Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green Thoughts

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Available Now
Dutton Books
To Buy Links:  Amazon/ Kindle/ Audio BookCD/ Audible
Barnes and Noble/ Book Depository/ Indiebound/ Kobo

Goodreads- Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel's story is about to be completely rewritten.



****This review contains some spoilerish comments*****

It's hard to review a book that is already being made into a movie. That has over 7,000 reviews on Amazon alone. So I'll tell it to you differently. I have avoided reading this book for almost a year. I was one of the first to get it of course. It was John Green. Nerdfighter. DFTBA. One half of the Vlogbrothers. Hank Green's bro. And it was signed?? (How did Amazon do that??) So of course mine was preordered. I have every one of his novels. But this was a cancer book. I tackle mental illness with no problems. I know that subject. But cancer, that is scary. There is no pill or therapy that can make it bearable. And it scares the shit out of me. So for one entire year I have avoided The Fault in Our Stars.

But it's time to stop avoiding things that scare me, especially books out of my comfort zone. That's the first place to start. I won't lie, right now I am on some heavy anti-depressants and making me cry is difficult. But looking at the clock, I have been sniveling and wiping my eyes for the last hour and a half. I had my doubts. I was well into the book, two thirds in until I first started quivering. But you don't start caring about Augustus Waters and Hazel Grace and Isaac at the end when you're crying. For me it started slowly. Hazel has a very quirky sense of humor. It's not for everyone, but matched with Augustus it just clicked. There is no way I couldn't have loved Augustus Waters. I am always most interested in personality and his is quite bright on the page. Hazel is curmudgeonly compared to him. His reasoning is so brilliant it was almost difficult to follow. Metaphors, everything was a metaphor. And he spoke from the heart, so deeply. Hazel was a goner the minute Augustus met her eyes. She resisted, but the things he said and did, the guy gave her his Wish. I'm half in love with Gus.

John Green made me cry. I didn't sob and wail. It was a quiet, resigned, cry. I was well aware that someone would die and I was pretty sure I knew who through the whisperings on other blogs. It did not diminish the impact of the loss. But the death, the loss, instead of being loud and a huge fanfare like a war, was quiet and dignified, as much as it can be when a teenager struggles to breathe and falls into restless unconsciousness until death finally takes him. It was a surrender. And the families, friends, Hazel all grieved quietly. It was no less devastating. It had no less of an impact on me. Silent tears hurt almost more than loud wailing ones. It feels a bit like they are stuck with you longer. The loud loss, the loud wails of death are soon forgotten. It's the quiet, silent tears and sorrow that remains.  That's why I think this book will remain in my mind for quite some time. There will be passages that I'll remember that will float through my mind. Images I formed as I read of what Amsterdam looked like as Augustus and Hazel ate at Oranjee. This isn't a book that I'll soon forget. Augustus and Hazel will remain with me.

I am no longer afraid to read cancer books. I survived my first one. What a chicken shit I've been. Families are actually living through this every day and I am too scared to read about it. There really is no excuse for that. I'm sorry for that. I won't let the topic of a book scare me away again because I am afraid to feel it or cry.

So, yes, John Green remains on the Special, Special shelf with a very few authors. I recommend this novel to everyone, not just YA lovers. It is emotional so don't give it to a child that is too young to handle death and off the page sex. My 13 year old read it before me and loved it. He wanted to spoil it for me, but I wouldn't let him. Now we can discuss it. So don't let the cancer scare you away. 


and don't forget to be awesome (DFTBA)

If you'd like to find John Green on the Web-

Monday, December 30, 2013

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot By The Taliban by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb Audiobook Review

I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up For Education and Was Shot By The Taliban
by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb
Available Now
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Audiobook Narrator: Archie Panjabi
To Buy Links: Amazon/ Kindle/ Audible/ Audio CD/ Barnes and Noble/ Book Depository/ Indiebound/ Kobo

Goodreads- I come from a country that was created at midnight. When I almost died it was just after midday.

When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, one girl spoke out. Malala Yousafzai refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education.

On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, when she was fifteen, she almost paid the ultimate price. She was shot in the head at point-blank range while riding the bus home from school, and few expected her to survive. 

Instead, Malala's miraculous recovery has taken her on an extraordinary journey from a remote valley in northern Pakistan to the halls of the United Nations in New York. At sixteen, she has become a global symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest nominee ever for the Nobel Peace Prize.

I Am Malala is the remarkable tale of a family uprooted by global terrorism, of the fight for girls' education, of a father who, himself a school owner, championed and encouraged his daughter to write and attend school, and of brave parents who have a fierce love for their daughter in a society that prizes sons.

