Posts Tagged ‘book review’

ignited

 

 

 

 

 

Author:  Laurie Wetzel

eBook, 327 Pages

Published in 2015 by Wise Ink Creative Publishing

Genres:  Young Adult, Paranormal Fantasy

Synopsis: After surviving an attack from a demon that killed her friend, Maddy Page thought the worst was over.

It’s not.

Word is spreading through the supernatural world about Maddy, the mortal girl with rare gifts. Some want to use her powers; others want to destroy her. One wants to protect her—her boyfriend, an angel named MJ.

MJ knows that the demon that attacked Maddy was sent to collect her by someone very powerful. Someone he has tried and failed to stop before. MJ can’t beat him, but he will do whatever it takes to keep Maddy safe, even if it means turning his back on his own kind.

My Review: Okay, I liked this book as much as I liked Unclaimed.  I probably read it even faster, as I needed some answers! The story of Maddy and MJ flows easily to this second book in the series.  It’s almost as if they are one book, which I appreciate.  Sometimes you dig into a sequel and you are either inundated with information you already know, or you are completely lost from the start.  That doesn’t happen here.  It is a seamless transition.

Wetzel’s writing is still on par.  In this book Maddy and MJ are still desperate to be together while at the same time unable to completely trust each other with their secrets.  Maddy is trying to learn more about herself and her abilities, and MJ is trying to prevent all out war on earth.

When I got to the end of the book, I was shocked.  Not by the story (although there is plenty of tense moments), but because I wasn’t ready for it to end!  I actually went back a page and then forward and couldn’t believe I was staring at the Acknowledgements!  I wanted, no, needed to know what happens next!  Quite a cliffhanger we are left with.  I am sure the 3rd book will be worth the wait, but time will drag on until then.

Another great book by Ms. Wetzel.  Please hurry with #3!

Disclaimer:  I received this book from the author free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

bats

 

 

 

 

 

Author:  Jeffrey Hickey

Paperback, 39 pages

Re-published in 201 by Big-n-Boo Productions

Genres:  Middle School Ghost Stories

Synopsis: Bats and Bones is IPPY award winning author Jeffrey Hickey’s second work for children. This collection of spooky tales for middle school aged children and above is a subtle masterpiece of fright and emotion. Hickey wrote all the stories, the lush music, and does all the voices for the audio book. His wife, Karen Kiser, contributes the cover art, along with some penny whistle and a little piano. The inside illustrations, layout and design are by Rachel Betz, who also designed Hickey’s first work for children, Wages Creek.

This was originally released as a CD only. This is the first edition in print.

My Review: This is a fun book even though it is full of spooky stories.  I say that because the audio is so well done, that I couldn’t help but smile all the way through! If you can use headphones to listen, it makes it even better. My favorite story is Eye on Five, mostly because of the fast pace and excitement that is caused by the accompanying sound effects.

I am a huge Hickey fan and am delighted that he published this in print so that my children can look through it and read it at their leisure for years to come.

The writing is without fail as I would expect from Mr. Hickey.  This would be a fun book to listen to while camping, or during a children’s sleepover.  Well done!

Did I say I love the cover?  I do!

Disclaimer:  I received this book from the author free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

flip

 

 

 

 

 

Author:  Michael Phillip Cash

Paperback, 389 pages

Published in 2014 by CreateSpace Independent Publishing

Genres:  New Adult, Paranormal Fantasy

Synopsis: Julie and Brad Evans are house flippers. They buy low, clean out the old occupants’ junk, and try to make a profit. Enter Hemmings House on Bedlam Street in scenic Cold Spring Harbor, Long Island. Too good a deal to pass up, but with an ominous secret. The old Victorian Mansion has dwellers that do not want to be dispossessed. As the house reveals it’s past, will the couple’s marriage survive The Flip?

My Review:  I am very conflicted about this book.   I enjoy Cash’s books, however can’t help but feel that this one was lacking the punch that he usually delivers.  Maybe I was expecting to hear and see things in my own home which usually happens after watching a scary movie or reading a horror/paranormal novel.  It just didn’t happen here.  While the writing is great as usual, I felt that the way this book ended took the easy way out.  I was gearing up for an epic battle with the medium and the spirits that never materialized (no pun intended).  The spirits moved on and we are left wondering who the Sentinels are.  The main characters Julie and Brad live happily ever after which is great, but felt that all of the conflict that occurred in the book just dissipated.  Hence my conflicted feelings.

Like I said, Cash is a great writer, there is nothing inherently wrong with this book, it just didn’t live up to what I thought it would be.

Disclaimer:  I received this book from the author free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

unclaimed

 

 

 

 

 

Author:  Laurie Wetzel

eBook, 472 pages

Published in 2014 by Wise Ink Creative Publishing

Genres:  Young Adult, Paranormal Fantasy

Synopsis: Abandoned by her birth parents and ignored by her adoptive family, Maddy Page believes she is unlovable. She only allows herself to dream of falling in love. That changes when she meets MJ; handsome and kind, MJ penetrates Maddy’s defenses. Maddy soon finds herself confiding in MJ like she has with no one else, revealing secrets even her closest friends don’t know. He makes her feel safe—a feeling she’s never experienced except in her dreams.

When Maddy witnesses MJ disappear and reappear in thin air, she realizes she might have been wrong about him. He could be dangerous—maybe even a killer. Determined to uncover the truth of who—or what—MJ is, Maddy ignores her instinct to run. But she soon realizes that getting close to MJ could cost more than a broken heart—it could cost Maddy her soul.

My Review: This book was recommended to me by author Aurora Whittet and I am so glad that I agreed to do a review.

For a debut novel, this is a surprisingly well thought-out and delivered story. The characters are easy to identify with and so easy to get attached to. The writing flows easily and is well constructed.

I was somewhat confused in the beginning when trying to decide if it was a dream or reality, but as the book progressed I quickly understood what was happening. There are many twists and turns throughout, and just when you think things are going to go the way you want them to, surprise! another twist.

I liked this book so much that it was hard to put down. It had me on the edge of my seat and wanting more. I was truly sad when it ended and can’t wait to read the next installment.

I would give this book a 4.5 if I could.

Disclaimer:  I received this book from the author free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

the well

 

 

 

 

Author:  Colleen Golden

Paperback, 214 pages

Published in 2014 by Outskirts Press

Genres:  New Adult, Fiction

Synopsis: Grace is dying. Everybody says so. Or is she? She finds herself at a sparkling portal of neon lights in the midst of her mental blizzard. She is seventy-six going on twenty-six, a comatose farm woman in a nursing home who is about to embark on the adventure of her life as a “transcendental traveler.” Following her mother’s voice singing an old hymn, Grace passes through the portal into a place both familiar and unknown. A place where she can devise and fashion a world of her choosing, call up whomever she wants to see, and even merge her own thoughts with those of others. A place she has known all her life, and where she has only just arrived: her beloved kitchen. Oh, it all looks familiar enough. But instead of her homestead, with the livestock pens, the beehives, her personal garden, the barn, the creek and the fields, the kitchen is surrounded by a place where she becomes younger, not older; more vital, not weaker. She names this place Possibilities. Her family wants to believe she will regain consciousness, and she does her best to communicate with them by means of an “evil” well, which offers no reflection from the water’s surface. But although she can hear their voices from the well, they can’t hear hers. In fact, anything that goes into the well from Grace’s side just disappears without a trace. Her attempts to advise, to help, or even just to converse with anyone are futile. So despite her newfound freedom and abilities in Possibilities, what Grace wants most badly remains impossible. The well seems to mock and taunt her, as her family’s voices ring achingly near, but maddeningly distant. She is drawn to it, and repulsed by it, all at the same time. She makes the best of things by expanding her new horizons and setting out on new adventures. But even the best of fun times has a downside. Grace is very lonesome for her “kinfolk” and her friends. And they are very lonesome for her. The Grace they see is wasting away in a nursing home bed.

My Review:  Let me start off by saying that I LOVE this book.  I wasn’t sure at first how it would go.  Would it be a depressing book about an old woman dying and her loved ones struggling to let her go?  No, not at all.  Ms. Golden has written a beautiful account of “what if”.  What happens to our minds when we are in a coma?  What happens when we die?

Grace is in a coma for a few years and during that time is very busy conjuring up a whole new world for herself.  One in which she is a young woman again.  She creates people that she can “inhabit” and have their experiences, ones that she has never had before.  In the backyard is a well where she can hear her present day relatives struggling with her condition, and she is desperate to help.

Unable to wake up and unsure of how to move on, Grace eventually is able to enter the thoughts of those people that need her the most.  In this capacity she can act more like a guardian angel.  Eventually, Grace must make a choice, and the result may surprise you.

Well written, with likeable characters this is a book that I will recommend to all of my friends and basically anyone who will listen!  There are many characters introduced here which normally makes it hard for me to follow, but in this case only added to the richness of the story.

You should go check it out.

Disclaimer:  I received this book from the author free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

accidents

 

 

 

 

Author:  Phillip Rohlin

Paperback, 198 pages

Published in 2014 by Outskirts Press

Genres:  New Adult, Fiction

Synopsis:  This is a story about borderline attorneys, their employees and associates, all yearning for a different life and devising madcap schemes that embroil them in seriously troubling entanglements. . One of them has withdrawn from the stresses of the profession and is trying to live a life of quiet contemplation and self-discovery in isolation at the beach, but he is constantly drawn back into the chaos engendered by his friends. His life- changing discoveries have taken him on a journey into the martial arts and to an unforgettable friendship with the great writer Henry Miller. His friends turn to him to help them untangle hopeless complications resulting from their misadventures. One of leading characters commits a heinous murder that upsets the delicate balance of trust and interdependence that holds their world together. It changes the street dynamic and causes their lives to be engulfed in increasingly disruptive turmoil. A love story is interwoven throughout between the attorney protagonist and a lovely woman. She ridicules his self-involvement and world view, and wants him to relate to her in ways he finds spurious and unrealizable. Their fluctuating relationship resonates throughout the bizarre events elaborated in the story.

My Review:  Giving a bad review is never easy but most times is necessary.  I stuck with this book only because I promised a review, however I will not be keeping it and will not recommend it to anyone.

It is not merely the case that this book is full of lawyers with very strange sexual perversions and the synopsis doesn’t quite seem to add up to the actual story, but the writing comes up short as well.  I will elaborate.

