Wednesday, January 30, 2013

JACOB OF AVONDALE by P. Craig Packer

 The king’s servant, Jacob, makes a shocking discovery in a secret room. What he finds could change his life forever. Witness the transformation of a commoner into a conqueror in Jacob of Avondale.
As Jacob reached the top of the staircase with the tray of soiled food still in hand, he heard a strange whispering coming from the room near the far end of the hall. In all of the years that Jacob had been a servant in the castle, he had never seen the inside of that room. He saw the court jester standing near the far wall with his back to the door. The little man seemed to be profoundly captivated by something and was whispering in an eerie, monotone voice.


The tyrannical reign of King Humphrey and Queen Millicent has inspired growing discontent among the people of Avondale. Few hold out hope for any change.

The king’s servant Jacob, an orphan who’s seen little beyond the castle walls, makes a shocking discovery in a secret room. What he finds could change his life and the future of Avondale forever. Jacob’s newly acquired treasure launches an epic journey for him and his friends, Princess Catherine, Raoul, and Elizabeth.

To restore the kingdom to its former glory, he’ll need to locate the five missing components of an ancient artifact. Along the way, he must defeat ferocious beasts, summit mountains, and journey to the depths of a vast and frigid lake if his expedition is to be successful.


But is a lowly servant up to such a task? Witness the transformation of a commoner into a conqueror in Jacob of Avondale


First line:
“You pick that up right now!” echoed the queen’s voice from down the long, dimly lit hallway as she disappeared around the corner."
(I wanted to put the last line, not the first, but it might be a spoiler.)

This book surprised me, in a positive way. It's a good, coming of age and guess what you aren't what you think you are book.
A fateful discovery leads Jacob and his companions on many cool quests and adventures. Middle grade readers, especially boys, will totally enjoy this book.


Rating:
L: No
V: No
S: No

Liked:
Jacob
Catherine

Disliked:
Possible trilogy (hate waiting!)

3 1/2 STARS

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Curse of the Beast by Ashley Lavering

Seventeen-year-old Tayla Jonas longs for a simple life, but after a traumatizing family loss, she is forced to be both mother and sister to her cousins while caring for her mentally unstable aunt. Moving to her grandma’s quiet town of Cody, Wyoming, Tayla finds some normalcy with her quirky green activist friend, Chel, who spends no time converting her to vegetarianism.

A few weeks into her new school, Tayla catches the eye of Kyle Harrington—the high school quarterback and resident millionaire—who can seduce any girl with his charismatic charm, including Tayla. But Kyle is anything but what he seems.

Walking through City Park, Tayla is unaware that an ancient curse has her in its crosshairs. The silver moonlight illuminates the path to her van, sprinkling shadows like evil twinkling eyes. Tayla’s skin prickles, and she turns. Something—or someone—is watching her.

A powerful werewolf steps from the shadows. An iridescent blue cord shoots from him and slams into her stomach, dissolving instantly. Pain wracks her body, and she tries to scramble to safety, but his silver eyes freeze her in place as the curse binds them together. The cord settles deep inside her body, coiling with dread around her heart.

Dismayed by the prospect of a werewolf for a shadow, Tayla fears for the safety of her friends and family. How will she keep the werewolf’s insatiable hunger in check? Her plans for a vegetarian lifestyle quickly dwindle away, and Tayla wrestles to fit her frazzled life back together—piece by piece. But what she didn’t expect was her attraction to the werewolf or the power of the full moon.

Will Tayla be strong enough to survive the Curse of the Beast? Or will it consume her like so many before? Find out in the first installment of this unique retelling of Beauty and the Beast.


Last line:
 "The music washed over me, like rolling waves swaying in the sea, turning me into a hopeful tide pool of dreams."

This book is a good, clean, exciting twist on Beauty and the Beast and werewolves.


