Book Blast for PRINCESS MADELINE AND THE DRAGON

About the Books

The Escape of Princess Madeline by Kirstin PulioffTitle: The Escape of Princess Madeline (Princess Madeline Trilogy, Book #1) Author: Kirstin Pulioff Publication Date: November 4, 2012 Publisher: Caliburn Books Number of pages: 138 Recommended age: 10+ Summary: The Kingdom of Soron is known for many things, its rolling landscape, haunting history, fiery sunsets, and its beautiful princess. Princess Madeline woke on her sixteenth birthday to realize that her future had been planned out, a life full of privilege, royalty, and boredom... a life with a husband and knight champion that she did not choose. Using her charm, strength and stubbornness, she defies the King at every turn, determined to keep her freedom on her terms. Freedom quickly turns to disaster as she finds herself seized by a group of wandering bandits. With the kingdom in turmoil over her capture; her Knight Champion eager to prove himself, a group of dedicated suitors determined to win her hand, and a group of exiled wizards join forces in the hunt to rescue her. Follow Princess Madeline in this adventure full of twists and turns as she tries to find her freedom and answers to her questions about life and love.

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The Battle for Princess Madeline by Kirstin Pulioff  Title: The Battle for Princess Madeline (Princess Madeline Trilogy, Book #2) Author: Kirstin Pulioff Publication Date: May 21, 2013 Publisher: Caliburn Books Number of pages: 159 Recommended age: 10+ Summary: The Kingdom of Soron bustled with activity as preparations for the Fall Festival began. Lively merchants, hardworking farmers, and musicians eagerly awaited this event of harvest and joy. This year’s festival was even more important, as they celebrated Princess Madeline’s betrothal to her knight champion, Daniel. Celebration quickly turns to disaster as Prince Paulsen returns with curious demands, either Princess Madeline will be his, or no ones. Rejection turns to obsession and battle is declared. In a tense struggle to decide her future, Princess Madeline must choose where to put her trust… in the king’s tried and true plan, the wizard’s cryptic messages and maps, or her own sense of bravery. Follow Princess Madeline on this adventure as she battles evil in an attempt to create a future of love and magic.

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Princess Madeline and the Dragon by Kirstin Pulioff  Title: Princess Madeline and the Dragon (Princess Madeline Trilogy, Book #3) Author: Kirstin Pulioff Publication Date: November 26, 2013 Publisher: Caliburn Books Number of pages: 135 Recommended age: 10+ Summary: After a season of battle and rebuilding, the Kingdom of Soron is exhausted. With the return of the exiled wizards, the Spring Faire, and her upcoming wedding, Princess Madeline is looking forward to a peaceful season of celebration. When the mysterious green dragon reappears, threatening the kingdom and the king, Princess Madeline and Prince Braden won’t rest for long. Faced with this incredible new danger, Princess Madeline and Prince Braden must find a way to lead their kingdom and secure their future. Can they find the answers hidden within their mother’s cryptic messages from the past, or will the dragon destroy everything they hold dear? Follow Princess Madeline as she embarks on a dangerous new adventure to save her kingdom and her family.

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The Buzz

Book 1: "Well-written, fast-paced, and entirely appropriate for its target audience (middle grade fantasy), this short but succinct novel (novella? It was maybe a little between a novella and a novel) tells a delightful tale of a naive princess who learns the real meaning of freedom. Kirsten gives her characters a sufficient amount of depth to make them genuinely likeable, and she leaves room for much, much more to come." ~ 5 Star Review, Ally, Amazon
Book 1: "An inspiring thought provoking, and wonderfully written fairy tale by an author who transports us to a time in our imagination where everything is magical and possibilities are real." ~ 5 Star Review, kathyls, Amazon
Book 2: "Fairy tales are filled with knights and princesses and castles and a special magical feel that takes the reader far, far, away into another world, another place, another time. The Battle for Princess Madeline fits the bill to a tee! Author Kirstin Pulioff has created a special feel to the tale of Princess Madeline with her own special talent for using words to paint pictures in our minds." ~ 5 Star Review, Dii, Amazon
Book 2: "The story is well developed and easy to follow. The vivid scenes will transport young readers into the magical world of fairy tales with thrilling characters that have come to life. Another splendid read for young readers! I can hardly wait for a new book, Princess Madeline and the Dragon. " ~ 5 Star Review, Mrs. D., Amazon
Book 3: "The story is engaging on many levels, as is Pulioff's writing, but on this occasion I was mostly drawn into the action and the mystery as how to prevent the worst from happening. This is great entertainment and should do well across a wider age range." ~ 5 Star Review,ChristophFischerBooks, Amazon
Book 3: "Kirstin Pulioff has saved the best for last. 'Princess Madeline and the Dragon' is the final instalment in the 'Princess Madeline Trilogy'. I thought the first two books were finely wrought stories, but this novel surpasses its predecessors. Prophesies, family tragedies, magic and - of course - dragons, combine to produce a tale that is an instant classic. Written with a great deal of charm, 'Princess Madeline and the Dragon' will not disappoint Ms Pulioff's young fans. I look forward to seeing where next her imagination will take this natural storyteller. " ~ 5 Star Review, Diogenes, Amazon
 

About the Author: Kirstin Pulioff

Kirstin Pulioff Kirstin Pulioff is a storyteller at heart. Born and raised in Southern California, she moved to the Pacific Northwest to follow her dreams and graduated from Oregon State University with a degree in Forest Management. Happily married and a mother of two, she lives in Oregon, and enjoys being a stay at home mom. When she’s not writing, she is busy with her kids and church.

