Saturday, March 30, 2013

Stephenie Meyer Books--Kindle Daily Deal 3/30

Stephenie Meyer's books are the Kindle Gold Box Deal of the Day today and you can pick up The Host for $1.99 and any of the Twilight books for $2.99!

And here are some more freebies:


Thursday, March 28, 2013


Tour Schedule

Starseed by Liz Gruder, 2013, 286p, rating=3
Content: Swearing and coarse language and 
      a party with underage drinking
Source: Provided copy for an honest review

Starseed concerns a sixteen-year-old girl who falls in love with a starseed boy who reveals that she, too, is half extraterrestrial, and is forced to choose her allegiance between Earth and her star family.

Kaila Guidry has always known she is different. When she meets Jordyn Stryker at school, she finds out just how different.

Jordyn was born and raised far from Earth, a starseed, one of six new students sent to Louisiana's Bush High to learn human ways. But Jordyn didn't count on meeting someone like Kaila.

When Kaila is pushed to her limit by high school bullying and cruelty, Jordyn awakens her to a new reality—and to love. But to prove herself, Kaila must look the other way as the real purposes of the starseeds unfold.

As the horrific plan behind the starseed visit to Earth moves inexorably forward, Kaila and Jordan, caught in an impossible love, must determine where their true loyalties lie.

Kaila is 16 and lives a sheltered life: her mother makes her wear a hat at all times (to protect her mind) and she's had little contact with the outside world. She decides that needs to change so she rebels and tells everyone she's going to school. Instead of hats, though, she now has to wear wigs. One of her first encounters in school is with six people that wear silver metallic overalls, with large eyes. One of the boys introduces himself as Jordyn Stryker, but their first interaction is pretty odd. The story is that Jordyn and the other five teens were taken into custody from a cult in New Mexico and are being integrated into regular classes. 

She also makes two friends, Melissa and Pia, who take her under their wings and show her the ropes. Weird things start happening and as she pieces everything together, she starts learning more about who she really is and needs to make a choice about which side she wants to be on. 

When I read the Summary for this story, I was intrigued, but when I started reading it, I thought it was very strange and it took me a while to get into it. I haven't read too many alien abduction stories and found that part of the story interesting. The dialogue seemed stiff to me at times, and maybe it was supposed to be, since half of the characters were aliens. There were some bullying issues that Kaila had to deal with as well and in the aftermath of a shocking incident, she makes a snap decision about which side she wants to join.

I'm glad I stuck it out to the end, though, because I thought the overall message of the story was a good one. Towards the end, Kaila learns a lot about free will and it initially makes her life miserable. She's talking to her friend, Priscilla (you don't find out exactly who she is until the end) and they're discussing free will and how some aliens will try to deceive you but others want to see humans succeed and find freedom. Kaila asks her how we do that (succeed and find freedom) and she says, "Knowledge. There's a reason it says in your scripture: 'A wise man has great power, and a man of knowledge increases strength.'" She then also tells her to trust her gut--her intuition, because all the answers are there. She does and it brings the story to a satisfying conclusion.


"...To worry about the future incessantly destroys being in the present. It is wasted thought energy. To think about the future creates the emotion of anxiety. To think of the past creates the emotion of depression. So stay present, always. Concentrate on the task at hand." (Loc. 1140)

"...Know that where you put your attention is what you get. Call to those you hold sacred and everything that is good. But more so, look into your heart." (Loc. 3639)

Be sure to enter the giveaway for a $25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal cash from Author Liz Gruder below!

Author Liz Gruder
As a youth, Liz Gruder saw a series of UFOs with her best friend while riding bikes. Ever since, she’s held a fascination for the stars. An avid reader, she used to hide under her covers and read with a flashlight. She has degrees in English and Psychology from Tulane University, a nursing license and a yoga certification. After going through Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, Liz realized how short life is and is now slowly fulfilling her bucket list: she’s been to the Egyptian pyramids (totally awesome and thought provoking) and is now teaching yoga and writing speculative fiction. Starseed is her debut novel.

Goodreads * Twitter * Website * Blog * Facebook

Blog Tour Giveaway
$25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash
Ends 4/10/13

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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Hattie Big Sky

Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson, 2006, 283p, rating=4
Content: Clean; Source: Own; Young Adult Fiction

For most of her life, sixteen-year-old Hattie Brooks has been shuttled from one distant relative to another. Tired of being Hattie Here-and-There, she summons the courage to leave Iowa and move all by herself to Vida, Montana, to prove up on her late uncle's homestead claim. "At least now my letters will be more interesting," she writes to her good friend, Charlie, who is fighting the Kaiser in France.

