Bout of Books 9.0

 The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, January 6th and runs through Sunday, January 12th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 9.0 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team
It's that time of year again!! Time to start thinking about Bout of Books 9.0! I love a good read-a-thon and the Bout of Books read-a-thon's are among my favorites. 2014 will be kicked off with a January read-a-thon. This week long reading extravaganza is a blast and I am thrilled to once again participate. I know it is less than a month away, but because I have a 2 weeks break coming up, I can't quite nail down a TBR list yet.... mainly because I hope I can actually plow through some of my TBR stack during my break! I'll update my Bout of Books reading list before the new year.

Hope to see you all there... join us for Bout of Books 9.0!

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow


Kid Lit: The New Crown

Today I have the pleasure of sharing some great kid lit with everyone: The New Crown by Jason Sandberg. A few months ago Madeline and I reviewed Candy & The Cankersaur  by Jason Sandberg and loved it. The New Crown is, in my opinion, even better!

About the book:
Another lost tale from Jason's past, this story follows Julietta the carpenter and King Plunder the corrupt ruler of Platavia. Mean and spiteful, King Plunder rules with an iron fist, but it is Julietta that everyone really believes and respects. King Plunder eventually gets angry with Julietta and our heroine is put to the ultimate test as she tries to free herself (and the Kingdom) of King Plunder once and for all.

My thoughts:
The New Crown is an impressive story. I adored the illustrations and characters. King Plunder is awful- and Jason did a phenomenal job bringing that out in just a few short pages. Between his name, actions, and the illustrations, King Plunder is quickly painted into the story as an evil villain who is ruining the happiness in Platavia. On the flip side is our heroine: Julietta. The first sentence where we meet her immediately solidified my love of this story. First of all, she is a GIRL and she is the heroine. Gender issues are non-existent as Julietta is a strong woman who is a carpenter and an inventor! I love the image her character presents to kids- girls will look up to her and boys will see that girls can do anything boys can do. Hallelujah for gender equality! Aside from the characters, the story itself is cute and endearing. An evil King needs to step off his throne and peace needs to be restored. The way that this classic concept is actually played out though, is unique. A girl is the one who sets things right- and she does it with her mind. This is a story that I will read to every kid that I can. It sends a great message and the illustrations are excellent.
I loved Jason Sanberg's first story, Candy & The Cankersaur, but I really love The New Crown. I think all parents need to get this book for their kids on their ereaders. It is absolutely worth it. This will be a story the kids come back to over and over.

Madeline did read this story but with the crazy holiday schedule, she is not with her father and I as much as she was in the summer when we read Candy & the Cankersaur. Therefore, I don't have a full review by her, but I can let you know that she liked it!

About the author:
Jason Sandburg is a fine artist who is producing the "missing books" from his childhood. You can check out his other ebooks here, as well as his artwork.

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow

FTC: I received this book from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review
Image and author information provided by the author


Suburban Legends

Everyone who knows me, knows I love a good creepy tale. This gem floated into my email at the perfect time: I was reading for RIPVIII and it was that creepy time of the year.. Autumn approaching Halloween! I was on the lookout for something to fill my ereader and this one fit the bill.

About the book:
Quirk Books // Oct 2013
They told you the suburbs were a great place to live. They said nothing bad could ever happen here. But they were wrong.
This collection of terrifying true stories exposes the dark side of life in the ’burbs—from corpses buried in backyards and ghosts lurking in fast food restaurants to UFOs, vanishing persons, bizarre apparitions, and worse.

