Have a Spooky Day

Halloween is such a big deal in our family and I like to think it is one of the "unique" qualities that people remember us for. I say unique, others might throw out labels like weird. #dontcare 

Our dog's name is October. #enoughsaid

This year was the first time we did a family theme for costumes and it also happens to be the first family picture of all of us together. Yes, you read that right. But hey, who gets to say that their first family photo is with everyone dressed as super heroes? #winning

So from our family to yours, HAVE A FREAKING BLAST and make some memories!

PS Here is last year's Halloween post on Scary Stories and a creepy video clip.    --> Watch Here 

Book Spotlight and Guest Post: God Doesn't Love Us All The Same by Nina Guilbeau

Today we have author Nina Guilbeau here to discuss her thoughts on books versus movies.  Nina is the author of God Doesn't Love Us All the Same.  Keep reading for more information about Nina and God Doesn't Love Us All the Same.

Books vs Movies
by Nina Guilbeau
You’ve just heard one of your favorite books is being made into a movie. There’s excitement, anticipation, a rush to the theater and then …the disappointment. Many times authors visualize the stories they write like scenes from a movie, so having an opportunity to have it play out in real life can be a dream come true. My latest release, God Doesn’t Love Us All the Same, is about a bond that forms between an old homeless woman and young girl who tries to help her. The written story has a good, uplifting message, but what if a movie version takes it into a completely different direction?  

Although, transitioning from the author's written vision to a director's visual storytelling can be difficult for some readers (and authors), it becomes unacceptable if the essence of the story is missing. In fact, there are some movie versions that are so different from the book that they are nearly unrecognizable. Sometimes what’s unclear from those who pan the movie is whether it’s actually a bad movie or is it more of a bad adaptation of the book? Books provide lots of details and back stories with interesting characters. Unfortunately, movies have to cut many of these things out for the sake of time and budget. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the final visual version is bad, just different. Here are a few books to movies that transitioned well.

The Road – The writing style in the book is quite odd, but once you get used to its rhythm, it doesn’t distract from the emotion of the story. As a matter of fact, it adds to the overall desperate wanderings of the characters in this post apocalyptic story. The movie accurately translates the emotions of the book within its script and visual settings.

Of Mice and Men – Now a classic, Steinbeck’s book has hit the movie screen more than once. The 1992 film version starring John Malkovich and Gary Sinise is a nice tribute to the original story.

The Millennium Trilogy (Swedish Version) – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest– All three of the Swedish movie versions closely aligned themselves with the book. They are well acted and directed.  

So, while the debate rages on about which movies are better, worse or equal to their book counterparts, a new question comes to mind. Are there any good books that are so highly regarded or well written that Hollywood should stay away from them altogether? In other words, no matter how good the adaptation may be, in the end, it will always be a disservice to the viewer to try to manipulate it for the big screen. I posed this question to readers and authors and here are their observations:

Author Tom Lucas (Leather to the Corinthians), “My biggest let down was Naked Lunch. It's impossible to film. They tried. Also, Dune. [Director David] Lynch’s version was all over the place. It's not really in the favor of the times and the world building is expansive and strange.”

Author Lynda Haviland (Age of Awakening" Paranormal Romance Series) “I don't think any book is too "sacred" to be off limits with a movie adaptation. I enjoy both storytelling mediums too much to say that one couldn't have a go at a good story to tell. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. I know this will be a weird example but the movie "Cujo" will always be a standout for me. …Loved "Cujo" but loved the movie more.”

Author B.F. Simone (The Keeper’s Vow), “My most sacred books have been turned into movies and I've been disappointed by most of them)...for me it's about the director and screen writer...because great books rarely ever get the director they deserve. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is my all time movie let down.”

Artie, book club member: “I would say that a movie based on the full version of the Count of Monte Cristo should never be allowed. …they left out so much of the nuance of his journey that it was very frustrating to watch. The sacrifices made for time meant that certain scenes didn't make sense because the back story wasn't shown.”

