Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Blown Circuit

Title: Blown Circuit (Circuit Series #2)

Author: Lars Guignard

Genre: Spy/Thriller/Mystery

Publisher: Fantastic Press (December 12, 2012)

Buy Links: 

amazon.com:  http://www.amazon.com/Blown-Circuit-Adventure-Thriller-ebook/dp/B00AMRGX2A

amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Blown-Circuit-Adventure-Thriller-ebook/dp/B00AMRGX2A


Synopsis: From the bestselling author of Lethal Circuit comes the long-awaited sequel, BLOWN CIRCUIT. Michael Chase is back. He survived China. Barely. But now he's got bigger problems. He has enemies. Deadly enemies. 

A pair of coordinates broadcast on an obscure frequency have brought Michael to Istanbul, Turkey where credible chatter has emerged that a terrorist group plans to use a devastating device to hold the world hostage. Designed by Nikola Tesla, arguably the greatest inventor of the Twentieth Century, the device is experimental, it is capable, and it has been missing for almost sixty years. If Michael is to prevent a catastrophe, he'll need to get to the device before the Conspiracy or risk upsetting the global balance of power forever. Of course, finding the Tesla Device is one thing, knowing whom he can trust with it is another matter entirely. If Michael is to survive, he'll have to do both. If he doesn't, what started as a bad day is about to become a disaster.

Review: Blown Circuit is a sequel, but it doesn't read like one, in the best way possible. I haven't read the first book, and I found no problems in following the story of Blown Circuit. It works great as a stand alone novel. It's an exciting adventure and while it is not a young adult novel, I feel that teens would enjoy this book as well as adults. There were times, during the action scenes, where it got a little hard to follow, but I think that's just the nature of the beast. It's hard to write clear action scenes; it's much easier to see them. Overall, Blown Circuit is a well-written adventure that many will enjoy reading. 4 Stars. 


Author Bio: Lars Guignard is a former film and television writer and graduate of both McGill University and the American Film Institute in Los Angeles. His bestselling novel, Lethal Circuit, has been a TOP 100 Amazon Spy Thriller since its release. In addition to the Circuit series, Lars is the author of the children’s adventure series, Zoe & Zak and the Ghost Leopard, Zoe & Zak and the Yogi’s Curse and the paranormal mystery series, Brood

Ever since attending high school in the Indian Himalayas, Lars has been an avid backpacker and traveler. He now makes his home in the Pacific Northwest where he is busy completing the third Michael Chase thriller for release in 2013.

For news about new releases, please join his email list here:http://www.larsguignard.com/contact/

He can also be reached at the following places: 
Blog: www.larsguignard.com 
Twitter: @Lars_Gu 
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/LarsGuignardAuthor

I am a book tour host with CMBook Tours: I received a complimentary e-copy of this book for the purposeof review. All opinions are 100% my own.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Broken Bridges

Title: Broken Bridges
Author: Roy Kindelberger
Genre: Children's middle-grade 
Publisher: Black Rose Writing (August 21, 2013)
Buy Links: Black Rose Writing - Amazon 

Synopsis: Twelve-year-old Rey is sent to an old rundown steel town near Pittsburgh, where he has to deal with his aging grandparents, isolated dad, missing mom, bullies, broken bridges, and horseradish sauce. While Rey sits on an airplane bound for Pittsburgh, he clutches a crumpled note. It’s been forty-one days since his mom left—no words since. Rey’s dad is sending him to Pittsburgh for the summer to stay with his grandparents, so his dad can pull his life together. Rey feels so alone. Somehow Rey has to find himself. He’s timid, unsure, yet has to make choices. These choices lead Rey to become more confident, as he makes the transition into his teenage years. Rey arrives in the middle of a heat wave. He quickly runs into trouble with some bullies and is in several difficult situations. Rey hangs out with his friend, Jason and discovers a mentor in his grandfather—bonds which are all put to the test when his grandfather becomes extremely sick and Rey has a final confrontation with the bullies. And then there are his parents. Will things ever return to normal?

Review: Well, I certainly enjoyed the sentiment of Broken Bridges. I found it difficult to read at some points, because the accents of the characters don't flow and sometimes don't make sense. The grandpa is often seen saying "yunz," which I have never read any any book nor ever heard-and I consider myself to be well versed on small town hick. (I grew up in a small town in Utah and spent time in the South, maybe it's something more specific to where Kindelberger grew up. I don't know. It just bothered me.) There are also a great deal of sentence fragments in the story, and not on purpose as style (which I totally get; I do it, too) but just as mistakes. The story itself is rather sitcom-y in parts and has simple typos. I feel like Kindelberger just needs a really good editor to fix the errors and tighten up the novel. I think it would be well worth the cost. But back to the story itself. Broken Bridges is a very touching story with great characters. I think it would be a very relevant read for today's children, as many have divorced parents or other family troubles. This novel would help them to understand that they are not alone in their difficulties. 3 Stars. 

