Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Giveaway: The Heiress of Winterwood by Sarah Ladd

Today I am celebrating you! The publishers at Thomas Nelson asked me if I would be interested in giving away a copy of the book that I just reviewed yesterday: The Heiress of Winterwood. Of course, my answer was yes!
The Heiress of Winterwood (Whispers on the Moors, # 1)

All you have to do to enter this giveaway is to comment below this post. This giveaway will run until next Monday May 6th, and a winner will be decided then! In the comment box below you should answer the following question: what has been your favorite book this year? Give a title and an author please so the rest of us can check them out as well!! Be sure to leave your email address as well!

Good luck to all my wonderful readers!! I cannot wait for some lucky winner to receive this amazing Regency historical fiction novel. As always, stay charming!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Book Review: The Heiress of Winterwood

The Heiress of Winterwood (Whispers on the Moors, # 1)Author: Sarah Ladd
Publication Date: April 9, 2013
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Series: Whispers on the Moors # 1

Pride goes before the fall . . . but what comes after?

Darbury, England, 1814

Amelia Barrett, heiress to an ancestral estate nestled in the English moors, defies family expectations and promises to raise her dying friend’s infant baby. She'll risk everything to keep her word—even to the point of proposing to the child’s father, Graham, a sea captain she’s never met.

Tragedy strikes when the child vanishes with little more than a sketchy ransom note hinting to her whereabouts. Fear for the child’s safety drives Amelia and Graham to test the boundaries of their love for this infant.

Amelia’s detailed plans would normally see her through any trial, but now, desperate and shaken, she examines her soul and must face her one weakness: pride.

Graham’s strength and self-control have served him well and earned him much respect, but chasing perfection has kept him a prisoner of his own discipline.

Both must learn to accept God’s sovereignty and relinquish control so they can grasp the future He has for planned for them.

“You, Captain Sterling. You and I should marry. Immediately.”

Helena’s warning resonated with Amelia. Had not those concerns crossed her mind? The thought of being bound in matrimony to a cruel man sent a shiver through her. But had Katherine not praised the captain’s fine qualities? His gentleness? His upright character?

Amelia reached out and patted Helena’s russet locks back into place. “I need you. Lucy needs you. And this is the last request I will make of you. You have my word.”

“As I told you before, it was a business proposition. Nothing more.”

Amelia Barrett has quite the situation on her hands. She has just suffered the loss of her closest friend and companion, Katherine Sterling, and is left with her infant daughter and a promise to stay with her always. The only problem with this is the fact that Amelia’s fiancé, Edward Littleton, forbids the child to stay at Winterwood after they are married. Upon the return of the child’s father, Graham Sterling, Amelia devises a plan that will allow her to stay at Winterwood and keep the child. She decides to ask Graham Sterling, whose job forces him to be away at sea, to marry her and allow her to continue mothering Lucille. Once he refuses the proposal, Amelia is exhausted of all options and has to make the ultimate decision; will she sacrifice all that awaits her in order to keep her promise to her dear, deceased friend?

Amelia Barrett is a strong, determined woman. Her love for the small infant that she is caring for is undeniable and her mothering instincts are as nurturing and loving as if the child were her own. I felt so sorry for her when she prepared herself to ask Graham Sterling to marry her and allow her to continue caring for the baby. Amelia’s character is constantly being made to feel vulnerable and belittled. I hated the situation that she was left in from the very start, but I was anxious to see her determined to keep the little girl. I did not like her fiancé, Edward Littleton, from the start either. He undermined Amelia and made her feel incompetent many, many times.

My heart goes out to Graham Sterling, whom I must admit that I wasn’t sure about at first. He soon became charming and chivalrous in my eyes. He immediately picked up on Amelia’s slimy fiancé and his greedy ways. Once Graham realized how much Amelia really did love and care for his child, he began to develop those same loving and nourishing feelings towards her. I wanted Graham to rescue Amelia from Edward because I felt that Amelia, who was always trying to save someone else, needed saving herself.

This was a beautiful Christian romance and I would recommend it to anyone, especially those who love the Regency period!

