Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Author Spotlight- Jan Fischer-Wade

Hello all, Alicia Rasley here, and I wanted to take a moment to welcome our newest Author to the Spotlight.

We are very excited to have Jan spending some time with us. Please make sure to stop by the Author Spotlight page (you can find it at the top of the page, or just click Jan's picture to the right) to find information about her and her book. In the meantime, check out her book (cover below) and leave a comment saying hi and letting us know you stopped by!

 --Alicia Rasley

Monday, February 27, 2012

Bad Luck Cadet by Suzie Ivy

Reviewed by Lindsey

Surfing my site, I came across Suzie Ivy's book.  The cover was pink with what looked like a frightened blond babe on it. The name...uummm...Bad Cadet? There are so many ways one can interpret this.

At the age of twenty-five you have your whole life in front of you. When you’re forty-four years old, forty pounds overweight, and laying in bed with a broken hip, what do you have? Depression, red wine and no future, or so Suzie Ivy thought.

An advertisement on a drugstore bulletin board changed Suzie’s thinking and lands her in the police academy. Was she out of her mind? No, and she decided to live up to the challenge. The biggest question; is the Police Academy ready for Suzie Ivy?  (Amazon description)

I needed this book like diabetic needs insulin. The timing for it was fantastic. I always thought I would be in a profession that kept me physical and made a difference. Even though I love my co-workers, ending up in a office is the last place I would have ever imagined myself to be. I have a princess schedule. I work 5-6 hours a day, and it has a tendency to feel like 12. I certainly don't hate it , but being in a office is so far from where I should be. It works for what I need to do for now.

I'm not going to lie, I have thought,"Well, I'm 38.  That ship has sailed. I have 3 kids. Woe is me." Then I read Suzie Ivy's memoir.  Holy cow!! It's not too late, folks. You just have to want it, and tell your family to get over it.  You're doing it.

Suzie was nothing if not honest. This wasn't a woman who came into the academy, guns blazing (the scene where she screamed after shooting a gun..HAHAHAHA!!). The physical tests she had to endure were unbelievable. I found her age to be a bonus; only someone in her forties would laugh when a  police instructor (Drill Sergent) is screaming a insult regarding her hair. It was funny, but boy, did she pay. I would have laughed too.

I couldn't believe Suzie's ability to keep her temper in check. There were moments where some folks sounded like smart mouthed teenage girls.

The police procedure was interesting also. My husband said it was similar to fire academy, as I had to read some of this to him due to the fact he will not read one blasted book.

There were very touching moments regarding her family and one of her fellow cadets.

I am not one who usually reads memoirs as I tend to choose escapism (murder, zombies, healthy stuff), but this was a great read.

Now boys...I know it's pink, and I know it looks girly, but load it on your Kindle or smarty pants phones and no one will ever know. This is a book everyone will enjoy.

Even though Suzie routinely states that she came in last in many of the physical tests, in my mind she came out first. Honestly, she kind of puts Wonder Woman to shame.

Book #2 comes out soon. I believe she said it is about her first year at the police station.  Look for it.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

‘The Adventure of English’ by Melvyn Bragg

Reviewed by Jesi

Here is the riveting story of the English language, from its humble beginnings as a regional dialect to its current preeminence as the one global language, spoken by more than two billion people worldwide. In this groundbreaking book, Melvyn Bragg shows how English conquered the world. It is a magnificent adventure, full of jealousy, intrigue, and war—against a hoard of invaders, all armed with their own conquering languages, which bit by bit, the speakers of English absorbed and made their own.

Along the way, its colorful story takes in a host of remarkable people, places, and events: the Norman invasion of England in 1066; the arrival of The Canterbury Tales and a “coarse” playwright named William Shakespeare, who added 2,000 words to the language; the songs of slaves; the words of Davy Crockett; and the Lewis and Clark expedition, which led to hundreds of new words as the explorers discovered unknown flora and fauna. The Adventure of English is an enthralling story not only of power, religion, and trade, but also of a people and how they changed the world.
(Amazon product description)

I have been recommending this book to everyone.  I don’t read a lot of non-fiction, but this book was fascinating.  It tells the story of how our language evolved from ancient Sanskrit up through the centuries into what we speak today.  I know that sounds boring, but if you like history, you will love this book. 

