Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Beyonders by Brandon Mull


Title: Beyonders: A World Without Heroes (Beyonders #1)
Author: Brandon Mull
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: Mid-Grade Fantasy
Rating: Like
Alerts/Warnings: None
Premise: "Fourteen-year-old Jason Walker is transported to a strange world called Lyrian, where he joins Rachel, who was also drawn there from our world, and a few rebels, to piece together the Word that can destroy the malicious wizard emperor, Surroth" (King County Library Sytem).
Opinions: At first I really struggled to read this book--it has actually taken me several tries to get into it. There is a lot of world building that has to happen in order to setup the series and it took at least a third of the book before I felt the tug of being drawn into the actual plot. I have since carried the book in my car to read anytime I'm stuck in a drive through or waiting for kids. Only within the last month did I finally break half way through the book. That is when I started to get excited each time I had a moment to read it. Then yesterday I reached the two-thirds mark. Today I was forced to bring the book in the house after my errands because I couldn't stand to wait any longer to see what happened.

The premise is fascinating. The types of characters and creatures are incredibly imaginative and the story intriguing (at least to me it was after the basic world building was completed). I LOVE Rachel and I'm fascinated by Jason. I love the different ways they came to Lyrian and the things they learn about themselves along the way.  By the end of the book I was quite pleased and am looking forward to seeing where the tale turns in book two.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Endlessly by Kiersten White

For my reviews of the other books in this series please click here: Paranormalcy, Supernaturally.


Title: Endlessly (Paranormalcy #3)
Author: Kiersten White
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: YA Paranormal
Rating: LOVE
Alerts/Warnings: None
Premise: "Sixteen-year-old Evie is forced to face the truth about her supernatural past when a deadly faerie battle threatens the future of the entire paranormal world"--Provided by publisher.
Opinions: This was a highly satisfactory ending to a fascinating story. In this final segment of Evie's story she learns how to make her own decisions and to accept whatever consequences that come from them. I love how she is still her snarky,pink-loving, impertinent self, but stands up for what she believes in. One of the most intriguing aspects of the entire trilogy was Reth and his relationship with Evie, and eventually how he is changed because of her. The twists and curve balls of this ending were intriguing.  Though Evie chose time and again to risk life and limb to rescue those she loved, she forever remained true to herself. In the end, I was fully content as I closed the final page.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Oz, #1)

Title: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Oz #1)
Author: L. Frank Baum
Reviewer: Frank & Karen
Genre: Children's Classic
Rating: Adore
Alerts/Warnings: None
Premise: "After a cyclone transports her to the land of Oz, Dorothy must seek out the great wizard in order to return to Kansas" (King County Library System).
Opinions: My husband has begun to read this story to our children at bedtime each night.  I am grateful that he does this for our kids, but I'm also glad because I never read the story myself. You don't even know half the story of the Wizard of Oz if all you have seen is the movie. First of all the slippers are not red, they are silver. Second of all, a movie will never capture the full brilliance of L. Frank Baum's dry sense of humor and wonderful imagination. We recommend reading the Books of Wonder edition with the original illustrations which bring new life to a wonderful tale. Our most favorite characters are the flying monkeys.  They have more depth and purpose to them and actually talk.  Also, Dorothy is not as passive of a character as she is in the movie. Dorothy saves herself and then rescues the others. There were fantastic examples of the entire group working together to accomplish a goal, but overall it is a story about Dorothy and her journey and how she grows.  Overall, this is a fantastic book for a family to read together and we highly recommend it.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Kill Order by James Dashner


Title: The Kill Order (Prequel to the Maze Runner Series)
Author: James Dashner
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: Teen Science Fiction
Rating: Like
Alerts/Warnings: Graphic violence associate to an apocalyptic event
Premise: "Before WICKED was formed, before the Glade was built, before Thomas entered the Maze, sun flares hit the earth and mankind fell to disease.

Mark and Trina were there when it happened, and they survived. But surviving the sun flares was easy compared to what came next.

Now a disease of rage and lunacy races across the eastern United States, and there’s something suspicious about its origin. Worse yet, it’s mutating, and all evidence suggests that it will bring humanity to its knees.

Mark and Trina are convinced there’s a way to save those left living from descending into madness. And they’re determined to find it—if they can stay alive. Because in this new, devastated world, every life has a price. And to some, you’re worth more dead than alive (King County Library System).
Opinions: I have mixed feelings about this prequel book to the Maze Runner series, so I will lay my thoughts out and let you determine whether this read is up your alley or not. 

James Dashner continues to impress me with his imagination, creativity, and intriguing characters. I loved this book most for his characters.  Each one of the major individuals that we get to know are three dimensional--showing not only their strengths, but their weaknesses and how they are affected by what is going on around them. I was fascinated by the glimpses into their personal history and the choices they make amidst a massive destructive force.  The overall premise of the story also kept me reading to where I had a hard time putting it down, despite some of the more horrific scenes.

My greatest difficulty with this book wasn't the way it was written, but my own internal overactive imagination and inability to handle incredibly dark and violent scenes. This story is about the earth being faced with the side effects of solar flares, and that thought alone is gruesome to me.  Then you add in a personal decision by those who survived as to how to make it through the recovery with very little resources.  And then how that choice affects the rest of humanity.  The overall plot provides a great baseline for moral and ethical discussion.  However, as I followed the characters along their journey through apocalyptic times the choices they had to make, and their subsequent consequences, were often more than I could personally handle.

Overall, I really liked this book, but there were several times I put it down unsure if I could handle some of the graphic scenes.  But then again, I still picked it up and finished it in its entirety and when I closed its covers I came away with the feeling (having read the Maze Runner series in its entirety) of "That makes sense." 

