Tag Archives: book reviews

Romance Time with Rhiannon Ellis: Bonded in Brazil and Dark Wolf Protector Reviewed

Bonded in Brazil, Contemporary Romance

Bonded in Brazil, by Rhiannon Ellis, looked so good I could hardly wait to whittle away a sleepless night with it. Normally, I’m not the romance book type, unless it is historical and/or paranormal first and foremost but Ellis’ book called out to me.  Its voice certainly didn’t disappoint, as the cross-culture and society romance found a place in my heart as quickly as I could turn the pages. This was one romance I couldn’t put down as the clock ticked later into the night.

I loved the emotions emitted by both the main characters, Eliana Menino and Hale Forester. I loved how Eliana helped to heal Hale from his loss and loneliness with her vibrant personality and love of life. You could just picture what a gorgeous couple they would make, even as they fought through their attraction, sometimes giving in to desire and sometimes putting up walls. I loved how this book didn’t throw cheesy sex scenes at me that made me feel like I was intruding, but yet revealed their passion for each other slowly.

While reading it, I was reminded of one of my favorite romantic movies, A Walk in the Clouds (the romantic movie with Keanu Reeves). It was probably the strong female character, the hot male character, the lure of a beautiful vineyard of grapes, and the dance of would be lovers.  It wasn’t until later that I found out that the movie was partly Ellis’ inspiration for the book.

In Bonded by Brazil, Eliana’s family owns a vineyard in Brazil which is having financial difficulties and unable to pay back a loan secured by her father through Hale’s business. They are in fear of losing their heritage, the grape fields and Eliana goes to work as a maid for Hale in order to pay it back so her family can keep their vineyard. 

As they both struggle with deep emotions, each is too proud to let the other know how they truly feel.  Their love grows amid a backdrop of a beautiful Napa Valley estate and is surrounded by a cast of characters that assist in taking the story through a puzzle of deceit, drama, confusion, hurt, passion, and stubbornness. All of her characters are so vividly detailed and you’ll feel so intwined with them.

As the story ended as a happily ever after, I still hoped for a sequel to not only see what happens in the lives of Eliana and Hale, but of Eliana’s brother and the new love he also finds during his visit to the estate. My wish has been granted as Ellis has a sequel that is due to come out next year tentatively called Harvesting the Heart.

I love Ellis’ play on the theme of a vineyard and the caring of grapes, tying it to how we can nurture and tend love in our hearts. Her romance is one that melted my senses and I can’t wait to read the sequel. I recommend reading Bonded in Brazil on one of the upcoming chilly Autumn or Winter evening and definitely while enjoying a glass of wine by the fireplace or candlelight.

Buy this book:  http://www.amazon.com/Bonded-Brazil-Rhiannon-Ellis/dp/1603818464/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1301592162&sr=8-1

Dark Wolf Protector, Paranormal Romance

If you’re in the mood for a hot and sexy paranormal romance novella with handsome men, aka werewolves, then Ellis also has another romance you might like called Dark Wolf Protector. It has a strong-minded beautiful native american heroine, a handsome werewolf hero and set in the sultry South. 

But you gotta like it HOT, because this romance is much more steamy than Bonded in Brazil. Maybe it is the animal magnatism (hehe), but the scenes in this book are much more detailed. I don’t prefer these kind of scenes in my romance novels which are always so quick to arouse women right off the bat, but Ellis’ creation of characters and plot far outweigh these instances. I liked how real and strong-willed  Jaci Waters, the main character, is and her emotional journey from normal life into the paranormal.

Jaci is Tall Oak’s resident animal protector and rescuer, but when the people of the trailer park community cry out against the animal that is frightening them, she works even harder with the Sheriff to persuade them not to kill the wolf. Only she knows she dhas even more of a motive than animal rights.  She is allured by tall, dark and handsome Tall Oaks visitor Dolton Freye.  Dolton has come to Tall Oaks to protect Jaci, but someone else is hanging around too….and in the meantime, she finds out a mystery from her past as well as a secret of her own.

It’s an entertaining, deep south type of romance. It does contain explicit language and detailed sex scenes, but some of you love that (wink). It was a fun read; a paranormal escape with hot sex scenes–a steamy romance for a day at the beach or a rainy day where you want to curl up and be entertained.

