Friday, October 30, 2015

NaBloPoMo in November

Consider this a heads-up, but I'm planning on participating in NaBloPoMo in November! Most everyone knows about NaNoWriMo and the cheering squads that help make writing less of a burden for all of those people out there who need some motivation. I was happy to find out that there's the same type of thing for bloggers! Let's be honest. Blogging is great. It's also exhausting, and time consuming. Sometimes ruts are fallen into. It happens.

I need something to pull me out, and I'm hoping that participating in this will do just that! So expect next month to not be entirely bookish. There will be posts about memories, and recipes, and possibly even silly stories. It'll be random. I can promise you that.

Here's to getting back to the point I was when this blog first began. Back to loving planning events and posts. I just need that extra motivation.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Book Review: Hardwired by Trisha Leaver and Lindsay Currie

Media Type: Ebook (ARC)
Title: Hardwired
Author: Trisha Leaver and Lindsay Currie
Publisher: Flux
Pages: paperback; 240
Release Date: November 8, 2015
Source: Publisher/Netgalley
Genre: Teens/YA Suspense
Content Screening:  Some violence

HDB Rating: 3 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who enjoy a strong male lead in a not so distant dystopian future.

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | BookLikes

When Lucas tested positive for the warrior gene—a genetic abnormality believed to predispose humans to violence—he was shipped off to the Bake Shop, an impregnable government facility. There, he underwent a battery of psychological tests aimed at making him crack. Now, labeled safe to return to normal life, he’s ready to put the horrific experience behind him.
Then the van transporting him home is forced off the road by a group of rebels who insist there’s more going on at the facility than anyone knows. To find the truth and save a friend’s brother who’s being held prisoner, Lucas infiltrates the Bake Shop’s inner sanctum. But a power outage leads to a security breach that strands Lucas in the dark . . . with a prison full of potential killers who could snap at any moment.
I had high hopes for this interesting dystopian world. The idea of a genetic predisposition to violence fascinates me and I was curious to see how the authors wove it into a "normal" society. The story moved quickly and while I enjoyed the pacing, this was not a "home run" book for me.

Lucas is a well written character and I enjoyed getting to know him. His innate need to prove the system wrong about his violent "genetics" is what motivated him to survive the Bake Shop. Having watched his older brother crumble after his stay in the Bake Shop, Lucas was ready to fight "the man" (aka government) by not only controlling his temper, but by coming out of their tests unbroken. It was his strong will that made his character shine.

Unfortunately, Lucas is the only character we really get to know and that was disappointing. His roommate Chris was an integral part of the story, but we didn't really get to know him at all. Their friendship could have been developed much more. Carly's character was shallow and frustrating to read. By the end of the story I was left wanting much more.

I don't normally discuss the ending of a book, so suffice it to say that I was disappointed in the epilogue. Hardwired had some great potential and with a little bit of refining and more character depth could have been up there in the top dystopian books - Hunger Games, Mazerunner, etc- but it was a solid 3 for me.

FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Here's to a bookish Halloween!

Halloween approaches!

I won't lie. Halloween is one of my all time favorite holidays. Although it's still second to Christmas in my heart, it's still a holiday that makes me get all wiggly and excited. The thing that these two holidays share is a sense of whimsy. An excuse for adults to be kids again, just for a bit. I LOVE that!

As a bookish person, one of the ways I love to celebrate is with some spooky reads. I get a lot of recommendations every year, and I actually have a list of reads I reserve just for the month of October. Today I thought I'd share some of my favorite that I've read so far, and maybe give you one or two to dive into this weekend!

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

Let's start out with a bang, shall we? Or rather, with a whimper, because this book has one of the nastiest and most deliciously terrifying villains that I've ever met. Charlie Manx is pure evil. Whether you read this, or listen to the very excellent audio book version, this story is well worth your time! I don't doubt you'll quickly fall for the characters, and soon find yourself absolutely terrified that they're in such peril. Joe Hill is an impressive writer, and he shows off his chops in spades here.

