Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Storyteller's Daughter by Cameron Dokey

Synopsis (from goodreads.com):

In a faraway kingdom, a king has been betrayed. Deeply hurt and bitterly angry, he vows never to be deceived again. Unfortunately, the king's plan to protect himself will endanger all of the realm's young women, unless one of them will volunteer to marry the king — and surrender her life.

To everyone's relief and horror, one young woman steps forward. The daughter of a legendary storyteller, Shahrazad believes it is her destiny to accept this risk and sacrifice herself.

On the night of her wedding to the king, Shahrazad begins to weave a tale. Fascinated, the king lets her live night after night. Just when Shahrazad dares to believe that she has found a way to keep her life — and an unexpected love — a treacherous plot will disrupt her plan. Now she can only hope that love is strong enough to save her.

Jillian’s Review:
I don’t like to be reminded over and over again that I’m reading a book and that I’m not actually in an exotic new world. It took me a while to get into this novel because Dokey kept a dialog between Shahrazad and the reader. Thankfully, these jolts out of contexts were brief and grew farther and father between stories and I was able to skip them when I came upon them. Once skipped, I was able to lose myself in this wonderfully written novel.

There are several stories told by Shahrazad which are meant to teach those whom she tells the stories to.

There was a healthy amount of romance and the characters are exotic and deep thinkers. There are so many stories throughout this novel, yet Dokey does a wonderful job of blending them together to make one great tale. I’m glad I pushed through the first few pages because I would have really missed out on a fantastic book.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Domino Effect by Andrew Cotto

This book was sent to me by the author. Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to read your work. Great book!

On the back cover:
"The Domino Effect is the story of Danny Rorro, a charismatic kid from Queens poisoned by the past. A series of painful defeats have left him scarred and isolated from his neighborhood, his parents, and, most significantly, the benevolent ways of his childhood when he was known as "Domino." With great insight, imagery and wit, Danny recalls his past in Queens and his coming-of-age at Hamden Academy. This fast-paced and powerful story is rich with conflict, humor, tenderness and music- just like life, especially when coming-of-age."

Jennifer's Review:
I liked this book. The story was a page turner, I had to know what would happen next. I would have finished in a few days except that we are coming up on Christmas. Danny is very believable and I found myself rooting for him through the whole book...almost. There is one moment where his mistake was a bit too disgusting but he figured that one out, too. (He pooped in the wrestler's shoes.)

Neat story from beginning to end. Now, for the reason I can't give this book five stars. The language and sexual content. I understand that teenage boys can have naughty mouths but I don't want to read about them. Plus, all of the content about what boys may do or think in private was too much. I have to take away a star and a half for this. Otherwise, a great book.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Body of Evidence by Jeremy Brown

It's Wednesday and it's not even midnight and I'm writing my review!  And the week before Christmas at that!  The way things have been going lately, it's quite an accomplishment, I assure you.  =]  I have read (or started!) lots of books in the last couple weeks that I intended to review.  But I just couldn't make myself finish them for whatever reason.  I started (and read most of!) The Tanglewood Terror by Kurtis Scaletta.  It was ok, but not my favorite book.  I read about half of Saltwater Taffy by Eric Delabarre.  I liked this one ok, too, but I really disliked the bickering that went on between the group of friends.  I'm sure it's just a boy thing, but it sort of got old after a while. 

I also started Lost in Lexicon: An Adventure in Words and Numbers by Pendred Noyce and I actually liked this one, I just haven't had time to finish.  =]  But it's clever...probably more clever than me!  There are so many parts I want to go back and reread, just to catch the subtle humor that I missed the first time around.  One I plan to finish for sure...just as soon as Christmas is finished! 

So today I'm reviewing Body of Evidence.  My eleven-year-old daughter brought this one home from her library at school and asked if I wanted to read it. Four-Minute Forensic Mysteries?  Absolutely!  It was a very quick read (even quicker because each story is only four minutes long!) and that was a good thing because things tend to get busy this time of the year! 

From the back of the book:  Do you have the forensic tools to solve these mysteries?  A man claims his wife died in a car accident.  But could she still be alive?  A woman's body is found in a lake.  But where was she really drowned?  A safecracker wears gloves and doesn't leave a fingerprint.  But what other body part is unique enough to leave a print?

Fifty-one baffling crime scenes need to be solved.  Can you crack the case before CSI Wes Burton?  You'll need to use all forensic evidence at your disposal, and Burton is the best.  He can tell when a witness is lying by the flick of their wrist.  His Crime Files contain the solution at the end of each mystery, but keep in mind, not every crime scene is as it appears.  The mysteries may be short, but they can be tricky.  You'll need to use all of your wits to weigh the evidence...

