Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Review: Strange Neighbors

Strange Neighbors by Ashlyn Chase
Genre: Paranormal
ISBN: 9781402236617
Published: June 1 by Sourcebooks Casablanca

Rating: DNF

Summary: (From Amazon) When nurse Merry MacKenzie rents an apartment in a historic Boston home, she's taken with her new landlord, sexy baseball pitcher Jason Falco, and intrigued by the possibility of a ghost on the premises. It doesn't take long to figure out that her neighbors are an odd bunch: a couple of witches who run a phone sex business, several shape-shifters, a werewolf, and a vampire in (of course) the basement. The scariest entity by far is determined reporter Lila Crum, whose pursuit of Jason knows no boundaries. Add in Jason's snoopy and decidedly nonsupernatural aunt and the good-natured fun never stops. Chase (Vampire Vintage) brings on plenty of laughs along with steamy sex scenes as Merry and Jason bewitch each other amid the supernatural mayhem.

Strange Neighbors sounded great and hilarious and promising… but there was this problem that got on my nerves. It had a horrible case of Exterior Monologue. All the characters—except Aunt Dottie, who said everything that came to mind anyway—said way too much. They told perfect strangers things they don't normally say, they're forward with everything, and it's too much.

Also, there seems to be a little too much plot. Jason is a shape-shifter, and a pro athlete, and is her landlord, and thinks she's beautiful. Merry is just out on her own, and looking for a fling, and a nurse, and thinks he's a hottie (which he is, but that's beside the point). Maybe if she was a nurse and he was an athlete, or she was just out of her house and he was her landlord… but mix everything together, and add ghosts and shape-shifters and vampires, and it's just too much. It's called Plot Overkill.

Please check out other reviews before making a choice on this one.

Review: The Wolf Next Door

The Wolf Next Door by Lydia Dare
Genre: Paranormal werewolf romance, historical fiction
ISBN:9781402236969
Published: June 1st 2010 by Sourcebooks Casablanca

Rating: 4

Years ago, William Westfield and Pricia Hawthorne were in love—but Pricia's heart was broken and she refuses to let the scoundrel forget it. She knows now that he never committed the accused crime… but she can't bare to give her heart to him again. Even though she wants to.

Will has established his reputation as the best lover in six centuries. And he knows he did it to get Pricia out of his head. He still loves and adores her, snotty remarks and spirited personality and rule-breaking attitude and all. But when he is forced to visit the Hawthorne house to escort his sisters-in-law, he discovers that another man—another Lycan man—is pursuing her hand in marriage. Will doesn't think: The games are over. He decides that he will do anything and everything to keep the other werewolf away, and claim her forever.

This was, out of the three Westfield stories, my favorite. From the time I started reading, I couldn't put it down. It was fast-paced, exciting, and romantic. Although can I say that the covers—for this one and the others—could have been better? Still, I loved the story.

Will has always been my favorite Westfield, because of his happy, funny, warm, laid-back personality… and I loved seeing him desperately in love, trying his hardest to charm Pricia's socks off. Pricia is my favorite kind of heroine: the kind that can hold her own, especially with five brothers. Put Will and Pricia together, and you have an epic couple: They love each other, they hate each other. But they only hate each other because they love each other… a never-ending circle, a never-ending conversation, and a never-ending story… but a very satisfying ending to the book.

The plot was a lot more exciting than Dare's other werewolf stories—not to say the others aren't exciting. But this one surpassed the others. The other Lycan threatening Will's happiness added a good conflict to the story. Pricia's execution of torture on poor Will was both pitiful and hilarious. There was a war going on between the two wolves, and a war going on between the lovers, and it made for a stay-up-until-3-AM kind of book.

One of the reasons this one was probably my favorite, was because it wasn't sappy. I'm not saying the others are: but there was this running theme of the woman telling the man she was in love with him, and the man not admitting it until way too late, and causing problems because of it. There was none of that in The Wolf Next Door. Will straight up told Pricia that he loved her. He told her father he loved her. He told his brothers, and her brothers, that he loved her. And it made their romance much better and much more believable.

Magic, romance, heart-break, rivals, witches, and true love…all tied together with a sweet, naive, innocent little devil, and a very handsome werewolf. This one is begging to be re-read.

Content/recommendation: Little language, some sex. Ages 18+

Monday, June 28, 2010

Summer Reads #1

Summer Reads is a new meme featuring several books, each with quickie reviews, that would be great for summer relaxation reading.

summerreads 

How to Knit a Wild Bikini by Christie Ridgeway
Genre: Romance
ISBN: 9780425221938
Rating: 3.5

Nikki's bad knee has ended her career as a chef, and she has switched to being a personal cook for a journalist of a very popular men's magazine. Jay Buchanan needs a cook for one month, and no more. He has sworn off women for the rest of the year (due to women being so darn complicated) and is hesitant to hire a female cook. Desperate to get the job and pay the bills, Nikki claims to be a lesbian so he'll hire her and not be worried about his "year-without-women" coming to an end. Jay agrees, as long as she pretends to be his girlfriend… to get the clingy girl-next-door to give him some space. Nikki is now a girlfriend-fake-lesbian-chef-with-some-benefits. Emphasis on the some.

Nikki is pretty sure she can handle one month of cooking for a rich, stuck-up, spoiled, gorgeous man, as long as she keeps their relationship strictly professional, and keeps up her facades. But she doesn't take into account the idea of Jay falling in love with her… and her falling right back. But Nikki has some ghosts in her closet. Can she let go of them and learn to love Jay?

How to Knit a Wild Bikini was a cute, slightly sappy, yet enjoyable read. The characters were likeable—definitely likeable, in Jay's case—and the pacing was good. The writing wasn't horrible but it wasn't anything spectacular.

I gave it an extra half a star because it was addicting! I couldn't put it down. The title and cover could have been better, since there was no knit bikini, only the mention of one. I wouldn't read the sequel, but I did enjoy this one.

It was, in some ways, unrealistic. Nikki had a lot of stuff in her past, and her reactions weren't always in line with them. It surprised me how much the author was able to put into this story. There were a lot of little "mini-stories" woven into it… it almost felt ridiculous, but then again it was still fun to read. Sometimes, for a summer read, you just need a book that let's you goof off. This is one of them.

There was a fun combination of an untouchable free spirited woman, a stuck-up but slightly desperate sexy man, and hand-painted knitting needles. This one is perfect for an afternoon on a couch with a pair of knitting needles (If you're talented enough to knit and read at the same time. It does take skill.)

Content/Recommendation: Some language and sex. Ages 18+

 

Staring Into the Sun by Joshua Fields staringintothesun2
Genre: Poetry
ISBN: 9781432759537

Rating: 3

Staring Into the Sun is a collection of poems that focus on love. Some of them were really sweet and cute, but others were hard to figure out. It's written so that the first line is one speaker, and the second line is the second speaker, but you're not really sure which is which until about the middle of the poem. At one point, it got confusing, and I wasn't sure if the person in the poem was straight or gay, and it threw me. I liked the poems, though. They felt like casual dialogue sometimes, and other times more intense confession. Staring Into the Sun is a light fast read (there's only about 40 pages).

 

 

Tall, Dark and Wolfish by Lydia Dare
Genre: Werewolf romance, historical
ISBN: 9781402236952
Published: May 4th 2010 by Sourcebooks Casablanca

Rating: 3.75

Lord Benjamin, the youngest of the Westfeld brothers, is a broken werewolf. He can no longer change in the light of the full moon. Horrified at himself, he seeks out a healer—a witch, although he isn't sure he believes in them—and comes across the beautiful Elspeth Campbell. But in order to let Elspeth heal him, he has to tell her everything. And spilling his guts to a beautiful Scottish girl isn't the easiest thing in the world.

