December 22, 2011

2012 TBR Challenge

Box of Doom
2012 TBR Challenge
is my TBR reading challenge.   Kim of Sophisticated Dorkiness has a shelf of doom; she got the idea from Fizzy Thoughts who got it from our fearless leader Adam of Roofbeam Reader.  

In sum, we are to choose 12 books we've had on our TBR Mountain more than a year, plus two alternatives, and read these twelve throughout 2012.  We are to post reviews of them too.    My shelves are too full to dedicate one shelf to these fourteen, so I pulled out the books and put them in a box next to my La-Z-Boy.  So when I feel like watching mindless t.v., I can look down into my Box of Doom.

The 12 books, in no specific order, are:
  1. Speaking My Mind by Tony Campolo    Former pastor and his wife love this book.  They couldn't always speak their mind publicly because of his position.
  2. Level 26 by Anthony E. Zuiker  Supposed to be a gruesome thriller
  3. Complications by Atwul Gawande  medical memoir
  4. Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon    lives of three strangers intersect
  5. Babi Yar by A. Anatoli (Kuznetsov)     Visited Kiev in July and  Yad Vashem in Israel in January and October.  Each time, I told myself, "Gotta get home to read Babi Yar!"  (Goodness, I just noticed on Amazon that a used paperback is over $16!)
  6. Breakthrough-Return of Hope to the Middle East by Tom Doyle   Got this long before I knew I'd be visiting the Middle East twice in 2011.
  7. The Six-Liter Club by Harry Krauss   a medical novel
  8. The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen   I have all her books, yet haven't read one.  No wonder my TBR shelves are overflowing.
  9. The Girl in the Flammable Skirt by Aimee Bender
  10. Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok
  11. Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage by Alice Munro  short stories
  12. 18 Seconds by George D. Shaman  a blind psychic looks for a serial killer

Look Me in the Eye by John Elder Robison, a man with Asperger's
The Periodic Table by Primo Levi

BTT - Gifts

Booking through Thursday asks
Any books you're hoping to get for the holidays this year?

11-22-63 by Stephen King for three reasons:
  • I remember 11-22-63
  • We always say "what if?". That's why we like reading so much, we put ourselves in the position of a character and we wonder "what if" this was me?
  • Sounds like King's earlier writings. I devoured his earlier books, then somehow they started to change, or I started to change.
The Belly Fat books by Jorge Cruise because I've seen the results in my pastor and his wife.

How about giving? Are you giving any good ones?

Hubby asked for three Tony Hillerman mysteries. Son wanted sequels to the Eragon series. They've already gotten them,  none of us could wait! Daughter and I swap books all throughout the year, and she has asked for a NIV Bible for her birthday.  And there are a few to wrap today for the grandkids.

In the meantime, please make your nominations for the best books published in 2011 at Indie Lit Awards.

November 24, 2011

BTT - Thankful

BTT asks
What book or author are you most thankful to have discovered?
Have you read everything they’ve written? Reread them?
Why do you appreciate them so much?

photo credit: Charlotte's Fancy
Roald Dahl --  he spans generations.  My children loved his books.   Then we (as adults) enjoyed his adult books, some of which are horror.    When I traded in books at the used bookstore, I never ever took a Dahl book in.   Now, the Dahl bookshelf downstairs is being emptied, thanks to 8-year-old Madison, the next generation of a Dahl reader.   But she isn't getting his "adult" books, at least not quite yet.

To add to my thankful list:  Dahl's ex-wife Pat Neal was from around here;  the Pat Neal Rehabillitation Center is nearby.

November 21, 2011

God's Eye - review

God's Eye
author:  A. J. Scudiere
published October 2011
source: from the publicist
note:  currently 99 cents for Kindle!

Good versus evil.   Remember the cartoons you used to see while growing up:  an angel on one shoulder and a demon on the other?    This book is a grown up version of the two warring entities.   The problem (and it is a nice problem to have!) is that you don't know which guy is the angel and which one is the demon.

Katharine is wealthy.  She works for her family's firm and moves from one department to another in order to learn the business ropes.   At home, she finds soot and sees animals out of the corner of her eye.

At the same time, Katharine meets two attractive men --- one at work, the other a new neighbor in her apartment building.   Suspense mounts. 
Which guy is which?

Do download the first two chapters here   and you'll be hooked!

November 19, 2011

Triangles and Ellen Hopkins

author:  Ellen Hopkins
source:  ARC from publisher
published: October 2011

Holly: Filled with regret for being a stay-at-home mom.
Andrea: A single mom and avowed celibate, she watches her friend Holly’s meltdown.
Marissa: She has more than her fair share of challenges.
As one woman’s marriage unravels, another’s rekindles. As one woman’s family comes apart at the seams, another’s reconfigures into something bigger and better. All of them will learn the meaning of friendship, betrayal, and forgiveness.
Unflinchingly honest, emotionally powerful, surprisingly erotic, Triangles is the ultimate page-turner. Hopkins’s gorgeous, expertly honed poetic verse perfectly captures the inner lives of her characters. Sometimes it happens like that. Sometimes you just get lost.
About Ellen Hopkins:
Facebook link
Twitter link   

It is not often an author can change from one genre to another;  Ellen Hopkins has accomplished this well!   A popular famous author of YA books written in verse, she has added Triangles for adults, also in verse.   The next adult book is Collateral, about deployment and what that means to those left behind.