God Doesnt Love Us All the Same is the touching story about Janine Harris who never really thought about homeless people. She barely even notices them as she passes them by on her way to work in downtown Washington D.C. All Janine can focus on is the shambles of her own young life, afraid that she will never be able to get past the painful mistakes she has made. However, all of that changes on a snowy evening in December when Janine unexpectedly finds herself alone with Vera, an old, homeless woman who seems to need her help. Now Janie wants to know what could have possibly happened to Vera to leave her so broken and alone. 
As Vera shares her life story with Janine, the two women form an unusual bond and begin a journey that changes both of their lives forever. Reluctantly, they each confront their own past and, in the process, discover the true meaning of sacrifice, family and love. Although to truly move forward in their lives, they must fast the most difficult challenge of all – forgiving themselves. 
Paperback: 254 pages
Genre: Women's Fiction
Publisher: Juania Books LLC (May 5, 2014)
About the Author:
Nina Guilbeau is the Siblings Editor for BellaOnline The Voice of Women and writes weekly family articles for online magazines. Her e-book, Birth Order and Parenting, is a popular pick with students studying the Alfred Adler birth order theory.
She is a member of the Florida Writer's Association and the author of women's fiction novels Too Many Sisters and Too Many Secrets. A winner of the Royal Palm Literary Award for her God Doesn't Love Us All the Same manuscript, Nina's work has been published in the short story anthologies From Our Family to Yours and Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Magic of Mothers and Daughters. An excerpt from upcoming novel Being Non-Famous was published in the Orlando Sentinel as a Father's Day tribute.

Book Review: Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover

When Tate Collins meets airline pilot Miles Archer, she knows it isn’t love at first sight. They wouldn’t even go so far as to consider themselves friends. The only thing Tate and Miles have in common is an undeniable mutual attraction. Once their desires are out in the open, they realize they have the perfect set-up. He doesn’t want love, she doesn’t have time for love, so that just leaves the sex. Their arrangement could be surprisingly seamless, as long as Tate can stick to the only two rules Miles has for her.

Never ask about the past.
Don’t expect a future.

They think they can handle it, but realize almost immediately they can’t handle it at all.

Hearts get infiltrated.
Promises get broken.
Rules get shattered.
Love gets ugly.
Release Date: August 5, 2014
Age Group: New Adult
Source: Purchased
Reviewed By: Kelli
Can Colleen Hoover do any wrong?  I think not!  I have loved each and every one of her books, and Ugly Love was no exception.  I believe that Hoover stands out in the New Adult genre for her emotional depth, lyrical writing, and sizzling chemistry.
Ugly Love was such a compelling read.  It was one of those books that I finished in one sitting: the story moved so quickly and I had to know how it would all end.  There didn't seem to be a way that Hoover could wrap up the story without complete devastation to the life of at least one character.  I'm happy to say that she found a way to tie it all together beautifully without using any dreaded plot devices.
I liked Tate; although I didn't easily identify with her.  Miles was my favorite character.  He felt everything so deeply, and I was so moved reading his story, especially his history.  I just knew he was going to find happiness, but at the same time, I was scared that he wouldn't be able to let himself be vulnerable again.
Hoover's books always make me cry, and I think I cried more reading Ugly Love than I have with any of her other books.  There were certain aspects of the story that really hit close to home for me (I won't say any more, not to spoil the story). 
If you're new to Colleen Hoover, I highly recommend her books.  Ugly Love is a stand-alone novel, so it would be a great place to start.


Book Review: The Eye of Minds (The Mortality Doctrine #1) by James Dashner

An all-new, edge-of-your seat adventure from James Dashner, the author of the New York Times bestselling Maze Runner series, The Eye of Minds is the first book in The Mortality Doctrine, a series set in a world of hyperadvanced technology, cyberterrorists, and gaming beyond your wildest dreams . . . and your worst nightmares.

Michael is a gamer. And like most gamers, he almost spends more time on the VirtNet than in the actual world. The VirtNet offers total mind and body immersion, and it’s addictive. Thanks to technology, anyone with enough money can experience fantasy worlds, risk their life without the chance of death, or just hang around with Virt-friends. And the more hacking skills you have, the more fun. Why bother following the rules when most of them are dumb, anyway?

But some rules were made for a reason. Some technology is too dangerous to fool with. And recent reports claim that one gamer is going beyond what any gamer has done before: he’s holding players hostage inside the VirtNet. The effects are horrific—the hostages have all been declared brain-dead. Yet the gamer’s motives are a mystery.

The government knows that to catch a hacker, you need a hacker.
And they’ve been watching Michael. They want him on their team.
But the risk is enormous. If he accepts their challenge, Michael will need to go off the VirtNet grid. There are back alleys and corners in the system human eyes have never seen and predators he can’t even fathom—and there’s the possibility that the line between game and reality will be blurred forever.