Under the big sky, Hattie braves hard weather, hard times, a cantankerous cow, and her own hopeless hand at the cookstove. Her quest to make a home is championed by new neighbors Perilee Mueller, her German husband, and their children. For the first time in her life, Hattie feels part of a family, finding the strength to stand up against Traft Martin's schemes to buy her out and against increasing pressure to be a "loyal" American at a time when anything--or anyone--German is suspect. Despite daily trials, Hattie continues to work her uncle's claim until an unforeseen tragedy causes her to search her soul for the real meaning of home.

Lovingly stitched together from Kirby Larson's own family history and the sights, sounds, and scents of homesteading life, this young pioneer's story celebrates the true spirit of independence. (Front cover)

This book starts out with a letter Hattie writes to Charlie, who's off fighting in France, on December 19, 1917. They are good friends and, even though Hattie would like more, she believes he's in love with a girl named Mildred. She lives with her Uncle Holt and Aunt Ivy. Uncle Holt is good to her but Aunt Ivy is trying to get rid of her and she's currently trying to ship her off to work at a boardinghouse. Uncle Holt tells her a letter arrived and when she opens it, she's surprised to learn that an uncle she had forgotten about died and left her his claim of 320 acres in Montana. She quickly decides to go, much to Aunt Ivy's dismay and Uncle Holt's blessing.

The Mueller's met her at the station and are extremely helpful to her but when Hattie gets to her house, she's shocked to find it's really more of a shack and not in good condition at all. Her first experiences are humorous and she shows her toughness by sticking it out and working hard. 

She finds a home and gets to know the neighbors and continues to write Charlie and Uncle Holt. It seems like every time she turns around, there's a new issue for her to deal with and she finds a way to survive. 

I enjoyed Hattie's story. She showed a lot of determination and, as I thought about what I would do in her situation, I figured I'd be in tears a lot. She grows a lot throughout the book as she has to deal with real issues that seem beyond her years. I don't want to give away the ending, but it felt somewhat incomplete. There were a lot of blanks to fill in and I'm glad to say that last month, Hattie Ever After came out so there is more to her story. I highly recommend this book to young adults and adults as, like the front cover says, it shows the true spirit of independence. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Truth About Forever

The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen, 2004, 374p, rating=4
Content: Swearing and underage drinking

A long, hot summer...

That's what Macy has to look forward to while her boyfriend, Jason, is away at Brain Camp. Days will be spent at a boring job in the library, evenings will be filled with vocabulary drills for the SATs, and spare time will be passed with her mother, the two of them sharing a silent grief at the traumatic loss of Macy's father.

But sometimes unexpected things can happen—things such as the catering job at Wish, with its fun-loving, chaotic crew. Or her sister's project of renovating the neglected beach house, awakening long-buried memories. Things such as meeting Wes, a boy with a past, a taste for Truth-telling, and an amazing artistic talent, the kind of boy who could turn any girl's world upside down. As Macy ventures out of her shell, she begins to wonder, Is it really better to be safe than sorry? (Goodreads)

Macy's father died while out on a run one morning. He had tried to wake her up to go with him but she was too tired. A few minutes later she changed her mind but by the time she caught up with him, he had collapsed and died. She feels horrible and her and her mother live the perfect existence to avoid talking about it. She gets the perfect boyfriend, Jason, and comes home early and studies every night. Jason leaves for the summer to go to Brain Camp and she takes over for him at the library. The girls that work there with her hate her and don't mind letting her know they believe she's not good enough to be their friend or good enough to be dating Jason.

Her sister Caroline went through a wild stage and is now happily married. When she comes to visit, she has a way of stirring things up. Her mother becomes a workaholic, selling real estate and expanding the company she and her husband built together. During an open house, Macy meets Delia, Wes, Bert, and Monica, the staff of Wish Catering. They're understaffed and Delia, the owner, asks her to help out so she does.

Her job at the library is tough since she's not allowed to do much of anything and she misses Jason so she tells him she loves him in an email and he responds by telling her he thinks they need a break so she drives around one night, unable to return home, when she sees the Wish Catering van and spontaneously stops to see if they need help. They do and she meets Kristy, who wasn't with them the first time she met them. She enjoys herself and her summer starts looking up.

She enjoys her new job and also keeps working at the library to keep her mom happy. She starts to change as she finds someone, Wes, to open up to. They become good friends, and since they each have someone else they're dating, they're able to open up to each other. Their game of Truth helps them get to know each other better. Macy finds out that Jason wants her back and that's what she's been hoping for--or is it?

