Saturday, December 29, 2018

Creativity Corner: Ivy and the Inky Butterfly Page 1

My son, Preston, is very crafty and enjoys all forms of art.  I decided to start this Creativity Corner feature as a way for us to look back on our projects while sharing ideas with others.

This week I completed the first page in Ivy and the Inky Butterfly by Johanna Basford.  

Monday, November 12, 2018

Creativity Corner: Secret Garden Pages 3 & 4

My son, Preston, is very crafty and enjoys all forms of art.  I decided to start this Creativity Corner feature as a way for us to look back on our projects while sharing ideas with others.

This week I completed pages 3 & 4 in Secret Garden by Johanna Basford.  This is the first two page picture that I have completed, which was a bit time consuming.

Review: Never Never - Part 1 by Colleen Hoover

Never Never (Never Never, #1)

Goodreads Overviw:

Best friends since they could walk. In love since the age of fourteen.

Complete strangers since this morning.

He'll do anything to remember. She'll do anything to forget.


We are first introduced to Charlie, who is a high school senior.  During the middle of class she loses all of memories.  She has no idea who she is or where she is, but she can remember things like how to drive a car, songs, what things are, etc.  She is fumbling her way through the rest of the school day when she discovers another student experiencing the same thing.  Silas Nash was apparently her childhood best friend and has been her boyfriend for the past four years, but neither of them can even remember each other.  

They spend the next two days trying to reconstruct their past in an attempt to regain their memories.  Apparently they were not the most likable individuals in their previous lives, but I loved the Silas in this story.  He was very friendly, kind, funny, and a bit overly confident.  Charlie on the other hand, was very stand offish.  The more she started to reconnect with Silas, the further she pushed him away. 

I knew this was a series when I started reading this book, but I didn't quite realize each book is only part of a single story.  Book one is about 150 pages and provides the background and a jaw dropping twist just before it completely cuts off.  Fortunately, all three parts of the story have already been released.  I can't imagine what readers did back in 2015 and early 2016 when they had to wait 6 months between the release of each book.   I'm currently in the middle of a couple of other books, but I definitely plan on continuing this series very soon.  

If you like young adult and a bit of a mystery, this is a highly entertaining read.  I can't wait to find out how this situation arose and whether or not Silas and Charlie can find a cure.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Review: The Body Farm by Patricia Cornwell

The Body Farm (Kay Scarpetta, #5)

Goodreads Overview:

The Body Farm - a research institute that tests the decomposition of corpses. Black Mountain, North Carolina: a sleepy little town where the local police deal with one homicide a year, if they're unlucky, and where people are still getting used to the idea of locking their doors at night. But violent death is no respecter of venue, and the discovery of the corpse of an 11-year-old girl sends shock waves through the community. Dr Kay Scarpetta, Chief medical Examiner on a similar case in Virginia, is called in to apply her forensic skills to this latest atrocity, but the apparent simplicity of the case proves something of a poisoned chalice - until Scarpetta finds enlightenment through the curious pathologists' playground known as the Body Farm.


The Body Farm is the fifth book in the Kay Scarpetta murder mystery series.  The murder has a striking resemblance to a case solved in one of the prior books, so Kay and her colleagues from the FBI are called in to investigate.  When an additional body is found in a rather peculiar situation, they aren't so sure their original assumptions are correct.  The more evidence that turns up the more confusing the case becomes.  

In addition, Kay's niece, Lucy, is caught up in an FBI investigation that could ruin her chances of joining the FBI full time upon graduation.  She is exceptionally gifted with computers and is working on a top secret software that could greatly improve information sharing among law enforcement around the world, but someone else must want access to the information for sinister reasons.

This is an older series that I started reading at least 20 years ago.  I would definitely recommend reading the books in order since the personal relationships between the characters develop throughout the series and some of the knowledge gained from the cases are referenced in later books.  There are currently 25 books in the series, but you do not need to read all of them back to back in order to remember what is going on.  I read one every now and then when I am looking for a good mystery and haven't had any trouble remembering the basics needed to fully appreciate each story.  Each case is independent, so the majority of the information acts as a stand alone novel.  

I thought I had this mystery all figured out about 75% of the way through, but as always there was a twist I didn't see coming until closer to 85 %.  By that point, I had it figured out and just needed to see how all of the loose ends would get tied up.  

The series is a bit graphic, so it isn't for everyone.  I am definitely enjoying it and look forward to seeing what is in story for Kay, Lucy, and the rest of the team in the next installment.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Bookish Goals Status Update: October 2018

In an effort to help keep myself on track, I am going to post monthly status updates showing where I stand for each of my 2018 Goals.

Anything highlighted in gray is currently in progress, but not yet completed.

