What Format of Book Do You Prefer To Read?

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Yikes!!

Yikes! 

I just looked at when I posted last and it was almost a month ago! Oops!! I kept thinking my schedule would calm down once school started, but that didn't turn out to be the case. It has been crazy!! I started and quit what I thought was a teaching job (long story), and that was on top of my normal subbing and being in charge of all the reading tutoring at my kids' elementary school. Needless to say, I have not had a moment to post. I have been reading, though, so I have a few books sitting on my desk ready to be reviewed. I'll get to those soon, I promise! Don't give up on me. :)

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Before The Fall



Before The Fall by Noah Hawley

Blurb:

"On a foggy summer night, eleven people--ten privileged, one down-on-his-luck painter--depart Martha's Vineyard on a private jet headed for New York. Sixteen minutes later, the unthinkable happens: the plane plunges into the ocean. The only survivors are Scott Burroughs--the painter--and a four-year-old boy, who is now the last remaining member of an immensely wealthy and powerful media mogul's family. With chapters weaving between the after-math of the crash and the backstories of the passengers and crew members--including a Wall Street titan and his wife, a Texan-born party boy just in from London, a young woman questioning her path in life, and a career pilot--the mystery surrounding the tragedy heightens. As the passengers' intrigues unravel, odd coincidences point to a conspiracy. Was it merely by dumb chance that so many influential people perished? Or was something far more sinister at work? Events soon threaten to spiral out of control in an escalating storm of media outrage and accusations. And while Scott struggles to cope with fame that borders on notoriety, the authorities scramble to salvage the truth from the wreckage. Amid pulse-quickening suspense, the fragile relationship between Scott and the young boy glows at the heart of this stunning novel, raising questions of fate, human nature, and the inextricable ties that bind us together."

My Review:

Talk about intense! I was hooked from the very beginning. The characters and their lives were so intriguing. They were well developed, real-to-life, and each of their stories drew me in. There were times I liked Scott and times I didn't, but overall he just seemed like an ordinary guy who was thrown into a very difficult situation and really didn't know how to handle it. I can totally see how he could go from hero to suspect with the media as it is today, and that it sad. Seeing it from that perspective made me think a lot about the media and how things are reported. It was also a good chance to take a step back from some of the current stories and look at them from a different perspective. It's easy to get caught up in the feelings of the moment, and easy to forget that there are real people with real lives behind the stories. Anyway, that was a little bit of a tangent, but it was part of the story. The story was well crafted, and transitioned easily in between the past and the present. As each piece of the puzzle is put into place, your mind tries to figure out if that piece is the one that matters, or the one that caused the horrible tragedy. You'll think you've got it figured out, and then comes the next piece that has just as much cause for scrutiny. I thought this book was well written with surprises, twists, suspense, and a human element that holds the whole thing together. I couldn't put it down!

The only negative I have about this book is the language. Oh boy! It has so much language that had I not been reviewing it I would have stopped reading it. Had it been a movie I would have walked out. Boo. Why? Why does it need the language? Why ruin a great story line with such distracting profanity? It's irritating and disappointing. As a reader it is very distracting. There are the normal words, and then there are way too many "f" words. There is also an interesting "intimacy" scene that isn't, but it is. There's drug use, and there is also the violent situation that the whole book is based on where lots of people die. It's too bad; I would love to recommend this story to my friends and family, but I can't because of the language. However, if profanity does not bother you, you will love this book.

Rating: R (Not recommended for YA or younger readers) There is so much profanity, especially the "f" word. There is an "intimacy" scene that is, but it isn't. There is also drug use and a violent situation where lots of people die.

Recommendation: Adult

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

This book is a SheReads.org book of summer!


Friday, August 26, 2016

Will From Ashes (Book #2)



Will From Ashes (Book #2) by Mark Minson

Blurb (from amazon.com):

Life for Will O'Reilly has become a mess. MAIM is killing extraordinary talents. He requires permission to even leave his house and he has fallen in love with a member of The Council of Magic. Although violence is repugnant to him, his survival starts depending on it. The chaos bends him to the breaking point. When he finally snaps, he finds himself without the official protection of The Council.

Unfortunately, what Will thought was just a battle is about to turn into all out war

With his friends dying around him, Will fights for his own life. Can he find a way to stop MAIM? Will the cost of survival be too high to pay?