One of the reasons I loved this book is because I actually listened to it on the audio version.  If you have never heard Old English spoken, it is both familiar and foreign at the same time.  Very strange.  Even the English of a few centuries ago would be hard for us to understand completely if we were to go back in time.  (Claire from Outlander would have never been able to understand Jamie...)  This is one that I think was better as an audio book.
The history in the book was really interesting.  I think my favorite part was leaning just how big a role French played in the formation of our language.  I’m descended from the Normans on both sides of my family.  During the Norman invasion of England, French very easily could have taken over completely, causing English to die out in the way Cornish and Gaelic did.  Instead, English persevered by taking on many French words and making them part of the total lexicon. 

Anyway, whether you are a word nerd or a history buff, The Adventure of English is definitely worth the read...or listen. 

Overall I give The Adventure of English...

Plot - 4 bookmarks (Normally, I wouldn’t think of a non-fic as having a plot, but this was interesting, fast paced and made you feel as if you were journeying through time.  I call that plot.)
History - 5 bookmarks (Along the way, the book explains how historic people and events shaped the language. Shakespeare, Chaucer, Bible translators, Native Americans, etc.)
Research - 5 bookmarks (Some of the stuff the author came up with amazed me.)
Narrator - 5 bookmarks (I strongly recommend this as an audio book.)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

THE DEVIL MAKES THREE series: by Julie Mangan (author) and Arthur Nelson (Illustrator)

Reviewed by Lindsey

Can a woman date a man with Multiple Personality Disorder and still call herself a one-man woman?
This question plagues Gretchen Tanner as she finds her life inundated with a tasty man who all at once is an assassin, aiding and abetting her in vengeful homicide; an FBI officer, trying to nail her for the crime; and a criminology professor, trying to teach her the basics of the topic.

To make matters worse, one of the personalities has discovered her darkest secret (other than homicide). He knows she’s robbing graves in the family cemetery, and he’ll stop at nothing to get what he wants in exchange for his silence.

Gretchen’s once independent life has been shattered by the arrival of her unorthodox suitor. And the most pressing problem? She’s not sure she can say no to any of them.  (Amazon summary)

Everyone who knows me knows I am a cover SNOB. Cover rated a B. It's cute but looked like it would be a silly romance, and I don't care for silly romances so I assumed I would read a couple of chapters and delete.

I was hooked from chapter one. The main character is a 23 year old who is going to school, working at her folks' funeral home and trying to figure out what she is going to do for the rest of her life.

She had a twin sister who was killed when she was eight, so there are all kinds of family dysfunction.
Gretchen feels she must stay and help her folks with the business even thought she resents it on a daily basis.
On the other hand, she helps herself to the possessions of the deceased to fund her schooling. She digs them up and takes their jewels. She reasons that where they are going they don't need them.

She meets Corbin in a very unusual way, and then she meets Collin , her professor.  And then she meets Cohen, the FBI agent. Oddly, they all look exactly the same. As a reader, I couldn't figure out if this guy had three personalities, or if they were twins and one had dual personalities. It kept me guessing until I figured out what was going on.

The dialogue between characters is fantastic. Even with all the constant change of characters and many story lines, I never got lost. The main character is not She-Ra; she is fairly normal. She tends to dip into the not-so -legal way of life, yet refuses to leave her parents hanging with the family business.

For you Swashbuckling pirate readers (you know who you are), there is romance involved, if not a lot of severe romance. Again, I am no prude, but when you have to figure out how someone can bend a certain way ,or get your anatomy book out to figure it all out, it gets old. 

I could go on and on, but that would ruin the story. These books were fun and extremely addicting. The cover seems very feminine, but I think there are a lot of men who would enjoy these too.

So fake a illness, stay home from work, kids' practices, whatever and start reading. Once you start, you won't be able to put these down.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Bloom by Elizabeth Scott

Reviewed by Jesi

Lauren has a good life: decent grades, great friends, and a boyfriend every girl lusts after. So why is she so unhappy? It takes the arrival of Evan Kirkland for Lauren to figure out the answer: She's been holding back. She's been denying herself a bunch of things (like sex) because staying with her loyal and gorgeous boyfriend, Dave, is the "right" thing to do. After all, who would give up the perfect boyfriend? But as Dave starts talking more and more about their life together, planning a future Lauren simply can't see herself in -- and as Lauren's craving for Evan, and moreover, who she is with Evan becomes all the more fierce -- Lauren realizes she needs to make a choice...before one is made for her.    (Amazon product description)

Lauren’s life is perfect, but she’s not happy.  Wah, wah, heart bleeds for her.  This book is one long story of indecision;  if you know me at all, you know I hate people (and characters) who are indecisive!  She’s got this really cute boyfriend who is kind and comes from a good family, but she feels as though she has to pretend to be a different person when she is with him.  Hey, that happens sometimes.  Just because a guy is cute doesn’t mean you are going to have chemistry together.  I can see going along with it for a while to see if something develops, but when it doesn’t, move on.

