Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Book Review: Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

 




Wow! This memorable novel deserves every award it received. Jason Reynolds tells this dramatic story involving teenage gun violence in short powerful poems. Reynolds has explained, setting the entire book in an elevator, he wanted to mimic the feelings of anger, pain, and helplessness.

Fifteen-year-old Will’s brother was murdered, and he knows the rules. He doesn’t cry. He takes his brother’s gun and is on his way to get revenge. As the elevator stops at each floor, another “person” gets on and adds to the story, another link in the chain reaction. The elevator ride also gives the impression of being trapped in this cycle. When will it end?

Within these short poems, Reynolds develops his characters and their relationships with a punch. His writing is brilliant. I will read this book again and look forward to reading more of his books.


Friday, August 6, 2021

Book Review / Ruby Moon by Jenny Knipfer





I knew I would like Ruby Moon from the first page. The poetic prose and introduction to Jenay’s vulnerable side hooked my attention. Author Jenny Knipfer begins her novel in the present, revealing Jenay’s guilt for some horrific accident she caused. I was intrigued, wanting to know more, and not disappointed as the story slowly unfurled.

This historical novel takes place in the 1890’s in Ontario, Canada. Through Jenay’s relationships with her aunts, Jenny weaves her character’s interesting heritage, a mix of French and Ojibwe decent, into the story. Even though the story has a complicated timeline, going into past and present, the dates are marked, making it easier to follow. The flashbacks add suspense and mystery as they give clues to what happened to Jenay. At the same time, we follow Jenay as she matures and experiences loss and love and finds strength, guidance, and forgiveness through her faith in God.

This is a beautifully written novel that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys Christian historical fiction. Jenny has other novels out that I look forward to reading.

*****
 
Please visit my author website at

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

I Gave My Novel a Makeover

 





I redesigned the cover of my novel Randi's Steps. I'm excited as you can see in my awkward video. My updated novel is available now on Amazon. 

Amazon / Randi's Steps

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Book Review: A Soul as Cold as Frost by Jennifer Kropf

 



 

From the first page, I knew this was going to be something special. And it was even better than I expected. I’m not one to usually read fantasy novels, but the poetic descriptions of this magical world author Jennifer Kropf created sparkled. Her characters had depth and personality that had me rooting for them and enjoying getting to know them as the story progressed.

Helen is transported into this winter land parallel to her home where she encounters all sorts of different creatures somewhat like human, but not. Her mission becomes a journey with her patrolman to save the Truth. It had a touch of The Lion, The Witch, & The Wardrobe aura, but such a unique story with its own charm and suspense.

This book is one I won’t forget and will add to my list of favorites. I am looking forward to reading her sequel.


Amazon / A Soul as Cold as Frost


Sunday, December 20, 2020

BOOK REVIEW: Beautiful Beast by E.J. Hill (Young Adult)

  

 


 

When I started reading this retelling of the original fairytale, I couldn’t help focusing on the similarities and differences to the original story and Disney version, the main difference being the beast is female. But author, E.J. Hill’s beautiful writing soon carried me into her unique version of the story. Her intricate plot details wove together with vivid descriptions to create something new and unexpected and drew me into her mysterious world.

 Kalista was cursed by a powerful sorceress with a spell that keeps her trapped within her castle and the enchanted forest. She only has some invisible servants to keep her company. When Arawn charges through the forest seeking revenge for his brother’s death, he becomes the last hope for breaking the curse. Told from alternating perspectives, Kalista and Arawn gradually reveal their developing feelings for one another. Everyone wants to break the curse, but the answer is not as simple as being kissed by the prince. They will have to fight the complicated elements of the evil spell before time runs out. 

In her suspenseful story, Hill brought depth to her characters. I think sharing both viewpoints brought me closer to their thoughts and was a good choice to separate Hill’s version from others. I’m glad this is a clean read because I would recommend it to teens twelve and up who enjoy fantasy novels. I look forward to reading more from E.J. Hill.


