Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Summer Reading Challenge Wrap Up

As many of you know, I participated in the "Summer with Books" summer reading challenge over at the Community Bookstop.  I committed to read 25 books between June 18 and August  30.  I pushed myself, and read an amazing 55 books during the challenge!  That is better than twice the number  of books to which I committed!

So, for any of you who may have missed any of the books I may have read and reviewed this summer, here is the entire list of books, and links to the reviews:

Summer Reading Challenge
I committed to 25 books.

Books I completed:
1. The Blue Mirror, by Kathe Koja http://tiffanysbookshelf.blogspot.com/2010/06/blue-mirror-by-kathe-koja.html

2. Witch Child, by Celia Rees http://tiffanysbookshelf.blogspot.com/2010/06/witch-child-by-celia-rees.html

3. Contemplating God The Father, by Lawrence Kimbrough http://tiffanysbookshelf.blogspot.com/2010/06/three-devotionals-reviews-and-giveaway.html

4. Contemplating God the Son, by Lawrence Kimbrough http://tiffanysbookshelf.blogspot.com/2010/06/three-devotionals-reviews-and-giveaway.html

5. Contemplating God the Holy Spirit, by Lawrence Kimbrough http://tiffanysbookshelf.blogspot.com/2010/06/three-devotionals-reviews-and-giveaway.html

6. Jason Dark, Ghost Hunter: Volume I, Demon’s Night, by Guido Henkel http://tiffanysbookshelf.blogspot.com/2010/06/jason-dark-ghost-hunter-volume-i-demons.html

7. Deeply, Desperately, by Heather Webber http://tiffanysbookshelf.blogspot.com/2010/06/deeply-desperately-lucy-valentine-novel.html

8. Jason Dark, Ghost Hunter: Volume II, Theater of Vampires , by Guido Henkel http://tiffanysbookshelf.blogspot.com/2010/06/jason-dark-ghost-hunter-volume-ii.html

9. Sarah’s Garden, by Kelly Long http://tiffanysbookshelf.blogspot.com/2010/06/sarahs-garden-by-kelly-long.html

10. Jason Dark, Ghost Hunter: Volume III Ghosts Templar, by Guido Henkel http://tiffanysbookshelf.blogspot.com/2010/06/jason-dark-ghost-hunter-volume-iii.html

11. Learn Me Good, by John Pearson http://tiffanysbookshelf.blogspot.com/2010/06/learn-me-good-by-john-pearson.html

12. Jason Dark, Ghost Hunter: Volume IV, Heavens on Fire http://tiffanysbookshelf.blogspot.com/2010/06/jason-dark-ghost-hunter-volume-iv.html

13. Orphan, by John Weber http://tiffanysbookshelf.blogspot.com/2010/06/orphan-by-john-weber.html

14. Jason Dark, Ghost Hunter: Volume V, Dr. Prometheus, by Guido Henkel http://tiffanysbookshelf.blogspot.com/2010/07/jason-dark-ghost-hunger-volume-v-dr.html

15. Wolf’s Trap, by W.D Gagliani, http://tiffanysbookshelf.blogspot.com/2010/07/wolfs-trap-by-wd-gagliani.html

16. Jason Dark, Ghost Hunter: Volume VI, From a Watery Grave, by Guido Henkel http://tiffanysbookshelf.blogspot.com/2010/07/jason-dark-ghost-hunter-volume-vi-from.html

17. The Undead World of Oz, by L. Frank Baum and Ryan C. Thomas http://tiffanysbookshelf.blogspot.com/2010/07/undead-world-of-oz-by-l-frank-baum-and.html

18. Wolf’s Gambit, by W.D. Gagliani http://tiffanysbookshelf.blogspot.com/2010/07/wolfs-gambit-by-wd-gagliani.html

19. Cast of Characters, by Max Lucado http://tiffanysbookshelf.blogspot.com/2010/07/cast-of-characters-common-people-in.html

20. Archvillain by Barry Lyga http://tiffanysbookshelf.blogspot.com/2010/07/archvillain-by-barry-lyga.html

21. The Gettysburg Approach to Writing and Speaking like a Professional, by Philip Yaffe http://tiffanysbookshelf.blogspot.com/2010/07/gettysburg-approach-to-writing-and.html

22. Princess of Glass by Jessica Day George http://tiffanysbookshelf.blogspot.com/2010/07/princess-of-glass-by-jessica-day-george.html

23. Wolf’s Bluff, by W.D. Gagliani http://tiffanysbookshelf.blogspot.com/2010/07/wolfs-bluff-by-wd-gagliani.html

24. Simon’s Choice, by Charlotte Castle http://tiffanysbookshelf.blogspot.com/2010/07/simons-choice-by-charlotte-castle.html

25. Children of Terror http://tiffanysbookshelf.blogspot.com/2010/07/children-of-terror-by-inge-auerbacher.html

26. Twice Bitten, by Chloe Neill http://tiffanysbookshelf.blogspot.com/2010/07/twice-bitten-by-chloe-neill.html

27. The Wedding Gift, by Kathleen McKenna http://tiffanysbookshelf.blogspot.com/2010/07/wedding-gift-by-kathleen-mckenna.html

28. The Replacement, by Brenna Yovanoff http://tiffanysbookshelf.blogspot.com/2010/07/replacement-by-brenna-yovanoff.html