If you haven't read this yet, get on it. This is the stuff of nightmares.

The Waking Dark by Robin Wasserman

I will recommend this book forever, and especially as an atmospheric read for this time of year. You know what's even scarier than pure evil? The evil that lurks inside us all. That deep dark part in all of us, where we hide our other half. Robin Wasserman takes that, adds in some rich backstory and amazing characters, and creates a book that is entirely addictive.

You won't want to look away, but you might have to. I had to take breaks while reading this. It's violent. It's dark. It's also so well done. Add this to your list!

The Flesh Market by Richard Wright

Keeping with the theme of evil people, and dark circumstances, let's also add in some undead! If you're a fan of historical fiction, you're going to love this book. It's stunning how Richard Wright manages to seamlessly mix in some dark suspense and create a brand new book. Centered around the Burke & Hare murders in 1800's Edinburgh, Scotland this book is rich in setting. It's equally rich in action too. 

I'm not generally a big historical fiction reader, but add in some well placed undead? Well, you have my attention. This book is great!

Blackout by Tim Curran

Want a quicker read? This novella by Tim Curran is sure to sate your need for a quick horror fix. We've covered evil people, we've covered the undead, now we're in the territory of the dark unknown. The lights go out. People are pulled into the sky, screaming the whole way. You're alone, and terrified. 

That's all you're getting about this novella, because anything else will spoil it. Trust me, it's worth exploring this darkness. Well, at least in book form. There is no way in heck that I'd want to be there in real life.

So there you have it! Some creepy reads to give you the shivers this weekend!

Have any that you'd add to the list? Shout them out in the comments!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Book Review: Lumiere by Jacqueline Garlick

Media Type: Ebook (ARC)
Title: Lumiere
Author: Jacqueline Garlick
Series: The Illumination Paradox #1
Publisher: Skyscape
Pages: Kindle; 402
Release Date: August 11, 2015
Source: NetGalley
Content Screening: Mild Violence

HDB Rating: 3 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who enjoy steampunk adventures and mystery stories.

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | BookLikes
Even in a land of eternal twilight, secrets can’t stay in the dark forever.

Seventeen-year-old Eyelet Elsworth has only one hope left: finding her late father’s most prized invention, the Illuminator. It’s been missing since the day of the mysterious flash—a day that saw the sun wiped out forever over England.

But living in darkness is nothing new to Eyelet. She’s hidden her secret affliction all of her life—a life that would be in danger if superstitious townspeople ever guessed the truth. And after her mother is accused and executed for a crime that she didn’t commit, the now-orphaned Eyelet has no choice but to track down the machine that was created with the sole purpose of being her cure.

Alone and on the run, she finally discovers the Illuminator—only to see a young man hauling it off. Determined to follow the thief and recover the machine, she ventures into the deepest, darkest, most dangerous part of her twisted world.
Well now, this book was a bit of a oddity. Have you ever been completely confused by a story, but still somehow entertained? I think that middle ground is exactly where I fell during Lumiere. There were very few moments where my feet were on solid ground, I wasn't always a fan of the characters, but somehow the story just swept me up and kept me reading on. I fought with myself a lot on the rating, but I think a solid three is pretty much where this book stands.

Let's talk about characters first. Eyelet (whose name drives me insane) is a very frustrating main character. Flighty, indecisive, and without any sense of self preservation whatsoever, she's the type of character that makes you want to pull your hair out. Then we have Urlick, our anti-Charming character. He's not what you'd expect a male lead to be, which I actually appreciated. A bit rough around the edges, secretive, and kind of awkward, I found myself clinging to his character. He was a nice addition to take the edge off of Eyelet, although their insta-attraction also drove me mad. More on that later.

