Sunday, August 12, 2012

Stocking the Shelves #22

It's been awhile since I've posted a Stocking the Shelves...I have about a month's worth piled up here! I'm still not buying much here...although I did get to buy a few for a local book signing!! It was a great one too!

Heist Society by Ally Carter (for book signing!)
Team Human by Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan (for book signing!)
Blindsided by Priscilla Cumings
Raised by Wolves by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (for book signing!)

and here are the signed books!

Next, these are the books I received in my mailbox for review....

Taste of Home Best Loved Recipes (thanks FSB Associates! And, WOW is this ever a HUGE and beatuiful cookbook!)
Seventeen Ultimate Guide to Beauty by Ann Shoket (thanks FSB! Gorgeous book!)
Perfectly Unique: Praising God From Head to Toe by Annie F. Downs (thanks, Zondervan!)
Almost Amish by Kathryn Cushman (thanks Bethany House!)
Inescapable by Nancy Mehl (thanks Bethany House!)
The Lure of Shapinsay by Krista Holle (thanks Krista!)
Audrey's Guide to Witchcraft by Jody Gehrman (with the cutest little signed and personalized postcard! Thanks, Jody!)

Next are my library books...

A Beautiful Dark by Jocelyn Davies
Lies Beneath by Anne Greenwood Brown
The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer (already read, and it was FANTASTIC! review to come)

The following are from netgalley:

Right Where I Belong The Mephisto Kiss (The Mephisto Covenant, #2)Beautiful Disaster (Beautiful, #1)

All You Never Wanted

And now, here are my pictures from the the author book signing - it was quite exciting as we don't get very many good author visits around here. The tides seem to be a-changing though...Next week, Jacqueline Woodson is coming...and then in October, my hero - CARRIE RYAN of The Forest of Hands and Teeth - OMG!!!!!!!! Can't wait!

 Here I am with Jennifer Lynn Barnes!
 Me and Sarah Rees Brennan
 Me, Ally Carter, and her book

Monday, August 6, 2012

Review: Various Positions by Martha Schabas

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Release Date: February 14th, 2012
Number of Pages: 336
How I Got this Book: e-ARC from Netgalley
My Rating: 4.5/5

Goodreads Summary:

"Trapped between the hormone-driven world of her friends and the discontent of her dysfunctional family, fourteen-year-old Georgia is only completely at ease when she's dancing. When she is accepted into Canada's preeminent ballet school, Georgia thinks it is the perfect escape. Artistic Director Roderick Allen singles her out as a star, subjecting her to increasingly intensive training, and Georgia obsesses about becoming the perfect, disciplined student. But as she spends more and more time with Roderick, it's not so clear exactly what their relationship means. Is he her teacher and mentor, or is there something more? These blurred lines will threaten both Roderick's future at the academy and Georgia's ambitions as a ballerina."


First, a big thank you to Netgalley and to the publisher for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review!

I really enjoyed getting a glimpse into the lives of young serious ballerinas. However, it was a bit disturbing. I have a 15 year old niece who is a dancer, but she is not quite as serious (at least when it comes to ballet specifically) - THANK GOD. I would have to hurt her if I found out she was anything like any of the girls in this book! It is so sad what these girls will do to get an edge on the competition...eating disorders and attempting sexual relationships with the teachers.

At the beginning of this book, Georgia is so young and naive. Really, she's rather socially awkward. But, in dance she is anything but awkward. And her teacher, Roderick, seems to notice this as well. After Georgia's mother tells her that all men are the same - basically they can't look at a woman without having sexual thoughts, Georgia begins to wonder how true this is. She begins to realize the power that her developing body can hold over men. She becomes obsessed with the thought of sex, and with Roderick in particular. Georgia has no idea the downward spiral she has started.

This book definitely showed the darker side of young ballerinas, but I really liked how this book started with such a sweet, innocent girl and how her environment changed her from the inside out. I still felt bad for her at the end of the book, because I could genuinely feel her confusion and, well, she just didn't mean to do the things she did. Schabas did an excellent job conveying Georgia's thinking processes and emotions.

Highly recommended!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Review: Song of My Heart by Kim Vogel Sawyer

Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Release Date: February 1st, 2012
Number of Pages: 348
How I Got This Book: sent by publisher for review
My Rating: 4.5/5

Goodreads Summary:

"Sadie Wagner has always been devoted to her family. So when her stepfather is injured and can't work, she decides to leave home and accept a position as a clerk at the mercantile in Goldtree, Kansas. Goldtree also offers the opportunity to use her God-given singing talent--though the promised opera house is far different from what she imagined. With her family needing every cent she can provide, Sadie will do anything to keep her job.
Thad McKane comes to Goldtree at the request of the town council. The town has been plagued by bootlegging operations, and Thad believes he can find the culprit. After he earns enough money doing sheriff work, he wants to use it to pay for his training to become a minister.
Thad is immediately attracted to the beautiful singer who performs in Asa Baxter's unusual opera house, but when he hears her practicing bawdy tunes, he begins to wonder if she's far less innocent than she seems. And when Sadie appears to be part of the very crimes he's come to investigate, is there any hope the love blossoming between them will survive?"