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* $25 Book Blast Giveaway *

MDBR Book Promotion ServicesPrize: $25Amazon Gift Card or PayPal cash (winner’s choice) Contest runs: December 18, 2013 to January 16, 2014, 11:59 pm, 2013 Open: Internationally How to enter: Please enter using the Rafflecopter widget below. Terms and Conditions: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. A winner will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget and will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winner will then have 72 hours to respond. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, a new draw will take place for a new winner. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible entries received. This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. This giveaway is sponsored by the author, Kirstin Pulioff and is hosted and managed by Renee from Mother Daughter Book Reviews. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send and email to Renee(at)MotherDaughterBookReviews(dot)com. a Rafflecopter giveaway


Review: Anatomy of a Single Girl (Daria Snadowsky)

The Deets:
Audience: YA
Pages: 277
Publisher: January 8th 2013 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers
ISBN: 9780385737982
Genre: contemporary
Source: copy provided by author in exchange for an honest review


Anatomy of a Single Girl (Anatomy, #2)With Judy Blume-like honesty and insight, this sequel to Anatomy of a Boyfriend is about life after first love--romance, sex, friendship, family, and the ups and downs of life as a single girl.

After everything that happened—my first boyfriend, my first time, my first breakup—jumping back into the dating game seemed like the least healthy thing I could do. It’s not that I didn’t want to fall in love again, since that’s about the best feeling ever. But as a busy college premed still raw from heartbreak, which is the worst feeling ever, I figured I’d lie low for a while. Of course, as soon as I stopped looking for someone, an impossibly amazing—and devastatingly cute—guy came along, and I learned that having a new boyfriend is the quickest way to recover from losing your old one.

The moment we got together, all my preconceptions about romance and sex were turned upside down. I discovered physical and emotional firsts I never knew existed. I learned to let go of my past by living in the present. It was thrilling. It was hot. It was just what the doctor ordered.

But I couldn’t avoid my future forever.

In Daria Snadowsky’s daring follow-up to Anatomy of a Boyfriend, eighteen-year-old Dominique explores the relationship between love and lust, and the friendships that see us through.



The series continues!

This time around Dom is moving on. She's on that dangerous precipice of 'a rebound' but she blows through it. She realizes new things about herself along the way, too.

The plot is a lot like the first book. There is a whole lot of sex and a few insights. However, I think in the end she does finally realize what it means to be comfortable in your skin and move on. Dom had a lot of anger left over from her break up with her ex. That anger lead to some weird feelings, but she got it all sorted out.

I really liked her new boy-toy. He was a nerdy, hot sort of character. I wish he had lasting presence though. I'm a bit sad to see that Dom used him up for a summer fling and then left. Hopefully, he will come back in another book to some capacity. The banter between the two of them was rather endearing, when it wasn't smothered in sex.

I like the storylines in the books, but the amount of physical activity is starting to detract. It just seems like more emphasis is placed on a sexual awakening instead of the emotional growth needed to mature into an adult. Anatomy of a Single Girl had a bit more grit than the first book, so I hope as the series continues the story will become more than just a romp between the sheets.  


Review: Trafficked (Sophie Hayes)

The Deets:
Audience: Older YA+
Pages: 308
Publisher: January 19th 2012 by Harpercollins Publishers            
ISBN: 9780007438884        
Genre: nonfiction, memoir
Source: eARC from Netgalley


When Sophie Hayes met Bledi she knew he'd change her life – but she had no idea how much. At first, it was a typical whirlwind romance. But one day Bledi told her that love always comes at a price ...

Bledi tricked Sophie into travelling to Italy, where he forced her to sell her body to help him pay off a debt. Terrified and ashamed, Sophie worked the dangerous Italian streets without rest, seeing as many as 30 clients in a night. She was completely at Bledi′s mercy for food, clothes and shelter. And without money, friends or family, she was trapped.

But Sophie found the strength to keep going, clinging to life by a single thread of hope: that somehow she′d find a way to escape.



I have mixed feelings toward this book.

First and foremost, the content and basis of this horrific story is terrifying. You cannot dispute that. I've actually been aware of the issue of human trafficking for some time, and it never stops amazing me. I am amazed at how evil people can be. I am amazed how easy it is to make someone disappear. and I am amazed that more isn't being done to bring awareness to this heinous crime.

For those reasons, Sophie's story was hard to dismiss. It was full of brutal violence that no one should have to experience. Ever. I found myself shedding silent tears as I read because I could just not fathom the enormity of what this girl went through.

But I had a hard time with this book as well. Sophie was hard to connect with. As I read the beginning of this book, I just could not believe what I was reading. I find it so hard to imagine someone being so foolish. Maybe it's my cynical nature, but even in my early 20s I was never trusting. So, for a young girl like Sophie not to take alarm to a complete stranger getting her cell number and texting her-- I just could not relate. It just screamed psycho stalker from page one. To understand why Sophie struck up a friendship with a complete stranger under these circumstances, I really needed more insight. It was not there though.

In fact, the insight I was looking for came at intervals. There were many chapters of just frank, undiluted brutality. Then the story would jump forward to the present. Towards the end, it became a bit of a challenge to keep up with, especially when the remainder of the story stayed in the present.

But one thing that I just cannot understand if how Sophie felt any inkling of sentiment for the men that paid her for sex. She mentioned a few men from Italy in particular and the desire to see them again. WTH... no thank you. I just cannot imagine that. I think I would hate the people that did those things to me with such a deep-rooted passion that I would not be able to feel anything but disgust for them. No matter the situation or circumstance. I certainly couldn't think of forgiveness or friendship.

To be very honest, it took the letters at the end of the book for me to really put this story in perspective. Sophie's mother's letter is what gave me the glimpse of insight the whole story seemed to lack. She summed it up well when she said there was so explanation for why Kas let Sophie return to England with them. I was left wondering that as well as I read. I think it's clear that it was a miracle. In the midst of one of the worst situations I can think of, a glimmer of hope and opportunity crept through.

I don't know of too may books out there about this subject matter. I've never read one before at least. For that, I think Sophie's story is important and deserves a voice. It's a warning. Trust should not be given freely, my friends. Again, it's probably my cynical nature speaking for I have seen way too many acts of evil towards children in my short amount of years. But if Sophie's story can teach just one young woman a lessen that saves her from the same path, it's worth it.


review: Anatomy of a Boyfriend (Daria Snadowsky)

The Deets:
Audience: YA
Pages: 272
Publisher:
ISBN:
Genre: contemporary
Source: a copy was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review


Anatomy of a Boyfriend (Anatomy, #1)Before this all happened, the closest I'd ever come to getting physical with a guy was playing the board game Operation. Okay, so maybe that sounds pathetic, but it's not like there were any guys at my high school who I cared to share more than three words with, let alone my body.

