Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Book Review Club (October 2014)




It's October and officially autumn. The nights are getting longer, and the weather's getting chilly. (At least in the mornings and evenings. Apparently, we're in for a heatwave this weekend. Ugh). It's still the perfect time to plump up your to-be-read list and settle in for a cuppa something warm, a bite of something sweet and a great boo

MARCELO IN THE REAL WORLD (young adult)
 by Francisco X. Stork

I had a book all picked out to review this month. It was a good, solid book, and I felt fine recommending it. Then Child #4, my reluctant reader and 9th grader, told me about her weekend English homework. She had to respond with five written sentences to a prompt for every 20 pages read of her free-choice book. Cause that wouldn't kill a book for any reader! (another discussion for another time) Anyway, she chose to respond to the prompt: Would your parents like this book? Why or why not? And she wrote that her mother would love MARCELO IN THE REAL WORLD because it's about an underdog teenager with autism and because it would remind her of WONDER


Naturally, I abandoned my chores and sat down immediately to begin reading MARCELO IN THE REAL WORLD. I read the ENTIRE book. All 312 wonderful pages. And, believe me when I say I had buckets of things on my to-do list. Buckets of things that got ignored. But, oh well.  When a book grabs you, everything else goes out the window, right?


In a nutshell: Autistic-like 17 year-old Marcelo is safe and comfortable at his special needs school. Determined that Marcelo learn to function in the real world, Marcelo's father forces his son to work in his law office's mail room for the summer.

What I loved: It's fascinating to watch Marcelo navigate the real (?) world of the law office and figure out who is friend versus who is foe.  The plot is very, very clever. I'm sure by the end, Marcelo's father is sorry he forced his son to work at his law firm. Ha! The characters are fleshed out and feel real.

What was a little meh: I could've done with less religion. Marcelo is really into religion and confides in a rabbi when trying to decide how to handle sensitive info he comes across at the law office. At times, I felt preached at. Although I'm particularly sensitive to that, and other readers may not feel the same way.

However, I heartily, heartily recommend MARCELO IN THE REAL WORLD. Heartily!

Dear FCC: I borrowed this book from the library. I know neither the author, Francisco X. Stork, nor his editor, Cheryl Klein. But I'd drop everything in a heartbeat if either one wanted to meet me for coffee. 

 And now....onto the rest of our reviews. Please click through. You won't want to miss a single one!


MIDDLE GRADE/YOUNG ADULT FICTION BOOK REVIEWS

Stacy Nyikos: MAGGOT MOON by Sally Gardner (YA)


ADULT FICTION BOOK REVIEWS

Alyssa Goodnight: JANA BIBI'S EXCELLENT FORTUNES by Betsey Woodman
 
Ellen Booraem:  QUEEN OF THE TEARLING by Erika Johansen

Linda McLaughlin: WHAT ROUGH BEAST by H.R. Knight (paranormal mystery)

Patti Abbott:  WELL READ, THEN DEAD by Terrie Moran (mystery)

 Sarah Laurence: EUPHORIA by Lily King

 Stacy of the Cat's Meow: THE GOLEM AND THE JINNI by Helene Wecker (historical/paranormal)


 NONFICTION REVIEW

Jody Feldman: MATH DOESN'T SUCK: HOW TO SURVIVE MIDDLE SCHOOL MATH WITHOUT LOSING YOUR MIND OR BREAKING A NAIL by Danica McKellar




Note to Reviewers: Any errors (broken link, missed review, etc), just shoot me an email or leave a comment. Thank you so much for your reviews!







Monday, September 29, 2014

Meet My Character (a blog tour)

A huge shout-out and thank you to Alyssa Goodnight for twisting my arm suggesting I participate in this Meet My Character blog tour! (Hi Alyssa! You know I'm just kidding. Look! I linked to you twice!)


