Book Review: Every Ugly Word by Aimee Salter

Summary:
When seventeen-year-old Ashley Watson walks through the halls of her high school bullies taunt and shove her. She can’t go a day without fighting with her mother. And no matter how hard she tries, she can’t make her best friend, Matt, fall in love with her. But Ashley also has something no one else does: a literal glimpse into the future. When Ashley looks into the mirror, she can see her twenty-three-year-old self.

Her older self has been through it all already—she endured the bullying, survived the heartbreak, and heard every ugly word her classmates threw at her. But her older self is also keeping a dark secret: Something terrible is about to happen to Ashley. Something that will change her life forever. Something even her older self is powerless to stop.
 
Release Date: July 17, 2014
Age Group: YA
Source: NetGalley
Reviewed By: Kelli
 
Review:
Every Ugly Word really took me by surprise.  I thought, after reading the summary, that it was going to be a book about bullying with a small dose of magical realism.  And it was, but the magical realism element was really unique.  It had a psychological thriller aspect to it that kept me thinking about the story long after I finished reading it.

I am glad that the authors of YA literature are starting to write about bullying.  It is a very relevant topic, and worthy of inclusion in the YA genre.  I think that nearly everyone experiences bullying at some point in their life, whether they are the victim, the bully, or their friend is affected. 

Ashely is the target of two of her school's most popular kids: Finn and Karen.  For whatever reason---do bullies ever have a good reason for picking on someone?---Finn and Karen set out to make her life miserable.  And they succeed in full.  Ashley is depressed, constantly tortured at school and via social media, and can't even take solace in her mother's care: her mother thinks that the bullying is Ashley's fault.  To add to her desperation, Ashley is hopelessly in love with her best friend, Matt, who sadly does not share her feelings.  Matt's friendship is Ashley's only buffer in the storm of high school, and when Matt and Karen start to date, he becomes less of an advocate for Ashley, right when she needs him the most.

Just this premise alone would have made for a great, emotional read.  But the addition of magical realism: the fact that when Ashley looks in the mirror, she can see herself six years in the future, made this book so unique and intriguing.  I loved Ashley's interactions with Older Me.  They made me remember my high school years, which were not always great, and I remembered that desperate feeling of wanting to know that things would be better for me when high school was over.  Salter captured those feelings perfectly, and the emotions of both present-day Ashley and future Ashley jumped off the pages.  I found myself tearing up several times while reading Every Ugly Word, because of how invested I was in Ashley's emotional well-being.

The ending of the book really took me by surprise.  For most of the book, it was very clear which Ashley was narrating: the present-day Ashley or the older Ashley.  However, at the end, the two stories converged.  Twice, I actually had to flip back a few pages to make it clear which Ashley was the current narrator.  This slight confusion was the only thing I didn't love about this story. 

If you are new to magical realism, don't shy away from Every Ugly Word.  This book is a perfect blend of contemporary fiction with a dash of magical realism, and an emotional journey full of character growth.  I highly recommend Every Ugly Word and look forward to reading more from Aimee Salter.

 
 

Book Spotlight, Excerpt and Giveaway: Compass North by Stephanie Joyce Cole


In Stephanie Joyce Cole’s COMPASS NORTH, a desperately unhappy woman is thrust into a new life and a new identity in a small town in Alaska when she is presumed dead in a freak accident. She discovers that it takes more than a change of venue to reinvent a life.

 “Compass North is a must read book for today's generation of women (and men), defining their role in a complex and fast changing world.” – Grady, Goodreads.

 Find out more about COMPASS NORTH in this exclusive interview with Stephanie Joyce Cole!

Enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway:

Prize:  Grand prize 18" Sterling Silver Compass Pendant (US entrants only) Retail value $35.00. Runner-up prize $10 GC to Amazon or B&N (open internationally, winners choice).