Roy's Headshots 007(1).JPGAuthor Bio: Roy was born near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He loves sharing stories with his children and students. They are always looking out for a story, book, poem, or song that makes a difference in their lives. Roy taught kindergarten for fifteen years. He now teaches second grade. Roy lives with his wife, Laura and two wonderful children, Emily and Hailey in Bothell, Washington. You can reach him at: http://www.roykindelberger.com/ Author Links: WebsiteBlog, and Facebook

I am a book tour host with CMBook Tours: I received a complimentary e-copy of this book for the purpose of review. All opinions are 100% my own.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Pilate's Wife

Antoinette May takes the important tale of Christ and Pontius Pilate and puts a spin on it, telling it from a woman, Claudia, Pilate's wife, via her life story. Pilate's Wife is an intellectual read, but once the story is started, it's hard to stop reading. Truthfully, I'm not very knowledgeable about this time period in history, nor do I buy that this is the "true story" of Christ, but it's an interesting theory. Under the genre of historical fiction, I found it a very interesting read. I recommend it to any who enjoy reading about women in history. 4 Stars. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Kindness of Strangers

Katrina Kittle's The Kindness of Strangers is a touching novel about a widow and her two boys who welcome a third, and troubled, young boy into their home and their lives. The Kindness of Strangers deals with sensitive topics, but is a compelling read. Kittle's style and the story itself remind me a lot of Jodi Picoult. It's one of those books where you don't want to like it, because you don't want to like the terrible things that happen, but you enjoy reading it. It really draws you in. The characters are realistic and really stick with you. I highly recommend this novel to the mature, sophisticated young adult or adult reader. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place

I bought Refuge for a nonfiction class at UVU (same class where I read An Elemental Thing), but it ended up not being read in class, and it took me until now to read it. Refuge is Terry Tempest Williams' female family history told alongside the story of The Great Salt Lake and her migratory birds. 
It was really hard for me to get into the novel. Chapters opened with different numbers, water level, number of birds, etc. Numbers are hard for me to comprehend, so the significance of the numbers at the beginning of each chapter was missed by me. It also felt like things weren't exactly in order, which was hard for me to understand. It was unclear when things were happening in the timeline. I also felt that Refuge has a very narrow demographic as to who would be most drawn to it. I know it's not something I would pick up off a shelf and take home myself. I give it 3 stars.

The Storyteller

The latest Jodi Picoult book, The Storyteller, is not quite a book I would classify as a "Jodi Picoult" book. I'd classify it as a Holocaust novel instead; it is very much unlike all her other works. Picoult tries to make it her own, make it thought provoking, but for me, it's simply a Holocaust novel. The Storyteller is three stories in one, the past, the present, and the allegory. I enjoyed all three aspects, and felt that they could all stand independently, in fact, I would have been fine without the "present" story. Generally, though, I feel that way about all past/present historical fiction novels. 
So, I did like it. The characters were real, imperfectly so. The story was compelling. I enjoyed reading it, couldn't put it down at parts. The questions of the novel, "Can you forgive the unforgivable?" and "Where is the line between justice and mercy?" did not impact me on the level I would have liked them to, nor did I bond with Sage since I feel I would have made different choices. And yet, I am not Jewish. My grandmother was not in a concentration camp. A Nazi Officer has not asked me to forgive him. This isn't a realistic question for me. I would like to think one way, but until you're in the situation yourself, can you really know how you would respond? I'm not sure. 
The Storyteller is not an original novel, but it is a good read. I highly recommend it. 4.5 Stars.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The White Princess

The White Princess is the tale of Elizabeth, the daughter of The White Queen and sister to the Princes in the Tower. At the conclusion of the Cousins' War, when Henry Tudor takes the throne, Henry also takes Elizabeth as his wife. The pair is less than pleased to be wed, but they know it is necessary to unite the houses of York and Lancaster, and it is most necessary for there to be a whole slew of Tudor Princes, else Henry won the war for nothing. Henry struggles to hold the throne, hold the love of England, and gain the love of his wife. Things seem to be going well, but then there is "the boy." The boy who may very well be Prince Richard of York, Elizabeth's brother. The boy with a better claim to the throne then Henry. 

Philippa Gregory is very upfront with the fact that this is fiction about a mystery, and we don't know the truth of the Princes in the Tower or their death. She is only presenting a case of what might have happened, a story strung together by the facts we do know. Loving Gregory's work as I do, I tend to believe her story, that it is possible things could have happened this way. 