In terms of setting, that was the one thing that I really enjoyed about Lumiere. Although the book doesn't explicitly state what time period this takes place during, the world has a definite 1600's feel. Witches are being persecuted, men are the only ones allowed to complete schooling, and women are the fairer sex. Add in a world that has been forever altered by "The Great Illumination", complete with wraiths and vapours that will kill you in an instant. It's a darker world, and one that held a lot of promise. I won't say that it was fully realized, that promise. But it absolutely held my attention.

Now, I suppose, we'll talk story. Which was confusing, to say the least. This book has a lot of great ideas. There are some great plot points, some exciting missions, and some deliciously evil villains. The problem is that they aren't in any particular order. It all felt so piecemeal. I felt like I was lost in the woods, without a map. I'd be excited about something Eyelet was about to do, and suddenly the road took a left turn and, distractedly, I wandered into those dark woods again. When you're angry and terrified about someone, and suddenly you're in love? There's an issue there. There's a lot of forward movement in this story, which is great! It just doesn't always seem to know quite where it's going.

Will I continue this series? Perhaps. Hopefully Eyelet gets herself together.

FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Rain, rain. Stay?

It seems I've been musing a lot about weather lately.

The sad fact is that in my part of Southern California, we don't really have a whole lot of "weather". Sometimes it rains, a bit. Sometimes it's windy, a bit. Most of the time it's still and warm. I joke about it a lot on Twitter, but we in this area get very excited when there's actual weather to be had!

It's currently raining, and I've opened up every window and door we have. The adorable part is that every other person who is currently home in our apartment building has done the same thing. We all crave that pleasant sound. The way that rain makes everything smell so good. The way that it cools any breeze that comes through the windows. I love this weather.

I guess overall what makes me so happy about it is that this is about as close as we ever really get to Fall! It's still not quite cool enough, but this has definitely taken the 85 to 90 degree temps we had last week and cooled them down to the low 70's. I'll take it!

That's it. Just rambling about the weather. Thanks for sticking with me!

Until the next time it rains.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Book Review: Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head by H.C. Chester and Lauren Oliver

Media Type: Print Book (ARC)
Title: Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head
   Series: Curiosity House #1
Author (s): Lauren Oliver; H.C. Chester
Publisher: Harper Collin's Children's Books
Pages: Hardcover; 368
Release Date: September 29, 2015
Source: Publisher
Content Screening: Mild Violence

HDB Rating: 4 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who love vivid characters, settings that come to life, and a great mystery.

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | BookLikes
What you will find in this book:

– A rather attractive bearded lady
– Several scandalous murders
– A deliciously disgusting Amazonian shrunken head
– Four extraordinary children with equally extraordinary abilities
– A quite loquacious talking bird

Blessed with extraordinary abilities, orphans Philippa, Sam, and Thomas have grown up happily in Dumfrey’s Dime Museum of Freaks, Oddities, and Wonders. But when a fourth child, Max, a knife-
thrower, joins the group, it sets off an unforgettable chain of events. When the museum’s Amazonian shrunken head is stolen, the four are determined to get it back. But their search leads them to a series of murders and an explosive secret about their pasts.

This sensational new series combines the unparalleled storytelling gifts of Lauren Oliver with the rich knowledge of the notorious relics collector H.C. Chester.

What you will NOT find in this book:
– An accountant named Seymour
– A never-ending line at the post office
– Brussel sprouts (shudder)
– A lecture on finishing all your homework on time
– A sweet, gooey story for nice little girls and boys.

Let it be known that I can't resist a middle grade book at the best of times, but if it's by Lauren Oliver there's no question it will end up on my reading list! She charmed me with Liesl & Po, made me shiver with The Spindlers, and left no doubt in my mind that I'd pick up any middle grade book she puts forth. There are certain authors who just understand what a book for this age group needs. A pinch of madness, a few drops of magic, some interesting history, and the type of characters who steal your heart before you even know it's gone. This book is all of that, and it's wonderful.