So the choice is yours, but I do recommend that parents of young teens who want to read this take the opportunity to either read along with their kids or to read it first to see if you are comfortable with what is shown.. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson


Title: Brandon Sanderson
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Reviewer: Karen (+ Karen's Husband)
Genre: YA Science Fiction
Rating: Fabulous
Alerts/Warnings: Med Swearing + Fake Swearing and Med/High Violence
Premise: "At age eight, David watched as his father was killed by an Epic, a human with superhuman powers, and now, ten years later, he joins the Reckoners--the only people who are trying to kill the Epics and end their tyranny" (King County Library System).
Opinions: My husband and I have been reading this book out loud over the last week or so.  Oh my gosh, both of us LOVED it.  Imagine a world where those who would be super heroes are bad not good, throw in a main character out for revenge but containing an impressively goofy ability to be really bad at metaphors and you have the start of an incredibly imaginative world. This book was funny, tense, emotional, and brilliant. David was a fascinating character to get to know, to see how a life as an orphan seeking after any information he can obtain on Epics (those with super powers) would lead him to the one group that could help him. The characters were diverse and fascinating.  The world building is by far Brandon Sanderson's best.   I love how in depth and varied the Epics abilities were and how imaginative their weaknesses could be.  Overall this is a first rate book, but be warned that it is a start of series and also, because of the plot's nature, is on the more violent end (especially in the prologue). In spite of that both my husband and I REALLY enjoyed this read.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Destined by Aprilynne Pike

To read my reviews of the other books in this series click here: Wings, Spells, and Illusions.

Title: Destined (Wings #4)
Author: Aprilynne Pike
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: Teen Fiction
Rating: LOVE
Alerts/Warnings: Violence Associated with Fantasy Battle
Premise: "Destined delivers all the romance and action that fans expect as it brings Aprilynne Pike’s Wings series to a deeply satisfying conclusion.

Laurel used to think she was an ordinary girl from Crescent City, California. She never would have believed she was truly a faerie from a realm called Avalon.

Now Laurel must risk her life to save Avalon from destruction by Yuki—a rare and powerful Winter faerie—and troll-hunter Klea. But Laurel won’t have to fight alone; David and Tamani, two boys she loves in different ways, will be by her side, along with her best friend, Chelsea.

Readers of the Need and Graceling series will want to follow Laurel’s story from its beginning in Wings to its heart-stopping end in Destined" (

Opinions: As the fourth and last book in the Wings series Aprilynne does an amazing job bringing the varied relationships into an even greater depth. We see the struggles each character goes through, not just in word, but mostly through their actions. There were several things over the series that I found frustrating on a personal note, but having now read this book I realize that it makes a whole lot of sense.  I appreciated certain individuals much more in this book. For example, Tamani become more real and vibrant as a character and a love-interest for Laurel.

The intensity of this book is greatly heightened due to Klea and Yuki bringing their fight to Avalon.  As such, some of the battle scenes may be a bit much for younger readers, and more than a few characters are killed along the way (I won't spoil the story by telling you who) but it is definitely not overly done. The story's pace was fast, the plot driving, and Aprilynne's imagination absolutely beautiful. I even found myself more than once in tears.  Overall, it was a very satisfying ending to a well written series.  I look forward to reading other stories by Aprilynne Pike in the future.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

How to Have Peace When You're Falling to Pieces by Rebecca Rode
Title: How to Have Peace When You're Falling to Pieces
Author: Rebecca Rode
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: LDS Non-Fiction
Rating: LOVE
Alerts/Warnings: None
Premise: "'How can I have inner peace as a mother when I feel so stressed and scattered?' For mothers who feel they are constantly juggling multiple demands, How to Have Peace When You're Falling to Pieces is packed with uplifting stories, poems, quotes, and scriptures that instill fresh perspective on the work of a mother" (
Opinions: For the last few weeks I have carried How to Have Peace in my purse wherever I went, then when I would be waiting at a doctor's office or to pick up my kids from school I would whip it out for some uplifting reading. I have been going through a difficult time lately trying to balance taking care of three incredibly awesome kids (two with some special needs), along with my parents starting the process of divorce, major health issues, and much much more. How appropriate then was it for me to pick up this particular book, written by this lady (and yes I know her and will brag about her).

Through her humor, honesty, and kindness Rebecca Rode opens up to the reader about things she has learned through the trials of life. Utilizing scriptural quotes, personal stories, and fun ideas she makes it easy to relate to her and be a little more honest with myself. As a result of reading this book I have been able to  pinpoint aspects in my life that I can tweak just enough to make my life as a wife, mom, individual easier to manage.Though geared toward LDS (Mormon) moms, I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for that gentle reminder of what you can do to find peace in your life.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Emperor's Soul by Brandon Sanderson

I know. I know. It has been many, many months since either Stephanie or I have posted a review.  Life has been odd, difficult, crazy, weird for both of us.  As things start to hopefully calm down we will try to post more and more reviews.  In fact I'm currently reading no less than four books (a feat I know).  As for my first review back from this life hiatus here is an awesome book to read.


Title: The Emperor's Soul
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: Fabulous
Alerts/Warnings: None
Premise: " When Shai is caught replacing the Moon Scepter with her nearly flawless forgery, she must bargain for her life and create--by Forgery--a new soul for the emperor in less than one hundred days" (King County Library System).
Opinion: This is a fascinating novella that won the Hugo award just this year. I have always been impressed by Brandon Sanderson's ability to create an intricate in-depth magic system and world. He does not fail in what, for him, is an incredibly short book. I love the main character Shai for the person she is, the Essences she has created to change pieces of who she is on a moments notice, and her ability to use the soulstones. With each page I grew more intrigued by her life, her character, and her goals.  I was also fascinated by the Grand Gaotona and in his role convincing Shai to help save the Empire and the Emperor.