Title: COMPASS NORTH

Author: Stephanie Joyce Cole
Author Location: Seattle, Washington
Genre: Women’s Fiction; Romantic Suspense
Release Date: December1st, 2013 (digital) April 1st, 2014 (print)
Pages: 224 pages
Publisher: Champagne Book Group
Format: Digital eBook, Trade Paperback
ISBN: 978-1-77155-008-6

Synopsis: Reeling from the shock of a suddenly shattered marriage, Meredith flees as far from her home in Florida as she can get without a passport: to Alaska. After a freak accident leaves her presumed dead, she stumbles into a new identity and a new life in a quirky small town. Her friendship with a fiery and temperamental artist and her growing worry for her elderly, cranky landlady pull at the fabric of her carefully guarded secret. When a romance with a local fisherman unexpectedly blossoms, Meredith struggles to find a way to meld her past and present so that she can move into the future she craves. But someone is looking for her, someone who will threaten Meredith’s dream of a reinvented life.

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Author Bio

Stephanie Joyce Cole lived for decades in Alaska. She and her husband recently relocated to Seattle, where they reside with a predatory but lovable Manx cat named Bruno. Stephanie has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Alaska, Anchorage. When she's not writing, she's hiking, creating ceramics, practicing yoga, traveling, volunteering and discovering new ways to have fun--and oh yes, reading, reading, reading.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
 
Excerpt from Compass North:
            This morning, when Meredith had woken, bleary-eyed and her throat dry, she buried her head in the soft pillow. Going home. She probed the thought gently, thinking about opening the townhouse door, sensing the silent whispers. Was it even home anymore?
            On their way to the Fairbanks airport, someone yelped, “Look, a bear!”
            Even though it was the last day of the tour, the bus still shuddered to a stop when anyone shouted out a sighting. Meredith had rushed with everyone else to the left side of the bus to squint at the distant-moving speck on the rain-drenched green expanse in Denali National Park, all the time thinking, Will he be at the airport? No, of course not. I didn’t even tell him my flight information. But he could ask Ellen. But no, he won’t be there. Unless he wants to talk about the divorce right away...
            “Wow, look at those fall colors!”
            At a scenic viewpoint, they all huddled together against the whistling wind and stared at the rolling tundra outside of Fairbanks, with its late summer greens, scarlets, and browns pocketed by hundreds of tiny lakes shining a deep navy blue in the weak afternoon sunlight. The stiff breeze carried the scent of trampled evergreens, wet earth, and the suggestion of still, boggy water. The bite of the wind made her eyes water and blurred her vision. She murmured some words of admiration, but her thoughts were far away. What will I do next? How could Michael do this to me after fifteen years?
            Meredith had found her fellow travelers to be a contented and congenial group, solicitous and moderately interested in their only single, and rather withdrawn, slightly nervous fellow traveler. They must have found her odd, she realized, her slender frame swaddled in layers of Florida cotton, while they had prepared for this trip for months, fortifying themselves in down parkas and carrying brightly colored backpacks. She was at least two decades younger than most of them. But they had been kind to her, and after the first few days they realized she preferred to be left alone.
            It was one of the last tours of the season, and though the sun often offered a bit of pleasant warmth midday, the nights drew in sharp and bitter. On the road to Fairbanks, they had driven through vistas splashed with streaks of red and gold stretching to a far horizon, and could see a fine new layer of snow had already dusted the lower slopes of distant, craggy peaks. The brief Alaska autumn had arrived, and winter already announced its intentions. But Meredith might as well have been traveling in the vast expanse of some flat, monotonous desert, for all the magnificence of the country registered with her.
            And now, as she exited the airport and stepped onto the curb, her travel bag held tight under her arm, her lungs breathing in the cool, crisp air, the bus looming ahead of her, the sound of a plane deafeningly roaring, coming closer…
            Later, she would wonder if she had seen the plane crash into the waiting bus. She didn’t think so. All she remembered was the noise, the terrible boom, then the fiery mass where the bus should have been.
             Screams erupted then, and voices wailing. Meredith couldn’t absorb it at first, that the bus heading back to Anchorage—the bus she should be on—had just exploded at the far end of the airport parking lot.
            She dropped hard onto the concrete curb in terror, sprawled into a sitting position with her legs awkwardly splayed in front of her. She watched in confusion as people streamed out of the terminal. The crowd pushed a few feet ahead, shouting and pointing and holding their hands to faces that wore masks of shock and horror, but the heat and flames kept them at a distance.
Oh my God, that’s our bus, everyone is on board, everyone is there...
            Jonas and Angela were right behind me. And Carrie and John were across the aisle...
            Oh my God. I should be on that bus. I should be dead.
            But I’m not.
         