I have never claimed to be an expert on the English language, but I am college educated.  The first chapter alone had 15 words in it that I had to look up the meaning.  These aren’t your run of the mill $5 words that smart people use, these are words that no one uses.  The book continued this way and it got to the point where I glossed over the words without looking up their meaning which could take away from the story.  Here is an example of a sentence in the book:

“Everything is moving and roaring vertiginously, circumambiently, embracing and parting; a furious Hieronymus Bosch landcape with a madcap soundtrack.”  My computer doesn’t even know what vertiginously and circumambiently mean.  I could venture a guess, but writing like this is very cumbersome and not enjoyable to read.  Surely there are other intelligent words that could have been used here.

The point of view changes so frequently, that it becomes confusing with regards to who is speaking, and who the author is speaking to.  This is also a downer.

When it comes to the sexual perversion, I am sure that there is an audience for that, but it won’t be found here.  I just wish that the synopsis made this clear so that I could have passed on this review.

Disclaimer:  I received this book from the author free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

birds

 

 

 

 

Author:  Joe Giordano

eGalley, 291 pages

Published in 2015 by Harvard Square Editions New York

Genres:  New Adult, Fiction

Synopsis:  What turns the gentle mean and the mean brutal? The thirst for wealth? The demand for respect? Vying for a woman? Birds of Passage recalls the Italian immigration experience at the turn of the twentieth-century when New York’s streets were paved with violence and disappointment.

Leonardo Robustelli leaves Naples in 1905 to seek his fortune. Carlo Mazzi committed murder and escaped. Azzura Medina is an American of Italian parents. She’s ambitious but strictly controlled by her mother. Leonardo and Carlo vie for her affection.

Azzura, Leonardo, and Carlo confront con men, Tammany Hall politicians, the longshoreman’s union, Camorra clans, Black Hand extortion, and the Tombs prison.

My Review: This book has been called “rollicking” by author Ben Fountain, however I didn’t find it carefree at all.  This is a story of two men who travel to America in the early 20th century.  They come here for very different reasons, but end up crossing paths.  It reminds me of The Godfather by Mario Puzo in that it describes how men fall into the world of the mob and just how brutal that can be.

While the writing is good, I did get confused once in while due to the fact that there are a lot of characters introduced here.  Sometimes, that overwhelms a reader and causes them to have to try to keep track of who is who.  The only other criticism I have is that the ending was too open-ended for me.  I felt let down that there was no real conclusion.

That being said, this was a good book.  I enjoyed the conflict and thought that the main character development was good.  I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys the ‘mafioso’ genre and the internal struggle between trying to get ahead and feeling trapped into doing that at any cost.

Disclaimer:  I received this book from the author free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

heroic.

 

 

 

 

Author:  Russ Woody

Paperback, 260 pages

Published in 2014 by Nycreative Publishing

Genres:  New Adult, Memoir

Synopsis: When my dad was told he had ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), he knew that his life was coming to an end. What he didn’t know was that it was also just beginning. In the time he had left, his life changed dramatically. He became friends with Ted Danson, spent Thanksgiving with Marsha Mason and Shirley MacLaine and he was the subject of an episode of Becker. He was featured on Entertainment Tonight, E! Entertainment and in TV Guide. But most important, he became a part of his young grandsons’ lives. Henry was six, Joe was four. And what they don’t remember themselves of their grampa, I hope they’ll rediscover in this book.

To be with a parent while they are dying is one of the most human of experiences. It is what we are supposed to do. And while those months with my dad were difficult in a myriad of ways, they were the richest and most rewarding of my life. They were, as well, chockablock with humor, since—as nearly any comedy writer will tell you—in the midst of great hardship, there is always funny.

At the time, I didn’t think of the experience as “an honor,” but when I look back, I realize that it was an honor of the highest order.

My Review: While this book is about a man who is seeing his father through the last stages of his life, it is neither depressing nor morose.  Touching and heartfelt, there is no doubt that Russ Woody loved his father.  Although incapable (pretty much mandated by his wife) of returning that love while Russ was growing up, you can see through this book that he reveled in the opportunity to be able to reciprocate those feelings.

The writing in this book is impeccable.  Russ Woody is a talented author who has created a beautiful tribute to a man who lived life to the fullest within the short time he had left.  At times both funny and sad, this is a read that you will not regret.

Disclaimer:  I received this book from the author free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

welcome

 

 

 

 

Author:  John Marrs

Approximately 404 e-book pages

Published in 2015 by John Marrs

Reader Category:  Adult

Synopsis:  How far would you run to escape your past?

For eight strangers in a Los Angeles backpacking hostel, even the other side of the world isn’t far enough.

The craving for a new identity and the chance to start again is something they have in common. But the search for a fresh start isn’t as easy as they’d imagined.

And they soon discover that it doesn’t matter where you are or who you are – if you can’t lay the past to rest, coincidence, fate and deception have a way of catching up with you when you least expect it.

My Review:  After reading The Wronged Sons and enjoying it thoroughly, I was delighted by the opportunity to read and review Marrs’ second novel, Welcome to Wherever You Are. The only reason I did not finish this book in a day (it was so hard to put down) was because my 7 month old daughter takes up most of my time, as babies do.

There is nothing predictable in this book.  Through the many twists and turns Marrs is so good at crafting, the reader is often shocked and left to ponder ‘what next’.  Every chapter ends in a mini cliff hanger giving the reader plenty to contemplate and spurring them to keep reading.  Yes, Marrs introduces a wide range of characters, each running from (or to) their own demons, but this doesn’t detract from the story.  Each character is touched either briefly or deeply by at least one other, intertwining them masterfully.

Marrs is a genius when it comes to writing the OMG moments and left me mouth agape more than once.  This is a fact that I have come to gladly accept as well as look forward to with his work.

Well done Mr. Marrs, please keep them coming.

Disclaimer:  I received this book from the author free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

rusted

Author:  Barry Jones

Paperback, 307 pages

Published in 2013 by Barry Jones

Genres:  New Adult, Historical Fiction

Synopsis: Based in 1928, Rusted Rails resurrects the now abandoned coal-mining town of Wilder, Tennessee. Life in these towns held little promise for the future. One family, that of David and Jenny Hughes, sought to keep their son out of the mines. Their plan was, however, jeopardized by David’s untimely death and by Jenny’s discovery that she was carrying her late husband’s unborn child. With few options, Jenny chose abortion. And so begins a gritty tale that tells of Jenny’s rescue from the dire consequences of her decision.

My Review:  I love a good work of historical fiction and am happy to say that this will go down as one of my favorites.  Jones’ portrayal of the 1920’s mining town Wilder, Tennessee is riveting.  Well researched, the subject here is not for the faint at heart, but is an important lesson in the history of illegal abortions.  One woman’s risky decision leads those desperate to find her into a web of violence and corruption that ultimately involves the FBI and Al Capone.

Well written and hard to put down, this was a very enjoyable read.  It is not just about the desperation of women in the 1920’s, it is also about the deplorable conditions of the mines and the sad fate of the miners’ families.  There are a few editing mistakes, but those are easily dismissed by the great story contained here.  If you are interested in reading about the “not so good” old days, this book is for you.

Disclaimer:  I received this book from the author free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

sleight

Author:  Jennifer Fales

Paperback, 298 pages

Published in 2014 by Outskirts Press

Genres:  New Adult, Science Fiction, Fantasy

Synopsis:  In the sequel to the award-winning novella Shadows and Fire, the tale of a future where humans and human/animal hybrids known as Supernaturals exist in separate societies continues. Adult twins Lilith and Laydon, the product of a violent act that bridges both worlds, each struggle to find their own identity, one leading to darkness and one into light, as they develop their powers deep in the shadowy world of the domes. Meanwhile the threat of war looms on the horizon. Lilith and Augustin, the retired warrior priest she considers a father, find the house they have aligned themselves with faces a critical threat to its voice and power. Lilith, the Dragon House, and its allies are set on a dangerous race against the clock to unravel the truth behind jealousy, lies and blackmail before it’s too late.

My Review:  Having enjoyed the first book, it was just a teaser for what was to come.  Sleight of Hand does not fall short on storyline or character development.  Fales yet again impresses with her ability to create a fantastical world where the collision of human and beast reside.  There are several story lines in this book, but the underlying story of twins Laydon and Lilith is pervasive throughout.  Lilith must choose whether to use her powers for good or evil while helping put a stop to The Hunt.

Action packed and full of generous detail, this book is perfect for the science fiction lover/fantasy lover.  My only caution would be not to put this book down for any length of time.  I found myself having to refer to the glossary more often than I would like when there was a gap in my reading time. If you are a fast reader, this should not be a problem for you and I wouldn’t consider it a bad point necessarily.

Book #3 promises to be better yet!

Disclaimer:  I received this book from the author free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

shadows

Author:  Jennifer Fales

Paperback, 108 pages

Published in 2013 by Outskirts Press

Genres:  New Adult, Science Fiction

Synopsis: In the parallel future, mankind has created its own worst nightmare – a hybrid species of supernatural beings that demands a high toll in return for peace.  Follow the adventure of a tortured man seeking redemption and a brother and sister, the unwilling product of both worlds, torn apart, determined to reunite with one another.  And remember that nothing is what it seems under the domes.

My Review:  Shadows and Fire is a well thought out story. I like the premise and the colorful world that Fales has painted.  She manages to creatively weave an intricate plot in a minimum of pages.

While the book is short, it is packed full of interesting characters.  If I could find fault with this book, that is where it would be.  I found myself taking a deep breath with each chapter as the characters changed and I had to try to remember who they were and what their role in the story was.  Had the book been any longer, I was going to start making a list.  Luckily, this is the first in a series and having peeked at the next book, there is a glossary at the front that gives me all the information that I felt I needed for the first book!

I’m looking forward to Sleight of Hand which is up next!

Disclaimer:  I received this book from the author free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

 

savior coverAuthor:  Anthony Caplan

eBook, 308 pages

Published in 2014 by Harvard Square Editions

Genres:  New Adult, Dystopian

Synopsis:  A father and son stumble into the secret world of the Santos Muertos, a crime cartel bent on global domination. The son must find his father and keep the secret of the ancient Mayan code underlying the creation of matter in the universe from falling into the wrong hands.

A story of sacrifice and love.

My Review:  This book has plenty of potential, however I have a few issues with it.

One.  Underdevelopment of the characters.  Let’s start with the teenage boy, Ricky.  I know that this is an alternate future, but I find it hard to believe that a teenager could go through the events in this book, both caused by him and thrust upon him with such calm.  There were no inner struggle or freak out moments which would have been completely warranted.  We get a little luckier with the father, Al.  He has plenty of moments of struggle and reflection which make him slightly easier to relate to and connect with.

Two.  Story development.  The story/idea itself is not a bad one, but it felt like a little more care could have been taken to explain some of the more technical aspects.  I didn’t understand some of what was being discussed and felt myself “checking-out” at times.  Also, the Spanish being spoken was sometimes easy to get, but at other times went completely over my head.

