Thursday, August 29, 2013

Imprisoned ~ Martin W Sandler (earc) review

Imprisoned: The Betrayal of Japanese Americans during World War II
Walker Children's
May 21, 2013
176 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon

While Americans fought for freedom and democracy abroad, fear and suspicion towards Japanese Americans swept the country after Japan's sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. Culling information from extensive, previously unpublished interviews and oral histories with Japanese American survivors of internment camps, Martin W. Sandler gives an in-depth account of their lives before, during their imprisonment, and after their release. Bringing readers inside life in the internment camps and explaining how a country that is built on the ideals of freedom for all could have such a dark mark on its history, this in-depth look at a troubling period of American history sheds light on the prejudices in today's world and provides the historical context we need to prevent similar abuses of power.

Imprisoned told a much fuller story than I was expecting. The internment of more than one hundred thousand persons of Japanese descent living along the West coast is an under discussed part of US history.

Sandler's book not only talks about the immediate lead up to Executive Order 9066, the attack on Pearl Harbor and the distrust of Japanese Americans, it also goes farther back, telling readers of the Japanese coming to America, establishing themselves as a part of American society and the discrimination they were already facing as immigrants. It gives a much fuller picture of just how much a part of the country those that were interned were. It also gives a much better idea of the hostility they were already facing prior to the US being at war with Japan and, then, how much they left behind.

The personal quotes from those imprisoned, or their children or grandchildren, made everything much more personal. I've read read - and seen - other things on the topic but it was some of the anecdotes in Imprisoned that both were the most resonant, that I think really helped me 'get it' in a way I haven't before.

The 'more' that was in Imprisoned that I wasn't expecting was how much, outside of the information about the actual imprisoning, of the internment camps, was in the book.  I knew, of course, of the racism that had to have been present, of the fear, for the internment camps to be possible. What I hadn't known was just how blatant it had been in some cases, how unabashed some public figures had been, even prior to Pearl Harbor and how obviously just absurd it was.

Just as important, however, was the other information the book provided: about the Japanese Americans who fought during World War II. (At least, those in dedicated Japanese American units, there were also some -- and this is not in the book, but in my personal history/knowledge -- who were in other units.)  Those who hadn't been in favor of the internment camps -- that there had been public and vocal opposition -- and some of what happened even during the war; what happened after the war when everyone returned home.

Sandler takes the book, the information further than I expected, but to a point where I think is not only logical, but also both a very good choice and appreciated. Imprisoned is a book about the betrayal of Japanese Americans during World War II but it's also about their lives both before and after that period. It doesn't limit who they are to only that time period. In Imprisoned we get a fairly full picture of their lives and how the years around World War II and their imprisonment affected them -- and how they used it to hopefully affect others and stop the same thing from ever happening again.

Though, Imprisoned is published by a 'children's' publisher, I don't believe it is only a children's publisher. It contained information I did not previously know, presented in a very interesting manner. One that anyone from middle school to adult should looking to learn about the subject should enjoy.

The photographs included added to the topic and made everything easier to imagine, and more real and personal.


Rating: 9/10




thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for my egalley for review

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

I Have a Dream & This Is the Day review

my review of This Is the Day was originally posted on April 3, 2013. It is being re-posted today for the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's August 28, 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech 

The speech was made during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and would go on to become his most speech:



re-post:

This Is the Day: The March on Washington
J Paul Getty Museum
February 5, 2013
128 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon
Getty page for the book

Tomorrow, April 4th, it will be 45 years ago that Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. It's another anniversary, however, that is marked in This Is the Day: The March on Washington: the 50th anniversary of August 28, 1963's March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

There's a foreword by Julian Bond that helps provide some historical background on the march's conception as well the behind the scenes preparations. It's only about four pages, but there was a lot in it that I did not know and found both informative and interesting. (Some can, of course, be blamed on my previous limited knowledge.)

The essay is by Eric Michael Dyson, author (of Holler If You Hear Me, among others) and Georgetown Sociology professor. He does a fantastic job of explaining how significant seemingly small things about the march were. Things that were obvious to those present and some now, but not to everyone. He also draws great parallels between the events - not just of that day - fifty years ago and those of today.

Besides giving me new information on things I thought I already knew about, it also presented things differently and/or in combination with things I hadn't thought about before. This Is the Day is a photo-essay, but its essay essay is great.

I appreciated Paul Farber's afterword for the bit of insight it provided into the artist and the taking of the photographs.

I should probably get to the photographs as This Is the Day is a photo-essay, right? Freed's photographs are a fantastic example of photojournalism. While there are also great, current examples, to be sure, there's something about black and white photography that I love. His composition is also really, really good. Shots are framed fantastically, even those that had to have been taken quickly.

The photographs on pages 18 and 19, each with the Washington Monument in the background, though quite differently have interesting composition and focus.

Freed was really in the midst of what was happening that day and you really get a view of who was there and what was happening. Much more so than from anyone who might have stood on the periphery looking in. I really like the the photographs are from the entire day, from before, during and after the march -- it captures the entire day, not only the energetic feeling of the 'while.'

The set of pictures from the 1983 march are a great inclusion, too.

My only critique of the book, interestingly enough, actually arose partially based on information in Dyson's essay. He talks about how they didn't include women . . . which helped me to realize that Getty Publications had no women contribute to This Is the Day.


