Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Improbable Wonders of Moojie Littleman by Robin Gregory

  Moojie is unlike any other being in this world. Descended from an unknown place, Moojie was set in this world with crooked legs, barely any capability of speech, and a heart full of love.
  But as Moojie grows older, he feels out of place. He is searching for unconditional love to mend his spirit, but will he ever find it? Is anyone in his life capable of loving Moojie the way he deserves? His quest will find the answer to that.
  His quest for love, and his quest for acceptance in this world.
  The Improbable Wonders of Moojie Littleman by Robin Gregory is unlike any other book I've read. This book confounded me and entranced me at the same time. I read this book with "I really may come out of this reading experience not liking this book, but I can't stop reading it" continuously running through my head.
  After much internal arguing, deep thinking, and decision-making, I've come to the conclusion that this book was not my cup of tea, but it should be read. Not unlike that book you read in high school that didn't capture your interest throughout, but you still think of to this day.
  The Improbable Wonders of Moojie Littleman needs to sit. It needs to be mentally digested. I think that's why it took me so long to sit down and review it. I needed to make sure I wrote down the right things, and got my opinion of this book across and in a way where it was complimentary to the author, without feigning my true opinions.
  I've decided to give this book a four out of five. It wasn't one of my favorite reads, but I would be lying if I said I came out of this not loving Moojie. This book had a beautiful message. In many ways this book reflects Moojie, but one message in particular sums up their comparison perfectly.
  You may be put off by someone at first glance, but when you look deep inside, there will always be an underlying beauty to be discovered.

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Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Legacy of Hunger by Christy Nicholas

  Young Valentia McDowell has decided that it is time for her to leave her home in Ohio, and venture to Ireland in pursuit of her distant relatives and a mysterious family heirloom.
  But Valentia is unaware of what dire straits await her in 1846 Ireland. She receives more than she bargains for in The Legacy of Hunger, and she may not come out of this quest completely unscathed.
  I went into this story not knowing what to expect. I was approached by the author to read her book, and after I was provided a short synopsis of the story, I deemed it interesting enough to pick up and review.
  By the first chapter, I was intrigued. I didn't need time adjusting to the writing or anything of the sort, it was quite similar to love at first sight. I didn't want to build my expectations too high, but I was hoping that this particular story would be mesmerizing throughout. I was not disappointed.
  From the very first page, to the very last, I was sold. This book is a winner. Valentia's growth as a character was so subtle and clever, the effect didn't even completely make an impact on me until the last chapter. When it did, I had to take a moment and congratulate the author, Christy Nicholas, in my head for a job well done. Ms Nicholas' research for this book was very impressive. The amount of detail and love she put into her story is noticeable and very honorable. Positive praise for The Legacy of Hunger must be noted, because it is well deserved.
  As time ages this story in my head (like a fine wine), I may have to alter my rating from a four star to a five. Time will tell in the end, but I promise I will be thinking about this book for a long time.
  By the "#1" indicator next to the book's description on Amazon, I'm assuming The Legacy of Hunger is the first of several books in this series. I'm glad. I will read on, and enjoy every minute of it.
  I pray the books that follow will be as wonderful as book one.


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

When It's Love, I'll Let You Know by Andrea Sommers

  Peter DeHavilland is successful, handsome, charming, a world famous director, and...everything Kate Adams avoids in a man. Kate is unsure of herself, inexperienced, best friends with a stunning Hollywood actress, and is desperately trying to make it as a script writer for soap operas. Though Peter is twelve years older than Kate, an unintentional blind date turns this unlikely couple into a possible match. 
  If only their friendship would stop growing. 
  Will these two finally put aside their differences and realize they were only searching for each other their entire lives? Or will their friendship get in the way? 
  Only time will tell in Andrea Sommers' When It's Love I'll Let You Know.
  I am being completely honest with you when I tell you that I was interested in this story from the very beginning. Besides some adjustment to Andrea Sommers' writing (which was only needed because I had just finished a book by an entirely different author just minutes before), When It's Love, I'll Let You Know had me from the very first page.
  Kate didn't irritate me. In fact, I actually found her incredibly realistic and relatable.
  I loved Jen, Kate's best friend. For a Hollywood bombshell, she was very down to earth and lovable in her own right.
  Even Peter didn't annoy me! Each and every character had their charming qualities, and together they made me very interested to see where their story would go.
  Every night, I wanted to stay up to read more of this book to see what was actually going to happen. Would Jen find happiness? Would Peter and Kate FINALLY admit they love each other?? Would there be a happily ever after?
  Everything was just as it should be in a charming romance, until...
  Until about 75% of the way through the book. I won't spoil it for future readers, but there was a turning point, a happy turning point actually, that turned my "I really liked it" to an "I liked it."
  I almost feel as if the characters changed, and not for the better. Kate and Peter's relationship went in a direction that ended up disappointing me. Jen, thankfully, was left intact, but I was sad to see my OTP (one true pair) change so drastically. Maybe it's just me. I don't know if any other readers noticed this shift in the story, but it hit me like a ton of bricks.
  It's quite disappointing, to be honest. I was waiting for that, "a-ha!" moment, and instead I got an, "...oh."
  When It's Love, I'll Let You Know was every unrealistic "romance novel" I've ever read turned realistic and beautiful. I only wish it had an ending as strong as the beginning.
  I encourage my readers to try this love story, and let me know what you think.