  • Read and review at least 36 books 
    1. Crossed by Ally Condie
    2. The Becoming of Noah Shaw by Michelle Hodkin
    3. Onyx by Jennifer Armentrout
    4. Love Show by Audrey Bell
    5. Invaded by Melissa Landers
    6. The Grift of the Magi by Ally Carter
    7. Finding Felicity by Stacey Kade
    8. Reached by Ally Condie
    9. United by Melissa Landers
    10. White Rabbit by Caleb Roehrig
    11. Don't Kiss the Messenger by Katie Ray
    12. A Painted House by John Grisham
    13. Shopaholic Takes Manhattan by Sophie Kinsella
    14. The Golden Lily by Richelle Mead
    15. Cress by Marissa Meyer
    16. Bad Blood by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
    17. The Emperor's Code (39 Clues 8)  by Gordon Korman
    18. Twelve by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
    19. See How They Run by Ally Carter
    20. Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry
    21. Take the Key and Lock Her Up by Ally Carter
    22. Hollow City by Ransom Riggs
    23. The Body Farm by Patricia Cornwell
    24. Winter by Marissa Meyer
  • I am participating in the Try Something New challenge hosted by The Herd Presents.  I'm going to aim for level 2 with 11-20 books. Any book over 80 pages qualifies as long as it is new to you.  New author, new genre, new series, etc.
    1. The Becoming of Noah Shaw by Michelle Hodkin (Shaw Confessions #1) - New Series
    2. Love Show by Audrey Bell - New Author
    3. Don't Kiss the Messenger by Katie Ray (New Series)
    4. Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry - New Author
  • Read at least 10 New Adult books (My definition of NA = protagonists are post high school, but under 30)
    1. The Becoming of Noah Shaw by Michelle Hodkin
    2. Love Show by Audrey Bell
    3. Finding Felicity by Stacey Kade
    4. Shopaholic Takes Manhattan by Sophie Kinsella
    5. The Golden Lily by Richelle Mead
    6. Twelve by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
    7. Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry
    • Read three of the books that had been on my TBR list the longest.  I now have 45 books that were all added on September 7, 2010 that would qualify.  
      1. A Painted House by John Grisham
      2. The Body Farm by Patricia Cornwell
    • Finish reading at least 5 series I have already started.  (I have several trilogies with final books I still need to read. 
      1. Reached by Ally Condie - Book 3 in the Matched Series
      2. United by Melissa Landers - Book 3 in the Alienated Series
      3. Bad Blood by Jennifer Lynn Barnes - Book 4 in The Naturals Series
      4. Take the Key and Lock Her Up - Book 3 Embassy Row Series
      5. Winter by Marissa Meyer - Lunar Chronicles Series
    • TBR Challenge.  For this challenge I want to read at least 20 books that were on my TBR list AND were published prior to January 1, 2018. 
      1. Crossed by Ally Condie
      2. The Becoming of Noah Shaw by Michelle Hodkin
      3. Onyx by Jennifer Armentrout
      4. Love Show by Audrey Bell
      5. Invaded by Melissa Landers
      6. The Grift of the Magi by Ally Carter
      7. Reached by Ally Condie
      8. United by Melissa Landers
      9. Don't Kiss the Messenger by Katie Ray
      10. A Painted House by John Grisham
      11. Shopaholic Takes Manhattan by Sophie Kinsella
      12. The Golden Lily by Richelle Mead
      13. Cress by Marissa Meyer
      14. Bad Blood by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
      15. See How They Run by Ally Carter
      16. Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry
      17. Take the Key and Lock Her Up By Ally Carter
      18. Hollow City by Ransom Riggs
      19. The Body Farm by Patricia Cornwell
      20. Winter by Marissa Meyer
    • I joined the New Release Challenge hosted by Unconventional Book Views and Books, Movies, Reviews Oh My! My goal is to reach New Release Newbie level with 12 new releases read/reviewed during 2017.  The minimum length for a book to qualify is 100 pages. 
      1. Finding Felicity by Stacey Kade - Released 3/20/18
      2. White Rabbit by Caleb Roehrig - Released 4/24/18

    Tuesday, October 30, 2018

    Review: Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

    Hollow City (Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children, #2)

    Goodreads Overview:

    This second novel begins in 1940, immediately after the first book ended. Having escaped Miss Peregrine’s island by the skin of their teeth, Jacob and his new friends must journey to London, the peculiar capital of the world. Along the way, they encounter new allies, a menagerie of peculiar animals, and other unexpected surprises.


    This is such a unique series that I hardly know where to begin.  The story is written around a number of vintage photographs the author has acquired from various sources.  For example, we are introduced to a number of new peculiars in this novel such as the one on the cover of this book.  How else could someone explain a photo of a girl with a hole in her torso that appears to be completely healthy?  She is most definitely "peculiar".  All of the peculiars have unusual abilities that did not meld well into society, so they have been living in "loops" where they live out one day over and over again and never age. 

    There are evil creatures known as hollows and wights who have been raiding the loops and taking their caregivers known as ymbryne, such as Miss. Peregrine.  In order to save their peculiar world they must first rescue their ymbryne.  

    The majority of this novel is spent traveling through WWII bombings in 1940 and escaping the constant chase of hollows and wights.  The children travel from their island off the coast of England to London and beyond in order to help Miss. Peregrine, who was injured during the raid at the end of book 1.  They meet not only peculiar people, but also animals along the way who assist them with their quest.  The cleverness of Ransom Riggs is remarkable as he weaves a tale with unusual abilities around photographs that would otherwise be inexplicable.

