Saturday, January 29, 2011

Mr. Darcy's Secret by Jane Odiwe

In this Austen sequel, Elizabeth and Darcy have wed.  Shortly after returning to Pemberly, Elizabeth finds a letter which begins to make her question her husband.  Does Darcy have a deep dark secret he's hiding?

I have to admit, this one started out rather slowly.  Through the first third of the book I kept wondering when something was going to happen.  Once the story started to pick up, however, I realized that this beginning of the book was integral in establishing the day to day routines and characters.  I still wish it could have been punched up a bit and found myself bored in the beginning.  I found myself not really caring about Darcy's secret or whether dear Lizzie would ever figure it out.  I did find both Darcy and Elizabeth as endearing as ever and the romantic love story is continued with a grand flourish.

Over all, I'd say this book was just an alright read, were it not for one thing.  There was a wonderful back story!  Darcy has decided it's time for his sister, Georgiana, to marry.  Though her heart belongs to one man, she knows it's her familial duty to marry the one chosen for her.  As little as I cared about Darcy and Elizabeth, I was enraptured with Georgiana's story.  Had it been the focal point of the book and Darcy's secret secondary, I would probably have given this book a much better review.

In general, I have to give this book an alright rating.  It's worth a read, especially for you Austen fans.  It's written in beautiful art just as Austen wrote.  Though the beginning was a slow starter, it did make up for it in the end.  I'm just not a patient reader.  It's definitely worth picking up just for reading Georgiana's story. 

Friday, January 28, 2011

Sudden Moves by Kelli Sue Landon

When Katie doesn't return from Spring break, rumors start flying about what happened to her.  The kids at school are told that her family decided to move to Florida, but some of Katie's friends just can't believe that.  Her friends, Michelle and Tami, and her boyfriend, Brad, decide to do a little investigating of their own.  What they find me be even more dark than what their young minds are imagining.

I have one really positive thing to say about this book and one really negative.  First, though, it was a great read.  I was immediately sucked in and didn't want to put it down until I'd finished.  The characters are interesting and lifelike.  The story is presented well and plotted well.  It's definitely a satisfying read.  Now on to the pro and con that really stuck to me.

First, the good stuff.  When I had several chapters left, a good friend texted me and asked what I was doing.  Of course, I responded with reading.  They asked if the book was any good and so I went on a tirade about how I love mysteries but I always seem to figure them out half through and this book is no exception.  At that point, I had the mystery all figured out and was just waiting for the characters to catch up to my brilliant deduction abilities.  They asked if this meant the book would get a bad review and I responded with 'Heavens no!  I usually do have the mystery figured out...it's all a matter of whether I want to keep reading once I have and I definitely want to keep reading this.  Whether I have it figured out or not, I'm still having a blast with it.'  So, before the good thing happened, I was already pleased with the fact that I could keep enjoying the book after the mystery was gone for me.  Then, the most amazing thing happened.  I was wrong!  I freely admit it!  A wonderful little plot twist was tossed right in and I was wrong!  I love it!  I sat the book down, looked out into space and said 'Well, I'll be, Kelli!  Way to go!' 

Now, sadly, the bad news.  Keep in mind, this is just my perspective.  Most of the time, through their actions and dialogue, I imagined them to be 12 or 13 years old at the most.  Every time one of them talked about driving it really threw me.  It was like my mind was on a yo-yo of imagining what they looked like.  One minute they're girls on the cusp of adulthood and the next their supposed to be young adults.  Definitely don't let this sway you from reading the book.  You all know I have to be honest though and I don't want somebody reading it and thinking this and calling me a skunk for not warning anybody ahead of time. 

One last note....it's edited well!  I think I found only one mistake!!!  Woo hoo!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

It's Not Your Fault by Emanuel Barling, Jr., Esq. and Ashley F. Brooks, R.N.

Having reviewed a book by Manny and Ashley before, I knew basically what to expect here.  These are two very loving and sweet people who have been on the brink of death and figured out how to pull themselves back into health using nutrition.  Neither of them are doctors and neither claim to be.  They do their research well and present it in a manner that makes sense.  They don't normally tell you anything silly, such as that they know more than doctors.  They're coming from a place of having been there and wanting to help others.  Since I know the true spirit that this book was meant in, it makes it a little difficult to review it, since I was disappointed in a few things.

First, this book takes a more in-depth look at the foods that we eat.  We all know that fast food isn't healthy for you, but what about a sandwich from the deli?  Fresh tomatoes from the supermarket?  What about foods sweetened with Splenda?  Surely these are healthy for us!  A sandwich is meat, veggies and grains, right?  Tomatoes are a vegetable!  Nothing fishy about that, right?  Splenda has to be better than sugar!  Everyone says sugar is bad, right?

The premise of this book is to educate the populace on exactly what is in the foods that we purchase and eat.  It's researched well and all notes are included for anyone who wants to check up on them.  There are lists of foods that have 'hidden bad foods' in them to make it easier to cut out some of the foods that are 'naughty'.  Manny and Ashley believe the chemicals, pesticides and preservatives in the foods we consume are what make us overweight and unhealthy.  I have to agree with them to some degree. 

