Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Wizardry of Jewish Women by Gillian Polack

A few years ago, I was strongly urged to watch Downton Abbey.  I asked what it was about.  'An abbey.'  Yes, alright.  I'm not daft.  What's the plot?  ' watch it.'  I continued to put it off until I had a broken ankle.  Again.  Unable to move, I figured it would be a great chance to give this plotless television show a fair chance.  I watched the first episode.  I enjoyed it, but I couldn't figure out why.  So I watched another episode.  Then another.  Then another.  Soon I had consumed three seasons.  That was when it hit me.  There isn't a plot other than humanity.  That's what pulled people to the show so strongly.  It shows life in all it's glorious ugliness.

That's exactly what I found in Polack's book.  I began reading and found myself several chapters in, before I realized I hadn't found the distinct plot I was looking for.  I began to really look at why I was so mesmerized by this book.  That's when the link hit me.  This book has the same character magic that Downton Abbey has.  I haven't read such a fine character piece since The Lion Trees.  We get to see the beauty of life, the ugliness, the ineptness and the trite.  Everything that makes life so precious is laid out on display in a manner that you can't help but admire.  They aren't all likable.  Some of them are rude and callous.  Some of them aren't worthy of life.  There's even a smarmy one.  I do so love the word 'smarmy' but it suits him perfectly.  In Polack's characters, we join in every fear and insecurity.  We hurt and rejoice along with them.  While you're sitting back (more like hunched over the novel), reading, you're immersed in their world.  You're not hanging on every action to see what will happen next.  You're hanging on every emotion and needing a stiff shot of whiskey.  This is life in all of its perfect imperfectness.

In the beginning, I had a little trouble with the timeline.  However!  I want to make it very clear that this is done on purpose.  The story is told from more than one point of view.  We have the narrator's point telling the stories of Rhonda and Judith.  We also get to have Rhonda and Judith telling things from their perspective at points.  The fact of the matter is, life doesn't run in a perfect timeline.  It feels like it when we're recounting our day, but when you look back at the history of your life, pieces get all muddled together.  Sure, there's third grade and then fourth grade and eventually high school.  I mean the important pieces of life.  'Jimmy Joe cheated on me and my sister was in a car accident and killed a skunk and I had to go to prom with peacock feathers on my butt.'  When you look back at those types of things in life, you have to force them into chronology because they aren't magically there.  They just exist.  They are.  They're a part of you.  The timeline is only there if you force it to be.  What's my point?  That's how the beginning half of this book is written.  It's not all chronological.  It simply is.  If you go into it looking to jump from Point A to Point B, you're going to find yourself confused.  Enjoy the now.  Enjoy what you're reading as you're reading it.  The pieces will all fit themselves together when it's time and no amount of forcing them will change that.

I've already explained this is a character study, but there's more to it.  It's also a mystery.  It's a paranormal.  It's religious and political.  It's ethical.  It's family and love.  It's romance.  It's skeletons in the closet.  It is the epitome of life.

I was so entranced by this book that I burnt dinner.  I'm a good cook!  Just ask anyone except my  mother.  I was so gone from reality that I didn't hear the sizzling sounds or smell the charcoal smell.  To be honest, I can't even remember what it was that I burnt.  I simply turned off the stove and disposed of whatever it was.  I wasn't really hungry anyway.  I just wanted to read.  Normally, I can flip through a book in a few short hours.  With several breaks for reality.  This book took me an entire week to read, with reluctant breaks for reality.  A LOT of living goes on in 362 pages.  You don't want to miss a single word and oftentimes I found myself sitting and staring at the page as my mind processed what I'd just read.  Nothing about the reading is difficult.  In fact, it's quite a pleasant read.  But when you read something that needs processed, it usually means that you've connected.  I connected pretty often in this book.

On a personal note:  Everyone needs a Dave.  Long live Dave!  I'm not just saying that because he's my favorite character.  Also, my sincere apologies for all the Downton Abbey.  I simply couldn't help myself after my opening!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

What did we buy this week?!?! I can't wait to show you!

