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Monday, June 26, 2017

Quotes


How many times have you stayed up late to finish a book?
Me? Too many times to count, but still not enough. :)

Monday, June 12, 2017

Nic of Time (Phoenix Cycle Series Book #3)



Nic of Time
(Phoenix Cycle Series Book #3)
by
Mark Minson


Blurb (from amazon.com):

"After leaving Will to pursue the removal of Paul from The Council of Magic, Nicole finds the tables have turned. When she finally returns to Will's house, he has disappeared leaving her a mystery to unravel. 

Meanwhile, Kyle, Will and Leroy find themselves neck-deep in the ongoing war with MAIM. 

Can any of them survive long enough to prevail?

The thrilling conclusion of the Phoenix Cycle Series!"

My Review:

First a little disclosure: for those of you who may not remember my reviews of book #1 and book #2, Mark and I are friends. We've been friends since high school, and in fact, had creative writing together. If you want dirt on Mark, I'm sure I can think of something (On the flip side, I guess that means he could probably find some on me :). Anyway, he knows I'll be just as honest with his book as I always am, so no worries there. I have enjoyed this series from the start. The magic is fun and entertaining, the characters are interesting and well developed, and the story is full of action, adventure, and magic! The concept of the magic in this series is different from other fantasy books, and I've enjoyed Mark's take on it. I especially liked learning how Will came up with and made the spells in the last book. There's not as much of that in this book, unfortunately. Other things do make up for it though. I loved how this book combined the two story lines and brought it all together. I read the first book quite awhile ago, so it did take me a minute to remember who those characters were and how they fit in, but it wasn't a big deal. The characters get better with every book, and it's fun to see how they grow and evolve as the story continues. Mark's writing has also gotten better; however, I have to say that his grammar has not. There are a lot of grammatical errors. That particular problem is easily fixed though. I think I need to learn a few of the spells for myself (The travel spell in particular, would be awesome.) The characters worked well together, the ending was great, and I thought it all came together well. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and the series. I definitely recommend it. This series would be perfect for summer!

Rating: PG+ (There isn't any profanity or "intimacy" in this book, but there might be a kiss or two. There is quite a bit of violence, and several people die. It's a magic war, so there are casualties. It's not overly graphic in describing those scenes though.)

Recommendation: 5th grade (10-11 years old) and up. I kept it at this level because even though it is somewhat violent, it isn't any worse than Harry Potter, and most kids have read that by 5th grade.

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


Friday, June 9, 2017

A Bridge Across the Ocean



A Bridge Across the Ocean
by
Susan Meissner

Blurb:

"February 1946. World War II is over, but the recovery from the most intimate of its horrors has only just begun for Annaliese Lange, a German ballerina desperate to escape her past, and Simone Devereux, the wronged daughter of a French Resistance spy. Now the two women are joining hundreds of other European war brides aboard the renowned RMS Queen Mary to cross the Atlantic and be reunited with their American husbands. Their new lives in the United States brightly beckon until their tightly held secrets are laid bare in their shared stateroom. When the voyage ends at New York Harbor, only one of them will disembark...

Present Day. Facing a crossroads in her own life, Brette Caslake visits the famously haunted Queen Mary at the request of an old friend. What she finds will set her on a course to solve a seventy-year-old tragedy that will draw her into the heartaches and triumphs of the courageous war brides--and will ultimately lead her to reconsider what she has to sacrifice to achieve her own deepest longings."

My Review:

I have heard about the Queen Mary, but I did not know that it transported troops during WWII and their war brides after the war. I can't imagine what it must have felt like for those brides to see the Statue of Liberty and the New York skyline come into view. Some of them hadn't seen their husbands in a very long time; it must have been quite the reunion! I enjoy historical fiction books that have a connection to present day (Blackberry Winter and The Firebird), and  so I was excited to read this one. Let me say, I had a few hesitations, especially with Brette's character, but I did not need to worry. Even though I didn't fully believe Brette's ability (nope, not really a believer), it didn't matter. I completely got caught up in the story, the characters, and the events that led them together. Each of the women in the story had a completely different story; they came from different places, they were different nationalities, they experienced the war in different ways, they had different family structures, and they had different likes and dislikes. And yet their lives intertwined at this particular moment and place. It was fun to watch their friendships grow, and to get to know each of them better. I felt as if I were on that ship with them. The characters were well developed, realistic, and compelling. Ms. Meissner's writing style is easy to read and understand, although it does take a minute to figure out who is who and where each of them is at that point. There's mystery, friendship, love, war, secrets, tragedy, sacrifice, and hope. I thought it all came together well, and once I started I couldn't stop! The title is well written, and I love the cover picture! I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Rating: R (This book is not appropriate for younger readers. There is a graphic rape scene, a murder, and an abusive relationship. It's war, so there are also war atrocities. There's not any profanity.