Though the book is well-researched and I know they created it to help others, I had a few problems with it.  I'm NOT suggesting you don't read this book!  The information in there is incredible and definitely worth a look, even if you just skim it.  There are some great ideas for alternative foods rather than the ones that we currently eat.  It really is a fascinating read for anyone interested in nutrition, health, or just attaining a better lifestyle.  So what's my problem?  Though I know they meant this to come across in a loving and helpful nature, it just didn't feel that way to me.  To be honest, I was a little biased throughout most of the book as a comment in the very beginning upset me to a small degree.  Farmers were lumped in with the list of people that are 'poisoning' us.  No, those weren't the exact words and I'm not trying to spark a debate, though any of you are more than welcome to respond.  I'm definitely no farmer.  I'm a gardener.  A hobby gardener.  When you get in the business of growing large amounts of plants for mass consumption, you have one huge problem.  Pests.  Insects and other animals attack your crops.  This is just how nature works.  The great thing about organic gardeners is that they grow on a smaller scale so that they can keep down this problem without having to resort to chemicals to keep the plants and produce safe.  I agree that most farmers have to use pesticides in order to keep their crops safe and that those pesticides are probably not the most healthy.  My problem is that in order for those farmers to sell their crops, they have to make sure they're government regulations are up to code.  I don't feel it's fair to blame them for keep their crops free of pests and adhering to government regulations.  Blame the government regulations, sure, but make sure you have a back up plan for keeping the plants and produce pest free.  My biggest problem with this book is that it comes across as organic propaganda.  'Eat organic and you'll be skinny and healthy!'  That's quite possibly true.  The problem is that both sides aren't presented here.  It's not a fair book because it only shows the upside to eating organic.  Yes, you can easily make your own tomato paste at home.  It's much healthier and takes fewer ingredients.  It's also incredibly easy to do.  What isn't listed is that it also takes hours to do.  Now, if you're a stay-at-home mom or work at home, this could be an ideal alternative for you.  You could be cooking your tomato paste while busy doing something else as well.  This just isn't a feasible answer for most people who work full time jobs and have other responsibilities though.  The response to that is to then only buy organic tomato paste.  Great idea.  One problem.  Most people can't afford to only buy organic foods.  They struggle just to buy chemically  preserved items at the store without resorting to canned ravioli.  I guess what I'm saying is that I don't have a problem with the organic lifestyle at all.  I agree that it's way healthier.  I just wish that it had been a section on how to change your lifestyle and start incorporating healthier eating into your life or even a chapter on how to make organic items at home.  I wish that I hadn't felt as if farmers were being attacked.  I wish that more of that loving 'we've been there and we want to help you' attitude was present throughout the book.  Instead, I found more of a 'we're right and everyone else is wrong' attitude.  I so hate typing that because I know for a fact that that isn't the way this book was meant to be presented. 

Cute Eats Cute by C.B. Murphy

Sam is a teenager having more than ordinary problems.  His dad is a DNR agent.  His mother is a free spirit member of Wicca.  His girlfriend and best friends want to save the world.  When the DNR decides the deer population in the local park is overrun, everyone has different opinions of how it should be handled, each wanting Sam to side with them. 

This was actually a much better story than I'd expected.  Though it deals with the difficult issue of whether or not animals should ever be killed, it's done so in a dramatic and 'close to home' way rather than politically.  All sides are presented equally.  I couldn't figure out which side I was on, and I have no idea how poor Sam could either.  Each character is passionate about their position and willing to go to great lengths to do what they believe is right. 

What really impressed me with this story is the way that C.B. was able to pull off the teenager mindset.  Yes, I know he was once one himself, but it's really hard to put yourself back in that position, and that's not even taking into account how much teenagers have changed since I was one.  They are more socially conscious now.  It's almost like the hippie generation skipped my generation and moved right on to the next one.  Yes, that's an overgeneralization, but it's my opinion and I'm holding onto it for now.  The point is that it amazes me how well C.B. was able to put himself in their mindset and extract what each was thinking.  Not only that, but the dialogue is incredibly well written for teens.  It's not 'dumbed down' or talking down or full of that slang that most of us old people believe young people use. 

This was a great story and a good read.  It calls upon you, as the reader, to put the story in perspective as it pertains to your own life.  What do you believe?  It challenges you to go on your own spirit quest and discover a little more about yourself, while at the same time being allowed to sympathize with a poor teenage kid being ripped apart. 

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Mountain Dragon: Fulfillment by Bradley Clemmons

First, thanks, Bradley, for sending me this book so quickly.  You all need to know what a wonderful, understanding man he is.  After my (very whiny)  e-mail letting him know that I just couldn't wait to keep going with the story, he hopped right on it and made sure my every need was taken care of.  I'm always fond of nice authors and very impressed by Bradley's attitude towards a poor, whiny reviewer.

On to the review!  This is the second half of the Mountain Dragon book.  The first, Mountain Dragon:  Aspiration, you'll find reviewed last week.  I loved it and just couldn't wait to get my hands on the rest.  This book picks up right where the other left off.  This was originally written as one book, but with being a new author and not wanting to charge too much for a book, Bradley ended up splitting it up into two segments.  The first follows our heroine from age five until she begins her teen age.  This one continues from there and brings us more of the story of our heroine.  I'm encouraged by some writing at the end of this book that there may be more coming.  Then again, this book was 9 years in the making, so it may be no easy feat to continue the story. 

I loved the second half of the book just as much as the first.  I have to say I got more out of it, but I'll get to that in the next paragraph.  Though this book could be read alone (as can the first), I strongly suggest you read them back to back.  Even after days in between, I was still sucked right back in by the first sentence.  I couldn't sleep.  I carried the book with me while eating and bathing and changing diapers and doing laundry.  I even ended up burning an entire pan of melting chocolate because I couldn't put it down for a few seconds to stir.  Honestly, I consider it chocolate well-destroyed because if I had it to do over again, I still wouldn't have stirred the chocolate!  The storyline is just wonderful.  If you read it as just a story without looking for higher meaning, it's dramatic and full of action and magic.  No, I don't mean pulling coins out from behind ears, I mean that magic that tingles your soul.