This is the first Sarah Dessen book I've read and I really enjoyed it. The content would keep me from highly recommending it but I see the appeal for her books. About halfway through, it was hard to put down and I wanted to hurry and finish it. I enjoyed the conversations Macy was finally able to have with her mom as they seemed to finally be able to discuss her father and her mother was able to see a good side to her new friends. I loved her relationship with Wes and how he accepted her for who she was and wasn't trying to mold her into the perfect companion for him. Their game of Truth was fun to read as it helped them get to know each other better in a fun way. I liked her sister, Caroline, and how she helped to bring them all back together. Overall, an interesting book to read and an author I would read again, so if you've read her books and have a recommendation, please let me know.

This is also the first book I've read from my list of paper books to read this year. So here is what my list looks like now (in no particular order, although this happens to be the first book):

1. The Truth About Forever, by Sarah Dessen
2. The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
3. Hounded, by Kevin Hearne
4. The Five People You Meet in Heaven, by Mitch Albom
5. Splintered, by A.G. Howard
6. The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern
7. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot
8. The Blue Castle, by L.M. Montgomery
9. Airel, by Aaron Patterson and Chris White
10. Lethally Blonde, by Patrice Lyle

Monday, March 25, 2013

Ebook Deals! 3/25

Here are some ebooks deals from Covenant Communications and I believe they end this week so if you want them, pick them up soon!





Blog Tours

I'm going to be doing something new starting later this week--reviewing books for blog tours! I've signed up for quite a few so every week for a while, I will review a book and there are giveaways associated with these (click on the Tour Schedule link to read reviews and enter the giveaway). I'm excited because there are some great books coming up! Here are some blog tours for books that look interesting that are going on right now that you can check out.

Tour Schedule


The McClellands are enjoying a lazy summer vacation at the beach when they are lured from our world into Ixeos, an alternate Earth. Finding themselves lost in a maze of tunnels under Paris and surrounded by strangers, they discover that they have been brought to Ixeos for one purpose:  to take the planet back from humanoid aliens who have claimed it. With the aid of the tunnels and a mysterious man named Landon, the teens travel the world seeking the key that will allow them to free Darian, the long-imprisoned rebel leader. But the aliens aren't the only problem on Ixeos -- the McClellands have to deal with brutal gangs, desperate junkies, and a world without power, where all the technology is owned by the aliens, and where most of the population has been killed or enslaved. The worst part? There's no way home.


Tour Schedule


Replacing Gentry

When Marlie agrees to attend a cadaver ball at Vanderbilt Medical School, she did not expect to actually see any cadavers. Or, that a strange apparition would issue her a chilling message.

Despite the cadaver's warning, Marlie is married a year later to Tennessee State Senator, Daniel Cannon, and living in a plantation-style mansion with two step sons. Add to the mix her growing suspicion that something is amiss with the death of Daniel’s first wife, Gentry; and newlywed Marlie is definitely in over her pretty Yankee head.

What begins as an innocent inquiry into her new husband’s clouded past, ends with Marlie in the midst of a dangerous conspiracy.

A modern twist on the classic Gothic romance novels of Rebecca and Jane Eyre, Replacing Gentry follows Marlie’s precarious journey as she learns the truth about the man she married.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Harry Potter

Okay, so I can't talk about reading book series with my children without mentioning their all-time favorite, Harry Potter! I don't believe I need to review these as I was kind of late to the party so probably read them after all of you. I read the first one when it came out and I liked it but not enough to keep buying the books as they came out and decided to wait until I had children and read the books with them.

That day finally arrived! We borrowed most of them from my sister and read through them pretty quickly as they are all interesting and fun. The benefit to reading them so late was that all the movies were out, too, so we would watch the movie, read the book, watch the movie again and then watch the next movie before we read the next book. I liked doing that. One thing I found out is that when we would watch the movie first, I would feel somewhat lost and after reading the book, the movie made so much more sense. So if you haven't actually read the books, you need to!  I actually didn't even like the sixth movie the first time I watched it and Harry and Dumbledore going after the horcruxes was boring and confusing to me. I was worried that I was feeling done with Harry Potter. Then we read the book and I loved it! We watched the movie again and I understood better what was happening and loved the movie, too! Okay, I wouldn't have been done with Harry Potter because at this point I had to know how the whole thing ended and I had a sneaking suspicion about Snape and had to know the truth--was he good or bad?

I enjoyed these books and it was a great series that kept my son's attention. He would beg for more, and since some of those chapters are 30 pages, that was amazing for him. This is definitely a favorite series for my children and one which they will read multiple times in their lives, and I'm sure they'll share it with their children.

