Category: book review

Maybelle in Stitches #review

Maybelle in Stitches by Joyce Magnin is the story of Maybelle Kazinki whose husband is serving in World War II. Maybelle is a strong young woman but so unlike her mother – she can not sew. She was the only girl in her seventh grade Home Economics class to sew the zipper in the neck hole of her A-line dress. After her mother dies leaving her alone she finds an unfinished quilt in the attic of the house and she decides that the quilt needs to be finished. She gathers a group of friends to help her fill her loneliness and bring hope to each one of them.

The quilt is a “crazy” quilt made with scraps of material from Maybelle’s mother and grandmother’s childhood. She decides to add Holden’s (her husband) stripes to the quilt. Suddenly life changes quickly when she receives harsh news from overseas. Maybelle’s faith falters and it is the quilting group that help brings back her hope and faith.

Maybelle in Stitches is a wonderful story of faith and friendship. Maybelle’s story was probably quite common during this era and I can imagine how many of these women and families felt alone and scared. It is only through their friendships and faith in God do these women make it through day to day. It is the power and hope in the quilt that helps them keep moving forward until they meet their husbands again. The story was believable, open and honest – I loved every moment. Each character was very real with normal faults and shortcomings. You kept praying for everything to be okay for Maybelle! I had a hard time putting the novel down because I just wanted to know what happened to Maybelle and her Holden

You can find more reviews on the Litfuse blog tour here.

Rating: 4/5

Disclosure: I received a digital copy of this book in order to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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The Queen’s Handmaid by Tracy Higley #review

Betrayal, power, politics and religion. Powerful topics that are examined in the backdrop of the historical time period that brings Cleopatra and Herod in to play in The Queen’s Handmaid by Tracy Higley.

The Queen’s Handmaid takes place in Alexandria, Egypt 39 B.C. and the story of Lydia. Lydia was orphaned at birth and raised as a servant in Cleopatra’s palace. She works hard to please those around her while keeping everyone at arm’s length. She has been rejected and left with a broken heart too many times.

When her mentor dies and entrusts her with the secret writings of the prophet Daniel and charges her to deliver the scrolls to those watching for the promised King of Israel. Lydia must leave the only place she has called home and flee to Jerusalem. Once in the Holy City, she attaches herself to the newly appointed King, Herod, as a handmaid to Queen Mariamme.

Trapped among the scheming women of Herod’s political family – sister, wife and their mothers – and forced to serve in the palace to protect her treasure, Lydia must deliver the scrolls before dark forces warning against the truth destroys all hope of the coming Messiah.

This was an incredibly interesting novel in a very intriguing time period.We have all grown up learning of the powerful political figures during this time period, Cleopatra, Mark Antony, Herod and eventually Jesus Christ. It is with these great figures that this story unfolds and it is extremely interesting to see how each of these figures played a role in the lives of each other. With all the betrayal and mystery in this novel it keeps you turning the page wondering what will happen next! I still find it shocking all of the events in history and how people were treated and Tracy Higley gives an excellent portrayal into life during this time period especially through the role of Lydia. The idea of human life being disposable is still so shocking to me but that is life in those times.

Rating: 4/5

You can find more reviews on The Queen’s Handmaid here. You can purchase a copy of the book here.

Disclosure: I received a digital copy of this book in order to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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The Dolphin Way by Dr. Shimi Kang #Review

Parenting is hard. We always want the best for our children but how do you define what is the best? How do you encourage your children to succeed without pushing too hard?

Dr. Shimi Kang has written for parents The Dolphin Way – A Parent’s Guide to Raising Healthy, Happy and Motivated Kids, Without Turning Into a Tiger.

Dr. Shimi Kang is a Harvard trained child and youth psychiatrist. She is currently in the role of Medical Director for Child and Youth Mental Health Programs in British Columbia. It is within this background that she has developed this guide based on current behaviour research and first hand experience. She is also the  mother of three children and the daughter of immigrant parents so she definitely knows a thing or two!

The Dolphin Way explores the Tiger Parent model and explains (with statistics and real life examples) why this model does not work. She uses the tiger parenting model to illustrate a better parenting approach that follows the intelligent, playful, joyful and social nature of the dolphin. Parents using the dolphin model focus on maintaining balance in the home and in their children’s lives to gently (yet authoritatively) guide them towards lasting health, happiness and success. She encourages parents to trust their intuitions about what is best for our children and that this will help them in turn to obtain the traits needed in today’s modern world : adaptability, community, creativity and critical thinking.

She uses a four part approach and I honestly believe each part is needed to fully understand and appreciate her approach to parenting skills. She breaks down current parenting models (some which I have seen but never knew the names of!) especially Tiger parenting (but also looks at Jellyfish parenting). I had to admit to myself that I have been guilty of both while trying to do what I honestly believe is in the best interest for my children. We live in such a competitive environment that it is important to take a step back and look at the effects of this aggressive and competitive culture that we are fostering especially in our children. She presents all of her findings with some eye opening statistics on child and youth depression, anxiety and suicide. At times I wanted to cry reading these statistics – it is terrifying, shocking and upsetting to see how much our youth is hurting.