Book Review: Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

Summary:
This is a book I wrote. Because I wrote it, I had to figure out what to put on the back cover to explain what it is. I tried to write a long, third-person summary that would imply how great the book is and also sound vaguely authoritative--like maybe someone who isn’t me wrote it--but I soon discovered that I’m not sneaky enough to pull it off convincingly. So I decided to just make a list of things that are in the book:

Pictures
Words
Stories about things that happened to me
Stories about things that happened to other people because of me
Eight billion dollars*
Stories about dogs
The secret to eternal happiness*

*These are lies. Perhaps I have underestimated my sneakiness!
 
Release Date: October 29, 2013
Age Group: Adult
Source: Purchased
Reviewed By: Kelli
 
Review:
I've been following Allie Brosh's blog for a while now (the incomparable Jenny Lawson recommended her) and I've been anxiously awaiting the release of her book.  I waited so long for her book, that I actually forgot about the release date; hence, I bought and read this book a few months after its release. 
 
If you're familiar with Allie's blog, her book will make complete sense to you.  Her writing is peppered with awesomely terrible illustrations.  At first, I found the illustrations distracting.  The more I read Allie's blog, though, the more they grew on me.  So much so, that by the time I read her book, I found myself looking forward to her pictures.  They are dark humor at its best, with a simple kind of attraction, and they complement her writing to a tee.
 
Allie writes openly about depression and her experiences with it.  The way she describes her feelings (or lack thereof) while depressed is the most honest and relatable description of depression I've ever read.  I found myself nodding my head so many times while reading Hyperbole and a Half.  Allie shares so much about herself, and I found myself really relating to her.  Her chapters on using fear and shame as motivators were some of my favorite parts of the book.  The chapters on identity were also so intuitive, deep and real, that my eyes teared up in recognition and compassion.
 
Hyperbole and a Half is also hilarious!  I laughed so much that my cat jumped out of my lap in anger (I was doing the rare belly-laugh and it was shaking my cat, which infuriated her).  I loved that Allie included so much humor in her book, right alongside the deeper chapters about depression.   
 
I read Hyperbole and a Half in one sitting, which is so rare for me these days: it was that good.  I kept saying, "just one more chapter" until I looked up and the book was over.  I immediately purchased a copy for a gift, and see myself giving this book as gifts in the future as well.  I highly recommend Hyperbole and a Half! 
 
  

 

#MORESELECTION


Most people know that I am a glorified book snob. If it isn't epic ain't no body got time for that is my motto. I am around teen girls a lot and they often try to tempt me with different books they are in to (to get me off task of course). A few months ago they were going on and on about a series. But what really caught my attention was that my non-reading, 16 year old sister was totally smitten! I started listening to them more closely as they awaited the conclusion book (The One). When it was delivered and my sister laid in bed and practically put a "Do Not Disturb" sign on her door I knew I was all in. If a series was getting teens like her, sign me up! Long story short and in another post... IT WAS EPIC and totally stalker worthy. I called Kelli and told her it was a must read (immediately) and that she had to review it because I was intimidated. It takes a lot to subdue this beast. Three days later and we were both in agreement that this was a Stalker Worthy series.

When Kelli and I fall in love with a series we tend to obsess, a lot. To be a Stalker Worthy series means that it has pretty much taken over our daily life, stolen sleep and has rendered our families hungry (because you know we don't feed them when we are in this book induced state).

