Monday, August 31, 2015

Review: Gardens of Ailana

There are places on this planet not confined to the logic of men or limitations of science. Pagans may have erected strange mounds, or circles of giant stones there. Religious seers built great cathedrals or temples where those stones had once stood. Legends spread about miracles and healing wonders, and for centuries pilgrims flocked in from all lands.
Or they may have been left alone, unknown but to the few; tended by very special beings.
Something inside a few troubled souls draws them to such centers when they’re ready.
In our modern-day fictional tale, four people with very different backgrounds, each scarred by a horrific childhood, meet at a place of healing where one’s most crippling darkness must be faced down. In the rubble of their lives and broken spirits they learn that in their weaknesses lie their most profound strengths. In their festering wounds they find hope.
In “The Gardens of Ailana” we see through the souls of mystics, experience laying-on-of-hands from the healer’s point of view. Feel at home among wonders and magic.
We may find answers to some long-troubling questions:
What if everything does serve some purpose?
When is it not right to forgive?
Beyond all the religious hype, what happens when I die? When my child dies?
How does karma work? - And this time say it so I can understand it.
Is there any ultimate balancing of goodness and wrongs?
In this moving, mysterious tale of redemption, we explore that intimate pain we all carry inside us, marveling at the rich complexity of the human spirit.
And at the simple beauty and logic of what lies beyond.
Or they may have been left alone, unknown but to the few; tended by very special beings.
Something inside a few troubled souls draws them to these centers when they are ready.
In our modern-day fictional tale, four people with very different backgrounds, each scarred by a horrific childhood, meet at a place of healing where one’s most crippling darkness must be faced down. In the rubble of their lives and broken spirits they learn that in their weaknesses lie their most profound strengths. In their festering wounds they find hope.
In “The Gardens of Ailana” we see through the souls of mystics, experience laying-on-of-hands from the healer’s point of view. Feel at home among wonders and magic.
We may learn to heal ourselves and others.
We might find answers to some long-troubling questions.
What if everything does serve some purpose?
When is it not right to forgive?
Is there any ultimate balancing of goodness and wrongs?
What happens when I die? When my child dies?
In this moving, mysterious tale of redemption, we explore that intimate pain we all carry inside us, marveling at the rich complexity of the human spirit.

Buy on Amazon

My Review:

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review through FirstReads Giveaways.

The Gardens of Ailana was interesting. Lots of great scenery, gave me some rather questionable dreams, but for the most part kept my interest until almost the end.

The introduction of the book suggests the book would be about Ailana and her personal role in the healing of four people with well rounded histories. Let's discuss what really happens. (without spoilers)

Ailana herself feels like a plot device. She didn't do anything but speak mysteriously and own the Gardens. She also served tea, but you know. 

Person #1: Paulette. Sweet Paulette. She was, indeed, well rounded. She had real feelings and had some development. She got annoying sometimes, but that's important. It adds reality to a character to have a few idiosyncrasies.
Person #2: Harvey. I would say he had development if he wasn't so 2 dimensional. There was very little depth to Harvey and we got to spend some time with him, and he had a rich history, but he felt too cliche. 
Person #3: Marsha? I've got to put a question mark here because we don't really see Marsha at all. She seems to only come out when it's convenient for Paulette.
Person #4: Charlie...? I really had to think about who the fourth person was because for cripes sake we saw more development and story in Paulette's sister and mother than in Charlie or Marsha. Paulette's family had maybe a couple paragraphs between them and weren't at the Gardens.

