What is your reading goal this year?

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Then The Witches Multiplied

Then The Witches Multiplied by Edita Birschbach

Blurb (from goodreads.com):

"I didn't know what heartbreak meant until he decided to make me one of his girlfriends. He introduced me to such agony that I thought I would never laugh again. I never should have gotten close to somebody like him.

I was too naive, too sheltered by my family, my friends and the regime. The Communist Party wouldn't acknowledge the existence of anything paranormal, and so for decades the witches were allowed to breed without restriction. Even if our leaders had known that the witch males had been coming out of hiding, they wouldn't have told us. The omnipotent Party honchos treated us like children, keeping us in blissful ignorance and scaring us with the specter of capitalist monsters. But they didn't know that the times were quietly changing."

My Review:

The beginning of this book was very intriguing. I liked the descriptions of life in Czechoslovakia, and the descriptions of the witches definitely kept me reading. The first person voice of the main character was well done and I liked her. I found her experiences interesting and the character development was very good. I especially liked her friends, Zita, Zlata, Sysel, and the Pavels. I loved that there were three Pavels, and they were only known by their last initial. Her experiences with the Brontosaurs were sometimes humorous and sometimes frustrating, like when she and Zlata just rode off on their bikes to the camp and their parents didn't know where they were or what they were doing. Her experience with the witch in the graveyard was kind of creepy, but it hooked me. I couldn't wait to learn more about these witches and what they do. Then when she meets a certain someone, the story goes downhill. She gets into this abusive relationship, and yet even though she knows what it is doing to her, she won't give it up. This is also when the profanity and "intimacy" begin. The ending disappointed me. It just ended, and I didn't feel like the plot had really progressed; I didn't learn anything about the witches, and the main character was left in a bad situation. Maybe there is a planned sequel, but I felt that with the title "Then the Witches Multiplied," I should have seen at least a little more of the witches. They definitely didn't multiply in this book. I was left feeling let down and a little confused. Bummer. It started out so well!

Rating: R (Profanity and a lot of "intimacy," with an abusive relationship)

Recommendation: Adult

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

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Secret Life of Bees

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd


"Set in South Carolina in 1964, The Secret Life of Bees tells the story of Lily Owens, whose life has been shaped around the blurred memory of the afternoon her mother was killed. When Lily's fierce-hearted black "stand-in mother," Rosaleen, insults three of the deepest racists in town, Lily decides to spring them both free. They escape to Tiburon, South Carolina--a town that holds the secret to her mother's past. Taken in by an eccentric trio of black beekeeping sisters, Lily is introduced to their mesmerizing world of bees and honey, and the Black Madonna." 

My Review:

I love this book!!!! It has some kind of a hold on me, it's strange, but I love it! I love the writing. Sue Monk Kidd is an excellent writer. I love the detail, the description, the characters, the plot, the feeling, everything.....except the language. The first 50 pages have A LOT of language in them. After that it isn't too bad; there are a few words here and there. If you want to read it but don't want to read the first 50 pages then call me and I'll tell you what happens. Or, the summary above sums it up pretty well. I love how true to life it seems, even though it happened many years before I was born. I love the conflict in each of the characters. The character development is excellent. Each of the women feel like your best friend or next door neighbor. I also enjoyed watching the growth that each of the characters made over the course of the book. The symbolism with the bees is a wonderful addition that adds depth to the story. I just really love this book. Okay, I hope you don't get your expectations too high now, but it's really good.

Rating: R (Remember....this rating does not follow the actual movie ratings...it's just my method of saying it is not appropriate for younger readers.) There is A LOT of language in the first 50 pages and I wouldn't recommend it to someone who doesn't want to read a lot of language, and it is not appropriate for children or early teens. Language, some racial conflict, and death.

Recommendation: I would recommend it (with the warning above) to 18+ years. I definitely recommend it, even if you need to skip the first 50 pages!

*This review was first published on 2/23/10

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Gift From The Sea

Gift From The Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh


"In this inimitable, beloved classic--graceful, lucid and lyrical--Anne Morrow Lindbergh shares her meditations on youth and age; love and marriage; peace, solitude and contentment as she set them down during a brief vacation by the sea. Drawing inspiration from the shells on the shore, Lindbergh's musings on the shape of a woman's life bring new understanding to both men and women at any stage of life. A mother of five, an acclaimed writer and a pioneering aviator, Lindbergh casts an unsentimental eye on the trappings of modernity that threaten to overwhelm us: the time-saving gadgets that complicate rather than simplify, the multiple commitments that take us from our families. And by recording her thoughts during a brief escape from everyday demands, she helps readers find a space for contemplation and creativity within their own lives. With great wisdom and insight Lindbergh describes the shifting shapes of relationships and marriage, presenting a vision of life as it is lived in an enduring and evolving partnership. A groundbreaking, best-selling work when it was originally published in 1955, Gift from the Sea continues to be discovered by new generations of readers."

