Friday, November 29, 2013

Give Books for Christmas Giveaway Hop!

I'm doing the Give Books for Christmas Giveaway Hop!

Hosted by NewLDSFiction.com 

 

Why? Because it just isn't Christmas (or birthday, or anniversary, or Valentine's, or Halloween, or…) unless you give/get a book or two. 

I always give my grandkids a book for Christmas. I love picking out a story just for them—one I think they'll enjoy and treasure.

I hope YOU will consider giving books
as Christmas gifts this year.

And I'm setting an example by selecting four lucky winners to receive a copy of any one of my  four Christmas game books! (You get to pick which one you want!)


These are downloadable pdf files that you can print at home.

Hop runs from Dec 1st – 15th, 2013



 But I'm giving you a jumpstart. You can enter today!

To enter to win, just use the Rafflecopter form below.
I'll pick four winners on December 16th and
email the book you want right away.  

This giveaway is open Internationally.

And P.S. When you go to my website, ignore the fact that it's missing info and descriptions. I crashed it on Wednesday and I'm frantically rebuilding everything.

 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

After you enter, hop on over to these other
blogs to enter to win more fun books!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Review: Just Like Elizabeth Taylor by Lu Ann Brobst Staheli

Just Like Elizabeth Taylor is an excellent read for girls who need to know they can be brave.

Here's the back copy:
Twelve-year-old Liz Taylor has known for a long time that she would escape—escape the abuse against herself, and against her mother. She just didn’t know how or when.

Then the perfect opportunity comes—money left of the table by her mother’s abuser—and Liz is on the run. But a girl her age doesn’t have many options when it comes to hideouts, making a K.O. A. Kampground and a nearby middle school her perfect choices.

If only she can keep to herself, Liz, now using the name Beth, knows she can make it on her own, until things change, and she realizes she must face her situation head on if she is to save herself and her mom.

This book deals with some tough issues—specifically abuse by a stepfather. I hate that we need books like this in our library, but I believe that we do. I was lucky. I had kind and loving parents. But as a young girl and teen, I had several friends whose parent (one or the other or both) regularly beat the crap out of them. I was too young back then to know what to do. I didn't even realize that I should tell someone about it. Perhaps if I'd read a book like this, I would have known to involve my parents and help them.

In listening to my children as they grew up, I know they had friends who had to deal with abuse too. And I see it in public all the time. If an adult will jerk a kid's arm or smack them in public, you KNOW they're doing worse in private. So given the fact that abuse occurs in our community, I think teen literature needs to deal with it.

Lu Ann Staheli has done a wonderful job in stating the problem without going overboard with all the gorey details. For that reason, I'd feel comfortable letting a mature 12 year old read the book (or even younger if I thought they were in this situation), and the content would be fine for readers 14 or older.

The book is well written. Liz, the main character, is well-developed. She's bright and brave; she's smart and creative. Her actions eventually save not just herself, but also her mother. And she reacts to the situation she's in very much like my friends did.

With one exception: She. Got. Out. 

I think that's the great message behind this book, whether you're a 12 year old girl, or a fully grown adult. If you're in an abusive situation, GET OUT. This story has a happy ending, eventually, and clearly shows that there are loving and kind people in the world who will help you. If you have a friend in this situation, help them know that they have options.

The only concern I have about the book is that Liz solves her problem by running away. For her, it turned out okay. She was able to find a safe place to hide, to get into school, and to pretty much take care of herself. My concern is that other girls might not be so lucky. There are a lot of predators out there. So as a parent, this is a book I'd want to read first and then discuss with my child after they read it, offering alternatives to running away.

As far as quality goes, I give the book 4.5 stars and I recommend it to pretty much every girl 12 and up because you never know who might be hiding an abusive situation like Liz's.

*I received a free ebook copy in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Review: The Witnesses by Stephanie Black

I am so far behind in writing promised book reviews. I have no excuse except… um… life. But I’m working to remedy that right now.

I got my copy of The Witnesses by Stephanie Black the second day of Black October.

(That’s what I’m calling it because I was sick all month.)

I was sooo excited to get it because it’s the sequel to The Believer (see my review here). I couldn’t read it right away because I was too sick, but believe me, the minute my germy fingers had the strength to turn the pages, I opened the book and was immediately sucked into the tribulations of New America.

(And just a side note, apparently I was sick when I read The Believer 7 years ago. I am certain I was secretly injected with nano-bacteria both times in an attempt to keep me from reading these books, which are a warning to all about secret combinations and plots to take over the government. I blame Marcus and his terrorists.)

(Okay, I am really not a conspiracy nut. That would be funny if you’d read the book. And you should. Read the book, that is.)

Here's the back copy:
Welcome to New America, where patriots are traitors and religion is a crime.

After government agent Daniel Lansbury fakes the executions of three believers on national television, he and the fugitives Alisa Kent, Ian Roshek, and Ian’s sister, Jill, face the perilous task of outwitting President Amanda Ryce and her power-hungry Council long enough to escape to freedom.

While a government reformer is on their side, rigorous new security measures thwart any chance of aid. And Daniel’s estranged father, Marcus, an underground terrorist leader, is hatching plans to sabotage the breakable trust between Daniel and Ian and put himself in power at the head of the nation.

As faith and loyalties come under fire, the fugitives struggle to stop Marcus and his zealous terrorists and bring to light the wrongs committed against the citizens of this fragile, fledgling nation.

You might remember that in my review of The Believer, I mentioned a couple of glitchy places. There were no glitches in this book! I loved every single fast-paced, action-packed word of it!