So there you go. Since this is a 'people' book and not a 'plot' book, I'm dividing these five characters into stars. I'll pair Paulette's family in with Ailana to have the equivalent of three moderately developed people.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Book Review: Clutter Free

If you’ve ever wished you could clear out your clutter, simplify your space, and take back your life, Kathi Lipp’s new book has just the solutions you need. Building off the success of her The Get Yourself Organized Project, this book will provide even more ideas for getting your life and your stuff under control.Do any of these descriptions apply to you?
You bought a box of cereal at the store, and then discovered you have several boxes at home that are already past the “best by” date. 
You bought a book and put it on your nightstand (right on top of ten others you’ve bought recently), but you have yet to open it. 
You keep hundreds of DVDs around even though you watch everything online now and aren’t really sure where the remote for the DVD player is. 
You spend valuable time moving your piles around the house, but you can never find that piece of paper when you need it. 
You may need this book.
Buy on Amazon
My Review: 

The author puts a lot of her personality into these pages and sprinkles personal anecdotes into her work, making a standard how-to book into a book of advice shared between friends. Unlike others, I didn't have any problems with the religious based talk. Again, if a really religious friend were giving me advice, spirituality would no doubt come up. Overall this book had a lot of good advice and I'd definitely check it out at the library, but I probably wouldn't buy it for my home shelves.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Book Review: Dear Committee Members

Finally, a novel that puts the "pissed" back into "epistolary."
Jason Fitger is a beleaguered professor of creative writing and literature at Payne University, a small and not very distinguished liberal arts college in the midwest. His department is facing draconian cuts and squalid quarters, while one floor above them the Economics Department is getting lavishly remodeled offices. His once-promising writing career is in the doldrums, as is his romantic life, in part as the result of his unwise use of his private affairs for his novels. His star (he thinks) student can't catch a break with his brilliant (he thinks) work Accountant in a Bordello, based on Melville's Bartleby.

In short, his life is a tale of woe, and the vehicle this droll and inventive novel uses to tell that tale is a series of hilarious letters of recommendation that Fitger is endlessly called upon by his students and colleagues to produce, each one of which is a small masterpiece of high dudgeon, low spirits, and passive-aggressive strategies. We recommend Dear Committee Members to you in the strongest possible terms.

Buy on Amazon

My Review:

This book is full of humor and snark that any working person can relate to. Even if you're a call center employee and not a professor, you know the feeling. Reading this, i felt like I had found one of my own-one of my true family-in that place where you don't necessarily dislike your job, but let's face it: the glamour is gone. I fully appreciated the expertly executed dry wit and (for lack of a more entertaining term in my generation) low-key sass. This book will make an excellent book for just about anyone. My precocious sister, my middle aged mother, my retired the words of the big O, "Everybody gets one!"

Friday, August 28, 2015

Review: Things I've said to my Children

An illustrated gift book that brings to life the universal parenting experience of saying strange and hilarious things to one's kids.

As the father of five boys (all under age 10), graphic designer Nathan Ripperger has found himself saying some rather funny, absurd, and downright bizarre things to his children, from "Stop riding that penguin, we're leaving" to "I am NOT talking to you until you are wearing underwear." He created poster-like images for each and posted them online. The response from other parents was overwhelming. With Things I've Said to My Children, Ripperger has assembled around 80 of the funniest, weirdest, and most amusing sayings and paired them with full-color, designed images that bring these outrageously hysterical quotes to life. Covering the essential parenting topics like food, animals, don'ts, and of course, bodily functions, Things I've Said to My Children is a light-hearted illustrated reminder of the shared absurdity of parenthood. Especially for those parents who've ever found themselves uttering some variation of the line, "Please don't eat the goldfish crackers you've put in your butt."

Buy on Amazon

My Review:

I got this book to review from netgalley, so it was in electronic form. Despite being such a quick read, I loved every second I spent reading this book. Since my daughter is just over a year old, I haven't said many of these--not yet anyway--but naturally some of my favorites were ones I've said myself. My two absolute favorites have got to be "why is there peanut butter in your ear?" And "stop riding the Christmas tree like a horse. Please?"

You should definitely buy this book at the very least for the entertainment value, but also get the hardcover version as a gift for every parent you know, so the illustrations can be seen properly.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Book Review: What it Looks Like

Marta Maranda doesn’t drink, smoke, use drugs, or have destructive sexual patterns. She is committed to exercise, eats healthfully, and has never had a cup of coffee in her life. But despite not having the substance or behavioral addictions widely associated with rehab, she checked herself into a five-week program, one week after her former husband checked out, to discover her part in the dysfunction in her life.

