Monday, October 31, 2011

Insight by Terron James

From Goodreads:

Rumors are surging through Appernysia that a Beholder has been born, the first wielder of True Sight in over a millennium.

Seventeen-year-old Lon Marcs discovers he has been blessed—or cursed—with this gift. He cannot control the power of True Sight and feels it killing him with each passing day. After months of desperate attempts to survive, Lon’s situation becomes more hopeless. He realizes that the only people who might possess the knowledge to save his life are the sworn enemies of his king. To obtain their help, Lon would have to leave behind his family and beloved Kaylen.

Although this is the hardest decision Lon has ever made, it is only the first of many that will test his strength and challenge his interpretation of right and wrong.


From Misty:

James successfully creates believable characters that live in a world they do not fully understand.  As the plot progresses, the three main characters are each immersed in situations that test them and require them to grow--the key element in a Young Adult novel.  Effectively using cause and effect, James forces his characters to become adults in a world they come to understand.  However, being that Insight is the first in a new series, they do not fully reach that potential in this book.

To me--and I'm basing my opinion on the genres I normally read--Insight does not read like other YA novels.  Almost every instance of dialogue is written in complete sentences, not the way people, and teens especially, talk at all.  This is cumbersome to read at times and seldom rings true, making me distrustful somehow of most of the characters.  Lon's father's habit of calling him "Son" is so patronizing (moreso because I think it is intended to be a sign of caring) I almost couldn't overlook it to enjoy the story, which is well thought-out and executed.  While the descriptions of the setting are delightfully detailed, the meat of the story sometimes gets lost in their complexity.  And while the descriptions of each character's feelings and motives are sufficient, they would be more powerful if they were shown in the character's actions more than told in the narration.

As you know, my favorite novels always involve romance, and this one has it--sort of.  Lon's reasons for leaving home are based on his love for Kaylen, which sounds romantic, but they actually have very little interaction and not enough to solidify their feelings for each other.  At first I thought it wasn't enough to base his actions on, but while Lon's feelings for Kaelyn are weak, they are more complex than I originally thought because they are rooted in his desire to fulfill an ideal which his parents have created and in his competitive satisfaction at having won against Braedr in securing Kaylen's affection.  But even that is a really easy choice for Kaylen because Braedr is a jerk, reinforcing the idea that Lon's love is not enough to justify his actions, but those more complex and subtle issues are.  So, I think there is a lot more going on in this storyline than the average YA would pick up on, but the story works either way.

I give Insight 3 of 5 stars based on my own enjoyment of it, but I recommend it to all Fantasy readers, young and old, and expect that anyone more interested in and knowledgable about the Fantasy genre than I am would easily give it 4 or 5 stars.

I received a copy of Insight from the author in exchange for my completely honest review.  If you would like a copy of Insight, check out the author's website Here.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Abinadi by HB Moore




On the back cover:
"Raquel has a secret. As the daughter of one of King Noah's priests, she enjoys a luxurious life and the admiration of powerful men, including Alma, the newest priest in the king's court. But her heart belongs to a commoner, a man with no earthly wealth but rich heavenly gifts. When King Noah demands that Raquel join his harem, she flees the only life she has known and marries her secret love. His name is Abinadi.

The couple find abundant joy in their community of believers and in their firstborn son. But when the Lord calls Abinadi as His prophet, their faith is tested to the outermost limits. Abinadi's commitment to the Lord requires them both to give their all-even unto death. Yet if Alma chooses to overcome his troubled past and seek out the truth, their sacrifice may yield rich fruit.

With vivid detail and poignant emotion, this historical novel pulls readers into a fiery tale of love, courage, and faith that is difficult to put down and impossible to forget."

In the preface of this book Heather asks a question I never thought to ask. "Is there any information within the scriptural text that hints at the age of the prophet Abinadi?" When thinking of Abinadi as an elderly man I was so grateful for his sacrifice. When thinking of Abinadi as a young man giving his life to the Lord I am not only grateful but in awe of all he did and gave up.

This Book of Mormon story comes to life. Vivid details bring you to places you've never been but now feel like home. Descriptive smells, foods, and clothing all bring you right into the book. The characters keep you turning pages.

Abinadi was very hard to put down. A wonderful historical fiction story helping us to bring the Book of Mormon to life.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Lone Star Cafe by Lisa Wingate

I love this book - I really do. This is the second book in the Texas Hill Country trilogy. The other books, "Texas Cooking" and "Over the Moon at the Big Lizard Diner" are both really good too. I will recommend all three, but give you the overview for "Lone Star Cafe."
Laura Draper, a magazine editor from Virginia, gets sent to Texas to take over a failing magazine and turn it in to something spectacular. On her way to work one morning, her assistant calls to tell her the highway is shut down and she has to take a detour. With bad weather and spotty cell service she pulls in to what she believes to be an abandoned parking lot, and that's how she ends up at the Lone Star Cafe, with it's 82-year-old twin owners, and it's coffee that can cure a multitude of ills. Here she meets Graham, the nephew of the twins, and starts dreaming of John Wayne, a sure sign she's falling in love. With her race to the deadline on the magazine, taking care of her elderly father, and her time spent at the Cafe, Laura's in for a whirlwind adventure with the rest of these quirky characters.
I love it. "Nough said. There's no swearing, except for maybe one or two mild words, but they get apologized for for being said in front of a lady. It's not preachy, but does have some scriptural references and lets you get what you want out of that angle. There's no sex, but enough kissing to keep it interesting. I love the twins - they add a fun element, and Graham too (although maybe I just like him because of the name). The only element I don't particularly care for in this book, and the others in the series as well, is that it takes place in about a week's time, and the conflict between Laura and Graham seems like it shouldn't be something that's made that big a deal of with only knowing each other for 5 days. That could just be me, though. It's still conflict, and it works, just doesn't quite seem ... reasonable to me. Overall I give this book 4.75 stars. It's almost perfect, and I would recommend it (and the rest of this series) to anyone.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Cry In The Night....