I loved the characterizations in this story. They all rang true for me. I especially liked Alisa Kent, former hard-case enforcer, now shattered by guilt and the mind-bending drugs given to her by the government she helped protect. Her journey to healing was inspiring. I also really liked the character of Amanda Ryce, power-hungry president of New America. I found her scheming commitment to self-preservation well written and believable. And Daniel—oh, man. Poor guy. He was so conflicted, I wasn’t sure which way he was going to turn.

The pacing was fast. Really fast. Most of the time I like a breather every once in awhile, but this worked. I felt like I was right there on the run with Ian, Alisa and Jill.

The political intrigue felt right to me. Not that I know anything about political intrigue, but it made sense. I felt everyone, good and bad guys, had believable motives and acted accordingly.

Stephanie Black has done it again and The Witnesses gets 4 ½ stars from me. Fool Me Twice is still my favorite Stephanie Black novel, but only by a hair.

I received a free copy of The Witnesses in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Review: The Believer by Stephanie Black

In honor of the fact that my copy of  The Witnesses by Stephanie Black (sequel to The Believer) is IN THE MAIL on it's way to me, I've decided to repost my review of The Believer. Originally posted back in 2006, it was my second blog post on this site and my very first book review. It was also Stephanie's very first book.

Since then, Stephanie has written five mystery suspense novels. Fool Me Twice is my all-time favorite (read my review) but I've loved every one of them.

(So has everyone else. Her books won a Whitney Award four years in a row!)

I also stalk Stephanie at public events (see photos here) and *rubs fingernails on lapel* we are close personal friends on Facebook.

And the stalking has paid off! I'm mentioned in the acknowledgments for Cold As Ice, set in a bookstore. (Read my review here.)

But I digress. The Believer has been re-released and is available in ebook format on Amazon now. And here is my original review:

I just finished reading Stephanie Black’s The Believer, LDS futuristic fiction. I hesitated to read it because I have not been overly impressed with LDS fiction in the past. In fact, I used to do book reviews for a local paper 20 years ago. They wouldn’t print my reviews of LDS fiction because I had a bad habit of pointing out plot holes, stuffy dialogue, and trite, sappy endings.
But I was sick last week and bored out of my mind, so I decided to give The Believer a chance—and I am so glad I did! Futuristic fiction, science fiction, fantasy—these are my guilty pleasures. While it’s getting harder to find G or even PG stories in these genres, I still hesitated to try an LDS version. It would be like a Belgium chocolate connoisseur biting into a Hershey bar.

The Believer is set in New America, a country founded by violent separatists. Big Brother is alive and well in New America, where possession of religious pamphlets can land you in jail for years and people are blacklisted for speaking their mind.

Ian Roshek is a history professor who reads a contraband copy of the Book of Mormon and believes it. As he tries to live by its teachings, Ian comes slap up against the very worst of his society—secret combinations, terrorism, corrupt government, and mob mentality.

I liked the plot. There were plenty of twists and turns. I knew what was coming most of the time, but not so far ahead that it bothered me. And I have to say, I’m unusually good at guessing plots. My family often gets perturbed with me for telling them the plot twists and endings five minutes into a TV show or movie.

I liked the characters. They were believable. The ‘good guys’ weren’t lily white and while several of the ‘bad guys’ were just plain evil, others were simply weak and misled. I found myself wondering if I would have the courage to make the same decisions Ian made.

Dialog was natural, not stiff. Character voices were individualized. Emotions and reactions were real. Cause and effect events flowed naturally from one to another, not manufactured for effect. I especially liked the way Stephanie wrote of Ian’s religious beliefs and even quoted scriptures without beating the reader with a conversion stick or baptizing all her characters.

There were a couple of little glitchy places in the book, where I thought, “No, that doesn’t work…” but I enjoyed the book so much that now I can’t remember what they were.

I whole-heartedly recommend The Believer for anyone who likes futuristic fiction. This book is appropriate for teens as well as adults.

And Stephanie, if you’re not at your computer writing the sequel right now, get there fast! I can’t wait to read what happens next.

[As an update to my earlier review, let me just say that I've revised my opinion of LDS fiction and LDS writers in general. Like any segment of writers, there are good ones and bad ones. I've become a whole-hearted supporter of the good ones—and Stephanie is very much one of the good ones. I also spotlight all new LDS fiction releases over on NewLDSFiction.com]

I've waited a long time for the The Witnesses to come out—a fact that I place solely upon the shoulders of the publishers, not on Stephanie Black's writing. But, YAY! It's finally here! And I can't wait to read it! Review forthcoming.

Stephanie Black's other books:
Fool Me Twice:
Methods of Madness
Cold as Ice:
Rearview Mirror
Shadowed
A Timeless Romance: Autumn Collection ("Eye for an Eye")

*Disclaimer: I was not friends with Stephanie Black when I originally read and reviewed The Believer. Our first interaction was when she read my review of her book. I checked the book out from the library. Then liked it so much, I bought two copies—one to keep and one to lend. 

Friday, September 06, 2013

How Great is His Beauty

I went on a walk this morning.


Not to lose weight (which, yeh, I need to do) and not for stress or generic health reasons (yeh, need to do that too), but simply because I wanted to take a stroll in the almost crisp end-of-summer morning air.


I didn't walk fast. I didn't decide ahead of time what my route would be. I just…strolled.


And I was overwhelmed by all the beauty in my own neighborhood.


Beauty that I rush past every day and never see.


There was even beauty by my own front porch that I'd never really noticed.


I found beauty in the struggle to create a new generation…


and in the search for freedom.


Even in death, there was an undescribable majesty.



For how great is his goodness,
and how great is his beauty!
(Zechariah 9:17)

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Luna, Delta Airlines and the Rise of the Momma Bear

UPDATE: Apparently, like a Momma Bear, I reacted to some misinformation. I have corrected that information below. I have struck through the misinformation because it's only fair that you know how I maligned Delta Airlines. 