What It Looks Like tells the story of the events that led to her decision to enter rehab voluntarily and sober, her five weeks in the clinic alongside nearly 70 addicts, and the changes in her life after she left. 

Her journey takes her inward on a quest of self-exploration and healing, out into a world of war, politics, history, sports, and spirituality, and finally home as she rebuilds her life piece by piece. And this is what it looks like.
Buy on Amazon
My Review:

The book has a really interesting concept, one I was really interested in reading about. Instead I was made to wait while the author went on about her foundations in the most factual, dry manner possible. We were not taken back to pivotal moments in time. We were just told "this is my mom and this is my dad and this is what happened." 

But maybe I'm being too critical. We can't all be Hornbacher. By the time the author actually got to the clinic it was like reading a textbook. At this point I don't know if she connected with anyone, if her husband was even THERE for family week, or if she had just been writing down anything that was on a whiteboard and this is the result. Even when we finally acknowledge that the husband is, indeed, there for family week, the passage is still incredibly narcissistic. The only thing that kept me reading was the hope that the author would show some character development. At the very least I hoped one of the lessons she learned would involve some kind of flashback. If I wanted nothing but facts and theories I would have requested a book on addiction from NetGalley, not a memoir.

Finally, about 12 percent in, we got insight into Marta's life. We got some kind of idea of what she looked like and I got the flashbacks I had been hoping for. The book got so much better once she walked away from objectivity and started getting personal. Despite the author ultimately feeling better about herself, the clinic seems pretty shady. 
1. Reach out to vulnerable loved ones a few weeks before family week. 
2. Get vulnerable loved one to come to family week and tell them it's about them, not the actual patient. 
3. Lure vulnerable loved one to week two. 
4. Tell vulnerable loved one that enrolling in a full five weeks (that insurance partially covers, I'm sure) will save their lives because they're more critical than you thought. 

Overall, I'm really happy for Marta and the revelations she had while on the path to healing, and there's a lot of really good information in this book if you're looking for self help, but the writing style just wasn't for me. Rating: 3 of 5

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Book Review: Bound by duty

Amelia grew up in a world of half-truths. She knows she's an Elder but has no idea what that means. Her father reminds her daily that she must maintain control but he refuses to explain why. Even worse, she's betrothed to the prince of the Immortals and she doesn't even know his name. 

Finally breaking free to live a few normal years at a community college, the last thing Amelia expects is to find her best friend in a cheeky Southern girl and to fall for a self-assured human who sees her for who she is and not what she'll be.

As she learns more about herself, Amelia realizes the line between love and duty is a thin one. As her power continues to increase exponentially and her questions are slowly answered, Amelia must make the ultimate choice. The question is, will her head or her heart win the battle?
Buy on Amazon

My Review

I was really interested in Amelia's story. The concept was great, the first few pages drew me in and she just so interesting! I love the world of Elders and Hunters and Witches and I really wanted to know what made Amelia's dad go off the deep end (not a spoiler, you find this out pretty early) I was just so so so hooked on the writing and the world and fell deeper in love with the story...

And then the love interests arrived. "I get bad feelings from these guys who happen to be incredibly hot and make me feel things in my girl parts and it must be love because omg that dimple." It's lost my interest. I' not interested in Team this or Team that. I'm interested in how the heck we're going to deal with her Witchiness the Queen. If you remove the Insta-love triangle, this book would be comparable to The Enlighten or Graceling series. But really I liked the plot more than I hated the love story. A three seems too low. I've got to go with four out of five stars.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Book Review: Food of Oman

Featuring rustic Middle Eastern dishes infused with the flavors of East Africa, India, and Persia, "The Food of Oman "presents the delicious diversity of the tiny Arabian Sultanate through 100 recipes, lush photography, and stories from the people behind the food in an immersive introduction to a fascinating, little-known corner of the world. 