My Review:

As you may recall from my review of Mark Minson's first book Kyle By Fire, we have been friends since high school. He talks about this creative writing class he took in high school; well, I was in that class with him. So, I might be a little biased because he's my friend, but I promise my review will be honest. I enjoyed Kyle, so I kept bugging Mark about finishing book number two. I know, I may or may not have annoyed him just a little bit because I kept asking him if it was finished yet. I might have acted a bit like a three-year-old on a long road trip..."Is it finished yet? Is it finished yet? Is it finished yet?" Hahaha...oh well, it worked! I have read the book and it did not disappoint! In fact, I may have liked this one even better than the first one. I just really liked Will's character. I loved his voice in the book. You could tell that he was a good guy. I liked that when he fought with the bad guys he purposefully would cast spells to disable his opponents, but not kill them. That shifts just a little toward the middle and end of the book, but you see what he's up against and you feel for him. You can tell that it bothers him too. I think the magic in this book is so fun. When Will uses the elements of the earth around him in spells I think it is so cool. Another part I really like is when Will makes up new spells. I like seeing his thought processes and his trial and error. I like how it's logical, and yet it's not at the same time. The magical fights in this book are very intense and fun to read. Nicole was a good supporting character in the story. Her character does  good job of adding a different angle to the story and softening it a little bit. Mark did a good job writing these characters. Also, the bad guys are really bad. Wow! They're evil. Although the ending may have been a bit predictable, there were some twists and turns along the way that made it exciting. This book is well written, exciting, and so fun. If you liked book number one, you'll definitely enjoy book number two!

There isn't any profanity in this book (yay!), and there isn't any "intimacy." There might be a kiss or two, but that's as far as it goes. There is quite a bit of violence. Will has to fight a lot of bad guys in this book. He tries not to kill anyone, but there are a few deaths, and some of the scenes are quite intense. It's not over-the-top gory and graphic though. The only thing I told Mark was that there were still some grammatical errors and a few typos in the book. He promised me he'd go through it again, so those should be fixed.

Rating:  PG+ (There isn't any profanity or "intimacy," except for a few kisses. There is quite a bit of violence with a lot of magical fighting. There are a few deaths.)

Recommendation: Fifth grade and up (10-11 years-old and up)

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Also, the author happens to be my really good friend, but I promise my review is honest and fair.




Saturday, August 20, 2016

Author Interview With Mark Minson

My Interview With Author Mark Minson

   So way back in high school I had a creative writing class with my friend Mark Minson. I thought he was talented way back then (we won't say how long ago that was)! Then awhile back he told me he had written a novel, and I couldn't wait to read it. Kyle By Fire was a great book, and I enjoyed it a lot. I have to say though, the second book in the series, Will From Ashes (I will review it later this week), is even better! I'll get to more of that later, but for now I thought I'd share the interview I had with my good friend Mark.  