29. The Eye of Erasmus, by Teresa Geering http://tiffanysbookshelf.blogspot.com/2010/07/eye-of-erasmus-by-teresa-geering.html

30. Crossed Out, by Kim Baccellia http://tiffanysbookshelf.blogspot.com/2010/07/crossed-out-by-kim-baccellia.html

31. Learning to Lose, by David Trueba http://tiffanysbookshelf.blogspot.com/2010/07/learning-to-lose-by-david-trueba.html

32. Swallow, by Tonya Plank http://tiffanysbookshelf.blogspot.com/2010/07/swallow-by-tonya-plank.html

33. Nice and Mean, by Jessica Leader http://tiffanysbookshelf.blogspot.com/2010/07/nice-and-mean-by-jessica-leader.html

34. The Old Man and the Monkey, by George Polley http://tiffanysbookshelf.blogspot.com/2010/07/old-man-and-monkey-by-george-polley.html

35. Killing Time, by K. Dawn Byrd http://tiffanysbookshelf.blogspot.com/2010/08/killing-time-by-k-dawn-byrd.html

36. Whisper to a Scream, by Karen Wojcik Berner http://tiffanysbookshelf.blogspot.com/2010/08/whisper-to-scream-by-karen-wojcik-bemer.html

37. The Jesus You Can’t Ignore, by John MacArthur http://tiffanysbookshelf.blogspot.com/2010/08/jesus-you-cant-ignore-by-john-macarthur.html

38. Fundraising the Dead, by Sheila Connolly http://tiffanysbookshelf.blogspot.com/2010/08/fundraising-dead-by-sheila-connolly.html

39. God Moments in Time, by Thomas E Brewer http://tiffanysbookshelf.blogspot.com/2010/08/god-moments-in-time-by-thomas-e-brewer.html

40. Little Guide to Unhip, by K.J. Rigby, http://tiffanysbookshelf.blogspot.com/2010/08/little-guide-to-unhip-by-kj-rigby.html

41. Monday Afternoon, by Stephen Sangirardi http://tiffanysbookshelf.blogspot.com/2010/08/monday-afternoon-by-stephen-sangirardi.html

42. Buzz Off, by Hannah Reed http://tiffanysbookshelf.blogspot.com/2010/08/buzz-off-by-hannah-reed.html

43. Mostly Good Girls, Leila Sales http://tiffanysbookshelf.blogspot.com/2010/08/mostly-good-girls-by-leila-sales.html

44. Thumbing Through Thoreau, by Kenny Luck http://tiffanysbookshelf.blogspot.com/2010/08/book-tour-thumbing-through-thoreau-by.html

45. The Beauregarde Affair, by Brian M. Talgo http://tiffanysbookshelf.blogspot.com/2010/08/beauregarde-affair-by-brian-m-talgo.html

46. Dark Flame, by Alyson Noel http://tiffanysbookshelf.blogspot.com/2010/08/dark-flame-by-alyson-noel.html

47. Days of Grace, by Catherine Hall http://tiffanysbookshelf.blogspot.com/2010/08/days-of-grace-by-catherine-hall.html

48. The Blind Contessa’s New Machine, by Carey Wallace http://tiffanysbookshelf.blogspot.com/2010/08/blind-contessas-new-machine-by-carey.html

49. William F. Buckley, by Jeremy Lott http://tiffanysbookshelf.blogspot.com/2010/08/william-f-buckley-by-jeremy-lott.html

50. Assiniboin Girl, by Kathi Wallace http://tiffanysbookshelf.blogspot.com/2010/08/assiniboin-girl-by-kathi-wallace.html

51. Death Rhythm, by Joel Arnold http://tiffanysbookshelf.blogspot.com/2010/08/death-rhythm-by-joel-arnold.html

52. Hunger, by Jackie Morse Kessler http://tiffanysbookshelf.blogspot.com/2010/08/hunger-by-jackie-morse-kessler.html

53. Dead is Just a Rumor, by Marlene Perez http://tiffanysbookshelf.blogspot.com/2010/08/dead-is-just-rumor-by-marlene-perez.html

54. With One Eye Open, by Polly Frost http://tiffanysbookshelf.blogspot.com/2010/08/with-one-eye-open-by-polly-frost.html

55. The Mermaid’s Mirror, by L.K. Madigan http://tiffanysbookshelf.blogspot.com/2010/08/mermaids-mirror-by-lk-madigan.html

Check out how I spent my summer!

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Mermaid's Mirror, by L.K. Madigan

The Mermaid's MirrorSelena finds herself mysteriously drawn to the ocean as her 16th birthday approaches.  She wakes up often on the beach, not sure how she got there.  Then, she feels certain she spies a mermaid.  Her father has forbidden her to learn to surf, due to a freak accident he once had, but Selena sneaks off to surf anyway, and finds way more than she bargained for.  Before she knows it, a world full of secrets is opened up to her, and she is faced with the choice of a lifetime.

This story was so lovely and moving.  I must say, at first, it moved a little slowly.  There seemed to be a bit of a disconnect between this world of boys and surfing, and this mystical pull of the sea and mermaids, but once Selena starts to make her discoveries, I found the story to take a very lyrical turn.