Triangles is NOT meant for YAs, but it wouldn't surprise me to find out YAs picked up this book to read.   Reminds me of decades ago when my younger cousin and I read Grace Metalious's books (she wrote Peyton Place -- the erotic book of its time).  I saw our grandmother reading her  book too;  I was aghast and ashamed.  Gran simply said, "I just wanted to see what you girls are reading."  What a wise wonderful woman!

Ellen currently is at the Miami  Book Festival.   Soon, very soon, there'll be answers to some questions posed to Ellen.

In the meantime, if you haven't seen other reviews of Triangles, here are Bloggers participating in Crazy Book Tours Triangles Tour:

November 18, 2011

visiting the Dovekeepers

Looking down from Masada, you can see one of the Roman camps.
The Dovekeepers
author Alice Hoffman
publisher:  Simon and Schuster
source: purchased myself

In January and again in November, I visited Masada.   Masada is a mesa in the desert of Israel where a settlement of 950 Jews fought off Roman invaders in the years 70-73 AD.  It took months for the Romans to build ramparts up to the settlement.  The Jewish people vowed it was better to die FREE in mass suicide than to become slaves of the Romans.   They burned all their belongings, but left the storerooms full of food to show the Romans, "We didn't die because of starvation."  In the end, only 2 women and 5 children survived.

Alice Hoffman has taken this true story to weave a tale of four women living at Masada during this time.  As soon as I heard about this book, I knew it was a must-read.

Hoffman does not disappoint.  The four fictional women have vastly different backgrounds.  They are thrown together to care for the doves at Masada.  Yael's mother had died in childbirth; her father and brother are known as assassins.    Revka's husband was a baker, she takes on his trade and uses it for her own purposes.   Aziza is expert in the warrior ways of men and Shirah is a woman with magical properties and medicine.

Even if you never make it to Masada, the book is well worth reading for all the character development Hoffman has provided. 

I shot the two photos this month while on top of Masada.
the Salt Sea (Dead Sea) at a distance

November 10, 2011

BTT E-volution

BTT asks E-readers like the Kindle and iPad are sweeping the nation ... do you have one? Do you like it? Do you find it changes your reading/buying habits? If you don't have one, do you plan to?

I have the Kindle app and iBooks on my iPad and iPhone, along with many books inside. It is neat to preview or read the first chapters of a book (Amazon calls it "sample"). I still prefer hard copies, ARCs, or paperback. It makes it easier to refer back to previous pages.

However, I like having a Bible or a variety of Bible translations in my iPad while at Bible study or church.

October 20, 2011

BTT - Vacation

Today's BTT asks
Do your reading habits change when you’re on vacation? Do you read more? Do you indulge in lighter, fluffier books than you usually read? Do you save up special books so you’ll be able to spend real vacation time with them? Or do you just read the same old stuff, vacation or not?

Perfect timing for this question, since I'll be going on vacation very soon.   I tend to read more on vacation.   Am taking three books
1.  a new historical fiction about four women in the place we're visiting
2.  a light mystery  that I've been saving:  Still Missing by Chevy Stevens
3.  a book on my Kindle app that my book club is reading next  Story of Beautiful Girl

October 13, 2011

BTT - Sequel

Today's Booking through Thursday asks us

you could get a sequel for any book, what would it be?

Easy! A sequel to Time Traveler's Wife. I'd like to know more about the next generation: Henry and Claire's daughter.

October 12, 2011

Commune of Women - review

Commune of Women
Suzan Still
publisher Fiction Studio
source: publisher
Goodreads summary:  The lives of seven women are about to become inextricably entangled, as they converge upon LA International Airport for various purposes. Suddenly, the morning erupts into chaos, as black-clad terrorists charge into the terminal, guns blazing. As the concourse becomes a killing field, six of the women dodge a hail of bullets to find refuge in a tiny staff room. 
The minute I first heard about the Commune of Women and its plot, I put it on my Wish List on Amazon.   Then the publisher asked if I wanted to review the book.   Did I!!   Yes, definitely. 
     The seven women could not be any more different from each other.  One is a frumpy fat housewife.  Another is a world traveler in designer clothes.  There's a homeless bag lady.  A mysterious woman, huge in size, takes on the leadership role naturally.  However, a psychologist feels she should be the leader because she's the one with the education.  
      The psychologist knows the best way to keep the women from panicking is to have them tell stories about their lives.   At first I was reluctant to read those shorter stories,  I didn't want to hear about the past .... I wanted to know what happened next in that small room.  Still, the author Still, grabbed me with these stories.  They made the book.
       Her style of writing differed for each female character --  for example, the homeless woman spoke and thought in dialect (the same way as in the opening chapter of the book The Help).  
      How would you behave if you were in a room with five stressed emotional strangers for four days?  Would you panic?  What story would you tell when your turn?    Commune of Women is a great book to ponder over. 