Buy this book at: http://www.cobblestone-press.com/catalog/books/darkwolfprotector.htm

Rhiannon Ellis, author

I’ve got to know Rhiannon a little bit and I just LOVE her! She is such young, vibrant, hilarious lady who is a busy mom fitting in her writing as she can. I hope you enjoy her writing and connect with her. From my observation, she loves her children, her husband, writing, and football!!

Rhiannon Ellis turned a hobby into a career in 2008 when she wrote her first novel. Less than three years later, this stay-at-home mom has had two romance books published and there are more in the works.

She is a writer of romance, paranormal romance and mainstream fiction. She is a voracious reader and researcher. Her debut novel–Bonded in Brazil–was released in March of 2011 from Camel Press. She is represented by literary agent Dawn Dowdle of the Blue Ridge Literary Agency.  Rhiannon’s paranormal romance–Dark Wolf Protector–was published shortly after from Cobblestone Press.

Rhiannon says, “WhenI tell people that I’m a writer, they envision me sitting at a computer all day and late into the night, typing away as my muse has my full attention. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. I’m a mom and my days are for my children. Time to write is sparse and comes sporadically, so I’m constantly throwing my writer’s hat on and off throughout the day.”

Rhiannon resides in Columbia County, Wisconsin, with her husband of eight years, Chad, and their two young children, Cameron and Dane. She is also the proud stepmom of thirteen-year-old Taylor.

Catch the interview below and connect with her on her website or online–those contacts are also below.

Interview

Q: What is your day job?

A:  I’m a stay at home mom to my 3-year-old son and 5 (almost 6 in a few weeks)-year-old daughter. I spend my days like most moms with young kids—cleaning, cooking, battling an endless pile of laundry—and cherish every second of it. Well, except for the laundry. I could without that. I love being at home with my kids and feel very blessed that I’m able to do so when so many moms cannot. My “day job” is something I don’t take for granted.  I’m now homeschooling too, so that throws another interesting element into the mix.

Q: What is the most challenging part of the writing process?

A:  Finding time that is quiet and uninterrupted–and I think most moms can relate to that. When I’m working on a story, I try to write every day, though it usually comes in spurts as I revolve writing around my sometimes-hectic household.

Q:  Did you experience writer’s block?

A:  When I wrote simply for fun, yes I did. Now that I write for fun and career purposes, I don’t. My mindset is this is something that has to get done—like laundry, ugh—so just do it. This works for me.

Q:  What is the biggest misconception about writing a book?

A:  The biggest misconception is that writing is the hardest part. Yes, writing is work and takes skill as well as creativity, but landing an agent and/or publisher is the toughest part. I’ve read dozens of self-published books and have been shocked that these books were overlooked by publishers. There’s a lot of talent out there, but a novel gets turned down if it’s not marketable enough for publishing standards. I feel very blessed to have had agent and publisher interest—sometimes humbled because I wonder why I deserved it more than some other authors I’ve run across.

Q:  Oprah has famously said that there is no such thing as luck, without preparation and a moment of opportunity. Would you agree or disagree with regard to your own success as a writer?

A:  I’m leaning toward agreeing, based on my own experience. I have to wonder if the “opportunity” part is mostly luck, though. I feel like I’ve been given many great opportunities throughout my life in general, whereas others have not. Is this luck? Have I created these opportunities for myself? I truly don’t know. But I’m grateful, whatever the cause.

Q: What do you pledge to your readers?

A:  With every book, I promise to create dynamic, genuine characters and heroic women. I will also place these characters in exciting locations that will take you–the reader–away from the everyday of your own life and offer escape into a world with exotic fragrances and flavors–a metaphorical room with a view.

Thank you so much for sharing a little of yourself with my readers, Rhiannon. It has been great getting to know you. You are a very real example of a young mother with a writing dream, making her vision come true! Keep on the look out, readers, as Rhiannon will be back soon guest blogging here about the life of being a writer/full-time mom!

Contacting Rhiannon Ellis

Website: www.rhiannonellis.com

Facebook page: (Click Here)

Twitter page: (Click Here)

Blog: http://rhiannonellis.blogspot.com/

FOR MOMS: Rhiannon contributes regularly to MomsEveryday.com–a great place for moms!


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Interview with Indie Author Caroline Barnard-Smith and a Sneak Peek at “Jinn Nation,” her new vampire novel.