A Novel By Mary Higgins Clark, Queen of Suspense

Publisher's Note: For a divorced mother of two, it was a fairy-tale romance...
When lovely Jenny MacPartland met the man of her dreams while working in a New York art gallery, she could hardly believe her luck. Artist Erich Krueger was handsome, sensitive, a painter whose exquisite landscapes were making him a virtual overnight success...and a man utterly in love with her!

That twisted into a woman's most horrifying Nightmare.

Married within a month, suddenly wealthy, deeply adored, Jenny planned a warm, caring home on Erich's vast Minnesota farm. But the lonely days and eerie nights strained her nerves to the breaking point, making her doubt her own sanity. Caught in a whirlpool of shattering events, Jenny was about to unearth a past more terrifying than she dared imagine...tragic, terrible secrets that threatened her marriage, her children, her very life.

"A stunning achievement...A Cry In The Night could become a suspense classic..." Associated Press

Mandi's Review:  Married to a wealthy farmer and artist, Jenny MacPartland and her children feel as if they've suddenly stepped into a fairy tale. But when strange happenings fill the night, Jenny is left wondering if she has simply gone mad or if the ghosts of Erich's past has come back to haunt them. Just in time for Halloween, Mary Higgins Clark's A Cry In The Night is a definite thriller that will leave you gripping the edge of your seat and nibbling your fingernails. I have always enjoyed her books, but this one quickly moved to the top of the list. I don't care to read books laden with gore, language or graphic scenes, and I thought this book was tastefully written, filled with suspense, and a definite clean read. The plot moved at a rapid pace and included enough twists and turns to keep even the most savvy reader guessing until the very end. I thought the characters, including the minor characters, were very well-rounded and fleshed out, and as a mother with young children the story sent shivers up my spine. I give A Cry In The Night 4 out of 5 stars!!

Elliot and the Goblin War (Underworld Chronicles #1) by Jennifer A. Nielsen

While I realize that it is no longer Wednesday, and therefore not my turn to review a book, I just had to jump in here (since I missed yesterday!)  Yesterday I was planning on reviewing  Fortune's Folly by Deva Fagen.  It's a good book.  I really liked it.  It's not fabulous or perfect, but it was a good book.

But I'm glad I waited until this morning because Oh. My. Goodness.  I loved this book!  I finished it up about three o'clock this morning and it was worth being up that late!


This is what the back cover has to say:

Warning!  As of today, there are only 7 children who have ever read this book and lived to tell about it.  95 children successfully read the first chapter, but upon beginning chapter 2, they started blabbering in some language known only as "Flibberish".  38 children made it halfway through this wretched book before they began sucking their thumbs through their noses.

If you're very brave, perhaps you are willing to take your chances.  Be sure that you have told your family who gets your favorite toys if you do not survive this book.  Read it now, if you dare.  But don't say you haven't been warned, for this is the story that unfolds the mysteries of the Underworld.

This is what I have to say!

I loved this book!  The whole thing was written just like the back cover.  A little funny, a little sarcastic, a whole lot of fun!  The cover of this book is amazing.  Beautiful (if goblins can be beautiful!)    (I know, I know...I shouldn't judge a book by it's cover.  I don't.  Always.  Well, maybe...more than I should!)  And the illustrations throughout the book are so nice!

Elliot comes from an odd family.  He has an older brother Reed that is 16 and works at the Quack Shack (selling duck burgers...and he supplements his family's meager food supply by bringing home leftover pickle relish)  Elliot has an older sister named Wendy who is 15.  She is a terrible cook, but she tricks people into coming in for dinner by making yummy-smelling desserts.  And Elliot has six-year-old twin brothers named Kyle and Cole.  They are hilarious!  Always getting into trouble (they were suspended from kindergarten  in their first week for putting a water snake in the boys' bathroom toilet)  So fun to read!

The story starts when Elliot (unknowingly) saves a Brownie named Patches from three goblins on Halloween.  But, because it was Halloween, he didn't realize that they were real.  Three years later, when the Queen of the Brownies dies, Patches' dad remembers how brave Elliot was and names him as her successor.

What happens next was charming!  With the help of the Brownies they try to figure out a way to defeat the Goblins.  It is infused with humor, literally dripping with it.  I wanted to find a passage to put here for an example, but it was too hard to choose.  Every page is delightful!  It would be a great read-aloud book I think!  I plan to introduce it to my girls as soon as they get home from school.  THEN I'm going to the library to pick up the next book in the series, Elliot and the Pixie Plot!


I gave it an enthusiastic 5 stars!  Yes, it's that good!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Dragon Flight (Dragon Slippers, Book 2) by Jessica Day George

Synopsis (from GoodReads.com):

With the Dragon Wars over, Creel finds herself bored with life as a seamstress. Then word comes that a bordering country has been breeding dragons in preparation for an invasion. Never one to sit around, Creel throws herself headlong into an adventure that will reunite her with her dragon friend Shardas, pit her against a vicious new enemy and perhaps rekindle a friendship with Prince Luka that seems to have gone cold. Funny, heart-felt, and action packed, this is a sequel that will satisfy on every level.