Release Date: October 8, 2013
Age Group: YA
Source: Purchased
Reviewed By: Kelli

I really like James Dashner's writing, and was excited to read the first installment in The Mortality Doctrine series.  The Eye of Minds was very different from my usual reads: it's about high-intensity virtual gaming.  I'm not a gamer, but I still really enjoyed this unique, imaginative, thrilling book.
Michael is a gamer, and not just any gamer; he's an expert hacker.  In Michael's world, he and his friends spend more time in the VirtNet than in the real world.  Their gaming systems are a little odd: they have these coffins that they lie in to enter the VirtNet.  The coffins are equipped with technology that allows them to feel everything that's happening in the game.  So, if they get hurt while gaming, they feel it in their bodies.  Everything feels real, which makes the gaming experience more exciting than real life.  The premise of the coffins and gaming having a real impact on the gamer's body was unique and well-executed, if a bit creepy. 
Like Dashner's other books, The Eye of Minds is told in a first person narrative with Michael as the narrator.  There is no love story at all; which is typical for Dashner.  These attributes would appeal to a male readership, however they didn't keep me from enjoying The Eye of Minds
As is custom for Dashner's novels, The Eye of Minds was full of fantastic imagery.  I felt like I was really on The Path with Michael and his friends.  There were parts of this book that completely freaked me out: no ghosts, but enough scary things to keep me thinking about them after I finished reading.  
The story moved at a good pace, and held my interest.  I was shocked at the twist at the end---so shocked I must have read that passage three times.  I couldn't believe how the story ended, and now I'm really excited to read book two, The Rule of Thoughts 


Book Review: Etiquette and Espionage (Finishing School #1) by Gail Carriger

Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is the bane of her mother's existence. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper etiquette at tea--and god forbid anyone see her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. She enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

But little do Sophronia or her mother know that this is a school where ingenious young girls learn to finish, all right--but it's a different kind of finishing. Mademoiselle Geraldine's certainly trains young ladies in the finer arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but also in the other kinds of finishing: the fine arts of death, diversion, deceit, espionage, and the modern weaponries. Sophronia and her friends are going to have a rousing first year at school.
Release Date: February 5, 2013
Age Group: YA
Source: NetGalley
Reviewed By: Kelli
I love Gail Carriger, and I was so excited to read Etiquette and Espionage.  Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series is a favorite of mine, and I was so hoping the Finishing School series would be the same.  I really enjoyed Etiquette and Espionage after the story took off.

Carriger takes us back to the world of the Parasol Protectorate---actually a little bit before Alexia Maccon's time---with one of the most enigmatic characters from the Parasol Protectorate appearing in Etiquette and Espionage as a child.  It was the addition of this particular character that helped me realize this series takes place before the Parasol Protectorate series.  I hope that there is more character crossover in future books, because I'd love to see some of my favorite characters from the Parasol Protectorate series again.

Sophronia was an easy character to like.  She's spunky, smart, and full of purposeful energy.  I loved her pragmatic attitude and her fearlessness.  She reminded me a lot of Alexia in that way.  The characters in this book were well-developed and their personalities just jumped off of the page.  I've always loved Carriger's character development, and she certainly didn't disappoint on that account. 

There was quite a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor in this story, and I loved that.  The steampunk setting made this book a lot of fun to read.  There were so many things I liked about Etiquette and Espionage. 

The world-building in Etiquette and Espionage reminded me of the deliberate pacing of book one of the Parasol Protectorate series, Soulless.  I liked Soulless but thought it was  slow to start, and I felt the same way about this book.  Once I got into the story, I really enjoyed it, but there were times that I almost stopped reading due to the lack of action.  About two-thirds of the way in, the story took off and that's when it became a really fun read for me.

Overall, I enjoyed Etiquette and Espionage.  Now that the world-building is complete, I think book two will be excellent, and I can't wait to continue reading this fun, imaginative series!

