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. 


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!


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

 Sarah Laurence: GOING OVER by Beth Kephart (YA)


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)


                                                  BLIND AND VISUALLY IMPAIRED by Tim Johnson


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.

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!


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)


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

Patti Abbott: GHOST TOWN by Ed Gorman


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!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Happy Belated Saint David's Day

Saint David (Dewi Sant in the Welsh language) is the patron saint of Wales. March 1st is a Welsh national holiday.

You might be wondering why I'm celebrating Saint David's Day. (My family is wondering the same thing.) There isn't a drop of Welsh blood in me. That I know of, anyhow. But one of my New Year's resolutions is to have more fun. And what could be more fun than celebrating other countries' special days? Actually, quite a lot could be more fun, but it's only the beginning of March. I'll have to ramp up the "funness factor" as the year progresses.

So, here are a few facts about Saint David:
-He lived in the 6th century and was into spreading Christianity to the Celtic tribes across western Britain.
-He founded a very strict monastery where the monks farmed, celebrated mass and kept bees.
-He was a fiend for water. A fiend. For his entire life, he only drank water. Things might have been different had diet Coke been invented during his lifetime.
-Sometimes, he submerged himself up to his neck in cold water and spouted (pun intended) Scripture.
-He mostly ate breads and herbs, especially watercress, yet was apparently very strong.
-He lived for over 100 years. Obviously breads, herbs, with an emphasis on watercress, and gallons of water is a winning combo for longevity.

In honor of St. David's Day, I'm cooking the national dish of Wales: cawl.

I'm sure my family will rave over it. Well, perhaps not Child #3 because cawl doesn't resemble rolled tacos from the taco shop down the street or pizza.

Sorry for the blurry pic of my bowl of cawl. Here's a link to the slow-cooker recipe I used. Oh, and a "swede" is not a person. It's a rutabaga. And, of course, there are leeks in cawl because, as you well know, leeks are a national symbol of Wales. They're even on the flag.

Happy Belated Saint David's Day. Let the fun begin!


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Child #3 hits a parked car: a cautionary tale

Last week, I received a text from Child #3: "i just clipped someones side mirror and left a note with my cell and our home numbers"

I texted back, "good thinking"

Now, we know it wasn't good thinking. At least, it wasn't enough good thinking.

What happened: Child #3 came home for lunch from high school and was driving to his afternoon science class. He dropped his chocolate bar, leaned over to pick it up (argh!!), and swerved into a parked car, knocking off the mirror.* He pulled over to the curb, tore a page from his notebook, wrote his name, two contact phone numbers and an apology. He slid said note under the windshield wiper, placed the mirror on the sidewalk, texted me and went on to class.

What happened next: A couple of hours later, a man phoned our house. He was the son-in-law of the car owner. Grandma was babysitting when my Twix-munching son hit her car. Anyway, I was running out the door to pick up Child #4 from school and take her to ballet class, so we (the man and me) agreed to all meet that evening and figure out how we'd (the Summys) pay for the damage, hopefully without involving our insurance.

Then: I'm sitting on a bench, watching Child #4 twirl and point her toes, when I get a panicked call from Child #3. To put this in perspective, Child #3 rarely panics. Perhaps this is due to years of water polo. Or perhaps he has a special keep-cool gene (probaby from Mr. Summy's side of the family). Perhaps he figures life will work itself out. Anyway...

Child #3: "Mom! The sheriff just called my cell and said I have to come back to the car I hit immediately, or I'll be arrested."
Me: "What?"
Child #3: "He said it was a hit and run."
Me: "What? Don't go by yourself. I'll call Dad. He can come home from work and go with you. I'm stuck at ballet."

The cautionary part: In California (I don't know about anywhere else), when you leave a note on a car you've hit, the note must include your name, your address, your phone number, your car insurance info including company name and policy #. Otherwise, it's considered a hit-and-run.

Odds and ends: The daughter of the car owner called the sheriff. I have no idea why. Maybe she just wanted a police report? The sheriff was pretty rough on Child #3, reiterating that he'd be arrested and accusing him of avoiding phone calls. Which wasn't true. There were no missed calls. Our incident got a bit more complicated because the insurance card in Child #3's glove box was expired. This was cleared up with an email from the insurance company. In Calif, you can show proof of insurance on your smart phone.

On the bright side, no one was hurt. And we learned a good lesson.

*The damage was more than a knocked-off mirror. There were 3 dents, to the tune of $3,000 + in body work repairs. Apparently, Nissan Maximas are made of cardboard. Our Toyota Rav 4 is fine. So, if you happen to be in the market for a car...