Jillian’s Review:

This second installment of the Dragon Slippers series was just as fun, exciting, and interesting as the first. I've mentioned before how much I LOVE George's writing style and she doesn't stray from it in this one. The characters are realistic and likeable (or hate-able) and most importantly, I finished with a smile on my face and an uplifted heart. I really like that Creel (can’t stand her name) is strong and brave but doesn’t really see herself that way. It’s refreshing to no have the main character’s personality be overpoweringly stubborn. That seems to be the trend in the YA novels I’ve recently read.

The only problems I had with this one were that we’re told that Creel and Luka spend tons of time together, but we don't really get to see any of it. I would have liked to see a bit more romance but I understand that this is a juvenile book so it shouldn't have too much. George does a great job of showing the reader what everyone is wearing (which makes sense since Creel is a seamstress), yet I can't for the life of me remember what Luka looks like. Still, these are minor issues for me because the rest of the content of the book was marvelous.

I can’t wait to read the next one!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Hope's Journey by Stephanie Worlton


From Goodreads:
Sydney is a straight-A student heading to college on a scholarship, and Alex is a quiet jock preparing to serve an LDS mission. But their dreams are shattered on the eve of their high school graduation when they find out that Sydney is pregnant. Separated, they must both trust in God as they search for the worth they once found in each other.

From Misty:
Beautifully, achingly honest, Hope's Journey is a realistic exploration of a teenage pregnancy.  Written from an LDS perspective, Worlton  emphasizes what a taboo subject this can be in LDS circles, how cruel and prideful we can be without realizing it, and how our snap judgements of others can be so very unfair and unwise besides.  Told through both Sydney and Alex's points of view, she explores subjects such as worth, worthiness, insecurity, accepting change, forgivness, and repentence.  Her characters are not only realistic but endearing.  You will wish you were one of their friends.


As a general rule, I avoid books that look to be "poignant" or "heart-warming," but this was one I could not resist.  Admittedly, I was influenced greatly by the cover, which is one of the most beautiful and intriguing I have ever seen.  For me to enjoy a story, the writing has to be good, and the story has to be worth telling and worth the time it takes me to read it.  But most importantly, I really need to connect with the characters. 

I completely connected with Sydney.  Though having different outcomes, Sydney's experience took me straight back to my own high school experience, my own high school boyfriend, and my own inability to "break up" with my best friend even when I should have.  If I had truly loved him, I would have.  Working from both the male and female points of view, Worlton accurately describes the reasons why being serious with someone when you're both so young is so dangerously playing with fire, reasons I heard a hundred times as a teen and never, not once, actually interalized and believed--because I was like Sydney: a straight-A student, a good girl, and the exception to every rule.

I liked Alex's comparison of girls to cars, of Sydney to a Porsche--gorgeous, desireable, but something he was completely unprepared to take care of and a committment he was completely unprepared to make.  But, when we take adult priveleges we have to accept adult consequences, and I loved how, when her options became limited, Sydney owned up, made a new plan, and moved forward.  I would have liked to see more of Alex's acceptance, as well as a few other ends tied up, such as how his mother responded to his decision! 

I enjoyed how all the terminology and references to sex were so tastefully and tactfully done, but I do think this would be a limitation outside of the LDS market.  Same to be said of the situation as a whole; most of the world would probably not see much wrong with teen pregnancy and even less wrong with premarital sex, let alone consider it a sin that needed to be pain-stakingly repented of.  Not taking this into consideration might even put us in the same boat as the judgemental old hags in Sydney's ward! 

I appreciated Grams and her words of wisdom.  She could view the Sydney's situation from a more eternal perspective than anyone else.  I loved Gabe's sweet devotion.  And Damon.  Oh. Man. (fanning myself with my hand).  Even Sydney's brother.  His own plans took a back seat when Sydney needed his support.  She inspired devotion in so many.  How could she really be as terrible as those who were judgemental believed her to be?

This book is so completely a romance while the two main characters spend most of the book apart and misunderstanding the other's good intentions.  Usually misunderstandings, things that could be cleared up with a conversation, frustrate me, but this was just so sweetly done, and in truth, the relationship was much too complex to be cleared up with a conversation.  So many other factors came into play because Sydney and Alex had not lived enough of life (college, steady income, experience in general) for the relationship they had developed to work as it should.

I highly recommend this book to anyone, especially teen girls and women.  An enthusiastic 6 of 5 stars (the extra one's for Damon). 

I received a copy of Hope's Journey from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.  Normally, I might do a giveaway for the copy, but I am soooo holding onto this one and getting it signed.  Thanks so much to Cedar Fort and to Stephanie Worlton for the chance to read and review Hope's Journey.

Even though I am being stingy with this one, you could still win a copy of Hope's Journey.  Visit Stephanie's blog for details.  Giveaway ends November 14, 2011.

Kreating Krazy--One day at a time

And if you have another moment, click over to my blog for a guest post by Stephanie Worlton where she gives more detail into her personal experience and hard-earned wisdom that inspired this book.

Books, they're Spooktacular!


Welcome to Six Mixed, a daily blog where we review books both old and new!  This week we are involved in a HUGE blog hop giveaway.  Over 400 blogs are participating, and that means there are over 400 prizes you could win!

Since I'm a little tapped out on creativity this time, the prize you can win on Six Mixed is a signed copy of Daughter of Helaman, and maybe, if I get feeling crafty, I'll throw a MYSTERY prize into the package.
If you're new to this, you will learn quickly. Just follow this blog on Google Friend Connect (on our sidebar) and leave your email address in the comments.