When dealing with the oceanic themes, and merpeople, I thought Madigan did a fantastic job of creating this alternate world, it was so imaginative, and detailed!  I much preferred the fantasy sea portion of the book to the more realistic land portions of the book.  I think the fantasy aspect of the story was the real strength, and I loved the theme of a young girl torn between two worlds, feeling like she fits into neither.  It is a great allegory for kids struggling with identity issues based on race, gender, or sexuality confusion.

It was a bit longer than most of the other young adult books I have read, which may have been why it felt like it moved a little too slowly at first, and may also be why the second half, which is where more of the fantasy aspect came into the story, was more appealing to me.  I loved Selena's character, but could have done without the whole teenage angsty romance of Kai to be honest.  All in all, a dreamy, romantic book sure to appeal to the young ladies, a nice read for the fall, due out in October.

A review copy of this book was made available courtesy of NetGalley.

With One Eye Open, by Polly Frost

With One Eye OpenPolly Frost is a humor writer, and in this collection of essays and short stories, she takes on writers who need to be reblocked, mommy bloggers, fancy dog breeders, people who try to diagnose everyone around them, and people who give monetary gifts to the arts, among many other things.

This book was a nice, breezy, entertaining read.  Polly Frost has silver tongued wit, and it shows brilliantly throughout this collection.  It takes a bit of time for some of the humor of these pieces to sink in, my personal favorite being the designer dog piece.  I see a lot of myself in several of the pieces Polly has written for this book, and if I can not laugh at myself, well what fun is life then really?

As a blogger myself, books like these, which seem to be much like a set of blogs, polished and put together as a collection of humorous essays and stories, give me hope that I may one day actually make that leap into published writing.  I think this is a book that will appeal to many writers, book enthusiasts, bloggers, and particularly women.  It was a quick, entertaining read, and well worth the time it took.

A review copy of this book was provided courtesy of the author and Crazy Book Tours.

Crazy Book Tours

Dead is Just a Rumor, by Marlene Perez

Dead Is Just a Rumor Daisy is a senior at Nightshade High, and the town of Nightshade is celebrating it's 200th anniversary, so it would seem that there are plenty of things to be happy about.  But when all the supernatural residents start relieving blackmail letters, Daisy decides to use her psychic abilities to investigate.  Along the way, she stumbles upon some long missing lovers, and has to convince her over protective father she can take care of herself.

Apparently, this is the fourth book in the "Dead" series, but you could have fooled me, because it served as an excellent self contained young adult novel.  Not for one minute did I feel like I was lots or missing anything because I had not read the previous books in the series.  The story was just that well developed.

The characters were great, they seemed like actually high school kids, they had the same challenges that high school kids did, with the added pressure of living in a supernatural world, with supernatural forces and powers.  I loved the character of Daisy, and the fact that she was not perfect; she is still learning how to handle herself and her abilities.

I think this is a great young adult novel, and I can only imagine that the rest of the series is as fantastic as this book is.  I highly recommend this book, and can see many fans of paranormal lit, both adult and young adult, really enjoying this book.

A review copy of this book was provided courtesy of NetGalley.

Book Blog Swap-Doctor in Petticoats by Mary Connealy

Today, Tiffany is swapping blogs with Joy, over at Edgy Inspirational Romance.  Joy wrote the following book review:

I dare you to read the first two chapters of Doctor in Petticoats without chuckling, but if you're like me, you'll laugh out loud. Mary Connealy is known for writing romantic comedies set in the Old West, and Doctor in Petticoats might be her funniest yet.

This novel follows the lives of Beth and Mandy McClellan, who we first met as children in the novel Petticoat Junction. Beth and Mandy have grown up and married, and their parents are less than enthusiastic about either of their husbands. The men have something else in common besides not winning Sophie and Clay's approval.

During the course of the novel, each of them commits what amounts to a cardinal sin in the Old West...they cry. But that's where the similarities end. The author deftly turns one of these tortured souls into a beta hero, and the other into a slime ball.

Connealy plays to her strengths in this novel. Humor is her strong point followed closely by her action and adventure scenes. The romance is light and sweet and the story is definitely entertaining. Since this is the beginning of a new series, we are left with one unresolved storyline, but that did not diminish my enjoyment of the book. Actually, I highly recommend it. If you've never read a Connealy novel, this would be the perfect place to begin.

Want more information? Here's the back cover blurb:

Doctor Alex Buchanan is a wanted man- a deserter from the army stalked by a bounty hunter- but he'd rather be dead than inflict any more pain on his patients. Beth McClellan is idealistic, believing the nursing training she received will be enough to help her serve as doctor to her home town in West Texas. When Alex and Beth meet in a stagecoach accident, they find that they work well together. But are his demons and her dreams too deeply rooted for either of them to pay the price required for a future together?

My rating:

I received a review copy of this novel from NetGalley.

Joy Tamsin David is a wife, mother, and Jesus lover. She's also a pre-published writer and a slightly obsessed book blogger. When she's not hanging out with her husband and sons, she reads and writes romance. It gives her a daily dose of girl in a house full of men. You can get girlie with her at her blog, Edgy Inspirational Romance.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Hunger, by Jackie Morse Kessler

HungerLisa seems like your typical teenage girl, obsessed with being thin.  But she seems to take her obsession too far, to the point where it interferes with her relationships with friends and her boyfriends.  Now, she has been called upon to become Famine, one of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse.  Death visits her to give her this new job, and her tools of the trade.  Will Lisa fulfill her destiny as Famine?  Will she conquer hunger, within herself and in the world?