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Book Review Club (February 2014)

Welcome to the February meeting of the Book Review Club! And here's some trivia about the month of February. Shakespeare mentions February in only one of his plays--Much Ado About Nothing. Julius Caesar introduced the leap year by have Feb 24 counted twice. Today is Laura Linney's birthday. And, moving on to more important things....we've got some great book reviews for you!
(trivia source:

by Laurie Halse Anderson

Are you wondering how was I able to read a book  this month AND finish the incredibly extensive, exhausting revisions on my book due to the editor yesterday? The answer is simple. I didn't read the book....I LISTENED to it! Hayley and Finn and Gracie and the other characters all kept me company during my car time. Stellar narration, by the way!

And here is how you know you're listening to an excellent book: you sit in your driveway or a parking lot to finish a chapter!

In a nutshell: Hayley Kincain has been homeschooled (or "unschooled" as she calls it) for the past five-ish years as she and her dad drove around the country in a truck. Her father fought in Iraq and Afghanistan and suffers from severe PTSD. The book opens with the pair giving up their truck-driver ways and settling in dad's childhood home. Hayley's a senior at the local high school. This is a dark book. There are lots of issues: addiction, divorce, abandonment, suicide, secrets, dysfunctional families, PTSD*. To name a few. But there is also Hayley and Finn's (her boyfriend) very dry sense of humor. 

What I liked: The increasing tension as Hayley's dad spiraled down, despite all her attempts to keep him grounded. The relationship between Hayley and Finn, between Hayley and Gracie (best friend).  Figuring out the stepmother's motivations before Hayley. The voice in this book was the perfect blend of fake tough teen bravado and hurting, confused, insecure teen. I didn't want the book to end, and I appreciate how the author didn't rush things, but took the time to address the various plot lines.

What was a little meh: I wasn't so keen on the scenes from her dad's (Andy) perspective. It's not that I wasn't interested in his struggle with PTSD. I was. But a great strength of the book was Hayley's voice. So, I would've preferred to learn of the PTSD from Hayley's perspective only. Also, I got quite a kick out of Gracie and would've loved a little more of her in the book.
*Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Please click through on the links below to wonderful, thoughtful reviews. They'll make your day!


 Ellen Booraem of Freelance Ne'er-do-well: THE REAL BOY by Anne Ursu (middle grade, fantasy)

 Jody Feldman: SMALL MEDIUM AT LARGE by Joanne Levy (middle grade)

Stacy Nyikos: BOXERS & SAINTS by Gene Luen Yang (middle grade graphic) 

Alyssa Goodnight of the Writers' Road Less Traveled: THE RITHMATIST by Brandon Sanderson     (young adult) (reviewed by Alyssa's son!)


 Sarah Laurence: BREAD & BUTTER by Michelle Wildgen (contemporary + food porn)
 Bread & Butter by Michelle Wildgen

Scott Parker: A NATURAL HISTORY OF DRAGONS by Marie Brennan (fantasy)

Stacy of The Cat's Meow: THE HANDMAN'S DAUGHTER and THE DARK MONK by Oliver Potzsch (books 1 and 2 in an historical mystery series)

Prairie Rose's Garden: HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN by Louise Penny (mystery)


Linda McLaughlin: AT ANY PRICE (GAMING THE SYSTEM) by Brenna Aubrey


Jenn Jilks of Cottage Country: FIREBALLS IN MY EUCHARIST: FIGHT CANCER SMARTER by Dr. Joseph Pinzone (self help)

Jody Feldman: SPIRITED by Rebecca Rosen

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, January 8, 2014

The Book Review Club (January 2014)

Happy New Year! So, I was reading somewhere online that the most popular resolutions involve losing weight, exercising, stopping smoking and doing a better job with money. Can we offer a more books! Ha! And to help you out, we're kicking 2014 off with a bunch of terrific book reviews.

BETTER NATE THAN EVER by Tim Federle (middle grade)
In a nutshell: Eighth-grader Nate Foster jumps a Greyhound to New York City to try out for the Broadway musical ET. Nate’s sidekick, his best friend Libby, helps with the plans and covers for Nate back in Jankburg, Pennsylvania. Nate and Libby are big-time into musicals and show tunes.

Nate deals with quite a lot over a little less than 300 pages. He’s overweight. He’s gay, but hasn’t figured it out yet. He doesn’t fit in at school and is bullied. He doesn’t really fit in at home where he lives with parents who aren’t getting along, a mother with a drinking problem and a perfect-and-athletic big brother.

Surprise! This book is humorous.

What I liked: the humor, Nate and Libby’s friendship, Aunt Heidi (a secondary character)

What I liked a little less: Okay, this is super picky: but there were times that I wanted Nate to at least consider the more obvious solutions. Quick example: he doesn’t have a parent with him to sign the paperwork at the audition.  Surely, surely he’d think about forging a parent’s signature. Right? Right. Still, this is very small potatoes in a book that was funny and entertaining while touching on tough subjects. No small feat!