The recipes in "The Food of Oman" offer cooks a new world of flavors, techniques, and inspiration, while the lush photography and fascinating stories provide an introduction to the culture of a people whose adventurous palates and deep love of feeding and being fed gave rise to this unparalleled cuisine

Expected publication: 10/13/2015

Campell's website 
 Buy on Amazon

My true passion is people. The conflicts and comforts of the table can transcend or exaggerate cultural differences and it's these connections and chasms that fascinate me as much as what's on the plate. 
My cookbook includes history, art, and stories from the people behind the complex dishes of Oman and much of my memoir focuses on the absence of food rather than the pleasures of the table. 
That said, a shared meal and a steaming cup of tea were my first point of connection with people different from myself, so I instinctually continue to approach the world food-first as I seek out authentic, human connections from Beirut to Hong Kong to Mexico City. The Middle East remains the place where I feel these connections most potently and the stories, perspectives, and voices of the people there are still the ones I enjoy sharing most.
Beyond writing about my own experiences, as an editor, I love cultivating new voices and helping writers tell their stories better. I'm especially excited by the challenges and rewards of working in a multinational setting and promoting diversity in the publishing industry. 

My Review:
Unlike a lot of reviewers I see, I haven't actually been to Oman. My roots lie in Bangladesh and truthfully, I've not even been there yet. But I love the culture and I love cooking. So I requested a copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The forward, written by a colleague, gave us a view of Campell as a friend, and then her introduction gave us a view of her as a person, along with Oman's history and facts that add gravitas to the meaning of the recipes ahead. After all, if you know how recipes came to be, they somehow come out greater than just blindly throwing things together. Being already familiar with the spices used thanks to many Sunday cooking sessions with my dad, I didn't need to be in front of the dishes for my mouth to start watering. Campell includes recipes for all sorts of palates-- fish lovers, meat lovers, vegans*, Vegetarians, and these recipes, by nature, are all low fat or can be slightly tweaked to be low fat. Throughout the recipes, Campell includes pictures and passages of Omani culture.
Overall: Would I buy this for my shelves at home? In a heartbeat. Would I buy it for a friend? Definitely.
*many recipes call for ghee, which can be animal-based fat. This can be substituted by coconut oil.

My rating: 5/5

Monday, August 24, 2015

Book Review: Zen Pencils Volume 2

Cartoon quotes from inspirational folks!

Zen Pencils is an exciting and unique new comic that takes inspirational and famous quotes and adapts them into cartoon stories. From icons like Einstein, Gandhi, and Twain to modern-day philosophers, comedians and writers—their words are turned into heartwarming stories by cartoonist Gavin Aung Than. Be inspired, motivated, educated, and laugh as you read famous words as never before!
Buy on Amazon

Gavin Aung Than is a freelance cartoonist based in Melbourne, Australia. After working in the corporate graphic design industry for 8 years he quit his unfulfilling job at the end of 2011 to focus on his true passion, drawing cartoons. Gavin launched Zen Pencils at the start of 2012, a cartoon blog which adapts inspirational quotes into comic stories, and hasn’t looked back since.
See more at 

My Review:
This book is a really innovative way to get children interested in the wisdom of the past and present. I remember a particular English teacher I had that would put inspirational quotes on the walls of her classroom. They were nice and profound, but having the illustrations to go along with them would have given them more meaning and depth to my middle school brain. I also realized I had seen some of these online, around Tumblr and on my Facebook feed. And now I'm so glad I know where they're from so I can get a copy for myself and tack up the ones that mean the most to me around my home. I would definitely take this book, and the first volume of the series, to add them to my shelves for my daughter. I'd even get a second set for my sister, and I hope there are more to come. Many thanks to NetGalley for a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

My Rating: 5/5

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Special message from H.W Vivian, author of War of Rain

Thinking of some weekend fun in September? Join H. W. Vivian at Imaginarium 2015 in Louisville, KY, between September 11-13. She'll be signing books, answering your questions, and meeting lots of new and interesting people. Hope to see ya'll there!

