Monday, March 28, 2016

ebook review: Closed hearts

When you control minds, only your heart can be used against you.

Eight months ago, Kira Moore revealed to the mindreading world that mindjackers like herself were hidden in their midst. Now she wonders if telling the truth was the right choice after all. As wild rumors spread, a powerful anti-jacker politician capitalizes on mindreaders’ fears and strips jackers of their rights. While some jackers flee to Jackertown—a slum rife with jackworkers who trade mind control favors for cash—Kira and her family hide from the readers who fear her and jackers who hate her. But when a jacker Clan member makes Kira’s boyfriend Raf collapse in her arms, Kira is forced to save the people she loves by facing the thing she fears most: FBI agent Kestrel and his experimental torture chamber for jackers.

Buy on Amazon

My Review:

Closed hearts was a great continuation of the Jackers series. Now embracing her gifts, Kira starts training her abilities. This book series had me reading straight through, and the introduction of the Jackertown Gang was amazing. By the end of the book we know their intentions, but I felt really bad that Kira's first instinct is "run, escape, now." By the end of everything it's hard to imagine her *not* having some kind of PTSD. I would love to see this series as a movie or mini series, but only if there's a creative way to show the act of jacking and reading. I mean, 80% of this series happens inside people's heads. That won't be easy. 
My recommendation: Well, if you're going to buy the first and second already, might as well save and get the whole series as a box set. Definitely buy.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Book review: Lies my teacher told me

Winner of the 1996 American Book Award and the Oliver Cromwell Cox Award for Distinguished Anti-Racist Scholarship
Americans have lost touch with their history, and in this thought-provoking book, Professor James Loewen shows why. After surveying twelve leading high school American history texts, he has concluded that not one does a decent job of making history interesting or memorable. Marred by an embarrassing combination of blind patriotism, mindless optimism, sheer misinformation, and outright lies, these books omit almost all the ambiguity, passion, conflict, and drama from our past. In ten powerful chapters, Loewen reveals that:
The United States dropped three times as many tons of explosives in Vietman as it dropped in all theaters of World War II, including Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Ponce de Leon went to Florida mainly to capture Native Americans as slaves for Hispaniola, not to find the mythical fountain of youth. Woodrow Wilson, known as a progressive leader, was in fact a white supremacist who personally vetoed a clause on racial equality in the Covenant of the League of Nations. The first colony to legalize slavery was not Virginia but Massachusetts.
From the truth about Columbus's historic voyages to an honest evaluation of our national leaders, Loewen revives our history, restoring to it the vitality and relevance it truly possesses.

My Review:
This book is one I've been meaning to get since I was 15 and my educator mom mentioned it to me. In retrospect, I should have gotten it back then.
This book is full of interesting facts and is no doubt an important book to read if you truly believe history is important. But alas, it's better as a supplement to education or learning aid than light reading. I'll be keeping it around in case I come across a book challenge that needs an educational read, but other than that it'll probably stay on my shelf until my daughter hits her teen years. 
If you're really into learning and have a great attention span, then definitely get this book and read it. If you're like me and like fictional reads and learning about history from tumblr posts, it might be better to skip this one.
I got this book from a bookoutlet haul.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Book review: Revealed to him

Handsome and tough Jake Tanner, a veteran and the owner of a successful security firm, never lets his past hold him back. Despite his prosthetic hand and foot, women swoon over him—and with him between the sheets. Yet Jake feels bored and restless…until he’s hired to protect a beautiful writer whose life is in terrible danger.

Self-imprisoned by the fear of the anonymous stalkers who threaten her life, video-game writer Natalie Beck now only dreams of the world outside her pink-bedecked apartment. Trusting people again is off-limits. But the more time Jake spends with her, the more his professional commitment evolves from simple duty to scorching desire. While deeply sensual sparks ignite between the two, the danger outside circles closer. Will Jake’s intense devotion be enough to save Natalie? Or will she turn away from the one man willing to do anything to save her?

