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Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Things We Wish Were True

The Things We Wish Were True by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen


"From the outside, Sycamore Glen, North Carolina, might look like the perfect all-American neighborhood. But behind the white picket fences lies a web of secrets that reach from house to house. Up and down the streets, neighbors quietly bear the weight of their own pasts--until an accident at the community pool upsets the delicate equilibrium. And when tragic circumstances compel a woman to return to Sycamore Glen after years of self-imposed banishment, the tangle of the neighbors' intertwined lives begins to unravel. During the course of a sweltering summer, long-buried secrets are revealed, and the neighbors learn that it's impossible to really know those closest to us. But is it impossible to love and forgive them?"

My Review:

I was excited to read this book because Marybeth Whalen is one of the amazing SheReads.org ladies! Let me tell you, this book did not disappoint! You know when you're sitting at the neighborhood pool or park over the summer with your friends and you get all the neighborly gossip? Well, this book brings that juicy gossip to life. Overall, this book is well written. There are a lot of characters, and it took me a minute to figure out who they all were, but once you get them all straight it's not too bad. The time changes from present to past events, and it's usually fairly easy to figure out in what time period you're reading. Even though there are a lot of characters, they are very well developed. Each character has his or her own personality and place in the neighborhood, and Marybeth does a great job of bringing them to life on the page. You seriously feel like this is your neighborhood and you are sitting right there with all the characters at the pool. Cailey is a cute character. She is well written and usually easy to like. Zell is an interesting character. She seems like the mom of the neighborhood. She is older and her kids have moved out, but she isn't ready to stop taking care of little ones, so she likes taking care of everyone in the neighborhood. There is a little bit of mystery surrounding her, though, and it makes you wonder what happened. Bryte seems like a fun young mom. These are just a few of the characters that I liked in the story. The book may seem simple on the surface, but there are many facets and layers to the story, and as each one unravels, more of the truth is revealed. There are quite a few twists and turns in this book that keep you turning the pages. And no, I could not put it down! My children may have been a little bit ignored as I read this book; oops! 

Rating: R (There's some profanity in this book, but not a whole lot. There is "intimacy." There are innuendos, talk about it, and it does happen, but the scenes are not detailed at all-pretty much you know it happens and that's all. There's no violence. I rated it higher because there are adult themes in the book that I don't think are appropriate for younger readers.)

Recommendation: Adult (May be ok for 18+)

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

Monday, October 24, 2016

Mysteries of Cove: Gears of Revolution (Book 2)

Mysteries of Cove: Gears of Revolution by J. Scott Savage


"After finding a compass and clues left by Kallista's father, Leo Babbage, Trenton and Kalista head west aboard their homemade mechanical dragon to search for the missing inventor. The teenagers hope to find answers about their mountain city of Cove, but instead, they find only a blackened forest, ruined buildings, and a small underground city. Almost immediately, Trenton and Kallista are caught up in a civil war between a clan of scavengers called Whipjacks and the Order of the Beast, people who believe that dragons are immortal and divine. Stranded in a new city, the two friends meet Plucky, a Whipjack girl with mechanical legs, and Ander, a young member of the Order who claims humans are able to communicate with dragons. Can they trust anyone, or have they unknowingly stepped into a trap? And high above in the sky, the dragons are gathering..."

My Review:

I enjoyed the first book in this series, Mysteries of Cove: Fires of Invention, so I was excited to read this second book. It did not disappoint! Trenton and Kallista may have been the same, there was that same feeling of searching for answers, and yes, the mechanical dragon is there too, but other than that, this book is very different from the first one. I liked that we really got to know Trenton in this book. We get to see his strengths, weaknesses, successes, and failures, and we get to see him using his creative/mechanical abilities. There are a few new characters in this book that we get to know quite well. Plucky, Ander, and Cochrane are a few of the new characters. These new characters definitely have different names! There is a lot of tension in this book because Trenton and Kallista are constantly wondering who they can trust, and they're somewhat at odds with each other as well. There are some surprises in this book that totally threw me off, and then there were parts that were a bit predictable. I loved it when Trenton and Kallista were able to fly the mechanical dragon together. What a neat thing for them to be able to experience. Too bad there's not a "Build a Mechanical Dragon That Flies" kit I could purchase my boys for Christmas! Overall, this book is well written. There were a few parts that I saw as a little superficial, and a couple of places that I didn't think fit well, but other than that this book is well done. The characters are done well and the story is exciting and full of action. I didn't love the place where they found themselves, I thought it was a bit off, but having been through some tough times I'll give it some leeway. I did enjoy the book and would recommend it, especially if you enjoyed the first book.