Recommendation: Adult

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

Monday, June 5, 2017

Almost Missed You



Almost Missed You
by
Jessica Strawser

Blurb:

"Violet and Finn were 'meant to be,' said everyone, always. They ended up together by the hands of fate aligning things just so. Three years into their marriage, they have a wonderful little boy, and as the three of them embark on their first vacation as a family, Violet can't help thinking that she can't believe her luck. Life is good. So no one is more surprised than she when Finn leaves her at the beach--just packs up the hotel room and disappears. And takes their son with him. Violet is suddenly in her own worst nightmare and faced with the knowledge that the man she's shared her life with, she never really knew at all. Caitlin and Finn are best friends going way back, but when Finn shows up on Caitlin's doorstep with the son whom he's wanted for kidnapping, demands that she hide them from the authorities, and threatens to reveal a secret that could destroy her own family if she doesn't, Caitlin faces an impossible choice. Told through the alternating viewpoints of Violet, Finn, and Caitlin, Jessica Strawser's Almost Missed You is a powerful story of a mother's love, a husband's betrayal, connections that maybe should have been missed, secrets that perhaps shouldn't have been kept, and spaces between what's meant to be and what might have been."

My Review:

Wow! What a ride! This book caught my attention from the beginning, and I couldn't put it down. The writing is well done, the characters come to life on the page, and the story has so many twists and turns that whiplash is real possibility. I liked all of the characters for most of the story; each of them had a moment where past choices and secrets came to the forefront, and in those moments the characters were not all that appealing. However, no one in real life is perfect all the time, so this did allow the characters to be more realistic and easier to relate to. I just had to keep reading to figure out why....Why?? When you get to the why it's hard to believe that someone would choose to go that route rather than the more sane and less criminal one, but I guess desperation will make people act ways that they normally wouldn't. The writing is captivating and engaging. It was a bit difficult at first to figure out who everyone was and the time period they were in, but it got easier as I kept reading. The title of this book is well chosen. As you read the book, the title changes meaning a little bit. It means something different at the end than it did half-way through. I liked that. I ended up really liking this book, but I didn't love, love the ending. It was realistic, but not what I had hoped. 

Rating: R (This book is not appropriate for younger readers. There are several "f" words and adult themes. Intimacy is discussed. There isn't any violence except for a car accident.)  

Recommendation: Adult

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



Thursday, June 1, 2017

The Dark Talent (Book #5 in Alcatraz vs the Evil Librarians)


The Dark Talent
(Alcatraz vs the Evil Librarians: Book #5 )
by
Brandon Sanderson

Blurb:

"For years, the Evil Librarians have managed to keep this book under wraps--but Alcatraz is back at last with an all-new adventure! Alcatraz Smedry has successfully defeated the army of Evil Librarians and saved the kingdom of Mokia. Too bad he managed to break the Smedry Talents in the process. Even worse, his father is trying to enact a scheme that could ruin the world, and his friend Bastille is in a coma. To revive her, Alcatraz must infiltrate the Highbrary--known as the Library of Congress to Hushlanders--the seat of Evil Librarian power. Without his Talent to draw upon, can Alcatraz figure out a way to save Bastille and defeat the Evil Librarians once and for all?"

My Review:

So here it is-the last book! Sad! I always get mixed emotions when I read the last book in a series; I'm excited to see how it ends, but I don't want it to end. This has been such a fun series, and I enjoyed every book. So what did I think about this book? You need to read it! Someone please read it and then email me so we can talk! Did this book answer all my questions? Sadly, no!! What?? I know. Seriously. I'm left hanging. Did Alcatraz end up like he said he would? Sadly, yes. :( Mr. Sanderson (aka Alcatraz) did discover footnotes though, that was awesome. The cover art is great, the story is action-packed and full of surprises, and even though I still had questions, it was a great final book. If you have read the first four, go get on amazon (my affiliate link is at the bottom of the review so it's very convenient to click right now...) and order it right now!! If it's daytime when you read this then the library is also a good option. Just please someone read it and let me know so we can discuss!