About the author:  Still  has a masters in art and writing and a doctorate in depth psychology. Her experiences in teaching creative writing in a men's prison can be found in a three-part series on Fiction Studio blog.  

October 7, 2011

Car Wash and a Giveaway

FEAR! (and a giveaway)

Winner is Nan-c Feiertag! She will choose a Book by Tara.

Maddox, age 2 1/2,  went through the car wash and covered his eyes, just the same way you and I cover our eyes in a horror movie.   His daddy texted me this photo and said it was heartbreaking to see his fear.

A grammy will do anything for her loved one, and I knew just the solution.    

Books by Tara to the rescue!   I had recently won a book from Tara and chose Water.   This time I ordered Car Wash. 

Here is Max looking at his new book for the first time.  The pages are full 8 1/2 by 11" photographs.  Sound effects are printed in an arc on the steering wheel of the car.    

The page Max is looking at says "Flippa Floppa Flippa Floppa Flippa Floppa."  

Another page says "ka-poonka ka-poonka."   What other sound effects can you think of while going through the car wash?

There are two ways you can win your choice of a book by Tara.

1.  Sign up for Tara's monthly newsletter on her website.  That's how I won Water.

2.  Fill out the form below.  Tara will give away one book to a random name selected.  USA addresses only.   I will randomly draw the winner on October 20, and email both the winner and Tara.

In the meantime, I think I might order couple more books for a baby shower.  My daughter and I were at a baby shower, she and I were the only two people in a room full of guests that gave a book.  Imagine!

October 6, 2011

Betrayed and advice - guest post

Today's guest post is from sisters Morrigan Michele and Misty Carmody, authors of Betrayed, first in the Blood and Magick series.    Let's hear from Morrigan  -- then I'll close with more information about Betrayed.

What would I tell a new author?
by Morrigan Michele

I know how hard it is to be a new up and coming author. It's exciting and tough all at the same time. Trying to balance writing and marketing; not to mention work and family life as well. My advice is to keep writing. Try and make time each day to write. I know it's easier said than done. 

Misty Carmody
To be honest, sometimes I have to step back and take a break from it all. If you're having a frazzled day and your heart and mind aren't in it...don't write. When I do, I end up scrapping my work later because it just isn't right. Pick a day that is set aside just for writing. Turn off the phone and t.v., put on your writing music (you know what I'm talking about) grab your drink and whatever "must haves" you need to set a while and write. I do aroma therapy when I write. Then just let it flow. 

It also helps if you have someone you can call to run scenes by, especially if you're in a block situation. I call my sister Misty (the co-author) and she helps me get back on track. If you're not pressed for time, take a few days off and do something else; then come back later and write. I have found that it really helps my writing.

About Betrayed:  Love. Lies. Magick. Betrayal.
Alexis Allcroft is used to being different, but nothing could have prepared her for the buried secrets about to be revealed.                                                       With her seventeenth birthday approaching the only thing on Alexis Allcroft's mind other than her birthday party is Sebastian Valto, the hot new guy in school.      Things suddenly take a strange twist, and in an effort to take the spotlight off herself, a spell backfires and her secrets are revealed as well; secrets she didn't know existed. With her world quickly spinning out of control, Alexis realizes no one is what they appear to be, not even herself! Alexis will soon learn that family secrets run deep, blood deep....
 You will find many more intriguing tidbits about the book, Morrigan and Misty at the Blood and Magick site.

BTT - Oddities

This week's odd topic on  Booking Through Thursday  is:

What’s the oddest book you’ve ever read? Did you like it? Hate it? Did it make you think?

The best of times, the worst of times:  being forced to read a book.  I hated Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities;  it was the 10th grade English teacher, Mrs. Miller,  that caused this reaction.    In the ninth grade, we read and adored David Copperfield, thanks to Mrs. Walker's presentation.  

For voluntarily read books (not as a class requisite), the early Stephen King books take the cake!   

October 3, 2011

Why We Broke Up - review

Why We Broke Up
author:  Daniel Handler
illustrator: Maira Kalman
to be published January 2012

Breaking up is hard to do.    Or is it easy to do?  At any rate, it can be tough.

A refreshing book about a BOX is Why We Broke Up.   Min (short for Minerva) sends a box of mementos back to Ed after they have broken up.  Inside the box are many things:  a matchbox, tickets, earrings, posters.    With each item, Min explains in a long letter "this is why we broke up."