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Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Reckoning (Earth Haven #3) by Sam Kates

  The third and final installment of the Earth Haven trilogy is finally here, and the Literary Connoisseur's verdict is in.
  First there was the Cleansing of Earth Haven. Then, the Beacon was activated, which signaled to more toxic beings destined to destroy what we call home. And in the end, there will be a Reckoning.
  The Reckoning was an extremely satisfactory ending to an original Sam Kates story. As I expected, The Reckoning was missing the key elements that made The Cleansing (book one) magical. The Cleansing provided a fresh, new story that captured my attention at first glance. The Beacon held my interest and further dug me deeper into the story of Earth Haven. The Reckoning wrapped everything up (in as neat a package as possible). Like most trilogy endings, The Reckoning provided a story that didn't have me as enthralled as the first two, but in the end completed me. The third and final book may not be my favorite of the trilogy, but it was certainly fulfilling enough to have the Earth Haven series, once again, at the top of my favorites list.
  There were shocking moments in the Reckoning that I didn't see coming. There were well-needed character developments, and introductions to characters that were key to the story. The Reckoning contained everything needed in a "final book."
  I am giving The Reckoning four stars out of five, but I'm giving the Earth Haven trilogy five stars altogether.
  I am not a sci-fi fan. But I am a huge Sam Kates fan.


Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Thompson Sisters Anthology by Charles Sheehan-Miles

When I first became a blogger, and first started to truly evaluate the books I pick up to devour, I read Charles Sheehan-Miles' Thompson Sisters series. Since then, I have fallen in love with each book he releases, and I have never fully recovered from having my heart split into two and set on fire by Charles' magnificent stories. 

This series will absolutely ruin you in a way that only remarkable books can ruin you. 

This is one of my favorite book series in the entire world. It's beautiful, heartbreaking, and life-changing in every way. 

I stand by this series 100%, and recommend it to anyone and everyone willing to give it a try. 

Now, for only 4.99, with six books and two novellas in one... Thompson Sisters Anthology  


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Gone Series by Michael Grant

  Just like that, in the blink of an eye, everyone over the age of fifteen was gone. Teachers, parents, doctors, neighbors--all gone. Not one single adult left in Perdido Beach, California.
  No one knows where they've disappeared to. But if one thing's for sure, it's that things are going to get ugly in Perdido Beach. Very quickly.
  Children are starting to starve, tensions are getting high, young teens are becoming power hungry, and most of all, more and more kids are turning fifteen...and disappearing.
  What will become of the FAYZ (Fallout Alley Youth Zone)? What will become of the children, young teens, and babies when they realize they are now cut off from the rest of the world? Only time will tell in the Gone series by Michael Grant.
  When I first read Gone, I didn't know what to think. I had read it for a book club discussion, and I had extreme mixed feelings.
  On one hand, the story was undeniably addicting. Why would every single adult in the FAYZ just disappear without a trace? Mid-driving, mid-cooking, mid-living their normal life just POOF. Vanished.
  I dove into it with an open mind, fully prepared to have my socks knocked off, but that wasn't what I got. I was slightly annoyed with all of the characters (and a bit confused with the story progression), but in the end, interested enough to purchase the rest of the series.
  After I read Gone, I rated it a three out of five stars. I liked it, but didn't love it.
  Fast-forward to about four (or so) years later. Yes, it took me that long to pick up the rest of the series. Life got chaotic, and so did my TBR list.
  In a spur of the moment, I decided to binge-read the rest of the series. I didn't feel the need to reread the first book, even though I had read it so long ago, because when I picked up Hunger (book two), Michael Grant surprisingly picked up where I left off. He reintroduced characters, went over what occurred in book one (which I was very grateful for), and somehow made it easier for me to dive back into the series after putting it down for so long.
  I don't know how my state of mind stands compared to how it was when I first picked up book one, but I LOVED Hunger. Book two hooked me so hard, I went back and changed my rating of Gone. Then when I read Lies (book three), I fell even more in love with the series.
  After that, I was sure that however I grew over the years, whether it be mentally, emotionally, or in maturity, it helped me appreciate this series for what it was. I fell in love with many characters, I couldn't stop reading, and I finally gave in to the fact that this series truly is genius.
  Now, this series isn't one of the best series I've ever read. There are many things that still irk me, and there are enough plot, moral, and character imperfections (in my opinion) for me to still groan "Meh" at points. I won't deny that. But there are not enough imperfections to outweigh the things that really drew my attention this time around.
  This series most-certainly will not appeal to everyone. I can name many things off the top of my head that will "turn off" many readers, but I can honestly say I gained a lot from finishing the series.
  In conclusion, you can't always base your opinion of an entire series on the first book. Or your mental and emotional state at the time. In my case, I think I was just too young to appreciate this story for what it was. It took time for me to mature enough to handle this series, and I'm glad it turned out that way. I wouldn't trade my experience of reading this series for anything in the world.
  So, if you're prepared, and you like your stories a little apocalyptic-ish, a little Stephen King-ish, and a little bit epic, pick up this series and let me know what you think.