As an aftersound if you will, I have a woman as my soundtrack song for this book:

Symphony Of Brotherhood feat Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr - Mri Ben-Ari




 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Unfed ~ Kristy McKay (earc) review

Unfed (Undead #2)
Chicken House
August 27, 2013
288 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon

** synopsis contains spoilers for Undead #1 -- my review is HERE **


They thought they'd made it -- survived the Cheery Chomp fiasco, escaped on the bus, held off the zombies, made it out of the castle alive, even found Bobby's mother. But when Roberta ("Bobby"), Smitty, Pete, Alice and Bobby's mother are picked up by another school's bus at the end of Undead, rather than being their salvation, it soon crashes.

Unfed picks up after the end of Undead with the students in a hospital that doesn't seem to be your ordinary hospital, not out of danger yet and without everyone accounted for.

from the synopsis:
But now Bobby's a prisoner in some hospital of horrors, with no clue how she got there. And Smitty is missing. What if he isn't cured after all? Bobby knows she's got to find him, even if it means facing Scotland's hungry hordes -- plus Alice's buckets of snark -- again. And this time, zombies aren't the only evil stressing her out. The brain-dead are bad enough, but how can Bobby stop the big pharma business behind the epidemic? Especially when her own mom works for the company?

Undead, the first book, did a brilliant job setting everything up to seem like it was all going to be neat and resolved, a nice, almost happily ever after before throwing in that twist ending. Unfed does a great job running with that. That start of this second book isn't what I would have expected and is, actually, a bit of a departure from Undead in many ways.

The tone is quite different with the tension ratcheted up a fair amount, along with more drama. There is still definitely the humor and wit that was present in McKay's first tale but things aren't quite as light. There is a different character arrangement to start, Smitty and Bobby had great banter in Undead whereas Bobby and Alice still have that but paired with Pete and lacking Smitty, it's a touch more serious. The situation here was already more serious, too.

That bit of drama, suspense, and 'what's-going-to-happen-to-them' really pulls readers in. You're anxious to find out not only how they're going escape the undead this time, but if they're going to get everyone back in one place, safely and if everyone is, really, on the same side.

Undead managed to do something that isn't always possible: have both threatening, real seeming zombies that truly were dangerous to the characters and fun characters with snarky attitudes. It works even better in Unfed. There may be a bit less of the humor, but that only fits with the development of the plot, with the undead already being known and a present threat to the characters. The characters have retained their personalities and what we liked -- or disliked -- most about them is back.

It was also great to see development of the zombies. They weren't a stagnant thing, or character of the story. How they changed I'll leave for you to find out when you read but it was an interesting bit of the story. It really worked well with the rest of the plot and made for a better tale.

I do hope there's an Unfed #3, I hope to see what happens after the end of Unfed!


Rating: 8/10




 thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for my egalley for review

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Distance Between Us ~ Kasie West review

The Distance Between Us
Harper Teen
July 2, 2013
320 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon

Caymen Meyers spends most of her life in the building that houses her mother's porcelain doll shop. Either downstairs in the actual shop working or upstairs in their apartment. It's lead to a slightly different life for the seventeen-year-old.

from the publisher's synopsis:
Seventeen-year-old Caymen Meyers studies the rich like her own personal science experiment, and after years of observation she’s pretty sure they’re only good for one thing—spending money on useless stuff, like the porcelain dolls in her mother’s shop.

So when Xander Spence walks into the store to pick up a doll for his grandmother, it only takes one glance for Caymen to figure out he’s oozing rich. Despite his charming ways and that he’s one of the first people who actually gets her, she’s smart enough to know his interest won’t last. Because if there’s one thing she’s learned from her mother’s warnings, it’s that the rich have a short attention span. But Xander keeps coming around, despite her best efforts to scare him off. And much to her dismay, she's beginning to enjoy his company.

The relationship is one -- even as a friendship -- that Caymen knows her mother wouldn't approve of. Her mother may make her money from people with money, but she does not like people; something of which she's never failed to remind Caymen.

But when Xander seems about ready to convince Caymen taht being rich might not be his downfall after all, she finds out money was more a part of things than she knew.



The Distance Between Us is a really cute contemporary romance. Caymen is a great main character who has not only an original set-up in living above a shop selling porcelain dolls, but she's also original in her character. I love her sense of humor
"A lot of people don't get my sense of humor. My mom calls it dry humor. I think that means, 'no funny,' but it also means I'm the only one who ever knows it's a joke." [pg 3]
and that it's actually present throughout the book and works. We don't just get one or two lines in the beginning or Caymen stating that she has a dry sense of humor, she really does. It makes for some fantastically awkward moments as well as some really funny ones. It also makes her different in a way that actually is different. (As opposed to all of the 'different' characters that are so similar they're becoming their own norm.)

In the beginning, there were times that Caymen was a bit reminiscent of Addie from West's earlier novel Pivot Point but that evaporated as the novel progressed. They may have had a similar voice or it may only have been two teenage girls from the same author. The stories did not feel similar.

The interactions between Caymen and Xander were great, right from the beginning. West has them interact in a very believable way. Assumptions and preconceived notions are all present. They don't immediately become different people, characters. Nor are they illogically combative. It's all very real seeming.

That reality is part of what creates the chemistry and has the reader rooting for things to work out, for the differences to be ironed out.

Towards the end there were a few, relatively, minor things that I would have liked to see resolved or explained just a little more. They weren't crucial to the main story but it still felt like those things were left hanging and unresolved.



Rating: 7/10




Friday, August 23, 2013

The First Affair ~ Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Kraus (earc) review

The First Affair
Atria Books
August 27, 2013
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon


Jamie McAlister has resigned herself to the fact that in this job market, her painfully expensive degree might only get her a position at Starbucks, when she suddenly lands a prestigious internship at the White House. Although she doesn't hit it off with the other interns—lockjaws who come from so much money that ten weeks without a paycheck doesn't faze them—she is eager to work hard and make the best of the opportunity while it lasts.

