Angel of Thanksgiving
Pio-Seelos Books / 5 October 2012

Angel of Thanksgiving by Henry Ripplinger, Published by Pio-Seelos Books Review by Gail Jansen-Kesslar $21.95 ISBN 9 780986 542473 While Angel of Thanksgiving, the third in Henry Ripplinger’s proposed five-part Angelic Letters Series, still revolves around the separation of star-crossed lovers Henry and Jenny and their doomed romance, unlike the feelings evoked by the past two books, this time Ripplinger leaves the reader feeling torn about what the fateful outcome of the two should ultimately be. With the introduction of a whole new set of characters, from Henry’s wife, the lovely and serene Julean who we briefly met in Book Two, to the bright and cheerful household staff that are more like family to Jenny than employees, the parallel lives of Henry and Jenny are showcased over a vast period of time as they grow and mature and ultimately become parents themselves. And as always, deeply woven throughout the story, are the life lessons that Ripplinger releases with expert timing. Much as David Chilton created the story of a thrifty barber who doled out financial advice to individuals at different periods in their financial lives in his Canadian bestseller The Wealthy Barber, so too has Ripplinger created a story that…

Pewter Angels
Pio-Seelos Books / 28 June 2012

Pewter Angels by Henry Ripplinger Published by Pio-Seelos Books Review by Gail Jansen $21.95 CDN 9 780986 542411 The first in Ripllinger’s five-part Angelic Letters Series, Pewter Angels sets the stage for the tragic but uplifting love story of Henry and Jenny, two young lovers who in an almost modern day Romeo and Juliet are separated by those who think they know best. This novel is set in a simpler time and place: it was a time before cell phones, email or Facebook, when our reliance on simpler methods of communication was both a blessing and a curse. When someone on the other side of the world can be both seen and heard in an instant, it’s hard for us to fathom a world without communication. However, when circumstances dictate that Henry and Jenny be separated, with many unanswered letters between them, they’re forced to rely only on their faith, both in God and in one another, to see them through. As Ripplinger’s first novel, Pewter Angels has an unhurried pacing not typical of inexperienced writers. This pacing helps slow the reader down and give them a lesson in patience, just as Henry’s own mentor, Mr. Engelmann, repeatedly tries to…

Bee Yourself

Bee Yourself by Kerry Sather and illustrated by David Mark Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Gail Jansen $19.95 978-1-894431-66-8 At one time or another, most of us will have looked in the mirror and wished we were “someone new,” especially as children, where one look around the schoolyard could often have us seeing others who seemed to be more talented, more attractive, and smarter than we could ever hope to be. That’s why first time children’s author Kerry Sather’s book Bee Yourself offers both parents and children alike a wonderful opportunity to see for themselves that sometimes just “beeing” yourself is the best thing around. Taking you on a fun whimsical flight around the countryside, Bee Yourself shows you, through the eyes of a quirky little bee, that every creature has an upside and a downside to its existence and that truly, no one is perfect. Complemented by David Mark’s wonderful illustrations that showcase the imagination of a little bee as it tries on different personalities and personae, you’ll laugh out loud when you see what a bee would look like dressed up as a butterfly,a frog, a bird, a bunny, and more. The hilarity includes an…

The Maladjusted
Thistledown Press / 26 June 2012

The Maladjusted by Derek Hayes Published by Thistledown Press Review by Gail Jansen $18.95 ISBN: 978-1-897235-90-4 For those that tend to a more sunny disposition, The Maladjusted by Derek Hayes might be a journey on a road seldom trod, but it’s a road well worth travelling. Hayes has written a collection of short stories that lets you look at life from a new perspective, and allows you to identify with characters that often live on the fringe of what we would consider a “normal” existence. Hayes puts us in touch with that voice inside that speaks incessantly as we go about our daily lives by introducing us to characters who, as much as they differ from us on the outside, echo many of our own thoughts and beliefs on the inside. This creates a connection that allows us to view those “maladjusted” members of our society in a whole new light. From the grimy back alleys behind the apartment of the “mentally ill” Mike, who finds solace and perhaps a life in the game of Chess, to the dignity we can so plainly see in Melanie as she struggles to find her own level of normal, Hayes characters are people…