Min is an "artsy" girl, meaning she and her best friend Al love seeing vintage movies and quoting lines from these films.   At the very end of the book, it is heartbreaking to read Min's words on why she is NOT artsy.

The best part of the book is the illustrations.  Full color!  In a YA book!  This is a rarity, and will be well worth the cost of the book.   The dialogue was a bit much, with many many many relative clauses in the middle of the too-long sentences.   
Have a break-up story?  The author and the illustrator want to know!   You can post your story at The Why We Broke Up Project or read other stories and think "I'm glad this didn't happen to me!" 

September 25, 2011

Pregnant Pause - review

Pregnant Pause
author Han Nolan
published September 2011

Eleanor is seven months pregnant.  Ellie, formerly a wild girl, says it well, "I'd hate to have me for a kid."   Her parents have the expected reactions when they find out about her pregnancy.  Dad storms around the house and says, "payback time."  Now that she's expecting a baby, uh-oh what will the baby be like?  Her missionary parents tell her she has to go back to Africa with them or go live with her married sister.  No Way!   Ellie tells her parents she will get married instead.

Eleanor and her new husband live at a camp run by her in-laws.  On their wedding night, he goes out partying with his friends.  That's the kind of loyalty he gives her.

On top of pregnancy and the partying-boozing hubby,  she has to cope with the camp kids,  the MIL (mother-in-law), and the Old Bag. 

This is a fun quick, yet serious, read ---   more social issues are covered than teen pregnancy ...  I'll let you discover those issues yourself.

September 16, 2011

Friday Blog Hop 9-16-11

Today's Friday question from
Book Blogger Hop

“As a book blogger, how do you introduce yourself in your profile?”

When I read the question, I thought "huh?  Simply post my profile!  That's the easiest answer."
Then I realized it may be time to update my profile (not that it needs much updating), but to add a tab at the top of the page and separate the "about me" from the "review policy."  
So, thanks Jen, for the nudge to do a bit of house-cleaning around my Reflections with Coffee.

September 15, 2011

A Plague Year - review

A Plague Year
Edward Bloor
Publishers Alfred A. Knopf
source:  Around the World Arc Tours

Feel like going back to the classroom for some teacher lectures?  Want to learn some new and old facts?  Then A Plague Year is for you. 

The story is a journal by Tom Coleman, a junior high student who studies the PSAT prep book in his spare time;  we get many vocabulary words.   Tom lives in Blackwater, Pennsylvania;  his journal begins September 10, 2001.  You know what is going to happen the next day.

Tom quotes his teachers.  One compares the bubonic plague to the plague of meth coming.   He includes vocabulary sentences:   The au pair pared a pear for the pair of peres.  Tom works for his father in the grocery store.  One of Dad's best employees is Bobby who has  Down's.  

Tom goes to drug counseling group -- there we are "treated" to more lectures about the dangers of drugs.   Tom seems like one Perfect kid.  He disobeys his parents only once, when he goes on a road trip.  He's at the top of his class.   I wasn't sure if I wanted to throw the book across the room or to keep on reading because of all the lectures.  

There is one funny scene where Tom and his cuz go to a frat house in a nearby college town on a honor-vengeance road trip.   Great vengeance! 

I was curious about all the lessons in this book so I checked the author's biography on his website.  Yup, he is a former high school English teacher.

September 12, 2011

Thirsty? - Savoring Living Water review


granddaughter Madeleine Isabella 2 years ago
Need to quench your thirst for the Lord?  Even better, want to savor the Living Water?  You can do that with the new e-book Savoring Living Water by Katie Orr and Lara Williams.

I received a review copy because I filled out a survey many weeks ago.  I liked the e-book so much that I immediately printed out all the pages.  It is short but packs a powerful punch to the thirst.

Here's what's inside: reasons to recognize our thirst, studying, memorizing and applying God's Word.  On-line study tools -- several I wasn't aware of.  And the best part:  journal-guide pages for you to write your own responses.

Both authors are contributors at Do Not Depart which focuses on memorizing scripture.  Naturally their e-book has some pointers on memorization.

Katie at Living Devotionally and Lara at To Overflowing plan a big party Tuesday September 13 with giveaways on their blogs. now has this e-book for your Kindle if you can't wait until tomorrow.  

September 10, 2011

Unbecoming of Mara Dyer - review

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer
author  Michelle Hodkin
to be published September 27, 2011
source Around the World Arc Tours

Goodreads summary:
Mara Dyer doesn't think life can get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there.It can.
She believes there must be more to the accident she can't remember that killed her friends and left her mysteriously unharmed.
There is.

One of the most intriguing opening sentences ever is:
"My name is not Mara Dyer, but my lawyer told me I had to choose something.  A pseudonym."

The story opens with Mara and her friends "playing" with a Ouija board.  Remember those?   This gives off an omnious atmosphere.   The chapters are short and end with sentences that make you want to rush to the next chapter.   Example: "Six months later, they were both dead."