Three (and last, I promise).  The dialogue.  Clunky at best, this goes along with the character development issue for me.  The conversations were short and awkward.  Most of them just didn’t feel like real conversations.  The lack of quotation marks took a little getting used to, but was not the main issue here.

Overall not a bad book, but definitely in need of more development for me.  Maybe a good proofreader would help to work these things out prior to publishing.

Disclaimer:  I received this book from the author free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

wagesAuthor:  Jeffrey Hickey

Paperback, 40 pages

2nd Edition Published in 2014 by Big-n-Boo Productions

Genres:  Children (All ages really)

Synopsis:  Dercum Audio is pleased to invite you on a camping trip with the Hickey Family, where everything is going great until Dad catches a cold. That’s when the real fun begins. The story takes place at Wages Creek, a magical place where the grasses are tall, the creek bubbles lullabies, and the local ducks are not like any ducks you’ve met before.

My Review:  It is no secret that Jeffrey Hickey is a great storyteller.  It should also come as no surprise that his talents are not limited to books geared toward adults.  This very charming and often laugh-out-loud book is where Hickey shines.  I say this because it comes with an audio version read by Hickey accompanied by music that he scored.  To fully enjoy the experience of this book, you must listen to the audio while reading.  Not to say that the book alone isn’t worth the read because it is, but the audio vaults it to another level. 

As Hickey’s family leaves him behind in the campground with a bad cold, hilarity ensues with the arrival of three ducks.  Able to understand and talk to the ducks, Hickey offends Gilbert, the patriarch of the group and an intense game of horseshoes begins.  With a wager that he must win, this tale is both funny and heartwarming rolled into one.

Kudos must also be given to Hickey’s wife Karen Kiser for her lovely illustrations.

Disclaimer:  I received this book from the author free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

snow

Author:  David Meredith

eBook, 155 pages

Published in 2014 by David Meredith

Genres:  New Adult, Fantasy

Synopsis:  What happens when “happily ever after” has come and gone?

On the eve of her only daughter, Princess Raven’s wedding, an aging Snow White finds it impossible to share in the joyous spirit of the occasion. The ceremony itself promises to be the most glamorous social event of the decade. Snow White’s castle has been meticulously scrubbed, polished and opulently decorated for the celebration. It is already nearly bursting with jubilant guests and merry well-wishers. Prince Edel, Raven’s fiancé, is a fine man from a neighboring kingdom and Snow White’s own domain is prosperous and at peace. Things could not be better, in fact, except for one thing:

The king is dead.

The queen has been in a moribund state of hopeless depression for over a year with no end in sight. It is only when, in a fit of bitter despair, she seeks solitude in the vastness of her own sprawling castle and climbs a long disused and forgotten tower stair that she comes face to face with herself in the very same magic mirror used by her stepmother of old.

It promises her respite in its shimmering depths, but can Snow White trust a device that was so precious to a woman who sought to cause her such irreparable harm? Can she confront the demons of her own difficult past to discover a better future for herself and her family? And finally, can she release her soul-crushing grief and suffocating loneliness to once again discover what “happily ever after” really means?

Only time will tell as she wrestles with her past and is forced to confront The Reflections of Queen Snow White.

My Review:  I had been waiting a long time to read this book and it was well worth it!  I loved the unique way that Snow White’s story is revealed through the magic mirror.

David Meredith has created a great heroine in Snow White.  Her character is well-developed and although my life is nothing like hers I found her easy to connect and sympathize with.  With the help of the mirror, we are privy to Snow White’s memories, both happy and terrifying.  We are able to see her as the strong young woman that she was, and cheer for her as she realizes that she is that same person today.

Riveting and impossible to put down, The Reflections of Queen Snow White is a must read.

Disclaimer:  I received this book from the author free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

shifter

Author:  Adam Alexander

Paperback, 343 pages

Published in 2013 by Outskirts Press

Genres:  Young Adult, Sci-fi Thriller

Synopsis:  If an alien passed you in the street, would you know? Except for an unfortunate attachment to numbers, Andromeda Brown is an ordinary girl with an ordinary life at a perfectly ordinary school. Until, that is, circumstances throw her into contact with folks whose zip code is, quite literally, out of this world. Her new acquaintances are in trouble and desperately need her help. They are frantically looking for a freakish, shape shifting alien scientist who has been hanging out on planet Earth for, well, ages. And hard as it is to track down someone who can change appearance at will, Andromeda’s difficulties are multiplied by the fact that she and her friends are not the only ones on the shifter’s trail. Darker forces are at work. For if the shifter’s knowledge falls into the wrong hands, humanity is in for a very bad day.

My Review:  In The Shifter’s Trail, author Adam Alexander presents a highly imaginative take on alien invasions.  When young Andromeda and her friends are plucked from Lake Michigan by an alien species, they unwittingly become involved a quest to find the Shifter and save Earth from certain destruction.

Well-written and thought-out, this fast-paced book leads the reader on a unique adventure.  Chock full of twists and turns, it is a fun read that I would recommend to any young adult sci-fi fan.

Disclaimer:  I received this book from the author free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

whaleAuthor:  Thomas Wictor

Paperback, 312 pages

Published in 2013 by Thomas Wictor

Genres:  New Adult, Fiction, Black Comedy

Synopsis:  Chasing the Last Whale is a novel about rage. Elliot Finell—an angry, maimed young man—meets Trey Gillespie, who is even angrier and more crippled in body and soul. They become friends, despite their utterly dissimilar backgrounds, temperaments, and worldviews. Elliot’s rage has cost him his health, his relationship with his family, and the love of his life, a moody Southerner with a secret. While navigating his strange friendship with Trey, Elliot tries to heal his damaged body. He finds that despite Trey’s negativity, this “evil Okie medicine man” somehow gives Elliot the strength to carry on.

When Trey suffers a crisis, he turns to Elliot with a request. Elliot can’t agree to help. In response, Trey commits a desperate act that triggers a memory Elliot has long repressed. Suddenly aware of the truth about himself, Elliot must decide if he will maintain the anger that has become habitual, the main component of his identity. By understanding what has really crippled him, he’s finally able to see how it has damaged so many others: his lost love, his family, the beautiful young woman who is his implacable nemesis, his ambiguous British friend, and of course Trey, a nuclear reactor of rage, suffering, and bitterness.

Clarity leaves Elliot faced with the most agonizing choices of his life.

Chasing the Last Whale examines intent and outcome. What constitutes a crime? How does victimhood end? Can mercy be immoral? Is love a choice? Does trauma always destroy? And can almost any subject be made funny?

My Review:  I wasn’t sure if I would like this book.  Did I want to read about rage and suicide?  It definitely is a departure from the books that I have been reading lately, but I decided to plow ahead.

Main character Elliott has it pretty bad.  Living with pain in his legs from a tree house fall as a child, he is angry and depressed.  He happens upon Trey, an even more angry and depressed quadriplegic, and the two become unlikely friends.   Elliott struggles to come to grips with his own issues while grappling with the incessant pleadings from Trey to help him commit suicide.

Sound lively?  Actually, Wictor has infused plenty of humor here. He has the ability to take even the most dreadful moments and hit you with dialogue or descriptions that bring you out of your melancholy.  There are plenty of times in the book where we “hear” what Elliott is saying in his head, and then he verbally states the opposite.   This battle of internal vs. external brings levity to uncomfortable situations.

Don’t worry, there is light at the end of the tunnel in Chasing the Last Whale.  While there are no whales here, there is an explanation for the title of the book within its pages (page 177 for those of you who like to peek ahead).

I really liked this book. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who is looking for something different and that enjoys black comedy.

Disclaimer:  I received this book from the author free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

trapped

Author:  Lawrence W. Gold, M.D.

Paperback, 457 pages

Published in 2013 by Grass Valley Publishing

Genres:  New Adult, Fiction, Medical Suspence

Synopsis:  While medical students suspect that every headache is a brain tumor and that every chest pain is a heart attack, experienced physicians know diseases along a spectrum of horror-the ones they dread the most. Among these are cancer, Alzheimer’s, stroke, diabetes, and ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). As the list continues, we come upon locked-in syndrome, a neurologic disease where a victim is awake and alert, but cannot move or communicate due to paralysis of all voluntary muscles in the body except for the eyes. In Trapped, a Brier Hospital Series novel by Lawrence W. Gold, M.D., the reader enters the neonatal and the adult intensive care units. Medical fiction works, not only due to its intrinsic drama, but because of the crucial ethical issues that arise, especially in intensive care. Lisa Cooke is the product of a passive mother and an abusive father. She finds her way into pediatric nursing, a world filled with men in control, especially the director of the Neonatal ICU, Mike Cooper. As Mike reminds Lisa of her father, it’s no surprise that they don’t get along. Ultimately, they fall in love and have a fulfilling marriage except that she’s unable to have children. They try everything, but fail. When an automobile accident severely injures Mike, Lisa is devastated. Shortly afterward, she discovers that she’s pregnant. Mike’s injuries are life threatening, and he nearly dies on several occasions. Mike suffers from locked-in syndrome and his survival is constantly in jeopardy, as is Lisa’s pregnancy. Will he/she/they survive?

My Review: I was eagerly anticipating this book and can say that I was not disappointed.  I could tell that it was going to be good from the very first page.  Gold is a master story-teller who pulls you in with well developed characters and a story that moves along at a fast pace, keeping you fully engrossed throughout.  Not to age myself, but it was as if I was reading a season of the television series ER.

The only negative thing that I can say about Trapped is that there were a few grammatical errors (mostly a word that was inserted that shouldn’t be) but these didn’t detract from the story at all.  Maybe a good proofread is all that is needed here.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys medical stories mixed with a little romance and drama.  Dr. Gold is definitely going up on my list of great indie authors!

Disclaimer:  I received this book from the author free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

deadly

Author:  T.F. Coleman

Paperback, 223 pages

Published in 2013 by Outskirts Press

Genres:  New Adult, Fiction, Action/Adventure

Synopsis:  Jake Conley is thrust into the spotlight after stopping a deranged gunman at an L.A. theater, his new-found fame gets the attention of a private surveillance consulting company that recruits him to be a public relations asset and field consultant working in the world of data mining, hidden cameras, and drones.  The benefits are overwhelming and seem to include a beautiful young woman from Venezuela, Medalia Mendoza, daughter of one of the company’s biggest financial contributors, and whose mother has been missing for the last five years.  Questions about the company’s integrity and Conley’s role with it mount until he is face with the life and death decisions that affect everyone involved.

