Window on the World

I am a wife and mom of two grown children (who can't seem to move out) and two furbabies. I write about my family life, as well as causes that are dear to my heart, with recipes every Wednesday and book reviews every Friday. My favorite genre is historical fiction.

Savior - Martha Kennedy

When I started reading Savior, I expected a straightforward, action-filled story of the Crusades.  And while this book is that, it is so much more.  It's also a journey of self-discovery, a story of spiritual awakening, and a tale of the power of love and family.

The book's main character, Rudolf, struggles with depression.  It had never occurred to me that depression existed back in the Middle Ages, but of course, it did.  As with some churches today, mental illness was viewed as a sin.  Having dealt with depression myself, it's hard to imagine how difficult it would be to struggle with "the darkness"without any kind of support system like we have today.

After experiencing first hand the horrors of war, Rudolf meets a Maronite monk in the desert.  The monk teaches him some powerful lessons such as where is God when we can't find Him?  What is truth and the perception of truth?  Who is my neighbor?  What if I think I know where I'm going and God changes the plan?

One of the most powerful lessons I learned from Youhanna, the monk in the story, was this:

If your heart beats in fear, look around to see if there is an enemy, if you see none, your body is telling you the enemy is inside. Heed it, and it will help you.

In the end, Rudolf discovers what is most important to him and becomes, in many ways, a different person, or at least a more mature one, than he was at the beginning of the story.

I highly recommend Savior for readers of historical fiction.  In addition, those who appreciate a story of self-discovery with a Christian theme will enjoy this book immensely.

Neverland Evermore - Sarah J. Pepper

I love new takes (especially twisted ones ;-) on traditional fantasy and fairy tales.  Neverland Evermore fits the bill (both a new take AND twisted).

In Sarah J. Pepper's take on the Peter Pan story, Neverland is actually a place of evil and Peter Pan, a kind of devil.  Tinkerbell (known as Miss Bell) escapes (or is banished) from this dreadful place and finds comfort in the arms of "her captain".

neverland evermore book review

There is implied sex in this book, although nothing graphic.  Honestly, I was relieved, as picturing Tinkerbell and Captain Hook together is a little like thinking of a chihuahua with a Great Dane.  How do you work out the logistics of something like that?  Fortunately, Neverland Evermore's Miss Bell is simply a very petite magical woman, not a tiny firefly-like creature.

The story alternates between past and present, between the perspectives of Miss Bell and Captain Hook.  Wendy, Michael and John all have their roles also, but don't expect the polite English children from the original story!!

I enjoyed all the twists and turns in the story.  Wondering what character or part of the story would be turned on its ear is part of the fun of reading this book.

I highly recommend Neverland Evermore for teenage or adult fans of fantasy and fairytales, who don't mind the irreverent treatment.  This book is NOT FOR CHILDREN!!

I received a complimentary copy of this book for the purpose of review. All opinions are 100% my own.

The Labyrinth Wall - Emilyann Girdner

The Labyrinth Wall is part Hunger Games, part The Maze Runner, with just a smidge of Dante's Inferno thrown in for good measure.  And even though I caught glimpses of all three of these amazing books, The Labyrinth Wall does not feel derivative in any way.

Araina is, in large part, an everyteen.  She is that gangly bundle of angst that all of us embody at some point in our formative years.  Her journey of discovery is our own revelation of feelings, abilities, knowledge, self-awareness and empathy.

The cast of characters Araina meets up with along her journey each embodies a different trait which Araina is trying to manifest in herself.  Darith, her first friend, is recklessness.  Rase, the castle guard, is secrecy.  Korun, the healer, Keelie, the creative, Sol the strong, even Sir Riddles the brutally clever - all make up a part of Araina's whole.  The more she discovers about each of these, the more she discovers about herself.

The Labyrinth Wall has an immense amount of emotional intelligence, but it is also an exciting adventure story.  I gasped a few times in the story, wondering if all the characters would survive their trials.  I laughed, cheered, talked back - all the things an engaged reader does with a really good story.

There are so many things

we can't explain,

Yet it is so true.

If we open our eyes, they are so very plain.


All for Family (A Rawley Family Novel) - Olivia Hardin

I have read both of the first two books in Olivia Hardin’s Rawley Family series, All for Hope and Justice for All.  Each story has been better than the one before, and All for Family is no exception.