Firstly, I'm sad to announce that this is the last purchase for Vampire Books for Blood.  I've really enjoyed taking part in this this year, and I'm anxiously looking forward to seeing next year's offerings in October.  If you haven't participated this year, it's not too late.  Simply go to their web site, find a book you're interested in, and buy it.  That's it!  Then the authors/publishers will donate to the American Red Cross or Canadian Blood Services.  Our final VBB purchase this month is Jane the Hippie Vampire by Lisa Lane.  Lane is donating 100 percent of the profits from Jane the Hippie Vampire sales this month.  That's right!  She's not making a penny!  She's donating it all!

You all know how my system works by now!  I pick a book from the Tuesday Suggested post and purchase it.  All the others go into the 'to buy' list.  This week, I had two reviewers request books, so they get first dibs.  Everyone else has gone on the 'to buy' list!  Don't fret!

The first book is Finding Claire Fletcher by Lisa Regan.  I know absolutely nothing about it, but I'm anxious to read the review! It does look wonderfully creepy!

The second book suggested by a reviewer is Fire Star.  It's the third book in D'lacey's series and our reviewer is working his way through all of them!  That means I'll have a complete set in the library to read, just in case I break an ankle or something!

Next, I purchase something off of the 'to buy' list.  This week, it was pretty easy.  Don't get me wrong...there  are a zillion and four books I want on my 'to buy' list!  But...Ed Erdelac seemed to me that he wasn't having the most pleasant of weeks, so I looked at my list to see what I had listed of his on there.  And behold!  A treasure that I'd put on there a couple of weeks ago and it had gotten lost in the shuffle of other exciting books!  Emergence:  A Humanity 2.0 Novel.  It's published by Ragnarok, so you know it has to be good!  It gathers some of my favorite people and has them write about superhumans in a shared world.  Sounds perfect!

My list pick is always something that I randomly find.  Usually, I try my best to go for a book that has as few reviews as possible, yet still has something intriguing about it.  Cannibals in Love is my only failure so far, but at least it looks really cool on the book shelf.  So this week, let's see what I can come up with!  This last one is always the most difficult!  But I came across a bunch of really neat stuff while looking!  I finally settled on a box set!  I love box sets!  Hopefully, the series won't be devastatingly horrible since I'll have them all!  We're going to try the Shadow Children set!  Sounds intriguing, right?!

That's our list for this week!  If you haven't check out the joint giveaway that Minding Spot and I are doing, you should!  There's a plethora of great stuff being given away!  Only a few days left to enter!  Don't forget to show up on Tuesday and let me know what I should buy next week!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Spoooooooky Giveaway!

I'd love to say I love Fall, but that would be a lie.  I detest it!  It means Winter is on its way, with it's starched collar and soggy boots.  No thank you!  The only bright side is that I'll be spending less time in the swimming pool and more time in the reading nook!  So, that's a reason to celebrate, right?!

We've teamed up with Minding Spot to bring you a Spooktacular giveaway!  Notice I capitalized Spooktacular?  That's because I mean it.  Spooktacular.  Say it out loud.  It's fun.  Spoooook TAC ular.  OK.  I'm done.

So, Wendy has a full list of the giveaway prizes over at Minding Spot.  I wanted to list them all here, and then I thought I'd just give highlights.  However, time is super limited today. The chillen only have partial days of school, it's parent teacher conference time, and we're volunteering at the book fair this week.  So!  I can't really give you the highlights either, because everything is so awesome!  So, you'll have to trek over to Minding Spot to get the list!  And in the time I wrote this paragraph for you, I could have given you a bunch of them!  So let's list a few anyway!

You could win:

Print copies!
Autographed print copies!
A ROK package from Ragnarok Publishing!  If you don't know who they are, you need to go follow them on Facebook!  Go on!  I'll wait!  They're my favorite face in Horror!
Satalyte Publishing is doing a real trick or treat with us!  They're giving away ten books!  What are they?!  We don't know until you trick or treat them!!  I'm reading my first Satalyte Pub book now, and I have to admit I'm blown away.  If the rest of their books follow this same path, it's going to be another favorite publisher!
Peter Fugazzotto!  My goodness!  We have the entire Hounds of the North trilogy in hardback and autographed!  I'm pretty jealous of this one!  I have all of Pete's books in e-copy, but I'd love a hard set!
Stephen Kozeniewski!  You know him!  You love him!  Although, you probably don't love him as much as I do!  He's putting up a copy of each of his books!  Yes!  That's right!  If you miss the great sales he's had going on this month, you can still win a copy of a book!
Katrina Monroe/Katrina Saete (we're not sure which name she's keeping on her books!)  has offered up All Darling Children, which was just released this week and is getting fabulous reviews!
There are so many more!  Justin Robinson!  Phil Tomasso!  Nathan Boyce!  Tim Marquitz!  Timothy Long!  Paige Ambroziak!  L.F. Falconer! Michael Wells Jr! J.L. Murray!  Dusty Crabtree! James Walley!  CT Phipps! Jennifer Brozek! Ed Erdelac! Seth Skorkowsky! Michael Pogach! Rob J Hayes! Curtis M. Lawson! And I'm sure I haven't listed them all!

Minding Spot and I are both putting up special prize packs!  One winner is guaranteed chocolate and the other gets pumpkin spice tea!  Enter!  Enter!  Enter!!!  Official rules found on Minding Spot's page because I'm short on time as well as lazy.

Turns out, The Awesomeness that is Wendy, actually had it all set up for me!  I could have just put the whole thing up instead of rambling your ears off!  But it's Hollarween and ears should be falling off!  You've read my ear-removing post, and now here's what was actually prepped for me:

Exit Strategy by L.F.  Falconer - Autographed Print Copy
Trinity by Paige
  Ambroziak - 1 Print copy
Coldheart by Justin
  Robinson - 1 Print copy
Vampire Esquire's War  Book 1 & 2 by Michael Wells Jr
Vampire Esquire's War
  Book 1 & 2 by Michael Wells Jr
Vampire Esquire's War
  Book 1 & 2 by Michael Wells Jr
Vampire Esquire's War
  Book 1 & 2 by Michael Wells Jr
Vampire Esquire's War
  Book 1 & 2 by Michael Wells Jr
Vampire Esquire's War
  Book 1 & 2 by Michael Wells Jr
Vampire Esquire's War
  Book 1 & 2 by Michael Wells Jr
Vampire Esquire's War
  Book 1 & 2 by Michael Wells Jr
Random E copies from
  Satalyte Publishing
Treasure Island: Zombies
  by Phillip Tomasso
Random E copies from
  Satalyte Publishing
Treasure Island: Zombies
  by Phillip Tomasso
Random E copies from
  Satalyte Publishing
Random E copies from
  Satalyte Publishing
Random E copies from
  Satalyte Publishing
Random E copies from
  Satalyte Publishing
Random E copies from
  Satalyte Publishing
Random E copies from
  Satalyte Publishing
Random E copies from
  Satalyte Publishing
10 Random E copies from
  Satalyte Publishing
Shadow Eyes by Dusty
  Katrina Saete 

Grand Prize 1 - Sponsored by Literary Litter
Ghostbuster Set, Assorted
  Snacks and Steve Kuhn Zombie Series (Ecopy)

Grand Prize 2 - Sponsored by Minding Spot
Jack Skellington Travel
  Mug, Pumpkin Spice Tea, $5 Amazon GC

Grand Prize 3 - Sponsored by Ragnarok Publishing

All eBooks: Jennifer Brozek - 1 The Last Days
of Salton Academy, Edward M. Erdelac - 1 Emergence, Seth Skorkowsky - 1 each of
the Valducan Series + 1 audio credit for Damoren, C.T Phipps - 1 Audible credit
for Cthulhu Armageddon, James Walley - 1 Forty First Wink, Michael Pogach - 1
The Spider in the Laurel, Rob J Hayes - 1 The Heresy Within + 1 Audible code,
Marquit/Martin/Soward - The Dead West Omnibus 1,
Edited by J.M Martin - Blackguards.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

What did we order this week???

I put in our order last night, but I'm just now getting to tell you about it!  I get so darn excited!  New books!  You'd think that I'd run out of space for them!  The fact is, I have two back up bookcases just waiting for me to figure out where I want to put them so I can fill them!  I may have to take out another bedroom for a second library!  I'm ok with that!  On to business!

