Tuesday, May 29, 2012

'The Scorpio Races' by Maggie Stiefvater

Reviewer: Izzy

5 stars

I shall start off by saying that, though I may be biased (once I decide to like an author, I generally “like” all of their things whether I literally do or not) The Scorpio Races is freaking amazing. I bought it for my Kindle and have reread it six times. And I doubt that's going to stop me from reading it again.

I love the storyline, I love the character development, the development of the relationships between the different characters, I even love the way the characters speak. Obsessive? Perhaps. Undue? Not even close.

Okay, okay, I know. Izzy, what's it ABOUT? Water horses (they're called something else in the book, but I don't want to misspell it). And racing. And a boy named Sean Kendrick and a girl named Puck Connolly. I don't want to give away too much, but here's what I can give you: Sean Kendrick is a four time winner of the Scorpio Races, and he rides Corr, a red water horse. Puck Connolly needs money fast (what better way than to win first prize in a death match?), and so she enters the races. On a normal island pony. And she's the first woman to enter the Races.

So the local boys are not happy about that one, except Mr. Kendrick, who makes a point of saying that if they try to take her out of the races, he'll be right there fighting with her.

Puck isn't a girlie girl, but she does have her moments of girlness, if that makes sense. There's no, “Oh, I got mud on my boots!” but there's a couple, “Well, he's cute and I'm in my muddy pants, crap.” And that's not so bad, considering.

Sean is an interesting character. I liked him a lot—unfortunately, I preferred being in his mind more than I liked being in Puck's, only because of the way he saw things, and the way he described things. I loved how much he loves Corr and how, after awhile, he started to have faith in Puck, which you can understand even without him flat out saying, “I think that Puck is going to have a chance to win the races and that's great and yet not so great at the same time”.

So, to sum it up: love the author, love the characters, love the storyline, love even the background characters. I highly recommend this book (and have already convinced a few of my friends to buy it). If you don't love it right away, read it again!!

Friday, May 25, 2012

'Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter' by Seth -Grahame-Smith

Reviewer: Jesi 

3 Stars

Indiana, 1818. Moonlight falls through the dense woods that surround a one-room cabin, where a nine-year-old Abraham Lincoln kneels at his suffering mother's bedside. She's been stricken with something the old-timers call "Milk Sickness."

"My baby boy..." she whispers before dying.

Only later will the grieving Abe learn that his mother's fatal affliction was actually the work of a vampire.

When the truth becomes known to young Lincoln, he writes in his journal, "henceforth my life shall be one of rigorous study and devotion. I shall become a master of mind and body. And this mastery shall have but one purpose..." Gifted with his legendary height, strength, and skill with an ax, Abe sets out on a path of vengeance that will lead him all the way to the White House.

On a recent trip to the theatre, I caught the new trailer for the Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter movie.  It looks amazing!  So knowing that the book is usually better than the movie, I thought I’d check it out. 

Readers of my reviews know I love vampires almost as much as I love history.  This was a mash-up made for me!  And I did like it...I just didn’t love it. 

I think what I liked best about AL:VH was the mixture of fact and fiction.  You could tell the author was passionate about his subject matter, because the research that had gone into this project alone was impressive.  Weaving the vampire stories into the slave trade was genius.  I also learned some things about President Lincoln that I didn’t know.  (Did you know Mary Todd Lincoln had mental problems?  I should read up on the First Ladies sometime.) 

The action was also really good.  Abe wielding his big axe and chopping the heads off of vamps is just too cool! 

My favorite character in the book was Henry Sturges, Abe’s vampire mentor.  In fact, I wish there had been more of Henry in the book.  He was a vampire who led the hunting of other vampires.  We learn why eventually, but the mystery of him was compelling.  I wish the author would write a sequel with him as the main character. 

So if I liked history and the action and Henry, why am I left lukewarm?  For me, books are about forming an emotional connection with the characters.  I love it when my heart races along with theirs--when I experience the terror/elation/heartbreak/love the character feels as if it is happening to me.  While I found this book incredibly interesting, I failed to connect emotionally with the characters.  It was like I was almost there--poised right on the brink--but never actually fell over the edge.  I’ve always thought the photos of President Lincoln make him look wooden.  The character of Abe in this books kind of came across the same way.  A couple of times, I almost put the book down, but the concept and the history ended up pulling me through. 
Overall, I give Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter...

Plot - 3 bookmarks
Character Development - 2 bookmarks
Historic Elements - 5 bookmarks
Dream Cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) - Eric Bana (Abraham Lincoln), Henry Cavil (Henry Sturges)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

'Someone Else's Fairytale' by Emily Mah Tippetts

Reviewer: Stephanie

5 stars!