From Heather:  I really liked this book.  It's kind of like Encyclopedia Brown in that they have a short mystery and then the solution.  But the content is more grown up.  My only complaint, if I had one, is it took about half the book before I could remember who all the characters were and what they did and if they were male or female (because they only use last names)  It was kind of confusing, and it must have been confusing for other people too because they have a Personnel File at the beginning that introduces each character (maybe if I had read that first, I wouldn't have been so confused!)

I give it three and a half stars.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Daughter of the Forest (Sevenwaters, Book 1) by Juliet Marillier

Synopsis (from goodreads.com):
Lovely Sorcha is the seventh child and only daughter of Lord Colum of Sevenwaters. Bereft of a mother, she is comforted by her six brothers who love and protect her. Sorcha is the light in their lives, they are determined that she know only contentment.
But Sorcha's joy is shattered when her father is bewitched by his new wife, an evil enchantress who binds her brothers with a terrible spell, a
spell which only Sorcha can lift-by staying silent. If she speaks before she completes the quest set to her by the Fair Folk and their queen, the Lady of the Forest, she will lose her brothers forever.
When Sorcha is kidnapped by the enemies of Sevenwaters and taken to a foreign land, she is torn between the desire to save her beloved brothers, and a love that comes only once. Sorcha despairs at ever being able to complete her task, but the magic of the Fair Folk knows no boundaries, and love is the strongest magic of them all.

Jillian’s Review:
Marillier is a master at her craft. There is something so unique in the way she creates magical worlds and her wonderful characters! They are so believable, even with all the magic surrounding them. Sorcha is a wonderfully strong and intelligent girl who loves and is profoundly devoted to her family.

I must add that there is some adult content in this one. One scene in particular was very dark and detailed when poor Sorcha is hurt by two men. Though it was a bit more than I would have liked to know, this attack shapes Sorcha in deep ways and adds to her already agonizing list of trials.

The adventures were heart-pounding, and the romance – oh the romance! – kept me turning page after page after page. Marillier does a wonderful job of showing Sorcha grow and overcome her painful past and becoming the woman she was meant to be. I can’t wait to devour the next in this enthralling series.

Read Marillier's Wildwood Dancing trilogy for the more YA friendly audience.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Silver Bells by Luanne Rice

From Amazon:

Every year on the first day of December, Christopher Byrne traveled from his farm in Nova Scotia to sell his Christmas trees on the streets of Manhattan. But this year there'd be no cheer for the widower and his twelve-year-old daughter, Bridget. For New York City had taken Christy's only son, headstrong sixteen-year-old Danny, who'd run off without a trace.

Librarian Catherine Tierney used to love the holidays: the lights, the carols, the nip in the air. But after her husband's death on Christmas Eve three years ago, the festivities seemed to start too early and last too long. Just before he died, Brian told his wife that he'd never leave her, that every Christmas he'd send Catherine a sign. On the quaint Chelsea street where she lives, Catherine will meet the tree seller from Novia Scotia. Both figured the world had forgotten the true meaning of Christmas. But they hadn't counted on finding each other, on fate, on second chances. . . and on a holiday gift of new love and new hope to last a lifetime.
From Misty:
This will be more of a highlight today than a review.  But you don't care, right? 
I'll be honest with you, this is not Luanne's best novel.  That's not to say this one is bad--that's to say her others are so good (and yes, I liked Dream Country, Jillian!).  I read Silver Bells every Christmas because it is one of my favorite Christmas stories, and that's saying something because I'm kind of bah humbug about Christmas novels.
One thing I love about this book is the setting is so vivid, I feel like I am right there bundled up on the bitter cold New York streets with Christy and Catherine.  It's a fascinating gift that Rice has.
When I was nabbing the picture (see above) from the google images, I read through some other reviews of Silver Bells.  One astute Rice fan said she thought this book was missing the heart that all the others have, and I really feel that way too.  There is just that extra bit of magic Rice usually has that gets lost in the overdone-ness of these characters.  They are all too stereotypical, too emotion, too irrational. 
I still give it 4.75 Chrstmas stars.
Silver Bells was made into a Hallmark movie.  Here's a link to watch it on YouTube.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Jay Hawk by Dorothy Keddington

I have to say, Dorothy Keddington's novels are a definite must-read for anyone who loves suspense. Today I reviewed JayHawk, a story that will capture your heart and leave you breathless until the very end.