Liked:
Tayla
Chel
Interesting retelling


Disliked:
Kyle (potential of enemy in the next books??)
First book of trilogy (I HATE waiting!)
The cover


4 STARS

Monday, January 14, 2013

THE PRICE WE PAID by Andrew D. Olsen

The story of the Willie and Martin handcart pioneers--two pioneer companies that desperately wanted to get to the Salt Lake basin--is among the most compelling in the history of America's western migration. Though tragic, it is also a story of triumph that scarcely has an equal. It is one of history's great witnesses of the power of faith and sacrifice.
Although this story is one of the most frequently told of all Mormon pioneer accounts, it is also among the least understood. This book provides the most comprehensive and accessible account of these pioneers' epic 1856 journey. In addition to painting a broad perspective of the trek, it includes dozens of personal stories from the pioneers themselves. Woven into the larger story of the journey west, these stories inspire, build faith, recount miracles, and reveal how these pioneers were able to endure such adversity. The book also includes chapters on the lives of many of these pioneers after the handcart trek.


Last line:
"For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30"

Stories of the handcart pioneers make me cry, especially those of the Willie and Martin handcart companies. I'm always amazed and grateful for the examples of the pioneers who listened to the prophets voice and walked thousands of miles to find a safe haven.
I had a relative in the Willie handcart company; Susanna Stone Lloyd. She traveled by herself and was only 25. This is one of her quotes:
"I am thankful that I was counted worthy to be a pioneer and a handcart girl. It prepared me to endure hard times in my future life. I often think of the songs we sang to encourage us on our toilsome journey. It was hard to endure, but the Lord gave s strength and courage..."
This is a good book to read for history on these two companies. It's broken into two parts, one for each handcart company, with an index for easy searching.
Many of the stories and quotes made me cry again even though I've heard or read them. It's good to have these stories, to bolster faith. What would I do to prove my faith in my Heavenly Father? What sacrifice would I make now?


41/2 STARS

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

MICHAEL VEY: Rise of the Elgen by Richard Paul Evans

Michael must save his mother—and protect his powers—in the electric sequel to the #1 New York Times bestselling Michael Vey, from Richard Paul Evans.

Michael was born with special electrical powers—and he’s not the only one. His friend Taylor has them too, and so do other kids around the world. With Michael’s friend Ostin, a tecno-genius, they form the Electroclan, an alliance meant to protect them from a powerful group, the growing Order of Elgen, who are out to destroy them. The leader of the Elgen, Dr. Hatch, has kidnapped Michael’s mother, and time is running out.

After narrowly escaping an Elgen trap, Ostin’s discovery of bizarre “rat fires” in South America leads the gang to the jungles of Peru, where the Electroclan meets new, powerful foes and faces their greatest challenge yet as Michael learns the extent of the Elgen’s rise in power—and the truth of their plan to “restructure” the world.


First line:
""This had better be important," the man said."
The next book in the Michael Vey series won't disappoint. With constant twists and action, and creepy plots like glowing rats, it's hard to put this book down.
Michael Vey is part of a special group of kids with special powers. And certain people want them dead. Another group of people also want the special kids, but hopefully to help them. But Michael must first save his mother, who has been kidnapped by the bad guys as bait for Michael.
Throughout the book Mr. Evans used a few convenient methods to get the kids out of trouble. Also, everything, and I mean, everything, rests on Michael Vey saving not only his mom but the world.
Dr. Hatch, the main bad guy, has no redeeming qualities. None. I'm curious how the Electroclan will defeat him in the next book. And how much more can the group take on?


Rating: PG
L: No
V: Fighting
S: No

Liked:
Action
Twists
Plot

Disliked:
Cliffhanger!
Possibly FIVE more books?? 

3 STARS

Friday, January 4, 2013

HATING HEIDI FOSTER by Jeffrey Blount

Mae McBride and Heidi Foster were the very best of friends. Tied at the hip from early elementary school, their relationship was the stuff of storybooks, legendary even, in the minds of their high school classmates.

Unshakable.

That is, until Mae's father died while saving Heidi's life. When Mae finds out, she blames Heidi. She blames her father for putting Heidi ahead of her. She blames her friends for taking Heidi’s side. She begins to unravel amid that blame and her uncontrollable and atypical anger.

At the same time Heidi is beset by guilt, falls into depression and stops eating properly; wasting away physically and emotionally while waiting for Mae to let her back into the friendship she misses so dearly.