The overall creation of the Emperor's Soul is a magical insight into what choices craft a person into who they will become. It was beautiful, creative and very thought provoking.  Whether or not you like fantasy, I highly recommend that you read this book.  This would also make a perfect book for a book club discussion.  I intent to bring it up for the book group I attend the next time we are choosing books to read.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Supernaturally by Kiersten White

Supernaturally (Paranormalcy, #2)
Title: Supernaturally (Paranormalcy #2)
Author: Kiersten White
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: YA Paranormal
Rating: Adore
Alerts/Warnings: None
Premise: "Sixteen-year-old Evie thinks she has left the International Paranormal Containment Agency, and her own paranormal activities, behind her when she is recruited to help at the Agency, where she discovers more about the dark faerie prophecy that threatens her future" (King County Library System).
Opinions: In this book, Evie gets to enjoy the life she has always wanted--a locker, a regular job,  high school, and a boy friend. What she didn't count on were all the lows that come as part and package with her new life.  First there is her ex love - the faerie formerly known as Reth - who swears he's watching over and protecting her. Then there's Jack, a human boy raised by Faeries, but now working for the IPCA, who loves to play tricks and use the Faerie Paths for his own purposes. Evie also is struggling with the fact that her boyfriend, Lend, is now in college at Georgetown several hours away and she only sees him on weekends. 

Though, I didn't enjoy this book as much as I did the first one, I still LOVED it. It was intriguing to see Evie develop and trying to fight her way through a new life while still keeping one foot in her old life. This story was fascinating in its complexities and underlying stories and fears surrounding Evie's choices.  The most intriguing character of all for me was Evie's roommate, the fashion designing vampire, video game zombie slayer, Arianna.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

Paranormalcy (Paranormalcy, #1)
Title: Paranormalcy (Paranormalcy #1)
Author: Kiersten White
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: YA Paranormal Fantasy
Rating: Fabulous
Alerts/Warnings: None
Premise: "When a dark prophecy begins to come true, sixteen-year-old Evie of the International Paranormal Containment Agency must not only try to stop it, she must also uncover its connection to herself and the alluring shapeshifter, Lend" (King County Library System).  
Opinions:One of the best parts of this book is the voice of the character/narrator. Told in first person (I believe -- I'm really bad at labeling voices) she is quintessentially snarky teen with a most unusual twist. I love being able to see inside of Evie and how her mind works, and her growth throughout the story. I love the creativity of stylistic paranormal characters seen with a new eye and a new way. 

It was hard for me to narrow down in this book who where my favorite characters. There was Lish, Evie's BFF who was a mermaid in charge of command central and had as much of a love of Easton Heights, the equivalent of Beverly Hills 90210, as Evie. Lend, the incredibly complex and multi-handsome (you'll have to read the book to understand why I write it this way) first ever teenage boy Evie has come in contact.  The deep and mysterious Reth, a faerie who has plans of his own for Evie. Requel the strict librarian looking head of IPCA who is the equivalent of the mom Evie's never known. . . and oh so many more.

If you love YA Paranormal at all, then I suggest you pick up this fun read immediately.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett

The Wee Free Men (Discworld, #30)

Title: The Wee Free Men (Discworld #30)
Author: Terry Pratchett
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: YA Fantasy
Rating: Fabulous
Alerts/Warnings: None
Premise: "Armed only with a frying pan and her common sense, Tiffany Aching, a young witch-to-be, is all that stands between the monsters of Fairyland and the warm, green Chalk country that is her home. Forced into Fairyland to seek her kidnapped brother, Tiffany allies herself with the Chalk's local Nac Mac Feegle - aka the Wee Free Men - a clan of sheep-stealing, sword-wielding, six-inch-high blue men who are as fierce as they are funny. Together, they battle through an eerie and ever-shifting landscape, fighting brutal flying fairies, dream-spinning dromes, and grimhounds - black dogs with eyes of fire and teeth of razors - before ultimately confronting the Queen of the Elves, absolute ruler of a world in which reality intertwines with nightmare. And in the final showdown, Tiffany must face her cruel power alone... In a riveting narrative equal parts suspense and humor, Carnegie Medalist Terry Pratchett returns to his internationally popular Discworld with a breath-taking tale" (King County Library System).
Opinions: My husband is a HUGE Terry Pratchett fan and read this to me last night.  This book was brilliant. I've read some of the Disc World books, but when a friend gave me the sequel to this book my husband leaped right up, went to the library to check out the first Tiffany Aching book (this one), came home and immediately started reading it to me allowed. I'm glad he did.

Terry Pratchett has an incredible turn of phrase and the brilliant characters/personalities he creates leaves me more than slightly envious. The humor is on point, and the faith that Tiffany learns to have in herself by the end of the novel makes it a thoroughly engaging read.  The only difficulties I had with this book were some of hte Nac Mac Feegle's toungue twisting names and the periodic flash backs into Tiffany Aching's earlier life.  They did help to tell the story, but made it sometimes hard to recall if we were in the present or the past. However, baring that, this book is incredible.  I am now looking forward to reading the next one with my hubby as well.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Your Cup of Cake by Lizzie Early

Title:  Your Cup of Cake
Author:  Lizzie Early
Reviewer:  Karen
Genre:  Adult Non-Fiction/Cookbook
Rating: FABULOUS!!!!
Alerts/Warnings: Dangerous Calories lie ahead
Premise: The tantalizing scent of warm cupcakes wraps you in nostalgia, transporting you to the coziness of your childhood kitchen. Now, in a modern twist that's sure to satisfy even the most discerning sweet tooth, the treats of your youth will once again tempt your taste buds as you embrace the cupcake craze in your own kitchen cupcakery. Starting with a cake mix, popular food writer and photographer Lizzy Early taps into America's love affair with the never-ending flavor combinations of this tasty treat-from the comforting classics of vanilla, German chocolate, and carrot cake, to the fanciful flavors of maple and bacon, churro, and root beer float. Complete with delectable photographs and handy hints for the cupcake novice, Your Cup of Cake is your ultimate guide to America's favorite gourmet goodies.
Opinions: Oh my, this book is my new favorite cookbook!!!!  I've tried four of the recipes so far, though I've read through all of them multiple times, and I'm addicted. I have plans to try out at least four more recipes this week as I'm getting ready for a bake sale.  If you love to mix up your usual cake mixes to create something incredibly scrumptious then get this book. So far everyone that I've given cupcakes to have LOVED them. I cannot get enough.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan

To read my other reviews in this series click here: The Lost Hero and The Son of Neptune

The Mark of Athena (The Heroes of Olympus, #3)

Title: The Mark of Athena (Heroes of Olympus #3)
Author: Rick Riordan
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: Mid-Grade
Rating: Adore
Alerts/Warnings: None
Premise: " "The Greek and Roman demigods will have to cooperate in order to defeat the giants released by the Earth Mother, Gaea. Then they will have to sail together to the ancient land--Greece itself--to find the Doors of Death"--" (King County Library System)
Opinions: This series is intriguing as it combines Roman history and gods with the Greek pantheon and stories. I love the twists and turns. I loved seeing how two groups of people who throughout history have fought one another learn to work as one. Mr. Riordan does a fantastic job showing each point of view characters struggles, growth, and in-site.  Annabeth and Leo are my most favorite characters in this story for their intriguing personalities and struggles. I loved the ending but cannot wait until the next book comes out to see where it goes. This series is a definite must read.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Fairy Godmothers Inc by Jenniffer Wardell

I apologize for the lack of posts lately. I've been recovering from back surgery and am now on the mend.