I Am Malala will make you believe in the power of one person's voice to inspire change in the world.

Review

I listened to the audio version of this book. So first I will review the audio book.  I thought the narrator's voice was good, it sounded like a young girl, but there was absolutely no variation in the tone of her voice. I would have thought when recalling being shot, she would have had some emotion in her voice, or talking about missing her family or the education she was so passionate about, I would hear that passion in her voice, but the narrator's voice was always even toned, only a few times was there maybe a smile in her voice. It didn't make me enjoy the book less, but Malala has inspired such a great deal of emotion and discussion, I feel some more emotion would have been injected into the narrator's voice.

One thing I can say about the audio book that I would recommend it over the written book is the names and places. These are all very foreign names and places and I would have spent a great deal of time trying to figure out what was a place name and a person's name if I had been reading it. And that doesn't include the time I would have taken trying to pronounce the words in my head. With it being read to me, I didn't have that confusion. The words were pronounced for me and it was clear who was who and what was what. I may not know how to spell them, but that's okay.

I am hesitant to review the book. As an American with my head buried in the sand when it comes to most things foreign, I really am ignorant of what is  happening around the world. The news is so filtered that we get a very sanitized version of what is actually happening. It's up to us to seek out the real truth through books, documentaries and reliable internet sources. That being said, I have to take this book and  see the truth in it and not fall for the hype that is Malala.

I've read the Goodreads reviews that say Malala's book misrepresents Pakistan and Muslims. Here is what I got from the book. Malala's portrayal of  people in Pakistan is mainly of those in Swat and shows a country of people with long held cultural traditions, people better than me, maybe you. They invite strangers into their homes and welcome them for as long as they want to stay. The people of Pakistan value education for both girls and boys, it's execution is not perfect, but it is valued.  Swat is not exactly a microcosm of Pakistan, being in the rural Northwest with Afghanistan on it's border. Clean water and electricity was sometimes a luxury for Malala's family. And her home was always full with people unfed and with other needs that her family tried their best to meet, despite their own lack of wealth. But they care, a lot more than we do here in our land of plenty.  I'm not preaching, I'm just saying that her portrayal of the people in her book is not something I'd be ashamed of. I can't speak for the politics, the corruption, the army. There are always truth and lies and somewhere in all that is the real story. But I can't pretend that Pakistan is the only country that happens in. I won't even start naming names.

  Malala gives a great picture of pre Taliban and post Taliban life in Swat. There was music and dancing and laughter and games before and there was nothing but fear after.  People were killed and left in the square for all to see.  If that isn't intimidating then the daily radio broadcasts and the pounding on the doors to confiscate contraband would finish the job. Again, this is not a representation of Islam or Pakistan, this is the Taliban.

The only fault I have with this book is that it didn't genuinely feel like it was Malala's words. I felt like most of it was Christina Lamb and only some of it was Malala, the parts that told about her days in school, the competition between her and her friends to get the top marks. The love she had for Swat. And speaking in front of the UN. I do believe Malala to be a very brave girl, someone that has a voice that should be heard. And she does prove that one voice can make a difference. I'm sorry it took the Taliban shooting her for her voice to be heard so loudly, but she doesn't seem to regret it. I believe she has more to say and we will hear her words again.

You know I don't usually review non-fiction, but I think this is a book that any of us should read. If a 15 year old girl can be heard then what can we do if we combine our voices?  There is a movie called Girl Rising that is about girls around the world and their fight for education and includes Malala in it. The link I have for it is an order for the DVD. The Trailer for it is below. It is an inspiring film, just as Malala is an inspiring young girl.





                                                                                                         

Monday, December 16, 2013

Tin Star by Cecil Castellucci Why I am DNF-ing it

Tin Star by Cecil Castellucci
Release Date February 25, 2014
Publisher Roaring Brook Press
Source: NetGalley e-ARC for review
e-Book 240 pages

From Goodreads-On their way to start a new life, Tula and her family travel on the Prairie Rose, a colony ship headed to a planet in the outer reaches of the galaxy. All is going well until the ship makes a stop at a remote space station, the Yertina Feray, and the colonist's leader, Brother Blue, beats Tula within an inch of her life. An alien, Heckleck, saves her and teaches her the ways of life on the space station.

When three humans crash land onto the station, Tula's desire for escape becomes irresistible, and her desire for companionship becomes unavoidable. But just as Tula begins to concoct a plan to get off the space station and kill Brother Blue, everything goes awry, and suddenly romance is the farthest thing from her mind. 


I don't usually tell you I have DNF'd a book, but I'm going to start telling you. Every book I read can't be great, right? And when I've taken my time to read a book why shouldn't I tell you why it didn't work for me? So here goes, and I do say this with great respect because I know how hard it is to even attempt to write a book.