When I am playing taxi to soccer practice or skateboard sessions I call Kelli as I drive. There are always themes to our conversations:
  • woes of raising little hellions 
  • work gossip 
  • quick rants
  • book chat (#duh)- this is the one that really gets us going! 
I mean, we range from acting as if these characters are real to planning (dreaming) how we might convince authors to give us more. Which leads into our stalker worthy series, today specifically, The Selection series by Kiera Cass. I mean, I started watching The Bachelor again because of this series. #influence #yourewelcomeABC

We started talking and even dreaming up the ways that Cass could continue the series. Of course I want(ed) more of  Maxon and America together. But we both wanted to know what was going to happen to the caste system! We were totally into figuring out ways to fix the problems. We also really loved Marlie.

So our conversation had to end and that was that. So we thought...

And then Kiera Cass gives freaking epic news that same day!!!

First, Cass offers a bonus epilogue for The One. Heck to the freakin' yes. Click HERE.

Then, the first 3 chapters of The Queen (which I of course pre-ordered immediately after finishing The One). Click HERE.

And finally, the bombshell. Watch below. 


Now you know why I am freaking out!


Dearest Kiera Cass,

Bring It.

Sincerely,






December 2014


image sources: personal, google.com & goodreads.com

Book Spotlight and Giveaway: Deadly Errors by Allen Wyler

Thriller Explores Biggest Medical Nightmare:
Deadly Patient-Care Errors
 
 
"A thriller that only a doctor could have written. Wyler's sense of the worlds of the hospital and operating room are unsurpassed. You'll feel as if you are right there."

--Michael Palmer, New York Times bestselling author of Miracle Cure and The Sisterhood

"Deadly Errors is a wild and satisfying ride! This is an 'up all night' pass into troubled places that only hard-working doctors know about, a turbulent world of trusting patients and imperfect humans struggling with the required image of perfection."
 
--John J. Nance, author of Pandora?s Clock and Fire Flight
 
 
A comatose man is given a fatal dose of insulin in the emergency room, even though he isn't diabetic.  An ulcer patient dies of shock after receiving a transfusion of the wrong blood type.  A recovering heart patient receives a double dose of medication and suffers a fatal heart attack.
 
Brain surgeon Dr. Tyler Matthews suspects that something is seriously wrong with the hospital's new 'Med-InDx' computerized medical record system. But he doesn't suspect that there's something murderously wrong with it.
 
As Matthews begins to peel back the layers of deception that cover the deadly errors, he crosses powerful corporate interests who aren't about to let their multi-billion dollar medical record profits evaporate. Now a target, Matthews finds himself trapped in a maze of deadly conspiracy, with his career, his marriage, and his very life on the line.
 
Once again, Wyler blends his unparalleled expertise as a world class surgeon with his uncanny knack for suspense to create a true 'best-of-breed' medical thriller. Deadly Errors is a lightning-quick action procedural that is destined to win new fans to the medical thriller genre.
 
###
 
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Allen Wyler is a renowned neurosurgeon who earned an international reputation for pioneering surgical techniques to record brain activity.  He has served on the faculties of both the University of Washington and the University of Tennessee, and in 1992 was recruited by the prestigious Swedish Medical Center to develop a neuroscience institute.
In 2002, he left active practice to become Medical Director for a startup med-tech company (that went public in 2006) and he now chairs the Institutional Review Board of a major medical center in the Pacific Northwest.
Leveraging a love for thrillers since the early 70's, Wyler devoted himself to fiction writing in earnest, eventually serving as Vice President of the International Thriller Writers organization for several years. After publishing his first two medical thrillers Deadly Errors (2005) and Dead Head (2007), he officially retired from medicine to devote himself to writing full time.
He and his wife, Lily, divide their time between Seattle and the San Juan Islands.
 
And, now, for the giveaway!  Thank you to Astor + Blue for providing the giveaway copy.  Anyone can enter to win an e-copy of Deadly Errors.  The winner will be notified via email and has 72 hours to respond and claim their prize.  Giveaway runs from 8/16-8/26. 
 
http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/5dfba6e130/" rel="nofollow">a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Book Review: With All My Soul (Soul Screamers #7) by Rachel Vincent

Summary: 
What does it mean when your school is voted the most dangerous in America? It's time to kick some hellion butt...

