Thursday, August 29, 2013

Review: First Temptation (Covert Affairs #1.5)

Title: First Temptation (Covert Affairs #1.5)
Author: Joan Swan
Date Published: August 2013
ISBN: 9780985870126
Publisher: Joan Swan
Pages: 160

★★★★★
Counter-terrorist agent Taft Walker knows the Mexican cartel smuggling game. But posing as part owner of an adult store to ferret out the newest tunnel into the US is a first. So is Zoe Brooks, his partner, new to undercover and a sex-toy virgin. Taft’s up for the sexy challenge. At least until he sees the real Zoe beneath her tough façade and realizes, for the first time in his life, he’ll have to risk his heart to win.

After the death of a teammate, Border Patrol Agent Zoe Brooks is ready to get off the front lines. She’s willing to tolerate a swaggering partner like Taft for a chance to work investigations with ICE. But she’s not prepared for the way he understands her deepest, sexiest desires. Or the fact that she’ll have to break her own rules to grab hold of the passion she’s always wanted.



I am really starting to wonder why in the hell I haven't heard of some of these authors that I'm reading lately!! Why have I never heard of Joan Swan?!? I'm just not understanding. Great authors should NEVER be kept secret! Who is it I need to be stalking in order to find out about these writers? All this lost time!! I could have been reading her books since last year!! Ugh. So frustrating. 

Well, at least I've found her now because DAMN. Swan is an amazing writer! This novella had me hooked from the first sentence. I love how you're just thrown into the excitement from the very first sentence. Being that captivating from the get-go must be difficult or all writers would have the same thing going on. 

I immediately fell in love with the main character, Zoe Brooks. This character absolutely commands your attention. It's great seeing such a strong female character. She's a strong, willful woman in a mans world and she fits right in. On the flip-side, she's sexy and funny and sassy. I just loved her. She was a perfectly messed-up character (the flawed kind that I adore). 

I really liked the interaction between Taft and Zoe. The verbal sparring between the two was awesome. It reminded me of my husband and I. 

The story was very well written. I was left with absolutely no questions or doubts about anything. The novella flowed so well ... this author is just amazing! I'll definitely be picking up some more of her books. Well, once I'm done with the pile that I have to get through. But Swan is on my radar and she should be on yours as well. If you like romantic-suspense books, you just have to pick this up when it becomes available ... which is soon ... right?!? (Nudge, nudge to the powers that be ...)

This is a super short review but I really don't have anything else to say ... I loved the book. I love the characters. I love the storyline. I love the cover. I love the author. Sigh. I really wish I didn't have other things lined up to read ... 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Review: Foreverland is Dead

Title: Foreverland is Dead
Author: Tony Bertauski
Date Published: January 2013
Pages: 300

 ★★✰✰✰
Six teenage girls wake with no memories. One of them is in a brick mansion, her blonde hair as shiny as her shoes. The others are in a cabin, their names tagged to the inside of their pants. Their heads, shaved. Slashes mark the cabin wall like someone has been counting.

Hundreds of them.

There’s wilderness all around and one dead adult. The girls discover her body rotting somewhere in the trees. As the weeks pass, they band together to survive the cold, wondering where they are and how they got there. And why.

When an old man arrives with a teenage boy, the girls learn of a faraway island called Foreverland where dreams come true and anything is possible. But Foreverland is dead. In order to escape the wilderness, they’ll have to understand where they are.

More importantly, who they are.



I don't know what to talk about first. My head is still spinning from this novel and not exactly in a good way. My first thoughts ... sigh. Okay. When I first read the blurb on Foreverland is Dead, I was really excited. This sounded like a dystopian novel ... I LOVE dystopian novels lately. And this one sounded like it had some crazy twists ... I do love twists!

Then I started reading. I'm beginning to wonder if I'm expecting too much with books today. Maybe that's what it is, my expectations are too high. I want to pick up a book and be transported. I want to go to another time or place and be swept up in what is going on in these pages. I don't want to think, I want to be overwhelmed. I want to feel something towards these characters ... I want to hate, love, dislike, despise, adore ... I don't care what emotion, really. I just want the characters to come alive.

At the end of the book, there is a MAJOR twist. And if I'm being completely honest, this twist was totally lost on me because I couldn't remember exactly who a certain character was. Really?!? I wanted to throw a massive temper tantrum and go kick someone in shin. I felt like I was let down. Granted, that may be my own fault. Maybe I didn't pay attention. Maybe it was the beginning of the book that lost me. 

At the beginning, I was a little thrown off by the haltingly way that the book was written. It felt like the author was trying to use the least amount of words possible for each sentence. The sentences were cut off, not in a way that left a fragmented sentence, but in a way that I felt I was only getting part of the information. The book read like it wanted to be more ... does that even make sense?!? I have another one of my crazy analogies for you ... the book is like a balloon that was only blown up half-way. The balloon wants to be huge! It has so much potential! When it's only blown up half-way it's a waste.