Then I met Wes, a track star senior from across town. Maybe it was his soulful blue eyes, or maybe my hormones just started raging. Either way, I was hooked. And after a while, he was too. I couldn't believe how intense my feelings became, or the fact that I was seeing—and touching—parts of the body I'd only read about in my Gray's Anatomy textbook. You could say Wes and I experienced a lot of firsts together that spring. It was scary. It was fun. It was love.

And then came the fall.





Some books do a fabulous job of showing what goes on inside of a hormonal teenager’s head. Anatomy of a Boyfriend is very honest and pretty accurate with its portrayal.

Dom is a hormonal mess. She’s been able to resist the lure of boys for most of her time in high school, but then she meets “the one”. Enter Wes. He’s everything that a young Cassanova isn’t. And he’s perfect for Dom.

There is instant chemistry… and a lot of sexual exploration. I mean a lot. They are both horrible niave, so some of the situations they find themselves in are entertaining. Classic teen stupidity.

I have to be pretty honest, however, I was really surprised by the amount of sex in this book. At times, it felt more like a teen Harlequin novel instead of a YA contemporary read. That did not keep me from reading it, however.

Dom is all over the place with her emotions, and I could not help but recognize my younger self in her character. The highs and lows of young (and most) relationships were realistic. The anger and ache that comes from having your heart broken, also believable. Dom is every teenage girl.

After reading the book, I thought about the dedication page. Anatomy of a Boyfriend is devoted to Judy Blume and Dorothy Teenov. That may not seem important at first, but when I started to think about things I realized something. Judy Blume received a lot of crap for some of her stories that discussed sexuality among teens and masturbation. Well, Anatomy of a Boyfriend is part of the new age of teen literature that explores these topics.

I will admit that I did not know who Dorothy Tennov was. So, I looked her up. She was a psychologist that—in simple terms—studied the compulsions behind ‘being in love’. She coined the term “limerence” to describe these feelings of needing to have your romantic feelings reciprocated. This feels pretty accurate for Dom, because a large part of the book deals with her efforts in her first relationship, and whether or not they were returned.  

I will also go ahead and mentioned that I never cared for Wes. I think he had a lot of potential, but he always felt selfish to me. I kept waiting for some plot twist to show that he was taking advantage of Dom, or some other explanation to explain his behavior. When that didn’t occur, it left me a little baffled. I never fully bought the relationship and “love” aspect of Wes and Dom. It felt very rushed.

I would probably not be able to keep these on my classroom shelf due to explicit sex scenes that are on just about every page. I would also have a hard time keeping these out of my students’ hands if they knew I had them. They are so interested in this topic, and many don’t feel comfortable asking about it. They would, however, read a book. This series would definitely be the most requested book from my “secret box” in the closet.

Review: Allegiant (Veronica Roth)

The Deets:
Audience: YA
Pages: 526
Publisher: October 22nd 2013 by Katherine Tegen Books          
ISBN: 9780062024060
Genre: sci-fi, dystopian
Source: my own copy



Allegiant (Divergent, #3)One choice will define you.

What if your whole world was a lie?
What if a single revelation—like a single choice—changed everything?
What if love and loyalty made you do things you never expected?


The faction-based society that Tris Prior once believed in is shattered—fractured by violence and power struggles and scarred by loss and betrayal. So when offered a chance to explore the world past the limits she’s known, Tris is ready. Perhaps beyond the fence, she and Tobias will find a simple new life together, free from complicated lies, tangled loyalties, and painful memories.

But Tris’s new reality is even more alarming than the one she left behind. Old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless. Explosive new truths change the hearts of those she loves. And once again, Tris must battle to comprehend the complexities of human nature—and of herself—while facing impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice, and love.

There are no words. None. I am done.

Ok, so maybe I have a few words I can share. For instance, I can share how my heart has been ripped out and destroyed. I can share how my love of this series is forever tainted. I can even share that I no longer have shelf space reserved for my hardbacks—which are now looking for a new home.

I am distraught.

Devastated.

In complete awe.

** SPOILER ALERT! DO NOT READ THIS SECTION IF YOU HAVE NOT READ ALLEGIANT**

You were warned. But in case curiosity got the best of you, let me explain my dramatics. The ending for this book blew me away. I have waited an entire week to share my thoughts, and I still can’t come to terms with what I feel. I am beyond words.

Veronica Roth took this series to a place I never expected. I admire her brazen decision, but it has left a hole. A deep, everlasting hole. When I read that fateful scene, I could not believe it. I read it, then I reread it because I just knew I was missing something. But then that ‘something’ never came.

Am I satisfied? Heck no! I wanted it to be anyone else but her. I didn’t even feel complete knowing Tobias was still hanging around.

What did I want? I have no idea. All I know is it wasn’t what I got! I just can’t… ack… ugh

*** END SPOILER ALERT***

The other thing that really got to me this time around was Tobias. I have enjoyed him so much over the years, but this time he just did not sit well with me. He constantly doubted Tris, and he came across whiny. I can say that having these HUGE character flaws did make the characters so much more believable. So that was a plus.

I also didn’t mind the alternating points of view. I was pretty excited to see Tobias’s side of things. However, by the end, I found him to get on my nerves a bit. I now feel that Veronica Roth’s strength is writing strong female leads. I never found myself having a 100% buy in with Tobias.

My final rant is the spin the final book took. We finally got to see the full outcome of this dystopian setting. It made sense, and I guess it worked, but… It didn’t wow me like I thought it would. Oh, let me also go ahead and say how awful the beginning was. It started right where Insurgent ended, but I was so confused! It’s been a year since I read that book. I need some kind of fill in to catch me up on things. Do you know how many books I read in a year?! These plots get muddled, and I do not want to have to reread a book just to make sense of the sequel. I’m thankful she did not info-dump, but I needed some more clues to help me make sense of the very important information being handed to me.

