Sunday, March 26, 2017

Mini Reviews: The Siren, Trapped, Belle's Library and Ruined

So with reading and reviewing so many books, I am running out of days in which to share them with you.  I am going to start posting Mini Reviews of books that I read through out the month but couldn't find the time to post on the last Sunday of each month.
 
 
 
After last month's rather disappointing books, March ended up being one of my best reading months ever. Some really fantastic books and a lot of them!  Here are a few of the books I wasn't able to share with you over the past month.
 
 
It was a light, fluffy read but not quite up to the standard set by The Selection. I did like the unique take on the Ocean and Siren's role.  Three Paws
 
 
A totally captivating read, suspenseful, realistic. The pages never stopped turning, though the abrupt ending and unanswered questions left me hanging. Four Paws
 
It wasn't quite what I was expecting but was so carefully done to fit the time period and books Belle would have had access to and the addition forward was great. Three Paws and a Stump Wag.
 
This was a good book, though it was kind of flat, nothing unexpected, characters were cookie cutters (except Olivia but we only see her a bit), possibly an intriguing story in future books but not much here to keep going. Three Paws.
 
 
 


Saturday, March 25, 2017

Graphic Novel Review of Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

Read for: Graphic Novel Challenge
 
Synopsis: "The graphic novel debut from rising star Noelle Stevenson, based on her beloved and critically acclaimed web comic, which Slate awarded its Cartoonist Studio Prize, calling it "a deadpan epic."

Nemeses! Dragons! Science! Symbolism! All these and more await in this brilliantly subversive, sharply irreverent epic from Noelle Stevenson. Featuring an exclusive epilogue not seen in the web comic, along with bonus conceptual sketches and revised pages throughout, this gorgeous full-color graphic novel is perfect for the legions of fans of the web comic and is sure to win Noelle many new ones.

Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren't the heroes everyone thinks they are.

But as small acts of mischief escalate into a vicious battle, Lord Blackheart realizes that Nimona's powers are as murky and mysterious as her past. And her unpredictable wild side might be more dangerous than he is willing to admit."


My Review: I didn't know a lot about this graphic novel when I picked it up, it just came highly recommended by a fellow reader and friend of mine. I ended up really enjoying this one, it was fast paced with some great art and an interesting story. What really makes this book are the characters! They are each so unique, something you haven't quite seen before and they are also a diverse set of characters. I love the point of view from the villain's side of the story and the grey areas of good and evil throughout the book. I think readers anywhere from middle grade on up through adults would really enjoy this one!
  
 
My Rating: I wasn't too sure how this one would go, I was a little disappointed with the LumberJanes because the characters kind of blended together. I am so glad I took a chance on this one! I loved it and I hope that we will see more like this one from Noelle.  I give it a rating of Four Paws and a Stump Wag!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Bedtime Story: We Are Growing! by Laurie Keller & Mo Willems

Read for: It was a gift to Munchkin (Thank you Kami & Gnome!)and a fun story!
 
Synopsis: "Walt and his friends are growing up! Everyone is the something-est. But . . . what about Walt? He is not the tallest, or the curliest, or the silliest. He is not the anything-est! As a BIG surprise inches closer, Walt discovers something special of his own!"

My Review: We received this book from a very kind friend. I never knew about the Elephant & Piggie like reading collection. This is a fun and silly book that kids will love reading. It starts off with a nice introduction from Gerald and Piggie and then goes right into the story. It has a nice message about everyone being unique but also the same in many ways. Munchkin really had fun with this book and it will be fun to read again when the grass starts growing.
 
My Rating: This was such a fun book and one I hadn't seen before! Munchkin and I had a blast reading this and can't wait to read it more this summer.  We give it a rating of Four Paws and a Stump Wag!
 
 
Good Night! Sweet Dreams!

Early Reader Review of PJ Masks Save the Library by Daphne Pendergrass

Read for: Early Reader Challenge & Munchkin Loves the PJ Masks!
 
 
Synopsis: "Head into the night to save the library with Catboy, Owlette, and Gekko in this Level 1 Ready-to-Read based on PJ Masks, the hit preschool series airing on Disney Junior!

The villain Romeo has a new machine. It erases stories from books so he can put his picture inside. Can Owlette save the library, and the day?"