Many of you go-getters want more opportunities to win, so here is what you do. You can choose any and up to five of the following things.

You may follow us on Twitter for one additional entry.
Or you may follow any of our blogs listed on the sidebar.  Really, follow us, we don't bite.

Or you may Friend or Follow any or all of us on Goodreads for one more entry (each). Links for that are listed below.

Mandi

Misty
Still want more? Here are some Facebook links for you to Like.


Like The Alias

Like Daughter of Helaman
And that's it! Now, go and do! You're entered! If you already Like, Friend, or Follow, that counts. Just remember you can only be entered six times. Type the number of things you did and your email into the comments.

Return to the Spooktacular Link on I am a Reader not a Writer to enter for more great prizes!



Friday, October 21, 2011

Love in the Afternoon by Lisa Kleypas

Okay, so this book is really not an inspirational and uplifting book. It was, however, pretty good.
She harbors a secret yearning. As a lover of animals and nature, Beatrix Hathaway has always been more comfortable outdoors than in the ballroom. Even though she participated in the London season in the past, the classic beauty and free-spirited Beatrix has never been swept away or seriously courted...and she has resigned herself to the fate of never finding love. Has the time come for the most unconventional of the Hathaway sisters to settle for an ordinary man -- just to avoid spinsterhood? He is a world-weary cynic. Captain Christopher Phelan is a handsome, daring soldier who plans to marry Beatrix's friend, the vivacious flirt Prudence Mercer, when he returns from fighting abroad. But, as he explains in his letters to Pru, life on the battlefield has darkened his soul -- and it's becoming clear that Christopher won't come back as the same man. When Beatrix learns of Pru's disappointment, she decides to help by concocting Pru's letters to Christopher for her. Soon the correspondence between Beatrix and Christopher develops into something fulfilling and deep...and when Christopher comes home, he's determined to claim the woman he loves. What began as Beatrix's innocent deception has resulted in the agony of unfulfilled love -- and a passion that can't be denied...
This is the fifth book in the Hathaway series, and although the rest of the family is present in this book, you don't need to hear their stories to understand this one. That, I like. I haven't read/listened to the other books yet, but I believe I will eventually get to them. I'd kinda like to see what Beatrix is like before we get to hear her story. The book starts with Beatrix and her friend, Pru, discussing a letter Pru received from Captain Christopher Phelan who is off fighting in the war. When it appears that Pru has no desire to write back, however, Beatrix says that she will write for her. Just this once. But then Captain Phelan writes back, and Beatrix enjoys his letters. The correspondence continues until Beatrix realizes she has feelings for Christopher and does not believe that he will be happy to find out that it is her who has written and not the beautiful and flirtatious Pru. The war ends, and Christopher returns home a hero, although he doesn't feel like one. He goes in search of Pru, feeling she is the only one who can help him return to himself.
This was a fun story. Beatrix is a little bit eccentric, Christopher is a lot bit depressed, and the two of them together make for quite the scene. This is definitely a romance book, so if you don't like the romance scenes I won't recommend you read this. There was also a little bit of swearing, which I don't particularly mind, but I know some people do. For me, this book deserves at least a 4 star rating.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Jack Be Nimble Book 1: Gargoyle by Ben English

From the back cover:
     The boy came to her out of water, unexpected.  He was smart and strong and goofy,  as boys are meant to be, but peculiar - he remembered everything. 
     In the span of a single summer, she made him fearless.
     Now, even as Mercedes Adams is at the height of her career, forbidding changes loom over the world.  That night, in the hushed calm of a spring evening, two plain-faced killers watch her home, waiting to make their approach.
     A few hundred miles away, a brilliant technologist returns to his childhood home in order to begin a descent into darkness . . . in London, a military game theorist finds himself pursuing kidnappers . . . outside Prague, a hacker and a thief stumble upon plans for a weapon unique to the world . . . an FBI agent faces an unpredictable fugitive in Chicago, while in Germany, a sniper-turned-schoolteacher finds reasons to take up his ancient calling . . . and a sitting United States Senator finds his life and his work invaded to terrifying conclusion.  In Paris, a widowed man begins to recognize the hints and patterns of a greater puzzle that will bring them together . . . or kill them all.
     Mercedes Adams is about to find herself at the center of a vast, tightening knot of mystery, intrigue, and globe-spanning terror borne of her family's legacy.  Rising to her aid is a small group of specially-trained men and women.  And at their center? 
     A man who remembers everything.

From Heather:
 I read the first chapter of Gargoyle on Ben English's website (www.benenglishauthor.com) and fell in love with the characters!  Jack especially!  I mean, who doesn't like a smart, funny, sexy leading man who can take out trained assassins and be so adorable with little children?!?

My only complaint (if you can call it a complaint!) is that the first half of the book is kind of confusing.  It needs to be, though.  I like how it's put on the back cover..."a vast, tightening knot" because that's exactly how it feels.  Each chapter is about a new person and situation and it's kind of hard to keep them all straight.  It was like starting a new book with every chapter.  BUT...!  It needed to be that way and as I read farther into the book and the characters all started coming together I could see the necessity of the individual threads.  And as the series continues (this is the first book of four, possibly five!) I think it will make more sense.

The writing is amazing.  He has some wonderful descriptions of each of the characters and you can really get a sense of their individuality and who they are.  He even takes us back in time to when some of the characters meet for the first time (I love when Jack and Mercedes meet!  It's so much fun!  Did I mention that I really, really like the main characters?!?)  Mr. English paints vivid pictures with his words and they are a joy to imagine!