Summary from Amazon:

Jason Vanderholt is Hollywood’s hottest actor. Chloe Winters hasn’t bothered to see most of his movies. When they meet by chance, he is smitten and Chloe becomes the woman every other woman in America is dying to be, but it just isn’t her fairytale.

It’s the end of May, school is almost out and you’re dying for summer vacation. This book needs to be at the top of your list of summer reads!

First I must say that what impressed me most about this book is the author’s ability to get me to cross genres. I am not a chick lit fan. I’ve tried to read many books in that genre – actually was able to finish a few, but never really left the book satisfied. But when I picked up “Someone Else’s Fairytale” I was hooked from page one.

Chloe Winters has a chance meeting with big star Jason Vanderholt when she and her friends are extras in a movie being shot at their college the University of New Mexico. While her friends are star struck, Chloe is indifferent, even though Jason makes a point to talk to her. Chloe has much more important things on her mind, like finishing college and getting into grad school, so she is surprised when Jason tracks her down and wants to be friends. She reluctantly agrees and makes it clear up front that friendship is all she’s interested in. But Chloe didn’t count on her feelings for Jason changing the longer she knows him. She thinks she knows what she wants but meeting Jason opens her eyes to a new world of possibilities. The relationship that follows is sweet and romantic.

At first glance I wondered if the plot seemed a bit cliché, but Emily made it work because her characters had depth. Chloe and Jason both surprised me. I wondered if Chloe could really come across as uninterested in this big movie star. She did because she truly was just that…uninterested. Plus the back story of a tragedy that happened to her when she was young really rounded out her character and gave her a strength that I admired and respected. When she does realize her feelings for Jason, her reactions, insecurities and fears are well-written and believable. I found myself liking her more and more as the book progressed.

Jason was definitely a lot nicer than I ever imagined a Hollywood star to be. However, he wasn’t perfect. He had made mistakes and his past was a hurdle that he and Chloe had to get over. He was very real, and his pursuit of Chloe was equal parts sweet and funny. His gestures didn’t always get him the desired outcome, but I loved watching them work on their relationship throughout the course of the book.
Chloe’s friends and Jason’s family rounded out the cast of characters, and I loved how both Chloe and
Jason leaned on them for support.

This book really surprised me in a good way. I enjoyed it much more than I would have imagined and I can’t recommend it highly enough!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

A Gutsy Heroine Takes on a Town of Book Banners

A Guest Blog by Sherry Roberts
My novel, Book of Mercy, is the story of a woman who cannot read and yet finds the courage to stand up to the book banners in her town. It was a finalist in the 2011 Midwest Book Awards.

I love stories of ordinary people who rise up to meet extraordinary circumstances. My lead character, Antigone Brown, is pregnant with her first child and fears she will be an awful mother because of her dyslexia. Books have brought nothing but misery to her life, yet she tries to save them when the Mercy Study Club begins removing “undesirable” literature from the school library.

I became fascinated with the censorship issue when my daughter was in high school and came home crying one day because “they were banning books.” At the time, we were living in North Carolina, where Book of Mercy is set. The school had removed The Old Gringo by Carlos Fuentes from the shelves because a parent objected to its explicit love scenes between a young Mexican revolutionary and an American teacher. Fuentes is recognized as one of the most influential writers in Latin America. In fact, in 2006, he received the Four Freedoms Award for Freedom of Speech and Expression. Ironic, I know.

After an intense public meeting and a review by committee, The Old Gringo eventually was returned to the library. Our community was lucky, but such incidents are not uncommon. According to the American Library Association, on average about five hundred books are challenged every year in the United States—and those are just the ones we know about.

While censorship is a serious issue, Book of Mercy tackles the subject with a sense of humor. Antigone gets into a pie fight with Irene Crump, the leader of the study club and a woman who likes to sneak into the local bookstore and hide holy cards in the New Age books.

I wanted Book of Mercy to be a fun read that also might start you thinking. After all, eventually every parent has to choose whether or not to be a censor. We have to decide what we will permit our children to read. As Antigone says in Book of Mercy, “I want to protect my child from the world. But I also want to protect the world for my child.”

I hope you get a chance to meet Antigone Brown and the other folks in fictitious Mercy, North Carolina. Stop in for a milkshake at Antigone’s restaurant, the O. Henry Cafe, and tell her it’s on me.

Note: If you’re interested in censorship issues, visit my blog at http://www.sherry-roberts.com where I have written several posts on the topic.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Author Spotlight: Sherry Roberts!