After not really surviving her junior year (does "undead" count as survival?), Kaylee Cavanaugh has vowed to take back her school from the hellions causing all the trouble. She's going to find a way to turn the incarnations of Avarice, Envy and Vanity against one another in order to protect her friends and finish this war, once and forever.

But then she meets Wrath and understands that she's closer to the edge than she's ever been. And when one more person close to her is taken, Kaylee realizes she can't save everyone she loves without risking everything she has....

Release Date: March 26, 2013
Age Group: YA
Source: Purchased
Reviewed By: Kelli

Review:
I've been a long-time fan of the Soul Screamers series, and I'm so happy with how Vincent concluded the series.  With All My Soul was my favorite Soul Screamers book. 

Kaylee is a great heroine: she is smart, strong, and loyal.  Her vulnerability lies in her refusal to let anyone get hurt on her behalf.  She is fiercely protective of her loved ones, protective to the point of putting herself in danger to keep others safe.  And that quality was never more evident than in With All My Soul.  Kaylee makes a huge sacrifice at the end of the book, one that surprised me in its intensity and severity, but it was the perfect ending to the series.

I loved the way Vincent wrapped up each character's story.  I love getting glimpses into my favorite characters' futures, and Vincent really delivered in that regard.  I also enjoyed Kaylee's character growth and strength.  She matured a lot throughout the series.

I can't put my finger on what exactly kept this series from being a stand-out series for me.  Maybe it was the fact that there was so much of a focus on high school, I'm not sure, but I did really enjoy the series, it's just not an all-time favorite for me.

I do recommend the Soul Screamers series, for fans of YA and fans of paranormal fiction.  I liked that this series features a somewhat unique paranormal species and had a different kind of twist to it.

     

Guest Post: Paige Strickland, Author of Akin to the Truth

Today we have author Paige Strickland here to talk about adopting pets.  Paige is adopted herself (her book Akin to the Truth is her memoir about her own adoption).  Welcome, Paige!

Greetings, Readers and Animal Lovers,

There's a reason why I’m guest posting about pets. Not only have I adopted animals of my own over the years and grew up with fellow adopted pets, I am adopted myself!  

Being an adoptee has given me a unique bond with my pets and the adopted pets of my friends and other family members.  Every fur-creature in my life came to me through random chance and or because I went to a place and selected ones with whom I /my family felt a special connection.  

Adopting a pet, like adopting a child, implies great responsibility and sensitivity on the part of the new (pet) parent.  Your home, even inviting and loving, is a completely foreign setting for the new addition.  Your recently adopted furry family member may be feeling overwhelmed with newness, uncertainty and change in routine. They may experience pangs of loss for former companions if they came from other human owners or lived with littermates and or their feline/canine mother.  Feeling insecure may be the reason for some inappropriate pet behaviors until the period of adjustment passes.

Even an animal coming to your fabulous home from a less than desirable setting might exhibit unwanted behaviors because of the change in their lives.  The old setting, good or bad, was their "normal".  It's the only thing they understood, but with consistency, persistence and lots of love, improvement will happen.

Many people adopt a new pet and already have other pets in their home.  Be sure to still spend time with your first pet(s), reassuring them that they are still an important part of your life.  You can possibly use an old towel or blanket and pass it between the first pet's living space to the newer pet and vice-versa.  Allow for supervised together time and time apart so that all animals can socialize but regroup in their personal spaces.

Years ago, I subscribed to Cat Fancy Magazine and read many articles by feline behaviorist, Carole Wilbourn.  Her blog is here:  http://www.thecattherapist.com. Wilbourn is a successful pet therapist who promotes methods for introducing new pets to existing pets in a household.  Her style of acquainting animals became known at "The Wilbourn Method"' and is now known as "The Wilbourn Way", because the scope has increased to greater forms of cat therapy, including Reiki.  