***A copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Thomas Nelson in exchange for my honest review***

Blog Tour & Book Review: Hysteria

Hysteria Author: Megan Miranda
Publication Date: February 5, 2013
Publisher: Walker Children’s Books

Mallory killed her boyfriend, Brian. She can't remember the details of that night but everyone knows it was self-defense, so she isn't charged. But Mallory still feels Brian's presence in her life. Is it all in her head? Or is it something more? In desperate need of a fresh start, Mallory is sent to Monroe, a fancy prep school where no one knows her . . . or anything about her past. But the feeling follows her, as do her secrets. Then, one of her new classmates turns up dead. As suspicion falls on Mallory, she must find a way to remember the details of both deadly nights so she can prove her innocence-to herself and others.

In another riveting tale of life and death, Megan Miranda's masterful storytelling brings readers along for a ride to the edge of sanity and back again.

And there was this feeling now. A presence. Not quite a ghost. But something.

Brian’s blood had stained the kitchen tiles a fire-engine red. And as I watched him slide to the floor, the color I felt inside was a deep, deep burgundy.

“The circumstances?” I asked, but he didn’t respond. Must’ve been an interesting conversation. We have a bit of a situation, being that my daughter killed a boy – specifically, her boyfriend – in our kitchen, and people are really none too pleased about that here, you see.

Dead is dead is dead.

For the majority of this book I was confused, but in a very good way. In a way that I didn’t mind at all! This was my first read by Megan Miranda, and I can see why you either love her writing, or it drives you mad. I had to accept from the beginning that not every piece or detail of Mallory’s story was going to be given to me. Mallory was somewhat of an unreliable narrator, and lucky for me those are my favorite kind. Mallory killed her boyfriend Brian, and this is the story that follows that murder and the madness that Mallory is driven into. This is an intense read that could be easily finished in one day.

Mallory was an outstanding character. What I loved best about her story is that we learn the secrets and twists of her relationship with Brian and his murder right alongside her. She is a character that transforms drastically after her boyfriend’s death, and she goes from being a girl with all her ducks in a row to a girl that is so flawed and mistaken that she doesn’t know up from down. The flaws in her character and narration are intense, suspenseful, and so different from anything I have read this year. I also loved the secondary characters surrounding her, including her best friend. Everyone needs a best friend like Mallory’s, who helps her hold things together when her entire world is falling apart.

Just when you think you have this story figured out, something dramatic happens and puts a wrench in all your plans! It was like something more dramatic and suspenseful was happening with the turn of each page. I was on the edge of my seat, and had this book finished weeks ago. I planned to pace it out and try to really savor each page, but I just could not stop reading. Not that I didn’t savor each page, I just did it all at one time!

***A copy of this book was generously provided to me by the publishers at Walker Children’s Books in exchange for an honest review and participation in the blog tour***

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Book Review: Spellbinding

SpellbindingAuthor: Maya Gold
Publication Date: April 1, 2013
Publisher: Scholastic Point

There's more than one way to be powerful . . .

It is during a routine school project that Abby Silva--sixteen and nearly friendless--makes a startling discovery: She is descended from women who were accused of witchcraft back in 1600s Salem. And when Abby visits nearby Salem, strange, inexplicable events start to unfold. Objects move when she wills them to. Candles burst into sudden flame. And an ancient spellbook somehow winds up in her possession.

Trying to harness her newfound power, Abby concocts a love potion to win over her longtime crush--and exact revenge upon his cruel, bullying girlfriend. But old magic is not to be trifled with. Soon, Abby is thrust headlong into a world of hexes, secrets, and danger. And then there's Rem Anders, the beautiful, mysterious Salem boy who seems to know more about Abby than he first lets on.

A reckoning is coming, and Abby will have to make sense of her history--and her heart--before she can face the powerful truth

I bolt upright, wide-eyed and gasping. I try to shake that vision out of my head. I’m not at the bottom of a dark pond, unable to get to the surface, lungs ready to burst. I’m on a bright yellow school bus, which has just parked outside my other nightmare, Ipswich High School. This is real life, hello.

February 29. The date sends a chill up my spine. My mother was born on Leap Day. When I was little, I thought it was terribly sad that her birthday came only once every four years, but she reassured me that it was a blessing: She’d never get old.

Dad stands up, grabbing his coach jacket off a hook. “Nope. But one of her great-uncles took me aside at our wedding and said, ‘Joe, your bride may be lovely, but she’s got witch blood. They were hanging her people at Salem.’”

I’m staring, too, but not at the mess on the table or even at Dad’s slightly soggy new girlfriend. Like lightning. Her words echo inside my brain, backed by the same heart pounding, adrenaline drumbeat I felt when that red traffic cone moved yesterday morning. Did I make that happen?