Author Spotlight: Sherry Roberts!
Hello all, Alicia Rasley here, and I wanted to take a moment to welcome our newest Author to the Spotlight: Sherry Roberts!

We are very excited to have Sherry 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 Sherry'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!

Monday, May 14, 2012

THE PENITENT ASSASSIN by Shawn Wickersheim

Guest reviewer: Welcome Anastasia!

5 stars
Dark Fantasy
This is by far the BEST dark fantasy novel I have ever read.

The main character, Mallor, seems like the type of guy you should loathe. But I couldn't help but love him. Mr. Wickersheim developed Mallor perfectly, in that despite the character's many flaws, you just have to stand up and cheer him on. I related to the character, because of Mallor's constant internal struggle to stay off "essence", a drug. I'm a recovering alcoholic and it was wonderful to see a character make it through all the horrible events of the story and not fall prey to the temptation! I cheered out loud each time the character avoided another temptation.

The many twists and layers of the story made me gasp out loud on more than one occasion. I tried my best to figure out the clues, how the ending would go, but couldn't. Then when I got there, all the pieces fell into place. Some things I thought were trivial ended up being vital clues that I simply brushed over. I was surprised but definitely not disappointed by the ending. I'll definitely read this book again and enjoy it just as much the second time around - and even the tenth!

I look forward to reading more from Mr. Wickersheim. With his ability to craft intricate plot layers and three-dimensional characters, all while throwing in some dark humor and fabulous fight scenes, I've become a lifelong fan for sure.

Anastasia V. Pergakis is the author of Cleanse Fire: The Kinir Elite Chronicles Book 1.  Follow the Kinir Elite as they track down a traitor and find more than they bargained for. This military fantasy has edge-of-your-seat action, epic battles, suspense, and a bit of romance too!

To learn more visit:Author Website: http://avpergakis.com
Book Site: http://kinirelite.com

Friday, May 11, 2012

'Wonder" by R.J. Palacio

Reviewer: Stephanie

Summary from Goodreads:

I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse.
August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He's about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you've ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie's just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, despite appearances?

R. J. Palacio has written a spare, warm, uplifting story that will have readers laughing one minute and wiping away tears the next. With wonderfully realistic family interactions (flawed, but loving), lively school scenes, and short chapters, Wonder is accessible to readers of all levels.

I absolutely love Auggie’s story! He is such a sweet 10 year old, I just want to give him a huge hug. And I don’t know why, but I also thought about The Scoot from Gae Polisner’s The Pull of Gravity when I was reading about him. This book tells the story of Auggie and his family. He has a severe facial deformity. It’s something that happened in utero and only happens to one in a million people. He’s had over 20 surgeries in his short life to improve his appearance. But as he says in the book – “Whatever you think I look like, I promise it’s much worse”. Despite this, his parents encourage him to start 5th grade at a local private school. (He’s only ever been home-schooled up until that point). He has a big sister (who’s completely normal-looking) named Via who will be starting a new high school.

The book is a chronicle of his year at Beecher Prep. What is most interesting is that although the book begins with Auggie as the narrator, each of the other main characters (besides the mom and dad) get their own section to narrate. It was so awesome to hear the same events being retold through the other characters voices, and I think R.J. Palacio did a fantastic job with that. It was exactly what the book needed so it didn’t devolve into something ordinary.

Of course, Auggie is going to experience some hardships going to this new school. We all know how 5th graders are, and you can imagine the struggles that a 5th grader who looks normal would have at school. Auggie, though, has to deal with The Plague game (if kids accidentally touch Auggie, they have 30 seconds to wash their hands or they’ll get “The Plague”) and being called “zombie boy” among other things. There are bright spots for sure. He does make some friends, and he’s a really smart kid who excels academically.
But there are some heartbreaking moments.

I really love Auggie’s family. His parents are so great. Even other kids think that Auggie’s parents are great. I also enjoyed reading about Via’s point of view regarding her brother. As you can imagine, she doesn’t get nearly as much attention as Auggie so that definitely plays a part in her relationship with her parents.

I laughed. I cried. I cheered. I really loved this book! My book club had a great discussion about it and everyone thoroughly enjoyed the book. I’ll definitely be recommending this book to everyone.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Guest post by Author Shaunda Kennedy Wenger (+HUGE giveaway event!)