    The constant chase was exhausting for the children and it felt like an end was never in sight the majority of the book.  Jacob is beginning to come to the realization that he may have already accomplished what he set out to do and should return to the safety of his home in present day America, when he is thrown an unbelievable twist.  (Of course there had to be a twist...we already know there are two more books in the series.)  Now I can hardly wait to read the next book, Library of Souls, to see what happens next.  I already picked up a copy when I was at BEA in 2016 and spent the better part of two days trying to catch up with Ransom to get it signed, which I was able to accomplish on the final day.

    If you enjoy YA fantasy, I would recommend giving this series a try.  On a side note...I read a physical copy of the first book and an ebook copy of the second.  It is worth getting the hard copy because the pictures are larger and can be viewed in better detail.  I tried increasing the font size on my kindle to see a larger copy of some of the pictures, but it only increased the font size and not the size of the photos.  I will definitely read the physical copies of the remaining books in this series.

    Monday, October 29, 2018

    Review: Take the Key and Lock Her Up by Ally Carter

    Take the Key and Lock Her Up (Embassy Row, #3)

    Goodreads Overview:

    Centuries ago, the royal family of Adria was killed…or so everyone thought.

    Now Grace Blakely knows the truth: There was one survivor, and that survivor’s blood runs through her veins. This simple fact could cause a revolution—which is why some people will stop at nothing to keep it from coming to light.

    There is only one way for Grace to save herself, save her family, and save the boy she loves. She must outmaneuver her foes, cut through the web of lies that has surrounded her for years, and go back to the source of all her troubles, despite the risk.

    If she wins, she will inherit a throne.

    And if she loses, she will inherit the fate of all the dead princesses who came before her.


    This is the third and final book in the Embassy Row series.  While it isn't my favorite series by Ally Carter, it is still an entertaining read that kept me interested throughout.  

    Adria is an island country that is centuries old and has been secretly controlled or manipulated by generations of women.  They refer to themselves as The Society.  They took it upon themselves to save the baby princess when the gates of the palace were stormed 200 years ago and the royal family was murdered.  They hid the princess and raised her as one of their own, but records were lost.  Over the years they lost track of who the princess was and where her descendants went.  

    As children, Grace's mom and her two closest friends became obsessed with uncovering the mystery of the lost princess and putting her descendant in her rightful place on the throne.  They thought they had the perfect plan and set the wheels in motion, but they were wrong about one very important fact.  

    The pace of this book was too slow for me and at times I wondered if this could have been consolidated into two books instead of three.  I really enjoyed when Noah, Megan, Rosie, Alexei, and Grace were all together because it combined their unique abilities and really increased the pace of events.  I also enjoyed the addition of the 15 year old Prince of Adria to their team towards the end of the book.  Those were by far the most enjoyable sections of this book and are what propelled the story forward.  The rest of the time, I felt like there was a lot of filler that could have been eliminated.

    I was also annoyed by all of the older women from The Society operating as a dictatorship.  While they thought they were doing what was best for Adria, they certainly weren't taking into account the well being of those impacted by their scheme.  Their actions weren't even rational the majority of the time.  What could have been a very entertaining aspect of this series, with Grace working together with this ancient society her mother was once a part of, turned into a solo mission with these very powerful women constantly working against Grace and her friends.  

    While it felt like it took a long time to reach a conclusion in this series, the ending was very abrupt.  Everything reached a boiling point and then in one chapter it was over.  This is how things will pan out for the characters....done.  Overall, I was happy with the conclusion, but it felt very rushed and incomplete compared to the lengths the characters went through to reach that point.  

    I gave this book 3 stars on Goodreads, but it was probably closer to a 2.5.  

    Friday, October 12, 2018

    Review: Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

    Pushing the Limits (Pushing the Limits, #1)

    This is a book that I picked up at a book convention several years ago.  I was actually pretty excited because I had heard great things about it, so I'm not quite sure why it took me so long to read it.  It probably has something to do with the 400+ books that are constantly on my TBR list.  Deciding what to read next is always a challenge.

    Pushing the Limits is told from both Echo and Noah's points of view.  Echo was involved in a traumatic event involving her bipolar mother, but she doesn't remember what happened.  The only evidence she has are the scars on her arms and the constant nightmares that have been plaguing her ever since.  Noah is equally as troubled.  His parents were killed in a house fire and he has bounced around the foster care system.  His younger brothers are living with another family and he wants nothing more than to be involved in their daily lives. 

    Noah was once a star basketball player with excellent grades who was on track for a college scholarship.  Since the fire, he hasn't had the resources or the motivation to continue...until the new guidance counselor convinces him that improving his grades and getting into college may be his only shot at eventually being able to take care of his brothers the way he wants to.  The same guidance counselor is working with Echo to help her remember her past and hopefully get her past the nightmares.  Echo needs money, so the counselor suggests she tutor Noah, which is how the two of them connect.  

    While they may appear to be complete opposites based upon their social circles, they actually had far more in common than you could imagine.  Their study sessions quickly turn into plotting sessions to get information about their cases from the counselor and their relationship slowly begins to develop.