“Does that mean Abby’s a witch?” Samson Hobby calls out. I feel my insides freeze as I think about Danielle’s sleeve catching fire last night. About everything that happened over the very strange weekend.

Ever since I was a kid I have loved everything about witches. I became obsessed with the television called Charmed, and read tons and tons of stories pertaining to witches and the Salem Witch Trials. I was so addicted that my mom became a little nervous! There are just certain events in history that I will read anything and everything ever written about them, fictional or non-fictional. I’m sure you can just imagine my facial expressions when I receive books like this one in the mail! I especially love stories about new witches that are just starting to come into their powers. Abby Silva has just traced her family history back to the Salem Witch Trials and all of a sudden strange and unexplainable things start happening to her. Just put yourself in Abby’s shoes; Two extremely gorgeous boys, one who may already know she is a witch, finding out that your mother descended from a line of witches, and doing all this while trying to go to high school! Let’s just say Abby’s life is about to change drastically.

Of course my favorite part of this book was the witchcraft and the link to the Salem Witch Trials. I would like to say that I wish there would have been more of that and less of the romance added in. I did enjoy this book and found myself constantly going back and reading the “witchy” parts. The historical side of this novel was written well and Maya Gold, the author, definitely knows how to draw readers in with historical facts and suspense. Some authors make this part of books too boring, but with Maya this part was my favorite. I loved the fact that Salem was the dominant setting and as I said before, I wish that Maya would have spent more time exploring its haunted streets.

Abby was the perfect voice to guide me through this book. I loved how I could sense that she had a huge inside struggle with her self esteem, and I loved watching her newfound witchy skills draw her closer to her deceased mother. I also loved Rem Anders, who shortly after the first few chapters becomes the new eye candy in Abby’s life. Rem was so mysterious and dreamy. He had this odd connection with Abby from the first time they met. He is able to telecommunicate with her, and I have to be honest I just thought it was the neatest characteristic to add to their relationship.

***A copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Scholastic Point in exchange for an honest review***

Friday, April 26, 2013

Book Review: The Fever Tree

The Fever TreeAuthor: Jennifer McVeigh
Publication Date: April 4, 2013
Publisher: Amy Eihorn Books/Putnam

Having drawn comparisons to Gone with the Wind and Out of Africa, The Fever Tree is a page-turner of the very first order.

In London she was caged by society.
In South Africa, she is dangerously free.

Frances Irvine, left destitute in the wake of her father’s sudden death, has been forced to abandon her life of wealth and privilege in London and immigrate to the Southern Cape of Africa. 1880 South Africa is a country torn apart by greed. In this remote and inhospitable land she becomes entangled with two very different men—one driven by ambition, the other by his ideals. Only when the rumor of a smallpox epidemic takes her into the dark heart of the diamond mines does she see her path to happiness.   But this is a ruthless world of avarice and exploitation, where the spoils of the rich come at a terrible human cost and powerful men will go to any lengths to keep the mines in operation. Removed from civilization and disillusioned by her isolation, Frances must choose between passion and integrity, a decision that has devastating consequences.   The Fever Tree is a compelling portrait of colonial South Africa, its raw beauty and deprivation alive in equal measure. But above all it is a love story about how—just when we need it most—fear can blind us to the truth. 

“It’s not an easy journey to make, to a new continent, by yourself.” He leant a hand on the wall above her. She could feel the heat rising from his body. He blocked out the light from the stairwell, and they stood together in near-darkness. “I remember feeling very alone when I first went to Africa.”

“It may be romantic, but it is also absurd. How can you run a country without central government?”

William stood very close to Frances and, without pausing for thought and in a low voice, said, “Soft, suspicious, serious, stern, supple, secret.” She smiled at him and thought, if I marry him, I will never ask for another thing.

Two weeks later, Frances was lying on her back by the riverbank, knees making a tent of her skirts, with her head resting on one bent arm. It was cooler now as winter drew on, and today was no hotter than a cloudless spring afternoon at home. A slight breeze stirred the dappled shade of the mimosa bushes, and through the branches she could see the dark shape of a bird of prey circling.