Overall, this was alright. I have loved Divergent and Insurgent. They are some of the only books that I have pre-ordered. I have counted down release days with digital timers and Facebook updates. And now I feel horribly let down. I wish I would have just waited to read Allegiant when it arrived at my library. I do not know if my reaction has more to do with the high expectations I had for the book, or the outcome of the plot. Either way, it left me conflicted.

 

Review: Hereafter (Kate Brian)

The Deets:
Audience: YA
Pages: 320
Publisher: October 1st 2013 by Disney-Hyperion
ISBN: 9781423164845
Genre: mystery, paranormal
Source: eARC from publisher via Netgalley




Hereafter (Shadowlands, #2)
 
Rory Miller thought her life was over when a serial killer set his sights on her and forced her into witness protection. But a fresh start on Juniper Landing Island was exactly what she and her family needed. For the first time in years she and her sister hang out at the beach, gossip about boys, and party together. She's also made friends with a local clique--including a magnetic and mysterious boy named Tristan.
But Rory's world is about to change again. Picturesque Juniper Landing isn't what it seems. The truth about the swirling fog that rolls in each morning, the bridge that leads to nowhere, and those beautiful locals who seem to watch Rory's every move is more terrifying than being hunted by Steven Nell. And all Rory ever wanted was the truth. Even if it means learning that she can never go home again.

 

 

The ending of Shadowlands left me questioning whether I would like this series or not. I can say after reading Hereafter, I do like this series.

I found Hereafter a bit more predictable than Shadowlands. If you read the first book, you understand what I’m saying because that ending came out of nowhere. Do not expect that same since of shock and surprise from Hereafter. There is nothing really surprising in this book. I saw the ending coming from the beginning.

The setting is still great. The sleepy little island community of Juniper Landing is starting to be shaken. Things like hornets and dead animals and flowers are creeping in to the island paradise. It may seem like nothing for a typical Florida beach community, but it is not common in Juniper Landing. The cause of these mysteries is the focus of the entire book. In simplest form, something is amiss.

Not only can you see what’s obviously going wrong in the community, but Rory and the other Lifers can sense it. Souls are going astray, and no one knows why.

The creep factor is a bit higher in this one because we meet new characters. The new characters are dark and mysterious. It’s hard to say what role they will ultimately have in the series, but for now it’s not looking too good.

I have to say, though, what really sold me on Hereafter is Joaquin. He never made much of an impression on me in the first book, but he shines in Hereafter. I adore him. Rory is in a tough spot, so I don’t know how things will turn out in that area. I’m very anxious to see where that subplot will take us.

Kate Brian has definitely written a mystery that I’m curious about. This is typically my least favorite genre, but there was just enough of a hint of mythology (Charon and the golden coins) to suck me in. I will be waiting patiently for Endless to arrive.

Picture Book Saturday: Hey, Charleston!

The Deets:

Genre: picture book, nonfiction
Pages: 32
Publisher: November 1st 2013 by Carolrhoda Books
ISBN: 9780761355656
Source: eARC from the publisher via Netgalley




Hey, Charleston!: The True Story of the Jenkins Orphanage BandWhat happened when a former slave took beat-up old instruments and gave them to a bunch of orphans? Thousands of futures got a little brighter and a great American art form was born. In 1891, Reverend Daniel Joseph Jenkins opened his orphanage in Charleston, South Carolina. He soon had hundreds of children and needed a way to support them. Jenkins asked townspeople to donate old band instruments, some of which had last played in the hands of Confederate soldiers in the Civil War. He found teachers to show the kids how to play. Soon the orphanage had a band. And what a band it was.

The Jenkins Orphanage Band caused a sensation on the streets of Charleston. People called the band's style of music ""rag," a rhythm inspired by the African-American people who lived on the South Carolina and Georgia coast. The children performed as far away as Paris and London, and they earned enough money to support the orphanage that still exists today.




This was such a fun book! There is something to be said about a nonfiction book that can read like a narrative. What kid wouldn't like hearing a fascinating story, only to find out that it's true!

In Hey, Charleston! I learned about the Rev. Jenkins that taught the orphans under his care how to play instruments and create Jazz/Ragtime music. I also learned where the dance-- the Charleston-- originated. (It's not just about a place!) I am so tickled about all the information that was packed into this short little book. Better yet, though, there was a great lesson hidden among the pages. The Rev. Jenkins was a great man that taught his orphans an important lesson about life. That lesson was shown in this book, which makes it a powerful story about life as well as a great nonfiction book.

Review: The Cutting Room Floor (Dawn Klehr)

The Deets:
Audience: YA
Pages: 305
Publisher: October 8th 2013 by Flux            
ISBN: 9780738738048
Genre: mystery
Source: eARC from publisher via Netgalley

 
 
The Cutting Room FloorBehind-the-scenes secrets could turn deadly for Desmond and Riley

Life in the Heights has never been easy for seventeen-year-old Riley Frost, but when she's publicly dumped and outed at the same time, she becomes an immediate social outcast at her high school. So Riley swears off romance and throws herself into solving the shocking murder of her favorite teacher, Ms. Dunn.

Riley turns to her best friend, budding filmmaker Desmond Brandt, for help. What she doesn't know is that Dez has been secretly directing her life, blackmailing her friends, and hoping his manipulations will make her love him. When his schemes go too far, Dez's web of lies threatens to destroy both of their lives.

 

 

 I am not a huge fan of contemporary books so I was not expecting much from The Cutting Room Floor. I was expecting a weird murder mystery, but that wasn’t entirely what I got. There was some aspect of a murder mystery, but it was mostly about a deranged teenage boy’s obsession with the ultimate unattainable girl.

 Dez has been in love with Riley for as long as he can remember. Unfortunately for him, Riley doesn’t prefer boys romantically. Of course, this isn’t a problem for Dez because he is so amazing that he is going to change Riley’s heart. You can guess where this is going, and it isn’t pretty.

Dez was a super creepy character. His obsession with Riley was well into the freak zone. He is supposed to be her best friend, but everything he does is undermined by some selfish and twisted motive. He had a potentially redeeming moment towards the end of the book, but it still fell flat. That left Dez being stuck in the psycho section.