An unexpected encounter late one evening with the charismatic President Gregory Rutland seems like just a fleeting flirtation, but when he orchestrates clandestine meetings and late-night phone calls, their relationship quickly escalates. Jamie knows what she is doing is wrong: he’s married, he has kids, he’s the President. Yet each time she tries to extricate herself, Greg pulls her back in.

With the conflicted desires of the most powerful man in the world driving her to her breaking point, Jamie can’t help but divulge intimate details to those closest to her. But she must have confided in the wrong person, because she soon finds herself, and everyone she cares about, facing calculated public destruction at the hands of Greg’s political enemies, and—perhaps no matter how much he cares about her—at the hands of Greg himself.

From the co-authors of The Nanny Diaries and last summer's Between Me and You comes The First Affair, out next Tuesday. Twenty-two year old Jamie McAllister, the novel's main character is looking for a job -- any job -- and applying for anything available. It works.

She lands an internship at the White House, never expecting just how much the chance position will change her life.


The First Affair was not what I was expecting. I'm not sure I can specify what I was expecting, perhaps something skewed more towards a 'romance.' I like what the novel was, though. The story focuses on Jamie, her experiences and how she's viewing her life. How she feels about this post-college life of hers that is so different from what she expected it to be. And so different from that of so many of her friends.

We meet her friends, see her struggle with her relationship with Rutland and what it means, who to share what with. We also see some of the relationship with her family, including the odd dynamic her parents have with Jamie and her sister, one that's left her neglected.

The President is a character very much from Jamie's view of him and the interactions they have, not on his own. Married, with teenage children and experiencing current political problems, President Rutland has a bit of Clinton meets Kennedy feel about him, while still feeling like a new character.

While The First Affair isn't a normal romance, I like it better the way that it is. It would have been an entirely different novel, of an entirely different genre if the twenty-something character had thoughtlessly fallen for the married President of the United States. There is a sort of romance there, but there's also more to Jamie's character than you would at first expect and the power-dynamic between Jamie and the President unfolds in a very realistic way.

Nicola Kraus and Emma McLaughlin's newest novel, The First Affair uses the sensational 'President and an intern' story line as a base for a story with great relationships -- friendships, family relationships and personal growth -- and a bit of scandal along the way.


Rating: 7/10



thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for the egalley for review

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Waiting On Wednesday

Waiting On Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine

Seventeen-year-old Cassie is a natural at reading people. Piecing together the tiniest details, she can tell you who you are and what you want. But it’s not a skill that she’s ever taken seriously. That is, until the FBI come knocking: they’ve begun a classified program that uses exceptional teenagers to crack infamous cold cases, and they need Cassie.

What Cassie doesn’t realize is that there’s more at risk than a few unsolved homicides— especially when she’s sent to live with a group of teens whose gifts are as unusual as her own.

Sarcastic, privileged Michael has a knack for reading emotions, which he uses to get inside Cassie’s head—and under her skin. Brooding Dean shares Cassie’s gift for profiling, but keeps her at arm’s length.

Soon, it becomes clear that no one in the Naturals program is what they seem. And when a new killer strikes, danger looms closer than Cassie could ever have imagined. Caught in a lethal game of cat and mouse with a killer, the Naturals are going to have to use all of their gifts just to survive.
It's beyond fair to say I'm a little bit obsessed with Jennifer Lynn Barnes', or Dr. Jennifer Lynn Barnes since, in addition to writing these fantabulous young adult books and being all-around awesome, Jen also earned her PhD,
YA books. I adore them and news of their releases makes me so very happy.

I love, love the Raised by Wolves series -- you have to read Taken by Storm the third book if you haven't already (after reading the first two). Have to! I'm very serious.

I can't even give The Naturals too much thought or I'll get stuck on how much I want to read it and not get other things done today so we'll go with the vague !!!!!!! Does that work well enough for a 'Waiting' post? I hope so.

Disney Hyperion will publish The Naturals on November 5th -- add it to your Goodreads shelf
or pre-order from Amazon

What is it you're waiting on this week?


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A Fatal Likeness ~ Lynn Shepherd (earc) review

A Fatal Likeness
August 20, 2013
Delacorte Press
384 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon


"Oh, what a tangled web we weave"
-Sir Walter Scott, Canto VI Marmion


A mystery that explores the dark lives and unexplained secrets of the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, and his wife Mary, author of Frankenstein.

In the dying days of 1850 the young detective Charles Maddox takes on a new case. His client? The only surviving son of the long-dead poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, and his wife Mary, author of Frankenstein.

Charles soon finds himself being drawn into the bitter battle being waged over the poet’s literary legacy, but then he makes a chance discovery that raises new doubts about the death of Shelley’s first wife, Harriet, and he starts to question whether she did indeed kill herself, or whether what really happened was far more sinister than suicide.

As he’s drawn deeper into the tangled web of the past, Charles discovers darker and more disturbing secrets, until he comes face to face with the terrible possibility that his own great-uncle is implicated in a conspiracy to conceal the truth that stretches back more than thirty years.

The story of the Shelleys is one of love and death, of loss and betrayal. In this follow-up to the acclaimed Tom-All-Alone’s, Lynn Shepherd offers her own fictional version of that story, which suggests new and shocking answers to mysteries that still persist to this day, and have never yet been fully explained.
Though, I didn't know the exact origins of the Scott quote above, it kept running through my head as I read Lynn Shepherd's A Fatal Likeness (published earlier this year in the UK as A Treacherous Likeness.)

