Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Charlatan's Boy Review

The Charlatan's Boy: A NovelThe Charlatan's Boy: A Novel by Jonathan Rogers

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As far back as he can remember, the orphan Grady has tramped from village to village in the company of a huckster named Floyd. With his adolescent accomplice, Floyd perpetrates a variety of hoaxes and flimflams on the good citizens of the Corenwald frontier, such as the Ugliest Boy in the World act.

It’s a hard way to make a living, made harder by the memory of fatter times when audiences thronged to see young Grady perform as “The Wild Man of the Feechiefen Swamp.” But what can they do? Nobody believes in feechies anymore.

When Floyd stages an elaborate plot to revive Corenwalders’ belief in the mythical swamp-dwellers known as the feechiefolk, he overshoots the mark. Floyd’s Great Feechie Scare becomes widespread panic. Eager audiences become angry mobs, and in the ensuing chaos, the Charlatan’s Boy discovers the truth that has evaded him all his life—and will change his path forever.

My Take: I had no idea what to expect with this book but found the writing style similar to Mark Twain's Huck Finn. Then ending is so surprising, I simply didn't see it coming.

Grady is an ugly child who doesn't really belong. He's not a civilizer, not a drover, not a miner, not really anything. Floyd is his traveling companion and the talent behind the money making business. Like the traveling professor in "The Wizard of Oz," Floyd sells his wares or acts from a wagon. What he sells is usually Feechie.

What is a Feechie? you might ask. I have no idea but with a actor as good as Perfessor Floyd (No, that is not a typo) and a boy as ugly as Grady, their act is sure to entertain any in the vicinity. Until Feechies are no longer a curiosity or fear, that is. They try other acts but Feechies is where they bloom so the duo create a Feechie scare to get into the purses of all.

Entertaining and well written, the story is written first person by Grady. Just Grady. No last name. The writing never strays and Grady continues narrating the comings and goings with detail that had me giggling, capturing the personalities and quirks so very well.

Denise Austen's Get Energy! Winners!

Get Energy!: Empower Your Body, Love Your Life

Just in time to work off those extra pounds!  Which none of you have.  

Neither do I.



Pam K.

Kelly W.

Congratulations to all three of these skinny butts!
The Clouds Roll AwayThe Clouds Roll Away by Sibella Giorello

Forensic geologist Raleigh Harmon returns home for Christmas but discovers Richmond, Virginia running low on goodness and light.

Although her exemplary service in Seattle lifted her disciplinary transfer, Raleigh lands a hometown civil rights case riddled with problems that could get her sent away again. When she helps out a fellow cop, her life goes on the line, forcing her undercover in a sting operation. As Raleigh realizes the lines are crossing and double-crossing, her domestic life starts to unravel. Her mother's mental health cracks like ice, her closest friend grows cold, and her old boyfriend DeMott comes a-calling, hoping for more than chestnuts by an open fire.

While the city glows with Christmas lights and carols, Raleigh is forced to rely on her sharpest skills to stay alive, hoping for that one clear moment when everything makes sense and the clouds roll away.

My Take: This is a well written thriller/mystery with a likeable and intelligent protagonist, Raleigh. The story is fast moving and includes twists an turns that are unexpected and add to the excitement of the story. That said, I do not feel qualified to give the story a proper review. This is the third book in a series. Although the story is one that can stand alone, many references are made to previous investigations and books. I felt like I walked into a suspenseful movie halfway through. I was lost and finally gave up halfway through.

I am not discouraged by getting lost by this book, however. The writing is good, the story is interesting, and, if I find the first book in this series, I won't hesitate to read it.

* This book was provided to me in exchange for an honest review.  I have not been monetarily compensated.

Sibella’s celebrating the release of The Clouds Roll Away by giving away a KINDLE prize pack worth over $150.00!
One Grand Prize winner will receive:
  • Latest Generation KINDLE with Wi-Fi
  • $25 gift certificate to
To enter simply click on one of the icons below! Then tell your friends! Winner will be announced January 3, 2011 on Sibella's blog:

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Stitch Before Dying Review

Stitching it together . . .