As with all historical fiction, we already know how the story ends. There isn't going to be a big twist. Yet The White Princess is still an enjoyable read. It's not my favorite Gregory work because Elizabeth wasn't as complex a character as her mother or grandmother (I also felt the book ended too soon). She is, however, still a unique character. Same as Henry. Both of them are very realistic and make choices I feel to be true to character. Reading The White Princess also helps one understand Henry VIII better because one comes to understand his heritage. I thoroughly enjoyed and recommend this book. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Zoe & Zak and the Yogi's Curse


Title: Zoe & Zak and the Yogi's Curse (Zoe & Zak Adventures #2)
Author: Lars Guignard
Genre: Children /Middle Grade
Published: Fantastic Press (July 23, 2013)
Buy Links: 

Synopsis: Zoe and Zak are back in India. Again. And this time they’re attending Moonstock Himalayan Boarding School, which might seem fun except for the fact that the school is a little strange. Students ride elephants instead of school buses, snarling monkeys work as security guards, and angry parrots monitor the halls. And even when they manage to get used to the wildlife, the food is absolutely terrible.But living with a bunch of other kids their age can be a lot of fun too, or at least it seems that way until Zoe’s roommate goes missing. Following the directions written on a steamy bathroom mirror, Zoe and Zak fly through the clouds on their magic carpet to learn that the two of them have been chosen yet again. This time they’ve been asked to lift the Yogi’s Curse.It’s not going to be easy. Zoe and Zak don’t even know what the Yogi’s Curse is let alone how to lift it, but like it or not, they soon discover that a whole lot of people are depending on them. Now, if they’re going to save the day, they’re going to have to fool the monkey guards, avoid the nasty parrots, and maybe even develop a supernatural ability or two. Because lurking beneath Moonstock is a powerful new enemy. And if Zoe and Zak can’t stop him, nobody can.

Review: Adventure certainly seems to follow Zoe and Zak at their boarding school in India. Their adventures start in Zoe & Zak and the Ghost Leopard, but The Yogi's Curse can be read as an independent read. Guignard gives enough of the back story for their new adventure to make sense without it being a bore to the reader who has read The Ghost Leopard. Overall, I thought it was very imaginative and a fun read. I did have a problem with Guignard's use of the word "coolie" though. When I first read it, I thought, oh, isn't that a derogatory term? So, of course, I turned to Wikipedia:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coolie. I think, and certainly hope, that it is an out-dated term, and Guignard mistakenly used it. I also read Zoe as being a smart girl, she, herself, appears very well-read in The Ghost Leopard, and it seems as though she should know not to use that word, or having heard it, looked it up and learned of its origin. However, "coolie" is only in the first chapter, and there is much more to the book than one word! Aside from that word choice and a few grammatical errors and typos, I very much enjoyed The Yogi's Curse and recommend it to children and adults alike, including as a read-aloud or read-together book for parents and their children.

Author Bio: Prior to writing novels, Lars Guignard wrote for film and television. As a teenager he attended boarding school in the Indian Himalayas and his experiences there provided the inspiration for the Zoe and Zak series which now include: Zoe & Zak and the Ghost Leopard and Zoe & Zak and theYogi's Curse. He now makes his home in the Pacific Northwest where he is busy completing the third Zoe & Zak adventure for release in Fall 2013.For news about new releases, please join his email list here:

He can also be reached at the following places: Blog: http://www.larsguignard.com/contact/ Twitter: @Lars_Gu Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/LarsGuignardAuthor

I am a book tour host with CMBook Tours: I received a complimentary e-copy of  this book for the purpose of review. All opinions are 100% my own.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Zoe & Zak and the Ghost Leopard

Lars Guignard's Zoe & Zak and the Ghost Leopard is an exciting children's book about two sixth graders accompanying their parents on a work trip to India. Zoe is initially on a quest to take a photo to win a contest at school, but Zak's snooping gets them into trouble, which leads them on a crazy adventure. Overall, I enjoyed this book quite a bit. It is a great mid/upper-level juvenile fiction or younger/lower level young adult work. I think it's right on par with Magic Tree House and the Zak Files books. One problem I did have was the lack of editing. There were a few noticeable typos and sentence fragments. Aside from those errors, the story was well thought out, though clearly fantasy and fiction, and the characters were realistic and dynamic. I enjoyed and recommend this book to all ages and as a read-aloud or read-along parent-child book. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Matrix and the Alice Books: An Intertextual Study

Title: The Matrix and the Alice Books
Author: Voicu Mihnea Simandan
Genre: non-fiction / movie studies / literary criticism 

Synopsis: The Matrix and the Alice Books presents aspects of intertextuality in three primary sources: the script of the motion picture The Matrix written by directors Andy and Larry Wachowski, and the books Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll. Intertextuality is a set of relations with other texts, which can include direct quotations, allusions, literary conventions, imitation, parody and unconscious sources amongst others. In The Matrix there are few explicit references to Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. This book by Voicu Mihnea Simandan presents both the explicit references and the less direct ones, giving evidence from primary and secondary sources. In doing so, it makes use of a literary construction developed from Gérard Genette’s structuralist theory of transtextuality as a framework to present how a web of intertextual relationships is clearly formed between the Alice books and The Matrix. 