Riley didn’t make much of an impression on me either. She was okay, but she seemed to float around in the book more than anything. Towards the end she became more grounded, but that was more of a result from other characters than anything else.

I think what has bugged me the most was the ending. It didn’t seem very fulfilling. I understand that life doesn’t always end up in a box with a neat little bow, so it was fitting for this ending to be a mess. Had everyone walked off into a sunset holding hands and singing songs, I probably would have thrown the book across the room. I’m just not sure how I wanted the ending to go, but I was hoping for a little redemption and forgiveness. Instead, I got something that just hangs and lingers.

The Cutting Room Floor will appeal to some readers, I’m sure. For me, it wasn’t all that. I read through it very quickly, so it was certainly a page turner. It just lacked that certain something that makes it unforgettable.

Review: Never Fade (Alexandra Bracken)

The Deets:
Audience: YA
Pages: 512
Publisher: October 15th 2013 by Disney-Hyperion
ISBN: 9781423157519
Genre: paranormal, dystopian
Source: eARC from publisher via NetGalley


Never Fade (The Darkest Minds, #2)Ruby never asked for the abilities that almost cost her her life. Now she must call upon them on a daily basis, leading dangerous missions to bring down a corrupt government and breaking into the minds of her enemies. Other kids in the Children’s League call Ruby “Leader”, but she knows what she really is: a monster.

When Ruby is entrusted with an explosive secret, she must embark on her most dangerous mission yet: leaving the Children’s League behind. Crucial information about the disease that killed most of America’s children—and turned Ruby and the others who lived into feared and hated outcasts—has survived every attempt to destroy it. But the truth is only saved in one place: a flashdrive in the hands of Liam Stewart, the boy Ruby once believed was her future—and who now wouldn’t recognize her.

As Ruby sets out across a desperate, lawless country to find Liam—and answers about the catastrophe that has ripped both her life and America apart—she is torn between old friends and the promise she made to serve the League. Ruby will do anything to protect the people she loves. But what if winning the war means losing herself?

 

The ending of The Darkest Minds left my heart in my stomach. But the ending of Never Fade left me with sweaty palms, a racing heart, and sitting on the edge of my seat. It was phenomenal! I’ve been saying this since I read The Darkest Minds, and I still stand by my claim—this is my new favorite dystopian. Move over Tris and Four, because Ruby and Liam are stealing the show.

It is so hard to find a second book in a series that is better than the first, but found it I have. Never Fade was every bit as good as the first book, if not better. There were surprises and heart aches all along the way. I was sucked into this story almost from the beginning.

For all those that said Ruby was the weak link in The Darkest Minds, you won’t be saying that now. She has grown so much. Ruby is now in control of her powers and takes them to a whole new level. Of course, that level comes with horrible consequences. She is strong, determined, and a serious force to be reckoned with. She’s also not alone. Vida is another strong female lead in the book, although my least favorite character. I never really cared for her. She is rough around the edges and foul, which makes me hesitant to recommend this to my school aged students. I’m very disappointed by that, too, since I rave about The Darkest Minds all the time.

I could analyze the plot, but it would take away so much. This is a book (series) that you need to experience for yourself. It’s fresh and exciting, and packs a serious punch.

Review: Westward to Strange (Ray Litt)

The Deets:
Audience: YA
Pages: 212
Publisher: Castleberry, Inc
ISBN: 9780615879246
Genre: mystery, mermaid
Source: copy provided by author in exchange for a review




Westward to Strange
When Lula meets Morgan, the peculiar boy swimming in the cove, her dream life quickly spirals into dangerous waters. Her family’s nebulous history comes to clear, and with it a cornucopia of mysteries. Moon-worshipping cannibal tribes? Killer mermaids? Primal need to explore the forbidden jetties? Sudden nightmares lead Lula to believe that her father’s death might not have been an accident. And to fear that she might very well be the next family member in line.






How do you like your mermaid stories? Do you prefer them to be Disney-esque? Or do you prefer them to teeter on the edge of creepy? If you prefer the latter, Westward to Strange is for you!

The mermaids in Westward to Strange are not friendly. In fact, they are downright terrifying. I have to give the author props for coming up with an original take on a siren. There is an element of mythology in the book that is new and unique, at least to me. I also thought the concept behind these killer mermaids helped heighten the mystery of the subplots.

Don’t read Westward to Strange thinking it’s just about mermaids. There is so much more going on in this book! For fans of mysteries, there will be much to keep you reading. For me, though, it was the descriptions that kept me turning the pages. I enjoyed reading about this beach community. Being a Florida resident myself, I felt like I could visualize the setting in my own town. I also enjoyed some of the characters. I was instantly drawn to Jake. I didn’t connect with Cass at first, but he grew on me.

I’m always on the lookout for books with mermaids. With so many books in the genre already on the market, it’s hard to find something fresh. Westward of Strange certainly delivered in the fresh and unique market!

Picture Book Saturday: Boris and Bella


Picture Book Saturday is celebrating Halloween themed books!




Boris and Bella




Bella Legrossi is the messiest monster in all of Booville. Her slime is the slimiest and her grime is the grimiest. Alas, she is neighbors with Boris Kleanitoff, a persnickety ghoul so tidy he vacuums his vampire bats. What could ever bring these two together? Why, a hoppin' Halloween party, of course!








I have this weird habit of theming my reading material for my youngest son. During the summer, we were surrounded by books with beaches as the setting.  When school started in August, we read 30 books about the first day of school. So you can probably guess what October's theme was. (November is all about the turkey!)

I went on a mad hunt for unique Halloween/October themed books. Of course, I included a few classics on my list, but I mostly focused on the new. Boris and Bella was new to me. And I have to say, I was delighted with this book.

The story is cute. Boris is an OCD neat freak monster, while Bella is a slob. They can't stand each other until a common mission unites them. While trying to prove why another monster's party is horrible, they discover each other in a new light. After one dance, a new friendship begins. Super cute!