One nitty-gritty point I had was that Mara's family (both parents are professionals) packed up and quickly  moved to another state within a few weeks after Mara's accident simply because Mara wanted to.  What about their clients and practices?   Not that easy to set up new practices right away in this economy.

By the time I reached the end of the book, there was a bit of confusion, so I had to read backwards to clarify some points in my mind.   Great sentences and great intrigue at the beginning,  however, 450 pages is quite too many.

September 8, 2011

Friday Blog Hop 9-9-11

Book Blogger HopCrazy for Books blog asks:
“Many of us primarily read one genre of books, with others sprinkled in. If authors stopped writing that genre, what genre would you start reading? Or would you give up reading completely if you couldn’t read that genre anymore?”

That wouldn't be a problem for me!   I read almost any genre, in fact I like  variety.  I'd go nuts if I was limited to one genre.   Reading one genre leads you to notice stereotypes,  to see what I mean, look at the Top Ten Stereotypes in YA Fiction. 

Friday! Every Day a Friday - review

Friday is coming on Tuesday!

Once you begin Joel Osteen's Every Day a Friday, your outlook on life changes.

I received this book for review,  read a few pages, then immediately got my journal to scribble down some notes and lines.  

You see the difference in one letter:  I've got to vs. I get to.   Think about it:  "I've got to clean house, ugh"   vs.  "I get to clean house, I have a home to clean."    Brought this up in Sunday School last Sunday when we were talking about attitudes.

Couple times recently in an argument with my hubby, I said (thank you, Pastor Osteen), "You aren't going to steal my joy."  That takes him aback. (wink)

Sometimes a good friend of mine is a bit late to Sunday School because she likes to watch Joel and Victoria Osteen on t.v.  Sometimes she slips out of church a bit early in order to get home to catch his program.    I promised her my review copy.  In the meantime, I'm going to set my TiVo to "see" him for the first time.

Even though Osteen repeats himself  throughout the book,  his enthusiasm is contagious.  If only more grumpy people would pick up a copy, how different our world would be!   I'm not saying you're a grump, but here's a way to win a copy plus a bag and mugs (which I'm drooling over) on Facebook between today and Monday evening.

Every Day A Friday
author Joel Osteen
source:  Faith Words

BTT - reading now?

Booking through Thursday asks about our queue

What are you reading now?

 Reading so many review books, life is such a joy today ... one is 
Commune of Women by Suzan Still
Would you recommend it?  most definitely!

 And what’s next?  I'm dropping everything when my pre-order of Wonderstruck comes on September 13.   My friend Julie (we used to work together) of Seven imps before breakfast alerted me to it way back in June and I immediately pre-ordered my copy.    Here's the author Brian Selznick talking about it.

What about you?  Anything special?  Leave a comment here.   And if there's a memorable 2011 book to nominate, please go to Indie Lit Awards and make your nominations.  Seven genres!

September 4, 2011

Dark Eden - review


That is what went through my mind while I read  Dark Eden
author:  Patrick Carman
to be published November 2011
iPhone and Android apps out now
source:  Around the World Arc Tours

plot:  Will Besting is 15 years old.  He's an auditory learner (sorry for the "teacher-speak", been in the education field a long time).  Will has been going to a psychologist for several years because of his fears.   His technical skills help him figure out a way to download auditory files of his sessions and the sessions of the doctor's other patients.

One day the doctor tells him she wants him to go to a treatment kind of place with six other patients his age.    By the time he meets the other six, he already knows about their phobias thanks to the auditory files he has stolen.   Will makes plans.....

My thoughts: the advanced Reader's copy was an enjoyable read. The middle part describing the immersion therapy dragged a tiny bit, however the surprises at the end were things I didn't expect. Well worth the read!

September 3, 2011

10 Stereotypes in YA Fiction - guest post

Today's post is by Rhiannon Paille, author of a new series, Ferryman and the Flame.   Her book FLAME OF SURRENDER (The Ferryman and The Flame #1) comes out November 1st, 2011.  

Stereotypes ... intriguing.  See if you agree with the ones Rhiannon has listed.  If you think of others, please leave a comment.