My Review:  Eerily taken from today’s headlines, this story starts with a gunman’s attempt to commit a mass shooting in a movie theater.  Luckily for those movie goers, Jake Conley is present in the back row and is able to take out the gunman without any casualties.  Conley then becomes involved with a company willing to go to drastic lengths to ensure public safety.  But is that really what they’re doing?

This book started off with a bang (still trying to figure out if my pun is intended here) and then slowed down a bit.  I appreciate the need for the detail, but didn’t feel the rush of suspense until near the end.  And then when I got to the end, everything fell into place (although a little too easily).  Without spoiling it, I am not sure that the events that took place would have gone as they did in similar real-life situations.  I know that this is fiction, so I just enjoyed the ride.

Well-written and cleverly imaginative, this was a good read.  Several parts of the book make you stop and think about the possibility of domestic surveillance and how easily something that starts out for public safety could go so wrong.

I am on the fence about this one.  I liked the story and the author tells it well, however waiting for the action to begin and the simplistic ending brought it down a bit.

Disclaimer:  I received this book from the author free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

oak

Author:  Dawn Alexander

Paperback, 220 pages

Published in 2012 by Outskirts Press

Genres:  New Adult, Biographical Fiction

Synopsis:  Laura, a loving mother and wife, struggles over the fact of revealing difficult family secrets to her sons, Max and Alex. She laughs to herself at the thought of how closely her “real-life” resembles that of a “Lifetime Movie.” She mulls over how difficult it would be to actually “tell” Max the entire story! When suddenly the answer to her dilemma strikes her! Laura elects to relive many of her joyful and heartbreaking events that helped to shape her life, by way of a letter! Laura lovingly writes a letter to her son, Max. She explains how not only heartbreak, but love has transformed her life into what it is today. Within the envelope of the letter, Laura places a special gift for Max and Alex to share, which the sons do not initially understand. Laura quotes scriptures from the Bible throughout her letter in hopes that it may aid her son Max through the “journey” of his mother’s life. She hopes once he has completed the reading of the letter and her life story, he may understand even though life does not always turn out exactly how one may have it planned, does not mean the outcome will not turn out even better than he could have ever imagined!

My Review: First of all let me say that the story here is quite moving.  A young mother’s story of falling deeply in love only to discover life is not a fairytale.  There were plenty of times that I reached for my tissue or simply let the tears fall.  That being said, there are a few issues with the book that I couldn’t overlook.

The first was the style in which it was written.  It was like reading a high school girl’s journal.  While that may not always be bad, it was somewhat distracting here.  The writing was overly simple with a lot of repeated words or phrases either within the same sentence or in sequential sentences.  There was even a time or two where the voice switched from third person to first.  I believe it was an unintentional slip, but it did skip me up a bit.

The second issue that I had was that there were way too many exclamation points throughout the book!!!  It gave me the feeling that the author was rushing the story, wanting to get every word down before it escaped her.  This goes back to the overly simple writing style.  I just couldn’t shake the feeling that this was written by a teenage girl.

Overall the story was good and had the author taken a step back and let the book rest and then re-read her work , or enlisted the help of a ghost writer I think that this could have been very good book.

Disclaimer:  I received this book from the author free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

owl

Author:  Jane Davis

Paperback, 402 pages

Published in 2012 by CreateSpace

Genres:  New Adult, Fictional Literature

Synopsis:  A rule-keeper, Ayisha Emmanuelle believes the best way to avoid trouble is by walking away. But, arriving on the scene of what appears to be a playground fight, that isn’t an option. To her horror she finds her colleague Jim Stevens has been stabbed. In the messy aftermath, when Shamayal discloses that he and Jim are friends, Ayisha’s first duty is to report her colleague. But, not knowing if he will pull through, something makes her hesitate. Now, all she can do is wait to see if her instinct was justified.

My Review:  Jane Davis develops well rounded characters along with an intricately woven tale of loss in A Funeral for an Owl. The story flows smoothly while flashing back and forth between the present and the past.  The British slang took some getting used to, but was fairly easy to figure out.

I especially liked the relationship between Jim and Shamayal.  Jim is risking his job to befriend a student in need.  Throughout the book we learn his motivation for doing so and are lead to feel very deeply for both characters and what they have been through.

On the flip side, I really didn’t care for Ayisha.  She is rigid and unfeeling at first.  Although she lightens up a bit I couldn’t bring myself to like her.  It may or may not have been the author’s intent, but either way I wasn’t able to cozy up to her.

My only difficulty (if you can call it that) is that there is nothing happy in this book.  It is a tragic story from beginning to end.  The saving grace comes in the form of a new life for Shamayal (who desperately needs it).  Other than that, this is a great read.

Disclaimer:  I received this book from the author free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

blookmark

Author:  Aurora Whittet

Hardback, 333 pages

Published in 2013 by Wise Ink Creative Publishing

Genres:  Young Adult, Paranormal, Romance

Synopsis:  Sixteen-year-old werewolf princess Ashling Boru is different from other wolves—she was able to shift to wolf form at birth. Rather than bringing pride to her family, it brings fear, and as a result, she is forced to live in seclusion in Ireland’s countryside. Ashling’s reputation is further blackened when she refuses her betrothed and defies the ancient laws. When her pack’s oldest rivals begin hunting her, she finds herself in the small town of York Harbor, Maine—far from everything she’s ever known.

In Maine, she crosses paths with the dark and rebellious Grey Donavan, and something ignites within her soul. There’s just one problem: Grey is human. Their instant connection turns into a passionate romance, and Ashling begins to believe she can create her own life outside of wolf laws. When she begins to uncover long-buried pack secrets—secrets that threaten to destroy all she holds dear—Ashling’s courage and tenacity are tested. Will she choose her deep and enduring love for Grey, or will she follow Old Mother’s path to her destiny?

My Review:  Look out Twilight, there’s a new pack in town!

I am so glad to have found this great book written from the werewolf perspective!  It is a much needed and refreshing change from the bevy of vampire novels out there.

Author Aurora Whittet offers up suspense, paranormal fantasy, and romance in her debut novel and the first in the Bloodmark Trilogy.  Her ability to depict the pull of first love and the desperation that sometimes accompanies it is impeccable.  The characters are well developed and the fast paced story leaves you on the edge of your seat and begging for more.

I was captivated from the start and couldn’t put it down.  I can’t wait for Bloodrealms!

Disclaimer:  I received this book from the author free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

conspiracy

Author:  E.P. Rose

Paperback, 290 pages

Published in 2013 by Table Thirteen Books

Genres:  New Adult, Literary Fiction

Synopsis:  A sonnet is penned and, lo, the Conspiracy Kid Fan Club is born. Beware. To read this sonnet is to join the Club. Membership is automatic and irreversible.

This is the story of the earliest unwitting Conspiracy Kid Fan Club members: Edwin Mars (poet), Joe Claude (billionaire), Walter Cornelius (werewolf), Muriel Cohen (chef),to name but a few.

Or, as Edwin Mars, being a poet, puts it:

This is the story of Joe Claude and me,

And of my son and the sisters he loved,

And of their father, how he came to be

In a graveyard – naked and uni-gloved;

Hamburgers, hurricanes, murder and string,

Werewolves and waiters and barmen and cooks,

From Maine to Biloxi, Mayfair to Pring,

Furniture, ketamine, golfing and books;

Marriages made and broken and mended

Under the shadow of loved ones who died.

See how the grieving billionaire ended

Up in that prison where laughter’s proscribed.

Will he be rescued then? Read and find out

What The Conspiracy Kid’s all about.

My Review:  I really enjoyed this book.  At first I found myself writing down the characters names and how they were linked.  Some characters made brief appearances while others continued throughout the book. As the book progressed, it became easier to connect to the characters and the story flowed.

I struggled somewhat to find the poem/fan club’s existence in the story.  The poem is presented first thing, but not mentioned again until about midway through the book.  It distracted me somewhat, but not enough to keep me from enjoying the myriad of characters offered here.

The writing style was simple and easy to follow even though the author would switch perspectives frequently.  There is humor mixed with heartache, which made for great reading.

All in all this was a fun read and I would definitely recommend it.

Disclaimer:  I received this book from the author free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

intangible

Author:  C.A. Gray

Paperback, 482 pages

Published in 2013 by Wanderlust Publishing

Reader Category:  Young Adult

Synopsis:  Peter Stewart grew up on a unique version of the Arthurian legends taught him by his father, a harebrained quantum physicist who asserts that anything is possible. But Peter disbelieves anything which cannot be scientifically explained, despite a nagging sense that there is more to the world than meets the eye.

Lily Portman is an orphan with a secret: she can see creatures that are invisible to everyone else. These creatures control every human being she has ever met to varying degrees… until she meets Peter and his father.

When a mysterious stranger stages an accident which nearly costs Peter and Lily their lives, suddenly Lily learns that she is not crazy after all, and Peter discovers the truth of his father’s stories… including the existence of Arthur’s ancient nemesis, one who calls himself the Shadow Lord, and a prophecy with implications so profound that it will alter not only the course of their lives, but potentially the fate of the world.

My Review:  I was very excited to start reading this book and I must say that I was not disappointed!  The mix of modern science with the tales of King Arthur and Excalibur made for very interesting reading.  I didn’t always get the scientific references, and lucky for me neither did some of the characters, so the author was able to cleverly explain those references in plain English without being too obvious. 

The cast of characters contains a good mix of jock, geek, devoted best friend and new girl.  While the main focus is on Peter, the loveable science nerd who can’t seem to stay out of trouble, I felt that the other characters were well rounded.

The story is fast paced and full of plenty of action and twists and turns. I was so engrossed in the story that I didn’t want it to end.  I can’t wait for #2!

Disclaimer:  I received this book from the author free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

fools

Author:  John Terracuso

ebook, 375 pages

Published in 2013 by Smashwords

Reader Category:  Adult

Synopsis:  It’s 1986 and Michael Gregoretti is a struggling copywriter at a big New York ad agency, trapped on accounts no one else will touch.Toss in one insane boss, a sweet and sassy gal pal, a dreamboat boyfriend with cold feet, a wisecracking roommate and what might be the worst TV commercials ever made, and you’ve got a witty, wonderful story that will keep you laughing until the very last page.

My Review:  I really enjoyed this book.  It is very well-written with plenty of witty dialogue and funny moments that hook you and keep you wanting more.

Who can’t empathize with Michael, who hates his job and finds himself often unlucky in love?  I quickly became attached to him and could feel his frustrations.  I applauded his gusto when he stood up for himself to the wretched Gwen, and wanted to shake him for not showing the same backbone in his love life.