1. What is the name of your character? 
Raine Watson. I know, I know. Raine is kind of a weird name. And, believe me, I was pretty sick of it by the time I finished the last revision. But the name does have a bit of history. Thirteen years before the book opens, this character was born in the middle of a storm in the back seat of a car. And that's how her free-spirited mom came up with the name Raine. Hey, I could've gone with Pontiac!

2. Is he/she fictional or a historic person? 
Fiction all the way.

3. When and where is the story set? 
Modern day in a made-up town named Yielding in upper New York state. The geography is similar enough to where I grew up (Ontario, Canada) that it felt like a little trip home to the Muskoka area.

4. What should we know about her?
Besides an interesting name, Raine has an interesting gift. She can pick up other people's memories from objects. I actually think I wouldn't mind having this gift myself. Especially when I sense there's more to the story than one of my children is admitting!

5. What is the main conflict? What messes up her life?
So, Raine and her mom move to Yielding and a rented house in time for Raine to start 8th grade. Turns out a girl, Emily H., who used to live in the same house . . . disappeared about six months earlier. The police never found Emily. They never even found one solid clue.

Raine starts picking up memories of Emily H. Can Raine figure out what happened? Throw in the person or persons who don't want the truth to surface, a new school, lying mean girls, a certain boy and, yeah, there's a bunch of conflict.

6. When can we expect the book to be published?
TUESDAY, MAY 12, 2015! I sweated bullets over this book. In fact, there was a point when I wondered if I'd ever get it right. I suspect my editor had the same worry. TUESDAY, MAY 12, 2015. Whew. I will be dancing all over San Diego.

What happens next? See the names below...bolded, enlarged and linked to websites? Those authors will be posting on Oct 6, 2014 about one of their characters. In fact, you might want to click through now...

Alli Sinclair combines her passion for exotic destinations, the quirks of human nature and the belief that everyone can dance, even if it's to their own beat. Luna Tango is the first in The Dance Card Series, published by Harlequin MIRA. Flamenco and the Russian Ballet will be released in 2015 and 2016 respectively.

Kathy Aarons is the author of Death is Like a Box of Chocolates, the first in the CHOCOLATE COVERED MYSTERY series published by Berkley Prime Crime.

Maureen McGowan is the Amazon bestselling author of the action-packed YA sci-fi thriller series The Dust Chronicles: Deviants (2012), Compliance (2013), and Glory (2014).

Misty Simon loves a good story and decided one day that she would try her hand at it. Eventually she got it right. There’s nothing better in the world than making someone laugh, and she hopes everyone at least snickers in the right places when reading her books. She lives with her husband, daughter and three insane dogs in Central Pennsylvania where she is hard at work on her next novel or three.

After a fifteen-year stint as an electrical engineer, P. J. (Tricia) Hoover started writing books for kids and teens.  Her middle grade novel, Tut: The Story of My Immortal Life was released this month by Starscape/Macmillan and tells the story of a young immortal King Tut, who's been stuck in middle school for over 3,000 years. Her first novel for teens, Solstice was published in 2013 by Tor Teen/Macmillan.


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Book Review Club (September 2014)



Summer is over. And September is here. Trivia you may not have known about September: Neptune was discovered on Sept. 23, 1846. The first comic strip was published in a US paper on Sept. 11, 1875. The First Continental Congress began Sept. 5, 1874.*  AND our first-Wednesday-of-the-month online book review club has returned from its summer hiatus.  Welcome! Weirdly, this month is heavy on reviews of adult fiction. Who knew?
(*creators.com/health/answer-man-andy-seamans/september-trivia.html)


DEATH IS LIKE A BOX OF CHOCOLATES (adult, mystery)
 by Kathy Aarons

Kathy Aarons is the pen name for my very talented critique partner, Kathy Krevat. Our critique group, Denny's Chicks, has been together several years (8??), during which time we've managed to remain youthful and beautiful. (cough, cough). Here's a link to Kathy's first post on this blog


Something incredibly special happens when a critique partner publishes, especially when she publishes her very entertaining debut cozy mystery. The critique group puffs up with pride. We remember when this book was just a teeny, tiny germ of an idea. We reminisce over all the changes in the various revisions. We laugh about who disagreed with whom over what. We even tear up.

