Monday, December 10, 2012

A Note from Melissa :-)

Good morning! It's been awhile, I know... I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season, whether it is preparing for Christmas, partaking in Chanukah festivities, celebrating Kwanzaa, or any number of reasons to celebrate and give thanks!

I just want you all to know that I am not falling off the face of the earth again -- at least, that is not my intention. I have actually been doing quite a bit of reading, even though I haven't been writing reviews lately. I admit I haven't been motivated to blog about what I read, though I have been pretty diligent about documenting everything in Goodreads and providing star ratings there (if you have a Goodreads account, feel free to add me!). It just seems that right now I am more interested in enjoying a good book than putting my thoughts into words.

I don't know if that means I will change the format of my reviews... I have certainly been considering that option. I mean, I do want to share with all of you the books I love because I love the possibility of introducing people to new authors or genres. But I really started to feel like my reviews were getting stale and I wasn't feeling inspired to write them, and I don't think that is the fault of any of the books I've been reading because I have had the good fortune to get my hands on some enjoyable reads in recent weeks!

So, I may do something as simple as what I loved vs. what I didn't, keeping it relatively short and sweet and to the point. I think I may also try to convey my recommendation using the method "if you liked these books/authors, then you'll love this one" or something of that nature. It may be a bullet list type of format, or who knows. I don't think even I will know until I set out to give it a try (which I hope to do very soon). I still plan to use star ratings, as well, because I personally find those to be very helpful, for any type of review.

If there's a book I particularly love, you may get a bit more out of me (I do have my fangirl moments on occasion). In general, however, I want to keep it simple -- something I can throw together quickly and not feel like I have to sit down and write out a long, detailed review. Frankly, I am amazed at so many of you out there who do all that you do and still have time to write and manage such amazing blogs, because that does not seem to be the kind of person I am, haha. And I imagine many of you, my readers, given how many blogs you probably follow, you might not mind something that doesn't take as long to read, either. :-)

What this also likely means is that I won't really be taking any review requests anymore, though if you're an author I've reviewed before and you're willing to accept what may be a much briefer review, I am happy to work with you. Perhaps we can even work out a feature post of some sort, guest posting, etc. At this point, I am really more interested in just reading what I want to, when I want to, without risking overcommitment. I never want this blog to feel like a chore, and I will admit that sometimes it has, which is why you haven't been hearing a whole lot from me lately... That, and I've just been pretty busy these days!

I hope you'll stick around and bear with me through the upcoming changes. It is my hope that by simplifying and shortening my format, I will actually get more reviews posted on a more regular basis again. I welcome any thoughts, and once I get some reviews posted again I'd appreciate any feedback you care to give me!

Thanks for sticking with me over the years, hopefully there will be many more ahead! Happy Reading!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Saturday Snapshot (11.03.12) - Happy Halloween!

To participate in the Saturday Snapshot meme post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post in the Mister Linky at Alyce's blog, At Home With Books.

So apparently it's been two months since I participated in this meme and I know I've been a little scarce with other posts, as well. I've been keeping busy with work and other things the last couple of months, but I HAVE been keeping up with reading so I hope to get around to posting some reviews very soon. In the meantime, here are a few pictures from Halloween earlier this week, enjoy!

My little Sweet Pea in her Halloween outfit. I'm not a big believer in taking kids trick-or-treating when they're too little to really eat the candy, so we haven't done an official Halloween costume yet. Next year!

 I didn't dress in costume, myself, this year. But being naturally pale is helpful so I at least did my makeup appropriately and wore all black (with a fun Gothic necklace) ;-)


This child HATES bows in her hair. She got this one after first reaching up to the wrong side :-)

Reading books together.

Happy Saturday, y'all! Enjoy the weekend!

Monday, October 15, 2012

MYSTERY MONDAYS: Review & Giveaway: Curveball by Jen Estes

I hope you've all had a chance to read Jen Estes' guest post about the inspiration behind Curveball. If not, please go check it out! And be sure to enter my giveaway at the end of this review! One lucky winner will receive an e-copy of Curveball in whatever format you prefer!

Title: Curveball
Author: Jen Estes
Genre: Mystery
Pub Date: October 1, Camel Press
Format: eBook
Source: I received this book from the Author and Partners in Crime Tours in exchange for an honest review.

My Thoughts

I've always been a big fan of baseball, but this is the first time I have ever read a mystery that revolves around the game. And the story does take place in perhaps one of the darker settings that is tied to the game: Latin America, where young players have been exploited in the process of trying to achieve their dream to become a Major League Baseball player. Though Curveball is not technically based on a true story, the general idea of taking advantage of teens in Latin American countries is a real problem that Estes is bringing to light in this cozy mystery. And this particular mystery starts off with the death of a teen prospect who wasn't able to make the cut in his bid to become a professional ballplayer.

As with most cozy mysteries, you have a rather eclectic cast of characters. Cat is a go-getter in the baseball world, as you learn a little bit about her past history with baseball. She is roped into "baby-sitting" her potential future boss's daughter, Paige, during Paige's internship in Santo Domingo. There's also a slick agent/sleazeball with whom Paige decides to entangle herself, and the baseball jock whose dream of a career in the MLB was cut short due to injury. Combine them all and you've got a fast-paced story that takes several twists and turns before we finally not only discover "whodunnit", but the full extent of the crime itself.

If you enjoy cozy mysteries, I think you'll enjoy Curveball. And if you don't happen to be a big fan of mysteries but do like baseball, you might be interested in reading this book for the other topics that are addressed.

My Rating

It's Giveaway Time! Please enter for a chance to win an eBook copy of Curveball in the format of your choosing! Contest ends midnight on October 23rd -- good luck!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Please be sure to visit Partners In Crime Tours to see the other blogs hosting the tour for Curveball!