Book Spotlight and Guest Post by Talia Aikens-Nunez

Today we are happy to host author Talia Aikens-Nunez, author of OMG...Am I A Witch?!.  Talia is here to talk about her favorite television shows for the fall season.  Welcome, Talia!
My Favorite TV Shows
By Talia Aikens-Nunez
So, after I have worked a full day, cooked dinner, done the dishes, done homework, cleaned up, done baths, read books and tucked my kids into bed (yes many of these Herculean tasks are done with the help of my wonderful husband), I like to indulge in some mindless/funny/inspiring/gut wrenching television. I used to try to watch shows when they were scheduled. But either I (a) could not stay awake that late or (b) fell asleep in the middle of the show. That is when I discovered DVR!!! Oh, and how my life changed. Here are my Top 5 Favorite TV shows (on now):

(1) The Blacklist- I just love to hate yet try to figure out Red. Is he a bad guy or a good guy? Is he Lizzy’s father? Ah! The questions just keep coming. And, really what’s up with her husband? 

(2) The Big Bang Theory- This is the smartest comedy on TV. Just about every episode has me laughing until tears are streaming down my face. No wonder they get paid a whopping $1 million per episode! 

(3) The Biggest Loser- This show makes me cry in a different way. It makes me want to use my elliptical again instead of using it as a place to dry clothes. It makes me want to lose the weight I gained from my kids and be healthier. This is my feel good show. 

(4) Scandal- Trash TV at its best. Nothing says trash TV better than marital affairs, murder and politics. And, the cherry on top is that the acting is great! This is the kind of show where you pop the popcorn and stare at the tv for an hour. 

(5) Parenthood- I’m tearing up as I write this, not because of the topics, even though two seasons ago I cried every episode, remember Christina’s cancer?? But, I am tearing up
 because it is the last season of Parenthood. I am going to SO miss the Braverman Family!! 
About OMG...Am I A Witch?!
Enter to win a free copy of OMG...Am I A Witch?! HERE.
April Appleton is so annoyed at her older brother that she searches the Internet for a spell to turn him into a dog. When the spell works, April realizes she has more powers than she ever dreamed of! Now she has to figure out how to turn him back to normal before her parents find out.

She has little time, but with help from her friends Grace and Eve she finds a book of magic that will hopefully reverse the spell. Will it work, and will April’s newfound magic save the day?
Release Date:  August 7, 2014
Publisher: Central Avenue Publishing
Genre: Juvenile, Fantasy and Magic
Paperback, 150 pages
Don't forget to enter the giveaway HERE.

Book Review: Finding Cinderella (Hopeless #2.5) by Colleen Hoover

This novella is a companion novel to the Hopeless series, but can be read as a standalone.

A chance encounter in the dark leads eighteen-year-old Daniel and the girl who stumbles across him to profess their love for each other. But this love comes with conditions: they agree it will only last one hour and it will only be make-believe.

When their hour is up and the girl rushes off like Cinderella, Daniel tries to convince himself that what happened between them only seemed perfect because they were pretending it was perfect. Moments like that with girls like her don’t happen outside of fairytales.

One year and one bad relationship later, his disbelief in insta-love is stripped away the day he meets Six: a girl with a strange name and an even stranger personality. Daniel soon realizes the way he pretended to feel about Cinderella and the way he really feels about Six may not be so different after all.
Summary Spoiler Alert: Highlight the text below if you want to read the last two sentences of the summary, which I believe spoil the story.  Especially when the two loves of his life end up being one in the same.

Unfortunately for Daniel, finding Cinderella doesn’t guarantee their happily ever after…it only further threatens it.
Release Date: October 14, 2013
Age Group: New Adult
Source: Purchased
Reviewed By: Kelli
In general, I'm not a big fan of novellas.  I'm always left wanting more: more depth, more character growth, and a more intense conflict resolution.  However, I can say with no reservations that I'm a fan of Colleen Hoover's novellas.  Finding Cinderella was an awesome read, and such a great part of the Hopeless series.
It's been quite some time since I read Hopeless, but I immediately remembered Six, Sky's spunky, sassy best friend.  Six has a promiscuous reputation, but the reader doesn't know any details about how she obtained her reputation.  Until now! 
I don't remember Holder's best friend, Daniel, as well as I do Six, just that he's a bit of a player and a big flirt.  Finding Cinderella starts with Daniel hiding out in a maintenance closet during school.  One day, a girl walks in, in the dark.  The two don't know each other's names, what they look like, or anything about the other, except for the sound of each other's voice.  This fact alone lends their meetings an air of seductive intimacy.  And that intimacy is exactly what happens for one hour when they decide to pretend to be in love.  That one hour has an life-altering impact on both Daniel and Cinderella's lives.  Neither one can forget the other, for different reasons. 
I loved that Daniel was the narrator for Finding Cinderella.  It made me really fall for him, and I loved knowing exactly how he felt about Cinderella.  I also liked being in the dark (pun intended) as to who Cinderella was---I was just as excited as he was when he finally found her. 
Finding Cinderella was an emotional, moving, and passionate story.  It's the perfect addition to the Hopeless series, although you don't need to have read either of the Hopeless books to enjoy this short story.  I highly recommend it, along with the rest of Colleen Hoover's books!