    This was a highly engaging story with great characters that you couldn't help but root for.  They have already lost so much in their young lives that you want them to finally come out on top.  They hit a few rough patches along the way, but I really enjoyed the story and how it ended.  I know Katie has several additional books in this series, so I sincerely hope we will get a glimpse into their future post graduation.  I know they aren't the main characters in the additional books, but a cameo would certainly be nice.  If you have read any of the companion novels...please leave a comment to let me know if I can expect to see Echo and Noah again :)

    Wednesday, August 1, 2018

    Review: See How They Run by Ally Carter

    See How They Run (Embassy Row, #2)

    Goodreads Overview:

    Inside every secret, there's a world of trouble. Get ready for the second book in this new series of global proportions--from master of intrigue, New York Times bestselling author Ally Carter. 

    Grace's past has come back to hunt her . . . and if she doesn't stop it, Grace isn't the only one who will get hurt. Because on Embassy Row, the countries of the world stand like dominoes, and one wrong move can make them all fall down. 

    The twists get twistier and the turns get even more shocking in the second thrilling installment of Embassy Row.


    In this installment Grace is already aware of what really happened to her mother, but she doesn't know why.  She discovers there is a secret society of women who have guarded Adria's secrets and has been influencing its history for at least 1000 years.  While the history books show that men have been ruling Adria for centuries, it is their sisters, wives, mothers, and grandmothers who are really in control.

    When violence breaks out on the small island, Grace will do anything to solve the murder and clear the name of her brother's best friend, Alexei.  Grace has always thought of Alexei as another brother, but perhaps there is more to their relationship? When the violence continues to escalate and the targets become her closest friends and family she begins to unravel the truth.  She is not safe in Adria and she must continue running.  When presented with the choice of fight or flight, she always chooses to run, but she may not be able to outrun whoever is after her this time.

    This was another page turner that contained a ton of action and even more secrets to unravel.  The majority of the book took place during a large festival on the island, which added a chaotic atmosphere to an already stressful situation.  Grace and her friends don't know who they can trust and the one man who she perceived as her enemy for the past three years turns out to be the one person she can trust with their lives.

    I simply couldn't wait to see how this series concludes. I downloaded the final book in the series while I was still reading the last few chapters of See How They Run.  I started reading Take the Key and Lock Her Up yesterday and it is off to a great start.  We are a long way from a happily ever after, but hopefully Ally is moving us in that direction.

    Thursday, July 26, 2018

    Review: Twelve by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

    Twelve (The Naturals, #4.5)

    Goodreads Overview:

    Cassie Hobbes has been working with the FBI since she was a teenager. Now twenty-three years old, she and her fellow Naturals have taken over running the program that taught them everything they know. As a unit, they're responsible for identifying new Naturals--and solving particularly impossible cases. When their latest case brings back a ghost from their past, Cassie and the other Naturals find themselves racing against the clock--and reliving their own childhood traumas.In a small, coastal town in Maine, there has been a rash of teen suicides--or at least, that's what the police believe. Mackenzie McBride, age twelve, thinks differently. Desperate to make herself heard, she stands at the top of a lighthouse, threatening to jump... unless the FBI agents who rescued her from a kidnapper at age six come to hear her out. Enter the Naturals. It doesn't take Cassie long to realize that Mackenzie isn't bluffing: she truly is convinced that the suicides are murder, and she really will jump if she can't get the FBI to believe her. To the outside world, Mackenzie is nothing more than a traumatized child. But so was Cassie, once upon a time. So were Michael, Dean, Sloane, Lia, and Celine. With a storm rolling in off the ocean and Mackenzie's position becoming more precarious by the moment, the Naturals have very little time to get to the truth about the deaths--and about twelve-year-old Mackenzie McBride.


    I originally thought Bad Blood, book 4 in this series, was supposed to be the last.  This novella was a pleasant surprise that I jumped right into after finishing Bad Blood.  Our favorite Naturals are now 5 years older and a few of them are currently at the FBI academy becoming agents.  Celine is already an agent, so they can now work cases with a badge in the group without the aid of their mentors Agents Briggs and Sterling.  Briggs is now the director of the FBI and continues to provide the Naturals with the support they need, but is far more hands off than he used to be.

    Being a novella, this story was short and sweet and provided a great introduction to a possible new Natural with a unique new ability.  There was also a hint towards the fact that Cassie's half sister may also be a Natural in the making.  She certainly had a traumatic childhood, which is a contributing factor, so the potential is there.

    I loved seeing the team working together again and sincerely hope there are more cases in their future.  I would love to see this series turn into a King and Maxwell type of series where the Naturals continue working cases without always being in the direct line of fire.  These young adults have a lot of potential and I would hate to see their talents brought to a close so soon.

    Wednesday, July 25, 2018

    Review: The Emperor's Code (39 Clues #8)

    The Emperor's Code (The 39 Clues, #8)

    Goodreads Overview:

    As the race to find the 39 Clues builds to its explosive finish, Amy and Dan must explore an ancient culture and steal a Clue guarded by thousands of the world's best-trained soldiers. It's the most dangerous Clue search yet. As their enemies crowd in, Amy and Dan find themselves separated for the first time ever. The choice lies before them - find the next Clue, or find their way back to each other.


    My son and I have been reading this series together and we are both thoroughly enjoying it.  He isn't a big fan of reading, but the action and adventure coupled with the real life history is keeping him engaged.  In fact, he finished almost this entire book during a long car ride yesterday.  