MYSTERY MONDAYS: Blog Tour: Curveball by Jen Estes

As a member of Partners In Crime Tours, I am so excited to bring to you a guest post from Jen Estes, author of Curveball, a Cat McDaniel mystery. I'll be reviewing the book in a separate post later today and will also be giving away an eBook copy to one lucky winner, so be sure to check back in a few hours! First, Ms. Estes will be discussing the inspiration behind her baseball-themed mystery! Welcome!

I wish I could say that my inspiration comes from a mystical spirit guide or a chiseled, beefy muse, but the truth is my stories begin with the sports pages.  Most of my ideas trickle out of real life scandals in baseball -- and that's a well that never dries up.  (Usually, I can't write fast enough to keep up.)  My newest book, Curveball, is no exception as my lead character, Cat McDaniel, travels down to Santo Domingo to cover the Latin American training camp for her New York team.  There, she quickly finds out that baseball's dirty little secret has little to do with the diamond.

A couple of years ago, I read an exposé in TIME magazine wherein the Dominican Republic was coined "baseball's puppy mill."  Most baseball fans know the island nation glorifies baseball and produces 20% of MLB players, but the driving force behind that is tragic.  It's a country where little boys dream of climbing out poverty by making it big in baseball.  Sadly, the article revealed, where there's dreams, there's exploitation.  Sometimes, that abuse comes from a buscón (Spanish for searcher): a man who multitasks as a scout/agent/trainer and recruits the most talented kids on the island as early as 11 or 12 years old.  They house, feed and clothe these boys training them from dawn to dusk, in hopes of getting them signed when they turn 16 (the minimum age for foreign players), at which point they claim 25 to 35 percent of the signing bonus.  The competition is fierce -- only 2% of prospects will get a contract and desperation for success often leads to age fraud, drug abuse, malnutrition and, more often than not, disappointment.  If the ballplayers aren’t signed, they're left with no education, no work skills and no knowledge of anything other than baseball -- in fact, many end up becoming buscónes themselves.

As a fun mystery, Curveball doesn't come with a "Based on a True Story" lead-in, but the exploitation was the driving force behind the story and helped me form the setting for my book.  Curveball's characters and the events are fictional, but I do hope that it brings awareness to this very real issue.

To read an excerpt and see the complete list of participating blogs in this tour, please visit Partners In Crime Tours.

Born and raised in Illinois, Jen Estes started her writing career as a baseball blogger in 2007 and expanded to freelance sports writing in 2009. She is an active member of the Society of American Baseball Research (SABR), Springfield Poets & Writers and the National Writers Union (NWU). Curveball is the second in a series featuring sassy sports writer Cat McDaniel. When Jen isn’t writing, she enjoys running, yoga, traveling and watching baseball with her husband and cat.


Barnes & Noble

Every eBook received for review on the tours for Partners In Crime are given in exchange for an honest review. The eBooks are sole property (copyrighted) of the author and should not be sold, distributed to, or exchanged among other people not part of the tours, nor should they be listed on file sharing sites. Failure to comply with this disclaimer, will result in removal from all future tours.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Review: The Crown of Embers

Title: The Crown of Embers
Author: Rae Carson
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Pub Date: September 2012, HarperCollins
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased from

Synopsis (from

She does not know what awaits her at the enemy's gate.

Elisa is a hero.

She led her people to victory over a terrifying, sorcerous army. Her place as the country's ruler should be secure. But it isn't.

Her enemies come at her like ghosts in a dream, from foreign realms and even from within her own court. And her destiny as the chosen one has not yet been fulfilled.

To conquer the power she bears, once and for all, Elisa must follow a trail of long-forgotten—and forbidden—clues, from the deep, hidden catacombs of her own city to the treacherous seas. With her go a one-eyed spy, a traitor, and the man whom—despite everything—she is falling in love with.

If she's lucky, she will return from this journey. But there will be a cost.

My Thoughts

I was glad that I didn't have to wait too long after reading The Girl of Fire and Thorns before I could read the sequel, The Crown of Embers. Of course, the downside is now I will be waiting nearly a year to read the final book in the trilogy, but this is the price I pay for enjoying series books! And given just how much I loved this second book (even more than the first), the wait is going to be long indeed.

I found it impossible not to get swept away in Elisa's adventure this time around. Rae Carson sets the pace from the beginning and simply doesn't let up. Every time I thought I should put the book down and turn out the light to go to sleep, the chapter would end and I would decide that I just had to know what was going to happen next. Elisa continues to grow as a character .Yes, she has moments of weakness and insecurity early on, but she learns from them and becomes a better leader for them. I enjoyed her much more in this book, particularly because she didn't dwell on her physical imperfections so much this time around. I have really been impressed with Carson's overall character development and interaction in these books.

I will say that as much as I loved this book, I did think the resolution of Elisa's quest was a little contrived and almost too neat and pretty. I admit that I was a bit disappointed, but only mildly in comparison with my genuine love of the overall story, characters, and adventure. (But it was enough to knock a star off of my rating.) I also loved the building romance for Elisa, even though it left you wanting more. I guess I enjoy the suspense of it! This relationship was something I could see signs of in the first book and I am so glad that Carson took it to the next level (well, sort of to the next level?) in the second book. Though, of course, we won't know how it all turns out until the conclusion (darn cliffhangers)!

Be warned, if you decide to read this series, while this book sets the stage for the last book, it is a major cliffhanger and the wait will be frustrating! I have resigned myself to the long wait by looking forward to re-reading the first two books before the third is published. That way, I can enjoy the entire series from start to finish. Bottom line: If you enjoyed The Girl of Fire and Thorns, I would be very surprised if you didn't enjoy The Crown of Embers, as well.