Mae, consumed by her hatred of Heidi, the confusion regarding her father’s motives, the perceived desertion of her friends and her mother’s grief, loses more and more of herself.

What could possibly bring these two old friends back to each other? A miracle?

Hating Heidi Foster, is a young adult novel about the place of honor true friendships hold in our lives. It is about suffering and loss and the ethics of grief. It is about a deep and painful conflict, the bright light of selflessness and sacrifice and the love that rights the ship and carries us safely to port.


First line:
"I've never been very good with faces."

If you have ever lost someone close to you, this book might be helpful for you. Mae McBride has lost her father in a tragic fire. Her father is a hero, saving her best friend, Heidi but the pain of losing her father sends Mae into a depression that she takes out on everyone around her, including Heidi. How Mae learns to deal with her grief is told in this story by Jeffrey Blount.
This is a short and sweet story, easily read in one setting.
This is more of a book to help with death and grieving than a YA story. There's a lot of nicknames is this book, which can be distracting but it is a good book about friendship.


Rating: PG
L: No
V: No
S: No

Liked:
This book helping others with grief
 Value of a good friendship

Disliked:
Nothing

2 1/2 STARS

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Guest Author Post~ Jeffrey Blount

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The Trouble with Writing
Jeffrey Blount

The trouble with writing is that it requires a lot of time and much effort.  I always have the desire and effort is not an issue, but finding time is indeed a dilemma.  I have a full-time job and an amazing family that I love to spend time with.  I like tennis too.  I play at least twice a week.  And don’t stand in front of my television during football season!
Over the years, I have tried to put my writing aside because there was just no space in my life, and the game of agents and publishing got tiresome.  I put the desire and the dream up for adoption.  But the kid just kept finding his way home and pretty soon, I just had to let him stay.  I had to find a way to make it right between the two of us.
I set aside some time.  In the morning, after dropping off my son and daughter at school and my wife’s departure for work and also late at night, after everyone was in bed.  But the times weren’t absolute.  Changing family schedules and work demands often imposed themselves.  The question arose, how do I link the erratic moments together to create some kind of flow or rhythm to my writing which I believe is so very important when trying to maintain an even voice throughout a novel?  In the end, I found I had to link them together by keeping the characters alive and with me at all times so that when I did find the time to sit down and write, they didn’t have to be conjured up.  They were already with me.
They lived in my head all day long, growing, changing, reacting, failing and succeeding.  As I drove, whole scenes developed.  On my lunch hour and while in the carpool line, new characters appeared and plot lines came to fruition.  When I first started, I carried notecards with me or I wrote on napkins and the corners of newspaper pages.  Then I got smart and realized my smartphone had apps for this.  After a while, it seemed like I was always writing.
When I finally found the time to sit down and physically write, transferring the notes from the phone to the computer became part of keeping that flow alive.  Also, because time was short, meaning I didn’t have time to walk around the block and commune with myself to create the proper mood for writing; I had to find ways to get my head immediately into the process in order to maximize the use of the time I had set aside.
After transferring my notes, I always read the previous chapter before moving on.  Then I turned on the music.  Music has always been a part of my moods, both good and bad.  Certain songs make me happy, certain songs make me sad and certain songs make me contemplative.  So if I was planning to write about a very sad event, I would listen to appropriate music while reading the previous chapter and many times I would continue listening as I began a new scene or chapter of my book.  Sometimes one grouping of songs could take me through the whole manuscript.  For instance, much of Hating Heidi Foster was written while listening to the soundtrack from the movie Road to Perdition. 
Also, if your writing time is short, enhancing focus can be critical.  I write in a darkened room with only the light from my laptop and a desk lamp.  Everything else around me falls away.   No visual distractions lead to great moments of concentration.
And finally, I leave each writing session with an idea of where I want the story to go next.  It gives my characters places to go while I’m going through the daily business of my life.

Bio
Jeffrey Blount is an Emmy award-winning television director and an award recipient for scriptwriting on multiple documentary projects.  Born and raised in rural Virginia, he now lives in Washington, DC with his wife, Jeanne Meserve. They have two children, Julia and Jake.