Monday, August 15, 2016

[Book Review] Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone GirlGone Girl by Gillian Flynn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Part 1: From The Book Cover


On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy's diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

Part 2: Recommendation

I was motivated to read this book because I didn't want to see the movie without having read the book first (I still have not seen the movie and I'm not sure if I ever will). For a thriller, the pacing is slower than I had anticipated, both Nick and Amy are not to my liking and Amy is definitely psychotic and very dark. Gone Girl is so dark and twisted, it's brilliant in that sense. I just wish that the book ended with justice served but it didn't.

If you like dark fiction at a slow pace with a sad ending, this book should be on your list. If not, you can just watch the movie (or not) and move on.

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Monday, August 8, 2016

[Book Review] Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond FearBig Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Part 1: From The Book Cover

The instant #1 NEW YORK TIMES Bestseller

Named a Hot Fall Read by USA Today, Vanity Fair, Newsday, O Magazine, the Seattle Times, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Mashable, Pop Sugar, and the San Antonio Express-News

Named a Best Book of the Year by Brainpickings and Book Riot

"A must read for anyone hoping to live a creative life... I dare you not to be inspired to be brave, to be free, and to be curious.” —PopSugar

From the worldwide bestselling author of Eat Pray Love: the path to the vibrant, fulfilling life you’ve dreamed of.

Readers of all ages and walks of life have drawn inspiration and empowerment from Elizabeth Gilbert’s books for years. Now this beloved author digs deep into her own generative process to share her wisdom and unique perspective about creativity. With profound empathy and radiant generosity, she offers potent insights into the mysterious nature of inspiration. She asks us to embrace our curiosity and let go of needless suffering. She shows us how to tackle what we most love, and how to face down what we most fear. She discusses the attitudes, approaches, and habits we need in order to live our most creative lives. Balancing between soulful spirituality and cheerful pragmatism, Gilbert encourages us to uncover the “strange jewels” that are hidden within each of us. Whether we are looking to write a book, make art, find new ways to address challenges in our work, embark on a dream long deferred, or simply infuse our everyday lives with more mindfulness and passion, Big Magic cracks open a world of wonder and joy.

Part 2: Recommendation

I was curious about Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert and decided to read it when I read a quoted text from another non-fiction book called The Successful Author Mindset: A Handbook for Surviving the Writer's Journey by Joanna Penn.

Continuing on with the mindset, self-help category, and after the disappointment of Committed, I needed to read something from Elizabeth Gilbert that will hopefully make me like her work again — that and I was curious about what she meant by Big Magic and how exactly does one live creatively beyond fear?

It's not so much as becoming fearless but more on being able to move forward despite the fear, anxiety and doubts that plague any creative pursuit. Big Magic also talks about mindset, the types of fear that a person needs, how ideas come and go, giving yourself permission to be creative, persistence, trust, and a few other topics important for pursuing and embracing a person's creative side.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert is truly amazing and inspiring. Definitely worth a read if you want to move forward with any creative pursuit but are having doubts and fears.

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Monday, August 1, 2016

[Book Review] Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert

Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with MarriageCommitted: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage by Elizabeth Gilbert
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Part 1: From The Book Cover

At the end of her bestselling memoir Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert fell in love with Felipe, a Brazilian-born man of Australian citizenship who'd been living in Indonesia when they met. Resettling in America, the couple swore eternal fidelity to each other, but also swore to never, ever, under any circumstances get legally married. (Both were survivors of previous bad divorces. Enough said.) But providence intervened one day in the form of the United States government, which-after unexpectedly detaining Felipe at an American border crossing-gave the couple a choice: they could either get married, or Felipe would never be allowed to enter the country again. Having been effectively sentenced to wed, Gilbert tackled her fears of marriage by delving into this topic completely, trying with all her might to discover through historical research, interviews, and much personal reflection what this stubbornly enduring old institution actually is. Told with Gilbert's trademark wit, intelligence and compassion, Committed attempts to "turn on all the lights" when it comes to matrimony, frankly examining questions of compatibility, infatuation, fidelity, family tradition, social expectations, divorce risks and humbling responsibilities. Gilbert's memoir is ultimately a clear-eyed celebration of love with all the complexity and consequence that real love, in the real world, actually entails.

Part 2: Recommendation

I read and enjoyed Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert back in July 8, 2014 and it was such a great experience, that I decided to follow-up on the story with Felipe and thus read Committed. While it was not as great as Eat, Pray, Love and it was not meant to be an exact sequel but designed to be ramblings on what marriage truly means, why is she so skeptic about the whole thing, her fears surrounding marriage and everything she discovered about marriage through research and talking to the married people she met throughout her travels with Felipe.

I was a bit disappointed with this book in the sense that there was very little mentioned about the relationship (struggles and growth or lack of growth) between Liz and Felipe. This book really was more focused on marriage and divorce statistics, historical research data on the reasons why people get married, (which, by the way, you can easily have figured out by reading a couple of historical romance novels) and transcripts of her interviews with married women. I realize that Committed is Ms. Gilbert's attempt at understanding marriage and her way of coming to terms with it and as her way of preparing herself for her own marriage to Felipe and she succeeded in delivering that, it's just that I felt cheated in the sense that I didn't pick up this book to read someone else's [diary] ramblings on marriage and relationships when it is quite obvious she is not the marrying type and should probably never have gotten married. In light of recent events in Ms. Gilbert's personal life, I feel sad and pained for her and Felipe as all this could've been avoided by finding another way or another country to live in. I mean, writers can work literally everywhere in the world so why couldn't Ms. Gilbert settle in Bali (or anywhere else) with Felipe and never have to get legally married and would probably have avoided all the trouble they went through in this book.

