Junior/Teen Read: Ark Angel by Anthony Horowitz

At the end of book five in the Alex Rider adventure series, Alex was shot as he stepped off the curb in front of the innocuous-looking building that houses MI-6 in London.  Those who thought Alex dead were pleasantly surprised when book six arrived on bookshelves everywhere:  Ark Angel.  At the beginning of this spy adventure by Anthony Horowitz, Alex is recuperating in a private hospital in the room next to the son of one of the wealthiest men in the world, Nikolai Drevin.  The night before his release, Alex, restlessly roaming around the hospital, witnesses four men charge through the main doors, demand the room number of Paul Drevin from the night guard, then kill him and head for the elevator.  Not fully recovered from his gunshot wound, Alex must quickly and carefully match wits with these extremely dangerous men and the element of surprise will only help him on his first ploy.  And so we’re off on a new adventure where teenage superspy Alex Rider has to rely on his quick reflexes and limited resources to prevent murder and mayhem.

Between MI-6, the CIA, and eco-terrorists who have targeted Drevin, Alex is on the run preventing kidnappings, escaping terrorists, and using his super-sensitive perceptions to try to put his finger on what is wrong with what he sees and what information is being

Anthony Horowitz

withheld from him as he embarks on a mission that takes him to an orbiting space station and a life and death struggle with one of the most dangerous criminals Alex has ever faced.

How can Alex prevent Drevin from destroying the Pentagon without destroying Paul’s life in the process?  How can he get Paul to believe he’s not a dangerous spy out to kill his father?  From the opening paragraph to the splash landing 100 miles off the coast of Australia, this thrilling spy adventure will keep you on the edge of your seat.

* * * * 1/2

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Cozy Read Wednesday: The Hideaway by Lauren K. Denton

Today’s Cozy Read selection is The Hideaway.  Set in the southern US, it features family relationships, romance, renovations, and the antique business.  Throw in some legal shenanigans from a shifty developer who has had his eye on the waterfront B & B Sara has just inherited from her grandmother and you have the makings of a great summer read!  I received a free copy of this book from BookLookBloggers in exchange for an honest review.

Sara lives in New Orleans now where her thriving business, Bits and Pieces, takes almost all of her time to the exclusion of any meaningful social life.  But Sara grew up in Sweet Bay where her parents had owned and run a restaurant and her grandmother, Mags, owned a B & B called the Hideaway.  When her parents died in a car crash, 12-year-old Sara moved in permanently with her eccentric grandmother and Mags’ somewhat odd guests who had all arrived at various times and never left, becoming her closest friends along the way.  Embarrassed many times by her grandmother’s antics and weird clothing, Sara couldn’t wait to leave Sweet Bay behind when she finished school. She loves her grandmother but . . .

Now, with Mags leaving Sara the challenge to bring the somewhat dilapidated B & B into a more modern, safe business proposition, Sara begins to question who her grandmother really was and whether her current life is really the one she wants or if she belongs in Sweet Bay where her new contractor, Crawford, is stealing her heart away.  Cleaning out the old to make way for the new, Sara finds mysterious clues to a past her grandmother had never revealed to her but reveals to the reader interspersed between the chapters of Sara’s story.  When sleazy Sammy Grosvenor takes advantage of a loophole to demolish Sara’s new dream, she and Crawford have to find a way to fight it.

This story moves along quite well and is a pretty quick read.  The characters are interesting and the plot isn’t the same old familiar of many romances. This is Lauren Denton‘s first book although she has been writing a monthly newspaper column and hopefully, this will not be her only novel.  I enjoyed the renovation bits and although I did see the ending coming, it didn’t make me enjoy the novel any less.   Happy summer reading! * * * 1/2

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Costa Rica, Day 8 — Heading Home!

Well, life has been very busy since I returned from Costa Rica about a week and a half ago and things haven’t quite settled back to normal. I hope to start writing about books again soon but in the meantime, this is my final posting from my trip on my other blog, On The Road with Ms. M. I hope you enjoy my Sunday reblog!

On The Road with Ms. M.