Our first book this week is from our suggested list.  Thanks to L.F. Falconer for suggesting it!  It actually looks pretty intriguing and I'm sure one or more of our reviewers will want to read it after I've finished!  Or list is pretty full!  I'm really hoping that we all love it, because the sequel is due to come out in December!  That's only two months away!

Our second book comes from the 'to buy' list.  You all should know by now that every book suggested gets put on the list.  Not only that, random books that I come across that look good get added.  Then, I add in new releases by authors that I know I will love.  So, my list is getting pretty lengthy!  This week, we bought Whittet's Bloodmoon.  It's the final installment in the trilogy and I'm excited to finally have the full set again.  I've replaced it several times because I keep finding people who  need to read it :)  On another note, Aurora just finished up a book for children on how to cope when a parent has cancer.  It's called Mama's Knight and is available here.  We adore Aurora and wish her continued success!

The third book on our list is usually something that just randomly looks interesting.  I've come up with some real nightmares from this practice, but I've also gotten some surprise gems.  So this week, I searched for 'underling' and came up with something that looks promising!  There's only one review, and it's by the author's grandmother.  However!  The review seems to be thoughtfully and truthfully written!  Thank you Grandma!  You sold me this book!

Normally, we'd be stopping there...three books.  But!!!  We work a little differently here than most review places.  One of our reviewers has requested a specific book to read, so we're adding that to the list this week!  I'm hoping it's an awesome read and I can't wait to see the review!

One last book!  Since it's October, we're ordering a book from the Vampire Books for Blood list!  I've really had a lot of fun with this this month!  Since I cannot donate blood, it's nice to be able to help an author add a bit of funds to their donation!  I chose this one, mostly because I think all of my reviewers will enjoy it as much as I will.  The author is donating one dollar to the ARC for each book sold in October! However, if you're not really interested in a hard copy, just an FYI, the Kindle version is currently on sale for 99 cents!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

All At Once by Vera Mae

How do you review a book that has forced you to rip open your own soul and poke around amidst the gore and begin stitching yourself back together?  I don't have a clue, but I'm going to give it my best shot.

Firstly, this is a pseudonym for an author that I absolutely adore.  She's one of the most brilliant literary minds alive today.  I don't read romance, but I'll never pass up the chance to read something she has written.

In this book, we're treated to a front row viewing of the magic that is Jayne and Lyel.  A chance meeting, or is it?  Love at first sight.  Immediate connection.  Following that, we have the intensity that is blinding, passionate love.  Time stops existing.  It simply isn't.  Then we have the torture that goes along with such love.  The agony, the despair.  We're stuck where reality and dream conflict.

This is billed as a contemporary romance, but it isn't.  Vera Mae uses a classical literature style that reminds you of Bronte.  You feel like you're back in the 19th century, except that you're in today's downtown New York.  Most contemporary romance is fun and flirty and by the first or second date, there's a whole lot of sex.  All of this culminates in the ultimate marriage.  What Vera Mae has done is nothing like that.  Don't get me wrong, I enjoy sex as much as the next person.  However, sex and romance are not the same thing.  I'm sorry, dear writers, they simply aren't.  Jayne and Lyel's story isn't one of fun, flirty sex.  This is core deep.

I don't read romance for two reasons.  The first is the reason listed above.  Most romance stories don't actually contain any romance.  Second, I'm damaged.  Logic doesn't hurt and I am a coward.  This book gutted me.  Gutted.  I had to reach out because I couldn't handle it on my own.  Logic ceased to exist and I was running on pure emotion.  The fact that any writer can do that to me is astonishing.  Near the beginning, I was reading along when I realized, quite suddenly, that there was no chocolate in my hand and I was grinning.  I wasn't just watching this love story.  I was mesmerized by it.  Later, as the story unfolds, I began to identify so heavily that I grew angry.  I began swearing at the author.  That's when the chocolate came out.  Four Reese's cups.  I ate four.  It felt like all of my old wounds were ripped open fresh.  And then a surprising thing happened.  Jayne began to cope.  And she made sense and she was logical.  At that stage, I began to cope again.  What a wild ride, huh?