Every time my family has acquired a new kitten, I have incorporated many of Wilbourn's teachings when introducing pets.  We buy extra toys, spread the old scents and new animal scents among cats with fabric items like old socks and towels.  We may hold one pet and refer to it as the other pet's "baby", "buddy", "love" or something like that.  We time out the animals so that they can ease into their new lives together with a few breaks.  Depending on the personality and ages of your pets, this process can take a few days to a few weeks.  (We even did this when our human children were born, so that the animals could feel secure in our love and included in our changed lives.  We also used every opportunity available to teach our young children animal respect, care and understanding.)

Above all, as you transition a new pet into your lives, whether with an existing pet or not, remember that the animal(s) might regress until their worries subside.  In many ways they are like small children. They form attachments and have a limited understanding and fewer life experiences to draw from. Introducing a new dog or cat takes time and patience on everyone's part, but will enrich everyone's life with beauty, companionship and hopefully years of joyful memories.

Book Description:
Akin to the Truth is Paige’s own memoir about her adoption. In 1961, adoption was still one of those private and taboo topics. Not much identifying information was provided for adoptive families or for birth parents by the agencies. In Ohio, records were sealed forever. Adoptees and birth mothers were supposed to be thankful for the adoptive family and never look back. Adoptive parents thought their deal was signed and sealed.

As a child and teenager, growing up adopted was like a Scarlet Letter "A" if anyone ever found out the truth. At least, that's the way author, Paige Strickland felt as she muddled through social situations and other interpersonal relations. She always loved her adoptive family, but realized she wanted not just more, but what other "regular born" people had: real roots, accurate health history and authentic family lore. She wanted freedom from shame, more dignity, authenticity and a full identity.

Then, through random chance, a local TV talk show in 1987 revealed that certain records were open if you were born before 1964 in the state of Ohio, and the author's life would never be the same after that program.

During her quest, (pre computer), for her identity, her adoptive father struggled with his own self image and sense of belonging, so both father and daughter embarked on separate and unique parallel missions to find what was missing in their lives.

This is the story of how being adopted affected Paige growing up in the 1960s, 70s and early 80s. It shows how one adoptee has embraced and learned to view family more globally. She tells the saga of a loving but dysfunctional family of both blood and choice, trying to cope with typical and not so typical life alterations during the decades of social revolution and free love. She learns that the most fascinating family stories are discovered by those passionate enough to question and search.

Paperback: 285 pages
Publisher: Idealized Apps, LLC (September 8, 2013)
AISN: B00F28TM86
Twitter Hashtag: #AkinStrickland

About the Author:

Paige Adams Strickland, a teacher and writer from Cincinnati, Ohio, is married with two daughters. Her first book, Akin to the Truth: A Memoir of Adoption and Identity, is about growing up in the 1960s-80s (Baby-Scoop Era) and searching for her first identity. It is also the story of her adoptive family and in particular her father’s struggles to figure out his place in the world while Paige strives to find hers. After hours she enjoys family and friends, pets, reading, Zumba ™ Fitness, gardening and baseball.
Finding Paige online:
Akin to the Truth Website - http://www.akintothetruth.com/
 

 
 

Children's Series Review: The "If You Give..." series by Laura Numeroff and Felicia Bond


Summary for If You Give A Mouse A Cookie:
If a hungry little traveler shows up at your house, you might want to give him a cookie. If you give him a cookie, he's going to ask for a glass of milk. He'll want to look in a mirror to make sure he doesn't have a milk mustache, and then he'll ask for a pair of scissors to give himself a trim....

The consequences of giving a cookie to this energetic mouse run the young host ragged, but young readers will come away smiling at the antics that tumble like dominoes through the pages of this delightful picture book.
Release Date: 1985 (!)
Age Group: 4-8 years
Source: Gift
Reviewed By: Kelli
 
Review:
Kaitlyn received If You Give a Mouse a Cookie and If You Give a Pig a Pancake from Aunt Kari and Uncle Andrew for Christmas this year.  Can I just say that I think that books make the absolute best gifts?  Thank you, Aunt Kari and Uncle Andrew! Once I saw the covers, I remembered these books from my childhood, and I was so happy to rediscover them with Kaitlyn. 
 