Top 10 Stereotypes in Young Adult Fiction
guest post Rhiannon Paille
I’m only one person, and I might not read every YA book out there, but in the ones I have picked up on, these are the common themes I’m always seeing.
10) High School
Why is it always set in High School? I can’t vouch for every other writer out there, and this doesn’t skim every book, but most of them deal with High School. I have to say, I liked the ones that weren’t set in that monotonous death trap.
9) New Hot Guy at High School
In the first or second chapter, some crazy hot guy graces the pages and the best friend of the female protagonist is like, “OMG HE’S SO HOT!” Followed by a lot of squeeing and the female protagonist hiding in embarrassment or shame.
*raises eyebrow*
8) Girl is a danger magnet
Female protagonist is saved by male hotness (I dunno if he’s a protagonist yet, I mean he comes off all dangerous and swanky and I’m like, he could be committing identity fraud for all I know.) And the female is always slipping on a banana peel, careening down stairs, or something to that effect.
FYI: Guilty as charged although . . . in my defense, it was at a waterfall . . .
Also, loved Moira Young’s waterfall scene in Blood Red Road, THAT was pure genius in terms of male saving female . . .
7) Some council finds Girl / Boy to tell them who he/she is
This always makes me cringe. It’s like, the female protagonist is going along and then bam! Her parents or some mysterious creepy dude comes up and says “Chloe? We’ve been looking for you, come with us please.” Follow it up with a whole lot of info dump and all of a sudden she’s part of some elite force of super human mutant ninja turtles and this birthright was hidden from her blah blah blah.
FYI: Also guilty as charged, but I have reasons for that and it’s not like Krishani’s ancestors come to find him, he ends up going to them but still . . .
6) The bad guy is obvious
He’s like the quiet nerd or the guy that lurked around the hallway, the guy who showed up at the wrong time, the love triangle dude, you get the idea. This guy is always around and he has a few lines and he even comes off as a friend sometimes, and then no, he’s not a friend, he’s really the ugly evil character.
5) The bad guy is a lame choice and does nothing for the plot
You know, Tom Culpeper was one of my favorite villains because he was useful. Others have been there just because someone needs to be bad.
FYI: Guilty as charged, although the Valtanyana are scary in their own right and the whole story wouldn’t work if nobody cared about owning the flames you know
4) The female protagonist is the chosen one, one in all the world chosen to fight against the forces of evil. She is the Slayer.
Oh sorry, I forgot this wasn’t an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but in a lot of books, the females are inundated to some rank of warrior class and told that it’s their job to fight against the things that go bump in the night.
3) He’s “dangerous but sexy”
And we’re back to every guy in fiction. I mean it, every guy in fiction. The only saving grace of this poor stereotype is Jace, who knows he’s the ultimate hot guy and doesn’t mind telling people about it every chance he gets. Mirror mirror on the wall, we know who is the hottest of them all.
2) Some teenager is hundreds of years old (or a vampire, or an immortal, or has some seriously awesome past life memory recall ability)
Yeah . . . apparently in these characters age doesn’t necessarily mean maturity. I also sometimes wonder why someone hundreds of years old would be interested in a teenager. (Because that’s a whole new level of robbing the cradle)
1) Someone has “powers”
*headdesk* Every book I read has someone learning that they can shapeshift, or teleport, or see ghosts, or see the future, or hear thoughts or make things move with their mind, etc. etc.
FYI: Guilty as charged although, my characters don’t think that what they are and what they can do is cool, quite the opposite, it’s scary, overwhelming, it comes with a crapload of responsibility they’re not ready for and it means they can’t be together. Plain put, it sucks, which is sort of what I remember of my childhood and finding out I could see ghosts and read minds and feel other people’s emotions. 

More about Rhiannon:  Rhi was never a normal girl. She tried, but she couldn’t get rid of the visions, the voices in her head, and the hallucinations. When she was on the edge of crazy, someone pulled her back and explained it all. She wasn’t insane. She was psychic, really psychic, too psychic. Her life was an urban fantasy wrapped in a paranormal romance and served with a side of horror. To escape her everyday weirdness she began writing fantasy. She frequents twitter and facebook, but if you really want to get to know her you should visit her site:

August 25, 2011

History - BTT

Booking through Thursday asks "When is the last time you read a history book? Historical biography? You know, something that took place in the past but was REAL."

The most vivid recent historical read was The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. It was the runner up in the non-fiction category of last year's Indie Lit awards.  Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.

Speaking of the Indie Lit, next week you can nominate your favorite 2011 books. I'm eager to see what will be nominated. For more info, see Independent Literary Awards

August 23, 2011

Double - review

British cover

by Jenny Valentine
Hyperion Teen
To be published February 2012
tentative American cover

Chap, a homeless nobody, is shown a MISSING poster of a boy who looks exactly like him. Nothing to lose by pretending to be him. "Okay" he lied.

Now called Cassiel, Chap is taken to Cassiel's home in an English village. He isn't the only one with secrets. There are many hidden secrets. Danger lurks.

Double is not a paranormal book and does not have mystical characters, but it reads with the refreshing atmosphere of a fairy tale.

Ahhhhh, a thoroughly satisfying read when all the puzzling questions are tied up at the end.

A favorite passage: Grandad took Chap to the back room of a charity thrift store.
        I thought we were looking for clothes or something, I thought maybe he was going to buy me a suit like his, but all he showed me was a cardboard box full of glasses. Reading glasses, bifocals, lenses thick as bottle tops and thin as ice, big blue frames, little silver ones.
      "Think of all the reading they've done," he said. "Think of all the things those glasses have seen.
       It was like a box full of dead old people.  We were standing in a room full of their clothes. 
       "What are we doing here, Grandad?" I said.
        It was a history lesson. "It's what you do," he said. "It's what you think and see, not what you have."