While the story was well written, and I loved the word play-- the illustrations stole the show. They were great! I am always in awe of illustrators that can give dimension and personality to their pictures. It's a rare talent that Gris Grimly has. Boris and Bella came to life on each page. I found myself studying the faces and the details in the pictures. My son enjoyed the dance scene, matching the pictures to the descriptions I read aloud.

This is a great hit for the season. If you have youngsters at home, you need to check this one out.
 

Picture Book Saturday: Bone by Bone

The Deets:
Genre: picture book, non-fiction
Pages: 32
Publisher: October 1st 2013 by Millbrook Press
ISBN: 9780761384649
Source: eARC from Publisher via Netgalley


Bone by Bone: Comparing Animal Skeletons


What animal would you be if your finger bones grew so long that they reached your feet? Or what if you had no leg bones but kept your arm bones? This picture book will keep you guessing as you read about how human skeletons are like and unlike those of other animals.










I am a big fan of nonfiction for kids. I always buy informational/nonfiction books for my kids to read. I figure, reading is important on its own, so why not get a 2-for-1 deal in the process? On a good day, they might learn something from that book!

Bone by Bone is an informational book that teaches younger readers about different animals and their skeletons through riddles. The most common animals are covered with pretty easy clues. The illustrations are interesting, and I'm certain younger readers will be fascinated by them. I liked that the key vocabulary words were set apart from the rest of the text in large font of varying colors. There is also a glossary at the end of the book for additional information.

I would take this book a step further with my own kids and challenge them to think of more animals to include in the book. My boys love to draw, so they would enjoy the creative representation involved. (Honestly, I'm pretty sure most kids would.)

Bone by Bone is a quick read suitable for younger readers still learning about their environment. Older readers may find the riddle too easy.

Review: Sick (Tom Leveen)

The Deets:
Audience: YA (older YA)
Pages: 288
Publisher: October 1st 2013 by Amulet Books
ISBN: 9781419708053
genre: zombies
Source: eARC from publisher via NetGalley


SickBreakfast Club meets The Walking Dead as a group of unlikely allies tries to survive a deadly outbreak.

Brian and his friends are not part of the cool crowd. They’re the misfits and the troublemakers—the ones who jump their high school’s fence to skip class regularly. So when a deadly virus breaks out, they’re the only ones with a chance of surviving.

The virus turns Brian’s classmates and teachers into bloodthirsty attackers who don’t die easily. The whole school goes on lockdown, but Brian and his best friend, Chad, are safe (and stuck) in the theater department—far from Brian’s sister, Kenzie, and his ex-girlfriend with a panic attack problem, Laura. Brian and Chad, along with some of the theater kids Brian had never given the time of day before, decide to find the girls and bring them to the safety of the theater. But it won’t be easy, and it will test everything they thought they knew about themselves and their classmates.



Sick was sick. These zombies are hardcore and not for the faint hearted. There was much gore and blood slurping, so teenage boys should be satisfied.

If you're looking for a solid plot, though, look elsewhere. There was a lot of action, but it was pretty uneventful during the most crucial parts. The virus that causes these bone marrow sucking zombies was never fully explained. You get some scientific sounding gibberish that might pass as an explanation, but it didn't feel solid. The characters in the book didn't even buy it, so you know the reader isn't going for it.

The characters were also somewhere in the so-so spectrum. Chad was a mess. He's a bigot and not afraid to show it. I got a little annoyed with some of his off-color statements throughout the book. I can't really say I was upset when he had his 'accident'. I did like Travis. He didn't leave a lasting impression, but I liked his role enough to think "that's too bad".

Some of the other characters were a bit cloudy as well. I am still trying to figure out Laura. The entire book was spent explaining why she is this delicate flower that cannot fend for herself. She's on panic meds and all this other stuff that makes her a mess. However, Laura is swinging flag poles and cutting down zombies by the time the end of the book rolls around. Call me crazy, but someone that is on heavy panic meds should not be making that kind of recovery in a 24 hour period. I don't care if the doctors were weaning her off the meds or not. You do not become Wonder Woman on Zoloft that quickly.

Overall, this was a fast read. I flew through it in a few hours. It had some disgustingly gory scenes that I'm sure teenage readers would like. But, there were some pretty raunchy sayings and talks about sex that make this most suitable for older YA readers.

Review: Sex & Violence (Carrie Mesrobian)

The Deets:
Audience: older YA
Pages: 304
Publisher: October 1st 2013 by Carolrhoda LAB
ISBN: 9781467705974
Genre: contemporary
Source: eARC from Netgalley


Sex & ViolenceAT FIRST YOU DON'T SEE THE CONNECTION.

Sex has always come without consequences for seventeen-year-old Evan Carter. He has a strategy--knows the profile of The Girl Who Would Say Yes. In each new town, each new school, he can count on plenty of action before he and his father move again. Getting down is never a problem. Until he hooks up with the wrong girl and finds himself in the wrong place at very much the wrong time.

AND THEN YOU CAN'T SEE ANYTHING ELSE.

After an assault that leaves Evan bleeding and broken, his father takes him to the family cabin in rural Pearl Lake, Minnesota, so Evan's body can heal. But what about his mind?

HOW DO YOU GO ON, WHEN YOU CAN'T THINK OF ONE WITHOUT THE OTHER?

Nothing seems natural to Evan anymore. Nothing seems safe. The fear--and the guilt--are inescapable. He can't sort out how he feels about anyone, least of all himself. Evan's really never known another person well, and Pearl Lake is the kind of place where people know everything about each other--where there might be other reasons to talk to a girl. It's annoying as hell. It might also be Evan's best shot to untangle sex and violence.



Ethan is a complicated mess. In one sense he is your typical teenage manwhore, but in another sense he is a victim. Obviously there is some physical violence here, but Ethan is more the victim of a broken heart than anything. His first experience with "love" leaves him broken and wounded, and I think searching.

Ethan pretty much sounds like teenage girl, right? You wouldn't be wrong for saying so. I thought it was interesting that the glimpses into the male psyche we got through Ethan really did fit for either gender. Now, don't think that makes Ethan less believable as a narrator, because that isn't true. He was great. I am merely pointing out that guys and girls aren't that different after all.