On a higher level of thinking, this book is about all of the different levels of attaining enlightenment.  As our heroine goes through the story we watch her learn each level and valuable lessons.  Yes, this sounds boring, but it's really not.  Bradley has a way of presenting thoughts and ideas in such a manner that you read them as just part of the story, but they sink into your brain and allow you to think about them later.  After finishing the second book, I have a more complete line of events to piece it all together.  I'm not finished, by any means.  There's just too much there to ponder and roll around.  I don't mean to sound like he brainwashes you.  It's nothing like that.  I just mean that it's made a part of the story so that you pick it up, but you're not bored and stuck on it.  It's kind of like learning about ghost towns by visiting one.  You get to see everything firsthand (ok, secondhand since it's a book, but you get the point!), but it's not a bunch of boring book learning staring at you.  You learn more by living (even vicariously!)  through something than simply being told about it. 

So, here I've been rambly again.  I'm pretty good at that.  The point is that this is an excellent and fulfilling read.  Though I wasn't fond of the title for the first book, this one was just absolutely wonderful and accurate.  I felt such a wonderful sense of fulfillment upon finishing the book.  Don't make the mistake of not reading the epilogue though!  Trust me!  Honestly, this is a book set that you won't want to miss.  Whether you're reading it for entertainment or enlightenment, you won't be disappointed.  Bradley definitely has my seal of approval and I hope he'll contact me in the future when he has more to be released.

Accidents Can Be Awesome

First, this isn't a review for anything, unless it's reviewing my own ingenuity in which case I'd normally give myself an F+, except for the instance I'm about to tell you about.

Yesterday I was in the mood for these wonderful little Oreo balls that a friend of mine makes.  I have no idea what they're called.  They taste like Oreos and they're shaped like a ball.  She's given me the recipe at least six times and I still have no idea what on earth to put in these things to make them.  So...rather than risk the chance of looking like an idiot by calling her and saying 'Yes, I know you've given me the recipe a zillion times, but how do you make those Oreo ball thingies?', I decided to guess!  Sometimes I get lucky with recipes and sometimes I don't, but at least I knew there were Oreos in it, which means I had more than a fifty percent chance of getting them right....right???  Nope!  I decided milk must be the magical ingredient and began pouring hapharzardly into my bowl of crushed oreos.  What I ended up with was a thick, syrupy, yummy-tasting, gooey  mess.  Sam decided it made great mud to cover his trains in, so he took half of the bowl.  The other half, well obviously there was no way I was rolling these things into balls.  I really didn't want to slurp down a bowl of goo, either.  I started randomly opening cabinets, looking for inspiration.  There it was!  A cake mix that I'd tossed together about 3 or 4 months ago!  I whipped up the cake mix and baked it.  Then I slapped the goo, like day-old cement, in between the layers and topped with a sweet chocolate frosting.  I have to tell you guys...this is the best cake ever!  This Oreo goo is amazing and I wish I'd have accidentally happened upon it before!  It sort of soaked into the cake, but not all the way.  Instead of having a layer of Oreo goo in between two cake layers, I ended up having a fudge-like center to my cake!  Yum!  I sure hope I can make it again on purpose!

P.S.  Nope, that's not my cake up there!  I just really hate to post a blog without a picture and that cake looks yummy!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Threads West by Reid Lance Rosenthal

This book is the first in a six part saga about a group of people that are migrating west in the 1850's.  They all start out separately, having their own secrets, pasts and reasons for the journey.  As the saga begins, their paths cross and the story begins to unfold.

Love it!  My only complaint is that I'm not willing to wait around for the second book.  I suppose I don't have any choice but to wait, but that doesn't mean I have to like it!  According to Reid's blog, he's currently working on Maps of Fate, the second book and hopefully I'll be notified when it's published so I can let you guys know.

This book is gritty and dirty and doesn't hold anything back.  On the other hand, it's definitely polished.  Reid has a knack for making even the mundane, necessary descriptions alluring.  I was sucked in from page one and I've had two sleepless nights because of Threads.  I've found myself having every reaction from 'Aww...that's so sweet!' to 'YOU F^*%%^& B^%$^*&!!!' Sadly, those expletives were out loud and I'm ashamed of my behavior, but I'm not taking the blame!  The characters are lovable and detestable and I need more of them!

The Threads West saga has been compared to Lonesome Dove.  Personally, I've not seen or read Lonesome Dove, so I can't say for sure.  I can tell you that this book will appeal to history buffs as well as those who enjoy, romance, drama, action, politics, westerns and a good old-fashioned castration while being hung.  Alright, the castration and hanging part hasn't happened yet, but I sure hope it does!  Reid's found a faithful reader in me and I'm eager to see what happens next.  Also, on a personal note, you should go check out Reid's blog because that is one good looking cowboy!

Monday, January 17, 2011

I Want What She's Got! by Bette James Laughrun & Kathie Nelson

Many women suffer from transitions in life.  Not just women, though this book is geared towards them.  It's that feeling where you just don't know what to do next.  Where is your life headed?  Why are you so unhappy and empty feeling?  How do you flip it all around and make yourself happy?

I read this book immediately after reading The Hole and I'm thankful I did.  I already had the thinking portion implanted in my brain.  My mindset was that of wondering how to fix the hole that I myself am dealing with.  Though I knew the ultimate goal for dealing with it, where did I start?

This book starts off with the story of one of the authors, Bette.  She was in the same rut that most women find themselves in.  Day in and day out it's taking care of the family and the house and the budgeting and the cooking and the cleaning and the laundry and the repairs and the homework and reminding of baths and scheduling play dates and all of those wonderful job titles that mothers and wives hold.  Bette found her soul screaming to have a place of it's own, her spirit squashed by all of the titles that she held.  I don't know of any woman that doesn't identify with this.