I'm so grateful to Kari for her thoughtful gift because these two If You Give books got Kaitlyn interested in picture books!  I think I'm enjoying this stage of Kaitlyn's reading journey just as much as she is.  I'd gotten so tired of the babyish board books, just because most of them don't have a real story line and are boring for me to read.  I've found myself looking forward to our daily reading time (one to two hours per day), instead of mentally cringing when Kaitlyn would pull down a stack of board books for me to read to her.   
 
The If You Give series is addictive.  It's hard to read just one of these books at a time.  The books are quirky, imaginative, and just plain fun.  The story moves quickly, which keeps Kaitlyn's interest piqued.  She's always surprised at the direction the story will take. 
 
The illustrations are elegantly simple and timeless.  I love how the text is placed within the illustrations.  The text isn't placed on the same spot on every page; instead it's fitted into the illustrations, which makes these books just as visually appealing as they are fun to read and listen to. 
 
Kaitlyn loved the first two books so much, I started buying the other books in the series for her.  So far, we have five books in this series, and I hope to complete our collection.  We usually read all five books back-to-back: they are so fun to read all together! 
 
The only caveat I've found with the If You Give series is that most of the books start with the main character eating something sweet.  And Kaitlyn usually asks for whatever they are eating, whether it's cookies, cake, a donut, or a muffin.  This makes me laugh because these books make me hungry for those foods too!  We've had to talk about how it's the mouse's turn to eat a cookie, not Kaitlyn's turn for a cookie (sometimes this goes over well, and sometimes we end up reading the books with a bowl of cookies in Kaitlyn's lap).
 
The If You Give series is a timeless series, perfect to enjoy with your children aged 2 and up. 
 

Series Review: Books 1 & 2 of The Age of X series by Richelle Mead

Gameboard of the Gods
In a futuristic world nearly destroyed by religious extremists, Justin March lives in exile after failing in his job as an investigator of religious groups and supernatural claims. But Justin is given a second chance when Mae Koskinen comes to bring him back to the Republic of United North America (RUNA). Raised in an aristocratic caste, Mae is now a member of the military’s most elite and terrifying tier, a soldier with enhanced reflexes and skills.

When Justin and Mae are assigned to work together to solve a string of ritualistic murders, they soon realize that their discoveries have exposed them to terrible danger. As their investigation races forward, unknown enemies and powers greater than they can imagine are gathering in the shadows, ready to reclaim the world in which humans are merely game pieces on their board.

The Immortal Crown
Gameboard of the Gods introduced religious investigator Justin March and Mae Koskinen, the beautiful supersoldier assigned to protect him. Together they have been charged with investigating reports of the supernatural and the return of the gods, both inside the Republic of United North America and out. With this highly classified knowledge comes a shocking revelation: Not only are the gods vying for human control, but the elect—special humans marked by the divine—are turning against one another in bloody fashion.

Their mission takes a new twist when they are assigned to a diplomatic delegation headed by Lucian Darling, Justin’s old friend and rival, going into Arcadia, the RUNA’s dangerous neighboring country. Here, in a society where women are commodities and religion is intertwined with government, Justin discovers powerful forces at work, even as he struggles to come to terms with his own reluctantly acquired deity.

Meanwhile, Mae—grudgingly posing as Justin’s concubine—has a secret mission of her own: finding the illegitimate niece her family smuggled away years ago. But with Justin and Mae resisting the resurgence of the gods in Arcadia, a reporter’s connection with someone close to Justin back home threatens to expose their mission—and with it the divine forces the government is determined to keep secret.
 
Review:
I read Gameboard of the Gods and The Immortal Crown back to back, and I'm so glad I did.  These books were just as outstanding as I'd predicted them to be, and once I got into Mead's futuristic society, I didn't want to leave.  Good thing, too, because these books were fairly long----each one over 400 pages and they weren't easy YA reads. 
 