If I had to choose, I would have to say my favorite is the first one. That's when we're introduced to Harry and Hogwarts and all the fun and interesting characters that make up the series and it seems so full of possibility and wonder at all that we're going to learn about them. So, which book is your favorite and why?

My rating for the series: 5 stars


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The 13th Reality


Here's another great series that I read with my children. The 13th Reality by James Dashner. 

From Goodreads: What if every time you made a choice that had a significant consequence, a new, alternate reality was created — the life that would've been? What if those new Realities were in danger? What if it fell to you to save all the realities? Atticus Higginbottom, a.k.a. Tick, is a regular thirteen-year-old boy living a regular life until the day a strange letter arrives in his mailbox. Postmarked from Alaska and cryptically signed with the initials "M.G.," the letter informs Tick that dangerous — perhaps even deadly — events have been set in motion that could result in the destruction of reality itself. M.G. promises to send Tick twelve riddles that will reveal that on a certain day, at a certain time, at a certain place, something extraordinary will happen. Will Tick have the courage to follow the twelve clues M.G. sends to him? Will he be able to solve the riddles in time? As M.G. warns Tick, very frightening things are coming your way. Will you join Tick and his friends on an amazing journey through the Realities? What will your choice be?

This is a fun story with some quirky characters that made us all laugh. I love that when Tick gets in a tough situation and isn't sure what to do, he tells his dad what's going on (a refreshing concept which I made sure to point out to my children). His dad is supportive of his adventure but also lets him figure some things out on his own. Throughout the series, Tick also has to make some tough choices and situations he found himself in led to some great discussions about having courage to make the right decision when the outcome might not be the most pleasant to you personally.

The second book is The Hunt for Dark Infinity, the third is The Blade of Shattered Hope and the fourth is The Void of Mist and Thunder. This series is the reason I now wait for all the books in a series to come out when I'm reading them with my children. I picked these up at Costco when book 3 had just come out, believing it to be a trilogy. It wasn't until we were almost done with book 3 that I realized there was a book 4. However, James Dashner was busy with his Maze Runner trilogy, which I don't fault him for--it's another great series which was having incredible success--and book 4 was delayed quite a bit. I like that he didn't just rush through book 4, either, but wanted time to make sure he gave the series justice, but it was hard to get back into after such a long break. We read book 4 in the Kindle format and I forgot until we were almost done that he includes "A Glossary of People, Places, and All Things Important" at the end of each of his books and that would have been a good thing to review so we would have had a better time remembering what was going on. Each book also has Discussion Questions at the end which are good to ponder and discuss. 

Book 4 was pretty intense and was full of lots of action sequences. This is a series I would like to visit again in the future and read them one right after the other because I really feel I would have gotten more out of book 4 if I remembered more of what had been going on. I got to the point where I wanted to finish it to see how it ended and I think it was satisfactory. Again, though, I may feel completely different about this book in the future.

My Rating for the series: 3.5 stars

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Mysterious Benedict Society


From Amazon: "Are You a Gifted Child Looking for Special Opportunities?" Dozens of children respond to this peculiar ad in the newspaper and are then put through a series of mind-bending tests, which readers take along with them. Only four children-two boys and two girls-succeed. Their challenge: to go on a secret mission that only the most intelligent and inventive children could complete. To accomplish it they will have to go undercover at the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened, where the only rule is that there are no rules. But what they'll find in the hidden underground tunnels of the school is more than your average school supplies. So, if you're gifted, creative, or happen to know Morse Code, they could probably use your help.

The Mysterious Benedict Society, by Trenton Lee Stewart, starts with Reynie Muldoon, an orphan, who answers the ad. The test is somewhat unusual. and there are different stages. I found the test to be humorous and this book piqued my interest from the first page. Reynie meets Sticky, Kate and Constance and each of them brings special abilities to their group. Their secret mission is challenging and interesting. They meet a group of people there that they interact with throughout the series (the "bad guys"). This series is creative and it's fun to try to solve the puzzles along with Reynie, Sticky, Kate and Constance. Some were difficult and some were easy for me as an adult to figure out, which made me look smart to my children.

The other books in the trilogy are The Mysterious Benedict Society and The Perilous Journey and The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma. There are two other books in the set but we haven't read them, so if you have, please let me know if they're worth reading or are just fun, extra books. I believe they're each stand alone and not part of the actual story. I read all three with my children and we enjoyed them all. This first book was probably my favorite. About halfway through the book, none of us wanted to put it down and we read as much as we could. The second book was the same but the third book didn't grab us as much. This is another great series to share with your children, and if possible, read it with them. 

