In accordance to the FTC guidelines, I must state that I make no monetary gains from my reviews or endorsements here on Confessions of a Literary Persuasion. All books I review are either borrowed, purchased by me, given as a gift, won, or received in exchange for my honest review of the book in question.

30 December, 2007

Book Review: Sidhe by D.M. Paul



Read & reviewed for Front Street Reviews

An elderly archeologist has found a rare cache of artifacts in the area thought to be where the Sidhe, otherwise known as the faerie race, where thought to have originated. The most intriguing of the finds is a staff. It is considered to possibly be one of the two legendary great staves of power. The artifacts have been taken to the multi-leveled city of Cloudview, to be authenticated by the Cloudview Museum of Natural History. Unfortunately, before the exhibit opens and the artifacts examined closely, the staff is stolen.

The thieves, Agents of the Sidhe queen, disappear with their stolen treasure into the wilds of the Park that composes the entire thirteenth level of the massive city.

Deep in the Park’s forests, elf scout Kestrel Greenleaf has discovered that something amiss. After discovering a trail of magic, she follows it to try and determine its source. Her travels take her to the realm of the Sidhe. The Faerie queen’s enchantment has assembled an army horde of enthralled monsters. Along with triggering the growth of the seed contained in the ancient staff. The staff, unknown to all but the Faerie queen housed a seed from the legendary First Tree. This is the magical tree that all life came from according to legend.

Kestrel returns to inform her elders of her findings. She finds herself being thrown together in a dangerous mission with Enob the High Wizard from Graylok, the sentinel Fox, and two agents from the Incantation Enforcement Agency Kase and Murdodox. Their mission is to obtain a branch from the poison trees in the heart of a vile bog, fashion it into an enchanted arrow, and pierce the young First Tree seedling before its roots take hold of the soil beneath the massive city.

Can the intrepid group get the arrow made and make it past the Fairie Queen’s army in time to save the city of Cloudview?

Sidhe is author D.M. Paul’s third installation in the One Wizard Place series. He does a wonderful job of bringing characters we have been introduced to in the previous stories and introducing new ones to bring about a full fledged and strong group trying to save the city of Cloudview. Like the past two books Sidhe has a strong fantasy setting and a well written story. I enjoyed the chance to explore the magic enhanced Park level of Cloudview, which was only briefly mentioned in past books. The book was a nicely paced fantasy setting that both younger readers and older fans of the genre will enjoy reading.

17 December, 2007

Book Review: Mind Made by Amy Lignor


Read and reviewed for Front Street Reviews

Annie, is a writer and a single mother trying to raise her daughter in a world that is becoming increasingly full of heartbreak and despair of bad news from a war that has found its way into the homes of America via the nightly news. She is living in a small Hamlet in Connecticut , and spends her evenings writing after her daughter Shelby is asleep. One cold winter night, while working, she drifts off to sleep and wakes in a totally unknown place.

Annie finds herself brought together with three others, who are also as confused at being there as she is. Matthew, Dean, and Annie’s good friend Julie. They are confronted by a horrific apparition made of mist which tells the four that they have been brought into it’s world for a purpose. The four of them had been torn from their world to play a game and prove that humanity has a right to live. To win, they must help each other through four tests. The tests will all stem from the deepest fears of each of the four being tested.

As time passes, the four strangers find the bonds of friendship and love forming between each other. As they face the harrowing trials set for each of them by their captor, these bonds give each person the strength to face their fears, and to help the others face their own trials. The combined strengths that each person brings to the group, along with their individual differences Annie, Dean, Max, and Julie are able to push themselves beyond physical and mental limits to travel the harrowing road set before them.

With love, the four can find the secret to saving mankind from the evil imprisoning them, and change their lives in the process. Will they be able to face their personal demons and accept the prize offered, or will evil triumph and bring about the doom of mankind?

Mind made is a thought provoking look into a realm where nothing is what it seems. Author Amy Lignor brings her readers a fast paced thrilling story of self development, and survival. I personally enjoyed seeing the development of the group from strangers to friends, and the tentative love that flowers between the two couples. The book made me want to know what happens next, and left me with a feeling of “what’s next?” as it came to its conclusion. This is the second book I’ve read by the author that I’ve enjoyed reading. I look forwards to seeing more from her in the future.

12 December, 2007

Book Review: Prophecy: a novel by Paul Mark Tag


Read and reviewed for Front Street Reviews

In 1889, a poorly maintained dam failed, letting the waters of Lake Conemaugh rush across Johnstown, Pennsylvania and destroying the town. It was, one of the worse environmental disasters to befall the United States, and 2,200 people died in the flood.

Moments before the dam burst, a young woman entered the Trinity Lutheran Church in Johnstown, and put a bottle containing an extraordinary letter into the church’s safe. This letter reveals that the writer knew of the impending flood.

In 2009, a United States scientist has found the gene that could scientifically explain clairvoyant powers. In Russia, laboratory experiments done by their own scientists have also found this genetic mutation, the “prophecy gene” as it is dubbed. This gene, if made into a synthetic replacement could turn the world into upheaval. Letting powerful men and women buy the ability to see the future and manipulate it to their own advantages.

When the American scientist disappears, his friend Dr. Victor Mark Silverstein is thrown into a cyclone of intrigue after receiving a strange text message concerning the kidnapping. While trying to track down his friend Dr. Silverstein and his assistant Linda Kipling find themselves tangling in the spider web grasp of greedy and corrupt US senators, the CIA, and a Middle Eastern terrorist organization. All of whom are trying to find a present day carrier of the gene who can confirm that the gene exists outside of laboratory experiments. When the safe containing the letter written before the Johnstown flood is unearthed, it accelerates the race to control the “prophecy gene”.

The gene, if found could prove the right or wrong hands the ability to control the planet, and throw the worlds religions into chaos.

Paul Mark Tag’s second novel is a fast paced thrill ride of an adventure. The author makes use of his experience as a meteorologist with the Navel Research Laboratory to bring his readers an exiting story that takes a look into theoretical science and the consequences it can have on the world. I really enjoyed the realism and development of Prophecy’s plot and found myself savoring the book and trying to make it last longer. One thing I enjoyed was the fact that Silverstein and Kipling’s relationship as coworkers and friends is so developed. The author also does a wonderful job of bringing in the story elements that have been carried over from his first book Category 5 and explaining them in a way that doesn’t leave new readers confused, and also doesn’t bog down the plot.

Prophecy was a wonderful introduction to a new author for me. I look forward to reading Category 5, and future books by the author.

Author’s web site http://www.paulmarktag.com

01 December, 2007

Book Review: Tinna's Promise by Miranda Mayer


Read and reviewed for front street reviews

Tinna, a half-blood Thran from the south, has been following a wanderlust brought on, she believes, by the Gypsy blood running through her veins. Her travels have taken her through much of the empire, from the great plain to many of the great cities and now to the forested regions that are home to the horse loving Arak. Tinna finds a home in the village of Thamatock, and a friend in its young Wiseman Taneth.

When Tinna makes a promise to go get a new puppy for a young mistreated boy in the village, her travels take herself and Rhoa, a young woman she has befriended, from the small village of Thamatock to the larger city surrounding Hildercross Academy. There, they find a puppy and the next morning start their travels home. On their way, they witness the destruction of Hildercross by an attack of dragons. Tinna and Rhoa find themselves captured by those same dragons along with a Nimru, and the landlord of the destroyed town.

Tinna and Rhoa’s journey back to Thamatock becomes complicated when they discover the reason behind the dragon’s attack. Rhoa pairs up with the tree dwelling Nimru, Draphen and continues the journey home while Tinna travels to the city of Alterat to seek help from friends in finding the person behind the dragons and stopping them before every major city aligned with the high throne is destroyed. Will Rhoa and Draphen be able to safely navigate the tree paths of the Nimru and make it home? Can Tinna find the blackmailer that is causing all the mayhem and destruction, and stop him before he uses his power over the dragons to focus on the smaller towns and villages left alone on the continent? Finally, can Tinna keep her promise, and get the puppy back to Thamatock and both the boy who she made her promise to, and the Wiseman that she has realized she has come to love?

I was very surprised by this story. The premise behind the plot is a very simple one; a promise has been made, can it be kept even in the upheaval and turmoil facing Tinna. However, the story itself is full of adventure, and action, and friendship as Rhoa and Tinna travel across a strange and turmoil filled land. I really enjoyed being introduced to the empire that the story is set in, and wished there was a little more information about the rule of the land. The setting of the story was in my opinion the best part of the story. The descriptions of the cities and places Tinna and Rhoa pass through capture the imagination and made me feel like I was right there with the women. I loved the complexity of the world we are introduced to as the women travel across the country to get back to their home.