What an amazing, dark, stirring book this was.  It left me wondering if the whole "Famine" aspect of it was real, or just part of Lisa's imagination, brought on by her eating disorder. First of all, what an incredible, original way to write about eating disorders, a topic not touched upon enough in young adult fiction.  The fantasy aspect made it appealing to a much broader audience of readers, more than just young girls.  The character of Lisa is so relatable, and I love that we hear not only Lisa's real voice, but also her internal "Thin Voice", showing how she is at war with herself.  This idea of being at odds is echoed when Famine faces off with War later on in the book.

I think that most girls, at one point or another, feel the pressure to be thin, and exhibit dangerous behavior because of that pressure.  That is why it is so important that books like this get written.  This book is nothing short of brilliant, and I believe it can be a lifeline to many young girls.  I would recommend this book to all young adult readers, and encourage parents to discuss this book with their children.  This book is also a great book for anyone recovering from an eating disorder, because I think it is very empowering.  Simply put, it is fantastic.

A review copy of this book was provided courtesy of NetGalley.  

Death Rhythm, by Joel Arnold

Andrew was unlucky, because he wrecked his car in the middle of nowhere.  Turns out nowhere was actually pretty close to where his long lost Aunt Mae lives, so the cops help him connect with her, and she takes him in for a few days while his car gets repaired.  While he is there, he stumbles across a local cemetery, some strange neighbors, a dead cat, and some pretty deeply buried family secrets.  Andrew is forced to face up to a sick, twisted side to his family, which he never knew existed before now.

From the opening scene of this book, I was hooked.  The prologue was not an easy thing to read, it was clear from the get go, this was going to be an extremely dark novel, and in the hands of an unskilled writer, it could have easily careened into campy, cheesy, fluff.  Thankfully, it did not.  Joel Arnold has written a novel that would make King fans not only proud, but thoroughly satisfied.

I found the story to be very well developed, and the storytelling quite vivid.  As Andrew enters the old family home, and begins unearthing its secrets, I felt as if I was there with him.  I really loved the development of Mae's character, and found her to be quite sympathetic.  Edna, on the other hand, is not fully developed until closer to the end of the book, which I find appropriate, and I love the turns her character takes.  I found the book full of surprising and unusual plot twists, and I was interested right up to the very end.  I dare you to read this book without the hairs on your arm standing completely on end.

A copy of this book was provided for review courtesy of the author.  

The book can be purchased on Smashwords at Death Rhythm.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Assiniboin Girl, by Kathi Wallace

Mary Two Dogs grew up in New York City, fairly unaware of her Assiniboin-Sioux heritage.  After a terrible accident claimed the lives of her parents, she went to live with her aunt.  However, her aunt is involved in a situation that is no longer safe for Mary, and Mary is forced to go spend time with extended family on the reservation.  Here she is forced to confront her heritage and remember the ways of her people.

What an amazing, beautiful book this is!  Often, young adult literature lacks diversity, particularly compelling stories that the youth can relate to, so I am thrilled that here we find a book about a young female reconnecting with the ways of her native people.  I love the fact that the character of Mary is such a typical city girl.  She seems to have given very little thought to the fact that she is Sioux, and knows little to nothing about her heritage, something to which youth from all cultures can relate.

When Mary goes to the reservation, she learns so much about her people and their ways, and the books takes on such a spiritual tone.  It is almost supernatural, but not in a paranormal way, more in the ancestral spiritual way so common among Native American people.  The book is moving, and beautiful.  Kathi Wallace weaves such a graceful story, but in a way that makes it compelling to young readers.

There is a strong subtext of tolerance in the book, both between the Sioux and the white man, and back in Georgia between the townsfolk any anyone who is different from them.  There are very powerful lessons to be learned about knowing one's roots, remembering where one comes from, and learning from the mistakes of the past to be found within the lines of this book.

This is a fantastic book for parents or educators to use for purposes of multicultural educational lessons, as well as just good young adult literature.  I personally also enjoyed it as an adult reader.  Overall, a powerful, moving book.

This book is available for purchase for Kindle at Amazon at the following link:
Assiniboin Girl

A review copy of this book was provided courtesy of the author.

William F. Buckley, By Jeremy Lott

William F. Buckley (Christian Encounters Series)Well known as a conservative, William F. Buckley Jr. served as the editor for the National Review, as well as the host of the show Firing Line.  An Irish Catholic, with Protestant roots, Buckley's faith factored heavily into his moral and political stances.  He considered liberals and communists enemies, not only to himself, but to the nation as a whole.  Buckley was always one to ruffle a few feathers, whether it was calling Yale to return to orthodoxy, or running for mayor of New York, while publicly declaring he knew he had no chance of winning.

Before reading this book, I was not terribly familiar with William F. Buckley.  Sure, I had heard of him, but I did not really know much about him.  Jeremy Lott did an excellent job with this biographical book, making me want to learn more about a man that I never knew I never knew.  Suddenly, I want to read Buckley's books, I want to watch clips of his shows, and I want to learn a whole lot more about Communism.

I find most biographies to be a bit stale, but such was not the case with Lott's book.  This is part of the Christian Encounters series by Thomas Nelson Publishers, and I can only hope that the other books in the series come alive as well as this one did.  It read almost as well as a novel, literally playing like a movie in my mind.  I am sure this is partly due to the colorful nature of Buckley's character, but I believe there is also praise due to the writing.