My thoughts:
This was a great quick read for me. It isn't your typical book of short stories. The difference here is that they are all true. Not only are they all true, but they are all sufficiently creepy. The stories collected in this book made me think twice about assuming anything about my seemingly sweet neighbors. I felt myself looking over my shoulder and thinking about how some of these things could certainly be happening in my neighborhood. Out of all these twisted true tales, I enjoyed the stories about the twisted and crazy people out there. Maybe that makes me twisted and crazy too, but I found it interesting to think about what makes people tick.
I breezed over most of the supernatural tales in this collection. They didn't seem as interesting or engaging, but it was cool to think about how these stories of haunted homes and supernatural sightings were reportedly real.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. It was a fun little read and it was interesting. I would definitely recommend this to readers looking for a good short story collection and an insight into human nature. Sam Stall pulls the curtain back on suburbia and shows us its true hidden nature.

About the author:
Sam Stall lives with his wife, Jami, in the quintessentially Middle American town of Indianapolis, Indiana. Their home sits on quiet, tree-lined Primrose Avenue, part of a beautiful suburban area where nothing bad ever happens (except the tragic events described on pages 16, 178, and 216)

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow

FTC: I received an egalley of this novel from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Author information, book image, and book information from Quirkbooks.com


The Historian mini-review

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova is pretty much the longest and most drawn out book I have ever read. Okay- maybe not literally, but figuratively it was. First of all, I started this out as part of the read-along with the Estella Society for RIPVIII- it was way too long and way too dry for me so I fell ridiculously behind before just giving up and resigning myself to finishing it when I found the time.The other problem I had was that I have never read Dracula by Bram Stoker and I've never watched any of the Dracula films- frankly, I was lost. Barrett likes the story of Dracula, so I kept bugging him until he finally got annoyed with my million questions and made me watch Bram Stoker's Dracula (the 1992 version). Once I watched the movie, I was able to understand a bit more of what was going on in The Historian. Even still, I didn't love the book. It was way too heavy in extraneous details and just soooo long. Thankfully I borrowed the book on my Kindle through the library. Once I finished this book, I didn't sigh with admiration for it.. I sighed and thought "well at least I finished it". Maybe this book is more suited to those who really love the history of Dracula. For me, it just didn't wow. On the flip side- it is a beautiful macabre tale.. I just don't think it was a good fit for me.

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow

Mini's and updates

I've been slacking again. Time to wrap up what I've been up to with some mini reviews.  Let's start with the movies I watched for Peril of the Screen.

Resident Evil Series
The Resident Evil movies have long been one of Barrett's favorite series. He has always liked them, but we never did own the DVD collection... so I never saw them up until Netflix added the first Resident Evil movie to their instant. We then borrowed the next 3 from his sister and got the final installment that came out this past September out of RedBox.

Resident Evil: 
I was immediately hooked after watching this first film. I liked the plot and totally loved the character Alice. The idea of conspiracy and zombies and an underground lair is appealing and engaging. The entire build of The Hive and all that goes on under Umbrella Corporation is twisted and horrific. I loved it.

Resident Evil: Apocalypse:
Okay- so now Raccoon City is shit out of luck due to the T-Virus getting out of control. Alice is ready to kick major ass... and does. She is altered and has bonded with the T-Virus, allowing her to have super human strength and powers. Skilled beyond imagination, Alice rocks it. This one secured my love for Milla Jovovich.

Resident Evil: Extinction:
This one is the third in the series and my least favorite. Set in the desert (and at the worlds end) the Umbrella Corporation is still trying to perfect the T-Virus to make more monsters of evil. A lot of characters come back in this one too- which is kind of cool. The movie ends with a glimmer of hope and the audience hanging on waiting for what is to come next.

Resident Evil: Afterlife:
The beacon of hope from Extinction becomes clear in this movie. Old characters are once again given new life. Alice is changed in this movie, too. It adds for a new dynamic. Some major Umbrella drama is uncovered and more conspiracy bullshit is running rampant. By time we get to this movie, the stretches in imagination are HUGE and things are, to some degree, a bit ridiculous. However, that is what I think is appealing and continuing to keep us all coming back for more. 