The Internet: Uniting Readers with Today’s Indie Authors

Gone are the days when editors held the golden keys to The Magical Land of Story. Gone are the days when their own tastes denied the reader of a heart-pounding, page-turning book (Harry Potter was rejected several times before it finally was given a chance). (Say, what?) Or a publisher’s inclination to stay within their comfort zone bypasses a step-out-of-the-box title from an emerging author for another tried-and-true book in the Magic Tree House or Goosebumps series, for example (how many are there?). The internet and ebook publishing are bridging the gap between Indie Authors with good stories to tell and Pioneering Readers with a passion for tales.

Of course, this new relationship isn’t a random mistake that has spun out of technology. Seasoned Indie Authors, who take pride in their craft and work diligently to bring the best stories to hopeful readers, are winning more and more readers away from the Gate Keepers every day, simply by offering wonderful stories at a reasonable price.  Which is great, because reasonable prices make everyone sleep a whole lot better, which puts everyone in a great mood, which leads to random acts of kindness, which… well, you get my point. Indie Authors make the world go round. Not only that, they unite it.

Today, the relationship between reader and author is more transparent, more direct, than ever before. Walls made of agents, publicists, book buyers, and distributors don’t exist between the Pioneering Reader and Indie Author. Writing, itself, no longer seems to be an elusive, mysterious, solitary art. All that exists in this technologically-driven relationship is an author offering his book and a reader willing to take a peek at what lies beneath the cover.

Today’s Indie Author works harder than ever to connect with readers, because Indie Authors know that readers are the final part of the equation when it comes to creating stories. Without readers, what meaning would any stories hold? Readers make any story complete. Readers are the final, can’t-be-ignored seasoning in the perfect bowl of stew. If writers make the world go round, readers are the axis around which it spins.

And you know what? A happy, spinning world allows parties to happen!!!!

Spring Fling takes flight this week when a select group of more than 30 Indie Authors offer their ebooks for FREE from May 7-9! 

Many of these authors have already won awards and have made it on the bestseller lists, and they are stepping out in this event with new titles!

At these “prices” you won’t be disappointed. With the wide range of styles and genres to choose from, I’m willing to bet you’ll find a new favorite Indie Author to wave and rave about, not because of a commercial, or a tie-in to a movie at the cinema, or because it seems like a safe bet, but because you set out like a pioneer and discovered him yourself

Go to www.freepartay.com and Join the ParTay!!

Monday, May 7, 2012

'The Secrets They Kept' by Joanne Tombrako

Reviewer: Stephanie
4 stars

Summary from Amazon:
Every family has its secrets. Elena Poulous knew that. As an attorney she witnessed such deception every day. But she never thought her Greek-American family was like everybody else’s, not until the Saturday morning, the police knock on the door of her New York City apartment and inform her of the death of Yannis Poulous, a man she had never heard of, a man who has listed her as his next of kin.

A box of old letters she unearths in his Brooklyn apartment help to unravel the mystery of who he is. But the biggest part of the puzzle - why everyone in her family, especially her mother Kristina refuses to talk about him - proves the most difficult to discover.
The Secrets They Kept is a multi-generational story, of cultural and religious influences, of secrets kept and discovered, all in the name of love and of family.

The book's premise looked very interesting to me. It really did exceed my expectations and I enjoyed delving into the secrets of the Poulous family. The book was written and well researched. I enjoyed learning more about the Greek Orthodox beliefs and practices. The Greek traditions were richly represented, and my mouth watered most times when the author mentioned the delicious Greek food!

The characters were complex yet relatable. I especially enjoyed the depiction of the mother-daughter relationship between Kristina and Elena. Their relationship was particularly dysfunctional. Elena's realization that she acted more like her mother than she realized and how that affected her current relationships was well-written.

There were times when I wanted to throttle Elena and times I wanted to hug her. She was so wrapped up in protecting herself from love that she was missing out on being loved.

The secrets mentioned in the book aren't earth shattering. It's really how they affect each of the characters. They become larger than life and end up changing the way that the whole family relates to one another.

The author uses a series of flashbacks to describe events that happened to the characters as they related to Yannis. I enjoyed the historical times explored during these flashbacks and wished I could have spent more time there.

Once the reader is aware of Kristina's secret especially I did feel like the plot began to lag as Kristina repeatedly shut down and refused to talk to Elena about Yannis. The first few times were understandable, but the longer it went on the less patient I was with Kristina and the process of revealing the secret to Elena.

However, the relational redemption that Kristina and Elena experienced more than made up for the slight plot lag in my opinion.

This was an enjoyable book. Recommended!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Spring Fling Free Par-Tay
May 7th – 9th!
Celebrate the coming of Spring!!!
What can be better than great books at a great price?
How about Dozens of Great books that are FREE!
May 7th – 9th
Romances from sweet to HOT, Thrillers, Mysteries, Zombies and more!
All FREE at Amazon.com

Fantastic ebooks, many by award-winning and best-selling authors.