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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Bookish Meets Boy by Dianna Dann

  The plot of Bookish Meets Boy is in the title. Book-loving (and book-living) Sophie Childers has just had her heart broken by her dirtbag ex-boyfriend. And what will any bookworm do when they've had their heart broken? Drown their sorrows in fiction.
  Which isn't difficult for Sophie, because she works at Bookish, a small indie bookstore that is well loved in her hometown.
  Sophie has sworn off all men, until Reese Fuller makes an appearance in her own little personal romance novel. It's obvious that Reese is the most charismatic, charming, and beautiful man in Florida, but there's one problem that could possibly turn Sophie off forever. One GIANT, hairball problem.
  This was such an enjoyable little story. I have been a huge fan of Dianna Dann's work for a while, so of course I gladly accepted when I was approached to do this review. But Ms Dann did warn me that this genre was a change of pace for her, and me (as a reader).
  In the end, Ms Dann had nothing to fear, because I adored this book. Any bookworm will find themselves in Sophie, in both "bookish" nature, and character.
  The only problem I had, was that I wasn't "in love" with Reese. I fell in love with another character named Hugh, who is basically a male version of Sophie (but less goofy, and more calm). Reese being Reese aside, I loved his and Sophie's story, their back and forth, and, of course, their giant conflict.
  This was a very fun, light read. Bookish Meets Boy is guaranteed to make you smile, lighten your mood, and bring happiness into your heart.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Undivided by Stephanie Erickson

  Well, I knew this day would come, but I don't think I truly prepared myself for it. One of the series that has addicted me the most since becoming a book reviewer, the Unseen trilogy by Stephanie Erickson, is coming to a close.
  Mackenzie "Mack" Day has accepted the fate she was destined to fulfill, the terrorist group The Potestas have succeeded in constructing their ultimate plan of destruction and anguish, and the Unseen are coming to the climax of their story.
  This is Undivided.
  From the day I started Unseen (book one in the trilogy), and frantically messaged Ms Erickson to tell her how deeply hooked I was with her story, I knew I was in love. I have read many wonderful stories since the day I started blogging and writing reviews, but Stephanie Erickson's books are unlike any other. I had such an enormous book hangover from reading Unseen, I couldn't even concentrate on the book signing I was attending at the time. All that kept running through my head was, "But what is Mackenzie doing right now? Is Owen with her? Most of all, is (my favorite character) Mitchell okay??"
  Although Ms Erickson was thrilled to hear my feedback of one of her novels, she grew apprehensive about the next book that was soon to be released. Would I devour Unforgiven as much as I devoured Unseen? What if the next two books didn't hold the same magic as book one?
  I was nervous too. This has happened with me before. I'll fall in love with book one, but as the series goes on, I'll lose interest and chalk it up to the fact that the author should have kept the series as a novel. (Of course this is just my opinion, but I would bet money that every reader goes through something similar at least once in their life.)
  Stephanie and I were both worried when it came time for Unforgiven to be released.
  Little did we know that we had absolutely nothing to be worried about. Not a thing. Because Unforgiven was JUST as incredible as Unseen, if not better. I once heard an author say, "I want to hear that my fans favor my more recent books as opposed to my earlier novels. I want to know I am getting better."
  In this case, and although I love her earlier novels as much as her later ones, I think Ms Erickson is getting better.
  Fast forward to two weeks (or so) ago. Ms Erickson informed me that book three was in my inbox, and ready to be read and reviewed. Before I started it, we had a similar discussion to the one we had when book two came out.
  The entire trilogy's fate was resting in Undivided's hands. If this one flopped, would I look at the entire trilogy differently? Would I have to go to Goodreads and sorrowfully rate it a four or (inhales) a three? (Let's not even talk about the possibility of a two...I can't see rating ANY Erickson book a two.)
  I think it's safe to say that Stephanie and I both were incredibly nervous to hear my feedback this time.
  Without spoilers, and without ruining the ending, I am thrilled to say that Undivided was the most perfect ending for the Unseen trilogy. Nothing was rushed, and there were no miraculous, "Oh look, the heroine just annihilated every single one of the bad guys with one blast of her gun" scenes that wrapped up the story in one neat little package. There were twists that I didn't expect (and definitely didn't see coming), and most importantly, the final installment of the Unseen trilogy did not disappoint one bit.
  In fact, it may be my favorite of the series. Or, well, I don't know. Perhaps I'll have to reread them to form a more objective opinion...
  All in all, the trilogy lived up to my expectations. It's one of the best series I've read as a reviewer, and I stand by that statement wholeheartedly.
  I look forward to the many, many other books Ms Erickson has plans to write (especially her upcoming book, The Fate, and the final installments of her The Dead Room series), but I will be honest with you when I say that I will miss Mack with every fiber of my being.

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Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

