Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Review: Pax by Sara Pennypacker

About the Book

Pax by Sara Pennypacker
Published by Balzer + Bray on February 2, 2016

GoodReads Description

Pax was only a kit when his family was killed, and “his boy” Peter rescued him from abandonment and certain death. Now the war front approaches, and when Peter’s father enlists, Peter has to move in with his grandpa. Far worse than being forced to leave home is the fact that Pax can’t go. Peter listens to his stern father—as he usually does—and throws Pax’s favorite toy soldier into the woods. When the fox runs to retrieve it, Peter and his dad get back in the car and leave him there—alone. But before Peter makes it through even one night under his grandfather’s roof, regret and duty spur him to action; he packs for a trek to get his best friend back and sneaks into the night. This is the story of Peter, Pax, and their independent struggles to return to one another against all odds. Told from the alternating viewpoints of Peter and Pax.

My Thoughts

I found Pax on a Wal-Mart shelf and found myself drawn to the cover.  Both the art style and the simple title made me curious about what I discovered inside. Would the story be as simple as the cover? Would this small book hold deep thoughts about the world we live in? Luckily, the answer to both questions was yes. 

Pennypacker creates beautiful, life-like characters.  What is unusual, however, is that she characterizes animals with much more detail and emotion than she does humans.  I liked both Pax and Peter as characters.  But I loved seeing the experiences and emotions through Pax's eyes.  He was the one who captured my attention.  His big heart and eagerness to care for the beings around him truly made him come to life.  Despite Peter being the human this novel centers around, Pax was truly the one who came into himself in a very Call of the Wild kind of way.

It was obvious to me that Pennypacker put a lot of thought and effort into several themes. Of these, the most important were unconditional love and the effects of war.  Because the importance of unconditional love in this novel will become readily apparent to anyone who reads the synopsis, I'd like to spend my time discussing the latter.  Pennypacker does not present war as an evil that should be completely done away with.  In fact, she speaks to its necessity in specific cases and dire straits.  She uses Pax to encourage us, as human beings, to be more aware of our actions and their responses during war times.  She demands that people take an extra moment to think about what their decisions are costing the world around them.  These costs are often more than the already devastating losses of lives and countless injuries.  They include the damage done to nature of both wildlife and mankind itself. This is quite a powerful statement for a Middle Grade book and I was impressed not only by its inclusion but by its elegance.

I was frustrated by the fact that there doesn't seem to be any specific time mentioned for the setting of this novel. Simply mentioning cars, baseball, and prosthetic legs does not help one to narrow down the time period in which this story was written.  I think this was done, in part, to emphasize the theme about the effects of war.  These effects are not specific to one time period or to one war.  They affect all wars in all countries between all people.  I am yet to decide if this adds to or takes away from my enjoyment of the novel.  I tend to like very specific world building, but I may be comfortable with letting this vague aspect go by.

What I am certain about is that I would one day love to teach this book.  Pax will engage several Middle Grade students because it is an engaging novel that includes an animal that most students are already familiar with.  I can think of several of my students that would be fascinated by the sections written from Pax's point of view.  Additionally, this book lends to several conversations about theme, tone, mood, and characterization. I am excited to say that my copy of this novel will join my classroom library tomorrow.

Overall, I felt this was a very well-written novel that has a lot to offer its readers.  I think that this is the kind of book a person takes something new from each time that they read it.

My Rating

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

MJ Markovski on Being a Writer

I would like to begin by thanking you for your invite to your blog.

Am I a writer? I’d like to think so. I’ve been quite busy this year, if I take a breath and think about it. But that’s what I like to do is keep my mind busy. Besides promoting my debut novel, I like to read but most often I spend my time writing. If I'm not writing. I'm spending my time with my daughter, Siena, which we will, according to her words chillaxing for the afternoon. We might read together or watch a movie together or our favorite activity is, write, (she’s taking a creative writing course in school). My debut novel released earlier this year, part of the Take Series, titled Whatever It Takes, a romantic suspense/thriller. And something I don’t really talk about is it was a challenge to write. Writing in itself is challenging but for me it became a struggle.

To begin. I’ve always been a writer and it goes back to when I was in elementary school. I was told later on that the school had wanted to skip a grade three times, but my mom wouldn’t have it, which is a good thing because I would’ve been extremely young graduating high school. You’re looking at the age of fifteen, if my mom let me skip a grade. Crazy right? As it turned out, always seventeen entering college.

As I was saying, writing is a challenge and I have the extra challenge of a disease. The disease doesn’t discriminate on its choice of victim, it’s blind to its choice. Which I could have ended up being blind among other things, because MS can do that. Fortunately, it’s been stabilized but wasn’t caught before and it up in a wheelchair. But I look at that as my mind is strong and solid, and that’s God’s way of giving me time…to write. And I take every moment that I can to do exactly that.