I would certainly recommend this book to anyone looking to learn more about Buckley, to anyone interested in learning about historical figures, particularly during the Cold War era.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

I review for BookSneeze

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Blind Contessa's New Machine, by Carey Wallace

The Blind Contessa's New Machine: A Novel Carolina is slowly going blind.  She tries to tell her husband and her parents, and they think she is joking, believing her to mean she is blinded by love.  Only her long time friend Turri knows the truth, and helps her to deal with the ever increasing darkness.  As the darkness increases, so does Turri's love for Carolina, and he ignites passions in her that she never knew existed.  The only solace she finds is in her dreams, where she can still see.  In an effort to ease her pain, Turri invents a machine that allows Carolina to type out letters to her family and friends, a way of reconnecting with the outside world.

This book is very different from anything I have ever read.  I am still not entirely sure how I feel about it.  It is set in 19th century Italy, and it reads as if it really were written in that time.  It seems...old. Classic.  Regal.  Which is good.  But it also means that it is difficult to feel close to the story.  I found it hard to really form a relationship with the characters and become a part of the story.

Carolina's character is graceful, and your heart aches for her as she delves into darkness, but you never really feel as if you know her.  I found it difficult to really focus on the story, and constantly felt as if there was something I was missing.  This might be one of those books that at some point, I might have to go back and re-read to really get it, but there was real beauty in the story nonetheless.

A touring review copy of this book was provided courtesy of Crazy Book Tours.

Crazy Book Tours

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Cleopatra Rules! by Vicky Alvear Shecter

Cleopatra Rules!: The Amazing Life of the Original Teen QueenMost of what we have learned throughout history regarding this Egyptian princess has been flawed and skewed at best.  For exampled, she was not even Egyptian, she was Greek!  But Cleopatra was the original Queen Bee, and this book helps dispel some of the erroneous information, support some of the correct information, and allow us to see Cleo in a whole new light.

If more people wrote historical books for kids this well, more kids might be interested in history.  Written in biographical style for middle grade and young adult readers, this book does an excellent job of reaching its intended audience.  There is just the right amount of historical information mixed in with the perfect amount of "teen speak" to connect home with kids.  I found it to be incredibly informative, and I actually learned a ton from this book!

I loved the format of the book, in that it was broken down into traditional, chronological chapters following Cleo's life; however, within each chapter, there were little "break out" sections with additional tid bits of information in them, much like the structure of textbooks.  It helps break up the text on the page, which is important for young readers and highly visual learners.  The accompanying photographs were high quality, and gorgeous.  The book is complete with a glossary and index.

All in all, I found this book not only highly informative, but entertaining as well.  I think this is a great book for educators and parents to share with their children, and I for one would love to see more young adult biographies written in this style!

A review copy of this book was provided courtesy of the author.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Days of Grace, by Catherine Hall

Days of Grace: A NovelAs a child, Nora Lynch was sent to the English countryside as an evacuee during World War II.  She stayed with the Rivers' family, hand picked by the daughter, Grace.  Grace became her sister, her best friend, her entire world.  As the war raged on around them, another raged within Nora; suddenly, she was growing up, and becoming aware of the world around her.  The book juxtaposes memories from Nora's childhood with happenings in her adult life.

I had a feeling that this book was going to be quite special, and it absolutely was.  I loved the way the story changed from Nora's childhood to adulthood and back with each alternate chapter.  I think it helped to echo a lot of common themes, and really helped develop Nora's character more fully.   I found it interesting the multiple use of the name Grace, and the idea of grace throughout the book, and liked the added touch of the three Graces in the garden.  It gave this theme a feeling of symmetry.

I found the story to be very well developed, and to move at a good pace.  I admit, I did like the chapters from Nora's youth more than the chapter's from her adulthood, but I think that both were needed to balance the book.  I was quite captivated with the turn the story took with the Rivers family and must admit, I did not see that coming, nor did I expect the turn things would take with Grace.

This is a lovely coming of age tale about friendship, and love.  I enjoyed it quite a bit, and will be looking forward to reading more from Catherine Hall.

A touring review copy of this book was provided by Crazy Book Tours.

Crazy Book Tours

Friday, August 20, 2010

Dark Flame, by Alyson Noel

Dark Flame (The Immortals)Ever and her boyfriend, Damon, are Immortals.  Ever recently turned her best friend, Haven, into an Immortal as well, and now Haven is a little heady with her new found powers.  To say it is causing some tension between the girls is an understatement.  And to make things worse Ever is dabbling in magik, and cast a spell which has accidentally bound her to Roman, Haven's new boyfriend.  Will Ever be able to right all of the wrongs that seem to have been happening lately?

This book really has me torn.  On the one hand, here I am, coming into the 4th book of a series I have never read, and jumping into this book.  And I am pretty well able to hold my own.  The book does of good job of succinctly covering the majority of the back story needed for anyone crazy enough to read book 4 of a series without having read the previous 3,  but of course not everything can be covered, so a few things are fuzzy.  All in all though, this book is pretty clear, and logical.  The characters seem well developed, and I have to admit, even though this is not my type of book, I am intrigued by the imagery in the story.  It is very imaginative.

On the other hand, this book frightens me a bit.  I mean, this is a young adult book with is glamorizing witchcraft and new age philosophy.  And not your Harry Potter Hogwarts kind of witchcraft .  I mean real life, these are actual real spells they talk about, witchcraft elements they discuss, The Book of Shadows, as well as new age things like chakras.  To me, it is a little dangerous dabbling with something so dark, which is oddly enough a big theme in this book.