Fairy Godmothers, Inc.

Title: Fairy Godmothers Inc
Author: Jenniffer Wardell
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: YA Fairytale Retelling
Rating: Adore
Alerts/Warnings: None
Premise: In a world where fairy tale situations are as much a fact of life as death and taxes, everyone knows hiring Fairy Godmothers, Inc. is the best way to assure that your beautiful daughter or enchanted frog of a grandson will get the happily-ever-after he or she deserves. Sure, sometimes a little love potion is required to make sure those quotas stay up, but what Prince Charming doesn’t know won’t hurt him.

Kate, an experienced Fairy Godmother, who’s enough of a romantic to frustrate her rigidly rule-bound boss, has just received a specialty assignment from one of the company’s board of directors. Cinderella—Rellie for short—was placed with an appropriately wicked stepfamily years before, and now needs the dress, ball, and handsome prince to complete her happily-ever-after. The fact that Rellie isn’t sure this is her dream come true—balls are fun, but princes tend to be less interesting than fluffy bunnies—isn’t something management considers a problem.

Complicating things a bit is Jon, the youngest son of the royal family, who meets Kate, and is smitten, but isn’t quite ready yet to reveal his true identity. After all, it’s his older brother Rupert who’s supposed to marry Rellie, which means pretending to be a lowly civil servant will give him the chance to spend more time with Kate. (As long as he can get the ball arranged, and stop Rupert from getting himself into trouble over his “self-actualization” business, he should have the perfect opportunity to explain everything and get started on making a little magic with the Fairy Godmother of his dreams.)

But, of course, things never ever happen as planned.

Opinions: This book has a fascinating premise. It takes a much loved fairytale and retells it from a completely unexpected point of view with a lot of humor and sweet romance.  I loved its uniqueness and enjoyed the plot immensely.  Fairy Godmother's Inc has a twist in that you discover what each character looks like through opposing characters and how they see each other.  The only difficulty is sometimes the character voices have similar styles, but the creativity of the book makes that only a small difficulty.

My very favorite characters were Rellie (a.k.a. Cinderella) and Kate (her Fairy Godmother). I love their interactions and their spunk. I also adored Lawton and Jon's friendship and how they stood up for each other.  I loved the overall strength of character of this four people and the fascinating story they tell.  I definitely recommend picking this book up to read and soon. It was just released to the public last week.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Candy Experiments by Loralee Leavitt

Candy Experiments

Title: Candy Experiments
Author: Loralee Leavitt
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: Children's Non-Fiction
Rating: Fabulous
Alerts/Warnings: None
Premise: "Brilliant use of Valentine's, Easter, Halloween, and other holiday candy! Fun, colorful, and full of surprises, Candy Experiments will have kids happily pouring their candy down the drain and learning some basic science along the way.Candy is more than a sugary snack. With candy, you can become a scientific detective. You can test candy for secret ingredients, peel the skin off candy corn, or float an “m” from M&M’s. You can spread candy dyes into rainbows, or pour rainbow layers of colored water. You'll learn how to turn candy into crystals, sink marshmallows, float taffy, or send soda spouting skyward. You can even make your own lightning.

Candy Experiments teaches kids a new use for their candy. As children try eye-popping experiments, such as growing enormous gummy worms and turning cotton candy into slime, they’ll also be learning science. Best of all, they’ll willingly pour their candy down the drain.

Candy Experiments contains 70 science experiments, 29 of which have never been previously published. Chapter themes include secret ingredients, blow it up, sink and float, squash it, and other fun experiments about color, density, and heat. The book is written for children between the ages of 7 and 10, though older and younger ages will enjoy it as well. Each experiment includes basic explanations of the relevant science, such as how cotton candy sucks up water because of capillary action, how Pixy Stix cool water because of an endothermic reaction, and how gummy worms grow enormous because of the water-entangling properties" (

Opinions: This book is BRILLIANT!!! I know Loralee and she has an amazing mind and now she has a found a way to share her love of science with her children.  I was impressed by how Loralee came up with these various experiments, and documented each step and yet how fun each experiment seemed for a non-science fan like me. The instructions are readily understandable and are even labeled by level of difficulty. The explanations of the reactions that are recurring are clear and concise and include photos to show what the resulting experiment should look like.

I had the opportunity to sit on a presentation that Loralee did at a writer's conference a few weeks ago where Loralee walked a group of teachers and authors through some of the experiments from the book. It was amazing.  Kids of all ages are going to love this. Parents are going to love this.  Teachers are going to Adore this.  What a great way to teach kids about science and exploring by finding new and different uses of candy rather than eating it.  And what a great way of making family time around science.  Please go read this book and try it out in your own families.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Palace of Stone by Shannon Hale

To review Stephanie's review of the first book in this series please click here: Princess Acadamy.

Palace of Stone (Princess Academy #2)

Title: Palace of Stone (Princess Acadamy #2)
Author: Shannon Hale
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: YA Fantasy
Rating: Fabulous
Alerts/Warnings: None
Premise: " Miri returns to Asland and calls upon all of her knowledge of rhetoric and other useful lessons learned at the Princess Academy when she and the other girls face strong opposition while working for a new, fair charter" (King County Library System).
Opinions: Shannon Hale is most definitely on my Top 10 Favorite Authors list.  She has an incredible way of creating images through her words and each word carries the weight of the story.  Once again, Ms. Hale does not fail with her incredible continuation of Miri and the girls of the Princess Academy as they travel outside their small world of Mount Eskel into the heart of the Danland Kingdom - Asland.