21 November, 2007

Book Review: Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman by Haruki Muramaki


Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman is Haruki Murakami’s first collection of short stories since after the Quake (2002). It contains twenty – four short stories written between 1981 and 2005. The author mentions in his introduction, that his writing pattern alternates between novels and short stories, and never writing one type while working on the other. Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman is the first short story collection by Haruki Murakami that I have read. I’m a huge fan of his full length novels , and discovered during this reading, that my reasons for enjoying the author’s novels carries over to his short stories as well. I found this collection to contain whimsy magic. And a delightfully entertaining look at everyday life, and the emotions that power humans and their life experiences. Since the book has such a large amount of stories in its pages, it is hard to give each one a good look. Instead, let me tell you of a few favorites I have from the book.

Birthday Girl introduces the reader to the following idea; If you could have one wish granted, anything at all would you make it? The story is told by a woman recalling the strange events that happened on her twentieth birthday. While working on what was becoming a very disappointing birthday she stumbled into an extraordinary situation. While delivering an evening meal to the owner of the restaurant she worked at, she was given the choice of a gift that would change her life. He offered to grant her one wish.

In A “Poor Aunt” Story, the narrator tells a close friend how he wants to write a story featuring a “poor aunt”. In the process he wakes up one morning to find he has a poor aunt stuck to his back. Murakami explores what it is like for his writer to descend into a life where no one notices him, until one day she disappears. The story delves into human nature , and what drives us humans.

Blind Willow Sleeping Woman is an excellent collection of short stories written by a master of literature.

02 November, 2007

I won !

Wow, I just found out I won a copy of Apparitions by Raven Bower

From the folks over at The Great American Book Giveaway

I would suggest if you haven't checked them out to take a moment to do so. They have some great titles get listed on a regular basis.

14 October, 2007

Book Review: The Bretton Katt Alliance: The Lorrondon Cycle Book One by Margaret Garside


Read and reviewed for Front Street Reviews

It is the year 2441. The two major powers in the galaxy are the Terrans and the Neorans. Currently it is a time of strife between the two races. Great civil unrest is occurring because of the Terran military leader Victor Bastian’s movement against Neoran populated planets in Terran Space. This leaves more and more Neorans fleeing for the safety of Neoran space as refugees with little to their names besides the clothes on their backs.

Anna Lorrondon-Helsak The chancellor of the planet Bowman secretly breaks the long term alliance with the Neorans. Unknown to anyone, she makes a new alliance with old enemies of both the Terrans and the Neorans. When she is approached by her old friend Russorin the Neoran representative she holds fast to her idea of neutrality for Bowman. This is despite Russorin’s predictions of bad things to come for both races.

With no other choice left to her, Russoran turns to the free city of Breton-Katt for help. The city, a center for learning and commerce, is the Neoran’s last hope for an ally in Terran space. There, she uncovers a web of murder and blackmail Helped by Rob Lorrondon Anna’s son Russoran needs to get the alliance made and stop Anna’s plan to annex Bretton –Katt into Bowman. She needs to keep Anna from handing the city over to its enemies. But, will they be able to do this without triggering an all out war?

Science fiction can be hard genre to write. With so many books written already, it is very easy to start sounding like a rehashed plot. I’m glad to say that The Breton-Katt Alliance is not one of these books. Margaret Garside introduces her readers to a society in upheaval. Her story takes place in a universe which holds inhabitants whose ideals and communities are struggling with the ideas of sharing their resources and land with outsiders. Led by the stronger opinions of their leaders, the universe as they know it has become an unstable place to live. I look forward to the next installment of the Lorrondon Cycle, and seeing what sort of resolution to the conflict that has been introduced, in this first book of the series, is brought into action.

12 October, 2007

Book Review: When the Shadbush Blooms by Carla Messinger, with Susan Katz, illustrated by David Kanietakeron Fadden


Read and reviewed for Armchair Interviews

Every culture has its own ways of celebrating the seasons. When the Shadbush Blooms shows young readers how the Lenape Indians (also known as the Delaware Indians) live according to the seasons.

The story is uniquely told from two different viewpoints. It is told by Traditional Sister and Contemporary Sister, each from her own time. These viewpoints show us how the traditions have changed, yet stay very similar. David Kanietakeron Fadden‘s paintings grasp life in traditional times and current times extraordinarily. His paintings draw the reader in, and make them feel as if they were there as well.

The young reader that I shared this book with had a great time comparing the similarities between the different times. She seemed to enjoy learning about the traditions of the Lenape and following the adventures of the girls telling the story through their year.

I found this an engaging look into the lifestyles of one of the native tribes of the United States. I enjoyed the way the book was presented, and found the additional information on the Lenape in the back of the book extremely informative. This is a wonderful example of multicultural writing that shows how people live close to the land and themselves during the changing seasons.

10 October, 2007

Book Review: An Ocean of Air by Gabrielle Walker


Read & Reviewed for front street reviews

Have you ever wondered about the air that surrounds us? What is it that makes it such an adaptable substance? How does our atmosphere help life on Earth survive? Who were the men that gave us a better understanding of the air around us?

In An Ocean of Air, author Gabrielle Walker attempt to answer these questions and more. She reasons that the Earth is at the bottom of an ocean of air. She peels away the layers composing our atmosphere, and uses stories of the men who experimented on air to show us how it works. From Galileo’s experiments done during his confinement to his villa at Arcetri (in Florence), after his running afoul of the Inquisition, through to the modern day rush to discover space An Ocean of Air provides the reader with glimpses of science’s progression of discoveries to some of the mysteries posed by the air we breathe.

Gabrielle Walker has written a fantastic resource for anyone who is interested in science. Her explorations of the past experiments done on (in) our atmosphere are engaging, informative, and not at all dry. She brings her passion for the subject matter out in the open during the course of the book.

Some of the subject matter in the book, I was already familiar with. Galileo’s air experiments, while not as well known as his beliefs that the earth rotated around the sun – heretical ideas back during his lifetime, are still taught in physics classes. I did find some nee to me scientists while reading An Ocean of Air. I particularly found Marconi’s “wireless” device and its impact on the shipping field, and the resulting discovery by Oliver Heaviside of the electrical layer in the atmosphere (called the Heaviside layer) which made Marconi’s device work fascinating to read about. The book is presented in a well laid out manner, its facts are not to in depth nor or they simplistic making this a great book for anyone with an interest in the atmospheric sciences.

08 October, 2007

Book Review: Silk by Alessandro Baricco


Read and reviewed for Armchair Interviews.

In 1861, the journey to obtain silk was a treacherous one. Due to an epidemic that infected most of the European stocks of silk worms the men who buy the eggs of the worms were forced to travel further from home to replenish their stock.

Hervé Joncour is one such man.

Hervé Joncour is a buyer and seller of silk worm eggs for the silk mills in the French city of Lavillediea. Every year his travels take him away from home to Egypt and other African ports to buy the stock of his trade. Because of the epidemic, he is forced to undertake a dangerous and desperate journey over half the known world to buy healthy eggs from Japan. It is a dangerous and desperate trip. Travel, since the Suez Canal ha not been completed, takes months to get to Japan from France. Once there, Joncour is smuggled into the country as Japan’s ports are not yet open to foreigners. The price he will pay if caught taking silk worm eggs out of Japan is his death.

There he meets a woman, the mistress of his host. They do not touch, they do not speak to each other, and he can not read the letter that she gives him. Once Joncour hears what it says, he becomes a man possessed. When in France with his wife Helené Joncour is a man changed by the Orient. While in Japan he is trying to find ways to meet his host’s mistress without raising the suspicions of the townsfolk, and their lord.

Silk is an enthralling love story. It is haunting in it’s telling of two star crossed lovers fated to meet but never to act upon their love. It is told with simplicity and a moving plot that transports its readers to France in the late nineteenth century.

This edition of Silk is a movie tie in with the upcoming release of the film adaptation of the book (September 14, 2007). It has a new translation from its original Italian by Anna Goldstein. Silk was originally published in 1996 as Seta, with its first translation to English in 1997.

an update of sorts

As if I haven’t enough to read, what with trying to get caught up on the reviews I owe, I just received the two books I won during the Summer’s Hidden Treasures contes over the weekend.

The Halifax Connection by Marie Jakober
Wanderlust: a Social History of Travel by Laura Byrne Paquet

They both look amazing. I’m making myself get some writing done before cracking either of them open.

So, since I’ve been absent from the blog for as long as I have, I have quite a few reviews to add. I’ll be adding them probably every other day until I get caught up.

Also, I’ve got some really good looking books heading this direction, so keep checking back for the new stuff! There are some really cool books coming out/just out recently!