Resident Evil: Retribution:
This one is even more far-fetched. Alice is once again caught by Umbrella and needs to break free. This time breaking free is a bit more dicey and she encounters some creepy clones and real-life scenarios that seem quite familiar. Recognizing that this is a training facility for Umbrella, Alice soon encounters a lot of the characters (and monsters) that were around in the first  movies. More drama and conspiracy, then we are left once again with a "what's next?!".

Overall- I totally loved the series. It is based on a video game which in my opinion, makes it even more interesting. I may have never played the games (and likely never will- just not my thing) but the fact that a franchise that is 5 movies strong with a 6th on the way is just incredible. Resident Evil has a cult-like following and I can totally see why. I also have a total girl crush on Milla Jovovich and totally want to be Alice for Halloween next year. Oh, and I want more kick ass boots like Alice.

Session 9
Session 9 was an interesting little film that I found on Netflix in the horror section. It is about a team of guys cleaning up asbestos in an old psych ward. The place is crumbling and falling apart, giving it the perfect backdrop for a creepy movie. The job needs to be finished ASAP and extra money is available if they do- so the guys plan to bang this one out in a week and get it done quick. However, it doesn't work that way. After a member of the group finds tapes from session with a former patient, an evil is unleashed. With lots of foreboding and suspense, as well as healthy twists in the plots, this movie was interesting. I actually watched the entire thing, and it was okay. I wouldn't put it on top of any list of amazing horror films, but the suspense alone paints this more as a psychological thriller in my opinion. It was good, but not great.

The House of the Devil
This movie was produced in 2010 but set to look like it is in the 80's. Think of all the cult and devil-worship scares and rumors that were so very prevalent in the 80's and add in Halloween's idea of a babysitter and you get House of the Devil. A young college girl heads out to the middle of nowhere to babysit- assuming it is a kid. When she arrives she finds out she is in fact babysitting for an older woman, who is apparently in bed and doesn't need to be watched- she is just there "in case". Things start to escalate when she begins hearing noises coming from upstairs and begins to investigate and finds out that things are not as they seem. This is a total throwback to cheesy 80's horror. I wasn't all that interested and it was really kind of a flop. I wouldn't recommend this one.

The Ward
Set in the 60's in a mental hospital, this psychological horror film presents classic asylum scenarios and creepy vibes around every corner. The ward houses 4 disturbed girls and our story begins with the addition of the 5th girl. This "new girl" realizes that something is off with the hospital and begins to look for answers, but to no avail. Her floor mates have no insight and the nurses and staff are just as evil as the horror she feels around every corner. Things get creepy when the girls begin to go missing, with no explanation from the staff. The girls try to uncover what is going on, and in the process reveal their own inner demons. The Ward was actually pretty interesting- I wouldn't label this as a favorite or a great one, but it did keep my attention and I did like it.

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow



Well, I kind of hid and fell off the face of the earth for the month of October. Barrett was away for 5 weeks and I spent a lot of time keeping busy by reading and hanging with friends, hence my blogging fell to the wayside. It was the longest time we have been apart, so I did my damnedest to stay busy and not think of it!
While I may not have been blogging, I was reading and I was watching movies and such for RIPVIII. I will post reviews of some of the books I read and movies I watched while I was away from the blogosphere.
I must admit that I am highly disappointed in my scary spooky October reading. Typically I read and watch a TON of horror/thriller material, but with Bear away I wasn't as into it. It may not scare me, but I wasn't all that keen on reading scary stuff while home alone for weeks on end... the house is quiet when it is just me and the dog!

Here's a quick little list on what I have been up to while I was away from the computer:

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
Suburban Legends by Sam Stall
Dracula: A Classic Pop-up Tale by Claire Bampton
Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer (re-read)
Doctor Sleep by Stephen King (currently reading)

Resident Evil
Resident Evil: Apocalypse
Resident Evil: Extinction
Resident Evil: Afterlife
Resident Evil: Retribution
Session 9
The House of the Devil
Ghost Hunters (series)
The Ward

I hope to review these titles and get them posted by the end of this week. I've also got a few books to read that came in the mail for review, so be on the lookout for those too!