 I have inserted corrected information in blue. A lot of the story is still the same, except for the level of Delta's culpability. I apologize. And I have learned a lesson.

I am trying really hard to live by Christian principles, to work the Twelve Steps, and to be a good person…but I'm struggling right now. I'm channeling my Momma Bear and I am just flat out ticked off at a situation with Delta Airlines.

My kids have a situation because they were unaware of an issue when they booked their flight from Taiwan back to the U.S. If you can help, that would be nice.

Here's the story. (It's long. You might want to go get a drink and some popcorn. I'll wait.)

The Backstory
This is my lovely daughter and her husband: Megan and Kendall

They have been living in Taiwan for a year now. Kendall has been going to school and Megan has been teaching English and yoga.

Several months ago, they added a new member to their family…

Meet Luna.

They got her from Love Mama, who rescues puppies in Taiwan and finds loving homes for them. She found Luna and her siblings soon after they were born—huddled together in a hole in the ground! The puppies would have died if Love Mama hadn't found them.

Luna is dearly loved by the extended family, even those of us who have never met her IRL. She is sweet-tempered, well-behaved, friendly and curious. She always says "hello" when I Skype with Megan and Kendall.

But her best trait has been her ability to assuage the homesickness that naturally occurs when you move halfway around the world from everyone you know. She has been a real gift and a blessing to Megan and Kendall.

Now, Megan and Kendall and Luna are coming home!


Yes! And we are thrilled and excited to welcome them back to the U.S. and to finally meet our sweet little granddaughter puppy.

But.

There is a problem.


The PLOT Line
When Megan and Kendall bought their non-refundable airplane tickets from DELTA AIRLINES to fly home in August, they were told by  DELTA AIRLINES EMPLOYEES that yes,  they thought  DELTA would allow pets to fly with pet parents, in the special pet cargo area, and it would only cost $200. They did not book the flight through a Delta employee, but did it online. And they couldn't actually book Luna's transport until 14 days before travel (airline rules) but they put the money aside for it.

Apparently, they didn't see this page on Delta's website: Pet Travel FAQs.

And as responsible pet owners, Megan and Kendall got all the paper work done (sort of a pet passport), bought her a travel-safe carrier, and then waited to book her passage.

***CAUTION: This is where the Momma Bear wants to rear back and slap someone, or at the very least, give them a stern talking to. It's not pleasant. You might want to send young children out of the room.***


The PLOT Twist
When they tried to schedule Luna's transport last week, DELTA AIRLINES informed them that they had an embargo on pet travel from July through mid-September, May 15 through September 15, due to the heat. Which almost sounds reasonable except that:

  • They were within the so-called embargo time when they booked the human tickets—and no one at DELTA AIRLINES bothered to mention there might be a problem. (Good one, customer service.)
  • None of the There are other airlines flying out of Taipei that do not have an embargo on pet travel. (Don't they have the same weather...? I don't understand.)

  • There IS an exception for pet travel if it's a military transfer. (What, they don't mind endangering military animals?) 

  • We know for a fact It is our understanding that a non-military puppy traveled via DELTA AIRLINES just two weeks ago. (YES! During the embargo time!!) (Maybe it was a Kardashian puppy?)

Oh, and even though they booked their tickets based on misinformation (or rather lack of information) provided by DELTA AIRLINES, Unfortunately, they cannot get their money back and book with another airline.


The Climax
As it stands now, Megan and Kendall are scheduled to fly home August 15th—without Luna. (This gives me a lump in my throat just thinking about it.)

Their only option is to pay a transport company to bring Luna to Los Angeles on another airline, and then rent a car (they don't have a car here in the U.S. yet) and drive down and pick her up.

Expected expenses: $2,000. (Personally, I think they're estimating low.)

They don't have that kind of money and neither do I!

Their solution: To set up a Go Fund Me page and hope that all their family, friends, and friends of family and friends will donate a few dollars each.

They'll even accept donations from complete strangers!

And I think this is a good solution, sort of. At least, if it's successful, it will get Luna home to Utah where she belongs.


BUT

I also think that people should know why they need this money in the first place. It wasn't bad planning or foolishness on their part.

It was BAD CUSTOMER SERVICE FROM DELTA AIRLINES!

It was bad service back in July when they booked the tickets. And it's bad service now when DELTA AIRLINES  refuses to help find a solution.

If DELTA AIRLINES had offered any type of help: an exception, a refund, an attempt to work with another airline, ANYTHING at all, I wouldn't be writing this post.

But they have offered zilch. And as the Mom, I am TICKED OFF! 

Delta has offered some suggestions, but no affordable solutions.


What Do I Want?
I want to raise my voice. I want to cry foul! I want to make so much noise that the CEO of DELTA AIRLINES will get involved and help out.

And I want Delta and other airlines to consider creating an area in cargo that can be cooled enough for safe pet transport. With so many people flying these days for a variety of reasons, it would be cutting edge to create this option.

Ideally, DELTA AIRLINES would step up and make an exception (like they do for military transfers), or refund the human tickets so they could get a flight on another airline (the ones that seem to be able to figure out how to fly in summer temperatures).

I doubt that will happen. I doubt the powers that be at DELTA AIRLINES will even hear about this—at least not in time to help my kids. Megan and Kendall are flying home in only one week.

But I do really want DELTA AIRLINES to hear about this and to answer some questions:

  • WHY didn't your employee inform my kids when they bought their tickets that they'd be flying during an embargo and wouldn't be able to transport their puppy?

  • WHY can't Delta planes transport pets in the heat, like all the other airlines flying out of Taipeii?