The short, weird sentences never completely went away. It was hard to get the feeling of the story ... feel what the characters were going through or get a full sense of what was going on around them. Eventually the sentences lengthened but by that time, I had lost a bit of interest. I don't want to work that hard to figure out who characters are and what they are about. 

The story wasn't bad. It was actually really good and that is the only reason that this book received 2 stars from me. I wanted to know what was going to happen. I needed to know what was going to happen. And let me tell you, that's a really weird feeling when you only know about half of the characters. I wanted to know but then I would have to go back to the beginning of the book to figure out who it was happening to. 

Once again, I'm in the minority with this review score. A lot of people really liked it. You should give it a shot. If nothing else, you'll read a really great story concept.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Review: Boy Meets Dog: A Word Game Adventure

Title: Boy Meets Dog: A Word Game Adventure
Author: Valerie Wyatt
Illustrator: Dave Whamond
Date Published: August 2013
ISBN: 9781554538249
Publisher: Kids Can Press
Pages: 32

★★★★✰
 Strange things happen when you change one word into another, one letter at a time. A toy becomes a boy, a cat becomes a dog, and together they discover a funny, mixed- up world! Explore language and spelling on this wacky word game adventure.



My goodness, the illustrations! The illustrations are amazing. So much fun! Here's the thing ... I'm a big fan of tricking your children into learning. That sounds horrible but kids are really hard these days. There are so many distractions around them and sometimes, it's hard to keep their attention on something that is learning related. They are like that dog in the movie, UP ... bird! 

A child's attention span is about 5 seconds and that's if you're holding candy. If I can get something into our boys' hands that can teach them something useful AND they don't want to put it down, it's a home-run to me. This book has that. 

My only issue with it is that it's a bit long. I know, at 32 pages, is that long?!? Well, it is to a kindergartener. Especially if they are the ones reading. But I found that if I only do a couple of pages with this book for our youngest, that he will stay engaged AND excited about it. 

Cute book, awesome idea and amazing illustrations. I can't wait to see what else this author has up her sleeve because I'll definitely be interested.

Review: Loula Is Leaving for Africa

Title: Loula Is Leaving for Africa
Author & Illustrator: Anne Villeneuve
Date Published: September 2013
ISBN: 9781554539413
Publisher: Kids Can Press
Pages: 32

 ★★★★★
Loula has had enough of her terrible triplet brothers and decides to run away to Africa. Luckily, her mother's chauffeur, Gilbert, knows just how to get there. Together, Loula and Gilbert ride camels, cross a desert and, most important, use heaps of imagination in this heartwarming adventure.



Poor Loula! While reading this, I imagined that the triplets were three of our youngest son. And I shuddered. I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy. Well ... maybe I would. 

Such a sweet story! I was really captivated by this book. The illustrations are adorable and the story line is something that most parents have been through. 

I loved how all of the characters were written ... I think that my favorite speaking character was Gilbert ... he was so sweet and patient and played along with Loula. 

Now ... my favorite non-speaking character is the cat that speaks giraffe! It doesn't get much cuter than that!

Review: Peek-A-Boo Monsters

Title: Peek-A-Boo Monsters
Author: Charles Reasoner
Illustrator: Marina Le Ray
Date Published: July 2013
ISBN: 9781479521708
Publisher: Picture Window Books
Pages: 10

 ★★★★★
 Monsters hide throughout this die-cut book from Charles Reasoner. As you read the simple verse, small windows give you a peek at the creatures on the next page. Each spread reveals more adorable monsters!



I can't express how much I love this book. It is absolutely adorable! Unfortunately, our boys are a little too old to fully enjoy this book but I will be giving it to all of our friends with young kiddos ... which is a lot ... apparently, there's something in the water. 

This is intended for little ones, but if you have a new reader, I think that this would be an awesome book to start off with!

The illustrations and bright colors are also perfect ... they will keep a little one completely engaged while you're reading it. 
  
Peek-A-Boo Monsters is one of those books that your kiddo will be requesting to be read at bedtime night after night for quite a while! 

Review: Sky's End (Cassiel Winters #1)

Title: Sky's End (Cassiel Winters #1)
Author: Lesley Young
Publish Date: June 2013
ISBN: 9781619352384
Publisher: Soul Mate Publishing
Pages: 430
 
 ★✰✰✰✰
A secret she must never share. A secret that two warring species are determined to control. A universe's future at stake. Twenty-year-old Cassiel Winters joins Earth's new space academy in hopes of finding her brother, one of Command's top pilots and her only family, who's been reported MIA. But she quickly realizes she may not be cut out for life in space, where female cadets are outnumbered, competition's fierce, and she's already failed her hand-to-hand combat test once. Even the station's most respected officer, Lt. Damian King, probably can't help Cassiel pass the second time around-so why is he so interested in her progress? If only one of her freaky deja vu visions would offer an answer instead of mysterious messages like hide. When Cassiel's manipulated into a perilous mission, she encounters a warrior species bred to protect the universe from an even greater threat. And she learns that her secret visions are at the heart of it all. Now Cassiel must fight to control her own destiny and race to save her brother-even if it means pretending to be the pawn of Prime Or'ic, the cold-as-steel Thell'eon leader. Even if it means risking her life, facing hard truths, and making the ultimate sacrifice.
 