DEATH IS LIKE A BOX OF CHOCOLATES in a nutshell: Two best friends, Michelle and Erica, own a chocolate shop + bookstore (Chocolates and Chapters) in fictional West Riverdale, Maryland. The town photographer is murdered in their store, poisoned by one of Michelle's truffles. The women must work together to clear Michelle's name.  

What I loved: 1. the humor: In real life, Kathy is laugh-your-head-off funny. It totally translates to the page. 2. the twists and turns: I can't tell you what they are; that would ruin it! Let's just say, Kathy thinks outside the box. Waaay outside. Sometimes it's scary. 3. the details: Kathy did a bunch of research to make sure she got the facts straight. For example, she actually went to Maryland. She interviewed the police there. And she spent an inordinate amount of time at Dallmann Fine Chocolates. 4. It's the first book in a series: And I already know EVERYTHING about book #2. Ha!

I'm not the only one who recommends this book. Mysterious Galaxy, a wonderful local indie bookstore, chose DEATH IS LIKE A BOX OF CHOCOLATES for their Fabulous Firsts book club, saying, "This fast-paced, entertaining read demonstrates all sides of small town life, and introduces a cast of characters with complicated, messy, interwoven lives. I found every page compulsively readable and couldn't put it down until the final stunning conclusion."

You want to meet Kathy in real life? You're in luck if you live anywhere near San Diego! She's got a signing at Mysterious Galaxy at 4pm on Saturday, September 6. Yes, there will be chocolates.

 And now....onto the rest of our reviews. Please click through. You won't want to miss a single one!

MIDDLE GRADE/YOUNG ADULT FICTION BOOK REVIEWS

Stacy Nyikos: ANNA WAS HERE by Jane Kurtz (middle grade)

Linda McLaughlin: LAUNCH WINDOWS by Debra Caldwyl (YA, romance)



ADULT FICTION BOOK REVIEWS

Alyssa Goodnight: THE OUTSMARTING OF CRIMINALS by Steven Rigolosi (cozy mystery)

Ellen Booraem: EUPHORIA by Lily King

Jenn Jilks of Cottage Country: THE SENSE OF DARKNESS by Cinzia De Santis

Patti Abbott:  BIG LITTLE LIES by Liane Moriarty (women's fiction)

Stacy of the Cat's Meow: FROG MUSIC by Emma Donoghue (historical)



NONFICTION REVIEW

Sarah Laurence: HOW TO SPEAK BRIT by Christopher J. Moore


Note to Reviewers: Any errors (broken link, missed review, etc), just shoot me an email or leave a comment. Thank you so much for your reviews!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Book Review Club (June 2014)


Welcome to our June Book Review Club! After this we'll be taking a hiatus until September. During the summer, we'll be grilling, traveling, hanging out with fam and friends and basically having loads of fun. Of course, we'll also be reading, always on the lookout for great books to review. For now, though, please enjoy the JUNI* reviews!  *pronounced "yoonee," that's June in Danish. Yes, yes, there's a reason I'm speaking Danish. See my review. :)


THE BOY IN THE SUITCASE (adult, Scandinavian thriller)
 by Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis

This is one of those books you finish and immediately start casting about for the next one in the series. It was that good!


THE BOY IN THE SUITCASE was short-listed for the Nordic Glass Key Award (yes, you actually win a glass key) and won the 2008 Harold Morgensen Crime Award. This fast-paced thriller bounces between Lithuania and Denmark and is told from several perspectives. The reader is lost for a while (in a good way) before finally figuring out how all the threads link up.  I loved all the ambiguity.