  • If the heat is such a terrible risk to pets, which is what my kids were told, WHY are exceptions made for military transfers? And WHY was that other dog allowed to fly the end of July?

None of this makes any sense to me. And it all seems very unfair to this mom.

If you think this is unfair too,
If you would be willing to help my kids get their puppy back to the U.S., please help this message go viral on social media.

Use this link: 
http://bit.ly/14l0cwz 
and the hashtags #deltadropstheball #getlunahome

And if you could help out even a little bit,
please donate at Get Luna Home!

Thanks!



I Moustache You a Question... (or Redemption: The Serious Saga of a Nail Gone Wrong, Part 2)

On Monday, I shared my broken nail saga and that I was eagerly awaiting the arrival of my Jamberry Nails. The plan was to get them on Tuesday and put on a full set of one of my "grown-up" sets, and then accent one finger with one of the fun sets.

Plans change. I ended up taking an impromptu trip out of town early Tuesday morning—before the mail arrived—and won't be home until Friday. But I did already have my fun accent Jamberry Nails with me.

So this morning, lacking appropriate tools and know-how, and with my very poor eyes and a very, very sore finger, I attempted to put on ONE Jamberry Wrap. I figured if I can do it given these limitations, anyone can. Right?

So here are the fun Jamberry Nails I got:
Pink Skulls, Zebra Print, Peacock Feathers, and Moustaches.

I LOVE all four of these! It was soooo hard to decide which one to try first, so I picked the one that inspired the cleverest blog title.

Because I'm a sell-out that way.

Normally you get two sets of each nail wrap in a package, but my sister and I picked them out together and split them up. (You can do this with your friend too!)


Jamberry Nail Wraps come on a clear strip making it very easy to find the size that fits you best.
Tip: When in doubt, pick a slightly larger one. You can always trim down but you can't trim up.


Then you clean your nails with an alcohol wipe and push your cuticles back. I didn't have any alcohol wipes, so I used alcohol on a piece of toilet paper. Worked just fine.

I also didn't have a cuticle pusher and neither did the Wal-Mart where I'm at, so my photos will show my cuticles in all their raggedy-shaggedy glory.


Next step, cut the nail wrap the length you need to cover your nail. I have long nail beds so I cut mine in half. Little nippers would have worked better, but I didn't have any so I used small paper scissors.
Try this at home!


I also didn't have an orangewood stick or a tool to hold the nail so I used the little paper scissors again. The wraps are a little sticky when you peel them off the clear strip. Sticky is a good thing but an appropriate tool would have worked better.

Here's where it got tricky. Because remember, I'm partially disabled on one hand right now, so yeh. At one point my nail wrap folded over on itself and stuck together. But I was able to gently pull it back apart. Crisis avoided.

I heated the wrap with a blow dryer. (Use a low setting. High blows too hard, ergo the folded over nail wrap mentioned above).

Then I put it on my nail. This took a little work for me to get it centered—mostly because of my eyesight issues—but I'm thinking next time I'll do okay.

Again, I didn't have the rubber smoother tool thingy Jamberry recommends using, so it took some concentrated smoothing.

Tip: Giving it a short blast of hot air once it's on your nail can help it relax a little.
Here it is—centered and smoothed.

Then I took off the excess wrap at the tip with a nail file (yes, I did have one of those). Heated the wrap once again to bond it to my nail.

And voilá!!!
Practically perfect in every way!

The Take-Away
  1. Jamberry Nail wraps are incredibly easy to apply—even for a partially blind, temporarily handicapped, and chronically uncoordinated old lady trying to do them all by herself.
  2. The right tools would help—a LOT! I'm going to get their Application Kit as soon as I get back home. I also might get that Mini Heater because it would just be easier.

If you want to see how normal people apply these things, watch a video here.

And if you want to get some Jamberry Nail Wraps for yourself, just come to my Online Party on Facebook.

Monday, August 05, 2013

The Serious Saga of a Nail Gone Horribly Wrong... Part 1

If you know me in person, you know how classy  stylish  trendy I am, especially when it comes to my fingernails.

And if you only know me online, well, there was this... which is a clue to my nail obsession.

When I was younger…

I had gorgeous nails—long and strong. 
Just ask my brother how strong they were!


And I took care of them myself.
I could manicure like a pro!


Okay, I admit, these photos aren't of MY nails.

For how vain  proud  pleased  grateful I am to have been blessed with pretty fingernails, I have surprisingly few photos of them. But you get the idea. I had seriously nice looking nails. Everyone was totally jealous.


And then I had babies…

Very, very pretty babies. 
This is my granddaughter but in this photo, she is channeling her mother.
And since I have no digitized images of my kids, it will do.


(Bundle of cuteness, right?)

Something about growing babies was not conducive with growing long, strong nails for me. I never had nice nails again.

I had this:
Again, not really my finger. But why in the world would you expect me to take a photo of MY nail when it looked like this!


For the past 20 some years, I've had acrylic nails. For medically necessary purposes only.

I'd take a breather every once in awhile to let my real nails air out, or when finances got tight. And sometimes I'd try other things besides acrylic, but pretty much, um,

this was me.
Yes, this one is really me. See those nails?


This is also me.
My real acrylic nails, with color.



AWESOME!


Until now.

See, I'm getting old and my real nails are getting fragile. I recently had one of those not-awesome accidents that can happen when you let your acrylics get too long, and then bang them against something hard.

No jokes about the finger…


Ouch. I cried.

And not just because my finger hurt(s). I cried because I had to take all my acrylics off.

My fingers were naked. 

They were confused. 

They just weren't me!





I HAD TO DO SOMETHING—AND FAST!

As soon as I was done taking off the acrylics, I rushed over to my daughter's house and ordered some Jamberry Nails.