I found myself mesmerized as Miri's vision is opened to people, places, and ideas that she never before had thought possible.  I love that she attends the Queen's Castle, a center of knowledge and learning, and the internal struggles she faces as she gains more knowledge. I was impressed by the battle of ethics and what makes something seem right and something seem wrong. I found my heart hurting for Miri as she faced challenges beyond measure and the internal strength she finds as she gains the answers that work for both her heart and mind.  I am glad to see Peder, Britta, and several of the other characters from the first novel carrying on in Palace of Stone.  I am also glad to see some of the same plot points that were so intriguing in the first book not lost within the second. 

Honestly, I am struggling with this review because I want you to know how brilliant this story is, how intriguing it is, and how personal it is, all without giving anything away.  Yes there is a darker tone to this book as it is dealing with the heady topic of Revolution, however the topic makes the story even more fascinating and enticing to read--to discover how someone the general populace of her country might consider "ordinary" still has the ability to help change a nation.  Needless to say, if you are a fan of Shannon Hale's young adult works you will definitely find yourself enjoying this one as well.  Even my husband read it and quite enjoyed it.

Monday, March 18, 2013

I'll Walk Alone by Mary Higgins Clark

I'll Walk Alone

Title: I'll Walk Alone
Author: Mary Higgins Clark
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: Adult Mystery
Rating: Like
Alerts/Warnings: Mild Language
Premise: "Thirty-year-old interior designer Alexandra Moreland, struggling to deal with the disappearance of her son, fights to uncover who is behind a plot to destroy her sanity and life" (King County Library System).
Opinions: I am a long-standing Mary Higgins Clark fan.  She has an innate ability to reveal layer by layer how a mystery affects each and every person involved, including the guilty. I only realized recently that I have missed a few of her more recent works.  When I did I immediately picked them up from my local library. 

Mary Higgins Clark does a brilliant job of interweaving a tale of suspense using identify theft of an up and coming Interior Designer in New York.  Add to that the mystery of her son's disappearance and you have an intriguing tale of deception, kidnapping, and possible murder.  I loved that we get to see Alvirah Meehan (a long standing amateur sleuth from earlier Mary Higgins Clark novels), but I really enjoyed the main character Alexandera Morland.  Being a mother of small children I could imagine the heartache she must have felt at the disappearance of her child and the betrayal when even her closest friends come to think she had kidnapped her own child.  Add the stress of someone stealing her identify and you have an explosive book that was hard to put down.  I loved seeing the emotional transitions the main character goes through and the strength she finds to carry on in utter turmoil.  Once again, Mary Higgins Clark has written an enjoyable suspense for mystery readers.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Lost Bullet by Malcolm Rose

For my review of book one in this series click here: Framed!

Lost Bullet (Traces, #2)

Title: Lost Bullet (Traces Series #2)
Author: Malcolm Rose
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: YA Mystery
Rating: Like
Alerts/Warnings: Moderate descriptions of murder scenes
Premise: "Recently qualified as a forensic investigator, Luke Harding is assigned to the slums of London, where he and Malc investigate a doctor's murder. They find a bullet wound to her head, but rain has washed away the bullet -- and all other clues. As more innocent doctors die, Luke's sleuthing leads him to a mysterious cult called The Visionaries. With no time to lose, Luke must infiltrate the sect and find the culprit before the bizarre shooting spree becomes an all-out massacre" (
Opinions: This series seems to be a fantastic cross between murder mystery, science fiction, and dystopian. It is set in a future day London where nature is reclaiming the city and slowly turning parts of it back into a jungle like atmosphere and where you risk life and limb just to step outside. It was intriguing to see the main character moved from the rural-like setting of the first book to future day London where he has to investigate a series of murders filled with reverse racial tension. 

Along with all of this sixteen year old Luke must face the pairing committee who will decide who his future mate is while he struggles to maintain a long distance relationship with his best friend.  I continue to be fascinated by Malc as a character, though he is a robot (or more precisely a Mobile Aide to Law and Crime).  He still works well as a Watson type character for the young Holmes (a.k.a Luke).

At times I did find some of the descriptions of the murder a little graphic for my personal taste, but I still enjoyed the overall concept and plot of the story as well as the series.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Pitch Green by The Brothers Washburn

This review is based of an Advanced Readers Copy (ARC). This book is scheduled for release on March 16, 2013.

Pitch Green

Title: Pitch Green (Dimensions in Death #1)
Author: The Brothers Washburn
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: YA Fiction/Horror/Paranormal (not sure quite how to classify it)
Rating: Love
Alerts/Warnings: Mild Language, Some graphic scenes surrounding supernatural murder
Premise: "Trona is a small, smoggy, mostly insignificant town in Colorado. Besides a booming chemical plant, the only thing that characterizes this dismal town is dirt, sagebrush, and an enormous abandoned mansion.

The mansion is, admittedly, the only notable addition to Trona, but it’s something everyone tries to avoid due to its creepy facade. Everyone except for Camm Smith, who is obsessed with the need to get inside.

Seven years earlier, as Camm herded a pack of little trick-or-treaters past the mansion, her young neighbor, Hugh, disappeared, becoming just one of many children who have vanished from Trona over the years without a trace. Now a senior in high school, Camm is still haunted by the old tragedy and is sure the answer to the mysterious disappearances lies hidden somewhere in the decaying mansion. Joining forces with her best friend, Cal, who also happens to be Hugh’s older brother, Camm naively begins a perilous search for the truth.