No wonder Valentine has received four Carnegie Medal nominations.

Note: quotes are from an advance proof.

August 22, 2011

Don't Stop Now - review

Don't Stop Now
Julie Halpern
published by Feiwel and Friends, Macmillan

One sentence summary: Penny fakes her kidnapping; Lil (who views Penny as a charity case) and Josh go on a Road Trip.

It is interesting how different people perceive the same book in different ways.  Most other reviewers gushed over the witty dialogue between Lil and Josh.   It took me awhile to see the humor, I'm slow that way.  Some re-reading helped.

Unrequited love:   Lil loves her BFF Josh,  his scent (odor) when he hasn't showered.  Pheeeeew, I could almost smell his armpits while reading. 

Lil and Josh's Road Trip is interspersed with excerpts from Penny's diary. The diary was a much more interesting read:  how Penny views Lil and the other teenagers.

August 20, 2011

Never Knowing - review

Never Knowing
Chevy Stevens
publisher: St. Martins Press, July 2011
source:  Goodreads giveaway

Summary from Goodreads:  All her life, Sara Gallagher, adopted as an infant, has wondered about her birth parents.  Finally, she is ready to take steps and find closure.
But some questions are better left unanswered.
After months of research, Sara locates her birth mother—only to be met with horror and rejection. Then she discovers the devastating truth.

The truth:  Sara's biological father is a serial killer.    How will Sara deal with this?  Even worse, what if he finds out about her?

This is a wonderful thriller that kept me turning the pages to find out what happens next.  Sara is engaged and has a six-year-old daughter.   The psychological implications are intriguing.  Sara has anger issues, so does her daughter, a manipulative little girl.   How much of this could be genetic?

Each chapter is supposed to be a session with Sara's psychiatrist -- I didn't care for this kind of story-telling because the language and terminology used was more for a narrative book rather than a talk with a live person.

We learn a lot about Sara's adoptive family, the two sisters and parents.  I did wish to know more about the father of her child.   There seemed to be a gap.

In sum,  an enjoyable book!  My daughter also read Stevens' first book Still Missing and tells me this one is even better.   What delight to anticipate another juicy read!

August 18, 2011

Fluff read

Booking Through Thursday

This week's question sets up a scenario many of us go through:  You’ve just had a long, hard, exhausting day, and all you want to do is curl up with something light, fun, easy, fluffy, distracting, and entertaining. What book do you pick up?

What I pick up depends on how tired I am,  I don't always pick up a book.   It might be  the current book I'm reading,  or an unread book on my TBR shelves.  I used to read magazines which are better for a shorter attention span, but have stopped most of my magazine subscriptions.    Sometimes I prefer to simply watch  something that is already recorded on TiVo.

August 15, 2011

Enthralled - review

editors: Melissa Marr & Kelley Armstrong
source:  Around the World ARC Tours

Come take a journey.  Go on a diversion.  Travel the paranormal way.   That is the theme of Enthralled, an anthology of stories by sixteen paranormal authors.

As a teacher, I've gone on hundreds of field trips.  One high school student threw an orange from a fire tower in Gettysburg.   On another trip, we searched for a student who ran ahead of us and then disappeared in the parking garage at University of Tennessee.  I texted the school, we searched the garage.  Finally the school texted me that he was back on campus.   Turned out he rode with another teacher.   I was furious, because neither of them had told me he would ride a different school van.

Therefore, that's why my very favorite story was "Giovanni's Farewell" by Claudia Gray.  Twins, Cairo and Ravenna, are on a field trip in Rome.   sidenote: Gray provides intriguing details such as  Cairo and Ravenna are named for the cities where their parents met and honeymooned.   When the story ended, I was so disappointed -- wanted more!

Some of the stories are set in the worlds the authors have created in their full-size books.   That made it difficult to follow what was going on.  But it is a great way to meet their characters and be introduced into their worlds.

August 11, 2011

Blood Wounds - review

Blood Wounds
Author: Susan Beth Pfeffer
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children's
Publication date: September 12, 2011
Source: Around the World ARC Tours

It is rare for me to finish a book the day I receive it. Blood Wounds is one of these books.

Pfeffer does a great job setting up the background in the first two chapters. Willa and her family sit down at supper; her stepfather makes a comment about happy families and unhappy families. We learn more about Willa's step-sisters. At the end of chapter two, we learn a secret that Willa has. Uh-oh.

The next day, Willa's Mother's best friend leaves a series of frantic phone messages that make absolutely no sense to Willa. "There's an Amber Alert for one of the twins."   Twins? Next phone message, "Sounds like Budge is in a lot of trouble."  Who is Budge?

Then the doorbell rang. Uh oh.

I was hooked! I liked the way Pfeffer goes on to explain why Willa's personality is the way it is,  ramifications from a simple little fight between Willa and step-sister when they were preschoolers.    The family members finally tell each other how they feel about the others.