My Rating

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Review: The Second Empress by Michelle Moran

Title: The Second Empress
Author: Michelle Moran
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pub Date: August 2012, Crown Publishing
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased from

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

After the bloody French Revolution, Emperor Napoleon’s power is absolute. When Marie-Louise, the eighteen year old daughter of the King of Austria, is told that the Emperor has demanded her hand in marriage, her father presents her with a terrible choice: marry the cruel, capricious Napoleon, leaving the man she loves and her home forever, or say no, and plunge her country into war.

Marie-Louise knows what she must do, and she travels to France, determined to be a good wife despite Napoleon’s reputation. But lavish parties greet her in Paris, and at the extravagant French court, she finds many rivals for her husband’s affection, including Napoleon’s first wife, Joséphine, and his sister Pauline, the only woman as ambitious as the emperor himself. Beloved by some and infamous to many, Pauline is fiercely loyal to her brother. She is also convinced that Napoleon is destined to become the modern Pharaoh of Egypt. Indeed, her greatest hope is to rule alongside him as his queen—a brother-sister marriage just as the ancient Egyptian royals practiced. Determined to see this dream come to pass, Pauline embarks on a campaign to undermine the new empress and convince Napoleon to divorce Marie-Louise.

As Pauline's insightful Haitian servant, Paul, watches these two women clash, he is torn between his love for Pauline and his sympathy for Marie-Louise. But there are greater concerns than Pauline's jealousy plaguing the court of France. While Napoleon becomes increasingly desperate for an heir, the empire's peace looks increasingly unstable. When war once again sweeps the continent and bloodshed threatens Marie-Louise’s family in Austria, the second Empress is forced to make choices that will determine her place in history—and change the course of her life.

My Thoughts

With the excitement of this book's recent publication, I decided to go ahead and make The Second Empress the second book I have read by Michelle Moran. You might recall that I loved Cleopatra's Daughter, and I'm thrilled to report that I also greatly enjoyed The Second Empress. Of course, having now read another of Moran's books, I really want to make it a priority to read the rest of them. I honestly think that Moran is a genius at making you feel like you are right there in whatever world and time she is writing about. I felt that way about ancient Egypt in Cleopatra's Daughter and I thought I was getting an inside look at Napoleon's France. Prior to reading Moran, the extent of my experience with historical fiction was primarily Regency England and various periods in the earlier years of America. Now I will happily read any time and place that Moran chooses to take us!

In The Second Empress, by telling the story from three different viewpoints -- that of Marie-Louise, Napoleon's second wife, Pauline, Napoleon's sister, and Paul, who is Pauline's servant -- we really get a feel for the complete story behind Napoleon's last six years of reign and his inevitable fall. Fans of Napoleon may not like this story as much because he is certainly not portrayed in a favorable light (Moran makes note of this in  an author's note, as well), but I have never cared for him so I had no problem with his treatment. The amount of research that Moran has done is obvious, as well. Though this is, of course, a work of fiction, we are given a bit of a history lesson as well and those who are less familiar with the history of France and Napoleon will be easily able to understand what is going on and learn a bit in the process. Moran also uses many actual letters between Napoleon, his sister, and his first wife, Josephine and between these and the extensive research, this book has the feel of an authentic tale. But of course, it is worth keeping in mind that this IS a work of fiction and the bias that Moran chose to use against Napoleon will color the story.

Of course, tying this all together into the total package is Moran's writing itself. Her dialogues are sharp and sparkling, the use of factual historical detail is written in such a way that the story is only aided by it and not bogged down, and because of this it is nearly impossible not to get swept up in this book. I am looking forward to diving into one of her previously released books soon, and of course, I look forward to reading about when and where Moran takes us next!

My rating

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Series Review: Inside Out/Outside In

Titles: (1) Inside Out (2) Outside In
Author: Maria V. Snyder
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian
Pub Date: April 2010 and February 2011, Harlequin
Format: eBook (two novels in one)
Source: Purchased from


The world of Inside is simple. Do your job, stay out of the way and don't dream of anything better. Because as every Scrub knows, there are no other options.

Until Trella—the Queen of the Pipes, as some call her—gets involved with a revolution that will rock her world….

Trella was just doing a favor for a friend—her only friend. Hiding an injured man from the Pop Cops seemed easy enough—though dangerous. But then she discovered that the myths of Outside might be real….

Being Inside's hero only left Trella with more work. Ducking those responsibilities, she continued to explore her stark world—and found something she never expected. Strangers. From Outside….

My Thoughts

I am a huge fan of Snyder's Study series and Glass series, and since I have come to love YA dystopian novels, I was excited to give the Inside Out series a try. In the end, I did enjoy these books (as a total package), but not to the same extent that I loved Study and Glass.

In my opinion, Inside Out got off to a tediously slow start. I had a very difficult time getting into this book until probably close to halfway into it. I'll admit that if I hadn't paid for it, I might not have chosen to keep reading, but the second half of the book and indeed, the second book in the series, make up for the rather lackluster start. The premise of the story was intriguing, but I think part of what hurt these books was that the characters didn't resonate with me and the story just wasn't particularly visually stimulating to my imagination. The synopsis above gives away next to nothing in terms of what the world is like in these books and I don't want to spoil it for any of you who haven't yet read these, but in a nutshell, it was difficult for me to visualize/accept what Snyder was describing.

As with most any YA book these days, there's a bit of romance, but compared to Snyder's other books, this one is barely believable -- at least that is how I felt with Inside Out. Perhaps if that first book hadn't existed, I could have accepted it a little more readily with Outside In. It's funny, despite the fact that Trella is not really a particularly likable female lead, I couldn't help but root for her both in her role as Inside's hero and her budding romance. By the time the first book ended, the story had really just gotten to the "good part," and so I felt more inclined to continue on with Outside In.