As things spiral quickly out of control, and others die, Camm and Cal discover it will take all their combined ingenuity to stay alive. An unseen creature, lurking deep within the bowels of the mansion, seems to have supernatural powers and is now hunting them. Making matters worse, they become entangled with hostile federal agents, who care only about keeping old secrets permanently hidden. Left with only their wit and seemingly ineffective firearms, they know they are running out of time. Unless they can make sense out of the few pieces of the puzzle they manage to unearth, the monster will certainly destroy them, and like so many others before them, they will be gone without a trace" (

Opinions: Once again I find myself reading, what I would define as, a horror novel.   It has the necessary creepy, grotesque description of death required for horror movies and books, but it has an impressive depth behind it. I loved the Brothers Washburn's ability to paint a picture with their words in an easy to read style. I enjoyed the mystery aspect of it, and I LOVED Camm as a character. She has a kind heart and yet grit and tenacity. I enjoyed Cal as well. He is the quintesencial teenage boy at the start, but through the twists and turns of the tail we find out much more about him.  I could have done without the murders and death, but it is a huge part of what the story is, so I may be an outsider in this opinion. I'm intrigued that this is a start of a serious and kind of curious as to where it will go. However, I have to weigh whether or not I can handle some of the imagery paired with my sensitive and highly-overactive imagination.  Warning: Parents may want to read this book first to determine if their sensitive child is prepare

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale

To read a review of the first book in this series from one of our contributors please click here: Austenland.

Midnight in Austenland (Austenland, #2)

Title: Midnight in Austenland (Austenland #2)
Author: Shannon Hale
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: Adult Fiction/Chick-Lit
Rating: Adore
Alerts/Warnings: Mild language (maybw 2-3 swear words)
Premise: "Divorced American Charlotte Kinder takes a trip to Regency staged Pembrook Park in Kent where she plays parlor games, learns country dances, and even lets herself be courted by her assigned suitor, the brooding, magnetic Mr. Mallery. But her vacation becomes more Northanger Abbey when she catches a fleeting glimpse of a dead body in a secret room" (King County Library).
Opinions: This book is a cross between Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey and a mystery novel by Agatha Christie. I thought it was well written, with a spunky heroine. I ADORED Charlotte and could most definitely relate personality wise. I could easily see myself in such a situation (if I were only a millionaire and could afford such an excursion and didn't already have one hunky fabulous husband who treats me better every day).  While voraciously reading this book I had several laugh out loud moments (and quite a few "You GO GIRL!" moments) where my family looked quizzically at me before shrugging and going back to their previous occupations. Overall, I highly found Midnight in Austenland a fun and energetic read that made me feel giddy and happy and content with the story at its end. And personally, I enjoyed it more than the original, but you will have to read it for yourself to see if you agree.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Understanding Your Child's Sensory Signals by Angie Voss

Understanding Your Child's Sensory Signals: A Practical Daily Use Handbook for Parents and Teachers

Title: Understanding Your Child's Sensory Signals: A Practical Daily Use Handbook for Parents and Teachers
Author: Angie Voss, OTR/L
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: Adult Self-Help/Non-Fiction
Alerts/Warnings: None
Premise: "A practical, daily application handbook for parents, teachers, and caregivers to help understand sensory signals versus behavior and how you can help! This user friendly "go to" handbook is geared for daily use and as a quick sensory reference guide. Enjoy the simple, organized format to give you the essential and useful information for over 110 sensory signals. The handbook provides simple every day sensory strategies and techniques to help ALL children; including SPD, autism spectrum disorders, ADD/ADHD, APD, and developmental disabilities. This handbook provides guidance and understanding as to why children do what they do in regards to unique sensory processing differences and needs" (
Opinions: Okay this book is simply remarkable. Two of my children have recently been diagnosed with developmental delays -- Sensory Processing Disorder and Autism. We have found wonderful programs to help my children build on their strengths and identify tools to help themselves to overcome their delays. However, my biggest struggle has been in regards to my role in their development. When my kids come home from their various appointments and schools I often feel overwhelmed by all the data I was given that explains what my children are experiencing.  Very  little made sense to me, and I wasn't sure how to do practical application as their mother with the information overload I was given. Then one day my daughter's Occupational Therapist showed me this book.  Oh my GOSH!!!! Is it ever fantastic. 

This guide is a hands-on tool for parents and teachers to help them understand what kids are experiencing as they are experiencing them.  This book breaks down by action what your child is doing at that exact moment, why they are doing it, what questions you need to consider, and then tells you what you can do to help your child.  For example, my daughter has difficulty processing all the sensory signals she was seeing and sometimes normal physical movements wouldn't register the same with her as other children. So she would repeatedly run into walls or objects to trigger a physical impact that she could register. Now that I have this book, when my daughter runs into something I look up the sensory signal from the list at the beginning and it leads me to the page that describes why this is occurring and what else I can have my daughter do to safely get the same sensation without damaging herself or my wall. 

This is a practical, handy, easy to understand guide that has changed the way I view my children and has helped me to feel a sense of control knowing that there is something that I can do to help my children.  I highly recommend this book to everyone, not just families with special needs. This book is great for teachers, administrators, parents, church leaders and so much more.  If you work with children and often wonder why they do some of the things they do, then this book will definitely help you.  As for me, I went out and bought my own $10 copy off Amazon to keep on hand. And, whenever I can afford it, I'm going to buy several more copies to hand out to. . . oh just about everyone I know and love.  It's that helpful and great.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Unbroken by Paula Morris

To read my reviews of the other books by this author please click here: Ruined, Dark Souls.

Unbroken (Ruined, #2)

Title: Unbroken (A Ruined Novel #2)
Author: Paula Morris
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: YA Paranormal
Rating: Fabulous
Alerts/Warnings: Mild violence
Premise: " Returning to New Orleans for spring break, sixteen-year-old Rebecca finds herself embroiled in another murder mystery from more than a century ago, when she meets the ghost of a troubled boy" (King County Library System).
Opinions: Depending on what library you frequent, this series of ghost novels maybe labeled confusingly. My library showed Dark Souls as listed as the second book in the series followed by Unbroken. However, Dark Souls is a different location, different group of people.  I looked up this author on another site and they show Unbroken as book two.  So here is my recommendation -- just read them all.  ;-) 

Unbroken picks up the story from Ruined.  Rebecca is back in New Orleans, a year later. However, where the first book took place over several months, now we get to enjoy a more intense experience as everything is piled into one Spring Break. This time she has to decide who to trust to reveal her secret -- that she is still seeing ghosts -- and has to help save one before his only chance of passing on is destroyed. I love being able to learn more about what happened after Ruined.  But I love even more this time around that she is not facing things alone. She has friends on her side, even if they don't understand everything she is experiencing. I loved learning more about the history of New Orleans, art history, and learning about Jazz Fest. My favorite part is Rebecca getting to open more about her New Orleans experience with her best friend from New York, Ling. Ling is FABULOUS and a true friend who brings a new depth to the story. I'm glad we could see more of Rebecca's "cousin" Aurelia again as well.