 First, a big thank you to Bethany House for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review!

To be honest, I have been out of the historical fiction (especially of the western type) loop for a loooooong time, and I had a difficult time getting back into it. But, once I got back into the groove with this book, I really enjoyed it! Sawyer is a very talented writer, and I felt a quick connection with the main characters, Sadie and Thad. I very much admired Sadie's devotion to her family - even if she was a bit naive. I mean, it seemed a bit obvious to me what was "unusual" about Asa's opera house, and what exactly he wanted from her...but I realize that she put up a mental block because she felt such a strong need to provide money for her family, especially after her father died.

I loved Thad and the fact that he was such a good Christian man. I kept thinking, "Why can't ALL men be like that?" And when Sadie kept pushing him away because Asa wanted her to put her job first (and to keep the sheriff away from his business) I wanted to scream "NO! Run away with Thad, Sadie!!!!" He was definitely swoon-worthy.

And then there was Sid, Sadie's cousin (but not by blood, only by marriage), who was head over heels in love with her. I really felt for the guy. He was a sweet guy who meant well, but, well...the whole cousin thing (even if it WAS by marriage and not blood) would have creeped me out too. Plus, who could live up to Thad? I just hope that Sid finds someone special too. :)

I really enjoyed this book - it was exciting, heartwarming, and romantic! Take a visit to Goldtree, Kansas and check it out for yourself!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Review and Recipes! Taste of Home Cooking School

Published by: Readers Digest
Release Date: March 15th, 2012
Number of Pages: 320
How I Got This Book: review copy from FSB Associates
My Rating: 5/5

Goodreads Summary:

"No matter what you crave, cook it with confidence with taste of Home Cooking School Cookbook! Whatever your skill level in the kitchen, you will learn step-by-step techniques and discover new favorites with more than 400 best loved recipes and over 600 full-color photos from our expert instructors. Create a memorable game-day-get-together with nacho dip, hot wings and yummy pizza. Master the grill with succulent ribeyes, monster stuffed burgers and a whole salmon fillet that’s a real showstopper. Whip up sumptuous holiday meals with all of the trimmings from citrus-rosemary rubbed turkey with artichoke stuffing to chipotle sweet potatoes and caramel apple trifle. The Taste of Home Cooking School Cookbook features delicious dishes from breakfast to lunch to dinner and including dessert, of course.Sample recipes include:

Eggs Benedict Casserole Brie Phyllo Cups Sweet-Tangy Wings French Onion Soup Lemon Chicken Tortellini Taco Lasagna Roasted Chicken with Oyster Stuffing Sizzling Ancho Ribeyes Creamy Parmesan Spinach Chocolate Mousse with Cranberry Sauce Easy Grasshopper Ice Cream Pie

Contemporary topics are comprehensively explored with techniques ranging from simple basics to true wow-factor recipes. Each recipe has been tasted and reviewed in the Taste of Home test kitchen, plus there are over 140 practical, proven tips from our Cooking School experts—so you’ll enjoy perfect results every time."


First, I want to thank FSB Associates for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review!

My "off-the-bat" impression was how beautiful this book is - it is chock full of gorgeous photos of every recipe! It is very well-organized, and full of basic cooking tips, "cheats", and other helpful hints. The recipes are realistic - the ingredients are not impossible to obtain, the preparation times aren't intimidating. Basically, it is exactly the kind of cookbook I love. I will definitely get lots of good use out of it! I made a whole meal from the book tonight...

I made Turkey Cutlets with Pan Gravy, Corn and Broccoli in Cheese Sauce, and Creamy Noodles. Here are some recipes:

Turkey Cutlets with Pan Gravy

1 tsp poultry seasoning
1/2 tsp seasoned salt
1/4 tsp pepper, divided
1 pkg (17.6 oz) turkey breast cutlets
2 tbsp canola oil
2 tbsp butter
1/4 c. all purpose flour
2 c. chicken broth

Combine the poultry seasoning, seasoned salt and 1/8 tsp pepper. Sprinkle over turkey. In a large skillet, cook cutlets in batches in oil for 2-3 minutes on each side or until turkey is no longer pink. Remove meat to a serving platter and keep warm.

In the same skillet, melt butter and stir in flour until smooth. Gradually stir in chicken broth. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from the heat; season with remaining pepper. Serve with turkey.

Creamy Noodles

8 oz uncooked thin spaghetti
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tbsp butter, divided
6 oz fat free cream cheese, cubed
3 tbsp reduced fat sour cream
3 tbsp fat free milk
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp Cajun seasoning
1/4 tsp white pepper
4 1/2 tsp minced fresh parsley

Cook spaghetti according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, saute garlic in 1 tbsp butter for 1 minute. Add the cream cheese, sour cream, milk, salt, onion powder, Cajun seasoning, pepper and remaining butter. Cook and stir over low heat or until smooth (do not boil). Remove from the heat. Drain spaghetti; toss with cream sauce. Sprinkle with parsley.