Mind you, it is not absolutely necessary to have read the other Rawley Family books in order to enjoy All for Family. Each book stands on its own and focuses on one particular person (or couple) in the family.  In All for Hope, it is Hope (of course). In Justice for All it is Kay Rawley, Hope’s sister-in-law.

All for Family focuses on Meg, Hope’s brother-in-law Jeremy’s wife. Meg has been a very minor (and quiet) character in the other two books,so I really didn’t know much about her.  The book tells the story of how Meg and Jeremy met.

I think most women can identify with the character of Meg. She is uncomfortable in her own skin, constantly comparing herself to her friends, who she believes are prettier.  Meg doesn’t think she looks good in stylish clothes and doesn’t believe a good-looking man would be attracted to her. We’ve all felt this way at some point, haven’t we girls?

When Meg and Jeremy get together it is amazing!!  Warning: There are a couple of sex scenes in this story.  I am usually not a fan of explicit scenes, sometimes even skip over them, truth be told. But the love between Jeremy and Meg is so sweet and romantic (and hot ;-) that I couldn’t resist!!  Olivia Hardin wrote these scenes so well that I felt like I WAS Meg.

I give All for Family 4 1/2 stars!! It’s sweet, romantic, sexy and compassionate (these words also describe Meg). It’s a fun, fast read that will leave you wanting to find out even more about the Rawley family.  Maybe for the next book in the series Olivia could write about how Jeremy and Kay’s mother and father (the count and countess) met. I know I’ll be holding my breath in anticipation for whatever Olivia writes next!!

Walkin' on the Sun: The Official Smash Mouth Biography - Paul DeLisle

Very simply, Walkin' On the Sun, the Official Smash Mouth Biography, is a brief, chronological history of the band, including how they met, their meteoric success and their struggle to remain relevant 20 years later.

But to elaborate, this book is hip, fresh and fun, with a writing style very similar to the "nouveau-groovy 60's throwback" style for which their most popular songs are known.  I'm talking about the eponymous Walkin' On the Sun, not to mention Can't Get Enough of You Baby, All Star, Then the Morning Comes, and of course, I'm a Believer.

I loved how excited and grateful DeLisle is for all the good things that have happened for him and the band.  Did you know Smash Mouth was discovered by a young Carson Daly?  Or that Neil Diamond was a huge Smash Mouth fan?

I give Walkin' On the Sun five stars!!  It's a fast read, and tons of fun for fans of 90's music (how could that be 20 years ago?)

Writers of the Future Volume 31 (L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future) - Megan Kelchner, Megen Nelson, Choong Nyung Yoon, Choong Nyung Yoon, Quinlan Septer, Alex Brock, Taylor Payton, Shuangjian Liu, Emily Siu, Michelle Lockamy, Tung Chi Lee, Tim Napper, Steve Pantazis, Amy H. Hughes, Larry Niven, Daniel Tyka, Sharon Joss, Scott R. Parkin, Krys

Two years ago, I was given the opportunity to review Writers of the Future Volume 28 and Volume 29.  I loved them both so much!!  Then again, last year, I was asked to review Volume 30.  It was awesome!!  So you can imagine how excited I was when I found out to review this year's edition, Writers of the Future, Volume 31.

As usual, the stories were all first-rate.  My favorites from the contest winners were God Whisperer by Daniel J. Davis, about a man who adopts a fallen idol, and Stars That Make Dark Heaven Light by Sharon Joss.  What would happen if colonists failed at populating a new world and were presented with an innovative solution?

In addition, there was another batch of insightful articles about writing and illustrating from some of the greatest in the business.  The essay Fiction Without Paper by my writing hero, Orson Scott Card, explains how important short stories are even in the digital age.

And, of course, there were a few choice stories from some of my all time favorite authors.  When Shadows Fall by L. Ron Hubbard, was first published in July 1948.  This story, about interplanetary colonists perceptions of those left behind on Earth gives plenty of food for thought on what we, as a group, take for granted.  Rough Draft, by Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta is the story of an award winning writer who needs some motivation to keep writing from an alternate reality.

This year, the anthology is available in e-reader versions and trade paperback.  An added bonus is that, in addition to the black and white illustrations that accompany each story, there are also full color versions in the back of the book (of course, you'll need a color e-reader to experience this).