I've been curious about the story of the Shelleys since seeing some program on, I believe, Frankenstein and its creation several years ago. It also talked about Mary Shelly, Percy Bysshe Shelley, his first wife, those that were their with them when Frankenstein was thought to have been started -- and what complicated inter-workings all of their relationships had.

After knowing some of the potential scandal that was possible if what that version presented as fact was true, I wanted to see how it all could work together as a story. (It's why historical fiction can be more fun than just historical sometimes, you get it as a story.)

I found exactly what I was looking for in Shepherd's novel: a closer examination of the relationships between the characters -- so much more than I knew happened between them. While I knew, whilst reading it, that some of it wouldn't be true in the end, it was very difficult to tell just what. With so many characters (true, at times I did almost wish for some sort of a family tree somewhere due to the similar names) and attention to detail, both the fact and fiction felt equally real.

With so much developing, unfolding and coming together and apart, while I was completely drawn into the story -- unsure if the characters were quite as bad as the others seemed to be painting them -- at the end I felt I'd missed some things. I read them and I caught them all while reading, but so much happened and they were such big things that the way it came together at the end, with a few quite big events added in quickly and others ended almost suddenly, that after finishing it, I couldn't remember how some significant things concluded.

Charles Maddox is the completely invented detective character, back here in his second of Shepherd's novels, but he fits in with all of the characters who have 'true' backstories as if he were one of them. Though it is a follow-up novel and the second appearance for Maddox there was only one glaring time that I, having not read, The Solitary House (Tom-All-Alone) felt not fully abreast of the story. (You don't need to have read the first book to read this one.)

The writing style of A Fatal Likeness was not quite for me; or, rather, one particular part. The narration - which uses some second person plural (we, you) - pulled me out of the story sometimes with its mentions of modern day. The story is set in the 19th Century but there would be statements like, "What we know but Charles can't," or, "In the 21st Century, of course..." It may be a quirk of mine, but when I'm reading about 1850 London, I don't like the book itself, purposely, reminding me that I'm here in 2013 reading it. Whether it's to tell me I maybe should know of a character being mentioned, know about something medically or whatever. I like to be 'in' the story.

The Solitary House despite any small faults I found with it, was a very enjoyable read. One that if you're at all interested in the subjects, time period, or mysteries where characters' character is at the heart, is not to miss. It's one I will recommend.

Rating: 7/10







 




thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for me egalley for review

Monday, August 19, 2013

Did You See It?

If you got September 2013 Cosmopolitan USA magazine, with Nina Dobrev on the cover, in the mail -- or bought it -- then you may have seen something on page 198.

Excerpted in this month's magazine is The First Affair by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus*, authors of The Nanny Diaries and Between You and Me

excerpt in Sept issue of Cosmo

The First Affair will be published on the 27th (by Atria Books) and my review will be published later this week 


*who are way ahead of the Today show -- you'll know what I mean if you saw the Today Show today around 8:45 and read The First Affair ;-)

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Cinema Saturday - EPIC


Epic
20th Century Fox
August 20, 2013
PG for mild action, some scary images and brief rude language; 102 min
find info on IMDb/buy Blu-Ray or DVD on Amazon/or Amazon Instant Video
with Colin Farrell, Josh Hutcherson, Amanda Seyfried

A teenager finds herself transported to a deep forest setting where a battle between the forces of good and the forces of evil is taking place. She bands together with a rag-tag group characters in order to save their world -- and ours.
Featuring the voices of Amanda Seyfried, Colin Farrell, Josh Hutcherson and Beyonce, Epic is the newest animated feature from the creature of Ice Age and Rio.

Returning to her childhood home to try to repair her relationship with her father, Mary Katerine, "MIK," finds him still obsessed with finding the society of tiny people he believes live in the forest. A conviction he's held her whole life.

MK doesn't hold the same belief as her father -- until she finds herself a part of that hidden, tiny world.


The focus of Epic is on the Leafman and the 'good' of the tiny world within the forest winning against the Boggans, their survival.  There's action and adventure utilizing the surroundings - the animals, plants and the everything now is, relative to the characters. The Leafmen use hummingbirds in place of horses -- or, perhaps, if this had been another kind of fantasy tale, dragons. Animals that seem one way when we, humans, are larger than them, become something else to the Epic characters who are only a fraction of their size. It shows great imagination and takes viewers for a great ride.

The interpersonal relationships aren't the focus of the story, but provide both great background and depth to the characters. The distance between MK and her father is obvious - and logical. Despite their physical separation in the film, the emotional separation isn't forgotten.

The father/son-like relationship between two of the Leafmen parallels MK and her father's relationship very well and, subtly, moves things forward for both pairs.

Mub and Grub (Aziz Ansari and Chris O'Dowd), the slug and snail who are also part of the Epic journey provide fantastic comic relief, even when things are getting tense. With the Boggans closing in quite frequently, or the threat of them doing so, the jokes were a nice distraction. They were also funny - they were kid appropriate, but also funny for adults, as well.

A beautiful film that is conceptually just amazing, with a gorgeous world of brilliant flowers, lush green, and beautiful (when appropriate, rather not when that was appropriate) creatures, Epic is one not to miss.

The creators of Epic have imagined and brought to life the world amongst the trees and plants that I want to believe is really there.









seen for review thanks to Think Jam

Friday, August 16, 2013

EPIC - Leafman Cookbook & Outdoor Activities

EPIC - already out on Digital HD - will be out  on Blu-ray and DVD this coming Tuesday.