For dessert, I made Lemonade Icebox Pie. Let me start by saying that while I am a pretty good cook (if I do say so myself), for some reason, I just can't seem to bake, or create much of any kind of dessert. So, I chose one that didn't require baking. TASTED good just didn't turn out very pretty, lol. It didn't set very well, despite being refrigerated all day long, and in the freezer for over an hour. Oh well. It tasted good though!

Lemonade Icebox Pie

8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
3/4 c. thawed lemonade concentrate
1 carton (8 oz) frozen whipped topping, thawed
Yellow food coloring, optional
1 graham cracker crust (9 inches)

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and milk until smooth. Beat in lemonade concentrate. Fold in whipped topping and food coloring if desired. Pour into crust. Cover and refrigerate until set.

(Ummmm, after typing that, I just realized what my problem was...I dumped in the whole can of lemonade concentrate instead of measuring out 3/4 cup....ooooooooops. My bad.)

Final verdict...the turkey was delicious! Even my normally picky non meat eating daughter declared it yummy! This turned out the best gravy I've ever made! The noodles were very good...would be good as a main dish with chicken in it too. The broccoli and corn was good, but a little soupy. My family loved everything!

I HIGHLY recommend this cookbook....I will be using it very, very often!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Review: The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison

Publisher: Egmont USA
Release Date: February 14th, 2012
Number of Pages: 325
How I Got This Book: e-ARC from Netgalley
My Rating: 5/5

Goodreads Summary:

"Penelope (Lo) Marin has always loved to collect beautiful things. Her dad's consulting job means she's grown up moving from one rundown city to the next, and she's learned to cope by collecting (sometimes even stealing) quirky trinkets and souvenirs in each new place—possessions that allow her to feel at least some semblance of home.

But in the year since her brother Oren's death, Lo's hoarding has blossomed into a full-blown, potentially dangerous obsession. She discovers a beautiful, antique butterfly pendant during a routine scour at a weekend flea market, and recognizes it as having been stolen from the home of a recently murdered girl known only as "Sapphire"—a girl just a few years older than Lo. As usual when Lo begins to obsess over something, she can't get the murder out of her mind.

As she attempts to piece together the mysterious "butterfly clues," with the unlikely help of a street artist named Flynt, Lo quickly finds herself caught up in a seedy, violent underworld much closer to home than she ever imagined—a world, she'll ultimately discover, that could hold the key to her brother's tragic death."


First, a big thank you to Egmont USA and Netgalley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review!

I am not normally a big fan of mysteries/thrillers. One of the things that attracted me to this book was that the main character, Lo, has OCD (as I may have mentioned before, I love reading anything about psychological disorders as that is one of my areas of study in college). But, I have to say this - WOW. Why did I take so long to read this?? Why aren't more people reading this?? It was AWESOME!

Lo was a wonderfully developed character. Ellison did a really good job of giving the reader insight into how severe Lo's OCD truly was. I could feel the tension in her body before she counted things and her panic if things were not the "right" number. At the beginning of the book we knew that she was upset because her brother, Oren was gone...but the whole story behind Oren's disappearance is revealed in pieces throughout the book. And we find out that not only is Lo feeling grief, but guilt as well.

One day, Lo accidentally witnesses a murder, and is very close to being a victim herself. She cannot get the event out of her mind. She becomes completely obsessed with finding out who the murderer is, and why he did what he did. Along the way, she meets Flynt - an unusual, but charismatic young man living on the streets of "Neverland" (the bad part of town where the murder took place) and he becomes her tour guide. She finds herself falling for him, but is there reason to suspect him of being the murderer?

I loved this book, and would highly recommend it to anyone who likes a good page turning thriller, with a dash of romance! :)

Monday, July 16, 2012

Book Review and Author Feature: Celtic Run by Sean Vogel

Published by: MB Publishing
Release Date: April 25th, 2012
Number of Pages: 160
How I Got This Book: ARC from author
My Rating: 4.5/5


" Jake, a 14-year-old gadget whiz, didn’t plan on a summer full of treasure, thieves, and danger. He just got lucky.

While in Ireland on a class trip, Jake stumbles upon the first clue to a treasure missing from the Spanish Armada. Jake sees the riches as his chance to buy back the family sailboat and restore a piece of the life he enjoyed before his father was critically injured in an accident. Desperate to find the treasure, Jake teams up with Zach, his nemesis and class bully, and two girls in a clue-hunting chase across the Dingle Peninsula.