I haven't ever read a book quite like this. It's been around for a long time, and I had never even heard of it until my book group decided to read it this month. It's a fast, easy read, but the implications of it are not an easy fix. It's funny because she wrote this a long time ago, yet it rings true today; probably even more than it did then. Ms. Lindbergh was able to take a two week vacation, away from her husband and children, to write this book. She recommends it to every woman. Yeah, right! There is no way I could just up and spend two weeks by myself on the ocean shore without my family. It's hard enough to find time to spend on a family vacation. So, some of her advice is great, but not very practical. Of course it's easy to figure things out when you have that much time all by yourself with none of the demands of children or husband calling your name every few minutes! I'm sure I could figure out lots of things if that were the case; however, a lot of the advice she gives is actually really good. She says that we women need to simplify our lives. We need to get rid of distractions and find ourselves. I agree with her. Yes, we do! But how do we do that today? It's something every woman needs to find for herself, there is no magical wand. She says we need to make ourselves a priority, which we probably do. Unfortunately, that is difficult because so many things seem to be more pressing than time for me. I enjoyed her descriptions of the shells and how she related them to different times in a woman's life. I liked a lot of what she said. The problem was, she never really said how to accomplish it, or if she accomplished it when she arrived home to her husband and five children. If nothing else, it was a good reminder to try and take some time for myself once in awhile, and try to simplify as much as possible. Also, it was a great reminder to live in the now; to enjoy life as it is today and not just bide my time until that "someday" happens. Life isn't about the destination, it's about the journey, right? Sometimes that is hard to remember. Even though the answers are not clean, I would recommend this book to every mother. It won't solve all your problems, but it's a nice break from the busy-ness of life and motherhood, and it might help you at least get the thought process started on how to achieve simplification and enjoy life today.

Rating: PG-13+ (There isn't any profanity or violence, but there is talk of "intimacy" in the marriage relationship. It's not graphic or detailed, but it is discussed because it is an important part of a marriage.)

Recommendation: Adult (It is written for adult women, and I think they will enjoy it most)

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Shadow Throne (Book #3 of the Ascendance Trilogy)

The Shadow Throne (Book #3 of the Ascendance Trilogy)
by Jennifer Nielsen


War has come to Carthya. It knocks at every door and window in the land. And when Jaron learns that King Vargan of Avenia has kidnapped Imogen in a plot to bring Carthya to its knees, Jaron knows it is up to him to embark on a daring rescue mission. But everything that can go wrong does. His friends are flung far and wide across Carthya and its neighboring lands. In a last-ditch effort to stave off what looks to be a devastating loss for the kingdom, Jaron undertakes what may be his last journey to save everything and everyone he loves. But even with his lightning-quick wit, Jaron cannot forestall the terrible danger that descends on him and his country. Along the way, will he lose what matters most? And in the end, who will sit on Carthya's throne?

My Review:

I like Jaron, but boy does he drive me crazy! I think we are 100% opposite from each other! I do not like taking risks, I'm not witty, and hopefully I'm not as crazy as he is (My kids might disagree with me on that one). Just like always, Jaron is crazy and makes rash decisions that affect those around him. Besides Jaron driving me crazy, I have really enjoyed this series. The characters are fun and interesting, the plot is full of surprises and unknowns, and it's full of action and adventure. This is a great last book. There were a few surprises that I did not like, though. It was funny because my 11 year-old and 13 year-old sons read this book before I got to it, and they kept telling about these twists that they didn't expect or like. I thought they were being dramatic! And then when I got to those parts I would plead with them to tell me that those things didn't really just happen. Yeah, maybe I'm the dramatic one? Some of those surprises ended up being ok, but others did not. There's a hint of mystery in this book, which adds a fun dimension. I thought the plot progressed well, the characters grew and developed, and it all ended up as it should have. It may have ended up too nicely tied with a bow, but it's a middle-grader book, and I loved it anyway. Middle-graders still need a good tied-with -a-bow ending sometimes, and honestly, so do I. So it was good. If you like the first two books in this series then you definitely need to read this one!