My Review: Munchkin loves the PJ Masks so this is a great way to get him started reading books. This is a great level one book with short sentences, fairly easy words and of course the familiar characters. This book does follow one of the TV episodes exactly, just simplified. That may help your young reader figure out some of the unknown words and draw their interest.
 
My Rating: While this did follow an episode exactly, Munchkin still loved it and knowing what is happening has been helping him grow in confidence with the words.  We give it a rating of Three Paws and a Stump Wag.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Inside & Out Book Tag

So I failed to get anything together for my usual Pen to Paper Thursday posts so figured I would do a Book Tag instead.  In my hunt I stumbled across this tag at Backpack Full of Adventures.  It was originally created by MathomBooks on youtube (Here is the original video).  Feel free to join in if you like!
 
 
I Inside flap/Back of the book summaries: Too much info? Or not enough (Discuss)
             I honestly don't read them, if I see a book I am interested in at the store I pull up Goodreads so I can see the synopsis, rating and some reviews all at once.

N New book: What form do you want it in? Be honest: Audiobook, E-Book, Paperback, or Hardcover?
              If the cover is really beautiful I want it in either Hardcover or print, but as my bookshelves are very much so out of space I often get books in Ebook or Audio format (then if I really love it, will get it in print).

S Scribble while you read? Do you like to write in your books, taking notes, making comments, or do you keep your books clean clean clean? (Tell us why)
              Always clean, I very rarely will put a sticky tab in where a line I like is but I never write in my books.  I read for entertainment and am often so wrapped up in a book I don't even think to mark anything. (I do highlight in ebooks though).

I In your best voice, read for us your favorite 1st sentence from a book.
               I don't have a favorite first sentence and since this is a blog you will just have to imagine it (and note I have a high pitched voice that people often mistake for a young teen).

D Does it matter to you whether the author is male of female when you're deciding on a book? What if you're unsure of the author's gender?
               Nope, it doesn't matter one iota if the author is male or female. I have read great books and horrible books in all the genres by both genders. Either gender is capable of writing fantastic work. (And who does this? Do you really think one gender is better than the other at writing? I have more thoughts on that and a few harsh words but will leave it at that).

E Ever read ahead? or have you ever read the last page way before you got there? (Do confess thy sins, foul demon!) :)
               I can't say that I have, at least as far as I remember. What would be the point of reading the adventure if you already know the end. I have occasionally glanced a couple paragraphs ahead but that is it.

&

O Organized bookshelves, or Outrageous bookshelves?
                Organized, at least as much as I can. Sometimes they get a little chaotic and I only have time to organize once in a while. And by the way my shelves are organized by target age group then by genre within the age group. (I usually have them also in alphabetical order by author but ran out of time last time organizing).

U Under oath: have you ever bought a book based on the cover (alone)?
                 Of course, who honestly hasn't done that?! After reading so many books and seeing so many covers you can sometimes tell if the book is something that will interest you, even though sometimes there are great books with horrible covers and horrible books with great covers but that is the risk you take!

T Take it outside to read, or stay in?
               I do enjoy reading a paperback outside but only if it is the absolute perfect weather, 80+ degrees, only a slight breeze and sunny with shady options.  Other than that, put me inside with a fuzzy blanket!
 
 
 
 
Wasn't that fun? I think this may become my permanent option for failed Pen to Paper Thursdays. If you also post this tag let me know so I can check out your answers too!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Tour & Review of Ashes by Steven Manchester (+ Giveaway)

As many of you may know, I don't often participate in blog hops or tours unless I am very familiar and passionate about the author's work.  Well, Steven Manchester has yet to fail me and this is yet another great book he has given us readers.  I hope you will take a look through the other blogs on this tour and give Ashes a try! (excerpt and giveaway at the end of the post)
 
Read for: Requested Review & I have loved all of his books
 
Synopsis: "Middle-aged brothers Jason and Tom Prendergast thought they were completely done with each other. Perceived betrayal had burned the bridge between them, tossing them into the icy river of estrangement. But life and death has a robust sense of irony, and when they learn that their cruel father has died and made his final request that they travel together across the country to spread his ashes, they have no choice but to spend a long, long car trip in each other s company. It s either that or lose out on the contents of the envelope he s left with his lawyer. The trip will be as gut-wrenching as each expects it to be . . . and revealing in ways neither of them is prepared for.

At turns humorous, biting, poignant, and surprisingly tender, ASHES puts a new spin on family and dysfunction with a story that is at once fresh and timelessly universal.""