I love the world Mead has created for this series.  The imagery was excellent, and reading about the futuristic society of the RUNA made this series feel like Mead's most intellectual series yet.  I loved the politics of the RUNA and the whole concept of the praetorians, the supersoldiers, was so unique and well-executed. 
 
Gameboard of the Gods starts off with a love scene that reminded me right away that we've left the YA world.  I thought that scene would have set the tone for the series, but it was apparently, a one-time thing.  It looks like the Age of X series will be full of "the chase," which is fun to read about in its own right. 
 
As always, Mead excels in her characterization.  Mae is everything I've come to expect from one of Mead's heroines: smart, strong, beautiful, and completely self-reliant.  Watching Mae learn to lean on others for support will be very interesting.  I didn't like Justin much at first, but he really grew on me throughout these two books, and by the end, I was in flat-out character crush mode.
 
I think that the premise of the Age of X series, with the intertwining of the old god mythology and the new, advanced society, is what made this series stand out for me.  The setting and crux of the books are so unique, and so well-written, that I just couldn't put them down.  Book two ends on quite a shocking note, and I can't wait to see where Mead takes this exciting new series! 
 

 

Book Spotlight and Guest Review: The Fourth Wall by Elizabeth Maria Naranjo


Today we are happy to host a stop on the blog tour for The Fourth Wall by Elizabeth Maria Naranjo.  Crystal Otto of WOW! Women on Writing is here to review The Fourth Wall.  Welcome, Crystal!
Summary:
The Fourth Wall is a fabulously written first novel. When Marin was little and monsters chased her through nightmares, she learned to weave her own dreams. Her mother called the lucid dreaming a gift, and when an accident takes her mother and leaves her baby brother an empty shell, Marin uses this gift to spin a new reality for herself. One without time or sorrow. A world without memory.

But just when Marin thinks she’s safe in her make-believe fantasy world, the monsters come back and her dream turns to a nightmare. Something in the dream doesn’t want Marin to wake up. In order to heal herself and her family, Marin must face the truth she’s forgotten and conquer what lies behind the fourth wall.

Genre: Young Adult, Fiction
Publisher: WiDo Publishing (June 10, 2014)
ISBN: 978-1-937178-51-2
Twitter hashtag: #FourthWall
Crystal's Review:

The Fourth Wall is listed as YA but deals with some very grown up topics. I really struggled through the first few chapters. Not because they weren’t well written. Elizabeth’s writing is gorgeous with just the right amount of description and dialogue. The reason I struggled was the reality of her writing. She drew me into Marin’s life in such a way I found myself wondering “what if” about my own life.
It’s quite a gift to write fantasy so well it wraps itself around reality. There were times I set down The Fourth Wall and had the same feeling I do when waking from an all too real dream. I felt unsettled and somewhat confused. When Marin hurt, I hurt. I longed to hug the little girl and offer her consolation and love. Naranjo writes her characters with such dimension and depth of character. She has quite a gift for writing.
The Fourth Wall is Naranjo’s debut novel but I am certain (hint, hint) she will have many more publications in her future. Her writing is unique and I can’t think of any author to compare it to. I can say with certainty you’ll enjoy the read and be longing for more!

The Fourth Wall is available as an e-book and paperback at Amazon.

About the Author: Elizabeth grew up writing short stories and bad poetry before escaping the cold winters of Wyoming and settling in the Sonoran Desert. She lives in Tempe, Arizona with her husband and two children, Abigail and Gabriel. She still loves to write, but fortunately gave up on poetry. The Fourth Wall is her first novel.
Elizabeth’s creative nonfiction has appeared in Brain, ChildPhoenix New TimesLiterary Mama and Babble.com, and is forthcoming in Brevity. Elizabeth is also an award-winning fiction writer; her short stories have been published in The Portland ReviewHospital DriveSLAB Literary Magazine, and Bartleby Snopes. Links to her work and information on classes/critiques can be found at http://www.elizabethmarianaranjo.com/.