 
 
Sigh. So it's come to this. A one star review. One of the things that I detest almost as bad as our boys tattling. To be completely honest, I didn't get it. Not that I didn't understand the book, oh ... I understood. I just didn't ... GET IT. You know? There were quite a few things that just irritated me. 
 
The book isn't all bad ... it does have some stuff going for it! And this isn't me being condescending or facetious or anything ... but it was written well ... the grammar wasn't bad and sometimes just that can turn me off of a book. But it wasn't an issue with Sky's End. And the cover was interesting. Those were really the only high points for me.
 
Here's the deal. I think that I am the completely wrong demographic for this book. Apparently, I don't read enough science fiction books for me to appreciate this book fully. And that's okay. Sometimes you have to take a chance with a new book, author or genre ... if you don't, then you'll never know what you might be missing out on. 

I don't really know where to start on my issues with the book, so I'm just going to dive in ... one of the first things you will notice when you pick this book up is that there are TONS of items that you don't know what they are. I really expected that, for the most part. This book is about the future, so obviously, there will be things that are "yet to be invented" in our world which will play a part in the futuristic book. But it was a new item quite frequently AND it had the little trademark symbol after the word. It's a new item. Got it. It's got a trademark. Got it. After the first few pages, it became immensely irritating. My thing was, every time you read another book and it says COKE, you don't see the trademark symbol after it. It just isn't necessary. 

I'm going to hit on the other items very quickly, no need to draw this out. The "teen vernacular" was annoying also. I think that it really narrowed the window of people who would enjoy the book with all of those teen-inspired words - words that will be really dated within a few years. 
 
Oh, and there's cursing ... including the f-word. This doesn't bother me because I don't talk like a lady and I use that word far too often. For too many f-ing things. Just joking ... kinda. But some parents don't want their children reading that kind of language and so the cautionary note needs to be put out there.

And lastly, this book is written in first person. Which is really great. It's really not all that common (at least in the books that I read) and it lets you get a different perspective than normal on what is happening in the book. BUT. The italics became annoying. Italics were used to signify the little voice in her head ... at least that's how it read. But not everything in her head was in italics, so the whole practice during the book was more of a distraction and hindrance than a strength of the book.

I'm definitely in the minority on my views of the book. There are a lot of people that really enjoyed it, so just forget everything that I said and go grab it and see what you think. I think I may lay off of alien books for now ...

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Review: A Most Devilish Rogue

Title: A Most Devilish Rogue
Author: Ashlyn Macnamara
 Date Published: August 2013
ISBN: 9780345534767
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Pages: 384

★★★✰✰
 Years ago, when Isabelle Mears was still a young miss too infatuated to know better, she surrendered her innocence to a dishonorable man. Though ruined and cast out from society, she has worked hard to shelter her illegitimate son, Jack. Having sworn off men in her quiet but dignified life, Isabelle is unprepared for the deep longing that rips through her when a handsome stranger rescues her rambunctious six-year-old from the pounding ocean surf.

George Upperton is a man in trouble with debts, women, and a meddling family. He is, by all accounts, the last gentleman on earth Isabelle should be drawn to. But loneliness is a hard mistress, and caution gives way to desire . . . even though Isabelle is convinced that happiness can’t be found in the arms of such a devilish rogue. Only when Jack is kidnapped does Isabelle discover the true depth of George’s devotion—and how far a good man will go to fight for the woman whose love is all that matters.



I ♥ historical romance novels. To the point where I've often wondered if maybe I was born into the wrong century. I just adore novels set in the 1800's ... maybe that comes from my love of Jane Austen. She was one of the first authors I read when I started to get out of my R.L. Stein phase - which lasted entirely too long, if I must be honest. I had to have read Sense & Sensibility and Pride & Prejudice hundreds of times. 

So needless to say, I was super excited to get my hands on Macnamara's first novel. (Insert frantic clapping and huge smile) I'm always looking for an untapped historical romance resource. I feel like I've read everything that is out there even though I know that that can't possibly be true. Anyhow ... A Most Devilish Rogue wasn't too shabby!! 