Lucky for Michael, he has supportive parents and friends who love him for who he is and see the great in him.  When it seems all is lost, and he may as well just pack it in, Michael pulls himself up by his bootstraps (with the help of his parents), and gets ready to embark on a new phase in his life.

Even through the most melancholy moments, Terracuso pulls the reader through with humor and great writing.  I highly recommend this very entertaining book.

Disclaimer:  I received this book from the author free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

daughters

Author:  Collette Jackson-Fink

Paperback, 290 pages

Published in 2013 by Outskirts Press

Reader Category:  Adult

Synopsis:  When an earthquake measuring seven on the Richter scale hits the tiny town of Waterloo, Iowa, life gets very strange indeed for the locals. A dark, hulking, pyramid-shaped tower pushes its way up through a corn field in Blackhawk County, thrusting the city into turmoil and into the national spotlight.

The “Black Tower” as it’s called is believed to be dormant, but when special tactical teams are sent inside to investigate, special team member Dane Coles is confronted by the impossible: a beautiful creature who claims to have been cursed and cast down into oblivion within the Garden of Eden. Now, the mystery creature is using the Black Tower as a doorway to the surface.

Coles has been trained for encounters with creatures made of real flesh and bone and blood, not for encounters with supernatural beings. What is he to do with this intelligence – and this “angel?”

My Review: A mix of science-fiction, military action and romance, Daughters of Twilight offers something for every reader.

Jackson-Fink was able to capture my attention from the very start with the prologue.  Her description of the man running from the black tower, desperate to escape the horrors he’d witnessed had me hooked.

This was a unique story and the characters were well-developed, most, easy to become attached to.  The military action did not take away from the love story that is embedded here and the fast pace made this book hard to put down.

As a side note, there were several instances where words were obviously out of place.  For instance summit was used where submit was the proper word.  Although this tripped me up, I didn’t let it deter from the great story.

Disclaimer:  I received this book from the author free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

escape

Author:  Deborah K. Jensen

Paperback, 336 pages

Published in 2012 by Beaver’s Pond Press

Reader Category:  Adult

Synopsis:  After separating from her husband of twenty years, Kim is in desperate need of an escape. Retreating to her parents’ home in Texas for a month, Kim encounters ample distractions, the best being Camilo, an alluring Latino man seventeen years her junior. However, when returning to Texas unearths memories of a long-ago lover, Kim discovers her unintentional involvement in a series of dangerous escapades, bringing her deeper into her past than she ever cared to venture. Beyond Escape follows Kim as she pursues a trail of drugs, murder, and secret love affairs that were meant to stay buried.

My Review: Although the title alludes to danger and intrigue, there isn’t much of that going on here.  After a hopeful start, unfortunately this book fell somewhat flat for me.  The premise is good, but I don’t believe that it followed through on its promise.  I really wanted more.  Here are my issues with the book:

The true identity of Camilo for me was predictable.

While Kim’s past was a bit dicey (even the those parts that she was not privy to), I was expecting her to be sucked back into that world and it just never happened.

Kim’s relationship with her best friend Connie and the tidbits of Connie’s life were unnecessary and didn’t really add to the story.

The ending was cut short and left a lot of unanswered questions.  Not sure if there is going to be a sequel, but I felt like I was the only one of my girlfriends left out of a really big secret.

This book may not have met my expectations, but it wasn’t a bad read.  If you are looking for something light to take on vacation, this might work for you.  However, if you are looking for something with a little more teeth, you won’t find it here.

Disclaimer:  I received this book from the author free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

santa

Author:  Stephen Miller

Paperback, 238 pages

Published in 2013 by V & E Enterprises

Reader Category:  I would categorize this as Young Adult, however I think the entire family would enjoy it.

Synopsis:

Julia Martin is the most incredible girl in school, and Mason Howell is hopelessly smitten by her. Julia is in charge of the local Charity Christmas party and she’s pleased with how everything is going…until her Santa Claus calls in sick. In a panic, she begs Mason to help her by wearing his grandfather’s heirloom Santa Claus suit. Mason agrees, just to impress the beautiful girl, but things don’t go as planned…as soon as he puts on the suit, he gets all the powers of Santa Claus!

Together with John Patton, Mason’s best friend, they learn his grandfather was a member of an ancient league of men and women dedicated to helping St. Nicholas use Christmas magic to save the world. The three of them could become the newest members of the Santa Claus League…if they can learn the secrets of Christmas magic!

My Review:  Just in time for the holidays, this charming tale will warm your heart.

When Mason Howell dons the family Santa suit, little does he know that he is destined to join a secret league of men and women whose mission it is to make the world a better place.  With the help of St. Nicholas himself, Mason and his friends are tasked with ridding the town of a local gang of thugs while bringing Christmas spirit to those in need.

Leaving a lot to the imagination, Stephen Miller brings back the true meaning of Christmas within these pages and will leave the reader hoping that one such league does exist.  It might even inspire some to acts of kindness for those less fortunate.

A delightful read full of magic and wonderment, The Santa Claus League should be on everyone’s Christmas reading list.

Disclaimer:  I received this book from the author free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

kohout 11 4 13

Author:  Chris Kohout

e-book, 366 pages

Published in 2013 by CreateSpace

Reader Category:  Adult

Synopsis:  1910 AD – Impending war with England has given Nikola Tesla the chance to build his dream: a weapon to end all wars. The American steam-powered Beowulf tank is larger than a house, and carries enough firepower to face an army. Beowulf also has a mechanical brain, embedded with the consciousness of Colonel Browning, America’s best military strategist.

But in England, King George has put Albert Einstein to work for his own war effort: zeppelins capable of reaching the former colony, and new, radiological bombs to remind them of the price of disloyalty.

When two brilliant pacifists wield technology to bring peace to a planet at war, the final outcome will surprise them both, and the world.

My Review:  This was my first steam punk novel and I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I was afraid that it wouldn’t be able to hold my attention, however I was pleasantly surprised.  Chock full of history and military strategy but not overwhelmed by either, this was an enjoyable read.  I wasn’t necessarily familiar with all of the characters, but that didn’t matter once the story started to flow. 

Einstein Must Die! is well-written and researched.  If you like alternate history, this fast-paced, action-packed novel is for you.

Disclaimer:  I received this book from the author free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

rooted

Author:  Jamie Baywood

Paperback, 224 pages

Published in 2013 by CreateSpace

Reader Category:  Adult

Synopsis:  Craving change and lacking logic, at 26, Jamie, a cute and quirky Californian, impulsively moves to New Zealand to avoid dating after reading that the country’s population has 100,000 fewer men. In her journal, she captures a hysterically honest look at herself, her past and her new wonderfully weird world filled with curious characters and slapstick situations in unbelievably bizarre jobs. It takes a zany jaunt to the end of the Earth and a serendipitous meeting with a fellow traveler before Jamie learns what it really means to get rooted.

My Review:  In getting rooted in New Zealand, Jamie Baywood describes her adventures while making the transition from life in California to New Zealand.   The reading was light and went quickly, unfortunately I found that it couldn’t hold my attention. 

Here are my reasons why:

She complains repeatedly about how horrible life in California was and how she was constantly harassed in her old hometown.  As I live in Northern California myself, I found it frustrating as I love California and have not had the same experience.  So I just couldn’t connect with her.

Frustrated with dating losers, she talks a lot about getting away from the dating scene in California.  Then she states that she is afraid she will never find a boyfriend or have sex again, so a bit contradictory.

Most of the entries about the language and cultural differences  seemed a bit predictable.  So what could have been laugh out loud moments, for me fell flat.

Finally, I didn’t get the feeling that she was trying very hard to embrace the New Zealand culture.  She gave me the impression that she was just as unhappy in New Zealand as she was in California.

Disclaimer:  I received this book from the author free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

sons

Author:  John Marrs

Paperback, approximately 400 e-book pages

Published in 2013 by John Marrs

Reader Category:  Adult

Synopsis:  What would you do if the person you loved suddenly vanished into thin air?

Catherine’s cosy life as a housewife and mum-of-three is quickly thrown into disarray when husband Simon disappears without explanation. She is convinced he hasn’t left by choice as confusion and spiraling debts threaten to tear her family apart.

Meanwhile Simon has begun a carefree new life travelling the world. And he’s determined not to disclose his past to all he meets, even if it means resorting to extreme and violent measures.

But why did he leave?

Catherine only gets her answer 25 years later when Simon suddenly reappears on her doorstep.

During their furious final confrontation, they discover the secrets, lies and misunderstandings that tore them apart, then brought them face-to-face one last time.

My Review: In his debut novel, John Marrs has created a story that left me on the edge of my seat.  The twists and turns I never saw coming kept me awake at night.  I couldn’t put it down and finished it in 24 hours.  I was hooked from the Prologue. 

This well thought out story is told from the perspectives of Catherine and Simon Nicholson in both past and present tenses.  The back and forth worked here because just as the story was starting to unravel in the present tense, it suddenly shifted to the past which I think made for great cliff hangers.

There were a lot of jaw dropping moments and times that I gasped and covered my eyes thinking, “No, that did NOT just happen!”  I could really go on and on here, spilling my guts about the plot and how much I loathe Simon Nicholson, but for fear of giving away too much of the story, I will decline.  You simply must read this book for yourself.

Well done John Marrs.  Keep the stories coming!

Related articles:

Interview with John Marrs via The Bibliophilic Book Blog

Disclaimer:  I received this book from the author free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

spooning

Author:  Marc L. Prey

Paperback, 166 pages

Published in 2013 by Motivational Press, Inc.

Reader Category:  Adult

Synopsis:  No one writes about relationships and parenting quite like humorist Marc Prey.  Now comes his first book, a laugh-out-loud funny, brutally honest and deeply touching collection of personal stories about one man’s relationship with his spouse and offspring.  In When It Comes to Spooning, I’m a Fork, Prey takes readers on a journey from first awkward date to raising teenagers, all while exposing moments that seemingly shift from the hilarious to the poignant in the beat of a heart.  And when it’s over, readers may discover they’ve learned something about themselves along the way.

My Review:  A job well done for Marc Prey in his highly relatable debut novel.  Bringing levity to everyday life and proving that it is good to laugh at yourself, Prey has written a book that often left me thinking, “I could see that as a sitcom episode.”  It is well written and each “episode” offers it’s own scenario and unique humor, allowing you to read leisurely.  I found it hard to put down and finished it in a matter of hours.

I highly recommend this quick fun read, and challenge you to not find yourself among the pages.