Tula is boring. There is absolutely no depth to her character. I have read to page 67 of the e-ARC and I know nothing more about her than I did when I started the novel. I know what she does every day. I know what Heckleck asks her to do. I know where she lives in regard to the space station she lives on. But I don't know how she thinks. It does say she's numb and if the author wrote it this way intentionally, well I'd say well done. But for me, I just don't care about Tula.

The second problem is that nothing is happening. Absolutely nothing. The first exciting thing just happened a couple of pages ago and now it's over and nothing is going on. It's even less happening than before. And again, this may be intentional to show us how life is for Tula, but I don't need 67 pages to show me that. I got it in the first couple of chapters. The pacing is just too slow.

I am giving up. And I'm reviewing it now because the book is one that has to be read on my computer and expires on Saturday. I won't remember it in February and I want to be able to answer your questions if you have any. It is not a terrible book by any means. It's just not exciting or holding my attention. Nothing in it makes me want to read it. And I have other books that I do want to read.

So sadly, lack of depth of characters, lack of progression of the story and slow pacing all prove to be just too much to make me continue with this story. I'll be eager to see if anyone else has a different opinion and can show me what I missed. But this one is a DNF for me.


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Art of Forgiving by Anna Bloom (A Uni File Shortie for Christmas)

The Art of Forgiving -A Uni Files Short by Anna Bloom
Available Now
Amazon/ Amazon UK
Source: Received from author for review :)
Goodreads:  Benjamin Chambers found the girl, won the girl, and then lost the girl all in two months. It wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t that girl. The one that had already got away once.

Left to his own devices, wallowing in self-pity, drinking whiskey and killing ballads on his guitar Ben is looking forward to the worst Christmas in history. That is until an unexpected offer of help arrives.

Given the best Christmas gift he could ever wish for, the chance to spend one more day with the girl that got away. Ben knows he just has one day to convince Lilah that they are meant to be together, before he has to make some big decisions about his own future. Just one day to set right the mistakes that he has made, but will it be enough?

Ben may end up finding out that The Art of Forgiving isn't something you can teach, it is something that you have to earn.

Review

Okay, so if you've read my blog lately you'll know that I am just enamored with this new series by Anna Bloom, the first book being The Art of Letting Go. The characters are funny, college students trying to find themselves in the world. The attend Uni and the two main characters, Lilah and Ben have happily found each other living in the same dorm. This story is written by a British author so things are different, the wording might be different, but if you love British humor, you will love this novel and the others that go along with it. The love story is fantastic and Ben is so swoony.  

Anyway, this is a review of The Art of Forgiveness. It takes place during The Art of Letting Go and is told from Ben's point of view. I can't get enough of Ben's point of view! I love the way he thinks. He is so in love with Lilah and I love how he thinks about her every minute, how to win her back. You have to have read The Art of Letting Go to understand this novella so make sure you do. And also there is a another novella The Saving of Ben Chambers that you need to read. Anyway, back to reviewing this one.

Ben has made a big mistake and try as he might, Lilah is not taking his explanation as the truth. Being the jealous woman I am, I wouldn't either, though I would not be able to stay silent. There would be screaming, lots of it. But Lilah gives him the silent treatment like no one I have ever seen for months. She's got some staying power. With the way she feels about Ben it's amazing she can do it. But this story shows how Ben is handling his separation from Lilah during Christmas. He's mopey and morose and it's Christmas. But Lilah's brother kidnaps him and they go to Lilah's flat that she shares with her brother to save Christmas. It's funny watching them as they descend into drunken debauchery and try to cook Christmas dinner and listen to Ben's self talk as he tries to figure out how he can get closer to Lilah.
It is a great story that will leave you smiling for the Christmas holidays!


About the Author
Anna Bloom

Combining a busy schedule of looking after two small children whilst working in a local school and completing The Uni Files series she also spends a lot of time imagining kissing hot guys – all in the name of her art.

Website/Blog | Facebook | Twitter | GoodReads

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Blog Tour- Shadows of Asphodel by Karen Kincy Review and Giveaway


Oh Wow am I happy to be a part of this blog tour! The Shadows of Asphodel is a New Adult book about a mercenary, Ardis and a necromancer, Wendel. I haven't read a necromancer book yet. Can you believe it? But this one was a great one to get started with. Oh, and it also has a bit of Steampunk in it! And romance, you know who I'm talking to. So I hope you follow the tour and put this one on your Goodreads shelf!