Something else that makes Ethan such a great character is how raw he is. There is no hiding his desires. After the attack, he can't hide its effects either. He is a victim, and as such suffers serious psychological complications. (Think PTSD.) The whole process he goes through to find "normal" is powerful. There is no easy road to recovery, and Ethan's character shows that.

I really wish this book had a different name. I have a feeling that the title, Sex & Violence, is going to keep it off many shelves. I know for certain that I can't send a copy to some of my teacher friends because their schools are terribly censored. This is a sad fact. Also unfortunate is the fact that pretty much any teen I know will be drawn to this book based on the title alone, but few will get the chance to read it outside of a library. You may think it's not that big of a deal, but it is. Without Ethan's story, many readers will be missing huge life lessons. Hidden between these pages are messages about healing, finding yourself, and learning to see others for what they are (not what they can do for you). There is also a decent bit of snarky teenage dialogue too.


I'm going to add a little something here about the book. My review was pretty basic, but the book is not. There are many layers to work through. I think this book would be wonderful read along side Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak. The healing process that both characters undergo is powerful, and worthy of discussion.

Review: Water (Natasha Hardy)

The Deets:
Audience: YA
Pages: 314
Publisher: August 16th 2013 by Carina (Harlequin UK)
ISBN: 9781472018076
Genre: mermaids
Source: eARC from publisher via NetGalley


Water
Surrender to the power of the water... Alex knows she is different. She’s plagued by nightmares that feel shockingly real and an intense restlessness she cannot explain. As the long hot summer holidays stretch before her, Alex seeks out adventure in the rugged mountains of Injasuthi. But during a camping trip to the mystic jade pools, Alex meets Merrick, a boy who tells her the shocking truth about herself, and Alex's nightmare is about to become reality. Because Alex is no ordinary teenager...she is a half-mermaid and her adventures are only just beginning.






This cover is stunning! Simply beautiful. I fell in love with it instantly. Then I read the synopsis and realized this was a mermaid story. Score!

I found the idea behind Water to be refreshing. There was a certain mythology that gave it an air of mystery. Also, there was a strong message of conservation and anti-pollution that was different. It's not your normal "mermaid" story.

For readers, you will find the setting interesting. It was hard for me to know if the geography in the book was legit or completely made up. I'm pretty certain it takes place in Africa, but I could be wrong. It was a bit confusing at times. I think the mystery of the "fish people" and the tribal stories were pretty fascinating, even if it all came together very quickly.

There were a few other elements of the story that I have mixed feelings toward. I'm still pretty uncertain about Merrick. Ok, I actually stopped reading at 65% because it was dragging on and I have other books to read. I hate to say I did not finish Water, but it's the truth. I gave it 3 solid nights of reading, but I was not connecting to the story or characters. I have a feeling that it would have picked up a good bit by the end, but I did not wait to see.

I wouldn't say this is my favorite mermaid book out there. It was rather hard for me to be swept away by the story. But, in the book's defense I do like the underlying plot of the Oceanids coming inland due to water pollution. This real problem doesn't get enough air time, so it was pretty snazzy to see it pop up in a fictional book.

Interview with Sarah Beth Durst

Have you read Conjured? If not, you need to-- pronto. It's the newest book by Sarah Beth Durst. Author of some of my fave books: Drink, Slay, Love and Vessel.
 (Click the links above to read my reviews of the books)

The lovely Sarah Beth Durst has graciously agreed to stop by for an interview about her newest book, Conjured.


The Book

1.       Conjured was like nothing I have read before! It is completely different from your other books. What was it like creating a world full of both benevolent and malevolent magic?

 One of the best things about being a writer is being able to play with magic.  Beautiful magic.  Dangerous magic.  I love it all.  For Conjured, I was able to explore both sides: Eve can do almost anything, including making the birds in her wallpaper fly around the room, changing the color of her eyes, and flying into the air.  But there’s a cost.  Every time she uses her magic, she blacks out and experiences terrifying visions of a creepy carnival.

 
2.       What was your favorite scene in the book to write?

 I loved writing Eve’s visions.  To write those, I asked myself what’s the prettiest, creepiest thing that Eve could possibly see.  Sometimes I creeped myself out…  :)  Here’s a bit from one of my favorites:

Bottles clink together on the shelves.  Skulls snap their mouths open and shut.  The skull of a mouse, of a bird, of a cat, of a man.  Across the wagon, the Storyteller knits a ribbon of red and blue and gold.  It coils around her feet already.  Still, she knits it longer and longer.

 “Once upon a time,” she says.

I want to speak, but my lips won’t move.

“A man and a woman wanted a child…”

I touch my face with my fingers.  My skin feels soft and pliant, but my lips are sealed shut.  I tug at them, and then I tear.  My fingers gouge my cheeks and chin and lips.  My mouth will not open.

 

3.       Speaking of favorites, which character in Conjured gets golden star status? (I personally was in love with Zach and all his nerdiness.)

 
I did love writing Zach.  His voice came to me right away (and he didn’t shut up for a while).  But I think my heart belongs to Malcolm.

 
The nuts and bolts:

 
4.       What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

 
Be kind to yourself.  It’s so easy to be critical.  There’s such a temptation to compare an idea or an early draft with someone else’s finished book.  But that’s like criticizing a baby for not being able to do long division yet or looking ridiculous in high heels.  You have to give your book time to grow.

 

5.       Many people are interested in the writing/publishing process. What did you find the most difficult aspect of writing a book?

 
I always have a point in my process that I call the “doomed” stage.  Usually this happens midway through the first draft, when you start to doubt yourself, your vision, your story, your characters, and/or your choice of shoes.  For me, the best way to deal with the doomed stage is to keep writing.  In fact, I think that’s the cure to pretty much any writing problem ever: write more.
 

6.       I noticed in the author notes that the idea behind Conjured came from a dream. I am both intrigued and terrified by this. Where else have you found inspiration for your books?