05 October, 2007

Book Review: The Reincarnationist by M.J. Rose


Reviewed for Front Street Reviews

Josh Ryder did not believe in reincarnation. That is, he did not believe until the day of the bomb exploding in front of a church, that he was standing near, in Rome. From that point in time, his life would be forever changed.

As he recovers from the wounds he obtained in the blast, he starts to experience new sensations. Over and over again he is visited by the slight scent of jasmine and sandalwood, and brief flashes of light. These are also accompanied by images that seem to be intimate memories. Memories that are decidedly not his own.

Rather, they seem to be the memories of a man long dead. They belong to Julius, a high priest during a time of great unrest in ancient Rome. He is trying to keep his fellow priests and the Vestal Virgins they protect to survive when the many varied religions practiced in the Roman Empire have been outlawed in favor of Christianity.

Josh turns to the help of his uncle, and the Phoenix Foundation to try and make sense of the baffling images that have plagued him, despite the physiological tests that say nothing is wrong with his mind. The Phoenix Foundation works with children. More specifically, they work with children who are struggling with their own past life memories. Josh, is drawn into the foundations work himself adding his talents to the foundation’s staff, he helps with the regression therapy, and takes photos of the children. Trying to capture the light aura he sometimes sees around a child with an old soul.

The foundation is asked to visit an archeological dig site outside of Rome. The tomb being excavated is thought to hold an ancient treasure. Inside, is the well preserved body of a vestal virgin and a box containing what is thought to be the memory stones.

As Josh visit’s Rome for the first time since the accident, and the dig site, his memory flashes become more frequent, with an urgency he finds he can’t ignore. His wages, coupled with the visions that he has been witnessing, tell him to save a woman named Sabina, and the treasures she carries. But in this time of no one seeming exactly who they are, the question remains; who is Sabina land can Josh save her before she dies again?

The Reincarnationist is M.J. Rose’s ninth novel. It is, in this reviewer’s opinion also her strongest one. The story grabs onto the reader’s imagination and easily transports them into a story packed with intrigue, passion, and mystery. Fans of thrillers and fans of historical fiction will find things they like in this complicated plot which spans the centuries.

20 August, 2007

Author Interview with Amy Lignor

Amy is the author of the books The Heart of a Legend(reviewed earlier this year), and Mind Made (review to be posted here soon). I recently had a chance to do an interview with her for Front Street Reviews, and thought I would share it with my readers here as well.

1. If you could give your book to one person who would it be and why?

Stephen King. And, oddly enough, not because he’s a famous author, but because I read a non-fiction book he wrote called, “On Writing.” This was at a time when I was ready to give up on the whole ‘dream’ because of rejection letters and non-belief in the fact that I really wasn’t cut out to be a writer – that I didn’t have the talent necessary to do this for a living. His book inspired me to continue, and I would love him to read any of my books. It would be a huge thrill for me.

2. What is your writing procedure?

It’s been said that there are two kinds of writers. The first, are able to sit down in front of a computer and just write, off-the-cuff, with no notes, no outlines, just the very basic idea of what they want to say – and then let the story unfold. I’m the other type. I need to have an outline prepared, even though I know that when I ‘get’ into the book, things have a way of going in a different direction. Because I use historical places a great deal, I also do a lot of research regarding the scenery, the people, all the way down to the imports and exports of the town, to make sure that I do the location justice.

3. What advice would you give new writers?

This is such a “form-letter” answer, but my advice is to write. Write as much as you can. If you have a limited amount of time due to work, family, etc., like I do – try with all your might to set aside time in the evenings after everyone has gone to bed, and write. Oh, and don’t take every agent and every publisher rejection to heart. Most of the time, guys, no one read your query letter in the first place. All it takes is one acceptance.

4. You’ve worked in the publishing industry as an editor, has this affected how you write?

The only thing I really took from being an editor was, of course, spelling, grammar, and structure of sentences (and I’m still learning.) Manuscripts, above all, have to be clean. Even if the story is outstanding and has never been seen before, if your letter or your manuscript is filled with mistakes, no agent or publisher will touch it.

5. Your books have very different styles; did you find yourself favoring one over the others?

I love the historical adventure stories that I’m currently doing. They give me the blank canvas needed to insert romance, science fiction, fantasy moments, historical figures, mystery, suspense - and still keep a modern-day tale going strong. I don’t want to pigeon-hole myself into one single genre. I am partial to combining everything I can into one, and making the story one you can’t put down. The suspense has to be there for the reader to continue.

6. What made you pick your subject matter for Heart of a Legend?

I moved to New Mexico about five years ago. Here, of course, Billy the Kid is a legendary figure. However, I was visiting his “grave” up in Ft. Sumner and I came across Paulita Maxwell in the cemetery. This led me on a quest of my own. There were many women in the Old West that were a HUGE part of history but they were overlooked for the popular male outlaws. I wanted Paulita’s story told because she WAS the heart of the legend and her voice, her struggle deserved to be heard.

7. You have very a very descriptive writing style when it comes to the locations your characters are in. Does your place to write in have an inspirational view?

I love this question, because I actually don’t. I wish I did. I have a very dimly-lit area with a window that looks out on practically nothing of interest. But, I have had the opportunity to see much of the U.S. and I always keep those pictures locked firmly inside my mind. I haven’t, unfortunately, gotten to see the historical places in Athens, Rome, etc. that I’m currently writing about, but I can see them through the windows in my mind. (And, of course, Google helps a great deal). I think without scenery, without the ability to make sure that your reader is standing beside you in a beautiful or, in some cases, eerie, setting – then the reader won’t really FEEL what’s going on with the characters. They won’t care.

8. Both Heart of a Legend, and Mind Made have strong romantic overtones flowing through the story do you consider love to be an important aspect of a person’s everyday life?

Actually, no. Sounds terrible, I’m sure. For the two first books I wrote, it just so happened that the romance between the specific characters was what brought out the loyalty, etc. that they needed to survive the situations they were placed in. I think that respect – more than deep-heated romance – is essential to believing that the characters are a true team. You route for them. Sparks of chemistry are always good, too. They make the readers come back for the sequel.

9. What’s next for you?

I have two series, actually, that I’m currently working on. The first is a trilogy called The Angel Chronicles, which are based on an angel/warrior team who are born in Heaven and placed on Earth in the bodies of the recently deceased to finish what they began. Going from 1800’s Ireland, through the Gilded Age of the early 1900’s. The next project I’m involved with is a historical/commercial fiction series. The main character is the Head of Research for the NYPL. She’s joined by an almost obsessed “adventurer/billionaire” who is searching for some of the most elusive artifacts known to mankind. Each book is a puzzle within a puzzle to be worked out, leading the reader on a roller-coaster ride through ancient places, a killer’s mind, and more. We’re also working on a screenplay for The Heart of a Legend, which is very exciting.

10. I just heard the good news that you’ve been signed on for a new series. Congratulations. Would you care to tell us a bit about it?

Thank you. It’s been a long time coming, but I am very lucky to have been signed by a top agent who saw the new series I spoke about above as something that had to be in the marketplace. The first book is called, 13, and the follow-up is titled, The Sapphire Storm. I’ve just begun the third which is tentatively titled, The Heroes Companion. I can’t wait to be able to share them with readers.

07 August, 2007

book review: The City of Ember

“In the city of Ember, the sky was always dark. The only light came from great flood lamps mounted on the buildings and at the tops of poles in the middle of the larger squares. When the lights were on, they cast a yellowish glow over the streets; people walking by threw long shadows that shortened and then stretched out again. When the lights were off, as they were between nine at night and six in the morning, the city was so dark that people might have been wearing blindfolds.”
-The City of Ember, Chapter 1, page 4.

When the city of Ember was first built, its builders left a plan for its inhabitants to find when they needed it most. Unfortunately, the box it was housed in was moved early, and the one person who knew of the importance of the box passed suddenly away before telling a successor about the box. Thus it was shuffled away, and lost to time.

In the city of Ember, everyone has a job to help keep the city functioning smoothly. The children of Ember attend school until age twelve when they join the workforce. On assignment day Lina Mayfleet, who want to run through the streets of Ember as a messenger, draws a job down in the pipe works. Meanwhile, her classmate Doon Harrow, who wants to learn how things work and fix things, draws a job as a messenger. Lina and Doon decide to trade jobs rather than being stuck with a job that they hate for the three year work period.

The city of Ember is becoming more and more unhappy. The generator providing the electricity for the city is failing more and more often. Leaving the city plunged into darkness for longer instances before it can be fixed. Supplies from the store rooms are running low. The mayor is a corrupt and greedy individual who is more concerned with his plan to keep his own life comfortable than with trying to find a solution for the survival of Ember and the people who live in the city.

