Thursday, November 5, 2015

Silver In the Blood by Jessica Day George


Title: Silver In The Blood (Silver in the Blood #1)
Author: Jessica Day George
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: YA Historical Fantasy Paranormal Horror (um take your pick...It's a little cross of several genres)
Rating: Fabulous
Alerts/Warnings:  Shape-shifting that leaves clothes behind, Wolves shown in battle (but described relatively cleanly).
Premise: "In 1897, seventeen-year-olds Dacia and Lou, New York socialites and cousins, visit their maternal homeland of Romania and learn the family secret--that they are shapeshifters, expected to take their rightful places and marry proper husbands" (King County Library System).
Opinions: I have enjoyed everything I have ever read by Jessica Day George. Having said that......Silver In The Blood is my favorite.  It was also highly unexpected. The majority of Jessica's other stories revolve around fairy-tale retelling or incredibly awesome twists on the young adult traditional fantasy with female main characters. I was expecting more of the same type of story when I picked up this book, not that I wasn't thoroughly excited to delve into a new story from one of my all time favorite authors.  So imagine my surprise when I realized that this book takes place in Romania in the 1800s and revolves around the ancestors of Vlad the Impaler (the genesis of the Dracula story).  The story didn't just draw me in, it sucked me in hook, line & sink your teeth to the very core.  The main characters were real to me, though from a different time, as they struggled with the teen struggles of the day, and yet when life opens up a horrible truth their reactions are real. My favorite character of all is Lou. I want to be her. I want her grace, her tenacity, her courage, her strength. Yeah, if I couldn't be her I would at least want to be really good friends with someone like her. Her cousin, Dacia, is a fantastic character, don't get me wrong, but personality wise I resonate more with Lou. With the ability to see the main characters' inner struggles through their letters and journal entries added to the traditional story telling the reader gets a more three-dimensional view into their growth throughout the story. I'm so fascinated by the story, its concept, and the imagery that I now need to add Romania to my research and places to visit list.  So, yes, you should read this book. And happily, it looks like Silver In The Blood is the beginning of a series.  Yeah baby!!! One happy reader here.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Hippos Go Berserk! by Sandra Boynton


Title: Hippos Go Berserk!
Author:Sandra Boynton
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: Kids Picture Book
Rating: Fabulous
Alerts/Warnings:  None
Premise: "Larger and larger groups of hippos join a lone hippopotamus for a night-time party" (King County Library).
Opinions: It has been a while since I've posted a review for a children's book, but I've been going to volunteer at my library each week for the last month and picked up this book for my kids. Oh my gosh!!!! This book is awesome. The pictures are colorful, the story hilarious, and my autistic kindergarten loves this book so much that he is reading it over and over. So if you are looking for a fantastic book for your little ones to read, this one should be at the top of your list.

Monday, November 2, 2015

2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love by Rachel Aaron


Title: 2K to 10 K: Write Faster, Write Better, and Write More of What You Love
Author: Rachel Aaron
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: Non-Fiction
Rating: Love
Alerts/Warnings:  Mild Swearing
Premise: ""Have you ever wanted to double your daily word counts? Do you sometimes feel like you're crawling through your story? Do you want to write more every day without increasing the time you spend writing or sacrificing quality? It's not impossible, it's not even that hard. This is the book explaining how, with a few simple changes, I boosted my daily writing from 2000 words to over 10k a day, and how you can too."

Expanding on her highly successful process for doubling daily word counts, this book, a combination of reworked blog posts and new material, offers practical writing advice for anyone who's ever longed to increase their daily writing output. In addition to updated information for Rachel's popular 2k to 10k writing efficiency process, 5 step plotting method, and easy editing tips, this new book includes chapters on creating characters that write their own stories, practical plot structure, and learning to love your daily writing. Full of easy to follow, practical advice from a commercial author who doesn't eat if she doesn't produce good books on a regular basis, 2k to 10k focuses not just on writing faster, but writing better, and having more fun while you do it" (GoodReads).

Opinions: I ordered this book off of Amazon for my Kindle based on the recommendation of one of my writer friends. I have been a "pantser" author up until know (i.e. discovering the story as I go, writing by the seat of my pants). This book as enlightened me to the benefits of panning and plotting your story out in advance to help increase your ability to quickly turn out a book and get the edits done in a much more logical process.  Rachel's suggestions are practical and make total sense. My favorite suggestion is to start out your writing day by stating a goal of what you hoped to accomplish that day (or in a particular chapter) prior to writing, so that you know the basics of what you want to happen in that chapter before you actually write it. Brilliant, I know. I just wonder why have not tried plotting in advance a lot sooner.

So with it being November (a.k.a. National Write A Book In a Month - NaNoWriMo) I've decided to utilize her suggestions to rewrite an old story of mine from the beginning, plotting out the characters, locations, development, etc. prior to starting the storytelling portion. I have never completed NaNoWriMo before (though I've tried 4 times). I am planning on not making this number five. With the techniques suggested in this book I look forward to being a NaNo winner. 

