Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Clockwork Scarab review

Evaline Stoker comes from a long line of famous vampire hunters and Mina Holmes is the niece of the famous Sherlock. These young women have been gifted talents necessary to continue the family businesses, yet both struggle with their tasks. Evaline can't stand the sight of blood and Mina is totally awkward in social situations and rather bossy. 

These girls are thrown together, on a mission to figure out why society girls are disappearing and committing suicide. An unlikely pair, this combination definitely provides humor along with the mystery. 

Oh and did I mention the time traveling hottie? There's one of those too. 

2 things bothered me about this book, so let's get those out of the way first, shall we? It's definitely a plot-driven novel. Totally fine with that, except the characters really fell flat for me. I've always preferred books that have a character-driven focus, so it could totally be personal preference, but both Mina and Evaline had the chance to be deep characters -- laced with humor -- and neither really were. I felt as if they were constantly just being described, rather than actually living out the roles the author created for them. 

I also didn't care for the inclusion of the time-traveling Dylan. I felt his part of the story was unnecessary and didn't add to the plot for me. It was almost annoying when he was having to describe his smartphone or when Mina became fascinated with his rubber tennis shoes. I thought the main characters being related to the Stoker and Holmes lines was enough of a punch and made for fun mystery reading. 

Those things aside, I really did enjoy the story. Told in alternating points of view, we were able to see exactly what Evaline and Mina were thinking about each situation in turn, though Evaline was definitely overshadowed much of the time. 

The mystery elements were interesting and the link to Egyptian culture was cool. I'll give the 2nd book in the series a try when it comes out, though I do hope the time traveling portion is done!

Friday, September 20, 2013

In case you're wondering, this is where I've been

Are any of you members of MOPS International? If you have a preschooler and are able to join a group, I cannot recommend it enough. The short version is that it's a great place to meet new friends, encourage each other, hear speakers on a variety of topics, make fun things, and laugh a lot. Plus, you get a few hours without your kids! 

I started going to the meetings last year and then in the spring, I was asked to be the new coordinator for our local chapter, taking over for an amazing woman whose daughter outgrew the program. I was definitely surprised to have been asked, but definitely felt like I was meant to lead these women. I had no idea how much work was involved though!

Over the summer our leadership team met probably a dozen times, including a day-long retreat, and then in the past few weeks leading up to our first meeting it's been a frenzy to get things ordered, folders made, name tags painted, centerpieces set up, copies made, etc. I've barely read a thing, let alone blogged. 

But, it's all good. I love it. 

Things may change a little here and there. I may not post as often, but really, it doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things, does it? I'll review what I read and in the rest of my time, I'll be serving in a ministry I feel led to be in. A pretty fair trade! 

I thought it was ironic when this book showed up in my mailbox a couple of weeks ago:

Overextended...and Loving Most of It. That pretty much describes me perfectly at this point! Lisa Harper talks about how a lot of us like to burn the candle at both ends, but actually love it that way. We aren't the ones complaining that our schedules are too full. 

She weaves funny stories about her own life with Biblical knowledge and expresses how being pulled in every direction -- emotionally AND physically can actually be a blessing. I really liked her approach and her writing style and this one was the perfect quick read for me. 

The stories in the book will especially appeal to moms looking to adopt or going through the adoption process, but I'm not and I still enjoyed it and felt it was relevant. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Carly's Gift by Georgia Bockoven

Sixteen years ago Carly Hargrove made a decision that would irrevocably alter her life. With little comprehension of the life-long consequences of her actions, she trades her own future happiness to protect the man she's loved since kindergarten, David Montgomery.

With an ocean separating them, Carly builds a life for herself without David. She's the mother of three, lives in a beautiful house, and is married to a man who comes home every night—even if most of those nights he drinks too much. What more could she want?

Her answer arrives on a cold fall day when David shows up at her door. In town for his father's funeral, he has come to see Carly one last time, hoping to rid himself of the anger that still consumes him.

Instead, he is drawn into a web of secrets that rekindles the fierce need he once felt to protect Carly. He becomes caught up in her life in a way he never could have imagined—a way that will bind him to her forever. (Goodreads) 

If you like character-driven novels, you definitely have to give this one a try. You'll love Carly and probably hate Ethan (at least I did), and become totally invested in their story. There's a little bit of mystery intwined with the front-and-center focus of family, which was nice. 

I really enjoyed the display of consequences Carly's decision made -- even to people she didn't realize would be touched by it. Her story had me hooked from the very beginning and kept me to the end. 