When Lina finds the fragments of an ancient document, she convinced Doon to help her decipher it. They discover it contains instructions that seem to lead out of Ember. Can Lina and Doon find out where they lead, and convince the other members of the city to follow them before they run out of supplies and electricity for good?

The City of Ember was written for the young reader, however adult fans of children’s fantasy will find this an enjoyable story as well. Jeanne DuPrau has created a wonderfully intriguing world where sunlight does not exist. The story has high spirited main characters who believe in a good cause, and run up against obstacles that might make most people stop trying. I’ve seen a lot of web sites devoted to questions about the book for teachers to include it in their class curriculum. It was also announced earlier this year that a film version of the book is being filmed with a planned release of next year.

27 July, 2007

Book Review: Flight Volume 4


Read and Reviewed for armchair interviews and submitted to the Hidden Treasures summer reading contest.

Flight 4 is the fourth book in the flight series. These books are anthologies of stories told through the use of comic format. Each of these collections showcase young, innovative artists, with the intent to create stories that are fun to read for both the seasoned fan of comics, and those readers new to the format.

Flight 4 continues this tradition. Out of the series, the stories in this anthology really make the reader think about their story lines, and are quite introspective. The stories included cover a wide range of subjects. The book contains twenty-five stories by twenty-six talented artists and storytellers. The book is a collection of short stories that are varied in multiple styles and tones from each other.

A few of my personal favorites from this Flight collection are: Food from the Sea by Amy Kim Ganter, The Window Makers by Kazu Kibuishi, Dinosaur Egg by Raina. Each of these stories plays with the ideas of the power of imagination, the joy of finding your own strengths and weaknesses, and the fun of discovering new things and ideas. I’ve been a fan of the Flight collections since reading Flight Volume 3. I’m most impressed with this current collection and look forward to future flight collections.

Because, as the folks over at Flight Comics believe, reading comics should be fun, Flight 4 is defiantly a fun and thought provoking comic collection.

The artists who contributed stories to the book are: JP Ahonen, Graham Annable, Neil Babra, Bannister, Vera Brosgol, Scott Campbell, Pascal Campion, Joel Carroll, Cleo Chiang. Phil Craven, Ryan Estrada, Michel Gagné, Amy Kim Garter, Thomas Herpich, Azad Injejikian, Kazu Kibuishi, Jon Klassan, Sarah Mensinga, Fabio Moon, Ovi Nedelcu, Andrea Offermann, Lark Pien, Dave Roman, Israel Sanchez, Raina Telgemeir, and Joey Weiser.

Publisher: Villard Books
Publishing date: July 2007
Web Site: http://www.flightcomics.com/

16 July, 2007

Book Review: Sigourney's Quest by Gordon Snider


Read and reviewed for Front street Reviews, and as part of the Hidden Treasures contest.

Sigourney Phillips’ life has taken a turn for the worst. Her husband has left her for a younger woman. Her fifteen year old daughter, Debbie is acting up and siding with her father on everything related to the divorce proceedings. Sigourney finds herself retreating into her research and teaching, and becoming more and more unable to comprehend the depth of the anger and feelings of losing everything important that are becoming a firm part of her every day life.

Then, she receives a phone call that changes her life. Her close friend Martha has passed away and willed Sigourney an ancient manuscript and a diary belonging to Martha’s great grandmother Anne Hopkins. The diary tells the tale of Anne’s travels into Tibet in 1899. Her journey takes place five years before the first recorded contact with Tibet by Englishman Colonel Younghusband in 1904. In a letter that Sigourney finds enclosed with the diary, Martha tells her friend how Anne saved the manuscript during her travels. The manuscript is a very valuable one, which was written during the time that Buddhism was being established in Tibet that sets down the teachings of Buddha. Anne received it from a monk in Llasa, who entreated her to take it with her, out of the country before the Chinese could destroy the holy relic. Martha’s letter further explains that Anne’s spirit has contacted her, and that Sigourney must secretly smuggle the manuscript back into Tibet and return it to the monastery it originally came from.

In quick succession, Anne finds herself taking a leave of absence from the University, leaving Debbie with her father, and flying across the planet to join a tour group traveling into Chinese controlled Tibet. As she gets closer to her destination, Sigourney finds her path becoming more dangerous as the Chinese are alerted to her presence and the fact that she might be bringing religious contraband into the country with her. Sigourney is forced to face many obstacles along the way, and finds herself helped and making friends with the Tibetan people she encounters on her travels. Along her journey Sigourney finds healing for her troubled soul and hope that she will make the monastery, and get out of Tibet and into Bhutan under the Chinese government’s radar.

Gordon Snider has written a story that team with adventure, danger and hope. He strives to show his readers a land that is climatically harsh, but populated with a culture that is friendly, and warm. A people who live their lives steeped in the mysticism and ceremonies of their beliefs. He brings attention to how the Chinese government is trying to subvert the Tibetan’s way of living and turn Tibet into just another part of communist controlled China. The author wrote Sigourney’s quest as a fictional way of trying to record the culture he fell in love with while visiting as a photographer during the 1990’s. This book is a protest to the Chinese control and a testament to the resilience of the Tibetan people.

15 July, 2007

Book Give Away Winner

Let's give a warm round of applause to the winner of the Through the Eyes of a Survivor book draw.

Congratulations to ResQgeek.

I hope you enjoy the book. I'll email you shortly.

30 June, 2007

Book Review: Joy Bauer's Food Cures


Read and reviewed for Front Street Reviews

What defines good nutrition?

Nutritionist Joy Bauer is well known through her role as the nutrition expert for the Today Show. She has written a reference guide to how the food that you eat can and does affect your health.

The book is divided into six sections: First, is the introduction to the author and her health practice. Second, losing weight contains an introduction and break down of the process of losing weight. Third, looking great deals with eating to help keep your skin, hair and smile all looking brilliant. Fourth, living long and strong talks about ways one can change their eating habits to help with cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and degeneration of bones, muscles and memory. Fifth, feeling good talks about what you can do to help problems with your mood, migraine headaches, PMS, insomnia and celiac disease. The sixth section smooth sailing breaks down how to correctly read nutrition labels, Joy talks about her good food picks, and you can find references on the subjects covered in the preceding chapters of the book here.

Each chapter is laid out in an easy to reference way. The author starts each by introducing the subject, using her knowledge as a nutritionist. She uses examples of stories of her patients and what they did to work through their health issues, and talks about food changes and supplements you can add to your diet. Next, she breaks the process of implementing the food program into your life in four steps. Step 1, start with the basics gives you a quick run down of things you will need to do to help along your health goals. Step 2, your ultimate grocery list gives you a comprehensive list of the foods you should be including in your new eating habits and is very helpful for stocking your kitchen and pantry. Step 3, going above and beyond gives added tips to things you can do to improve your health goal. Step 4, meal plans includes sample daily menus including the foods that will improve your health goal. Also included in this last section are recipes using these foods, each of which are calculated to provide a 1,200 to 1,500 calorie daily goal.

I was taken by surprise by this collection. I expected a book focusing more on weight loss. The sections dealing with common ailments such as skin, and digestion problems were a pleasant surprise. I also found that the inclusion of easy to prepare meal options and recipes balanced to help along those who were trying to loose weight a very helpful one. This is a book that I have found to be a great reference for health, and good food choices.

27 June, 2007

Summer Reading Program for Adults.

As a kid, one of my most favorite parts of the summer break was registering for the summer reading program at the local public library. It was a sweet treat to spend an afternoon picking out a pile of books for the two week lending period - usually read through in less than a week of getting them- and the next time we went back to the Library, getting to write down the titles and work my way towards a prize of a new book.

Every summer when the Evanston Public Library announces their summer reading program, and I see the kids scrambling to fill out their participation cards I get nostalgic, and wish that there was a summer reading program for adults...

Well, the Chicago Public Library system announced this year's summer reading program. The City of Big Readers. It has in addition to the kids program, an adult version as well. With the prize of a CPL travel mug for the first two books submitted. (definatly not as fun as the kids program - but a travel mug is way too useful a thing to not have)

But what got me was the amounts of tied in programs being offered as this is in conjunction with the Chicago History Museum - a great place to visit if you are from out of town.

Makes me wish I still had a CPL library card. But I'll just work on my reading list myself and wish the lucky Chicago participants a fun time reading this summer!

Plus maybe I'll check out some of the literature related city tours if the weather doesn't get horribly drainingly hot and muggy. Chicago is right next door to Evanston after all, and the Museum is just a train ride away. :)

26 June, 2007

Book Review: Love, Suburban Style by Wendy Markham


Read and reviewed for Armchair Interviews.