What I enjoyed about this book most is that it takes a step by step approach to fixing that empty feeling inside.  Though there are entertaining, inspirational stories, I was more drawn to the self-help tools the book held.  As a reader, you're presented with personal questions that you must ask yourself.  Then it shows you how to take those answers and use them to turn around your life.

Both of these books together painted a picture for me of figuring out how to fix that empty feeling inside.  One started me thinking about it while the other pointed the direction to get to the end result the first brought me to.  Most of the questions asked are thought-provoking and meaningful.  On a personal note, I can't answer most of them yet. 

The Hole by Bruce Derman, Ph.D.

It's always interesting to me when I read two books back to back that seem to work well together.  I was tempted to review them both together, but that wouldn't exactly be fair to the authors, so I'm going to do them separately and let you figure the rest out.

The first book is The Hole.  It's a fable written by a psychotherapist who deals mostly with patients that have that 'empty' feeling.  Most of us have had this at one time or another.  It's that little black hole that eats at us when we're having an identity crisis, going through a divorce or some other grieving process. 

The story tells us about a couple who are picture perfect on the outside, but inside they begin to get that unhappy, empty feeling.  A hole appears in their perfect home and they have to figure out how to deal with it.

As for the writing, it's a cute little story.  It's written in a light manner that's easy to both read and comprehend for nearly any adult.  I can't really say it's 'dumbed down', but it is simplistic.  Difficult concepts are written in such a manner that most anyone can understand what's being said. 

This book doesn't give you step by step instructions on finding your purpose in life or how to fill that emptiness inside.  It presents you with ideas to think about.  It's sort of like asking for the meaning of life and someone replies with a one word answer.  You get what you seek, but you have to work for attainment of it.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Robblogger

Stop!  Don't put that dollar twenty five in the soda machine!  Yes, I know you need a Mountain Dew, but you'll have that finished in under a minute and I have a much better use for it!  OK, actually, forget that.  You don't have to spend the dollar for this...but you'll want to!

I received a fun little e-mail today asking me to check out an e-book called Don't Go There.  Of course my first impression is always 'Woohoo!  Another book to review!' but then I found out what this one is about and I was a little concerned.  Robb runs his own blog titled Inspired by Caffeine & Nicotine.  When his girlfriend was pressuring him to go out of the country for vacation, he began to write this book of reasons NOT to visit specific other countries.  Of course, I was told ahead of time that Robb was funny, but let's be honest.  That's like every mother saying that her child is beautiful.  It's not that it isn't true, but it's definitely a matter of perspective.  I've certainly seen some ugly babies in my time.  So....what did I find?

I'll tell you, for 99 cents you can't go wrong!  I dare you to read this and not laugh out loud!  I laughed through almost the entire book.  I don't mean I sniggered occasionally...I mean I was full on belly laughing.  This guy is hilarious!  I'll admit that it isn't for those of you that are squeamish with any mention of sex or hookers, but it's still rather tastefully done.  Reading this book was like sitting back with a bunch of friends and watching the crazy one get drunk and start spouting off about traveling the world.  Great entertainment!  I also happened to learn quite a bit.  There are excerpts from Wikipedia and tourism boards on each country as well as tidbits that the author dug up somewhere.  I'm afraid this had the opposite effect on me that it was supposed to.  Instead of wanting to avoid these countries, I now want to visit every single one so that I can stand there and say 'Yep!  This is what he was talking about!  Stranded in the desert with a sewing kit!  This is the life!'  and 'Ode to a beautiful stream!  I'll make up something poetic for you!' :) 

Honestly, just go check out the blog and if you're not hooked on Robb's wit, don't bother spending the 99 cents for the e-book.  Me, personally, LOVED IT!  That's the best laugh I've had in a long while.  It was even better than the time I took the top off the computer desk and put it on the floor so I could reach the stereo and when I stepped on top of it it just crunched beneath my feet like it was made out of saltines and I looked like a pink daisied ninja who'd just chopped a board in half and had a room full of my girlfriends who'd watched the whole thing!  Actually, I laughed even harder than the time that my girlfriends and I were having a weekend off and I had on this cute little black leather miniskirt and realized there was a cup behind the sectional and reached behind to get it only to go flying over the back and land in a completed folded position, stuck between the sectional and the corner of the walls with an old pair of blinds stuck up my skirt.  Point being...check this out!!!

Mountain Dragon: Aspiration by Bradley Clemmons

More!  More!  Yes, I'm emailing you in a few minutes, Bradley!  I need more! 

Honestly, if you're only going to pick one new author this year to try out, this is the one to go for.  Don't let the fact that this is a self-publication stop you from picking this up.  It was released a few months ago and I just now got my hands on a copy, but I tell you....get it as quickly as you can so you can sit down and devour it!

Alright, enough of my rambling...on with my rambly review!

This book is the beginning of the life of a young girl.  Well, not really the beginning.  We start with her being five years of age and follow the chronicles of her childhood.  I can't give you her name because she has so many.  I don't want to give any spoilers, but I suppose I can tell you that it starts out by her seeing her family being viciously slaughtered before being found by bandits.  Great way to start as a child, huh?  There's so much more to her than meets the eye though.  She has special abilities and powers that she has to hide from others.  This isn't modern earth where witches are welcomed. 

