monthlies. Etta is the daughter of the German shopkeepers who buy Victoria at auction in Berlin.The stories of Victoria and Etta intertwine in the bakery’s attic where Victoria is held the same place where Etta has hidden her anti-Nazi paintings. The two women form a quick and enduring bond. But when they’re caught stealing bread from the bakery and smuggling it to a nearby work camp, everything changes.

My Turn:

Now, I have to admit, I like reading just about everything WWII, but this book was so well crafted and researched, that it had my full attention and left a lasting impression.

Catherine does a fantastic job of creating realistic characters and scenarios. I couldn’t help but feel a range of emotions towards both the prisoners, and some of the helpful Germans, alike. The fate of one character, I won’t spoil it, caused a lump in my throat.

This is not a shoot-em-up, we’re the greatest heroes ever, type of story. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of suspense and action, too.

Victoria’s War is exactly what the title suggests. It’s about the tragic experiences of a young and innocent woman who was forced to grow in self-confidence and courage. I believe that Victoria represents so many that went through those horrific trials.

If you’re queasy, rest easy. The descriptions of the prisoner camps and victims is sprinkled throughout, but just enough to give you an impression of the conditions. There are no excessively gory details.

What I came away with is a new respect for the courage and resilience of the brave men and women who fought against tyranny, in the face of extreme danger and nearly insurmountable odds. Many selfless and self-sacrificing acts of kindness are carried out and warm the heart against the chill of the Nazi regime.

Five Stars!

Meet Catherine:

A native Oregonian of Polish descent, Catherine A. Hamilton spent several years as a freelance writer. Her articles and poems have appeared in The Sarasota Herald Tribune, The Oregonian, The Catholic Sentinel, and The Polish American Journal. She is the author of a chapter, “Katherine Graczyk”; in Forgotten Survivors: Polish Christians Remember the Nazi Occupation. Edited by Richard C. Lukas, pp.31-37, (University Press of Kansas, 2004). Her debut novel, Victoria’s War, is now available: Plain View Press (2020).
Hamilton lives in the Northwest with her husband.

Connect with her and purchase your copy:

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Review of This Last Chance, by D.L. Finn

Have you had the chance to curl up with a good book this Holiday Season? Something to distract you from this topsy-turvy era of COVIDocalypse? Do you enjoy supernatural battles between good and evil? Are your nails trimmed to the point that you cannot bite them any shorter? Yes? Great!

Please scroll down to see if, This Last Chance, by D.L. Finn, pairs nicely with a warm fire and that glass of Cabernet Sauvignon.

By the way, D.L. is also a fantastic poet.

What Amazon says:

Six months after Amber’s sister is brutally murdered, she’s still looking for answers, and now someone is stalking her and no one believes her. Home alone with a powerful snowstorm approaching, Amber is determined to take control of the investigation by hiring a private detective, but her plans are disrupted when she finds herself snowed in with people she may not be able to trust. Meanwhile, Nester the evildwel, whose entire existence has been feeding on fear and pain, is seeking help from the angel who’s protecting Amber. Nester and Amber need answers. Can Amber figure out what’s going on with some subtle help from an angel? Will Nester find what he needs from his enemies? The worlds of good and evil clash, and the outcome will determine not only Amber’s and Nester’s fate but life as they know it.

My Turn:

Unseen forces battle for the future of earth, while unsuspecting humans go about their daily lives. This novel is a unique spin on the classic tale of good versus evil.  

Amber Dodges is a news reporter on the hunt for the killer of her twin sister, Iris. She unknowingly attracts the attention of the evildwels, the angels, and the killer.

Finn has created a strong female protagonist in Amber, who lives, quite literally, by the motto, “Never say die!”

A view of the supernatural and terrestrial worlds, are constantly interchanged throughout this story, providing a chilling premonition that something terrible is about to happen. You may need a few more sips of that Cabernet to ease the nerves.

As the story unfolds, Amber is threatened and grows leery of all, as she tries to determine who is a ‘friend or foe’. This fact is left for the reader to puzzle over, until the climax is reached.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who desires a peek beyond the veil of the spiritual/mortal realms.  Anyone who relishes a decent thriller, without the gore of a typical slasher story, will be appreciate the strong plot and high stakes drama. I’m giving this one a Four-Star rating!

Meet D.L. Finn:

D.L. Finn is an independent California local who encourages everyone to embrace their inner child. She was born and raised in the foggy Bay Area, but in 1990 relocated with her husband, kids, dogs, and cats to the Sierra foothills in Nevada City, CA. She immersed herself in reading all types of books, but especially loved romance, horror, and fantasy. She always treasured creating her own reality on paper. Finally, being surrounded by towering pines, oaks, and cedars, her creativity was nurtured until it bloomed. Her creations vary from children’s books, young adult fantasy, and adult paranormal romance to an autobiography with poetry. She continues on her adventures with an open invitation for her readers to join her.

Connect with D.L. and purchcase your copy:

Twitter:  @dlfinnauthor

Facebook

Instagram

Blog

RWISA Profile

D.L. is a member of Rave Reviews Book Club.

Amazon.com

Silver#writephoto

silver-1

A shoal in a stream of humdrum

Anchored till there’s naught left of me

All else roams free

Waters lap and return downstream

Winds kiss my nape as they blow past

Grain by grain they erode and scar me

I envy those grains, for they’ll travel far

Those lush green hills will never shade me whole

My brethren, so close, yet unreachable

Subject to the same fate, they suffer together

I’m condemned to a solitary demise

In spite of all, I’ve learned to cope

For when darkness falls, and the skies are clear

Starlight guests shine in my watery mirror

Written for Sue Vincent Weekly Write Photo Challenge