Charming, is probably the best word to describe Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head. Honestly, it's hard not to smile as you read the first few pages. Pippa, Sam, Thomas and Max are quite the cast of characters. Dumfrey’s Dime Museum of Freaks, Oddities, and Wonders is a setting all its own. Add in a smattering of 1930's history, and you have the perfect stage for a wonderful story. I'll warn you now that this story is a bit on the darker side. Think Lemony Snicket. Bad things happen to good people, good things happen to bad people, and sometimes it's a little gruesome. Still, at the end of the day we all know how things wrap up. These are my favorite kinds of stories. The kind that doesn't shy away from the darker parts of life, but embraces them as truth.

Am I rambling? Probably! I don't want to spoil anything, because this book is just so much fun! The mystery is probably the best part of this whole package. As if our plucky and talented young characters weren't amazing enough on their own, this story pits them against one heck of a mystery. When the prized possession of Dumfrey's goes missing, and all the people involved start to die in mysterious ways, what do you do? If you're Pippa, Sam, Thomas and Max you set off on an adventure to figure out what's going on. Possibly putting yourself in mortal danger at the same time.

This is a great story. Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head is completely charming from the writing on the page, to the stunning illustrations, and it will definitely make you want to come back for more. What are you waiting for? Go add this to your reading list. It's definitely worth your time.

FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Book Spotlight + Giveaway: Dream On, Amber by Emma Shevah

As promised, I have another book spotlight for you!

My favorite part of book spotlights is the fact that I get to draw your attention to books of all different age levels and genres. Sometimes my reviews get a little trapped in one area for a while, but with spotlights I can show you things that are on my radar. Even if I haven't gotten to them yet. Are you ready for some Middle Grade goodness? I hope so!

My name is Ambra Alessandra Leola Kimiko Miyamoto. But call me Amber. I have no idea why my parents gave me all those hideous names but they must have wanted to ruin my life, and you know what? They did an amazing job.

As a half-Japanese, half-Italian girl with a ridiculous name, Amber’s not feeling molto bene (very good) about making friends at her new school.

But the hardest thing about being Amber is that a part of her is missing. Her dad. He left when she was little and he isn’t coming back. Not for her first day of middle school and not for her little sister’s birthday. So Amber will have to dream up a way for the Miyamoto sisters to make it on their own.
Now, who can resist this premise? Amber's worry over fitting in at her new school is exactly what most middle graders go through. And how many of those also are missing their fathers? This book is on my radar because it sounds poignant, fun, and adorable. Are you adding it to yours?

Find it on:

Did you think up the character Amber first or the setting and plot of the story? 
Tell us about how Dream, On Amber came together. 

Well, in the first draft, the main character was boy called Shilo, and when I signed the publishing contract, it was for a book called ‘Dream Dad’ about Shilo and Bella. After I met and talked to my editor and we started working on the book, there came a point where the publishing team suggested we change Shilo to a girl. I wasn’t sure about it at all and neither was my editor (my kids were incensed and insisted I shouldn’t do it) but I rewrote a chapter, called her Amber and liked her. She was feisty. She was strong (even though she was weak and feeble). We need more girls like her! So Amber certainly didn’t come first. The subject matter did really. When I was a child, there were no books about fathers leaving and the loss, pain and anger a child feels so I felt a strong urge to make sure that kind of book existed. I wanted to say, yeah, I know you feel furious and sad and confused – I did too. But instead of focusing on the hole left behind, I wanted to fill that hole with something positive. My father left and I never knew him and when I went to find him when I was eighteen, I discovered he’d died a long time before. It crushed me, and once, a few years ago, I sat on my bed, sobbing my heart out, and imagined my father was sitting on the end of my bed. So I spoke to him, you know, in my head, and that’s where the idea for Dream Dad came from. I didn’t imagine my father in capes, costumes or stripy socks, though. That’s just Amber. She’s weird like that, whereas when I talk to people who aren’t there, it’s all perfectly normal.