Where to start?  Where to start?  This book is epic.  There's action, adventure, romance, drama and magic.  This book is incredibly well written and thankfully edited nicely.  Bradley has a way of writing that just sucks you right into his world and holds you tightly, not allowing you to escape for even the mundane daily rituals.  I've spent three days reading this book.  I put it down when forced to, but it was always right next to me in anticipation of flipping to my next paragraph and continuing on my journey.  I would never have picked this book up off of a store shelf due to the title (sorry...but it's lame!) but I'm thankful that the book was placed in my hands as it's easily the best story of it's genre I've ever read.  What genre would that be?  It's political, fiction, action, adventure and bildungsroman (Sorry!  I love that word and it shouldn't be counted against me in spell check!  Just ask my seventh grade teacher!).  After all of the wonderful writing, we have beautiful illustrations throughout the book.  Wonderfully done, JULIA WITWER!  Any of you needing an illustrator, contact this girl!  I admit, I'm not fond of the front cover title either, but the illustrations inside the book are absolutely captivating and add so much to the story.  The very last page of the book has a picture of a Tibetan Guardian Dragon and it made me want to break out my colored pencils!  Hmm...I wonder if the drawings in the book could be changed to be perforated....then it would be combination novel/coloring book.  Honestly, I hate the fact that these beautiful depictions won't be seen again by anyone unless they read the book.  I want to color them all and frame them and hang them up all over the place!

Ok, enough rambling.  As you can all tell, I thoroughly enjoyed the book.  My only complaint (and you all know I have to have at least one!)  is the front cover of the book.  It makes the main character look like a crazy little twit and the title doesn't do anything to endear me to the book.  As I stated before, if I saw it sitting on a store shelf, I'd bypass it without a second glimpse.  Don't let the cover ruin this book for you though.  It's a true gem and I strongly suggest all fiction lovers pick it up!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Pilot Mountain by Robert Wall

I'm disgusted and I feel cheated!

This novel is the fictional story of Robert Wall's great grandfather.  Louis Wall was a member of the Confederate army during the war.  This story takes us from the time he left for war until several years after he was released.

Over all, the book was a great success.  Let me rephrase that.  The story was a great success.  The storytelling portion of the book was great.  I felt like I was sitting and watching a series of moving pictures that were being narrated by a deep, graceful voice.  It was easy to become engrossed in Louis' story.  Throughout the book there are sprinklings of first account writings of actual soldiers in the war as well as factual statistics.  I found these the most entertaining in the entire book.  At the end there is a synopsis of the life of the real Louis Wall.

So, why am I so angry?  I'm angry because I hate blasting a book!  Robert Wall has previously published works.  He holds doctorates of learning from reputable colleges.  He spent long hours researching his family geneology as well as the war so that he could write this book.  At first glance, this is a learned man.  That's what I was expecting.  The first chapter alone was gruesome to read and I had to force myself to continue on.  We find fragmented sentences, run-on sentences, grammatical errors, misspellingss, and worst of all...misspelled, mis-capitalized words in the middle of fragmented sentences!  Now, I'll admit that some poetic license is allowable in writing.  I'll admit that most books I read haven't been properly edited and I let that slide.  This, however, is not a matter of a few minor errors throughout the book.  This is literally painful to read!  Many times I found myself rereading paragraph after paragraph because I couldn't figure out what on earth was being said.  The story is clear, but the errors in writing make it difficult to comprehend.  I just don't understand what causes a person to go to the trouble of researching and writing a book and going through the rigors of publication without paying the nominal fee for an editor.  If you don't want to pay the exhorbitant fees of some companies then don't!  There are thousands of freelance editors available on the internet that would edit your book for a pittance of what some companies charge and they're just as reliable!  In the case that you really can't come up with even the pittance for the freelancer, then at least invest in a writing program that offers spellcheck! 

Alright, end of rant for now.  Honestly, if you can get past the lack of writing ability in this book, the actual story is worth a look.  If the book had been edited, this would have been a four or five star review for me.  It's just too painful to read with all of the mistakes.  My suggestions to the author:  Take this book and have it edited and then rerelease it!  The story is good enough to be picked up by a major publication company but you're severely holding yourself back.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Magel's Daughter by Nancy Baker

At first glance, Karin is your typical housewife.  Delving deeper, we find how skeletons in the closet have affected her delicate psyche.  This book takes us from a solid woman looking to find herself in a world lost in dirty dishes and helping the children with homework to a place so dark that few tread.

One of the things I love most about reading is that each book is a different form of art.  There are some that are just set in stone and we extract the facts and integrate them into our own lives.  Most books, however, are put together in such a manner that the reader has to extract the images and put them together in a different manner.  Your mind becomes the ending place for whatever you've filtered from the book.  Each of us finds something different, as if determining what we choose to take away from a painting.  The facts are all there but we interpret them differently.

I had so much fun with this book!  It's dark and humorous and there are so many different ways to interpret it.  The back of the book proclaims that we're watching the end of Karin's journey into insanity.  I spent the entire book trying to rationalize her behaviors and thoughts because I don't want her to be crazy.  Is she?  That's up to the reader.  In my opinion, she could be or she could not be. 

Sometimes when I go check out other review before writing mine, simply because I want to know if others got the same thing out of the book that I did.  Every single other review that I found focused on the matriarchal viewpoint of the book.  It's there and it's definitely a focal point, but there's so much more.  It's interesting watching Karin fight against the history of her family and her mother's controlling ways.  For me, this wasn't the main plot of the book, however.  Insert art viewpoint here.

As a read, this was definitely engrossing.  I was immediately sucked in by the odd behaviors of the family and the entertaining comments of the 'ghosts'.  The characters are all real and dark.  You love them and hate them, all at the same time.  You despise their weaknesses and inhumanity while at the same time relishing their intricacies and strengths.  Don't pick this up looking for a light summery read, however.  This is a dark look at life, though grossly fun.