Dodging would-be thieves, exchanging wisecracks with Zach, and concocting ingenious devices to get them out of scrapes, Jake leads the team as they connect piece after piece to the 400-year-old mystery."
Chapter 1
Jake clenched his fists. Zach was sauntering down the airplane aisle as if he were the best thing since the iPod. Everyone has an archenemy, Jake thought. Luke Skywalker has Darth Vader. Harry Potter has Voldemort. Me? I have Zach.
Zach plopped into the seat in front of Jake and poked his head around to talk.
“Hey, twerp, having a good flight?”
Just my luck. Five and a half hours to Ireland behind the goon of the eighth grade. “I’d be having a better flight if you’d test the emergency exit.”
Zach’s eyes narrowed. “Okay, Spanky, you’ll pay for that with your leg room.” He stuffed his duffle under his own seat until it infringed on Jake’s space. “Oh, wait, you’re only three feet tall, so my bag won’t bother you.” Zach chuckled and turned back around to watch a movie on his LCD television screen.
Instinctively, Jake stretched his legs to see if he could reach the duffle with his feet. Shorter than the average student, he felt like a dwarf compared to Zach’s football-player physique. He glanced at Zach’s seatmate, Julie. Why doesn’t she ever see this?
Jake’s heart pinched as Julie adjusted her position to rest her head on Zach’s shoulder. Her blonde hair lay draped between the seats, its strong berry scent sending a slight tingle through Jake’s body.
Jake and Julie had grown up together. They’d been friends from hide-and-seek to Guitar Hero, which made it the ultimate blow when she started going out with Zach. Why can’t she see him for the jerk he is? Jake kicked Zach’s bag out of anger. Good thing no one’s sitting next to me. Then, grinning, he bent forward and slowly opened the zipper.
The first thing he found was a stack of papers. A cover sheet said “The Visitors, by Zachary Maguire.” Laughing inwardly at his good fortune, Jake tucked the manuscript into the seat pocket in front of him for future retrieval. Never pass up good blackmail material.
Next, he found Zach’s security-compliant bag of liquids. Jackpot! All that bragging about being the only eighth grader to shave is going to haunt him. He pulled out the travel-sized can of shaving cream and some dental floss and then pried the tab off his empty soda can.
He knew Julie wouldn’t approve of what he was about to do. Like a referee who flags the guy returning a punch, she had a knack for seeing only Jake’s retaliations and not Zach’s instigating offenses.
After jamming the metal tab into the tight gap behind the button, he gingerly pulled forward on the makeshift lever. Mint-scented goo dribbled out. Perfect. Next, he strategically placed a couple of airline blankets inside the duffle to hold the shaving cream can up toward the opening of the bag. He zipped it closed as far as he could, leaving just a little access for his fingers. Using a fisherman’s knot, he tied the floss to the metal tab, pulled the slack out, and tied the other end to the zipper.
He bit his lower lip as he pulled the knot tight. Probably the last time I’ll tie that knot since we no longer have a boat. The feeling of loss that he experienced on the day his dad sold their sailboat to pay the medical bills had been monumental. He slid the duffle back under the seat and glanced up at the movie. Seen it. With his dad laid up, watching movies was about all they could do together now.
*          *          *
Hours later, the pilot announced their descent into Ireland. Jake finished scanning the “Trace Your Heritage” homework instructions and folded them into his backpack. He hadn’t wanted to leave New York for the entire summer, but his dad had urged him to go on this school trip, saying it would be good for him to see where their family came from.
Jake tossed his backpack onto the empty seat next to him and peered between the seats as Zach wrapped up the cords of his expensive headphones. Showtime. Pretending to sleep, Jake watched through slits in his eyes as Zach pulled out his bag.
Zach tugged at the zipper. It didn’t budge. He grunted, tightened his grip, and yanked again. A greenish geyser of minty foam erupted from the bag, lathering Zach from head to waist.
“Argh!” Zach’s arms flailed as he struggled to wipe the slime from his face. He stopped and blinked several times. Then he stood up, turned, and fixated on Jake.
Uh-oh. At ten thousand feet, options for escape were slim.
An attendant spoke into the intercom. “Sir, please sit down. We’re making our descent.”
Temporarily thwarted, Zach pointed at Jake before making a fist and smacking it into his other palm.
“Zach!” Julie scolded.
“But look at what he did!” Zach removed the cream from his face with the last dry part of his shirt.
“Well, what did you think he’d do if you put your bag there? You know he can’t resist a practical joke!”
Jake’s heart pounded. She noticed. There is hope.
“And Jake, you’ve got to stop with the pranks.” Jake looked down, not wanting to gaze into her disapproving blue eyes. She’d once confided to Jake that Zach had some insecurities and issues with his dad, but Jake didn’t think that gave him the right to be a bully.
Once the plane landed in Shannon, the group of ten students made their way through customs and baggage claim. They purchased some cookies and drinks at the café and then walked outside into the mid-morning sun to eagerly await their sponsors. Although most of the students would be going to different villages, such as Ballyferriter and Castlegregory, Jake knew that Zach, Julie, and he would be staying in the town of Dingle.
He remembered the glint in Julie’s eyes when she talked about her dad pulling strings to keep them all close to each other. She wants me to be friends with her boyfriend? No way.
Jake’s name was called. He turned to see a man in faded pants and a colorful sweater
bounding toward him. The powerful energy in his trim frame was clearly evident.
Dia daoibh, Jake. Mo ainm Gerald O’Connell,” he said, warmly extending his hand.