The Black Sheep Knitters: a fivesome with a knack for knitting—and for solving crimes.

hen Maggie Messina, owner of the Black Sheep Knitting Shop, is invited to give knitting workshops at a Berkshires spa resort, she manages to negotiate a cottage that fits all five of the Black Sheep for what promises to be a weekend of knitting bliss. But while the friends are expert at counting stitches, they haven’t counted on murder.

Guests and staff at the Crystal Lake Inn are as varied as a mixed bag of yarn, but most colorful is certainly the owner, charismatic self-help guru and former psychiatrist Dr. Max Flemming. The doctor may have told all in a revealing autobiography, but from his ex-wife to the widow of his former business partner—both employees at the inn—Max seems mired in shad­ows from his past. And when a killer strikes during a mountaintop retreat, the Black Sheep wonder what the good doctor might be hiding.

The police seem to be following the wrong thread. But while Maggie’s workshops have given the knitters a unique view of the tensions at the little inn, can they make sense of a crime that is as complexly stranded as a Fair Isle sweater? When the killer murders a second time, the Black Sheep won­der if they’ve dropped a stitch and put themselves in mortal danger. . . .

My Take:  This is a solid cross between chick lit and cozy mystery.  It is one in a series of books using the same characters who keep having the bad luck to trip into trouble and eventually solve crimes.  The books do not rely on previous stories to support the current book.  Each mystery stands alone and re-introduces each of the five distinct women.  

This book is a quick weekender book.  It takes little concentration.  Clues are provided via dialogue both spoken and internal.  I guessed who the murderer was very easily.  But then my pick died.  It's a fun read (even though people keep dying) and an excellent break from the books that require too much of my brain power.  Not that it's a book for stupid people, mind you.  It's just a book that can be interrupted periodically to answer the incessant "Mom!" voices without losing the flow of the story.  

3 and half

Monday, December 27, 2010

Organized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living Review and Guest Post

"Too many people spend money they haven't earned, to buy things they don't want, to impress people they don't like."


Tsh: What does it look like for a modern-day family to live simply while still participating in after school sports, errand running, and getting enough sleep to not go insane? Simple living is about living your life with a purpose that aligns with your values. It's about enjoying the things you love and care about and not about stressing over the things that don't matter. It's fulfilling; it brings peace; it drips with contentment. Living simply is about being who you were made to be.

That's what this book is about. I want to park at the nitty-gritty of life - -the intersection between good intentions and reality. I want to help you find that peaceful place, where your pocketbook, your home, and your weekly routine reflect your family's convictions and values. Responsible home managers must be intentional with their decisions - -we need to take time to evaluate our priorities and then take the steps necessary to make our family life reflect the simple life we crave. It won't happen for us- - mature adults proactively make decisions and form habits to shape their home lives into the lifestyles they desire. We can't blame a hectic schedule, too many bills to pay, or too many messes to clean for keeping us from our goals because we can do something about those. You want a simpler life at home for your family - - a home that is clean and organized and fits your life's purpose. I want to give you some tools to help you do this.

Admitting that I'm not a certified organizer or a simplicity guru is probably not the best way to begin a book about simple living. But I need to lay that out on the table between me and you, the reader, before we begin this journey together. I don't have a database full of clients, and I don't have my own TV show. I'm a young mom running a busy house- hold. Maybe you can relate. Simple living is something I've learned to value through my life experience. It's been along journey to get here, and it's a journey you can take as well. In fact, I'm still walking the path.

My husband and I have made simplicity one of our live's highest priorities. We currently live outside of the United States in a 1,400- square- foot apartment (boasting only one closet) with our five-year-old daughter, our two-year-old son, and another little one on the way. We continually evaluate all of our belongings to make sure they still offer our value to our lives. We are selective with the new purchases we bring in our home in order to make the most of our space. We hardly watch any television, and we spend lots of time together because both my husband and I work from home. These intentional decisions allow us to live a life that feels right in a way that corresponds with our highest values. We're able to live on a rather meager salary while still enjoying family outings, the occasional vacation, and even quality coffee. But our lifestyle didn't happen overnight. My life's journey helped shape my philosophy about simple living.