I really enjoyed (but maybe didn't fully understand!) all of the technical details that make this novel stand out.  His descriptions of technology and weaponry and strategy really shine and, while this is not my usual genre, I found I was able to (mostly!) keep up with all of the details.  There were some really intense action scenes and Mr. English pulled them off masterfully!  I love Jack's group and how, the longer Major Griffin is with them, the more she appreciates their skills (of a Hollywood actor and his ratty accomplice).  It's awesome!

I would like to go back and read the first part of the book again, now that I know how all the characters fit together (well, most of them!)  And now that I care about the men on Jack's team a bit more.  I am anxious to see what happens in the next book and to read more about Jack and Mercedes.  (I hope they have more "screen time" together in the next book because they are adorable!)   I give the book 4 1/2 stars.  It's well written and engaging (especially after the first half...it gains momentum and it's hard to put it down!)  The characters are interesting, the story wonderfully well done.

Wither By Lauren DeStefano


Oops! I lost track of time yesterday and didn't even realize it was Wednesday today until just now! Here's my review - just pretend it's Tuesday ;)
Synopsis (from GoodReads.com):
Obviously, something went terribly wrong. Genetic mutations have festered, reducing human longevity to twenty-five, even less for most women. To prevent extinction, young girls are kidnapped, mated in polygamous marriages with men eager to procreate. Sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery, a recent victim of this breeding farm mentality, has vowed to break loose from its fetters; but finding allies and a safe way out is a challenge she can only hope she will survive. A dystopian fantasy series starter with wings. Editor's recommendation.
Jillian’s Review:
I know I probably shouldn't have liked this one as much as I did, what with how depressing it was and the completely unrealistic WW3 that took out EVERY continent except good ol' North America and that everyone dies at exactly the same age depending on gender. BUT, I couldn't put it down.
I was so happy to finally read a novel written in first-person where I really got to know the girl through her emotions and perceptions. Rhine (dumb name, but I guess it has meaning. Maybe I'll find out what that meaning is in the second book) was strong and intense and I wanted her to survive from the beginning.
The bad guy was totally creepy. I actually got the shivers a couple of times when Rhine had to play nice with him. The good guy(s) were likeable. I would have liked to get to know Gabriel better. There should have been more scenes with him and Rhine but I still wanted him to escape with her pretty much from day one of their meeting. I like that the guy Rhine is forced to marry was actually a good guy – naive and unobservant – but good and realistic, considering the unrealistic situation they’re put in. I was surprised, for a girl stuck in basically the same (albeit plush) room for nearly the whole novel, DeStefano manages to make Rhine’s life interesting. DeStefano also does a great job of showing the reader Rhine’s background with out constantly warping us back to the past.
And of course, the cover is awesome! I couldn’t resist trying this one when I found it displayed in the YA section of my public library. Thanks to whatever librarian thought to put it there!
I look forward to reading the next in the series, Fever.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Hop ended. Winner TBA!

Thank you so much to everyone that entered our giveaway last week. You all had such great comments! The hop has now ended, and the winner has been randomly selected and will be notified soon.

Later this month we will be participating in the Spooktacular Giveaway Hop hosted by I am a Reader not a Writer, so come on back and enter to win again!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

October Blog Hop Giveaway!

Welcome to the October Blog Hop, where you can visit new blogs, enter to win prizes, and have a great time!

At the bottom of this post, you'll see a list of participating blogs. Just click on each link, check out the prize, and follow the easy instructions to enter. You can enter on each blog, so it's possible to win multiple times. It's frighteningly easy.

On this blog, you can win a quilted bookcover in trade paperback size. So cute!


To enter, all you need to do is:

1. Become a follower of my blog.

2. Leave a comment on this post and tell me why you'd like to win this prize. If your e-mail address isn't visible through your Blogger profile, please also leave it with the comment so I can notify you if you win. You can enter until midnight MST on Saturday night, October 15th.

That's it! You are now entered. Now please go visit all my friends on the list below. It's almost like trick or treating!
October Blog Hop Participants
1. Tristi Pinkston
2. I Am a Reader, Not a Writer
3. Bonnie Harris
4. Michael D. Young
5. Misty Moncur
6. Debbie Davis
7. Mandi Tucker Slack
8. Mary Ann Dennis
9. Deanna Henderson
10. Laura Bastian
11. Kristy Tate
12. Kristy Wilson
13. Jennifer Debenham
14. Jenny Moore
15. Elizabeth Hughes
16. J. Lloyd Morgan
17. Close Encounters with the Night Kind
18. Billy Boulden
19. Scott Bryan
20. Maria Hoagland
21. Shirley Bahlmann
22. Shelly Brown
23. Marcy Howes
24. Lynnea Mortensen
25. Jaclyn M. Hawkes
26. Diane Stringam Tolley
27. Gail Zuniga
28. Betsy Love
29. iWriteNetwork
30. Canda's InkBlast
31. Stacy Coles

Learn more about October Blog Hop here.

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A Drowned Maiden's Hair...

Written by Laura Amy Schlitz

Publisher's Note: "People throw the word 'classic' about a lot, but A DROWNED MAIDEN'S HAIR genuinely deserves to become one." — WALL STREET JOURNAL

Maud Flynn is known at the orphanage for her impertinence. So when the charming Miss Hyacinth chooses her to take home, the girl is pleased but baffled, until it becomes clear that she’s needed to help stage elaborate séances for bereaved patrons. As Maud is drawn deeper into the deception, playing her role as a "secret child," she is torn between her need to please and her growing conscience —- until a shocking betrayal shows just how heartless her so-called guardians are. Filled with fascinating details of turn-of-the-century spiritualism and page-turning suspense, this lively novel features a feisty heroine whom readers will not soon forget.