Review: I enjoyed reading The Matrix and the Alice Books. It was written very much like a thesis and followed thesis structure very well. While it wasn't a super original idea (what is?) it was enjoyable and well researched, as well as something I hadn't really ever thought about. All the terms were well defined and it was very clear how The Matrix and Alice fit together and to read into the intertexual relationship of the children's stories and the movie. Everything was well thought out, ideas were fully developed, and it was well presented. It was easy to read and understand, even without a thorough knowledge of The Matrix or either Alice book. I look forward to reading his upcoming novel: The Buddha Head.  I give The Matrix and the Alice Books 4.5 stars for its genre.  

Author’s Bio: Voicu Mihnea Simandan is a Romanian writer and freelance journalist who was 
born in 1978 in Arad, a small city in Transylvania. He has published short stories, non-fiction, and books for children. He has been calling Thailand home since 2002 and he has been a member of the Bangkok Writers' Guild since 2009 and a member of AP Writers since 2012. He is now teaching Language Arts and Social Studies at an international school in Bangkok. His upcoming debut novel, The Buddha Head, a suspense thriller set in Thailand, is scheduled for publication in late 2013. He loves archery, martial arts and travelling.
Author links: Facebook/ Twitter / Goodreads / Blog / Website
Giveaways: For each tour stop, the author will give to the most engaging commenter an ecopy of The Rage of a New Ancestor, a collection of short stories set in Asia, where Voicu Mihnea Simandan also has one contribution. The author will be awarding a $10 grand prize to a randomly chosen commenter during the course of the tour.For each tour host, the author will give an e-copy of Mr. Cheng’s Silver Coffeepot, an anthology of Asian short stories, where Voicu Mihnea Simandan also has one contribution.

I am a book tour host with CMBook Tours: I received a complimentary e-copy of 
this book for the purpose of review. All opinions are 100% my own.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Guest Post: An Interview with a Vampire


Dante is the brother of one of the main characters, Charlie Cross.  He has a small part in book one of the series, but is a crucial turning point in book two.  Dante has asked if he can interview the author, Judy Serrano. Here’s what he had to say.


Mrs. Serrano, why didn’t you give me a bigger part in Linked? I wanted to be a more important part of Daphne’s life.


Dante, when I write a book, I start with a basic idea. When I sit down at my MacBook, whatever happens is totally the idea of the characters. You were a delightful surprise.


Well that doesn’t make me feel any better. I was the hero. Why didn’t I get the girl?


I understand your frustration. But don’t worry. In book two you will certainly be the star.


Why did you make Charlie a gangster? Was it really necessary to bring organized crime into it?


I am actually pretty familiar with this storyline. Easter’s Lilly, which is the first novel of my last series, is all about the Mafia and its effects on the lives of the innocent. I thought it would be a unique and fun added touch.


I guess I understand. I liked the way my character fit into that scenario. Now, you are the author, so you know all… Does Daphne love me? Sometimes it’s hard to tell.


You and Daphne have a special relationship. Both Charlie and Heathcliff are better for it. You easily became my favorite. That’s all I’m going to say about that.


Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me. I am really excited about book two. Can’t wait to see what happens to me next.


It promises to keep you on your toes. Even you, Dante, will surprise yourself.


Book Info: 


Title: Linked

Author: Judy Serrano

Genre: Suspense/Thriller with a Twist

Synopsis: Daphne Foster is a substitute teacher stuck in an English class, waiting for that dreaded parent-teacher conference. With much preparation and anxiety, she encounters the unforgettable Charlie Cross. His charm and good looks, win her over but rumors of his involvement with organized crime make his continued disappearances disturbing. In walks Heathcliff Vanderpool, creating a love triangle of unusual sorts. Unknown to Daphne, Heathcliff and Charlie are old friends: Older than she could have imagined. With Charlie away on business, Daphne and Heathcliff discover a passion between them lying beneath the surface. As their souls link, pulling away from Charlie becomes next to impossible. Will his involvement in organized crime consume them both before she’s able to get free? When you become “linked,” the choice may not be your own.

