Friday, July 31, 2015

Tuesdays at the Castle

By Jessica Day George

Tuesdays at Castle Glower are Princess Celia’s favorite days. That’s because on Tuesdays the castle adds a new room, a turret, or sometimes even an entire wing to itself. No one ever knows what the castle will do next, and no one—other than Celia, that is—takes time to map out the new additions. But when King and Queen Glower are ambushed and reportedly killed, it’s up to Celia with her secret knowledge of the Castle’s many twists and turns, to protect their home and save their kingdom.

This is one of those gems that just fell into my lap in a surprising way. I have really enjoyed other books by Jessica Day George, but for some reason I just wasn’t expecting this to be one that I liked all that well. I read it because I needed something light and comforting. I was smiling and feeling those wonderful warm-fuzzies as I read about Celia and her family. I wasn’t expecting the plot turns from the synopsis, and I loved the characters to bits. Particularly a certain prince that always seemed to make me smile at his kindness and blonde moments. I am so excited to continue this series and discover more about the sentient castle and its inhabitants. This had a good adventurous story with a strong leading character and supporting characters that weren’t far behind. I enjoyed the light but courageous tone of the book and would highly recommend this to middle readers and any adult who is a kid at heart. It’s heart-warming. It’s a chicken soup comfort book. Well done Ms. George.

I give it a 4 out of 5

Perfect State

By Brandon Sanderson

God-Emperor Kairominas is lord of all he surveys. He has defeated all foes, has united the entire world beneath his rule, and has mastered the arcane arts. He spends his time sparring with his nemesis, who keeps trying to invade Kai’s world.
Except for today. Today, Kai has to go on a date.
Forces have conspired to require him to meet with his equal—a woman from another world who has achieved just as much as he has. What happens when the most important man in the world is forced to have dinner with the most important woman in the world?

Wow. This. Was. Awful. Okay, clarification time. The premise and the plot was amazing as per usual with Brandon Sanderson, I was blown away once I figured out what was going on, which was a weird hybrid of dystopia and high fantasy. I was strongly reminded of The Matrix. After reading the above summary it was jarring to discover the actual genre (which was far from what is described, but there isn’t really a way to describe what he wrote!) My beef with this novella was the underlying plot, and it’s mostly because I was disappointed that Sanderson wrote something that to my mind was sex-driven. I was irritated at the nudity and I felt awful after I finished. I’m the biggest supporter of Elantris and I was flabbergasted with the world building and plotline of Mistborn, I love Legion and Skin Deep, but this was just…ugh. I didn’t like Kai. I didn’t like any of them. It was just the sexual stuff that completely threw me. I hope that Sanderson isn’t going to fall into the adult fantasy trap of feeling the need to write about sex and rape. This was just…disappointing.

I give it a 3 out of 5 (All for the plot and world building.)

To My Friends

By Jeffrey R. Holland

“If you need a burden lifted, I want you to imagine I am in a personal, private, closed-door chat with you. I want to help you if I can.” With those words, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland invites every reader of his latest book to become a friend, to receive instruction and encouragement, counsel and comfort.
Elder Holland addresses these powerful messages “to my friends who love the Lord,” “to my friends who want to change,” “to my friends who face opposition,” and more. Each chapter begins with a beautifully designed quotation to help convey the message in an artistic way, making the book a lovely gift for friends to share. Throughout, Elder Holland’s powerful witness of the Savior shines through, for, as he writes, “I am grateful for the greatest friend any of us could ever have, in time or eternity, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

First off, how can you go wrong with Elder Holland? This is a LDS book (A book geared more toward members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) written by one of the apostles. Elder Holland has a way of being personable even in book format, and he speaks from the heart to the heart. This is a great addition to my library and would definitely be for yours too. With messages that uplift and bring comfort and hope in a world where it’s difficult to find peace and truly live a Christian life, this is the book to study and give as a gift. I found the formatting to be as beautiful as the contents, which only adds to it in my opinion. My favorite chapters were Chapter 9: To My Friends Who Seek to Build Zion, Chapter 13: To My Friends Who Want to Move Forward, Chapter 16: To My Friends Who Stand as Witnesses, and Chapter 18: To My Friends Who Seek Happiness. I was surprised how much this helped me with my perspective, though I probably shouldn’t have been. I especially liked the chapter about Zion. It talks about making Zion a place in your heart so you’re able to live in the world but not get swallowed up by it. I loved it and needed it. All of the sections are wonderful, but a few hit me especially hard, and I would recommend this to anyone. LDS or any Christian, though like I said, certain things are not going to make a lot of sense if you don’t know about the LDS church. The principle is there though, and it’s beautiful.