This book is clean, thank goodness! There isn't any profanity and there isn't any "intimacy" at all. There is some violence though. The people are attacked by dragons and at least one character dies.

Rating: PG (There isn't any profanity or "intimacy." There is a little more violence in this book, but it is not too bad. The dragons attack and at least one character dies.

Recommendation: Third grade and up.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Fablehaven Book of Imagination

Fablehaven Book of Imagination by Brandon Mull


"Unlike the other Fablehaven books, this one is only half-finished....The missing ingredient is you! Begin by writing your name in the space provided on the front cover. Then get ready to write, draw, solve, and create, guided by the many activities inside!...The secret world of enchanted preserves is waiting for you to jump in--just make sure to avoid any deep pools filled with naiads!"

My Review:

WARNING!! This book may cause fighting, tugs of war, and hair pulling between siblings (don't ask me how I know this...) I took this book out of the envelope and I immediately had all four of my children surrounding me, pulling at the book, yelling in my ears that they should get it first, and trying to open the pages to see what was there. Yeah, you'll definitely need one per child if you want to avoid similar situations in your house! This is such a fun idea! In the electronic age it's so great to give children another option, and a fun one at that! They already love the Fablehaven characters and creatures, so to be able to use those as a basis for some creativity is genius!! The kids (or you...) get to draw their own magical preserve, create a codename, draw a dragon's head, make a potion, bake a dessert, make a rain stick, write secret messages in wax, make ogre stew, make a magical web, and make a unicorn horn, just to name a few! So fun, right? And I LOVE the quotes throughout this book! One of my favorites is: 

I also loved the quotes from the characters in the books! One of my favorites is Seth's quote:

Right? If dragons were cute little fluffy things we'd be totally disappointed. This book is so much fun! I had to safeguard it until I wrote my review, but now I'm sure the book will be fought over and thoroughly enjoyed by all my children, including the 15 and 13-year-old boys (Shhh!!! Don't tell them I said that...) It's lots of fun and Fablehaven lovers will definitely enjoy it!!

Rating: G (Clean!!)

Recommendation: Everyone, especially Fablehaven fans!!

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

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Sheriffs of Savage Wells

The Sheriffs of Savage Wells by Sarah M. Eden


"The small town of Savage Wells is barely big enough for the people who call it home; it certainly isn't big enough for more than one sheriff. Yet when famed lawman Cade O'Brien rides into town, he finds he's not the only man ready to take on the job. What's more, one of his competitors is a woman. Paisley Bell loves her town and the eccentric people in it. She's been the acting sheriff for months and isn't too keen on relinquishing the job to anyone else. Not only does she love the work, but she also needs the income to take care of her ailing father. It's a true battle of the sexes, and sparks fly between the two as Cade and Paisley banter and boast, neither one ready to acknowledge the attraction they have for each other. But when Paisley's former beau shows up, along with a band of bank robbers, Savage Wells is suddenly faced with the kind of peril that only a sheriff can manage. Who will be man enough-or woman enough-to step up, claim the badge, and save the town?"

My Review:

This is a proper romance, and it definitely lives up to that name! It is predictable, sweet, fun, and a bit cheesy; all of which make for a great love story. You know from the get-go who the main players are and where it will all go, but that doesn't mean that the journey is any less enjoyable. The characters are fun and mostly well developed. The banter between the two main characters is sweet and definitely cheesy, but that's what we love in a romance, right? There are enough other facets to the story that there are a few surprises here and there, and they add a different depth to the book. My grandpa had dementia, so I know how difficult it can be to care for those suffering from it. Reading about Paisley's father brought back memories of my grandpa. I liked that Paisley was a strong female character. I liked that she wasn't perfect, she had her hard moments and her shortfalls, but overall she was determined, strong, and usually a likable character. I liked the eccentricities in the town, like the Ribbon Emporium in the jailhouse. Those things definitely made me want to visit there. Overall, this is a sweet love story that draws you in, and I love that it's clean! There are a few typos, but I do have the Advanced Readers Copy, so those may be fixed in the actual published edition.

Rating: PG-13 (There isn't any profanity-thank you!- or "intimacy" besides some kissing. There is some violence-it was the wild, wild west remember- with shoot-outs and a character dies.)

Recommendation: I'd say it would be ok for a YA (13+) reader or older. Girls will definitely like this more than boys will.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016



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


"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


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!