Author Bio: H. W. Vivian is the author of the YA fictions, Chasers and War of Rain, as well as the adult humor fiction, Days of Amber, written under her second pseudonym, Alex Chu.

Book Review: War of Rain by H.W Vivian

Fifteen year-old Miri lives in a desert village called Boreala, which competes with the city of Stratos for Rain – the equivalent of Holy Water. During a confrontation while gathering Rain, Miri accidentally kills a citizen of Stratos, and unintentionally starts a heinous war. Now it is up to her to find the God of Rain, Kalono, and ask Him for an invention that can bring both peace and war before Boreala is destroyed. 

H. W. Vivian is the author of the YA fictions, Chasers and War of Rain, as well as the adult humor fiction, Days of Amber, and the mystery/thriller fiction, Monarchs, written under her second pseudonym, Alex Chu.

Buy the book: Amazon   Barnes and Noble  Lulu

Meet the Author: Website  Facebook  Twitter

My Review:

I got this book from the author, who asked me for an honest review and was gracious enough to send a physical copy when I said my schedule for ebooks is completely filled. I was drawn in to the story immediately. We meet Miri and her family and the people closest to her on their way to get the mysterious Rain. All of a sudden Barbarians come, and Miri is faced with choice: lose one of her loved ones or kill the barbarian? She makes her choice, having no idea the consequences it would have. The rest of part one of the book is filled with so much action and character development that it makes War of Rain the kind of book you'll pull out any time, anywhere, just to find out what happens next. In part two Miri is found with another hard choice. On her mission to find an invention that will make both war and peace, she has to decide if she will go back home to share it, or stay in the safety of the mountain she travels to. I also have to add that I usually find myself about 20 pages shy of the ending of a book, and I'm ready to review it. But with Miri, I was hooked and had to read every last word. Vivian even adds discussion questions at the end for teachers and students--which is great, considering the concepts of education, ancestry, religion and morality that pop up, begging to be discussed. It's a fine addition to my bookshelf.

Rating: 5/5

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Review: Sins of her Father by Kathleen Mix

Faith Rochambeau is horrified to learn she was conceived during a rape. She’s determined to make her biological father, Victor Telemann, pay for his crimes. Using her computer skills to dig into his life, she searches for the powerful man’s Achilles Heel and a way to extract retribution. She’ll do whatever it takes to get a conviction, even it if means infiltrating his Fortune 500 company.

She fails to plan on falling in love with her father’s smooth-talking stepson, Kent Telemann, who suspects she is a corporate spy. Faith is drawn to Kent, even though she’s not sure she can trust him. If her heart is wrong, he can put her life in danger.

Meanwhile, her father is playing a lethal game he’s determined to win.
Buy on Amazon

My Review:

I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley for an honest review.

Where to start? Those who follow my reviews know I don't normally do romances, primarily because I feel they lack plots. But between the amazing cover and enticing blurb, I requested this book for early review. I had so much to say about this book, I'm going to break it down into segments so I don't forget anything.

The First Pages: The book starts with Faith dealing with her mother's death, and consequently finding out about her origins after finding her mother's diary. The beginning is very emotionally charged, and I can see ow some would find Faith's next actions far-fetched. But as a survivor of rape, I understood the drive for justice and found myself rooting for Faith on her mission to avenge her mother.

The Writing Style: Mix's writing style drew me in and kept me reading far into the night. I was worried about her name choice for Victor, hoping it didn't necessarily mean he would actually be the victor. Mix is also kind with her depictions of the rape itself. She puts enough detail to show that it was violent, but not so much as to trigger flashbacks for survivors.

Faith as a Character: We meet Faith as a really smart wallflower, who's upbringing made her insecure and starved for love. She's obviously very emotionally driven despite her intellect. I found her character fun to read, enjoyed watching her develop more of a backbone, and kept reading to find out if she would get closure from her mother's injustices.

Kent as a Character: We meet Kent when he's your typical cocky rich bachelor, partying often and the second majority share holder of a company not by work, but by being born. But his development was actually faster than Faith's, as we see his arrogance give way to insecurities of his own as he starts falling for Faith.