The only complaint I have about this book is that I would have loved to have seen a study guide questionnaire added to the back.  This is perfect book club material.  After reading, there is so much that you have going through your mind and you need to discuss it with others.  You  need others to bounce ideas off of in order to gain the full potential of the book.  Not only are there the major points regarding familial bonds and power within the family, but there are subtexts throughout the entire book.  I can't imagine how long it took Nancy to develop such a stimulating book while entwining so many life views and possibilities without coming across as preachy and boring.  Well done!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

End of Marking Time by C.J. West free e-book!

C.J. West is giving away e-copies of his book End of Marking Time.  I haven't read it yet, but I did read Sin & Vengeance and loved it!  To request your FREE copy, contact C.J.  Don't worry!  He's a personable guy and a joy to know!  When you contact him, be sure to let him know which format you'd like.  The book is available in Kindle (mobi), Nook (epub), Sony (Irf), or computer (pdf).

Also, CJ wants readers to know about an indie book group starting up on January 17th.  The first book they'll be discussing is Marking Time.  

Contact CJ either here or here To check out the indie book group, go here.  Have a beautiful day, all! 

Friday, January 7, 2011

January's Amazon Winner

Alright, I readily admit it!  I'm still lagging behind!  I will get caught up eventually though.  Here we are 7 days into the new year already.  I'm really not doing that badly considering I'm only 7 days behind in posting this.  So...let's skip the rambling and move on to the important information, shall we?

As all my faithful readers know, each month I give away a $5 Amazon gift card.  All you have to do to be entered is be a follower on Twitter, Networked Blogs, or Google Friends.  No comments to leave.  No contests or questions asked.  The only hitch is that you have 48 hours to respond to my request for your e-mail address.  This month's winner is Mary S.   You can check out Mary's blog at Crazy Cat Lady.    Mary's site is a wonderful selection of giveaways and reviews.  I heartily suggest you check it out.  Congrats, Mary!!!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Case Closed? by Susan Hughes (Illustrated by Michael Wandelmaier)

A few years ago I fell in love with this short television series that took stories from the Bible and attempted to either prove or disprove that they actually happened.  Most of you have either heard of or seen those shows where they take cold case police files and use today's technology to try to solve crimes.  One of my friends is a huge Billy the Kid fan and talks incessantly of the need to use DNA testing to find out for sure who the real Billy was and where he's buried.

This book takes nine different well-known mysteries and uses today's technology to try to solve them.  I loved it!!!  I'm sure you all noticed that I mentioned the illustrator in the title and I don't normally do that.  In this case it was a must.  The illustrations are smart, sharp and add so much to the book.  Each mystery gives you a fact sheet containing all the pertinent information originally tacked to the mystery.  It also talks about the person(s) trying to solve the mystery and how they plan to go about it.  It goes in depth (but not to the point of being boring) into the scientific methods being used that we have available today that weren't available at the time the mystery came into being.  It then tells us the findings as well as other interesting tidbits that are tied into the mystery being focused on.

For me there were three that were really interesting.  The first was finding out what actually happened to Princess Anastasia Romanov.  I'm sure there are plenty of you out there that already know the findings since the mystery was solved a few years ago.  I was not among you, but now I am!  Now I know what happened to her!  Another was finding out what happened to the Anasazi tribe!  Thank you elementary school education for teaching me about them and thank you brain for remembering who they were all these years!  The pictures that go along with this mystery are absolutely astounding and have me planning my next vacation to go to Colorado and see everything up close and personal.  The third most interesting for me was a story about a Chinese man I'd never heard of.  The interesting part of this mystery wasn't the mystery itself, but how they went about solving it.   I'm not telling!  You have to pick up the book!

When I first picked this up, I thought it was geared towards children, and I suppose in some ways it is but not exclusively.  I can't imagine anyone not being thrilled with this book.  I know several people who don't read, which I just don't comprehend.  It's not that they aren't able to, they choose not to because they don't enjoy it.  I put this book in front of one of them and said 'Hey!  Check this out!'  and the response I was greeted with was 'Cool!'  I can't honestly state that they read every word of the book, but they were fascinated by the pictures and did read at least snippets of it.  It's fascinating, factual, and colorful. 

The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy by Mary Lydon Simonsen

It's obvious to Georgiana Darcy that the lovely Elizabeth Bennet is her brother's perfect match, but Darcy's pigheadedness and Elizabeth's wounded pride are going to keep them both from the loves of their lives.


Georgiana can't let that happen, so she readily agrees to help her not-at-all-snobbish cousin, Anne de Bourgh, do everything within their power to assure her beloved brother's happiness.


But the path of matchmaking never did run smooth....-taken from the back of the book

I have to admit I love the Austen trend that's been going around the past couple of years.  It's so much fun to watch authors take beloved characters and just run with them.  Sometimes they put them in odd situations and sometimes they just retell the tale in a new manner.  I have to admit that a few of the Darcy books that I've read have been boring failures, but I'm happy to proclaim that this is not one of them!

I found the writing absolutely alluring.  It's witty and full of character.  I was sucked in from the very beginning and couldn't put the book down.  I found all of the characters to be completely lovable, although in different forms.  Some of the characters are absolutely vile and I found myself loving every time they entered onto the scene.  Their impromptu remarks and actions kept me giggling throughout the book.  The wit of the main characters kept me smiling in between the giggling.  No, this book isn't primarily humor but what's the point of romance if you don't smile throughout it?  Ah, the romance part!  It's in there!  You won't find all the lackadaisical sex scenes that today often pass for romance.  What you'll find is sweetness and love.