I'll let you know if I succeeded at the end of the month. Here's to better, faster writing.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Happy, Happy, Happy by Phil Robertson

Happy, Happy, Happy

Title: Happy, Happy, Happy: My Life and Legacy as the Duck Commander
Author: Phil Robertson
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: Adult Non-Fiction
Rating: Like
Alerts/Warnings:  Instances of drugs, alcohol, but the consequences of those actions are also talked about.
Premise: "Life was always getting in the way of Phil Robertson's passion for duck hunting. An NFL-bound quarterback, Phil made his mark on Louisiana Tech University in the 1960s by playing football and completing his college career with a master's degree in English. But Phil's eyes were not always on the books or the ball; they were usually looking to the sky. Phil grew up with the dream of living the simple life off the land like his forebears, but he soon found himself on a path to self-destruction--leasing a bar, drinking too much, fighting, and wasting his talents. He almost lost it all until he gave his life to God. And then everything changed. Phil's incredible story tells how he followed a calling from God and soon after invented a duck call that would begin an incredible journey to the life he had always dreamed of for himself and his family" (King County Library System).
Opinions: I haven't had a lot of time to sit down and read a book lately. So instead I've been picking up books on CD from my library to listen to in the car while I'm driving my kids around or dropping my husband off at the train station. On a whim I picked up Happy, Happy, Happy by Phil Robertson. I knew of him from watching the show Duck Dynasty on A&E several years ago. But then we got rid of cable and I haven't seen it in years. So I figured, why not?

The CD of this book is read aloud by Phil's oldest son, Al. I was fascinated to learn about how Phil grew up in a very hard life, but that they had always been taught how to be happy, and really didn't understand that they were poor. Learning about how his mother struggled with depression and underwent electric shock therapy while being institutionalized, while around the same time his father had fallen off an oil rig and had to where a plaster cast from neck to hip for two years while trying to raise 5 kids during his wife's on and off absence.  I loved learning how he and Ms. Kay got together and I cried through their struggles as he went through several bad years of rebellion. Let's just say I have an new and incredibly high respect for Ms. Kay.

There were times I got lost when it came to Phil talking about all the types of ducks and their specific calls, but the stories about his life, his struggles, and how was blessed with family who cared enough and loved him so much, and how he chose his religion to help him through it all.

You may not agree with his life style, you may not agree with his political views, but after reading (or listening to this book) I believe you will come to respect Phil Robertson for his determination, perseverance, hard work ethics, and his love for his family and his God.   He has come far and is doing what he loves with a family he adores. That sounds like a great life to me. And listening to the story of his life has brought me a greater appreciation for my own. 

So yeah I think you should read this book.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

As Chimney Sweepers Come To Dust by Alan Bradley

To read my reviews of the other books in this series, click here: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag, A Red Herring Without Mustard, I Am Half-Sick of Shadows, Speaking from Among the Bones, and The Dead In Their Vaulted Arches.

 As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust (Flavia de Luce, #7)

Title:  As Chimney Sweepers Come To Dust (Flavia de Luce Mystery #7)
Author: Alan Bradley
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: Adult Mystery
Rating: Love
Alerts/Warnings: Dead Body
Premise: "Youthful chemist and aspiring detective Flavia de Luce once again brings her knowledge of poisons and her indefatigable spirit to solve dastardly crimes -- but this time, she leaves behind her beloved English countryside, and takes her sleuthing prowess to the unexpectedly unsavory world of Canadian boarding schools!"-- Provided by publisher.
Opinions: I love this series.  I was so concerned that the last book but might have been the last one in the series, so I was thrilled to see the release of another one. It reads and feels like an Agatha Christie series, but with a tweenager heroine. Flavia is brilliant, spunky, slightly rebellious, and I love to see the world from her perspective.  This book shows what happens when you take Flavia out of her comfort zone, shipped across the Atlantic and put up in her mother's old boarding school in Toronto.  Flavia is used to being the odd duck in her family, now she's trying to come out of her mother's dead shadow to prove to herself who she wants to be in her world. When I skeleton comes crashing down from her bedroom fireplace her first night in the refurbished old church turned all girls' school at least that feels somewhat familiar to her. However, she must decide to follow her nature and unravel the mystery of the dead body and missing classmates or try to fit in with the crowd and not make waves.  It was a fascinating turn of events, plus it leaves hope for future additional Flavia de Luce novels, which just makes me happy.  So if you like murder mysteries then you should read this whole series.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Spelled by Betsy Schow

There is a reason this publisher is printing this book for the third time in the two and a half months since it was first released. It's that great.


Title: Spelled
Author: Betsy Schow
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: YA Fiction (Children's Classics Mash-up)
Rating: FABULOUS!!!!
Alerts/Warnings: None
Premise: "Fairy Tale Survival Rule #32: If you find yourself at the mercy of a wicked witch, sing a romantic ballad and wait for your Prince Charming to save the day.