Disclaimer:  I received this book from the author free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

morehead

Author:  Jeffrey Hickey

Paperback, 241 pages

Published in 2012 by CreateSpace

Reader Category:  Adult

Synopsis: San Francisco in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.  It was a time of sexual, evolutionary, and political change with both glorious and nearly catastrophic consequences.  It was also a great time to be a straight young man in a gay old city.

It was a time for Morehead.

My Review:  Let me caution you that this is a very explicit book.  But once I accepted the language and visual images rolling around in my head, the story is quite good.  Dave Morehead is trying to find his own identity during a time of great change in San Francisco.  At first struggling to accept the lifestyle choices of those around him, he eventually gains great respect and friendship from those he formerly judged. 

Dave is not an easy character to like in the beginning.  He is crude, brash and self absorbed.  But as he grew and changed, so did my feelings toward him.  I began to like him and hold out hope that he would find his happiness.

Another great book from Jeffrey Hickey.  His humor is limitless and his story telling is thoroughly enjoyable.  Some of my favorite chapters are the ones titled “Work In The Eighties”.  I won’t tell you about them here, you need to read them for yourselves.

Disclaimer:  I received this book from the author free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

coach

Author:  Jeffrey Hickey

Paperback, 275 pages

Published in 2012 by CreateSpace

Reader Category:  Adult

Synopsis:  Have you ever felt that your presence at a sporting event influenced the result?  Are you certain your team could not possibly succeed without you at the game?  Do you believe your adherence to a precise routine on game day, whether at the stadium or in your own home, is the key to winning and losing?  And if you don’t hold to these rituals exactly, do you believe in your heart that your team is doomed?

If you are a sports fan, you know about superstitions, curses and hexes.  The sporting world is littered with these legends.  Some, like the Curse of the Bambino, the Curse of they Billy Goat, or being on the cover of Sports Illustrated, are well known and documented.  More recently, there has been a rising swell of evidence supporting the Madden Curse.

There are other legends similar to these that have never been told.  This is one of those stories, about a boy named Mark O’Bern.

My Review:  Master storyteller Jeffrey Hickey does not disappoint.  Although Mark O’Bern is a completely fictional character, Mr. Hickey’s own father was head coach for the San Francisco 49ers as well as an assistant coach and then scouter for the Dallas Cowboys.  And yes, he did invent the shotgun formation.  But this story is so much more than football games and superstition.  It is the coming of age story of young Mark and his struggles to gain his own identity during the late 1960’s and 1970’s.  A protective, narrow-minded mother, Mark’s not always internal clash with the Catholic faith, and his grappling to understand the family “gift” make for great reading.  The humor infused here is truly delightful.

It may seem odd for a woman to like a male coming of age story, but it actually gave me a lot of insight into what men go through when puberty strikes, and I feel more educated for it.

A delight to read from beginning to end whether you are a sports fan or not.

Disclaimer:  I received this book from the author free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

proust

Author:  Mark McClelland

Paperback, 203 pages

Published in 2013 by CreateSpace

Reader Category:  Adult

Synopsis:   A Los Alamos physicist, Christopher, retires to Taos, New Mexico to write a novel about nuclear terrorism. There he meets aspiring artist Marlene, and the two fall in love. Together they open a microbrewery and find themselves confronting terrorism of a new sort—in unmapped emotional territory.

My Review: While enjoyable to read, the story zipped along a little too fast for me.  I felt that the relationship between Christopher and Marlene was rushed and needed more development.  Christopher tolerated a lot and forgave easily, where many men would have walked away.

All in all the book was entertaining, just needed a little more oomph!

Disclaimer:  I received this book from the author free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

patrick

Author:  Susan Hughes

Paperback, 74 pages

Published in 2013 by Red Deer Press

Reader Category:  Children’s

Synopsis:  It’s the start of winter, and Patrick is beginning to feel crowded out of his own family. His father’s friend, Linda, and her seven-year-old daughter, Claire, are coming for dinner again. By the time spring arrives, not only is Patrick’s father planning to marry Linda, but she and Claire will be coming to live with them at the summer’s end. That just won’t do. So Patrick comes up with a big idea. He’ll build a tree house where he can stretch out his arms and breathe. But wait. Will his father allow it? Where will he find the perfect tree? Who will give him a hand with the construction? And, most importantly, will his own tree house really be the hideaway he hopes for, especially from the irritating Claire?

As the autumn season arrives, Patrick discovers some surprising answers to these questions – and learns a little about the meaning of family.

My Review:  Using the seasons to mark the transformation of one young boys feelings toward his father’s impending re-marriage works well here.  Things are going well for Patrick during the winter where he shares some of his favorite “firsts” of the season with his best friend Harry.  As the year passes and he learns of his father’s decision to remarry, he starts to feel his world change and his once cozy home becomes too cramped even before Linda and Claire move in.  In order to satisfy his desire for space, Patrick with Harry’s help builds a tree house.  Little does he know that the tree house not only offers the space he craves, but the healing that he needs.

This was a well-written book geared toward young children who are going through similar life changes.  It is easy enough for a child to read to themselves, but would also be good read aloud in a family setting.

 

intermission

Author:  Glenda Lee Vollmecke

Paperback, 192 pages

Published in 2013 by Outskirts Press

Reader Category:  Adult

Synopsis:  Intermission A Place in Time… Enjoy this riveting autobiography filled with typical British humor and occasional suspense! This electrifying book offers a journey of continual spellbinding and brilliant stories, some of historic significance. Who would have thought that a young girl like Glen born in the aftermath of WWII, whose family lived on a fixed income would be present at Rock-n-Roll’s most memorable events when the Beatles took Liverpool and the world, by storm. Glen who at seven years old lost her adored father, and adapted to boarders taken in to help with the bills. Subsequently, she endured the selfish antics of her stepfather who even tried to dispatch her to Scotland at the age of eight, by placing her on the wrong train. Amazing vivid descriptions of this era, her associations with the Beatles and other Liverpool musicians bring to life an incredible period. The Liverpool lads knew she was there, and during their initial appearances, she recalls fond memories of her favorite Beatle Ringo, who was quite a clown. She shares her life from age six until sixteen, and it is an overwhelming journey. You will not put this book down! Take a break, and enjoy this ‘place in time’ and feel the ambiance, familiarity, and awareness of the past.

My Review:  This book was a joy to read.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, as some autobiographies can tend to read like disjointed journals (a little choppy with awkward dialogue).  But this book really came to life.  I was drawn in and could picture myself actually having a conversation with the author.  Perhaps over tea with a little cognac?

What drew me to this book was that it would give me some insight into the Beatles’ start, but what kept me reading was the writing itself.  Ms. Vollmecke’s recollections give you a good glimpse of her past while teaching a little about post WWII life.  Offering not too much detail, but not too little either.  Her writing style is so lively, infusing her British humor with even the most serious of events.

Did I say this was a joy to read?

 

upload

Author:  Mark McClelland

Paperback, 277 pages

Published in 2012 by lulu.com

Reader Category:  Adult

Synopsis:  His criminal past catching up with him, a troubled young man seeks escape into digital utopia by uploading his consciousness into a computer — just as first love casts his life in a new light. In this thrilling near-future science-fiction novel, Mark McClelland explores the immense potential of computer-based consciousness and the philosophical perils of simulated society.

My Review: This book reminded me of a mix between Total Recall and Tron.  Our antihero, Raymond is not totally unlikeable.  Naturally the crime that he committed had me scratching my head at his decisions, but I also found myself having a degree of sympathy for him.

McClelland’s ability to describe not only the technical scenes, but the many layers of the “created” worlds was exemplary.  I am glad that he not only included the flowers and beautiful aspects that one would hope to see in a fantasy world, but the dark and ugly parts that would have to serve as a counterbalance as well.  The story is well thought out, eerily projecting what may be possible in our near future.  A good mixture of science fiction, morality and love can be found here.

Although I often found myself struggling through some of the more technical passages, I found the story fascinating.  I would recommend it to any science fiction fan.

Disclaimer:  I received this book from the author free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

perf6.000x9.000.indd

Author: Joshua Kraushar

Published in 2013 by Outskirts Press

Reader Category:  Children’s/Young Adult

Synopsis:  There Once Was A Man From the U.S.A. is a book of limericks about each of the fifty states in alphabetical order.   The book contains several illustrations from the talented Victoria Rose Weiss.  Many of the limericks have very little connection with the states mentioned but some are directly related to several of the others.  Although it may seem simplistic to use the same rhyme scheme, it turned out to be much harder than one would think.  Try rhyming words with Massachusetts, (not that’s something that you would normally do) and you might find it more difficult than you would imagine.  If you are a child, a teen or a geographically challenged adult who needs an easy way to remember the fifty states, this may be the book for you.

My Review:  From the very first limerick I was hooked.  Some of them are laugh out loud funny while not always appropriate for the younger reader.  The others are simply entertaining.  As most of them don’t have direct connections to their state, I was a little concerned about them sticking with me.  But the fact that they are funny and entertaining, led me to read them over and over again.

So, did this book help teach me about geography?  Not sure.  However I do think that the entertainment value of this book will help encourage young readers to take an interest in learning the 50 states.

hanging

Author:  Michael Phillip Cash

Paperback, 74 pages

Published in 2013 by Red Feather Publishing

Reader Category:  Adult

Synopsis:  Seventeen year old Arielle is at a crossroads in her life.  Disenchanted with her father, she is testing the boundaries of his trust by dating someone he does not approve.  Under the moonlit sky in Long Island, Arielle and her boyfriend meet under the infamous hanging tree.  The couple’s destiny is rooted to the five spirits in the tree whose lives and deaths are determined by an ancient curse.  Will her future be determined by the past or will Arielle’s choices alter the course of her life?

My Review:  Don’t let the length of this novella fool you.  Michael Phillip Cash is able to pack a big punch into a short amount of pages.  Successfully blending the tragic stories of the five spirits bound to the hanging tree with the current story of Arielle and her struggle to be true to herself (or punish her father), Cash does not disappoint.

With a surprise ending that I didn’t expect but totally made sense, this was a complete joy to read.  A great Halloween pick for young adults and adults alike.

Disclaimer:  I received this book from the author free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

This is going to be a rather long post, but I implore you to stick with it as I think this book is worth it.  Below you will find my review of scary, man by Jeffrey Hickey followed by an interview with the author himself.   Through my correspondence with him, I find him to be very insightful, gracious and an asset to the literary world.  Enjoy!

scary

Author:  Jeffrey Hickey

Paperback, 447 pages

Published in 2013 by CreatSpace Independent Publishing Platform.  The audio book just went live audible.com.  It should be available iTunes soon.  Here is the link.