In conclusion, Committed served only to solidify my belief that if a person truly doesn't feel like getting married, then don't get married. Some people are meant for marriage and some aren't. If you are someone who is thinking about getting married and/or engaged but is having a tough time deciding whether to go for it or not, then this book might give you some perspective and statistical data that may or may not scare you off. If it scares you off, then maybe the person you're planning to marry is not the right one after all.

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Monday, July 11, 2016

[Book Review] Blood Faerie by India Drummond

Blood Faerie (Caledonia Fae, #1)Blood Faerie by India Drummond
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Part 1: From The Book Cover

Unjustly sentenced to death, Eilidh ran--away from faerie lands, to the streets of Perth, Scotland. Just as she has grown accustomed to exile, local police discover a mutilated body outside the abandoned church where she lives. Recognising the murder as the work of one of her own kind, Eilidh must choose: flee, or learn to tap into the forbidden magic that cost her everything.

Part 2: Recommendation

This book has been on my TBR pile for the longest time and thank goodness for the name pronunciation guide in the front as I would've butchered it in my head. I wasn't exactly sure what to expect with Blood Faerie as this is my first exposure to India Drummond's work but this was surprisingly well-written. It is mostly urban fantasy with a little bit of mystery and a hint of romance (nothing explicit) and can be read by more mature teens despite its target audience being adults.

Being the first book in the Caledonia Fae series, it explains what crimes Eilidh committed which resulted in her exile and immediate death if she so ever takes a step into faerie lands but it doesn't go any deeper on details about the Fae kingdom or about other faeries. Blood Faerie focuses more on what is happening in the human realm, the discovery that her magic is not what the other faeries perceived it to be and that the faerie kingdom is at more danger now than it ever was and Eilidh and Munro takes it upon themselves to protect both realms.

Overall, Blood Faerie reads at a steady pace and though the premise is simple, I enjoyed it and the ending makes you want to read the rest of the books in the series (and of course, I've already added them to my ever growing TBR pile on Goodreads).

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Monday, July 4, 2016

[Book Review] BeSwitched by Molly Snow

BeSwitched (BeSwitched, #1)BeSwitched by Molly Snow
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Part 1: From The Book Cover

Surla and Cathy have a HUGE secret!

After spending hundreds of years as a familiar to an abusive witch, Surla runs away to find freedom. But there's one catch! The Black Cats' Curse states she will have to switch bodies with the first lonesome soul to cross her path.

Painfully shy Cathy Phillips can't muster the courage to ask hot water polo player, Craig Nelson, on a date. Neither can she stand up to the three biggest snobs at Washington High. What's a girl to do? Could switching lives with a sassy, magical cat be the answer to her wishes?

The "curse" of being "BeSwitched" may just be the most purr-fect secret these new best friends could ever have!

Part 2: Recommendation

I had this ebook for the longest time and finally got around to it. It has been so long since I downloaded the book that I completely forgot that it was YA. Not really paying attention to the cover image, I was pleasantly surprised to realize that the characters in the book were high school students.

The storyline deals with friendships, social skills issues, witches and magic. It's a refreshing read where the protagonist, Cathy Phillips, learns to be brave as well as realize her self worth while stuck in a cat's body while Surla takes Cathy's body for a sassy spin and a fabulous makeover.

It's a short fun read around Halloween (and you'll just have to read it to see why I recommend reading it around Halloween). Being the first book in the series, I just hope that all the characters will evolve as the series goes on.

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Monday, June 20, 2016

[Book Review] The Successful Author Mindset by Joanna Penn

The Successful Author Mindset: A Handbook for Surviving the Writer's JourneyThe Successful Author Mindset: A Handbook for Surviving the Writer's Journey by Joanna Penn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: I received this ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Part 1: From The Book Cover

Being a writer is not just about typing. It’s also about surviving the roller-coaster of the creative journey.

Self-doubt, fear of failure, the need for validation, perfectionism, writer’s block, comparisonitis, overwhelm, and much more. When you’re going through these things, it can feel like you’re alone. But actually, they are part of the creative process, and every author goes through them too.

This book collects the mindset issues that writers experience, that I have been through myself over the last nine years, and that perhaps you will experience at different times on the creative journey.

Each small chapter tackles a possible issue and then offers an antidote, so that you can dip in and out over time. It includes excerpts from my own personal journals as well as quotes from well-known writers. I hope it helps you on the road to becoming a successful author.

Part 2: Recommendation

All the mindset issues throughout the creative journey has been mentioned in a lot, if not all, of the podcasts relating to creative work. As a writer in the beginning stages of my journey, I too have gone through these mindset issues and almost gave up. So, when Joanna Penn announced on her The Creative Penn podcast that she was going to write a mindset book aimed at writers, I felt excited and hoped Joanna finishes the book soon. I wasn't sure if I was going to get selected for an ARC but I emailed her anyway and Joanna was gracious enough to send me an ePub version (Thank you! I truly appreciate it!)

This book, like many of her non-fiction books, has been truly inspiring. Her wonderful voice is very evident in the way she presented the mindset issues as well as in the practical ways she offers the antidote(s). I also liked the fact that she is not afraid bare her soul by sharing excerpts from her journals and mentioning other reading materials both her own books and other writer's books that she feels are relevant to that particular mindset issue. Some people will most likely think that the issues and antidotes in this book are silly or shallow but I honestly feel that just by reading this book, it has already helped me overcome some of the issues I have and has helped me look at it in a different perspective, thereby, helping me navigate through the issue and develop my own resolution. I feel that this book should be in every creative's (not just writers) reference shelf for when you need help moving past that difficult mindset issue.