 
Really varies.  For example, ICE was inspired by the Norwegian folktale “East of the Sun and West of the Moon,” specifically a picture book illustrated by P.J. Lynch.  It’s essentially “Beauty and the “Beast” meets Arctic adventure.  DRINK, SLAY, LOVE was inspired by wondering about unicorns on a random afternoon -- and deciding that, obviously, unicorns are secretly vampire hunters.  VESSEL was inspired by a dream.  And CONJURED both was inspired by a dream and caused a few nightmares in return!

 
Something random:

7.       Would you rather always get stuck behind someone at least a foot taller than you at every movie, concert, etc. or always get stuck behind Slowface Johnson whenever you are in a hurry?

 
Tall!  My husband is over a foot taller than I am, and I’d rather go with him anywhere.  Plus getting somewhere when I’m in a hurry is more important than perfect visibility.

 
8.       Would you rather have psychic visions of available parking spots or have the ability to always choose the fastest checkout line?

 
Fastest checkout line.  Visions of parking spots wouldn’t help me.  I’m lousy at parking.  Seriously bad at it.  I’ve had the concept of parallel parking explained to me many, many times, and I fail to grasp it on some fundamental level.  I also can’t whistle, despite how many times people say to just put your lips together and blow.

 

Are you sold yet? If not, check out this trailer! I guarantee it will send chills down your spine.

     
Conjured
Eve has a new home, a new face, and a new name—but no memories of her past. She’s been told that she's in a witness protection program. That she escaped a dangerous magic-wielding serial killer who still hunts her. The only thing she knows for sure is that there is something horrifying in her memories the people hiding her want to access—and there is nothing they won’t say—or do—to her to get her to remember.

At night she dreams of a tattered carnival tent and buttons being sewn into her skin. But during the day, she shelves books at the local library, trying to not let anyone know that she can do things—things like change the color of her eyes or walk through walls. When she does use her strange powers, she blacks out and is drawn into terrifying visions, returning to find that days or weeks have passed—and she’s lost all short-term memories. Eve must find out who and what she really is before the killer finds her—but the truth may be more dangerous than anyone could have ever imagined.

 

Mini-Review: The School for Good and Evil (Soman Chainani)

The Deets:
Audience: MG and YA
Pages: 488
Publisher: May 14th 2013 by HarperCollins
ISBN: 9780062104892
Genre: fairy tale, adventure, mystery
Source: library book



The School for Good and Evil (The School for Good and Evil, #1)This year, best friends Sophie and Agatha are about to discover where all the lost children go: the fabled School for Good & Evil, where ordinary boys and girls are trained to be fairy tale heroes and villains. As the most beautiful girl in Gavaldon, Sophie has dreamed of being kidnapped into an enchanted world her whole life. With her pink dresses, glass slippers, and devotion to good deeds, she knows she’ll earn top marks at the School for Good and graduate a storybook princess. Meanwhile Agatha, with her shapeless black frocks, wicked pet cat, and dislike of nearly everyone, seems a natural fit for the School for Evil.

But when the two girls are swept into the Endless Woods, they find their fortunes reversed—Sophie’s dumped in the School for Evil to take Uglification, Death Curses, and Henchmen Training, while Agatha finds herself in the School For Good, thrust amongst handsome princes and fair maidens for classes in Princess Etiquette and Animal Communication.. But what if the mistake is actually the first clue to discovering who Sophie and Agatha really are…?


Such a fun book! I really enjoyed this one, and I can't wait for the next books to hit the shelves.

If you are a fan of fairy tales-- or in this case fractured fairy tales-- you will LOVE The School of Good and Evil. It has everything a great adventure needs: romance, villains, and lots of dry humor.

I must admit though, I have mixed feelings for Sophie and Agatha. Well, really I have issues with a certain prince (Tedros) that shows up. Here it is in a nutshell: Sophie and Agatha get mixed up (or so they think) on their way to the school for Good and the school for Evil. Sophie spends most of her time trying to convince everyone she is meant for good instead of realizing how selfish she is. Agatha agrees with Sophie and plots to get into the school of Evil as well. Until...

You can guess the 'until'. I was really disappointed with that aspect of the story. It just felt wrong. I"m not saying the prince should choose the 'bad guy', but for two besties to fight over a guy like that just doesn't cut it in my book. If Agatha was such a great friend, I feel like Tedros should take more of a back seat to Sophie. Maybe I'm the only one that feels this way, but I ended up thinking Agatha was a good bit selfish herself.

Now, don't get me wrong. I really liked Sophie and Agatha. Agatha was a riot! She had me laughing all throughout the book. Sophie mistakes were also pretty entertaining. In addition to the two girls, there were a smattering of other characters that added to my enjoyment. I personally like Dot-- the witch with the chocolate touch.

I read something that said this might become a movie. That will be awesome, and I will be there. There is an epic battle scene that will leave you on the edge of your seat. You will not be disappointed!   

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Minute Review: Fairy Tale Comics: Classic Tales Told by Extraordinary Cartoonist

The Deets:
Audience: anyone
Pages: 128
Publisher: September 24th 2013 by First Second
ISBN: 9781596438231
genre: graphic novel, fairy tale
Source: eARC from Netgalley.





Fairy Tale Comics: Classic Tales Told by Extraordinary Cartoonists

From favorites like "Puss in Boots" and "Goldilocks" to obscure gems like "The Boy Who Drew Cats," Fairy Tale Comics has something to offer every reader. Seventeen fairy tales are wonderfully adapted and illustrated in comics format by seventeen different cartoonists, including Raina Telgemeier, Brett Helquist, Cherise Harper, and more.





Well this was just fun! It's the perfect combination of graphic novel and fairytale anthology. In this book, you will find the well-known fairytales, but you'll also find a few you might not know about.

For instance, I had never heard of "The Boy Who Drew Cats" or "The Princes and the Tortoise." The stories are well told; they are simple but do not leave out the major elements. I think the format of this book makes each of these fairytales accessible to all readers. The combination of illustraions is also enjoyable. Some stories are ellaborately illustrated, while other take a more simplistic approach. Either way, it's going to be a hit with any fan of fairytales.

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