My Review: 

This book certainly held promise when I first started it, and did a decent job of describing the anxieties and fears of a female video game writer after receiving several threats in writing--and in person--to her safety. But about a third of the way in, I lost interest with all the insta-lust. the "I haven't seen them but they make me so hot hur durr" Is not in any way my style. I decided to give this book a try based on the first half of the description--after all, look at what happened with Diamonds in th Rough. I love that series! 
But ultimately I regretted requesting this book from the Goodreads giveaway program because it ended up a waste of shelf space and quickly found its way in my donation bin. 

Monday, March 21, 2016

Book Review: Sleeping Giants

World War Z meets The Martian. This inventive first novel will please devoted fans of sci-fi as well as literary readers hoping a smart thriller will sneak up on them.

17 years ago: A girl in South Dakota falls through the earth, then wakes up dozens of feet below ground on the palm of what seems to be a giant metal hand. Today: She is a top-level physicist leading a team of people to understand exactly what that hand is, where it came from, and what it portends for humanity. A swift and spellbinding tale told almost exclusively through transcriptions of interviews conducted by a mysterious and unnamed character, this is a unique debut that describes a hunt for truth, power, and giant body parts.

I love the way this book was executed. The pages consist of interviews, files, diary entries, and more from a project going on to discover the secret behind a giant metal hand found buried in the woods. Theories range from art to weapon to aliens in this book as a group of scientists, scholars, and military personnel try to crack this artifact's secrets.
It can be hard to translate things like passion, fear, and mot other emotions with just military documents. But the inclusion of interviews, recorded field tests, and diary entries, everything translated perfectly.
I was way more engaged in this storyline than I thought I would be and the characters, while not quite real, definitely held weight and depth. 
I would definitely recommend getting this book. The cover is beautiful, and the story is enjoyable even for those who don't regularly dabble in science fiction.
My recommendation: buy it!
I got this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

ebook review: Adulthood is a Myth

Are you a special snowflake? Do you love networking to advance your career? Have you never wasted a fresh new day surfing the internet? Ugh. This book is not for you. Please go away.

Sarah's Scribbles — casually drawn, perfectly on-point comics by young Brooklyn-based artist Sarah Andersen — confront head-on the horrors, anxiety, and awkwardness of modern adult life. From the agony of holding hands with a gorgeous guy to the yawning pit of hell that is the wifi gone down to the eye-watering pain of eating too-hot pizza because one cannot stand to wait for it to cool down, Sarah fearlessly documents it all.

Like the work of fellow Millennial authors Allie Brosh, Grace Helbig, and Gemma Correll, Sarah's total frankness on extremely personal issues such as body image, self-consciousness, introversion, relationships, and bra-washing makes her comics highly relatable and consistently hilarious.
Find out more at

My Review:
I related to this book of comics So. Much. From inconsistent dress sizes to the possibility I will be the grandma that has a million notebooks with only three pages filled in them. I almost feel spied on. I have to admit I was kind of hesitant to request this book because I have seen these comics around on Facebook and Tumblr. The same thing happened with Heart and Brain, and I didn't feel like the book was worth buying. But this book of comics about a brand new adult girl who's a book loving introvert really wormed it's way into my heart and I want the physical copy so bad! This book will make an amazing gift for millennial girls, or late-teen aged girls, or bookworms, or introverts...haven't gotten a guy's opinion on this yet but if you can't think of anyone to gift this to, I am always here. As in, buy it for me. Even though I'll be buying my own copy. I just really love this book because it's like the introverted friend I've never had because...well...socializing isn't my strong suit.

I got this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

PS-- Not sure if this book will be for you? Go to the author's website for samples, or look at the comic below and ask yourself if you can relate.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

ebook review: Open Minds

When everyone reads minds, a secret is a dangerous thing to keep.

Sixteen-year-old Kira Moore is a zero, someone who can’t read thoughts or be read by others. Zeros are outcasts who can’t be trusted, leaving her no chance with Raf, a regular mindreader and the best friend she secretly loves. When she accidentally controls Raf’s mind and nearly kills him, Kira tries to hide her frightening new ability from her family and an increasingly suspicious Raf. But lies tangle around her, and she’s dragged deep into a hidden world of mindjackers, where having to mind control everyone she loves is just the beginning of the deadly choices before her.

