Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of A Daily Rhythm. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

Open to a random page:
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn't give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)

Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My teaser this week is from Postcards from Cookie: A Memoir of Motherhood, Miracles, and a Whole Lot of Mail by Caroline Clarke

" During my college years, I let her go. Finally, it seemed, the grieving was over. I barely even thought of her on my birthday anymore. "

Friday, March 27, 2015

Review: Gates of Thread and Stone (Gates of Thread and Stone Series)

YA book of magic, gargoyles, time manipulation
Title: Gates of Thread and Stone (Gates of Thread and Stone Series) by Lori M. Lee
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Length: 8 hours 5 minutes
Narrator: Jessica Almasy
Genre: YA,

Synopsis: In the Labyrinth, we had a saying: keep silent, keep still, keep safe.

In a city of walls and secrets, where only one man is supposed to possess magic, seventeen-year-old Kai struggles to keep hidden her own secret—she can manipulate the threads of time. When Kai was eight, she was found by Reev on the riverbank, and her “brother” has taken care of her ever since. Kai doesn’t know where her ability comes from—or where she came from. All that matters is that she and Reev stay together, and maybe one day move out of the freight container they call home, away from the metal walls of the Labyrinth. Kai’s only friend is Avan, the shopkeeper’s son with the scandalous reputation that both frightens and intrigues her.

Then Reev disappears. When keeping silent and safe means losing him forever, Kai vows to do whatever it takes to find him. She will leave the only home she’s ever known and risk getting caught up in a revolution centuries in the making. But to save Reev, Kai must unravel the threads of her past and face shocking truths about her brother, her friendship with Avan, and her unique power.

(16)Review: The narrator reads this book very quickly, almost frantically which fits since the main character seems to be in a panic or on the verge of one half the time. The beginning of the book while the story is being set up I found the story a little hard to follow but after about an hour it started to make more sense and I found I couldn't stop listening.

In order to find her brother, Kai has to put her life and those of her friends in danger.  There are pieces of this book that reminded me of the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, such as the description of the White Court which was very reminiscent of the description of the Capital where excess rules while everyone else suffers. It also had pieces of the Divergent series by Veronica Roth with the descriptions of the Outlands, and people being banished to them.

But while there are some similarities this definitely has its own tone and its own magic.  Kai can manipulate time, she sees time as threads that she can pull and weave to slow things down or stop, she hasn't learned the full potential of her power or where it came from but she knows its very dangerous if people find out.  When her brother goes missing she is determined to find him and with the help of her friend Avan she emarks on a dangerous journey, but what she finds is not only her brother but also the truth about where she comes from, who she is and finally why her brother was taken in the first place.

Dystopian novels meet magic and weave together a very interesting story.  Apparently this is only the first in a series. I will be picking up the second to see where this is headed.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of A Daily Rhythm. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

Open to a random page:
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn't give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)

Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My teaser this week is from The Witch of Napoli by Michael Schmicker

"No! she shouted. "He must come. He must!" She crumpled up the telegram and flung it to the floor.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Review: Won Ton and Chopstick & My Family,Your Family

Title: Won Ton and Chopstick: A Cat and Dog Tale Told in Haiku by Lee Wardlaw 
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co
Format: e-book (kindle fire)
Pages: 40 pages
Genre: Children

Synopsis: A new puppy arrives, and nothing will be the same.
Told entirely in haiku and with plenty of catitude, the story of how Won Ton faces down the enemy is a fresh and funny twist on a familiar rivalry.

(14) Review: This is a fun little book about Won Ton the cat whose owner brings a puppy, Chopstick, home. Won Ton is not thrilled at all with the new addition and feels very displaced by his arrival.  He finally realizes that they have some things in common and that maybe this dog isn't so bad.

This book is the 2nd in the Won Ton series and is written in Haiku. I'm not quite sure why this book was listed under adoption other than it does explore the feelings of getting a new sibling and how siblings don't always look the same.  This may be a good book for families adopting for the second time.

Title: My Family, Your Family (Cloverleaf Books TM - Alike and Different) by Lisa Bullard
Publisher: Millbrook Press
Format: ebook (kindle fire)
Pages: 24 pages
Genre: Children

Synopsis: Makayla is visiting friends in her neighborhood. She sees how each family is different. Some families have lots of children, but others have none. Some friends live with grandparents or have two dads or have parents who are divorced. How is her own family like the others? What makes each one great? This diverse cast allows readers to compare and contrast families in multiple ways.