Elspeth isn't quite sure what to think of Lord Benjamin… especially when her sister witch, a seer, claims that he will take her away from them forever. She vows not to leave them, but when she meets him… she begins to have second thoughts. Falling in love with him hadn't been part of the plan.

Tall, Dark, and Wolfish was really cute. I adored Elspeth: she was a fun, stubborn, slightly sarcastic character who was strong in herself. And Benjamin… poor broken Benjamin who lost his wolf-ness. I loved their interactions and I loved their dialogue. I especially liked the interactions between Ben and Will, his brother. They're just… great.

The writing was satisfactory… but the accents were great. Elspeth and her witch sisters spoke in their Scottish accents, and it was written with the accent. Although it was a little hard to read at first, you can catch onto the sound of their voices quickly, and it adds to the character.

I was pleased at the plot: at first I was wondering how Dare would stretch the limited romantic plot into a full length novel, but there were a lot of aspects and sub-plots that were woven in, making it an exciting fun story.

Although, all things considered, it was just a tad sappy. But not enough to make me put it down. I think I read it through from beginning to end in about four hours.

Content/recommendation: some language, some sex. Ages 18+

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Half-year mark!

We're halfway through the year 2010 (wow did that go fast or what!) and almost one year since I've been reviewing (September 1st is my starting date). WOOT! May or may not do a blogoversary since I don't really have any money to mail prizes… idk. I might do something. Maybe a swag giveaway or something handmade, since it's lighter to mail a handknit than it is to mail a pile of ARC's a mile high. (which, when looking at my room, it feels like I have a mile high of them… what to do!)

Here's the update/wrap-up-ish thing.

New Award from "Lovin' and Livin' Life in the 808:

VersatileBloggerAward

Thanks Chas!

Challenges completed:

  • Romance Reading Challenge: 5 books, finished February 20th
  • ARC Challenge: 18/12 so I'm moving up to the silver level! new goal is 24
  • Historical Fiction challenge: 8/6 so I'm moving up to the next level: new goal is 12.

Challenge updates:

  • ARC Challenge: 18/24
  • Historical Fiction challenge: 8/12
  • Vampire series challenge: 1/6
  • French Historical challenge: 1/4
  • Read Your Name Challenge: 0/5 (oh dear…)
  • Contemporary romance reading challenge: 8/10
  • Won Books Challenge: 2/6
  • 100+ challenge: 60/100
  • Audio book challenge: 3/12
  • Jane Austen challenge: 2/8
  • What's in a name challenge: 2/5

Ouch! some of these are depressing… hopefully after I get out of tours and schedules I'll catch up on those ;)

5-star update: 31 books! (not all of them are linked yet… check the label for the more recent 5-star reviews)

So there's my halfway through the year update…no I'm not linking every single review right now. I'll worry about working on my year-wrap-up during my long dull boring Christmas break this winter ;)

Suffice to say the year is going well.

and you? how have my wonderful readers been? ;)

Review: Uncertain Magic

Uncertain Magic by Laura Kinsale
Genre: Adult Historical romance
ISBN: 9781402237027
Published: May 4th 2010 by Sourcebooks Casablanca (first published March 2nd 1987)

Rating:       5

Roddy has a "gift"—or as she thinks of it, a curse—that allows her to hear the mind and feel the emotions of every human and animal on earth. Because of this, and her family history, she knows she will never be married, never have her own family… because what man wants every single thought and emotion on display for his wife? Past failed marriages in the family have shown her that her happiness is a hopeless cause… until she meets one man whom she does not have access to his thoughts and feelings. So Roddy takes things into her own hands. She realizes a little too late what kind of man she's gotten interested in her: Lord Iveragh. The Devil Earl of Ireland.

She carries out her plan, however, and he seems to like her enough to marry her. But The Devil Earl is hiding things from her… and possibly himself. Roddy finds that she can help him… but it will require more than she may be willing to give. If she doesn't, though, she will loose him forever… and maybe loose herself, too.

I loved Uncertain Magic. I wasn't sure what to expect when I started reading it. It was certainly a romance, and a very good one at that. But it was so much more than a romance novel: It was a clever blend of romance, adventure, historical events, family secrets, and Gaelic magic. The plot incorporated a rebellion in Ireland, smuggling, murder, and magic. There were horse races, escaping soldiers, and midnight balls with the dead.

The relationship between Roddy and Faelan (Lord Iveragh) started off a little random: a chance meeting, Roddy saving his horse from a heart attack, her pretending to be a stable boy and bragging on his employer (herself, of course) and Faelan seeing through it and embarrassing her. As it continued, I was a little surprised at the speed it progressed: They were married by chapter five. But them being married though the book was such an important aspect, that I understood it later. Of course, no marriage is perfect, and many romances are victims of happyland syndrome, where their relationship is so perfect that it's almost Holy.

Not this one.

There were misunderstandings, tears, heartbreak, scandals, possible affairs, redemption, and healing. And plenty of love-making.

With that said: the characters were great. Roddy was sweet and soft, but she had her spunk and I liked her immediately (especially when she took out a rude stableboy with a single kick). Faelan was, as his nickname describes him, a devil—but he was good that way. He was a little obnoxious, he had his sarcastic moments, and he certainly had his pride. He's the kind of dark secretive hero that everyone looks for… but with a touch of madness—or maybe magic—to make him even more mysterious. I love Roddy, I adore Faelan, and his mother (let's just say she never. shuts. up.) makes me laugh… the characters in this story are gems.

Just as I didn't expect the twisting exciting plot, I didn't expect the writing to be so good. It felt great to read, and the dialogue was easy to speak and felt natural. It flowed well, and was descriptive and lyrical. I liked the way Kinsale described Roddy experiencing everyone else's thoughts and emotions, and I liked the way she didn't over-describe everything—every little facial expression, every little movement—leaving out some for your imagination, but added enough description to allow you to see everything.

There were disappearing faeries and blind men who could see (try figuring that one out!) and missing chunks of time… all tied up beautifully at the end. Although it was, at first, a little confusing to figure out what had just happened on the last few pages, I loved the ending. There wasn't quite enough closure, but it didn't need to be closed: it was more like an opening for their new life together. After reading it, you know what will happen… so it doesn't need to be said.

This is probably one of my favorite books I've read this year, and it demands a re-read in the future.

Content/Recommendation: Some sex, mild language. Ages 18+

 

(Left: First published cover: ISBN:9780380751402
Right: Newly published cover. I can't decide which I like better! I like the people and the magic dust on the Right, but I like the scenic painting of Ireland and the light cascading down in the Left. I put them up because I think they're both pretty. The one on the Right, however, is the newest published one.)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Review: The School of Possibilities

The School of Possibilities by Seita Parkkola
Genre: YA Ages 12+ fiction
ISBN:9781402218354
Published June 1, 2010 by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Rating: DNF

School of Possibilities had a lot of potential… I loved the summary and the idea reminded me of The Girl Who Could Fly. But I didn't like the writing at all, and the style made it hard to read. It felt choppy and cold. It was almost like it was watered down for the younger age group, or like the main character, Storm, was muttering every word angrily under his breath. Maybe it was supposed to be that way, but it made for an uncomfortable read.

The characters, except Storm, were quirky and weird… almost too much so. I understand that the parents and the adults are supposed to be portrayed as the "bad guys" that are making Storm suffer through this, but it was almost awkward. It was like happyland syndrome but not happy: the same idea, but things were working out too negatively to be realistic, instead of the usual too positive. The dialogue felt forced and the characters felt fake. It was too frustrating to read.

This one will be passed on to someone who hopefully will enjoy it more than I did.

Unique phrases call for definitions

So I use phrases in some reviews that I've created myself, in order to describe an idea. I've only got a few now, but I'll update this list as I need to.