Buy on Amazon

My Review:

Source: Bought on sale (three book series for .99)
 I'm elated that this book did not disappoint me. New words (demens, mesh, etc) threw me off a bit at first, but by chapter two they were an easy addition to my vocabulary. 

Kira stole my heart right away, and I was rooting for her the whole book through. Once I got to the more emotional parts--I can't help it. I cried. Ms. Quinn is an exceptional writer, and I can't wait for the next books.

In fact, during halloween, I trick-or-treated with my little sister for two streets, and gave her my candy in return for some reading time. 

I can't possibly give justice in a review to how amazing this book is. All I can say is: Buy it. Buy it now and start reading right away. You'll love it.

Monday, March 14, 2016

book review: the play along bible

Looking for a way to integrate the Bible into your child's playtime?"The Play-Along Bible" inspires children's imaginations while growing their understanding of and love for God's Word. Through simple hand motions, facial expressions, verbal exclamations, and funny noises, kids can participate and respond to God's amazing story. Whether it's acting out the dawn of creation by making a funny fish face or belting out a giant roar while pretending to be a ferocious beast in Daniel's lions' den, kids will encounter hundreds of fun ways to actively engage with the Bible. Using this fresh and easy, multisensory approach, you'll be surprised how well your child will recall and absorb the Scriptures. Adding to the experience are delightful full-color illustrations from British artist Susie Poole. 

My Review:

This is probably one of the best books I've gotten to share with my daughter. Yes, it would be great if the pages weren't paper and made of something more durable, but since this book is designed to be shared with your child instead of being used for individual reading time, I'm giving this book a pass for durability because of the lovely cover.
Now pictures. River was really engaged in the images and pointed out various animals and fruits she knew. The colors caught her eye before I even started reading.
The actual reading experience was more enjoyable than usual. I offered her the play-along prompts even if I thought she wasn't developed enough for them yet, and she definitely surprised me.
A tip for the book of genesis, though, have two different fruits ready. The book asked to point to the air when explaining the forbidden tree and River was somewhat confused until I used her dinner to demonstrate (eat the orange, NOT the orange peel.)
We read a couple of chapters a night, and I'm happy to report that no matter what, river is disappointed when reading time is over these days.
I got this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

ebook review: help yourself cookbook

Struggling to get your kids to eat their fruits and vegetables? Try letting them help themselves!

Experts tell us the best way to teach kids healthy eating habits is to involve them in the process. This irresistibe cookbook presents 60 appealing recipes kids will beg to make themselves, in fun and charming illustrations they will love. Bursting with color, humor, cute animal characters, and cool facts (Did you know your brain actually shrinks when you’re dehydrated? Drink water, quick!), Help Yourself empowers children to take charge of their own nutrition — for now and for life!

My Review:

I was hoping this book would target a younger audience, so I would only wait maybe three years instead of ten to share this with my daughter.
The Power tower and party in a cup recipes are good, and exactly what I expected: healthy beginners recipes that use simple ingredients.
But the Drinks are complicated and I wish most of the ingredients used were easy to find and budget friendly. I can work with vegetables, spices, and nuts but my local grocery simply doesn't stock algae.
As far as format, the Illustrations are cute and adult alerts are convenient. It's bright and colorful and seems like it would target 5 and 6 year olds like I was hoping. But the Introduction to kitchen safety could be redone to be shorter or have bigger words. Or even be in black and white so it stands out and lends itself as an Important Page. If I'm not paying attention to it, why will my daughter?
This is also my First Ruby Roth book and wow, vegan propaganda everywhere. But the book itself is a good concept with fun recipes and could be five stars with a little tweaking.
I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Book Review: Mary Mary Quite on raising children and other mind altering experiences