Nina Borg is a Red Cross nurse working at a refugee center in Copenhagen, Denmark. She gives her all for the underdog. Which makes her a great nurse and humanitarian, but leaves her wanting in the wife and mother areas. A friend from nursing school calls to say she's in trouble and asks Nina to pick up a suitcase from the train station. You can imagine Nina's shock when she opens said suitcase to find a naked, drugged three-year-old boy. When Nina goes to see her friend, she finds her friend's murdered body. Much page time is also given to Sigita's point of view. She's the young Lithuanian single mother of the boy. In addition, there are chapters told by Nina's husband, the kidnappers, and the person who organized the kidnapping.

The only thing that was a meh for me was the kidnapper. He or she (see? no spoiler!) seemed too carboardy, too black and white. He or she had endured an abusive childhood, blah, blah, blah. The other characters, particularly Nina and Sigita are so incredibly human and flawed and real, that I expected a similar treatment of the villain.

That aside, I truly, truly enjoyed this book and have already ordered Nina Borg's 2nd adventure: INVISIBLE MURDER

"Her er resten af vores anmeldelser. Nyde!" This is apparently Danish for: Here are the rest of our reviews. Enjoy!


MIDDLE GRADE/YOUNG ADULT BOOK REVIEWS

Sarah Laurence: BRUTAL YOUTH by Anthony Breznican (YA/adult)

Stacy Nyikos: WE WERE LIARS by E LOCKHART (YA)

ADULT BOOK REVIEWS

Linda McLaughlin: NAAMAH'S KISS by Jacqueline Carrey (fantasy)

Prairie Rose of Prairie Rose's Garden: THE INVENTION OF WINGS by Sue Monk Kidd (historical)


NONFICTION REVIEWS

Jenn Jilks of Cottage Country: THE BILLION DOLLAR PAPERCLIP by Gregory Short

Lucy Sartain of Ranting and Raving: LOVE LIFE by Rob Lowe (autobiography)

Patti Abbott:  UPDIKE by Adam Begley



Note to Reviewers: Any errors (broken link, missed review, etc), just shoot me an email or leave a comment. Thank you so much for your reviews!



Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Book Review Club (May 2014)


Welcome to our May Book Review Club! Did you know that it used to be considered bad luck to get married in May. "Marry in May and you'll rue the day."* However, it's always been considered good luck to read our book reviews. We won't steer you wrong. That goes for any month! Enjoy!
*From:http://www.ducksters.com/history/mayinhistory.php 






THE GOLLYWHOPPER GAMES: THE NEW CHAMPION
 by Jody Feldman

This middle-grade novel by our very own Jody Feldman (click through for cute website) is a companion to the wildly successful THE GOLLYWHOPPER GAMES. By wildly successful, I mean it's on TWENTY-SIX state reading lists. I expect we'll see the same kind of love for THE GOLLYWHOPPER GAMES: THE NEW CHAMPION. Because it's that good.


In a nutshell (stolen from the Harper Collins website): 
The Golly Toy and Game Company's Gollywhopper Games was such a big success the first time, the company's executives have decided to host the competition again. Cameron and Spencer Schein have scored two highly sought-after slots in the regional round—will one of the Schein brothers make it all the way to the finals? Favorite characters from the first book make guest appearances, and a new cast of competitors, both boys and girls, get set to compete against (and with) Cameron and Spencer. There are twists and turns and complications in this page-turner of a race to the finish line!
What I loved:  the puzzles. They are seriously fun. Here are a couple of examples. 1. What is a normal decibel level for everyday conversation? Greater or less or equal to 85? 2. How many species of flightless birds are there? More or less or equal to 4? 3. What rhymes with a synonym for "more angry"? And the answers are... Ha! I am so not giving you the answers!

What else I loved: You definitely do not have to read the first book before reading this one. The author has written this companion in such a brilliant way that it works as a standalone. That said,  you'll want to read both books. Because once you find your way into the world of the Gollywhopper Games, you'll try to hang out there as long as you can.

What else I loved: You only think you figured out the ending!