Today my blog is a stop along the “Jinn Nation” Book Tour of UK-based author Caroline Barnard-Smith.  I’m happy to share with you an excerpt of the her newest book and an interview with this Indie author, giving you a little taste into her juicy vampiric mind! We even are giving one e-book copy away to a lucky reader!

 

 Win a FREE E-book!!!

You can win a free e-book of “Jinn Nation” (in any e-format you choose) by reading this entire blog and leaving your comment in the comment section of the blog, by commenting to @ErinAlMehairi on Twitter, or by commenting on Faceboook under the post of this blog on my wall (www.facebook.com/almehairierin). At the end of the week, winner will be randomly drawn from the comments and name and info will be given to the author. Please be sure I know how to reach you if you comment or you will not be eligible.

Read an Excerpt from “Jinn Nation”

Once, the vampire Dylan had feared nothing and no one. He’d rampaged throughout the world on a seemingly never ending quest to fill his eternal years with the finest, most outrageous extravagances; with exquisite, soft-limbed young women and copious amounts of rich, vibrating blood. But life, however full of joy, inevitably changes.

Finding himself alone for the first time in his long unlife, Dylan turns to the preternatural race of savage creatures called the jinn – a path that inevitably leads him to Christa, a strangely childlike woman with the power to control minds and read thoughts. Mutually intrigued by each other, they set out on a blood-soaked road trip that crosses the United States and the Atlantic Ocean, finally leading them beyond the world itself to the mysterious fae kingdoms of the Inbetween.

Click on the excerpt link to be sucked into the story of “Jinn Nation”~ You don’t want to miss this!!! Jinn_Nation_-_Excerpt 

Interview with author Caroline Barnard-Smith

It has been so nice to meet you Caroline. I am very curious about your book and your host of anti-heroic vampires!

Q:  What makes you love to write stories of vampires and bloodlust so passionately?

A:  I think it’s the sense of freedom that attracts me to vampires. They’re not a part of society, they live on the fringes where they can go where they want, be who they want, eat who they want.  There’s also the rock star element, of course. Vampires are bad through and through (or at least they should be) and there’s something innately sexy about that.  As a writer it also gives you permission to be bad, which is far more fun than it probably should be.      
 
Q:  Have you always been writing this genre, or has it been a migration?
 
A:  I started out writing straight urban fantasy, spurred on after reading the newest book by an established urban fantasy author and realising it was so awful, I was sure I could do better (I’m not naming any names but trust me, it was bad!) I never actually found out if I could do better because that particular early novel will spend the rest of it’s sad life buried on my hard drive, but raw and ridiculous as that book was, full of witches and wizards and fairies and elves and anything else I could plagiarise from my favourite fantasy novels, it taught me a lot about the craft of writing. It taught me how to explore characters, how to plot and how to get to the end of a long project, so I actually owe that little book a lot.  

Q:  Tell me about your idea and the creation behind your newest novel….
 
A:  When I started all I had in my head was a scene in the middle of a nighttime American desert where two people, two people with secrets, met in a bar.  I started writing and before long the story turned into a sort of bloody travelogue across the United States and beyond, taking in many of the places I wished I could see but couldn’t afford to visit.  I’ve already talked about the freedom that vampires represent and there’s no freer place than the open road (if I’m to believe the movies, anyway), so putting the two together made Jinn Nation an immensely fun book to write.

Q:  What do you want most for your readers to take away from your book? How do you want them to feel?
 
A:  I know it’s a cliché but I really do write the books I’d like to read, and that certainly doesn’t involve gutless vegetarian vampires who sparkle in the sun; so I suppose I’d like readers to come away from Jinn Nation thinking, “Finally! Someone’s given Dracula his balls back!”  I’ve also tried hard to make my female character, Christa, less of a moaning, pining bore than many of the female characters I see in paranormal fiction these days.  The women in these books are always bemoaning their tragic, fated love lives or readying themselves to jump over some metaphorical cliff at their supernatural boyfriend’s command. They’re too Mary-Sue-like, ie. they’re ridiculously attractive, have every super power under the sun and are probably black belts in karate for no goddamned reason. I desperately wanted to stay away from this, even though Christa does have quite considerable mental powers… Hopefully, readers will think that I’ve succeeded.  

Q:  What was your debut novel, Dunraven Road, about and does it tie in with Jinn Nation?