I did find myself skimming some of the paragraphs. Nothing really serious or extensive ... at times it just felt like the story stopped and started in a few places. Do you know how they used to plow fields? They would hook a mule or a horse to a plow (or plough) and then someone would walk behind it in order to keep the plow and horse going straight. Well, it felt like this book's plow kept getting stuck on rocks or roots or something and it would just make the ride really jerky. But this is something that will probably get better with each book that Macnamara writes. I can't imagine that an absolutely perfect book is something that is easy to accomplish your first time out of the gates or there would be no need for the New York Times Bestseller list because all authors would be amazing. Whew. Totally off track. Hopefully you know where I was going with that though ... even though I'm not totally sure that I do ...

I did like how some of the characters were written, though. LOVED Benedict Revelstoke and his wife, Julia. I loved everything about both of them ... the way they spoke, how they were towards each other, how they treated the people around them ... they were, unfortunately, my favorite characters. It's unfortunate because they weren't the main characters in this book. George was okay ... he seemed a little spineless at times but other than that, I liked him. For the most part. And Isabelle ... the main character ... hmmm ... I don't know. I didn't really like how she was written at times. The way she flip-flopped between being absurdly desperate to totally standoffish became a little annoying. It made me wonder if the character had been fully explored before being written. And this could be how Macnamara intended and if that's the case, then she hit the nail on the head ... I just didn't enjoy it. But then again, I like a really strong female in a historical romance ... I think being a spunky and sassy female back in those days was such a rare thing and that's just what I personally like reading.

So all in all, not a bad book. I'll definitely be looking out for another book from this author.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Review: Middle Man: A Lieutenant Rollie Waters Novel

Title: Middle Man: A Lieutenant Rollie Waters Novel
Author: David Rich
 Date Published: August 2013
ISBN: 9780525953234
Publisher: Dutton Adult
Pages: 320

★★✰✰✰
David Rich—whose acclaimed debut, Caravan of Thieves, drew comparisons to Elmore Leonard, Robert Ludlum, and John le Carré—returns with a crime thriller featuring Lieutenant Rollie Waters.
 
Recruited into SHADE, the elite, covert group formed by the U.S. military, Rollie Waters must locate and retrieve the countless millions taken from Saddam’s cache during the Iraq War and shipped home in the coffins of dead soldiers. But when a sniper attacks the team, Rollie is forced to go undercover to solve the riddle of the graves and to apprehend the puppet master behind the whole plot.

Rollie’s own father, inveterate liar and charming con artist Dan Waters, was killed attempting to steal the first $25 million after stumbling across the conspiracy involving powerful military officers, would-be kings, and the very general who nearly destroyed Rollie during his last tour in Afghanistan.

Rollie’s undercover quest takes him from Houston and the self-proclaimed king of Kurdistan, to the treacherous, labyrinthine streets of Erbil, Iraq, and into the arms of a stunning, enigmatic woman whose motives he can’t discern. As a confirmed citizen of the fog, now more spy than soldier, Waters must uncover the man pulling the strings behind a backdrop of murder, deceit, and stolen fortune—before he disappears forever into the mist.



Being a book reviewer isn't all that it's cracked up to be. Sure, you receive copies of books before they come out and it's almost like you're hearing juicy celebrity gossip before the rest of the world. Cracking open an unreleased book is ... exhilarating. I get this giddy, kid-on-Christmas-morning type of buzz just thinking about reading a yet-to-be-released installment from an author that I have followed for years or being the first to read how a character's life has changed due to some cliffhanger at the end of the previous book in a series or when you are one of the first to be able to read the very first book from a brand new author. 

But there is also a very difficult side to reviewing books. Sometimes you have to dish out these less-than-stellar reviews about something that an author has slaved over for a crazy amount of time ... something that has probably become a best friend and/or enemy at many times during their writing process and has settled on being one of their greatest accomplishments and something they are very proud of. 

The blurb for Middle Man was awesome ... millions stolen from Saddam, a soldier turned spy set out to solve the mystery of the stolen money with only a clue from his deceased father. That sounds amazing, right? 

Unfortunately, this book just didn't hit the mark for me. I don't know what it was. Okay ... let me put it like this: books are like fish in a tank. There's a sign on the tank that says, "Don't tap the tank". I want a book to be the fish that I have to tap the tank for. I want to be banging on the tank like my life depends on it, trying to get the attention of this fish, repercussions be damned. I just didn't want to tap this tank. I wanted to walk by and drag my kiddos with me. Weird analogy, I know. But it's what popped in my head, so that's what you get. 

I can't say for sure what it was about the book. I guess it could be in part within the first couple of scenes something that happened with a Marine sniper ... the whole scenario seemed weird to me. Not that I know from personal experience whether something about the military is true ... one of my favorite people is a Marine sniper and so I asked him what he thought ... he agreed with me that something was wonky (my word, not his - Marines don't say wonky, I'm sure). 