Mandi's Review:  This book is reminiscent of Joan Aiken's Wolves of Willoughby Chase. I love books that have that old-timey feel to them and this one definitely takes you back to the turn of the century with it's clear descriptions and page-turning suspense. Filled with suspense and a bit of the supernatural, I thought this book was a great read for ages 11 and up. The character, Maud, is a very complex and believable character. The villain is equally endearing, which makes this book so unique. There are surprising twists that will keep you turning the pages long into the night. You won't want to put it down. I give A Drowned Maiden's Hair 4 out of 5 stars! 




October Blog Hop

Welcome to the October Blog Hop, where you can visit new blogs, enter to win prizes, and have a great time!

At the bottom of this post, you'll see a list of participating blogs. Just click on each link, check out the prize, and follow the easy instructions to enter. You can enter on each blog, so it's possible to win multiple times. It's frighteningly easy.

On this blog, you can win a beautiful cloth book cover for trade paperback.

To enter, all you need to do is:

1. Become a follower of my blog.

2. Leave a comment on this post and tell me why you'd like to win this prize. If your e-mail address isn't visible through your Blogger profile, please also leave it with the comment so I can notify you if you win. You can enter until midnight MST on Saturday night, October 15th.

That's it! You are now entered. Now please go visit all my friends on the list below. It's almost like trick or treating!

October Blog Hop Participants

1. Tristi Pinkston
2. I Am a Reader, Not a Writer
3. Bonnie Harris
4. Michael D. Young
5. Misty Moncur
6. Debbie Davis
7. Mandi Tucker Slack
8. Mary Ann Dennis
9. Deanna Henderson
10. Laura Bastian
11. Kristy Tate
12. Kristy Wilson
13. Jennifer Debenham
14. Jenny Moore
15. Elizabeth Hughes
16. J. Lloyd Morgan
17. Close Encounters with the Night Kind
18. Billy Boulden
19. Scott Bryan
20. Maria Hoagland
21. Shirley Bahlmann
22. Shelly Brown
23. Marcy Howes
24. Lynnea Mortensen
25. Jaclyn M. Hawkes
26. Diane Stringam Tolley
27. Gail Zuniga
28. Betsy Love
29. iWriteNetwork
30. Canda's InkBlast
31. Stacy Coles

Learn more about October Blog Hop here.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Iron Daughter By Julie Kagawa


Synopsis (from Goodreads.com):

Half Summer faery princess, half human, Meghan has never fit in anywhere. Deserted by the Winter prince she thought loved her, she is prisoner to the Winter faery queen. As war looms between Summer and Winter, Meghan knows that the real danger comes from the Iron fey—ironbound faeries that only she and her absent prince have seen. But no one believes her.

Worse, Meghan's own fey powers have been cut off. She's stuck in Faery with only her wits for help. Trusting anyone would be foolish. Trusting a seeming traitor could be deadly. But even as she grows a backbone of iron, Meghan can't help but hear the whispers of longing in her all-too-human heart.

Jillian’s Review:

Even though I’ve read two of these books, I’m still unsure who Meaghan Chase is. Her character is defined more by her lineage and her love for Prince Ash than her thoughts and feelings and how she reacts to events. And that’s pretty bad considering the novels are written in first-person. Kagawa has Meaghan see all the detail around her without showing the reader how Meaghan is affected by her surroundings or the events that take place (with the exception of Meaghan’s feelings for the main boys).

I was distracted by all the swearing and similar descriptions of things – all the bad guys have sharp, needle-like teeth. But my heart pitter-pattered for the stoic Ice Prince Ash. I couldn’t get enough of him and unfortunately he wasn’t in most of this one like he was in the first.

A lot of stuff happens in this one, just like the first, but I found myself sifting through the similar descriptions of things to get to that action and of course the romance!

The romance was pretty clean. The love-triangle thing between Meaghan, Puck, and Ash was a bit too much like Twilight (Puck to me just seems like a good pal and not even close to a love interest), but it ended the way I wanted it to. I really love it when that happens.

I will be reading the third in this series as soon as I can get it from the library.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Fall by Jennifer Hurst

From Goodreads:

Women and construction shouldn't mix. At least, that is what the client; Mr. Blackwell thinks when Twenty-one year old Julia D. Halstead is promoted to project manager to remodel a turn-of-the-century schoolhouse into a bed and breakfast. However, the schoolhouse contains a dark secret that has been hidden for nearly a hundred years. A secret that will unleash the Furies of Hell and cause the Angels in Heaven to weep as ethereal brothers, Matthew and Nathan battle over Julia's very soul.







From Misty:
Using elements of local history and folklore, Hurst crafts a unique story about the age old battle between good and evil set in the pictureque town of Torrey, Utah and centered around the reconstruction of the old Torrey schoolhouse.

Paranormal fiction is really prevalent right now, but in a corresponding post on my personal website today (see link below), Hurst explains what makes this paranormal romance different from the others that are out there.  While other paras focus on the attention grabbing tactics of teen angst and low morals, Fall focuses more on good fighting evil, the redemption of souls, second chances to make things right, and accepting the consequences of choices--all things I really appreciated.

Things that normally bug me in a book, (such as the handful of typos, tired phrases, or occurrences that have no bearing on the plot), just didn't in this book.  The story was so engaging and the characters so memorable that I became engrossed in the story quickly and only cared about what would happen next.