My Rating for the series: 4 stars

Monday, March 18, 2013


The third book in the Beyonders series by Brandon Mull just came out and I bought it this past weekend. I'm planning to read this series with my children and wanted to wait until they were all out to start! (It will be a while before I'll be ready to review them.) We read Fablehaven a few years ago and loved it. 

From Goodreads: For centuries, mystical creatures of all description were gathered to a hidden refuge called Fablehaven to prevent their extinction. The sanctuary survives today as one of the last strongholds of true magic in a cynical world. Enchanting? Absolutely. Exciting? You bet. Safe? Well, actually, quite the opposite ... Kendra and her brother Seth have no idea their grandfather is the current caretaker of Fablehaven. Inside the gated woods, ancient laws give relative order among greedy trolls, mischievous satyrs, plotting witches, spiteful imps, and jealous fairies. However, when the rules get broken, an arcane evil is unleashed, forcing Kendra and Seth to face the greatest challenge of their lives. To save her family, Fablehaven, and perhaps the world, Kendra must find the courage to do what she fears most.

Fablehaven captured all of our interest from the beginning. Kendra and Seth Sorenson are not happy to be visiting their grandparents while their parents go on a mandatory cruise. Their grandparents live in a big home with lots of land and when they arrive, they find out that their grandmother is visiting her sister Edna, who's dying. Their grandfather has a housekeeper, Lena, and another guy, Dale, who lives and works there, too. They're taken to the attic where they'll be staying and are pleased to find it cheerful and inviting. There's a hen that they are asked to take care of until their Grandmother returns. There's no TV or radio so they figure they'll be pretty bored. They can play in the pool, explore the gardens or play in their room but everything else is off limits. It doesn't take long for them to determine that something magical is going on and it's fun to read how they figure it out. 

This book, and the entire series, is full of magic, adventure and twists and turns. Seth was frustrating to me as he makes some poor decisions which cause all kinds of trouble. I really thought he'd learn his lesson at some point but he continues to do this throughout the series. I loved Kendra's character and enjoyed watching her grow. There are lots of other interesting and unique characters and back stories which keep the books moving and they can sometimes be hard to put down. Brandon Mull does a fantastic job of creating a world that you can envision and feel that you are in the story. It's a fun series to read and I highly recommend it to everyone! 

This is a great collection for your home library so if you don't have this series yet, you might want to consider picking it up while it's $23.09 for the entire series (in paperback) on Amazon.

My Rating for the entire series: 4 stars 

Friday, March 15, 2013

Six Years

Sunday is St. Patrick's Day. And my daughter's ninth birthday. And the six year anniversary of my mother's death. Yes, she passed away on my daughter's third birthday. I was hoping it wouldn't happen that day. But it did.

My mother was born and raised in Idaho and when she married my dad, they lived in Utah. The first two of her children were born there. My dad started working for IBM (I've Been Moved) and soon they were off to Philadelphia, where two more children were born, then New York, where three more were born (I was the first of those) and then, finally, Raleigh, North Carolina, where the last two children were born (9 total, in case you don't want to count).

I was hard on my mom for a while, but as I've become a mother myself, I understand her much better. She had a hard time living away from her family for so long. She made lots of friends along the way but nine children was a lot for her at times and she had some struggles. When I was 15 years old, we had the opportunity to move to California and my mom was glad to get back to the west coast and live close to her family again.

My mom was musically talented. Growing up, she danced and played the piano for everything. Music was her life. Once she realized my younger sister could harmonize and I could sing melody, she had us learning all kinds of songs and singing at everything. I went along with it but as I got older, we had many arguments over it as I wanted to play basketball, go dancing and hang out with friends. We also had a family choir and then all of us girls would sing some songs together. One of the most memorable (and our extended family loves to remind us of this still) was "Sing a Rainbow." My mom also sewed so she made us each a shirt with different colors and when we sang our color, we dramatically swooped our arm out to make a rainbow. I have this cute picture so you can see what I'm talking about. 

Eliason girls singing a rainbow
She played for many choirs, duets, soloists and instrumental groups through the years. She was a great sight reader so could play pretty much anything. She still practiced a lot, though. I would listen to her practice and practice and it would sound perfect to me but she would still keep practicing. Now I realize it was mostly therapeutic. 

She didn't know a stranger and this was never more apparent to me than after my surprise 16th birthday party that my sisters gave me. I went to the local grocery store and the checker asked me how my surprise party was. I gave her a look that asked how she could possibly know about that and she said my mother had been talking to her about it a few days earlier. When my mom would go grocery shopping, it took quite a while for her to check out, so she would pull out her family photo and go through each child and let them know what was going on in our lives. That was just mom. 