  I'm sure that by now, we've all heard the story of Go Set a Watchman.
  There was talk of a "sequel" to Harper Lee's beloved classic, To Kill a Mockingbird, and the word about town was that it was to be published (possibly) against Harper Lee's will. That her current caretaker was taking advantage of an older lady, and was causing her nothing but grief.
  Before the book was even published, there was an ongoing hum all across the literary world about this book, and the controversy it was destined to carry.
  Many of my friends told me they would not read it. No way, no how. They couldn't support a book that possibly could have been published under such questionable circumstances.
  Once the book started circulating around reviewers, readers became more turned off by talk of "Atticus Finch not being the man we all came to love." I won't specify exactly what the problem was, but fans were in an uproar about one of their favorite characters in literary history showing up in a different, and less lovable, light.
  Fast-forward a bit more to talk of Go Set a Watchman not being a sequel per se, but a rough copy and outline of what To Kill a Mockingbird was supposed to be. With the way it was skewered by its audience, if Go Set a Watchman was published back in the 1960s instead of To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee would possibly not be the icon she is today. Actually, who knows. Perhaps everyone's expectations were too high when they heard that a "To Kill a Mockingbird sequel was coming out!" Perhaps fans of the original story judged the book before they even got their hands on it. Perhaps too many people across the world were the ones that turned this story into a flop, not the author herself.
  But I digress...
  I battled with it myself for a while. Do I want to read this book, and possibly sully my opinion of Scout, Atticus, and Harper Lee? Do I want to read it and see what happens, just out of curiosity? Do I want to pretend it doesn't exist and hug my copy of To Kill a Mockingbird close to my chest, shut my eyes, and pretend that the world is beautiful place where no bad sequels exist?
  In the end, I figured that it was important I read the book, and form an honest, unbiased opinion of my own. I wasn't going to allow word through the grapevine to hinder my opinion of a book most folks haven't even bothered to read.
  I was going in.
  Now let's go back, 30 years later from where we last visited Scout...
  And that's as far as I'm going, folks. If you're curious about what happens in Go Set a Watchman, I implore you to actually read it. Why?
  Because. I. Loved. It.
  I fell so hard for this book, it completely made me change the way I view To Kill a Mockingbird, FOR THE BETTER. I can't guarantee that every reader will have the same marvelous reading experience that I had, but you most certainly will not know unless you try.
  I prepared myself for awful writing, a weak plot line, and for my beloved characters to turn into hideous, child-feasting monsters, but that didn't happen.
  What did happen? Harper Lee's characters came to life.
  No longer was Atticus Finch a man from the 1930s who was too good to be true. He has now become human.
  No longer was Scout a wide-eyed little girl, just learning about the cruelties of the world. She has now become a woman, wise and powerful beyond her years, and won't stand for anything unsavory.
  No longer was Maycomb County the County you knew when you first picked up To Kill a Mockingbird. Maycomb County is now an entity you would see through the eyes of a grown up Scout.
  Go Set a Watchman made To Kill a Mockingbird real. Go Set a Watchman is the other half of the story I didn't know I needed in my life until now. It packs such a powerful punch, I felt breathless when I finished the last page. Then cue wracking sobs that coursed through my body for the next two hours.
  I don't know what the critics of this book found when they opened it up...I don't know what readers read that turned them off so, but I'm glad I didn't have that experience. I'm glad I was able to go into this book with an open heart, and an open mind, and take something beautiful and meaningful from it. (And in my opinion, some of the negatives that were taken from this book wouldn't have been negatives at all if the critics actually finished the book.)
  In my opinion, this book was cursed from the very beginning. It didn't have a chance.
  As I said, not everyone will have this experience. You may read this review, pick up the book, and curse me for misleading you. (There's honestly nothing I can do about that!) But this is what I took from Go Set a Watchman, and I regret nothing. Absolutely nothing.
  Go Set a Watchman was everything I could have wanted (and much, much more) in a "sequel," "rough draft," or whatever you want to call it. I am fully aware that I am currently, and possibly will forever be, in the small percentage of people who actually like or even love this book, and I've come to terms with it. It's not the first time one of my favorite books has been raked over the coals.
  This book left an impression on my soul, and I will hold it close to my heart wherever I go.

  So, readers, I implore you. Please read a book before you carve your opinion of it in stone. No good will ever come of that. If I had listened to all of the negative gossip and reviews of this book, I never would have had the extraordinary reading experience I just had. So please, think before you read.