The fatal day that everything fell apart, Meg Addams decided to leave Manhattan for the wholesome suburban life-style of Glenhaven Park. The small suburban town that she grew up in. She assumed that moving out of the big city wasn’t going to be a problem for either her or her fifteen year old daughter Cosette. Well, other that re-adjusting their lives from the rhythms of the city that never sleeps to those of small town living. However there were things Meg hadn’t expected that were making that transition a less than easy experience.

Glenhaven Park had, in Meg’s absence changed. Many of the inhabitants were more wealthy than the blue-collared inhabitants Meg grew up with, the main street has been invaded by upscale boutiques and posh eateries. On top of everything else, Meg had not expected her house to be truly haunted (although it had that reputation when she was a kid). She also did not expect her next door neighbor to her high school crush. Neither did she expect the fact that he was a hunk and that she found herself attracted to him still.

What follows is a wacky story of homecoming, romance and finding ones place in new but familiar surroundings. Meg and her daughter bump into each other (teen conflict combined with the added stresses of moving), their home’s un-earthly co-inhabitant, and their new neighbor Sam and his two children. While Meg and Sam try and figure out their attraction to each other, Cosette and Ben (Sam’s eldest), find themselves attracted to each other and in a fledgling relationship of their own. Wendy Markham has written a contemporary romance that will please the older chick lit fan with a quick paced and movingly funny plot. This book has a quirky and funny look at life as a single mom dealing with major life changes, a teen age daughter who is testing her limits, a ghostly inhabitant who may or may approve of sharing a house with Meg and Cosette, and a growing attraction to her neighbor Sam.

22 June, 2007

Book Review: Dumplings are Delicious by Deb Capone



Reviewed for Front Street Reviews

In Dumplings are Delicious, we meet up with Rain and her stuffed friend Bo, the Heirloom Hippopotamus. Rain is a girl from China, who has recently been adopted by an American couple. She and her mom have learned how to make jiặozi, a type of Chinese dumpling. One day at school during lunch time Rain and her friends start talking about the different types of dumplings that they and their families make and eat. This leads to her class having a day dedicated to trying new types of dumplings and learning about the countries that they come from.

Dumplings are Delicious is the third book by Deb Capone. We are reintroduced to the main character. The book is aimed to introduce young readers to the ideas of new foods and different cultures. The story focuses on one type of food, which has similar incarnations in many different cultures. I loved how the story shows Rain and her friends all enjoying the dumplings that they eat regularly. Older readers will learn how to pronounce the names of the different dumpling types, as well as where they come from around the world.

Stan Jaskiel’s illustrations make the story come alive. They make use of bright colors and shapes to illustrate Rain’s day at school. The images used are cartoon like but not un-lifelike. Younger readers will enjoy looking at the illustrations and trying to find Bo as he peeks into each picture.

As Simple as That books share the same similar ideal. They are all aimed at teaching children about different cultures and how to respect one another. Currently, all the books published by the author follow Rain and her life and discoveries in her new American family.

21 June, 2007

Book Give Away: Through the Eyes of a Survivor

So, as the publishers of Through the Eyes of a Survivor were so kind as to send me two copies of this book. I have an Advanced Reader's Copy of the book to pass on.

I will be closing this on 15 July 2007. If you are interested in trying to win, leave a comment, and I will add your name to the drawing.

Feel free to pass on the information about this book give away to anyone that you think will be interested.

I'm doing this drawing during the time frame that I am with the hope that this will lead up to some exitement about the Hidden Treasures reading contest. This book is one of the treasures that I have stumbled across during the past year.

Click the title link to see my review of the book.

26 June 2007 - Thanks to a generous offer, this copy will be signed by both the Author and Nina, the survivor whose story is told in the book
28 June 2007 - The book is on it's way to the author for signing! Travel quickly and safely little book!

Book Review: Through the Eyes of a Survivor by Colette Waddell


Reviewed for Frontstreet Reviews

Once in a while, a person with an amazing story is quite literally stumbled upon. This is what happened when author Colette Waddell heard Nina Grütz- Morecki speak about her experiences during World War II as it raged through Poland. It was because of Nina’s talk, that the author discovered an interest in helping Nina tell her story to a wider audience.

Nina Grütz was born during the winter of 1920. Her parents were a well to do Jewish couple who owned a soap factory in L’vow Poland. She grew up knowing prosperity, and led a life sheltered from the anti-Semitic outlook held by many of the Polish Catholics. All that changed the year Nina was getting ready to leave home to attend University. Nina’s family faced the Russian invasion of Poland, followed by the German invasion of Russian-occupied Poland. With the Russian occupation, the Grütz family faced socialism and being separated. With the German occupation, Nina watched her family members disappear, and finally faced internment in a work camp herself.

Expanding on the story that Nina tells to high school students as a guest speaker, Through the Eyes of a Stranger, follows Nina as she escapes death at the work camp. She was rescued from death of starvation in the forest by a kind Polish couple, and afterwards she joined the Polish resistance movement. As a member of the resistance Nina infiltrated a German occupied town, and worked in a position that allowed her to learn of the German’s plans and send the information and vital papers needed to move around Poland to her underground contacts. However when the Russians retook the area, Nina once again found her life in upheaval. It was during this time that Nina met Josef, her future husband. When the war finally ended, they joined up with a group of displaced Jews all trying to leave the country. Nina and her husband eventually made it to America, and the book follows their lives as they make a new home and family for themselves in a new country.

It took me a little while getting used to the writing style of the book. The alternating styles between an oral history and a study of the effects of the war seemed to be a little at odds to each other. This book is an attempt to educate the public on the effect of the war on Poland’s Jews. It is an extraordinary example of the resiliency of the human spirit, and our ability to live through unthinkable horrors and to emerge from them stronger, even though we will be changed forever.

20 June, 2007

Spring Reading Contest Recap


So it's almost the end of the Spring Reading Thing over at Callapidderdays and I have not quite finished my original list of books to try and read. My original goal was twenty books long. I zoomed through over half the list in the first month, then got hit with a bunch of review books to read and write about, so the reading challange list got set aside. Finally I hit a bit of a reading slump where everything that I picked up I put down very quickly.

But I did learn a few things from this challange:

The Kushiel Series is probably one of the best group of books I've read in a long time. Both Elengil and I devoured them quickly and have since recomended the series to many of our friends.

I created my list from books I had on my TBR pile that I had gotten through bookcrossing for the most part. Some of these came from yankee book swaps and were not what I would nornally pick out to read. I was pleasently surprised by more than a few of the titles that I ended up reading.

The one book that I didn't finish is Night of the wolf by Alice Bordchardt. I really want to give this book a good chance, as I love a good werewolf story. However, I find myself with little patience and haven't gotten past the first chapter all three times I've picked it up over the last three months. I'm not too sure if this is because of the afformentioned reading slump I hit, or if it is because of the book. I'll have to try again in a month or two to try again before passing the book on unread.


I found this a great exercise in reading what I have here in the house unread. So often I end up going to the library for new books, that I tend to forget the small pile I have here at home. I'm looking forward to taking part in the Fall Reading Challange to see what else I can get knocked out of my TBR pile. However, I don't expect it to be half as many books as my schedule is going to be much different in a few months from now.

Book Review: The Shakespeare Code By Virginia M. Fellows


Reviewed for Front Street Interviews

“Who questions much, shall learn much, and retain much”. ~ Francis Bacon

The question of who wrote Shakespeare’s plays is one that has raised debates since shortly after the death of William Shakespeare himself. It is a heated topic that has in the past named Francis Bacon as the author a theory of authorship, which has never been definitely proven. The Shakespeare Code is a nonfiction work that looks into the life of Frances Bacon and the events of the time that shaped his life.

In the latter part of the nineteenth century, a medical doctor by the name of Orville Owen made an astounding discovery. Throughout the passages of Shakespeare’s plays, there is a hidden story written in code. With the help of Elizabeth Wells Gallup, a school teacher who became his assistant, Dr. Owen created a massive cipher wheel by following Bacon’s writings on code systems and attempted to decode the hidden story. During their research, they discovered very different codes embedded in the same work of Shakespeare. The codes that they found were Francis Bacon’s word cipher code, and a bi-lateral cipher. This book is an attempt by author Virginia M. Fellows to bring public attention to the now-out-of-print writings and to help along the opinion of the Baconians as to who really authored Shakespeare’s writings.