The pace of the second book is much faster and this time I found I couldn't put the story down. We get a deeper look at Trella in this book and I think it is really this story that made me more inclined to root for her and actually start to care. She simply seemed more human and relatable. As far as dystopian novels go, as a package deal, these books are certainly worth the read if you are into this genre. If you loved Snyder's Study and Glass series, be prepared for a completely different world, characters, and story. I think I should have approached these books as if I was reading an entirely new author, as opposed to going into it focused on my prior experiences with Snyder's books.

Individually, I would probably rate Inside Out as a 3-star book and Outside In as a high-4-star book. In the end, as I no longer add half-stars to my ratings, I'll be generous let the weight of my enjoyment of Outside In determine my overall rating:
4 stars

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Review: Love in Disguise by Carol Cox

Title: Love in Disguise
Author: Carol Cox
Genre: Christian Historical Fiction
Pub Date: June 2012, Baker Publishing Group
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased from


Can she solve the crime before they uncover her true identity?

Jobless and down to her last dime, Ellie Moore hears about a position with the Pinkerton Detective Agency and believes it's the perfect chance to put her acting skills and costumes to use. Reluctantly, the agency agrees to give her one assignment, one chance to prove herself. Disguised as Lavinia Stewart, a middle-aged widow, Ellie travels to Arizona to begin her investigation. When the need arises, she also transforms into the dazzling Jessie Monroe, whose vivacious personality encourages people to talk.

Mine owner Steven Pierce is going to lose his business if he can't figure out who's stealing his silver shipments. In his wildest dreams, he never expected to receive help from a gray-haired widow...or to fall in love with her beautiful niece.

Then the thieves come after Lavinia and Jessie. Ellie isn't safe no matter which character she plays! Should she give up and reveal her true identity? What will Steven do when he realizes the woman he's falling in love with doesn't really exist?

My Thoughts

This review is a long time coming, as I read Love in Disguise while we were on vacation last month. I'm not sure why I put this off because I really did enjoy my first read by Carol Cox. I was reasonably sure just from reading the synopsis that this would prove to be a fun book with adventure and romance and I was not disappointed! This is so different from the other Christian/Inspirational fiction I have read, given that Ellie also disguised herself as other characters and took the story in multiple directions.

Overall, I thought that Cox did a great job writing all of the characters. It was fun to see all sides of Ellie and watch her grow as she played the elderly widow Lavinia and the saucy redhead Jessie, though naturally I couldn't wait for her to finally be herself out in Arizona because I was curious to see how the revelation would play out. I was glad to see that Cox didn't blow the revelation out of proportion and everything worked out quite well once Ellie was able to be herself. All too often when identities are revealed, there is a lot of melodrama and seemingly fabricated angst over what is usually a relatively harmless charade and I was glad that Cox didn't treat Ellie's situation this way. Overcoming the shock of her true identity pretty quickly, I appreciated that Steven was able to see Ellie for the person she was.

As for the mystery itself, the story takes some twists and turns and it is not immediately obvious who is behind the theft of the silver. Now, I'll be the first to admit as "historical" fiction goes, this story is not very plausible, but it makes for such a fun fictional read. The Christian element isn't in your face or preachy at all, which is what I usually look for in this genre. The story did start off a little slow, but once Ellie is in Arizona, the pace really picks up and the book moves very quickly.

If you like to read inspirational historical fiction, I think you'd enjoy Love in Disguise. I am looking forward to reading other books by Carol Cox, as well!

My Rating:
4 stars

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Review: Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow

Title:  Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow
Author: Jessica Day George
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Pub Date: January 2008, Bloomsbury USA
Format: Hardcover
Source: Received as a gift

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

Blessed—or cursed—with an ability to understand animals, the Lass (as she’s known to her family) has always been an oddball. And when an isbjorn (polar bear) seeks her out, and promises that her family will become rich if only the Lass will accompany him to his castle, she doesn’t hesitate. But the bear is not what he seems, nor is his castle, which is made of ice and inhabited by a silent staff of servants. Only a grueling journey on the backs of the four winds will reveal the truth: the bear is really a prince who’s been enchanted by a troll queen, and the Lass must come up with a way to free him before he’s forced to marry a troll princess.

My Thoughts

I really do enjoy Jessica Day George's books. She has such a way of storytelling that makes it almost impossible for me to put her books down -- of course, there are the demands of the rest of my life that prohibit me from reading for hours on end! Once again, George is retelling a fairy tale -- this time it is the Nordic legend East of the Sun, West of the Moon. I was not at all familiar with this legend before reading this book, but that in no way kept me from enjoying how George brought this story to life.

If I had to put my finger on just what it is about George's stories that I like so much, I think there is just some inherent magical quality to her writing. Perhaps it is that fairytale-like, happily-ever-after element, but her books always seem to resonate with me, no matter what the particular story is. I will say this book started off just a little slow for me, as I had to gain a better understanding of the characters and the Norwegian influences. But once events really started moving, this story was very easy to get lost in.

I absolutely can't wait for my daughter to reach an age where she can read George's books. I know I would have loved them as a Tween/Young Adult. They are so imaginative -- the stuff dreams are made of, if you will. One helpful feature that I wish I had known about as I was reading is that there is a helpful glossary of Norwegian terms. If you decide to give this book a try, be sure to keep the place marked for quick reference!

Overall, if you have enjoyed any other books by Jessica Day George or perhaps Shannon Hale, I think you won't be disappointed by Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow. No one quite reimagines fairytales like Jessica Day George does!

My Rating
5 stars

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Teaser Tuesdays - The Second Empress

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

• Grab your current read
• 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!

