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.