The main portion of this book is a biography of Sir Francis Bacon, supplemented with the facts that were found with use of Dr Owen’s cipher wheel. The coded writings bring light to explosive ideas including the fact that Queen Elizabeth... was secretly married and mother to two boys, the eldest of whom is Francis Bacon. Like his brother, he was much loved by the queen but never acknowledged as her child to protect her title and reputation of being the “Virgin Queen”. The life story of Francis Bacon is one of much scandal, corruption, and lies. The man who, along with Newton changed Europe’s ideas of science and philosophy lived a life that ended tragically. The Shakespeare code attempts to shed light on secrets revealed by the codes that have lain hidden for hundreds of years, shaping new insights on one of the men responsible for the birth of the modern world.

Finally, included in the book, is an in-depth look at Dr. Owen’s research. A thorough look at the cipher codes found in the First Folio of Shakespeare’s plays and also in many of Bacon’s own works sheds some light on these ciphers. Many of these codes were more advanced than those used in the Civil War, which is the first recorded time frame where cipher codes were used in the United States. I found this to be one of the more interesting parts of the book and thought it much too short.

I found this book to be an intriguing look at the life of an interesting historical figure. It gave me much to think about, though as I don’t know much about the time of the Tudors and Elizabeth I’s reign, I did read this with the idea that much of the information found in the book has not been proven factually true. The book does however, give a very in depth look into court life during Elizabeth the first’s rule up into the start of the Stuart family’s rise to rule with King James.

15 June, 2007

Summer Contest - Hidden Treasures of Fiction


It's time for the Hidden Treasures Summer Reading Contest!

Susan at West of Mars is having another contest and this time I'm giving all of you lots of notice. This summer's theme is Hidden Treasures of fiction; books or authors who have never gotten near the Best-seller list (any of them) but who you think deserve to be. So review your own books, your best friend, or that weird guy around the corner who happened to write a brilliant book (even if you cross the street when you see him coming) or that deserving author you've been keeping secret. Our hope is that this contest will help promote middle-list authors who are often overlooked in favour of the blockbuster novels and hopefully boost the authors' sales.

The rules are simple:
1. Find a book that's a Hidden Treasure. That means a book that hasn't made it to a best-seller list anywhere that you can find. A suggested reading list will be available at WestofMars.com (at the time of posting the list hasn't been posted but I'll update the link to the site once it is). Feel free to find your own treasure, though.

2. The book MUST be from a royalty-paying publisher. If in doubt, ask Susan.

3. Read it.

4. Post a review somewhere on the Internet between July 15 and August 15 (some popular locations for the last contest were reviewers' websites or blogs, Gather.com, and/or BookCrossing.com).

5. Sign the Mr. Linky at West of Mars. Include the permalink for your review.

6. Yes, you can use a Hidden Treasure book that fulfills another contest or reading challenge.

7. Yes, you can review more than one book.

8. If, for some reason, you don't want to win a prize, let Susan know.

9. If you have suggestions for the Hidden Treasures Suggested Reading List, or a prize to offer the winners, drop Susan an e-mail at susan at westofmars dot com.

10. Prizes will be awarded August 20. Winners will be contacted and winning list will be posted no later than 22 August; be sure to have a way for us to contact you.

Pretty simple right? So spend the next month deciding on your book(s) and I look forward to reading your reviews.

These are the people who have helped in the background to get this contest off the ground and running: West of Mars, Breeni Books, Morsie Reads, Eclectic Closet, Confessions of a Literary Persuasion, Writing Aspirations and Front Street Reviews

18 May, 2007

Book Review: Super/Heroes: From Hercules to Superman


Read and reviewed for armchair interviews

These days it’s hard to not know what the idea of a superhero is. With the summer movie offerings having many adaptations of comics to the big screen, it seems like it is hard to be able to turn around and not be inundated with images of superheroes. Our culture is one that has the super hero ideals ingrained into it.

Super/Heroes From Hercules to Superman is a compilation of essays that all deal with the idea of heroes, and what makes them so fascinating to our culture. Its goal is to traverse the boundaries between heroes and super heroes. Many of the essays in the collection explore parallels between the hero myths of our past and popular culture, with the intention to shed light on the creative process of mythmaking. The essays included in this collection are a product of the “Men in Tights” Superheroes conference which was held at Melbourne University, Australia in 2005.

The book was divided into five sections. Each of these topics has five essays dealing with topics that fall into the idea of the section. The ideas discussed in the book are as follows: Being a Super/Hero: Myth and Meaning, Into the Labyrinth: Dark Journeys, We Can be Heroes: Bodies that Hammer, Collisions: Gods and Supermen, and Media Convergence and Selling Hero Culture. Each of these topics gives us the reader something to ponder: Whether it be what is a super/hero, what journeys do heroes make that define themselves and their powers, How can popular culture icons such as wrestlers, musicians and television characters embody the super/heroe culture, Comparisons of mythical heroes and current day characteristics, and the influx of the superhero culture into our everyday lives.

This collection was a nice change of pace for me. I enjoyed the academic views on the hero culture and integration of superheroes into popular culture. The essays comparing mythological heroes and current popular things like Harry Potter and rap made me smile, and think hard about the ideas proposed by the author of the essay.

15 May, 2007

The lovely miss West of Mars tagged me for a meme. I try to not post too many memes here as I want the blog to concentrate on my reviews and writing (not that I've done much of either recently).

However, since I have been in a bit of a slump posting wise, I'm going to do this one without the tagging others as I know the few people I'm sure of reading this have either 1. been tagged by some one else or 2. have already done the meme.

So now, eight things about me:

1. I am in a relationship with my high school sweetheart.

2. I've attended more than one place of higher education and still don't have any type of degree.

3. I'm contemplating going back to school for something totally unrelated to what I had been studying last.

4. I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up (and I'm almost 29!)

5. I love to dance in the rain. There is just something so freeing about loosing myself to the sounds of the water falling around me, and danceing through puddles.

6. I have a habit of walking barefoot, and will start wearing sandals as soon as it gets a little warm out and will wear them until it gets too cold in the late fall (i.e. when the snow is gone until it starts snowing again).

7. I suffer from "sleepyhead syndrome" and can and have fallen asleep in some very odd places, exept in cars unless I'm exhausted as I end up extremly motion sick for hours afterwards.

8. I get absorbed in what I'm doing and forget things like eating. *wanders off to forage for food*

09 April, 2007

another wow

ms Breeni let me know of another fantastic response to a book I've reviewed.

this one is for the Healthiest Kid review

04 April, 2007

A lovely Author Thank You

I received an amazing note from the author, and am including it here after prompting by Susan :)

Thank you much for the wonderful review you did for my novel "Flight of the
Goose". It was heartwarming and gratifying as the author to have been read
so closely and with such understanding. I loved that you put focus on the
book's subtheme of war and the draft, the loss the brother to war, etc. This
is unusual (most reviews were written at least a year ago, and focus
exclusively on the "exotica" of Inupiat culture or the Alaskan wilderness).
Maybe it is reflection of our times as our war escalates, and the public
tide has turned. Or maybe you are just a more careful reader and reviewer.
I also appreciate how the birdman was given some space in your review. He
usually is quite neglected, but he was important to me.

Best,
Lesley Thomas

03 April, 2007

spring reading challange update

It is always nice to get a package unexpectedly in the mail :)

Due to Random House's generosity, I have a second copy of Sister Mine to use for a contest prize sometime in the future. Look for a review in the next few weeks.

Well, it will be two weeks tommorrow since the start of the Spring Reading Thing challange. So far I have finished twelve of my twenty books listed (seven of which were in the first weekend alone!). I'm working on two more and looking forwards to the others on the list. If I finish this list by the end of the challange, I'll have read most of my outstanding TBR pile that didn't get mixed up into the PC and stored up.

It will be a change of pace for me. I feel bad that I won't get to the older books traded through bookcrossing until we get bookshelves built and books out of storage. But what can I do? I can't exactly get to most of them right now.

I have noticed that the tote I keep the available books in once they are read has gotten a bit packed. So, feel free to take a look at it and let me know if you would like to read any of them :) (just keep in mind any titles with a parenthasis around a name by the status I don't have in my possesion anymore)

I have a feeling the leave a book/take a book shelf at the local coffee shop, and possible the metra station (if I can get over there when the waiting room is open), will get some books added to them as well in the near future.

30 March, 2007

Book Review: Whitethorn Woods by Maeve Binchy


Reviewed for armchair interviews.

St. Anne’s well. It is a relic site, located in the Whitethorn Woods outside of the town of Rossmore, Ireland. It is believed to be a holy place where many people have traveled over the generations. There, they pray and share their hopes, dreams, and fears for St. Anne to hear and answer.

However, the tranquility of St. Anne’s well is being threatened. A new road has been proposed that would bypass Rossmore and ease the traffic congestion that the town currently suffers from. Everyone has an opinion on whether the road would be beneficial to Rossmoor, or not. However, the planned route for the road cuts across farm fields, and through the Whitethorn Woods. If the road is built, the grotto housing St. Anne’s well will be destroyed.