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Thursday, September 3, 2015

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

  After a frantic realization that I have never actually written a review for Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, one of the most important and iconic books in literary history, I decided that I needed to sit down and write a nicely thought out review. 
  But I had to do it right. I had to plan this out perfectly, just as I did with my Princess Bride read. (Side note: Don't forget to write about that as well.) 
  In the wake of the newly released Go Set a Watchman, I set up my reading plan and To Be Read list without hesitation. Step One: Reread To Kill a Mockingbird. Step Two: Read Go Set a Watchman, and form your own, unbiased opinion about the book. Step Three: Review both, separately, and express your opinion to the world (no matter what fallout you may receive).
  So, here I am. This is my completion of Step One, and part of Step Three. 
  To Kill a Mockingbird is the story of a young girl, Scout, as she grows up in the 1930s south with her brother, Jem, her father, Atticus, and their reclusive and mysterious neighbor, Boo Radley. But any Harper Lee fan will tell you that that summary is nothing. It's not even a chip off the tip of the iceberg. It's merely a glance into Scout's world, and it covers positively nothing about the story. If you haven't already, you're just going to have to pick up the book to fully appreciate what it entails. 
  When I first read To Kill a Mockingbird, I was in my mid (to late) teens. Some parts of the book were dry to me, but overall a powerful and important read. 
  Fast-forward to now, about five (or so) years later. 
  Rereading a book is like returning to your old hometown and revisiting long-lost friends. You've kept contact over the years, but there's something undeniable about actually returning home to a familiar place. You're aware of how things run, you know what's going to happen while you're "in town," and just being there comes as second nature, like breathing. 
  But there's a certain newly found appreciation that comes with revisiting a story like this. You begin to finally get things you missed the first time around. You understand more, especially since you've aged a good few years, and have grown more experienced since the last time you read it. The more time you spend with Scout, the more the aspects of To Kill a Mockingbird, such as innocence, bravery, family, and truth, become bold in the eyes of the reader. 
  Please excuse me if the following sentence oversteps the fine line between "book reviewer" and "hipster blogger."
  Anyone who has read and appreciated To Kill a Mockingbird must know that Harper Lee was a woman ahead of her time. I've heard that the book is many years ahead of its time, and while that is true, I believe that the focus should mainly be on the author herself. I believe that, if possible, she, as a person, would be even more appreciated if this book had come out in this day and age. (Of course To Kill a Mockingbird wouldn't nearly be as popular as it is if it hadn't come out when it did, but imagine the possibility of this book being released in the 2010s.) 
  I think what I'm trying to say is, that since this book was written and released so long ago, it's become overshadowed by the "classic" label, therefore rendering it boring and dry in the eyes of readers. (And only talked about recently because of the whole Go Set a Watchman debacle.) But again, any reader and lover of this story would know that this book is anything but. 
  To Kill a Mockingbird is an absolute masterpiece. Argue all you want, and I will respectfully disagree, but this book is popular for a reason. If extraterrestrials were to fly down to Earth and request a book that humans consider a guide to mankind, To Kill a Mockingbird is it. Why? Because not only does it prove that there are kind people in the world, it shows how awful and unfair we can be as well. This book is real. It's sweet, heartwarming, and it can make you all warm and fuzzy inside, but it doesn't sugar-coat life. To Kill a Mockingbird is well-loved, award-winning, and required reading for a reason. 
  It would be an understatement to say that this reread of mine only solidified that fact. I would say (more likely) that it brought it to life. 
  Another understatement would be to say that To Kill a Mockingbird is just a favorite book of mine. I love and care about many books. I love series I read when I was little, I love young adult books packed solid with romance and violence, and I love independently published books and classics alike. So, I don't think it would be fair to classify this exceptional story as "just a favorite of mine." 
  To Kill a Mockingbird is not just a paper and glue-bound book, it's a guide to life. 

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Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Caster Chronicles by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

  The Caster Chronicles is one of the many series I have started, but took a while to finish. I read the first book, Beautiful Creatures, a few years ago, loved it, but got so sidetracked with book review requests, book club books, talked-about New York Times Bestsellers, and more, I never got a chance to continue on in the series.
  Until now.
  A much-needed reading lull made its appearance into my TBR list pretty recently, and I decided to do a binge-read of the rest of Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl's Caster Chronicles.
  The plot for the Caster Chronicles series is pretty basic, but intriguing enough to pick up. Typical southern boy in a typical southern town becomes increasingly drawn to a mysterious girl in his class. Ethan becomes so enthralled with Lena Duchannes, he unknowingly gets sucked into her magical world of Casters, Sirens, Incubi, and more magical beings hell-bent on destroying life as we know it.
  I fell in love with book one, where Ethan first meets Lena. I loved how the book was told in his perspective, I love that the romance was kept to a minimum (thank you, Kami and Margaret for that), I loved the plot, and I loved that the author built up this world that readers of YA books have never delved into before.
  I became pretty intrigued with the series, enough to buy all four books, and read on to see what was going to happen next in Ethan and Lena's world.
  Book two, Beautiful Darkness, had the same effect on me. I LOVED the plot, I was deep into the story line by this point, and was very content with how the story continued.
  Also, a female character named Liv was introduced in book two, and she was so much fun and so refreshing to read about, I almost grew tired of Ethan and Lena's story, and wanted the book to focus more on Liv. Not quite, but almost. She was a wonderful addition to the story. She remains, to this day, my favorite character from the series. I can't actually ever recall a time when I walked away from a series with my favorite character being a girl/woman. That's a first for me, I think.
  Now, on to book three and book four, Beautiful Chaos, and Beautiful Redemption. I'm sorry to say that this is where my love affair with the series started to feel like a drag. In all honesty, I grew a little tired of the recurring characters, their "charm," and their, in my opinion, immaturity. By book three, I wanted a book about Liv and Marion, because those were the only characters I looked forward to reading about.
  There was a big turning point at the very end of book three that made me itching to get my hands on book four, and that lasted quite a while into book four (enough for me to rate it four stars, not three), but it still had a lingering aftertaste of disappointment.
  Don't get me wrong, I still enjoy the series and care about the characters, but I'm... I just feel like, by this point, I'm just waiting for my happily ever after, and an ending, so I can move on.
  This may sound confusing, because the Caster Chronicles is over, but in a way it's not. Now I'm in the middle of (Lena's cousin) Ridley's series, and I'm ready to move on. (Same characters, similar plot lines, etc.) I hate to say that, I really do. But honestly, I just want what's best for my characters. A happily ever after, a ride into the sunset, and no more unnecessary problems.
  Whatever Caster Chronicles-related books come from Kami and Margaret, I will read. You bet your book loving, sweet patootie, I will read them. I want to know what happens. And when my characters' stories are (finally) over, I will miss "hearing from them." But when their story is over, I know I will be satisfied, and relieved, when it is tied up in a neat little bow.
  Overall, the Caster Chronicles series, for me, is riding the fine line of 3.5 stars.

Try the first book in the series...

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Or binge-read the entire Caster Chronicles...


