Axel & Theo – My Dog is the Emperor of a Faraway Galaxy

Axel Theo: My Dog is the Emperor of a Faraway GalaxyAxel Theo: My Dog is the Emperor of a Faraway Galaxy by Amberly Kristen Clowe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I saw the subheading of this book — My dog is the Emperor of a faraway galaxy, I knew I had to read it. After all, how often do you see a sci-fi kid’s book? Being the sci-fi nut that I am, I couldn’t pass this one up. I was not disappointed.

First of all, I love that Axel is a “weenie dog” and an alien. Awesome. Theo is this insecure, fourth-grade boy who wants to be an astronaut. Theo thought his dog was just a normal, everyday dog until the dog saved him from being beat up by a school bully. Theo is thrilled to learn that his dog, “Axelo Lackfer Tharsdon III” is from another galaxy, another planet — Doglin. This is where the story takes off and becomes a space adventure. Axel and Theo get a big surprise when two alien cats show up unexpectedly in a rainbow flash of color right out of Theo’s closet. Theo’s reaction is great – “Usually, I’m all about petting black and white fur that fluffy, but not on a ninja-like beast with a shiny bodysuit. And definitely not with a giant bazooka strapped to his back.”

Adorable. Right?

Needless to say, Axel and Theo are whisked away to the “Tharsdon” galaxy and have to face a stadium of angry cats. How great is that? The classic cats hate dogs turned into a sci-fi adventure. I love it. There are some cool monster-like creatures, holograms that smell like ribeye steaks, an ocean of strawberry soda, and lots of other cool stuff that any fourth-grade boy is going to love.

Great start to a new series for kids.

View all my reviews

The Silent Deal Book Review

The Silent Deal (The Card Game, #1)The Silent Deal by Levi Stack

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

14-year-old Viktor lives in Aryk, Russia. There are three laws — no playing cards, no graffiti, no firearms. Males work in mines, and females in textile mills, unless you’re chosen for the three-year school program, like Viktor. Their lives are controlled by a reclusive Russian overlord that lives in the haunted Staryl Castle. When Viktor sneaks into a large gathering in town square, he’s horrified when he witnesses a man hang to death for possession of a playing card. The hanging haunts his dreams and Viktor is left with burning questions about the cards and a past no one will talk about. The cryptic card graffiti in town seems to be the only clue left about the mysterious past of the playing cards.

Things take an unexpected turn when an orphaned boy of the forest – Romulus, shows up on the first day of school wearing feathers in his tangled hair and a fur coat made from animal pelts. Viktor and his friends are shocked when Romulus shows them a card — an illegal playing card. From there, an unlikely friendship is formed between Viktor and Romulus. Together, they embark on a search to uncover the truth about the cards and what happened to Romulus’s parents. Sprinkle in some fun stuff like Romulus’s homemade weapons that have cool names like Orange Split, Blackbirds, and Fire Wire, some Gypsies that help them piece together the town’s past, and you get a wonderful tale that ultimately leads back to the book’s catchy title, “The Silent Deal”.

A unique, creative story for all ages…Wonderful debut.

View all my reviews

Book Review – The Self-Publisher’s Ultimate Resource Guide

The Self-Publisher's Ultimate Resource GuideThe Self-Publisher’s Ultimate Resource Guide by Joel Friedlander
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A must have for indie authors…

If you’re writing a book or have already written one, no doubt you have spent countless hours digging through the mass amounts of information on the Internet looking for help. I know I have. Now, with this resource guide, you have instant access to just about anything a self-publisher needs. Tired of hunting for the perfect proofreader or copyeditor? The book lists thirty-five – some international. Need a cool writing software to enhance your writing? Choose from forty-nine. Want to know what publishing platforms are available for your book? How about contacts for organizing a blog tour? Looking for great books on writing? There are many more categories. I can’t wait to explore all the possibilities.

If you’re planning on writing and publishing your own book, this is a wonderful place to start. If only I’d had this book three years ago when I was writing my first book, it would have saved me countless hours of research. Thank you to the authors for putting together all their years of experience and sharing it.

