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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: book review, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 26 - 50 of 2,304
26. book review: The Deep

Cover_v8.inddtitle: The Deep

author: Zetta Elliott

date: 2013; Rosetta Press

main character: Nyla

The Deep continues the stories of Nyla, Keem and D that began in Ship of Souls. While Ship of Souls was D’s story, The Deep is Nyla’s. We knew something happened to Nyla in Germany and now we find what it was and how that terror stole Nyla’s sense of self. She moves to Brooklyn with her stepmother and begins covering herself in an array of body piercings, spiked hair and black clothing. In appearance, she is oddly matched with Keem, an attractive athlete, but he seemed to give her the space and respect that she needed. She is as impulsive in her decision-making as any 14-year-old would be.

As a character, I found Nyla difficult to like just as I imagine a real life Nyla would be. A smart black girl struggling with so many personal issues, would indeed take some special love if you didn’t know her. This girl managed to build a thick, protective covering around herself that didn’t manage to interfere with her sense of independence or her core values.

Before leaving for Brooklyn, Nyla rhetorically asks if she could indeed belong in Brooklyn. Identity and fitting in are themes in this book and they’re themes that shape the lives of many nerdy black girls who rarely find themselves represented in American media. Nyla finds that she has a special purpose, a unique calling that comes from her mother; the woman who walked out on her and her father when she was 4 years old.

Elliott creates a strong sense of place as the Brooklyn landscape plays a prominent role in Nyla’s fate. Prominent public locations become portals that transport Nyla into the deep and deliver important messages to the characters. As D, Keem and Nyla ride the trains, visit the pizza shops and hangout out in the parks we feel such a strong connection to this place that we want to believe this is where they all belong. But our Nyla is being pulled away.

These three friends are once again confronted by powers from below the ground that  bring many threats, not the least of which is the threat to end their friendships. Nyla struggles with her new-found powers and with so many major elements in the book, yet Elliott lets these teens remain teens. Each of them wants to know how to maintain  relationships with parents, friends and lovers. And, each of them wants to find their place in the world. Well, D and Nyla do. We still need to hear Keem’s story!

Elliott continues to self publish imaginative and provocative young adult speculative fiction. Her commitment to her readers is evident in the honest portrayals that she gives them. Zetta sent me a copy of this book back in December when I was knee deep in BFYA reading. I never committed to when I would read The Deep and honestly, I didn’t want to read it because I didn’t want to not like it. I shouldn’t have doubted her skills.

Filed under: Book Reviews Tagged: african american, book review, speculative fiction, Zetta Elliott

2 Comments on book review: The Deep, last added: 3/19/2014
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27. Ignite Me - Review

Ignite Me (Shatter Me #3) 
by Taherah Mafi
Publication date: 04 Feb 2014 by HarperCollins
Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Indiebound

Category: Young Adult Fiction/Dystopia
Keywords: Dystopia, Revolution, Paranormal
Format: Hardcover, ebook, Audiobook
Source: Borrowed


The heart-stopping conclusion to the New York Times bestselling Shatter Me series, which Ransom Riggs, bestselling author of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, called “a thrilling, high-stakes saga of self-discovery and forbidden love.”

With Omega Point destroyed, Juliette doesn’t know if the rebels, her friends, or even Adam are alive. But that won’t keep her from trying to take down The Reestablishment once and for all. Now she must rely on Warner, the handsome commander of Sector 45. The one person she never thought she could trust. The same person who saved her life. He promises to help Juliette master her powers and save their dying world . . . but that’s not all he wants with her.

The Shatter Me series is perfect for fans who crave action-packed young adult novels with tantalizing romance like Divergent by Veronica Roth, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, and Legend by Marie Lu. Tahereh Mafi has created a captivating and original story that combines the best of dystopian and paranormal, and was praised by Publishers Weekly as “a gripping read from an author who’s not afraid to take risks.” Now this final book brings the series to a shocking and satisfying end.

Kimberly's Review:

I have such a hard time reviewing this series. I am not a fan of the series in general, but I have to admit that there is something so totally addicting, I cannot help but need to know how it all ends.

There's a lot of action in this final book which keeps the reader engaged and the pages turning. 
Honestly though, there's so much about this story I just don't get.

Like - Where is everyone?

There is only one regime in place that is ruling everything (bad guys) and one in place that oppose them (good guys). Once the rebels take that over, they can control everyone. Where are the rest of the people? (And don't tell me they all got blown up because that is a lie) Other rebellions outside of this area? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? 

How is this girl going to lead the country? Juliette suddenly decides she is the most capable of being the leader and she is going to rule. Okay, now even very young monarchs who come to power have years of training, education, learning language and politics. Juliette can barely complete full sentences and she's convinces an entire army that she should rule on pure strength alone. She doesn't make a case at all about her leadership abilities, her plans for the future, her thoughts on uniting the nation. No, she breaks things with her enormous physical strength and everyone else is staring at her going- Wow. We'll follow you.

WTF? She has declared herself supreme ruler when she can barely control her feelings and gives no indication that she understands anything about the politics, world views, different cultures and societies. 

Why is anyone letting Juliette make the decisions? Is it just because has a boyfriend who is rich and has food and shelter? Is it because she has super human strength? Juliette still does not scream leadership material even by the end of the book. 

<shakes head> huh?

Okay, let's give in for a second and forget all I said above and that Juliette is the most capable of people willing to put everyone and her followers first. Let's say she's going to unite everyone, lead them to green grass and bunnies and rainbows. Let's say it's in her and I just can't see it.

But then, what about this horrific love triangle???

Honestly, I think my main problem with the book are the characters. The three main characters, Juliette, Warner and Adam, are all thought to be  a certain way. They are introduced to the reader as a certain person and the reader believes it. That is, until the rug is pulled out and I have to re-learn everything I thought about the characters. Sometimes this technique works. But when it's done to all three of the main characters, and none of them feel justified, I have to call foul. Juliette's switch is probably the slowest, most normal of them. It starts in book one (shriveled in a corner, oh but quickly she wants to fight) and then does it again in book three. But Adam and Warner's 180 degree change was so unnatural, I feel like it was just the author's way of appeasing the mass.

If you're not familiar with the series, Warner aka Big Bad, was a really awful character. He was cruel to our Juliette and yet, by book two, everyone was in love with him. Adam, the sweet boy she knew before she was imprisoned, was left by the wayside. Now to have to justify Juliette being with Warner, she has to:

1. Make Warner honorable and awesome and loving and kind and 
2. Make Adam awful and cruel and mean and ugly. 

I'm sorry but this just makes me want to scream. Sure, maybe this was all planned. But it's such an abrupt changes of these characters make me think of one word: 

That's right.
Cyborgs have replaced the real Adam and the real Warner and they're not getting them right.

But alas, no. These changes were the real thing. (Why?!?!)

Also, there was a whole lotta drama. D.R.A.M.A Like over the top drama. I mean, I'm all about teen angst and all but sigh. It was a lot and slowed down the momentum of the book.

Kenji is my favorite character by far and he steals every scene he is in. Funny, warm and human, I love how he reminds everyone that they are alive. I also loved James, Adam's little brother. He brings some much needed innocent and comic relief, especially his fun scenes with stoic Warner. 

I have to admit that though I can't say I liked the series because I had such major problems with it, Ms. Mafi does something right. She creates a story with great dialogue. She keeps the pace going and even I had to read the whole series to find out what happens. I guess that counts for something.

Visit the author online at www.taherehbooks.com, Facebook and follow her on Twitter @taherehmafi

Please note that this post may contain affiliate links. For more details, please see our full disclosure policy here

0 Comments on Ignite Me - Review as of 3/18/2014 3:35:00 AM
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28. Don’t Slack on Setting

I picked up a book recently because it’s set in New Orleans. The plot sounded okay, but really, New Orleans. As someone who used to live in the American Lowcountry, I miss the South. As an Anne Rice fan, I feel I’ve visited New Orleans many times, even though I haven’t.