Mary and her hubby, old Hunk, raised five kids, assorted grandkids, three dogs, two cats, various reptiles, rodents galore, a boatload of fish, and a Mexican tarantula named Mad Max. It was crazy. But their drug of choice has always been laughter. A former AP English teacher and freelance writer, Mary earned her MFA in Screenwriting from UCLA in 2004, then worked in development for a small production company with projects at Sony, Disney, Lifetime, and Hallmark Hall of Fame. Next, Mary turned her talents toward funny stories about family life - aka "domestic humor." Thus, the MARY MARY QUITE series was born. Mary met artist David J Condry in 2011 and their collaboration led to 22 full-page illustrations and David's cover design, all of which are works of art, in their own right. Currently a Denver resident, David is a graduate of the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. A husband, a father, a lover of people, and an artist. David's favorite subjects have always been human beings - as evidenced in his delightful illustrations of the characters in this family-friendly book.

My Review:

I did not like this book. I don't think the pictures showed raw human emotion. I particularly don't appreciate how inconvenient this book would be to carry to work. I feel like the writing itself is maybe better suited for a blog and if you're going to try to have a sassy mommy book like Jenny Mccarthy, a [much] smaller book is probably better and I'd personally go with sketches if the paintings don't translate well (that's the only reason I could come up with as to why this book is so inconveniently wide.)

That said, at the time of writing this review the kindle version is .99, and that's about what it's worth so go for it. 
I got this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Thursday thoughts: Not being able to read

Welcome to Thursday Thoughts, a thing I'm going to aim to do weekly. Currently looking for a cohost who can handle the linky side of things and make this an official meme!

This week: If you suddenly lost the ability to read

This is actually one of my nightmares. I wake up and I'm not able to read. I can see just fine. And I can see the words, but they don't make a lick of sense to me. What would life be like if I never woke up from that nightmare?

Well first, I know my husband would be amazing. If I wanted a book he'd probably grumble but he'd sit down and read to me. 

Second, assuming I've just forgotten how to read and this isn't some horrible curse, I'd be learning to read right alongside my daughter. That would be interesting. 

Third, I'd have to find another job until I know how to read again. Oh no! I really like my job. Not to mention I wouldn't be able to blog unless my husband goes above and beyond, reading me the books AND typing up the reviews.

How would your life change?

Next week: TBD

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

journal review: Life changing magic

“Does it spark joy?”

These four little words have the power to create a revolutionary shift in your mindset. By asking yourself which things, activities, and relationships spark joy—and which don’t—you can mindfully zero in on your ideal life. Peppered with quotes and inspiration from The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, this journal is an invitation to apply Marie Kondo’s principles to not only the objects in your home but also the moments in your life, one day at a time.

My Review:

This journal was not at all what I expected. I was expecting prompts or ideas. 
maybe space to draw things that spark joy. Even a weekly quote or picture. While there was the occasional quote, this journal was really a glorified notebook. 
Don't get me wrong, go and get the accompanying self help book written by the author. But if you want a place to record things that spark joy, go to the dollar store and invest in a fifty cent composition notebook or agenda.
I got this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, March 7, 2016

ebook review: Two long ears

Along with learning to count from 1 to 10, in these charming pages children and theiradults can explore the many ways people decorate their bodies. With its fun pictures and words, the book is a simple way to start talking about accepting differences, from piercings to tattoos. The illustrations are inspired by traditional tattoo designs as well as not-so-traditional body modification styles. Also included is a full-color wall poster that offers a color-it-yourself version on the back. Introducing kids to a culture that's rarely displayed in other materials, this is a perfect resource for early childhood educators, parents, and all adults who value diversity.