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow


Shine-along Wrap Up!

I absolutely LOVED rereading The Shining! It was such a good idea to do the Shinealong and I am so happy that Tif and Charleen hosted this readalong.

I forgot to check-in to discuss chapters 17-33 (oops!) but I do recall that was when things seriously heated up and when I started to get freaked out reading it while Bear was at work.

The final wrap-up is to discuss 34 to the end. Dun dun dun. The biggest thing I noticed while finishing up the book was that it is glaringly different from the movie. I read the book a long long long time ago, but I've seen the movie a million times, so of course that was right in the back of my mind while reading. I vividly remember the REDRUM scene from the movie, but was disappointed to see it wasn't actually in the book. I forgot that! However, there was just so much more in the book. Wendy's battle with Jack was much more epic as King described it in the story. I felt terrified for her. When Danny and Jack came head to head, I loved the way that Danny approached his father and stopped the madness. The description of Jack in those ending scenes were incredibly dramatic and so much more fulfilling than in the movie. It seemed to make so much more sense. The description of Hallorann watching the explosion was almost poetic- it was a beautiful demise.
Overall, I am really pleased with the book- I was glad to reread it as an adult because I think I understood a lot more this time around. Like Tif said, the connections between King's other writings are always fascinating. I would love to make some huge flow chart of all those connections... and understand WHY. Hmmm.. if only there was a memoir... ("On Writing" totally doesn't count- I want the nitty gritty!).

So... how is everyone else feeling about The Shining? Did you love it or did you hate it? Annnddd... who is joining in for the Doctor Sleep readalong?! Yep- that is right... Doctor Sleep is officially out and I am beyond excited to read all about little Danny Torrance all grown up. Tif and Charleen are hosting the Sleepalong- we're starting on Monday, so there is plenty of time to grab a copy and join in... so go sign-up and join in the fun!

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow


Shinealong check-in!

It's Monday the 9th, and that means it is time to check-in with our mid-way post for The Shining Read-along!
Tif and Charleen broke their check point posts down by characters and their thoughts overall. In keeping with this group RAL, I'm going to post my thoughts the same way!

So far, I really enjoy being inside Danny's mind. He is a dynamic little kiddo and has some pretty interesting thoughts. Seeing how he shines from his point of view is neat, especially when compared to the movie. King gives so much more background information then what was gleamed from the movie and I am thoroughly enjoying it when it comes to Danny. I certainly agree with Tif that Danny is definitely growing up too fast- he is a product of his environment (alcoholism, an instance of abuse, and his ability to shine) and as you read the novel you get to really see how this has changed how his little 5 year old mind thinks.

Oh Jack... you are so out of control and you don't even realize it. He seems like he is trying and he seems like he has control, but as we got close to The Shining's midway point, it became glaringly obvious that Jack isn't in control. His alcoholism seemed to have exacerbated the issues pertaining to his anger and inability to control himself, but even though he is dry now, those cracks are still there, just under the surface. Since I know what Jack gets up to, it is hard for me to really like him, even in these early stages of the book where he appears to be doing his best. Again, King provides some great back-story for Jack and I feel like all of those tidbits of information paint a very clear picture of the man he was and the man he is becoming.

I think I am happiest with the information King provides for Wendy. The movie didn't give much background for her life story. Now that I am forming a picture of her in my mind thanks to the character development, I am finding myself much more invested in her then I ever was in the movie. Her history is helpful in forming a connection to her in the novel. I am annoyed at all her back and forth in her head over Jack.... it is as though she has a gut feeling about the future with Jack but just can't seem to leave.

Other thoughts
I am really enjoying The Shining. Like I said in my sign-up post, I read this one back in high school but don't really remember it. Now as I am re-reading, some of the details are coming back to me. The novel is certainly better than the movie (duh) and it is holding my attention like crazy. I actually put the book away in a drawer so I didn't read past ch16 for today's check-in!!
King's writing in this novel seems to just flow. The pacing is great and all the little creepy moments tucked in throughout are excellent for keeping the reader engaged, even when most of the beginning two sections are pretty much all back-story.