Guest Post: The Outlander Series by Spencer Blohm

The Outlander Series' Book to  Film Adaptation
by Spencer Blohm
     For readers worldwide, it’s pretty much expected at this point that any book with minor success will be adapted into a film. While some of these films have gone on to become Hollywood classics (like To Kill a Mockingbird and Gone with the Wind), all too often they’ve flopped and done the book, the author, and its fans, a great disservice. Many times failed adaptations are the result of trying to condense a rich and complex story into a tidy two hours. This challenge has led many producers and directors to instead turn to the television channels, many of which are looking towards books as sources of inspiration for their series or mini-series. The television series format often makes more sense than a condensed novel, especially when you think about the broken up segments in which the stories are delivered − an episode per chapter may not always be a perfect crossover, but there are clear guidelines and minor narrative plots that make episodic narratives out of both novels and television series. Of course, you’ve likely heard of the massive success of Game of Thrones, but another, equally beloved, book series that’s been made into a show is Diana Gabaldon’s best selling Outlander series, which just aired its mid-season finale on the Starz network.

     For those who don’t have Starz (you can try here to view its availability) or simply haven’t been able to catch up, the first half of the season is easily available through Starz on demand and their Starz Play website (which is here). It’s best you catch up to the mid-season finale before reading this though, because it will contain some spoilers.

     As previously stated, it’s long been a source of contention that film adaptations of books aren’t able to cover all the necessarily information, situations, and characters in such a limited amount of time. The prolonged format of a series has truly benefited the Outlander story and Gabaldon’s detailed account of Claire, the WWII nurse who returned home to London only to be transported back in time to the Scottish Highlands during the Jacobite uprisings. By dedicating an entire season of the show to cover the first book in Gabaldon’s series of eight − she believes the ninth novel will be the series’ last− they’ve been given a license to explore the more nuanced and complicated emotions that Claire (played fantastically by Irish model/actress Caitriona Balfe) must deal with, particularly her conflict between a blossoming relationship with Jamie MacTavish in the 1700’s and her husband Frank, who’s been left behind in the 1940’s.

     The series itself was the product of the books' fifth time being optioned over the course of 20 years, which led Gabaldon and many of her readers to be skeptical of the tale ever reaching fruition. However, the series format seemed to be the perfect fit for Gabaldon’s series, and Sony Pictures purchased the rights to the books in 2012 with Battlestar Galactica developer Ron Moore signed on to adapt the books for the small screen. For her part, Gabaldon has served as a consultant and co-producer, but is weary to exert much more control than that, saying, “I don't think I'd want absolute control over a process that I don't normally work in and am not familiar with. I know people who work in film, and I think it would suck my soul, waste my time, and prevent me from writing books.”

    Gabaldon still does serve as the final “ok” before Moore puts in any details or sequences that weren’t covered in the book, namely the recent coverage of Claire’s husband Frank’s search for her in the 40’s. He explained to Entertainment Weekly; “We kept Diana in the loop, and she saw scripts and dailies and cuts, and she’ll comment back from time to time, and she’s been very generous and very free to say, ‘You know what? I’m the author, you guys are the TV writers, you do what you do, and I’ll just trust that you don’t destroy my book.’ And that’s kind of the attitude that we’ve taken. We try to honor the book, and we try to preserve the spirit of it, and we try to stick as close to the storyline as we can, but it is an adaptation, and we are adapting it for another medium.”