I give it a 4.75 out of 5 

Dealing With Dragons

By Patricia C. Wrede

Cimorene is everything a princess is not supposed to be: headstrong, tomboyish, smart—and bored. So bored that she runs away to live with a dragon—and finds the family and excitement she’s been looking for.

This has been on my list of to-reads for years. I was engaged almost immediately, but quickly became disinterested and only finished out of sheer will. I know that a lot of people disagree and think this book is the best thing since sliced bread, but I found the plot to be boring (though this could be due to the fact that I’ve read similar books that have been more entertaining and well-done). This may have been the first book to represent the anti-princess stereotype and dragon comraderie, but it was not the first I read, and therefore I was bored. Bored because Cimorene didn’t really have to fight for anything. Sure, she ran away and offered her services to a dragon, but everything that happens to her is done in such a way that she is practically gift-wrapped the ending without having an effective struggle. It was my biggest turn-off. I was past the point of caring because Cimorene didn’t seem to care either. I mean, she was concerned, but it was mild in tone and had me irritated. Anyway, I could go on and on, but this just wasn’t a happy-making read for me. I’d go to many other dragon/princess books before this one. And I’m not going to read the rest of the series. The only way that will happen is if in a few years I forget how bored I was and someone who loves the series talks me into it.

I give it a 2.75 out of 5 (Though it could be a 3, I’m just in a bad mood with this book.)

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Running Dream

By Wendelin Van Draanen

Jessica thinks her life is over when she loses a leg in a car accident. She’s not comforted by the news that she’ll be able to walk with the help of a prosthetic leg. Who cares about walking when you live to run?
As she struggles to cope with crutches and a first cyborg-like prosthetic, Jessica feels oddly both in the spotlight and invisible. People who don’t know what to say, act like she’s not there. Which she could handle better if she weren’t now keenly aware that she’d done the same thing herself to a girl with CP named Rosa. A girl who is going to tutor her through all the math she’s missed. A girl who sees right into the heart of her.
With the support of family, friends, a coach, and her track teammates, Jessica may actually be able to run again. But that’s not enough for her now. She doesn’t just want to cross finish lines herself—she wants to take Rosa with her.

When I started reading I was in a negative mind place and almost decided not to read this book. It starts out with Jessica in the hospital, having just lost a leg. I was expecting a downer book, and I wasn’t particularly in the mood. I decided to keep going and I’m so glad I did. This was an amazing book. I loved the message and I loved how Jessica’s character shows that people are amazing. It was inspiring and motivational. I wanted to fly out my front door and start running. This book was very well written and thought out, having been through a life-changing health situation myself as a teen I had a lot of the same feelings and concerns that Jessica voiced. It was vindicating. This wasn’t a downer book, this was a book about not giving up your dreams and having hope for the future, whatever future that may turn out to be.

I give it a 4.25 out of 5


By Anita Valle

A tempestuous princess + an arrogant prince= a recipe for royal disaster.
Heidel never wanted to be a cookie-cutter princess. She isn’t graceful. She isn’t sweet. She isn’t even skinny! Heidel would much rather cook than curtsy; is more interested in eating that etiquette.
The Nine Princesses are preparing for the annual festival known as Fenwick’s Feast. Heidel plans to enter the Kind’s Cake Contest given by the famous, but crazy, King of Bauble. But also entering the contest is arrogant Prince Eravis who sneers at Heidel’s cooking skills, insults her rounded figure, and mocks her ambition to cure the world of Red Fever.
Caught up in her culinary conquest, Heidel barely notices that another enemy simmers on the back burner, one much more deadly than a sarcastic prince. An enemy who may hold the secret to the princess’s long lost servants.

I enjoy this little novella series, though the last book about Coralina, the seductive and flirtatious princess threw me off. This one also threw me a bit. Heidel wasn’t in the last two books much, and it was surprising to see that she is super competitive, has a horrible temper, and is often a big jerk. That being said, she is also passionate about helping others and a loyal person. It was a shock to read about her this way as her personality didn’t really come up in the previous two books (that I can remember). It was an entertaining book, and I appreciate the added tidbits of mystery that have been added about the servants and the overall plot of the series. This was fun to read and entertaining. Not a huge fan of the making out stuff toward the end though. Ah well.