Shadows of Asphodel (#1) by Karen Kincy
Available Now
New Adult Dieselpunk
Paperback 350 pages
Received e-ARC through CCB Book Promotions for Blog Tour

From GoodreadsWhen Ardis discovers a man bleeding to death on the battlefield, she knows she has to walk away.

1913. In her work as a mercenary for Austria-Hungary, Ardis has killed many men without hesitation. One more man shouldn’t matter, even if he manages to be a charming bastard while he stands dying in the snow. 

But when he raises the dead to fight for him, she realizes she must save his life.

If a necromancer like Wendel dies, he will return as a monster—or so the rumors say. Ardis decides to play it safe and rescues him. What she doesn’t expect is Wendel falling to one knee and swearing fealty. Ardis never asked for the undying loyalty of a necromancer, but it’s too late now.

Ardis and Wendel forge an uneasy alliance underscored with sexual tension. Together, they confront rebels, assassins, and a conspiracy involving a military secret: robotically-enhanced soldiers for a world on the brink of war. But as Ardis starts to fall for Wendel, she realizes the scars from his past run more deeply than she ever imagined. Can Ardis stop Wendel before his thirst for revenge destroys him and everyone else around him?

(Dieselpunk romance. Recommended for ages 17 & up.)

Review

First, don't worry about the term "Dieselpunk". It won't get in the way of you enjoying this thoroughly action packed, romance filled novel. Yep, there are automatons, zeppelins and other machinery, but it just kind of blends into the story. There is MAGIC! And it is so unique how the machines and the magic blend together and how each property, if magic can be called a property, war against each other.

This is the first novel I've read by Karen Kincy and I'm impressed. The novel jumps right into the end of a battle, with Ardis looking for survivors. Ardis, the heroine, is a "peacekeeper." She works for the archmages. She is a mercenary. She keeps the peace by killing the rebels. Ardis is there for many reasons, but if fate were the reason, she is there to find Wendel on his death bed siccing a reanimated dog on her. Ardis realizes he is a necromancer, reanimating a dog gives that way, and she has heard stories about dealing death to a necromancer so she takes him prisoner. And to the medicine tent because he is alarmingly pale.

Ardis is practical, she recognizes that Wendel is a necromancer and that she needs to keep that fact a secret for his safety. She also notices that he is quite handsome and believes he must be from nobility of some sort. But his touch disgusts her and she isn't sure what it can do to her. So wisely she decides she will demand a ransom for his return. But through their journey together, she begins to like him more than a little and the very inhuman and lonely Ardis starts to thaw. She is forward and honest in what she wants. And she is not weak when Wendel can't offer her what she wants. She walks away. But, when it really matters, she is strong, maybe too much so, and she might commit the biggest mistake of her life.

Wendel is easy to like. He is charming and funny. But then he turns and becomes moody and unreachable. The truth is, he is broken, but he hides it well. He lets bits of it leak out and it is only Ardis that can get the whole story out of him. And then not the whole story. He is definitely handy in battle and a little creepy with his magic. But he is open and honest with Ardis so any shortcomings can be easily overlooked.

The fascinating part of this novel, not that Ardis and Wendel weren't enjoyable, was the world. The complexity of mixing "dieselpunk" with magic, Archmages and assassins, and necromancers-the purest form of magic of anything in the book, it was an incredible world. And I never got lost or gave up because there was just too much. A couple of times I was just plain jealous at Karen Kincy's creativity. You'll see what I mean when you read it. To twist all these complex things together and make a world that works in a historical setting, altering real world events, just slightly to change history, it's ingenious. And makes for a great story.

Ardis is complex. She has revealed little of herself to us and even less of how she feels about her personal history. We see a little more of Wendel's personal history and he is even more sweet for it. I just wanted to hug him to me. And kill some people. I really enjoyed the two of them together and separately and I cannot wait for the next in the series. I was so happy to see it would be a series! 

I did receive and e-ARC as part of the tour with CBB Book Promotions. This did not influence my review. All opinions expressed are my own. Thank you to both CBB Book Promotions and the author for the review copy.






About the Author
Karen Kincy
Karen Kincy (Redmond, Washington) can be found lurking in her writing cave, though sunshine will lure her outside. When not writing, she stays busy gardening, tinkering with aquariums, or running just one more mile. Karen has a BA in Linguistics and Literature from The Evergreen State College. 


Giveaway





Monday, December 9, 2013

PAWN!!! by Aimee Carter - Review

Pawn (The Blackcoat Rebellion #1) by Aimee Carter
Available Now
Harlequin Teen
Hardback 352 pages/ Kindle 343 pages
Source: E-ARC received from Publisher through NetGalley
To Buy Links-
Amazon/ Kindle/ Audible/ Barnes and Noble/ Book Depository/ Indiebound/ Kobo   

Goodreads-  YOU CAN BE A VII. IF YOU GIVE UP EVERYTHING. 

