Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Forest Secrets by Laurie Woodward

Forest Secrets by Laurie Woodward
Publisher:  Laurie Woodward
Publication Date:  October 9, 2015
ISBN:  0692510990
Genre: fantasy, magic

Book Synopsis:  The half-tree, half-human beings lived a secret existence deep in the old growth forest. Until now. When 11-year old Daisy Castillo discovers a plot to destroy the forest, she tries to halt the approaching evil while keeping these magical creatures from being discovered. But danger waits in every shadow. For if these corrupt men succeed, the Forest People will die. A few surprises are in store, as some unknown and undiscovered friendships hold the key to her success. Fate hangs in the balance as Daisy faces her deepest fears, including heartbreak from the past, to rise up against all odds. Suspenseful, mysterious, and full of danger, Forest Secrets captures the enchantment of nature and the power of friendship in this classic tale of good vs. evil.
My Thoughts:  I really enjoyed this story!! This book has been added to my read-aloud list for my 3rd grade class. I went into this story not knowing anything about it, or if I would like it at all. Within the first few pages my interest was nabbed. This is a cute little tale about an adventurous 11-year old girl from a split family, who moves to a new town. She meets 2 new friends, one a boy who is a couple of years older, and the other a "forest friend". This trio must deal with some not so pleasant life events, but it is presented in a positive manner. In addition to the real-life issues the children deal with, they also learn about and help address issues involving the environment and ecological challenges.

This author writes in a way that makes you feel like you are talking to a friend.  The story was easy to sit down and take in in one sitting - just a quick chat!!  Although the tale is a magical one, the setting feels oh so familiar.  I live in a rural are surrounded by woods, and I can just imagine walking up the path and encountering "tree people".  This story will now leave me with the idea that maybe there are such creatures out there.  Who are we to question it!!!!!!

About the Author:  
Laurie Woodward is a school teacher and the author of the fantasy books: The Artania Chronicles. Her Artania: The Pharaohs’ Cry is the first children’s book in the series. Laurie is also a collaborator on the award-winning Dean and JoJo anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. The European published version of Dean and JoJo for which she was the ghost writer was translated by Jochen Lehner who has also translated books for the Dalai Lama and Deepak Chopra, In addition to writing, Ms. Woodward is an award winning peace consultant who helps other educators teach children how to stop bullying, avoid arguments, and maintain healthy friendships. Laurie writes her novels in the coastal towns of California.           Website           Goodreads

Monday, February 8, 2016

The Sorcery Code: A Fantasy Novel of Magic, Romance, Danger, and Intrigue (Volume 1)

by Dina Zales / Anna Zaires
Publisher: Mozaika Publications
Publication Date: December 6, 2013
Genre:  Fantasy
Book Synopsis:  From the internationally bestselling authors who brought you the Krinar Chronicles comes a captivating tale of intrigue, love, and danger in a world where sorcery is entwined with science . . . 

Once a respected member of the Sorcerer Council and now an outcast, Blaise has spent the last year of his life working on a special magical object. The goal is to allow anyone to do magic, not just the sorcerer elite. The outcome of his quest is unlike anything he could’ve ever imagined – because, instead of an object, he creates Her.

She is Gala, and she is anything but inanimate. Born in the Spell Realm, she is beautiful and highly intelligent – and nobody knows what she’s capable of. She will do anything to experience the world . . . even leave the man she is beginning to fall for.

Augusta, a powerful sorceress and Blaise’s former fiancée, sees Blaise’s deed as the ultimate hubris and Gala as an abomination that must be destroyed. In her quest to save the human race, Augusta will forge new alliances, becoming tangled in a web of intrigue that stretches further than any of them suspect. She may even have to turn to her new lover Barson, a ruthless warrior who might have an agenda of his own . . . 
My Thoughts:  The Sorcery Code is not your typical fantasy!  There is so much that left me second guessing myself; so many times my predictions were way off!!!  Don't you love when that happens???

The story starts off a little on the slow side, but once you start becoming familiar with the characters, you are drawn right in and want more about them.  I found it charming that Blaise was out for the commoner.  More often than not, the powerful sorcerers are evil and want to become more powerful, but not so for Blaise.

I found the whole idea of Blaise's created object, Gala quite interesting.    The development of this character as the story goes on is quite creative, and intuitive in and of itself.  I asked myself several times "now why couldn't I think of something like that?".  She is my favorite character of the story.  She is as innocent and out of control as a child, yet when her emotions take hold, she is all strength and power - much more controlled.

This story is built around the view points of four characters.  The use of flashback throughout is very thoughtful.  I did decide to add the narration performed by Emily Durante, and I am glad I did.  She pulls you in with her voice, and it just adds to the enjoyment, not to mention, I can multi-task and don't have to put the story down when I need to do some little task.