Check out the Leafman Cookbook -- it looks like fun, for kids and adults and perfect for the hot, (end of?) summer weather we're having:



Debuting on Blu-ray & DVD August 20
The Leafmen are always busy trying to fight against the forces of evil, but they need healthy foods to keep them running! Take a tip from them and make snacks for your little ones that use natural ingredients like fruits and vegetables.  These recipes are as fun to make as they are to eat and they’re perfect for little Leafmen!

From the creators of Ice Age, the year’s funniest, most exhilarating animated adventure comes home as EPIC debuts on Blu-ray Combo Pack, Deluxe Edition Blu-ray, and DVD this August 20 from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment. Directed by Chris Wedge (The Ice Age Franchise) and featuring an amazing voice cast including Colin Farrell, Amanda Seyfried, Christoph Waltz, Jason Sudeikis, Steven Tyler, Pitbull, and BeyoncĂ©, the blockbuster film comes home just in time to help families become one with nature and end the summer in Epic style.

Fruit Kabobs
Fruit kabobs are a simple way to give your kids the nutrients they need. Make it even more fun by cutting the fruit into fun shapes and whipping up a yogurt dip. The kids will love to help put the fruit on the skewers!
Apple Sandwiches

Make a sandwich without the bread! Remove the core from an apple and then slice it to make the ends of your sandwich. You can fill it with peanut butter and mix with granola or raisins. For an extra special treat put marshmallows or chocolate chips in the center!
Miniature Pizzas

Bake up some miniature pizzas on English muffins. Be sure to include lots of veggies as the toppings! Let your kids decorate their own personal pizza for a fun night in. They can make faces or designs with the toppings.

Butterfly Celery

You can really get into the Epic sprit with this one! Celebrate nature with butterfly celery snacks. Fill your celery stalk with cream cheese or peanut butter then create wings and antenna with pretzels, and line the body with raisins or peanuts.  These treats are not only fun to play with, but delicious and nutritious!

Banana Roll-Ups

Spread some peanut butter on a wrap and then roll up a banana inside for a quick and easy sandwich on the go. You can add jelly into the mix or leave it simple and speedy. Either way, this is a healthy treat the kids are sure to enjoy! 


and if you're not ready to quit the fun just yet, here's a an activity sheet about having a Backyard Campout -- which, despite the absurd number of mosquitoes, I've been thinking about having.

If observing nature (rather than sleeping among it) is more your thing, here's a sheet on how to make a hummingbird feeder . . .



Did you see EPIC in theatres? What did you think?  Will you be seeing it soon?


Leafman Cookbook & activity pages provided by ThinkJam for publicity of Epic 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Dare You To ~ Katie McGarry (earc) review

Dare You To (Pushing the Limits #2)
Harlequin Teen
May 28, 2013
456 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon

It all starts out on a dare . . . then it becomes much more.

Beth is keeping a secret. A secret that, if found out, would send her mother to jail and Beth, herself, well she's not sure where. So, for now, at least, she's stuck living with uncle.

Bailing Beth out of jail, Scott, her uncle, tells Beth she can move in with him and leave her life -- including her mother and Isiah -- behind, or she risks her mother's freedom. Willing to protect her mother above all else, She's living with an uncle who's been gone for years, an aunt who doesn't seem to want her around and spending a day at a school where no one understands. Except, maybe, for one guy.

Ryan seems to be the All-American guy. The all-star jock with the perfect family and great girlfriend potential. Except he, too, has a secret he can't tell anyone. None of his friends know his secret.

They do know the dare, though. It's just another one of the endless dares and pranks that they give each other to pass the time, not supposed to mean anything -- bot soon it does, leading to to so much more than Beth, Ryan, or anyone else could have ever expected.

The dare? For Ryan get the 'skater girl' who just walked into the Taco Bell to give him her number.


Like Pushing the Limits, Dare You To throws together two characters who don't seem to have much in common: Beth with her troubled life, her mother, and how she acts; Ryan with her seemingly easygoing life, love of sports and how he acts -- and throws them together.

The reasoning for the characters repeatedly having to spend time together, here, made sense. The explanation for Beth's not simply running back home worked and also explained why other parts of the story happened how they didn't. Yet, it kept her character from being complacent or just giving up. It was just enough.

Ryan's motivation wasn't quite as complex, but it still worked. It was logical and kept things flowing. As the story progressed and we found out more about the characters' pasts - and presents - their interactions developed more depth and emotion, both for Ryan and Beth and for readers. They were keeping secrets from each other but also, in some ways, from themselves.

'Dare' stories have been hit or miss for me since 10 Things I Hate About You (the movie, not the show). They can either go really wrong or really right. This one went right. Partially, at least, because the characters didn't have an immediate change of heart about each other. That such a large portion of the story involved them being adversarial towards each other -- while this was, still, a romance -- was a definite strength of Dare You To.

They had a lot to overcome, both individually and together and for Beth and Ryan to move past either their own issues or those they had as a 'couple' without due course would have been detrimental or flat our ruined the story. They took their time and it made for a great tale.

Pushing the Limits did leave things looking like Beth's story might go somewhere else, but after reading Dare You To it's clear that she did need this different story and I'm eager to read Crash Into You and see where Isiah's story goes.

Rating: 8/10


Soundtrack:  Bottle of Rain by Tony Lucca; Farmer's Daughter (Explicit Version) by Crystal Bowersox; Run by Pink




thank you to the publisher for the egalley via NetGalley


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Waiting On Wednesday

Waiting On Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine

It should be fairly obvious by now that I am a pretty big fan of author Alyxandra Harvey. I loved both her Drake Chronicles series books and the standalone Haunting Violet (which you should totally buy in ebook format right now because, well, it's great and also because it's only $2.51 right now - Kindle and Nook).