Graduation with mom and dad
When I was 22, I was serving a mission for my church in Halifax, Canada, and right before I came home, my dad retired from IBM and my parents moved to Orem, Utah. I decided to live in Utah for a while and by now my younger siblings were teenagers and we had lots of fun! They would have their friends over a lot and my mom was always good about taking time to talk to their friends and get to know them. It wasn't uncommon to see friends at our house talking to mom with none of us in sight.

In 2004, my parents had an opportunity to serve a mission for our church in Tonga. It was earlier than they had originally planned but they felt like it was what they needed to do, so off they went. They loved it! Their assignment was at the Liahona High School and mom did a lot with music so she was in her element. They made some great friends and loved the people there so much.

Dad and Mom in Tonga

They came home in February 2006 and toward the end of the year, my mother started feeling sick. My mother had been sick quite a bit growing up and she would sometimes spend a few days or a week in bed and then come out feeling totally fine. She had the family over for Thanksgiving and she seemed more tired than normal but kept up with everyone. Soon after that, though, she was having trouble seeing in one of her eyes and she felt dizzy so she quit driving. She later told me that when she played for the church choir's Christmas program, she couldn't see out of one eye at all (and barely could out of the other), but I don't think anyone noticed and I feel that she was blessed to be able to play one last time. 

She went to the doctor and I can't remember now what she was told, but they couldn't seem to find anything wrong so she kept trying to get better on her own. She finally looked so bad that my dad and her cousin took her to the hospital and she was admitted immediately. They did lots of tests and came up with a few different diagnoses and then, after a week, they found that she had Stage 4 breast cancer. This was now mid-February. I remember driving to the hospital many times with tears in my eyes. I would look around and wonder how life seemed so normal for everyone else as my world came crumbling down. I just knew my mom wasn't going to make it through this. Now that I'm used to my new normal, I look around and wonder how many people are dealing with their world crumbling down and say a quick prayer for them.

She went to a rehab center for a few days and we quickly learned that that wasn't the best place for her, so we checked into hospice and brought her home. Some friends generously loaned us a hospital bed and mom was able to spend her last two weeks in her living room. One of my sisters was able to come into town to take care of her in between the nurse's visits. Mom had lots of visitors and many of them played the piano and sang for her. She loved it! My sweet daughter who was 2 (almost 3) would massage my mom's arms and legs and climb on her bed to take naps with her. It was so sweet! 

This was a very trying time yet also tender. I was grateful for the conversations I had with mom where I was able to express my love for her and share treasured memories. One of my sisters asked her what we should do in the future when we wanted to talk to her but she wasn't there and she told her that at those times, we need to get on our knees and pray. I have thought of that many times throughout the years and it continues to be great advice today. Because of my experience, I feel that death is easier on the person dying when they die quickly but harder on those left behind and harder on the person dying when they die slowly but easier on those left behind.

With my daughter's birthday approaching, my sisters were getting antsy so they decided to plan a party for her. We invited some of the neighborhood kids, which was good since their families understood what was happening, and prepared a fun Dora the Explorer party. The 17th was on a Saturday and it was a beautiful day. We got to my parents house and found out that mom wasn't doing well at all. We talked to my aunt who was a nurse and there were signs that she was going to die that day. We debated about what to do and decided to go ahead with the party but just move it up. As I was on the phone with parents moving it up and other family was out running errands, my mother quietly passed away. A few family members were in the room with her. I won't go into all the details of what happened that day, but it turned out to be nothing like we were told and had prepared for so we had to make a lot of quick decisions. We did still have the party and most of it was in the backyard. The most memorable moment was my sister who was Swyper in the treasure hunt. She carried around a small plastic tree to hide behind outside and had no idea what she was doing since she'd never seen the show. It was good to have some laughs that day while we dealt with the reality that mom was really gone. We were fortunate that she'd had her mind up until she died so we were able to communicate with her until the end. 
With my sisters in 2009
We were blessed with lots of love and support from family and friends and my parents lived in one of the best neighborhoods in America. The first year was definitely the hardest and I still have my moments where I break down and cry. I cried so much the first few months that any time my eyes would water, my daughter would say, "Mom, you're thinking about your mom, huh?" I no longer reach for the phone to call her and tell her what the kids did that day, whether cute, funny, good or bad and I have spent a lot of time on my knees. I am grateful for the good memories and all that she taught me through the years and pass that on to my children when I can so they will get to know her, too!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Guest Review: The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Thank you Mel for inviting me to guest post and resurrect one of my old reviews.  I chose one that I found to be a literally challenge at the time.  Because it is dark and bleak, I would recommend this to mature readers since McCarthy doesn't seem to be for the faint of heart.  I also read his book, No Country for Old Men (my review HERE), which was very disturbing but artfully crafted thus I gave it 5 stars.