I give it a 3 out of 5

Monday, July 27, 2015

Longing for Home

By Sarah M. Eden

Though she was only a child during the darkest days of Ireland’s Great Famine, Katie Macauley feels responsible for the loss of her family’s land and the death of her sister. Now a woman grown, Katie has left Ireland for America and the promise of earning money enough to return home again and plead for her family’s forgiveness. She arrives in Hope Springs, Wyoming Territory, a town sharply divided between the Americans who have settled there, with their deep hatred of the Irish, and the Irish immigrants who have come searching for a place to call home. Her arrival tips the precarious balance, and the feud erupts anew. Even in the midst of hatred and violence, however, Katie finds reason to hope. Two men, as different as they are intriguing, vie for her heart, turning her thoughts for the first time toward a future away from Ireland. Katie must now make the hardest decision of her life: stay and give her heart a chance at love, or return home and give her soul the possibility of peace.

I listened to the audiobook instead of reading it, which was my first experience with an audiobook that I didn’t have to immediately put the book down. I’m not an auditory person, but I recently got a job where my commute to and from work is 40 minutes, so I thought, heck I could get a lot of books “read” by listening to them. So, this was my first attempt. The narrator did a fair job at the Irish accents, and the solo southern accent. I found myself liking the story and people because I didn’t know too much about Irish racism in America, though I knew it happened. I admit though that the audiobook took way too long to finish. I could’ve read the book in a day or two, but this dragged out over 3 weeks. I was only able to listen to it in the car (I can’t pay attention if I’m doing anything else). That was my main drawback. It started to feel like a soap opera because listening to it drew it out too much. I do have to warn as well that this book is the first in a two-part story. Things are left pretty much in the air. The following will be a spoiler so if you don’t want to know, do NOT read further: I did something I never do. I was so ticked off that Katie ended up with the wrong person (in my mind) and I actually went in search of spoilers because if she really truly ended up with this person I wasn’t going to read the next book. I couldn’t stand it. I was that passionate about it….and I’m going to read the next book. That is all.

I give it a 3.5 out of 5

The Mysterious Benedict Society

By Trenton Lee Stewart

“Are you a gifted child looking for special opportunities?”
When this peculiar ad appears in the newspaper, dozens of children enroll to take a series of mysterious, mind-bending tests. (And you, dear reader, can test your wits right alongside them.) But in the end just four very special children will succeed. Their challenge: to go on a secret mission that only the most intelligent and resourceful children could complete. With their newfound friendship at stake, will they be able to pass the most important test of all?
Welcome to the Mysterious Benedict Society.

“Remember the white knight.”

This, like many books, is about being different and finding where you belong. Reynie Muldoon is an orphan who has a special tutor who helps him to find an advertisement in a paper asking gifted children if they want a special opportunity. Only through the encouragement of his tutor does Reynie decide to take the tests, which turn out to be myriad and strange tests. Reynie passes, along with three others: Sticky Washington, Kate Wetherall, and Constance Contraire. Sticky is the kid who remembers everything he ever reads. Kate is the daring athletic one, keeping everything she needs in her handy bucket, Constance is stubborn and short, and Reynie, well, he’s the one who is able to lead them. This is a little like mission impossible for gifted kids. It’s cute, deep, and warming to read. The above quote is one of the take-aways that I adored from this book, but I won’t spoil it by telling what it means. You’ll have to read it and find out! I enjoyed this story and the inherent goodness of it. It’s about using your unique gifts to make a difference and overcome difficulties and help others.

I give it a 4 out of 5

Five Kingdoms: The Rogue Knight

By Brandon Mull

Cole Randolph never meant to come to the Outskirts, but when his friends were kidnapped on Halloween he had to try to save them. Now he’s trapped in a world that lies between wakefulness and dreaming, reality and imagination, life and death. Cole’s hunt for his lost friends has led him to the kingdom of Elloweer. Accompanied by new friends Mira, Twitch, and Jace, Cole teams up with the resistance movement and joins the search for Mira’s sister Honor.
But Elloweer has grown unstable. A mysterious enemy is wiping out towns, leaving no witnesses or survivors. And an infamous rebel known throughout the kingdom as the Rogue Knight is upsetting the balance of power. With enemies in pursuit, Cole and Mira must resort to a fascinating new kind of magic to protect themselves. Every move is filled with danger as Cole and his friends try to outwit the High King, who will stop at nothing to regain what he has lost.