Author Bio: Judy Serrano graduated from Texas A&M University, Commerce with a BA in English. She is a member of Romance Writers of America and Dallas Area Romance Authors. She is a substitute teacher at the local school district and writes for various on-line publications. She is the author of Easter's Lilly, Brother Number Three, Relatively Close and Memoirs of a Mobster, which are romantic thrillers and part of The Easter’s Lilly Series.Judy currently resides in Texas with her husband, four children (all boys) and five dogs. She is also a singer/songwriter in her spare time.

Author web links: 

WEBSITE: www.JudySerrano.com

BLOG : www.JudySerranoAuthor.com

TWITTER: http://twitter.com/#!/authorjserrano

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/JudySerranoAuthor?ref=ts

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4792103.Judy_Serrano

Purchase Links:

Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/Judy-Serrano/e/B004YRGTYG/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1360266695&sr=1-2-ent

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/Judy-Serrano?store=allproducts&keyword=Judy+Serrano

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Radio Murders: The Collectors

The Radio Murders: The Collectors by Chuck Collins jumps right into the action from page one. Sometimes this is a great storytelling tactic, but I found it unsavory in The Radio Murders. It was a little hard to follow and I felt lost for a bit. I also found this novel to be a little too adult for my taste: lots of vulgarity in language as well as sex scenes. Aside from that, I found the story enjoyable, yet hard to follow with too many indistinct characters. It was a very tangled web of deceit  mystery and action. It was intriguing, mysterious, and action packed. It ends with a cliffhanger, making the reader want to know what happens next. Unfortunately, this reader won't be finding out. It's an okay book, but not for me. 2 Stars. 

I am a book tour host with CM Book ToursI received a complimentary e-copy of this book for the purpose of review. All opinions are 100% my own.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

An Elemental Thing

I initially read An Elemental Thing by Eliot Weinberger as assigned reading for a non-fiction class in college. It is in a short-story/prose format, with each piece able to stand on its own. I didn't find the reading to be quite poetry, nor do I ever really find myself liking poetry, but it was more like "Interesting Facts Weinberger Knows (and now you do, too)", which was okay by me. It's a fairly easy, semi-quick read, and I liked learning all the random facts. But at the same time, It wasn't especially meaningful. It isn't necessarily a book I'd recommend, but it's not a book I'd stop anyone from reading, and it's not a waste of time. So, three stars. 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Genesis Secret

Tom Knox's Genesis Secret tells the suspenseful yet intelligent tale of reporter Robert Luttrell. Sent on a supposedly simple assignment about the excavation of Gobekli Tepe in Kurdish Turkey, the oldest remains of human civilization and apparent Garden of Eden. Rob is quickly drawn in to the mystery of Gobekli Tepe, why the locals are resisting the dig, and, ultimately, the death of the lead archaeologist. Back in the UK, a string of brutal murders are being committed and investigated by the Scotland Yard, especially Detective Forrester. Eventually, a connection is made and Forrester and Luttrell must work together to discover the Genesis secret and, more importantly, catch the crazed murderer. 

The Genesis Secret  is a fairly intense read, not one you can necessarily read at the beach or with distractions around, especially at the end. I mean, James Joyce is referenced! It's a good book; though slow to start, once it all starts to come together it gets hard to put down. However, it is rather violent and grotesque and the language is, at times, obscene and responsive to the violence. The characters attempt to be real and relatable, but fall short. I was more captivated by the story line and desire to solve the mystery than the fate of the characters. I enjoyed it, but I didn't love it. 3 & 1/2 stars. 

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Ranger's Apprentice: Books 1-3

John Flanagan's Ranger's Apprentice series is a pretty popular one with the middle school set, so of course I had to give it a go. Matthew had the first three in a boxed set (not that he's read them; he said he couldn't get into them) so those are the ones I read. The first one started out kind of slow, but then the adventure starts and keeps going. I think this series would be best for 5th-7th graders who read on at least that reading level. It might be a little boring for a high schooler. The closest thing I can relate them to is the The Underland Chronicles by Suzanne Collins. They're right in between juvenile and young adult, but the language is definitely young adult. That's the one thing that did bug me. It swore quite a bit, much more than I would want Jordyn to read. Matthew, no problem. But not Jordyn. I did like these books, though, and I'll probably read the rest -- I have to know what happens! -- but I can only give them three stars. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Candy Shop War

I've been meaning to read The Candy Shop War for a while now, and finally got to it.  As one might gather from the title, it's about a "war", if you will, between a candy shop and a candy truck, and the kids manipulated by the candy makers into fighting this war. Of course, magic plays a large roll as well. 

The Candy Shop War is a creative idea for a novel and I really enjoyed it.  The characters are realistic and their adventures are exciting.  It's an enjoyable, appropriate book for kids of all ages. Four Stars. 

The Book Without Words

Avi's The Book Without Words is a unique tale about a man who wants to live forever and his journey to do so, while not really being about him at all. So much is about Sybil's internal conflict of using the magic herself. 