1.  What inspired you to write the Kyle By Fire series? 
- I hadn’t written more than a handful of poems in the five years previous to starting KBF. And based on the carnage of prose I wrote in high school, I never thought I would be a novelist. But I had a friend and neighbor who loved to write. He enlisted another friend of ours and we started a writing club back in 2009. One of our first activities as a group was a round-robin writing exercise. We put a ton of random words in a bowl and pulled out three each. Then before our next meeting, we were supposed to write 1-2 pages using all three words. My words: Oak, Wand, Sandals. Those who have read KBF know the significance of those first two words. The original scene I wrote didn’t end up in the book, but it started the whole thing off. When I had written about half of the first book, I started thinking about titles and if this would be a series. I decided it would be a series and I liked the name "The Phoenix Cycle Series". It sounds cool and rolls off the tongue so nicely. That has really influenced the direction of the story.
2.  Where do you get your ideas for the different spells and talents that the characters in the books have?
- When I started I had an inkling of an idea for a magic system. My magic system needed to be unique. I didn’t want something like Harry Potter where everyone could cast everything. I decided on a list of talents based on the typical elemental talents and then branched nuances. I picked Kyle’s talent from the branches because it creates challenges for both him and me.
The spells are born out of logical evolution. What spells would have been discovered in a combined world of magic and non-magic? The words for the spells actually are anti-HP. Every word is gibberish. No Latin roots. No “sounds kinda like what it does”. Some spells take a long time to cast and have a lot of words. The more difficult the result of the magic, the more effort should be required to cast it.
I also didn’t want to have “super cool” spells that give incredible power. While everyone has magic, magic plays a big role in mundane day-to-day activities. The characters have to use creative problem solving in applying what they know to what they need.
3.  Where do you write? In an office or on the living room couch? 
- I write mostly on the couch. Some days I write on my lunch break at my desk.
4.  What is your all-time favorite book to read?
- Hard question. The expected answer is: Mine! I do love my stories, but after spending so much time with these characters in my head, I'm looking forward to a break. Someday I will include my books on this list. I do love Harry Potter 7. However, I’ve read the Foundation Series by Isaac Asimov at least 4 times. I love the depth and expansiveness of the Foundation world. Which I admit is kinda odd since I write fantasy and not sci-fi. I have a ton of fantasy favorites though: Far World by J Scott Savage, Fablehaven by Brandon Mull, Percy Jackson and the Heroes of Olympus series’ by Rick Riordan.
5.  When is the next book coming out? (This ? is because I'm selfish and really want the next book.... :)
- I have no idea. Life has been crazy this summer so very little writing has taken place. Based on the outline alone, this is also shaping up to be the longest of the books. Because of the expanding cast of characters, this book will be written from the perspective of four different people instead of just one. I would love to get it done sometime next year so fans don’t have to wait so long between releases.
6.  Do you write better in the morning, afternoon, or late at night? 
- I write better when I feel like I have time to dedicate to it. Mornings are too busy and I’m still working on getting my brain moving. Most of my writing takes place in the evening after the kids go to bed so I’d have to say that is when the best writing happens.
7.  How do you find time to write with a full-time job and a family?
- I don’t. Four years for Kyle By Fire (and 6 versions since), three years for Will from Ashes. Time is too finite. I have to make the time to write and because of that, sometimes, I make different choices. Write or play a game with your daughter who is asking you for the third time? As a writer with a family and non-writing job, it is about priorities and sacrifices. I’m hoping that now that summer is winding down, I will be able to make more time for writing.
8.  Do you hand write your stories then transfer them to the computer, or do you type them on the computer as you go?
- My brain works too fast when it gets into a story. I couldn’t hand write nearly fast enough or neat enough to know what the pen marks on the paper are supposed to mean. Even typing doesn’t always keep up with the conversations playing out in my head. Once I get into the flow of writing, I’m amazed at freight train coming at me.

9.  Have you ever experienced writers' block, and if so, what did you do to overcome it?
- All of the time. My strategy for overcoming it? Avoidance. It never works. The tactic that generally pulls me back to the page is thinking about the story. Even though I outline all of my books, the outline is at a high level. Once I’m down in the weeds, I realize that a particular detail of my beautifully crafted plan isn’t going to work. Blocked. When I finally stop avoiding it, I focus on it. I start running scenarios and talking through ideas. I’ve found that one or two days spent thinking about the problem will allow me to break through and find the answer.
J Scott Savage gave a great class for the League of Utah Writers where he said that if he gets stuck, sometimes he just writes “Something cool happens” and then skips the problem and moves on with his outline. I’ve considered trying this as well.
10. Do you have any advice for someone who would like to try and publish a book?
- Read. Read some more. Then write. Attend writing conferences. Join writing groups. Write, write, write. When you finally have a finished story, get some trusted friends to beta-read for you. I thought KBF was done and ready. I’d spent almost a year editing and revising before I finally published. But I didn’t have beta readers. The feedback I got from a few friends about the book helped me fix things that should have been fixed before publishing. Submitting to small publishers also helped as one of them gave me some great feedback.
There is a very good chance you will never feel like your story is good enough to see the light of day. Take those feelings, give them a swirly, stuff a sock in their mouth and throw them in the trunk. Listen to your beta readers. Listen to your writing group. It may not be the book you love, but it will still be a good book that others will want to read.



**Thank you Mark!!! Stay tuned this week for my review of Mark's second book Will From Ashes.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Beauty and the Clockwork Beast


Beauty and the Clockwork Beast by Nancy Campbell Allen

Blurb: 

When Lucy Pickett arrives at Blackwell Manor to tend to her ailing cousin, Kate, she finds more than she bargained for. A restless ghost roams the hallways, werewolves have been reported in the area, and vampires lurk across the Scottish border. Lord Miles himself is clearly hiding a secret. He is brash and inhospitable, and does not take kindly to visitors--even one as smart and attractive as Miss Pickett. He is unsettled by the mysterious deaths of his new wife, Clara, and his sister, Marie. Could Miles himself be to blame for the deaths? Working together, Miles and Lucy attempt to restore peace to Blackwell Manor. But can Lucy solve the mystery of Miles? Can she love the man--beast and all?