And as of now my plans are to have the second novel in the Take Series, titled, All That It Takes completed by the end of next month in the NaNoWriMo challenge. I know I can do it because I’ve participated in the challenge before.

I set a goal, I completed. That’s just why am, tenacious. I also, like to dabble in other genres. Those other genres include YA paranormal romance and YA futuristic urban fantasy. Over those two genres I’ve written and completed two other novels just this year. Although of course I will be promoting my debut Take Series, while I am editing thoroughly while I am editing my completed novels. Such is the life of an author/writer. For me it seems the work is never done.

Oh, and I won’t even go into the other stories that keep popping up in my mind. It’s the unfortunate and fortunate thing of how my crazy brain tends to function. He is a little secret. I’ll share with my fellow audience; I actually have to meditate at night the wind down my thoughts so I can actually sleep. Otherwise, I will never sleep peacefully. Such is the life of my creative imagination.

Thanks again for allowing me to be a guest here.


Marija Carpenter, writing as M.J. Markovski, was born in Detroit, Michigan to Macedonian immigrant parents. She led a sheltered life, then moved to Arizona for college and ended up staying in Tucson.

This first novel came out of her experiences, particularly when she became disabled. She had a very bad exacerbation from MS. The doctors thought she would die from that attack but she’s far from dead. She does use an electric wheelchair for mobility. For now, she looks at it as God’s way for her to have more time to write. She says, “I don’t let my illness define who I am.”

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Review: Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves

About the Book

Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves
Published March 28, 2017 by Knopf Books for Young Readers

GoodReads Description

In a world where social prestige derives from a trifecta of blood, money, and magic, one girl has the ability to break the spell that holds the social order in place.

Sixteen-year-old Anna Arden is barred from society by a defect of blood. Though her family is part of the Luminate, powerful users of magic, she is Barren, unable to perform the simplest spells. Anna would do anything to belong. But her fate takes another course when, after inadvertently breaking her sister’s debutante spell—an important chance for a highborn young woman to show her prowess with magic—Anna finds herself exiled to her family’s once powerful but now crumbling native Hungary.

Her life might well be over.

In Hungary, Anna discovers that nothing is quite as it seems. Not the people around her, from her aloof cousin Noémi to the fierce and handsome Romani Gábor. Not the society she’s known all her life, for discontent with the Luminate is sweeping the land. And not her lack of magic. Isolated from the only world she cares about, Anna still can’t seem to stop herself from breaking spells.

As rebellion spreads across the region, Anna’s unique ability becomes the catalyst everyone is seeking. In the company of nobles, revolutionaries, and Romanies, Anna must choose: deny her unique power and cling to the life she’s always wanted, or embrace her ability and change that world forever.

My Thoughts

I received an ARC of this novel when it first came out.  Although I was very excited to read this, it took me FOREVER and a day to get to it.  Now that I've read it, I'm rather angry with myself that I did not immediately open the dang thing and begin! What the heck was I thinking?!?!

The world building in this novel absolutely blew me away.  Two separate countries and two very different forms of magic are vividly described.  Despite the large amount of effort that this requires, Eves makes it seem as real as life.  I could feel the exact same confusion and bewilderment that Anna experiences at the same time as she does.  It takes a good author to build a world, but this great author shoves you right into the middle of the one she creates.

In addition to fabulous world building, Eves creates beautiful characters.  Of these, my favorite is Gabor. This gentleman is the perfect image of chivalry and grace.  I loved seeing the way that he cared for Anna from afar and how he was more willing to put her needs and her future ahead of the things that he wanted for himself.  Matyas was written just as wonderfully.  Which, in retrospect, is funny because I hated his stupid butt at the very beginning of the novel. Who just randomly kisses their cousin like they are on a fifth or sixth date? That was disgusting.  But the sacrifices that he chooses to make at the end of the novel are truly his redemption.  Although I'm desperately trying not to give any spoilers, I will say that I cried with the way that the novel ends for Matyas.  Like a freaking baby.  

Unfortunately, the entire book cannot be seen through rose colored glasses.  Anna's character seemed so unrealistic at various times in this book.  I know that a human being has moments of strength and of weakness, but Anna seems to flip through these too quickly.  What is she? A frail little flower or a strong heroine?  Even after finishing the novel, I don't know how to answer this question and that is a problem.

Another weak point of this novel is the falling action.  It took far too long to fall.  I found myself white knuckling my way through the beginning and then later on wishing that it would finally come to an end.  Soon, the end was in sight and the story began to pick up once more.  I absolutely adored the fast paced portion of the novel, but then found myself wanting to quit when things slowed down.  Eves definitely needs to work on pacing to maintain her audience's attention.

Overall, I truly enjoyed this novel and am excited to read the second and third books in the series.

My Rating