The second installment is here, and I’m embarrassed to admit it took me until the third book was out to finally get to reading this. I read the first one the week it came out! Anywho, this second book was quite fun, as all of Brandon Mull’s books are. The adventure and shenanigans are top-notch. I particularly enjoyed the Half-Knight’s character. We are introduced to a few new characters that we know are important and I’m intrigued to find out what is going on in the outskirts. I can’t help but compare this series to Beyonders and I wonder if Mull will work it out that Cole will make it home or have to sacrifice and stay. Similar themes, but like with Beyonders Mull pulls out the rug from you in subtle ways just when you’re sure you have it figured out. That’s what I like. Not a huge pull-the-wool-over-your-eyes, but he gives just enough of a twist to leave me grinning and shaking my head at the sheer awesomeness of the surprise. Hold on to your seatbelts, the surprises are just starting. (I know because I’ve read the third one now too!)

I give it a 4 out of 5

Death Cloud

By Andrew Lane

It is the summer of 1868, and Sherlock Holmes is fourteen. On break from boarding school, he is staying with elderly relatives in the country and expecting a tedious vacation. Instead, he finds himself in the midst of a shocking murder mystery. Two local men have died from symptoms resembling the plague. Soon it is clear they have not died from natural causes.
Heedless of danger, Holmes throws himself into an investigation of what and who really killed them. With encouragement from his American born tutor and the help of two new friends, he uncovers a diabolical plot. So begins his first battle of wits against a brilliantly sinister villain of exquisitely malign intent.

So. Young Sherlock Holmes. Well. Ahem. Alright I’ve stalled enough. How intriguing to put the world’s most famous detective into the awkward phase of youth. I began imagining a know-it-all kid who can’t stand to be around all the boring ‘normal’ people who are so blind to the details of life. I had a pretty clear picture (but was staying open-minded) of what I thought needed to happen. I was expecting a very independent kid who couldn’t stand to let a murder go unsolved simply because he knew that everyone was missing the important clues. Andrew Lane’s Death Cloud introduces us to a 14-year-old Sherlock Holmes, just getting ready for the summer holidays. A loner, but not okay with this, Sherlock is dismayed to realize he isn’t going home when Mycroft appears. It’s evident from the get-go that Sherlock has a hero-worship thing going on with Mycroft (which was weird). Sherlock’s personality is that of a kid who is uncertain and emotional, and far too normal. We are also introduced to Sherlock’s tutor who it is obvious is to be his detecting mentor (which I was also disappointed at. Sherlock Holmes doesn’t seem the type to have needed or wanted anyone telling him the way to do things.) The only reason why I was able to enjoy this book was the fact that I kept forgetting that this kid was supposed to be the Sherlock Holmes. It was decent for a young adult murder mystery. I’m not sold on it at all though. I saw the huge potential for the idea of a young Sherlock, but the choices Lane made seemed more geared toward the genre than the character.

I give it a 3 out of 5 It was fine, but not anywhere near Sherlock’s awesome potential

Friday, July 24, 2015


By K.M. Shea

When Gemma’s drunken father tells King Torgen of Verglas that his daughter can spin straw into gold, Gemma assumes her life is over. Held captive in a room filled with straw, Gemma is ordered to spin it all into gold by dawn the following day, or she will be killed by the king’s orders. Rather than cry her eyes out over her sad fate, Gemma tries escaping, and becomes acquainted with a mysterious mage named Stil. Stil offers to help Gemma complete her task, for a price, and turns the straw into gold thread.
Unfortunately the gold whets the greedy appetite of King Torgen, who is determined to wring more gold from Gemma. Gemma is relieved when Stil agrees to help her a second and third time…but his requested payments for the task grow stranger and stranger…
Can Gemma outsmart the evil king and survive Stil’s unusual bargains?

What an interesting way to retell Rumplestiltskin! The trend right now is to make Rumple the good guy/love interest instead of the little trickster that he was in the original. This is no exception, and to boot, Stil (as he is known in this story), is a mage. A wandering sorcerer who hears of Gemma’s predicament and wants to help. You know what they say about good intentions, sometimes they end up making things worse. I enjoyed this novel a great deal, mostly because Gemma is so snarky and no-nonsense. She doesn’t place trust in anybody but herself, and will escape on her own thank you very much. Stil is ever amused by her and, obvious to everyone but Gemma, almost immediately starts to try and win her affection. It’s cute and fun, and boy am I enjoying Shea’s development as a writer. Her characters are getting more and more interesting all the time and a pleasure to read!