The Romance: While not quite Insta-love, it felt forced. Particularly the first kiss. There had just been nothing showing that Faith was at that particular emotional point. Kent's emotional status didn't matter too much because at this point we know that he's faking the whole thing. After that one kiss though, all the other scenes were far more believeable.

"So what should I do, Kristina?" If you like romances and lifetime movies, buy it for your shelves at home. If you like the action and espionage part of the story but don't like romance, buy a kindle version. If you just want to try reading something new and unique, read it at the library first.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Book Review: Diner Knockout

Rose Strickland's life is complicated. Besides her waitressing gig, she works part-time for Andre Thomas, a PI with no faith in Rose's ability to investigate, her love life with Sullivan has stalled, and her BFF, Roxy, has found a new bestie, leaving Rose out in the cold.

Determined to prove herself, Rose takes a case on the sly. As she searches for a missing MMA fighter, Rose discovers an illegal fight club, a group of ruthless businessmen, dead bodies, and a trail of drugs.

Hunting down clues that lead too close to home, Rose finds herself in the fight of her life. Can she beat the killer to the punch before she gets knocked out for good?
Buy on Amazon

My Review:

 As a part of a series, this book stood surprisingly well as a standalone. There were a few passing references to what I'm sure are the first three books, but there was no confusion or information missing keeping me from enjoying this read.
The book started losing me a little when Rose's friends were introduced. I'm sure there are girls out there cosplaying Lolita on a daily basis. But I'm also sure they're under eighteen and not wearing their expensive cosplays to a full shift at a diner.
Rose herself comes off as a somewhat privileged young woman who's watched wa-ay too many NCIS shows. As annoying as you THINK that would be, I found it refreshing. I'm tired of the "strong independent woman" trope where the woman in question has very minor, if any flaws. Having such a large, life affecting trait that puts you and your loved ones in danger is kind of nice.
Speaking more on Rose, I like her. We have a lot in common. My family wasn't really rich, but they were comfortable. But I yearned for independence and moved out into a small apartment to prove I could 'make it' on my own. Now, would I pretend to be an official detective and take on a large, potentially dangerous missing persons case on my own? No. Most definitely not. But I found myself living vicariously through Rose.

Final word: Is this a good book? Yes. Would I read it in the library? I probably would have when I was younger and into mysteries. Would I pay money for this book? No. But I'm honored that NetGalley allowed me the opportunity to review it for free.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Feature and Follow Friday 8/21/15

Feature and Follow Friday is hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read. Definitely go check them out because they totally know what they're doing, unlike me.

This week's Question:If you could have any animal in the world as a pet, what would you pick? Fictional ones count too! - Suggested by Book Cat Pin



That is all. That's my argument. Elephants for pets 2016. Click below for the link to follow me on Bloglovin.

Click here to follow me on bloglovin

Black diamond cover reveal!

You all know I loved Diamond in the Rough by Elisa Marie Hopkins. Today she revealed the cover for the sequal, Black Diamond.

I love the simple elegance of this cover. What do you think?

Thursday Thoughts: How early did you or your kids start reading?

I was reading by the time I hit kindergarten. I loved reading so much, I practiced the alphabet and read books with my younger sister so she did the same. I was blessed with a teacher for a mother, who encouraged learning and backed every action with the latest studies on child development. So obviously she read with me.

Growing up, we would make yearly trips down to the local bookstore. We'd take all the books we felt we were too old to read, box them up, and hand them over in exchange for store credit for more books. It was amazing.  So, naturally, I want my daughter to have the same sort of experience.

My Little Pony isn't exactly my first choice, but when she was 3 months old it was about all she would tolerate. These days, I'm reading War of Rain and read passages from that to her as well.
If we keep it up, she may read before kindergarten too.

How early did you read? If you read to younger siblings, how old are they? And how do you think this will effect their academic future?

Book Review: Mad About the Hatter by Dakota Chase

This isn’t his sister’s Wonderland….