My Review:  If you have been following for any amount of time, you will know that I am a big Steven Manchester fan. He always knows how to get to the heart of things and tends to make my cry every book I read. Well this one was a little different than his previous books and I jumped at the chance to read it. While the tearful moments were less than I usually get from his books, it still gets down to the heart of emotions. I love how this book manages to really capture the relationship between brothers, both estranged but even after years still read each other so well. The banter back and forth between Tom and Jason is quick, often biting but always with a bit of love behind it. You really get to ride along with them on their cross country trip, you feel like you are there watching them come to terms with their lots in life and regain some of what is lost. Ashes really brings it all home to family, whether that is always a good thing or not, family is always at the core of who we are and who we become.
 
My Rating: This is another really great book from Steven, and while it wasn't quite the tear jerker that I am used to from him, it still had just as much connection and emotions involved. I was definitely chuckling a few times and thinking 'I know someone like this'.  I can't help but give this book a rating of Four Paws!
 
 
I received this book from Providence Book Promotions in exchange for an honest review.



Steven Manchester is the author of the #1 bestsellers Twelve Months, The Rockin’ Chair, Pressed Pennies, and Gooseberry Island as well as the novels Goodnight, Brian and The Changing Season. His work has appeared on NBC’s Today Show, CBS’s The Early Show, CNN’s American Morning, and BET’s Nightly News. Recently, three of Manchester’s short stories were selected “101 Best” for the Chicken Soup for the Soul series.

To find out more about Steven Manchester and his work please check out his Website, Facebook, Goodreads Page or Follow him on Twitter


 
Check out the excerpt below and then you can obtain your own copy of Ashes in print or digital format from Amazon or Barnes & Noble or check with your independent book seller and I bet they will order a copy for you!
 
