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As of my "maternity leave," here are the stats of the past year: 74 books reviewed 9 guest posts 4 independent bookstores 3 d...

Friday, March 30, 2012


We all know by now that I am a big fan of YA lit, so when I was approached to review Paraglide by Peter Anthony Kelley it was a no-brainer.  Absolutely, I said to myself!

Jim and his sister Erica join their mom on a vacation to Europe with the understanding that it will get them out of their lives which have recently been in upheaval.  Their father has left them, they moved from their home in Washington, D.C. to the Midwest, and they are having a hard time dealing with the blows life has dealt.  When their mother disappears on their first day in London and the kids are given ransom information, Jim and Erica quickly learn that there is more to their situation that meets the eye.  Who is their father, really, and why did he leave the family?  Who took their mother and to what lengths are Jim and Erica willing to go to get her back?  Whom can they truly trust?

This book was such a book treat.  The narrative was clear and Kelley is clearly a strong writer and storyteller.  I found myself wanting to find out what happened next through the entire book--and I found myself thinking I knew what was going to happen, then second guessing myself, then third guessing my second guessing.  I thought this book was entertaining, intriguing, and indulgent in the best way possible.  I felt slightly guilty enjoying a book that I should be passing along to the young people in my life, except that part where I wanted to keep it for myself!

About halfway through this book I realized how unrealistic it was--and I also realized I didn't care.  I was completely engaged and realized that sometimes it's not just OK, but preferable, to have a book in your hands that is just plain fun and fantasy.  If I could go on this kind of adventure I would--except the part where my mom gets kidnapped. 

Pick this book up here for $2.99 on Amazon.  Seriously--you will have a great weekend read.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Latter-Day of the Dead

I was sold on Latter-Day of the Dead by Kevin Krohn the second I read "zombies" and "polygamy" in the description.  While not the biggest fan of zombie literature myself, I know that many of my close friends are and I am obsessed with Mormons so it's a wash, know what I'm saying?

A young man leaves his polygamist compound (much against the rules) to visit a strip club for the first time (beyond against the rules).  While there, he is bit in a very unfortunate location by a stripper who is clearly not right.  After going home he begins to feel and act not right himself--and slowly the compound doctor realizes what is happening.  Can he warn the compound in time?  Will they even believe him? 

It is no lie that I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  I find the whole idea of zombies to be so ridiculous that I love when someone takes the concept and goes as far as possible with it.  Krohn does exactly this.  I love how integrated the zombies were into the life of the polygamist compound, and it made me feel guiltily indulgent for wanting to sink my teeth into this story (pun completely intended). 

You can get this ebook on Amazon for $4.99.  Not a bad deal, I tell you!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Theodore Quester's Shots is the story of Nic, a young man who just wants to stop slinging "product".  He gets wrapped up in some monster stuff--his picture-perfect brother's complicated relationships, his parents anger and frustration at his drug bust, selling his car to a major drug dealer, and two murderous brothers who happen to be his suppliers.  Needless to say, these few days are not Nic's finest.  When the major drug dealer comes calling for his payout, Nic faces his greatest obstacle--surviving.

This book has an interesting set-up with Nic's desire to leave the drug business.  He has recently been busted by the cops and he owes the crazy Martinez Gonzales brothers a ton of money.  The story starts strong and grabbed my attention early.  I enjoyed the relationship between Nic and his brother Bobby which is solidified over learning to make espresso with the best equipment possible.  Things are not always peachy in sibling relationships, but it was clear that Nic wanted to make things right with his brother.

The subtitle for this book is, "A highly caffeinated thriller," and this comes in quite a bit in the book.  Coffee is almost another character in this piece.  There were times near the end of the book when I wanted to scream, "Enough with the coffee!" as it sometimes took focus away from the action in the scene.  However, I will say it is an interesting way to integrate an inanimate character into this world where so many of the characters are flawed--coffee was often the only one that kept its cool.

It was also interesting reading about another side of Austin, Texas, where the story takes place.  I have loved my time spent in Austin but I really only got to the visitor's side.  If you are interested in reading this for yourself, you can purchase the electronic book on Amazon for the amazing price of $2.99.  Not a bad deal, I tell you.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Thirteen Reasons Why

I wanted to pick up Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher after reading The Future of Us.  I had heard about the book prior and after reading Future I went ahead and requested it.

Hannah commits suicide, but before she does, she records thirteen notes on tape for those whom she believes set her actions in motion.  The story is told in first person by Clay, to whom one of those notes is addressed.  Hannah lays out her reasons and while not expecting everyone to assign blame, she does want people to recognize that how they treat others echoes in the lives of many.

I will be honest--I went in to this book a little skeptical.  I understood where the novelist was coming from regarding the plot and the overall message, but I had a difficult time wrapping my head around the idea of blame in a suicide when the blame comes directly from the person who made the choice to end their life.  But I put this aside for the sake of literature because ultimately it's about the book as a story.

Asher is a compelling writer.  I didn't want to put this book down because despite my misgivings on the theme, Asher writes a story that is engrossing and interesting.  He writes fully fleshed-out characters and understands the basics of strong story arc.   I didn't want to put the book down and when I had to I greatly looked forward to picking it up again.  I still have issues with the idea of passing around blame, but I have to say that the storytelling is hearty and the characters engender compassion. 