The whole premise of the series is built around a character whose family is killed, so that is a very Harry Potter like theme, and she is locked into an eternal love triangle, which is a very Twilight like theme.  None of the very core themes seem very original.  It is times like this when I am glad they make kids stick to reading the classics in high school.

A touring review copy of this book was provided courtesy of Traveling Arc Tours.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Beauregarde Affair, by Brian M. Talgo

It was "The Seventies".  And this was his story.  Not the psychedelic, sex laden hard rock freak fest you would expect.  Sure there were drugs, and girls.  And there was  Zepplin.  But there was also construction work with rednecks, his art, his psedo communist roomates, and of course, the menagerie that could be found in Neil's room.  And it all started with the snake we come to know as Beauregarde.

I have to say, I found this book hypnotic and entertaining.  The Seventies was an era that I did not get to live through, and no one would ever really talk to me about.  Most of my information about this time is what I can gather from pop cultural references, so I appreciated such an honest, frank memoir about what everyday joes experienced.  Set in Atlanta, Brian and his roommates lived somewhat of the hippie lifestyle, but still had steady jobs and responsibilities, so it is as if the straddled two different cultural groups, not fully fitting into either.  I think we see that at work a lot within the narrative voice, which gives it an honest and raw quality I find so unique.

I like that the book is set up as a present day reflection of the memories of the past.  It gives it a nice movie quality to it.  There are a lot of characters that wander in and out of the story, which I am guessing was pretty characteristic of the life and times of the Seventies, so the reader does need to stay on their toes to keep things straight.  I absolutely love the use of several dialects within the book, meaning a couple of characters have their dialog written phonetically, in the dialect which he or she speaks.  To me, that makes the dialog really come alive in the mind of the reader.

I am very honored to have been given the opportunity to read and review Brian's manuscript before it has been published.  I would like to take the opportunity to thank Brian for this opportunity, and to encourage everyone who is interested in the book to take a look at the blog he has set up for The Beauregarde Affair.

Brian is working on getting the book published, so keep your eyes open!

Book Tour-Thumbing Through Thoreau, by Kenny Luck

Thumbing Through Thoreau: A Book of Quotations by Henry David ThoreauHenry David Thoreau was well known as a poet, author, philosopher, transcendentalist, and naturalist.  His writings have inspired great leaders throughout history, and he his love of Walden Pond has spread to many.  Kenny Luck has long been a student of Thoreau, and has compiled a book of Thoreau quotes on society, government, spirituality, nature, and love.  The quotes are accompanied with illustrations by Jay Luke and Ren Adams.

Having only taken one American literature class in college, my experience with the naturalist school of poetry and prose was limited, but I clearly recall it not connecting with me.  Therefore, I was a little nervous about reviewing a book of quotes by Thoreau.  While I still feel no great connection with the naturalist school of writing, I do have a bit more appreciation for the sentiments they express.

The book is divided into three sections, the first being Society & Government, second being Spirituality & Nature, and third being Love.  I have to admit, I was somewhat surprised at how relevant some of the quotes on society and government were for today.  And while I could never be a true naturalist, choosing to live a life separate from others and living at one with nature, I do have an appreciation for nature's beauty that allowed me to enjoy this section.  But by far, my favorite section of the book was the section of quotes on love.  His idealist views on love may seem somewhat unusual when using modern social expectations of love and romance as a measuring stick, but I personally was enchanted by his quotes on what love means and is.

The book itself is quite calming, with absolutely gorgeous illustrations.  You can view samples here and here.
Here is the book trailer: 

Readers can also visit the Thumbing Through Thoreau website.

Also, readers can find the publisher, Tribute Books, at the following places:
Tribute Books website:

Tribute Books Facebook:

Tribute Books Twitter:

This book would make a great addition to the bookshelf of any poetry lover, as well as those fond of classic American writers and poets.  I recommend you check it out, and would not be surprised it this book sits on many coffee tables across the country within a new months.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Mostly Good Girls, by Leila Sales

Mostly Good GirlsViolet attends Westfield, which is the best all girls preparatory academy in Boston.  But, Violet is not your standard prep school girl.  Her parents both work hard to pay the exorbitant tuition, and Violet herself works hard to meet the ridiculously high standards, both social and academic.  It is now her junior year, and it seems as though both she and her best friend Katie are at a turning point.  Katie has always come upon things easily in life.  Beautiful, wealthy, athletic, smart, Katie easily gets everything Violet has to struggle for.  This book documents, in Violet's voice, what is what like to navigate through this leg of the journey toward adulthood.

This book seemed a little incongruous to me.  I mean, it is a young adult book, marketed for age 14 and up, and in one chapter, the girls are doing something completely innocent and age appropriate, like giving Harry Potter themed tours of the school, and the next chapter they are tossing around words like slut.  I found that the characters were a little inconsistent in that way.  I guess in some ways, this is an accurate portrayal of teens at that age, and for Katie's character it made sense, but not for Violet's.  Overall, I found Violet's character underdeveloped, and her narrative voice a little weak.