Anyhow ... that one item didn't ruin the book. The writing wasn't BAD. The characters were well written, the story seemed full and it didn't seem to be lacking in any department. It could be that I've read so many Vince Flynn books that he has ruined me for military/spy authors. 

I really wish that I had some concrete reason as to why the book and I didn't mesh. Sometimes, the book gods just aren't smiling down on you the day you start a new book. 

Just because it missed the mark with me, doesn't mean that you won't love it! So if you're into the whole military/spy novel thing, you should definitely pick this one up and see what it's all about. You may have found a new author that you love.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Review: Gone Wild

Title: Gone Wild
Author: Ever McCormick
Date Published: August 2013
ISBN: 2940148577508
Publisher: Barefoot Publishing
Pages: 260

★★★★✰
Just before college graduation, Ina--star of her senior class--made a mistake that went viral. Then, when life seemed like it couldn’t get any worse, she walked in on her boyfriend cheating with her roommate. To get away, Ina ventures to a cabin on a remote mountain, intent on some solitary time.

She doesn’t count on Adam -- the man who watches over the cabins -- being so distractingly sexy. Adam came to the mountain to get distance from anything that could cause him pain, and Ina stirs feelings in him he thought he’d left behind.

As Adam and Ina open up about their pasts, the mountain seems like the perfect setting for a second chance at love.

Until they realize they’re not alone.
 
 
 
I really flip-flopped about the rating for this book. I thought that 3 wasn't enough but 4 was too much, Goodreads doesn't accept any "and a half" ratings ... so I decided to give it a 4 because a 3 would be a disservice. 
 
Anyway ... glad I wasted a whole paragraph on that explanation. So. I have a few specific things to touch on. Nothing huge and it's not book ruining type of stuff. The first thing that kinda got to me is mostly my fault, I guess. See, when I receive or buy a book, I read the blurb and then it's promptly forgotten. The book ends up on a big list of books that I need to read. I don't believe in buying books when you run out ... why run out in the first place?!? Who knows how many catastrophes could happen and imagine having to go without reading because you weren't prepared!! Because of that belief, I have tons of books on my "To Read" pile. Tons. I'm ashamed of how many I have and I refuse to divulge that number because I know that you would judge me. Now that we have almost completely derailed ... just to sum up: I read the blurb, I get the book, it goes in a pile and I don't look at the book again until it's time for me to read it. When I do finally pick it up, I NEVER read that blurb again. Why spoil some of the surprises? I always just dive in, feet first. When I got to around page 45-ish in Gone Wild, a name came up and I had no freaking clue who this person was!! Who the heck is Ina? Why is this Adam dude calling out to her? Oh, yeah. That's the main character. It just seemed weird to me that for so many pages, I just had no clue what the name of the main character was ... I felt like I was having a Tommy Boy moment, "It's gotta be YOUR bull ..."
 
Now that I know who Ina is ... she kind of annoyed me during part of the book. Good Lord, woman! Figure out who you are! And I'm assuming that this is how the author intended Ina to be ... which is great with me, I love flawed characters ... but it became a bit much at times.
 
Adam ... he's a pretty well written character. I really liked him. I loved how jaded, protective and secretive he is. It made him more intriguing. It really pushed me to keep reading so that maybe, just maybe, I could find out more about this gorgeous, mountain man. I just really liked him and I couldn't find too many things about him that I didn't like. Oooh ... other than (and this will sound weird) but I kept thinking of him as the Yoda of safety ... Be careful, you will. I don't really know why that happened or even if other readers will feel the same way ... but there it is.
 
Okay. This is for the moment when the woman of your dreams says that she loves you ... do not, I repeat ... DO NOT ask her: "What? Why? Where? When? How?"  Too weird and out of place. 
 
The book is actually pretty good. It was entertaining but it did leave me wanting more. I think that it just needed more suspense. You can't insert such a great controversial scenario into a story and not fully explore it, in my opinion. I would have loved to see more mystery and suspense in the book.
 
I will definitely be watching out for this author in the future. If her first book is a 4-star (in my mind) then her next ones should be even better!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Review: Ready to Die (To Die #5)

Title: Ready to Die (To Die #5)
Author: Lisa Jackson
Date Published: April 2013
ISBN: 9781420118513
 Publisher: Zebra
Pages: 432

 ★★★★✰
 Nothing

His blood quickens as he stares at the photographs. Six faces, all guilty--and detectives Regan Pescoli and Selena Alvarez are at the top of his list. One by one, he'll stalk them, then he'll squeeze the trigger, savoring the way each lifeless body crumples to the reddening snow. One down already. And then there were five. . .

Can Prepare You

Sheriff Dan Grayson lies near death after a shooting, and the police department of Grizzly Falls, Montana, is in shock. Alvarez, torn between a new relationship and her loyalty to Grayson, works with Pescoli to whittle down the list of suspects. The deeper they go, the more personal and dangerous the case becomes. Then a prominent judge's body is found and the killer sends a sinister warning to the press: "Who's Next?"