Another Angel of Love
Pio-Seelos Books / 2 March 2012

Another Angel of Love by Henry Ripplinger Published by Pio-Seelos Books Review by Gail Jansen $21.95 ISBN: 978-0-9865424-2-8 The second in the five-part Angelic Letters Series, Another Angel of Love is a book that is more than able to stand all on its own, as it continues the story of Henry and Jenny and the stories of the people that surround them. This is less a novel that preaches, and more one that shares its knowledge, no matter what your faith or religious beliefs. The lessons on love, human kindness, and life that are expertly interwoven throughout this tale are ones that hold true across the spectrum of humanity. Like a good wine, a good author often takes time to develop to his or her full potential, but Ripplinger, despite his newness to the craft, seems to have avoided many of the pitfalls of new writers, who often leave their readers to struggle through a story with a good premise but poor delivery. Instead, he has somehow managed to combine both the freshness of a new voice with the maturity of great storyteller. While Another Angel of Love is billed as a romance, Ripplinger’s willingness to tackle so many difficult…

Summer of Fire
Coteau Books / 17 August 2011

Summer of Fire by Karen Bass Coteau Books Reviewed by Gail Jansen Price $12.95 ISBN 9781550504156 Listed as a book for teens, Summer of Fire by Karen Bass, is an equally good read for anyone living with a teenager, for the insight it can give into the inner workings of a teen’s minds. Set in modern day Germany, the book acts partly as a tour guide with its rich descriptions of the cities of Hamburg and Heidelberg, and partly as a history book, shedding light on a period that today stills haunts many Germans. Between these two facets is an engaging tale expertly interwoven that tells of two young girls who, despite the years that separate them, lead a parallel existence in many ways. When the book’s heroine Del is sent from her Canadian home to Germany to live with her emotionally distant sister for the summer, Del’s feelings of abandonment intensify as does her anger and resentment, until the day she is introduced to the diaries of a young German girl named Garda. Del starts to realize the part she has played in her own exile, and that as different as life is today, the hardships faced by a…

Practice of Perfection
Coteau Books / 28 April 2010

The Practice of Perfection by Mary Frances Coady Coteau Books Reviewed by Gail Jansen $18.95 ISBN 978-1-55050-400-2 Perfection is an attribute few of us try to attain, but in the inner sanctum of a convent, it is above all else, something that is strived for. But who are these women whose aim is perfection? And how does the transformation from ordinary girl to reverent nun take place? These are the compelling mysteries regarding religious life as it was back in 1959 that Mary Frances Coady looks to unravel in her first book of short fiction, The Practice of Perfection. A collection of integrated stories told from separate points of view, each story looks deeply into the hearts and minds of young novice nuns, following them as they go about their day’s observances. A stylistic technique employed by Coady allows readers to truly see the struggle, doubt and perseverance each novice experiences from the inside out. She shows us through her writing that even as they aim for God’s perfection, beneath their habits lie the ordinary human failings that exist in us all. Evoking the stark and simple lifestyle of those cloistered with unembellished words and repeated images, Coady bestows an…

Dead Rock Stars
Backroads Press / 21 October 2009

Dead Rock Stars by Wes Funk Published by Backroads Press Reviewed by Gail Jansen $15.95 ISBN: 978-0-9781396-1-8 Growing up different from others always makes its mark on who we become as adults. For Wes Funk’s main character Jackson Hill, in his novel Dead Rock Stars, growing up gay on a farm in small town Saskatchewan, with two red-necked brothers and a past that haunts him, it’s a mark that has led to isolation, no matter how far he thinks he has come. Yet as Funk writes, “there comes a time when a person has to make peace with his hostility.” In his engaging story about Hill and the Dead Rock Stars theme that plays on throughout his life, Funk subtly pushes the reader to look beyond the stereotype to see the man that Hill has become, and to see the very real issues he faces in confronting his past; a confrontation he is helped gently through with the aid of the handsome and charismatic Frank. While we have all faced such moments at one point or another in our lives – defining moments that lead us to embrace life, or run from it – in Hill’s case it’s a run…

The Way It Was: A Story of My Life
Leola Harron , Self-Published / 9 September 2009

The Way It Was A Story of My Life by Leola Edna May Harron Published by Leola Harron Reviewed by Gail Jansen Price $12.95 Anyone who’s ever felt over-worked and underpaid should take a moment to live life in the past lane, through Leola Edna May Harron’s book The Way it Was A Story of My Life. Writing about the joys and hardships faced growing up as a prairie pioneer in the early 1900’s Harron’s simple style at times seems overwrought with seemingly inconsequential detail, yet as the book unfolds, each detail works to paint for the reader, a realistic portrait of what life on the prairies truly was about. Instead of a glorified portrait of a life with daring adventures, Harron’s clear and vivid memories paint quite a different picture full of hard work, tragedy and a certain dogged determinism needed to survive the harsh Saskatchewan landscape. Any simple pleasures that Harron did experience were remembered as sweet moments that needed to be savoured and treasured for the brief respite from real life that they gave. Raised by her maternal grandparents after the death of her parents before she was barely four years old, Harron grew up impoverished yet…

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