Despite the book being a quick read, it moved me so much that I wanted to cry my heart out when I reached the end of the book and read the lines: "So what can we do with our time on this earth to be remarkable, to be extraordinary? CREATE. That is all we can do. For this body will crumble and die but we are not tethered by it. Measure your life by what you create. No go write."

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Monday, June 13, 2016

[Book Review] The Art Of Work by Jeff Goins

The Art of WorkThe Art of Work by Jeff Goins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Part 1: From The Book Cover

Jeff Goins, a brilliant new voice counting Seth Godin and Jon Acuff among his fans, explains how to abandon the status quo and live a life that matters with true passion and purpose.

The path to your life's work is difficult and risky, even scary, which is why few finish the journey. This is a book about discovering your life's work, that treasure of immeasurable worth we all long for. It's about the task you were born to do.

As Jeff Goins explains, the search begins with passion but does not end there. Only when our interests connect with the needs of the world do we begin living for a larger purpose. Those who experience this intersection experience something exceptional and enviable. Though it is rare, such a life is attainable by anyone brave enough to try.

Through personal experience, compelling case studies, and current research on the mysteries of motivation and talent, Jeff shows readers how to find their vocation and what to expect along the way.

Part 2: Recommendation

I received the paperback copy from the author way back before it launched and it is only now that I am able to get to it. And because it is a paperback, I borrowed the ebook from my library because I prefer reading ebooks nowadays.

It is very rare that I read nonfiction but when I do, it is around the self-help category. The Art of Work by Jeff Goins is very well-written, inspiring and definitely thought-provoking. I read this book back in April 28, 2016 and until now, I'm still thinking about the points this book focused on: finding your true calling. I suspect I will be thinking about this book and the message it brings for a bit longer until I figure things out for myself (like, am I going in the right direction?).

For others, this book might bring you instant clarity and for some, it might take a while (like me). And for those who have yet to find their true calling, what I like about this book is that you get access to bonuses like extra audio lessons, a PDF workbook, free audiobook version of the book, invite to a private Facebook group/community, and video lessons on mindset shifts. He's also doing an 8-week book study starting June 1, 2016 which will be posted on the private Facebook group as well as on his website. All these bonuses could be helpful if you apply yourself to it. I myself am still going through the bonus materials so I can't comment on that yet.

Overall, I enjoyed this book and there's a lot of passages you'd want to highlight in the book (or write down somewhere) as inspirational quotes for those days when you feel like you've lost your way along your journey to finding your true calling.

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Monday, June 6, 2016

[Book Review] The Girl From Summer Hill By Jude Deveraux

The Girl from Summer HillThe Girl from Summer Hill by Jude Deveraux
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: As a member of Penguin's First To Read Program, I received this galley in exchange for an honest review.

Part 1: From The Book Cover

The first novel of New York Times bestselling author Jude Deveraux's breathtaking new series set in Summer Hill, a small town where love takes center stage against the backdrop of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.

Enter Elizabeth Bennet. Chef Casey Reddick has had it up to here with men. When she arrives in the charming town of Summer Hill, Virginia, she leaves behind a demanding boss at a famous D.C. restaurant and a breakup with a boyfriend jealous of her success. Some peace and quiet on the picturesque Tattwell plantation is just what she needs to start fresh. But the tranquility is broken one misty morning when she sees a gorgeous naked man on the porch of her cottage.

Enter Mr. Darcy. What Tate Landers, Hollywood heartthrob and owner of Tattwell, doesn't need on a bittersweet trip to his ancestral home is a woman spying on him from his guest cottage. Mistaking Casey for a reporter, Tate tries to run her out of her own house. His anger, which looks so good on the screen, makes a very bad first impression on Casey. Hollywood he may be, but he's no sweetheart to Casey—and she lets him know it!

The plot thickens. Sparks fly—literally—when Casey is recruited to play Elizabeth Bennet opposite Tate's Mr. Darcy in a stage adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. Just brushing past Tate makes Casey's whole body hum. As they spar on and off stage, Casey begins to think she's been too quick to judge. Tate is more down-to-earth than Casey expected, and she finds herself melting under his smoldering gaze. But then Tate's handsome ex-brother-in-law, Devlin Haines, who is playing Wickham, tells Casey some horrifying stories about Tate. She is upset and confused as she tries to figure out who and what to believe. As she finds herself falling for Tate, Casey needs to know: Is the intense, undeniable chemistry between them real, or is this just a performance that ends when the curtain falls?

Part 2: Recommendation

I love Pride and Prejudice and Jude Deveraux is one of my favorite authors. The Girl from Summer Hill is a delightful read in the sense that Casey Reddick, Tate Landers, and Devlin Haines are true to Ms. Austen's Elizabeth Bennett, Mr. Darcy and Mr. Wickham, respectively.

Despite there being a lot of P&P retellings (both movies and books), The Girl from Summer Hill delivers P&P both in the contemporary setting as well as the stage play happening inside the story. I especially adore what happens to Devlin Haines and I'm looking forward to the next book in this new Summer Hill series and see what happens to this annoying, self-centered Hildy.

Enjoyable and at times funny, The Girl from Summer Hill is easily, one of my favorites so far in 2016.

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Monday, May 16, 2016

[Product Review] Comfort Grip Crochet Hooks from Happily Hooked Magazine

Thank you to Happily Hooked Magazine for sending me these hooks! I received these free comfort grip crochet hooks with a plastic yarn needle in the mail on, Saturday, May 14, 2016 courtesy of Happily Hooked Magazine in exchange for an honest review. 

I have been crocheting since 2013 with the Clover Soft Touch crochet hooks and ever since these colorful rubberized comfort grip hooks hit the market, I've been wanting to try a set and now, here it is! 