View all my reviews

Book Review – Exploring Biblical Prayer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A must read if you’re seeking to understand prayer…

What should a prayer life look like? What meaning does it have? And why should we care?

Shennan gives you 26 chapters of thought-provoking, scripturally based, convicting chapters that delves into these very questions. He also effectively deals with the disappointment that often comes from unanswered prayer and how prayer and other biblical doctrines have become “shadows in the shifting world of opinion.” It seems we haven’t given prayer the power which it deserves. We limit God with our unbelief, our desire for quick and easy answers.

“We are plagued by faint hearts and doubting dispositions. Temptations to put our trust in things seen rather than the unseen lie profusely in our path.”

Yeah, been there.

This book…I just don’t have any words for how wonderful it is. Shennan does a beautiful job of pulling in scripture and Bible stories that look at all types of prayer. I was amazed at some of the things that he pulled from the Bible that I had never even considered. Here are just a few of the great chapter titles: “Desperation in Prayer”, “Dangerous Prayer”, “Argument in Prayer”, “Persistence in Prayer”, “Earthshaking Prayer, “Burnout in Prayer”.

Exploring biblical prayer has renewed my spirit, my desire to pray, and has already changed my perspective on a topic that can be difficult at best. If I could afford to give copies to everybody I know, I would. This WILL change your prayer life!

View all my reviews

Dive Deeper Book Review

Dive Deeper: Finding Deep Faith Beyond Shallow ReligionDive Deeper: Finding Deep Faith Beyond Shallow Religion by Jenifer Jernigan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When being introduced to this book, it was described to me as a Bible study + book. Two of my favorite things combined!

The author guides you through a verse by verse study of Ephesians. But it’s not a typical “telling” you what the truth is, but a wonderful “showing” and allowing the revelation of truth to unfold through discovery. The author helps you to explore each verse’s meaning through original Greek definition of words, different bible translations, and supporting scriptures. It’s like looking at scripture through a magnifying glass and being able to see things you hadn’t seen before.

I also like that the author shares examples of her weaknesses. By humbling herself, God was given all the glory in this wonderful piece of work.

If you find reading the Bible difficult at times, struggle to see how God sees you, or want to understand what He has done to secure your future, give Dive Deeper a try. I feel blessed by having completed the study. I never knew Ephesians had so much to teach me. Now these truths have become alive to me instead of just being words on a page.

View all my reviews

The Geography of You and Me – Book Review

The Geography of You and MeThe Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was so excited to read this after enjoying “The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight”. It just didn’t have the same punch and because of that I was slightly disappointed.

The Geography of You and Me is a contemporary love story of two teens Lucy and Owen. They have a chance meeting one night in a stalled elevator during a blackout in New York City. They make a quick connection, but soon after, end up in different places with completely different lives. The rest of the book follows their separate journeys with both of them struggling to forget about the other. This gives the story a kind of melancholy feel. You experience their attempts to move on with other people, their continuous moves to new cities, Owen and his father grieving for the loss of Owen’s mother, and Lucy’s life which mainly centers on hands-off parents who jet set around the world without her. The classic rich girl, poor boy.

The premise is cute, but the characters didn’t pull me in. I found I didn’t love them or hate them. I think the reason I couldn’t fall in love with these characters was twofold. One, it felt like their connection was more like a friendship of kindred spirits. And two, they were pretty much miserable the whole book. That made it hard to want to turn the next page. The fact that they were apart for most of the book also made it difficult to make the romance believable because there was nothing there for them to build upon except for that one night.

I did appreciate one literary tactic used near the end of the book where chapters got shorter and shorter in order to convey emotion. That was rather brilliant.

I also love the fact that Jennifer E Smith writes clean teen fiction. She’s found a wonderful niche for young, hopeless romantics that are waiting for their own great love story.