Well, this week's teaser is going to be a few sentences because two sentences from Michelle Moran's books just can't do her dialogues justice. :-)

This is an exchange between Napoleon and his sister, Pauline:

"I want you and my new wife to become good friends," my brother says.

"Oh, we'll be very close, I'm sure."

He gives me a sideways glance. "You will not bait her, Pauline. You will not treat her the way you treated Josephine."

"Beauharnaille was a liar."

"And Marie-Louise is a princess.  A real princess, with eight centuries of Hapsburg blood in her veins. And if it's a choice between her and you," he warns, "then I will choose her."

~ page 81 of The Second Empress by Michelle Moran

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Saturday Snapshot (09.01.12) - More Random Vacation Shots

To participate in the Saturday Snapshot meme post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post in the Mister Linky at Alyce's blog, At Home With Books.

There are always lots of wildflowers growing in the mountains, though by the time we went, many of them were past their blooming season. I did get a few pictures of some on that eventful drive to Roan Mountain, as well as some other pictures I took around our vacation house. Here are a few pictures of flowers and more and the obligatory picture of Sweet Pea ;-)

Daisies are EVERYWHERE in the mountains of NC, but I did think this one was particularly pretty.

No idea what this is, but I thought they were pretty.

This little guy isn't floating in midair, but his web didn't show up in the picture at all. He turned out to look iridescent from the flash of my camera, but I don't feel like that shows up too well here.

Some kind of toadstool. In person, it almost looked like a stump of wood.

Laura appears to be ready for football season... TOUCHDOWN!! (It's hard to have a picture taken with her these days -- she just wants to keep moving, haha!)

Happy Saturday!!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Teaser Tuesdays: Inside Out

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

• Grab your current read
• 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!

To tell you the truth, I have had a difficult time finding a suitable teaser from this book. Most 2-4 line passages don't have enough context to make sense, but I finally found something that worked!

"Hold on. The Trava takeover?" I asked. "The Travas have always been in charge."

"No, they haven't. The Travas want the scrubs to believe that, and they're hoping eventually, with enough generations born, the uppers will forget they ever had a say in the running of inside."

~ page 54 of Inside Out (eBook edition that includes Outside In) by Maria V. Snyder

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Saturday Snapshot (08.25.12) - I miss NC already!

To participate in the Saturday Snapshot meme post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post in the Mister Linky at Alyce's blog, At Home With Books.

As promised, I'm sharing a few pics that I took while we were on vacation. Unfortunately, I didn't take nearly as many as I had planned and wanted to. Our big adventure to Roan Mountain for a picnic was cut short as we discovered Laura has the same problem her mama does riding on curvy mountain roads. (I was driving if you were wondering how I was combating it.) Let's just say I could have used more than the one spare outfit I brought with us that day. :-/ When we did have to pull over the second time to, er, clean up, there was a beautiful overlook and that is where I took the bulk of my pictures of pretty views.

I took this pic from our deck with my iPhone during a sunset. What is interesting about it is that to the right of top of the tree on the left, there was a contrail, of which there is NO evidence in this picture!

The view from Roan Mountain. I think we were still in Tennessee at this point, but probably looking into North Carolina.

More of the view from Roan Mountain.

And still more of the view!

And here is the little Sweat Pea. She was down to a diaper and a bib at this point; hence, the headshot.

Happy Saturday, y'all! Enjoy the weekend, I know I plan to!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Review: The Girl of Fire and Thorns

Title: The Girl of Fire and Thorns
Author: Rae Carson
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Pub Date: September 2011, HarperCollins
Format: eBook (epub)
Source: Purchased from Books-a-Million

Synopsis (from

Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness.

Elisa has always felt powerless, useless. Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king—a king who needs her to be the chosen one, not a failure of a princess. And he's not the only one who seeks her. Savage enemies, seething with dark magic, are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could save his people. And he looks at her in a way no man has ever looked at her before. Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn't die young.

Most of the chosen do.

My Thoughts

This was likely my favorite book that I read while on vacation last week. I honestly did not want to put it down and finished it in less than a day's time. The adventure is incredible, the world building is vividly detailed, and the cast of characters is really quite superb. I love that Elisa is a flawed (and realistic) girl who emerges into a heroine you can't help but root for. Equally important are her servants, the others who are seeking her, and the king she marries. I wish I could say more about the characters, but I think it would most definitely spoil the story a bit for those of you who may not have read it yet. What makes them so interesting is better left as part of the telling of the story, as so many of the characters evolve along the way.

I think the only part I truly disliked was that in the first part of the book, Carson seemed to feel the need to remind us constantly how imperfect Elisa was -- well, really, how fat she was. I mean, I got it from the beginning, I didn't need the constant descriptions that were really unnecessary to the events taking place. I did appreciate that we have a female heroine who doesn't fit the typical mold of perfection, but the constant reminders were silly. Of course, Elisa changes in many ways both physically and emotionally throughout her quest, which isn't really surprising. But the key is who loves her regardless of her appearance -- who loves her for the girl she is and the amazing woman she becomes. Elisa's growth throughout the book is some of the best character development I have read this year, quite honestly.

Now if you've read my reviews (even my last review the other day, in fact) you know that I am a big believer in happy endings. Well, The Girl of Fire and Thorns doesn't really have that. And you know what? I am totally okay with it! Don't get me wrong, certain events/twists definitely made me sad, but somehow, I just couldn't see the story going in any other direction. I also think that Carson did a good job balancing tragedy with the potential of what is to come for Elisa. I am hoping that the romance piece of the puzzle has a little more life in the next book -- I suppose that part left a little bit to be desired for me, as well.

