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2017 Reading Challenge

Jill Elizabeth has read 2 books toward her goal of 150 books.
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Book Review: The Turn by Kim Harrison

I wasn’t sure about this “prequel” trend – suddenly it seems everyone is writing prequels to their established (or even finished) series… I was skeptical, it seemed like such a marketing ploy – a way to revive flagging interest, to bring new readers in and keep tired ones holding on… Still, I really enjoyed the Rachel Morgan series, so when I saw this one on NetGalley, I thought it would be worth a look at least. I’m SO glad I didn’t heed my skepticism – this was a great book, as either a stand-alone OR a way to answer a lot of unanswered questions from the series…

The backdrop of all of the action in the Rachel Morgan Hollows books is The Turn – the moment in history when supernatural creatures came out of the closet, in response to the decimation of the human population after a bioengineered tomato killed off vast swathes of humanity. Information is dropped in, here and there, but the full situation is never really explained. It’s history in the Hollows, and a history everyone knows, so there was never any need to go into detail beyond that needed to set the stage for the contemporary events. This prequel gives the history – and so much more. It is a marvelous stage-setting for the full series, but it also reads as a wholly original, free-standing, story of its own.
Continue reading Book Review: The Turn by Kim Harrison

Book Review: After Me by Deborah Coonts

“So disconcerting, losing oneself – like being lost in the fog, no landmarks, nothing familiar, no map back to me.”


What an excellent thriller – this one hides more twists and turns than a nest of snakes. And that’s an especially apt description, which you’ll find out once you start reading…

I was contacted about this one by the publicist (thank you Penny!), who is a fantastic resource for me as a reviewer and for authors (learn why by clicking here). She described it to me as “an exhilarating ride with a dash of cutting-edge science”, and believe me, she did not oversell… There’s more than a dash of science here, and it’s handled brilliantly and woven impeccably into a whip-smart tale of secrets, betrayal, and the mysteries of memory.

I know I don’t normally give a blurb, but this was my introduction to the book and it sets the stage for my review nicely, so here goes… “Kate Sawyer, a former NYPD undercover cop, injured badly in a takedown gone terribly wrong, is living in Portland, Oregon, safe in the Witness Protection Program, while she undergoes experimental stem-cell treatment for a genetic case of early-onset Alzheimer’s. Safe, that is, until she returns home to find a dead man in her bathtub with a note reading: I know what you’ve done. Her cover blown, the clock is ticking, people are dying, and no one is who they seem to be. Everyone seems to think Kate knows where $20 million in diamonds is stashed. If she could only remember.”

And if that doesn’t catch your eye, how about this first sentence (I’m a fanatic for great first sentences, remember): “The body dumped in my bathtub was a warning; that much I got.” How’s THAT for a set-up?? Believe me, it only gets better from there… Continue reading Book Review: After Me by Deborah Coonts

Guest Post: The Adventurous Mailbox by Andrew Bliss

You have GOT to check this series out – I first learned of it through the outreach efforts of its marvelous creator, Andrew Bliss. It is an absolutely incredible idea and offers tremendous, mind- and world-expanding, possibilities for kids (of all ages). Take a look at his story, then at the series itself. And then tell me exactly how fantastic an idea it is… Oh, wait. You don’t have to. I realized it as soon as I saw the first offering. Now I’m just waiting for my toddler to get a teensy bit older, so I can sign her up! You’ll hear more from Andrew in the coming weeks/months (I hope!), as I’m looking to continue to spread the word about M.I.T.C.H. and The Adventurous Mailbox… Enjoy!


Inspiring Kids through Cultural Adventures: The Adventurous Mailbox

Eight years ago, I took my first trip to Thailand. It came four years into my now 12-year stint abroad. At that time, my niece and nephew back home in Cincinnati, Ohio were getting old enough to start reading books on their own. I hated not being there to watch them grow up in person, and I also remembered what it was like to grow up in the Midwest. I wanted to figure out a way to spend some quality time with them, as well as to bring the world to them since they weren’t able to go see it with their own eyes. On this trip to Thailand, then, I took them along with me in a way, trying to experience the culture through their young eyes. After my trip, I made a book for them about our adventure, containing tigers, monkeys, and really helpful monks in
fancy robes. Through the book, I tried to spark their interest in the world and in exploration itself. I also wanted them to know at an earlier age than I did that, in addition to their own, the world was full of rich cultures that they were welcome to partake in and learn from. The book, I am proud to say, still sits on the family mantle many years later.

A few years later, I reread the book during an annual visit home. I think it was my brother who suggested it would be great if a lot of kids could get books like this. The idea germinated for a while, went through many incarnations, and ultimately produced The Adventurous Mailbox – an adventure series that also introduces the cultures of the world.
Continue reading Guest Post: The Adventurous Mailbox by Andrew Bliss

Guest Interview with Mehreen Ahmed AND a Giveaway of Her Upcoming Book, The Pacifist

Today I’m pleased to bring you an interview with author Mehreen Ahmed, whose newest book The Pacifist hits shelves on May 11.


Interview with Mehreen Ahmed

In the last couple of years, you have written a number of short stories in between your novels. Where do you continue to find inspiration?
I find inspiration in many things. My main source of inspiration is nature. From a drop of dew on a blade of grass, to any natural objects big or small – moves me. The sights, the sounds, the smells and the change of seasons make me philosophical. I am a true romantic when it comes to my source of inspiration.

How do you create your first draft? Is it a messy process, or do you have a plan laid out?
No plans. It is a messy. I feel a light finally coming out of a mass of darkness after a long process of deliberation, which is also when deliverance happens. The first draft is when I finally pour those ideas down. Following that, I have to sort out what to keep, change, and throw away.

Do you do all of your research beforehand or do you find it easier to research as you go along? Continue reading Guest Interview with Mehreen Ahmed AND a Giveaway of Her Upcoming Book, The Pacifist

Book Review: Speak, Heart! by Charly Wilde

I don’t review poetry, as a general rule. Every now and again, someone will contact me requesting a review – I usually politely point them to my review criteria, apologize for being unable to help, and move along with my day. The reason I don’t review poetry is not that I don’t enjoy reading it; I quite do. Rather, it’s because poetry is so personal an expression that I find it difficult to review it. Poems either speak to me, or they don’t – and usually, whether they do or not is a direct function of their subject matter and the goings on in my own life. I can read books across genres and moods, but if I’m not in a place of direct alignment with poems, I find it difficult to read them with any degree of satisfaction (let alone with any ability to objectively evaluate their merits).

Given that, it is surprising that a poetry review made it onto my blog. But when I was contacted by Charly Wilde, the poet, I found something in her emails that caught (and held) my eye. From there, I turned to her volume of poems, and was equally impressed. Like many a poetry book, this is a slim volume with deceptively grand heft. It is a series of moving selections about life and love and the strength of hearts. Ms. Wilde has a lovely way with language. She has a talent for capturing complex emotions and emotional states and describing them with deceptively simple language – it makes the power behind the words pour off the page…

Perhaps some of the resonance I felt for these words lies in the background of the woman who composed them. In reading her brief bio, I learned that she, too, walked away from a corporate career that she thought she wanted but that turned out to be not altogether what she had hoped – or needed. I’ve certainly been there, and it may be that some of the connection I felt to her words was a product of an echo to my own life. Regardless, the words moved me, and I responded to the strength and pain and growth that lay beneath them. This is a talented author, and one you should keep an eye on…

To learn more, visit Ms. Wilde at her website. My review copy was graciously provided by the author.

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