First off, I love the wonderful colors these hooks came in. There’s 9 hook sizes from 2.0mm to 6.0mm and it came with a plastic pink yarn needle. There’s actually a pleasant rubber smell to it, which reminds me of those wonderfully scented pencil erasers when I was a kid. 

Whether you hold your hooks in a pencil grip or knife grip, these hooks are comfortable. It has more "meat" in the thumb grip area compared to the thinner design of the Clover Soft Touch hooks. And because the handle is made of rubber, there is less chances of dropping the hook onto the floor. If you hold your hooks in the pencil grip, the rubber thumb grip makes it slightly harder to twirl the hook around to pull through loops and if you hold the hook like I do where a finger is stretched out over the shaft to keep the loops in place, the rubber handle actually pinches your finger. But if you hold the hook where all of your fingers are in the thumb grip/handle area, you should be fine using this.

No pinched fingers on the Clover Soft Touch because of the smooth plastic material of the handle.

Pinched Fingers with the Rubberized Hooks using the Pencil Grip

Pinched fingers on the Rubberized Hooks using the Knife Grip

Another important thing to consider is the type of hook it has. These hooks have tapered hooks so for those who prefer inline hooks, you can give it a try and see if you can work with it. I prefer working with tapered hooks so for me, the type of hook here is a non-issue.

These have tapered hooks

I was working on a washcloth with Lily’s Sugar & Cream Worsted Weight, 100% Cotton yarn using a US size G (4.0mm) Clover Soft Touch hook and thought I’d try out these rubberized comfort grip hooks from Happily Hooked Magazine. So I took out the 4.0mm hook and I have to say that there’s a very noticeable difference in the sizes compared to my Clover Soft Touch hooks. Using the Susan Bates Knit-Check Gauge, these are what the hooks actually are sized at:

Comfort Grip Crochet Hook Sizes
Actual US/mm Sizes
Lime Green Hook Size 2.0 mm
B or 2.25 mm
Yellow Hook Size 2.5 mm
C or 2.75 mm
Orange Hook Size 3.0 mm
D or 3.25 mm
Pink Hook Size 3.5 mm
F or 3.75 mm
Purple Hook Size 4.0 mm
7 or 4.5 mm
Dark Green Hook Size 4.5 mm
H or 5.0 mm
Blue Hook Size 5.0 mm
I of 5.5 mm
Plum Hook Size 5.5 mm
J or 6.0 mm
Red Hook Size 6.0 mm
K or 6.5 mm

The ends of the rubberized handle is engraved with the millimeter sizes. No US letter sizes on these. Because it has a rubberized grip, yarn fibers tend to stick to the handle. Also, I noticed that the bigger the hook size gets, the thicker the handle gets as well. Compared to the Clover Soft Touch, these hooks can get really bulky. With my small hands, and the pencil grip I usually crochet with, I find that my fingers gets cramped a lot easier compared to the Clover Soft Touch hooks.

Same width of the thumb grip on the front

Rubberized Comfort Grip hooks have a thicker thumb grip

When it comes to how smoothly the yarn glides on the shaft, I noticed how less smooth it feels and I've tried these hooks on Lily's Sugar & Cream, Worsted Weight, 100% Cotton; Loops & Threads Soft & Shiny, Worsted Weight, 100% Acrylic; Patons Worsted Weight, 100% Wool and Deborah Norville Serenity Sock Weight, 50% Superwash Merino, 25% Rayon, 25% Nylon.

On the 3 smaller sized hooks, there is a visible difference along the base of the shaft. Compared to the Clover Soft Touch, the rubberized hooks have a longer and more pronounced difference in the base of the shaft. So for beginners, it is important to be aware of this design in the hook shaft in order to keep your stitches even.

Longer shaft base difference with these Comfort Grip Hooks

Shorter shaft base difference with the Clover Soft Touch

While testing out the different hook sizes on the different yarn materials listed above, I thought the rubberized hooks are very slightly, almost unnoticeably heavier. To prove I'm not going crazy, I used my Knit Picks Digital Scale to weigh the smallest and the biggest hooks to compare.

Smallest 2.0 mm Comfort Grip Hook

Smallest 2.25 mm Clover Soft Touch Hook

Largest 6.0 mm Comfort Grip Hook

Largest 6.0 mm Clover Soft Touch Hook

Obviously, aluminum and plastic will make for a lighter weight hook giving the crocheter a much longer time being comfortable while crocheting.

Overall, if I didn't have a full set of the Clover Soft Touch crochet hooks, I'll actually be happy with these provided, I re-train my dominant hand to keep all fingers on the handle. I feel that this set is actually better to learn with than the cheap aluminum set from Boye and Susan Bates mainly because of the comfort grips whether you have nerve/arthritis problems or not.

I hope you enjoyed this review and if you found it helpful, please share this post.

#HappilyHooked #Crochet

Monday, May 9, 2016

[Book Review] The Winemakers by Jan Moran

The Winemakers: A Novel of Wine and SecretsThe Winemakers: A Novel of Wine and Secrets by Jan Moran
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: As a member of NetGalley, I received this galley in exchange for an honest review.

Part 1: From The Book Cover

1956: When Caterina Rosetta inherits a cottage in the countryside of Italy from a grandmother she's never known, she discovers a long-buried family secret -- a secret so devastating, it threatens the future of everything her mother has worked for. Many years before, her mother's hard-won dreams of staking her family's claim in the vineyards of California came to fruition; but as an old murder comes to light, and Caterina uncovers a tragic secret that may destroy the man she loves, she realizes her happiness will depend on revealing the truth of her mother's buried past.

From author Jan Moran comes The Winemakers, a sweeping, romantic novel that will hold you in its grasp until the last delicious sip.