An unexpected bonus: Okay, this is going to sound weird. But we're all friends. Plus, what gets posted on The Book Review Club, stays here.  Right?  Anyway, this middle-grade fiction actually made me stop and think, in an adult way, about sibling rivalry. What kinds of rivalries have gone on, are going with my own four kids? How well have I handled it over the years? How much sibling rivalry have I been unaware of? I don't expect a middle-grade novel to make me mull things over. But I love that this one did. Thank you, Jody Feldman!

 To the FCC: Jody Feldman is a friend of mine. In fact, we've broken bread together in two different states. At my request, Jody sent me an ARC of this book. But no one paid me or compensated me in any way for this review. I wouldn't have reviewed this book if I hadn't loved it. And Jody would've understood. Because that's the kind of awesome she is.

And now . . .  links to the rest of the reviews. Click through, kick back and enjoy!


MIDDLE GRADE/YOUNG ADULT BOOK REVIEWS

Alyssa Goodnight: A SNICKER OF MAGIC by Natalie Lloyd (MG)

Jody Feldman: THE YEAR OF BILLY MILLER by Kevin Henkes (MG)


Linda McLaughlin: DIVERGENT trilogy by Veronica Roth (YA)

Stacy Nyikos: THE LUNAR CHRONICLES (CINDER, SCARLET, CRESS) by Melissa Meyer (YA)

ADULT BOOK REVIEWS

Patti Abbott:  ORDINARY PEOPLE by Judith Guest

Sarah Laurence: TEMPTING FATE by Jane Green

 POETRY

Jenn Jilks of Cottage Country: LIVING WITHOUT THE ONE YOU CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT
                                                  by Natasha Josefowitz



Note to Reviewers: Any errors (broken link, missed review, etc), just shoot me an email or leave a comment. Thank you so much for your reviews!



Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Book Review Club (April 2014)


Welcome to our April Book Review Club! It's April 2, so you don't have to put up with all kinds of annoying April Fool's Day jokes. Nope. We're simply bringing you a bunch of good book reviews about good books. I think you'll enjoy the lineup: middle grade, young adult, adult and, even, non-fiction. 






TEXTING THE UNDERWORLD by Ellen Booraem

This middle-grade fantasy by our very own Ellen Booraem received a starred Kirkus review. Having read all of Ellen's books, I wasn't surprised.


In a nutshell (stolen from Ellen's website)
Perpetual scaredy-cat Conor O’Neill has the fright of his life when a banshee named Ashling shows up in his bedroom. Ashling is—as all banshees are—a harbinger of death, and she’s sure someone in Conor’s family is about to require her services. But she’s new at this banshee business, and first she insists on going to middle school.
Even as Conor desperately tries to hide her identity from his classmates and teachers, he realizes there’s no way to avoid paying a visit to the underworld if he wants to keep his family safe. 

What I loved:  The tension. It was page-turning incredible. Take a scared-of-his-shadow kid like Conor and give him spiders, a falling out with his best friend, a trip to the Underworld, a banshee who shows up to kill a member of his family, this same banshee who follows him to school, dreams that don't make sense. Give him all that and a little more. And what do you get? A book you can't put down.

What else I loved: The language. Ms. Booraem has quite the way with words. For eg.: "Conor sank down on his bed, legs spaghettified." Spaghettified???? Brilliant!!

What else I loved: The fantasy. That Ms. Booraem has imagination galore. Even jelly beans are useful in the Underworld!

What I didn't like: It ended. The book ended. Sure, it was a great, fulfilling, creative ending. But, still... Hurry up and finish your next book, Ms. Booraem! TEXTING THE UNDERWORLD was amazing!


 To the FCC: Yes, Ellen Booraem is a friend of mine. My goal is to one day meet her in real life. Anyway, I bought her wonderful book and only reviewed it because I loved it. No one paid me or compensated me in any way. Neener. Neener. Mind you, I'd be a happy camper if a certain someone sent me a signed bookplate. :)

And now, people, I present to you the links for the rest of the reviews. Click through and enjoy!