I was excited to start this book, escape the desert for a while, and be lulled into a sensuous stupor by the sights, sounds, and smells of what many consider the most beautiful city in the world.

To say I’ve been disappointed is an understatement. Here’s what I’ve gotten so far: “There was something about New Orleans—something about the air itself—a certain sultriness found nowhere else, that silky touch of humidity on skin like fingertips dragged slowly over your flesh.”

Great! And that was the first line. Since that first line, nothing, nadda. The author could be writing about Wall, South Dakota, and I wouldn’t know. Where is my French Quarter? Where is the overwhelming, sweet scent of magnolia? Where are the horse-drawn buggies for tourists?

ef5f114d06dfe0799832eb2df94d3424I’ll tell you where: in New Orleans. But not in this author’s book.

As a writer, setting is important. In my novels (even in my short stories), the city becomes a character. When I wrote Life without Harry, my readers rejoiced over places they recognized and couldn’t wait to visit places they did not. Same goes for Something about a Ghost, set in Phoenix. You know damn well you’re in Phoenix. You feel the dry heat and smell the spring-blooming orange blossoms. You see the purple-red sunsets, because Phoenix has a persona. Setting should have a persona.

As I mentioned, I was once lucky enough to live in the American Lowcountry. I lived in Charleston, South Carolina (aka “Heaven on Earth”), and the novel I’m writing at present takes place there. An excerpt:

“The air felt crisp, clean, light, and although most of the flowers were long dead, the air still smelled like some sweet bloomer over the usual scent of saltwater and wet sand. He clunked down the metal stairs that led to the ground floor and paused as his boat shoes met grass.

“He walked through the yard and its overabundance of dormant gardenia plants, their waxy leaves still green and lush despite the chill. The Crepe Myrtles at the end of his sidewalk were almost bare, beyond a few dark orange leaves that clung. He pulled a leaf free and held it between his fingers as he took a left and walked down Church Street toward Battery Park.

fbe2a39fb38fcb522ed53d63611ecbd2-3“He passed the houses where rich people lived, passed their well-kept gardens, their BMWs. He passed over brick roads, beneath the sprawling, wicked arms of Angel Oaks. He paused at Stoll’s Alley, a tiny walkway of brick, overwrought with climbing ivy—one of his usual short cuts—and kept moving until he entered Battery Park, the very tip of the Charleston peninsula.

“He stayed on the edge of the Battery. He stood on the walkway overlooking the harbor with his elbows leaned against the cold metal rail. The sky was cloudy, so the water looked dark green, tumultuous as though a storm would soon arrive. In the distance, he could see Fort Sumter and an American flag that flapped in the wind. There was a wind, a slight one that brushed softly over his face and brought with it the smell of dead fish.”

Do you smell the smells? See the sights? Feel the air? I hope so. I worked hard to take you to Charleston, even if you’ve never been there. This is setting, and for some reason, we’ve forgotten it. We’ve gotten so caught up in plot, character, conflict—but what is a story without a world, a sense of place?

This is a reminder to writers and readers alike: don’t let books get away with weak settings. Don’t be lulled by pretty people. People are but a thin pie slice of what is really happening in a story. Don’t disappoint me. I’ll find you and write about you on my blog.

10 Comments on Don’t Slack on Setting, last added: 3/18/2014
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29. Book Review- Trouble by Non Pratt

Title:  Trouble
 Author:  Non Pratt
Series:  N/A
Published:  6 March 2014 by Walker
Length:364 pages
Source: publisher
Other info: this is Non’s debut novel.
Summary : A boy. A girl. A bump. Trouble.Hannah’s smart and funny ... she’s also fifteen and pregnant. Aaron is new at school and doesn’t want to attract attention. So why does he offer to be the pretend dad to Hannah’s unborn baby? Growing up can be trouble but that’s how you find out what really matters.
Review: Hannah is fifteen and pregnant. And she won't tell anyone who the father is. Aaron is the new boy at school whose father is a teacher. Aaron offers to pretend to be the father. Hannah agrees. Trouble ensues.
I read this because everyone was saying how good it is. I am very glad I followed everyone's advice.
I would very much like to congratulate the cover designers. It's eyecatching, instantly tells you what  Trouble is about, and doesn't make it seem off-putting at all.
Hannah is very frank throughout her narration, while Aaron is a bit more secretive. I liked the contrast between the two styles, and I think Non did very well at differentiating the two. She also gets teenage thought processes, priorities and ideas really well.
I loved the characters so much. Neville, the old man that Aaron visits. especially-he doesn't seem very nice to start with, but as you learn more about him, you feel emotionally connected to him. All the characters are real, likable, and stick with you. Watching Aaron and Hannah  develop is really nice, and the diverse supporting characters make a great cast.
When we found out who the father is, I was just “Woah. Yeah, I can see why you'd want to keep that hidden. This makes the story infinitely more interesting.” The plot comes along really well, and I loved reading it.
I find it odd that the teachers don't have much involvement, what with Hannah being fifteen and pregnant at school. Jim (YaYeahYeah)said  it's because Non doesn't want to come across as judgy, which I totally get and totally love the lack of preachy message, but it just took away a little bit of realism from an otherwise really believable story-I'm fairly sure that if anyone at my school got pregnant, everyone would be freaking out. It's also weird reading this when I did- I am in the year that will be coming up to GCSEs. It's scary to read this. Not bad scary, but good.
I loved reading all the sideplots other than the main one about teenage pregnancy, which, instead of just supporting it, were each equally good.

Overall:  Strength 4 tea to a wonderfully real contemporary.

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30. Kishaz Reading Corner: Knight of a Trillion Stars

Disclaimer: I received no compensation from the author or publisher for this honest review.

About the Book

Imagine returning from work to find him in your living room? 

It has been a horrible day for Deanna Jones. She’s fired from her job– and that turns out to be the highpoint of her day.

Good thing she found the weird-looking necklace in a junk shop by the parking lot…or is it?

When she finally gets home, a six foot four inch knight is sitting in her living room! The hunk looks like every woman’s fantasy of the perfect hero, but what is he doing in her cottage?

Well, he’s on a very important quest, of course. But she’ll find that out soon enough.

Poor Deanna Jones is about to be swept into an amazing, epic journey across time and space… leading straight to the heart.

Buy the Book

Here's what I'm giving it:

Rating:  3.5 stars

Here's why:

There were several things I liked about the story and a couple that annoyed me. Let's start with those that annoyed me and go from there.

1) Some of Deanna's reactions. I know that statement is rather vague but at the risk of spoiling moments in the story, that will have to suffice. I will say that if I came home and some strange man was in my house, I would not have reacted like Deanna. And, there are moments when the character becomes a little two-dimensional which threw me while reading.

2) The over "alpha"-fulness of Lorgan. There's alpha male and then there's domineering/jerk. I spent most of the novel either hating Lorgan (the main romantic lead) and sometimes liking his softer side. Color me too modern but I don't think if I were a damsel in distress I would want him coming to my rescue.

Now on to what I liked about the story.

1) The secondary characters. For me, Rejar, Lorgan's brother, stole the show. His wit and snappy comebacks kept the story alive when it lagged in spots.

Also the wizard who reminded Deanna of Merlin was another breath of fresh air.

2) The Con scene. I won't say anymore. For those of us who have attend Cons of any type, you'll understand why I found that scene in the book hilarious.

3) Description of the various worlds. I enjoyed the changes in scenery and the author's descriptions of the various areas the characters visited.

Recommend? Yes, I would recommend this one. If you are a feminist, then steer clear because this heroine is not one you'll like.