It's not an amazing, can't-put-down novel, but The Book Without Words is an easy Juvenile/Young Adult novel that anyone with an interest in a little mystery and magic during medieval times would enjoy. Three and a half stars. 

Watership Down

Goodreads recommended Watership Down to me, and since it was a book Cass brought to the marriage (doesn't that sound funny?), it was convenient to read. It tells the story of a few rabbits who choose to leave their warren because one of them, Fiver, has a premonition that something bad is going to happen. Though his vision isn't clear, he is trusted by a few rabbits. The book is basically about these rabbits and their journey to find, and make, a new home, as well as to bring some female rabbits into their warren so that they can procreate and make their arduous journey worth it. 

Some parts are pretty exciting, but other parts drag on and on.  Adams also uses a lot of made-up rabbit language, which you eventually get used to, but is kind of annoying.  I would have liked Watership Down  a whole lot more if it was about half as long. It was an okay book, but not great by any means. Three stars. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


When you first look at Gail Carson Levine's Fairest, it seems like it's going to be a Snow White tale. While it has elements, it is also a story all of its own. If it wasn't called Fairest, I'm not sure it would even appear to be like Snow White until over halfway through. You see, it's about this girl, Aza, who was abandoned as an infant at the door step of an inn.  Luckily, the innkeeper and his wife took her in and raised her as their own.  Aza lives in the kingdom of Ayortha where everyone is beautiful and has a beautiful singing voice.  Aza, however, doesn't quite fit in.  She's larger and isn't as beautiful as the other Ayorthians, but she does have the most amazing singing voice and has taught herself a trick.  Not only can she imitate other voices, but she can make it sound like it's coming from somewhere else. 

Because Aza is so different from the other Ayorthians, many guests at the inn don't care for her.  That is, until she bonds with the cranky duchess because of the inn's cat.  And so when the duchess is on her way to the palace for the king's wedding and the duchess's companion falls ill, Aza is asked to go with the duchess in her place.  And so Aza's fairy tale begins. 

Fairest is a really cute YA novel. I recommend it to those who enjoy a twist to the traditional fairy tale love story. 

Veil of Roses

I really thought I hadn't read Veil of Roses before, but as I started reading it, it felt rather familiar, and by the almost end, I was positive I had read it before.  Regardless, I think Laura Fitzgerald's Veil of Roses is a good, and important read. 

Veil of Roses introduces us to Tamila from Iran. Her parents have sent her to America.  And if she can find a husband, she can stay. No more veil.  No more oppression.  She can finally be free. 

I liked Veil of Roses because Fitzgerald keeps it light, but still obvious that women in Iran are oppressed   It's a good introduction to the subject; it serves as the setting, not the conflict of the novel.  It's made me interested in learning more about the Iranian and Islamic cultures.  I recommend this book to older YA readers and adults, especially women who are interested in a simple introduction to the differences in their lives form the women in Iran. 

I Hate It When Exercise Is the Answer

I Hate It When Exercise Is the Answer by Emily Watts is a sort of self-help book, designed for you to rad a chapter a day and implement the small changes into your life. It's got some really good ideas. Watt's ideas are more for a professional or a mom, though, not necessarily an in-between-er like me.  But with a little adaptation, it can be a helpful read for anyone. 

The Wise Woman

The Wise Woman is definitely, 100% Philippa Gregory's weirdest book. If you skipped Virgin Earth and Earthly Joys, this one is a skipper too. It gets pretty weird with the witchcraft and the sex. I'm not sure who the target audience even is. It's just an odd book.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance

A few years ago, I took a Mormon Lit class at UVU.  It was a really interesting class and exposed me to new novels. Comedian Elna Baker's The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance was not a novel we read in that class, but our professor talked about it to us one day and read us an excerpt.  After hearing Baker's voice come to life via my professor, I had to get my hands on it. 
New York Regional is a hilarious yet touching memoir by a born and bred world-traveling Mormon. Her sense of humor sort of reminds me of Chelsea Handler, but not as crass. So I recommend this book with the caveat Baker uses in her dedication to her parents: " . . . aside from the nine-F words, thirteen Sh-words, four A-holes, page 257, and the entire Warren Beatty chapter . . . You might want to avoid chapters twenty-one, twenty-two, twenty-three . . ." 
Read on! 

The Wave

I first read The Wave  by Todd Strasser many moons ago, and upon rereading it, I still think it's a valuable read for the lesson it teaches. Based on a true story, The Wave is about a young history teacher trying to explain to his students how those in Nazi Germany were so oblivious to their surroundings and willing to follow Hitler.  I think it's a great book for a teacher to pair with Anne Frank or simply for anyone who finds themselves asking the same questions as those students. 