(15) Review: Filled with fun illustrations and talking points on each page, this book discusses different types of families and how not all families look the same.  Some have kids, some don't, some are divorced and have step- parents and step-siblings, some children are adopted and don't look like their parents, some have 2 dads, some are bi-racial, some are loud, some are quiet.  No matter what type of family you have there is something special about yours.

This is a great way to help children understand the wonderful diversity we have in the world and the different ways families are created and the different ways they live.  One isn't better than the other they are just different.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Review: Captured (book1)

Vampires and Humans locked in civil war
Title: Captured (The Captive Series Book 1) by Erica Stevens
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services
Format: Kindle
Pages: 189
Genre: YA, vampires, Romance

Synopsis: Blood Slave.
Captured, taken from her beloved family and woods, Aria’s biggest fear is not the imminent death facing her, but that she will be chosen as a blood slave for a member of the ruling vampire race. No matter what becomes of her though, Aria knows that she must keep her identity hidden from the monsters imprisoning her. She has already been branded a member of the rebellion, but the vampires do not know the true depth of her involvement with it, and they must never know. Though hoping for death, Aria’s world is turned upside down when a vampire named Braith steps forward to claim her. He delays her execution, but Aria knows it’s only a matter of time before he drains her, and destroys her. Especially once she learns his true identity as a prince within the royal family; the same royal family that started the war that ultimately brought down humankind, reducing them to nothing more than servants and slaves. Aria is determined to hate the prince, determined not to give into him in anyway, but his strange kindness, and surprising gentleness astonish her. Torn between her loyalties to the rebellion, and her growing love for her greatest enemy, Aria struggles to decide between everything she has ever known, and a love she never dreamed of finding.

(13)Review: This book has been bashed by as many reviews or amazon as it has good reviews.  For those who were complaining about the typos and the punctuation, maybe I received a later version? There is a note that the book was edited some time in 2013 so perhaps they fixed all the issues that had people cringing.  Even if they didn't I must have been completely blind to the mistakes because I enjoyed this book. Its not great literature filled with stunning prose and a story that will leave me thinking about it for days and months afterward but it was a captivating, fun read.  If you like vampires, this is a good one.

The tables have turned on humanity, vampires now rule the world and humans are their servants.  Rebels are trying to overthrow the vampire regime but how do you fight immortals with super strength? Underneath it all is, of course, the romance between the broken but sexy Prince Braith and the brave, headstrong daughter of the Rebel leaders, Aria. Their love is doomed since love between vampires and humans is strictly forbidden but they can't help themselves.

The book ends on a cliff hanger and their are 5 books in the series so there is plenty of time for these two star crossed lovers to find a way to make their relationship work.  I have already downloaded the next four.  Great beach reads, or if you are just in the mood for some mind candy.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Review: The Hawley Book of the Dead

Title: The Hawley Book of the Dead: A Novel by Chrysler Szarlan
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Pages: 352 pages
Format: Kindle

I received an advanced ecopy of this book from the publisher through netgalley.com

Synopsis: Revelation “Reve” Dyer grew up with her grandmother’s family stories, stretching back centuries to Reve’s ancestors, who founded the town of Hawley Five Corners, Massachusetts. Their history is steeped in secrets, for few outsiders know that an ancient magic runs in the Dyer women’s blood, and that Reve is a magician whose powers are all too real.

Reve and her husband are world-famous Las Vegas illusionists. They have three lovely young daughters, a beautiful home, and what seems like a charmed life. But Reve’s world is shattered when an intruder alters her trick pistol and she accidentally shoots and kills her beloved husband onstage.

Fearing for her daughters’ lives, Reve flees with them to the place she has always felt safest—an antiquated farmhouse in the forest of Hawley Five Corners, where the magic of her ancestors reigns, and her oldest friend—and first love—is the town’s chief of police. Here, in the forest, with its undeniable air of enchantment, Reve hopes she and her girls will be protected.

Delving into the past for answers, Reve is drawn deeper into her family’s legends. What she discovers is The Hawley Book of the Dead, an ancient leather-bound journal holding mysterious mythic power. As she pieces together the truth behind the book, Reve will have to shield herself and her daughters against an uncertain, increasingly dangerous fate. For soon it becomes clear that the stranger who upended Reve’s life in Las Vegas has followed her to Hawley—and that she has something he desperately wants.

(12)Review:This book had me up late at night desperately trying to read just a few more pages.  Filled with edge of your seat suspense this book takes you for a wild ride into the past, present and beyond time's boundaries.  If you are a fan of The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe or A Discovery of Witches: A Novel (All Souls Trilogy) by Deborah Harkness, this book should be added to your "to be read list".