View all my reviews

Vertigo 42 Book Review

Vertigo 42 by Martha Grimes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A Fantastic Whodunit with a Literary Twist…

Imagine a mystery, a whodunit, which weaves in details found in classics like Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo and literature greats like Thomas Hardy’s “Tess of the D’Urbervilles”, E.M. Forster’s “A Passage to India”, and poetry of T.S. Eliot. Now, add a Scotland Yard Superintendent, distinctively British settings that often involve a “cuppa”, and you get nothing short of what I can only describe as charmingly clever.

Superintendent Richard Jury finds himself doing a favor for a friend by meeting with Tom Williamson. Tom’s wife, Tess died in what was ruled an accident 17 years ago. The investigation at the time found her fall on their estate was due to her bouts of Vertigo. Her husband believes she was murdered. Muddying the waters, is the death of a nine-year-old girl on the couple’s estate five years before Tess died. In order to determine if there’s any connection between the two, Jury must investigate both deaths. If that isn’t enough, Jury is temporarily distracted by another mysterious death near Long Piddleton, where he has stopped to visit his precocious friend, Melrose Plant (love this guy). A woman in a red dress and heels is found dead at the bottom of a tower. Accident or murder? How all this is woven together and tidied up is the tour de force of Grime’s writing.

Be warned – Grimes is not for the casual reader. You will have to engage all your powers of reasoning in order to keep up with Richard Jury and his sidekick, Sergeant Wiggins. Grimes doesn’t waste one ounce of time on anything other than moving the plot along. Yet, the reader is never bored or bogged down in the never-ending search for answers. On the contrary, Grime’s characters are delightful, witty, sometimes quirky, flawed human beings. In other words, quite fascinating.

Being new to Martha Grimes (Yes, I know. How is that possible?), I knew I would need to read some back story on Vertigo 42’s main character, Superintendent Richard Jury. I immediately purchased and read, “The Man with a Load of Mischief”. I highly recommend “new to Grimes” readers to do the same before reading Vertigo 42.

I am officially a new fan of Martha Grimes. I enjoy being able to read a book that is intelligent and not laced with foul language that so many authors seem to employ these days. Grimes just gives you straight up good writing.

View all my reviews

Jackaby Book Review

JackabyJackaby by William Ritter

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Move over Sherlock Holmes and Watson, and say hello to R.F. Jackaby and Abigail Rook. Instead of London and Scotland Yard, this eccentric detective and his sidekick are in Fiddleham, New England with one annoyed Inspector Marlowe.

The story begins with Abigail Rook, a young girl with a heart for adventure and discovery. When her misguided decision to abscond her university tuition and join a sketchy expedition for dinosaur fossils fails, she decides it’s easier to go to America than return to her disappointed parents in England.

It’s not long after Abigail lands in Fiddleham that she has her first encounter with Jackaby. Dressed in a long, brown coat with overstuffed pockets and equally long wool scarf, the man with the unruly, dark hair, shows up next to her at a tavern. He quickly relays specific details of Abigail’s trip to her. It doesn’t take Abigail long to realize that he is a detective of the unusual sort. Like that oh so famous Scotland Yard detective. Jackaby disappears into the night, and Abigail thinks nothing more of the strange encounter.

Desperate for work, Abigail scours the town but is unable to find a position. That’s when she finds an advertisement in the post office for an assistant for investigative services. When she shows up at the given address, she discovers none other than R.F. Jackaby. And that is when the game begans. She stumbles after him down the streets of Fiddleham as he rushes to the scene of a murder. Jackaby now has his Watson.

Here’s the fun part – Jackaby is not your average detective — he’s a seer. He has a special sight that allows him to see things that others can’t. Supernatural things, like ghosts, domovyk’s, goblins. Things that seem like legends and fairytales to others are very much alive to Jackaby. Now, there’s been a brutal murder in the city and Jackaby suspects the unnatural is involved. The inspector finds Jackaby an annoyance and his theories ridiculous. Even so, Jackaby relentlessly pursues the killer and Abigail finds herself in an adventure she never expected.