This is the epitome of what good historical fiction should be. Frances Irvine, once a wealthy young girl, suddenly ends up a poor orphan, alone and without options. Her only way out of a life of servitude is to except a marriage proposal that lacks luster for her. Dr. Matthews has asked Frances Irvine’s uncle for her hand, and she is none too excited at first. She then realizes, with his upcoming journey to Africa, that this may be her only option and the only way she will be properly provided for. Not long after accepting his proposal, Frances embarks on a journey to a less civilized land than she is used to with a broken heart and a hope for fulfilled dreams.

Frances is truly and beautifully flawed character. The best characters have the strongest flaws, or so I believe. The tragedy that is unfolding all around Frances and within her life makes it easier to love her as a character. The beauty of Frances is evident as you read and watch her grow and break through the negativity in her life. I also enjoyed watching her blend into a community and country far different from her own. She transforms from a high society, spoiled London girl into a young lady who is forced to make decisions based on what is best for her survival, which she often does poorly. She is highly flawed, and I do not expect everyone to love her. I had to learn to accept her and the spoiled childhood that she had, and allow her new life to inspire me, especially after all she goes through in Africa.

The best part of this novel was the unique and highly realistic portrayal of life in Africa and in and around the diamond mines in the 1880’s. Parts of this book were raw and based on actual events, and things that still take place in third world countries today. The disease, famine, and utter filth that Frances is dropped in are enough to keep any reader hooked to this plot. Frances is swept away to another country with no idea how to survive, much less run a household. This book is not only emotional and real, but most of all it is inspirational and deserves to be on the shelf of anyone with an appreciation for historical fiction.

***Thank you to the publishers at Putnam Books for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review***

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Book Review: Death of a Dowager

The Death of a DowagerAuthor: Joanna Campbell Slan
Publication Date: April 2, 2013
Publisher: Berkley Trade
Series: The Jane Eyre Chronicles # 2

In her classic tale, Charlotte Brontë introduced readers to the strong-willed and intelligent Jane Eyre. Picking up where Brontë left off, the year is now 1820, and Jane’s life has finally settled into a comfortable pattern. She and her beloved Edward Rochester have married and have a son. But Jane soon finds herself having to protect those she loves…

When the roof caves in at Ferndean, their country home, Jane and Edward accept an invitation from their friend Lucy Brayton to stay with her in London while repairs are being made. Jane is reluctant to abandon their peaceful life in the countryside, but Edward’s damaged vision has grown worse. She hopes that time in the capital will buoy his spirits and give him the chance to receive treatment from a renowned oculist.

Once in London, the Rochester’s accompany Lucy to the Italian Opera House, where they encounter Dowager Lady Ingram, who had once hoped for Edward to wed her daughter, Blanche—and who’s still rankled by his subsequent marriage to Jane. In front of a group of society people, the aging dowager delivers a vicious social drubbing to Jane, enraging both Edward and Lucy. In an attempt to rebuild good will, Jane and Lucy decide to speak to the Dowager in private the next day. But the visit is cut short when the Dowager drops dead before their shocked eyes. Lucy is poised to take the blame—unless Jane can clear her friend’s name…

Love has a transformative power, an alchemy that reshapes the most intransigent personality.

“My darling girl, you are too good. We both know that London is anathema to you. You are never more pleased than when taking a long walk or curling up with a good book.”

Once one served as a teacher, the urge to correct mistakes is a pressing desire, not because the teacher believes her natural superiority, but because inaccuracy is the breeding ground of ignorance.

“To London!” Edward raised his teacup, and I followed his lead. “To London!”

This wonderfully woven historical fiction is set shortly before the coronation of King George IV. Jane and her family are staying in a London townhouse owned by her close friend, Lucy Brayton. I was pleased to see more of Lucy Brayton in this novel. What I loved best about this novel was that it wasn’t only a murder mystery but showed the political side of things during the time period. This book provided an amazing inside look at high society England, as well as a detailed and realistic description of political actions being taken by the King and his followers.

This book was written baring many similarities to Charlotte Bronte, who actually wrote Jane Eyre. The murder mystery in this book starts right from the first chapter and continually spirals from there. The writing was very elegant and drew me into the story with small details relating to high society and the way that Jane and Lucy behaved and flourished on the ton. While drawing readers in to the mystery revolving around Jane, Joanna also adds small details regarding the political situation surrounding the King and gives readers more than one reason to get involved in Jane’s story. I was completely mesmerized by the historical side of this novel, and I absolutely love when authors draw me in this way.