So, when I saw that Stormcaster the first book in a new series (Witching Season) out soon, t jumped to the top of my list for books that needed to be WOW'ed!

In 1814, three cousins-Gretchen, Emma, and Penelope-discover their unknown family lineage of witchcraft. Beyond the familiar manicured gardens and ballrooms of Regency London, a dangerous, alluring new underworld visible only to those with power is now open to the cousins. But unbeknownst to them, by claiming their power, the three cousins have inadvertently opened the gates to the Underworld. Now the dead, ghouls, hellhounds-and the most terrifying of all: the spirits of dark witches known as the Greymalkin Sisters-are hunting and killing young debutante witches for their powers.
And, somehow, Emma is connected to the murders...because she keeps finding the bodies. Can the cousins unravel the clues and mystery behind their heritage and power before their gifts are stripped away ...or even worse, another witch is killed?
Witches, family, paranormal creatures and historical fiction, all from an author who seems to do it so well? !!!!!!!!!!!

Stormcaster will be out January 7, 2014 (why so far away?) from Walker Childrens -- you can add it to your Goodreads shelf; pre-order on Amazon; or pre-order from Book Depository


(Book Depo and Amazon are calling it Moonlight and Madness: The Lovegrove Inheritance (Regency Witches) but Bloomsbury, Goodreads and Alyxandra Harvey's site have it as Witching Season Book 1: Stormcaster)


Download CHRONICLE and enter the Relic Revealed Sweepstakes from Soho Teen

Chronicle the ebook prequel to Heather Terrell's Relic -- the first book in the Books of Eva series -- is available now; you don't have to wait until the end of October to find out what the Fallen Angel author's new series is like . . . .

Click the CHRONICLE image below to visit the site where you can download Relic in epub, pdf or Kindle.

(Once you download the ebook, you'll find out about the sweepstakes Soho Teen is running for Chronicle and Relic where you can win the tablet of your choice!!*)

the synopses for both CHRONICLE and RELIC below

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Whistling Past the Graveyard ~ Susan Crandall review

Whistling Past the Graveyard
Gallery Books
July 2, 2013
307 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon


From an award-winning author comes a wise and tender coming-of-age story about a nine-year-old girl who runs away from her Mississippi home in 1963, befriends a lonely woman suffering loss and abuse, and embarks on a life-changing roadtrip.

The summer of 1963 begins like any other for nine-year-old Starla Claudelle. Born to teenage parents in Mississippi, Starla is being raised by a strict paternal grandmother, Mamie, whose worst fear is that Starla will turn out like her mother. Starla hasn’t seen her momma since she was three, but is convinced that her mother will keep her promise to take Starla and her daddy to Nashville, where her mother hopes to become a famous singer—and that one day her family will be whole and perfect.

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

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

So I love, LOVE this book. I was drawn to it to start with because of the age and gender of the narrator -- I seem to really enjoy novels told from the perspective of young girls, especially period pieces -- as well when its set.

Starla is a superb narrator and a fantastic character. Crandall takes full advantage of the youth and, at times, naivete of her storyteller. Especially given the time and setting of the novel. There's a lot happening in the 1963 South that might not get noticed or, perhaps, commented on by an older narrator or not as astutely as it does by Starla. All of the things that get her in trouble with her Mamie, all of her sassisng, give us readers a fuller story.

Yes, there are things she says, even sometimes to adults, that seem like they might get her in more trouble than they do but it gives better observations on the setting or what she's feeling, experiencing or what's happening than we would get had she been meek and/or respectful.

The racial dynamics, even those Starla's aware of, are very much apart of the novel. Though she's only nine years old, she understands that she's white and what that means for versus someone who's not - at least based on what she's been taught. The author does really well not playing it down, changing it to look better, somehow making it look better, or anything. It's was true so it is.

The relationship between Eula and Starla is real and honest and I just love it. We see so much growth from the both of them. They're both very unique characters who, at the start, are stuck in what the time and society allows for them, but, also, neither of them is quite adhering to what their 'role' is supposed to be.

They're not cookie cutter images of the period, but they're also not so far out of the norm that they don't fit. They're just great, real characters. Who needed each other.

It's being mentioned a lot with The Help and Whistling Past the Graveyard identifies a lot of issues and injustices facing African Americans in the 1960s as well, albeit mostly different ones as the setting is different. Plot wise, however, I think that To Kill a Mockingbird is one that fits better as Starla and Scout seem to be cut from the same cloth.

Starla reminded me, with her her 'sass,' her refusal to be that quiet little girl in the corner of a bit of Scout and also of Teaspoon from How High the Moon by Sandra Kring -- and not just because they all three have fantastic names and great fathers. She's not a character I'll forget soon

Whistling Past the Graveyard's story is absolutely heartbreaking at times, but it's also very uplifting and includes some of my favorite relationships and moments in a book of recent memory.



Rating: 10/10


Monday, August 12, 2013

Barry Lyga ~ Game (earc) review

Game (Jasper Dent #2)
Little, Brown Young Readers
April 16, 2013
517 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon

(may contain spoilers for Book #1, I Hunt Killers - review link)

I Hunt Killers introduced the world to Jasper (Jazz) Dent, the son of the world's most infamous serial killer.
 When a desperate New York City detective comes knocking on Jazz's door asking for help with a new case, Jazz can't say no. The Hat-Dog Killer has the Big Apple--and its police force running scared with no leads. So Jazz and his girlfriend Connie hop on a plane to the big city and get swept up in a killer's murderous game.