So, there ya have it folks... my thoughts on The Shining thus far. Can't wait to hear your thoughts! Go check out the linky over on Tif's blog to see what others are saying!

On a side note, my copy of The Shining is pretty cool. I have a 1978 Signet version of the book- it is a very cool cover.

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow


Star Wars: Jedi Academy

If you know me or follow me on Pinterest (especially this board) or Instagram, you know how much I love Star Wars. My love for Star Wars began many moons ago, and I am now proudly passing that on to Madeline.
Whenever I see new titles that are Star Wars spin-offs, I just have to get my hands on them! I especially love Star Wars literature geared towards kids- what better way to share the geeky love??
Of course, when Scholastic handed out egalleys of Star Wars: Jedi Academy by Jeffrey Brown I was eager to get my hands on one.

About the book:
Scholastic // 8.27.13
This incredible, original story captures all of the humor, awkwardness, fun, and frustrations of middle school--all told through one boy's comics, journal entries, letters, doodles, and newspaper clippings. The setting? A galaxy far, far away...
Roan's one dream is to leave home and attend Pilot Academy like his older brother, father, and grandfather. But just as Roan is mysteriously denied entrance to Pilot School, he is invited to attend Jedi Academy--a school that he didn't apply to and only recruits children when they are just a few years old. That is, until now...

This inventive novel follows Roan's first year at Jedi Academy where, under the tutelage of Master Yoda, he learns that he possesses more strength and potential than he could have ever dreamed. Oh, and he learns other important things too--like how to make a baking soda volcano, fence with a lightsaber, slow dance with a girl, and lift boulders with the Force.

My thoughts:
This story was completely charming. I adored Roan and the entire cast of characters was wonderful. Brown included Master Yoda and lots of other fun characters based on classic Star Wars. There were lightsaber duels, force lifting, science fair experiments, a school dance, and field trips... all set on a backdrop of a Jedi boarding school. The plot was cute and included all the things kid lit needs right now: bullies, disappointments, hope, awkward boy-girl moments, and trials in friendships. It was also written in a way which is appealing... it included journal entries, comic strips, posters, detailed guides, report cards, letters, doodles, snapshots, and newspaper clippings. All of those made this a fun and delightful read without ever feeling stagnant. I think that kids will like the format and keep interested while the story moves along. This is a book I certainly will recommend to my colleagues with younger students and will definitely be sharing with Madeline at some point. It was a fun read and the ending leaves it open for subsequent books to follow Roan through the rest of his Jedi training. All the young Padawan's should read this one!

About the author:
Jeffrey Brown is the bestselling author/illustrator of Darth Vader and Son and Vader’s Little Princess, both which imagine what it would have been like if Darth Vader had raised a young Luke and Leia.

Jeffrey is a lifelong Star Wars fan, but despite his best efforts, has been unable to use the Force. He lives in Chicago with his wife, Jennifer, and his two sons.

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow

FTC: I received an egalley of this novel from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Book summary and author information from Amazon.com



This year I debated whether or not to include The Shinning in my RIPVIII stack.... I read it so long ago I've since forgotten the details and have been looking for a reason to reread. Well, I was loving on Tif's instagram pic of her RIPVIII book stack and mentioned how I'd enjoy reading The Shining... and then she told me that she is hosting a Shinealong! Obviously I have to join in the fun!!! While I'm at it, I gotta get back to actual blogging for FUN. If I was actually blogging and not just reviewing, I'd have known about the Shinealong! Ugh. Silly me.

Anywho.... the deets:

The Shining Read-along is hoested by Tif at Tif Talks Books and Charleen from Cheap Thrills.