The spin on this book involving the supernatural is simply fantastic. If you take James Dashner’s flair for the curiously gruesome, and Madeleine L’Engle’s for the mystical, then add a dash of humor, you have William Ritter. I have to admit, I’m a huge fan of Sherlock Holmes, and I’m thrilled that Ritter has found a way to give us a new detective to love. I simply cannot wait for more Jackaby adventures. If you are a Sherlock fan, like mysteries with a supernatural-fantasy element, you’ll love this book.

I’m also happy to report that it’s clean teen fiction. Outside of a few mild swear words that seem appropriate for the setting, the book contains nothing inappropriate for teen readers.

Favorite line from the book: “DO NOT STARE AT THE FROG”

View all my reviews

Book Review – Perfume Princess

Perfume PrincessPerfume Princess by Kristina Miranda

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Charming and downright fun!
Lily is just an ordinary fifteen year-old girl living a simple life in Texas with her father. So, spending the summer in New York with her perfume mogul mother, Hya Laroche, and her top model sister, feels an awful lot like Cinderella with no date to the ball. She takes comfort in the fact that she will at least get to go back to Texas to spend her 16th birthday with her dad. But, even that is in jeopardy when Lily is unexpectedly thrown into the spotlight with heartthrob, Chase Donovan, the star of Laroche cosmetics new ad campaign, and her sister Jasmine’s crush. Things quickly spiral out of control for Lily. Especially, her feelings for Chase.

“I tell myself he must be a jerk. Has to be, right? But what an adorable jerk.”

The author does a great job of making you feel like you’re immersed in the glamour of New York and then Paris as the characters become caught up in Laroche cosmetics latest perfume campaign. In the midst of all that, we watch Lily struggle with trying to please her mother and sister and just wanting to be herself without fear of being judged.

It’s the perfect book if you just want to escape for a weekend, or need a great beach read. If you’re a fan of Jennifer E Smith (i.e. The Statistical Probability of Falling in Love), you’re going to love Perfume Princess. I had a hard time putting it down!

*Bonus – This book receives my “Clean Teen Fiction” seal of approval.

View all my reviews

Book Review – The Word Exchange

The Word ExchangeThe Word Exchange by Alena Graedon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was given this book in exchange for an honest review.

This book takes the reader into a world where a virtually paperless society becomes so dependent on electronic devices that people begin to forget words, and language begins fading into the background. People are constantly connected to their personal device, called a Meme that “senses” what one needs — when you’re hungry, when you might need a cab, etc. Thus, the decline of people’s ability to actually use and recall words, and an increase in dependence on their device for even the most basic tasks. This ultimately leads to dependence on The Word Exchange. Now, instead of committing words to memory, one can simply depend on their Meme to look up the definition on The Word Exchange for a small price. Ultimately, the devices and the humans become biologically merged, and a virus that destroys people’s speech ensues. The word flu.

The idea is very creative. This, I love. However, the book is not easy to read. First, there’s the use of big words that I often had to look up. Of course, the irony of this also was not lost on me — it solidified one of the main points of the book – that we are losing valuable language skills. That’s why I found it odd that the author chose to have most of her characters use the F-word, one of the most absurd and offensive words of the English language.

The other issue I had with this book was the overabundance of research facts; i.e. references to German philosopher Hegel, the history of pneumatic tubes. There was just too much of it throughout the book, and did nothing to move the plot along.

And finally, it was the lack of page-turning conflict and too many unlikable characters that left this book flat for me. The sense of danger was hung before the reader like a dangling carrot, but it never materialized. The main character, Anana often felt she was being followed, but nothing much ever came of it except for once when she fell down some steps. My favorite part of the book, was the mysterious Creatorium that Anana discovers in the basement of her workplace. It was creepy, strange, ominous. But, even here, she gets by a large guard by saying she has to go meet her boyfriend.

So, this is what my three-star rating means. I liked the book, because the story was creative, and I could tell a lot of work went into it. Alena Graedon is no doubt a talented writer. There just wasn’t enough there for me to become emotionally involved with the characters or their lives.

View all my reviews