I give this a 3.75 out of 5

The Fairest Beauty

By Melanie Dickerson

Sophie has long wished to get away from her stepmother’s jealous anger, and believes escape is her only chance to be happy. Then a young man named Gabe arrives from Hagenheim Castle, claiming she is betrothed to his older brother, and everything twists upside down. This could be her chance at freedom—but can she trust another person to keep her safe?
Gabe knows he defied his parents Rose and Wilhelm by going to find Sophie, and now he believes they had a right to worry: the orphan girl has stolen his heart. Though romance is impossible—she is his brother’s future wife and Gabe himself is betrothed to someone else—he promises to himself he will keep her safe, no matter what.
When the pair are forced to run to the Cottage of the Seven, they find help—but also find their feelings for each other have grown. Can they find a way to protect Sophie while also safeguarding their hearts?

I have found myself, like I so often do, devouring a series of books that I have found enjoyable to read. This is the latest in the series from Dickerson that I’ve read, based on the fairy tale Snow White. Her re-tellings are more fact-based and down to earth. Not magical, but practical. The villains are just people with evil intent. The good people are God-fearing and kind. I had a little trouble with this story because I liked Gabe but he seemed really wishy-washy. We’re told that he’s irresponsible and rash, but the whole time we as readers know him he is nothing but kind, respectful, and responsible. I was thrown by this, and a little irritated. Sophie is your typical nice sort of blah character. This wasn’t my favorite from Dickerson, but it doesn’t mean I won’t keep reading her books (eventually. I’m taking a break). Although it was fun to read about Rose and Wilhelm's children.

I give it a 3 out of 5 

The Little Selkie

By K.M. Shea

It is with great reluctance—and a lot of frustration—that Dylan, a selkie, saves the Ringsted Prince Callan when she finds him shipwrecked and drifting in the ocean. The experience is nothing but a bother, so she puts it from her mind and swims off on her merry way. Two years later, while chasing an evil sea witch onto land, Dylan’s pelt is stolen, leaving her unable to return to the ocean in her sea lion body. Rather than serve as the sea witch’s tool, Dylan asks a traveling enchantress to seal her voice. The enchantress complies, and Dylan is taken to the royal palace by one of the sea witch’s minions where she encounters, yet again, Prince Callan.
Between court games, a dangerous brush with a kelpie, and sniffing out the sea withch while looking for her pelt, Dylan’s days are a flavorful blend of treachery and boredom. But during her searches and investigations, Prince Callan befriends her, making her question her loyalties. Dylan always thought her heart was with the ocean, but can she defeat the sea witch and leave Callan forever?

K.M. Shea is my favorite go-to for a good fairy-tale retelling. I love how she’s able to keep true to the heart of a story but gives the reader enough little twists that it’s enjoyable to re-experience the classic fairy-tales. This is by far the best retelling I’ve read for The Little Mermaid. Hans Christian Anderson’s original is depressing to say the least, and Disney’s version is delightful. I really appreciated Shea’s decision to use a Selkie instead of a Mermaid, which to my mind made more sense anyway. This is the fifth book in her fairy-tale series, and I didn’t have high hopes for it, but I ended up loving this story. Mostly because of Dylan. Dylan is awesome. She is a girl who is bold and different. I love that Shea made her a bottomless pit when it came to eating. That was hilarious and endearing. She had so much personality, and a different personality! I had gotten used to the typical Princess who was either sick of being royalty and wanted to be normal, or was pushed around and had to find her own voice (with small variations). Dylan is loyal and knows who she is. She doesn’t care about things that don’t matter to her end goal. Falling in love wasn’t what she was waiting for, it happened and she dealt with it like a person. I cannot say enough how much I enjoyed the characters in this book. Also, Callan is a perfect match for Dylan! I don’t want to spoil too much, but he’s just as different as she is and it’s an amazing to see how they work off each other and support/respect one another. Great job Ms. Shea. Bravo!

I give it a 4.25 out of 5 –for awesome original characters!!!

Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening

By Robert Frost
Illustrated by Susan Jeffers

“And miles to go before I sleep.”

This is one of Robert Frost’s most popular poems. Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening has a beautiful, bordering on haunting lyricism. When I came across this picture book set to his words in Barnes and Noble I was more than enthused. It was so gorgeous. The artwork is perfect, and it puts a new spin on the tale. I couldn’t help but picture Santa Claus (as I first found this over Christmas) and was delighted. Everyone I’ve shown this to has been touched and thought it wonderful. It’s a great gift for Christmas, for a friend, for your poetry lover, or your child. Great all around.