     It’s precisely this type of relationship, where Gabaldon and Moore understand each other’s place and abilities and have faith in each other, that has likely contributed to the quality of the show. In fact, the wedding episode had a staggering 3.8 million live viewers, an increase of 40% since the show’s premiere, with an average of 5 million viewers for each episode according to TV by the Numbers. When you consider that this is for a premium cable channel, that’s a figure that takes on even greater meaning. It’s not only the series that is getting a boost, Gabaldon’s books even broke into Amazon’s and the New York Times’ best seller lists at the end of August,  reaching the top of the NYT’s three weeks in a row. That would be an impressive accomplishment for anyone, but is particularly amazing considering the book was released over 20 years ago.

     While you’ll have months to wait until part two of the first season returns (it’s set to premiere in April 2015), that gap will give you plenty of time to re-read and refresh your memory on the adventures of Claire and her Scottish cohorts. Given that the second season has already been greenlit, I think it’s safe to say you’ll have plenty of Outlander in the future, both in print and filmed form, to keep yourself entertained for hours on end.

*Image sources: www.google.com

Book Review: Prime Deception by Carys Jones

When Lorna Thomas is found dead in her car everyone believes she killed herself. But the day after her death Lorna was set to sell a scandalous story to one of Britain’s biggest tabloid papers. For six months she had been the Deputy Prime Minister’s mistress.

Will Lorna’s secret die with her? While her family tries to move on and come to terms with her death one person refuses to believe that Lorna killed herself. Her twin sister, Laurie is convinced that Lorna was murdered and she’ll stop at nothing to prove it, even if that means teaming up the very man her sister had been having an affair with…
Release Date: April 7, 2014
Age Group: Adult
Source: NetGalley
Reviewed By: Kelli
Prime Deception was a great change of pace for me.  It's an adult suspense novel, something I don't read very often.  The premise alone was very intriguing: Lorna Thomas is in love with Britain's Deputy Prime Minister---who is married.  They have an affair, break up, and then Lorna is found dead of an apparent suicide.  Lorna's identical twin, Laurie, believes Lorna was murdered, and sets out to find her killer.
Laurie goes so far as to get Lorna's old job as an intern with the Deputy Prime Minister's office, to get close to the man Lorna loved.  Her arrival has the Deputy Prime Minister, Charles, thinking he's going mad, that he's seeing Lorna's ghost (he never knew she had a twin).  Soon, the two team up to discover the truth about what really happened to Lorna.
Prime Deception is written with a dual narrative.  I liked that because Jones really let the reader into both Laurie and Charles's thoughts.  The setting of London was fun for me, and made the story more interesting.  There was great character development, which was a definite plus given how long this book is.  And to top it all off, there was a ton of suspense.  Jones kept me guessing until the end as to what really happened the night Lorna died.  I found myself really invested in the story, and quite surprised at the ending.
Speaking of the ending, I loved that it was realistic and true to the story.  It wasn't your typical YA fairytale ending, rather it was more of a "this is how it would happen in real life" ending. 

My two complaints about Prime Deception was that the story was quite heavy on the emotions of both main characters (I got a little tired of hearing just how much Charles missed Lorna) and that the pace was slow until the end of the book.  There was a lot of build up, which was great, but it made for slow reading for much of the story.  Part of this feeling could be that I'm used to the faster pace and quicker payoff of YA literature.
All in all, I finished Prime Deception happy that I'd taken the time to read this book.  It was a neat read, and worth your time if you like suspense novels.  I really enjoyed it and would definitely read Carys Jones again.      

Spooktacular Giveaway Hop

We love I am a Reader, Not a Writer's annual Spooktacular Giveaway Hop---it's the one annual hop we always participate in! 
This year, we're giving away:

A $10 Amazon e-gift card

Giveaway Rules:
  1. This giveaway is open internationally to anyone age 13 and up.
  2. The giveaway runs from 10/15 to 10/31.
  3. The only requirement for this giveaway is for entrants to have a valid email address.
  4. The winner will be notified via email, and has three days to respond and claim their prize.
  5. The Amazon gift card will be delivered via email. 
  6. Thank you for entering and good luck!
http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/5dfba6e139/" rel="nofollow">a Rafflecopter giveaway


Book Review: Goddess Born by Kari Edgren

Pennsylvania, 1730

Selah Kilbrid keeps a dangerous secret: she has the power to heal.

A direct descendent of the Celtic goddess Brigid, it's Selah's sacred duty to help those in need. But as the last of the Goddess Born living in the New World, she learned from an early age to keep her supernatural abilities hidden. The Quaker community of Hopewell has always been welcoming, but there's no doubt they would see her hanged if her gift was revealed.