Publisher's Note:
Timeless best selling JAYHAWK now available by award winning author Dorothy Keddington.
To Angela Stewart, a summer on a Wyoming ranch with her college roommate's family seemed like an ideal vacation. For Jay Bradford,his return to the Triple J Ranch involves a potentially dangerous quest and the search for an answer to a 26-year old mystery. Jay and Angela's chance meeting on a lonely road at dusk, marks the beginning of their unforgettable journey into danger and love.

Mandi's Review: I'm excited today to review another Dorothy Keddington novel. JayHawk is one of my all-time favorites. Angela Stewart, a quiet city girl, travels to Wyoming to spend a summer with her very best friend. The ranch is filled with wonder, and as she gets to know the Bradford family and their handsome cousin, Jay, she can't imagine a more wonderful vacation. Soon, however, her ideal holiday takes a drastic turn and she is forced to chose between Jay and his family. As the secrets of the past shed new light on the Bradford's, Angela finds herself deeply immersed in a dangerous quest for answers. This novel is filled with heart-stopping romance and nail-biting suspense. Dorothy Keddington's characters stay with you long after you've turned the last page, and her descriptions are so vivid you will feel immersed in the ranch and life in beautiful Wyoming. I give this book 5 out of 5 stars. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Tuesdays at the Castle, book 1 by Jessica Day George

Synopsis (from goodreads.com):
Tuesdays at Castle Glower are Princess Celie's favorite days. That's because on Tuesdays the castle adds a new room, a turret, or sometimes even an entire wing. No one ever knows what the castle will do next, and no one-other than Celie, that is-takes the time to map out the new additions. But when King and Queen Glower are ambushed and their fate is unknown, it's up to Celie, with her secret knowledge of the castle's never-ending twists and turns, to protect their home and save their kingdom. This delightful book from a fan- and bookseller-favorite kicks off a brand-new series sure to become a modern classic.

Jillian’s Review:
As with all of George's books (Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow; Dragon Slippers series; etc.), this was wonderfully written, cute, fun, and just a great read.

The characters were loveable and realistic right from the beginning. I love it when the kids are smart and strong, and Princess Celie and her siblings are in every way.

The plot was great, told in a fun way that younger readers will love. And the Castle! It’s wonderful how George gave a building a personality and a role to play. I loved the relationship between Celie and the Castle and how it helps Celie get through the toughest challenges.

This book is perfect for young girls (and us girls young at heart). I have high hopes for the next in the series which Jessica Day George told me herself will be forthcoming.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Final Mercy by Frank J. Edwards

From Goodreads:

Dr. Jack Forester, director of the New Canterbury University Hospital emergency department, is about to win an ongoing battle to modernize the ED when he's stymied by the power-hungry dean, Bryson Witner. Then someone tries to murder Jack's mentor and the former dean, setting it up to look like suicide.

Dr. Gavin survives butwinds up in a coma, and his would-be killer takes advantage by framing Jack. When the woman Jack is falling in love with disappears after a visit to the new dean, Jack is in a race against the clock to find her, uncover Witner's dark past, salvage his career and avert disaster for New Canterbury.

From Misty:

I have to tell you right off, Final Mercy, a medical thriller, is a little out of my normal reading genre.  I knew that going in, but I was really interested in reading this novel when, after checking out Edwards' webpage, I saw that he is also a poet.  Many of you know I write fiction, but personally I think of myself as a poet first, a reader second, and a novelist third and last, so you can see why getting a look inside this book intrigued me.

But before I get to my review, here is a brief bio about Edwards.

Frank Edwards was born and raised in Western New York. After serving as an Army warrant officer helicopter pilot in Vietnam straight out of high school, he studied English and Chemistry at UNC Chapel Hill, then received an M.D. from the University of Rochester. Along the way he completed the MFA program in Writing at Warren Wilson College in North Carolina. He continues to write, teach and practice emergency medicine, and lives on the shore of Lake Ontario.

Edwards' knowledge and experience in the medical profession will be the first thing you notice when you start reading Final Mercy.  He narrates his story in a way only someone famliar with the inner workings of a medical center could.  His setting and background are solidly constructed and pull the reader in so immediately and fully you feel like you could be a part of the "office politics" at New Canterbury, but the third person narrative makes it easy to just be glad you aren't.

It only took about two sentences for me to know I was going to like this book, the writing is that tight.  Honestly, I'd almost forgotten that anyone still knew how to write like this.  With natural, flowing dialogue, Edwards drops information in a steady stream of bait.  And here is where I self-righteously attribute Edwards' skill at this to being a poet--being practiced at saying a lot in a very few words.  Edwards keeps a very active voice, and his style shows the reader the intricacies of his story instead of tells them, which creates a much deeper connection with the characters and, in my opinion, a more fulfilling read.