Happyland Syndrome: Happyland Syndrome  is a term my sister and I made up to describe a syndrome that occurs in some books. There are some books that have plots that works out too well. It's as if the characters life in "Happyland," where everything works out too well to be realistic, all the dialogue is perfectly thought out, everyone forgives each other and loves each other, and arguments are resolved too quickly. It's not a positive thing: it get irritating.

JMS or Jenny McGrady Syndrome: overuse of a phrase. Created after reading a book series by Patricia H. Rushford published in 1993 which features a main character named Jenny McGrady, who is always getting into trouble and always emotionally "getting slugged in the stomach."

Example:

Jenny felt as if she'd been slugged in the stomach.

(page 1, page 4, page 7, page 18 etc. page numbers are the example, not accurate.)

Fictional Preaching: a book that feels like a textbook. Sometimes it feels (may not always be the case) that an author wrote a book for the single reason of preaching their viewpoints through their characters.

(Example: a Christian Fiction novel that feels like reading a sermon).

May not be preaching: it may be a political viewpoint, or just information about a subject

(Example: A character who loves baseball may spend more time "teaching" the reader about baseball than needed).

Interior Monologue: the thoughts the character thinks to themselves.

Exterior Monologue: when interior monologue is made into dialogue. It sounds awkward and overdone, and too wordy, and has too much information. People don't say everything that comes to mind… at least they shouldn't. With Exterior Monologue, it's like they say everything they think.

Example:

"It’s just that I’m so happy to be outside for the first time in such a long time. I seldom left my room on the ship, and this is the first time I’ve been out of your house. Everything looks fresh and new.”

(pg 108, ARC, of An Earl to Enchant)

Should be:

"It’s just that I’m so happy to be outside for the first time in such a long time." She had seldom left her room on the ship, and it was her first time outside of his house. Everything looked fresh and new.

Plot Overkill: when everything that can possibly happen, happens.

Example:

Maurice is a lawyer, and she loves to knit, and she cooks, and she used to dance ballet. She falls in love with Jared, who happens to be a vampire, but won't tell her because he's afraid she won't defend him in court, because he got into a law suit involving a yarn store. She and he meet at a ballroom dancing class and discuss politics and French food while she helps him get fit—because she got a degree in physical therapy—and he wants to kill her and drink her blood but he loves her too much, so he decides… (and it just keeps getting worse).

Empty Scene: A scene where stuff happens but nothing actually happens.

Example:

a scene where the character thinks about stuff, washes dishes, does laundry, makes a phone call, and checks her e-mail. It doesn't help the story at all. It should be cut.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Review and tour: Thumbing Through Thoreau

I'm pleased to be a part of Pump Up Your Book's tour for Thumbing Through Thoreau, a collection of quotations by Henry David Thoreau.

Thumbing Through Thoreau 
Genre: Inspirational
ISBN: 9780982256541

Rating: 5

Kenny Luck began collecting quotations by Henry David Thoreau in 2006, as a college student. He became inspired by them, and decided to share Thoreau's inspirational words with the world.

There are quotes for everyone in Thumbing Through Thoreau, each one addressing something specific and important, but able to relate to many aspects of life. Some are clever and witty, others are simple truths that we often need to remind ourselves.

The beautiful illustrations combined with the artistic way the words have been printed and formatted create an enjoyable and inspirational way to consume Thoreau's best words.

This concludes the tour for Thumbing Through Thoreau. Check out the other tour stops for more reviews, guest blogs, interviews, and a giveaway.

Interview and Tour: Cindy Jack, author of All The Good Men

I'm pleased to have Cindy Jack here at The Life and Lies! Cindy is touring with Goddess Fish for her new book All The Good Men.

all_the_good_men_tour_banner_copy

Thank you for having me as your guest! I'm thrilled to be here :)

1.      Why and when did you begin writing?  cindy

I've been interested in writing as long as I can remember, but I didn't make an attempt to write fiction professionally until a few years ago. A friend encouraged me to submit a short story to an e-publisher. I really didn't expect the story to be accepted, but it was and ever since then I've felt like I found a home.

2.      What inspired you to write All the Good Men?

A random thought inspired the book while I was working on another novel. The phrase, “All the good men are either married or gay,” came up in dialogue and I thought, “Hey, that would make a funny premise for a book. A woman who sets out to prove this clichĂ© is true and winds up falling in love along the way. I jotted down the idea and tucked it away until I was ready to work on it.

3.      How did you come up with the title?

The title was originally, “Married or Gay.” But then I thought, that's not the sexiest part of the phrase that inspired the book and since this is a romance, the title should be sexy. I decided to change it to “All the Good Men,” about half way through writing it.

4.      What books or people influenced your writing? Was it positive influence, or negative?

I'm a big fan of the chick lit genre so authors like Marian Keyes, Candace Bushnell, and Helen Fielding. But even farther back than these writers, I loved the works of Margaret Atwood, Sheri Tepper, and Agatha Christie. Strong women shaped my literary background and I'm grateful to them for their work.

5.      How do you go about researching for your books?

I use a variety of sources. Sometimes I use Google if I need just a very surface understanding of a topic. In the case of the firefighter training scene in All the Good Men, I was fortunate enough to witness what's called a 'training burn' which is a fire set in a controlled situation for the express purpose of giving probational firefighters hands on experience. I've always had respect for folks involved with fire and rescue, but after witnessing the reality of what they face, I'm even more in awe.

6.      Did you base any of your characters on real people?

Often I do and All the Good Men is no exception. The two main characters are based on people very close to me. The heroine is modeled after my best friend in the whole world, Eva Elliott. And the hero is based on my boyfriend who is a firefighter. Though the characters definitely evolved into their own people, it was great to start with two people I know inside and out.

7.      What’s the most exciting part about being a published author? What is the hardest part?

The most exciting part is the wonderful opportunity to share my work with the public. I think of myself more as a storyteller than a writer, but to be a true storyteller, one must have an audience.

The hardest part has been trying to learn the art of self-promotion. Again, there's no audience unless people know my book's out there for them to read, lol. Luckily, I found the wonderful ladies at Goddess Fish Promotions and they've made the process of promoting All the Good Men easy and painless!

8.      Do you have any other books planned in the future?

Oh I do! I do! I have a short paranormal erotic romance coming out May 28th with Cobblestone Press under the pen name CJ Elliott. Also by CJ Elliott, I have a mystery/suspense novel titled Clean coming soon to Moongypsy Press. Recently, I finished a fantasy romance titled Desire starring the Greek/Roman god Bacchus. And finally, I'm working on another romantic comedy novel titled, Modern Love. So yeah, I keep myself busy, lol.

9.      Which of your characters is your favorite? Do you dislike any of them?

My favorite character is Todd Velvetine, the heroine's best friend, housekeeper, voice of reason, and at times, co-conspirator. He's based on a dear friend of mine who passed away a few years ago. I miss him so much, but it's nice to go back to the collection of short stories and feel like I'm visiting with him.

I don't know that I dislike any of my characters. Maybe Amy in All the Good Men, but it's not Amy's fault. She was created to be obnoxious. What's that Jessica Rabbit says? “I'm not bad. I'm just drawn that way.” That's Amy's problem too, lol.

10.  What advice can you give to young writers who want to publish their books?

First and foremost—write everyday. Professional athletes and musicians practice every day and so must a writer. And if you can, surround yourself with people who know more about the writing business than you do and learn as much as you can.

Be flexible in your vision of your work. Yes, every word you wrote in your first draft was perfect...at least to you it was. But you're going to have to collaborate with an editor and make changes. Edits are part of getting published so make your peace with them.

Don't take rejection to heart, but learn from it. And don't give up. With all the avenues open to authors today, if you stick with writing and hone your craft, you can be successful.

Just for fun:
1.      What are your ten most favorite things?