A:  Dunraven Road does loosely tie in with Jinn Nation because the vampire Dylan stars in both novels, but that’s really where the similarities end. Dunraven Road is a close, oppressive novel, with the action mostly confined to just one street (hence the title!), while Jinn Nation is far broader, global even, and has lighter moments. I wasn’t planning to write about vampires when I started my debut novel.  I set out to write about the experience of living in a small town in your twenties and somewhere along the line, an ancient brotherhood of vampires appeared and forced me to include them.  The vampires were definitely the villains in that novel, leaving the reader to root for the hapless humans who happened to stumble right into their diabolical scheme, but Jinn Nation saw me going back to a format first made popular by Anne Rice that I hold dear to my heart: the vampire as anti-hero.        
 
Q:  What are the differences between traditional publishing and indie publishing? What are the benefits of indie publishing? The hardships?

A:  The biggest difference must be that you have to do absolutely everything yourself, or at least hire someone to do it for you. I’m very lucky to have an excellent proofreader, but after my manuscript came back from her I had to edit my work thoroughly, checking spelling and grammar as well as making sure the plot actually hung together. I then had to learn how to format my work as an ebook and a paperback to be published through a print on demand service. The only aspect I had to draft in extra help for was the cover, because I’m completely hopeless with Photoshop.  A traditional publisher will do all these things for you, but they also don’t give you much control. They might demand changes to your manuscript and you certainly wouldn’t get any input into the typesetting or cover design.  All of this is a lot of hard work, but personally I’ve found the experience immensely satisfying.  The paperback proofs of Jinn Nation were delivered just the other day and being able to hold that beautifully printed book in my hands and think, “I did that”, was fantastic.          
 
Q:  Would you like to tell me about your craft business? Is it just as dark and juicy?

A:  Sadly no! It’s completely different from my literary work. I taught myself how to knit in my early twenties because I wanted something to do with my hands so that I’d stop biting my nails. Since then I’ve become good enough to start writing my own patterns and these are what I sell at CazzCraft.co.uk, along with knitting supplies such as bamboo needles and stitch markers. It’s been a lot of fun and once I’m finished promoting Jinn Nation, I really should get back to work on it and write some new patterns!   
 
Q:  How do you juggle being an author, an artist, and a mom?

A:  Well, my daughter always comes first of course, and then I have to do everything else in moderation. It’s fairly easy to continue pursuing my personal projects at the moment because the Sprogling is only 4 months old. She sleeps a lot of the time or is content to sit with me while I work (one-handed) at the computer, but I’m sure this will all change once she starts running around!   
 
Q:  I hear you have a radio show, what should listeners expect from the show and how do we tune in?

A:  Yes, I had my very own radio show 🙂 It was called Write Around Devon and it aired on my local community radio station once a week. I loved doing it because it was basically just me playing my favourite songs and talking about my favourite subject. I even got to interview quite a few local authors. I gave it up when I was pregnant before I grew too big to fit under the desk (hehe) but I’d love to return to it one day.

Thank you Caroline for sharing about your book and offering advice to us!  Wonderful insight!! You’ve been awesome to talk to and I wish you much success. Stop by again!

For more information on Caroline and her books, go online to:  http://www.carolinebarnardsmith.co.uk and visit her blog at: http://barnardsmith.wordpress.com.

Contact Caroline online also at:

Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/pages/Caroline-Barnard-Smith/83412182938

Twitter:  http://twitter.com/CazzySmith

How do you buy “Jinn Nation”?

Paperback – https://www.createspace.com/3565931

Amazon Kindle USA – http://www.amazon.com/Jinn-Nation-ebook/dp/B0058OE3JC/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1309947539&sr=8-1

Amazon Kindle UK – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Jinn-Nation-ebook/dp/B0058OE3JC/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=digital-text&qid=1309947612&sr=8-1

Smashwords – http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/70355

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The Fate of Humanity is Taken On in “The Final Summit” by Andy Andrews

Andy Andrews’ newest book, “The Final Summit,” took on “a quest to find the one principle that will save humanity,” but it ended up taking me on an adventure that would teach me many more principals, not just one. 

People felt his inspiring so much  in the first book about David Ponder, “The Traveler’s Gift” that it was a best seller, and now, readers are taught much more about what it means to truly live in the way God wants us to in order for humanity to survive. He expertly crafts mystery, history, logic, and motivation into one inspirational-packed fiction read. 