To Face A Killer

Pescoli isn't waiting to find out. Headstrong and eager for justice, she'll track the scant clues on her own if she has to. But her search leads her straight to a monster who has had her in his sights all along. And when hunter meets prey, both must be willing to kill--and ready to die. . .



Lisa. Jackson. WHEW! Man, this book ... geez!

I have read hundreds of books in tons of different genres. One of my favorites is the mystery/suspense group. But only if a few conditions are met:   
  • 1. The hero/heroine MUST be flawed. I detest reading about some perfect person who lives in the perfect house with a perfect dog, the 2.5 perfect children, the perfect spouse who drives the perfect car with the perfect life. I want someone who has been down in the trenches, who has had bad stuff happen to them and they have dusted themselves back off, sworn to never make that same mistake again, only to make that same mistake again! I guess I could have said just a regular person. But what fun would that have been?
  • C. I would really like it if I couldn't pick out the killer. If I can pick out the villain in the first couple chapters, I get very angry and refuse to read the book for 10-15 minutes while it's in time out and had time to think about what it's done. I'll probably finish the book ... but I will probably not read from that author again anytime soon. 
  • 4. The word of the day is: twistyturney. There have to be lots of twistyturneys in the book. Mandatory. OR ELSE (dun dun DUUUUN) <-- Imagine scary music. 
Okay, if all of those conditions are met, then that makes a happy reader (me). So. The question is whether Lisa Jackson met those criteria and the answer is ABSOLUTELY!
  
It has been too long since I have picked up a Jackson book and I really regret that now. I feel like I have missed out on a great series and now after the mountain of books that I have to read is a bit smaller, I'm going to pick up the rest of the To Die series.

While there are quite a few characters, I felt like I knew where all of them were coming from. It was a bit much to keep up with at first but I quickly caught on. And maybe that would have been a non-issue if I had read the rest of the series. 

I really felt like this could be a standalone book. I didn't feel anything was lacking in the story ... there wasn't a back story that I felt like I was missing out on or anything, so that's a gigantic thumbs up. 

All in all, a great book. Definitely one I'll pick up again and of course an author that I'll stop neglecting!! 

 ** I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review **

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Review: Hocus Pocus Takes the Train

Title: Hocus Pocus Takes the Train
Author: Sylvie Desrosiers
Illustrator: Remy Simard
Date Published: August 2013
ISBN: 9781554539567
Publisher: Kids Can Press
Pages: 32

 ★★★★★
A magician's rabbit is up against a fast train and a meddlesome dog in his quest to reunite a stuffed toy with its toddling owner. Even the earliest readers will delight in this second wordless comic adventure featuring Hocus Pocus and Dog.



Before I dive headfirst into this review, it does need to be known that this book does not have words. I repeat ... no words. But in no way does that take anything away from this wonderful book ... here's why ... 

So many things to say about this little book. First of all ... adore the illustrations. They are fun and simple and almost child-like ... which is a good thing!! I think that kids are able to see a bit of themselves in the drawings and it also inspired our two boys to make a comic strip!

I showed this book to our 6 year old and he loved it from just looking at the cover. After a few minutes, he started to tell ME what the book was about - which is another thing that I love. Getting children interested in books is so important for their development. I've always said that it doesn't matter WHAT they read, as long as they are reading SOMETHING. And this book, even though there are no words, plays right into that as well. This book helps them on their creative side. We also found out that each time he would "read" the book to us, the story changed and that means that this book will be a favorite for a very long time in our house. 

I'll hop down off of my soap box now and just say this ... great book, pick it up ... it's really for any age between 2 
(when they start really talking) and around 10 (when everything around them becomes babyish and anyone speaking to them is an inconvenience ... we're at this age with our eldest ... it's great. Lol).

Pick it up or give it as a gift and watch the creative side of your child emerge! 

Friday, August 9, 2013

Review: The Devil's Apprentice

Title: The Devil's Apprentice
Author: Jan Siegel
Date Published: September 2013
ISBN: 9781781081471
Publisher: Ravenstone
Pages: 384

 ★★★
The Devil is retiring… but who’s taking over? In the house with no front door, a group of teenagers are trapped in assorted dimensions of myth and history, undergoing the trials that will shape them to step into his cloven footwear – or destroy them...The Devil is retiring… but who’s taking over?
When teenage Pen inherits the job of caretaker for a London building with no doors and only a secret entrance from the caretaker’s lodge – which she must never use – little does she know it will lead her into unbelievable danger.
For Azmordis, also known as Satan, a spirit as old as Time and as powerful as the Dark, Immortality is running out. In the house with no front door, a group of teenagers are trapped in assorted dimensions of myth and history, undergoing the trials that will shape them to step into his cloven footwear – or destroy them.
Assisted by only by an aspiring teenage chef called Gavin and Jinx, a young witch with more face-piercing than fae-power, Pen must try to stop the Devil’s deadly game plan – before it’s too late.