The Billionaires Club - Will Dresser

It is no secret that I am a HUGE Will Dresser fan.  Check out my reviews of his other novels; Sacrament of Fear, The Methuselah Man, and Terminal Rock.  I have only had one complaint throughout these books in the 'Wes Franklin' series. The first is that the main characters can sometimes come across as a little too perfect.  The other was that Dresser had mentioned other appellations, but never Napa Valley wine in any of his books.

Imagine my surprise when I received The Billionaires Club in the mail.  I hadn't ordered and didn't even know it was finished.  I opened the package and saw this inscription:

billionaires club book reviewI was dying!!  I did something I NEVER do - started rifling through the pages trying to find the passage of which he was spoke.  It didn't take long:

Esteban, tell Teressa to plan on four for dinner tonight...Ah, que bueno, a bottle of the Jamieson Ranch Pinot Noir...Señor Aryana, this will make Teressa very happy.  She loves Napa Valley wines.

Okay, I have to admit - at this point I went completely fangirl.  I ran through the house jumping up and down, showing my whole family the passage and the inscription.  I took the book to work and bragged about it.  OMG - I was totally shameless!!!

Needless to say, I am a little biased about this book.  But, in my (not so humble at this point) opinion, Will Dresser has done it again!!!

As in previous books, Wes Franklin and his friends in the Ankh Network are hot on the trail of a murder - in this case, the murder of the world's top billionaires.  As always, lots of twists, turns, exotic locales and expensive tastes abound.

I liked the more in-depth explanation of the Ankh Network's slogan, The truth never happens in real time:

We cannot stand inaction in life, so we act on the truth we have on hand until a truer truth is discovered.

Despite their best efforts to prevent it, another billionaire is murdered.  Wes has a crisis of faith and for the first time, I actually saw a chink in the armor of this "white knight."  He comes around when one of his friends gives him this pep talk:

The point, I think, is that Wes Franklin never makes a mistake and now someone is dead because of you... Perfection is a hard standard to live up to, Wes.  I think you may need to lower the bar a little.

A major plot twist ties the story back to The Methuselah Man, as well as preparing the reader for Dresser's next book, The Chronicles of Cain: The Epic Life of Jarred Kennan Cain As Told to Wes Franklin.   It was nice to see the series come full circle.  I can't wait for Chronicles of Cain!!

I give The Billionaires Club five stars!!!!  A must read!!  Stand alone, or as part of the series, you will love this book!!

I received a complimentary copy of this book for the purpose of review.  All opinions are 100% my ow

Yes Please - Amy Poehler

When I first started reading Yes Please I wasn't sure if I would like it.  I didn't think Amy Poehler and I would have anything in common.  What if there was nothing in the book I could relate to?

I was pleasantly surprised to find that we have more in common than I thought.  We were born only 3 1/2 years apart, so we have many of the same childhood experiences.  We both read Judy Blume and obsessed about scoliosis.  We both wore silk blouses, jodhpurs and stirrup pants.  We both curled our hair and used lots of hairspray (although Amy preferred White Rain and I used Aqua Net). We both slow danced to Faithfully by Journey.

We have some of the same favorite authors (Anne Lamott, Stephen King, David Sedaris). We both fear large crowds because we are small people.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book:

Now that I am older, I am rounder and softer, which isn't a bad thing.


I find that, in general, the amount of sharing men do with each other in one year is about the same as what I share with my female friends while wait or our cars at the valet.


Telling me to relax or smile when I'm angry is like bringing a birthday cake into a ape sanctuary.  You're just asking to get your nose or genitals bitten off.

I really enjoyed this book.  Since it is a collection of essays, you don't have to read it all at once (in fact, I would recommend against it).  Poehler's sense of humor is both sweet and salty, so you won't be bored, no matter which humor style you prefer.


Love on the Lido Deck: A Nautical Romantic Comedy - Barbara Oliverio

Love on the Lido Deck takes place a few years after the events of Oliverio's first book, Love on the Back Burner (see my review), which focused on Alexandria D'Agostino, flighty marketing guru turned famous chef.  The sequel focuses on Alex's best friend, Keira, who is much more staid and proper than Alex.

I really enjoyed getting to know the Keira character and her family better.  It was also fun to have Alex's family still around, since they all go on the cruise together.

Reading about the cruise made me want to take another one (it's been 8 years).  The fun, formals and frivolity of a cruise are well-portrayed in this charming book.

I would have to say my favorite aspect of both Oliverio's romantic comedies is that they are clean AND fun, traits that taken together seem hard to come by in this modern world.