If you like these two sample reviews (counting NCfOM), feel free to stop by my neck of the woods (@Jinky is Reading) to say hello and I'll be sure to visit you back.  Salamat (thank you)!

The Road by Cormac McCarthy, 2006, 241p, rating=4 (excellent; highly recommend), original review 3/29/10

A searing, postapocalyptic novel destined to become Cormac McCarthy’s masterpiece.

A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don’t know what, if anything, awaits them there. They have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food—and each other. (Goodreads)

Duh, just noticed the book cover is dark... appropriately so since the world that the man and boy lived now was dark and dreary! This is because this is a post apocalyptic novel so the road ahead is unknown and scary. Your survival skills had to been challenged here. Consequently, this book touched upon human's awakening of it's ultimate capabilities in face of the world's end. Would it be better to live or die? Is the fight to live worth it at this point? Is God around? Does having hope make a difference? These are a few of the questions that this book had it's characters pondering. Deep.

I believe a seasoned reader would find this book extraordinary. The author was skilled in describing everything in detail and much in symbolism that I suspect some I missed. Being that I am a striving reader, I saw the details more cumbersome. I was eager to find out what's at the end of the road. It was however the journey getting there that was more important to the author to get across. Surely it was, because when you're at that point of existence ... you don't know for sure who's the good guy or who's going to eat you! Yes, I said EAT. When you're starving and your scavenged food is gone, what else is there that some may turn to but cannibalism? Really, this book is intense in human desperation and tenacity.

Oh, oh, oh, the ending!! All the bleakness that you've been reading comes to a conclusion and you will be exhausted along with the man and boy's journey and you will weep, wail, ... howl!!

Excellent book. Now I've got to find the movie and see the novel in film ... should be interesting.

**My quotables:
"You forget what you want to remember and you remember what you want to forget." pg 10.
"If you break little promises you'll break big ones." pg 29.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Cellar Door Mysteries: Secret Room

I found this book, Cellar Door Mysteries: Secret Room, by Brian Clayton, as a Kindle freebie and picked it up for my daughter since she loves mysteries. She is almost 9 and has been reading for many years. She's an old soul and sometimes I forget how young she really is. She's fascinated with blogging and has asked me several times if she can have one (um, no). She read this book and loved it and did a write up on it which I think is really good so I'm going to post her review, which she is excited to share (I've helped some with editing, but kept in some of her "so's"):

In the beginning, a policeman comes to the door and tells Aunt Sylvair that Mr. and Mrs. Domitreus are dead. So the kids (Darius, 10, and Veronika, 11) get told that their parents are dead and do not take it well. So that night the kids go exploring through the house. They go to the attic and find a box and in it are some numbers and the numbers are 1917, and they find a journal with it. In the journal is a message. And it says, "Sylvair Domitreus, within these walls, a great treasure is hidden, a clue is carved that will lead you back within these walls, a room with no doors, no windows, or halls." The next morning they go into the yard. They looked for a tree and finally they found one with writing that says, "Ten rocks right IT will be in your sight." So they followed a trail of rocks that Darius had tripped over until they don't see any more. There they find a cellar door. So they open it and see that it's dark down there. They go down and start feeling for anything. As they are feeling around, they find a light switch and a box. They try to open the box but it would not open. They punched in the numbers 1917 and it opened. Inside the box was a key so they started feeling around and found a keyhole that they put the key into and a door opened. And you have to read the book to find out what's behind the door.

This is a very short book (17 pages) and is part of a series. The second book is also out and she has already started it because she just couldn't wait! I couldn't find any information about how many there will be and how frequently they will come out, but we'll be keeping our eye on these!

Her Rating:  4 stars
My Rating: 3.5 stars

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Last Great Wizard of Yden

I've been wanting to do a write up on this book, The Last Great Wizard of Yden, by S.G. Rogers, for a while and my sister, Alisa, recently posted her review on Goodreads:

His 16th birthday had been the most horrible day of Jon Hansen's life, but things were about to get worse.

The ring - His father vanished when he went to retrieve the ring for Jon's birthday. When Jon puts the ring on, he notices that it is more than a simple ring!

The cuff - He found in his father's things after his father vanished.

The ring/cuff combo - transports Jon into an unfamiliar world. Jon and his younger sister, Sela, didn't know that all the fantasy stories their father told them about Yden were in fact true.

First trip to Yden... Jon is mistaken for a vagrant, chased by the cygards, and barely escapes. How he can he rescue his father when he can barely rescue himself?