    This portion of the race focuses on China.  We learned about the last Emperor, Mt. Everest, and Chinese martial arts.  We also get a glimpse into the life of Jonah Wizard, one of the Cahill cousins competing in the race for the 39 clues. He is an entertainment superstar and part of the Janus branch.  He has made appearances throughout the series, but this is the first time that I can remember him being an integral character.  

    When Dan gets separated from Amy he decides to join forces with Jonah until he can find his sister.  He doesn't have any money and with their cell phones not working in China, his options are limited.  He begins to realize the Janus's can't be trusted and he breaks off on his own again.  Amy and Dan continue to follow the clues independently until they are reunited, thanks to something Grace told them about years ago.

    Amy and Dan struggle to come to terms with what "Branch" they belong to, but they realize they are not defined by their family history.  They aren't like their evil family members and they can see that they have made the right decisions when presented with moral dilemmas.   Their combined resources allow them to decipher a clue the others probably think is lost forever.  In addition, Dan's discovery provides them with a lead towards another clue the rest of the family is most likely unaware of.  If they can manage to leave town without a tale, they may be able to get a jump on the competition. 

    Get out your flip flops and sunscreen because it sounds like the Cahill kids are on their way to the Caribbean!  I can only imagine what we will learn about from that area....Pirates????

    Monday, July 23, 2018

    Review: Bad Blood by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

    Bad Blood (The Naturals, #4)

    Goodreads Overview:

    When Cassie Hobbes joined the FBI's Naturals program, she had one goal: uncover the truth about her mother's murder. But now, everything Cassie thought she knew about what happened that night has been called into question. Her mother is alive, and the people holding her captive are more powerful—and dangerous—than anything the Naturals have faced so far. As Cassie and the team work to uncover the secrets of a group that has been killing in secret for generations, they find themselves racing a ticking clock. New victims. New betrayals. New secrets. When the bodies begin piling up, it soon becomes apparent that this time, the Naturals aren't just hunting serial killers. They're being hunted.


    Bad Blood is the fourth book in the Naturals series.  While some series can be read as stand alone novels, this certainly is not one of them.  In fact, it has been a while since I read All In, book three in this series, and it took me several chapters before things started falling in place again.  If you are new to this series, DEFINITELY read them in order.

    I absolutely love the characters and their abilities and hope Jennifer will someday write a spin off series with the teens a little older solving crimes that do not hit so close to home.  I am always up for a good murder mystery and it would be a lot of fun reading some independent stories similar to the King and Maxwell series or even the Stephanie Plum books where we have a core group of characters solving a different case each book.

    We were introduced to a new character with a different "natural ability." This provided a new dimension to the story and would be a great addition to Michael, Dean, Cassie, Lia and Sloan's abilities.  I have enjoyed seeing how the Naturals have formed a family and become closer throughout this series.  Dean and Michael in particular were always at odds, but even they provided readers with some warm and fuzzy moments in addition to their witty jabs at one another.

    I was shocked at how everything unfolded at the end of this book.  Bad Blood definitely has new meaning and was not what I anticipated from the title.  Cassie is faced with an unthinkable decision after years of tracking down the people she thought were responsible for her mother's murder.  In addition, we discover characters from prior books who were far more than they seemed at the time. 

    While writing this review I discovered there is a novella, which is 4.5 in the series.  I thought this was the end of the series, but now I can look forward to another 128 pages.   They alluded to certain things at the end of Bad Blood that were so open ended, that I couldn't believe this was the absolute end.  I am ecstatic to see that it is not.  I am heading to my library app to request Twelve while the story is still fresh in my mind. 

    If you enjoy YA and murder mysteries, this is a highly entertaining series with some amazingly talented characters.  

    Friday, July 20, 2018

    Review: Cress by Marissa Meyer

    Cress (The Lunar Chronicles, #3)

    Goodreads Overview:

    In this third book in the Lunar Chronicles, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, now with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they're plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and her army.

    Their best hope lies with Cress, a girl imprisoned on a satellite since childhood who's only ever had her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker. Unfortunately, she's just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice.

    When a daring rescue of Cress goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a higher price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing prevent her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only hope the world has.


    This was another action packed adventure as Cinder and her team of accomplices work to overthrow Queen Levana.  Cinder is scared of who she may become if Princess Selene takes her rightful place on the Lunar throne.  She doesn't want to turn into Levana, but she can already see how she is justifying her actions of manipulation because of a perceived greater good.  Her supporters are being targeted by Levana and her friends are being injured at an alarming rate to achieve their objectives.

    Cinder tells Kai about her plan at the end of this book and hopefully their combined power and resources will be enough to restore peace on both of their planets.  It appears that a relationship may develop between these two, which I am really hoping will materialize in the next book.

    Scarlet was MIA from Cinder and Wolf the majority of this book, but the readers do get to see what she is experiencing.  Wolf is distraught and Cinder can only hope they will be able to find her in time.  

    We learn considerably more about Captain Thorne in this story while he and Cress are separated from the group.  They need to rely on each other to escape insurmountable odds.  Cress already had a crush on Thorne from all of her research while on the satellite.  All of his heroic qualities from the past may not have been as remarkable as she thought, but he proves himself to be a hero throughout their adventure.  