In the future: I’d like Child #4 (my eighth grader) to read this. I’m curious to see if she picks up on the gay theme. And I’d like to know what she thinks of the humor. We have very different senses of humor. Also, I plan to read the sequel, FIVE, SIX, SEVEN, NATE!, which comes out later this month. 
And, now, onto to everyone’s thoughtful, insightful reviews! You'll love them!


Stacy Nyikos: LARA'S GIFT by Annemarie O'Brien (MG)

Lucy Sartain of Ranting and Raving: ONE FOR THE MURPHYS by Lynda Mullaly Hunt (MG)

                                (Magnificent Devices 5) by Shelley Adina (YA Steampunk)

Prairie Rose of Prairie Rose's Garden: THE BOOK THIEF by Marcus Zusak (YA)


Sarah Laurence: THE GOLDFINCH by Donna Tartt (Literary/Noir)

Lucy Sartain of Ranting and Raving: KEEP CALM AND CARRY A BIG DRINK
                                                            by Kim Gruenenfelder (romance)

Stacy of The Cat's Meow: THE SUN AND OTHER STARS by Brigid Pasulka

Linda McLaughlin: TWO TO MANGO by Jill Marie Landis (#2 in the Tiki Goddess Mystery series)
                                THREE TO GET LEI'D by Jill Marie Landis (#3 in above series)


Patti Abbott: DIFFICULT MEN by Brett Martin

                                                  by George Morgan and Drew Smith

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, December 4, 2013

The Book Review Club (December 2013)

December??!!! Seriously?! Still, nothing beats celebrating the end of the year with a list of books to read in 2014. And, of course, there are always holiday gifts...Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all the reviewers! What an amazing year of reviews we've had! 


I love breaking out of the old comfort zone and reading an author from another country. I'm not sure what lead me to Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma (that is a mouthful of a title!), but I'm glad I wound up there. The author, Kerry Hudson, is from Aberdeen, Scotland and, from the little poking around I've done, had a tough life similar to our diamond-in-the-rough heroine. This is Ms. Hudson's first novel, and it won the Scottish First Book Award. It was also short-listed for a bunch of other awards.

Janie Ryan is born into a world of poverty, domestic violence, alcohol, sex, drugs, despair. Her family's very dysfunctional with a single, hard-living mother, a grandmother who loves "the bingo" over all, an uncle who's a dealer and an addict. Janie's not expected to amount to much. Her guidance counselor (careers adviser) tells her to be realistic when Janie says she wants to go to university.

What this book is chock full of: voice! "We'd been having a nice night, sleepy from a big dinner, cosied up with cups of tea and old magazines with Catchphrase humming away in the background...Now we were face to face and I could tell that there was no edging back from a full-on slanging match." (pg. 240)

I loved the characters, their poor choices and bumpy lives. I loved the language, especially the dialogue that felt so real. I loved all the setting details.

Here's the cover of the American version that pubs next month.

Ms. Hudson's second novel, THIRST, will be out next year.

And, now, onto to everyone’s marvelous reviews!


Ellen Booraem of Freelance Ne'er-do-well: ONE FOR THE MURPHYS by Lynda Mullaly Hunt (MG)

Sarah Laurence: ROOMIES by Sarah Zarr and Tara Altebrando (YA, contemporary)


Lucy Sartain of Ranting and Raving: THE PARTNER TRACK by Helen Wan (legal)
                                                            THE OPPORTUNIST by Tarryn Fisher (romance)
                                                             TAKEDOWN TWENTY by Janet Evanovich (mystery)

Stacy of The Cat's Meow: HYPERBOLE AND A HALF by Allie Brosh (humor)

Linda McLaughlin: MY MAI TAI ONE ON by Jill Marie Landis (cozy mystery)
                                THE CHRISTMAS CUCKOO by Mary Jo Putney (regency romance)
                                 SILENT NIGHT: A LADY JULIA CHRISTMAS NOVELLA
                                    by Deanna Raybourn (historical mystery)

Prairie Rose of Prairie Rose's Garden: AND THE MOUNTAINS ECHOES by Khaled Hosseini
                                                              FLIGHT BEHAVIOR by Barbara Kingsolver 

Patti Abbott: LET HIM GO by Larry Watson

Stacy Nyikos: THE DOG STARS by Peter Heller (guy book!)


Jenn Jilks of Cottage Country: COACHING FOR CAREGIVERS: HOW TO REACH OUT BEFORE YOU BURNT OUT by Yosaif August (self help)

 Alyssa Goodnight of the Writers' Road Less Traveled: BOMB by Steve Sheinkin (middle grade)

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!