If you hadn’t read the first book in which Ponder discovered the Seven Decisions to life success, they are reviewed again throughout the prose in the first half of this book. I was glad, since I hadn’t read the first book! Amazing decisions that everyone should hang on their refrigerator and by their desk to stay consistently motivated to do good and find success from that good. I was entranced in this book and almost read it in one sitting. I was intrigued by his use of God’s principles intertwined with famous historical people such as Lincoln, Churchill, Joan of Ark and more. These famous former Travelers were shown to have been vessels of God for his messages to society. Now that it seems society has not been listening, Ponder is tasked with being chairmen of a summit that must come up with the principle for saving humanity.

After being escorted by Archangel Gabriel to a room with Winston Churchill, they call upon several other famous Travelers and discuss possible alternatives for what humanity must do to stay on the right path.  All principles, or values, handed up as “the” principle are incorrect, yet very good components of what we need to do in our every day lives. When it seems that all is lost and humanity will not survive, they finally come up with the great principle and you won’t want to miss it.

For more information on Andy Andrews go online to www.andyandrews.com and check out his amazing God-driven books. He obviously is a writer for any reader and will truly motivate your life.

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One of My TOP books: A review of “The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane” by Katherine Howe

I just finished “The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane” by Katherine Howe and it is officially one of my top new favorite books! What an amazing read surrounding the historical time period of the Salem witch trials.

Main character Connie Goodwin, while doing research for her doctoral dissertation and trying to clean-up (at the request of her mother) her grandmother’s ancient-looking, overgrown abandoned house near Salem, discovers much more than she ever bargained for in regards to both historical evidence on the Salem witch trials and her own family history.

This book flips back and forth with effortless ease between characters of the 169os in Salem and nearby towns and Connie in the modern era of 1991. As a reader you’ll never feel lost, only more and more intrigued by the mystery that Connie is uncovering. In fact, the book will drawn you in so far, you’ll feel as if you are in the book too. 

When she finds a key and a little piece of paper in a dust-covered family heirloom Bible with the name Deliverance Dane on it, she starts to unravel a story of a woman you’ll never forget. I guarantee you’ll never think of the Salem witch trials, or the women accused, the same ever again. Connie’s dissertation work depends on finding a Physick (or recipe) book, but it becomes so much more than that to Connie. It is a story of redemption for the character, Deliverance Dane and all her descendants, as many who were accused and killed during the witch trails were unjustly sentenced.

I was always intrigued by the Salem witch trials. Maybe it is just because I am interested in all things history. But I always felt there was more to the story than just that these women were accused of being witches. Evidence, as the book follows, points to the fact that these women were God-fearing women who happened to have the medicinal gift of using various herb concoctions and prayers to promote healing. Since it was before the time of medical doctors, these women took care of the people in their communities.  

I think that Howe did a superb job in educating the reader about the history of this time period through the eyes of the accused. She gives us an historical look at the stereotypical descriptions of witches and why they came about, but also reminds us that they were regular Puritan-garbed women.  I mentioned to Howe that I was curious about how many of these women seemed so religious and used prayer along with their concoctions. It seemed that their gifts of healing were God sent. Many women and their husbands were respected members of their Puritan communities.

Howe replied to me on Facebook, when I mentioned my curiosity about the accused being contradictorily Christian: “I address that question a bit in this talk given at Google last year (careful, it’s about 30 minutes long) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z5L36OrxM-c.”  For more video on the book and why and how she wrote it, view here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d_OBQ3QSb4g&feature=related.  She has some great interviews on YouTube.

 The author, Katherine Howe, is in fact a descendant of both Elizabeth Proctor(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Proctor), who you might know because her character was fictiously dramatized for The Crucible, and Elizabeth Howe (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_How), the latter who did not survive the Salem witch trials.

Not only was the story good and the plot tight, it was great writing overall. Her vocabulary is phenomenal and her voice is so strong and poignant. The characters are firmly formed, detailed, and delightful.  You will leave this book with an emotional attachment to the characters and to the souls of the women who endured the Salem witch trials. She could very well become one of the best known American historical fiction writers ever.  In fact, she recently told me via Facebook that another book is on the way this year, not a direct sequel though, and I can’t wait to read it. However, I did hear that a sequel including Connie will come at some point.