0 Comments on Kishaz Reading Corner: Knight of a Trillion Stars as of 3/17/2014 2:27:00 AM
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31. The Ocean at the End of the Lane Audiobook Review

Title: The Ocean at the End of the Lane Author: Neil Gaiman Narrated by: Neil Gaiman Publisher: HarperAudio Publication Date: June 18, 2013 ISBN-13: 978-0062263032 Listening copy via public library I've written before about my love for Neil Gaiman (and Doctor Who) and fans will not be disappointed by Neil's latest work. The Ocean at the End of the Lane has tropes familiar to both the author

0 Comments on The Ocean at the End of the Lane Audiobook Review as of 3/16/2014 3:47:00 PM
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32. Review: House of Purple Cedar

Hproductsprimary_image_215_touse of Purple Cedar

Author: Tim Tingle

Date:  February, 2014; Cinco Puntos

adult crossover

The House of Purple Cedar is set in Skullyville, Oklahoma at the turning of the 20th century. The New Hope Academy for Girls just burned down and a new Indian Agent has just arrived in town. Rose and her brother, Jamey joined Amofo, their grandfather, for a trip into town, a rare treat that would replace their daily chores. This outing actually placed them in the right place at the wrong time. The town marshall appears, alcohol leads to events and Amofo is struck with a board.

House of Purple Cedar unfolds as a story of how those who are disempowered choose to react when they are abused. The process of deciding how to react was a slow, deliberate process for Amofo as it was for Choctaw elders and Rose keenly observes this process. The narrative voice changes and we come to understand power balances throughout the community. We realize that while an individual’s actions define their own relationship, the community as a whole plays a role in allowing things to happen.

There are houses of purple cedar in the story, however, I’m not sure why ‘purple cedar’. I’ve spent some time researching this wood and can’t find anything about it. The more I looked, the more curious I’ve become about its significance.

Tingle manages better than most to weave in and out of time and back and forth between narrative voices. Rose, a young girl throughout most of the story, is the only character who has a narrative voice thus making the book appealing to young readers. Rose lives with her parents and grandparents in a home outside the city. Skullyville is a small community where Choctaw and Nahullos (Whites) all know each other, worship separately, maintain prejudices and come together in unpredictable ways. While Choctaw identity is essential to the story, this isn’t a story about being Choctaw.

‘Hearing’ the community sing “Amazing Grace” will give you goose bumps. Tingle brings faith to life and makes it another character in this story. No doubt, Tingle is a storyteller! He brings together many characters, details and events in this story in a very gentle, purposeful way.

Thank you, Bobby Byrd  of Cinco Puntos, for providing me a review copy at ALA Midwinter!

Filed under: Me Being Me Tagged: adult crossover, book review, native american, Tim Tingle

1 Comments on Review: House of Purple Cedar, last added: 3/15/2014
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33. Friendly Day

Title: Friendly Day

Author: Mij Kelly

Illustrator: Charles Fuge

Publisher/Year: Barron’s/2013

Love it! That was my first thought after reading Friendly Day, a colorful, rhyming picture book that will make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I really like books that are happy and make me smile. Friendly Day is all about friendliness…and kindness. I’ve discovered that kindness is a theme I often incorporate into my own writing. I believe children can never read enough books about treating others with kindness, respect, and, of course, friendliness. Still, as all the experts say, you don’t want to preach in a picture book, you want to teach kids in a way that doesn’t feel like teaching, but rather entertains. And Friendly Day does just that with its joyous, frolicking rhyme that rolls off the tongue, and bold, bright, super-fun illustrations of animals interacting with one another. I’ve just got to share the wonderful opening verse:

When Cat caught Mouse, outside his house,

courageous Mouse cried, “Hey!

Put down that plate and see the date.

It’s Friendly Day today

-a day for sharing, a day for caring,

when everyone is nice,

when Frog reads Snail a fairy tale

and cats do NOT eat mice.”


This book makes me wish there really was a Friendly Day!

But maybe every day can be Friendly Day…that’s even better. :)

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34. Sever - Review

Sever (The Chemical Garden #3) 
by Lauren DeStefano
Publication date: 12 Feb 2013 by Simon & Schuster
ISBN 10/13: 1442409096 | 9781442409095
Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Indiebound

Category: Young Adult Dystopia
Keywords: Dystopia, End of series, Revolution
Format: Hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Source: Purchased


With the clock ticking until the virus takes its toll, Rhine is desperate for answers. After enduring Vaughn’s worst, Rhine finds an unlikely ally in his brother, an eccentric inventor named Reed. She takes refuge in his dilapidated house, though the people she left behind refuse to stay in the past. While Gabriel haunts Rhine’s memories, Cecily is determined to be at Rhine’s side, even if Linden’s feelings are still caught between them.

Meanwhile, Rowan’s growing involvement in an underground resistance compels Rhine to reach him before he does something that cannot be undone. But what she discovers along the way has alarming implications for her future—and about the past her parents never had the chance to explain.

In this breathtaking conclusion to Lauren DeStefano’s Chemical Garden trilogy, everything Rhine knows to be true will be irrevocably shattered.
Kimberly's Review:

This is a hard book for me to review because I loved Wither, the first book in The Chemical Garden trilogy, so much. 

Without giving too much away, Rhine has escaped the mansion only to find herself at Reed's house, Vaughn's long estranged brother.

Searching for her twin brother, and trying to come to terms with her feelings for both Linden and Gabriel, Rhine embarks on a quest that will answer her questions once and for all. But not all the answers are what she wants them to be. And some of them she wishes she never knew.

I had a lot of problems with Rhine in this book. I loved her in the first two books- independent, strong willed and wanting nothing more than to survive and go home. And while this Rhine isn't that far from the old, she is slightly different. She's been through so much and she's very damaged by the events of the previous two books. But instead of making her more sympathetic, I felt more distant to her character. Her urgent need to find her brother, and then once she does eventually find him, she doesn't scream at him all of the evil she's encountered. (This will make sense once you read the book) I was so frustrated with her! She's also super confused about her feelings for Gabriel and Linden, which just became grating on me. I'll explain.

I am probably in the minority, but I have to say that I am probably on team Linden. Yes, he's pretty dense and should have been paying more attention to the evil that was his own father. But Linden's character grows exponentially during this final book and so by the end, I was hoping that she would end up with him. He was always my favorite of the two, between him and Gabriel and though the sister wife thing does creep me out, I still think Linden is the better choice.  However, this of course proves problematic because he also has Cecily, his youngest wife still on his arm. 

Cecily has also grown. In Fever, book two, the story took Rhine away from both of them and when she returns, they've both matured. While I can't say I like Cecily, I don't mind her and in fact, I may actually have respected her by the end.

What is strange is that Gabriel is mostly absent in book three. This is supposed to be her big love interest! It really hurt my feelings towards Gabriel because he was MIA for so long. I re-attached myself onto Linden. Sorry Gabriel, but even when you were the main character in Fever, I still wasn't a fan. I don't think you had a strong enough personality, and I never really understood what Rhine saw in you.

Now let's talk about Rowan. Rowan, the brother who Rhine is after. Rowan, who is barely a character at all in book three. I'm really sorry but I don't get it. There is nothing special about Rowan and as for their deep, twin relationship, I didn't feel it. He seemed like a secondary character that just appeared for plot sake. I wasn't emotionally invested in Rowan. She searched the country, confronted dangers and evil, for this guy?

I read books two and three right after the other and they move very fast. I love how the story flows so quickly you can get lost for hours in the world. Their world is scary, mean and unforgiving. There's a lot to like about The Chemical Garden trilogy.  I love the freshness of the story and felt like the characters were always in real danger, just escaping by their skin. I love the big reveals during the end, including Rhine's revelation and Madame's secrets.

Overall, I enjoyed Sever and the entire series. While I didn't have a great sense of the characters or motivation behind them, the plot was fast and I wanted to know what happened next. I would recommend it for older YAs as well as adults looking for a dark dystopian.

Visit the author online at www.laurendestefano.comFacebook and follow her on Twitter @LaurenDeStefano

Please note that this post may contain affiliate links. For more details, please see our full disclosure policy here

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35. Kishaz Reading Corner/Blog Tour: The Fire and the Light

This edition of Kishaz Reading Corner is a little different because this review is part of a book tour. So let's get to the review and then more about the tour and giveaway.

Disclaimer: I received no compensation from the author or publisher for this honest review.