Tsh Oxenreider, author of Organized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living, is the creator of the popular blog and is the founder of She is passionate about simplifying life and eliminating clutter so that the truly meaningful things in life can breathe. Tsh spends her days with her husband and three young children exploring the world, reading and learning, and being inspired by whatever surroundings their travels take them to.

My Take:  I believe in organization.  I believe in simplicity.  I do not know how to attain either one of these ideals, although I have been trying for many years.  That's not true.  I've been trying to be more organized without simplifying.  By combining organization with simplification, Tsh shows that these goals are attainable.

The key to Tsh's plan is that it is custom made.  Her definition of Organized Simplicity is not going to be the same as mine.  She includes a chapter on writing a family purpose statement.  I spent the better part of a Sunday afternoon writing and re-writing my hopes for my family and the purpose of our home.  I found that my end result was not what I would have thought.

The next few chapters consist of helpful tools like creating a Home Management Notebook, managing money and time, creating a home that works.

Last, but not least is the painful Part 2: Ten Days to a Simpler, More Organized Home.  Room by room, the reader is encouraged to define the purpose of each then simplify.  We have too much stuff taking up valuable real estate in our home.  Ruthlessly clean it out.  Throw it away, donate it, and schedule a yard sale.  Reading those chapters hurt.  Yet I found myself envisioning kitchen contraptions I could do without and taking a load of incomplete toys to Deseret Industries.  While the kids are at school, of course.  No use making this into a learning experience for all the children, much to Tsh's dismay.

This is, perhaps, the most realistic, wholistic and simple home organization book I've seen.  Appendix includes goal setting tools, day planning calendars, helpful websites, and recipes for cleaning solutions. She and FlyLady advocate a clutter - free life.  In theory, I completely agree.  In practice, I love the little clothes my children came home from the hospital in, the bells I collected in the different countries during my summers abroad (I don't display them hence, I don't have to dust them.  I just love them), and the china I never use yet it sits in my cabinet.

Excellent book.  I will use some of her ideas.  I might even use most of her ideas.  Someday when I move, I will probably use all of her ideas.  But for now I will save the tiny bottles of shampoo from hotels I've stayed in.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick

Crescendo (Hush, Hush, #2)Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Feisty teen Nora Grey somehow survived the crises of Hush, Hush!, but dangers just as frightening loom in this standalone sequel. Patch, her guardian angel and love interest, appears to have a dark side and a wandering eye. Worse yet, he seems intent on obstructing Nora as she hunts for the truth behind her father's mysterious death.

My Take: Could she be any more Borderline Personality? I love you! I hate you! I love you! I never want to see you again but I'll stalk you! Speaking of stalking, Nora has her share of those. I think I'd be working on a few restraining orders.

Besides the creepy stalking everybody seems to be doing, I must say, I had no idea what was going to happen next. The book starts where the last one left off. This one can't be read alone but needs the introduction of Hush, Hush. It is clearly part of a trilogy but not simply a place holder. It's action. Packed. If you can get past the personality disorders and brooding narcissism, the story is intensely enjoyable.

Thursday, December 23, 2010


Midwinter giveaway of Christian Lit:

Aurora M.

Anita Shreve's Rescue winner:

Just Peachy!

Congratulations and no, you won't get them before Christmas so find something else to give to Aunt Cora. 

Mockingbirds Review

The Mockingbirds (The Mockingbirds, #1)The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Some schools have honor codes.
Others have handbooks.
Themis Academy has the Mockingbirds.

Themis Academy is a quiet boarding school with an exceptional student body that the administration trusts to always behave the honorable way--the Themis Way. So when Alex is date raped during her junior year, she has two options: stay silent and hope someone helps her, or enlist the Mockingbirds--a secret society of students dedicated to righting the wrongs of their fellow peers.

In this honest, page-turning account of a teen girl's struggle to stand up for herself, debut author Daisy Whitney reminds readers that if you love something or someone--especially yourself--you fight for it.

This is not an easy book to read. In the ideal world, date rape is prosecuted by the legal system. But in the ideal world, there are not so many shades of gray.