When a prominent minister threatens to try her with witchcraft unless she becomes his wife, Selah has only one hope--that her betrothed, a distant cousin from Ireland, arrives as planned. Marrying Samuel would keep her secret safe, preserve her sacred bloodline, and protect her from being charged as a witch.

But when news of Samuel's death reaches the Colonies, Selah is truly on her own. Terrified, she faces an impossible choice--forfeit her powers and marry the loathsome Nathan? Or find an imposter to pose as her husband and preserve her birthright?
Release Date: May 19, 2014
Age Group: 
Source: Review copy from author

Goddess Born was such a surprisingly awesome read!  I loved everything about this book, and found myself sad when it was over.

First of all, Goddess Born is historical fiction, which is my favorite genre.  There's just something about going back in time and reading about people living in simpler times, that draws me in.  I love picturing the characters in the past.  Historical fiction novels always feel deeper and more nuanced to me.  I love that.  Well, not only was Goddess Born historical fiction, it blended mythology, mystery, and romance into one fantastic read.

I liked Selah right from the start. She's strong, independent and resourceful; and all of those traits made me admire her from the first scenes of the book.  What I liked most about Selah is her hidden identity as one of Brigid's daughters. She has to hide who she really is to fit into society.  I know how hiding traits about yourself feels, as I hid my chronic illnesses from my friends and acquaintances for years before taking the leap and living more authentically.  Unlike me, Selah faces mortal consequences for revealing her true nature: she could be tried as a witch and even hanged for having her healing abilities.  She's always trying to balance her abilities by using them to heal people while keeping them secret.

While I love a good, steamy romance as much as the next reader, there's something to be said for a slow-building, clean love story.  Goddess Born had exactly that.  I love it when an author can impart so much emotion into just a look, or a touch between two characters.  The emotions mean more when the romance builds slowly.  Henry was an enigma, and I loved getting to know him, and fall in love with him as Selah slowly did.  His true identity was such a well-timed shock, and it added another layer of depth and intrigue to the story.

Goddess Born is the perfect blend of love, mystery, and fantasy.  It's a beautifully written story that stayed with me for days.  This was my first time reading Kari Edgren and I'll definitely be reading her work again.  I highly recommend Goddess Born!

Book Spotlight: Rush of Shadows by Catherine Bell


Award-Winning Novel Publishing this October from Washington Writers
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Rush of Shadows (October 15, Washington Writers' Publishing House) evokes the clash between natives and settlers in 19th century California through  the unlikely friendship of two women, Mellie, a white, and Bahe, an Indian.  As settlers fence the land and drive off game, Indians are starved, enslaved, and even shot for fun.  Yet Bahe helps Mellie safely through childbirth, and Mellie's warning saves an Indian village from a massacre perpetrated by her white neighbors.  Even after Bahe is driven to seek safety in prostitution, the women manage to feed, doctor, and teach each other.  Tough-minded and lyrical, Rush of Shadows brings to life the human dimensions of a tragic conflict which corrupted the winners and left the losers to haunt the landscape as shadows.

Bell teaches literature and writing at Washington International School.  She holds degrees from Harvard and Stanford and has lived in Boston, Paris, Brasilia and Nova Scotia, as well as Northern California, where she discovered the germ of this story, and Washington, D.C.  Her short stories have appeared most recently in Green Hills Literary Lantern, Sixfold, The Northern Virginia Review (Prose Award 2014), Solstice, and South Carolina Review.

With this first novel, Catherine Bell takes her place among the vanguard of writers reconstructing an American paradigm that is truer, grittier, sadder, and ultimately more satisfying than the myths we've crafted to expunge our history's unsavory passages.  The story's unsentimental denouement is uplifting in its honesty.  Along the way, Bell makes us think long and hard about how tis nation was built and at what moral cost.  A good, deep read, by a steely White woman unafraid to be fair to all parties.  Myto!  Dr. Darnella Davis, Native American artist (Creek), PhD in Indian education policy.

Washington Writers' Publishing House will publish Rush of Shadows, winner of their 2014 Fiction Prize, in October 2014.  WWPH, a nonprofit cooperative press that specializes in poetry and fiction, has published some of the area's best known writers.  Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Henry Taylor called WWPH "among the most successful recent literary experiments in the country."