I don’t often read books over again, but this is one I would even though I’ve discovered the mystery already along with main character Connie. It is completely spellbinding and mystical (and no, I’m not even trying to make a play on words with “spell”). Her story and her writing truly do amaze me and I hope to continue to read much more of her in years to come.

If you’d like more information on the author Katherine Howe go online to www.katherinehowe.com and view her awesome website, and for the book http://www.physickbook.com.  Here’s a trailer for the book as well: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hcJxKLw8-M8&NR=1.

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The Sixty-Eight Rooms by Marianne Malone, a Children’s Book Review and Information on Chicago’s Minature Rooms

Marianne Malone, author of the children’s book The Sixty-Eight Rooms (new Random House from 2010), describes herself as not growing up being a reader or wanting to be a writer. In fact, from what I gather from her website (www.mariannemalone.com) she spent a good portion of her life as a middle school art teacher and she is an artist who loves to paint. However, growing up and living in Illinois, she enjoyed going to the Art Institute of Chicago and this is where she fell in love with the Thorne Rooms.  These rooms started her mind percolating over the course of many years an adventure surrounding them.

If you don’t know what the Thorne Rooms are, they are a collection of 68 minature rooms (like dollhouse rooms) given to the Institute by a Mrs. James (Narcissa) Ward Thorne in the early part of probably the 1940s.  Mrs. Thorne traveled the world and was a collector of minatures. She collected so many of the minatures that she had craftsman assist her in turning them into the various rooms from different time periods in England, America, France…and she used her minatures to create interior design themes, from the 13 th century to about the 1930s, that could be used to educate others about interior design of various eras. Of course, many children visitors over the years become entranced by the rooms and their imaginations run wild with ideas. The author Marianne Malone, of course, was one of those children. To view some photography of The Thorne Rooms, go here to the Art Institute of Chicago’s website page of the Thorne Rooms: http://www.artic.edu/aic/collections/thorne.  Last Spring, the Huffington Post had an article about the minature rooms and Malone’s book. If interested, go here to view the article:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/04/07/the-art-institute-of-chic_n_528739.html

Malone’s book, The Sixty-Eight Rooms, is a children’s novel  full of imagination and magic surrounding themes of life based on two main characters, Ruthie and Jack. These best friends go on a class field trip and fall in love with the possibilities of the Thorne Rooms.  Getting a back corridor glance, and finding a gorgeous vintage key, leads them to an adventure into history as well the power that sometimes lies behind the simple act of just believing.  These sixth graders fall in love with the Rooms and Ruthie wishes so badly to have a look inside that when she holds the key, it warms in her hand and she is instantly made minature herself!  Eventually Jack is also, if he holds on to Ruthie, and they go exploring the Rooms. As they are in the rooms, they walk out the front doors and are catapulted directly into different time periods such as France right before the French Revolution and Massachusetts during the Salem Witch Trials. Actually getting to talk to other kids in that time period, and possibly change the outcome of their lives, is touched on. I really wish I could have read even more on the rooms and the time periods they enter. Eventually a piece of each of these children they meet is acutally found in the rooms and they uncover that other children, even possibly Mrs. Thorne who createdthe Rooms, have visited in the same way and they feel a bond to these others. The mystery is uncovered through the book about how the Rooms came to be magical in the first place, through an important historical figure. I won’t give the mystery away here, but I do believe I would have developed that more and let it grow to the end. The suspense would have been intriguing, though Ruthie throughout the book certainly does not have any patience. This may be a mirror of the author’s personality as a child. I’d love to ask her!

The character development of all side characters, several of the parents as well as the little old lady antique dealer who plays a very important part in the end of the book, are very well done. However, some of the other details such as fighting the mega-cockroach and some of the parts about getting from room to room and up and down into the Rooms could have been left out. As an adult, they bored me. Being a child at heart, a history buff, and sucker for imaginative and magical stories involving doors and keys, I wanted to hear more about the magic and I wanted them to explore various parts of history longer and more in depth.

I did LOVE the art element in it, beyond the Institute, as Jack’s mom is a struggling artist and the museum caretaker of the Rooms, a faded photographer. I probably love this because I love art and also am a photographer. My love for art museums and history both caught my attention to this book. I could imagine all the little art pieces decorating the minature rooms. I would love to see The Thorne Rooms one day and experience the magic myself.