For Kitty Doe, it seems like an easy choice. She can either spend her life as a III in misery, looked down upon by the higher ranks and forced to leave the people she loves, or she can become a VII and join the most powerful family in the country. 

If she says yes, Kitty will be Masked—surgically transformed into Lila Hart, the Prime Minister's niece, who died under mysterious circumstances. As a member of the Hart family, she will be famous. She will be adored. And for the first time, she will matter. 

There's only one catch. She must also stop the rebellion that Lila secretly fostered, the same one that got her killed …and one Kitty believes in. Faced with threats, conspiracies and a life that's not her own, she must decide which path to choose—and learn how to become more than a pawn in a twisted game she's only beginning to understand.

Review

So I'll just say right now, this one worked for me!! I read Aimee Carter's Goddess Test and really enjoyed it, but felt like it was just a little reserved. I can't say if it was the relationship between the main characters, or the action, but I felt like she was holding back. I don't feel that at all in this book. I read about 30% through this one and felt really excited and then got to the "Masking" part and thought the book would be predictable from then on.  I was completely surprised through the entire book! Aimee Carter held nothing back in this book. She goes THERE and then some. I loved it!

So the characters. Kitty is likable right away. She steals an orange from the market for which she can be shot dead for. An orange, because it's her birthday and she basically failed her test. And she is going to be separated from her boyfriend Benjy, her best friend and fellow orphan. So she just wants that orange. It's a symbol- an act of defiance. Kitty isn't dumb, she knows what kind of life is ahead for her and she knows Benjy would sacrifice his life as one of the privileged fives or sixes to be with her. She won't let him. But she's also not dumb as in intelligence. She can't read and it seems she has a learning disability, that's all that kept her from passing her test. She genuinely cares about the people she lives with but her survival instincts kick in after she is masked. Then she just tries to stay alive and keep Benjy alive.

Benjy we see so little of, it's hard to form an opinion of him. The romance is a little hard to believe because of this. I am hoping to see more of him in the next book. He seems to be a good guy, but nothing is as it seems in this world.

Greyson, Daxton's only living son and Augusta's grandson, the heir to the "throne" is the other one that I liked the most. He is sweet and kind, shy and slow to anger. But you know the saying "still waters run deep"? There is a lot more going on there than we know. I wouldn't be surprised at anything that comes out of him. He stays out of the politics and invents things through most of the book, but towards the end, he can't avoid it.

The other characters, whether they were primary or secondary characters, were somewhat one dimensional. But it didn't hurt the story. Daxton and Augusta, the leaders of the world, are just evil. They are the creators of this type of caste system and make sure it is enforced. For the most part, the masses are kept poor, under educated and desperate. Knox, who is Lila's intended, is less than forthcoming but seems to have Kitty's back. Celia is Lila's mother and she is just desperate. A loose cannon and you don't know what important information she is leaving out or if she is putting Kitty in danger.

The world isn't really well described. But you get the general idea. Privileged in one section with heavy guards and it goes down hill from there until you hit the slums, where Kitty and Benjy lived. There is Elsewhere, a threat held over Kitty's head that she and Benjy will be sent there. And then there are hidden places. Cities thrive, but you aren't given a lot of information about who is in the cities like NYC. The buildings still stand, but you aren't sure if business goes on.

The story, that's what blew me away. Every time I though it was going to go for the obvious, it went for something else. Right until the end. None of the characters acted the way I expected despite my urging them to do something! But nothing seemed out of place. So many of the characters are forced to act out of desperation. But how they react to this motivation is completely unpredictable. The story made me overlook any fault I might have had with the characters. And at this point, I have no idea where the story is going. I am more than ready for the next book in the series! I think Aimee Carter really left anything that held her back and went for it with this one. I felt no hesitation in this novel. Characters you don't expect to die do. No one is safe. I expect a lot more loss in the next book. And plenty of twists and turns.

This is a great dystopian, a breath of fresh air from the gritty ones I've been reading lately because we get to read from the privileged side of the world. Posh surroundings, plenty to eat, limousines and plenty of guards. Kitty is a strong heroine who is just trying to figure out how to remain a valuable asset so she can stay alive. Surrounded by three boys who seem protective of her, you'd think she's safe, but I don't think so. Not in the world of Pawn!