It runs from Sept 2 - 23 with the following checkpoints:

- September 2: KICKOFF!
- September 9: Discussion through chapter 16
- September 16: Discussion through chapter 33
- September 23: Wrap-up

For the kick-off, a few introductory questions have been posed to us shinealong-ers.

1. Will this be a reread or a first-time read?
This is a reread for me, but like Tif, I read this ages ago so I am a bit fuzzy on the details. I remember the big stuff, but I read this back in high school and pretty much everything else is foggy.

2. Have you seen the movies?
I have seen both... Stanley Kubrick is amazing and The Shinning is one of my favorite movies to date. The made-for-TV version was enjoyable, and I would love to get my hands on it to watch again... anyone know where to find it?

3. What are your thoughts from your previous reads/watches?
No thoughts from my first read, since I can't recall much. I do know that I enjoyed it and liked it much more than other King novels (I went through a hardcore King phase in high school where that was pretty much all I read).
Like I said above, The Shining is one of my favorite movies. It is such a classic. I own it and have watched it countless times.

4. Why are you joining the readalong and what do you hope to get out of it?
I'm joining because I haven't revisisted The Shining in over 10 years. It also falls at a perfect time of year, both seasonally (yay Fall!) and during RIPVIII. Plus, with a huge stack of books to read, joining in readalongs help me to stay on track with my reading goals!
Also, I totally love the hashtag #shinealong -- that's reason enough, right?

So what are you waiting for?! Go grab your copy of The Shining and join in the fun!

ps: Doctor Sleep comes out September 24th, so immediately following The Shinealong, join in the Sleepalong and read the sequel together!! Eeeps!

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow



It's that time of year again!  RIP VIII begins on Sunday!

In its 8th run, Readers Imbibing Peril is a 2 month reading experience hosted by Carl from Stainless Steel Droppings.

RIP VIII is a fun and chilling challenge that runs from Sept 1 - Oct 31st. There are multiple levels to participate, as well as movie and short story options. There are also read-a-longs during RIP VIII too! Head over to the sign-up post to read all about it and join in the fun. Laid back and spectacularly spooky, this is one challenge I get excited about EVERY year! So... won't you join us?

This year I will be (once again) joining multiple levels of RIPVIII.

Peril of the first is a challenge to read 4 or more books during RIP VIII
My stack is still growing, but so far I plan on reading:
- The Cuckoo's Calling by JK Rowling
- The Troop by Nick Cutter
- Cartwheel by Jennifer duBois

Exactly what it says: read a short story!
I don't have one picked out yet, but I will likely read an anthology

Scary movies! My favorites!!
I have no clue what I will review here, but I'm sure there will be plenty.

Ah, the read-a-long.
I will be joining in with the Estella Society on their RIPVIII RAL of The Historian by Elizabeth Kostava

Can't wait to get spooked!
See you all soon!

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow

The Panopticon

The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan is a haunting tale that is a true psychological roller coaster ride. I was impressed with this debut novel, and am sure you will be too. It is simply fascinating.

About the book:
Hogarth // July 2013
As the novel opens, we meet Anais Hendricks, a few months shy of her sixteenth birthday.  Anais sits in the back of a police car in Midlothian, Scotland, headed for the Panopticon, a home for chronic young offenders. She can’t remember the events that led her there, but across town a policewoman lies in a coma and there is blood on Anais’s school uniform.

Put in foster care at birth, Anais was moved through twenty-three placements before the age of seven.  Along the way, she endured unspeakable hardships and abuse, and has been let down, or worse, by almost every adult she encounters. And yet, despite the parade of horrors visited upon her early life, Anais greets the world with a witty, blunt, and endlessly entertaining voice.  In the Panopticon, Anais fears that the system that has turned its back on her will beat her down and ultimately break her spirit.  Yet, she also finds in the other residents an ad hoc family—Isla, Shona, Tash, and Dylan—and begins to make her first halting steps toward friendships, taking charge of her own fate and discovering the depth of her own strength.