Let's Par-Tay!

Welcome to  Spring Fling Free Par-Tay,
A party for readers!

Go to our website to see all the great books and sign up to win a FREE Kindle!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

'The Cinderella Blues' by Obren Bokich and 'The Throwbacks' by Stephanie Queen

2 reviews for tonight..wahoo!!!!

Reviewer: Lindsey

4 stars

‘The Cinderella Blues (Thuh Sin'-dur-rel'-uh Bluze)n.
1.The phenomena whereby otherwise intelligent, capable, successful professional women are convinced they need rescuing by a prince’ (Amazon Description- not much, I know)'

This story contains no sparkly vampires or over muscled alpha werewolves. Mind readers need not apply.

In all my years, I have NEVER used this description. This book was a delight.

Kat is a 30 yr old who has what I consider Cinderella Syndrome. She believed Disney was telling her how life would work.  Wait and prince charming shows up. You know the drill. For the next  50+ years every moment will be a love fest of such grand proportion you shall have no worries from this day on.

You just have to suffer till he shows.

This woman gets in car accidents constantly due to her wandering imagination. These daydreams go from Swashbuckling Pirates to James Bond…and reality sneaks in, and it is FUNNY.

Her bus trips alone are hysterical and sadly familiar.

She invests time in her attractive boss.

There are some interesting family dynamics, and the possibility of a ghost.

The story was a little slow to start, but hang in there. There are some serious LOL moments…lots of fun in this one.

Reviewer: Lindsey

3.5 stars

'She’s a vivacious, light-hearted young beauty from Beacon Hill

He’s a world-weary not-so-young exile from Scotland Yard.

She’s an orphaned decorator who longs for a family of her own.

He’s a rogue detective with a superhero complex.

She’s smitten with this superhero who is the last man she sees in the picket-fence picture of her future.

He’s smitten with this fluffy young romantic who he sees as kryptonite to his career and well being.

But if you saw Grace and David in a room full of people, and you had to pick one man and one woman who belonged together, you would pick them. They would be The Throwbacks.

Vivacious young decorator Grace Rogers sets her sights for that picket-fence life she longs for with the unlikely world-weary British exile, the not-so-young David Young. The ex-Scotland Yard detective joins the Boston Police Department to salvage his career. He hires Grace to decorate his Beacon Hill townhouse to salvage his life.

But this rogue detective’s plans for a new beginning are threatened when he can’t resist the seemingly unseemly romance with his too-young bombshell decorator. Grace turns out to be a key witness in his high-stakes kidnapping case--and like Kryptonite to his career and his well-being with her romantic notions of family life.
David put his life on the line to save her from the kidnappers, but now is Grace willing to put her dreams on the line to save her real-life superhero from himself?’(Amazon description)

First, the positives:  I liked David. There is some sickness in me that enjoys a more sullen, slightly burnt-out-on-life character. It helps if he looks like George Clooney of course!

I enjoyed the fact that he was on “suspension” from Scotland Yard. I won’t spoil why, but it was an intriguing tale.

The age difference was a positive and negative for me.  I am assuming there was a good 20 years between Grace and David. David was introduced to women his age, but he was attracted to Grace. 

The positive of this was not based on age; he just liked her.

The negative of this was that Grace seemed to act like she was 40 years younger than David, which became slightly irritating. There was one scene where the main characters started , uh, becoming …friendly? At one point Grace senses David is breathing too hard and panics that he is having a heart attack. It was almost as if the man had one foot in the bedroom and the other in a hospice facility.

My main problem, and it was mine and mine alone, was Grace.  Reading other reviews, folks LOVE her…LOVE her. I wanted to strangle her, at least in the beginning.

She reminded me of Marilyn Monroe, or at least the idea of what Marilyn Monroe personified--sweet, kind, naive and utterly stupid.

She got on my nerves. Yes, she was hot, young and all of the above.  My number one irritation? She thought David was a GOD.  She bragged about him to anyone who would listen, like a child brags about her dad.

Now, don’t get me wrong, this is all for a reason and later in the book it all comes together. 

This is a fun mystery, definitely light. It is well written, dialogue is snappy , characters are interesting. 

Chances are you’re a nicer person than me ,so you will probably find Grace enduring and sweet.

For you bodice ripping, swashbuckling,  smoochy lovers, there is a little, not a lot. I’m sure you can use your imaginations to fill in the blanks if needed.

Read the book.  I would love to hear what you think.