Emma Shevah is half-Irish and half-Thai born and raised in London. She has lived in Australia, Japan, India (her first child was born in the Himalayas) and Jerusalem before moving back to the UK. Emma has busked as a fire-juggler, been a restaurant manager, a copy writer, an English teacher, and is now a blogger and author.
Find her at: Website | Twitter

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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Book Review: Meditations in Wonderland by Anna Patrick

Media Type: Ebook
Title: Meditations in Wonderland
Author: Anna Patrick
Publisher: River Grove Books
Pages: Ebook; 225
Release Date: October 6, 2015
Source: Author
Genre: Contemporary / Retelling

HDB Rating: 3 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who enjoy a darker look at Wonderland, and the parallels to our own minds.

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | BookLikes
Follow Elizabeth down the rabbit hole—and meet a whole new Alice.

Elizabeth, a twenty-four-year-old interior designer living in Brooklyn, New York, encounters a little more than mental static when she sits down for her morning meditation, feeling disconnected from herself and her reality. As she meditates, she forces herself to confront her inner demons head on—including the darker parts that she would rather keep hidden from others, like her boyfriend, Adam. Her inner conflict leads her down a rabbit hole that is far different from the one she remembers from her favorite childhood story. When Elizabeth reaches the bottom of the rabbit hole, she follows a shadowy figure in a familiar blue dress who taunts her and coaxes her deeper into Wonderland.

Unable to release herself from her meditation, Elizabeth chases Alice through Wonderland, guided by clues left by Alice, as well as the dark and strangely familiar characters she meets, like the Cheshire Cat, the Tweedle twins, and the Mad Hatter. In Wonderland, Elizabeth comes face to face with her inner light and darkness, and, finally, Alice—and discovers that Alice’s secret might be what she has been searching for all along.
Where to begin with this book? It's a little difficult to fully express how spot on this story is to exploring ones own deepest self. I don't think I ever really stopped to consider how much Alice in Wonderland actually mirrors that kind of journey. Which is originally why I was so excited to dive into Anna Patrick's intriguing Meditations in Wonderland. I couldn't wait to follow Elizabeth down the rabbit hole.

I was introduced to a woman who was afraid of her own reflection. One who, on the surface, had a life filled with all the things she could want. A loving relationship, a happy home, the kind of support that we all dream of. Inside though, was a terrified Elizabeth. One who relied on uppers to get her through. Meeting her was jarring at first, but soon I began to understand the type of person that she was. Someone clinging to the good, and trying desperately to forget the darkness underneath.

Which is why I was fully prepared for the "Wonderland" that she sank into to be dark. Surprisingly, it wasn't as dark as I'd thought it would be. However I can say that Anna Patrick does a stellar job of bringing Elizabeth's inner Wonderland to life. The writing here was beautiful. Peppered with just the right amount of description, to lead you through the desolate and sometimes worrying landscape. I felt for Elizabeth. I wanted her to succeed. Despite some slow parts through this narrative, I still wanted to keep reading on, just to make sure she was okay.

Really my one biggest gripe was Alice herself. I can't say too much, for fear of spoiling anything, but I wanted to the showdown between these two to be much more than it was. I appreciated the relationship between these two. Loved the dichotomy between light and dark. All the nods to the original Wonderland were brilliant. I just wanted more action, and perhaps a little more tension.

Overall, this is an extremely interesting look at the parallels between Alice in Wonderland and our own minds! It's a solid story, and one that I think you'll enjoy getting lost in. Just mind that you don't also get sucked down the rabbit hole.

FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Book Spotlight: I Don't Know How the Story Ends by J.B. Cheaney

I promised you book spotlights, and I aim to deliver!

The best part about today's, is that this book not only looks absolutely amazing but there's also a giveaway attached just for you! Don't you feel special? Take a look at all the buzz below. I can tell you right now, it was the prospect of being lost in an early Hollywood that really caught me up. Perhaps it'll do the same for you.

Our story begins in a dusty little town in California, a bustling place called Hollywood…

Isobel Ransom is feeling anxious. Her father is away treating wounded soldiers in France, leaving Izzy to be the responsible one at home. But it’s hard to be responsible when your little sister is chasing a fast-talking, movie-obsessed boy all over Hollywood! Ranger is directing his very own moving picture…and wants Izzy and Sylvie to be his stars.