Perfection is born of perception, dear readers.  Sharing this perfection with Jayne and Lyel and the entire cast, well it was a life changing experience for me.  Even though I've sworn off romances, I will pick up anything Vera Mae writes.  I'll just be more prepared next time.  Though it was a beautiful, rough experience, I've come out the other side stronger and better for it.

Fire & Chasm by Chelsea M. Campbell

When my youngest son asked me what my book was about, I only had to blink a minute before responding.  'Well, it's about this auror, except he's not an auror because he doesn't just catch dark wizards.  And he's not really an auror because he doesn't catch them, he just kills them.  Plus, he's a kid and he lives in a church.  And he falls in love with this girl that I don't like.  And he has to choose between the wizards and the church.'  His response?  'I'm gonna watch House M.D.'  I suppose if someone gave me that description, I'd probably say the same thing.

Surprisingly, this was actually a mostly great book.  It's dark and grim and dirty and the story telling is captivating.  You have the perfect amount of detail when you need it, and none when you don't.  The characters are incredibly complex.  Even though the backdrop of the story is a separation of church and state with a struggle for power, it doesn't go deeply enough into the politics that it pulls away from the true story in this book.

Az is where our story lies.  He has amnesia for his entire life up until three years ago, when he was found surrounded by dead, bloody wizards.  A priest took him to the school/church with him and he began his double life.  During the day, church-loving boy.  During the night, wizard slaughterer.  Only two people know his secret.  One of those people is incredibly dangerous.  The only clues that Az has to his past is a mysterious tattoo and a dagger.  It could have been a sword, or simply a knife, but I like the word 'dagger' better.  It's speaks more of malicious intent.

Az is stuck at a crossroads and has to make a life-altering decision.  The problem is, he can't make the correct decision without all the facts.  There are two paths to take to get his memories back.  Both of them are led by dangerous men who have the power to annihilate Az.

This book actually reminded me a lot of the young adult books around today like Hunger Games, Sand & Stone, Bloodmark.  It reads quickly and it's entertaining.  At the core of it is the danger and adventure that most teens dream of.  As I was reading, I kept thinking 'Please let Az be another hero!  The world needs more of those!"

So, I only had one issue with this book...the ending.  Though the end is full of action and adventure and ties everything up neatly in a bow, it was a little too cookie cutter for me.  This is how it's supposed to end.  There weren't any surprises thrown at me.  I felt like it was the same ending I've read a hundred times.  Now, the ending being predictable didn't ruin the rest of the book for me.  I'm just hoping that Campbell will choose to be a little more free form in her next novel.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Surprise! We're putting in a bonus order this week!!

After finishing Damaged, I realized I needed a hard copy.  So, I'm cheating a bit!  I can't just put it on my 'to buy' list because I know I'll keep putting it off since I've read it, and then I won't have it here when I want to read it again.  So I'm buying it now.  However!  I don't use Amazon Prime because most of the features are useless to me.  So!  That means I need another book to get free shipping!  Hurray!!!  So here's what we're buying on Surprise Bonus Buying Day!!

Damaged...because it rocks!  Seriously!  And Shawn King's artwork is only part of the beauty here!  Just look at that cover!  You know you want it, too!

So, I still needed to spend $10.01 for free shipping.  So I pulled up my handy dandy 'to buy' list (thanks a lot for the flash back, Blues Clues)  and picked the book that I had closest to that amount.  Ta da!  I know nothing about it except that it'll be awesome!  And if it isn't, you guys will hear from me about it.  It's a Ragnarok book though, so I'm pretty positive I'll love it.  Hey Ragnarok!  You guys are awesome!

Giveaway Notice

All winners of giveaways will be notified as soon as their name has been drawn. Each winner will have two weeks to respond in order to receive their prize. Prizes cannot be delivered without an email/physical address. Any prizes that are not claimed within a two week period will be forfeited.


All books (unless otherwise specified) belong to me already, have been borrowed, or are sent to me by the author, publisher or review company for review. I do not receive any monetary rewards for reviewing books. The opinions expressed in my reviews belong solely to me.