My Review: 
My daughter, husband, and I read this book as a family. Those who follow my reviews know I hold durability of a physical book in high regard. Since I received this book as an e-arc, that goes out the window. Judging by the type and size of the pages though, this would make a fine board book.
Let's start with the order of the pages. In a book they wouldn't be an issue. But as an ebook I saw the picture first and had to guess the words on the next page.
Second, the content. The colors are great and show a great diverse sample of the human race. My husband thought it was weird until I told him it was a national geographic book.
As far as the reading tips, I saw them at the end of the pages. I'm hoping this translates into space on the back cover for the physical book, as it felt kind of too late at the end of the story.
Overall: great book, but splurge on the physical copy. Don't risk the ebook.
I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Book Review: The Christmas Box

"Whatever the reason, I find that with each passing Christmas the story of the Christmas Box is told less and needed more. So I record it now for all future generations to accept or dismiss as seems them good. As for me, I believe. And it is, after all, my story." So begins "The Christmas Box", the touching story of a widow and the young family who moves in with her. Together they discover the first gift of Christmas and learn what Christmas is really all about. "The Christmas Box" is a Christmas story unlike any other.

My Review:

So I actually did read this book around Christmas time, but with so many reviews that have deadlines on my list it took me this long to actually share it. I originally got this book in a book outlet sale, for about a dollar. What I love about the book itself is the quality of the cover and the pages. I don't know about you all, but I adore reading in the bath. I'll read a couple of chapters, then when the bubbles go down I start with my actual bathing process.
The pages of this book held up ti water really well. I don't know how they would stand to a beverage actually spilling on them, but turning the pages with wet fingers didn't do anything at all to them. No drops, no water marks, nada. I loved it.
As for the story itself, it is one of the best Christmas time books to read. I don't know how realistic the beginning is, you know with a rich old lady offering free room and board in exchange for meals, but... it worked. Christmas blessing and all that. The overall story had a really cozy feel to it, and really helped to maintain the Christmas spirit in me that starts in September and sometimes burns out literally the day before Christmas. I seem to be more in love with the Idea of Christmas cheer than the day itself. I'm all over getting presents for anyone I've ever met, but the act of receiving leaves something to be desired.

But if you're looking for a short Christmas read to read somewhere cozy, definitely get this book. And check out book outlet and thriftbooks, because honestly the prices are phenomenal.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

book review: outspoken

Penny Beck is a girl who says yes when she means no. She keeps to herself, follows the rules, and does what she's told. After a disastrous experience with her boyfriend, she's determined to change from the spineless person she's always been into the strong woman she wants to become. All she needs is a little practice. On a cross-country trip to check on her grandpa, she strives to become bolder and more outspoken with the strangers she meets. Penny's plan is to practice saying and doing what she wants without worrying about what anyone else thinks. Then she meets Archer, an introspective loner to whom she finds herself drawn. She realizes she does care what he thinks, very much. Will Penny be able to stick to her plan, or will she revert back to her people-pleasing ways?



My Review:

I had to sit on this book for a while before posting a review. Usually I have strong feelings, or at least a gut feeling, about a book halfway through. This one I read all the way through and stared at it, postponing the review again and again.
So let's start with the basics and get more defined from there. I didn't in any way dislike this book. At the same time I wasn't jumping with excitement to turn the pages. My hands turned with the pace of the book which was even, not rushed but not really sleepy.
Second, the story itself. I really liked following the journey of Penny from a girl who wants to improve and be her own woman to is better and strong. The story itself is wonderful and has a great moral.
And the characters. I liked Penny's friends and her grandpa. Penny was alright, but maybe could have had a wider emotional range. I didn't buy into Penny's parents for a second. They may as well have been cardboard.
So is this some literary masterpiece that will be analyzed and forced into students for centuries to come? No. But it is the type of book that I would love to see in every library and reaching millions of kids for decades to come. I love the message and I love the cozy feeling after reading it and I would definitely buy this book for a friend.
End rating: 4 out of 5

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Journal Review: Design the life you love

A joyful, inspirational guide to building the life you've always dreamed of, using the principles and creative process of an award-winning product designer.
     Life, just like a design problem, is full of constraints--time, money, age, location, and circumstances. You cannot have everything, and if you want more out of it, you have to be creative about how to make what you need and what you want co-exist. This requires design thinking. Design the Life You Love uses a simple but proven creative thinking and design process to give ordinary people new tools to think about life differently, and also includes fascinating examples from the world of art and design that relate to each step of the process, plus guided creative exercises. Turn constraints into opportunities with optimism and holistic thinking using four simple steps: taking the whole apart, forming a new point of view, putting it back together, and giving it form. The striking design and Ayse Birsel's hand-drawn art and type set off her brilliant, life-changing design process, empowering and inspiring readers to create a better life.