Part 2: Recommendation

I am by no means a wine connoisseur but I did enjoy this book. Set in 1956, Jan Moran captures the traditional views of how society perceived unwed mothers and how the business community are slow to accept women in their circle. Even in these modern times, some parts of the world still have these traditional views on women.

I felt Caterina's need to discover and find out the truth about her family's past that her mother insists on keeping buried. But like all secrets, they eventually come to light. It was also great to see Ava's struggles, the hard work she did in order to reach her goals of becoming a very successful female winemaker and the things she felt she had to do to protect her daughter and those she love.

Though this book is generally about Caterina's story of discovering a tragic family secret, the love she has for Santo, the sickening and disturbing possibility caused by that family secret and her triumphs, I feel that this book should've been Ava's story mainly because I find Ava's life in France, Italy and California having more depth and more interesting than Caterina's.

Overall, a very pleasant read.

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Monday, May 2, 2016

[Book Review] The Rejected Writers' Book Club by Suzanne Kelman

The Rejected Writers' Book Club (Southlea Bay, #1)The Rejected Writers' Book Club by Suzanne Kelman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: As a member of NetGalley, I received this galley in exchange for an honest review.

Part 1: From The Book Cover

Librarian Janet Johnson is puzzled when she is invited—and practically dragged—to her first meeting of the Rejected Writers’ Book Club. This quirky group of women would much rather celebrate one another’s rejected manuscripts over cups of tea and slices of lemon cake than actually publish a book. But good friends are exactly what Janet needs after moving to the small town of Southlea Bay, Washington. Just as the ladies are about to raise a teacup to their five hundredth rejection letter, they receive bad news that could destroy one member’s reputation—and disband the group forever. To save the club, Janet joins her fellow writers on a wild road trip to San Francisco in search of the local publisher who holds the key to a long-buried secret. As they race to the finish line, they’ll face their fears—landslides, haunted houses, handsome strangers, ungrateful children—and have the time of their lives.

Part 2: Recommendation

The title and cover art drew me to download this galley and I'm glad I did. I like stories set in small towns with quirky characters and this is no exception. This book is hilarious and witty and I just fell right in love with Janet. I enjoyed the author's writing style and sense of humor and like Janet, I found Ethel to be a bit disturbing. I feel like there's a story there to be discovered and I hope Suzanne Kelman will write Ethel's story next.

Another thing about this book that bothers me is that I felt this book was a tad surreal in the sense that all the women just took Dan, a complete stranger, on his word and allowed him to ride with them from Oregon, all the way to Medford and seeing that this is set in this day and age, and with Doris' strong personality, how come Doris or any of the other "practical" ladies in the group never stood up and said no to Dan riding with them or at least have a scene where someone says something about not trusting a complete stranger? Just because a stranger is attractive or good-looking doesn't mean you could automatically trust them. What if he's an axe murderer or something? And talk about stalker tendencies when Dan suddenly showed up in the "haunted house" during a snow storm up in the mountains in the middle of nowhere just to check up on the ladies and of course to be with Flora and even went with them to San Francisco and then back. And then there's Stacy's ice and fire personality which to me, felt like the author doesn't really know Stacy and simply decided to have Stacy as Janet's daughter with a pregnancy crisis in San Francisco just to make Janet's trip out to San Francisco have that personal importance because throughout the book, Janet herself is not that close to the Rejected ladies and their crisis is not of any importance to her and if there's nothing in San Francisco that is urgent/important to Janet, why would she even allow herself to be roped in on this road trip with ladies she doesn't even like that much in the first place? I sure wouldn't. So I felt like Stacy was just the character to tie things up neatly with.

Overall, it was an enjoyable read and I hope the author plans on writing more about the Rejected ladies and their adventures.

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Monday, April 11, 2016

[Book Review] Wanted by Nick Stephenson

WantedWanted by Nick Stephenson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Part 1: From The Book Cover

Nowhere to hide…

What should have been a relaxing vacation in Paris turns into another unwinnable situation for expert criminology consultant Leopold Blake. Caught in the cross hairs of a ruthless assassin and on the run from the police for a murder he didn't commit, Blake and his team must fight to clear his name before it's too late.

As enemies close in from all sides, Blake is about to learn who he can trust — and who is determined to destroy him — as The City of Light becomes a new hunting ground.

Part 2: Recommendation

Wanted is the first book in the Leopold Blake series by Nick Stephenson and I have to say, it was a quick, enjoyable read.

I haven't read a lot in the Private Investigation thriller genre so I can't really give a comparison with other books or characters but it feels more like a mystery suspense thriller to me which I'm more than okay with. To me, the word Crime & Suspense Thriller is more gory and gruesome with a focus on the crime details. So at first, I was a little hesitant to read it and the Amazon description is not much help as to what to expect in the plot. Yes, there was several murders and people dying as a consequence and there's a lot of running around Paris for Leopold Blake, Mary Jordan and Sophie Bardot as they try to escape the hired assassin while trying to help Leopold figure out who is behind all this and why is he getting framed for the murders.

At first the writing style of Nick Stephenson is a little hard to follow because a couple of chapters would be dealing with what is happening on a different location and focused on an entirely different set of characters that is unclear as to the relevance to the entire plot but being the first book, I figured this is probably the book that sets up everything that will follow in the next books in the series. So pay attention to every detail and just relax and go with the flow of the story. I promise, it will all come together in the end with a shocking cliffhanger.

Overall, I'm glad I decided to download a copy because I enjoyed it immensely and I look forward to reading the rest of the series.

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Monday, April 4, 2016

[Book Review] Witch & Wizard Series by James Patterson, et. al.