My son

My laptop

Belly dancing

Skittles

Red wine

A good mystery novel

Kittens

High thread-count sheets

My little red dress

Laughing

2.      What do you do when you’re not writing?

Most of my free time is devoted to my family. But when I'm not chasing after my son, I love to take dance classes (all styles). I also make beaded jewelry, sketch, paint, and crochet.

3.      Do you have any pets?

Just a betta fish named Speedy. He's the largest pet allowed in the apartment.

4.      What are your favorite (and least favorite) foods?

My favorite is pizza. I could eat it all day, everyday if it wouldn't send my cholesterol through the roof. And I love to make pizza from scratch. Yeah, I know I'm a nut. [Haleyknitz: haha you're not a nut, you're sane. We make our own pizza too!]

My least favorite food would have to be vegetables. Yes, all vegetables. I know they're good for me and I eat them to stay healthy and set a good example for my son, but if somehow I could never eat another veggie again, I wouldn't.

5.      Is there a specific place in the house (or out of the house) that you like to write?

Usually on the couch. I like to be in the center of things while I'm working. At times, I've barricaded myself in the bedroom and I'm more productive that way (especially if I turn off my internet connect, lol) but then I feel left out of the action.

6.      Do you have a specific snack that you have with you when you write?

Some kind of finger foods like pretzels or cheese and crackers. Strawberries are good too. Anything I can pick at that isn't greasy or sticky.

7.      If you could go anywhere in the whole world, either for a vacation or to live there, where would you go?

I would love to retire to Hawaii. I spent six years there as a child and went to college there. Part of me still thinks of the islands at home. And if I had to pick an island it'd be either Kauai because it's beautiful or the Big Island because it has a small town feel, but more room than Oahu.

8.      What was your favorite and least favorite subject in school?

My favorite subject was always art, English a close second. My least favorite was math. I was terrible at math because I found it too boring to concentrate on.

9.      What book are you reading right now?

I have two books I'm reading: Deep Water by Kayden McLeod and Turn It On by Vivian Arend.

10.  Tell us a random fact about you that we never would have guessed.

I'm a closet science geek. When I have writer's block, I love watching science and nature documentaries. I find them soothing.

Thank you again for having me here today!

Thanks so much Cindy.

Check out my review of All The Good Men here

This concludes the tour for All the Good Men. Cindy is giving away a signed copy of the book! To enter, leave a comment with your e-mail address. Goddess Fish will pick the winner.

Review: All the Good Men

All the Good Men by Cindy Jacks   
Genre: Romance
(buy link—available in Kindle edition)

Rating: 3.75

Summary: Dahlia is sure the hackneyed platitude is true: After a certain age, all the good men are married or gay. She feels her thirty-eight years put her well past that 'certain age.' Her best friend and her sisters dare her to put her fate where her mouth is. The terms of the challenge? During the month of October, she has to end her five-year-long man fast and go on dates with men of their choosing. Oh, and she also has to go out with anyone else who asks.

As the date disasters pile up, the vindication almost makes the torturous evenings bearable for Dahlia. But a handsome new neighbor, Jackson Carmichael, moves in, changing the rules of the game. Retired after twenty-six years as a pro firefighter in Boston, he volunteers with the local fire department, coaches a youth hockey team, and appears for all the world to be the perfect man. He just might throw a wrench into Dahlia's plan to die lonely and single...that is if she doesn't scare him away first.

All the Good Men has a great combination of quirky characters, hilarious situations, and witty dialogue.

I loved the characters. Dahlia and her sisters—who are all named after flowers because her mother adored flowers—are all so unique and funny in their own ways. Watching their interactions with each other was a hoot. I loved Dahlia's best friend, Fiona. She was almost a nice-bad-girl. Her father Jet was at first slightly depressing, but as the story went on and things changed for the better, I was pleasantly surprised. I loved the stories about the horrible dates she went on to satisfy her sister's dare. I loved her gay friend. And I adored Jackson Carmichael.

The thing that really made this story was the dialogue. The characters are included in that, but the dialogue was great because it flowed well, it matched the characters, and it was entertaining and engaging. The writing wasn't bad, but the dialogue was great.

The only thing that felt slightly off was near the end, as Dahlia and Jackson started to fall for each other. I guess I expected either more of an epiphany or a revelation from him, or maybe more of a conflict from her, but I was still satisfied. To that point, there wasn't a lot of conflict through the whole story. There were her problems with her dad, and there were her personal wars, but there wasn't a lot of tension between her and her man—outside of sexual tension… and her personal fear of scaring him off.

The end of the story had great closure, and left me with a very fulfilled feeling and a smile on my face.

Content: Some language, but not overwhelming. Some sex.

Recommendation: Ages 18+

Tour: Paul Is Undead

Summary from goodreads:

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, IT'S TIME TO REALLY MEET THE BEATLES.

For John Lennon, a young, idealistic zombie guitarist with dreams of global domination, Liverpool seems the ideal place to form a band that could take over the world. In an inspired act, Lennon kills and reanimates local rocker Paul McCartney, kicking off an unstoppable partnership. With the addition of newly zombified guitarist George Harrison and drummer/Seventh Level Ninja Lord Ringo Starr, the Beatles soon cut a swath of bloody good music and bloody violent mayhem across Europe, America, and the entire planet.

In this searing oral history, discover how the Fab Four climbed to the Toppermost of the Poppermost while stealing the hearts, ears, and brains of smitten teenage girls. Learn the tale behind a spiritual journey that resulted in the dismemberment of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Marvel at the seemingly indestructible quartet’s survival of a fierce attack by Eighth Level Ninja Lord Yoko Ono. And find out how the boys escaped eternal death at the hands of England’s greatest zombie hunter, Mick Jagger.

Through all this, one mystery remains: Can the Beatles sublimate their hunger for gray matter, remain on top of the charts, and stay together for all eternity? After all, three of the Fab Four are zombies, and zombies live forever. . . .

My review for Paul Is Undead is on it's way! Check out the other tour stops for some reviews and giveaways.

Rex Robot Reviews: http://www.rexrobotreviews.com/
What Book Is That?: http://whatbookisthat.blogspot.com
Books and Things: http://melissawatercolor.blogspot.com/
Revenge of the Book Nerds: http://booknerdextraordinaire.blogspot.com
A Musing Reviews: http://www.amusingreviews.blogspot.com/
I Heart Book Gossip: http://juniperrbreeeze.blogspot.com/
Taking Time For Mommy: http://takingtimeformommy.blogspot.com/
Books Gardens & Dogs: http://maryinhb.blogspot.com/
Jeanne's Ramblings: http://www.jeannesramblings.com
Pam’s Private Reflections: http://hip2bhomeschooling.blogspot.com/
My Guilty Pleasures: www.mgpblog.com
Wendy’s Minding Spot: http://mindingspot.blogspot.com/
Readaholic: http://bridget3420.blogspot.com/
My Life In Not So Many Words: www.ziarias.blogspot.com/
Gnostalgia: http://gnostalgia.wordpress.com/
Dan’s Journal: http://grumpydan.blogspot.com/
Just One More Paragraph: http://tweezlereads.blogspot.com
Lucky Rosie’s: http://www.luckyrosiescreations.blogspot.com/
Simply Stacie: http://simplystacie.net/
Booktumbling: http://booktumbling.com/
Life (and Lies) of an Inanimate Flying Object: http://haleymathiot.blogspot.com/
Cheryl’s Book Nook: http://cherylsbooknook.blogspot.com/
Maria’s Space: http://www.reesspace.blogspot.com/
Del Gal’s Book Reviews: http://delgalreviews.com/
A Journey of Books: http://ajourneyofbooks.halfzero.net/

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Ian's Mittens

I forgot to put this pattern up in February when I finished it… and how many of you are making mittens in June? probably not many.