My Review:
I love the feel of this journal. The cover is sturdy and smooth to touch, plus the elastic bookmark is built into the back cover so it's easier to find your place than a ribbon is.
I also love how the author includes warm ups and examples of the activities, and takes time to explain how you can apply designing strategies to a life plan. On several activities where you write things down there are two templates so you can choose to revisit the activity later and redo it, or if you make a mistake or have two ideas there is plenty of space.
The art style in this book is simple and while not quite elegant, it is classy and not at all patronizing.
This is a great gift to give to journal lovers and self improvement enthusiasts, as well as to have as a copy for yourself to envision and plan your own success in life. And even though this journal is for self improvement, it never comes off as doing homework. Each step is creative, easy, and fun.
I got this book through the publisher for an honest review.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Thursday Thoughts: Beautiful Covers

Welcome to Thursday Thoughts, a thing I'm going to aim to do weekly. Currently looking for a cohost who can handle the linky side of things and make this an official meme!

This week: Beautiful Covers and Illustrator spotlight

I couldn't find any information on the designer for this cover, so I guess credit goes to the publishers at Feiwel and Friends.

Michelle Monique Photography
deviant art


All the copyright page of this book says is "Cover design by K. Kaynak with artwork by Misha"

Nothing came up individually, but I did find where these two (?) have won cover contests 

Well done!

Next week: If you suddenly lost the ability to read

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

book review: The remnants

The town of New Eden, peopled with hereditary oddities, has arrived at its last days. As two near-centenarian citizens prepare for their annual birthday tea, a third vows to interrupt the proceedings with a bold declaration. 

My Review:

I didn't even get through the first chapter. The author's 'eccentric' writing style held description in all the wrong places and left me feeling lost. The writing style may be fine for poetry, but not so much when writing prose. I even went so far as handing the book to a coworker and saying "is it me, or does this not make any sense?"
She handed it back and, withholding judgment, agreed she didn't know what was going on and asked what the book was about.
Which brings me to complaint number two. Both the back blurb and the inside cover held nothing but reviews. No summary, no character descriptions, not even a hint about the subject matter on the copyright page. I ended up going online to look for the blurb and was met with MORE reviews on the book's description page on amazon, before finding out the book is supposed to be about two very old characters having a tea party that gets interrupted by a drama mama.
I wouldn't buy this. In fact, I'm not even keeping this book that I got through a goodreads giveaway. It's a waste of my shelf space.
Recommendation: don't.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

ebook review: in real life

Hannah Cho and Nick Cooper have been best friends since 8th grade. They talk for hours on the phone, regularly shower each other with presents, and know everything there is to know about one another. 
There's just one problem: Hannah and Nick have never actually met.
Hannah has spent her entire life doing what she's supposed to, but when her senior year spring break plans get ruined by a rule-breaker, she decides to break a rule or two herself. She impulsively decides to road trip to Las Vegas, her older sister and BFF in tow, to surprise Nick and finally declare her more-than-friend feelings for him.
Hannah's surprise romantic gesture backfires when she gets to Vegas and finds out that Nick has been keeping some major secrets. Hannah knows the real Nick can't be that different from the online Nick she knows and loves, but now she only has night in Sin City to figure out what her feelings for Nick really are, all while discovering how life can change when you break the rules every now and then.
My Review: 
This book is cute, and there's really nothing wrong with the characters or writing style. On the contrary I liked the characters and the writing flowed really well.
Honestly there's nothing inherently wrong with the plot either, but it didn't really go anywhere. I found the road trip to meet an internet crush story slow and not very captivating at all. I'm sure it's the perfect easy read for someone, but that someone is not me.

My recommendation: not even borrow.