Zach stopped dabbing the shaving cream from his clothes. “Whoa, I thought they spoke English here.”
“We do.” A girl with long red curls and a china-white complexion stepped out from behind the man. “Hello. My name is Maggie O’Connell, and this is my ‘da,’” she said with a charming brogue.
Jake recognized her from the photo she’d sent when they exchanged introductory e-mails. He remembered she was fifteen, only a year older than he was.
Mr. O’Connell inclined his head. “Welcome to Ireland.”
Not wanting to pass up the opportunity to upstage Zach, Jake said to Maggie, “That was Irish that your dad—uh, da—was speaking, right?”
Maggie beamed. “That’s impressive. Most Americans would have called it Gaelic.”
“My dad drilled me on Irish knowledge. He didn’t want me to bring shame on the McGreevy name.”
Maggie smiled in appreciation. “Speaking of names, remember you wrote to ask if there were any McGreevys listed in our area? Well, I was able to find a few near Killorglin—just about an hour away.”
Go raibh mile maith agat.” Jake hoped he’d pronounced the Irish translation for “thank you” correctly.
“’Fraid that’s all I’ve learned so far,” Jake grinned.
When Julie’s and Zach’s names were called, two well-dressed couples approached them. Jake noticed that as each person shook Zach’s hand, his or her nose twitched, probably trying to figure out where the minty smell was coming from. Jake snickered and Zach mouthed a threat at him.
In the parking lot, the O’Connells led Jake to a beat-up hatchback. Mr. O’Connell pounded on the latch to open it and began loading Jake’s bags. As Zach’s and Julie’s sponsors packed their luggage into their respective luxury cars, Zach called to Jake, “Hey, twerp. Want me to upgrade you to a donkey cart?”
Maggie squinted at Zach, as if to better understand what he’d just said.
Jake turned to her. “What’s Irish for caveman?
She giggled, mischief sparkling in her eyes. “Try fear pluaise.”
“Catch you later, fear pluaise!
All the sponsors laughed. And when Zach’s face deepened to a dark shade of red, Jake could barely conceal his pleasure. I am definitely going to like it here.
The car’s exterior may have been dilapidated, but its engine fired right up. Jake struggled to keep his stomach steady as Mr. O’Connell sped along the highway for the two-and-a-half-hour trip south. Their lively conversation made the time fly. It didn’t take long for Jake to get used to their accents, but much to his embarrassment, a few times he found himself unconsciously mimicking their inflections.
“When we get home, you can call your mum and da and tell them you’re here,” Maggie said.
Jake stared out the passenger window. “Just my dad. My mom died when I was young.”
Maggie twisted in her seat to reach out and touch his arm, hesitated, and then put her hand back by her side. “Tá brón orainn. I mean, I’m so sorry.”
“So this is your first time in Ireland, right, Jake?” Mr. O’Connell said, gently changing the subject.
“Yes. My dad and I have sailed to a few places on our schooner, but we’ve never made it this far.”
“Where have you been?” Maggie asked.
“Caribbean mostly. The sea down there is amazing.”
“I’ll bet. Well, my da and the other sponsors thought you might enjoy seeing a bit of scenery before settling in. We’re now on Slea Head Drive. Very soon you’ll be able to get your first glimpse of Blasket Sound, okay?”
“Of course.” Jake inched forward in his seat for a better view.
As they rounded the next corner, Maggie stretched her arm out the window and said, “Welcome to Dingle.”
Jake’s jaw dropped as the infinite ocean unfolded before him. Soaring cliffs hugged the coastline to stand guard over white-capped waves racing toward the shore like wild horses.
“It’s awesome,” Jake said, hoping he didn’t sound too corny.
“The National Geographic Traveller guidebook proclaimed it ‘the most beautiful place on earth,’” Maggie added with pride.
“I can see why.”
Thankfully, Mr. O’Connell slowed down a bit to make the curvy ride more enjoyable.  Jake glanced back and saw that Zach’s and Julie’s sponsors were managing to keep pace with Mr. O’Connell. After twenty minutes, everyone pulled into a small parking lot on the western tip of the peninsula.
Several families were gathered at the overlook, all taking pictures of the breathtaking view. The sight of the water overwhelmed Jake, and he swallowed hard, suppressing memories of his father’s sailboat and better days. Maggie guided the group to the best vantage point. Unlike some of the spectacular cliffs they had passed on the way, this section of the peninsula was only fifteen feet above the ocean. The water appeared calm, but Jake recalled his dad’s many lectures on strong currents and sudden waves.
He looked around at the other tourists and caught sight of a toddler dressed in a thick pink sweater and matching pants. She tottered after a butterfly, swinging her arms in an attempt to catch it. The insect fluttered away from the throngs of people, toward the edge of the cliff, with the child still in pursuit.
Jake swiveled his head around. Nobody is paying attention to her. He took off toward the girl, screaming for somebody to stop her, but before anyone could move, the child vanished over the edge. At full speed, Jake shed his shoes and plunged off the cliff.
I was pleasantly surprised by this action packed middle grade novel! To be perfectly honest, this was one of those times that you just can't judge a book by its cover. I was sort of expecting something boring to be honest (sorry, Sean!), but I was pulled in right from the beginning! I mean, look at that first chapter excerpt - right off the bat, the main character, Jake, is throwing himself into a life threatening situation! The whole book is like that - full of excitement that kept me wanting to find out what was going to happen next! Really, my only complaint is the cover  - I'm just afraid that the cover is not going to attract a middle grade audience. It needs to be a bit flashier...I'm thinking a picture of all 4 kids - Jake, Maggie, Julie, and Zach in the middle of one of their adventures.