The story begins with the protagonist waking up in an unfamiliar room without clothes next to a boy she barely recognizes. She quickly dresses and leaves, realizing she lost her virginity and doesn't remember it. Throughout the book, memories return to her. She was drinking and blacked out. Was she a participant to the encounter? If she participated at all, does that make her culpable? Does the fact that she was drunk play a part to her culpability? These questions are explored and answered throughout the story and a trusted adult figure plainly explains to her that if she did not grant permission, it is rape.

I liked that the rape is not cut and dried. Date rape is far too common yet far too overlooked. I had at least two roommates during college who were date raped. My best friend escaped a date rape when the guy's roommates walked in, seeing her shirt unbuttoned and her arms pinned. With the years and experience since she told me, I now understand why she wanted to throw up every time we saw him on campus. I also understand why I wanted to throw up when I was paired with my roommates rapist for a first aid final. No matter how compromising the circumstances (getting drunk or making out), sex without permission is rape.

The story does not preach. In fact, one of the characters does not agree with the student-created Mockingbirds (Student Justice System). However, I love that students at a college created this system to deal with offenses against other students.

The story is well written. The characters well developed. The subject is difficult yet well addressed.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Secret History of Elizabeth Tudor, Vampire Slayer Review

The Secret History of Elizabeth Tudor, Vampire SlayerThe Secret History of Elizabeth Tudor, Vampire Slayer by Lucy Weston

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

The story is of Queen Elizabeth with a different hue to color the history. On the eve of her coronation, Elizabeth's powers awaken and she becomes a vampire slayer.

I have two minds regarding this story.

#1 mind is truly impressed with the readability of the history of Queen Elizabeth. Without boring the reader, the author succinctly sums up Elizabeth's life up to this point. In the course of telling the story, more is revealed regarding her history. Plainly put, Elizabeth is the child of King Henry VIII who had his wife, Anne Bolyne beheaded. The reasons for her beheading, according to the history books, are accurately portrayed.

Incredibly, the author stays true to Elizabeth's qualities as the pious Virgin Queen who kept the Pope and suitors at arm's length without committing herself one way or the other. This was crucial to the Queen's character as the sister Bloody Mary, the self-righteously indignant Catholic imprisoned Elizabeth for maintaining her Anglican faith. Due to the religious crack, Elizabeth's long reign is miraculous and politically well played.

Additionally, the author describes the English scenery, castles, cathedrals, etc. with accuracy and tangible description. She also includes details in the story itself that allow the reader to envision the show downs.

Which brings me to mind #2. Painting Elizabeth as a vampire slayer is ludicrous so perhaps the books should be humorous. Although there are moments of humor, this is a history book with a vampire flavor. It should be weird. Truly and bizarrely, strange. And yet it works.

The book works because the author meticulously works with all of the possible arguments that this could not be true and dispels them. There is no way this woman slept for the entire time she was creating this story. It is very complete and compelling. Using real historical figures from Elizabeth's circle, she weaves a story together with vampires that explains the death of Anne Bolyne, adding that Anne had only to agree to give the Mordred, the vampire king, her only daughter when she came of age. Anne refused and Mordred did not intercede.

Elizabeth's long reign in such a fractured society is puzzling, at best, although can be explained to some degree by her politicking. On the other hand, there were many countries who wanted the British Isles and saw Elizabeth as easy pickin's. Couldn't a stronger power be at work to protect her reign? Although she credited God, Mordred credited himself by taking out warriors on their journey to kill the queen.

Putting the vampire story aside, I will reiterate that the book provides a succinct yet comprehensive history of the time and life of Elizabeth. Add the vampires and you have a story to return to, if you are not interested in history. I bored of Elizabeth's constant internal dialogue. I liked it and probably would have liked it more if it were my first introduction to Elizabeth, Anne, and Henry. I just became bored too easily. Still, the book is very well written.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

No Hope For Gomez and Bonus!

A Gomessy Xmas

It's the age-old tale:
     Boy meets girl.
     Boy stalks girl.
     Girl already has a stalker.
     Boy becomes her stalker-stalker.”