Henry never believed his older sister, Alice’s, fantastic tales about the world down the rabbit hole. When he’s whisked away to the bizarre land, his best chance for escape is to ally himself with the person called the Mad Hatter. Hatter—an odd but strangely attractive fellow—just wants to avoid execution. If that means delivering “Boy Alice” to the Queen of Hearts at her Red Castle, Hatter will do what he has to do to stay alive. It doesn’t matter if Henry and Hatter find each other intolerable. They’re stuck with each other.

Along their journey, Henry and Hatter must confront what they’ve always accepted as truth. As dislike grows into tolerance and something like friendship, the young men see the chance for a closer relationship. But Wonderland is a dangerous place, and first they have to get away with their lives.
Buy on Amazon

My Review:
Netgalley gave me this to review
Alice's brother, Henry, has never believed her tales about where she went when she disappeared. So Alice decided to do something about it. She sent him to Wonderland with only one piece of advice: "Mind the Mad Hatter."
Hatter, on the other hand, is imprisoned by the Red Queen. The only promise of keeping his head is delivering Henry (known as Boy Alice) to have his head off instead.

Mad About Hatter is a great throwback for lovers of the Wonderland series and variations of it. I get the feeling the emotional scenes were meant to be more emotional, but the light hearted lexicon of the book kind of glossed them over. What I did appreciate, though, was Hatter's self description of being just right out bisexual. Personally, I feel bisexuals don't have nearly enough representation in a publishing industry that is still largely of a black-and-white mentality.

Overall, this is a well written book with great characters and the overhanging question of What Will Happen To Henry that keeps you going and a romance that keeps you rooting for the adorable couple to be okay.

My rating: 4.7 (rounded to 5)

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Author Interview and Giveaway: Amani's River by David Hartness

DAVID HARTNESS is an award winning author and freelance writer. An avid traveler, inspired by many cultures, David enjoys using this subject in his blog "A Small Perspective." 

Raised on Vashon, a small island in Puget Sound, Washington, David learned the values of life and hard work to pursue his ambitions. This led him to travel internationally, serving a small school in Ebukolo, Kenya. While in Kenya, he lived in a mud hut with no running water or electricity. Mr. Hartness had ambitions to make lasting change while in Kenya but ended up learning more from the experience than he gave back. 
He later served in the U.S. Peace Corps as an education volunteer stationed in Namaacha, Mozambique. Upon leaving service, David continued his education, receiving an MBA from Walden University, and currently enrolled in a DBA program. 
Amani's River is David's first full-length novel.

Buy on Amazon

The Interview:

What events or works inspired the story of Aderito?
Several events inspired the wok of Aderito. First and for most the Mozambican civil war, was an even that I needed to tell. Second, many news stories have come out about child soldiers, and I felt the need to tell their story. There are currently 250,000 children serving in wars around the world, and I wanted to give them a voice. I wanted to tell a story about the war that ended in 1992, but a story that was still relevant in today’s world. As a result, Aderito was born.

You didn't pull any punches in Amani's River. Was it hard putting Aderito through so much turmoil?
It was very hard. There were many moments that I had to stop writing, or editing and walk away for a few minutes to clear my head. What was harder, was hearing the countless stories of child soldiers during the war, from people who lived through the experience. A little piece of their life was told through the eyes of Aderito.

Tell us about your day job.
Well, I am an author, but I also wok in the education sector. I work for an NGO, and just moved to the DC/Maryland area.

This is your first novel length work. Can we expect more from you in the future?
I have actually just started my next novel. This novel will deal with bullying. I worked with the National Burn Foundation while working at Waskowitz Outdoor School, and I remember the pain they had and the stories they shared. I wanted my next character to deal with these issues, and deal with severe bullying at school. I then wanted to bring in another character who is blind, and who is able to understand the inner beauty in everyone, and is not consumed by the physical presence of others. The story was inspired by the Burn Foundation, but also a Mark Twain quote, “kindness is a language the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” It is a work in progress, but I think very few novels dive into this subject matter and bring these two complex characters together to face their fears and issues. It would be an honor to bring this to the literary community.