I sense that this is not the end of adventures for Malone. The end of the book certainly did entertain the fact that a vintage purse she is given from the antique shop owner might be another magical object with another story. I certainly hope so. (In fact, in a recent e-mail from Malone, she does tell me that they will be another book).  I do love Malone’s passion for “old” things and what magic they might possess.  Though I do wish that the character’s adventures in The Thorne Rooms not be quite done yet. It for around age 10, fourth grade level, depending where your child’s reading level is. I know I would have loved this book when I was 10. As adults we may look too much into plot structure and want more detail, when for a child it could be more than can be handled. Therefore for me, it is hard to give an accurate review for a child. I’ll have my children read it next and see what they say.

This book had intrigued me back in 2010, as did walking through the Wardrobe in Narnia, Alice shrinking in Wonderland, and the minatures coming alive in Indian in the Cupboard when I was a child, but I didn’t realize until I read it how all these books lend to the idea I have for my own children’s book which I’ve detailed before in this blog.  The idea of a vintage key, and historical doors, leading to somewhere else is certainly a story told before and certainly a global plot. But I think it never gets old. We all wish sometimes to walk into another place and time totally different from ours. Even as an adult, I still share these childhood fantasies and imaginative thoughts. I can’t wait to see where my key and door take me in my book also.

Thanks Marianne Malone for bring The Thorne Rooms to life and for opening up my eyes to this amazing feature of the museum. I certainly will want to visit if I do ever get to Chicago!

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Stephen King’s Full Dark No Stars–His Newest Book in Review

I have several other Stephen King book on my shelf awaiting a read, but after reading Duma Key and Under the Dome, two of his latest books I was craving more. I heard of another new book coming out last year, so I researched it and decided to go for reading these four long prose stories first in the book Full Dark, No Stars. You never can really tell by the jacket of his book if it will be horrifyingly scary as of his earlier days or if it will be a more exploratory scribe into the depths of the human psyche. I prefer this latter. I believe he is truly at his best when he is delving into more psychological thrillers. I jumped in the book head first (not literally of course!) to see which it was.

I was horrified, in an emotional sort of way, by the first story (1922) about a family in the pre-depression era Nebraska farming town and the husband’s love of his land so much that when the wife causes him problems about it, he and his young son formulate the idea to kill her.  King’s character building and the detail really do make you feel like you are a fly on the wall, that you have some vested stake in the story and seem to be a part of it. I think that is what sometimes makes me so scared inside while reading, and with this story I felt the same. Sometimes murder can get out of control, away from the original plan that characters (and humans) sometimes concoct in their head that seem so easily done. This story was very graphic, very bloody, and very scary. It was one of those stories where he was classic King and as the characters sunk more and more into total psychosis they start talking to the dead body or themselves, or seeing things, or hearing things that may actually just be in their own mind. What happens in this story really made my skin crawl and once I saw it was so much in the character’s mind…how an experience can make you “see” things…I was shocked. The ending was instrumental and amazing. This story also dealt with the fact that when we do a bad thing, and when we bring someone else into the situation (in this case his young son) it can totally change that person’s life for the worse as it messes with their mind.

The next story, Big Driver, riveted me to the core. It hit me emotionally hard in the belly. It starts soft with a young thirty-something writer of puffy crime dramas for old ladies accepting the call to be a back-up presenter at a library. With the librarian offering to give her a faster way home, and a back way at that, the authors life is changed when she is brutally raped and thrown in a culvert for dead. Being a victim of rape myself, and an avid women’s liberator due to rape, sexual assualt and domestic violence, I was proud of Mr. King for writing this novel. He certainly got into the character’s head to show her fear, her shame and her determination. Again, her “plan” didn’t go so smooth and finding things out along the way led to even more fun turn and twists in the story.  Sometimes a horrific crime as such happened to the young woman sends one on a certain cycle of investigation and revenge that is truly deadly. This story wasn’t psychologically scary, just emotionally deep and draining. I felt she was justified by the end however, and though a life is a life, sometimes some don’t deserve to live. Like rapists and their accomplices. One more note on this book, King certainly rings true to his psychological style once again with the character’s mind talking to things like tomtoms, their pets, dead bodies….hahahaha.  It seems so absurd, but clever way to get us into the mind of the character and make the revenge or killing somewhat comical!