Do I think this book is worth a read?  Most definitely I do.  You should come to your own conclusions about the theme and the work.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Night Circus

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern was a hot book in 2011.  So hot, in fact, that getting it from the library was next to impossible.  I, however, managed to get in line for the ebook and behold!  I finished this beautiful little piece of work off while on a business trip last week.

A circus appears in an undisclosed location virtually overnight, and it is only open from sundown to sun-up.  The magic of the circus--the illusionist, the bonfire, the flying kittens, the contortionist--are all contained within the incredible maze that makes up this black and white confection.  What makes this circus tick?  How does it exist?  And most importantly--how does it happen?

All of these questions are answered, or so you think they will be, in this beautiful book.  It was definitely worthy of the praise it has received, and it was a lovely and engaging read.  I even want to use the word "magical" to describe it as cliche as that sounds.  It is a love story in several veins--love with other people, love of parents and siblings, and love of the circus itself.  In no way, though, is this book sappy.  It is beautifully constructed and and a lovely, lovely, lovely story.

I felt just so happy when I "closed" this book (it was an ebook, so I really just pressed the "home" button).  I wanted to sit still and let the happiness and love I felt when finishing just wash over me.  The sign of a great book?  One might say so.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Price of Everything

The Price of Everything: Solving the Mystery of Why We Pay What We Do by Eduardo Porter hit my itch for a nonfiction learning piece.

Why do we pay what we do--for everything?  What is the cost of human life as established by governments or by insurance companies?  What is the cost of living, depending on where you live in the world, and how does that effect the value of our lives?  Why are we willing to spend $5 on a latte from a company that is a few miles away from a closer coffee shop--where the latte is $4?  All of these important thoughts sum up in a nutshell the questions that Porter asks.

I enjoyed this book thoroughly as I often enjoy psychologically-based pieces that teach me something about the way I, and in turn the world, work.  I found the peculiarities of so many people I know and so many I don't to be easy to relate to--because I have made similar choices.  It's a little satisfying to know that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Dollhouse Murders

The Dollhouse Murders by Betty Ren Wright was one of my favorite books growing up, and I never realized until I re-read it recently how much it shaped my worldview.  It had a profound effect on my love of dollhouses, it piqued my interest in (and now love of) crime stories, and it introduced me to microfiche.  True story.

Amy Treloar is a young woman of middle school age who feels the world is against her.  She has to take care of her mentally-challenged sister whom she feels has affected friendships with girls her age.  It doesn't help that she feels her mother is constantly disappointed in her and that her sister gets the attention in the family.  When Amy's aunt, Clare, offers for Amy to come spend a week with Clare while she cleans out her grandparent's home (Amy's great grandparents), Amy jumps at the chance.  While there, Amy discovers Clare's old dollhouse where the dolls suspiciously move themselves.  After a little investigation at the library, Amy discovers her great grandparents were murdered and it was never solved.  Are the dolls trying to tell her something?  Can they point Amy to what really happened that night?

This description is quite long because I genuinely love this book.  I remembered it being super long and it taking me forever to read.  Then it came in the mail at 149 small pages at 14 point font, double spaced.  How our memories work, I guess. 

I have loved books for as far back as I can remember, and there is a small cannon that made me fall in love with the art of stories.  I am glad to say that this book was one of them, regardless of how hokey it can be at times.  I ordered an old copy of this just to keep on my shelf, because it makes me smile to read it again and again when I need a pick-me-up.  We all need a little of that in our lives.


Monday, March 5, 2012

Anatomy of Injustice

Anatomy of Injustice: A Murder Case Gone Wrong by Pulitzer Prize-winning Raymond Bonner who is sure to be considered for yet another with this glorious piece of work.

Anatomy investigates in depth the case of Edward Elmore, a man convicted of and sentenced to death for the rape and murder of an elderly woman in 1982.  The only problem is he didn't do the crime, but once a person has been convicted and sentenced to death it is near impossible to overturn the verdict even with physical evidence proving innocence.  This piece takes us through the crime, the conviction, and the years of appeals by Elmore's lawyers to just simply get him off death row--and to prove his innocence.

I could not put this book down.  It is no secret that I am wary of the death penalty for many reasons, and I thought this book would educate me further on the process of appeals.  It did more than that--it angered me and it roused my sense of injustice to a point where I want to go to law school and fight this myself.  Bonner has clearly spent a great deal of time researching this case and putting his heart and soul into this book, and it shows in the detail and in the arguments.  He doesn't argue against the fact that most people on death row are, in fact, guilty of their crimes--however, there are those on death row who never got a fair chance to begin with.  Elmore, being black and intellectually slow and one who wishes to please, didn't have a chance in court against a small Southern town and judges who need to get reelected.

I think you need to read this book--and you, and you, and you, and you.  Bonner's argument against the death penalty is not that there are men and women who don't deserve, but rather that we are humans who are flawed and therefore can't justifiably administer this punishment without bias and with a clear head.  Read it for yourself and make your own judgment--and let's chat.  Because this is a book that requires a coffee date and in-depth discussion late into the evening.