However.

I'd better start on my Christmas presents now, because it'll take me up to Christmas eve to finish them

With that in mind: Here are Ian's mittens, a mitten pattern I designed for my brother after giving up the search for a pattern big enough for his hands ;)

Ian's Mittens

Masquerade!

I made Carly's masquerade cake a few days ago. She turned 15!

I am the official cake decorator in the family… so I made her this Diva cake.

DSCN0591 DSCN0587 DSCN0588

DSCN0589

I think those gold coated sugar balls are my favorite decorations in the world… so PRETTY! and they don't taste bad, either. Man that cake was good. really good.

Funny "making-of" video. enjoy my randomness.

 

So there you go.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Hehehe… it's Lindsay again!

Guess what, everyone! I'm taking over Haley's life again! Told her yesterday how she left hour a 3-month chunk of time in my book, and wouldn't let her do anything until she wrote it.

She wrote for six hours on Sunday…

Good times.

(I love torturing her).

Anyway, it's going well. I'm happy for the first time in about eight months. Maybe in a few more months she'll have book 1 done FINALLY and you'll have a chance to read it.

She did tell me to let you know that she's got a whole slew of reviews to post, so keep your eyes open.

But of course, my story is much more important… right? RIGHT?!?

take care.

Lindsay Murray

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Well that works so much better

I've just discovered Scribd: I'll probably be switching all my stories over to there. It's a lot easier, and tracks stats for you.

So if you want to read But Now I See (finished and uploaded) or the beginning of my new story, More than Beautiful, you can. I'll be uploading Lindsay Murray's adventures once I get them edited…which might take a while. They're all close to 100,000 words.

Here are the covers I made for them. Click on the covers to go to the story.

more than beautiful

bnis cover

Let me know if you read them. More than Beautiful isn't finished and there's only about 8 chapters up there now.

Review: Picture the Dead

Picture the Dead by Adele Griffin, Illustrated by Lisa Brown
Genre: YA Historical fiction
ISBN: 9781402237126
Published May 1 2010
Rating: 4

When Jennie's fiancĂ© dies in war and only his brother, Quinn, comes home, Jennie is heartbroken. She soon learns there is more to Will's death than she thought. She is haunted by his ghost, and by the mysteries left unanswered. Piece by piece she begins to uncover his secrets… and at the same time starts to fall in love with Quinn. But there is always more to a story when there are ghosts involved.

Picture the Dead had a lot of thought put into it. The mysteries presented and the way they were unearthed were fabulous—there were questions and surprises and answers that I didn't expect all the way up to the last page.

I liked Jennie, though I didn't like Quinn at all, even after she grew to love him. I had never met Will, since he was dead in the beginning of the story, but by the end of the book I felt I knew why Jennie had loved him.

I will say that the ending didn't have nearly enough closure for me, and I am left feeling slightly confused, though satisfied by how all the events played out.

The illustrations were very good, although I had a very hard time reading what was written on them. Hopefully in the finished copy of the book the words will be easier to read.

Content/recommendation: clean, mild language. Ages 13+

Review: Soul Catcher

Soul Catcher by Leigh Bridger
Genre: Sci-fi, Romance
ISBN: 9780982175682
Rating: 4

Livia hasn't had a perfect life—in fact she hasn't even had a good life. It all started when her father died when she was young, then got worse when her mother and baby brother died in a fire that she may or may not have started. She also starts painting pictures of evil horrible demons in her sleep, and is forced to burn the pictures and ban them… but one demon escapes, and comes for her.

She finds out that he had been pursuing her in every life—she's been reincarnated? what?—and has killed her every time for the past 200+ years. She also finds out that she has a soul mate, (who jumped into the body that the demon had used to hurt her, and now she can't look at him without getting sick) but has hidden herself from him in almost every life, subconsciously, because of something that happened in the past. She and Ian set off to find answers and to kill the pig-faced demon… for good this time. But this time ends up being the most dangerous life she's ever lived.

Soul Catcher was an addicting read. I would have read it in one sitting if I'd been allowed. It actually stuck with me all night and I'm pretty sure I dreamed about it.

I liked the philosophy of the world that Livia lived in. There were soul jumpers, like Ian and Dante, who could jump into any body he needed to be in at the time. There were soul catchers like her, who could banish dark spirits and talk to the light ones. The plot itself was very complex, and every chapter added something new to the story. One thing that made Soul Catcher stand out was how Livia and Ian's love grew. It wasn't immediate you're-my-soul-mate-you're-perfect-for-me kind of love. It was a lot more real than that. Livia starts by trying to avoid him at all costs, but ends up having to go on a trip with him to find out about their pasts. You could say they "bonded," or you could say that Ian finally got to her—even while he was in the body she hated passionately—either way, their love was real enough to be believable.

I really liked Livia, even though she had her downfalls and her insecurities. She was definitely the bad-ass heroine we know and love: slightly sarcastic, very obnoxious, stubborn as an ox, and head over heels in love but unwilling to admit it because she sees it as a weakness. Ian was a great character: he'd have to be to put up with Livia. He'd do anything for her, is dying for her to love him, thinks she is the most beautiful girl in the world—and even bends so low as to trick her into kissing him (she didn't appreciate that.). But he's all light-hearted, fun to be around, with a sexy Irish accent.

I really liked the ending. The whole story had good humor and good comic relief, but the ending was sweet, cute, and funny. It pulled everything together nicely, and left you with a smirk on your face. I say take it to the beach with an umbrella and lemonade. Or whatever other drink you like best.

Content/recommendation: some sex and sexual references, heavy language, ages 18+

Friday, June 18, 2010

Review: Babushka's Beauty Secrets

Babushka's Beauty Secrets: Old Word Tips For a Glamorous New You by Raisa Ruder and Susan Campos

Genre: Self-help, Beauty-cookbook

ISBN: 9780446555869

Rating: 4.5

Ruder's grandmother—Babushka, in Russian—seemed to have an answer for every ailment, and it was always organic and made from things in your kitchen. After years of using her Babushka's beauty secrets on herself and her grandmother's clients, Ruder moved to America and started using the treatments on the women in her salon. Now, studies have proven that the treatments that her grandmother used for decades are just as good or better than the ones in the stores, because they're more concentrated and have less chemicals and more organic material. 

The idea behind Babushka's Beauty Secrets is this: Instead of an expensive treatment that is not as concentrated or involves being eaten, getting soaked into the bloodstream, and deposited in the right place, why not just apply the vitamin or the mineral in high concentration directly to where you need it?

Babushka's Beauty Secrets has everything from foot scrubs to facial masks to hair treatments to acne treatments. There are treatments for eyes, lips, hair, hands, feet, and whole body. There are even waxing processes and shaving creams. There are recipes in here aimed for younger pre-teens all the way up.

All the ingredients in Babushka's Beauty Secrets are the ones you'll have in your refrigerator: Milk, eggs, mustard, mayonnaise, avocado, olive oil, etc. In one section of the book, Ruder compares prices of treatments and natural foods: the prices are hundreds of dollars difference, and they work better.

The only thing that bothered me slightly was the vagueness of some of the ingredients. When she says "milk," does it have to be whole milk? fat free? does it make a difference? Milk is an example, but there are other ingredients she mentions that are not specific. With so many chemicals in our food today, is there a specific brand that is best? is there a brand that we need to avoid? there is nothing in the book along these lines. In the long run, I think if it did make a big enough difference she would mention it, but it still raised questions for me.