Izzy is sure Mother wouldn’t approve, but scouting locations, scrounging film, and “borrowing” a camera turn out to be the perfect distractions from Izzy’s worries. There’s just one problem; their movie has no ending. And it has to be perfect-the kind of ending where the hero saves the day and returns home to his family. Safe and sound. It just has to.

The Wild West atmosphere of early Hollywood and the home front of a country at war form a fascinating contest to award-winning author J.B. Cheaney’s (Somebody on This Bus Is Going to Be Famous) new novel about the power of cinema in helping us make sense of an unexpected world.

Praise for I Don’t Know How the Story Ends:

“The novel is packed with cameos by Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, and Charlie Chaplin…fascinating tidbits about the early days of film, and a relentless series of action scenes. Set dressing and quick pace aside, as narrated by Isobel, the story relies on—and delivers—solid characterization to drive it forward. Impressive on all fronts.” -Kirkus, starred review.

I Don’t Know How the Story Ends will grab you by your shirt and drop you right into the early days of Hollywood and movie making.” - Karen Cushman, Newbery Award-winning author of The Midwife's Apprentice

“This book is a love letter to the art of storytelling.” Caroline Starr Rose, author of Blue Birds

“The electrifying setting of early Hollywood, along with the ever-relevant story of a young girl’s search for stability in an increasingly chaotic world, make this a winner…Industrious, creative, and resourceful young characters will charm readers interested in the life-changing magic of filmmaking.” –School Library Journal

“Cheaney (Somebody on This Bus Is Going to Be Famous) offers a zippy coming-of-age romp featuring cameos from film stars like Charlie Chaplin and Mary Pickford, as well as lovely descriptions of a blooming Hollywood...Readers will be absorbed as Cheaney’s characters embrace their creativity and find comfort through the art of film.” –Publishers Weekly

Find it on:
While we waited to cross the street, Ranger swerved his head and gave me another of his piercing stares.

“Why do you keep looking at me like that?”

I looked but could not tell what I was looking at. Like a gigantic top hat, it stood about twenty feet high, as big around as a house, with a wooden platform circling it like a brim. The cylinder was painted with low rolling hills, trees, and blue sky. A couple of workmen near the back of the platform were fixing a tree in place. They took no notice of us as we walked up to the edge.

“It’s called the panorama—­they just finished it a couple months ago,” Ranger explained. “The platform here stays in the same place, but the background moves. Just the opposite of a carousel.”

I couldn’t see the point. “What’s it for?”

“Shooting road scenes and chases. If you put an auto right here”—­landing on the platform with a hop—­“and a camera there”—­pointing to the ground beside us—­“you can shoot the car in place while the background rolls along behind it. So it looks like the car’s moving. Sennett used to shoot all his car chases on the real street, but he kept getting in trouble with the natives.”

“It’s delicious,” Sylvie said breathlessly, quite overwhelmed.

I was skeptical. “It’s too big to move.”

“Oh yeah? I’ve made it move by myself—­that is, me and a bunch of the neighborhood kids. One night we snuck under the platform and lined up along one of the struts inside and started pushing. It takes a little muscle, but once you get it started… I’d show you now if I could, but I’ve got something important to do.”

He jumped off the platform. “Wait here.” With no more instruction than that, he ran around the curve of the panorama and disappeared.

“Well!” I exclaimed. “How do you like that?”

Sylvie seemed to like it fine. “He’s the wonderfulest boy I’ve ever met.”

We found a pair of orange crates to sit on and were debating that point a few minutes later when the wonderful boy reappeared in the company of an older fellow. The stranger appeared to be about fifteen or so, with a bony face and straight brown hair that might have been cut with a pair of garden shears. He carried a broom over one shoulder.