Tom wheeled his late-model, platinum-colored BMW into Attorney Russell Norman’s freshly paved lot and parked between a brand new Lexus—sporting the license plate JUSTIS4U—and a custom pickup truck. Looks like I’m going after the hillbilly, he thought when he spotted the faded Massachusetts Department of Correction sticker in the rear window. His blood turned cold. “It must be Jason,” he thought aloud. I didn’t think he’d come.
Tom took a few deep breaths, not because he was nervous about his father’s death or talking to any lawyer but because he hadn’t seen his Neanderthal brother—for fifteen years, I think. He paused for a moment to give it more thought. Although their relationship had essentially vaporized in their late teens—the result of a fall out that still haunted his dreams—they’d occasionally wound up in each other’s orbits; weddings, funerals, and the like, enough to remain familiar with each other’s career choices, wives, and children. But even that came to an end fifteen years ago, he confirmed in his aching head before opening the door. While his toothache-induced migraine threatened to blind him, he took one step into the oak-paneled waiting room. His and Jason’s eyes met for the briefest moment. As though they were complete strangers, they both looked away. And here he is, Tom thought, disappointed. This is just great.
Through peripheral vision, Tom noticed that his older brother now wore a scar over his right eye, just above a bushy eyebrow that could have easily belonged to a homeless Scotsman. A jagged ear lobe, a piece clearly torn away, pointed to a crooked nose that sat sideways on his face—all of it rearranged since birth. What a big tub of shit he’s turned into, Tom thought, struggling to ignore his throbbing face and head. He’s as fat as a wood tick now, he thought, grinning, and he looks like he’s ready to pop. Jason looked straight at him, as if reading his mind. Tom immediately looked away, his rapid heartbeat starting to pound in his ears, intensifying his physical pain. Unbelievable, he thought. After all the years and all the distance, his elder brother—by only two years—still scared the hell out of him. He’s just a big asshole, that’s all, he told himself, but he still couldn’t bring himself to rejoin his brother’s penetrating gaze.
The secretary answered her phone before calling out, “Mr. Prendergast . . .”
Both brothers stood.
“Attorney Norman will see you now.”
Tom walked in first, letting the door close behind him—right in Jason’s face.
“Still a weasel,” Jason muttered, loud enough for all to hear.
“What was that?” Tom asked just inside the door.
“Don’t even think about playing with me,” Jason warned as he reopened the door and entered the room, “’cause I have no problem throwing you over my knee and spanking you right in front of this guy.”
I’m fifty years old, for God’s sake, Tom thought, and he thinks he’s going to spank me? I’m surprised the prison even let him out.
The attorney—his hand extended for anyone willing to give it a shake—looked mortified by the childish exchange.
Tom shook the man’s hand before settling into a soft leather wing chair. Jason followed suit.
The room was framed in rich mahogany paneling. The desk could have belonged in the oval office. Beneath a green-glassed banker’s lamp, stacks of file folders took up most of the vast desktop. An American flag stood in one corner, while framed diplomas and certificates, bearing witness to the man’s intelligence and vast education, covered the brown walls.
Attorney Norman wore a pinstriped shirt and pleated, charcoal-colored slacks held up by a pair of black suspenders. He had a bow tie, a receding hairline that begged to be shaved bald, and a pair of eyeglasses that John Lennon would have been proud to call his own. There’s no denying it, Tom thought, trying to ignore his brother’s wheezing beside him, he’s either a lawyer or a banker. He couldn’t be anything else.
While Jason squirmed in his seat, visibly uncomfortable to be sitting in a lawyer’s office, his hands squeezed the arms of the chair. What a chicken shit, Tom thought, trying to make himself feel better. Peering sideways, he noticed that his brother’s knuckles were so swollen with scar tissue they could have belonged to a man who made his living as a bare-knuckle brawler. He’s still an animal too, he decided.
Attorney Norman took a seat, grabbed a manila file from atop the deep stack and cleared his throat. “The reason you’re both here . . .”
“. . . is to make sure the old man’s really dead,” Jason interrupted.
In spite of himself and his harsh feelings for his brother, Tom chuckled—drawing looks from both men.
“The reason we’re all here,” Attorney Norman repeated, “is to read Stuart Prendergast’s last will and testament.” He flipped open the folder.
This ought to be good, Tom thought, while Jason took a deep breath and sighed heavily. Both brothers sat erect in their plush chairs, waiting to hear more.
As if he were Stuart Prendergast sitting there in the flesh, the mouthpiece read, “My final wish is that my two sons, Jason and Thomas, bring my final remains to 1165 Milford Road in Seattle, Washington, where they will spread my ashes.” “Seattle?” Tom blurted, his wagging tongue catching his tooth, making him wince in pain. Quickly concealing his weakness, he slid to the edge of his seat. “Oh, I don’t think so,” he mumbled, careful not to touch the tooth again.
Jason was shaking his head. “Hell no,” he said.
The attorney read on. “I’ve always been afraid to fly, so I’m asking that I not be transported by airplane but driven by car.”
“No way,” Tom instinctively sputtered.
Jason laughed aloud. “This is just great. The old bastard’s dead and he’s still screwing with us.”
The less-than-amused attorney revealed a sealed envelope and continued on. “As my final gift to my sons . . .”
“Only gift,” Tom muttered, feeling a cauldron of bad feelings bubbling in his gut.
“I’m leaving this sealed envelope for them to share, once and only once they’ve taken me to my final resting place.”
“What the fuck!” Jason blurted.
Every cell in Tom’s overloaded brain flashed red. Don’t do it, he thought. You don’t owe that old man a damned thing. But every cell in his body was flooded with curiosity. He looked at Jason, who was no longer shaking his fat head.
“Maybe the bastard finally hit it big at the dog track?” Jason suggested.
Tom nodded in agreement but secretly wondered, Could it be the deed to the land Pop bragged about owning in Maine? He stared at the envelope. For as long as I can remember, he claimed to own forty-plus acres with a brook running straight through it. He stared harder. Could it be? he wondered, wishing he had X-ray vision. A parcel of land in Maine sure would make a nice retirement . . .
“How ’bout we travel separately and meet in Seattle to spread the ashes?” Jason said, interrupting his thoughts.
“Great idea,” Tom said, hoping against all hope that the idea would fly with their father’s lawyer.
Attorney Norman shook his head. “I’m sorry, gentlemen, but your father specifically requested that you travel together with his remains to Seattle. Any deviation from this can and will prohibit you from attaining the sealed envelope.”
There was a long pause, the room blanketed in a heavy silence. Son of a bitch, Tom thought, this couldn’t have come at a worse time. He turned to Jason, who was already looking at him. “What do you say?” he asked, already cursing his inability to curb his curiosity.
Jason shook his head in disgust. “The last thing I want to do is to go on some stupid road trip with you.”
“Trust me, that’s a mutual feeling,” Tom shot back.
“But I don’t think we have a choice,” Jason added. “Our fucked-up father wants to play one last game with us, so to hell with it—let’s play.”
This is insane, but he’s right, Tom thought. With a single nod, Tom stood. “Okay, let’s have the ashes then,” he told the lawyer.
The attorney shook his head. “I don’t have them. They’re currently at a funeral home in Salem.”
“Salem?” Tom squeaked, unhappy that his tone betrayed his distress.
“That’s right. You have to take custody of your father’s remains from the Buffington Funeral Home in Salem, Massachusetts.”
“You must be shitting me.” Jason said.
The attorney smirked. “I shit you not,” he said, throwing the letter onto his desk.
Salem? Tom repeated in his head. Just when I thought Pop couldn’t be a bigger prick . . . The migraine knocked even harder from the inside of his skull, making him feel nauseous. Amid the pain, his synapses fired wildly, considering all this would mean: I’ll have to take bereavement leave from school and find someone to cover my classes. I should probably double my treatment with Dr. Baxter tomorrow. And what about Caleb and Caroline? he asked himself, quickly deciding, They’ll be fine without me for a few days. Then he pictured his wife’s face. And Carmen, she’ll be fine without me for a lot longer than that. The nausea increased. Screw her.
“Are we done here?” Jason asked, obviously itching to leave.
The lawyer nodded. “I’ll need proof in the form of a video or a series of photos that you’ve deposited your father’s remains where he wished. Once I have that, the letter’s all yours.”
“How wonderful,” Jason said sarcastically. He stood, turned on his heels, and headed for the door.
Tom also got to his feet. He looked at the lawyer and, trying to ignore his physical discomfort, he smiled. “Don’t mind him,” he said, shrugging. “That imbecile is exactly what our father trained him to be.”
 