Some of the specific things that Babushka's Beauty Secrets hits on:

  • Skin treatments that make your skin glow and look young
  • eye treatments for dark circles, crows feet, and eyelashes
  • lip moisturizers and colors
  • hair treatments for dandruff, dry hair, thin hair, oily hair, every kind of hair etc
  • feet treatments
  • treatments for cellulite and sunburns
  • one ingredient wonders

I was very impressed and surprised by Babushka's Beauty Secrets. Not only did I learn cool recipes, but I know now why each one works the way it does, because the reason you're using it is explained in the recipe. Basically, this book will save you a lot of money and educate you on keeping your body healthy. It's 110% worth the sixteen dollars—because you'll be set for beauty treatments for everything for the rest of your life.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Meme Thing

So I've stopped doing Mailbox Monday-ish memes, Teaser Tuesday-like memes and This Week at The Life and Lies, and… and every other meme that I thought was important in a book blog for three reasons:

1. After reading 200+ IMM posts, you honestly can't remember who got what, and you honestly don't care anymore.

2. They actually do take a lot of time to put together. I don't just remember which books I got in, so I have to go back and look at the review forms that I stick on the inside to see if the date I got them fell into this week. Why?… Because I don't remember anything anymore, that's why! (Haley stop yelling at your readers. You love their comments, remember?)

3. Do you really need to know what I reviewed last week, what I will review next week, and what I got in the mail? no, because you read my blog and you'll read the reviews I post. so we're going in circles. Stop ranting, Haley.

However, I'm going to do a new meme this summer only (June-August) called Summer Reads. summerreads

They'll be like mini-reviews and I'll post about more than one book in each post. I don't know how many I'll do per week, since this is totally out of the blue. But it'll be a fun way to promote summer books without you having to read a full wordy 1000+ word review on each one.

So let me know if you want to join me in posting Summer Reads.

Review: A Catch in Time

A Catch in Time by Dalia Roddy
Genre: Horror, sci-fi
ISBN: 9781605421032
Rating: 3, DNF

In one moment a global blackout occurs, and six billion humans become unconscious. During a brief yet seemingly eternal three-minute sequence, a series of catastrophic events occurs, and minds collide with truths hidden beyond the physical realm. With the reawakening comes a drastically and horrifically altered world—populations decimated and social order gutted. No one seems to remember the truth that has been revealed or that this discovery could destroy the human race—except Laura. Though even she has no knowledge of why the postblackout births are mutations or what is so wrong with some of the survivors.

The thing about a book is that it has to draw you in, then hook you, and make you want to read it. A Catch in Time was the kind that scared you into reading further, twisted your mind, and made you avoid it. Would it make sense to say that for this reason it was both good and bad?

Every time I opened this book, I had trouble putting it down. I liked it a lot—except for the writing and the characters. The writing was full of fragments and, in general, mediocre. I despise the characters. Few of them have any redeeming qualities, and after 100 pages half of them are not developed well enough to know them very well or be individual personalities. But the only character I like is the dog.

Maybe horror isn't my genre? Or maybe it was the fragments. repeated and pointless fragments. that got to me.

This review is copyright Haley Mathiot and Night Owl Reviews.

Review: They Almost Always Come Home

They Almost Always Come Home by Cynthia Ruchti
Genre: Christian Fiction
ISBN: 9781426702389
Rating: DNF, 3

Greg goes on a trip into the Canadian wilderness—and never comes home. But Libby was thinking about leaving him anyway… so should she care that he's missing? Should she find him? Libby sets off with her best friend and her step-dad on a journey to find Greg. But for Libby, the journey is more than to find her husband. It's a journey of faith.

They Almost Always Come Home had potential to be amazing. Maybe the ending was amazing… but I didn't get that far. The plot was great—there were a lot of different things woven together to make it complex. It was more than "husband is gone, wife isn't sure if she wants him back but she goes to find him anyway." There is a lot of complexity to the situation, and a lot of background to see how Libby got to where she is now. It was good, and I liked it. It didn't move fast enough for me, but it was still good and I liked it.

However, other aspects of the book took away from the story line, and the main one was the writing. I feel like I have more to say about the writing than anything when it comes to They Almost Always Come Home.

This book reads rather depressing. As I read it, I can hear the voice of the character in my head, feeling tired and broken and uncaring and bitter, and it's very emotionally demanding to read. Since the character is going through so much, I can understand why that is: that's how she feels, that's how you are supposed to feel. It certainly isn't a sit-by-the-beach-with-sweet-tea kind of book.

Also, occasionally (as in the case with every Meg Cabot book I've ever read) an individual has a great original idea for a novel. What they should have done, would be to find someone who could write well and let them write the story, and co-author it. But no, they insist on writing it themselves, even though they can't write. Sadly, this is the case with They Almost Always Come Home. In some cases the mediocrity of the writing doesn't take away from the enjoyment of the book, but in this case, it got to the point where it wore me out and aggravated me, and I had to put it down. After this happened several times, I never ended up picking it back up. The writing was made up of poor sentence structure, and the sentences that were actually sentences weren't organized very well. The interior monologue of Libby's thought-life was even less organized. Yes, I understand that our thoughts are not perfectly organized like Dostoevsky's dialogue, but Libby's mind was just hard to follow.

The other thing that took away from the book was the main character, Libby. I didn't like her. Maybe if I'd gotten to the end and seen her change (because I just know she's got to change—why else would Ruchti write a story like this?) then I 'd like her. But as it were, I was rooting for Greg. Poor Greg who was stuck with her for twenty-five years, and who got out easy (at least that's the way it looked from where I stopped). I know that isn't the way I'm supposed to feel, but I kept thinking "Libby… honestly…(mutters to herself)…" how can you read a book about a character that you don't like?

Again, this book had a lot of potential. Sadly I didn't enjoy it enough to finish it. I give it three-stars for the good pacing at the beginning, and the tangible emotions of the character (who I didn't like…?).

Check out amazon (as of today, 17 five-star reviews) and goodreads for reviews of They Almost Always Come Home. You will see that I am in the minority.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Lots-a-winners

Got some winners! If you see your name, e-mail me at haleymathiot@yahoo.com with your mailing address and the title you won, and I'll get it out ASAP.

estrella05azul won My Heart and Soul

Rheanna won the second copy of The Highest Stakes

If you don't e-mail me by June 21, I'll pick a new winner.

Thanks!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Review: The Eternal Hourglass and The Pyramid of Souls

Magickeepers: The Eternal Hourglass 
ISBN: 9781402215018
Rating: 4

Nick Rostov just wants to be a regular kid: eat pizza and cheeseburgers and ride his skateboard and chill all summer. But when he is kidnapped by the word's best magician, told that he himself is actually from a whole line of magic people, and he is to study all summer—all summer in school!—to learn to be a magician, he isn't too happy about it. Of course when he discovers the kinds of things he gets to do, like gaze into crystal balls and make hedgehogs and huge lions –and even his cousin Isabella—disappear, he figures it can't be all that bad, right?

But there's someone hunting him… or maybe something. The Shadowkeepers want to kill him. Then he finds out that he holds the key to what they want, and if he isn't careful, he's going to end up as Shadowkeeper lunch.

Magickeepers: The Pyramid of Souls
ISBN: 9781402215025

Rating: 4

Summary from Goodreads:

It was stolen from Alexander the Great. To keep it safe, Edgar Allen Poe bargained away his sanity. And somebody suckered P. T. Barnum to get their hands on it. It's the most closely guarded secret in the magician community. And it's missing.

What would you do to protect your family from an ancient pyramid capable of stealing your very soul?

Nick Rostov finally has the life he's always dreamed-and he'll do anything to protect it.

Nick has only now discovered he is part of an extended Russian family of magicians: the Magickeepers. He lives with his eccentric new relatives at the Winter Palace Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, where they perform daring feats of magic to a packed house. Real magic.

But Nick and his family face a new danger in the form of a stolen relic, the Pyramid of Souls. The tiny pyramid has traded hands many times throughout history. Its power can steal a magician's very soul.