About the Book

Series: Souls of Aredyrah, Book #1

In the world of Aredyrah, things are not what they seem. An ancient Purge has plunged the island into darkness, isolating its cultures by superstition and fear. Dayn lives in the northernmost region of Kirador and knows nothing of the great city-state of Tearia far to the south. All he knows is the Kiradyns are the only survivors of a god’s fiery wrath, and he looks nothing like them. Meanwhile Ruairi, a prince destined for greatness, resents his Tearian obligations, longing for a life he can never hope to have. But when tragedy takes his beauty as well as his name, he finds himself exiled by the very beliefs he once held dear. Both boys long for acceptance in societies that cling to religious ideals, but when fate throws them together, Dayn and Ruairi discover some unwelcome truths: not only are they bound by blood and prophecy, but the teachings they have been raised on are nothing more than lies. Will they reveal what they have learned, risking their lives and the security of those they love? Or will they keep silent, denying their destinies and the future enlightenment of their world?

Here's what I'm giving it:

Rating:  4 stars

Here's why:

I'm all about descriptions and this book is full of them. Not to the point where you feel like you're being told everything. The flow of the narrative as well as the characters (flawed and very believable) made this an enjoyable read.

I would recommend this book to young adults and adults alike. I didn't feel like the author just slapped a story together and put it out there. The storyline was well done and I would definitely be willing to read more books in this series.

Buy the Book

Tracy A. Akers is a former language arts teacher and an award-winning author. She grew up in Arlington, Texas, but currently lives in Florida with her husband, three naughty pugs, and a feisty chihuahua. She graduated with honors from the University of South Florida with a degree in Education, and has taught in both public and private schools. She currently divides her time between writing, lecturing, spending time with her family, and costuming at fantasy and science fiction conventions.

Ms. Akers has won numerous awards for her Souls of Aredyrah fantasy series for young adults. As a Florida Book Awards winner, she was acknowledged for her contribution to YA literature by the Governor of Florida during the 2008 Florida Heritage Month Awards Ceremony. Books One and Two of the Aredyrah Series are included in the Florida Department of Education’s 2008 Just Read Families Recommended Summer Reading List. In addition, Ms. Akers has been an invited guest author at major book events and writers’ conferences, a panelist at fantasy and science fiction conventions, and was on the steering committee for Celebration of the Story, a literary event held at Saint Leo University.

The Souls of Aredyrah Series is Ms. Akers’ first series of novels for young adults.
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$25 Amazon.com or BN.com Gift Card or Paypal Cash, Ebook/paperback giveaway Ends 03/28/2014. Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com or BN.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kisha from Indie Hoopla Services & Promotions, http://indiehoopla.com and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.
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36. Crafty Chloe: Dress-Up Mess-Up - Picture Book Review

Crafty Chloe: Dress-Up Mess-Up (Crafty Chloe #2) 
by Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated by Heather Ross
Publication date: 13 August 2013 by Simon and Schuster
ISBN 13: 9781442421240
Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository

Category: Children's Picture Book
Keywords: Picture book, crafting, art
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library


The Parade of Books has arrived, and it’s Chloe’s chance to showcase her crafty costume talents. Leo wants Chloe to be the Frankenstein to his Dracula, and Chloe can’t wait to dress like a monster. But when Emma wants to wear Fairy Club costumes instead, Chloe is torn like a scrap of fabric. She doesn’t want to disappoint her friends—but how can she possibly please them both? Luckily, a little glitter and a lot of imagination just might give Chloe the answer!

Thuy's Review:

The annual book parade is around the corner and Chloe and her friends must prepare costumes based on their favorite book characters. But trouble arises when Chloe promises to be a monster with her friend Leo and then promises to be a fairy with her friend Emma. Chloe doesn't want to disappoint either friend, so what is she going to do?

First of all, what a great premise. We never had anything like a book costume parade when I was Chloe's age but I think I would have loved it. This is a really cute book and I loved that Chloe was so crafty and creative when it came to her costumes. I like that the book encourages kids to use their imaginations and make things. The story itself wasn't super original or exciting but it was cute and I think kids will like it. It was a bit predictable but I think that kids will like it.

As a crafty person myself, I think Crafty Chloe: Dress-Up Mess-Up is an adorable book to read to kids and get them in the crafting spirit. It would be fun to read this with a child and do some crafts to go with it. Definitely worth a read if you have children in your life.

Visit the author online at www.kellydipucchio.com, Twitter and follow her on Twitter Facebook

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37. Marco Polo and the Explorer Book


At the recommendation of a friend (thanks, Catherine!) I bought Into the Unknown: How Great Explorers Found Their Way by Land, Sea, and Air for my six-year-old boy for Christmas. It’s a beauty of a book, written by Stewart Ross and illustrated by Stephen Biesty (of Incredible Cross-Sections fame). Each chapter follows a different explorer and includes a gorgeous fold out map and diagram of the explorer’s route and travel style.


 I highly, highly recommend it. Reading it straight through from beginning to end isn’t something my son is ready for (the text is geared toward a slightly older audience), but he likes to pick a small section for me to read at a time, and he always chooses a fold-out to study. He wants to read every label for all the parts (not unlike his fascination with Richard Scarry’s books).

I love that feeling of just sort of soaking in the book, meandering through and getting to know it bit by bit, landing on favorite parts and coming back to them again and again on a nonlinear journey. It reminds me of my own love for the Oxford University Press story collections as a kid. Beautifully illustrated by Victor Ambrus, they were these great kid-friendly versions of the Canterbury Tales, the great ballets, and King Arthur’s tales, among others. Sadly, they look to be out of print now, but I think I’ll have to chase down some copies to have as our own. Click here for a few cover images from Victor Abrus’s website.

I didn’t understand everything about those tales at the time, but when I re-encountered them later in school, it was thrilling to realize I already had a framework in place. The stories were familiar and felt like they were already mine. I’m always hoping to give my kids some experiences like that, and I hope Into the Unknown will be one of them.

The elementary school had its book character parade last week, and my son wanted to dress like Marco Polo. We didn’t find a picture of him in the book, but we found an 18th century illustration online:

 We found a silk jacket at the thrift store (100% real! reversible!), along with a faux fur shrug we could use for the hat. I made the hat (two U-shaped pieces sewn along the curve) from an old T-shirt with a double-thickness of sweatshirt underneath for body. I tacked the fur band around the bottom.



Marco Polo costume

Since I’m working on a nonfiction children’s book myself, I have a new appreciation for just how much research goes into something like this. I can’t imagine how long it must’ve taken Mr. Ross and Mr. Biesty to create this handsome book. Bravo!

Speaking of nonfiction for children, I just ordered a couple from my favorite local indie, Park Road Books. Amy Karol of angry chicken recommended two comic-type books, one about the presidents and another about the Greek myths: Amazing Greek Myths of Wonder and Blunder, and Where Do Presidents Come From? They sounded so good that I called up Park Road right away. I’ll be there tonight for the spring author line up, sponsored by the local chapter of the Women’s National Book Association.

For more posts about books, click here. For more posts about costumes, click here. (Boy! I seem to make/ assemble a lot!)

P.S. Family: I’d like to get this book (Into the Unknown) for the oldest nephews, so I’m calling dibs now. Sorry!

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38. Book Review-Last God Standing by Michael Boatman

Title: Last God Standing
 Author: Michael Boatman
Series: First in series.  
Published:  April 3 2014 by Angry Robot
Length: 400 pages
Source Publishers:
Other info: Book 2, Who Wants to be the Prince of Darkness comes Spring 2015
Summary : When God decides to quit and join the human race to see what all the fuss is about, all Hell breaks loose.Sensing his abdication, the other defunct gods of Earth’s vanquished pantheons want a piece of the action He abandoned.Meanwhile, the newly-humanised deity must discover the whereabouts and intentions of the similarly reincarnated Lucifer, and block the ascension of a murderous new God.How is he ever going to make it as a stand-up comedian with all of this going on…?