Highly recommended.

August 5, 2011

Divergent - work

author: Veronica Roth
source: bought for myself

About you: Society in this dystopian novel is divided into five Factions. Each one emphasizes a characteristic: honest, selfless, brave, peaceful, intelligent. Which characteristic would fit YOU at age 16? Want to take a test to find out?

About me: Because of my job in the Career Center of my school as a Transition Assessment Coordinator, I fell in love with Divergent. I gave many many aptitude, interest, and achievement tests, then wrote up transition plans for all the high school students after interviewing them. Reading about the assessments in Divergent hit close to home (correction: close to work)!

Back to the novel: When a person in this futuristic society becomes 16, he or she takes a series of tests to see which Faction he/she belongs in. At a formal ceremony, the sixteen-year-olds declare whether or not they will stay where they were raised with their families, or move into another faction. Then comes a series of initiation trials.

My perspectives:  I would have loved to read more about the assessment tests. The rest of the novel, however, was enjoyable. At first I had to write down a list of characters and which faction he/she came from ... soon that wasn't needed because Roth did a great job of describing her characters.

This is book one of a triology; I'm hoping her other books will describe how the other factions conduct their initiation trials.  I declare this one of the best books I read this summer.

August 4, 2011

Turn of Mind - review

Turn of Mind
author Alice La Plante
available July 5, 2011
source: NetGalley

Some personal reflections first:  My mother lived alone until the month before she turned 95.  At that time, I knew she needed to move into assisted living.  Her regular physician suggested I take her to a geriatric specialist.  After some tests, the specialist told me Mother had early, early Alzheimer's.  The geriatrist emphasized early.   When I asked her prognosis, the doctor said because of Mother's age, the chances were that she would die of a different cause before her Alzheimer's  or dementia became really serious.  The doctor was right.

So when I heard about Turn of Mind, a mystery "written" from the viewpoint of a character with Alzheimer's, this was a must-read for me. Dr. Jennifer White is an orthopedic surgeon specializing in hands. Her best friend has been found murdered, with fingers skillfully amputated. The police repeatedly question Jennifer, or as she huffily says, "Call me Dr. White." Because of her dementia, she cannot adequately answer the questions --- or is she using her dementia as an excuse to avoid answering?

There are flashbacks to the past. Jennifer has a caretaker living with her. A journal is used to help Jennifer keep in touch with what is going on and who has visited. As the novel progresses, Jennifer's memory becomes dimmer and dimmer. She gets confused ... the reader in turn becomes confused. I thought this confusion was cleverly handled.

Whodunnit and why is a minor portion of the novel; I was able to figure it out before the end.

Another reviewer pointed out how the voice (first person tense, second, and third) changed throughout the novel. It makes me want to pick it up and re-read it again! Even though I don't often re-read books, I'm sure I will this one.

June 4, 2011

Tour: Cinder and Ella

Cinder and Ella
author: Melissa Lemon
to be published:  November 2011
source:  Netgalley

Cinder and Ella is a new version of Cinderella.  Cinder is one girl, Ella is her sister. The book opens with promises. Four sisters live in a small cottage. Katrina is a bossy one. Cinder is generally a people-pleaser.    Ella, well, sad to say, no one in their village remembers  Ella's name because everyone adores Cinder.  The youngest is eleven years old and so Spoiled that her family must dress and spoon feed her.

Their father leaves mysteriously in the first chapter.  Yes, we eventually find out why.   Soon even their own mother forgets Ella.  Ella who?   Cinder, then Ella, leave home.  The book includes a castle, a prince, knights, and sword fights galore.   There's a legend about trees.   The cover is awesome because of the tree on it. 

One person is so evil, our author describes it wonderfully,
"in the practice of evil -- murders, stealing the virtue of women, stealing riches and possessions, stealing souls.  All of these things were done by proxy.  It was his sick delight to see someone else hurt another, bringing about ruin to both the doer and the receiver."  
Great discussion questions at the end of the book add much to ponder.

I asked Melissa Lemon the author,    "Where did you come up with the name Katrina?   I kept wondering if she was named for the hurricane.

She replied:  "It just popped into my head at the right moment and seemed to fit.  Sometimes I go through name after name until I get it right, but Katrina just worked from the start.  I didn’t name her for the hurricane, but I can see why that would make sense.  I also have a friend named Katrina and I hope she knows I didn’t name my character after her."

Melissa adds, "All of the interview questions have been fun to answer.  I especially love the random ones, so here’s something random:  I’m not fond of swimming and even have a fear of deep, dark waters and large sea animals, especially whales (eerie) and sharks (terrifying)."

Hmmmm, this might make a good topic in Melissa's next book --- she could easily show the dangers of the sea. 

You can learn more about Melissa and her book by checking the calendar for the Blog Tour.  Some blogs are giving away the book, FUN!