Nick knows who took it: Rasputin, leader of the Shadowkeepers. Using his unique ability as a Gazer-one who can see into the past-Nick enlists his cousin Isabella to help him find it. Soon, the two are hot on the evil sorcerer's trail...until Isabella's soul is trapped by the very relic they're trying to find.

Nick will do anything to rescue Isabella and recover the Pyramid of Souls. But will it be enough to save his family?

Series Review:

I really enjoyed the Magickeeper series! It's written for ages 8-14, but even I got really into it and enjoyed it a lot.

The stories were both woven well, with plenty of mystery and suspense to keep you reading. Once I started to read, it was hard to put it down. I never knew what to expect and was always surprised. It was like walking through a fun-house: you never knew what was going to be around the corner.

My favorite characters had to be Nick and Isabella, followed closely by Isabella's pet tiger, Sascha. Sascha was just a really cool tiger. Vladimir, the hedgehog, was pretty cool, too. It was fun to watch Nick and Isabella together: they balanced each other well and would be fun people to be around. I wish they were real so we could hang out. Haley why would you want to hang out with thirteen-year-olds? Because they're magician thirteen-year-olds who can disappear and fly and look into crystal balls, and have more adventure in a day that I have in a month.

The writing was good and easy to read and easy to follow, but some of the structure was a little confusing at times. It didn't take away form the action and adventure, though.

I really liked the Russian culture incorporated into the stories. It wasn't overdone, but it was really fun to read the descriptions of the foods and the clothes and the decorations, and learn about some of the traditions. In the second book, The Pyramid of Souls, there was a lot of other cultures incorporated into it as well, because there were Magickeepers from Egypt and Nigeria and a Parisian clan, and Australians… so there were a lot of cool things that went on that we wouldn't normally think about—even in the world of magic.

I look forward to the next book in the Magickeeper series! The Eternal Hourglass came out in paperback on March 31, 2010 and The Pyramid of Souls was just published in hardback on May 1st, 2010.

Content/Recommendation: clean, and suitable for ages 8-16(-ish). I'm 18 and I enjoyed it, and parents would enjoy reading the books out loud to their kids as well!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Favorite Authors

Not in order

  1. Cassandra Clare
  2. Suzanne Collins
  3. Kelly Gay
  4. Jenny Han
  5. Caragh M. O'Brien
  6. Jaclyn Dolamore
  7. Sarah Dessen
  8. Sarah Sundin
  9. Beth Fantaskey
  10. Rachel Hawkins

Do you have a top ten authors list? Leave me a comment with the link.

to read or not to read

Isn't that always the question?

I regret reading The Hunger Games, only because Mockingjay and Catching Fire weren't published at the time I read it. Now, I NEED to read Mockingjay, and it's killing me.

I'm debating if I should read The Clockwork Angel, because if I read it when it's published, I'll want to read the others right away. So maybe I'll just wait until they're all published.

But then I don't have enough patience for that.

Anyone out there already read it? Tell me what I should do. Read, or wait?

Review: It's Not Summer Without You

It's Not Summer Without You by Jenny Han
Genre: YA, Romance
ISBN:9781416995555

Rating: 4

Everything changed after Susannah died. Her two sons, both of whom Belly loves in different ways, have changed. Jeremiah is older. Conrad is empty. Belly's mother is different. And Belly is different, too. After her painful break-up with Conrad, she isn't expecting to enjoy summer, she just wants to get through it. But when Jeremiah calls her and tells her that Conrad has vanished from summer school, she goes with him to find him… and try to make things write. But Conrad has his own agenda, and his own idea of what is right. Belly has to decide if she's willing to let her heart get torn and healed by Conrad's ever-changing emotions in relation to her—as changing as the sea at her summer house—or if she's ready to let go.

After having just finished It's Not Summer Without You, I'm not sure if I feel like smiling, or if I feel smug, or if I want to kill Conrad—or at least hit him—or maybe I want to kill Jeremiah, or maybe I want to cry. I think I feel like Belly. I feel sorry for her, that's for sure.

It's Not Summer Without You is beautiful in a painful kind of way. I loved the way the story was woven, but I'm not sure I liked the way it turned out. It's the kind of story that starts looking scary, because you know that in the end everyone is going to get hurt, and that someone is going to have to choose between two good things, and you'll never be completely satisfied with the choice. But then, maybe that's the way it is in the real world. That's what makes this story good: it's real.

I read it in one sitting, on the same day I got it, and I couldn't put it down. Just like The Summer I Turned Pretty, the main aspect of the book is the characters. They are what keep you reading, they are what makes you care about the book. I care about Belly, I care about Conrad, I care about Jeremiah. I just don't care about them in the same ways I used to.

The writing felt smooth, poetic, and lyric, but the entire book had a negative energy to it. It felt depressing to read. I don't feel like I just read a summer romance, I feel like I just read a sad book and I need a light summer romance to cheer me up. That's not to say I didn't like it, but it was rather depressing to read.

The whole thing, from start to finish, felt like a lost cause with a possible hopeful end—meaning Belly and Conrad would never be together again, everything is falling apart after Susannah's death, and nothing will ever be good again…unless, unless, unless—and I'm not quite sure if it had that end. It wasn't enough of an ending for me. There wasn't enough closure between the characters, I'm still not exactly sure what happened and where everyone stands, and the epilogue wasn't enough to decode what was being said. Hopefully, more was added to the epilogue in the finished copy of the book. That's the only reason I gave it four stars and not five: I didn't enjoy it enough. It was good, it was just hard to read and hard to enjoy.

All in all, I did like it, I liked most of what happened, and I liked how real it was. It's Not Summer Without You evokes real emotions because it plays out in the real world.

Content: Some language
Recommendation: Ages 16+

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Review: Once Dead, Twice Shy

Once Dead, Twice Shy by Kim Harrison
Genre: YA
ISBN: 9780061718168

Rating: 4

Madison Avery doesn't believe in fate—until a combination of fate and free will brings her to live with her dad (which her mom thinks is a good thing for her since she can't stay out of trouble at home), gets her a pity-date ("you got your boss to get his son to ask me out? what?"), and kills her (at her junior prom. On her seventeenth birthday. of all the luck.). Now, after having claimed the amulet of the timekeeper who killed her (which is the only thing that keeps her looking like she's alive), she has to learn how to live with death. If that's even possible.

But the dark timekeeper who killed her isn't happy, because she's got his amulet, and she's not all the way dead (just sort of dead). Teaming up with Barnabas—who may or may not be a fallen angel—and the light time keeper, Chronos (or Ron for short), a guardian angel (who she forces to guard someone else) and enlisting the human help of her ex-prom date Josh (who she didn't realize she had a crush on), she has to attempt to save her soul.

All in a day's work for a dead high-schooler… right?

This was the second time I've read Once Dead, Twice Shy. I still can't figure out what the title means. Whatever it means, it was a pretty exciting book. There wasn't a second of "down-time." Madison was always up to something, learning something, running to—or from—something, or saving someone. Every chapter had little pieces of the puzzle, and the way it all fit together at the end, was priceless, hilarious, and promising.

I will say that I don't like where the story picks up. I think Harrison should have actually included the beginning of the story, where she gets killed. I read it before I read this book and I would have been rather lost without it. It was a short story included in Prom Nights from Hell. I don't care if this is technically a "book 1" in the series. It should have been book 2, or at least had the beginning of the story included in it.

I really liked Madison. I liked her character (though not some of her choices—but hey, if I was a dead seventeen year old trying to keep her dad from knowing that she could bend time, I probably would have made those same choices) and I liked her interior monologue. She was serious enough to be nerve-wracking and exciting, but sarcastic enough to give everything a touch of comic relief. I really didn't like Josh in the short prequel to this book, but as his character began to be more clear, I really started to like him. I hope things turn out well between him and Madison. I would have liked a little more romantic tension between them, but what was there was clean and innocent—a little too innocent for Madison Avery.