I thought Vogel did a great job with character development. I loved Jake - he obviously loved his father, who was disabled from a horseback riding accident, and felt guilty from the circumstances behind it. He was a normal 14 year old in that he loved to prank his "nemesis" and fellow traveler, Zach, who had what he wanted most - Julie. He fights with his dad over normal things like wanting the latest video game, but really, he is a very thoughtful and caring young man. I also loved Maggie, the young Irish girl that Jake is staying with. She was tough, spunky, and smart.

I was very impressed with Vogel's writing - it was engaging and full of adventure, mystery, humor, and even a little romance. This book would appeal to both boys and girls. I think it's particularly appealing to boys, since the main character is an adventure seeking boy. I think my son will really like this book in a year or so (he's 9 now.) I would highly recommend this book to kids about 10 and up!

About the Author:

Growing up in a small town in Michigan during the 1980s, Sean was provided with an excellent garden for cultivating his writing career. With only a few simplistic video games and three television channels, he became an accomplished daydreamer and a creative outside adventurer.

A son of a garbage truck driver, Sean often received “gently used” items from his father’s route. With a bit of imagination and a little tinkering, these items were reborn as tools for battles against backyard bandits. These childhood experiences would later serve as the foundation and inspiration for Jake McGreevy’s gadgetry expertise.

Seeking his own adventures, Sean joined the Army via an ROTC scholarship at Colorado State University. Living in Germany for several years gave him the opportunity to travel extensively in Europe. During his time in the Army, he served in the Field Artillery and Signal Corp, rising to the rank of Captain and receiving the Bronze Star Medal for his service in Iraq.

Sean started drafting novels out of boredom during long deployments in the military; a pen is easier to carry than a guitar. But he soon fell in love with the frustrating, yet satisfying science called writing and has been hard at work ever since.

When he’s not helping his main character Jake get out of tangles, Sean is a department manager for a large aerospace company. He lives in Denver with his wife and their two dachshunds.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Read-a-long: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (Week One)

I am participating in my very first "Readalong" and this one is hosted by Jenn at Booksessed. We are reading The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, which I've owned for awhile, and been meaning to get around to, so this was the perfect opportunity!

This week we started with chapters one and are the answers that Jenn has posted on her blog for discussion along with my answers:

What were your initial first impressions of the characters?
Of course, I was horrified by Jack and his actions against the Bod's family. He was pure evil! I love the Owens' of course, they took Bod right in and committed to bringing him up as their own. I liked Scarlett too. I think she made Bod a little more aware of the fact that he was human, and also he was not used to having friends who were children.

How did the ghost of Bod's mother make you feel?
It made me sad for her. I couldn't imagine how she must feel seeing her that someone is attempting to kill her child, like they did her, and there is nothing she could do about it. As a mother, I know there would be no worse feeling that being helpless to protect my own child.

Do you think that Nobody is a good name for a boy?
Well, in reality, no, of course not. It's rather sad - don't you think? If my name was Nobody, I think I would have a problem with self esteem...but of course, in the context of the book, it's appropriate.

What are your thoughts on Silas and the woman on the grey horse?
I really like Silas, especially the importance he placed on educating Bod. He cares for Bod as much as his "parents", the Owens'. There wasn't a lot of information about the woman on the grey horse, but she approved Bod's freedom in the I like her, lol!

Do you think it's a good thing that Bod Freedom of the Graveyard and thus other powers?
At this point in the book I think it was good that he was given Freedom of the Graveyard - basically, the Graveyard is his home, and at this point it just feels like he was being made to feel at home. Now, I may change my mind later in the book, lol. This is my first reading of the book, so I don't know yet...