***

Visit my author website at francesjudge.com

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Remembering Tall Steve

 



Steve and Samaritan's Purse volunteers surprising my daughter with her finished room.

October 29th is the anniversary I never forget. Not my wedding day, but the day of the biggest storm to pummel our city of Long Beach in 2012. Stepping on crunching leaves and smelling the crisp fall air sweeps up memories of all the days that followed Superstorm Sandy. We lost a lot in one day. Flooding destroyed our home. We had to rip up floors and gut the walls to prevent mold growth, and we tossed out everything wet, from furniture to photos and paintings and clothes. Our boiler was submerged, so we didn’t have heat or hot water. Gene and I had five kids and my mother-in-law to worry about. Hopelessness felt endless as if our home would never be the same. 

One year later as we still walked on plywood floors, Tall Steve showed up with Samaritan’s Purse volunteers and his huge smile. He was one of the team leaders whose mission was not only to help people rebuild their homes, but to repair hearts as he shared God’s love. He towered over most people at a height over seven feet and was probably asked if he played basketball by someone every day. He didn’t but welcomed the opportunity to talk about someone bigger than he, his wonderful Savior. 

Samaritan’s Purse Ministries set up their base at our church. Volunteers traveled from other states across the US and slept in sleeping bags in the children’s Sunday School classrooms. They stayed for a week until the next group came. Volunteers cooked meals with donated food and held a “share” time every evening during dinner. Steve and the other leaders often invited the families of the homes they were fixing to be the dinner guests. They wanted to hear the stories of how God was working in people’s lives. Sounds great, but not to our family made of mostly introverts. We were thankful but didn’t care to speak in front of a huge group of people we just met. 

One night, as we drove to the church dinner, my husband said, “I hope Steve doesn’t ask me to say something. I am exhausted. Someone else can share tonight.” 

My mother-in-law, Clementine, and I agreed. There are other families that can say something. We planned to avoid eye contact with Steve as we ate, so we wouldn’t get called on like students who didn’t know the answer.

 But I think from Steve’s bird’s eye view of us, he could see us hiding our faces in the baked ziti. While our mouths were still full, he said, “Clementine, would you like to share any experience you had this week with the volunteers?” 

My mother-in-law answered, “No, but I think my son, Gene, does.”

My daughter and I nearly burst out laughing at the surprised look on Gene’s face. My husband knew if he started to speak of how he felt receiving their help he would choke up. And he did. My eyes watered too as we thought about the kindness of these people. I think Steve wanted to see tears, to see hearts open. He knew the joy that would follow. He thrived on bringing people out of their comfort zone. 

My mother-in-law was so impressed by Steve, she painted a scene of the ocean with him glowing in the rosy sunset and standing on the shore next to a lady. He is pointing to the water as if amazed by the awesome view of God’s presence. She captured his size and his heart in the painting. 

Years later, Tall Steve asked if we could make a short family video sharing something to bless his upcoming marriage and be added to a montage, he would give his fiancĂ© on their wedding day. It was an honor to be included, but once again, he dragged us out of our comfort zone. I think we created the most awkward video, but our hearts were in it. 

One year after his wedding, at the beginning of the pandemic, we heard Tall Steve went home to be with the Lord. His beautiful memorial was shared on YouTube to be viewed by people around the world. Even in his death, he was able to share God’s light in a huge way. 

Clementine’s painting hangs in our living room. Sometimes I stare at the cerulean blue ocean as Steve points from his God’s eye view. And my heart fills with joy. This anniversary reminds me what we lost can’t compare with what we gained from God’s love.


                             

                             Painting by Clementine Judge (my mother-in-law)                             


 *****   

 * First written for Faithwriter's Weekly Contest. Received an Honorable Mention Award.


* Check out my other blog at Doodle Stories & Oodles of Art

and my author/illustrator website: francesjudge.com