(She's been flashing her cute Jamberry's in my face for weeks. And yes, she loved them so much that she joined the company!)


First…

I picked some neutrals. You know, for when I want to pretend I'm a grown-up.







Then… 

I picked some others just for fun!



I seriously CAN. NOT. WAIT. until they get here.

Coming later this week: The Serious Saga of a Nail: Finding Redemption (Part 2), when I'll post some pics of MY real nails, wearing My real Jamberry's .

Oh, and if you're interested, I'm hosting an online Jamberry Nail party. Just click the link to check it out. (Party ends Monday, August 12th.)

Friday, June 21, 2013

Till Death Do Us Part — Review


Till Death Do Us Part by Tristi Pinkston is the fifth and last book of the Secret Sisters Mystery series.

And that makes me a little sad because I love Ida Mae Babbitt and her group of crime-solving cohorts.

Just to remind you of the books thus far:

In Secret Sisters, we meet Ida Mae, Arlette and Tansy, the Omni 2nd Ward Relief Society presidency. In their zeal to provide service to ward members, they get involved in a murder mystery. With the help of Ida Mae's computer genius nephew, Ren, and Arlette's granddaughter, Eden, (who start a budding romance) they catch the bad guys but then have to face the consequences of their less than legal activities. (Read my review here.)

Dearly Departed takes Ida Mae undercover at a nursing home, where she and her sidekicks search for a killer. There she meets a handful of quirky characters, including George, a potential love interest. We also meet Kevin, who is trying to win Eden's heart away from Ren. (Read my review here.)

In Hang 'Em High, the ladies take off to a dude ranch, to reunite Ida Mae with her estranged son, Keith. Hi-jinks ensue as once again there are dead bodies to find and mysteries to solve, but this time without Ren (who is on his mission). (Read my review here.)

Targets in Ties takes the ladies down to Mexico to pick up Ren at the end of his mission. Instead of visiting the ruins and shopping for baubles, they find themselves prisoners of an antiquities thief. And when they get back to the U.S., George surprises Ida Mae with her biggest adventure yet! (Read my review here.)

All caught up? Good. Let's move on to the blurb:
Will Ida Mae survive her own wedding?

When charming,and mostly bald,widower George Gilmore asked Ida Mae Babbitt to marry him, she was surprised and delighted. But now he has made another proposal,to hold the wedding in two weeks,while all his children are in town. Flustered but sure she can handle it with the help of her friends, Ida Mae agrees.

The plan doesn’t go over so well with George’s family, however, and Ida Mae finds herself the victim of a plot to stop the wedding. At first the incidents seem like harmless pranks, but they escalate until Ida Mae finds herself in real danger, and in real pain. Bells are ringing, but are they wedding bells or death knells?

While not as laugh-out-loud funny as some of the previous books, Till Death Do Us Part is a sweet closure to the series. We finally get to meet Ida Mae's daughter. We also meet George's family. Eden makes a choice between Ren and Kevin. And Ida Mae gets a new church calling.
I don't want to give anything away, so I'll just say that I am going to miss this group, especially Arlette. Her no-nonsense wit always makes me smile. Tansy makes me laugh. And Ida Mae is one tough cookie when she needs to be.

I'm not the only one in my family who likes these books. My mom is a huge fan. For the past six months she's been asking me almost weekly when this last book was going to be available. I sent her the e-book as soon as it was published and she read it in a day. We both love the series and are sort of hoping that in a few years, Tristi will reconsider and give us another book or two in this series.

If you like good, clean, fun cozy mysteries, I highly recommend the entire Secret Sisters series!


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Life After Theft —Review

Normally, I don't do negative reviews. I never review a book that I didn't like well enough to finish. And if I do finish it and decide I can't give it 4 or 5 stars, I just don't mention it here.

Unless it's a special case—where I feel I need to give readers a heads up.

First, let me tell you the good stuff about Life After Theft by Aprilynne Pike.

Here's the promo info:
Moving to a new high school sucks. Especially a rich-kid private school. With uniforms. But nothing is worse than finding out the first girl you meet is dead. And a klepto.

Kimberlee Schaffer may be drop-dead gorgeous…but she also dropped dead last year. Now she needs Jeff’s help with her unfinished business, and she’s not taking no for an answer.

When she was alive, Kimberlee wasn’t just a mean girl; she was also a complete kleptomaniac. So if Jeff wants to avoid being haunted until graduation, he’ll have to help her return everything she stole. But Jeff soon discovers it’s much easier to steal something than it is to bring it back.

Paying for your mistakes takes on a whole new meaning…

Clever, right?

Pike absolutely does a fabulous job of getting the teen voice just right. It's very well-written. It's contemporary YA with just a teensy paranormal twist. Love it!

But.

Aprilynne Pike is the author of the Wings series, YA fantasy/paranormal. It was very popular. I liked it. I recommended it to lots of readers and to parents looking for book gifts for their tween and teen daughters. I recommended it whole-heartedly with no reservations.

But.

I can't do that for this book. I'm concerned that those same readers/parents will see Pike's name on this book, read the cutesy little blurb on the back, and remember that I said her previous books were great/safe/clean reads, and just assume that it applies to this book as well.

It doesn't.

Life After Theft contains frequent casual swearing. There is an underage drinking party, where Jeff gets totally plastered. His parents find out and pretty much brush it off with no consequences. Jeff and his girlfriend have sex—remember, they're teenagers. Again, his parents don't react much at all when they find out.

For these reasons, I can't recommend this book to anyone and I feel I need to spread a word of caution. If you're an adult who reads YA, maybe these aren't issues for you. If not, go for it. It really was a great story line otherwise. If you're a parent, maybe you don't mind your teens reading this. That's your choice, too.