Perhaps I am a bit of a prude when it comes young adult books portraying teen drinking, sexuality, and swearing.  I am no fool, yes, I know these things go on, but I do not like it when books glamorize them or correlate them to "normal" teenage behaviors.  I think a young adult book can be strong and relate well to teens and not include those aspects, so I was disappointed to see several aspects of drinking, sex, and R-rated language in the book.  Definitely not appropriate for 14 year old readers.

I did like the style of the book, it was set up almost like a journal, with Violet telling the story through short entries, that were often mini-stories in and of themselves.I would have liked to have see some of the more "proper" or stereotypical characters one would expect to find at a posh Boston area prep school.

Overall, it was not a terrible book, but I certainly would not recommend for readers under the age of 17.  Releases October 5, 2010.

A touring review copy of this book was made available courtesy of Traveling ARC Tours. 

Monday, August 16, 2010

Buzz Off, by Hannah Reed

Buzz Off (A Queen Bee Mystery)Melissa "Story" Fischer has a lot to celebrate.  It is September, National Honey Month, her businesses, both the Wild Clover Market, and her share of Queen Bee Honey, are booming, and her divorce to that cad Clay is official.  But when her friend and business partner Manny is found dead, it certainly puts a damper on things.  Before you know it, the bees are blamed for his death, more crimes are committed, and it is clear treachery is afoot.  And it appears Story is at the center of it all.  How will she clear her good name and save her beloved bees?

I had to admit, I was a bit beguiled by the idea of a bee mystery.  How could bees be involved in a mystery, I wondered?  Very skillfully, it turns out.  This story is set in a very small Wisconsin town, and being a small town girl myself, I am a sucker for a small town story.  There is just something about the people in a small town that make for good story telling.  And Hannah Reed does a wonderful job of capturing the essence of a small town and its people in this book.  Before you are through the first chapter, you feel like you are a part of the town, steeped in its heritage and traditions.

The storyline itself is very original, while sticking to traditional mystery guidelines.  Plenty of red herrings to be found and throw off the reader.  I was fooled right up to the very end, having never been very good at figuring out mysteries.  I also likes the humerus and romantic undertones to the story, it kept things interesting.  And I loved the little quirks that some of the characters exhibited, for example, the unique way of speaking which Holly, Story's sister, has throughout the book.

All in all, a great little late summer find.  Apparently, this is the first in a series called the Queen Bee Mysteries.  I am interested to see what the next one will be like, and how bees will play into it.  As an added bonus, there are some delicious recipes at the end of the book.  Clearly, the book caters more to female mystery readers, and female readers in general.  I nice, entertaining book overall.

A touring review copy of this book was provided courtesy of Crazy Book Tours.

Crazy Book Tours

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Monday Afternoon, by Stephen Sangirardi

Monday AfternoonAngelo Aiello.  The perfect name for a man who is quintessentially male, Italian, and Roman Catholic.  Married to his wife, Alice, for fifteen years, and hating every day of the last ten years at least, Angelo has one shining light in his family, and that is his teenage daughter, Sophia.  He teaches English at a Catholic high school, and longs to be remembered as a great American poet, for which Alice chides him.  When he meets Monica at the Stamford Nature Center, he is sure he has met his female counterpart, she also being an English teacher and poet.  They begin an intense affair, which quickly spirals to the point that Angelo leaves his home to live with Monica.  However, guilt hangs on him like a shroud, and every day he attributes things to the fact that he left his family.  How will Angelo come to his own personal resolution?

I always thought I was pretty well read, and had a fairly decent vocabulary, until I read this book by Sangirardi.  There are so many literary references and five dollar words in this book it will make your head spin. I had to give up looking up the ones with which I was unfamiliar, else I would never finish the book.  Luckily, those things just help with the ambiance of the writing, and while I may have been able to see deeper symbolic meaning had I gotten all references, I was fully able to enjoy the book without them.

This is not what I would call a light read.  The subject matter is dark, the characters are kind of repugnant, if not stereotypical, and the text itself is dense.  But it just gets to you.  It hits you in all the right places.  You feel it, you hear it.  At one point, the intensity of the affair in the book was so cloying, I thought I would hyperventilate.  That means the book is good.  It evokes a strong reaction.  A sign of good work.

Angelo's character is complex.  I found that the man I envisioned in the opening scenes at the nature center was very different that who he turned out to be.  And he is very different with Alice than he is with Monica.  With Alice, he is the typical Italian American New York male.  With Monica, he is the poet.  Each would ridicule him for being the opposite.  Angelo has a unique, and fairly skewed, view of faith and it comes into play a lot in the book, Catholic guilt being a huge theme.

Even though I struggled through the book because of its density, I found myself wanting more.  Also, I think, the sign of something brilliant.  Fans of dramatic novels will appreciate, highly literary readers will appreciate due to all the references, and, who knows, some one reading outside their genre might find this and become as overwhelmed by it as I was.

A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Little Guide to Unhip, by K.J. Rigby

Little Guide to UnhipMany people strive to be cool, hip even.  In fact, hipsters are all the rage these days.  So, hipness, well, that is the goal for most people, places, things, and activities.  Sadly, there are some things that will just never, ever be hip.  This book is a guide to those things which are permanently, tragically, unhip.

While this book was written for a primarily British audience, I knew enough about British culture to know how smashingly brilliant (was that unhip?) it was.  This book is laugh out loud funny, which was a bit of a problem, since I was reading it in bed next to my Hubby at 2 am.  Luckily, he is a sound sleeper. 