I received a copy of this novel from the publisher for review through NetGalley. This did not influence my review. The opinions expressed in my review are my own.
Find Aimee Carter


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Blog Tour- The Masters Book by Philip Coleman Review and Giveaway

Today, stopping by Buried in Books is the tour for The Master's Book by Philip Coleman for review. It is a Middle Grade book at a little over 200 pages. It combines mystery and detective work and reminds me somewhat of The Egypt Game, if any of you are familiar with that. Thanks to Candace at CBB Book Promotions for putting this one on my radar! You can follow the rest of the tour HERE.

The Master's Book by Philip Coleman
Available Now
MuseIt Up Publishing
March 2013
E-book 232 pages
To Buy Links-
Kindle/Nook/Kobo/Goodreads

Synopsis- In 1482 Mary, the last Duchess of Burgundy, lies on her deathbed in a castle in Flanders. She is only 24. In her final moments she makes a wish that, 500 years later, will threaten the lives of a boy and a girl living in Brussels.

The Master’s Book is the story of Sean, an Irish teenager, just arrived in Brussels to a house that is also a crime scene. Together with Stephanie, his classmate, he finds an illuminated manuscript, only for it to be stolen almost at
once.

Where did this manuscript come from? Who was it originally made for? Is there a connection with the beautiful tomb Sean has seen in Bruges? Above all, why does someone want this book so badly that they are prepared to kill for it?

Part thriller and part paper-chase, this book is aimed at boys and girls of twelve and over. 


Review
I loved the characters in the story. Sean, the Irish boy and his sister Maeve who have just arrived in Brussels because of their dad's job.  The story is told from Sean's point of view, and I love reading from a young boy's point of view. I love to read about how insecure they are and the posturing they do for girls. I always thought the guys had everything figured out. From Sean's point of view, Stephanie, the young black girl that is the other part of this team of sleuths seems to have everything figured out. She comes up with the ideas, and is the one brave enough to carry them out. Plus she's lived in Brussels most of her life so she knows where to go and how to get there.

So Sean, he's living with his sister Mam and Dad in a house where a murder occurred before they rented it. Dad didn't tell anyone because he didn't think it mattered. It did. Mam is none too happy with Dad about it and funnily enough I can't remember too many books where it actually shows Mom and Dad having a fight about anything in MG books unless they are getting a divorce. These two aren't, they are just mad at each other for something. Dad goes for a LONG walk. I think Dad does that more than once. But I liked seeing that Mom and Dad could have a fight with a bit of yelling without the kids getting all broken up about it and the D word being used. This is marriage kids. Mom and Dad make up and things get better. Worse then better.

Stephanie has two parents who are very present and get to be friends with Sean's parents. They go around to each other's houses for dinner, they ferry the kids to and fro. Stephanie's mom gets Sean's mom a job. This is how life should be portrayed in books, because this is natural. They eat! Yes, breakfast, lunch and dinner. Their clothes are described. Yes, I know all very mundane, but don't you wonder about it all. What happens when nothing is happening? I do. What are they eating. What does one wear when guests are coming over for dinner? That is a big question in my mind in real life. What does the house look like?

So the mystery, well Sean is sent to clean the basement and discovers an extra room down there. Actually, Maeve comments on how the basement seems smaller than the rest of the house. Sean works out that the shelves are hiding a door and with Stephanie's guidance, he finds the key. A treasure trove of antiques is hidden in two rooms, but most importantly is a book in a safe, The Master's Book. They only discover what it is after it has been stolen. They are in the library trying to find out about it when they are chased by two thugs who end up dead in the river. Even though the book is gone, they can't quite leave the mystery of the book alone. Who was Mary of Burgundy? What happened to her? Where did the book come from? Who has it now? Why did they want it? Is there a curse on the book? With every answer they get, two more questions pop up and bodies seem to be dropping.

There is a climactic ending that you don't see coming and then the wrap up that explains things nicely. Stephanie and Sean are a good pair, part brains, part brash, part stupidity, part ignorance. They make a good couple. Their romance is very light and sweet and definitely not the focus of the book.

Thanks to Candace's Book Blog and CBB Book Promotions for a review copy of this novel. I was not compensated for my review. All opinions expressed are my own.

About the author
Philip Coleman


Philip Coleman has worked as a biologist for most of his life—in Ireland, Belgium and now in Switzerland. Having been an avid reader all his life, he took up writing only in 2006. This is his first published novel. He drew his inspiration for the story from the period he spent working for the EU in Brussels. He has a grown-up son and daughter (who were roughly the same ages as Sean and Maeve during the time in Brussels but otherwise aren’t a bit like them at all!). He now lives in France. 