Meet Catherine Bell 

Catherine Bell grew up in a New England family with a sense of its past as distinguished and its culture superior, as chronicled in many of her short stories.  An early reader, she found in fiction that penetrating experience of other people's lives that opens a wider world.  The Winsor School, Harvard, and Stanford prepared her to recognize good writing and thinking.  She credits work as a gardener, cook, cashier, waitress, and school bus driver with teaching her how to live in that wider world.
She has also worked as a secretary, freelance writer, and therapist, served as a teacher in the Peace Corps, and taught in inner city schools.  She has lived in Paris, Brasilia, Nova Scotia, Northern California, and Washington, D.C.  Culture clashes, even within families, are often subjects of her fiction.  She has published stories in a number of journals, including Midway Journal, Coal City Review, Green Hills Literary Lantern, Sixfold, Solstice, and South Carolina Review.  Her story "Among the Missing" won The Northern Virginia Review's 2014 Prose Award.   

She researched and wrote Rush of Shadows, her first novel, over a period of twenty years after she married a fourth-generation Californian and fell in love with his home territory, the Coast Range.  The bright sunburned hills, dark firs, clear shallow streams, and twisted oaks were splendid, but the old barns and wooden churches and redwood train station didn't seem old enough.  Where was the long past?   Where were the Indians?  There was only the shadow of a story passed down by her husband’s grandmother late in life.  Born in 1869, she grew up playing with Indian children whose parents worked on the ranch her father managed.  One day the Army came to remove the Indians and march them to the reservation, and that was that.  She was four years old, and she never forgot.     

Bell lives with her husband in Washington, D.C. and visits children and grandchildren in California and Australia.  As a teacher at Washington International School, she loves reading great books with teenagers.

Author Links:

Book Review: The Next Breath by Laurel Osterkamp

I kiss him, choosing love over honesty, which is a choice nobody should ever have to make…"

Robin loves sweet, responsible Nick, with his penchant for Beethoven and Ben Folds Five. But she also still loves her college boyfriend Jed, an irreverent playwright plagued with cystic fibrosis. Now Robin is struggling to reveal her secrets and confront her past, as she finally performs in the play that Jed wrote for her, eleven years ago. Will Robin have the strength to keep her promise and stay true to her heart?

Alternating between present-day scenes, college flashbacks, and segments from Jed’s play, this tear-jerking yet uplifting tale illustrates how life is finite but love is infinite, and the road to recovery begins with the next breath.
Release Date: August 11, 2014
Age Group: New Adult
Source: Review copy from author
Reviewed By: Kelli
I don't think I've ever read anything quite like The Next Breath.  It was a truly inventive and unique story, and one that I'll never forget.  I have been a fan of Laurel Osterkamp for a while now, and The Next Breath just reinforces why I like her books so much.

The Next Breath is Robin's story of finding love in college, the kind of love that changes your life.  Osterkamp alternates between past and present day---I love that style of storytelling because it's like reading two stories in one book.  Robin as an adult, years after her great love with Jed, is trying to fully commit her heart to Nick.  Yet, something holds her back, and she discovers what that is in The Next Breath.  I really liked Robin---she was loyal, loving and kind---and I really wanted her to find happiness.

The Next Breath is full of beautifully written emotions.  It was such a moving read!  I found myself tearing up several times, and full out cried twice.  I love the way Osterkamp wrote the relationships in this story.  It was perfectly done, and she surprised me several times with her plot twists.  I love it when authors surprise me!

What made this story such an emotional read for me is that it features Jed, who has cystic fibrosis, as one of the main characters.  I have several chronic illnesses, which have been life-long for me, and know all too well the pain and misery of incurable disease.  It's especially difficult to be different from your peers at a young age, like Jed is.  Reading about Jed's struggles and the way Robin endlessly supports him was so emotional for me.  Osterkamp portrayed Jed's life so perfectly, and he was the most realistic blend of stoic, bravery, and strength in the face of his health struggles.

Just these elements alone would have made for a great read.  But Osterkamp took the story one step further and added some magical realism within Jed's play.  Jed writes his play as his goodbye to Robin, and it was so poetically beautiful and heart-wrenching to read.  I loved the inclusion of the play in this story, and the meaning it had for Robin's life.  

I was surprised and happy with the ending.  It was perfect for the story, and it left me feeling happy for Robin, yet still full of gravitas regarding Jed's life.  I loved The Next Breath and highly recommend it!