Reader Category:  Adult

Disclaimer:  I received this book for free from the author in exchange for an honest review

Synopsis:  Droll and dead-on in its sizing up of contemporary culture scary, man is author Jeffrey Hickey’s wry and singular story of one man, his wife, and their daughter. Together, they embrace a new normal at the turn of the twenty-first century in America, while trying their hardest in the land of the free, and the home of the afraid. As Griffin shuffles from one appearance to the next as a man working in the world of children, he becomes increasingly vulnerable to the fears and suspicions of others. He also has plenty of his own well-earned, obvious flaws that feed into the small-town gum-flapping. At the same time, his wife Samantha, who runs a home day care, is on the brink of her own existential malaise. This propels her to follow her calling as a teacher, going back to school to do so and creating some distance between herself and her family. To add further complexity to family life, their canny, candid daughter Clare is nursing her own identity crisis that’s just about ready to bubble to the surface.

scary, man is an absorbing work of literary fiction peppered with gay themes and social commentary, this humor-inflected take on small towns, small minds, rumor mills, and rampant paranoia will strike an all-too-familiar chord with readers trying to make their way through the shaky American landscape, while keeping marriage and morals intact, and mayhem at bay. It will leave readers nodding in queasy recognition, while at the same time scratching their heads at the plight of the protagonist who is plenty bright, but who just can’t seem to get it right.

My Review:  I can honestly say that this is one of the most relate-able books that I have read in a long time.  Set in small towns in Northern California, scary, man explores the pitfalls of living where everyone knows your business, and they are all too happy to pass it along to others.  If you have not been the direct target of rumors or bullying, you may at least know someone who has.  Or have you been the perpetrator of such rumors?  If so, watch out, Griffin Donnelley has had enough.  It may have taken him most of this story to get up the courage to face his foes, but when he does, be prepared to grab a tissue.

I really enjoyed the whole book, but I must say that my favorite part of the book is where Griffin rediscovers his voice.  It was written so well that I felt like it was my moment as well as his.  Yes, I have read books that have moved me and brought me to tears, no doubt.  But this book caused me to actually weep.  I am not talking about one tear at-a-time trickle.  I am talking about a flow of tears that couldn’t be stopped.  My eyes seemed to have sprung leaks and it actually felt really good.

If you are looking for a well-written book that is pulled right out of modern times, then scary, man is for you.  It will make you laugh, make you cry, and most of all make you think about how gossip and rumors can bring out the worst and sometimes the best in people.

Interview:

Question #1.  Are Griffin’s experiences based on someone you know or events in your own life?

Response:  One of my favorite writing axioms over the years has been, “Write what you know, and turn it into something new.” In all three of my novels, I can point to a specific chapter, or sequence and say that it is at least somewhat autobiographical. In the case of Scary, Man, I was a traveling story teller and teacher, and I also spent many years (13 in fact) working on a non-fiction project called My Blood, that was to chronicle the meetings I had with recipients of my blood donations. Sadly, that project had the plug pulled and I was left with a lot of material, but no book. I wanted to do something with what I’d done, but while I was working on that project, I was also planning a novel about someone trying to find a unique career in these challenging contemporary times. I’ve never seen times this difficult for someone who wants to do original artistic work, or work that doesn’t follow corporate or traditional guidelines. Once the My Blood project collapsed, I saw the opportunity to adapt it and incorporate it into Scary, Man. It was fun writing sections of that story from Griffin’s perspective, and not mine. It allowed for a level of creativity and latitude that would not have been there in a non-fiction book. Beyond that, whatever experiences I had that I chose to utilize for this text, have been changed to fit this story.

Question #2.   How are you the same/different from Griffin?

Response:  Griffin and I are both writers, and we’ve both been teachers, and we’ve worked with, and performed for children. Beyond that, he is darker in mood than I am.  We have different personal issues.  Griffin was probably clinically depressed, and I, while certainly capable of a bad mood, am pretty upbeat. He has an only child, a daughter, and we have fraternal twin sons. He is not close to his parents, and I was. His marriage, while happy, has some issues. I am ridiculously in love and have been for 31 years. My wife is not an orphan. Griffin and Samantha’s problems are not what my wife and I have experienced. My wife is not a teacher.

Question #3.  I became very emotional during the town hall meeting.  Was that part difficult to write?

Response:  I was so nervous writing the town hall meeting. I knew what that scene would mean for everyone on the stage. I’d been writing a novel with one shattered dream after another, and I wanted Griffin, and everyone, to finally have some healing, meaning, and at least partial resolution. As I wrote it, I also became very emotional. Like many of us, I’ve had moments with people who treated me with something less than respect. So for Griffin to finally “find his voice” again was deeply moving and satisfying. I felt healing throughout that room. It was a wonderful scene to write, and rewarding that a simple gesture from earlier in the story would return with such kindness and validation for Griffin. I wish I could read it live, but it would give too much away for those who haven’t read the novel.

Question #4.  When you are writing, do you read other fiction?  Or do you find this distracting?

Response:  Sadly, my days of pleasure reading are probably over, at least until this creative roll I’m on decides to vacate for a bit. I have read very little fiction in the last ten years. I’ve tried, but I feel guilty almost immediately because I’m not working. Everything I read now is research for either the novel I’m writing, or the novel I’m writing next. I am driven by a distinct goal–I want my wife to retire from her job and be home with me all the time. I’m working for the Karen Hickey retirement fund.

Question #5.  Where do you get your ideas for your books?  Do your ideas come to you quickly, or do you think them over for a long period of time?

Response:  My ideas usually come to me quickly, but brew for a long time, and I have a wonderful, serendipitous litmus test for a project. In all three of my novels to date, (The Coach’s Son, Morehead, and Scary, Man) I knew the last line of the story before I wrote the first line. I knew exactly where the story ended. I already know the last line in the next novel. Ideas come from everywhere and help develop plot and details, but up to this point, I start with something I know, or have experienced, and go from there. I always work from inspiration, not a marketing plan. I spend time with a project, finish it and let it go. The next novel will be my first large scale piece of historical fiction, starting over 400 years ago, so obviously, I’m veering from my formula. But the idea is good, and the research I’ve done to date is compelling. The ideas are already becoming clear and the story is taking shape. Of the three novels, and the fourth I’ve begun, all the ideas have taken a period of years before that final line has come to me and the process of writing the novel has begun. However, once I’ve begun writing the book, I work without pause until it is finished, and it usually doesn’t take too long. For example, Scary, Man is my longest novel so far, and it took the shortest amount of time to write, just under six months until I turned it over to an editor. One tip some of your readers and writers might find interesting, is how much editing I do based on reading the work aloud. It comes from the story telling. I also do all my own audio books, recording them in my home studio. If a text doesn’t sound right being read aloud, it gets changed. I still work with a professional editor (a different one for every project) but before I turn it over to them, I read the work aloud over and over. This is not only good for editing, it’s great rehearsal for when I record the audio book. I get inside every character by knowing their voices.

Question #6.  If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in scary, man?

Response:  I see you saved the hardest question for last . . . Boy, this is a tough one. Even though I knew the last line of the story, I wrestled with the ending. Not the town meeting, but what happens after. I can’t really write about it, because it gives too much away. Let’s just say it was difficult for me to do what I felt I had to do. I’d been setting it up, as discretely as possible, from early in the book. Even so, as I wrote the story, the ending I knew I needed to write became increasingly difficult for me. Again, without giving too much away, I will say that it changed after working with my editor. Not the last line, but what happens before.  I hope I haven’t said too much here. Maybe I’ve created a great teaser. But readers, DON’T YOU DARE READ THE ENDING FIRST!

Review: Testimony

Posted: October 10, 2013 in New Adult, Reviews
Tags: , ,

testimony

Author:  Anita Shreve

Paperback, 305 pages

Published in 2008 by Back Bay Books

Reader Category:  Adult

From the Publisher:  Enter a world upended by the repercussions of a single impulsive action.  At an exclusive New England boarding school, a sex scandal unleashes a storm of shame and recrimination.  The men, women, and teenagers affected – among them the headmaster, struggling to contain the scandal before it destroys the school; a well-liked scholarship student and star basketball player, grappling with the consequences of his mistakes; his mother, confronting her own forbidden temptations; and a troubled teenage girl eager to put the past behind her – speak out to relate the events of one fateful night and its aftermath.

My Review:  First let me start by saying that I did like this book.  I was captivated by the story and once I started, couldn’t stop reading.

That being said, the fact that this is written in 20 different voices was somewhat of a drawback for me.  I quickly started to realize that I needed to make a list of characters as I was starting to forget who they were if they popped up again later.  Certain voices were written in first person and others were in third person.  One of the voices had 38 chapters between their first and second appearance.

I understand why she wrote it this way.  Had it simply been written from the headmaster’s perspective (as it originally was), some details wouldn’t be known by him, hence the need for multiple view points.  Nonetheless, it was a little ADD for me.

Other than my issue with the multiple voices, Testimony was a well-written book.  The premise of the story could have been taken from the headlines of a New England newspaper, highlighting how one night of drinking and recklessness can blemish a small town and leave those caught in its wake forever scarred.

Review: Peak

Posted: October 2, 2013 in Reviews, Young Adult
Tags: , ,

peak

Author:  Roland Smith

Hardback,  246 pages

Published in 2007 by Harcourt Books

Reader Category:  Young Adult

From the Publisher: When fourteen-year-old Peak Marcello’s long-lost father presents the opportunity for them to summit Everest together, Peak doesn’t even consider saying no – even though he suspects there are a few strings attached.  And if he makes it to the top before his birthday, he’ll be the youngest person ever to stand above 29,000 feet.  It’s not a bad turn of events for a guy who’s been stuck in New York City with only skyscrapers to (illegally) scale.

Here, in Peak’s own words, is the exhilarating, gut-wrenching story of what happened on that climb to the top of the world – a climb that changed everything.  Welcome to Mount Everest.

My Review:  This book provides a look at the danger and excitement of climbing the highest mountain in the world.  Peak is caught climbing and tagging a skyscraper in New York City and in order to avoid jail time, is sent to Thailand to live with his absentee father.  As this happens during the school year, Peak is compelled to write about his experiences in order to complete the year.  Written from his perspective, the reader is not only given an account of the difficult climb, but the commercialization of the mountain that exists for those wishing to traverse it.

Roland Smith has written a novel that pulled me in and made me feel like I was up on that mountain, struggling for each breath right along with Peak.  It also taught me a lot about climbing!  Written with enough information for the non-climber to understand what is happening, but at the same time well researched, allowing it to be believable to the experienced climber.

