Friday, November 28, 2014

kick ass giveway!

Just making your holiday dreams come true over here. Win a FREE copy of Hugs and Misses OR Stars and Swipes!

Contest Rules:
1. Follow this blog :)
2. E-mail your name and this book title to: to enter!
3. Contest ends 12/1 at midnight!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

kick ass giveaway!

Win a FREE copy of The Art of the English Murder: From Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes to Agatha Christie and Alfred Hitchcock !
Contest Rules:
1. Follow this blog :)
2. E-mail your name and this book title to: to enter!
3. Contest ends 12/1 at midnight!

Monday, November 24, 2014

if you're a sarah dessen fan.

Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan is a novel just as powerful as the title it carries. Leila is an Iranian-American high school junior just trying to make it through high school (and all its dating rituals), get good grades, and please her very traditional Middle Eastern parents. It's tough enough being one of the very few brown students at Armstead Academy, let alone being the only openly gay one, so she's been keeping that little detail to herself for years. Until a beautiful new student enrolls in the Academy, and Leila begins to think Saskia may be worth the risk. Seeking help from unlikely characters, Leila realizes that she is not the only student at Armstead Academy with a secret, but will this give her the courage to come out to her closest friends and family?

If you're a Sarah Dessen fan (which I whole-heartedly am!) I absolutely recommend this book, plus she recommends it.  It's a touchy subject, but I do think it will be good for your teen (no matter what their sexual orientation) to read Leila's story. At this age so many teenagers are struggling with personal identity, many finding it terrifying to be themselves. This is a novel about embracing who you are, even if it's different from the status quo.

And always remember kids, it's okay to be different but it's never okay to be an asshole :)

Friday, November 21, 2014

holidays and homicide.

This is the time of year when we are supposed to share what we are thankful for. Well, today I am thankful for Susan Ericksen and her lovely reading voice which made J. D. Robb's futuristic cop thriller, Festival in Death extra amazing, even in audio form.

Set during the Christmas season of the year 2060, Lieutenant Eve Dallas is looking for the person responsible for the murder of personal trainer, Trey Ziegler. The suspect list is growing as long as Santa's seeing as Trey and his abs left behind many a woman scorned, making him a not particularly likable dead guy. I personally enjoyed how this installment of the In Death series was not as dark as others. It's a nice holiday read as Eve and Roarke have their annual holiday bash.  Festive and fun, if you don't mind some murder with your figgy pudding. While not as violent as past novels, the plot has some clever twists and turns that shock the characters as well as the reader.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

heavy snow, light reading.

It is officially the third consecutive day that the Buffalo area has been snowed in. I'm not complaining, I've just been drinking a lot and reading. Wilhelm Staehle has definitely made it more fun with his quirky postcard books that are set to be released December 3rd, just in the time for the holidays, which are coming fast judging by the 2343242 feet of snow in my backyard. Both postcard books will make the perfect stocking stuffer, grab bag or secret Santa gifts, especially for that creepy co-worker or goofy family member you always have a hard time buying for.

Stars and Swipes: 30 Postcards of Awkward Americana is definitely for the All-American man or woman in your life who has a good sense of humor. Staehle highlights less popular and more awkward moments in history, my favorite kind. I even learned a few things, like Lewis and Clark were a originally a trio. Lewis, Clark and Dwayne. Because you know there is always that one guy complaining the whole time you're trying to get a job done.


Hugs and Misses: 30 Postcards of Awkward Romance has some of the worst pick up lines I've ever heard. I absolutely loved it. Staehle has created silly silhouettes and one-liners of romances gone wrong. As someone with a tardy history who also thinks of awkward moments as a high, I appreciated all of the failed or inappropriate attempts at love.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

beautiful graphics, great themes.

The Hockey Saint is the second installment in the Forever Friends trilogy by Howard Shapiro, following the extremely popular, The Stereotypical Freaks. Graphic novels are all my middle grade boys want to read at this point, so Shapiro has been a real lifesaver. This sports-oriented graphic novel revolves around world renowned Canadian hockey player Jeramiah Jacobson and his huge fan, an ordinary college kid named Tom Leonard who is still grieving the loss of his parents. The two meet by chance, become friends, and Tom learns that celebrities really don't have it all. The fame and spotlight is slowly eating away at Jeramiah, and although Tom has a lot of his own stuff to deal with, he realizes that by putting forth the effort to save others, you can also save yourself.

Shapiro has a huge win here. A graphic novel carrying themes such as depression, helping others, the meaning of true friendship, and addiction. The Hockey Saint carries with it a moral compass and takeaway values for an age group that desperately needs both.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

dark and funny, just like your teenager.

It always excites me when the first book of a trilogy comes out. I just love trilogies, there's always something to look forward to. I especially love a good YA novel trilogy, like Edward Carey's Heap House: The Iremonger Trilogy: Book One, because it's amazing, completely odd and will keep my kiddos reading!