Now that his father is gone, money is tight. So Jon transfers from Pacific Prep to the public school... Pacific High. While shopping for clothes for school he meets a pretty girl, Brett and finds out she goes to his new school. He also makes a new friend at his new school, Casey Scott. Things would be looking up if his arch-enemy, Fred, hadn't also transferred to public school.

Second trip to Yden... Jon finds himself in the dungeon with a woman warrior, Kira Szul, and is able to free them both using his magical powers.

While serving Detention together, Fred and Jon save an old man and a young woman from a burning car. Jon immediately recognizes Kira Szul and Dorsit from Yden. And his life has just become more complicated...

When Jon returns to Yden the third time he has an entire posse with him... Brett has been kidnapped by Efysian, the evil wizard who is holding Jon's dad captive, and taken to Yden. Jon returns with Casey, Kira, and Fred to rescue her. Dragons, evil wizards, a girlfriend AND a father that need saving...

I loved this book! There's mystery, action and adventure. It kept my attention from the first page. The first sentence is, "'Dad disappeared in a flash of light and a sound like thunder,' Jon blurted out." Not the best start to your 16th birthday. Life is rough for Jon for a while but he does make some friends and together they discover a world of magic, wizards and dragons. Jon finds out the truth about himself and his father. This is a fun YA fantasy and I think adults will like it as well (I certainly did). Book 2, Children of Yden, is now out, but I haven't read it yet.

My Rating: 5 stars

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Francesca of Lost Nation

This is the story of 9-year-old Sarah and her grandmother, Francesca, in the summer of 1947 in Lost Nation, Iowa. Sarah calls her by her given name, Francesca, because that's just what she's always done. Her father, who she calls Daddyboys, is a mechanic who works hard. Her mother, Rachael, who she refers to as mommy or mother, stays home and cooks all day, creating delicacies that are sold at Lost Nation's general store. Francesca and Sarah run the farm they live on. Sarah's mother and grandmother are total opposites. In her words, "By some accident of birth, they had been thrown together like clashing colors in a crazy quilt." (p. 12)

They live on a large piece of property they call Home Farm, which belongs to Francesca. She lived in the Main House with her husband until he died. Sarah's family lived in a smaller Bridal Cottage and moved into the Main House at that time to keep Francesca from being lonely.

One June day, Rachael, Sarah and Francesca could feel that something was going on. Daddyboys comes down to breakfast in a Sunday shirt and when Rachael asks him why he's dressed like that, he laughs, kisses her on the cheek and leaves. While Sarah and Francesca are out working on the farm, Hunny Clack, the Postmaster, sees them and asks them to take a special delivery envelope to Daddyboys. They take it to him at the garage and when he opens it, he smiles, but still won't tell them anything. A few days later he finally announces to his family that he won a writing contest and the prize was a trip to Paris for him and Rachael. They leave 8 days later and Sarah and Francesca were on their own for the summer. 

Shortly after that, the Sheriff comes to visit them and warns that there's an arsonist in the area and he wants his brother to stay out there with them so they'll be safe. Matthew moves into the Bridal Cottage but he's not friendly and they don't like him at first. He's a pilot that's trying to get over an accident that changed his life. He drinks a lot and isn't pleasant at first but changes over time. The summer is full of adventure, heartache, fun and change and is a good coming of age story.

I enjoyed this book. Sarah and Francesca have a great relationship that goes through some changes and they work through them and their bond strengthens. I enjoyed reading about their relationship the most. Francesca is quirky and full of secrets so she was the most interesting character to me. There are some dramatic family dynamics that cause tension and uncomfortableness and it's humorous to read them through a young girl's eyes. This book has a touch of everything: friendship, humor, romance, adventure, and mystery. Warning: There are some swear words.

A couple of quotes:
"Happiness is a treasure, Sarah, especially someone else's. It is therefore civilized behavior to think carefully before you set about spoiling it." (p. 27)

"It's a terrible thing when you discover something truly important about someone you love only after they're gone." (p. 90)

My Rating: 4 Stars

Well, this is the 1st book off my TBR: Ebook list so this is what it looks like now:

1. Beautiful Creatures, by Kami Garcia
2. Drops of Gold, by Sarah Eden
3. The False Prince, by Jennifer Nielsen
4. The Girl in the Gatehouse, by Julie Klassen
5. Daughter of a Thousand Pieces of Gold, by Peg Helminski
6. Child of the Mist, by Kathleen Morgan
7. Grand Sophy, by Georgette Heyer
8. Francesca of Lost Nation, by Lucinda Sue Crosby
9. I Have People, by Taylor Dean
10. Finding June, by Shannen Camp