Review:  Yahweh, aka the Abrahamic god, has decided he's had enough of being God.  Therefore, he quits, joins the Human Race and tries to live life as a stand-up comic. However, with gods of old pantheons trying to take his place, and a now-human Lucifer to deal with, this isn't going to be easy.
I was really looking forwards to this. Multiple pantheons, all the myths, all wrapped up with a big dose of comedy? Right up my street.
It starts off well. The dramatis personae sets up an interesting c premise, featuring my favourite gods from various mythologies, plus a few more I was less familiar with.
Lando has a good voice. I liked him and his comedy could be good if it wasn't wrapped up in a whole load of other stuff. I also liked Yuri, Lando's family, and Suhrabi. I love the way the gods are presented-Zeus and the Morrigan especially.
The thing that let it down most was the plot, and the way it just went ways I don't really get. The bit with Hannibal got good at the start, then relaxed a bit earlier than I  was expecting. The whole thing with Lucifer, Gabriel and the angels was very predictable, but turned out well. But then there's this whole bit in the middle where I think Lando swaps bodies or something with another guy. I say I think. I honestly don't know what happened there, but it changed Lando for the last quarter of the book. Also, the god battles, while fun, were also a bit confusing in that they went everywhere in time and space and were hard to follow.
Also, I didn't get the comedy that I was promised, apart from in small bits ie  introduction of the gods. Or maybe it just wasn't my kind of humour. Either way, sadness from that. 
Despite this, I will read book two. Just because  Hell. And game shows.

Overall:  Strength 2 tea to a book with a really good premise that just wasn't put together as well as I was hoping.

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39. Book Review: The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

Book: The Winner's Curse
Author: Marie Rutkoski
Published: March 4. 2014
Source: ARC from a friend

In the Herrani city conquered and occupied by the forces of the Valorian empire, everything and everybody has their place. Kestrel knows what's expected of her, as General Trajan's daughter. She will either join the military or she will marry. Either way, she will take a predetermined place in the adult world by her twentieth birthday.

Unfortunately, at seventeen she's miserably unsuited for either. In spite of her clever strategic mind, she's only okay at actual combat with actual weapons after years of training. And she can't think of a single Valorian man she's willing to marry. The only thing she truly loves is music, and making music is not a suitable pastime for a Valorian lady. It is the business of slaves.

It's music that prompts her to purchase Arin, a Herrani slave. But he refuses to sing. In spite of that, the conquerer's daughter and the conquered man find themselves drawing closer to each other. And it's getting noticed, by Herrani slaves and Valorian high society alike.

But Arin is embroiled in a plot to rescue his homeland from the iron grip of the Valorian empire. When the revolution explodes, the only safety for the conquerer's daughter is with the man who betrayed her country.

And maybe not even there.

Before I delve into this book, I'd like you to have a look at that cover. Go ahead. Study it hard. That girl in a pretty dress, swooning, clutching onto the lettering for dear life, letting a dagger slip from her fingers. Is that Kestrel? To me, it wasn't, and thus I spent most of this book in a quiet simmer of WTF over that cover, while enjoying what was beneath it very much.

Honestly, I was so put off by this cover (I'm really really over the swoony girls in opulent dresses thing, guys) that it was only a cover blurb from Kristen Cashore that got me to try it. I'm so glad I did. It's a love story, true, but it's also about power and politics and rebellion and strategy.
It starts small and intimate (here's a girl, out of place; here's the boy who sees her real self) and grows into a story that concerns itself with the fate of not only countries, but empires. And yet never loses sight of the small and intimate. That's quite a trick.

The love story at the center is also more than your usual love-at-first-sight. In spite of surface differences, Arin and Kestrel are very much alike. Besides music, they both have brilliantly strategic minds, watching the world and people from the outside and seeing game pieces that can be played. They are also both terribly lonely. More than anything else, this loneliness pulls them toward each other.

As they grow closer, they play emotional chess with each other and with themselves, examining their own behavior and each other's at every turn. In this book, love does not switch off the strategic mind. It becomes another game piece, another lever, another way to twist the world into your control or to see how and why it's twisting out of it.

This is (of course) the first of a trilogy. But it's a trilogy that's going on my auto-read list, especially after the end of this book. I just hope the next two covers are better.

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40. Hilda and the Bird Parade

Getting used to life in the big city is proving difficult for Hilda. The diminutive explorer is still missing the enchanted valleys and magical friends that surrounded her home in the fjords. But tonight is somehow different; tonight is the night of the mysterious Bird Parade.

Finding herself lost on the streets of Trolberg, Hilda befriends a talking raven. Together they encounter all manner of bizarre creatures from outcast Trolls to ferocious Salt Lions and deadly Rat Kings—maybe the city isn’t so boring after all.

As the pair try to find their way home, it becomes clear that the amnesiac raven has an important mission to attend to . . . if only he could remember what it was.

This beautiful book with its embossed cloth spine and eye-popping spot varnish is sure to delight children and adults across the country.

Luke Pearson, author of Hildafolk, Hilda and the Midnight Giant, and Everything We Miss has fast become one of the leading talents of the United Kingdom comics scene, garnering rave reviews from the prestigious Times and Observer newspapers and winning the Young People’s Comic Award at the 2012 British Comic Awards for Hilda and the Midnight Giant.

If you order this book via this link, you will help support my site. Many thanks! Get it on Amazon: Hilda and the Bird Parade (Hildafolk)


  • Age Range: 6 and up
  • Grade Level: Kindergarten and up
  • Series: Hildafolk
  • Hardcover: 44 pages
  • Publisher: Flying Eye Books (April 2, 2013)

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41. Infinite - Review

Infinite (Newsoul #3) 
by Jodi Meadows
Publication date: 28 Jan 2014 by Katherine Tegan Books
ISBN 10/13: 0062060813 | 9780062060815
Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Indiebound

Category: Young Adult Fantasy
Keywords: Fantasy, Dragons, Souls, Reincarnation
Format: ebook, Hardcover
Source: Purchased


The Year of Souls begins with an earthquake—an alarming rumble from deep within the earth—and it’s only the first of greater dangers to come. The Range caldera is preparing to erupt. Ana knows that as Soul Night approaches, everything near Heart will be at risk.

Ana’s exile is frightening, but it may also be fortuitous, especially if she can convince her friends to flee Heart and Range with her. They’ll go north, seeking answers and allies to stop Janan’s ascension. And with any luck, the newsouls will be safe from harm’s reach.

The oldsouls might have forgotten the choice they made to give themselves limitless lifetimes, but Ana knows the true cost of reincarnation. What she doesn’t know is whether she’ll have the chance to finish this one sweet life with Sam, especially if she returns to Heart to stop Janan once and for all.

Kimberly's Review:

It’s a really hard review for me to write. I had such hope for this series, especially because I enjoyed the first book so much.

While the first book in the series, Incarnate, is catching and fresh, I felt more and more distance from the characters as the series wore on. So by the time book three, the last book, came out, I was not heavily invested in the story or the main characters. Mostly, I wanted to see how it ended.

I think there was a lot of potential in the first book. The series is easy to read. The premise is intriguing. Souls reincarnated over and over again? 5,000 years of it? Imagine the baggage! The emotional turmoil! There was so much I wanted from this series! But sadly for me, it didn’t deliver.

There’s a lot of action, but not a whole lot of descriptions. A lot of the time I felt like I was mostly reading actions and dialogue, but I didn’t have a good sense of the motivation behind each character. Nor did I feel particularly drawn to any of them. I know I’m supposed to like Ana, and her devotion to New Souls is admired, but character wise, I felt like she was hollow. I still wasn’t sold on Sam either. Even in the first book, I didn’t totally buy him as the big love interest. He is sweet and kind but totally, utterly boring. Someone told me that they sometimes find some YA books hard to read because they play into male fantasy characters for teenage girls. And for this one, I would have to agree with them.