It gets a 4.5 out of 5

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Counting by 7s

By Holly Goldberg Sloan

Willow Chance is a twelve-year-old genius, obsessed with nature and diagnosing medical conditions, who finds it comforting to count by 7s. It has never been easy for her to connect with anyone other than her adoptive parents, but that hasn’t kept her from leading a quietly happy life…until now.
Suddenly Willow’s world is tragically changed when her parents both die in a car crash, leaving her alone in a baffling world. The triumph of this book is that it is not a tragedy. This extraordinarily odd, but extraordinarily endearing, girl manages to push through her grief. Her journey to find a fascinatingly diverse and fully believable surrogate family is a joy and revelation to read.

“The corpse blossom has bloomed.”

This is a 2015-2016 Nominee for the Children’s Library Association of Utah in the category of Young Adult Fiction, which is why I decided to read it. I don’t read all the nominees, but I do look for the ones that sound interesting and add my two cents to the voting. This book, in a similar tone to Wonder by R.J. Palacio, (which was amazing by the way), is about a young girl who defies labels. Highly intelligent, Willow Chance is a girl a reader just can’t help but like. She loves plants, gardening, and has a bamboo patch in her backyard as well as all kinds of flora and fauna. She loves studying diseases and is always on the look out for interesting cases in the people she passes on the street. This story is about her own coming of age, about how her differences make her able to help others even in the midst of her own problems. It’s not a book about grief, it’s a book about family, love, and acceptance of yourself. It’s a beautiful little story told in a lyrical way about Willow’s loss and how she comes to face it, and keep moving forward.

I give it a 4 out of 5

P.S. There are brief mentions of teen pregnancy and a small story of how Willow was adopted because her mother was infertile—and Willow explains scientifically the definition of infertility. It was a tad uncomfortable for me, but I’m highly sensitive. Just a fair warning. It’s mild. But it was there. 

Love's Enduring Promise

By Janette Oke

Clark and Marty, the pioneer couple initially thrown together after the deaths of their first mates, now preside over a growing number of youngsters in their prairie home. You will laugh and cry with them as they face the joys and trials of life on a homesteader’s farm. Will they find a suitable teacher for the long-awaited new school? Is the “very learned” Eastern preacher going to be able to communicate with the simpler people of the West? How can they comfort the neighbors whose long-awaited only child brings such sorrow to their home? How do Clark and Marty guide their lovely daughter, now grown to womanhood, in her choice of a partner?

I find myself really enjoying this series. They are comforting and simple. I like reading about the pioneer family, and look forward to the next book which continues the story with Missy. While the first book is more about Marty and Clark exclusively, this book goes a little more into the lives of the people in the small community. There is a cohesion about it that is endearing and you find yourself rolling your eyes at some neighbors, and thoroughly loving others. The best part about this book is the quiet faith that is written into their lives. I’ve read Christian fiction that was so overtly religious and in your face that it felt false. This has a simple day-to-day faith that really appeals to me personally as a Christian, but it also has plenty to offer non-Christians as well, which is why it works so well. It’s just about life in this pioneer town and how they deal with the good and the bad that they face each day. Great series about life, love, religion, family, and everything in-between.

I give it a 3.75 out of 5

And yes, it is also a movie.

Monday, July 20, 2015


By William Ritter

“Miss Rook, I am not an occultist,” Jackaby said. “I have a gift that allows me to see truth where others see the illusion—and there are many illusions. All the world’s a stage, as they say, and I seem to have the only seat in the house with a view behind the curtain.”
Newly arrived in New Fiddleham, New England, 1892, and in need of a job, Abigail Rook meets R.F. Jackaby, an investigator of the unexplained with a keen eye for the extraordinary—including the ability to see supernatural being. Abigail has a gift for noticing ordinary but important details, which makes her perfect for the position of Jackaby’s assistant. On her first day, Abigail finds herself in the midst of a thrilling case: A Serial killer is on the loose. The police are convinced it’s an ordinary villain, but Jackaby is certain it’s a nonhuman creature, whose existence the police—with the exception of a handsome young detective named Charlie Cane—deny.