About the Authors:                                            Dima Zales      
Dima Zales is a full-time science fiction and fantasy author residing in Palm Coast, Florida. Prior to becoming a writer, he worked in the software development industry in New York as both a programmer and an executive. From high-frequency trading software for big banks to mobile apps for popular magazines, Dima has done it all. In 2013, he left the software industry in order to concentrate on his writing career.

Dima holds a Master’s degree in Computer Science from NYU and a dual undergraduate degree in Computer Science / Psychology from Brooklyn College. He also has a number of hobbies and interests, the most unusual of which might be professional-level mentalism. He simulates mind-reading on stage and close-up, and has done shows for corporations, wealthy individuals, and friends.

He is also into healthy eating and fitness, so he should live long enough to finish all the book projects he starts. In fact, he very much hopes to catch the technological advancements that might let him live forever (biologically or otherwise). Aside from that, he also enjoys learning about current and future technologies that might enhance our lives, including artificial intelligence, biofeedback, brain-to-computer interfaces, and brain-enhancing implants.

In addition to his own works, Dima has collaborated on a number of romance novels with his wife, Anna Zaires. The Krinar Chronicles, an erotic science fiction series, has been a bestseller in its categories and has been recognized by the likes of Marie Claire and Woman’s Day. If you like erotic romance with a unique plot, please feel free to check it out, especially since the first book in the series (Close Liaisons) is available for free everywhere. Keep in mind, though, Dima Zales's books are going to be much more PG 13 . . . at least that’s the plan for now.

Anna Zaires is the love of his life and a huge inspiration in every aspect of his writing. She definitely adds her magic touch to anything Dima creates, and the books would not be the same without her. Dima’s fans are strongly encouraged to learn more about Anna and her work at                                   

Anna Zaires                                                                                                                                                                                Anna Zaires fell in love with books at the age of five, when her grandmother taught her to read. She wrote her first story shortly thereafter. Since then, she has always lived partially in a fantasy world where the only limits were those of her imagination. Currently residing in Florida, Anna is happily married to Dima Zales (a science fiction and fantasy author) and closely collaborates with him on all their works.

After graduating from the University of Chicago with a degree in Economics, Anna spent eight years on Wall Street analyzing stocks and writing research reports. In 2013, she became a full-time author, pursuing her lifelong dream of writing romance novels.

Dima Zales is the love of her life and a huge inspiration in all aspects of her writing. Every book Anna writes is a product of their unique collaborative process.

In addition to reading and writing, Anna enjoys drinking tea (coconut oolong, anyone?), watching addictive TV shows, and discussing book ideas during long walks with her amazing husband.

She loves hearing from her readers, so please don't hesitate to contact her through her website or connect with her on Facebook, where she hangs out way too often. Also, please visit her husband and collaborator, Dima Zales, at and check out their fantasy & science fiction books.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Chicken Squad: The First Misadventure by Doreen Cronin

by Doreen Cronin
Publisher:  Simon & Schuster
Publication Date:  April 8 2014
ISBN:  978-1442496767
Genre:  Children's Fiction
Book Synopsis:  They’re darling. They’re daring. They know their shapes! They’re chicks on a mission—and on this, their first (mis)adventure, the Chicken Squad launches a galactic backyard expedition.

Meet the Chicken Squad: Dirt, Sugar, Poppy, and Sweetie. These chicks are not your typical barnyard puffs of fluff, and they are not about to spend their days pecking chicken feed and chasing bugs. No sir, they’re too busy solving mysteries and fighting crime.

So when Squirrel comes barreling into the chicken coop, the chicks know they’re about to get a case. But with his poor knowledge of shapes (“Big” is not a shape, Squirrel!) and utter fear of whatever it is that’s out there, the panicky Squirrel is NO HELP. Good thing these chicks are professionals.

But even professionals get worried. Especially once they see that round, shiny, green, BIG thing in the yard. What if it’s a UFO full of aliens who want chickens as pets? It’s up to the Chicken Squad to crack a case that just might be out of this world.

My Thoughts:  What a fun, creative book. This is a spin-off from Cronin's J.J. Tulley Mysteries.  The chickens now have their own stories, although J.J. is still a integral part - retired, and their protector.

Doreen Cronin is very well known for her silly animal stories - many of which I have in my classroom library.  In The Chicken Squad, Cronin once again has managed to pack so much within a story.  There is humor, a familiar dog,  a "big and scary" mystery, very charismatic and personable chicks, and even a little geometry.