Rigby wickedly relates her run ins with hipness, and unhipness as the case often is, with regard to the items on her top 50 list of things unhip, and I found myself relating to so many of her stories.  It made me feel a sense of camaraderie with every unhip person out there, knowing that in our communal uncoolness, there is something awesomely cool.  And I, for one, loved Leo Sayer as a teenager, I am just saying.

I think this book is perfect for Brits with a good sense of humor, and Americans with a good sense of adventure.  When you traverse into unfamiliar territory, there is always wikipedia, right?  This was a nice, light comic read, that left me giggling, and pondering the possibilities of an American equivalent.  I highly recommend it.

A review copy of this book was provided courtesy of the author and publisher.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

God Moments in Time, by Thomas E. Brewer

God Moments In TimeOften, there are moments of opportunity in our lives, when spectacular things can happen.  At the time, we think they are every day occurrences, but in retrospect, we realize they are God moment in time, those instants when God opens a door for us.  This book explores the biblical foundation for God moments, and teaches us how to be better open to the moment of God in these special instances in life.

The introduction says that this book is not full of fancy words, just honest discussion in simple terms of how God opens doors in our life.  I think that is why I loved it so much.   This book is so full of hope!  Even the imagery used is hopeful!  The reoccurring theme of doors and hinges is used, which to me makes it feel so open, and like it is about life moving forward.  Thomas Brewer uses a lot of real life examples to back up the biblical teaching in this book to make it so relatable.  I just loved the book and could not put it down.

The book is short, I think I read it in under 2 hours, and it does use really simple language.  I think this would be a great book for teens and high school graduates, to help them begin the discernment process for where God was leading them in life, but, clearly, it is also applicable for adults.  The message of the book really resonates, and stays with you.

A review copy of this book was provided by the Christian Review of Books.

Fundraising the Dead, by Sheila Connolly

Fundraising the Dead (A Museum Mystery)Eleanore "Nell" Pratt is the Director of Development for the Pennsylvania Antiquarian Society in Philadelphia, which basically means she is a professional fundraiser.  So when she uncovers a mystery that involves stolen historical items being sold on the collectors black market, and possible murder, well, she is way outside of her job description.  Could someone at the society really be responsible for these heinous crimes?  What is a history loving girl to do?

When I read the description of this book, I had a feeling I was in for something special, and boy howdy, I was right!  This book was a trip and a half, and completely unlike anything I have ever read.  I tend to steer away from mystery books for the most part, because they all seem so similar, but this one was so unique.

First off, we have the setting element of the historical society, which is part library, part museum.  There are a lot of politics involved in these kinds of organizations, and Connolly captures them beautifully.  It made for a truly one of a kind setting.  Second, I love that this book was set in Philadelphia.  Sadly, I have never visited this historically rich area, but this book certainly make me long to.  I am a sucker for books that tap into the richness of a particular geographic setting, and this one does so brilliantly.  It also ties in the concept of old Philadelphia society; all of these elements are woven together for an intricate tapestry of a plot.

The characters are so memorable.  You instantly feel a connection with Nell, though I have to admit my favorite character is Marty Terwilliger (whom I always address by both names).  I found myself laughing out loud at her at more than one instance.

Overall, this book was a fabulous read.  It releases on October 5th, so if you are looking for a good mystery to keep you up on those cool autumn nights, this is just the ticket.  You can even pre-order it now.  Mystery lovers will be pleased, I think given the historical subtext historical lovers will enjoy as well.  And lovers of Philly should read it just because it showcases the city so well in my opinion!

A touring review copy of the book courtesy of Crazy Book Tours.

 Crazy Book Tours

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Jesus You Can't Ignore, by John MacArthur

The Jesus You Can't Ignore: What You Must Learn from the Bold Confrontations of ChristJesus spent a large portion of His ministry in bold confrontation with the Pharisees.  He never minced words, and never failed to point out the flaws of their "do as we say, not as we do" religious ideologies.  This book takes a close scriptural look at what we can learn from Christ's confrontational style.

I am not even sure where to begin with this book.  I really struggled in reading this book.  I am quite sure there is a ton of sound biblical teaching in this book, but I could not even get into it deep enough to find it.  I found myself skimming the pages, and even so, this book took me almost two weeks to read, something unheard of for me.  I could read a book this length in an hour.  I found this book to be boring, and I think it is because it talks about a side of Jesus I find hard to relate to.  I like my Jesus loving, caring, forgiving, and saving.  I know that Jesus also needed to be confrontational, taking a hard stance with the Pharisees, and that this too was an act of love, but I just found this entire book devoted to such harshness a little off putting.  I am sure other Christians would find it thrilling, and would think I am lukewarm for even suggesting otherwise.

I did absolutely love one point MacArthur hammered home, regarding the unforgivable sin.  The blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is one made in full knowledge.  It is not one we may make by accidentally incorrectly thinking someone a false prophet, or using discernment to question the legitimacy of a gift of the Holy Spirit.  It is not the unknowing person who questions the existence of Christ.  It is the one who knows, in their heart, like the Pharisees did, that Jesus was and is who He says, and still deny it.  That point is made crystal clear in the book, and for that alone, the book is worth reading.

Perhaps those more interested in biblical scholarship, or at a different place in their faith will be more apt to appreciate the book.  It is certainly well written and researched, it was just a topic with which I could not connect.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”