Jane’s voice is the ultimate for me in this book. She is a strong, witty heroine who will always have my vote. I felt this way even after reading the first book in this series, and I still feel this way even now. I feel like Joanna writes her character in the same manner that Charlotte Bronte intended for her to be written. For a woman in the 1800’s, she sure does have a powerful voice and a lot to say, but we all know that I love this in a heroine! I would recommend this series, and this book, to anyone who has a taste for a little mystery and a strong appreciation for anything historical!!

***Thank you to the publishers at Berkley Trade for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review***

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Book Review: Secrets Over Sweet Tea

Secrets Over Sweet TeaAuthor: Denise Hildreth Jones
Publication Date: February 18, 2013
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers

Secrets can be funny things. We think they keep us safe, but more often than not, they spill out when we least expect and make a mess out of everything. It's a truth Scarlett Jo Newberry knows all too well--a truth Grace Shepherd and Zach Craig are about to learn the hard way. As the lives of this boisterous pastor's wife, polished news anchor, and beleaguered divorce attorney intersect in the tree-lined streets of Franklin, Tennessee, scandal threatens to topple their carefully constructed worlds. Grasping at survival, they embark on a journey of friendship and courage, desperate to find a way back to laughter, love, and life.

“Don’t mock me, Jackson Newberry. Northerners are a different breed, baby. They don’t like you to touch them. They don’t want to be called sugar or sweetie or honey pie or darlin’.  They’ve never heard of lard. They have no clue on God’s green earth what fixin’ to means. And if you say y’all, they look at you like you probably marry your second cousin or something.”

Like most fairy tales this side of Walt Disney World, that one had evaporated, leaving her with one less glass slipper and no sign of Prince Charming.

The girl’s thighs needed biscuits.

What she really longed for was to be the kind of person who, when people wanted prayer – the real kind of prayer that reaches down to soul places and up to heavenly places – they’d know to come straight to her. Unfortunately that had only happened one time in the two years she and Jackson had lived here. Proving that sometimes denial is a strong-willed companion. Or that she still had some growing to do. Probably both.

I have always said that it takes a special person to be a preacher’s wife, and everyone needs someone just like Scarlett Jo Newberry to serve as a friend and someone they can talk to. This is a great southern fiction novel that takes us into the life of Scarlett Jo, her husband, the pastor, and some of the local church goers in Franklin, Tennessee. This was a light read that changes perspectives almost every chapter, and allows readers to bond with characters that are going through every day problems, some common and some not so common. Their bonding agents are Scarlett Jo and a sweaty mason jar full of sweet tea!

By the time I had finished reading this novel I felt like I had developed lifelong friends. The main characters in this novel, like Scarlett Jo, Grace Shepherd, and Zach Craig were beautifully written with just enough character flaws for my liking. These weren’t your every day fairy tale characters, but instead they were people who were going through real problems, mostly marital problems. Scarlett Jo, being the caring preacher’s wife that she was, was often times there in their time of need, and even though she was a bit obnoxious at times, I still found her heart to be big and beautiful! The character development and depth make this novel all the more enjoyable!

Now those of you that have heard me speak know one thing about me; I’m a southern belle! I loved the southern accents that were added within the pages of this novel. The dialect was thick and Scarlett Jo said things that only southerners could really appreciate. The best part about reading this book was the fact that I got the small town feel from the characters and their surroundings. This was my first read by Denise Hildreth Jones, and I am anxiously anticipating more to come!

***A copy of this book was graciously provided by the publishers at Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for my honest review***

Friday, April 19, 2013

Book Review: Love At Any Cost

Love at Any Cost (The Heart of San Francisco, #1)Author: Julie Lessman
Publication Date: April 1, 2013
Publisher: Revell
Series: The Heart of San Francisco # 1

Jilted by a fortune hunter, cowgirl Cassidy McClare is a spunky Texas oil heiress without a fortune who would just as soon hogtie a man as look at him. Hoping a summer visit with her wealthy cousins in San Francisco will help her forget her heartache, Cassidy travels west.

But no sooner is she settled in beautiful California than Jamie McKenna, a handsome pauper looking to marry well, captures her heart. When Jamie discovers the woman he loves is poorer than he is, Cassidy finds herself bucked by love a second time. Will Jamie discover that money can't buy love after all? And can Cassidy ever learn to fully trust her heart to a man?