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Sun Also Rises

This was my second go at reading Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises and it was easier to read as well as more enjoyable, though not necessarily a book I would recommend, and certainly not a book I couldn't put down. 

I also get a little upset with Hemingway after reading The Paris Wife and seeing what a jerk he was to his wife, Hadley. And if I understand it right, The Sun Also Rises was written at the end of their marriage, yet he dedicates it to her!! What?!?! "Here, dear, enjoy my affair!" Puke. 

But knowing, or maybe only feeling, that The Sun Also Rises is basically Hemingway speaking as himself, one almost feels bad for him, and certainly for his character Jake. He tries to chase fun and live in the moment, but is clearly an outsider and observer, even among his friends.  he is searching for happiness and cannot find it.  It's a little bit tragic. Maybe that's why it's dedicated to Hadley? He wasn't their marriage to work, but it just can't? 

So maybe The Sun Also Rises is a little more poignant than I first realized.  I'm truthfully unsure on how to rate or recommend this book.  Becoming familiar with it does make one well read, but it's not necessarily enjoyable.  But should all books be enjoyable? If Hemingway's intentions are fulfilled  isn't that good enough? What do you think? 

The Virgin's Lover

In The Virgin's Lover, Gregory moves us forward from Henry VIII's reign, past Edward's and Mary's, and into Elizabeth's. (If you want to read them "in order," The Queen's Fool comes prior to The Virgin's Lover.)  The story is not told from the view point of Elizabeth, but one of her lovers, Robert Dudley, as well as his wife Amy.  It's interesting to read from this perspective as one can see the abandoned wife and identify with her pain. It's also interesting to see Robert's guilt, yet how he still chooses to continue on with his affair. If you're into historical fiction, this novel gives an interesting insight into Elizabeth's life and is worth the read. 

Now, Gregory enters into a little bit of speculation, since most folks, obviously, didn't document their own affairs.  But Gregory is great at doing her own research and including an author's note to let your know where and why she made speculations or changes to history. It really makes me respect her as an author. 

The Boleyn Inheritance

Philippa Gregory's The Boleyn Inheritance picks up where The Other Boleyn Girl left off. Well, skipping the short marriage of Jane Seymour and the birth of her son, Edward. The Boleyn Inheritance shows the changes that have come about because of the interfering Boleyn's and their cousins the Howards. We read about the marriage and annulment of Henry VIII to Anne of Cleves as well as the consequent marriage to Anne Boleyn's much younger cousin, and my second favorite wife, Kitty Howard. 

I enjoyed The Boleyn Inheritance, but it's a little more like short stories put together than Gregory's other works.  I would have liked her to delve more into the characters and given these wives their own novels as well, although I can understand why she chose not to. Writing takes much longer than reading, and Gregory prides herself on doing actual research. This could have gotten very tedious.  Or maybe there wasn't enough truth out there, just rumors or unreliable accounts.  or perhaps she just had other ideas she was anxious to get to work on.  So I understand why the book may be set up like it is, but it made it harder to get into the work  and get to know the characters.  Regardless, it's an enjoyable historical fiction. If you like Henry VIII's life as I do, give it a go! 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Other Boleyn Girl

Just as Katherine of Aragon is my least favorite of Henry VIII's wives, Anne Boleyn is my favorite. This is largely due to Philippa Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl, which not only tells the story of Anne Boleyn, but also her sister, Mary, one of Henry VIII's many mistresses, and their brother George. 

I really enjoy The Other Boleyn Girl because it's not only an intense faux love story and affair, but it delves into the family relationships of the Boleyn siblings AND it's historical fiction where one learns about the politics and religion, and their relationship, during this portion of Henry VIII's reign. [holy run-on sentence!] Now, of course, given the subject matter and the character of Henry, who is constantly having affairs, it's not necessarily the most chaste book, but it is my favorite by Gregory and I highly recommend it!  

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Constant Princess

My first Philippa Gregory book ever was The Constant Princess, the tale of Catherine of Aragon before she married Henry VIII. It tells of Catherine as Catalina, the Infanta of Spain, only to become Catherine upon her marriage to Arthur, Prince of Wales. Arthur, Henry's older brother who was to become king. Arthur, the prince who became sickly and died too soon. 

Catherine of Aragon is my least favorite of Henry VIII's wives [yes, I have them ranked. ish. Don't judge.], or at least bottom two. It's like a feel bad for her, but I don't feel her the way I feel some of the others. I don't believe this is due to Gregory's writing, but just Catherine herself. 

The Constant Princess does introduce us to a new side of Catherine, a younger Catherine. She is a desperate widow, heartbroken by Arthur's death, abandoned by her father, abandoned by England. And so, she must take her fate into her own hands: she must fight for what she wants, she must fight to become the Queen of England, as she was meant to be.  