MIDDLE GRADE/YOUNG ADULT BOOK REVIEWS

Alyssa Goodnight of the Writers' Road Less Traveled: THE DIVINERS by Libba Bray (YA)

 Sarah Laurence: GOING OVER by Beth Kephart (YA)

ADULT BOOK REVIEWS

Ellen Booraem of Freelance Ne'er-do-well: THE GOLDFINCH by Donna Tartt

Linda McLaughlin: AMPED by Douglas E. Richards (thriller) 

Patti Abbott:  THE HUSBAND'S SECRET by Liane Moriarty

Stacy Nyikos: THE MARTIAN by Andy Weir (science fiction)


NONFICTION REVIEWS

Jenn Jilks of Cottage Country: THE BEGINNER'S GUIDE TO ECHOLOCATION FOR THE
                                                  BLIND AND VISUALLY IMPAIRED by Tim Johnson

Scott Parker: PLOTTING: A NOVELIST'S WORKOUT GUIDE by Aaron Allston



Note to Reviewers: Any errors (broken link, missed review, etc), just shoot me an email or leave a comment. Thank you so much for your reviews!



Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Book Review Club (March 2014)


Happy March Book Review Club Day! One of my favorite days of the month. And...Happy Multiple Personalities Day*. And I will wish you Happy Frozen Food Day* (March 6) and Happy Potato Chip Day* (March 14) in advance.  But mostly I hope you enjoy the wonderful book reviews we've put together for you.
(*source:  http://listverse.com/2009/03/10/31-wacky-holidays-in-march)






DYED AND GONE by Beth Yarnall 
(adult mystery)

Yes, I know it's a shocker. I'm actually reviewing an adult book.

In a nutshell: To snap her out of a depression brought on by relationship woes, hairstylist Azalea March's friends drag her to Las Vegas for a weekend of fun and games and a huge hair show. What follows is a fast-paced, SUPER humorous, over-the-top cozy mystery. You can expect dead bodies, a cast of wacky characters and a lot of unexpected twists. I especially loved the discovery of that first body. So creative and ghoulish.

What I loved: THE HUMOR. There are lots of great, laugh-out-loud lines. I especially loved the references to hairdressing.  Here's an example: "I was sure he'd scared at least three years off my being a natural brunette." THE ATTITUDE. Azalea is beyond spunky. She's fun to read. THE ROMANCE. Romance for several characters was woven into the plot and enriched the book. THE ENDING. I did not figure it out. THE COVER. You have to admit it's very cute.

Beth Yarnall is one of our very own reviewers. And she used to be a hairdresser. So, you know all the hairdressing stuff is authentic.  Thanks for trusting me to review DYED AND GONE, Beth.


DYED AND GONE will be available  March 25. You can pre-order from Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Okay, people. Below are links to everyone else's reviews. Please click through. It'll make your day!

MIDDLE GRADE (MG) /YOUNG ADULT (YA) BOOK REVIEWS

Ellen Booraem of Freelance Ne'er-do-well: HOW I BECAUSE A GHOST by Tim Tingle (MG fantasy)

Sarah Laurence: THE TYRANT'S DAUGHTER by J.C. Carlson (YA Fiction/Middle Eastern Politics)

Stacy Nyikos: MIDWINTER BLOOD by Marcus Sedgwick (YA)

Jenn Jilks of Cottage Country: THE BROKEN CIRCLE TRILOGY by Cheryl Potter (YA, fantasy)

ADULT BOOK REVIEWS

Alyssa Goodnight of the Writers' Road Less Traveled: THE ROSIE PROJECT by Graeme Simsion

Patti Abbott: GHOST TOWN by Ed Gorman

Linda McLaughlin: WRAPPED IN THE FLAG: A PERSONAL HISTORY OF AMERICAN'S RADICAL RIGHT by Claire Connor

Prairie Rose of Prairie Rose's Garden: JUST ONE EVIL ACT by Elizabeth George (mystery)



Note to Reviewers: Any errors (broken link, missed review, etc), just shoot me an email or leave a comment. Thank you so much for your reviews!