With delectable descriptions and a romantic sensibility, bestselling author Julie Lessman brings the Gilded Age to life in this sumptuous new series. Readers will faithfully follow Lessman to the West Coast for more romance, passion, and surprising revelations found in "Love at Any Cost."

Fooled by a pretty boy once, shame on him. Fooled by a pretty boy twice, shame on me.

For Cassie, San Francisco was not only her chance to put the pain and humiliation of Humble behind, but it ensured she could focus on a teaching career instead of a man. Her lips kinked. Doting on lots of children instead of just one. And girls to boot, because if there was one thing she’d learned in Humble, Texas, it was that boys—little or big—were nothing but trouble.

But she knew the answer before the words even left her tongue. The pretty boy was right. She had a burr in her saddle, a pebble in her boot, an ache in her heart.

“Always remember,” Nana would say, “life is an adventure and every day a fresh start . . . especially with God by your side.”

Texas oil heiress Cassidy McClare has just been jilted by her ex-fiancé, who turns out to be a rather greedy and selfish man. He leaves her because her father’s oil wells, a major source of income, are no longer producing enough oil, and leaves her devastated. To get away from her newly broken life, she decides to go and stay with her Aunt Caitlyn who lives in the booming San Francisco, California. Not long after arriving there, a lawyer local to the area known as Jamie McKenna becomes drawn to Cassidy and excitedly pursues her. He, just like some of the other good-for-nothing men in her life, has his sights set on her father’s money and all that it could bring for his career and his ailing mother and disabled sister.

I loved Cassidy McClare! She was a spunky, energetic girl who had her mind set on never letting her heart be broken again. I was so proud that she didn’t fall right into Jamie McKenna’s charms. She says just the right things at just the right time. Personally, I could relate myself to her a lot! She was sassy, but still had a love and calling from God that she was destine d to follow. She knew where her boundaries lay, but she was honest about stepping out of line from time to time. She was honest with herself and others, and who can’t appreciate that in a character?

The pull of God in Cassidy’s life is evident in this book. New Christians could benefit from this book greatly, and I personally felt a strong pull after reading. As a Christian myself, I believe that this book didn’t have too much “preaching” as I have heard people call it before, but had just enough to show the relevance of God in our main character’s life. This book is truly inspirational and I encourage everyone to give it a try.

“Available April 2013 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.”


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Book Review: Ghoulish Song

Ghoulish Song (Zombay, #2)Author: William Alexander
Publication Date: March 5, 2013
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Series: Zombay # 2

A brave girl flees a ghoul while trying to save her town in this lively, fast-paced companion to National Book Award winner Goblin Secrets. Kaile lives in Zombay, an astonishing city where goblins walk the streets and witches work their charms and curses. Kaile wants to be a musician and is delighted when a goblin gives her a flute carved out of bone. But the flute’s single, mournful song has a dangerous consequence: It separates Kaile and her shadow. Anyone without a shadow is considered dead, and despite Kaile’s protests that she’s alive and breathing, her family forces her to leave so she can’t haunt their home.

Kaile and her shadow soon learn that the troublesome flute is tied to a terrifying ghoul made from the bones of those who drowned in the Zombay River. With the ghoul chasing her and the river threatening to flood, Kaile has an important role to play in keeping Zombay safe. Will Kaile and her shadow be able to learn the right tune in time?

Set in the delightful and dangerous world of Goblin Secrets, Ghoulish Song is a gripping adventure laced with humor and mystery from National Book Award–winning author William Alexander.

The last day of Kaile’s life did not start well.

Music ties knots, and unties them, he had told Kaile. Think about a lullaby, one that ties up the world to make it a safe place for sleeping. It doesn’t just convince the child – it convinces the world. Think about a funeral song. It can untie the string we use to hold our grief and let it all spill out. The same song, the very same song, can tie us back together again after we’ve spilled out.

“You don’t have a shadow,” the Snotfish said. “Only the dead don’t have shadows.”

The shadow’s whisper faded, sounding embarrassed and barely audible. I’ve only ever stood near you. That’s all I know how to do. That’s the only place I know where to be. I’d rather not. But I don’t know where else to go. And it’s dark outside.