When it comes to anything YA, the stranger the better, and Carey totally has that covered with his main character, Clod Iremonger. For generations, the Iremonger family have been responsible for “the Heaps,” a tremendous sea of trash and discarded items outside an alternate-universe London. Clod is an outcast of the family because of his strange ability to hear objects talk. For example, his uncle lost his safety pin, and Clod was the only one able to find it again because he could hear it. Anyways, both Clod and a feisty orphan named Lucy Pennant alternate narrating as they begin to uncover dark secrets of the Iremonger family.

Monday, November 17, 2014

the art of the english murder.

I have gotten pretty into the new TV series, Forever that revolves around an English Medical Examiner who has been alive since the early 1800's because when he dies,  he doesn't actually die. He turns up, stark naked, in the Hudson River. Anyways, he used to be a doctor a hundred or so years ago and now he helps solve murders because being alive for so long makes you seriously smart. A Jack the Ripper type episode aired a few weeks ago....which leads me to my next review...

The English (and Americans, okay everybody really) have always had a fascination with crime. The more dark and twisted, the better. The Art of the English Murder: From Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes to Agatha Christie and Alfred Hitchcock by Lucy Worsley retells the stories of famous murders, trials, and horrid creatures who have turned into legends for their crimes. Worsley is quite the storyteller and historian, covering the letter of the law before police forces were created in England, and so on. This book includes both fact and fiction, murder in real life and in literature, and murder based on literature so vividly, you'll forget which is which.

Friday, November 14, 2014

kick ass giveaway!

Win a FREE copy of The Carnival at Bray!
Contest Rules:
1. Follow this blog :)
2. E-mail your name and this book title to: to enter!
3. Contest ends 11/25 at midnight!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

become a strength training genius.

I'm a cardio girl. I will run around in a circle for hours with the right music, but try to get me to pick up a weight and I'll look at you like you stole my last brownie. I recently began working with the T25 Focus DVD's which include strength training in some of the workouts. It's been working really well for me. I mean my arms get sore when Shaun T makes me punch the air, but whatever.

I know that lifting a couple ten pound dumbbells during a workout DVD isn't going to make my arms lose fat as quickly as I would like, so I decided to get a second opinion. Jim Stoppani's Encyclopedia of Muscle & Strength (2nd Edition) is seriously kick ass. It's a great manual for those of you just getting into strength training as Stoppani begins at the beginning with the basics and all the vocabulary. However, with 381 exercises and 116 specific strength training programs, this book will also benefit you gym rats looking for a change. A major thing I learned? How long I'm supposed to rest in between sets. Depending on the exercise that the answer ranges from 1-5 minutes. I was definitely doing that wrong. But hey, lesson learned. And that's the whole point of Stoppani's book, to learn what to do and what not to do in the world of strength training.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

a secret only a mother could love.

I reviewed Liane Moriarty's Little Big Lies back in August and realized I never reviewed one of her earlier novels, The Husband's Secret, which is fantastic, and also a perfect example of why you should not give up on a novel that you think is not for you after only reading the first few chapters. Moriarty begins her first three chapters with three different storylines, and sometimes that can be a bit much for me. I was thinking how am I going to keep track of all these people? Cecilia and her damned Berlin Wall, Tess and her involuntary love triangle, Rachel and the loss of her daughter. Three completely different women. What could they possibly have in common? Well, a fricken lot let me tell ya.

Set in mostly Sydney, Australia, readers are transported into a world of mum's, their responsibilities, and how they will do literally anything for their children. A world where husbands have deep dark secrets that can completely change everything you ever thought you knew. Secrets, that when spilled, can alter life as you know it. Moriarty expertly laced these three lives together, and created moments that will honestly shock you. My mouth fell open more that twice (especially at the end, wink).

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

YA novel set in the 90's, my favorite decade.

Jessie Ann Foley is an English teacher turned author (and still English teacher), which is exactly what I want to be when I grow up. Her very first YA novel has been winning prizes and fabulous reviews all over the place, and that won't stop here. The Carnival at Bray is set in 1993 Ireland. Main character Maggie Lynch has just left her home (and the only stable adult in her life, her grandmother) in Chicago to move to Ireland as her mother decided to marry a man who appears to have it together more than her past dozen boyfriends, and move her and her little sister to his hometown of Bray, outside of Dublin.

First of all, I loved sixteen-year-old Maggie the second I met her. A girl with a flighty mother who has to play grown up to her younger sister more than any teenager should, she is wiser than her years and super likable. The novel is filled with typical teenage angst. Trying to fit in, in a new school (in a different COUNTRY), growing up, young love, all the good stuff. And Foley writes like an English teacher, amazing character development, imagery, and enough swear words and drama to keep any teenager interested.

Monday, November 10, 2014

a novel unlike any other.

The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber, is a truly fantastic novel about a man of God who takes the opportunity to be a missionary on a planet called Oasis, and leaves his wife and former life behind. Yes, a minister taking the Bible to an alien race, and leaving his wife on earth, you read correctly. This novel is very different from what Faber has ever written, or anyone for that matter.