While trying to protect her family and recover from the tragic murder of her husband Reve returns to the town she grew up but lives in the abandoned town of Hawley five corners which is steeped in mystery.  The locals think its haunted since 5 children disappeared from there many years ago and then quite soon after the entire town disappeared without a trace with food still cooking, laundry mid wash and dishes half cleaned.

What Reve learns when she gets there is that her past and her present are very connected and the history of Hawley Five Corners has a deep connection to her family and the very real mystery she finds herself in today.

I found the history of the mysterious abandoned town and Reve's family so interesting, I just wanted to keep learning more. Then there was a crazy flea market that appeared out of nowhere that I would love to learn the origins of and where exactly it goes.  In a way there were elements of The Night Circus by Erin Morenstern the way things disappear and reappear and the magical elements that are hard to explain yet tie everything together.  Its hard to say more about this book without giving too much away.  Suffice to say I loved it and for a debut I'm very impressed. This is an author to keep an eye on.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Review: Conquering Chaos

Teen Mom stars share their story of love, adoption and breaking the cycle of addiction and poverty
Title: Conquering Chaos by Catelynn Lowell & Tyler Baltierra
Publisher: Post Hill Press
Format: Hardcover
Pages:144 pages
Genre: Parenting, Relationships, Adoption

Synopsis: Since Catelynn Lowell and Tyler Baltierra shared their story of teen pregnancy and adoption on the MTV's 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom, they've been known for their inspiring commitment to growing up right. Between their experience placing their first daughter for adoption, and their struggle to cope with problems in their families, Catelynn and Tyler were challenged in every imaginable way. But against all odds, the childhood sweethearts rose above the dysfunction to become responsible adults whose story has inspired many others.

How did two trouble making kids from the trailer park make it through the storm of family dysfunction, teen pregnancy, and adoption without letting go of each other? What gave them the strength to conquer the chaos of their lives and go on to become people their children could be proud of? And what really happened when the cameras weren't there?

(11)Review: I loved Catelynn and Tyler's very real story of adoption on MTV.  It wasn't sugar coated, you saw the pain. the hardship, and the strength it took to place their baby for adoption.  This book covers their earlier years and a little of the adoption journey.

Tyler definitely doesn't hold any punches and tells things like it is.  Their childhood was not all sunshine and roses and their story could have turned out very differently.  The pregnancy seems to have been the wake up call they both needed to get their lives on a different path and break the cycle of addiction, teen parenting and dysfunction in their families.

With the support of only one parent each and the other set actively fighting against them, they managed to make it through a very difficult decision and seem to have gone on to help others.  They give speeches about their struggles and their time on MTV has helped bring new awareness to adoption, the adoption process and how it is not like it was years ago.  It also helps to dispel a lot of the myths surrounding adoption and the rosy or sometimes downright nightmarish way adoption can often be portrayed in film and on tv.

I liked this book but I wish it had been more.  While it gives a good insight and perspective into the lives of birth parents and reasons why they made the decision they did it didn't give me enough about what has gone on since.  Yes they finished high school but that's about all I know.  I wish it had given me more on how they have pulled themselves out of the situations they were in.  Did they go to college? I know they aren't married yet are having an other baby, how long has it been since they placed their daughter for adoption?

I also found the book to be a bit repetitive in places.  Each chapter has an introduction, the story from both Catelynn and Tylers perspectives and then a conclusion which is just a summary of everything that was just said which could have been eliminated and made the book flow a little better. All in all though I think that this is a good read for anyone who feels they are stuck having to repeat the past or is starting to notice that they are on their way to repeating a cycle in their family that has been passed down for generations.  There is hope, there is a way out.  It may not be easy, it may not feel comfortable but it can happen.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Review: Actual Innocence: When Justice Goes Wrong and How to Make it Right

Title: Actual Innocence: When Justice Goes Wrong and How to Make it Right by Barry Scheck, Peter Neufeld, Jim Dwyer
Publisher: NAL
Format: Paperback
Pages: 432 pages
Genre: True Crime

Synopsis: Here are the stories of innocent men and women—and the system that put them away under the guise of justice. Now updated with new information, Actual Innocence sheds light on “a system that tolerates lying prosecutors, slumbering defense attorneys and sloppy investigators” Salt Lake Tribune)—revealing the shocking flaws that can derail the legal process and the ways that DNA testing has often shattered so-called solid evidence that condemned American citizens to death.

(10)Review: Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld, once lawyers with the Bronx Legal Aid Society, co-founded The Innocence Project, which seeks post-conviction release through DNA testing. They are among the most prominent civil rights attorneys in the U.S. Jim Dwyer is the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the New York Daily News and author of several other books.