My Review:

I thought I was done with vampires and werewolves: apparently not! I actually really liked this book! Part of it is that Lucy is such a great character. She is smart, witty, and usually quite tough. Like any girl, she has her moments, but she is determined and capable. Miles is a hard character. He is very unlikable for most of the book, but at the same time, you see little snippets here and there of a different side of him. The supporting characters of Kate and Jonathan are good characters, and they help add to the story line. You have to just go with the apparitions and such that appear in this book; it seems a little corny, but you know what? It worked for me in this book. It's a little predictable; you know from the beginning who the key players will be, but there are many twists and turns along the way that kept me turning pages. I liked the writing style. It drew me in and kept me engaged. It's strange because one half of your brain is laughing at the absurdity of it all, but the other half of your brain can't put it down and just glosses right over all that stuff. That's what fiction is for, right? I thought it all came together well, and I liked this book a lot.

I like that it's clean! There is little to no profanity, and no "intimacy" scenes, although there is some kissing, and some more intimate moments. There is some violence, though. There are a few old murders discussed, and some evil vamps out there that have to be fought and dealt with. At least two characters die. 

Rating: PG-13+ (No profanity or "intimacy," but there are some more intimate moments, a few innuendos, and there is some graphic violence.)

Recommendation: 16 and up 

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.



Reading Roundup

Today I wanted to be a little different in my book reviews; I'm going to sit back, relax, and let others do all the work for me! I'm going to do my first "Reading Roundup." I have links to five book reviews on other sites. It will be a little different because they don't rate the books for content like I do, but they are all good reviews. What I also like is that the topics have a broad range, and they are  all books I have never heard about. I wish I could review every book out there, but since it's just me and my hobby, there is no way! 
I hope you enjoy today's Reading Roundup! Let me know what you think in the comments below! 

The Worst Journey in the World 

by Apsley Cherry-Garrard


I like this one because I have just barely started running. At the beginning of the summer I had been walking every day, but I got embarrassed because a bunch of my friends would run right past me as I was walking. So, I gave in to peer pressure and started running. I only run about three miles a day, but I'm proud of myself. This book isn't about running, but it's an inspirational tale about an expedition to Antarctica that had an impact in his life. 

2.  Do Good Work: 
The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide To Personal Freedom by Don Miguel Ruiz

She reviews this book saying that it would be great as a business book as well as a self-help book. 

The Importance of Music to Girls by Lavinia Greenlaw

If you like music, it sounds like this book is for you, especially if you are a woman. 

She reviews many "Inspiring Self-Help Books For Women"

She has put together an amazing list of inspirational self-help books for women. This is part one, so she said she will be adding more as well! 

The Code of the Extraordinary Mind by Vishen Lakhiani

This sounds like a very deep, yet inspirational, story that teaches you how to live your own life and not be tied to habits or rules. 

So there you have it! If you read any of these let me know in the comments what you think!

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Paper or Ebook?

I have a question for all of you today! 

What format of book is your favorite? 

Do you like paper copies? Do you like reading on your Kindle or your Nook? Do you like reading on your phone or a tablet


I'm curious to know how many people are old school like me and definitely prefer a physical copy of the book, or if I'm just a dying breed. Am I alone in my preference? Why do I like to read paper copies instead of ebooks? Well, I know they're heavier and they take up more space, but I love holding the book. I love turning pages. (Am I weird? Please tell me someone else loves turning pages...) I like that I can flip back and reread sections or find my favorite quotes. I have yet to figure out a good way to do that on my Kindle. I have a Kindle because many of the books I review are only published as ebooks. However, if I have a choice, I always ask for the paper copy. Another reason I like paper copies is because I can share them. If I enjoy a book then I like to recommend it and loan it out to friends and family. I also like to read books and then hand them over to my kids to read. You can't do that with ebooks, and it's frustrating to me.

So, what do you think? What's your preference and why? Please vote in the poll and tell us why you like that choice in the comments! I can't wait to hear from all of you!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

How To Make Time For Reading

One of the questions I get asked the most is, "How do you find time to read?"
Well, here is my answer. I hope it helps!


Why Book Reviews?