    If only Cinder can rescue Scarlet, we could have three happy couples with a happily ever after at the end of this fairy tale series.  Do you think there could be a different royal wedding to unite their planets?  One that is actually a celebration instead of a prison sentence.  I can hardly wait to finish reading this series to find out the answers to these and so many other questions that are left unanswered at the end of Cress.

    Thursday, July 19, 2018

    Review: The Golden Lily by Richelle Mead

    The Golden Lily (Bloodlines, #2)

    The Golden Lily is the second book in the Bloodlines series.  In this installment, Sydney is faced with protecting the Moroi from not only the Strigoi and those who are after the Queen's lone relative, but also a rogue group with ancient ties to the Alchemists.  She discovers the Alchemists have not been telling her the whole truth and she begins questioning everything she believes in.  She sees the evil humans are committing who were once part of the Alchemists, but the supposedly "evil" vampires are quickly becoming the true friends she never had.

    She has been taught that magic is evil, but one of her teachers believes she has a natural ability and requires her to start learning spells.  When one of her friends is in danger, she is forced to use this magic to help save them.  She begins to justify why there is a greater good to what she is doing.  She can no longer allow herself and her friends to become victims while she has the power to make a difference. 

    I can't possibly do a review of a book involving Adrian Ivashkov without giving him some attention.  He was by far my favorite character in the Vampire Academy series and is still my favorite in this series.  I was happy to see that he is really trying to better himself.  He is still the witty Royal that you can't help but love, but he is taking life more seriously.  He is attending his college art classes and is cutting back on his vices.  He appreciates Sydney's intelligence and is really trying to learn from her example.  The two of them become closer throughout this book and anyone can see that they would be perfect together, if it weren't for one small problem.  He is a vampire and she is an Alchemist and a romance between the two is forbidden.  Instead, we have to endure Sydney dating the super boring Brayden while Adrian does everything he can to get her attention. 

    Overall, this was a great addition to the series and I can't wait to see what will happen next.  Hopefully, Sydney will come to her senses and give Adrian the chance he deserves.  

    Wednesday, June 27, 2018

    Review: The Grift of the Magi by Ally Carter

    The Grift of the Magi (Heist Society, #3.5)

    Goodreads Overview:

    Katarina Bishop is a thief. To many it wouldn’t matter that she now uses her considerable skills to re-steal valuable works of art and return them to their rightful homes. 

    She’s still a thief. 

    So that’s why Kat’s surprised when an Interpol agent comes to her one snowy evening, asking for Kat’s help. 

    The Magi Miracle Network was set to auction off a very rare, very valuable Faberge egg two days before Christmas, but the egg’s been stolen and now the charity’s reputation—and their future—is on the line. 
    Kat’s family and Interpol might be on opposite sides of most jobs, but someone just stole Christmas. 

    Now it’s up to Kat and her crew to steal it back. 


    How can anyone not love the Heist Society books?  I didn't realize there was a novella and was ecstatic to once again return to the crazy world of Kat, Hale, and the rest of their crew.

    This time around it isn't just a Faberge egg and any old charity that was impacted.  It is a charity with connections to Hale's late grandmother and his corporation.  He is on the board of the charity and his reputation and the charity's future are now on the line.

    This novella is about half the length of the other books in this series, so it was far more substantial than most novellas.  It wasn't just an extra scene, but an entire story that can stand on its own.  Add in the Christmas setting and this is a perfect book to curl up by a fire and enjoy the holiday season.  (I actually finished reading this book in early February, so it was still bitterly cold and snowy where I live.)

    I really hope this isn't the end of this series and Ally releases "Heist Society #4" sometime soon. There is so much more potential for these characters and I desperately want to see how things work out for Kat and Hale in the future. I would vote for several more Heist Society novels, but at least one more is needed if readers are going to get the warm happy feeling we had at the end of Ally's Gallagher Girls series.

    Tuesday, June 26, 2018

    Movie Review: Confessions of a Shopaholic

    I just finished reading the second book in the Shopaholic series, Shopaholic Takes Manhattan, and discovered there was a Shopaholic movie.  I was sure it would be absolutely hilarious, and the cover of the DVD confirmed my assumption.  I checked it out from the library and had it all set for this week's movie night.

    Well...It wasn't nearly as funny as I thought it would be and it deviated so far from the books that I was in a constant state of WTF.  They combined a lot of the elements from the first two books, so I was glad I had already finished reading book two or it would have spoiled a few things.  

    But seriously....Becky is BRITISH.  Luke is BRITISH.  They live in LONDON.  The movie starts with them in New York and they meet at a hot dog stand. Seriously?  Everything that I love about these books was completely omitted from the movie.  I know,...the movie is never as good as the book, but they could have at least put forth some effort to maintain the integrity of these adorable and hilarious books.  I love Becky's British slang and watching her integrate into the American culture was a highlight of the second book.  

    I thought the choice of actors and actresses was good, but there were scenes that were a bit hokey and nothing like what I would have expected from Becky or Luke. Overall, I would recommend sticking with the books.  The movie was average at best and left me feeling disappointed.  On the plus was free from the library, so I really can't complain too much.  I was just hoping for more since I love this series.