Saying goodbye is never easy and today was no exception.  The Costa Rica Team 2017 was absolutely awesome!  When you get a group of 28 strangers coming together, you never know what can happen and this team was very fortunate.  The youngest member was 13 and had seemingly boundless energy and a great rapport with the kids we met and the other adults and young people in our group; the oldest member was 86 years young and was a real draw for the kids, handing out pins of Canadian flags, stickers, and was also able to watch over our bags and water bottles while we were interacting with the children doing face painting, nail painting, colouring, soccer, balloon animal making, and so forth.  In between, we had people from cities, farms, retired folks, young people from university, dog breeders, hairdressers, moms, grandmas, couples, singles — all hoping to make a…

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Costa Rica Update March 28/17

Here’s the update from Tuesday on my other blog, On the Road with Ms. M. The countdown will be a bit off but other than that, this is what’s been going on this past week in preparation for Costa Rica. Enjoy my Sunday Reblog!

On The Road with Ms. M.

So much to do — so little time left.  The excitement is mounting.  I’m still gathering items I need to take with me, still trying to learn more Spanish, and still fund-raising.  Several of my teammates on Facebook are still short of funds as well and it all needs to be in place by the 5th of April so please keep praying for all these things.

I still have one shot to get and the anti-diarrhea medication to begin drinking next Wednesday.  Yikes! We leave 3 weeks from tomorrow!!  Just got a medical form to fill out, completed my background check application, and have to figure out how to get 25 frisbees on the plane.  Oh yeah, I’ll have to go soon to the currency exchange to get some USD for the trip.

There should be a package coming in the mail any day now with my Operation Christmas…

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The Magdalene Scrolls by Barbara Wood

The Magdalene Scrolls (1978) is an historical fiction novel I’ve been wanting to read for quite a while — partly because of the lure of ancient scrolls themselves and partly because of the idea of archaeology uncovering ancient things and what they reveal of the past.  You might think at first glance that this novel would have something to do with Mary Magdalene but the only connection is that the dig is in Khirbet Migdal and that the author of the scrolls, David ben Jonah, would have called the town Magdala as he was writing the scrolls in the 1st century AD.  Ben Jonah had been an extremely pious Jew and became associated with a group called Nazarenes — followers of Jesus the Nazarene.

When Ben Messer, paleographer, professor of Near Eastern studies at UCLA, and son of a rabbi, receives the first scroll discovered by archaeologist Dr. John Weatherby, he is excited to say the least.  First, the scroll was written in Aramaic with the odd phrase in Hebrew, and second, it was being written by an ordinary but well-educated Jew.  This was not a religious text but the story of the life of David ben Jonah, a life anticipating its end and willing, no, compelled, to unburden its guilt in a confession to his son who he hopes will find the scrolls, understand and forgive.

Ben has long ago left his Jewish heritage behind.  Traumatized as a child by neighbourhood goyim for being a “killer of Jesus” as well as by his mother’s stories of Majdanek concentration camp where she had watched Ben’s father buried alive by the Nazis, Ben turned his back on everything Jewish after his mother’s death and left New York for California.  However, his Jewishness returns to haunt him and as he reads the story of David ben Jonah, a devout Jew who trained to be a rabbi then disgraced himself one evening after drinking too much and is forced to leave his studies in shame, the story begins to mesmerize him.  As the scrolls come one or two at a time, days apart, as they are uncovered on the other side of the world, Ben can’t sleep, can’t eat, quarrels with his fiancé, and begins to lose his grip on reality.  He takes on David’s limp, begins wearing sandals, and, at times, believes he is David ben Jonah.  In fact, if it weren’t for a keen student from his Ancient and Modern Hebrew class, he might not survive the kind of “mind-melding” that occurs as he absorbs the culture and pathos of David’s Jerusalem.

One of Barbara Wood‘s 1st published novels, this is an amazing combination of two stories, past and present, that delve into the human psyche, the role of religion in man’s attempt to understand his own humanity, and the indelible mark man’s inhumanity can leave on the heart and mind of an individual. It shows how facing the past can bring some resolution and a sense of peace.  The characters are at once familiar yet larger than life; the atmosphere of ancient Jerusalem, its temples, its markets, embrace the reader as it embraces the characters in this novel.  It is a complicated journey that leaves the reader with a slight sense of discomfort as well as wonder and is well worth the read.  * * * * *

Posted in Adult Book, Historical Fiction, Letters/Epistolary, Opinion, Romance | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cozy Read Wednesday: Miracle at the Higher Grounds Café by Max Lucado with Eric Newman & Candace Lee

Today’s Cozy Read, Miracle at the Higher Grounds Café, is written by Max Lucado, a New York Times best-selling author whose themes are usually based in Christian/spiritual searching, along with Eric Newman and Candace Lee.  The title has several implications and the subtitle says this is ‘A Heavenly Novel’.