Do you think it's okay to let a child play in a graveyard like Scarlett's parents did?
Well, I would never let my 5 year old play ANYWHERE unsupervised - graveyard or not. My personal opinion is that a graveyard is not a place for children to play. It is a place for people to pay respects. If I went there to visit a loved one's site, I wouldn't want a bunch a kids running rampant throught the, in short - no, I guess not.

Why do you think Scarlett's parents are so eager to claim imaginary friends?
I think that they are worried about her mental capacities, so they are trying to convince themselves and Scarlet that it's something developmentally normal, like imaginary friends.

Did the semantics of the Tattoo Man seem obvious to you or was it a bit frightening?
It was a little creepy, I must admit. A ghost version of a scarecrow - very creative and creepy!

What do you think were Scarlett's parents real motivations in moving the family to Scotland?
I think they were escaping the graveyard - they realized how strong Scarlett was being pulled by it, and felt the need to get away.

Well, that is it for week one of The Graveyard Book! Next Tuesday, we will talk about chapters 3 and 4! Feel free to jump in the discussion!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Review: No Name Baby by Nancy Bo Flood

Publisher: Namelos
Release Date: March 1st, 2012
Number of Pages: 106
How I Got This Book: e-ARC from Netgalley
My Rating: 3.5/5

Goodreads Summary:

"Sophie remembered last night's dream and the gray stones-a whole row of them like the ones under the trees. Each stone was etched with letters that she couldn't quite read. When her pregnant mother falls, Sophie blames herself for the accident. Premature labor begins, and everyone worries the infant might join the others under the gray stones. Aunt Rae has come to help care for the baby and mother, but her presence only increases the tension in the family. Then Aunt Rae finds her niece talking with the young man from a neighboring farm and confronts her, revealing something that shakes Sophie's world.No-Name Baby is an intimate portrait of a young girl as she discovers the truth about herself and her family."


First, a big thank you to Namelos and Netgalley for the chance to read this book in exchange for an honest review!

Sophie's family is a close knit Italian-American family - her Mama, Papa, Nonna, and her Aunt Rae - and thankfully, her new baby brother, Antonio. A very stressful birth, which nearly takes the life of both her mother and brother leaves a lot of tension in the household, especially between Sophie and her Aunt Rae. Sophie does not understand why Aunt Rae acts the way she does...sometimes she opens up and tells her all kinds of stories about her past, and then other times she's so mean to Sophie - especially when it comes to the boy on the next farm. A shocking secret opens Sophie's eyes as to Aunt Rae's behavior, but now her whole world is upside down.

Flood's writing was very engaging, and I was easily drawn into the story. In fact, I read it all in one sitting (although it IS only 106 pages!) I liked Sophie very much and found her very relatable.
I do not care much for the cover of this book...I know, I know - you can't judge a book by it's cover. But, my concern is that since this book is aimed at the "tween" age group, this cover is really not going to draw that age group in. It's so dark and...kind of drab. Also, I felt like the title of the book really wasn't right for the story itself. "No Name Baby" refers to the babies that were born to Sophie's mother that did not survive, and the fact that her brother, Antonio, almost didn't make it. But, that's really not the MAIN part of the book. The story (in my opinion anyway) centers around Sophie. I don't know...I just felt like the title didn't fit, and that bothered me.

Other than those small details, I enjoyed the story, and would recommend it to an age group of 10 and older.

Stocking the Shelves #21

Again, I'm combining a couple of weeks...last week, I really didn't get much, but this week, the books kinda started to pile up :) I'm still not buying much because of the whole no-paycheck-in-the-summer-thing, but I did purchase one book with a remaining balance on a gift card. It was only $3.97 on clearance, and I needed it because I have the second book in the series!
Fallen (Fallen, #1)

Next, here are the books I received in the mail for review:

Sneak by Evan Angler (sequel to Swipe) sent to me by Thomas Nelson
Travelers Rest by Ann Tatlock (sent to me by Bethany House)
Bees in the Butterfly Garden by Maureen Lang (sent by Tyndale)
Taste of Home Cooking School sent by publisher

Here are my library books:

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick (already read!)
Various Positions by Martha Schabas
Awaken by Katie Kacvinsky
The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison
No Name Baby by Nancy Bo Flood

And last, but not least, here are the books I received from netgalley:

The Kill OrderSkinnyConfessions of an Angry Girl Send Me a Sign
Between You & MeEvery DayLiar & Spy

Well, that's what I got these last couple of weeks! How about you? What did you get? And has anyone read any of these books yet?

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Review: Best Friend Thief by Laurel-Ann Dooley

Best Friend Thief

Publisher: WordWorks Publishing
Release Date: September 20th, 2011
Number of Pages: 120
How I Got This Book: ARC from author for review
My Rating: 3/5

Goodreads Summary:

"2012 Indie Book Award Finalist
Nathalie can’t believe it. Her best friend Reagan is ditching her to be BFFs with the class popular girl. They’d been best friends forever, but when Queen Blair decides that she wants Reagan to be her BFF, Reagan is gone in a flash.