    Thursday, June 21, 2018

    Review: Shopaholic Takes Manhattan by Sophie Kinsella

    Shopaholic Takes Manhattan (Shopaholic, #2)

    This is the second book in the Shopaholic series and it is just as funny and entertaining as the first.  When we left Rebecca (Becky) Bloomwood at the end of Confessions of a Shopaholic, she had just worked out all of her shopping difficulties.  She had amounted a large amount of debt, but everything was now on the upswing.  With a new job, a fantastic boyfriend, and most debt...she is determined to stay on track with the help of her flatmate Suze.

    It doesn't take long for Becky to start "investing in her career."  She "needs" to have various items to wear on her TV show, or to help her write her self help book, or to take on a weekend holiday.  Before you know it, she is once again over her head.  To make matters worse, she accompanies her boyfriend Luke on a work trip to New York City.  She will get to spend a couple of weeks in the Big Apple hitting all of the glamorous shops and boutiques.  If all goes well, Luke and Becky will move to New York so he can concentrate his efforts on his office and she will be a star on American television.  

    Everything is on shaky ground with regards to Luke's expansion efforts and Becky's financial troubles soon become public knowledge.  She is humiliated and watches everything she worked so hard for fall apart.  Just when she thinks she will never get a break, she stumbles upon some very useful information that could turn everything around.  She also devises a strategy that just might erase her financial problems.

    I absolutely love all of the dialogue and British vocabulary used in this series.  While I can't relate to the woes of a shopaholic, I couldn't help but love Becky.  There are so many laugh out loud hilarious situations that could only happen to her.  It was also funny to see some of the cultural differences and how she integrates into American society.  While I understand the reasons for the plot twists, I wish there could have been more to Becky and Luke's relationship.  Obviously, that is likely what is coming next in Shopaholic Ties the Knot, but it felt like there was constant tension between the two of them.  He was so focused on expanding into the United States that he lost focus on everything else in his life.  The last couple of chapters definitely redeemed him, but it took a long time and a lot of external assistance for him to come to his senses.  

    If you are looking for a fun summer read I would definitely recommend this series.  I can't wait to read Shopaholic Ties the Knot and just discovered there is a Confessions of a Shopaholic movie!!  I had no idea.  I'm sure it wasn't an award contender by any means, but it has to be hilarious.  If you have seen it, let me know what you thought of it.  I'm going to see if I can find it on Netflix or Prime for this weekend's movie night.

    Monday, June 18, 2018

    Review: A Painted House by John Grisham

    A Painted House

    Goodreads Overview:

    Until that September of 1952, Luke Chandler had never kept a secret or told a single lie. But in the long, hot summer of his seventh year, two groups of migrant workers — and two very dangerous men — came through the Arkansas Delta to work the Chandler cotton farm. And suddenly mysteries are flooding Luke’s world.

    A brutal murder leaves the town seething in gossip and suspicion. A beautiful young woman ignites forbidden passions. A fatherless baby is born ... and someone has begun furtively painting the bare clapboards of the Chandler farmhouse, slowly, painstakingly, bathing the run-down structure in gleaming white. And as young Luke watches the world around him, he unravels secrets that could shatter lives — and change his family and his town forever....


    Back in the early 90's I read most of Grisham's books as soon as they were released.  I was in high school then and had plenty of time on my hands during the summer and on school breaks.  I have been trying to catch up, which is an almost impossible feat since I'm in the same predicament with a number of authors and series, but I keep plugging away.

    This book was very different from any of his other books that I have read.  It did not involve a lawyer or some epic case that needed to be solved.  Instead, we are taken to a small cotton farm in Arkansas.  The story is told from the viewpoint of Luke Chandler, a seven-year-old boy who lives with his parents and grandparents.  He dreams of one day playing baseball for the St. Louis Cardinals and moving far away from the farm, where he spends long hours picking cotton six days a week.  Sunday is a day for rest and worship.  

    Luke's sheltered lifestyle takes a real turn in the summer of 1952 when he witnesses not one, but two murders.  As the number of secrets compound throughout the story, it almost becomes too much for him to bear.  He begins acting differently and the adults get suspicious, but he knows he needs to keep quiet to protect himself and his family.

    This wasn't my favorite Grisham book, but I did enjoy the story.  He did a great job of taking us back to a time and place most readers have little experience with.  There was plenty of drama, gossip, and scandal to keep the pages turning, but it wasn't the fast paced read I am used to from Grisham.    

    Thursday, June 14, 2018

    Review: United by Melissa Landers

    United (Alienated, #3)

    United is the third and final book in the Alienated series.  In this installment, the alliance between Earth and L'eihr is being threatened by another alien race.  They demand that all humans and L'eihr's return to their homes or they will destroy both civilizations.  Of course, Cara and Aelyx are not going to go down without a fight.  They are determined to return to the colony and the life they have worked so hard to build together.  

    This book was action packed as Cara and Aelyx fight off not only another alien race, but also the hybrids from L'eihr, who are working with the enemy to sabotage the alliance. They recruit Cara's brother Troy, Aelyx's sister Elle, and his best friend Serene, but the odds certainly are not in their favor.  They have already witnessed the power of their competition and both of their governments have agreed that it is in their best interest to terminate the alliance.