This book is an excellent beginning chapter book.  It is easy to follow. Readers are immediately introduced to the characters and quickly drawn into a humorous mystery.  Children will be easily attracted to the ridiculous interactions and situations.  the vocabulary is pretty simple, and there is enough repetition that will make it easy for a struggling reader to catch on.  The pattern and structure of the text lend itself for a perfect read-aloud book.  It would be a story that children would not want to put down, but continue to read or listen to.

As a third grade teacher, I see this as a book I want to have in my classroom.  I am always looking for good chapter books - especially ones that my lower readers will be able to pick up and read independently.  This will be a book that my children will read and eagerly share with others.

I see this book later becoming a children's animated cartoon.  I think the writing, the characters, as well as the cute illustrations have already allowed me to create an animated cartoon in my mind.

About the Author:  Doreen Cronin was a practicing attorney in Manhattan when her first book Click, Clack Moo: Cows That Type became a publishing success. But her book was not published overnight, in fact, she had written this barnyard tale even before attending law school but only received rejection letters from publishers. Five years after submitting the original manuscript she got a call from a publisher who wanted to turn her story into a book and the rest is history!

The busy life of a writer left no room for courtroom litigation and arbitration so Doreen made the leap to being a full-time children’s book author. She then teamed up once again with illustrator Betsy Lewin to write another hilarious barnyard tale, Giggle, Giggle, Quack, that continues the escapades of these lovable animals on a farm.

In Doreen’s latest book, Diary of a Worm, she explores the daily life of a lovable worm. Who knew that the underground dwellings and activities of worms could be so funny. Readers may even find that worm’s life is much the same as theirs except worm eats his homework and his head looks a whole lot like his rear!

Doreen was born in Queens and grew up in Long Island. She graduated from Pennsylvannia State University and St. John’s University School of Law. She currently resides in New York with her husband and dog “Ruffie.”                                                   Author Website          Goodreads            Series Website               

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Somewhere in France by Jennifer Robson

Somewhere in France

by Jennifer Robson

Publisher:  William Morrow Paperbacks
Publication date:  December 31, 2013
ISBN:  978-0062273451
Genre:  historical fiction
Book Synopsis:  Lady Elizabeth Neville-Ashford wants to travel the world, pursue a career, and marry for love. But in 1914, the stifling restrictions of aristocratic British society and her mother’s rigid expectations forbid Lily from following her heart. When war breaks out, the spirited young woman seizes her chance for independence. Defying her parents, she moves to London and eventually becomes an ambulance driver in the newly formed Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps—an exciting and treacherous job that takes her close to the Western Front.

Assigned to a field hospital in France, Lily is reunited with Robert Fraser, her dear brother Edward’s best friend. The handsome Scottish surgeon has always encouraged Lily’s dreams. She doesn’t care that Robbie grew up in poverty—she yearns for their friendly affection to become something more. Lily is the most beautiful—and forbidden—woman Robbie has ever known. Fearful for her life, he’s determined to keep her safe, even if it means breaking her heart.

In a world divided by class, filled with uncertainty and death, can their hope for love survive. . . or will it become another casualty of this tragic war?
My Thoughts:  It really surprises me that this is a debut novel.  The author is very skilled at including the historical details without allowing it to become dull and boring.  I was immediately drawn in, not wanting to put it down. I think the idea of the forbidden romance was the lure.  The blurb on the front cover claiming a similarity to Downton Abbey helped too.

I really enjoy reading about this era and the hierarchy of the society.  A high-society girl defying her parents in search of something more.  Having all the money at her fingertips was not enough. Lily wanted to taker her part and felt it her duty to do something in this time of war.  She was not satisfied staying at home being told what she was not allowed to do.  She did not want to have and arranged marriage to someone she did not love.  What a wonderful character!  She gave up the world to seek her dreams.

Although Lily holds onto and follows her desires, the author was adept at showing the changes and growth in this character.  She provided a nice cast of supporting characters that allowed Lily to be herself and be comfortable in her ever changing world - going from having everything to nothing - and back again.

I really respect the control that Robbie shows throughout the novel.  For the most part, he is the underdog - coming from the lower class - not of the same world as Lily.  The only reason the even crossed paths was because he was the best friend of her brother, Edward.  Lily's mother disapproved of the friendship between Edward and Robbie, and even more so of any relationship between Lily and Robbie.  Robbie, now a surgeon, does his best to distance himself from Lily, but finds he cannot get her off his mind.  It becomes even more difficult when she is working right under his nose, at the same hospital.  He spends his days worrying about her safety.