On a personal level this book hit close to home. Growing up I was not raised by Tiger parents. They never forced me to participate in sports, excel at school or volunteer. But I was constantly pushing myself. All around me were people telling you what career paths were the best choices for you, what good paying jobs should be, what you had to do in order to get there, what marks you need to get in to school and not to mention supplementary applications that you need! I would get up at six every morning, sometimes have a swim practice, go to school, come home, do some homework, off to soccer or to teach swimming lessons, make it home for nine and then more studying into the wee hours of the morning. It was a vicious cycle. But to my credit I also managed to do a lot too. I achieved fifth place in the Aventis Biotechnology Challenge, I earned my Canada Cord from the Girl Guides of Canada, Citizenship award, Art and Religion awards at school, my average was always above 92%, I taught Red Cross and Lifesaving programs as well as life guarding. I also volunteered twice a week in the hospital and my local church. I also made the choice to move away from my art (my one and true passion) and pursue Kinesiology. I burnt myself out in my first semester of university. I literally broke down, cried and could not continue. Like Dr. Shimi Kang mentions so many times once you achieve the main goal of getting into university all goals are done and you are lost. And this is how I felt.

I have since then graduated, matured and although still have growing pains I have adjusted and have begun to really enjoy life. My only concern now is in how I raise my children. I want them to know I love them, that I support them and want for them to be happy. I do not want them to think I want them to be machines, memorizing every fact and note for school.  But it is the how that I find so difficult. How do you empower them? How do you encourage them to strive to be their personal best without pushing too hard? How do you ensure they will be ready for the real world when what will their world look like in fifteen years from now?

Dr. Shimi Kang breaks down her tools and then hands out “prescriptions” on how to approach parenting – from the simple get more sleep, drink more water to how to talk to our children (using questions versus telling). She gave such clear examples of what may not have been the best approach and the WHY and then goes on to show how that parent could have changed their wording. It actually has me focusing more on the language I am using with my own children and rephrasing sentences to ensure I am supporting and guiding my children instead of lecturing.

The Dolphin Way is an excellent parenting tool to implement in our daily life to help guide our children to be happy and healthy. She focus on adaptability and uses fantastic resources and examples from her own experience to solidify her case. An excellent read through and through. The Dolphin Way is a parenting guide that every home should own. It is essential not only for parents but also for many adults to understand the culture we are being raised in, how it is affecting us and how we can change our own behaviours for our own personal health and well being.

Rating: 5/5

Disclosure: I received a copy of The Dolphin Way in order to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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Raincoast Board Book Bundles #review & #giveaway

It should not come as much of a surprise that we love books in our home!

Books have a special way to take us on an adventure. They teach both adults and children a like important moral and life lessons. Reading together also helps to build bonds between parents and children as well as building language skills.

We received a Raincoast board book bundle that we fell in love with at first sight. In the bundle we found the You Are My Baby collection, A Tree for All Seasons, Daddy Wrong Legs and Peek a Zoo. Each board book is strong and durable with bright colours as well as an unique design. The board book bundle is suited for ages 1-4.

Our favourite out of this collection was the You Are My Baby series that included ocean, farm and garden animals. This series of books pairs a larger board book with a smaller inset book. The larger portion contains the images of the adult animal and the smaller portion has their baby.We were able to turn each page and our youngest was able to learn how to match up the animals based on the images and the sounds they make. We also had a great time making all the accompanying sounds!

A Tree For All Seasons shows the life of a tree in a year. The book is designed to look like a tree and the top part of the tree opens up with each turn of the page. It was a very unique design (my first time seeing a tree shaped book!) with easy words and pictures.

Daddy Wrong Legs will provide lots of comic relief! The book opens in two and allows readers to mix and match Daddy’s legs to the appropriate upper body. We also had fun making silly matches with the legs to the wrong upper body. Even our eldest son got in on this and had fun with the match ups!

In Peek-a-Zoo by Nina Laden readers are able to read the clue, guess the animal and then start all over ago. This book is colourful and full of rhymes. The little windows on each page allowed us to get an even better picture of which animal was waiting for us next.

You can purchase your own copies of these books at Amazon, Indigo and KidsBooks. You can also follow Raincoast books on Facebook and Twitter.

Raincoast Books is offering my Canadian readers the chance to win the book bundle featured in this post! You can enter via the Rafflecopter form below.

GOOD LUCK!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: I received the above mentioned board books in order to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed are my own. 

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Tide and Tempest by Elizabeth Ludwig #review

Murder, love, honour and secrecy. Tide and Tempest by Elizabeth Ludwig has it all!

Tillie McGrath and her fiance leave Ireland dreaming of a better life in America. During the trip over, her fiance falls ill with a severe illness that takes his life. She is left alone in a new world with only memories. Although difficult, Tillie finds new friends at her New York boardinghouse and begins to pursue her dream of opening a home for orphaned children.

In steps, Captain Keondric Morgan, that despite two years having passed that fateful trip still remembers the girl who left his ship heartbroken. When one of his crewmen reveals a secret on his death bed, Keondric learns that this young lady’s fiance was murdered. The captain now knows he must contact her and fill her in on what he knows. His attention to Tillie draws the notice of others as well, the same dangerous men that took her fiance’s life! They believe she has something in her possession that could potentially expose their crimes.

Tide and Tempest by Elizabeth Ludwig was full of adventure and suspense. I literally could not put it down! I had to know what happened next especially with all the great twists! Elizabeth writes so well and gives just enough at each stage of the book to have you craving more!

Tillie’s story was one of forgiveness, selflessness and self discovery. You could not help but love her! After all she suffered through, she still thought of others before herself. You just want to grab her and give her a giant hug and help her for a while. I wanted to see the romance blossom earlier between her and Keondric but the way it developed suited the story perfectly.

Rating: 5/5

Disclosure: I received a digital copy of this book in order to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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