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And for the Giveaway!!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Author Bryan Cohen Back Again with 1,000 Creative Writing Prompts Volume 2: More Ideas for Blogs, Scripts, Stories and More

Guest Post by Bryan Cohen


A Priceless Creativity Habit 
by Bryan Cohen 

Your habits can make you or break you. Some of my worst habits almost broke me financially during my early 20s. My better ones raised me to some success almost a decade later. One habit in particular helped me to create an Amazon best-seller, get thousands of students in an online course and appear on the game show "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire." If you added this habit to your life, you'd likely find equal, if not better, success yourself.  

Here's the habit: constantly thinking of ideas to improve my life and actively following up on them. 

People like to daydream about a better life. But how many of them actually write those daydreams down? And out of those select few, how many make an effort to see if the ideas are feasible? I imagine the number is smaller than you think. Writers and other creative types often say that they want to sell more art or make more money, but how likely are they to achieve these goals if they don't actively brainstorm on how to succeed?

Let me give you an example. I had about $8,000 in credit card debt that I wanted to pay off. I'd figured out that I'd be able to pay it off over the course of two years by making small payments each month. That's when my habit kicked in. My life would be better and easier if I could pay off that debt more quickly. I began to write a list of ways that I could pay off that debt quickly and easily. There were plenty of ideas on the list (it's been said that thinking of lots of ideas is easier than trying to come up with one alone), but one idea stuck out like an exciting thumb. The item on the list read, "Get on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and win $8,000 or more." 

Instead of dismissing the idea as crazy, I started researching how people get on the show. I looked up where auditions were and how former contestants convinced producers they were worthy of the hot seat. I studied trivia questions and prepared for the entry test. I went to ABC Studios in New York, auditioned twice and got onto the show. I plan to discuss the show more in depth on another blog post, but to make a long story short, I was ultimately successful at achieving my goal.  

Now imagine if I never created this list. I'd still be paying down that debt the old-fashioned way. The old-fashioned way is boring! The old-fashioned way would have me stuck in an office as my 9-to-5 job and would have me trying to make small potatoes money organizing workshops in the local YMCA. 

By brainstorming ways to improve my life, I also learned about self-publishing and freelance writing. I found out how to host a course online and how to bring thousands of students to my digital classroom. I also got to meet Meredith Vieira and walk away with awesome prize money. 

It's not enough to talk about how you want to improve your writing life or your career. You need to follow up that talk with two additional steps. Write down your ideas for how you want to make the improvements. Follow through on those ideas until you actually achieve them. 

If you can practice this as a weekly or daily habit, I can't guarantee you'll have game show success. But it is very likely you'll be more successful as a writer. 

Talk is cheap. It's time to get back in the habit.

About the Author

In honor of his new book, Cohen is hosting the “1,000 Prompts, 1,000 Dollars" Writing Contest on his website. Click the link to find out how to enter!  Click the next link to check out the rest of Cohen’s blog tour!

Bryan Cohen is an author, a creativity coach and an actor. His new book, 1,000 Creative Writing Prompts, Volume 2: More Ideas for Blogs, Scripts, Stories and More is now available on Amazon in digital and paperback format. His other books include 1,000 Creative Writing Prompts, The Post-College Guide to Happiness, and Ted Saves the World. He has published over 30 books, which have sold more than 20,000 copies in total. Connect with him on his website, Build Creative Writing Ideas, on Facebook or on Twitter.  


So sorry the LINKS weren't working earlier! They are now!!!

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Eighth Menorah by Lauren L. Wohl from Albert Whitman and Company

The Eighth Menorah by Lauren L. Wohl
Available Now
Publisher: Albert Whitman and Company
Received copy for review and then giveaway
Picture book- 32 pages
To Buy Links-
Albert Whitman and Company
Amazon/ Kindle/ Barnes and Noble/ Book Depository/
Indiebound/ Kobo

Goodreads-Hanukkah is a few weeks away, and Sam can't wait to celebrate with his family, especially his grandma. At Sunday school, everyone in his class is busy making clay menorahs to give as Hanukkah gifts! Sam likes how his menorah is turning out, but he's worried--his family already has seven menorahs! Will they want another one? His teacher reassures him that his parents will love it, but Sam is determined to solve this problem on his own and find the perfect home for his menorah. 
Sam's dilemma in this sweet and simple Hanukkah story is one that rings true for kids and their families. 


Review

This is a very sweet simple story about a little boy, Sam, who has made a menorah in Sunday School and he thinks his family just doesn't need another one as they already have seven. Of course, none of them look like the one he has made, nor does he know what a handmade gift means, but Sam is practical in thinking that seven is enough. The pictures are so cute, Sam hiding his wrapped present under his bed. Sam hiding under the table covering talking to his grandmother on the phone sharing a secret with her. This is a wonderful book for younger children to show they are important too, that their contributions do make a difference. Sam found the exact right person to receive his menorah and it was even more special because of who it was shared with. The end shows the special relationship he has with his Nana and how thoughtful Sam is.