Growing up, I had to censor my darker works for the sanity of my teachers and family. Are you worried about your son reading this work, or has he already?
I am worried about it, but he will read it soon. I am starting to become okay with it, because it is a story about an event that took place. As long as I am there to talk him though some of the scenes, things should be okay.

You were an education volunteer in the Peace Corps. Do you still teach?
Yes, I still teach, but these days I am working for Non-government organizations.

What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
Never give up. You may enter a very complex and competitive market, but you have a story to tell, so go and tell it. Don’t be afraid of what people may say.

How accurate is the history in Amani’s River?
Amani’s River is accurate, in terms of dates and events. Everything that happened in the book did happen to someone during the war. Most of the events happened, but the characters are fictional. However, child soldiers were real, what they forced them to do, was real, and the horrific events that they lived through were real. 

Why did you decide to have the main character come from the USA?
The novel was made for a US market. I thought by taking the fictional character from the US, giving a real and plausible reason for moving to Mozambique; this would resonate to the audience. Violence, in a war or domestically, can afflict anyone. I wanted to shock, make people think and resonate with the character, and I felt this character would do the best job.

Anything else we should know?
Amani’s River is an a Historical Fiction novel based on the Mozambican civil war, which follows Aderito through the brutal violence that forced him into the rebel movement only to become a child, soldier. Based on historical facts, but told through the eyes of a fictional character, allows the reader to see the travesty of war.

The unique story is based on the real-life events of the civil war, but unlike other war novels, Amani’s River tells the story as is, and spares nothing when describing the atrocities of being a child soldier. Also, Amani’s River is as relevant today as it was during the 1990’s because there are roughly 250,000 child soldiers currently serving rebel and government armies around the world.

Armies around the world have found using child soldiers to be cost effective because they eat less and are vulnerable enough to not question authority. Given the relevance of today, Amani’s River is an important novel to read to shed light on an important issue. Developing countries need to come together to put an end to the atrocities that children face every day.

The Giveaway: (Winners will be announced 9/3)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Review: The masquerade, an alter, and a fairy

Kristin D. Van Risseghem grew up in a small river town in Minnesota with her parents and older sister. And after receiving a double Bachelor of Science degree from Winona State University in Paralegal and Corrections, she worked as a Paralegal for various law firms around the Twin Cities for 14 years. Then she left the legal field and is now a Senior Buyer for a technology company.

Currently, Kristin lives in Eagan with her husband and two Calico cats. She also loves attending book clubs, going shopping, and hanging out with friends. She has come to realize that she absolutely has an addiction to purses and shoes. They are her weakness and probably has way too many of both.
In the summer months, Kristin can usually be found lounging on her boat, drinking an ice cold something. Being an avid reader of YA and Women's Literature stories, she still finds time to read a ton of books in-between writing. And in the winter months, her main goal is to stay warm from the Minnesota cold!
Kristin's books are published by Kasian Publishing.


twitter username

Frustrated with her extravagant duties as a Summer fairy, Sidelle Amistad is desperate to prove she can be more than a petty princess. The accidental capture of Winter fairy, Finnegan, looks like the ideal opportunity—until Sidelle and Finnegan fall in love.

Knowing her love for Finnegan is forbidden, a heartbroken Sidelle searches for deeper meaning in her eternal existence. Her pain leads her on a quest to help the humans … in a desperate fight against Hell itself.

My Review:

Risseghem never fails to entertain me. We got to meet Sidelle earlier in the first book of this series, but it works amazingly well as a standalone. I was so happy to see more of Sidelle's backstory and see the extent of her character development up to the point until the first book began.

I really admire when an author can make a book stand totally by itself and still have it tie so intricately with the overall "big picture" of the series; reading this book didn't feel at all like a sidestory, as I thought it might, but added to the overall plot and made me excited for the next books.

I would definitely keep my eye on this author and see what more she brings out.

My rating: 5/5