Rating: PG+ (This one is rated a little bit higher because a few prominent characters die. It's not overly graphic, but it is a bit more graphic than the other books. There is fighting. There isn't any profanity or "intimacy.")

Recommendation: 3rd grade and up


Monday, May 29, 2017

Summerlost


Summerlost
by
Ally Condie

Blurb:

"It's been a year since the devastating car accident that killed Cedar's father and younger brother, Ben. But now Cedar and what's left of her family are spending the summer in her mother's hometown of Iron Creek and trying to mend their broken pieces. Memories surround Cedar, including strange gifts that begin to appear in the night--the type of small household items her brother Ben used to collect. Until one day a boy named Leo, dressed in costume, rides by on his bike, and everything about Cedar's summer changes. Soon, Cedar not only has a job working at the renowned Summerlost theater festival, but also a growing friendship with Leo that will blossom as they piece together clues about the short and tragic life of one of Iron Creek's most famous residents. Emotionally resonant and rich with understanding, Summerlost is the touching middle grade debut from Ally Condie, the international bestselling author of the Matched series, that explores the strength of family and the transformative power of friendship in the face of tragedy." 

My Review:

I liked Ally Condie's Matched series, so when I saw this book on the shelf at the library I was excited to read it. The characters in this book are very well written, and I fell in love with them. Cedar and Leo are both children, yet they are quite mature for their ages. Cedar has already experienced tragedy in her life, and Leo has a very grown-up goal that he's working towards. They work together well, and I felt like I was the third person in their little group. Cedar's mom and Leo's family are supporting characters, but they added a lot, along with the other employees at the festival. I definitely got caught up in this story. I thought it flowed well, it was well written, the characters were well developed, and the story line was engaging. It was fun to read a story that didn't include fantasy characters or lots of action; it's just a fun book about two children and their summer friendship. They weren't perfect, for sure, but that's what made it so realistic. Both of them tried hard, made mistakes, and tried to right their wrongs. It was fun to watch them grow over the course of the book, and to see how a good friend can mean the world to someone. I enjoyed this book a lot and I definitely recommend it.

Rating: PG (There isn't any profanity, intimacy, or violence in this book. There may be a bully or two, but nothing overly graphic.)

Recommendation: 4th grade and up (It's a great middle-grader read!)




Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Confessions of Young Nero



The Confessions of Young Nero
by
Margaret George

Blurb (Taken from amazon.com):

"The New York Times bestselling and legendary author of Helen of Troy and Elizabeth I now turns her gaze on Emperor Nero, one of the most notorious and misunderstood figures in history.

Built on the backs of those who fell before it, Julius Caesar’s imperial dynasty is only as strong as the next person who seeks to control it. In the Roman Empire no one is safe from the sting of betrayal: man, woman—or child.

As a boy, Nero’s royal heritage becomes a threat to his very life, first when the mad emperor Caligula tries to drown him, then when his great aunt attempts to secure her own son’s inheritance. Faced with shocking acts of treachery, young Nero is dealt a harsh lesson: it is better to be cruel than dead.

While Nero idealizes the artistic and athletic principles of Greece, his very survival rests on his ability to navigate the sea of vipers that is Rome. The most lethal of all is his own mother, a cold-blooded woman whose singular goal is to control the empire. With cunning and poison, the obstacles fall one by one. But as Agrippina’s machinations earn her son a title he is both tempted and terrified to assume, Nero’s determination to escape her thrall will shape him into the man he was fated to become—an Emperor who became legendary.

With impeccable research and captivating prose, The Confessions of Young Nero is the story of a boy’s ruthless ascension to the throne. Detailing his journey from innocent youth to infamous ruler, it is an epic tale of the lengths to which man will go in the ultimate quest for power and survival."