The two of them stopped about ten feet away from us. Dragging on a cigarette, the older boy looked me up and down with gray eyes as pale as dimes. It was the height of rudeness, which I was just about to mention when Ranger asked him, “Well?”

“Yep,” the other boy said. “Good eyes, good hair. Can she act?”

“Haven’t asked her yet.”

That did it for me. I jumped up and folded my arms and stamped my foot like an overtired child who’s been told she can’t have the last cookie. “What is this about? Tell me right now, or I’m leaving this instant and taking Sylvie with me, no matter where we end up.”

“She can act mad,” the stranger observed.

Ranger turned to me with eyes so animated that they could have jumped out of his head. “This is about art,” he told me, “and life, and truth and beauty too, if we can pull it off.” He paused for effect. And then:

“How would you girls like to be in a picture?”

J. B. Cheaney was born in Dallas, Texas, sometime in the last century. In school her favorite subject was making up parts for herself in imaginary movies and plays. Too bad they don’t give grades for that. Fortunately, her second-favorite subject was history. All that daydreaming and history-loving finally paid off with five published novels, the latest of which is Somebody on This Bus Is Going to Be Famous. She has won numerous awards for her children’s books: : Booklist TopTen Best YA by debut authors, NYPL's Best Books for Teens; Texas Bluebonnet nominee, the Florida Sunshine State Young Readers award, the Indiana Young Hoosier list, and a Kansas Notable Book. She lives and daydreams in Missouri with her husband.
Find her here:

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FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Book Spotlight: Meditations in Wonderland by Anna Patrick

I hope you're ready for another book spotlight! I know I fell off the face of the map for a bit. Sorry friends. About once every 5 or 6 years I get really really sick. You know how most people get the flu and are out cold for a week? I pretty much never get sick longer than 3 days. EXCEPT... once every 5 or 6 years. This year, was that year. I got knocked on my behind by a virus very similar to strep throat, and I'm only just better.

Let's just say that blogging was the last thing on my mind :).

I'm back though, and ready to share some amazing books with you! Anna Patrick and her amazing book Meditations in Wonderland is in the spotlight today, and trust me when I say that it looks absolutely irresistible. Take a look.

What would you do if you fell down the rabbit hole, and not only found Wonderland – but also discovered that Alice wants you dead? 

That’s exactly what happened to Elizabeth, a twenty-four-year-old interior designer living in Brooklyn, who, like many of us, has found herself feeling disconnect from herself and the world around her.

When she sits down for her morning meditation, she encounters a little more than static when she falls down a rabbit hole far different than the one she read about as a child.

Just in time for the 150th anniversary of the original Alice in Wonderland comes a dark, modern re-telling that offers a fresh take on the classic – and a whole new Alice.

Intrigued? I know I was. There's something about the prospect of a darker Alice that I've always loved. What if that world that was once so fantastic and fun, was actually dark and sinister. As soon as Anna Patrick's book came onto my radar, I was instantly in love.

Find out more:

In Wonderland
“The Cat grinned so wide his neck could barely support the weight of his head, and he clapped along with the syllables as he sang: ‘Her mind had gone out for a stroll, and then fell down the rabbit hole!”

“Without warning, she found herself at the threshold of darkness, face to face with a wall of towering trees. Wedged in the middle of the trees between two pillars of black-and-white stones stood something more sinister, something she hadn’t seen from where she had conversed with the Cheshire Cat… An iron signpost attached at the top of the two pillars glared back at her with ten metal letters that melded together to form cursive script. The twisted metal read: WONDERLAND.”

“She stood still for a moment and eyed the bright green moss crawling up the black trees that spiraled endlessly above her… the tall trees and their bony branches cast long shadows that fell upon Elizabeth in streaks, reminding her of prison bars…In some places, where the trees were less dense, the light broke through, setting Wonderland on fire with its brightness.”

“She closed her eyes and continued her pace, imagining what it would feel like to be in those woods, just as she had imagine what the meadow would feel like. A feeling of solitude crept in, and with it came the comfort of being hidden like a small child playing hide-and-seek, only she was both the seeker and the one who was hidden.”