But for those who DO mind (and I'm one of them), heads-up!


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Summer Book Trek Reading Challenge

I'm doing the Summer Book Trek Reading Challenge! sponsored over at NewLDSFiction.com

Basic rules: Read novels by LDS authors. It's that simple.

You can also earn points by liking and starring and commenting.

More points = more chances to win prizes, which are, of course, BOOKS!!!



Here is the list of books I plan to read in July:

  • Ashes Ashes by Julie Coulter Bellon
  • Just Like Elizabeth Taylor by LuAnn Staheli
  • Motive for Murder by Marlene Sullivan
  • Jump Boys by Alex Banks
  • Janitors #1
  • The Orchard by Krista Lynne Jensen
  • Glimmer of Hope by Sarah M. Eden
  • Step of Faith by Richard Paul Evans
  • The Runaway King by Jennifer Nielsen
  • Unpleasant Grove by Sheralyn Pratt
  •  by A.L. Sowards
  • Grecian Princess by N. C. Allen
  • Descendant by Nichole Giles
  • Air Keep by J. Scott Savage
  •  
  • and maybe some others...
Who wants to join me?

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Lair of the Serpent—Review & Giveaway

Got an older teen looking for great suspense but you want one that's clean and that you can feel comfortable letting your kid (and yourself) read?

Here's a great one!

Lair of the Serpent by T. Lynn Adams is the third book in a mystery/suspense series about teen-ager Jonathon Bradford.

We first meet Jonathon in Tombs of Terror, when at age 16 he goes to Peru to reconnect with his father and ends up getting lost in the tunnels under ancient ruins. Tombs is the author's debut book and could have been edited a little tighter, but the action and storyline was entertaining and suspenseful. A good read for teens. (3 1/2 stars)

In the second book, The Lost Curse, Jonathon's friend Severino (from Peru) comes to visit him in southern Utah and they, along with Tallie, a Native American girl, are swept up in the mystery of Spanish Gold. Again, the action is intense, there's some violence, but older teens and adults can handle it. (4 stars)

Book three, Lair of the Serpent, is the one I just read. Jonathon joins Severino and his sister Delia (Jonathon's love interest) in Cambodia and gets swept up in a deadly mission.

From the publisher: 
Jonathon can't wait to surprise Delia for her birthday. With a little help from Delia's brother, Severino, he plans to visit her in Cambodia where she's working as a humanitarian volunteer. But he arrives only to find a panicked Severino—and no Delia.

Jonathon and Severino are determined to find Delia before it's too late—but it might not be that easy. Now, with the orphan Chey and their friend, Juan, the boys must fight their way through human trafficking rings, a dense jungle, and a radical group bent on using Delia as a human sacrifice in order to find the Nãga Mani, a sacred and powerful stone. 

I liked this book, but I had one big problem with the premise:

What parent in their right mind lets a teenager go to Cambodia ALONE?!?


SERIOUSLY?!?



 Okay, now that I've got that out of my system, I loved the book. I really like mystery and high suspense but it's getting harder and harder to find good, clean, "safe" reads—especially for teens. In my opinion, this book is on the violent side of things, but it fits the storyline. I'd approve it for older teens and feel comfortable recommending it. Readers will get the thrill of the suspense without all the language and sexuality that is so pervasive these days.

The plot kept me interested. Once I got past the teens alone in a foreign country bit, I bought into the whole adventure and had a hard time putting it down. Jonathon (17 now) and Severino are 100% committed to finding Delia, and it's a good thing because they pay for their efforts big-time. More than once those two boys put their lives on the line and are rewarded with severe beatings. A couple of times I wondered if Jonathon would really be able to do what he did with the injuries he had, but I'm willing to suspend some disbelief here.

I found the culture of Cambodia fascinating. The descriptions of the settings were beautiful and rich. I could absolutely picture myself there amid the sights and sounds and smells of the country. The legend behind the sacred stone was interesting.

The characterization was pretty good. Jonathon and Severino were a little intense and maybe overly macho, but I know a few boys in my neighborhood like that. I wondered a few times at who the bad guys were going to turn out to be, and that's always good. I felt Delia was believable. I didn't quite believe Juan's characterization—he's an adult. He flies from Mexico to Cambodia to help out but HE DOESN'T IMMEDIATELY TELL Jonathon's parents what's going on. (It's that adult/right mind thing again.)

My favorite character, hands down, was the 12 year old Cambodian orphan, Chey. He was funny, clever, and highly underestimated by the other characters in the story. I loved him!

Overall, I give Lair of the Serpent 4 stars, with a caution on the violence. Parents who are concerned may want to pre-read it before recommending it to a teen under 16. I was okay with it because I felt the examples of courage and personal integrity far outweighed the discomfort of the violent events. 

To see more of T. Lynn Adams online, you can visit her website at www.tlynnadams.com/, like her on Facebook at author.T.Lynn.Adams, or follower her on Twitter @TLynnAdams.

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FTC Disclaimer: I was given an ARC copy by the publisher in return for an honest review.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Fearless Auto Care – Review

Normally, I don't review non-fiction. But when I was contacted about Fearless Auto Care by Donna and Warren McCord, I agreed to a review.

Mainly because I am lost when it comes to cars.

How lost am I? Well, let's just say that when someone asks me what kind of car I drive, I say, "Dark red."

Okay, not really. I know it's a Jeep because it says so on the back bumper area.

But still. I don't know cars.

From the publisher:
Women and cars have a lot more in common than you may think. Both deserve TLC. Men love us. But when everything is going well, we can both be taken for granted. The truth is, we both need consistent attention and loving care to stay healthy and live long! In this little book, you will NOT learn how to do your own repairs-you WILL learn how to be in control of your vehicle's care, to know when it is necessary to bring your car in for professional service or repair, and to be confident that you are getting the best return for the dollars you're investing. Knowledge is power-and a money-saver, too!