As with its predecessor, the book has a wealth of recipes in the back, all of which were mentioned at some point in the story.


Chronicles of Steele: Raven: The Complete Story - Pauline Creeden

I love steampunk novels, but have only read a few of them.  In my opinion,  it is very difficult to write a believable steampunk world.

Pauline Creeden has pulled it off in Chronicles of Steele: Raven:The Complete Story. Not only was the story believable, but I felt like I was right in the middle of it.  I could see the zeppelin overhead and feel the steam from the mechanical horses.

The introductions to each chapter were fascinating, much like a compassionate version of Sun Tzu's The Art of War.  Here's the intro to Chapter One of Episode 3:

Remain open minded.

Watch for change in both people and environs.

When things do not go as expected, be willing to change one's expectations.

I enjoyed watching Raven mature as she tried to complete her final redemption and  learned the truth about herself, her history and her friends and enemies.  The book is a fun and adventurous read, but also inspiring and thought-provoking.  I think this would be a great story for the whole family to enjoy!!

Inferno (The Jinn Trilogy Book 2) - Liz Schulte, Ev Bishop

It's no secret that I'm a huge Liz Schulte fan. The Abyss books are so original - I just can't say enough good about them. Inferno is no exception. I love that with each new story the characters become more fully developed. This time around, the story alternates between Holden, Baker and Femi. I enjoyed the romantic tension between Baker and Femi and trying to guess how their relationship might develop. I also enjoyed reading Femi's perspective on the story. Her character is so fierce - I wish I had as much spunk as she does.
"I don't tiptoe around anyone." Femi flashed a grin. "I glide, bitches."
Inferno also concentrates less on Holden and Olivia's relationship, which is a nice change of pace. Holden is as conflicted as ever, though.
"I was Olivia's soul mate, the leader of the free Jinn, the one who made the hard decisions, the one who let people go, the abomination, and the savior. I was evil who strove to be good..."
Book 2 of the Jinn Trilogy ends with a major cliffhanger - or does it? Let's just say there better be a book 3!!

I received a complimentary copy of this book for the purpose of review. All opinions are 100% my own.

Anthem's Fall - S.L. Dunn

Anthem's Fall starts out as an intelligent, thought-provoking read.  Kristen Jordan, the brilliant young research scientist is forced to deal with ethics issues beyond any we, as a society, have had to handle thus far.  How far is too far to go in the world of genetic modifications?  Kirsten's mentor draws the line a bit farther out than she does, and that creates a lot of conflict.

Then Kirsten meets Ryan Craig and finds in him a common sense of morality and justice.  Ryan raises valid arguments against the status quo in genetics research, such as:

The greater good is an opinion, and a dangerous one if it's used to force a group to act against its will....It's even more dangerous if that group doesn't have a voice in the government."

The ethics battling waging in Kristen's world reminds me of some of the logic debates between Kirk, Spock and McCoy in Star Trek ("the needs of the many outweight the needs of the few, or the one.").  Ryan compares it to Victor Frankenstein's love-hate relationship with his monster.

After the intellectual tone of the first chapters, the book takes a drastic turn into the world of Vengelis Epsilon and Gravitas Nerol - a world of superheroes and epic battles.  I loved the change of pace - it gave me a bit of a break from all the thinking, LOL.  When the superhero world collides with the "real" world, it is a battle I could never imagine.  The author made me feel like I was right there in the middle of it, and for that I am  most grateful.

Anthem's Fall is a stimulating read for intellectuals and adventure seekers alike.  The ending is a cliffhanger, but it does leave the reader with an inkling of what is to come, plus some hope for the future.

Plagues of Eden - Sharon Linnea, B.K. Sherer

Plagues of Eden sucked me in from the very first page.  To be honest, it was the title that first attracted me.  I mean anything with the word plagues in the title has to be intriguing, right? (For instance, my post on The Plagues of Homeschool).

This book is a fast-paced race against time through Egypt, France, China, and Italy, with a few other places thrown in for good measure.  The main characters are all complicated people, walking the often thin line between good and evil.   Some fall occasionally (as do we all) and some throw themselves headlong into the abyss.  The ethics and emotions of these difficult choices are the building blocks of the book.  The action and adventure is bonus!

The mysterious Eden in the book is a fascinating near-utopia that I would love to read more about.  I especially enjoyed the interaction between Jaime, Yani and the other "Gardeners" of Eden.