I don't particularly like Kim Harrison's writing style. It's very casual, it has those dreaded fragments, and it's nothing out of the ordinary. However, her way of describing both physical images and emotional feelings was very good, and I could see everything, hear everything, and feel everything her characters were experiencing. As I mentioned above, I liked the comic relief. I also liked her lack of language through the story. Madison had her own set of "words" and phrases that she used that weren't offensive in any way, and it made the story much more enjoyable. However, the only word I can think of to describe her writing is mediocre, and that and the lack of tension between Madison and Josh are the only reasons I don't give this book five stars.

Content: clean of language, violence, and sexuality of any kind. Thank you Harrison, for writing clean YA fiction!

Recommendation: Ages 12+ to lovers of sci-fi, fantasy, and general YA fiction.

This review is copyright Haley Mathiot and Night Owl Reviews.

Book Drum Profile: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

I've mentioned Book Drum before, but not recently. Book Drum is a place where you can make or read book profiles. The Chamber of Secrets is one of the recently published profiles.

Book Drum

Here's the kind of things you'll find in a profile:

  • Bookmarks: Lines from the book and explanations, pictures, definitions, history, and videos to expand on them
  • Author bio
  • Detailed summary
  • Pictures, information, and facts about the setting of the story
  • Glossary full of words that may not be familiar
  • And, of course, a review of the book.

Check out Book Drum, and in particular The Chamber of Secrets profile. There are also lots of other profiles if you're ever doing a research report, a book review, or just reading the book and you come across something you don't understand.

If you'd like to do a profile, you can! Register here.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A quick update for those waiting for a review

A apologize, I have been extremely busy over the past few weeks between school ending, vacations not going the way we planned, pneumonia, and unexpected overtime at work. I know it sounds like an excuse, but the past month has been insane.

I have updated my schedule: I have listed the books I'll review in that month on the first day of the month, but that just means they'll be reviewed within the month. They're not in order. But if they're on that list, they'll come.

Unless something horrible happens and… oh I don't know. I die?

Anyway. Sorry for any extremely late reviews or weirdness.

But then again, with me, there is always weirdness.

ROCK ON HALEY

I just fixed my blog. I am so happy.
 
Like, you have no idea how happy.

See, now I can post from blogger, rather than using that stupid Windows Live Writer. That makes my life SO MUCH EASIER.

Ok. Party over. Get back to reading.

:D

Giveaway! $100 gift certificate to CSN Stores!

CSN Stores has graciously allowed me to hold a giveaway for a $100 gift certificate to any one of their 200+ stores!

Some things you may be interested in:

  • Platform Beds
  • Messenger Bags or laptop cases canvas messenger bag
  • A variety of shoes
    shoes2 shoe1
  • Some pretty amazing Wallets, purses, and handbags purse1 purse3 purse2







  • Bookcases and bookshelves!
  • Jewelry boxes
  • Furniture and home decor  
  • Lots of kids accessories like cribs, Diaper bags, car seats, games and toys
  • Cookware, espresso machines
  • Outdoor furniture
  • school and office supplies
  • And just about everything else.

Check out their 200+ stores! there's something for everybody.

 

The Giveaway:

  • USA and Canada only
  • I will announce the winner on the blog, so don't leave your e-mail address (unless you want more spam in your inbox, for some reason.)
  • Leave a comment telling me what you think you'd like to get with the gift certificate.
  • 5 extra entries (you don't have to leave 5 extra comments) if you post this button on your sidebar or in a blog post with a promotion blurb. (you can get total of 6 entries)
  • Do it all before June 30th

giveawaybutton1

<a href="http://haleymathiot.blogspot.com/2010/06/giveaway-100-gift-certificate-to-csn.html"><img style="WIDTH: 189px; HEIGHT: 263px" border="0" hspace="0" src="http://haleyknitz.webs.com/giveawaybutton1.png" width="10" height="10" /></a>

 

Thank you to CSN Stores for sponsoring this giveaway! Good luck to all of you

~Haleyknitz

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

test?

test

because my computer

is stupid.

Review: Latin Grill

Latin Grill: Sultry and Simple Food by Rafael Palomino, Arlen Gargagliano
Genre: Cooking
ISBN: 978811866606

Rating: 5

From Goodreads: Bold flavors, minimal ingredients, and a passion for flame! Discover a new spin on grilling, Latin-style, with more than 70 recipes by renowned chef Rafael Palomino, a pioneer of the fresh culinary territory known as Nuevo Latino. A little bit French, a little bit South American, this cuisine is huge on flavor! Bring a fiesta to the table with uncomplicated recipes for everything from grilled Caesar salad to Palomino's famous burger and deliciously simple desserts. Cooling ceviches and juicy cocktails such as Blueberry-Pisco Sours and Grilled Pineapple Mojitos make every meal a spicy sensation.

Latin Grill was amazing. That's really the only word I have to describe it. This book has everything: Salads, Meat, Shellfish, Desserts, and even Beverages. There's also information in the front about various grill-type-things like which kind of grill to use, what kinds of tools you need etc.

And the photographs… make me… drool. More than just hungry. drool. *wipes computer off* I've never wanted a salad so badly in my whole life. Grilled avocado on Caesar Salads, grilled Sea Scallops with Avocado and Apple, recipes for lamb, beef, chicken, even duck. It's hard to find a good recipe for Churros (with chocolate sauce!) Semisweet Chocolate and Coffee Brioche Bread Pudding… reading that one almost made me cry. There's a whole slew of lemonades and martinis in the back to top off a fantastic full-course grilled dinner… or just to go with your Sunday-night family barbecue.

Recommendation: hey moms, this would be a great fathers' day gift! There's a recipe in here for everyone.

~Haleyknitz
knitter

Review: Color by Kristin

Color by Kristin by Kristin Nicholas 
Genre: Knitting
ISBN: 9781933027838

Rating: 5

Color by Kristin is an awesome knitting book, great for knitters who love to design their own projects. My realm is free-forming to create patterns, so flipping through this book was a lot of fun and very inspiring. I have a passion for color, and this book made my mouth water and my fingers twitch.

There are 25+ patterns—very colorful patterns—and a variety of graphs in the back for creating your own variations. The patterns range from very beginner to advanced, but they all have similarities: using graphs, embroidery, and several colors to create beautiful knits. There are mittens, socks, hats, scarves, shawls and wraps, pillows, sweaters, ottomans… the list goes on and on.

In the back is a "designer sourcebook" full of ideas for color changing, stitch patterns, color mixing, edges and trim, and of course graphs galore. The graphs are sorted by how many stitches your project has to have: several graphs for multiples of 2 stitches all the way up to multiples of 30.

If you love color, love fair isle, or love creating your own unique knits, this is the ideal book for you.

~Haleyknitz
knitter

Bug's Adventure Series

Bug's Trip to the Store
Bug Goes Through the Maze
Bug Meets His Friend

by  K.M. Groshek

The Bug Children series sounded really cute, but I was dismayed when I read them. The stories are written in verse, but the verse isn't very creative and doesn't flow very well. There isn't much story to the books, and a younger child would lose attention before the halfway mark. The illustrations are nothing special, and look blocky and stretched in strange ways. Lastly, Bug didn't look like either a bug or a VW bug. He looked like a squashed banana.

Sorry to say I can't really envision many children enjoying these books.

~Haleyknitz
knitter

Copyright

All content is property of Haley Mathiot except where otherwise noted.

No reviews may be copied or reprinted except to quote, or with permission.

FTC

I do not post a disclosure on every blog post, I post them beside the title on my Reviews page. Click here for my Disclaimer. See Sources to see my suppliers of review copies.