“No Hope for Gomez!” is the award winning comedy novel that has already wrecked thousands of reasonably useful minds. To end the year with a twist, you get the Geeky eNovel “A Gomessy Xmas: Random acts of senseless kindness” with your copy of No Hope. Simply send your Amazon receipt to before January 15th.

As a bonus, and for a limited time only, reading “No Hope for Gomez!” will also make you more attractive to the opposite sex, and it will increase your random luck by about 9.5%
(These statements have not been evaluated by anyone of consequence.)

Read a free chapter here. , and get more details on this offer here.

"Extremely witty and clever writing that contains keen insights into human nature." California Chronicles

"The antics in this book will leave the reader laughing. Graham Parke is a genius." Readers Favorite

"A quick and unputdownable read that flies in the face of reason and smashes against the wall of detective novels. It's a Coens Brothers' film formatted in book form."

Midwinter's Eve Giveaway Hop

Quick! I'm having a contest for all of December 21st and 22nd.

I'm giving away a couple of gently used Christian Fiction books:
Where Hearts Are Free (A Darkness to Light Novel)The Pirate Queen

Contest is painfully hard to enter.

Give me all your Christmas presents.
Or just fill out the form below.

Check out the other fabulous book blogs with fantastic prizes!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Unearthly by Cynthia Hand Review

UnearthlyUnearthly by Cynthia Hand

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the beginning, there's a boy standing in the trees. . .

Clara Gardner has recently learned that she's part angel. Having angel blood run through her veins not only makes her smarter, stronger, and faster than humans (a word, she realizes, that no longer applies to her), but it means she has a purpose, something she was put on this earth to do. Figuring out what it is, though, isn't easy.

Her visions of a raging forest fire and an alluring stranger lead her to a new school in a new town. When she meets Christian, who turns out to be the boy of her dreams (literally), everything seems to fall into place--and out of place, at the same time. Because there's another guy, Tucker, who appeals to Clara's less angelic side.

As Clara tries to find her way in a world she no longer understands, she encounters unseen dangers and choices she never thought she'd have to make--between honesty and deciet, love and duty, good and evil. When the fire from her vision finally ignites, will Clara be ready to face her destiny?

My Take: I have decided that I am a hopeless romantic and root for the strong protagonist. Unfortunately, if I tell you why Clara is strong, I might ruin the conflict. On the other hand, there is much more to like about this book.

This is clearly a trilogy of some sort since there are many aspects not resolved. The book introduces the reader to interesting characters like Maggie, Clara's mother who is half angel and has secrets nobody knows. Jeffrey, Clara's brother, who plays a minor role but there are hints at the end he will become more prominant. Angela, whose angelic roots are mysterious. Christian who is a pretty face and supposedly Clara's destiny but I didn't care about him in anyway. But then nobody asked me. Wendy, Clara's best friend and Tucker, Wendy's twin and my personal favorite.

On top of these interesting characters, the Dark Wing is introduced. Dark Wings are bad angels. Very bad. Pretty sure they are going to play a prominant role in future conflict

Clean read. Really, really liked it. I can't wait for the next one!


It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 12/20/10

This fantastic meme is now hosted by Sheila at One Person's Journey Through a World of Books.

This week I tried, unsuccessfully, to read a couple of books that I just don't know if my interest is high enough to read one more sentence.  Am I burned out?  Too busy?  New case of ADD?  I don't know but I won't mention those books.

This week I read:
Mostly Good GirlsThe MockingbirdsOrganized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living

I am currently reading or plan to read this week:

Across the UniverseThe Secret History of Elizabeth Tudor, Vampire SlayerA Stitch Before Dying Jane

New to my TBR List (either own or from library):

The Charlatan's Boy: A NovelWhen We Were Strangers: A NovelThe Devotion of Suspect XFancy PantsTeaser (Hallie Ahern Mysteries)

This week I will be participating in a Blog Hop Tuesday and Wednesday.  New Giveaways!

I will also be reviewing:

UnearthlyCrescendo (Hush, Hush)The MockingbirdsThe Secret History of Elizabeth Tudor, Vampire Slayer

Now I have to get back to reading.  I am really into "Across the Universe."