My thoughts:
This novel is a stunning debut. It is at once both twisted and beautiful. Fagan opens the novel with an immediate hook- a question of innocence. As noted above, the story begins when Anais awakes covered in blood and a policewoman in a coma. The hook quickly sucked me in- who is this girl who has been bounced around the system her entire young life and why exactly is she covered in blood? As the story moves along, we find out bits and pieces about her history. Fagan did a great job balancing just enough information to keep the reader intrigued, but not so much that all your questions are resolved.
The backdrop of this story is the Panopticon, which Fagan explains as the story unfolds. The Panopticon was vivid in my imagination thanks to Fagan's storytelling. Her descriptions of the setting were spot on- before I looked for an image of a Panopticon, I had a fully formed idea in my head, and it was exactly like the images I found. Aside from the images that Fagan so vividly painted, I was deeply haunted by this novel. Anais is a troubled girl who spent all of her years in foster care, jumping from home to home to institutions. As many of you are aware, I work with at-risk teens for a living at a residential care program (meaning they live away from family while in our care). I have seen the damage first hand. Anais brought forth some of my most troubling cases in my years of working with at-risk youth. I wanted to reach through the book and help her.
Fagan created a complex and intriguing character out of Anais. She also created a really interesting minor characters out of her friends and her case workers. I was quite amazed at the diversity I found in the characters as I read on in the story. Aside from beautiful character development and a stunning setting, Fagan dreamed up a masterful plot. It was thrilling and appalling. Dark. It touched on the inner beast in all of us, while simultaneously igniting hope.
This is not a book for the faint of heart, but it is, deep down, ultimately a story of survival. Beautifully crafted, this is a story that I will certainly revisit again.

About the author:
Jenni Fagan was born in Livingston, Scotland. She graduated from Greenwich University and won a scholarship to the Royal Holloway MFA. A published poet, she has won awards from Arts Council England, Dewar Arts and Scottish Screen among others. She has twice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and was shortlisted for the Dundee International Book Prize.  She is currently the new Writer in Residence at Edinburgh University. The Panopticon is her first novel.

About Panopticon's:

What exactly is a Panopticon, you ask? Well, according to Wikipedia, it is a prison (or other institution) designed by English philosopher Jeremy Bentham in the late 18th century. The idea is that all inmates are observable at all times, but they are unable to actually distinguish between when they are and when they are not being watched. For more information, check out this Wiki. It really is quite fascinating. These two images are also from the Wiki site, both depict the prison Presidio Modelo in Cuba (images are from 2005). The first is the outside of the structure, and the second in the interior- showing the watchtower quite plainly.

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow

FTC: I received this novel from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Author information, book summary, and cover image provided by publisher website.
Information and images relating to the origin of Panoptican's from Wikipedia


The Bookstore

The Bookstore by Deborah Meyler

About the book:
Gallery Books // August 2013
Brilliant, idealistic Esme Garland moves to Manhattan armed with a prestigious scholarship at Columbia University. When Mitchell van Leuven— a New Yorker with the bluest of blue New York blood—captures her heart with his stunning good looks and a penchant for all things erotic, life seems truly glorious . . . until a thin blue line signals a wrinkle in Esme’s tidy plan. Before she has a chance to tell Mitchell about her pregnancy, he suddenly declares their sex life is as exciting as a cup of tea, and ends it all.
Determined to master everything from Degas to diapers, Esme starts work at a small West Side bookstore, finding solace in George, the laconic owner addicted to spirulina, and Luke, the taciturn, guitar-playing night manager. The oddball customers are a welcome relief from Columbia’s high-pressure halls, but the store is struggling to survive in this city where nothing seems to last.
When Mitchell recants his criticism, his passion and promises are hard to resist. But if Esme gives him a second chance, will she, like her beloved book­store, lose more than she can handle? A sharply observed and evocative tale of learning to face reality without giving up on your dreams, The Bookstore is sheer enchantment from start to finish.