I have to reveal that I know Jim Dwyer, he is the brother-in-law of one of my good friends, I've read many of his other books and I have really liked them all, so I may be a bit biased in my review of his books.

If you are a fan of the podcast Serial or the TV show Law and Order or if you wonder about fairness of the criminal justice system in the US, this is a must read.  While the information contained in this book may not help free Adnan Syed, it shows how many people are convicted with faulty evidence and unreliable eyewitness testimony.

Each chapter takes on a different broken part of the justice system, from eye witnesses, to jailhouse, snitches, faulty lab evidence, police misconduct, confessions, lazy attorneys etc... Its terrifying to think of how many people are wrongfully convicted of crimes and how long it takes to get them cleared in this country.  And the even scarier part is that there aren't systems in place to punish those who withhold evidence, force confessions, or give false testimony...most of those people aren't charged, convicted or punished in any way.  There are very few safeguards.

Once convicted of a crime its almost impossible to get back out.  Some systems refuse to allow DNA testing after a conviction leaving innocent people in prison and even more startling are the times when DNA proves the person is innocent and the state won't allow them to be freed saying they must have been guilty in some way. The facts according to the authors are that there are thousands more that could be freed with DNA testing. Although science is not the stop gap for flaws in any criminal justice system, the authors very convincingly argue that it would be a beneficial start.

The stories in this book are accessible and easy to follow but not preachy.  If you have any interest in the law or justice this is a must read.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of A Daily Rhythm. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

Open to a random page:
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn't give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)

Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My teaser this week is from The Hawley Book of the Dead: A Novel by Chrysler Szarlan

"On the day I killed my husband the scent of lilacs startled me awake. We lived in the desert south of Las Vegas, where no lilacs bloomed for a hundred miles."

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Review: Bird

grief, loss, friendship and love intermingle in this powerful debut
Title: Bird by Crystal Chan
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Format: Paperback
Pages: 295 pages
Genre: Young Adult, Adoption

Synopsis: Jewel never knew her brother Bird, but all her life she has lived in his shadow. Her parents blame Grandpa for the tragedy of their family’s past: they say that Grandpa attracted a malevolent spirit—a duppy—into their home. Grandpa hasn’t spoken a word since. Now Jewel is twelve, and she lives in a house full of secrets and impenetrable silence.

Jewel is sure that no one will ever love her like they loved Bird, until the night that she meets a mysterious boy in a tree. Grandpa is convinced that the boy is a duppy, but Jewel knows that he is something more. And that maybe—just maybe—the time has come to break through the stagnant silence of the past.

(9)Review: Bird is a middle school grade novel by first time author Crystal Chan.  Jewel was born on the day her brother, Bird died. His real name was John but Jewel's grandfather called him Bird and after he jumped to his death from a cliff pretending to fly Jewels grandfather hasn't spoken and her family is steeped in grief and despair.

On the eve of her 12th birthday Jewel leaves the house late at night to climb a tree and look at the stars.  In the tree she meets John, a young African-American boy who was adopted by a white family.  Jewel thinks it's weird that she met a boy with her brother's name in a spot out near where he died but the two become good friends. Jewel's father doesn't trust him though.  He believes that John is an a duppy (spirits trapped on earth who cause trouble) who has come to cause more trouble in their family. He goes out of his way to keep John away from his family.

John is visiting his Uncle while his parents get ready to have a baby.  Which brings up many feelings of abandonment, his adoption, and anger in John. While the drama going on in both children's lives at first appear the same by the end you see how very similar their concerns are.  Jewel lives in a house that hasn't let go of the grief and sadness of losing their son, and John believes his parents don't really want him now that they are having their "own" child. 

This is a beautifully written book and a well thought out story that really touches on what it means to feel different, how children view the world around them and how we are all connected and can help each other to be whole.  Many books deal with identity and parent and child relationships but Bird is on a completely different level. Bird is a compelling story about values, traditions and relationships that redefines what it means to be a family, I loved this book. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

Open to a random page:
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn't give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)

Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My Teaser this week is from Bird by Crystal Chan

"I wouldn't tell them I go to the cliff anyway, because adults don't listen to what kids have to say. Not really. If they did, they would actually look at me when I talk, look good and deep and open-like, ready to hear whatever comes out of my mouth, ready for anything. I don't know any adult who's ever looked at me like that, not even my parents. "

See my review of Bird: http://www.readinggrrl.com/2015/03/review-bird.html
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