Sam is dull. Yes, he’s a musician, he’s been alive for 5,000 years. He has a little bit of baggage, as he is eaten by a dragon like 30 times, but overall, Sam mopes about playing music and telling Ana of his undying love to her. Really, Sam? Where’s the passion, the hurt, the strength? Where’s the madness and motivation and challenge? No, Sam is more like a wet noodle from a very old bowl of soup.

The secondary characters are not solid for me either such as Stef. Stef, who is reincarnated over and over again as Sam’s best friend and sometimes love interest, fades into the background by book three and nothing is really resolved. Even the big bad guy, the big evil, the man with the plan who wants to enslave everyone, is an annoying gnat you want to swat away. He's not the immediate danger, no matter how far into the series I got. I was more concerned with the townspeople wanting to kill Ana and her friends and the pregnant mothers who may have No Soul babies.

Imagine you have a town of people who have lived and loved over and over again for 5,000 years. It’s like an never-ending high school filled with love, hope, emotional angst and incestuous relationships. (I mean that as in my boyfriend is now your boyfriend, and now he’s my boyfriend again, etc.) But instead, we barely brush the surface of the last 5,000 years and what this means to each of the characters.

I’m sorry I didn’t enjoy Infinite. While I love the idea of the story and the possibilities of what it could have brought, I was left disappointed in the series and ending.

Visit the author online at www.jodimeadows.com. Facebook and follow her on Twitter @jodimeadows

Please note that this post may contain affiliate links. For more details, please see our full disclosure policy here. 

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42. The Night Gardener - a review

A short review today.  I rushed to finish, as I knew the kids in my book club would surely want to get their hands on it last week.  I was right.

Auxier, Jonathan. 2014. The Night Gardener. New York: Amulet.

Set in England aground the 1840s, The Night Gardener features an Irish gal with the gift of  blarney, her10-year-old brother with a lame leg and stout heart, a mysterious storyteller, and a strange family inhabiting a creepy mansion on an island in the middle of the sourwoods.

Separated from their parents and forced to flee Ireland due to famine, Molly & Kip have no choice but to accept employment with the Windsor Family, the only inhabitants of the only home in the sourwoods,

At the far end of the lawn stood Windsor mansion.  The house had obviously been left vacant for some years, and in that time it seemed to have become one with the landscape. Weeds swallowed the base. Ivy choked the walls and windows. The roof was sagging and covered in black moss.
But strangest of all was the tree.
The tree was enormous and looked very, very old. Most trees cast an air of quiet dignity over their surrounding. This one did not. Most trees invite you to climb up into their canopy.  This one did not. Most trees make you want to carve your initials into the trunk. This one did not. To stand in the shadow of this tree would send a chill through your whole body. 
Even Molly's indomitable spirit and knack for storytelling cannot shield Kip and the young Windsor children from the horrors that lurk within the shadow of the giant tree.

Historical fiction and horror intertwine in this absolutely gripping story. With similarities to Claire LeGrand's The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, The Night Gardener is the stuff of nightmares.

Coming to a bookshelf near you in May, 2014!


My Advance Reader Copy was thrust upon me by none other than the wonderfully funny, Tom Angleberger (of Origami Yoda fame), who insisted that I read it.  Thanks, Tom!

Also by Jonathan Auxier, Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes, which I reviewed in 2011.

The book's cover was drawn by Patrick Arrasmith and designed by the talented Chad Beckerman, whom I had the pleasure of interviewing a while back.

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43. School Spirits - Review

Publication date: 13 May 2013 by Disney-Hyperion
ISBN 10/13: 1423148495 | 9781423148494
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Category: Young Adult Fiction/Fantasy
Keywords: Paranormal, High School, Ghosts, Witches
Format: Hardcover, eBook
Source: ARC from Publisher


Fifteen-year-old Izzy Brannick was trained to fight monsters. For centuries, her family has hunted magical creatures. But when Izzy’s older sister vanishes without a trace while on a job, Izzy's mom decides they need to take a break.

Izzy and her mom move to a new town, but they soon discover it’s not as normal as it appears. A series of hauntings has been plaguing the local high school, and Izzy is determined to prove her worth and investigate. But assuming the guise of an average teenager is easier said than done. For a tough girl who's always been on her own, it’s strange to suddenly make friends and maybe even have a crush.

Can Izzy trust her new friends to help find the secret behind the hauntings before more people get hurt?

Kimberly's Review:

Izzy Brannick is strong and trained to fight monsters. And the one thing she is scared of? High School.

Izzy has been homes schooled her whole life. So when a case requires her to go to high school, Izzy bunkers down, watches a lot of high school television and hopes for the best. But nothing could prepare her for a best friend, a crush and a ghost. A really strong ghost.

Can Izzy's new friends accept who she is and help her defeat this ghost?

I'm a big fan of the Hex Hall series so I was really excited to read School Spirits. Izzy appears in the last book Spell Bound, and she takes front and center in School Spirits. Izzy is smart, strong and achingly awkward. I love how she's never been to a high school pep rally, basketball game. I love how she's learning everything there is to know about high school by watching television. The story introduces us to some "normal" teenagers like her new best friend Romy who is equal parts awesome fun and rainbow unicorn. And sweet Dex who makes Izzy a little bit dizzy.

In typical Hawkins fashion, there's a lot of fun one liners and witty dialogue. There's some romance, and ghosts and witches and danger. But best of all, there is Izzy who is really sweet and a bit sad.

The story moves quickly and while I would have liked more description, more twists, stronger motivations for the characters, I still breezed through it quickly in only two days. Enjoying the ride and wishing there was a sequel I could dive into right away.

It's a standalone after the Hex Hall series, but you should read the series first to fully enjoy School Spirits. I really hope this is the start of a spin off series.

*I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.

Visit the author online at www.rachel-hawkins.com and follow her on Twitter @LadyHawkins

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44. Inside These Walls by Rebecca Coleman (Review, Interview and Giveaway)

From the moment you open Inside These Walls by Rebecca Coleman, you're transported to the world of a women’s prison and introduced to Clara Mattingly who is serving a life sentence for murder. Rebecca’s writing is superb, and Clara is instantly a likeable and sympathetic character, whom you will cheer for, even though she’s also a cold-blooded killer.

Rebecca isn’t tricking the reader into liking Clara. It’s obvious that there’s more to the story than just murder—that Clara has the proverbial skeletons in her closet. After twenty-five years behind bars, she’s choosing to forget the past and stay focused on her present, which in prison means keeping her head down and staying out of trouble.

The problem is Clara’s famous, and so other inmates love to pick on her, which often results in serious injuries. Her crime, along with her boyfriend Ricky, was made into a movie. Hollywood turned their story into an almost Charles Manson type of drama, where Ricky led Clara and his other friends into a 24-hour crime spree that resulted in several murders.

Clara lives her prison life helping her blind cellmate and working on Braille textbooks, while remembering her life as an artist and her love for ballet before the night that changed her life forever. You'll keep turning pages because of the author’s set-up, trying to discover how did this bright, young, talented girl follow her boyfriend and murder people?

Rebecca reveals the true story once an unexpected visitor appears to see Clara in prison, and her heart immediately yearns for love and freedom. At the same time, a reporter writing a book about Ricky asks Clara for information, even though she has never before granted an interview. Because of the visitor, Clara decides it’s time to reveal the truth; and as the book progresses to the end, you discover the circumstances leading up to the crime.

Themes in this book include religion—Clara is Catholic and does follow her faith in prison, including going to confession and taking communion; forgiveness; self-preservation; abuse; independence and freedom; friendship; loyalty; love; truth and more.This is the perfect book club choice, as readers will debate Clara’s crimes, her confessions, her circumstances and even the ending. On Rebecca’s website (http://www.rebeccacoleman.net), book clubs can sign up for a possible Skype or phone visit from the author.

Inside These Walls is one of those novels that will keep you up past your bedtime because you want to discover the secrets Clara has kept and what landed her in one of the worst places imaginable—prison. Here are a few words straight from Rebecca about her novel and writing career: 

WOW: What made you want to write about a woman in prison--and then in a high-profile case?