Meanwhile, Jazz's dad Billy is watching...and waiting.

Barry Lyta's I Hunt Killers (my review HERE), the first book featuring Jasper Dent, the song of serial kiler Billy Dent, was released in April 2012. It's sequel, Game, out this past April, also features Jasper working to figure out what his upbringing -- being  raised by one of the nation's most notorious killers -- means for who he is and how to avoid the seeds Billy tried to plant in his head.

Working to stay on the side of 'good,' Jazz is pulled into helping the New York police department try to catch the Hat-Dog Killer. But nothing's ever as simple as it would seem . . . and Billy's never far from Jazz's life.

Game does the same great job as I Hunt Killers with keeping the technical, investigation-y side of the story either very real or, at the very least, very real seeming. A lot of the story either involves or at least includes police and detective work so having it fit so well into the story was crucial.

Jazz's inner turmoil over who or what he is, is done very well. The 'Billy voice' he hears in his head, things his father either tried to teach him or sayings his father used to have, really gives the reader a great idea of Jazz's struggle. We continue to learn more in this novel about how Jazz grew up, how things happened. (I continue to hate Billy Dent a little bit extra for, Rusty, the dog, every time he's mentioned.) We also learn a little more about Billy in Game, too.

The fantastic Howie, Jazz's best friend with hemophilia and his girl friend Connie who's African American (worth mentioning only because her race is something the characters have to contend with) are both back. They're both great matches for Jazz. Though Howie does back down a bit more -- likely due to the fragility his hemophilia causes, Connie has fire and will go toe to toe with both of them on anything. They're personalities are brilliant matches. All three of them.

Game gives us some great character developments but it also has some superb plot, especially later on in the novel, that is not to miss. It will definitely leave you waiting, anxiously, on Book 3.

Rating: 8/10







received from publisher through NetGalley--thank you

Friday, August 9, 2013

Roadside Crosses ~ Jeffery Deaver review

Roadside Crosses (Kathryn Dance #2)
Simon & Schuster
June 9, 2009
397 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon

When roadside crosses begin to appear not in memoriam for someone, but as an announcement, a warning of an intent to kill them, it becomes Kathryn Dance's case. It's not an ordinary case, either. Details -- fear, phobias, schedules, anything -- that the victims thoughtlessly shared about themselves online are now being used against them.

The investigation leads Dance and Deputy Michael O'Neil to Travis Brigham, a teen whose involvement in a fatal car crash has made him the victim of online bullying and scorn. As they work uncover the real identities of the posters on the source of those posts, The Chilton Report blog, Travis vanishes.

Using the skills he's learned in the MMORPG, Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game, where he spends most of his day, he's able to avoid Kathryn. All while his potential victims continue to be under threat, some they're able to keep safe, some not.

With the distraction of politicians, her boss, family matters and The Chilton Report's blogger, Kathryn will have to unravel everything before she possibly loses her job.


Roadside Crosses is the second novel featuring Kathryn Dance, following The Sleeping Doll [my review HERE]. It does build a bit on the relationships established in the introductory book -- who she works with, her children, her friendships, her past -- and doesn't explain as much about her being a kinesics, or body language, expert.

The secondary characters are still present but it's more assumed that we know who they are and how they play into things. The kinesics work didn't seem to be as much a part of this book as it was The Sleeping Doll. It was still definitely a part of the novel, the plot just didn't call for as much focus on it this time. Or it blended into the story better.

The blogging, posting, really everything online was a big part of the plot. It was definitely done with a point and one that worked for the plot. It was written well to keep things from being dated right away and making the book dated as well. (The book was published in 2009 and it still works.) While in 2013 Dance might know more about the internet, etc she also might not. It's still a very workable plot.

One with a 'message' that isn't message-y but fits the story and characters while still being worth thought.

I missed some of the 'A to B to X' that we had in The Sleeping Doll. There wasn't as much mystery in this second book, or, at least, not as much fun unraveling and unveiling of the mystery. I still really liked the growth that the characters experienced and seeing them work together for a second book. I know I'll be reading the third -- and looking forward to another.

It was also nice to see that, though, the main character didn't understand the MMORPG or blogging, they weren't scoffed at or made fun of as in some books. They weren't revered, either, (as in some) but were an honest part of how things came together -- or apart.


Rating: 8/10



Wednesday, August 7, 2013

This Is Not a Drill ~ Beck McDowell review

This Is Not a Drill
Nancy Paulsen Books
October 25, 2012
224 pages
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It was supposed to be an easy way to get out of some class. A morning spent teaching first graders French and Jake wouldn't have to worry about his own high school French class. It all seemed so simple.

He'd even get to spend the time with Emery, his ex and the girl he's hoping to convince to forgive him.

And it was simple until the man with the gun walked into the classroom.

Brian Stutts, a young soldier suffering from PTSD, is embroiled in a custody battle but doesn't want to leave it up to the courts. He's going to take his son. And he's willing to hold the classroom full of first graders -- including his son -- along with Jake, Emery and the teach hostage until he gets what he wants.

Whether they get along or not, Jake and Emery are going to have to work together to keep everyone safe.


This is Not a Drill was released last October, before the shooting at Sandy Hook school in Newtown, Connecticut but it's pretty impossible not to think of that whilst reading it. The situation is quite different, but the children's ages are the same.

Beck McDowell does a great job having Emery and Jake as alternating narrators. We're able to feel their anxiety and fear but it also keeps things from being too tense and fearful. Their efforts to keep the children calmer, also keep the story there.