I would like to have seen the main character, JD, developed more fully.  Was she anal and organized?  Or was she flighty and impulsive?  I did understand that JD, like many of us, could be both ways, but I felt that this was told in the narration more than it was shown in the story, and I failed to connect with who JD really was.  Also, JD started out strong with both organized and impulsive behaviors, but as the story played out she began to be someone who was acted upon, someone who bad things just happend to, rather than develop into a strong character who learns to control herself and her life.  BUT, those are things I am expecting to see in a sequel.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised with my enjoyment of Fall.  Not that I expected to not enjoy it--I guess I just didn't know what to expect.  Hurst's writing flowed smoothly from event to event.  Her voice was easy without being informal or colloquial.  Her exciting scenes were exciting, and her creepy scenes were creepy.  A successful piece, achieving everything it attempted.  Really, a thumbs up on this unique blend of paranormal and real life.

Jennifer is running a contest for a free stay in the real Torrey Schoolhouse Bed and Breakfast.  You can check that out on her website

And you can read more about Jennifer in an author interview on mine.

Friday, October 7, 2011

While We're Far Apart by Lynn Austin

From Lynn Austin's web site:

In an unassuming apartment building in Brooklyn, New York, three lives intersect as the reality of war invades each aspect of their lives. Young Esther is heartbroken when her father decides to enlist in the army shortly after the death of her mother. Penny Goodrich has been in love with Eddie Shaffer for as long as she can remember; now that Eddie's wife is dead, Penny feels she has been given a second chance and offers to care for his children in the hope that he will finally notice her and marry her after the war. And elderly Mr. Mendel, the landlord, waits for the war to end to hear what has happened to his son trapped in war-torn Hungary.
But during the long, endless wait for victory overseas, life on the home front will go from bad to worse. Yet these characters will find themselves growing and changing in ways they never expected--and ultimately discovering truths about God's love... even when He is silent.


From Laura:

This book starts in the summer of 1943 when Eddie Shaffer decides he needs to enlist in the war to get away from the memory of his dead wife, and needs to find a place for his two children, Esther and Peter, while he's gone. He figures to leave them with his mother, but she refuses. Enter Penny, the girl next door who, of course, has been in love with Eddie forever and offers to watch the children for him. She moves in to his apartment in the Jewish neighborhood, with the Jewish landlord, Mr. Mendel living downstairs. Esther and Mr. Mendel are both looking for answers on why God would take loved ones from them, and we see the struggles they both have with their different faiths. They all eventually become friends, and wait for their loved ones to come home from the war.

There's a lot of history in this book, especially about the fate of the Jewish people in Europe during the war. I thought the characters were all good, and well written. I felt like I could relate to all of them. The relationships, however, were not very well written. There's a lot of interaction with the children and Mr. Mendel, but really not very much with Penny and the children, or Penny and Eddie (which I kinda wanted to see). We get letters to Mr. Mendel from his son and daughter-in-law, but we don't get to see letters to the family from Eddie. I guess I had a hard time deciding who the book was about, and it left me wanting for different interaction. Maybe not more, just different. Overall, I am only giving this book 2 stars. There were some good things about it, but I don't think it was worth the time put in to it.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Mrs. Mike by Benedict and Nancy Freedman

One of my favorite things to do is to wander around thrift stores. I adore thrift stores!! I drag my children down every isle while I shop happily to the sound of their whines and "pleeeeease"s. The thrill of the hunt keeps me coming back week after week. Thrift stores are wonderful, because I never pay full price for anything, including books. As a young mother, it isn't often that I find myself with extra funds to purchase new reading material, and when I find an exciting new book at a thrift store or used book store, I am ecstatic. So today, I'd like to feature one of my amazing finds. It's a little book titled Mrs. Mike. This isn't a suspense, though it is very romantic! I'm veering a little off course today, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to review this book. It's definitely an oldie--published in 1947, but it's a story that will inspire and touch your heart forever.

Publisher's Note:  A moving love story set in the Canadian wilderness, Mrs. Mike is a classic tale that has enchanted millions of readers worldwide. It brings the fierce, stunning landscape of the Great North to life-and tenderly evokes the love that blossoms between Sergeant Mike Flannigan and beautiful young Katherine Mary O'Fallon.


Mandi's Review: This is the true story of Katherine Mary O'Fallon, a young sixteen-year-old girl, who travels to Calgary, Alberta in 1907  to live with her Uncle John. She has pleurisy and because of her illness she is being sent to the Great North West in the hopes that the cool, dry air will help cure her lungs. Her Uncle is a rancher and Kathy is amazed by the new experience of traveling so far from home. Ranch life is very different than the life she led in Boston. She soon meets Sergeant Mike Flannigan and the sparks immediately fly. One of my favorite scenes is when Kathy has just finished cooking current berry pies for her uncle and the ranch hands. Not used to cooking with dried fruit, she messes up the pies, much to her embarrassment---


 "Well," said Mike, "when are you going to teach Kathy how to shoot?"
"You mean go hunting?" I couldn't believe it.
"Johnny bought her a twenty-two in town," Uncle said.
"You won't be needing any ammunition," Mike said, and grinned at me.
"Why not?" I asked.
"Well, you can use the currants in those seven currant pies you baked."


Was there really something wrong with the pies? I'd been saving mine for later because I was full. But I walked to the table and took a big bite of it to show him. It was as if I had pebbles in my mouth. I wondered what was wrong. But I wasn't going to ask them because they were laughing at me and because my mouth was too full of that currant rock to talk. To spit them out would be defeat, so I made a fake gulp and tried to hold my mouth naturally as if I had swallowed them. 