If you're interested in Henry VIII, Historical Fiction, or Philippa Gregory at all, this book is worth the read. You'll like it. 

Time of My Life

If you could go back in time and change your life, would you? Allison Winn Scotch's Time of My Life poses that very question. Jillian, an unhappy housewife, is transported seven years into the past, before she's even met her husband, by her masseuse unlocking her chi. Knowing what she does, can she change her future? Can she? And what other aspects of life will her new choices impact? And most importantly: If she makes new choices and changes her life, will she finally be happy? 

Time of My Life is an interesting, enjoyable novel that really makes you think about your own life and your own choices. Overall, I liked it and recommend it with the caveat that there is some sex and language. If that doesn't bother you, give it a go! 


Highlight it to read. :) 

I really hated the ending; she gets everything she wants without working for it! Unfair! Unrealistic, even for this kind of a novel!! 

Lady Macbeth's Daughter

Lisa Klein's Lady Macbeth's Daughter, is, obviously, about Lady Macbeth's daughter, of Klein's own creation, and her side of the story of Macbeth. It brings a new aspect to a familiar story while keeping it at a high YA reading level. It's a great book for the YA reader who loves historical fiction, Shakespeare, Macbeth, and Scotland, or anyone who just wants to hear a different side to Macbeth. I can't say it's my favorite book, but I enjoyed reading it and I bet you will too. 


I first read Edward Bloor's Tangerine many years back.  Probably about when it first came out in 1997. I feel like I liked it then, and I liked it again this time around. Paul is our main character and the new kid at school.  He's also been having strange memories and questioning why, in fat, h needs glasses and his eyes are so ad, since he doesn't remember looking directly at the sun as he's been told happened.  But that's not all to the story. Paul's brother, Erik, is a jerk of a football star and their dad is pushing him to be the next big thing, even at his new school.  Likewise, Paul is expected  as always, to sacrifice for the brother's football dream.  But Paul has his own port and his own dream: Soccer. 

Tangerine is a great YA novel and I would especially recommend it to kids who feel different, as well as those who don't always enjoy reading, but might be convinced to give it a go if the book is about soccer. It's a good, enjoyable read. Read on!  

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Far World: Water Keep & Land Keep













A few years back, Jenn's friend's (who has since become a friend of mine as well) dad got published. Jenn read the book, but you know how I always mean to read a book and never do. And then Jenn said the book wasn't really my type anyway. Well, fast forward to the last time I tole some of Matthew's books and J. Scott Savage's Far World: Water Keep and Land Keep ended up in my pile. And last week, I finally read them. 

We have to main characters, orphaned and crippled Marcus from Earth and Kyja from Far World, who is also orphaned and has her own disability, as far as Far World is concerned. Marcus has been transported to Far World and as he and Kyja learn of their origins, they also learn that it is now their responsibility to save Far World. 

I really enjoyed this adventure.  I'm bummed it's a series with on the first two out (okay, I think the 3rd is out now? Or at least almost . . . ). Well, regardless, it's a cute book with likable,  relate-able characters and an exciting adventure in a magical world.  I highly recommend giving this series a go! 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The House on Mango Street

I first got The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros for Ammon because it was required reading for his ninth grade English class. And I have no clue why.  It does not surpass the quality of any of the novels I read in ninth grade, and not nearly close enough to replace them! It's no To Kill A Mockingbird or The Chosen. Not by a long shot. 

Mango Street is told in short spurts by Esperanza, a girl who never really gives us her age or any information abut herself except that she wants  real home.  She does, however, tell us little snip-its about her neighbors in spurts of one or two ages.  It made it really hard to get into the book.  The reader barely knows the characters so one can't connect to them and there's no real story arc.  I'm unclear as to why Cisneros would write this or what story she is trying to tell.  I didn't enjoy this. I don't recommend it. And I certainly can't see a ninth grader enjoying or  learning from it. 


Alice Hoffman's Incantation tells the tale of undercover Jews in Spain during the 1500s.  Our main character, Estrella, doesn't even realize her family is Jewish.  She finally puts the pieces together and sees the danger her family is in.  They have been practicing Judaism but masquerading as good Catholics for years. When they are found out . . . well, it won't be good. At one point, Estrella thinks, "Still, I coudln't help but wonder if it was a mistake for people like us to be tied to a place. If we weren't meant to wander.  If everything we needed was tied up in who we were."  Later, she asks her grandfather a similar question.  He answers, "You run once, what makes you think you won't have to run all the rest of your life?" But if you don't run, will there be a "rest of your life"? 
Incantation is a great historical fiction for the young adult reader.  It delves into history, telling a tale we don't come across too often.  I recommend this novel to all YA Historical Fiction fans. Read on!