My Rating: 3 of 5 stars
Audiobook Edition
Genre: YA, Paranormal, Action & Adventure, Dystopian

Part 1: From The Book Cover

The world is changing: the government has seized control of every aspect of society, and now, kids are disappearing. For 15-year-old Wisty and her older brother Whit, life turns upside down when they are torn from their parents one night and slammed into a secret prison for no reason they can comprehend. The New Order, as it is known, is clearly trying to suppress Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Being a Normal Teenager. But while trapped in this totalitarian nightmare, Wisty and Whit discover they have incredible powers they'd never dreamed of. Can this newly minted witch and wizard master their skills in time to save themselves, their parents--and maybe the world?

When they were imprisoned by the new, brutal government, Whit and Whisty were barely able to escape with their lives. Discovering a hidden community of children like themselves--hunted by the state and with varying degrees of special talents--they have taken refuge underground. But the New Order is rapidly pushing in on them from all sides, and the pressure to stop the regime is mounting. 

One day, as they rush to save another group of kids who are about to be captured by police, Whit and Whisty discover not only their own faces plastered to buildings on wanted posters, but also their parents'. When the hunting party sent out after the siblings always seems to be one step ahead of them, they begin to fear that it is controlled by a very, very powerful force. They are in much more danger than they feared...

With heart-pounding suspense and terrifying plot twists, this highly-anticipated sequel to James Patterson's newest series will thrill you until its jaw-dropping conclusion.

Whit and Wisty Allgood have sacrificed everything to lead the resistance against the merciless totalitarian regime that governs their world. Its supreme leader, The One Who Is The One, has banned everything they hold dear: books, music, art, and imagination. But the growing strength of the siblings' magic hasn't been enough to stop The One's evil rampage, and now he's executed the only family they had left.

Wisty knows that the time has finally come for her to face The One. But her fight and her fire only channel more power to this already invincible being. How can she and Whit possibly prepare for a showdown with the ruthless villain that devastated their world--before he can truly become all-powerful?

In this stunning third installment of the epic, bestselling Witch & Wizard series, the stakes have never been higher--and the consequences will change everything.

Whit and Wisty Allgood, a witch and wizard with extraordinary abilities, have defeated the ruthless dictator who long overshadowed their world. But for the first time in their lives, the powerful brother and sister find themselves at odds as Wisty is drawn to a mysterious and magical stranger named Heath.

Wisty has never felt as free as she does with Heath, especially when the two of them share and test their magic together. But when a merciless Wizard King from the mountains suddenly threatens war, Wisty must make an excruciating choice. Will she unite with Whit to fight the mounting dangers that could return their world to a tyrant's domain? Or will she trust the beautiful boy who has captured her heart?

James Patterson's epic dystopian saga continues as the witch and wizard who have inspired countless imaginations must rally together before the world they fought to save collapses.

Whit and Wisty Allgood have fought and defeated their world's most pernicious threats. But just as they start to settle into their new roles in governance, a deadly crime wave strikes, with all signs pointing to a magical mastermind. As the city turns against all those who possess magic, the siblings find themselves persecuted and questioning everything, including their abilities.

Part 2: Recommendation

James Patterson's books have been in my to-read pile for 2-3 years now and finally, I got around to reading one of his series Witch & Wizard. I'm usually not into dystopian but at the time, I wanted to read something with magic in it and I thought now is a good time as any to start with Witch & Wizard especially since the series has ended. For me, there's nothing worse than really getting into the series and then having to wait 2 years (for traditional publishing) for the latest book installment. 

The premise is your basic good vs evil. The twist lies in who Whit and Wisty fight against and who those evil villains are related to. The series definitely could have been better and I say that because it took the first 3 books to deal with The One Who Is The One and then the last 2 books (The Kiss & The Lost) had the same plot — it just so happens that the villain(s)'s names got switched out. It makes me think that the series should've ended with The Fire instead of continuing on like it did. I almost didn't finish the last book because I got so bored with it and I was ready to kill Whit & Wisty myself and I don't appreciate the fact that dead people come back to life. 

I can recommend the first 3 books if you're into Paranormal Dystopian and forget the last 2 books because they're just a condensed version of the first 3. 

Monday, March 14, 2016

[Book Review] Stone Of Fire by J.F. Penn

Pentecost (Arkane, #1)Pentecost by J.F. Penn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Part 1: From The Book Cover

A power kept secret for 2000 years. A woman who stands to lose everything.
** From New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author J.F. Penn **

India. When a nun is burned alive on the sacred ghats of Varanasi, and the stone she carried is stolen, an international hunt is triggered for the relics of the early church.

Forged in the fire and blood of martyrs, the Pentecost stones have been handed down through generations of Keepers who kept their power and locations secret.
Until now.

The Keepers are being murdered, the stones stolen by those who would use them for evil in a world transformed by religious fundamentalism.

Oxford University psychologist Morgan Sierra is forced into the search when her sister and niece are held hostage. She is helped by Jake Timber from the mysterious ARKANE, a British government agency specializing in paranormal and religious experience. Morgan must risk her own life to save her family, but will she ultimately be betrayed?

From ancient Christian sites in Spain, Italy and Israel to the far reaches of Iran and Tunisia, Morgan and Jake must track down the stones through the myths of the early church in a race against time before a new Pentecost is summoned, this time powered by the fires of evil.

˃˃˃ The first in the ARKANE series, STONE OF FIRE is a fast-paced, action-packed thriller that explores the edges of faith against a backdrop of early Christian history, archaeology and psychology.

Part 2: Recommendation

Stone of Fire was previously published with the title of Pentecost and this is the first fiction book that I read from J.F. Penn.