Monday, August 17, 2015

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

  I've read many incredible books in my lifetime. Many have left a lasting impression on me, some are just very satisfying reads, but only a chosen few are books I would consider "life-altering."
  The Kite Runner is one of those books.
  I went into this reading experience expecting to be bored to tears. I didn't know anything about the plot of The Kite Runner, but I did know- in all honesty- it was about a time and part of the world I have never read about before. This wasn't intentional, I had just never picked it up to read.
  So when I finally did pick it up, I was hesitant to delve into it. I'm not an adventurous person when it comes to literature, and I'm always hesitant to try new plot lines and genres... But, boy am I glad I decided to venture outside of my reading comfort zone.
  Amir is a privileged youth growing up in 1970s Kabul, Afghanistan. Hassan is Amir's polar opposite. He grew up poor, unprivileged, uneducated, and a Shi'a, as opposed to Amir, who is a Sunni. Despite their differences, they were born a year apart, grew up together, live on the same land, and are best friends.
  All is well in Afghanistan, until there are signs of the blossoming of the Soviet-Afghan war.
  In The Kite Runner, we follow Amir's life through war, poverty, escapism, love, loss, friendship, and ultimate sacrifices.
  Sometimes when you read a book that is so well-talked about, you hesitate to read it, thinking in the end you'll be disappointed. I can't say that's exactly how I felt with The Kite Runner. I'm not even sure if I had any pre-conceived notions before actually going into this book, but I will tell you that there is a reason why this book is so talked about. It's a New York Times, international, award-winning bestseller for a very good reason. This book is exceptional. Mind-blowing. Beautiful. Melancholy. Frightening. Intimidating. The Kite Runner should be the bar aspiring authors devote their lives to reaching.
  Khaled Hosseini paints such a powerful picture with The Kite Runner. He shows us the beauty of life growing up in Afghanistan, as well as the twisted dystopian truth that comes with growing up in a time of war.
  In fact, typing about this stunning book is much easier than actually explaining why I love it so much, in person. When I try to speak about it, my throat closes up and tears fill my eyes.
  I understand that this book does not appeal to everyone, and that's okay. Different books appeal to different people. But when fellow readers, or new readers ask me about some of the best books I've ever read, I will jump at the chance to suggest Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Farmer's Market Cookbook: From Broccoli to Zucchini Recipes to Make You Fall in Love with Vegetables by Lucy Leigh Hendry

  Have you ever decided to venture out to your local farmer's market, and purchase countless amounts of delicious, plump fruits and crisp vegetables, only to find them withered in the back of your refrigerator a week later? Unlike most genetically modified produce in every corner chain grocery store, locally grown food does not have the shelf life of two months.
  Have you ever bought a half a bushel of apples, saying to yourself that you WILL make a pie this weekend when your folks come over? Or saw a Pinterest recipe that caught your eye, looked good, and you pinned, fully intending to dig out your grandma's old crockpot with its stains and smudges from hundreds of previous recipes that generations of your family have made over the years?
  You don't need motivation or that nagging pressure of having to use the food you have in your fridge to FINALLY get yourself into the kitchen and cook...
  ...all you need is a really good cookbook.
  Now, this is my first ever cookbook review, but when I'm not reading or crocheting, I'm cooking, so I like to think that this is somewhat of a specialty of mine (I say as I'm tooting my own horn).
  I am one of the lucky ducks who's dragged to my local farmer's market every weekend by my mom (thanks, mom). I don't particularly enjoy shopping in the heat, outdoors, with bugs using me as their own personal target, coming from every direction, but there is one huge plus to sucking it up and making the haul to the farmer's market (or local produce stand).
  The Farmers Market Cookbook not only makes long-time experts in the kitchen fall in love again with cooking, it makes those who have never stepped one foot in a kitchen fall in love as well.
  Whether you've professionally baked 100 sweet potato pies for the county fair, or whether you can barely boil pasta without burning it, The Farmer's Market Cookbook will have you preparing deliciously healthy meals all year long.
  From cauliflower to spinach, this cookbook will have you preparing meals that will make even your picky eaters ask for seconds. (I speak from personal experience.)
  In fact, why not make it a family occasion and bring your children into the kitchen to help your prepare dinner? The Farmer's Market Cookbook turns the regular and taxing task of cooking a meal into an exciting adventure.
  *I* am even starting to add vegetables to the weekly "What to Look for at the Produce Stand" list. If there's anything that's going to get you excited about going to the farmer's market, preparing all of your locally (or home) grown ingredients, and pulling together a beautiful and healthy meal, it's this book.