William Alexander’s, Ghoulish Song, is a fascinating middle grades book with enough adventure to satisfy any adult. What I love about this book so much is that it isn’t necessary to read the first story in this series to understand what is going on. Although I did read the first book in this series, I just enjoyed this one more! Kaile’s story is a wonderful one and following her adventures leaves me incredibly worn out. Kaile dreams of becoming a great musician just like her Grandfather, but her mother wants her to take over the bakery and run it as successfully as she does some day. Kaile gets mixed up with a little dark magic in this exciting tale and like always she finds herself in trouble and on a crazy, wild, breathtaking adventure!

I loved the world known as Zombay, this magical place where Kaile and all of her friends and family reside. Both of the books focus around different aspects of the city and the world unravels more and more the deeper that we get into the series. This book is such a fast read and so easy to read and that makes William’s world building all the more impressive. He unveils this amazingly magical world, all in a short period of time. Parts of this world are a little uncertain and every bit as curious as I hoped it would be. William crafts the world in a way that is not too scary for children, but is mystifyingly creepy for those who can read between the lines.

Kaile’s shadow becomes a major character in this story, as it detaches away from her body. I thought this was extremely clever and it’s not something I have read or seen since Peter Pan. Kaile’s shadow had a mind all its own, and this is where all the trouble stems from. All the magic happens once her shadow is no longer attached to her body. I was surprised and amused at how easily Alexander infused the shadow into the story, and made it stand alone. By the end of the book I had to look down at myself, and then to the wall, to make sure I was still casting my own shadow!

***Thank you to the publishers at Simon & Schuster for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review***

Monday, April 15, 2013

Book Review: The Witch of Little Italy

The Witch of Little ItalyAuthor: Suzanne Palmieri
Publication Date: March 26, 2013
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

In Suzanne Palmieri’s charming debut, The Witch of Little Italy, you will be bewitched by the Amore women. When young Eleanor Amore finds herself pregnant, she returns home to her estranged family in the Bronx, called by “The Sight” they share now growing strong within her.

She has only been back once before when she was ten years old during a wonder-filled summer of sun-drenched beaches, laughter and cartwheels. But everyone remembers that summer except her. Eleanor can’t remember anything from before she left the house on her last day there.

With her past now coming back to her in flashes, she becomes obsessed with recapturing those memories. Aided by her childhood sweetheart, she learns the secrets still haunting her magical family, secrets buried so deep they no longer know how they began. And, in the process, unlocks a mystery over fifty years old—The Day the Amores Died—and reveals, once and for all, a truth that will either heal or shatter the Amore clan.

Sometimes it's the smallest secrets that hold the most hope, the most fun, the most danger.

All the Amore siblings had The Sight in varying degrees, and its fickleness got us into trouble sometimes.

The truth is, time marches on and you have two choices: You move forward, come what may, and you experience all the sour and sweet things that fly at you from around corners, or you sit still. Don't sit still.

She remembered reading somewhere that Eskimos had a hundred words for snow. Eleanor wished there were a hundred ways to say her name. She thought, maybe, if her name was howled from all corners of the world, in a million different voices, that she might explode into a cloud of snow. Light and separate, her parts floating down onto the world in a series of beautiful crystalline moments.

Love should never be a secret and it should never, ever be forgotten.

Witchcraft? I’m there! I have always been enchanted by the supernatural in books, and I especially love stories of young witches who are just coming into their powers. In this charming little debut, we meet Eleanor “Elly” Amore, who is pregnant by an abusive man and left alone by a mother who doesn’t support her daughter’s decisions. Eleanor decides to head back to the Bronx, where her mother was born and raised, to reunite with her estranged aunts, whom her mother claims are “crazy” and tries to persuade Elly to stay away from them. Eleanor decides she has had enough, and decides that she wants a different life for herself and her unborn baby. Upon arriving at her aunt’s home Eleanor begins to witness strange and unexplainable things. Was her mother right? Were her aunts a little “off”? Eleanor had no clue!

The witchcraft was a very nice touch to this wonderful debut. I loved how eccentric Elly’s aunts were and even I, only reading the story, began to feel goosebumps whenever Elly started to witness odd events or tap into her “Sight.” I loved scenes whenever Eleanor started to remember things from her past and started to remember the secrets that her mother had tried to keep hidden from her for so long. Elly was a loveable character that was, just like any of us would be, very curious and eager to know more about the Amore sisters and their ability to practice witchcraft.