My thoughts:
The Bookstore by Deborah Meyler was one of those books that I didn't fall in love with from the get-go, but did enjoy once I plugged along. What I did love from the get-go was Esme. Meyler created a dynamic and intriguing character quite quickly. I was impressed with the depth I found within Esme (and equally impressed with the lack thereof in Mitchell). Once The Owl was introduced as Esme's refuge, I was instantly hooked. That was when the story took off for me.
Meyler created quite the cast of characters within The Owl. She created a bookstore that I would love to visit- I could picture myself as a regular there. Meyler also did something that I haven't experienced before in a novel: she gave vibrancy and life to people that are often overlooked- both in writing and in real life. The homeless men of NYC are often depicted as scary - Meyler pulled back the cover and introduced beautiful humans instead of the typical fear tactic that is so prevalent in books featuring the City. I appauld her for that!
I also liked the story overall, once I got through the very beginning. I think that it was charming and endearing. The story was a great coming of age tale, and one of those books that I think all early to mid twenty-somethings should read. This is a book that I wish I had read just a few years earlier- if only it had been written then! I do feel some of it was predictable, as far as "chick lit" goes, however the characters and the bookstore more than made up for it. If you're looking for a classic New York City twenty-something coming of age chick-lit, this is the one for you!

About the author:
Deborah Meyler was born in Manchester, read English at Oxford University, and completed a Master of Philosophy thesis on American fiction at St. Andrews University. She eventually moved to New York, where she worked in a bookshop for six years, sold paintings, and had three children. She now lives in Cambridge and is working on her next novel.

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow

FTC: I received an egalley of The Bookstore from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review
Book and author information provided by publisher


Candy & the Cankersaur

Candy and the Cankersaur by Jason Sandberg - a team review with my favorite 7 year old, Madeline.

About the book:
Candy and the Cankersaur is one of author Jason Sandberg's "lost tales".... it is a story that he wished he heard as a kid. This children's book features a dinosaur named Cank, who comes into Candy's life- but oh no!.. Candy's neighbor is a bit of a bully and gets jealous. What will his act of jealously be? Will Cank be alright?

My thoughts:
I adored this book! It was quite cute and fun to read. Candy is a sweet little character that hints at having a Daddy that works just too much. Soon, Cank enters her life and she has fun teaching new tricks to her dino pal. Too bad her neighbor, Chucky, isn't kind and sabotages Candy and Cank's happiness!
Sandberg did a good job developing Candy and Chucky in a short amount of time. He laid the foundation for trouble right away. He also planted the seeds to discuss busy parents by introducing Candy's dad.
The moral of the story is excellent and something SO incredibly necessary for kids these days. Chucky is always competing and can't ever be happy for Candy. The theme of jealous and comparing yourself to others is quickly and soundly developed. I think it would behoove many parents to read this with their kids and discuss those themes... it touches on the materialistic view of society.
I definitely recommend this one!

Maddie's thoughts:
I loved it! The pictures were really cool and I liked the dinosaur. It makes me want to get a dinosaur. My favorite part was when Candy got Cank and played games with him. If I had a dinosaur I would play games and feed it, but I would take out its teeth first so they were sharp and cutting things like Candy's.
Did you notice the cartoon that Chucky watched? It was like Curisous George, but not Curious George. I don't like Chucky very much because he is mean to Candy and steals her pet. It was good they made up. I think that all kids would like this, mostly girls. Probably kids who are like my age, 7... so maybe 5 to 9? It was good.

Madeline read this while driving home from a wedding out of town. She quickly was engaged in the story and read the whole thing without pause. She was quite animated while discussing what she liked about the book and pulled that "5 to 9" age group of out who knows where- but it is totally spot on! Madeline is an advanced reader for her age group and read this story without a problem.

About the author:
Jason Sandberg is a fine artist who is producing the "missing books" from him childhood.

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow

FTC: I received this book from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review
Image and author information provided by the author