Monday, August 3, 2015

Second Chance Family by Leigh Duncan

  I came across Second Chance Family by Leigh Duncan in a very unique way. 
  One day, when I still lived in Florida, I made a trip to my local post office to mail out some packages. The postal worker behind the counter asked how I was doing and what I was up to (since she has known me since I was very little). I told her that I was reviewing books. She said to me, "That is so ironic! Just now an author came in and told me about her work. She handed me a few bookmarks of hers..." and proceeded to give me a bookmark for Leigh Duncan's Second Chance Family. 
  I thanked her, we chatted a little while more, and I left with my new bookmark. 
  Fast-forward to a few months later, when I was contacted by a local Harlequin Romance author named Leigh Duncan. 
  The connection never crossed my mind.
  I read a few of Leigh Duncan's American Harlequin Romances, fell in love (of course), and accepted review requests for the rest of Ms Duncan's books. 
  That's when I received a copy of Second Chance Family in the mail...and a hundred light bulbs switched on in my head. 
  I had been wanting to read this book for MONTHS! Ever since I saw the cover, I knew one day I had to read this book. (But as a reader, you know that you put a thousand books on your To Be Read list per week, and you soon become somewhat buried alive in your own To Read pile.) 
  I was more than eager to finally read Second Chance Family. 
  It did not disappoint. 
  After a horrible experience with being married to a professional baseball player, Courtney Smith is not only extremely fed up with ex-husbands and baseball, she's fed up with the male species altogether. Courtney has two children to raise and a business to keep afloat. She does not need any sort of male drama in her life. 
  But one male in particular finds his way in to her life anyway. 
  Travis Oak has always dreamed of becoming a professional player in the major leagues, but for now, he is just trying to survive successfully coaching a little league team in his hometown in Florida. Especially since his main focus is trying to keep one of his kids on the straight and narrow and not get expelled. 
  This child just happens to be Courtney's son. 
  Can a little league coach, two children, and a woman who would be more than happy to stay away from baseball as much as possible come together and win the championship game? Or will someone have to take a long break in the dugout for good? 
  My favorite Leigh Duncan book has to be The Daddy Catch (so far), but I would have to say the Second Chance Family follows pretty closely behind along with Rodeo Daughter. (Which are all American Harlequin Fatherhood Romances... I'm starting to see a pattern here.) 
  Second Chance Family was sweet, realistic, and most of all, extremely satisfying. I like to look at this book as a puzzle. When you first start it, you can slightly see the possible outcome of what its finished product is supposed to look like. But when you reach that turning point, that "aha!" moment, the level of satisfaction that settles in your very core is indescribable. 
  Sometimes you just need a really good, happy book to scratch that literary itch, and Leigh Duncan most certainly provides that book. I know that when I'm in a reading lull, I can always rely on Leigh Duncan's books to pull me back out. 

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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Wayward Pines Trilogy by Blake Crouch

  If you were to ask me why I love the Wayward Pines trilogy as much as I do, I honestly wouldn't know how to answer. It's not my preferred reading genre. I doubt I would have picked it up without my mom's persistent and never-ending nagging recommendation. I don't think I could honestly put into words what makes this series so magical, and so downright addicting.
  I don't think I can put into words what makes this series so irresistible.
  Ethan Burke has woken up with no identity and limited memory. He doesn't know where his family is, he cannot remember anything that happened to him before he woke up, he cannot remember why he is so banged up and in so much pain, and most of all, he has no idea where he is.
  But he is in Wayward Pines.
  After an excruciating walk around town trying to find anything or anyone familiar, Ethan soon realizes that he is in a lot of trouble. Not only is he in a strange town that he's never been to before, with his family missing in action, he is in a strange town with even stranger people.
  Everyone is acting like they're brainwashed automatons, and Ethan wants to know why...but the secret of Wayward Pines may be more than Ethan can handle.
  Above is the plot for the first book. I have to refrain from divulging what occurs in books two and three, because those, my friends, would be what we call major spoilers.
  When I first read Pines, book one in the Wayward Pines trilogy, I could honestly say that the book was interesting, but most definitely not OMG worthy. Intriguing, fast-paced, and certainly interesting enough to keep me reading, but I was obviously missing what my mother had gained from the story.
  Even after I finished the book, I just didn't get it. I was interested enough to read on in the series, but I wasn't as excited with moving on as I can be with certain favorite series of mine. (This is of no fault of Blake Crouch's...the series just didn't hook me as much as I wanted it to.)
  Book two was even more interesting. Pines (book one) held a certain magic that can only grow from meeting new characters, and having said characters being thrown into puzzling situations, but Wayward (book two) held a combination that was even more powerful. Blake Crouch strengthened somehow.
  Usually, if I've started a series, and even book one hasn't captivated me, the rest of the books following book one would only go downhill from there.
  But Wayward...Wayward was different. Blake Crouch's characters and story line gained speed and sustenance in Wayward's plot, somehow making Pines even more powerful. Of course this is just my opinion, but that's what you came here for, right? To hear my opinion? Yeah, exactly.
  Book two made me appreciate book one, and the series overall, which I never would have thought was possible. I was one book away from leaving this reading experience more disappointed than I could ever imagine, but after Wayward, I gained a little bit of hope.
  And that hope was all I needed.
  Book three sold me. Pines was good, Wayward was better, but The Last Town...The Last Town captured my heart and made me fall in love.
  I don't think I've ever (in my entire life) had a reading experience like this one. It's scenarios like this that make me thankful that I never give up on books, because if I did, I really would have missed out on some once-in-a-lifetime, life-changing reading material. I'm even dong a reread of the trilogy as we speak. You all know that the ONLY books I reread are the Harry Potter books, so this is serious.
  Somehow...somehow Blake Crouch put some unknown, rare magic into his books that had such a powerful effect on me, I feel like I need to take a break from reality to question reality.
  What is real? Are these just books, or are these a part of my soul? Can dogs really look up?
  Maybe not the last one, but you get the gist.
  I can honestly say, after reading roughly almost a thousand books in my lifetime, none have ever been like the Wayward Pines trilogy.
  So, if you're reading this, read Wayward Pines. I don't care if you hate book one, or even if you hate book one and book two, read all three and then come to me. I implore you.
  These books stray outside the world of literature, and make a grand entrance into the world we know as reality. I guarantee these books will stick with you forever.