My Review:

I enjoy learning about history, so when I heard about this book about the Roman Emperor Nero I was excited to read it. Learning the history was interesting because I didn't know much about Nero at all, but that's about where my interest ended. In the afterward Ms. George discusses how most of the characters are taken from real life, along with most of the events. She may have fudged dates a little here and there, and I think she added three minor characters, but other than that, the people and events were based on historical records. It was crazy that he was made emperor when he was only 16. Today 16 year-olds can barely start working at fast food restaurants, let alone run the country! Haha! I have a son who will be 16 this fall. Yeah, nope. He's definitely not ready to run a country. :) It was sad how Nero and his young bride had to wed so young, and how neither one of them wanted it. I felt bad for her, especially. Learning about Nero racing chariots and playing the cithera was interesting; however, once the story got into Nero's "intimacy" with many women other than his wife, and then especially the scene with his mother, I was done. This book is definitely not my kind of book. There was way too much "intimacy," in scenes and discussions of, and there was way too much graphic detail. The incest scene was horrible and made me want to vomit. Seriously. I think I could have liked this book without the profanity and the graphic "intimacy" scenes, but it was not meant to be. I did not like this book at all and cannot recommend it.

Rating: R (Is there anything higher than R?) (There is some profanity and minor violence, but the worst part is the "intimacy." There are many scenes, most of them are quite detailed and graphic, and he definitely gets around. His own mother is in one of those scenes. Yeah. Gross.)

Recommendation: Adult

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


Monday, May 22, 2017

An Unseen Angel



An Unseen Angel
by
Alissa Parker

Blurb:

"When Alissa Parker lost her daughter Emilie in the Sandy Hook Elementary mass shooting, she started a life-changing journey to answer soul-searching questions about faith, hope, and healing. As she sought for the peace and comfort that could help mend her broken heart, she learned, step by step, how to open her heart to God's grace and will. One step brought her face to face with the shooter's father, where in a pivotal and poignant meeting, she was given an opportunity to forgive. Another step brought her into the sheltering compassion of her community as family, friends, and even strangers reached out to buoy her up with their shared faith. And several miraculous manifestations of Emilie's continued presence and influence lifted her heart and will validate the faith of every Christian. The story of Alissa and Emilie reminds us that the bonds of love continue beyond this life and that despite tragedy and heartache, we can find strength in our family and our faith."

My Review:

I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I heard about the Sandy Hook mass shooting. I was driving around town running errands; I had the radio on when a breaking news story came on. Immediately I turned the station to my local news station, and listened in shock to the details. I was sobbing as I drove; tears streaming down my face. There had been shootings before, and they were horrible, but this, this was beyond that. This was pure evil. When I had the opportunity to review this book I accepted because I was so drawn to that story. I knew it would be difficult to read, but I wanted to hear Alissa's story. Well, I was correct-this is not an easy book to read. I cried most of the way through it. However, it is well written, touching, and full of faith and hope. Alissa did a very good job of telling the story with all it's ups and downs, and with its hard days and good days. I liked that she was very real in the book. There are darling pictures of Emilie throughout the book, and it just breaks your heart to recall the tragedy of her death. I think the real story in the book is how Alissa and her family were able to heal and find hope after Emilie's passing. I loved that she opening spoke of her faith, and how it may have even wavered, but in the end it brought her comfort and peace. I truly believe that we will see our loved ones again, and that hope helped Alissa through the difficult days. Hearing about the small miracles brought me to tears. Even though this is a heartbreaking story to read, I was glad I did. Alissa and her family are truly an inspiration.

Rating: PG-13+ (Although there isn't an profanity or "intimacy," she does talk about and describe how her daughter was killed during the school shooting.)

Recommendation: 16-17 years old and up. This may even be too much for some 16 year-olds.


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Simplify Supper



Simplify Supper
by
Krista Numbers

Blurb:

"From her grandfather Salvatore Granato's roots in Southern Italy to the legacy of her family's beloved Italian deli in the heart of Salt Lake City, Krista Numbers has a deep-seated love for good food. In Simplify Supper, this busy wife and mother proves that simple can be satisfying as she dishes up dozens of delectable dinners. According to Krista, "Some of the best recipes are a simple combination of fresh and flavorful ingredients made with care and served with love." From a few of her family's best-loved Italian meals to fast feasts with an international flair, discover quick comfort foods you'll want at the heart of your dinner table, such as
-Angel Hair Pasta with Basil Cream Sauce
-Smoked Turkey Panini with Pears and Blue Cheese
-Honey Lime Chicken Enchiladas
-Teriyaki Chicken with Ginger Rice
In addition to her collection of simple and satisfying meals, Krista shares personal anecdotes, sanity-saving kitchen tips, and suggestions for making family dinner a time for good food and good conversation. No matter the occasion, there is a recipe here to help you get a delicious supper on the table, pronto."