They are fighting a war, so it is violent in some places. People die, including a few main characters. There are descriptions of the fighting that are a little graphic. There is no profanity or "intimacy" (yay!).

Rating: PG+ (There is no profanity or "intimacy," but there is some violence as they fight in the war, and people die, including a few main characters.)

Recommendation: 4th grade and up. This is a great middle-grader read. It would make a fun read-aloud as well.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Vanishing Ink

Vanishing Ink by Scott Wiser


"Von Gold would still be a famous magician if he hadn't been dishonest. Now he has no money and will soon be kicked out onto the street, and maybe out of town! But something is about to change his life forever. He is beginning to notice strange disappearances happening all around him. What he doesn't know is the whole world is about to disappear. And he'll be the one who has to stop it--along with the help of his friends, if he still has any...."

My Review:

Full disclosure: Although I do not know the author, Scott, I do know his mother. She was excited to tell me about this book, and it sounded so good that I needed to read it! I promise that this in no way changes my review. 

As you know, I have read dozens of books written by first-time, self published authors. Some of them have been very good, but most are mediocre. Most of them are ebooks, and if they are in print then the covers are cheesy and uninviting. The editing is usually poor, and it leaves the reader feeling completely let down. Now let me get to this book. It started as a Kickstarter project, and he raised enough money to publish it in print. Yay! Great start! Now, when you look at this book, you would not know that it is self published. It is beautiful. It's hard-bound, which is awesome, but to make it even better, the book jacket and cover have an amazing illustration on them. There's even texture on on the book jacket. It looks more professional than most professionally published books. It's great. The story is fun and unique, and comes to life on the pages. The characters are well developed and add so much to the story. Von Gold is a washed-up magician who has no ambition whatsoever. He learned a difficult lesson, and can't figure out a way to move on. Max is a great sidekick. I love that kid. I love his creativity, ambition, and positive attitude. Lucy is so sweet, and you can tell that she loves Max. You know that she has this fight going on in her head about what to do with, and how she feels about, Von Gold. The Mayor and Franz make great antagonists. The creativity in this story just goes on and on. There are some very good lessons taught in this book as well: honesty, integrity, a good work ethic, and love are just a few. The illustrations are amazing, and there are many of them. I thought it all came together well in the end, and it was a great story.

There are, unfortunately, some editing mistakes in this book. A few places in the story are kind of hard to follow, and the language in the book doesn't make you feel like you're in the 1930's. Something that was hard for me to grasp was the relics. They are supposed to be five feet tall. Well, I'm only 5' 2", so that would be very hard for me to hold and handle. I don't know how heavy they were, but they seem like they would be quite heavy. It doesn't seem like the characters would just be able to "whip" them around, as is stated in the book. I'm kind of nitpicking, because the story is fantasy, but there were a few times that crossed my mind. 

This book is clean, which makes me so happy! There was one little spot where it looks like some men might harm a woman, but nothing happens, so it's all good. Yay for no profanity, no "intimacy" (except maybe a kiss or two), and no real violence. Thank you! I love a good, clean story! Overall, I enjoyed the story and do recommend it.

Rating: PG (No profanity or "intimacy," and no violence.)

Recommendation: 3rd to 4th grade (4th grade might understand it a little more) and up. It's a great middle-grader read! This would make a great read-aloud too!

Monday, March 9, 2015


Silence by Deborah Lytton


"Stella was born to sing. Someday Broadway. Even though she's only a sophomore at a new high school, her voice has given her the status as a "cool kid." But then a tragic accident renders her deaf. She can't hear herself sing not to mention speak. She can't hear anything. Silence What happens when everything you've dreamed of and hoped for is shattered in a single moment? Enter Hayden, the boy with blond curls who stutters. He's treated like an outcast because he's not "normal." And, yet, Stella feels an attraction to him that she can't explain. As Hayden reaches out to help Stella discover a world without sound, his own tragic past warns him to keep a distance. But their connection is undeniable. Can the boy who stutters and the girl who's deaf ever find a happily-ever-after? Silence is a story of friendship and hope with a lesson that sometimes a tragedy can help us find beauty and love in unexpected places."