When a book touts that it is Doctor Who meets Sherlock Holmes, I just can’t pass that up. Two of my favorite things combined? I have to at least read it so I can say whether that claim was founded or not right? Well Watson, let me relate to you my findings based upon the facts: This book had supernatural creatures, well, at least according to Jackaby himself, who seems to be the only one able to perceive these creatures; hence a lot of people think he’s bonkers. It has a companion-like narrator who introduces us to the strange Jackaby and his world of ghosts and goblins. It has hints of romance, vampires, werewolves, ducks that do the filing, and more. The fun thing about the character Jackaby is that he doesn’t care what others think, he has better things to worry about, and he’s totally oblivious to the fact that he’s looked at as insane. It’s very reminiscent of Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor. Once I made that connection I was having a blast. Before I made this connection I did not like Jackaby. It was weird and felt off-putting, but the second I pictured Matt Smith I was gung-ho and in for the long haul. As for comparing this to Sherlock Holmes, I was a little less enthused about that comparison. There were only two reasons I could see where they were coming from: It’s set in Victorian times, and there are mysteries to solve. I never could really picture Sherlock Holmes anywhere near this story though. Regardless, I still had such a ball reading this that I immediately searched out when the next book would come out (September 22). I admit that if I weren’t such a massive Doctor Who fan, I probably wouldn’t have liked this as much as I did, because I wouldn’t have gotten the pacing and humor as readily. It’s an acquired taste. But oh the fun I did have, and look forward to September!

I give it a 4 out of 5

William Shakespeare's Star Wars: Verily a New Hope

By Ian Doescher

Return once more to a galaxy far, far away with this sublime retelling of George Lucas’s epic Star Wars in the style of the immortal Bard of Avon. The saga of a wise (Jedi) knight and an evil (Sith) lord, of a beautiful princess held captive and a young hero coming of age, Star Wars abounds with all the valor and villainy of Shakespeare’s greatest plays. ‘Tis a tale told by fretful Droids, full of faithful Wookies and fearsome Stormtroopers, signifying…pretty much everything.
Reimagined in glorious iambic pentameter, William Shakespeare’s Star Wars will astound and edify Rebels and Imperials alike. Zounds! This is the book you’re looking for.

This is geek love. Shakespeare meets Star Wars, holy mackerel. I was laughing just reading the title. I brought this home and read the first act out loud to my family, including my nieces and nephews and we all had a blast. My Nephews went home quoting this book. The best part is, not only was it a laugh, it was truly artistic in how Mr. Doescher presented it. It was a legit Shakespeare experience! I was shocked how I went from amused to really liking it as a form of literature. I thought it would be a satire and poking fun at both Shakespeare and Star Wars, but dude this was pretty fantastic. Who knew that two such opposite things would mesh so well? Well done Mr. Doescher, well, done indeed.

I give it a 3.75 out of 5

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Healer's Apprentice

By Melanie Dickerson

A young healer’s apprentice named Rose believes she will never marry…until she meets Lord Hamlin, the future ruler of her village. Hamlin is everything she could ever want—kind, understanding, and a man of faith—but her low station and the fact that he’s already betrothed to a mysterious woman makes their romance impossible. As Lord Hamlin seeks to find the sorcerer who cursed his future bride, Rose’s life spins toward confusion. A creative retelling of the classic Sleeping Beauty tale.

This was my first read from Melanie Dickerson, whom I’ve been trying to read for about a year now. After reading this book I promptly read two more of her books. I’m a nerd about fairy-tale retellings. This was an interesting take, putting a Christian spin on the fairy tale as well as a medieval historical setting was intriguing. I was right there loving the story and the faith behind the characters up until the very end. Without spoiling anything, I just got uncomfortable. Demons came into play, and I’m really antsy about occult stuff. I like magic and fantasy as much as the next Harry Potter fanatic, but when someone starts in on possessions, pentagrams, and black magic, I back away as quickly as possible. This towed the line for me. In fact, it tainted an otherwise very likeable story.

Overall I give it a 3.5 out of 5 (would’ve been higher if not for the above mentioned stuff) 

The Quantum Prophecy 2: The Gathering

By Michael Carroll

Ten years after every superhuman vanished from the face of the earth, a new generation of heroes has emerged. Endowed with unimaginable powers, these young crime fighters are suiting up and taking on London’s worst. But heroes become targets when the secret identities of Colin, Renata, and Danny are mysteriously leaked to the press. With their names and faces on every TV station and newspaper around the world, the trio takes refuge at a secret military installation that houses and trains a new crop of superhumans. Together, the three friends join the team as a new threat surfaces in America’s heartland—one that will pit the heroes against the innocents they’re trying to protect, and every action will bring Quantum’s dark prophecy closer to fulfillment…

I read the first book in this series a few years back and was patiently waiting for the library to get the next in the series…I lost interest before they were able to acquire the book. So, I’m not sure if it was because I was still a little miffed at the wait, or if I just didn’t like this book as much, but it fell a little flat for me after my initial love for the first book. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an entertaining and fun read for any superhero lover. I just wish that it was less dark. I guess my attitude toward superheroes is that they should be light, and help us feel like we too can be heroes and defeat our foes. This was more like, wow, life is horrible, I’m destined to become evil and maybe that’s good, because philosophically, there is no “good” and “evil” so what does it matter? It’s a weird vibe.
After reading this I actually opted not to read the third book because like Sam from Lord of the Rings said, “Sometimes you [don’t] want to know the end, because how can the end be happy?” Who knows, I may read it some day when I feel a little braver.