Father Flynn, the younger of the two priests in the town’s Catholic Church, is caught in the middle of the debate. One side believes that the well should be protected, as it is a site of spiritual power. However, the other side scoffs at the superstitions surrounding the well, and argues that progress should be allowed to freely push forward. Father Flynn, not having decided which side to favor, listens to the stories of the people involved in the conflict. It is through these stories that we are introduced to the people living in Rossmore and those visiting the town. The stories show us the town’s past, and how the actions made during the current day will affect and change the town’s uncertain future.

The prolific Maeve Binchy, once again, brings Ireland to life by intertwining each story too magnificently to create a tapestry depicting life in Rossmore. I found that the short story style of the book made the overall story much stronger. I have not read many of Maeve Binchy’s books, but based on this one I will definably look forward to reading more from her.

26 March, 2007

Book Review: The Bone Whistle by Eva Swan



reviewed for frontstreet Reviews

Darly lives on the outskirts of Denver with her mother Vivian. Darly is twenty years old, struggling with school and her first major heart break. As miserable as her life is, she is not looking forward to a summer spent on the Lakhota reservation. Spending her days in an isolated cabin with her mother is not the most ideal summer vacation in Daryl’s eyes, no matter how much it recharges her mother or how long they've been spending summers there.. However, when her grandfather gives her an old bone whistle, it leads to an astonishing discovery: Her father is not dead, as she has believed her whole life, and he was not human, but wanaghi.

Who are the wanaghi? An elusive fey-like folk that lives under the Dakota hills. According to Lakhota legend, they once were a part of the Lakhota people. Long ago, as change was introduced through the coming of the white settlers, the wanaghi made the decision to retreat under the hills and preserve the ancient ways of life.

Determined to find her father, Darly makes her way under the hill into the land of her father’s people. It is a dangerous place full of magic and the old customs. With the help of a young wanaghi named Osni, Darly looks for her father. There is a war raging between factions among the wanaghi and Darly with all her innocence is thrown into the middle of the battle. She is faced with the fact that Osni, the man she has lost her heart to, and her father are on opposite sides in the fight.

As Darly fights for self-discovery during the days that pass, she must struggle with the choices she has been given. Can she show Osni her love for him, reunite her family and help end a battle that may lead to the end of the wanaghi?

What power is contained in the bone whistle her grandfather gave her and can it help her journey?

Author Eva Swan has crafted a lovely fantasy story. I loved the inclusions of Native American legends into the plot. These themes, are explained extremely well, for those not familiar with them without being to simplistic sounding. This is Eva Swan’s first novel, and is a strong debut into the romantic fantasy genre.

23 March, 2007

Spring Reading Challange



Katrina over at Callapidder Daysis hosting the Spring Reading Challange. Books I plan on reading this spring for the spring reading challange:

1. Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey
2. Kushiel's Chosen by Jacqueline Carey
3. Kushiel's Avatar by Jacqueline Carey
4. Kushiel's Scion by Jacqueline Carey
5. Zen Seeing, Zen Drawing by Frederick Franck
6. Rhaeva By Linda Moore
7. Night of the wolf by Alice Bordchardt
8. Tom O Bedlam by Robert Silverberg
9. In the Forest at Midnight by Rita Pratt Smith
10. Good Benito by Alan Lightman
11. Geography of a Heart by Fenton Johnson
12. Hotspur by Rita Mae Brown
13. Witchblood by Will Shetterly
14. Slow Fall to Dawn by Stephan Leigh
15. The Year of the Quiet Sun by Wilson Tucker
16. Riders of the Sidhe by Kenneth Flint
17. The R Master by Gordon Dickson
18. The Forest People by Colin M. Turnbull
19. Milk Glass Moon by Adriana Trigiani
20. Eat Cake by Jeanne Ray

This is a good starting list, as I don't know how many review books I'll have to slip in the way between now and the end of June. As you can see, I'm planning on tackling a big series that I've had on my I need to read this list for awhile now. the others are books on my TBR pile gotten through bookcrossing and the old book relay site.

19 March, 2007

*blinkblinkblink*

Ms Breeni let me know about this comment left on the Amazon posting of the review for Rags and Old Iron.

It was a nice way to start my morning.

I should share the fnatastic comment sent to me by the author of The Flight of the Goose. That one really made my week :)

02 March, 2007

Debut a Debut wrap up.

When Susan over at the West of Mars blog anounced the winners of the Debut a Debut contest last week I was informed that I had won an audio copy of Every Secret Thing by Lila Shaara.

it's been a bit hectic here since I got the e-mail informing me of the win. So, I had filed it to the back of my brain as "Coool, I won something!" (I should test this contest luck I seem to have gained over the past few years and go and buy some lotto tickets). So, today when I pulled in the mail, I opened up an envelope to find a beatiful (but slightly squished) audiobook. I then actaully thought about Susan's email and realized I had seen that last name before. Checking out the author blurb on the back, I find that yes it is a very familiar name. Lila Shaara is the daughter of Michael Shaara and sister to Jeff Shaara. Both of whose books I've devored several times and have copies on my bookshelves gifted to me by my father when I was in high school.

I'm really exited about this one.

We have several audio books in the queu right now, and tend to listen more during long car trips so it might be a little bit before I can listen to this one.

But y'all can be sure I'll post a review of it when I finish it :)

Another cool thing I discovered today is that Neil Gaiman's Stardust has been made into a film, and according to his blog will have a US release date right around my birthday in August of this year.

23 February, 2007

Book Review: Heart of a Legend by Amy Lignor



Read and Reviewed for Frontstreet Reviews

When Paulita Maxwell started her journey from Texas into the wild New Mexico Territory in 1877, with her brother Pete, her thoughts were on nothing more than being reunited with her family in Fort Sumner. While crossing New Mexico to get to their home, Paulita and Pete were attacked by a lone angry Indian. Help came in the form of a bullet shot by one William H Bonney, the man who world soon be known to the rest of the world as outlaw “Billy the Kid”. Billy’s heroic actions, in saving the Maxwell siblings, are the start of a friendship between him and both Paulita and her brother.

As politics in Lincoln County spiral into an all out land war, Paulita finds her life becoming more and more intertwined with Billy’s She is helplessly in love with the outlaw Billy has become; she believes he is nothing more than the scapegoat.. Paulita is faced with the heartbreak her love will cause her family, as her brother has cast aside his friendship with Billy due to Billy’s criminal behavior. We witness Paulita grow from a young teen fresh out of finishing school into a strong woman in love and wife to an outlaw.

Billy the Kid is one of the Wild West’s legendary outlaws whose life is still hotly debated about in modern times. His past is shrouded in mystery; and people still do not know for sure why he never left New Mexico for any long periods of time. Author Amy Lignor has taken the history of Paulita Maxwell, a women who was named as Billy’s girl in newspapers of the time, and written a story that gives a reason for some of Billy’s actions.

I was excited to receive this book; as the wild-west, full of legendary figures, is a time of American history that I have loved since small. I didn’t think I knew much about Billy the Kid, and was pleasantly surprised at what I found I did know while reading the book. It was easy to see the amount of research that went into this tale even before the extremely helpful afterword provided by the author. Her story includes many of the real men who were involved in the Lincoln County Wars, making this part of history step alive off the pages. The Heart of a Legend is a strong first novel; that shows readers a bit of history that has been glossed over due to the legendary status achieved by Billy the Kid and the Lincoln County land wars.

22 February, 2007

Book Review: Rags and Old Iron by Lorelei Shannon



Read and Reviewed for Frontstreet Reviews

College student Amy Sullivan is living a fairly normal, boring life. She spends her time attending classes and daydreaming about romance with handsome pirate captains and a dark and brooding lord of the manor. However, her life takes a turn when her nightly dreams start turning into nightmares, and hallucinations start creeping into her daily life. Amy’s friends express concern as she starts unraveling both physically and mentally.

A conversation with her friend Xavier, a Yaquai mystic, brings forth the idea that maybe Amy’s dreams are in fact memories that Amy repressed during her childhood. When Amy is rescued from being sexually assaulted by a familiar figure, her whole reality is thrown into turmoil. Her rescuer is Rags, a swamp demon, that Amy befriended as a six year old while visiting her grandparents in Florida. To her six-year old self, Rags was her Peter Pan. He was an elfin boy with the power to transform his flesh and control things with his thoughts. However, to Amy’s nineteen-year old self, Rags is a malevolent presence. His declarations of love and intentions of possessing Amy are disturbing to her, as is the very evilness of his nature. Amy and her friends are joined by Louis, a voodoo priest, and another friend of six year old Amy. His power combined with the protective powers of Xavier can help Amy in her quest to free herself of Rags’ presence. But is the power and love of her friends enough to save her from the evil thing that loves her as well?