Why Book Reviews? My Blog Story

When I was way too young to read chapter books, I would beg my mom to let me read them. She did; because she's awesome like that. When we'd go fishing as kids, all my siblings would get out their poles and fish, and I'd read; because I'm a nerd like that. I've loved books as long as I can remember. I cannot recall a time in my life where reading wasn't a huge part of it. Well, I guess I can, but I'll get there in a minute. During the summer I'd sit under the tree in my front yard and read for hours on end (hence my logo at the top of the page...). I love being taken away to another time or place, I love getting caught up in a story, I love seeing the world through different lenses, and I love learning new things. When I was in school and we had to read a book as a class I would get so frustrated because I just wanted to read the whole book. I didn't want to read one chapter a week or whatever the assignment would be. So, I'd usually read the whole book and then go back with the class and read it again. I'd read whenever I had a spare second. High school and college were a bit more difficult because of the heavy coursework, but I still managed to find the time to read. The one time in my life that I really didn't read was when I had two little boys running around at home. Every time I'd pick up a book, they'd get into trouble.  I always read to them, of course, but reading for me was almost non-existent. So, I stopped reading for awhile. Then one day I realized that they were just going to have to deal with it. It was good for them to see me read, and it was good for me to read. So I'd keep a book out and read a few pages at a time. Little by little they got better at allowing me to read. Now we have a great system going! They read way more than I do, and it's so great to see! 
Sometimes it's me telling them to put the books down! 

I'm very conservative with what I allow my children to watch and read, so my goal has always been to read books before they do so I know what's in them. I did well for awhile, but there is no way I can keep up with the amount of time they spend reading now. However, that is why I started my blog. I wanted a place where I could go to look at the content of the books my kids wanted to read--before they read them. I wanted to know if there was profanity or violence or "intimacy" in the book before I handed it to them, and I couldn't find that place. That is why I started my blog! I figured there were probably other moms just like me who didn't have time to preview all the books their kids read, and there needed to be a place where they could go to preview a book without reading it. It wasn't just for my kids, though. I'd want to know for me too. I hate getting into a book and then finding that it is riddled with profanity or that it has "intimacy" scenes that are way too detailed and graphic. So that is why I review all sorts of books for all ages. I want my blog to be a place where every reader (or her parents) may come and find content info. on the books she would like to read. If you'd like me to preview a specific book just let me know! If you have any comments or suggestions, I'm always open to improving! Happy Reading!

~Monica :)

Thursday, August 4, 2016

The Fifth Avenue Artists Society



The Fifth Avenue Artists Society by Joy Callaway

Blurb:

"The Bronx, 1891, Virginia Loftin, the boldest of four artistic sisters in a family living in genteel poverty, knows what she wants most: to become a celebrated novelist despite her gender, and to marry Charlie, the boy next door and her first love. When Charlie proposes instead to a woman from a wealthy family, Ginny is devastated; shutting out her family, she holes up and turns their story into fiction, obsessively rewriting a better ending. Though she works with newfound intensity, literary success eludes her--until she attends a salon hosted in her brother's writer friend John Hopper's Fifth Avenue mansion. Among painters, musicians, actors, and writers, Ginny returns to herself, even blooming under the handsome, enigmatic John's increasingly romantic attentions. Just as she and her siblings have become swept up in the society, though, Charlie throws himself back into her path, and Ginny learns that the salon's bright lights may be obscuring some dark shadows. Torn between two worlds that aren't quite as she'd imagined them, Ginny will realize how high the stakes are for her family, her writing, and her chance at love."

My Review:

This book is a SheReads.org book of Summer! When I first started this book it reminded me so much of one of my all-time favorites: Little Women. It was very reminiscent with the setting, the sisters, and the feelings. I really like Ms. Callaway's writing style because it is a style that is very close to the style of classic literature. Not quite, but very close considering today's literature styles. It reminded me of all those classic books I read growing up. The characters are well developed, realistic, and they feel like your next door neighbors. At least at the beginning of the book. I liked that the characters had trial in their lives; life wasn't perfect. They struggled, but they always found a way to make it through. I especially liked Ginny's voice in the book. I liked her determination to improve her skills. However, about three quarters of the way through the book, the story took a turn that I did not like. Maybe it was realistic for the time period (?), but I was not a fan. The last quarter of the book had a different feeling, it got a lot darker, and it seemed way too out there for me. I was so disappointed. It wasn't awful, and maybe it was because of the sentimental feelings I had experienced at the beginning, but I just didn't love the last quarter of the book.

There was some profanity in this book, but not a ton. There wasn't any "intimacy," but there were a few instances where it almost went that far. There is some violence with a suicide attempt and the death of a couple of characters. There is also some drug use.

Rating: R (This book is not appropriate for younger readers. There is some profanity, some almost-"intimacy" scenes, a suicide attempt, a couple of character deaths, and some drug use. The end theme is very dark.)

Recommendation: Adult

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.