What to say ... this one is difficult for me to review. On one hand, the story line was one that I hadn't heard of before (that doesn't happen very often!), the characters were pretty well written and the world that the author created were interesting. On the other hand ... it was just ... too much. This is considered a children's fiction book and it is very, VERY involved. There were tons of characters to keep track of and while I remembered all of them, sometimes it took me a moment to get back into the story. 

That was another issue for me, the flow of the story seemed to start and stop every few pages because you were flip flopping between centuries and characters. Now, it's very likely that I had issues with that because I'm a stay at home mom and with two boys running around, I have to squeeze in reading time between taking care of those two monsters. But it really felt like I was in the car with a 15 year old who just got their permit and are learning how to use the break pedal ... 

As a side note ... I really expected a tie in to the title by the time I was halfway through the book. But it really kept me guessing how it was going to happen and when. By about halfway through the book, I thought that maybe it should have been re-titled to The Doors or something. Anything having to do with the doors actually because that is what the story centered around for so long. 

All of that being said, I did really like the conversations that the characters had ... I know that sounds weird but hear me out ... they went back and forth like a ping pong match and it was amusing to read. You can definitely envision actual conversations with this one, nothing seemed awkward or forced in that aspect. 

I also liked the concept of doors leading to a new land or time. That was pretty interesting and I found myself wondering what they would encounter next. Each time I was pleasantly surprised and intrigued. 

This isn't a BAD book but it's just not one of my favorites. I would probably try and read it again sometime. I mean, it really touched on all of the magical/fantasy/mythical creatures/beings and the like. I don't know if one more could have been

Oh, and Felinacious is an awesome name for a cat. Sounds pretentious, regal and lazy all at the same time.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Review: French Silk

Title: French Silk
 
Date Published: 1991
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Pages: 512

★★★★✰
Like the city of New Orleans itself, Claire Laurent is a vibrant beauty laced with a mysterious elusiveness. The founder of French Silk, a fabulous lingerie company, she has fought hard to make it a worldwide success. Then a TV evangelist attacks French Silk's erotic sleepwear as sinful. And when he is killed, Claire becomes the prime suspect.

District Attorney Robert Cassidy knows Claire is damning herself with lie after lie about the murder, even as he feels her drawing him into her world and her very soul. But neither Cassidy nor her protests of innocence can save Claire unless she reveals a shocking truth—one she has sworn to take to the grave...



True to Sandra Brown form, this book was just about everything I look for in a book. It was entertaining, gripping, sweet, twisted and so much more.

You really can't go wrong with anything Brown writes. This book was written in 1991, but I didn't find myself noticing the 22 year difference. With some books, you REALLY notice that the book is old ... the author leans too heavily on modern technology and that becomes outdated so quickly that their books also feel dated. Maybe that's one of the main reasons that I really enjoy all of Brown's books.

Now ... since you can tell I'm a fan, let's talk about French Silk. I really didn't have any issues with it ... it was a really good book. And except for one or two parts, it didn't really slow down or make me lose interest. The characters were great (as are all of Sandra Brown characters in every single book) - well written, thought out, engaging ... the whole nine yards. The setting was also gorgeous ... at least I think. I've never been to New Orleans ... but the picture that Brown painted has turned it into a place that I would like to check out.

Long story short, great book ... pick it up ... you won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Monday, August 5, 2013

I Hate Picture Books!

Title: I Hate Picture Books!
 
Date Published: February 2013
ISBN: 9780764343872
Publisher: Schiffer Publishing
Pages: 32

★★★★✩
Max hates his picture books and he's throwing them all away. But he soon learns just how invaluable imagination is and has a change of heart. Find out why in this outrageous book that both pokes fun at and celebrates many of the classics of children's literature. Join writer and illustrator Timothy Young for this irreverent and humorous story ideal for children and adults alike. Early Reader; Ages 5-8. 



First of all, since I'm a mom of two wonderful (and sometimes obnoxious) boys, I've read my fair share of children's books. Now, being a mom ... I was a little surprised with how many times the word stupid and hate were in the book.

Stop right there. I know what you're thinking ... the word hate is in the title, how could I not assume that it would be in the book, right? Well, I did assume that it would be in the book but I wasn't counting on the word stupid. I can't tell you how many times a day I have to tell our 6 year old that he needs to find another word to use instead of stupid and that hate is a really strong word and yadda, blah. It's actually amazing that I don't have a permanent knot in the middle of my forehead from banging it on the wall every night ... THAT'S how many times a day I tell him these two things.