Have I intrigued you? I hope so! I think this is a great debut and I look forward to the next book in the series, The Crown of Embers, which is due out September 18th... I will definitely be downloading it as soon as it is available!

My Rating
4 stars

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Series Review: The Hollow by Jessica Verday

Title: The Hollow
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal
Pub Date: September 2009, Simon Pulse (HC)
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased from
Rating: 4 stars

Synopsis (from

When Abbey's best friend, Kristen, vanishes at the bridge near Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, everyone else is all too quick to accept that Kristen is dead?and rumors fly that her death was no accident. Abbey goes through the motions of mourning her best friend, but privately, she refuses to believe that Kristen is really gone. Then she meets Caspian, the gorgeous and mysterious boy who shows up out of nowhere at Kristen's funeral, and keeps reappearing in Abbey's life. Caspian clearly has secrets of his own, but he's the only person who makes Abbey feel normal again...but also special.

Just when Abbey starts to feel that she might survive all this, she learns a secret that makes her question everything she thought she knew about her best friend. How could Kristen have kept silent about so much? And could this secret have led to her death? As Abbey struggles to understand Kristen's betrayal, she uncovers a frightening truth that nearly unravels her—one that will challenge her emerging love for Caspian, as well as her own sanity.

Title: The Haunted
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal
Pub Date: August 2010, Simon Pulse
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased from
Rating: 4 stars

Synopsis (from

An impossible truth. An impossible love.

After a summer spent reclaiming her sanity and trying to forget the boy she fell in love with—the boy who must not exist, cannot exist, because she knows that he is dead—Abbey returns to Sleepy Hollow, ready to leave the ghosts of her past behind. She throws herself into her schoolwork, her perfume-making, and her friendship with Ben, her cute and funny lab partner, who just might be her ticket to getting over Caspian once and for all.

But Abbey can never get over Caspian, and Caspian has no choice but to return to her side, for Caspian is a Shade, and Abbey is his destiny. They are tied not only to each other, but also to the town of Sleepy Hollow, and to the famous legend that binds their fates—a legend whose dark truths they are only beginning to guess....

Title: The Hidden
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal
Pub Date: August 2011, Simon Pulse
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased from
Rating: 2 stars

Synopsis (from

Abbey knows that Caspian is her destiny. Theirs is a bond that transcends even death. But as Abbey finally learns the full truth about the dark fate that links her to Caspian and ties them both to the town of Sleepy Hollow, she suddenly has some very hard choices to make. Caspian may be the love of her life, but is that love worth dying for? 

My Thoughts

I opted to lump my reviews for Jessica Verday's The Hollow series into one review, since I decided to re-read the first two books before finally finishing the series while on vacation last week. And, quite honestly, I'm not sure I could bring myself to write three individual reviews for these books. I think I might be in the minority when I say that for me, the series started out much stronger than it concluded.

While it seems to rate lower among other readers, I actually really enjoyed Verday's debut, The Hollow. In my opinion, basing the story off of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow was a refreshing premise in the vast offering of YA Paranormal books. Verday opens each chapter with quotations from Irving's book, which really made me want to pick it up again. While I admit that Abbey and Caspian might be a little annoying, I did find myself completely wrapped up in their story. Something else that I found interesting and different: Abbey's hobby as a perfumer. I thought that added to her overall character, not to mention showing how smells really become a part of our lives and memories -- I could certainly identify with that. The side plot pertaining to Kristen's secret was a little contrived, but none of these flaws curbed my enjoyment of The Hollow.

The fast-paced ride continues in the second book in the series, The Haunted. Just when Abbey has nearly convinced herself that she imagined her ghosts and shades, when she returns home it is almost as if her summer away never even happened. It was nice to have some more focus on Ben this time and a little less Caspian, even though we all know how it's ultimately going to end. We also see more of Katy and Nikolas (minor spoiler - they're from the original story of Sleep Hollow) this time and start to get a glimmer of just what is going on with Abbey, why she can see these people no one else can, and just what part she is supposed to play in it all. With that, the story gets a little darker this time, as well.

And then we get to the third book, The Hidden. Sadly, this book diminished my overall opinion of the series, though again it seems I'm in the minority as the ratings are generally higher for this book. In a way, it was almost too short -- tying up the various loose ends actually deserved at least another couple of chapters. I was very disappointed with how suddenly Verday wrapped up the story, but it is difficult to explain what was wrong without completely giving it all away. Suffice it to say that while perhaps the resolution wasn't totally out of left field, it was introduced so suddenly and put to bed so quickly that it left me wondering what the heck happened. I almost felt cheated, if that makes sense. And frankly, it was all too neat and tidy to fit in with the rest of the story. I'm a sucker for happily ever after, but this time happily ever after seemed like the easy way out somehow, it's difficult to explain.

Based on individual ratings of 4 stars for both of the first two books and 2 stars for The Hidden, my ultimate rating is:

Monday, August 20, 2012

Back from Vacation!

Yes, I'm back and I must say I had a very relaxing week away... Not only that, but I managed to finish reading 8 books! I haven't had that much time to devote to reading since I can't remember when. Most of the books were pretty good, fortunately -- just a couple of "duds" in the lot.

Of course, now I have to put all my thoughts together for some reviews... I hope to post one later today and sprinkle them through the next couple of weeks.

I plan to share some pictures from the trip for this week's Saturday Snapshot post, though I didn't get to take nearly as many as I planned (traveling with a wee one changes things quite a bit, haha).

I'll do my best to catch up on some blog visiting, too, though work will also be consuming a lot of my time this week as I catch up.

At any rate, it is good to be back! :-)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Sunday Salon: Blog Buttons - Pointless?