Don't miss your chance to learn more about Steven Manchester & his book, Ashes! Visit the tour stops for interviews, guest posts, and lots of reviews!

Don't Miss Your Chance to WIN Ashes!

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Providence Book Promotions for Steven Manchester and The Story Plant. There will be 5 US winners of one (1) PRINT copy of Ashes by Steven Manchester. The giveaway begins on February 18th and runs through April 23rd, 2017.

Visit Providence Book Promotions for more great reads!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Review of Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

Read for: New Book & I love Norse Mythology
 
Synopsis: "Introducing an instant classic—master storyteller Neil Gaiman presents a dazzling version of the great Norse myths.

Neil Gaiman has long been inspired by ancient mythology in creating the fantastical realms of his fiction. Now he turns his attention back to the source, presenting a bravura rendition of the great northern tales.

In Norse Mythology, Gaiman stays true to the myths in envisioning the major Norse pantheon: Odin, the highest of the high, wise, daring, and cunning; Thor, Odin’s son, incredibly strong yet not the wisest of gods; and Loki, son of a giant, blood brother to Odin and a trickster and unsurpassable manipulator.

Gaiman fashions these primeval stories into a novelistic arc that begins with the genesis of the legendary nine worlds and delves into the exploits of deities, dwarfs, and giants. Once, when Thor’s hammer is stolen, Thor must disguise himself as a woman, difficult with his beard and huge appetite, to steal it back. More poignant is the tale in which the blood of Kvasir, the most sagacious of gods, is turned into a mead that infuses drinkers with poetry. The work culminates in Ragnarok, the twilight of the gods and rebirth of a new time and people.

Through Gaiman’s deft and witty prose emerge these gods with their fiercely competitive natures, their susceptibility to being duped and to duping others, and their tendency to let passion ignite their actions, making these long-ago myths breathe pungent life again."


My Review: This book had me right at the title. I have never read any Neil Gaiman before so I didn't go in expecting his story telling like many others I have seen. I love Norse Mythology and they have some of my favorite gods and goddesses. I am already pretty familiar with many of the myths so there really wasn't anything new in this book. I do appreciate how he simplified the myths and made them easily accessible to any reader. There is also a handy glossary and the foreword was also very helpful. Of course the cover on this book is stunning as well.
 
My Rating: Kind of crazy that this is my first Neil Gaiman book but from what I understand it is not like his other books.  I really enjoyed the way he compiled and the order in which he chose to tell the myths. I give this one a rating of Four Paws!