Anyhow, if this book didn't have those two words in it, I would go out and buy it immediately. It's a really cute book that goes through all of this child's favorite stories and he's saying how he feels almost robbed because none of them were actually true. Finally, he realizes that the reasons he doesn't like each book is the same reason that he loves them. Such an adorable premise for a children's book. It brought back so many memories for me and I'm sure that our youngest would enjoy it.

I just wish that there were other words used, I really do love this book and it would make for some amazing gifts to all of our pint-sized friends.

I received this book in exchange for a review.

Unhinged (Splintered #2) -- Chapter Sample

Title: Unhinged
 
Date Published: 2013
Publisher: Amulet
 
 ★★★
Alyssa Gardner has been down the rabbit hole. She was crowned Queen of the Red Court and faced the bandersnatch. She saved the life of Jeb, the boy she loves, and escaped the machinations of the disturbingly appealing Morpheus. Now all she has to do is graduate high school.
That would be easier without her mother, freshly released from an asylum, acting overly protective and suspicious. And it would be much simpler if the mysterious Morpheus didn’t show up for school one day to tempt her with another dangerous quest in the dark, challenging Wonderland—where she (partly) belongs.
Could she leave Jeb and her parents behind again, for the sake of a man she knows has manipulated her before? Will her mother and Jeb trust her to do what’s right? Readers will swoon over the satisfying return to Howard’s bold, sensual reimagining of Carroll’s classic.




Wow. I don't even ... I just ... wow. I have just realized that I'm a complete idiot. There really isn't any other word for it. Why on EARTH have I not heard of this series before?!? Or the author?!? I am obviously not in the circle of trust in the book world. If I had been, someone, ANYONE would have told me about this little gem of a series. 

Okay, now that THAT awkwardness is over ... stop what you are doing. Right. Now. Wait, don't stop NOW ... wait till you're done reading this and THEN stop what you're doing. You have to get on your Nook/Kindle/iPad/internet/whatever and order the first book in this series ... it's called Splintered. You can thank me later ... I like chocolates.

I received an advanced sample of Unhinged in exchange for a review. Picking Unhinged up was an easy decision and a hard one at the same time. It was easy because the blurb made it sound fantastic and it was hard because I usually don't read things this deep in a fantasy world. That, and I really didn't enjoy reading Alice in Wonderland ... too weird for me. But when I saw this book, I thought I would give it a try ... it's just a book and I can put it down if it's really too much. 

Well ... I didn't have to put it down. It took me about 0.0285 seconds to get invested in this plot and I haven't even read the first book!! (That will be remedied soon, mind you). Basically, it's about a darker side of Alice in Wonderland ... a girl goes down the rabbit hole and after that, you'll have to buy the book because in no way will anything I describe or tell you in any way compare to how the author has written this book.

A.G. Howard wrote this chapter (and I'm assuming the rest of the book) in such a way that you could hear the mud they were stepping in squishing under their shoes, see the spidery clouds drifting by in the sky and feel the tension in the air ... 

I have read hundreds of books and this is one of the few that has had me hooked so quickly and I'm pretty sure it's the first time I've gotten attached to a book from the middle of a series when I haven't read the first one. 

All of that being said ... go buy Splintered. Immediately. Unfortunately, Unhinged won't be available until January 7th, 2014. That is a really long time to wait for a new installment in a series, I know. But it is really worth the wait and you won't be disappointed! 

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Wired Kingdom (Tara Shores #1)

Title: Wired Kingdom (Tara Shores #1)
Author: Rick Chesler
Date Published: May 2010
Publisher: Deviation
Pages: 426
 ★★★★✩
When a blue whale tagged with a webcam as part of a hit reality television series broadcasts a brutal murder at sea, an FBI agent with a fear of water, finds herself in a deadly race to reach the animal before an unknown killer can destroy the digital evidence it carries.


 A reality tv guru had the interesting idea to equip a wild blue whale with a web cam and make it a live feed 24/7 on the internet for people to watch. The feed showed everything that the blue whale was seeing and also had its gps coordinates available so that the audience would know where the blue whale was. The show "Wired Kingdom" was quite successful, so when the large at-home audience watches a woman meet her demise right in front of the blue whale, there was a public outcry as to whether the incident was staged or real. The FBI gets called in to check it out and the excitement of the book ensues.

Wired Kingdom was a gripping book that seems to have been heavily researched. I was really surprised at how caught up in the book I actually became. Rick Chesler wrote Wired Kingdom from many points of view - which is normal for an author - but he also included the whale's point of view and I found that very interesting and unique. For me, the book really showed down around page 140 for some reason but after 10-15 pages, it picks right back up. During those 10-15 pages, it felt like the book hit a brick wall for me, in a sense. I have reread the same passage a few times and always the same mental reaction - but do not let this discourage you from picking Wired Kingdom up at your nearest bookstore because you will not regret buying this book!