Rebecca: Once the story started taking shape, it became more interesting to make it a high-profile case because it would make sense why someone would want to interview Clara for a book. But as to why I wrote it in the first place--the only truthful answer is. . .because it's the story that showed up in my head! I never start out with a specific topic in mind--I want to write about an emotion, and then I find a story that gives a structure and a progressive arc to that emotion. With Inside These Walls, it was about the feeling of being given a second chance at something very, very important and how far a person would go not to squander that chance. And what could challenge that more than being in prison?

WOW: Thanks for explaining how the story took shape. It's always interesting to hear from successful authors how their brain works. How did you get your agent, Stephany Evans (in other words--meet at conference, slush pile, etc)?

Rebecca: I sent her a query letter by e-mail, but it was an unusually nervy move for me. Normally I'd go to an agency's website, look to see who the newest agents were, and query them, thinking they were still building their lists and would be more open to a new, untested writer. I'd gotten stacks and stacks of rejections. Then my first book, The Kingdom of Childhood, became a semifinalist in Amazon's ABNA contest, and that gave me the courage to query higher up the food chain. I have to say, Stephany is the perfect agent for me. She is conscientious and tenacious and attentive. I ended up feeling glad for all the rejection because in the end it gave me the opportunity to work with Stephany.

WOW: The advice we all hear is that finding the perfect agent should fit like finding the perfect spouse or mate. We're so happy that has happened for you. What's up next?

Rebecca: Thanks for asking! I'm working on a new story that features a character my readers have seen before--that's all I can say.

WOW: Now, that's a teaser. I can't wait to find out about that! How do you balance writing and marketing?

Rebecca: It's a serious challenge! You have to schedule the business part, so the creative aspect doesn't eat all your time. It's easiest for me to spend the first hour of a work day dealing with Twitter and e-mail, then set myself free to write for the rest of the day. It's tough because writing asks you to lock yourself in a room with your imaginary friends, and marketing requires you to go out there and take risks with real people. A lot of writers write specifically because they don't want to do that.

WOW: Very true! What's one piece of advice you would give to new writers?

Rebecca: Don't be a diva. To succeed in this business, you need to be able to take criticism, be enjoyable to work with, be flexible, and make many more friends than enemies. If you can do all that and be true to yourself as a writer, then nothing can hold you back.

WOW: Thank you for that wonderful advice. Please keep WOW! readers informed on your next book. We'd love to hear about it. 

Readers, don't forget, you can enter to win a copy of this wonderful book, Inside These Walls, by entering the Rafflecopter form below! Good luck!  

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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45. 3 Things I Liked About Contraband By J.L Campbell

Congratulations to Michelle Gibson, Roche Rivera and Student Mommy (Jen) for winning prizes in my  A-Z Blogging Challenge Give-Away. Your copies of How To Get Quoted In The Media and Amazon gift cards have been emailed to you. I hope you find both useful for you and/your businesses. Meanwhile, I've been reading Contraband,  an island adventure romance by J.L Campbell. Here is the

0 Comments on 3 Things I Liked About Contraband By J.L Campbell as of 2/28/2014 1:40:00 AM
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46. Book Review – The 30 Day Writing Challenge by Sara Crawford

The 30-day Writing Challenge claims to help readers begin or enhance their daily writing habit. Whether you are a writer, blogger, or journaler this book is for you! Author Sara Crawford encourages and inspires writers of all skill levels by challenging us to ‘stretch our writing muscles’ and create a daily writing habit. The daily writing exercises and prompts focus on technique, inspiration and craft while covering the different genres of writing.

Crawford does an excellent job being real with readers. I fell in love with her book after reading the following paragraph:
I would like to acknowledge that in my own writing, I constantly do the things that I say
you shouldn’t do. I am far from perfect. Every writer has room to grow and improve, and I
include myself in that. However, I strive to be a better writer each and every day, and I live by
these rules, principles, and ideas in my own creative life.

I really admire someone who can be themselves and I felt encouraged instead of judged after reading this small tidbit. It made it much easier to move forward with the exercises and I felt like Crawford understood me. I missed a day here or there but feel this is the type of book I can pick up again and again. This isn’t something you do once and forget about.

In many ways The 30-day Writing Challenge reminds me of a diet. Sure, I can lose weight quickly, but if I don’t continue with good eating habits, the weight is going to creep back on. If I want to be successful, I need to stick with it, even after the initial success. Similarly, if I use The 30 Day Writing Challenge to get on track and then set it aside instead of faithfully writing and practicing my craft, I am going to falter.

Thank you Sara Crawford for providing a fun and encouraging book to help build successful writing habits. The 30-day Writing Challenge is a great book for anyone who enjoys writing, blogging, or journaling!

Sara Crawford has a BA in English from Kennesaw State University and an MFA in Creative Writing (emphasis in Playwriting) from the University of New Orleans. She is represented by Marie Brown Associates, and she is the author of upcoming young adult novel, The Muses.

Previous publications include her play, The Snow Globe, from YouthPlays, Driving Downtown to the Show (Lulu Press) and Coiled and Swallowed (Virgogray Press). In addition, her poetry has appeared in Burlesque Press, Cermony, Share: Art and Literary Magazine, and Illogical Muse.

Find out more about Sara by visiting her website: http://saracrawford.net/

Crystal is a church musician, business owner, active journaler, writer and blogger as well as a dairy farmer. She lives in Reedsville, Wisconsin with her husband, three young children (Carmen 6, Andre 5, Breccan 5 months), two dogs, two rabbits, four little piggies, and over 200 Holsteins. You can find Crystal blogging and reviewing books and all sorts of other stuff at: http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/

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47. Book Review- Death and Mr. Right by Kendra L. Saunders

Title: Death and Mr Right
 Author: Kendra L  Saunders
Series:  N/A
Published:  1 October 2013 by Spence City
Length: 264 pages
Source: Spence City Share Group (Thanks Kayleigh)
Summary :  It is March 32nd, the day that doesn't exist, and Death, the agent of nightmares, has been demoted and exiled to live among mortals for the rest of his unnaturally long life. Everyone knows They don't look lightly on important items getting lost or an agent falling in love.
Can the diva-like Death navigate the modern world, recover what was stolen from him (the names of the damned ooops!) and get his job back? Or will he fall in love with Lola, the pretty thief who got him into all this trouble in the first place?

Review: Death is the agent of nightmares. Well, was. He's just been fired and exiled to life among humans because he lost some paperwork and now wants to try and find Lola, the thief who stole them, and get his job back. As long as he doesn't fall in love.
I read this book purely because of the title. When I read the summary, it wasn't what I was expecting from the  title, but still it sounded good.
Death and Lola are both absolutely adorable.  They're both funny, Death especially with his thought processes , and I found myself  just really wanting to be friends with them and Mr Right, who seemed like a more secondary character than his being named in the title. Also, I loved Death's blue hair. Just because. Blue hair.
This is most definitely  primarily comedy. Standout moments include  Death on earth at the start  and Death finding his obituary. The plot aside from this is good, involving someone who wants to be the next agent of nightmares, and so tries to stop Death getting his job back. It's paced well- reading it isn't difficult.
I saw someone else compare this to the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. I agree with this comparison-both are crazy, unpredictable fun comedies. This just has a  more romance and  has supernatural elements and bureaucracy instead of space and aliens.

Overall:  Strength 3.5, just more a 3, to a light hearted, dark contented, romcom.

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48. The Winter Prince - an audiobook review

One of the things that I love about reviewing books for School Library Journal and AudioFile Magazine is the opportunity to review titles that I might not otherwise choose.  For example, Code Name Verity is such a popular title, but I don't read a lot of YA books and hadn't picked it up - but I was given the assignment of reviewing a new audio version of an older Elizabeth Wein book, The Winter Prince.

Below is my review as it appeared in the February/March 2014 edition of AudioFile Magazine.