The story, Fair Extension, is short but the proverbial make a deal with the devil story based on a relationship that most of us have with someone we know in life, the person who always gets the fair break, the woman, the perfect life. A man is dying of cancer and he agrees to pay the creepy man to take away his cancer and also in return for his friend’s life (who used him his entire life and got all the breaks) to be destroyed. It makes you think too how fast your life can turn around, for the good or the bad, and how we shouldn’t focus (covet) on what others have and be more happy with we have in life so that we don’t turn into bitter-ridden and revenge-driven people.

The final story was my favorite and it was called A Good Marriage.  In the Afterward, King mentions that he writes this loosely based on something true that happened in the news, the serial killer Dennis Rader (BTK killer) and his wife who was married to him for 34 years and claimed she did not know. He stated that many people commented that they didn’t see how she could not know all that time living with him. King writes the story from the aspect of the wife of a serial killer that doesn’t know he isone  and how this might happen. He really develops the character well from the mind of the main character (the wife) and we can see how she might not know but truly feel she has a good marriage and truly loves her husband. In the story, she discovers his secret and it unravels from there as he immediately knows that she knows and wants to start over. He promises not to ever do this awful bondage and biting and killing again, blaming it on the ghost of his dead childhood friend, but she knows better. When the opportunity arises, though she loves the husband she knew, she pushes him down the stairs instead of turning him in to save their two children from a life of “my dad was serial killer media-hype.” It was an emotional and sad story that really delved into the emotions of how a woman might feel if ever having to deal with something like this happening. Her total disgust with what he had done knocking up alongside her true love for the man she knew causes her to mourn with double intensity.  With this story and Big Driver, I am really proud of King for reaching deep into the mind of a woman and emotionally gripping us with their characters.

I left theentire book feeling emotionally drained in a way. He is so detailed and so good at bringing you into the character that I think you sometimes feel you have gone through what the characters have gone through. The stories do bring real raw emotions to the forefront and deal with the true emotional nightmares that do scratch this earth and the mind of many.

In the afterward I was surprised to see him write that as I reader I should feel that these might leave me emotional as these raw feelings were harsh and stemmed from the dark surfaces of the human mind. King mentioned that he himself had moments of having a hard time dealing with some of the emotions while writing the book. I am thankful that he wrote the afterward and explained his thoughts behind some of the stories. I love how he is so creative when he writes and plays with the names of characters (turn around rats or devil) and the locations, his game of repeating slogans and words for effect. This also makes the reading tempo go quickly.

These stories are a gripping, amazing ride through human nature and pysche. I was impressed and totally recommend this read to anyone who can tuck themselves away for a day or two to read this title. Believe me, you’ll want to keep reading till you finish.

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I’m taking the 2011 Stephen King Challenge, You?

It’s a new year and time for goals!! Though I generally do read a lot of Stephen King, I am going to take this challenge offered by Book Chick City. You can see more information here: http://www.bookchickcity.com/2010/12/sign-up-2011-stephen-king-challenge.html.  You have to read 6 to 12 books by him in 2011 and I’m sure 6 is what I’ll do just for the mere fact that many of his books are sooo long. I read Under the Dome last year and that was a huge book with over 1,000 pages!   I have a few new ones to read, like his newly published short story compilation called Full Dark, No Stars, but I have some I may re-read that I read in my early years also such as Dead Zone.

I’m supposed to put the button and link to the Stephen King Challenge (scary little IT clown picture…yikes!) on my sidebar, you can either go above to the link I provided to learn how to sign-up or click on the sidebar button. You can look for my reviews here on my new book blog!

My favorite Stephen King book is one from more recent years, Duma Key, that I read last year. I LOVE how he made the art really come to life in such a gripping way.   I also really like Rose Madder, which hit home with me when a woman runs away from her abusive cop husband and starts a new life.  However, a painting she buys lures her in to another world. Again, art taking life.  What is your favorite Stephen King book? 

In the meantime, while I am reading, be sure to also check out my other blog at www.breathebeautyartandphotography.wordpress.com, if you like photography, art, doing things with your kids, baking, and musing on life.

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Welcome fellow book nuts!

I am NUTS about books. Not just novels for my age, but also books for all ages of children. I collect picture books and I love reading young adult books just for fun. I hope this blog shares new and old titles of children and young adult books for you, suggested titles of all books, reviews of all types of books, talk about my new children book series I’m diving into for 2011 (I hope you’ll be my sounding board and critics), and let you in on what I’m reading right now. I can’t wait to throw out the bookmark and jump in!

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