Stone of Fire is a very well-edited work of fiction, action-packed with like-able characters headed by psychologist, Dr. Morgan Sierra. Sure, she has her flaws and is haunted by her past but they don't make her weak. She is smart, strong and real. As for Jake, and the rest of the ARKANE gang, I'm still trying to make up my mind if I want to trust them or not.

The storyline of Stone of Fire feels very much like Lara Croft meets Dan Brown with bullets flying, traveling to different countries, going into churches to retrieve the Pentecost stones, and one false move could mean death all in a span of a few days on top of dodging this evil group of thugs called Thanatos. I really enjoyed the book as well as J.F. Penn's writing style.

So, if you love action, adventure thrillers revolving around religious mysticism, archeology and psychology, you will most likely enjoy this book. Me, I'm looking forward to reading and collecting all the books in the series.

View all my reviews

Monday, March 7, 2016

[Book Review] Shearwater by D.S. Murphy

Shearwater (Ocean Depths, #1)Shearwater by D.S. Murphy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Part 1: From The Book Cover

Losing my parents felt like drowning. My mother always tried to steer us away from the sea, but we took a surprise trip when I was five. I remember making a sand castle with a moat around it, and climbing over the rocks with my dad as my mother watched from a blanket nearby. We stuck our fingers in the sea anemones and chased the tiny crabs back into their holes. I was watching the water ebb and flow into the rock formations, gleefully surprised when it burst up suddenly and splashed me with water. But then a larger wave crashed over the rocks and wrapped around me like a giant hand, pulling me into the sea.

It happened so fast, my dad didn't have time to grab me. I went rushing out into the deeper water, the dreadful silence pounding in my ears, my flailing arms cut up by the sharp rocks as I was dragged, terrified, along the bottom.I remember feeling the undertow: overwhelming and inescapable. It pulled me into the deeper waters, the dark vastness, with a force greater than any I'd ever known. Sometimes I would fight to the surface and get a glimpse of the land slipping farther and farther away. I'd take a quick breath, and scream.

I was exhausted from fighting, but just when I was about to give up, my father grabbed my arm and then side-stroked us back to land. He hauled me onto the rocks, and patted my back as I coughed up water.Through my tears and the salt water I saw my mother running towards us. I held up my little arms to her, seeking comfort. Instead, she slapped me hard across the face. Then she grabbed my shoulders, staring at me with wild eyes and saying, "Never go into the sea again, do you hear me? Never."

Now she was gone, and she'd taken my life with her. I was shipped off to live in Ireland with a grandfather I didn't even know existed, and there I learned my whole life had been a lie. My mother's past was filled with tragic secrets... secrets that refused to stay buried. They were reaching up for me like dark shadows. I'm in danger, and I have to figure out who - or what - is after me, before everything I care about is destroyed.

Or maybe I'll show them that I'm the dangerous one.
Maybe they'll learn just how dangerous one girl can be.

Shearwater is a young adult mermaid novel that will appeal to lovers of paranormal romance, urban fantasy, witches, Irish mythology, and supernatural folklore.

This is PART ONE of the first book (Shearwater), of the Ocean Depths Series.

Part 2: Recommendation

I love the water and I love mermaids. It is quite unfortunate that mermaids in literature are not as popular as Vampires, Werewolves or Witches. On top of that, in many cultures around the world, there are many folklores about mermaids, some good, some bad and the only thing they have in common is that half their bodies are fish tails.

When I picked up this book, I wasn't sure what to expect. The word PART ONE on the description from the book cover was quite misleading as to me, it represented a full book in the series not half of the first book in the Ocean Depths Series. While it is true that D.S. Murphy makes up for it in the end, still, the abruptness of realizing I'm on the last page and Part One ending on a cliffhanger like that just makes me want to hurl the book — in this case, my iPad — across the room out of sheer frustration of not knowing what happens next and not knowing when the OTHER HALF comes out.

Now that I'm done expressing my frustration, let's move on to the good parts of this first half of Shearwater. I was really surprised by how well-written this book is. Mind you, it's not close to being literary but the amount of effort and the quality that is put in this book is amazing. D.S. Murphy did a great job with the prose as the world he'd built right from the first paragraph sucked me in and it was utterly immersive. While some reviewers found the research/historical bit distracting, I didn't mind it at all and I thought the author transitioned the research information nicely. In my head, it was like a scene unfolding on TV where the protagonist is reading a bit of research and there's the character's voice over relaying that research information over to the viewers. I like that because to me, it's like a bonus story within the story. What the author could do with this research information is to have it available as a free companion download for fans of Shearwater in the event that he edits that bit out.

I stayed away from reading YA a couple months ago because the last couple of YA books that I did read had flawed female protagonists. While I am not against flawed characters, I am against flawed characters who are utterly stupid, has no common sense whatsoever and never developed throughout the length of the book. With that in mind, I had reservations about Clara Clark. Sure she is flawed and just as confused about her mermaid background and though Clara didn't get to prove anything in this first half of Shearwater, she is definitely lovable and so far, she has the potential to be someone great and I can't wait to read more of her underwater exploits. As for Ethan, he's kind of hot and cold, like bipolar and with the first book, he was more like "just there" to get answers from that Sebastian wouldn't or couldn't give. For me personally, I want to know more about Ethan, what his history is, family, etc. As for Sebastian, he's mysterious and cool, not much emotional depth to him and somehow, even though he's teaching Clara to be more mermaid-like, I have this feeling that he can't be trusted. There's something big going on with Sebastian and Ethan and I'd like to learn more about these two guys. As for Clara's relationship with Sebastian and Ethan, I just hope it's not going to be like Twilight's Jacob-Bella-Edward love triangle where Bella strings along Jacob when Edward is not around. It's not okay to give impressionable young readers the idea that it's okay to string people along because in the real world, it's not okay. So hopefully, the second half of Shearwater will be what I hope it will be.