Instead, Lauren mopes around about how miserable she is.  When Evan, a boy from her past, moves back to town, the chemistry between them heats up.  But rather than break up with her boyfriend and go for it with Evan, Lauren sneaks around and cheats on him, making me dislike her even more.  Her reason for staying with him (so she wouldn’t be like her mother) was lame, and the logic of it never really connected with me.  At least Evan has a conscience about his role in the cheating.  Lauren just mopes along hoping not to get caught.

It also bothered me that Lauren treats her “best friend” Katie like crap.  Katie is going through a lot in her life, but Lauren is too busy moping to notice.  (Seriously, Lauren makes Bella Swan seem like the most carefree, happy girl in literature.)  I found myself more interested in what is going on with Katie at home, but the author never really develops that story line, which is a real missed opportunity in my opinion.

This story might also have been improved by the author developing the back story of Lauren and Evan.  As children, Evan’s mother and Lauren’s dad dated and moved in together for a while.  There could have been a really cool storyline developed from that, but instead, it just sort of gets dropped.  There could have been some reason why the two had to rely on each other because of problems at home.  Or there might have been some dramatic break when Evan and his mother moved away.  Unfortunately, her dad was just a jerk of a boyfriend...end of story.

Overall, I give Bloom...

Plot - 2 1/2 bookmarks
Character development - 2 bookmarks (and the only reason I’m being that generous is because I liked Evan.)
Love story - 1 bookmark (Evan should have hooked up with Katie instead.)
Dream cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) - Sarah Hyland (Lauren), Cassie Scerbo (Katie), Kendall Schmidt (Evan), Hunter Parrish (Dave)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Pandora's Key - by Nancy Richardson Fischer

This review is by Stephanie Cowart

Synopsis from Goodreads:

The key to saving the world hangs from her neck…
Sixteen-year-old Evangeline Theopolis doesn’t know her father, her mother is having delusions, and her godmother is, at the very least, a murderer. A clandestine Order called the Archivists is trying to find and kill her for a magical talisman she believes is just a necklace with an antique key charm. And an ancient and lethal female Sect is bent on kidnapping her.
To fight her deadly adversaries Evangeline is forced to use both her wits and the supernatural talents she never imagined she possessed. Her journey takes her to the steps of Mount Olympus where she will discover her true identity and have a decision to make: accept who she really is or take responsibility for the destruction of the world.

First of all – what about that cover? The cover is just gorgeous! Even my kids kept commenting about the “beautiful eyes inside the butterfly”!

This story relies heavily on Greek mythology and if you’re anything like me and know nothing about it, don’t fret. There’s a great prologue that not only gives a pertinent overview for the purposes of the story, but it also piqued my interest in Greek mythology. Not sure why I didn’t study it more in high school/college but it definitely looks interesting.

I really enjoyed the book. It is fast-paced and interesting. Evangeline is a great character. I’ve made it clear in the past that sometimes teen characters can get really annoying for me. I thought Evangeline had the perfect blend of teenage realism with enough maturity to be able to handle her difficult circumstances. She rises to each challenge she’s presented with even though it’s all so very difficult for her to believe. Her life quickly becomes chaos, and I liked the strength that her character displayed.

There are a lot of characters in this book. It felt like we were introduced to new people almost every other chapter. While this definitely kept the pace of the book fast, I was disappointed that some characters didn’t get as much backstory and attention. A couple of the big reveals about the characters didn’t seem as real to me because I hadn’t had time to explore them and get to know them better. That being said, this book is the first in the trilogy so I know that several characters will get more in-depth exploration in books 2 and 3.

The twists and turns of the book kept me interested and yet the plot stayed true to its basis in the mythological story of Pandora. I really enjoyed it and am excited to read book 2 – The Key to Tartarus.

Check out her website at for more information on this book and the other books in The Key Trilogy.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Reviewed by Izzy Evans

I am going to take a moment to let you really enjoy the pure awesomeness that is the title of this book and the author's name, for the first thing.

Done basking?

I loved The Night Circus. (I love a lot of books, bear with me.) I couldn't get my hands on it until last week, and it came out last year, so the waiting period may have had some play in it, but I doubt it.

The first “chapter” almost threw me off (and that was dreadful for me) because of the way it was written, butstick with it, I swear it gets better. The introduction to Celia is interesting and a little funny in a sad way.