Georgia Bockoven did a great job at creating characters I cared about and a plot I was interested in. Well done!

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for the review copy!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Sophie's Squash by Pat Zietlow Miller

Many kids have a very favorite toy that becomes an attachment. A friend in toy form for the child and a companion that he or she just simply does not want to let go of. This is exactly the case for Sophie, except that her favorite is a squash. 

After choosing the most beautiful squash at the farmer's market, Sophie knows she's found something special. Rather than letting her mom cook it up, she names the squash Bernice and begins a unique friendship, despite her parents warnings that the squash will eventually rot. 

When that sad time comes, Sophie is very brave and buries her rotting squash in the ground, only to find a beautiful plant growing in its place come spring time. 

The illustrations, done by Anne Wilsdorf, add a hilarity to this sweet friendship story and the concept of a plant's life cycle is subtly explained, making it a great introduction into the science of autumn and what happens to plants and leaves. 

Sophie's Squash would make a great read aloud to a 3 and up group, especially with the silly illustrations. Maybe librarians and teachers could tie it into a craft, helping kids to make their own version of Bernice!

Thanks to Random House for a sending a review copy! This one will be hanging out on my shelves until E is old enough to read it with me. It's a keeper!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Gated by Amy Christine Parker

Lyla Hamilton is a member of a cult. Ask her though and that's her normal. She and her family joined Mandrodage Meadows years ago, after the disappearance of Lyla's little sister, and she has since integrated completely with the other families and kids. She doesn't know anything else and therefore listens to whatever she's told.

Led by the Pioneer, Lyla and the rest of the members of the community have been told that the end of the world is very near. They're training for how they'll survive once the apocalypse hits the rest of the world, but Lyla begins to question the Pioneer's methods. When a strange boy visits the grounds with his family and expresses to Lyla how strange her world really is, she grows even more confused and ultimately risks her life to get the answers she seeks.

I'm a sucker for cult stories, as strange as they are. I knew I wanted to read Gated as soon as it showed up in my mailbox and though it was fairly predictable, it was still an enjoyable read.

The pace was quick enough that I ended up finishing this in one sitting (thank you, Elliott, for napping well that day) and I liked Lyla's character. She was strong in her beliefs, but also had room for a bit of healthy doubt. The kind of doubt that keeps normal people out of cults. Obviously she didn't want to upset her family for not doing exactly as the Pioneer said to do, but she also didn't understand him. 

The end was definitely what made the book a page-turner with a whole lot of action and excitement crammed into just a few pages. Lyla was really a rockstar girl then. I love when books end that way! 

Thanks to Random House for the review copy!

Friday, September 6, 2013

More Than This by Patrick Ness

With his "Chaos Walking" series, Patrick Ness earned a spot on my favorite authors shelf. Then came A Monster Calls and I loved that almost as much as the series. Now, with More Than This, Ness has really solidified his place and is one of the YA authors I recommend the most to both adults and teens looking for awesome reads. 

I loved the mystery of this latest book and how the reader isn't quite sure where Seth is, just as he isn't. He believes he's dead, remembering himself drowning, and quite possibly in hell, but when he finds two others in the same place he is, a place that appears to be the same town he grew up in, after days and days alone, he's unsure if hell is really where they are. Until the Driver shows up. He's crazy-pants.

As Seth starts making discoveries of his surroundings -- it looks just like a decimated version of the town he grew up in and oh yeah, the fact that he woke up in a coffin in his old bedroom -- I needed to turn the pages faster and faster. The writing is beautiful and lovely to read, which almost makes it seem a little cruel to make such a heart-pounding story, but that's exactly what it was. 

There are so many layers to both Seth and his back story that it was a great experience to uncover those, while being totally riveted by Seth's current circumstances. Another absolute winner from Patrick Ness!

Thank you to Candlewick to the review copy!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Back into the swing of things

My little family traveled home to Upstate NY over the Labor Day weekend and while I was there, I unplugged. Not completely -- still checked email now and then and occasionally caught up on FB and Twitter, but for the most part, I let most of my blog and feed reading take a break. It was needed. I'm hoping to get back into the swing of things in the next few days. For today, enjoy a few photos from our trip:

Seagull chasing at the lake!

 Channeling his inner Jason Mraz

Forgetting how marge the hills are in Upstate New York. A fun run amid the cornfields and cabbage fields with my guy though!