Elizabeth E. Wein
Read by Basil Sands

Basil Sands's impassioned delivery brings new life to this 1993 book steeped in Arthurian legend and mystery. The ongoing struggle between Medraut, the eldest and bastard son of the king, and Lleu, the kingdom's legitimate heir, is intensified by Sands's dramatic and measured narration. Medraut, the story's narrator, speaks with gravity and a heavy sense of foreboding, while Lleu sounds youthful and often petulant. One finds a small fault in the voicing of the scheming Queen Morguase, whose portrayal is neither as menacing nor as enchanting as the story demands. What begins as a battle of strength and knowledge between brothers ends as an intense and compelling battle of mind and will--with the fate of a kingdom at stake. Wein is also the author of CODE NAME VERITY.

Copyright © 2014 AudioFile MagazineReprinted with permission.

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49. The Tyrant's Daughter by J.C. Carleson

published by Knopf Books for Young Readers

Laila remembers her father crumpling to the ground, shot to death.  She remembers being rushed from the palace to a waiting airplane...then the blur begins.

Now, she is safe in the United States, but she doesn't feel safe.  Nothing here is familiar.  Laila knows that although they are still alive, things are definitely different.  Gone are the extravagant clothes, parties and food.  In its place are bare cupboards with no income.  Her mother has changed as well.  She meets with a group of men from her own country, and they talk secretively about things.  There is shouting and anger involved in every conversation.  Laila sees a man lurking in the corners and is sure that he works for the American government.  But why is he so interested in her family?

What Laila wants "is an interpreter.  Not for the language, but for life" in this new place where the rules she has always lived by no longer apply. The girls here dress differently, act differently.  She doesn't understand their culture but wants to try.  Then there are the boys, especially Ian.  Everyone is telling her what she already knows but she isn't sure she can give back the affection he shows. Life in school is confusing at best, with her dangling between what she knew and what she needs to know.

Having friends helps tremendously, and it's through small talk with them that she hears, for the first time, about her father and the horrors he committed.  War, murder, embezzlement....this can't be the same father she loved, who protected her from her evil uncle, who indulged her....So she goes to the most dangerous place to find out more information.  

The library shows Laila the truth not only about her father, but about her country.  It's falling into shambles without a government to take over after years of dictatorship.  It's filled with corruption from the legacy her father left into the hands of her uncle, fervent in his religion and will to dominate.  And with this truth comes the knowledge that somehow, her mother is still involved in the politics there, working with the Americans but to what end, she doesn't know.  Laila is kept in the dark but she is making sure she doesn't stay there for long, and when she slowly uncovers the truth, safety is no longer an option for her or those she cares for.

J.C. Carleson writes a beautifully balanced book about love and hate, war and peace, tradition and truth.  Laila represents innocence through oppression as she slowly fights through this to find out that the truth can be an ugly place to live. Carleson's characters are deep and synonymous with the many facets of not only American life, but Middle Eastern life as well and weaves several familiar stories about the turbulent Middle East without designating where Laila and her family is from. It's a story about two sides, but which is the darker side depends on who the character is. One of many things Carleson is best at is the beauty in her writing.  There were several times I had to stop and re-read portions of the story simply because of how lyrical her writing is.  Her other strength is being able to transport the reader into not only a different world through a story, but also to the world of modern day Middle East and how politics, both domestic and foreign are involved.  The reader will also appreciate how Carleson uses her own past experiences to make this novel come alive.  You know you have a good book when you read it in one sitting.  This is a must have book for all collections. 

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50. The Scorpio Races - Book Review

Barnes and Noble

"It is the first day of November and so, today, someone will die."

THE SCORPIO RACES is a novel based on Celtic water horses.  Every November on the island of Thisby, the fierce and feral capaill uisce are born from the black ocean water to race along the hard sand of the beach. And every November, the men of Thisby capture these horses to ride them in a deadly race.

“Tell me what it's like. The race."

"What it's like is a battle. A mess of horses and men and blood. The fastest and strongest of what is left from two weeks of preparation on the sand. It's the surf in your face, the deadly magic of November on your skin, the Scorpio drums in the place of your heartbeat. It's speed, if you're lucky. It's life and it's death or it's both, and there's nothing like it.”

The capaill uisce are not your normal horse. Larger, wilder than their terrestrial cousins, predatory and mercurial, the water horses are dangerous beasts at any time of the year, but especially dangerous in November, when the ocean sings in their blood. Hard to tame and unpredictable as the weather, the Scorpio Races are a mixture of celebration and deadly spectacle.

"These are not ordinary horses. Drape them with charms, hide them from the sea, but today, on the beach: Do not turn your back."

Nineteen-year-old Sean Kendrick is a four-time champion of the Scorpio Races. Year after year he has brought home the purse to his employer, Benjamin Malvern, the man who owns a stable of sport horses he exports to the mainland. This year, however, Sean has more than just his love of the capaill uisce driving him to race. This year, he races for the freedom to leave Malvern Yard, and for the joy of finally owning Corr, the red capall uisce he rides in every race.


“I've grown up alongside Corr. My father rode him and my father lost him, and then I found him again. He's the only family I have.”

Katherine "Puck" Connolly never meant to ride in the races. Since both her parents died in a capall uisce attack, she has had no desire to join that reckless, deathly sport. Her brothers Gabe and Finn, her pony Dove, and their house in Thisby is all she needs. But now there is a real danger that the three Connollys are going to lose their home. In order to save her home, Puck joins the Scorpio Races, pitting her little land pony against the wild tempers of the water horses in a gamble to take home the purse.

"There is nothing special about the mare, nothing at all. A fine enough head, good enough bone. As a pony, she is a beauty. As a capall uisce, she is nothing. The girl too, is nothing special - slight, with a ginger ponytail. She looks less afraid than her mare, but she's in more danger.”

There is initial friction - Puck is the first girl to ride in the races, and she expects to race docile little Dove against the fearsome, meat-loving capaill uisce. Sean, understanding the moods of the water horses, knowing how the salt water makes them as intemperate as the ocean itself, at first resents Puck's intrusion into the races. He knows her danger, knows the probability of her failure and the possible outcome of her death. But Puck is indomitable.

“My mother always said that I was born out of a bottle of vinegar instead of born from a womb and that she and my father bathed me in sugar for three days to wash it off. I try to behave, but I always go back to the vinegar.” 

The two eventually form an alliance. Sean understands the water horses. He especially understands the mood and heart of his own fierce Corr, and in knowing such things has the ability to train Puck and Dove in learning what it takes to beat the capaill uisce.

"This time of year, I live and breath the beach. My cheeks feel raw with the wind throwing sand against them. My thighs sting from the friction of the saddle. My arms ache from holding up two thousand pounds of horse.

I am so, so alive."

The stakes are high for the two of them.If Sean wins, he will have the money to buy Corr and start his own Yard. If Puck wins, she can save her home.

But it is a race, and only one can win.

“I say, 'I will not be your weakness, Sean Kendrick.'
Now he looks at me. He says, very softly, 'It's late for that, Puck.'


Surprisingly, I really enjoyed this book.  The water horses are fierce and terrifying creatures, meat-eaters from the sea. They will kill you as soon as look at you. But there is something gorgeous and free in their ocean souls. When I read about them, I understood Sean's love and distrust of them. They are magical and dangerous and wonderful at the same time.  There is a little bit of island magic in the handling of the water horses, and Sean is a really well-written, quiet, vulnerably invincible kind of character. I really liked him.

Puck is a pretty good female character too. She is spunky enough to be brave, and humble enough not to be annoying. For the most part I really enjoyed the way she played off Sean, even though he was my favourite.

The writing is quite lyrical. You can feel the pulse of the ocean in your blood, smell the ocean air mixing with the saltier stench of the water horses. You can feel the rush of wind and the sense of uncertainty in each line. It's really quite good.

There are some brief suggestive sentences, never anything over the top, but the occasional line that makes you know exactly what the speaker is getting at.  There is some language, but for the most part I never found it totally offensive.

If you're looking for a book about races, high stakes, and very subtle, almost-not-there romance, then this is the book for you.

“He is slow, and the sea sings to us both, but he returns to me.” 

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