My Review:

I enjoyed this book! I was a little annoyed at the beginning because Ms. Lytton's writing style is very different. She uses a. lot. of. short. sentences. A lot. Many of the sentences are not actually sentences, but fragments of sentences. It was annoying at first, but then as I got into the story I didn't notice it as much. The characters in this book are well developed. They are high school students, so there is some "high school" talk, but a lot of it is actually quite insightful. Both Stella and Hayden experience a lot of growth and learning about themselves and each other in this book. They learn to trust, to hope, and to let go of preconceived notions. They learn to look at the world differently. I love the messages in this book. I love the lesson of not letting your experiences defeat you, but learning and growing from them. One thing that was a little difficult for me to get past sometimes was their age. Stella is only 15, and Hayden is only 17. Many of us adults know that "teenage love" is very different from a long, lasting, forever relationship. I'm not saying it's impossible, but many teens think it is, and later find out that it is not. So, it would be interesting to read a sequel to this book and see what happens to them in the future. I think just a few years older would have made their insights and depth more believable in some parts. I did like that their relationship started as a friendship and grew from there. I don't want my kids to be that involved in high school, but I know it happens. I want them focusing on learning and preparing for college, and going on dates with lots of friends. However, I did enjoy the story. I finished it in a weekend, and couldn't put it down at the end. It was a little predictable, but such a sweet love story. 

Another great thing about this book is that it is clean! Yes! Thank you! There is no profanity and no "intimacy." There might be a few stolen kisses, but it doesn't go more than that. They both actually attend church and pray occasionally, so there is a little bit of a religious theme. There is some domestic violence and abuse, and it's hard to read. The abuse is bad, but it involves hitting, cutting, hurting, and broken bones. There isn't any sexual abuse. There are only a few times that it goes more in depth with it, the other times you know it's there but don't know the details. 

Rating: PG 13 (Domestic violence and abuse involving hitting, cutting, hurting, and broken bones.)

Recommendation: 13 and up. It is YA approved. (I have a 13 year-old son, and I am ok with him reading this. I will be discussing it with him, though. I think it will be a good opportunity to talk about abuse and the horrible consequences it has. I will not allow my 11 year-old son to read it quite yet.)

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

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Magician's Lie

The Magician's Lie by Greer MacAllister


"The Amazing Arden is the most famous female illusionist of her day, renowned for her incredible trick of sawing a man in half onstage. One night in Waterloo, Iowa, with young policeman Virgil Holt watching from the audience, she swaps her trademark saw for a fire ax. Is it a new version of the illusion, or an all-too-real murder? When Arden's husband is found lifeless beneath the stage later that night, the answer seems clear. But when Virgil happens upon the fleeing magician and takes her into custody, she has a very different story to tell.  Even handcuffed and alone, Arden is far from powerless--and what she reveals is as unbelievable as it is spellbinding. Over the course of one eerie night, the magician will need to pull off one final act--this time with her life at stake."

My Review:

This book is definitely captivating. It drew me in from the beginning, and I was hooked. It is well written with descriptive language and great character development. I thought Arden, Clyde, Adelaide, and Ray were especially well done. They came to life on the page. You could feel Arden's excitement while on stage, and you could feel her hesitations and fears. For a lot of the book Clyde seems a bit mysterious, and I think that was done purposefully. Can you trust him? What are his intentions and motives? Even though he's a bit mysterious, he is still well developed. Ray is.......well.....I'll let you figure that one out, but let's just say that I don't like him and his character is developed a little too well for me......I loved Adelaide's character even though she isn't in the entire book. I loved how she brought Arden down to earth, and was motherly yet not. She grounded Arden, and I liked that. Virgil was an interesting character. You don't know much about him at the beginning, yet he's a likable character and you can tell that there is something he wants from all of this. His motives become a little more clear as you're reading. The story flows well and is easy to understand. It's intriguing, and I couldn't put it down. It's interesting because the whole time I was reading I was wondering if the entire story was a lie or if it was the truth. That's one of the reasons I had to keep reading; I had to know what really happened!

This book has some profanity in it, although not much. There is a lot of domestic violence and abuse in this book, and it is difficult and uncomfortable to read. There is a murder. There is also a scene where many people die a horrific death, and that scene is actually based on a real event. It's bad. The other thing that this book contains is a lot of "intimacy." There is one scene in particular....I haven't read a scene like that in a long time. It is very detailed and passionate, let's just say that. So be prepared. I thought it was definitely too much. One other silly thing that bugged me was the cover. If you look at it, it doesn't work. The hand that is holding the bird can't be the lady wearing the dress, it doesn't work. Silly, I know. With the exception of a few of those previously mentioned scenes, I really enjoyed the book and the story line. It would have been really good had those things been toned done a bit.

Rating: R (Not appropriate for younger viewers!! Domestic violence, murder, many people die a horrific death, and a lot of detailed "intimacy.")

Recommendation: Adult

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