My least favorite point of view in fiction is third person omniscient.  For me, reading the perspective of too many different characters (more than say 4 or 5) is just too confusing.  Unfortunately, many writers these days tend to gravitate towards this particular point of view.   This book is no exception, and while I enjoyed it thoroughly, the frequently changing perspective is my only real complaint.


Running Through A Dark Place: Children of the Knight II (The Knight Cycle) (Volume 2) - Michael J Bowler

Having read and enjoyed the first book in the series, Children of the KnightI was very interested in the sequel, Running Through a Dark Place.  It picks up literally five minutes after Book 1 ends, with the aftermath of a death of one of King Arthur's "knights."

I was a little turned off by the first two chapters.  I don't want to give away too much, but some events take place which serve to make Lance, Arthur's first knight, a bit of a celebrity.  I thought that the development of these first two chapters felt a little contrived.

After that, though, the story picked up in intensity and emotion and I felt pulled in, just as I had with its predecessor.  Again, I must warn that there are some seriously dark themes running throughout the story. Since these are mostly street kids, they have been abused, molested and otherwise taken advantage of.  The story does not go into a lot of detail, but young teenagers might be disturbed.

My favorite part of Running Through a Dark Place was Lance attempting  to come to terms with his new found fame as well as with his sexuality (although what that might be has yet to be determined, as with many of his age).

Running Through a Dark Place is a strong story that will appeal to young people who enjoy a story with adventure and danger.  Parents will appreciate the message of self-respect and responsibility.

The Reflections of Queen Snow White - David C. Meredith

Snow White has always been one of my favorite fairytale characters.  I was always impressed by how cheerful she remained even in the face of extreme adversity.  However, I can see how readers viewing Snow through a more modern lens might see her as a "victim" personality who needed a tenderhearted huntsman or seven tiny miners, or even a prince to rescue her.  And does anybody really believe in happily ever after anymore?

David Meredith addresses all of the Snow doubters in the achingly beautiful book The Reflections of Queen Snow White.   Throughout her years of marriage and especially since Charming's death,  Snow has come to believe that she is not capable of being a strong woman - that she needs someone else to fix her problems.

When she stumbles upon her stepmother's dreaded magic mirror, she is forced to confront her past the way it really happened.  Every gory and heartwrenching detail as well as every joyous and passionate moment is explored.

Yet Meredith stays true to the original story throughout, merely filling in the missing parts of the story to give Snow White a more three dimensional feel.  The Snow of this book seems like a friend, like a woman you could have a latte with.

Warning: This is an adult Snow White.  As in the original fairytale, there is plenty of blood and violence, but there is also some moderate sexual content, since Snow is, after all, a married woman.

L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future 30: Writers of the Future 30 - Stephen Hickman, Robert Silverberg, L. Ron Hubbard, Dave Wolverton, Val Linahn, C. Stuart Hardwick

Last year, I was given the opportunity to review Writers of the Future Volume 28 and Volume 29.  I loved them both so much!!  I was beyond excited when I was asked to review this year's edition, Volume 30.

As usual, the stories were all first-rate.  My favorites from the contest winners were Animal by Terry Madden, about the last zoo in the world, and The Shaadi Exhile by Amanda Forest.  How would the concept of an arranged marriage work over light years?

In addition, there was another batch of insightful articles about writing and illustrating from some of the greatest in the business.  The essay Synaptic Soup by Val Lakey Lindahn, an illustrator of over 40 years, who was born blind, was awe inspiring.

And, of course, there were a few choice stories from some of my all time favorite authors.  Beyond All Weapons by L. Ron Hubbard, was first published in the January 1950 issue of Super Science Stories.  This story, about the losers of an interplanetary war, has a jaw dropping twist, that will leave you thinking.  Carousel by Orson Scott Card, tells the story of a world where the dead refuse to leave. How do the living go about their daily lives if the dead keep getting in the way?

This year, the anthology is available in e-reader versions and trade paperback.  The added bonus this year is that in addition to the black and white illustrations that accompany each story, there are also full color versions in the back of the book (of course, you'll need a color e-reader to experience this).

I give Writers of the Future Volume 30 four and a half stars!!!  It's an awesome romp through the width and breadth of historic and current science fiction and fantasy.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for the purpose of review.  All opinions are 100% my own.