There are a few misunderstandings throughout the book, but I love the way that they were dealt with.  One of the formula's for romance novels states that there should be a misunderstanding and instead of thinking about what happened like normal, rational adults, a character (or more than one in some cases!)  holds onto their incorrect and childish way of thinking until the end of the book when the truth clobbers them over the head.  I detest that!  If you're too stupid to ask if Joe had an affair with your best friend then you're too stupid to be in a book I'm reading!  If you don't have the good sense to realize that just because Sheryl is hugging a man it doesn't mean she's sleeping with him, then I don't want to read about you!  I want to read about smart characters that have a bit of morality and a good bit of intelligence.  What I loved most about this book is that throughout the misunderstandings, characters are dealing with situations as I would.  Well, as I'd like to think any mature adult would (Not that I'm mature, mind you!)  Instead of assuming the worst and carrying it throughout the book, they take the time to think about the situation and act accordingly.  This made for a much better read for me.  Instead of spending the book wondering why paper was wasted on such a dimwitted human being, I was able to enjoy all of the nonsensical things that went wrong.

This book is crisp as a spring day.  It's fresh and charming.  Some of the characters are deliciously annoying while others will capture your heart.  A wonderful sense of adventure and intrigue are found.  I strongly suggest this book for you Darcy fans out there, but also for anyone else looking for a fun romance or just a jolly good time.

All Points North by Shelby R. Lee III

Sometimes comical, always moving, and often starkly painful, the stories in this unique collection share one overriding similarity: an extraordinary ability to reveal the deep psychological complexities of the human experience.  In All Points North, author Shelby Lee targets the unseen mental landscape that informs our daily lives.  Here are 13 short stories that trace the roots of grief, anger, psychological torment and sorrow, and shine a much needed light on our seemingly unexplainable behavior and attitudes. -taken from the back of the book

Imagine you're in a waiting room.  It could be at the doctor's office, the dentist's office, or waiting for whatever it is you're waiting for.  You're sitting in one of those brittle and scratchy orange chairs that people used to covet in the 70's.  The floor is covered in some type of scraped up linoleum and the walls have dull, peeling wallpaper.  The only sound you hear is the ticking of a clock that's trapped upon the wall with a steel cage holding it tightly.  The only other discernable thing about this room is that there are 13 other people in this room as well, all sitting in the same scratchy chairs and looking about the room for some form of entertainment while waiting.  Some are old.  Some are young.  There are different genders and ethnicities.  Every person in this room has a different background and a different outlook.  You don't know any of these people, but what better way to spend your time than by getting to know them?  As you go around the room, each person has something to share.  Each has something pressing on their brain.  It may be a memory they treasure or despise.  It may be a story they heard that always makes them smile once the laughter has faded from it.  It could be ranting about that nosy old neighbor that just won't die.

This book is a compilation of wonderful short stories, each in the tone and mannerisms of a different person with a different outlook and a different background.  To me it was like sitting in the above-mentioned room and enjoying the time to listen to each person stand in the middle of the room and tell whatever tale they happened to have on their mind.  The range of stories is random and incredible.  Some stories I found rather similar, just as many of us have similar happenings in our lives.  Some made me smile because it wasn't really a story, but rather like listening to a good friend vent.

The best thing about short stories is that they're short.  You can read them in the bathroom or while waiting for the kids to be released from school.  It doesn't matter.  If you've got ten minutes, you can easily fit a story in.  The best part about this compilation of short stories is that after you've filled all those ten to twenty minute gaps in and read all of the short stories, you can take the time to compile them together in your brain.  Yes, these are all very different stories and in very different methods of storytelling, but at the end  you find yourself putting them together to make a beautiful collage of human nature. 

Sentimental Me by Charles L. Fields

Don't let this nostalgic title Sentimental Me fool you.  This fast paced travel mystery is a true gem.

It takes Boston lawyer, Charles Stone to Agua Prieta, Mexico to see why a slain U.S. Border patrol Agent made a woman with known Drug Cartel connections the beneficiary of his $500,000 life insurance policy.  Stone was ofen called in by the Franklin Life Insurance Company to investigate what they referred to as 'exotic cases.'  He recently returned from an assignment in Ireland involving the Real IRA and a notorious international arms dealer.  Exposing fraudulent activity almost cost him his life.  needing a little R&R, he accepted the retainer and hoped the trip to Arizona and the Mexican border city would not be as dangerous, but nothing Franklin Life assigned him had ever been a 'piece of cake'.  This investigative journey, rich in descriptive side events, introduces the reader to murder, drugs, arms smuggling and the powerful people who make it all happen. -taken from the back of the book

Well that certainly makes the book sound exciting, doesn't it?!  I started off reading this book and it reminded me of the movie Funny Farm.  Anyone who's seen the movie knows the scene where the wife is reading the husband's manuscript and she bursts into tears because there are so many flashbacks and flashforwards and possibly even a flashsideways.  I'm sorry, Charles, but in the beginning I wanted to throw this book as far as I could instead of finishing it.  It's not flashes that bother me, it's all the extraneous information.  The first six chapters are really difficult to get through because there just isn't anything all that interesting going on and it feels like I'm constantly being sidetracked and forced to look at something I don't care about such as dentists and local trivia.

In chapter six things started to pick up and I finally found myself starting to enjoy the story.  It was a  little predictable in most spots and there were still a few areas where I found myself yelling out 'Get on with it!' but at least I was finally starting to enjoy it.  Around chapter 20 I was finally hooked!  This book may be a 'ride to Hell and back', but it sure took a long time to get to it!  Things really started to fall in place in the ending parts of the book.  It just felt like Charles finally got his flow going and the story was much more smooth and easy to stay interested in.  Though it was still a bit predictable, at that point I didn't care.  I was really enjoying the story by that point.