For someone who is frequently scared by her own active imagination and usually stays well away from scary stories I am finding myself reading more and more of them this year.  I'm impressed by the line up of authors who are bringing new light and love to a genre I usually stay far away from.  As for me...Paula Morris is now one of my favorite authors.  

One warning for parents - if you have a highly sensitive kid, then I recommend reading these books first to determine if your child can handle reading them. I really enjoyed this books, but I think it is because I am older and can separate a little better what I'm reading from my own life.  If I were younger I still might have earned a few good nightmares.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Dissension by Adrienne Monson

This book is scheduled for release February 23, 2013.  This review is based off of an advanced reader's copy of the book.

Title: Dissension (Blood Inheritance Trilogy #1)
Author: Adrienne Monson
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: Adult Vampire
Rating: Love-ish (I'll explain below)
Alerts/Warnings: Violence and Sensuality associated to Vampiric Behavior
Premise: "Fists are pumping, bodies gyrating, sweat dripping—booming music drowns out all other noise in the dark club. Leisha, dressed in skimpy, revealing clothes, eyes her victim. As soon as he sets eyes on her, she knows he's hers. He becomes excited as despicable thoughts of murder run through his mind, all readable by Leisha's abnormal senses. After a bit of small talk, they are soon both out the door, Leisha pushed against the wall. The man pulls out a knife, ready to cut up this beautiful woman. Leisha smiles as she deflects the knife and bites into his neck, sucking every ounce of life from this abominable man.

It wasn't always this way.

Leisha was once a loving mother with an ideal family. Though this was over two thousand years ago, Leisha still holds that time dear to her heart. But for now, she must focus on trying to escape the eternal and bloody war between her kind—the Vampires—and the Immortals, an undying race sworn to destroy her people. Soon, Leisha finds herself captured by the government only to be saved by a young and mysterious human girl. What entails is the beginning of a long and torturous journey as Leisha and her new found friend run for their lives while searching for the one thing that can end it all—the prophecy child."

Opinions: I am not one to read books about vampires, werewolves, monsters, etc for the most part (unless they are highly tame).  They give me nightmares.  I do not have the sentimentality, gumption, um....not sure the right word that I am looking for, to submit myself to such violence.  But I know Adrienne. So I read her book.  I LOVED it!!!! All of it, except the vampire parts.  Just kidding, sort of.  The "vampire" parts still creeped me out and just might give me nightmares, but not being an aficionado of vampire novels I cannot provide you with a comparison of those sections to like-minded books. 

Let me just say that I think the overall story is captivating, fascinating, and imaginative.  I love so many of the characters we are introduced to in this first novel of the Blood Inheritance Trilogy. My favorite, by far, is Samantha, the teenager who falls into the world of vampires when she meets Leisha (who is my all-time second favorite character).  I love quite a few others (but cannot divulge them as it will give away some of the plot) and there are a plethora that give me the downright creeps, but since that is the intention, then I think Adrienne does a fantastic job of it.  The tension of this novel kept me intrigued, and I enjoyed the pacing.

There are several suggestive sensual comments and suggestive violations on the part of some of the lesser altruistic vampires, but still not overly done.  They did make me uncomfortable, but again I am highly sensitive to books of such nature. So I will leave it up to you as to whether or not you are comfortable with them or not. So to sum up, I think this is a great story if you are into and can handle vampire stories.  As for me, I intend to snuggle up to my husband and put in a kids movie and hope I don't have nightmares tonight.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Dark Souls by Paula Morris

To read my review of the first book in this series, please click here: Ruined.

Dark Souls

Title: Dark Souls (Ruined #2)
Author: Paula Morris
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: YA Fiction/Ghost Story
Rating: Adore
Alerts/Warnings: Some descriptive images associated with ghosts
Premise: " Sixteen-year-old Miranda Tennant arrives in York, England, with her parents and brother, trying to recover from the terrible accident that killed her best friend, and while in the haunted city she falls in love for the first time as two boys, one also suffering from a great loss and the other a ghost, fight for her attentions" (King County Library System).
Opinions: As a twist, this second book in a series does not contain the same characters as the first.  I was slightly disappointed in this because I so desperately wanted to read more about what happened next after the first book. The surprise is, that even though this book takes place in a different setting, with a whole new set of characters, I loved it even MORE than the first book in the series. I was entranced getting to experience York, England through the eyes of the author, to learn its history, and so much more. I enjoy the various ghosts Miranda meets and the things that she learns about herself along the way as she strives to overcome a devastating past.  Along with her I wondered who was real and who was supernatural. I love the interplay between Miranda and her parents, as well as her brother Rob.  And Nick was an incredibly complex and intriguing character, but you'll have to pick up the book to find out why.  As I said in my previous post, I normally do not read ghost stories, but I must say. . .I am TOTALLY hooked on this series.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Griffin's Castle by Jenny Nimmo