Rags and Old Iron is a recent offering by Juno Books, a new imprint of Wildside Press specializing in paranormal romances. Rags and Old Iron takes readers on a journey from Arizona to Florida, and pulls the mystical and magical into modern life. I was impressed with how full the plot was without being overwhelming. The story resonates with magic, romance, and a sense of impossible things come to life.

Lorelei Shannon is the author of Vermifuge and Other Toxic Cocktails. A collection of dark fantasy and horror short stories published by Wildside Press. She lives outside of Seattle and spends her time when not writing being a goth mamma to her two boys and restoring her 1947 Cadillac hearse, Annabelle Lee

16 February, 2007

Book Review: Flight of the Goose: A Story of the Far North by Lesley Thomas



Read and Reviewed for Armchair Interviews

It is the summer of 1971. The war in Vietnam is raging, and the draft has not yet been repealed. Hippies and protesters are treated badly everywhere. The oil companies are looking to expand into previously untapped oil reserves in Alaska. It is a time of change for the country. In Alaska, the Inupiat community is learning to survive by incorporating their traditional hunting and gathering lifestyle with more modern accessories, and tourism

Kayuqtuq is an orphan who has been raised in a traditional Inupiat village. Her traumatic past haunts her everyday life. She falls in love with the old stories told of life before the missionaries came to the North. Because of these tales of times with different powers for people, she has decided that the only way for her to gain the respect she deserves from the village is to become a shaman, a path that has been outlawed in modern Inupiat society.

Leif Trygvesen is a university student who has come north to do research on the effects of oil spills on the salt marshes and to find evidence of the rare Tallinn 's goose, an endangered species of goose he hopes to keep from being declared extinct. Leif, a pacifist from Seattle, is trying to do some good while evading the draft. While his scholastic exemption has kept him safe, his family has been torn apart by the recent death of his brother who did go to fight.

Kayuqtuq and Leif find their paths intertwined as the summer progresses. What starts as curiosity about the other's lifestyle, develops into attraction and love. As both Leif and Kayuqtuq work their way through cultural conflicts, spiritual awakenings and discovering and developing their love in a time of turmoil--they begin to realize that the time they have together may be short.

Author Lesley Thomas brings her first-hand knowledge of growing up in the Arctic forward into a haunting story The alternating viewpoints of both Leif and Kayuqtuq's took some time to become familiar. However, once adjusted, I quickly devoured the fantastically told tale in this book.

14 February, 2007

some neat Author news - Peter S. Beagle

Peter S. Beagle was never paid for his work for the adaptation of The Last Unicorn.
Certainly, he was never paid for that claptrap crummy dvd that came out a few years back.

So now that a beautifully, carefully done dvd has been released, the small press with which he is associated decided to invest in a shipment and retail sell autographed copies.
They were hoping to sell a few hundred and make Mr.Beagle, who lives as hand to mouth as many less popular writers, a little money off his own work.

Within the first week they had over 1,600 orders.

Conlan Press is still taking orders, with apologizes for the delay in shipping-- Mr.Beagle's hand has been getting tired.

If you do feel like ordering a copy of the dvd for your collection I would suggest buying it through Conlan Press for either an autographed or non autographed version since the author actually sees some money from the sale.

13 February, 2007

Debut a Debut

Don't forget thay this week is the Debut a Debut week over at the West of Mars blog. I had hoped to have more than one new review of a debut book to post this week, but it looks like yesterday's entry for The Last Templar will be the only debut book review to go up. I was unable to actually get my hands on a copy of any of the others that I thought were interesting.

Have fun posting your reviews, and I'd love to see links to them left here in the comments section if y'all are willing to share.

12 February, 2007

Book Review: The Last Templar by Raymond Khoury

Read and Reviewed for Frontstreet Reviews

Martin of Carmaux, a young Templar knight, flees the city of Acre after the Muslims take the last city held by the Christian knights in 1291. He joins his mentor Aimard of Villiers on a mission to deliver a chest for the dying Grand Master of the Templar’s order. Their ship, the Falcon Temple, is lost in a massive storm, and the mysterious chest never delivered.

In current day New York City, Hundreds of attendees are attending the opening, of an exhibit of art on loan from the Vatican, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Those attendees become witnesses to four men dressed in knight garb ride horses into the museum and rob the exhibit. Archeologist Tess happened to be close enough to witness one of the horseman steal a strange mechanical device, and hear the reverent Latin phrase that the horseman uttered as he picked it up. Tess brings up the connection between the garb the horsemen were wearing and the phrase the one horseman uttered with the Templar Order from the 14th century to the FBI team investigating the theft.

Sean Reilly is an FBI agent working on the case. He is joined by his partner Nick Aparo, and an envoy from the Vatican, Monsignor De Anglais. As three of the horsemen turn up dead, it becomes apparent how important the stolen device is Tess becomes more than just a witness as her experience as both a research and field archeologist becomes a helpful addition to the search team. Tess and Reilly are drawn out on a chase that takes them through parts of New York City, into the desolate mountains of Turkey, and remote islands of Greece. Will they be able to catch up with the fourth horseman, and find the mysterious lost treasure of the Templar?

Raymond Khoury’s first novel, The Last Templar is an action packed thriller. He successfully pulls off the telling of two tales, the current day treasure chase and the interspersed tale of the knight Martin as he struggles to escape Acre and make his way to France. I was impressed with the complexity of the plot, and the thought provoking look that it gave towards faith’s role in the modern world and faith versus historical fact. I was a bit leery going into The Last Templar as I had heard it compared to The Da Vince code, which I disliked intensely when I read it last year. However, I was surprised by a thought invoking tale with characters that popped off of the pages and into my imagination. I will be waiting eagerly for Khoury’s next novel to be released later this year.

30 January, 2007

Contest Plug

I’ve been meaning to post this for the last week, but illness has kept me offline and in the mindframe to halfheartedly play videogames while combating fever and coughing madness. My friend Susan over at the West of Mars blog has come up with a fantastic contest idea. Below is the blurb for it, and you can read the entire contest info over here (and tell 'em nimrodiel sent you)




The book industry faces many challenges. People seem to have less time to read and it's tough to compete with the television and Internet. Any new or aspiring author knows how hard it is to make his or her voice heard amongst the chorus of "publish me!" "Notice me!" "Buy my books!"

In many cultures around the world, Valentine's Day has converted the month of February into the month of love. This February, two aspiring authors are taking their love of reading and their admiration for debut authors and combining them into the "Debut a debut!" contest.

Take a first-time author for a spin on your "To Read in 2007" list and give yourself the chance to win great prizes! Gift certificates to Borders and more!

During the week of 12 Feb through 17 Feb, read a book written by a debut author and post your review by 17 February. Send Susan or Erica the permalink to your review and you will be entered in a drawing for some great prizes.

21 January, 2007

Book Review: Pretend Soup and Other Real Recipes: A Cookbook for Preschoolers and Up by Mollie Katzen and Ann Henderson


Read and Reviewed for Armchair Interviews

Mollie Katzen is well known in the food world for her involvement with the Moosewood Restaurant in Ithaca, New York. She has been creating recipes and writing vegetarian cookbooks for adults for many years. However, until she witnessed her son’s preschool class making applesauce one day, she didn’t think her three year old would have an interest in preparing food.

When she talked to his teacher, Ann Henderson, she discovered that cooking was a weekly occurrence for the class. Something clicked during this conversation and she remembered her “play cooking” as a child with her mother’s old bowls in the backyard. Several years later, Mollie and Ann teamed up to write a cookbook for parents and their preschoolers to use to experience the fun of early cooking at home.

Because this unique cookbook is designed for both adults and preschoolers it does not follow traditional cookbook layout. First, the recipe is written traditionally for the adults to go through. Next, the recipe is written in a pictorial version for the kids to use. The authors also give tips to make these more fun and safe for the children. Ideas such as colored tape on the handle of the butter (or plastic) knife to teach them which end to hold, and creating a cooking station at the kitchen table where it is safer for the kids to reach using an electric skillet. Each recipe is presented in a colorful way, with ideas on how to introduce young and picky eaters to try new foods.

Recipes such as popovers, green spaghetti, bagel faces and pretend soup are simple enough to not confuse young cooks, but complex enough to inspire their imaginations and leave them with good healthy fun food to eat. Each of these recipes has been made and taste tested by Ann’s preschoolers and the book is peppered with quotes from the kids on what they thought of the foods that they made. I’m looking forward to spending some time with the preschoolers in my life and trying out some of the fun food recipes found inside this fun little cookbook.