In this little book, you will NOT learn how to do your own repairs—you WILL learn how to be in control of your vehicle’s care, to know when it is necessary to bring your car in for professional service or repair, and to be confident that you are getting the best return for the dollars you’re investing. Knowledge is power—and a money-saver, too!

Donna and Warren own Dean's Automotive in Mountain View, California. I have no idea how they connected with me as a reviewer, but I'm glad they did! Dean’s Automotive has been in business since 1963. One of the owners, Donna, has especially been aware of how intimidated women feel in regards to servicing their vehicle. She wants to take the fear out of this whole process and has written this book geared towards women on learning how to get their vehicle serviced without the worry that so many times goes along with it.

This little book is short (only 92 pages, counting the blank ones) and easy to read. I've attempted to read other car care books that tell me when I'm supposed to do all that maintenance stuff and I've put them down after the first few pages because I can't figure out what the heck they are talking about.

This one is different. I get it. I understood almost all of it—and it made sense.

And I learned stuff. For example, did you know that there's a CABIN AIR FILTER in your car? I didn't. I'D never even heard of it before. But now, when my darling grandson says, "Grandma, your car smells a little like sickness," I know it's time to get that filter changed!

Also, have you ever had a dealer tell you that you MUST bring your car in for maintenance at their shop or it will void the warranty? I have. Well, guess what? LIE!

I really like that there are places in the book to record the specific needs of YOUR car. And that they tell you how to find a reputable car maintenance shop. I'm always afraid that due to my basic ignorance, and the fact that I'm a woman, that the shop guys will try to put something past me. (They have. And they've succeeded.) But with these tips, I no longer need to feel so vulnerable and naive.

I recommend this little book to women who don't want to know enough to fix their own car, but who need to know enough not to get ripped off! If you're interested, you can get a copy at www.ourlittlebooks.com.

FTC Disclaimer: I was given a PDF of Fearless Auto Care in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Ugly Stepsister Strikes Back—Review


The Ugly Stepsister Strikes Back by Sariah Wilson is amazingly fun! I loved it!

It's got all the humor and sass of Meg Cabot and Louise Rennison, but without all the inappropriate stuff (language, sexiness).

If you like those authors or Janette Rallison's funny Young Adult reads, you'll definitely like this book!

From the publisher:
Ever wanted to punch Cinderella in the face? Mattie Lowe can relate.

Everyone knows how all those fairy tales go. The princess gets beautiful, nabs her prince, falls instantly in love, lives happily ever after and leaves her evil stepsisters in the dust.

But what happens when you're the ugly stepsister and your obnoxiously perfect—read pretty, smart, and, worst of all, sickeningly nice—stepsister is dating the charming, tall, devastatingly handsome guy you've had a thing for since you were nine years old?

Quirky, artistic and snarky Mattie Lowe does not lead a charmed life. Her mother is constantly belittling her on Skype. Mercedes, the school mean girl, has made it her personal mission to torment Mattie. But worst of all? Her stepsister Ella is the most beautiful, popular girl in school and is dating Mattie's secret longtime crush, Jake Kingston.

 Tired of being left out and done with waiting for her own stupid fairy godmother to show up, Mattie decides to change her life. She'll start by running for senior class president against wildly popular Jake.

Ella can keep her Prince Annoying. Mattie's going to rule the school. And no one, not even a cute and suddenly flirty Jake, is going to stop her. 

I always like to get the down-side of a review over with first. So, book cover. Meh. Not really a good one. But don't let that stop you from giving this book a try.

It's also self-published and I know that automatically puts some readers off. But really. This is good. It's awesome fun. I promise you, it has NONE of the annoying stuff that a lot of self-pubbed stuff has in it. (And I like it better than her previous historical fiction that was traditionally published.)

And that's about all I can think of to say bad about this book. Now for the really good stuff.

Ugly Stepsister has a fun plot. Some of the plot points have been done before but this story has a unique feel to it. There are some great twists. Lots of angsty teen emotion but tempered with humor.

The characters are great. Mattie is solid and likeable. Her sister, Ella, is believable. The supporting characters are well-written and have distinct personalities.

Sariah Wilson has hit her sweet-spot with the voice of Mattie. Clever, fun, young, trendy. I can't wait to read more in this style from her.

5 FULL STARS! I whole-heartedly recommend this to anyone who loves fun contemporary YA romances.

AND…Serendipitously, the Kindle version is on sale
right now for only 99¢!


FTC Disclaimer: I think I got the ebook when it was free on Amazon. Can't remember for sure, but it wasn't given to me with the expectation of a review.

Monday, May 20, 2013

When the Butterflies Came — Review

Kimberley Griffiths Little writes Middle Grade fiction. All of her books contain a little bit of magic—and I love them.

Including this new one, When the Butterflies Came.

From the publisher:
Everybody thinks Tara Doucet has the perfect life. But in reality, Tara’s life is anything but perfect: Her dear Grammy Claire has just passed away, her mother is depressed and distant, and she and her sister Riley can’t seem to agree on anything. But when mysterious and dazzling butterflies begin to follow her around after Grammy Claire’s funeral, Tara just knows in her heart that her grandmother has left her one final mystery to solve.

A strange butler shows up to take Tara and Riley to Grammy Claire’s house, where Tara finds a stack of keys and detailed letters from Grammy Claire herself. Note by note, Tara learns unexpected truths about her grandmother’s life. As the letters grow more ominous and the keys more difficult to decipher, Tara realizes that the secrets she must uncover could lead to mortal danger. And when Tara and Riley are swept away to the beautiful island of Chuuk to hear their grandmother’s will, Tara discovers the most shocking truth of all — one that will change her life forever.