This was a great read filled with adventure.  I would recommend it to any lover of Young Adult fiction.

vaclav

Author:  Haley Tanner

Hardback,  292 pages

Published in 2011 by The Dial Press

Reader Category:  Young Adult

From the Publisher:  Vaclav and Lena seem destined for each other.  They meet as children in an ESL class in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn.  Vaclav is precocious and verbal.  Lena, struggling with English, takes comfort in the safety of his adoration, his noisy, loving home, and the care of Rasia, his big-hearted mother.  Vaclav imagines their story unfolding like a fairy tale, or the perfect illusion from his treasured Magician’s Almanac, but among the many truths to be discovered in Haley Tanner’s wondrous debut is that happily ever after is never a forgone conclusion.

One day, Lena does not show up for school.  She has disappeared from Vaclav and his family’s lives as if by a cruel magic trick.  For the next seven years Vaclav says good night to Lena without fail, wondering if she is doing the same somewhere.  On the eve of Lena’s seventeenth birthday he finds out.

My Review:  I have had this book for a while as  I purchased it for very cheap at my local library’s quarterly book sale.  I occasionally picked it up and looked at, only to put it back down again.  Just recently, I read the jacket again and decided to give it a try.  Boy am I glad I did!

This book is so engaging that I had a hard time putting it down.  Ms. Tanner is able to draw the reader in with her simple prose, allowing them to be swallowed by the story.  I’ve read other reviews and sometimes see the comment that the story ends too abruptly.  In my opinion, the story had to end this way as the book could have gone on for a lifetime.

This heart-wrenching tale of two young children ripped apart by unthinkable acts is sure to stay with me for some time to come.  Vaclav’s love for Lena and his need to protect her tore at my heartstrings.  All young Lenas would be so lucky to find their Vaclav.

I highly recommend this book.

bosley

Author: Tim Johnson

Published in 2013 by The Language Bear

Reader Category:  Children’s

From Goodreads:  Designed to teach your child new words and phrases in a new language while enjoying a beautifully illustrated, wholesome bedtime story.

Bosley Bear gathers his toys and goes to the beach to make lots of new friends and learn lots of new words. Discovering that other animals at the beach have interesting capabilities like flying or swimming, Bosley realizes that he has something that makes him special in his own way.

My Review:  This book came to me as a review request by the author.  As I was reading, I put on my “As a mother would I…” cap and am pleased to say that, yes I would use this book series to encourage my child to learn another language.   Initially I was a little worried when I saw the complete translation on each page, but being that only a few select words are highlighted to the reader, my worries went away.  This book is not attempting to teach sentences or entire phrases to children, it is merely trying to teach a few words at a time.  I must admit that I learned a few new words myself!

A great story accompanied by great artwork, Bosley helps children learn that everyone has unique skills and we can all appreciate each other for what we bring to the world.

I would definitely recommend this book to friends with small children who are looking for exposure to different languages.

 

 

girl

Author:  Stephen King

Hardback,  219 pages

Published in 1999 by SCRIBNER

Reader Category:  Adult

From the Publisher:  The world had teeth and it could bite you with them anytime it wanted.  Trisha McFarland discovered this when she was nine years old.  At ten o’clock on a morning in early June she was sitting in the back seat of her mother’s Dodge Caravan, wearing her blue Red Sox batting practice jersey (the one with 36 GORDON on the back) and playing with Mona, her doll.  At ten thirty she was lost in the woods.  By eleven she was trying not to be terrified, trying not to let herself think, This is serious, this is very serious.  Trying not to think that sometimes when people got lost in the woods they got seriously hurt.  Sometimes they died.

My Review:  I must admit that I am relieved to be done reading this book.  As is per King’s style, this book is chock-full of description.  At times (and I hate to admit this), I found myself skimming ahead in the pages to see when the action would pick up.  While the story moved along, and we followed nine year old  Trisha’s plight through the woods, there wasn’t a “gotcha” moment until very late in the book.  For me it was page 190 of this 219 page book.  Waiting for that moment at times made this a somewhat laborious read.

Stephen King is still a great writer, but for me, this isn’t on the list of one of his better books.  That being said, as I have mentioned in previous posts, I was forced to stop and reflect on my own nine year old child and consider whether he is equipped with tools that would help him cope with such moments of distress.  So for that I am glad that I stuck with it.

While this book did not make it to my list of favorites, it is still classic King and worth a read if you are a fan.

messenger

Author:  Markus Zusak

Paperback,  pages 357

Published in 2002 by Random House

Reader Category:  Young Adult

AR Book Level: 3.9

From the Publisher: Ed Kennedy is an underage cabdriver without much of a future.  He’s pathetic at playing cards, hopelessly in love with his best friend Audrey, and utterly devoted to his coffee-drinking dog, the Doorman.  His life is one of peaceful routine and incompetence until he inadvertently stops a bank robbery.

That’s when the first ace arrives in the mail.

That’s when Ed becomes the messenger.

Chosen to care, he makes his way through town helping and hurting (when necessary) until only one question remains:  Who’s behind Ed’s mission?

My Review:  I picked up this book a few times at the library and read the back cover and put it back down.  After reading The Book Thief and absolutely loving it, I decided to give it a chance.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, but from the first page, Zusak had me laughing out loud.  While humor never left the book, the story became increasingly touching.  He has the ability to tell a story that flows so easily that it grabs you and doesn’t let go.  His way with words and how he describes scenes is unlike anything I have read before.

Here are a few examples:

“Our feet dangle.

I watch them, and I watch the jeans on Audrey’s legs.

We only sit there now.

Audrey and me.

And discomfort.

Squeezed in, between us.” p. 120

“There’s a streetlight standing over us, watching.

There’s a breeze, cooling the sweat on my face, and slowly I see my shadow step on Gavin Rose.” p. 170

Ed Kennedy takes the journey of a lifetime and I felt like I was right there with him.  Through his eyes we see the world as it really is.  We see the abused, the lonely, the poor, and realize that simple acts of kindness (or hurt) can make a big impact on people’s lives.

A truly touching story.  One that will stay with me forever.  I am grateful to Markus Zusak for helping me to realize that we all have the potential to be something great, and to use that greatness to help those around us.

For those of you who are looking at the Book Level for your younger readers, be warned.  This is definitely a Young Adult novel, and I wouldn’t recommend it for children.

Related articles:

I Am The Messenger – Markus Zusak (whatshesreadingnow.wordpress.com)

king

Author:  Jennifer A. Nielsen

Hardback, 331 pages

Published in 2013 by Scholastic Press

Reader Category:  Young Adult

AR Book Level: 5.0

From Goodreads: Just weeks after Jaron has taken the throne, an assassination attempt forces him into a deadly situation. Rumors of a coming war are winding their way between the castle walls, and Jaron feels the pressure quietly mounting within Carthya. Soon, it becomes clear that deserting the kingdom may be his only hope of saving it. But the further Jaron is forced to run from his identity, the more he wonders if it is possible to go too far. Will he ever be able to return home again? Or will he have to sacrifice his own life in order to save his kingdom?

My Review:  In the second installment of the Ascendance Trilogy, Jennifer A. Nielsen does not disappoint.  Her ability to capture the reader’s attention from the first page makes this book hard to put down.  Told in the first person, we journey along with young King Jaron in the fight for his life – and his country.

I had been waiting quite some time to read The Runaway King, afraid that maybe this second book would not stand up to the first – The False Prince.  Not only did the story continue flawlessly from the first novel, but Nielsen was able to flash back without weighing down the reader with redundant information.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and can’t wait for The Shadow Throne, although it will be a little bittersweet as that will mean the end of the series!

wolf

Author: Augusten Burroughs

Paperback, 242 pages

Published in 2008 by Picador

Reader Category: Older

From the Publisher:  With A Wolf at the Table, the prequel to his phenomenal bestseller Running with Scissors, Augusten Burroughs re-creates the unspeakably terrifying relationship between a sociopathic father and a son yearning for unconditional love.  Emotionally unflinching and brave, A Wolf at the Table is a truly devastating look at the distance that can separate fathers and sons.

My Review:  Augusten Burroughs has a way of writing that hooks you immediately.  Sadly this memoir reads like a suspense novel, as he recounts years of terror and rejection.

His longing for a father-son connection, and the continued rejection that follows is cruel and devastating.  Forced to endure a childhood of emotional (and sometimes physical) neglect at the hands of his father, someone who is supposed to love him, leaves him scarred and afraid that his genetic makeup will determine his fate.

This is a great book that should be read by all parents.  It is a perfect script on how NOT to treat your children.  For those of us who have great relationships with our fathers, it is unfathomable that someone could be so cold and unfeeling.  Always waiting for what is to come next and fearing the worst made this book hard to put down.

tithe

Author: Holly Black

Paperback, 331 pages

Published in 2002 by Simon Pulse

Reader Category: Listed as Young Adult

From the Publisher:  Sixteen-year-old Kaye is a modern nomad.  Fierce and independent, she travels from city to city with her mother’s rock band until an ominous attack forces Kaye back to her childhood home.  There, amid the industrial, blue-collar New Jersey backdrop, Kaye soon finds herself an unwilling pawn in an ancient power struggle between two rival faerie kingdoms – a struggle that could very well mean her death.

My Review:  When I first picked it up I thought that the cover was beautiful, and the summary on the back clinched it for me.  Unfortunately the cover and summary were not enough to get me through it, and I had to really push myself to finish this book.

The negative:

As this is told from Kaye’s point of view, it somewhat limited the reader’s ability to understand the faerie world that this story is set in.  I felt like the reader was left out of some unknown back story and I was somewhat frustrated.

I was quickly turned off by the brash, cigarette smoking, alcohol drinking, foul mouthed Kaye.  While it’s not at all surprising to find smoking and drinking in a young adult novel, the over-the-top language that cropped up really detracted from the story.  I felt that it was sadly unnecessary in this tale.  I get that it is a ‘modern faerie tale’, and I am by no means turned off by foul language (in the right context. I had a really hard time connecting to this book and these characters.

Corny, brother of Kaye’s best friend Janet, starts out as a psychotic head-case, and then without any sort of transition, becomes Kaye’s confidant and companion.  It was surprising, and somewhat awkward.

There were so many characters and so many ‘faerie’ terms, that I had a hard time keeping up and found myself skimming over parts that confused me.  Normally, I would try to back track and re-read to refresh my memory, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it here.

The positive:

The story is well thought out and the author has a clear vision of where she wants it to go.

The story finally started to take shape for me in the second chapter, with the introduction of Roiben, the injured knight from the faerie realm.  This is when I felt that the story was going somewhere.  Before that, I really wanted to abandon the book.

Unfortunately, for me there was more negative than positive.  The lack of initial connection made this a hard read.  I found myself rushing to read it and get it over with.