This book was an easy read; not too complex with al the historical information, but straightforward and casual in its approach.  If you enjoy historical fiction, you will definitely find this book worth the read.  I excitedly await the follow-up coming next year (2015).
About the Author:  Jennifer Robson first learned about the Great War from her father, acclaimed historian Stuart Robson, and later served as an official guide at the Canadian National War Memorial at Vimy Ridge, France. A former copy editor, she holds a doctorate in British economic and social history from the University of Oxford. She lives in Toronto, Canada, with her husband and young children.                                                                         Goodreads           Facebook           Twitter            Website

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Friday, March 28, 2014

It's Been a While...............

I know I have been gone from my blog for quite some time, but it has not been totally forgotten.  I am slowly going to make my way back to the blogging world & book reviewing.  I have missed it so much.  I absolutely love to read, but had gotten so busy with my job -teaching, and my change in positions that I really had no time for reading.  And .....  what was I thinking.  Me and not reading - that just does not work.  So, I have started back in with my favorite genre - historical fiction.

Tomorrow I will be posting a review for Somewhere in France:  A Novel of the Great War by Jennifer Robson.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Unlikely and Unexpected Gift

The Unlikely Gift of Treasure Blume 
by Lisa Rumsey Harris
Publisher: Sweetwater Books
Publication Date: November 13th 2012
ISBN:   1462110266
Genre:  Feel-good, romance, humor
Book Synopsis:  With her love of sweaters, goofy hair, and awkward manners—not to mention her family curse—Treasure Blume knows love is not in her future. That is, until she matches wits with Dennis Cameron, a divorced chef with a six-year-old daughter. Full of mischief, mayhem, and laugh-out-loud humor, this is an unlikely love story you’ll want to read over and over again!
My Thoughts:  What an amazing book!  This is one that everyone should read, and I mean everyone!!!

If we could all be like Treasure Blume, this world would be such a brighter place to live.  She has such a wonderful gift - one that allows her to look beyond what others see in her so that she can choose to do the right thing - even when others think she is crazy.

Treasure is the type of teacher that I so wish I could be.  She always goes that extra mile for the needs of her students!  What a breath of fresh air.    Even if the authorities are not sure she is doing what is right, and even if she is not sure it is safe, she takes that extra risk.    Students would be blessed to have her for a teacher.

Beyond that is the romance.  I don't know that I have ever read a more cleanly written romance story.  So sweet and inviting.  I found myself cheering Treasure along - she so deserved to have that special someone in her life, if ever anyone did.

And, what can I say about Grammy Blume.  She is such a fun character.  She is off the wall, so out-there.  Grammy was a wonderful addition to Treasure!

Now, everyone needs to go out there and get the book and read it.  I promise, you will not be disappointed. You will probably read it in one sitting - it is that addictive!!!

About the Author:
Lisa Rumsey Harris is from Downey, Idaho, where she grew up writing stories and riding horses. She graduated magna cum laude from BYU with a degree in English and a minor in Humanities.

She honed her writing skills while working at BYU Development Communications, where she wrote brochures, letters, and conducting notes for President Merrill J. Bateman. She received her Master’s Degree in English in August 2003.

Sparked by the experiences of her own grandmother, Lisa’s thesis explored the dissonance between real ranch women and the representations of ranch women in literature. She presented her findings at the Hawaiian International Conference on the Arts and Humanities.

Lisa’s passion for the American West is rivaled only by her passions for teaching and writing. She began teaching Honors Writing courses in Fall 2003. Her teaching inspiration is her own mother, who as Lisa’s high school Spanish teacher, taught her the importance of finding innovative approaches to encourage active learning.

As a writer, Lisa has won numerous awards for her short stories, essays, and cowboy poetry, including a Sunstone award in the Brookie and D.K Brown Memorial Fiction Contest. Lisa lives in Orem, Utah, with her multi-talented husband, her adorable sunshine daughters, and her ancient Siamese cat.                                                                                               

The Effects of a Storm

We just got electricity & cable (phone, internet, TV) back!!!  It is hard to believe that a snowstorm can be so devastating!!  In my life I have lived through many storms and blizzards, but none quite as messy as this one!!  My driveway was blocked because of fallen trees - this in addition to all the outages.  I sat and listened to snaps and pops of trees breaking for 2 days/nights.  That was extremely scary, as my home is surrounded by trees.  I am just happy that everyone is safe.

Check some of these out - this is the road I drive to go to work each day:

So anyway.  I was supposed to have 3 posts up and ready by now.  Unfortunately, this is where the effects come into play.  With no electricity, I had no way to keep my iPad charged. So, I was only able to read one of said books.  I am in the process of reading the other two.  I am getting ready to post one review today, and the others will follow in the next day or two.  

I love reading my books on my iPad, but I guess there is some good in having a hard copy of a book.  I had all the time in the world to read the past several days, but unfortunately, could not.  Had I had a hard copy, they would have been finished. 

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