Happy Sunday, everyone! This is yet another scheduled post while I am on vacation with very limited access to the Internet. This is a bit of a musings post, I guess -- about something I've pondered off and on lately... is there any point to having a blog button to "advertise" your brand? I'm not really going to argue the case for or against, this is more an observational rambling, if you will.

Yes, I do have a blog button -- a shiny new one that came with my blog redesign. I also had one that I had made to go with my old blog theme because personally, I like the idea of sharing blog buttons. Almost all of the blogs out there that have been professionally designed have buttons and a few intrepid folks have made their own, as well.


Yes, there's a but...

I almost never see blog buttons posted on other bloggers' sites. At least, that is how I feel when I browse the various blogs I follow. And no, I don't mean my button -- I mean ANY blog buttons.

This all came up because I have been debating how to share all of the blog buttons I have grabbed. In the "research" for this post, I actually made sure that I had a blog button represented for every blog in my blogroll that actually had a blog button. In the last few months, though, I have wondered if my scrolling list of buttons is very effective and have thought about creating a page that would link from my menu bar with all the book blog buttons I've grabbed. But then I thought people might not bother going to look at that.

Ever since I began blogging and keeping up with other blogs, I have wanted to link all the blogs I follow on my blog. Call it a sign of solidarity, I don't know. I just know that when I visit other blogs, I often look to see what blogs they keep up with that I have yet to have heard of.

So the numbers nerd in me decided to conduct some informal research of the book blogs in my blogroll. {Aside: This also gave me a great opportunity to clean up the blogroll and remove various blogs that disappeared.} I did limit it strictly to book blogs -- no author blogs or personal blogs. I went through EVERY one of those blogs (166 of them!) and looked to see (1) did they have a blog button, (2) did they post other people's blog buttons, and (3) did they have some sort of blog roll list? I guess I wanted some kind of "proof" to back up my theory that while a pretty fair number of bloggers have blog buttons, very few bloggers actually share other blogs' buttons. And guess what, I was pretty much right...
Really, I think I just wanted an excuse to display pie charts on my blog :-D

As you can see, just over more than a third of the blogs I researched have buttons up for grabs. However, only about 10% of all the blogs actually shared any blog buttons besides their own. Blogrolls were much more prevalent, with just over half of the blogs displaying blogrolls either in their sidebar or on a separate page linked from their header. Actually, I would have expected this percentage to be higher. Now, I didn't get into any fancy analysis beyond this with any overlapping data -- I was really just curious about the big picture.

And I really am not suggesting that there is a right or wrong answer when it comes to linking to other blogs. I admit I would have expected more blogs that have their own buttons to display buttons from other blogs, but obviously that isn't the case. I still haven't decided what to do about my own blogroll and blog buttons. The blogroll takes up quite a bit of space on my left sidebar and the scrolling space for the buttons really isn't able to do all of those buttons justice...

In the end, with so few "grab" buttons actually finding their way onto other blogs, I have to wonder if it is really worth it to have one? (Not that I wouldn't be happy for you to go over and grab mine from the sidebar, LOL.)

Well, I've rambled on about this enough. I'd be curious to hear your thoughts on the matter. If I were to move my blogroll and create a page for blog buttons, do you think it would still be effective? Do you like to link to other blogs and if so, what's your preferred method?

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Saturday Snapshot (08.11.12): VACATION!!

To participate in the Saturday Snapshot meme post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post in the Mister Linky at Alyce's blog, At Home With Books.

So last week I completely forgot to post a snapshot. Today I am heading to the mountains of North Carolina for vacation. Unfortunately, due to schedule conflicts with his job, my hubby is not able to go, so Laura and I will be heading out on our own to the family vacation house with my parents. I have really been looking forward to this week away, though I hate that we have to leave the hubster behind. (We are hoping to take a trip back to NC together in the Fall.) I'm in the process of scheduling a few posts (including this one) and tweets so that I don't completely fall off the map for a week. ;-)

This is what I will be enjoying for the next several days:

Though the trees have grown up so much you don't really have this much visibility, this used to be part of the view from the deck of our family's house. Now you pretty much have to be on the roof of the house or brave the steep bank up behind the house to see anything like this.

This view is at Roan Mountain National park. It has been several years (I'm thinking nine?) since we last went here, but we are planning a return visit complete with picnic lunch. Should be interesting carrying along Laura this time!

This is along the path to that view above. I've always really liked this picture!

Hope you all have a great week... I hope to have lots of fun pictures to share on future Saturday Snapshot posts!!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Review: Of Thieves and Elves by A.P. Stephens

Title: Of Thieves and Elves
Author: A. P. Stephens
Genre: Fantasy
Pub Date: April 2012, Fanda Books
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased an e-signed copy directly from the author and also received a request to review.

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

A monumental tragedy has befallen the Clan of Ionor, an ancient brotherhood of elven warriors. Concerned when their Master does not reach his secretive business in a distant kingdom, the Elders learn that Tryn, their beloved leader, has been captured by a cutthroat gang of bandits known as the Steel Claw. Yet this is not the darkest of their tidings. The relic under the clan's safekeeping, a weapon of terrible power that was forged by the gods themselves, is also missing. The Ionor dispatch Eonen, a headstrong Elder, and a young and talented apprentice, Tride, to rescue the Master and the relic by infiltrating the bandits' stronghold-the formidable Fortress of Toppledom. As the two determined elves hasten into the unknown beyond their borders to restore balance and honor to their clan, they encounter the true darkness behind the matter-the very origin of the world's evil. Allegiances will be twisted. The fates of many will be set into motion. And the destiny of one will be realized.

My Thoughts

My first thought when I started reading this book was that it has been WAY too long since I listened to The Stolen Moon of Londor, which I reviewed at the end of 2009. Now, you absolutely don't have to have read the other books in The White Shadow Saga to enjoy this "supernovella." Personally, I think I am due for a re-read and I'd really like to continue with the second book in the series, Shameless Wonders.