Jack Forester is a compelling character, one you will definitely want to prevail.  I often asked myself, at least in the beginning, why he did not just quit his job and move on (but that would just be me avoiding conflict--sidenote: sometimes I fast-forward through the major conflict in movies) and let Witner have the old hospital--because though Witner is very creepy in his private scenes, he is completely personable and even charming when he is dealing with other characters (which is the real creepy part).  But the conflict in this novel is the whole point of it, and Jack's determination to get to the bottom of things, along with the (thank you!) romantic element, keeps you curious and turning the pages.

Final Mercy is an excellent, intelligent read I would recommend to anyone.

I reviewed Final Mercy at the request of the author and read a complimentary reviewer's copy, but as with all our reviews here at Six Mixed, was compensated in no way for my honest opinion.

For more information on Final Mercy or Frank J. Edwards, you can visit his website Here.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

On the back cover:
"The Glass Castle is a remarkable memoir of resilience and redemption, and a revelatory look into a family at once deeply dysfunctional and uniquely vibrant. When sober, Jeannette's brilliant and charismatic father captured his children's imagination, teaching them physics, geology, and how to embrace life fearlessly. But when he drank, he was dishonest and destructive. Her mother was a free spirit who abhorred the idea of domesticity and didn't want the responsibility of raising a family.
The Walls children learned to take care of themselves. They fed, clothed, and protected one another, and eventually found their way to New York. Their parents followed them, choosing to be homeless even as their children prospered.
The Glass Castle is truly astonishing-a memoir permeated by the intense love of a peculiar but loyal family."

This book was awful. There was not one part that I enjoyed. The language was horrible the whole way through starting at the beginning and never giving the reader rest. The only reason I made it through this book was to finish it for book club.

Depressing to say the least. These poor children were neglected in the worst way, living in poverty with parents who were most definitely able to do better but chose not to. The children were sent to school at one point and had no food to eat. They would sit at a table, acting like they weren't hungry and then rummage through the garbage cans after everyone else was done. One child ate a stick of butter because there was nothing else in their fridge. Their mom complained about it being gone, most likely because she was going to eat it. She seemed to always come first.

Rex, the father, was an alcoholic who stole all the family money to drink. Jeannette and Lori, Jennette's sister, decided they had had enough and were going to get to New York. Lori would graduate soon so they started saving their money. Making a dollar here and there babysitting and making posters for people.

"One evening in May, when we'd been saving our money for almost nine months, I came home with a couple of dollars to stash them in Oz. The pig was not on the old sewing machine. I began looking through all the junk in the bedroom and finally found Oz on the floor. Someone had slashed him apart with a knife and stolen all the money.

I knew it was Dad, but at the same time, I couldn't believe he'd stoop this low. Lori obviously didn't know yet. She was in the living room humming away as she worked on a poster. My first impulse was to hide Oz. I had this wild thought that I could somehow replace the money before Lori discovered it was missing. But I knew how ridiculous that was; three of us had spent the better part of a year accumulating the money. It would be impossible for me to replace it in the month before Lori graduated.

I went into the living room and stood beside her, trying to think of what to say. She was working on a poster that said TAMMY! in Day-Glo colors. After a moment she looked up. "What?" she said.

Lori could tell by my face that something was wrong. She stood up so abruptly she knocked over a bottle of india ink, and ran into the bedroom. I braced myself, expecting to hear a scream, but there was only silence and then a small, broken whimpering."

This is a heartbreaking true story. I am shocked that this is allowed to happen but most of all that people who have children allow this to happen to their own children.

I give The Glass Castle 2 stars.

Friday, December 9, 2011

"Within My Heart" by Tamera Alexander

From tameraalexander.com:

Determined to fulfill her late husband’s dream, Rachel Boyd struggles to keep her ranch afloat with the help of her two young sons. But some days it feels as though her every effort is sabotaged. When faced with a loss she cannot afford, she’s forced to trust Rand Brookston, the one man in Timber Ridge she wishes to avoid. And with good reason. He’s a physician, just like her father, which tells her everything she needs to know about him. Or so she thinks . . .
Dr. Rand Brookston ventured west with the dream of bringing modern medicine to the wilds of the Colorado Rockies, but the townspeople have been slow to trust him. Just as slow in coming is Rand’s dream to build the town a proper clinic. When a patient’s life is threatened, Rand makes a choice—one that sends ripples through the town of Timber Ridge. And through Rachel Boyd’s stubborn heart.
From the beloved, bestselling author of From a Distance and Beyond This Moment comes an unforgettable story about faith in the face of fear, about tarnished hopes and second chances, and ultimately about the resilient courage and tenacity of hearts broken––and mended––by love.