Despite the seriousness of the situation, its intensity and how focused they both are on the present, we still learn quite a bit about them, their past, and what went wrong in their relationship. It's very nice to get a fuller picture of their characters and to not have to entire book completely focused on the goings on of the classroom and the gunman.

The children are written very well. They have that naivete that's present at their age that both keeps the story from being horrible (with them being terrified the entire time) and is heartbreaking because of what you know they don't know as well as what will change for them.

The ultimate conclusion of This Is Not a Drill felt slightly anticlimactic. Possibly because of all of the build up to it, yet, also, possibly it needed to happen how it did but could have been written slightly differently. Or longer.

I appreciated that the medical issues present in the novel seemed to be treated with respect. The lesser known one was explained fairly well -- for the case presented, at least. It was also nice that there was a small note at the back about what to do if you experienced it.


Rating: 8/10


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Novella Review Roundup

A Dawn Most Wicked
Harper Teen
June 4, 2013
150 pages
add to Goodreads/buy for Kindle/Harper site
Something Strange and Deadly #0.5

Daniel Sheridan is an engineer’s apprentice on a haunted Mississippi steamer known as the Sadie Queen. His best friend–the apprentice pilot, Cassidy Cochran–also happens to be the girl he’s pining for…and the captain’s daughter. But when it looks like the Sadie Queen might get taken off the river, Daniel and Cassidy have to do whatever they can to stop the ghosts that plague the ship.

Fortunately, there happens to be a Creole gentleman on board by the name of Joseph Boyer-–and he just might be able to help them…
This prequel gives us Daniel's back story - or some of it. We meet him while he's working on the Sadie Queen, a haunted Mississippi steam boat. If you haven't read Dennard's first book with his character, you may be lost at the start of this novella. Though it's a prequel, things start out assuming readers know who the character is . . .

A Dawn Most Wicked is listed as number zero point five in the Something Strange and Deadly series, but really it's best as a 'go back and read it after you've read the first book' prequel type of book. It's a good read if you haven't already read Something Strange and Deadly, but it's much better if you already have -- if you know Daniel already and have some interest in him.

Verdict: A Dawn Most Wicked is an enjoyable read. A prequel that assumes readers know the character (ie have read Book 1), it's likely a lot more enjoyable if you've read Something Strange and Deadly but a good story on its own.

(Features a preview of A Darkness Strange and Lovely (#2) at the end.)
Rating: 3.5/5



The Prince
Harper Teen
March 5, 2013
64 pages
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The Selection #0.5

Before thirty-five girls were chosen to compete in the Selection...

Before Aspen broke America's heart...

There was another girl in Prince Maxon's life...

Don't miss this thrilling 64-page original novella set in the world of the New York Times bestselling novel The Selection. Also features a teaser to The Elite, Kiera Cass's hotly anticipated sequel to The Selection.
After how I felt about The Selection (my review-ish HERE) it may be surprising that I read this at all, but I was curious. And I actually liked it. Told from Maxon's point-of view we get a bit of lead up into the actual start of The Selection and see how he's feeling about the whole thing.

I do feel the synopsis is a bit misleading because it makes it seem as if the novella is mainly about this 'other girl' when really she just seemed to be one part of it, to me. Not a small part, sure but not the story, either.

I did like seeing Maxon as more than just The Prince as well as some of the lead up into the Selection. It made Maxon seem like more of a whole character. I may have to see what I think of The Elite.

While this one has a preview of The Elite at the end, I think it's one that could be read before or after The Selection -- if you've read The Selection you'll understand more but with the different character POV and being set at the start, it's good for those new to things as well.

Verdict: It's nice to see a bit more of who Maxon is here; how he felt going into the Selection. This one can be read before or after Book 1.

Rating: 3.5/5


Playing Keira
Harper Teen
May 7, 2013
40 pages
add to Goodreads/buy Kindle version /Harper site
prequel to You Look Different in Real Life
From a breakthrough voice in YA fiction comes a captivating digital-original short story, starring a supporting character from the novel You Look Different in Real Life.

The premise was simple: five kids living their real lives, with a new movie about them every five years. But that was before Keira’s mother walked out, and the cameras captured every heartbreaking detail for the world to see. Now Keira doesn’t even know what “real life” means – she only knows how to pretend to be herself.

Then she meets Garrett on a bus to New York City. At first, Keira creates a fictional identity and enjoys the freedom of being someone totally different. But as their brief connection turns into something more, Keira starts to see what life could be like if she just stopped pretending and accepted the person she really is.

I adored Jennifer Castle's The Beginning of After so I have to admit to having high hopes for her follow-up - and it's prequel novella.  Lucky for me and I suppose you, Playing Keira completely exceeded all of those expectations.

I loved Playing Keira. It's a fantastic little story all on its own. We're drawn into Keira's story, her journey on the bus and this new persona, this new identity she's creating. All the while wondering both why . . . and what's going to happen at the end of the bus ride.

Playing Keira is a great short story whether it's a prequel or not. Even if you don't plan to read You Look Different in Real Life (which, really, why would you not? But if you don't), do yourself a favor and read this. In, really, just a few pages we meet such a great character and learn so much about her, while still wanting to learn so much more.

There aren't a lot of contemporary novels with prequel novellas (at least, that I have seen) so I was surprised to see this one but so glad I stumbled upon it!

Verdict: A pretty amazing short story prequel or no. Great introduction to the character and some of the story for You Look Different in Real Life.

Rating: 4.5/5
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