With this "supernovella," as Stephens has termed it, he has managed to pack quite a punch in approximately 238 pages on my Nook (the paperback is 254 pages). In this epic fantasy, there is as much action and adventure as you will see in many full-length novels. That said, there is not as much world-building as I might like and a few of the characters could have used some more backstories and development. In the end, the actual adventure and story help to make up for those missing elements. After all, this is not intended to be a full-length novel, so it is to be expected that every last little detail can't possibly be crammed into the story. Amazingly, Stephens is able to work in some great twists that I did not see coming.

As with The Stolen Moon of Londor, Stephens has again given us a varied cast of characters. While I did think some of them were one-dimensional, Stephens was able to do justice to the two focal characters, Tride and Eonen. However, when it comes to their enemies, we really don't learn as much about how and why they became who they are, with perhaps one exception, but if I share who that is, it would be a spoiler and I do try to keep these reviews spoiler-free.

One thing I did notice when reading this book that I might have perhaps missed when listening to the audio of The Stolen Moon of Londor: some passages can become very wordy. Granted, some of the best works of epic fantasy are very lengthy and wordy, in order to create the worlds and characters we are reading about. My comment regarding the wordiness is meant to be an observation rather than a criticism and it may be worth noting for those of you less familiar with epic fantasy books.

Bottom line: Of Thieves and Elves is a great addition to The White Shadow Saga. I often (almost always, in fact) find novellas to be pointless fluff. This is absolutely NOT the case with this book. Regardless of whether or not you've read any of Stephens' other books, if you enjoy epic fantasy, I believe you'll enjoy this chapter in the story of Londor and it will leave you wanting to read the rest of the series.

My Rating

Author Website
Twitter Link

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Teaser Tuesdays: Of Thieves and Elves

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

• Grab your current read
• 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!

Nothing like scheduling your post for the wrong time, whoops! But better late in the day than on Wednesday ;-) Here is my teaser this week:

"You act as though you know something," Tride said, again detecting a hint of reluctance in the Elder's demeanor. "Something you have yet to tell me." But Eonen did not take kindly to the accusation from his inexperienced Learner and gave him a stern look. Tride shuddered at the angry glare as the Elder's golden eyes pierced his soul like a hot iron.

~ page 69 (of 238 on my Nook) from Of Thieves and Elves by A. P. Stephens

Monday, August 6, 2012

Review & Giveaway: Forgotten Dreams by Alexia Banks

Title: Forgotten Dreams
Author: Alexia Banks
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Pub Date: TODAY! August 6, 2012, Crimson Romance
Format: eBook
Source: I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks for the opportunity to read and review your debut!


Itching for adventure, Miami private investigator Shane Connelly heads for Swan Creek in North Carolina wine country. But she quickly discovers it’s anything but the perfect spot to while away the summer months. Her country home turns out to be a burned out hovel that she suspects is haunted. Discouraged, she plans to head home when a handsome stranger arrives at her doorstep. Before she can beat a trail off the mountain, Shane and her dashing neighbor Jesse are inexplicably drawn together as they dodge bullets, unearth ghosts, and unravel a dark town secret. In the end, Shane realizes it's not the high altitudes that are making her head spin, but her brooding lover with the penetrating dark eyes.

My Thoughts

At just 128 pages on my Nook Simple Touch, Forgotten Dreams is a pretty quick read that is easy to get into, so I finished it easily in one sitting. Therein lies my problem with this book. The story has SO MUCH potential but there wasn't quite enough detail to truly do this book justice. The characters are great -- what little we are able to see of them. Shane is a fiery redhead who isn't afraid to speak her mind and be herself, especially after she ditches her painfully dull boyfriend. Jesse is equal parts tough guy and sensitive sweetheart and it just so happens his mother also presents an interesting character of whom I think we see far too little throughout the story.

Seriously, it's really impressive just how colorful the characters are, given that this is such a short book. Multiple character development across the broad spectrum of a story is often a shortcoming with debut authors, but not a bit with Alexia Banks. If only the plot could have been as intricately drawn and fleshed out a bit more, we would have a seriously awesome read on our hands. But realistically, I understand that you can only provide so much detail in a book of this length. I'd love more of a backstory on the ghost and even Shane, herself -- more than what we see in her nightmares, anyway, which is certainly an intriguing way to learn about Shane, I must say. And let's face it, you can't properly build a relationship between two people in such a short read. Such a hot romance deserves a little more build-up and suspense. While Shane and Jesse not unexpectedly start off on the wrong foot, I wish there had been more time to make the transition to what their relationship ultimately became.

I also have to say that I would have loved to see more of the paranormal element in the storyline. There are big chunks of the story that drift away from it and I think the ghost story could have become more central to the plot than it ultimately did. There were times I was deliciously creeped out -- especially reading this late at night, but that momentum kind of died off soon after the various ghost sightings, which led me to forget that this was supposed to be a paranormal romance.

Bottom line, I think it can and should be considered a big positive that I truly wanted to be able to read more of this story. Yes, I did lower my rating because I felt like important details were missing with respect to key elements of the storyline. If you are looking for a quick read with some steamy romance, ghostly elements, and a splash of humor, you should definitely give Forgotten Dreams a try. It is a worthy debut that I hope brings the promise of more (and longer!) books from this author.

So have I intrigued you? Would you like to win an ebook of Forgotten Dreams? Well, be sure to enter the giveaway via Rafflecopter just below the rating. And below that are even more goodies in celebration of Forgotten Dreams Release Day!

My Rating

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Other Goodies

Alexia Banks talks about Forgotten Dreams:

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