My Review:

You have to know that I'm an ok cook. If I have a good recipe I may be able to make a decent meal. I like fast and easy (think grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup), and there can't be any crazy ingredients. I know I won't go out of my way to find one strange ingredient. I'll either not put that ingredient in, or I'll make something different. So I'm definitely in need of simple recipes. These recipes all look delicious. Some of them look simple; some of them don't. Last night for dinner I made the "Easy Philly Cheesesteak Sandwiches." They were actually really good! The recipe wasn't difficult. It was definitely the first time I've gone to the deli counter to ask for sliced roast beef, but it won't be the last! The meat was easy to prepare, and the cream cheese was the perfect touch. It added a lot of creaminess. I will for sure be making them again-even the kiddos liked them! My 13 year-old doesn't like green peppers, but he admitted that "in this particular instance" the green peppers tasted good. Yay! There were lots of dishes that I wanted to try. The sloppy joes looked really good, as did the enchiladas and the different pastas. There are even some delectable desserts. I was a little disappointed that there were a couple of things that if I did them it would definitely make my life less simplified. For example, buying dried pasta in a bag is very simple. Making my own pasta = not simple. Eating my sister-in-law's homemade tamales = simple. Making my own tamales = not simple. I guess it would simplify the ingredients, and for someone who has time and enjoys doing it, go for it! (And then call me-I'll be right over!)  I, however, will not be trying those recipes. Now, the Italian Sodas or the Sopaipillas, yes, I will for sure be trying those! I also enjoyed her little snippets of info. throughout the book. She has advice on hosting, things you need to have in your kitchen, how to plate your dishes, and even a bit of info. on salt. Yep, who knew salt could be interesting? I'm excited to try more of these recipes!

Rating: Clean!

Recommendation: Everyone



Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Vicar's Daughter



The Vicar's Daughter
by
Josi S. Kilpack

Blurb:

"Cassie, the youngest of six daughters in the Wilton family, is bold, bright, and ready to enter society. There's only one problem: her older sister Lenora, whose extreme shyness prevents her from attending many social events. Lenora is now entering her third season, and since their father has decreed that only one Wilton girl can be out at a time, Cassie has no choice except to wait her turn. Evan Glenside, a soft-spoken, East London clerk, has just been named his great-uncle's heir, and though he is eager to learn all that will be required of him, he struggles to feel accepted in a new town and in his new position. A chance meeting between Evan and Lenora promises to change everything, but when Lenora proves too shy to pursue the relationship, Cassie begins to write Mr. Glenside letters in the name of her sister. Her good intentions lead to disaster when Cassie realizes she is falling in love with Evan. But then Evan begins to court Lenora, thinking she is the author of the letters. As secrets are revealed, the hearts of Cassie, Evan, and Lenora are tested. Will the final letter sent by the vicar's daughter be able to reunite the sisters as well as unite Evan with his true love?"

My Review:

This is a fun new addition to the proper romance genre! It is well written, has good character development, and a sweet love story. Although I usually liked Cassie, there were times when I wanted to scream at her; she could definitely be strong willed and had a tendency to make poor choices. Lenora was more complex than you think she will be the first time you meet her, and she could also drive me crazy at times. Evan was a great character. I actually liked him a lot. He wasn't perfect, but he was a gentleman and did his best. I like how he protected his family, and how he felt he had to take care of them. This story was a bit predictable, and cheesy in some parts, but that's what we love about romances, right? I think it ended a little too perfectly, but that doesn't mean I didn't like the ending. :) If you're a Josi Kilpack fan, or if you enjoy the proper romance genre, you will definitely enjoy this book. It was entertaining and was a cute story.

This book is clean! There may be a kiss or two, but the only scandalous thing in the book are a few secret (clean) letters. Boy am I glad times have changed for dating and marriage!

Rating: PG (It's clean!)

Recommendation: YA and up

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