This book is written in alternating chapters, which is something that I find myself liking more and more. Some chapters are obviously from Elly’s point of view, and others are from the point of view of her Aunt Itsy, who has not spoken since The Day the Amores Died – a very tragic day in the Amore family history. Itsy’s chapters were probably my favorite because they give you more history and a deeper understanding regarding the Amore family line and the “Sight” that each of them possess. I loved each of Elly’s aunts and found the women to be highly entertaining, especially when they were together!

***A big thank you to the publishers at St. Martin’s Griffin for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review***

Friday, April 12, 2013

Book Review: The House At The End of Hope Street

The House at the End of Hope StreetAuthor: Menna Van Praag
Publication Date: April 4, 2013
Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books

A magical debut about an enchanted house that offers refuge to women in their time of need

Distraught that her academic career has stalled, Alba is walking through her hometown of Cambridge, England, when she finds herself in front of a house she’s never seen before, 11 Hope Street. A beautiful older woman named Peggy greets her and invites her to stay, on the house’s usual conditions: she has ninety-nine nights to turn her life around. With nothing left to lose, Alba takes a chance and moves in.

She soon discovers that this is no ordinary house. Past residents have included George Eliot and Beatrix Potter, who, after receiving the assistance they needed, hung around to help newcomers—literally, in talking portraits on the wall. As she escapes into this new world, Alba begins a journey that will heal her wounds—and maybe even save her life.

Filled with a colorful and unforgettable cast of literary figures, The House at the End of Hope Street is a charming, whimsical novel of hope and feminine wisdom that is sure to appeal to fans of Jasper Fforde and especially Sarah Addison Allen.

“If you stay I can promise you this,” Peggy says. “This house many not give you what you want, but it will give you what you need. And the event that brought you here, the thing that you think is the worst thing that’s ever happened? When you leave, you’ll realize it was the very best thing of all.”

When Alba wakes all she can see are books. Thousands line every inch of every wall and the ceiling, some drift through the air like birds, lifting off from one shelf and settling on another; precarious stacks are spread across the floor like skyscrapers. For a moment, Alba thinks she’s dreaming.

“True love will rip your heart right open and knock you for six.” Stella smiles. “But you’ll also feel safer than you’ve ever felt in your life.”

The young woman waves again, and it’s only then that Alba realizes she is the only one who can see her.

The house has stood at the end of Hope Street for nearly two hundred years. It’s larger than all the others, with turrets and chimneys rising into the sky. The front garden grows wild, the long grasses scattered with cowslips, reaching toward the low-hanging leaves of the willow trees. At night the house looks like a Victorian orphanage housing a hundred despairing souls, but when the clouds part and it is lit by moonlight, the house appears to be enchanted. As if Rapunzel lives in the tower and a hundred Sleeping Beauties lie in the beds.

I am not going to be able to praise this book enough! I am enraptured by its perfectly woven tale and the intricate characters and the magical house that lies inside its pages. I am completely in love with this magical house, and the idea of it appearing to women who have lost their hope, hence the name “Hope Street.” I was already sold on this idea, and then Menna has to go and add talking pictures and charming ghosts to the mix as well. This story follows Alba Ashby, who is a rather odd character with a keen sixth sense; she can see sound and smell. They appear as colors to her. She can also talk with ghosts and sense things that others may not be able to. She is extremely intelligent, and when we meet her in the opening pages of this book we find that she has given up hope.

I cannot tell you all how much I love this book. If you are reading this, you need to get up and go purchase a copy of it right now. I will cherish this book forever! You know I loved the book if I am already raving about it and I am only on the second paragraph of my review. I honestly tried to draw out my time with this book. I reread pages, just to make it take longer. I hated to part with it once I was finished, but the characters and the entire concept behind this book will stick with me forever.

My favorite part of this book was the cozy feel behind the magical house and all that came with it. There are pictures on the wall of inspirational women throughout history who have stayed at the house for a short period of time. Some of these inspiring women are Sylvia Plath, Florence Nightingale, Beatrix Potter, Virginia Woolf, and many more. Did I mention that they come alive? Yes, they talk! They give life advice and writing advice and whatever else the guests of the house may need. Who comes up with this? Menna van Praag, that’s who! She is brilliant and I have just found my new favorite book of 2013! Please start working on your next book, Menna!

***An ENOURMOUS thank you to the publishers at Pamela Dorman Books for providing me with a copy of this charming book in exchange for my honest review***