Catherine and Isabel can’t believe it either. They’re best friends just like Nathalie and Reagan, and the four of them always hung out together -- but now what? Will Nathalie get Reagan back? Does she even want her back? Will the group ever be the same again?

Confusion and hurt feelings take over -- and that’s just the start of it!"


First, a big thank you to Ms. Dooley for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review!

This is the first in a middle grade series about a group of 5th grade girls who are BFFs: Nathalie, Reagan, Catherine, and Isabel. For the first time in years, they have been separated into two different classes: Nathalie and Reagan into one, and Catherine and Isabel into another. Nathalie, who is the narrator of this book, is ok with this, because Reagan is her bestest friend of this group anyway. Until Blair comes along. Blair is one of the most popular girls in the school and she has decided that Reagan is going to be her new BFF. Poor Nathalie is feeling very abandoned. How will she get her BFF back, or can she?

I think this is a book that many 8-12 year old girls can relate to. Most girls in this age group deal with friend issues at one time or another. Ms. Dooley writes in a way that young girls can enjoy. I plan on passing this book on to my 11 year old daughter! To find out more about the series, check out the website:

Friday, July 6, 2012

Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Publisher: Dutton Books
Release Date: January 10th, 2012
Number of Pages: 318
How I got this book: Purchased signed copy from Wal-Mart
My rating:5/5

Goodreads Summary:

"Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 13, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs... for now.

Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault.

Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind."


This review will be really hard for me to write...this is one of THOSE that just left me floundering for words. It was just so beautifully written that I don't think that there is ANYTHING I can say that would adequately express just how wonderful this book is. This quote from the book, which is now one of my most favorite book quotes EVER, really expresses it quite nicely...

"Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book. And then there are books... which you can't tell people about, books so special and rare and yours that advertising your affection feels like betrayal.”

This book touched me in so many, many ways. I went through so many emotions in this book...I was happy, sad, angry, devastated, everything. I laughed, I cried, I wanted to throw the book down, but then pick up the book and hug it...

Hazel Grace was not the most likeable female character in the world...she was a bit bitter, but then who wouldn't be in her position? But once Augustus Waters comes into her life, she definintely changes for the better. Sigh, and Augustus...he is so...sweet. And good. Which makes everything so much harder. But, I love him. Every girl needs an Augustus in their life.

I am not one who rereads books - but I do believe I will be rereading this one! For real - if you don't read anything else this year - READ THIS BOOK! And keep a tissue handy! Or two. Oh, who am I kidding, just keep the box :)

Review: Hourglass by Myra McEntire

Publisher: Egmont USA
Release Date: June 14th, 2011
Number of Pages: 387
How I got this Book: Library
My Rating: 4/5

Goodreads Summary:

"One hour to rewrite the past . . .

For seventeen-year-old Emerson Cole, life is about seeing what isn't there: swooning Southern Belles; soldiers long forgotten; a haunting jazz trio that vanishes in an instant. Plagued by phantoms since her parents' death, she just wants the apparitions to stop so she can be normal. She's tried everything, but the visions keep coming back. So when her well-meaning brother brings in a consultant from a secretive organization called the Hourglass, Emerson's willing to try one last cure. But meeting Michael Weaver may not only change her future, it may change her past.

Who is this dark, mysterious, sympathetic guy, barely older than Emerson herself, who seems to believe every crazy word she says? Why does an electric charge seem to run through the room whenever he's around? And why is he so insistent that he needs her help to prevent a death that never should have happened?"


I'm going to keep this short and sweet. I'll be's been a little while since I've read this - I'm trying to catch up on some review writing. I'm working on a batch of books that I read "for fun" and hadn't gotten around to posting about yet, but think they are worth talking about! I don't think I need to go in depth about this book - there are tons of reviews out there, but here are some of my thoughts...

It was definitely different from anything I've read! I liked the whole "I see dead people" thing, and I felt really bad for Emerson because obviously it's driven her a wee bit cuckoo - she was even locked up in an institution for awhile! Anyway, her older brother hires Michael, a consultant from this organization called the Hourglass who supposedly can help her. Michael and Emerson immediately feel a "spark" and forge a relationship that goes beyond one of business. They realize that they need each other - in many different ways.

There were a few parts that I thought dragged in the book, but it was mostly pretty exciting. I loved the romance - Michael seemed pretty darn hot! :) There were many parts that had me sighing because he was very romantic. I liked Emerson as a character. She started the book more or less broken - she was still very much grieving the loss of her parents, and she had recently returned from the mental hospital. But, by the end of the book, she was like a whole new woman. She was still grieving, of course - but she realized the strength she had within herself. I liked that about her.

I have the ARC of the sequel, Timepiece, on my kindle, and I am looking forward to reading it!