    Overall, I loved Aelyx and Cara throughout this series and was happy with how it concluded.  There were a few situations in this book that were VERY far fetched, even for fiction.  Of course, the end result likely gave readers the warm and fuzzy feeling were likely looking for, but you couldn't help but roll your eyes and think... Seriously?  Instead of spending quite so much time on the unrealistic elements, I wish there would have been a larger focus on life on the colony.  After the first two books, I was kind of over all of the drama that was keeping Cara and Aelyx apart.  I would have enjoyed reading more about how the humans and L'eihrs begin working together and seeing the colony flourish.

    Alienated was definitely my favorite book in this series, but they were all very entertaining.  I especially enjoyed listening to them on audio.  I read the first book, but listened to the final two.  The narrator did an AMAZING job with the different character's voices.  I especially loved her interpretation of Aelyx's personality.  

    Tuesday, June 12, 2018

    Review: Don't Kiss the Messenger by Katie Ray

    Don't Kiss the Messenger was about a group of athletes at a private high school.  It actually came across as more like a college setting since the students lived on campus and had the intense focus of collegiate sports vs. the more relaxed setting I see in our community high school programs.  The students are recruited, watch game tapes, have two a day practices, study tables, and tutors to make sure they remain academically eligible.

    CeCe is the captain of the volleyball team and a star player.  She is well respected on campus, but she is constantly looking down on her appearance because of a scar she received in a car accident when she was ten.  She has a number of guy friends, but doesn't think a relationship is a possibility for her.

    Emmett Brady is a senior transfer student and the new starting quarterback.  CeCe meets him in her Shakespeare class when they end up getting paired up together for a class introduction exercise.  She quickly learns there is a lot more to him than football.  He is a gifted music student, intelligent, and extremely good looking.  While she is interest in him, she believes someone like him couldn't possible be interested in someone like her.

    Emmett starts dating Bryn, who is a transfer student on the volleyball team.  She is beautiful, but reminded me of Paris Hilton.  Her idea of a deep conversation was "He's Hot" or "You have nice hair."  Emmett would have ditched her after the first date if it weren't for a little scheme CeCe and Bryn devised.  It would be better for Bryn to communicate with him via text and email to break the ice....AKA so she could get CeCe to help her sound more intelligent. you can imagine the plan backfires every time Emmett and Bryn are together and she can't string a few words together on her own.

    Emmett and CeCe really start to hit it off via email and their friendship is quickly growing from their in class interactions.  They have a lot in common, but will she find the courage to tell him she is really the "messenger."

    Overall, I loved reading all of the interactions between Emmett and CeCe.  They definitely had chemistry and were drawn to each other's personality and interests.  I wish their relationship would have been the major focus of the book, but perhaps that is what will take place in the next installment in this series.  I understood the Beauty and the Beast references with the really pretty girl and the scarred girl, but the constant focus on looks was a bit overwhelming.  I was more interested in Emmett's music, CeCe's crazy stunts, and the campus sports scene.  Those are the things I will remember most vs. who was considered pretty and who was not.

    Thursday, May 31, 2018

    Review: White Rabbit by Caleb Roehrig

    White Rabbit

    I had the pleasure of meeting Caleb at a Fierce Reads BEA event back in 2016 and was immediately sold by his killer personality.  I'd never heard of him prior to the event, but his book, Last Seen Leaving, moved to the very top of my TBR list ahead of several books I spent weeks plotting to get.  It was the first BEA book that I read and I absolutely loved it, so it should be no surprise that I read his latest book as soon as it was released.

    Rufus Holt is a sixteen-year-old high school student who is far from the top of the social ladder.  He stumbles into a twisted murder mystery thanks to an unexpected call from his half-sister April.  She is part of their high school's elite who were gathered at Fox Whitney's family cottage for a Fourth of July party that went terribly wrong.  They aren't close, but she tells him he is the only one she can trust.  Her compelling plea for help has him convinced her life may be in danger.  He never could have anticipated how the rest of his night would play out.

    The majority of the book takes place over the course of that one evening.  Rufus and his ex-boyfriend, Bash, find April covered in blood while holding the knife that was presumably used to murder her boyfriend.  She insists she isn't guilty and asks him to help her find the real killer.  There were six people at the party and one of them is now dead.  April insists it wasn't her, so that leaves 4 suspects, unless someone else stumbled upon the remote property.  

    As additional bodies turn up and a shooting match takes place, Rufus and Bash realize they have uncovered something much larger than they ever could have imagined.  All of the people involved are telling half of the story to cover their own indiscretions, but they soon gather enough information to get them to start spilling the dirt on the other party goers.  

    I had several ideas of who the killer was throughout the book, but I wasn't even close.  It all comes full circle in the final few chapters and we can see how all of the clues come together.  I have always been a fan of mysteries and thrillers, so this was right up my alley.  I have to compliment Caleb on his vocabulary throughout the book.  He definitely didn't hold back on the word choice even though it is geared for YA readers.  I can't wait to read his next book, Death Prefers Blonds, which has an anticipated release date of January 29, 2019.