I give it a 3 out of 5

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Friends and Foes

By Sarah M. Eden

After five years of tracking and capturing spies on English soil, Philip Jonquil, Earl of Lampton, is in pursuit of his last quarry. But at a traveler’s inn, he encounters an unexpected and far more maddening foe: Sorrel Kendrick, a young lady who is strikingly pretty, shockingly outspoken, and entirely unimpressed with him. Indeed, Sorrel cannot believe the nerve of this gentleman, who rudely accuses her of theft and insults her feminine dignity. Double annoyed when they both end up at a party hosted by mutual friends, Philip and Sorrel privately declare war on one another. But Philip’s tactics, which range from flirting to indifference, soon backfire as he finds himself reluctantly enjoying Sorrel’s company; and, much to her dismay, Sorrel finds Philip’s odd manner to be increasingly endearing. In the midst of this waning war and growing attraction, Philip catches wind of the French spy he’s been tracking, and Sorrel inadvertently stumbles upon a crucial piece of the puzzle, making her indispensable to the mission. But can two proud hearts negotiate a ceasefire when cooperation matters most?

It has taken me so long to get to this book, though not by choice! After trying unsuccessfully to get this book at my local library, (I had to tell the librarian that this book was the first in the Jonquil novels so she would order it!) and then having gone to another library in the county only to finally get the book and discover it was too heavily inundated with cigarette smoke (which I am allergic to) to read, I was desperate for Philip’s story! I have read all the other Jonquil’s stories, and loved each one. After (finally!) getting a copy,  it did not disappoint. I loved Philip’s character, his dissatisfaction with playing a fool that he most certainly was not for the sake of his country and family, and his playful and witty banter with “General Sorrel” was always smile inducing. I always enjoy a clean romance, and feel that everyone needs a bit of lovey-fluff in their reading library. Sarah M. Eden is one of my go-to sources for an entertaining, polished, and properly romantic read. In fact, I’ve decided to get my favorites for my own ever-growing library. And in case you are interested, that includes Seeking Persephone, this novel, and As You Are.

I give this a solid 4 out of 5.

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

By Marie Kondo

Japanese organizational consultant Marie Kondo takes tidying to a whole new level, promising that if you properly declutter your home once, you'll never have to do it again. Whereas most methods advocate a room-by-room or little-by-little approach, the KonMari Method's category-by-category, all-at-once prescription leads to lasting results. In fact, none of Kondo's clients have been repeat customers (and she still has a three-month waiting list of new customers!). With detailed guidance for every type of item in the household, this quirky little manual from Japan's newest lifestyle phenomenon will help readers clear their clutter and enjoy the unique magic of a tidy home--and the calm, motivated mindset it can inspire.

This was a very interesting read for a girl who loves to organize. What Marie Kondo claims is that if you follow her method you’ll never be cluttered again or find yourself in a mess of ‘stuff’. While I laud her approach (which is a good one) it really isn’t going to work for everyone. Especially if you have a family with more than one or two kids. I just can’t envision this working unless you’re a dictator with your kid and follow them around making sure that they put things in their place. I somehow think that would brainwash a child to be OCD. I have, however, incorporated certain aspects of her book and it has been very nice. Her folding technique is one that I now use and love. I also use her disposal method for my clothes, which was amazing because I was finally able to just get rid of junk I’d had in my closet forever that wasn’t doing anybody any good (except for perhaps dust bunnies). If you’re a cleaning enthusiast, I would say read this just for the experience and try it out. It’s worked for a lot of people, and it has some really great ideas inside it. One thing that endears me to it was how it approached possessions. It encourages people to only keep those things that bring them joy. Don’t keep something because so-and-so gave it to you and you can’t get rid of it, or simply because it still works but you have always hated it. You should surround yourself with beauty and the things that make you happy. Loved that concept, and incorporated it as well.

I give it a 3.75 out of 5