From Kimberley Griffiths Little comes a magical, breathtaking mystery full of loss and love, family and faith.

Part mystery, part magic, Butterflies intrigued me from the very first line: "The butterfly comes the day after the funeral." Tara has lost her Grammy, who was very much the stabilizing influence in her life. She grieves for her, while trying to cope with all the changes her grammy's death brings—some of them not very pleasant. All of the main characters were well-written and distinct.

The plot moves a little more slowly than Little's previous books, but that gives the reader time to savor and enjoy the writing style, characterization, and detail of the setting. The writing is beautiful. Like her previous books, The Healing Spell and Circle of Secrets, Little absolutely nails the geography and character accents. Her scenes and descriptions are vivid, making me wish I was there on that island with Tara. The details about the butterflies are amazing. And the dialog, as always, is dead-on accurate.

The mystery is age-appropriate. There's a little violence, but it's not too graphic. And I absolutely love the ending.

I recommend this book for middle grade readers, ages 8 to 12 and give it 4 1/2 stars.

Here is a photo of me with Kimberley Griffiths Little at a writing conference.


FTC Disclaimer: I won a copy of When the Butterflies Came in a blog contest. There was no obligation to review it.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Aura by Rebecca Talley: Review & Giveaway

Disclaimer: Right up front, I want everyone to know two things. 1) I consider Rebecca Talley a friend and she gave me a copy of Aura with the understanding that I would do a review, IF I liked it. But friend or not, I don’t give good reviews to books I don’t like; and  2) I designed the cover for AURA. Rebecca and I worked together on it, sharing ideas and tweaking things. But that doesn’t mean I have a stake in the success of the book. These two things may have influenced my decision to read the book, but not my decision to review it, nor what I say about it. Now, on to the review.

I love YA paranormal. Some of my best friends are characters in YA paranormal books--Evie (Paranormalcy), Nikki (Everneath), Claire & Eve (Morganville Vampires), Clary (Mortal Instruments), Buffy... I even liked *cough* Bella (Twilight) *cough*

But there are some things I DON'T like about YA Paranormal:
  • Sometimes violence is only there for the shock effect. It's like someone made up a rule that if there's enough blood and guts, it will sell. But, ick!
  • Often there are plot holes and world-building issues the size of Montana. (Is Montana big? Maybe I should have said Texas, but that's such a cliche.)
  • And it seems like every heroine is now finding herself in a love triangle where she must choose between the good guy and the bad buy. Plus, 16 is now the age where it's okay to have sex. Umm, NO!!!
Every time I hit one of these issues in YA Paranormal, I want to scream!

But fortunately for my sanity, there was no screaming when I read AURA by Rebecca Talley.

(Except for maybe a couple of places, where it was plot appropriate).

(And it was more like a squeak, not a scream.)


Here’s a description of the story:
In the fight between good and evil, Light is your only weapon.
Crystal Scott finally feels like a normal teenager. She has a lead in the high school play, a best friend, and a gorgeous boyfriend. With prom only a few days away, Crystal’s ordinary life seems perfect.
.
Endowed with great Light because of her virtuous choices and her inherent gifts, Crystal’s aura has become visible to those with the ability to see auras. Unfortunately, her power has also attracted the attention of demons intent on destroying all Light.

When Vincent Crandall, the human host for a powerful demon, discovers that Crystal’s Light is strong enough to disrupt the connection between demons and their hosts, he realizes she may be able to sever the connection altogether. Determined to stop her from interfering with his plans to rule the world, he sends operatives to neutralize her Light.

After the operatives fail to disable Crystal, Vincent decides he must harness her power for himself. He kidnaps her parents, and Crystal is thrust into battle against a demon army she didn’t even know existed. With the help of a mysterious young man and his mother, Crystal must learn to use the power within her before Vincent kills her parents and exploits her Light.

Here’s what I liked about Aura by Rebecca Talley:

First, Crystal is a normal teenager. That means she’s not perfect. But she’s also not hugely flawed. She has NORMAL flaws, unlike like a lot of YA characters these days who have so many issues you wonder how they’re even functional.

Crystal also has normal parents. Yes, they have some issues but they don’t beat her or otherwise mistreat her. They’ve been good parents, doing their best to teach Crystal to be a good person. I get tired of all the YA today where parents are either caricatures or non-existent. Talley does give us examples of bad parents, but not for the main character. Refreshing.

Yes, there’s violence—and sometimes it’s a little icky and creepy (squeak), but we are talking about demons here. Bad guys to the Nth degree.  The bad guys do need to be believably bad—and they are—but it’s not gratuitous.

I didn’t find any plot holes or world-building problems. If there are some, then I missed them because I was  too engrossed in the story. And that’s a good thing, right?

As for the love triangle, nope. And sex? Double nope! I could hand this book to any teen girl I know and not be embarrassed if their mother found out. In fact, I could give the book to MY mother. (Except she doesn’t really like the paranormal stuff.)

Crystal is my new BFF. I really liked her in AURA and I hope to read more about her in a sequel or two. (No, that’s not a product announcement, just a hint to Rebecca.)

(Hint! Hint!)

I’m really glad to have found a GOOD paranormal read that I can share with others. Oh, and it's only 99¢ for the Kindle version on Amazon right now!

If you’re interested in learning more about AURA, Crystal, or author, Rebecca Talley, you can visit:




OH! I ALMOST FORGOT!  

Blog Tour Giveaway
$25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash
Ends 3.21.13

Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader, Not A Writer http://iamareader.com and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.


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