I have two copies of the books for giveaway thanks to Albert Whitman and Company! They are signed. And this is a continental US giveaway only.

About the Author
Lauren L. Wohl has been working in children’s books… well … always, or so it seems.  Primarily, she’s been involved on the marketing side of publishing. But she’s worked for companies big and small, including some notable start-ups: Disney Press, Hyperion Books for Children, Jump at the Sun, Roaring Brook Press, and First Second Books.  

Lauren has an MLS and has been a school librarian in the New York City public schools.  And she’s taught marketing at NYU and is currently mentoring students in the Masters of Fine Arts program at Simmons College.  Lauren and her husband owned a children’s bookstore on Long Island, New York, where she was the Saturday morning storyteller and the summer evening PJ parties’ host.  She’s proud to be the local “book lady” – the neighbor to whom kids come when they want a book; the person local schools call on when they need a guest storyteller or reader; the “expert” friends trust to find the absolutely perfect match between a child and a book.


It seemed like the right time for her to jump in and write herself.  THE EIGHTH MENORAH is the result of that impulse and effort.  It’s a story out of her own family’s experience, and she’s hoping many other families will see themselves in it as well.


How cool does that sound?? Summer evening PJ parties host?? I think someone should do that in every city! Out on the lawn in the summer just before the sun goes down under some big shady trees....yeah, summer!
Or in a huge tent with fairy lights on the ceiling and pillows and blankets on the ground. Camp lights. Would that not be the coolest to hear stories read to you like that?? Somebody do that. Then send me pictures or a link. This is one cool author!

So, for the giveaway.....
a Rafflecopter giveaway


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Will in Scarlet by Matthew Cody Review

Will in Scarlet by Matthew Cody
Available Now
Knopf Books for Young Readers
Hardcover 272 pages
Received e-ARC for review from Publisher through NetGalley
To Buy Links-
Amazon/ Kindle/Audiobook CD/ Audible/ Barnes and Noble  /Book Depository/  Indiebound/ Kobo

Goodreads-  Will Scarlet is on the run. 

Once the sheltered son of nobility, Will has become an exile. While his father, Lord Shackley, has been on the Crusades with King Richard, a treacherous plot to unseat Richard has swept across England, and Shackley House has fallen.

Will flees the only home he’s ever known into neighboring Sherwood Forest, where he joins the elusive gang of bandits known as the Merry Men. Among them are Gilbert, their cruel leader; a giant named John Little; a drunkard named Rob; and Much, an orphan girl disguised as a bandit boy.

This is the story of how a band of misfit outlaws become heroes of legend - thanks to one brave 13-year-old boy."

Review

Oh wow, this was such a great novel! Everyone that has every been evenly slightly interested in Robin Hood must read this novel. It's got a little bit of everything in it so everyone should find something appealing in it. Will Scarlet is actually the young son of Lord Shackley who has been off fighting with King Richard in the Crusades. In his place, Lord Shackley's brother Geoff has been running things and trying to teach Will, a mischievous teen who is more child than grown up, how to be a lord. 

This is like an historical novel without too many dreary details, but enough to make you feel like you're really there. And Will, he's someone you will love! He's led this sheltered life, protected and pampered from the real world and all of the sudden he is thrust into politics and the real world and he sees the "Real England." He has to leave behind everything and everyone he knew, all the comforts of home and join the Merrymen just to try to survive.

This is a character driven novel with two different main characters Will Scarlet and Much the Miller's daughter, who is posing as the Miller's son. It's safer that way. The chapters go back and forth between the two points of view and they blend seamlessly. There is a budding romance between the two and it's sweet and good. Will is a gentleman and just what Much needs. 

I cannot say what it is about this novel that pulled me in, but I swear I could not put it down. It's very well written, never a dull moment. Someone's life is almost always in peril and the Merrymen seem to take it in stride. It is very interesting to see how the Sheriff of Nottingham becomes who he is and how the Merrymen become bandits that give to the poor and why. Will has to grow up fast and face some ugly truths. But this is one of these books that I have to have a copy for my own shelves. I hope it's going to be a series. The secondary characters where just as interesting as the main characters and it was enchanting, a fairy tale in a way, one we've heard told over and over, but this was completely original.

Yes, Will is 13, but remember the time period. Much is only a year older and she is of marrying age. So this isn't a young book. It reads like an ageless book. I just loved it! That's the best I can say about it. I loved it!

I received a copy of the e-ARC from the publisher for review through NetGalley. The opinons expressed in this review are my own.

Find Matthew Cody-

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