Peter is not your average pastor (or maybe he is, I've met a few). A former drug addict and alcoholic reformed preacher is eager to begin his work spreading the good news to the Oasis inhabitants. Surprisingly, many of these natives are already converted and hungry for the Word. Peter is having the time of his life, restoring his own faith while saving all of these people. However, Bea is stranded on earth where natural disasters and food shortages are happening around her and her (rather neglectful) husband is a billion miles away. Now the big question is, who does Peter choose to save?

Friday, November 7, 2014

well that was nice.

I have always been a fan of Melody Carlson, she's one of my favorite Christian authors because she's so REAL. She writes about real things, doesn't shove the gospel down reader's throats, and some of her novels could change your life. I'm serious. Well, her latest little novel, Love Gently Falling, which comes out in January (I received a digital copy early) is not going to change your life. But it does show you that Carlson is capable of a light and easy read, which is nice.

Twenty-eight-year old Rita prides herself on escaping the freezing Midwest and becoming a fancy hairdresser in Beverly Hills. When she receives a call that her mother has had a stroke, she hops on the first plane to Chicago to help out with her recovery and at her mother's hair salon. However, when she sees how her mom's place has turned to blah, she comes up with the idea to renovate it as a surprise, hoping to generate more business. While Rita's home she gets reacquainted with some high school friends, one being a super sweet guy, Johnny, and a romance starts a brewing just in time for Valentines Day. The road to love is never easy, even when Carlson is trying to be light and fluffy, so you can bet there will be bumps. I give it 4 stars, which is pretty good because I'm picky.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

all the reviews are true.

I needed to cleanse my pallet after a summer of reading fiction novels (although they were wonderful), so I picked up a historical fiction to help me get out of my reading rut. Yellow Crocus by Laila Ibrahim was the PERFECT choice. This is the story about a slave named Mattie and how she became the wet nurse to a little white baby girl name Elizabeth, and their relationship as Elizabeth (or Lisbeth, as Mattie called her) got older. Set in the late 1830's-1850's Virginia, the abolition and underground railroad were in the works. Although Mattie never thought she would ever be free, her husband Emmanuel who worked on a different plantation always had that dream for their family.

As Lisbeth grew up, she never lost her attachment to Mattie. Mattie went from wet nurse to maid who dressed the girl, and cared for her like a mother would. Lisbeth was different than her family, although her parents were not horrible slave owners, Lisbeth always knew that the way slaves were treated was wrong. But when it came time to decide who she should marry, Lisbeth knew she could never marry for love while still making her parents happy. But if she followed her heart, she could lose everything she's ever known.

Yellow Crocus is an extremely realistic depiction of the era, with two wonderful heroines who always had the strength to save themselves.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

first love in the real world.

First love. It's the perfect combination of pain and pleasure, one that I remember well. You think your love was written in the stars, it's destiny, and then life happens. Very much like the book I am reviewing today.

The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle is the story of two eighteen-year-olds who are from very different sides of the track and fell in love after high school, because that's just how it happens sometimes when there is no one around to judge who is holding hands with who in the hallway. When Wren Gray and Charlie Parker have their first real conversation, they feel it instantly, a spark. Wren, who's been too busy trying to please her parents her entire life to ever think about boys. And Charlie, who has been in and out of foster homes his entire life, just trying to love and be loved. They are quite the pair, and this is quite the love story for the high school and college-aged kids out there.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

daisy goes out with a bang.

The third and final installment of the urban fantasy Agent of Hel series by Jacqueline Carey does focus more on the main characters and their relationships, which we have seen progressing over the past few books, than readers are used to, but there is a kick ass plot going on as well. And boy do I love a good love triangle, especially between a half demon, a werewolf, and a zombie, all who are extremely attractive, of course.

Here's a little background: Daisy Johanssen lives in the strange town of Pemkowet, populated by both mortal people and creatures of the fairytale variety. She is the child of both demon and human, raised by a loving mortal mother, and is now Pemkowet’s liason to the Goddess Hel. Daisy's job is to keep her town safe, and she's been doing it well until a new threat appears. People are being attacked in their nightmares, and that isn't even Daisy's biggest problem. Her biggest problem is the possible end of Pemkowet all together, and then there's her love triangle to think about...

Monday, November 3, 2014

catholic bios.

I never really paid much attention to Catholics until I began traveling around Europe. You can't go to mass in Notre Dame and not appreciate Catholicism, and you especially can't go to the Vatican City while in Roma and NOT appreciate the Pope. It's sacrilegious. I am still not Catholic, but I've got respect. People of God is a brand new series of inspiring biographies published by Liturgical Press. Each volume offers a compelling and honest narrative of the life of an important twentieth or twenty-first century Catholic. First up is Oscar Romero: Love Must Win Out by Kevin Clarke.

Oscar Romero was one of the great prophets of the 20th century. While acting as Archbishop of San Salvador in the 1970's, Romero began to speak out on behalf of the poor and the victims of repression, which caused A LOT of conflicts. He became the "Voice of the Voiceless" which is most likely what lead to his assassination in 1980. Kevin Clarke does an excellent (and credible) job of relaying the background behind such a remarkable life.