Griffin's Castle

Title: Griffin's Castle
Author: Jenny Nimmo
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: Junior Urban Fantasy
Rating: Like
Alerts/Warnings: Might be a bit intense for children with highly active imaginations.
Premise: "After years of having moved around, eleven-year-old Dinah determines to make a huge, dilapidated old mansion into a home for her mother and herself, but the wild beasts she summons from a stone wall to protect her may also imprison her" (King County Library System).
Opinions: This book by the author of the Charlie Bone series is a sad, beautiful tale of a child trying to run away from some bad memories in her life. In the process, she learns that stone animals gracing a nearby castle begin to come to life for her.  Dinah learns about friendship and how to heal from her past sorrows and how to find a permanent home. The story is told in an omniscient point of view so to let us into the minds of, not only Dinah, but those who surround her as well.  Because of this the story feels more in-depth and we see the impact Dinah has on her schoolmates, her mother, and others.  However, it does tend to make it a little more difficult to become attached to the more frequent characters. Also, I have a highly active imagination so there were a few times that the girl's sadness, or some of the events she experienced made me a bit tense. As such, parents might want to read this prior to their children to make sure its something they could handle.  Overall, I liked the story, but I still much prefer the author's Charlie Bone series much more.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Ruined by Paula Morris

Ruined (Ruined, #1)

Title: Ruined (Ruined #1)
Author: Paula Morris
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: YA/Teen Fiction (depending on the library)
Rating: Love
Alerts/Warnings: Some scary images related to ghosts.
Premise: "A gripping supernatural mystery and romance set in post-Katrina New Orleans.

Rebecca couldn't feel more out of place in New Orleans. She's staying in a creepy house with her aunt, who reads tarot cards. And at the snooty prep school, a pack of filthy-rich girls treat Rebecca like she's invisible. Only gorgeous, unavailable Anton Grey gives Rebecca the time of day, but she wonders if he's got a hidden agenda.
Then one night, among the oak trees in Lafayette Cemetery, Rebecca makes a friend. Sweet, mysterious Lisette is eager to show Rebecca the nooks and crannies of New Orleans. There's just one catch.

Lisette is a ghost" (Publisher Summary).
Opinions: This is a fascinating story that takes place in location loaded with history. I was so spell-bound by the interesting facts/tidbits interspersed through the story about New Orleans and the various societies and backgrounds. I was intrigued that it takes place post Hurricane Katrina and talks about the effects the storm had on the people and how it's still striving to be rebuilt.  I was compelled by the characters and their depth and mystery and eager to find out more about them.  When I finished the book just now all I could think was "Holy Cow!" Maybe not the most reverent response to reading something, but I was flabbergasted. I always struggle at the end of any book wondering what the characters would do the next day in their lives just passed the words The End and most definitely do I find myself saying ". . .but what about this? and what about that? but but but but."  I am most relieved to have found out that this is only the first book in a series.  Book two is called Dark Souls and book three is Unbroken and I will most definitely be looking up my library to see if they carry them.  I want to know more. More about New Orleans, its history, its people, and the fascinating characters in this modern day ghost story.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Blackberry Crumble by Josi S. Kilpack

For my reviews of other books in this series please click here: Lemon Tart, English Trifle, Devil's Food Cake, and Key Lime Pie.

Blackberry Crumble

Title: Blackberry Crumble: A Culinary Mystery (Sadie Hoffmiller Series #5)
Author: Josi S. Kilpack
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: Adult Mystery
Rating: Like
Alerts/Warnings: None
Premise: "When Sadie Hoffmiller is hired by May Sanderson to investigate the death of her father, Sadie travels to Oregon and uncovers a complicated plot of greed, shady business dealings, and more than one member of the Sanderson clan with a motive for murder" (King County Library System).
Opinions: I personally had a rough time at the start of reading this book. Sadie runs into difficulty when someone from her past ends up painting her in a bad light, and I love Sadie as if she were part of my family. So I was peeved that someone would treat her in such a manner.  I mean. . .How dare they?  Shamefully, I admit that I returned the book to the library only half read, because I couldn't handle it.  (Blush - Yes I get that involved sometimes).  Being a new year, I decided to return to the story to see if I was ready to learn how it progressed. I am glad that I did.  I still love the characters.  I love this modern day Miss Marple placed in Colorado, but travelling the world helping to solve murders.  The more I read about Sadie's love interest, the more I am so happy he's a part of her stories.  Also, even though a certain individual toward the beginning of the book caused my temporary hiatus from reading this story, I was glad I went back to find out if the traitor was redeemed in Sadie's eyes or if Sadie would find herself traveling a similar path.  I definitely recommend this series for its fun characters, intriguing twists, and fantastic recipes.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Finished Being Fat by Betsy Schow

This book just released to the public on January 8, 2013.

Finished Being Fat: An Accidental Adventure in Losing Weight and Learning How to Finish

Title: Finished Being Fat: One Woman's Accidental Adventure in Losing Weight and Learning How to Finish
Author: Betsy Schow
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: Adult Non-Fiction
Rating: FABULOUS!!!!!
Alerts/Warnings: None (other than be prepared for lots of honest laughter)
Premise: "Not everyone can win the race, but everyone can finish it. In her quest to wish away an extra 75 pounds, Betsy changed her life for good. Using her Philosophy of Finishing, she snowballed her efforts from weight loss into a bucket list of seemingly impossible dreams. This inspiring account of one woman's journey will help you find the strength to conquer your most daunting goals and unfinished projects" (
Opinions: This is NOT a diet book!  This is a book about self-discovery and overcoming your own weaknesses.  I know Betsy personally, but I am still not biased. This book was fabulous. Major kudos to Betsy for opening her heart to the public to let us see her fears, her dreams, and her progress toward success. Betsy's honest, self-deprecating snarkiness is brilliant and fun to read and helps the reader feel like they are having a conversation with their own best friend. In fact, I felt so welcomed into her story that it was really hard to put the book down.

How can you not be drawn in by such statements like: When sharing a dessert, always assume that 90 of the calories are in the other person's half. Ghosts of Fat Past. Does God Have a Return Policy? And that's just a few chapter titles. There are similar jewels interspersed throughout the entire narrative causing multitudinous laugh-out-loud (LOL) moments. 

Betsy's open, honest, and hilarious story about her progression is so inspiring that the walls of reticence in my own life started to break apart. As a result, I now have my own list of self-evaluations I am doing and am more determined to be a finisher and not just a starter. Thank you so much, Betsy.  Please, please, read this book and then pass it on.