I quite enjoyed this book, but then again, I typically enjoy anything by Tamera Alexander. This is the third and last book in the Timber Ridge Reflections series. It worked fine as a stand alone book, but I think a lot of things would have made more sense and the characters personalities would be more clear if I had indeed read the first two books. But it was fine. I didn't feel like I really missed anything in the story, and I got a good sense of the main characters, just not the supporting cast, which some of them played a major role in this story.

Rachel Boyd is struggling to keep her ranch alive. The cattle keep dying, she can't afford to pay her help, and she's asking - again - for a loan from the bank to stay afloat. Trying to maintain the legacy her deceased husband wanted for their two small boys, helping her friends out in their time of need, and dealing with her mischievous 8-year old, she's stretched far too thin and wants nothing to do with the town doctor whom she thinks is arrogant, aren't all doctors arrogant, but the town doctor, Rand Brookston, wants everything to do with her.

I don't have any criticism for this book. There was no swearing, no sex - all very (very) chaste, and for a lot of you I know that's important. The story was entertaining and witty, the characters very likeable. It was easy to visualize the events and the characters. Overall I give "Within My Heart" a solid 4.5 star rating. It's good. =) Check it out (but maybe read "From a Distance" and "Beyond This Moment" first).

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Watched...by Cindy M. Hogan

Publisher's Note: It takes more than a school trip to Washington, D.C. to change fifteen-year-old Christy's life. It takes murder.

A witness to the brutal slaying of a Senator's aide, Christy finds herself watched not only by the killers and the FBI, but also by two hot boys.
She discovers that if she can't help the FBI, who want to protect her, it will cost her and her new friends their lives.

Mandi's Review: Watched by Cindy M. Hogan is definitely a book that will keep you biting your nails until the very end. Christy is on a scholarship sponsored trip to Washington D.C. when she and her new group of friends witness a terrifying, brutal murder. Shocked, scared and confused, the group struggles to understand what they've just witnessed, and with a bit of deliberation and a lot of courage they decide to contact the FBI. Soon Christy finds herself thrown into a whirlwind situation that she has a difficult time grasping, all the while dealing with the emotions and awkwardness that any teenager deals with at her age. Trying to find her place in the world, Christy is also confused about who she really is and what she wants in life. She fits in with the kids in Washington and she feels as if she is blossoming into a new person. I enjoyed the descriptions of D.C. and I even have to admit that I could really relate to the main character. When I was a sophomore in high school I was awarded a scholarship to a political program that was held in D.C. just like Christy. I remember feeling some of the same emotions as the main character. I was a geek, awkward in social situations, and even felt like an outcast. During my time in Washington I learned about politics and the inner workings of D.C., but mostly I came to grips with who I really was. The same can be said for Christy. Her faith and values are tested and she is forced to make grownup decisions in light of her terrifying experience. I give Cindy M. Hogan's Watched full stars and would recommend this book to both teens and adults alike.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Realmsic Conquest, Book 1 by A. Demethius Jackson

Synopsis (from amazon.com):

Throughout its history, the kingdom known as the Realm has never known peace. From its establishment, it has possessed the gift of magic, which is a treasure that exists no other place in the world! As a result, the Realm has endlessly defended itself against conquerors, but now faces its greatest peril. As our heroes battle the wicked and unlock mysteries, they must also face overwhelming circumstances as they are guided by ancient lore on a quest to find the greatest treasure their kingdom will ever know... peace.

Jillian’s Review:

Jackson takes us to a realm of magic and war, and introduces us to characters who are surprisingly developed in such a brief story. Jackson’s use of simple verse (like that of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales) is unique to this age and his rhythm and rhymes are at times ingenious, especially the conversations between characters, such as:


1. Damian simply is much too strong

2. for us to continue to fight head on.


3. Then what do you think our approach should be?


4. It should be to rethink our strategy!

Though cleverly written, the rhyming was quite distracting. I found myself often skipping the last word of each line just so I could focus on the story. The rhyming stuck in my head long after I closed the cover, like when I’ve read a Dr. Seuss book to my four year old.

I did, however, really enjoy the story and the characters. I would like to read another by Jackson, but would much prefer it to be written in prose form.

I received a copy of The Realmsic Conquest: The Candle of Crest from the author in exchange for my unbiased review.