Overall, D.S. Murphy did a great job on the plot and the characters. I can see how this book could easily be one of my favorites in 2016 as it was such a page turner I wish I have the full book, didn't have a day job and didn't require sleep so I can just devour this book. If you haven't read this book, I recommend reading it on a weekend when you have 2 to 4 solid hours to just immerse yourself and you may or may not want to wait for the full version of Shearwater.

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Monday, February 15, 2016

[Book Review] Whatever After series, books 1-7 by Sarah Mlynowski


My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
eBook Edition
Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Fairy Tales

Part 1: From The Book Covers

A fresh, modern spin on a classic fairy tale--from bestselling author Sarah Mlynowski! 
Mirror, mirror, on the basement wall . . . 
Once upon a time my brother and I were normal kids. The next minute? The mirror in our basement slurped us up and magically transported us inside Snow White's fairy tale. 
I know it sounds crazy, but it's true. 
But hey -- we're heroes! We stopped Snow White from eating the poisoned apple. Hooray! Or not. If Snow White doesn't die, she won't get to meet her prince. And then she won't get her happy ending. Oops. 
Now it's up to us to: 
- Avoid getting poisoned
- Sneak into a castle
- Fix Snow White's story 
And then, fingers crossed, find our way home. 

Once upon a time my brother and I found a magic mirror...

Tonight the mirror swept us into Cinderella's fairy tale. Now, we are NOT messing this story up. No way. Cinderella is going to marry her prince just like she's supposed to.


Cinderella broke her foot, and there's massive swelling. The glass slipper won't fit, the prince won't know she's the one for him, and they won't live happily ever after. And it's all our fault!

To save the day we'll need to:
- Learn how to use a dustpan
- Stay out of jail
- Find Cinderella a job
- Make sure true love finds its way

We just have to get it all done before the clock strikes twelve and the chance for a happy ending is gone . . . forever!

Once again my brother and I are in hot water...

We weren't planning to mess up the fairy tales. The first two times, we did it by accident. 

But when our magic mirror pulls us into the story of the Little Mermaid, we have no choice but to try and rewrite it. Let's just say the original story does NOT end happily!

Now we need to:
- Convince our mermaid to keep her tail
- Plan a royal wedding
- Avoid getting eaten by sharks

We've got to find a happy ending for the Little Mermaid . . . before she's fish food, and we're lost at sea forever!

Good night, sleep tight, don't let the magic mirror bite....

It was supposed to be the best sleepover ever. Just me, my best friend, Robin, and an awesome night of s'mores, secrets, and staying up late. No pesky little brothers allowed. And DEFINITELY no magic mirrors.

Everything was perfect...until the mirror sucked Robin into Sleeping Beauty's story! My brother and I dove in after her, but we couldn't stop her from pricking her finger on the spindle. Now we're REALLY in trouble. Robin's fast asleep--and Sleeping Beauty is wide-awake! To save the day I've got to:

- Host a fake birthday party for Jonah
- Find a prince to wake up Robin
- Avoid getting cursed by scary fairies

We only have ten hours to make things right...or this day will become a nightmare!

After a tough day at school, I am NOT in a good mood. The perfect pick-me-up? A trip through our magic mirror! When my brother and I -- plus our new dog -- end up in the story of Rapunzel, we can't resist climbing her hair. Oh no! Her smooth locks suddenly look like they've been attacked by a cheese grater. Maybe a trim will help...Snip, snip. SNIP. Oops. Now Rapunzel's hair is too short and we're trapped!

So we have to:
-Find the tower's secret door
-Avoid getting swallowed by a giant spider
-Locate Pickles (aka the prince)
-Reunite Rapunzel with her parents

If we don't untangle this knotty tale soon, we could be stuck in this mess for good!

The magical sixth installment in this NEW YORK TIMES bestselling series!

Brrrrrrrr. This fairy tale is FREEZING!

Even though my brother and I had decided to stay away from the magic mirror, our puppy had other plans -- he bounded right in. What choice did we have but to go in after him? 

When we land in a winter wonderland, we realize we must be in the story of The Snow Queen. And this fairy tale is nothing like the movie. This Snow Queen is super-mean, and she turns our dog into an ice sculpture!

To get home we'll have to: 
- Defrost our furry friend
- Ride a very chatty reindeer
- Learn to ice-skate
- Escape from a band of robbers

And if we're not careful . . . we could end up frozen ourselves!

The magical seventh installment in this NEW YORK TIMES bestselling series!

This time, the magic mirror sucks Abby and Jonah into the story of Beauty and the Beast. When Jonah angers the Beast by picking flowers from his garden, he becomes the Beast's prisoner! Abby has to save her brother by finding Beauty, whom the Beast will surely fall in love with, right? NOPE. The Beast doesn't like Beauty, so it's up to Abby and her brother to match-make this reluctant pair and fix this fractured fairy tale before things get pretty ugly!

Part 2: Recommendation

As you all know, I love fairy tales and their various retellings. Even though this series is obviously for Middle Grade readers, I found it enjoyable to read and the fact that it imparts valuable lessons to the readers without being preachy. I think middle grade readers will find Abby relatable because not only does the stories revolve around the fairy tales but they also show Abby's real life in the human realm, like when she's at school, interacting with her friends and her not quite friend Penny, the emotions she goes through regarding her parents, her brother Jonah and her best friends. This series is also the first time I've been exposed to Sarah Mlynowski's work and it has been a fun, relaxing series to read. I can't wait for the next books in the series. Every middle grade girls should definitely read the series.