Though the book is really slow to begin, please don't let that put you off.  After I finished the book, I definitely felt it was worth the wait for the story to really get going.  In the end, it was worth slogging through the beginning.  Also, I can't say this was a ride to Hell and back, but I can say it was a good mystery and an interesting adventure.

The sequel to this book, Canyons of the Soul, seems to be much more promising.  In the next book we find Charles Stone again but this time he's up against a demonic prophet.  Bring it on!  Though I can't say I loved the first book and didn't have any issues with it, I'm really looking forward to Canyons.  I hope that Charles will bring the easy flow to it that he found near the end of Sentimental Me.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Reindeer Keeper by Barbara Briggs Ward

As the title indicates, this book features a Christmas theme.  I desperately wanted to review it before Christmas, but was unable to.  I tried, I really did but I just couldn't.  Everyone who knows me personally knows a few key facts about me.  One of them is that I'm in love with Santa Claus and another is that I still believe in him.  Scoff if you will, but you'll not get your stocking filled!  One of the most important personal facts that my dear ones know is that I believe that the world should be filled with magic.  No, I don't mean sawing ladies in half.  I mean the kind that reap miracles and joy.  The kind of magic that fills your soul with wonder and makes you believe that maybe, just maybe, life isn't as tough as it may seem sometimes.  Now, I tell you those facts because it'll make you see how excited I was to get my hands on this book.  Santa Claus, Christmas and magic...I'm there!  What I hadn't counted on was just how.....well how deeply this book would affect me.  For me personally, Christmas was tough this year.  I wanted all the magic to be there, but having recently lost my father and being away from my family, I just couldn't fill those holes long enough to let the magic seep in.  So, what this rambling paragraph is attempting to say is:  I desperately wanted to read and review this book before Christmas but it tore at the wounds I was feeling so deeply that no words would come.

Now, please don't take that in the wrong manner.  This is not a depressing and sad tale.  It's glorious and uplifting and heartfelt and I'm deeply in love with it.  In fact, It's going on my keeper shelf in a special section that I keep for the books that move me so much that I read them only once a year.  Alright, enough of my rambling, time to get on with the review!  This book just hit me really hard and even now, after weeks, I'm feeling it's power and I want to share that with all of you.

Through a series of events, Abbey and her husband inherit a century old farmhouse, complete with barn and animals.  The only stipulation is that the animals stay.  Right away, Abbey knows there's something special about this place.  There's also something special about the odd little man that cares for the animals.  With Abbey's cancer in remission, she's looking forward to her boys being home for Christmas at the new house.  What Abbey doesn't realize is that this Christmas will be like no other.

This description of the book makes it sound so light and frothy.  It's nothing like that.  It's an in depth look at life and beliefs.  It's a magical journey through a world filled with wonder.  It's a vice that squeezes your heart until only the release of tears will ease it.  It's a search through your own past to the very core of your childhood. This book will remind you of what you loved about Christmas as a child.  It will make you an integral part of a family that you've never met before.  It will immerse you in a land of sheer delight and tug you back into reality.  It will ...enough of this.  I honestly don't have the words required to describe this book.  It hit me so hard and so deep on so many levels.  It brought me the magic I was missing from Christmas.  It brought me the release I desperately sought with my dad's passing.  It reminded me that I do believe and I have no reason to stop.  This book is a piece of the magic I so desperately long for and I truly hope that everyone I know will pick up a copy and read it.  Don't expect just  light Christmas tale, because that's not what this is. 

I've spent nearly an entire page rambling about this book and I know I haven't adequately described it.  I haven't even come close.  To say I love it, would be inadequate.  So, let me close out by saying just a few more short words.  This is the book I always wanted to write, but so much better than I'd imagined it.  Thank you, Barbara.  I believe.

The Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow by Jerome K. Jerome

Several weeks (maybe months?)  ago I reviewed a book and made mention of Idle Thoughts as one of my all time favorite books.  It's the book that I read as a youngster that's really stuck with me throughout my life.  I  never owned my own copy, but after the first time I held this book in my hands and read the first page, I was in love.  Now, I know that a lot of times we love things as children and then we grow up and have another gander at them and realize that with adult eyes and perceptions it just isn't the same.  The original magic we were so fond of is lost.  Well, I'm so excited to tell you all that one sweet person gave me a copy of Idle Thoughts for Christmas!  After having looked at it through adult eyes, I'd really like to share it with you all.

The entire premise of this book is that Jerome is bored as can be and decides to write a book about...well...whatever idle thoughts enter his brain...hence the title.  I remember as a kid reading it and thinking how brilliant it was that he was just randomly writing about subjects and what a great sense of humor he used when writing.  For a book about nothing, it was definitely entertaining and touched me personally.  As an adult, I feel exactly the same way.  I do view it a bit differently though.  It's more of a guide book for how to behave in certain situations.  Of course this book is about a hundred years old and some of those situations don't apply to today, but you'll still get your head whacked for calling a newborn baby 'it' within earshot of the mother, so some do still apply.  I still found the same dry humor and wit that originally drew me to this book.  I didn't remember how well organized it is, but I was thankful to discover that it is.  Each chapter is on a different thought. 

I was really expecting for some of the original magic I remembered to be missing but as I held it lovingly in my hands, I knew immediately all the magic was still there.  This book is a bit more difficult and expensive to find in comparison to many books, but it's definitely worth the search.  At least for me.  It's currently sitting in my top ten most loved book collection and I doubt it'll ever leave it's spot :)

HOLY CROW!  I deeply apologize!  Evidently it's not expensive or difficult to find at all!  As I'm about to post a link to Amazon so that you guys can check it out, I find that it's been newly republished in 2010 and it's inexpensive!  Amazon has several reviews so I strongly, strongly urge you guys to check this one out!

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Notice

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.