Marco's intro is a little stranger, and it doesn't tell you his name until much later, but that can be overlooked if you're curious enough about what's going.

To me, the writing was fun. The descriptions helped me see everything in the circus in all the non-colors included in it. I also loved the characters—every one, every person who was part of the Night Circus. The fortune teller, the cat tamer, the contortionist...well, okay, I loved the twins the most. Widget and Poppet—what's not to love??

Okay, back on track, Iz.

The competition between Marco and Celia goes on interestingly, with their respective instructors doing some competing on their own. The way the contest goes is really a battle of who's more creative, I think, even though it's made to seem like they'd be competing in a ring or something. The different things they do to keep the competition going make me wish I was there to see the actual circus and experience it myself. The Cloud Maze, The Wishing Tree, the Pool of Tears, who wouldn't want to see those first hand?

Needless to say, I liked the story, I liked the beginning, the middle...but, Izzy, how did you like the end?? I nearly cried, but the ending, the real ending, surprises you, I swear. I started to guess what was going to happen, but I still didn't guess it completely right. I loved the pairing of Marco and Celia; I loved their magic.I absolutely hated the girl that he met at the beginning. I was kind of huffy, like, “Who is this floozy?” but I ended up liking her a bit anyway.

Then there's Bailey, who I like in that I think he's quirky. I didn't understand why he was part of the story until later. Mostly I thought he was a love interest for Poppet and a friend for Widget, but he actually plays a bigger part later. (I'm not telling.)

Anyway, I highly suggest that if you're looking for an interesting view on circuses, a cute love story and/or a fascinating read, pick up this book. It has a nice, deep-rooted plot that doesn't get lost because the author is focusing on the love story, it has a wide range of interesting characters,yet stays focused on the main ones anyway, and the whole thing can surprise you without riddling you with absolutely terrible suspense. Either buy it, or get it from your library (as I did), but please, for the good of all of mankind, read it. (That is a tad bit of an exaggeration.)

Genre: Fantasy, literary fiction

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

‘The Winter Sea’ by Susanna Kearsley 

Reviewed by: Jesi

History has all but forgotten...In the spring of 1708, an invading Jacobite fleet of French and Scottish soldiers nearly succeeded in landing the exiled James Stewart in Scotland to reclaim his crown.

Now, Carrie McClelland hopes to turn that story into her next bestselling novel. Settling herself in the shadow of Slains Castle, she creates a heroine named for one of her own ancestors and starts to write.

But when she discovers her novel is more fact than fiction, Carrie wonders if she might be dealing with ancestral memory, making her the only living person who knows the truth-the ultimate betrayal-that happened all those years ago, and that knowledge comes very close to destroying her...                             (Amazon product description)

 I really don’t like the Amazon description of this book.  I don’t get the whole reference to “...that knowledge comes very close to destroying her...”  I didn’t pick up on anything that dramatic in the book.  That being said, this book was well written and had a fascinating plot.  Many writers claim to hear the voices of their characters in their heads, but in Carrie’s case, her character is telling the truth, giving her a view into actual events from history.  I don’t know any writer who would not want that to happen to them.  She is skeptical at first, thinking she must have read these details somewhere before, but one coincidence after another finally leads her to understand what is happening to her: she is channeling the memories of her ancestor. 

My favorite part of this book was the history.  Part of me longs to live in a damp castle on top of a cliff in Scotland.  The author did a great job of explaining the context of the Jacobite cause without making it sound like a giant info dump.  Even though the main characters in the historical part of the book are not major players in the Jacobite cause, you get to see how so many regular people worked behind the scenes in an effort to bring King James Stuart back to the throne. 

The plot of the book goes back and forth between the past and the present, but still, the plot moves together in a linear motion and is not confusing at all.  In fact, each scene complements the other, building the story.

There are two love story plots in the book: Carrie and Graham in the present, and Sophia and John in the past.  Both were understated and grew naturally.  But of the two, I was more interested in the romance between Sophia and John, particularly since we know from the beginning that Sophia ended up marrying someone else only three years later.  I couldn’t figure out how Sophia could possibly get her happy ending, so the twist at the end was a pleasant surprise. 

Overall, I give The Winter Sea...Plot - 4 bookmarks
Character development - 4 1/2 bookmarks
History - 4 bookmarks
Romance - 3 1/2 for Carrie & Graham & 4 1/2 for Sophia & JohnDream cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) - Amy Adams (Carrie), Ewan McGregor (Graham), Tom Hardy (John), April Pearson (Sophia)