Mike said good-by. I didn't answer because I couldn't. He took my hand and leaned toward me till my hair brushed his cheek.


"Spit 'em out," he said softly, "and the next time, cook 'em."


In that moment, you too will fall in love with the handsome Sergeant Mike Flannigan. This is a very moving love story. A story of survival and family. The Great Northwest is an amazing backdrop and this book will leave a lasting impression on your life. I give Mrs. Mike 5 out of 5 stars.  




You can purchase a copy of Mrs. Mike on Amazon 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Palace Beautiful by Sarah DeFord Williams

From Goodreads: When sisters Sadie and Zuzu Brooks move to Salt Lake City, they discover a secret room in the attic of their new house, with a sign that reads "Palace Beautiful" and containing an old journal. Along with their neighbor, dramatic Belladonna Desolation (real name: Kristin Smith), they take turns reading the story of a girl named Helen living during the flu epidemic of 1918. The journal ends with a tragedy that has a scary parallel to Sadie and Zuzu's lives, and the girls become obsessed with finding out what happened to Helen after the journal ends. Did she survive the flu? Is she still alive somewhere? Or could her ghost be lurking in the nearby graveyard?

Sarah DeFord Williams has created a gripping read that covers two time periods, many fantastic characters, and a can't-put-it-down ending, all with delightful, extraordinary prose.


From Heather:  I love stories like this!  History fascinates me and I love thinking about the lives of people that have gone on before.  This story was so much fun to read.  

I loved Sadie.  She is very artistic and many of her descriptions are very colorful.  I love the way she invents new names for colors: skinned-elbow red, roll-in-the-dirt brown, used-to-be-white, bridesmaid-mauve or grandma's-talcum-powder-blue.  


I loved Belladonna Desolation.  What a funny, funky character.  I worried about her through the book, though, and was glad to see a change in her circumstance by the end of the book.


And I really loved Helen.  Helen was the girl that left the journal in the crawl space in 1918.  She talks about her family and what happened to them during the flu epidemic.  She comes alive in the pages of the book and it's so much fun to think about her life and compare it to Sadie's. 


The book does explore some pretty deep emotions, but in a good way.  Sadie's mom died when her little sister Zuzu was born and Sadie is still working through those feelings; Bella has her own troubles and sad feelings to deal with; even Zuzu has her struggles.  And then you get Helen's troubles which would be hard for anyone to deal with.  Even with all the sadness, the book is positive and uplifting and a wonderful read.



I gave it 4 1/2 stars.  I really, really liked it!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Wicked Lovely By Melissa Marr

Synopsis (from Goodread):

All teenagers have problems, but few of them can match those of Aislinn, who has the power to see faeries. Quite understandably, she wishes that she could share her friends' obliviousness and tries hard to avoid these invisible intruders. But one faery in particular refuses to leave her alone. Keenan the Summer King is convinced beyond all reasoning that Aislinn is the queen he has been seeking for nine centuries. What's a 21st-century girl to do when she's stalked by a suitor nobody else can see? A debut fantasy romance for the ages; superlative summer read.

Jillian’s review:

I know, I know, we’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but I so frequently find myself choosing books because of their pretty covers. Unfortunately, the cover of this book was much better than the words inside.

2 measly stars, here’s why:

This was a very dark story, even darker than most YA Fantasy novels. There was too much swearing and a bunch of sexual trash and there’s no way I would want a YA to read this. The plot was really interesting and I didn't mind the characters, hence the two stars instead of one. Definitely wouldn’t want anyone to make the mistake of reading this just because it has a beautiful and intriguing cover.

Sorry the review is a bit late. I've been away from home all day.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Edge of Winter by Luanne Rice


From Goodreads:
Neve Halloran and her daughter have shared a fierce love for the austere beauty of Rhode Island’s South County ever since Neve guided Mickey’s first baby steps along the sandy shore. Now, with Mickey a teenager and Neve’s last hope for happiness with her daughter’s loving but unstable father gone, both will struggle to make a new life together amid the windswept landscape that sustains them.
Captivated by a fragile wildlife sanctuary, Mickey will move toward womanhood in the company of a lonely boy who shares her instinctive way with the creatures of the coast. And Neve will find herself drawn to a man who has devoted his life to the sanctuary, but who is unable to share the pain of a recent loss—or reconnect with the father who still bears the scars of World War II.
As winter gives way to spring, and spring to summer, a secret will emerge that has lain buried in the depths just offshore for decades, a secret that will galvanize the small seaside community. For the waters bear their own vestige of the past—and their ceaseless rhythms may point the way to hope and new beginnings.
Lyrical, luminous, and utterly captivating, The Edge of Winter is Luanne Rice at her most penetrating and insightful, in a moving exploration of the bonds that shape us and set us free.

From Misty:
Reviewing one of my all-time favorite authors for today.  Not sure I can say much more than the very thorough overview above, so I will just say this: I love the way Luanne writes characters so real you always feel like you know them.  I love the way she writes families complete with jealousies, hang-ups, and sibling rivalries all mingled together with the deepest of love.  I love how she writes her heroes vulnerable and human and yet still so strong you cheer for them from the very first word you read about them. 
I always connect so well with Rice's use of metaphor and motif to underscore her themes, many of which revolve around families, returning to one's roots, making things right, respecting nature, accepting loss, embracing change.  As with many of her books, the writing in The Edge of Winter is lyrical, the prose beautiful, and the descriptions vivid.

I give this one 4 1/2 of 5 stars.