Buy the ebook trilogy


Buy book one to try

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Thursday, July 23, 2015

MUST READ: Pines by Blake Crouch

Secret service agent Ethan Burke arrives in Wayward Pines, Idaho, with a clear mission: locate and recover two federal agents who went missing in the bucolic town one month earlier. But within minutes of his arrival, Ethan is involved in a violent accident. He comes to in a hospital, with no ID, no cell phone, and no briefcase. The medical staff seems friendly enough, but something feels…off. As the days pass, Ethan’s investigation into the disappearance of his colleagues turns up more questions than answers. Why can’t he get any phone calls through to his wife and son in the outside world? Why doesn’t anyone believe he is who he says he is? And what is the purpose of the electrified fences surrounding the town? Are they meant to keep the residents in? Or something else out? Each step closer to the truth takes Ethan further from the world he thought he knew, from the man he thought he was, until he must face a horrifying fact—he may never get out of Wayward Pines alive.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Stand by Stephen King

  After heavy analysis, many painstakingly terrifying chapters, a week and a half of reading, an apocalypse, the perishing of millions upon millions of living beings, many close calls of death with my favorite characters, and 1439 pages of genu-ine, uncut, bloody, and violent Stephen King product, I have finished The Stand.
  Yes, The Stand. One of the most talked about Stephen King books ever. The Stand which, in many conversations, has come up as a reader's all time favorite novel by the master of horror himself.
  I can now die saying that I finally finished THE Stand.
  I'm sure you all know of the plot by now, but if not, I'll run it by you real quick...
  A super flu has wiped out almost all of humanity. At first you think "it's just a cold." Perhaps you drink only tea and soup for a day or so, hoping you'll get better soon. Maybe you will get better...for a little while. Then it comes back full force, and before you can even pick up the phone to call the doctor, your neck swells, you throat has closed up, and part of your skin has turned black. You are a victim of this unknown super flu, which has killed every other single living person in the world.
  Well...almost everyone.
  Only a small percentage of the human race is still alive, and soon they start to find each other. They seek each other out, because not only do they have survival in common, but they all have something else in common as well. They all dream of an elderly woman who brings them comfort...and a dark man who brings them pain.
  Half of the survivors seek sanctuary, and the others...they are recruited into the Dark One's army.
  Most of my reading experience of The Stand consisted of seeking out which characters I loved the most, praying that they (or at least most of them) live until the end, and trying to calm down my heart and slow its heavy beating against my chest.
  Every Stephen King book needs to come with a warning that says, "May cause heart attacks. Seriously."
  I still stand by the fact that a) I really love Stephen King's newer work the most (with some exceptions). b) Stephen King really knows how to write female characters that make me want to light my book on fire (which I would never do...but I came close, the only exception is Abra from Doctor Sleep). And c) Stephen King can be horrifically violent, almost to the point of making me lose my lunch.
  But...Dear God, is this man a genius. I can't say The Stand is my favorite Stephen King book ever, and I can't say that I prefer his older work over his newer work (as I said, there are exceptions to that opinion of mine), but I will say that The Stand is my FAVORITE of his older work. Compared to It, The Shining, and Carrie...well, I really can't compare them, because The Stand was pretty exceptional.

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Thursday, July 16, 2015

Devil's Daughter by Hope Schenk-de Michele, Paul Marquez, and Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff

  I was given a copy of Devil's Daughter in exchange for an honest review, and that's exactly what I'm going to give you.
  Lucinda is the one and only daughter of the Prince of Darkness, Lucifer, and the first woman on earth, Eve. She is a mix between a fallen angel and a human, and she is eternal. She is power and darkness itself, and she has no weaknesses.
  Lucinda runs a pawnshop for her father, helping to sell and disperse cursed objects. In doing this, Lucifer hopes that with enough objects sold, and sold to the right people, chaos will ensue just as he total Armageddon. But what will happen when a human male shows up in Lucinda's eternal life, and distracts her from her father's master plan? Only readers of Devil's Daughter will know.
  Now for my honesty. I am not a particularly huge fan of paranormal romances. When I first started this book, I thought, "Well, at least when it's over, it'll be over and I can move on." I'm incredibly sorry for admitting that I jump to reading conclusions that quickly, but it's true. Paranormal romances, fantasy, and sci-fi books are not my forte.
  I picked up Devil's Daughter, got about 50 pages into it, and put it down to go to sleep. I wasn't sold with the story, and I was actually disappointed that the book wasn't about Brittany, the woman whose perspective it is in chapter one. When the book switched to Lucinda's perspective, I was a bit turned off, and not enthusiastic about reading on.
  That being said... The next day, I picked up the book again (as I said, around page 50), and I became hooked. Something happened in the book that caught my attention, and I was sold.
  I knew that it wasn't going to be an absolute favorite book of mine, but I knew that I was invested in the story enough to want to finish it ASAP, and not because I just wanted it over. I actually was interested in the story.
  I will read on in the series. I very much look forward to reading book two.
  Overall, this book is not a paranormal romance. It's...much more than that. It's political, it's historical, it's magical, it's sweet, and it's sad. I LOVE the different characters' stories and the different perspectives, the writing was fine (it took a bit of getting used to, but easy after that initial "dip in the water"). I actually liked the book's characters (which is rare for me), and most of all, this book is about a battle between good and evil.
  Between God's faithful servants and Lucifer's blood-thirsty followers, Devil's Daughter manifests a battleground that can either be resolved with true love...or worsened.

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