Anna Patrick graduated from Boston College with both a degree in communications and the first draft of the manuscript that would become her first novel, Meditations In Wonderland. She is also the creator of a popular Tumblr under the same title. Now a full-time book publicist, Patrick lives in Northern Virginia with her boyfriend and their French bulldog.

For more on Anna and the book, please visit her: You can also find the book on Amazon.

FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Book Review: The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich

Media Type: Ebook (ARC)
Title: The Dead House
Author: Dawn Kurtagich
Publisher: Little Brown, BFYR
Pages: Hardcover; 432
Release Date: September 15, 2015
Source: NetGalley
Content Screening: Mild Violence

HDB Rating: 3 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who enjoy a slow burn, and prefer their stories less gory and more haunting.

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | BookLikes
Welcome to the Dead House.
Three students: dead.

Carly Johnson: vanished without a trace.

Two decades have passed since an inferno swept through Elmbridge High, claiming the lives of three teenagers and causing one student, Carly Johnson, to disappear. The main suspect: Kaitlyn, "the girl of nowhere."

Kaitlyn's diary, discovered in the ruins of Elmbridge High, reveals the thoughts of a disturbed mind. Its charred pages tell a sinister version of events that took place that tragic night, and the girl of nowhere is caught in the center of it all. But many claim Kaitlyn doesn't exist, and in a way, she doesn't - because she is the alter ego of Carly Johnson.

Carly gets the day. Kaitlyn has the night. It's during the night that a mystery surrounding the Dead House unravels and a dark, twisted magic ruins the lives of each student that dares touch it.

Debut author Dawn Kurtagich masterfully weaves together a thrilling and terrifying story using psychiatric reports, witness testimonials, video footage, and the discovered diary - and as the mystery grows, the horrifying truth about what happened that night unfolds.

The one downside to enjoying horror themed books and movies so much is that it takes a lot to impress me. Take a minute to think about the very onslaught of "found footage" horror movies that have been made in the recent past. In order for this pseudo-documentary style to work, the creator has to put in the effort to make the experience seem real. We all know what happens when they don't. Enter, The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich. Very much the book equivalent of the "found footage" movie, I wasn't sure to make of this book at first. It pieces together interviews, diary entries, random notes, and even video transcriptions. I'm still not convinced that it entirely succeeded either.

Let's start with the good. Our main character is a fascinating individual. Carly/Kaitie is a perfectly unreliable narrator. Is she two souls living in one body? Is one of her identities the cause of mental illness? Kurtagich sets up a reality where the reader never really knows. Oh, you might think you've figured it out. I did. Then something new is unearthed and suddenly it's back to wandering in the dark. I'll admit that, above all else, what kept me reading was the simple fact that I wanted to know what was going on with our protagonist. Was she insane? Or was there something else, something deeper, at work here?

Which is why I think that the style of this book was so rough for me. Only getting to know Carly/Kaitie through weird and broken snippets was frustrating. I understand that it was supposed to build tension. For a while, it did. Especially towards the middle, as things slowly descended into madness. However I was also never able to get a handle on who these girls really were, and what made them so different. By the time that the ending came and went, I was baffled. I'm all for twists. I like something to be turned on its head. Still, setting a character up in a certain light and then waiting until the end to throw in a shocking tidbit is just maddening. Add in the fact that I was never actually given any sort of ultimate climax, and you'll see why this book and I are still having a staring contest.

For what it's worth, this would be an excellent horror novel for people out there who don't read them very often. If you're put off by blood, and gore, you won't have to worry about that here. There are a few passages that mention some slightly violent things, but overall this is more of a thriller than anything else. Lots of mystery built up. Plenty of unsolved deaths. Even a bit of romance. I do believe that readers who enjoy being lost in a character's head might like this book. Just don't expect it to take off right away. It's one of those that is a slow build up. I'll leave it to you to decide whether or not it's all worth it in the end.

FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.


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