This story won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.  Or should I say coffee.  Not everyone believes in guardian angels.  But if you like either version of that great Christmas movie The Bishop’s Wife you’ll probably enjoy this story — it is light-hearted, sincere, funny, poignant, and refreshing.  Got questions you’d like to ask God?  Ever thought He might answer them on His own blog?  Well, in this story He does!

Chelsea has inherited the Higher Grounds Café from her mother.  Occupying the ground floor of a Victorian house in one of San Antonio’s older neighbourhoods where the streets are lined with shady trees and the atmosphere is quiet and charming, the café is a tradition that goes back three generations.  This is a fresh start for Chelsea who has separated from her over-the-hill NFL superstar husband, Sawyer Chambers, who has been trying to compensate for his lost status with foolish investments, extravagant spending, and philandering.  So with her two young children, Hancock (12) and Emily (6), an unimpressive barista named Tim, and a general make-over for the café, Chelsea is about to re-open for business.  She expects it might be an uphill battle but little does she know how uphill it will be or how close she will come to giving up her dream.

Enter Samuel.  Samuel is an angel on his first solo mission and an ambitious plan to help Chelsea.  The catch is, Chelsea has to ask for help.  When helper Tim doesn’t show up to work one morning, enter Manny — clumsy, friendly, trustworthy, and handy at fixing the espresso machine.  Well he should be all those things — he’s an angel.  Right away, things start happening and not all of them good but Chelsea does ask for help.  She gets some help from her sister Sara and her minister husband Tony as well as from an old schoolmate, Deb, but mostly it’s Manny (Samuel) running interference for her with a host of heavenly helpers.

This is a great story, well told, and full of surprises.  The characters are believable, the blog responses right on, and God does work in mysterious ways.  A fast, thoroughly enjoyable read.  * * * *


cozyreadwedCozy Read Wednesday is a recent meme hosted by Ms. M’s Bookshelf.  No list of rules — just leave a comment with a link to your Cozy Read published on Wednesday, mention that Ms M is hosting the meme, and feel free to use the Cozy Read Wednesday icon on your site.  I look forward to reading your recommendations.

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First Chapter, First Paragraph & Teaser Tuesday: Becoming Queen by Kate Williams

First Chapter, First Paragraph, is a meme hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea.  Anyone can play — just copy the first paragraph of the first chapter (or prologue) and include a picture of the book cover. Leave your link at Bibliophile by the Sea.  The book I’m hoping to start soon is, Becoming Queen by Kate Williams, the history of Queen Victoria.  Here is the beginning of Chapter 1:

‘The most distressing feelings of my heart’

The Prince of Wales was drunk.  It was his wedding day, he was disgusted by his bride, and he was the most inebriated he had ever been outside of a brothel. He was in debt to the tune of over £500,000, and the only way to settle his obligations was to marry. But he was shocked by the ugliness of his bride-to-be, Caroline of Brunswick, and thought she smelt like a peasant. In the overheated, overdecorated Chapel Royal, the Prince gritted his teeth, took another swig of porter, and tried to focus his mind on the showers of money he would receive.

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, now being hosted by Ambrosia of  The Purple Booker.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!  So, from the same book:

from the introduction . . .

The idea of Victoria, young, fresh, liberal, and seemingly concerned with the plight of her people, kept the British hopeful throughout the largely appalling reigns of George IV and William IV . . .

Had the next king after William been his brother, the universally detested Ernest, Duke of Cumberland, a notorious blackguard suspected of blackmail, incest, and murder, then the fate of the monarchy might have been spectacularly different.

This will make a timely read given the TV series and a real change from previous movies which often depicted an older queen, focusing on her foibles and possible indiscretions.  What do you think?  Have you read it?  Would you read it based on the beginning and the quotes?  Leave a comment and a link to your First Chapter, First Paragraph and Teaser Tuesday post.

Posted in Adult Book, History, Meme, Non-fiction | Tagged , , , , , | 12 Comments