Yeah, no thanks. Dorthea is completely princed out. Sure being the crown princess of Emerald has its perks—like Glenda Original ball gowns and Hans Christian Louboutin heels. But a forced marriage to the brooding prince Kato is so not what Dorthea had in mind for her enchanted future.

Talk about unhappily ever after.

Trying to fix her prince problem by wishing on a (cursed) star royally backfires, leaving the kingdom in chaos and her parents stuck in some place called "Kansas." Now it's up to Dorthea and her pixed off prince to find the mysterious Wizard of Oz and undo the curse...before it releases the wickedest witch of all and spells The End for the world of Story" (

Opinions: I was so excited to get this book as Betsy is a friend of mine. I was able to see this book flourish and grow and I couldn't wait to read it in its final iteration. As soon as it came out I ran home and started reading it out loud to my husband. By the end of the first few chapters he said, "You're loving this aren't you?"  Well, yeah.  But I wasn't sure if he was. My husband is a huge fan of the original Frank L. Baum's Wizard of Oz--he's even read the series to our daughter since she was about two. So I stopped reading it out loud to him after a few nights because I didn't think he was into it.  Then we went to a doctor's appointment together and he caught me reading it to myself. "Isn't that the one we're supposed to be reading together?" he asked.  Busted. We read the rest of it together and he thoroughly enjoyed it. I laughed. I cried.....I nearly snorted soda out my get the picture.

Just be prepared for snark. Be prepared for sass. And be prepared for everything you think you know about the Wizard of Oz and other children's classics to be flipped on its head, tossed in a cyclone, and rewritten in the most creative, inventive, unique way then turn it into a YA novel. I cannot wait for you to meet Dorthea (Dot) re imagined, Prince Kato (like no prince you've ever seen) and Rexi. You are in for a true adventure with Spelled.

P.S. The last time I went to see my counselor she told me she was currently reading this book because she knew that I was friends with the author and had recommended it. She said that she didn't get into it right at first, but that her teenage daughter refused to let her put it down. Now she is immersed and has to know how its going to play out.   Yeah, its that addictive.  And the good news......the publisher has picked up the entire series. So we'll all get to see what happens to Dorothea next.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Whistling Past The Graveyard by Susan Crandall

I know, I know....its been eons since either of us has posted. It's been a rough few months, but now that summer is almost over and the kids will soon heading back to school I hope to post more often.


Title: Whistling Past The Graveyard
Author: Susan Crandall
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: Like
Alerts/Warnings: Death, Violence at the time of Civil Rights
Premise: "The summer of 1963 begins like any other for nine-year-old Starla Claudelle. Born to teenage parents in Mississippi, Starla is being raised by a strict paternal grandmother, Mamie, whose worst fear is that Starla will turn out like her mother. Starla hasn’t seen her momma since she was three, but is convinced that her mother will keep her promise to take Starla and her daddy to Nashville, where her mother hopes to become a famous singer—and that one day her family will be whole and perfect.

When Starla is grounded on the Fourth of July, she sneaks out to see the parade. After getting caught, Starla’s fear that Mamie will make good on her threats and send her to reform school cause her to panic and run away from home. Once out in the country, Starla is offered a ride by a black woman, Eula, who is traveling with a white baby. She happily accepts a ride, with the ultimate goal of reaching her mother in Nashville.

As the two unlikely companions make their long and sometimes dangerous journey, Starla’s eyes are opened to the harsh realities of 1963 southern segregation. Through talks with Eula, reconnecting with her parents, and encountering a series of surprising misadventures, Starla learns to let go of long-held dreams and realizes family is forged from those who will sacrifice all for you, no matter if bound by blood or by the heart" (

Opinions: This book was chosen for book club reading this last year. Unfortunately it was so popular that I was on hold forever at the library and finally got to read it two months after we held our discussion. The biggest hang-up with this book is that, even though is masterfully done, I'm afraid it can be lost in the influx of civil rights era books that have been released in quick succession over the last few years.

Having said that.....I love Starla. Starla is 9. She acts 9. She thinks like a 9 year old. She talks 9. She feels very real to me. And when she ends up running away and is forced to deal with some incredibly adult matters I was there with her as her thoughts battled her emotions to come to grip with reality in the 60s. I loved seeing her growth, her character arc, and her willing to fight for those she loves and for what she feels is right.  The difficulty of this story is that the dark matters revolving around self-worth, abuse, civil rights, and the treatment of others were so intense (especially knowing that Starla is only 9) made me wonder whether or not I could personally handle reading the rest. I love Ms. Cyrena and I love Eula, but Starla is my hero. And in spite of the danger, the darkness, and the heart-wrenching lessons she learns I'm glad that I endured the journey with her.  And it made for an incredible and complex book club discussion.  Overall my favorite line is toward the end when Starla is trying to come to grips with what she learned about the trials she went through....."God's plan ain't a free pass. Uh-uh. He give us moments to make choices, and we make them. We accountable for those choices. God's job ain't to make our lives easier, it's to make us better souls b the lessons he give us."